Amazon Prime’s ‘The Candidate’ A Showcase for Mexico City, Executive Producer Says

Award-winning writer/producer Peter Blake, whose credits include “House,” “Billions,” “The Practice” and “ZeroZeroZero,” trains his sights on Mexico’s narco violence and political corruption in bilingual series “El Candidato” (“The Candidate”), which bowed on Amazon Prime in July.

“When we met with Peter, we found out he spoke Spanish — aside from other languages — and gave him carte blanche to explore how he wanted to create the series,” said executive producer Juan Rendon, who noted that Blake ran the writers’ room as well as penned some of the episodes.

“He had a very good understanding of Mexican current events and politics when we first sat to discuss the project,” added Rendon, who used to run the documentary division of U.S. Hispanic TV network Univision, where he came across a number of untapped stories.

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Made under the 2018 pact forged between Mexican TV giant Televisa and Amazon Prime to produce premium TV content, “El Candidato” follows two CIA agents, one a grizzled vet played by James Purefoy (“Rome”) bent on capturing an omnipotent drug lord played by Joaquin Cosio (“The Strain,” “Narcos: Mexico”), and the other a rookie (Eréndira Ibarra of “Sense8”). The candidate in question is a mayor with presidential ambitions, played by José María de Tavira, whose TV credits include “Rosario Tijeras” and “Diablo Guardian.”

The rookie is given the unenviable mission to find out the connections between the mayor, her old flame and the drug kingpin.

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The series showcases Mexico City as the vibrant, wealthy metropolis that it is. “It’s almost a separate character in the show,” said Rendon, who applauds Blake for bringing a “well-crafted writing structure” to the series.

Shot on location between November 2018 and March 2019, “El Candidato” boasts a formidable production team led by co-directors Jaime Reynoso, who’s worked on big budget films shot in Mexico such as Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, and Humberto Hinojosa, whose credits include “Luis Miguel: The Series” and “La Hermandad.”

Its stable of writers includes Ted Cohen (“Veep”), Max Hurwitz (“ZeroZeroZero”), Katherine Walczak (“The Flash’), Daniel Krauze (“Luis Miguel: The Series”), David Chasteen and Eva Aridjis (The Favor).

“El Candidato” also counts on the vast experience of one of Mexico’s most sought-after production managers/producers, Stacy Perskie, who has worked on a number of high-profile projects shot in Mexico, including “Narcos: Mexico,” Elysium, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and the 2015 James Bond film Spectre, noted for its astonishing Day of the Dead opening sequence in Mexico City.

While Amazon Prime does not give out viewing numbers, the reviews from Mexico have been first-rate. The show has stirred up considerable debate as it explores the extent of U.S. involvement in the country’s long painful struggle with narco violence and government corruption.

“The series discusses a lot of uncomfortable truths in Mexico,” said Rendon.

A second season has yet to be announced.

Quibi Testing Ad-Supported Service in Australia, New Zealand

Upstart mobile-centric subscription streaming video platform Quibi has reportedly begun offering free ad-supported service in Australia and New Zealand. The SVOD service launched April 6 in the United States from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and eBay founder Meg Whitman.

With The Wall Street Journal in June reporting Quibi would generate less than 2 million paid subscribers by April 2021, the platform is apparently trying AVOD to jumpstart consumer traction. The service had projected 7.4 million paid subs after one year of operation.

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Quibi costs $4.99 monthly in the U.S. with advertising; $7.99 without ads. The AVOD trial is reportedly being rolled out on a market-by-market basis.

AVOD has gained mainstream adoption following high-profile corporate acquisitions of Pluto TV by ViacomCBS and Tubi by Fox Corp., respectively. Pluto claimed 33 million average monthly viewers through June 30.

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Tubi in February claimed 25 million average monthly users, with users supposedly watching 163 million hours of content in December — which was an increase of 160% from the previous-year period.

Regardless, Quibi needs to gain user traction to justify nearly $1.7 billion in third-party funding. The platform has an unfortunate predecessor in Verizon’s short-lived go90 mobile-centric video streaming app that folded less than three years after launch, resulting in a $1 billion write-down by the telecom giant.

The Umbrella Academy: Season 2

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Action;
Not rated.
Stars Ellen Page, Tom Hooper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher, Colm Feore, Justin H. Min, Ritu Arya, Yusuf Gatewood, Marin Ireland, Kate Walsh.

