‘Mandalorian’ Returns to Top of Parrot’s Digital Originals Chart on Eve of Season 2

The Disney+ live-action “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian” returned to the top spot on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended Oct. 24. It had been No. 2 the week before. With the show’s second season premiere looming Oct. 30, it had a 12.2% increase in demand expressions, the proprietary metric Parrot uses to gauge a show’s popularity. The show had 63.7 times the demand of the average series.

Netflix’s perennially popular “Stranger Things” rose a spot to No. 2. Demand expressions were up 7.5% to give the show 58 times average demand.

The top title the past few weeks, Amazon Prime Video’s “The Boys” slid to  No. 3. “The Boys” had 43.6 times the demand of the average show, with demand expressions down 39.8% a few weeks after its second-season finale.

“Cobra Kai,” the “Karate Kid” spinoff that was formerly a YouTube Premium original series before moving to Netflix, remained No. 4. The show had 43.5 times the demand of the average series, with expressions down 8.5% for the week.

Rounding out the top five was CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Discovery,” which had 37.4 times average demand after expressions rose 5.8%. The sci-fi series is in the midst of its third season and rose a spot from the previous week.

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A “digital original” is Parrot’s term for a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

The No. 1 overall TV series was “SpongeBob SquarePants,” with 94.2 times average demand. “The Mandalorian” was No. 4 on the overall TV list.

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Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures demand for TV content in a given market through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites. Results are expressed as a comparison with the average demand for a TV show of any kind in the market.

Disney+ Expands Disclaimers for Racially Problematic Movies

Disney+ has quietly beefed up its warnings on select classic movies that may feature content that could be interpreted as racially insensitive. Movies reportedly affected include Dumbo, Peter Pan, Fantasia and Lady and the Tramp. A 10-second warning placed in front of the film states it features racial depictions that were inappropriate when the movie first debuted, and are inappropriate today.

The disclaimer is also part of the film’s profile page and encourages viewers to visit a link outlining how movies can showcase popular culture and how society sees itself in a given moment in time. The “Stories Matter” link includes a PSA and video clip featuring statements by Geena Davis, Gil Robertson, Gloria Calderón Kellett and Cristela Alonzo stressing the importance of diversity and inclusion in the media and society.

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Disney had been including disclaimers that older movies might contain “outdated cultural depictions” since it launched in November 2019. The addition of the warnings to the films themselves mirrors efforts by HBO Max over the summer to remove Oscar-winning classic Gone With the Wind from the SVOD platform. The movie was returned to Max with a disclaimer that it “denies the horrors of slavery.”

Disney’s infamous 1946 musical classic Song of the South is not available on the subscription streaming platform due to racial stereotypes and criticisms over its depictions of former slaves.

Disney Reorganizes With Focus on Streaming Video

With much of its business units idled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Disney CEO Bob Chapek Oct. 12 announced internal restructuring that puts the focus on what is working: streaming video.

Kareem Daniel

Disney is combining ad sales with distribution into a new Media and Entertainment Distribution group led by Kareem Daniel, who has served as president of consumer products, games and publishing. The media giant said the move is to put a “focus on developing and producing original content for the company’s streaming services.”

The new group will be responsible for all monetization of content — both distribution and ad sales — and will oversee operations of the Company’s streaming services. It will also have sole P&L accountability for Disney’s media and entertainment businesses.

This means that while Alan Horn and Alan Bergman, Peter Rice, and James Pitaro will continue to lead Disney’s studios, general entertainment and amusement parks, respectively, they will do so separate from streaming video.

Rebecca Campbell

Rebecca Campbell, who headed direct-to-consumer operations, which includes Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, and pending Disney+ Hotstar, was upped to chairman of international operations and direct-to-consumer. All five executives report directly to Chapek, with Campbell reporting directly to Daniel.

“Given the incredible success of Disney+ and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business, we are strategically positioning our Company to more effectively support our growth strategy and increase shareholder value,” Chapek said.

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The CEO said separating content creation from distribution would allow Disney to be more effective in making the content consumers want most, delivered in the ways they prefer it, i.e. over-the-top video, transactional VOD and PVOD.

Indeed, Disney+ had more than 60 million subscribers in August. The bundle of Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ has 105 million.

“Our creative teams will concentrate on what they do best–making world-class, franchise-based content — while our newly centralized global distribution team will focus on delivering and monetizing that content in the most optimal way across all platforms, including the coming Star international streaming service,” Chapek said.

“It’s a tremendous privilege to work with the talented and dedicated teams that will comprise this group, and I look forward to a close collaboration with the outstanding and incredibly successful team of creative content leaders at the company, as together we build on the success we’ve already achieved in our DTC and legacy distribution business,” Daniel said in a statement.

A 14-year Disney veteran, Daniel has held leadership positions across a variety of businesses, including consumer products, games and interactive experiences, publishing, studio distribution, and Walt Disney Imagineering. Prior to that, Daniel was VP of Distribution Strategy at Walt Disney Studios, where he worked closely with the leadership in developing the company’s film content distribution strategy across multiple platforms and played a key role in the commercialization of the studio’s films.

“As we now look to rapidly grow our direct-to-consumer business, a key focus will be delivering and monetizing our great content in the most optimal way possible, and I can think of no one better suited to lead this effort than Kareem,” Chapek said. “His wealth of experience will enable him to effectively bring together the company’s distribution, advertising, marketing and sales functions, thereby creating a distribution powerhouse that will serve all of Disney’s media and entertainment businesses.”

Disney reports fourth-quarter (ended Sept. 30) fiscal earnings Nov. 5.

Disney/Pixar’s ‘Soul’ to Debut Exclusively on Disney+ Dec. 25

Soul, the new original feature from Pixar Animation Studios, will debut exclusively on the Disney+ streaming service Dec. 25, the Walt Disney Co. announced on Oct. 8.

The film was previously scheduled for theatrical release Nov. 20.

The studio did not include a premium rental price to see Soul via Disney+. Mulan, another Disney release intended for theaters that went straight to Disney+, required an additional $29.99 payment for Disney+ subscribers.

In international markets where Disney+ isn’t currently or soon to be available, Soul will be released theatrically, with dates to be announced, according to the studio.

“We are thrilled to share Pixar’s spectacular and moving Soul with audiences direct to Disney+ in December,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in a statement. “A new original Pixar film is always a special occasion, and this truly heartwarming and humorous story about human connection and finding one’s place in the world will be a treat for families to enjoy together this holiday season.”

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“Over the last six months, marketplace conditions created by the ongoing pandemic, while difficult in so many ways, have also provided an opportunity for innovation in approaches to content distribution,” Disney stated in the press release. “With over 60 million subscribers within the first year of launch, the Disney+ platform is an ideal destination for families and fans to enjoy a marquee Pixar film in their own homes like never before.”

Soul comes from filmmaker Pete Docter, the Academy Award-winning director behind Inside Out and Up, and co-director/writer Kemp Powers, playwright and screenwriter of One Night in Miami. It features the voice talents of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Angela Bassett and Daveed Diggs, and features original jazz music by Jon Batiste and a score composed by Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network).

The film follows Joe Gardner (Foxx) — a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before — a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

“The world can be an exhausting and frustrating place – but it’s also full of unexpected joys, even in seemingly mundane things,” Docter, who is also chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios, said in a statement. “Soul investigates what’s really important in our lives, a question we’re all asking these days. I hope it will bring some humor and fun to people at a time when everyone can surely use that.”

Activist Investor Urges Disney to Increase SVOD Spending

Billionaire investor Daniel Loeb continues to see opportunity in the pandemic-throttled entertainment sector — most notably at The Walt Disney Co.

Loeb’s Third Point Management, which has more than $10.8 billion in assets, has spent much of the COVID-19 era buying up a depressed Disney stock undermined by amusement park and cruise ship closures, and waylaid studio releases, among other issues, that were reportedly costing the company $30 million in daily overhead.

Now Loeb, who is one of Disney’s largest single investors, is calling on Disney CEO Bob Chapek and the board not to authorize the company’s annual $3 billion dividend — a surprising stance considering most activist investors implore companies to give back more to stock holders; not less.

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In an Oct. 7 letter to Chapek, Loeb wants the board to re-direct dividend funds to content spending on Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+, the latter Disney’s high-profile subscription streaming video-on-demand platform the investor contends has a legitimate shot at usurping market behemoth Netflix — both in subscribers and content.

“By reallocating a dividend of a few dollars per share, Disney could more than double its Disney+ original content budget,” Loeb wrote. “The ability to drive subscriber growth, reduce churn, and increase pricing present the opportunity to create tens of billions of dollars in incremental value for Disney shareholders in short order, and hundreds of billions once the platform reaches larger scale.”

Specifically, the investor contends Disney+ has largely outdistanced subscriber growth projections by offering classic Disney, Pixar and “Star Wars” movies, with little spent on original programming except for “The Mandalorian,” among other content. Disney ended the most-recent fiscal period with more than 60.5 million subscribers. The company had originally projected 60 million to 90 million subs by 2024.

Indeed, while Disney is spending about $1 billion on original content in 2020, Netflix is reportedly spending nearly $17 billion, with plans to spend upwards of $28 billion by 2028.

“A more aggressive content roadmap will distinguish Disney as the only traditional U.S. media company able to thrive in a world beyond the box office and the cable TV ecosystem, alongside digital-first businesses like Netflix and Amazon,” Loeb wrote.

Disney+ Presents ‘High School Musical: The Musical’ Holiday Special Dec. 11

The cast of the Disney+ series “High School Musical: The Musical — The Series” will perform their favorite Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s songs and share their fondest holiday memories in a 45-minute holiday special presented by the subscription streaming service Dec. 11.

High School Musical: The Musical — The Holiday Special will also feature a sneak peek performance from the upcoming second season of the series, which deals with a fictional high school theater group staging a performance of High School Musical.

The special will include series regulars Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Larry Saperstein, Julia Lester, Dara Reneé, Frankie Rodriguez, Joe Serafini, Mark St. Cyr and Kate Reinders singing holiday songs and sharing anecdotes of memorable holidays from their childhoods, best and most embarrassing presents, favorite traditions, family photos and poignant New Year’s resolutions.

Bassett will also debut an acoustic version of an original song which he wrote for season two.

“The holidays remind us of the universal importance of family and loved ones,” Tim Federle, executive producer and director of the special, said in a statement. “The cast of ‘High School Musical: The Musical — The Series’ is its own kind of family, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to share their favorite holiday music and traditions with our viewers.”

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High School Musical: The Musical — The Holiday Special: The Soundtrack, featuring holiday songs performed by the cast in the special, will be available beginning Nov. 20 on all major music services and streaming platforms.

Season one of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” is currently available on Disney+.

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The Right Stuff (2020)


Premieres 10/9/20;
Not rated;
Stars Jake McDorman, Patrick J. Adams, Colin O’Donoghue, Aaron Staton, Michael Trotter, Micah Stock, Eloise Mumford, Shannon Lucio, Nora Zehetner, Mamie Gummer, Patrick Fischler, Eric Ladin, Jackson Pace, Sacha Seberg.

Tom Wolfe’s brilliant 1979 book about the early days of America’s space program, The Right Stuff, and its 1983 film adaptation are held in high regard by space enthusiasts. So this eagerly awaited new series from National Geographic and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions would have its work cut out for it in terms of meeting the expectations set not just by those earlier projects, but also subsequent space-related re-creations such as Apollo 13 and From the Earth to the Moon.

And for the most part it succeeds as a nice companion to those earlier works, and is an entertaining look at the dedication, determination and motivations of the men who first represented America’s entry into the space race — as well as their foibles.

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Right off the bat, it must be pointed out that this is not just a retread of the movie. Of the eight episodes of the show’s first season, Disney+ made the first five available for advance screenings, and from these the most evident difference between the new “Right Stuff” and the original book and movie is that the new version puts its focus entirely on the Mercury program and the seven astronauts chosen to fly the United States’ first manned missions into space, removing the subplots about Chuck Yeager and the other test pilots not recruited by NASA.  (Thus making the show more like William Goldman’s original drafts for the film version, which also excised the Yeager half of the story.)

While the book and movie were more an examination of the derring-do of test pilots that inspired them to fly experimental jet planes at many times the speed of sound, or sit in a tin can atop a flaming rocket they’d have no control over, the series is much more about the personal lives of the astronauts and NASA’s process of preparing for spaceflight.

In that regard, the show comes across more like a conventional period drama, depicting interpersonal rivalries between the astronauts, family drama, and salacious adultery only hinted at in previous depictions of the astronauts’ stories. And to satisfy modern sensibilities, much screentime is given to Trudy Cooper (Eloise Mumford), wife of astronaut Gordon Cooper (Colin O’Donoghue) and a pilot herself with aspirations for promoting including women in the astronaut corps. alongside noted female aviator Jerrie Cobb (Mamie Gummer).

Pushed much further into the background is a very minor subplot that seems to be the origin story of Glynn Lunney (Jackson Pace), a young assistant on the Space Task Group who would become one of NASA’s most distinguished flight controllers during the Apollo program (he’s played by Marc McClure in Apollo 13).

Speaking of flight controllers, Eric Ladin plays Chris Kraft here, after playing another famous flight controller, Gene Kranz, on the Apple TV+ alternate history series “For All Mankind.”

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As could be expected, the show plays a bit fast and loose with the timeline of actual events for dramatic purposes, such as showing rocket tests a year before they actually happened. The show also depicts Alan Shepard in 1960 dealing with the early stages of his Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes dizziness and hearing issues, when most accounts suggest he didn’t begin to experience it until 1963, well after he made his suborbital flight as the first American in space on May 5, 1961. For the most part, though, the show does a good job depicting incidents that haven’t been covered much before.

What’s clear is that in putting more of a spotlight on the astronauts, that the series is drawing inspiration not just from Wolfe’s book, but also the variety of tomes about the space program that have popped up in the past 30 years or so. A scene of John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams) lecturing his fellow astronauts about minimizing their womanizing for the sake of the program’s public relations seems to come straight from his autobiography.

This expansion of source material should help if the show continues for multiple seasons, when it would reportedly focus on later aspects of the space race, such as the Gemini program and the Apollo moon landings, that went beyond the scope of Wolfe’s original book.

The first two episodes of “The Right Stuff” become available on Disney+ Oct. 9, with new episodes weekly after that.

Analyst: Spain to Top 20 Million OTT Video Subs by Next Year — Driven by Netflix

Spain is quietly emerging as a major market for over-the-top video distribution, driven by Netflix, HBO España and Amazon Studios. New data from eMarketer suggests the country will top 20 million OTT subs next year — or about 40.1% of the country’s population.

Indeed, Netflix began producing original content in Spain in 2016 and opened its first European production hub in Madrid in spring of 2019. A trend replicated by ViacomCBS and Spain-based broadcaster Astresmedia and telecom giants Orange and Telefónica — the latter via its streaming video service Movistar.

Though Netflix will boast the largest user base in Spain, its 70% market share of subscription OTT video subs is actually lower than in other major markets. In Germany, Netflix claims 77.1% of the SVOD market, and 80% in Denmark, France, and the U.K. The report suggests a wider variety of SVOD services in Spain undermines Netflix’s domination.

“[Subscriber] growth should slow down in H2 2020, so Netflix must continue to work hard and fend off competition from emerging platforms like Disney+, HBO Max, and even Amazon Prime Video,” Matteo Ceurvels, eMarketer research analyst covering Latin America and Spain at Insider Intelligence, said in a statement. “Though competition abounds, we still view the subscription OTT landscape as a story of ‘Netflix versus the rest.'”

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Disney Expanding ‘Mulan’ PVOD Access to FandangoNow, Vudu

Disney’s high-profile premium video-on-demand (Premier Access) experiment, releasing the live-action movie Mulan to Disney+ subscribers, is now expanding to FandangoNow and Vudu.com.

Disney will make the movie available Oct. 6 on Vudu and FandangoNow, with pre-orders available now for the same $29.99 purchase price in SD, HD or 4K UHD currently offered to Disney+ subscribers.

Consumers pre-ordering Mulan on Vudu will get a $3 credit toward other movies and TV shows on the platform upon the film’s release. The movie was first released on Sept. 4.

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In mid-September, Yahoo! Finance, citing data from 7Park Data, reported that the movie had been purchased by 9 million Disney+ subscribers for $29.99 each through Sept. 12. That figure suggests the $200 million budget movie generated an impressive $270 million in direct-to-consumer revenue. A representative form 7ParkData later clarified on Twitter that they had estimated Mulan was watched by 29% of people watching Disney+ over the debut weekend, not total subscribers, which lowered estimated revenue to about $60 million to $90 million.

Unlike a typical PVOD transaction that gives a viewer a limited time period, usually 48 hours, to watch the movie, Premier Access is set up to allow Disney+ subscribers to pay the premium fee to unlock the movie on Disney+ for as long as they are subscribers, effectively giving those who pay early access to the movie before it becomes available to all subscribers in a few months.

Disney+ Unveils Slate of Halloween Content

The Walt Disney Co.’s  SVOD platform, Disney+, on Oct. 1 unveiled its first ever “Disney+ Hallowstream,” featuring a collection of popular Halloween movies, specials, and TV episodes. Movies include Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Halloweentown. TV content includes a selection of Disney Channel and Disney Junior Halloween episodes, and 30 “Treehouse of Horror” episodes from “The Simpsons.”

The full collection includes:

Halloween Movies: Don’t Look Under the Bed, Frankenweenie (2012), Girl vs Monster, Halloweentown, Halloweentown High, Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, Haunted Mansion, Hocus Pocus, Mom’s Got A Date With A Vampire, Mr. Boogedy, Phantom of the Megaplex, Return to Halloweentown, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, The Ghost of Buxley Hall, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Scream Team, Twitches, Twitches Too, Zombies and Zombies 2.

Shorts and Specials: “Frankenweenie” (1984), “Lonesome Ghosts,” “Mater and the Ghostlight,” “Trick or Treat”

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Disney Channel Halloween Episodes (Episodic Set): “Big City Greens”: “Blood Moon Part 1/Blood Moon Part 2,” “Even Stevens”: “A Very Scary Story,” “Girl Meets World”: “Girl Meets World of Terror,” “Good Luck Charlie”: “Scary Had a Little Lamb,” “Hannah Montana”: “Torn Between Two Hannahs,” “Jessie”: “The Whining,” “K.C. Under Cover”: “All Howls Eve,” “Kim Possible,” “Lizzie McGuire”: “Night of the Day of the Dead,” “Phil of the Future”: “Halloween,” “Phineas and Ferb”: “Terrifying Tri-State Triliogy of Terror (Part 1 and 2),” “Raven’s Home”: “Switch-Or-Treat,” “Shake It Up”: “Haunt It Up,” “Sonny With a Chance”: “A So Random Halloween Special,” “That’s So Raven”: “Don’t Have a Cow,” “The Proud Family”: “A Hero For Halloween,” “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”: “Ghost of 613,” “Wizards of Waverly Place”: “Halloween.”

Disney Junior Halloween Episodes: “Doc McStuffins”: “Boo-Hoo to You!/It’s Glow Time,” “Doc McStuffins”: “Hallie Halloween/Don’t Fence Me In,” “Doc McStuffins”: “Mirror, Mirror on My Penguin/Hide and Eek!,” “Fancy Nancy”: “Nancy’s Costume Clash/Nancy’s Ghostly Halloween,” “Handy Manny”: “Halloween/Squeeze’s Magic Show,” “Henry Hugglemonster”: “Halloween Scramble/Scouts Night Out,” “Henry Hugglemonster”: “Huggleween Moon,” “Imagination Movers”: “A Monster Problem,” “Imagination Movers”: “Haunted Halloween,” “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”: “Escape from Ghost Island/The Island of Doctor Undergear,” “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”: “Night of the Golden Pumpkin/Trick or Treasure!,” “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”: “Phantoms of Never-Nether Land/Magical Mayhem,” “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”: “Pirate Ghost Story/Queen Izzybella,” “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”: “Tricks, Treats and Treasure!/Season of the Sea Witch,” “Little Einsteins”: “A Little Einsteins Halloween,” “Mickey and the Roadster Racers”: “Goof Mansion/A Doozy Night of Mystery,” “Mickey and the Roadster Racers”: “The Haunted Hot Rod/Pete’s Ghostly Gala,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”: “Mickey’s Monster Musical Part 1 & 2,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”: “Mickey’s Treat,” “Miles from Tomorrowland”: “Ghost Moon/Stormy Night in a Dark Nebula,” “Muppet Babies”: “Happy Hallowocka!/The Teeth-Chattering Tale of the Haunted Pancakes,” “Puppy Dog Pals”: “Return to the Pumpkin Patch/Haunted Howl-oween,” “Sherriff Callie’s Wild West”: “The Great Hallow,” “The Lion Guard”: “Beware the Zimwi” and “Vampirina”: “Hauntleyween/Frankenflower.”

Hallowstream on Disney+ will complement new original content coming to the service in this month including, “The Right Stuff” premiering on Oct. 9, “Clouds” and “Meet the Chimps” premiering on Oct. 16, the “Frozen” short Once Upon a Snowman premiering on Oct. 23, and “The Mandalorian” season two premiering on Oct. 30.