U.K. Politicos Call for ‘Russia Today’ TV Ban

Members of Britain’s Parliament are calling for a ban of RT (formerly “Russia Today”) network and website in the United Kingdom following the suspected nerve gas attack of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury.

Current and former labor ministers Stephen Doughty and Chris Bryant called on Prime Minister Theresa May to take action against RT, which broadcasts in the United Kingdom under a license with the Office of Communications (Ofcom).

“Can we just stop ‘Russia Today’ just broadcasting its propaganda in this country?” asked Bryant.

Doughty urged May to expedite communication with other departments about banning broadcast of RT within government buildings.

“Why should we be watching their propaganda in this Parliament?” Doughty said.

RT, which called itself a pawn in the international incident, streamed a 2014 episode featuring Bryant on the network promoting his book on constitutional reform.

“Bryant is seemingly happy to appear on RT when it suits his interests,” said the network.

Meanwhile, Ofcom, in a statement, reiterated it has an “ongoing duty” to reaffirm that all broadcast licensees in the U.K. are “fit and proper” to hold a license.

“We have heard the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons this afternoon and we await her further statement on Wednesday [March 14)]. We will then consider the implications for RT’s broadcast licenses,” said the agency.

U.S. Pay-TV Revenue to Drop $27B by 2023

Domestic pay-TV revenue is projected to decline $26 billion (26%) to $75 billion from a peak of $101.7 billion in 2015, according to new data from Digital TV Research.

Cable TV revenue will fall to $36.7 billion from a peak of $54.1 billion in 2010 at $54.1 billion. Cable will lose nearly 12 million subscribers, although most of the losses have already taken place.

“Satellite TV and [IPTV/telecom] are also losing subs and revenue,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, said in a statement. “Much of this is due to the operators shifting their subscribers to online platforms. However, growth from virtual MVPDs is not expected to make up completely for the subscriber and revenue shortfalls from traditional pay TV.”

The report suggests telecom sub losses are mainly due to AT&T encouraging U-Verse subs to convert to DirecTV. This is the reverse of what has happened in most other countries. Telecom revenue spiked in 2015 at $9.6 billion and will fall to $4.7 billion in 2023. The number of telecom subs topped 12 million in 2014, declining to 6.2 million in 2023.

Satellite TV revenue will decline (16%) from $39.7 billion in 2017 to $33.6 billion in 2023. Satellite TV subs will drop by 4 million from the end of 2017 to 2023 – down 3 million in 2017 alone. Dish is pushing its Sling TV platform, with DirecTV Now also making an impact.

The number of domestic traditional pay TV subs will fall from 100.3 million in 2012 to 80.3 million in 2023. Pay TV penetration will fall from 87.6% of TV households in apex year 2013 to 66.7% in 2023.

Although Canada is losing pay TV subs, its problems are not as severe as the United States. Pay TV penetration reached a highpoint in 2013 at 85.1%. The level will fall to 74.8% by 2023. However, the number of pay TV subs will be 11.2 million by 2023 – about the same as 2017. Pay TV revenue will fall from a peak of $6.8 billion in 2015 to $6 billion by 2023.

Pay-TV Operators Lost Nearly 1.5 Million Subs in 2017

Domestic pay-TV representing about 95% of the market lost about 1.49 million net video subscribers in 2017, compared to a pro forma loss of about 760,000 subscribers in 2016, according to new data from Leichtman Research Group. Traditional pay-TV services (not including Internet-delivered) lost about 3 million subs in 2017, compared to a loss of about 1.9 million subs in 2016.

The pay-TV providers account for 92.2 million subscribers — with the top six cable companies having about 48.1 million video subs, satellite TV services 31.5 million subscribers, telecoms 9.2 million subs, and online TV platforms with 3.4 million subscribers.

Leichtman said the top six cable companies lost about 660,000 video subs compared to a loss of 275,000 subs in 2016.

In 2017, the top cable providers cumulatively lost 1.4% of video subscribers — compared to a loss of 0.6% in 2016. Satellite TV services lost about 1.55 million subs in 2017 — compared to a loss of about 40,000 subs in 2016. DirecTV lost 554,000 subs compared to a gain of 1.22 million subs in 2016.

In 2017, DBS services cumulatively lost 4.7% of video subscribers — compared to a loss 0.1% in 2016

The top telephone providers lost about 885,000 video subscribers in 2017 — compared to a loss of about 1.59 million subs. AT&T U-verse lost 624,000 subs in 2017, compared to a loss of 1.35 million subs.

In 2017, the top Telcos cumulatively lost 8.7% of video subs, compared to a loss of 13.6% in 2016. The top (publicly reporting) Internet-delivered services added about 1.6 million subs in 2017, compared to 1.14 million net adds in 2016.

Subscribers to the top Internet-delivered services increased by 90% in 2017.

“Satellite TV services had more combined net losses in 2017 than in any previous year, yet these losses were offset by gains from their Internet-delivered flanker brands, such as DirecTV Now and Sling TV,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “Overall, the top pay-TV services lost 1.6% of subscribers in 2017 compared to a loss of 0.8% in 2016.”

 

Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at
End of 4Q 2017
Net Adds in
2017
Cable Companies
Comcast 22,357,000 (151,000)
Charter 16,997,000 (239,000)
Altice 3,405,500 (129,000)
Mediacom 821,000 (14,000)
Cable ONE* 283,001 (37,245)
Other major private company** 4,200,000 (90,000)
Total Top Cable 48,063,501 (660,245)
Satellite Services (DBS)
DIRECTV 20,458,000 (554,000)
DISH TV^ 11,030,000 (995,000)
Total DBS 31,488,000 (1,549,000)
Phone Companies
Verizon FiOS 4,619,000 (75,000)
AT&T U-verse 3,657,000 (624,000)
Frontier 961,000 (184,000)
Total Top Phone 9,237,000 (883,000)
Internet-Delivered
Sling TV^^ 2,212,000 711,000
DIRECTV NOW 1,155,000 888,000
Total Top Internet-Delivered 3,367,000 1,599,000
Total Top Providers 92,155,501 (1,493,245)

Sling TV Gets New Ad Agency, Bows New Marketing Campaign

Sling TV March 12 announced it has a new ad agency of record – underscoring concern its TV spots with tough guy actor Danny Trejo could be over.

Indeed, Dish Network’s pioneering online TV service with more than 2 million subscribers bowed a new multimedia marketing campaign, “We Are Slingers,” positioning Sling TV as a flexible live streaming service providing more choice and control than any other over-the-top (OTT) provider.

“Slinging is about breaking norms and connecting people with TV that satisfies through choice and control at a reasonable price; it’s a way of life,” Colleen Sugarman, head of marketing at Sling TV, said in a statement.

In addition to the commercials, elements of the campaign include a dedicated landing page, a new look and feel for the sling.com homepage, digital, mobile, new media and out-of-home ads, paid and organic social posts, YouTube videos, pre-roll and OTT video ads, paid search, in-device promotions on Sling TV supported devices and other direct-to-consumer promotions.

Additional spots will roll out to the general market in the coming months.

“We’re competing for attention not just with our client’s competitors, but with everything people are consuming as content,” said Karen Costello, chief creative officer at The Martin Agency. “The cheeky misdirect and play on the name is super sticky and a great way for Sling TV to be part of the conversation about TV ‘lifestyle’ viewing options.”

Sugarman said Sling TV needed an agency that could help inform consumers how the platform is the best way to watch live TV.

“The Martin Agency’s strong history of navigating highly competitive industries to successfully deliver for their clients made them the ideal choice,” she said.

Sling’s previous ad spots – created by media/digital network Society – focused on Trejo, whose lengthy career as TV and movie villain was underscored in a short but memorable role in “Breaking Bad,” threatening anyone who didn’t break from pay-TV.

 

CEO: Showtime ‘Punching Above Our Weight’ Competing with Netflix

Showtime, along with HBO, once ruled the edgy episodic programing market – a position increasingly under siege by subscription streaming video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

As a result, CBS-owned Showtime now finds itself trying to stay competitive with Netflix, which is spending $8 billion on original TV shows and movies this year. It launched a branded SVOD service in 2015 – now more than 2.5 million subscribers.

Speaking March 12 at INTV confab in Jerusalem, Showtime CEO David Nevins the onslaught of over-the-top video and episodic programing has resulted in Showtime “punch[ing] above our weight” in an effort to keep up.

“It’s a deluge right now, particularly from the streamers — Netflix more than anything,” Nevins said, as reported by Variety. “They’re still in high-growth mode. They’re not trying to deliver earnings.”

Maybe, but Netflix is delivering earnings. The streaming pioneer generated $627 million in profit on revenue of more than $11.1 billion in 2017. It now has more than 117 million subs globally.

Nevins contends that while Netflix is chasing headlines signing marquee content creators, Showtime is targeting curated programing such as “The Chi,” “Our Cartoon President,” “Homeland,” “Billions” (returning March 25), “I’m Dying Up Here” and “The Affair” (returning June 17), “Ray Donovan,” and pending “Escape at Dannemora,” from Ben Stiller, and “Patrick Melrose,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, among others.

“There’s a counter-narrative that’s beginning that’s helpful to us,” he said.

Speaking in January at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, Nevins said Showtime has the budget to attract top talent in and front behind the camera. Referencing the New York Yankees, he added that unlimited spending doesn’t guarantee success.

Indeed, Showtime in 2017 had its biggest ever year of subscription revenue growth and, on a percentage basis, the best sub growth in 16 years.

“But we are … maintaining our margins,” Nevins said. “We are spending more money because we are generating more revenue.”

 

Church of Scientology Launching TV Service

The Church of Scientology March 12 is launching a branded television network that will be streamed on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku, in addition to being broadcast on DirecTV.

The app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

The church’s online TV platform is slated to bow at 8pm ET, 5pm Pacific from its two-year-old Scientology Media Productions in Los Angeles.

Created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1954, the Church of Scientology has generated controversy over years, in addition to several high-profile members, including John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Kristie Alley, Elisabeth Moss, Laura Prepon, Juliette Lewis and Jenna Elfman, among others.

