Whip Media Hires Former Epix, HBO Execs

Software platform and data provider Whip Media has hired Joanna Wise as SVP of people, and Patrick Kilkelly as VP of customer success.

Wise joins Whip Media from Epix, wholly owned by Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), where she served as the VP of human resources. Prior to joining Epix, Wise was director of human resources for MLB Advanced Media, the interactive media and internet company of Major League Baseball. She also served as director of human resources for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Wise will oversee global efforts to attract and develop “an innovative and customer-focused” team, according to Whip Media.

Joanna Wise and Patrick Kilkelly

Kilkelly joins Whip Media after 15 years at WarnerMedia/HBO, where he most recently served as SVP of product operations and partner integration helping to grow the reach and engagement for HBO’s TVE and OTT products. Kilkelly also oversaw the production and distribution of HBO’s home entertainment products globally and led contract administration and content delivery for HBO’s global licensing business. In his new role at Whip Media, Kilkelly will focus on customer strategy and growth, product adoption, sales assistance, retention and support.

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“Joanna brings more than two decades of experience leading global talent and operational initiatives and driving results for some of the largest entertainment companies,” Jason Weiss, COO of Whip Media, said in a statement. “The addition of Joanna to the team will enable us to further scale Whip Media’s outstanding team and unique culture across the globe.” 

“Patrick is an accomplished executive with extensive experience in premium content distribution, partner relations, subscription video products, rights management, and the media supply chain,” Paul Giordano, chief client officer of Whip Media, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have Patrick join our team and further develop and grow the company’s customer relationships.”

“I couldn’t be more excited to join the team at Whip Media, where our number one asset is our people,” Wise said in a statement. “The mission and core values of the company are perfectly aligned with mine, and I’m excited to build on the progress that’s been established as we work to solidify our position as an employer of choice.” 

“Whip Media’s unique data and platform provide a true competitive advantage to global streaming platforms in this rapidly evolving market,” Kilkelly said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to join the team and bring my knowledge and experience to Whip Media to drive revenue and strategic growth for our clients and help expand our customer offerings.” 

Tidal Teams With Epix Now for $12.99 Streaming Bundle

Global music and entertainment streaming platform Tidal is offering an exclusive subscription bundle with cable network Epix’s streaming service Epix Now at $12.99 per month.

The bundle launched the same day as the season two premiere of Epix’s original drama series “Godfather of Harlem,” starring Forest Whitaker.

Through the partnership, members can listen to tracks from the series’ soundtrack, executive produced and supervised by Swizz Beatz as well as enjoy content on both platforms. Tracks will be released weekly every Friday from April 16 through May 21. Additionally, to tease the bundle, all Tidal users in the United States can view “Godfather of Harlem’s” first episode from season one on the platform.

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“Tidal has always been committed to delivering a well-rounded experience for fans across both audio and visual formats,” Lior Tibon, Tidal COO, said in a statement. “Tidal’s partnership with Epix gives members an unparalleled and cohesive content experience, all in real time.”

“As we launch the highly-anticipated second season of ‘Godfather of Harlem,’ we’re thrilled to partner with Tidal to not only offer fans a terrific platform to experience the show’s original soundtrack, but also, for those who purchase the bundle, all Epix Now has to offer including original series and thousands of movies,” said Courtney Menzel, Co-GM of Epix.

Additional content and collaborations by both brands will be announced throughout the partnership. The bundle is available here.

Philo Adds Starz and Epix to Online TV Service

Online TV service Philo June 16 announced that it is adding MGM-owned Epix and Lionsgate-owned Starz premium options to its programming portfolio. Philo’s standard $20 monthly subscription package includes more than 50 channels, including A&E, AMC, Comedy Central, Food Network, HGTV, ID, Lifetime, MTV, Nickelodeon, OWN, Tastemade, WE TV, among others.

Philo subs can add Epix for $6 monthly, following a promotional $3 fee for three months. Similarly, Starz is available for $9 monthly, after an initial promotion pricing of $5 per month for the first three months when customers subscribe to these services before July 13.

“In these challenging times, we remain committed to offering high-quality entertainment content at a considerable value and with the addition of Epix and Starz we continue to deliver on this commitment,” Mike Keyserling, COO and head of content acquisition at Philo, said in a statement.

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Philo currently allows subs three separate streams on three different devices; everyone who shares the account can create their own profile and have their own sign-in credentials, saved shows and viewing history. Philo features a streamlined interface, intelligent search, and the ability to easily send your favorite shows to friends.

All Philo subscribers can watch their shows live from wherever they are in the U.S. on most Web, mobile and TV streaming devices, including Apple TV, FireTV and Roku. Additionally, subs also have free access to 30-day unlimited-storage DVR.

Sling TV Offering Free Month of Epix, Showtime and Starz

After losing 110,000 subscribers in the previous 12 months, Dish Network’s Sling TV is launching “Premium Pass,” which gives new and existing subs 30 days free access to MGM-owned Epix, ViacomCBS’s Showtime and Lionsgate-owned Starz programming.

Launched in 2015, Sling Blue and Orange ($30 each) program tiers feature 50+ channels — including A&E, AMC, Bravo, CNN, E!, Fox News, FX, HGTV, HLN, MSNBC, and TLC, among others. The Premium Pass offer is now included across all Sling TV services: Sling Blue ($30/mo.), Sling Orange ($30/mo.) or Sling Blue + Sling Orange ($45/mo.).

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Premium programming includes “Monday Rom-Coms”: My Best Friend’s Wedding and Something’s Gotta Give (Showtime). “Wednesday Westerns”: The Kidand True Grit (Epix). “Friday Families”: Night at the Museum and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Starz).

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Apple TV Channels Offering Free Month Access to Epix, Showtime and Others

Apple TV Channels, which like Amazon Channels, offers access to third-party over-the-top video platforms, is offering extended free access to content during the coronavirus pandemic.

Apple is extending to 30 days free trials to ViacomCBS’s Showtime OTT and MGM-owned Epix (through May 2 with no subscription required), AMC Networks’ Acorn TV and Lifetime Movie Channel, among others.

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The free access requires signing up for the third-party streaming service app, which then reverts to a paid subscription after the free trial period ends unless canceled by the user.

Other OTT video services offering free 30-day access on Apple TV Channels (followed by a paid subscription) include: Arrow Video Channel ($4.99 per month); History Channel Vault (4.99); Lifetime Movie Club ($3.99); Noggin (60-day trial followed by $7.99 monthly fee); PBS Living ($2.99); Showtime ($10.99); Acorn TV ($5.99); Smithsonian Channel+ ($4.99); and A&E ($4.99).

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Apple TV Channels is available through Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices, in addition to the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV.

AT&T Giving Subs Free Access to Premium Content

AT&T March 26 became the latest media company offering limited free access to proprietary and third-party content during the coronavirus pandemic.

The telecom is offering DirecTV, U-Verse, AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now subscribers free access to HBO, Starz, Cinemax and Epix into April. Starz and Epix are owned by Lionsgate and MGM, respectively.

Starz will be available from March 26 to April 4, Epix from April 4 to April 16, and HBO and Cinemax available from April 17 to 20.

CBS All Access earlier announced it would give a free 30-day trial to new subscribers.

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The strategy comes as AT&T readies the May launch of HBO Max — the $14.99 SVOD platform it hopes to carry initially on the backs of existing pay-TV subscribers. For the telecom, unfortunately, those subs have been leaving in droves.

AT&T lost 1.2 million streaming video and pay-TV subs in the most-recent fiscal period. It lost 2.9 million subs in the previous three fiscal quarters combined.

And with 3.3 million people filing for unemployment benefits this week — the highest tally since 1982 — due to the drastic economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, pay-TV might become an unnecessary luxury to millions more.

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Netflix, Apple in Preliminary Talks About Possible MGM Acquisition

Both Netflix and Apple reportedly have had preliminary discussions with MGM, whose hedge fund owners have put out feelers for the studio’s storied catalog of movies, the “James Bond” movie franchise and a strong TV production business.

In the burgeoning subscription streaming video ecosystem, content is king. Netflix and Apple are on the opposite ends of the SVOD sphere with the former setting the bar when it comes to market penetration and content spending.

Yet both companies want expansive access to original and catalog content, especially Apple, which has entered the SVOD market relatively late — and with scant programming. Netflix, which has seen third-party catalog content migrate back to original holders’ branded streaming services, is looking for a big push back.

How better to do that than acquiring MGM Studios.

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CNBC, citing sources familiar with the situation, says MGM has shrewdly come back from bankruptcy in 2010, and is now worth a reported $10 billion, with its owners willing to sell.

Both Apple and Netflix have been largely absent from the merger & acquisition playing field. Apple most-recently spent $3 billion acquiring the Beats earphone brand.

In 2017, Netflix made its first M&A deal, acquiring Millarworld, the publishing company of comic book writer Mark Millar. In 2019, co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings said Netflix had “no big appetite” for major acquisitions.

“I don’t think investors have too much to worry about there,” Hastings said on the investor webcast last April. Indeed, neither Netflix or Apple are commenting on the MGM media reports.

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Regardless, MGM had revenue of more than $1 billion for the first nine months of the fiscal year (ended Sept. 30, 2019) consisting primarily of about $600 million in TV and film licensing revenue and $300 million from Epix subscriptions. The studio recorded pre-tax earnings of $123 million.

 

Comcast, Starz Ink New Carriage, Content Distribution Deal

Christmas came early for Starz, the Lionsgate-owned pay-TV and over-the-top video distributor.

Comcast Cable and Starz Dec. 23 announced they have entered into a long-term agreement for the continued carriage of the Starz networks on Xfinity TV as well as a new content deal between Lionsgate and NBCUniversal.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We are pleased that we were able to extend the partnership to Peacock and other businesses within Comcast while also ensuring Xfinity customers continue to enjoy great Starz programming,” Dana Strong, president of consumer services for Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

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The companies announced that NBCUniversal will license content from Lionsgate for Peacock, its streaming service launching in April 2020. Peacock will have access to hundreds of feature films and shows from the Lionsgate catalog to stream alongside the previously announced slate of original series, TV shows, and films from Universal and other major studios.

NBCUniversal will also license content to Starz to be featured in the U.S. and on its international streaming service, StarzPlay, now available in 49 countries worldwide.

The new pact represents a lifeline of sorts for Starz as Comcast remains one of the premium channel’s largest domestic distributors. Comcast had previously said it would replace Starz with MGM’s Epix platform is no agreement was in place by Dec. 31.

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Under the new agreement, the Starz flagship premium channel, as well as the Starz Encore suite of channels — including Encore, Encore Westerns, Encore Black, and Encore Action — and related video on demand content will continue to be available to Xfinity customers with expanded distribution on the Comcast Flex platform and a path for an orderly transition to an à la carte business.

“We look forward to continuing our longstanding partnership with Comcast to deliver great content and great value to our customers,” said Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch. “Our ongoing relationship with Comcast reflects our ability to unlock opportunities across all of our businesses to the benefit of our subscribers.”

Epix Joining Comcast, Launching Movie Streaming Platform

MGM-owned Epix Dec. 10 revealed is has joined Comcast’s Xfinity TV premium package nationwide. As part of an expanded carriage agreement announced in October, Xfinity TV subscribers have access to Epix’s lineup of movies and original series.

Launched in October 2009 by Lionsgate, Viacom and MGM, Epix is available nationwide through cable, telco, satellite and emerging digital distribution platforms as well as through the Epix Now app, providing more movies than any other network with thousands of titles available for streaming.

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Epix original content includes “Godfather of Harlem,” starring and executive produced by Forest Whitaker; “Pennyworth,” the origin story of Batman’s butler Alfred; “Perpetual Grace, LTD,” starring Sir Ben Kingsley; “Get Shorty,” featuring Chris O’Dowd and Ray Romano; spy thriller “Deep State”; and docuseries “NFL: The Grind,” from NFL Films and hosted by Rich Eisen; “PUNK” from John Varvatos and Iggy Pop; as well as upcoming premieres of new series “Belgravia,” from Julian Fellowes; docuseries “Slow Burn,” based on the hit podcast, and “Laurel Canyon”.

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Epix, Dec. 12 will also launch ScreenPix, a suite of library channels offering a curated collection of classic movies, uncut and commercial free. The ScreenPix suite includes ScreenPix; ScreenPix: Action; ScreenPix: Westerns; and ScreenPix: Voices, a channel dedicated to diverse voices. ScreenPix will also be available to Xfinity Digital Preferred subscribers.

Roku Streaming Free Premium Content Through End of the Year

Roku Dec. 9 announced its second annual Stream-a-thon, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, 2020, enabling users free access to a selection of premium content with no subscription needed on The Roku Channel.

Separately, Roku is expanding its Premium Subscriptions with a new HBO + Cinemax Value Pack, which is available for $20.99.

For the first time on The Roku Channel, season one of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” will be available to stream (beginning Dec. 26) without an HBO subscription. Additionally, this year viewers will be able to use Roku Search to discover Stream-a-thon content.

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“Stream-a-thon marks the conclusion of an eventful year for The Roku Channel, which included milestones such as the introduction of Premium Subscriptions, the expansion of our live and linear channel offering, the debut of Kids & Family, and the addition of value packs,” Rob Holmes, VP of programming and engagement, said in a statement.

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Since launching in 2017, The Roku Channel has become a top 5 channel on the Roku platform by active account reach. In 2019, The Roku Channel expanded its entertainment offering with 80,000+ free, ad-supported and premium movies and TV episodes, launched 40+ Premium Subscription services, reached 50+ live and linear streaming services, and introduced Kids & Family entertainment from nearly 30 partners.

“We are thrilled that HBO will be part of Roku’s Stream-a-thon this December,” said Sofia Chang, president of WarnerMedia Distribution. “There will be something for all Roku users to enjoy over the holidays from HBO without a need for an HBO subscription.”

Premium Subscription partners celebrating this year’s Stream-a-thon include Cinemax, CONtv, Dove Channel, Epix, FitFusion, The Great Courses Signature, HBO, Hallmark Movies Now, Pantaya, Smithsonian Channel Plus, Starz, Showtime, Stingray Karaoke, UP Faith & Family, and more.
Unlocked Complete First Seasons

First full seasons of the following premium shows include:

“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“Warrior” (Cinemax)
“Power” (Starz) – complete first season available throughout the month of December
“Billions,” “The Affair,” and “Ray Donovan” (SHOWTIME)
“Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization,” “The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking,” “How Jesus Became God” (The Great Courses Signature)
“Bringing Up Bates,” “Design Twins,” “Expecting,” “Growing Up McGhee,” “Last Hope,” “Our Wedding Story,” “Unboxed with Nikki Chu” (UP Faith & Family)

Other programming includes:

“Barry,” “Chernobyl,” “Euphoria,” “Sesame Street,” and “Succession” (HBO)
“Kidding” (Showtime)
“Get Shorty,” “Pennyworth,” and “Punk” (Epix)
“Abbott and Costello The Christmas Show,” “Anytime Fireplace,” “Gumby’s Christmas Capers,” “MXC,” “Sonic Christmas Blast,” and “Super Mario Bros Super Show” (CONtv)
“A Christmas Kiss,” “A Golden Christmas 3,” “A Heartland Christmas,” “Naughty and Nice,” “Paper Angels,” “Tappy Toes,” “The Nutcracker Sweet,” and “The Perfect Gift” (Dove Channel)
“Jillian Michael: Beginner Shred – Workout 1,” “Cassey Ho: POP Pilates for Beginners,” “Dashama: Mermaid Pose,” “Elle Young: BodyBurn,” “Kenta Seki: Fusion 15 – Total Body,” “Tara Stiles – Strala CORE,” and “Zuzka Light: HIIT Cardio – Workout 1” (FitFusion)
“Ancient Civilizations of North America,” “Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization,” “The Apocryphal Jesus,” “The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague,” “The Celtic World,” “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Techniques for Retraining Your Brain,” “Fundamentals of Photography,” “How to Draw,” “Learning Spanish: How to Understand and Speak a New Language,” “Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You,” “Reading Biblical Literature: Genesis to Revelation,” “The Rise of Rome” (The Great Courses Signature)
“From the Ashes,” “Marrying Father Christmas,” “Royal New Year’s Eve,” and “When Hope Calls” (Hallmark Movies Now)
“Las Aparicio,” “Me late chocolate,” “Pastorela,” and “Yule Log” (Pantaya)
“Aerial Cities,” “America in Color,” “Million Dollar American Princesses,” and “Orangutan Jungle School” (Smithsonian Channel Plus)
“Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley,” “Feliz Navidad – Boney M,” “Last Christmas – Wham!,” “Jingle Bells,” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas – Kids” (Stingray Karaoke)
“Angels in the Snow,” “Christmas Angel,” “DNA Dinners,” “Marry Me for Christmas” (UP Faith & Family)
HBO + Cinemax Value Pack