WarnerMedia Hires Ex-Hulu Boss as CEO

WarnerMedia Entertainment April 1 named Jason Kilar as its CEO. Kilar, former founding CEO of Hulu, begins his position on May 1, reporting to COO John Stankey.

Kilar’s resume involving streaming video will be key as WarnerMedia, whose assets include Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, launches HBO Max in May. He ran Hulu from 2007 to 2013.

Indeed, with Max the cornerstone of WarnerMedia’s distribution focus in the near term as theatrical remains shuttered due to the coronavirus, Kilar’s experience launching Hulu will be key.

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“Our team led by Bob Greenblatt, Ann Sarnoff, Gerhard Zeller and Jeff Zucker has done an amazing job establishing our brands as leaders in the hearts  and minds of consumers,” Stankey said in a statement. “Adding Jason to the talented WarnerMedia family as we launch HBO Max in May gives us the right management to strategically position our leading portfolio of brands, world-class talent and rich library of intellectual property for future growth.”

Kilar, 48, was CEO of Hulu from its launch in 2007 until 2013. Before that, he held several leadership positions at Amazon from 1997 to 2006, including SVP of Worldwide Application Software.

His voluntary departure from Hulu surprised analysts, including Richard Greenfield, now with Lightshed Partners. “He’s done an amazing job!” Greenfield wrote at the time.

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Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce “assumed” Kilar would stay at Hulu during the transition, while portfolio manager Larry Haverty thought Kilar could move on to “bigger things.”

Instead, Kilar launched video streaming service Vessel, a wannabe YouTube service, which enabled viewers for a $3 monthly fee, exclusive access to new videos 72 hours before they were released in other channels. Vessel was acquired by Verizon, which shuttered the platform in 2016.

Additionally, Kilar served as a board member at DreamWorks Animation (2013-2016) and Univision Communications (2016-2020). He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and business from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

 

 

 

 

Conviva: Global Streaming Video Up 20% During Pandemic

At a time when society has never been more digitally connected, countries around the globe are imploring their people to be socially distant. But in the age of connectedness, with options for news, entertainment, and friendships at the press of a button, the sacrifices are not nearly as harsh, according to new data from Conviva.

The coronavirus has had immediate impacts on consumption patterns and engagement across streaming and social media, with marked differences in the past month alone.

Conviva analyzed global streaming data from a 21-day period between March 3rd and March 23rd, comparing the last 7 days ending March 23rd to two weeks prior.

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Streaming skyrocketed on a global scale, increasing more than 20% compared to the previous two-week period, with North America streaming up nearly 27% in the same time period.

Primetime TV consumption shifted earlier as viewers watched throughout the day, rather than just during the evening hours. Daytime viewing jumped nearly 40% as compared to two weeks prior.

For better or worse, Facebook remains a leading platform for local news video registering the largest increase in viewing over the past 30 days, with an increase of 118% in average views per video and total video views up 247%.

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Twitter led social media engagement with 150%increase in average engagements per video for global news accounts and 196% increase in average engagements per video for local news accounts in the United States.]

“Television has long been a way to connect – a plugged-in friend when one might otherwise feel disconnected,” read the report. “In these dire times, we’ve seen many turning to their old friend in new ways. Staying home means tuning in – to get informed, pass the time, and stay connected.”

Conviva said the pandemic has offered a worldwide “reset” on the way people relate to each other.

“People will perhaps see their face-to-face relationships in a new light, but our ability to remain connected via social media is likely valued now more than ever,” the report said. “In the best of times, streaming and social media add value to our daily lives. In this moment, the choice of information or distraction is a welcome one. But either is the correct choice for those of us following the moral imperative to stay home.”

Nielsen: Asia Offers Post COVID-19 Media Snapshot

In the timeline of the coronavirus pandemic, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea were among the first to feel the effects of social distancing and quarantining.

The regions are now the first to see a possible light at the end of the tunnel. Nielsen, which released new data showing, that similar to the United States, in-home media consumption increased about 60% during the crisis, says that from an advertising perspective, brands and agencies will need to both adjust which products are being marketed, as well as the tone in which they’re delivering their messages to consumers.

