Spanish-Language Series ‘The Envoys’ to Premiere on Paramount+ Jan. 20

Paramount+ will premiere the Spanish-language series “The Envoys” (“Los Enviados”) in the United States Jan. 20.

All eight episodes will be available to binge exclusively on Paramount+.

The original series stars Luis Gerardo Méndez (“Narcos: Mexico,” Charlie’s Angels), Miguel Ángel Silvestre (“Narcos,” “Sense8”), Irene Azuela (“Sense8”), and Miguel Rodarte (“Narcos: Mexico”). Oscar winner Juan José Campanella (The Secret in Their Eyes) serves as showrunner, producer and director. 

“The Envoys” follows two priests from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Vatican team in charge of verifying and studying miracles of potential saints, who are sent to Mexico to verify alleged miraculous healings of another clergyman known for performing them in a mental institution. As soon as they arrive in Mexico City, they receive the news that the priest they are looking for has disappeared without a trace. Their lives and their faith are taken to the limit when they discover a psychiatric colony, located on the suburbs of the town, that seems to hide more than one secret: a mystery buried for decades that underlies each inhabitant of the town. Méndez stars as Pedro Salinas, a methodical priest who never breaks the rules and believes in routine, whose greatest desire is to be able to prove his own miracle. Silvestre plays Salinas’s companion and fellow priest Simón Antequera, who has great ambitions within the church and, unlike Salinas, is intuitive and always offers a different point of view. Cortés, played by Irene Azuela, will be a key piece in the search for the truth as she witnessed the first two miracles attributed to the clergyman. Cortés takes an active role in finding the location of the man the priests are looking for, whom she considers a brother.

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“It’s a dream come true for ‘Los Enviados’ to premiere outside of Spanish-speaking countries for global audiences on Paramount+,” said Campanella in a statement. “It’s the perfect place to showcase the series and the effort of everyone involved in this project, just as it deserves.”

“I feel honored to carry out this project under the gaze of a director like Campanella and with colleagues like Miguel Ángel Silvestre and Irene Azuela,” Méndez said in a statement.

“I’m very proud of working for VIS in a production of such dimensions. I’m very happy to belong to this project and that this content is part of Paramount+,” said Silvestre in a statement.

“Working with Juan José Campanella was a delight. His knowledge is tremendous, and I’m sure the audience will want to see the story from beginning to end,” Azuela said in a statement.

The series will also be available on Paramount+ in Australia, Canada and the Nordics on Jan. 20.

‘The Offer’ to Premiere to U.S. Paramount+ Subs April 28

Paramount+ will premiere the original limited series “The Offer” April 28, exclusively for U.S. subscribers.

From Paramount Television Studios, the series is based on Oscar-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy’s experiences of making The Godfather. The series stars Miles Teller as Albert S. Ruddy, Matthew Goode as Robert Evans, Juno Temple as Bettye McCartt, Giovanni Ribisi as Joe Colombo, Dan Fogler as Francis Ford Coppola, Burn Gorman as Charles Bluhdorn, Colin Hanks as Barry Lapidus and Patrick Gallo as Mario Puzo.

The first three episodes of the 10-episode series will be available to stream at launch. Following the premiere, the remaining seven episodes will be available to stream weekly on Thursdays.

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The 10-episode event series is created and written by Oscar- and Emmy-nominated writer Michael Tolkin (Escape at Dannemora, The Player) and also written and executive produced by Nikki Toscano (“Hunters”), who also serves as showrunner. In addition to Tolkin and Toscano, two-time Oscar-winner Albert S. Ruddy (Million Dollar Baby, The Longest Yard), Miles Teller, Russell Rothberg and Leslie Greif serve as executive producers on the series alongside Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman), who also directed the first block of the series.

Feature ‘The In Between’ to Debut to U.S. Paramount+ Subs Feb. 11

The feature film The In Between, from Paramount Players, will premiere exclusively for Paramount+ subscribers in the United States Feb. 11.

