HBO’s ‘House of the Dragon’ Top New Show, Netflix’s ‘Locke & Key’ Top Returning Show Anticipated in August

HBO’s “House of the Dragon” was the top anticipated new show, Netflix’s “Locke & Key” was the most anticipated returning show, and Bullet Train was the top anticipated movie on the Whip Media charts for August.

“House of the Dragon,” which in addition to airing on HBO starts streaming Aug. 21 on HBO Max, is the much-anticipated prequel to “Game of Thrones,” set 200 years before that hit series and chronicling the saga of the House of Targaryen.

“Locke & Key,” season three of which debuts on Netflix Aug. 10, is a fantasy horror drama based on the comic book series of the same name. It follows a family that takes residence in the family home, Keyhouse, after the father is murdered.

Sony Pictures’ Bullet Train is an action comedy starring Joey King, Brad Pitt, Karen Fukuhara and Sandra Bullock. The film, which debuts Aug. 5, follows a trained killer (Pitt) who wants to give up the life but is pulled back in by his handler (Bullock) to acquire a briefcase on a bullet train.

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TV Time, a Whip Media company, is a free TV and movie viewership tracking app with 21 million global users, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

 

Most Anticipated New Shows for August:

  1. “House of the Dragon” (HBO) — Aug. 21
  2. “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” (Disney+) — Aug. 17
  3. “Andor” (Disney+) — Aug. 31
  4. “The Sandman” (Netflix) — Aug. 5
  5. “I Am Groot” (Disney+) — Aug. 10

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for August:

  1. “Locke & Key” (Netflix) — Aug. 10
  2. “Never Have I Ever” (Netflix) — Aug. 12
  3. “Reservation Dogs” (Hulu) — Aug. 3
  4. “See” (Apple TV+) — Aug. 26
  5. “Kevin Can F**k Himself” (AMC+) — Aug. 22

 

Most Anticipated Movies for August:

  1. Bullet Train — Aug. 5
  2. Day Shift — Aug. 12
  3. Prey — Aug. 5
  4. Bodies Bodies Bodies — Aug. 5
  5. Luck — Aug. 5
  6. Look Both Ways — Aug. 17
  7. Beast — Aug. 19
  8. Orphan: First Kill — Aug. 19
  9. Secret Headquarters — Aug. 12
  10. They/Them — Aug. 5

Paramount+ Renews Original Series ‘iCarly’ for Third Season

Paramount+ has renewed original series”iCarly” reboot for a third season.

The 10-episode second season completed its run earlier this spring with a cliffhanger. Season three will go into production later this year and will premiere in 2023 exclusively on Paramount+ around the world.

“iCarly’s loyal fan base grew up with Carly, Spencer and Freddie, and have now fallen in love with Harper and Millicent, too,” said Tanya Giles, chief programming officer of streaming for Paramount+, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have Miranda, Jerry, Nathan, Laci and Jaidyn return for a third season and we know Paramount+’s growing YA audience is as well. And I, for one, must find out what happens with #Creddie.”

Seasons one and two of the new “iCarly” are available to stream exclusively on Paramount+. All seasons of the original are also available on the streaming platform.

“iCarly” stars Miranda Cosgrove as Carly, Jerry Trainor as Spencer, Nathan Kress as Freddie, Laci Mosley as Harper and Jaidyn Triplett as Millicent. “iCarly” for Paramount+ is produced by Nickelodeon Studios.

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Nickelodeon’s original “iCarly” series, which ran from 2007-2012, followed a group of best friends as they created a webcast for and about kids their age while grappling with everyday problems and adventures.

HBO Orders Limited Series ‘The Palace’ Starring Kate Winslet

HBO has given a series order to the limited series “The Palace.” The series will be directed and executive produced by Stephen Frears and showrun, written by, and executive produced by Will Tracy. Kate Winslet will star and executive produce. 
 
“The Palace” tells the story of one year within the walls of the palace of an authoritarian regime as it begins to unravel.
 
“We are honored to be working with this incredibly talented group of filmmakers on ‘The Palace,'” said Francesca Orsi, EVP, HBO Programming, in a statement. “The notion that Kate Winslet and Stephen Frears, two of our industry’s leading lights (who — remarkably — have never collaborated before now), are joining forces to bring Will Tracy’s wildly original, prescient, and dazzling scripts to life at HBO is a dream come true for us.” 

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Academy Award winner Winslet is about to start filming Lee, the true-life story of famed photographer Lee Miller, in which she stars and is producing. Additionally, HBO recently announced that it’s developing the limited series “Trust,” based on Hernan Diaz’s novel, with Winslet set to star and executive produce. She previously executive produced and starred in HBO’s limited series “Mare of Easttown,” for which she won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie at the 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in 2021.

‘The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family’ Among Titles on PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel in August

Frontline’s Ukraine: Life Under Russia’s Attack and the documentary miniseries The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family are among the titles available on the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel this August.
 
The subscription rate for the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is $3.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

Ukraine: Life Under Russia’s Attack, debuting Aug. 2, is a dramatic and intimate look inside the Russian assault on Kharkiv told by displaced families trying to survive underground, civilians caught in the fight, and first responders risking their lives amid the shelling of Ukraine’s second largest city.

The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family, debuting Aug. 28, covers the scandalous rise and fall of the Boleyn family in a three-part documentary series filled with love, betrayal and obsession. Told from the unique perspective of the family itself, the series juxtaposes narration from historical academics with actors performing significant scenes.

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Other titles coming to the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel in August include Eugene O’Neill: A Film by Ric Burns (“American Experience”) on Aug. 9; Afghanistan Undercover (“Frontline”) on Aug. 9; Roberto Clemente (“American Experience”) on Aug. 18; and Rise of the Bolsonaros on Aug. 30.

National Football League Launches Subscription Streaming Video Service ‘NFL+’

The National Football League has joined the subscription streaming video ecosystem with the launch of NFL+. The platform is available on the NFL App across all app stores for $4.99/month or $39.99/year. Users can upgrade to NFL+ Premium for $9.99/month or $79.99/year, which offers all of the features of NFL+ as well as full and condensed game replays and the All-22 Coaches Film.

NFL+ offers access to live out-of-market preseason games across all devices, live local and primetime regular season and postseason games on mobile devices, live local and national audio for every game, NFL Network shows on-demand, NFL Films archives and more.

“Today marks an important day in the history of the National Football League with the launch of NFL+,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement, adding that the streaming platform would enable the NFL to “reach and interact” with “passionate and dedicated football fans” across an additional distribution channel.

The league in early 2021 inked new long-term broadcast rights agreements with multiple media partners valued at more than $110 billion over 11 years. Those deals included the first ever exclusive streaming-only rights to Amazon Prime Video for Thursday Night Football.

“We look forward to continuing to grow NFL+ and deepening our relationship with fans across all ages and demographics, providing them access to a tremendous amount of NFL content, including the most valuable content in the media industry: live NFL games,” Goodell said.

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Provided below is a breakdown of the NFL+ and NFL+ Premium products:

  • NFL+ ($4.99 monthly)
  • Live local and primetime games on mobile and tablet devices
  • Live out-of-market preseason games across all devices
  • Live game audio (home, away and national calls) for every game of the season
  • NFL library programming on-demand, ad-free
  • NFL+ Premium ($9.99 monthly)
  • All features of NFL+
  • Full game replays across devices (ad-free)
  • Condensed game replays across devices (ad-free)
  • Coaches Film (ad-free)
 
 

Broken Windows: Studios Still Tinkering With the Dating Game

It’s been a chaotic couple of years in home entertainment.

As the pandemic began to spread in early 2020, the home entertainment business was already facing waves of change, with dominant streamers Netflix and Amazon finally getting some high-profile competition. Both the Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+ and Apple’s Apple TV+ had launched the previous November. Warner’s HBO Max was preparing to start streaming in May 2020, with NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service close behind in July.

ViacomCBS in September 2020 announced that its existing CBS All Access streaming service would be rebranded Paramount+ with the promise (since fulfilled) of top-tier studio product.

Meanwhile, premium-priced, in-home transactional viewing of first-run movies got a boost as studios looked to serve consumers locked out of theaters or wary of going to the cineplex as the pandemic swelled.

Never before had there been so many ways consumers could watch movies and other filmed content at home — just as a pandemic kept everyone there.

The result: a lot of broken windows.

Films hit theaters and premium VOD or streaming services simultaneously or landed on PVOD or streaming services in a matter of weeks after their theatrical bow — and generally entered the home earlier and in more varied ways than ever before.

Theaters — the traditional first stop for top films — faced their biggest threat to their exclusive window yet.

“The window has been shrinking for the last 20 years,” says analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. “It used to be nine months, then 180 days, then 135, then 105, then 90, then 70. Pre-pandemic, the theater owners had some leverage by refusing to exhibit films that had a shorter window, but that leverage evaporated when theaters were closed altogether. The studios experimented, with Universal shifting to 17-day windows (three weekends) and with Warner going day-and-date on HBO Max for all of 2021. Disney screwed up mightily with day-and-date PVOD — nobody cared about Mulan, but they cared very much about Black Widow.”

Disney, in fact, was sued by Black Widow’s lead actress Scarlett Johansson over her alleged losses over the PVOD move, and the studio settled.

Two years later, as the pandemic moves into a new phase, the experimentation seems to have waned, but it’s unclear (as it is with COVID-19) whether home entertainment has reached a “new normal.”
“When the pandemic impact began to fade, studios and theater owners found a 45-day middle ground,” Pachter says. “That appears to be an unwritten rule, and it is unclear if it will apply equally to all movies. I suspect that films like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water will have 70- to 105-day windows, and films like Elvis and Nope will have 45-day windows, with movies like Lightyear and Jurassic World: Dominion perhaps being available on their owners’ proprietary streaming services before being made available for VOD elsewhere.”

Theater owners are looking back to the future. On April 26 at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, proclaimed the death of the concurrent theatrical/streaming video movie-release business model. He cited piracy as the leading cause of demise for a distribution strategy born in part by the pandemic. “When a pristine copy of a movie makes its way online and spreads, it has a very damaging impact on our industry,” Fithian told conference attendees, adding that upwards of 20% of the box office revenue could be lost to piracy. While digital piracy is a concern, it is not new or the primary driving factor for studios’ changing theatrical release strategy. Profits are.

