Rakuten TV Launches FC Barcelona Soccer Series

To soccer fans worldwide, Spain’s FC Barcelona (“Barça”) is one of the top professional clubs in the world led by Argentine’s Lionel Messi.

Rakuten TV Nov. 29 launched “Matchday: Inside FC Barcelona,” a free eight-episode reality-based program that follows the club and its players through the 2018-19 season.

Narrated by John Malkovich, the series claims to offer a “no-holds-barred” view of the club and players during a season that saw the club finish atop Spain’s La Liga as well feature prominently in the ongoing UEFA Champions League competition.

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Rakuten is a primary commercial sponsor of FC Barcelona. The series is available for free across the 42 European countries, including Japan.

Rakuten TV is a European-based VOD offering transactional access to new release movies and TV shows. It also includes an AVOD section, Rakuten TV Free, in a blend of thematic channels embracing Hollywood classics, local, exclusive and themed content.

Rakuten, headquartered in Japan, offers ecommerce in the United States. In addition to FC Barcelona, the company has partnerships with the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, Davis Cup and Spartan Race.

Rakuten TV Launching AVOD Service

Spanish-based digital service Rakuten TV Oct. 15 announced the launch of its first ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) channel.

The free section of Rakuten TV will include Hollywood movies and TV shows, in addition to local and exclusive content with a combined linear and on-demand access.

The AVOD channel will feature soccer documentary Matchday — Inside FC Barcelona, a series about one of Spain’s top clubs from the inside, offering previously unseen and exclusive scenes from the players’ private lives.

Narrated by John Malkovich, Matchday — Inside FC Barcelona is a creation of Barça Studios, FC Barcelona’s own production house, in collaboration with Kosmos Studios, Rakuten, Inc. in association with Rakuten H Collective Studio and Producciones del Barrio.

Rakuten Viber, Rakuten’s instant messaging service, will also be involved in the project, leveraging its community of 2 million Barça fans to promote Matchday.

Citing growth in consumer interest in AVOD, Rakuten TV claims it would be the first online TV platform combining transactional on-demand video content and AVOD across Europe.

“Rakuten TV continues to evolve rapidly alongside consumer trends within the industry, where there is a clear trend of advertisers moving away from linear TV and towards VOD,” founder/CEO Jacinto Roca said in a statement. “This is the mere beginning of a huge project which will see the launch of additional channels and exclusive content in the coming months”.

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The AVOD service will be available in beta version via Rakuten’s smart TV partners and will be rolled out on other platforms, including mobile and desktop.

Advertising sales will be managed by Rakuten Marketing, a subsidiary of Rakuten. Nielsen will be the data partner (DMP-data management platform) used to target digital advertisements.

“Advertisers and agencies are eager to be among the first to showcase their brands in this exclusive and groundbreaking advertising platform,” Nick Stamos, Rakuten marketing CEO, said. “VOD is emerging as a powerful media channel, our clients have been anticipating this launch from Rakuten TV, so we are very excited to bring this new proposition to market across Europe.”

 

Sony, Paramount to Offer Imax Content in the Home

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution, among others, in a deal with Rakuten TV, FandangoNow, and Imax, is set to offer Imax content on select smart televisions in the United States, Europe and China.

Imax and DTS have launched a license program enabling third-party consumer electronics manufacturers to offer digitally remastered 4K HDR content with DTS audio in the home.

“We are thrilled to support our collaborators to bring ‘The Imax Experience’ into the home with this new and exciting format,” Pete Wood, SVP/Digital Sales, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said in a statement.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is offering movies Venom, Spider-Man Homecoming, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Spider-Man: Far From Home — the latter including 45 minutes of Imax expanded content.

Paramount Home Media Distribution’s Bumblebee will be the studio’s first addition to the expanding collection of Imax Enhanced titles for streaming platforms, followed by Crawl, Pet Sematary (2019), and Rocketman, all of which will include Imax signature sound.

Imax content on Bravia TVs will be offered through the Rakuten TV streaming service this month in U.K., Spain, Germany, France and Italy.

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Bravia models with Imax Enhanced certification are the Master Series ZG9 8K HDR Full Array LED and AG9 4K HDR OLED sets, as well as the XG95 Series 4K HDR Full Array LED TV.

“Today’s announcement continues our efforts to usher in a new level of quality in home entertainment by pairing digitally re-mastered 4K HDR content with breath-taking images and immersive sound as the filmmakers intended for the home,” said Francisco Navarro-Sertich, SVP/Strategy at Imax Corp.

