Ex-HBO Boss Inks 5-Year Apple TV+ Production Deal

In a move to jumpstart its branded subscription streaming video service, Apple has reportedly signed a five-year production deal with Richard Plepler, former CEO of HBO.

Under the deal ironed out by Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, Apple’s joint heads of video, Plepler’s company, Eden Productions, will create original series, movies and documentaries for Apple TV+. The $4.99 service launched Nov. 2, 2019, with fewer than a dozen original programs.

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“I’m excited to work with Zack, Jamie and the standout team at Apple who have been deeply supportive of my vision for Eden from day one,” Plepler said in a statement. “The shows that Zack and Jamie produced, ‘The Crown’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’ are among those I most admired. Apple is one of the most creative companies in the world, and the perfect home for my new production company and next chapter.”

Plepler, who helped launched subscription streaming video platform HBO Now in 2015, ran HBO for 28 years — a career that saw the premium channel produce myriad high-profile shows, including “The Wire,” “The Sopranos,” “True Detective,” “Game of Thrones,” “Silicon Valley,” “Oz,” “Sharp Objects,” “Westworld,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Big Love,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Sex and the City,” “Veep,” “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” “Chernobyl,” “Band of Brothers,” “Barry” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” among others.

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Plepler stepped down from his position shortly after AT&T closed its acquisition of Time Warner, creating WarnerMedia, headed by John Stankey.

Average U.S. Home Streaming Bundle Sweet Spot: $20-$21

With the field of subscription streaming video services growing, new data shows the average U.S. household would spend $20 to $21 monthly for combined platforms — slightly more than 20% of the average pay-TV bundle ($96.18).

Soda.com, in a survey of 1,000 consumers who stream video in the home conducted Nov. 7-9, 2019, found the majority (32%) of respondents would pay $20 or more monthly for combined streaming services, while 30% would prefer not to bundle services and 14% would not pay more than $10 for a bundle.

Notably, 44% of respondents said they use two or more streaming services per week.

With SVOD services ranging from $4.99 for Apple TV+ to $15 for HBO Max, which launches in May, consumers are faced with the challenge of mixing and matching services or prioritizing services based on the user’s favorite content.

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Netflix is projecting 61.2 million domestic subscribers at the end 2019, with actual figures to be released later this month. That’s more than 80% of the combined tally predicted for Hulu (28.5 million), Apple TV+ (10 million), Disney+ (15 million), CBS All Access (8 million), HBO Now (8 million) and ESPN+ (3.5 million), according to CNBC.

In August 2019, there were about 86.5 million traditional pay-TV households — a number that is projected to drop to 73 million by 2023, according to Statista. Most pay-TV subs continue their subscriptions based on habit, premium channels and sports.

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The survey contends Netflix remains the best overall streaming service followed by YouTube TV. Sports fans favored sports-themed fubo TV or ESPN+, whiles families sought Amazon Prime Video (Prime membership and free shipping) and Disney+.

Movie fans chose HBO Now (soon HBO Max) and Hulu, while budget-minded respondents opted for Sling TV and Hoopla.

 

Amazon Prime Channels Launches in Mexico

Amazon has expanded its Prime Channels video platform to Mexico, affording members in the country access to third-party subscription streaming video services.

Launched in 2015 in the United States, Prime Channels is an attempt to thwart online TV and pay-TV by offering Prime subscribers direct access to alternative streaming services.

The platform has been credited helping SVOD services such as HBO Now, StarzPlay, Cinedigm’s Dove Channel, CBS’ Showtime OTT, BritBox and Viacom’s Paramount+ generate sustainable subscriber bases.

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“We are excited to bring even more selection to our Prime members in Mexico with the launch of Prime Video Channels,” Greg Hart, VP of Amazon Prime Video, said in a statement. “By simplifying our customers’ entertainment experience all within the Prime Video app, we can make it even easier for them to select, subscribe and enjoy their favorite TV shows and movies from our channel providers.”

Amazon Prime Channels is also available in the U.K., Germany, Austria, Japan and Canada.

 

HBO Now Unveils September Slate

HBO Max may be coming, but in the meantime there’s HBO Now, WarnerMedia’s four-year-old subscription streaming video service with more than 5 million subs.

The SVOD in September rolls out a new slate of movies, including Warner Bros.’ Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s  Mary Queen of Scots with Margot Robbie and Saorise Ronan, Welcome to Marwen, and teen thriller Truth or Dare.

This fall also kicks off the third seasons of drama “The Deuce” and anthology series “Room 104,” as well as a new episode of “The Shop: Uninterrupted.”

HBO Documentary Films commemorates the tragic events of September 11, 2001 with the debut of two documentaries, In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 and the children’s show, What Happened on September 11.

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Meanwhile,  Mean Girls, Deadpool 2, Rampage, Splice and Breaking In depart the SVOD at the end of the month.

Theatrical Premieres:
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, 2019 (9/1)
Truth or Dare, 2018 (9/4)
Mary Queen of Scots, 2018 (9/7)
Welcome to Marwen, 2018 (9/14)
They Shall Not Grow Old, 2018 (9/17)
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, 2019 (9/21)
Isn’t It Romantic, 2019 (9/28)
Original Programming:
The Shop: Uninterrupted (9/3)
In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 (9/11)
What Happened on September 11 (9/11)

Original Programming:
“The Shop: Uninterrupted” (9/3)
“In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11” (9/11)
“What Happened on September 11” (9/11)
Season Premieres:
“The Deuce, Season 3” Premiere (9/9)
“Room 104, Season 3” Premiere (9/13)

Season Finale:
“Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders, Season Finale” (9/3)
“A Black Lady Sketch Show, Season 1 Finale” (9/6)

Estrenos:
Ruta Viva, 2018 (9/1)
El Amor Menos Pensado (AKA An Unexpected Love), 2018 (9/6)
Más Sabe el Diablo por Viejo, 2018 (9/13)
Septimo (AKA 7th Floor), 2018 (9/20)
Perseguida (AKA Persecuted), 2018 (9/27)

Starting September 1:
127 Hours, 2010
Alfie, 2004
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, 2004
Anastasia, 1997
Boys and Girls, 2000
Cabin Fever (Director’s Cut), 2003
Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (Extended Version), 2019
Catfish, 2010
The Darkest Hour, 2011
Frantic, 1988
Hail, Caesar!, 2016
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 2003
The Hurt Locker, 2009
I Love You Phillip Morris, 2010
Jem and the Holograms, 2015
The Killing Fields, 1984
Love Actually, 2003
Out of Sight, 1998
Resident Evil: Apocalypse, 2004
Robocop (Director’s Cut), 1987
Robocop 2, 1990
Robocop 3, 1993
The Rundown, 2003
The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, 2004
Thirteen Days, 2000
United 93, 2006
The Wizard, 1989

Ending September 5:
The Water Diviner, 2015

Ending September 22:
The Green Inferno, 2015

Ending September 25:
Suffragette, 2015

Ending September 27:
Just Wright, 2010

 

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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‘Apple Channels’ Platform Launches Offering Access to Third-Party Streaming Services

Apple May 13 has formally launched “Apple Channels,” an app enabling users access to third-party subscription streaming services such as HBO Now, Showtime OTT and Lionsgate-owned Starz, among others.

The platform mimics Amazon Prime Channels, which bowed in 2015 offering Prime members direct access to HBO Now, Showtime, CBS All Access, Shudder, Sundance Now, Dove Channel, Acorn TV, Urban Movie Channel, among other others.

Amazon Channels, which maintains control over third-party OTT usage among Prime members, in addition to revenue sharing deals, has been credited by WarnerMedia, LIonsgate and CBS for driving subscriber growth for their respective brands.

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Apple Channels reportedly is getting from 15% to 30% of third-party revenue from subscribers registering through The App Store on Apple devices.

In addition, Apple Channels users can only stream third-party content through its app on Apple devices; not on other platforms such as Roku, Google Chromecast or PlayStation Vue, among others.

Current third-party SVOD subs can access the platforms through Apple Channels. The platform is not Apple TV+, the new SVOD platform launching later this year.

AT&T CFO: 27 Million People Watched ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Premiere

Viewership data for the final season of HBO’s hit fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” keeps growing.

Speaking on the April 24 fiscal call, AT&T CFO John Stephens said more than 27 million watched the premiere episode of season eight across all platforms, including subscription streaming video service HBO Now.

“Those numbers will show up in the second quarter customer accounts,” Stephens said.

HBO originally said 17.4 million people watched the episode on the pay-TV channel.

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Stephens said the series helped HBO Now generate record new subscribers in the days before the premiere episode.

Meanwhile, AT&T said the $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner continues to positively affect the telecom’s bottom line.

New business unit WarnerMedia, which includes Warner Bros., HBO, Turner, AT&T’s regional sports network and Otter Media Holdings, reported first-quarter (ended March 31) operating income of more than $2.2 billion on revenue of more than $8.3 billion.

Warner Bros. saw operating income increase $164 million on revenue of $3.5 billion — the latter up from $3.2 billion in the previous-year period.

HBO saw operating income increase $32 million on revenue of $1.5 billion, down from revenue of $1.6 billion last year.

Turner saw operating income increase $82 million on revenue of $3.4 billion, down from revenue of $3.5 billion last year.

Finally, WarnerMedia confirmed an agreement with an affiliate of Related Companies to sell its office space at 30 Hudson Yards for about $2.2 billion.

The transaction is expected to close in late second-quarter 2019. AT&T will use proceeds from this transaction, along with additional planned sales of non-core assets, to reduce its $180 billion debt load following the Time Warner acquisition.

WarnerMedia earlier sold its 10% in Hulu to the Disney-controlled platform for $1.43 billion.

AT&T hopes to end fiscal 2019 with about $150 billion in debt.

‘Game of Thrones’ Final Season Premiere Tops Largest Streaming Night for HBO Now

The April 14 premiere of the eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” generated record viewership for HBO, including standalone subscription streaming service HBO Now. The premiere accounted for largest night of streaming activity ever for HBO Now.

