Starz Inks Multiyear Agreement for Lionsgate and Summit Label Movies

In another nod to over-the-top video distribution, Lionsgate and multiplatform subsidiary Starz March 2 announced the closing of a multiyear exclusive first window output deal for all theatrically released Lionsgate and Summit label movies when current agreements expire at the end of 2021 and end of 2022, respectively.

The agreement will bring to Starz movie franchises such as “John Wick,” starring Keanu Reeves; Borderlands, based on the best-selling video game franchise, directed by Eli Roth and starring Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jack Black; White Bird: A Wonder Story, featuring Helen Mirren and Gillian Anderson in the follow-up to Lionsgate’s box office hit Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, produced by Oscar winner James L. Brooks and adapted from the Judy Blume classic; and The Hunger Games prequel based on Suzanne Collins’ The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. Future installments of the Saw franchise will also be included under the deal.

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“This agreement is the next logical step in capitalizing on the combination of our two companies,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. “It gives our brands and franchises an exciting new platform home, accelerates the convergence of our studio and platform businesses and will support Starz’s continued growth into one of the world’s leading premium subscription platforms.”

With 28 million subscribers, more than half of whom are streaming subscribers, Starz offers more than 7,500 premium TV episodes and feature films, including original series, first-run movies and other programming.  It recently launched #TakeTheLead initiative that spotlights a spectrum of women both in front of and behind the camera for audiences worldwide.

“Combining our strong slate of original programming focused on narratives by, about and for women and underrepresented audiences with Lionsgate’s diverse pipeline of both commercially successful and critically acclaimed franchises further enhances the value proposition we bring to our subscribers and partners,” said Alison Hoffman, President of Domestic Networks for Starz, in a statement.

“Demand for movies has never been greater, and this agreement has significant benefits for our company, our consumers and our partners,” added Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution, in a statement.  “It represents a great opportunity to continue monetizing our robust theatrical slate while supporting the continued strong growth of Starz.”

Lionsgate Play SVOD Service Launches First Original Indian Production

The Lionsgate-owned streaming platform Starz, which last year launched a low-cost, branded Lionsgate Play mobile app in India, is partnering with Lionsgate Television on its first Indian original series, a remake of the Golden Globe-nominated series “Casual.”

The series will kick off Lionsgate Play’s first original slate of drama, comedy, crime and action series for the Indian and South Asian markets, building on the success of such award-winning series as “Normal People” (nominated for two Golden Globes), “The Goes Wrong Show” and “Love Life.”

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Lionsgate Play is part of a Hollywood trend targeting India’s mobile device-centric consumer with streaming entertainment. The $1.37 monthly/$9.65 annual app is available to download across a broad array of platforms and devices, including the Google Play store, the Apple app store and Amazon Fire TV Stick. The market is projected to reach 200 million SVOD subscribers by 2025, according to Futuresource Consulting.

“Lionsgate Play continues to gain momentum in India, proving to be a strong driver of Starz’s international growth,” Jeffrey Hirsch, Starz CEO said in a statement.

The series will be directed by Kunal Kohli, the Bollywood film director known for films such as Hum Tum and Fanaa, and will star Lara Dutta and Prateik Babbar. The former Miss Universe 2000, Dutta has starred in the films Housefull and Don 2, among others. Babbar starred in Jaane Tu, Mumbai Diaries and numerous other films and premium series.

Since Starz began its international rollout in 2018, the StarzPlay global subscription platform is now available in 56 countries, including its StarzPlay Arabia joint venture.

“Our ability to kick off the Lionsgate Play original slate with the remake of a great intellectual property, shows what we can achieve through the continued collaboration of our Starz, Lionsgate Television and Lionsgate India businesses,” said Lionsgate Television Group Chairman Kevin Beggs.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment Revenue Up Through Nine Months of Fiscal Year

Lionsgate home entertainment continues to see a digital lifeline as the pandemic undermines major new movie releases due to theatrical closures and limited seating.

The studio Feb. 4 reported third-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2020) motion picture revenue of $250 million, down almost 48% from revenue of $474 million during the previous-year period. Segment operating income, which includes home entertainment, inched up 2% to $50 million from $49 million last year — despite higher theatrical and ancillary revenue in the prior-year quarter.

Like other studios/distributors, Lionsgate attributed the motion picture decline to the pandemic that has seen 65% of major market theatrical screens shuttered and major releases backlogged, curtailing packaged-media and digital releases.

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“Our success in generating strong returns from early PVOD, multiplatform, and hybrid models for the films FataleAntebellumRunI Can Only Imagine and The Secret speaks to our ability to monetize current films, while at the same time working with our theatrical exhibition partners to plan for the future,” CEO Jon Feltheimer said on the fiscal call.

