HBO Max Acquires ‘Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness’ Docu-Comedy Series

HBO Max has acquired CNN Original Series “Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness,” premiering Aug. 27 on the subscription streaming video service. The four-part buddy comedy docuseries follows actor/documentarian/philanthropist Patel (“Meet the Patels”) as he travels the world seeking answers surrounding life’s universal questions.

Both CNN and HBO Max are owned and operated by AT&T’s WarnerMedia Entertainment.

At each stop, Patel is joined by a friend or family member, with whom he shares a big conflict or question about life. He travels to Mexico with his parents to discuss retirement and aging; Japan with his wife to explore parenting and gender roles; Korea with his entrepreneur friend to confront their issues with work/life balance; Denmark with his Muslim friend to explore an immigration crisis not unlike ours here in America.

“I’m obsessed with trying new things and getting better,” Patel said in a statement. “With the world in such a crazy place right now, maybe this show is what some of us need, if anything for a laugh or two.”

Lizzie Fox, SVP of nonfiction programming at HBO Max, said Patel’s interactions and lessons learned throughout his travels will resonate with viewers, “showing that we are truly all connected and have more in common than we think.”

Patel’s documentary work began when he co-directed and starred in “Meet the Patels,” in 2014. As an actor, he’s appeared in Transformers, Netflix’s “Master of None,” SXSW’s comedy “Come As You Are,” and Seth Rogen’s Long Shot. He co-created and stars in “Bhaag Beanie Bhaag,” premiering this fall on Netflix, and will also be seen in the upcoming film Wonder Woman 1984.

CNN, Fox News Continue Monthly Digital Viewership Battle

With President Trump regularly politicizing news coverage on CNN and Fox News (and other media outlets), both media companies have gone on the offense touting monthly digital viewership and market penetration.

CNN June 16 proclaimed it had “172 million U.S. Unique Visitors in May,” or 64% of the domestic Internet population, according to Comscore.

Fox News Digital said it finished May tracking double-digit increases versus the prior year across several performance indicators, including multiplatform views (up 17% from May 2019) and multiplatform unique visitors (up 12% increase).

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It claimed a sixth consecutive month with more than 100 million multiplatform unique visitors, adding that its Fox News Mobile App finished ahead of the CNN Mobile App for the 18th month in a row in unique visitors (8.5 million vs. CNN’s 7 million), and its third month scoring over 8 million unique visitors.

CNN countered that CNN.com had 151 Million mobile unique visitors in May compared with 94 million for FoxNews.com. The WarnerMedia property had 668 Million multiplatform video starts in April compared with 379 million for Fox.

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Among millennials (between the ages of 18-34), CNN touted 46 million unique multiplatform visitors compared with 21 million for Fox. For political coverage, CNN reported 74 million multiplatform unique visitors in May compared with 29.7 million unique visitors for Fox News Politics.

Meanwhile, Fox said its online coronavirus landing page was the top category page on the site in terms of page views and visitors spent five times longer on Fox News Digital’s coronavirus landing page than CNN’s live blog, according to data from SimilarWeb.

Fox News Digital Eyes Double-Digit Viewing Increase in April

Fox News Digital said it finished the month of April with double-digit viewership increases, including multiplatform views (up 26% from April 2019), multiplatform minutes (19%) and multiplatform unique visitors (20%).

Fox attributed the increase to viewer interest in the coronavirus pandemic.

The network, citing ComScore data, also reported new highs in multiplatform unique visitors (121.5 million), total multiplatform views (1.9 billion) and total multiplatform minutes (4.5 billion minutes). This April marked the second-highest month of multiplatform unique visitors, coming only behind March 2020, as well as notched the network’s fifth consecutive month with over 100 million multiplatform unique visitors.

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Fox said its branded mobile news app topped CNN’s app in viewers with 8.7 million unique visitors compared to 7.3 million for CNN.

Multi-Platform Total Minutes
Fox News Digital – 4.5 billion (up 19%)
CNN.com – 5.4 billion (up 90%)

Multi-Platform Total Views
Fox News Digital – 1.97 billion (up 26%)
CNN.com – 2.93 billion (up 100%)

Multi-Platform Unique Visitors
FOX News Digital – 121.5 million (up 20%)
CNN.com – 165 million (up 33%)

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Randall Stephenson’s Legacy: Backing Media in Partisan Era

Just hours after AT&T announced that its CEO Randall Stephenson would be stepping down in July after 13 years, President Donald Trump called Stephenson’s departure “great news!” in reference to WarnerMedia’s ownership of CNN, which the president often clashes with.

“Randall Stephenson, the CEO of heavily indebted AT&T, which owns and presides over Fake News @CNN, is leaving, or was forced out. Anyone who lets a garbage ‘network’ do and say the things that CNN does, should leave ASAP. Hopefully replacement will be much better!” Trump tweeted April 24 on social media.

Stephenson’s departure comes as AT&T grapples with shrinking pay-TV subscribers at DirecTV and AT&T U-verse, an online TV misfire with DirecTV Now (rebranded as AT&T TV), and $163 billion in debt — a figure that grew by $5.5 billion earlier this month following a third-party loan during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some have speculated the DOJ’s repeated attempts to nix AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner (and formation of WarnerMedia Entertainment) in 2016 stemmed from the president’s public animosity toward CNN.

“CNN’s job is not to be popular with the president,” Stephenson said at the time of the merger. “CNN’s job is really simple: It’s the job of all media: to hold people in power accountable.”

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Strong words from a CEO who often criticized government regulation, welcomed Trump’s corporate tax cut and was frequently accused of telling Wall Street that he preferred taking care of shareholders over consumers.

Indeed, in the first quarter (ended March 31), AT&T’s dividends paid for common shares totaling $3.7 billion (up 47% since 2017) and the company repurchased 142 million of its common shares for $4.7 billion.

Stephenson made headlines in 2017, when, as National Chair of the Boy Scouts of America, he criticized Trump’s address at the Boy Scouts of America’s annual Jamboree in West Virginia.

Trump had turned his speech into a partisan political rally, criticizing Obamacare, reiterating his 2016 election victory over Hillary Clinton, reportedly asking for greater loyalty from scouts and their parents and criticizing former President Barack Obama for not attending the Jamboree — a tradition among presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937.

“Anyone knows his speeches get highly political — we anticipated that this could be the case,” Stephenson told The Associated Press. “Do I wish the president hadn’t gone there and hadn’t been political? Of course.”

Stephenson’s dogged defense of CNN continued despite some concern on Wall Street the global network founded by billionaire Ted Turner could undermine AT&T’s businesses going forward.

“This is one of those issues you just ask, ‘What is the right thing to do?'” Stephenson said at a Wall Street Journal forum as reported by The Dallas Morning News. “And then you do the right thing.”

Craig Moffett, analyst with MoffettNathanson, said Stephenson leaves behind a company that transformed from telecom operator to media conglomerate.

“But the jury is still out if the transformation is for better or worse,” Moffett told CNBC.

CNN Records Largest Digital Audience In History In January

WarnerMedia Entertainment’s CNN news division began 2020 with the highest audience numbers in its history for both total audience and mobile audience, outpacing all competitors for nearly four years for U.S. unique visitors, nearly five years for video and nine months for global unique visitors.

Citing ComScore monthly data, CNN’s digital audience in the U.S. in January was a record 148 million unique visitors and a record 128 million mobile unique visitors. CNN held the position as the #1 global digital news brand in December 2019.

Adobe Analytics data revealed record CNN global traffic in January as well, and underscored the brand’s strength in the U.S., ranking again as the #1 digital news outlet in January in the key categories of multi-platform unique visitors, mobile unique visitors, multi-platform video starts (Dec. 2019), millennial unique visitors and political unique visitors.

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CNN saw a larger global audience than any other news platform in the world in December 2019, with 165 million unique multi-platform visitors, 20 million more than second place BBC and 37 million more than third place The Daily Mail. Other top sites included: Yahoo News – 123 million unique visitors; The New York Times – 118 million unique visitors; FoxNews.com – 104 million unique visitors.

CNN posted 148 million unique multi-platform visitors domestically in January. This was 34 million more unique visitors than second-place Fox News and 41 million more unique visitors than The New York Times.

Others included NBCNews.com – 93.3 million unique visitors; WashingtonPost.com – 92.6 million unique visitors; DailyMail.co.uk – 89 million unique visitors.

CNN’s mobile audience continued to top 100 million unique visitors in January with an all-time record of 128 million mobile unique visitors – 33 million more mobile unique visitors than both second-place Fox News and third-place The New York Times. Others included Dailymail.co.uk – 84 million unique visitors; NBCNews.com – 83 million unique visitors; WashingtonPost.com – 79 million unique visitors.

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CNN again ranked as #1 in digital video with 522 million multi-platform video starts, generating 210 million more video starts than its nearest competitor Fox News in December 2019. Others included Yahoo News – 290 million video starts; ABCNews.com Sites – 153 million video starts; MSN News – 123 million video starts; MSNBC TV – 116 million video starts.

CNN saw a larger audience of millennial multi-platform unique visitors (between the ages of 18-34) than any other competitor in January with 42 million. Others included The New York Times – 30 million millennial unique visitors; Dailymail.co.uk – 28 million millennial unique visitors; WashingtonPost.com – 27 million millennial unique visitors; NBCNews.com – 24 million millennial unique visitors, and FoxNews.com – 23 million millennial unique visitors.

CNN continued to reign on top of all political news sources at the start of Election Year 2020, as the #1 ranked political news destination in January with 58 million multi-platform unique visitors, 50 million mobile unique visitors and 74 million multi-platform video starts (December 2019) .

January was the second biggest month ever for CNN politics mobile audience behind December 2019. CNN has remained the #1 online political news outlet since March 2015 when the first person declared their candidacy for president in the 2016 race.

Other top political platforms include TheHill.com –34 million unique visitors; Politico.com – 31 million unique visitors; Fox News Politics– 24 million unique visitors; MSNBC TV – 15.4 million unique visitors and NBCNews.com Politics – 14.7 million unique visitors. 

HBO Max Orders CNN Content, Anthony Bourdain Doc and Floral Competition Series

WarnerMedia’s pending SVOD service HBO Max is ordering and partnering with CNN on documentaries and films for the service and has ordered a competition series, “Full Bloom,” about floral arranging.

HBO Max is sent to launch in spring 2020. WarnerMedia is the also the parent corporation of CNN.

HBO Max, CNN Films and Focus Features are partnering for a documentary film about celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, to be directed and produced by Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?).  Focus Features will first release the documentary exclusively in theaters worldwide before the film premieres on television on CNN and streams via HBO Max. CNN Films and HBO Max will executive produce the film. The late Bourdain worked for CNN for five years on his series “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown” and at CNN Films on a theatrical documentary about a chef who inspired him, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, in 2016.

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“It requires a filmmaker as expert and prolific as Morgan Neville to capture the essence of a raconteur and world explorer like Anthony Bourdain,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max, in a statement.

HBO Max has also greenlit four original unscripted projects from CNN. The slate includes “Heaven’s Gate” and “Generation Hustle” (working title) from CNN Original Series and two feature-length documentaries, The Scoop and Persona (working title), from CNN Films. “Heaven’s Gate” is a four-part HBO Max original from CNN Original Series that explores the infamous religious movement that culminated in the biggest mass suicide to ever take place on U.S. soil. “Generation Hustle” (working titleis a 10-part HBO Max original from CNN Original Series about the lengths young people will go to for fame, fortune and power. The Scoop (working title) is a documentary feature produced by CNN Films and will following the lives of CNN’s female political reporters as they cover the most unpredictable presidential campaign in American history. Persona (working title) is a documentary feature produced by CNN Films that explores the unexpected origin story of America’s obsession with personality testing.

Finally, HBO Max has ordered “Full Bloom,” an eight-episode, hour-long competition series featuring 10 of America’s budding florists vying to be crowned America’s best. Contestants will design and execute elaborate floral creations. Each episode features themed challenges centered around a unique stem of the floristry world, including fashion, art, events and weddings. Contestants’ designs and creations will be mentored and judged by floristry artists Maurice Harris and Elizabeth Cronin with celebrity florist Simon Lycett serving as host. At the end of each episode, unsuspecting people will be surprised with a floral arrangement.

CNN Launching Digital News Service

WarnerMedia’s CNN property is reportedly readying a standalone subscription based news service that would target the news organization’s online  audience — and also pay third-party news sources.

The move comes after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. subsidiary announced plans to launch Knewz.com, which seeks to aggregate third-party and original content.

As more people seek out world and local news online, TV news departments and print publications are melding operations internally with over-the-top video platforms to compete with social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

While CNN lags behind Fox News in monthly pay-TV viewership, it bests the Rupert Murdoch property online with 130,000 more unique eyeballs per month than Fox, according to comScore.

“In the same way that entertainment companies don’t want to cede ground to the streaming platforms, why should we cede the ground of journalism to the technology platforms,” CNN digital chief Andrew Morse told The Information.

WarnerMedia Eyes Global Footprint; Names Giorgio Stock President of Europe, Middle East Operations

WarnerMedia Aug. 2 announced the appointment of Giorgio Stock to the new role of President, WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks, Distribution and Advertising Sales, EMEA and APAC.

With immediate effect, Stock, previously President, EMEA, for Turner, takes on responsibility for all entertainment networks, distribution of all networks, advertising sales and the kids networks operations in Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific region.

Stock will continue to be based in London and reports into Chief Revenue Officer Gerhard Zeiler.

Giorgio Stock

In his new role, Stock will be supported by the leadership team of Ricky Ow, President Turner Asia Pacific, Hervé Payan, CEO HBO Europe, and Jonathan Spink, CEO HBO Asia, all of whom now report into him.

“In his previous role as President, Turner EMEA, Giorgio transformed the organization and built a strong team who together invested in excellent premium content, created new revenue streams and optimized business operations,” Zeiller said.

The appointment represents WarnerMedia’s decision to give Europe and Middle Eastern operations singular leadership through the existing strengths of the Turner and HBO businesses, while also equipping them for further collaboration and growth.

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In addition to Stock, the international executives reporting to Zeiler are Whit Richardson, President Turner Latin America, and Rani Raad, President CNNI Commercial.

Stock joined the company in 2013 as President Turner EMEA with executive oversight of all Turner kids and entertainment networks in the region, including digital and media services of core brands such as Cartoon Network, Boomerang, TNT and TCM as well as kids streaming service Toonix, available direct-to-consumer and via a partnership with HBO Nordic, the network’s over-the-top video service .

His role also included the distribution of CNN’s services, and licensing and merchandising activity in Europe, the Middle East and Africa as well as international L&M liaison.

Stock joined Turner after a 15-year career with Disney where he held publishing and content leadership roles out of Paris, New York, Milan and London overseeing television, publishing, retail, music and gaming.

 

 

 

WarnerMedia Entertainment to Boycott Georgia Should Anti-Abortion Ban Become Law

WarnerMedia Entertainment May 30 joined Disney and Netflix in pledging to withdraw movie and TV show productions from Georgia should the state’s new anti-abortion law go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Gov. Brian Kemp May 8 signed legislation outlawing women from terminating their pregnancy six weeks after becoming pregnant. Georgia currently bans abortions after 20 weeks.

“We operate and produce work in many states and within many countries at any given time and while that doesn’t mean we agree with every position taken by a state or a country and their leaders, we do respect due process,” WarnerMedia said in a media statement. “We will watch the situation closely and if the new law holds, we will reconsider Georgia as the home of any new productions. As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine where and how to shoot any given project.”

In addition to CNN and Turner in Atlanta, WarnerMedia has significant content production in Georgia, which has been home to a hotbed of film and TV production for years due to generous tax incentives.

Viacom Takes Paramount+ Streaming Service to Latin America; Inks CNN Content Deal with Pluto TV

Viacom International Media Networks is set to expand the Paramount+ streaming video platform to Latin America.

The SVOD service, which first launched in Scandinavia (in response to HBO Nordics in 2017 and later in Central and Eastern Europe – known as Paramount Play), will become available May 1 in Brazil in a partnership with telecom NET, followed by wider distribution through a mobile deal with America Movil.

Paramount+ affords Viacom and Paramount Pictures international streaming distribution of more than 150 movies and original TV shows, including “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, “The Handmaids’ Tale” (available exclusively on Hulu in the U.S.), in addition to branded content from MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.

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“By forging partnerships with the world’s leading operators and distributors, we are able to bring Viacom’s premium content to new global audiences,” David Lynn, president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, said in a media statement. “As the media landscape continues to evolve, we will aggressively innovate to expand our partner offerings, including Paramount+, across our massive global footprint.”

Indeed, while Paramount+ represents Viacom’s aggressive strategy to close the digital divide with rival studios, following the recent purchase of Pluto TV, Viacom is fortifying the ad-supported VOD platform with proprietary and third-party content.

Pluto TV just announced a new channel launch featuring content from WarnerMedia’s CNN – which itself is planning an OTT video product in 2020.

“At a time when news cycles are never-ending, in a world that is constantly evolving, CNN’s coveted daily reporting and in-depth features are perfect for our audience to be informed, with immediacy, accuracy and ease,” Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships at Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Pluto TV’s mission to ‘entertain the planet’ also means informing the planet of what is going on in the world, and there is no better partner than the most trusted name in news.”