This Week’s MPN Podcast: Critic’s Choice Award Winners Recap; Amazon Relaunches Epix as MGM+

 

On this week’s episode of the Media Play News podcast, hosts Charles Parkman and Charlie Showley cover some of the results from the Critics Choice Awards. Charlie highlights a couple of the winners he’s had on his to-watch list for some time: the stylish parody biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story and “The Dropout,” the limited-run series covering the high profile flame out of the biotech startup Theranos (both on Hulu). Charles has missed just about everything on the awards list, leading to the hosts discussing just how much there is available to watch. 

Afterwards is a quick rundown of a new streaming service of Amazon’s, MGM+. Interestingly, their four advertised original shows and movies are complete unknowns to the hosts, continuing the theme of the overwhelming amount of content to keep up with. And at the theaters, Avatar: The Way of Water crosses $1.9 billion worldwide and maintains its No. 1 spot domestically.

Amazon Formally Relaunches Epix as MGM+

Amazon has officially relaunched the erstwhile Epix premium digital streaming platform as MGM+, which will continue to be available nationwide through cable, telco, satellite, and emerging digital distribution channels, as well as through the MGM+ app for $5.99 monthly ($49.99 annually) without ads.

Amazon completed its $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM Studios in 2022.

“It’s a new beginning for our service, as we introduce MGM+,” Michael Wright, head of MGM+, said in a statement. “MGM+ will deliver on its iconic and beloved studio legacy, with cinematic, sophisticated, and transportive storytelling that audiences love.”

The new programming lineup and original content production plans for MGM+ include the Jan. 15 premiere for season three of drama series “Godfather of Harlem,” the true-crime docuseries “Murf the Surf” (Feb. 5)the six-episode limited series “A Spy Among Friends” (March 13), and the contemporary sci-fi horror movie FROM (April 23), among other titles.

The library of movies includes Top Gun: Maverick and MGM theatrical hits No Time to Die and House of Gucci, and legacy franchises such as “James Bond” and “Rocky.” The service also offers classic movies, including The Silence of the Lambs, Platoon, RoboCopThe Magnificent Seven, The Wolf of Wall Street, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Lost City, BarbershopThe Pink Panther, In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, A Quiet Place and Father of the Bride.

MGM’s Epix Linear/Streaming Platform to Relaunch as MGM+ in Early 2023

Amazon-owned MGM Holdings Sept. 28 announced that its linear and streaming service Epix will rebrand as MGM+ on Jan. 15, 2023, in conjunction with the season three premiere of “Godfather of Harlem.”

The show’s second season was Epix’s best performing season of all time, breaking records for single-title streams in a single day across the platform’s digital channels. The season two finale was Epix’s best-performing final episode to date. 

Epix was launched in 2009 in a co-partnership between MGM, Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures. MGM bought out the two partners’ stakes in 2017.

The new brand logo attempts embody the legacy of MGM, while at the same time orienting the brand toward the future. It reimagines the 100-year history of MGM’s classic art-deco typeface in a contemporary and forward-facing fashion. 

This rebrand is a promise to existing and new viewers that MGM+ is the place to find television that reflects and celebrates the legacy of the iconic MGM brand — cinematic programming with sophisticated storytelling that entertains, delights, surprises, and transports,” Michael Wright, head of MGM+, said in a statement. 

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The MGM+ service will offer a library of film titles from MGM and other major Hollywood Studios. The library of titles includes MGM theatrical hits No Time to Die, House of Gucci and Licorice Pizza; the James Bond movie franchise and the original “Rocky” titles and sequelsas well as classic releases Silence of the Lambs, Bull DurhamPlatoon, RobocopMississippi Burning, The Magnificent Seven, BarbershopThe Pink Panther, In the Heat of the Night, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and The Thomas Crown Affair. 

MGM+ will continue to be available nationwide through cable, telco, satellite, and emerging digital distribution channels, as well as through its branded app.

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.