Warner Bros. Discovery Inks Exclusive Content Distribution Deal With Canada’s Bell Media

Warner Bros. Discovery and Canada’s Bell Media May 2 announced a long-term and exclusive licensing agreement that makes Bell’s subsidiary Crave the home of programming from the studio for years to come.

The agreement also feeds CTV, CTV.ca, the CTV app, and Bell Media’s suite of specialty channels. The deal ranges across many parts of Warner Bros. Discovery’s portfolio, including HBO and Max Originals; the DC universe; the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; new cable series; library television series; pay and post-pay window rights for Warner Bros.  films; and library films.

The deal also includes French-language rights for HBO and Max Originals, Pay 1 films, the “Friends” franchise, the “Harry Potter” collection of films, and other select content.

“[This is] a true landmark deal for the Canadian media industry,” Karine Moses, SVP of content development and news, and vice chair for Québec for Bell, said in a statement.

The distribution deal continues WBD CEO David Zaslav’s goal of expanding content distribution beyond streaming video.

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“This new multi-year deal will ensure Canadians have full and easy access to our shows and movies and the new programming coming from HBO and Max,” said David Decker, president of content Sales at Warner Bros. Discovery.

New Max Original programming comes to Crave, expanding on the licensing agreement announced in 2019. This includes the recently announced “Harry Potter” series, and titles from the DC Universe, including the recently announced drama “The Penguin” starring Colin Farrell.

Crave remains the exclusive Canadian home of new, current, and library HBO programming, including recently announced “Game of Thrones” prequel “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Night,” drama series “The Sympathizer,” “True Detective: Night Country,” and “The Regime,” and returning series, including “The Last of Us,” “House of the Dragon” and “The White Lotus,” among others.

The deal includes Warner Bros. library series such as “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” for Crave, CTV.ca, and the CTV app.

Movies coming to Crave and CTV following their theatrical and home entertainment windows include The Flash, Dune: Part Two, Magic Mike’s Last Dance, and Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Library titles include “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the “Harry Potter” collection, Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, Goodfellas, The Shining, The Departed and Inception, among others.

Roku, Canada’s Bell Media Ink TSN Distribution Agreement

Roku and Canada’s Bell Media Nov. 10 announced the launch of TSN on Roku streaming players and Roku TVs. The streaming media device pioneer continues to expand its content library for Canadians, now including access to live and on demand sports programming from TSN.

“We know Canadians are passionate about their sports, and TSN delivers access to championship games and daily highlights,” Mary-Anne Taylor, head of content distribution, Canada at Roku, said in a statement.

Canadian Roku users can now stream sports content including the Canadian Football League, culminating with the Grey Cup; IIHF Women’s and Men’s World Championships and the World Juniors; comprehensive coverage of the Toronto Raptors and the NBA; regional NHL broadcasts; FIFA World Cup soccer; extensive live coverage of the NFL; golf Majors and tennis Grand Slams; in addition to Major League Soccer, F1, NASCAR, UFC and NCAA March Madness, among other content.

“The launch of TSN on the Roku platform provides expanded audience access to the most extensive schedule of live sports in the country,” said Jean-Philippe Paradis, VP of subscription sales and partnerships at Bell Media.

Lionsgate, Bell Media Partner in Canadian Content Co-Development Deal

Lionsgate and Bell Media Sept. 13 announced they have teamed for a co-development deal to produce Canadian comedy and drama television series for the global market.

The multiyear partnership enables Lionsgate to act as the global distributor outside Canada for select Bell Media original programming that is produced locally in English and French, including projects Bell Media co-develops with Lionsgate. In Canada, Bell Media distributes projects developed under the pact.

Through this pact, the companies are aiming to work together to seek projects and create original Canadian programming for global audiences.

“Canadian series are resonating with a global audience, and Bell Media is a leader in creating shows that work in Canada, the U.S. and around the world,” Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution at Lionsgate, said in a statement.

Packer said the agreement allows both companies to create strategic value by responding to the growing demand for content internationally, while building on Lionsgate’s strong television production resume as creator and distributor of premium scripted content in Canada.

“We’re delighted to expand our longstanding partnership with Bell Media, the team behind some of Canada’s most-acclaimed original programming,” he said.

