FuboTV Drops WarnerMedia Content, Raises Subscription Prices

Online television service FuboTV has joined other digital TV platforms raising prices while at the same time restricting access to select third-party content. The service is bumping up the monthly fee $5 across its bundles: Base ($59.99), Family Bundle ($64.99), and Ultra ($84.99) — emulating a recent 30% price hike by Google-owned YouTube TV.

Online TV pioneer Sling TV remains the only platform that has not raised prices.

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“Sometimes to help us bring you new channels at the best value, and to deliver premium features like live sports in 4K, we need to remove other channels and adjust subscription prices,” Fubo said in a media statement. “Turner networks will be leaving as of July 1, and subscription prices will be changing.”

Indeed, 11 channels from WarnerMedia and Turner have been dropped, including TNT, TBS, CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español, HLN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies, truTV and Boomerang, when a carriage agreement couldn’t be reached.

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“We are disappointed that our deal with fuboTV is not being renewed, as we have been working with them and were open to a potential renewal,” WarnerMedia said in a statement.

Meanwhile, FuboTV has added Disney content, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ABC, ABC News Live, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, SEC Network and ACC Network, FX, FXX and National Geographic, among others.

HBO Max Touts Exclusive June 26 SVOD Premiere of ‘Scoob!’ Before Disc

HBO Max is flexing its content muscle in the streaming wars.

The Warner Bros. animated feature Scoob! will have its exclusive U.S. SVOD premiere on HBO Max June 26 — almost a month before its July 21 disc release and a little over a month after its premium VOD debut May 15 because of the pandemic.

HBO Max, which debuted May 27, is the direct-to-consumer offering of the studio’s parent company WarnerMedia.

Scoob! was set to be the first “Scooby-Doo!” animated feature film released theatrically May 15, but with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down theaters it was instead released through premium VOD and digital sellthrough. Its release on SVOD before disc breaks longstanding windows between the two formats in which disc release typically has preceded streaming.

The film, which will be released on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, recounts the meeting of Scooby-Doo and his best pal Shaggy, and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma and Daphne to form Mystery Inc. Now, after hundreds of adventures, Scooby and the gang encounter the larger world of the Hanna-Barbera universe, teaming with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt to stop Dick Dasterdly from unleashing the legendary ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. The voice cast includes Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Simon Cowell and Frank Welker.

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“HBO Max is the perfect home for these ‘meddling kids’ and their dog,’” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max, and president, TNT, TBS and TruTV, in a statement. “Scoob! tells the backstory of how these beloved friends met and formed Mystery Inc. It’s a perfect addition to our kids and family offering and will sit alongside beloved original Scooby-Doo episodes.”

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HBO Max also released a clip for the much-anticipated streaming debut of director Zack Synder’s director’s cut of Justice League. WarnerMedia May 20 announced its streaming debut in 2021.

In a boost to HBO Max’s unscripted lineup, the service announced an agreement to a two-year, first-look overall deal with showrunner and executive producer Sam Dean (Netflix’s “Love Is Blind”). In addition to Dean’s future assignments as showrunner for HBO Max projects, her deal includes first-look rights on all her owned or controlled concepts for her unscripted programming for all platforms. She recently wrapped production as showrunner for the upcoming HBO Max unscripted series “12 Dates of Christmas,” which will debut later this year.

“Sam is an outstanding unscripted storyteller and a top-tier showrunner,” said Jennifer O’Connell, EVP, original non-fiction and kids programming, in a statement. “After working with Sam on our reality rom-com, ‘12 Dates of Christmas,’ it was clear that her ability to tell stories with heart, humor and a wink to the audience made her a perfect fit for HBO Max. We count ourselves lucky to be in business with a producer of her caliber.”

“I am really looking forward to working with HBO Max; it’s a new and ambitious platform with an unlimited appetite to create fresh and innovative content, yet it also brings with it WarnerMedia’s history of excellence that has continually kept them at the forefront of creativity and storytelling,” said Dean in a statement. “It’s a great time to get involved as an unscripted producer. I feel blessed to be joining an incredibly strong and talented team, who I admire greatly and have loved collaborating with on ’12 Dates of Christmas.’ I am excited to get started on new projects.”

Dean has produced a variety of unscripted genre content, including social experiments, dating and competition formats. In addition to Netflix’s “Love Is Blind,” she’s worked on ABC’s “The Taste” and multiple series of “Married at First Sight” and various spin off shows within that franchise.

