HBO Max Orders Series Based on Life of Julia Child

HBO Max has given an eight-episode first-season order to the Max Original “Julia,” based on the life of world-renowned chef Julia Child.

The series, from Lionsgate Television and 3 Arts Entertainment, stars Sarah Lancashire (“Happy Valley”) and David Hyde Pierce (“Frasier”), and is directed by Charles McDougall (“House of Cards”) and written by Daniel Goldfarb (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”).

The series is inspired by Child’s extraordinary life and her long-running television series, “The French Chef,” which pioneered the now popular genre of cooking shows. Through Julia and her singular can-do spirit, the series explores an evolving time in American history — the emergence of public television as a new social institution, feminism and the women’s movement, the nature of celebrity, and America’s cultural growth. At its heart, the series is a portrait of a loving marriage with an evolving and complicated power dynamic.

In addition to Lancashire and Hyde Pierce, the series also stars Brittany Bradford (Broadway’s Bernhardt/Hamlet), Fran Kranz (“Homecoming”), Fiona Glascott (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), Bebe Neuwirth (“Madam Secretary”), Isabella Rossellini (Silent Retreat) and Jefferson Mays (“I Am the Night”).

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“We are so happy to help bring the incomparable Julia Child back to the small screen, when we need her more than ever,” Sarah Aubrey, head of original content for HBO Max, said in a statement. “This show’s look into her life, marriage and trailblazing career as she transformed the way we talk about food is an absolute delight. Our incredible cast and formidable creative team are a recipe for success, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

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“We’re delighted to expand our relationship with HBO Max by teaming with our production partners at 3 Arts on ‘Julia,’ the complex and compelling story of the celebrated chef, author and TV personality who almost single-handedly invented the world of food television,” Jocelyn Sabo, Lionsgate Television Group SVP, said in a statement. “Combining an extraordinary creative team, powerhouse cast and timely subject matter, the series has all the ingredients to resonate with HBO Max audiences for years to come.”

CES: Streaming Execs Discuss Race to Please, Attract Customers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s old is new,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s old is new again,” he said.

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

Nielsen at CES: Kids Titles Rule Movies, ‘The Office’ Tops TV Shows in 2020 Minutes Watched

Eight of the top 10 movies were kids’ titles, and “The Office” was by far the top TV show in minutes watched in 2020, according to Nielsen data presented during the virtual CES.

Meanwhile, Netflix’s “Ozark” topped streaming originals in minutes viewed. In fact, Netflix originals took nine of the top 10 on the minutes-watched originals chart, with Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” coming in at No. 5.

Americans streamed the equivalent of more than 100,000 years of “The Office,” said Brian Fuhrer, SVP, product strategy and thought leadership, Nielsen — with one episode, season four’s “Dundar Mifflin Infinity,” the most streamed episode at almost 31 years.

While Netflix got the benefit of devoted “Office” fans in 2020, Peacock this year acquired the rights to the NBC show.

“We don’t think ‘The Office’ is used up,” said Fuhrer, who noted fans watch the show almost as a comfort.

Kids’ films dominate minutes of movies streamed for a simple reason.

“The kids’ movies have the tremendous advantage of repeat viewings,” he said, as children will watch a film over and over.

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The top movie in terms of minutes watched was Frozen II, followed by, in order, Moana, Pets 2, Onward and Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch. Among non-kids’ titles, only Disney+’s streamed Broadway show Hamilton and Netflix’s Spenser Confidential cracked the top 10.

Among originals, following “Ozark,”  the top most watched programs in terms of minutes were three other Netflix shows, in order, “Lucifer,” “The Crown” and the infamous “Tiger King.” Coming in at No. 5 was Disney+’s “The Mandalorian.”

Fuhrer said the idea of stretching out episodes of a series to create “water cooler TV,” as Disney+ did with “The Mandalorian,” is a growing trend.

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“I think we’re going to see more and more of that,” he said, adding “Amazon did it with ‘The Boys’ to great success.”

