‘Breaking Big’ Due on DVD, ‘Jamestown’ Streaming in November from PBS Distribution

“Breaking Big,” a documentary series that explores the unexpected journey to success of some of the world’s most influential artists, innovators, political leaders, athletes, authors and entrepreneurs, will be available on DVD Nov. 13 from PBS Distribution while season two of the series “Jamestown” will premiere on PBS Masterpiece Prime video and PBS Passport streaming services Nov. 21.

The epic drama “Jamestown,” from the makers of Downton Abbey and written by Bill Gallagher (Lark Rise to Candleford, The Paradise), follows the lives of three women who leave their dark pasts behind in England to start new lives on the edge of the Virginian wilderness in the 17th century colony of Jamestown. Season two takes viewers back to a thriving colony, where the tobacco plantations are starting to provide the wealth they promised and trade booms, but the status quo will soon be disrupted by births, deaths and broken marriages.

A new episode of “Jamestown” will be available each Monday on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video channel, available to Prime members for $5.99/month after a seven-day free trial, and in PBS Passport, a member benefit for PBS station donors that offers extended access to public TV programming.

The Nov. 13 two-disc “Breaking Big” release ($34.99) features 12, 30-minute episodes. Produced by OZY Studios and hosted by Carlos Watson, the series looks at the twists and turns on the road to thriving careers for some notable figures in various fields. It features 12 talented men and women, from country music superstar Jason Aldean and former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, to Oscar-winning director Lee Daniels and chef and restaurateur Eddie Huang. All overcame obstacles and long odds. The program includes analysis from eminent social scientists, marketing experts, film critics, book editors and others to help viewers understand their risk-taking and bold moves.

Cinedigm Will Launch Chinese Content Channel Bambu in First Quarter 2019

Cinedigm announced it will launch Bambu, its Chinese content entertainment channel, in the first quarter of 2019, unveiling the channel’s logo.

Bambu will be available as both a free, ad-supported service and an ad-free subscription-based service providing content for $3.99 a month.

“While the network will appeal to Americans of all ages, Bambu’s primary focus is on Gen Z viewers ages 16-24, and Millennial viewers ages 25-35,” according to the Cinedigm announcement. “These ‘digital natives’ have been exposed to global culture from an early age, and hunger to stay at the forefront to discover the latest global trends — as evidenced by the unparalleled rise of Anime and K-Pop in North America in recent years.”

These viewers represent more than 27 percent of the U.S. population, according to Cinedigm, and Bambu aims to provide Chinese entertainment previously unavailable to American audiences.

Curated offerings will span beyond martial arts and period epics to contemporary action epics, serial dramas, romantic comedies, sci-fi, horror, fantasy adventure sagas, music and reality series, and educational programming ranging from instructional Chinese language courses to cultural cooking shows, according to Cinedigm.

The company billed the site as “the only complete Chinese entertainment platform in the United States.”

Cinedigm will provide content for Bambu from licensor partners, as well as from Chinese licensors and distributors, according to the announcement. Content will potentially include hundreds of hours of first-run television programs, made available through Cinedigm’s partnership with state-run broadcaster Central China Television and others, the company announced. Select titles include the bomb squad thriller Shock Wave, starring Andy Lau; the sci-fi epic Kung Fu Traveler; and Donnie Yen and Chow Yun-Fat in the 2016 fable The Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven’s Palace. Bambu will also feature such series as the most watched show in Chinese TV history “Journey to the West”; “Nirvana in Fire”; the thriller “Lost in Translation”; the popular food/cooking documentary series “A Bite of China”; the fantasy crime show “The Four”; and new shows such as “The Advisors Alliance” and “Diamond Lover.”

“Young Americans are incredibly culturally savvy, and proudly receptive to the latest global trends,” said Erick Opeka, Cinedigm’s president of digital networks, in a statement. “Bambu allows these modern tastemakers to stay at the cultural forefront, introducing them to a roster of new series and up-and-coming artists that they can discover and show their friends. It also presents tremendous potential for substantial marketing opportunities, opening up China’s prolific and profitable content industry to a massive American audience. This is phase one in what we envision as a fruitful partnership between the United States and China, enriching both cultures by providing them with the absolute best in Chinese and American entertainment, respectively.”

