WWE Network SVOD Service Adds First Subs in Six Quarters

WWE Network’s steady decline in subscription streaming VOD subscribers came to a halt in the third quarter, ended Sept. 30. The professional wrestling service’s average paid subs topped 1.6 million, an increase of 6%, marking the first quarterly increase since the first quarter 2019.

The streaming service helped the WWE brand’s media segment sustain revenue as live event sales crumbled 97% to just $700,000 from cancelations due to the coronavirus pandemic. By comparison, the third quarter 2019 had 67 events in North America and seven events in international markets generating more than $22 million in revenue.

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Media revenue topped $201 million, an increase of 38% or $54.9 million, primarily driven by the growth of domestic core content rights fees for the WWE’s flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” and to a lesser extent, the growth in WWE Network subscription revenue as well as increased sales of advertising and sponsorship across platforms.

Distribution includes videos viewed on third party (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, etc.) and WWE platforms (WWE.com and WWE App, including the ad-supported free version of WWE Network).

“Our third quarter financial performance was strong and reflected our ongoing creativity in a challenging environment,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “We continue to adapt our business…focusing on increasing [virtual] audience interaction and engagement to support the value of our content globally.”

Indeed, total revenue topped $221 million, up nearly 19% from $186 million in the previous-year period. Net income topped $48.2 million from $5.8 million last year as operating expenses dropped almost 20% to $108 million from $133.8 million.

Awkwafina and Sandra Oh to Star in Sister Comedy for Netflix

Awkwafina and Sandra Oh will star in an untitled sister comedy for Netflix.

Golden Globe winners Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell) and Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” Over the Moon) star in Logline: A lonely recluse’s life is upended when her train wreck of a sister vows to mend their relationship by helping her fulfill her lifelong dream: to be a contestant on her favorite game show.

The writer is Jen D’Angelo, who wrote the upcoming sequel to Hocus Pocus for Disney+ and is a co-executive producer on the NBC series “The Young Rock” starring Dwayne Johnson. She was recently the on-set writer for Skydance’s sci-fi feature The Tomorrow War. Additional credits include “Solar Opposites” (Hulu), Workaholics, The Millers and “Cougar Town.”

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Netflix Announces New CG-Animated Series ‘My Dad the Bounty Hunter’

Netflix has announced a new CG-animated series “My Dad the Bounty Hunter.”

The series is created by Academy Award-winning director Everett Downing (“Maya and the Three,” “Hair Love”) and Patrick Harpin (Hotel Transylvania 2, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation).

The action-comedy series follows the toughest bounty hunter in all the galaxy, a man with razor sharp skills but also a secret — his family on Earth has no idea what he does for a living. So when his two kids accidentally hitch a ride into outer space and crash his latest mission, they discover that their average Dad’s job is anything but boring. Dodging dangerous aliens and laser fights galore, family bonding time goes to the extreme.

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The series will star Russell Hornsby (“The Hate U Give”), Yvonne Orji (“Insecure”), Priah Ferguson (“Stranger Things”), Yvette Nicole Brown (“Community”), JeCobi Swain (Troop Zero), Leslie Uggams (Deadpool), Rob Riggle (The Hangover) and Jim Rash (“Community”).

Everett Downing and Patrick Harpin will serve as creators and executive producers.

“We can’t wait to share our brainchild with the world. My Dad the Bounty Hunter is a love letter to animation, science fiction, and Black families rolled into a crazy action-comedy,” said Downing and Harpin in a statement. “We threw everything we love about sci-fi into this show, but it’s the family at the center of the story that we’re most excited about.”

New Episodes From ‘Arthur,’ ‘Nature Cat,’ ‘Xaxier Riddle’ Coming in November on PBS Kids Prime Video Channel

PBS Distribution in November will feature programming from “Arthur,” “Xavier Riddle and The Secret Museum,” “Elinor Wonders Why,” “Cyberchase” and “Nature Cat” on the PBS Kids Prime Video Channel.

The subscription rate for the PBS Kids Prime Video Channel is $4.99 a month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

Arthur: An Arthur Thanksgiving bows Nov. 17. In this new film, Arthur and his family are getting ready for Thanksgiving, but when Pal disappears to go on his own adventure, Arthur puts his plans on hold to search for him. Meanwhile, D.W. starts to think that Aunt Minnie might be more of an Aunt “Meanie.” In this movie, family, friends, and the rest of Elwood City will try to get Pal home, and hopefully D.W. and Aunt Minnie will be able to joyously celebrate the holiday together.

“Cyberchase, Volume 12” debuts Nov. 6. Digit’s friend Ren is excited to plan a Valentine’s Day party at his favorite garden but discovers that the garden isn’t available. He and the CyberSquad must find a Plan B in “A Garden Grows in Botlyn.” Then, Digit’s cousin Brigit is in a bind. Her flowering cactus plants are not bearing any apple cactus fruit. According to her chart, the bats she needs to pollinate the flowers are missing. The Earth kids lead a search party in “Missing Bats in Sensible Flats.” Plus, Buzz and Delete surprise their boss Hacker with a blissful day at a spa in “Water Woes,” but when the water supply suddenly stops flowing, Hacker and the other patrons are left out to dry. Then, trouble is brewing beneath Serene Greens, the cybersite greenery. Hapo the earthworm needs help underground, and the CyberSquad must figure out what is happening to their small friend’s home in “Soil Turmoil.”

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“Nature Cat, Volume 10” is coming Nov. 13. Nature Cat and his pals want to take their lava game to a whole new level for the amateur volcanologist club in “Tally Ho! A Volcano!/No Rest For The Squeeky.” The only problem is that for their plan to work, they will need to find an active volcano. Then, Squeeks thinks she will be able to spend her whole night skateboarding, doing karate, and yodeling instead of sleeping. In “Amber Rocks/The Big Stink,” Daisy collects garbage at the beach and finds an orange nugget among the rocks. Could the little nugget be a piece of amber? Plus, Squeeks stumbles upon a patch of mysterious looking mushrooms in Ronald’s backyard, and Nature Cat and his pals celebrate midsummer — a magical time to celebrate the growing season with all the new life that it brings, in “A Magical Mushroom Mystery Tour/A Midsummer’s Day Dream.”

“Xavier Riddle and The Secret Museum, Volume 5” debuts Nov. 20. Xavier Riddle, his sister Yadina, and their friend Brad travel back in time via the Secret Museum to learn how to solve their everyday problems by learning lessons from real-life inspirational figures, when they were still kids. Each adventure helps children ages 4 to 7 make connections between the character skills that made these historical figures into heroes and those same qualities within themselves.

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“Elinor Wonders Why, Volume 4” comes out Nov. 27. Elinor and her friends have more fun curious adventures in this new volume of episodes. While walking through the forest, Elinor and friends come across a stream and decide to make a stone walkway to cross it in “Water You Doing?/Thinking About Blinking.” Then, Ari is crowned the blinking champion after winning a bunch of intense staring contests at school. In “Follow That Roly Poly/Rain, Rain Don’t Go Away,” the Exploring Club searches for somewhere super cool to explore when they find a Roly Poly that leads them on their next adventure: discovering bugs under a log. Also, when the kids’ fun gets cut short by weather, they start to wonder why it needs to rain at all. In “Make Music Naturally/Light The Way,” the kids learn that Señor Tapir is putting on a concert. They want to participate, but don’t have any instruments. Then, the kids are camping out, but after Elinor’s Dad falls asleep, they must find a way to communicate quietly. Plus, the pals wonder why people sneeze, and they play in a big soccer game in “These Sneezes/Ari’s Lucky Shirt.”

HBO Max to Bow Dark Comedy Series ‘Two Weeks to Live’ Nov. 5

HBO Max will be the exclusive U.S. streaming home to the British dark comedy “Two Weeks to Live,” launching all episodes Nov. 5.

The Max Original stars Emmy Award nominee Maisie Williams in her first role after “Game of Thrones” and BAFTA winner and Emmy nominee Sian Clifford (“Fleabag”).

The series currently airs on Sky in the United Kingdom.

“Two Weeks to Live” tells a comic tale of love and revenge born from a seemingly harmless prank that goes terribly wrong. Kim Noakes is an early 20-something oddball who, since the murder of her father, has been sequestered away in the wilderness with her doomsday-prepping mother for most of her life. Feeling compelled to go on a belated coming-of-age adventure, Kim sets out to find her dad’s killer and along the way ropes mismatched brothers Jay and Nicky into her scheme.

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The series also stars Taheen Modak,  Mawaan Rizwan, Jason Flemyng, Sean Pertwee and Thalissa Teixeira.

Apple TV+ Renews ‘Ted Lasso’ for Third Season

Apple TV+ has renewed “Ted Lasso” for a third season, ahead of its second season start of production in London in early January.

The series premiered on August 14, 2020.

“Ted Lasso” stars Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso, a small-time college football coach from Kansas who is hired to coach a professional soccer team in England despite having no experience coaching soccer. The series also stars Hannah Waddingham, Brendan Hunt, Jeremy Swift, Juno Temple, Brett Goldstein, Phil Dunster and Nick Mohammed.

In addition to starring, Sudeikis serves as executive producer, alongside Bill Lawrence (“Scrubs”) via his Doozer Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television and Universal Television, a division of NBCUniversal Content. Doozer’s Jeff Ingold also serves as an executive producer with Liza Katzer as co-executive producer. The series was developed by Sudeikis, Lawrence, Joe Kelly and Brendan Hunt, and is based on the pre-existing format and characters from NBC Sports.

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Apple TV+ is available at $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial.

Futuresource: Russian SVOD Market Spend to Increase 1,000% by 2024

Russia’s relatively underdeveloped SVOD market is poised for growth over the next five years — aided in part by government regulation of Netflix and growth of native-born OTT video services.

The SVOD market doubled in size last year to RUB 6.6 billion ($83.5 million), exceeding the digital transactional VOD market for the first time, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting. The London-based research firm forecasts SVOD spending in Russia to increase by 1,000% by 2024.

Despite launching the service in 2016, Netflix Russia continues to struggle gaining subscribers in an unresponsive market. Separate data from Comparitech found Russia didn’t rank among Netflix’s 25 largest markets through June 3o — a glaring statistic considering Costa Rica, the last country on the ranking, had just 264,000 Netflix subs.

Futuresource says Netflix is impeded in part by government legislation limiting the service to 100,000 viewers per day. As a result, homegrown OTT video players are taking command of the streaming landscape, leveraging enormous financial investment and ramping up the competitiveness of the sector. Kinopoisk HD, IVI and Okko are the frontrunners, all of them implementing a range of three different OTT business models, including SVOD, TVOD and ad-supported VOD.

“AVOD has a far more important role to play in Russia than in other territories,” analyst Tara Patel said in a statement. “Leading services such as IVI achieve around half their revenue through advertising.”

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Patel said AVOD acts as a steppingstone of sorts in OTT video, with users being upsold to SVOD. That’s in stark contrast to most other markets, where consumers supplement SVOD viewing with AVOD.

Digital sales of movies is also a prominent feature on the Russian video landscape. According to Futuresource, TVOD accounts for 74% of the home video market, compared to just 30% in the United Kingdom. This is due to a combination of ownership culture, rising affluence of the middle classes, a negligible physical market and a tightening of piracy control. Popularity of digital sales comes despite DVD and Blu-ray Disc never achieving a significant foothold in Russia because of piracy.

Among the top Russian OTT video services is Kinopoisk HD, developed by Yandex, Russia’s multibillion-dollar search engine. Known as the “Google of Russia,” Yandex also employs an Amazon-like business model, with an ecommerce division and the option to subscribe to a Yandex+ service, which provides users with free shipping and access to KinoPoisk HD, as well as discounts for Yandex Taxis, a partnership with Uber.

“Yandex is built on robust financial foundations, allowing it to invest heavily in its Kinopoisk HD service,” Patel said.

The analyst said Kinopoisk HD was originally an online service providing information about movies and TV  shows. It was acquired by Yandex in 2013, with a 2015 redesign offering access to free ad-supported content via third-party services. The platform now provides paid-for content on a subscription or transactional basis.

“Like its rivals, Kinopoisk HD has been making significant investments in local productions, which are more appealing in Russia than American shows,” Patel said. “Investment in Kinopoisk HD not only captures new subscribers but is also used to prevent churn from Yandex+.”

In terms of consumer spend, IVI is Russia’s largest SVOD service, accounting for almost 50% of all SVOD revenue in the country, according to Futuresource. Backed by one of Russia’s largest commercial banks, Alfa Bank, the SVOD service has been operational since 2010 and began as an AVOD service before diversifying into subscription and transactional offerings. IVI has been successful in transitioning its customers onto paid subscription services, though it still makes most of its content available on AVOD. IVI is also strong on its transactional offerings, hosting “IVI weekends,” where it offers cheap video rentals.

Finally, Okko is the third largest SVOD service in Russia and the leading EST (electronic sellthrough) service, which was the company’s original focus. Okko built its reputation with a premium transactional service before beginning to invest in SVOD. Sberbank, a major state-owned bank, acquired a 46.5% stake in Okko’s holding company and has recently announced preparations for additional investment. As well as providing a significant cash injection, Sberbank is preparing Okko for accelerated growth, aiming to make the multimedia service the largest OTT platform in Russia as soon as in 2021.

Netflix’s ‘Barbarians,’ ‘Emily in Paris’ Top TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “Barbarians” was the top rising show and the service’s “Emily in Paris” the top binge on the TV Time charts for the week ended Oct. 25.

“Barbarians” debuted on Netflix Oct. 23. The German TV series is about the build to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in ancient Germania during the Roman invasion.

“Emily in Paris,” created, written and executive produced by Darren Star (“Sex and the City”), debuted Oct. 2 on Netflix. It follows Emily (Lily Collins), an ambitious 20-something marketing executive from Chicago, who unexpectedly lands her dream job in Paris when her company acquires a French luxury marketing company.

Taking the silver on the binge chart was “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” which hit Netflix Oct. 9. From “The Haunting of Hill House” creator Mike Flanagan, it’s the next chapter of “The Haunting” anthology series. After an au pair’s tragic death, Henry Wingrave hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with the estate’s chef, groundskeeper and housekeeper. But all is not as it seems at the manor, and centuries of dark secrets are waiting to be unearthed.

Coming in at No. 2 on the rising show chart was Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” which debuted Oct.  23. It’s a coming-of-age story following a young Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s who discovers an astonishing talent for chess while developing an addiction to tranquilizers provided by the state as a sedative for the children.

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 Oct. 25 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Emily in Paris” (Netflix) — 2.97%
  2. “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (Netflix) — 2.87%
  3. “Modern Family” (ABC) — 1.98%
  4. “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC) — 1.85%
  5. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.61%
  6. “The Office” (NBC) — 1.53%
  7. “One Piece” (Fuji TV) — 1.48%
  8. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.44%
  9. “Lucifer” (Netflix) — 1.36%
  10. “The Boys” (Amazon) — 1.13%

 

Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended Oct. 25 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Barbarians” (Netflix) — 99.9%
  2. “The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix) — 99.9%
  3. “France’s Got Talent” (M6) — 98.9%
  4. “The Conners” (ABC) — 96.4%
  5. “Mirzapur” (Amazon) — 96.4%
  6. “The Voice” (NBC) — 95.8%
  7. “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With Dave Letterman” (Netflix) — 94.5%
  8. “Unsolved Mysteries” (Netflix) — 92.3%
  9. “Mcfly & Carlito” (YouTube) — 91%
  10. “You Me Her” (Audience Network) — 84.5%

Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen to Star in Comedy Series for Apple TV+

Apple TV+ will launch a new comedy series, “Platonic,” starring Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen.

The series will be co-written by Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco (“Friends from College”) and will be produced for Apple by Sony Pictures Television.

“Platonic” reunites Byrne and Rogen with director Nick Stoller following their collaboration on the “Neighbors” films.

The 10-episode, half-hour comedy explores the inner workings of platonic friendship. A pair of former best friends who met in their youth (played by Byrne and Rogen) reconnect as adults and try to mend the rift that led to their falling out. As their friendship becomes more consuming, it destabilizes their lives and causes them to reevaluate their choices.

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In addition to writing, Stoller will direct. Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen and Conor Welch will serve as executive producers.

Apple TV+ is available at $4.99 a month with a seven-day free trial.

Ubisoft Subscription Service Becomes Ubisoft+, Will Add Amazon Luna and Stadia Platforms

Ubisoft’s subscription service has become Ubisoft+ and has added a multi-platform model, beginning in beta in the United States this November with Amazon Luna and by end of year with Stadia.

Formerly known as UPLAY+, Ubisoft+ offers subscribers unlimited access to a catalog of more than 100 games on PC for $14.99 per month. Ubisoft+ includes premium editions, new releases such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion and Immortals Fenyx Rising, classic titles, and additional content packs.

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“With Ubisoft+, our vision is to provide more options for our players to access their favorite Ubisoft games, wherever they are and whenever they want,” said Alexia Brumé, associate director, subscription, in a statement. “This beta period with Stadia and Amazon Luna is just the beginning. We’re excited to offer subscribers the chance to check out the premium editions of our fall lineup so they can pick up and play across multiple platforms, all with one subscription.”

Starting Nov. 10, the beta will begin for subscribers in the United States. Once subscribers request and receive an invitation to Amazon Luna early access, they can link their accounts and start playing. By the end of the year, they will also be able to play select Ubisoft games on Stadia (no Stadia Pro subscription required). During this beta, players can enjoy Ubisoft games across their devices and benefit from cross-platform progression for upcoming titles, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on day one.

To sign up for Ubisoft+, register now at ubisoft-plus.com.