WarnerMedia Hires First Diversity/Inclusion Officer

WarnerMedia June 12 announced the hiring of Christy Haubegger as the media company’s first chief enterprise inclusion officer.

Haubegger, who spent 14 years at Creative Artists Agency, reports directly to CEO John Stankey and works with senior management to drive business growth through strategic investment in diverse audiences and to ensure the organization’s workforce is representative of the markets it serves.

Christy Haubegger

“As we transform our businesses and our culture, we see a unique opportunity to generate outsize growth by delivering world-class content that engages underserved audiences,” Stankey said in a statement. “To realize that opportunity we must make strategic investments, build a more representative workforce, and create a truly inclusive culture.”

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Created with AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, WarnerMedia says it want to recognize diversity and inclusion as business imperatives.

The company claims to use its best efforts to ensure diverse actors and crew members are considered for film, television and other projects, and to work with directors and producers who also seek to promote greater diversity and inclusion in the media and entertainment industry.

At CAA, Haubegger spearheaded representation of women and people of color, and helped transformed the diversity of the workforce.

The talent agency has long focused on innovation through diversity and implemented strategies to create sustainable change within the agency and beyond.

Under Haubegger’s leadership, CAA launched “CAA Amplify,” an invitation-only annual event convening high-level multicultural artists and leaders, as well as the industry’s first searchable database of television writers of color.

During her tenure, the agency grew its diverse roster more than 1400% and according to USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the agency now represents the largest share of female directors and African- American directors in the motion picture business.

“Christy Haubegger is one of a kind. She is a talented and visionary leader who made a transformational impact on the agency throughout her tenure,” said CAA president Richard Lovett. “She influenced our business and culture, and established CAA as a leader in the promotion of inclusion, creating initiatives that support and advance underrepresented voices. We remain steadfast in our commitment to moving our industry forward and are thrilled to continue working collaboratively with Christy in her new role.”

Studios, Distributors, EMA Team Up on Massive Digital Movie Rental Promotion

A consortium of studios and key digital retailers, cable companies and satellite providers is sponsoring a digital rental movie sale May 31 through June 3 in which consumers can stream up to 250 different movies at prices as low as $2.99 for recent releases and 99 cents for older, catalog titles.

The “Ultimate Movie Weekend” initiative, led by the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), is believed to be the first time such a coordinated promotion has been undertaken in the United States.

The goal, according to EMA SVP Sean Bersell, is to “introduce consumers who haven’t rented digitally previously to the value and convenience of digital rental, and to entice consumers who haven’t rented digital recently to re-engage.”

The campaign will offer recent releases and catalog movies from Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Participating digital retailers and cable and satellite companies include Altice USA’s Optimum and Suddenlink TV, Amazon Prime Video, the Apple TV app and iTunes, Atlantic Broadband, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Cox, DIRECTV, DISH, FandangoNOW, Frontier Communications, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, PlayStation Store, Redbox On Demand, U-Verse, and Vudu.

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The tagline for the Ultimate Movie Weekend is “Rent the Biggest Movies for Less.” Participating retailers will offer between 50 and 250 movies at discounted prices as low as $2.99 for recent releases and $0.99 for catalog movies. The Ultimate Movie Weekend sale includes some of the latest releases that are not yet available on subscription video services. Among the movies in the promotion are A Star Is Born (2018), Bumblebee, Fifty Shades of Grey, First Man, Forrest Gump, The Hunger Games, Robin Hood (2018), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Step Brothers, and Wonder Woman.

The promotional campaign will be supported by a significant media buy, social media marketing, direct-to-consumer outreach, and a dedicated website, www.ultimatemovieweekend.com. The Ultimate Movie Weekend sale is patterned after similar successful efforts last year in Australia, France and the U.K.

“While the popularity of digital movie rentals continues to grow, there is the opportunity to introduce even more consumers to the value and convenience of digital rental, so the industry has come together to offer a compelling promotion that we hope will attract new customers and remind infrequent digital renters of this option,” said EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher. “Plus, with the start of the summer, which is traditionally a heavy movie-viewing season, it’s a good time to remind consumers of the pleasure of getting together with family and friends for a movie night.”

According to industry statistics, in the first quarter of 2019, digital rental generated $564 million in consumer spending, which accounted for approximately 10% of all home entertainment consumer spending in the quarter.

“This is the first effort of its kind in the U.S., and the breadth of participants demonstrates that the home entertainment industry is making it a priority to communicate the value proposition of digital rentals to consumers,” said Richard Smith, SVP, domestic digital sales, for Paramount Pictures and chair of EMA’s Ultimate Movie Weekend planning committee. “We see significant potential to grow this sector of the industry, and in doing so grow the overall home entertainment market.”

“Our studio partners have assembled a fantastic slate of movies, many unavailable on subscription services, which FandangoNow will offer at compelling prices,” added Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment at Fandango and chair of the EMA. “Convenience and value have always been the hallmark of home entertainment, and these great movies at discounted prices draws attention to the ease and affordability of renting digitally.”

WarnerMedia Entertainment to Boycott Georgia Should Anti-Abortion Ban Become Law

WarnerMedia Entertainment May 30 joined Disney and Netflix in pledging to withdraw movie and TV show productions from Georgia should the state’s new anti-abortion law go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Gov. Brian Kemp May 8 signed legislation outlawing women from terminating their pregnancy six weeks after becoming pregnant. Georgia currently bans abortions after 20 weeks.

“We operate and produce work in many states and within many countries at any given time and while that doesn’t mean we agree with every position taken by a state or a country and their leaders, we do respect due process,” WarnerMedia said in a media statement. “We will watch the situation closely and if the new law holds, we will reconsider Georgia as the home of any new productions. As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine where and how to shoot any given project.”

In addition to CNN and Turner in Atlanta, WarnerMedia has significant content production in Georgia, which has been home to a hotbed of film and TV production for years due to generous tax incentives.

AT&T Bringing 5G to Warner Bros. Studio Lot

Next-generation 5G mobile wireless connectivity may be more hype than reality at the moment, but that isn’t stopping AT&T from showcasing the technology next month at Warner Bros. in Los Angeles.

AT&T, which owns Warner Bros.’ operating unit WarnerMedia Entertainment, will bring a collection of 5G “experiences and demonstrations,” as well as an industry “thought leaders” to the studio for AT&T Shape, taking place June 22-23.

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AT&T will deploy 5G at the confab, which will ultimately become a permanent fixture and cover the entire Warner Bros. studio facility. Once operational, the mobile 5G connectivity will have the ability to maximize technical efficiencies and give content creators more flexibility to enhance the production experience.

“Partnering with AT&T to implement permanent 5G on the lot will allow Warner Bros. and our production partners the opportunity to explore all 5G has to offer,” Jon Gilbert, president, worldwide studio facilities, Warner Bros., said in a statement.

The interactive exhibits at Shape are designed to let attendees experience the responsiveness and speed of 5G, including the future of road-based travel in an IoT-enabled Airstream Classic travel trailer with “smart control technology” that AT&T is connecting over 5G.

Attendees will also see video gaming on 5G mobile devices, experience immersive entertainment with volumetric video and virtual reality content from Warner Bros.

“Developers, creators and media makers will see 5G technology and entertainment in new ways,” said David Christopher, president of AT&T mobility and entertainment. “By bringing 5G to Warner Bros., and other WarnerMedia properties in the future, we hope to inspire the next generation of creators to unlock the [network’s] full potential.”

Kevin Brockman Named Global Communications Boss at WarnerMedia Entertainment

WarnerMedia Entertainment has named longtime Disney executive Kevin Brockman EVP of global communications, reporting to chairman Robert Greenblatt in New York.

Brockman will oversee all corporate and content communications initiatives worldwide across the company’s portfolio of networks and brands including HBO, Cinemax, TBS, TNT and truTV as well as the upcoming WarnerMedia direct-to-consumer streaming service.

Dee Dee Myers handles communications for Warner Bros, while Allison Gollust handles live news and sports and Oliver Herrgesell covers ad sales and distribution.

At Disney, Brockman was responsible for all worldwide communications efforts on behalf of ABC Studios, ABC Entertainment, ABC News, ABC-owned television stations, Freeform and Disney Channels Worldwide. He also helped launch UPN (United-Paramount Network) and began his career in television at Fox.

