Xumo, Magnolia Pictures Ink Ad-Supported Streaming Video Distribution Deal

Xumo, the Comcast-owned free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) and AVOD platform, has inked a two-year with deal wih Magnolia Pictures to stream original movies from the longtime theatrical/home entertainment distributor owned by Mark Cuban Companies.

“Xumo is always looking to showcase intelligent, engaging programming to create a dynamic and unique FAST experience…and Magnolia is known for that kind of storytelling,” Anthony Layser, VP of content partnerships and programming at Xumo, said in a statement.

Xumo, which actively seeks content partnerships on its website, also has content deals with indie distributors Oscilloscope and Brainstorm Media.

Magnolia movies coming to Xumo include Italian drama Dogman, and music documentaries The Band from Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am and Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson, among others.

“Being able to expand upon our existing relationship with Xumo and usher our content onto their FAST channels enables audiences to enjoy a unique entertainment experience,” said Jeff Cuban, COO of Mark Cuban Companies Entertainment Properties. “Xumo stands as our first exclusive partner to premiere our titles on their FAST platform which further strengthens the presence of Magnolia in the streaming space and bolsters the influence of our critically acclaimed catalog.”

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Cinedigm’s Chris McGurk to Keynote OTT.X Fall Summit

Cinedigm chairman and CEO Chris McGurk will be the keynote speaker at the annual OTT.X Fall Summit at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles Aug. 31-Sept. 1.

Chris McGurk

Activities for this year’s summit, produced by the trade organization, include two days of conference programming, multiple workshop and breakout tracks, research insights via the research roundup, exhibitor booths and tabletops, one-on-one pre-scheduled business meetings, networking breakfasts, lunches, and industry cocktail parties.

The event will feature more than 70 speakers discussing topics such as maximizing ad revenue for FAST channels, progress toward better search and discovery, distributing and windowing content across business models, globalization of content, metadata, and rights management. Panels include “Growing Your Footprint,” “Distributing and Windowing Content Across Business Models,” “Progress Toward Better Search and Discovery” and “Fast Track: Maximizing Ad Revenue.”

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Research institutions presenting their latest insights include Comscore, nScreenMedia, Omdia, Slalom, The NPD Group and Vorhaus Advisors

The OTT.X Fall Summit is free for all OTT.X members and $500 for non-members. Media Play News readers can register here for a 10% discount using promo code FS22MPN10.

OTT.X Fall Summit Returning to L.A.’s Skirball Center Aug. 31-Sept. 1

The annual OTT.X Fall Summit will return to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles Aug. 31-Sept. 1.

Activities for this year’s summit, produced by the trade organization, include two days of conference programming, multiple workshop and breakout tracks, research insights via the research roundup, exhibitor booths and tabletops, one-on-one pre-scheduled business meetings, networking breakfasts, lunches, and industry cocktail parties.

The event will feature more than 50 speakers discussing topics such as maximizing ad revenue for FAST channels, progress toward better search and discovery, distributing and windowing content across business models, globalization of content, metadata, and rights management.

There will be multiple breakout tracks at this year’s summit for new technologies, small business, FAST, content operations and more. There will also be a special panel of college students discussing their views of OTT and their own viewing habits.

Research institutions presenting their latest insights include Comscore, nScreenMedia, Omdia, Slalom, The NPD Group and Vorhaus Advisors

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“Our annual Fall Summit brings all sectors of the streaming industry together to examine our current state and pave the way forward for our rapidly changing business” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of OTT.X, in a statement. “Key industry players, big and small, participate at the summit to exchange business and expertise and get ahead of the latest trends in streaming.”

The OTT.X Fall Summit is free for all OTT.X members and $500 for non-members. Media Play News readers can register here for a 10% discount using promo code FS22MPN10.

FilmRise Acquires Digital Rights to Reality Series ‘Cheaters’

FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired digital distribution rights to the reality series “Cheaters” from Goldstein Pictures Corporation. The deal gives FilmRise digital rights worldwide to the entire series. 

The package contains more than 1,000 episodes (692 30-minute episodes and 346 60-minute episodes) in 21 seasons of the reality series where people who think their significant other is cheating on them hire the “Cheaters Detective Agency” hidden camera crew to investigate their suspicions. The series premiered in 2,000 and has been running for more than 20 years.

“There is no better drama than reality TV and no better guilty pleasure than the binge-worthy series ‘Cheaters,'” said Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions. “As traditional television viewing continues to migrate to streaming, so should this long-running fan favorite.”

In the United States, “Cheaters” is currently available to watch on VH1 and Pluto TV while FilmRise currently exhibits the series on the FilmRise app and on The Roku Channel and Amazon’s FreeVee (formerly IMDb TV), with more digital platforms to follow in summer 2023.

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“Max Einhorn is indeed ‘Cheaters” unicorn for sure. We’d been talking about this for years, but I was too busy working to slow down long enough to listen and download the opportunity,” said Bobby Goldstein, executive producer and creator of the series, in a statement. “My distributor Jeff Goldman from Octopean asked me what was wrong with me and hit me over the head with his laptop.  Now here we are, and I’m loving it!”

Comcast: Consumers Embracing Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV

Comcast July 21 released new data that suggests consumer are embracing free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST).

According to the report, FAST penetration among households has more than doubled year-over-year. Today, six out of 10 households who have connected TVs are using FAST services exclusively or in addition to other services — getting a TV-like viewing experience without the costs or logins required for linear TV or paid streaming.

“FAST is a rapidly growing ad-supported medium for consumers to watch and discover premium streaming content in an environment that mimics linear TV,” James Rooke, president of Comcast Advertising, said in a statement. “As advertisers look to efficiently maximize their reach in an increasingly fragmented viewing landscape, FAST services are a valuable complement to traditional TV and other AVOD streaming options as part of a holistic multi-screen media plan.”

The report looks at new trends from Comcast-owned FAST provider Xumo and reveals that the average user spends about 104 minutes within the platform once they have entered. Many consumers may be landing on FAST channels without even realizing it, as many are programmed directly into the channel guide by TV manufacturers, according to Comcast. Not surprisingly, 70% of Xumo users are cord cutters, relying on FAST as a complement to subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services.

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According to the report, advertisers and programmers alike are seeing the value of FAST services. According to Horizon Media, “the FAST industry has grown exponentially and overlaps quite a bit now with what traditional TV has to offer in terms of both content and audience. Advertising on FAST allows us to reach our targeted audience and is a valuable complement to our TV budget.”

“As customers find more ways to watch the content they love across a mix of services, FAST channels have become a key part of our media mix for acquisition and awareness, as well as targeted campaigns to super-serve key audiences,” said Amanda Garcia, senior director of partnerships at Paramount+.

Q&A: CEO Serves Up Online Strategy for Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment

William J. Rouhana Jr. is chairman and CEO of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment and has been CEO since April 2008. A leader in the media, entertainment and communications industries for more than 35 years, he was the founder and CEO of Winstar Communications, a wireless broadband pioneer, and Winstar New Media, one of the earliest online content companies, from 1993 until 2001. During his career Rouhana has led the acquisition of numerous media companies including Virgin Vision, a Virgin Group worldwide film distribution venture, in the 1980s. As an entertainment and finance lawyer from 1977 to 1985, he developed new film financing models for major producers such as Blake Edwards. He is a founder of The Humpty Dumpty Institute, which created the International Film Exchange, and the co-chairman of the Global Creative Forum, which connects the United Nations with major film and television executives, producers and talent.

In May, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment announced it would acquire Redbox Entertainment, operator of more than 38,000 DVD rental kiosks and branded digital entertainment properties. The announcement came on the heels of the March announcement of an agreement to acquire the assets of 1091 Media, comprising its distribution business known as 1091 Pictures.

Media Play News asked the long-time executive what he plans with the acquisitions and about the long-term strategy of his company. 

 MPN: What is your grand vision for Chicken Soup for the Soul?

Rouhana: We, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, are building the best AVOD and bringing great content to everyone at no cost at all. We are increasing our high-quality original and exclusive content, expanding our reach, and driving ad sales through our new tech platform and ad formats.

If we execute on all these initiatives, we should be able to drive significant shareholder and consumer value en route to building the best AVOD. 

MPN: What are the entertainment properties/services under the banner and how do they integrate?

Rouhana: We have three key AVOD streaming services within Crackle Plus — which has 40M+ MAUs:

  • Crackle — a top AVOD network — a leading, free-to-use video entertainment streaming service featuring full length movies and TV shows including original and exclusive content;
  • Popcornflix — created for viewers who want to watch action, adventure and heart-pounding moments from full-length movies, compelling documentaries, foreign films and unique original web series; and
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul — our newest streaming service, which includes entertaining, inspiring, uplifting, and informative content with a large selection of movies as well as TV series covering food, home, travel and more.

We also have global content acquisition and distribution capabilities through our Screen Media division and production capabilities for a variety of original long- and short-form scripted and unscripted content through our Chicken Soup for the Soul Television Group with multiple studios. In addition, we have one of the largest independent film and TV series libraries to feed our streaming services.

MPN: How does Chicken Soup compete against the major streaming services and what services do you see as your major competitors?

Rouhana: Anywhere that consumers go to watch great content can be viewed as a competitor in the streaming business. However, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is primarily focused on providing value-conscious consumers original and exclusive content that they can’t find elsewhere. Recently, our Screen Media team secured a deal with BBC for “Sherlock” and 2,500 additional hours of content exclusively on our Crackle Plus streaming services.

We view our major competitors in the AVOD space as services owned by Fox, Paramount and Amazon.

All this comes back to compelling content (and original content at that). People don’t think they’re going to get great original content on a free streaming service, so we’re something new for them.

MPN: How long do you think this explosion of ad-supported streaming content will last?

Rouhana: There are several industry themes that that we believe will only continue going forward:

  • The rate at which consumers have shifted to AVOD — while that was accelerated by COVID — has continued as many more consumers are aware of quality free streaming options, like ours.
  • There is great, award-winning content available on streaming services, including ours.
  • The rise of AVOD across the streaming industry is driving media to increase spending on AVOD. Not only do we have a four-year head start on newer network owners, we also are free from legacy thinking — for us it’s not a strategy to compensate for cord-cutting; it’s a growth business.

 

MPN: Crackle Plus had a big hit in 2019 with original series ‘Going From Broke,’ the Ashton Kutcher-produced series about helping young adults get out of debt, which generated more than 5 million views in its first 10 days, prompting a sequel. How important is exclusive content to your business?

Rouhana: Our original and exclusive (O&E) content is a priority and a key differentiator. We have made a lot of progress over the past year, as our O&E as a percentage of total streaming hours is now up to 27% as of Q1. We want to continue to move that number up over time and believe it’s a good indicator of our differentiated programming strategy.

The key driver of this viewership is the quality of the O&E programming. We are putting compelling and high-quality content on our streaming services as we have had an impressive number of hit TV shows and movies recently, including but not limited to “Going From Broke.”

Importantly for the business and our investors, we have a good track record of acquiring and producing content economically by using co-production deals and partnerships.

Beyond new releases, we’re also significantly growing our IP library rights, which drives higher margins over time, in part due to the absence of royalties. We also typically see higher CPMs on our original content than licensed content.

We have a really exciting pipeline with new content rolling out at a higher rate than ever.

MPN: What prompted the Redbox acquisition, and what kind of integration are you looking at? Who will direct its digital services?

Rouhana: The combination of Redbox and Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is a perfect fit — one that allows us to build a full streaming solution faster than either of us would have been able to do individually. Rather than Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment having to build our own TVOD, PVOD and FAST platforms, and Redbox having to build their own AVOD, we can utilize the products we’ve each developed to improve our offerings. This will save both companies valuable time and money as we build out a full streaming solution.

MPN: What will be the fate of the Redbox kiosks?

Rouhana: Those beloved Redbox kiosks are not going anywhere. They serve as a convenient and valuable source of entertainment for value-conscious consumers, providing the company with an important source of cash flow and customer engagement. The Redbox kiosks also represent a new distribution opportunity for our original films, further supporting acquisition synergies. As viewers return to theaters, the increase in new movie releases will also benefit the kiosks.

MPN: You’ve made some other acquisitions and licensing deals recently, such as the BBC Studios and Kin licensing deals and the 1091 Pictures acquisition. What’s the company’s driving strategy in making such deals?

Rouhana: A key initiative for us is building our film and television library by obtaining content economically and through our production and acquisition capabilities. Key drivers of this strategy include:

  • Using co-production deals and partnerships to produce cost-effective original content;
  • Increasing IP library rights ownership to drive higher margins over time;
  • Increasing CPMs on our original content rather than on our licensed content; and
  • Supporting our original and exclusive content strategy to enhance margins over time.

 

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MPN: Tell us a little about your own history and your history with the company.

Rouhana: Since acquiring the company in 2008, we have created our Entertainment division and become an innovative leader in the AVOD space, assembling a large film and TV rights library and building viewership of our streaming services, including Crackle, Popcornflix and the recently launched namesake Chicken Soup for the Soul. Prior to Chicken Soup for the Soul, I began my career as an entertainment and finance lawyer, after which I founded a merchant bank as an entertainment financier and founded Winstar Communications — a wireless broadband pioneer.

My experience provides the company with a long-term perspective on media trends, and the importance of streaming to the future. We hope to help the industry realize the opportunity to serve consumers by building the best AVOD streaming services. 

Crackle Plus Launches FAST Channels on FuboTV

Crackle Plus, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company and an operator of advertising-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) streaming services, has launched its Crackle and Popcornflix FAST channels on FuboTV’s platform in the United States. 

FuboTV’s audience will gain access to the Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment content library, including the college thriller series “In the Vault.” Viewers will also gain access to action shows from Popcornflix such as the feature films Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956) and Jackie Chan’s Little Big Soldier as well as the two-part limited series Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island

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“We are so excited to bring our constantly expanding content offering to FuboTV viewers,” president of Crackle Plus Philippe Guelton said in a statement. “Our advertising and marketing partners will now access new audiences through the launch of the Crackle and Popcornflix FAST channels on FuboTV.”

Other Crackle Plus recent releases include the popular sketch comedy series “Funny Girls”; the exclusive scripted series “Les Norton,” which stars Alexander Bertram and Rebel Wilson; “Inside the Black Box,” hosted by Joe Morton; and the BBC series “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The company also recently announced season three of the series “Going From Broke.”

The Crackle Plus streaming services are currently distributed through 85 touch points in the United States on platforms including Amazon Fire TV, RokuTV, Apple TV, Smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Vizio), gaming consoles (PS4 and Xbox One), Plex, iOS and Android mobile devices and on desktops at Crackle.com.

Pluto TV Updates Category and Channel Lineup

Paramount-owned, ad-supported service Pluto TV has unveiled a reorganization of its U.S. channel lineup, adding new categories, channels and programming.

“The new lineup is designed to offer greater ease of navigation for users, and more fan-favorite programming based on popular themes and genres being streamed across the platform,” according to Pluto TV.

Audiences now have 18 categories to choose from — three more than before — containing new and existing programming. New categories include Game Shows, Daytime TV, Home, Food, and Lifestyle + Culture. Those are added to existing channels Movies, Entertainment, News + Opinion, Crime, Reality,  Comedy, Classic TV,  Sports, Gaming + Anime, Music, En Español, Kids, and Local. As part of the reorganization, select channels’ content will relocate to new categories that are better suited to their genres, according to Pluto TV.

Genres such as game shows, reality and daytime television series have shown to be incredibly popular among viewers, therefore creating a demand for their own dedicated categories and even more channels and titles added to these categories, according to Pluto TV.

In coordination with the rollout of the new lineup and categories, Pluto TV is also launching two new channels, the Judge Judy Channel and the “Let’s Make a Deal” channel, featuring the updated game show hosted by Wayne Brady.

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“We are always looking for ways to improve our programming offering and make it easier for the audience to find what they are looking for. Not only is this expansion driven by viewing habits we can see, we spoke directly to our audience to gain feedback on suggested changes before they were made,” Scott Reich, SVP of programming at Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Everything we do puts the audience first and this optimization is the latest step to maintain our market leadership in partnership with our audience.”

With a global audience of more than 68 million monthly active users, Pluto TV delivers more than 1,000 global channels, featuring on-demand and linear programming, for free, across all major internet connected devices.

Cinedigm Launches The Elvis Presley Channel

Cinedigm June 27 announced the launch of The Elvis Presley Channel. In partnership with Elvis Presley Enterprises and ABG Entertainment, the new streaming channel comprises Elvis Presley films and specials along with series and lifestyle programming inspired by late cultural icon — including a new, original series in development.

The Elvis Presley Channel is accessible as a free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channel on connected TVs, digital set-top boxes, media-streaming devices and online. Streaming platforms include LG Channels, Amazon Freevee, Vizio WatchFree+, Comcast’s Xumo, Plex, Allen Media Group’s Local Now and Dish Network’s Sling TV. Additionally, the Xfinity What to Watch channel will feature a curated collection of films and documentaries from the Elvis channel during primetime starting July 2.

“We see his ongoing influence today in music, movies, fashion and culture,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement. “With the channel, we aim to not only thrill current fans and showcase Elvis’ influences and demonstrate enduring impact but to engage new generations of fans through our curated and creative program line-up.”

2022 is a banner year for Elvis with the launch of Warner Bros. Pictures’ biopic Elvis, which topped the June 26 weekend box office with more than $31 million in revenue. Graceland will honor the 45th anniversary of Elvis’ passing with Elvis Week 2022 from Aug. 9 to 17. Additionally, Netflix is slated to launch the Elvis animated action-comedy series, “Agent King” and Sony has two Elvis albums planned later this year.

The Elvis Presley Channel’s films and specials include the Elvis ’68 Comeback Special, Elvis Aloha From Hawaii,  and both the broadcast and unedited versions of “Elvis,” by the Presley’s.

Themed programming blocks including Elvis’s Favorites, Friends of Elvis, Elvis Inspired Reality and Lifestyle Programming, African-American Artists that Inspired Elvis and ’50s Rock N’ Roll Rebel Movies. Fans will be able to tune in for hours watching some of Elvis’ favorite TV and film content including “The Beverly Hillbillies,” John Wayne movies such as Angel and the Badman, Blue Steel and Riders of Destiny, as well as Bruce Lee films like Warrior’s Journey and The Man the Myth.

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“We are thrilled for fans to immerse themselves in Elvis’ world with the launch of The Elvis Presley Channel,” said Matt Abruzzo, senior director of brand management for entertainment at Authentic Brands Group (ABG), owner of Elvis Presley Enterprises, LLC. “The Elvis fandom is incredibly passionate, and when it comes to serving enthusiastic fan bases, no one does it better than Cinedigm.”

The launch of The Elvis Presley Channel continues Cinedigm’s expansion of free and subscription-based streaming channels. These include AsianCrush (pan-Asian), Bloody Disgusting (horror), Cocoro (kids/family), Comedy Dynamics (comedy), CONtv (fan culture), CONtv anime (anime), Crime Hunters (crime and paranormal), Dove Channel (family), Docurama (documentaries), El Rey Network (Latinx), Fandor (movies), Film Detective (classic film and TV), KMTV (K-pop), Lonestar (western), Midnight Pulp (horror/thriller/action), MyTime Movie Network (women), Real Madrid TV (football), RetroCrush (classic anime), Screambox (horror), So … Real (reality), The Bob Ross Channel (featuring 350+ episodes of the iconic public television series, The Joy of Painting), The Country Network (country music lifestyle TV), and The Only Way Is Essex (real-life soap).

FilmRise Greenlights Third Season of ‘Bloodline Detectives Hosted by Nancy Grace’

New York-based film and television studio and streaming network FilmRise has renewed it first original true-crime documentary series “Bloodline Detectives Hosted by Nancy Grace” for a third season on digital and broadcast.

Season three of the series, produced by FilmRise and Los Angeles-based production company Peninsula Television, will begin production later this month and will begin airing this fall.

The series, which explores familial DNA search and testing used to uncover criminals, is hosted by legal analyst and former prosecutor Nancy Grace. Grace opens each episode by detailing a highly publicized and violent crime with unknown motives whose assailants were ultimately caught using familial DNA Search. Viewers are led through the case’s resolution with the help of forensic scientists and detectives. Integrating key witness testimony with new forensic and psychological expert interviews, plus reconstruction and archival footage, “Bloodline Detectives Hosted by Nancy Grace” is a study in modern crime-solving techniques. The series takes viewers behind the scenes of cold cases as detectives solve years-old murder investigations using two kinds of technology: genetic genealogy and familial searching. Detectives can harness these techniques to pinpoint an unknown criminal’s relatives and then trace the path of a family tree to reveal the killer, as used in high-profile investigations uncovering the Golden State Killer and the Grim Sleeper.  

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“We were able to experience first-hand the overwhelming demand for true crime programming when we first acquired ‘Unsolved Mysteries,’ and ‘Forensic Files,’” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement. “With the success of these two programs, we knew that when we moved into producing our own original content, this was the genre to build upon. Once we had Nancy Grace onboard for ‘Bloodline Detectives,’ there was no doubt in our minds that this program was going  to be a major draw for the true-crime fan.”