Starz Bowing on YouTube TV, Hulu

Seeking to significantly upgrade the Starz brand globally, corporate parent Lionsgate has licensed the premium channel’s app to YouTube TV and Hulu.

Speaking on the May 24 fiscal call, Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate, said the distribution agreements were part of a global rollout of the Starz app across 15 territories over the next three years.

As previously reported, Lionsgate launched the Starz Play channel in the United Kingdom and Germany via Amazon Channels, the ecommerce behemoth’s platform affording Prime members access to third-party over-the-top video services.

The app offers more than 1,000 hours of original programming, including Lionsgate created series “The Royals,” “Casual” and “Boss,” as well as feature films ranging from the “Saw” and “Hunger Games” franchises.

“All of this activity comes on top of [the] Starz launch in Canada and the continued growth of our Starz Play venture in the Middle East and North Africa,” Feltheimer said. “In Canada, where we recently announced our partnership with Bell Media, Starz programming is already available to consumers with full over-the-top and linear rollout slated for early next year.”

Starz availability on YouTube TV, Google’s standalone online TV service, begins next month, followed by similar launch on Hulu Live with TV in October.

“We expect meaningful subscriber increases from all of these new deals,” Feltheimer said.

Indeed, Starz pay-TV base declined by 500,000 subscribers, finishing the quarter with 23.5 million subs.

More importantly, a decline in licensed Starz programming to third parties resulted in an 8% drop in Media Networks segment operating income to $115 million compared to the previous-year period. Revenue dipped 1% to $366 million.

For Chris Albrecht, president of Starz, OTT video is the brand’s future.

“The OTT business is clearly the business that we see there being real growth potential in and the economics are good for us there, and we’re very bullish as we expand our global reach,” he said.

The news helped up Lionsgate shares nearly 5% May 25 in early trading.

Starz Launches on Amazon Prime Video in Germany, U.K.

Starz May 24 announced it is launching branded subscription streaming video channels in Germany and United Kingdom on Amazon Prime Video.

Starz programming for the first time will be available in the U.K. and Germany – including day-and-date with U.S. subscribers – via Amazon Channels.

Amazon Channels, which launched in the U.S. in 2015 affording Prime members access to third-party over-the-top video services, includes access to the Starz OTT video service.

Starz original shows include “Power,” “Boss,” “Survivor’s Remorse,” “Vida,” “Party Down,” and “Sweetbitter,” among others.

“These new channels allow us to extend the reach of our storytelling and bring the growing portfolio of Starz original series as well our extensive library of hit TV series and movies to a new audience,” Chris Albrecht, president of Starz, said in a statement.

Starz, which was acquired nearly two years ago by Lionsgate for $4.4 billion, also operates Starz Play Arabia – the company’s first international OTT platform.

“We’ve taken a major step forward [internationally] by launching Starz Play on Amazon,” said Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate.

 

‘Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 3’ Due on Digital May 25, Disc Aug. 21 from Lionsgate

Bruce Campbell Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 3, the final season, arrives on digital May 25 and on Blu-ray (plus digital) and DVD Aug. 21 from Lionsgate.

The Starz series follows up the classic horror film The Evil Dead with Bruce Cambell reprising his role as Ashalongside Lucy Lawless, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo and Arielle Carver-O’Neill. In season three, Ash, having gone from urban legend to hometown, discovers that he has a daughter.

The Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 3 Blu-ray ($39.97) and DVD ($34.98) include audio commentary with executive producer Rob Tapert on every episode.

Morgan Stanley: Netflix Tops in Original Programming

With Netflix spending upwards of $8 billion on original content this year, it might be relieved to know consumers reportedly appreciate the product, according to Morgan Stanley.

The investment bank – and Netflix financial advisor – found that 39% of survey respondents felt Netflix offered superior original programming compared to HBO (14%), Amazon Prime Video (5%), Hulu (4%), Showtime (3%), Starz (2%) and Cinemax (1%).

