DEG’s New ‘4 Cups of Coffee’ Mentoring Program

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group on June 5 kicked off a new mentoring program, “4 Cups of Coffee,” at the “Cocktails & Coffee” event at Sony  Studios in the Norman Lear Commissary. Under the program, the DEG’s Canon Club will match women in search of mentors with one of its advisors or other women executives for 30-minute career conversations, either in person or over the phone, up to four times per year. The Canon Club was established by DEG to provide women at all levels and in all sectors of digital media the opportunity to share knowledge and build their business networks. Last month, the DEG announced the appointment of 10 advisory board members to provide input on Canon Club event programming, rotate as host at speaker-driven salons and social/networking events, serve as founding mentors in the “4 Cups of Coffee” program, and judge the annual Hedy Lamarr Awards for Women in Entertainment and Technology, among other responsibilities. The advisory board is led by chair Robin Tarufelli of Deloitte, and vice chair Meri Hassouni of Giant Interactive. Other members are Loren Nielsen, DTS; Sofia Chang, HBO; Dametra Johnson-Marletti, Microsoft; Karin Gilford, Movies Anywhere; Andrea Downing, PBS Distribution; Cheryl Goodman, Sony Electronics; Nadia Haney, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment; and Darcy Antonellis, Vubiquity. Other Canon Club mentors include Beth Kearns, 20th Century Fox; Heathyr Jozel-Garcia, ABC Studios; Samara Winterfeld, DTS; Ken Williams, ETC@USC; Kejo Swingler, HBO; and Rachel Crang, Paramount Pictures.

EMA to Present OTT Conference July 16-17

The Entertainment Merchants Association will present an over-the-top channels market and conference “OTT_X” July 16-17 at the Universal Hilton in Universal City, Calif.

The invitation-only event for C-level leaders in the OTT segment of the entertainment industry will consist of one-on-one business meetings between content providers and ad-supported and subscription OTT channels, a half-day conference featuring industry analysts and thought leaders, a service and technology providers showcase, high-speed introductory meetings specifically designed for burgeoning OTT channels, and networking events, according to the EMA.

OTT_X will be co-located with, but separate from, the EMA’s Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, the annual get-together of the home video industry, according to the EMA.

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, will chair the confab.

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“Until now, there hasn’t been a set marketplace where buyers and sellers, providers, and distributors of OTT content can come together to network and connect in a meaningful way,” Opeka said in a statement. “That’s one of the driving forces that makes OTT_X such an important event. Through this dynamic gathering of industry leaders and pioneers, we have created an incredible opportunity where executives can explore potential partnerships with the outlets and providers that are best suited to their unique interests and needs. Our ultimate goal is that this will enable efficient and effective agreements to be made, while further expanding and revolutionizing the OTT landscape.”

“The OTT segment of the video industry is growing tremendously and needs a premier event to bring key players together to do business, share knowledge, and expand their contacts, and that is what EMA is providing with the OTT_X market and conference,” added Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO, in a statement.

The OTT_X steering committee consists of David Bloom (media journalist), Dean Cates (The Africa Channel), George Chung (JungoTV), Paul Colichman (Here Media), Gary Delfiner (Digital Sylvia), Pat McDonough (Mill Creek Entertainment), Colin Petrie-Norris (Xumo), Steve Raymond (Vubiquity), Carlos Sanchez (Legendary Entertainment) and Randy Wells (Magnolia Pictures).

Edelman Elected Treasurer, Gutierrez Secretary of EMA

Michele Edelman and Pedro E. Gutierrez Jr. have been elected to serve as treasurer and secretary, respectively, of the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Edelman, who had been serving as secretary, replaces Matt Hill of Amazon, who stepped down from the EMA Board due to a change in his responsibilities at Amazon.

Edelman is EVP of marketing and content strategy for Vubiquity.

Gutierrez is director of digital stores movies and TV business and category management at Microsoft.

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The other officers of EMA are chair Cameron Douglas of Fandango and vice chair Suyin Lim of PlayStation Video. Additionally, comScore’s Marty Graham and Google’s Bill Kotzman serve on the board’s executive committee.

FandangoNow’s Cameron Douglas Elected EMA Chairman

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment for Fandango’s on-demand video streaming service, FandangoNow, has been elected chairman of the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Douglas replaces Jonathan Zepp, head of worldwide movies and TV partnerships for Google Play.

Other officers include vice chair Suyin Lim, senior director, global content acquisition, Sony Interactive Entertainment; secretary Michele Edelman, EVP, marketing and content strategy, Vubiquity; and treasurer Matt Hill, head of vendor management, Amazon Prime Video.

EMA past chairmen Bob Geistman, EVP, sales and marketing for Ingram Entertainment, and Marty Graham, SVP, comScore, as well as Bill Kotzman, partner product manager, TV/film, Google/YouTube, will also serve on the association’s executive committee as at-large members.

Other members of the board are Amit Balan, head of marketing, Vudu; Lori Flynn, VP, content, Redbox Automated Retail; Ryan Gorman, director, merchandise buying, video games, Target; Pedro E. Gutierrez Jr., director, digital stores movies and TV business and category management, Microsoft; Steve Harkins, VP and GM, Baker & Taylor; Bill Miller, VP and divisional merchandise manager, DVD, Blu-ray, and Games, Trans World Entertainment; Jason Peterson, CEO, ContentBridge Systems; and Mark Vrieling, CEO, ScreenPlay Entertainment.

“In the ever-changing world of home entertainment retailing, we need an organized industry association more than ever,” said Douglas in a statement. “EMA collectively advocates for anyone involved in the consumer delivery of content, promotes and encourages adoption of standards, and establishes trade- and consumer-focused best practices. I am proud to devote my time to an organization so important to our industry.”

“The companies on EMA’s Board of Directors represent the spectrum of the home entertainment industry, including video and video games, physical and digital, and sellthrough, rental, and streaming,” said Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO, in a statement. “These directors personify the diversity of products and business models in our industry and will help ensure that the industry’s trade association meets the needs of all market segments in our incredibly diverse industry.”

Summit Explores OTT’s Promise and Pitfalls

The opportunities and pitfalls of the over-the-top market were the leading subjects of the OTT & Video Distribution Summit taking place Aug. 2 in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Consumers are cutting the cord with their cable companies and moving to OTT because of its superior value, including better choice and lower cost.

“Consumers have basically said, ‘We’re paying too much. I don’t want to watch all those channels,’” said panelist Mickey Alpert, president and CEO, Merisco Solutions, and former EVP at Cablevision.

“Cable companies are literally the most hated companies in America,” said keynote speaker Jeff Binder, EVP, home and entertainment, T-Mobile U.S., because they are regional monopolies and don’t have to cater to customers.

In addition to OTT services peeling away video subscribers, another threat to cable is the coming 5G technology, which will be a “game-changing technology,” he said. Cable companies that have been able to lean on broadband fees, even as cord cutters have eschewed buying a video subscription, may find customers can get rid of broadband with 5G.

“There are changes around connectivity that are coming that are probably a bigger story in some ways I think than the story about how the content industry is changing,” Binder said.

“4G changed the way all of you use your phone; 5G is going to change the way all of us use our home as well as our phone,” he said.

For now, though, it’s the chance to get the content they want at a lower price that is drawing consumers to OTT services.

“Customers value choice and flexibility,” said panelist Kathy Payne, head of content acquisition management, Amazon Channels. “At Amazon, we’ve decided we’d like to offer channels a la carte.”

Amazon Channels aggregates such OTT subscription services as HBO, Showtime and Starz. There are more than 150 channels offered in the United States, Payne said, not to mention the hundreds available internationally.

“We’ve heard from customers loud and clear that they like the option to just buy channels a la carte,” she said. “It’s really easy to come in and pick what they want.”

In addition to a la carte there are bundled OTT services that are making a go of it, such as Philo, which started in colleges. “It’s a TV package that hasn’t really been available before. [It’s a service] without paying this huge amount for sports,” noted keynoter Andrew McCollum, Philo CEO.

There are also ad-supported services that offer programming to consumers for free. Roku Channel has aggregated some of those. Roku’s Seth Walters, VP, demand partnerships, called it “our sandbox for creating our most premium ad-supported service on Roku.”

Making a go of it as a new OTT service is a challenge. The number of domestic OTT services has reached more than 200, with the three top players dominating, noted Brett Sappington, senior director of research, Parks Associates.

“It’s Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and everybody else,” he said, adding there is a second tier of services, such as HBO, Showtime, Starz and CBS, that range from 1 million to 5 million subscribers.

A smaller service must differentiate itself and appeal to a niche, rather than try to compete with the big pocketed broad services offered by Netflix and others, he said.

“If you cannot specifically identify who your customers are then you’re probably not going to be successful,” he said.

Offering exclusive or new content helps, as consumers rank new release or original content as most important, according to Parks research.

