NBC Universal, Roku Bow Reality TV Streaming Service Outside U.S.

Roku and NBC Universal March 16 announced the launch of a reality TV streaming service in the U.K. Dubbed, “hayu,” the service – available on the Roku Channel Store – offers more than 5,000 episodes of U.S. and British reality TV shows, including “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” and spin-off, “Life of Kylie,” in addition to “The Real Housewives” and “Million Dollar Listing” franchises.

Priced at £3.99 ($5.57), hayu offers subscribers a one-month free trial.

The shows – the majority of which debut on the service the same day as they premier in the U.S. – include on-demand access to catalog episodes from more than 150 shows such as “Vanderpump Rules,” “Top Chef,” “Shahs of Sunset,” and “Bad Girls Club,” among others.

“Reality TV continues to capture the hearts and attention of British consumers,” Ingo Reese, director content acquisition at Roku, said in a statement.

Hayu represents a further attempt by NBC Universal to market direct-to-consumer following the short-lived (one year) SVOD comedy platform SeeSo.

Hendrik McDermott, managing director at hayu, said the service enables NBC Universal to extend distribution of well-known U.S. brands beyond the pay-TV ecosystem in foreign markets.

“The launch of hayu … is an important step reaching even more consumers across the U.K.,” said McDermott.

The service is also available in Ireland, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Parks: 60% of TV Viewing in Broadband Homes is On-Demand

Nearly 60% of TV viewing in broadband homes is on-demand, non-linear content. Just over 25% of viewing by consumers ages 18 to 34 is live, including pay-TV, broadcast and live-streaming, according to new data from Parks Associates.

Among viewers who watch live broadcasts, 17% use an online video service such as CBS All Access, Univision Now or PlutoTV. That percentage jumps to 30% among viewers age 35 and older.

“Live TV is far from dead, but on-demand sources are claiming an increasingly large portion of viewing,” senior analyst Brett Sappington said in a statement.

The analyst contends that despite the onslaught of online TV and over-the-top video, viewers often remain loyal to habits they grew up with – including watching live linear TV.

The highest average consumption of linear TV content is among married respondents at 7.8 hours per week. The highest average consumption of non-linear TV content is among unmarried respondents living with a partner at 13.1 hours weekly.

“Interestingly, consumers who have never had pay-TV (i.e. cord nevers) still spend about one-third of their TV viewing time watching live content, primarily from over-the-air TV channels,” Sappington said. “They also spend almost half as much time watching video on a TV overall as do average broadband households.”


Shout! Factory Buys Roger Corman Library with Chinese Co.

Indie distributor Shout! Factory and China’s Ace Film HK Co. have acquired Roger “The Pope of Pop Cinema” Corman’s New Horizons Picture catalog featuring 270 movies and TV series. No financial details were disclosed.

The deal grants Shout! rights to North America, Europe, Australia and Russia. Ace has rights for China, Asia, Africa and South America.

Titles include Rock‘N’Roll High School, The Trip, The Wild Angels, Death Race 2000, Piranha, Bloodfist, Black Scorpion, Little Shop of Horrors, Eat My Dust! and Humanoids From The Deep, among others.

The 91-year-old Corman received an honorary Oscar in 2009, and reportedly helped foster the careers of Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Paul Bartel, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme and Gale Anne Hurd, among others.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Shout! has distributed select Corman titles on branded packaged media box sets and digital since 2010. It plans to support the catalog with a “long-term growth strategy” that includes new content development, remakes, merchandise licensing programs, digital media initiatives, and content syndication.

The company bowed ad-supported Shout! Factory TV in 2015.


Amazon Prime Video Viewership Revealed

Amazon Prime Video reportedly generated 26 million initial viewers for original programs in early 2017, including 5 million viewers for top shows such as “The Man in the High Castle,” “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle,” and ‘The Grand Tour.”

Subscription streaming video heavyweights Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have staunchly refused to reveal viewership (or ratings) for their ad-free original programs, citing lack of required advertiser justification. It’s a stance that irritates ad-supported TV broadcasters beholden to live-or-die ratings.

Now, internal documents obtained by Reuters reveal in part why original programing is driving Netflix and Amazon to spend $8 billion and $5 billion, respectively, on programing in 2018: New subscribers. It’s growth that drives revenue – and that’s what Wall Street loves.

With Prime Video a free component of Amazon’s $99 annual Prime free two-day shipping membership program, original episodic programs and movies drive subscriber growth, which in turn drives growth of other items on Amazon – including movies.

Unlike Netflix, which reveals (if not champions) subscriber data, Amazon refuses to disclose Prime membership data, which was estimated to top 54 million in the United States at the end of 2015, according to a Consumer Intelligence Research Partners survey.

In a separate 2016 survey from “CutCableToday” of 380 Prime members, 40% said they rented or bought movies not available on Prime Video from Amazon Instant Video on a monthly basis. The survey also found that 20% of Prime members don’t use Prime Video.

“When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes,” Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos told a 2016 tech confab. It’s an outlook CFO Brian Olsavsky drones on monotonously in Amazon’s conference calls.

Reuters reported that “High Castle,” which is an adaption of Philip Dick’s 1962 alternate historical fiction showcasing Axis powers Germany, Japan and Italy having won World War II, cost $72 million in first season production and marketing.

It reportedly generated 1.15 million new Prime subscribers, or about $63 in subscriber acquisition costs – 36% below the annual Prime membership fee.

SVOD Use Increasing Among Older Demos

Subscription streaming video has long been a mainstay among millennials. Now, consumers age 55 and older are migrating toward Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu with greater frequency, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

The average consumer between 55 and 64 years old streams the same amount of content – 1 hour and 20 minutes – per day as consumers between 18 and 24-year-olds. Yet, the 55+ demo accounts for just 13% of SVOD subscribers. The majority of SVOD subs are under 35 years old.

“It’s long been held that an ageing population offers a ready audience for broadcast TV, but our analysis shows that it’s time for a reality check,” Richard Broughton, director at Ampere, said in a statement.

Broughton said once older viewers subscribe to SVOD, either through advertising or following recommendations from friends and family, they shift their viewing patterns and consume content in a similar way to their younger counterparts.

The older demo watches content that ranges from action and adventure (14%), to sci-fi and fantasy (14%), crime thrillers (13%), comedy (8%) and documentaries (7%).

U.K.-based Ampere said that as the older demo matches market penetration with the younger subs in the U.S. and U.K., marketing teams of the SVOD services will increasingly turn their attention to older viewers.

“We expect this to herald yet more changes to content consumption for both broadcast and on-demand services,” Broughton said.


Kagan: Pay-TV Sub Loss Softened in Fourth Quarter 2017

The pay-TV business model may be under siege, but subscriber losses actually slowed for traditional multichannel video providers in the fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017 – while declining for the full year, according to new data compiled by Kagan, a group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Combined cable, satellite TV (Dish Network and DirecTV) and telecom multichannel subscriptions fell to 94 million, including 91.1 million residential customers. Combined, cable, satellite and telecom subs are now down approximately 7.4 million from their peak in 2012.

The total multichannel count, including the top two virtual service providers Sling TV and DirecTV Now, is at 97.3 million.

Cable operators lost an estimated 986,411 video subscribers in 2017, more than twice the 2016 drop. That broke the sector’s three-year streak of decelerating video subscriber losses.

The telecoms (AT&T, Verizon) slowed their net subscriber losses for a third consecutive quarter. The sector shed 903,262 subscribers in 2017 to end the year at 10.6 million.

The satellite sector was down nearly 1.7 million subscribers in 2017 – the biggest annual loss on record, as DirecTV joined Dish Network in posting traditional subscriber declines.

Bob Chapek Expands Duties in Disney Reorganization

Bob Chapek, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, is assuming additional responsibility for all of Disney’s consumer products operations globally, including licensing and Disney stores, as chairman of the new Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products business segment.

Former head of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Chapek’s expanded duties come as Disney revamps senior management ahead of planned direct-to-consumer offerings.

“Bob comes to this new role with an impressive record of success at both parks and resorts and consumer products, and he is the perfect leader to run these combined teams,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.

Chapek, who is speculated to one day to take Iger’s position when he retires, will continue to report directly to Iger.

Separately, Kevin Mayer, who has served as Disney’s chief strategy officer since 2015, was named chairman of the new direct-to-consumer and international business segment.

“Kevin is a proven leader who has played a critical role in bringing together the collection of creative and technological assets that will allow Disney to offer unparalleled entertainment experiences in a direct-to-consumer future,” said Iger said. Mayer will also continue to report directly to Iger.

The reorganization also includes segmenting Disney’s businesses into four divisions: the newly-formed direct-to-consumer and international; the combined parks, experiences and consumer products; media networks; and studio entertainment. The reorganization is effective immediately.

The media networks business segment is co-chaired by Ben Sherwood, president, Disney|ABC Television Group, and James Pitaro, who was recently named president of ESPN and previously served as chairman, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media.

The segment will remain virtually the same, with the exception of the international Disney Channel operations that are moving to the direct-to-consumer and international business segment along with management of global advertising sales/technology.

The studio entertainment business segment — which includes Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment —  is led by Alan Horn, chairman, The Walt Disney Studios, and remains virtually the same, with the exception of the management of program sales moving to the direct-to-consumer and international business segment. The segment includes Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disney Live Action, Pixar Animation Studios (PIXR), Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, as well as Disney Theatrical Group and Disney Music Group.