“It’s an evolving landscape, and fortunately, the studios are all into maximizing profits,” Pachter says.

In looking at the top box office releases of 2021 and the first half of 2022, window patterns are starting to take shape. Studios with their own streaming services are favoring them with top hits, but others without a streaming outlet are playing the field and letting their biggest titles maximize profits theatrically and in the transactional home entertainment windows. Premium digital sales and rentals have an evolving place in the window succession, but it’s not for every studio or title. Disc release windows are all over the place, from less than 50 to well over 100 days after theatrical release.

“Studios continue to experiment with different ‘flavors’ of windowing, trying to find that optimal balance between theatrical, transactional, pay and downstream windows — as well as first-party service subscription goals, if they have their own streaming service,” Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment at Fandango, home to the transactional service Vudu, told Media Play News in February. “We think that experimentation will continue well into next year.”

Indeed, each studio has taken a different tack over the past two years, depending on its overall company aims.

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The Walt Disney Co.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has continued to straddle the distribution fence, saying the media giant would pursue distribution channels dependent upon each movie’s market potential, among other factors. But as Disney+ took off, the streaming service got the lion’s share of studio attention.

Disney’s first major broken theatrical window occurred with the live-action Mulan, which was offered Sept. 4, 2020 — at the height of the pandemic, with theaters still shuttered — to Disney+ subscribers for an additional $29.99 in an offer called Premier Access. The release scheme became part of a three-pronged strategy in 2021 that consisted of theatrical-level titles released directly to Disney+, and a hybrid of concurrent theatrical release and Premier Access release (just to Disney streamers) for Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella, Jungle Cruise and Black Widow.

Speaking last August on the company’s quarterly earnings call, Chapek said the alternative release strategy was prompted by the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on the traditional theatrical window.

“We needed to find alternatives to provide movies to consumers while theaters were closed,” Chapek said at the time, adding that once theaters began to re-open, moviegoers remained home, reluctant to return without a vaccination and other assurances.

“One of the things we learned is flexibility is good because there’s two dynamics going on: One is people’s willingness to return to theaters, and theaters’ ability to return in a meaningful way,” he said. “And then the second is the change in consumer behavior that’s happening naturally, with COVID probably acting as a bit of a catalyst, but was going to happen anyway.”

Disney returned to the movie theater last summer with exclusive (and curtailed) 45-day windows for 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy and Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The films marked Disney’s first exclusive theatrical releases since the Aug. 26, 2020, release of The New Mutants.

“We’re trying to offer consumers more choice as they gain confidence in how they want to go ahead and return to theaters,” Chapek said.

Of the dual Premier Access/theatrical strategy, he said, “We realized we had to sort of ‘prime the pump’ and give theatrical exhibition a chance, but we couldn’t put all our eggs in the exhibition basket because we knew that in the weeks leading up to the decision, the domestic market was not coming back and [remained] fairly weak.”

The June 17, 2021, release of Pixar Animation’s Luca directly to Disney+ (sans the $29.99 purchase fee for Black Widow and others) surprised some observers. Chapek said that decision was driven by the need to keep Disney’s evolving distribution channels stocked. The Pixar title’s debut was an indication of the importance of the growing Disney+ streaming service to the company.

“We’ve increased our investment in creative content to ensure that all channels have a full complement of offerings to sort of keep everybody happy,” he said. “We want to make sure, given the importance of Disney+ in the marketplace and to our shareholders, that we keep feeding that machine.”

As theatrical distribution returned, the 2021 Marvel titles Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals rushed to streaming 70 days and 68 days, respectively, after theatrical release, concurrent with their release on transactional platforms for digital sellthrough. The animated musical Encanto (which later won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film) was released on Disney+ on Christmas Eve 2021, just 30 days after its theatrical release, again concurrent with release for digital purchase.

“We do not subscribe to the belief that theatrical distribution is the only way to build a Disney franchise,” Chapek said in February on another earnings call, citing Disney’s success with Encanto.

“This quarter audiences proved us right as Encanto became a phenomenon within days of its arrival on Disney+, after families’ continued reluctance to return to theaters resulted in a muted theatrical performance,” he said.

Chapek said Encanto became the fastest title on Disney+ to reach 200 million hours streamed.

In June, Chapek, speaking on another fiscal call, said the studio had been able to successfully release its theatrical slate, showing a return to a theatrical window. Still, the supremacy of Disney+ in the content pipeline remains.

Indeed, Disney continued to rush titles to streaming in 2022, with Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hitting Disney+ 47 days after its theatrical release (again concurrent with digital sellthrough). Even 2022’s Death on the Nile, a 20th Century Studios title that Disney+ had to share for streaming with Warner’s HBO Max due to a deal that preexisted Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s studio assets, streamed 46 days after its theatrical release. (Free Guy, another 20th Century title released theatrically in 2021 under the same streaming agreement, had a whopping 194-day window, perhaps showing Disney’s strategy to slow-walk giving HBO Max such a big title.)

