Disney+ Unveils U.K. Original Content Slate

Disney+ June 23 announced additional content set to premiere exclusively on the service in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2022 and 2023.

Series include “The Patient,” starring Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson; “Fleishman is in Trouble,” based on the New York Times best-selling novel and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Lizzy Caplan, Claire Danes and Adam Brody; and “Welcome to Chippendales,” starring Kumail Nanjiani.

Welcome to Wrexham” is a docuseries tracking the dreams and people of Wrexham as Hollywood stars Rob McElhenney (“Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) and Ryan Reynolds take ownership of the town’s historic yet struggling soccer club. The series debuts on Aug. 25.

Other exclusive series premiering over the next 12 months include “Mike” from the team behind Oscar-nominated I, Tonya; “The Old Man” starring Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, Amy Brenneman and Alia Shawkat; and “Limitless with Chris Hemsworth.”

Also joining the line-up over the next 12 months are U.K. originals, including “Wedding Season,” “Extraordinary,” and docuseries “Save Our Squad.” Plus, new seasons of “American Horror Stories” (season two) and “Reservation Dogs” (season two) are coming soon.

Movies making their debut on Disney+ U.K. include The Princess, starring Joey King, on July 1; Not Okay on July 29; Prey, an all-new entry in the Predator franchise, on Aug. 5; and Rosaline, starring Kaitlyn Dever, later this year.

Recently launched series available to stream now on Disney+ include Danny Boyle’s “Pistol,” “The Dropout” starring Amanda Seyfried, comedy series “Only Murders in the Building,” and “The Kardashians.”

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Warner Bros. Discovery, BT Group Launching Live Sports Joint Venture in U.K., Ireland

U.K. telecom operator BT Group and Warner Bros. Discovery May 12 announced the formation of a joint venture to create a new sports streaming/broadcast platform for the U.K. and Ireland. The deal includes the transfer BT Sport’s business operations to Warner Bros. Discovery.

Combining the sports content of both BT Sport and WBD-owned Eurosport U.K., the JV will have one of the most extensive portfolios of sports rights, including UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, the Premier League, Premiership Rugby, UFC, the Olympic Games, tennis Grand Slams featuring the Australian Open and Roland-Garros, cycling Grand Tours, including the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, and the winter sports World Cup season.

BT Group ended 2021 with about 18 million subscribers, while French-based Eurosport has more than 190 million subs across Europe.

BT will receive £93 million ($101.5 million) from WBD and up to approximately £540 million ($660.7 million) by way of an earn-out from the JV, subject to certain conditions being met.

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WBD will be granted a “call option” over BT’s interest in the JV, exercisable at specified points in the first four years of the JV. The Transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approvals by the relevant regulatory bodies and is expected to complete by the end of 2022.

Current BT Sport subscribers who access content through BT directly, and the majority of BT’s pay-TV customers will get access to Discovery+, the non-fiction entertainment streaming service, which is home to Eurosport’s live and on-demand streaming in the U.K. and Ireland.

Both BT Sport and Eurosport U.K. will initially retain their separate brands and product propositions in the market before being brought together under a single brand in the future. BT Group and Warner Bros. Discovery will enter into distribution agreements with the JV under which they will distribute the combined sports content to new and existing customers on their respective platforms and apps.

“We’re excited to be joining forces to bring the best of BT Sport together with Eurosport U.K. to create a fantastic new sports offer alongside all the entertainment that discovery+ has to offer BT customers,” Marc Allera, CEO BT’s consumer division, said in a statement.

The deal constitutes a class 2 transaction for the purposes of the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority Listing Rules and, as such, BT Group shareholder approval is not required.

Lazard is acting as exclusive financial adviser to BT Group and CMS Cameron McKenna is acting as legal adviser to BT Group. DLA Piper is acting as legal adviser to Warner Bros. Discovery.

“[The JV together] with our growing portfolio of premium entertainment content promises to deliver consumers a richer and deeper content proposition, not only providing greater value from their subscriptions but bringing sport to a wider entertainment audience,” said Andrew Georgiou, managing director of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe.

Paramount+ Launching in U.K., Ireland on June 22; South Korea and Other Select European Countries to Follow

Global rollout of the Paramount+ streaming platform continues, with the erstwhile CBS All Access subscription streaming service launching in the U.K. and Ireland on June 22. A separate launch in South Korea is slated for June, with additional rollouts in Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria set for later this year. The streamer plans to bow in India in 2023.

Paramount+ is bowing in select Western European countries with Comcast-owned satellite TV platform, Sky, as part of an over-the-top video distribution partnership. The app will also be available via Paramount+ app, via Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google, Roku and Samsung streaming TV devices.

“This year will be monumental for our streaming strategy as we accelerate our global ambitions,” Raffaele Annecchino, president and CEO of international networks, studios and streaming for Paramount Global, said in a statement. “With an already expansive global footprint and a strong, long-term market-by-market strategy, we are well-poised to continue our positive momentum.”

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Netflix Raises Prices in the U.K., Streamer’s No. 2 Market

Netflix is raising prices across all of its subscription plans in the United Kingdom and Ireland — the streamer’s No. 2 market after North America. Prices are increasing from £1 to £3 ($1.32 to $3.95) for a region totaling almost 15 million subscribers, according to Ampere Analysis. Netflix ended 2021 with almost 222 million subscribers globally.

“Our updated prices reflect the investment we have made in our service and catalog and will allow us to continue making the series, documentaries and films our members love as well as investing in talent and the creative industry,” Netflix said in a statement. “We offer a range of plans so members can choose a price that works best for them.”

Indeed, the price hike, the second in the region in 18 months, mirrors Netflix’s strategy upping fees in mature markets with low churn. That contrasts with the SVOD pioneer’s competitors that are embracing lower cost ad-supported pricing tiers on top of SVOD price hikes.

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Speaking on the Netflix fiscal call earlier this year, Greg Peters, COO and chief product officer, said price hikes reflect in part that the streamer is doing something right.

“[It’s] really our signal that we’ve done a good job at sort of creating this more value, and it’s the right time to ask for a little bit more to keep that going,” Peters said.

Disney will launch a lower-priced ad-supported streaming option later this year, more than a year after it raised the Disney+ subscription by $1 to $7.99. Last December, Disney raised by $5 the monthly fee for its Hulu+Live TV online television platform.

Anime Supplier Funimation Acquires Manga Entertainment

Anime content supplier Funimation, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Television, has acquired Manga Entertainment, the leading distributor of anime in the United Kingdom and Ireland, according to a Funimation press release.

Headquartered in London, Manga is a long-term partner of Funimation and serves anime fans across a wide range of channels, including Blu-ray/DVDs, broadcast, theatrical and digital (EST).

“Following its immediate consolidation of Funimation’s U.K. home entertainment business, Manga will become the largest distributor of anime Blu-rays/DVDs, offering fans more than 900 hours of subtitled and dubbed entertainment — the biggest catalog of titles available anywhere in the U.K. and Ireland,” according to the Funimation press release.

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The acquisition also will allow most of the titles — many for the first time — to become available for streaming to fans throughout the U.K. and Ireland on the SVOD FunimationNow service over the coming months, according to the release.

Titles include such series as “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood,” “Naruto Shippuden,” “Ghost in the Shell: Innocence” and “Sword Art Online.”

“With this acquisition, we will create a truly immersive anime experience for fans in the U.K. and Ireland. This begins with providing fans access to Manga’s library of titles to enjoy whenever and wherever they want on FunimationNow,” said Mitchel Berger, VP of sales and distribution for Funimation in a statement. “Together with the Manga team, Funimation will bring its fan-first omnichannel approach to serving anime fans — engaging with them directly through the widest array of touchpoints.”

“On behalf of Manga Entertainment, we’re thrilled to join Funimation and their expanding global business,” said Jerome Mazandarani, managing director of Manga Entertainment, in a statement. “We’re excited for the new opportunities that lie ahead and to serve anime fans in the U.K. and Ireland in a bigger way than ever before.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Funimation, which today provides streaming, home entertainment, theatrical and broadcast distribution, as well as merchandise licensing in many territories around the world. With a catalog of more than 600 titles encompassing more than 10,000 hours of subtitled and dubbed entertainment, Funimation directly serves consumers in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand through its subscription service FunimationNow. In November 2018, FunimationNow became the first Sony Pictures Television service to launch on Amazon’s Prime Video in the U.K.