EMA Announces Details for Concurrent LAES and OTT_X Conferences

The Entertainment Merchants Association will present two conferences — the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit (LAES) and the OTT_X conference — on July 16 at the Universal Hilton in Universal City, Calif.

The two conferences will address different aspects of the entertainment industry, according to the EMA. The LAES will examine the overall digital home entertainment marketplace, while the OTT_X conference, chaired by Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, will look at the over-the-top sector, including subscription and ad-supported VOD.

On July 17 conference attendees can participate in industry roundtables and discussions.

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Registrants for one conference can attend the other at no additional cost, and all attendees will be admitted to the opening night cocktail party from 6:30-8:30 p.m. July 16.

Registration begins at 7 a.m. July 16.

Opening remarks for the OTT_X conference begin at 9 a.m. followed by a research presentation at 9:15 a.m.; panels on monetization of OTT and windowing to enhance value and revenue; and a “Fireside Keynote” on AVOD.

Opening remarks for the LAES begin at 2 p.m., followed by a consumer panel, research presentation and keynote speaker to be determined.

Roundtables and workshops on July 17 include deep dives on conference research presentations, the EMA Retailing Council (EMA members only), supply chain, and OTT.

To register for the LAES, click here.

To register for the OTT_X conference, click here.

Cinedigm Launches SVOD Services on The Roku Channel

Cinedigm June 12 announced the launch of SVOD services on The Roku Channel. Roku users can access CONtv, Dove Channel and Docurama beginning today.

Roku Channel users can add the networks to their lineup for $4.99 a month for each. Viewers can browse CONtv, Dove, and Docurama’s programming libraries, personalized recommendations with a free trial period.

Dove Channel features an extensive selection of values-based films, children’s programs, documentaries and series. All content meets the standards of The Dove Foundation and its Faith & Family Dove Seals of Approval.

Dove Channel’s programming lineup include the long-running Canadian drama “Heartland,” Elizabeth Banks in “Lovely Still,” the animated adventure “Ribbit,” and William H. Macy and Brittany Snow in the faith-based drama Dial A Prayer, among many others.

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Adam Scott and Elizabeth Banks in ‘Lovely Still’

CONtv gives audiences access to hundreds of hours of content from an eclectic collection that puts the spotlight on elusive cult films and television shows, and celebrated genre movies ranging from sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, to anime, grindhouse, and martial arts action.

Titles include Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!, and Angela Anaconda, as well as art tutorial The Joy Of Painting with Bob Ross, the thriller Open Windows, and Selena Gomez in the 2014 rock n’ roll comedy Behaving Badly.

Docurama claims to be the first streaming video service devoted to documentary films. Curated by top experts and critics, Docurama delivers hundreds of hours of acclaimed documentaries suited to viewers of all tastes — featuring a content roster covering everything from personal profiles, sports and music, to hard-hitting political exposés and insightful interviews.

“Cinedigm is proud to continue our partnership with Roku, as we launch SVOD services for three of our most popular outlets on The Roku Channel,” Erick Opeka, president of digital networks at Cinedigm, said in a statement. “We look forward to providing Roku users with the eclectic premium programming that our networks are known for.”

Cinedigm’s CONtv, Docurama Available on Comcast’s Xfinity Service

Cinedigm April 26 announced that its subscription video-on-demand services CONtv and Docurama are now available on Comcast’s cloud-based Xfinity X1 platform.

X1 subs can stream CONtv’s roster of classic cult films and forgotten series, and Docurama’s library of award-winning documentaries directly on their televisions. The two Cinedigm properties follow faith-based network The Dove Channel, which launched on X1 last year.

CONtv and Docurama can be added to X1 customers’ service for $4.99 and $2.99 per month respectively, and Internet-only customers can also subscribe via Xfinity Flex.

