‘Churchill’s Secret,’ Four ‘Walter Presents’ Series Heading to PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in March

The biopic Churchill’s Secret, starring Sir Michael Gambon, and four “Walter Presents” programs are streaming in March on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel.

The subscription rate for the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel is $5.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

Churchill’s Secret

The drama Masterpiece: Churchill’s Secret, about the little-known life-threatening stroke Churchill suffered during the summer of 1953, debuts March 11. The film stars Sir Michael Gambon (“Harry Potter”, Emma), Romola Garai (The Miniaturist, Atonement) and Matthew Macfadyen (“Succession”). During his second term as Prime Minister, Churchill (Gambon) suffers a stroke, which his inner circle conspired to hide from the public. The film charts the course of Winston’s remarkable recovery and investigates the strain that his great public service wrought upon his private life. Told from the point of view of his family, his doctor, the men he championed and his young nurse (Garai), Churchill’s Secret follows the great man’s extraordinary battle to recover, casting an honest light on the tensions within his brilliant and dysfunctional family.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Seaside Hotel” Season 7

Season seven of the “Walter Presents” Danish drama “Seaside Hotel” debuts March 12. It is now the summer of 1940 and the hotel opens for a new season. Denmark has been invaded by the Germans and the previous years’ guests flee to the beach-side hotel to get some respite from the German occupation. It has been a year since Amanda and Philip have taken over the ownership of the hotel, and they are looking forward to welcoming the guests back for a new cheerful and pleasant summer season. However, the occupying forces have also discovered the cozy hotel and the guests and staff alike realize that even out on the dune range, they cannot hide from the war. They are faced with the uncomfortable choice of whether to cooperate with the Germans’ demands or say no, risking Amanda’s first season as hotel owner, possibly making it her last.

Follow us on Instagram

“Witch Hunt”

The “Walter Presents” Norwegian crime thriller series “Witch Hunt” is due March 5. In the series, Ida Waage is working as the CFO at a prestigious law firm. One day, she spots a suspicious invoice and traces it back to a money laundering operation linked to the firm’s biggest client, Peer Eggen. After alerting her executive board, she is shocked when they turn on her, and look to discredit her. With her job and credibility threatened, Ida continues to seek justice and alerts the police. Investigator Eirik Bråten discovers that the invoice is a cover-up for a larger scandal that involves various transactions between Eggen and the husband of Norway’s Minister of Justice. When journalist Aida Salim takes this bombshell news public, Ida’s firm retaliates further, with vicious stories designed to ruin her career. After the Minister dies suddenly in a crash, Eirik and Aida join forces to hunt for evidence, assuming Eggen to be behind the accident, while Ida pursues her employers in court. However, Ida ultimately realizes that her determination to fight back and do the right thing is putting herself, and everyone she loves, in grave danger.

“Judgement”

The “Walter Presents” French crime drama “Judgement” starts streaming March 19. In the series, the brutal murder of Judge Dessureaux’s youngest daughter Gabrielle plunges his family into a living hell. When presumed killer Tristan Rabeau is acquitted, the family decides to seek revenge.

“Dresden Detectives”

The “Walter Presents” German crime thriller “Dresden Detectives” debuts March 26. It follows a pair of female detectives with their fingers on the pulse of crime, who are as different and unpredictable as the cases they solve — from online dating and the live murder of a social media influencer to a public witch hunt for pedophiles — the cases they solve are complex and contemporary. The tension between the two women, which stems from their different backgrounds and investigative styles, drives cases forward and pushes them to their limits both privately and professionally.

Stankey: HBO Max, AT&T TV Now Merger Possible

With WarnerMedia staking much of its future on over-the-top video and digital distribution, the May 27 launch of subscription streaming platform HBO Max could eventually spearhead a unified OTT product offering with digital TV service AT&T TV Now, a senior executive told a virtual investor event.

Speaking May 13 remotely on the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Communications confab, John Stankey, who is set to replace AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in July, said the two software-based platforms would ideally become linked in the future. The move mirrors WarnerMedia melding existing HBO Now and HBO Go subscribers into Max.

“You want a platform that can distribute both [services],” Stankey said. “So AT&T being software driven, HBO Max being software driven, user interface capabilities, bundling, price start to move together. I think we’re at a very natural place to see that begin to occur and our TV business and our SVOD business start to become one as we get out over the next couple of years.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Indeed, distribution is key to Max (and AT&T TV Now) surviving in the crowding OTT universe. The latter has already gone through two name changes from DirecTV Now, which saw initial consumer interest plummet following pricing changes.

Max is launching without an assist from Amazon Fire TV. Recent data contends Roku has 51% of the streaming media device market in the U.S., and about 30% of the streaming stick market. By comparison, Fire TV has less than 30% of the U.S. streaming device market, but 57% of the streaming stick market.

It also remains unclear whether the $14.99 Max will be offered on Amazon Channels — the e-commerce behemoth’s shrewd platform offering third-party SVOD service to more than 100 million Prime members. Notably, Amazon Channels was credited with driving subscriber growth to HBO Now following its 2015 launch. But in exchange for the landing on Channels, Amazon reportedly extracts significant compensation from services, in addition to keeping user data.

Regardless, myriad services such Starz OTT, BritBox, Acorn TV, Showtime OTT, CBSN and Epix market themselves on Channels.

Amazon CFO: First-Time Prime Video Use Doubled in Q1

With schools shuttered and millions of families housebound due to the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon in March made thousands of hours of content available for free on Prime Video without requiring a Prime membership. Amazon has more than 112 million Prime members worldwide.

That promotion, among others, contributed to Prime Video doubling its first-time user base in the first quarter — a trend that included transactional VOD movies and third-party over-the-top video access through Amazon Channels.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Speaking on the April 29 fiscal call, CFO Brian Olsavsky said Amazon hoped the offer of free content, including ad-supported IMDb TV, would highlight the video aspects of the Prime membership to existing users and casual browsers.

“We are seeing a lot more use of our video and digital media benefits,” Olsavsky said, adding that increased numbers of consumers are also benefiting from Amazon’s Alexa voice-activated software in its CE products.

Follow us on Instagram

“They’re asking questions specific to COVID-19, using it for education for their children, and we’re seeing a lot more of it used on the communication side,” he said. “It gives people and members a good opportunity to use all their Prime benefits [including music streaming and books], which they hadn’t used as much in the past.”

YouTube Readying Third-Party OTT Video Platform

Google-owned YouTube is reportedly looking to borrow a page from the Amazon Channels playbook with a new platform featuring third-party subscription streaming video services.

Amazon launched Channels in 2015 featuring direct access to services such as HBO Now, Dove Channel, Acorn TV, Shudder, UMC, Showtime OTT and Starz. Amazon handles the billing and backend support for a fee or percentage of subscription revenue. Apple is doing the same type of business platform with Apple TV and Apple News.

Follow us on Instagram

The Information, citing sources familiar with the situation, said the YouTube platform would enable a “wide range of subscription-streaming services,” including YouTube TV, which costs $49.99 monthly.

Google in 2015 launched ad-free video streaming subscription service YouTube Red, later bowing YouTube TV for $35 monthly. The platform recently topped two million monthly subscribers — just behind market leaders Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Report: Global SVOD Revenue to Increase 25% to $36 Billion This Year

A new report from Futuresource Consulting found that mainstream adoption of subscription streaming video continues to grow worldwide — reaching 60% of households in North America, 26% in Western Europe, 21% in Asia-Pacific and 19% in LATAM.

“SVOD has come of age, with consumer spend exceeding $29 billion last year, up 38% on 2017,” principal analyst David Sidebottom said in a statement.

The analyst cited improving broadband quality, smart TV penetration, availability of services and perceived consumer value.

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video accounted for 33% of all subscriptions globally in 2018 — but almost 66% total consumer spending on SVOD.

Disney’s acquisition of Fox, along with the completion of AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner and pending OTT platform bow from WarnerMedia will further shape the SVOD landscape in the U.S. and, in the longer term, worldwide, according to London-based Futuresource.

Subscribe HERE to FREE Media Play Daily Newsletter!

“Consumers are seeking a combination of functionality, high-quality original content and low price,” says Sidebottom. “Netflix has demonstrated continued growth in both its primary markets of the U.S. and U.K., as well as France and Germany. Plus, Netflix has many options for turning profit, each requiring a local market-specific strategy, based on maturity of infrastructure, device usage, access to local content, GDP and market share.”

Indeed, the report contends competitors to Netflix continue to underperform, with complementary services standing better odds of success.

Futuresource said exclusive, relevant and local content, particularly outside the U.S., is requisite to capturing and holding audience appeal.

While the uptake of multiple OTT services will continue to drive overall subscription numbers, the market will be limited to a small number of clearly differentiated and complementary services. This makes a carefully defined market and content strategy even more crucial, according to the report.

“Consumers face an increasingly confusing video landscape,” Sidebottom said.

He said Amazon Channels and pending Apple TV+ are both well-placed to succeed in the increasingly fragmented world of aggregation, but both currently lack “ubiquity of content” internationally.

“This new breed of ‘super aggregators’ will become an important component in the battle for the living room TV, though, in many instances, they have yet to fully realize the three consumer requirements, including quality, original content and price,” Sidebottom said.

It’s a Netflix World. Hollywood is Just Living in It

Netflix added almost 10 million new subscribers in its most-recent fiscal period, nearly topping 150 million subscribers globally. The SVOD pioneer added 31 million subs in 2018.

The sub growth ended — for  the moment — naysayer illusions the SVOD giant had become a cash cow — economic shorthand for a business generating plenty of cash but waning growth potential.

More importantly, critics contend Netflix is beholden to Hollywood studios for content, the same studios now readying their own rival SVOD platforms to compete with Netflix.

With Disney, WarnerMedia and NBC Universal reportedly set to pull back content license agreements with Netflix by 2020 — if not sooner — scuttlebutt suggests the streamer has become vulnerable and overly dependent upon internal content production.

“The modern media company must develop extensive direct-to-consumer relationships,” Randall Stephenson, CEO of WarnerMedia parent AT&T, said on the telecom’s last fiscal call. “We think pure wholesale business models for media companies will be really tough to sustain over time.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play Daily Newsletter!

Indeed, Disney, which is majority owner of Hulu and online TV service, Hulu with Live TV, will launch proprietary SVOD service Disney+ in November — fortified by content (i.e. Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars) originally earmarked for Netflix.

To their credit, Netflix brass Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos welcome the competition, while dismissing the threat. As well they should.

“We’ve been competing with 500 channels of cable and penetrated nearly every household in the world for a long time,” Sarandos said in March. “[Now], it’s the same stable of competitors; just very late to the game.”

Disney+ isn’t set to launch for another seven months. WarnerMedia and Comcast aren’t bowing OTT platforms until 2020. An eternity in the rapidly evolving digital distribution ecosystem.

While Disney+ will be priced below Netflix’s basic subscription plan, its content offering will pale in size to Netflix. The platform is also not projected to be profitable until 2024.

That’s five years of sustained losses. Hulu may have 25 million subs, but it remains a fiscal black hole to its corporate owners (which includes Comcast) since launching in 2007.

Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer & International business segment, which operates Hulu and Disney+, lost nearly $800 million in 2018. Disney expects to have 60 million to 90 million subscribers by 2024, less than half of Netflix’s projected base.

To put it in perspective: Netflix’s sub growth (over 90 days) this year topped the combined subscriber count for CBS All Access and Showtime OTT at the end of 2018 — by 20%.

Netflix’s conservative estimate of 5 million new subs in Q2 equaled HBO Now’s total membership — three years after its 2015 launch.

In fact, many Netflix rivals have resorted to sacrificing revenue and user data in hopes of generating subscribers through Amazon Channels, the ecommerce giant’s platform marketing third-party OTT services to Prime members.

It’s an opportunistic business model Apple is replicating with Apple TV+.

“All of the media companies will have to become more consumer-oriented,” Jessica Reif Ehrlich, media analyst for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said in a research note last summer.

Translation: Media companies have to become more Netflix-oriented.

Amazon Channels Adds Major League Baseball Streaming Service

Just in time for the start of the 2019 Major League Baseball season, Amazon March 20 announced it has added the league’s MLB.tv subscription streaming video service to its Channels platform.

Amazon Channels affords Prime members direct access to third-party over-the-top video services, including Starz, Showtime OTT, Dove Channel and HBO Now.

Prime members in the U.S. can subscribe to MLB.TV for $24.99/month, or a one-time payment of $118.99 for a season pass, after a 7-day free trial.

MLB.tv, which launched 10 years ago, was one of the first professional sports standalone SVOD services offering out-of-market live-game streaming access to any of its 30 franchise teams.

The platform is supported by BAMTech, the backend technology company Disney acquired from Major League Baseball Advanced Media for nearly $3 billion. BAMTech is supply IT support for Disney’s pending Disney+ SVOD service.

“Prime members love the convenience of streaming live sports on-the-go—and now with MLB.tv, they won’t have to miss watching their favorite teams play,” Marie Donoghue, VP, global sports video, said in a statement. “We know Prime members can’t get enough of sports, and we’re dedicated to providing more access to the Major League Baseball games they want.”

Prime members streaming MLB.tv on Fire TV devices (Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K, and Fire TV Edition) will have access to Prime Video’s exclusive X-Ray feature, which allows users to access live in-game stats, team and player details and play-by-play information while they watch.

To access the X-Ray feature, simply click up on the Fire TV remote control while the game is playing.

 

Lionsgate Eyes Starz OTT Sub Growth — Through Amazon, Hulu, Others

Lionsgate, like a lot of media companies, is staking much of its growth on over-the-top video — notably subsidiary Starz’ branded streaming video app.

The $8.99 service, which offers original programming, Lionsgate movies and third-party (i.e. Sony Pictures) content, has about 3 million subscribers since its April 2016 launch.

Much of that growth has come from Amazon Channels, the ecommerce giant’s platform offering third-party OTT video services directly to Prime members.

“They are a very strong partner for us not just in what we’re doing now but in things that we’re talking about doing in the future [i.e. outside the U.S.],” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said on the Nov. 8 fiscal call.

“It’s much more efficient and economical for us to launch with these big partners. It’s a lot quicker to market piggybacking on the customer relationships that they’ve already have,” he said.

Feltheimer wants to replicate that sub growth through third-party streaming services. Late last month, Starz became a premium add-on to Hulu and Hulu With Live TV.

The two companies previously partnered making Hulu the exclusive SVOD distributor for Starz’ four-year-old original drama, “Power”.

“We look at their business and the Amazon business as complementary,” Feltheimer said.

The executive said Hulu has done well with other OTT video brand partnerships, which include HBO Now, Showtime OTT and Cinemax.

“We look forward to a good partnership with them,” he said. “The economics are very good for Starz in these OTT video wholesale relationships. And we’re hopeful that there’ll be even more partners announced domestically and globally.”

Lionsgate is banking Hulu and future OTT partnerships will introduce markets new to Starz distribution and programming.

“Whether or not we augment that with a direct-to-consumer business is something that we’ll always take a look at, but right now this global partnership strategy is opportunistic,” Feltheimer said.

“Where we think there are available customers, places where we think there’s a real demand for not just the shows that we have, but for our subscription service in general, thousands of movies, great tech, and great price.”

Sling TV Q3 Subscriber Growth Plummets

Dish Network Nov. 7 reported third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) loss of 367,000 pay-TV subscribers compared to a gain of 16,000 subs in the previous-year period – the latter largely attributable to an increase in Sling TV subs.

The Denver-based satellite TV operator ended the period with 10.28 million pay-TV subs compared to 13.2 million subs last year. Sling TV, the industry’s first online TV platform gained 26,000 subs – a fraction of the reported 240,000 subscribers added in the previous-year period.

Indeed, Sling TV, which was the first platform to offer standalone access to Disney-owned ESPN and has been offsetting Dish Network pay-TV sub losses since it launched in 2015, ended the period with 2.37 million subs. It ended 2017 with 2.21 million subs.

Dish TV’s average monthly subscriber churn rate (subs not renewing service) was 2.11% versus 1.82% for third quarter 2017.

It remains to be seen whether Dish decides to incorporate Sling TV with Amazon Channels, the ecommerce behemoth’s platform affording Prime members direct access to third-party over-the-top video services.

Services such as HBO Now, Cinemax, Lionsgate’s Starz OTT, CBS All Access, Showtime OTT and Cinedigm’s Dove Channel, have attributed much of their subscriber growth to Amazon – which in turn collects revenue-sharing and proprietary subscriber data for its distribution channel.

On the fiscal call, Charlie Ergen, co-founder and chairman of Dish, said the slowdown in sub growth at Sling had more to do with the growth of the OTT video ecosystem than consumer indifference.

“You’re seeing major [online TV] players that are all gaining subscribers, and everybody has a little different offering, a little bit different slew of channels, a little bit different interface,” Ergen said. “Obviously, Disney has talked about going direct to the consumer. So, you’re going to see an awful lot of people in the category, and at some point there will be too many, and at some point there will be a consolidation.”

 

 

 

CBS CEO: Diversity of Distribution Driving Original Programming

With more than 8 million combined subscribers for CBS All Access and Showtime OTT expected by next year, CBS Corp. interim CEO Joe Ianniello says over-the-top video distribution is driving original content production.

“We put [content] originals on [All Access and Showtime OTT],” Ianniello said on the fiscal call — his first since replacing the ousted Les Moonves. “We saw it was working. We saw the consumers wanted more. So, we’re putting more on it. We’ve raised the [subscriber] targets. We’ve accelerated them. [And] we’re going internationally [Canada].”

CBS Studios currently produces four series for Netflix — “Insatiable,” “Dead to Me,” “American Vandal,” and “Unbelievable.” It also produces new drama, “Your Honor,” for Showtime, and psychological thrillers, “Tell Me a Story,” and “Why Women Kill,” for All Access.

As previously, reported CBS produces “Star Trek: Discovery” for All Access, and has 2018 Oscar winner Jordan Peele (Get Out) rebooting “The Twilight Zone.”

“An All Access subscriber watches twice as much content as [someone] who watches on CBS.com,” said Ianniello.

“We have nice diversity in terms of the consumption of the content. And that’s why we’re putting more originals on both of these services, because it’s really driving again the intent to subscribe and it’s reducing churn. And those are the two things we’re really toggling back and forth as we make these investments.”

CFO Christina Spade said OTT video is allowing Showtime to expand beyond its 26 million pay-TV households and reach consumers untethered to traditional cable bundle.

“The world of OTT has opened up so many options with what we can do with data analytics and really unlock and target our marketing,” said Spade. “So, two years into it, we have a lot of great uses of the data, but even as we get further educated and learn even more about our consumer, the scale of the business is huge.”