HBO Max Yanks ‘Gone With the Wind’ From Movie Lineup

HBO Max late June 9 quietly removed the Oscar-winning classic Gone With the Wind from the catalog of films available on the newly launched subscription streaming service.

The 1939 epic, based on the bestselling novel by Margaret Mitchell, depicts the plight of Southern white plantation owners during and after the U.S. Civil War. Its removal comes amid global anti-racism protests that have led Hollywood studios to reexamine the cultural depictions available through their platforms. The Paramount Network earlier in the day canceled the long-running reality TV series “Cops,” which originally premiered in 1989.

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On Monday, June 8, Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in which he criticized Gone With the Wind for romanticizing the Confederacy and suggested WarnerMedia-owned HBO Max temporarily remove the film from its library. He recommended it return after a time accompanied with programs putting the film into a proper historical context, or at the very least label calling attention to the notion that the film was a product of its time.

Disney+, for example, often includes in the descriptions of some of its older films, such as Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp, that they “may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

At the 12th Academy Awards, Gone With the Wind won eight Oscars out of 13 nominations and received two additional honorary awards for its technical achievements and use of color. Among its wins were for Best Picture, Best Actress for Vivien Leigh and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, who became the first African-American to win an Academy Award.

However, McDaniel — who played the chief house servant to Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara — had not been invited to the film’s gala Atlanta premiere, nor was she allowed to sit with her co-stars at the 1940 Oscars ceremony.

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Accounting for inflation, Gone With the Wind remains the highest-grossing film in history with $3.7 billion in adjusted earnings.

Originally produced by David O. Selznick with financial assistance from MGM, Gone With the Wind was eventually bought out by MGM, which continued to re-release the film every decade for the next 50 years. It was purchased with the rest of the MGM library in 1986 by Turner Entertainment, which in turn was acquired by Warner Bros. in 1996.

Warner subsequently made Gone With the Wind a staple of its home entertainment library, with frequent anniversary releases of the film on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray Disc every five years, often in elaborate gift sets.

Update 6/10/20: A spokesperson for HBO Max told CNN, another WarnerMedia company, that the film would eventually return to the service, unedited, but “with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions.”

Warner Offering Free ‘Just Mercy’ Digital Rental to Promote Social Justice

Warner Bros. is making feature film Just Mercy available for free to stream on digital platforms through the month of June.

The studio said the promotion is an attempt to foster understanding as the country deals with civil unrest following the death of a black man — George Floyd — at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.

“We believe in the power of story. #JustMercy is one resource we can offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society. For the month of June, #JustMercy will be available to rent for free on digital platforms in the U.S.,” Warner tweeted.

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The studio also issued a statement saying that to be part of the change required in the country, it encourages people to learn more about the country’s racist past and the “countless injustices” that have “led us to where we are today.”

Warner thanked the filmmakers for their collaborative efforts in making the movie about black attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan), founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Ala. Co-stars include Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson.

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“We stand with our Black colleagues, talent, storytellers and fans — and all affected by senseless violence. Your voices matter, your messages matter,” Warner said in a May 31 statement.

Just Mercy generated about $50 million at the global box office. It has sold about $2.6 million in combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units since its April 14 packaged media debut.

WarnerMedia Names Richard Tom New CTO

New CEO Jason Kilar June 1 increased his management footprint on WarnerMedia by naming former colleague Richard Tom chief technology officer (CTO), effective immediately.

Tom will lead WarnerMedia’s technology and operations organization, including technology strategy, platform development and operations as well as shared services with other business segments. This includes the company’s data strategy, content delivery systems, master control operations, broadcast engineering and the technology platform for its new streaming service, HBO Max, among other areas. In addition, AT&T’s ad-distribution platform Xandr will also now report to Tom.

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Richard Tom

“Richard is a rare bird in that he brings deep technical chops, a dogged customer focus, clear and bold vision, and a magnetism that attracts other world class builders to him,” Kilar said in a statement. “WarnerMedia’s future will be as much about technology as it will be about storytelling and having Rich report to me as our technical leader strongly signals that.”

Prior to joining WarnerMedia, Tom served as an advisor and consultant for technology focused consumer and B2B companies, as well as venture-backed startups. His previous experience also includes serving as CTO and SVP of Hulu (when Kilar was CEO), where he built and led technical infrastructure at Hulu. He, alongside Kilar, co-founded Vessel — a global ad-supported, subscription-based, short-form video service that provided viewers early access to videos from top influencers, traditional television, major sports leagues and music publishers. Additionally, Tom served as CTO of Digital Entertainment at Verizon.

