Netflix Closes First European Overall Series Deal

Netflix has inked an exclusive multi-year overall series deal with the creators of one of the most-watched entirely non-English shows on Netflix, “Dark,” the company announced.

Under the terms of the deal, Germans Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar will produce new series and projects for Netflix’s 125 million members around the world.

“The promise of Netflix is entertainment transcending borders; where a hit show can come from anywhere in the world,” said Erik Barmack, VP, international originals, Netflix, in a statement. “We’re tremendously happy to announce our overall deal that continues our collaboration with Bo and Jantje, whose invigorating work has engaged and thrilled audiences globally. We thank both for their trust and are beyond excited to support their vision and art as storytellers.”

“We are thrilled and extremely happy to further expand our partnership with Netflix,” said Odar and Friese in a statement. “It is unlike any other opportunity in our career to experience how our stories and vision are understood and loved globally. We are excited to embark on our next journey with Netflix, keep pushing boundaries and challenging viewers with new ideas. We have plenty of surprises in store for them.”

Friese and Odar, both graduates of the University of Television and Film Munich, have been working together since Odar’s directing debut The Silence. Their most recent feature film is Who Am I — No System Is Safe with Tom Schilling and Elyas M’Barek, a thriller that was awarded three German Film Awards and the Bambi for Best German Film. Odar, who was included in the list of “Ten Directors to Watch” by Variety, made his Hollywood debut with Sleepless, starring Jamie Foxx, which premiered on March 9, 2017. After writing and directing all 10 episodes of Netflix’s first German original series, “Dark,” Friese and Odar are currently working on the second season of the drama and will produce new series and projects exclusively for Netflix.

Roku Bowing Voice Search in the U.K.

Roku April 24 announced it will soon make its enhanced voice search feature available to Roku users in the United Kingdom.

The software enables users to use their voice to find entertainment to watch. The new feature will be available for Roku players through the Roku mobile app, and for the Roku Streaming Stick+ through the remote control. Roku OS 8.1 will begin to roll out through a software update beginning May 1.

Enhanced Voice Search allows for more natural language understanding and can search for movies, shows, actors and directors, or even launch streaming channels, in a more conversational tone.

“We want to get our customers to the show they want to watch quickly,” Lloyd Klarke, director of product management at Roku, said in a statement. “Enhanced voice search makes it even easier for our users to find new movies and TV shows to watch.”

The Roku mobile app, available for iOS and Android, acts as a remote, streams media from a mobile device to the TV, includes a keyboard and offers features like voice search and private listening. In addition, Roku OS 8.1 will enable private listening for up to four devices concurrently for all Roku players.

Separately, Roku announced the addition of live and linear news content to The Roku Channel. The ad-supported channel now offers access to ABC News Live, in addition to Cheddar, People TV and others.

World’s ‘Most Popular’ Movie Piracy Website Shuttering

Illegal movie streaming service 123Movies.to announced it is suspending operations.

The three-year-old platform, which also operated under the banner “GoMovies,” among other identities, made the announcement on its homepage. No reason for the shutdown was given.

“We’ve been providing links to movies and [TV] shows for years. Now it’s time to say goodbye. Thank you for being our friends and thanks for staying with us that long.”

The Vietnam-based service – dubbed by the Motion Picture Association of America as the “world’s most popular illegal site” – claimed 98 million visitors monthly.

Rival Pirate Bay claims monthly visitors of more than 280 million.

Regardless, the announcement followed a recent visit by Jan Van Voorn, chief of global content protection with the MPAA, to the communist country where he reportedly worked with the Office of the Police Investigation Agency to fight piracy.

Apparently 123Movies felt the heat. It urged visitors going forward to pay for movies and TV shows.

“That’s what we should do to show our respect to people behind the movies/shows,” read the message.

NBC Universal, Roku Bow Reality TV Streaming Service Outside U.S.

Roku and NBC Universal March 16 announced the launch of a reality TV streaming service in the U.K. Dubbed, “hayu,” the service – available on the Roku Channel Store – offers more than 5,000 episodes of U.S. and British reality TV shows, including “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” and spin-off, “Life of Kylie,” in addition to “The Real Housewives” and “Million Dollar Listing” franchises.

Priced at £3.99 ($5.57), hayu offers subscribers a one-month free trial.

The shows – the majority of which debut on the service the same day as they premier in the U.S. – include on-demand access to catalog episodes from more than 150 shows such as “Vanderpump Rules,” “Top Chef,” “Shahs of Sunset,” and “Bad Girls Club,” among others.

“Reality TV continues to capture the hearts and attention of British consumers,” Ingo Reese, director content acquisition at Roku, said in a statement.

Hayu represents a further attempt by NBC Universal to market direct-to-consumer following the short-lived (one year) SVOD comedy platform SeeSo.

Hendrik McDermott, managing director at hayu, said the service enables NBC Universal to extend distribution of well-known U.S. brands beyond the pay-TV ecosystem in foreign markets.

“The launch of hayu … is an important step reaching even more consumers across the U.K.,” said McDermott.

The service is also available in Ireland, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Formula 1 Launching OTT Video Racing Service

As expected, Formula 1 is set to launch a proprietary over-the-top video service prior to the start of 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season March 25 at the Melbourne Grand Prix in Australia.

Dubbed “F1 TV,” the $8-$12 monthly service will be available in four different languages (English, French, German and Spanish) and available in nearly two dozen markets, including Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and Latin America.

Access will initially be available on the Internet, with mobile apps and TV apps phased in on Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Android.

Subscribers will be able to view practice, qualifying and races, in addition to press conferences and pre-and post-race interviews. Subs will also be able to watch live races of the main support series, the FIA Formula 2 Championship, GP3 Series and Porsche Supercup, among others.

“We are beginning on the journey to build a cornerstone of our digital transformation,” Frank Arthofer, director of digital and new business, Formula 1, said in a statement.

F1 TV joins a growing market of sport-specific OTT platforms (MLB.tv, NHL.tv, NBA League Pass, MLS Live, etc.) aimed at hardcore fans and attracting new, tech-savvy audiences.

“Our objective … is simple: provide these fans with the best available service to watch live Grands Prix and provide them with the best sports OTT customer experience in the world. Live streaming video is an exciting space changing almost daily,” Arthofer said.

Amazon, Lionsgate Ink Latin America Distribution Deal

Amazon and Lionsgate Feb. 27 announced an exclusive multiyear agreement under which Lionsgate will make available select movies to Prime Video members in Mexico, Brazil and the rest of Latin America. The agreement includes Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment movies to stream on Prime Video following their local theatrical release in the region.

Under the pact, Prime Video becomes the exclusive long-term streaming home in Latin America for Lionsgate movies and branded properties, beginning with John Wick: Chapter 2Saban’s Power Rangers; The Shack; and Jigsaw, the latest installment of Saw horror franchise.

Prime Video will add new Lionsgate releases, including breakout Wonder, starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, along with future releases such as action comedy, The Spy Who Dumped Me, starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon; noir thriller, A Simple Favor, featuring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick; action adventure Robin Hood, featuring Jamie Foxx and Taron Egerton; and young adult thriller, Chaos Walking, starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland.

“Amazon is committed to delivering great movies to our Prime Video members across Latin America,” Jason Ropell, VP, worldwide movies, Prime Video, said in a statement.

All titles will be available in HD, and can also be temporarily downloaded and watched offline on compatible mobile devices.

“The complementary strengths of Amazon and Lionsgate, including the innovation of the Prime Video service and the premium quality of Lionsgate content, set this deal apart,” said Peter Iacono, president of international television and digital distribution, at Lionsgate.