Lionsgate Nabs Worldwide Distribution Rights to Jesus Bio-Series ‘The Chosen’

Lionsgate on May 22 announced it has acquired worldwide distribution rights to all 24 episodes in the Christian series “The Chosen,” from creator, director and producer Dallas Jenkins.

No specific release plans have been announced. 

“The Chosen” is a historical drama about the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of his followers. The first-ever multi-season episodic portrayal of Christ, it has grown from a crowdsourcing project into a global blockbuster with over 110 million viewers in 175 countries around the world, with plans to make it available in 600 languages.

Three seasons of “The Chosen” have been produced, each with eight episodes. Season through can only be viewed through the Angel Studios and “The Chosen” apps on iPhone, Android devices, Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Google TV, and Angel.com. Seasons one and two are also available on Peacock and Amazon’s Prime Video, while the eight episodes in season one can also be streamed on Netflix. 

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The series has reached audiences abroad as well, notably in France on Canal+, the Netherlands on NPO, Spain on MovieStar and Poland on TVP. A fourth season is currently in production.

“The Chosen” has 6.5 million followers across social media,
comparable to many of the top shows on television, and several theatrical releases — a Christmas special, “Christmas With The Chosen: The Messengers,” the first two episodes of season three; and the season three finale — grossed a combined $35 million at the box office. “The Chosen” is one of the five most-searched shows on Roku, and it has generated apparel, best-selling books, and an upcoming series of graphic novels. Star Jonathan Roumie has been invited to the Vatican twice to speak with Pope Francis about his role as Jesus.

Jenkins has spent over two decades in the film industry, including theatrical releases such as Lionsgate’s Midnight Clear, but it was The Shepherd, his short film shot on a farm in Illinois, that launched “The Chosen.” The film, about the birth of Jesus as seen through the eyes of a shepherd with a disability, went viral globally, with tens of millions of views.

“Lionsgate is perfect for us,” Jenkins said. “They’re strong and experienced in the areas we’re not, but they also understand what’s unique about us and will protect that. We’ll continue to do what we do best unabated, and they’ll expand our efforts with their tremendous distribution team.”

“The more I learned about ‘The Chosen,’ the more I wanted to ensure that it is on the best platforms across the globe,” said Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution at Lionsgate. “It’s no surprise that an artfully crafted story about such an important historical figure, unlike anything done before, would be in great demand. The multi-season approach has allowed ‘The Chosen’ to consistently build its audience and generate a unique level of engagement.”

The Come and See Foundation will retain and manage licensing rights for all activities within the nonprofit sector. Their work to translate the series into hundreds of languages is making it possible for “The Chosen” to be globally accessible. 

FAST-Talking at NAB Show 2023: ‘We’re Linear Again’

LAS VEGAS — There’s no question that FAST — free, ad-supported television — is booming, with domestic revenues expected to triple to about $12 billion over the next three years.

But speakers on the NAB’s “FAST Channels and Furious Growth” panel discussion April 17 at the NAB show were divided on whether FAST is a new, modern replacement for cable television.

“I absolutely think it’s a replacement [for cable],” said Amy Kuessner, EVP of content strategy and global partnerships at Paramount Streaming, with direct responsibility for Pluto.

“I think everyone here sees the cable numbers every day, and they are dwindling,” she said. “And I used to be on the that side of the business. It’s similar in the fact that what’s old is new again — we’re linear again, it’s back in style, but it’s digital linear, and ad-supported. It’s the same in that we’re still programming niche channels, which is what cable did so well, but it’s different in that it’s not Cable 2.0. It’s becoming this whole ‘must carry’ thing; it’s cable without borders, so it’s very different in the marketplace approach.”

Philippe Guelton, chief revenue officer of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, took an opposing stance.

“I don’t think FAST is the new cable at all,” he said. “And the reason is when you cut the cord, when you cut cable, you lost a lot more than what’s available on FAST today. Think about the premium channels — the HBOs, the Showtimes. This where the actual investment was taking place in cable, and now that is happening on SVOD, for the most part — this is where a lot of that content lives.

“And then you have the broadcast content, the bigger and more general entertainment channels on cable, which have become really the AVOD experience. Movie-watching on FAST is not the ideal situation. VOD is the best experience for consumers to watch movies.

“So what, then, is FAST? I think it’s almost equivalent to syndicated television. This is where all that content goes after it’s gone through all those other windows. It’s almost like syndicated television on steroids, in a way, because there’s so much more [content].

“So, I think you really have to look at the entire ecosystem — FAST, AVOD, SVOD and TVOD — to really replace cable for the consumer.”

Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution at Lionsgate, agreed.

“We lost 7 million homes in the MVPD ecosystems last year,” Packer said. “Where they all went is part of the fascination of what we do. Some people have SVOD and SVOD is starting to bundle, so you have that dynamic. You’ve got somebody who buys a Samsung TV and may not even be aware of FAST, then discovers it for the first time. I think that one of the things that makes it a little bit tricky for FAST, and that over time I hope will continue to improve, is that each of the platforms looks a lot different and is a little bit less consistent than the MVPD ecosystem.

“So I think it [FAST] is happening, and it is part of the transition, but everybody’s competing for those 7 million people.”

Adam Lewinson, chief content officer of Tubi, maintains there’s room for different business models as audiences continue to migrate from cable to Internet-based services.

“Tubi is predominantly a video-on-demand platform,” he said, “and our vision of the future is that the future of streaming television is going to be predominantly on demand. Having said that, we still have 200 FAST channels, leaning heavily into news and sports. There’s always going to be a demand for live.”

Asked which demographics are driving the growth of FAST, Kuessner said that at Pluto, “We tremendously over indexed in Hispanic and African-American audiences. I want to say that the general market for African-American television viewing is 20%; we’re at 30%. And because of that, we were one of the first platforms — 2019, I want to say — to roll out an entire Hispanic offering with over 50 channels. And then we do have channels that are more targeted to African-Americans, whether it’s Black cinema or classics. Those channels are what I call our power channels, and they were just off the charts in terms of performance.”

Tubi’s Lewinson said half of his company’s viewers identify as multicultural. “We’re also one of the younger streamers, so a little over a third of our audience is in that coveted 18-34 demo. And what’s really interesting, and probably one of the reasons why we’re still very heavily a video-on-demand platform as opposed to these FAST channels, is that so much of our audience grew up on YouTube or Netflix and they like the on-demand, they like our personalization tools, they’re used to navigating the algorithms, and the linear environment is just not the best experience for certain kinds of content. If you’re going to watch a movie, you’re probably going to want to watch it from the beginning.

“So what we find is that the viewers who are leaning more heavily into these FAST channels tend to skew older, and I think a lot of that is just transitional — the electronic program guides, not everyone grew up with that, but for [older viewers] it just feels comfortable — ‘Oh, this feels like my cable box.'”

NAB Kicks Off Centennial Show With Greater Focus on Streaming

LAS VEGAS — Celebrating its 100th birthday, the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention began its four-day run April 15 with an aggressive nod to streaming.

While much of the schedule remains focused on the legacy broadcast industry, the NAB is once again hosting a two-day Streaming Summit April 17-18. The summit is a two-track event with about 75 speakers and consists of “fireside” chats, best practices technical presentations/case studies, and roundtable discussions. The Streaming Summit, NAB says, will cover business and technology topics including the bundling of content; codecs; transcoding; live-streaming; video advertising; packaging and playback; monetization of video; cloud based workflows; direct-to-consumer models; the video ad stack; and other related topics.

The NAB Show also features an OTT Demo Area, featuring demonstrations of more than 50 streaming video platforms and devices, including smart TVs and streaming boxes. The Demo Area is curated by Dan Rayburn, a streaming media expert and conference chair of the Streaming Summit. It features hardware from Amazon, Apple, Roku, Google, LG, TCL, Vizio and Samsung and will feature sample programming from Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Discovery+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu+ Live TV, Sling TV, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock TV, YouTube TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, ESPN+, Freevee, AMC+, Fubo, DAZN and many others.

Show attendees will be able to see and compare video quality compression, HDR and 4K; content bundling strategies; video delivery, low-latency and QoS; ad formats; and pre/post roll in live and SVOD, connected-TV advertising, playback and UI/UX.

NAB is also hosting a Main Stage session on the rapidly growing FAST TV business. “FAST Channels and Furious Growth” takes place April 17 at 2:30 p.m. at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Leaders in streaming and digital distribution will discuss their strategies in the free, ad-supported television streaming business segment, which hit revenues of roughly $4 billion in the United States last year and is projected to triple over the next five years.

Speakers include Amy Kuessner, EVP of content strategy and global partnerships at Paramount Streaming; Adam Lewinson, chief content officer at Tubi; Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution at Lionsgate; and Philippe Guelton, chief revenue officer of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. They will discuss programmatic challenges and opportunities, how to utilize targeted advertising effectively and how to build infrastructure quickly.

In his welcome, NAB president and CEO Curtis LeGeyt noted that the first NAB gathering took place in 1923 when 16 representatives of radio stations gathered in New York City. Since then, the show until recently has remained true to the trade group’s name, focusing on the broadcast industry — first radio, then television — with the Las Vegas Convention Center and Strip hotels crawling with broadcast executives and, in the heyday of radio, deejays such as Wolfman Jack, Joey Reynolds, Tom Shovan and a pre-TV Larry King.

This year’s show features more than 1,000 exhibitors, including 140 first-timers, NAB says. The show is grouped around four “pillars”: Create, Connect, Capitalize, and Intelligent Content.

Jim Packer, Bill Rouhana to Speak at FAST Session at the April NAB Show

The upcoming National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas has scheduled a Main Stage session on the rapidly growing FAST business that features several top home entertainment executives, including Lionsgate’s Jim Packer and Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment’s Bill Rouhana.

The “Fast Channels and Furious Growth” session, open to all attendees, will take place on April 17 at 2:30 p.m. at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  Packer, Rouhana and other leaders in streaming and digital distribution will discuss their strategies to harness audience appetite for free, ad-supported television, which hit revenues of roughly $4 billion in the United States last year and is projected to triple over the next five years.

Panelists include Amy Kuessner, EVP of content strategy and global partnerships at Paramount Streaming; Adam Lewinson, chief content officer at Tubi; Packer, president of worldwide television distribution at Lionsgate; and Bill Rouhana, chairman and CEO at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. They will discuss programmatic challenges and opportunities, how to utilize targeted advertising effectively and how to build infrastructure quickly.

The NAB Show, held April 15 to 19 in Las Vegas, is celebrating its centennial year as the primary conference and exhibition driving the evolution of broadcast, media and entertainment. For complete details, visit www.nabshow.com.

 

Jim Packer Signs New Long-Term Agreement as Lionsgate President of Worldwide Television Distribution

Lionsgate Oct. 17 announced it has entered into a new long-term employment agreement with Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution.

The new deal comes as Lionsgate continues to grow its global distribution business with licensing deals for the “John Wick”-based original series “The Continental” on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform; CBS series “Ghosts”; and award-winning comedy series, “Schitt’s Creek” on Hulu, among other platforms.

Jim Packer

Under Packer’s leadership, Lionsgate has expanded the studio’s Pay 1 movie distribution deal with Starz, in addition to separate Pay 2 deals with Roku and Peacock. A movie’s first pay window typically occurs following its theatrical and home entertainment release windows.

During Packer’s tenure, Lionsgate’s 17,000-title film and television library nearly doubled its revenue to almost $800 million.

Lionsgate’s worldwide television distribution group licenses 40 to 50 feature films annually, the studio’s television content slate, Starz original programming, in addition to catalog content to hundreds of broadcast, cable, SVOD, AVOD and FAST platforms globally.

“Jim is a world-class executive, a respected leader and a trusted partner whose entrepreneurial drive and knowledge of the changing face of the content business will continue to be an important part of moving our company forward,” CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement.

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During the year, Packer has assembled a management team that includes Agapy Kapouranis, president of international television and digital distribution; Ryan Lowerre, president of domestic television and digital distribution; Chase Brisbin, EVP of international television and digital distribution; Kate Nexon, EVP of domestic television and digital distribution; and Suzy Feldman, EVP of worldwide television marketing.

Before joining Lionsgate in 2011, Packer served as president of MGM’s worldwide television and digital operations. Prior to that, he was an executive with The Walt Disney Company managing the distribution and syndication of Disney content.

A graduate of the University of Colorado, Packer has served on the board of trustees of the University of Colorado Foundation and the Leeds School of Business. He also previously served on the boards of the multiplatform channel Epix, NATPE, The Paley Center for Media, and Movie Network in Australia.

Lionsgate, Bell Media Partner in Canadian Content Co-Development Deal

Lionsgate and Bell Media Sept. 13 announced they have teamed for a co-development deal to produce Canadian comedy and drama television series for the global market.

The multiyear partnership enables Lionsgate to act as the global distributor outside Canada for select Bell Media original programming that is produced locally in English and French, including projects Bell Media co-develops with Lionsgate. In Canada, Bell Media distributes projects developed under the pact.

Through this pact, the companies are aiming to work together to seek projects and create original Canadian programming for global audiences.

“Canadian series are resonating with a global audience, and Bell Media is a leader in creating shows that work in Canada, the U.S. and around the world,” Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution at Lionsgate, said in a statement.

Packer said the agreement allows both companies to create strategic value by responding to the growing demand for content internationally, while building on Lionsgate’s strong television production resume as creator and distributor of premium scripted content in Canada.

“We’re delighted to expand our longstanding partnership with Bell Media, the team behind some of Canada’s most-acclaimed original programming,” he said.

This pact reflects an evolution of the multifaceted Lionsgate/Bell Media relationship. The two companies have an exclusive long-term deal for Bell Media to distribute the first pay window of Lionsgate’s theatrical releases in Canada. Lionsgate’s Starz premium pay-TV platform launched its subscription streaming app in Canada via Bell Media.

In addition, Bell Media’s premium streaming service Crave is the exclusive Canadian home of Lionsgate Television/HBO Max shows “Minx,” starring Ophelia Lovibond and Jake Johnson, and “Love Life,” starring Anna Kendrick and William Jackson Harper.

A Canadian-domiciled company, Lionsgate is drawing upon a history of Canadian-based film and television production in conjunction with its partners that includes its role as the U.S. distributor of the Emmy Award-winning comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” along with recent series such as “Son of a Critch” and “Wong & Winchester.”

Lionsgate Taps Kozlowski to Head Home Entertainment, Digital Distribution Marketing

Lionsgate Oct. 10 announced the promotion of marketing executive Amanda Kozlowski to EVP of home entertainment and digital distribution marketing.

Kozlowski, a 10-year veteran of the company, in her new role will oversee Lionsgate’s marketing efforts across traditional and emerging platforms and technologies for the entire home entertainment and digital distribution division.

Amanda Kozlowski

This includes home entertainment distribution of Lionsgate’s feature film slate, titles from one of the largest independent television businesses in the world, Starz’s original programming slate, a 17,000-title film and television library, and third-party titles from such content companies as StudioCanal, Grindstone, A24, Amazon Studios, CBS Films, and sister company Roadside Attractions, among others.

Kozlowski also is charged with managing the department’s media planning, marketing technology platforms and data analytics.

“In this changing environment, it’s crucial to have someone who can bring a fresh and innovative perspective to how we approach the market and there’s no one better qualified than Amanda,” Lionsgate president of worldwide home entertainment Ron Schwartz and president of worldwide television and digital distribution Jim Packer said in a joint statement.

“Her incredible track record, vision and dedication to our prolific home entertainment business makes her the perfect candidate to lead our marketing group.”

Kozlowski previously served as SVP of digital marketing, leading the digital marketing strategy for the department. She also has overseen the execution of Lionsgate’s domestic EST/VOD sales efforts and distribution deals with Roadside Attractions, Miramax Films and StudioCanal.

Prior to joining Lionsgate, Kozlowski oversaw campaigns for marketing agency A.D.D. Marketing + Advertising as well for the nonprofit organization Film Independent.

Kozlowski holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina.