Stuck at Home: What are You Watching?

For the past two weeks, the vast majority of us have been stuck at home. Schools are closed, offices are closed, businesses are closed — and even those of us who are still working are finding more leisure time, with our movie theaters, gyms and favorite restaurants shuttered, and no cross-town meetings or appointments.

Screen time, not surprisingly, is up — way up. And here at Media Play News, we thought we’d start a conversation on what everyone is watching in the hopes that as people run out of ideas they can peruse the “comments” section down below for some suggestions.

Specifically, we’d like to know:

  1. What new movies are you watching on DVD, Blu-ray Disc or digital?
  2. What about classic movies?
  3. TV shows?
  4. Other programs?
  5. What about streaming? What original series or movies are you watching on Netflix? On Amazon Prime? On Disney+? On Apple TV+?
  6. Any little-known streaming services you are utilizing?

Let us know, by commenting on this story.

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And to get the conversation started, here’s what the Media Play News team is watching:

Editor in chief Stephanie Prange and her husband, Michael, and daughters Sydney (22) and Mia (17), have collectively or individually watched a wide range of programs, including “Tiger King” on Netflix, “The Act” on Hulu, “Hunters” on Amazon Prime and Captain America: Winter Soldier on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc. Mia has also enjoyed Frozen, Frozen II and Hercules on Disney+.

John Latchem, our executive editor, hasn’t changed his viewing regimen much: He’s still watching and reviewing new releases, mostly on Blu-ray Disc. Aside from that, he says he’s watching “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO Go and “Ozark” on Netflix (season 3 just dropped and I’m eager to tune in as well).

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John Boezinger, our sales chief, has watched digital 4K versions of No Mercy and Queen & Slim.  He’s also watched multiple episodes of “Dirty Money” on Netflix.

And from Erik Gruenwedel, our East Coast-based senior editor: “Facing self-isolation and ignoring for a moment the guilt and myriad legalities, I’ve always wondered if it’s possible to commit the perfect murder. So I’m watching endless episodes of ‘Forensic Files II’ on HLN for clues. With today’s forensic technology, the answer would appear to be no. What a relief. I’ve also been watching catalog episodes of ‘Shark Tank’ on ABC. A woman got $120,000 from one of the sharks for her wedding undergarment creation that makes it easy for a bride to go to the bathroom in her gown. Very clever. Finally, from MHz Networks Home Entertainment, I’ve been watching the second season of the Swedish crime series ‘Detective Inspector Irene Huss’ on DVD with English subtitles — which keeps me awake.”

As for me, I’ve watched a few more historical dramas on Blu-ray Disc — Nixon, JFK, Parkland — as well as Parasite and Richard Jewell. For the past week, my two younger sons and I have also enjoyed a horror marathon in which we consumed all six “Wrong Turn” movies (yes, I love that stuff) while my wife has been sequestered upstairs watching “Outlander” on Starz and “Tiger King” on Netflix.

Special Offer From Media Play News and Sony: 4K Digital Codes to ‘Bad Boys for Life’

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Media Play News are offering five lucky readers free digital codes to the 4K home release of the action-comedy Bad Boys for Life, with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, which is being released digitally today, March 31.

The codes will be given to the first five people who 1) like us on Instagram, and 2) go to the Bad Boys for Life post on our Instagram account and in the comments answer the question, “What was Will Smith’s highest-grossing movie?”

You can follow us on Instagram and search for the story post here.

Smith and Lawrence return for the third “Bad Boys” movie with a new case that finds them teaming with a hotshot division of the Miami PD to take down a merciless cartel.

The cast also includes Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Nuñez, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam and Joe Pantoliano.

The film earned $204.4 million at the domestic box office and $419 million globally.

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SVOD Service VET Tv Cuts COVID-19 Promo

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, VET Tv, a subscription streaming service aimed at active military, has crafted a video message to build viewership using comedy to deal with tragedy.

The four-minute-plus video message from VET Tv founder and CEO Donny O’Malley touches on the importance of hand-washing and social-distancing using O’Malley’s dark and irreverent brand of humor, while reminding viewers to stay engaged through social media to avoid falling into the trap of social isolation, particularly during mandatory quarantines which grow by the day.

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O’Malley has spoken numerous times on how social isolation can lead to suicide, especially among veterans.

He concludes the video by sharing VET Tv’s plans for continuing to provide content for its viewers during the coronavirus pandemic, while also reminding viewers to support American small business, especially veteran-owned small business.

You can watch the video HERE.

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A Message to Our Readers — Continuing Coverage In These Trying Times

The novel coronavirus has everyone on edge, and the immediate impact of the disease as well as any long-term economic ramifications remain unknown. With so much uncertainty, information is essential, and we at Media Play News are working hard to strike a balance between coverage of the pandemic as it affects our business and regular coverage of an industry that continues to evolve and move forward.

On our end, that means more news and analysis than ever, which is why you might have noticed that our daily newsletter has more stories than ever — and you are also getting more breaking news alerts, even on the weekend.

As a source of information for the home entertainment industry, we welcome any input from our readers on the effect of the crisis. We would like to act as a clearinghouse of information for our industry so that everyone can share strategies and best practices to get us through this unprecedented challenge.

Please feel free to contact us directly. My email address is tkarnold@mediaplaynews.com, and my personal mobile number is 714-225-4082. You may also reach editor Stephanie Prange at sprange@mediaplaynews.com or 714-307-3228.

Honoring Eddie — and Hollywood

Eddie Cunningham, in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, speaks softly and carries a big stick.

Honored with Media Play News’ third annual Fast Toward Award, Cunningham is the consummate gentleman, both inside and outside of the workplace. Without exception, his employees say he’s a remarkable boss, even-tempered and empowering, encouraging them to do their best and making them want to do their best.

He’s instilled in them a belief that what they do each day in the office truly matters, that they are an essential cog in the wheel, so to speak. Leading by example, you get the feeling that Eddie Cunningham truly loves our industry as well as his company, and that loyalty and reliability are two of his most important traits.

The last time we met for lunch, at the Grill on the Universal Studios lot, he brought a bag of toys for my year-old granddaughter.

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A while back, at CES, we happened to share an elevator. Eddie Cunningham was the last person out, holding the door for nearly a dozen other people.

Now that he’s been tapped to lead a joint venture between Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. that, pending regulatory approval, will market and distribute Blu-ray Discs, DVDs and 4K Ultra HD discs in the United States and Canada from both studios, beginning in early 2021, Cunningham also is leading the charge to ensure the continued viability, and profitability, of the physical disc.

It’s a big opportunity, and a big challenge, as well. Disc sales have been declining, and with the whole world so enamored with streaming, we as an industry need to do what we can to prop up the transactional business – which despite impressive growth rates on the digital side remains tethered to physical media.

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As Cunningham says in this month’s feature, “Discs, alongside electronic sellthrough, are usually the first opportunity to own a film after its run in theaters, with the movie often not being available on SVOD for years. [And] if you want the highest quality picture and sound, disc is still the best way to get that in the home.”

The physical disc is not only the primary into-the-home distribution mechanism for new movies fresh off their theatrical runs. It also remains the best way to preserve, honor and capitalize on Hollywood’s rich cinematic history.

The proliferating streaming services are so focused on original content that older films are hard to find. The theatrical catalog titles we used to enjoy, and which formed the basis for DVD collecting two decades ago, are pretty much out of everyone’s consciousness.

I know from my own experience that whereas in the past I would regularly watch an old classic or two each week, for the last few years I have been so consumed by Netflix series such as “Ozark,” “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” that I didn’t have time for much more than the latest theatrical hit.

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Only since my holiday from streaming began last December have I been watching old movies again on Blu-ray Disc.

That’s why I applaud Paramount Home Entertainment’s launch of a new “Paramount Presents” label to recognize and celebrate films from the studio’s library. As division president Bob Buchi said, “Paramount’s library represents over a century of filmmaking and includes some of the greatest films in cinematic history. We look forward to opening the vault and sharing some of our most treasured films with fans.”

 

Fast Forward Awards 2020: Eddie Cunningham Gets Physical

It was the spring of 2014, and the team at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment didn’t quite know what to make of their new boss.

Eddie Cunningham, after eight years of heading international, had just been promoted to president of the entire division, whose scope had been expanded to global. He was moving his family out from London to Los Angeles, and was shopping around for a house to buy in Hancock Park, so he clearly planned to stay awhile.

The new role was played up in a press release all staffers had seen by then, in which Peter Levinsohn, at the time the studio’s president and chief distribution officer, said, “As the home entertainment landscape continues to evolve, we need to ensure that we’re operating as one global team positioning ourselves for the greatest success. Eddie has had tremendous results as head of our international home entertainment division and he will be a terrific leader for our group as we work to shape the future of Universal’s home entertainment business with an even greater global focus.”

At the division’s first townhall-style meeting with the new boss, Cunningham, an imposing figure known as much for his big strides as his Scottish brogue, walked into the room and faced the crowd. A few welcoming pleasantries, then a slideshow honoring employees who are celebrating anniversaries. First one-year, then five-year, and so on. Cunningham broke the ice by remarking that some veterans were apparently using old photos that made them look a lot younger. “I’d never do that, ya know,” he deadpanned.

Just then, the slideshow hit the 20-year mark and a young black-and-white Eddie Cunningham appeared on the screen, bangs cascading over his forehead and his head tilted forward in a classic Yuppie-era power pose.

The room erupted with laughter. The ice had been broken; the new boss, staffers nodded to one another, would be all right.

Six years later, Eddie Cunningham remains one of the most respected executives in home entertainment — even though unlike most of his peers, his focus is solely on the physical disc: Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, and, yes, DVD, the format that started it all and continues to sell among budget-conscious consumers.

That’s why the president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment gets our third annual Fast Forward Award for his unflagging support of the physical disc in an increasingly digital world.

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“Eddie has always been a great advocate for and leader of the home entertainment sector,” says Ron Sanders, president of worldwide theatrical distribution and home entertainment for Warner Bros. “He is as comfortable talking big-picture strategy with a studio head as he is discussing an out-of-stock with a store clerk. He’s probably one of the foremost experts on all aspects of our business, and his strong results demonstrate that.”

“Eddie is a consummate professional who has been helping to drive the global home entertainment business for the last two decades,” adds Bob Buchi, president of Paramount Home Entertainment. “His vision and expertise raise the bar for everyone.”

Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox, says Cunningham “has been an incredible partner. It’s clear to anyone who works with Eddie that he loves entertainment, understands the value of the physical business to consumers, and is always developing new and creative ways to maximize value of movies for UPHE. His commitment over his career continues to benefit retailers, distributors and, most importantly, consumers.”

Under Cunningham’s leadership, UPHE has scored a steady string of best-selling Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, spanning such global blockbuster franchises as “Jurassic World” and “Fast and Furious” as well as the breakout film sensations Mamma Mia! Here We Go AgainUs and Downton Abbey.

In an effort to further innovate for the industry, UPHE last June unveiled a completely reimagined bonus content menu for its physical disc offerings that is more easily accessible and navigable — a move the studio introduced to provide viewers with a more visceral and engaging experience for Blu-ray Disc and DVD bonus content, which Cunningham and his team believe is a key selling point for its physical product offerings.

And when Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures in January 2020 announced plans to merge their domestic disc distribution businesses, Cunningham was chosen to lead the joint venture that pending regulatory approval will begin operation in early 2021.

“I am delighted to have been asked by Warner Brothers and Universal to lead the proposed joint venture and look forward to building a team to take us into the next exciting chapter for the market, working closely with our retail partners,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham is also known as one of the industry’s true gentlemen, to use a term that might be a little antiquated and not so politically correct, but remains appropriate. People who work for him have nothing but high praise, noting that he has helped create a culture that is at once welcoming and challenging, where everyone feels valued and appreciated.

Asked about his management style, Cunningham says, “I always talk about the three things that I believe will make most businesses successful: the right strategy, the right people and creating the right environment. I spend most of my time making sure those things are in place and that we keep improving. I believe in measuring yourself properly and in keeping yourself honest.”

Cunningham says he likes to think of himself “a bit like a conductor of an orchestra.”

“Some leaders think they can play every instrument better than everyone in the orchestra,” he says. “I prefer an approach where everyone brings their own skills and talent to the team and my job is to point them in the right direction and help them make great music, and in perfect harmony with each other. I prefer to help people build on their natural strengths … and I like to empower people as much as possible. It is often amazing what people can accomplish if you support them and show belief and trust. As a leader, you just need to check every so often that the trust isn’t misplaced. I like to be in it with the team when we try things. I always want people to know that they are not on their own if things don’t go well, provided there was good communication up front and that we haven’t failed because of poor execution. I don’t like the blame game.

“And I have always tried to get myself away from negative people as they drag everyone down. We all need to let off a little steam occasionally, but I always try to have a ‘glass half full’ outlook to both business and life in general. I also love fun. I like a sense of humor. Business is serious, but let’s enjoy ourselves while at work.”

His office reflects that philosophy. Two side-by-side computer screens are flanked by a photo of his family and an NBCUniversal calendar on one side and several binders and a stack of Blu-ray Discs on the other. Up above are shelves packed with more discs, the top two reserved for special editions, boxed sets, promotional mugs and a “Fast and Furious” remote-control car, still in the box.

Fun and games aside, Cunningham says he is “absolutely fanatical” about hiring. “It’s one of the most important things you will ever do,” he says. “Get it right and you are in good shape; get it wrong and you take several steps back. You can’t just hire the most talented people — you also need people who are best suited to your culture.”

Cunningham says that “as a bit of a business student, I studied the late Jack Welch closely in my early career. He used to talk about ‘the numbers and the values.’ Later, that became my guiding principle when hiring. What does it mean for me? The ‘numbers’ is really the day job. A marketing hire might need to combine experience with creativity and some science. An accountant might need to have certain financial qualifications and controllership or compliance experience to help guide the business.

“The ‘values’ are equally important, although too often they don’t get enough attention. I try to have a very clear sense of the values that will be required to be successful in a team that I lead and I often spend as much time looking for the fit as for the technical ability or experience to do the day job.

“Almost everyone tries to get a reference from a potential recruit’s previous bosses. I am just as interested in talking to people who have worked for the recruit. What kind of leader was he or she? What kind of person? What was morale like in the department? Did you feel like you were in an environment where you could contribute and grow? Was there a lot of wasteful nonsense or politicking?”

What advice would Cunningham give to a junior member of his team who’d like to advance and grow professionally?

“Three things,” Cunningham says. “First, do a great job where you are today. Treat each job, even if it is a menial one to begin with, like a degree course that will qualify you for your next bigger role. Be the best at it, always. It’s not a rehearsal.

“Second, build your network inside and outside the company. People can often get too internally focused working through their ‘to-do’ lists, their very busy lives, and don’t keep their heads up and work on building relationships outside their own immediate area.

“And, third, don’t spend too much time thinking about where you will be in five or 10 years’ time. Keep your head up and when you see the next role that you feel is right for you, kick the door down to try to get it.”

Eddie Cunningham (Photo by Bobby Quillard)

Joseph Edward Cunningham was born in a Leap Year, on Feb. 29, in Paisley, Scotland. He was the eldest of three children; his parents were older, his dad 56 and his mother, or “mum,” 41. He loved music and movies, and played a lot of soccer.

