Comcast Xfinity Digital Store Seventh Digital Retailer to Join Movies Anywhere

Digital movie collection service Movies Anywhere on Dec. 5  added Comcast’s Xfinity Digital Store as its seventh digital retail partner.

Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Apple’s iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu were partnered with the service at launch last October. FandangoNow, Fandango’s on-demand video service, came aboard in March, joined in August by Microsoft Movies and TV.

Comcast’s 22 million Xfinity TV subscribers are now able to synchronize their accounts with Movies Anywhere,  combine eligible movie purchases from the Xfinity Digital Store with those from other Movies Anywhere digital retailers, and access them on Xfinity X1, the Xfinity Stream app and other Xfinity TV platforms.

Comcast is the first pay-TV provider to join Movies Anywhere. For a limited time, consumers who sync for the first time with Xfinity or one of the other participating digital retailers will receive a free digital copy of Happy Feet, a 2006 computer-animated musical family film with a domestic box office gross of nearly $200 million. Those who sync for the first time with two digital retailers also receive digital copies of The Martian and The Fate of the Furious.

“Comcast is one of the country’s leading pay-TV providers, with a customer base that, like ours, consists of people who are passionate about the movies they love,” said Karin Gilford, general manager of Movies Anywhere. “We are thrilled to now include Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers among those who can benefit from Movies Anywhere’s ability to bring their favorite movies together in one place that can be accessed across a multitude of devices using the Movies Anywhere app and across Xfinity TV platforms.”

“Xfinity X1 is the only platform that provides customers with seamless, integrated access to all of their entertainment choices within one user interface, whether that content is live, on demand, streamed, recorded, rented or owned,” said Daniel Spinosa, VP of entertainment services at Comcast Cable. “And by joining Movies Anywhere, Xfinity TV customers can now easily link their accounts across participating digital retailers and watch their consolidated digital library on X1, or anywhere in the country via the Xfinity Stream app and portal.”

With the addition of Comcast to the Movies Anywhere lineup, Movies Anywhere collections owned by the cable company’s customers will be accessible for the first time directly on the TV through Xfinity On Demand, and on devices via the Xfinity Stream app and web portal. All Movies Anywheres users are also able to access their collections via the Movies Anywhere app and web portal on an array of additional platforms.

One of the top digital retailers for new releases, the Xfinity Digital Store offers Xfinity TV customers the ability to easily purchase and access thousands of movies, many featuring enhanced extras via X1 and across devices via the Xfinity Stream app and web portal.

Movies Anywhere is backed by five Hollywood studios — Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures (including Focus Features, DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm) and Warner Bros. Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate are not part of the service, which also does not feature television programming.

In October, Movies Anywhere celebrated its one-year anniversary, announcing that since launch fans have streamed more than 35 million movies on more than 100 different devices. The service turned 1 with 6 million registered users, 150 million movies collected and more than 1 billion minutes viewed.

Movies Anywhere in February 2018 won Media Play News‘ inaugural “Fast Forward” award, honoring people, technologies, organizations, products or services that move the home entertainment industry forward. The awards are an outgrowth of the Home Entertainment Visionary Awards, which were launched in 2002 by the now-defunct Home Media Magazine. Comcast’s Brian Roberts was the 2017 honoree.

Movies Anywhere also was nominated for “Fan Favorite App” in the Google Play Best of 2018 Awards.

Consumer spending on digital purchases of movies, TV shows and other filmed content rose 18% in the third quarter of this year compared with the same quarter in 2017, a significant uptick from the single-digit gains posted in prior years, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

‘Frontline: Trump’s Showdown’ Coming to DVD Dec. 11 From PBS Distribution

Frontline: Trump’s Showdown will come out on DVD ($24.99) Dec. 11 from PBS Distribution.

The program is currently available for download from iTunes.

The program begins with the president elect’s meeting with the leaders of the intelligence community just before his inauguration. In the meeting, senior officials warned Trump that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. At the end of the meeting, FBI Director James Comey privately shared with Trump details of a secret “dossier” of unverified and potentially compromising material — an encounter the president would come to see as a “shakedown” (according to J.D. Gordon, one of Trump’s closest campaign advisers).

The program draws on more than 60 interviews with former leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump advisors, attorneys, authors, and journalists. It includes thousands of photographs and hundreds of hours of archival footage.

Movies Anywhere Celebrates First Birthday With 6 Million Users and 150 Million Movies Collected

Movies Anywhere, the cloud-based digital movie library service backed by most of the major studios, is celebrating its first birthday with 6 million registered users, 150 million movies collected and more than 1 billion minutes viewed.

To mark its first year, for a limited period, fans who sync for the first time with one digital retailer will receive a copy of Happy Feet. Those who sync for the first time with two digital retailers also receive The Martian and The Fate of the Furious.

“This has been a very exciting first year of growth and immersive engagement for Movies Anywhere,” said Karin Gilford, GM, Movies Anywhere. “Our users are among the most passionate and engaged movie fans, so it’s been incredibly rewarding to see them embrace and value our product in such a positive way.  We look forward to further evolving and enhancing the Movies Anywhere experience in the upcoming year.”

The service, which allows consumers to access their digital movie purchases in one place with one password, is backed by five Hollywood studios and six digital retailers. Studios include Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures (including Focus Features, DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm) and Warner Bros. Participating digital retailers are iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV and FandangoNow.

Other first-year milestones for the service include:

  • Fans have streamed more than 35 million movies on more than 100 different devices;
  • 95 percent of users reported high levels of satisfaction with the app, according to an August 2018 Futuresource report; and
  • The service was nominated for “Fan Favorite App” in the Google Play Best of 2018 Awards.

 

The digital movie sales and rights-locker storage service launched last October with support from five of the six major studios, four of the biggest online retailers, and an opening library of more than 7,300 movies. Over the past year the service has grown to more than 7,500 movies and has added FandangoNow and Microsoft Movies & TV to its digital retailer lineup. Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate are not part of the service, which also does not feature television programming.

Digital purchases of movies, TV shows and other filmed content, known in the industry as “electronic sellthrough,” or EST, rose 18% in the third quarter compared with the same quarter in the year prior, a significant uptick from the single-digit gains posted in prior years, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. Industry observers attribute at least some of the gain to the rising popularity of Movies Anywhere platform.

 

PBS Documentary ‘American Experience: The Circus’ Due on Digital Oct. 9, DVD Nov. 6

The PBS Distribution documentary American Experience: The Circus will come out on digital Oct. 9 on iTunes and on DVD Nov. 6.

The four-hour, two-part program explores the history of this distinctly American form of entertainment, where young women could become lion tamers and young men traveled the world as roustabouts. Drawing upon a vast visual archive, and featuring a host of performers, historians and aficionados, The Circus brings to life an era when Circus Day would shut down a town and its stars were among the most famous people in the country.

Part One starts with the first one-ring show at the end of the 18th century in Philadelphia when the circus met the disapproval of the religious. In a society that valued sobriety and hard work, peering at half-naked aerialists amid shifty circus workers was frowned upon. Soon, circuses began to add elaborate menageries of exotic animals including lions, hippos and elephants, and “human oddities” from across the globe — rebranding themselves as “educational” experiences to concerned communities. Once the infamous showman and huckster P. T. Barnum transformed the trade in 1871, he and his partners created the largest touring show in existence.

Part Two follows James Bailey as he takes his circus to Europe on a five-year tour. Upon returning the circus tour to the U.S. the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey merged, creating a moving town of more than 1,100 people, 735 horses, nearly 1,000 other animals and 28 tents.

Featured were some of the most storied circus performers in history, including the famed aerialist Lillian Leitzel; May Worth, who stunned audiences by somersaulting on horseback; and big cat trainer Mabel Stark. In an era when women were still fighting for the right to vote, women circus performers stepped to the forefront of the suffrage movement.

‘Love, Gilda’ Available on Demand and Digital From Magnolia

(L-R) Tom Schiller, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin. (Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

‘Love, Gilda,’ a documentary on the late comedian Gilda Radner, is available now on demand, iTunes and Amazon Prime Video from Magnolia Pictures.

The film is also in theaters.

Director Lisa D’Apolito, working with the Radner estate, unearthed a collection of diaries and personal audio and videotapes documenting Radner’s childhood, her comedy career, her relationships and ultimately, her struggles with cancer. The never-before-seen-or-heard footage and journal entries form the narrative spine of the documentary.

The film features appearances by Andrew Alexander, Anne Beatts, Chevy Chase, Bill Hader, Janis Hirsch, Judy Levy, Melissa McCarthy, Lorne Michaels, Laraine Newman, Marcus O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Michael Radner, Maya Rudolph, Stephen Schwartz, Paul Shaffer, Martin Short, Rosie Shuster, Cecily Strong, Jordan Walker-Perlman, Pam Zakheim and Alan Zweibel.

Apple Completes Shazam Music Recognition App Acquisition

Apple Sept. 24 announced it has finally completed the acquisition of Shazam, a highly-rated music app that enables users to recognize a song playing around them after hearing a few notes. The app has been downloaded more than 1 billion times.

Financial terms of the deal first revealed last December were not disclosed, although media reports pin the transaction around $400 million. It marks Apple’s biggest acquisition since the 2014 purchase of Beats for $3 billion.

“Apple and Shazam have a long history together,” Oliver Schusser, VP of Apple Music, said in a statement. “Shazam was one of the first apps available when we launched the App Store and has become a favorite app for music fans everywhere.”

The app – which was reportedly coveted by Spotify and Pandora – will soon be offered ad-free to users, according to Apple. How the tech giant plans to monetize Shazam remains to be seen.

Shazam says users employ the app more than 20 million times each day – yet the technology has reportedly never been profitable despite enabling users to discover, interact with and share video, audio or printed content across devices and mediums.

Online music has become a hot market with Apple Music recently edging ahead of Spotify with more than 20 million paying subs. In May, CEO Tim Cook said Apple Music was approaching 50 million users when combining free and paid subs.

Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, the company has transformed consumer technology with the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Apple’s four software platforms — iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS — provide seamless connectivity across all Apple devices and services, including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow …

The impermanence of the digital world struck home last January when we launched Media Play News and the owners of Home Media Magazine shut down that property’s website. All of a sudden, 17 years worth of stories — dating back to 2000, when what was then Video Store Magazine first appeared on the Internet — were gone. Vanished. Disappeared. Ceased to exist.

Thank God we have a storage locker full of print copies, I thought to myself. And that storage locker full of print copies often comes in handy when we have to research stories about our business, and find precious little historical content available on the web — just a steady stream of broken links and blank screens.

I bet a lot of people around the country who read the Sept. 13 Forbes story on disappearing digital movies are looking at their DVD and Blu-ray Disc collections with the same sense of pride – and relief.

According to the story, by contributor John Archer, “Reports have started to emerge of Apple completely deleting films from iTunes accounts even when they’ve been bought, not merely rented. And when people complain about this, they’re receiving an astonishing message from Apple telling them that iTunes is just a ‘store front,’ and so Apple isn’t to blame if a film studio decides it no longer wants to make its titles available on iTunes.”

On top of that, Archer writes in Forbes, consumers whose films are yanked shouldn’t expect a refund. “When an iTunes user in Canada complained to Apple that their initial offer of a free $5.99 rental hardly seemed suitable recompense for him having three bought films summarily removed from his account, Apple replied that ‘our ability to offer refunds diminishes over time. Hence your purchases doesn’t meet the conditions for a refund.’”

The bottom line, Archer concludes: “Apple appears to be openly saying that if you buy a film on iTunes, you don’t really own it at all.”

That’s a frightening proposition for movie fans who aren’t satisfied with the meager selection of quality films available through the streaming services, with their focus on original (and episodic) content.

It’s also, sadly, old news. When you buy a movie digitally, you don’t actually own the film, the way you do if you buy it on disc. You buy “digital rights” to the movie, which is not exactly the same thing. As the Los Angeles Times observed more than two years ago, “there are significant differences between owning a tangible product and owning its electronic equivalent.”

In other words, if you own a DVD or Blu-ray Disc, you own it forever. You can sell it, trade it, lend it, pass it on to your kids.

But if you “own” a digital movie, you might wake up one day and find it gone – just like those hundreds, if not thousands, of Home Media Magazine stories that disappeared, overnight, from the Web.

(I should add that the only way to really own a digital movie is to download it, which many people simply don’t do because it takes up so much space. Most purchased movies live on iTunes.)

I’ve become a huge fan of digital movies. The tipping point, for me, was the emergence of Movies Anywhere, which makes digital movie collecting easier than it’s ever been and provides instant access to my library wherever I am. Heck, I even watched a movie on my phone while on a camping trip in Death Valley.

But I always buy the disc first, and then input the digital code into my Movies Anywhere account.

And if I do buy a movie electronically sometime in the future, you can bet I’m going to make sure I have enough room on my hard drive to download it – right away.

Morgan Stanley Says Apple SVOD Service Can Rival Netflix — in Seven Years

Netflix shares took a slight hit after Morgan Stanley Sept. 5 issued a bullish note on Apple’s slowly evolving subscription streaming video service.

In the report — Apple, Inc.: The Emerging Power of Apple Services, Part 3: Video a New Growth Driver in 2019– Morgan Stanley analysts believe Apple’s longstanding success with iTunes and the music industry, Hollywood and its ability to capture consumer demand through the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch portends great promise in over-the-top video distribution.

“We forecast that an Apple Video streaming service with high-quality but limited breadth could be priced at the low end vs. competitors, or $7.99/month, and reach over 50 million paid subscribers by 2025, compared to 124 million at Netflix subs and Apple’s 650 million-unit iPhone installed base,” wrote the analysts.

Indeed, the note suggests Apple’s SVOD service could grow from a $500 million business in 2019 to $4.4 billion operation by 2025.

Lofty projections considering the late Steve Jobs often considered Apple TV and streaming a video a hobby and not a platform Apple could invest heavily in.

That’s changed as CEO Tim Cook and Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet software and services, have upped Apple’s video profile by hiring a string of entertainment executives, producers and directors to jumpstart original programming.

The biggest announcement occurred last November about an untitled morning show drama starring and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.

Other projects include a sketch comedy with Kristen Wiig; renewed seasons of “Carpool Karaoke,” a basketball drama with Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant serving as both the subject and producer; and unnamed series from directors M. Night Shyamalan, J.J. Abrams and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

Morgan Stanley believes the Apple SVOD service could get a boost when bundled with the Apple Music and Texture news and magazine subscription services. A strategy Hulu has employed partnering with Spotify.

The note said such a bundling would diversify content options for consumers, diminish the need for immediate original content hits, increase perceived consumer value and simplify billing, among other features.

“If we incorporate the assumptions from our Apple Media bundle scenario while keeping all other Apple Services forecasts unchanged, then we’d expect Apple Services revenue to grow at a 21% through 2025, ultimately reaching $143 billion by 2025, up from current forecasts of a 19% revenue growth and $124 billion in revenue by 2025.”

Apple Services generated $95 billion in revenue in the most recent fiscal period.

“We believe that Apple Video will become a reality sooner than investors think, and use this report as a way to frame the two most likely methods for video content distribution and potential impact video could have on Apple’s Services business,” wrote the analysts.

Freedom of Speech or Peddling Hate in an OTT World?

In the current politically toxic culture where “fake news” allegations and “enemies of the people” campaign rally cries by the POTUS against the media (except Fox News) continue to divide the country, bigotry and hate are now rationalized by many as differences of opinion between “good people on both sides.”

While the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making any law abridging the freedom of speech, or the freedom of the press, the Internet and over-the-top video has given those wishing to upend the country’s moral compass an unending bully pulpit.

Take Alex Jones, the radio host and conspiracy theorist loon who makes rightwing propagandists Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity seem normal.

Jones, who started website Infowars in 1999 as a platform to pitch irrational thought, is infamous for tearful rants (literally) decrying the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an inside government operation; and claiming the Sandy Hook school shooting – that killed 26 children and adults in Connecticut – was carried out by left-leaning forces aimed at implementing stricter gun control.

Apple Aug. 5 apparently wearied of Jones’ shtick. The tech giant pulled several Infowars podcasts off iTunes, citing the platform’s hate speech guidelines. Facebook and Spotify followed Aug. 6, with Facebook reportedly suspending Jones’ personal account as well.

Twitter, which has become President Trump’s unofficial press platform, chose not to ban Jones, saying he had not violated the company’s use guidelines.

“We know that’s hard for many, but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules,” CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted Aug. 7. “We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.”

But a quick look at Twitter’s rules against abusive behavior finds this: “We prohibit behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear.”

But Jones did just that in 2016 during the run up to the presidential election when he promoted the fake story that Democrat Party officials operated a child pornography ring from a pizzeria in Washington, D.C.

A North Carolina man was later arrested after firing shots into the pizzeria due to the hoax.

But real-world incidents like this don’t seem to bother Dorsey, who doubled-down on his Aug. 7 tweet, suggesting it is the responsibility of the media and journalists to “validate” Jones’ claims.

“This is what serves the public conversation best,” he tweeted.

Apparently, the “enemies of the people” – not Twitter – should now be responsible for fact-checking hate peddlers, who you know, are still “good people.”

 

Apple Ups Q3 ‘Services’ Revenue 31%

Apple may be known for the iPhone, iPad Apple Watch, but its digital content business, which includes sales of digital movies and TV shows on iTunes and Apple TV, remains an emerging giant.

The tech company July 31 reported third-quarter (ended June 30) services revenue of more than $9.5 billion, which was up 31% from services revenue of $7.2 billion during the previous-year period.

The segment, which also includes AppleCare, Apple Pay, licensing and other services, benefited from a one-time favorable $236 million resolution of various litigation. The unit is headed by Eddy Cue, SVP, Internet software and services.

Overall, Apple generated net income of $11.5 billion on revenue of $53.2 billion, compared to income of $8.7 billion and revenue of $45.4 billion last year.

The company sold more than 41.3 million iPhones, 11.5 million iPads and 3.7 million Macs in the quarter – the latter down 13% from the previous-year period.