FilmRise Signs Rapper Ice-T to Mediate Conflict

Erstwhile rapper Ice-TV does more than catch bad guys and sell automobile warranties, now he’s taking on “Judge Judy.”

FilmRise July 23 has acquired the distribution rights to court TV series “The Mediator with Ice-T,” with FilmRise representing the show in all media worldwide and show producer Jetmir Media retaining U.S. broadcast syndication rights.  In addition, both FilmRise and Jetmir are co-financing 20 new episodes of the series.

Each 30-minute episode features Ice-T (“Law and Order: SVU”) seeking resolutions between feuding civilian parties in a court-like platform. The parties present their sides to Ice-T, who will then bring in third party experts to get their perspectives and advice regarding the conflict.

Ice-T will then give his recommendation on how they should move forward, which will either end in a settlement or move on to civil court. “The Mediator” originally aired on Fox TV.

Max Einhorn, SVP, Acquisitions, Co-Productions, said “The Mediator” is a perfect fit to the platform’s expanding slate of celebrity-hosted original series.

“We look forward to expanding its audience via streaming and creating more original episodes,” he said.

Ice-T, who also executive produces, said the series has a better chance at finding audiences when distributed across multiple platforms.

“Few if any TV shows can thrive without multiple outlets which FilmRise has and maintains globally,” he said. “We also look forward to their creative input on new episodes.”

FilmRise plans to offer the series to a range of digital platforms including The Roku Channel, Tubi, Pluto TV, Peacock, among others, as well as its own FilmRise streaming channels.
The deal was negotiated by Jonitha Keymoore, Senior Director of Global Content
Acquisitions for FilmRise and Puraj Puri and Mark Vega represented Jetmir Media.

Samba TV Bows Global TV Viewership Dashboard in Time for Tokyo Olympics

Samba TV July 23 announced the launch of its global Real-time TV Viewership Dashboard, an interactive TV analytics dashboard featuring geographic and demographic analysis of viewership in real-time across the world, starting with four of the largest media markets: the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Australia.

Samba TV’s ACR technology, integrated at the chipset level across 24 smart TV brands and addressable footprint of 46 million devices globally, identifies content that appears on the TV screen, including TV shows, commercials, movies, and video games.

“The Olympics this year will underscore the importance of television and its unique ability to bring together billions of people in living rooms across the globe,” Samba TV co-founder/CEO Ashwin Navin. “TV data is critical for the media industry to understand the rapid changes in viewership behaviors pre-, mid-, and post-pandemic.”

Samba TV’s Real-time TV Viewership Dashboard will be put to the test during the delayed 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and other large-scale media events. The platform allows advertisers the ability to see what channels and shows are being watched in their city or country within seconds. The dashboard leverages the company’s proprietary automatic content recognition (ACR) technology to provide in-the-moment insight into viewership across markets.

“Gone are the days of waiting days, weeks, or months for analysis of TV events that have already happened,” said Navin. “We are unlocking the power of real-time TV data and this first-of-its-kind solution raises the bar to make real-time insights available to everyone.”

‘Old’ is New in Weekend Box Office Forecast

The Universal Pictures thriller Old, from director M. Night Shyamalan, joins Paramount Pictures’ newest G.I. Joe franchise release Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins as the July 25 weekend’s biggest new theatrical releases.

The two films will take on previous domestic box office champs Disney/Marvel Studios’ Black Widow and Warner Bros. Pictures’ Space Jam: A New Legacy

Unlike Widow and Space Jam 2, both Old and Snake Eyes will have exclusive theatrical runs — the latter shortened to 45 days before heading to subscription streaming video service Paramount+.

Universal, which has abbreviated window agreements with AMC Theatres and Regal, could offer Old to consumers in the home for $19.99 PVOD after three weekends if total ticket sales fall below $50 million.

The studio’s sequel The Forever Purge is available today (July 23) across myriad digital platforms, including Redbox Digital, Vudu Fandango and Amazon Prime Video.

Both Old and Snake Eyes are reportedly projected to generate around $15 million each this weekend across 3,500 screens, which includes Thursday (July 22) previews.

Widow and reigning box office topper Space Jam 2, starring LeBron James, are concurrently available online, the former, starring Scarlett Johansson, via $29.99 Premier Access purchase on Disney+, and the latter for free on HBO Max.

Recent data from Samba TV found that 2 million households have purchased Widow, a $60+ million tally Disney confirmed in its first-ever PVOD data disclosure. Some observers contend the strong in-home consumer demand hurt the Marvel superhero’s sophomore weekend box office, which plummeted about 68%.

Other holdovers include Universal’s F9: The Fast Saga with $4.8 million projected box office, according to Box Office Pro; Sony Pictures’ Escape Room: Tournament of Champions ($3.7 million); The Boss Baby: Family Business ($3.3 million, Universal); The Forever Purge ($2.2 million); A Quiet Place Part II ($1.5 million, Paramount), and Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain ($1 million, Focus Features).

Nielsen: ‘Manifest’, ‘Luca’ Top Weekly Streamed TV Show, Movie Through June 27

Netflix’s pick-up of canceled NBC TV series “Manifest” continued to pay dividends for the streaming behemoth, generating a whopping 2 billion minutes streamed across 29 episodes on U.S. household televisions for the week ending June 27, according to new data from Nielsen.

The series, which tracked 2.49 billion minutes in its premiere over-the-top video week, stayed atop the chart for the second consecutive week, besting Disney+ original movie Luca with 1.7 billion minutes. “Loki” finished No. 1 for original TV shows with 713 million minutes streamed across three episodes on Disney+.

Licensed TV Shows:

Movies:
Rank

SVOD Provider

Program Name

# of Episodes

Minutes (Millions)

1 DISNEY+ LOKI 3 713
2 NETFLIX LUCIFER 83 603
3 AMAZON BOSCH 64 423
4 NETFLIX WORKIN’ MOMS 57 394
5 NETFLIX SWEET TOOTH 8 359
6 NETFLIX BLACK SUMMER 15 297
7 HULU THE HANDMAID’S TALE 46 266
8 NETFLIX WORLD’S MOST AMAZING VACATION RENTALS 8 253
9 NETFLIX TOO HOT TO HANDLE 13 190
10 NETFLIX ELITE 31 171

Original Movies:

Rank

SVOD Provider

Program Name

# of Episodes

Minutes (Millions)

1 DISNEY+ LUCA (2021) 1 1.71 Billion
2 NETFLIX FATHERHOOD (2021) 1 885 Million
3 NETFLIX THE ICE ROAD (2021) 1 714
4 DISNEY+ RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON 1 407
5 NETFLIX WISH DRAGON (2021) 1 346
6 NETFLIX GOOD ON PAPER (2021) 1 279
7 NETFLIX HOME (2015) 1 136
8 DISNEY+ MOANA 1 135
9 NETFLIX THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES 1 131
10 DISNEY+ CRUELLA 1 101

Redbox Adds Wurl to Free Live TV Streaming Platform

Redbox July 22 announced it has partnered with Wurl, a provider of streaming video distribution and advertising services for connected TV (CTV), to facilitate and expand the selection of free channels on Redbox Free Live TV.

With nearly 100 channels of programming, Free Live TV caters to the tastes and interests of Redbox’s 40 million kiosk disc rental customers.

“By utilizing Wurl’s cloud-based technology and access to content providers and channels in the Wurl Network, Redbox will be able to efficiently and rapidly add a wide array of free channels to its service,” Sean Doherty, CEO, Wurl, said in a statement.  “Redbox has a long history of providing choice and value to consumers and we are thrilled to be working with them to continue that legacy via their FAST platform.”

“As we continue to expand our ad-supported offering including Free Live TV, it’s important that we deliver a diverse and compelling line-up of entertainment channels that we know our customers will both love and be able to easily access directly from the Redbox App.,” added Chris Yates, GM, Redbox On Demand. “Wurl delivers great content and technology that will continue to delight our audience.”

Redbox has been a leader in quality home entertainment for nearly two decades delivering choice and value to customers and partners across physical and digital channels. Beginning in 2020, Redbox expanded its service to include free, ad-supported platforms – Free Live TV and Free On Demand – to satisfy demand for free content which is expected to grow to $26 Billion by 2023 (SNL KAGAN 2020). Redbox has transformed itself into a diversified entertainment business including film distribution, premium video on demand (PVOD), transactional video on demand (TVOD), ad-supported linear and on demand (AVOD).

Jason Kilar: Warner Bros. Producing 10 More Theatrical Releases Streaming Concurrently on HBO Max in 2022

WarnerMedia made headlines this year releasing the entire Warner Bros. theatrical slate concurrently on HBO Max for a movie’s first 31 days of release.

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, speaking on the July 22 fiscal call, said the controversial strategy through six months reveals the enduring importance of the box office ($463 million in revenue domestically through June 30) coupled with the impact technology has made on distribution.

“Clearly motion pictures matter and will continue to matter when it comes to theatrical exhibition,” Kilar said. “They also matter at home, and absolutely in terms of the response that we’ve gotten…from all of our day-and-date titles. We feel very good about the response that consumers have given it in the home.”

Jason Kilar

As the exhibition business turns the page on the pandemic and more moviegoers are vaccinated, Kilar, who is on tap to remain CEO of WarnerMedia into next year heading into the completion of the Discovery merger, doesn’t anticipate movie distribution returning to the lengthy theatrical window.

He said that while some Warner titles in 2022 will have a 45-day window, the studio is also going to be producing more than 10 movies that will be available on HBO Max and in theaters on day one.

“I think that what you’re going to see is this industry continues to evolve, and to continue to innovate in ways that not only works for consumers and fans, but also works for our business partners,” Kilar said.

Separately, AT&T CEO John Stankey said the telecom has heard nothing from federal regulators regarding the merger that will transform WarnerMedia into Warner Bros. Discovery and see Discovery CEO Davis Zaslav running the unit.

Stankey said the regulatory process involves document production and providing information that’s responsive to the government’s requests to begin the reviews.

“No news is good news,” he said. “I’ll tell you internally, all the normal steps are going on to be prepared operationally for when we would expect an approval. It’s not a complicated transaction.”

Comcast Adds Hulu + Live TV to Xfinity Flex

Comcast July 22 announced that its broadband-only Xfinity Flex subscribers now have access to Disney’s Hulu + Live TV, the largest online TV platform with more than 4 million subs.

Existing Hulu + Live TV subs can access their programming from within Flex’s existing Hulu app by saying “Hulu” into their Xfinity Voice Remote. After signing in with their credentials, they’ll have access to their full subscription – including dozens of live channels (and associated on demand programming) spanning sports, news, kids and entertainment, Hulu originals, exclusive series, and more. In the coming weeks, new customers will be able to sign-up for the service via their Flex devices.

“The addition of Hulu + Live TV on Flex adds tremendous value for our internet customers, giving them access to more of their streaming content and subscriptions alongside a growing catalog of free programming – all seamlessly integrated into one voice-enabled and easy-to-navigate experience,” Rebecca Heap, SVP of Video and Entertainment, Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

Hulu + Live TV joins a growing list of linear streaming services available on Flex, including Xfinity Stream, Sling TV, Peacock, HBO Max, Paramount+, Xumo and Pluto.

WarnerMedia Ups Q2 Home Entertainment, Games Revenue 15%

Spurred by an ongoing video game boom as well as an enduring digital and packaged media retail market for movies, WarnerMedia July 22 reported a 15% increase in second-quarter “games and other” revenue to $405 million from $351 million during the previous-year period.

Through six months of the current fiscal year, retail sales of games, movies and TV shows is up 5% to $754 million from $715 million in the previous-year period.

The top-selling game in June was Mortal Kombat 11 from Warner Bros. Interactive, according to The NPD Group.

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In home entertainment, Godzilla vs. Kong is the top-selling combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc release through June, according to NPD. Others include Tom & Jerry: The Movie at No. 3 and Batman: The Long Halloween, Part I at No. 7.

Warner Bros. titles have dominated market sales, accounting for 70% of the Top 10 selling titles in the U.K. — the world’s No. 2 home video market. DC Comic heroine Wonder Woman 1984 is the top-selling title across the pond through June 30 across all formats.

Tenet remains the top-selling catalog title on combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc with $10.5 million, with Harry Potter: The Complete Collection Years 1-7 adding $8 million in unit sales, and 1996 release Space Jam, starring Michael Jordan.

HBO and HBO Max Add 2.8 Million Combined Q2 Subs

AT&T July 22 announced that its WarnerMedia subscription streaming video service, HBO Max, and HBO pay-TV channel added 2.8 million combined subscribers in the second quarter, ended June 30.

The platforms ended the period with 47 million combined subs, a gain of 10.7 million subs over the past year, and 67.5 million globally, up 12 million.

WarnerMedia ended the quarter with more than 12 million standalone HBO Max subscribers in the United States and 31.5 million transitioned subs from HBO pay-TV. HBO ended the quarter with 32,000 U.S. pay-TV subs and 3.5 million commercial subs.

The company’s 20.5 million international Max and HBO subs consist of domestic and international, and exclude free trials, basic and Cinemax subscribers.

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AT&T now expects to generate upwards of 73 million global HBO Max/HBO subscribers by the end of this year. Max launched nationwide May 27, 2020.

Subscription revenue increased 21.3% to $4 billion, primarily reflecting the 38.5% growth of direct-to-consumer Max and HBO subscription revenue following the launch of Max in the year-ago quarter.

“HBO Max had another strong quarter and is ahead of plan to be a leading direct-to-consumer streaming platform, with both subscriber- and ad-supported choices,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement.

Pachter: Netflix Foray into Video Games a Mistake

NEWS ANALYSIS: Netflix’s recent behind-the-scenes maneuvering to establish a foothold in mobile video gaming isn’t sitting well with longtime Wall Street bear Michael Pachter. The Wedbush Securities media analyst, who specializes in video games, for years has considered Netflix shares overvalued, underscoring his sentiment with the streamers erstwhile (until 2020) negative free cash flows.

Michael Pachter

Thus, while Netflix reported $1.8 billion in second quarter (ended June 30) operating income, the service burned through $175 million in free cash on content. Netflix generated $899 million in free cash in the previous-year (pandemic) period.

Free cash is the amount of money a company has left over after paying for operating expenses.

Pachter says that as Netflix burns cash, it is expanding content offerings to include lower cost podcasts and video games, as the former is relatively inexpensive to produce. Gaming is a different ballgame — one that has seen many high-profile players enter and stumble.

“We think this is not smart [by Netflix],” Pachter wrote in a July 21 note.

To be sure, the gaming market is booming. Through the end of May, total revenue of hardware, games and accessories was up 17% to $24 billion from $20.5 billion in the previous-year period, according to The NPD Group.

While Netflix says it will initially focus on mobile games, Pachter questions whether the SVOD pioneer has any idea how difficult the mobile games business has become. The business graveyard is littered with the corpses of content companies that have failed at making mobile games, with Disney the most prominent failure.

“Video game publishing [heavyweights] like Activision, EA, Take-Two, Ubisoft and Nintendo have tried for years to create compelling mobile content, and each has had lasting success only through acquisition [of content],” Pachter wrote.

The analyst wonders why Netflix hired gaming veteran Mike Verdu to spearhead the venture — claiming the executive hasn’t produced games in about 20 years.

“While [Verdu] worked for mobile developers, his experience is limited, given that Zynga produced its first mobile game after he left the company, Kabam was sold only two years after he arrived, and he was at EA during a period of no growth,” Pachter wrote.

Netflix expects to create games based on its intellectual properties such as “Stranger Things” and “Bridgerton,” among others. Pachter says only one TV show in the past 20 years has morphed into a successful video game: “The Walking Dead.” Successful movie franchises translated into strong-selling games are largely limited to Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

“If [Netflix] hopes to monetize its valuable television and movie IP, it would be less costly and more effective to follow Disney’s example of licensing its content to competent [game] creators,” Pachter wrote.