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.

Studios Reportedly Back Private Sector 5G Spectrum Allocation

Next-generation 5G wireless technology continues to get a lot of attention (and hype) — notably as an enhanced distribution channel for mobile video entertainment.

Mobile data traffic worldwide is expected to increase from 28 exabytes monthly this year to 77 exabytes monthly by 2022, according to Statista. 5G is expected to add $2.7 trillion to the U.S. GDP by 2030.

Consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to The NPD Group. So too has government concern surrounding the security and allocation of increasingly coveted (and finite) spectrum (or megahertz) required to deliver 5G data.

The FCC reportedly is considering offering 5G wireless services through a government-backed network using existing and Department of Defense spectrum, an idea that would include repurposing current commercial bandwidth.

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This isn’t sitting well with some regulators, notably Federal Communications Commission board member Michael O’Reilly, a longtime champion of market-driven initiatives over government intervention/regulation.

“To call this [government 5G network] effort a trial balloon is insulting to balloons, as all the ideas mentioned have far less consistency than balloons, and more closely resemble a child’s bubbles,” O’Reilly wrote in a blog post last month.

Enter the C-Band Alliance (CBA), a lobbying group representing satellite operators it says represent “100%” of the C-band services currently provided in the United States.

The group sent the FCC a proposal it claims would “quickly clear” C-band spectrum and would pave the way toward the United States maintaining equilibrium with China and other countries in 5G wireless services.

The CBA advocates streamlining the allocation process of 200 MHz of C-band downlink spectrum to 18-to-36 months after the FCC finalizes repurposing satellite’s C-band spectrum for 5G service.

Specifically, the group says satellite operators would cover all costs to clear spectrum and to implement operations in the upper 300 MHz of the band.

“Compared to FCC-run spectrum auctions, which historically have taken as long as a decade, the CBA proposal can deliver valuable spectrum to the U.S. market years ahead of any alternative proposal,” the CBA wrote.

Satellite operators would also coordinate with domestic C-band users such as Hollywood studios, content holders and distributors to “repack hundreds of audio and video services” into the remaining 300 MHz.

Representatives from Disney, Viacom, Fox, CBS, Discovery and Univision, among others, reportedly met with the FCC advocating for speedier spectrum allocation.

Indeed, Disney said its ESPN unit last month used 143 C-band feeds in one day to produce its 24/7 sports content.

“No other distribution method matches C-band in ubiquity and reliability,” the studios wrote in a letter to the FCC. “Content companies and other programmers thus rely on the C-band as the principal means of delivering video to the many thousands of earth stations in the United States.”

Shortened Windows Drive South Korean Digital Movie Sales to No. 2 Behind U.S.

Move over Japan. After years of lagging sales, South Korea has emerged as the No. 2 market for digital sales of movies behind the United States, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting.

The London-based research firm said consumer spending on transactional VOD has increased 800% during the past six years largely due to a shortening of the theatrical window.

Dubbed “Super Premium” and introduced in 2013, the campaign afforded consumers with access to theatrical titles four weeks after their box office debut — shortened from 12 to 16 weeks.

Disney and Sony Pictures were the first studios to incorporate the shorter window, followed by other studios in 2014.

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The Super Premium window has become one of the biggest revenue drivers for the Korean market and typically accounts for two-thirds of transactional revenue, a key factor in the renaissance of the South Korean home video market — and diminished piracy, according to Futuresource.

The report found inconclusive evidence whether the shorter theatrical window negatively impacted exhibitors – as is the rallying cry against narrowing the window in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Futuresource found that the South Korean box office remained steady following the “Super Premium” rollout; albeit at a slower growth rate than before the campaign began.

The report found the Super Premium VOD/EST window has jumpstarted a South Korean home video market in decline following ongoing shrinking packaged-media sales.

“We could see this initiative rolled out to further territories, leveraging South Korea as a leading example,” Futuresource said.

It cautioned that shorter theatrical windows must still be analyzed as to their impact on box office.

“Perhaps [box office revenue growth] could have been higher had this not been introduced,” Futuresource reported. “What is clear is that traditional windows are coming under increased pressure, faced with a fast-paced, digital-first landscape.”

‘Not on Netflix’

I’m a little confused about the whole “Direct to Consumer” trend and what it means for home entertainment.

I get the concept — delivering movies, TV shows and other filmed content directly to consumers over the Internet, bypassing third-party distributors — but honestly, what are we selling here?

Consumers aren’t buying individual movies or shows, either to own or just to watch. They are subscribing to a service, where they can still pick and choose what they want to watch, but it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet rather than ordering off the menu. And that’s an enticing proposition for the consumer — a whole month of entertainment for less than it costs to buy a single movie, either on disc or digitally.

And yet the transactional business model remains a critical component of Hollywood’s money stream, and also provides a far better picture of consumer demand. Just like at the box office, movies succeed or fail on their own, and their performance helps studios determine what to make more of — and less of.

And the transactional model will always rely on a third-party distributor — retailer, aggregator, call it what you will — to provide consumers with the broadest possible choice. Except for Disney, the individual studios simply aren’t a brand.

But regardless of how much money Netflix — and Disney+, the new Disney SVOD service set to launch later this year — spends on original content, I can’t fathom consumers not wanting first-run movies, either to own or just to watch. And while Disney will probably throw some new theatrical movies into its SVOD service just to stoke interest, most of the big blockbusters will always be available first through the transactional model. Netflix and other SVOD services will remain focused on television content and catalog movies to give studios a direct revenue stream to compensate for declining disc sales and the loss of fees they get from selling content to cable companies because of cord-cutting.

The transactional business model has certainly endured its share of bumps in recent years. Disc sales continue to decline, and only recently have digital movie sales and rentals begun to climb, with respectable growth rates of 14.4% and 6.2%, respectively, according to year-end 2018 numbers issued by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

The launch in late 2017 of the Movies Anywhere platform certainly helped lift sales, as has the increasing aggressiveness of digital retailers like Apple iTunes, FandangoNow, Redbox On Demand and Google Play, even though the business is largely driven by pay-TV providers like Comcast.

But to really lift the transactional business studios need to do more, as well. An earlier window for digital releases has certainly been effective, but what’s next? Years ago, faced with a slowdown in what was then a physical media-only business, studios banded together with distributors and retailers and introduced a common street date — Tuesdays — as well as a generic awareness campaign that drove home the low cost and convenience of renting a video.

Why not develop and launch a similar industrywide campaign now? Focus on all the great content that’s available exclusively through transactional purchases and rentals, including, of course, fresh new theatrical blockbusters that won’t be on Netflix for years, if ever. I’ve had studio executives tell me this is common knowledge, but I respectfully disagree — I’ve had too many friends and acquaintances tell me otherwise. FandangoNow prominently notes on its website, “New releases not on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime subscriptions.” Why can’t this be an industrywide rallying cry, maybe even with the hashtag #NotOnNetflix (which last time I checked had just 684 posts on Instagram)?

And while we’re at it, let’s put a little effort behind the much-maligned physical disc. We have a truly great new product, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, that’s even getting increased attention (in the form of floor space) from big traditional retailers such as Best Buy, Target and Walmart.

But sometimes it seems that the disc is our industry’s forgotten stepchild. Let’s put existing trade groups like the Blu-ray Disc Association and Ultra HD Alliance to work and start pounding the drums, focusing on the fact that of all the products and platforms out there 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray most closely replicates the theatrical experience. Consider an earlier street date for 4K.

And at the same time, don’t neglect regular Blu-ray and DVD, which continue to dominate sales.  Explore the feasibility of selling a small, curated selection of discs through movie theaters, focusing on titles that somehow tie in with what’s playing on the big screen. There’s a reason theme parks have big gift shops at the exits — you’ve got a captive audience.

Home Entertainment 2018 Year-in-Review

The home entertainment industry was busy in 2018 in the shadow of ongoing major media mergers, as studios and distributors rejigger business models to reflect changing consumer habits domestically and worldwide. Here’s our annual recap of the year in home entertainment,  as covered in Media Play News.

 

January

  • DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group announced that home entertainment spending in 2017 increased 5.26% to $20.5 billion, from $19.5 billion 2016. As expected, gains came largely from digital (streaming video and transactional VOD), with total digital spending up nearly 20% to $13.7 billion.
  • Ron Sanders, longtime home entertainment chief, added president of worldwide distribution for the entire Warner motion picture group to his duties as part of broader studio restructuring.
  • Rollout of premium video-on-demand (PVOD) officially died after the CFO of the country’s largest theatrical chain said discussions with studios remained at an impasse. Speaking at Citi 2018 Global TMT West Conference in Las Vegas, AMC Entertainment CFO Craig Ramsey suggested negotiations with studios had cooled and that there was “no consensus” on PVOD.
  • Netflix said it added a record 8.3 million net subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2017 (ended Dec. 31) to finish the year with more than 117 million subs, including 110 million paid subs.
  • Two services emerged selling movie tickets via monthly subscription — a business model predicated on infrequent use. MoviePass, the New York-based service headed by Mitch Lowe, former CEO of Redbox, enables subs access to one theatrical movie per day for a $9.95 monthly fee, excluding 3D and in-theater dining. Cinemark, which operates nearly 6,000 screens in the United States and Latin America, launched Movie Club, an $8.99 service providing two monthly tickets. The service, unlike MoviePass, allows users to roll over unused tickets and grants a 20% discount on concessions.
  • Consulting firm Deloitte reported 2018 began with about 375 million SVOD subscribers worldwide — a tally projected to increase further as traditional pay-TV operators expand over-the-top video platforms.
  • Flixster Video shut down its website and discontinued all related operations in the United States. The site advised users to try other streaming video options such as Vudu.com and Movies Anywhere.
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment rebranded its ad-supported Crackle streaming service to Sony Crackle.
  • Hulu, the over-the-top video service co-owned by Disney, Comcast, Time Warner and Fox, ended 2017 with more than 17 million subscribers.
  • 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray emerged as a packaged-media star in 2017, Sony’s Victor Matsuda, chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association’s global promotions committee, told an industry gathering at CES 2018. “Hollywood really got behind the new format,” Matsuda said.
  • Warner’s It was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for January, according to NPD VideoScan.

 

February

  • Sony Pictures placed Keith Le Goy, president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television, in charge of the home entertainment division, replacing Man Jit Singh, who held the position for four years.
  • Veteran entertainment executive Liz West, VP of global publicity at the Walt Disney Co., became EVP of marketing communications for international theatrical marketing and worldwide home entertainment at Paramount Pictures — a newly created position.
  • Amazon appointed Jennifer Salke to the position of president of Amazon Studios, replacing Roy Price, who resigned in 2017 following sexual harassment allegations. Salke, who headed NBC Universal since 2011, was responsible for development of current programming
  • Amdocs, a provider of solutions to communications and media companies, acquired Vubiquity, a provider of premium content services and technology solutions, in a $224 million deal.
  • Facing an underperforming film slate, Paramount Pictures jumped at the chance to offload sci-fi drama The Cloverfield Paradox to Netflix, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish told analysts on the media company’s fiscal call.
  • Subscription streaming video service HBO Now increased its subscriber base to 5 million, up from 2 million a year earlier.
  • Redbox filed litigation in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against The Walt Disney Co., alleging the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming strategy aimed at blocking the kiosk vendor from reselling Disney’s packaged-media digital copy codes.
  • Theatrical ticket subscription service MoviePass topped more than 2 million subscribers, with CEO Mitch Lowe predicting 5 million subs by the end of the year.
  • Disney’s Coco was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for February, according to NPD VideoScan.

 

March

  • Digital movie collection service Movies Anywhere added FandangoNow as its fifth digital retail partner, joining Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu.
  • Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek assumed additional responsibility for all of Disney’s consumer products operations globally, including licensing and Disney stores, as chairman of the new Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products business segment.
  • Carrie Dieterich, SVP of strategic initiatives at the Entertainment Merchants Association, announced her retirement after 24 years with the home entertainment trade association.
  • Netflix said it expects to generate $15 billion in user fees in 2018 — almost twice the $8 billion it will spend on original content co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings said at a corporate tech event in Los Angeles.
  • Amazon Prime Video generated 26 million viewers for 19 original programs in early 2017, including 5 million for top shows such as “The Man in the High Castle,” “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and ‘The Grand Tour.”
  • Tower Records and Video founder Russ Solomon, one of the most important retail figures in the home video industry, died March 4 at age 92 of an apparent heart attack while watching the Academy Awards.
  • A TiVo survey of 3,000 consumers found usage of Redbox increased from 10% of respondents in the third quarter to 12.5% in the fourth in 2017.
  • Lucasfilm announced that Jon Favreau would executive produce and write a live-action “Star Wars” television series for the Walt Disney Company’s streaming video service, which is expected to bow in late 2019.
  • Indie distributor Shout! Factory partnered with China’s Ace Film HK Co. to acquire 91-year-old Roger Corman’s New Horizons Picture catalog of 270 movies and TV series. Known as “The Pope of Pop Cinema,” Corman is responsible for such titles as Death Race 2000, Piranha, Black Scorpion, Humanoids from the Deep and the 1960 Little Shop of Horrors, among others.
  • Amazon Studios closed an exclusive first-look deal with Oscar-winning filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan, who won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director for Manchester by the Sea, distributed by Amazon.
  • Billionaire entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga, who propelled Blockbuster Video into a national brand, among other businesses, died March 22 at age 80 following a long battle with cancer.
  • Netflix added a record 7.4 million new subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31) — topping Wall Street estimates of 6.5 million. The service added 5.4 million subs internationally, compared with 1.96 million (1.45 million forecast) in the United States.
  • The first quarter of 2018 yielded positive results for studios due in part to top theatrical titles from the end of 2017 hitting retail channels.
  • Spurred by packaged-media and digital revenue from Oscar-winner La La Land, Power Rangers, Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween and Wonder, Lionsgate reported a $67 million increase in home entertainment revenue for fiscal year 2018, ended March 31.
  • Limited largely to catalog releases, MGM Studios Home Entertainment reported global revenue of $19.1 million for the quarter ended March 31, down 40% ($12.8 million) from revenue of $31.9 million for the previous-year period.
  • Disney’s Thor: Ragnarok was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for March, according to NPD VideoScan.

 

April

  • Disney and subsidiaries Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios filed an amended claim in the U.S. District in Los Angeles alleging that Redbox is infringing copyright law selling digital codes to Disney movies obtained from the studios’ packaged-media releases.
  • Theatrical ticket subscription service MoviePass and corporate parent Helios and Matheson Analytics acquired movie information service Moviefone from Oath, a Verizon subsidiary that has taken an ownership stake in MoviePass and will continue to sell Moviefone’s digital ad inventory.
  • The Walt Disney Co. and Twitter announced an agreement to create live content and advertising opportunities across the entire Disney portfolio on the Twitter platform.
  • IHS Markit announced that global digital pay-TV subscriptions, including cable, satellite, telecom and online TV, exceeded 1 billion for the first time in 2017. The milestone comes despite ongoing growth of over-the-top (OTT) subscription video services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. SVOD services, which continue to add three subs for every new pay-TV sub.
  • Fox’s The Greatest Showman was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for April, according to NPD VideoScan. Disney’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes over as the top seller for the year to date.

 

May

  • Warner Bros. promoted longtime executive Jim Wuthrich to president of worldwide home entertainment and games. He reports to Ron Sanders, president of worldwide theatrical distribution and home entertainment.
  • GameStop announced the appointment of Daniel DeMatteo as interim CEO following the sudden resignation of CEO Michael Mauler for personal reasons.
  • Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos told the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York that the service’s subscribers won’t miss Disney original movies, which are migrating to Disney’s pending direct-to-consumer service.
  • New research from Parks Associates showed that 6% of U.S. broadband households are likely to subscribe to an online TV service within the next 12 months, which would more than double the number of current subscribers.
  • Cinedigm partnered with Gatherer Entertainment, an entertainment hub dedicated to providing curated content to women in the 35-54 demo, with hopes of launching the first-ever women’s lifestyle subscription streaming video service.
  • Hulu, which announced it surpassed 20 million subscribers in the United States, signed a license deal with DreamWorks Animation, becoming the exclusive streaming home for future and catalog DWA movies starting in 2019.
  • Amazon announced it exceeded 100 million Prime members globally since launching the loyalty platform 13 years ago. Prime membership includes free access to Prime Video, among other services.
  • Mixed martial arts league UFC and The Walt Disney Co. announced a multiyear media rights agreement for 15 live UFC events to appear exclusively on new streaming service ESPN+, as well as across a variety of ESPN’s television, social and digital platforms, in English and Spanish.
  • Trans World Entertainment Corp. lost $8.1 million for the quarter ended May 5, which was 56% higher than the $5.2 million loss reported in the previous-year period. Revenue dropped nearly 5% to $96.6 million. The company cited much of the loss on continued challenges in its f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) mall-based home entertainment retail chain.
  • Disney’s Black Panther was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for May, according to NPD VideoScan.

June

  • A federal judge June 12 gave the green light to AT&T Inc.’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc., rejecting a Department of Justice argument that such a union would stifle competition and hurt pay-TV consumers by costing them more money to stream movies and TV shows. Time Warner was subsequently renamed WarnerMedia and folded into the telecom’s media business segment headed by John Stankey. The deadline for completing the deal had already been extended to June 21, after originally being set for October 2017.
  • Looking to shake up its internal management structure, Hulu hired a new chief technology officer, its first chief data officer and realigned the subscription streaming video platform into four operating segments, among other changes. Notable in the reorganization was the departure of chief content officer Joe Stillerman and Tim Connolly, SVP of partnerships and distribution.
  • AT&T announced plans for its new AT&T Watch TV service, a package of Turner channels available for free to AT&T wireless subscribers and $15 on other platforms.
  • The Entertainment AIDS Alliance (EAA) changed its name to the Entertainment Aid Alliance to signify expansion into other charitable endeavors. The organization also added new leadership, including EAA president Jordan von Haslow, who took over the position in January from longtime president Sue Procko.
  • Sony Pictures Television revamped internal operations to combine networks, distribution and home entertainment into single business units operating under separate territorial management and reporting to Keith Le Goy, president of worldwide TV distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
  • Redbox rolled out 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray rentals across more than 2,500 kiosks in six test markets: Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Detroit, Miami, and New York City. The UHD discs cost $2.50 per night, 50 cents higher than the rental rate for regular Blu-ray Discs (DVDs are $1.75).
  • In a potential blow to MoviePass, AMC Theatres bowed AMC Stubs A-List, which gives subscribers access to screenings and movie reservations at any AMC location in any format three times per week for $19.95 per month.
  • Parks Associates estimates the number of global households with an over-the-top video service subscription will exceed 265 million by 2022, spearheaded by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
  • The S&P Dow Jones Indices added Netflix to the S&P 100, replacing Monsanto. The subscription streaming pioneer with more than 125 million global subscribers recently saw its market value rival Comcast and Disney.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can levy a sales tax on e-commerce merchants regardless of a physical presence in the state, overturning a 1992 decision. The prohibition on taxing out-of-state e-commerce reportedly cost states $13.4 billion in revenue last year.
  • Former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama entered into a multiyear agreement to produce films and series with Netflix, according to the streaming service. The Obamas have established Higher Ground Productions as the entity under which they will produce content for Netflix.
  • Apple signed a multiyear content partnership with Oprah Winfrey, “the esteemed producer, actress, talk show host, philanthropist and CEO of OWN,” the tech giant announced.
  • Seeking to significantly upgrade the Starz brand globally, corporate parent Lionsgate licensed the premium channel’s app to YouTube TV and Hulu.
  • The Walt Disney Co. shuffled executives and at the end of June shuttered animation division Disneytoon Studios, based in Glendale.
  • Digital continued to drive consumers to spend more money on home entertainment, with total spending up 9% for the first half of 2018 from the first six months of 2017, according to the quarterly update from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
  • Lionsgate’s I Can Only Imagine was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for June, according to NPD VideoScan.

 

July

  • Apple added longtime BBC Films executive Joe Oppenheimer to its international content development unit. Oppenheimer reports to Jay Hunt, the former BBC and Channel 4 executive Apple hired last October to head it international TV unit.
  • WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey told a company meeting that HBO has to increase “hours of engagement” in a consumer market he says is driven by portable devices that capture their attention “every 15 minutes.”
  • MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics, after seeing its stock price drop to record lows below 20 cents per share, unveiled a series of financial moves intended to shore up the service’s loss-leader business model, which lets moviegoers see one non-premium movie a day for $9.95 monthly fee.
  • A new agreement with Warner Bros. gives Redbox rental kiosks access to the studio’s Blu-rays and DVDs on street date, rather than the week- and month- long delays of previous deals. The agreement also maintains new-release and catalog availability via Redbox On Demand at first release.
  • Verizon ended Go90, the ad-supported mobile-centric streaming video app launched in 2015 with much fanfare and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.
  • Despite the popularity of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, nearly half the country isn’t willing to pay for a video subscription streaming service, according to a new study from Parrot Analytics.
  • Streaming TV pioneer Roku introduced “Audience Marketplace,” allowing advertising buyers and sellers to more effectively target audiences on the Roku platform in the United States, according to the company.
  • Struggling toy chain Toys “R” Us — once a significant player in the DVD/Blu-ray Disc and video game sellthrough market — closed the last of its U.S. stores.
  • Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, who teamed in Just Go With It, announce plans to reunite in Murder Mystery, due on Netflix in 2019.
  • A new agreement with Viacom gives Hulu exclusive streaming rights to series such as “Daria,” “Nathan for You,” “My Super Sweet 16” and “New Edition Story.”
  • Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company announces it is bowing two reality-based series on a branded channel via AT&T’s DirecTV Now and U-verse platforms.
  • Olympic Gold medalist Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions signed a partnership with Facebook to bring ad-supported live boxing to the social media giant’s Watch streaming platform.
  • Subscription VOD service CBS All Access extended an agreement to stream all “NFL on CBS” telecasts through the 2022 season.
  • The Justice Department announced plans to appeal the federal court ruling giving the go-ahead to AT&T’s acquisition of Warner.
  • Warner’s Rampage was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for July, according to NPD VideoScan.

 

August

  • Shareholders of The Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox approved Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s entertainment assets, in a $71.3 billion exchange of stock and cash. The merger is expected to be completed in the first half of 2019.
  • Warner Bros. beta-launches “DC Universe,” a first-of-its-kind subscription streaming video service affording access to exclusive content and experiences “not available anywhere else.”
  • Heather Schuster, head of unscripted content at Amazon Studios, left the company after less than 12 months on the job, reportedly following an internal probe into her corporate behavior.
  • Netflix CFO David Wells announces plans to step down after helping the company choose his successor. The search will include both internal and external candidates. Wells joined Netflix in 2004 and has served as CFO since 2010.
  • Disney CEO Bob Iger announces the pending Disney streaming video service would focus on incorporating core brands, including Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar, in an effort to complement, and to a lesser extent, compete with services such as Netflix.
  • The Entertainment Merchants Association, MovieLabs and DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group formed the Digital Supply Chain Alliance to improve cooperation among the organizations’ members “in service of improved efficiency, standards adoption and the sharing of best practices.”
  • Microsoft Movies & TV became the sixth retail affiliate of the Movies Anywhere movie ownership rights locker service, allowing film fans to sync their Microsoft account to Movies Anywhere and centralize their digital movies purchased from Microsoft alongside those purchased from other connected retailers.
  • Netflix reportedly began testing streaming video ads of original content to select subscribers. The ads appear during binging sessions and other content viewing. Netflix said the house ads could be skipped and underscore the platform’s desire to expedite a user’s streaming experience with recommended content suggestions based on user data.
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment was reported to be looking for a fiscal partner to help it expand Crackle.com, the ad-supported streaming video service it acquired in 2006 for $65 million.
  • The NPD Group’s “Entertainment Trends in America” report is released, estimating that 17% of U.S. consumers relied solely on subscription video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to view video content in the 12-month period ended March 2018, up from 11% in 2017. Meanwhile, 24% of consumers rely only on transactional methods — buying or purchasing content on physical discs or in digital formats, while 32% use a combination of transactions and SVOD.
  • Go90, Verizon’s short-lived attempt at over-the-top video targeting millennials on wireless devices, cost the company $997 million. The telecom revealed the pre-tax charges, which included $339 million in severance charges, in its quarterly fiscal results.
  • Former DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo holding company raised $1 billion in initial funding for “NewTV,” an app that aims to launch in 2019.
  • Shout! Factory formed a distribution partnership with Sesame Workshop for the “Sesame Street” home entertainment library.
  • Media measurement company Comscore announced it will bow a pilot program dubbed “campaign ratings” aimed at tracking audiences across linear TV and digital platforms with reliable audience demographics.
  • Cinedigm Entertainment Group renewed its home video distribution deal with the Crown Media Family Networks, parent company of the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and Hallmark Movies Now.
  • Disney’s Avengers: Infinity War was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for August, according to NPD VideoScan.

 

September

  • A federal judge granted the Walt Disney Co.’s request for a preliminary injunction against Redbox selling digital codes to Disney movies, ruling that Disney’s amended language accompanying its packaged-media combo packs sufficiently prohibits private parties from selling copyrighted content without permission.
  • Speaking at the Goldman Sachs 27th Annual Communacopia confab in New York, Bob Bakish, CEO of corporate parent Viacom, said Paramount is a very different place today — thanks in part to a trio of theatrical hits and increased television content production, among other initiatives.
  • WarnerMedia announced plans to launch an over-the-top video service featuring Warner Bros. and HBO catalog content, in addition to Turner Sports fare.
  • Helios and Matheson Analytics, corporate parent of fiscally challenged theatrical ticket subscription service MoviePass, sought to authorize a second reverse-stock split in another attempt to raise its stock price to meet the Nasdaq minimum of $1 per share.
  • Warner officially launches the DC Universe Sept. 15 — Batman Day — anchored by superhero series “Titans,” based on the Teen Titans comic book.
  • In a market increasingly dominated by subscription streaming, consumers still like to buy movies and TV shows on disc and digital formats, according to a report from Nielsen.
  • New consumer research from Leichtman Research Group found that 69% of all U.S. households have a subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and/ or Hulu — up from 52% in 2015. Among those that have an SVOD service, 63% have more than one of these services — up from 38% in 2015. Overall, 43% of U.S. households now have more than one SVOD service, an increase from 20% in 2015.
  • DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group announced the incoming board of directors for its 22nd year. Board officers, elected to a two-year term, include Comcast Cable’s Matt Strauss as chair; HBO’s Sofia Chang as vice chair, Paramount’s Bob Buchi as CFO, and Warner’s Jim Wuthrich as secretary.
  • BritBox, the 18-month-old subscription streaming video service launched in the U.S. by BBC Studios and ITV, topped 400,000 monthly subscribers and is projected to reach 500,000 members by next March, according to BBC Studios CEO Tim Davie.
  • Borrowing a page from its Amazon Channels, Amazon launched Storefronts — a platform giving Prime members access to more than 20,000 small and medium-sized retailers selling on Amazon. In 2017, more than 300,000 U.S.-based small and medium-sized businesses started selling through Amazon.
  • The FandangoNow on-demand video service began offering Binge Bundles, a rental initiative offering multiple titles from franchises in more than 100 themed collections.
  • Netflix added nearly 7 million global subscribers for the quarter ended Sept. 30, including 1 million in the United States — beating company projections and upping its global subscriber base to 137 million.
  • Cinedigm’s Docurama streaming services launched on the Roku Channel.
  • Streaming media device pioneer Roku lost $11.7 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30, widened from a loss of $7.9 million during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 39% to $173.4 million.
  • Paramount Home Media Distribution’s revenue of $157 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30 was down 17% from revenue of $190 million in the previous-year period. Domestic revenue from sales of physical and digital movies and TV shows reached $103 million, compared with $118.5 million last year. International sales totaled $54 million, down 22%. The studio attributed the drop in part to timing of releases and product mix. For the fiscal year, sales of physical and digital content topped $622 million, down about 27% from $849 million a year ago.
  • MGM Studios revenue was $21.8 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up 30% from the previous-year period. Television program home entertainment revenue increased 26% to $26.9 million.
  • Consumer spending on home entertainment in the third quarter of 2018 rose 15% compared with the prior-year period, to an estimated $5.7 billion according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. For the first nine months of the year, spending was at nearly $17 billion, an 11% year-over-year gain.
  • Universal’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for September, according to NPD VideoScan.

 

October

  • New data from Digital TV Research projected 1.877 billion combined global pay-TV and subscription streaming video subscribers by 2023 — up 37% from 1.372 billion at the end of 2017. SVOD subs will more than double, but traditional pay-TV will add just 94 million subs.
  • Walmart formed a strategic entertainment joint venture with Eko, a developer of interactive video technology. The initiative — dubbed W*E Interactive Ventures — expands Walmart’s entertainment ecosystem beyond its retail website, Vudu digital movie service and a new eBook platform.
  • After losing out to Disney for the purchase of Fox’s studio assets, Comcast emerged victorious in its efforts to gain control of U.K. satellite TV operator Sky. Comcast outbid 21st Century Fox with a $40 billion offer for outstanding Sky shares in an auction mandated by British regulators.
  • Redbox hired Chris Yates as GM for its Redbox On Demand digital video store, which launched in late 2017.
  • Lionsgate signed Ron Schwartz to a new long-term agreement as president of Lionsgate Worldwide Home Entertainment and promoted marketing executive Amanda Kozlowski to EVP of home entertainment and digital distribution marketing.
  • The Walt Disney Co.’s direct-to-consumer and international segment announced that subscription streaming video service ESPN+ surpassed 1 million paying subscribers since its April launch. The $4.99 monthly service ($49.99 per year) represents Disney’s first foray into branded standalone OTT video.
  • Roku resumed sales of its streaming media devices in Mexico following a favorable court ruling. Roku had been banned since the summer of 2017 after allegations its devices enabled third-party hackers to create apps to pirate content.
  • Satellite radio operator SiriusXM acquired streaming music operator Pandora Media in an all-stock transaction valued at about $3.5 billion. The transaction, which is expected to close in early 2019, creates the world’s largest audio entertainment company, with more than $7 billion in expected pro-forma revenue in 2018.
  • Sony Electronics announced a collaboration with software company Connekt to let owners of select Sony Smart TVs and Blu-ray Disc players buy products directly through the television.
  • Walmart-owned Vudu.com signed a deal with MGM Studios for original content to be made available on the transactional VOD platform’s ad-supported “Movies on Us” service. The deal includes exclusive North American access to original episodic series based on MGM intellectual property.
  • BBC Studios Los Angeles and Lionsgate Television signed a first-look agreement to co-develop original scripted content for the U.S. market based on the BBC catalog.
  • Lucasfilm begins production of “The Mandalorian,” the first “Star Wars” live-action series previously announced to be produced by Jon Favreau for Disney’s streaming service launching in 2019.
  • Disney’s Ant-Man and The Wasp was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for October, according to NPD VideoScan.

 

November

  • Disney CEO Bob Iger said he wanted to expedite the home video window following the studio’s strong home entertainment results. “The home video window continues to be quite important to us,” Iger said. The pending Disney SVOD service is given a name, Disney+, and additional programming will include a second “Star Wars” series, based on Rogue One‘s Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna), and a series based on Marvel’s Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston). Disney is also producing a live-action version of Lady and the Tramp for the service.
  • DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group presented its second annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Emblematic Group CEO Nonny de la Peña.
  • During the Nov. 6 4K Ultra HD Summit, DEG presented its inaugural Vanguard Award to Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Christopher Nolan .
  • Digital TV Research estimates revenue from subscription streaming video services such as Netflix and other over-the-top video services would top $35 billion this year — up nearly 30% from revenue of $25.04 billion in 2017.
  • Movies Anywhere celebrated its first birthday by touting its 6 million registered users, who have digital collections totaling 150 million movies, resulting in more than 1 billion minutes viewed. Fans have streamed more than 35 million movies on more than 100 different devices.
  • The board of directors of Helios and Matheson Analytics approved a plan to spin off subsidiary MoviePass, the fiscally-challenged movie ticket subscription service.
  • Online mega-retailer Amazon selected New York City and Arlington, Va., as the locations for the company’s new co-headquarters. Amazon announced expectations to invest $5 billion and create more than 50,000 jobs across the two locations.
  • With Netflix sitting atop the global SVOD market with 137 million subscribers, co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings reiterated that the platform going forward would focus on paid subscribers rather than including new subscribers engaged in free trial service, which equates to about 7 million fewer subs.
  • The FilmStruck streaming service from Turner Classic Movies catering to rare, classic, foreign, arthouse and independent cinema, shut down. The service launched in 2016 and was exclusive online streaming home of the Criterion Collection in the United States. Owner WarnerMedia also shuttered Korean-themed movie SVOD service DramaFever as part of efforts to consolidate its over-the top video strategy following its acquisition by AT&T. Criterion soon announced plans to start its own standalone streaming service in Spring 2019, which would also be available as an add-on to the pending WarnerMedia SVOD service.
  • AMC Networks completed the $59 million acquisition of all shares of common stock in home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment not owned by founder Robert L. Johnson. RLJE is now a privately-owned subsidiary of AMC Networks, with Johnson and his affiliates owning a 17% stake.
  • Reports indicate Apple is planning to launch an online TV service in more than 100 countries in the first half of 2019. The service would include original programming, in addition to third-party apps similar to Amazon Channels in the United States, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, according to com. Apple also announced Steve Carell would join Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston for its upcoming streaming service’s drama series about morning TV news.
  • Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, in that order, topped Parks Associates list of the top 10 subscription over-the-top video services in the U.S. market. Rounding out the top 10 were, in order, HBO Now, Starz, MLB.TV, Showtime, CBS All Access, Sling TV and DirecTV Now.
  • Cinedigm added the martial arts platform Combat Go by JungoTV and the e-sports network Wham as linear offerings on the free, ad-supported Roku Channel. Both digital channels join Cinedigm networks The Dove Channel, CONtv and Docurama. Wham is also streaming on the Pluto TV service.
  • TV Studios, a subsidiary of Viacom’s MTV, partners with Facebook to reboot reality TV trailblazer “The Real World” for three new seasons debuting in spring 2019.
  • Cinedigm announced a partnership with Chinese streaming service Youku to distribute 30 original Chinese feature films in North America on all platforms including digital, DVD and Blu-ray, and OTT, with a primary focus on major streaming platforms and niche outlets.
  • Digital retailer Google Play Movies & TV will automatically upgrade customers’ past movie purchases to 4K when available from participating studios, even if they were originally bought in SD or HD. Google Play also announced a price drop for 4K movies.
  • Trans World Entertainment Corp., parent of f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment), had a net loss of $14 million for the quarter ended Nov. 3, compared with a net loss of $8 million a year ago. Revenue dipped $1 million to $90.8 million.
  • Consumer foot traffic to brick-and-mortar retail stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday resulted in a combined 1% decline for the two-day period compared to last year, with a 1.7% decline in traffic on Black Friday versus 2017, according to new data from ShopperTrak.
  • Disney’s Incredibles 2 was the top selling DVD/Blu-ray for November, according to NPD VideoScan. In addition, Avengers: Infinity War moved into the top spot for the year-to-date top sellers, bumping Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which had held the spot for seven months. Disney titles topped the monthly chart six times and hold five spots in the yearly top 10.

 

December

  • Digital movie collection service Movies Anywhere added Comcast’s Xfinity Digital Store as its seventh digital retail partner and the first pay-TV provider to join.
  • The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Dec. 6 heard oral arguments in the Justice Department’s appeal of the AT&T/Time Warner merger. Justices expressed skepticism over the government’s concerns about the economic impacts of the merger.
  • With 70% of Netflix programming streamed through the TV, the service is seeking to turn more of its 130 million global subscribers toward using its mobile platform. The SVOD pioneer is testing lower-priced subscriptions for mobile users in select markets, including Asia.
  • Netflix topped global spending on original and licensed content with more than $12 billion in 2018. Following the mergers of Comcast/Sky and Disney/Fox, two of every five dollars spent on content in the United States will be spent by these four companies alone, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.
  • DirecTV announced plans to roll out a proprietary streaming media device in 2019 that would enable consumers to access online TV service DirecTV Now using their own broadband or high-speed Internet connectivity. The device, which would be similar to a Roku or Apple TV, would help DirecTV reduce subscriber acquisition costs typically associated with the installation of pay-TV service.
  • Cinedigm is launching Matchpoint, a managed-service technology platform that “enables content distributors, OTT service operators, Web publishers, and OEMs to efficiently and cost-effectively create compelling OTT and media subscription services.”
  • YouTube began offering catalog studio movies for free, including titles such as Legally Blonde, Rocky IV, Zookeeper and The Terminator, among others. The ad-supported streams appear alongside new releases promoted to buy or rent on YouTube.com and Google Play.
  • Still smarting from its $1 billion write-down of the short-lived Go90 video app, Verizon is embracing high-band 5G spectrum, which claims to offer wireless network speeds 100 times faster than the current 4G spectrum, by helping to market third-party over-the-top video services — similar to what Amazon Channels does.
  • Amazon Studios acquired rights to The Fighting Shirley Chisholm, with Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis set to co-produce and star in the title role as the first black woman elected to Congress. Chisholm served from 1969 to 1983. Separately, Amazon Studios reached an agreement with Jason Blum’s indie Blumhouse Television studio for eight darkly-themed feature-length thrillers to be released on Amazon Prime Video.
  • Hulu and Funimation, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Television, announced a multiyear partnership and output deal to significantly expand Hulu’s anime collection beginning in 2019.
  • Amazon and Sinclair Broadcast Group are reportedly in early discussions about a joint bid to acquire the New York Yankees’ YES regional sports TV network.
  • Comcast Cable began enabling Xfinity X1 subscribers to stream 4K video content on a compatible HDTV in their home.
  • The Federal Trade Commission issued an alert to Netflix subscribers about an online phishing scam that attempts to extract personal information from unsuspecting subs, among other issues.
  • On the strength of live streaming three of the biggest sporting events in the world — Super Bowl LII, the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and Spanish-language coverage of the FIFA World Cup  — NBC Sports Digital delivered its best year ever in 2018.
  • DC Universe, WarnerMedia’s superhero-centric subscription streaming video service, was made available on Amazon Fire TV.
  • AMC Theatres announced that its Stubs A-List subscription ticket service surpassed 600,000 subs since launching six months earlier. The nation’s largest theatrical chain had expected to reach 500,000 A-List members after 12 months.
  • The most popular shows on Netflix in the U.S. come from other companies, despite the online streaming giant’s push into original programming, according to a new report by online media company Recode.
  • Seeking to tap into apparent consumer demand for Spanish-language content from Spain in the United States, Spain’s public TV broadcaster, RTVE, is launching an over-the-top video service domestically, in Canada and Latin America.
  • Amazon announced a record-breaking holiday season, with more items ordered worldwide than ever before. The e-commerce behemoth said consumers shopped at record levels from a wide selection of products across every department. Best-selling products this season included all-new Echo Dot home speakers and Bose wireless headphones, among others.
  • Netflix is projected to pass Comcast-owned satellite pay-TV operator Sky in subscribers by the end of the year, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

Parent Group Calls on Congress to Pass ‘Family Movie Act Clarification Act’ as Christmas Gift

The Parents Television Group, the longstanding censorship advocacy group founded by Christian conservatives, Dec. 5 called upon House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass the “Family Movie Act Clarification Act of 2018” (H.R. 6816) before lawmakers break for the winter holidays Dec. 14.

The bill seeks to amend the “Family Entertainment and Copyright Act,” which included the “Family Home Movie Act of 2005,” enabling third-party software to edit playback of Hollywood movie DVDs containing up to 14 different categories of objectionable content.

The amended resolution seeks to include technology capable of editing streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

“With the quickly approaching end of … this session of Congress, we call on our elected leaders in Washington immediately to pass the Family Movie Act Clarification Act and present it to the President [Trump] for his signature, thereby providing an important and urgently-needed Christmas present for parents and for families,” Tim Winter, president of PTC, said in a statement.

In 2016, studios won a court decision against VidAngel, a company selling software enabling users to filter out language, nudity, violence, and other mature content from movies and TV series. The studios said the software was a form of copyright infringement.

The PTC claims 30 pro-family groups support the new bill, including Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, Dr. James Dobson of Family Talk, Bishop Harry Jackson of ICC Churches, and Ted Baehr of Movieguide.

Winter questions studios’ motives for fighting home entertainment editing software, claiming doing so deprives the industry much-needed sales of packaged media and digital content.

“The legislation is a no-brainer,” said Winter. “It simply brings the Family Movie Act – which allows families to filter explicit content from DVDs – onto contemporary streaming media platforms used by most Americans today. The pending legislation is consistent with, and perfectly honors, the congressional intent expressed when the original measure became law in 2005.”

 

 

Cast of ‘Ocean’s 8’ Promotes Anti-Piracy Video in the U.K.

The cast of Warner Bros.’ upcoming $70 million female-driven heist thriller Ocean’s 8 has created a video to combat piracy in the United Kingdom.

Working together with The Industry Trust for IP Awareness, a British-based copyright protection organization, Warner Bros. created the trailer in which cast members Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Awkwafina and Helena Bonham Carter discuss the appeal of the cinema experience.

In its own research, The Trust found that most movie pirates are avid moviegoers who covet ubiquitous access to content.

The trailer — part of The Trust’s “Moments Worth Paying For” anti-piracy initiative — directs viewers to the U.K. industry-funded movie search engine (FindAnyFilm.com) to help them buy tickets, packaged-media releases or digital editions.

“Having the cast come together to help deliver the message is truly thrilling and a massive endorsement on the important work the Trust does,” James Gallagher, senior marketing manager of The Industry Trust, said in a statement. “The latest round of our campaign effectiveness research shows that featuring key talent resonates strongly with audiences and results in a likely increase in cinema trips and spend in the category.”

“We want audiences to get completely immersed in every twist and turn of this summer’s biggest heist movie and experience all the movie moments worth paying for in the way they are seen best of all — on the big screen,” added Josh Berger, president and managing director, Warner Bros. U.K. and Ireland.

Ocean’s 8 opens in the Unites States June 8, and June 18 in the U.K.

Universal Pictures Q1 Profit Falls 45%

The movie business is often a financial rollercoaster, with release slates and fickle box office turning previous successes into future fiscal headaches.

Universal Pictures said first-quarter (ended March 31) revenue dropped 16.3% to $1.6 billion from $1.9 billion in the previous-year period, primarily due to lower theatrical revenue. The studio includes Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Theatrical revenue decreased 35% due to the higher number of movies in release in last year’s first quarter, including comparing financial results from Fifty Shades DarkerSingSplit and Get Out in last year’s quarter against performances of Fifty Shades Freed, Pacific Rim Uprising, Darkest Hour and Pitch Perfect 3 in this year’s first quarter.

Fifty Shades Darker generated $114.5 million at the previous-period domestic box office compared to $100 million for follow-up Fifty Shades Freed this year.

Animation hit, Sing, generated $634 million globally, including more than $270 million domestically. It also generated almost $63 million in combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc sales in 2017, according to The-Numbers.com. That’s more than the combined box office tally from Pitch Perfect 3, Darkest Hour and Pacific Rim Uprising.

Studio pre-tax income fell 45.2% to $203 million from $370.4 million in the previous-year period, reflecting the decline in revenue, partially offset by lower programming and production costs.

World’s ‘Most Popular’ Movie Piracy Website Shuttering

Illegal movie streaming service 123Movies.to announced it is suspending operations.

The three-year-old platform, which also operated under the banner “GoMovies,” among other identities, made the announcement on its homepage. No reason for the shutdown was given.

“We’ve been providing links to movies and [TV] shows for years. Now it’s time to say goodbye. Thank you for being our friends and thanks for staying with us that long.”

The Vietnam-based service – dubbed by the Motion Picture Association of America as the “world’s most popular illegal site” – claimed 98 million visitors monthly.

Rival Pirate Bay claims monthly visitors of more than 280 million.

Regardless, the announcement followed a recent visit by Jan Van Voorn, chief of global content protection with the MPAA, to the communist country where he reportedly worked with the Office of the Police Investigation Agency to fight piracy.

Apparently 123Movies felt the heat. It urged visitors going forward to pay for movies and TV shows.

“That’s what we should do to show our respect to people behind the movies/shows,” read the message.