Hulu Acquires Rights to ‘Scandal’

Hulu has acquired the rights to the ABC series “Scandal,” and all seven seasons of the drama will begin streaming exclusively on the service May 20.

The series was created by Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice”). Rhimes and producing partner Betsy Beers (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “How to Get Away with Murder”), Mark Fish, Mark Wilding and Tom Verica are executive producers.

“Scandal” stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, Guillermo Diaz as Huck, Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan, Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins, Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant, Jeff Perry as Cyrus, Bellamy Young as First Lady Mellie Grant, Joshua Malina as David Rosen, Scott Foley as Jake Ballard, Portia De Rossi as Elizabeth North and Cornelius Smith Jr. as Marcus Walker.

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The Washington D.C.-set drama centers on political fixer Pope and her team of associates who sacrifice their time, and often their morals, to “handle” unimaginable crises affecting the nation’s elite. Throughout six seasons, “Scandal” explores political culture, gender disparities, sexual politics and race in America.

Complete Series of ‘Modern Family’ Available on Digital, Season 11 on DVD June 9

The complete series of “Modern Family” is available on digital, with season 11 due on DVD June 9.

The series, which just completed its run on ABC, follows the diverse, complex, and sometimes nutty Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker clan. The family is headed by Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), who is now married to his second wife, the young, gorgeous Gloria (Sofia Vergara), assumed by some to be his daughter. In their care is Gloria’s daydreaming son Manny (Rico Rodriguez). Jay’s driven daughter Claire (Julie Bowen) and her real estate agent husband Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) want an open, healthy relationship with their three kids, which isn’t always easy. Their oldest daughter Haley (Sarah Hyland) grows up a little too fast. She moves out, and then moves back in again with her fiancé and their twin babies. Middle child Alex (Ariel Winter) is a too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter, and the youngest, Luke (Nolan Gould), is a rambunctious son. Where Phil wants to be the “cool dad,” Claire is determined to keep her kids from walking in the wayward footsteps of her younger days. Jay’s very serious son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and his gregarious husband Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) become doting parents to Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons), the Vietnamese girl they adopt.

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In season 11, as Haley and Dylan and the twins move in with Phil and Claire, Manny heads for college, Alex tries out life beyond academics, and Luke seeks his next move. Mitch and Cam try to understand their gifted teen, and Jay and Gloria navigate their now seasoned marriage as the large family lives, loves and laughs in the acclaimed series’ final season.

Hulu Launches Free 24/7 Stream of ABC News Live to On-Demand Subscribers

Hulu has partnered with ABC News Live to bring the channel’s 24/7 live coverage to Hulu and Disney billed on-demand subscribers.

“More than 45 percent of Hulu viewers have either cut the cord or never had cable, and may not have access to live, televised news to receive critical information during times of national crisis,” according to a Hulu release. “Given the rapidly-evolving situation around COVID-19, and to ensure that our viewers can stay informed during this time, we’re partnering with ABC News Live to bring the channel’s 24/7 live coverage to Hulu and Disney billed on-demand subscribers as part of their subscription.”

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Beginning March 20, subscribers to Hulu’s ad-supported and Hulu (no ads) plans can access the ABC News Live stream by visiting the “Hulu Picks” collection.

“With this live stream, we aim to keep our viewers informed during this unprecedented time when having access to information is vital to our communities,” read the Hulu release.

 

Disney Stops Running Netflix Ads on its Networks

The streaming video wars are heating up.

With Disney set to launch a branded $6.99 subscription streaming video service (Disney+) on Nov. 12, it has reportedly begun circling the wagons around its media brands — denying Netflix ads from airing on select entertainment networks.

Netflix, in a shrewd marketing move, had apparently upped running ad-spots specifically on Disney networks.

Impacted properties include ABC (notably the Oscars), FX, Freedom and National Geographic. Disney will still accept Netflix advertising on ESPN since the SVOD pioneer does not stream live sports.

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In a statement first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Disney said that as the “direct-to-consumer business has evolved, with many more entrants looking to advertise in traditional television, and across our portfolio networks … [it has] “reevaluated our strategy to reflect the comprehensive business relationships have with many of these companies, as direct-to-consumer is one element.”

While rival media/tech companies also ready proprietary streaming services, it is unknown if their marketing has been impacted by Disney’s move.

But then they aren’t Netflix, which with more than 150 million subscribers worldwide, dominates the SVOD ecosystem.

In 2017, Disney began pulling back original movies (i.e. Star Wars, Pixar) and select Marvel programming from Netflix as it began assembling Disney+. The move was noteworthy considering the two companies in 2015 inked a landmark distribution deal making Netflix the exclusive pay-TV distributor for Disney movies.

In a related move, Disney CEO Bob Iger removed himself from the board of Apple as the tech giant readies a reboot of its Apple TV platform to include subscription streaming video and original content.

 

Free TV Streaming Service ‘Locast’ Fights Back Against Major Broadcasters With Countersuit

Locast, the free New York-based service that streams broadcast television feeds online, on Sept. 27 filed a lawsuit against NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC, alleging the major broadcasts colluded to undermine its business, among other claims.

The service claims to have about 700,000 registered users/donors across 13 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, N.Y., is counter litigation against against a civil complaint filed by broadcasters in July against Locast and its non-profit advocacy group Sports Fans Coalition NY parent, alleging the platform violated the content copyrights and revenue streams from pay-TV distributors.

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Locast founder David Goodfriend, in his countersuit, claims the networks colluded to put pressure on pay-TV operators in an effort to undermine his business model.

Under federal law, broadcasters must make their signals available to the public through a digital antennae. But pay-TV operators pay networks retransmission fees to distribute their signals.

Locast, as a non-profit, argues it merely acts as a “signal booster.”

“This is classic copyright abuse,” read the complaint. “[Networks] have misused copyrights to expand their market power beyond what those copyrights were intended to protect.”

Unique to the case is the fact Locast has received funding from major media companies such as AT&T ($500,000), which owns WarnerMedia, and Google’s YouTube.

The suit alleges the networks threatened YouTube with litigation if it enabled Locast to operate on its servers.

Yet, when AT&T’s DirecTV satellite distributor and U-verse pay-TV channel had a retransmissions fee dispute with CBS this summer, it directed its 6.5 million subs blacked out from CBS content to use Locast.

Indeed, Dish Network offers the Locast app to its satellite and Sling TV subs as alternative on its AirTV devices.

Poll: 44% Say Netflix Vital Source of Video Content

While Disney rolls out its branded “Disney Plus” subscription streaming video service for investors, new data from Hub Research finds that 44% of consumers consider Netflix an important source of content.

The research firm’s “The Evolution of Video Branding” study found that the vast majority of respondents from a January poll of 1,692 consumers in the United States chose Netflix over other over-the-top video services for their video content.

Other entertainment sources include CBS (29%), ABC (28%), NBC (28%) and ESPN (24%).

Among younger respondents (16-34 years-old), 59% opted for Netflix, followed by Hulu (26%), ESPN (24%), HBO (17%) and Amazon Prime Video (17%). Among older respondents CBS ranked first with 41%, followed by ABC (37%), NBC (37%), Netflix (35%) and Fox (26%).

Notably, the report found that while respondents were familiar online TV services such as Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue, 80% claimed they were unaware of what each platform’s value proposition was.

Indeed, among younger respondents, simply branding video content “original” was enough to make them consider streaming it. And 69% considered Netflix the best choice for original fare.

“It would be easy to explain Netflix’s strong position as a must-have TV source by citing the sheer variety of its content,” Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Then again, the same can be said of the variety of shows on broadcast networks. Whether it’s a function of a higher level of show quality or of strong branding — or both — Netflix has managed to set itself apart from networks that offer a similarly wide variety of genre choice.”

Roku Expands Roku Channel, Home Screen Capabilities; Reports Strong Financials

Roku Aug. 8 announced the launch of two new ways for consumers to find free streaming entertainment.

With the launch of the Roku Channel for the web in the United States, consumers now have free access via PCs, mobile phones and tablets, according to a company press release. Consumers can visit TheRokuChannel.com to begin streaming once they log in or create a Roku account.

