Byron Allen: Digital Revolution Evangelist

Media mogul Byron Allen has set his sights high.

Byron Allen greets the crowd at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit Aug. 2.

“I want to be the Rockefeller of the digital revolution,” he told the audience Aug. 2 at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Just as John D. Rockefeller reached the pinnacle of success with oil in the Industrial Revolution, Allen plans to succeed with content in the digital revolution.

The OTT market is “in its infancy,” he said, and he is laying the groundwork to be a large player when it matures. The comedian-turned-CEO is positioning his company, Entertainment Studios, to be “Netflix on steroids,” Allen said.

In addition to a high-profile acquisition of The Weather Channel in March, Allen continues to create a series of channels on cable and satellite (Cars.TV, Comedy.TV, Pets.TV, etc.) to build his empire.

“I started buying all the premium .TVs,” he said. “I took all the beach front .TV real estate while everyone was focused on .com.”

He offered several anecdotes about hustling to build his company. For instance, he said he bought an old court set for $1 to use on JusticeCentral.TV by pointing out to the studio that it would cost thousands to tear it down.

One of the next things on his plate is Sports.TV, which will offer international games.

“The only reason why television is alive is because you have to go behind a paywall to get sports,” Allen said, adding “the true religion of the world is sports.”

Acknowledging his humble beginnings as the son of a teenaged mom in Detroit, Allen said, “I am the epitome of why America is so wonderful.”

He pointed out the opportunities are better than ever for the entertainment entrepreneur.

“[Fox mogul] Rupert Murdoch spent most of his career chasing global distribution,” he said. “With OTT, you have it at your fingertips.”

RLJE’s Johnson Tells Entertainment Industry to Embrace Technology and Consumer Choice

Fresh off the news of AMC Networks buying a majority interest in his company RLJ Entertainment, BET founder Bob Johnson exhorted the audience at an Aug. 2 OTT conference to embrace change.

“You can’t stop progress, and you can’t stop the freedom of individual choice,” he said at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Entertainment companies must anticipate the future and learn their core business, which is producing and delivering good content.

“If you don’t produce compelling content — make consumers want to vote with their dollars — you’re going to lose out,” he said, adding “the consumer is the programmer.”

It’s about knowing what business you are in.

“Had the railroad guys been smart, they’d have been in the passenger business and started the airlines,” he said.

OTT channels such as RLJ’s Urban Movie Channel and Acorn TV are capitalizing on consumer targeting.

UMC offers “compelling content for an audience who had never had that opportunity.” It is not beholden to advertisers or cable programmers that might object to certain content.

“The gatekeepers have been torn down,” he said.

Acorn TV is for people “who love and just adore” British content. Owning 65% of the Agatha Christie library gives the channel a leg up in that market.

The future of the cable industry is threatened unless it adapts.

“Cable always from the beginning was a retransmission device of other people’s content,” Johnson said, adding “as long as cable can provide internet service it’s got a role to play.”

But he said the future of content distribution is a la carte, not bundles that include channels consumers don’t want to pay for.

“The industry in my opinion has to find a new model and that model is a la carte,” he said.

Vizio Rolls Out Free Streaming Service With Pluto TV

Vizio has announced the rollout of a new streaming service, WatchFree.

Available now on nearly all Vizio SmartCast TVs, WatchFree, in partnership with streaming TV service Pluto TV, offers free, direct streaming access to more than 100 live and linear channels, according to a Vizio press release.

“With the TV landscape continuously evolving, we’re excited to offer consumers a comprehensive entertainment solution packed with free and unlimited content offerings.” said Bill Baxter, Vizio’s chief technology officer, in a statement. “Powered by Pluto TV, WatchFree is a next-generation streaming service with an easy-to-navigate, cable-like interface that delivers creative and thoughtful content selections.”

WatchFree is accessible via a dedicated input. SmartCast TV users press the “Input” button and select “WatchFree.”

“Powering Vizio’s WatchFree service is a pivotal next step in our goal to deliver free, premium entertainment to as many consumers as possible,” said Tom Ryan, Pluto TV co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “From hit TV shows to blockbuster movies, news, sports, lifestyle and more, WatchFree is a gamechanger for cord-cutting enthusiasts.”

