Report: Disney’s ‘Soul’ Top-Streamed Movie in the Past Seven Months

New data from Samba TV finds the Dec. 25, 2020 debut of Disney/Pixar’s Soul remains the most-streamed movie in the past seven months — topping Warner’s Wonder Woman 1984Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat and Amazon Prime Video’s Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, among others.

Fallout from the pandemic has seen Hollywood alter traditional movie distribution to include direct-to-streaming launches for new titles. Disney and WarnerMedia have led the move, followed by Hulu, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video.

Warner is releasing its entire 2021 theatrical slate on HBO Max concurrently with box office rollout.

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Direct-to-streaming movies continued to roll out, with major blockbusters hitting living room screens the same day as, or even before, their theatrical debuts across all major platforms. While Soul and WW84 continued to lead the pack from the fourth quarter of 2020 over both their three-day premiere window and for 30 days after, March held some huge debuts as well, with HBO Max’s Zack Snyder’s The Justice League and Godzilla vs. Kong seeing sizable three-day viewership tallies.

Through the end of the first quarter, Soul had generated more than 5.8 million household views, followed by WW84 with 4.3 million. Mortal Kombat started strong with 3.6 million households since its April 23 launch. Detective drama The Little Things has slightly more than 3 million households.

Pay-TV Viewership Decline Continues

Separately, according to Samba TV’s analysis, there was a 10% quarter-over-quarter decline in the daily average number of TV-viewing U.S. households consuming linear-TV, along with a 14% decline in total minutes viewed. Every month since November has progressively seen lower daily average U.S. household tune-ins than the previous month.

On top of that, linear-TV advertising impressions were down year-over-year across the U.S., U.K., and Germany showing that demonstrates that the industry has not quite returned to pre-pandemic levels and likely will continue to shift to digital as viewers increase time-shifting and streaming behaviors.

Interest in premium linear content is down: The average number of households that watched Showtime, HBO and Starz each day in the first quarter of 2021 was lower than it was in the fourth quarter of 2020. Starz saw the steepest drop-off at -21%, followed by HBO (-17%) and Showtime (-6%).

Linear-TV losses were widespread: 81% of U.S. TV networks saw quarter-over-quarter declines based on average daily household. Live sports continued its viewership slide as well. Q1 2021 was full of major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, but overall sports viewership continued to decline year-over-year, which started with the stoppage of major sports leagues in March.

Warner Bros. Q1 Home Entertainment, Games Revenue Down Slightly

WarnerMedia April 22 reported first quarter (ended March 31) revenue from Warner Bros. home entertainment and video games of $349 million, down about 4.5% from revenue of $365 million during the previous-year period.

It should be noted that the COVID-19 pandemic struck near the end of the first quarter of 2020, with the World Health Organization’s March 11 declaration of a global pandemic, which was followed days later by the closure of theaters. Home entertainment releases during the quarter were thus largely unaffected.

Warner’s top-selling packaged-media releases in the first quarter of 2021 included Tenet and Harry Potter: The Complete Collection.

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Meanwhile, WarnerMedia, whose properties include Warner Bros., HBO, HBO Max, TBS, TNT, TruTV and CNN, saw total revenue increase 9.8% to $8.5 billion, from $7.7 billion in the previous-year period. Revenue was driven by higher subscription, advertising and content sales, reflecting the partial recovery from prior-year impacts of COVID-19.

Subscription revenue increases reflected growth of direct-to-consumer domestic HBO Max and HBO subscribers, and, to a lesser extent, the May 2020 acquisition of the remaining interest in the HBO Latin America Group. Advertising revenue improved when compared to the prior year, resulting from the return in 2021 of the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship Basketball Tournament.

Additionally, content revenue increased due to higher sales to Max for theatrical product and “basic networks” licensing, partly offset by lower television product licensing from prior-year licensing to Max. In 2021, all Warner Bros. theatrical releases are streaming concurrently on Max for 31 days.

Operating expenses totaled $6.6 billion, up 13.9% when compared with the first quarter of 2020, driven by higher programming and marketing costs for Max and higher programming, including NCAA sports costs, partially offset by lower bad debt expense. Direct costs supporting DTC revenue were $1.7 billion in the first quarter of 2021, versus $911 million in the year-ago quarter.

WarnerMedia segment operating contribution was $2 billion, up 0.8%. The WarnerMedia segment operating income margin was 23%, compared with 25.7% in the year-earlier quarter.

