IMDb Announces First Scripted Series ‘You’re Not a Monster’

Online site IMDb has announced its first-ever scripted show, the animated series “You’re Not a Monster” debuting this fall.

Fans at San Diego Comic-Con this month will get a sneak peek of the 10-episode, short-form series when its trailer premieres on the IMDboat.

The show joins other IMDb original series “The IMDb Show,” “IMDbrief” and “Casting Calls.”

In “You’re Not a Monster,” Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier”) voices a former psychiatrist-turned-vampire who mentors his great-great grandson Max (Eric Stonestreet), a therapist who has inherited his practice. In each four- to five-minute episode, Max treats classic monsters, including Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and Medusa, as they seek therapeutic help. Rounding out the voice cast is Aparna Nancherla as a demon receptionist, Ellie Kemper as a therapist who thinks Max is imagining everything, and Peter Grosz, Langston Kerman, Joel Kim Booster, Patton Oswalt, Adam Pally, Amber Ruffin, Amy Sedaris and Milana Vayntrub as monsters.

Show creators and cast members, including Grammer and Nancherla, will participate in an exclusive interview with host Kevin Smith on the IMDboat at Comic-Con July 20.

“Monsters are people, too,” said Grammer, who serves as executive producer of the series, in a statement.

The comedy series is created and written by four-time Emmy-winner Frank Lesser (“The Colbert Report”). Lily Stuart Streiff serves as Animation Director.

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“As a movie fan, I’ve always loved IMDb and am excited to work with them to humanize these inhuman creatures,” said Lesser in a statement. “Plus, I figured this would be the easiest way to get another credit on my IMDb page. ‘You’re Not a Monster’ is a show with a lot of heart. And, yes, sometimes that heart is lying in a pool of blood, but it still looks adorable thanks to Lily’s Streiff’s delightful character design.”

“We are thrilled to offer a new original comedy series to our fans as we shine a light on the daily struggles faced by classic movie monsters,” said Steve Bernstein, GM of IMDb Video, in a statement. “’You’re Not a Monster’ is not only the first-ever animated series for IMDb, but also our first scripted program, and introducing the show on the IMDboat at San Diego Comic-Con is the perfect place to share its fun narrative alongside members of the incredible cast.”

“You’re Not a Monster” premieres this fall at www.imdb.com/monster, on the IMDb TV free streaming video channel, and on the IMDb iOS and Android apps.

IMDb, also worldwide source for information on movies, TV shows and celebrities, is an Amazon company.

Research: Amazon Prime, Hulu Users More Likely Than Netflix Users to Discuss Technical Problems, Dissatisfaction

Users of Amazon Prime Video and Hulu are much more likely to discuss technical problems and dissatisfaction with content than Netflix subscribers, according to a new report from Strategy Analytics.

The report “Voice of the Customer: What Are Netflix Subscribers Saying Compared to Competitors?” found that Netflix users were much more likely to spend time discussing characters and storylines in great detail, suggesting high levels of engagement with Netflix shows. By contrast, discussions involving Hulu users focused on resolving problems with the service, while Amazon users focused on negative comments to do with pricing and lack of content choice.

“The report concludes that Hulu and Amazon must address these deficiencies if they are to make inroads into Netflix’s leadership position,” according to the Strategy Analytics press release. “The findings should also serve as a warning to Disney and WarnerMedia as they prepare to launch new streaming services.”

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The research, which is based on “advanced language analytics techniques,” according to the firm, showed that, compared to Hulu and Amazon, Netflix users were much more likely to discuss binge-viewing; characters, scenes and storylines in great detail; evaluating shows, both positively and negatively; what people in general think of shows; and worrying about seeing spoilers before watching shows.

“Netflix’s advantages are numerous, but lie primarily in the fact that its users are much more engaged with the content than those using Amazon Prime Video or Hulu,” said Michael Goodman, director, TV & media strategies, at Strategy Analytics, in a statement. “Neither Amazon nor Hulu have managed to get much beyond technical or pricing issues in order to build that all-important content-viewer relationship which ensures higher retention levels and sustained subscription revenues.”

The research was carried out by Relative Insight in partnership with Strategy Analytics. Relative Insight is a U.K.-based language understanding technology company.

Roku Remains Top Streaming Media Device in U.S.

Roku’s streaming TV platform accounted for more than 30% of U.S. sales of connected TV devices in Q1 2019, further increasing its lead in streaming TV platforms, according to the latest data from Strategy Analytics.

The British research firm finds that there are more than 41 million Roku-based devices in use, including branded set-top devices, HDMI sticks and smart TVs, accounting for 15.2% of all media streaming devices.

Roku now has a 36% lead over the next major platform, Sony PlayStation, in terms of devices in use. The report predicts that this lead will stretch to 70% by the end of the year, largely as a result of the success of Roku’s smart TV partner strategy.

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Other key findings from the report include:

Amazon’s Fire TV OS was the second-most-sold streaming TV platform in Q1 2019, with 12% of sales, followed by Samsung’s Tizen at 11% and Google (Android TV and Chromecast) at 9%

By the end of 2019 more than 52 million Roku-powered devices will be in use, accounting for 18% of all connected media devices

“Roku had another strong quarter in Q1 and continues to hold a commanding lead in streaming media platforms in spite of Amazon’s growing influence in the living room,” David Watkins, director at Strategy Analytics and the report’s author, said in a statement.

Watkins said Roku’s firs-mover status (it co-pioneered subscription VOD with Netflix), content offering of third-party streaming services, comprehensive search function and simple and intuitive user interface have contributed in its success.

The analyst cautioned Roku is less well-known outside of the U.S. and to succeed on the international stage would need to “face down” the challenges of building brand awareness and drawing users away from well-established players such as Amazon, Apple and Google.

“There was record growth in the smart TV market in the first quarter of 2019 and Roku and TCL have proved to be a great partnership in this rapidly growing segment,” added David Mercer, principal analyst at Strategy Analytics. “Roku is set to become the U.S.’s top smart TV platform this year in terms of sales share, and Google and Amazon clearly have their work cut out to stay in touch with the market leader.”

Amazon Re-Launching ‘Prime Student’ Program; 50% Off Prime Video, Music, Games

School may have just ended, but that isn’t stopping Amazon from promoting its Prime Student membership program targeting future college students.

Prime Student offers students enrolled in two-year and four-year schools all the perks of an Amazon Prime membership — at half the cost ($6.49 month or $59 annually) following a free six-month trial.

Students can stream music, movies and TV shows, receive discounts on college essentials and free shipping on more than 10 million products. Members also get free same-day delivery on more than three million items across 44 major metropolitan areas, along with two-hour delivery with Prime Now in more than 30 major cities.

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Members get access to movies and TV shows like “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” or Emmy-winning “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” as well as The Jonas Brothers’ documentary “Chasing Happiness” and “Guava Island,”starring Donald Glover and Rihanna.

Users also get two million songs and thousands of stations and playlists ad-free included with Prime. For unlimited access to over 50 million songs students can try Amazon Music Unlimited for free for 30 days.

Students can also check out the Back to School playlist on Amazon Music. Simply ask, “Alexa, play the Back to School playlist” in the Amazon Music App for iOS or Android, and on all Alexa-enabled devices.”

 Prime Student members also get gaming benefits on Twitch, including in-game “loot” for some popular titles, a selection of free games and a Twitch channel subscription.

 

IMDb TV Going to Europe, Adding Content

Amazon-owned ad-supported VOD service IMDb TV (formerly IMDb Freedive) June 17 announced it would triple its content selection this year, in addition to launching in Europe.

Through new deals with studios like Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM Studios, viewers can enjoy box-office hits like Academy Award-nominated Captain Fantastic (Viggo Mortensen) available now and La La Land (Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling) available July 1, marking the first time the Academy Award-winning film is available on an ad-supported streaming service.

“With IMDb TV, viewers have discovered TV the way it ought to be — a free collection of premium TV shows and movies available anytime,” Mark Eamer, VP of IMDb TV. “We deliver a top quality discovery experience that makes it easy to be entertained. With more titles than ever before coming to IMDb TV and our upcoming European expansion later this year, we’re excited for customers to tune in and enjoy all that IMDb TV has to offer, all at no cost.”

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IMDb TV offers titles customers love across a range of genres, including comedy, kids and family, romance, thrillers, science fiction, documentaries, horror and more. Popular series include Fringe (Joshua Jackson), Kitchen Nightmares (Gordon Ramsay), Duck Dynasty(Jase Robertson) and The Bachelorand fan favorite movies include Academy Award-nominated Drive (Ryan Gosling), Donnie Darko(Jake Gyllenhaal), Academy Award-winning Monster (Charlize Theron) and Academy Award-winning Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner). A new wave of movies will join the IMDb TV lineup on July 1 such as Academy Award-winning Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson), Draft Day (Kevin Costner) and A Knight’s Tale (Heath Ledger).

In addition to being available in the U.S. on the IMDb website and as a free channel within the Prime Video app across hundreds of devices, IMDb TV is available on Fire TV, the #1 streaming media product in the U.S. with over 34 million active users worldwide. Fire TV customers in the U.S. have enjoyed IMDb TV since it launched earlier this year, and this free service has quickly become one of the top ad-supported apps on Fire TV.

“Our Fire TV customers are always looking for compelling content at a great value. In fact, usage of free, ad-supported apps has increased by over 300 percent in the last year,” said Marc Whitten, VP of Fire TV. “IMDb TV brings some of the best free content into the living room and we’re excited that our U.S. customers now have access to even more free TV shows and movies through the app and that customers in Europe can soon enjoy this great service on the biggest screen in their home.”

Barnes & Noble Being Acquired by Private Fund Manager for $683 Million

As expected, Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest brick-and-mortar bookstore, June 7 disclosed it is being acquired by Elliott Management Corp. for $683 million, including debt.

The private fund manager, which acquired Britain’s largest bookstore Waterstone in 2018, will return Barnes & Noble to privately-held status, ending Wall Street scrutiny on a company that has lost more than $1 billion in market value in the past five years.

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Waterstone CEO James Daunt will manage Barnes & Noble operations as a separate entity.

Founded in 1965, Barnes & Noble, which includes the Nook tablet and digital media business, saw  a 1.1% increase in same-store winter holiday sales, its best fiscal result in three years. At the same time, the company had just $15 million in available cash.

The company, like a lot of traditional retailers, has struggled to compete with ecommerce, notably Amazon. Indeed, the online retail behemoth reportedly accounts for about 50% of all book sales, with Walmart at 4.2%.

The deal is expected to close by the third quarter.

 

 

Report: Amazon Eyeing Boost Mobile Pre-Paid Wireless Service

Amazon reportedly is considering acquiring Boost Mobile, the prepaid cellphone service owned by Sprint Corp.

Sprint, which is attempting to merge with T-Mobile to become “New T-Mobile” for $26 billion, is spinning off Boost in an effort to appease federal regulators.

Reuters, which first reported the story citing sources familiar with the situation, said Amazon’s interest revolves around the ability to use T-Mobile’s wireless network and access wireless spectrum for six years as part of any transaction.

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Wireless spectrum enables the flow of digital data, including sound and video. Spectrum helps deliver voice and video between cell phones, television shows from broadcasters and online information between computers.

In addition to e-commerce, SVOD and digital books and music, Amazon has become one of the world’s largest cloud-based services through its AWS (Amazon Web Services) subsidiary.

Cox Adds Amazon Prime Video Access to Contour

Cox Communications has added access to Amazon Prime Video for its Contour customers, according to a Cox press release.

By simply saying “Amazon Prime Video” or “Prime Video” into their Contour voice remote, customers can watch Amazon Originals such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Hanna,” ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “Guava Island,” “Homecoming” and “The Man in the High Castle,” as well as other Amazon Prime content.

“When it’s time to enjoy your favorite streaming content, just say the word and we’ll serve it up on your screen. It has never been easier to find and enjoy favorite TV shows, movies and video clips all in one place,” said Kevin Hart, EVP and chief product and technology officer for Cox in a statement. “We’ve removed the complexity that comes with toggling, switching inputs or the necessity of watching on a smaller screen. Now all you have to do is say the name of your favorite Prime Video show or movie into your Contour remote and it will appear on your TV.”

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“Prime Video is committed to making our customers’ favorite shows, movies and live sports effortless to watch,” said Andrew Bennett, head of worldwide business development for Prime Video in a statement. “Bringing the Prime Video app to Contour gives our Prime members even more ways to stream Amazon Originals including the upcoming launches of Good Omens and Chasing Happiness, the Jonas Brothers’ documentary.”

The Contour voice remote also allows customers access to the series page by saying the name of the series.

In addition to Amazon Prime, Contour customers can use the voice remote to pull up live TV content, recorded DVR content, Netflix content and YouTube content.

YouTube Expands MLB Partnership with Live-Game Streaming

YouTube April 30 disclosed it has expanded its relationship with Major League Baseball that includes the right to live-stream 13 games for free during the second-half of 2019 season in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

The deal mirrors last year’s deals between MLB, Amazon and Twitter that brought the national pastime to social media and beyond the league’s MLB.tv subscription streaming service.

Google-owned YouTube’s first-ever streaming deal with MLB follows previous deals that included Google Assistant serving as the presenting sponsor of the 2018 American and National League Championship Series.

That promotion marked Google’s first-ever presenting partnership around a U.S. professional sports league’s postseason event for its voice-activated technology.

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Previously, online TV subscription service YouTube TV served as the presenting sponsor of the 2017 and 2018 World Series.

YouTube TV also partnered with MLB on a season-long sponsorship — “First Pitch” – that showcased the YouTube TV brand during the first pitches of games on MLB Network and MLB.tv, and on MLB.com and MLB social channels.

In 2017, MLB’s engagement and content strategy on YouTube generated over 1 billion views.

“From live programming morphing into a YouTube TV spot, to prominent in-stadium placements, our innovative partnership [with MLB] allowed us to build awareness for YouTube TV,” Angela Courtin, global head of YouTube TV & originals marketing, said in a statement last year.

Walmart Teases One-Day Shipping

The shipping delivery war took another turn after Walmart went to social media to hint it would match Amazon’s decision to switch from free two-day shipping for Prime members to one-day deliveries.

“One-day free shipping … without a membership fee. Now THAT would be groundbreaking. Stay tuned,” Walmart tweeted April 26 the day after Amazon disclosed it would spend upwards of $800 million upgrading internal and external shipping capacity for one-day shipments.

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Amazon charges $119 annually for its Prime membership, which includes free access to movies and TV shows on Amazon Prime Video, music on Prime Music and two-hour delivery (for a fee) for Prime Now store deliveries, among other features.

Amazon’s announcement had a ripple effect on retail stocks, sending Walmart and Target shares down 1.9% and 5.7%, respectively, in April 26 trading.

The switch is expected to put added pressure on big box retailers such as Best Buy, Office Depot and Dick’s Sporting Goods, among others.