Showtime’s ‘Escape at Dannemora’ on DVD April 16

Paramount Home Media Distribution and CBS Home Entertainment will release Showtime’s award-winning limited series Escape at Dannemora on DVD April 16.

Escape at Dannemora follows the true story of two convicted murderers (played by Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano) who escaped a correctional facility with the help of a female prison employee (played by Patricia Arquette, who won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award for best actress in a limited series).

The cast also includes Bonnie Hunt, Eric Lange and David Morse. The series was executive produced and directed by Ben Stiller.

The DVD features all seven episodes plus special features.

Report: Apple Video Service Bowing Without Netflix, HBO, Hulu

When it comes to streaming video, Apple has largely been a spectator. In fact, the late Steve Jobs infamously considered Apple TV a “hobby.”

But the company synonymous with consumer electronics innovation is spearheading a major push into OTT video this year, including spending more than $1 billion on original content.

With a brand as powerful as Disney’s, Apple apparently believes it is worth a lot in the OTT ecosystem.

CEO Tim Cook said as much on the recent fiscal call.

“We see huge changes in customer behavior taking place now and we think that it will accelerate as the year goes by with the breakdown of the cable bundle,” he said. “I think that it’ll likely take place at a much faster pace this year.”

Indeed, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company is upping the ante for third-parties along for the streaming ride on its platform — reportedly set to launch by May without heavyweights Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now.

While both brands are available on the Apple TV streaming media device, CNBC reports the new platform will operate similarly to Amazon Channels as facilitator to original and third-party OTT services — the latter for a cut of the subscriber action.

Apple, which gets 15% commission per third-party subscriber generated through the App store, now wants 30% per sub on the new platform, according to CNBC. The Wall Street Journal previously reported Apple is looking at a 50% split for its pending news streaming service.

Apparently, Netflix, Hulu and HBO aren’t biting, while Lionsgate-owned Starz, Showtime OTT and Viacom are. HBO, Starz and Showtime are available on Amazon Channels.

 

The Roku Channel Offering Premium SVOD Services

Roku Jan. 28 announced it is offering access to third-party “premium subscriptions” SVOD services on The Roku Channel ad-supported platform.

The streaming media device manufacturer said it would begin sending updates to connected devices in the coming weeks, beginning with branded Roku players and concluding with Roku TV models.

The strategy enables users to browse, trial and subscribe to services such as Epix, Showtime and Starz. Users can watch free and premium channels in one interface and pay a single monthly bill for subscriptions. New subs registered before March 31, get 30-day free trials of those services on The Roku Channel.

The channel is now ranked 8thin popularity among Roku store apps, according to Citi’s Roku/OTT tracker.

Additionally, viewing of The Roku Channel directly from within the mobile app is available for iOS devices starting today. The update for Android devices is expected to begin to roll out in mid-February.

“Now there is one place on the Roku platform where users can seamlessly access both free and premium entertainment, with one click sign-up, easy subscription management and a single monthly bill,” Rob Holmes, VP, programming and engagement at Roku said in a statement.

Users can access more than 25 premium services, including: Baeble Music; CollegeHumor’s Dropout; CuriosityStream; Fandor Spotlight; FitFusion; The Great Courses Signature Collection; Grokker; Hi-Yah!; Hopster; Lifetime Movie Club; Dox, LolFlicks, Monsters and Nightmares, Magnolia Selects, and Warriors & Gangsters presented by Magnolia Pictures; MHz Choice; Noggin; Shout! Factory TV, Smithsonian Channel Plus; Stingray Karaoke; Tastemade; Viewster Anime; and ZooMoo.

‘Ray Donovan’ Season Six on DVD April 9

Showtime Networks, CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution will release Ray Donovan: The Sixth Season on DVD April 9.

The season finds Ray (Liev Schreiber) rebuilding his life both personally and professionally in New York City.

“Ray Donovan” is a crime drama series created by Ann Biderman for Showtime. Set in Los Angeles, the series revolves around the title character, a “fixer” for a powerful law firm that represents the rich and the famous.

The 12-episode first season premiered on June 30, 2013; the pilot episode broke viewership records and became the biggest premiere of all time on Showtime.

Showtime on Dec. 20 renewed the show for a seventh season.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect a new street date to April 9 from April 2 announced Jan. 25.

Amazon Prime Jumpstarts ‘Aquaman’ Domestic Theatrical Release with $3 Million Sneak Screening

Amazon continues to flex third-party revenue opportunities through its Prime membership base.

The e-commerce behemoth reportedly helped generate almost $3 million in ticket sales for Warner Bros.’ upcoming DC superhero movie Aquaman, following a Dec. 15 sneak screening. The tally beat Amazon’s previous $1.8 million collaboration with Sony Pictures for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Working with Atom Tickets, Amazon enabled Prime members to purchase up to 10 tickets for the special screening available at more than 1,200 theaters nationwide,including AMC, Regal, National Amusement Theaters and ArcLight Cinemas.

Paid sneak screenings – unlike free previews – reportedly offer studios a better estimate how movies will perform under general release.

Directed by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Insidious), Aquaman stars Jason Momoa in the title role, in addition to co-stars Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Nicole Kidman, among others.

The movie, which opens Dec. 21, has already generated $261.3 million in foreign box office revenue.

Amazon, which has more than 100 million Prime members, first began leveraging its user base via Prime Video Channels (formerly Amazon Channels) affording third-party streaming video platforms such as Starz, Showtime OTT and HBO Now direct access to its members, while handling billing and backend support in exchange for a percentage of revenue.

Indeed, parent companies of Showtime, CBS All Access, Starz and HBO Now have attributed much of their subscriber gains to Amazon.

 

 

Netflix Originals Demand Share to Overtake Licensed Content by Fall 2019

Demand for Netflix Originals is estimated to overtake the share of demand for licensed titles by October 2019, according to new research by Parrot Analytics and Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Netflix has a goal of having 50% of its content be comprised of Netflix originals, notes the report, which leverages Parrot Analytics’ Demand Expressions metric, which uses social media, video streaming, photo sharing, blogging, micro-blogging, fan and critic rating platforms, peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites to measure consumer demand.

The report compared the sum of U.S. demand for both Netflix original series, and the licensed titles available on the U.S. Netflix service each month. While currently the most in-demand content tends to be licensed titles, the proportion of the demand share from Netflix original titles has generally grown month over month, according to the report. Overall, for the 12 months analyzed, the demand share for Netflix originals grew an average of 1 % each month. From July 2017 to June 2018, the streaming service’s reliance on licensed content dropped by 10.9%. Based on these 12 months of data, the report forecasts that Netflix will generate 50% of U.S. audience content demand with its own original content from October 2019 onward.

The report from Parrot Analytics and Kagan also looked at demand for television content across streaming subscription video-on-demand platforms in the United States. Overall, the report found demand for content on all major SVOD platforms, including Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Showtime, and Starz, has increased over the past year.

For the premium channel VOD platforms (HBO Now, Showtime, and Starz), new content from their linear channels tends to be the most in-demand, the study found. However, Parrot Analytics affinity analysis reveals that the respective back catalog of each VOD platform continues to play an important role, indicating that older titles likely remain an important driver of subscriber loyalty.

“The future for the industry is likely to be even more crowded and the winners are still unknown,” said Deana Myers, research director, S&P Global Market Intelligence. “Walt Disney is expected to debut its SVOD service in 2019 and its proposed buy of the studio and libraries of 21st Century Fox will add a vast amount of content to this service. Other anticipated SVOD launches include those by Apple and WarnerMedia. We estimate the overall US SVOD industry has many strong years of growth in its future, particularly as competition from Disney and Apple could impact the market.”

Other new entrants to the online video space, such as Facebook Watch, YouTube and DC Universe, are also investing heavily in originals and acquired content, the research firms noted. At the same time, content spending for Netflix, Amazon and Hulu is expected to continue to grow at double digit rates.

The research in this report is based on a catalog demand analysis of digital-only Netflix and Hulu services, and a premium channel VOD demand analysis based on TV demand data pertaining to HBO Now, Showtime and Starz.

Report: U.S. Movie Consumers Remain a Fragmented Audience

The good news is that American consumers still covet movies. The summer domestic box office was the second-highest in history at $4.8 billion – erasing the gloom of 2017, which was the worst for theatrical revenue in 10 years.

For industry markets, however, Americans remain fragmented in how they consume movies and distribution channels delivering them, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

The London-based research firm said movie distribution includes premium channels such as HBO, Epix, Showtime and Starz; buying/renting DVD and Blu-ray Discs; subscription streaming video; digital/pay-TV purchases/renting and theatrical.

In a survey of 4,000 respondents, 71% said they subscribed an over-the-top video service offering movies; 51% frequent movie the cineplex; 37% buys packaged media; 32% subscribe to a premium movie channel; and 26% buy/rent digital movies.

Ampere said 97% of people who went to movie theaters at least once in the last six months also have an SVOD service that offers movies. Another 54% have access to a premium movie channel; 45% purchase/rent DVD/Blu-ray/digital titles; 19% buy/rent packaged media exclusively; 8% rent/purchase movies exclusively online or through a pay-TV operator; and 5% only rent/purchase movies.

SVOD-only respondents (those who don’t purchase or rent movies, visit movie theaters/cinemas or have premium channels) are now the largest category, at 15% of U.S. respondents, but there are a wide range of other access means in use.

Half of domestic Web users visit movie theaters at least infrequently, while over a third buy or rent DVD/Blu-ray.

Ampere said theatrical distribution is a key mechanism for reaching older consumers, who it claims are under-represented across all distribution categories relative to the average U.S. consumer.

 

Masters of Sex: The Complete Series

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Mill Creek;
Drama;
$54.98 DVD, $69.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Teddy Sears, Nicholas D’Agosto, Annaleigh Ashford, Beau Bridges, Allison Janney, Rose McIver, Julianne Nicholson.

Several shows attempted to emulate the “Mad Men” formula of exploring modern themes through the lens of the mid-20th Century, and “Masters of Sex” was one of the better ones.

The key difference between the two shows, of course, is that the primary characters on “Masters of Sex” are inspired by actual people. Based on Thomas Maier’s 2009 book, the show explores the collaboration of William Masters and Virginia Johnson and how they came together to produce their landmark sex study in the 1950s and 1960s.

The series ran for four seasons from 2013 to 2016 on Showtime.

The first season takes place in 1956 and 1957, with famed obstetrician Masters (Michael Sheen, turning in Emmy-worth work that earned nary a hint of recognition at the time) undertaking the first steps of his sexual research, conducting his observations in brothels because the university won’t sanction his methods at first. He finds a partner in Virginia (the fetching Lizzy Caplan, also worthy of awards recognition), who starts out as his secretary but takes on a much more important role in the study, especially as Masters realizes he has developed lustful feelings toward her.

Sheen manages to play Masters as if Don Draper were Sheldon Cooper, using his sex study as an excuse to pursue titillation while sidestepping the typical judgments of society. Meanwhile, Caplan’s Virginia Johnson is a modern woman trapped in the 1950s, struggling to burst free of the traditional gender roles that are constraining her.

The sex and nudity is plentiful but hardly gratuitous, often tamped down by the clinical setting, with participants in the study hooked up to wires and surrounded by medical equipment.

The central conceit, of course, is that the sexual repression being unlocked by the study is a metaphor for the time period, with subplots that tease out other aspects of constrained American life of the 1950s. Most notable among these is Beau Bridges as Masters’ closeted gay boss, struggling with his sexuality while maintaining the façade of a family life, leading to a heartbreaking performance by Allison Janney as his long-suffering wife.

Subsequent seasons find Masters and Johnson linked both romantically and professionally, as they both publish their studies and open a clinic to further their research. After the early episodes set in the 1950s, the show jumps forward in time, sometimes months and years at a time, which allows it to use the Vietnam War as a backdrop for some of the stories (Virginia’s son enlists in the Army, much to her chagrin). The show also explores the sexual revolution in general, with Masters and Johnson’s work gaining the interest of Hugh Hefner.

The further the season goes, the more it deviates from the reality of its characters as well. According to the disclaimers prominently displayed with the episodes, the show is a highly fictionalized account of Masters and Johnson’s lives, focused more on the general idea of what they represented than who they actually were. As such, their family lives are almost entirely works of fiction, no more so than a pregnancy subplot in which Virginia has another baby with her ex-husband — a subplot supposedly mandated by the production’s legal team as a way to divert the show’s storylines from the reality of the duo’s actual children.

Still, the show is mindful about the better-known touchstones of Masters and Johnson’s lives, including their eventual marriage. The show was canceled after its fourth season, ending with an episode that, while not intended as a series finale, serves as a fitting conclusion to the various arcs. Not that the show couldn’t have continued, but the prevailing feeling at the time was that there wasn’t much more it needed to say.

During the show’s initial run on Showtime, production house Sony Pictures released just the first two seasons on DVD and Blu-ray in America (seasons three and four were released on disc overseas). So this Mill Creek collection is the first chance most of the show’s stateside fans will have to complete their collections of it.

Mill Creek has ported over the extras from the Sony releases, including deleted scenes that are grouped with their respective episodes in seasons one and two. There’s also a commentary on the pilot episode that really takes advantage of the winning chemistry between the cast (especially as they tease each other during sex scenes).

On the Blu-ray, the previously released featurettes have been clustered together as the bonus material for the two discs of the fourth season. (Season one’s featurettes on are season four disc one, season two’s are on season four disc two.)

One notable difference is that the episodes include the recaps of the previous episodes, where the Sony discs made viewing these optional.

The fact that the previous bonus materials are included is great news for those who already own the first two seasons and might otherwise be hesitant on fully replacing them with this new set. Since so many third-party re-releases don’t bother to carry over the older extras (for whatever reason, be it licensing, disc space or a general lack of interest), it’s to Mill Creek’s credit that they’re all included here, making this collection a no-brainer for collector’s in the modern golden age of television.

Amazon Management Nixs Discussing ‘Prime Channels’ as Pay-TV Substitute

Amazon’s head of investor relations Dave Fildes refused to speculate whether the e-commerce giant plans to roll out Prime Channels as a standalone competitor to linear pay-TV.

Speaking July 26 on the company’s fiscal call, Fildes said the Channels platform continues to attract mainstream content providers.

“We’re really pleased with the growth we’re seeing, [and] we’ve seen some really good channels come online in the past few quarters,” he said.

Launched in December 2015, Channels offers Prime members access to third-party over-the-top video services such as HBO Now, Showtime, Starz, Dove Channel, Acorn TV, BritBox, Sundance Now, Shudder, Cheddar, Fandor and PBS Kids, among more than 100 services.

Subscriptions are processed and billed through the Prime membership, similar to ecommerce purchases using an Amazon credit card.

Channels accounts for 55% of all a-la-carte OTT video subscriptions, according to The Diffusion Group – reportedly generating more than 70% of all new subs for Showtime OTT and Lionsgate-owned Starz.

Indeed, digital subscriptions that provide Prime members unlimited viewing (Prime Video) or usage rights from third parties (via Channels) generated $3.4 billion in second-quarter revenue (ended June 30), up 57% from revenue of $2.1 billion last year.

“It’s clear to us that customers want that option as part of their Prime membership,” Fildes said.

Separately, Prime original pro soccer series, “All or Nothing: Manchester City,” will become available on Aug. 17.

The series follows the team’s coach, Pep Guardiola and the stories that unfold within the players’ lives. It chronicles Manchester City’s 2017/18 season from the training facilities, to interviews with the manager and executive meetings.

Additional Prime Originals coming to the service in August include, the series premieres of “Agatha Christie” (Aug 10) and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” (Aug 31), as well as the second season of “The Stinky & Dirty Show” (Aug 14) and the premiere of original movie, Gringo (Aug 17).

Licensed content includes seasons one and two of “True Tori”, and movies A Cinderella Story (Hilary Duff) and The Blair Witch Project (Heather Donahue). Available to rent or purchase on Prime Video is Deadpool 2, starring Ryan Reynolds.

 

Sling TV Offering Free, à La Carte Programming Without Subscription

Sling TV June 28 became the first online TV service to offer free content, à la carte channels, plus transactional live events and digital movie purchases, without requiring a base monthly subscription.

The new service is available to returning Sling customers on Roku devices. The updated options will expand to additional Sling-supported streaming media devices in the near future.

“The new Sling evolves the experience even further by providing access to great content without anchoring customers to a base subscription,” Warren Schlichting, president of Sling TV, said in a statement.

Upon re-opening the Sling TV app, former subs can access more than 100 hours of free TV shows and movies without restarting their subscription. Ribbons within the “My TV” interface dedicated to free shows and movies include, “Wrecked,” “The Detour,” “Good Behavior,” and “Flip or Flop,” among others.

Users can purchase select channels in an à la carte fashion and watch them through the Sling TV app without a subscription.

Channels available as à la carte subscriptions range from Showtime, to on-demand channels and sports packages.

Additions include Cinedigm’s Dove Channel, Outside TV Features and Stingray Karaoke, joining à la carte on-demand channels CuriosityStream, Pantaya and Up Faith & Family.

Each channel can be purchased month-to-month and accessed through the Sling TV app alongside free shows and other purchased content.

Monthly pricing for à la carte channels includes Showtime ($10); CuriosityStream ($6); Stingray Karaoke ($7); Dove Channel ($5); Outside TV Features ($5); Up Faith & Family ($5); Pantaya ($6), and NBA League Pass: $28.99

Sling TV was the first online TV service to offer pay-per-view (PPV) events, and has presented more than 15 events since 2017, including UFC fights and boxing matches.

Consumers can now access PPV events as a one-time purchase without purchasing a Sling TV subscription. Users can choose to use Sling TV solely for their PPV events or combine their PPV purchases with any of Sling TV’s base subscriptions.

In addition to the PPV UFC and boxing matches, users also have the option to purchase digital movies.