Critics contend the church is a cult, described in a 1991 Time cover story as a “hugely profitable global racket” that subjects members to psychological and even physical abuse. The religion has failed to achieve legal status in Germany due in part to ongoing political and social reservations.

Actress Leah Remini famously broke from the church after 30 years in 2013, writing a book about her experiences, and more recently appearing on the A&E show, “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.”

The church has characterized the show as the musings of a “bitter ex-Scientologist,” alleging that “bitterness and anger” now dominate Remini’s life.

“[Remini] needs to move on with her life instead of pathetically exploiting her former religion, her former friends and other celebrities for money and attention to appear relevant again,” reads a statement the ScientologyNews website.

In promoting its online TV platform, the church says, “It’s time for us to tell our story.”

Starz Names Ameesh Paleja to Chief Technology Officer Position

Multichannel distributor Starz March 9 announced the hiring of Ameesh Paleja as chief technology officer. Paleja joins Starz from Atom Tickets, where he was co-founder and CEO since 2014. Paleja will continue serving on Atom Ticket’s board and as an advisor and head of innovation.

Lionsgate owns Starz and is an investor in Atom Tickets.

Paleja began his career at Microsoft in 2001, then moved to Amazon in 2003. While at Amazon, he focused on building software and services allowing the company to sell digital goods. Paleja helped launch Prime Instant Video, Amazon’s Appstore, Cloud Drive, and the Kindle product line. He then became the founding employee of Amazon’s R&D facilities in Southern California, where he oversaw more than 550 employees.

“Ameesh is a visionary and world-class technologist whose substantial experience with digital distribution platforms will deepen our brands’ connection with consumers and provide audiences the highest quality entertainment possible,” said COO Jeffrey Hirsch, to whom Paleja reports in Starz’s Englewood, Colo., office.

Lionsgate Signs Second Talk Show with Netflix

Lionsgate March 9 announced it has licensed 10 episodes of new talk show, “Norm Macdonald has a Show,” to Netflix. The talker featuring “Saturday Night Live” (Weekend Update) alum and standup comedian Norm Macdonald, follows the recent Netflix launch of “The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale” — also created by Lionsgate Television.

Canadian-born Macdonald cut his teeth writing for “Roseanne,” in addition to making appearances on “The Drew Carey Show” and “NewsRadio.”

Per Macdonald’s dry wit, he tweeted the alleged exchange with Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos about launching a show.

Netflix streamed its first talker in 2015 with Chelsea Handler, which lasted two seasons. It recently aired the first of periodic Q&A show featuring David Letterman.

 

Facebook Snags Rights to 25 MLB Afternoon Games

In a first, Major League Baseball has signed a deal with Facebook enabling the social media behemoth (1.4 billion active daily users) to exclusively stream one afternoon MLB Network game per week. The deal reportedly is worth upwards of $35 million.

The deal, which primarily involves Wednesday games, starts April 4 with the Philadelphia Phillies taking on the New York Mets. Facebook reportedly will include graphics and links during games to enhance the social media appeal among younger viewers.

Last May, MLB and Facebook partnered to stream select Friday night games – the league’s first regular-season live streams on a third-party platform beyond MLB.com and MLB.tv. Facebook previously streamed Spring Training games in 2011.

Unlike Netflix, which thus far is shunning live sports programing, Facebook, YouTube and Amazon have become active platforms/bidders for National Football League, UEFA Champions League soccer and NCAA basketball live contests.

“Much like the migration of sports from broadcast to cable, you’re reaching these milestones where the combination of the financial incentive and the audience allow you to make the next great leap,” industry consultant Lee Berke told Bloomberg.com. “This is part of the next great leap.”

YouTube TV Ups MLB Deal to Include World Series Sponsorship

Google-owned YouTube TV will be presenting sponsor of the Major League Baseball’s World Series in 2018/19 as part of new partnership agreement. The Fall Classic is exclusively broadcast on Fox Sports.

YouTube TV, which launched last April offering myriad pay-TV channels for $35 monthly, is available in 49 markets nationwide. It offers live local feeds from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in most markets, plus cable network ESPN and local sports networks from NBC Sports in 13 markets, FoX Sports in 22 markets and NESN in Boston.

“We built a cable-free service that makes it easier than ever for fans to get access to their favorite live TV programming — including live sporting events like the World Series,” Kelly Merryman, managing director of content partnerships at YouTube, said in a statement. “When we were thinking about partnerships to showcase the power of YouTube TV, Major League Baseball and the World Series was the perfect fit. It’s a great next step in our long-term relationship with the league.”

MLB is no stranger to expanding distribution of America’s favorite pastime. Through MLB Advanced Media, the league operates MLB.tv – touted as the No. 1 sports SVOD service, and MLB.com At Bat app.

MLB Advanced Media last year sold 42% ownership of backend tech subsidiary BAMTech LLC to The Walt Disney Co. for $1.58 billion. Disney had previously acquired 33% ownership stake for $1 billion.Major League Baseball retains the remaining 15% minority stake.

Disney is using BAMTech to power proprietary standalone over-the-top video platforms, including pending ESPN Plus.