‘black-ish’ Creator Kenya Barris Signs Deal With Netflix

Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated writer and producer Kenya Barris has entered into a multi-year overall deal to produce new series exclusively at Netflix.

Under the deal, Barris will write and executive produce all projects through his production company, Khalabo Ink Society.

Barris is the creator of ABC’s Peabody award-winning comedy series “black-ish” and its spin-off series “Grown-ish,” as well as the writer of last summer’s comedy feature Girls Trip.

“Barris has continually demonstrated his ability to tell stories about the Black experience that resonate with all audiences,” read a Netflix release. “With an innate sense for what is funny, truthful and timely, Barris will continue to create stories that reflect culture through an urban, youth and female focused lens.”

“Kenya Barris is one of our great modern storytellers,” said Cindy Holland, VP, original content at Netflix, in a statement. “Kenya uses his voice to make audiences more aware of the world around them, while simultaneously making them laugh. His honesty, comedic brilliance and singular point of view, combined with the creative freedom he will enjoy at Netflix, promises to create powerful new stories for all our members around the world.”

“When my agents reached out to me about this little garage start-up called Netflix, I wasn’t sure what to think,” said Barris in a statement. “But after I talked to Ted and Cindy, I started to believe that maybe this mom-and-pop shop with only 130 million subscribers might just be something… so I decided to take a swing… a leap of faith if you will, and take a chance with the new kids on the block.”

Barris was awarded the Humanitas Prize in 2017 as well as NAACP Image Awards in 2016 and 2017 for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and a show win for “Outstanding Comedy Series” for the fourth year in a row. In 2018 Barris premiered the spinoff series, “Grown-ish,” starring Yara Shahidi for Freeform. As a writer, Barris has worked on several television shows, including CBS’s “Listen Up”, The CW’s “The Game” and “Girlfriends,” and Fox’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.” He has also sold a number of pilots, including “America’s Next Top Model,” which he co-created and is currently shown in 49 countries with 21 internationally formatted offshoots, BET’s “The Start Up,” Hulu’s first half-hour comedy series “We Got Next,” and, most recently, the NBC half-hour comedy “Bright Futures.” On the feature side, in addition to writing Girls Trip, he is credited as co-writer for Barbershop 3: The Next Cut. His upcoming feature titles include Son of ShaftComing to America 2, and an animated film based on the songs of Bob Marley.

Study: Stolen Logins for OTT Services Proliferate on Dark Web

Hundreds of stolen login details for popular OTT services are available every month on the dark web for an average of only $8.81, according to research from digital platform security firm Irdeto.

Dark web marketplaces offer credentials for a range of pay TV and VOD OTT services, meaning legitimate subscribers could have had their accounts compromised and used illegally for a small one-off fee, according to Irdeto. Consumers should be vigilant of any unusual or unfamiliar activity on their account, changing their password regularly, according the company.

“Content theft by pirates has become a full-fledged criminal enterprise, with some providing illegal subscriptions in an attempt to compete with established pay TV operators,” said Mark Mulready, VP, Cybersecurity Services, Irdeto, in a statement.  “Content owners, rights holders, technology and security partners and law enforcement agencies are working hard to combat the threat of piracy. However, consumers must also be vigilant to avoid the risks they may be subject to from illegal content.

“Consumers must think about where they access their content from and ensure that any streaming or downloading is done from legitimate sources. They must also remember that if they use the same password for their OTT services as they do for a number of other online accounts, they could also be opening themselves up to a wider array of exploitative threats.”

The Irdeto Global Consumer Piracy Threat Report looks at pay TV credential availability on the dark web, global piracy hotspots and the market in illicit streaming devices. Other key findings from the report include:

  • In one month (April 2018), Irdeto discovered 854 listings of OTT credentials from 69 unique sellers across more than 15 dark web marketplaces. These credentials were from 42 different OTT services including Netflix, HBO, DirecTV and Hulu.
  • Irdeto’s web analytics partner found an average of 74 million global visits per month to the top 10 live streaming sites in Q1 2018. Most traffic came from the United States (2.9 million average monthly visits), the UK (1.7 million average monthly visits) and Germany (1.5 million average monthly visits).
  • Pirates are using popular ecommerce sites to advertise illicit streaming devices, which are often advertised around major sporting events.