This pact reflects an evolution of the multifaceted Lionsgate/Bell Media relationship. The two companies have an exclusive long-term deal for Bell Media to distribute the first pay window of Lionsgate’s theatrical releases in Canada. Lionsgate’s Starz premium pay-TV platform launched its subscription streaming app in Canada via Bell Media.

In addition, Bell Media’s premium streaming service Crave is the exclusive Canadian home of Lionsgate Television/HBO Max shows “Minx,” starring Ophelia Lovibond and Jake Johnson, and “Love Life,” starring Anna Kendrick and William Jackson Harper.

A Canadian-domiciled company, Lionsgate is drawing upon a history of Canadian-based film and television production in conjunction with its partners that includes its role as the U.S. distributor of the Emmy Award-winning comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” along with recent series such as “Son of a Critch” and “Wong & Winchester.”

FilmRise Licenses 1,000 Hours of Content to Canada’s Bell Media

New York-based film, TV studio and streaming network FilmRise June 9 announced a content licensing pact with Canada’s Bell Media to distribute more than 1,000 hours of movies and TV shows across Bell Media’s ad-supported streaming platform CTV Throwback and CTV digital movie channels on CTV.ca and the CTV app.

The deal includes “Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen,” “Unsolved Mysteries,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” and movies Boyhood and Foxcatcher, among others.

“As consumer interest in AVOD continues to grow, this strategic partnership with Bell Media enables our content to gain more visibility across North America,” Daniel Gagliardi, VP of digital distribution and business development at FilmRise, said in a statement.

“This partnership allows us to deepen our content offering on CTV Throwback and CTV Movies, delivering more titles and more choice for viewers,” added Justin Stockman, VP of content development and programming at Bell Media.

The deal was brokered by Michael Smith of Warbun Consulting.

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Roku Adds ‘Children Ruin Everything’ to Original Program Slate

Roku is bringing a new half-hour comedy from Bell Media’s CTV to The Roku Channel in the United States in 2022. The eight-episode series will join the Roku Originals programming slate in a new agreement with award-winning independent production company New Metric Media.

Created by Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winner Kurt Smeaton (“Schitt’s Creek,” “Kim’s Convenience”), “Children Ruin Everything” is about living with the worst roommates of all: young children. Astrid and James struggle to find a balance between being ‘Mom and Dad’ to two kids and being who they were before offspring. “Children Ruin Everything” explores the hilarious and varied ways kids can tear down your life and, if you’re lucky, replace it with something you have to admit is pretty okay, too.

The series stars Meaghan Rath (“Being Human, Hawaii 5-0”) and Aaron Abrams (“Blindspot,” “Hannibal”). Ennis Esmer (“Blindspot,” “Schitt’s Creek”) and Nazaneen Contractor (“Ransom,” Heroes Reborn”) also are among the cast.

Chuck Tatham (“Modern Family,” “Arrested Development”) and multiple Canadian Screen Award-winner Mark Montefiore (“Letterkenny,” “What Would Sal Do?”) are executive producers, with Beth Iley (“Killjoys”) serving as producer.

The show is produced and developed by New Metric Media in association with Bell Media for CTV, with the participation of the Canada Media Fund. Bell Media Distribution is the international rights holder for “Children Ruin Everything” and New Metric Media is the series’ exclusive Sales Agent.

“‘Children Ruin Everything’ is endearing, funny, and painfully relatable,” Colin Davis, head of scripted at Roku, said in a statement. “The familiarities and the modern evolutions of parenting are on full display. The greatest joys in our lives sometimes come from little monsters. I’m excited for The Roku Channel audience to instantly connect with the humor and heart of this show.”

Davis said originals have been an important part of Roku’s content portfolio for The Roku Channel, the company’s ad-supported VOD platform.

“‘Children Ruin Everything’ represents an exciting step in the growth as we continue to build up our slate with a great variety of originals from all over the world,” Davis said.

Netflix Pushed Canadian SVOD Spend Past $1 Billion in 2018

With Canada Netflix’s highest household penetration market, it’s no surprise consumer spending on subscription streaming video across the northern border surpassed CA$1 billion in 2018, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting. Overall spend on video entertainment in Canada remained flat at CA$11.3 billion.

By 2022, video entertainment in Canada is expected to be a CA$12 billion market, with SVOD carving out significant market share. In 2018, pay-TV accounted for 74% of the market, with SVOD and box office accounting for 9% each. However, by 2022 consumer spend on SVOD will be twice that of box office and therefore accounting for 17% of all video entertainment spend.

“SVOD spend broke through the CA$1 billion mark in 2018, up 33% with 11.3 million subscriptions,” Tristan Veale, market analyst at Futuresource Consulting, said in a statement. “This was driven by market leader Netflix, which reached 6.3 million subscribers, despite a steep price hike in 2018.”

The research firm said 58% of Canadian households have at least one over-the-top video subscription, with household penetration reaching 69% by 2022 — equal with pay-TV.

Growth was driven in part by Bell Media’s revamped Crave SVOD service which saw a nearly doubling of subs in 2018 – thanks in part to assimilation of pay-TV operator’s The Movie Network channel; in addition to Amazon Prime Video.

The rise in SVOD spend contributed to 8% drop in transactional (packaged media and digital) home entertainment revenue to CA$853 million.

Futuresource said consumers are buying more digital content digitally than renting — with EST spending projected to surpass transactional VOD and on-demand pay-TV by 2022.

Indeed, Canadians are buying more digital movies with nearly 7 million EST transactions recorded in 2018 — up 18% from 2017. Apple iTunes continues to drive EST sales in Canada, which accounted for over two thirds of spend across movies and TV content. Other services include Google Play Movies and Cinemax.

“There are an estimated 1.3 million Apple TVs in use in Canada, equivalent to 10% of households,” said Veale. “This means consumers have an easy way to watch premium content on a big screen, driving increased buying.”

Notably, Amazon has yet to commit to digital rental/sales of movies and TV shows in Canada, in addition to France, Italy and Spain.

“When it does launch, it could be a catalyst to propel these markets to the next level,” Veale said.


Starz Bows Pay-TV, Streaming Service in Canada

As expected, Starz has officially launched service across the northern border in Canada. The Lionsgate-owned media company is now available via two Bell Media pay-TV linear channels as well as a $5.99 monthly add-on to Bell’s standalone over-the-top video platform Crave.ca.

The Canadian presence follows launch of Starz Play Arabia in 2015, which is currently available in 17 countries in the Middle East.

Starz presence in Canada aims to counter Netflix, which bowed service in the country in 2010 and now reportedly has more than six million subscribers.

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To do that, Starz is offering original programming, select library titles, and classic films from all eras, including new millennial comedy series, “Now Apocalypse,” from filmmaker Gregg Araki (Kaboom, winner of the first-ever Queer Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010).

Streaming March 10 before its television premiere on Starz that evening, the new, coming-of-age, half-hour comedy series was an official selection of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and stars Canadian actor Avan Jogia, as well as Tyler Posey, Kelli Berglund, Beau Mirchoff, and Roxane Mesquida.

Other original content includes spy-thriller, “The Rook,” premiering this summer; past seasons of “Power, Party Down, and “TheGirlfriend Experience”; critical darlings “Vida” and “Sweetbitter”; in addition to hundreds of movies.

Catalog series include:

  • AMERICA TO ME, Season 1 (March 10)
  • BLACK SAILS, Season 1-4
  • BOSS, Season 1-2
  • COUNTERPART, Season 1-2
  • DAN VS., Season 1-3
  • DAVINCI’S DEMONS, Season 1-3
  • MAGIC CITY, Season 1-2 (April)
  • NOW APOCALPYSE (March 10)
  • PARTY DOWN, Season 1-2
  • POWER, Season 1-4 (Season 5 coming soon)
  • SURVIVOR’S REMORSE, Season 1-4
  • SWEETBITTER, Season 1 (new season 2019)
  • VIDA, Season 1 (new season 2019)
  • WARRIORS OF LIBERTY CITY (coming soon)

Starz Launching Pay-TV, Streaming Service in Canada

Starz and Bell Media announced the launch of a new Starz channel and streaming service in Canada, beginning March 1.

Lionsgate-owned Starz, which claims to be second most-watched pay television service in the United States, will rebrand Starz Encore as Starz across two linear channels and on-demand platforms via participating television providers.

The following week, Starz becomes available directly to all Canadians online as an add-on to over-the-top platform Crave for an additional $5.99/month. Starz streaming can be accessed via Crave.ca, the Crave app on iOS and Android, and Apple TV Generation 4, with additional platforms rolling out in the coming months.

“Bringing Starz to Canada is testimony to the continued commitment to offer our viewers exclusive, premium programming at an unparalleled value,” Tracey Pearce, president, distribution and pay, Bell Media, said in a statement.

Bell said Crave has reached 2.3 million subscribers since the launch of the all-new Crave last November. With the addition of Starz, Crave subs now have access to a programming lineup that includes HBO, Showtime,movies, Vice, kids programming and originals.

In addition to local favorites “Vida” and “Counterpart,” and drama “Sweetbitter,” Starz originals include surreal coming-of-age comedy series, “NowApocalypse (March 10); female-led, spy thriller, “The Rook” (2019), starring Emma Greenwell and Olivia Munn; and recently greenlit series “Hightown” and “P-Valley.”

Back seasons include “BlackSails,” the comedy “PartyDown,” critically-acclaimed limited series, “TheGirlfriend Experience,” and long-running series “Power”, which currently ranks as the second highest-rated premium scripted series this year in the U.S., among 18-49 and 25-54, with an average viewership of over 10 million.

“We are excited to see this opportunity come to fruition and look forward to introducing Canadian audiences to all of the premium content that Starz has to offer,” said Superna Kalle, EVP, international digital

Starz Bows App on LG Televisions

Starz March 29 announced the launch of its Starz app on select LG Smart TVs, including the recently debuted 2018 LG OLED TVs and LG Super UHD TVs with AI ThinQ.

Starz subscribers, including pay-TV and standalone over-the-top, can now watch original series, including “Counterpart,” “Power,” “Outlander,” “American Gods,” as well as hundreds of movies and first-run films on LG Smart TVs via LG’s webOS Smart TV platform.

The app on LG Smart TVs is a single destination for all subscribers who want to stream Starz premium content. It features intuitive content discovery and navigation regardless how the consumer purchased a subscription to Starz.

Starz, which is owned by Lionsgate, earlier this year entered into a multifaceted agreement with Bell Media in Canada.

The deal marked the first international launch of Starz since the Lionsgate acquisition in December 2016 as well as the first time it would be available in Canada. Starz content will be available across all Bell Media platforms, including TMN Encore and streaming service CraveTV.

Starz Going to Canada

Starz, the premium pay-TV platform owned by Lionsgate, is launching its streaming app in Canada through Bell Media.

It marks the first expansion for Starz within Canada following Lionsgate’s $4.4 billion acquisition in 2016.

Bell will also distribute the first pay window of Lionsgate’s future theatrical releases in Canada.

The multifaceted agreement is aimed at competing against Netflix and other SVOD services challenges Canada’s pay-TV ecosystem. Bell and Starz will also rebrand the former’s pay television network The Movie Network Encore and streaming service CraveTV next year.

TMN Encore will be rebranded in early 2019, with a slate of Starz programming and a broad selection of Lionsgate movies and television shows. The newly branded service will also be available on a direct-to-consumer basis.

“This agreement creates the perfect foundation for the growth of Starz in the territory,” CEO Chris Albrecht said in a statement.

Starz features over 7,000 feature film and television titles, including “Power,” “Girlfriend Experience,” “Vida,” and “Sweetbitter.”

“Starz is making waves with fresh content that’s resonating with audiences around the world. We’re delighted … as well as to partner with Lionsgate on the distribution of their film properties going forward,” said Randy Lennox, president, Bell Media.

Bell Media’s collaboration with Lionsgate also encompasses future exclusive first-window access to the studio’s slate of hit Hollywood movies. All Lionsgate films will also be available to subscribers of Bell Media’s French-language Pay TV service, Super Écran.

“Bell Media is the ideal partner to introduce Starz to Canadian audiences,” said Lionsgate President of Worldwide Television & Digital Distribution Jim Packer.  “The Canadian marketplace offers tremendous opportunities for growth, and this multifaceted agreement enables us to deliver the robust slate of Starz premium programming as well as the future first pay television window for Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment films to Bell Media platforms.”

“Starz series and Lionsgate films add hundreds of hours of premium content every year to our already-rich offering,” said Tracey Pearce, President, Distribution and Pay, Bell Media. “We can’t wait to introduce the evolution of TMN Encore as it transforms into a newly-rebranded premier pay TV platform.”