The studio said five feature films have returned to production, three new film productions have started, and in the coming months Lionsgate will begin shooting the Wonder sequel White Bird from director Marc Forster; Shotgun Wedding, starring Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel; Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret from producer James L. Brooks; Borderlands, teaming Kevin Hart and Cate Blanchett; and John Wick 4, starring Keanu Reeves for 2022 release.

Total home entertainment movie revenue in the quarter fell 16.5% to $159.5 million, from $190.9 million during the previous-year period. DVD/Blu-ray Disc sales tallied $36.2 million, down almost 52% from $75.4 million in the previous-year period. Digital revenue increased 6.5% to $123.1 million from $115.5 million last year.

Through nine months of the fiscal year, home entertainment movie revenue is down 6.4% to $476.8 million from $509.1 million last year.

Top-selling packaged-media releases in 2020 included Midway and Knives Out.

Television production in Q3 saw operating income swing to black with $30 million on revenue of $228 million. That compared with an operating loss of $6 million and revenue of $189 million the previous year.

Television home entertainment content sales skyrocketed to $61.1 million, from $10.6 million the year before. Disc sales topped $3.1 million, up from $600,000. Digital revenue reached $58 million, up exponentially from $10 million in the previous-year period. Through nine months, home entertainment sales of TV content is up 150% to $124.7 million from $49.8 million a year earlier.

In spite of the challenges, Lionsgate is currently shooting 19 scripted television series and, another 20 unscripted shows around the world.

Through nine months of the fiscal year, total home entertainment revenue topped $601.5 million, up about 2% from revenue of $589 million during the previous-year period.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s move into over-the-top video distribution continues to grow. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based studio saw global subscribers, including StarzPlay Arabia, a non-consolidated equity method investee, increased to 28 million, with global OTT subscribers increasing 900,000 to 14.6 million, 52% of the total. StarzPlay International OTT subscribers grew 26% in the quarter and domestic OTT subscribers posted gains of 300,000 subs.

Starz SVOD subs in the U.S. increased to 9.5 million, up 31% from 5.6 million during the previous-year period. International subs increased to 2.4 million from 700,000. Spanish-language based SVOD Pantaya ended the period with 900,000 subs, up 50% from 600,000 subs a year ago.

“From the Starz acquisition four years ago, through the international rollout that began in 2018, we’ve been converting and scaling Starz into a modern, data-driven global subscription leader that has become the first ‘traditional’ service to have more over-the-top than linear subscribers, a critical digital inflection point,” Feltheimer said. ” By the end of next quarter, we expect streaming revenue to surpass traditional for the first time as well.”

 

CES: Streaming Execs Discuss Race to Please, Attract Customers

Executives from streaming services gathered at the virtual CES Jan. 12 to discuss how they aim to please consumers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“We are all in this battle to make sure our customers can find our content as easy as possible,” said Stefanie Meyers, SVP of distribution at Starz, who manages its digital business.

Sarah Lyons, SVP of product experience at WarnerMedia, said the company’s new HBO Max service uses a blend of curation and data to target programming to consumers.

“About two-thirds of the time consumers know what they are looking for,” she said. “In those instances, get out of their way. Make it as easy as possible.”

As far as content, Lyons said, “you see tremendous engagement when you offer up lots and lots of content.” But that content has to be a mix of originals and catalog, she said.

Meyers agreed, noting that theatrical blockbusters with huge marketing campaigns are a draw, but “if you have a deep library, that can help with retention as well.”

Consumers are in different mindsets when they approach a service, Lyons said. Sometimes they are ready to sit down for a two-hour movie, and sometimes they just want to watch for a quick 30 minutes. She noted a trend of families coming together to watch a story, either virtually or in their homes, as families did in the past gathering around the TV.

“What’s old is new,” she said.

Indeed, streaming is the new TV, noted Andrew McCollum, CEO of virtual MVPD Philo.

“20 years from now people aren’t going to consider streaming TV streaming; they’re just going to consider it TV,” he said.

Thus, the competition is heating up in the virtual MVPD marketplace that replicates traditional TV, with consumers confronted with streamers, such as YouTube TV, that are having to raise prices to cover the cost of content, especially sports and news.

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“A lot of the services came to market with price points that were not sustainable,” he said, citing YouTube TV’s price jump from $25 to $65.

Philo took a different tack, eschewing such costly content that consumers may not need or want.

“It was never our intention to be the lowest cost service, but it was our intention to be the best value service,” he said.

Consumers can now get bundles of streaming services “for less than they were paying for cable,” he said.

Pluto TV, now owned by Viacom, relishes its market leading position in the ad-supported VOD or free streaming marketplace, as well as the content available from its parent, said Pluto TV SVP of programming Scott Reich. Pluto fills a niche in the Viacom streaming strategy, he said.

“It’s about creating a complementary ecosystem,” he said. “Pluto is the priority on the free service side of things. Paramount+ and Showtime are obviously the priority on the paid side.”

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Content from Viacom is filling Pluto’s AVOD pipeline, delighting customers with classic shows.

“This year we added a lot of CBS content,” Reich said, allowing Pluto consumers to revisit “Three’s Company,” “Love Boat” and “Happy Days,” among other classics.

“What’s old is new again,” he said.

 Being a free service is an advantage in the crowded streaming market, he noted, “You just fire it up, and it works.”

Lionsgate’s Starz Launches on Sports-Themed FuboTV

Lionsgate-owned Starz Dec. 18 announced the launch of premium channels and SVOD library on sports-themed online television service fuboTV. Subscribers to the platform who also subscribe to Starz can now watch exclusive original series, including “Power Book II: Ghost,” “P-Valley,” “Hightown,” and “Outlander” as well as hundreds of movies and first-run films.

“We are thrilled to expand our OTT presence with our fuboTV partnership, bringing original series and a huge library of films to [the online TV channel’s] growing base of viewers in time for the holidays,” Alison Hoffman, president of domestic networks for Starz, said in a statement. “With our launch on fuboTV, Starz will be available on all major streaming services in the U.S.”

The platform offers access to more than 7,500 VOD selections including the upcoming third season of “American Gods,” premiering in January 2021; to Hollywood movies such as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Bad Boys for Life.

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“Starz offers something for everyone in the family to stream,” said Ben Grad, head of content strategy and acquisition for fuboTV.

Starz is available as an add-on to fuboTV’s base package, fubo Standard, for $8.99 per month. fubo Standard offers a broad mix of more than 100 channels, including sports, news and entertainment channels than in any other live streaming platform’s base package.

Lionsgate Play SVOD Service Bows in India

Starz has launched the direct-to-consumer OTT app Lionsgate Play in India, making premium Hollywood content available in multiple Indian languages, the company announced.

The service is priced at INR 699 for a year or INR 99 per month. In India, the app will be available to download across platforms and devices including the Google Play store, Apple app store and Amazon firestick.

New content available at launch includes the Anna Kendrick starrer “Love Life,” a fresh take on a romantic comedy anthology series; “No Man’s Land,” a Syrian civil war series; and “The Goes Wrong Show,” a comedy series with each episode having a different theme, including a period romance, spy thriller, a Deep South melodrama and a Christmas fable.

Movies offerings include the Jennifer Lopez starrer Hustlers, Gerald Butler’s action thriller Angel Has Fallen, the fantasy thriller Hellboy, and the action comedy The Gentlemen, starring Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant.

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Starz first launched internationally with its Starzplay international premium streaming platform in 2018. This month it will expand its global footprint into 55 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, Canada, Japan and India.

“India has always been a key market for us,” Jeffrey A. Hirsch, president and CEO of Starz, said in a statement. “The large and diverse population, increased data usage in urban and rural markets, and adoption of OTT across all demographics created an exciting opportunity for us to launch Lionsgate Play. We’re confident that our unique, exclusive and exceptionally curated content will generate a great response from Indian audiences.”

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“We will also be launching Indian originals in the coming months, featuring untold edgy urban stories from some of the best creative minds in the Indian film industry,” Rohit Jain, managing director of Lionsgate South Asia, said in a statement. “And we will continue our Lionsgate Play journey by adding to our deep roster of premium content through partnerships with exciting millennial stars like Kriti Sanon, Tiger Shroff and Sanjana Sanghi increasing the breadth and scope of entertainment for our subscribers.”

Disc Sales Charts Led by Season 5 of ‘Outlander’

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Outlander: Season Five debuted at No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Sept. 19.

The popular Starz series stars stars Caitriona Balfe as a World War II nurse who finds herself transported back in time to the 18th century.

Disney’s Hocus Pocus jumped up to No. 2, from No. 18 the previous week. The perennial Halloween-season seller got a bit of a boost from a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition, which comprised 18% of the title’s total unit sales. It was No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart.

Warner’s Beetlejuice, which topped the charts a few weeks earlier after the release of its own 4K disc, was No. 3 on the overall disc sales chart and No. 10 on the Blu-ray chart.

New release Weathering With You, an anime movie distributed in America by Shout! Factory, debuted at No. 4 overall and No. 2 on the Blu-ray chart.

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The previous week’s top seller, Warner’s direct-to-video animated movie Superman: Man of Tomorrow, slipped to No. 5 overall and No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart.

The No. 5 Blu-ray was Lionsgate’s new Vestron collector’s edition of David Cronenberg’s 1975 horror movie Shivers. Similarly, Lionsgate’s Vestron Blu-ray of the 1989 comedy Little Monsters was the No. 6 Blu-ray.

Warner’s Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 13 but is available for sale early at Walmart, was No. 14 overall. The Blu-ray version comprised 29% of its Walmart sales.