Summit Explores OTT’s Promise and Pitfalls

The opportunities and pitfalls of the over-the-top market were the leading subjects of the OTT & Video Distribution Summit taking place Aug. 2 in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Consumers are cutting the cord with their cable companies and moving to OTT because of its superior value, including better choice and lower cost.

“Consumers have basically said, ‘We’re paying too much. I don’t want to watch all those channels,’” said panelist Mickey Alpert, president and CEO, Merisco Solutions, and former EVP at Cablevision.

“Cable companies are literally the most hated companies in America,” said keynote speaker Jeff Binder, EVP, home and entertainment, T-Mobile U.S., because they are regional monopolies and don’t have to cater to customers.

In addition to OTT services peeling away video subscribers, another threat to cable is the coming 5G technology, which will be a “game-changing technology,” he said. Cable companies that have been able to lean on broadband fees, even as cord cutters have eschewed buying a video subscription, may find customers can get rid of broadband with 5G.

“There are changes around connectivity that are coming that are probably a bigger story in some ways I think than the story about how the content industry is changing,” Binder said.

“4G changed the way all of you use your phone; 5G is going to change the way all of us use our home as well as our phone,” he said.

For now, though, it’s the chance to get the content they want at a lower price that is drawing consumers to OTT services.

“Customers value choice and flexibility,” said panelist Kathy Payne, head of content acquisition management, Amazon Channels. “At Amazon, we’ve decided we’d like to offer channels a la carte.”

Amazon Channels aggregates such OTT subscription services as HBO, Showtime and Starz. There are more than 150 channels offered in the United States, Payne said, not to mention the hundreds available internationally.

“We’ve heard from customers loud and clear that they like the option to just buy channels a la carte,” she said. “It’s really easy to come in and pick what they want.”

In addition to a la carte there are bundled OTT services that are making a go of it, such as Philo, which started in colleges. “It’s a TV package that hasn’t really been available before. [It’s a service] without paying this huge amount for sports,” noted keynoter Andrew McCollum, Philo CEO.

There are also ad-supported services that offer programming to consumers for free. Roku Channel has aggregated some of those. Roku’s Seth Walters, VP, demand partnerships, called it “our sandbox for creating our most premium ad-supported service on Roku.”

Making a go of it as a new OTT service is a challenge. The number of domestic OTT services has reached more than 200, with the three top players dominating, noted Brett Sappington, senior director of research, Parks Associates.

“It’s Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and everybody else,” he said, adding there is a second tier of services, such as HBO, Showtime, Starz and CBS, that range from 1 million to 5 million subscribers.

A smaller service must differentiate itself and appeal to a niche, rather than try to compete with the big pocketed broad services offered by Netflix and others, he said.

“If you cannot specifically identify who your customers are then you’re probably not going to be successful,” he said.

Offering exclusive or new content helps, as consumers rank new release or original content as most important, according to Parks research.

Many OTT services overlook marketing, and that’s a mistake, Sappington said. Startups “don’t realize the marketing costs involved,” he said.

He praised the marketing efforts of independent film streaming service Fandor, mentioned in a panel at the summit. Panelist Felice Oper, COO of Fandor, said they had sold 290,000 subscriptions through a Costco bundle with subscription theater ticket service MoviePass in just two and a half months.

“It was a very successful transaction,” Oper said. “We’re still working with Costco.”

Keynoter Darcy Antonellis, of Amdocs-owned Vubiquity, talked about the international reach of the OTT business and the services her company supplies it, noting her team is often on a plane.

“We all have to be thinking global,” she said.

“It’s all about understanding where the audiences are,” she added. “It’s an on-demand world, but it has to be in a form and a language for a particular culture.”

She offered an anecdote about a viewing spike at 3 p.m. that they found involved parents waiting for their kids to get out of school. She said the industry must start to understand how to service consumers when and where they need entertainment.

A prominent woman in the industry, she also addressed the dearth of women in the entertainment and technology business. Having mentored girls 8-13, she noticed, “You could almost set your watch, because of peer pressure, when they were gonna shut off STEM [science, technology, engineering and math].”

“It’s a real challenge for our country,” she said. “You don’t want any room as smart as one brain, and you don’t want any room as smart as a collection of similar brains.”

Byron Allen: Digital Revolution Evangelist

Media mogul Byron Allen has set his sights high.

Byron Allen greets the crowd at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit Aug. 2.

“I want to be the Rockefeller of the digital revolution,” he told the audience Aug. 2 at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Just as John D. Rockefeller reached the pinnacle of success with oil in the Industrial Revolution, Allen plans to succeed with content in the digital revolution.

The OTT market is “in its infancy,” he said, and he is laying the groundwork to be a large player when it matures. The comedian-turned-CEO is positioning his company, Entertainment Studios, to be “Netflix on steroids,” Allen said.

In addition to a high-profile acquisition of The Weather Channel in March, Allen continues to create a series of channels on cable and satellite (Cars.TV, Comedy.TV, Pets.TV, etc.) to build his empire.

“I started buying all the premium .TVs,” he said. “I took all the beach front .TV real estate while everyone was focused on .com.”

He offered several anecdotes about hustling to build his company. For instance, he said he bought an old court set for $1 to use on JusticeCentral.TV by pointing out to the studio that it would cost thousands to tear it down.

One of the next things on his plate is Sports.TV, which will offer international games.

“The only reason why television is alive is because you have to go behind a paywall to get sports,” Allen said, adding “the true religion of the world is sports.”

Acknowledging his humble beginnings as the son of a teenaged mom in Detroit, Allen said, “I am the epitome of why America is so wonderful.”

He pointed out the opportunities are better than ever for the entertainment entrepreneur.

“[Fox mogul] Rupert Murdoch spent most of his career chasing global distribution,” he said. “With OTT, you have it at your fingertips.”

RLJE’s Johnson Tells Entertainment Industry to Embrace Technology and Consumer Choice

Fresh off the news of AMC Networks buying a majority interest in his company RLJ Entertainment, BET founder Bob Johnson exhorted the audience at an Aug. 2 OTT conference to embrace change.

“You can’t stop progress, and you can’t stop the freedom of individual choice,” he said at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Entertainment companies must anticipate the future and learn their core business, which is producing and delivering good content.

“If you don’t produce compelling content — make consumers want to vote with their dollars — you’re going to lose out,” he said, adding “the consumer is the programmer.”

It’s about knowing what business you are in.

“Had the railroad guys been smart, they’d have been in the passenger business and started the airlines,” he said.

OTT channels such as RLJ’s Urban Movie Channel and Acorn TV are capitalizing on consumer targeting.

UMC offers “compelling content for an audience who had never had that opportunity.” It is not beholden to advertisers or cable programmers that might object to certain content.

“The gatekeepers have been torn down,” he said.

Acorn TV is for people “who love and just adore” British content. Owning 65% of the Agatha Christie library gives the channel a leg up in that market.

The future of the cable industry is threatened unless it adapts.

“Cable always from the beginning was a retransmission device of other people’s content,” Johnson said, adding “as long as cable can provide internet service it’s got a role to play.”

But he said the future of content distribution is a la carte, not bundles that include channels consumers don’t want to pay for.

“The industry in my opinion has to find a new model and that model is a la carte,” he said.

LAES: OTT About Change, Speakers Say

While there are many forms of over the top, or OTT, distribution, the term OTT is ultimately a “signifier for change” in the entertainment marketplace, said Erick Opeka, EVP of digital networks at Cinedigm July 17 at the OTT Channels Conference. The conference, which Opeka chaired, took place during the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Speakers on the panel, “OTT 2022: Prognosticating the Future,” discussed the varied landscape for OTT players, from paid subscription to free ad-supported distribution, and the dominance of goliaths such as Netflix.

Panelists speculated about where Netflix would be in the next five years.

“They will look much bigger,” said Pluto TV’s Jeff Shultz. “It will be much harder for anyone to catch them given the lead they have created.”

Neil Davis of Ucast TV speculated that Netflix would be acquired by Apple, and Roku’s Randy Ahn quipped that it would be owned by Roku.

Meanwhile, National Research Group’s Jeff Hall said it would be continuing to expand internationally.

Many panelists noted the many opportunities for international growth of OTT.

Content on Indian knitting patterns can find an audience in India, Hall noted.

“Listen to the consumer,” he said.

Panelists also discussed ways to compete in a market dominated by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and other giants.

“It’s really challenging for an independent to find a place,” Davis said.

Content discovery is key, noted Ahn.

“We make it easy for publishers to build channels,” he said, noting that the Roku Channel is “essentially like a supermarket endcap” for OTT distribution, making it easier for consumers to use and discover OTT content.

Having a strong brand can also be a help “if the brand is important enough,” Shultz said.

HBO’s online service “has a chance to be a Netflix-like brand,” Hall said.

Panelists also addressed the impending Walt Disney Co. streaming service.

“I think they are going to have a harder time than I would like them to have,” Hall said, noting the service would have to expand beyond family programming.

Meanwhile, Ahn said Disney could “potentially redefine entertainment,” and Shultz, noting Disney’s valuable IP, wondered “at what expense it will come to Netflix.”

In another presentation, Tubi’s Adam Lewinson called his AVOD service “free Netflix” and noted it had accumulated 8,000 movies and series, using machine learning to help each piece of content find its audience.

Targeting a niche is also a way to find an OTT audience, noted Here Media’s Paul Colichman on another panel.

“Anyone who’s trying to compete with Netflix [with its wide appeal] should go home now,” he said.

Speakers agreed that OTT has put traditional TV on a path of decline.

IHS Markit research analyst Dan Cryan told the audience that 2016 was the peak of traditional TV.

“In five years, we won’t be talking over the top because it will all be over the top,” said Pluto TV’s Shultz.

Emerging Markets Streaming Service Iflix Reaches 15 Million Subscribers

iflix, a streaming and download entertainment service for emerging markets, announced it has reached more than 15 million subscribers and experienced 250% growth since January 2018.

iflix is available to consumers in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Maldives, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Cambodia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Tanzania and Uganda. It offers users unlimited access to thousands of TV shows, movies and other content including comedies, drama, K-drama, Turkish drama, Bollywood, Nollywood, cartoons, movies and live sports from Hollywood, the United Kingdom, Asia, the Middle East and Africa for a monthly fee.

“2018 is already a transformational year for iflix,” said iflix co-founder and group CEO Mark Britt in a statement. “We continue to be passionately obsessed with what emerging markets customers need and want. The huge growth we’ve seen across the business is a testament to that commitment. We have one goal and that is to make iflix ubiquitous across emerging markets. To achieve this, we will continue to learn and innovate to build global culture and find new audiences for extraordinary world class content.

The service is moving away “from the traditional Western SVOD model” to “culturally rich, engaging localized programming and features,” according to an iflix press release.

The service has seen growth in customer engagement, with content consumption doubling in the last five months for an overall 22.84 billion minutes (43,500 years) streamed since launch, according the iflix.

User data shows that local audiences have a strong preference for local content, according to the release. To cater to this demand, iflix has significantly increased its acquisition and commissioning of local content, with the aim of quadrupling its commissioning slate by 2019 with 12 original TV series, 30 feature movies and 75 short form films, the service announced.

iflix is beefing up resources for translation and subtitling, to help make its international content library more accessible to local audiences, the release noted.

In January this year, iflix announced a joint venture with Football Malaysia. The company has also added Bangladesh cricket, Formula E and 2018 World Cup Russia action, as well as music events.

The company has built a live hub with live streaming infrastructure and capabilities, enabling streaming of every World Cup match on its Kwesé-iflix service across Africa.

Netflix Announces New Series, Renewals at Anime Expo

Netflix announced two new anime series, the renewal of “Aggretsuko” for a second season, as well as dates and first look images for upcoming series as part of its panel at Anime Expo in Los Angeles.

New series and renewals include “Ultraman,” launching in spring 2019; “Kengan Ashure,” due in 2019; “Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle,” launching on July 18; “Dragon Pilot,” due Sept. 21; “Castlevania” season 2, premiering Oct. 26; and “Cannon Busters,” due April 1, 2019.

At the event, Netflix director of content for Japan and anime John Derderian moderated a panel featuring anime creators LeSean Thomas (“Cannon Busters”), Adi Shankar (“Castlevania”) and Shinji Higuchi (“Dragon Pilot”).

“As Netflix has grown around the world we have been astounded by the broad reach and great depth of anime fandom,” Derderian said of the upcoming projects, according to Netflix. “We are partnering with the best global creators to produce a diverse slate of shows that we hope will excite the boundless passion of anime fans and make Netflix a premier destination for this beloved art form.”

Netflix Partners with Salma Hayek’s Production Company on Mexican Series

Netflix’s latest original series from Mexico will be produced by Salma Hayek’s company Ventanarosa, Lemon Studios and Stearns Castle.

The series, “Monarca,” will begin production this fall and will launch globally in 2019. It stars Irene Azuela and Juan Manuel Bernal and will follow the world of wealthy Mexican elites riddled by corruption, scandal and violence.

“I’m extremely excited to partner with Netflix, and to be working with amazing Mexican talent in front of and behind the camera,” said Hayek in a statement. “We are proud to show Mexico as a vibrant, sophisticated and culturally rich nation, fighting to control its own destiny.”

“Mexico is a top priority for us in which to continue to develop series, and we look forward to bringing the best originals to the world through partnerships with key players such as Ventanarosa and Lemon Studios,” said Netflix’s Erik Barmack in a statement.

Hayek’s Ventanarosa Productions has produced such films and TV shows as Frida, which earned Hayek an Academy Award nomination, and “Ugly Betty.”

IHS Report: African TV and Online Video Markets Poised for Growth

The Sub-Saharan African TV and online video markets are both underdeveloped and, in the case of online video, at a very nascent stage of development, but recent data from IHS Markit points to strong growth.

Pay TV growth is closely linked with the state of the economy, and particularly with the disposable income of families, according to a report from IHS Markit. Between 2010 and 2017, gross domestic product per-capita across Sub-Saharan Africa increased 19.1%, while the per-capita disposable income rose by 25.5% during the same seven-year period. Consumer spending on goods and services — a crucial factor for pay TV growth — has increased by 20.3% over the same period, IHS found. The number of households in the Sub-Saharan African region grew 21.8% between 2010 and 2017, while TV households grew with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6% during the same period. Still, the growth of low-priced digital terrestrial television (DTT) services at the expense of incumbent DTT platforms has contributed to a significant decrease in the proportion of consumer entertainment spending.

Online video in Sub-Saharan Africa has had a “delayed and sluggish start” compared to the rest of the world, according to IHS, due to several limiting factors hindering both pay TV and online video, including a lack of infrastructure, relatively high access costs, volatile exchange rates, diversity of audiences in terms of language and stringent regulation. In 2017, there were just over 500,000 OTT subscriptions — excluding multiscreen services — across the region, including South Africa.

South Africa has the most subscriptions and the highest revenue in the region, according to IHS. Subscribers have doubled, growing from 3.6 million in 2010 to 7.1 million in 2017, while revenue grew with a CAGR of 15.2% during the same period. In 1986, South Africa was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to launch a pay TV service. It remains the most lucrative pay TV market in the region. It is also the most advanced in terms of technology, content offerings, business models and customer care. Still, the South African pay TV market is the least competitive, according to IHS. One pay TV operator, Naspers Multichoice, has dominated the sector for more than 30 years. Naspers’ satellite service, DStv, controls more than 93% of the market, in terms of both subscribers and revenue.