The previous streaming record was set in 2014 by the season one finale of “True Detective,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, which temporarily crashed TV Everywhere app, HBO Go.

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WarnerMedia said a record 17.4 million people watched the episode across all distribution formats, including pay-TV. The tally exceeded by more than 1 million the previous series high of 16.9 million viewers for the season seven finale.

HBO Now saw a jump of about 50% in viewing when compared to last season’s finale and nearly doubled (97%) when compared to the seventh-season premiere.

The 9 p.m. airing was viewed by 11.8 million viewers, surpassing the season seven premiere of 10.1 million viewers and slightly behind the season seven finale of 12.1 million viewers.

“Game of Thrones” season seven went on to average 32.8 million viewers per episode.

Comcast Launches $5 Streaming Video Service with Netflix and Movies Anywhere Access

Comcast Cable has finally joined the over-the-top video ecosystem with the launch of Xfinity Flex — a $5 monthly service offering Xfinity broadband-only subscribers direct access (for a separate fee) to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Now, in addition to ad-supported content, and digital movies for sale and rent.

Xfinity Flex comes with more than 10,000 free online movies and TV shows — including live streaming TV — from ESPN3, Xumo, Pluto, Tubi TV, Cheddar, YouTube and more.

The service features an integrated guide and voice control, enabling customers to browse and access programming across Netflix, Prime Video, HBO, and Showtime, rent and purchase movies and shows from the digital store, access their digital lockers across platforms by pairing their account with Movies Anywhere, or listen to music from Pandora, iHeartRadio, and XITE.

And soon, Xfinity Flex subs will be able to upgrade to the full Xfinity X1 cable service from the guide, which offers hundreds of live channels, tens of thousands of on demand titles, and a cloud DVR.

The service comes as Apple and Disney ready branded OTT video platforms, with WarnerMedia slated to launch a competing service in 2020.

“[The Internet] is becoming the center of gravity as we move more and more toward connectivity,” Matthew Strauss, EVP of Xfinity Services told CNET, which is owned by CBS Interactive.

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Strauss said the service would underscore Comcast’s ongoing strategy tying the Internet and television through the cloud-based Xfinity set-top.

“[We want consumers] to start thinking of the television as a digital display,” Strauss said.

Specifically,  Xfinity Flex will be packaged with an Internet-connected, 4K HDR streaming TV device, which includes a voice remote, integrated guide for accessing popular streaming video and music choices, as well as Comcast’s home WiFi, mobile, security and automation services.

“Xfinity Flex will deepen our relationship with a certain segment of our Internet customers and provide them with real value,” Strauss said.

As more connected devices, streaming choices, and smart home services come online, Xfinity Flex will provide customers with an easy way to better manage, control and enjoy the connected home as it continues to grow.

 

 

Book Retailer Marketing Companion Titles for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Original Shows

If you can’t beat subscription streaming, join over-the-top video.

Books-A-Million, the Birmingham, Ala.-based chain of 200 bookstores, has issued a list of companion books to favorite Netflix, Hulu and other streaming titles. This list complements popular TV shows and movie titles, including “You,” “Stranger Things,” Bird Box, “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up,” among others.

“Think of the book as the uncut version of the movie or TV series – there is better character development, the plot is deeper, the blanks are filled in, there may be an alternate ending and there might be a sequel,” Margaret Terwey, senior buyer for Books-A-Million, said in a statement. “That’s why we think the book is better and why we encourage our customers to simultaneously stream and read.”

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds: The First Official Stranger Things Novel ($28) by Gwenda Bond is a brand-new prequel providing readers with secrets and the background of Eleven’s mother.

Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders ($14.99) inspired the Amazon Prime series, which sets main character Hercule Poirot on the trail of an alphabetical serial killer.

You ($17) by Caroline Kepnes prompted the popular Netflix series about a young man who meets a woman and becomes obsessed with being her perfect partner, removing any obstacles in his way.

Josh Malerman’s Bird Box ($15.99) is a hit Netflix film (80 million viewers) about a post-apocalyptic world in which a monster lives, and anyone who sees the mysterious force is driven to deadly violence.

Decluttering guru and Netflix star Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up ($18.99) has revolutionized homes and lives across the world, and fanatics can go even further with her book featuring step-by-step illustrations.

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From the host of the television series and podcast “MeatEater,” The Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler ($35) by Steven Rinella is a guide to cooking wild game, featuring more than 100 new recipes.

Now on Netflix, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking ($37.50) by Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton is an ambitious new approach to cooking by mastering the use of the four title elements.

The Game of Thrones prequel by George R. R. Martin, Fire and Blood – 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones ($35), helps readers dive deeper into the history of the Targaryens.

Available in paperback in April 2019, The One ($15.99) by John Marrs explores a company that promises to match people up with their soulmates via DNA testing.

Finally, fans of the movies that are streaming on Hulu and anyone anticipating the upcoming Amazon Prime Video original series will want The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: Deluxe Pocket Boxed Set ($49.95), a four-volume set containing The Hobbit and the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings.