Q&A with Garson Foos: The Ever-Expanding Universe of Shout! Factory

Garson Foos is CEO of Shout! Factory, a leading independent film distributor that since its launch in 2002 has branched out into streaming while doubling down on its commitment to physical media. A cousin to the legendary Rhino Records label, co-founded by older brother Richard and sold to Warner Music in 2001, Shout! is known for its lavish boxed sets and collections like last year’s award-winning collection of “Friday the 13th” movies as well as its support of anime and other niche genres.

Media Play News spoke with Foos as part an ongoing series of conversations with home entertainment leaders past, present — and future.

MPN: At a time when the big studios are still suffering from the lack of fresh product resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of movie theaters, you seem to be releasing more content, both digitally and on disc, than ever. Can you put a number on how many titles you’ve released over the past year and how that compares to the prior year? And what’s the driver?

Foos: Our deal and release flow is stronger than ever. We had a lot of titles in the pipeline prior to the pandemic, and we benefited from the vast majority of our releases not requiring a theatrical release. We released two to four new films a month, and another 10 to 15 library releases. Beyond that we released a good number of library films and shows digital only. We released hundreds of episodes of both “The Johnny Carson Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show” only digitally. We have broadcast rights to the entire Stephen J. Cannell library worldwide, and we have other digital rights on a smaller number of those shows. We also started releasing seasons of the “Ultraman” series for digital streaming, largely on our TokuShoutsu channels. So a large amount of content is released physically, as well as a lot of additional content coming out digital only.

MPN: Shout! Factory continues to be particularly strong in anime. What prompted this, and how do you market your product to anime fans?

Foos: We’ve always been really good at playing in the niches. We’re pop culture junkies from way back, and we got into the kids business big in 2009 with Hasbro and their animated “Transformers” and “GI Joe” series, as well as “My Little Pony.” There were several rare Japanese-made “Transformers” series that we distributed.  We also had big success with the the “Power Rangers” series years later, and uncovered the Japanese versions — “Super Sentai” — and did well with those series. It made sense to move into anime from our roots. Melissa Boag is our head of Kids & Family and she had her eye on the anime business for years. She helped us acquire the film In This Corner of the World, which was beautiful and exceeded our expectations. Soon after that we struck up a relationship with GKIDS, who are the best in the business in anime film. Through them, we got the Studio Ghibli library in late 2017. Together with GKIDS we released new deluxe versions of the films on DVD and Blu-ray, and the sales were far beyond expectations. In late 2019 GKIDS was able to make the titles available for the digital transactional business and we worked with them on that. We’ve (via GKIDS) put out many other new and library films, including Promare and Weathering With You last year, which have performed extremely well. We also work with Eleven Arts, which had the film Silent Voice in 2019, which did very well, and we have several more really good projects coming with them. Anime is one of the best categories that is not dominated by the major studios, and it’s a growing category for us that we see continuing.

MPN: Despite your obvious commitment to transactional and, in particular, physical media, Shout! does have other business models. Can you give us a brief rundown about other distribution platforms you have under the Shout! umbrella?

Foos: We distribute directly to just about every account in all revenue streams. We’ve been highly focused on growing our digital and broadcast business in the last many years. Our combined non-physical businesses have doubled each of the last two years and will again this year. Our TVOD business and ad supported streaming are the two biggest areas. Licensing sales for streaming services and broadcast is growing rapidly and is also significant. The Shout! Factory TV business, including our Mystery Science Theatre 3000 channel, The Carol Burnett Show channel, Johnny Carson TV and TokuShHOUTsu channels are a big part of the ad-supported digital streaming business. They are FAST channels on some platforms and on demand on others, and they’re everywhere you’d want to be. We see a lot of growth potential in our channel business, and in our digital distribution business in general. As we continue to get more and better content both on the library and new film side, and see the number of platforms and market size grow, we’re going to see big growth for Shout.

MPN: What’s next for Shout, other than the growth areas you mentioned already?

Foos: We’re starting to do some of our own original productions and see a lot of opportunities here, while doing it with a low-risk approach. We partnered on the production of the Western Old Henry starring Tim Blake Nelson. It comes out in October and premiered at the Venice Film Festival to a fantastic response. We’ve made deals in all the major international territories thanks to the Venice success.  We had seen indie Westerns succeeding transactionally, and thought that it would be a good genre to produce ourselves. We had been trying to get one made for years, and finally with Hideout Pictures we were able to get Tim Blake Nelson to take the lead role, and it came out extremely well. We’re going to do another one with them.

