WarnerMedia Kids & Family Adds Preschool Fare on Pending Cartoonito Platform

WarnerMedia Kids & Family July 27 announced the expansion of its Cartoonito’s preschool slate with recently greenlit animated series “Dylan,” as well as three animated acquisitions: “Bing,” “Odo,” and “Pocoyo”. The growing roster joins previously announced series “Batwheels,” “Little Ellen,” multiple forthcoming projects from best-selling children’s book author Mo Willems, and more, that will be available on the upcoming preschool programming block launching this fall on HBO Max and Cartoon Network.

Cartoonito was announced at the WarnerMedia Kids & Family Upfront earlier this year and is WarnerMedia’s biggest commitment to preschool in 100 years. Launching later this year on HBO Max and CartoonNetwork, Cartoonito offers a modern approach to preschool programming with its proprietary educational framework, Humancentric Learning, that aims to support every child’s humanness by celebrating their unique selves.

All Cartoonito preschool content will align with Humancentric Learning and Cartoon Network’s refreshed brand promise, Redraw Your World, which fosters self-expression and creativity.

New series include:

“Dylan” –Based on the book series by bestselling illustrator/author Guy Parker-Rees, Dylan is a CG animated interactive comedy about a highly imaginative, multi-colored striped dog who is eager to play pretend every career, from a train conductor to a nurse to an astronaut. With just some basic props and some great friends, Dylan transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, jumping feet first into every adventure that comes his way. Fueled by creativity, Dylan models best of play and improv leading to wildly original escapades that empower and encourage kids to trust their hearts, imaginations and each other. A CBC original series, Dylan is developed by Toronto-based 9 Story Media Group and produced by 9 Story’s award-winning, Ireland-based animation studio Brown Bag Films.

“Bing” celebrates the joyful, messy reality of preschool life and finds the big stories in the little moments. Bing is a lovable, authentic preschooler, who lives very much in the present moment. Each moment brings new experiences for Bing, which often lead to a bump, spillage or temporary disappointment. By Bing’s side, through it all, is Flop, whose patience and encouragement help Bing, along with his audience, to experience and learn from life’s unpredictable moments. Produced by Acamar Films, in association with Brown Bag Films, Bing has achieved iconic success since it launched in the UK in 2014, winning the International Emmy for Best Children’s Program, the Writer’s Guild Award for Best Writing in a Children’s Program, and a BAFTA nomination for Best Children’s Program. Bing is broadcast in 130 territories worldwide and was originally adapted for television by Acamar Films from the bestselling preschool books written and illustrated by Ted Dewan.

Created by Colin Williams and produced by Sixteen South and Letko, “Odo” is a charming and warm-hearted preschool animated series that welcomes kids ages three to five to a world full of possibilities. Although he is one of the littlest campers at the Forest Camp for Young Birds, Odo the owl knows he can do absolutely anything that he sets his mind to. With gender-neutral appeal, Odo also deals with important themes such as immigration, racism, respect for others and shows kids how to deal with setbacks in a meaningful way while promoting the development of self-efficacy and encouraging kids to believe in themselves.

“Pocoyo” is a preschool series created and produced by Zinkia Entertainment.  It tells the story of a curious little boy discovering the world around him, and accompanied by his best friends: Pato, Elly, Sleepy Bird and a whole cast of surprising and delightful characters.  Over the years, Pocoyo has been recognized with more than 40 international awards, including a BAFTA for the Best Preschool Series and the Annecy Crystal.

HBO and HBO Max Add 2.8 Million Combined Q2 Subs

AT&T July 22 announced that its WarnerMedia subscription streaming video service, HBO Max, and HBO pay-TV channel added 2.8 million combined subscribers in the second quarter (ended June 30).

The platforms ended the period with 47 million combined subs, a gain of 10.7 million subs over the past year, and 67.5 million globally, up 12 million.

WarnerMedia ended the quarter with more than 12 million standalone HBO Max subscribers in the United States and 31.5 million transitioned subs from HBO pay-TV. HBO ended the quarter with 32,000 U.S. pay-TV subs and 3.5 million commercial subs — the former reflecting increased migration of subscribers from linear TV to streaming.

The company’s 20.5 million international Max and HBO subs consist of domestic and international, and exclude free trials, basic and Cinemax subscribers.

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AT&T now expects to generate upwards of 73 million global HBO Max/HBO subscribers by the end of this year. Max launched nationwide May 27, 2020.

Subscription revenue increased 21.3% to $4 billion, primarily reflecting the 38.5% growth of direct-to-consumer Max and HBO subscription revenue following the launch of Max in the year-ago quarter.

“HBO Max had another strong quarter and is ahead of plan to be a leading direct-to-consumer streaming platform, with both subscriber- and ad-supported choices,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement.

WarnerMedia Names Suja Viswesan Head of Data in Tech Group

WarnerMedia June 24 announced its newest technology and operations hire, Suja Viswesan, as head of data, completing the company’s executive leadership team for the tech group.

Effective immediately, Viswesan will lead the data, product and analytics strategy across the company’s technology and operations organization. This includes architecting and building a scalable and highly-distributed data infrastructure, as well as managing and optimizing core data infrastructure. Based in San Francisco, she reports to Richard Tom, chief technology officer of WarnerMedia.

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“Suja is the ideal leader to join our team as she not only has great experience that is deeply rooted in software development and big data, but she also brings with her a purposeful focus on building inclusive and global products and teams,” Tom said in a statement. “She will play a crucial role in how we apply data to build the best products and tools to deliver WarnerMedia’s content to millions of customers across the world, and I’m so excited that she’s here.”

Prior to joining WarnerMedia, Viswesan served as director of engineering at LinkedIn, where she led the big data applications and platform organization, and was responsible for the company’s data strategy, infrastructure and compliance. Her previous experience also includes leading a global team at IBM, where she supported the company’s global data and insights platform, as well as supported the development of the product management strategy.

“From VHS to DVDs to streaming, media has not only adopted and shaped bleeding-edge technology, but also has adapted to suit the demand of its audience,” Viswesan said in a statement.

Since joining WarnerMedia in June 2020, Tom has focused on revamping the company’s technology and operations structure, drawing on long-tenured leadership from across WarnerMedia’s existing businesses and importing external talent from top technology companies to its senior leadership team.

The technology and operations team is responsible for delivering the tech strategy, platform development and operations across the full scope of WarnerMedia’s portfolio of its linear, digital and streaming platforms. This includes the company’s data strategy, content delivery systems, master control operations, broadcast engineering, advertising technology and the technology platform for HBO Max, while also supporting the everyday underpinnings of the company and its global workforce.

In addition to Viswasen, the WarnerMedia technology and operations executive leadership team reporting to Tom includes:

  • Bob Hesskamp, a longtime veteran with more than 25 years of experience with Turner and CNN, serves as EVP of production engineering.
  • Patty Hirsch, a digital technology executive with past leadership roles at Warner Bros., Time Warner and CBS Interactive, is EVP of consumer digital platforms for the company’s entertainment, news and sports division.
  • Ben John, an engineer and established technology leader with previous roles at AppNexus, Experian and Kaplan Test Prep, serves as chief technology officer of Xandr.
  • Lonn Lee, who joined the company most recently from Facebook in November 2020, is SVP of product innovation, media supply chain and content operations.
  • Jason Press, a former Comcast executive, joined WarnerMedia in 2019 and serves as EVP of direct-to-consumer technology and program management.
  • Kevin Seng joined WarnerMedia in November 2020 from Snap, and serves as SVP of advertising technology.
  • Kathy Styponias, a longtime HBO technology executive, is EVP of strategy and business operations.
  • Mike Welch leads the Xandr business as EVP and GM, bringing 24 years of experience working in various roles throughout AT&T.
  • Jeff Zeitz, a Warner Bros. executive for more than 25 years, serves as SVP of enterprise and workplace technology.

Reed Hastings Wants Rival HBO Max on Weekly Nielsen Chart

Netflix co-founder/co-CEO Reed Hastings has made a career thinking outside the box. But when it comes to quantifying streaming video on the household TV, Hastings apparently opts for old-school Nielsen — a brand synonymous with broadcast ratings.

Responding to Nielsen’s June 18 market report that found streaming video use across all television homes in May climbed to 26% of total viewer spent watching TV, Hastings seemed surprised that pay-TV and broadcast combined still dominate viewership time.

Indeed, Netflix captured just 6% of total TV viewing time, on par with YouTube TV, but ahead of Hulu (3%), Amazon Prime Video (2%) and Disney+ (1%).

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“Wild that most TV time in USA is still legacy linear,” Hastings tweeted on social media. “Stream team needs to up its game.”

Hastings added that he wished HBO Max was included in the results. Max is noticeably absent from Nielsen’s weekly Top 10 streaming charts, which include Disney+, Prime Video and Hulu — and is regularly dominated by SVOD pioneer Netflix.

“@jasonkilar we need you on the board too,” Hastings tweeted in reference to WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar.

Kilar, the founding CEO of Hulu, responded (with lots emojis) that WarnerMedia was indeed represented in the Nielsen chart, albeit in dominating linear TV.  Kilar, who plans to remain in his position into 2022 following Discovery’s acquisition of WarnerMedia, said HBO Max has been the strongest growing domestic SVOD service in 2021.

HBO and HBO Max ended the most-recent fiscal period with 44 million combined subscribers, including 11.1 million Max subs since the service launched a year ago.

“@WarnerMedia is already on the board strongly in that largest green pie piece Reed (TNT, TBS, CNN, HBO, CN …). Proud to serve customers in whatever way they choose,” Kilar tweeted.”  Slightly smiling faceThumbs up “Fun to also be the crazy fast(est) growing upstart in @hbomax (2 Qs straight of 2.5M+ U.S. sub adds).” Fisted handClapper board

 

Is ‘Heights’ Misstep the First Crack in Warner’s Hybrid Streaming/Theatrical Release Strategy?

NEWS ANALYSIS — Warner Pictures’ Latino-themed musical In The Heights failed to measure up to the studio’s projection it would earn $20 million at the theatrical box office its opening weekend — despite stellar reviews and being based on an award-winning Broadway musical.

The movie, which featured an ensemble cast and $55 million production budget, generated about $11.65 million. It also streamed concurrently on HBO Max as part of WarnerMedia’s decision to stream Warner’s entire 2021 theatrical slate simultaneously.

Thus far, the strategy seemed like a home run, with Warner titles dominating both the pandemic box office and streaming households. And by COVID-19 standards, with theaters operating at lower capacity, Heights’ opening weekend was a success. The movie will likely generate at least 1 million Max households, which is on par (1.3+ million) for most Warner titles this year.

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But the box office is supposed to be putting the pandemic in the rearview mirror. Recent releases such as Disney’s Cruella, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II and even Warner’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It suggested moviegoers (especially those who are vaccinated) were headed back to the cineplex in greater numbers.

So what happened? Bad expectations.

Heights, like the previous underperforming Warner theatrical release Judas and the Black Messiah, was never destined for box office largess due largely to a variety of factors, including a Broadway backdrop and the lack of name cast.

“Ultimately, this is not the first musical to be hyped by the industry and fall a little short of expectations,” Shawn Robbins, chief box office analyst at Boxoffice.com, said in a media interview. “Maybe the timing wasn’t quite right, or it simply wasn’t fair to expect such big things, even pre-pandemic, from a relatively original title with mostly unknown actors.”

“We’re still in the middle of a learning process when it comes to the theatrical performance of films that have a hybrid release strategy,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore, told the Los Angeles Times. “Musicals have a fairly mixed track record at the box office. Despite the high hopes and general enthusiasm for the film, this debut should not be the only metric for success.”

Independent analyst The Entertainment Oracle contends that regardless of Heights‘ final numbers, the hybrid theatrical/streaming distribution model has proved successful.

“From it we can see that beyond a shadow of a doubt the traditional [theatrical] model is still alive and well, and despite what was assumed, the two don’t cannibalize each other to a high level,” he wrote.

 

WarnerMedia Joins Comscore Programmer Trials

Media measurement company Comscore June 9 announced that WarnerMedia is the first national programmer to formally participate in the media measurement company’s upstart “National Addressable TV” programmer trials.

Addressable advertising aims to deliver commercials targeting specific demos and consumer groups rather than mass canvassing population groups.

Starting in late 2020, Comscore said WarnerMedia, with properties including Warner Bros. Pictures, HBO and Turner, has executed national addressable campaigns across multiple MVPD platforms.

WarnerMedia is the first media company to test pilot the program enabling programmers to measure their national linear inventory across multiple multi-video program distributors and connected TV providers while monitoring inventory allocation strategies and measurement parameters.

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“We believe that addressable advertising is a premium experience and an opportunity that allows brands and agencies to reach the right audience with the right ad at the right time,” JP Colaco, head of advertising sales for WarnerMedia, said in a statement.

Colaco said that to maximize the value of the company’s content to advertisers, it is important to offer marketers transparency in measurement through a third party.

“Comscore’s efforts to provide aggregated measurement, at scale, across MVPD and CTV footprints is an important advancement for agencies, brands and sellers,” Colaco said.

Comscore has been conducting measurement trials across over the past year. The company’s “national addressable” solution is open to all national programmers and CTV/ MVPD providers that plan to execute similar TV campaigns as part of their national ad inventory strategy.

CNN to Launch ‘CNN+’ SVOD Service

Following competitor Fox News’ launch of Fox Nation in 2018, CNN reportedly will launch a branded subscription streaming service next year dubbed “CNN+” and featuring the network’s media personalities.

The move comes as CNN parent WarnerMedia is merging with Discovery to rebrand as Warner Bros. Discovery in 2022. The new company will be run by Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who said he plans to ramp up investment in CNN going forward.

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The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, said the CNN+ programming would be complementary — not a replacement — to the premium network. The platform would operate and be priced similarly to Disney’s ESPN+, which offers programming separate from the flagship ESPN network.

In addition to Fox News, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service features progressive news/commentary platform The Choice, as well as NBC News Now. The Paramount+ SVOD platform offers CBS News.

New HBO Max Ad-Supported Tier Bows Today

HBO Max June 2 launched a new advertising-supported subscription tier. Max now provides consumers the option between the existing ad-free subscription option at $14.99 per month, or one with ads for $9.99 per month.

Max is offering new and returning subscribers the ability to pre-pay and save 15% by signing up for the ad-supported tier for $99.99 per year, or without ads for $149.99 per year.

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“Advertising is a time-tested way to reduce the cost of great entertainment and reach a wider audience,” Andy Forssell, EVP and GM of HBO Max, said in a statement. “We’ve worked hard to create an elegant, tasteful ad experience that is respectful of great storytelling for those users who choose it, and which we’re confident will deliver for our advertising partners as well.”

Both Max subscription tiers offer access to the streaming platform’s lineup of new original programming, as well its deep catalog of content from brands, including HBO, Warner Bros., DC, Turner Classic Movies and Cartoon Network, among others. Subscribers to both tiers will also have access to Max’s premium user experience, which weaves together discovery, personalization and customization, a video player, parental controls and a kids experience.

The ad-supported tier does not include the ability to download content for offline viewing, and streaming video quality will be capped at 1080p. Warner Bros. same-day premiere films debuting in theaters and on Max throughout 2021 are not included in the ad-supported tier, but will become available on both tiers when the films debut in the months following their theatrical releases as part of HBO’s output deal with Warner Bros.

At a maximum of four minutes of commercial time per hour, Max’s ad-supported subscription tier promises the lowest commercial ad load in the streaming industry. Additionally, ads will not play during HBO programming. Over time, subscribers can expect to see greater personalization in the ads they do see with more innovation in formats to come. Ads on Max are designed to complement and enhance the overall viewing experience and will be thoughtfully surfaced across Max’s content catalog in a way that maintains the integrity of the programming.

More than 35 brands across all major categories are slated to go live on Max, including two partners in auto and insurance, with 72 creatives currently housed for campaigns. By deploying frequency caps, advertisers are encouraged to lean into greater variation of creative and formats to enhance the consumer experience.

“Thank you to the incredible brands who leaned forward on the importance of a consumer-centric ad experience that engages fans,” said JP Colaco, head of advertising sales for WarnerMedia. “Together with our valued partners we will continue to explore the art of what’s possible in video advertising across all platforms.”

 

WarnerMedia Getting New Name: ‘Warner Bros. Discovery’

Following the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia, the former Time Warner is getting yet another name change. The new company will be called Warner Bros. Discovery, according to Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who notified staff in a June 1 town hall. The new name is dependent upon regulatory approval of the $43 billion merger.

Time Warner’s name was changed to WarnerMedia in 2018 after it was acquired by AT&T, which is now spinning off the company with the new merger agreement. In addition to Turner and Warner Bros., WarnerMedia and Discovery’s prized assets include streaming platforms HBO Max and Discovery+.

The initial “Warner Bros. Discovery” wordmark for the proposed company.

The initial wordmark for the proposed company includes the iconic line from the Maltese Falcon, “the stuff that dreams are made of,” an additional homage to the rich legacy of Warner Bros. and the focus of what the proposed company will be about.

“Warner Bros. Discovery will aspire to be the most innovative, exciting and fun place to tell stories in the world — that is what the company will be about,” Zaslav said. “We love the new company’s name because it represents the combination of Warner Bros.’ fabled 100-year legacy of creative, authentic storytelling and taking bold risks to bring the most amazing stories to life, with Discovery’s global brand that has always stood brightly for integrity, innovation and inspiration.

“There are so many wonderful, creative and journalistic cultures that will make up the Warner Bros. Discovery family. We believe it will be the best and most exciting place in the world to tell big, important and impactful stories across any genre — and across any platform: film, television and streaming.”

 

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar to Stay at Helm into 2022

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar will remain with the former Time Warner for the next 12 months into 2022. The former Hulu boss, who was hired in April 2020 to spearhead WarnerMedia’s streaming initiatives, was largely absent within AT&T’s decision to spin-off a minority stake in WarnerMedia to Discovery, whose CEO, David Zaslav, will take charge of WarnerMedia upon completion of the merger.

In a May 27 companywide address hailing the one-year anniversary of the launch of streaming service HBO Max, Kilar said he had no plans to exit the company this year.

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“My plan and my focus is to remain here in my CEO role at WarnerMedia,” Kilar told staffers in the town hall. “I am not thinking right now about post-merger. There will be a time to consider that topic in 2022.”

While AT&T and Discovery executives lauded Kilar for his accomplishments during the M&A announcement, there has been no word about the executive’s role going forward.

“Because I believe we have unfinished business, the work of the next year can and should be extremely fulfilling as the world continues to see what we are capable of doing,” Kilar said.