Starz Rolls Out International Play App

Starz Nov. 25 announced it has launched its international StarzPlay app in Brazil, France, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom, with plans to launch in 20 additional countries in 2020.

Lionsgate-owned Starz has more than 5.6 million domestic over-the-top video subscribers. StarzPlay is a separate SVOD service outside the United States.

“Expanding our direct-to-consumer product into the global arena … gives subscribers seamless entry to our platform and premium content on their device of choice, while also providing us with access to key consumer data insights as we continue to position ourselves for success in the evolving content ecosystem,” CEO Jeffrey Hirsch said in a statement.

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StarzPlay ($5) is currently available in Europe and Latin America on Apple TV; in France, Germany, Mexico and the U.K. on Amazon Prime Video channels; Mexico on izzi and Totalplay; in Spain on Orange and Vodafone; in the U.K. on Virgin Media; in France on Orange; and as Starz in Canada in alliance with Bell Media.

Subscribers in select countries have access to hundreds of movies and series, including Starz Originals such as the recently debuted “The Spanish Princess” and “Dublin Murders,” as well as curated series including “The Act” and drama “Mr. Mercedes” and movies like Hitch, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and No Country for Old Men.

Disney+ Appoints Chris Loveall to International Content Post

Disney+ has appointed international programming executive Chris Loveall to the position of VP of content — international.

Loveall will report into Matt Brodlie, SVP of international content development, working closely with him and Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International’s regional teams on the development and production of original scripted and unscripted series, as well as acquisitions for all markets outside of the United States.

“Chris has great instincts and a deep understanding of storytelling opportunities in the international marketplace,” Brodlie said in a statement. “He will be a tremendous asset as we grow a rich, diverse slate of original content that builds on the Disney+ storytelling ethos in ways that are unique to each of our international markets.”

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“I’m excited to be part of the Disney+ team and look forward to working with them to identify and develop stories that resonate with fans of the service around the world,” Loveall said in a statement.

Loveall most recently served as VP of international programming for AMC Networks, including AMC, SundanceTV and BBC America, and was responsible for the development of original international commissions and co-productions as well as select acquisitions for each network. For SundanceTV, he oversaw the co-productions “Liar” with ITV and “Rosehaven” and “Cleverman” with the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Prior to joining the AMC Networks group, Loveall served as VP of original programming at Pivot, developing scripted drama, comedy and animation projects, as well as overseeing international co-productions including “Fortitude” with Sky Atlantic and “Please Like Me” with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. He has also held a number of programming-focused positions at ABC Signature Studios, The CW and other production companies.

Paramount Appoints David Elliott SVP of Physical International Sales and Distribution

David Elliott has been appointed SVP of physical international sales and distribution for Paramount Home Entertainment.

Elliott will replace Charlie McAuley, who is retiring after 13 years with the company.  In this role, Elliott will oversee the physical sales and distribution of the studio’s film and television properties internationally, providing leadership and direction to the international sales teams and developing strategies to maximize revenue.

He will report to Craig White, EVP of worldwide sales and distribution.

“David’s rich and diverse experience in the world’s leading and fast developing markets uniquely positions him to navigate and take advantage of the exciting opportunities our industry offers,” White said in a statement. “I am excited to have David at Paramount and look forward to his contributions.”

Elliott joins Paramount from 20th Century Fox where he served as SVP/managing director emerging markets — APAC, LATAM, EMEA, leading home entertainment content distribution for digital and physical products across all emerging markets and licensee businesses. He previously served as SVP, market development, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Northern Europe, SVP/head of international operations, and VP/head of international finance and accounting for Fox.

McAuley joined Paramount in 2006 as managing director, home entertainment U.K. and Ireland. In 2015 McAuley was promoted to SVP, responsible for international physical sales and managing distribution partnerships and licensing. McAuley has served as vice chairman and later chairman of the British Video Association (BVA) (now BASE). He previously worked at CIC International, Woolworths U.K. and Blockbuster International.

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“Charlie has been a highly successful business leader, as well as a formidable competitor and esteemed colleague and friend to many in the industry in Europe and beyond,” said White in a statement. “He has provided expert stewardship for Paramount’s fabled film library and delivered critical successes throughout his tenure. Charlie’s legacy and impact on the industry and his colleagues is exemplary. He will be sorely missed and we wish him well in his retirement.”

AVOD Service Tubi Launches in Australia

AVOD service Tubi will launch in Australia Sept. 1.

Customers there will have access to an initial offering of nearly 7,000 movies and TV series, which will rapidly expand in the near future, according to Tubi. Titles immediately available on the service include 3:10 to Yuma, The Blair Witch Project, Kickboxer and Stranger Than Fiction, with additional titles to be made available over the next six months, including Dirty DancingThe Grudge, Requiem for a Dream, Reservoir Dogs, SawTraffic and Young Guns.

“We’re excited to offer Tubi in Australia, as the first of many launch initiatives to advance our global footprint,” said Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi in a statement. “Our library size in Australia will expand rapidly in the coming months and eventually grow to our current library size in the U.S. of 15,000 titles — and beyond. We look forward to further activating new audiences who will discover the growing value of free video on demand.”

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Customers in Australia will be able to access Tubi via Telstra TV, Tubi.TV, or through nearly any internet-connected screen including Samsung TVs, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and Apple iOS, as well as Android tablets and smartphones, according to Tubi. The service will also be available via game consoles, including PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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.