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The Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Sept. 20 had at No. 1 for the third straight week the Universal political comedy Irresistible, which on the disc sales chart has never cracked the top 50.

Lionsgate’s Rogue moved up to No. 2, swapping with Universal’s The King of Staten Island, which dropped to No. 3.

Redbox’s Hard Kill climbed a spot to No. 4, and Warner’s Scoob! moved up to No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 9-19-20
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 9-20-20
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 9-19-20
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 9-19-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 9-19-20
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 9-21-20

Starzplay Available Through Apple TV in Middle East, North Africa

Starzplay, Starz’s video-on-demand streaming service, is now available to customers across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region through Apple TV channels on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, and select Samsung and LG smart TVs.

The service offers Hollywood and Arabic movies, TV shows, documentaries, kids’ entertainment and original content. Customers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt can sign up for a seven-day free trial and subscribe directly to Starzplay on the Apple TV app for $11 per month (prices vary by region).

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“Online streaming in the region is growing faster than ever,” Danny Bates, CCO and co-founder at Starzplay, said in a statement. “As the region’s leading video streaming service, we constantly look for innovative avenues to offer quality content to hungry audiences. Offering Starzplay through Apple TV channels will open up a whole new customer base and further drive the growth of the video streaming market in MENA. We are proud to be the first major content partner for Apple TV channels in the MENA region and look forward to unveiling more compelling content on the platform.”

Subscribers through Apple TV channels can watch online on demand or watch offline downloads of on the Apple TV app. With Family Sharing, up to six friends or family members can share subscriptions to Apple TV channels using just their Apple ID and password.

‘Outlander’ Season Five on Disc Sept. 15

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release Outlander: Season Five on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Sept. 15. The season will be available for digital purchase Sept. 14.

The fifth season of “Outlander” sees a continuation of Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) fight to protect those they love, as they navigate the trials and tribulations of life in colonial America. The Frasers strive to flourish within a society which is unwittingly marching toward Revolution, and Jamie must now defend the home they have built together at Fraser’s Ridge while Claire seeks to put her own skills and medical expertise to use in keeping her family together and safe from harm. Meanwhile Brianna Fraser (Sophie Skelton) and Roger MacKenzie (Richard Rankin) struggle to find their respective places in this world and chase away the shadow cast upon their lives by Stephen Bonnet (Edward Speleers) as they raise their son in this brave new world.

The Starz series, executive produced by Ronald D. Moore, Matthew B. Roberts, Maril Davis, Toni Graphia, Jim Kohlberg and Andy Harries, is based on the international best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon.

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The Blu-ray, DVD and digital copies at select retailers will include four all-new “Outlander Untold” scenes following the stories of fan-favorite characters; a blooper reel; a “Flowers of the Forest” lyric video; a glimpse of life at home with the Frasers’ cat, Adso; and two featurettes, “Strength in Action: The Women of Outlander” and “Through Fire & Hell: The Finale.”

The Blu-ray will have additional features including 16 deleted scenes, writer and producer commentaries, and two new behind-the-scenes featurettes: “The Heart of the Frasers,” highlighting Jamie and Claire’s relationship as well as their family bond, and “Expanding the World: Sets & Costumes.”

A special deluxe collector’s edition Blu-ray set also will be available and will include a CD of the season five soundtrack, a 28-page digibook and an excerpt from Diana Gabaldon’s upcoming ninth “Outlander” novel, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, plus premium packaging.

Philo Adds Starz and Epix to Online TV Service

Online TV service Philo June 16 announced that it is adding MGM-owned Epix and Lionsgate-owned Starz premium options to its programming portfolio. Philo’s standard $20 monthly subscription package includes more than 50 channels, including A&E, AMC, Comedy Central, Food Network, HGTV, ID, Lifetime, MTV, Nickelodeon, OWN, Tastemade, WE TV, among others.

Philo subs can add Epix for $6 monthly, following a promotional $3 fee for three months. Similarly, Starz is available for $9 monthly, after an initial promotion pricing of $5 per month for the first three months when customers subscribe to these services before July 13.

“In these challenging times, we remain committed to offering high-quality entertainment content at a considerable value and with the addition of Epix and Starz we continue to deliver on this commitment,” Mike Keyserling, COO and head of content acquisition at Philo, said in a statement.

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Philo currently allows subs three separate streams on three different devices; everyone who shares the account can create their own profile and have their own sign-in credentials, saved shows and viewing history. Philo features a streamlined interface, intelligent search, and the ability to easily send your favorite shows to friends.

All Philo subscribers can watch their shows live from wherever they are in the U.S. on most Web, mobile and TV streaming devices, including Apple TV, FireTV and Roku. Additionally, subs also have free access to 30-day unlimited-storage DVR.