Warner Bros.’ ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Available Worldwide in All Markets on March 18

WarnerMedia Feb. 19 announced that Warner Bros. Pictures’ pending release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League will be available globally in all markets concurrently with its U.S. March 18 debut on HBO Max.

The feature film will be available in each market via one of the following distribution options: PVOD, PEST, EST, SVOD, TVOD, HBO linear and on HBO Go (in HBO Europe and HBO Asia territories), or via a local TV provider.

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The movie features a team of well-known DC superheroes: Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) inspired by Superman (Henry Cavill) and his ally, Diana Prince (Gadot), to fight a new global threat. The 2017 movie, which was finished by director Joss Whedon after Snyder dropped out due to his daughter’s reported suicide, generated $657 million at the global box office.

HBO Max Launching Across Latin America in June

As expected, HBO Max is scheduled to launch in late June in 39 territories across Latin America and the Caribbean, marking the first availability for the platform outside the U.S. Countries include: Anguilla, Antigua, Argentina, Aruba, B.V.I., Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Audiences in the region will have access to programming from WarnerMedia’s brands like HBO, DC and Warner Bros., in addition to children’s programming.

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“By combining HBO with the very best of WarnerMedia’s series and film catalog, as well as locally produced content from master-storytellers in Latin America, HBO Max will offer fans in the region an enriching entertainment experience,” Johannes Larcher, Head of HBO Max International, said in a statement.

At launch, existing HBO Go direct-billed customers, as well as those who are billed through eligible partners will get instant access to HBO Max. The existing HBO Go service in Latin America and the Caribbean will be phased out. Subscribers will have access to an entirely new Max app that mirrors the product experience available in the U.S., including new features that will enhance the way they connect with content.

WarnerMedia programming ranges from Cartoon Network and Looney Tunes Cartoons, to teens and adults from brands like HBO, Warner Bros, New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV and Adult Swim. The platform’s content lineup also includes a wide slate of local original titles, under the Max Originals brand, that are exclusive to the platform and will showcase local storytellers and talent.

Following the arrival of Max in Latin America and the Caribbean, the HBO-branded streaming services in Europe (the Nordics, Spain, Central Europe, and Portugal) are scheduled to be upgraded to Max later this year. HBO and HBO Max ended the most recent fiscal period with 38 million combined subscribers in the United States.

Streaming Media’s Growing Interest in Legalized Gambling

Live sports and gambling have a long co-dependent relationship, which has been expanding beyond casinos to over-the-top video — especially during a pandemic. But the wheels in motion began years before the coronavirus kept gamblers away from Las Vegas and Atlantic City, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 striking down a federal anti-sports gambling law.

Fox Sports became the first major media company in the U.S. to acquire a stake in sports gambling after paying $236 million for a 5% ownership of The Stars Group.

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“Digital sports wagering represents a growing market opportunity that allows us to diversify our revenue streams, connect directly with consumers and expand the reach of the Fox Sports brand,” said Eric Shanks, CEO of Fox Sports.

Fox Bet Super 6 just added nearly 3 million players during the just-ended NFL season, bringing its user base to more than 4.3 million players. It claims to be the biggest free-to-play online game of its kind in the country. The platform also seeks to entice non-sports fans with wagers on the recent Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs, the stock market and a weekly quiz.

Speaking on the Feb. 9 fiscal call, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said Fox Bet aims to be more than an online gambling site. The platform is rolling out in states that have legalized wagering, including most recently Michigan on Jan. 26. Fox also owns a 18.5% stake in FanDuel, the daily fantasy and online sports book.

“A key differentiator for Fox Bet has been across promotional power of all of Fox’s assets to ignite the Fox Bet brand,” Murdoch said. The executive said sports gambling factors into ongoing distribution negotiations for NFL games.

“The NFL is very aware of the importance of sports wagering, I’m sure to us, I’m sure to sort of others as well,” Murdoch said.

FanDuel in 2019 inked a deal with fubo TV, making it the exclusive sports book, online casino, horse racing and DFS (distributed file system) partner of the TV streaming service. The agreement was FanDuel Group’s first partnership with an online TV service aimed at expanding fubo TV’s sports offering for consumers while integrating betting data on the platform.

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“We are always looking for ways to add value for consumers and enhance their premium experience with fuboTV,” said Min Kim, VP of business development at Fubo. “Gaming and sports are natural complements.”

Adam Kaplan, VP of content business & operations at FanDuel, said the company’s data analytics will change how people watch live sports on TV and the Internet.

“We can enhance the live-viewing experience by allowing cord-cutting sports fans to view the content that matters to them the most from their TV, phone, tablet or computer,” Kaplan said.

But FanDuel’s relationship with fubo TV could change as the latter branches out into its own sports gambling. The 6-year-old service last year acquired Balto Sports, a backend developer of fantasy sports gaming software. Last month, fubo TV expanded to live sports by acquiring Vigtory, an interactive sports gaming company.

The valuations around sports betting operators are so huge, why not take a punt on being one?” said Andy Clerkson, an advisor for Fox Bet and partner at Red Knot Communications, a gambling PR firm. “You could be a super-affiliate worth hundreds of millions. Or you could try and be an operator worth billions.”

The Motley Fool’s Rick Munarriz contends fubo TV can open the “spigot of sports gambling” without raising eyebrows the way  Google or Disney might with regulators.

“Fubo TV can go places where others can’t,” Munarriz wrote.

Disney-owned ESPN has partnerships with Caesars Entertainment, offering sport-betting-related content on ESPN and ESPN+, the brand’s SVOD platform.

“The sports betting landscape has changed, and fans are coming to us for this kind of information more than ever before,” said Mike Morrison, VP of business development at ESPN. “We are poised to expand our coverage in a big way.”

WarnerMedia Entertainment inked a deal with Caesars Entertainment to build a branded Vegas studio for its Bleacher Report (B/R) platform.

Regardless of its legality, Disney remains defensive to deflect the family-based media giant’s tacit support for gambling.

“We’ve already done some [gambling-related] things that we would integrate it into our programming, but not to the extent that we would be facilitating gambling as an entity,” former CEO Bob Iger said in 2019. “In other words, we’ll provide programming that will, I guess, be designed to enlighten people who are betting on sports. But that’s as far as we would go. We just don’t intend to go into the gambling business.”

Crunchyroll Reaches 4M Subs, Inks Deal With Elbas for New Series

Anime SVOD distributor Crunchyroll Feb. 2 announced it reached the 4 million subscriber mark in January, just six months after hitting 3 million, and has inked a deal with Idris and Sabrina Elba to develop a dark fantasy animated series.

Idris and Sabrina Elba will serve as executive producers on “Dantai” (working title).

“For more than a decade, through anime and anime-inspired Originals, Crunchyroll has been leading the charge for the popularization of adult dramatic animation and we are fast becoming the epicenter for the next generation of animation fans, as is evidenced by our incredible growth in registered users and subscribers,” Crunchyroll GM Joanne Waage said in a statement. “Gens Y and Z have experienced superhero fatigue and are hungry for the new stories and ideas that our creators tell. This development deal with Sabrina and Idris Elba is another example of how we’re working with best-in-class partners to bring in new audiences and tell fresh and compelling stories through a medium that transcends genres and generations.”

Currently in development, the Afro-futuristic science-fiction series will be set in a city where the rise of biotechnology has created an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Two rising stars from either side of this divide are pitted against each other in a story that will ultimately explore equality and kinship within a corrupt society.

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Idris and Sabrina to develop this anime-inspired sci-fi epic,” Sarah Victor, head of development, Crunchyroll, said in a statement. “It is a privilege to work with such talented, creative partners and we look forward to bringing this exciting project to life.”

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“We’re really excited to be announcing this deal on our first anime,” the Elbas said in a statement. “We’re both fans of the genre and see a huge opportunity to create something unique for a powerhouse like Crunchyroll. The story of ‘Dantai’ is our first collaboration as producers together and is one that is close to our hearts.”

Crunchyroll, a WarnerMedia company, has a library of more than 1,000 titles and 30,000 episodes, available to fans in more than 200 countries and territories. Crunchyroll currently has more than 100 million registered users and more than 50 million followers across social media. Fans have access to licensed anime through Crunchyroll, Anime Digital Network (in partnership with Citel, a subsidiary of Média-Participations), and Anime on Demand video streaming services, translated in multiple languages for viewers worldwide. Viewers can also access simulcasts — series available immediately after Japanese broadcast. Crunchyroll’s services also extend to licensing of theatrical, TV, home video, consumer product and video game rights.

Warner’s ‘The Little Things’ Tracked 1.4 Million HBO Max Households Opening Weekend

Warner Bros. Pictures’ strategy releasing 2021 movies concurrently in theaters and on HBO Max appears to be capturing market share — especially during the pandemic.

New data from Samba TV found the Jan. 29 debut of detective thriller The Little Things, the first Warner Bros. movie to hit HBO Max directly in 2021, coinciding with its theatrical release, attracted 1.4 million U.S. households. Samba tracks viewer program data — called “automatic content recognition” — from more than 13.5 million smart TVs in the United States.

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Viewership for the movie, starring Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Remi Malik and Jared Leto, peaked Jan. 30 with 678,000 households and remained high through Jan. 31, with 525,000 households, according to Samba. Meanwhile, the movie topped the domestic box office with $4.8 million in ticket sales.

Samba found that households making $50,000 or more over-indexed streaming The Little Things when compared with the U.S. overall, as did Black households (+30%) and households with people under the age of 55.

The tally is less than the 2.2 million households that watched Wonder Woman 1984 on Max over its Christmas opening weekend. The sequel starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Kristen Wiig, drew 986,000 household streams on Christmas Day alone, according to Samba TV, but declined every day over the rest of its opening weekend.

Notably, the audience that streamed WW84 over Christmas looked different from those who watched The Little Things. Households making $100,000 or more over-indexed for Wonder Woman when compared with the U.S. overall, as did households with people aged 25-54, Hispanic households (+17%) and Asian households (+14%).

Nielsen Retcon: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Topped ‘Soul’ in Christmas Streaming Minutes

When Nielsen last released its list of Top 10 streamed programs from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Hulu on the television, Pixar Animation’s Soul emerged the winner for the period Dec. 21-27, 2020, with 1.67 billion minutes viewed.

Apparently, that didn’t sit well with WarnerMedia, which had released Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day — the same day Soul premiered on Disney+. While Nielsen doesn’t yet track HBO Max television viewing data, with WW84 the first of Warner Bros. Pictures’ theatrical slate launching concurrently on Max, WarnerMedia convinced Nielsen to take another look. And, voila, the research company now says the Gal Gadot-starring DC Comics superhero sequel tracked 2.3 billion minutes — 35% more than Soul.

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“As was announced on Wednesday during [AT&T’s fiscal] earnings and as this Nielsen data shows, Wonder Woman 1984 was a huge holiday gift to the consumer at a time when they wanted and needed it,” Andy Forssell, EVP and GM of HBO Max, said in a statement. “This partnership with Warner Bros. of course continues throughout the year, but it began with Wonder Woman’s arrival on Christmas Day to great success.”

Nielsen’s weekly reconfigure pushed Netflix’s last week streaming “The Office” into the third spot with 1.43 billion minutes. The streaming behemoth’s original series, “Bridgerton,” dropped to fourth with 1.2 billion minutes streamed.

Director Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ Movie Cut Streaming on HBO Max March 18

HBO Max will stream director Zack Snyder’s highly-anticipated personal cut of 2017 DC Comics superhero movie Justice League beginning March 18, according to WarnerMedia, which announced the release date Jan. 29.

Justice League features a team of well-known DC superheroes: Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) inspired by Superman (Henry Cavill) and his ally, Diana Prince (Gadot), to fight a new global threat. The movie, which was finished by Joss Whedon after Snyder dropped out due to his daughter’s reported suicide, generated $657 million at the global box office.

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Cult fans of the franchise contended Whedon’s take on the superhero ensemble was different in tone than Snyder’s original. When speculation of a “Snyder Cut” of the movie emerged, WarnerMedia jumped at the marketing opportunity.

“I just was kind of done with [the movie],” Snyder told CinemaBlend. “I was in this place of [knowing] my family needs me more than this bullshit, and I just need to honor them and do the best I can to heal that world. I had no energy to fight [the studio], and fight for [the movie]. Literally, zero energy for that.”

Dubbed Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the new cut will be rated ‘R’ and run as a four-hour movie. When announced last year Snyder originally said it would be presented in four hourlong installments.

Concurrently with the premiere on Max in the U.S., the movie will be available on HBO services in Europe across the Nordics, Central Europe, Spain, and Portugal as well as on the HBO GO service in Asia. In Latin America, the title will premiere exclusively on HBO Max when the service launches in the region later this year.

AT&T CEO Says Warner Theatrical/HBO Max Movie Release Strategy Is ‘Making Lemonade Out of Lemons’

AT&T CEO John Stankey again defended WarnerMedia’s controversial decision to release Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 theatrical release slate concurrently on HBO Max for the first 30 days of the title’s release. The strategy, which started with the Christmas Day release of Wonder Woman 1984, has helped drive Max subscriptions, but at the same time upended industry norms, including upsetting backend players such as movie directors, agents and producers.

Speaking Jan. 27 on the company’s fiscal call, Stankey said the decision came down to weighing the best distribution strategies for tentpole and non-tentpole movie releases. He said the distribution economics of a movie like Wonder Woman 1984 is different than the economics of a movie catering to a less broad audience.

“That’s the power in what we did bringing out the entire [theatrical] slate to our end-user base [on HBO Max],” he said. “We’re going to see a little [Max subscriber growth] spikiness in what occurs.

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Stankey cautioned that he does not expect to see the same Max sub growth that happened with WW84 occurring on other Warner tentpole movies.

“That is not really the design and intent of the [concurrent release] plan,” he said. “We do have the opportunity to build marketing and promotion opportunities around the bigger releases that have broader buzz and broad application across the customer base. We’re going to take every advantage of doing that.”

Stankey reiterated that 2021 is a unique year for theatrical movies due to the pandemic, and WarnerMedia management acted accordingly — backed by the availability of new streaming video business and what the studio thought the moviegoing consumer was going to look like in 2021. Stankey said initial data points around the hybrid release strategy have proven correct thus far.

“The team made the call, and I think it was a bold and aggressive swing. It was done with a lot of thought and what needed to be done,” he said, despite contending the issue has been “oversold and intense” by the media on both ends.

The CEO said the decision has been further validated as other studios continue to “snowplow” their theatrical releases into the second half of the year and beyond.

“We’re going to see a very crowded theatrical field as we get into late 2021 and early 2022,” Stankey said. “We don’t believe that magically because there’s more content showing up in theaters at the same time, that’s going to dramatically increase the size of the moviegoing population.

“Making lemonade out of lemons was the right call in this case,” he said. “We have to step back and [realize] that nobody went to theaters in 2020 for the most part. There was a pandemic. Nobody got on an airplane. Nobody went to hotels. And nobody goes to restaurants.”

Stankey said the crisis has been disruptive to myriad businesses in a marketplace already undergoing major changes, including ongoing consumer migration away from pay-TV to over-the-top video and the desire for a “simpler model around that.”

“I applaud the team for the move they made in trying to make thebest of this circumstance, and our circumstance having a really strong theatrical slate that can really help our streaming product,” he said.

Stankey acknowledged relaying the decision within Hollywood was going to produce controversy when you’re a “trailblazer,”  and “there’s nothing perfect to read.” He said Warner has been good to Hollywood and to theaters — the latter with a concrete release strategy.

“There are things on the margin we’d do a little bit differently, but at the end of the day we will make sure people are being fairly compensated and treated well,” he said. “In the end, this will ultimately shape up to be a good thing across the board.”

WarnerMedia Extends HBO Max Discount Pricing

WarnerMedia has quietly extended to March special pricing for subscribers willing to prepay for 12-months of HBO Max service. The service, which traditionally costs $14.99 — the most expensive SVOD on the market — is effectively charging $11.66 monthly for subs paying the annual $69.99 charge.

Since launching May 27, 2020, HBO Max has aggressively sought to boost sluggish subscriber growth that tallied just 8.6 million subs through Sept. 30, 2020 (upped to 12.6 million in December). WarnerMedia now combines Max subs with HBO to boast more than 38 million members.

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The growth was hampered from the start when WarnerMedia failed to secure distribution through Roku and Amazon Fire TV — two major consumer gateways to third-party SVOD services. The Max app is now available on both platforms.

“We’re breaking new ground in the months ahead, and we can’t wait to work with our longtime partners at Roku to build on our past successes and bring Max’s entertainment to Roku’s large and highly engaged audience,” Tony Goncalves, chief revenue officer at WarnerMedia, said in a statement last month.

Home Entertainment Exec Peter Schauerte Named to Head WarnerMedia Local Theatrical Production in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

WarnerMedia Jan. 14 announced that Peter Schauerte, recently appointed to lead the Germany, Austria and Switzerland home entertainment and consumer products business, will now also oversee local theatrical production in the region. He reports to Iris Knobloch, country manager for WarnerMedia France & Benelux and Germany/Austria/Switzerland (GAS).

Schauerte’s expanded duties come after Willi Geike announced his decision to step down later this month after a 38-year career at Warner Bros.

Peter Schauerte

“Peter has an enormous understanding of the business side of theatrical local production and has forged strong relationships with the outstanding talent we partner with,” Knobloch said in a statement.

She added that developing compelling German theatrical movies for home entertainment audiences has never been more important and “we look forward to continuing to delight our audiences with many more relatable and captivating stories on the big screen.”

Schauerte takes on a local theatrical production pipeline, encompassing a range of drama, comedy and family entertainment, with the release of 10 or more titles a year.

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Schauerte most recently served for more than six years as CFO and SVP  of finance for Warner Bros. Germany (as well as Austria and Switzerland) where, as a member of the German senior management team, he played an integral role assessing strategic business decisions and initiatives for growth, new business opportunities and the changing complexion of the entertainment portfolio and distribution channels, and oversaw digital innovation and data strategy. He added the role of GM, Poland (Theatrical & Consumer Products) for Warner Bros.  in 2019, until WarnerMedia reorganized its EMEA operations towards the end of last year.

Throughout his nearly 20 years at Warner Bros., he has held a number of finance and operational roles and has been actively involved in the Warner Bros. Germany local production business since 2002.

Knobloch’s GAS leadership team include previously announced executives Steffen Schier (Theatrical Distribution),  Sylvia Rothblum (TV Distribution), Matthias Heinze (Affiliates & Ad Sales) and Tim van Dyk (Marketing), uniting the company’s entertainment networks with its Warner Bros. activities as part of a one WarnerMedia approach across the region.