PBS Masterpiece Launches on Amazon Prime Video Channels for Canada

PBS Distribution Sept. 15 launched its streaming channel PBS Masterpiece on Amazon Prime Video Channels for Canada.

“We have seen tremendous consumer demand and subscription growth since we launched PBS Masterpiece on Amazon Prime Video Channels in the United States in May of 2017,” said Andrea Downing, co-president of PBS Distribution, in a statement. “This expansion allows our committed and loyal Masterpiece fan base in Canada to enjoy these high-quality, award winning programs whenever they like.”

The channel launches with popular Masterpiece programs such as “Sanditon,” “Endeavour,” “Home Fires,” “Inspector Lewis,” “Poldark” and “Victoria.”

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In addition to Masterpiece programming, the channel will also offer titles from the Walter Presents library of series from countries all over the world, subtitled in English, marking the debut of Walter Presents programs to Canadian audiences. Titles include the highest-rated drama in Denmark, “Seaside Hotel,” and crime thriller/mysteries “Professor T,” “Though Shall Not Kill” and “Before we Die,” among many others.

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“I am genuinely thrilled to be launching Walter Presents in Canada, with its rich, bi-lingual culture and its history of active engagement with the world as well as its long-standing appreciation of world drama,” said Walter Iuzzolino, co-founder and curator of Walter Presents, in a statement. “I know Canadian audiences will embrace our collection of quality, award-winning series with a sense of curiosity and with real gusto.”

The subscription rate for PBS Masterpiece in Canada will be CDN $6.99 per month plus applicable taxes with an Amazon Prime membership.

Merchandising: Steelbooks Galore After Labor Day

Several Steelbook editions of new and catalog titles hit shelves Sept. 8, and not just at Best Buy, which is best known for offering the exclusive packaging variant.

Best Buy offered the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook of Lionsgate’s Ghost in the Shell at $19.99 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the anime movie.

A few titles from Universal Pictures also made their way to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Best Buy via the Steelbook, at $22.99 apiece: 47 Ronin, 2020’s The Invisible Man, and the 60h anniversary re-release of Psycho.

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Best Buy also offered an exclusive edition of Warner’s animated Superman: Man of Tomorrow, but it wasn’t a Steelbook. Best Buy offered a $29.99 gift set of the film that paired the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack with a figurine of the Parasite character.

Best Buy’s ‘Superman: Man of Tomorrow’ with Parasite figurine

To get Man of Tomorrow in Steelbook packaging, fans had to head to Target, which offered the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of the movie in the collector’s packaging for $19.99 (though the box art was the same as the standard release).

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Another Steelbook offered through Target was Lionsgate’s Rob Zombie Trilogy Blu-ray set at $29.99, containing House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and 3 From Hell.

Target’s ‘Rob Zombie Trilogy’ Steelbook

Target also offered an exclusive Jojo Siwa Party Pack at $19.99, a three-DVD bundle of Nickelodeon’s “Jojo Siwa” programs

Target’s ‘Jojo Siwa’ bundle

Speaking of Nickelodeon, Amazon had the Paw Patrol: Jet to the Rescue DVD Sept. 3, before other stores stocked in Sept. 8.

A Drive-in Premiere for ‘The Boys’

Amazon Prime Video Sept. 3 hosted a drive-in screening of “The Boys” season two ahead of its Sept. 4 premiere. Stars Antony Starr, Jack Quaid, Erin Moriarty, Karen Fukuhara, Shantel VanSanten, Claudia Doumit, Langston Kerman and Abraham Lim arrived at Level 8 at The Grove in Los Angeles to celebrate the new season. Guests arrived in their cars through Lucy the Whale, who makes a special appearance in the third episode of season two. Ahead of the drive-in special screening, guests were invited to a socially distant pre-party in their cars, where they had their pictures taken at the drive-through photo op activation, danced in their cars to the music of DJ Michelle Pesce, and enjoyed Umami Burgers, Popcorn and Swedish Fish. Before the two-episode screening, fans enjoyed a pre-taped introduction from the cast and executive producers Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen and Evan Greenberg. A special encore drive-in screening for cast and fans is also being held Sept. 4 and is at full capacity.

The first three episodes of season two premiere Sept. 4, with new episodes available each Friday following, culminating in a season finale Oct. 9. The eight-episode Amazon Original series will be available exclusively on Prime Video in more than 200 territories around the world.

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Based on the New York Times best-selling comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, “The Boys” is an irreverent take on what happens when superheroes — who are as popular as celebrities, as influential as politicians and as revered as gods — abuse their superpowers rather than use them for good. The Boys continue on a quest to expose the truth about The Seven, and Vought — the multi-billion-dollar conglomerate that manages these superheroes and covers up all of their dirty secrets.

Merchandising: Gift Sets for ‘Goonies,’ ‘Beetlejuice’

Among the Sept. 1 new releases on DVD and Blu-ray, a couple of retailers offered exclusive editions of Warner’s new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray re-releases of 1985’s The Goonies and 1988’s Beetlejuice.

Amazon offered deluxe gift sets for each title at $49.99 apiece.

The Goonies collector’s set comes in treasure chest packaging and includes 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, regular Blu-ray and digital copies of the film; a replica of One Eyed Willy’s treasure map featured in the film​; five collectible pin-on buttons​; and an iron-on embroidered patch​.

The Beetlejuice collector’s set comes in a gift box made to look like The Handbook for the Recently Deceased, and includes 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, regular Blu-ray and digital copies of the film; a 4-inch embroidered glow-in-the-dark patch of Beetlejuice’s gravestone​; an insert of instructions for life after death emergencies with three pieces of collectible chalk;​ a replica of the “Betelgeuse” flyer featured in the film​; and a gift box.

Amazon’s ‘Beetlejuice’ 4K gift set

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Best Buy continued to promote its exclusive Steelbook editions of titles, including new 4K Steelbook combo packs for The Goonies and Beetlejuice at $29.99 apiece.

Best Buy’s ‘The Goonies’ 4K Steelbook
Best Buy’s ‘Beetlejuice’ 4K Steelbook

Target didn’t feature any DVD or Blu-ray listings in its online weekly ad, but it did have a video game promotion, offering a free “Bitty Boomer” Bluetooth speaker (valued at $17.99) with the purchase of Marvel’s Avengers on PS4 or Xbox One Sept. 4 at $59.99.

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Comcast Eyes Leasing X1 Software to TV Manufacturers

Comcast is reportedly considering licensing its X1 set-top box software to third-party consumer electronics manufacturers of smart televisions. Such a move would put Comcast in competition with Roku, Google and Amazon, among other tech companies affording TV manufacturers with Internet-connected consoles.

First reported by Protocol.com, citing sources familiar with the situation, Comcast engaged in initial discussions with TV manufacturers in January at the pre-COVID-19 CES confab in Las Vegas. The cable operator, which is slowly coming to grips with a changing pay-TV market — underscored by the departure of more than 815,000 subscribers through June 30 — currently licenses X1 technology for third-party set-tops to Cox Communications and soon Charter (Spectrum TV Plus).

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Roku cut its teeth licensing its operating system through set-top devices manufactured for the former 21st Century Fox’s NOW TV. Comcast now owns NOW TV through its acquisition of Sky from Fox. Samsung, one of the world’s largest TV manufacturers, has begun licensing its Tizen OS smart TV technology to third parties.

Comcast’s move into software licensing could be accelerating after attempts to sell NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service through the Roku platform fell through. Similarly to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, Peacock is also not available on Amazon Fire TV.

Launched in 2012 as Comcast’s antidote to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, cloud-based X1 platform now represents about 60% of the cabler’s pay-TV subscriber base. Since then X1 offers subs access to Netflix and YouTube apps. Comcast also launched broadband-only Xfinity Flex online TV platform.

PBS Appoints Marketing VP

PBS Distribution has been appointed Tonya Harley VP of marketing.

Harley will lead marketing and communications, supporting multiple brands and businesses, with a focus on customer acquisition and retention strategies for the company’s direct-to-consumer subscription businesses — PBS Masterpiece, PBS Kids, PBS Living and newly launched PBS Documentaries — on Prime Video Channels.

“Tonya is an Emmy-award winning marketing professional with a proven track record of successfully delivering results for clients that exceed expectations,” PBS Distribution co-president Andrea Downing said in a statement. “She brings keen analytical skills and experience across a wide range of industries, and her ability to create targeted and efficient media plans to drive acquisition across broadcast and digital platforms will support our key primary initiatives perfectly.”

Harley joins PBS Distribution from BCD Travel, where she led their hotel marketing team as the director of strategic marketing. She was responsible for building a modern brand identity, designing social media campaigns to drive engagement, and overseeing the creative development, social media, content development, sales training, and public relations to support product launches.

Prior to working for BCD Travel, Harley was a senior marketing strategist with Advito. During her five years there, she built a strategic vision for developing digital products to help clients reduce travel costs while building client retention and loyalty, and led a cross-functional team in creating the product strategy, positioning, and marketing plan to drive new business.

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Before joining Advito, she spent five years at Liberty Mutual Insurance, culminating in the role of manager of national advertising. She was responsible for more than $125 million in creative and media spend, focusing on the strategy and creative development of brand television, direct-response television, and digital and field marketing. Harley built the first-ever marketing portal for field sales agents to create brand consistency across the organization while helping agents leverage marketing tactics to boost sales.

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Early in her career, Harley’s experiences were rooted in client management at Argus Communications, where she developed omni-channel marketing campaigns for her clients. She saw her strategic recommendation come to life as a television ad that was nominated and won a National Academy of Arts & Sciences Emmy Award for “Outstanding Community or Public Service Single Spot” TV.

Amazon Prime’s ‘The Candidate’ A Showcase for Mexico City, Executive Producer Says

Award-winning writer/producer Peter Blake, whose credits include “House,” “Billions,” “The Practice” and “ZeroZeroZero,” trains his sights on Mexico’s narco violence and political corruption in bilingual series “El Candidato” (“The Candidate”), which bowed on Amazon Prime in July.

“When we met with Peter, we found out he spoke Spanish — aside from other languages — and gave him carte blanche to explore how he wanted to create the series,” said executive producer Juan Rendon, who noted that Blake ran the writers’ room as well as penned some of the episodes.

“He had a very good understanding of Mexican current events and politics when we first sat to discuss the project,” added Rendon, who used to run the documentary division of U.S. Hispanic TV network Univision, where he came across a number of untapped stories.

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Made under the 2018 pact forged between Mexican TV giant Televisa and Amazon Prime to produce premium TV content, “El Candidato” follows two CIA agents, one a grizzled vet played by James Purefoy (“Rome”) bent on capturing an omnipotent drug lord played by Joaquin Cosio (“The Strain,” “Narcos: Mexico”), and the other a rookie (Eréndira Ibarra of “Sense8”). The candidate in question is a mayor with presidential ambitions, played by José María de Tavira, whose TV credits include “Rosario Tijeras” and “Diablo Guardian.”

The rookie is given the unenviable mission to find out the connections between the mayor, her old flame and the drug kingpin.

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The series showcases Mexico City as the vibrant, wealthy metropolis that it is. “It’s almost a separate character in the show,” said Rendon, who applauds Blake for bringing a “well-crafted writing structure” to the series.

Shot on location between November 2018 and March 2019, “El Candidato” boasts a formidable production team led by co-directors Jaime Reynoso, who’s worked on big budget films shot in Mexico such as Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, and Humberto Hinojosa, whose credits include “Luis Miguel: The Series” and “La Hermandad.”

Its stable of writers includes Ted Cohen (“Veep”), Max Hurwitz (“ZeroZeroZero”), Katherine Walczak (“The Flash’), Daniel Krauze (“Luis Miguel: The Series”), David Chasteen and Eva Aridjis (The Favor).

“El Candidato” also counts on the vast experience of one of Mexico’s most sought-after production managers/producers, Stacy Perskie, who has worked on a number of high-profile projects shot in Mexico, including “Narcos: Mexico,” Elysium, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and the 2015 James Bond film Spectre, noted for its astonishing Day of the Dead opening sequence in Mexico City.

While Amazon Prime does not give out viewing numbers, the reviews from Mexico have been first-rate. The show has stirred up considerable debate as it explores the extent of U.S. involvement in the country’s long painful struggle with narco violence and government corruption.

“The series discusses a lot of uncomfortable truths in Mexico,” said Rendon.

A second season has yet to be announced.

‘HBO Now’ Rebrands to ‘HBO’ on Amazon Fire TV; No Deal Yet on HBO Max

HBO Now, the subscription streaming video service launched in 2015, is slowly being absorbed into the HBO brand — and ultimately HBO Max.

WarnerMedia July 30 disclosed it has reached a deal with Amazon for continued support of HBO Now for Amazon Prime members. The new deal, which replaces an agreement set to expire July 31, will give subscribers continued access through a standalone app and via Amazon Channels beginning Aug. 1. The extension mirrors an agreement between WarnerMedia and Roku for HBO Now access on the streaming media device’s platform.

Distribution of HBO Max on Amazon Fire TV and Roku, however, remains unresolved. On AT&T’s fiscal call, CEO John Stankey said about 3 million Max subscribers accessed the platform through WarnerMedia, leaving more than 33 million HBO subs in the U.S. who have yet to activate the free Max app.

Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos July 29 was asked before the House Anti-Trust Subcommittee whether the e-commerce behemoth uses its “gatekeeper” status to extract content and other giveaways from WarnerMedia in exchange for allowing Max on Fire TV.

Bezos said he did not know the details of the negotiations but said he thought a deal would eventually be produced. He said there could be scenarios, “if we’re just talking in the abstract,” where it could be inappropriate for Amazon to withhold access and other scenarios where it would be “very normal business and very appropriate” to deny access.

“I think this is kind of  [negotiating between] two large companies … is kind of normal,” Bezos said.

PBS Launches PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel

PBS Distribution Aug. 4 will launch a new documentary-focused Prime Video Channel called PBS Documentaries.

The subscription rate for the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel, which allows access to PBS content outside the PBS Video App, is $3.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription via Prime Video Channels and is available in the United States only.

The PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel library will include the entire Ken Burns collection as well as programs from “Nova,” “Frontline,” “American Masters,” “Nature,” “American Experience,” “Independent Lens,” “POV” and many independent producers.

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“PBS is the leader of high-quality, compelling nonfiction entertainment, and the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is a natural addition to our current streaming offering on Prime Video Channels — PBS Masterpiece, PBS Living and PBS Kids,” Andrea Downing, co-president of PBS Distribution, said in a statement. “This channel will not only help bring engaging stories about life in all corners of our country to a new audience, it will provide needed revenues to sustain public broadcasting’s public-private partnership model for the benefit of all stations and the communities they serve.”

The entire Ken Burns collection will also be available via PBS Passport, a member benefit available within the PBS Video App.

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“We had long hoped to be able to have all of our films available in one place so the public would have access to the body of work,” added Ken Burns in a statement. “We’re thrilled that this is now possible thanks to the efforts of PBS Distribution and Amazon to launch the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel and also through PBS’s Passport initiative that allows viewers to support their public television stations. Both will also contribute to the larger mission of PBS.”

“’Frontline’ was founded on the belief that long-form documentaries could inform, educate and inspire public television’s audiences — and during these historic times, deeply reported and easily accessible journalism is invaluable,” “Frontline” executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath said in a statement. “Through this new channel, we’re excited to see our documentaries reach new and existing streaming audiences.”

At launch, the channel will feature nearly 1,000 hours of programming, including Ken Burns’ series The Civil War and Country Music, Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and Academy Award-Nominated films such as “Frontline’s” For Sama and American Experiences Last Days in Vietnam.

“I’m thrilled to see that my work will find a new home on this channel,” Nelson said in a statement. “PBS has become a premier destination for documentary programming in the U.S. and has been hugely invested in giving films by diverse storytellers and emerging filmmakers much-needed national exposure. I’m so glad that my film on the Black Panther Party, which can inform communities in our current historical moment, will be able to reach different audiences on this new service.”

‘Back to the Future’ Trilogy Travels to 4K Ultra HD Oct. 20 for 35th Anniversary

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy, containing all three movies in the series, Oct. 20 on 4K Ultra HD to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of the first film.

All three “Back to the Future” films will also be available on 4K Ultra HD digitally for the first time ever. The trilogy will also be available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The release comes in time for “Back to the Future Day” Oct. 21.

In 1985, Director Robert Zemeckis, executive Producer Steven Spielberg and producer/screenwriter Bob Gale began the three-part journey with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and a time traveling DeLorean to the past, present and future, setting off a time-shattering chain reaction that disrupts the space-time continuum.

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The collection, featuring discbook packing, comes with a bonus disc with more than an hour of new content, such as rare audition footage from actors Ben Stiller, Kyra Sedgwick, Jon Cryer, Billy Zane, Peter DeLuise and C. Thomas Howell; a tour of the film’s props and memorabilia hosted by Gale; a sneak peek at the new musical show; and a special episode of the YouTube series “Could You Survive The Movies?”

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Exclusives include the 4K trilogy with levitating hoverboard replica at Amazon, the Blu-ray trilogy with levitating hoverboard replica at Target, and steelbook editions at Best Buy.