Pluto TV channels available through WatchFree include Pluto TV Movies, Action Movies, Black Cinema, News 24/7, NBC News/MSNBC, Fox Sports, Frontdoor, Cats 24/7, Crime Network, MST3K and The Surf Channel. Pluto TV will soon launch two new pop-up channels also available on WatchFree, featuring Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Unsolved Mysteries.”

Vubiquity Inks Deal With Verizon

Vubiquity, a provider of content services and media technology solutions, has inked a deal with Verizon to provide the processing and packaging of Verizon’s video on-demand and pay-per-view portfolio across the Fios multiscreen platform.

Vubiquity is owned by Amdocs.

The deal continues to include a content licensing component, which is an extension of the prior relationship, according to an Amdocs press release.

“Verizon remains vigorously focused on making content personal with video that can go anywhere to meet the demands of even the most discerning customers,” said Heather McDavitt, VP of Verizon Fios Consumer Products.

“We are pleased to expand our partnership with Verizon as they continue to innovate for consumers across the complex and transformative media landscape,” said Darcy Antonellis, head of the Amdocs Media Division, in a statement.

As the bridge to more than 630 content owners, Vubiquity will be supplementing Verizon’s expansive collection of assets across existing and future formats, including but not limited to 4K and high dynamic range, for a variety of business models, including TV on-demand, rental, PPV and electronic sellthrough, according to the release.

“This will allow Verizon’s customers to watch a robust selection of films and TV shows from major blockbusters to smaller independent films, as well as television series and digital assets from more than 100 media brands on any device,” according to the release.

FandangoNow Highlights ‘Fresh’ Films Not on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu

Online transactional VOD retailer FandangoNow this week is launching a new feature that offers up recommended films, for digital purchase or rent, not available on Netflix and other subscription streaming services.

The monthly feature, FandangoNOW’s “Fresh Picks,” will highlight films on the service with “Fresh” or “Certified Fresh” Tomatometer scores, according to movie review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, a sister division. (A movie gets a “Fresh” designation when at least 60% of its critic reviews are positive.)

This month’s “Fresh Picks” include:

  • Aliens (Special Edition)
  • American Psycho (Uncut Version)
  • Avatar
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Black Hawk Down
  • The Book of Life
  • Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
  • The Bourne Supremacy
  • Brave
  • Bridesmaids (Unrated)
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Chef
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Death Wish
  • Despicable Me 2
  • Django Unchained
  • The Expendables 2
  • Elysium
  • The Fault in Our Stars (Extended Edition)
  • The Fifth Element
  • Four Lions
  • The Fugitive
  • Frozen
  • Godzilla
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • The Heat
  • The Help
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • The Hunger Games
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • Ice Age
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Into The Woods
  • Knocked Up
  • Lawless
  • Legally Blonde
  • Limitless: Unrated Extended Cut
  • Lone Survivor
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight
  • Lucy
  • Married to the Mob
  • Mary Poppins
  • The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • My Best Friend’s Wedding
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • Ocean’s Eleven
  • Once Were Warriors
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Prisoners
  • The Professional
  • Role Models
  • The Secret of Kells
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • The Social Network
  • Spy Kids
  • Stalag 17
  • Stand By Me
  • Surf’s Up
  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
  • That Touch of Mink
  • The Terminator
  • Tombstone
  • Tortilla Soup
  • Toy Story
  • True Romance (Director’s Cut)
  • Walk the Line
  • Wild
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
  • Wreck-It Ralph

 

In March 2018, digital movie collection service Movies Anywhere added FandangoNow as its fifth digital retail partner. Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu were partnered with the service at launch last year.

Visit FandangoNow here.

FandangoNow has the most comprehensive selection of films in 4K Ultra HD from all the major studios and content providers, according to the service. The service’s catalog is available on more than 200 million devices, offering 70,000 new release and catalog movies, next-day TV shows to buy or rent — no subscription required.

Sony Pictures Television, United Nations Foundation Fete Indian Filmmaker

Sony Pictures Television, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, has announced Vinamra Pancharia, from India, as the global winner of the Picture This Festival for the Planet. Pancharia was feted July 31 following an all-day event with eight regional finalists on the Sony Pictures Studio Lot in Los Angeles.

Her winning film Tubelight will stream free in the United States on the ad-supported service Sony Crackle.

The Picture This Festival for the Planet was established “to celebrate everyday storytellers and change makers worldwide, showcasing the positive future they see for our planet through the art of film,” according to a Sony press release. Earlier this year, people from more than 70 countries were invited to submit videos between 1 minute and 8 minutes in length inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global goals agreed upon by all 193 member states of the United Nations to end poverty, protect the planet and promote prosperity for all. The initiative was supported by SPT’s networks around the world.

Tubelight chronicles a homeless orphan’s dream of attending school. Despite not having the means, the boy sits outside a classroom window during the day and studies under a street light at night.

“Education is the foundation for building prosperity and health,” said Pancharia in a statement. “In Mumbai, at traffic signals, you find these kids selling books. They should be using them in the classroom. True progress is only possible when every child is in the classroom. It all boils down to education. With this film, I just want to create that call to change.”

As part of the Picture This Festival for the Planet, the eight short-film competition finalists were invited to the Sony lot for a day of networking and training. The day culminated with a screening of the regional finalists’ films at the Picture This Festival award ceremony, which was attended by film enthusiasts, Sony Pictures Entertainment executives, students, and representatives from the UN Foundation, United Nations, World Bank Group’s Connect4Climate, and other partners.

The other global finalists and short-films featured include Mark Lee (Malaysia, Mr. Garbage); Yatri Niehaus and Constantin Campean (Germany, Atlantis Real Estate); Daniel Mendoza (Mexico, Flying Home); Wally Tham (Singapore, Sayang Kalimantan); Francisco T. Navarro Ruescas (Spain,Huevos Ecologicos); Bethany Borg (United Kingdom, The Conductor); Carolyn Meub (United States, Why Do You Give?).

Regional finalists received airfare and accommodations for two nights in Los Angeles, along with a Sony RX0 Camera and a one year WeTransfer Plus account. The grand prize winner was honored with a Sony Alpha A9 camera and a SEL 2470Z lens.

“Through Picture This, we want to empower aspiring filmmakers to use their storytelling talents to inform audiences about the important issues we’re facing in today’s world, including the threat of global warming,” said John Rego, VP, sustainability, SPE, in a statement. “Thanks to Sony Pictures Television’s vast networks around the world and the UN Foundation, this initiative helped shine a light on these global goals that will make our planet a better place for all of us.”

The Picture This Festival for the Planet is the latest SPE project to bring awareness to the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, the United Nations and SPE launched Angry Birds for a Happy Planet, a global youth outreach campaign that leveraged online and social media platforms to encourage action to protect the planet and fight climate change. In 2017, supported by the cast of the Smurfs: The Lost Village, audiences were encouraged to join “Team Smurfs” for the “Small Smurfs Big Goals” campaign that inspired everyone to learn about and support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“Through the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has been called to action. Businesses, organizations, individuals, and governments each play a unique and integral role to meeting our shared challenges head-on,” said Elizabeth Cousens, Deputy CEO, United Nations Foundation, in a statement. “The UN Foundation applauds the creativity and vision of these filmmakers to use their art to inspire equally creative answers. Local solutions can and must drive global action across our sustainability goals.”

The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by philanthropic, corporate, government and individual donors.

The global judging panel for The Picture This Festival for the Planet consisted of celebrity advocates and industry leaders.

To see all eight films, go to www.sonypicturethis.com. To view the winning video on Sony Crackle, go to https://www.sonycrackle.com/picture-this.

Fox Hosts Photo Op Pop-Up in New York to Celebrate Release of ‘Deadpool 2’ on Disc and Digital

Fox is hosting a “Deadpool and Friends’ Believe in Your Selfie Museum,” a limited run photo op pop-up, in New York City’s West Village to celebrate the home entertainment release of the Deadpool 2 Super Duper $@%!#& Cut.

The title comes out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Aug. 7 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 21.

Nine distinct photo ops give fans the chance to take selfies recalling some of the Deadpool’s favorite things — from unicorns and rainbows to his X-Force members. Fans can dive into Colossus’s foam pit and see what they would look like with a pair of freakishly small toddler legs.

The pop-up, taking place Aug. 8-9 from noon to 8 p.m. and Aug. 10-11 from noon to 9 p.m., is located at 356 W. 12th Street.

Admission is free but limited. Guests (ages 18 and up) must register for an appointment in advance at https://dp2museum.eventbrite.com. There will be a standby line on-site (admission not guaranteed). Standby guests will be accommodated on a first come, first serve basis as space allows.

The Deadpool 2 Super Duper $@%!#& Cut includes 15 minutes of extra footage.

Netflix Creates New Feature for Sony TVs

Netflix and Sony Electronics have announced Netflix Calibrated Mode, a new feature developed by Sony picture quality and device experts in collaboration with Netflix color scientists.

The feature is available exclusively on Sony’s Bravia MASTER Series A9F OLED and Z9F LED TVs. The TVs will be available across North America in this fall.

“Supported for any type of content on Netflix, including but not limited to 4K and HDR, this feature leverages Sony’s strength in image processing to provide a display mode that configures the TV the same way creators calibrate their monitors in post production,” wrote Scott Mirer, VP, device partner ecosystem at Netflix, in a blog. “With one simple menu setting, our members can view TV shows, films, and documentaries on Netflix as they were meant to be seen, with precise colors, accurate dynamic contrast, and true motion so there’s no ‘soap opera effect.’ Consider a show like ‘Stranger Things’ that is both real and fantastic, familiar but other-worldly. Murky details of the Upside Down and the eerie flashes of light in the night sky can now be more noticeable and visceral than ever. And while recently watching ‘Lost in Space,’ I was struck by the vivid landscapes: lush forests, shadowed snowfields, and other visual elements that pulled me more deeply into the Robinsons’ adventures.”

“In recent years, we have seen great advances in technology that have made an unprecedented impact on the way TV and film entertainment is consumed,” said Mike Fasulo, president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics North America. “Both Sony and Netflix have been pioneering the industry in terms of content production and distribution, working directly with creators to bring their stories to entertainment lovers around the world. Sony and Netflix have put much effort into developing and supporting cutting-edge technologies, such as 4K picture resolution, high dynamic range (HDR) and Dolby Atmos sound that allow film professionals to authentically express their vision for fans to enjoy in their homes around the world.”

Mirer noted that Netflix audiences are keen on viewing high quality content.

“We see viewing hours for 4K and HDR content climbing dramatically, and today roughly one-third of Smart TVs that use Netflix support HDR,” he wrote.

‘The Seagull’ Coming on DVD, Digital Sept. 25 From Sony

The Seagull, starring Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan, will come out on DVD and digital Sept. 25 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Based on the play by Russian author Anton Chekhov, The Seagull is brought to the screen by Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer and Tony Award-winning screenwriter Stephen Karam.

One summer at a lakeside Russian estate, friends and family gather for a weekend in the countryside. While everyone is caught up in passionately loving someone who loves somebody else, a tragicomedy unfolds about art, fame, human folly and the eternal desire to live a purposeful life.

In addition to Bening and Ronan, the film stars Corey Stoll (“House of Cards”), Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Mare Winningham (Georgia), Jon Tenney (“Scandal”), Glenn Fleshler (“Barry”), Michael Zegen (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Billy Howle (Dunkirk) and Brian Dennehy (“Death of a Salesman”).

Special features include cast and crew red carpet interviews and a post-screening Q&A from the Tribeca Film Festival with director Michael Mayer, Bening, Ronan, Stoll, Winningham, Tenney, Fleshler, Zegen, Howle, Dennehy and Karam as well as a City Cinemas Q&A with Mayer and Bening.

‘Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami’ Documentary Due on Disc Aug. 14 From Kino Lorber

The documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami will debut Aug. 14 from Kino Lorber on Blu-ray and DVD.

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

A journey through the public and private worlds of pop culture mega-icon Grace Jones, the documentary contrasts musical sequences with intimate personal footage, highlighting Jones’s bold aesthetic. Director Sophie Fiennes’s documentary goes beyond the traditional music biography, going home with Jones to Jamaica, into the studio with long-time collaborators Sly & Robbie and backstage at gigs around the world. The film includes performances of “Slave to the Rhythm,” “Pull Up to the Bumper,” “Love Is the Drug” and more.

Special features on the DVD ($29.95) and Blu-ray ($34.95) include audio commentary with Jones, Fiennes and associate professor of Africana studies Judith Casselberry; audio commentary with Fiennes and critic Ian Haydn Smith; and a Q&A with Jones and Fiennes moderated by Piotr Orlov (courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center).