Redbox Ups Q4 Usage, Tops iTunes, Google, YouTube, Vudu

The percentage of consumers renting or purchasing movies from Redbox increased in the fourth quarter 2017 from Q3, according to new data from TiVo.

In a survey of 3,000 respondents, TiVo found that 12.5% of respondents used Redbox in Q4 compared to about 10% in Q3. The percentage trailed only Amazon (17.9%), which was up 3.3% from Q3.

Redbox usage topped iTunes (7.9%), Google Play (7.2%), YouTube Movies (4.8%), Vudu (3.7%), CinemaNow (2.2%), Flixster (1.5%) and other (1.4%).

TiVo found that 37.3% of all respondents purchased from pay- per-rental or TVOD services, an increase of 4.6% from Q3. Another 38.5% with pay-TV service are cord-cheaters (those who have pay-TV service and also use a TVOD service), an increase of 5.8%.

The report found that 34.3% of cord-cheaters use both TVOD and SVOD services in addition to their cable/ satellite service, a category that increased 5.2%.

Specifically, 79.6% of respondents spend money on a TVOD rental monthly, an increase of 3.1% from Q3; up 6.7% from the previous-year period and up 11.2% from two years ago.

More than 32% spends $3 to $8 monthly, while 13.3% spends $9 to $11 per month, and this group increased slightly quarter-0ver-quarter; up 4% y/y and up 5.8% over two years.

Finally, of the 37.3% of respondents who use TVOD services, 79% watch content on a weekly basis, an increase of 8.7% y/y and 11.8% over two years.

Britain Expels 23 Russian Diplomats, ‘Russia Today’ Remains on Air – For Now

British Prime Minister Theresa May March 14 expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the alleged nerve gas attack earlier this month on a former Russian spy and his daughter at a cemetery in Salisbury. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain hospitalized.

The status of RT (formerly “Russia Today”), the 24-hour Putin government-backed TV network broadcasting in the United Kingdom, remains unchanged. Several British politicians have called for banning the network, which features English-language programing on Russia and related cultural, political events.

In response, Russia has threatened to expel all British media should RT be stripped of its operating license in the United Kingdom.

“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down ‘Russia Today,’” Russian Foreign Ministry’s Maria Zakharova told the state-run RIA, as reported by Reuters. “No one can go to a parliament of their country and say: I give Russia 24 hours.”

RT’s operating license is controlled by Ofcom, the broadcast regulator in the U.K., which is treating the matter with caution.

The agency said it has written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s UK broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation. It said the letter explained that, should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK, it would consider this relevant to its ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper.

The letter to RT said that Ofcom would carry out “our independent fit and proper assessment” on an expedited basis, and would write to RT again shortly setting out details of its process.

RT, in a statement, said its programing continues to adhere to all established standards and is simply a pawn in a war of words between Russia and the U.K.

“By linking RT to unrelated matters, Ofcom is conflating its role as a broadcasting regulator with matters of state,” RT said.


Netflix Eyeing Current Events News Programming

Netflix reportedly is looking to launch a current event news program similar to “60 Minutes” on CBS and ABC’s “20/20.”

The program would cover both sides of the political aisle and feature field reports – the latter a dying feature among broadcast news organizations facing dwindling ratings and operating costs.

“Netflix [is] proceeding with caution over this because they’re well aware that most new current affairs shows underwhelm and are expensive,” an unidentified TV executive told MarketWatch.

The subscription streaming video pioneer, which is spending $8 billion on original content this year, has aggressively branched out from episodic programming to feature-length movies and high-profile talk shows.

Netflix reportedly is in negotiations with former President Obama and his wife Michelle for programming. It currently streams a periodic Q&A show with David Letterman (whose first guest was Obama), recently inked comic Norm Macdonald for a satirical look at news, in addition to “The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale.”

The latter similar to McHale’s former show, “The Soup” on E! featuring cutting commentary on TV programs and popular culture.

Jeff Wlodarczak, analyst with Pivotal Research, questioned Netflix’s move into the news genre, whose shelf life is limited.

“All of their content generally has durability — you can watch in months or years later and it is still interesting. But I can see them doing something similar to ‘The Daily Show,’” he said.

While a Netflix rep wasn’t immediately available for comment, the service earlier this month began streaming “Flint Town,” an eight episode docu-series about the aftermath of the Michigan town’s public water crisis.

The documentary is in partnership with Vox Media, and includes upcoming (March 16) release, “Wild Wild Country,” about a guru who attempts to start his own utopian city in rural Oregon.