Separately, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment also will release a series of new titles on Imax Enhanced physical 4K Ultra HD disc, beginning with The Angry Birds Movie 2.

This is in addition to Imax Entertainment’s release of Space Station on Imax Enhanced UHD Blu-ray in July, which is available for purchase through Amazon and other major retailers.

 

Rakuten TV Gets Direct-Access on Samsung, LG, Philips and Hisense TV Remotes

Rakuten TV March 14 announced partnerships with Samsung Electronics, LG, Philips and Hisense to introduce a remote control button on their smart TV units in Europe and Pan America directly linking to the streaming video service.

The move comes about eight years after Netflix began incorporating its logo/button on TV remote controls in the United States. The SVOD pioneer followed up in Europe in 2015.

Barcelona-based Rakuten TV, which offers digital retail, rental of Hollywood movies, in addition to subscription streaming video throughout Europe, said incorporating its logo/button on TV remotes would increase its presence worldwide, including reaching more than 30 Million households and tripling its distribution from 12 to 40 countries in 2019.

The platform, which is owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, was previously known as Wuaki.tv. A year ago, Rakuten acquired British-based TalkTalk TV, which was previously known as Blinkbox.

The service said it would also increase selection of 4K HDR movies in all the 40 European countries involved in the expansion. Last year it became the first in Europe to offer 4K UHD content in Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Atmos on LG smart televisions.

“This is a major step that our company is undertaking within a plan of expansion, which aims at making Rakuten TV the first choice of entertainment for Smart TV owners,” founder/CEO Jacinto Roca said in a statement.

“This is proof of our commitment with providing an always better experience to cinema lovers. With this move, Rakuten TV will triple its presence on a continental level, strengthening its commitment to deliver the best cinematic experience at home.”

Comcast Cuts Spain’s Llega Sky SVOD Pricing 31%

Llega Sky, the British satellite operator’s nascent streaming video service in Spain, is cutting the monthly subscription price 31% to €6.99 from €9.99.

Launched in September 2017, Llega Sky offered TV series and on-demand movies from around the world in Spanish, predominantly in HD.

Despite including 12 popular pay TV channels, combined with access to TV shows “The Walking Dead,” “Big Bang Theory” and Grey’s Anatomy,” and hundreds of movies, the service has struggled to resonate with consumers.

Llega Sky reportedly has generated just 114,000 paying subscribers – significantly behind market leader Netflix with 2 million, HBO (475,000) and Rakuten (147,000).

The move follows Hulu’s decision in the United States to reduce the basic subscription plan (with advertising) to $5.99 from $7.99. The SVOD service recently disclosed it had topped 25 million subscribers, which includes online TV platform, Hulu with Live TV.

Sky’s corporate parent Comcast last week revealed it plans to expand over-the-top video platform Now TV platform across Europe.

Now TV offers monthly entertainment packages targeting movies (Sky Cinema), general entertainment, Premier League soccer (Sky Sports), children’s programming (Sky Kids) and reality TV-based Hayu – which is owned by NBC Universal and available in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canada, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

 

 

 

Dolby, Rakuten TV, LG Partner for 4K UHD with HDR

Spanish-based digital service Rakuten TV has become the first in Europe to offer 4K UHD content in Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Atmos on LG smart televisions.

Of the 100 movies available in 4K UHD, about 25 feature Dolby Vision and Atmos enhancements, including Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Blade Runner 2049, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Star Wars: The Last Jediand Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Baby Driverand Elysium, among others.

“Our collaboration with Rakuten TV magnifies the dedication from Hollywood to bring Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos to a broader global audience,” Javier Foncillas, VP, commercial partnerships Europe, Dolby Labs, said in a statement.

Initial availability will be limited to the U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain and France – with another 12 countries added over the next few weeks.

“Our mission is to deliver a premium cinema experience in your home,” said Sidharth Jayant, global product director at Rakuten TV. “The only way we can do it is merging content and technology in a unique formula and with premium partners allowing us to realize it.”

Josep Mitjà, COO at Rakuten, said it took nine months of collaboration with LG and Dolby to get the platform operational.

“It’s a cloud service, so the aim is to maintain quality across a range of devices,” Mitjà said. “It’s new movies, it’s something that customers want.”

Last month, Dolby announced 20 titles available from Disney to be screened at exhibitors featuring Dolby Vision/Atmos technology. Titles included live-action and animated releases from Disney, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Pixar, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Theatrical releases included Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Timeand Avengers: Infinity War, in addition to upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story, The Incredibles 2 and The Ant-Man and the Wasp,among others.