Cinedigm Acquires Fandor Streaming Service

Cinedigm has acquired Fandor, a subscription streaming service for independent films, documentaries and international features.

Fandor has a catalog of more than 4,600 film titles from more than 400 film companies.

Cinedigm plans to leverage its content library, technology, engineering and distribution capabilities to rapidly expand Fandor’s content offering, relaunch the service’s apps and dramatically expand distribution to Cinedigm’s global footprint of more than 900 million connected devices, according to a press release.

Cinedigm will continue to offer the service (currently at $5.99 per month) ad-free, but also plans to offer a free, ad-supported on-demand tier as well as a linear streaming channel.

Cinedigm plans to draw from a pool of more than 7,000 relevant film titles in its library, including thousands of classic, cult and foreign titles from streaming service The Film Detective, which it acquired in December 2020, according to the release.

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Cinedigm also plans to relaunch Keyframe, Fandor’s web and video-based publication dedicated to covering the art of cinema.

Phil Hopkins, president of Cinedigm’s Film Detective division, will oversee Fandor and Keyframe, with the goal of relaunching the service in the coming quarter.

“This acquisition of Fandor, coming on the heels of our Film Detective acquisition, solidifies Cinedigm’s position as the leading global streaming company for independent films,” Chris McGurk, Cinedigm chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “As a key element of our recently announced streaming rollup strategy, Fandor will immediately benefit from our streaming distribution muscle, huge library of independent films, Matchpoint technology, cost savings and infrastructure and synergies with our wide portfolio of enthusiast streaming channels. We fully expect an immediate EBITDA uplift from Fandor and strong revenue and profit growth going forward.”

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“The paradox of the streaming revolution is that it has never been harder to discover classic, essential and new independent and foreign films,” Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer and president of Cinedigm Networks, said in a statement. “The founders of Fandor had the right idea, launching very early in the streaming growth cycle while still establishing a strong and resilient brand and viewer base. Our mission at Cinedigm is to enable viewers, including independent film enthusiasts, to stream their passions, and I can’t think of a streaming service that is truer to our mission than Fandor.”

“The opportunity to leverage Fandor’s passionate community of independent film enthusiasts will be integral in the service’s growth,” Phil Hopkins, president of the Film Detective, said in a statement. “Being able to communicate and collaborate with this community of content creators, bloggers, and editorial writers will allow us to significantly expand Fandor into the global focal point for streaming independent films, documentaries, classics and foreign films.”

Opeka, Two Other Execs Promoted at Cinedigm

Cinedigm Corp. on Jan. 12 announced the promotion of Erick Opeka to chief strategy officer in addition to his current responsibilities as president of Digital Networks.

Opeka has 18 years of experience as an executive in entertainment and technology. As president of Cinedigm Networks, he oversees the
development, planning, launch and operation of the company’s portfolio of linear, ad-supported and subscription streaming services that reach more than 15 million monthly users across nearly 900 million addressable devices.

In addition to his role at Cinedigm, Opeka is on the board of directors and executive committee of OTT.X, the trade group representing the
streaming industry, and serves as an advisor to numerous streaming and entertainment companies through his work with seed accelerator Techstars.

He is also a member of the Producers Guild of America and the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences.

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Cinedigm also announced the promotions of two other executives. Gary Loffredo adds the title of president to his current roles as chief operating officer, general counsel and secretary of Cinedigm Corp. And Yolanda Macias has been upped to chief content officer of the Cinedigm Entertainment Group. She previously was EVP for the group.

“We have expanded these key roles for the senior leadership team to fully capitalize on the tremendous growth we are experiencing in our digital streaming business,” said Chris McGurk, Cinedigm chairman and CEO. “I am fully confident that we now have the best leadership team in place to
rapidly grow the business and expand our leadership position in streaming channels, content and technology.

“All aspects of our streaming business are already experiencing strong growth, from our ad-based channels to our viewership and paid subscriber base to our digital content licensing business, and this team is now perfectly focused and aligned to further expand that growth operationally, strategically and through the acquisition roll-up initiative of streaming assets we are currently pursuing.”

Cinedigm Posts $26.5 Million Q2 Loss

Cinedigm reported a $26.5 million loss for the second quarter (ended Sept. 30). That compared with a loss of $3 million during the previous-year period. The Los Angeles-based home entertainment distributor said revenue came in at just $7.1 million, down about 31% from revenue of $10.2 million a year ago.

On the positive side, Cinedigm said transactional VOD revenue increased 27% year-over-year, with ad-supported VOD streaming revenue up 44% over revenue in the first quarter of the fiscal year and 45% over the comparable quarter in 2019.

Streaming and digital content distribution’s adjusted pre-tax earnings increased 3% in the quarter versus the three-month period ended Sept. 30, 2019, and increased by $2.3 million, or 72%, from the six-month period last year.

Cinedigm said it reduced total debt by $20.9 million, or 40%, from the prior year, including conversion of $15 million of convertible notes to equity.

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The distributor Nov. 20 announced the launch of female-focused streaming linear channel MyTime Movie Network on The Roku Channel. During Q2, Cinedigm launched “hundreds of movies, TV episodes and three streaming channels” on NBCUniversal’s Peacock digital streaming platform; announced partnership with Fantawild, China’s largest theme park operator and producer of children’s animation in Asia, to launch a new global streaming service and distribute Fantawild’s animated content outside of China.

Cinedigm is majority-owned by China’s Bison Capital, a Hong Kong-based investment firm.

Other quarterly highlights included a partnership with Bloody Disgusting to launch a new horror streaming network that premiered for the Halloween season. The company also announced a partnership with TwentyOne14 Media to launch a new, urban multi-cultural entertainment and lifestyle network. Cinedigm also partnered with Rad to distribute Cinedigm’s portfolio of streaming channels. Rad is a provider of streaming content to the gaming ecosystem, where it claims to reach more 110 million Sony PlayStation consoles and other streaming devices, including Android TVs.

“We made strong progress in this seasonally slow quarter as streaming revenue continued to accelerate behind additional channel launches, platform/device expansion and enhanced digital sales, particularly TVOD,” CEO Chris McGurk said in a statement.

The market might not agree. Cinedigm shares are trading at 59 cents per share, which is below Nasdaq’s $1-per-share minimum.

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.”