“Bambu is another very important step in our bilateral content distribution strategy for China and North America,” said Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group, in a statement. “We have made tremendous progress in that regard over the last year with the key Bison, Starrise and Youku agreements, as well as many other important content and distribution deals with key Chinese media companies either announced or in final stages. Bambu is the perfect vehicle to expose undiscovered quality film and TV content to North American audiences and provide vital feedback to Chinese producers, which should help them create Chinese content with the potential to be much more successful abroad.”

Bambu is “an important vehicle to provide immediate and invaluable” audience feedback to Chinese producers working to produce films and television for a global audience, according to Cinedigm, and the consumer data should help better inform the development process in China about the categories of entertainment content, stories and characters that appeal most to an American and eventually a global audience.

Vizio Adds Features to Smart TV Experience

Vizio announced the rollout of new features to its smart TV experience, SmartCast Home, adding such entertainment apps as CBS All Access and allowing users to personalize their SmartCast Home experience via the app sorting feature.

The latest iteration of SmartCast Home is rolling out via free cloud-based updates to Vizio SmartCast 4K Ultra HD TVs and displays, as well as select HD and Full HD models.

“Vizio continues to fulfill consumer demands by way of free, rolling cloud-based updates that enable new, intuitive smart TV features via Vizio SmartCast,” said Vizio chief technology officer Bill Baxter in a statement. “With versatility, simplicity and value in mind, Vizio SmartCast is an ever-evolving entertainment solution. Everyday users, cord-cutters and smart home enthusiasts alike are able to continuously receive new features, the latest apps and other beneficial enhancements that help ensure they are getting the most out of their viewing experience.”

With the update, Vizio SmartCast Home users can sort and position their favorite and most frequented apps on the home screen. To change the order of apps within the app row at the bottom of the SmartCast Home screen, users scroll to the end of the app row and select the “Sort App Row” icon. From there, they will be prompted with on-screen cues that guide them through the process of highlighting and selecting various apps to customize their position.

New to Vizio SmartCast Home is the CBS All Access app, offering such programs as “NCIS,” “The Young and the Restless” and “Madam Secretary”; exclusive original series such as “Star Trek: Discovery” and “The Good Fight”; and streaming of local live broadcasts. YouTube TV — which allows SmartCast users to watch and record live TV from more than 60 networks — Baeble and Toon Goggles, among other apps, have also been added to the SmartCast lineup.

With the latest updates, the Vizio WatchFree free streaming service is now also included in the App Row.

SmartCast also now offers dedicated TV and Movie Detail pages highlighting the selected title’s trailer and synopsis, along with cast and director credits, running time, parental ratings, critic insights and more. The TV and Movie Detail pages will also soon allow users to browse seasons and episodes across multiple apps such as FandangoNow and Hulu, and then view on their app of choice.

Cinedigm Partners With Chinese Streaming Channel Youku to Exclusively Distribute 30 Original Feature Films in North America

Cinedigm has announced a partnership with Chinese streaming service Youku to distribute 30 original Chinese feature films in North America on all platforms including digital, DVD and Blu-ray, and OTT, with a primary focus on major streaming platforms and niche outlets.

The films will also be included in the recently announced China-focused OTT channel Bambu that Cinedigm is launching later this year.

The films, never before seen in the United States or Canada, represent a wide range of Chinese film styles including urban thrillers, relationship-driven films, sci-fi fantasy, horror and costume fantasy, according to Cinedigm.

“We are excited to bring these innovative original films to the broad U.S. population in North America that are seeking new cutting-edge film productions from around the world,” said Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group. “These films offer a unique and exclusive viewing opportunity for fans of new production styles and emerging Asian creative talent that is quickly evolving into an important film genre. Cinedigm is committed to help nurture this growing production style and feel the broadening distribution and availability of Youku’s content in mainstream US streaming outlets will be an important catalyst. We are honored with the opportunity provided by Youku to bring these films to hungry outlets throughout the North American distribution ecosystem.”

“Youku is excited to enter this new relationship with Cinedigm to broaden our distribution into America,” said Doria Dai, Youku Pictures producer. “We continue to make compelling original movies and TV series and expect this new cooperation agreement will allow Youku to build an audience of fans in the high-profile American Market.”

The Youku deal is the latest development in Cinedigm’s strategy to forge relationships with China’s leading content producers and distributors. Other deals that Cinedigm is finalizing include licensing current hit TV shows and movies from CITVC, the international licensing arm of CCTV, China’s largest broadcaster; agreements with Shanghai Media Group, the largest regional producer and broadcaster in China; and a relationship with CICC (China Intercontinental Communication Center), according to Cinedigm.

Matt Groening’s ‘Disenchantment’ to Continue on Netflix Through 2021

Matt Groening’s adult animated comedy fantasy series “Disenchantment” has been renewed through 2021 by Netflix.

The first installment of the series premiered on the streaming service in August of 2018. New episodes of season one will premiere in 2019. An additional 20 episodes have been ordered and will roll out in 2020 and 2021, according to Netflix.

“We’re excited to continue this epic journey with Netflix,” said creator and executive producer Groening (“Futurama,” “The Simpsons”) in a statement. “Stay tuned for more cranked-up suspense, infuriating plot twists, and beloved characters getting knocked off.”

“Disenchantment” takes place in the crumbling medieval kingdom of Dreamland and follows the misadventures of hard-drinking young princess Bean, her feisty elf companion Elfo and her personal demon Luci. Along the way, the oddball trio encounters ogres, sprites, harpies, imps, trolls, walruses and lots of human fools.

The series features the voice talents of Abbi Jacobson (Bean), Nat Faxon (Elfo) and Eric Andre (Luci), along with John DiMaggio, Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, David Herman, Matt Berry, Jeny Batten, Rich Fulcher, Noel Fielding and Lucy Montgomery.

Report: Apple to Offer Original Programming Free to Apple Device Owners

Apple plans to give away its original programming for free to Apple device owners, according to a report from CNBC referencing anonymous sources.

Apple’s new digital video service will include Apple-owned content, which will be free to Apple device owners, and subscription “channels” from legacy media companies, such as online-only services from HBO and Starz, according to the CNBC report.

Owners of Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, will find the still-in-the-works service in the pre-installed “TV” application, according to the CNBC sources.

Apple plans to debut the service early next year, according to the CNBC sources.

Report: Netflix Planning Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Feature for TV Episodes, Movies

Netflix is developing a slate of specials that will let viewers choose the direction of the story in a TV episode or movie, according to a report from Bloomberg citing “people familiar with the matter.”

The company plans to release the first choose-your-own-adventure-type program before the end of the year, according to Bloomberg.

Viewers will get to pick storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of the anthology series “Black Mirror,” Bloomberg reported.

Netflix has released some choose-your-own-adventure episodes of animated programs for kids, according to Bloomberg.

Netflix Picks Up Rights to Dwayne Johnson Film About John Henry

Netflix has secured the rights to a feature currently titled John Henry and The Statesmen to be directed by Jake Kasdan and star Dwayne Johnson in a follow up to their teaming on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

The film is an original pitch from writer Tom Wheeler (The Lego Ninjago Movie) and developed with Hiram Garcia, president of production, Seven Bucks Productions.

Johnson will serve as a producer on the film in addition to starring as John Henry and leading an ensemble cast of the most popular figures from folklore and legend from all around the world, according to a Netflix release.

“Netflix is the perfect partner and platform for us to continue entertaining our global audience in a disruptive way,” said Johnson in a statement. “These diverse characters speak to a legacy of storytelling that is more relevant than ever and span across a worldwide audience regardless of age, gender, race or geography.”

“Dwayne is a global superstar, inarguably one of the most popular actors in the world,” said Scott Stuber, head of Netflix’s film group, in a statement. “He and Jake are a tremendous duo with a proven track record of entertaining audiences worldwide. This is a story with universal appeal and we can’t wait to bring these characters to families around the globe.”

Kasdan will also produce alongside Seven Bucks Productions’ Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia and Beau Flynn of FlynnPictureCo.

“We have been committed to an international storytelling model for more than a decade,” said Dany Garcia in a statement. “Our partnership with Netflix is giving us an incredible opportunity to reach a broad and diverse audience in the most accessible and intimate manner. We are absolutely thrilled with the opportunity.”

“Developing an expansive universe of characters that present a needle-moving premise while entertaining our domestic and international audiences, is priority for Seven Bucks Productions,” Hiram Garcia added in a statement. “Tom’s brilliant concept aligned perfectly with our company’s creative sensibilities. We are ecstatic to develop this shared universe populated by a vast library of American and international folk heroes. The possibilities are limitless.”

“Over the past decade, FlynnPictureCo. and Seven Bucks Productions have been focused on creating global event feature films to entertain the worldwide audience, and we have cultivated a direct relationship with our fans in the US and overseas,” said Flynn in a statement. “So, to be able to partner with Netflix and utilize their immediate reach to 190 countries is a game-changing opportunity for us to develop a brand-new franchise in John Henry and The Statesmen.