He enrolled in the University of Strathclyde, studying architecture. “But after a two-year flirtation with becoming an architect, I joined a retail business in the U.K. — Woolworths,” Cunningham recalls. “I managed several retail operations before being moved into the head office, where I took on a number of buying roles, including music, where, at the time, we had a huge 25% share of the U.K. disc market and an incredible 40% of the singles business.” (This was before CDs, when music was primarily sold on 7-inch singles or 12-inch albums.)

Woolworths eventually bought its biggest supplier, Record Merchandisers, and later renamed it Entertainment U.K.

“I became business development director initially and, later, as commercial director, was responsible for buying and sales and marketing,” Cunningham says. “In that role, we were everyone’s biggest European customer in the music and home video markets, so I was lucky enough to get headhunted across to one of our biggest suppliers, PolyGram, overseeing their fledgling home video business and a couple of catalog music labels.”

In 1999, five years after Cunningham was hired by PolyGram, the company was acquired by Seagrams and integrated into Universal Pictures. Cunningham became chairman of U.K. Operations and regional managing director for the Nordic countries as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Cunningham was promoted to president of Universal Pictures International Entertainment in 2006, overseeing the company’s home entertainment activities across Europe, Asia and Latin America. He played a key role in elevating Universal to market leader in most of its operational territories and introduced groundbreaking, non-traditional growth initiatives in the international home entertainment sector.

“We went to a lot of retailers who weren’t engaged in the category at all and persuaded them to come into it,” Cunningham recalls. “It depended a lot on which territory, but we spoke with clothing stores, sporting goods stores, small grocery chains — any retailers that had significant traffic flow.

“Our theory was that the business was going to plateau and decline at some stage, and if we just sat waiting for existing retailers to take space out, the decline would be faster. Consumers still love physical content, but we were starting to see fewer places to buy it, so we decided to try to broaden distribution.”

So, in essence, Cunningham was thinking “out of the box” before it became a popular catchphrase. It’s also known as being creative or, simply, thinking smart — and being strategic.

That’s how Eddie Cunningham works, and it’s also the best way to get ahead in the entertainment business, he maintains.

“As in any business, you have to consistently achieve results and be highly competitive,” Cunningham says. “You can’t always be the best at everything, but if you’re not, know who is and learn from what they are doing. I see the entertainment business as a people business, so relationships are very important. It sounds a bit obvious but treat everyone the way you would want to be treated yourself. It sounds simple but do what you say you are going to do. Follow up. Be reliable. Build trust. If you screw up occasionally, don’t be afraid to apologize and make it good — and quickly!

“And always remember the second-best answer in the world is ‘a quick no,’ so don’t leave people dangling for answers. If, for example, you say to a distribution partner that you are going to treat their content in exactly the same way as your own, then accept nothing less from your organization and create a culture that believes in this as a core value of doing business. If you promise something to a customer, then make sure you deliver it 100%.”

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Like many high-ranking executives, Cunningham has had his share of triumphs and disappointments. His single biggest achievement, he maintains, “is probably surviving eight major takeovers in my career.”

“While I have likely been close to becoming a casualty on a few occasions, I somehow managed to earn the trust and respect of each of the new owners,” he says. “I could write a book on that one, but you must always remember that the acquirer has usually brought you on to improve you, or maybe even ‘fix’ you. They have usually invested a lot of money acquiring you. What you have achieved prior to the takeover counts for very little, if anything. You need to park any ego you have at the door, start again, and earn their trust and respect. If you are not prepared to do that, then go and do something else. I often say ‘You can stay, or you can leave, but don’t stay if you have a chip on your shoulder.’ That’s no good for you, your family, the company, anyone.

“I think I take the biggest pride in seeing so many people from my various teams over the years progress throughout their careers. Feeling that I played some part in their personal success and development feels good. Seeing someone who was a trainee manager for me at retail go on to become a retail giant, seeing a young marketing assistant progress and go on to become an EVP, is very satisfying for me.”

On the downside, Cunningham says, “I never really focus on failure. Sure, there have been lots of disappointments along the way — we are, after all, in the movie business. But each failure or mistake represents an opportunity to learn something and move on. Winston Churchill once said, ‘Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.’ I wouldn’t go that far, but you get what he meant. Someone else said, ‘Failure defeats losers, but inspires winners.’ I genuinely believe that if you are not making a few mistakes, then you are not trying hard enough.”

Reflecting further on his career, Cunningham notes that he has had 18 bosses “and I’ve been really lucky enough to have had a lot of really good ones and some truly great ones — along with perhaps one or two who were not so good! The good news is that you can even learn from the bad ones, by remembering how it felt being on the receiving end and taking those lessons with you and making sure that you act differently when you are in a position of power.

“My first manager in retail was a great, wise, mature leader who left a lasting impression on me. He is now well into his 80s and I still speak to him from time to time, and he still has good advice for me. Ron Meyer is a standout for me. He just has this personal touch which is difficult to explain. If I could bottle it I would. He is incredibly open. He treats everyone as equals. He makes people feel great. He responds to everything. He has built a great culture at Universal. You would follow him to the ends of the earth. Jeff Shell is another one. I was lucky enough to have an office two doors away from him in London for three years after Comcast bought NBCUniversal so I would speak with him most days. He has a planet-sized brain and always challenges you to think differently. He is a great communicator who is prepared to take risks. He is always pushing the envelope, and he is also very open and transparent.”

Cunningham’s rules for life are simple, straightforward — and from the heart.

“For me, life is mainly about family and work,” he says. “I have a lovely wife, Sue, and three ‘grown-up’ children who are great — the oldest graduated from the London School of Economics and works in business development, in London; my daughter just graduated from the University of California, Berkeley; and my youngest is a junior at Pepperdine. I occasionally play golf, but not too much. I always remember Jim Davidson, who was a huge TV personality and comedian in the U.K., once say to me that ‘three into two didn’t go.’ Noting that I had a very demanding job and a big family, and that I enjoyed the odd game of golf, he said, ‘The best one to lose was the golf.’ As Jim had four previous wives at that stage, I took that to heart and therefore my golf handicap is still very high.”

As a business leader, Cunningham says, “I demand loyalty to the company, to the team, to each other — always. Respect is different. I don’t believe that any leader has a right to demand respect. Respect needs to be earned both ways, regardless of the divergence in titles or status within an organization. Leaders can’t just demand respect; they need to work at earning it from even the most junior member of the team.

“I also try to live by the motto, ‘Take the company seriously, but let’s not take ourselves too seriously.’ I abhor big egos. We are all here partly because we are lucky enough to work in a great business. Finally, tell the truth, don’t spin, no B.S. please! Usually, if you can get to the truth, you can manage most things.”

 

Eddie Cunningham Q&A: In Defense of the Disc

Earlier this year, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. announced plans to merge their physical distribution businesses under Universal Pictures Home Entertainment president Eddie Cunningham through a joint venture that will market and distribute Blu-ray Discs, DVDs and 4K Ultra HD discs in the United States and Canada. The proposed union, which still must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department, is expected to officially launch early in 2021. It covers new releases and library titles as well as television content, and will be operational for up to 10 years.

On the appointment of Cunningham to lead the new joint venture, Peter Levinsohn, now vice chairman and chief distribution officer for the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, said, “For more than two decades Eddie has been an expert in understanding the evolution of the physical home entertainment landscape. He’s been a dynamic leader in shepherding business innovation and operational effectiveness.”

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Media Play News sat down with Cunningham to talk about the disc business.

MPN: What advantage do discs have over digital media?

Cunningham: Discs, alongside electronic sellthrough, are usually the first opportunity to own a film after its run in theaters, with the movie often not being available on SVOD for years. If you want the highest-quality picture and sound, disc is still the best way to get that in the home, particularly in the higher-definition formats — BD and 4K UHD. Discs still make great gifts and are highly collectible, often with great bonus features.

MPN: In an increasingly digital world, is there still room for physical media? Let’s take a broad look at this — not just movies and TV shows but also music and books.

Cunningham: Of course there is still a place for physical media and I expect that to be the case for many years to come. The retail community is still heavily committed to the category. A number of U.S. retailers have even expanded their book space over the past couple of years. Clearly, the world is moving more toward digital consumption, but this is still a retail disc market worth almost $7 billion globally. Close to 50% of transactional consumers in the U.S. are still physical-only buyers. Of the other 50%, the vast majority still purchases discs alongside their electronic sellthrough and VOD transactions. Very few are digital only. Most consumers are hybrid customers in that they consume in lots of different ways. We view all formats as complementary. We make movies and TV programs. and our role is to provide consumers with content in lots of different ways. They can chose how to view our content and the disc is certainly still very much part of that equation.

MPN: Disc sales have been falling steadily as digital distribution, both transactional and streaming, has grown. What can be done to slow down the decline — or at least manage the decline to ensure that we as an industry are maximizing profitability?

Cunningham: We need to continue to drive shoppers into stores through our marketing and to engage them at retail. That means exciting new-release displays adding theater and fun to the shopping experience. A good example of that would be our corrugate displays on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom where we partnered with Facebook to create an interactive AR experience, bringing the dinosaurs to life in stores. We supported this initiative with a big national advertising campaign that drove people into stores. It also means great impulse displays, strong packaging and price offers on library content.

MPN: Is there still room for innovation in the disc business? Can we make DVDs and Blu-ray Disc more appealing to consumers?

Cunningham: Sure. Last June we unveiled a completely reimagined content menu for our bonus material, which makes it much more easily accessible and navigable. I think innovation can be an over-used word, but there is still much we can still do to continue to excite the consumer through our marketing and in the store. Our research tells us clearly that consumers like to shop at retail, like to browse displays in-store, are often collectors, can be heavily influenced by in-store displays and are often very interested in the bonus material included, which is a significant driver of disc purchases. We continue to invest heavily in consumer marketing campaigns and we remain committed to driving engagement in stores.

MPN: We see the percentage of DVD sales not falling off as quickly as some had predicted. Why, in your mind, are some people still buying DVDs rather than Blu-ray Discs?

Cunningham: A lot of consumers have grown up with DVD. It was like the equivalent of digital in the early days after tape. That shiny, sexy, high-quality, indestructible five-inch disc! They still love the format. They collect it. It is compatible with their home tech systems. Heavy DVD buyers tend to be more price-sensitive and respond well to price and other offers, too.

MPN: How fast is 4K Ultra HD catching on? Is it still a niche business or will it become a mass-market item, as 4K TV penetration increases?

Cunningham: 4K UHD catalog sales grew by 20% last year and we expect to see further significant growth in 2020, and it becoming a bigger share of high-definition sales. I don’t see it as mass market in the sense of taking over from the other physical formats, but it is already more than a niche and I expect it to grow.

MPN: Will the disc ever go away completely? In music, by comparison, CD sales are a fraction of what they once were — and yet vinyl is experiencing a resurgence. Still, packaged media accounts for just 4% of total music sales. What do you see happening in our industry?

Cunningham: You can never say never, but I think discs are around for a long time to come. We wouldn’t be proposing creating a joint venture with Warner Bros. if we didn’t believe that. At the high-definition end, it’s the best way to watch a film in the home and that will be the case for a long time. It is difficult to replicate the significant gifting element of physical content in a digital world. It is also a challenge to replace the impulse nature of displays in a brick-and-mortar retail shopping environment, those interesting displays, that ability to browse, to touch the content, to read the notes on the back of the packaging. I think we are going to be here and part of the mix for a long time to come.

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Amazon Launches ‘Prime Cinema’ for Early Digital Movie Releases

Amazon early on Sunday, March 22, announced via email the launch of Prime Video | Cinema, a new online hub where the company says “you can watch the latest movies just released in theaters — without leaving home.”

Disney/Pixar’s Onward is available to buy for $19.99, while Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma are available to rent at the same price. The price is also the same for HD or SD.

All four films were made available for home viewing earlier than expected due to the closure of movie theaters in response to the escalating novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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Consumers who digitally rent a film have 30 days to start watching it, and must finish watching the movie within 48 hours.

NAB Show Moves from ‘Postponed’ to ‘Canceled’

The annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, scheduled for April in Las Vegas, has moved from “postponed” into the “canceled” category.

In a March 20 email NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith announced that rather than rescheduling the big TV show for later this year, “NAB would be unveiling a new digital offering called NAB Show Express, and enhancing NAB Show New York later this year.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a truly unprecedented situation around the world,” Smith wrote. “We believe it is our responsibility to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and put the health and safety of our show community first.”

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Noting that “the landscape has continued to shift dramatically,” with sports leagues and school districts shutting down and business closures sweeping the nation, “it is impossible to hold a rescheduled 2020 NAB Show this year. We will instead proceed with a two-pronged approach to deliver as much value as possible under these circumstances to our exhibitors, partners, and the broadcast industry as a whole.”

First, Smith writes, “we are exploring a number of ways to bring the industry together online, both in the short and long term.”

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NAB Show Express, launching in April 2020, “will provide a conduit for our exhibitors to share product information, announcements and demos, as well as deliver educational content from the original selection of programming slated for the live show in Las Vegas, and create opportunities for the community to interact virtually,” Smith writes.

Second, he continues, “we will be enhancing NAB Show New York with new programs, partners, and experiences. We have already had numerous conversations with show partners about expanding their participation, and have heard from numerous exhibitors interested in enhancing their presence at this fall’s show. NAB Show New York represents the best opportunity for companies to announce and showcase their latest innovations and comes at a perfect time for the industry to gather face-to-face to restart, refocus, and reengage as we move forward together.”

NAB Show New York is scheduled to be held Oct. 20 and 21.

 

Best Buy Stores to Remain Open, Bucking Retail Trend

With gyms, restaurants and bars shut down in cities across the United States — and the world — a growing number of retailers are also responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by shutting their doors temporarily.

Department store chains Macy’s, Nordstrom, and JCPenney have shut their stores for at least two weeks.

Also in the dark are Apple, Urban Outfitters, Under Armour, Lululemon, Sephora, and Ulta Beauty, among others. Effective March 19, so is Dick’s Sporting Goods, an 850-store chain that this week has seen a run on free weights and dumbbells now that most gyms are closed.

Best Buy, which remains one of the top sellers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, is bucking the trend.

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In an email sent late March 18, CEO Corie Barry writes, “Right now, our role as a consumer electronics retailer is rapidly shifting and we are striving to make the best decisions with two goals in mind: The first is to protect our customers, employees and their families. The second is to do the best we can to serve the millions of Americans who are looking to us for increasingly vital technology tools to stay connected, as well as household necessities.

“You are turning to us for help getting the technology that allows you to continue running a small business or shift your usual job from an office setting to your home. You are turning to us to help your children continue their education outside of their classroom. And, you are turning to us for necessities that allow you to store and prepare food for your family.”

As a result, Barry writes, Best Buy stores will remain open, although the chain is “shortening our store hours this week, and on March 23, [we] will begin permitting only a small number of customers into the store at a time so we can enforce the necessary social distancing guidelines. We are also working to enhance our curbside service and strongly recommend you take advantage of this whenever possible.”