‘The Romanoffs’ to Debut Oct. 12 on Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime Video announced the Oct. 12 premiere of “The Romanoffs” at the Television Critics Association Summer 2018 Press Tour over the weekend.

The SVOD service also released a new teaser revealing the line-up of guest stars featured in the series created, written, directed and executive produced by nine-time Emmy award winner Matthew Weiner (“Mad Men”).

“The Romanoffs” is a contemporary anthology series, set around the globe, featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family. The series was shot on location on three continents and in seven countries collaborating with local productions and talent across Europe, the Americas, and the Far East, according to an Amazon release. Each story takes place in a new location with a new cast.

In addition to the previously announced cast, including Isabelle Huppert, Diane Lane, Christina Hendricks, Paul Reiser, Amanda Peet and John Slattery, Amazon announced guest stars, including Noah Wyle (“Falling Skies”), Kathryn Hahn (“Transparent”), Kerry Bishe (“Halt and Catch Fire”), Jay R. Ferguson (“Mad Men”), Ben Miles (“Collateral”), Mary Kay Place (“Big Love”), Griffin Dunne (“Imposters”), Cara Buono (“Mad Men”), Ron Livingston (The Conjuring), Clea DuVall (“Veep”), Radha Mitchell, (Silent Hill) and Hugh Skinner (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again).

Cast and Producers Discuss Amazon’s ‘Man in the High Castle’ at Comic-Con Ahead of Oct. 5 Third-Season Debut

Streaming viewers, used to the immediate gratification of binging, will have been waiting nearly two years to see the third season of Amazon’s original series “The Man in the High Castle” when it debuts on Prime Video this fall.

“The anticipation is great,” said producer Isa Dick Hackett, who is also the daughter of sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, who wrote the book.

Hackett, producer Daniel Percival and cast members spoke at Comic-Con about the epic science-fiction drama.

The third season, which debuts Oct. 5, will feature more about the resistance, some reunions and more romance, Hackett said.

“We wanted to offer some sort of hope because it’s an awfully bleak world,” she said.

Set in 1962, “The Man in the High Castle” explores an alternate history in which the Axis powers won World War II. The Nazis rule over the Eastern part of the United States and the Japanese the West, with a neutral zone in the middle. The theme of fascism is particularly resonant in light of current events, producers noted.

“We’re on a slippery slope to fascism,” said Percival.

“It’s not even a slow roll. It’s like a jog,” added Hackett. “My father really feared fascism.”

Rufus Sewell plays Nazi leader John Smith, who is rising in the Reich despite some family secrets. Smith’s vicious actions and Nazi membership don’t make him an archetypal villain, Sewell said. He is a human reacting to circumstances as did many Germans who supported the Nazis in World War II.

“The reason he made the decisions he made was to protect his family,” Sewell said. “People are on to the genetic problem in his family. It’s not patriotism that makes him climb. It’s survival.”

“I hope that people are able to connect with these characters,” said Alexa Davalos, who plays Juliana Crain, a woman on the run and caught up in the resistance. Even Smith has elements of humanity, she noted.

Jason O’Mara is joining the cast for the third season as an Irishman in the neutral zone.

“He and his family have been persecuted by the Nazis,” O’Mara said. “Essentially he’s a good person, but we’re not sure whether to trust him or not.”

Hackett noted she spent years trying to get the “High Castle” project off the ground, until Amazon stepped in.

“It was impossible to get it sold on a network, I think because it’s very subversive,” she said, noting the show is also expensive to produce.

Though streaming viewers have been known to binge an entire season at once, “I also think people like to go through it at their own pace,” she said.

The streaming format allows for a less episodic feel, Percival noted.

“We don’t have to create false climaxes to bring you in and out of commercial breaks,” he said.

Producers have had to make a few plot adjustments because of the state of current affairs, Sewell noted. A plotline about a wall, for instance, had to be scrapped.

Amazon Studios has greenlit a fourth season of the series.

IHS Markit: Amazon and Netflix Ramp Up Global Production

Since rolling out worldwide in 2016, streaming-video giants Amazon and Netflix are building their presence in local country markets with a growing amount of original content, according to IHS Markit.

Netflix launched 1,257 hours of original first-run content in 2017, well ahead of Amazon Prime Video’s 285 hours, according to IHS Markit. Netflix has also dramatically increased that content outside the United States, with 402 hours launching last year.

International content accounted for 40% of Amazon’s total original first-run output last year, compared to 32% for Netflix, according to IHS.

“The availability of local content is primarily how both platforms adapt their services to various countries, along with local currency pricing, local-language websites, dubbing and subtitling,” according to an IHS release.

Netflix global original production has jumped from the first season of “Lilyhammer” in 2012 to 300 titles in 2017.

“Offering content that is locally made, but which plays worldwide, is just one of the methods Netflix, in particular, has revolutionized the TV programming business,” according to IHS.

Amazon has stepped up original production, but is well behind Netflix in overall volume, IHS noted. Amazon Prime Video also produced a single international title in 2012, renewing a cancelled BBC series, “Ripper Street,” and the company has gone on to launch 56 such original titles in 2017.

“Netflix and Amazon have cast a wide net, in terms of program genres, commissioning dramas and comedies, children’s live action and animation, documentaries and rights to theatrical movies,” said Tim Westcott, director of research and analysis, channels and programming, IHS Markit, in a statement. “Both companies have also dabbled in reality TV, and they are expected to move further into this area in the future.”

According to the Channels and Programming Intelligence Service from IHS Markit, at the end of last year, Netflix had 52.8 million online streaming video subscribers in the United States. Netflix international subscriptions outstripped those in the United States in 2017, with 57.8 million at the end of the year. Amazon Video subscribers in the United States reached 30.2 million in 2017. Amazon Video, having switched on globally later than Netflix, is well behind in terms of subscribers outside the United States, which totaled just under 15 million at the end of last year.

“In the linear TV era, channels produced programming primarily for domestic consumption, with international sales an often lucrative — but definitely secondary — revenue stream,” Westcott said in a statement. “The time-lag between U.S. and international release also encouraged piracy of hit shows, like HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones.’ Now, both Amazon and Netflix are originating programming in order to capture a global audience, releasing their originals on the same day and date in multiple territories. This also means that non-U.S. programming has the potential to find an audience in the world’s largest entertainment market — one where subtitled or dubbed programming has been almost unheard-of outside the art-house cinema circuit.”

FilmRise Acquires Exclusive U.S. SVOD Rights to ‘CHiPs’

FilmRise has acquired from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution the exclusive U.S. SVOD rights to the 1970s TV show “CHiPs,” starring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox, according to the company.

The show is available on Prime Video, through FilmRise’s Prime Video Direct self-service program.

“We are thrilled to have concluded a deal with Warner Bros. to bring this classic television favorite to Amazon’s Prime Video audience,” said FilmRise CEO and co-founder Danny Fisher in a statement. “The show is a perfect fit for the Prime Video service, which boasts an ever-expanding catalog of classic film and TV.”

“CHiPs” ran for more than six seasons on NBC. It followed California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers Jon (Wilcox) and Ponch (Estrada) as they patroled the streets of Los Angeles.

FilmRise has also brought other classic TV shows to the Prime platform, including “Hell’s Kitchen” and “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

Amazon Introduces Voice-Controlled Fire TV Cube

Amazon June 7 announced Fire TV Cube, a hands-free 4K Ultra HD streaming media player with Alexa, allowing consumers to control their TV “from across the room,” according to the company.

Fire TV Cube uses multi-directional infrared technology, cloud-based protocols and HDMI CEC, that—combined with Alexa—let viewers control their compatible TV, sound bar, A/V receiver, and cable or satellite box. Consumers can use voice commands to turn the TV on and off, change the volume, switch to different inputs, and change the cable channel. Even with the TV off, consumers can ask to watch a show and the Fire TV Cube powers on the TV and starts playback where consumers left off.

Amazon Fire TV Cube gives consumers access to the catalog of content currently available on Fire TV, including tens of thousands of channels, apps, and Alexa skills, as well as more than 500,000 movies and TV episodes and thousands of 4K Ultra HD and HDR titles, according to the company. Consumers can use voice commands to access services such as Netflix or to switch the cable channel.

“We believe voice makes it easier for customers to control their entertainment systems and watch the TV and movies they care about,” said Marc Whitten, VP of Fire TV. “And, it’s just the beginning. Amazon Fire TV Cube will only get better over time with the Alexa service always getting smarter.”

With the Fire TV Cube, consumers can also use voice commands to find the movies and TV shows by such categories as genre, director and actor.

WIth Fire TV Cube, many Alexa responses are optimized for the big screen and accompanied with rich visual information, allowing consumers to view smart home camera feeds, watch video flash briefings, view sports scores, see extended weather forecasts, and watch trailers for movies playing in nearby theaters, according to Amazon.

Amazon Fire TV Cube is available for pre-order starting June 7 for $119.99 and ships with an IR extender cable and Ethernet adapter beginning on June 21. As an introductory offer, Prime members can pre-order Fire TV Cube on June 7 and 8 for a special price of $89.99 — a $30 savings. For a limited time, customers can pre-order Fire TV Cube and Amazon Cloud Cam together for $199.98 — a $40 savings. Customers who purchase and register their Fire TV Cube by July 1, will also receive a $10 credit for Prime Video. Starting on June 21, Fire TV devices are eligible for unlimited access to tens of millions of songs with Amazon Music starting at just $3.99/month.

For more information visit www.amazon.com/firetvcube.

Cannes-Lauded ‘You Were Never Really Here’ Due on Digital July 3, Disc July 17 From Lionsgate

You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix, will come out on digital July 3 and on Blu-ray (plus digital), DVD and On Demand July 17 from Lionsgate.

Based on Jonathan Ames’s novella of the same name, the Amazon thriller won Best Actor (Phoenix) and Best Screenplay (director Lynne Ramsay) at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Phoenix plays a traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, who tracks down missing girls for a living. The film also stars Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola and Judith Roberts.

 

‘Sneaky Pete: Season One’ Due on DVD From Sony July 17

Sneaky Pete: Season One comes to DVD July 17 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

In the Amazon series, upon release from prison, Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) assumes the identity of his former cellmate Pete (Ethan Embry). In doing so, he moves in with Pete’s long-estranged, unsuspecting family, headed by matriarch Audrey (Margo Martindale), conning them into believing that their prodigal son has returned home.

The series also stars Marin Ireland, Shane McRae, Libe Barer. Michael Drayer and Peter Gerety.

The release contains all 10 episodes on three discs.

Research: U.S. Pay-TV Affordability Has Dropped Since 2000

Consumers who complain about their cable bill may have good reason.

Multichannel video affordability in the United States has plummeted since the turn of the millennium, squeezing the penetration rate, particularly among the more economically vulnerable households, according to new data from Kagan, S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Since 2000, there has been a 74% increase in the inflation-adjusted pay-TV bill while incomes have stagnated, according to the research.

The estimated nominal average monthly multichannel revenue per subscriber across the cable, DBS and telco platforms rose at a 5.5% CAGR between 2000 and 2017. Kagan calculated U.S. multichannel purchasing power based on 2017 inflation-adjusted annual multichannel average revenue per user, or ARPU, and average income figures. The affordability calculation dropped from a 10 in 2000 to a 6 in 2017.

Multichannel offerings have evolved a great deal since 2000, including a greater number of networks and advanced services such as video on demand, DVR services and improved user interfaces, with the vast majority of the packages delivered to subscribers digitally and in HD, but consumers’ ability to pay the price for that improvement didn’t grow much.

“The eroding legacy multichannel affordability partly explains the popularity of over-the-top services such as Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video,” according to Kagan.

Amazon Prime Video Greenlights ‘Lorena’ Docuseries from Jordan Peele’s Company

Amazon Prime Video has greenlit Lorena, a Prime Original series executive produced by Oscar winner Jordan Peele (Get Out).

The series is produced by Peele’s Monkeypaw and Sonar Entertainment and directed by Joshua Rofe. The four-part documentary series reveals the hidden truths in the notorious case of John Wayne and Lorena Bobbitt and challenges the long-held narrative that surrounded the event, providing a fresh perspective on the story of Lorena and how one event laid the groundwork for the modern 24-hour news cycle.

“When we hear the name Bobbitt we think of one of the most sensational incidents to ever be catapulted into a full-blown media spectacle,” said Peele in a statement. “With this project, Lorena has a platform to tell her truth as well as engage in a critical conversation about gender dynamics, abuse and her demand for justice. This is Lorena’s story and we’re honored to help her tell it.”

“Jordan has proven himself as a captivating voice of social critique and we are excited to work with him on this project,” said Heather Schuster, head of unscripted, Amazon Originals, in a statement. “Lorena reframes Lorena Bobbitt’s story around issues of sexism and domestic abuse and offers Prime members an exclusive new view into how America got her story wrong and maybe continues to get it wrong,”

“Our hope for this series is to give viewers pause when the next scandal of the moment is presented to us as macabre entertainment. Often, there’s profound pain and trauma just beneath the surface of stories like Lorena’s,” said Rofe in a statement.

Prime members will be able to stream the series exclusively via the Amazon Prime Video app for TVs, connected devices including Fire TV, mobile devices and online. Members can also download the series to mobile devices for offline viewing at no additional cost to their membership. The series will be a global release and available on PrimeVideo.com for Prime Video members in more than 200 countries and territories.

Amazon Prime to Bow More Sports Programming Under ‘All or Nothing’ Banner

Following the success of the Emmy-winning “All or Nothing” NFL series, Prime Video is launching additional sports programming on the service underneath the “All or Nothing” umbrella, according to Amazon.

The upcoming series will offer “unprecedented access to a team’s entire season, character-driven storytelling and compelling visuals,” according to Amazon.

All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines, narrated by award-winning actor/producer Mark Harmon (“NCIS”), premieres on April 6, exclusively on Prime Video. All eight episodes will be available on that date. The series allows Prime members into the never-before-seen inner workings of the winningest program in college football, chronicling Michigan’s 2017 season. The cameras follow Coach Jim Harbaugh in his third season leading his alma mater’s storied program through triumphs, trials and tribulations as they play in the Big Ten, one of the toughest college football conferences in the nation. The series also provides an intimate look at the lives, both on and off the field, of the student athletes charged with carrying on Michigan’s legacy.

All or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks follows New Zealand Rugby’s famed All Blacks throughout 2017. The series provides a look inside the world of the players, coaches and the support team that sits behind them through the season, on and off the field. Prime members will get to see what makes them so successful and what it means in this rugged sport to undertake the responsibility of donning the black jersey and performing the sacred Haka.

All or Nothing: Manchester City shows fans the historic Club’s behind-the-scenes action, its legendary coach, Pep Guardiola, and the personal stories of the players who are currently at the top of the English Premier League table. Guardiola was one of the best players and coaches of his generation, having won three Champions League titles during his time at FC Barcelona. He joined Manchester City in 2016, coaching stars such as Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne.

“Prime Video prides itself on offering incredibly compelling sports content with unprecedented access,” said Heather Schuster, head of unscripted, Amazon Originals. “We are able to put cameras in places where none have gone before to give Prime members an inside look at some of the most storied sports programs in the world. It only made sense to bring these series under the ‘All or Nothing’ banner to reinforce our commitment to strong storytelling in this genre.”

The NFL installment of ‘All or Nothing,’ produced by NFL Films, returns for its third season April 27, featuring the 2017 Dallas Cowboys.

Prime members will be able to stream all series exclusively via the Prime Video app for TVs, connected devices including Fire TV, mobile devices and online at http://www.amazon.com/originals. Members can also download the series to mobile devices for offline viewing at no additional cost to their membership.

The series will be global releases and available on PrimeVideo.com for Prime Video members in more than 200 countries and territories.