Comcast Has High Hopes for Pending Streaming Video Service

Comcast has long eschewed over-the-top video, arguing its legacy cable pay-TV service and Xfinity X1 set-top box offer superior content and access options.

With much of the entertainment industry coveting OTT distribution, including pending platform launches from Disney and WarnerMedia, Comcast recently changed its tune announcing it would launch a free streaming service for its pay-TV subs in 2020.

Speaking on the Jan. 23 fiscal call, corporate CEO Brian Roberts said the service would be “distinct and compelling” offering current and prior seasons of NBC Universal programming, some original content and a “light” advertising load.

“It’s a great value proposition for consumers and provides marketers with a unique, targetable digital advertising and high quality premium programming,” said Roberts. “It will harness all the things that make our company so unique.”

He said that when presented to the company’s combined 54 million subscribers (with British satellite operator Sky and its Now TV OTT video platform), Comcast would be able to generate “significant value” over time by enhancing the company’s content monetization and strengthening the value of pay-TV.

“We will continue to sponsor a broad, varied distribution environment and see this platform as being a valuable addition to this highly effective strategy,” said Roberts.

NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke, a long-time foe to OTT video, embraced the strategic change, saying he believes the company now “under-monetizes” its content on the Internet.

In a fiscal call last year, Burke said that while the media company had deals with online TV services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu Live and YouTube TV, he doubted the platforms would make much of an impact.

“They’re off to a relatively slow start,” he said.

Indeed, NBC’s attempt at a standalone OTT comedy platform (SeeSo) shuttered after 18 months.

Neil Smit, former CEO of Comcast Cable, in 2016 infamously declared that he hadn’t seen an “OTT model that really hunts.” Less than a year later Smit stepped down as CEO, replaced by company veteran Dave Watson, whose stance on OTT is only slightly changed from his predecessor’s.

But management opinions have apparently changed in the face of market reality.

“In terms of content and taking things that are currently licensed elsewhere and moving them to the platform, I think it is going to be very positive for us financially, because in effect, we’re going to be a brand new buyer,” Burke said.

 

 

GfK: Streaming Video is Not a Solo Sport

While more and more Americans are watching video content — TV shows, movies, and short video — on their smartphones, new data from GfK MRI shows that video remains a highly social medium.

The latest findings show that Americans watch TV or video in groups almost half (48%) of their total viewing time. In addition, 49% of all adults — and 60% in the 18-to-34 age group — report that they are “co-viewing” more often now than they did three years ago.

Over half (58%) of co-viewing time is spent watching with a “significant other,” while children account for 19%; adult family members, 16%; and friends, 9%.

Preferred genres for watching with others change depending on who else is in the room; while movies come in first or second in all four co-viewing situations, and comedy TV Shows consistently place in the top three, sports score highest when friends are the co-viewers.

The survey also found that more than half (55%) of solo viewers are men. Parents, on the other hand, are more likely to be co-viewers; three-quarters (77%) of parental co-viewers have children under the age of 11 in the home, while one-quarter (23%) have children ages 12 to 17.

The data — based on 24,000 in-person, in-home interviews — underscores that co-viewing streaming video is not a platform-driven behavior.

MRI found that, when asked which types of TV services they use most often when co-viewing, respondents were equally likely to say they co-view via traditional TV services (48% — cable, satellite, fiber optic service) and streaming services (52% — Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.). Not surprisingly, younger adults (ages 18-34) are more likely than average to choose streaming as their medium of co-viewing (72%, 137)

“The social nature of TV viewing continues to drive people to this enjoyable shared experience,” Amy Hunt, VP of TVideo media sales at MRI, said in a statement. “A lot has been said recently about the introduction of dynamically inserted ads for shows; but this seems to be predicated on the idea of only one target watching. The increase of co-viewing suggests that more ad options will need to be available, to appeal to the widest possible audience range.”

 

Extending Black Friday in an OTT World

When you rent and sell packaged media in a streaming world, Black Friday (Nov. 22) becomes a mandatory weeklong sales event. Especially for the country’s last-standing brick-and-mortar video rental store.

Family Video, the privately-owned Glenview, Ill.-based chain of more than 700 stores operating in 29 states, launched special deals on DVD and Blu-ray Disc titles (new and used) beginning Nov. 19 through Nov. 26.

With DVDs priced from $4 and Blu-ray priced from $5, Family Video is also offering 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles priced from $12.

Even better: You don’t have to live in the Midwest or South to partake in the sale. FamilyVideo.com will ship (U.S. Postal) for free on any size order through Dec. 16.

The news caught the attention of local NBC television affiliate WYFF4 in Greenville, S.C., which sent an incredulous news crew (“People still go to the video store?”) to a Family Video location in Mauldin to document.

Said one customer, “Man, I haven’t been to a store like this in 10 years. I had to Google why does Family Video even exist?”

And with good reason.

Packaged-media rental revenue from brick-and-mortar stores dropped more than 18% in the third quarter to $71.5 million compared to $87.5 million in the previous-year period, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. The tally is down almost 34% from the first three months of 2017.

As Black Friday approaches even big box retailers such as Target are feeling the heat from over-the-top video. Circling a freestanding point-of-purchase display of discounted animated winter holiday DVDs near the gift cards at a Target in Greer, S.C., a mother and her young kids scanned the titles – on her cell phone.

“No, I think Hulu has that,” said the mom, who left empty-handed.

Pluto TV Launches Classic Game Show Channel Buzzr

Free streaming TV site Pluto TV announced the launch of a new channel, Buzzr, featuring classic game shows.

On Buzzr, viewers can play along with iconic game show hosts such as Gene Rayburn and Alex Trebek in a pop culture TV time capsule. The channel features such shows as “Supermarket Sweep,” featuring contestants filling their carts with grocery items in an effort to have the highest total at check-out; “Match Game,” in which host Rayburn is the ringmaster to a panel of celebrity guests; and “Classic Concentration,” hosted by Trebek, in which contestants challenge their memories and ability to solve complex puzzles.

Pluto TV delivers 100-plus live and original channels and thousands of on-demand movies in partnership with major TV networks, movie studios, publishers and digital media companies, according to the company, and is available on all mobile, web and connected TV streaming devices.

‘black-ish’ Creator Kenya Barris Signs Deal With Netflix

Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated writer and producer Kenya Barris has entered into a multi-year overall deal to produce new series exclusively at Netflix.

Under the deal, Barris will write and executive produce all projects through his production company, Khalabo Ink Society.

Barris is the creator of ABC’s Peabody award-winning comedy series “black-ish” and its spin-off series “Grown-ish,” as well as the writer of last summer’s comedy feature Girls Trip.

“Barris has continually demonstrated his ability to tell stories about the Black experience that resonate with all audiences,” read a Netflix release. “With an innate sense for what is funny, truthful and timely, Barris will continue to create stories that reflect culture through an urban, youth and female focused lens.”

“Kenya Barris is one of our great modern storytellers,” said Cindy Holland, VP, original content at Netflix, in a statement. “Kenya uses his voice to make audiences more aware of the world around them, while simultaneously making them laugh. His honesty, comedic brilliance and singular point of view, combined with the creative freedom he will enjoy at Netflix, promises to create powerful new stories for all our members around the world.”

“When my agents reached out to me about this little garage start-up called Netflix, I wasn’t sure what to think,” said Barris in a statement. “But after I talked to Ted and Cindy, I started to believe that maybe this mom-and-pop shop with only 130 million subscribers might just be something… so I decided to take a swing… a leap of faith if you will, and take a chance with the new kids on the block.”

Barris was awarded the Humanitas Prize in 2017 as well as NAACP Image Awards in 2016 and 2017 for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and a show win for “Outstanding Comedy Series” for the fourth year in a row. In 2018 Barris premiered the spinoff series, “Grown-ish,” starring Yara Shahidi for Freeform. As a writer, Barris has worked on several television shows, including CBS’s “Listen Up”, The CW’s “The Game” and “Girlfriends,” and Fox’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.” He has also sold a number of pilots, including “America’s Next Top Model,” which he co-created and is currently shown in 49 countries with 21 internationally formatted offshoots, BET’s “The Start Up,” Hulu’s first half-hour comedy series “We Got Next,” and, most recently, the NBC half-hour comedy “Bright Futures.” On the feature side, in addition to writing Girls Trip, he is credited as co-writer for Barbershop 3: The Next Cut. His upcoming feature titles include Son of ShaftComing to America 2, and an animated film based on the songs of Bob Marley.

Roku Bows Service to Help OTT Ad Sellers and Buyers Target Audiences

Streaming TV pioneer Roku June 27 introduced its Audience Marketplace, allowing advertising buyers and sellers to more effectively target audiences on the Roku platform in the United States, according to the company.

By leveraging Roku’s first-party data and proprietary ad technology, publishers can use Audience Marketplace to sell targeted audiences on the Roku platform to advertisers, according to a Roku press release.

“Roku has extensive insights into its millions of OTT streamers, and offers the ability to precisely target specific segments at a household level,” the release stated.

“The business of streaming is winning – both in the minds of consumers and advertisers,” said Seth Walters, VP, demand partnerships, Roku, in a statement. “As the industry’s leading TV streaming platform, we’re well-positioned to empower our publishers to unlock the full potential of OTT advertising and help them to meet the needs of brands and consumers.”

Initial publishers participating in Audience Marketplace include Fox, Turner and Viacom. Advertisers can use the Audience Marketplace for programmatic or traditional direct selling methods.

“Over-the-top distribution has been a key audience driver for Turner’s portfolio of premium content, with Roku being one of the preeminent partner platforms,” said Larry Allen, VP, ad innovation and programmatic solutions, Turner, in a statement. “Participating in Roku’s Audience Marketplace gives us access to rich insights and enhanced audience targeting capabilities, extending the ability for ad buyers to reach and engage with streaming viewing audiences that are critical to grow their business.”

“Roku’s ability to precisely message luxury auto-intenders in premium TV programming unlocks great value for our clients,” said Garrett Winkler, director of connected TV Lead, Modi Media, in a statement. “It helps significantly reduce waste and delivers a more relevant viewing experience. We see this as a huge step towards unifying targeting for connected TV campaigns.”

Netflix Announces New Toni Collette Series, Movie Reuniting Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston

Netflix announced a new series starring Toni Collette and a new movie reuniting Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.

Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever have been cast in “Unbelievable,” a series based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning article by The Marshall Project and ProPublica, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.” Collette and Wever will play detectives whose lives become intertwined in their mutual pursuit of a possible serial rapist.

Sandler and Aniston, who teamed in Just Go With It, will reunite in Murder Mystery, due in 2019. It follows a NYC cop (Sandler) who finally takes his wife (Aniston) on a long promised European trip. A chance meeting on the flight with a mysterious man (Luke Evans) gets them invited to an intimate family gathering on the Super Yacht of elderly billionaire Malcolm Quince. When Quince is murdered, they become the prime suspects.

Directed by Kyle Newacheck, the film also stars Gemma Arterton (Their Finest, The Girl With All The Gifts), Luis Gerardo Mendez (Club de Cuervos, Nosotros Los Nobles, Time Share), Shioli Kutsuna (Deadpool 2), David Walliams (Little Britain), Adeel Akhtar (The Big Sick, Murdered By My Father, Four Lions), John Kani (Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, The Lion King), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The Meg, True Detective, The BFG), Dany Boon (R.A.I.D. Special Unit, Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis) and Terence Stamp (Miss Peregrine’s, The Limey, A Song For Marion).

Hulu Inks Library Deal With Viacom

In a new library agreement with Viacom, Hulu is now the exclusive streaming home to full libraries of series, including “Daria,” “Nathan for You,” “My Super Sweet 16” and “New Edition Story,” according to an announcement from the streaming service.

The deal also brings to Hulu 11 series from Nickelodeon and more than 20 films, including “Big Time Rush,” School of Rock, “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn,” “Hunter Street,” “Make It Pop,” “Every Witch Way” and “WITS Academy.”

Also returning to Hulu will be series “Alvinnnn!!! and the Chipmunks,” ‘Kung Fu Panda” and “Penguins of Madagascar.”

“The new deal is part of Hulu’s commitment to expanding its library with programming for the whole family,” according to the announcement. “More series and films from Nickelodeon will continue to rollout throughout the year.”

Netflix Closes First European Overall Series Deal

Netflix has inked an exclusive multi-year overall series deal with the creators of one of the most-watched entirely non-English shows on Netflix, “Dark,” the company announced.

Under the terms of the deal, Germans Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar will produce new series and projects for Netflix’s 125 million members around the world.

“The promise of Netflix is entertainment transcending borders; where a hit show can come from anywhere in the world,” said Erik Barmack, VP, international originals, Netflix, in a statement. “We’re tremendously happy to announce our overall deal that continues our collaboration with Bo and Jantje, whose invigorating work has engaged and thrilled audiences globally. We thank both for their trust and are beyond excited to support their vision and art as storytellers.”

“We are thrilled and extremely happy to further expand our partnership with Netflix,” said Odar and Friese in a statement. “It is unlike any other opportunity in our career to experience how our stories and vision are understood and loved globally. We are excited to embark on our next journey with Netflix, keep pushing boundaries and challenging viewers with new ideas. We have plenty of surprises in store for them.”

Friese and Odar, both graduates of the University of Television and Film Munich, have been working together since Odar’s directing debut The Silence. Their most recent feature film is Who Am I — No System Is Safe with Tom Schilling and Elyas M’Barek, a thriller that was awarded three German Film Awards and the Bambi for Best German Film. Odar, who was included in the list of “Ten Directors to Watch” by Variety, made his Hollywood debut with Sleepless, starring Jamie Foxx, which premiered on March 9, 2017. After writing and directing all 10 episodes of Netflix’s first German original series, “Dark,” Friese and Odar are currently working on the second season of the drama and will produce new series and projects exclusively for Netflix.

Combined Subscribers for RLJ’s Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel Surpass 800,000

RLJ Entertainment announced that combined subscribers to its two proprietary subscription streaming channels, Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel, have surpassed 800,000.

That is an increase of more than 100,000 subscribers from December 31, 2017, and more than 45% total growth from a year ago, according to RLJ.

“RLJ Entertainment’s subscriber momentum remains robust as we intensify our investments in compelling original and exclusive content, broaden our distribution on both domestic and international platforms, and enhance our marketing to drive awareness,” said RLJ CEO Miguel Penella in a statement. “Viewership across the OTT landscape is growing rapidly as consumers demand more from their entertainment options, offering increased opportunity for Acorn TV and UMC to thrive. Our unrelenting focus on building must-have digital channel destinations, and continued strong subscriber responses to these efforts, coupled with our expanded distribution footprint, puts us firmly on track to achieve our target of 1 million subscribers by early 2019.”

Acorn TV is a subscription streaming service offering British and international television, and Urban Movie Channel is a subscription streaming service for African American and urban audiences.