Morgan Stanley citied Netflix programs such as “Stranger Things,” “House of Cards,” “Black Mirror,” and “Lost in Space,” for driving consumer interest.

HBO hitmakers include “Game of Thrones,” and “Westworld.”

The online survey of 3,100 respondents was conducted in March.

Research: Customers More Satisfied With Video Streaming Than With TV Subscription Services

Customer satisfaction with video streaming services far eclipses that of subscription TV service, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) 2018 Telecommunications Report.

Video streaming services debuted in this year’s telecom report with an ACSI score of 75, well above subscription TV’s score of 62, which declined 3.1% from last year.

“Video streaming services significantly outperformed subscription TV,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI, in a statement. “Streaming services don’t have the hidden fees and six-month rates that subscription TV does, not to mention they’re cheaper and simpler. But because consumers don’t have many options when choosing a subscription TV provider, those businesses don’t see a lot of risk in customer dissatisfaction, and we’re unlikely to see dramatic changes any time soon.”

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) measures and analyzes customer satisfaction with more than 380 companies in 46 industries and 10 economic sectors. Reported on a scale of 0 to 100, ACSI scores are based on data from interviews with roughly 250,000 customers annually. The ACSI Telecommunications Report 2018 includes data on subscription TV services, video streaming, video-on-demand, internet service providers, fixed-line and wireless telephone services, and cell phone manufacturers. It’s based on 45,292 customer surveys collected between April 19, 2017 and March 17, 2018. The full report is available for download here.

With an ACSI score of 75, video streaming services were the highest-performing telecom industry measured in the 2018 study. Netflix, Sony PlayStation Vue, and Twitch all led the pack, tying at a score of 78. Apple iTunes and the Microsoft Store took second place at 77, with YouTube Red in third at 76.

Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Hulu, and Vudu all registered at the industry average of 75, followed by the network channel subscriptions: CBS All Access at 74, and HBO Now and Starz at 72.

Bringing up the rear were Sling TV (71), DIRECTV NOW (70), Showtime Anytime (70), and Sony Crackle (68).

Still, even Sony Crackle in last place rated higher than nearly all subscription TV services.

Video streaming services received high marks for ease of understanding the bill (80), website satisfaction (80), and call centers (75), but customers downgraded them on availability of the current season’s TV shows (71) and availability of new movie titles (69).

Customer satisfaction with subscription TV fell to 62, an 11-year low for the industry.

AT&T’s U-verse TV topped the list with a 70, one of only two scores that stayed the same instead of dropping. Verizon Fios fell 4% year over year to a 68 for second place, while DISH Network held steady at 67 for third.

In the middle of the pack, DIRECTV and Optimum both fell 6% to 64 and 62, respectively. Cox Communications shed 2% to 60, while Spectrum and Suddenlink both plunged 8% to 58.

Comcast Xfinity decreased 27% to 57, Frontier Communications dropped 7% to 56, and Mediacom placed last with a 55, down 2%.

The top-rated part of the subscription TV experience was HD picture quality, which holds steady at a score of 80. Picture quality was close behind, down 1% to 78.

While courtesy and helpfulness of store and service center staff had a relatively good score of 77, and speed of store and service center transactions received a 76, call center satisfaction continued to be the weak spot of the industry, slipping 3% to 63.

“If you look at retail, airlines, and many other industries, companies like to reward customer loyalty, offering perks or discounts for doing business with them,” said VanAmburg in a statement. “Telecom is the exact opposite. In many ways, loyalty is punished because subscription TV is focused on customer acquisition and offering the best deal to lure customers away from competitors. In the long run, that doesn’t leave customers very satisfied.”

Among video-on-demand services, AT&T’s U-verse TV took the top spot with a 74, followed by DISH Network at 73, and Verizon Fios at 72. At 70, AT&T’s DirecTV came in far below its U-verse offering, but ahead of the industry average.

Optimum led all cable companies in video-on-demand at the industry average of 68, while Cox Communications and Xfinity tied at 67, and Spectrum came in last at 64.

Video-on-demand viewers were pleased with the number of TV shows (75), current seasons (74) and variety by category (74) available. However, the availability of a past season’s shows was lacking (69) as were free on-demand content (69) and new movie titles (68). Call centers received the lowest marks (67), but call center service performed better for on-demand customers than for internet and subscription TV.

While video streaming services received much better customer satisfaction scores than subscription TV, obviously viewers still need internet access to get it. Unfortunately, internet service providers (ISPs), along with subscription TV, had the lowest customer satisfaction of all industries tracked by the ACSI.

ISPs were down 3.1% to 62, and while customers clearly weren’t satisfied with their service, more than half of Americans had only one choice for high-speed broadband. Every major ISP deteriorated this year except Xfinity, which remains unchanged.

Verizon Fios stayed in first place at 70 after a 1% dip. AT&T Internet also fell 1% for a second-place score of 68, followed by Optimum, which dropped 6% to 64.

Suddenlink and Spectrum both plummeted 8% to 61 and 60, respectively, followed by Xfinity, unchanged at 60. Mediacom placed last with a 53 after a 9% fall from last year.

Call center satisfaction, already low, fell another 3% to 59. Customers were also less satisfied with overall data transfer speed, which sank 3% to 67, and the variety of internet plans available, which fell 3% to 64. The one bright spot was courtesy and helpfulness of store and service center staff and speed of store and service center transactions, at 76 and 74, respectively, though both were down from last year.

TiVo Inks License Deal with Starz

Home entertainment technology pioneer TiVo April 3 said it signed a long-term intellectual property license agreement with Starz.

Lionsgate-owned Starz is acquiring a license to the TiVo patent portfolios and over-the-top video assets of the “intellectual ventures” patent portfolio under the TiVo/IV licensing partnership.

“This agreement emphasizes the importance of TiVo’s patent portfolios, especially for companies who are working to keep up with rapid developments and changes in the OTT video space,” Arvin Patel, EVP and chief intellectual property officer, Rovi Corp., a TiVo company, said in a statement.

TiVo, which created the digital video recorder market in 1999, has spent decades investing in R&D to enhance digital distribution technologies for the media and entertainment industry.

In 2016, Rovi acquired TiVo for $1.1 billion, incorporating the TiVo name as its new corporate identity. Between the two companies, they reportedly hold more than 6,000 patents used in practically every aspect of consumers’ day-to-day interaction with their entertainment.

“By leveraging [our] innovations, TV networks and other OTT [distributors] can quickly strengthen or upgrade the entertainment experiences they provide and in turn, spend more time and energy focused on other business priorities,” Patel said.

Indeed, patent litigation has proved to be a lucrative side business for TiVo. The company has been awarded by courts more than $1 billion in patent settlements through 2012.

Earlier this year, TiVo filed a lawsuit against Comcast, alleging the pay-TV operator’s X1 set-top infringes technology invented and patented by Rovi, including pausing and resuming shows on different devices, restarting programs in progress, advanced DVR recording features, and advanced search and voice functionality.

Starz Bows App on LG Televisions

Starz March 29 announced the launch of its Starz app on select LG Smart TVs, including the recently debuted 2018 LG OLED TVs and LG Super UHD TVs with AI ThinQ.

Starz subscribers, including pay-TV and standalone over-the-top, can now watch original series, including “Counterpart,” “Power,” “Outlander,” “American Gods,” as well as hundreds of movies and first-run films on LG Smart TVs via LG’s webOS Smart TV platform.

The app on LG Smart TVs is a single destination for all subscribers who want to stream Starz premium content. It features intuitive content discovery and navigation regardless how the consumer purchased a subscription to Starz.

Starz, which is owned by Lionsgate, earlier this year entered into a multifaceted agreement with Bell Media in Canada.

The deal marked the first international launch of Starz since the Lionsgate acquisition in December 2016 as well as the first time it would be available in Canada. Starz content will be available across all Bell Media platforms, including TMN Encore and streaming service CraveTV.

