BritBox Touts Agatha Christie Content as Rival Collects License Revenue

BritBox, the British-themed SVOD service operating in North America and the United Kingdom and co-owned by the BBC and ITV, has secured rights to what it says is the largest collection of Agatha Christie-themed content.

Rights include myriad seasons of “Poirot,” “Marple,” “Partners in Crime” and “Poirot: Mysterious Affair at Styles,” which bowed May 15 in honor of the 100th anniversary of Christie’s first novel.

“Only BritBox could create this Agatha Christie collection — working together with BBC and ITV to bring together all of these celebrated adaptations,” Soumya Sriraman, CEO of BritBox, said in a statement. “As the home of great British mysteries, we couldn’t be more proud to be the true home of the most beloved portrayals of Christie’s famous characters.”

BritBox is releasing Christie-themed adaptations including, “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?” and “The Seven Dials Mystery,” featuring Sir John Gielgud, in addition to “The Secret Adversary.”

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“I am delighted to see all these shows available in North America on BritBox,” said James Prichard, CEO and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd. (ACL). “They give a real flavor of the depth and quality of my great grandmother’s work, and I am sure audiences will enjoy them.”

Interestingly, AMC Networks, which owns and operates rival British-themed streaming service Acorn TV, is the majority (64%) stakeholder in Agatha Christie Ltd. AMC reported $6 million operating income from ACL in 2019.

Acorn TV launched in the United Kingdom in Q1 — nine years after bowing in the United States as an alternative to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The company expects to generate upwards of 4 million combined paid subscribers for its four SVOD services, which include Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC (Urban Movie Channel) by the end of the year.

RLJ Entertainment Posts $5 Million Q4 Operating Loss

AMC Networks subsidiary RLJ Entertainment posted a fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) operating loss of $5 million on revenue of $28 million. The home entertainment unit generated net income of $3.8 million on revenue of $32.7 million during the previous-year period as a separate publicly traded company.

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AMC acquired controlling interest in RLJE from BET founder Robert L. Johnson last October for $59 million – largely for its Acorn TV SVOD service and majority stake in Agatha Christie Limited. AMC reported adjusted operating income $3 million for Agatha Christie Limited during the quarter.

Indeed, Amazon Prime Video and BBC One in the United Kingdom adapted Agatha Christie’s “The ABC Murders” into an eponymous mini-series  currently streaming and starring John Malkovich as detective Hercule Poirot.

AMC said its “international and other” business segment — which includes RLJE – increased fourth quarter revenue 48.6% to $188 million, while upping operating loss $29 million to $48 million. Adjusted operating income increased 43.9% to $9 million, all compared to the prior-year period.

“The strength of our balance sheet allows us to continue to pursue smart and strategic investments that are changing our business, including our acquisition last year of RLJ Entertainment, which is meaningfully advancing our direct-to-consumer interests, a key priority as we continue to diversify our revenue and grow our business,” Josh Sapan, CEO of AMC Networks, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, AMC, which airs three of the top six dramas on ad-supported cable – “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead,” and “Better Call Saul” – reported Q4 net income of $71.8 million on revenue of $773 million. That compared to income of $145.5 million on revenue of $727 million last year.

For the fiscal year, AMC generated income of $446 million on revenue of nearly $3 billion, which compared to income of $471 million and revenue of $2.8 billion in 2017.

Book Retailer Marketing Companion Titles for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Original Shows

If you can’t beat subscription streaming, join over-the-top video.

Books-A-Million, the Birmingham, Ala.-based chain of 200 bookstores, has issued a list of companion books to favorite Netflix, Hulu and other streaming titles. This list complements popular TV shows and movie titles, including “You,” “Stranger Things,” Bird Box, “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up,” among others.

“Think of the book as the uncut version of the movie or TV series – there is better character development, the plot is deeper, the blanks are filled in, there may be an alternate ending and there might be a sequel,” Margaret Terwey, senior buyer for Books-A-Million, said in a statement. “That’s why we think the book is better and why we encourage our customers to simultaneously stream and read.”

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds: The First Official Stranger Things Novel ($28) by Gwenda Bond is a brand-new prequel providing readers with secrets and the background of Eleven’s mother.

Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders ($14.99) inspired the Amazon Prime series, which sets main character Hercule Poirot on the trail of an alphabetical serial killer.

You ($17) by Caroline Kepnes prompted the popular Netflix series about a young man who meets a woman and becomes obsessed with being her perfect partner, removing any obstacles in his way.

Josh Malerman’s Bird Box ($15.99) is a hit Netflix film (80 million viewers) about a post-apocalyptic world in which a monster lives, and anyone who sees the mysterious force is driven to deadly violence.

Decluttering guru and Netflix star Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up ($18.99) has revolutionized homes and lives across the world, and fanatics can go even further with her book featuring step-by-step illustrations.

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From the host of the television series and podcast “MeatEater,” The Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler ($35) by Steven Rinella is a guide to cooking wild game, featuring more than 100 new recipes.

Now on Netflix, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking ($37.50) by Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton is an ambitious new approach to cooking by mastering the use of the four title elements.

The Game of Thrones prequel by George R. R. Martin, Fire and Blood – 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones ($35), helps readers dive deeper into the history of the Targaryens.

Available in paperback in April 2019, The One ($15.99) by John Marrs explores a company that promises to match people up with their soulmates via DNA testing.

Finally, fans of the movies that are streaming on Hulu and anyone anticipating the upcoming Amazon Prime Video original series will want The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: Deluxe Pocket Boxed Set ($49.95), a four-volume set containing The Hobbit and the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

 

AMC Networks Completes Acquisition of RLJ Entertainment

AMC Networks Nov. 1 announced it completed the acquisition of home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment, after the latter’s stockholders approved the transaction at a special meeting on Oct. 31.

AMC Networks acquired all of the shares of common stock of RLJE not owned by founder and namesake Robert L. Johnson, for about $59 million in cash.  RLJ Entertainment is now a privately-owned subsidiary of AMC Networks, with Johnson and his affiliates owning a stake of 17%.

RLJE operates two subscription streaming services with about 1 million combined subscribers: Acorn TV, known for its British and international mysteries and dramas; and UMC, which offers films, documentaries, original series and comedy for African-American and urban audiences.

The growth of Acorn TV has been driven by the current release of “A Place to Call Home.” Other pending original programs include, “Agatha Raisin,” “Queens of Mystery” and “London Kills.” UMC original series include “Monogamy” and “5th Ward.”  Recent releases from RLJE Films include MandyArizona and Galveston.

“Our businesses each serve unique audiences and have a strong connection to their viewers,” Miguel Penella, CEO of RLJ Entertainment, said in a statement. “”AMC Networks has been an ideal partner as we developed Acorn TV and UMC for their respective audiences.”

In addition, RLJE owns a majority stake in Agatha Christie Ltd., a popular IP franchise. Last year’s 20st Century Fox Kenneth Branagh-directed adaptation of Murder on the Orient Expressgrossed more than $350 million in worldwide box office. It sold more than $9 million in combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units from 20thCentury Fox Home Entertainment.

Forthcoming adaptations include Fox’s Death on the Nilesequel as well as the BBC’s recent multi-show deal with Agatha Christie Productions for seven dramas based on the author’s works.

“This acquisition furthers AMC Networks’ direct-to-consumer strategy and accelerates our interests in subscription video-on-demand services that we own and control,” said Josh Sapan, CEO of AMC Networks.