FilmRise Greenlights Third Season of ‘Bloodline Detectives Hosted by Nancy Grace’

New York-based film and television studio and streaming network FilmRise has renewed it first original true-crime documentary series “Bloodline Detectives Hosted by Nancy Grace” for a third season on digital and broadcast.

Season three of the series, produced by FilmRise and Los Angeles-based production company Peninsula Television, will begin production later this month and will begin airing this fall.

The series, which explores familial DNA search and testing used to uncover criminals, is hosted by legal analyst and former prosecutor Nancy Grace. Grace opens each episode by detailing a highly publicized and violent crime with unknown motives whose assailants were ultimately caught using familial DNA Search. Viewers are led through the case’s resolution with the help of forensic scientists and detectives. Integrating key witness testimony with new forensic and psychological expert interviews, plus reconstruction and archival footage, “Bloodline Detectives Hosted by Nancy Grace” is a study in modern crime-solving techniques. The series takes viewers behind the scenes of cold cases as detectives solve years-old murder investigations using two kinds of technology: genetic genealogy and familial searching. Detectives can harness these techniques to pinpoint an unknown criminal’s relatives and then trace the path of a family tree to reveal the killer, as used in high-profile investigations uncovering the Golden State Killer and the Grim Sleeper.  

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“We were able to experience first-hand the overwhelming demand for true crime programming when we first acquired ‘Unsolved Mysteries,’ and ‘Forensic Files,’” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement. “With the success of these two programs, we knew that when we moved into producing our own original content, this was the genre to build upon. Once we had Nancy Grace onboard for ‘Bloodline Detectives,’ there was no doubt in our minds that this program was going  to be a major draw for the true-crime fan.”

Xumu Adds Anthem’s AXS TV Now and Fight Network to FAST Channel Lineup

Two properties from Anthem Sports and Entertainment — the music and entertainment hub AXS TV Now and combat sports outlet Fight Network — are now available as new ad-supported FAST channel offerings on Xumo.

AXS TV Now and Fight Network join fellow Anthem property The Impact Wrestling Channel, which launched on XUMO in 2020. All three services have multi-year agreements on the platform.

AXS TV Now is an “always on” entertainment, music and lifestyle network curated for passionate pop culture enthusiasts. AXS TV Now’s roster highlights both original and acquired programming including  “The Big Interview With Dan Rather,” “The Top Ten Revealed,” “Music’s Greatest Mysteries,” and “A Year in Music,” hosted by Grammy-winning Halestorm frontwoman Lzzy Hale; as well as digital-exclusive series such as the intimate artist profile “At Home and Social”; and a selection of special events featuring performances from Bon Jovi, Chrissie Hynde, KISS and Noel Gallagher, and award-winning rock docs such as Lenny Kravitz: Just Let Go, among many others.

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Fight Network is a destination for 24/7 combat sports coverage, with live and classic MMA and boxing events from around the world. Additionally, Fight Network has original programs, including “Retrospective,” “Diary,” “In 60” and “After the Fight.”

Pluto TV to Launch in Canada This Fall With Ad Sales Support, Content From Corus

Pluto TV, the Paramount-owned FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) service, will launch in Canada this fall with ad-sales support and content from Canada-based Corus Entertainment.

Launching with more than 100 unique, curated channels and more than 20,000 hours of content, the service will offer a spectrum of free programming, including drama, comedy, lifestyle, kids, movies, around-the-clock news, and more.

Corus Entertainment will lead ad sales in the country and will provide multiple Canadian channels to the service.

“Pluto TV is committed to further expanding its premium free offering for audiences around the world, and this game-changing partnership with Corus is a testament to that commitment,” Olivier Jollet, EVP and international GM of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Following Pluto TV’s  recent launch in the Nordics and the partnership we implemented with Viaplay, which served as the strategic framework for this deal, the upcoming launch in Canada will combine Corus’ incredible local content offering with Pluto TV’s global content and world class platform, positioning Pluto TV to become the leading free ad-supported streaming TV service in the country upon launch in the fall.”

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“Corus’ relationship with Pluto TV underlines our commitment to ad-supported premium video, building on the success of StackTV, the Global TV App, and Premium Video on Demand,” Greg McLelland, EVP and chief revenue officer for Corus Entertainment, said in a statement. “The agreement further expands the volume of digital video inventory Corus has to offer, in a premium, brand-safe environment allowing our clients to achieve the impact of TV with the measurement and targetability of digital and connect with audiences wherever they are streaming.”

Ad-Supported Streaming Space Getting More Challenging, Panelists Say at XFronts Event

Acquiring an audience, finding carriage on connected TVs and devices and curating in-demand content are all getting more challenging in the ad-supported streaming space, panelists said May 25 at the XFronts event in Los Angeles hosted by OTT.X.

Getting carriage for FAST channels has become highly competitive, like finding a spot on a cable service, said Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer for Cinedigm, during the panel “How Does Anyone Make Money in this Business?”

“If you can’t get carriage, you won’t make any money,” he said. He also noted that the FAST channel business has become “more of a gladiator pit than cable ever was” in part because it doesn’t include the cushion of carriage fees.

Attracting eyeballs is more difficult as streaming services have proliferated, Opeka said. “To get [consumers] to download [your app] to the TV, you’re competing with all the big services that have driven up the marketing costs,” he said, noting it used to be “relatively cost effective to do a campaign with Roku or others.”

“If you’re competing with Netflix, Paramount, HBO Max, the cost per acquisition has skyrocketed,” he said.

Jonathan Skogmo, chief innovation officer at Trusted Media Brands, agreed that Roku has jacked up its pricing. “They want you to spend a quarter million dollars a quarter to get customers,” he said.

Panelists said original, exclusive, and in-demand, quality content is key as the competition increases.

“The table stakes are much higher now,” Opeka said. “We’re regularly involved in bidding wars for shows that can be an anchor of a FAST channel. … We’ve got a great one in Bob Ross.”

Skogmo added ad-supported streamers need “really unique programming, something that’s not already out.”

Finding content with ready appeal is also a key strategy.

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“We don’t have the major, major new releases to draw audience attention,” said Jesse Baritz, VP of content acquisition and development at Multicom Entertainment Group, so he said his company focuses on quality, star power and timely content.

“It’s making sure that it is 4K restored, star driven, hitting at the right time with the right audiences,” he said, adding that “when Natasha Lyonne was on ‘SNL’ this week, we made sure we had a movie that stars her.”

Ben Lister, senior director of content at Sinclair Broadcast Group, pointed out that the big subscription streaming guns such as Netflix are moving into the space, creating another challenge.

“As the SVODs start turning on advertising, I’m not sure how the consumer is going to respond,” he said, advising those that want to compete to “be prepared to make new content.”

Something as elemental as metadata can also help audiences find your content. Have “as much of that as you can” to help with discovery, Lister said.

“If you ask Siri or Alexa to show you the content, it comes up,” he said.

Another way to stand out from the crowd is to have a clear brand.

“You need a brand,” Opeka said. “If you don’t have a brand, align with somebody who does.”

FilmRise Inks Content Deals With Rooster Teeth, Lorne Michaels’ Above Average

New York-based film and TV studio and streaming network FilmRise has inked content deals with Rooster Teeth and Lorne Michaels’ Above Average Presents.

Under the deal with Above Average, a division of Broadway Video, FilmRise will create streaming TV episodes featuring a variety of comedy sketches taken from the more than 40 hours available from the Above Average library. FilmRise will distribute the newly formatted comedy series to all digital platforms as well as feature it on the FilmRise Comedy AVOD App and its FAST Channels. 

“Our deal with Above Average expands our digital native offerings to include comedy with high-profile, high-quality programming,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement. “Above Average is a brand that features some of the biggest names in comedy and has over 8 million subscribers in its network and 2.4 billion views on YouTube.”

“We are thrilled to expand Above Average’s audience to streaming viewers around the world,” Marc Lieberman, president of Above Average, said in a statement. “Since the launch of Above Average, we have watched the network grow exponentially, and are excited to partner with FilmRise’s innovative team to expand our digital footprint worldwide.”

Initially FilmRise will roll out two seasons, consisting of 15 episodes each. Episodes will range from 22 minutes to 30 minutes long. The programs will include comedy sketches from “7 Minutes In Heaven,” featuring talent such as Paul Rudd, Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, Amy Poehler and Andy Samberg, among many others; “Cool Kids’ Table”; “Forgotten Assholes of History”; “Hudson Valley Ballers”; “I Wanna Have Your Baby”; “Is This Okay?”; “Paulilu Mixtape”; “Sound Advice”; “The Idiot’s Guide to Smart People”; “Thingstarter”; and “Waco Valley.”

FilmRise plans to launch the first two season in July 2022.

Under the Rooster Teeth deal, FilmRise has acquired the exclusive SVOD, AVOD and FAST rights to more than 400 episodes across three properties of digital native content from the subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery. The three properties are the first animated series that FilmRise has acquired for the digital native content division.

The deal includes exclusive SVOD, AVOD and FAST rights to all episodes of “Red vs. Blue,” “Camp Camp” and “Nomad of Nowhere.” FilmRise will curate groupings of episodes seasons from each property and package them into traditional half-hour TV style seasons and episodes for streaming audiences.

“We are thrilled to expand our rapidly growing slate of digital-first content with these incredible programs from Rooster Teeth, a digital entertainment pioneer that has created a passionate global fandom and lifestyle brand,” Einhorn said in a statement. “FilmRise recognized early on the huge landscape of talent in the digital native content space. We’re delighted Rooster Teeth will partner with our expansive streaming network to bring their content to wider audiences.”

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“Our partnership with FilmRise provides instant worldwide international distribution and exposure on multiple streaming platforms leveraging our global fan base, expanding our programming into many new territories and bringing new fans into our community,” Geoff Yetter, head of licensing and consumer products at Rooster Teeth, said in a statement.

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“Camp Camp”

“Red vs. Blue” is an animated comedy set against the Halo video game world, chronicling the lives of soldiers on the Red Team and the Blue Team. “Camp Camp” is an animated comedy series surrounding the misadventures of a cynical 10-year-old sent to summer camp against his will. “Nomad of Nowhere” is a Western-fantasy hybrid, following bounty hunters Captain Toth and Skout as they track the Nomad (a non-verbal scarecrow) for his magical capabilities. The series examines the relationship between the two female bounty hunters in the face of the ever-evolving nature of their adventures. All three series were produced in-house by Rooster Teeth’s animation studio in Austin, Texas.

FilmRise Picks Up Distribution Rights to Children’s Programming From WildBrain

FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has announced a partnership with WildBrain to distribute children’s programming.

The deal gives FilmRise non-exclusive North American English and Spanish-language distribution rights to more than 900 episodes across 10 children’s programs on AVOD and FAST platforms. 

Programs included in the deal are all four seasons of “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego,” starring Academy Award-winner Rita Moreno as the voice of Carmen; both the classic and new adaptations of “Strawberry Shortcake,” including WildBrain’s new original series “Berry in the Big City”; the first four seasons and movie spinoffs of the animated sci-fi adventure “Slugterra”; “Kid vs. Kat”; “The L.A. Complex”; “Sabrina”; and “Super Mario.” 

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“As one of the world’s premiere children’s content creators and distributors, WildBrain has an incredible library of well-known productions and brands for younger audiences,” Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise, said in a statement. “We are fortunate to be partnering with them as we continue to expand our children and family programming offerings.”

“Partnering with FilmRise allows our popular properties to reach a larger and wider range of audiences,” Lara Ilie, VP of revenue share and transactional at WildBrain, said in a statement. “We are excited to share these lovable programs with more families.”

OTT.X Speakers: Streaming Market Entering a New, More Competitive Phase

The streaming marketplace is entering a new phase as consumers balk at paying for more subscription services and turn to cheaper and free ad-supported options. But while those more economical options are experiencing growth, that marketplace, too, is getting more crowded and competitive. That’s according to speakers at the OTT.X Online event Feb. 23.

“The days of build it and they will come are over,” said Quincy Newell, CEO of TwentyOne14, which operates Fuse Beat, available on Roku and offering entertainment and lifestyle content targeting Black culture.

“Quality is important and key. Exclusivity is preferable,” he said.

“I think original content is becoming more important,” said Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus. The AVOD service garners original content from parent company Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment.

Meanwhile, Gary Delfiner, CEO of Watchfreeflix, which offers various free streaming channels of licensed content via Roku and other platforms, noted originals aren’t as important as some think.

“I’m not that focused on original content,” he said. “I can’t afford it. I’m not Amazon and I’m not Netflix.”

Watchfreeflix plays to its strengths in horror and action thrillers, among other genres, he said.

“I believe that quantity and not sacrificing quality is the reason people are watching my channels,” he said.

He noted that SVOD services aren’t refreshing their new content that frequently, while he is constantly getting new content and creating new channels, all offered to audiences at no cost.

“I think free is a good price,” he said.

Guelton agreed that free ad-supported services have an advantage, but the competition is getting fiercer.

“When it comes to AVOD, the game is almost over,” he said. “On the FAST [free ad-supported TV], linear side, I think there’s a much longer runway.”

Newell said that his company is careful about what content it acquires and creates to stay on top of the market.

“I don’t want to have long-term licenses,” he said, adding he likes to refresh content based on audience feedback.

His team subscribes to other services to identify gaps in the marketplace and uses social media to communicate with audiences.

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“We have a very large social presence,” added Zack Coffman, founder and CEO of global OTT distributor One World Digital.

Jonathan Skogmo, founder and CEO of Jukin Media, said his team uses social media to incubate content ideas.

Platforms, such as Roku, can be an important and influential marketing partner, speakers said.

“It’s the platforms that hold the gate,” said Berkin Ecevit, sales and business development director at SPI International, a global media company that is moving into the FAST space.

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Getting to the top of the marketing list at such platforms is challenging, he said.

“Valentine’s day you’ve got to have love movies,” he noted. “What if we don’t have those?”

“The big question is what kind of leverage do we have,” Guelton added. “What can we trade? … and, yes, it can be money.”

The type of content distributors can offer is key, too.

“They’re willing to promote it for free if it’s exclusive,” Guelton said, adding the quality of the brand is important as well.

“The Crackle brand is well-respected,” he said, as is that of its parent Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Kathryn Przybyla, director of social media at America’s Test Kitchen, agreed that a good brand gives FAST players a leg up.

“People know who ATK is,” she said.

Coffman said communicating with the platforms is key.

“Start to pay attention to what the platforms are telling you,” he said, adding “if you become a great partner, the platform is more than happy to work with you.”

Skogmo noted that there’s a “sense of choice paralysis” among consumers that makes brand equity and good key art crucial.

“I think you have to have a really clear voice of what you’re curating and why you’re curating,” he said.

Stuart McLean, CEO of FAST Studios, told FAST players to “lean in on graphics packages and thumbnails.”

As a platform player among the panelists, Jennifer Vaux, head of content acquisition at the Roku Channel was coy about what prompts Roku to market a channel above others.

“You’re essentially telling the viewer what they’re going to spend their time with,” she said, adding with hundreds of channels to search through, content owners “really need to cut through the noise.”

As far as what Roku is looking for in acquiring and promoting a channel, she said a strong IP is attractive, as well as a deep library.

“We’re always looking to partner with people who have expertise in different genres,” she also said.

The data that a streaming channel collects is helpful in defining a strategy, speakers said.

“Sometimes content resonates completely differently depending on the platform,” Przybyla said.

In contrast with legacy channels, streamers get real-time data, McLean said.

“We don’t wait for Nielsen,” Coffman said.

“We’re lucky because we are a platform … we generally see what people are watching on our own channels and use that to inform our programming decisions,” Roku’s Vaux said.

While the U.S. market is crowded, speakers noted that going global might make sense.

“I think the world is wide open,” SPI’s Ecevit said.

“That’s a market that is wide open and somewhat untouched,” Watchfreeflix’s Delfiner agreed.

Clockwise from top left, moderator Anthony Layser of Xumo and panelists Jennifer Vaux of the Roku Channel, Jonathan Skogmo of TMB, Kathryn Przybyla of America’s Test Kitchen, and Zack Coffman of One World Digital.

Vizio Partners With TransUnion to Better Reach Connected-TV Homes

Vizio has partnered with credit service TransUnion’s TruAudience Data Marketplace to enhance advertiser appeal for its ad-supported streaming Household Connect platform across 19 million internet-connected branded TVs.

“This allows advertisers to leverage our proprietary data along with data from the TransUnion and execute full-funnel marketing campaigns for the Vizio audience,” Oz Lang, VP of product management at Vizio, said in a statement. “After being presented an ad on TV, viewers will see a complementary ad or call-to-action on their computer, tablet, or mobile device shortly thereafter, all powered by the same data.”

Vizio claims that a major cable network leveraged Household Connect to drive a 64% increase in viewership for its flagship season premiere, including significant lifts in both awareness and ad recall rates of 80% and 90%, respectively.

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“By leveraging the TruAudience, Vizio combines their audience viewing data with other first and third-party data across tens of millions of connected homes,” added Matt Spiegel, EVP of media and entertainment at TransUnion. “This partnership provides brands and marketers enhanced advertising and efficacy.”

ElectricNow FAST Channel Available on Samsung Smart TVs and Mobile Devices

Electric Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production, distribution and post-production company, has partnered with Samsung to deliver ElectricNow’s FAST channel on all U.S. Samsung smart-TVs and select mobile devices. 

“Our live linear channel will now be reaching the enormous Samsung TV Plus audience,” Dean Devlin, CEO of Electric Entertainment, said in a statement. “This is extremely exciting for us and ElectricNow, specifically since we will be able to expose new viewers to our fan favorites, such as ‘Leverage,’ ‘The Librarians,’ ‘Almost Paradise’ and ‘The Outpost.’ We are happy to report that the ElectricNow app has millions of viewers since its inception and is rapidly growing on a consistent basis.”

ElectricNow is a premium OTT app and FAST channel featuring Electric Entertainment’s own produced content such as TV series “Leverage,” “The Librarians,” and “The Outpost,” as well as acquired programming such as the feature films Blackway, starring Anthony Hopkins, and The Book of Love, starring Jason Sudeikis and Maisie Williams. The ElectricNow Channel is available on platforms including The Roku Channel, Plex, STIRR, Local Now, Sling TV, TiVo Plus, IMDb TV, Redbox, XUMO, Distro TV and Select TV. In addition to the free streaming content, the ElectricNow App also includes special bonus feature content, a program guide, and video-on-demand and pay-per-view components. The channel and app are home to Electric’s newly launched podcast network, Electric Surge, which includes such series as “The Official Leverage: Redemption Aftershow: A Very Distinctive Podcast,” “Inglorious Treksperts,” “The 4:30 Movie,” “Best Movies Never Made” in a line-up that includes podcasts devoted to “Star Trek,” “Dr. Who” and other sci-fi and entertainment industry-related topics.

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Headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif., Electric Entertainment is an independent studio headed by veteran producer Dean Devlin along with his partners Marc Roskin and Rachel Olschan-Wilson. Electric Entertainment also houses Electric Post, a digital effects and post-production facility.

FilmRise Picks Up FAST Rights to Canadian Series ‘Kim’s Convenience’

FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired multi-territory, ad-supported digital linear (FAST) rights to the critically acclaimed Canadian comedy series “Kim’s Convenience” from Canada-based Thunderbird Entertainment.

The deal gives FilmRise exclusive FAST (free ad-supported streaming) rights to all five seasons of the series, which it will program across its existing FAST Channels as well as allow for the creation of dedicated marathon FAST channels of the series across the United States, Latin America, German-speaking Europe, French-speaking Europe, Italy and Spain. FilmRise plans to offer the series on FAST linear streaming channels on IMDb TV, Pluto, The Roku Channel, Samsung TV+ and the FilmRise Streaming Network, among others.

Originally broadcast on CBC starting in 2016, the series made its international debut on Netflix in 2018. 

Based on Ins Choi’s award-winning play of the same name, “Kim’s Convenience” depicts the Korean-Canadian Kim family who runs a convenience store in Toronto. During its five season run, the series was the winner of multiple Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Comedy Series, Foreign Drama of the Year at the Seoul International Drama Awards (2019), Members’ Choice Series Ensemble Award for Best cast at the 2017 Toronto ACTRA Awards (Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists).

The comedy stars Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (“The Mandalorian”), Andrew Phung (“Run the Burbs”) Andrea Bang (“A Million Little Things”), Jean Yoon (“The Voyeurs”), Simu Liu  (Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), and Nicole Power, who stars in “Strays,” which is the spin-off series from “Kim’s Convenience” that premiered in September 2021 on CBC.

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“As the FilmRise Streaming Network continues to grow, so does our approach in acquiring programs featuring unique stories from people of diverse backgrounds,” Max Einhorn,  SVP of acquisitions and co-productions for FilmRise, said in a statement. “‘Kim’s Convenience’ has had a huge impact on a wide range of viewers, and we are thrilled to bring this culturally relevant series for free to streaming audiences worldwide.”

“Kim’s delightful characters and beloved stories brought love and laughter into the hearts of many during its five seasons,” Richard Goldsmith, president of global distribution and consumer products at Thunderbird Entertainment, said in a statement. “Through our partnership with FilmRise, we are thrilled that new audiences internationally will have the opportunity to connect with and enjoy the heart-warming and hilarious experiences of the Kim family.”