Redbox Free Live TV Lands ‘Bob Ross’ Painting Channel

Redbox has added “The Bob Ross Channel,” about the joy of art painting, on its ad-supported VOD platform, Redbox Free Live TV. The kiosk disc rental giant secured the channel in a distribution deal with Cinedigm, whose streaming channels, Comedy Dynamics, CONtv, Docurama and Dove Channel are also available on Redbox’s AVOD platform.

Redbox Free Live TV also offers users curated content including a wide-range of catalog movies and television shows.

“Bob Ross left an incredible legacy as an artist and was an inspiration for millions of people around the world,” Laura Florence, director of content partnerships for Redbox, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to add the channel to our service and continue delighting fans and giving voice to Bob Ross for a new generation to discover him.”

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The Bob Ross Channel showcases moments and paintings from Ross’ long-running public television series, featuring approximately 380 classic episodes. As part of Cinedigm’s agreement with Bob Ross Inc., Cinedigm has produced and distributed special messages of support for public television on the channel, as well as spots highlighting official Bob Ross painting products, and Bob Ross Certified Instructors.

Redbox Free Live TV is available within the Redbox app for the Roku platform, iPhone, Apple TV, Android-enabled devices, Vizio SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs.

OTT.X Summit Speakers Talk FAST (Free, Ad-Supported Television)

Free, ad-supported television dominated the discussion during the OTT.X summit’s opening-day keynote panel.

Known by the acronym FAST, the market certainly is in growth mode. Media heavyweights ViacomCBS and Comcast Corp. have acquired Pluto TV and Xumo, respectively, while Comcast’s much-ballyhooed Peacock streaming service also will have a free, ad-supported component.

And as Media Play News reported earlier this week, new data from eMarketer suggests AVOD revenue will grow more than 25% this year compared with 2019.

The AVOD market — spearheaded by The Roku Channel, Disney-owned Hulu, Peacock, Redbox TV, Amazon’s IMDb TV, Pluto TV and Fox Corp.’s Tubi — saw ad revenue skyrocket 31% to $849 million in the most-recent quarter, according to MoffettNathanson Research.

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“It’s something I’m really excited about — this is the thing that’s really hot,” moderator David Bloom, a tech journalist and consultant, said during the panel on Sept. 1. (The OTT.X summit continues through Sept. 3; click here to register.)

Anthony Layser, VP of content partnerships at Xumo, agreed.

“Things have changed so quickly over the last couple of years,” he said. “I joined Xumo in 2017 and I think at first there were some things that felt a little bit like a gimmick — you’re starting to string together types of content into a linear experience.

“And then I really got a sense, after a few months in, that what’s old is new again. People don’t necessarily want to spend all night searching through box art; they may be interested in a very specific series they are comfortable with — maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s lifestyle.”

The FAST market, he said, “is always changing and it’s exciting to come to work every day and look at data and say, ‘Wow, look at how this piece of content we licensed years ago is taking off.’”

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Networks, said his company over the past 18 months has sought to build “a nice portfolio of premium FAST and AVOD services to complement our four niche subscription services we still operate.”

“We got out of the real heavy, direct-to-consumer side,” he said, “and now focus on what I call the classic model of third-party distribution. You get a lot of bang for your buck — you don’t have to spend a lot of money on marketing, and you can focus all your energy on content spend and everyone else handles all the rest. So it’s a good model. Where we really thought the growth for us was going to come was in the ad-supported space.”

Advertising spending, he said, is “completely disconnected from the consumption right now. If you look at the data coming out of Samsung, where 55% of all consumption on smart TVs is not with traditional environments — the trend is not going to reverse; it’s not going to suddenly swing back the other way, especially given that 265 million sets are sold annually that have linear and VOD baked in, not to mention hundreds of thousands of apps.”

With FAST, Opeka said, “consumers love the choice, they love getting tons of entertainment for free that they don’t have to pay for. A couple of years ago, Pluto really educated all of us. … People mistake linear being dead for pre-programmed, tuned-in being dead. But I think there’s a very different piece here. Leanback is not dead. There’s a real specific use case for a big chunk of the week where you don’t have a lot of time and don’t want to spend 30 minutes digging through thousands of titles or hoping the algorithm finds you. You just want something on while you’re having leftovers. What we’re really talking about is hand-curated, passive, feed-my-eyes, against active, algorithm-driven recommendations. There’s a place in the world for both.”

Tedd Cittadine, VP of content distribution at Roku, said, “There’s no secret we’re really excited and optimistic about the AVOD business in general. We started just over three years ago with the Roku Channel, and the reason we launched it is because our consumers were disproportionately searching for free content. We knew there was pent-up demand for it. And we’ve seen significant growth — it’s been growing faster than the platform as a whole.”

He noted that the “AVOD landscape has changed significantly” over the past few years. “It’s gone from many startup independents to Roku, CBS, Fox, Amazon, YouTube, Comcast”

He noted that as the business becomes increasingly competitive, there are “three key things that drive success.” One is access to a “huge audience.” “It’s incredibly expensive to acquire consumers,” he said. “If you don’t have that huge installed base you can market to and deliver your content to, it can be very challenging to build that audience.” Second is having a “one-to-one, proprietary relationship with data for consumers, and having access to that data to make your advertising more effective.” And the third, he said, is having a “large and successful, well-funded direct ad sales organization to take advantage of monetization opportunities.”

Also speaking on the panel was Andrea Clarke-Hall, VP of business development at Tubi, acquired by Fox in April. “If you take COVID and add an acquisition, it makes for interesting times,” she said. “But it has been awesome. It’s still very early days, but it seems to be a really great partnership. Fox has given Tubi tremendous autonomy, and I think what we’ve seen is continued announcements every week about leveraging Fox ownership to bring better and better content to Tubi.”

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment for Fandango, gave a nod to the transactional side of the business, noting that stay-at-home orders, and the movie theater shutdown, during the coronavirus pandemic has given the business a boost.

“You feel like the last few months have brought transactional back,” he said. “People have discovered there’s new content, movies you might not have ever seen — like The Tax Collector, which has been No. 1 on our service for the last couple of weeks.”

Cinedigm’s Comedy Dynamics Streaming Service Available on Roku

Cinedigm’s OTT video partnership with Comedy Dynamics has gone where HBO Max hasn’t: Roku.

Comedy Dynamics Aug. 17 officially launched its AVOD app on Roku, showcasing a library of comedy content. The app is free to Roku users and features a substantial supply of stand-up comedy specials curated by the Comedy Dynamics team. The app is powered by Matchpoint Blueprint, a service provided by Cinedigm.

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“We have a saying here that ‘We Are Where You Are,'” Brian Volk-Weiss, CEO of Comedy Dynamics, said in a statement. “I believe this partnership with Roku is a huge step forward to fulfilling that commitment.”

Founded in 2008, Comedy Dynamics is one of the largest independent producer and distributor of stand-up comedy content in the U.S. and is home to the largest indie comedy audio catalog, including multiple Grammy Award nominated specials. 

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Programming includes stand-up specials from comedians such as Jim Gaffigan, Tom Segura, Iliza Shlesinger, Whitney Cummings, David Cross, Gary Gulman, Maria Bamford, Mike Birbiglia, Bill Hicks, Cameron Esposito, D.L. Hughley and Janeane Garofalo, among others. 

When WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, it failed to secure distribution on Roku and Amazon Fire TV due largely to money and data issues. NBCUniversal’s Peacock service is also not available on Roku — the largest standalone subscription media device market holder.

Cinedigm Ups Quarterly Net Loss as Revenue Falls Due to COVID-19

Home entertainment/OTT video distributor Cinedigm Aug. 14 reported a first-quarter (ended June 30) net loss of $19.9 million on revenue of more than $6 million. That compared with a net loss of $5.1 million and $9.8 million in revenue during the previous-year period.

Los Angeles-based Cinedigm attributed the increased loss to the expected decline in its Cinema Equipment business and the negative impact of COVID-19 on theatrical revenue. This was partially offset by growth in OTT/streaming revenue. Overall OTT/streaming revenue, including digital content licensing, increased 22% with sales billings up 30%. OTT AVOD Channel revenue increased 28% versus last year and 48% versus the prior three-month fiscal period.

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“Due to COVID-19, advertisers ‘pressed pause’ industry-wide in late March through mid-May and we were impacted like everyone else,” CFO Gary Loffredo said in a statement. “Despite this, we generated strong streaming results in the quarter … and our ad-fill rates are now exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels with CPMs also back to 90% of pre-COVID-19 rates.”

Erick Opeka, president of digital networks, said the consumer shift toward on-demand video entertainment continues at a “dramatic and accelerating” pace.

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“We took advantage of this with the launch or signing of six new streaming channels during the quarter, which will be available on a number of key streaming platforms, including Roku, Xumo, Peacock and Plex, among many others,” Opeka said. “Our streaming device platform reach has now expanded to over 800 million global devices and will only continue to grow.”

Cinedigm Expands Distribution of ‘The Bob Ross Channel’ on Xumo Streaming Service

Cinedigm Aug. 10 announced that The Bob Ross Channel has launched on the Xumo streaming television service. The channel will be available as a free ad-supported linear channel. In addition, the complete catalog of Bob Ross’ television series will also be available on AVOD.

With the launch on Xumo, The Bob Ross Channel will now be directly available in 45 million households across the nation via a multi-screen distribution network of smart TVs, mobile, Web and streaming devices. In addition to The Bob Ross Channel, Xumo carries six other channels from Cinedigm’s channel portfolio, including CONtv, Docurama, Dove Channel, Bambu, Combat Go and Comedy Dynamics.

“With this launch on Xumo, our hope is to further grow his audience by reaching those viewers who have ‘cut the cord’ and seek high-quality entertainment on the leading video streaming platforms,” Tony Huidor, Cinedigm GM of digital networks, said in a statement.

The Bob Ross Channel showcases memorable moments and paintings from the long-running public television series, featuring about 380 classic episodes. As part of Cinedigm’s agreement with Bob Ross Inc., the home entertainment distributor has produced and distributes special messages of support for public television on the channel, as well as spots highlighting official Ross painting products, and Ross certified instructors.

Ross died from lymphoma at the age of 52 on July 4, 1995, in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

Cinedigm Partners With Chinese Theme Park Operator for Animation Streaming Service

Cinedigm Aug. 6 announced a partnership with Fantawild, a Chinese theme park operator and producer of children’s animation, to launch a new global streaming service featuring the company’s animated series. The Fantawild channel is planned for a launch in the second half of 2020 and will be available worldwide for linear and AVOD platforms on connected TVs, digital set-top boxes, media-streaming devices, as well as the Web.

In addition, Cinedigm will distribute select Fantawild programming in North America across its network of distribution partners in the streaming space, including Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Google, Amazon and Tubi, among others.

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With 29 theme parks in operation and 10 more under development, Fantawild is one of the top drivers of China’s tourism industry and attracts more than 50 million visitors annually. The company is ranked No. 5 on the list of top 10 theme park groups worldwide, placing ahead of major U.S.-based park operators such as Six Flags Group, Cedar Rapids Group and Sea World Attractions, among others.

Fantawild Animation’s series are broadcast nationally on more than 200 TV stations and have garnered more than 300 billion views on streaming services to date, according to Cinedigm. Internationally, the programs have been distributed to more than 120 countries and territories including the U.S., Italy, Russia and Singapore.

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“As we have demonstrated over the last year, Cinedigm’s mission is to partner with the world’s largest media brands and launch new streaming services … and this partnership dramatically expands that scope,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement. “Fantawild’s innovation and dedication to quality is on par with the world’s top animation companies, which makes its content acquired by the most renowned channels and digital platforms globally.”

With Cinedigm’s Chinese-based majority ownership, the home entertainment/OTT distributor has aggressively sought to mine that relationship in support of branded streaming video services such as Dove Channel, Docurama, CONtv and recently launched Bambu, a Chinese pop culture channel.

Fantawild’s “Boonie Bears” franchise is the country’s top animated media property, having the distinction of being the highest-rated TV series in the history of CCTV, China’s national TV network.

Daisy Shang, president of Fantawild Animation, said the Cinedigm partnership would be instrumental in achieving “our goals delivering and presenting our content to American audiences.”

Cinedigm Expands Linear/VOD Streaming Channels on Sony PlayStation, Android TV, Mobile Devices

Cinedigm Aug. 3 announced it has partnered with Littlstar to distribute its portfolio of linear and video-on-demand channels. Littlstar is a provider of film and television content to the gaming ecosystem, including Sony PlayStation, Android TV and related mobile devices.

Littlstar currently works with Discovery, Viacom, Showtime and Universal and is financially backed by A&E, Sony, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, WWE and Warner Bros., among others.

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“Cinedigm is on the pulse of what next generation viewers want, and we’re looking forward to innovating together with them to bring cutting edge content to new audiences,” Littlestar CEO Tony Mugavero said in a statement.

Littlstar will launch a selection of the Cinedigm streaming channels, including: The Bob Ross Channel, Comedy Dynamics, Chinese entertainment themed Bambu, Docurama, CONtv, Dove Channel, CONtv Anime, Whistle TV, horror-based Bloody Disgusting, So… Drama, featuring British and Australian dramas & mysteries, and So… Real, offering British non-fiction and reality TV series.

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“Our goal is to partner with companies that can help us reach new, highly engaged audiences,” said Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Networks. “Littlstar helps us reach the hundreds of millions of global viewers that use their gaming consoles to stream entertainment, on top of widespread footprint on mobile and connected televisions. Cinedigm will now reach more than three quarters of a billion devices globally.”

Cinedigm Partners With Bloody Disgusting for Ad-Supported Horror Streaming Network

Cinedigm and horror Web brand Bloody Disgusting have partnered to launch a new AVOD and ad-supported linear horror streaming network set to premiere in time for the Halloween season.

The network will offer a free source for horror content, targeting genre enthusiasts and casual viewers alike, according to a press release.

Featuring a mix of horror classics, contemporary cult favorites, and original programming, the channel will “reflect the programming and curatorial sensibilities” of Bloody Disgusting and the technology and distribution capabilities of Cinedigm, according to the release. Cinedigm will push the channel to more than 60 partners globally, which includes distribution partners such as Vizio, Samsung, Xumo and Tubi.

Horror is one of the most popular entertainment genres worldwide, representing over 9% of all film and entertainment spending and generating more than $1.2B in global ticket sales in 2019, according to the release.

“Despite a huge, mainstream fanbase, there is no dedicated ad-supported horror network on either basic cable or via linear OTT distribution,” according to the release. “Bloody Disgusting’s launch will fill an important void for operators in this popular genre.”

For nearly 20 years, Bloody Disgusting has been a destination for horror aficionados with an audience of more than 20 million dedicated fans seeking coverage of all things horror. The Chicago-based media company produces a namesake website and mobile app, and also produces the weekly show on YouTube “This Week in Horror” with a social footprint of more than 2 million engaged fans. Bloody Disgusting has also both produced and distributed films in the horror genre, including the Sundance Film Festival films V/H/S, V/H/S/2 and The Woman, as well as the TIFF Midnight Madness film Southbound.

The Bloody Disgusting channel will celebrate horror alongside feature presentations of their original films. New programming from Jon Grilz’ “Creepy,” “Bloody Disgusting’s Boo Crew,” “SCP Archives,” “Horror Queers” and “This Week in Horror” will also debut on the network this October with special trick-or-treat events planned for Halloween.

Cinedigm will also provide content from its catalog, which includes horror titles such as The Collector, Psycho, White Zombie and “Tales from the Crypt” and foreign favorites such as Destroy All Monsters, World of Kanako and Tenebrae.

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Bloody Disgusting has had more than 1.6 million downloads over the last 30 days, according to the release. Its podcasts regularly chart in the top 20 in their respective categories (Fiction, Film Review, and Film Interview). “Creepy” charts in the top five in fiction and is in the top 20 of all podcasts during the Halloween season. Both current and new podcasts will be made available in the consumer iOS and Android apps in addition to film and television programming. The company further expects to include additional mixed media content, including eBooks, comics and other content in the near future.

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“We are excited to bring our slate of original programming and network of podcasts to new audiences through this partnership. Cinedigm is the perfect partner to help bring this network to market,” said Tom Owen, president of Bloody Disgusting, in a statement.

“For nearly 20 years, Bloody Disgusting has been a leading tastemaker and the top media destination for the massive global horror fanbase,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement. “Our goal is to partner with the market leader when we launch new channels, and in the horror genre, there is no better partner than Bloody Disgusting. We are excited to scare the hell out of the world together.”

Cinedigm Reports 34% Q1 Digital Revenue Increase

Cinedigm July 13 announced its strongest fiscal first-quarter (ended June 30) performance in more than five years. Citing the current stay-at-home environment among consumers, streaming video viewership increased across all platforms, including transactional VOD. Digital revenue increased 34% from the previous-year period.

“We have been laser focused on aggregating and distributing thousands of titles to the key streaming platforms like Netflix, Apple and Amazon given the huge demand for independent premium content we are seeing from both existing and newly launched platforms,” said Yolanda Macias, EVP of Cinedigm Entertainment Group.

Macias said that with existing and new streaming platforms requiring a steady supply of digital content to keep pace competitively, Amazon, Apple, Vudu, Google, InDemand EST, Hoopla, Microsoft, Sony and Fandango Now all generated their strongest performance levels in history with Cinedigm — achieving over 60% year-over-year quarterly growth.

Los Angeles-based Cinedigm said next-day such as Hallmark’s “When Calls the Heart,” and ITV’s “Good Witch” series achieved strong consumer sales. Cinedigm orchestrated several consumer promotional programs to accelerate sales of digital catalog — including “Spring Sales,” “Mother’s Day,” “AnimeMay” and “June Weddings.”

Cinedigm closed eight new AVOD deals, including Redbox TV, Google and Fuse. Five more expansion deals are in process.

For children out of school and parents left to homeschool, Cinedigm has rolled out strategic promotions, including digital download activity books, digital bookmarks, and coloring books that coincide with educational content to increase content consumption and engage the platform’s audience.

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Cinedigm achieved 70% and 115% growth in Q1 from the previous-year period with content distribution partnership with Hoopla and Overdrive, respectively. In addition, the company executed a new business deal with Kanopy, a college library digital platform.

Cinedigm distributes film and TV content to more than 70 digital platforms in 180+ territories. Branded content includes co-productions in the action, western and military genres along with family (Hallmark, ZDF), anime (Konami Cross Media) and sports championship programs (NFL, NHL).

“We expect to continue these strong results going forward as our relationships with content producers and streaming content distribution platforms continue to get stronger and expand,” Macias said.

Cinedigm: OTT/Streaming Revenue Up 31%; COVID-19 Drops FY 2020 Revenue 27%,

Home entertainment/over-the-top video distributor Cinedigm July 6 reported that it narrowed its fiscal-year 2020 (ended March 31) net loss 10% to $14.7 million, from $15.9 million in FY 2019. Revenue dropped 27% to $39.2 million, from $53.5 million, largely due to the shutdown of the theatrical business. Cinedigm attributed the revenue decline to its digital projection business.

Meanwhile, streaming revenue increased 59% year-over-year, primarily driven by 466% growth in ad-supported linear television and ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) ad revenue growth. Total streaming-related revenue increased 31% year-over-year, with total sales of $24.4 million. Streaming-related billings now represent more than half of Cinedigm’s entertainment business.

“Clearly, we have made remarkable progress as an OTT/Streaming company over the last year, including achieving profitability in our core business in this fourth quarter by increasing [pre-tax earnings] by $3.5 million or 125% over last year,” CEO Chris McGurk said in a statement.

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McGurk said the distributor now markets a 16-channel OTT portfolio to include about 670 million global devices from more than 40 distribution partners worldwide.

“We grew ad-supported viewers on connected TV’s from zero to 13.2 million in 15 months, almost tripling viewers in just the last 7 months prior to May 31,” he said.

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“We are rapidly scaling up our streaming business to capitalize on the ongoing and permanent [pay-TV] cord-cutting shift towards OTT entertainment,” McGurk said. “Heavy streaming adoption rates, particularly for free, ad-supported linear channels, continue to dramatically accelerate.”

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said the company’s revised model is driven by signing and launching new channels, increasing distribution footprint, growing viewership, and achieving monetization with scale partners.

“Our focus on these four key areas can be reflected in our results and our deals with the best companies in the industry,” Opeka said. “Given this, Cinedigm has enormous prospects for growth in the coming fiscal year.”

Cinedigm also strengthened its balance sheet with the addition of a 26% ownership interest in China’s Starrise and $15.5 million debt reduction.

“Reducing this debt decreased our interest expense by $3 million annually,” said COO Gary Loffredo.