WWE Partners with Discovery to Stream Pro Wrestling in Italy

WWE and Discovery June 24 announced a new multiyear agreement in Italy beginning July 1 that will make WWE’s weekly flagship programming available exclusively live and on-demand with original U.S. commentary on DPlay Plus, Discovery’s SVOD platform, along with versions featuring Italian commentary on DMAX (Channel 52).

Every week, Dplay Plus will air “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night SmackDown” live. NXT will be available on-demand via Dplay Plus every Thursday morning.

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WWE fans can also watch with Italian commentary by Luca Franchini and Michele Posa on Discovery’s free-to-air channel, DMAX. A two-hour version of Raw will premiere on Mondays starting July 13; SmackDown will air on Tuesdays and re-run on Sundays; NXT will air on Saturdays and re-run on Sundays.

“We are thrilled to embark on a new chapter for WWE in Italy as we bring our unique blend of action-packed, family-friendly sports entertainment to Discovery’s free-to-air and premium channels,” Stefan Kastenmüller, SVP, GM, WWE, said in a statement. “We are excited that our relationship with Discovery is enhancing the fan experience in Italy with both primetime and family-friendly timeslots.”

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Alessandro Araimo, managing director of Discovery Italy, said WWE has “conquered a very wide audience” and “we are confident that our channels and platforms can help to further expand the very large Italian fanbase.”

Raw, SmackDown and NXT with Italian commentary will also be available on-demand via Dplay. WWE’s two weekly recap series, “Bottom Line” and “Afterburn,” will be available with original commentary from Dplay Plus.

The agreement with WWE will make the Dplay Plus premium content offer even more exclusive with the platform subscription price unchanged at 3.99 euros ($4.50) per month.

WWE’s monthly pay-per-view events, including WrestleMania and SummerSlam, will stream exclusively on WWE Network in Italy.

AMC Theatres Closes Select Screens in Italy; Looking to Partner With SVOD Services

As a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, AMC Theatres had shuttered 22 theaters for a week in Northern Italy starting three days ago. The company, which operates 47 theaters in the country, said the fiscal impact on the week-long closings range from $500,000 to $1 million per theater.

The Italian government has confirmed that more than 600 nationals have been infected with COVID-19 thus far.

Speaking on the Feb. 27 fiscal call, CEO Adam Aron said world’s largest theatrical chain thus far has not been impacted significantly by the virus, which has killed about 2,600 people and infected more than 87,000 — largely in China.

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“There is an increasing view in Milan that there may be an overreaction [about the virus spread] in and around [the city],” Aron said. “AMC Entertainment does not have movie theaters in China nor in South Korea nor anywhere in Asia. AMC does not have movie theaters in Iran.”

In addition to China being the epicenter for the virus, South Korea and Iran have a reported combined 2,200 cases. Japan has more 800 reported cases.

At the same time, Aron said he is fully aware that should the virus become an issue in the United States and Europe, the impact on AMC would be significant.

“It goes without saying that we are vigilantly monitoring reports and advice from governmental authorities in the United States and throughout Europe as well as from medical experts,” he said.

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As an exhibitor, Aron said AMC has a responsibility to its workers and consumers to provide a safe environment to watch movies.

“We will be a responsible player here … looking broadly at our circuit of 1,000 theaters across 15 countries,” he said. “So far so good.”

Separately, Aron said the company’s Stubs A-List ticket subscription service has between 900,000 and 1 million paid members, representing from 15% and 20% of the chain’s total U.S. admissions. Overall A-List contributed more than $20 million of incremental operating income to AMC in 2019.

“It’s increased loyalty to AMC. It’s benefited our theaters, our studios and our premium format partners,” Aron said.

While dismissing burgeoning over-the-top video consumption by consumers, Aron said AMC is looking to work with studio-backed streaming services such as HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu and Peacock to use theatres as marketing vehicle for streaming.

Aron said the company had just hired a former 20th Century Fox executive as new SVP of strategy based in Los Angeles and tasked with forging partnerships with streaming services to create value for the benefit of all parties, “but especially to create value for us here at AMC.” The new executive will be announced on March 2.

Aron said that rather than looking at theaters as competitors, he contends SVOD players should utilize theatrical exhibition to create “tremendous value” for their content and for their shareholders.

“Studies have indicated a clear and strong positive correlation between those who stream movies and those who also like to go to theaters to enjoy movie watching in person on a big screen with powerful sound and the smell of buttered popcorn,” Aron said.

 

Netflix Opening Italian Office in Rome

Netflix continues its European charm offensive, reportedly setting up Italian operations (with 30 employees) in Rome — a week after doing the same in Paris. Both regional headquarters include increased investment in local content production, in addition to paying taxes.

“Since the launch of the service in Italy in 2015 we have been welcomed with enthusiasm by many Italian subscribers and have had the good fortune of working with a wide range of talents, some well-established while others emerging,” Kelly Luegenbiehl, VP of international originals, told Variety in a statement.

Netflix co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings last October suggested the streaming pioneer would be expanding regional operations from its main European headquarters in Amsterdam.

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The office relocations also amount to an effort by Netflix to curry favor with local politicians who have accused the service of not paying taxes. With the establishment of localized workforces, Netflix will now be paying all appropriate taxes.

Prosecutors in Milan last October said Netflix should pay local taxes despite the fact the service had no physical presence streaming content to 1.4 million Italian subscribers in the country.

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Netflix Italian originals include “Suburra: The Series” and “Baby,” pending witchcraft series “Luna Nera,” all helmed by female directors.

Grandi Notizie: Netflix Expands Italian Presence

Italy in 2020 will begin imposing a 3% tax on digital services generating at least €5.5 million ($6 million) in annual revenue.

While the political move targets American streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the pending Disney+ platform, Netflix is hardly scaling back its Italian operations.

The SVOD pioneer, which reportedly has 1.5 million subscribers in Italy, has inked a deal with Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky Italia offering subscribers direct access to the service.

Netflix will be available to Entertainment Plus and Sky Q Platinum subscribers.

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Netflix began its partnership with Sky in 2018 in the United Kingdom, followed by Sky Deutschland.

“We [want to] make it easier for Sky customers and Italian families to access the complete Netflix experience,” Filippo Zuffada, EMEA partner marketing director at Netflix, said in a statement.

Indeed, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was Italy this week to announce the opening of an office in the country as well as plans to invest €200 million ($220 million) in original Italian content production.

Establishing an office in Italy would also mitigate efforts by lawmakers seeking taxes from foreign online companies (notably Netflix) doing business within the country’s borders without a physical presence.

Netflix’s investment follows a previously-announced pact with Italian broadcaster Mediaset for the co-production of original Italian movies.

 

Netflix Partnering with Italian Broadcaster Mediaset for Movie Productions

Netflix has reportedly signed a co-production movie deal with Italian broadcaster Mediaset for seven titles to be distributed in the country and worldwide.

Mediaset Italia claims to target more than 60 million Italians living around the world. The company’s domestic TV channels include Canale 5, Rete 4 and Italia 1.

Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore reports Netflix will majority fund the movies in exchange for first-run distribution rights. CEO Reed Hastings is scheduled to appear Oct. 8 for a public presentation of the deal.

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Mediaset CEO Piersilvio Berlusconi earlier this year disclosed the broadcaster was in negotiations with Netflix and Amazon regarding original content production.

The pact with Mediaset comes as Italian prosecutors have reportedly opened an inquiry involving Netflix’s tax status in the country.

Netflix reports third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) results on Oct. 16.

Italy Investigating Netflix on Alleged Tax Evasion

Italian officials have reportedly opened an investigation into Netflix regarding possible tax evasion operating its subscription streaming video service in the country.

Reuters, citing a source familiar with the situation, said prosecutors in Milan opened the inquiry despite the fact Netflix does not have a physical presence in the country.

Netflix Italy has about 1.4 million subscribers who access content through servers, desktop computers, TVs and mobile devices, which officials say amounts to a physical presence in the country.

Netflix bases European operations out of Amsterdam, Holland.

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Italy has pursued similar investigations of Apple, Facebook and Amazon, reportedly resulting in substantial fines and tax payments.

With the proliferation of e-commerce and streaming video, local and national governments have recognized a potential fiscal windfall targeting companies operating for-profit operations within their borders without physical presence.

Dubbed the “Netflix tax,” Chicago earlier this year became the first U.S. city to collect taxes ($2 million) from media/tech companies operating services within its city limits.

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Spotify, among others, have filed litigation against the 9% tax Chicago officials imposed on streaming entertainment services four years ago.

States of Iowa, Maine, Wisconsin and Colorado, among others, have imposed taxes on Internet-based companies operating within their borders.

Lawmakers in Georgia had considered taxing Netflix and other streaming services to help pay for broadband infrastructure deployment in rural parts of the state.

Netflix and other streaming platforms were removed from verbiage associated with House Bill 887, after a local poll showed 65% of consumers were opposed to taxing Internet services.

Notably, Netflix in 2018 received a €57,000 ($70,385) tax rebate in the U.K. — despite generating a reported £700 million ($864 million) in revenue from 10 million subscribers in the region.

 

Italy Looking to Legalize Theatrical Window

Italian lawmakers are moving to make law the country’s 105-day theatrical window granting exhibitors exclusive access to new release feature films ahead of home entertainment and over-the-top video.

Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli said the move was aimed at protecting the country’s cinemas against SVOD services such as Netflix, which typically makes its original movies concurrently available for streaming and theatrical exhibition.

Netflix, as it has in France and the United States, drew the ire of Italian exhibitors following its Venice Film Festival winning entry, Roma from Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón (GravityChildren of Men).

The law would reduce the window to 60 days if a movie is distributed in fewer than 80 theatres and/or attracts less than 50,000 moviegoers.

Interestingly, Netflix has transitioned toward brief theatrical windows in the U.S. for select movies – including Roma– to gain favor with Academy Award voters.

The SVOD behemoth’s first original movie – Beasts of No Nation– was ignored by voters in 2015 despite widespread critical acclaim, including for actors Idris Elba, Abraham Attah and director Cory Joji Fukunaga.

The movie generated just $90,777 at the box office.