TV Time: Warner’s ‘Mortal Kombat’ Most Anticipated Movie in April

Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat was the most anticipated movie in April on the TV Time chart.

Based on the video game franchise of the same name, the film follows Shaolin Monk Liu Kang, from Earth, who gets invited as a competitor in a mysterious, intergalactic tournament of ancient martial arts. It premieres April 23 in theaters and on WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service.

A Whip Media company, TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by nearly 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, premiering on Amazon Prime April 30, took the second spot on the chart. The action thriller is based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy and is a spin-off of the Jack Ryan film series.

Coming in at No. 3 was Netflix’s Thunder Force, premiering April 9 on the streaming service. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spenser and Jason Bateman, the film follows two childhood best friends who reunite as an unlikely crime-fighting superhero duo when one invents a formula that gives ordinary people superpowers.

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Also from Netflix, Stowaway, premiering April 22, took the fourth spot on the chart. In the film starring Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson and Toni Collette, a three-person crew on a mission to Mars faces an impossible choice when an unplanned passenger jeopardizes the lives of everyone on board.

Another space story, Lionsgate’s Voyagers, landed at No. 5. Starring Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp and Fionn Whitehead, the film follows a crew of astronauts on a multi-generational mission who descend into paranoia and madness, not knowing what is real or not. It hits theaters April 9.

Rounding out the chart at No. 6 was Concrete Cowboy, which began streaming on Netflix April 2. Starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin (“Stranger Things”), it follows a rebellious teen, sent to live with his estranged father for the summer, who finds kinship in a tight-knit Philadelphia community of Black cowboys.

 Most Anticipated April Movies

  1. Mortal Kombat – April 23 (Warner Bros., theaters and HBO Max)
  2. Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse – April 30 (Amazon Prime)
  3. Thunder Force – April 9 (Netflix)
  4. Stowaway – April 22 (Netflix)
  5. Voyagers – April 9 (Lionsgate, theaters)
  6. Concrete Cowboy – April 2 (Netflix)

 

TV Time features a global community of 16 million users who have reported more than 18 billion views of TV and movie content across 230,000 titles.

WarnerMedia Appoints Asif Sadiq SVP, Equity And Inclusion, International

WarnerMedia has named London-based Asif Sadiq to the newly created role of SVP of equity and inclusion, international. The announcement was made by Christy Haubegger, EVP of communications and chief inclusion officer, to whom Sadiq will directly report.

Sadiq will be based in London and joins the Equity and Inclusion leadership in implementing a comprehensive strategy to address all aspects of diversity across the company’s workforce, programs, content, suppliers, and community, working closely with Gerhard Zeiler, head of WarnerMedia International, and his international leadership team.

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“Asif’s proven track record and innovation around equity and inclusion makes him the ideal choice as we continue to build on WarnerMedia’s global strategy towards an equitable and inclusive company,” Haubegger said in a statement. “We know his experience and knowledge will aid us greatly in our efforts to advance business growth through an inclusive workforce and content that reflects the global audience we serve.”

Sadiq has a long career in the diversity and inclusion space with senior executive roles at adidas, The Telegraph Media Group, EY Financial Services and the City of London Police. He has reportedly been named as one of the most influential Global D&I Leaders by Hive Learning and occupies a place on the CIPD’s Top 20 Power List.  He is a winner of numerous awards including the highly commended Head of Diversity Award at the European Diversity Awards and was honored with an MBE in 2017 by the Queen and granted the freedom of the City of London in 2016.

In addition to his accolades, Sadiq is currently a leadership fellow at St George’s House at Windsor Castle, co-author of “Global Diversity Management” and “Diversity Management that Works,” and an Alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) which is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program.

Deluxe Taps Lena Wasikowski as SVP, Global Account Strategy and Business Development

Lena Wasikowski has been appointed SVP of global account strategy and business development at Deluxe, a global provider of digital and cloud-based solutions to content production studios and distributors.

Wasikowski will report directly to Deluxe chief strategy officer Anna Lee, and will be responsible for implementing growth across global studio partnerships, as well as expanding SVOD platform relationships, cultivating existing client relationships, and strategizing new opportunities in ancillary businesses.

Lena Wasikowski

“Lena has the perfect combination of multimedia knowledge, entertainment-insider expertise, and business acumen that will ensure that Deluxe can maximize on opportunities and continue to evolve through operational innovations and strategic partnerships,” Lee said.