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“With more than 20 years of communications experience at the top of the television industry, Kevin has a unique skill for overseeing multiple brands that connect audiences of all ages to the entertainment that resonates with them,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

Brockman’s new role represents WarnerMedia’s latest step toward positioning its roster of world-class creative talent, leading portfolio of brands and library of intellectual property for future growth.

In addition to his 22-year tenure at Disney, Brockman is known for his work on the board of 2NDStage, a non-profit theater group dedicated to finding new American playwrights.

He previously served for two years as chairman of TPEC, the Television Publicity Executives Committee, and recently completed an 11-year board term with GLSEN, the nation’s leading non-profit education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students, especially those targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

‘The Shining’ to Terrify in 4K UHD Oct. 1 From Warner

Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic The Shining will come out on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digital Oct. 1 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The 4K remastering, done using a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging, is of Kubrick’s original 144 minute version of the film which premiered in the United States May 23, 1980. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg and Kubrick’s former personal assistant  Leon Vitali worked closely with the team at Warner Bros. during the mastering process. May 17 the restored 4K version of the film will be screened at The Cannes Film Festival.

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The Shining, based on the Stephen King novel, was directed and produced by Kubrick, who wrote the screenplay with Diane Johnson. It stars Jack Nicholson in an iconic role as Jack Torrance, Shelley Duval as Wendy Torrance, Scatman Crothers as Dick Halloran, and Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance. In the film, Jack Torrance becomes the winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy and his son Danny, who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing goes nowhere and Danny’s visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.

In 2018, The Shining was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  The film ranked 29th on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills list, and Jack Torrance was named the 25th greatest villain on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains list.  Additionally, the quote “Here’s Johnny” from the film was ranked 68th on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes list.

The Shining Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the feature film in 4K with HDR, a Blu-ray disc with the film in high definition and the special features in high definition, and a digital version of the movie. Fans can also own The Shining in 4K Ultra HD via purchase from select digital retailers.

The Ultra HD Blu-ray of The Shining will include more than three hours of previously released special features, including:

  • audio commentary by Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter;
  • “Video from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining”;
  • “The Visions of Stanley Kubrick,” a detailed look at one of cinema’s greatest visual storytellers and his unique ability to move audiences through the magic of unforgettable images;
  • “The Making of The Shining,” a cinema verité documentary offering a rare glimpse into the directing style of Kubrick as he interacts with Nicholson, Duvall and others;
  • “Wendy Carlos, Composer,” in which composer Wendy Carlos reflects on working with Kubrick and developing music scores for The Shiningand A Clockwork Orange.

WarnerMedia Consolidates Home Entertainment Distribution

WarnerMedia on May 8 announced the transfer of HBO Enterprises and HBO Home Entertainment, home to the enormously popular “Game of Thrones” franchise, to Warner Bros.

The distribution of the US Turner Originals also is part of this realignment.

Jeffrey Schlesinger, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution, will take leadership responsibility for activities of HBO Enterprises and the distribution of Turner content produced in the United States, according to a WarnerMedia news release.

HBO Home Entertainment will transfer to Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment and Games under the leadership of its president, Jim Wuthrich.

“Bringing these businesses all under one roof means we improve cooperation and create scale,” Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer at WarnerMedia, said in the release. “Acting as one will strengthen our position in an increasingly challenging marketplace.”

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Jim Wuthrich

Schlesinger added, “For the first time at our company, the diverse and unparalleled portfolio of genre-defining new and library programming created by HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner will be distributed globally by one group. This structure will enable us to speak with one voice, as we create new and innovative ways to license our top-quality programming to networks, channels and services globally, helping them grow their audiences and subscriber bases.”

Wuthrich, whose full title is president, Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment and Games, said, “While we have had a strategic alliance with HBO in the past that involved physical product distribution, we are now excited to welcome the digital transactional sales and marketing teams into the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment family. We look forward to sharing their iconic and acclaimed original programming with home entertainment audiences worldwide.”

Warner Archive Celebrates 10th Anniversary

The Warner Archive Collection, the manufacture-on-demand arm of Warner’s home video unit, last month celebrated its 10th anniversary — but its reach spans decades.

Since its first collection of 150 titles released in March of 2009, Warner Archive has navigated a host of changes in home entertainment business models and formats while releasing catalog titles on MOD from every decade and for every taste.

“Whether it’s Bogart and Bacall or whether its Hitchcock or Hammer horror films or Busby Berkeley films, we’re releasing something for everyone,” said George Feltenstein, SVP of theatrical catalog marketing at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, who heads up the unit.

It’s also generated well in excess of $100 million in revenue for the studio over the years.

Manufacturing on demand is a process by which a disc is created when a consumer orders it, offering consumers access to titles that don’t have the kind of demand that supports a traditional pressing.

The kernel of the idea for its use in home video entertainment came from Warner’s Jim Wuthrich (currently president of worldwide home entertainment and games), Feltenstein recalled.

Feltenstein had been working on a joint venture with Rhino Records for soundtracks in 2002 and 2003 under a label called Handmade. “They would produce 2,500 units of albums that were aimed at collectors, and when they were sold out, they were sold out,” he said. “And it was a profitable way of getting niche content out to the consumer. You could only buy it online.

“So Jim saw the CDs in my hand and he asked me about them, and I explained the business model, and he said, ‘That’s fascinating. I have to figure out a way that we can get our deeper library titles out on DVD.’”

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MOD turned out to be the ticket, and several years later, with the help of Allied Vaughn, Warner Archive on March 23, 2009, released its first MOD collection.

“To my knowledge, [MOD] didn’t exist in our world, meaning the Hollywood studio world,” Feltenstein said. “We were the first studio to do this. Nobody had ever done it before.”

That first collection of 150 titles on DVD included some starring the legendary Debbie Reynolds, a “dear friend” of Feltenstein’s.

“On the morning of the 23rd, Debbie Reynolds was in New York on ‘The Today Show’ announcing the launch of the Warner Archive Collection,” Feltenstein said.

“She explained what it was and that some of her films were part of the initial offering. And then that night I did something that I used to do every year and had done for about 11 or 12 years at that time. We would have a yearly chat on the Home Theater Forum, which was and still is a fan site.”

During the chat, Feltenstein tried to allay any fears about the quality of the MOD discs. Warner Archive also had been careful to provide the proper aspect ratio (no pan-and-scan cutting out part of the picture).

“People were very excited, but to be fair there was also some trepidation,” he said. “There was concern about that fact that these were manufactured on demand, and people thought that DVD-Rs were not … they thought that manufactured on demand was similar to burning a disc on your computer, and it’s just not. It’s a fuller technology. The DVD-Rs and the process we went through was a much higher quality, so eventually — and it took a long time — eventually we gained consumer confidence, and now that it’s been 10 years, I’ve noticed people posting on the sites, ‘I have Warner Archive discs that are nine, 10 years old, and I’ve had no problems with them.’”

Those chats would soon lead to podcasts, all available on iTunes, and appearances at such fan confabs as Wondercon and Comic-con at which Feltenstein and staff would talk about upcoming releases and interview stars and directors from the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond.

Those first 150 releases included such classic features as Mr. Lucky with Cary Grant and Laraine Day, The Enchanted Cottage with Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire, Abe Lincoln in Illinois with Raymond Massey, Edison the Man with Spencer Tracy, and Private Lives with Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery, but also included more recent films such as Kaleidoscope with Warren Beatty, Oxford Blues with Rob Lowe and Wisdom with Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore.

The collection included “a lot of really good films that just hadn’t made their way to DVD and when you’re dealing with the wonderful incredible library that we’re so blessed to have, you know it’s an embarrassment of riches, and the response was tremendous,” Feltenstein said.

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As the catalog business waned at traditional retailers, Warner Archive was able to offer more and more classic titles via MOD — assisted by the technology to offer dual-sided discs and eventually Blu-ray Disc.

The kind of content expanded as well, beyond feature films.

“We have 3,250 releases on our docket as of now,” Feltenstein said. “We started with feature films only. We expanded into made for television movies, and we eventually were able to start adding television series.”

Warner Archive’s quest for more, deep library content also pushed preservation at the studio.

“Eventually we got to the point where we were confronted with the fact that masters on the shelf were starting to run out, that we would need to start creating new masters if we wanted to maintain our quality standard, and our standard of making sure we had original aspect ratio, and so forth,” Feltenstein noted.

Thus, a side product of Warner Archive was preservation of content that could have languished and deteriorated on the shelf.

“Our first remastered releases came out in June of 2010, basically 15 months after launch,” he said.

Eventually, most of the other studios caught on to MOD, but none had a unit like Warner Archive, Feltestein said.

“I like to refer to it as the boutique within the behemoth,” he said. “We have a very small dedicated staff, very engaged with consumers.”

Those consumers add up to a profitable business for Warner.

“It may be a smaller group of people, but there is still a rabid fan base out there for all sorts of content where people want to own things, and we’re trying to take advantage of that in a profitable way, listening to fans, watching sales,” Feltenstein said.

NATO Boss Chides Press for Streaming Video Focus

NEWS ANALYSIS — Helen Mirren may have gotten the most attention at this week’s CinemaCon confab in Las Vegas for her snarky, “I love Netflix, but f*** Netflix,” comment.

But for John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Operators, media attention to over-the-top video and home entertainment is no laughing matter. Fithian reportedly told reporters that continued attention to streaming undermines success at the global box office, which topped $41.7 billion in 2018 – up 32% since 2010.

NATO president John Fithian

“There’s no doubt that home entertainment consumption moves toward streaming [from disc] more with each passing day,” Fithian told attendees. “How does any given movie stand out among endless choices in the home? A robust theatrical release provides a level of prestige that cannot be replicated.”

He cited a study conducted by Ernst & Young that found consumers who frequent movie theaters consume more streaming video in the home.

“Streaming and theatrical don’t just co-exist, they reinforce each other,” Fithian said.

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Of course the executive was channeling Netflix, which didn’t attend CinemaCon, but whose looming industry presence continues to undermine the theatrical window releasing movies into streaming channels concurrent with any cinema exhibition.

The practice has roiled exhibitors in the U.S. and France, which have boycotted Netflix movies and challenged its award nominations, notably at the Cannes Film Festival. Regardless, the Motion Picture Association of America recently accepted Netflix among its studio members.

Indeed, Netflix is hardly the only streaming threat. With Disney, WarnerMedia and Comcast set to launch branded SVOD platforms, direct-to-consumer distribution and original content remains a threat — a reality Disney CEO Bob Iger has taken steps to address by insisting the perennial domestic box office leader will remain faithful to the theatrical window.

“We have a studio that is doing extremely well and a [release window] formula that is serving us really well in terms of its bottom line,” Iger said on last November’s fiscal call.

With Kevin Tsujihara out at Warner Bros., efforts to release studio films early into homes through premium VOD are likely over.

Tsujihara, who was forced out following a sex scandal, was initially promoted to the chairman position in large part because of his expertise advocating for alternative distribution channels while heading Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Four Brits Sentenced to Multiyear Jail Terms for Illegally Streaming Hollywood Movies

Four British men have been sentenced a combined 4.5 years jail time for operating a website that afforded users illegal access to Hollywood movies, including Lionsgate U.K.’s The Expendables 3, before they were available in theatres.

Prosecutors say the group – which included Steven Pegram (40), Mark Rollin (37), Paul Taylor (54), and Alan Stephenson (42) — defrauded Lionsgate, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and other studios of more than $11 million in combined box office revenue, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Specifically, the group hacked Lionsgate’s U.K. server in 2014 through a third-party cloud-based content management service, accessing The Expendables 3 DVD screener and other content and then posting the title on their file-sharing website, TheFoundry.name.

Lionsgate estimates it lost about $2 million on the scheme. Other hacked titles included Warner Bros.’ Godzilla and 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past — the two movies suffering more than $5 million in lost revenue.

“These defendants set up and ran a site which allowed users to download films for free via BitTorrent, including the Expendables 3 before its release in the cinema,”Leigh Webber, with the specialist fraud division of the U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service, said in a statement.“All of them had a clear knowledge of what the site was used for and were well aware they were breaching the copyright of the production companies.”

The Expendables 3, the last installment in Sylvester Stallone’s ensemble action franchise, resulted in numerous litigation settlements between Lionsgate and pirate sites, including Hulkfile, Played.to, LimeTorrents, Dotsemper and Swankshare.