HBO, Streamers Nearly Sweep 2019 Primetime Emmys

In the latest indicator that the subscription model has all but conquered the television landscape as far as the prescription for quality programming goes, HBO and a handful of SVOD services won 21 of the 27 categories awarded during the televised Emmys ceremony Sept. 22.

HBO led with nine wins, including Outstanding Drama Series for the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the fourth time the series captured that crown. Peter Dinklage also won his fourth Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Emmy.

The pay-TV network, of course, pioneered the model of leveraging prestige programming to garner subscribers, albeit as an add-on to cable packages decades before the internet would allow SVOD services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video to adopt the practice as well (and for HBO to offer its own SVOD app).

Another big winner for HBO was the miniseries Chernobyl, a harrowing account of the eponymous nuclear disaster of 1986 and the inherent corruption of socialist bureaucracies in both the cause of and response to the crisis. It won for Outstanding Limited Series as well as directing and writing in the limited series/TV movie categories.

Among additional HBO wins, Bill Hader won his second Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series trophy for “Barry,” “Succession” won for drama series writing, and “ Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” won for Outstanding Variety Talk Series and for variety series writing.

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The show with the biggest haul was Amazon Prime Video’s “Fleabag,” with four trophies, including Outstanding Comedy Series. The show, about the adventures of a sexually aggressive woman living in London, was created by and stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who won for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and for writing the show. It also won an Emmy for directing.

Prime Video had seven wins for the night, also taking Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Ben Whishaw in A Very English Scandal, while “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” won Outstanding Comedy Series Supporting Actor and Actress for Tony Shalhoub and Alex Borstein, respectively (with Borstein repeating her win from last year).

Netflix won for Outstanding Television Movie for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, the famed interactive film with the “choose-your-own-adventure” narrative that allowed the viewer to pick which action the main character should take at several points throughout the story. and

Also adding to Netflix’s tally of four were two trophies for “Ozark,” with Julie Garner pulling in a surprising Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series win, and series star Jason Bateman winning for directing the episode “The Gold Coast.” Netflix’s When They See Us won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Jharrel Jerome,

Hulu’s lone trophy came for Patricia Arquette winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for “The Act.”

Sticking things out in the basic cable camp, FX shows won a pair of Emmys, with Michelle Williams taking Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for playing Gwen Verdon in FX’s Fosse/Verdon, and Billy Porter being named Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for “Pose.” VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” won Outstanding Competition Program, while Jodie Comer won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for the second season of BBC America’s “Killing Eve,”

And still carrying the flag for broadcast television was NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which managed wins for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series and variety directing.

45th Saturn Award Winners Announced

The 45th Saturn Awards, honoring the best in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other genres were announced Sept. 13 in Hollywood.

Disney’s Avengers: Endgame won six awards, including Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture and Best Actor for Robert Downey Jr.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” won four, including Best Fantasy Television Series.

CBS’s “Star Trek: Discovery” won three, including Best Streaming Science-Fiction, Action & Fantasy Series.

In home entertainment categories, Best DVD or Blu-ray Release went to King Cohen, on Blu-ray from La-La Land Records.

Best DVD or Blu-ray Classic Film Release went to Warner’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Best DVD or Blu-ray Special-Edition Release was Waterworld: Limited Edition from MVD and Arrow Video.

Best DVD or Blu-ray Television Movie or Series Release was Kino Lorber’s Blu-rays of the first two seasons of “The Outer Limits.”

Best DVD or Blu-ray Collection was Universal Pictures’ Universal Classic Monsters 30-Film Collection.

More information is available at SaturnAwards.com

 

‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ Drive HBO Nordic Sub Growth

Scandinavia (especially Sweden) has long been a hotbed for subscription streaming video. HBO launched its first over-the-top video service — HBO Nordic — long before the domestic rollout of HBO Now in 2014.

HBO Nordic remains a formidable competitor to Netflix and other local SVOD services notably this year thanks to “Game of Thrones” and “Big Little Lies,” among other programming.

New data from Mediavision contends the final season of “Thrones” and second season of “Lies” jumpstarted HBO Nordic subscriber growth to more than 200,000 members in Sweden in the second quarter (ended June 30) — up 50% from the previous-year period.

By comparison, market leader Netflix grew 14% year-over-year.

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Mediavision believes the sub growth can also be attributed to new seasons of “Big Little Lies,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” — the latter available in the U.S. exclusively on Hulu. HBO’s original (created by Comcast-owned Sky) miniseries — “Chernobyl” — also received a strong reception from both Swedish audiences and critics.

As is the trend globally among OTT and traditional media distributors, original content is driving subscriber interest. But it’s not just global services that are increasing their content investments.

In Sweden, both C More and Viaplay have launched new drama series, in addition to extending existing episodic programming. Viaplay’s owner NENT has announced that it intends to launch six new original series in 2019.

Netflix, of course, has taken original content one step further. Its Swedish original series, “Greatest of all,” is produced for Netflix by the Swedish production company FLX — a strategy the SVOD pioneer is emulating in markets worldwide.

“We are moving towards a period where the value of many and strong titles is likely to increase further,” Marie Nilsson, CEO of Mediavision, said in a statement. “The hunt for new customers is also learning to intensify, as major players such as Disney and Apple are ready to enter Sweden, too. This will help drive the streaming market further.”

HBO Reclaims Primetime Emmy Award Nominations Lead from Netflix

HBO July 16 received a record-breaking 137 Primetime Emmy nominations for the upcoming 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 22. HBO’s previous record was set in 2015 with 126 nominations.

Netflix in 2018 broke HBO’s 17-year nomination crown with 112 noms compared to 108 noms for HBO.

As expected, “Game of Thrones” again led all shows with 32 nominations, the most of any program, while “Chernobyl” received 19 noms, “Barry” received 17 nominations and “Veep,” “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and “True Detective” each received 9 noms.

HBO will soon spearhead WarnerMedia’s pending subscription streaming service, HBO Max.

“Game of Thrones” nominations include Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Kit Harington), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Emilia Clarke), four for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Gwendoline Christie, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams), three for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Alfie Allen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage), Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Carice van Houten), three for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik) and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (David Benioff & D.B. Weiss).

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“Chernobyl” includes Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (Jared Harris), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (Emily Watson), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (Stellan Skarsgård), Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series or Movie (Johan Renck), and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special (Craig Mazin)

“Barry” includes Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Bill Hader), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Sarah Goldberg), 3 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Anthony Carrigan, Stephen Root, Henry Winkler), 2 for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series (Alec Berg, Bill Hader) and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (Alec Berg and Bill Hader).

“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” includes Outstanding Variety Talk Series, Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series (Paul Pennolino), Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series and Outstanding Interactive Program.

“True Detective” includes Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (Mahershala Ali).

“Veep” includes Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Tony Hale), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Anna Chlumsky), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Peter MacNicol) and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (David Mandel)

Deadwood: The Movie is up for Outstanding Television Movie.

Sharp Objects noms include Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (Amy Adams) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (Patricia Clarkson).

Leaving Neverland includes Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special and Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program (Dan Reed).

“Succession” includes Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Adam McKay) and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Jesse Armstrong).

Other HBO nominees include “Ballers,” “Brexit,” “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” “Flight of the Conchords: Live In London,” “Game of Thrones: The Last Watch,” “Insecure,” “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” “Jane Fonda in Five Acts,” “The Many Lives of Nick Buoniconti,” “My Dinner with Hervé,” “The Sentence,” “Song of Parkland” and “When You Wish Upon a Pickle: A Sesame Street Special.”

In addition, the Cinemax series “Warrior” received a nomination for Outstanding Main Title Design.

‘Stranger Things’ Tops All TV Shows on Parrot Analytics’ Demand Charts

With days to go before the July 4 premiere of its third season, Netflix’s “Stranger Things” not only topped Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended June 29, but also the data firm’s overall list of TV series from any platform, including broadcast and cable.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

“Stranger Things” grabbed 94 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was up 11.9% in expressions compared with the previous week, when it returned to the top spot following the release of its final season-three trailer.

It also passed “Game of Thrones” to take over the top spot among all TV shows. The HBO fantasy series had been the top overall series all year, but has been declining since its final episode aired in mid-May. It was the No. 2 overall show for the week with 91.6 million expressions.

Netflix’s “Black Mirror” remained in the No. 2 spot on the digital originals chart with 38 million expressions, down 23% from a week earlier.

Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” jumped up a spot to No. 3, though its demand expressions dropped 8% to 37.9 million.

Netflix’s “When They See Us,” the controversial miniseries about the Central Park Five that was created, co-written, and directed by Ava DuVernay, slipped to No. 4, its Demand Expressions dropping 16.6% to 34.9 million.

Rounding out the top five on the digital originals chart was Netflix’s “Lucifer,” maintaining the No. 5 spot from the previous week. The series, based on a character from the DC Comics comic-book series “The Sandman,” dropped 13.9% in expressions to 34.2 million.

Netflix’s German-language series “Dark” moved  into the top 10 at No. 10, with 24.4 million expressions following the June 21 premiere of its second season. That’s a 64.7% increase over the previous week, when it was No. 23.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Game of Thrones: Season 8

DIGITAL REVIEW:

HBO;
Fantasy;
$19.99 SD; $26.99 HD;
Not Rated.
Stars Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Liam Cunningham, Nathalie Emmanuel, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Gwendoline Christie, Conleth Hill, Rory McCann, Jerome Flynn, Kristofer Hivju, Joe Dempsie, Jacob Anderson, Iain Glen.

The eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” is certainly its most divisive, setting off a wave of Internet debates as to whether the final run of episodes was worthy of the extensive storytelling that had been laid out before.

Much of the ire seems to be focused on the creative decisions made by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in mapping out the final story arcs of the various characters once they no longer draw from the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels by George R.R. Martin, which formed the basis of the first five seasons.

A noticeable shift in the show’s pacing occurred in season six, once it was clear they had to create their own after reportedly receiving outlines from Martin about how he envisioned the saga more or less ending up. After season six, it was announced the show would wrap up in 13 episodes split into two seasons, with seven in season seven and six in season eight.

In hindsight, the argument goes, this timeline was insufficient in setting up the character development needed for the plot twists of the final episodes, leaving the final storylines feeling rushed while retroactively weakening the earlier seasons by both devaluing their story development and making it clear (particularly to readers of the novels) where the show missed opportunities to lay the foundation for the plot points the writers eventually decided to pursue.

The series has spent seven seasons seemingly maneuvering every character into two factions. One is the army gathering at Winterfell to fight the Night King and the White Walkers. This is the faction commanded by Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, who joined forces last season. However, their truce may be complicated by the lingering truth of Jon’s true heritage, which could present an obstacle to Dany’s claim to the Iron Throne.

Meanwhile. Queen Cersei has fortified her hold on King’s Landing through an alliance with Euron Greyjoy’s fleet and a mercenary army.

The first two episodes deal largely with various characters reuniting, setting the stage for the battle against the Night King, which takes place in the third episode. The final episodes involve the battle for King’s Landing and its aftermath.

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So, is the final season as problematic as the darkest corners of the Internet would make it out to be? Well, mostly no, but a little bit yes.

The ire seems to fall into two categories. The first, as mentioned, is the show rushing to get to the end. The second is the specific outcomes for some of the characters, which may have differed a bit from what some of the more entitled fans envisioned in their heads.

As to the second point, such is often the refrain of toxic fandom, and seems misguided. The character arcs themselves are fine and completely understandable, particularly when it comes to the most divisive of the individual stories, that of Queen Daenerys and her quest to reclaim the Iron Throne on behalf of her family.

The show has always been an examination of the dangers of tyranny and absolutism, even when the results of such governance may seem beneficial. The cycle of inherited power is itself the problem, not the potential for harm a new ruler may bring.

That being said, it’s hard to disagree that the final march to the end was a bit rushed, and perhaps could have used a few episodes to show events for the characters to experience that might reinforce their motivations in the final battles.

The final season is fine as it is, as easy as it is for fans to pick it apart, and will likely come to be better regarded once absorbed into the bulk of the show as fodder for binge viewing. While the asinine suggestion of fan petitions to “remake the season with competent writers” is beyond the realm of credibility, it’s hard not to at least entertain the idea of filming a few more episodes of material to expand on the character development, then re-editing them into the final couple of seasons (though, realistically, that ain’t happening either).

The show’s critics are also quick to overlook the many strengths of the final season, which offers some of the most stunning visuals of the series. This includes the purposefully dark and moody third episode, which uses its nighttime setting to great effect give viewers the same sense of unseen dread the characters would experience in fighting off wave after wave of undead armies.

There was some concern about the cinematography being too dark upon its initial airing, but this isn’t much of a problem with the digital HD presentation.

The other aspect of concern in fan circles were all the memes pointing out Starbucks cups and plastic water bottles left on the set for key scenes. The prominent coffee cup was subsequently digitally erased from episode four, but a few water bottles spotted under the chairs in the “Council of Lords” scene in the finale were still visible in the digital copy of the episode, at least within the first few days of its digital release. It will certainly be something to keep an eye out for in the eventual Blu-ray release that should arrive in a few months.

The digital package of the final season also includes a four-minute production featurette, a 17-minute profile of a key season from the third-episode battle, and The Last Watch, the feature-length documentary chronicling the making of the show’s final season that provides an enlightening look at the filmmakers and craftsman who brought it all together.

Final Season of ‘Game of Thrones’ Available for Download

The eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is now available to own as a digital download, just 10 days after the airing of the final episode in Season 8 become the most watched episode of any HBO show, with 13.6 million viewers.

In addition to the hit series’ concluding six episodes, the download includes the two-hour feature documentary Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, by filmmaker Jeanie Finlay, and two featurettes: “The Long Night” and “The Final Season”.

The eighth season of Game of Thrones “answers a myriad of questions surrounding the fate of the series’ protagonists,” HBO said in a news release. “Will the revelation that Jon Snow is a Targaryen, and the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne, undermine his relationship with Daenerys? How will Sansa, Arya and Bran – not to mention numerous northern Houses allied with the Starks – react to the appearance of traditional foes at the gates of Winterfell? Will Cersei’s devious strategy of fortifying her defense of King’s Landing yield dividends? And above all: can the Army of the Dead be defeated?”

Season 8 was executive produced by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger, Bernadette Caulfield and co-executive produced by Bryan Cogman, Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis and George R.R. Martin.

Earning a total of 132 Emmy nominations and 47 wins to date, the entire Game of Thrones series is now available for purchase.

No word yet on a Blu-ray Disc or DVD release for Season 8.

Final ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Smashes HBO Viewer Records

As expected, the season-eight final episode of “Game of Thrones” broke both viewership records for the series as well as HBO.

Initial data suggests the final episode drew 19. 3 million viewers when tabulating initial broadcast, on-demand and some streaming. The tally broke the previous record set May 12 when 18.4 million people watched the penultimate episode broadcast, on-demand and streaming.

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The final season is averaging 44.2 million viewers, which is about 10 million more than season seven, according to HBO.

The previous HBO record occurred in 2002 with the fourth-season premiere of “The Sopranos,” which tracked 11.9 million viewers at a time when streaming video and on-demand distribution did not exist.

AT&T CEO: WarnerMedia Looking to Partner SVOD Service With Pay-TV Operators

WarnerMedia’s pending fourth-quarter soft-launch of a branded subscription streaming video service will look to partner with — rather than antagonize — third-party pay-TV operators.

Speaking May 14 at the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media and Communications  Conference in New York, Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, said the service would be centered around HBO and be included with a pay-TV subscription.

“The MVPDs, Comcast, we think are going to be an important partner to all of this,” Stephenson said. “If you’re a Comcast subscriber and you acquire HBO, you will get this [OTT video] capability with your HBO subscription on Comcast.”

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The proposed symbiotic relationship between SVOD and linear television distribution is significant considering the former was launched in part to replace pay-TV.

Indeed, Dish Network launched pioneering Sling TV in 2015 in an effort to offset declining satellite TV subscribers. AT&T followed with DirecTV Now.

Yet, online TV subscriber growth has cooled. Sling added just 7,000 subscribers in the most-recent fiscal period, and DirecTV Now lost 83,000 subs compared to a gain of 312,000 subs last year.

Stephenson said the new SVOD service is projected to generate “tens of millions of subs” — a figure dependent upon AT&T sustaining its base of DirecTV and U-verse subscribers.

The strategy is not dissimilar with Comcast, which plans to launch an OTT service free to Xfinity subscribers, with non-subscribers charged a monthly fee.

“Keeping the satellite, the U-verse customer base in check and stable is really important because it’s going to be a major distribution platform [for SVOD],” Stephenson said. “And then we want to just continue to push digital distribution on top of that as well.”

Much of that distribution will be centered around HBO, which is currently generating strong viewership through the last season of “Game of Thrones”.

Stephenson said content investment at HBO has “stepped up considerably” this year with the second seasons of “Big Little Lies” and “Succession” slated to follow “Thrones,” in addition to new series, “Chernobyl”.

“We’ve got a lot of really great content coming online as ‘Game of Thrones’ winds down,” he said.

Penultimate ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Sets Series Viewership Record

The next-to-last “Game of Thrones” episode, titled “The Bells,” was watched May 12 by a record 18.4 million viewers across HBO’s linear, TV Everywhere (HBO Go) and SVOD platform HBO Now, exceeding the previous series high of 17.8 million viewers for the April 28 episode, “The Long Night,” focusing on the Battle of Winterfell.

The 9 p.m. airing reached a time-period high with an average of 12.5 million viewers, surpassing the season seven finale of 12.1 million viewers. The final season eight is averaging 43 million viewers per episode in gross audience, an increase of more than 10 million viewers compared to season seven.

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