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During the first three weeks of the pandemic, Taiwan’s TV audience grew by 1 million viewers, for a total viewing population of approximately 21 million. News channels and programs were the primary beneficiaries of the increased penetration, followed by children’s programming.

In Hong Kong, as more consumers stayed home, Nielsen found that TV ratings for all day and all time periods increased by 43% in February compared with the same time period in 2019, while primetime ratings during the same period increased by 44%.

“The impact of COVID-19 is absolutely substantial,” said David Yeung, VP of marketing communications, consumer group, at HKT Limited, said in a statement. “Almost all industries have been badly hit, with lots of closure for retail outlets, restaurants, etc. The key to survival is to adapt to the changing business environment very quickly and to ensure threats are turned into opportunities by tapping into technology and data.”

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While China’s traditional communist-driven social safety nets have been challenged by a rising middle class and increased dependence on commerce with the West, As Zod Fang, head of GroupM Knowledge, GroupM China, said the government is increasing new policies to stimulate the economy and consumer consumption as the region emerges from the pandemic.

“This will lead to greater demand,” Fang said. “Therefore, brands need to get prepared. Work with agencies to have an overall plan including sourcing, logistics, marketing and sales to fully seize the opportunity.”

China did try to jumpstart the domestic theatrical market on March 24 in Shanghai — a move it quickly reversed, shuttering 600 theaters with no explanation given.

The China Film Group, the state-backed distributor that controls all movie release dates in the country, had reportedly planned to re-release box office hits Wolf Warrior 2 and The Wandering Earth, in addition Disney/Marvel The Avengers franchise movies.

All that’s back on hold for now.

CEO: AMC Theatres Hoping for Mid-June Re-Opening

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor with 1,000 theatres and 11,000 screens, hopes to re-open domestic screens by mid-June, CEO Adam Aron told CNBC.

Speaking March 31, Aron said the industry remained on “uncharted times in our lifetimes,” while admitting to wishful thinking as the chain has seen revenue plummet to zero as local and state governments banned group gatherings of 10 or more people.

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“The summer has always been one of the biggest movie seasons of the year … and Christmas,” Aron said. “I would love to think that America will be enjoying summer movie season again. But nobody knows.”

Aron said America needs to get on the “other side of this virus” as a country. “So many businesses have been temporarily shuttered. People want to get out of the house and get back to normal. But that’s not going to happen in the next few days or the next few weeks.”

China had initiated limited theatrical openings only to reverse the decision the next day when new cases of coronavirus popped up. Beijing’s Film Bureau ordered the 600 re-opened Shanghai theaters shuttered on March 27.

Aron said China’s reopening just 60 days after the virus broke out seemed “a little too tight,” when compared with AMC’s decision to shutter all screens on March 17 for six-to-12 weeks.

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The CEO said he saluted Congress for passing the $2.2 trillion relief bill, which he said would provide relief for AMC employees and “our communities.”

Aron believes the entertainment industry will bounce back quickly because “people want to be entertained.” “The country is going to come back. America will be normal again. We’re just going through an interruption. How quickly nobody knows. We’re all going to learn together.”

 

Trans World Entertainment CEO, Board Out as Company Switches Focus to E-commerce

Trans World Entertainment Corp. March 31 announced the departure of CEO Mike Feurer and four other board members as the former parent to home entertainment retail chain f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) switches focus to e-commerce facilitator eTailz.com. Feurer had been CEO and a director of the board since 2014.

Departing board members include chairman Michael Solow, Jeff Hastings (former head of DVD sales at Paramount), Rob Marks and Michael Nahl.

“Mike’s leadership was instrumental in the brand transformation and recent sale of our f.y.e. business and the financing of etailz,” Solow said in a statement. “In fact, it was Mike’s foresight regarding digital marketplace retailing that prompted the [TWEC] to reinvent itself with the purchase of etailz several years ago. The board thanks Mike for his contributions to the company and wish him the best in the future.”

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Mike Feurer

New York-based TWEC sold f.y.e. in January for $10 million, which included Second Spin used packaged-media stores. It acquired Spokane, Wash.-based etailz.com in 2016 for $75 million.

The latter bills itself as an online marketplace retail expert and software provider using proprietary data to help third-party digital marketplace retailing through Amazon, Jet, Walmart.com and eBay.

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Etailz.com has struggled since the acquisition. In the most-recent fiscal period, etailz lost $1.3 million on revenue of $28.6 million, which was down 35% from revenue of $44.2 million during the previous-year period. Through three fiscal quarters, revenue is down almost 30% at $98 million from $138 million. Operating loss has narrowed to $3.6 million from $9.8 million.

Regardless, TWEC secured additional $30 million in financing for etailz from investors led by Alimco Financial Corp. Together with the previously announced credit facility, etailz now has over $30 million in committed new financing.

In connection with the financing, Tom Simpson and Jonathan Marcus join a reconstituted board. Simpson was co-founder and executive chairman of etailz up until TWEC’s acquisition in 2016, and currently serves as managing member of the Kick-Start funds.

Marcus is the CEO of Alimco and has over 30 years of experience as an investor, including numerous board roles. The financing will help etailz further develop its software and services offerings, supporting inventory expansion, and expanding into new marketplaces and geographies.

“Combined with our incredible team and partners and the exclusive focus of our board, etailz is well positioned to become the leader in marketplace software and services,” said Kunal Chopra, etailz CEO. Chopra joined etailz in August 2019 following previous experiences at Microsoft, Groupon and Amazon.

 

 

Disney+ Launching in India on April 3

Eager to expand its branded subscription streaming video service worldwide, Disney+ will launch April 3 in India with sister over-the-top platform Hotstar.

Disney acquired Hotstar, which reportedly has 100 million monthly views, as part of the $71.3 million 20th Century Fox transaction.

India, with the second highest population behind China, has become hotbed for American media companies seeking to tap a consumer base that exceeds 1 billion.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week ordered citizens not to leave their homes in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“To save India, every citizen of India is being banned from 12 o’clock tonight, on exiting homes, completely,” Modi said in a series of March 24 tweets.

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Roy Morgan: Disney+ Attracts 1.8 Million Subs in Australia

New data from Roy Morgan reveals Disney+ is now Australia’s fourth most-popular subscription streaming video service four months after its launch.

The Aussie research company said Netflix remains the nation’s most watched subscription television service, with 12.20 million residents having access to it, an increase of 942,000 on a year ago. It is followed by Foxtel on 4.85 million (-98,000) and Stan on 3.70 million (+1.09 million).

Disney+, which entered the Australian market in November 2019, is ahead of Amazon Prime Video on 1.48 million (+914,000) and YouTube Premium on 1.48 million (+244,000).

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Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine says that while Netflix is the clear leader in subscription television services, there is growing competition to secure the attention of Australian viewers.

“Since entering the Australian market in 2015, Netflix has reshaped how we watch television,” Levine said in a statement. “It created a product which allows users to make their own selection of uninterrupted television to watch whenever they want. Its success not only brought other players into the market, it forced commercial television to adapt by creating its own online streaming channels.

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Levine said the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many Australians to self-isolate at home indefinitely, presents an unexpected opportunity for streaming services such as Disney+ to continue the momentum of customer growth in the months ahead.

The research firm said Netflix and Stan remain the most popular SVOD combination in Australia, with 3.44 million viewers having access to both services and closely followed by Netflix and Foxtel (3.14 million).

The report — based on online survey of 12,082 respondents over the age of 14 — found that 1.67 million Disney+ subs also have access to Netflix. This represents 93% of Disney+ viewership but only 14% of Netflix viewers.

Nearly 900,000 Aussies have access to both Disney+ and the locally owned Stan. This level of viewership is equal to half of all Disney+ viewers and represents nearly a quarter of Stan’s 3.7 million viewers. A far higher rate than for rival streaming service Netflix.

