Jim Henson Company Launches Kids’ Series for Download on iTunes and Google Play

The Jim Henson Company, in partnership with Premiere Digital Services, has launched several of its children’s series on iTunes and Google Play for download in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Content includes seasons one and two of the language acquisition series “Word Party,” (U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia); season one of the animated series “Dot.,” created by Randi Zuckerberg (U.S. and U.K.); and the puppet series “Pajanimals,” “Jim Henson’s Mother Goose Stories” and “The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss” (U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia). The classic Henson fantasy series “The Storyteller” and “The Storyteller: Greek Myths” are available for download in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia.

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“Partnering with Premiere Digital Services has allowed more beloved Jim Henson Company titles to be available to our fans than ever before,” said Jim Henson VP of global distribution Anna Moorefield. “Consumers can expect additional favorites as we continue to make our productions available to established and new audiences wherever and whenever they want to watch.”

“We are thrilled to partner with The Jim Henson Company and expand the reach of their timeless and iconic catalog in the transactional VOD space,” said head of Premiere business development Jeff Goldman. “Working together with The Jim Henson Company and our platform partners, we have the experience and relationships to bring these amazing shows starring some of the best-loved characters to fans of all ages around the world.”

Disney 4K Movies Now Streaming on Google Play

Google Play has begun offering for the first time select Disney movies in 4K resolution. Titles include the first three Marvel Avengers movies (The AvengersAge of Ultron, and Infinity War), Captain MarvelBlack PantherCocoThe Lion King (1992)Solo: A Star Wars Story, and A Wrinkle in TimePrices range from $19.99 to $24.99

 And starting July 30, Google Play (along with other digital outlets) will offer 4K and HD versions of Marvel Avengers: Endgame.

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Android users can access 4K Disney titles on Chromecast Ultra, 4K Android TVs, as well as most Samsung and LG Smart TVs, among other devices.

Video Streaming Widens Appeal Over Pay-TV Among Telecom Customers

Video streaming expanded its lead over subscription TV service in terms of customer satisfaction, rising to a score of 76 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s 100-point scale.

According to the ACSI Telecommunications Report 2018-2019, subscription TV service stagnated at 62, tied with internet service providers for last place among all industries tracked by the ACSI — subscription TV, ISPs, fixed-line telephone service, video-on-demand service and video streaming service.

Video streaming topped all industries tracked.

“Video streaming once again proves itself to be the best of the telecom industries in customer satisfaction,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI. “Traditional telecom providers have tried to step up their game, but they’re not providing original content the way video streaming is, and in part they suffer guilt by association — if customers aren’t satisfied overall with Comcast, they’re probably going to ding Comcast’s on-demand service too.”

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Among video streaming services, Netflix secured first place at 79 after sharing the lead with Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Amazon Twitch the previous year. Netflix ranked at the top for original content among all streaming services, according to the ACSI. Sony’s PlayStation Vue landed in second place at 78, followed by the Microsoft Store at 77. Hulu stepped up to match Amazon Prime Video and Apple iTunes at 76. Five services clustered at 75: CBS All Access, Google Play, Amazon’s gaming platform Twitch, Walmart’s Vudu and Google’s YouTube. Dish Network’s Sling TV was the most improved, meeting HBO at 74. Starz matched the combined score of smaller platforms at 72, while Showtime followed close behind at 71. AT&T’s DirecTV Now fell to 69, ahead of only Sony Crackle, which remained unchanged at 68.

For the past six years, customer satisfaction with subscription TV has languished in the mid-to-low 60s, according to the study. AT&T’s U-verse TV held the lead for subscription TV at 69, followed by Verizon’s Fios at 68 and Dish Network at 67. AT&T’s satellite TV service DirecTV came in at 66, Altice’s Optimum tallied 61, and Charter’s Spectrum came in at 59 to tie with Cox Communications. Frontier Communications and Comcast’s Xfinity came in at 57. Mediacom followed closely at 56. Altice’s Suddenlink tumbles to the bottom of the category at 55.