Wasikowski joins Deluxe from WarnerMedia, where she most recently served as VP of global client relations and content distribution. In that capacity, she led the teams responsible for delivering WarnerMedia content to global servicing partners and retailers worldwide. Wasikowski also played a lead role in the creation and establishment of servicing protocols for industry standard specs and next generation technologies while at WarnerMedia.

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“I’m excited for this new chapter and honored to be joining such an iconic and innovative company that continues to shape and thrive in the ever-changing media industry,” Wasikowski said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to work with Anna Lee, especially given the new strategic direction she’s taking the company, and I’m looking forward to joining the extraordinary team that steers the company’s development and progression.”

WarnerMedia Nabs 30 Nominations for the 27th Annual Vision Awards

WarnerMedia March 16 announced it earned 30 nominations for the 27th Annual Vision Awards, presented by the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), which honors inclusive programming mirroring the lives, spirit and contributions of people of color in their diverse viewing audiences.

WarnerMedia’s brands CNN, HBO Max, Turner Classic Movies, Turner Sports, and Warner Bros. Television, among others, were represented in 15 different categories. Both HBO and TBS dominated “Best Comedy Performance” scoring all the nominations within that category. This year’s Vision Award winners will be announced in April.

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WarnerMedia in September 2019 released its first-ever annual report looking at diversity, inclusion and belonging across both its corporate operations and the films, television series and digital content created by its various production businesses.

Vision Awards nominees include:

“CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” (CNN)

Best Comedy Performance:

Jay Ellis: “Insecure” (HBO)
Issa Rae: “Insecure” (HBO)
Michaela Coel: “I May Destroy You” (HBO )
Tracy Morgan: “The Last O.G.” (TBS)
Yvonne Orji: “Insecure” (HBO)

Best Performance – Drama:
Jonathan Majors: Lovecraft Country (HBO | Warner Bros. Television)
Jurnee Smollett: Lovecraft Country (HBO | Warner Bros. Television)

Children’s:
“Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism” (CNN & Sesame Street) (CNN)
“We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest” (HBO)

Comedy:
“Betty” (HBO)
“I May Destroy You” (HBO)
“Insecure” (HBO)
“The Last O.G.” (TBS)

Digital Media – Short Form:
“African Voices: Miss Universe” (CNN)
“Blackface and Hollywood: A TCM Original Production” (Turner Classic Movies)

Documentary:
“First Ladies: Michelle Obama” (CNN)

Drama:
“All Rise” (Warner Bros. Television)
“Lovecraft Country” (HBO | Warner Bros. Television)

Foreign Language:
“Veneno” (HBO Max)

News/Informational:
“Seeing America with Megan Rapinoe” (HBO)

Original Movie or Special:
“Between the World and Me” (HBO)

Reality:
“We’re Here” (HBO)

Reality – Social Issues:
“United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell” (CNN)

Sports:
“Field of Dreams…Deferred” (Turner Sports)
“Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” (HBO)
“The Shop: Uninterrupted” (HBO)

Variety/Talk Show:
“HA Festival: The Art of Comedy” (HBO Max)
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion” (HBO Max)
“Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It!” (HBO)

 

WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS, Sky Partner to Launch Captions on U.K. Children’s Programming

In a move to improve literacy among young children, WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS and Comcast-owned Sky have partnered on a platform called “Turn on the Subtitles” to roll out captioning on more than 500 episodes of children’s programming in the United Kingdom.

Poor literacy skills can hold a person back throughout their life and currently one in four children in the U.K. leave primary school without being able to read fluently. Turning on same-language subtitles for children’s content can double the chance of them becoming a proficient reader.

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“By providing a range of our best-loved titles from Cartoon Network and Boomerang, such as ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’ and ‘Be Cool,’ and ‘Scooby-Doo,’ we hope to contribute to improving children’s reading skills across the U.K. and Ireland,” Vanessa Brookman, head of kids at WarnerMedia EMEA, said in a statement.

Eye-tracking behavior research shows that 94% of children engage with subtitles while watching their favorite shows which can improve spelling, grammar and vocabulary, with the child often unaware they are learning.

The Sky Kids subtitled collection has been curated with some of the most popular children’s content, including “SpongeBob SquarePants” (Nicktoons), “PAW Patrol” (Nick Jr.), and Sky Kids Originals such as “Pirates Love Underpants” and “Moominvalley.”

“Some ideas are so powerful that something must be done about them,” Oli Barrett MBE, co-founder of Turn on the Subtitles, said in a statement. “Subtitles improving literacy is one of those ideas. This campaign takes an incredibly simple insight and uses it to improve people’s lives.”

CEO Jason Kilar: HBO Max No. 2 Revenue SVOD Service in U.S.

Backed by an industry leading $14.99 monthly subscription fee, and growing subscriber base, HBO Max is the second-largest (after Netflix) revenue-generating SVOD service in the U.S., according to WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar.

Speaking March 12 on the AT&T analyst day, Kilar said more Max subscribers were added in the final seven months of 2020 than linear service HBO added in the previous 10 years.

Kilar said management’s goal around Max from the start has been to reach a broader, younger and more engaged audience than HBO.

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“I’m happy to report, we’re seeing just that,” he said, adding that 43% of the platform audience is under the age of 35, while 50% of viewers are female. HBO typically skews more male viewers.

Since launching on May 27, 2020, Max and HBO have topped 41 million in combined subscribers — a tally WarnerMedia had projected wouldn’t occur until the end of 2022.

“We exceeded that milestone more than two years ahead of plan,” Kilar said. “The launch of Max has not only covered the decline in linear subscribers, it has actually driven material growth.”

Kilar said Max users are twice as “engaged” as HBO users in terms of daily viewing hours — a metric the executive hailed considering Max’s elevated subscription fee.

“Based on publicly available data and analysts’ estimates, we believe that we are already the No. 2 revenue-generating standalone subscription video-on-demand service in the U.S.,” he said.

Kilar said he expects Max revenue per subscriber to continue increase as retail subs comprise an increasing percentage of the overall sub base. Indeed, the executive said the company earns a 90% margin on each retail Max subscriber added in the U.S.

“The economics of HBO Max’s growth are compelling,” he said.

Kilar said WarnerMedia remains “encouraged” by its decision to release all 18 of Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2021 theatrical releases on Max (for 31 days) simultaneously in the U.S. market.

“Given the effects of COVID, we have been happy, proud even, to give consumers the choice to see our great stories in the home or in theaters in 2021,” he said, adding that theatrical releases are often the first content new Max subs stream.

“We have seen a reduction in [subscriber] churn, in part due to the motion picture strategy.”

WarnerMedia Announces SXSW Online 2021 Content, Panel Slate

WarnerMedia is bowing WarnerMedia Rise, a virtual showcase of exclusive content, at the upcoming SXSW Online 2021 confab, March 16-20. The showcase will be the home for all WarnerMedia content, including screenings and panel discussions, with presentations and appearances by storytellers and talent. The immersive digital experience seeks to elevate diverse voices, stories and culture.

Each day will feature an event host, guiding viewers through the digital experience with curated content and sessions aligned to three key themes: “Closer to Your Heroes,” “Future Realities” and “Culture in Motion.” All content featured within the showcase will be made available to the public until March 20including those without registration to SXSW Online 2021.

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Below is a schedule of programming and what to expect at WarnerMedia Rise:

March 16: Closer to Your Heroes

  • Panel: Adult Swim – Animating from Home
  • Sneak Peak: Adult Swim – Birdgirl
  • Panel: WarnerMedia Corporate Social Responsibility – Driving Cultural Conversations on Social Issues
  • Panel: DC – BAWSE: Women of Color in the DC Universe
  • Panel: Turner Sports – Bracketology with Andy Katz
  • Screening: Stage 13 – Behind the Scenes of Snatchers
  • Panel: DC – NUBIA: Real One – The Storytellers Who Re-Introduced Wonder Woman’s Sister
  • Career Conversations: WarnerMedia Talent Acquisition – The Rise of WarnerMedia: Marketing, Communications, and PR Heroes Behind the Brand

 

March 17: Future Realities

  • Panel: HBO – Lovecraft Country Radio: Enhancing the Storytelling Experience
  • Career Conversations: WarnerMedia Talent Acquisition – The Rise of HBO Max/CNN Digital: Streaming Through the Eyes of Engineers
  • Career Conversations: WarnerMedia Talent Acquisition – Sound On: Audio and Podcast Production Chat
  • Panel: Stage 13 – Family Style: Surviving Production During the Pandemic
  • Panel: Warner Bros. Television – From STEM to Hollywood

 

March 18: Culture in Motion

  • Sneak Peek: Adult Swim – Tuca & Bertie
  • Panel: HBO Max – It’s A Sin – A Conversation with the Cast
  • Panel: WarnerMedia – Who Tells the Story
  • Panel: WarnerMedia – Emerging Voices of Color in Film
  • Exclusive Trailer Release: TBS – CHAD
  • Career Conversations: WarnerMedia Talent Acquisition – The Rise of Culture and Belonging
  • Panel: Stage 13 – Two Sentence Horror Stories:  Using Horror to Address Societal Issues

 

Additional details are available on the WarnerMedia Rise agenda.

In addition to WarnerMedia Rise, the media company is participating in SXSW Online 2021 official programming:

March 16

  • Fireside Chat: HBO Max – LGBTQ+ Representation in TV: Genera+ion & It’s A Sin
  • Panel: Crunchyroll and Adult Swim – Animating Resilience
  • Panel: HBO – Driving Innovation Through Emerging Tech with HBO
  • Panel: CNN – Impacts of Activism

 

March 17

  • World Premiere: HBO Max – Made for Love
  • Panel: CNN – Immunized – COVID-19 and the Race for a Vaccine
  • Panel: HBO Max – Made for Love Q&A

 

March 18

  • Panel: TBS – Homeroom with Nasim Pedrad, Creator of TBS’s New Comedy Series CHAD

 

March 19

  • Panel: TBS – Late Night Girls Club: Samantha Bee & Amber Ruffin
  • Panel: CNN – Charles Yu in Conversation with Lisa Ling

 

March 20

  • Panel: Turner Sports – Amplifying Athlete Voices Off the Court

 

Schedule to be announced

  • World Premiere: HBO – The Last Cruise
  • Screening: HBO – In the Same Breath

Walmart Expands Board With Ex-AT&T Boss Randall Stephenson Appointment

NEWS ANALYSIS — Walmart has named former AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to its board of directors, effective March 3, expanding the board to 12 members. Stephenson, who retired less than 12 months ago with a reported $270,000 monthly pension and benefits after 13 years as CEO of AT&T, is being sought for his “leadership skills and insights in finance, technology, retail and brand management,” according to Greg Penner, chairman of the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail behemoth’s board.

“We look forward to working with him as we drive Walmart’s strategy forward and continue providing effective governance for all our stakeholders,” Penner said in a statement.

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Stephenson will join a board whose annual compensation per member ranges from $260,000 to Penner’s $500,000 — with virtual meetings occurring as often as determined to be “necessary or appropriate.”

No doubt Stephenson has experience at the highest levels within corporate America. He also has a fiscal legacy some might question as less than effective. When the 60-year-old Stephenson departed AT&T, he left the telecom-turned-Hollywood player saddled with a staggering $180 billion in debt — a fiscal burden AT&T continues to labor downsizing to manageable levels.

The bulk of that debt was incurred following two high-profile Stephenson-led acquisitions: The 2014 purchase of DirecTV for $67 billion, including the assumption of satellite TV operator’s debt; and the 2016 acquisition of Time Warner for $85 billion, plus assumption of the media giant’s outstanding debt. Time Warner properties Warner Bros., HBO (and HBO Max), and Turner operate under the WarnerMedia umbrella.

Following closure of the Time Warner deal former President Trump’s Justice Department tried to derail, citing antitrust issues, activist hedge fund Elliott Management sent a letter to Stephenson and the board questioning why AT&T needed to own a movie studio, and wondering if the telecom could pay off its debt, among other issues. Elliott later sold all of its 5 million AT&T shares.

Indeed, no sooner had the ink dried on the DirecTV deal than the pay-TV operator began hemorrhaging subscribers to over-the-top video competitors such as Netflix — a common theme within linear TV. Subsequent efforts to hitch a ride to online TV via DirecTV Now failed. The platform is now called AT&T TV Now, with AT&T announcing a $10 monthly rate hike, effective in April. AT&T’s legacy pay-TV platforms lost a combined 617,000 subscribers in 2020.

Through Dec. 31, 2020, AT&T wrote off $15.5 billion for the DirecTV business. That came in addition to a $13.8 billion AT&T fiscal loss in the fourth quarter and a $5.2 billion loss for the fiscal year. In February, AT&T spun off 30% of DirecTV in a $8 billion cash deal with private equity group TPG to to create “New DirecTV,” encompassing satellite, online TV and cable service U-verse.

“The AT&T deal with TPG is good, it will keep investors, workers, customers and executives happy,” analyst Jeff Kagan wrote in a March 1 blog post.