Korean Zombie Movie ‘Rampant’ Coming to Digital and Disc Feb. 26 from Well Go

The Korean zombie film Rampant will stalk to digital, DVD and Blu-ray combo pack Feb. 26 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

From the studio behind Train to Busan comes the story of murderous creatures known as Night Demons who have overrun ancient Korea. Returning from a long imprisonment abroad, Prince Ganglim discovers that it will take the strength of his entire kingdom to stop the bloody rampage spreading across the nation.

Special features include making-of and behind-the-scenes segments.

UHD Alliance, Blu-ray Disc Association Tout 4K UHD at CES

The UHD Alliance and the Blu-ray Disc Association were at the 2019 CES in Las Vegas to tout the success of the 4K Ultra HD format and new promotional efforts.

The UHD Alliance currently has 43 members — comprised of electronics manufacturers, film and television studios, content distributors, and technology companies — with such companies as Charter Communications and Google joining last year to better understand how to deliver high dynamic range (HDR) content, said UHDA president Mike Fidler.

“Google of course brought out the Pixel 3 and that is a certified Mobile HDR Premium product,” he said.

The group also continues to certify products as Ultra HD Premium, with 46 new products added in 2018 to bring the total to 63 products (TVs, computer monitors, mobile devices and Ultra HD Blu-ray Players) and 10 companies offering certified products. The UHDA has also offered new broadcast recommendations to facilitate broadcast of Ultra HD Premium certified content.

The group continues to educate at such events as IFA, the 4K Summit, MWC, CEDIA and, of course, CES.

“We’re out at trade shows on an ongoing basis,” Fidler said.

Its educational website, ExperienceUHD.com, which launched in 2017, has been upgraded in the past year. It offers “how to” home theater set up information; educational information on HDR, 4K resolution, wider color spectrum, color bit depth and immersive audio; and social media links. Its biggest reach is with Millennials and Generation Z, according to Fidler.

Educational information on interoperability of different products went up on the site in October 2018.

“We are spending considerable resources,” Fidler said, to identify interoperability problems and offer steps on the website to fix them. The UHDA buys product at retail to test.

For instance, the website shows consumers how to set up TVs with screen shots of menus.

“It’s been really popular from a usage standpoint,” Fidler said, adding that every year the menus change “so we continue to do this.”

Sometime in the first quarter, the UHDA plans to put test patterns on the sight to help consumers see if they are getting true HDR.

The UHDA collaborated with Amazon on a section of the online behemoth’s site — which also offers a link to ExperienceUHD.com — to better educate consumers about the format. That product launched in August 2018.

“Other retailers have gotten in touch with us recently [about helping with sites],” Fidler said.

The group also unveiled a dynamic typograph asset at CES (developed in collaboration with the Digital Entertainment Group Europe), available for retailers and partners.

 

The UHDA is expanding its efforts into Europe, especially Germany, France and the United Kingdom, Fidler said.

In another initiative, the UHDA surveyed the creative community, getting close to 400 responses from cinematographers, colorists, directors, digital imaging specialists, editors, producers, VFX supervisors, writers and others on their preferences for and the importance of the format. The effort was recognized at the fall 4K UHD summit. In the survey, 86.1% answered “Most Important” to the question: “How important is it to you to have a simple way to get your home TV setup similar to monitors in the color grading suite for viewing content that YOU created?”

Actor Tom Cruise’s recent Twitter missive about motion smoothing was inspired by the survey, Fidler said.

Meanwhile, the 4K UHD market continues to grow with all 55-inch and larger panels available in UHD only and 100% of 50-inch and larger TV shipments expected to be in the format by the end of this year, according to IHS Markit data cited by the UHDA.

On the content side, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) noted that Ultra HD Blu-ray, both hardware and software, experiencing approximately 40% and 60% growth, respectively, in 2018, with catalog, local/regional and episodic TV titles increasingly joining new release theatricals on the format.

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray player sales for 2018 are expected to surpass 2017 by 44%, and growth of another 30% is anticipated for 2019, according to Futuresource data cited by the BDA. Meanwhile, 15% of all Blu-ray players shipped worldwide in 2018 are expected to be Ultra HD Blu-ray, with 25% projected in 2019 (excluding Xbox One sales), according to data cited by the BDA. The worldwide UHD Blu-ray player installed base is expected to reach 4.5 million by the end of 2018. As of December 2018, there were 29 4K UHD BD player models and 11 4K UHD recorder/player models for a total of 40, according to the BDA.

Global 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray sales continue to grow steadily, with an 83% increase in 2018 vs. 2017, and a further growth of 45% forecast for 2019, according to the BDA. Ultra HD Blu-rays are expected to account for 11% of Blu-rays sold worldwide in 2018, rising to 22% by 2020 and 40% by 2022, according to the BDA.

About 430 4K UHD Blu-ray titles were available in the United States by the end of 2018, the BDA reported, with such notable recent catalog releases as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and such episodic TV releases as “Game of Thrones,” “Planet Earth 2” and “Dr. Who: Twice Upon a Time.”

BDA president Victor Matsuda was especially impressed with Lionsgate’s decision to release Twilight, which skews to a younger audience, on 4K UHD Blu-ray.

“Recognizing the business possibilities in reissuing that type of title was really encouraging,” he said.

With streaming 4K UHD still dependent on the pipeline to the home (Netflix recommends 25Mbps for 4K), the fact that most users’ service is less robust makes the physical disc more compelling, he said. Only 21% in the U.S. manage to meet the Netflix standard, while such European countries as Germany, France and the United Kingdom manage even less of a percentage.

To tout the benefits of 4K UHD Blu-ray, the BDA also unveiled a sizzle reel at CES for members.

Chinese Fantasy ‘Iceman: The Time Traveler’ Coming to Digital and Disc Feb. 19 From Well Go

The Chinese fantasy adventure Iceman: The Time Traveler is traveling to digital, DVD and Blu-ray combo pack Feb. 19 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The story follows a palace guard who, during the Ming Dynasty, is buried and frozen in time by an avalanche during a fierce battle. Brought back to life in the present day, he embarks on a quest for the only thing that can correct the wrongs of history – The Golden Wheel of Time.

The film stars Donnie Yen from the “Ip Man” franchise and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

EMA Growing Membership Commitment and Expanding Into OTT, Says CEO

LAS VEGAS — The Entertainment Merchants Association hailed the growing commitment of its membership at a meeting Jan. 8 during CES.

“The engagement of our members over the past year I think is more than we’ve ever seen,” said president and CEO Mark Fisher.

“It’s been an interesting year in the industry and for our association,” he said, noting the growth of digital purchase storage locker Movies Anywhere and the expansion and churn in the OTT space (including pending streaming services from Disney and WarnerMedia).

“We initiated a focus on OTT channels” in the past year, he said, in addition to EST and disc, which “is not dead.”

He noted that the EMA had a “very successful OTT conference” at the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit in July, which had to downsize its budget.

The organization “learned how to operate a conference at lower cost,” during the July 2018 LAES.

But the EMA is focused on the entertainment delivery systems of the future. Fisher noted that, in July, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, the EMA and MovieLabs formed the Digital Supply Chain Alliance to strengthen the digital supply chain.

“That alliance have proven to show really rapid results,” he said.

Mitch Mallon, CEO of Stadium Media and chair of the digital EMA steering committee, added that EMA digital membership has grown, digital events have expanded and that the committee has created six white papers.

In the coming year, the committee “will be focusing on how OTT is starting to move out into the European marketplace,” he said, including launching a new project to list digital platforms around the world.

Steve Apple, VP, industry sales at the EMA, moderated a discussion on the OTT market.

Panelist Jason Peterson, CEO of GoDigital Media Group, noted that international markets and cultures require a different approach, including mobile, non-cash, non-banked payment opportunities.

“We’ve really focused on the Hispanic audience,” he said.

Panelist Tricia Lee, SVP, product and development, Sony New Media Solutions, noted that focusing on a rabid fan base can be key in the OTT space, referencing her work building Funimation’s service, which has “hyper-attention fans” in the anime space.

The key is authenticity, she said, adding consumers “are looking for shared experiences, and it has to be authentic.”

Services “need culturally significant content to cut through that clutter,” Peterson added.

IMDb Launches AVOD Entertainment Streaming Channel

Movie website IMDb Jan. 10 announced the launch of IMDb Freedive, a free, ad-supported streaming entertainment video channel.

The channel is available in the United States on the IMDb website (www.imdb.com/freedive) via laptop, personal computer and on all Amazon Fire TV devices, according to the company, which is a subsidiary of Amazon.com.

IMDb Freedive enables customers to watch TV shows, including “Fringe,” “Heroes,” “The Bachelor” and “Without a Trace,” as well as movies, such as Awakenings, Foxcatcher, Memento, Monster, Run Lola Run, The Illusionist, The Last Samurai and True Romance, without purchasing a subscription, the company announced.

In launching the site, IMDb is expanding its video offering beyond short-form original series, trailers and celebrity interviews. Customers also can use “X-Ray,”  powered by the information on IMDb, to get information about cast, crew, trivia, soundtracks and more.

IMDb original video series, including “The IMDb Show,” “Casting Calls” and “No Small Parts,” are also available to stream on IMDb Freedive.

“Customers already rely on IMDb to discover movies and TV shows and decide what to watch,” said Col Needham, founder and CEO of IMDb, in a statement. “With the launch of IMDb Freedive, they can now also watch full-length movies and TV shows on IMDb and all Amazon Fire TV devices for free. We will continue to enhance IMDb Freedive based on customer feedback and will soon make it available more widely, including on IMDb’s leading mobile apps.”

Fire TV customers will see the IMDb Freedive icon in the “Your Apps & Channels” row. On Fire TV, consumers can say “Alexa, go to Freedive,” to access the site.

The IMDb Freedive catalog will continue to evolve, with new titles added regularly, according to the company.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Exec Producer Talks About Going SVOD, the Launch of the Second Season and More ‘Trek’

LAS VEGAS — “Terrifying” — that’s how Alex Kurtzman, executive producer of “Star Trek: Discovery” described launching on the SVOD platform CBS All Access.

Kurtzman spoke Jan. 9 during the Variety Entertainment Summit at CES in Las Vegas.

“There’s always concern that the fans will revolt,” he said. And “Star Trek” fans are notoriously engaged.

“What was really clear was if we’re going to ask people to pay $10 a month we’re going to have to deliver an experience that they can’t get on traditional television,” Kurtzman said.

The first season famously sported some Klingon nudity and the first F-bomb in the series.

“It’s all tone,” he said, and being careful to not be “disrespectful of ‘Trek.’” The F-bomb, for instance, was delivered in reference to a scientific concern, he said.

“I think that the line now between movies and television is essentially over,” he said, noting “Discovery” is basically a long movie.

“The thing I love about TV is you can spend time getting into the details of the characters lives,” he said.

To that end, in the second season, the series will explore the relationship between Spock and his adoptive sister. It will be about “family [including the work family] working together to solve this mystery,” he said.

Taking into account some of the fan concerns about the dark theme of the first season, the second will include more humor, he said.

It also will address a burning question for some fans about the first season: Why do the Klingons have no hair?

Season two reveals that “in a time of war, Klingons shave all their body hair,” he said.

More “Trek” series are in the works, including an animated show from “Rick and Morty” exec producer Mike McMahan about the lower deck employees and a series with Patrick Stewart returning as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. It took some convincing, but Stewart eventually agreed to revisit the character.

“Sometimes you meet your heroes and they are as wonderful as you want them to be,” Kurtzman said of Stewart.

CES: Speakers Discuss the Growing Pains and Promise of Direct-to-Consumer Entertainment

LAS VEGAS — Speakers discussed the variety and expansion of online services, as well as strategies to cut through the content clutter and engage the online entertainment consumer during the panel “Into the Zeitgeist — The Direct-to-Consumer Entertainment Economy” at CES Jan. 9.

The panel took place at the Variety Entertainment Summit during the Las Vegas show.

The advent of pending services from the Walt Disney Co., WarnerMedia and Apple “certainly makes our lives more interesting,” said Hulu’s Kelly Campbell, adding the question is if they can scale quickly.

Farhad Massoudi, of the AVOD service Tubi, said there was a limit to what average consumers will spend on subscription services and that it was “ludicrous” that average income folks would subscribe to a growing smattering of subscription video-on-demand services. That’s where ad-supported platforms such as Tubi, which sports a movie and TV library much bigger than Netflix, come in, he said.

“Most SVOD services are going to struggle,” he said.

FandangoNow’s Cameron Douglas doesn’t consider these services competitors to the company’s transactional VOD business.

“We’re really agnostic as to what people are consuming and where,” he said.

In fact, they successfully distribute Amazon’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and would love to have a transactional offering of Netflix’s hit Bird Box.

“We do hope all of the studios, Netflix included, allow us to monetize those products,” he said. “There’s no reason that movie content that starts in the digital space can’t find a home on transactional.”

Whatever the distribution model, engaging the consumer is key, panelists said.

“We always want to super serve the super fans,” said Discovery Networks’ Peter Faricy. Discovery along with the PGA Tour created the Golf TV brand, which underpins a new live and on-demand international video streaming service specifically for golf fans.

Another way to attract consumers is by offering products that serve their needs.

“Consumers want choice, flexibility and control,” Hulu’s Campbell said. To that end, Hulu offers the choice of live, ad-supported and ad-free subscription options.

FandangoNow’s Douglas said the VOD service leverage’s its relationship with online movie ticketing platform Fandango by “taking 60 million Fandango uniques every month” and touting availability of transactional digital movie and TV offerings for home viewing.

“The [transactional] space is growing about 10% each year, and we are tripling that growth,” he said.

The service also attracts consumers with superior content quality, such as 4K UHD titles and — through a deal just announced — Imax content.

YouTube’s Neil Mohan said the online behemoth, which adds 400 hours of content a minute every single day, serves its viewers with recommendations that cater to them.

“The recommendations that we give to you should really speak to you,” he said.

Tubi, too, uses recommendation algorithms to serve its audience, Massoudi said.

The content itself should also engage consumers, said Conde Nast Entertainment’s Oren Katzeff. His company, which he said has some of the most binged shows on Netflix, creates content in a way that makes viewers want to watch more episodes.

He said engaging consumers also requires looking at data to see not just what they want, but when they want it and how they want it.

Ideally, content should build a relationship with consumers.

“From a creation standpoint, how do you create content that people not only want to watch [but to comment on and engage with further],” he said.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish Focusing on Content in Fragmented Market

LAS VEGAS — For Viacom, content truly is king, according to CEO Bob Bakish, who is forging a “culture of content” at the company.

“I continue to believe there’s a lot of value in assets that we already own,” he said Jan. 9 during the Variety Entertainment Summit at the CES show in Las Vegas.

While the Walt Disney Co., with its Fox merger and pending SVOD service, and WarnerMedia, through the AT&T merger and its own pending streaming service, are leveraging consolidation for greater distribution clout in the fragmented market, big deals aren’t necessarily the best path, he said.

“Vertical integration is very much in vogue,” but historically it “doesn’t tend to work,” Bakish said.

“Bigger is not always better,” he said.

In fact, rather than bulking up to compete with online services, he pointed out Viacom produces shows for Netflix, Amazon and Facebook. For instance, the show “Jack Ryan” is on Amazon. The company launched Viacom Digital Studios to produce social media friendly content for outlets such as Facebook.

“Viacom doesn’t really require a transformational deal,” he said. Instead, the company is doing what he calls “accelerant deals,” such as recent pacts to acquire VidCon, which celebrates online video creators, and Awesomeness TV, which produced To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before released on Netflix.

The goal is “unlocking opportunity through truly multi-platform distribution,” whether it be AVOD, SVOD, legacy platforms or other models, he said.

“Relative to some of our peers, we’re further along in this transition,” he said.

One of the new technologies he is enthused about is the coming 5G mobile delivery standard.

“Mobile distribution is what will turn this [content monetization] decline on its head,” Bakish said.

5G and the move to 10G for traditional TV distribution will both expand the pipelines for content, he noted.

He’s also intrigued by self-driving cars, which will open up more free time for consumers to view entertainment.

Content owners cannot “crawl into the ivory tower” and hope the future will go away, he said.

“You can look at this transformation as glass have full or half empty. I’m half full,” he said.

Panelists Discuss SVOD Battle, Content Overload in the Entertainment Market on Eve of CES

Netflix has a fight on its hands as new subscription video-on-demand services from the big studios enter the marketplace this year.

That’s the opinion of Laura Martin, managing director and senior analyst, entertainment and Internet, Needham & Company, speaking on the panel “The Business of Video: Insider Insights for Going Global” in Las Vegas Jan. 7 on the eve of CES. While Netflix is getting into the studio game with content, it can’t match the marketing savvy of the big studios, she said.

“Netflix will spend $12 billion dollars on content, and they are shitty marketers [compared to the big studios],” Martin said.

Walt Disney Studios, with its impending launch of Disney+, and WarnerMedia, with its impending service, represent “two marketing juggernauts.”

“I think this is the big change that is happening to OTT,” she said. “I think the traditional content marketers [are positioned to win].”

She said the online entertainment space is getting saturated.

“There’s too much content being made,” she said. “Eventually those [capital investment] funds will not get a return on content.”

Ted Schilowitz, futurist in residence at Paramount Pictures, agreed that there is “content exhaustion.”

“There is so much content being made at various levels of quality,” he said, with companies such as HBO making a small amount of high value content and Netflix and Amazon making a large amount of content of varying value.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said.

Niche SVOD players will have to find their audience and a level of success they can live with, said Ooyala co-founder and CTO Belsasar Lepe, whose company helps services wring costs out of the process. They will have to figure out pricing and content models that work to discover “what does success look like?” he said.

The content mix is key for SVOD players, panelists said.

Schilowitz noted that the WWE SVOD service draws in subscribers with big events, but keeps them with the library content.

He questioned the hype surrounding bite-sized mobile programming backed by such ventures as NewTV from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, calling the idea of short content demand somewhat of a “misconception.” Consumers are actually watching long form content in short bursts, he said.

“We talk about it as start, stop TV,” he said. Short form content limits character development and story arc, he said.

 

Study: Standalone Voice Assistants One of Fastest Adopted Technologies in U.S. History

Standalone voice assistants — or smart speakers — are one of the fastest-adopted technologies in U.S. history and have a 98 percent satisfaction rate among U.S. consumers, according to a new report from Accenture.

Half of online consumers globally now use digital voice assistants, with emerging markets leading the way in adoption, according to the report, based on a global survey of 22,500 consumers across 21 countries.

“Adoption and satisfaction with smart speaker technology is booming,” said Robin Murdoch, co-author of the report and managing director of Accenture’s global software and platforms industry practice, in a statement. “Convenience and accessible price points are helping drive increased use, but maintaining this loyalty will require companies to stay relevant with consumer needs while creating and constantly renewing trust.”

The report, “Reshape to Relevance,” also found 93% of consumers globally expect their home device purchases, such as smart TVs or computers, to easily integrate with their standalone smart speaker.

The relevance of smart speakers is reflected in consumers’ expectations to use these devices for more-advanced tasks beyond routine activities like voice calling, playing music or eBooks, and accessing news, according to the report. They see value in voice assistants managing home security (61% of respondents), providing connected home automation (59%), paying bills and providing payment alerts (55%) — even making restaurant reservations (53%) and providing access to virtual medical advice (52%), according to the report.

However, trust is a potential impediment to greater adoption of smart speakers, with 41% of consumers citing privacy concerns and 40% citing security concerns with the technology. The report found 46% of consumers believe they don’t have control of their data with voice assistants, and 58% are more likely to re-evaluate their trust in this service by continually checking how their information is being used.

“Consumers expect their smart speakers to handle complex workloads and integrate with other products,” said Greg Roberts, co-author of the report and managing director of Accenture’s North America high tech industry practice, in a statement. “Brands that offer advanced artificial intelligence capabilities will be well positioned for success. But to attract more customers, they will have to be transparent in how they store, use and share data. Establishing an agreed trust standard with consumers is essential.”