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.

 

Fubo TV Adds WarnerMedia’s Turner Networks

Fubo TV, the sports-centric online TV service, Aug. 22 announced the addition of Turner Networks portfolio of pay-TV channels, including TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, truTV, TCM and HLN. The addtions bring to 75 channels available on Fubo for $39.99 monthly.

“Adding Turner Sports’ programming builds upon our heritage in soccer, while expanding our sports offering with more MLB, NBA, PGA and college sports,” Ben Grad, head of content strategy and acquisition at Fubo TV, said in a statement. “Turner’s news, entertainment and kids brands will continue to drive engagement with viewers, while reinforcing our commitment to offering a premium, high-quality cable replacement.”

Turner’s Boomerang and CNN International are also being added to Fubo Extra, the company’s 90-plus channel tier that is now available at $44.99 for the first month. Additionally, CNN en Español has been added to Fubo Latino.

The above channels are all available to be streamed live, with popular programming to be available on-demand in the coming weeks. All fuboTV subscriptions come with 30 hours of personal cloud DVR storage, two simultaneous streams, and the ability to upgrade to 500 hours and three streams, respectively, with no contracts, cords or set-top boxes required.

The service is available on the Web at www.fubo.tv, and via Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, and TV connected devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku.

Rudy Giuliani Says Trump ‘Denied’ AT&T, Time Warner Merger

NEWS ANALYSIS — Depending on what side of the political aisle you walk, Rudy Giuliani is either a gift that keeps on giving or a self-inflicted wound that won’t heal.

The former mayor of New York and newest member of President Donald Trump’s legal team is either carrying out a shrewd scorched-earth policy in the media, or an idiot who can’t keep his mouth shut.

In a May 11 interview with The HuffPost, Giuliani was defending allegations that Trump’s personal lawyer and problem “fixer,” Michael Cohen, had not influenced the president on the AT&T, Time Warner $85 billion merger.

AT&T has admitted paying Cohen $600,000 as a consultant to help ascertain Trump’s mindset on corporate mergers — notably its own — a move CEO Randall Stephenson has apologized for.

“Whatever lobbying [in favor of the merger] was done didn’t reach the president,” Giuliani said. “The president denied the merger. They didn’t get the result they wanted.”

Technically, Trump hasn’t denied anything. A federal judge in June will decide whether the merger goes through.

Yet, Giuliani’s comment is significant considering the White House has refuted getting involved in the M&A that would give AT&T control of Time Warner, whose assets include Warner Bros., Turner (TNT, TBS and CNN) and HBO.

While Trump argued against the merger on the campaign trail, a sitting president usually doesn’t get involved in M&A activity before the Department of Justice’s antitrust division.

The DOJ filed a lawsuit against the merger, claiming it was bad for consumers. Trump, of course, has railed publicly against CNN, claiming the news organization peddles “fake news” about his administration.

“If Giuliani didn’t misspeak, this is major news,” Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, tweeted May 11, as reported by CNN.

Of course, misspeaking has become a hallmark of Giuliani, who earlier this month made news when he told Fox News that Trump had personally reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 hush payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election about an alleged 2006 affair.

“That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds,” said Giuliani. “Michael would take care of things like this like I take care of this with my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”

Those comments resulted in Giuliani taking a leave of absence from the law firm he worked for — Greenberg Traurig, a leave that is now permanent.

Greenberg Traurig May 10 issued a statement — first reported by The New York Times — saying its lawyers do not send secretive payments for clients.

“We cannot speak for Mr. Giuliani with respect to what was intended by his remarks,” read the statement. “Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client.”

Judge Rules Against AT&T in Pre-Time Warner Merger Trial

A federal judge Feb. 20 scuttled a request by AT&T to force the Justice Department to disclose communications records with the White House regarding President Donald Trump’s possible input on the $84.5 billion merger.

At issue are allegations that the DOJ stepped in at the last minute to halt the merger due to Trump’s dislike of CNN, which is owned by Time Warner unit Turner.

AT&T, which has to pay Time Warner $500 million should the merger fail, had sought the records to bolster its argument that the government’s case is largely at the whim of Trump than antitrust issues.

“If there is something in those documents, it’s important for us,” argued Daniel Petrocelli, lead attorney for AT&T and Time Warner.

On Feb. 16, the Justice Department admitted Trump wasn’t keen of CNN — which the President has repeatedly accused of reporting fake news — but that his opinion was not sought to influence the government’s antitrust case.

“The president is unhappy with CNN. We don’t dispute that,” Craig Conrath, a DOJ lawyer, said at the pretrial hearing, according to Reuters. “But AT&T wants to turn that into a get-out-jail-free card for their illegal merger.”

Today, a judge agreed. The antitrust trial begins March 19.

 

Fox News Launching SVOD Service for Base Audience

Rupert Murdoch helped establish a cable news juggernaut with Fox News. Now he wants Fox News, including notable political pundit Sean Hannity and others, i.e. “Fox & Friends,” to go over-the-top through a standalone subscription streaming service.

Dubbed Fox Nation, the service featuring right-leaning commentary is set to launch at the end of the year. The price of the service has not been disclosed.

Designed to enhance the Fox News viewer experience, Fox Nation will take a deep dive into the big issues of the day with live daily streaming content and long-form programming. Fox Nation will also include access to events and 20 plus years of archival FNC programming. Interaction with all of FNC’s popular opinion hosts and personalities will also be a mainstay of the new platform.

“Fox Nation is designed to appeal to the Fox superfan,” John Finley, head of program development and production at Fox News, told The New York Times. “These are the folks who watch Fox News every night for hours at a time, the dedicated audience that really wants more of what we have to offer.”

The service comes as other media giants seek out SVOD platforms to buttress dwindling pay-TV markets.

Disney, by the second quarter, will launch ESPN Plus, a standalone service intended to compliment ESPN. CBS has more than 2.5 million subs for CBS All Access, in addition to free ad-supported CBSN, featuring news.

Whether Fox News’ older demographic will go for SVOD — which is largely popular among younger audiences, including millennials — remains to be seen.

Finley isn’t worried.

“We know who our audience is. We know what they want,” he said.