FilmRise Acquires North American Streaming Rights to ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ TV Series

New York-based film and television studio and streaming network FilmRise has acquired North American rights to stream TV episodes based on the anime property “Yu- Gi-Oh!” from Konami Cross Media NY, a member of the Konami Group.

The deal grants AVOD streaming rights for the FilmRise Streaming Network, including all FilmRise owned and operated apps and FAST channels. 

“Adding ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ to our content offering is a major step forward for FilmRise in our aim to offer fans the opportunity to watch their favorite anime programs for free. This iconic Japanese property will be featured alongside other beloved anime content on our FilmRise Anime channel, a growing new destination for North American anime fans,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-production at FilmRise, said in a statement. 

“We are excited to partner with FilmRise to expand the reach of the ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ series to fans on their successful and rapidly growing FilmRise Streaming Network,” Kristen Gray, president of Konami Cross Media, said in a statement.

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The “Yu-Gi-Oh!” franchise is based on the manga series that inspired a trading card game played with monsters, spells and traps, several video games, the television series and more. The video streaming package includes 808 episodes of the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” TV series in English, and 541 dubbed in Spanish. It includes “Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters” (236 episodes); “Yu-Gi-Oh! GX” (155 episodes); “Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s” (123 episodes); “Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL” (146 episodes) and “Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V” (148 episodes).

OTT.X Speakers: Streaming Market Entering a New, More Competitive Phase

The streaming marketplace is entering a new phase as consumers balk at paying for more subscription services and turn to cheaper and free ad-supported options. But while those more economical options are experiencing growth, that marketplace, too, is getting more crowded and competitive. That’s according to speakers at the OTT.X Online event Feb. 23.

“The days of build it and they will come are over,” said Quincy Newell, CEO of TwentyOne14, which operates Fuse Beat, available on Roku and offering entertainment and lifestyle content targeting Black culture.

“Quality is important and key. Exclusivity is preferable,” he said.

“I think original content is becoming more important,” said Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus. The AVOD service garners original content from parent company Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment.

Meanwhile, Gary Delfiner, CEO of Watchfreeflix, which offers various free streaming channels of licensed content via Roku and other platforms, noted originals aren’t as important as some think.

“I’m not that focused on original content,” he said. “I can’t afford it. I’m not Amazon and I’m not Netflix.”

Watchfreeflix plays to its strengths in horror and action thrillers, among other genres, he said.

“I believe that quantity and not sacrificing quality is the reason people are watching my channels,” he said.

He noted that SVOD services aren’t refreshing their new content that frequently, while he is constantly getting new content and creating new channels, all offered to audiences at no cost.

“I think free is a good price,” he said.

Guelton agreed that free ad-supported services have an advantage, but the competition is getting fiercer.

“When it comes to AVOD, the game is almost over,” he said. “On the FAST [free ad-supported TV], linear side, I think there’s a much longer runway.”

Newell said that his company is careful about what content it acquires and creates to stay on top of the market.

“I don’t want to have long-term licenses,” he said, adding he likes to refresh content based on audience feedback.

His team subscribes to other services to identify gaps in the marketplace and uses social media to communicate with audiences.

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“We have a very large social presence,” added Zack Coffman, founder and CEO of global OTT distributor One World Digital.

Jonathan Skogmo, founder and CEO of Jukin Media, said his team uses social media to incubate content ideas.

Platforms, such as Roku, can be an important and influential marketing partner, speakers said.

“It’s the platforms that hold the gate,” said Berkin Ecevit, sales and business development director at SPI International, a global media company that is moving into the FAST space.

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Getting to the top of the marketing list at such platforms is challenging, he said.

“Valentine’s day you’ve got to have love movies,” he noted. “What if we don’t have those?”

“The big question is what kind of leverage do we have,” Guelton added. “What can we trade? … and, yes, it can be money.”

The type of content distributors can offer is key, too.

“They’re willing to promote it for free if it’s exclusive,” Guelton said, adding the quality of the brand is important as well.

“The Crackle brand is well-respected,” he said, as is that of its parent Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Kathryn Przybyla, director of social media at America’s Test Kitchen, agreed that a good brand gives FAST players a leg up.

“People know who ATK is,” she said.

Coffman said communicating with the platforms is key.

