‘Ray Donovan’ Complete-Series DVD Due Oct. 25

CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment will release Showtime’s Ray Donovan: The Complete Series on DVD Oct. 25.

Set in the sprawling mecca of the rich and famous, Ray Donovan does the dirty work for L.A.’s top power players. The series stars Liev Schreiber in his first lead television role as the go-to guy who makes the problems of the city’s celebrities, superstar athletes and business moguls disappear. The drama unfolds when his father, played by Jon Voight, is unexpectedly released from prison, setting off a chain of events that shakes the Donovan family to its core.

The 29-disc collection includes all 82 episodes from the 2013-20 series, plus the 2022 follow-up movie.

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HBO Series ‘Winning Time’ Arriving on Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 4

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty — The Complete First Season on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Oct. 4.

The HBO original series is based on the book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman, and focuses on the 1979-80 championship season, as Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) buys the team and drafts Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah). The cast also includes Jason Clarke as Jerry West, Adrien Brody as Pat Riley, Gaby Hoffmann as Claire Rothman, Tracy Letts as Jack McKinney, Jason Segel as Paul Westhead, Julianne Nicholson as Cranny McKinney, Hadley Robinson as Jeanie Buss, DeVaughn Nixon as Norm Nixon, Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tamera Tomakili as Earleatha “Cookie” Kelly, Brett Cullen as Bill Sharman, Stephen Adly Guirgis as Frank Mariani, Spencer Garrett as Chick Hearn, Sarah Ramos as Cheryl Pistono, Molly Gordon as Linda Zafrani, Joey Brooks as Lon Rosen, Delante Desouza as Michael Cooper, Jimel Atkins as Jamaal Wilkes, Austin Aaron as Mark Landsberger, Jon Young as Brad Holland, with Rob Morgan as Earvin Johnson Sr. and Sally Field as Jessie Buss.

The show is also available for digital purchase and streaming on HBO Max. The series has been renewed for a second season.

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The Blu-ray and DVD of season one includes all 10 episodes, plus “The Forum” discussions with the cast and producers for each episode, and several “Winning Time” behind-the-scenes featurettes: “Invitation to Set,” “Set Tour,” “Changing the Game,” “Training Time” and “The Craft,” the latter focused on writer and executive producer Rodney Barnes, production designer Richard Toyon, and set designer Argya Sadan. A digital copy of the season is included with the Blu-ray. 

“Winning Time”

Billions: Season Six

DVD REVIEW:

Paramount/CBS;
Drama;
$33.99 DVD;
Not Rated.
Stars Paul Giamatti, Corey Stoll, Maggie Sif, David Costabile, Condola Rashad, Asia Kate Dillon, Daniel Breaker, Jeffrey DeMunn.

Some major cast changes for its sixth season would otherwise offer the prospect of a refreshing new perspective to Showtime’s “Billions” if its writers weren’t so set in their proclivities.

For its first five seasons, “Billions” focused on the efforts of crusading government attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) to take down ultra-rich hedge fund guru Bobby Axelrod. With Axe having fled the country, Rhoades sets his sights on the billionaire who conquered Axe’s empire, Mike Prince (Corey Stoll).

Prince hopes to re-energize Axe’s troops with a new mission to pursue investments based on bringing positive social change. Unlike Axe, whose money-making schemes frequently bordered on the shady and abusive, the image-conscious Prince seems motivated by benevolence. Among his efforts are bringing an Olympics to New York City and funding a universal basic income program. His efforts would beautify the city, revitalize infrastructure and stimulate the local economy.

Prince’s arrival also alters the power dynamics within Axe’s former company as the adjust to the new paradigm, particularly Axe’s old right-hand-man, Wags (David Costabile), who will do whatever it takes to prove he’s an ideal sycophant for whomever is in charge, and Wendy, Axe’s former motivational coach and Chuck’s ex-wife, who questions her purpose in the new company.

Rhoades, being the vindictive bureaucrat that he is, strives to quash all of Prince’s plans solely on the theory that simply being a billionaire must make Prince a criminal worthy of a takedown. Rhoades is also out for a bit of revenge given that he teamed with Prince to set up Axe’s fall, only for Prince to manipulate the situation to take over Axe’s companies and facilitate his escape.