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This month, X1 customers can enjoy CONtv’s newest additions such as childhood classics “Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego” and “Angela Anaconda,” as well as the art tutorial “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross, the sword-and-sorcery Arthur & Merlin, and Selena Gomez in the 2014 rock n’ roll comedy Behaving Badly.

Curated by the industry’s top experts and critics, Docurama delivers hundreds of hours of acclaimed documentaries suited to viewers of all tastes—boasting a content roster covering everything from personal profiles, sports, and music, to hard-hitting political exposés and insightful interviews.

“These launches further our commitment to redefining the traditional viewing experience and provide even more viewers across the country with the same programming that our networks are known for — appealing to viewers of all tastes, whether they’re sci-fi enthusiasts or looking for something a little more down-to-earth,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement.

EMA to Present OTT Conference July 16-17

The Entertainment Merchants Association will present an over-the-top channels market and conference “OTT_X” July 16-17 at the Universal Hilton in Universal City, Calif.

The invitation-only event for C-level leaders in the OTT segment of the entertainment industry will consist of one-on-one business meetings between content providers and ad-supported and subscription OTT channels, a half-day conference featuring industry analysts and thought leaders, a service and technology providers showcase, high-speed introductory meetings specifically designed for burgeoning OTT channels, and networking events, according to the EMA.

OTT_X will be co-located with, but separate from, the EMA’s Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, the annual get-together of the home video industry, according to the EMA.

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, will chair the confab.

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“Until now, there hasn’t been a set marketplace where buyers and sellers, providers, and distributors of OTT content can come together to network and connect in a meaningful way,” Opeka said in a statement. “That’s one of the driving forces that makes OTT_X such an important event. Through this dynamic gathering of industry leaders and pioneers, we have created an incredible opportunity where executives can explore potential partnerships with the outlets and providers that are best suited to their unique interests and needs. Our ultimate goal is that this will enable efficient and effective agreements to be made, while further expanding and revolutionizing the OTT landscape.”

“The OTT segment of the video industry is growing tremendously and needs a premier event to bring key players together to do business, share knowledge, and expand their contacts, and that is what EMA is providing with the OTT_X market and conference,” added Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO, in a statement.

The OTT_X steering committee consists of David Bloom (media journalist), Dean Cates (The Africa Channel), George Chung (JungoTV), Paul Colichman (Here Media), Gary Delfiner (Digital Sylvia), Pat McDonough (Mill Creek Entertainment), Colin Petrie-Norris (Xumo), Steve Raymond (Vubiquity), Carlos Sanchez (Legendary Entertainment) and Randy Wells (Magnolia Pictures).

Cinedigm Bows CONtv on AVOD Service Pluto TV

Cinedigm April 16 announced the launch of genre-focused CONtv on the ad-supported online television service Pluto TV.

The latter’s users will have access to CONtv’s library of films, classic TV series and original curated programming as a linear ad-supported version or premium SVOD option.

Launched in 2015, the $4.99 monthly CONtv features access to thousands of hours of content from an eclectic collection that puts the spotlight on elusive cult films and television shows, and genre movies ranging from sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, to anime, grindhouse, and martial arts epics.

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Pluto TV, a Viacom subsidiary, features more than 100 live and linear channels and thousands of movies and TV series on-demand. As part of the deal, Pluto TV’s monthly users will also be able to access Cinedigm’s over-the-top networks (i.e. The Dove Channel, Documrama, etc.) across all streaming, mobile and web-based devices.

This month’s slate of new additions include classics, Hey Vern, It’s Ernest! and Angela Anaconda, as well as art tutorial “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross, thriller Open Windows, starring Elijah Wood, and Selena Gomez in the 2014 rock n’ roll comedy Behaving Badly.

“This launch marks the continuation of Cinedigm’s partnership with Pluto TV, furthering our commitment to redefining the traditional television landscape by offering viewers unique premium programming,” Erick Opeka, president of digital networks at Cinedigm, said in a statement.

“We constantly strive to provide content that appeals to both broad and niche audiences. CONtv delivers this ideal offering to viewers adding greater dimension to Pluto’s extensive library of content,” said Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships for San Franciosco-based Pluto TV.

Cinedigm Touts Cloud-Based Tech for Pending Chinese AVOD Channel

Cinedigm April 11 gave a shout out to a cloud-based technology company it is in the process of acquiring.

The home entertainment distributor recently entered into an agreement to acquire Future Today for $45 million in cash, and $15 million in common stock. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2019.

Cinedigm said it would use Future Today’s cloud-based technology and ad-based monetization platform for the June launch of its Chinese-themed ad-supported VOD channel Bambu.

Future Today owns and operates more than 700 content channels with more than 60 million app installs, and managing 200,000-plus film, television and digital content assets Cinedigm claims receive 85 million video views per month.

Using their advertising technology and sales capabilities, Cinedigm says Future Today will play a crucial role in the monetization of Bambu, which includes television, set-top boxes, mobile apps and online services.

With a primary focus on millennial and Gen Z viewers, Bambu offers curated programming spanning far beyond stereotypical martial arts dramas, instead putting the spotlight on actioners, serials, romantic comedies, sci-fi, horror and fantasy, as well as music, reality series and educational programming ranging from instructional Chinese language courses to culinary shows.

Movies include Jackie Chan in the 2017 fantasy Namiya, Ziyi Zhang in the 2013 spy farce My Lucky Star, sci-fi mystery Battle of Memories, supernatural rom-com Beautiful Accident, road trip comedy Breakup Buddies, the noir-inspired crime drama Cock and Bull, cat-and-mouse thriller The Devotion of Suspect Xand father-and-son drama Lost and Love, among others.

TV shows include “Journey to the West,” the most-watched television show in Chinese history; current hit “Diamond Lover,” and the acclaimed documentary series “A Bite of China,” among others.

“[Future Today’s] long-established and highly successful advertising and sales strategies are a truly invaluable resource that will play a vital role in further expanding [Bambu’s],” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement.

Cinedigm Developing OTT Channel with Former NFL Player Trevor Pryce

Cinedigm April 10 announced a development deal with former NFL player Trevor Pryce and his Baltimore-based multimedia organization Outlook Company. As part of the agreement, Cinedigm will serve as the development and distribution partner for Outlook’s pending over-the-top video network.

Cinedigm Digital Networks will provide full digital distribution of the channel, including third-party platforms, a linear channel, home entertainment licensing support and Ad-supported VOD and subscription VOD services across all major mobile devices, connected TVs, and set-top boxes. Cinedigm will also build all direct-to-consumer apps.

Trevor Pryce

Following a 14-year career in the National Football League, Pryce wrote the award-winning young adult novel and comic series, “Kulipari: An Army of Frogs,” which was adapted into an animated series by Netflix in 2016.

“Kulipari” chronicles several Australian Outback species as they fight for power and survival. In its inaugural season, the series featured the voice talents Keith David, Lacey Chabert, Phil LaMarr, Wendie Malick, Laraine Newman, and Charlie Adler.

In the second season, “Kulipari: Dream Walker,” Star Wars icon Mark Hamill joined the series as the wise hermit Old Jir — a role that recently earned the veteran actor a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Performer In An Animated Program.

The linear channel’s content will be created by Pryce and his team, with a morning block offering original animated programming for pre-school children under the “Towns of Lil’ Lookbanner,” followed by afternoon and evening blocks putting the spotlight on Kulipari.

The channel will also include the adult-oriented late night lineup “We Check ID,” focusing on podcasts, music, animation, and pop culture. Viewers can expect new and original content created by Outlook Company’s Maryland-based studio OVFX.

“Our team is skilled in creating content and strategies for a wide range of demographics and tastes, and we look forward to using this expertise to make this new channel successful,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement.




Bill Sondheim Exits Cinedigm After Five Years as President of Distributor’s Entertainment Group

Bill Sondheim has left independent content distributor Cinedigm Corp. after more than five years as president, industry sources told Media Play News.

Sondheim was not available for comment, but a Cinedigm publicist confirmed his departure and noted that he will not be replaced.

Sondheim for years has been a respected home entertainment executive, known for taking independent content and exploiting it across multiple distribution channels. He has long advocated that digital is the future but physical remains viable.

Sondheim had his duties expanded last November when he was named president of worldwide distribution, charged with leading the company’s China/North America pipeline in addition to managing distribution in the rest of the world. He remained president of the Cinedigm Entertainment Group, overseeing all content rights management across all distribution channels that Cinedigm serves, including managing all sales of physical and digital goods to retail partners and all transactional and subscription digital outlets.

Cinedigm maintains a library of 50,000 films and TV episodes, and direct relationships with over 60,000 physical stores and digital retailers, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon. The company also provides feature films and series to Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as cable and satellite providers Comcast, Dish Network and DirecTV.

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Since Chinese investment firm Bison Capital completed a majority investment in Cinedigm in late 2017, Cinedigm has focused its efforts on creating a two-way flow of content between North America and China and has established deep relationships with leading Chinese content providers, streaming services, and government agencies, all under Sondheim’s guidance. Cinedigm recently announced the planned launch of a new OTT streaming service in North America called Bambu, bringing Chinese content to young, trend-setting Americans.

Before joining Cinedigm in October 2013, Sondheim was president of entertainment and worldwide distribution for Gaiam, later Gaiam Vivendi, which was ultimately sold to Cinedigm. From 2005 to 2007, he oversaw the development of Sony Music Entertainment’s dual disc technology initiative.

Before Sony, Sondheim was president of GT Brands LLC and, before that, president of Polygram Filmed Entertainment’s video distribution entity when it appeared PolyGram was on the cusp of becoming the seventh major, through hit theatrical movies like What Dreams May Come, with Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr., and The Game, with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. Those plans were dashed when the company was sold to Seagram Company Ltd. in 1998. Two years later, PolyGram Films was folded.

Sondheim has managed properties associated with the NFL, NBA, MLB, Reebok, Scholastic, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and fitness personalities including Jillian Michaels, Richard Simmons, and Kathy Smith.

Sondheim’s future plans remain unclear, but sources say he plans to remain in the business with a new venture.

Source say Bill Perrault, SVP of marketing for Cinedigm Entertainment Group, also has left.

In a news release issued shortly after Media Play News’ story about Sondheim’s departure, Cinedigm said the executive’s exit was one of several “leadership changes within the company’s Content Entertainment Group to reflect the company’s evolving focus on digital streaming and content aggregation following its recent announcement to acquire Future Today Inc., a leading OTT streaming video platform.”

The release noted that Sondheim will continue to provide the company with consulting services. No new president will be named; instead, the Content Entertainment Group will be led by EVP Yolanda Macías and SVP Dan Coyle.

“These moves continue the company’s efforts to streamline corporate structure and enhance management effectiveness and synergy,” Cinedigm said in the release.

Macías, a 25-year industry vet, is responsible for acquiring global content rights and oversees digital distribution across all world-wide platforms. Like Sondheim, she began her tenure at Cinedigm after the Gaiam Vivendi acquisition in 2013. Previously, Macías held executive positions at DIRECTV, Technicolor and the Walt Disney Company. She was also honored as one of the Top 50 Women in Business by the Los Angeles Business Journal and as one of Media Play News‘ 2018 Digital Drivers.

Coyle, too, joined Cinedigm after the company’s acquisition of Gaiam Vivendi in 2013. As SVP of sales, Coyle is responsible for strategic planning and sales of physical media for the company’s catalog of independent film and television titles. Coyle previously held the same position at Gaiam since 2005. Prior to Gaiam, he was VP of retail operations aat Goodtimes Entertainment, which he joined in 1991. There, he helped launch the first VMI program in the video industry.

Cinedigm Inks Distribution Deal with China’s CMC Pictures

Cinedigm March 19 announced a partnership with CMC Pictures, distributor of Chinese movies and television shows. Under the deal, Cinedigm will release select CMC Pictures theatrical titles on DVD/Blu-ray Disc, digital, and television.

CMC Pictures titles include sci-fi title The Wandering Earth, Pegasus, Wolf Warrior 2, Detective Chinatown 2, and Animal World, among others.

“CMC Pictures represents the highest caliber of Chinese productions across a wide range of genres and with cast recognizable to international audiences,” Yolanda Macias, EVP of acquisitions and digital sales at Cinedigm, said in a statement.

Established in 2016, the studio operates as the international sales and distribution arm of China Media Capital Inc., a Chinese state-backed media and entertainment conglomerate producing movies and TV content, in addition to related businesses such as artist and sports agencies, cinemas, urban recreational complexes and theme parks.

Last summer CMC raised $1.5 billion in venture funding from China’s Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings, among other investors. CMC owns a stake in English Premier League soccer franchise Manchester United and a separate joint venture with Warner Bros. Entertainment.

The company is headed by Ruigang Li, often considered China’s Rupert Murdoch.

CMC Inc. founder/CEO Li Ruigang

The first picture under the Cinedigm deal includes The Road Not Taken, an offbeat road picture, following a bumbling ostrich farmer (Wang Xuebing), who journeys across the Gobi Desert in hopes of reconciling with his estranged wife, but ends up forming a makeshift family along the way.

The picture, directed by first time filmmaker Gaopeng Tang, screened as a selection of the “Focus on China” event at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, and was an official Golden Globe submission in the Foreign Language film category for China.

The pact reflects Cinedigm’s increasing role as go-to distributor for the distribution of Chinese content in North America. Majority-owned by Bison Capital, a Hong Kong based investment firm, Cinedigm recently announced the launch of Bambu, a digital channel which will be focused on Chinese content. Bambu will be available via major streaming devices and pay-TV carriage later this year in the US.

Cinedigm Acquiring AVOD Platform ‘Future Today’ for $60 Million

Cinedigm March 15 announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Future Today, one of the largest ad-supported VOD networks, for $45 million in cash and $15 million in Cinedigm common stock.

The acquisition increases Cinedigm’s over-the-top video footprint to over 7.6 million monthly active users and 67 million total app installs.

The Los Angeles-based home entertainment distributor said Future Today, which owns and operates more than 700 content channels with more than 60 million app installs, and manages more than 200,000 film, television and digital content assets,generated about $23.9 million in revenue in 2018.

Future Today brands include Fawesome.tv, focused on general entertainment movies & television shows, and HappyKids.tv, providing age-specific edutainment in the connected TV market.

Alok Ranjan and Vikrant Mathur, co-founders of Future Today, will continue to lead the subsidiary as co-presidents, entering into long-term employment agreements with Cinedigm upon the deal closing.

“Building our stake in the rapidly surging AVOD business is a top priority for Cinedigm, and the acquisition instantaneously transforms our company into the world’s largest provider of premium [ad-supported] content,” Chris McGurk, chairman/CEO of Cinedigm said in a statement.

Future Today’s cloud-based technology and ad-based monetization platform manages OTT services for more than 350 content owners, producers, distributors and major media companies helping them launch and monetize connected TV channels across all devices.

“Alok and Vikrant have built Future Today into one of the most respected and fastest growing companies monetizing video content today,” said Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks. “Their entrepreneurial spirit and deep knowledge of the video ad space, combined with Cinedigm’s content and relationships, will be a formidable and compelling combination in the rapidly growing AVOD segment.”

The transaction is expected to close in the second calendar quarter of 2019 and is subject to customary closing conditions.