Starz Names Ameesh Paleja to Chief Technology Officer Position

Multichannel distributor Starz March 9 announced the hiring of Ameesh Paleja as chief technology officer. Paleja joins Starz from Atom Tickets, where he was co-founder and CEO since 2014. Paleja will continue serving on Atom Ticket’s board and as an advisor and head of innovation.

Lionsgate owns Starz and is an investor in Atom Tickets.

Paleja began his career at Microsoft in 2001, then moved to Amazon in 2003. While at Amazon, he focused on building software and services allowing the company to sell digital goods. Paleja helped launch Prime Instant Video, Amazon’s Appstore, Cloud Drive, and the Kindle product line. He then became the founding employee of Amazon’s R&D facilities in Southern California, where he oversaw more than 550 employees.

“Ameesh is a visionary and world-class technologist whose substantial experience with digital distribution platforms will deepen our brands’ connection with consumers and provide audiences the highest quality entertainment possible,” said COO Jeffrey Hirsch, to whom Paleja reports in Starz’s Englewood, Colo., office.

Lionsgate Renews Amazon Channels Partnership

Lionsgate has re-upped a multiyear distribution agreement with Amazon Channels affording the studio distributor’s over-the-top video platforms access to tens of millions of Prime members.

Lionsgate OTT ventures include Pantaya, Keven Hart’s Laugh Out Loud!, Pop, Tribeca Shortlist and Starz.

Speaking Feb. 8 on the fiscal call, CEO Jon Feltheimer said the renewal – which includes cross-promotion and revenue-sharing – underscores the importance of Amazon in the distribution of OTT product.

Amazon Channels is a collection of third-party OTT video services Prime members can subscribe to with one-click access. Amazon, for a fee or rev-share agreement, handles billing and other backend matters. Amazon Channels is now synced with Alexa, the ecommerce behemoth’s voice-activated software.

“We believe this agreement incentivizes both partners to continue growing their distribution significantly,” Feltheimer said.

‘The lines are blurring between film and television, and I think you can look for us to get closer to talent, which right now crosses between TV, film and games,” he said. “That’s where we’ll focus and the content will follow.”

Separately, Starz president Chris Albrecht said implementing a distribution agreement between Starz and Hulu’s live TV online TV service has taken longer than expected.

“We are on track to launch there in the next couple of months,” Albrecht said. “It has impacted the rate of growth we were projecting on our OTT platforms.”

Lionsgate Ups Q3 Home Entertainment Revenue

Lionsgate Feb. 8 reported third-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2017) home entertainment revenue of $216.7 million, which was up 12.7% from revenue of $192.2 million during the previous-year period.

Home entertainment includes Lionsgate’s legacy studio and former Starz Distribution (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment) business.

Specifically, the studio generated $185.3 million from the sale of movies, up 11% from $167 million during the previous-year period. Sales of TV content declined 13.3% to $20.2 million.

Top-selling 2017 packaged media release, John Wick: Chapter 2, generated $29.2 million on sales of 1.67 million combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units, according to The–Numbers.com. Data does not include 4K UHD Blu-ray and digital retail.

Media Networks reported revenue of $11.2 million, up from $1.9 million last year.

Overall, Media Networks revenue increased 6% to $382.9 million driven by higher over-the-top (OTT) revenue growth and revenue from worldwide digital media licensing arrangements, offset in part by subscriber losses at certain MVPD’s.

Theatrical revenue increased 14% to $539.1 million due to strong domestic box office of Wonder and continued international performance of La La Land and American Assassin. Segment profits of $54.3 million compared to $55.9 million in the prior year quarter.

Television production revenue of $227.3 million compared to $231.0 million in the prior-year quarter. Revenue was comparable to the prior year quarter as increased revenue from deliveries of television series were partially offset by a decrease in syndicated licensing revenue. Segment profits of $22.7 million compared to $27.5 million in the prior year quarter.

Lionsgate’s backlog – contracted future revenue on the licensing of film and television product not yet recorded – was $1.2 billion at Dec. 31, 2017.