Significantly for traditional pay TV service Foxtel, only 11% of their viewers have signed up for Disney+, a lower rate than for either Netflix or Stan.

Parks: One-Third of U.S. Broadband Households Listen to Podcasts Weekly; 9% Subscribe to Online News Service

With millions of people home-bound through work and school due to the coronavirus pandemic, new data from Parks Associates finds 36% of U.S. broadband households listen to podcasts weekly, although the research firm expects patterns of video, music, and news consumption to change dramatically as a result of the current public health crisis.

The study finds that podcasts dealing with video, music and news have a stronger appeal among younger consumers than older consumers and almost half of podcast consumers are heavy users, spending more than five hours per week listening. Podcast users are also very interested in bundling podcast services with video and music.

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The Dallas-based research company reports that in the third quarter 2019, 9% of U.S. broadband households subscribed to an online news service.

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“While news consumption is going up during the COVID-19 crisis and daily briefings, most online news outlets have provided their coverage free of charge or outside of the paywall, so the number of households subscribing to an online news service will likely not increase as much in the short term,” research director Steve Nason said in a statement. “Long term, we will be tracking consumer trends to see if current events will drive broader online news consumption and subscription habits.”

AMC Networks Bows First International VOD Access in Spain

“AMC Selekt,” AMC Networks’ upstart video-on-demand service, launched its first international operations in Spain.

The service will be added to France’s Orange TV at no additional cost. As a result of this first-time agreement, Orange TV platform subscribers can watch more than 5,000 programs throughout the year, in a wide variety of genres including films, series, documentaries, lifestyle, children’s content and music.

AMC Selekt content ranges from AMC Networks, Canal Hollywood, SundanceTV, Dark, XTRM, Odisea, Canal Cocina, Canal Decasa, Canal Panda and Sol Música.

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“AMC Selekt … is the largest channel network library available in Spain and, more importantly, the most diverse,” Manuel Balsera, EVP and managing director of AMCNISE, said in a statement. “We are delighted that AMC Selekt is debuting with Orange TV, which is one of our main distribution partners in the market.”

Subscribers will have access to series such as “Dispatches from Elsewhere,” “Das Boot,” “Wisting,” “Bordertown” and “This Close,” among others. Movies include The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Meet the Parents, Super 8 and The Addams Family; and documentaries on technology, nature and current events such as “The Harvey Weinstein Scandal,” “A Samurai at the Vatican” and “Antarctic Expedition”.

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In-house productions include culinary programs “Let’s Taste the World” and “Julius’ 22 Minutes,” home decoration and fashion shows “A Touch of Chus” and “Customize Your House”. The offer also includes music concerts by Vetusta Morla, Alice Wonder and Nunatak and children’s content such as “Masha and the Bear” and “Panda Kitchen”.

AMC Networks Moves Up ‘Killing Eve’ Season Three Debut

AMC Networks has moved up the season three premiere of award-winning drama “Killing Eve” by two weeks to next April 12. All eight new episodes will be simulcast on BBC America and AMC.

The third season continues the story of two women with brutal pasts, addicted to each other but now trying desperately to live their lives without their drug of choice. For Villanelle (Jodie Comer), the assassin without a job, Eve (Sandra Oh) is dead. For Eve, the ex-MI6 operative hiding in plain sight, Villanelle will never find her. All seems fine until a shocking and personal death sets them on a collision course yet again.

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Stars Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw, Kim Bodnia, Sean Delaney and Owen McDonnell return with new cast additions: Dame Harriet Walter (“Succession”), Danny Sapani (“Harlots”), Gemma Whelan (“Game of Thrones”), Camille Cottin (“Call My Agent”), Steve Pemberton (“Inside No. 9”), Raj Bajaj (“A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding”), Turlough Convery (Ready Player One), Pedja Bjelac (Harry Potter) and Evgenia Dodina (One Week and a Day).

“Killing Eve” season two is available on BBCAmerica.com, AMC.com, and the BBC America and AMC Apps. First two seasons are also available on Hulu, download-to-own platforms and Blu-ray/DVD.