Many OTT services overlook marketing, and that’s a mistake, Sappington said. Startups “don’t realize the marketing costs involved,” he said.

He praised the marketing efforts of independent film streaming service Fandor, mentioned in a panel at the summit. Panelist Felice Oper, COO of Fandor, said they had sold 290,000 subscriptions through a Costco bundle with subscription theater ticket service MoviePass in just two and a half months.

“It was a very successful transaction,” Oper said. “We’re still working with Costco.”

Keynoter Darcy Antonellis, of Amdocs-owned Vubiquity, talked about the international reach of the OTT business and the services her company supplies it, noting her team is often on a plane.

“We all have to be thinking global,” she said.

“It’s all about understanding where the audiences are,” she added. “It’s an on-demand world, but it has to be in a form and a language for a particular culture.”

She offered an anecdote about a viewing spike at 3 p.m. that they found involved parents waiting for their kids to get out of school. She said the industry must start to understand how to service consumers when and where they need entertainment.

A prominent woman in the industry, she also addressed the dearth of women in the entertainment and technology business. Having mentored girls 8-13, she noticed, “You could almost set your watch, because of peer pressure, when they were gonna shut off STEM [science, technology, engineering and math].”

“It’s a real challenge for our country,” she said. “You don’t want any room as smart as one brain, and you don’t want any room as smart as a collection of similar brains.”

Vubiquity Inks Deal With Verizon

Vubiquity, a provider of content services and media technology solutions, has inked a deal with Verizon to provide the processing and packaging of Verizon’s video on-demand and pay-per-view portfolio across the Fios multiscreen platform.

Vubiquity is owned by Amdocs.

The deal continues to include a content licensing component, which is an extension of the prior relationship, according to an Amdocs press release.

“Verizon remains vigorously focused on making content personal with video that can go anywhere to meet the demands of even the most discerning customers,” said Heather McDavitt, VP of Verizon Fios Consumer Products.

“We are pleased to expand our partnership with Verizon as they continue to innovate for consumers across the complex and transformative media landscape,” said Darcy Antonellis, head of the Amdocs Media Division, in a statement.

As the bridge to more than 630 content owners, Vubiquity will be supplementing Verizon’s expansive collection of assets across existing and future formats, including but not limited to 4K and high dynamic range, for a variety of business models, including TV on-demand, rental, PPV and electronic sellthrough, according to the release.

“This will allow Verizon’s customers to watch a robust selection of films and TV shows from major blockbusters to smaller independent films, as well as television series and digital assets from more than 100 media brands on any device,” according to the release.

Amdocs to Acquire Vubiquity

Amdocs, a provider of solutions to communications and media companies, Jan. 30 announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Vubiquity, a provider of premium content services and technology solutions, for approximately $224 million in cash.

The deal is expected to be completed before the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2018.

Vubiquity CEO Darcy Antonellis will, upon completion of the deal, be joining Amdocs as head of the Amdocs Media Division.

The companies plan to deliver enhanced digital content capabilities for network operators, video distributors, OTT companies, content owners and content producers, according to the Amdocs release.

The combination of Vubiquity’s expertise across the content ecosystem and Amdocs’ proven, scalable solutions enables customers to quickly improve entertainment offerings and maximize revenues while gaining increased customer insights from content consumption, according to the release.

“This acquisition uniquely positions Amdocs at the center of increased convergence across the content community and video distributors including major OTT providers,” said Eli Gelman, Amdocs president and CEO. “Our joint offerings address the media and entertainment industry’s challenge in balancing the incredible growth of content and the many ways to consume content with making programming easier, faster to deliver and ultimately watch, while also delivering profits.”

“Vubiquity has successfully been connecting content owners and distributors across many diverse platforms and evolving business models at the core of its support to the media community,” Antonellis said. “Our capabilities, coupled with Amdocs’ global scale and rich set of complementary solutions around monetization, analytics and personalized customer experience will be truly unique, allowing us to deliver to a larger set of customers while solving key industry challenges. This includes helping video distributors deliver additional profitable offerings, as well as enabling content owners to focus on content creation and maximizing licensing revenues.”

Amdocs and Vubiquity can deliver unparalleled cloud solutions using a modern modular micro-services architecture across all aspects of delivery and user experience, including video acquisition, processing, consumer engagement and monetization, the release stated.

Vubiquity, based in Los Angeles, has worked with more than 600 leading film studios, television networks, and independent producers. Vubiquity has an international footprint in 121 countries and manages a 150,000-plus asset library, providing superior quality and high volumes of assets for predictable day and date delivery.