Roku Channel Bows in the United Kingdom

Roku late April 6 announced the arrival of its ad-supported free The Roku Channel in the United Kingdom featuring more than 10,000 movies, TV episodes and documentaries. There are no subscriptions, fees or logins required to access The Roku Channel.

The AVOD platform is available to consumers with a Roku streaming player, Roku TV, Now TV device (manufactured by Roku) or Sky Q box.

The channel features a selection of popular global and British TV series, including titles such as “Homes Under the Hammer,” “The Commander,” “Ultimate Force,” “Fifth Gear,” “Skins” and “Britain’s Best Bakery,” alongside Hollywood movies such as Get Carter, The Wicker Man and Les Miserables.

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“With The Roku Channel we are making it easy for consumers to find great free entertainment,” Rob Holmes, VP of programming, said in a statement. “Ad-supported viewing is one of the fastest growing categories on our platform and we are excited to meet the consumer demand for free TV.”

The channel includes personalized recommendations and search capabilities on Roku and Now TV devices. Users will also find a special “kids & family” section, easy for children and parents to find age-appropriate content. There is also a character row, helping parents and kids find shows. Titles include “Bob the Builder,” “Teletubbies,” “Oddbods,” “Bernard,” “Ryan’s World Specials,” “Fireman Sam” and “Baby Einstein Classics.”

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The Roku Channel helps existing publishers on the Roku platform as well as new publishers to drive additional viewership of their content. The Roku Channel in the U.K. features more than 40 content partners, including All3Media International, EndemolShine Group, FilmRise, pocket.watch and DRG, plus Hollywood studios Lionsgate U.K. and Sony Pictures Television, among others.

U.K. Interest for Disney+ Growing Ahead of March 24 Launch

With Disney moving up by one week to March 24 the European launch of its branded subscription streaming video service, 14% of consumers in the United Kingdom say they will subscribe, while 58% say they are aware of platform, according to new data from market research firm GlobalWebIndex.

With its amusement parks, cruise business and box office shuttered, Disney is desperate to replicate the positive buzz surrounding the North American debut of Disney+, which saw 10 million signups in the first 24 hours. The service now has 30 million subs.

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“The recent global health situation will have many people — particularly families with kids who cannot attend school — considering a package which offers them all the family-friendly content to keep them entertained for lengthy stretches indoors,” Chase Buckle, trends manager at GlobalWebIndex, said in the report.

The firm found that 62% of respondents currently subscribe to Netflix, with 45% subscribing to Amazon Prime Video, 14% for Sky’s Now TV, while 18% said they are Sky Go customers. The latter will make Disney+ available to subs upon launch through a partnership agreement.

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“The recent partnership between Sky and Disney to offer Sky customers access to Disney+ content as part of their package is an interesting development,” Buckle said. “It could be a key moment in helping both Netflix and Disney+ retain a competitive share in users in the U.K., whilst proving lucrative to Sky as the one-stop shop for consumers’ streaming needs.”

 

Disney+ Ups Free SVOD Promotions in Germany and United Kingdom

With Disney set to launch its branded subscription streaming video service, Disney+, in Europe on March 24, the media giant has rolled out promotional offers with mobile carriers T-Mobile and O2 in Germany and the United Kingdom, respectively.

Unlike its 12-month free service offer to Verizon subscribers in the United States, Disney is offering six months of free service in Germany and the U.K. The service will launch with more than 500 movies, 350 TV series and a slate of 26 exclusive Disney+ Originals across its Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic brands.

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“We’re delighted to be working with Disney to bring these incredible shows and movies to our customers, demonstrating that there are more reasons than ever to join the U.K.’s No.1 network,” Mark Evans, CEO of O2, said in a statement.

Jan Koeppen, president of The Walt Disney Company EMEA, said the O2 and T-Mobile agreements represent a “new chapter” in the way Disney delivers its “timeless stories” to consumers.

“With the Disney announcement to enter the streaming business, it was clear to us that we had to make this attractive offer accessible to our customers,” said Dirk Wössner, board member for Deutsche Telekom’s German business.

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All MagentaMobil, MagentaZuhause and MagentaTV subs receive six months of Disney+ free, which normally costs €5.99 ($6.66) per month.

 

BritBox Co-Producing Original Series ‘The Pembrokeshire Murders’

BritBox, the U.S.-based subscription streaming video service co-owned by ITV and the BBC, is co-producing true crime drama “The Pembrokeshire Murders,” starring Luke Evans.

The series, written by Nick Stevens (“In Plain Sight”) and executive produced by Simon Heath (“Bodyguard,” “Line Of Duty”), revolves around unsolved murders in Pembrokeshire, Wales in the 1980s.

“With a strong cast and suspenseful writing, The Pembrokeshire Murders is a perfect combination of classic crime drama and modern storytelling that is a perfect fit for BritBox,” Soumya Sriraman, CEO of BritBox, said in a statement.

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Other BritBox originals include, “Mum,” starring Lesley Manville; “There She Goes,” starring David Tennant; “The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco” with Rachael Stirling and pending series, “The Mallorca Files” and “Sister Boniface.”

Launched in the U.S. in 2017 as competition to AMC Networks’ Acorn TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, BritBox has more than 650,000 subscribers. The platform launched in the United Kingdom last November.

The uptick in original programming comes as media reports say BritBox is struggling to secure subscribers following the initial free 30-day period.

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The £5.99 monthly service reportedly impressed just 1.5% of respondents of a survey conducted by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates to continue paying for the platform. The research company said that equated to about 380,000 households in the U.K., compared to 9.1 million for Netflix.

 

Lionsgate Licenses Box Office Titles to StarzPlay Streaming Platform in the U.K.

StarzPlay, the Lionsgate-owned international subscription streaming video service, Feb. 6 announced a theatrical output deal with corporate parent Lionsgate for split first pay streaming rights in the United Kingdom to the studio’s recently released and upcoming feature films.

Under the multiyear agreement, StarzPlay subs in the U.K. will be able to access Lionsgate original films Knives Out, Bombshell, which has earned three Academy Award nominations, and actioners Angel Has Fallen and Rambo: Last Blood along with Lionsgate UK’s The Personal History of David Copperfield and Military Wives. Lionsgate’s feature film slate grossed nearly $1.3 billion at the global box office in 2019.

“One of our top priorities is to supply StarzPlay with a deep roster of exciting Lionsgate content that complements their original programming and 3rd party acquisitions as they continue to launch their service around the world,” Jim Packer, president of worldwide television & digital distribution, said in a statement. “This agreement reflects a thoughtful and flexible approach to our windowing strategies, while building value through the continued combination of our IP creation and platform distribution capabilities.”

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Starz EVP of International Digital Networks Superna Kalle said the agreement “only scratches the surface” what the two companies can achieve working together.

“Offering consumers great content is key to growing our subscriber base as we continue our international rollout,” Kalle said.

The deal was negotiated by Lionsgate President of International Television & Digital Distribution Agapy Kapouranis, SVP and Head of Europe, Middle East and Africa Television Sales Nicky Wood, and VP of U.K., Turkey & Greece Television Sales Nazneen Sethi.

The Lionsgate movies join StarzPlay TV series “The Act,” “Pennyworth,” “Castle Rock” and “The Spanish Princess.”

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StarzPlay, launched in 2018, has expanded its streaming platform into 49 countries. It gives subscribers the opportunity to watch a highly curated portfolio of Starz premium content, films and television series from Lionsgate’s 17,000-title library, and an exciting line-up of third-party acquisitions, with future Starz Originals airing exclusively on StarzPlay day-and-date with the U.S.-based Starz OTT.

Sky, Disney+ Finalizing Direct Access Deal

Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky reportedly is in the final stages securing distribution of Disney’s branded subscription streaming video service, Disney+, which bows in Europe March 24.

The Sunday Telegraph, which cited sources familiar with the situation, reported the deal would be exclusive and similar to Sky’s distribution of Netflix and other third-party services.

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Netflix and Sky partnered in 2018, with the latter offering subscribers two tiers of Netflix service at separate price points.

Such pay-TV deals have been integral to Netflix expanding its subscriber footprints in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The partnerships include more than apps. Pay-TV subs are given access to Netflix programming on Sky’s homepage.

Partnership with Sky could help Disney+ gain a foothold in Europe as it chases its 60 million to 90 million subscriber goal by 2024, while enabling easier SVOD access for pay-TV customers.

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BASE: Packaged Media Helps Up 2019 U.K. Home Entertainment Retail Market 9.5%

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “the reports of [the death of packaged media] are greatly exaggerated” — in the United Kingdom anyway.

Sales of DVD, Blu-ray Disc, 4K UHD Blu-ray and electronic sellthrough movies and TV shows in the world’s No. 2 home entertainment market generated more than £891 million ($1.2 billion) in 2019, according to year-end data compiled by the British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE) and culled from statistics originating within the Official Charts Co. and Futuresource Consulting.

About 54% of the 2019 transactional revenue came from packaged media, underlining that where content ownership is concerned, the disc is still the preferred choice for many consumers. In fact, 42% of consumers who made a physical transaction within the past 12 months did so to add to a collection, 43% bought to give as a gift, and 46% bought so they could re-watch on multiple occasions.

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The top-selling disc in 2019 was Disney-owned 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Bohemian Rhapsody, with the Oscar winner selling more than 1.7 million units across physical and digital formats. The success of the Freddie Mercury biopic came on the heels of Fox’s 2018 chart topper, The Greatest Showman, which itself continued to perform strongly in 2019, selling an additional 468,000 copies across all formats (giving it total sales of more than 3.1 million copies). Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s A Star Is Born followed up with 702,000 copies sold.

“Consumer appetite for paid-for digital video continued its impressive momentum in 2019,” David Sidebottom, principal analyst of entertainment at Futuresource Consulting, said in a statement. “Both EST and [transactional VOD] grew once again, albeit at a lower rate than previously after an incredibly strong 2018 performance. SVOD goes from strength to strength, as the new wave of SVOD service heralds the next era of digital video, as we enter 2020.”

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Indeed, subscription streaming video — driven by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — helped grow overall home entertainment revenue 9.5% to £2.6 billion ($3.4 billion) from £2.37 billion ($3.1 billion) in 2018. SVOD accounted for nearly 66% of total revenue.

The picture is far from black and white, however, with nearly 40% of SVOD subscribers also transacting on physical or digital formats, as well as the 7.2 million consumers without over-the-top video subscriptions.

BASE said a proliferation of consumption models, including physical media and digital consumption at home and on the move, means that access to home entertainment content is more pervasive than ever before.

With SVOD now an entrenched layer of the home entertainment industry, it not only provides a diversity of choice for consumers, but also serves as a launchpad for high-quality original content that then goes on to reach an even wider audience via transactional formats.

“In a year that has seen consolidation between studios and independent distributors alike, the reality is that consumption habits are changing and are likely to continue to do so, with the debut of services like Disney+, Peacock and HBO Max all likely to further [drive] that change,” BASE CEO Liz Bales said.

The executive reiterated that content ownership — especially locally produced — remains of significant value to many consumers.

“Opportunity often comes from change, as evidenced by the U.K. production boom, and so we look to 2020 with excitement and a wealth of content and delivery well-equipped to meet evolving audience needs,” she said.

Blu-ray accounted for 27% of the disc market share, up from 24.3% in 2018. BASE contends the enduring appeal of disc is underscored by consumers’ investment in higher-end hardware and utilizing the Blu-ray and 4K UHD capabilities of games consoles.

The trade group said the average selling price across the Blu-ray format increased 4.7% to £14.88. Within the Blu-ray format, 4K UHD now represents 16.3% of the Blu-ray market, and a total of 4.3% of the overall disc market. There are more than 450 4K UHD Blu-ray titles available.

At the same time, EST grew 4.5% in sales volume and 3.5% retail value suggests that the digital revolution that has taken place in recent years is increasingly permeating the choices consumers are making for owned media too, with increasing numbers of consumers opting to grow their digital collections as well.

Among the Top 10 titles of 2019, digital purchase accounted for 33% of copies sold, with Bohemian Rhapsody and Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame selling in excess of half a million combined digital copies. All of the EST Top 10, including Toy Story 4 and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Venom sold in excess of 175,000 units each.

Among studios, Disney led with 18.6% market share across all formats, and driven by Toy Story 4 (827,000 copies), Mary Poppins Returns (751,000 copies), Ralph Breaks the Internet (360,000 copies), Aladdin (637,000 copies), The Lion King (679,000 copies) and Dumbo (392,000 copies).

Avengers: Endgame sold more than 1.33 million copies to land at second place on the combined chart; Captain Marvel (638,000 copies), and catalog title Avengers: Infinity War (351,000 copies) also featured in the best-selling titles of the year.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment continued its reign as the largest disc distributor based on volume driven by its studio slate, Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks and Entertainment One.

Rocketman came out on top as Paramount’s best-selling disc title in 2019; Danny Boyle’s Beatles-inspired Yesterday performed well; and even outside of its new release window, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again became Universal’s fourth-best-selling title in 2019. Returning franchises, including How To Train Your Dragon: Hidden World, Johnny English Strikes Again and The Secret Life of Pets 2 saw strong sales, while spinoffs and remakes, including Bumblebee and The Grinch, also boosted the studio’s market share.

Other top-selling titles included Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Warner), which sold more than 662,000 copies including boxed sets, while Venom (Sony) ended the year in eighth place on the combined chart with sales of 653,000.

In the TV content, Game of Thrones: The Complete Eighth Season (Warner) sold more than 192,000 copies in the final four weeks of the year, topping the TV title chart and landing in the top 10 chart for consumer spend on disc, and also helping the “Thrones” catalog secure the title of best-selling TV franchise of 2019.

“Chernobyl” (Acorn Video by RLJ Entertainment) saw sales of 116,000 units, making it the second-highest-selling TV title of the year. BBC Studios continued to see franchise success with “Peaky Blinders” as well as both the new and classic series of “Doctor Who,” the latter of which ranked as the second-highest-selling TV franchise of the year.

U.K. consumer fascination with the Royal Family continued by another year of strong sales for seasons one and two of “The Crown” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) at number four on the TV chart, as well as “The Crown” franchise placing at number four in the TV franchise chart based on volume.

This continued success of TV content launched and accessible via streaming and catch-up services signposts the considerable consumer appetite to own SVOD-driven series on physical formats, also demonstrated by the success of Good Omens (BBC Studios) which landed at number 11 on the TV chart.

Despite the successes of standout titles, the final six months of 2019 saw a significantly reduced release slate, mirroring the smaller theatrical releases seen at the start of the year. BASE expects the 2020 slate to help redress the imbalance from 2019.

A raft of family films, including Frozen 2 (Disney), Minions: The Rise of Gru (Universal), Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (Sony) and The Secret Garden (StudioCanal distributed by Elevation Sales) are set to entertain. The U.K.’s unwavering appetite for musical drama will be sated by Lionsgate’s Military Wives and Universal’s Cats; superhero spinoffs and sequels are also aplenty, starting the year with Joker (Warner), followed by Black Widow (Disney), Venom 2 (Sony) and Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner); Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and James Bond actioner No Time to Die (Universal).

“We know that audiences find enormous value in our content and the first half of 2020, packed with diverse new IP as well as must-see franchise titles, should serve as the perfect reminder that in a market of consumers hungry for content, there’s plenty of room for those able to adapt,” said Kevin Dersley, co-vice chair of BASE and managing director of Elevation Sales.

Amazon Prime Video Expands Live Sports Programming with BT TV Distribution Deal

Amazon Prime Video, unlike Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+ and Disney+, continues to embrace live sports programming. Prime streams NFL Thursday Night Football, in addition to select Major League Baseball games.

Now in the United Kingdom, Prime Video has struck a distribution deal with online BT TV service in time for Premier League soccer.

New and renewing BT TV subscribers will get free six-month access to Prime Video, which includes Amazon’s first live streaming of England’s top professional soccer league.

Prime Video, beginning Dec. 3, will live-stream 20 Premier League matches, in addition to the UEFA Champions League and Emirates FA Cup football.

Original Prime Video programming includes: “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “The Boys,” “The Grand Tour,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Carnival Row” and “Good Omens”.

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“With six months Amazon Prime Video on us offering access to even more Premier League matches, all in one place with integrated search and one simple bill — there’s never been a better time to be on BT TV,” Pete Oliver, managing director of marketing, BT Consumer, said in a statement. “Prime Video also offers great TV and film, so there really is something for everyone this festive season.”

Netflix Gets New ‘Aardman’ Movie

Netflix has secured exclusive rights to animated holiday movie Robin Robin from Aardman Studios, the production company responsible for Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit and Shawn the Sheep.

The 30-minute musical tells the story of a baby robin redbreast named Robin who, after hatching in a rubbish dump, is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent.

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“When we [got] the concept for Robin Robin, we knew instantly that this was a rare and special project that we had to make together” Sarah Cox, executive creative director at Aardman, said in a statement.

Robin Robin is currently in production at Aardman’s facility in the United Kingdom and will debut on Netflix for the holidays in 2020.

Aardman’s move to Netflix from U.K. distributor BBC reportedly involved money and global distribution.

“Netflix has the ability to buy for the whole world rather than just the U.K.,” director Sean Clarke told The Guardian. “Everything we’ve done [in the past] has been done with the BBC, but BBC budgets are under pressure. The last one we did was probably four or five years ago. The BBC would have loved to have taken Robin Robin. But they weren’t in a position to afford it.”

Alexi Wheeler, manager of kids and family international originals at Netflix, said the SVOD behemoth plans to introduce the Aardman brand to “new generations of families” around the world.

“The craft of stop motion animation through Robin Robin … warms the heart and can be enjoyed by the whole family,” Wheeler said.

PBS America Launching for Free in the U.K.

PBS America is set to debut for the first time on ad-supported Freeview in the United Kingdom, beginning Nov. 20.

The deal expands the PBS America channel reach to about 6 million homes, since launching in the U.K. in 2011. It is also available on Sky, Amazon Prime Video, Virgin, My5 and Freesat.

“For the first time since launch we will be available in all homes across the U.K.,” GM Richard Kingsbury said in a statement. “Our PBS supply line means that we are bringing our audience fresh stories whilst PBS values mean that the programming has the kind of depth and tone that many Freeview viewers appreciate.”

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PBS is home to Nova science and technology programming; “Frontline” news and investigative shows; in addition to The Vietnam War, from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.