Paramount Ups Q3 Home Entertainment Revenue 35%

Paramount Home Entertainment Aug. 8 reported third-quarter (June 30) revenue of $161 million on sales of packaged media and digital content, which marked a 35% increase from revenue of $119 million in the previous-year period.

The tally — driven by the retail release of Bumblebee — was 6% more than theatrical revenue of $152 million.

While theatrical revenue reflected the strong box office performance of Rocketman ($185 million) and Pet Sematary ($54.7 million), it was significantly offset by performance of A Quiet Place in the prior-year quarter

Through nine months of the fiscal year, home entertainment revenue is up 6% at $493 million compared to $465 million in the last fiscal year.

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Home entertainment continues to lead Paramount’s theatrical box office year-to-date ($473 million) by more than 4%.

With parent Viacom recently acquiring ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV, Paramount has significantly increased licensing content to the service, in addition to third-party distributors.

License revenue increased nearly 29% to $521 million from $404 million last year driven by monetization of the library and growth in TV production. Through the fiscal year, license revenue has topped $1.05 billion.

Regardless, total studio operating income increased $41 million to $85 million — the 10th consecutive quarterly uptick.

“Paramount’s momentum continues, keeping us on track to deliver full year profitability,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.

 

Pluto TV Ups Viacom Programming Slate

Viacom-owned ad-supported online TV streaming service Pluto TV Aug. 6 unveiled a new slate of genre and “pop-up” channels rolling out throughout the month with content licensed from Viacom’s IP library.

Viacom, which owns and operates Paramount Pictures, acquired Los Angeles-based Pluto TV earlier this year for $340 million.

This marks the latest installment of Viacom channels for Pluto TV this year, featuring original programming from BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike and TV Land separate from the pay-TV ecosystem.

The new channels include a lineup of 150+ live, linear, curated channels and thousands of on-demand movies from studios, networks, publishers and digital media companies.

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Genre channels feature differentiated programming from Viacom’s brands that include music videos, comedy, drama, and reality. Pop-Up channels are themed around high-profile, live entertainment events showcasing programming from past years and previews of what’s to come.

Streaming channels include “MTV VMA,” “CMT Cheerleaders,” “Comedy Central Roast,” “TV Land Sitcoms,” “TV Land Drama,” “MTV Wild ‘N Out,” “MTV Ridiculousness,” “MTV The Challenge,” “MTV Cribs” and “Are You the One?”

“With this new slate of Viacom channels, Pluto TV continues to deliver on the promise of extending iconic Viacom brands and content to a growing streaming audience,” Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “We saw an incredible response to the Viacom channels we launched earlier this year and are excited to be able to expand the offering with even more programming and events including the revival of music videos on streaming television with the launch of the first three of many MTV-branded music video channels.”

 

Viacom’s Pluto TV Inks Deal with U.K.’s Channel 5

When Viacom acquired ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV for $340 million earlier this year, the corporate parent to Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon, had scant over-the-top video distribution.

Now, thanks to aggressive dealmaking, Pluto TV is expanding Viacom’s digital content reach globally.

The Los Angeles-based platform signed a distribution deal with Channel 5, the TV broadcaster in the United Kingdom owned by Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN).

Specifically, three branded channels — Pluto TV Drama, Pluto TV Food and Pluto TV Movies – are headed to Channel 5’s “My5” OTT platform — the latter distributed through Apple TV, YouView, Freeview and related devices.

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“Collaborating with a well-established VOD platform like My5 allows us to pursue our ongoing goal to further enhance Pluto TV’s visibility in the U.K.,”  Olivier Jollet, Pluto’s managing director in Europe, said in a statement. “The three curated Pluto TV channels not only add to My5’s existing line-up, but also enable the My5 audience to experience a small portion of Pluto TV’s diverse programming.”

Pluto has expanded distribution (and Viacom content) through recent deals involving Comcast Cable’s X1 platform, Cox Contour, CNN, Cinedigm and BBC Studios.

“This is a global opportunity,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said earlier this year. “It’s going to accelerate our strategy on multiple dimensions. We see a very material opportunity there.”

Indeed, Oli Thomas, VP of digital at VIMN in the U.K., Northern and Eastern Europe, said the MY5 arrangement elevates the U.K. broadcaster’s streamer’s diversity in OTT content.

“The Pluto TV channels further enhance our proposition in the U.K.,” he said. “We know that movies and drama in particular work well in the on-demand space and we’re thrilled to debut such an exciting range of library content on My5.”

Trans World Entertainment Founder’s Son Pulls Board Slate Following Nomination of Paramount Home Entertainment’s Jeff Hastings

Mark Higgins, son of the late founder of Trans World Entertainment Corp. Robert Higgins, has withdrawn his slate of nominees to the board of directors.

The slate included Jeff Hastings, SVP, domestic sales, Paramount Home Entertainment, and Philip Knowles, former CEO of Trinity Home Entertainment and MVP Home Entertainment.

In a June 12 filing, Higgins withdrew his candidates for the June 27 shareholder meeting after TWEC — which operates the f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) retail chain — formally added Hastings as a board nominee.

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Higgins, who owns 1.2% of TWEC outstanding shares, also said he would not vote any proxies received from shareholders.

With TWEC shares in danger of being delisted as investors weary of brick-and-mortar entertainment retail, Higgins sought to diversify the board with fresh faces from the home video industry.

 

DEG’s New ‘4 Cups of Coffee’ Mentoring Program

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group on June 5 kicked off a new mentoring program, “4 Cups of Coffee,” at the “Cocktails & Coffee” event at Sony  Studios in the Norman Lear Commissary. Under the program, the DEG’s Canon Club will match women in search of mentors with one of its advisors or other women executives for 30-minute career conversations, either in person or over the phone, up to four times per year. The Canon Club was established by DEG to provide women at all levels and in all sectors of digital media the opportunity to share knowledge and build their business networks. Last month, the DEG announced the appointment of 10 advisory board members to provide input on Canon Club event programming, rotate as host at speaker-driven salons and social/networking events, serve as founding mentors in the “4 Cups of Coffee” program, and judge the annual Hedy Lamarr Awards for Women in Entertainment and Technology, among other responsibilities. The advisory board is led by chair Robin Tarufelli of Deloitte, and vice chair Meri Hassouni of Giant Interactive. Other members are Loren Nielsen, DTS; Sofia Chang, HBO; Dametra Johnson-Marletti, Microsoft; Karin Gilford, Movies Anywhere; Andrea Downing, PBS Distribution; Cheryl Goodman, Sony Electronics; Nadia Haney, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment; and Darcy Antonellis, Vubiquity. Other Canon Club mentors include Beth Kearns, 20th Century Fox; Heathyr Jozel-Garcia, ABC Studios; Samara Winterfeld, DTS; Ken Williams, ETC@USC; Kejo Swingler, HBO; and Rachel Crang, Paramount Pictures.

Studios, Distributors, EMA Team Up on Massive Digital Movie Rental Promotion

A consortium of studios and key digital retailers, cable companies and satellite providers is sponsoring a digital rental movie sale May 31 through June 3 in which consumers can stream up to 250 different movies at prices as low as $2.99 for recent releases and 99 cents for older, catalog titles.

The “Ultimate Movie Weekend” initiative, led by the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), is believed to be the first time such a coordinated promotion has been undertaken in the United States.

The goal, according to EMA SVP Sean Bersell, is to “introduce consumers who haven’t rented digitally previously to the value and convenience of digital rental, and to entice consumers who haven’t rented digital recently to re-engage.”

