Tubi Expands Ad Sales Team

Ad-supported VOD service Tubi May 21  named former senior Viacom advertising executive Peter Graseck as VP of East Coast advertising sales. Graseck will lead the New York ad team and work alongside fellow VPs Heather Strofs, West Coast region, and Todd Segall, Midwest region.

The three report to chief revenue officer Mark Rotblat.

“Peter, Heather, and Todd are all talented executives with undeniable business acumen and integrity, and we look forward to leveraging their expertise during this pivotal growth period,” Rotblat said in a statement.

From Left: Peter Graseck, Heather Strofs, Todd Segall

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Graseck’s media career spans a wide variety of advertising and marketing functions; agency media planning at Young & Rubicam, marketing and branded entertainment at NBC Universal, and for the past 12 years at Viacom, he has held leadership roles in integrated marketing, client strategy, and both general market sales for Comedy Central, Spike, CMT, and TV Land, and direct response sales. Most recently, Graseck was the SVP of Viacom Partner Solutions where he oversaw all direct response accounts across Viacom’s cable networks and digital platforms.

Strofs came to Tubi with over 15 years of sales and leadership experience across the New York, Chicago, and West Coast Markets. She most recently served as VP, ad sales at The Oprah Winfrey Network where she collaborated with clients to create custom solutions that allowed advertising partners to reach their consumers in a unique and impactful way across linear, digital and social platforms. During her tenure, she brought on launch partners at OWN’s inception and continued to create innovative solutions across the studio, technology, and auto landscapes.

Segall joined Tubi from Roku where he was head of sales for their Central Region based out of Chicago and was responsible for building out their sales team and market presence. Prior to joining Roku, Segall was senior category sales director at AOL where he led the Finance Vertical as well as their mid-market sales team.

 

NBC Universal Planning to Offer ‘The Office’ on New Streaming Service

NBC Universal reportedly plans to stream popular catalog sitcom, “The Office” on its pending streaming video service.

The media company owned by Comcast disclosed the move May 13 during its advertising upfront at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Comcast is slated to launch a free ad-supported VOD service for Xfinity subscribers next year. Non-pay-TV subs would be charged an undisclosed monthly fee.

“While other companies are pushing advertisers out, we’re bringing you in,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships at NBC Universal, told advertisers, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the move.

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Yaccarino is on Hulu’s board of directors, along with NBC Universal’s Matt Bond and Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment. NBC Universal co-owns Hulu with Disney.

The programming decision is significant since “The Office,” along with WarnerMedia’s “Friends,” remains extremely popular on Netflix. The SVOD behemoth recently renewed an exclusive license agreement for ‘The Office” through 2020.

Last year, it reportedly paid WarnerMedia $100 million for exclusive rights to an additional single season of the sitcom.

Netflix earlier this year tweeted it had signed “Office” star Steve Carell for a new workplace comedy created by “Office” showrunner Greg Daniels about people working in the new armed services unit: “Space Force.”

Comcast in Talks with Disney to Sell Hulu Stake

Comcast reportedly is in talks with Disney to sell its 30% stake in Hulu, which includes online television platform Hulu with Live TV, according to CNBC, which cited internal sources.

CNBC is owned by Comcast business unit NBC Universal.

Disney currently owns 60% of the 12-year-old streaming service with 25 million subscribers after it acquired 20th Century Fox. AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit just sold its 10% stake back to Hulu for $1.43 billion.

The discussions, which CNBC said are in the preliminary stage, were revealed hours after Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts told investors the cable giant enjoyed owning a large stake of a Disney asset.

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“On Hulu, the relationship with NBC, it’s very much in everybody’s interest to maintain,” Roberts said on the all. “And we have no new news today on it, other than it’s really valuable. And we’re really glad we own a large piece of it.”

At the same time, with Disney firmly in control of Hulu and Comcast heretofore reluctant to move too far away from the pay-TV business model, selling its stake in an over-the-top business could help Comcast alleviate more than $100 billion in corporate debt following the $39 billion Sky acquisition.

Comcast reportedly could get $4.5 billion for its stake in Hulu, which lost $1.5 billion in 2018. Disney doesn’t expect Hulu to become profitable until 2024 — and only after possible international expansion.

At the same time, NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke remains skeptical of OTT business model, including Netflix.

“To be worth $150 billion, someday you’ve got to make at least $10 billion in EBITDA,” Burke told CNBC last year. “There’s at least a chance Netflix never makes that.”

Comcast, which only recently incorporated direct access to Netflix for its Xfinity pay-TV subscribers, plans to launch an OTT service for Xfinity in 2020.

Ted Sarandos: Most-Watched Netflix Shows are Originals

Much attention has been given to major media companies such as Disney, NBC Universal and WarnerMedia pulling back content licensing to Netflix for their own branded over-the-top video platforms — and what impact that would have on the SVOD juggernaut.

Not much, according to CCO Ted Sarandos, who says the streaming service has anticipated such changing market dynamics for the past seven years.

Speaking on the April 16 fiscal webcast, Sarandos said CEO Reed Hastings and others long ago concluded Netflix’s future required streaming original scripted series, unscripted series, feature films, documentaries, standup comedy and children’s programming.

“And that’s what we set out to do,” he said.

Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos

Longtime Netflix bear Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends about 80% Netflix’s content license deals with WarnerMedia (“Friends”) and NBC Universal (“The Office”) expire in 2020.

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Disney’s exclusive feature film agreement ends this year. Netflix’s recently cancelled Marvel Defenders Universe series, which included “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “The Punisher,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist.”

“Netflix can thrive in the face of new [OTT video] competition only if it has the content to compete,” Pachter wrote in an April 17 note, aptly named, “Netflix: 57 channels (and Nothin’ On).”

Hastings characterizes any comeback strategy aimed at filling in exiting studio content with similar programming as “very minimalist.”

“You look at [global nature series] “Our Planet,” that’s not filling in for anything else, that’s setting a bold new vision of what programming can be,” he said.

Sarandos said Netflix original interactive series “You vs. Wild” has been streamed by about 25 million households in its first 28 days of release. Pending releases include Klaus, Netflix’s first animated feature film from veteran animator Sergio Pablos, and “Green Eggs and Ham,” an Ellen DeGeneres-produced 13-episode animated series.

“It’s pushing storytelling forward, which I think we’re trying,” he said.

The longtime content executive contends most TV programming is largely interchangeable. Netflix’s focus, according to Sarandos, is original programming (such as India’s “Sacred Games,” and “Love Per Square Foot,”) targeting local audiences that can appeal globally as well.

“If you look at our Top 10 most-watched shows on Netflix, they’re all Netflix original brands,” he said, adding that only four TV series among the service’s Top 25 have at least one season available elsewhere.

“It’s hard to imagine a couple of years ago when Fox said, ‘sunset all of their second-window content on Netflix off of the service to focus on their own efforts,’ and we’ve seen how we’ve been doing since 2017, so we’re pretty happy about it,” Sarandos said.

So is Wall Street, which lifted Netflix shares nearly 3% in April 17 pre-market trading.

On Eve of Financials, Netflix Naysayers Out in Force

NEWS ANALYSIS — With Netflix reporting first-quarter fiscal results after the market close today, some pundits suggest the subscription streaming video behemoth has suddenly become vulnerable to a host of challenges — both real and imagined.

Disney is set to launch a branded SVOD service in November with content previously earmarked for Netflix, and WarnerMedia and NBC Universal are pulling back licensed programming (“The Office,” “Friends” and “Grey’s Anatomy”) as well for proprietary services.

As a result, scuttlebutt suggests Netflix is scrambling to fill the void.

“Just throwing tens of billions at developing more original TV series and movies may not be enough on its own to keep the company growing domestically at the rate needed to reach its goal of 90 million US subscribers,” Helen Back with research firm “Kill the Cable Bill” wrote in a post.

Separately, online pundit “The Entertainment Oracle” contends Netflix has a “Game of Thrones” problem that has nothing to do with the fact the ratings hit resides on rival streaming service HBO Now.

The argument being that the high profile fantasy series — currently airing/streaming its last season — continues to fuel old-school water cooler buzz through weekly episodic programming rather than subscribing to Netflix’s “batch” distribution model.

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‘They are losing that weekly buzz that has helped ‘Thrones’ rise to new [viewership] levels,” wrote The Oracle.

The pundit suggests that adhering to weekly programming has helped Amazon Prime Video and Hulu secure industry awards, while apparently ignoring Netflix’s binge/Emmy/Golden Globes success with “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “The Square,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Grace and Frankie” and “Bloodline,” among others.

“Netflix does have its big hits and its instant-conversation starters, but by remaining so steadfast in its “all-at-once model”, it’s hurting the long-term possibilities for shareholders and that’s expanding out into the marketplace,” wrote The Oracle.

What’s ignored is that HBO Now (with more than 5 million subs) remains tethered to Amazon Channels to drive sub growth while Netflix has grown domestic subs organically to the tune of 5.4 million net additions annually over the past five years.

Netflix is projected to top 90 million domestic subs by 2024.

From ‘Kill the Cable’ research

More importantly, driving that sub growth is original programming, according to Netflix management.

“I’d say the vast majority of the content that’s watched on Netflix are our original content brands,” CCO Ted Sarandos said on the Q4 fiscal webcast.

Sarandos added that ranking episodic programs by individual seasons on Netflix is “dominated primarily by our original content brands.”

In addition, unscripted programing now accounts for more than 50% of viewer hours in the genre on Netflix, according to CEO Reed Hastings.

Impressively, Netflix says domestic subscribers stream about 100 million hours of content each day, or 10% of the 1 billion hours of daily TV consumption nationwide.

Hastings said Netflix has withstood competitive threats in the past and would do as well going forward. The executive also said he would subscribe to Disney+ when it launches.

“What we have to do is not get distracted,” Hastings said on the Q4 call. “We’ve got a path ahead, everyone else in streaming is trying to find one.”

Moviefone Hires Former Rotten Tomatoes Editor to Reboot Brand

Moviefone, the 1990s-era movie ticket/recommendation telephone service owned by Helios and Matheson Analytics March 28 announced that former Rotten Tomatoes senior editor Grae Drake has assumed the role of “Ms. Moviefone” to serve as the brand’s personality.

The announcement comes as Moviefone launches a new initiative seeking to become a consumer destination for content, reviews and commentary for movies.

Grae Drake

Competition includes online movie ratings platform Rotten Tomatoes, which is owned and operated by NBC Universal subsidiary Fandango.

In a nod to the former “Mr. Moviefone” telephone character, Drake will provide “go-to” commentary on the entertainment industry, in addition to movie recommendations.

Drake will interview filmmakers, celebrities and appear at industry events to provide an inside look at the movies.

She will be responsible for producing and hosting a series of original video content on the Moviefone site. Drake will also oversee the evolution of existing video content, such as the “Unscripted” series, providing Moviefone with the flexibility to continue creating and growing its video library.

Developing dynamic video content will allow viewers to form a bond with Ms. Moviefone and have a more engaging experience with the brand.

“Having a female voice of authority about movies is really important. It’s making the change I want to see regarding representation and gender parity in film media, which is still overwhelmingly male,” Matt Atchity, GM of Moviefone (and former editor-in-chief at Rotten Tomatoes), said in a statement.

Drake is most well-known as a Rotten Tomatoes editor and film critic, which included guest appearances on NBC’s “Today Show”and ABC’s “20/20”and “World News Tonight.”

She is also the recipient of the 2017 Press Award from the International Cinematographers Guild. In this new role, Drake reunites with Atchity and will be working with Drew Taylor, recently promoted to managing editor at Moviefone.

“Ms. Moviefone is the perfect way to connect with moviegoers and strengthen our brand recognition,” said Ted Farnsworth, CEO of Helios and Matheson Analytics. “Moviefone has a bright future ahead, and I know Grae is the perfect person to help make our vision a reality.”

 

DOJ Antitrust Boss: ‘You Learn More From Losing’

Following legal rebuke at the lower federal court and subsequent appeals court level regarding efforts to block AT&T’s $84 billion acquisition of Time Warner, the Department of Justice’s Makan Delrahim, head of the agency’s antitrust unit, said more was learned in defeat than in winning the litigation.

Speaking March 20 at the American Communications Association’s confab in Washington, D.C., Delrahim said legal challenges to future corporate vertical mergers — such as Sprint’s pending merger with T-Mobile — were empowered following the AT&T/Time Warner challenge.

“There are many lessons to be learned from the U.S. v. AT&T,” Delrahim said, according to a recording released by the ACA and reported by Deadline.com. “Given the standard of review that we were facing, [the outcome] wasn’t a surprise. You learn more from losing than from winning.”

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Specifically, the executive contends future legal challenges by the DOJ will be based more on structural changes rather than behavior.

Delrahim said the government’s approval of Comcast’s $30 billion acquisition of NBC Universal in 2009 revolved around behavior/consent remedies the cable giant was beholden to follow for a number of years — including silent partnership in Hulu.

Similar regulatory approach to AT&T/Time Warner wouldn’t have been worth the compromise, according to Delrahim.

“The AT&T offer will expire in less than seven years,” he said. “The new market structure [i.e. WarnerMedia] created by the transaction will remain indefinitely. If there’s harm that the arbitration offer is necessary to solve, then there’s likely to be harm in the future that will remain after the arbitration offer expires.”

Delrahim said the silver lining from the appeals court ruling was that some vertical mergers can be harmful to consumers — provided the government proves its case.

“The [appeals court] corrected many of the District Court’s misstatements and articulated a standard that is valuable,” he said.

Comcast Enabling X1 Subs to Vote on ‘World of Dance’ TV Show With Voice Remote

Comcast Cable March 15 announced it would enable Xfinity X1 subscribers to use their voice-controlled remote to cast “fan favorite” votes on NBC’s “World of Dance” reality competition show from March 17 through April 28.

Subs will be able to select their favorite dance act even if the ensemble has already been eliminated. The act tabulating the most votes at the end of the season will get the chance to join the “World of Dance Experience” on Jennifer Lopez’s “It’s My Party” summer concert tour.

The mid-show marketing campaign involving viewer participation is a departure for “World of Dance,” where acts are voted on by celebrity judges Lopez, Ne-Yo and Derek Hough.

Comcast said the software integration builds on previous interactive features incorporated on “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent” that enable viewers to vote for their favorite artists and acts, and with Fandango and Ticketmaster, which enable them to browse movie and concert tickets on the TV.

Comcast, which owns NBC and Fandango, last September partnered with Ticketmaster enabling X1 subs to search concert tour dates and purchase tickets on the TV using their remotes.

“X1 enables us to unveil new and innovative experiences that complement and elevate content across the platform and to add more value for customers by giving them more ways to interact with the events, entertainment, performers and brands they love,” Nancy Spears,  VP, strategy & execution, said in a statement at the time.

 

 

NBC Launching Ad-Supported News Streaming Service in May

NBC Universal in May is set to launch a free ad-supported streaming news service dubbed “NBC News Now.”

The service — announced last weekend at SXSW — will launch featuring eight hours of daily news (expanding to 24 hours), including content from E! News. It will be available across most streaming devices.

NBC is pursuing an AVOD strategy used by CBS (via CBSN) and ABC (“ABC News Live” via Roku Channel) to bolster slacking consumer demand for traditional broadcast TV news.

The network currently streams an abbreviated news format service on Snapchat, dubbed “Stay Tuned.”

NBC News Now would include original reporting as well as third-party sourced news, according to a March 10 blog post.

“We will be doing original work that will be specific for the streaming service, we will be drawing from the reporting that takes place across all the other NBC News properties,” Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC News, told a SXSW panel, according to Broadcasting & Cable, which first reported the story. “We will actually be reaching into other corners of NBC Universal, sports, you name it, for some of that content.”

Noah Oppenheim (r) at SXSW

 

Bob Greenblatt Named Chairman of WarnerMedia’s Entertainment Unit; Kevin Tsujihara’s Role Expanded

As expected, AT&T March 4 named former NBC Universal executive Bob Greenblatt chairman of WarnerMedia’s entertainment and over-the-top video businesses. Greenblatt reports to WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey.

Greenblatt, who left NBC Universal six months ago, joins the former Time Warner company following last week’s exits of HBO boss Richard Plepler and Turner’s David Levy.

Greenblatt oversees HBO, TNT, TBS, truTV, and the company’s over-the-top video business. Kevin Reilly remains in charge of Turner programming, in addition to spearheading WarnerMedia’s pending streaming video service.

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Meanwhile, longtime home entertainment executive Kevin Tsujihara remains chairman/CEO of Warner Bros., while adding responsibilities involving children and young adult viewers.

Specifically, Tsujihara will now also oversee Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang, Otter Media, Turner Classic Movies and WarnerMedia’s licensed consumer products.

CNN president Jeff Zucker adds the title chairman of WarnerMedia news and sports, while Gerhard Zeiler transitions from president of Turner International to chief revenue officer at WarnerMedia.

“We have done an amazing job establishing our brands as leaders in the hearts and minds of consumers,” Stankey said in a statement. “Adding Bob Greenblatt to the WarnerMedia family and expanding the leadership scope and responsibilities of Jeff, Kevin and Gerhard — who collectively have more than 80 years of global media experience and success — gives us the right management team to strategically position our leading portfolio of brands, world-class talent and rich library of intellectual property for future growth.”