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Former WarnerMedia CTO, Jeremy Legg, will join AT&T Communications to lead the technology services organization as EVP and CTO, reporting to Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications.

“Jeremy, through his leadership of the technology organization, has had such a positive and material impact on WarnerMedia, with last week’s launch of HBO Max being just the most recent example,” Kilar said. “I know I speak for all of us when I say how glad I am that Jeremy won’t be going far. I wish Jeremy the best of luck in what is sure to be a period of wonderfully positive impact at AT&T.”

HBO Max Acquires U.S. SVOD Rights to ‘Young Sheldon’

HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s newly launched streaming platform, has acquired the exclusive U.S. SVOD rights to the comedy “Young Sheldon” in a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

HBO Max is also the streaming home of the entire library of “The Big Bang Theory,” which introduced the character of Sheldon Cooper.

“We now feel like our ‘Big Bang’ offering is complete,” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max and president TNT, TBS and TruTV, said in a statement. “We are so proud to be the home of this beloved franchise and the place where new and existing fans can learn about young Sheldon Cooper’s roots.”

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“In order for Sheldon Cooper to visit his younger self, he would need to manipulate spacetime. All you actually need is HBO Max,” said “Young Sheldon” creators/executive producers Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro. “We are so pleased that ‘Young Sheldon’ will once again be reunited with his future self on HBO Max, and we are excited for fans, new and old, to be able to binge both ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Young Sheldon’ for the first time.”

HBO Max Touting Consumer Brands in Post-Week Launch Campaign

With all eyes on the May 27 debut of HBO Max, the $14.99 streamer is partnering with a collection of household brands. The promotion is part of HBO Max’s launch campaign, “Where HBO Meets So Much More,” through June 3.

Max is joining forces with Blue Apron, obé Fitness, Bluestone Lane, Best Friends Animal Society, FreshDirect and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream to provide complimentary food, drink, fitness classes and family-friendly activities in conjunction with streaming content, including “Friends,” “Sesame Street,” “Doctor Who” and “Game of Thrones,” among others.

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“Our original vision for our launch week was to excite fans by integrating with their daily lives through physical retail partnerships and activations” Jason Mulderig, SVP of brand marketing for HBO and HBO Max, said in a statement. “Following stay-at-home orders, we quickly pivoted to partners who could create similar experiences in a safe way for consumers to enjoy from home.”

Best Friends Animal Society will host its first-ever national virtual adoption event — the Best Friends Virtual Super Adoption — kicking off May 27 and running through May 31. On the first day of the event, Max will help offset adoption costs for anyone who submits an application to adopt (whether it’s a curious pup like Scooby-Doo or a sly cat like Sylvester).

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With obé as the fitness partner, users stream content while doing daily workout classes inspired by their favorite shows and movies, including “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Euphoria,” Wonder Woman and “Friends.”

Blue Apron will feature Max pairing suggestions on recipe cards in subscribers’ boxes highlighting complementary titles such as Aquaman, “The Sopranos” and “The Big Bang Theory.” The brand will also offer live virtual cooking tutorials for any level on its Instagram, featuring the perfect snacks for streaming.

Venmo will debut Max-inspired stickers themed to trending topics and keywords on the platform featuring favorite icons from titles like “Friends,” The Wizard of Oz and “Doctor Who.”

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream customers who place a local delivery order through Postmates on May 27 get complimentary extra scoops with a special offer. Social content amplifies the partnership with suggestions for fun pairings of ice cream and Max titles.

Max will support FreshDirect in its existing efforts with New York Common Pantry by matching ongoing consumer donations through June 2 and Bluestone Lane on its “Shout A Coffee” initiative, doubling local coffee deliveries to hospitals in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington D.C.

WarnerMedia Bolsters HBO Max Launch With New Distribution Partners

With the May 27 launch of HBO Max just a week away, distribution is key in terms of attracting subscribers and marketing hype. WarnerMedia, May 20 announced a slate of new distribution deals it says will make Max more widely available to customers at launch.

The new agreements include cable and broadband operators, gaming consoles and connected TVs — including Altice USA, Cox Communications, Microsoft, National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), Samsung, Sony Interactive Entertainment and Verizon. These companies join AT&T, Apple, Charter, Google, Hulu and YouTube TV. The company is reportedly in discussions with Roku as well, while distribution on Amazon Fire TV appears to be a no-go.

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Max ($14.99) is launching with 10,000 hours of curated content and original series, catalog TV series and movies from Warner Bros. and third-parties.

“The launch of HBO Max is an important milestone for our company, and we’re excited that these valued partners will be on board for the launch,” Rich Warren, president of WarnerMedia Distribution, said in a statement.

Altice USA will distribute Max to its Optimum and Suddenlink HBO and HBO Now cable. Max will be available to these subs in addition to their existing HBO linear and on-demand services and at no extra cost. Non HBO subs will be able to purchase Max directly from the company as part of a cable TV package, as an add-on to a video package, or as a standalone streaming service available to Internet-only customers.

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Verizon is distributing Max through its Fios TV and Fios Internet services. All existing Fios customers who subscribe to HBO or HBO Now will get immediate free access to Max at launch, while non-subs can purchase separately.

Cox Communications will give all of Cox Contour’s HBO subs access to Max at launch, in addition to their existing HBO linear and on demand services. All remaining and new customers will be able to purchase Max directly from Cox.

Max will be made available at launch to independent cable and broadband operators — such as WOW!, Atlantic Broadband, RCN, Grande Communications & Wave, and MCTV, among others — through a new agreement with NCTC, on behalf of its 750 member companies throughout the U.S. and its territories.

Existing HBO customers of the participating NCTC member companies will be given free access to Max and new customers will be able to purchase the platform directly through their cable or broadband provider.

Max will also be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One gaming consoles, in addition to Max app access via the Microsoft Store and PlayStation.

Finally, Max will be available through select Samsung TVs, bolstering the platform’s U.S. distribution to include a television manufacturer at launch. Owners of Samsung smart TVs — models from 2016 through 2020 — will be able to download and purchase Max directly, offering another seamless viewing option for customers looking to access this best-in-class content experience.

Crunchyroll Taps Julian Lai-Hung to Head Asian Content Strategy

Crunchyroll, the anime-centric producer/distributor owned by WarnerMedia, continues to aggressively re-assert its brand globally, naming Julian Lai-Hung as the head of content strategy & business development focused on Japan and Asia-Pacific markets.

AT&T and The Chernin Group in 2014 formed over-the-top video conglomerate Otter Media, which became majority owner of 8-year-old Crunchyroll. AT&T melded the anime company to WarnerMedia after acquiring Time Warner.

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Julian-Lai-Hung

Based in Tokyo, Lai-Hung will focus on building out Crunchyroll’s content strategy, driving the originals initiative and identifying new business opportunities with existing and new partners.

Lai-Hung cut his teeth working for Netflix where he helped the SVOD pioneer launch the service in Japan and oversaw the global anime category as director of content and anime in the region, and at Warner Bros., where he led a team as the VP of international digital distribution and global sales.

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While at Netflix, Lai-Hung was executive producer across a number of titles, including “Terrace House Aloha State,” “Million Yen Women,” “Godzilla: Monster Planet,” “Kuromukuro” and “Blazing Transfer Students.”

In addition to Lai-Hung, recent Crunchyroll appointments include Alden Budill as head of global partnerships and content strategy; Terry Li as head of 360 and GM of Crunchyroll Games, and John Easum as the head of Crunchyroll EMEA following the acquisition of VIZ Media Europe Group.

“Given Julian’s deep expertise and passion for the medium, he’s the perfect addition to our team to progress our efforts to identify new partnerships and creative opportunities,” Budill said in a statement.

Warner Sticking With Theatrical Window — For Now

After Universal Pictures set off an industry firestorm announcing it would pursue simultaneous theatrical/PVOD distribution for new movies, the CFO of Warner Bros. parent AT&T told an investor event the studio is sticking with the 90-day theatrical window for now.

Speaking online May 12 on the virtual MoffettNathanson 7th Annual Media & Communications Summit, John Stephens sought to quell any notion Warner Bros. would upend industry norms as the movie theaters remain shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That said, the studio on May 15 will launch its first skipped theatrical/PVOD release with Scoob!. The movie becomes the second major animated family film after Universal Pictures’ Trolls World Tour to bypass theatrical release in favor of digital release. Trolls World Tour reportedly generated $100 million through VOD, the digital equivalent of rental. Scoob! will be available either as a digital rental or purchase.

“We’ll learn from [Scoob!],” Stephens said. “We’re interested in new ideas, whatever’s good for consumers, but we’ll continue to work with our [exhibition] partners.”

Major exhibitors such as AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas have vowed not to screen any theatrical movie concurrently available to digital channels at launch.