The campaign will offer recent releases and catalog movies from Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Participating digital retailers and cable and satellite companies include Altice USA’s Optimum and Suddenlink TV, Amazon Prime Video, the Apple TV app and iTunes, Atlantic Broadband, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Cox, DIRECTV, DISH, FandangoNOW, Frontier Communications, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, PlayStation Store, Redbox On Demand, U-Verse, and Vudu.

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The tagline for the Ultimate Movie Weekend is “Rent the Biggest Movies for Less.” Participating retailers will offer between 50 and 250 movies at discounted prices as low as $2.99 for recent releases and $0.99 for catalog movies. The Ultimate Movie Weekend sale includes some of the latest releases that are not yet available on subscription video services. Among the movies in the promotion are A Star Is Born (2018), Bumblebee, Fifty Shades of Grey, First Man, Forrest Gump, The Hunger Games, Robin Hood (2018), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Step Brothers, and Wonder Woman.

The promotional campaign will be supported by a significant media buy, social media marketing, direct-to-consumer outreach, and a dedicated website, www.ultimatemovieweekend.com. The Ultimate Movie Weekend sale is patterned after similar successful efforts last year in Australia, France and the U.K.

“While the popularity of digital movie rentals continues to grow, there is the opportunity to introduce even more consumers to the value and convenience of digital rental, so the industry has come together to offer a compelling promotion that we hope will attract new customers and remind infrequent digital renters of this option,” said EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher. “Plus, with the start of the summer, which is traditionally a heavy movie-viewing season, it’s a good time to remind consumers of the pleasure of getting together with family and friends for a movie night.”

According to industry statistics, in the first quarter of 2019, digital rental generated $564 million in consumer spending, which accounted for approximately 10% of all home entertainment consumer spending in the quarter.

“This is the first effort of its kind in the U.S., and the breadth of participants demonstrates that the home entertainment industry is making it a priority to communicate the value proposition of digital rentals to consumers,” said Richard Smith, SVP, domestic digital sales, for Paramount Pictures and chair of EMA’s Ultimate Movie Weekend planning committee. “We see significant potential to grow this sector of the industry, and in doing so grow the overall home entertainment market.”

“Our studio partners have assembled a fantastic slate of movies, many unavailable on subscription services, which FandangoNow will offer at compelling prices,” added Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment at Fandango and chair of the EMA. “Convenience and value have always been the hallmark of home entertainment, and these great movies at discounted prices draws attention to the ease and affordability of renting digitally.”

Report: CBS, Viacom to Rekindle Merger Discussions

Media giant Viacom (parent to Paramount Pictures) and CBS reportedly are set to begin in June renewed discussions about a possible merger — nearly 20 years after Viacom created CBS Corp. through a spin-off.

CNBC, citing sources familiar with the situation, say the two companies controlled by Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone’s National Amusements corporate umbrella are seeking to “bulk up” the balance sheet in a rapidly evolving media landscape underscored by mergers and acquisitions.

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National Amusements has twice tried unsuccessfully to merge CBS back into the fold — efforts largely rebuked by former CBS CEO Les Moonves, who sought the top position in the merged companies. Sharri Redstone preferred Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in that role.

Moonves was forced out of CBS following multiple allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior toward women.

Scuttlebutt about a possible merger grew after Joseph Ianniello, acting CEO at CBS, had his contract renewed only to the end of the year, and search for a permanent executive was cancelled.

CNBC said the merger would likely be a stepping stone to further M&A activity, including a renewed bid for Lionsgate-owned Starz and SVOD platform Starz Play, and possibly Discovery Communications, home to HGTV, Food Network and DIY Network, among other properties.

Like a Box of Chocolates …

Paramount Pictures on May 24, 2019, celebrated the 25th anniversary of Forrest Gump with a special outdoor screening on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  The screening was free to the public and fans were able to take photos on a replica of the film’s famous bench. Academy Award-winning producer Wendy Finerman and retired Sergeant First Class Sammy L. Davis, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, attended the special 25th anniversary screening.  Davis’ real-life Medal of Honor ceremony appears in the film with Tom Hanks superimposed. Forrest Gump won six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Writing, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects.  Upon its release in 1994, the film became a global blockbuster and something of a cultural touchstone, with classic quotes from Gump such as “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’  A newly remastered version of Forrest Gump is available now in a two-disc Blu-ray that includes over three hours of bonus content.

Paramount Home Entertainment Ups Q2 Domestic Revenue 3%

Paramount Home Entertainment May 10 reported second-quarter (ended March 31) domestic revenue of $104 million, up 3% from revenue of almost $101 million during the previous-year period. International revenue fell 19% to $50 million from $61.7 million.

Overall, home entertainment revenue dipped 5.6% to $154 million from revenue of $163 million last fiscal year. Revenue through the first-half of the fiscal year is down about 4% to $332 million from $346 million.

The studio’s top-selling disc, Instant Family, has sold almost $4 million in combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units since its March 5 retail bow.

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Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures reported its ninth straight quarter of improved operating income to $29 million, which was up 222% from operating income of $13 million during the previous-year period.

Theatrical revenue leapfrogged 244% to $172 million from $70.5 million last year and largely driven by Bumblebee. Domestic revenue increased 144% to $66 million while international revenue increased to $106 million.

Separately, Nickelodeon’s child-based subscription streaming video service Noggin topped 2.5 million subscribers globally. Noggin, Nick Hits, Comedy Central Now and MTV Hits will be offered as Apple TV Channels on the new Apple TV app for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV later this month, on Samsung this spring and on Mac this fall.

In April, Paramount+ signed its first Latin American partnership with NET in Brazil and Claro video in the rest of Latin America, including on mobile.

At the end of April, monthly active users grew to approximately 16 million, up 31% from 12 million since December 2018.

Viacom also announced several new distribution and content deals. Comcast is adding Pluto TV in its Xfinity Flex service, and Pluto TV will be coming to Xfinity X1 soon. Grew roster of 150+ content partners with recent additions of CNN, BBC and Major League Soccer.

The company is launching Pluto Latino, its U.S. Hispanic channels, in July. International plans include launches in Latin America and Switzerland, and expansion in the U.K., Germany and Austria.

Viacom Takes Paramount+ Streaming Service to Latin America; Inks CNN Content Deal with Pluto TV

Viacom International Media Networks is set to expand the Paramount+ streaming video platform to Latin America.

The SVOD service, which first launched in Scandinavia (in response to HBO Nordics in 2017 and later in Central and Eastern Europe – known as Paramount Play), will become available May 1 in Brazil in a partnership with telecom NET, followed by wider distribution through a mobile deal with America Movil.

Paramount+ affords Viacom and Paramount Pictures international streaming distribution of more than 150 movies and original TV shows, including “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, “The Handmaids’ Tale” (available exclusively on Hulu in the U.S.), in addition to branded content from MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.

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“By forging partnerships with the world’s leading operators and distributors, we are able to bring Viacom’s premium content to new global audiences,” David Lynn, president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, said in a media statement. “As the media landscape continues to evolve, we will aggressively innovate to expand our partner offerings, including Paramount+, across our massive global footprint.”

Indeed, while Paramount+ represents Viacom’s aggressive strategy to close the digital divide with rival studios, following the recent purchase of Pluto TV, Viacom is fortifying the ad-supported VOD platform with proprietary and third-party content.

Pluto TV just announced a new channel launch featuring content from WarnerMedia’s CNN – which itself is planning an OTT video product in 2020.

“At a time when news cycles are never-ending, in a world that is constantly evolving, CNN’s coveted daily reporting and in-depth features are perfect for our audience to be informed, with immediacy, accuracy and ease,” Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships at Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Pluto TV’s mission to ‘entertain the planet’ also means informing the planet of what is going on in the world, and there is no better partner than the most trusted name in news.”