One positive trend that has emerged during the pandemic, home entertainment studio executives say, is that consumers seem to be gaining a better understanding of the difference between transactional and subscription streaming and are realizing that not everything they might want to see is available on Netflix or the other big SVOD services.
“Because consumers are spending so much watching digital video at home, they are acutely aware of which titles are available on the various platforms,” says Jason Spivak, EVP of U.S. distribution at Sony Pictures Television Distribution.
“It has become clear that consumers sheltering at home not only have become increasingly engaged in our catalog offerings to keep entertained, but also have progressively grown to become more savvy in navigating the spectrum of formats,” says Hilary Hoffman, EVP of global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “As such, we have continued to invest and reward consumers to stay engaged in the category and have been working in lockstep with our digital and physical retail partners to ensure that we remain hyper-focused on delivering the broadest access and best possible in-home experience.”
“Consumers have become much more receptive to different price points,” adds Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s senior EVP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong. “They realize not everything’s on Netflix, and it’s worth it to them to pay a transactional amount for something they really want to watch. They really have embraced all the ways to consume digital video.”
That includes the physical disc. “We are encouraged by the resilience,” Spivak says. “When you think of the structural impediments, stores being closed, online ordering taking longer to fulfill — consumers who love the physical disc are persevering and that business is holding up quite well.”
Studios were fortunate that two of the biggest retail sellers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, Walmart and Target, were able to remain open throughout the pandemic because they also sell groceries and thus were deemed “essential” businesses. Alanna Powers, SVP of brand marketing, catalog, at Paramount Home Entertainment, says studio marketers have already met with Walmart to discuss fourth-quarter plans, with a focus on catalog.
“We went through a whole planning session with the Walmart team,” Powers says.
But the biggest lift to DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales, studio marketers say, comes from e-commerce sellers such as Amazon.
“We’ve seen quite a boom in e-commerce,” Powers says. “Initially we were unsure about the supply chain and how retail would react, but we kept all our new-to-Blu-ray titles on the calendar and saw a very positive response so we’ve continued to fill the slate with additional titles.”
Indeed, in addition to monthly waves of “Paramount Presents” releases, Paramount recently has come out with a 25th anniversary edition of the Alicia Silverstone comedy Clueless and 40th anniversary editions of horror classic Friday the 13th and John Travolta’s Urban Cowboy. Clueless and Friday the 13th also are available in limited edition steelbooks.
“We’re really leaning more into the collector’s market,” Powers says. “That’s where e-commerce really shines.”
It’s not just movies, either. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment enjoyed a banner spring with TV product, says Jeff Brown, EVP and GM, Television. “The second quarter was a panacea for transactional television content, physical as well as digital,” Brown says. “Our business grew over 40%, year on year. And if you exclude ‘Game of Thrones,’ which had an extraordinary performance last year with the final season broadcast and transactional release, our business nearly doubled. This really shows peoples’ appetite for television content, and while obviously stay-at-home behavior contributed to this, there were several other opportunities we were able to capitalize on.”
One was the fact that Warner now distributes TV content from HBO and Turner digitally as well as physically.
Another is a strong slate of product, released just in time for viewers to enjoy while encouraged by state and local governments to stay in their homes. “Our top drivers included ‘Rick and Morty,’ ‘Friends’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ as well as the animated original movie titles Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, which was probably our best-performing DC animated movie since Batman: The Killing Joke and Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge,” Brown says.
The third factor behind Warner’s strong TV quarter is a series of “Entertaining the World” promotions, Brown says, with a menu of promotional actions for digital retailers such as Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and FandangoNow.
“We promoted shows such as ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ ‘Two and a Half Men,’ ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire,’ and Hanna-Barbera and DC animated classics,” Brown says. “We were able to look at the total Warner-HBO-Turner TV and animation library and come up with compelling retail programs, and we coordinated this on a semi-monthly ‘wave’ basis to provide an abundance of promoted content to retailers in a timely manner.”
Editor’s Note: This is part three in a four-part series, “Restocking the Shelves: With No Theatrical Releases, Studio Home Entertainment Marketers are Getting Creative.” The complete story will be available in the July print and digital editions of ‘Media Play News.’
