Data: Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Hello Sunshine’ Production Company a Gold Mine to HBO Max, Hulu, Apple TV+

When Reese Witherspoon sold controlling interest in her Hello Sunshine production company to private equity firm Blackstone Group for a reported $900 million, some observers wondered what drove such a high acquisition price.

Now, new data from Diesel Labs finds that shows produced by Hello Sunshine consistently beat other popular streaming/pay-TV titles, including “Mare of Eastown,” “Mrs. America,” and “Mythic Quest,” and bring the largest percentage of new engagement to platforms, including HBO Max, Hulu and Apple TV+.

Hello Sunshine produced “Big Little Lies” (which Witherspoon co-starred in with Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley, among others) for HBO Max; and “Little Fires Everywhere” (co-starring Kerry Washington) for Hulu, and “The Morning Show” (co-starring Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carrel) for Apple TV+.

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While “The Morning Show” is ranked second on Apple TV+, it’s worth noting that “Ted Lasso” is the second most-anticipated show this year across the entire TV landscape. Additionally, the second season of “The Morning Show” has yet to premiere.

“This data indicates that the ability to drive new users to a platform is invaluable in the entertainment industry today,” Diesel Labs said in a statement.

Indeed, Max and Hulu ended the most-recent fiscal period with 43.5 million and 38.5 million subscribers, respectively. Apple doesn’t disclose subscriber numbers but did report 700 million paid subs in its last fiscal report. The tally, which is up 25% from the previous-year period, includes Apple Music, Apple Games, AppleCare and Apple TV+, among others.

Reese Witherspoon Sells ‘Hello Sunshine’ Media Company to Private Equity Group

Reese Witherspoon is selling her 5-year-old Hello Sunshine media company to private equity giant Blackstone Group in a transaction that could be worth as much as $900 million. Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine CEO Sarah Harden will join the yet-unnamed new company board, which will be run by former Disney executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs.

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Blackstone is investing $500 million in the transaction for Hello Sunshine assets, which include HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere” and Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show,” among others. Witherspoon, who will receive an equity stake in the new company, will continue to push for female-generated content.

“I’m going to double down on that mission to hire more female creators from all walks of life and showcase their experiences,” Witherspoon said in a media interview. “This is a meaningful move because it really means that women’s stories matter.”

Joe Baratta, global head of private equity at Blackstone, said the growing demand for high-quality content is one of the firm’s “highest-conviction” investment themes.

“Reese is a visionary founder and entrepreneur who has built an extraordinary business with a long runway for continued expansion,” Baratta said.

Mayer, who headed Disney’s launch of Disney+ and ESPN+, among other digital ventures, left the company to head TikTok — a short-lived move after the social media platform found itself in the political crosshairs of former President Trump.

Staggs was the former chief financial officer at Disney and key to the company’s $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar Animation in 2006, and Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in 2009. Both Mayer and Staggs separately attempted to put themselves in line to become CEO of Disney — a position that ultimately went to company veteran Bob Chapek.

‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Premiere, ‘Palm Springs’ Among Hulu’s Most Watched Content in 2020

The season one premiere of “Little Fires Everywhere” was the most-watched episode while Palm Springs was the most watched movie on Hulu in 2020 through Dec. 2, the streaming service reported.

“Little Fires Everywhere,” which premiered with the episode “The Spark” on March 18, is a drama based on the novel starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

Palm Springs, which hit Hulu July 10, follows two strangers (Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti) who meet at a Palm Springs wedding only to get stuck in a time loop. Oscar-winner Parasite was the most-watched film on Hulu from March to May.

Among all Hulu viewers (live and on demand), unscripted content was the No. 1 genre in terms of content hours watched and percentage of overall consumption, according to Hulu. Minutes watched in unscripted series increased 48% year over year, driven by top unscripted titles such as “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

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The classic TV subgenre saw a 77% year-over-year increase in minutes watched streaming episodes of “I Love Lucy,” “M*A*S*H” and “The Twilight Zone,” among others.

Super Bowl LIV: 49ers vs. Chiefs was the top-streamed Live sports event. Five of Hulu’s top 10 Live programs in 2020 were dedicated to sports: NFL Football, College Football, NBA Basketball, SportsCenter and MLB Baseball together accounted for the majority of Live hours watched.

The top five most watched non-sports and non-news related Live shows were “Wheel of Fortune,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Family Guy,” “Jeopardy” and “The Simpsons.”

The Oscars, which aired Feb. 9, was the largest non-sports and non-news single event watched.