With our partner Joel Hodgson we had rebooted “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” after buying the rights to the library and brand in 2015. Given the passionate loyalty of the audience we had crowd-funded to raise the money for the first reboot season (11). We then sold it to Netflix, which ordered a second season but didn’t continue after that. We crowd-funded again this year and raised $6.5 million so we’re making another 13 episodes. They first one should premiere in February for the Kickstarter “backers” initially.

We also just completed a remake of the Roger Corman classic Slumber Party Massacre for the SyFy channel. It comes out in October. We own 270 films from the Corman library and have remake rights, so we’re working on films and series born out of that fertile I.P. We have other films and shows in the works as well, and it will be a growing part of our business.

We’re highly focused on buying film and TV libraries. We’ve bought a handful over the years and are looking to do a lot more in that area. We have a number of large library film distribution deals in the works and we’ll be announcing several soon, and more as they close.

We’re doing bigger new film pre-buys and pick-ups. The recent Mark Duplass/Natalie Morales film Language Lessons is a good example. It’s getting excellent reviews and we’ve licensed it to a major streamer to start next year. We intend to continue to up our game in genre films, and in smart and quirky indie films as well.

We see opportunity in the international business. Our business is growing there and we’re having good success with Cannell library, our Corman films and other content that we control internationally. We see continuing to partner with strong independent companies in each territory, and eventually having our own staff, or investing in local companies locally to make sure that we really understand the nuances of each significant territory.

Tell us about the Shout! Factory back story – starting with the name.

Foos: We had a really hard time coming up with a name. Every time we liked one we couldn’t get the URL, or it was already taken. We wanted something that sounded active, and a little retro. We were coming off of our success at Rhino Entertainment, which was mainly a retro music business, and we thought that we would be a music, film and TV company. Shout! felt classic and then there’s the Isley Brothers song that everyone loves. We were going to be Shout! Entertainment then we had trouble getting that trademarked. We were told to add something to it to distinguish it so we came up with Factory.

And now tell us the Garson Foos back story.

Foos: I grew up in Los Angeles, and went to college at U.C. Berkeley. I was entrepreneurial early on and started several cafes in Oakland with a friend. I realized that the restaurant  business wasn’t for me, and thought that maybe I’d like the entertainment business. I had worked at the Rhino Record Store that my brother owned in high school, and he had started the Rhino label years later. He gave me a paid internship at the label and my timing was great. Rhino was starting to take off, and I was able to learn the business and move up the ranks as the company expanded. I eventually became the EVP of marketing and one of the key executives. Richard and his partner Harold Bronson sold the company to Warner Music Group in 2001, and Richard decided to leave in 2002 and start another company. He asked me and our other partner Bob Emmer, who had been our head of BA at Rhino and later became an EVP of BA at Warner Music, to join him in his new venture. We started Shout in 2003, and over the years Richard has stepped out of the day to day of the business, and Bob and I are co-CEOs.

Nielsen to Track Content Diversity in Hollywood

Nielsen Feb. 17 announced it is partnering with entertainment metadata tracker Gracenote to record visibility into the gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation of talent appearing in TV programming and the audiences watching it. Dubbed Gracenote Inclusion Analytics, the new software aims to give content creators, owners, distributors and advertisers data around on-screen diversity and representation to enable more inclusive content. Future enhancements will expand product coverage to include theatrical movies as well as behind-the-camera talent including directors, producers, writers and other key roles.

Nielsen said the information will enable distributors to highlight content within their catalogs featuring diverse female leads for Women’s History Month or fuel recommendations connecting audiences of diverse content. A studio could evaluate whether its content meets diversity, equity and inclusion benchmarks — highlighting programs for licensing opportunities. Similarly, a brand could identify and target the most inclusive content to inform its ad investment or product placement decisions.

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“The entertainment industry has a massive challenge ahead — to ensure the talent associated with popular TV programming mirrors today’s increasingly diverse viewing audiences,” Sandra Sims-Williams, SVP of diversity, equity and inclusion at Nielsen, said in a statement. “By democratizing information around representation in content, Gracenote Inclusion Analytics holds the power to push the industry toward better balance and a more equitable future.”

According to a recent Nielsen report, women make up 52% of the U.S. population but comprise only 38% of top recurring cast in popular broadcast, cable and streaming programming. At the same time, people of color account for 40% of the broader population, but are present in only 27% of top TV roles. These data points highlight significant imbalances between representation in content and key audience groups which, by addressing, would serve to accelerate equity in entertainment.

The new industry tracker combines Gracenote’s video program metadata and ethnicity data with Nielsen television ratings and SVOD content ratings. Based on these inputs, the software delivers proprietary metrics assessing the degree to which different identity groups are featured in programming and how evenly this reflects viewing audiences. These include:

  • Share of Screen quantifying an identity group’s (e.g., women, LGBTQ, Black) representation among the top recurring talent
  • Inclusion Opportunity Index comparing share of screen for an identity group (e.g., women) to their representation in population estimates
  • Inclusion Audience Index comparing share of screen for a group to their representation in the program’s viewing audience

 

“Audiences today actively seek out programs that highlight people who resemble them and experiences that reflect their own,” said Tina Wilson, head of analytics at Nielsen. “Under these circumstances, it’s critical that the entertainment industry create authentic content which resonates with underrepresented groups. Together, Nielsen and Gracenote are uniquely positioned to help the industry seize upon this opportunity by way of new data analytics solutions ensuring meaningful connections between content and audiences.”

 

Streamers Dominate 52nd Annual NAACP Image Awards Nominees

Subscription streaming video services dominated nominations for the 52nd Annual NAACP Image Awards announced Feb. 2. The awards ceremony will broadcast on BET on March 27 at 8 p.m. ET.

Netflix led all SVOD services with 31 nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series (“#blackAF”) and Outstanding Drama Series (“Bridgerton”). WarnerMedia had 41 nominations, including 26 nods for HBO and HBO Max combined. Other streamers included Apple TV+ with 11 nominations; Starz (10); Amazon Studios (10); Hulu (7); Disney+ (6), Showtime (4), and CBS All Access (2), among others.

Studios included Universal Pictures/Focus Features with four nominations, Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures (2), Lionsgate (2) and Walt Disney Studios (2).

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Outstanding Comedy Series
“#blackAF” (Netflix)
“Black-ish” (ABC)
“Grown-ish” (Freeform)
“Insecure” (HBO)
“The Last O.G.” (TBS)

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson – “Black-ish” (ABC)
Cedric the Entertainer – “The Neighborhood” (CBS)
Don Cheadle – “Black Monday” (Showtime)
Idris Elba – “In the Long Run” (Starz)
Tracy Morgan – “The Last O.G.” (TBS)

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
Issa Rae – “Insecure” (HBO)
Folake Olowofoyeku – “Bob Hearts Abishola” (CBS)
Regina Hall – “Black Monday” (Showtime)
Tracee Ellis Ross – “Black-ish” (ABC)
Yara Shahidi – “Grown-ish” (Freeform)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Andre Braugher – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC)
Deon Cole – “Black-ish” (ABC)
Jay Ellis – “Insecure” (HBO)
Kenan Thompson – “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
Laurence Fishburne – “Black-ish” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Jenifer Lewis – Black-ish” (ABC)
Marsai Martin – “Black-ish” (ABC)
Natasha Rothwell – “Insecure” (HBO)
Tichina Arnold – “The Neighborhood” (CBS)
Yvonne Orji – “Insecure” (HBO)

Outstanding Drama Series
“All Rise” (CBS)
“Bridgerton” (Netflix)
“Lovecraft Country” (HBO)
“Power Book II: Ghost” (Starz)
“This Is Us” (NBC)

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Jonathan Majors – “Lovecraft Country” (HBO)
Keith David – “Greenleaf” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)
Nicco Annan – “P-Valley” (Starz)
Regé-Jean Page – “Bridgerton” (Netflix)
Sterling K. Brown – “This Is Us” (NBC)

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
Angela Bassett – “9-1-1” (Fox)
Brandee Evans – “P-Valley” (Starz)
Jurnee Smollett – “Lovecraft Country” (HBO)
Simone Missick – “All Rise” (CBS)
Viola Davis – “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Clifford “Method Man” Smith – “Power Book II: Ghost” (Starz)
Delroy Lindo – “The Good Fight” (CBS All Access)
J. Alphonse Nicholson – “P-Valley” (Starz)
Jeffrey Wright – “Westworld” (HBO)
Michael Kenneth Williams – “Lovecraft Country” (HBO)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Adjoa Andoh – “Bridgerton” (Netflix)
Aunjanue Ellis – “Lovecraft Country” (HBO)
Lynn Whitfield – “Greenleaf” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)
Mary J. Blige – “Power Book II: Ghost” (Starz)
Susan Kelechi Watson – “This Is Us” (NBC)

Outstanding Television Movie, Limited–Series or Dramatic Special
“Hamilton” (Disney+)
“Little Fires Everywhere” (Hulu)
“Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” (Netflix)
“Sylvie’s Love” (Amazon Studios)
“The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel” (Lifetime)

Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Limited–Series or Dramatic Special
Blair Underwood – “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” (Netflix)
Chris Rock – “Fargo” (FX)
Daveed Diggs – “Hamilton” (Disney+)
Leslie Odom, Jr. – “Hamilton” (Disney+)
Nnamdi Asomugha – “Sylvie’s Love” (Amazon Studios)

Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Limited–Series or Dramatic Special
Aunjanue Ellis – The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel” (Lifetime)
Kerry Washington – “Little Fires Everywhere” (Hulu)
Michaela Coel – “I May Destroy You” (HBO)
Octavia Spencer – “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” (Netflix)
Tessa Thompson – “Sylvie’s Love” (Amazon Studios)

Outstanding Talk Series
Red Table Talk (Facebook Watch)
Tamron Hall (Syndicated )
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)
The Oprah Conversation (Apple TV+)
The Shop: Uninterrupted (HBO)

Outstanding Reality Program, Reality Competition or Game Show (Series)
“Celebrity Family Feud” (ABC)
“Iyanla: Fix My Life” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)
“Shark Tank” (ABC)
“United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell” (CNN)
“Voices of Fire” (Netflix)

Outstanding Variety Show (Series or Special)
“8:46” (Netflix)
“Black Is King” (Disney+)
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion” (HBO Max)
“Verzuz” (Apple TV+)
“Yvonne Orji: Momma I Made It!” (HBO)

Outstanding Performance by a Youth (Series, Special, Television Movie or Limited–Series)
Alex R. Hibbert – “The Chi” (Showtime)
Lexi Underwood – “Little Fires Everywhere” (Hulu)
Lyric Ross – “This Is Us” (NBC)
Marsai Martin – “Black-ish” (ABC)
Miles Brown – “Black-ish” (ABC

Outstanding Guest Performance – Comedy or Drama Series
Chris Rock – “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
Courtney B. Vance – “Lovecraft Country” (HBO)
Dave Chappelle – “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
Issa Rae – “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
Loretta Devine – “P-Valley” (Starz)

Outstanding Breakthrough Creative (Television)
Katori Hall – “P-Valley” (Starz)
Keith Knight – “Woke” (Hulu)
Ramy Youssef – “Ramy” (Hulu)
Raynelle Swilling – “Cherish the Day” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)
Teri Schaffer – “Cherish the Day” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)

Outstanding Motion Picture
Bad Boys for Life (Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
One Night In Miami (Amazon Studios)

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
Anthony Mackie – The Banker (Apple TV+)
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Forest Whitaker – Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)
Will Smith – Bad Boys for Life (Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
Issa Rae – The Photograph (Universal Pictures)
Janelle Monáe – Antebellum (Lionsgate)
Madalen Mills – Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)
Tracee Ellis Ross – The High Note (Focus Features)
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Aldis Hodge – One Night In Miami… (Amazon Studios)
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Clarke Peters – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Colman Domingo – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
Glynn Turman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Anika Noni Rose – Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)
Gabourey Sidibe – Antebellum (Lionsgate)
Nia Long – The Banker (Apple TV+)
Phylicia Rashad – Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)
Taylour Paige – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

Outstanding Independent Motion Picture
Emperor (Universal Pictures)
Farewell Amor (IFC Films)
Miss Juneteenth (Vertical Entertainment)
The 24th (Vertical Entertainment)
The Banker (Apple TV+)

Outstanding International Motion Picture
Ainu Mosir (Array)
His House (Netflix)
Night of the Kings (Neon)
The Last Tree (ArtMattan Productions)
The Life Ahead (La vita davanti a se) (Netflix)

Outstanding Breakthrough Performance in a Motion Picture
Dayo Okeniyi – Emperor (Universal Pictures)
Dominique Fishback – Project Power (Netflix)
Jahi Di’Allo Winston – Charm City Kings (HBO Max)
Jahzir Bruno – The Witches (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Madalen Mills – Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)

Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
Soul (Walt Disney Studios)
The Banker (Apple TV+)

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
Issa Rae – “Insecure” – “Lowkey Feelin’ Myself” (HBO)
Lee Eisenberg, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon – “Little America” – “The Rock” (Apple TV+)
Michaela Coel – “I May Destroy You” – “Ego Death” (HBO)
Mindy Kaling, Lang Fisher – “Never Have I Ever” “Pilot” (Netflix)
Rajiv Joseph – “Little America” – “The Manager” (Apple TV+)

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series
Attica Locke – “Little Fires Everywhere” – “The Spider Web” (Hulu)
Erika L. Johnson, Mark Richard – “The Good Lord Bird” – “A Wicked Plot” (Showtime)
Jessica Lamour – “Little Voice” – “Love Hurts” (Apple TV+)
Katori Hall – “P-Valley” – “Perpetratin’” (Starz)
Tanya Barfield – “Mrs. America” – “Shirley” (FX)

Outstanding Writing in a Television Movie or Special
Diallo Riddle, Bashir Salahuddin, D. Rodney Carter, Emily Goldwyn, Rob Haze, Zuri Salahuddin, Bennett Webber, Evan Williams, Will Miles – “Sherman’s Showcase Black History Month Spectacular” (IFC)
Eugene Ashe – “Sylvie’s Love” (Amazon Studios)
Geri Cole – “The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special” (HBO Max)
Lin-Manuel Miranda – “Hamilton” (Disney+)
Sylvia L. Jones, Camille Tucker – “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel” (Lifetime)

Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture
David E. Talbert – Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)
Kemp Powers – One Night in Miami (Amazon Studios)
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari (A24)
Pete Docter, Kemp Powers, Mike Jones – Soul (Walt Disney Studios)
Radha Blank – The Forty-Year-Old Version (Netflix)

Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series
Anya Adams – “Black-ish” – “Hair Day” (ABC)
Aurora Guerrero – “Little America” – “The Jaguar” (Apple TV+)
Eric Dean Seaton – “Black-ish” – “Our Wedding Dre” (ABC)
Kabir Akhtar – “Never Have I Ever” – “…started a nuclear war” (Netflix)
Sam Miller, Michaela Coel – “I May Destroy You” – “Ego Death” (HBO)

Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series
Cheryl Dunye – “Lovecraft Country” – “Strange Case” (HBO)
Hanelle Culpepper – “Star Trek: Picard” – “Remembrance” (CBS All Access)
Misha Green – “Lovecraft Country” – “Jig-a-Bobo” (HBO)
Nzingha Stewart – “Little Fires Everywhere” – “The Uncanny” (Hulu)
Steve McQueen – “Small Axe” – “Mangrove” (Amazon Studios)

Outstanding Directing in a Television Movie or Special
Beyoncé Knowles Carter, Emmanuel Adeji, Blitz Bazawule, Kwasi Fordjour – “Black Is King” (Disney+)
Christine Swanson – “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel” (Lifetime)
Chuck Vinson, Alan Muraoka – “The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special” (HBO Max)
Eugene Ashe – “Sylvie’s Love” (Amazon Studios)
Kamilah Forbes – “Between The World and Me” (HBO)

Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture
David E. Talbert – “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (Netflix)
George C. Wolfe – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Gina Prince-Bythewood – “The Old Guard “(Netflix)
Radha Blank – “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Regina King – “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)

Longtime Warner Publicity Executive Melissa Hufjay Exits Studio

Melissa Hufjay, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment VP of publicity, TV, animation and originals, is exiting the studio after 18 years as part of the WarnerMedia reorganization.

Her position focused on executive oversight of WBHE’s full-service publicity department for the television business unit, including guiding and executing all public relations initiatives and activities on physical and digital for television, genre, family, animation (Warner Bros. Animation and acquisitions), Blue Ribbon Content (live-action and animation), and WBHE-produced live-action films and special Interest home entertainment initiatives, including brands such as DC Comics, Hanna Barbera, LEGO and Warner Bros. Animation. For the past year, Hufjay has also reported into Warner Bros Television, working to streamline comprehensive campaigns for TV productions through the home entertainment window.

Hufjay is highly respected in the industry. Among her many public relations successes are campaigns launching the home entertainment releases of “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory,” the “Peanuts” and “Sesame Street” franchises, popular Blue Ribbon Content, and WBHE-produced live-action films (including the Cinderella Story, Deep Blue Sea and Critters franchises), as well as launching and orchestrating publicity and marketing activities for more than 40 films in the ongoing DC Universe movies series over the past 13 years. In addition, she handled publicity efforts for the NFL, NBA and NHL home entertainment releases.

