Viaplay Group Announces New Business Operating Model, Changes to Management Team

Viaplay Group, the Swedish-based operator of a branded subscription streaming VOD service in 13 countries, including the United States and Canada, June 28 announced a new Nordic country-based operating model and changes to its executive management team.

This follows the June 5 announcement of changes to Viaplay’s short-term outlook for 2023, and the appointment of Jørgen Madsen Lindemann as the new CEO. The new operating model aims to improve operating efficiency and performance, sharpen the focus on the development of market-relevant product offerings, and accelerate the ongoing review of the company’s operations and return on investment.

The updated operating model will be based around country management teams with full responsibility for the daily operation and strategic development of the businesses, including full line of sight and accountability for sales, costs, profitability, cashflows, content, marketing and operations.

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Lindemann will be interim CEO of the Swedish and Finnish operations while the search is made for a permanent appointment. Lars Bo Jeppesen has been appointed EVP and CEO of the Danish and Icelandic operations, effective Aug. 1. Kenneth Andresen has been appointed interim CEO of the Norwegian operation. Peter Nørrelund, who recently rejoined Viaplay as EVP and chief sports and business development officer, will also take on responsibility for operations in the Netherlands, Poland, Baltics, and the United Kingdom.

The other members of the executive leadership team reporting to Lindemann include: Enrique Patrickson (EVP, CFO and head of strategy and M&A); Philip Wågnert (EVP and chief technology and product officer); My Perrone (EVP and general counsel); Matthew Hooper (returning to his role as EVP and chief corporate affairs officer); Vanda Rapti (EVP, content distribution); and Christian Albeck (EVP, content acquisition).

“This is the first of what will be a number of step changes to ensure that we are investing in the areas where we see the greatest potential, that we are laser focused on the daily business of creating locally relevant products and experiences, and that we are as close as possible to our customers,” Lindemann said in a statement.

It remains to be seen how the changes will impact Viaplay’s recent launch of a $5.99 monthly branded SVOD service in the United States and Canada featuring original Nordic content.

Viaplay reported a net loss of $26.6 million on revenue of $419.5 million in the first quarter ended March 31, which compared to income of $44.6 million on revenue of $307.4 million in the prior-year period.

Gravitas Ventures Promotes Gasher and Guentzler as It Prepares to Launch International Division

Gravitas Ventures, an Anthem Sports and Entertainment company, has promoted Danielle Gasher to VP of acquisitions and international sales, and Bill Guentzler to VP of acquisitions.

In her new role, Gasher will lead Gravitas’ international sales efforts, a new division that will launch at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, while continuing to be a key member of the acquisitions team. Heading the acquisitions department, Guentzler will oversee securing titles for the company’s slate of more than 200 films a year. They will both also identify films for the new cast-driven Gravitas Premiere label, which launched Mack & Rita, starring Diane Keaton, in 2022.

Gasher works from the Company’s Los Angeles office, while Guentzler is stationed at the Gravitas Cleveland headquarters.

“Both Danielle and Bill have built an exemplary record of success during their tenures with Gravitas Ventures, securing an impressive roster of acclaimed film titles for the Company and playing an invaluable role in our growth,” Anthem president and CEO Leonard Asper said in a statement. “I am proud to announce their well-deserved promotions today, and I look forward to working with them as we continue to take Gravitas Ventures to even greater heights.”

Prior to their promotions, both Gasher and Guentzler were senior directors of acquisition for Gravitas Ventures. Their most recent achievements include popular Gravitas titles such as Alex Heller’s The Year Between with J. Smith-Cameron and Steve Buscemi; All the World Is Sleeping with Scream VI’s Melissa Barrera; Ocean Boy with Luke Hemsworth; and the comedic drama Gringa with Steve Zahn and Judy Greer, among other titles.

Gasher joined Gravitas in September, after serving as VP of international sales at Voltage Pictures, where she worked on titles such as Last Seen Alive starring Gerald Butler, Beautiful Disaster starring Dylan Sprouse and Virginia Gardner, Stowaway with Ruby Rose and Frank Grillo, and Per Tutta La Vita (For All Life) from the producers of Paolo Genovese’s Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers). Before joining Voltage Pictures, she worked on the sales team at Double Dutch International, a Canadian film sales and production company.

Guentzler joined Gravitas in 2021 as senior director of acquisitions, after serving as the artistic director of the Cleveland International Film Festival for 15 years. While there, he was part of the team that made the CIFF one of the largest and most-respected festivals in the United States.

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“We are so pleased to be expanding our reach to international audiences,” Gasher said in a statement. “Filmmakers already entrust us with the domestic release of their films … so it felt like a natural progression to move into representing content to the international marketplace. I look forward to continuing to work alongside Bill to acquire incredible new content for our North American slate, and continue to identify new opportunities for international sales.”

“At its core, Gravitas Ventures is a film company run by film enthusiasts for film enthusiasts,” Guentzler said in a statement. “That is at the forefront of everything we do, and we have been able to secure some truly exceptional films because of it. I am excited for the challenge this position provides, and look forward to helping bolster Gravitas’ already-impressive library.”

Chicken Soup for the Soul Inks Deal With KC Global Media to Expand Internationally

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment and KC Global Media have inked an agreement for the expansion of the companies’ international reach across free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) and ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD).

The agreement further enhances growth across Asia, featuring a fresh volume of curated genres, including series, movies, and factual titles such as Lionel Messi: The Greatest, BTS: Global Takeover, Adele: Homecoming and other titles.

The companies anticipate launching additional FAST channels and licensing AVOD rights in 2023.

“One of our areas of focus in 2023 is to grow the availability of our owned content globally — and monetize it in every way possible,” Elana Sofko, chief strategy officer of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, said in a statement. “We always seek to work with prominent media companies already successful in the markets we are entering. KC Global Media is a company with deep relationships throughout Asia, and we know we can continue to scale our international business together.” 

“As we head into 2023, one of our key strategic goals is to increase our volume and diversity of premiums content in our current portfolio,”  Andy Kaplan, co-founder and chairman of KC Global Media, said in a statement. “Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is one of the largest content providers, and this strategic partnership gives us an edge as we provide more value to our partners and affiliates in the region. This, in turn, will also enable us to reach out to new audiences and new territories and create more opportunities around the world as we continue to grow our business with our affiliates and streaming platforms.“

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This strategic agreement strengthens Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment’s international presence as it joins KC Global Media’s extensive portfolio in Asia, through AVOD licensing with its wide variety of content across multi-genres and the launch of FAST Channels in Asia, according to a Chicken Soup release.

‘Walter Presents: All Hearts’ Among Titles Due on PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in March

New “Walter Presents” international programs “All Hearts,” “Off Grid” and “The Defence” arrive this March on the  PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel.

The subscription rate for the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel is $5.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

Eight episodes of the Italian drama “Walter Presents: All Hearts” start streaming March 24. Set in 1967 Italy, at the dawn of the cardiac medical revolution, the series follows Dr. Cesare Corvara (Daniele Pecci “Hotel Portofino,” “The Tourist”) the head of the Cardiac Surgery department of the Le Molinette hospital, who is tasked with putting together the team that will carry out the first heart transplant in history. He recruits Alberto Ferraris, a rising star of cardiac surgery and Delia Brunello, a cardiologist gifted with the ear for perfect pitch when it comes to the heartbeat. What Corvara doesn’t know is that there was a great love between the two young doctors and the passion between the two is destined to rekindle.

Twelve episodes of the Italian crime drama “Walter Presents: Off Grid” start streaming March 3. In the series, Claudio and Silvia Caruana have money, respectability, a 20-year marriage and two wonderful children. One day Claudio finds himself being investigated not only for the collapse of the bank he works for but for the murder of his friend and colleague Riccardo. Escape seems to be the only option for the family. Claudio accepts the help of the ex-secret-service agent Cosimo Casiraghi, who offers the family the chance to start a new life far from their old one. This starts a journey filled with danger, doubts and suspicions but also with discoveries and rediscoveries about themselves and each other that will eventually lead them to the truth and to the true values that unite them.

Six episodes in season four of the Polish drama “Walter Presents: The Defence” start streaming March 10. In the series, a newly sober Chyłka takes on a hopeless case — the defense of a man, Fahad, who is accused of being a terrorist. Although he maintains that he was targeted by the secret service solely because of his religion, there is no evidence to back this up. As Chyłka and her team begin to search for information that will help their case, Chyłka is attacked in her home and important documents go missing. Then things take a complicated turn when the prosecutor shares shocking information with Chyłka about her client and the judge assigned to rule on the case is not a fan of hers.

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Other titles coming to the PBS Masterpice Prime Video Channel in March include “Walter Presents: Saving Lisa” on March 10; season three of “Walter Presents: St. Maik” on March 17; and “Walter Presents: Neboa” on March 31.

Lionsgate Exits International Streaming Business in Select Markets, Takes $218.9 Million Restructuring Charge

Lionsgate Nov. 3 revealed it is exiting the Lionsgate+ (formerly Starzplay International) branded international streaming business in select markets, which include operations in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Benelux, the Nordics and Japan. The move resulted in a $218.9 million restructuring charge in the second quarter (ended Sept. 30), primarily driven by content impairment write-downs in the affected territories.

The company also recorded $1.48 billion non-cash impairment charge related to goodwill from the Starz acquisition in 2016. The digital platform, which Lionsgate paid $4.4 billion for, continues to be part of the media company’s digital strategy, including possible spin-offs of the Starz and studio business to third parties.

Lionsgate+ reported an operating loss of $44 million on revenue of $38.6 million. Starz Networks reported operating income of $65 million on revenue of $396.1 million. That’s up from operating income of $52 million on revenue of $384.7 million during the previous-year period.

The company’s global subscriber base increased to 37.8 million in Q2, including StarzPlay Arabia, a non-consolidated equity method investee, driven by growth in both international and domestic streaming subscribers. Global streaming subscribers increased 52% year-over-year to 27.3 million. Lionsgate+ subscribers grew 97% year-over-year to 14.8 million (including Lionsgate Play in India & South Asia).

“Economic and industry headwinds are having the greatest impact at Starz, where we are exiting seven international territories,” CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. “This will allow us to streamline Starz international business and return it to profitability more quickly, while continuing to build on the opportunities created by a strong original series slate and focused content strategy domestically.”

Four New International Series Hit PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in November

Four new international series from “Walter Presents” — the new season of the Italian drama “Paradise,” the French crime dramas “The Paris Murders” and “Léo Mattéï — Special Unit,” and the Spanish crime thriller “The Hunt” — begin streaming on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in November. 

The subscription rate for the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel is $5.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

Streaming beginning Nov. 4 is season three of the Italian drama “Paradise.” In the season, the Ladies’ Paradise prepares to reopen amid a swirl of negative press about Mori. Newly promoted to the advertising department, Teresa brainstorms ideas for the store’s opening event while also dealing with the emotional fallout of coming face-to-face with Mori’s ex-wife. 

Streaming beginning Nov. 11 is season five of the French crime drama “The Paris Murders.” In the season, after Chloe leaves for New York, the department is reorganized and adds Adele, the new criminologist. Her sensitivity and exceptional talent for profiling make her an asset to the team. Wanting to move forward after her twin sister was murdered by Argos, she throws herself into her new job and devotes herself to raising her nephew. But fate seems to be working against her. Argos lurks in the shadows waiting to demand from Adele what he thinks is his due: his son.

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Streaming beginning Nov. 18 is the Spanish crime drama “The Hunt.” In the series, five years ago, Ana and Lucía, two 11-year-old girls, disappeared from Monteperdido, a town in the Spanish Pyrenees. After a long and extensive investigation, the case went cold and the small town was scarred by the tragedy. Suddenly, Ana, one of the missing girls, returns. The case is reopened and the police work to find Lucía. Not wanting to be caught in their lies and have their secrets exposed, the people of Monteperdido don’t make the search easy for investigators. One thing is clear: the monster is among them and the detectives begin a hunt that will endanger their lives. 

Streaming beginning Nov. 25 is season two of the French crime drama “Léo Mattéï — Special Unit.” In the season, commander Léo Mattéï, head of the Paris Juvenile Protection Unit continues to fight against child injustices. A highly trained and deeply compassionate former BAC cop, he is committed to the safety and wellbeing of at-risk youth and the reuniting of fractured families across the city. When he needs to bend the law for them, he does.

Netflix Bows Trailer for Second ‘Tudum’ Global Marketing Event

Netflix has released the trailer for its second “Tudum” 24-hour global star-studded marketing event, which streams Sept. 24 showcasing the Netflix’s more than 120 upcoming original series and movies.

The event is co-hosted by Jamie Foxx, Millie Bobby Brown, Noah Centineo, Choi Min-ho, Cho Yi-hyun, Zakir Khan, Prajakta Koli, Maite Perroni, Sheron Menezzes and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, among others.

The trailer offers a sneak peek of what to expect from the event — story secrets, never-before-seen-footage, exclusive news and more from shows, new films and games from across the globe, including The School for Good and Evil, “Wednesday,” “Alice in Borderland,” “Stranger Things,” “Bridgerton,” “Money Heist,” Slumberland, Enola Holmes 2, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and “Emily in Paris,” among others.

“Tudum: A Netflix Global Fan Event” will be available across Netflix YouTube channels around the globe in 29 different languages. 

Here are the tune-in details:

  • At 7 p.m. PT, Sept. 23, Tudum kicks off with a show out of Korea.
  • At 10:30 p.m. PT, Sept. 23, fans will be treated to a look at what’s ahead from India.
  • At 10 a.m. PT, Tudum kicks off as a two-part show, with Part 1 out of the United States and Europe and Part 2 at 11:30 am PT out of Latin America, including surprises from other countries. 
  • At 9 p.m. PT, Sept. 24, stars from Japan will close out Tudum with a celebration of Netflix’s Japanese entertainment. 

 

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Deluxe Acquires German Dubbing Studio Creative Sound Conception

Deluxe, a provider of digital and cloud-based localization and distribution solutions, has acquired German dubbing studio Creative Sound Conception Studio (CSC Studio).

Founded in 1989 by Nils Wulkop, Hamburg-based CSC Studio services content creators around the world. CSC Studio has dubbed numerous iconic movies as well as some of the most widely viewed episodic series from around the world, with a roster of more than 85 clients, according to a press release. CSC Studio will be rebranded as Deluxe Germany and will undergo a facility expansion to build out additional recording rooms to provide extensible capacity for German language dubbing for existing and new customers, according to the press release.

“With the increase in global content production, including the rise of local language original content that is being localized and distributed in more languages than ever before, this acquisition provides Deluxe with an expanded footprint and capacity to meet growing market demands.” Chris Reynolds, Deluxe’s EVP and GM of worldwide localization and fulfillment, said in a statement. “Deluxe currently has dubbing studios in Los Angeles, Paris, Madrid and Barcelona. With the addition of Deluxe Germany, we are motivated to continue expanding our owned and operated footprint through both organic expansion and additional acquisitions.”

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“My team and I are delighted to be joining the Deluxe family,” founder CSC Studio Nils Wulkop said in a statement. “Teaming up with Deluxe will benefit the industry and its growing demand for German language dubbing. With Deluxe’s immediate investment in a new facility expansion we are looking forward to increasing our capacity to support more volume and customers, while maintaining the highest levels of creative dubbing quality.”

With the backing of Platinum Equity, Deluxe has continued to focus on global expansion and investment in technology to provide enhanced service offerings to customers, and CSC Studio represents the seventh acquisition Deluxe has made since Platinum Equity acquired the business in 2020, according to the press release.

Seasons of ‘Guilt,’ ‘Walter Presents’ Headed to PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in August

The second  season of “Guilt” from “Masterpiece Mystery” as well as “Charité” and “Redemption” from “Walter Presents” are among the international programs streaming on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in August.

The subscription rate for the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel is $5.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. 

Four episodes in season two of “Masterpiece Mystery: Guilt,” set in Edinburgh, Scotland, premiere Aug. 28. In the English crime drama, when disgraced lawyer Max McCall (Mark Bonnar) is released from prison, he finds himself entwined in a gripping new story with characters old and new, as they battle the consequences of their actions amidst shocking new developments. Emun Elliot returns as Kenny, and Phyllis Logan (“Downton Abbey”) joins the cast as Maggie.

“Charité”

Six episodes of the German drama “Walter Presents: Charité” debut Aug. 12. The series follows the staff of Berlin’s world-famous hospital where medical history is being made. When Ida is saved at the prestigious Charité hospital in 1888 Berlin, Germany, she has no money to cover the cost. In lieu of payment, she begins to work off her debt as a nurse. There she witnesses history being made as she gets an inside look into cures for tuberculosis and diphtheria and discovers her passion for medicine.

“Redemption”

Eight episodes of the Italian crime drama “Walter Presents: Redemption” premiere Aug. 26. In the series, Valerio is an ex-cop who has received devastating news that his estranged son Ettore has committed suicide. Unable to believe his son would do such a thing, Valerio begins to hunt for the truth behind his son’s death. As he pledges to obtain justice for his son, the investigation also proves to be Valerio’s last chance to come to terms with his troubled past, both as a man and a father.

Other titles coming to the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in August include “Walter Presents: Troubled Waters,” debuting Aug. 5; “Walter Presents: Blood Oath,” coming Aug. 19; and “The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family,” debuting Aug. 28.

Paramount Announces Global Management Changes to Help Drive Streaming Video

Paramount Global May 16 announced management appointments to expand the company’s international expansion of its streaming products, Paramount+ and Pluto TV.

Marco Nobili has been promoted to EVP, international GM of Paramount+, where he will lead the strategy and execution for Paramount’s SVOD/AVOD platform’s continued expansion in markets worldwide. Olivier Jollet has been elevated to the role of EVP, International GM of Pluto TV to continue the free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) service’s international growth.

Marco Nobili

Nobili and Jollet report to Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of international networks, studios and streaming, and to Tom Ryan, CEO of streaming and founder of Pluto TV.

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“With Paramount+ and SkyShowtime expected to expand to 60 markets by end of 2022, and Pluto TV continuing to expand worldwide, I’m confident Marco and Olivier’s leadership will enable us to seize the opportunity and build on our progress towards our integrated global streaming business,” Annecchino said in a statement.

Previously SVP of international marketing, data an analytics for Paramount Global’s streaming division, Nobili will now oversee all operations for Paramount+ outside the U.S., including content, marketing, distribution, data and operations. Building on the service’s momentum since launching in 2021, Nobili will lead the strategy and execution for Paramount+’s continued growth. Marco has deep streaming experience, having formerly worked at both Netflix and Amazon.

Olivier Jollet

Jollet, who previously served as SVP and GM of Pluto TV internationally, will lead a coordinated approach to further expand Pluto TV outside the U.S., which is live in 30 countries and territories globally. Jollet will oversee all operations for Pluto TV outside the U.S., including ad sales, content, marketing, distribution, data and operations. Jollet will look to identify new partnerships and opportunities for Pluto TV across the digital entertainment ecosystem.

This year, Paramount+ will expand to the U.K. and many European countries, as well as South Korea, and, in 2023, India. Pluto TV is set to launch in the Nordics May 18, through a partnership with NENT Group, bringing the service’s global footprint to three continents and more than 30 countries and territories including Spain, France and Germany. The company offers a differentiated streaming portfolio, with SkyShowtime, a joint venture premium streaming service with Comcast that will launch in many European countries beginning in 2022.

By the end of this year, Paramount will have paid streaming services available in more than 60 markets across the U.K., Latin America, Canada, Australia, South Korea, the Caribbean and all major markets in Europe, and in 2023, the company will expand further in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.