As for the disc window, physical media took a back seat on major Disney titles throughout 2021 and the first half of 2022 as the studio concentrated on boosting its streaming service. The shortest disc window (60 days) was for Free Guy, again a title not exclusive to Disney+ for streaming. Marvel’s Black Widow had a 67-day disc window, but that was also 67 days after its Premier Access debut on Disney+. Premier Access releases Cruella and Jungle Cruise logged whopping 116-day and 109-day disc windows, respectively — well after their availability on both streaming and digital sellthrough. Once theatrical windows opened in fall of 2021, disc windows consistently lagged behind streaming, which — concurrent with digital transactional sale — was the first home entertainment stop. Disc windows ranged from 76 days for the family friendly (and collectible) Encanto to a whopping 102 for Marvel’s Eternals.

Paramount Pictures

As the pandemic took off in 2020, Paramount — at the time without a branded streaming outlet — rushed its hit Sonic the Hedgehog to digital purchase on March 31, shortening the theatrical window. But the strategy changed as that studio’s parent company, too, got into streaming. Late to the studio-branded streaming game, Paramount sent its top titles to boost Paramount+, which launched on March 4, 2021.

Less than two months earlier, in January, Paramount had announced its summer theatrical release, the animated The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, would premiere on Paramount+ on launch day. It debuted the same day on PVOD as a $19.99 rental.

During a Feb. 24, 2021, Paramount+ media presentation, Paramount disclosed that the platform would stream first-run Paramount Pictures theatrical releases as early as 30 days after their box office debuts.
Speaking March 2, 2021, at a Wall Street analyst event, CEO Bob Bakish said he supported making movies available on the Paramount+ streaming service 30 to 45 days after their box office debut — beginning with A Quiet Place Part II.

“I believe that is a sustainable offering,” Bakish said at the event, alluding to exhibitor concerns an abbreviated theatrical window would undermine the industry. “Some of these other film moves that have been made, it’s not clear that they’re sustainable.”

Bakish said industry data suggested most movies’ box office withers after 30 days, if not sooner.

“This move puts the titles in the theaters so people that want to get a big-screen experience can do that. Moving 45 days later to an in-house streaming service works for constituents and certainly for us,” he said. “We believe it’s the right model for the future, and as we implement it, the facts will prove that out.”

Paramount Pictures’ August 2021 theatrical release Paw Patrol: The Movie was the studio’s first concurrent box office/Paramount+ streaming debut — a strategy the studio plans to employ going forward on family movies. The film subsequently was made available for digital purchase (Sept. 21) and on DVD and Blu-ray Disc (Nov. 2).

Speaking Sept. 22, 2021, at a Goldman Sachs conference, Bakish said while Paramount would stick to a shortened 45-day exclusive window for major releases such as A Quiet Place Part II, Top Gun: Maverick and the upcoming Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, family films were another matter. The executive said the simultaneous release of Paw Patrol: The Movie on Paramount+ made the movie the most-watched original title on the platform and helped drive box office.

“The combined release strategy drove incremental performance,” Bakish said. “We think that’s actually a good [distribution] model for kids and family films, particularly in these COVID times. It gives consumers optionality, where they feel most comfortable. We did a bunch of research on that.”

Also at the September event, Bakish said the studio planned to release Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin exclusively on Paramount+. “We think exclusive availability, particularly at lower-budget-level movies, is a compelling value creation opportunity for streaming,” Bakish.

Windows for streaming on Paramount+ and available for transactional digital purchase ranged between 45 days and 54 days for Paramount’s top titles in 2021 and the first half of 2022 — though it remains to be seen what the studio will do with mega-hit Top Gun: Maverick. Paramount disc windows for its top releases during the period ranged from 60 days for 2021’s A Quiet Place Part II to 123 days for more recent hits Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and The Lost City.

“Windowing strategies continue to shift and vary greatly between studios due in large part to distinct corporate priorities and objectives, particularly with regard to proprietary streaming services,” says Bob Buchi, Paramount’s president of worldwide home entertainment. “We are absolutely thrilled and encouraged by the return to theaters and will continue to experiment around the world as we all work to refine our content distribution strategies that deliver for both consumers and our individual businesses.”

Sony Pictures

Josh Greenstein, president of the Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, has said theatrical remains at the core of the studio’s distribution strategy.

“Streaming is additive to our business; it’s not our core business,” Greenstein said in a media interview. “We participate in the streaming economy strategically with certain films. We’ve licensed some films to streamers during COVID, but our long-term big business model will always be driven by theatrical.”

With no proprietary streaming service, Sony in 2021 inked separate exclusive pacts with Netflix and Disney+ for distribution of its theatrical titles, beginning in 2022. It was a shrewd move by Netflix, considering Sony, at the time, had shelved all of its major theatrical releases due to the pandemic. The agreement, which replaced Sony’s output arrangement with Lionsgate-owned Starz, provides Netflix with an 18-month exclusive window for all Sony movies. Thereafter, Disney+ will have access to the movies.

The Pay 1 distribution deal does not apply to recent Sony hits Spider-Man: No Way Home, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which all streamed on Starz long after their theatrical, digital transactional and disc release.

The streaming pact with Netflix includes Morbius, as well as expected 2022 theatrical follow-ups for the “Jumanji” and “Bad Boys” franchises. Netflix is also licensing rights to select titles from SPE’s movie library.

“Netflix has been a terrific partner as we continue to expand our relationship,” Keith Le Goy, president of worldwide distribution and networks for Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in April 2021. “This exciting agreement further demonstrates the importance of that content to our distribution partners as they grow their audiences and deliver the very best in entertainment.”

Without a branded streaming service to boost with theatrical hits, Sony’s top pictures in 2021 and the first half of 2022 came out first for digital sellthrough followed by disc release, an established pattern pre-pandemic. Digital windows ranged from 46 days to 88 days (for mega-hit Spider-Man: No Way Home). Disc windows ranged from 74 days to 116 days (again, for Spider-Man: No Way Home).

Universal Pictures

Long before the pandemic hit, Universal Pictures had been interested in shaking up windows. Nearly a decade ago, in 2011, the studio tried to jumpstart PVOD by offering actioner Tower Heist early in the home for $59.99. The strategy was quickly shelved when theaters threatened to boycott the movie. With the pandemic making theatrical distribution untenable, Universal made a less-expensive move to PVOD at the lower price of $19.99. On March 16, 2020, the studio announced it would release its current theatrical slate into home entertainment distribution channels via PVOD. Movies included The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma., among others. At the same time, Universal announced plans to release the much-anticipated DreamWorks Animation sequel Trolls World Tour through PVOD on the same day as its scheduled theatrical release, April 10, 2020.

Speaking on an April 2020 earnings call, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said PVOD would continue as a “complementary offer” to consumers when theaters re-open to the public, doubling down on his previous comments to The Wall Street Journal after Trolls World Tour generated $100 million in PVOD sales.

“The majority of our movies, whether we like it or not, are being consumed at home,” Shell said. “It’s not realistic to assume that we’re not going to change, that this part of the business isn’t going to change like all parts of the business are going to change.”

Exhibitors squawked and Universal offered them a deal for shortened theatrical windows in exchange for a share of revenue from PVOD. Generally, if a title earns less than $50 million at the box office, Universal can offer it into homes with a 17-day PVOD window. If the box office exceeds $50 million, the theatrical window is extended to 31 days.

PVOD windows for top movies in the past year-and-a-half have ranged from 16 days for Sing 2 to a still short 35 days for megahit F9: The Fast Saga.
With the launch of NBCUniversal’s own streaming service in July 2020, however, Universal films had another avenue to the consumer.

Some top Universal titles were subject to other deals that prevented them from going to Peacock. Sing 2, from Illumination, inked a streaming deal with Netflix, which followed other home entertainment windows, including disc. Universal’s megahit of 2021, F9: The Fast Saga, came under a Universal deal that allowed HBO to get the studio’s movies nine months after theatrical release. That deal ended in 2021, but it resulted in F9 streaming on HBO Max a whopping 252 days after its theatrical release.

Universal’s unencumbered films were used during the pandemic’s height to boost the newly minted Peacock streaming service. Going straight to the service concurrent with its Oct. 15, 2021, theatrical release was Halloween Kills, the much-anticipated latest installment in the famous “Halloween” horror franchise.

Speaking that month on parent company Comcast’s quarterly earnings call, Shell said the decision to offer $9.99 monthly Peacock subscribers early access to Halloween Kills paid off.

“We added a few million more subscribers,” Shell said.

The horror film, which opened at No. 1 with a debut weekend gross of $49.4 million, was the second movie after The Boss Baby: Family Business on July 1 to have a concurrent streaming bow. The latter also topped its opening weekend box office with $16 million in ticket sales.

Shell said the results showed streaming and box office can co-exist without cannibalizing revenue streams.

“We’ve seen across all streaming platforms that movies move the dial,” Shell said. “It shows that you can play in two different markets.”

Marry Me, the romantic comedy pairing Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, also bowed concurrently in theaters and on Peacock on Feb. 11, 2022. Other big titles in 2022 got a window — albeit short. The Michael Bay actioner Ambulance hit Peacock 45 days after its theatrical release on April 8, 2022.
Universal movies now go to Peacock in a new Pay 1 deal. Specifically, Peacock has exclusive access for the first four months and last four months of the 18-month Pay 1 window. Select third-party streamers and/or the streaming service have access to the movies during the middle 10-month period.

“Since launching Peacock just one year ago, we have seen incredible viewership of movies and continue to expand our catalog with a range of films for every fan and occasion,” Matt Strauss, chairman of direct-to-consumer and international at NBCUniversal, said in a July 2021 statement.
More recently, on June 14, 2022, at the virtual Credit Suisse Entertainment confab, Shell seemed sold on movies’ quick move to Peacock.

“I’m very excited about the movie part of Peacock,” he said, adding, “I think in the next three, four, five quarters, you’re going to see a real impact on movies going in their first window on Peacock, along with some selected kind of originals. So movies [are] a key part of the strategy.”

He also reiterated support for PVOD.

“For us, as a company, what I’m particularly proud of is the PVOD window, the premium video-on-demand window, which kicks in for us at day 17,” he said. “And we’re doing that in partnership with the distributor, the exhibitors, right? So, the more screens you put us on in the theatrical release, the bigger share you get of the digital window, which I think is a great model for us. And what we’ve seen is a significant increase in how much money we’re making in the home entertainment window really driven by that premium video-on-demand window, $19.99 or $24.99 at home from day 17 to when we go to Peacock.”

Warner Bros.

Like other studios with company-owned streaming services, Warner Bros.’ top theatrical films were used to boost its corporate sister, HBO Max, during the pandemic as theatrical distribution dried up.

WarnerMedia (now Warner Bros. Discovery) made headlines during the pandemic with its strategy of releasing the entire 2021 Warner Bros. theatrical slate concurrently on HBO Max for a movie’s first 31 days of release. The strategy kicked off in 2020 with the Christmas Day release of the highly anticipated Wonder Woman 1984. The simultaneous release strategy continued with such big titles as Godzilla vs. Kong, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Space Jam: A New Legacy and Dune: Part One.

Former CEO Jason Kilar, speaking on the company’s July 2021 earnings call, said of the controversial move, “We feel very good about the response that consumers have given it in the home.”

Afterwards, Andy Forssell, tapped last year by Kilar to be EVP and GM of Max, said Warner’s singular streaming strategy would be tweaked in 2022. Still, the days of the traditional theatrical window were not likely returning.

“You’re going to see in 2022 a lot of experimentation that’s going to be far more wide-ranging than it would have been without COVID,” Forssell said.

The executive said studios would apply a mixture of PVOD/SVOD and theatrical distribution depending on the movie, current events and market conditions.

“We’ll see experimentation across the board,” Forssell said. “You’ll see everybody trying almost all [distribution] models next year.”

He did, however, note that the strategy of rushing top films to streaming had benefited the audience for HBO Max and the films. He said the simultaneous release of Wonder Woman: 1984 on Max saw two-thirds of the movie’s streaming audience also watch the entire first season of original series “The Flight Attendant,” starring Kaley Cuoco, intimating that it helped boost other streaming content. He also said that the streaming audience for the second Warner movie release on Max, The Little Things, attracted a wider audience via Max than it would have strictly through theatrical.

“In other words, The Little Things really enjoyed the benefit of a huge wave of audience,” he said.

Premium digital viewership, too, became a part of Warner’s strategy as the pandemic closed theaters. The studio on May 15, 2020, dipped its toes into the marketplace, releasing Scoob! directly into homes for $19.99 for a 48-hour rental, or $24.99 for digital purchase. The studio has since released top titles for premium digital ownership and rental. It, like Universal, inked deals with cineplex companies for shorter theatrical windows (for Warner, as few as 45 days). That 45-day window took shape with top titles Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore and The Batman, which hit HBO Max and premium digital at the 45-day mark.

In April 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, speaking on a Discovery fiscal call, eschewed killing the theatrical window.

“The data is starting to show, ‘No way,’” Zaslav said. “When you open a movie in theaters, it has a whole stream of monetization. More importantly, it’s marketed. It builds a brand so when it does go to a streaming service there’s a view that [the title] has a higher quality that benefits the streaming service.”

He cited the multi-window success of Warner’s biggest box office release in 2022 thus far, The Batman, which bowed March 1 in theaters, generating $700 million in ticket sales.

The Batman did extremely well in generating viewership and interest even though it was in movie theaters first,” Zaslav said. “It’s a great sign for the motion picture business.”

As far as the final stop in the content pipeline, disc windows for Warner’s top movies ranged from 74 days for the recent title Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore to 95 days for Wonder Woman 1984, its first streaming experiment back in 2020.

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An Ongoing, Inevitable Experiment

While the pandemic accelerated window breaking, the upheaval of the home entertainment business model was already in process before COVID-19.

“I was very frustrated back in 2019 — I really felt that the business was anti-consumer and leaving a lot of money on the table for people like us that made great movies with the way movies were distributed,” Universal’s Shell said last June. “I love what’s happened over the last couple of years. I think the whole business has reached a new water level, really driven by two things. Number one, the streamers realizing that movies drive platforms. I mean, we saw this at HBO Max and other places. But movies drive platforms and I think it’s not just a U.S. phenomenon, but around the world. We’re having a robust licensing business for our movie content, which is making the whole business more profitable.

“And then the second thing is how the windows have kind of evolved rapidly. It took a little bit to do that. But we got to a different place. And what’s happened is consumers can watch movies in the home much sooner than they could pre-pandemic.”

He noted that Disney is moving top titles, such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, to streaming quickly, like Universal and others.

“I think the whole model is better now,” he said. “I don’t think it’s settled into a particular calcified model. I suspect that someday it will settle. It will be more bespoke by studio and by movie, where older adult movies — which will all have a harder time getting box office — might go sooner on the platforms and big family movies that have this PVOD potential may wait a while to get on the streaming platform.

“I think it’s going to kind of ebb and flow a lot over the next kind of couple of years until we find the right economic equation, and that could be different by each market, by the way.”

Indeed, predictably arranged windows look to be a thing of the past.

“What we’ve clearly learned is that there is no one-size-fits-all distribution model; the new entertainment landscape calls for multiple windowing strategies, and the good news is that multiple platforms can not only coexist but thrive,” sums up Paramount’s Buchi.

Additional reporting by John Latchem and Erik Gruenwedel

Post-Theatrical Windows, Select Titles 2020-22

Title Studio Theatrical Release Date Streaming Service PVOD Window (Days) Streaming Window (Days) Digital Sellthrough Window (Days) Disc Window (Days)
Wonder Woman 1984 Warner December 25, 2020 HBO Max 49 0 81 95
Godzilla vs. Kong Warner March 31, 2021 HBO Max 51 0 51 76
A Quiet Place Part II Paramount May 28, 2021 Paramount+ 45 46 60
Cruella Disney May 28, 2021 Disney+ 0 91 28 116
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Warner June 4, 2021 HBO Max 49 0 49 81
F9: The Fast Saga Universal June 25, 2021 HBO Max 35 252 74 88
Black Widow Disney July 9, 2021 Disney+ 0 89 32 67
Space Jam: A New Legacy Warner July 16, 2021 HBO Max 49 0 49 81
Jungle Cruise Disney July 30, 2021 Disney+ 0 105 32 109
Free Guy Disney/20th Century August 13, 2021 Disney+ & HBO Max 194 46 60
Candyman (2021) Universal/MGM August 27, 2021 Amazon Prime Video 21 287 67 81
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Disney September 3, 2021 Disney+ 70 70 88
Venom: Let There Be Carnage Sony Pictures October 1, 2021 Starz 203 53 74
No Time to Die MGM/Universal October 8, 2021 Amazon Prime Video 32 245 60 74
Halloween Kills Universal October 15, 2021 Peacock 20 0 60 88
Dune Part One Warner October 22, 2021 HBO Max 0 42 81
Eternals Disney November 5, 2021 Disney+ 68 68 102
Ghostbusters: Afterlife Sony Pictures November 19, 2021 Starz 178 46 74
Encanto Disney November 24, 2021 Disney+ 30 30 76
Spider-Man: No Way Home Sony Pictures December 17, 2021 Starz 210 88 116
Sing 2 Universal December 22, 2021 Netflix 16 182 69 97
Scream (2022) Paramount January 14, 2022 Paramount+ 54 46 81
Jackass Forever Paramount February 4, 2022 Paramount+ 46 53 74
Death on the Nile Disney/20th Century February 11, 2022 Hulu & HBO Max 46 46 53
Marry Me Universal February 11, 2022 Peacock 0 30 46
Uncharted Sony Pictures February 18, 2022 Netflix 147 67 81
The Batman Warner March 4, 2022 HBO Max 45 45 81
The Lost City Paramount March 25, 2022 Paramount+ 46 46 123
Morbius Sony Pictures April 1, 2022 Netflix TBD 46 74
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Paramount April 8, 2022 Paramount+ 46 46 123
Ambulance Universal April 8, 2022 Peacock 21 45 45 67
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Warner April 15, 2022 HBO Max 45 45 45 74
The Bad Guys Universal April 22, 2022 Peacock 70 20 60
The Northman Universal April 22, 2022 Peacock 21 42 45 46
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Disney May 6, 2022 Disney+ 47 47 81
Downton Abbey: A New Era Universal May 20, 2022 Peacock 21 35 35 46

South Park: The Streaming Wars (Parts 1 & 2)

STREAMING REVIEW:

Paramount+;
Animated Comedy;
Not rated;
Voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, April Stewart, Kimberly Brooks, Adrien Beard, Vernon Chatman.

This latest pair of “South Park” specials brings to bear many of its ongoing story threads and characters in a precision take-down of the economics of the modern entertainment ecosystem.

In particular, series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone hit upon a metaphor so obvious that it’s impossible not to understand exactly what their message is: There are so many streaming services that the need for quantity is destroying quality.

But that’s just the meta-humor that’s baked into “South Park.” The story, dialogue and characters are still outrageously funny on their own merits. For instance, Cartman’s mom refuses to get fake breast implants to attract a rich husband, so out of spite Cartman gets the implants himself.

Even this bizarre-sounding subplot still manages to tie into the main story, which has always been the genius of this franchise. Referring to “South Park” as a franchise instead of just a series is now a necessity for reasons we’ll get into later that speak to why these “Streaming Wars” specials even exist.

The story involves a drought hitting the town of South Park, caused by Matt and Trey’s physical representation of climate change, ManBearPig. Distribution of the remaining water is given priority to agriculture, which benefits rival pot farmers Randy Marsh and Steve Black, who decide to sell some of their water back to the town on a subscription basis. Their scheme is legal so long as they can prove water from their farm reaches the city’s reservoir, so they hire the local kids to build paper boats as the content to float down the stream. As the idea of subscription streaming becomes more popular, the same group of kids is hired again and again to build boats for all of them, thus leading to their boats competing with themselves, though the money is too much to pass up.

Later, when the scheme collapses, they are asked why they didn’t give the money back to the other streamers once they agreed to a bigger deal from another.

This is, of course, nearly a direct reference to Matt and Trey’s own experience with streaming services of the digital kind. HBO Max paid $500 million for the rights to the “South Park” episode catalog as well as next-day availability of episodes from the next few seasons after they air on Comedy Central. “South Park” is a prime commodity in the Paramount stable, but this deal was made before the various entities that can now be lumped under the Paramount moniker knew what they were doing with streaming, more interested in the quick cash of selling its catalog than cashing in with its own streaming service.

So, when Paramount finally had its own streaming service, it didn’t even have streaming rights to many of its lucrative properties.

With HBO Max reaping the benefits of the “South Park” pandemic specials, Paramount sought a way back into the “South Park” streaming game, paying $900 million for a series of “South Park” movies that wouldn’t count as part of the seasons, thus providing an end-around to the HBO Max deal.

And Matt and Trey found themselves creating the same content for rival streaming services, essentially competing against themselves, just like the kids in the movie.

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That these “movies” are less than an hour long, essentially the same as two episodes or the specials HBO Max was getting, only hammers home the absurdity of the deals, assuming Matt and Trey aren’t just making regular two-hour movies and chopping them in half to meet their obligations to the number of total movies they have to make by using less content to do so.

Both parts of “Streaming Wars” are the third of fourth of these movies, following the two halves of “Post COVID.” That all the specials and movies and new episodes continue to push the same storylines across multiple streaming services only adds to the confusion.

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The second part of “Streaming Wars” delves into a conspiracy involving PiPi’s Water Park and its urine-drenched attractions controlling all the water, representing the endgame of the same people making the same type of stuff for multiple streaming services to just compete against each other with it. This installment is also pretty vicious toward celebrities selling out to endorse anything, particularly crypto currency.

It also brings Randy’s seasons-long story arcs full circle as “South Park” pokes fun at itself for giving him such outlandish adventures.

In any event, “South Park” in all its forms remains as biting as it did when it premiered 25 years ago, and proves it still has plenty to say, which bodes well for future installments to appear on whichever streaming service Matt and Trey want to honor their contract for next.

Apple Picks Up Feature ‘Causeway’ Starring Jennifer Lawrence

Apple Original Films has picked up the feature film Causeway, starring and produced by Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence (Don’t Look Up, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), and directed by Lila Neugebauer (Broadway’s The Waverly Gallery, Maid, The Last Thing He Told Me ).

Hailing from A24, Causeway will make its global debut in theaters and on Apple TV+ later this year.

Causeway is an intimate portrait of a soldier struggling to adjust to her life after returning home to New Orleans.

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Emmy and Tony Award nominee Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta,” Bullet Train, “If Beale Street Could Talk”) co-stars alongside Lawrence.

Viaplay Expands to 5.5 Million Subs Following Global Expansion

Viaplay Group (formerly NENT Group) July 21 announced that its branded Scandinavian subscription streaming service — Viaplay — has topped more than 5.5 million paying subscribers through June 30 following expansion in select foreign markets, including the U.S. The service added 766,000 subs in the second quarter.

Viaplay, which has long-term distribution deals with Sony Pictures, MGM, NBCUniversal and Paramount Global Content Distribution, among others, launch service in the U.S. on Dec. 15, 2021. It plans to be operational in 16 countries by 2023.

CEO Anders Jensen said the SVOD platform is on target to reach 7.3 million subs by the end of the year. That includes 2.5 million international subs.

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The accelerated 24% year-over-year growth in the Viaplay subscriber base in the Nordics was driven by B2B partnerships and the new agreement with Tele2 in Sweden. Viaplay expects the rate of subscriber and sales growth to accelerate in the second half of the year following acquisition of the Premier League soccer rights in Norway.

Viaplay added 307,000 international subs in tQ2. The platform expects to add the Premier League rights in the Netherlands, Poland and the Baltics next month, and then launch Viaplay in the U.K. The B2B partnerships includes a new agreement with Canal+ in Poland.

“The strong performance of Viaplay in the Nordics was complemented by further growth in the international operations,” Jensen said in a statement.

Seasons of ‘Guilt,’ ‘Walter Presents’ Headed to PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in August

The second  season of “Guilt” from “Masterpiece Mystery” as well as “Charité” and “Redemption” from “Walter Presents” are among the international programs streaming on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in August.

The subscription rate for the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel is $5.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. 

Four episodes in season two of “Masterpiece Mystery: Guilt,” set in Edinburgh, Scotland, premiere Aug. 28. In the English crime drama, when disgraced lawyer Max McCall (Mark Bonnar) is released from prison, he finds himself entwined in a gripping new story with characters old and new, as they battle the consequences of their actions amidst shocking new developments. Emun Elliot returns as Kenny, and Phyllis Logan (“Downton Abbey”) joins the cast as Maggie.

“Charité”

Six episodes of the German drama “Walter Presents: Charité” debut Aug. 12. The series follows the staff of Berlin’s world-famous hospital where medical history is being made. When Ida is saved at the prestigious Charité hospital in 1888 Berlin, Germany, she has no money to cover the cost. In lieu of payment, she begins to work off her debt as a nurse. There she witnesses history being made as she gets an inside look into cures for tuberculosis and diphtheria and discovers her passion for medicine.

“Redemption”

Eight episodes of the Italian crime drama “Walter Presents: Redemption” premiere Aug. 26. In the series, Valerio is an ex-cop who has received devastating news that his estranged son Ettore has committed suicide. Unable to believe his son would do such a thing, Valerio begins to hunt for the truth behind his son’s death. As he pledges to obtain justice for his son, the investigation also proves to be Valerio’s last chance to come to terms with his troubled past, both as a man and a father.

Other titles coming to the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in August include “Walter Presents: Troubled Waters,” debuting Aug. 5; “Walter Presents: Blood Oath,” coming Aug. 19; and “The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family,” debuting Aug. 28.