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The 10-week period March 15 through May 23 experienced the largest number of hours watched per week on Hulu, peaking during the week of April 12-18, according to the service. Hulu viewers watched more hours of TV on April 26 than any other single day, making it the most streamed day of the year. Some of the most-streamed titles that contributed to the record breaking day were “SNL at Home” (with Brad Pitt impersonating Dr. Fauci), all eight episodes of “Little Fires Everywhere” and episode three of the ESPN documentary The Last Dance.

From March through May, overall binge hours on Hulu were up 61% year over year and overall binge sessions were up 44%. Hulu defines “binge” as a session with playback (hours watched) from at least three episodes of the same series and at least 80% completion for each episode.

Hulu Original content dominated the platform in May, with viewers watching “Little Fires Everywhere,” “Normal People,” “Solar Opposites” and “The Great.” They also enjoyed bingeing “Letterkenny” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

News was the top genre among Hulu + Live TV subs this year in terms of minutes watched, as nearly 25% of minutes watched in the news category. The Top 3 news programs streamed between March through May were “ABC News Live,” “ABC 20/20” and “ABC World News Tonight with David Muir.”

  

Reese Witherspoon to Star in Pair of Rom-Coms for Netflix

Netflix has reached an agreement with Reese Witherspoon and her company Hello Sunshine to produce two romantic comedy features starring Witherspoon.

Your Place or Mine is based on an original script from Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), who will be making her feature directorial debut. Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan will produce the film through Aggregate Films, as part of their first-look deal with Netflix, alongside Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter for Hello Sunshine and McKenna for Lean Machine. The story follows two long-distance best friends who change each other’s lives when she decides to pursue a lifelong dream and he volunteers to keep an eye on her teenage son.

The Cactus is based on Sarah Haywood’s New York Times bestselling novel of the same name and was Witherspoon’s Book Club pick in June 2019. Witherspoon and Neustadter will produce for Hello Sunshine. In the story, an unexpected pregnancy at 45 causes a reserved woman to rethink the structured life she has created for herself and leads her on an unconventional journey toward love, family and learning to embrace the unexpected.

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“We have been looking for the right feature opportunities to collaborate with Ted Sarandos, Scott Stuber and the entire team at Netflix for a while and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with them on these two romantic comedies,” said Witherspoon in a statement. “Both Sarah Haywood’s and Aline Brosh McKenna’s stories blend everything we love about traditional rom-coms with strong, smart and determined female leads. “

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“Jason and I are thrilled to be producing Aline’s feature directorial debut with our great friends and partners at Netflix, and with a giant talent and friend like Reese and Hello Sunshine,” Michael Costigan said in a statement on behalf of Aggregate Films. “This is the perfect home for our movie, and with the ideal creative partners to be making a sophisticated and very contemporary romantic comedy that we believe global audiences will be excited to see.”

“We are thrilled to work alongside our long-standing partners and friends, Jason and Michael at Aggregate on Your Place or Mine,” said Scott Stuber, head of Netflix Films, in a statement. “They brought us this brilliantly funny romantic comedy from Aline that we immediately fell in love with and can’t wait to work with the Aggregate and Hello Sunshine teams on bringing it to life.

“Reese and her team at Hello Sunshine have made a tremendous mark on the industry and we’re excited to have found two terrific projects to collaborate with them on.”

“I’m the hugest Reese Witherspoon fan on earth, not just of her immense talents as an actor but also her producing skills,” said Brosh McKenna in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited to direct this movie for Netflix, working alongside Aggregate and Hello Sunshine.”

Apple Makes Golden Globe History with ‘The Morning Show’ Nominations

Upstart Apple TV+ made history of sorts becoming the first SVOD service to receive Golden Globe nominations (“The Morning Show”) in its first year of service.

The service received a Best Television Series — Drama nomination in addition to dual nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama for stars and executive producers Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. The series also stars Steve Carell.

The awards will be presented at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 5, 2020.

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Apple TV+ ($4.99) launched Nov. 1, representing the tech giant’s foray into OTT distribution.

“The Morning Show” explores the cutthroat world of morning news and the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning. Told through the lens of two complicated women working to navigate the minefield of high-octane jobs, while facing crises in both their personal and professional lives.

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The nominations are also the first drama TV actress nominations for both Aniston and Witherspoon. Aniston is now only the fourth person in history to receive Golden Globe nominations for both TV Comedy and Drama, Lead Actress.

“Thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for today’s historic nominations,” Zack Van Amburg, Apple’s head of worldwide video, said in a statement. “[T]oday’s nominations are a true testament to the powerful storytelling that went into ‘The Morning Show,’ as well as all of our Apple Originals.”

Despite reported struggles gaining consumer traction (in comparison with Disney+), Apple said “The Morning Show” is resonating with audiences globally.

“We cannot wait to continue exploring the world of ‘The Morning Show’ into season two,” said Jamie Erlicht, Apple’s head of worldwide video.

“The Morning Show” streams exclusively on Apple TV+ on the Apple TV app, with new episodes premiering worldwide every Friday. The season finale premieres on Dec. 20.

‘The Mandalorian’ Gives Disney+ Early Streaming Edge Over Apple TV+ Programming

The streaming wars have begun and early returns suggest Disney’s $6.99 branded subscription streaming service, Disney+, scored the first programming hits in comparison to Apple TV+ ($4.99).

“The Mandalorian,” the Disney+ exclusive “Star Wars”-themed original series, generated nearly 20 million “demand expressions” on its first day of release (Nov. 12), according to Parrot Analytics. That was nearly five times the first-day “demand” for the high-profile Apple TV+ series “The Morning News,” with 4.3 million “expressions” on Oct. 30.

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“Morning News” features Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell’s return to episodic TV. The series also stars Reese Witherspoon.

Parrot, which compiles its weekly proprietary “expressions” yardstick across social media posts, chatter and related metrics, disclosed the data to Business Insider.

The data does not necessarily reflect actual viewership numbers, including time spent streaming programming. Disney and Apple have not disclosed that information.

“Mandalorian” from producer Jon Favreau, bested Apple’s entire original programming slate, which includes “For All Mankind” (11.6 million expressions); “Dickinson” (8.4 million), and “See” (6.2 million).

It remains to be seen if “Mandalorian” bested Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which has topped Parrot’s digital originals chart for 20 consecutive weeks.

‘Big Little Lies’ Second Season on Disc Jan. 7

The second season of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” will be released on DVD Jan. 7 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. A Blu-ray version will be released by Warner Archive.

The returning cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoё Kravitz. In season two, the “Monterey Five” bond together to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives after the events of season one, while Perry’s grieving mother (Meryl Streep) comes to town in search of answers about her son’s death.

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The home video release will include all seven episodes, plus the featurette “The Lies Revealed: A Conversation With the Cast.”

Warner is also releasing a DVD two-pack containing both seasons of the series. The show is also available to own through digital retailers.

 

Stars Bite on Apple Streaming Service

Stars and filmmakers from Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams to Steve Carell, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah turned out March 25 to help Apple launch it’s new streaming service Apple TV+.

Apple Expected to Bow Video Streaming Platform March 25

Apple is expected to announce its much-anticipated Apple TV video streaming platform at a special “Apple Event” March 25 at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif.

The tech giant March 11 sent out “It’s Show Time” media invites without elaborating further details about the contents of the presentation. Media reports suggest that while Apple may announce the streaming service, it may not be functional until later this year.

Apple, which is reportedly spending $2 billion on original content for the rebooted Apple TV app, has been slow to jump on the over-the-top video bandwagon ever since co-founder Steve Jobs infamously characterized online video a hobby.

Now with entertainment management hired, and content deals involving Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Bill Murray, Sofia Coppola, Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) among others, in production, Apple TV reportedly will also offer third-party OTT video subscriptions – notably HBO, CBS All Access, Showtime and Starz — similarly to Amazon Channels.

Separately, Apple and Roku reportedly are finalizing details on an agreement that will enable Roku users to stream content, including video and photos, to and from an iPhone, iPad or Mac to a connected TV through the AirPlay 2 integration on the Roku device.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shout! Factory Releasing ‘Legally Blonde’ Blu-ray Collection Feb. 26

Indie distributor Shout! Factory’s Shout Select imprint will release The Legally Blonde Collection on Blu-ray Feb. 26, featuring Reese Witherspoon in 2001’s Legally Blonde and its 2003 sequel, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde.

In the first film, sorority girl Elle Woods (Witherspoon) enrolls at Harvard Law School with her little dog Bruiser in tow in an attempt to win back her boyfriend after he dumps her. In the sequel, she takes on Washington, D.C., in support of a bill against animal testing.

The Blu-ray includes a new 4K scan on the first film from its original negative, plus a new interview with actress Jessica Caulfiel, who played Margot, one of Elle’s best friends.

The collection also includes audio commentaries, making-of featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, music videos and the films’ trailers.