Also, Roku is beginning the roll out of a navigation change to the Roku home screen called “Featured Free,” which provides users with direct links to free content from The Roku Channel, ABC, The CW, CW Seed, FOX, Freeform, Pluto TV, Sony Crackle, Tubi and more. Featured Free includes the in-season episodes of top network shows, full past-season catch-ups and more.

“We want to be the best destination for free streaming entertainment. We’re delighted to deliver even more value to our customers without subscriptions, complicated logins or fees,” said Rob Holmes, Roku’s VP of programming and engagement, in a statement. “By expanding The Roku Channel to the Web, we’re broadening the access points to high-quality, free streaming entertainment. With Featured Free, we’re making it easy for our customers to see the great, free content already available on the Roku platform in one place, while creating value for our content providers by connecting them with Roku’s growing audience.”

Launched last fall, The Roku Channel is currently the No. 5 most popular streaming channel on the Roku platform based on active account reach, according to the press release.

In addition, The Roku Channel app has begun rolling out to select Samsung smart TVs.

Featured Free is available domestically through a phased software roll out over the coming weeks.

Roku also reported its financial results for the second quarter. “Q2 revenue and gross profit came in ahead of our outlook, driven by strong Platform revenue growth and player demand that exceeded our expectations,” read a company letter to shareholders. “Revenue grew 57% year-over-year, our fastest growth rate since Q4 2013. Gross profit, a key performance metric, grew 107% and gross margin expanded 12 percentage points to 50% compared to the prior year period.”

In other Roku news, studio Gunpowder & Sky announced  DUSTx, a free destination for science fiction content that will be available on all Roku devices starting Aug. 18.

It kicks off with more than 20 films, 30 series and 200 of short films. Titles include Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure; Paycheck, based on Philip K. Dick’s short story and starring Ben Affleck; A Scanner Darkly, the 2006 animated sci-fi thriller directed by Richard Linklater, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, and starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder; “Beyond Westworld,” the 1980 television series based on the Michael Crichton helmed film Westworld; and “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” the 1988 cult-favorite comedy series created by Joel Hodgson.

A division of Gunpowder & Sky, DUST operates channels that are available on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, VRV, Pluto and Xumo. Through its partnership with USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, DUST recently premiered the George Lucas 1967 short film, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, followed by legendary filmmaker Robert Zemeckis’ 1972 student short film The Lift.

“Since DUST’s inception, our mission has been to build a contemporary sci-fi brand,” said Floris Bauer, co-founder and president, Gunpowder & Sky, in a statement. “Today, DUST has a thriving community of more than 2 million fans, showcasing varying content from up-and-coming creators to masters like George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis. We are also producing and releasing original feature films and TV series under the DUST label. Having our own premium channel, and launching DUSTx, marks a natural and significant next step in the evolution of the brand.”

No ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ for Roseanne

Years ago, the predecessor to Media Play News (Home Media Magazine) interviewed Roseanne Barr regarding a pending DVD release. Barr, who was long past the original “Roseanne” TV show at the time, was charming, witty (“I’m only talking to you for the money”) and bored.

“I sit around the house and watch a lot of TV,” she chuckled. “I like ‘Nancy Grace.’”

Unfortunately for Barr, boredom these days apparently includes wading into the social media abyss — and leaving common sense to others.

Which is what happened to the former standup comic this morning, resulting in a tirade of offensive tweets, including a racist post about a former Obama Administration official. All that was missing was a noose.

Not even Nancy Grace could (or would) save Barr from the swift blowback in the media and on social media condemning her comments. Comic Wanda Sykes, a writer on the “Roseanne” reboot on ABC quickly quit the show in protest.

Barr apologized for her tweets, adding she would be leaving Twitter for good.

Of course, no one should really be surprised considering Barr’s questionable public statements in the past, unrepentant support of President Trump, who launched his campaign on the back of bigotry, and politically incorrect tone in the new “Roseanne” show.

Barr’s comments are protected under the First Amendment, not unlike the Second Amendment affording gun rights to individuals who should never have access to a firearm.

Indeed, Harris Faulkner, a black female host on Fox News, defended Barr.

“I don’t understand it to be anything other than free speech,” Faulkner said.

Yes, but free speech is a slippery slope. Just because you can spout bigoted thoughts, doesn’t mean you should. Especially when you are in the public eye — and advertisers are footing the bill.

ABC wisely canceled “Roseanne,” despite the show’s top ratings in a media landscape under siege by over-the-top video.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” Channing Dungey, entertainment chief at ABC, said in a statement.

Barr’s agent, ICM Partners, agreed, dumping her as a client.

“We are all greatly distressed by the disgraceful and unacceptable tweet from Roseanne Barr this morning,” ICM said in a statement, as reported by The Wrap. “What she wrote is antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency.”

Paramount Network, TV Land, CMT and Hulu dropped airing/streaming “Roseanne” re-runs. The show is still available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

And thus, in a matter of hours, Barr went from TV’s biggest comeback story to social outcast, joining “Seinfeld” legend Michael Richards (Kramer) – whose 2006 racist outburst during a standup gig sent the actor’s career into extinction.

Maybe, Barr should start watching “Dr. Phil.”

‘American Idol’ Going Live Nationwide

Ratings-challenged “American Idol” announced it would for the first time air live simulcasts nationwide of the remaining three weeks of season 16 of the music performance reality show. Previous telecasts have been tape-delayed for Westcoast audiences.

The series, which began airing for the first time in March on ABC after its original run (through 2016) on Fox, is down to 14 contestants. Celebrity judges this season include Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Ritchie.

Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, revamped “Idol” has struggled against rival reality show, “The Voice” on NBC, whose first-time celebrity judge Kelly Clarkson was the original “Idol” winner on the show’s inaugural 2002 season.

Despite reportedly luring Perry to “Idol” with a $25 million payday, the show has trailed “The Voice” in TV viewers for the past five weeks. Indeed, “Idol” ratings last week dropped to an all-time low among the coveted 18-49 demographic.

Media reports suggest Perry’s antics on the show, which include kissing an unsuspecting male contestant and pulling a strand of hair from 19-year-old long-haired contestant Cade Foehner on the April 22 show, are politically incorrect in the #MeToo era.

Time Life Re-Releasing ‘Wonder Years’ DVDs for 30th Anniversary

Time Life March 13 is re-releasing its DVD boxed sets of “The Wonder Years” for the show’s 30th anniversary.

The Wonder Years: The Complete Series Deluxe Edition, originally released in 2014, is a 26-disc deluxe edition featuring all 115 episodes and nearly 23 hours of extras housed in a mini school locker and includes magnets to custom-design each locker; two “notebooks,” each featuring detailed episode information and production photos, as well as a replica yearbook embellished with signatures from cast members; behind-the-scenes photos and show memorabilia; and liner notes penned by Fred Savage, series creators Neal Marlens and Carol Black, and executive producer Bob Brush.

All 115 episodes are also available in the slimmed down 22-DVD The Wonder Years: The Complete Series Slipcase Edition, originally released in 2016.

The Wonder Years debuted in 1988 for six seasons captured the angst of growing up in suburban middle-class America in the late 1960s, as seen through eyes of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), from his first kiss with Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) to his friendship with Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and the ups and downs of the Arnold family. The series would also go on to win 24 awards (and be nominated for 70 more), including multiple Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe and, in 1989, a Peabody Award for pushing the boundaries of the sitcom format and using new modes of storytelling.

Both sets include complete show notes with episode synopses, cast member reflections, “Current Events,” and the soundtrack of more than 300 classic period songs as they were featured in the original broadcasts, including tracks from such artists as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, and Joe Cocker’s unforgettable theme.

Bonus features include highlights from the cast reunion; roundtable discussions with Danica McKellar, Fred Savage and Josh Saviano; the farewell set tour; the one-hour ABC broadcast of the series finale; and exclusive interviews with the show’s creators and cast including Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano, Alley Mills, Dan Lauria, Olivia d’Abo and Jason Hervey.

A spokesperson for Time Life said the sets will not include any additional content than what was released before, but that they should be discounted more than 25% at retail compared with the earlier releases.