EMA Event Spotlights Digital Delivery

The over-the-top market is exploding, and the Entertainment Merchants Association this year at its annual Los Angeles conference gave it a starring role.

The OTT_X conference, focusing on the OTT market, ran July 16-17 concurrent with the eighth annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit presented by the EMA. In addition to OTT panels and spotlight presentations, the EMA facilitated OTT business meetings in addition to meetings scheduled for LAES participants. The joint event attracted about 400 attendees.

The new focus is part of a bigger shift for the EMA.

“It was really apparent last year that the event needed to change,” said EMA CEO and president Mark Fisher July 16 in opening remarks, adding “as the industry changes so does the EMA.”

“We’ve intentionally shed our support and income from the video game segment,” he said, to be more focused. The organization has also shed physical retail members and distributors.

“It’s a pivot,” he said, but “we’re not going to leave behind the TVOD space.”

A leader in that transactional VOD market, FandangoNow chief Cameron Douglas, also chair of the EMA board, noted the annual confab “used to be an event with meetings between retailers and studios.”

Now, the EMA, via its Ultimate Movie Weekend promotion, is promoting cooperation between studios and digital retailers.

“Who would have thought there would be a major studio backed campaign — except Fox and Disney — that was focused on rental instead of EST,” Douglas said.

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks and chair of the OTT_X  conference, explained the name in opening remarks.

“The X in the name really reflects the core mission of why we’re all here today,” he said. “It’s an exchange. First and foremost, it’s an exchange of ideas.”

Such collaboration is crucial in an era of fast digital disruption.

“These changes are happening so frequently and at such a precipitous pace, the only way we can come out of this is by fostering a community,” he said.

Key challenges for OTT video platforms are customer acquisition and retention, monetization and content discovery, according to speakers at OTT_X.

Having original content is one way OTT platforms are meeting these challenges, said presenter Kathi Chandler-Payatt, executive director and entertainment analyst, The NPD Group. Using Netflix Originals as a case study, she noted that while both original movies and episodic shows are a small percentage of content on Netflix, they garner an outsized share of viewing. Originals made up 16% of new seasons vs. licensed in 2019, but those originals garnered a prodigious 24% of minutes watched. The same holds true for original movies, which are 11% of content and 22% of minutes.

Part of the reason for the uptake of originals is preferential marketing, she noted.

“It’s very smart from a platform perspective to push originals,” she said because the platform owns it. Thus, making a show with Netflix may give content producers a leg up in discovery.

“People think content is king, but discovery is king,” she said.

Originals have a short window to prove themselves, she said. She quoted Netflix VP of originals Cindy Holland as saying that the service generally knows within 28 days whether a new show or season meets Netflix’s expectations in terms of audience reach. In addition to viewership during that period, metrics such as season completion also figure in renewal.

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OTT_X event chair Opeka moderated the panel “Monetization Trends in OTT.” Ad-supported VOD streaming services, such as Xumo, whose CEO Colin Petrie-Norris was on the panel, are ascendant, many speakers noted. Xumo has 160 curated channels and 40 million households in the United States, Petrie-Norris said.

AVOD “can generate very high yield per consumer” with advertising, he said.

Tubi chief content officer Adam Lewinson also cited the growth of AVOD in a keynote presentatoin. AVOD aggregator Tubi has 20 million monthly active users, with 100 million minutes streamed in June and well over 15,000 titles or 44,000 hours of content, “more than double the content volume of Netflix,” he said. June yielded its largest revenue month ever, he said.

“AVOD is for real,” he said.

There are challenges, however.

“The biggest challenge in streaming right now … in all VODs, it’s really about customer acquisition, retention and churn,” he said. “A subset to that is content discovery. Once you crack those problems, that’s when you get to scale.”

A seamless experience on the platform is also “incredibly important,” he said, “just having a seamless experience where the tech fades away.”

“You also want to be ubiquitious,” he said. “You do want to be everywhere that people are streaming.”

Tubi has also employed machine learning in its proprietary content personalization engine.

“The more data that we have on our viewers the more we are able to personalize,” he said.

A key advantage to AVOD is the “barrier to entry is so low” because viewers don’t have to pay, he said.

As for Tubi getting into original programming like its paid SVOD counterparts, “we have no intention of going down that road,” he said. “It’s tremendously competitive. You wind up overpaying for content.”

There is already too much content, he noted.

“Original series are just whizzing by at an epic pace,” he said.

That doesn’t mean Tubi isn’t willing to spend on content.

“I have a nine-figure content budget for the year, and we’re spending it,” he said.

On a panel about windowing of content, Paul Colichman, CEO of Here Media, said he was “worried that [AVOD is] the emperor’s new clothes,” a false hope of a monetary savior, noting the amount of revenue that trickles down to content producers who license their titles to such services is small.

Still, competition from increased content is pushing content owners to find new outlets.

“It used to take years for us to put up content on AVOD,” said Cinedigm’s Natasha Pietruschka, adding that now, “Where else can we fill those revenue gaps?”

Transactional digital retailers took the stage during the LAES session. Panelists noted that since consumers are paying directly for content, whether for rental or purchase, the key concern for TVOD platforms is making that experience seamless and easy and the quality top notch.

“The bar is so high because you have paid specifically for that title whether rental or purchase,” said FandangoNow’s Douglas, who was on the transactional panel. “It better play.”

He said FandangoNow has concentrated on making the viewing experience top-quality with extensive 4K offerings and a living room app that rivals any.

While Redbox has made its name on physical disc rentals, Chris Yates, GM of Redbox On Demand, said the new digital sales and rental arm doesn’t cannibalize that core business, it supplements it. It offers a choice when consumers don’t want to go to a kiosk and has resulted in “improved affinity for our brand,” he said.

Speakers at both events discussed the looming launch of new SVOD services, including Walt Disney Co.’s $6.99 Disney+.

Disney is “out in front of the others,” said IHS Markit’s Sarah Henschel during a research presentation. Awareness of the service jumped from 24% in Q1 to 35% in Q2 even before the Disney marketing machine really gets rolling, she said.

The firm expects upcoming services to add 36.7 million paying domestic subs by 2023.

“I think Disney and Apple [with its pending SVOD service Apple TV+] have a leg up because they are already consumer facing brands,” Henschel said. “Disney has the strongest hold in my opinion right now.”

When asked how many in the audience would buy the new service when it launches, the majority of attendees raised their hands.

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Sets FandangoNow Preorder Record

Comcast’s FandangoNow June 26 disclosed that preorders for the Disney/Marvel Studios superhero movie Avengers: Endgame set a record for the transactional VOD service.

“With the new bonus features, Endgame will be one of the top home entertainment titles when it debuts [on July 30],” Erik Davis, managing editor at Fandango, said in a statement.

According to a Fandango survey of more than 1,000 people planning to watch Endgame at home, 97% own other Marvel movies; 89% plan to show the movie to friends, family, or significant others at home; 88% believe the title ranks as a classic, and 86% previously viewed Endgame at least once in theaters.

On June 28, Endgame will expand its run on the big screen as part of an Avengers: Endgame “Bring Back” event at select theaters.

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Consumers who buy a movie ticket receive an exclusive piece of Avengers art and will be treated to a video introduction by director Anthony Russo, an unfinished deleted scene from the film and a special sneak peek from the upcoming Sony Pictures/Marvel Studios feature Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Tickets to the “Bring Back” event are available now on Fandango.

FandangoNow Celebrates 15th Anniversary of ‘The Notebook’ With Sale

In honor of this week’s 15th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Notebook, FandangoNow is offering the romance for purchase at $7.99 in SD or HD through July 1.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

Fans of the 2004 love story can also find a collection of other movies featuring the film’s stars, Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, as part of the FandangoNow Flashback anniversary collection at https://www.fandangonow.com/list/flashbacks.

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Also, as part of the celebration, Rotten Tomatoes’ 21 Most Memorable Movie Moments series is featuring a special video devoted to the iconic “Kiss in the Rain” scene in “The Notebook,” narrated by director Nick Cassavetes.

‘Captain Marvel’ Soars on FandangoNow Chart

Disney’s superhero blockbuster Captain Marvel was the top film purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended June 16.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

Captain Marvel, which earned $426.8 million in theaters, stars Brie Larson as the Marvel Comics character Carol Danvers.

Universal’s horror film Us landed at No. 2. Writer-director Jordan Peele’s followup to Get Out, the film stars Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss. It earned $175 million at the box office.

Another Universal title, The Upside, took the third spot. The comedy stars Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston as an out-of-work ex-con and a wealthy quadriplegic who unexpectedly come together and help each other bring back their zest for life. It earned $108.2 million in theaters.

In fourth place was Lionsgate’s romance Five Feet Apart, about two teens with cystic fibrosis who fall in love but are forced to stay apart because of their illness. It made $45.7 million in theaters.

Rounding out the top five was Paramount’s animated adventure Wonder Park. It’s the story of a young girl named June who makes an incredible discovery — the amusement park of her dreams has come to life filled with wild rides operated by fun-loving animals. It features the voices of Jennifer Garner, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Kenan Thompson and Ken Jeong, among others, and made $45.2 million at the box office.

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The top 10 films purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended June 16 were:

  1. Captain Marvel * (Disney)
  2. Us* (Universal)
  3. The Upside * (Universal)
  4. Five Feet Apart * (Lionsgate)
  5. Wonder Park * (Paramount)
  6. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral * (Lionsgate)
  7. Captive State * (Universal)
  8. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World * (Universal)
  9. The Mustang * (Universal)
  10. The Kid * (Lionsgate)

*Available in 4K

 

FandangoNow Launches ‘Best LGBTQ Movies of All Time’ List for Pride Month

In celebration of Pride Month, FandangoNow is hosting a “Best LGBTQ Movies of All Time” promotion, featuring a collection of the 200 top-reviewed LGBTQ films, hand-picked by FandangoNow’s sister site, Rotten Tomatoes.

Taking the top spot is Academy Award-winner Moonlight, starring Mahershala Ali. Can You Ever Forgive Me, starring Melissa McCarthy, came in at No. 2, with Call Me By Your Name and The Favourite, at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Coming in at No. 5 was Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Booksmart, just released in theaters, took the No. 6 spot.

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MCU Titles Surge at FandangoNow

FandangoNow has seen a spike in sales for all 20 Marvel cinematic universe titles since the theatrical bow of Avengers: Endgame, with all appearing among its top 100 films, according to the service.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD platform.

The site also reported a surge in preorders and first-day sales for Captain Marvel, hitting home this week. The female-driven superhero film is pacing similarly to Marvel’s Black Panther, one of FandangoNow’s most purchased titles of all time, according to the service.

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Captain Marvel is one of the year’s most entertaining films, and one of the most talked-about Marvel movies ever,” said FandangoNow managing editor Erik Davis in a statement. “It’s clear fans want to see lots more of Brie Larson’s high-flying superhero, and are excited to watch all the bonus content, deleted scenes and outtakes, especially after seeing her in Avengers: Endgame.”

According to a FandangoNow survey of fans planning to watch Captain Marvel at home, 91% are excited to revisit Captain Marvel’s origin story at home after seeing her on the big screen in Avengers: Endgame, while 60% plan to watch Captain Marvel at home before they head to the theater to see the MCU’s next chapter, Spider-Man: Far from Home.

Since the release of Endgame, the five best-selling MCU titles are:

  1. Spider-Man Homecoming*
  2. Iron Man
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger*
  4. Marvel’s The Avengers*
  5. Avengers: Age of Ultron*

 

*Available in 4K

 

‘The Upside’ Climbs to Top of FandangoNow Chart

The comedy The Upside was the top film purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 19.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

The Universal film stars Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston as an out-of-work ex-con and a wealthy quadriplegic who unexpectedly come together and help each other bring back their zest for life. It earned $108.2 million in theaters.

Lionsgate’s Cold Pursuit, starring Liam Neeson, jumped up two spots to No. 2. In the film, which earned $32 million at the box office, Neeson plays a grieving snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son.

Taking the third spot was Universal’s Fighting With My Family, a comedy about World Wrestling Entertainment star Paige featuring Dwayne Johnson. It made $23 million in theaters.

Another Universal title, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the series about a boy and his dragon, dropped two spots to No. 4. It made $160 million at the box office.

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Boosted by the May 17 theatrical debut of the third installment in the Lionsgate series, the double feature of John Wick and John Wick 2, starring Keanu Reeves as a hitman out for revenge, jumped five spots to No. 5 on the week’s chart.

Entering the chart at No. 10 was Universal’s horror sequel Happy Death Day 2U. The follow-up to 2017’s Happy Death Day earned $28 million at the box office.

The top 10 films purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 19 were:

  1. The Upside (Universal)
  2. Cold Pursuit * (Lionsgate)
  3. Fighting With My Family (Universal)
  4. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World * (Universal)
  5. John Wickand John Wick: Chapter 2 (Double Feature) * (Lionsgate)
  6. What Men Want* (Paramount)
  7. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part* (Warner)
  8. Glass* (Universal)
  9. Aquaman * (Warner)
  10. Happy Death Day 2U* (Universal)

*Available in 4K

Rotten Tomatoes Revises Audience Movie Ratings

Movie rating service Rotten Tomatoes is changing its Audience Rating System to feature verified ratings and reviews.

For eligible movies moving forward, Audience Scores will be made up of ratings from fans who are confirmed to have purchased tickets to those movies. Those fans’ written reviews will also display a “verified” badge.

“We know from our research that fans consult Rotten Tomatoes’ Audience Score along with the Tomatometer, when making decisions on what to watch,” Paul Yanover, Fandango president, said in a statement. “Having an Audience Score and reviews from fans who are confirmed ticket purchasers, will add even more usefulness to our product and increase consumer confidence.”

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Rotten Tomatoes users can opt-in to get their rating and review “verified” if they purchased their movie ticket on Fandango. Exhibitors AMC Theatres, Regal and Cinemark Theatres plan to participate as ticket purchase authenticators later this year. Every visitor to the Rotten Tomatoes site will still be invited to rate and review movies regardless of whether or not they are confirmed ticket purchasers. Reviews (both verified and unverified) will still be listed, with those that are verified marked with a “verified” badge, so that readers will know that the reviewer purchased a ticket to that movie.

On Fandango’s site and mobile apps, Rotten Tomatoes will begin powering Fandango’s fan rating system, replacing its previous five-star fan rating, according to the service. Once their ticket purchases are confirmed through their Fandango user account, Fandango ticket buyers’ ratings and reviews will now count towards the Verified Audience Score displayed on Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, as well as on other platforms that syndicate Rotten Tomatoes scores.

The service has previously come under fire as users have been able to manipulate the Audience Score for a particular movie through coordinated online campaigns by those who hadn’t even seen the film. In particular, a recent campaign against Captain Marvel, which has a strong female character, drew criticism of the service.

The launch of Verified Ratings and Reviews is part of the Rotten Tomatoes’ overall plan to modernize its Audience Rating System over the next year, “making it even more helpful to fans as they make their entertainment viewing decisions,” according to a press release.

Rotten Tomatoes introduced an earlier product enhancement in February, and reports each change in a Product Update Blog.

In addition to enhancing its Audience Rating System, Rotten Tomatoes has been working over the past 18 months to increase the diversity of the critical voices that make up its Tomatometer, which aggregates the collective opinions of thousands of Tomatometer-approved critics for movies and TV shows, according to the release. Last August, Rotten Tomatoes made an enhancement to its critics community, by debuting revamped Tomatometer critics criteria. With an increased focus on the critic’s individual qualifications versus the publications that they write for, Rotten Tomatoes’ goal is to enable a wider and more diverse pool of critics’ perspectives to be included in the Tomatometer. Since launch, Rotten Tomatoes has added more than 500 new Tomatometer-approved critics and publications, with plans to add even more critics in the future, according to the release.

Additionally, Rotten Tomatoes announced the establishment of a $100,000 grant program to create more opportunities for critics serving underrepresented groups to cover major film festivals and gain access to press screenings. To date, Rotten Tomatoes has donated $25,000 respectively to the press inclusion initiatives at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, 2019 Sundance Film Festival and 2019 SXSW Film Festival and Conference, according to the release.

Comedy ‘What Men Want’ Tops FandangoNow Chart

The comedy What Men Want was the top film purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 12.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

The Paramount film, starring Taraji P. Henson and Tracy Morgan, earned $54.6 million in theaters.

Universal’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the series about a boy and his dragon, dropped one spot to No. 2. It made $160 million at the box office. Meanwhile, the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy flew up one spot to No. 8, showing continued strong interest in the franchise for the week.

Warner’s animated sequel The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, which earned $105.8 million in theaters, debuted in the third spot on the chart.

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Jumping up one spot from No. 5 in the previous week to No. 4 was Lionsgate’s Cold Pursuit, starring Liam Neeson as a grieving snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son. The film earned $32 million at the box office.

Warner’s DC superhero flick Aquaman floated up from No. 9 to No. 5.

Boosted by the impending May 17 theatrical debut of the third installment in the Lionsgate series, the double feature of John Wick and John Wick 2, starring Keanu Reeves as a hitman out for revenge, landed at No. 10 on the week’s chart.

The top 10 films purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 12 were:

  1. What Men Want*
  2. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World*
  3. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part *
  4. Cold Pursuit*
  5. Aquaman *
  6. Glass*
  7. Isn’t It Romantic*
  8. “How to Train Your Dragon” Trilogy*
  9. The Mule*
  10. John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 (Double Feature) *

*Available in 4K

‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ Flies to Top of FandangoNow Chart

The animated How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was the top film purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 5.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

The Universal film, the third in the series about a boy and his dragon, made $160 million at the box office. The “How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy” came in at No. 9, showing there was strong interest in the franchise for the week.

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Landing at No. 2 was the Warner romantic comedy sendup Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson. Wilson and Anne Hathaway star in the current theatrical release The Hustle, which perhaps boosted interest in the Wilson title.

Universal’s Glass, from filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, came in third on the FandangoNow chart, while Universal’s Fighting With My Family, a wrestling story starring Dwayne Johnson, landed at No. 4.

In the No. 5 spot was Lionsgate’s Cold Pursuit, starring Liam Neeson as a grieving snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son. The film earned $32 million at the box office.

The top 10 films purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 5 were:

  1. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World *
  2. Isn’t It Romantic *
  3. Glass *
  4. Fighting With My Family
  5. Cold Pursuit *
  6. Aquaman *
  7. Serenity
  8. The Mule *
  9. How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy *
  10. Arctic *

 

*Available in 4K