American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free, season seven of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” and Ken Burns: Here and There are among the programs debuting on the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel in January.
The subscription rate for the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is $3.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.
American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free starts streaming Jan. 19. From Award-winning director Yoruba Richen and based on the book of the same name, the program tells the inspiring story of how six iconic African American female entertainers, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier, challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process. The documentary features interviews and archival performances with all six women, as well as original conversations with contemporary artists influenced by them, including one of the documentary’s executive producers Alicia Keys, along with Halle Berry, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson and many others. The documentary also includes interviews with family members, including Horne’s daughter Gail Lumet Buckley.
Season seven of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” is due Jan. 20. Over the course of 10 episodes, Gates uses genealogical detective work and cutting-edge DNA analysis to guide twenty influential guests through the branches of their family trees, traveling hundreds of years into the past to discover people and places long forgotten. The season features actors Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Jane Lynch, Christopher Meloni, and Tony Shalhoub; Broadway stars Audra McDonald and Mandy Patinkin; filmmakers Kasi Lemmons and John Waters; talk show host and author Andy Cohen; journalists Gretchen Carlson, Maria Hinojosa, Don Lemon, and Nina Totenberg; comedians Lewis Black, Jim Gaffigan, and Roy Wood, Jr.; and musicians Clint Black, Rosanne Cash, and Pharrell Williams.
Ken Burns: Here and There debuts Jan. 1. The biography is about the life and work of the documentary filmmaker and follows the story of his love for filmmaking and storytelling, the evolution of his career throughout the years, his fondness of small-town life, and his love for a bridge in Brooklyn. Filled with small stories and monologues, this program captures the 40-year intimate relationship Burns has with his America, with his colleagues, his family, his community, his craft, and taking sweeping historical concepts and making them relatable to his audiences.
Amazon’s “Truth Seekers” was the top rising show and Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” the top binge on the TV Time charts for the week ended Nov. 1.
“The Queen’s Gambit,” which debuted on Netflix Oct. 23, is a coming-of-age story following a young Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s, who discovers an astonishing talent for chess while developing an addiction to tranquilizers provided by the state as a sedative for the children. The title landed at No. 8 on the rising show chart.
No. 1 rising show “Truth Seekers” debuted on Amazon Prime Video Oct. 30 in time for Halloween. The horror comedy follows paranormal investigators who set out to film ghost sightings and uncover a conspiracy that could bring about Armageddon.
Coming in at No. 2 on the binge chart was “Emily in Paris,” created, written and executive produced by Darren Star (“Sex and the City”). It debuted Oct. 2 on Netflix and follows Emily (Lily Collins), an ambitious 20-something marketing executive from Chicago, who unexpectedly lands her dream job in Paris when her company acquires a French luxury marketing company.
Taking the silver on the rising show chart was HBO’s “The Undoing,” which premiered Oct. 25. From writer David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies), the new limited series focuses on Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman), a successful therapist, her devoted husband, Jonathan (Hugh Grant), and their young son, who attends an elite private school in New York City. A chasm opens in Grace’s seemingly perfect life: a violent death, a missing spouse and a chain of terrible revelations.
TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).
PBS Distribution is streaming several political titles on the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel in time for the upcoming Nov. 3 election.
Among the titles available are Frontline: The Choice 2020, American Experience: The Vote, And She Could Be Next, Ken Burns: The Congress, American Experience: The Presidents and Frontline: Whose Vote Counts.
The subscription rate for PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is $3.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.
Frontline: The Choice 2020 offers interwoven investigative biographies of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden and examines the defining moments that shaped Trump and Biden’s lives, their approaches to power, and their visions for America’s future at this pivotal juncture.
One hundred years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, American Experience: The Vote tells the dramatic story of the hard-fought campaign waged by American women for the right to vote, a transformative cultural and political movement that resulted in the largest expansion of voting rights in U.S. history. In its final decade, from 1909 to 1920, movement leaders wrestled with contentious questions about the most effective methods for affecting social change, debating the use of militant, even violent tactics, as well as hunger strikes and relentless public protests. The battle also upended previously accepted ideas about the proper role of women in American society and challenged the definitions of citizenship and democracy. Exploring how and why millions of 20th-century Americans mobilized for — and against — women’s suffrage, The Vote brings to life the unsung leaders of the movement and the deep controversies over gender roles and race that divided Americans then — and continue to dominate political discourse today.
And She Could Be Next follows a defiant movement of women of color as they transform politics from the ground up. Filmed during the historic 2018 midterm elections, the series follows organizers and candidates (including Rashida Tlaib and Stacey Abrams) as they fight for a truly reflective government, asking whether democracy can be preserved — and made stronger — by those most marginalized.
In Ken Burns: The Congress, Burns profiles a durable American institution in his portrait of the U.S. Congress. Narrated by David McCullough, the film uses historic footage and interviews with “insiders” David Broder, Alistair Cooke and Cokie Roberts to detail the first 200 years. The film chronicles careers of notable members and charts the continuing growth of the Capitol building, in readings from diary entries, letters and famous speeches.
American Experience: The Presidents, including JFK, Nixon, George W. Bush, Clinton and George H. W. Bush, includes five programs taking a look at some of America’s most influential presidents of the 20th century. Focusing on the intersection of public and private, character and history, these programs examine pivotal moments in each of the presidencies and how they affected the country. Viewers will look at George W. Bush and his unorthodox road to the presidency; George H. W. Bush and his life and career as the 41st president; Clinton and his meteoric rise in state politics; JFK, with a new perspective on his private life and reevaluation of his time in the Oval Office; and Nixon, with a look at one of American history’s most powerful figures, exploring a fateful mix of strength and weakness that made him president, and then brought him down.
Finally, Frontline: Whose Vote Counts, available Oct. 21, investigates allegations of voter fraud and disenfranchisement in the lead-up to the 2020 election.
In support of National Voter Registration Day Sept. 22, Prime Video will stream the Amazon Original movie All In: The Fight for Democracy featuring Stacey Abrams to audiences globally, without needing a Prime membership.
The voting rights documentary will be in front of the Prime Video paywall for 24 hours. The film will also be available on Twitch and Twitter.
Also on Sept. 22 Twitter and Twitch will host watch parties. The Twitter watch party will be hosted by Stacey Abrams and Lin-Manuel Miranda starting at 4 p.m. PT at , and the Twitch livestream will be hosted by social influencer Neeko at 11 a.m. PT.
All In: The Fight for Democracy will stream at no cost for 24 hours on Prime Video.
In anticipation of the 2020 presidential election, All In: The Fight for Democracy examines the often overlooked, yet insidious issue of voter suppression in the United States. The film interweaves personal experiences with current activism and historical insight to expose a problem that has corrupted our democracy from the very beginning. With the perspective and expertise of Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, the documentary offers an insider’s look into laws and barriers to voting that most people don’t even know are threats to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.
“Voting is fundamental for our country and democracy, and should be accessible and available to Americans everywhere,” Abrams said in a statement. “All In: The Fight for Democracy will be accessible on multiple platforms in support of voter awareness and registration for all Americans.”
As previously announced, the filmmakers with support from foundations, private funders and Amazon Studios launched #AllInForVoting, a non-partisan social impact campaign aimed at educating and registering first-time voters, mobilizing communities to turn out to vote and training citizens to know their rights and report voter suppression. As part of the impact campaign, the 50 State Ambassador initiative brought together a team of influential actors, artists, musicians, athletes and newsmakers to use their platforms to educate voters and mobilize participation in the upcoming national and regional elections. The Ambassadors include Taraji P. Henson, Connie Britton, Tyler Blackburn, Zooey Deschanel, Don Cheadle, Gabrielle Union, Seth MacFarlane, Padma Lakshmi, Melissa Ethridge, Zach LaVine, Viola Davis and Janelle Monáe.
The impact campaign is in partnership with Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action and other leading civic engagement organizations including: Advancement Project, Alliance for Youth Action, ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, All Voting Is Local, Black Voters Matter, BLOC, Campus Voter Project, Community Change, Election Protection, Equality NC, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, GenEquality, HeadCount, Higher Heights for America, Indivisible, Jewish Women International, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, League of Women Voters and National Organization for Women (NOW), LUCHA, Movement Voter Project, National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), New Virginia Majority, People for the American Way, Rock the Vote, Spread the Vote, Southern Poverty Law Center, Voto Latino Foundation and When We All Vote. Users are encouraged to join the movement by posting with “#AllInForVoting.” More information on activations and programming can be found at AllInForVoting.com.
All In: The Fight for Democracy is directed by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Liz Garbus and Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Lisa Cortés, and produced by Garbus, Cortés, Academy Award-winning producer Dan Cogan and Abrams. Amazon Studios acquired worldwide rights to All In: The Fight for Democracy from production company Story Syndicate.
One in four U.S. consumers (28%) said they had signed up for at least one TV service during the pandemic, according to Hub Entertainment Research.
Each of the big four SVOD services has seen a three percentage point or higher increase since just before the pandemic began in February compared to July, according to Hub.
Meanwhile, pay-TV VOD and TVOD saw an increase of six percentage points and three percentage points, respectively, from February to July.
Moreover, consumers said they were likely to continue their same level of streaming TV service viewing, YouTube viewing and broadcast network viewing (especially for news).
“When it comes to the business of entertainment, people clearly intend to continue supporting the streaming TV services they’ve relied on for comfort viewing, the broadcast networks they’ve relied on for news, and the online videos they’ve used for needed distractions,” Peter Fondulas, co-founder and principal of Hub Entertainment Research, said in a statement.
With viewers spending more time watching TV, previews have become a stronger source of TV show discovery during the pandemic, according to Hub. The source is up considerably compared to last year as a method for discovering new shows, while with personal interaction more limited, word of mouth has dropped as a discovery source.
The data cited comes from Hub’s “Predicting the Post-Pandemic” study, conducted among 3,026 U.S. consumers, ages 14 to 74 who watch at least one hour of TV per week. The data was collected in July 2020.
PBS Distribution has been appointed Tonya Harley VP of marketing.
Harley will lead marketing and communications, supporting multiple brands and businesses, with a focus on customer acquisition and retention strategies for the company’s direct-to-consumer subscription businesses — PBS Masterpiece, PBS Kids, PBS Living and newly launched PBS Documentaries — on Prime Video Channels.
“Tonya is an Emmy-award winning marketing professional with a proven track record of successfully delivering results for clients that exceed expectations,” PBS Distribution co-president Andrea Downing said in a statement. “She brings keen analytical skills and experience across a wide range of industries, and her ability to create targeted and efficient media plans to drive acquisition across broadcast and digital platforms will support our key primary initiatives perfectly.”
Harley joins PBS Distribution from BCD Travel, where she led their hotel marketing team as the director of strategic marketing. She was responsible for building a modern brand identity, designing social media campaigns to drive engagement, and overseeing the creative development, social media, content development, sales training, and public relations to support product launches.
Prior to working for BCD Travel, Harley was a senior marketing strategist with Advito. During her five years there, she built a strategic vision for developing digital products to help clients reduce travel costs while building client retention and loyalty, and led a cross-functional team in creating the product strategy, positioning, and marketing plan to drive new business.
Before joining Advito, she spent five years at Liberty Mutual Insurance, culminating in the role of manager of national advertising. She was responsible for more than $125 million in creative and media spend, focusing on the strategy and creative development of brand television, direct-response television, and digital and field marketing. Harley built the first-ever marketing portal for field sales agents to create brand consistency across the organization while helping agents leverage marketing tactics to boost sales.
Early in her career, Harley’s experiences were rooted in client management at Argus Communications, where she developed omni-channel marketing campaigns for her clients. She saw her strategic recommendation come to life as a television ad that was nominated and won a National Academy of Arts & Sciences Emmy Award for “Outstanding Community or Public Service Single Spot” TV.
Amazon Aug. 10 has quietly rebranded its Twitch Prime online gaming platform to Prime Gaming, in line with the e-commerce behemoth’s Prime membership platform, which includes Prime Video, Prime Reading and Prime Music.
Amazon reportedly plans a formal announcement on the Twitch name change Aug. 11. It has owned the platform for the past four years, affording Prime members free access to video games and related content with a separate Twitch account. Now that separate authentication step will be removed.
William DeMeo went back to his roots for “Gravesend,” a four-episode series streaming now on Amazon Prime and distributed by Virgil Films.
He wanted to recall his neighborhood in the 1980s — the music, the cars, the people and the mob.
Though he toyed with the title “The Neighborhood,” the writer, director, star and executive producer settled on the name of his hometown.
“Gravesend is a section in Brooklyn where I grew up where a lot of these mobsters come from,” he said. “The name was pretty cool, too, because in the life of the mafia, the grave is usually the end of the road.”
Having acted in such productions as A Bronx Tale, “The Sopranos” and Gotti, DeMeo is no stranger to mafia stories, and Brooklyn in the 1980s was teaming with them.
“I can name 20 mobsters off the top of my head, very well-known mafia figures, who all came from this area, and they were all around and there was a lot of testosterone around,” he said. “The younger guys coming up wanted to prove something. They were some really dangerous, uncertain times. If you crossed certain people, there was a problem.”
In “Gravesend,” DeMeo plays Benny Zerletta, a young soldier in the Colezzo crime family circa 1986, who is conflicted, but entangled in the life — much like Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos.” (DeMeo starred as one of Paulie Walnuts’ crew, Jason Molinaro, in “The Sopranos.”) One similarity between the two series is that Soprano has a confidant in his therapist, and Zerletta talks over his problems with the statue of St. Anthony. But DeMeo stressed that “Gravesend” mostly just shares the same genre.
“There’s Westerns, there’s movies about law enforcement. You can’t change the genre, so you try to come up with different scenarios and circumstances,” he said. “’Sopranos’ was New Jersey, and with all respect to Jersey, Brooklyn is Brooklyn.”
DeMeo said he chose to wear multiple hats for the series because he wanted control over a story so close to him.
“You know, it’s my neighborhood. It’s my story. It’s where I grew up,” he said. “All of those characters and the things that happened back then are very realistic to the way it really was. There are people that are very similar to these characters. This is the way it really was. The actions and the clothes and the music and the neighborhood, the people on the streets, the kids getting ice cream, the people outside of Coney Island, all of that, with the diners and the testosterone level. Literally, it was a dangerous place to be.”
“Gravesend” also explores a different time period than the HBO saga.
“The reason I picked the ‘80s was because it was the heyday of the mafia,” he said. “If you think of ‘The Sopranos’ — which was a show that I was on — it started in like 2000, and it showed how the mob was depleted and that they were meeting in malls and that they were kinda hiding out more as opposed to the ‘80s, the John Gotti era. Guys were more out in the open, and there was more stuff happening. There were a lot of killings going on in the ‘80s. Paul Castellano got killed in the middle of Manhattan at Sparks Steak House. The ‘80s is a time where you can show more of them in the streets. They were very powerful in the ‘80s.”
It was also a time with distinctive tunes, and the music was a big part of setting the time period in “Gravesend,” with scenes at bars and dance clubs. It’s a soundtrack not often used in a mafia story, he noted.
“When you think about mafia movies, or just in general the Italian mob, you think of the Scorsese type of music, and it seems most of the time they’ll go with like the Rolling Stones or they’ll go with Italian music like Dean Martin,” he said. “I felt like that music that we listened to then back then, the freestyle music and stuff like that, that’s what we listened to. That was very popular music in the clubs and when you were driving in your car.”
The rides also helped evoke the setting and time period. As a car enthusiast himself, DeMeo was able to get his hands on some classics, including his own Buick Grand National.
Connections among New York actors helped him build a veteran ensemble cast, including Louis Lombardi (“The Sopranos,” “24,” “Entourage,” The Usual Suspects), James Russo (Django Unchained, Donnie Brasco, The Deuce), Paul Ben-Victor (The Irishman, “Santa Clarita Diet,” “Vinyl”) and Nick Turturro (BlacKkKlansman, World Trade Center).
“I have relationships with a lot of those actors,” he said. “You don’t have to second guess these guys. You know they’re gonna deliver. I don’t have to worry that they’re gonna come off as Hollywood guys. They’re New York actors most of them. They get it.”
During one scene in the series that takes place in the pizzeria made famous by John Travolta in the Brooklyn-set Saturday Night Fever, Benny muses over his favorite Italian actors. As for DeMeo himself, Travolta, a personal friend he bonded with on Gotti, is his favorite. “I’m a huge Saturday Night Fever fan, so I love him,” he said. “But [Al] Pacino, who doesn’t love Pacino, and I worked with Robert De Niro in Analyze That. Robert De Niro discovered me from A Bronx Tale. [Sylvester] Stallone. To me, that’s the four.”
Each of the four episodes of “Gravesend” culminates in a cliffhanger, including the last, and DeMeo hopes to get back into production in the next six months to satisfy the fans — barring any continued stoppage due to the pandemic.
“I have thousands and thousands of messages through my social media asking, ‘What happened, when is there going to be more?’” he said.
SVOD service Amazon Prime is rolling out user profiles, a feature long present on competing services such as Netflix.
In selected countries, one subscriber account can have up to six user profiles (one default primary profile plus five additional profiles, either adult or kids).
One general and one account for kids appears by default. When adding profiles, users can designate them for kids.
Prime Video will serve up only age-appropriate TV shows and movies (maturity rating 12 and under) to the kids’ profiles. However, all downloads including those from an adult’s profile, will still be available and can be accessed through the kids’ profiles. Search results and search suggestions are also filtered.
The sketch comedy series “The Kids in the Hall” will be making a comeback on Prime Video.
With the return of all of the original stars, the eight-episode Amazon Original series, which will be a continuation of the original show, will be available to Prime members in Canada and around the world in more than 200 countries and territories.
First premiering in 1989, the original Emmy Award-nominated “The Kids in the Hall” starred Canadian comedians Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson, who will be reprising fan-favorite characters (and assuming some new ones) for the series’ next iteration. The original series earned multiple Gemini Awards along with the cast being honored with the Canadian Screen Awards Icon Award in 2019.
The series will be executive produced by “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels.
“Even after 30 years, ‘The Kids in the Hall’ has retained its brilliance and originality,” Michaels said in a statement. “We are happy to be bringing back all of the original ‘Kids’ for the new series.”
“We’ve been investing in Canada for several years and are excited to add to that momentum by making ‘The Kids in the Hall’ the first Canadian Amazon Original series,” said James Farrell, VP of international originals for Amazon Studios, in a statement. “‘The Kids in the Hall’ is an iconic show with a deep-rooted fan base. Several of our global hits, including ‘The Boys,’ ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’ and ‘The Expanse’ have been filmed in Canada, and we are looking forward to continuing our work with talented producers and crew teams across the country to bring this series to our Prime members around the world.”