CBS, Viacom Re-Merger Nearly Complete; CBS Eyeing Higher Price Point for International ‘All Access’ Rollout

As expected, the Viacom and CBS re-merger could reportedly be announced as early as next week, pending last-minute stock exchange issues.

Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino Aug. 9 on Twitter said the deal reuniting CBS with parent Viacom after a 13-year split is in the hands of the companies’ respective boards.

Viacom and CBS are majority owned by family-owned National Amusements, which is operated by Shari Redstone on behalf of her ailing 96-year-old father, Sumner Redstone.

Shari Redstone has pushed for the merger, claiming media consolidation is a perquisite for navigating the rapidly changing media landscape and over-the-top video distribution. She also wants Viacom CEO Bob Bakish to lead the combined companies.

Redstone’s strategy was initially rebuffed by former CBS CEO Les Moonves, who wanted the top job. With Moonves out following #MeToo issues, consummation of the merger seemed a formality.

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Separately, CBS says it will have 25 million combined CBS All Access/Showtime OTT subscribers by 2022.

To get there the media giant is rolling out All Access internationally in attempt to borrow a page from Netflix’s subscriber growth playbook.

All Access, like Hulu, is available with limited ads for $5.99 monthly, or ad-free for $9.99 ($11.99 for Hulu).

Speaking on the Aug. 8 fiscal call, acting CEO Joe Ianniello said the company would target Latin America and Europe with the more expensive $9.99 price point.

“Two-thirds of the All Access subs are taking the limited commercial option,” he said. “So obviously, the vast majority of that is the $9.99 price point.”

Ianniello contends there is strong demand for premium content delivered via broadband in the international marketplace.

“I just look at the number of people in the consumption of Netflix,” he said. “I’m very encouraged that this is single-handedly the largest opportunity that we have in front of us.”

Ianniello said CBS targets international distribution of proprietary content on franchise-per-franchise basis. Characterizing the U.S. market as “limited” to 325 million people, the executive contends a global audience in the billions satisfies long-term fiscal goals.

“Our thought is if [international is] willing to pay us [$9.99], we’re going to look at that hard,” Ianniello said. “But if they’re not, we’re going to put it through our own [domestic] infrastructure.”

With Disney announcing it would bundle pending SVOD service Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu, Ianniello said CBS is content limiting its OTT bundling to All Access and Showtime.

“I can understand why others want to kind of do that together because people will subscribe for different reasons,” he said.

With All Access nearly five years old, Ianniello says the company understands its appeal and marketing with Showtime.

“It’s an opportunity we don’t force consumers to do it,” he said. “They can buy part; if they want to buy them together, we obviously discount that. We think again those are different offerings and complementary as well.”

CBS All Access Adding Children’s Programming

CBS All Access, the media giant’s online TV service and VOD platform, Aug. 8 disclosed it plans for the first time to add children’s programming, including original series and more than 1,000 catalog episodes.

The $5.99 monthly platform has teamed up with DHX Media and Boat Rocker Studios to license new seasons of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” produced with Sony Pictures Animation, and Boat Rocker’s “Danger Mouse,” produced with BBC Children’s Productions.

Catalog programming includes the original “Danger Mouse” series, “Inspector Gadget,” “The Adventures of Paddington Bear, “Madeline,” and “Heathcliff,” among others.

“Based on the age and demographics of our subscriber base, with an average age of 44, we see a significant opportunity to invest in children’s programming and provide even more value for subscribers,” Marc DeBevoise, COO, CBS Interactive, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, CBS All Access announced it would add documentary and unscripted content, in addition to a growing roster of flagship series such as “Star Trek: Discovery,” “The Good Fight,” and “The Twilight Zone.”

Joe Ianniello, acting CEO at parent CBS Corp., said the direct-to-consumer services, which includes Showtime OTT, helped fuel a 13% increase in affiliate and subscription fee revenue in the quarter.

“We remain on track to reach our goal of 25 million subscribers [CBS All Access/Showtime] combined by 2022,” he said in a statement.

Indeed, content licensing and distribution revenue in the quarter increased 18%, mainly from growth in domestic licensing and higher sales of series produced for third-party services, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Affiliate and subscription fee revenue grew 22%, driven by increases in station affiliation fees and revenues from online TV, as well as subscriber growth at CBS All Access.

Season 2 of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Beams to DVD and Blu-ray Nov. 12

Paramount Home Entertainment and CBS Home Entertainment will release Star Trek: Discovery — Season Two on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 12.

The four-disc set will include all 14 episodes of the second season of the CBS All Access original series, plus more than two hours of bonus material.

The season finds the U.S.S. Discovery joining forces with Capt. Pike (Anson Mount) of the U.S.S. Enterprise on a mission to investigate seven mysterious signals across the galaxy apparently created by the mysterious Red Angel, a being associated with the disappearance of Spock (Ethan Peck), the adopted brother of Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). The cast also includes Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Shazad Latif, Wilson Cruz, Mary Chieffo, Tig Notaro, Rebecca Romijn and Michelle Yeoh. 

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The Blu-ray and DVD will also include two “Short Treks” episodes related to the season: “Runaway” and “The Brightest Star.”

Other extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel and commentaries on the episodes “Brother,” “New Eden,” “Through the Valley of Shadows” and “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2.” 

Featurettes offered on the discs include:

  • “Enter the Enterprise” — a look at re-created the iconic “Star Trek” starship;
  • “Putting it Together” — about the creation of the season finale;
  • “The Red Angel” — a behind-the-scenes look at one of the the season’s major plot elements;
  • “Designing Discovery: Season Two” — a look at the locations and spaces created for the second season;
  • “Prop Me Up: Season Two” — propmaster Mario Moreira shows off the show’s props.
  • “Dress for Success: Season Two” — a look at the costume design;
  • “Creature Comforts: Season Two” — producers, craftsmen and actors discuss the design process, the implementation and the performance required to bring characters to life. Includes a discussion with makeup artist James McKinnon;
  • “Creating Space” — showing off the visual effects process;
  • “Star Trek: Discovery — The Voyage of Season Two” — a recap of the season.

 

Internationally, the Blu-ray and DVD sets will be released Nov. 18 in the U.K., Nov. 19 in Italy, Nov. 21 in Germany, Nov. 22 in Spain, Nov. 25 in the Nordics, Nov. 27 in Benelux, Nov. 28 in Denmark and Dec. 4 in France. Japan and Australia release dates are pending.

‘Stranger Things’ Displaces ‘Lucifer’ Atop Parrot Analytics Digital Originals Chart

The premiere of the third season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” is still more than a month away, but the buzz over a new marketing tie-in has helped the show return to the top spot on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended May 25.

In particular, with the season to be set in 1985, Coca-Cola has announced a promotion with Netflix by which it will bring back its “New Coke” product that was infamously introduced that year to a resoundingly negative response. The third season premieres July 4.

“Stranger Things” registered 59.5 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. According to Parrot, “Stranger Things” grew 77% in expressions compared with the previous week, when it ranked third with 33.6 million.

Netflix’s revival of “Lucifer” saw a 20.3% drop in expressions to 45.8 million, slipping to No. 2 after two weeks in the top spot.

The DC Universe series “Doom Patrol” rose to No. 3 with 33.7 million expressions, up 17.3% from a week earlier, when it was fifth.

Another DC Universe series, “Titans,” remained at No. 4 with 32.9 million expressions, up 6.8% from the previous week.

YouTube Premium’s “Cobra Kai,” a sequel to 1984’s The Karate Kid, dropped to No. 5, registering 32.5 million expressions, down 6% from the previous week.

A trailer for the seventh and final season of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” pushed the show to No. 6 for the week, from No. 17 a week earlier, with an 83% gain in expressions to 30 million. The season premieres July 26.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Video Streaming Widens Appeal Over Pay-TV Among Telecom Customers

Video streaming expanded its lead over subscription TV service in terms of customer satisfaction, rising to a score of 76 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s 100-point scale.

According to the ACSI Telecommunications Report 2018-2019, subscription TV service stagnated at 62, tied with internet service providers for last place among all industries tracked by the ACSI — subscription TV, ISPs, fixed-line telephone service, video-on-demand service and video streaming service.

Video streaming topped all industries tracked.

“Video streaming once again proves itself to be the best of the telecom industries in customer satisfaction,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI. “Traditional telecom providers have tried to step up their game, but they’re not providing original content the way video streaming is, and in part they suffer guilt by association — if customers aren’t satisfied overall with Comcast, they’re probably going to ding Comcast’s on-demand service too.”

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Among video streaming services, Netflix secured first place at 79 after sharing the lead with Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Amazon Twitch the previous year. Netflix ranked at the top for original content among all streaming services, according to the ACSI. Sony’s PlayStation Vue landed in second place at 78, followed by the Microsoft Store at 77. Hulu stepped up to match Amazon Prime Video and Apple iTunes at 76. Five services clustered at 75: CBS All Access, Google Play, Amazon’s gaming platform Twitch, Walmart’s Vudu and Google’s YouTube. Dish Network’s Sling TV was the most improved, meeting HBO at 74. Starz matched the combined score of smaller platforms at 72, while Showtime followed close behind at 71. AT&T’s DirecTV Now fell to 69, ahead of only Sony Crackle, which remained unchanged at 68.

For the past six years, customer satisfaction with subscription TV has languished in the mid-to-low 60s, according to the study. AT&T’s U-verse TV held the lead for subscription TV at 69, followed by Verizon’s Fios at 68 and Dish Network at 67. AT&T’s satellite TV service DirecTV came in at 66, Altice’s Optimum tallied 61, and Charter’s Spectrum came in at 59 to tie with Cox Communications. Frontier Communications and Comcast’s Xfinity came in at 57. Mediacom followed closely at 56. Altice’s Suddenlink tumbles to the bottom of the category at 55.

Customer satisfaction with video-on-demand service slipped to an ACSI score of 67 as viewers continue to turn toward streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, according to the study. AT&T’s U-verse TV service held the lead a year ago, but this year shared the top spot with Verizon’s Fios at a score of 72. Satellite provider Dish Network dropped to 71 but remained just ahead of DirecTV, unchanged at 70. Frontier Communications debuted in the category with a score of 67, in line with the industry average. Three decliners met at 66: Cox Communications, Altice’s Optimum and Comcast’s Xfinity. Charter’s Spectrum remains unchanged at the bottom of the category with a 64.

Unchanged at a score of 62, ISPs remain at the bottom of the ACSI rankings. Most ISPs are still falling short of providing good service at an affordable price, according to the ACSI release. Verizon’s Fios was stable at the top of the category with an ACSI score of 70, but AT&T Internet closed in at 69. Altice’s Optimum fell to 63 but remained the leader among coaxial providers. Meanwhile, Comcast’s Xfinity inched closer to the industry average at 61. Cox Communications tallied 60, tying Altice’s Suddenlink. Charter’s Spectrum and CenturyLink came in at 59.

‘Lucifer’ Returns to Take Top Spot on Parrot Analytics Digital Originals Chart

The fourth season of “Lucifer” bowed on Netflix May 8, propelling the supernatural series to No. 1 on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended May 11, the first time the show has appeared on the chart.

“Lucifer,” adapted from the DC Comics Sandman comic book, was canceled by the Fox network a year ago and subsequently picked up by Netflix, making it eligible for digital originals tracking with the debut of the new season, which registered 49 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. According to Parrot, “Lucifer” grew 57.8% in expressions, from 31 million, compared with the previous week.

YouTube Premium’s “Cobra Kai,” a sequel to 1984’s The Karate Kid, dropped to No. 2 after two weeks in the top spot, registering 41.4 million expressions, down 16% from the previous week.

DC Universe’s “Doom Patrol” held onto the No. 3 spot with 31.2 million expressions, up 2.4% from a week earlier.

Another DC Universe series, “Titans,” remained at No. 4 with 29.9 million expressions, down slightly from the previous week.

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” jumped to No. 5 for the week with 28.2 million expressions, up 7% from the previous week, when it ranked eighth.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

By comparison, the biggest TV show of any kind for the week was HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” currently in its final season, which drew 607 million expressions.

“Lucifer” was the No. 6 overall show in expressions for the week, rising from No. 27 a week before.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

‘Apple Channels’ Platform Launches Offering Access to Third-Party Streaming Services

Apple May 13 has formally launched “Apple Channels,” an app enabling users access to third-party subscription streaming services such as HBO Now, Showtime OTT and Lionsgate-owned Starz, among others.

The platform mimics Amazon Prime Channels, which bowed in 2015 offering Prime members direct access to HBO Now, Showtime, CBS All Access, Shudder, Sundance Now, Dove Channel, Acorn TV, Urban Movie Channel, among other others.

Amazon Channels, which maintains control over third-party OTT usage among Prime members, in addition to revenue sharing deals, has been credited by WarnerMedia, LIonsgate and CBS for driving subscriber growth for their respective brands.

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Apple Channels reportedly is getting from 15% to 30% of third-party revenue from subscribers registering through The App Store on Apple devices.

In addition, Apple Channels users can only stream third-party content through its app on Apple devices; not on other platforms such as Roku, Google Chromecast or PlayStation Vue, among others.

Current third-party SVOD subs can access the platforms through Apple Channels. The platform is not Apple TV+, the new SVOD platform launching later this year.

Super Bowl LIII, Tax Credit Help CBS Offset Growing OTT Video Content Costs

Advertising revenue from February’s Super Bowl LIII broadcast and a tax benefit contributed to CBS Corp. May 2 reporting a 140% increase in first-quarter (ended March 31) net income to $1.58 billion, compared with $511 million in net income the previous-year period. Revenue increased 11% to $4.17 billion, from $3.76 billion for the prior-year period.

CBS said it received a “discrete” tax benefit of $768 million from the  reorganization of the company’s international operations.

The company said direct-to-consumer video subs, which include CBS All Access and Showtime OTT, grew 71% to 9 million combined subscribers, from 5.3 million in 2018.

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“We are seeing strong growth here in the second quarter thanks to premium original series such as ‘The Twilight Zone’ on CBS All Access and ‘Billions’ on Showtime OTT,” acting CEO Joseph Ianniello said in a statement. “At the same time, we also continue to produce more and more content for a variety of buyers, including Amazon, Apple and Netflix, which will debut ‘Dead to Me’ from CBS Television Studios tomorrow.”

Increased content production for Showtime OTT contributed to the cable networks business unit (which includes Showtime OTT) reporting a 26% drop in operating income to $175 million from $236 million last year. Revenue dipped 3% to $552 million from $571 million last year.

The entertainment unit, which includes CBS All Access, CBSN and other streaming services, reported a 9% increase in operating income to $530 million from $486 million for the same prior-year period. Revenue increased 15% to $3.18 billion from $2.75 billion.

‘Cobra Kai’ Takes Over No. 1 on Parrot Analytics Digital Originals Chart

The premiere of the second season of “Cobra Kai” helped push the show back into the top spot on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals chart for the week ended April 27.

All 10 episodes of the season bowed April 24 on YouTube Premium, leading to the show registering 41.2 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was up 40% from the previous week, when it was No. 6 on the chart. The series is a sequel to 1984’s The Karate Kid, following the adult lives of the film’s teenage characters as they introduce a new generation to martial arts.

The previous week’s top title, Hulu’s true-crime drama “The Act,” dropped to No. 2 with 39.3 million expressions, down 9.5%.

The CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Discovery” held onto the No. 3 spot with 36.4 million expressions, up 9.6%.

Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” slipped to No. 4 for the week with a 15% decline in expressions to 36.1 million.

Rounding out the top five was DC Universe’s “Titans,” down one spot from the previous week with 31 million expressions, a 1.8% drop.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

By comparison, the biggest TV show of any kind for the week was HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” currently in its final season, which drew 482 million expressions.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

‘The Act’ Jumps to No. 1 on Parrot Analytics Digital Originals Chart

A pivotal episode of the Hulu’s “The Act” propelled the true crime drama to the top spot on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals chart for the week ended April 20.

“The Act,” which bowed its sixth of eight episodes during the week, registered 43.4 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was up 25% from the previous week, when it was No. 3 on the chart.

Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” which bowed the entirety of its latest batch of episodes April 5, slipped to No. 2 for the week with a 20.6% decline in expressions to 42.5 million.

The April 18 season finale of “Star Trek: Discovery” helped to bump the CBS All Access series to No. 3 with 33.2 million expressions, up 10%. The sci-fi series, which has been renewed for a third season after some major changes to its premise, was No. 9 a week before.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

DC Universe’s “Titans” rose two spots to No. 4 with 31.6 million expressions, essentially flat with the previous week.

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” dropped a spot to No. 5 after an 8.5% dip in expressions to 30.4 million.

YouTube Premium’s “Cobra Kai” jumped from No. 10 the previous week to No. 6, though its expressions dipped 2% to 29.4 million. The second season of the “Karate Kid” spinoff debuts April 24.

“The Twilight Zone,” another venerable franchise being restarted on CBS All Access, rose to No. 8 for the week, from N0. 11 a week earlier. Its expressions dropped 7.6% to 27.1 million.

The biggest jump on the chart came from a show with an eclectic distribution history, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” The animated series originally aired for five seasons on Cartoon Network from 2008 to 2013, but was canceled after Disney bought Lucasfilm. A sixth season of episodes that were complete at the time of its cancellation debuted on Netflix in 2014, making it eligible for digital originals tracking. A seventh season will debut on the new Disney+ streaming service this fall, and was previewed during a Disney investor presentation April 11 and at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago April 11-15. The publicity helped push the show from No. 28 to No. 10 on the originals chart, with an 86% bump in expressions to 23.3 million.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.