A graduate of George Washington University, Hufjay’s 28-year career has included publicity positions at studios and publicity firms including Paramount Pictures, Castle Rock Entertainment, DreamWorks, Rogers & Cowan and Warner Bros.

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“While change is not easy, it’s something I’ve always embraced,” Hufjay said. “I’ve had an amazing 17-and-a-half-year run at Warner Bros. and will forever be grateful to my mentors and colleagues. After spending most of my time with superheroes, my immediate plan is to focus on my family over the holidays but I’m so excited to choose the next step in my career.”

CBS Unveils New Brand Identity Across All Divisions and Platforms

With ViacomCBS readying the reboot of SVOD platform CBS All Access to Paramount+ in 2021, CBS Oct. 8 unveiled a new brand identity aimed at simplifying the look and feel of all its divisions across platforms.

In an announcement by chief marketing officer Mike Benson, the updated brand identity for entertainment programming debuted on the CBS Network this week in advance of the upcoming fall TV show season. Viewers can expect to see it rolled out across CBS News leading up to the 2020 election and for CBS Sports for Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021.

Similar iterations are being developed for CBS Television Stations and CBS Television Distribution. For example, CBS Television Studios has been renamed CBS Studios.

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The branding is designed to create stronger “continuity and clarity” from the core CBS brand to subsidiaries, while driving attribution for CBS’s content, whether on the brand’s traditional platforms or others such as live, on-demand or streaming video.

“CBS has long been one of the most unifying brands in media,” Benson said. “We needed to make that clearer and more consistent at every consumer touchpoint.”

Benson, who worked with ad agency Gretel on the rebranding, said the improvements draw upon CBS’s 91-year history, with key visual and audio elements from the past integrated into the new aesthetic. The ubiquitous CBS Eye logo remains central to the new identity in a unique animated way. The voiceover “This is CBS,” which was used for decades on the company’s radio and television broadcasts beginning nearly a century ago, is another example of legacy elements playing a strong role moving forward.

New elements of the CBS brand strategy include:

  • The iconic CBS Eye will be used across the brand identity in a flexible style that elevates it as a standalone logo and leans into the shapes and elements that make it up.
  • Brand attribution will be applied to programming and promotion that drives better connection between the CBS core brand, its sub-brands and our premium content available across CBS-owned and third-party platforms.
  • Content on CBS and CBS-owned platforms will be tagged with “CBS Original,” “CBS News,” “CBS Sports” or “CBS Presents” to reinforce its role as a leading creator and content provider for its platforms and many others. For example: “CBS Presents The 56th Academy of Country Music Awards.”
  • Content produced by CBS Studios will also include “A CBS Studios Production” and CBS Studios branded marks.
  • An audio expression of the updated brand identity comes to life in a five-note mnemonic written by assigning musical notes to the historic “This is CBS” voiceover slogan, creating a new melody and animation that will appear at the top of the hour during primetime programming on CBS.
  • Unified logos and graphics that simplify and closely identify CBS as the core brand across divisions.
  • Updated avatars and watermarks to be used across all CBS social media handles.

Another 2.4 Million People Filed Jobless Claims Last Week; Upping 9-Week Total Past 38 Million

The economy may be reopening slowly around the country, but people being out of work continues. New data from the U.S. Labor Department revealed that more than 2.4 million people filed unemployment claims for the week ended May 16 — bringing the nine week total during the coronavirus pandemic to 38.6 million.

The government said the unemployment rate was 17.2% for the week ended May 9, an increase of 1.7 percentage points from the previous week.

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Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, thinks the unemployment rate in May will reach 20%, compared with 14.7% in April.

“The hemorrhaging has continued,” Slok told The New York Times.

Indeed, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, citing comments from Universal Pictures chairwoman Donna Langley, May 20 disclosed that the vast majority of Hollywood’s 890,000 studio and television employees are not working due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

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“Anyone listening to yesterday’s meeting heard loud and clear that employees and businesses are suffering,” Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors chair Kathryn Barger said in a briefing.

Studios are banking on movie theaters re-opening in Los Angeles and New York in July, driven by Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (Warner Bros.) on July 17 and Disney’s Mulan on July 24.

CBS, Viacom Merger to Close Dec. 4

CBS Corp. and Viacom have announced that their pending merger is expected to close after market hours on Dec. 4.

Immediately following the closing, the combined company will be renamed ViacomCBS Inc., and it is expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on Dec. 5 under the new ticker symbols “VIACA” and “VIAC,” according to the companies.

As part of the listing, ViacomCBS will also become eligible for future inclusion in the Nasdaq 100 index.

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Speaking last August with CNBC, Robert Bakish, current Viacom CEO and future head of ViacomCBS, said the combined media company would offer “unmatched scale” with 140,000 television catalog episodes and 3,600 movies, including content from Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios.

The broadcast network’s early move toward direct-to-consumer content distribution with CBS All Access and Showtime OTT and Viacom’s acquisition of ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV has well-positioned the new media company in the streaming video era, he said.

“[That’s] not something people have talked about a lot [regarding the merger],” he said.  “You unite those two together and you really have a D-to-C ecosystem — very compelling — both with substantial, millions of users.”

More ViacomCBS Execs Announced

CBS and Viacom Nov. 18 announced additional senior appointments to ViacomCBS corporate leadership, effective upon closing of the merger.

Alex Berkett, SVP, corporate development and strategy, Viacom, will become EVP, corporate development and strategy, leading ViacomCBS’ efforts to identify, pursue and execute strategic growth opportunities, including acquisitions, partnerships, investments and joint ventures, across all of ViacomCBS’ businesses and geographies.

Nancy Phillips will serve as EVP, chief people officer, and lead the ViacomCBS global human resources organization. Phillips joins the company from Nielsen, where she served as chief human resources officer.

Marva Smalls, EVP, global head of inclusion strategy, Viacom, will serve as EVP, global head of inclusion of ViacomCBS, driving initiatives and fostering partnerships that promote and advance diversity and inclusion for ViacomCBS enterprise-wide both with internal and external stakeholders globally. In addition, she will retain her public affairs responsibilities for Nickelodeon as EVP, public affairs, kids and family entertainment brands, ViacomCBS Media Networks.

Jose Tolosa, chief transformation officer of Viacom, will expand his responsibilities as EVP, chief transformation officer. In this role, he will continue to oversee integration efforts for the combined company, with a focus on accelerating the evolution of its businesses. Tolosa will also lead ViacomCBS strategic planning, helping to set the company’s strategic priorities and support cross-company projects for senior management. Additionally, he will oversee the Global Business Services and Global Sourcing divisions, which will expand their scope, providing enterprise-wide services and helping drive synergies.

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The leadership announcements follow the previously announced appointments of Christa D’Alimonte as EVP, general counsel and secretary; Anthony DiClemente as EVP, investor relations; DeDe Lea as EVP, global public policy and government relations; Julia Phelps as EVP, chief communications and corporate marketing officer, and Christina Spade as Executive Vice President, CFO.

“We now have in place the entire senior management team for ViacomCBS, ensuring we will hit the ground running when the transaction closes in just a few weeks,” stated Bob Bakish, Viacom president and CEO, who will serve as president and CEO of ViacomCBS upon closing. “Working together, these leaders will help us realize the full potential of our considerable assets and competitive strengths.”

The merger of Viacom and CBS remains subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close by early December.

Disney Names Justin Connolly President of Media Distribution, Combines Units

The Walt Disney Co. will combine all of its media sales and channel distribution into one organization under Justin Connolly, who has been named president of Media Distribution. Based in New York, Connolly will report to Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment.

Connolly’s appointment comes just days after the abrupt departure of Disney veteran Janice Marinelli from her position as president of Global Content Sales & Distribution for The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI) segment, ending a 34-year career at the media giant.

“By combining all of our media, affiliate, content and syndication sales, and distribution efforts into the Direct-to-Consumer and International segment, we continue to transform the ways in which we distribute the great stories and characters created by The Walt Disney Company’s studios and media networks,” said Mayer in a statement. “I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Justin for many years and believe his experience makes him well-suited to drive Disney’s media sales and distribution efforts. He is a consummate professional, a fantastic dealmaker, and a great leader.”

“I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the industry’s best multi-platform sales and distribution teams,” said Connolly in a statement. “Through our combined efforts we will achieve the company’s vision for an even stronger, more agile organization that is better able to pivot and capitalize on the many opportunities present in today’s fast-changing and increasingly complex global marketplace.”

In his new role, Connolly will spearhead global app distribution deals for Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming services — including Disney+, ESPN+ and Movies Anywhere. Connolly will also be responsible for the distribution of film and television programming via home entertainment, broadcasting platforms, digital platforms, SVOD and pay networks.

He will continue to oversee all aspects of North American distribution, affiliate marketing and affiliate-related business operations for all the services provided by Disney and ESPN media networks including, among other services: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, SEC Network, ACC Network, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild, and related WATCH, HDTV, video-on-demand, interactive television and retransmission consent agreements for Disney’s eight-owned ABC stations. He will also continue to have oversight of the ABC Affiliate Relations and Marketing team.

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To ensure alignment between content licensing and direct-to-consumer priorities, a Disney release stated Connolly will work closely with DTCI’s international content sales teams who now report directly into their respective regional leaders. Connolly will have final approval on all content sales agreements for Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox Film, Fox Animation, Disneynature, ABC Studios, ABC Entertainment, National Geographic, FX Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, WABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior.

Connolly previously served as EVP, affiliate sales and marketing, Disney and ESPN Media Networks — overseeing all aspects of domestic distribution, ABC affiliate relations, affiliate marketing and affiliate-related business operations for all the services provided by Disney and ESPN media networks. In June 2017, he added oversight of ESPN’s strategy and business development teams to his portfolio.

Prior to that, Connolly served as SVP, college networks, and under his direction, SEC Network was the most successful network launch in cable history. Before working with the college networks, Connolly served as SVP, national accounts for Disney & ESPN Media Networks. He was responsible for all domestic distribution and licensing efforts for Disney’s linear networks, broadband and VOD content within the Media Networks Group.

He joined ESPN in 2003 and served in various capacities including director, ESPN strategy and operations, where he helped ESPN with its long-term affiliate negotiations. In August 2004 he was promoted to VP, distribution strategy. Prior to joining ESPN, Connolly worked in the corporate finance group for Disney’s corporate treasury department in Burbank, Calif.

Connolly, a Boston native, graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 1998 and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2003.

Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment includes Disney’s international media operations stretching from Europe to Asia to Latin America and the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming businesses, including Hulu, Hotstar, ESPN+, and the upcoming Disney+ service set to debut in the United States Nov. 12. DTCI also houses global advertising sales and ad technology for Disney media properties, which include ABC, ESPN, Freeform, FX Networks, National Geographic, and the Disney Channels. The company’s media distribution operations — including global distribution of film and TV content to Disney+, Hulu and other third-party platforms, as well as Movies Anywhere — are also part of the Direct-to-Consumer & International business segment.

BayView Entertainment Acquires Monterey Media

BayView Entertainment, a supplier of independent special interest, fitness, and wellness video releases for more than 15 years, has acquired California-based Monterey Media, a distributor of independent films for all media platforms.

The Monterey library encompasses hundreds of feature films and documentaries and has been awarded numerous Multi-Platinum RIAA and ITA sales awards, according to a BayView press release. The Monterey catalog includes independent films starring such actors as James Franco, Kaley Cuoco, Susan Sarandon, Gabriel Byrne, Dennis Hopper, Shirley Knight, Tom Skerritt, Thandie Newton, Anthony LaPaglia, John Ritter, Tommy Lee Jones, William Hurt, Forest Whitaker, David Strathairn, Brian Dennehy, Robin Williams, Danny Glover, Nathan Lane and Jacqueline Bisset, among many others; sports programming including the Bruce Brown films On Any Sunday and The Endless Summer; an educational library of films adapted from literature’s renowned authors combined starring some of Hollywood’s greatest actors; and children’s programming.

“We are excited to welcome Monterey Media into the BayView Entertainment family,” said Peter Castro, VP of acquisitions at BayView, in a statement. “We share a common passion for the highest quality programming and this acquisition will drive exciting new growth for our wholesale customers as well as our producer partners by offering a complete portfolio of feature films and special interest titles from a single distributor.”

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“As all good things must be nurtured to grow, we are so very pleased to have found a new chapter for our wonderful library and its deserving producers.” said Monterey Media’s Jere and Scott Mansfield in a statement. “We are confident as we transition that unique opportunities lie ahead for our carefully curated library.”

For more than 35 years, Monterey Media has been a leading supplier and distributor of independent feature film programming. Monterey’s films have been nominated or won Independent Spirit Awards, Golden Globe Awards and NAACP Image Awards.