Customer satisfaction with video-on-demand service slipped to an ACSI score of 67 as viewers continue to turn toward streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, according to the study. AT&T’s U-verse TV service held the lead a year ago, but this year shared the top spot with Verizon’s Fios at a score of 72. Satellite provider Dish Network dropped to 71 but remained just ahead of DirecTV, unchanged at 70. Frontier Communications debuted in the category with a score of 67, in line with the industry average. Three decliners met at 66: Cox Communications, Altice’s Optimum and Comcast’s Xfinity. Charter’s Spectrum remains unchanged at the bottom of the category with a 64.

Unchanged at a score of 62, ISPs remain at the bottom of the ACSI rankings. Most ISPs are still falling short of providing good service at an affordable price, according to the ACSI release. Verizon’s Fios was stable at the top of the category with an ACSI score of 70, but AT&T Internet closed in at 69. Altice’s Optimum fell to 63 but remained the leader among coaxial providers. Meanwhile, Comcast’s Xfinity inched closer to the industry average at 61. Cox Communications tallied 60, tying Altice’s Suddenlink. Charter’s Spectrum and CenturyLink came in at 59.

Industry Golf Tournament, Benefiting CF Foundation, Returns July 15

A popular entertainment industry golf tournament benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is back.

Industry veteran Mark Horak, who produced the annual golf tournament as part of the annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit (LAES) trade show from 2012 to 2017, is once again inviting studio executives, content distributors and other industry players to a day on the greens.

This year’s golf tournament will be held on July 15, the Monday prior to the ninth annual LAES and OTT Conference, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

The event will be held at the North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, an exclusive country club with 27 championship holes.

Attendees will include executives from the major and independent studios involved with the production and distribution of content, retailers and distributors of digital and physical content, consumer electronics manufacturers and various suppliers of supporting products and services for the media and entertainment industry.  Confirmed attendees include Google Play, Warner, Transworld, Redbox, Deloitte, DTS and others.

All proceeds will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – a cause near and dear to the heart of Horak, who has two daughters with cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.

Horak, a former high-ranking executive at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Redbox, said that through the LAES and golf tournament, the industry has raised nearly $2 million for the charity.

“LAES and the golf tournament are a great place for industry executives, distributors and vendors who value the chance to network and socialize with key clients and fellow industry executives they might not see in person very often,” Horak said. “Bringing the golf tournament back provides a great networking opportunity in a fun, casual environment and provides important financial support for the CF community”.

Registration for the event opens at 9:30 a.m., with a four-man “Best Ball Scramble” tournament with various skill contests and prizes from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The day concludes with a cocktail networking reception silent auction, followed by a plated dinner, a live auction and an awards presentation honoring key industry leaders and influencers who are driving the future successes of media and entertainment and helping raise awareness and funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Various sponsorships are available, ranging in price from $2,000 to $25,000. The individual participant rate is $350 or $500 with a tee sponsorship.

For more information, or to sign up, click here.

 

SVOD Driving Danish Home Entertainment Market

Consumer spending in Denmark’s home entertainment market grew 7% in 2018 to DKK 10.21 billion ($1.53 billion) — driven by over-the-top video, transactional VOD and EST growth, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting.

SVOD (i.e. Netflix) spending grew more than 30% and is expected to DKK 2 billion mark by the end of 2019, accounting for more than 20% of total video entertainment consumer spend.

“Subscriptions grew 25% in 2018 to 2.1 million, with three services gaining 100,000 or more subscribers,” analyst Tanzim Rahman said in a statement. “SVOD consumer spend nearly doubl[ed] between 2016 and 2018 … growing by DKK 852 million. SVOD accounts for the majority of total growth in the entertainment market over the same period, which saw revenue rise by DKK 1.2 billion.”

Futuresource said SVOD in Denmark continues to benefit from a competitive landscape, with an attractive range of services from global players Netflix and HBO to local offerings from Viaplay and TV2 Play, with Netflix leading the market with 39% of subscriptions in 2018.

Streaming services are supported by a strong broadband environment, with average speeds of 39 Mbps and household broadband penetration at 83%.

As a result, Denmark saw a total of 1.2 million households subscribing to at least one SVOD service, leading to household penetration of 46% in 2018 — on par with the Nordic region average, which led European penetration rates in 2018.

Futuresource contends the transactional video market across both digital and physical formats is expected to decline by 2% to DKK 554 million, with the physical market declining DKK 57 million. However, from 2019 the transactional segment is expected to see a return to growth, propelled by a progressive EST sector, which will grow 31% to DDK 163 million.

