Movies Anywhere Announces Watch Together Feature

Cloud movie library service Movies Anywhere has added a new co-viewing experience that allows users to view a film together from different locations.

Called Watch Together, the feature allows for synced co-viewing with no plugins or second screen. Users can watch anywhere they have the Movies Anywhere app. All movies available through the app are eligible for Watch Together.

“The experience is unique in that it offers fully integrated, seamless co-viewing across mobile, web and most connected smart TVs; and Movies Anywhere is the only app that allows purchased movie collections to be synced,” according to the service.

Viewers can share a synced experience with up to nine others. Hosts invite guests to view a title in their library via a “room code.” Guests must have the same title in their library or accept a “Screen Pass” via another Movies Anywhere feature currently in beta that allows members to share certain titles in their library with up to three people. The host controls playback. Viewers can use custom emojis in real-time to react or ask the host to pause, rewind or fast-forward.

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Bonus features are not currently available via Watch Together.

Movies Anywhere recently added to the Screen Pass feature to allow the Screen Pass recipient to choose an eligible movie from a sender’s library and watch it instantly.

More information is here.

Vizio Smart TV Platform Adds Movies Anywhere App

Vizio has added the Movies Anywhere app to SmartCast, its Smart TV platform.

“Adding Movies Anywhere to Vizio SmartCast TVs is another way we’re providing more entertainment choices and greater convenience to our users,” Mike O’Donnell, Vizio SVP of platform business, said in a statement. “Just as SmartCast Home gives the user a central portal to online content options, Movies Anywhere brings the user’s movie library together in one place. It’s a perfect match that makes it even easier for our users to bring the theater experience home by streaming their favorite content in up to 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos.”

Movies Anywhere is a cloud-based library service that offers consumers access to their digitally purchased movies from participating digital retailers and studios. Studios include Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures (including DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Twentieth Century Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm), and Warner Bros. Entertainment. Participating digital retailers include Apple TV, Prime Video, Vudu, Xfinity, Google Play/YouTube, Microsoft Movies & TV, FandangoNow and Verizon Fios TV.

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In addition to Movies Anywhere, Vizio SmartCast provides access to on-screen apps such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Prime Video, YouTube TV and more, along with more than 70 free streaming channels. New SmartCast apps and features, including Movies Anywhere, are automatically updated when the TV connects to the Internet and are available on Vizio SmartCast TVs dating back to 2016.

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Movies Anywhere recently announced a new feature, currently in beta, called Screen Pass, which allows users to share their movies with family and friends.

Movies Anywhere Screen Pass Sharing Feature Launched to More Users in Open Beta

Digital movie library Movies Anywhere has launched its new Screen Pass feature to more users. The feature allows users to share up to three movies monthly with friends and family for free.

The open beta expands on the beta launch March 17.

“We wanted to start open beta with users we thought were most likely to share,” said Karin Gilford, GM of Movies Anywhere, who added that the stay-at-home orders in the majority of the country make it a good time to help users share their favorite movies with family and friends.

Those who want to participate in the open beta can sign up here.

Screen Pass gives a friend or family member (who must be a Movies Anywhere member) seven days to accept the invitation, and another 14 days to watch the title. Once started, the user has 72 hours to finish watching the movie. A title can be shared unlimited times.

All Movies Anywhere studios are participating in the program, with each studio deciding on Screen Pass eligible titles. Eligible films appear in a scroll on the Movies Anywhere app. Users can send a text or email to share an eligible title. The service notifies recipients if the title is already in their library and they can decline the offer. Movies Anywhere also indicates to sharers how many of the three allowed movies per month they have shared.

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“We have such a great enthusiastic audience, and they look to share their love of movies,” Gilford said. “Now you can really pay it off with just a few clicks. The more friction you can reduce from that recommendation of a movie to a friend the better.”

Movies Anywhere brings together more than 7,900 movies from Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures (including DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Twentieth Century Film, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm), and Warner Bros. Participating digital retailers that connect with the service include iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu/Walmart, Comcast Xfinity, Google Play/YouTube, Microsoft Movies & TV, FandangoNow and Verizon Fios TV.

Paramount and Lionsgate films are not part of the service.

While Movies Anywhere is “always in talks” with potential additional studio and partners, Gilford said, “We are accelerating our connected TV strategy.” Last month, Movies Anywhere launched on LG smart TVs.

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Movies Anywhere App Available on LG Smart TVs

The Movies Anywhere app is now available on LG smart TVs, including LG OLED TVs, LG Electronics USA and Movies Anywhere announced.

Movies Anywhere lets users enjoy their purchased or redeemed digital movies combined in one personal collection. The service includes more than 7,900 titles.

LG is the first TV manufacturer to offer the streaming app.

With the Movies Anywhere app, in addition to streaming movies on LG smart TVs, users can also stream or download on LG smartphones, joining a wide array of other devices.

Additionally, with Screen Pass beta, Movies Anywhere is set to allow users to share their movies with others in a seamless way.

Movies Anywhere offers movies from Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures (including DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Twentieth Century Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm) and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

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The app enables consumers to sync digital retail accounts, including Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu/Walmart, Xfinity, Google Play/YouTube, Microsoft Movies & TV, FandangoNow and Verizon Fios TV.

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LG OLED TVs include support for Dolby Vision IQ high dynamic range, Dolby Atmos, and the UHD Alliance’s Filmmaker Mode. With the webOS smart TV platform, the new LG OLED and LG NanoCell 4K and 8K UHD TVs provide access to apps and services such as Apple TV, Disney+, Netflix and LG Channels in addition to Movies Anywhere.

Movies Anywhere Allowing Members to Share Titles

Movies Anywhere has beta-launched a new platform called “Screen Pass” that enables registered users the ability to share up to three movies monthly with friends and family for free.

The platform, which acts as a middleman for digital services iTunes, Google Play, Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, FandangoNow, Verizon and Microsoft Movies & TV, includes movies from four major studios: Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Disney/Fox.

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Screen Pass gives a friend or family member (who must registered) seven days to accept the invitation, and another 14 days to watch the title. Once started, the user has 72 hours to finish watching the movie. A title can be shared un-limited times.

The beta launch, which began March 17, features about 6,000 movies that can be shared.

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Universal Releasing Theatrical, Home Entertainment Releases Simultaneously

Seeking to counter the coronavirus spread and delayed theatrical release schedules, Universal Pictures March 16 announced it would release its current theatrical slate into home entertainment distribution channels simultaneously.

The sudden move in one stroke eliminated the traditional 90-day theatrical window — an exclusivity exhibitors have fought hard for ever since home entertainment emerged. But last weekend’s domestic box office was the lowest in 20 years, prompting the studio to act.

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Movies include The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma, among others. Universal’s DreamWorks Animation Trolls sequel, Trolls World Tour, will now hit theatrical and home entertainment channels April 10. Titles will be available on assorted digital channels for a 48-hour rental period at $19.99 each.

“Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said in a statement. “We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theaters where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible.”

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Movie theaters have now been closed in more than 30 markets around the world, while in the United States, the AMC Theatres chain announced it would limit movie attendance to 50 in an attempt to adhere to “social distancing” guidelines. Earlier, AMC had said it would cut capacity in its theaters by half.

In New York City and Los Angeles, mayors have ordered all movies theaters to be closed.

In its latest guidelines, issued March 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that for the next eight weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.

 

UPHE’s Eddie Cunningham to be Honored With Third Annual ‘Fast Forward’ Award

Media Play News on Feb. 28 announced that Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE), will receive the third annual Media Play Fast Forward Award, which honors people, technologies, organizations, products or services that move the home entertainment industry forward.

Cunningham is being honored for his innovative and aggressive promotion of packaged media since he assumed his present position in 2014. Under Cunningham’s leadership, UPHE has scored a steady string of best-selling Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, spanning such global blockbuster franchises as “Jurassic World” and “Fast and Furious” as well as the breakout film sensations Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Us and Downton Abbey.

In an effort to further innovate for the industry, UPHE last June unveiled a completely reimagined bonus content menu for its physical disc offerings that is more easily accessible and navigable — a move the studio introduced to provide viewers with a more visceral and engaging experience for Blu-ray Disc and DVD bonus content, which Cunningham and his team believe is a key selling point for its physical product offerings.

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And when Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures in January 2020 announced plans to merge their domestic disc distribution businesses, Cunningham was chosen to lead the joint venture that pending regulatory approval will begin operation in early 2021.

Last year, the Media Play Fast Forward Award went to digital retailers Cameron Douglas of FandangoNow, Galen Smith of Redbox On Demand, Google Play Movies & TV’s Jonathan Zepp and the team at Apple iTunes.

The previous year, the inaugural Media Play Fast Forward Award was shared by Fox Innovation Lab and Movies Anywhere.

The Media Play Fast Forward 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. Warren Lieberfarb, the father of DVD, was the first Visionary Award winner, back in 2002. Other honorees have included Sony Pictures’ Ben Feingold, Samsung’s Tim Baxter, and Walmart’s Louis Greth and Chris Nagelson.

Cunningham will be profiled in the March issue of Media Play News.

Amazon Fire TV Gets FandangoNow; Movies Anywhere Wants Your Data

Amazon’s Fire TV streaming video device now accommodates access to digital movie/TV show purchases and rentals on FandangoNow. It’s a noteworthy move since Amazon has historically shied away offering access to third parties in the same business of transactional video-on-demand.

FandangoNow, which is owned by NBCUniversal, is also available on Roku, Chromecast, Xbox, NVIDIA, Portal TV and Xiaomi.

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Separately, Movies Anywhere has begun notifying registered users about updating their privacy agreement in order to continue service on the platform backed by all major studios except Lionsgate and Paramount.

Movies Anywhere, effective Jan. 30, updated its privacy policy covering myriad issues ranging from the type of personal information collected, children’s privacy, user controls and choices and sharing of information.

“We’re sending this reminder to let you know that your Movies Anywhere Video Data sharing consent expires in 30 days,” read the email. “It’s important to renew now so that your account stays current. If you let your consent expire, newly purchased movies will not flow into and out of your Movies Anywhere account.”

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The platform, which has more than 8 million registered users, is also encouraging members to update connections to their digital retailers.

“It’s easy, and just takes a moment to complete,” said Movies Anywhere.

Participating digital retailers include Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Walmart’s Vudu.com, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, Comcast’s Xfinity Store, FandangoNow and Verizon.

Walmart’s Vudu Dropping In-Home Disc-to-Digital Support

Vudu is quietly dropping support for its Vudu To Go/In-Home Disc to Digital app, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

The Walmart-owned digital movie transactional service will still allow users to convert DVD and Blu-ray movies for digital access by scanning UPC codes on the Vudu app on select portable devices such as a mobile phone and tablet.

“We look forward to continuing to refine and improve the Disc-to-Digital experience for our users,” Vudu said in the email.

Walmart made headlines in 2012 when it partnered with five major studios (Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) enabling owners of DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies to access digital files of select titles stored in the cloud.

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Lionsgate joined the platform shortly thereafter, while Disney opted to remain with its Disney Movies Anywhere platform, which is now branded Movies Anywhere.

Walmart, which launched the service in more than 3,500 stores, charged $2 per DVD or Blu-ray and $5 when upgrading to high-definition.

In 2017, Walmart switched the Disc-to-Digital platform to Vudu.com, enabling users to scan movie UPC codes (validating user ownership) through the platform app, using GPS to confirm the user’s IP address matched the address of their credit card on file. Vudu offered a free digital movie to entice users. Walmart acquired Vudu in 2010.

In 2018 Vudu discontinued conversions through the Apple version of its app, directing iPhone and iPad users to use Vudu’s mobile website to scan titles.

EMA Elects Officers, Appoints Board Members

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment, Fandango, has been re-elected chairman of the home entertainment trade group the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). Douglas will be serving his second term as chairman.

Joining Douglas as officers are vice chair Suyin Lim, senior director, content acquisitions and partnerships, PlayStation Video; secretary Pedro Guiterrez Jr., director, digital stores movies and TV business and category management, Microsoft Corp.; and treasurer Michele Edelman, head of growth, Premiere Digital Services.

Eric Opeka

Bill Kotzman, Google/YouTube’s partner product manager, TV and Film; Erick Opeka, president, Cinedigm Digital Networks; and Jason Peterson, CEO of GoDigital Medial Group, will also serve on the association’s executive committee as at-large members.

Amazon returns to the EMA’s board, now represented by senior product manager Jude Fitzmorris.

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Other returning board members are Amit Balan, head of marketing at Vudu, and Marty Graham, SVP at ComScore.

Three members newly appointed board members are Opeka, Edelman and Elissa Brown, VP of finance and operations at Movies Anywhere.

“The companies on EMA’s board of director reflect the variety of delivery mechanisms and business models in our vibrant industry,” said Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO. “Each director brings an important perspective, and their wealth of experience will benefit the membership as EMA continues to be the forum for the home entertainment industry.”

The EMA is a not-for-profit international trade association. Members include digital retailers, MVPDs, AVOD and SVOD networks and channels, platforms, companies creating and/or distributing content for these channels of distribution, and companies providing services or technology for the use of others in this community. EMA was established in April 2006 through the merger of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA).