Free TV Streaming Service ‘Locast’ Fights Back Against Major Broadcasters With Countersuit

Locast, the free New York-based service that streams broadcast television feeds online, on Sept. 27 filed a lawsuit against NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC, alleging the major broadcasts colluded to undermine its business, among other claims.

The service claims to have about 700,000 registered users/donors across 13 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, N.Y., is counter litigation against against a civil complaint filed by broadcasters in July against Locast and its non-profit advocacy group Sports Fans Coalition NY parent, alleging the platform violated the content copyrights and revenue streams from pay-TV distributors.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Locast founder David Goodfriend, in his countersuit, claims the networks colluded to put pressure on pay-TV operators in an effort to undermine his business model.

Under federal law, broadcasters must make their signals available to the public through a digital antennae. But pay-TV operators pay networks retransmission fees to distribute their signals.

Locast, as a non-profit, argues it merely acts as a “signal booster.”

“This is classic copyright abuse,” read the complaint. “[Networks] have misused copyrights to expand their market power beyond what those copyrights were intended to protect.”

Unique to the case is the fact Locast has received funding from major media companies such as AT&T ($500,000), which owns WarnerMedia, and Google’s YouTube.

The suit alleges the networks threatened YouTube with litigation if it enabled Locast to operate on its servers.

Yet, when AT&T’s DirecTV satellite distributor and U-verse pay-TV channel had a retransmissions fee dispute with CBS this summer, it directed its 6.5 million subs blacked out from CBS content to use Locast.

Indeed, Dish Network offers the Locast app to its satellite and Sling TV subs as alternative on its AirTV devices.

‘Stuber’ Motors to Digital Oct. 1, Disc Oct. 15 Including 4K From Fox

The comedy Stuber travels to digital Oct. 1 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 15 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The buddy comedy follows a mild-mannered driver named Stu (Kumail Nanjiani, “Silicon Valley”) who picks up a passenger (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy) who turns out to be a cop hot on the trail of a brutal killer. Stu is thrust into a harrowing ordeal in which he desperately tries to hold onto his wits, his life and his five-star rating.

The cast also includes Betty Gilpin (“GLOW”), Iko Uwais (The Raid: Redemption), Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), Jimmy Tatro (“American Vandal”), Natalie Morales (“Abby’s”) and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy).

The film earned $22.4 million at the domestic box office.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Bonus features include deleted scenes, a gag reel, audio commentary with director Michael Dowse (Goon) and Kumail Nanjiani.

More Fox, Disney Layoffs — Five Months After Closure of Sale

Two days after Media Play News reported head of marketing Julia Howe as the latest high-profile 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment departure, multiple sources Aug. 29 said the company — now owned by the Walt Disney Co. — has been racked by more layoffs, including division veterans Jennifer Chai and Kavita Smith.

Jennifer Chai

Chai held the title of SVP of worldwide brand marketing for the home entertainment arm. She led worldwide brand marketing and strategy for the entire Fox new release theatrical slate and third-party titles for both the physical and digital business. She also was involved with the cross-studio Movies Anywhere service as well as other digital strategic initiatives. Chai has been at Fox since 2000, joining after three years as brand manager at what was then Buena Vista Home Entertainment, the Walt Disney Co.’s home entertainment arm.

Smith was VP, global marketing communications and publicity. According to her LinkedIn profile, she joined Fox as director of publicity in November 2005 and was elevated to executive director in September 2012. She was promoted to VP in August 2014. She will stay on through October, sources said.

Reports say the layoffs — nearly 60 — have occurred in both the home entertainment and TV distribution divisions, encompassing both Disney and Fox employees. 20th Century Fox TV Distribution EVP of worldwide marketing Greg Drebin also is exiting.

Fox president of worldwide home entertainment Keith Feldman is staying on with Disney, sources told Media Play News, although his contract has not been finalized.

Howe is said to be leaving the company in November.

The new departures come on the heels of previous high-profile exits in the wake of the Disney acquisition.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Mike Dunn, for years the top home entertainment executive at 20th Century Fox, was among a handful of high-ranking studio executives to leave the studio on March 21, a day after the acquisition closed.

A short time later, Janice Marinelli, head of home entertainment at Disney, set up an office at Fox, reportedly to acquaint herself with the studio’s home entertainment team and see how they operate. But July 16 the 34-year Disney veteran announced her exit.

Also in July, veteran division publicist James Finn, who recently had become co-head of marketing, quietly announced his departure in an email to friends and colleagues. “For nearly 20 years I’ve called Fox my home,” he wrote. “Thank you to my colleagues, my mentors, my family, my friends and my team for making it so much fun.”

After Fox’s sale to Disney closed in March, reports surfaced that as many as 4,000 people could ultimately lose their jobs.

Fox Fetes ‘Mayans M.C.’ Season One DVD

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment celebrated the DVD release of FX’s Mayans M.C.: The Complete First Season with a party Aug. 18 at Heroes Motors in Los Angeles. “Mayans M.C.” is the next chapter in Kurt Sutter’s “Sons of Anarchy” saga. The show takes place in the same fictional universe, and deals with the Sons’ rivals-turned-allies, the Mayans Motorcycle Club. (Photos by Dan Steinberg)

‘Booksmart’ Matriculates to Digital Aug. 20, Disc Sept. 3 From Fox

The teen coming-of-age comedy Booksmart will come out on digital Aug. 20 and Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 3 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, the unfiltered comedy follows best friends and academic overachievers Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) who realize they’ve missed out on pretty much all fun during high school. On the eve of graduation, they decide to make up for lost time with one wild adventure. The film also stars Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Billie Lourd and Jason Sudeikis.

Disc bonus features include audio commentary by Wilde, “Booksmart: The Next ‘Best High School Comedy,’” “Pliés and Jazz Hands: The Dance Fantasy,” “Dressing Booksmart,” deleted scenes and a photo gallery.

The film made $22.2 million at the domestic box office.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Analyst: Netflix to Weather Content Migration — For Now

With Netflix set to release second-quarter (ended June 30) financial results on July 17, Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles and longtime Netflix bear, contends the subscription streaming video pioneer will add 5.3 million subscribers, including 300,000 in the United States.

The tally surprisingly exceeds Wall Street consensus and Netflix’s projection of 5 million new subs, including 4.7 million international subs.

Pachter argues that despite media attention to the departures of popular TV reruns “Friends” and “The Office” from Netflix in two years, the service has more than enough content in the pipeline and willingness to spend big on new programming to weather the storm.

“Friends” and “The Office” account for an estimated 5% of all viewing on Netflix, leaving other content that accounts for 95% of viewing on Netflix in place.

Indeed, Netflix launched 21 new shows in Q2, excluding 13 returning series. That compared to six news series and 17 returning series in the previous-year period.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

At the same time, content from NBC Universal, Fox, Disney and Warner Bros. currently accounts for upwards of 65% of Netflix viewing hours, according to Wedbush.

Pachter expects the migration of third-party content away from Netflix to competing platforms to be relatively slow and is unclear whether the service can successfully replace it with quantity and quality to keep its subscribers loyal.

“We think it is likely that Netflix will pay whatever it takes to attract high quality content and believe its competitors will be slow to gain scale,” Pachter wrote in a note. “Thus, we expect the status quo to be largely maintained until the end of 2021. For now, Netflix provides tremendous value for its subscribers.”

‘Tolkien’ to Arrive on Digital July 23, Disc Aug. 6 From Fox

Tolkien, about the life of the famous “The Lord of the Rings” author, will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) July 23 and Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 6 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The biopic follows the early years of J.R.R Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) from the halls of Oxford to the grim and bloody trenches of World War I. It also traces the relationships that defined the legendary author he would become, chronicling his romance with Edith Brant (Lily Collins), as well as the various members of the Tea Club, Barrovian Society.