While everyone streamed more during the pandemic, one of the biggest changes is how it attracted older viewers, who adopted it and kept on streaming.

“As the older demographic started to stream, there was a lot of sampling,” especially of AVOD services as they were free, he noted.

As theaters closed, first-run movies hit streaming, a trend that is here to say, he said.

“One of the things I find most fascinating was the opportunity to deliver first run movies to consumers,” he said.

While cinemas aren’t going to go away, first-run streaming will become a “bigger and bigger piece of the television pie over time,” he said.

Another trend is an explosion in streaming outlets.

“Fragmentation is hitting streaming just like it hit traditional TV,” he noted.

For these services, “distribution is critical,” he said.

“If it’s not available on the device you have, it’s invisible,” he noted.

Value is another battleground in the streaming marketplace, with consumers evaluating the price versus the quality of content.

Average U.S. Streaming Household Now Subscribes to Four SVOD Services

The average U.S. streaming household now stacks an average of four different subscription video services, according to the latest analysis from Ampere Analysis.

In the five largest Western European territories, streaming homes have an average of two services, according to Ampere.

Overall, across Western Europe and the USA, almost 10% of SVOD homes already subscribe to five or more services.

“AVOD, studio-direct streaming launches, the strengthening of local and broadcaster-led streaming, and the turbo-boost that came out of the blue in the form of COVID-19 have brought the industry to a pivot point,” Guy Bisson, research director at Ampere Analysis, said in a statement. “That pivot point will lead to a shift in thinking that will change the way content creators, distributors and content aggregators, platforms and channels think about streaming in the wider TV market. In 2021, compounding is here to stay in every portion of the streaming value chain.”

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Netflix Announces Two Production Facilities in South Korea

Netflix announced the establishment of two production facilities in Paju-si and Yeoncheon-gun, just outside of Seoul, in Gyeonggi Province, Korea.

At YCDSMC — Studio 139, the company will lease six stages and supporting spaces of approximately 9,000 square meters. At Samsung Studio, it will lease three stages of approximately 7,000 square meters.

From 2015 to 2020, Netflix’s investment in Korean content reached $700 million, with more than 80 shows made in Korea and watched by audiences around the world, according to the company. ​

“These two facilities are another important example of our continued commitment to investing in Korea’s creative ecosystem,” read a Netflix statement.

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Netflix is planning to support the production of upcoming Netflix Korean original series and films at the new spaces including the Korean adaptation of “La Casa de Papel.”

“Netflix is thrilled to deepen its investment in Korea, as well as Korean Films and Series,” Netflix VP of studio operations Amy Reinhard said in a statement. “With these new studios, Netflix is better positioned than ever to increase our production of great stories from Korea while also providing a wealth of production-related jobs for talented professionals in Korea’s creative community.”

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Members from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Qatar, UAE, India and watched the recently released Netflix Korean original series “Sweet Home”; while Korean shows such as “Kingdom Season 2,” “The King: Eternal Monarch,” “Start-Up” and “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” were amongst the most popular TV series in Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and beyond, according to the service.

Korean-made stories currently in production or development include “Move to Heaven,” “Kingdom: Ashin of the North,” “Silent Sea,” “Squid Game,” “Hellbound,” “All of Us are Dead” and “D.P.”

Discovery+ Launches in MENA Territories Via Starzplay

Discovery has formed a strategic partnership with the Starzplay SVOD service to launch its SVOD service Discovery+ across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) territories.

The deal allows Starzplay subscribers to watch Discovery+ content within a dedicated branded area across all Starzplay platforms in 18 countries and territories across MENA.

The Discovery+ service features a range of exclusive content and series across lifestyle and relationships; home and food; true crime; paranormal; adventure and natural history; science, tech and environment; and many high-quality documentaries.

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“The launch of discovery+ across MENA represents a major step toward adding 18 additional countries and territories to the global expansion of the platform, giving customers options to access the content that they love and have come to expect from Discovery,” Kasia Kieli, Discovery president and MD EMEA, said in a statement.

“The unprecedented growth of online streaming has driven the need for compelling content that provides value for subscribers,” Maaz Sheikh, CEO and co-founder of Starzplay, said in a statement. “We have built strategic partnerships to offer our subscribers more online content and varied choices We are confident that the discovery+ add on will be welcomed by the MENA audience and we look forward to growing this partnership further.”

Global Discovery+ franchises include “Shark Week,” “MythBusters,” “Gold Rush,” “Expedition Unknown,” “House Hunters International,” “90 Day Fiancé,” “NASA’s Unexplained Files” and “Say Yes to the Dress.” Subscribers also have access to Discovery+ originals, including “The Impossible Row,” “Amy Schumer Learns to Cook (Uncensored)” and “JonBenet Ramsey: What Really Happened?”

Additionally, Discovery+ will offer programs from the home of Arabic cooking, Fatafeat, along with a collection of environmental programming with access to the BBC’s natural history library, including “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet.”

Discovery+ is available for an additional subscription price.

‘A Thousand Cuts’ Debuts Jan. 9 on PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel

The “Frontline” documentary A Thousand Cuts will debut on the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel Jan. 9.

The film follows Philippine journalist and Time Person of the Year Maria Ressa as she is targeted by President Rodrigo Duterte for exposing the truth of the political corruption in her country on her news site, Rappler. The film offers an inside look at the key players in the escalating war between press and government in the Philippines and the ongoing threat against freedom of the press.

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It examines social media disinformation campaigns and the crackdown on the news media in the Philippines by Duterte — who has made Ressa one of his top targets. At great personal risk, Ressa has been at the forefront of holding Duterte and his government accountable for their violent war on drugs. In response, Duterte has barred Rappler reporters from the presidential palace and revoked Rappler’s license. Ressa herself has been charged with a cyber libel case. Ressa places the tools of the free press — and her own freedom — on the line in defense of truth and democracy in “A Thousand Cuts.”

The film received a Grand Jury Prize nomination from the Sundance Film Festival and a Best Documentary Award Nomination at the Gotham Independent Film Festival.

The subscription rate for the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is $3.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Tops TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” was the top rising show and the top binge on the TV Time charts the week ended Jan. 3.

Based on the comics, the series follows half-human, half-witch Sabrina as she navigates two worlds, mortal teen life and her family’s legacy, The Church of Night. Season four debuted New Year’s Eve.

Dropping from No. 1 to No. 2 on the binge chart was the Netflix romance series “Bridgerton,” which hit screens on Christmas. Produced by Shonda Rhimes and based on Julia Quinn’s bestsellers, the series follows eight close-knit siblings of the Bridgerton family looking for love and happiness in London high society.

“Cobra Kai,” which moved to Netflix for its latest season, took the silver on the rising show chart and the bronze on the binge chart. The series, season three of which hit screens Jan. 1, follows the rivalry of Johnny and Daniel from the “Karate Kid” movies decades after the tournament that changed their lives.

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TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended Jan. 3 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix) — 4.86%
  2. “Bridgerton” (Netflix) — 4.59%
  3. “Cobra Kai” (Netflix) — 2.52%
  4. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.82%
  5. “Attack on Titan” (NHK) — 1.54%
  6. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.44%
  7. “One Piece” (Fuji TV) — 1.26%
  8. “The Office” (NBC) — 1.26%
  9. “Modern Family” (ABC) — 1.24%
  10. “The Crown” (Netflix) — 1.09%

 

Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended Jan. 3 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix) — 97%
  2. “Cobra Kai” (Netflix) — 94%
  3. “Salvation” (CBS) — 68.2%
  4. “Doctor Who” (BBC One) — 60.5%
  5. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (VH1) — 59.8%
  6. “Bridgerton” (Netflix) — 53.7%
  7. “Vikings” (History) — 53.6%
  8. “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” (The CW) — 50.6%
  9. “iZombie” (The CW) — 39.8%
  10. “Queen of the South” (USA) — 37.5%

Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton’ Tops TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “Bridgerton” was the top rising show and the top binge on the TV Time charts the week ended Dec. 27.

The romance series “Bridgerton” hit screens on Christmas. Produced by Shonda Rhimes and based on Julia Quinn’s bestsellers, the series follows eight close-knit siblings of the Bridgerton family looking for love and happiness in London high society.

Perennial ABC favorite “Grey’s Anatomy” took the silver on the binge chart while Netflix’s “Tiny Pretty Things,” which hit screens Dec. 14 and is based on the book set in the world of an elite ballet academy, took the bronze.

No. 2 among rising shows for the week was the Canadian series “Letterkenny,” which debuted on Crave Christmas day in Canada and in the United States the following day on Hulu. The show follows the residents of Letterkenny, a small rural community in Ontario. Taking the third spot on the rising show chart was Netflix’s “Sweet Home,” which debuted Dec. 18. In the horror series, as humans turn into savage monsters and wreak terror, one troubled teen and his apartment neighbors fight to survive.

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TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended Dec. 27 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Bridgerton” (Netflix) — 3.03%
  2. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.82%
  3. “Tiny Pretty Things” (Netflix) — 1.76%
  4. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.72%
  5. “Modern Family” (ABC) — 1.41%
  6. “The Office” (NBC) — 1.41%
  7. “One Piece” (Fuji TV) — 1.40%
  8. “The Mandelorian” (Disney+) — 1.38%
  9. “Attack on Titan” (NHK) — 1.37%
  10. “Gossip Girl” (The CW) — 1.26%

 

Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended Dec. 27 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Bridgerton” (Netflix) — 100%
  2. “Letterkenny” (Crave) — 83.9%
  3. “Sweet Home” (Netflix) — 64.3%
  4. “American Dad” (TBS) — 56.7%
  5. “neXt” (Fox) — 56.2%
  6. “The Legend of Korra” (Nickelodeon) — 39.1%
  7. “Wish You: Your Melody in My Heart” (YouTube/Viki) — 37.8%
  8. “I May Destroy You” (HBO) — 37%
  9. “El Cid” (Amazon) — 36%
  10. “Masterchef IT” (Sky Uno) — 33.3%

Season Seven of ‘Finding Your Roots’ and ‘Ken Burns: Here and There’ Among Titles Debuting on PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel in January

American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free, season seven of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” and Ken Burns: Here and There are among the programs debuting on the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel in January.

The subscription rate for the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is $3.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free

American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free starts streaming Jan. 19. From Award-winning director Yoruba Richen and based on the book of the same name, the program tells the inspiring story of how six iconic African American female entertainers, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier, challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process. The documentary features interviews and archival performances with all six women, as well as original conversations with contemporary artists influenced by them, including one of the documentary’s executive producers Alicia Keys, along with Halle Berry, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson and many others. The documentary also includes interviews with family members, including Horne’s daughter Gail Lumet Buckley.

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“Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.”

Season seven of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” is due Jan. 20. Over the course of 10 episodes, Gates uses genealogical detective work and cutting-edge DNA analysis to guide twenty influential guests through the branches of their family trees, traveling hundreds of years into the past to discover people and places long forgotten. The season features actors Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Jane Lynch, Christopher Meloni, and Tony Shalhoub; Broadway stars Audra McDonald and Mandy Patinkin; filmmakers Kasi Lemmons and John Waters; talk show host and author Andy Cohen; journalists Gretchen Carlson, Maria Hinojosa, Don Lemon, and Nina Totenberg; comedians Lewis Black, Jim Gaffigan, and Roy Wood, Jr.; and musicians Clint Black, Rosanne Cash, and Pharrell Williams.

Ken Burns: Here and There debuts Jan. 1. The biography is about the life and work of the documentary filmmaker and follows the story of his love for filmmaking and storytelling, the evolution of his career throughout the years, his fondness of small-town life, and his love for a bridge in Brooklyn. Filled with small stories and monologues, this program captures the 40-year intimate relationship Burns has with his America, with his colleagues, his family, his community, his craft, and taking sweeping historical concepts and making them relatable to his audiences.