Amazon Partners With Sinclair to Buy Stake in Yankees’ YES Network

Amazon Aug. 29 quietly teamed up with Sinclair Broadcast Co., private equity groups and The New York Yankees to acquire the latter’s flagship Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network for $3.47 billion from The Walt Disney Co.

The Yankees previously owned 20% of the regional sports TV network, which broadcasts the Yankees (MLB), Brooklyn Nets (NBA), New York City FC (MLS) and the New York Liberty (WNBA).

Disney acquired majority ownership of YES with its $71 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Since the acquisition, Disney has sought to sell-off Fox’s RSNs to pay down debt and focus on film and over-the-top video.

The Yankees will own 26% of the new joint venture, followed by Sinclair (20%) and Amazon (15%), with private equity groups controlling the other 39%.

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For Amazon, the deal furthers the ecommerce behemoth’s interest in live sports, which currently includes Thursday Night Football broadcasts, select MLB games and Premier League  soccer in the U.K., among others.

In a press conference, Yankees president Randy Levine said the combination of Amazon and Sinclair provided a “dream team” of investors.

“We believe we’re going to take it to the next level,” Levine told Bloomberg.

Amazon Selling Security for Home Networks

Amazon has begun selling monthly subscriptions for network security for its branded Eero wireless routers.

Acquired earlier this year by Amazon, Eeros routers afford consumers a secure wireless network within the home by employing so-called “mesh” technology via mini set-top devices placed around a home rather than a singular Wi-Fi hotspot connection.

Now Amazon is selling security for the routers, starting at $2.99 monthly or $29.99 annually for Eero Secure and $9.99 monthly ($99.99 annually) for Eeros Secure+ to safeguard the router from third-party malware and viruses.

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The latter offers a personal VPN enabling users to safeguard their passwords and protect against anyone spying on data traffic on your network.

The software generated some blowback initially from online users since it tracks users’ activities in part to alert against third-party interference. Amazon and Eeros have pledged to support user privacy.

Regardless, Amazon is expected to incorporate Eeros in its burgeoning line of voice-activated Alexa devices.

 

IMDb TV Now Has a Mobile App

IMDb TV, the ad-supported streaming video service owned by Amazon, Aug. 26 announced it is now available through a branded mobile app on iOS and Android devices.

Users can now stream IMDb TV content from their phones or tablets. Interested parties can download the app from the Google Play Store and Apple App store.

Through new distribution deals with Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate, IMDb TV is upping its selection of acclaimed movies. Viewers have free access to Academy Award-winning Silver Linings Playbook (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence), Age of Adaline (Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford) and In the Heart of the Sea (Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy), as well as TV shows like “The Middle” (Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn), which is exclusively available on IMDb TV.

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Some of the top streamed movies this summer on IMDb TV included Academy Award-winning La La Land (Ryan Gosling, Emily Stone), Academy Award-winning Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise, Renée Zellweger), Practical Magic (Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman), A Knight’s Tale (Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell) and Drive (Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan).

Other top streamed movies on IMDb TV included Max (Thomas Haden Church), Step Dogs (Joris Jarsky), Zookeeper (Kevin James, Rosario Dawson), Paddington (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins) and The Never Ending Story (Noah Hathaway), among others.

Amazon to Produce First Australian Original Series With Rebel Wilson

Australian actress, writer and producer Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, The Hustle, Isn’t It Romantic) has signed on to host and executive produce the first Australian Amazon Original series “LOL: Last One Laughing.”

The comedy-variety series, produced with Endemol Shine Australia, will feature a star-studded cast of 10 Australian comedic actors and stand-ups competing to make each other laugh first. The final comedian left standing will win the grand prize of $100,000 (Australian).

The six-part series will premiere exclusively on Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories in 2020.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Prime Video family of creators and talent,” said Wilson in a statement. “I’ve already had the chance to work with Alexa — she’s great — and on Audible, so working with Prime Video seemed like an obvious choice. I can’t wait to see what these talented Australian comedians come up with and how far they’ll go to take home the prize.”

“LOL: Last One Laughing” follows the format of the Amazon Original series from Japan, “Hitoshi Matsumoto Presents Documental,” produced by and starring comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto. The format was also launched in Mexico with comedian Eugenio Derbez as host. The series in Japan and Mexico are currently on their seventh and second seasons, respectively.

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“We’re excited to bring ‘LOL: Last One Laughing’ to our Prime members in Australia and around the world,” said James Farrell, head of international originals for Amazon Studios, in a statement. “Customers in Japan and Mexico have told us they love ‘Documental’ and ‘LOL: Last One Laughing.’ Australia was an easy choice as the next country to bring this to and Rebel Wilson was at the top of our list to host and star. We think our Prime members are going to love it.”

Finding the Key to SVOD Success

Original content has been the star on SVOD services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, with upcoming services Apple TV+ and Disney+ teasing originals in celebrity-filled press conferences. But catalog content is an important supporting player.

Certainly, originals can attract eyeballs, said the NPD Group’s Kathi Chandler-Payatt at last month’s EMA summit. She noted that while both original movies and episodic shows are a small percentage of content on Netflix, they garner an outsized share of viewing.

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Still, originals aren’t the only shows that keeps viewers subscribing, noted Screen Engine/ASI’s Mark Orne at the event. Subscribers often stay with a service based on go-to backup shows, mostly long-running hit comedy series, such as “The Office,” “Friends,” “South Park” and “Family Guy.” It’s why Disney+ streaming “The Simpsons” from its Fox acquisition is a smart move, he noted.

No wonder WarnerMedia pulled “Friends,” and Universal “The Office,” from Netflix for their upcoming services.

Indeed, speakers on a consumer panel at the EMA summit said that they like to stream while doing other activities, such as cleaning a room, not the kind of thing one can do while viewing a gripping original. One even noted she likes to go to sleep to certain familiar shows.

Meanwhile, a few hits might not be enough to keep viewers subscribing, as consumers are willing to pay for a month or take the free trial, watch and cancel, or share passwords, Orne said.

While they may like the occasional title equivalent of a gourmet meal, consumers also like to binge on titles that are comfort foods. SVOD services that can offer a wide menu may be the winners in the OTT race.

L.A. Retailers Roll Back Prices in Amazon ‘Mrs. Maisel’ Emmy Push

An Amazon promotion for the original series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was too marvelous for its own good.

Police shut down a promotion in which a Chevron gas station in Santa Monica, Calif., offered gasoline for 30 cents a gallon, the same price gas sold for in 1959, the year in which “Mrs. Maisel” is set, according to the local ABC affiliate.

The promotion, on the first day of voting for the annual Emmy Awards, was one of 28 similar price rollbacks at retailers around Los Angeles.

Barbershops, candy stores, theaters, hotels, bakeries and other participating businesses all participated in Amazon’s “Maisel Day” by scaling back their prices to 1959 levels. One user commented on the show’s Twitter page that the See’s Candy Store, which was selling one-pound boxes of chocolate for $1.50, was sold out; the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood was offering rooms for $40 a night. Art’s Deli in Studio City was selling corned beef on rye sandwiches for 99 cents, while the Hollywood Improv comedy club was selling tickets for just $1.

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The promotion was heavily promoted on social media, with Amazon offering a “Mrs. Maisel” filter on Snapchat

“Mrs. Maisel” has been nominated for 20 Emmy Awards.

New Disney-Charter Deal ‘Contemplates’ Disney+ Access

Chalk up another positive for Disney+: The Walt Disney Co.’s much-hyped new subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service, set to launch in November, may be available to Charter Communications subscribers.

A new distribution deal between Disney and Charter, announced Aug. 14, calls for the country’s No. 2 cable operator to continue carrying Disney’s TV and ESPN programming to Spectrum TV subscribers.

The deal also “contemplates Charter’s future distribution of Disney’s streaming services, including Hulu, ESPN+ and the soon-to-be-launched Disney+,” according to a press release issued by Charter.

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The deal wouldl help Disney+ in its attempt to compete with established streaming titans Netflix and Amazon.com.

In addition, Spectrum TV will also offer customers access to ESPN’s upcoming ACC Network when it launches Aug. 22.

Under the deal, Spectrum TV will continue to provide its customers widespread access to ABC, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded, SEC Network, Longhorn Network, and the newly acquired networks of FX, FXX, FXM, Fox Life, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo and BabyTV.

“This agreement will allow Spectrum to continue delivering to its customers popular Disney content, makes possible future distribution by Spectrum of Disney streaming services, and will begin an important collaborative effort to address the significant issue of piracy mitigation,” said Tom Montemagno, EVP of programming acquisition for Charter.

Sean Breen, SVP of Disney Media Distribution, added: “Our new agreement with Charter allows us to continue serving Spectrum TV customers with the full value of the Walt Disney Television and ESPN networks, including the newly acquired FX and Nat Geo networks. ACC fans can also rest assured that they will be able to watch their favorite teams on Spectrum, one of the largest distributors across the ACC footprint, when ACC Network launches next week.”

Digital Media Companies, Trump Unite Against New French Tax

Digital media companies, including Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, are getting an unlikely assist from President Trump against a proposed 3% tax in France on revenue derived from digital ad services and user-to-user transactions.

Specifically, the tax targets revenue derived in part off of French consumer online activities, including ecommerce, streaming video and audio.

Trump & Co. are crying foul since the tax largely applies to about 30 American companies generating at least €25 million ($27.8 million) in France and €750 million ($842 million) worldwide.

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France, which has tried unsuccessfully to secure European Union support on the move, argues the traditional system doesn’t work on these companies since they operate internationally with little physical presence in the country.

“This is a concern for international trade and the wider economy if countries follow the [Digital sales tax] model and select specific sectors and groups of foreign companies for targeted tax policies,” Nicholas Bramble, trade policy counsel at Google, said in a statement.

“The French tax is unjustifiable in that it infringes international agreements, and unreasonable in that it is discriminatory, retroactive and inconsistent with international tax policy principles.”

“They shouldn’t have done this,” Trump told the media in July. “I told them, I said, ‘Don’t do it because if you do it, I’m going to tax your wine.’”

France contends the tax would help level the playing field.

“These digital giants use our personal data, make huge profits out of these data then transfer the money somewhere else without paying their fair amount of taxes,” said French finance minister Bruno le Maire.

Barnes & Noble Completes Sale to Private Fund Manager

Barnes & Noble, America’s largest brick-and-mortar bookseller, Aug. 7 announced the successful closing of its $683 million acquisition by Elliott Advisors Limited, a private fund manager located in the United Kingdom.

Elliott’s purchase follows its 2018 acquisition of Waterstones, the largest retail bookseller in the U.K.

Barnes & Noble operates 627 retail stores across all 50 states, where it remains the #1 retail bookseller in the U.S. The retailer also operates BN.com website as well as Nook tablet business, which includes the sale of digital movies and TV shows.

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Elliott seeks to deploy the same strategy it claims turned around Waterstones in an age of ecommerce and Amazon. Elliott will own both Barnes & Noble and Waterstones and, while each bookseller will operate independently, James Daunt, CEO of Waterstones, will serve as CEO of both companies and relocate from London to New York.

“This is a very good day for bookselling,” Daunt said in a statement.

“Barnes & Noble is the greatest of all bookstore names and will now benefit from the support of an owner committed to physical bookselling. With investment and concentration on the core principles of good bookselling, the prospects for this extraordinary company are bright.”

Paul Best, portfolio manager and head of European private equity at Elliott, said the $38.2 billion fund remains committed to bookselling and “real” bookstores.

“Barnes & Noble has an extraordinary heritage, one that we want to protect and grow,” Best said.

As a result of the merger, Barnes & Noble becomes a privately held subsidiary of Elliott and will cease trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Daunt’s honeymoon could be short-lived.

Barnes & Noble generated a $18.3 million net loss in its most-recent fiscal period, with same-store sales down 2.3%. Quarter sales topped $755 million and $3.6 billion for the fiscal year, down 3.9% and 3% from the prior year periods, respectively.

TV Time: Amazon’s ‘Carnival Row’ Most Anticipated New Show, Netflix’s ‘Mindhunter’ Most Anticipated Returning Show in August

Amazon Prime’s “Carnival Row” is the most anticipated new show and Netflix’s “Mindhunter” is the most anticipated returning show coming in August, according to TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” chart.

TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

“Carnival Row,” a fantasy series about mythical creatures starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, debuts Aug. 30. “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” a series prequel to the Jim Henson film The Dark Crystal, also debuting Aug. 30, is the No. 2 anticipated new series.

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Among returning shows, the second installment of “Mindhunter,” Netflix’s crime thriller series, debuts Aug. 16. TV Time users also anticipate three other Netflix returning series at No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4, respectively: “Cable Girls,” hitting Aug. 9; “Dear White People,” debuting Aug. 2; and “GLOW,” coming Aug. 9. Starz’s drug kingpin drama “Power,” the sixth and final season of which hits Aug. 25, took the No. 5 spot among returning series.

Most Anticipated New Shows for August:

  1. “Carnival Row” (Amazon Prime) — Aug. 30
  2. “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” (Netflix) — Aug. 30
  3. “Infinity Train” (Cartoon Network) — Aug. 5
  4. “Why Women Kill” (CBS) — Aug. 15
  5. “BH90210” (Fox) — Aug. 7

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for August:

  1. “Mindhunter” (Netflix) — Aug. 16
  2. “Cable Girls” (Netflix) — Aug. 9
  3. “Dear White People” (Netflix) — Aug. 2
  4. “GLOW” (Netflix) — Aug. 9
  5. “Power” (Starz) — Aug. 25