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.”

Appeals Court Denies DOJ Bid to Block AT&T’s $85 Billion Time Warner Purchase

A federal appeals court Feb. 26 ruled against the Justice Department’s attempt to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which led to the formation of WarnerMedia.

The court found that a lower court judge’s decision last summer approving of the transaction did not violate antitrust guidelines.

“The judgment of the district court appealed from this cause is hereby affirmed,” the court wrote in its ruling.

The Justice Department had argued that the merger would enable AT&T, which also owns DirecTV, to leverage its stake in the satellite operator to force pay-TV competitors to pay more for content from Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, which includes CNN.

Some observers speculated the government’s attempt to block the deal revolved more around President Trump’s openly hostile approach to CNN, which he has labeled “fake news,” and, along with other media outlets not named Fox News, an “enemy of the people.”

Indeed, the DOJ’s legal challenges represented the first to a corporate vertical merger in four years.

 

WarnerMedia Alleges Politics in Dish Network Dispute

WarnerMedia is accusing the Department of Justice of using a carriage disagreement with Dish Network as leverage in its appeal of a federal judge’s favorable verdict in AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia — which includes HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. — for the first time (Nov. 1) pulled HBO and Cinemax from Dish Network after it claimed the satellite operator refused to negotiate. The move reportedly affected about 2.5 million of Dish’s 13 million pay-TV subscribers.

“Dish’s proposals and actions made it clear they never intended to seriously negotiate an agreement,” Simon Sutton, HBO president and chief revenue officer, said in a statement as reported by Reuters.

While carriage disagreements and negotiations aren’t uncommon, the AT&T/Time Warner merger is different. The deal has been entangled in partisan politics since the election of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s ongoing characterizations of certain media outlets — notably Turner’s CNN — as fake news and biased against him has prompted allegations the Justice Department’s last-minute objection to the merger was more about politics than antitrust issues.

The DOJ contends AT&T has too much power owning and controlling major content creators and distribution channels — leverage it claims hurts consumers. The carriage dispute, says the government, offers a blueprint example of that.

“This behavior, unfortunately, is consistent with what the Department of Justice predicted would result from the merger,” said a DOJ representative. “We are hopeful the Court of Appeals will correct the errors of the District Court.”

WarnerMedia says Dish is using the current political environment to extract more favorable contract terms. Indeed, it alleges Dish is collaborating with DOJ on the issue.

“That collaboration continues to this day with Dish’s tactical decision to drop HBO — not the other way around,” said a WarnerMedia rep. “DOJ failed to prove its claims about HBO at trial and then abandoned them on appeal.”

Andy LeCuyer, SVP pf programming at Dish, argues otherwise.

“It seems AT&T is implementing a new strategy to shut off its recently acquired content from other distributors,” he said.

WarnerMedia CEO: ‘My Job is Not to Build Another Netflix’

On the heels of AT&T’s odd corporate decision announcing — in an Oct. 10 regulatory filing by the CFO — the future (Q4 2019) launch of a subscription video-on-demand service, WarnerMedia subsidiary CEO John Stankey rushed out a follow-up statement with few additional details.

Stankey, who was in Los Angeles attending a media conference, said the unnamed and unpriced service would help WarnerMedia expand its reach by offering consumers a new distribution choice for HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner’s collection of films, television series, libraries, documentaries.

“We expect to create such a compelling product that it will help distributors increase consumer penetration of their current packages and help us successfully reach more customers,” Stankey said in the statement.

Speaking at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit, Stankey said the OTT video service would be different from existing products on the market.

“My job isn’t to build another Netflix,” he said.

As expected, the executive – who made news earlier this year when he challenged HBO to up its game – said the OTT venture would be spearheaded by HBO with Turner (CNN, TNT, TBS) and Warner Bros. content bundled in.

“Our job is to build a compelling offer of content that gets a large number of customers,” Stankey said.

That apparently includes creating original content for AT&T businesses that include DirecTV Now and pending AT&T Watch.

“We’ll do both within our business,” Stankey said.

 

 

 

 

 

AT&T Reiterates Operating Turner Separate from WarnerMedia Pending DOJ Appeal

AT&T CFO John Stephens reaffirmed the telecom will continue to operate Turner Broadcasting System as a separate business from WarnerMedia.

Turner, which includes CNN, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang and TruTV, had been included under the Time Warner corporate umbrella prior to latter’s $85 billion acquisition by AT&T.

With the Department of Justice appealing its federal court antitrust loss stopping the merger, AT&T said it would operate Turner separately until the appeal deadline on Feb. 28, 2019.

Speaking Sept. 10 at an investor event in New York, Stephens said that while Turner would historically operate under WarnerMedia – headed by John Stankey – it would remain independent until resolution of the DOJ appeal.

“While we have committed to running Turner as a separate business pending the appeal, we intend to move the results of some of our other network properties such as our regional sports networks under Turner when we report [third-quarter, ending Sept. 30] results,” Stephens said.

It’s been speculated that CNN, which has been in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump’s “fake news” allegations, was the reason the DOJ filed its late antitrust litigation in the first place.

AT&T had sought to obtain communication between the White House and the DOJ regarding the case but was denied by the judge overseeing the case.

“This just continues what has been a very odd series of procedures by the DOJ,” Paul Sweeney, media analyst at Bloomberg, told The Dallas Morning News in July. “It’s perplexing to legal experts I’ve spoken to, and certainly investors.”

Meanwhile, Otter Media, the digital media company co-owned by AT&T and former 21stCentury Fox executive Peter Chernin, has been moved from AT&T’s entertainment group segment to WarnerMedia following the telecom’s acquisition of Chernin’s stake last month.

“We will continue to show financials at a reporting unit level for Turner, HBO and Warner for comparability purposes,” Stephens said.

Streaming Video Service iFlix Bowing 24-Hour News Hub

Subscription streaming video service iFlix is launching a 24-hour live news hub, aggregated news streams, clips, and linear feeds from international, regional and local news sources.

The service will be available across iflix’s 28 markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, beginning Sept. 3. News partners include CNN, Al Jazeera, DW, CGTN, and CCTV 4, among others.

“Technology has dramatically reshaped the news and media industries over the past decade,” Mark Britt, co-founder and CEO of iFlix, said in a statement. “Audiences today, particularly the rapidly growing youth segments, want immediate access to the stories and events that are shaping the world around them.”

iFlix News also features direct access to local linear channels, including CNN in the Philippines, Bernama News Channel, and KiniTV in Malaysia, Berita Satu and Kompas TV in Indonesia, Thairath TV and Spring News in Thailand and Mizzima TV in Myanmar.

In addition to the linear channel offering, live news segments will also be available in short form format.

“The launch … is a significant step forward in our commitment to provide customers with the broadest and most compelling selection of content available,” said Britt.

iFlix also offers a library of Hollywood, regional, and local TV shows and movies. The platform allows subscribers access on up to five devices concurrently, including phones, laptops, tablets, and televisions.