Viacom International Media Networks and Virgin Media Oct. 7 announced an expanded content distribution agreement for the United Kingdom and Ireland.
In addition to live, on-demand and streaming rights to MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Paramount Network, the new deal includes access to Pluto TV — the $340 million ad-supported VOD service Viacom acquired earlier this year.
The Pluto brands includes Pluto TV Drama, Pluto TV Romance and Pluto TV Crime, among 60 channels.
“This renewed and broadened partnership with Virgin Media speaks to the strength of our brands and content, as well as our investment in new streaming apps, which will allow Virgin Media customers to access their favorite Viacom content in new ways,” Arran Tindall, SVP, commercial and content distribution, for Viacom International Media Networks, said in a statement.
The deal also includes first-time Virgin access to Viacom’s U.K. apps My5 (Channel 5, including content from A+E and PBS America)) and MTV Play.
The pact includes on-demand access to U.K. reality series “Geordie Shore,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Paw Patrol,” among others.
“This is great news for our customers who can continue to enjoy Viacom’s diverse range of channels and content,” David Bouchier, chief digital entertainment officer at Virgin Media, said. “The inclusion of three brand new apps will give our customers greater flexibility to watch their favorite shows at a time that suits them.”
Paramount Home Entertainment will release Yellowstone: Season Two on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 5.
From writer-director Taylor Sheridan, ”Yellowstone” is a family drama about a multi-generational family that controls the largest contiguous ranch in the U.S. In Season two, John (Kevin Costner), Kayce (Luke Grimes) and the rest of the clan battle constant encroachment from ruthless enemies on all sides.
The three-disc Blu-ray and four-disc DVD sets include all 10 hour-long episodes from the second season, plus more than three hours of additional content.
Extras include deleted scenes, a “Behind the Story” featurette for each episode, “Stories From the Bunkhouse” for each episode, and featurettes “Inside Yellowstone: Season 2,” “Costner on Yellowstone: Season 2,” “Working the Yellowstone: Fight Choreography,” “Only Devils Left — Making Yellowstone: Season 2” and “Yellowstone Tintype Photography Behind the Scenes.”
The show has been renewed for a third season on Paramount Network. The season two finale airs Aug. 28.
Season one of writer-director Taylor Sheridan’s family drama “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Dec. 4 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.
The hit Paramount Network series chronicles the Dutton family, led by John Dutton (Costner), who controls the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States. The cast also includes Wes Bentley, Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Danny Huston, Gil Birmingham, Brecken Merrill and Jefferson White.
The disc versions include more than 80 minutes of bonus materials, including new interviews with Costner and Sheridan.
Look for Viacom and its key brands – Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET – to go increasingly mobile in the United States.
Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom confab in San Francisco, CEO Bob Bakish said recently announced moves partnering with Spain’s Telefónica making Viacom’s brands available on the telecom’s Movistar Play platform, underscored a need to “export” that strategy in the United States.
“We’re also in a very interesting conversation here in the U.S. right now about bringing our brands to mobile, and I believe that will happen in 2018,” Bakish said.
The executive said the year revolves around growing margins in established businesses, new distribution channels as well as improving synergies among internal brands through consumer products, live-events and incremental studio opportunities.
“We see a clear path toward top-line growth,” Bakish said, adding he expects Paramount growth to materialize in 2019.
The executive said Paramount is transforming from an underleveraged “fiscal mess” in 2016 that “ate over” $1 billion in cash, to a unit with a content library growing more than $300 million in value annually.
Half the studio’s release slate will be franchise sequels, with the remaining branded around Nickelodeon.
Viacom in January rolled of the Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV), an ad-supported service distributing original (“Waco” miniseries, starring Taylor Kitsch as cult leader David Koresh) and catalog content.
Future original series include, “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner; “American Woman,” a single-camera comedy set in the 1970s amid the sexual revolution and the rise of feminism, starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari; and “Heathers” an hour-long pitch-black comedy anthology set in the present day, based on the 1988 cult classic film of the same name.
“[Paramount] is an iconic brand, known all around the world. It’s on a clear path to return to profitability,” Bakish said.