“Start to pay attention to what the platforms are telling you,” he said, adding “if you become a great partner, the platform is more than happy to work with you.”

Skogmo noted that there’s a “sense of choice paralysis” among consumers that makes brand equity and good key art crucial.

“I think you have to have a really clear voice of what you’re curating and why you’re curating,” he said.

Stuart McLean, CEO of FAST Studios, told FAST players to “lean in on graphics packages and thumbnails.”

As a platform player among the panelists, Jennifer Vaux, head of content acquisition at the Roku Channel was coy about what prompts Roku to market a channel above others.

“You’re essentially telling the viewer what they’re going to spend their time with,” she said, adding with hundreds of channels to search through, content owners “really need to cut through the noise.”

As far as what Roku is looking for in acquiring and promoting a channel, she said a strong IP is attractive, as well as a deep library.

“We’re always looking to partner with people who have expertise in different genres,” she also said.

The data that a streaming channel collects is helpful in defining a strategy, speakers said.

“Sometimes content resonates completely differently depending on the platform,” Przybyla said.

In contrast with legacy channels, streamers get real-time data, McLean said.

“We don’t wait for Nielsen,” Coffman said.

“We’re lucky because we are a platform … we generally see what people are watching on our own channels and use that to inform our programming decisions,” Roku’s Vaux said.

While the U.S. market is crowded, speakers noted that going global might make sense.

“I think the world is wide open,” SPI’s Ecevit said.

“That’s a market that is wide open and somewhat untouched,” Watchfreeflix’s Delfiner agreed.

Clockwise from top left, moderator Anthony Layser of Xumo and panelists Jennifer Vaux of the Roku Channel, Jonathan Skogmo of TMB, Kathryn Przybyla of America’s Test Kitchen, and Zack Coffman of One World Digital.

ElectricNow FAST Channel Available on Samsung Smart TVs and Mobile Devices

Electric Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production, distribution and post-production company, has partnered with Samsung to deliver ElectricNow’s FAST channel on all U.S. Samsung smart-TVs and select mobile devices. 

“Our live linear channel will now be reaching the enormous Samsung TV Plus audience,” Dean Devlin, CEO of Electric Entertainment, said in a statement. “This is extremely exciting for us and ElectricNow, specifically since we will be able to expose new viewers to our fan favorites, such as ‘Leverage,’ ‘The Librarians,’ ‘Almost Paradise’ and ‘The Outpost.’ We are happy to report that the ElectricNow app has millions of viewers since its inception and is rapidly growing on a consistent basis.”

ElectricNow is a premium OTT app and FAST channel featuring Electric Entertainment’s own produced content such as TV series “Leverage,” “The Librarians,” and “The Outpost,” as well as acquired programming such as the feature films Blackway, starring Anthony Hopkins, and The Book of Love, starring Jason Sudeikis and Maisie Williams. The ElectricNow Channel is available on platforms including The Roku Channel, Plex, STIRR, Local Now, Sling TV, TiVo Plus, IMDb TV, Redbox, XUMO, Distro TV and Select TV. In addition to the free streaming content, the ElectricNow App also includes special bonus feature content, a program guide, and video-on-demand and pay-per-view components. The channel and app are home to Electric’s newly launched podcast network, Electric Surge, which includes such series as “The Official Leverage: Redemption Aftershow: A Very Distinctive Podcast,” “Inglorious Treksperts,” “The 4:30 Movie,” “Best Movies Never Made” in a line-up that includes podcasts devoted to “Star Trek,” “Dr. Who” and other sci-fi and entertainment industry-related topics.

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Headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif., Electric Entertainment is an independent studio headed by veteran producer Dean Devlin along with his partners Marc Roskin and Rachel Olschan-Wilson. Electric Entertainment also houses Electric Post, a digital effects and post-production facility.

FilmRise Picks Up FAST Rights to Canadian Series ‘Kim’s Convenience’

FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired multi-territory, ad-supported digital linear (FAST) rights to the critically acclaimed Canadian comedy series “Kim’s Convenience” from Canada-based Thunderbird Entertainment.

The deal gives FilmRise exclusive FAST (free ad-supported streaming) rights to all five seasons of the series, which it will program across its existing FAST Channels as well as allow for the creation of dedicated marathon FAST channels of the series across the United States, Latin America, German-speaking Europe, French-speaking Europe, Italy and Spain. FilmRise plans to offer the series on FAST linear streaming channels on IMDb TV, Pluto, The Roku Channel, Samsung TV+ and the FilmRise Streaming Network, among others.

Originally broadcast on CBC starting in 2016, the series made its international debut on Netflix in 2018. 

Based on Ins Choi’s award-winning play of the same name, “Kim’s Convenience” depicts the Korean-Canadian Kim family who runs a convenience store in Toronto. During its five season run, the series was the winner of multiple Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Comedy Series, Foreign Drama of the Year at the Seoul International Drama Awards (2019), Members’ Choice Series Ensemble Award for Best cast at the 2017 Toronto ACTRA Awards (Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists).

The comedy stars Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (“The Mandalorian”), Andrew Phung (“Run the Burbs”) Andrea Bang (“A Million Little Things”), Jean Yoon (“The Voyeurs”), Simu Liu  (Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), and Nicole Power, who stars in “Strays,” which is the spin-off series from “Kim’s Convenience” that premiered in September 2021 on CBC.

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“As the FilmRise Streaming Network continues to grow, so does our approach in acquiring programs featuring unique stories from people of diverse backgrounds,” Max Einhorn,  SVP of acquisitions and co-productions for FilmRise, said in a statement. “‘Kim’s Convenience’ has had a huge impact on a wide range of viewers, and we are thrilled to bring this culturally relevant series for free to streaming audiences worldwide.”

“Kim’s delightful characters and beloved stories brought love and laughter into the hearts of many during its five seasons,” Richard Goldsmith, president of global distribution and consumer products at Thunderbird Entertainment, said in a statement. “Through our partnership with FilmRise, we are thrilled that new audiences internationally will have the opportunity to connect with and enjoy the heart-warming and hilarious experiences of the Kim family.”

Nielsen Launches Solution to Help Connected-TV Operators and Advertisers Better Target Consumers

Nielsen Jan. 4 announced the launch of a new research solution, Streaming Signals, which helps connected-TV operators and advertisers better understand who is watching a show within a household, according to the company.

Streaming Signals unbundles household viewing, allowing “both media buyers and media sellers to optimize and measure CTV reach for more efficient advertising, maximizing ad revenue and delivery to streaming audiences,” according to Nielsen.

Using custom machine learning models to determine who is in the household based on historical viewership data, Streaming Signals delivers a signal within 50 milliseconds to CTV operators of who is currently streaming program content instantly, according to Nielsen.

The solution is made possible by using machine-learning algorithms, viewing from Nielsen’s panel data, and CTV provider viewership data, according to Nielsen. Once integrated, the CTV provider will notify the Nielsen system and will receive a signal containing information regarding who is most likely watching within the household.

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“For example, if ‘Sons of Anarchy’ is being watched within a household, the 35-year-old male likely watching the show will be shown an auto ad instead of a yogurt ad, giving CTV operators the ability to sharpen ad delivery from their inventory,” read the Nielsen release.

“Nielsen Streaming Signals brings a layer of unmatched real-time, person-level demographic precision to audience optimization,” Ameneh Atai, GM of digital and advanced TV at Nielsen, said in a statement. “We know that the media industry is going through accelerated change, switching to a streaming-first approach, and with an audience watching programming whenever, wherever and on a number of devices. Nielsen is the only one that is unbundling the household because we are the only ones that sit at the intersection of the streaming behavior and audience data.”

Traditionally, clients have looked at on-target percentage when evaluating advertising on CTV. Streaming Signals lets clients to “positively impact” that percentage by knowing before the ad is served who is behind the CTV screen, according to Nielsen.

FAST, AVOD Services Getting Better, More-Exclusive Content, OTT.X@Pipeline Panelists Say

Free ad-supported TV (FAST) and ad-supported VOD (AVOD) services are becoming the hot ticket in digital distribution, according to panelists at the 14th Annual OTT.X@Pipeline event in Los Angeles Dec. 8.

“Suddenly, AVOD is becoming part of the broader distribution strategy for major studios and indie studios alike, whereas in the early days, AVOD services had just 10, 15-year-old catalog,” said Pluto TV’s Will Gurman.

Now, content owners are looking at an earlier window for ad-supported release, and the business is looking for exclusives.

“There’s a huge opportunity now with indie producers, and we’ve done this with a number of films, where in a traditional pay one window we might come in and provide some level of AVOD exclusivity, and we market and we promote, treat the film the way that you’d see years ago from SVOD services before they started moving more and more into originals,” Gurman said.

The business is projected to reach $4 billion by 2024, said Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia, and “a lot of the growth in this industry has happened in the last 18 months.”

Pluto TV, owned by ViacomCBS, is a FAST service with more than 300 channels in the United States and is in 26 regions globally. The service also has thousands of titles available via AVOD.

“We’re about 8 years old and Pluto’s really founded with the contrarian principle,” Gurman said. “When everyone was going to SVOD and going to VOD, Pluto went the other way and went back to linear and back to ad-supported and presented a platform of channels in a familiar format and familiar content and were really a pioneer in growing and building out the FAST channel space.”

As ad-supported services have joined the space, differentiation is becoming more important to rise above the competition, he said.

“Differentiation is key for us now,” he said. But rather than focusing on originals, the service is looking for original channels.

“Certain platforms are investing heavily into original content,” he noted. “For us at Pluto, one thing we’ve really focused on and continued to focus on is differentiating on our channels and making sure — while we don’t have original content — the majority of channels can’t be found on other platforms,” he said. “A great example of that recently was a channel that we launched with professional bull riders, a fantastic organization with a fan base of over 80 million in the U.S.”

The company had been a niche SVOD service.

“We quickly learned about their marketing strength, how strong and important their fan base was and what their experience had been as a niche SVOD service, looking at potentially transitioning them to a new business model that could help them reach a broader audience,” he said.

Now, the bull-riding content has its own ad-supported channel exclusively on Pluto.

“It’s called PBR Ridepass, and we’re certainly looking to do more types of opportunities like that,” Gorman said.

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In fact, the ad-supported PBR channel launched on Pluto on the day the SVOD service shut down.

“We worked hand and hand with them on marketing to all their subscribers [about the transition],” Gorman said.

“It’s not just about the PBR channel in isolation,” he added. “We have a strong audience that likes content with a strong overlap. We have channels of outdoor content, we have action movies. ‘Walker Texas Ranger’ is a great overlap in content.”

Meanwhile, PBR helps viewers discover other channels they like on Pluto, he said.

“There’s a huge opportunity for SVOD platforms to offer linear channels in the AVOD space,” Gurman noted, adding Pluto TV has a channel with Britbox.

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Mike Woods, a veteran of digital content service company Amagi, has started Orka TV to help ad buyers find easier ways to utilize AVOD and FAST services. The digital realm is rapidly becoming the new TV, he said.

“It is all available,” he said. “Everything can be done now.”

He noted that a channel that used to cost $500 million to set up, now costs just thousands.

Gurman and Woods noted that the monthly active users (MAU) measure of ad-supported service success is antiquated and can be fudged — for instance by counting imagined co-viewers. Pluto TV focuses on viewing hours or revenue, for instance. Revenue per hours of viewing is a key metric, Woods said.

“If you’re getting revenue per second, you’re doing pretty good,” he said.

Documentary+ Added as FAST Channel on Samsung TVs

Documentary+, a streaming platform for nonfiction film and television content, is now available as a 24/7 linear FAST (free ad-supported TV) channel on Samsung TVs in the United States.

Samsung TV Plus audiences can find Documentary+’s nonfiction films and series via the Samsung TV Plus app in the Smart Hub, with no subscriptions, logins or fees.

Documentary+ is available now in nearly all American households and almost every country globally, according to the service. In addition to Samsung, Documentary+ is streaming 24/7 as a FAST channel on Vizio, Xumo and LG and as an on-demand app on Apple TV, Amazon, Roku, mobile devices and www.docplus.com.

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“FAST channels are the most disruptive thing to happen to television since cable, and nobody has a bigger footprint or audience than Samsung,” Bryn Mooser, Documentary+ CEO and founder, said in a statement. “This is a big moment for Documentary+ and the nonfiction industry as a whole, with nearly every household in America having access to the world’s best documentaries for free.”

Samsung TV Plus is free TV, with no subscription, no sign-up, no additional device or credit card needed. It is pre-installed on all 2016-21 Samsung Smart-TVs and is available for download from the Google Play and Galaxy Store on select Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets. Samsung TV Plus delivers 180 free channels across multiple genres, including news, sports, entertainment, and a VOD library of movies and shows. The free, ad-supported video service is available in the United States and 22 other major markets globally.

Kino Lorber, Giant Pictures Launch Free Ad-Supported Streaming Service Kino Cult

Kino Lorber has partnered with Giant Pictures to launch Kino Cult, a free ad-supported streaming destination for genre lovers of horror and cult films.

Featuring hundreds of hours of curated, theatrically released films all in high-definition, with new titles added monthly, Kino Cult launches widely in the United States and Canada on Oct. 1 across Web, mobile devices and connected TVs, with VOD apps on major devices, such as Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Google TV, iOS, Android and more.

Giant Pictures is the technology partner for Kino Cult, responsible for the device apps, channel distribution and ad-tech in the new venture.

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“From the arthouse to the haunted house, the channel will dive deep into unapologetically weird genre cinema, blending recent art house discoveries fresh from cinemas with high quality restorations of notorious grindhouse gems,” according to a press release.

Kino Lorber brings 40 years of experience as a theatrical and home entertainment distributor of international and American indie films to Kino Cult, where the focus will be on “the wild and the weird of genre cinema,” according to the release. Kino Cult plans to serve its audience with a deep catalog of hundreds of relevant titles, many of which are streamable for the very first time, all in HD, the press release noted.

The channel will offer cult cinema across action, horror, comedy and sci-fi, both new and rare vintage hits of genre cinema, giving movie fans “access to films that have not been easy to find in the streaming age,” the press release stated.

Distribution Solutions Putting Content on Pluto TV

Distribution Solutions, a division of Alliance Entertainment, has announced a new partnership with Pluto TV to distribute its content through the free streaming TV service across the United States.

Content from Distribution Solutions will begin appearing on Pluto TV channels starting in fall 2021.

“We are excited to partner with Pluto TV,” Ben Means, president of Distribution Solutions, said in a statement. “Through this partnership, premium independent content from our label partners will be available to their impressive audience of 52 million monthly active users.”

More than 450 hours of content from Distribution Solutions’ label partners will be available for streaming on Pluto TV, curated to plug into the Pluto TV channels.

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Notable titles coming to Pluto TV include family favorites such as The Cat in the Hat and Benji; cult classics such as Gone in 60 Seconds (1974), the Andy Sidaris films and “Gumby”; true crime content such as the “Becoming Evil” docuseries; and recent indie horror hits such as Hostile and Open 24 Hours.

“We are thrilled to welcome Alliance Entertainment and its expansive collection of top-quality content to the world of Pluto TV,” Will Gurman, VP of global content partnerships for Pluto TV, said in a statement. “With this partnership, we look forward to bringing our viewers an even wider array of genres and programming to lean back and enjoy, ranging from reality to history, kids content, and more — all for free.”

Data: 60% of Connected-TV Households Stream Ad-Supported Content

Consumer interest in free ad-supported VOD (AVOD) content and live television (FAST) continues to proliferate. New data from The Diffusion Group suggests 60% of connected-TV households stream ad-supported content across myriad platforms — spearheaded by YouTube.

AVOD and FAST services driving the market include ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV, Fox Entertainment’s Tubi, Comcast-owned Xumo and Amazon’s IMDb TV, among others.

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TDG found that 24% of connected-TV households consume ad-supported streaming content on a daily basis, while 32% stream weekly. Among AVOD/FAST consumers, 76% stream YouTube, the longest-running streaming video platform, followed by Pluto TV, Tubi and Xumo.

“Clearly the effects of work-from-home and lack of traditional leisure options during the pandemic accelerated consumer use of free ad-supported streaming services,” Doug Montgomery, senior analyst and author of Back to the Future: The Rise of Ad-Supported Streaming Video, said in a statement. “Most major video providers have been preparing for this moment for years and thus able to quickly adapt to an accelerated timeline. It is a unique moment in the history of the entertainment business and those who move quickly and boldly will likely reap the benefits for years to come.”