Seven Bucks Productions and FlynnPictureCo. most recently wrapped Johnson’s Jungle Cruise for Disney. Johnson and Seven Bucks are currently filming Universal’s Hobbs and Shaw in London. Kasdan is in pre-production on a sequel to Jumanji, which Sony will release in December 2019. Wheeler is currently show running the Netflix original series Cursed, based on a book he authored, illustrated by Frank Miller.

Seven Bucks Productions was co-founded by Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia and creates original content for television, film, emerging technologies and digital networks. Its productions have included Disney’s Jungle Cruise, Universal’s Hobbs and Shaw, Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Legendary’s Skyscraper, New Line’s Rampage, Universal’s Red Notice and Warner Bros. The King. The company’s original television programming includes HBO’s “Ballers,” NBC’s “The Titan Games,” BET’s “Finding Justice,” Paramount Network’s “Rock the Troops” and HBO Documentary Films’ “Rock and a Hard Place.”

Hulu and Discovery Ink New Distribution Agreement

Discovery and Hulu have announced a distribution agreement that will extend Discovery’s portfolio brands to Hulu’s on-demand and live TV subscription streaming services.

The multi-year agreement increases Hulu’s offering of top Discovery programming to nearly 4,000 episodes of popular shows, including “Deadliest Catch,” “MythBusters,” “Say Yes to the Dress,” “Naked and Afraid,” “Property Brothers,” “Gold Rush,” “Street Outlaws,” “Chopped,” “Chopped Jr.,” “Fixer Upper,” “House Hunters” and “House Hunters International,” available outside of Discovery’s networks exclusively to Hulu across all of its subscription plans.

The deal will also bring five additional Discovery networks, including Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Motor Trend, the rebranded Velocity network and Animal Planet, to Hulu’s live television plan, Hulu With Live TV. The networks join HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel, which have been available on the service since its launch through a previous agreement with Scripps Networks Interactive, now owned by Discovery. The five additional channels will be available to stream live beginning in December.

“At Discovery, we are committed to bringing our portfolio of high-quality, safe family friendly brands and content to viewers across every screen, service and device around the world,” said Eric Phillips, president of affiliate distribution at Discovery, in a statement.  “Our new agreement with Hulu affirms the strength of our brands and their value to viewers in a marketplace with an increasing array of options.”

“As the only streaming service offering a complete television experience, Hulu continues to strike strategic, efficient deals with top brands that bring extraordinary value to all of our subscribers,” said Lisa Holme, VP of content acquisition, and Reagan Feeney, VP of network partnerships, at Hulu in a statement. “Discovery’s brand is synonymous with high-quality unscripted entertainment that TV fans love, which is why we are excited to bring their entire portfolio to our platform, across all of our subscription plans.”

Concurrent with the Discovery partnership, Hulu reached a licensing agreement with OWN — which is part of the Discovery Networks family — to bring four of the network’s top-rated scripted series exclusively to Hulu. All past episodes of Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and the Have Nots,” “If Loving You is Wrong,” “The Paynes” and “Love Thy Neighbor” are now available to stream for the first time, only on Hulu. They join the complete library of OWN series “Queen Sugar” from Ava DuVernay and Warner Horizon.

Research: OTT Cancellation Rate 18% in U.S.

The rate of cancellations for OTT video services among U.S. broadband households has held steady over the past three years at approximately 18%, according to research from Parks Associates.

OTT Churn & Cancellation Rates (PRNewsfoto/Parks Associates)

The average subscription length for OTT video services is 30 months overall, although the three top services in the market — Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu — have the most stability, while churn rates for other services tend to be more volatile, according to Parks.

“With OTT service penetration starting to plateau at around 65% adoption among U.S. broadband households, the OTT video market is reaching a level of saturation for the services currently available to consumers,” said Parks research analyst Hunter Sappington in a statement. “In an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace where subscriber acquisition costs are high, this plateau highlights the need for services to focus on retention rather than solely acquisition. Successful services can encourage retention in several ways, such as community building, continuously offering new and fresh content, and improving their user experience.”

More than 85% of U.S. millennials subscribe to at least one OTT video service, and by 2022, more than 265 million households worldwide will have more than 400 million OTT video service subscriptions, according to Parks.

Parks will examine subscriber churn in the OTT video service landscape in the industry webcast “OTT Churn and Retention: Increasing Lifetime Subscriber Value” Sept. 6, 11 a.m. CT. The webcast is sponsored by Swrve.