Netflix Spain Raises Prices

Netflix is continuing to roll out price hikes across Western Europe with Spain reportedly the latest country to see a €2 monthly increase to €12.99 ($14.80) from €10.99 ($12.52).

Netflix previously raised prices in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Netflix Spain also upped the fee for Ultra-HD on up to four devices to €15.99 ($18.22) from €13.99 ($15.94). The basic plan remains unchanged at €7.99 ($9.11) per month.

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Netflix in January raised by $2 its most-popular plan in the U.S. to $12.99 from $10.99. The basic $7.99 non-HD plan increased to $8.99, while the premium plan allowing four simultaneous 4K streams increase to $15.99 per month from $13.99.

Viacom, Tyler Perry Partner for BET Streaming Video Service

BET Networks, a unit of Viacom Media Networks, and Tyler Perry Studios June 24 unveiled a new joint venture to launch BET+, a pending subscription video-on-demand service targeting the African-American audience.

Available this fall, BET+ will feature more than 1,000 hours of content, including original programming and catalog series, movies, and specials from BET Networks, Perry, and other African-American content creators.

Tyler Perry

“African-Americans are the leading consumers of streaming services, with higher SVOD adoption rates than other consumers, which is why we’re so excited to launch a premium product for this underserved audience,” Scott Mills, president of BET Networks, said in a statement.

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BET+ will offer consumers a comprehensive collection of African-American-focused dramas, sitcoms, films and specials. It will be the official home of Tyler Perry’s collected works across film, television and the stage.

The service will feature Perry’s box office-topping theatrical films, including films from the “Madea” series; original series “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns” and a selection of Perry’s stage plays.

“In our industry, the way people consume content is constantly evolving,” Perry said. “I’ve paid attention to my audience and what works for them and, for that reason, I’m very excited not only about the idea of partnering with BET to create new and exciting content, but also about the idea of giving people a personalized experience through the ability to curate the content they love to consume.”

The first BET+ original — “First Wives Club,” a 10 episode scripted drama from Girls Trip screenwriter Tracy Oliver — will debut on the service in the fall.

The modern television remake of the classic 1996 revenge comedy starring Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton now stars an African American cast, including Jill Scott(“Why Did I Get Married”), Ryan Michelle Bathe (“This is Us,” “Empire”) and Michelle Buteau (“Isn’t It Romantic”).

“First Wives Club” kicks off BET+’s slate of exclusive original programming that includes the premiere of a new series from Will Packer (“Ride Along,” “Think Like a Man”) and new original series from Tyler Perry and more.

The service will also feature a deep library of beloved series, films, and documentaries from BET Networks and the Viacom portfolio — including “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” “The New Edition Story,” “The Quad,” “College Hill,” “Comic View,” “Hell Date,” and more — most of which have not previously been available on streaming platforms.

BET+ will be available at launch on Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy, iOS devices such as the Apple iPad and iPhone, as well as other streaming devices.

BET’s new and current-window programming will continue to be available on BET’s linear network, including the newly-announced Tyler Perry original drama, “The Oval,” which will debut on BET as the first series under Perry’s multi-year content partnership with the network.

With over 75 hours of new original content slated to premiere on BET over the next year, Perry’s line-up will also include another drama series, two comedy series, and a live holiday-themed production. BET fans will have additional access points to BET content on BET.com and the BET Now app for TV Everywhere users.

‘Toy Story 4’ Box Office Debut Bodes Well for Home Video

Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 4 quietly opened with a reported $118 million gross at the North American box office — on par with the 2010 opening weekend for Toy Story 3, which went on to generate $415 million domestically.

The fourth installment of the animated toy-talking franchise, which began in 1995 with Tom Hanks and Tim Allen supplying the voices to memorable characters Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear, respectively, and Randy Newman’s Oscar-nominated soundtrack, continues Disney’s theatrical success following Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and Aladdin.

The title also portends success for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, which has established a lucrative business selling “Toy Story” DVD and Blu-ray Disc units, among other formats.

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The original Toy Story — directed by John Lasseter — ranks the 8th best-selling VHS title with more than 19.5 million units sold for $463 million in revenue (based on inflation) since its Oct. 29, 1996 retail release. It was also released on Laserdisc.

It is the 12th best-selling home entertainment release with 5.65 million combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units sold since its March 20, 2001, DVD release and Blu-ray on March 23, 2010.

The title was released on the defunct Universal Media Disc (UMD) format on Sept. 6, 2005.

Toy Story 2 was released at retail in 1999, with a special edition re-release on Jan. 11, 2000. It generated $42.2 million in domestic DVD sales; $16.3 million in Blu-ray.

Toy Story 3 sold 10.8 million discs for $192 million in revenue, and was the No. 2 selling disc in 2010. Overall, the title sold $184 million worth of DVDs and $53.2 million on Blu-ray, according to The-Numbers.com.

Indeed, when asked whether franchise films such as Toy Story 4 would be fast-tracked to Disney’s pending subscription streaming service, Disney+, CEO Bob Iger told CNBC in April that there was little financial incentive to do so.

“Don’t forget, in that [home video] window after it’s available in first theatrical run, these movies will be available for a form of rental or download or purchase,” Iger said. “Physical copies are still being sold.”

AT&T Re-Evaluating Focus on DirecTV Now

Less than three months after disclosing DirecTV Now lost 83,000 subscribers in the most-recent fiscal quarter, corporate parent AT&T appears to be re-adjusting its focus on the much-ballyhooed online TV service.

Launched in 2016, DirecTV Now ended the first quarter with about 1.5 million subscribers — many of them attracted by the service’s initial $34.99 monthly fee — a win for consumers but unsustainable to the bottom line.

Earlier this year, AT&T rolled out two new subscription plans ranging from $50 to $70 monthly. It also operates Watch Now, a mobile-only streaming service.

David Christopher

Speaking June 19 at the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Telecom & Media Conference in London, David Christopher, president of AT&T Mobility and Entertainment, said DirecTV Now would be downsized to a “thin” service targeting the telecom’s 170 million mobile connections.

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“We have emphasized it slightly less than we did when it first launched because we are focused more on other elements of the portfolio,” Christopher said.

Those elements include a pending $15 WarnerMedia branded service with HBO and Warner Bros. central assets to the streaming platform.

“Our job is to make the media company more valuable,” Christopher said, adding that he thinks the WarnerMedia SVOD service can “get to tens of millions” of subscribers in the U.S. “in short order.”

“It’s a big opportunity for distribution. It’s a big opportunity for advertising,” Christopher said. “That SVOD product fits into our distribution product line of video very well.”

He said AT&T doesn’t currently have a standalone “SVOD product,” at a time when the executive contends a one-size-fits all approach to over-the-top video distribution isn’t working.

Indeed, with increasingly fragmented consumer segments in the media landscape, AT&T believes an SVOD service targeting aficionados of movies and premium TV shows can generate significant market share.

“Premiere content at a great value is always going to find a place [in the market],” Christopher said.

When asked about declining video subscribers, Christopher downplayed the economic impact, saying video accounts for just 7% of AT&T’s total revenue.

“You have to understand that relative weight,” he said, adding that the company is “working through” 1.6 million subscribers with two-year, loss-leader plans it believes will disappear by the end of the year.

“That’s a big relief for us,” Christopher said. “We are cleaning up our customer base.”

iQIYI Bows China’s First Interactive TV Program

Taking a page from Netflix’s playbook, iQIYI, China’s online entertainment platform, June 21 said it officially launched the erstwhile Communist country’s first domestic interactive film and television program, “His Smile.”

The program, which gives viewers 21 preset storyline options and 17 possible endings, comes a month after iQIYI announced the launch of the world’s first interactive video guideline.

Netflix, which is not available in China as a standalone service, last December became the first SVOD service offering interactive TV when it let subscribers choose an ending for original movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

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“His Smile,” produced by iQIYI and Linghe Media, tells the story of the interaction between a newcomer in the workplace, who is an assistant talent manager at a media company, and members of upcoming boyband hoping to make their big break.

Through interactive TV, iQIYI enables viewers to enter the story as the character of the talent manager, making choices according to personal preferences, expanding the storyline related to it, and transforming the “viewer” to the “player”.

“With the accelerating growth of 5G technology, the traditional film and television content structure will continue to adapt based on the new technological environment,” Liu Wenfeng, chief technology officer at iQIYI, said in a statement. “The launch of “His Smile” also marks the introduction of a standard to interactive film and television works and that is bound to change the landscape of China’s film and television industry.”

Prior to the TV show, iQIYI applied interactive functions to variety shows and trailers, such as the first domestic interactive variety show trailer for “The Big Band,” available through the iQIYI app.

“[Interactive TV]  could actually ultimately give birth to the next mass medium with huge appeal, which could mean it could be very profitable,” Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, told the Los Angeles Times.

Comcast Adds Amazon Music to X1 Platform

Comcast Cable June 20 announced the availability of Amazon Music on Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex, marking the first time the ad-free and on-demand music streaming service is available directly on the TV through a pay-TV provider.

Amazon Music is now available on Xfinity Flex, Comcast’s recently launched service for Internet-only customers. Subs who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited are eligible for a 30-day free trial.

Last year, Comcast and Amazon launched Prime Video on X1, enabling Xfinity subscribers to access Prime Video’s original programming and catalog of shows, movies and live events via Xfinity on Demand or through the Prime Video app.

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The X1 platform is now in a majority of Xfinity customers’ homes.

Xfinity X1 and Flex customers can say “Amazon Music” into their voice remote to browse, search and listen to millions of songs and thousands of playlists and stations.

“Now Amazon Music listeners can effortlessly explore millions of songs, including the latest releases by their favorite artists, and much more directly through Xfinity,” Ryan Redington, director of Amazon Music, said in a statement.

With Amazon Music, Prime members have access to more than two million curated songs and thousands of playlists and stations. Users can also access to more than 50 million songs and thousands of playlists and stations with Amazon Music Unlimited, the premium subscription tier.

“Amazon Prime Video quickly became one of the most-viewed services on X1 following its launch last year, so we are excited to expand our collaboration and enable our customers to also enjoy Amazon Music on the biggest screen in the home,” said Nancy Spears, VP, business operations and strategy, Comcast Cable.

Amazon Re-Launching ‘Prime Student’ Program; 50% Off Prime Video, Music, Games

School may have just ended, but that isn’t stopping Amazon from promoting its Prime Student membership program targeting future college students.

Prime Student offers students enrolled in two-year and four-year schools all the perks of an Amazon Prime membership — at half the cost ($6.49 month or $59 annually) following a free six-month trial.

Students can stream music, movies and TV shows, receive discounts on college essentials and free shipping on more than 10 million products. Members also get free same-day delivery on more than three million items across 44 major metropolitan areas, along with two-hour delivery with Prime Now in more than 30 major cities.

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Members get access to movies and TV shows like “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” or Emmy-winning “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” as well as The Jonas Brothers’ documentary “Chasing Happiness” and “Guava Island,”starring Donald Glover and Rihanna.

Users also get two million songs and thousands of stations and playlists ad-free included with Prime. For unlimited access to over 50 million songs students can try Amazon Music Unlimited for free for 30 days.

Students can also check out the Back to School playlist on Amazon Music. Simply ask, “Alexa, play the Back to School playlist” in the Amazon Music App for iOS or Android, and on all Alexa-enabled devices.”

 Prime Student members also get gaming benefits on Twitch, including in-game “loot” for some popular titles, a selection of free games and a Twitch channel subscription.

 

French Broadcasters Up Content Production to Combat Netflix, Amazon Prime Video

After a slow start, Netflix France has topped five million subscribers despite alienating exhibitors ignoring local theatrical windows for original movies.

To combat Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and over-the-top video distribution in general, French broadcasters are increasing their investment in local original productions.

Last year, the country’s top broadcasters — France Télévisions, Canal+, TF1, M6 and Orange — spent €5.4 billion ($6.1 billion) on content, with over 40% of that spending dedicated to original programming, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

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At the end of May, 106 new local shows were in development or production, while Netflix is currently producing 15 new TV shows for the French market.

“French consumers are adopting digital TV subscriptions quickly, and the local broadcasters know they must respond fast if they are to protect their revenues in a changing media landscape,” analyst Léa Cunat said in a statement.

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While increased competition from OTT services has French broadcasters on the defensive, proactively engaging in content production in the face of waning advertising revenue and budget cuts has some operators rethinking their business models.

As a result, licensing third-party content has given way to original productions. This strategy offers two significant benefits, according to Ampere: monetizable IP portfolios and a diversified revenue stream.

Pay TV group Canal+ launched a new SVOD service in March – Canal+ Séries – dedicated to a younger audience, supported by shows such as “Mouche,” a reboot of the BBC’s “Fleabag”.

TF1 just announced plans to further enhance its TVOD platform, MyTF1, with new advertising inventory and new exclusive content.

France Télévisions is focusing on international partnerships with other broadcasting groups to help support its local content investments.

Orange created a new division – Orange Content – merging pay-TV operations with the film division to produce original episodic programming. Literary adaptation The Name of the Rose was the first  original show to air, broadcast in March.

Ampere says SVOD represented only 3% of France’s €14 billion ($15.8 billion) audiovisual market in 2018.

France’s OTT market lags a number of its peers – including Scandinavia, the U.K. and the U.S. – but digital subscriptions are growing rapidly.

To tap into this growth broadcasters France Télévisions, TF1 and M6 announced the creation of Salto, a new SVOD platform set to launch later this year.

Offered alongside their free channels, Salto will provide TV shows and exclusive content with an emphasis on French and European productions.

Through this new service, the broadcasters aim to generate revenue from subscriptions and maintain control over content rights following their initial broadcast window.

For instance, France Télévisions has said it will cease licensing the French digital rights of “Call My Agent!” to Netflix and has signed an exclusivity time period on digital rights for the shows it co-produces or commissions.

“With increasing competition from international behemoths Netflix and Prime Video, there’s no shortage of tactics and strategies being employed to stay in the game,” Cunat said. “It’s a fascinating market to watch as it transforms.” 

Indeed, French broadcasters are looking abroad to grow key markets, including Africa where Canal+ has more than 4 million subscribers across 25 countries. This market has a rapidly expanding middle class with growing disposable income, which makes it particularly appealing.

Once again, the broadcasters have taken different approaches to international expansion.

Canal+’s production arm StudioCanal launched a new TV production unit in February 2018, dedicated to creating premium original content for an international audience.

Canal+ also produces content dedicated to its foreign local markets: “Invisibles” was released in October 2018, the broadcaster’s first African original series, a market the broadcaster has earmarked for growth.

The pay-TV operator also collaborates at an international level and has worked on the U.S. remake of its original “Calls” with Apple TV+ and “Safe” with Netflix via a U.K.-based subsidiary.

TF1 is increasing its investment in European creation via Newen, a global production company it acquired in 2015. It has also bought stakes in European production houses in Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. Shows created by these companies include “Versailles,” “Ares” and “The Bridge”.

France Télévisions partnered with Italian broadcaster RAI and German broadcaster ZDF to fund and produce TV series for domestic and international audiences. Projects announced thus far include “Leonardo” and “Around the World in Eighty Days”.

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Discovery Joins FuboTV

Online TV service FuboTV continues to transition from its original soccer roots.

The service June 18 announced a new, multiyear carriage agreement with Discovery, bringing 13 networks to the live-TV streaming service in the coming weeks.

The deal extends the previous pact between the companies that began with the former Scripps Networks Interactive (acquired by Discovery) and included carriage of their five networks, including HGTV and Food Network.

“This agreement further exemplifies the viewer affinity for our beloved brands and talent, and fuboTV’s commitment to offering high-quality, world-class content to customers,” Eric Phillips, president of affiliate distribution at Discovery, said in a statement.

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Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network and MotorTrend will be available on the streaming service’s base package, fubo Standard, joining HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel, which are already available on the service.

At the same time, an expanded suite of Discovery networks, including Science Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family, American Heroes Channel, and Discovery Life, will be added to fuboTV’s add-on package, fubo Extra ($5.99/month for 30+ channels) joining DIY Network and Cooking Channel.

Additionally, Discovery en Español and Discovery Familia will be available on fuboTV’s Spanish-language package, fubo Latino ($24.99/month for 20 channels), and the Latino Plus add-on package ($7.99/month for 15 channels).

In addition to bringing subscribers each network’s live linear feed, the agreement also includes a library of on-demand Discovery content, bringing fuboTV’s VOD library to over 60,000 movies and TV episodes per month.

“We are excited to be adding more Discovery brands alongside their lifestyle networks, which we already carry,” said Joel Armijo, CFO, fuboTV. “These brands, including HGTV and Food Network, are among our top performing entertainment networks, and this agreement allows us to extend our partnership for years to come. We expect to be similarly successful with our new Discovery networks.”

Vevo Ups Music Video Consumption 140%

Music video platform Vevo June 19 announced that its catalog of videos saw a 140% increase in U.S. viewing during the first quarter (ended March 31) compared with the fourth quarter of 2018 (ended Dec. 31) on its app on Amazon Fire TV Edition Smart TVs.

The service said the results show audiences will watch music videos on the best screen available, including in their living rooms. Vevo music videos are now available on several major video devices, including Fire TV.

Vevo’s monthly views on all connected TVs have grown 47% since 2018, and in the last year the service saw more than 33 billion views across these properties in the U.S. alone.

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News of Vevo’s distribution expansion comes as the changing consumption of TV has shifted in recent years and OTT enters the mainstream and with a target approach to reaching viewers who seek music content.

With back-to-back years of streaming growth in the living room, nearly 20% of Vevo streams now occur on connected TVs.

“We have begun to re-define the return of music videos to the living room for consumers and advertisers,” Kevin McGurn, president of sales and distribution at Vevo, said in a statement.

Vevo is available on the following devices and services: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Echo Show, Roku, Apple TV, Virgin Media (U.K.), Sky Q (U.K., Germany, Italy) and Sky’s Now TV (U.K., Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain).