Gravitas Ventures to Distribute Doc ‘The Holy Game’ on VOD

Gravitas Ventures has acquired worldwide rights (excluding Canada) to distribute the documentary The Holy Game. The title will come out on cable and digital video-on-demand platforms June 29.

From director Brent Hodge (I Am Chris Farley, Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary), the film offers an exclusive look at an officially sanctioned Vatican soccer tournament for priests. Beyond the Vatican walls, there is a soccer championship like no other in which young priests in seminary from around the world gather to play in the Clericus Cup. The documentary feature explores religion, sport and tradition, and looks at why anyone in this era would sacrifice so much to become a priest.

“Brent’s documentary is a fascinating peek behind the curtain, grappling with controversy and harsh truths alongside inspiring observations and amusing anecdotes from the next generation of the priesthood, all set against the backdrop of this unique tournament,” Tony Piantedosi, VP of acquisitions at Gravitas Ventures, said in a statement.

Gravitas Ventures released Hodges’ previous documentary, Who Let the Dogs Out in 2019.

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“We are thrilled to be working with Gravitas again on the release of The Holy Game,” Hodge said in a statement. “I am always in search of projects that reveal unique windows into different worlds, and this doc is truly that. Not only do we have direct access to the priesthood, the Vatican, but we also get a glimpse into this one-of-a-kind soccer tournament and where religion fits in modern day culture. We are excited for people to see it.”

Horror Thriller ‘Sound of Violence’ Due on Cable and Digital VOD May 21 From Gravitas Ventures

The horror thriller Sound of Violence will debut on cable and digital VOD May 21 from Gravitas Ventures.

The film, written and directed by Alex Noyer (808, SXSW 2015) premiered at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival and stars Jasmin Savoy Brown (the upcoming Scream revival, “The Leftovers”), Lili Simmons (“Ray Donovan,” “Banshee,” Bone Tomahawk), James Jagger (“Vinyl,” The Outpost) and Tessa Munro (“S.W.A.T.”).

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The film follows Alexis, who recovered her hearing after witnessing the brutal murder of her family when she was 10. The experience awakens synesthetic abilities in her and starts her on a path of self-discovery through the healing tones of brutal violence. Supported and loved by her roommate Marie, who is unaware of the dark secrets behind her music, she goes on to pursue a career teaching and experimenting to find new sounds. Faced with the likelihood of losing her hearing again, Alexis escalates her pursuit of her masterpiece through gruesome sound experiments.

Romcom ‘First Blush’ Due on Digital and VOD Platforms Feb. 2 From Gravitas Ventures

The romantic comedy First Blush is coming to digital and VOD platforms Feb. 2 from Gravitas Ventures.

The modern millennial romantic comedy follows a young married couple who re-examine their relationship when they both form an attraction to another woman. Nena and Drew are a young, happy-ish married couple whose relationship is thrown off its axis when they meet Olivia. The trio’s attraction to each other is undeniable, but when they become romantically involved, they struggle to navigate the complications of a polyamorous relationship. The three push each other’s boundaries to their limits as they discover painful truths about who they are, what they want, and how to love in turbulent times.

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Written and directed by Victor Neumark, the film stars Rachel Alig (The Cleaning Lady), Ryan Caraway (West of Her) and Kate Beecroft (6 Underground).

 

Peacock Streaming Service Tops 22 Million Subs; Adds 7 Million Subs Following Roku Deal

NBCUniversal’s subscription streaming video service Peacock reached 22 million subscribers through Oct. 29. The tally increased by 7 million subs in the past month thanks to an app distribution agreement with Roku hammered out in mid-September. Total Peacock subs now top Comcast’s legacy cable business.

Launched on July 15, the SVOD/AVOD platform represents the media company’s attempt to compete against Netflix, Disney+ and other OTT video platforms, in addition to safeguarding against ongoing erosion of the pay-TV ecosystem.

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“We are exceeding our expectations on all engagement metrics in only a few months,” Brian Roberts, CEO of parent Comcast Corp., said in a statement. Speaking later on the fiscal call, Roberts said Peacock’s AVOD component and NBCUniversal annual content spend has helped lure sign-ups.

“[AVOD] has significantly reduce marketing expenses compared with other streaming services,” he said.

Indeed, driven by a renewed strategic focus on broadband, aggregation and streaming, Comcast added a record 633,000 high-speed Internet customers in the quarter and 556,000 total net new customer relationships.

“We’re growing our entertainment platforms with the addition of Flex [for broadband-only subscribers], which has a significant positive impact on broadband churn and customer lifetime value,” Roberts said.

The subscriber growth continues to offset ongoing declines in Comcast’s legacy cable business. The segment saw another steep drop in pay-TV subs, losing 273,000 subs in the quarter — widening almost 14% from a loss of 222,000 subs in the previous-year period. Through nine months of the fiscal year, Comcast Cable tallied 19.2 million subs, down 1.2 million subs from the same period last year.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we believe we are extremely well positioned to provide … integrated experiences for our customers and to deliver … long-term growth and returns for our shareholders,” Roberts said.

Report: OTT Revenue to Grow to $44.2 Billion in 2022

Convergence Research estimates U.S. OTT access revenue grew 35% to $22 billion in 2019 and forecasts 29% growth to $28.5 billion for 2020 and $44.2 billion for 2022.

That’s based on 77 OTT services (more than 50 providers) led by Netflix, Hulu and Amazon analyzed in its 2020 Couch Potato Reports. The forecast assumes the coronavirus will not be as major a disruptive force beyond 2020.

Given the accelerating decline in TV subscribers, revenue, and the ongoing programming cost and TV access price increases, TV advertising revenue has also started to decline, according to Convergence. The firm estimates 2019 U.S. cable, satellite, telco TV access revenue declined 3% to $100.4 billion and forecasts a decline of 6% to $94.8 billion in 2020 and higher percentage declines in 2021 and 2022.

Convergence estimates 2019 saw a decline of 6.36 million U.S. TV subscribers, 2018 a decline of 4.03 million, and forecasts a decline of 7.1 million TV subs in 2020. U.S. TV subscribers declined by more than 7% in 2019 and more than 4% in 2018, according to Convergence, which forecasts a 9% decline in 2020 and higher percentage declines in 2021 and 2022.

As of the end of 2019, the firm estimates more than 36% of U.S. households did not have a TV subscription with a cable, satellite or telco TV access provider, up from 31% at the end of 2018. Convergence forecasts 42% at the end of 2020 and 54% at the end of 2022.

The firm estimates 2019 saw more than 7.2 million U.S. cord-cutter/never household additions.

From the end of 2019 to the end of 2025, Convergence sees a decline of more than 50% of U.S. TV subscribers, more than 40% of annual TV access revenue, while cord-cutter/never households and OTT access revenue more than double, with OTT access revenue surpassing 2025 TV access revenue.

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The firm estimates 2.74 million U.S. residential broadband subscribers were added in 2019 and revenue grew 8% to $66.7 billion. It forecasts additions will moderate in 2020 and that 2022 residential broadband access revenue will almost be on par with 2022 TV access revenue. Residential broadband subs surpassed TV subs in 2017.

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Cable continues to add the lion’s share of residential broadband subs (telco has lost residential broadband subs every year since 2015). AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier were responsible for the majority of 2019 telco broadband losses, and Convergence forecasts they will contribute the majority of losses in 2020 as well.

“With programmers having jumped in with both feet, and Apple, DAZN, and Quibi joining Netflix and Amazon’s spending parade, the OTT arms race has truly begun,” reads the report. “We believe Netflix no longer has the same flexibility to raise pricing as frequently as it has in the past. Alternatively, Amazon and Apple have the luxury of expensing OTT programming as an additional operating cost to their core businesses. Amazon has clearly demonstrated its programming commitment to OTT. It remains to be seen if Apple is willing to endure the long-term spending campaign required to become a key OTT player.”

“The Battle for the American Couch Potato: OTT and TV” and “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: Bundling, TV, Internet, Telephone, Wireless” samples, summary and contents can be found here.

TiVo ‘Wins’ Another Round in Comcast Patent Dispute

TiVo June 4 received a favorable ruling by Administrative Law Judge MaryJoan McNamara of the International Trade Commission (ITC) that select aspects of Comcast’s cloud-based X1 video platform infringe Rovi’s patents.

Rovi, which acquired DVR pioneer TiVo in 2016 for $1.1 billion, operates under the TiVo brand name.

TiVo has a worldwide portfolio of over 5,500 patents. Patents involve advertising, analytics, DVR, guide, search and record, interactive TV and apps, AR/VR, multi-screen, parental controls, VOD/OTT, social media, sports, personalization and voice.

This was the second positive ruling for TiVo. In November 2017, the ITC issued a final ruling that Comcast had infringed two Rovi patents around ‘remote record’ functionality.

Comcast subsequently removed this feature from their products, according to TiVo.

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Then on May 23, the ITC launched a third investigation into Comcast for infringing six Rovi patents including: X1 Sports App, multi-room DVR features, and set-top box integrations of apps like Netflix.

That query has also been assigned to McNamara.

“We are thrilled by yet another legal victory,” Arvin Patel, EVP and chief intellectual property officer at Rovi, said in a statement. “We hope that today’s decision will encourage Comcast to pay the necessary licensing fees so their customers can once again access advanced cable features.”

That may be wishful thinking.

McNamara’s ruling is just one required step before the ITC can mandate Comcast make additional changes or pay license fees to TiVo – which the latter would prefer.

The cable behemoth contends TiVo’s technology is outdated and has instituted proprietary technology in the X1 platform.

In a statement, Comcast viewed McNamara’s decision a victory since the judge found “no violation” regarding two of the three other patents involved in the complaint.

“We look forward to the full commission’s review of the one remaining patent later this year, but we are confident, regardless, this ruling will not disrupt our service to our customers,” Comcast said. “We will continue to resist Rovi’s efforts to force Comcast and our customers to make unreasonable payments for aging and obsolete patents.”

 

Report: Video Streamers Covet TV Antenna

It may be a digital world driven by over-the-top video distribution. But as millennials opt away from traditional pay-TV, they are also embracing the old-school TV antenna, according to a new report.

Horowitz Research suggests that while TV viewers in the U.S. are experimenting with online TV services such as YouTube TV, Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue, among others, they are increasingly opting for digital antennas.

The study finds that 34% of TV content viewers are accessing OTT video content via digital antennas, which came about following the federal government’s mandated switch from analog to digital TV transmission.

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Antenna owners are younger (40% of antenna owners are 18-34 vs. 31% of total TV content viewers) and skew male (59% vs. 49% of total TV content viewers).

Among non-pay-TV subscribers, 51% report owning an antenna. Antenna owners are more likely to subscribe to one of the three major SVOD services (78% subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, vs. 67% of TV content viewers). Antennas are also popular in traditional pay-TV subscriber households: 30% of traditional subs report owning an antenna.

Horowitz’s data suggest antenna owners spend 19% of their time using an antenna, 44% streaming, and 32% through an MVPD, watching live, DVR, VOD and packaged media

“With today’s stronger signals and advances in technology, along with improved design aesthetics, antennas are re-emerging as an inexpensive and practical way of accessing TV content,”  Stephanie Wong, director of insights and strategy, said in a statement.

With new technology allowing for the recording of over-the-air content, including TiVo’s Bolt OTA, Plex, and Amazon’s Fire TV Recast, Horowitz said consumers are replacing cable with SVOD services and over-the-air broadcasts.

With the pending rollout of ATSC 3.0, which would allow for 4K resolution and enhanced sound to broadcast TV, Adriana Waterston, SVP of insights and strategy for Horowitz, contends pay-TV’s perceived advantage in picture quality and reliability is waning.

“As the broadcast industry works to improve its standards and achieve widespread adoption of ATSC 3.0 — about 40 markets by 2020, according to NAB — that advantage gap has the potential to shrink, with adoption of over-the-air viewing increasing,” Waterson said.

Parks: Confidence in Online TV Increasing Among Younger Consumers

Following a fiscal quarter that saw pay-TV operators lose about 1 million combined subscribers, new data from Parks Associates finds consumers’ willingness to recommend their service (net promoter score, or NPS) is waning.

The average NPS for traditional pay-TV providers in the third quarter was minus 19, down from minus 15 in Q1, although some providers such as Optimum and Dish Network improved their individual scores.

By comparison, the average NPS for the major online pay-TV and over-the-top video services was positive, although their overall scores declined from 2017 to 2018.

“The percentage of U.S. broadband households that do not subscribe to traditional pay TV increased from 16% in 2011 to 22% in 2017,” Brett Sappington, senior director of research, said in a statement. “With each quarterly earnings report, pay-TV providers and their stakeholders are hyperaware of variances in subscriber figures, and they are trying to reverse this trend with their own brands of OTT services as well as other value-added services. A positive NPS score for these services suggests a positive perception and strong word-of-mouth activity.”

Parks said 79% of U.S. broadband households reported had traditional pay-TV subscriptions in early 2018. About 33% of pay-TV subs made a change to their service between Q1 2017 and Q1 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A key challenge for pay-TV providers is to design and launch services that will inspire loyalty among younger households,” said Sappington. “Older consumers profess higher loyalty to pay-TV providers, whereas younger households are more likely to have an OTT service.”

 

Altice USA Softens Q3 Pay-TV Subscriber Losses

Cable operator Altice USA reported third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) pay-TV subscriber losses of 28,000, which was more than 15% improvement from 33,000 subs lost in the previous-year period.

New York-based Altice USA, which was created as a separate entity following the 2016 acquisition of Suddenlink and Cablevision by Netherlands-based multinational telecom Altice, attributed the improvement to few sub losses (7,000) at Suddenlink than in the prior-year period (14,000).

Suddenlink ended period with 1.01 million pay-TV subs compared to nearly 1.05 million during the previous-year period. Cablevision ended with 2.3 million from 2.38 million.

Overall net income topped $33.7 million on revenue of $1.05 billion, compared to a loss of $192 million and $1.07 billion last year.

 

 

 

Pay-TV Q2 Sub Loss Lowest Since 2014

Pay-TV operators, including cable, satellite and telecom, lost about 800,000 video subscribers in the second quarter – down from 930,000 subs in the previous-year period, according to new data from the Leichtman Research Group.

The losses were offset by ongoing gains in online TV services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now and Spectrum TV Plus, which totaled 385,000 subs.

Leichtman found that the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. – representing about 95% of the market – lost about 415,000 net video subs in Q2.

Specifically, satellite operators Dish Network and DirecTV shed 480,000 subs – the largest in any previous quarter.

The top six cable companies lost about 275,000 video subs compared to a loss about 190,000 subs in Q2 2017.

Telecoms lost about 45,000 video subs, compared to a loss of 270,000 subs last year.

The top pay-TV providers now account for about 91.3 million subscribers – with the top six cable companies having 47.4 million video subs, satellite TV services 30.6 million subs, the top telecoms 9.1 million subs.

Online TV services Sling TV and DirecTV Now have 4.2 million combined subs.

“This marked the fewest net losses [among pay-TV operators] in the traditionally weak second quarter since 2014,” Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said in a statement.

Leichtman said the rise in online TV is both a product of consumers opting for more economical services, as well as changes in providers’ strategies.

“This newer segment of the industry has helped to mitigate overall pay-TV losses, while also contributing to a share shift from traditional services,” he said.