VCI Entertainment Launches SVOD Service

Longtime home entertainment distributor VCI Entertainment has launched an ad-free subscription streaming VOD service, dubbed VCI Classics. The service is priced at a $5.99 monthly, or $59.99 annually with a free 14-day trial period.

The service, which is available on the web at: VCI Entertainment (vhx.tv) and on Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices, features thousands of hours of movies, TV series, documentaries, and special interest content.

Consumers who purchase the yearly option receive a free membership to the VCI DVD Club (a $19.95 value), which offers members special pricing on all VCI DVDs and Blu-ray Disc releases. The platform is powered by Vimeo.

“We opted for SVOD because I don’t like commercial interruptions,” Robert Blair, president of VCI, said in a statement. “I believe that there are many classic movie fans that feel the same way.”

VCI Classics aims to offer a curated range of programming, including  Hollywood classics from the silent era to more recent independent and foreign offerings. The service is tapping into the VCI library of more than 6,000 titles, including Kit Parker Films, with a library that includes classic Hollywood ‘B’ Films, Westerns, film noir, and sci-fi, and First Line Films, with a library that includes Euro classics from Italy, Spain, France, and Germany with an emphasis on spaghetti Westerns, crime, action, and horror.

The MVD Entertainment Group is also on board and represents a diverse group of independent labels. They provide a variety to the mix, including documentaries, music and concert films, and some cutting-edge cult, horror, and sci-fi entertainment. The Mary Pickford Foundation, actively preserving and restoring the films of namesake Mary Pickford, has contributed restored Pickford films, plus many classic Hollywood talking films produced by Pickford and featuring other major elite stars of the day.

Blair said he would consider offering an ad-supported VOD service down the road, based on the consumer feedback.

“We’ll let the market decide,” he said.

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Netflix Introduces Mobile Shortcut Interface ‘My Netflix’

Netflix is introducing My Netflix, featuring shortcuts to help consumers choose what to watch on their mobile phones.

“In this new dedicated space on iOS and Android globally, you can see your downloads (e.g. ‘Quarterback’ episodes for that long flight), TV series and movies you gave a thumbs up to, shows and films you’ve saved to My List (e.g. Heart of Stone, anyone?), trailers you’ve watched, reminders you’ve set, whatever you’re in the middle of watching, what you’ve recently watched, and more,” read a blog from product manager Edith Chao.

My Netflix is available now on iOS, and is rolling out on Android in early August.

On their phones, consumers can go directly to My Netflix, where they can choose something they’ve saved or downloaded to watch. Consumers can still visit their Home tab and other sections of the app to discover the full catalog of series and films.

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“Keep in mind that the more you interact with and tell Netflix what you like, such as saving more action-thrillers like Extraction 2 to My List or giving a thumbs up to every season of ‘Bridgerton,’ the more you’ll see on the My Netflix tab,” Chao wrote.

New ‘Simpsons’ Short to Bow on Disney+ May 4 for Star Wars Day

“Maggie Simpson in ‘Rogue Not Quite One,’” a new short from “The Simpsons,” will launch May 4 on Disney+ in celebration of Star Wars Day.

In the upcoming short, Homer loses track of Maggie who hops in Grogu’s hovering pram for a hyperspace-hopping adventure across the galaxy. Facing a squadron of Imperial TIE fighters, Maggie brings the battle to Springfield. 

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“Maggie Simpson in ‘Rogue Not Quite One’” is the latest in a collection of shorts from “The Simpsons” created exclusively for Disney+. The previously released shorts “The Simpsons Meet the Bocellis in ‘Feliz Navidad,’” “Welcome to the Club,” “When Billie Met Lisa” (Emmy nominated), “Maggie Simpson in ‘The Force Awakens from Its Nap’” (Emmy nominated), “The Good, The Bart, and The Loki” and “The Simpsons in Plusaversary” are currently available on Disney+.

Hulu Celebrating 15th Anniversary With Premieres, Finales, Partnerships, Promotions

Hulu, which turns 15 on March 12, is celebrating with content premieres and finales, partnerships and promotions.

“Celebrating 15 years as an industry-leading streaming service is truly remarkable,” Hulu president Joe Earley said in a statement. “Hulu has navigated the ever-changing landscape by delivering our subscribers enthralling and award-winning content, characters and storylines that have defined the cultural zeitgeist, while also driving innovation and advertising experiences. We are incredibly grateful to the millions of subscribers, fans, creators, talent, content partners, advertisers, and Hulugans who have made it all possible, and never stopped having fun along the way.”

Hulu has planned a “15 Days of New Content,” month-long rollout of premieres and finales including:

  • March 1 — “Wreck” (complete season one)
  • March 3 — Triangle of Sadness
  • March 3 — Gulmohar
  • March 6 — History of the World, Part II (four night event)
  • March 10 — “UnPrisoned” (complete season one)
  • March 10 — FX’s New York Times Presents: Sin Eater (two-part documentary)
  • March 17 — Boston Strangler
  • March 22 — “Rūrangi” (complete season two)
  • March 23 — The Lesson Is Murder (complete docuseries) 
  • March 23 — Call Jane
  • March 24 — Up Here (complete season one)
  • March 26 — FX’s Great Expectations (two-episode series premiere)
  • March 27 — “Love Island U.K.” (season six finale) 
  • March 30 — “RapCaviar Presents” (complete season one)
  • March 31 — Rye Lane

 

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Additionally, through March 12, Hulu’s home page will feature a special collection spotlighting the shows and movies that have defined Hulu over the past 15 years, including Prey, “Only Murders in the Building,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Kardashians,” “Nine Perfect Strangers” and Vacation Friends.

From March 12 through April 30,  Hulu has partnered with Coca-Cola to offer a limited-time custom Coca-Cola Freestyle flavor “Hulu Fanta Surprise.”  The  flavor combination of sweet lime and ginger will be available in select locations throughout the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.

Hulu subscribers will also be able to take advantage of several special promotions and limited-time offers from brands including BarkBox, Brooklinen, Casper, Casetify, Lovesac, The Comfy, and Hulu’s digital retail store Shop Hulu. Hulu has partnered with BoxLunch, a pop culture retailer with a cause, for a special collection of products featuring Hulu favorites. Through March 31, consumers can visit their nearest BoxLunch store or www.BoxLunch.com to find apparel, accessories, collectibles, home goods, and more. Every $10 spent with BoxLunch donates a meal to local food banks to help end the hunger crisis in America.

TV fans can test their knowledge of Hulu shows during “The Be Obsessed TriviaFest,” a nationwide IRL super-trivia series fueled by trivia-network Geeks Who Drink. Starting this month, fans across the country in cities including Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and more will have the chance to show off their expertise and be rewarded along the way.

Paramount+ to Air Ad During Oscars for Showtime Bundle

Paramount+ March 12 during the Academy Awards will launch a 60-second spot highlighting Paramount+ With Showtime’s bundled content slate.

The ad features movies and shows including Top Gun: Maverick, Everything Everywhere All at Once, “Devotion,” “1923,” “George & Tammy,” “Your Honor,” “The Chi,” “Tulsa King,” “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Yellowjackets,” “Billions” and more. 

The spot follows Paramount+’s Super Bowl LVII campaign spot “Stallone Face” and “further showcases the breadth of content featured on the platform, emphasizing its position as a total household service — and how it is poised to reach even wider audiences with the upcoming integration of Paramount+ and Showtime into a single platform,” according to a press release.

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Hub Research: Content Brands Matter in Crowded Streaming Universe

Viewers often have a hard time differentiating the brands of streaming services, and turn to known content or creative brands to help make viewing decisions, according to Hub Entertainment Research’s annual “Evolution of Video Branding” survey.

Brand awareness and brand familiarity are different. The vast sums expended on marketing during the streaming wars have been effective as all the major platforms have brand awareness above 90%, according to Hub.   

But as far as brand understanding, far fewer feel confident that they could explain to someone else what each platform does best, or how it’s different from the others. This is the case even for companies that are masters at branding, such as Apple. Almost all respondents said they were aware of Apple TV+, but fewer than half felt they understand its content offering. In the end, consumers are choosing between a well-known set of brands, without a clear understanding of what differentiates them, according to the study.

Without a clear understanding of the difference between platforms, consumers turn to other guideposts, such as program brands, according to Hub. In the study, 41% of viewers said they have signed up for a platform just to watch one specific show (up from 35% two years ago). This is even more pronounced among desirable audiences, such as young people. In the study, 57% of those age 16 to 34 said they have signed up to watch one particular show.

New shows based on familiar characters or histories have a leg up in the discovery process. In the study, 40% of all respondents said they would be more likely to watch a new show based on the Marvel universe (the highest of the 10 brands tested). But the next three highest were broadcast TV procedurals that have already had successful spinoffs.

Another example is the “Yellowstone” franchise (shows set in the world of “Yellowstone” or marketed as coming from the same creator). Among the respondents who had ever watched “Yellowstone,” almost three-fourths (70%) said they also watched at least one of Sheridan’s other shows (“1883,” “1923,” “Tulsa King” or “Mayor of Kingstown”). Perhaps most notably, viewers had to put in some effort to watch these: “Yellowstone” is on the Paramount cable network and on Peacock, while the other shows are only available on Paramount+.

“Viewers have not lacked in choice of services and content over the past few years. But this can be a two-edged sword for content providers, as the immense volume just makes it hard for viewers to remember what is different about each service,” David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “But at the end of the day, content is king, and unique content will drive viewers even if the service itself isn’t unique to consumers.”

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The findings are from Hub’s 2023 “Evolution of Video Branding” report, based on a survey conducted among 2,400 U.S. consumers with broadband, age 16-74, who watch at least one hour of TV per week. Interviews were conducted in February 2023 and explored attitudes towards brands associated with traditional TV service as well as those providing streaming TV service. A free excerpt of the findings is available on Hub’s website.

Doc ‘Being Mary Tyler Moore’ Headed to HBO, HBO Max in May

The HBO original documentary film Being Mary Tyler Moore, directed by Emmy winning filmmaker James Adolphus (“Soul of a Nation”) and produced by Lena Waithe (A Thousand and One), Debra Martin Chase (Harriet) and Ben Selkow (HBO’s “Q: Into The Storm”), debuts this May on HBO and HBO Max.
 
With unprecedented access to Mary Tyler Moore’s vast archive, the documentary chronicles the screen icon whose storied career spanned 60 years. Weaving Moore’s personal narrative with the beats of her professional accomplishments, the film highlights her groundbreaking roles and the indelible impact she had on generations of women who came after her.
 
Moore’s career broke boundaries in different eras, most notably in her comedic roles as Laura Petrie in the ’60s sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and as single career woman Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the ’70s, both of which put her at the forefront of female representation on television and cemented her as a role model for independent working women. Acknowledging that much of herself was woven into her sunny characters, she nevertheless struggled behind the scenes, dealing privately with immeasurable tragedy in her personal life, some of which was echoed in her portrayal of a grieving mother in the 1980 film Ordinary People, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. In the last 35 years of her life, Moore went through a transformative period of self-discovery, moving to New York City, finding true love, and going on to become an impactful global advocate for diabetes research.

Being Mary Tyler Moore documents the life of a complex artist who shifted the dynamics of how women were portrayed on television, had far-reaching influence on the business through her own production company, and helped affect great change through her work as International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).  

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Lending their voices to the film are family members, colleagues and those whose lives Mary Tyler Moore impacted including directors Rob Reiner, Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Jim Burrows; actors Ed Asner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lena Waithe, Phylicia Rashad, Bernadette Peters and Joel Grey; writers and producers Allan Burns, James L. Brooks, Norman Lear, Debra Martin Chase, Treva Silverman, Susan Silver, and Moore’s husband, Dr. S. Robert Levine.

PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel Unveils COVID-19 Collection

The PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel has launched a special collection of documentaries entitled “Processing the Pandemic,” featuring programs that highlight the many different aspects of how COVID-19 disrupted everyday life and how different countries and communities handled it.

The titles include “The Virus: What Went Wrong,” “Death Is Our Business/Love, Life and the Virus,” “The Virus That Shook the World,” “China’s COVID Secrets,” “America’s Medical Supply Crisis,” “Iraq’s Assassins/Yemen’s COVID Cover-up,” “COVID’s Hidden Toll,” “Outbreak” and “Pandemic in Seattle.”

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

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Other titles being added to the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel in March are: “Awakening in Taos: The Mabel Dodge Luhan Story”; “Frontline: Age of Easy Money,” due March 14; “Girl Talk,” due March 17; “Secrets of the Dead: Decoding Hieroglyphics,” due March 24; and “The Movement and the Madman,” due March 28.

Tyler Perry to Direct ‘Six Triple Eight’ for Netflix About All-Black, All-Female WWII Battalion

Tyler Perry will direct his next feature film for Netflix with Six Triple Eight, about the 6,888th battalion, the only all-black, all-female battalion in the World War II effort.

Perry is also the writer of the film, which is based on an article by Kevin M. Hymel published in WWII History Magazine by Sovereign Media.

Six Triple Eight tells the true story of the 855 women in the battalion who joined the war effort with little knowledge of what exactly they would be doing, but were quickly given the mission of a lifetime: sort through and fix the three-year backlog of undelivered mail. It was a herculean task, that most thought to be impossible, but the women not only succeeded but did it in half the time they were given. Facing discrimination, unfamiliar land and a war-torn country, they persevered and sorted more than 17 million pieces of mail, reconnecting American soldiers with their families and loved ones back home. The motto that kept them going each day was one they created themselves: “No Mail, Low Morale.”

The story of the 6,888th Postal Directory Battalion has been kept out of history books, ignored by the national spotlight, until now — nearly 75 years later. On March 14, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the bill for the women to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest honor.

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Six Triple Eight will mark Tyler Perry’s fourth film directed for Netflix following A Fall From Grace, A Madea Homecoming, which was in the top 10 in 43 countries, and A Jazzman’s Blues, which was in the top 10 in 55 countries, according to Netflix. 

‘Batwheels’ Season Two Headed to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

There will be a second season of Cartoonito’s original preschool series “Batwheels” for Cartoon Network and HBO Max.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, season one launched this fall and became Cartoon Network’s No. 1 original preschool series with boys ages 2-5 this year and the No. 1 original preschool show on HBO Max, according to Warner. “Batwheels” marks DC’s first-ever Batman preschool show featuring a CGI-animated iteration of the Caped Crusader.

“Batwheels” follows a group of young, sentient super vehicles — Bam (the Batmobile), Bibi (the Batgirl Cycle), Redbird (Robin’s racecar), Buff (the Bat-Truck) and Batwing (the Batplane)— as they help Batman, Batgirl, and Robin keep the streets of Gotham City safe.
 
The series features the voices of Ethan Hawke as Batman, Gina Rodriguez as Catwoman, Jacob Bertrand as Bam the Batmobile, Xolo Maridueña as Snowy the Snowcrawler, Crew Kingston Miskel as Redbird, Madigan Kacmar as Bibi, Noah Bentley as Buff, Lilimar as Batwing, Kimberly D. Brooks as The Batcomputer, Mick Wingert as Moe, AJ Hudson as Duke Thomas/Robin, and Leah Lewis as Cassandra Cain/Batgirl, among others.

Based on characters from DC, “Batwheels” is produced by Warner Bros. Animation. 

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“It’s been a joyride seeing how ‘Batwheels’ resonated with audiences, and in such a short amount of time. It delivered everything we hoped it would in introducing Batman to the youngest viewers while allowing parents to enjoy their favorite DC Super Hero with their kids,” Michael Ouweleen, president of Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Discovery Family and Boomerang, said in a statement. “Reimagining Batman’s iconic mythos for preschoolers using beloved and original characters has been a creative feat that we will definitely lean into as we expand into a second season.”
 
“‘Batwheels’ gave preschoolers an animated Batman story to call their own,” Sam Register, president of Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios, said in a statement. “We’re excited to continue to build on this cool and fun world alongside our partners at Cartoon Network and HBO Max.”