Season two of the Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy,” which debuted July 31, is a binge-worthy, action-packed, emotional roller coaster, although it suffers from a few contrived plot points.

As the season begins, the time jump that left us on the edge of our seats at the end of season one goes awry and scatters the superhero siblings in time in and around Dallas over a three-year period starting in 1960. Some, having been stuck in the past for years, have built lives and moved on, certain they’re the only ones who have survived.

The villains this time around are a trio named “The Swedes” who are there to prevent Five from again changing the timeline as it seems the siblings brought the apocalypse back with them. “The Swedes” fulfill the same role as the iconic Hazel and Cha-Cha from season one, but they lack the same charm and comedy that made the original duo such a great part of the show. This new trio seems to have a greater history that unfortunately doesn’t get explored, leaving us with little attachment to their story.

While we may not get much in terms of backstory on “The Swedes,” season two isn’t lacking in expanded history for the members of the Umbrella Academy. We get to see more background behind the interpersonal connections of the different siblings, as well as how it affects their interactions now. The characters we already grew to love in the first season only become more fleshed out.

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However, the plot sometimes bogs down in order to present the emotional aspect of the show. Some episodes seem stretched to fill the season, as certain conflicts feel unnecessarily manufactured.

Still, despite a few weaknesses, season two is a satisfying continuation to season one of the comic book-based series, and it leaves us waiting in anticipation for the future of the Hargreeves siblings and the Umbrella Academy.

Season Two of “The Umbrella Academy” (Christos Kalohoridis/Neflix)

Netflix to Bow Limited Series With Amy Adams and Adam McKay

Netflix has announced the limited-series drama “Kings of America” with Amy Adams and Adam McKay.

The series centers on the stories of three powerful women whose lives were inextricably intertwined with the world’s largest company: a Walmart heiress, a maverick executive, and a longtime Walmart saleswoman and preacher who dared to fight against the retail giant in the biggest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history.

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Adams (“Sharp Objects”) will star as one of the leads and executive produce via her production company Bond Group Entertainment along with Stacy O’Neil.

McKay (“Succession”) is attached to direct the first episode and executive produce along with Betsy Koch via Hyperobject Industries.

Adams and McKay most recently worked together on Vice, which went on to receive eight Academy Award nominations, including a Best Supporting Actress nom for Adams. They first collaborated on McKay’s 2006 comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Netflix’s ‘Umbrella Academy’ Top Binge on TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” was the top binge, while the BBC’s “Get Even” was the top show on the rise on the TV Time charts for the week ended Aug. 2.

The second season of “The Umbrella Academy” hit screens July 31. The series, based on the comic books of the same name, follows a group of superheroes adopted at birth by a mysterious billionaire who face the end of the world. As season two begins, the time jump scatters the siblings in time in and around Dallas over a three-year period starting in 1960. Some, having been stuck in the past for years, have built lives and moved on, certain they’re the only ones who have survived. The series also came in at No. 2 on the rising show chart.

Top rising show “Get Even,” which streamed beginning in February on BBC’s iPlayer service, July 31 began streaming on Netflix. The British crime show follows four private school classmates who team up to expose schoolwide injustices.

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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 Aug. 2 by Share of Binges:

  1. “The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix) — 5.55%
  2. “Good Girls” (NBC) — 2.87%
  3. “Modern Family” (ABC) — 2.40
  4. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.53%
  5. “The Office” (NBC) — 1.46%
  6. “Dark” (Netflix) — 1.35%
  7. “How to Sell Drugs Online Fast” (Netflix) — 1.25%
  8. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.24%
  9. “One Piece” (Fuji TV) — 1.24%
  10. “Cursed” (Netflix) — 1.18%

 

Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended Aug. 2 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Get Even” (BBC iPlayer) — 98.9%
  2. “The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix) — 97%
  3. “Locked Up: El Oasis” (Fox Espana) — 95.5%
  4. “Last Chance U” (Netflix) — 92.2%
  5. “Good Girls” (NBC) — 83.6%
  6. “Wynonna Earp” (Syfy) — 75.9%
  7. “Euphoria” (HBO) — 48.9%
  8. “Manifest” (NBC) — 25.3%
  9. “Shameless” (Showtime) — 24.2%
  10. “The Alienist” (TNT) — 19.3%

ViacomCBS Announces Fall Launch of EyeQ Ad Platform

ViacomCBS announced the planned fall 2020 launch of ViacomCBS EyeQ, a connected video advertising platform that will serve as a single transactional point of entry for digital video content from the company’s portfolio of broadcast, entertainment, news and sports networks, according to the company.

EyeQ will bring together all of the company’s connected video assets — including BET, CBS Television Network, CBS All Access, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Pluto TV and VH1 — allowing advertisers to access a viewing audience that measures 50 million full-episode monthly unique viewers in the United States, and 150 million across all content and all devices, according to the company.

“The launch of EyeQ marks the arrival of one of the biggest premium video platforms in digital media,” John Halley, chief operating officer of advertising revenue at ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “In unifying the operating backend and go-to-market of three large pre-existing players — CBS Interactive, Pluto TV, and Viacom Video — we have consolidated a massive audience footprint that will deliver quality, scale, and capabilities that cannot be matched.”

“EyeQ is game changing,” David Lawenda, EVP of digital sales and strategy at ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “It is a portal into 50 million highly engaged, full-episode viewers watching our content each month, with 80% of the consumption happening on TV glass. And ViacomCBS can now offer unified buying and frequency control across all of that scale, which is aligned to the needs of an advertising marketplace that is increasingly focused on incremental reach.”

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EyeQ will simplify transactions and reporting across the company’s digital offering and will support a variety of transactional models depending on advertiser preference, including programmatic guaranteed and private marketplace. It will offer multiple lanes of activation, including:

  • content segments, allowing advertisers to verticalize spend under scaled content categories;
  • broad demos, allowing advertisers to maximize reach across all viewership and platforms;
  • strategic segments, allowing advertisers to leverage syndicated behavioral sets or custom audiences through ad platform Vantage; and
  • creative, allowing advertisers to customize immersive brand experiences for greater impact through integrations, custom creative, influencers, and live experiences.

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EyeQ will also introduce a new reporting infrastructure to provide real-time data and tactical campaign guidance for advertisers to track spending across platforms, according to the company. Additionally, EyeQ will offer a range of solutions to measure the effectiveness of campaigns, including ad quality metrics, brand lift, attribution and social sentiment.

AMC Networks Eyes Growth in ‘Targeted’ SVOD Services

AMC Networks’ majority acquisition of RLJ Entertainment continues to pay dividends as the media company expands its subscription streaming video-on-demand profile in an over-the-top ecosystem.

While the media company didn’t disclose new subscriber data, CEO Josh Sapan said SVOD  and ad-supported VOD distribution continued to drive AMC’s second-quarter (ended June 30) “International and Other” business objectives.

“We have made particular progress during this COVID-19 period with strong growth across our targeted SVOD services — Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC — as consumers increasingly subscribe to both our targeted offerings in addition to general entertainment SVOD services,” Sapan said in a statement.

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During the quarter, AMC launched new SVOD bundles AMC+ and WE tv+. The company acquired exclusive streaming rights to “Mad Men.” The company furthered its AVOD strategy with launches on ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV and Dish Networks’ Sling Free services.

Second-quarter revenue primarily reflected an increase at AMC Networks SVOD business, more than offset by a decrease at Levity Entertainment and, to a lesser extent, a decrease at the company’s international programming networks.

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Citing ongoing fiscal impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, AMC reported a $112 million operating loss at the “International and Other” segment. The increased loss was primarily related to $130 million in impairment charges due to the pandemic. Segment revenue for the quarter decreased 10.3% to $161 million.

Guatemala’s Jayro Bustamante Says Making Political Horror Mash-Up ‘La Llorona’ Was ‘Stategic’

Hailed by Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) as one of 20 directors who will shape the cinema to come, Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante continues his stellar career trajectory with La Llorona (The Weeping Woman), the third installment of a trilogy that kicked off with his 2015 Berlinale Silver Bear winner, Ixcanul (Volcano).

Winner of Best Film at the 2019 Venice Film Festival sidebar, Venice Days, La Llorona turns on the household of a retired general accused of spearheading the genocide of Mayan peasants decades ago, a clear reference to a similar case in Guatemala. As his wife, daughter and granddaughter take refuge with him, the house is besieged by protesters and his spooked domestic staff flees, with the exception of his devoted housekeeper. The arrival of a mysterious indigenous woman, who has answered the call for hired help, further spikes the atmosphere of dread.

La Llorona is Bustamante’s first foray into the horror genre. “Our decision to explore this genre was not so much artistic, as strategic,” said Bustamante who notes that Guatemalans are still in denial of the massacre of Mayan peasants during the government’s counterinsurgency operations in the early 1980s.

“A study revealed that Guatemalans consumed mostly horror and superhero movies, so we saw the genre as a way to bring the realities of our dark past to them,” he said. Bustamante drew on such references as Dracula, and the psychological suspense of Robert Eggers’ The Witch as well as Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. “I wanted the mythical figure of La Llorona to be elegant, like Dracula,” he said.

He reimagined the Latin American fable of a grieving mother seeking revenge for the death of her children to symbolize the victims of the genocide.

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“My three films represent what Guatemalans consider the three biggest insults,” said Bustamante who sees Ixcanul, which centers on a Mayan teen trying to own her sexuality and her pregnancy, embody the biggest insult you can hurl at a Guatemalan: “Indio!” Calling a Guatemalan “Indio,” despite the country’s overwhelming indigenous population, is considered a massive insult. “It just shows how we discriminate against ourselves, how low our self-esteem is,” he mused.

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His second film, Temblores (Tremors) epitomizes the slur ‘Hueco,’ which is a local derogatory term for gay. Temblores delves into the homophobia prevalent in conservative Guatemalan society as a well-to-do family seeks conversion therapy for its gay patriarch.

La Llorona embodies the third insult, “Communist,” which is a carryover of the 1950s sentiment against communism, which later devolved into accusing those advocating for human rights and for reducing Guatemala’s vast wealth gap as communists, said Bustamante.

All three films touch on social inequality, racism and the lack of opportunity in Guatemala.

La Llorona stars María Mercedes Coroy, Margarita Kénefic, Sabrina de la Hoz and Julio Díaz.

The film will be available Aug. 6 on Shudder in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Study: U.S. Retakes SVOD Sub Lead From China

Thanks to Netflix, the number of gross SVOD subscriptions grew by 28% in 2019. The net subscriber count rose by 55 million (16%) to total 403 million, according to new data from Digital TV Research. The firm said gross subscriptions are growing faster than net subscribers, which means the average SVOD subscriber paid for 1.59 subscriptions in 2019 — up from 1.44 in 2018.

The U.S. overtook China to regain its position as the gross SVOD subscription leader. With about 200 million subscribers each, China and the U.S. together accounted for 63% of the global total in 2019. The U.S. added 43 million subscriptions in 2019, with China up by 35 million.

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“The number of gross SVOD subscriptions increased by 139 million in 2019 to 642 million — having grown by a similar amount in 2018,” analyst Simon Murray said in a statement.

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Ten countries had more than 10 million SVOD subscriptions by the end of 2019 — collectively accounting for 84% of the global total.

WWE Networks Adds First Streaming Video Subs Since 2018

Following months of decline, WWE Network, the pro-wrestling subscription streaming video platform, saw paid subscriptions increase 6% in the second quarter (ended June 30) to finish the period with 1.69 million. It was the first quarterly video sub increase since the fourth quarter of 2018.

Spearheading a return to subscriber growth was the June 1 launch of an ad-supported free version of WWE Network that teased viewers with a portion of WWE’s content library to expand reach and engagement of its direct-to-consumer streaming service.

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Indeed, pro wrestling has proved to be popular during the coronavirus pandemic, with digital video views increasing 10% to a record 9.9 billion views and hours consumed up 15% to a record 374 million hours across digital and social media platforms.

Overall, net income reached $43.8 million, from $10.4 million in the second quarter of 2019, primarily reflecting improved operating performance due to reduced costs associated with live events. Revenue decreased 17% to $223.4 million from $268.9 million in the prior year quarter primarily driven by decreased sales of tickets and merchandise that resulted from the cancellation, postponement and relocation of live events due to public health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“We continue to adapt our business to the changing environment, focusing on the development of new content for global distribution platforms and increasing audience engagement to drive growth and value for our shareholders,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement.