TCL Event Panelists Discuss Future of Streaming, Interactive TV

HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. — During an Aug. 23 event to unveil its new TCLtv+ service and its IDEO interactive TV feature, TCL presented panels of streaming platform execs and content creators at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Renowned chef Rick Bayless, who appears as an animated avatar in TCLtv+’s IDEO interactive tech feature, joked, “I wish they hadn’t made my avatar so handsome.”

The chef, who has done 176 shows for public TV, said he was “really frustrated that I couldn’t share more” and that IDEO allows him to do that through its interactive tools.

Brainstorm Media president Meyer Shwarzstein, who produced a movie for Lifetime that has three different endings, noted “IDEO is like Play-doh for creators.”

Vanessa Shaprio, CEO of Nicely Entertainment, pointed out the expansive opportunities of interactive television.

“You can buy that jacket that the main character has,” she noted, adding that consumers can even order food through the service.

Interactive TV may change the way content producers think about content, she said.

“Maybe we’re going to have to start shooting additional footage,” she said. “It will push us on the creative side to really think outside the box.”

She noted that when watching certain true-story shows, she often looks online to see how it really happened.

“We don’t need Wikipedia with this,” she said of IDEO.

Panelist Victor Elizalde, president of Viva Pictures, noted he is an alum of Disney Interactive.

“You had some absolutely brilliant creators that were limited by the space on a CD-ROM,” he said of the Disney division. IDEO expands those capabilities, he noted.

“I feel like it’s going to become an explosive educational tool,” he said.

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During a panel on FAST (free ad-supported streaming) channels, speakers mused about how FAST is and is not like traditional linear TV.

For viewers looking at FAST, “It’s just TV,” noted Tejas shah, SVP, commercial strategy and analytics, FilmRise.

“It’s clear that the world is moving quickly in a streaming direction,” said Marcien Jenckes, Xumo and Comcast advertising, Comcast. For the consumer, he said, “It’s just content.”

Still, there are some differences between FAST and linear TV, noted panelist Laura Florence, SVP, global FAST channels, Fremantle.

“The amount of data that you get with a FAST feed” is very different, allowing content owners to know when consumers start and stop content, she said.

“On broadcast side, they can’t provide those kind of elements,” she said.

Hulu to Bow Series on Wayne Brady’s Family

Hulu has announced an eight-episode series order for the an untitled Wayne Brady and family project from Fremantle and A Wayne & Mandie Creative, the joint production company founded by Wayne Brady and Mandie Taketa.

A launch date on the platform is forthcoming.

The series follows Wayne Brady, actor, comedian, host and singer, and his blended family. He’s still best friends with his ex-wife, soulmate and business partner Mandie Taketa. Together, they co-parent their 20-year-old daughter Maile Brady, a student and aspiring artist, as well as run their production company, A Wayne & Mandie Creative (“Wayne Brady’s Comedy IQ”). Jason Fordham, Mandie’s life partner of 12 years, handles the family’s cinematography and post-production; and Mandie and Jason recently expanded their already blended family with the birth of their son, Sundance-Isamu. 

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The series offers an intimate look into his blended family’s personal life — revealing unexpected points of view and values that most people (including his own family) have a hard time understanding. Viewers see their social media posts from vacations to dancing in Tik-Toks, but the series explores what’s behind them.

Chicken Soup’s Laura Florence Moves to Fremantle as SVP of Global FAST Channels

Laura Florence, previously SVP and GM at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, has been hired as SVP of global FAST channels at Fremantle.

Reporting to Jens Richter, CEO of commercial and international, Florence will lead Fremantle’s global FAST strategy and will be based in Los Angeles.

At Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Florence oversaw the Redbox and Crackle+ digital platforms, including TVOD, AVOD, FAST products and FAST distribution for the app, and a channel portfolio to more than 120 endpoints across 15 platforms. Her responsibilities also encompassed content platform strategy and operations for the company’s distribution and production groups.

“This is an integral role as we build out our global FAST strategy, and I am thrilled to welcome Laura to the team to join us and lead our ambitious plans,” Richter said in a statement.

“I am delighted to be joining Fremantle, a renowned company with an impressive portfolio of beloved shows,” Florence said in a statement. “I look forward to leveraging the extensive catalogue of fan favorites and expanding their global channel distribution footprint. It’s an exciting opportunity to contribute to Fremantle’s growth and success.”

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Fremantle runs 33 FAST channels across major platforms around the world. Fremantle’s first FAST channel “Buzzr” launched in 2015, showcasing iconic game show brands including “Press Your Luck,” “Family Feud” and “Password.” Since then, Fremantle has launched a number of single IP channels including “Baywatch,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Jamie Oliver” and “The Price is Right,” as well as genre channels including “Places and Spaces,” “Cook Chop Chat,” “Sleuth” and “Quip.”

Fremantle’s FAST team currently operates out of Los Angeles and London.

StarzPlay, Fremantle Ink Distribution Deal

StarzPlay, the Lionsgate-owned subscription streaming service operating outside the United States, has signed a distribution deal with Fremantle, a British television content and production/distribution subsidiary of Bertelsmann’s RTL Group.

The pact includes Fremantle’s crime series “Baghdad Central,” based on the novel by Elliott Colla; and “The Luminaries,” a drama series starring Eva Green and Eve Hewson, and based on the novel by Eleanor Catton.

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The deal also includes psychological thriller “Dublin Murders,” adapted from Tana French’s first two novels in the crime series.

Starz Play Arabia launched in 2015 in 17 countries. It now operates as Star Play with more than 8 million subscribers.

“Since we first launched, we have always retained a focus on the provision of in-demand, watchable content for our subscribers and this latest partnership is testament to that commitment,” CEO Maaz Sheikh said in a statement.

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Anahita Kheder, SVP for the Middle East, Africa and South Eastern Europe, International, at Fremantle, said StarzPlay has become one of top platforms in the MENA region for showcasing in-demand programming.

“We are very much aligned with Starz Play’s goals, making them the perfect home for these high-end titles,” Kheder said. “Their audiences will soon be able to enjoy the compelling characters and powerful storylines that these series offer.”