WarnerMedia Hires First Diversity/Inclusion Officer

WarnerMedia June 12 announced the hiring of Christy Haubegger as the media company’s first chief enterprise inclusion officer.

Haubegger, who spent 14 years at Creative Artists Agency, reports directly to CEO John Stankey and works with senior management to drive business growth through strategic investment in diverse audiences and to ensure the organization’s workforce is representative of the markets it serves.

Christy Haubegger

“As we transform our businesses and our culture, we see a unique opportunity to generate outsize growth by delivering world-class content that engages underserved audiences,” Stankey said in a statement. “To realize that opportunity we must make strategic investments, build a more representative workforce, and create a truly inclusive culture.”

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Created with AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, WarnerMedia says it want to recognize diversity and inclusion as business imperatives.

The company claims to use its best efforts to ensure diverse actors and crew members are considered for film, television and other projects, and to work with directors and producers who also seek to promote greater diversity and inclusion in the media and entertainment industry.

At CAA, Haubegger spearheaded representation of women and people of color, and helped transformed the diversity of the workforce.

The talent agency has long focused on innovation through diversity and implemented strategies to create sustainable change within the agency and beyond.

Under Haubegger’s leadership, CAA launched “CAA Amplify,” an invitation-only annual event convening high-level multicultural artists and leaders, as well as the industry’s first searchable database of television writers of color.

During her tenure, the agency grew its diverse roster more than 1400% and according to USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the agency now represents the largest share of female directors and African- American directors in the motion picture business.

“Christy Haubegger is one of a kind. She is a talented and visionary leader who made a transformational impact on the agency throughout her tenure,” said CAA president Richard Lovett. “She influenced our business and culture, and established CAA as a leader in the promotion of inclusion, creating initiatives that support and advance underrepresented voices. We remain steadfast in our commitment to moving our industry forward and are thrilled to continue working collaboratively with Christy in her new role.”

Hulu, FX Getting Lionsgate Movies

Disney-owned Hulu and FX reportedly are getting pay-TV access to select Lionsgate movies beginning in 2020.

Epix, the pay-TV channel owned by MGM Studios, currently has the rights to Lionsgate movies, which include Oscar winner La La LandThe Hunger Games and Saw franchises, among others.

The John Wicks franchise starring Keanu Reeves is licensed separately to HBO through 2021. Twentieth Century Fox, which Disney recently acquired, also has a deal with HBO through 2022.

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Lionsgate co-owned Epix with Viacom and MGM, until selling its stake to the venerable studio in 2017.

The two-year deal, first reported by The Information, enables Santa Monica-based Lionsgate to migrate its movies to Starz Play, the subscription streaming service launched in 2016.

Lionsgate acquired Starz in 2016 for $4.4 billion.

Notably, it was Starz that started licensing studio movies to OTT services through an exclusive deal with Netflix in 2008 that gave the SVOD pioneer access to 2,500 movies for pennies on the dollar from Disney, Sony Pictures and others.

Six years later, then-CEO Chris Albrecht would call the Netflix agreement “terrible,” as it helped the streaming service generate subscribers looking for cheaper access to Hollywood movies.

“For a very low price [Netflix] got access to all our stuff and it devalued our wholesale and resale prices,” Albrecht told an investor group. He left Starz earlier this year.

Report: Netflix, HBO Drive Norwegian SVOD Market

Norway continues to expand over-the-top video consumption in Western Europe – spearheaded by subscription streaming video services such as Netflix and HBO Nordics.

New data from Futuresource Consulting found the Norwegian home video market grew 6% in 2018 — with 20% of consumers using SVOD services and spending 2.5 billion NOK ($290 million).

The London-based research firm said Netflix has dominated the Nordics with more than 1 million subscribers since launching service there in 2012.

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“The 26-35 age group has proven to be the key age demographic for Netflix and has almost gained a utility status,” market analyst Tristan Veale wrote. “As these consumers come of age, they have their own disposable income and convert from being Netflix users on someone else’s account, to account holders themselves.”

Veale said HBO accounted for 20% market share despite the lack of new “Game of Thrones” programming in 2018.

Regardless, Futuresource said traditional pay-TV remains strong in Norway, accounting for 70% of total home entertainment consumer spending. The company contends by 2023, the average Norwegian household will subscribe to two SVOD services, with OTT household penetration reaching nearly 80%.

WarnerMedia Readying $16-$17 SVOD Service Focused on HBO, Cinemax, Warner Bros. Movies

WarnerMedia reportedly plans to launch a subscription streaming video service later this year revolving around HBO, Cinemax and Warner Bros. movies — and priced from $16 to $17 monthly.

The unnamed service, which will bow in beta later this year, would join similar SVOD efforts from Disney ($6.99 Disney+) and Apple aimed at competing against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

NBC Universal is readying an ad-supported VOD service for Xfinity subscribers in 2020, which would be available separately to consumers for a monthly fee.

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Notably, WarnerMedia’s service would cost slightly more than what HBO Now ($14.99) and Cinemax ($12.99) do now separately — the latter charged to pay-TV subscribers.

WarnerMedia, which formed following AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, is also eyeing ad-supported VOD service.

The rush to over-the-top distribution comes as AT&T continues to hemorrhage pay-TV subscribers among its DirecTV and AT&T U-verse platforms. Standalone online TV service, DirecTV Now, for the first time lost subscribers in the most-recent fiscal period as well.

Indeed, AT&T is scrambling to find an OTT product that resonates with consumers. Late last month, it inked a joint venture deal with The Chernin Group aimed at investing $500 million into both ad-supported and subscription-based online video businesses.

“Combining our expertise in network infrastructure, mobile, broadband and video with The Chernin Group’s management and expertise in content, distribution, and monetization models in online video creates the opportunity for us to develop a compelling offering in the OTT space,” John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia, said in a statement.

DEG’s New ‘4 Cups of Coffee’ Mentoring Program

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group on June 5 kicked off a new mentoring program, “4 Cups of Coffee,” at the “Cocktails & Coffee” event at Sony  Studios in the Norman Lear Commissary. Under the program, the DEG’s Canon Club will match women in search of mentors with one of its advisors or other women executives for 30-minute career conversations, either in person or over the phone, up to four times per year. The Canon Club was established by DEG to provide women at all levels and in all sectors of digital media the opportunity to share knowledge and build their business networks. Last month, the DEG announced the appointment of 10 advisory board members to provide input on Canon Club event programming, rotate as host at speaker-driven salons and social/networking events, serve as founding mentors in the “4 Cups of Coffee” program, and judge the annual Hedy Lamarr Awards for Women in Entertainment and Technology, among other responsibilities. The advisory board is led by chair Robin Tarufelli of Deloitte, and vice chair Meri Hassouni of Giant Interactive. Other members are Loren Nielsen, DTS; Sofia Chang, HBO; Dametra Johnson-Marletti, Microsoft; Karin Gilford, Movies Anywhere; Andrea Downing, PBS Distribution; Cheryl Goodman, Sony Electronics; Nadia Haney, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment; and Darcy Antonellis, Vubiquity. Other Canon Club mentors include Beth Kearns, 20th Century Fox; Heathyr Jozel-Garcia, ABC Studios; Samara Winterfeld, DTS; Ken Williams, ETC@USC; Kejo Swingler, HBO; and Rachel Crang, Paramount Pictures.

WarnerMedia Entertainment to Boycott Georgia Should Anti-Abortion Ban Become Law

WarnerMedia Entertainment May 30 joined Disney and Netflix in pledging to withdraw movie and TV show productions from Georgia should the state’s new anti-abortion law go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Gov. Brian Kemp May 8 signed legislation outlawing women from terminating their pregnancy six weeks after becoming pregnant. Georgia currently bans abortions after 20 weeks.

“We operate and produce work in many states and within many countries at any given time and while that doesn’t mean we agree with every position taken by a state or a country and their leaders, we do respect due process,” WarnerMedia said in a media statement. “We will watch the situation closely and if the new law holds, we will reconsider Georgia as the home of any new productions. As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine where and how to shoot any given project.”

In addition to CNN and Turner in Atlanta, WarnerMedia has significant content production in Georgia, which has been home to a hotbed of film and TV production for years due to generous tax incentives.

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.

Local SVOD Players Challenging Netflix in Nordic Markets

The Nordic markets have among the highest uptake of streaming SVOD services in Europe, but local players are giving Netflix a run for its money, according to new research from Ampere Analysis.

Despite strong demand in the Nordic markets for streaming content, the average market share of Netflix in the region is just 49%. That compares to an average of 71% in the rest of Western Europe.

While smaller individually, local players such as Viaplay, TV2 Play, C More and the regional version of HBO account for the majority of streaming service contracts in the region. In every other Western European market except Germany, Italy and Spain, Netflix claims the majority of SVOD subscriptions.

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Nordic Noir (crime content originating in the Scandinavian countries) is a key export for local content producers, but there are early signs that local streaming players are starting to move beyond the genre, according to Ampere. Analysis of content currently in production or development (but not yet completed or aired) in the region, shows that 47% of all shows are crime or thriller, but streaming players are less focused on the genre than linear channel players. Although the local linear channels and broadcasters have far more shows in development than local streaming players (59 different shows versus 23 from streaming players), an even greater proportion are crime. More than half (52%) of all shows in production for linear channels are crime compared to just 39% for streaming players.

Of shows currently in production or development locally, the next biggest genre for streaming players is comedy (22% of shows in development). Linear players, however, are looking to historical drama for their next big hits (10% of shows in development).

“The Nordic countries are home to the most dynamic streaming TV markets in Europe and local players have had to deal with a rapid transition of TV viewers to streaming services,” said Ampere analyst Elinor Clark in a statement. “Content is now the key battleground and, while Nordic Noir has served the region well, there is indication that local players will now look to develop comedy and period drama as the next big push.”

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.