Transactional digital video growth accelerated in 2018 to 16%, with total spend reaching DKK 349 million, although this is just 20% of the SVOD market.

A solid year of EST growth meant that revenue increased 38% to DKK 124 million, doubling since 2016, and accounted for 35% of the 2018 transactional digital market.

“Growth in EST has been driven by Viaplay and Google Play, although iTunes still dominates the market, taking a 57% share of spend,” Rahman said. “Apple have signed agreements with major TV manufacturers and is expected to consolidate its position over the coming years and help further stimulate the market.”

Transactional VOD continues to grow, but at a slower pace than EST, with spend increasing 18% to DKK 96 million in 2019 — and an average of 16% annually through 2023.

Luncheon Fetes Fast Forward Award Honorees

FandangoNow VP of home entertainment Cameron Douglas, Redbox CEO Galen Smith, Google Play head of media and entertainment Jonathan Zepp, and the team at Apple iTunes were honored with Fast Forward Awards at a luncheon April 4 in Los Angeles at the Universal Hilton.

The awards, presented by Media Play News, recognize people, technologies, organizations, products or services that move the home entertainment industry forward.

The luncheon was produced by Media Play News and hosted by the Entertainment Merchants Association, which used the occasion to announce a new Leadership Development Foundation to foster executive talent.

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“All of today’s honorees are truly worthy of recognition for their leadership in our industry,” said EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher.

Media Play News publisher Thomas K. Arnold noted that all of the honorees are involved in the digital transactional business. Not all consumers want to get their entertainment buffet-style with the content curated for them as offered by subscription streaming services; many consumers would like to choose the content they would like to see a la carte, he said.

Warner Bros. Entertainment SVP of sales Michael Rweyemamu presented the award to Smith of Redbox, which has nearly doubled the selection of films and TV shows available on its year-old digital movie store, Redbox On Demand, and last December announced a new deal in which its app is featured on all Vizio Smartcast TV. Rweyemamu noted the irony of the occasion, considering the rocky relationship between the studio and the kiosk company several years ago when the two fought over release windows for low-priced rentals.

“Ten years ago, had you told me I’d be presenting an award to Redbox, I’d have said, ‘Hell, no!’” Rweyemamu joked.

He praised Smith for his leadership.

“Galen, you’ve been a great partner,” he said. “We started off on a rocky road like some relationships, but we’re in a really good place right now. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that you were really tenacious. You were really disciplined, really open to conversations to allow us to be where we are today.”

Smith also noted the evolution of the relationship between the two companies.

“In a similar vein, receiving an award from Warner Bros. I didn’t think was ever going to happen,” Smith said.

The company’s Redbox on Demand digital service “is a real natural evolution for our business,” Smith said.

“We’ve got 50 million customers that rent from us every year; it’s an opportunity for us to help them move to digital,” he said. “This is the last bastion of customers who haven’t moved yet. We have an opportunity to bring them over.”

He also praised the transactional model.

“We did a stint in a more of an SVOD-type business, and it didn’t really work,” he said, in reference to a failed joint venture with Verizon. “Our consumers are transactional, and so we want to do everything we can to support the business.”

In presenting the award to FandangoNow’s Douglas, industry veteran and former DreamWorks home entertainment chief Kelly Sooter praised him for his ability to anticipate trends and forge strong partnerships and lasting relationships — and for always being in touch with the consumer.

“He knows everything about … how consumers behave,” she said.

FandangoNow has been revving up its promotional muscle and is aggressively tying in digital purchases and rentals with its movie-ticket-selling sister company.

Douglas noted he got involved in the digital business at DreamWorks when he was asked to help with a startup (M-GO, which eventually was acquired by movie service Fandango and became FandangoNow).

“As we finally refined what we were doing and launched in 2013 as a transactional service, I truly felt like I was now building the future of digital home entertainment,” Douglas said.

He noted FandangoNow’s early and strong support for 4K and initiatives such as binge bundles and the “Fresh Picks” program, which curates titles deemed “Fresh” by sister service Rotten Tomatoes.

Praising Google Play’s Zepp, who was unable to attend, Paramount Pictures president of worldwide home media distribution Bob Buchi said, “He truly has the talent and the vision to market very impressively to consumers and really change the way that they behave.”

Buchi noted that Google Play, which is in its seventh year, “really put a movie store in the hand of millions of consumers with the Android mobile platform [and] really elevated and streamlined the experience of purchasing or renting a digital product, and opened up a whole new world in literally over 100 countries.”

“They continued to enhance the product day in and day out,” he said. “It’s now on every major television manufacturer and streaming sticks, so it’s really never been easier to rent or to purchase a movie.

“They’re also super champions of 4K which is great for adoption and great for all of our futures.”

Google Play Movies & TV is currently on a big 4K push, automatically upgrading customers’ past movie purchases to the new format, so they can stream them in 4K, even if the movies were originally purchased in standard or high definition.

Google Play’s Bill Kotzman accepted the award on Zepp’s behalf and read a statement from the honoree: “Transactional home entertainment is and will remain a key part of the media and entertainment business.… Google continues to invest heavily in transactional, and we’re excited to continue to grow the category in partnership with all of you.”

The EMA’s Steven Apple accepted the award for the iTunes team. Apple’s iTunes service began the year with a game-changing deal with No. 1 TV manufacturer Samsung. New Samsung SmartCast TVs will allow consumers to access their iTunes movie and TV show libraries through a new app.

Photos of the event are here.

Media Play News Fast Forward 2019 Awards Luncheon

Media Play News honored four digital retailers with the publication’s second annual Fast Forward Awards for driving the home entertainment industry forward. This year’s awards included a luncheon and ceremony, held April 4 at the Universal Hilton in Universal City, Calif., and hosted by the Entertainment Merchants Association. Awards went to Cameron Douglas of FandangoNow, Jonathan Zepp of Google Play Movies & TV, and Galen Smith of Redbox, and the team at Apple iTunes. EMA used the event to launch its EMA Leadership Development Foundation, aimed at supporting professional training and development within the home entertainment industry, and particularly within the EMA membership.

Digital Retailers to be Honored in Second Annual Fast Forward Awards

Media Play News Feb. 19 announced that four digital retailers will receive the second annual Media Play Fast Forward Awards, honoring people, technologies, organizations, products or services that move the home entertainment industry forward.

This year’s honorees are Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment at FandangoNow; Google Play’s Jonathan Zepp, Head of Media and Entertainment; Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox; and the team at Apple iTunes (the company asked that no individual be singled out).

With streaming continuing to dominate the home entertainment business,  the transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) model is more important than ever to the Hollywood studios.

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TVOD — both electronic sellthrough (EST) and a la carte streaming — also posted significant gains in 2018, thanks in large part to aggressive and innovative digital retailers.

FandangoNow has been revving up its promotional muscle and is aggressively tying in digital purchases and rentals with its movie-ticket-selling sister company.

Google Play Movies & TV is on a big 4K push, automatically upgrading customers’ past movie purchases to the new format, so they can stream them in 4K, even if the movies were originally purchased in standard or high definition.

Redbox has nearly doubled the selection of films and TV shows available on its year-old digital movie store, Redbox On Demand, and last December announced a new deal in which its app is featured on all Vizio Smartcast TVs — in addition to TVs from Samsung and LG.

And Apple’s iTunes service began the year with a game-changing deal with No. 1 TV manufacturer Samsung. New Samsung SmartCast TVs will allow consumers to access their iTunes movie and TV show libraries through a new app. They’ll also be able to buy new movies or TV shows directly through the app.

The Media Play Fast Forward awards are an outgrowth of the Home Entertainment Visionary Awards, which were launched in 2002 by the now-defunct Home Media Magazine. Comcast’s Brian Roberts was the 2017 honoree. Warren Lieberfarb, the father of DVD, was the first, back in 2002. Other honorees have included Sony Pictures’ Ben Feingold, Samsung’s Tim Baxter, and Walmart’s Louis Greth and Chris Nagelson.

The four digital retailers will be profiled in the March issue of Media Play News‘ monthly magazine, available in both print and digital editions, and honored at a luncheon in Los Angeles at a date that has not yet been determined.

A portion of the proceeds of the luncheon will benefit Caterina’s Club, a Los Angeles charity that provides warm meals, affordable housing assistance, and job training to homeless and low-income families throughout Southern California.

Google Play Offering Deals on Past Oscar Winners, Featuring This Year’s Nominees

To celebrate the 91st Academy Awards Feb. 24, Google Play Feb. 15-28 is offering deals on some of the past Oscar-winning movies and featuring a collection of this year’s Oscar-nominated films.

Titles on sale include Thelma & Louise, Gone with the Wind, Rain Man, Dirty Dancing, The Wizard of Oz, La La Land, Moulin Rouge, Walk the Line, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Lady Bird, The Blind Side, Moneyball, Million Dollar Baby, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs, I,Tonya, American Sniper, RBG, Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water, 12 Years a Slave, Birdman and Moonlight.

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Google Play is also featuring apps and games inspired by this year’s Best Picture nominees.

A complete list of Oscars content on Google Play is on its Oscars Hub.

Comcast Xfinity Digital Store Seventh Digital Retailer to Join Movies Anywhere

Digital movie collection service Movies Anywhere on Dec. 5  added Comcast’s Xfinity Digital Store as its seventh digital retail partner.

Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Apple’s iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu were partnered with the service at launch last October. FandangoNow, Fandango’s on-demand video service, came aboard in March, joined in August by Microsoft Movies and TV.

Comcast’s 22 million Xfinity TV subscribers are now able to synchronize their accounts with Movies Anywhere,  combine eligible movie purchases from the Xfinity Digital Store with those from other Movies Anywhere digital retailers, and access them on Xfinity X1, the Xfinity Stream app and other Xfinity TV platforms.

Comcast is the first pay-TV provider to join Movies Anywhere. For a limited time, consumers who sync for the first time with Xfinity or one of the other participating digital retailers will receive a free digital copy of Happy Feet, a 2006 computer-animated musical family film with a domestic box office gross of nearly $200 million. Those who sync for the first time with two digital retailers also receive digital copies of The Martian and The Fate of the Furious.

“Comcast is one of the country’s leading pay-TV providers, with a customer base that, like ours, consists of people who are passionate about the movies they love,” said Karin Gilford, general manager of Movies Anywhere. “We are thrilled to now include Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers among those who can benefit from Movies Anywhere’s ability to bring their favorite movies together in one place that can be accessed across a multitude of devices using the Movies Anywhere app and across Xfinity TV platforms.”

“Xfinity X1 is the only platform that provides customers with seamless, integrated access to all of their entertainment choices within one user interface, whether that content is live, on demand, streamed, recorded, rented or owned,” said Daniel Spinosa, VP of entertainment services at Comcast Cable. “And by joining Movies Anywhere, Xfinity TV customers can now easily link their accounts across participating digital retailers and watch their consolidated digital library on X1, or anywhere in the country via the Xfinity Stream app and portal.”

With the addition of Comcast to the Movies Anywhere lineup, Movies Anywhere collections owned by the cable company’s customers will be accessible for the first time directly on the TV through Xfinity On Demand, and on devices via the Xfinity Stream app and web portal. All Movies Anywheres users are also able to access their collections via the Movies Anywhere app and web portal on an array of additional platforms.

One of the top digital retailers for new releases, the Xfinity Digital Store offers Xfinity TV customers the ability to easily purchase and access thousands of movies, many featuring enhanced extras via X1 and across devices via the Xfinity Stream app and web portal.

Movies Anywhere is backed by five Hollywood studios — Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures (including Focus Features, DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm) and Warner Bros. Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate are not part of the service, which also does not feature television programming.

In October, Movies Anywhere celebrated its one-year anniversary, announcing that since launch fans have streamed more than 35 million movies on more than 100 different devices. The service turned 1 with 6 million registered users, 150 million movies collected and more than 1 billion minutes viewed.

Movies Anywhere in February 2018 won Media Play News‘ inaugural “Fast Forward” award, honoring people, technologies, organizations, products or services that move the home entertainment industry forward. The awards are an outgrowth of the Home Entertainment Visionary Awards, which were launched in 2002 by the now-defunct Home Media Magazine. Comcast’s Brian Roberts was the 2017 honoree.

Movies Anywhere also was nominated for “Fan Favorite App” in the Google Play Best of 2018 Awards.

Consumer spending on digital purchases of movies, TV shows and other filmed content rose 18% in the third quarter of this year compared with the same quarter in 2017, a significant uptick from the single-digit gains posted in prior years, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.