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The show remains a riveting drama of Machiavellian proportions, filled with engaging character performances, sharp dialogue and a panache for pop culture. But the sixth season’s 12 episodes are a bit of an uneven roller coaster as story arcs veer from one scheme to the next with minimal transitions, and plot twists that demonstrate the writers aren’t willing to accept the obvious messaging of their own storylines.

Rhoades’ unchecked ego and abuse of power make him one of the biggest villains on television today. Yet the show still seems to want to view him as something of a hero, the embodiment of lingering anti-capitalist sentiments that hypocritically infuse the entertainment industry.

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As the cat-and-mouse game between Prince and Rhoades plays out, Rhoades makes it his business to interfere in everything Prince attempts, like a typical statist who can’t abide the concept of private money doing public good when it diminishes what he can control. On the verge of being outmaneuvered by Prince’s political alliances, Rhoades then appeals to broad populism and class warfare, hoping to convince his constituents that societal improvements are only worthwhile if they stem from the government.

What’s especially disappointing about season six is that until the final episodes of the season, Prince’s biggest flaws seem to be a misguided devotion to stakeholder capitalism, which is annoying, but it’s his money. Then the writers let Rhoades and his minions off the hook by gradually revealing facets of Prince’s character and business practices from seemingly out of nowhere for no other real narrative reason than to keep the show treading in the moral gray area it’s been swimming in since it began. There are no heroes and villains when it comes to power — there are just those who benefit and those who get screwed.

Sling TV Offering Subscribers ‘Freeview Weekends’ of Streaming Services

Sling TV is offering “Freeview Weekends,” providing paid subscribers free access to select standalone streaming services every weekend through August 2022.

The experience starts with the full suite of Showtime content June 24 to 27, in time for the season five premiere of “The Chi.”

During Freeview Weekends, customers have access to standalone streaming services’ live schedule and on-demand content library. Most Freeview offerings will start Friday and run through Monday. Premium streaming services currently slated in the preview lineup include Epix, Hallmark Movies Now, Curiosity Stream, Sundance Now, AMC+ and more.

The Freeview service will be automatically available on users’ home page and within the guide.

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“Sling launched in 2015 with one goal in mind: provide people easy access to their favorite shows and content, without a bloated monthly bill,” Gary Schanman, EVP and group president of Sling TV, said in a statement. “This sentiment holds true today — if a user wants to subscribe to any of our nearly 50 premium standalone services à la carte, they can do it. And now with Freeview Weekends, our current subscribers can ‘try before they buy’ every Summer weekend with no strings attached by simply turning on Sling to ensure they pay only for what they want to watch.”

‘Yellowjackets’ Season 1 Due on DVD July 19

Showtime, CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment will release Yellowjackets: Season One on DVD July 19.

“Yellowjackets” tells the story of a team of talented high school girls soccer players who survive a plane crash deep in the remote northern wilderness, chronicling their descent from teammates to savage clans while also tracking their lives 25 years later.

The cast includes Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis, Warren Kole, Ella Purnell, Samantha Hanratty, Sophie Thatcher, Sophie Nélisse, Steven Krueger and Jasmin Savoy Brown.

The four-disc set includes all 10 episodes plus two exclusive behind-the-scenes featurettes: “Yellowjackets: The Female Lens,” with interviews from the cast and creators; and “Yellowjackets: Favorite Moments,” in with the cast and crew reflect on impactful scenes throughout the season.

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Season Six of ‘Billions’ Arriving on DVD June 14

CBS, Showtime and Paramount Home Entertainment will release Billions: Season Six on DVD June 14.

The four-disc collection includes all 12 episodes from the 2022 season, which features Michael Prince (Corey Stoll) taking over Axe Capital, causing Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) to develop a new strategy that is keener and more sophisticated than before in order to take Axe down.

The cast also includes David Costabile, Maggie Siff, Asia Kate Dillon, Condola Rashad, Jeffrey DeMunn, Kelly AuCoin and Daniel Breaker.

Extras include two bonus clips and an exclusive featurette.

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Paramount+ Posts Big Sub Gain as ViacomCBS Rebrands to Paramount

ViacomCBS during a Feb. 15 investor event announced its streaming service, Paramount+, added 7.3 million subscribers in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31) to bring its total sub count to 32.8 million.

The media company also announced a name change to Paramount Global, “or, more simply, Paramount,” according to a memo to employees from  CEO Bob Bakish and non-executive chair Shari Redstone.

Bob Bakish

The name change takes effect Feb. 16 and comes “one year since the spectacular launch of Paramount+ and two years since the successful merger of Viacom and CBS,” according to the memo. “In that time, we have shown the world what we knew from the start: that together, aligned around a shared vision and shared strategy, we create a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.”

ViacomCBS executives attributed the Paramount+ streaming gain to Clifford the Big Red Dog, the live-action family film that debuted on Paramount+ the same day it opened in theaters, as well as original films Mayor of Kingstown, the “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” and South Park: Post-COVID. Execs also credited live events, NFL football games and bundling discounts.

Showtime also gained 2.1 million streaming subscribers to boost ViacomCBS’s total combined sub gain to 9.4 million, for a new total of 56 million.

Pluto TV, the company’s free, ad-supported streaming service, posted a 45% revenue gain to $362 million, while its monthly active user base rose by 10 million to more than 64 million.

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In a financial report, ViacomCBS said total company revenue increased 16% year-over-year in the fourth quarter to $8 billion, “reflecting growth across all revenue types.” Quarterly global streaming revenue was up 48% year-over-year to $1.3 billion, a gain the company attributes to subscription growth and a spike in advertising sales.

Profits, however, were down, with adjusted earnings of $557 million compared with $1.18 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020.  

“For more than a century, the name Paramount has been synonymous with great entertainment and industry leadership,” Bakish and Redstone wrote in the memo. “It’s part of our history, as pioneers of the Golden Age of Hollywood. But as Paramount+ has made clear, it’s also about our bright future. And, not least, it’s an idea: a promise to be the best. 

“As Paramount, our name will reflect who we are, what we aspire to be, and all that we stand for. It will help advance our strategy of harnessing all our strength and breadth in building the businesses of tomorrow. And it will capture the collective power of our global assets, from our amazing brands — CBS, Showtime, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian, Paramount Pictures, Paramount+, Pluto TV and more — to our global reach and our diverse audiences. All of which adds up to Paramount being the preeminent home to, and producers of, the world’s greatest content.”

‘Dexter: New Blood’ Arriving on Blu-ray and DVD March 22

CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment will release the Showtime limited series Dexter: New Blood on Blu-ray Disc and DVD March 22. A special Steelbook Blu-ray edition also will be available.

A continuation of the 2006-13 series “Dexter,” which starred Michael C. Hall as a blood-spatter expert for the Miami police department masquerading as a vigilante serial killer, Dexter: New Blood picks up 10 years later. With Dexter Morgan (Hall) still in hiding and living under an assumed name in a small town in New York, unexpected events in the close-knit community start to reawaken the urge to kill he has been keeping at bay, a reality further complicated by the surprise arrival of the son he left behind.

The cast also includes Jennifer Carpenter, Jack Alcott, Julia Jones, Alano Miller, Johnny Sequoyah and Clancy Brown. The event series ran from Nov. 7, 2021, to Jan. 9, 2022.

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The four-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets will include all 10 episodes, plus a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, plus a look at Dexter’s kill room, and discussions with the cast and crew about the return of the show.

The DVD offers English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, while the Blu-ray offers English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD.

‘Dexter: New Blood’ Blu-ray Steelbook

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.” 

Samba TV: Netflix’s ‘Love Hard’ Tops ‘Dexter’ Reboot, Mexican Grand Prix Through Nov. 7

Netflix original movie “Love Hard” topped the premiere episode of Showtime’s “Dexter” reboot, “Dexter: New Blood,” and the Mexican Grand Prix Formula One auto race the week ended Nov. 7, according to new viewership data from Samba TV, which tracks more than 46 million opted-in TVs globally, of which 28 million are in the United States.

“Love Hard,” a romantic comedy with a catfish twist, tracked 1.4 million U.S. households, 202,000 British households, 118,000 German homes, and 10,000 Australian households during the Live +3-Day window.

That compared with 1.3 million U.S. households streaming the Mexican Grand Prix, in addition to 996,000 homes in the U.K., and 454,000 in Germany.

Meanwhile, “Dexter: New Blood,” the much-anticipated return of America’s favorite police blood-splatter expert/serial killer Dexter Morgan, generated 478,000 U.S. households, in addition to 60,000 British homes and just 1,000 German households. Samba said it generated zero viewership for the episode in Australia, despite including Sydney data.