Special features include deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Dome Karukoski and audio commentary by Karukoski.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Hulu CEO Eyes Ad Growth, Clarity Under Disney Ownership

With Disney agreeing to acquire Comcast’s 33% stake in Hulu, the subscription streaming video service with 28 million subscribers is now under the direction of one company instead of four (Disney, Fox, Comcast, WarnerMedia).

In an interview with CNBC, Hulu CEO Randy Freer said consolidation among the platform’s corporate owners offers increased clarity on the service’s objectives, strategic planning and voice going forward.

Randy Freer

“We’re super excited about the opportunity,” Freer said.

The executive added that Disney’s plan to incorporate Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+ into a possible SVOD bundle sold to consumers and distributors offers additional opportunities.

“I think it’s another way for Hulu to extend and grow its already fast-growing subscriber base,” Freer said.

With Hulu the only major SVOD service streaming advertising on its basic subscription plan, Freer said marketers are looking for consumer access in over-the-top video ecosystem dominated by ad-free players Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

“I think the opportunity at Hulu … with huge audiences … long engagement times, a young audience, 20-to- 25 years younger than network television … is a huge for brands to come in and talk to the consumers that they’re looking to reach the most,” he said.

At the same time, Freer cautioned that marketing Hulu as a service with half the ads of broadcast TV is not “okay anymore.”

“We have to find new ways to integrate brands into the ad,” he said.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Indeed, Hulu has launched a number of new ad formats, including “pause ads,” which displays a static ad when a viewer pauses programming; and “Friends with Benefits” featuring “Easter eggs” hidden on the site that offer special deals from brand partners when clicked.

“There [are] all kinds of ways to make the customer experience on Hulu better than any of our competitors,” Freer said. “And we can’t forget that the most important thing to consumers is choice. What’s more important is giving them the option of an ad service and the option of an ad-free service so they can determine what’s the best experience to view things.”

Animated Film ‘Missing Link’ Coming to Digital July 9, Disc July 23 From Fox

Missing Link, the newest stop-motion animated feature from Laika, arrives on digital July 9 and Blu-ray and DVD July 23 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zach Galifianakis lead the voice cast in the adventure from the makers of Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings. Jackman is Sir Lionel Frost, a brave and dashing adventurer who considers himself to be the world’s foremost investigator of myths and monsters. The trouble is no one else seems to agree. Galifianakis is Mr. Link. As species go, he’s as endangered as they get; he’s possibly the last of his kind, he’s lonely, and he believes that Sir Lionel is the one man alive who can help him. Along with the independent and resourceful Adelina Fortnight (Saldana), who possesses the only known map to the group’s secret destination, the unlikely trio embarks on a journey to seek out Link’s distant relatives in the fabled valley of Shangri-La.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Disc extras include commentary by director Chris Butler; “Creating Mr. Link”; “Bringing the Final Battle on the Ice Bridge to Life”; animation inspiration w/optional commentary by Butler; a VFX breakdown reel; “Oh What a Mystery: Pulling the Camera Back on Missing Link’s Magic”; “Making Faces”; “Inside the Magic of Laika”; and a photo gallery.

Faith Film ‘Breakthrough’ Breaks Out on Digital July 2, Disc July 16

The faith-based film Breakthrough will come out on digital July 2 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD July 16 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In the film, when Joyce Smith’s (Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us”) adopted son John (Marcel Ruiz) falls through an icy Missouri lake, all hope seems lost as John lies lifeless. In the face of every bleak medical case history and dire scientific prediction, Joyce’s unwavering belief inspires her community to pray for John’s recovery.

Along with producer DeVon Franklin (Miracles from Heaven), the film was adapted for the screen by Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds) from Joyce Smith’s book (The Impossible). The film also stars Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama), Topher Grace (“That ‘70s Show”), Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”), Sam Trammell (“This is Us”) and Dennis Haysbert (“24”).

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The film has been awarded the Dove Seal of Approval for all ages.

Extras on the discs include a making of featurette; “Carry My Soul,” a Phil Wickham deleted scene with optional audio commentary by Franklin and director Roxann Dawson; “Trapped in Icy Waters”; audio commentary by Franklin and Dawson; and a photo gallery.