The film is coming soon to Netflix internationally.

The supernatural love story that centers on a teenage girl, Tessa (Joey King), who after bouncing around in foster homes for most of her childhood, doesn’t believe she deserves her own love story. Everything changes after she has a chance encounter with Skylar (Kyle Allen), a senior from a neighboring town who’s a true romantic. As her heart begins to open, tragedy strikes when a car accident takes Skylar’s life, while Tessa survives. As Tessa searches for answers in the aftermath of the accident, she soon believes Skylar is attempting to reconnect with her from the afterworld. With the help of her best friend and a newfound belief that love never dies, Tessa attempts to contact Skylar one last time, in order to give their love story the epic ending it deserves.

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The film also stars Kyle Allen (West Side Story), Kim Dickens (Gone Girl), John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook) and Celeste O’Connor (Ghostbusters: Afterlife).

 

Streamers Up Their Live Sports Game

Amazon and Apple TV+ are reportedly increasing their professional sports leagues aspirations, with Apple in talks to live-stream select Major League Baseball games this year. While details remain scarce, the agreement would include a smattering of non-weekend games, allowing Apple to test the waters as it attempts to jumpstart subscriber interest beyond original TV series and movies.

With live professional sports slowly embracing distribution beyond proprietary walled platforms, U.S. streamers (with the exception of Netflix) are expanding their sports dreams. None have done so more dynamically than Amazon, which last year secured exclusive rights to “NFL Thursday Night” games over the next 12 years for $1 billion annually.

Prime Video is now in discussions with venerable NFL broadcast play caller Al Michaels to host the streamer’s revamped Thursday games for the 2022 season. The streamer most recently relied on the first-ever female broadcast team (Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer) and/or the Fox Sports simulcast duo of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Aikman reportedly is eyeing the Amazon gig.

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The streamer is also considering hiring former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch as a sideline reporter/analyst.

With sports a longtime staple of CBS, ABC, NBC, ESPN and TNT networks, streaming availability of football and basketball on the Paramount+, Peacock and HBO Max platforms is a natural extension. Peacock just announced it would live-stream all events, including opening and closing ceremonies, at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Paramount+ is also aggressively streaming European soccer.

“[Sports] is television’s most valuable property by far, attracting massive audiences, and major advertisers, and it will be fundamental to the growth of Paramount+,” George Cheeks, head of the CBS Entertainment Group, said in a presentation last year. “It drives more subscriptions than any other program and significant engagement too.”

Paramount+ is the exclusive U.S. streaming hub for European soccer, such as the UEFA league, including the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League matches.

WarnerMedia-owned Turner Sports’ recent seven-year deal with the National Hockey League for TNT and TBS, also means HBO Max will get its share of live-streams. The streamer heretofore has largely opted for sports-themed documentaries and series, “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

Turner Sports is sharing the hockey rights with The Walt Disney Co. and ESPN+ as the NHL’s national media rights partners in the United States.

“We love the reach of their linear networks, both TNT and TBS, and as we look to the future, we’re excited about the digital properties, in particular HBO Max and Bleacher Report,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “For us, this is a perfect fit.”

‘Ordinary People’ to Join ‘Paramount Presents’ Blu-ray Line March 29

Robert Redford’s 1980 directorial debut, Ordinary People, will arrive on Blu-ray as part of the “Paramount Presents” line March 29 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Winner of four Academy Awards — including Best Picture, Best Director (Redford), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Alvin Sargent), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Timothy Hutton) — the film stars Hutton, Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore as a family being torn apart by tragedy and the unrelenting pressure to maintain a façade of normalcy. It was Hutton’s first film role and his performance not only earned him the Oscar, but it also made him the youngest person to win in the category.  

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Remastered from a new 4K film transfer overseen by Redford, the “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray is presented in collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments.  The disc also includes new interviews with Hutton and Judith Guest, author of the novel upon which the movie was based. In “Swimming in the Rose Garden,” Hutton reflects on filming and the approach Redford took to create a feeling of isolation on set. In “Feeling Is Not Selective,” Guest discusses her novel and the process involved in adapting it for film.

Top 10 for 2021: The Biggest Home Entertainment News Stories

The year 2021 has been an eventful one across the home entertainment landscape as consumers further embraced streaming, while companies operating in legacy transactional markets adjusted their business strategies to survive.

Here are the top 10 home entertainment news stories of 2020 as chosen by the Media Play News editorial staff.

1. The Rise of AVOD and FAST — Numerous new subscription streaming services began to strain home entertainment budgets, with the average consumer, according to a TiVo study, spending $142.20 monthly on high-speed internet and SVOD — significantly more than the average $100 cable bill. Nearly 60% of respondents in a Trade Desk study said they spend too much money on multiple OTT subscriptions, with more than 66% saying escalating fees were a source of frustration. In a Future Today report, 50.6% of respondents said they opted for AVOD to end paying for SVOD. As streaming fatigue and the hit to their wallet began to set in, consumers increasingly turned to free, ad-supported services (FAST, AVOD) such as Tubi. Tubi in fact rose to one of the top 10 apps downloaded by U.S. consumers in 2021 at No. 6, just behind SVOD services HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+, Peacock and Hulu, in order.

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2. Media Mergers: Two bombshell announcements came in May, both geared toward streaming. The first was AT&T and Discovery’s announcement of a plan to  combine WarnerMedia’s Warner Bros., HBO, Turner and CNN media assets with Discovery’s reality TV-based HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, Magnolia, Eurosport and international entertainment businesses to create a new standalone global entertainment company focused on streaming video. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was slated to lead the new company, later dubbed Warner Bros. Discovery, with a management team and operational and creative leadership from both companies. A week later came word that Amazon would acquire MGM Studios for $8.45 billion, which CNBC at the time said marked “its boldest move yet into the entertainment industry and turbocharging its streaming ambitions.” Amazon at the time said it wanted to leverage MGM’s filmmaking history and catalog to boost Amazon Studios. “The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” Mike Hopkins, SVP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.”

3. Sudden Impact: WarnerMedia made headlines at the end of last year when in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it announced plans to make its theatrical slate through 2021 concurrently available on the HBO Max subscription streaming platform — beginning with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day 2020. Results were mixed. Under the direction of CEO Jason Kilar, a former chief executive at Hulu, the landmark distribution strategy obliterated the legacy theatrical window. It also caught most of Hollywood off guard, including directors, producers and actors whose compensation agreements revolved around the box office take. Kilar later apologized for the abrupt decision, but doubled down on the strategy, which resulted in $463 million in domestic theatrical revenue through June 30 while growing Max subscriptions and consumer awareness. While the concurrent release strategy appeared to have little negative impact on Warner’s Godzilla vs Kong monster movie release in March, the studio would have to wait until the October release of sci-fi reboot Dune to realize another box office hit. Entering 2022, Kilar’s days seem numbered as Warner Bros. reverts back to a shortened 45-day theatrical window for most movie releases, and corporate parent AT&T awaits regulatory approval for its $43 billion minority stake WarnerMedia asset sale to Discovery.

4. Attack of the ‘+’ Sign: Discovery Jan. 4 launched its own branded SVOD service Discovery+ with little fanfare. Exactly two months later, Paramount Pictures became the latest Hollywood studio seeking to establish a foothold on the SVOD bandwagon with the launch of Paramount+. The erstwhile CBS All Access streaming platform adopted the Paramount Pictures brand to better resonate with consumers worldwide. Paramount+, along with AVOD/FAST platform Pluto TV, embodied corporate parent ViacomCBS’s belated resolve to become all things streaming. Then, in July, WarnerMedia announced plans to launch a branded news subscription streaming video service in early 2022. The name: CNN+.

5. Disc Distribution Shuffle: As physical media sales continued to decline, several studios looked for ways to cut costs and boost efficiencies. April marked the official launch of Studio Distribution Services (SDS), a joint venture between Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment to distribute packaged media in the United States and Canada. The JV, run by former Universal Pictures Home Entertainment president Eddie Cunningham, combines sales, retail marketing and distribution for the two physical home entertainment operations and is responsible for Blu-ray, DVD and 4K UHD distribution for up to 10 years. Both partner studios continue to operate their digital distribution businesses independently and retain content and consumer marketing for both physical and digital. In February, Lionsgate signed a multiyear agreement with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for the distribution of its DVD/Blu-ray Disc releases in the United States and Canada, beginning in July. Lionsgate still has its own sales and marketing teams, but is leveraging SPHE’s supply chain and distribution services.

6. Out of the Box: Redbox aggressively embraced digital distribution — notably ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) and free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) — to piggyback on its legacy kiosk disc rental brand. The move resulted in numerous content license distribution agreements, as well as further development of Redbox-branded content acquisitions, including feature films. With about 40,000 kiosks in operation across the country, Redbox deployed digital video signage on thousands of boxes as a new way to partner with Hollywood studios to promote new-release movies, promote the company’s free streaming service, and provide a platform for third-party media campaigns. The company signed separate distribution agreements with LG Electronics and Sony PlayStation to include its FAST channels on LG Smart TVs, including their LG OLED Smart TVs, as well as the PS5 and PS4 video game consoles. Taking a page from the Amazon Channels playbook, Redbox also began featuring third-party apps on its digital platform. The company inked separate agreements with Roku and Vewd to pre-load the Redbox app on all new Vewd-powered TVs and set-top boxes in the U.S., including Hisense, Funai and Tivo, as well as pay-TV operators such as Evoca. In October, Redbox made its biggest move: Finalizing a business combination with Seaport Global Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, and launching Redbox Entertainment as a publicly traded company.

7. TVOD Consolidation: Fandango in August merged its FandangoNow streaming platform with Vudu, which it had acquired from Walmart in 2020. The combined platforms operate under the Vudu brand, which has established itself as a digital transaction market leader, while the Fandango brand is known for theatrical ticket purchases, movie reviews and showtimes. Vudu is available in more than 75 million U.S. TV-connected device households, according to The NPD Group. The service has more than 60 million registered users and serves “millions of consumers daily” across smart-TVs, connected devices, mobile and online. “During a time where consumers have myriad viewing options, we’re proud to deliver a service that presents an unparalleled library of content, many titles that are not available on subscription services, and the flexibility to pay as you go,” said Fandango president Paul Yanover.

8. Free Agent: Sony Pictures Entertainment celebrated its role as the only studio not attached to a big media company with streaming ambitions through a series of deals and a stunning end-of-the-year victory as Spider-Man: No Way Home became the biggest theatrical release of the year. In April, SPE signed a distribution deal with Netflix for exclusive U.S. access to Sony theatrical releases following the box office and home entertainment windows. The agreement, which begins in 2022, replaces Sony’s existing digital deal with Lionsgate-owned Starz. Days later, SPE announced another deal with Disney’s streaming and TV platforms for their Pay 2 window. And in November, Sony Television signed a distribution deal with Redbox that gives the latter streaming access to Resident Evil: Retribution, Underworld: Evolution, We Own the Night and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

9. Home Entertainment Consolidation: Paramount Pictures in February became the latest studio to merge its theatrical and home entertainment marketing teams, a move that saw the exit of 23 home entertainment marketing and distribution personnel, including EVP of marketing Vincent Marcais, longtime publicity head Brenda Ciccone, and Dina Marovich, SVP of worldwide media and interactive marketing. In a Feb. 26 memo obtained by Media Play News, Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, wrote that after an extensive review, “we have concluded that the best path forward for the company is for all home entertainment marketing functions, with the exceptions of brand marketing and customer marketing, to merge into the existing theatrical marketing departments.” The Paramount move followed similar restructurings at Warner Bros. in August 2020, Sony Pictures in October 2020, and Lionsgate in December 2020.

10. Supply Chain Crisis: Toward the end of the year, studios as well as independents were reporting delays in bringing their DVDs and Blu-ray Discs to market due, in part, to the global supply chain crisis. The other factor: limited replication opportunities. Most of the big Hollywood studios use Technicolor to replicate their discs, which is down to a single facility in Mexico. “It’s a huge problem,” said Bill Hunt, who as editor of The Digital Bits website closely monitors disc releases. “Almost every title is getting delayed, and those that aren’t are hard to find on street date.”

Netflix Leads Parks List of 2021 Top 10 U.S. SVOD Services

Netflix topped the list of Parks Associates’ 2021 top 10 U.S. paid subscription over-the-top (OTT) video services.

The list is based on estimated numbers of subscribers through September 2021 from the firm’s OTT Video Market Tracker.

The 2021 list shows the first change in the top three services since the firm started tracking the providers in 2015. Disney+ has moved into the top three, moving ahead of Hulu in number of subscribers. HBO Max moved into the top five, while Paramount+ (rebranded from CBS All Access) jumped to number seven on the list. New entrant Discovery+ is right behind at 11.

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Parks Associates’ 2021 Top 10 U.S. Subscription OTT Video Services (SVOD):

  1. Netflix
  2. Prime Video
  3. Disney+
  4. Hulu
  5. HBO Max
  6. ESPN+
  7. Paramount+
  8. Apple TV+
  9. Starz
  10. Showtime 

 

The research firm reports that, based on quarterly surveys of 10,000 U.S. broadband households, more than 80% of broadband households have at least one OTT service and that the churn rate for OTT services is 44%, with consumers adopting multiple subscriptions and experimenting with different services.

“While the Disney+ content portfolio may have allowed it to leapfrog stablemate Hulu in 2021 rankings, its position reaffirms the collective power of the Disney Bundle triumvirate: Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+,” Paul Erickson, director of research of Parks Associates, said in a statement. “ViacomCBS’s successful rebrand and content-fueled reformulation of CBS All Access into Paramount+ have allowed it to leapfrog Apple TV+ into seventh place behind ESPN+, and time will tell if the service will break into the top five.”

“Broadband providers added an estimated 6.4 million residential customers to date in 2021, showing rapid growth,” Kristen Hanich, director of research at Parks Associates, said in a statement. “The importance of bundling pay-TV with home broadband is diminishing though — our Home Services Dashboard finds that only 38% of U.S. broadband households bundle pay-TV with their home internet service, a significant decline from past levels.”

The role of online TV continues to grow, with consumers embracing OTT services offered by familiar providers, according to Parks.

“In Q3 2021, 19% of U.S. broadband households reported subscribing to a vMVPD service, nearly double from the previous year,” Eric Sorensen, contributing senior analyst at Parks Associates, said in a statement. “By 2024, the U.S. vMVPD subscriber base will increase to more than 23 million households. All players will continue vying for the leading positions.” 

Comcast Ups European Expansion of U.S. Streaming Services With Apple TV+ Rollout

Comcast continues to do its part marketing third-party U.S. subscription streaming video across Europe, including a competitor to its proprietary Peacock platform, Apple TV+, on Dec. 14.

Since acquiring Sky for $31 billion, Comcast has redoubled the satellite TV operator’s marketing of SVOD services, including most recently Disney+ and Paramount+ (in 2022). In August, Comcast and ViacomCBS ironed out an agreement that will see Sky roll out Paramount+ in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy and Germany, among other regions.

Media reports suggest ViacomCBS’s ad-supported streaming platform Pluto TV could soon be offered on Sky platforms as well — a move Comcast CEO Brian Roberts doesn’t seem to dissuade.

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“What that might lead us to consider at least would be a partnership where we have unique capabilities that could lead to or enhance our international distribution,” Roberts said on a recent fiscal call.

Roberts’ transition from resolute pay-TV cheerleader to embracing SVOD has been apparent ever since Comcast stopped the presses in 2016 by welcoming Netflix onto its set-top universe. In 2018, Comcast added the Netflix app to its cloud-based Xfinity platform, which also includes YouTube and Hulu — the latter co-owned by Comcast and Disney.

“Netflix is a great partner, and we are excited to offer its services to our customers in new ways that provide them with more choice, value and flexibility,” Sam Schwartz, EVP and chief business development officer at Comcast, said at the time.

In November, Sky announced it would renew free 12-month subscriptions to its VIP members for the third-party discovery+ streaming platform.

“We’re working together with our partners to deliver the best apps and experiences on our platforms,” Roberts said. “And our teams are sharing capabilities and collaborating across the company collectively drawing on our scale and leadership and broadband aggregation and streaming to innovate and profitably serve new and existing customers.”

Bruce Willis Action Thriller ‘Deadlock’ Due on DVD Feb. 1

The Bruce Willis action thriller Deadlock will be released on DVD Feb. 1 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

The film is already available for digital purchase and on demand.

In Deadlock, Willis stars as Ron Whitlock, a wanted criminal leading a team of mercenaries on a mission of vengeance. Convinced that the government is working against them, the merciless group brutally seizes an energy plant and holds everyone inside hostage. With a nearby town on the brink of massive flooding and destruction, it’s up to retired elite army ranger Mack Karr (Patrick Muldoon) to save thousands of innocent lives before it’s too late.

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Paramount+ Names Top 2021 Drivers

Nine months after launch and rebranding, subscription streaming service Paramount+ is wrapping up 2021 with a look at what trended on the platform.

Parent ViacomCBS said it ended the most-recent fiscal period (Sept. 30) with 47 million streaming subs across Paramount+, Showtime OTT and Noggin, among other over-the-top video services. The Paramount Pictures namesake is projected to be profitable in a “couple years,” CEO Bob Bakish said on a recent investor call.

The top SVOD sub driver was live sports, such as “The NFL on CBS,” in addition to soccer properties UEFA and Concacaf.

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Meanwhile, “Star Trek: Discovery,” which returned this year for its fourth season, was the most-watched original on the streamer. New series “iCarly,” which follows Carly Shay, the original influencer, and her friends navigating work, love and family now as adults, was the second-most-watched original series.

“Kids and family” was the most-watched content genre, with “reality” and “crime” coming in a close second and third, respectively.

“Mayor of Kingstown,” the new scripted series starring Jeremy Renner and Dianne Wiest, was the most-watched original series in its first 30 days and is the most-watched series on the service this quarter, which ends Dec. 31.

Sequel thriller A Quiet Place Part II, the horror sequel starring Emily Blunt, was the most-watched, female-led series or movie. “SpongeBob SquarePants,” an international franchise with a deep catalog, was the most-binged series.

“SEAL Team,” the military drama starring David Boreanaz, was the most-watched drama, followed by the increasingly popular original series “Evil.”

Feature film Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jason Mantzoukas, was the most-watched original movie on the platform. The film also earned the spot for most-watched trailer and most-streamed thriller. A Quiet Place Part II came in a close second for most-watched movie.

Paw Patrol: The Movie, the family film that streamed the same day it hit theaters, was the most-rewatched movie. Adele One Night Only, a special featuring a highly awaited performance by U.K. singer Adele and a candid interview in Oprah Winfrey’s rose garden, was the most-watched special.

South Park: Post COVID, the first of 14 specials coming to the service exclusively from creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, was one of the most-watched comedies together with returning original, “Why Women Kill.”

“Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” the reality competition series, was the most-streamed social reality series. iCarly’s “iStart Over,” the first episode in the reimagined series starring Miranda Cosgrove, was the most-downloaded episode to watch on-the-go.

To jumpstart consumer interest in the streamer, new consumers can try the platform for 30 days free by using the promo code “PEAKSALE.” The limited-time holiday promotion ends Dec. 31, 2021.