Stingray Launches Music SVOD Channels; Inks Distribution with Redbox, Peacock, Amazon Prime Video

Stingray Group Nov. 25 announced the launch of SVOD channels with new partner OneHub TV (U.K.) and existing partners Optimum and Suddenlink by Altice (U.S.), Amazon Prime Video Channels (Italy and Spain), Player + (Poland), Rogers Communications (Canada), Swisscom blue TV (Switzerland) and Totalplay (Mexico).

Stingray also announced the launch of free, ad-supported TV channels with 11 OTT providers, including Comcast Xfinity (U.S.), DistroTV (U.S.), Freebie TV (U.S.), Freecast (U.S.), MX Player (U.S. and India), Peacock (U.S.), Redbox TV (U.S.), Samsung TV Plus (U.K. and Germany), STIRR (U.S.), STV (U.K.) and Vizio Watch Free (U.S.). These distribution agreements could grow Stingray’s reach by more than 200 million viewers.

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SVOD channels “Qello Concerts by Stingray,” “Stingray Karaoke,” and “Stingray Classica” are offered to customers for a monthly subscription offering a collection of classical music, operas, and ballets, and karaoke for music fans.

“The way people watch TV and consume music is constantly evolving,” Eric Boyko, co-founder/CEO of Stingray, said in a statement. “We are always on the lookout for innovative partnerships to bring our curated content to the greatest number of viewers while expanding our brand presence worldwide.”

“Qello Concerts by Stingray” offers collection of full-length concerts and music documentaries with hundreds of performances by stars such as Beyoncé, AC/DC, Paul McCartney, Queen, Imagine Dragons and The Rolling Stones, among others.

“Stingray Karaoke” gives subscribers access to thousands of songs. They range from rock and pop to children’s favorites and songs in the style of today’s top-charting artists, including Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes and, Taylor Swift and yesterday’s legends such as Elvis, The Beatles, Bon Jovi, and ABBA.

“Stingray Classica” is dedicated to classical music, opera, and ballet. All productions were recorded in renowned concert halls, festivals, and opera houses such as Carnegie Hall, Teatro alla Scala, The Royal Ballet, the San Francisco Opera, Teatro Colón, and many more.

Sky and eOne Ink Movie Distribution Deal

Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky and Hasbro-owned Entertainment One (eOne) on Nov. 25 announced a long-term partnership that will afford Sky subscribers access to hundreds of hours of movie content. The deal covers both eOne’s existing 200-film library and new releases in development.

Starting next summer, Sky will have the pay-TV rights to eOne’s first-run feature films, including the animated kids’ title Two by Two: Overboard! which debuted in October at the top of the U.K./Ireland box office.

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eOne’s library includes the Twilight and Divergent franchises, Young VictoriaDallas Buyers Club and Looper. A  number of new releases will also be available to Sky Cinema subs, including holiday rom-com Happiest Season, starring Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen, which bypassed a U.K. theatrical release due to the pandemic. Existing movie library titles are available now to Sky Cinema and Now TV Cinema Pass customers in the U.K. and Ireland.

“This year alone we’ve struck agreements with Disney, Discovery, Sony and DreamWorks Animation to increase the variety of content available on Sky Q,” Stephen van Rooyen, CEO U.K. & Europe Sky, said in a statement.

Sky subs currently have access to content from Netflix, Disney+ (U.K. and Ireland), WarnerMedia (HBO), Showtime, Discovery, Fox, and Sony, among others.

eOne is one of the top independent film distributors in the U.K., generating more than £1.13 billion ($1.51 billion) at the U.K. and Irish box office in the past 12 years. Top titles include Stan & OllieThe Girl on the TrainThe BFG12 Years a SlaveThe Twilight Saga, and more recently Sam Mendes’ WW1 epic 1917.

“A partnership of this scale marks one of the biggest strategic deals we’ve done this year,” said Stuart Baxter, president, international distribution, eOne. “We’re confident they will be a brilliant marketing partner for our content, working with us through the entire lifecycle.”


Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Remains Atop U.K. Weekly Home Entertainment Sales Chart

Packaged media sales of Disney’s erstwhile theatrical release Mulan helped the live-action movie stay atop the U.K. Official Film Chart through Nov. 25. Disney’s first-ever PVOD release exceeded all other movies by 6,600 unit sales (physical and digital), holding off Warner Home Video’s Elf in No. 2 and relegating former No. 1, Last Christmas (Universal) to No. 3.

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Chart newcomer Dawn of the Dead (Arrow Films) underscored the dearth of new releases in 2020, with George A. Romero’s 1978 zombie classic entering the chart for the first time at No. 4 following a remastered packaged media release.

The middle of world’s No. 2 home entertainment market included perennial chart mainstays such as Disney’s Frozen 2 at No. 5; eOne’s 1917 at No. 6; 2000’s The Grinch (Universal) featuring Jim Carrey at No. 7; and Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi at No. 8 due to a 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc SteelBook release.

Another chart newcomer at No. 9: sci-fi thriller Tremors: Shrieker Island, starring Michael Gross, Jon Heder and Jackie Cruz. Rounding out the Top 10: Disney’s Onward.



Hulu Bowing $1.99 Monthly Promo at Midnight on Thanksgiving Through Cyber Monday

Hulu is set to launch a discounted $1.99 monthly promotion at midnight on Thanksgiving. The campaign pledges to give new and returning subscribers 12-month access to the ad-supported Hulu option, which amounts to a $48 savings over the recently reduced $5.99 monthly fee (from $7.99). The ad-free subscription plan remains priced at $11.99 monthly.

Hulu added 6.9 million subs to reach 32.5 million subs through Sept. 30 — up 27% from the previous-year period.

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Hulu’s ad-supported plan gives subscribers access to Hulu’s streaming TV library of shows such as “Family Guy,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Golden Girls,” films like Trolls World Tour and Hulu Originals, including “Pen15,” “Little Fires Everywhere,” “Ramy,” “Animaniacs” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” for a more than 66% savings compared the cost of a regular subscription.

New or returning subs can sign up for the limited time offer through 11:59pm PT on Cyber Monday (11/30) at Disney, which owns Hulu, is also marketing the ad-supported option with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $12.99 monthly.


Parks: 45% of U.S. Broadband Households Subscribe to Three or More Video Services, Up from 27% in 2019

As expected, the surge in high-profile subscription streaming video platforms launched in 2020 has resulted in consumers gravitating toward more than one SVOD service. New data from Parks Associates contends that nearly 50% of survey respondents subscribe to three or more services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video.

The Dallas-based research firm is holding a virtual confab Dec. 14-16, featuring insights from Amazon, Verizon, ESPN, Cox, Cinedigm, Roku and Fandango, among others, to discuss the state of the industry.

The Big 3 of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have dominated this market, but the influx of many new content and service options is driving more spending and sampling among households,” Elizabeth Parks, president, Parks Associates, said in a statement. At Future of Video, we welcome industry players to explore adoption, consumer attitudes, and sustainable business models for OTT services.”

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Walmart Bows Holiday Recipes, E-Commerce on Tastemade Streaming Video Service

Walmart is partnering with media company Tastemade to launch two special holiday episodes of the Daytime Emmy-nominated series “Struggle Meals” on Tastemade’s streaming network.

The episodes are Tastemade’s first brand partnership for the online series, and allow streamers to shop for holiday recipe ingredients using Walmart’s pickup & delivery service for delivery or curbside pickup. The first episode just launched, followed by the second episode, which will go live on Dec. 17th.

With the pandemic prompting more families to cook at home and prepare meals in advance, Walmart is focused on finding innovative solutions and partners to help streamline the process for people to get food on their tables. The streaming video episodes offer tips on how to cook inventive, better-for-you, minimum waste meals that aim to save time and money, while also alleviating the stress of holiday cooking and planning.

“Struggle Meals” is hosted by Chef Frankie Celenza and is one of Tastemade’s most successful shows to-date, garnering an audience of more than one million viewers per week cross-platform.

“Viewers will be able to easily shop all the ingredients for these amazing holiday recipes, while cooking alongside their favorite chef and enjoying delicious meals with their loved ones,” Mary Schulke, associate director, strategic partnerships at Walmart, said in a statement.

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Viewers have the opportunity to text an on-screen number from their phones to add ingredients from the featured recipes in the episodes directly to their Walmart shopping cart using Walmart’s pickup & delivery service.

In each episode, Chef Frankie offers techniques to cook Thanksgiving and holiday-themed meals, and shares tips to creatively use ingredients viewers already have at home to make delicious fare for their guests in addition to the main dishes. The Struggle Meals holiday edition features a unique take on bold holiday flavors, including dishes like Thanksgiving turkey burgers, cinnamon nutmeg doughnuts, tacos with holiday brisket, creamy butternut squash soup, and more.

“The holidays will look a little different this year, so with these special Struggle Meals episodes, we’ve partnered with Walmart to help consumers prepare delicious meals that will save time and money, and that will allow for more time to be spent with friends and loved ones – whether that’s virtually or in-person,” said Jeff Imberman, Head of Sales & Brand Partnerships at Tastemade.

The episodes will air on Tastemade’s streaming network, on the newly launched Tastemade en Español streaming channel (with Spanish subtitles). These episodes will also be available on Struggle Meals’ YouTubeSnapchat, and Facebook, and Tastemade’s FacebookInstagram, and TikTok.

Best Buy Q3 Entertainment Revenue Up 17.5%

Best Buy Nov. 24 reported strong third-quarter (ended Oct. 31) sales, driven in part by a near 174% increase in e-commerce revenue and entertainment.

The entertainment segment, which includes products such as DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software, saw same-store sales increase 17.5% compared to a 20.8% decline during the previous-year period. The division generated 5% of domestic revenue, or $542.5 million, compared to $448.2 million last year.

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Internationally, entertainment sales skyrocketed 35.6% to $50 million, compared to a 31.1% drop at $40 million last year.

“Our comparable sales grew a remarkable 23% as we leveraged our unique capabilities, including our supply chain expertise, flexible store operating model and ability to shift quickly to digital, to meet what is clearly elevated demand for products that help customers work, learn, cook, entertain and connect in their homes,” CEO Corie Barry said in a statement.

Barry said the pandemic environment has underscored Best Buy’s purpose to “enrich lives through technology,” and the capabilities the consumer electronics chain is “flexing and strengthening” now would benefit it going forward.

One strategy is e-commerce, which saw revenue explode 173.7% to $3.82 billion from $1.39 billion last year.


NRF: 2020 Winter Holiday Sales to Grow 5%

The National Retail Federation Nov. 23 forecast that holiday sales during November and December will increase from 3.6% to 5.2% from the same period last year, generating $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion in revenue. The data, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, compares with a 4% increase to $729.1 billion in 2019, and an average holiday sales increase of 3.5% over the past five years.

“We know this holiday season will be unlike any other, and retailers have planned ahead by investing billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the retail trade group, said in a statement. “Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year.”

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NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.

“Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers’ willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

Kleinhenz said households have strong balance sheets supported by a strong stock market, rising home values and record savings boosted by government stimulus payments issued earlier this year. Jobs and wages are growing, energy costs are low and reduced spending on personal services, travel and entertainment because of the virus has freed up money for retail spending.

As a result of store shutdowns and stay-at-home orders last spring, not all retailers and categories have rebounded as quickly, including small and mid-sized retailers. However, in the aggregate retail sales have been growing month-over-month and year-over-year since June. As calculated by NRF, sales were up 10.6% in October versus October 2019, likely driven in part by early holiday shopping. For the first 10 months of this year, retail sales were up 6.4% versus the first 10 months of 2019.

With ecommerce sales up 36.7% year-over-year during the third quarter, many households are expected to depend on digital shopping to make many of their holiday purchases, just as they have for much of their everyday spending this year. The online spending includes websites operated by bricks-and-mortar retailers, which have become major players in the online market as retail channels have merged.

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The NRF forecast is based on an economic model that takes into consideration a variety of indicators, including employment, wages, consumer confidence, disposable income, consumer credit, previous retail sales and weather. NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

The forecast comes as NRF’s latest research shows 42% of consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than usual this year. NRF’s “New Holiday Traditions” campaign has urged consumers to shop safe and shop early amidst the pandemic, and 59% had begun by early November, up from 49% at that point a decade ago.


Report: ‘Friends’ Most-Watched TV Show Over Thanksgiving Weekend

In addition to football, TV show re-runs dominate viewer interest around the Thanksgiving holiday, according to new data from USDish, a reseller of Dish Network. While movies dominate around Christmas, TV show episodes rank high among viewers over Thanksgiving, with “Friends” the most popular TV show. Of the 15 TV show episodes that ranked most-popular, 10 were “Friends” episodes.


In compiling its data, USDish analyzed the top 15 holiday episodes for each holiday using IMDb data. To qualify, each episode had to meet the following criteria: Contain the keywords “Thanksgiving,” “Christmas,” or “New Year’s Eve,” respectively; be produced between 1990–2020; have more than 1,500 IMDb votes; and achieve a rating of 7.5 and above.

“Once we narrowed down our search, we found each episode’s viewership count using the viewership archive on TV Listings,” wrote Travis Peterson, author of the study. “Then we ranked each episode from most popular to least-popular based on viewership.”

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To find the most-searched TV show in each state for November, December, and January, respectively, USDish analyzed Google Trends data.


The study found that comedy and romance are hits around Thanksgiving, with more than 93% of the top episodes categorized as comedy. Thirteen out of the fifteen TV episodes (87%) are also categorized as romance.

Apparently Thanksgiving is a perfect time for a little throwback TV. Seven out of the top fifteen episodes aired in the ’90s, while six aired in the 2000s. The average running time of all episodes on the list is twenty-four minutes.


Pluto TV Streaming Classic CBS Series for Winter Holidays

Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, ViacomCBS-owned ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV will begin streaming classic CBS television series as branded channels. They include: “Happy Days,” “Family Ties,” “The Love Boat,” “Wings,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Laverne & Shirley,” and “Mork & Mindy”.

All of Pluto TV’s new channels will stream for free beginning Nov. 24. Channel line-ups include:

“Happy Days”: Features three classic sitcoms created by the late Garry Marshall. “Happy Days” (11 seasons), “Laverne & Shirley” (8 seasons), and “Mork & Mindy” (4 seasons).

“Wings”: Showcases Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Crystal Bernard, Thomas Haden Church, and Tony Shaloub in eight seasons of the sitcom from the creators of “Cheers”.

“Family Ties”: The Emmy-winning seven-season sitcom launched Michael J. Fox, and also stars Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross, Justine Bateman, and Tina Yothers.

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“The Love Boat”: Finds the crew of the S.S. Pacific Princess and their all-star passengers 24 hours a day for 9 seasons.

“Beverly Hillbillies”: The original fish-out-of-water sitcom showcasing characters Jed, Granny, Jethro, and Elly May over 9 seasons.

“Mission: Impossible”: The original 1960s spy thriller series starring Peter Graves, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus, and Leonard Nimoy, among others, over seven seasons.

Separately, Pluto TV is making a donation to World Central Kitchen to support of ongoing efforts to use the power of food to heal communities and strengthen economies during times of crisis and beyond.

Throughout the holiday season, to drive even greater awareness to this noteworthy cause and amplify the efforts for World Central Kitchen, Pluto TV’s social media will feature curated holiday recipes inspired these shows and favorite recipes from beloved stars of the series.

Pluto TV has a global audience of over 36 million monthly active users, with over 28.4 million in the U.S. Pluto TV has an international footprint that spans across three continents and 25 countries throughout the U.S., Europe and Latin America.