Fighting With My Family

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 5/14/19;
Universal/MGM;
Comedy;
Box Office $22.96 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for crude and sexual material, language throughout, some violence and drug content.
Stars Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne Johnson, Stephen Merchant.

The notion that professional wrestling is “fake” is pervasive enough that most people don’t realize it’s a world just as competitive as any sport. It’s just the indicators of success aren’t strictly focused on the results in the ring.

As is made abundantly clear in the very entertaining Fighting With My Family, while the results of wrestling matches are more or less fixed as a means of storytelling and showmanship, the athleticism on display is just as genuine as any contest where the results aren’t predetermined.

The film tells the story of WWE superstar Paige, who emerged from a family of wrestlers in England to become one of the top female performers in the world’s biggest pro-wrestling promotion.

With her family’s small promotion struggling to get by, Paige (Florence Pugh) and her brother, Zak (Jack Lowden) are invited to a WWE tryout. But when Paige is the only one deemed worthy of potential superstardom, the siblings must come to terms with the notion that one’s dream and one’s destiny might lead to separate paths.

For Paige, that means leaving her family to train in America, and dealing with the hardships of trying to fit in when it seems she doesn’t quite fit in. For Zak, it means coming to terms with the idea that maybe his place isn’t in the spotlight, but quietly working behind the scenes to further the traditions of his family profession.

Fighting With My Family is based on a British TV documentary about Paige and her family and their passion for professional wrestling. Director Stephen Merchant has refocused the story into a rather typical sports movie underdog tale, playing fast-and-loose with the reality it for a more concise narrative.

Vince Vaughn’s character of Hutch Morgan, for example, is a composite of a variety of WWE authorities Paige would have encountered during her training in the NXT developmental program, essentially the minor leagues of wrestling.

The movie also skips over dealing with NXT’s own championship hierarchy, where using it might have giving a better sense of Paige’s progress within the company aside from her reactions to a few contentious exchanges with Hutch, and some encouraging words from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who pops in to play himself.

As such, the film’s climactic result seems a bit forced within the context of the story beats the movie itself has established, a development owing more to being a re-creation of the real event than something the film’s version of events has earned. Merchant’s comedic background serves the offbeat moments of the story well, but he admittedly wasn’t aware of the inner workings of professional wrestling before taking on the task of helming the film, and a few beats focused more on the mechanics of pro-wrestling storytelling might have been warranted.

Still, aided by some great performances by the main cast, the film offers plenty of heartfelt sentiment in celebrating the power of family to fuel the pursuit of a lifelong dream and find comfort and contentment when things don’t always go according to plan.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Home video extras include nine minutes of deleted scenes, a three-minute gag reel, a nine-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and a three-minute video about training for the physicality in the film. Merchant also provides an audio commentary for the film.

The Blu-ray also features an “unrated director’s cut” of the film, but the alterations are so minor that its inclusion seems like more of a marketing gimmick than anything of consequential artistic value. That being said, based on the few identifiable differences, my preference tends to lean toward the unrated cut, which actually runs three seconds shorter than the theatrical version.

The changes don’t alter the story in any way and consist mostly of alternate takes featuring slightly cruder dialogue to get the same message across.

I’ve managed to identify five alterations:

1) A slightly faster edit for a key joke during the dinner scene of Zak’s girlfriend’s parents meeting his family;
2) The Rock having a slightly different reaction to Paige’s shock at meeting him for the first time;
3) A more grotesque line of dialogue from an audience member reacting to Paige’s first introduction to an NXT crowd;
4) A faster edit of Zak getting into a bar fight; and
5) An obscenity as Hutch is testing Paige’s comebacks to potential crowd insults.

Also note that while Universal is distributing the Blu-ray, the film is an MGM production and thus the digital copy is not compatible with Movies Anywhere, but redeemable only through iTunes.

WarnerMedia Partners for New Pro Wrestling League

Move over WWE, there’s a new professional wrestling league coming to broadcast TV, streaming video and pay-per-view — backed by WarnerMedia.

The media company May 15 announced it is partnering with All Elite Wrestling (AEW), an upstart professional wrestling promotion featuring male and female wrestlers, to begin airing weekly “authentic” wrestling matches later this year.

With a goal of making pro wrestling less scripted soapy drama and more real sports legitimacy, WarnerMedia aims to build the league into a global franchise.

Wrestlers will be given more freedom to explore their characters and highlight their athletic abilities. The league will include statistics to wrestling to help fans deepen their engagement by tracking each competitor’s wins and losses as the wrestlers pursue championships, analyzing their moves, assessing damage to their opponents, and providing insights into their winning streaks.

Founded by CEO Tony Khan, AEW is headlined by wrestlers The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson), Cody and Brandi Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and Hangman Page, and a roster that includes former WWE star Chris Jericho.

Omega, Cody and The Young Bucks also serve as EVPs of the company in addition to in-ring talent, and Brandi Rhodes also serves as chief brand officer.

WarnerMedia will provide multi-platform access for fans to watch AEW events, airing live weekly matches on TNT in primetime, as well as streaming them through WarnerMedia’s Bleacher Report Live (B/R Live) streaming service and on pay-per-view.

“All Elite Wrestling is a talent-forward, fan-first league whose inclusive approach to creating high-quality athletic wrestling competitions is already making waves with fans and attracting top-tier wrestlers,” Michael Quigley, EVP of commercial operations, content strategy and monetization at TBS and TNT, said in a statement.

B/R Live will serve as the exclusive digital streaming partner in the U.S. for AEW’s inaugural event, “Double of Nothing,” on May 25, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The event, which reportedly sold out in under 30 minutes, features a fight card including headliners Omega and Jericho; Cody taking on his brother Dustin Rhodes; The Young Bucks battling the Lucha Bros for the AAA World Tag Team Championship; Hangman Adam Page clashing with PAC; and Britt Baker, Nyla Rose and Kylie Rae competing in a three-way match.

Additionally, the hour-long live pre-show special, “The Buy-In” will stream on WarnerMedia and AEW’s social media channels.

The show includes the first ever “Casino (Battle) Royale,” which will see 21 competitors, including Jimmy Havoc, Billy Gunn, MJF and Jungle Boy entering the ring in waves of five wrestlers every three minutes followed by one final entrant, lucky number 21, all fighting it out in the ring until there is one winner, whose reward will be a future title shot against the first ever AEW World Champion.

“Wrestling fans have wanted — and needed — something different and authentic,” said Khan.

‘Fighting With My Family’ Director’s Cut on Digital April 30, Disc May 14

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release MGM’s Fighting With My Family digitally April 30, and on Blu-ray and DVD May 14.

Written and directed by Stephen Merchant, the comedy set in the world of professional wrestling is based on the true story of WWE Superstar Paige (Florence Pugh). Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Page and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) are invited to try out for the WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must dig deep to prove she can become a star. The cast includes Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Vince Vaughn and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who plays himself and also produced the film.

Fighting With My Family earned $22.5 million at the domestic box office.

Subscribe HERE for FREE Daily Newsletter!

The Blu-ray combo pack will include a director’s cut of the film with new and extended scenes not seen in theaters.

The DVD and Blu-ray will include deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, a commentary with Merchant, the featurette “A Family’s Passion: A Making Of” and a “Learning the Moves” featurette about depicting the wrestling scenes in the film.

Disney Outranks Netflix and Amazon Prime in Brand Study

Disney ranked No. 1 followed by Amazon Prime and Netflix in the media and entertainment industry portion of MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2019 Study.

The study is the largest study of brands based on emotions, according to the company.

Disney rose in the ranking from fifth overall in the 2018 study to first this year.

The remaining brands in the Top 10 for the media & entertainment industry were, in order, PlayStation, YouTube, Xbox, Nintendo, Hulu, HBO and WWE.

MBLM defines Brand Intimacy as “the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love.” Top intimate brands in the U.S. continued to significantly outperform the top brands in the Fortune 500 and S&P indices in both revenue and profit over the past 10 years, according to the study.

“Media & entertainment continues to be our most intimate industry,” Mario Natarelli, managing partner of MBLM, said in a statement. “The need to escape reality, consume content on demand, and lose ourselves in stories is a powerful combination of factors. Disney is leveraging its nostalgic associations to cultivate stronger bonds with customers. It has also improved its performance with men, while continuing to innovate and expand its offerings.”

Additional findings in the media and entertainment industry were:

  • Disney was the No. 1 brand with both men and women as well respondents aged 45-64;
  • Disney was also the top brand for people making over $100,000;
  • YouTube ranked first for millennials;
  • YouTube also ranked first for those making $35,000-$50,000; and
  • Media and entertainment was also the No. 1 industry for millennials.

The Brand Intimacy 2019 Study is based on the responses of 6,200 consumers and 56,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the United States, Mexico and the UAE. To view the media & entertainment industry findings, please click here. To download the full Brand Intimacy 2019 Study or explore the Data Dashboard click here.

WWE YouTube Channel Reaches 40M ‘Subscribers’

World Wrestling Entertainment announced on Twitter that its YouTube channel has generated 40 million subscribers and 30 billion lifetime views.

A YouTube channel subscriber is typically generated when someone clicks to follow for free.

The channel, which essentially markets WWE pay-per-view events, branded pay-TV channels (“Raw,” “Smackdown Live”) and WWE Network subscription streaming video service, streams highlight clips, interviews and promotional PPV segments.

“Thank you to everyone that chooses to watch http://YouTube/WWE!” tweeted chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon.

WWE earlier this month disclosed that its SVOD service had topped 1.59 million paying subscribers.

WWE Streaming Video Service Tops 1.59 Million Subscribers

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Feb. 7 reported a 7% (110,000) increase in fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) subscribers to its WWE Network over-the-top video streaming service. The platform ended the period with 1.59 million subs.

Media revenue grew 40% to a quarterly record of $205.3 million, primarily due to the distribution of certain live, in-ring programming content in international markets, which was partially offset by the timing and performance of the company’s portfolio of original movies.

Additionally, media revenue reflected the contractual escalation of core content rights fees, including license fees from the distribution of WWE’s flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” as well as increased sales of advertising and sponsorship across platforms and the continued growth of WWE Network.

“In 2018, WWE generated the highest level of revenue and earnings in the company’s history by leveraging our brand strength to increase the monetization of our content worldwide,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “Our long-term growth strategy will continue to focus on content creation, digitization and international development.”

 

Neulion Rebranded to Endeavor Streaming, Snatches WWE from Disney’s BamTech Media

Backend tech support for streaming video is becoming big business.

Endeavor Talent Agency, whose subsidiaries include William Morris Endeavor, IMG, and Ultimate Fighting Championship, announced the formation of Endeavor Streaming, encompassing the company’s video streaming products and services.

The over-the-top video venture is driven by Neulion, which Endeavor acquired in 2018 for $250 million.

NeuLion, which provides backend support for live-sports streaming, is being absorbed within the new group alongside Endeavor’s internally developed video platform technology, and now operates under the Endeavor Streaming moniker.

Endeavor Streaming provides backend tech support for the NFL, NBA, UFC, and Euroleague. Notably, the platform just signed professional wrestling brand WWE away from Disney’s BamTech Media.

BamTech, which Disney acquired for about $3 billion, provides streaming tech support for ESPN+, HBO Now, PlayStation Vue, The Blaze and WatchESPN, among other services. It will also power Disney’s upcoming branded SVOD service.

With more than 1.6 million subscribers, WWE Network is one of the largest sports-entertainment OTT platforms in the world. Endeavor also supports U.K.-based BT and its new service, BT Sport Box Office; and OSN, the Middle East and North Africa’s entertainment network.

Endeavor Streaming will be co-led by chief technology officer Nick Wilson and president of business operations Will Staeger. Staeger previously served as SVP within IMG’s original content division following time at ESPN, WWE, and Dick Clark Productions.

“We’ve integrated Endeavor’s scalable platform with NeuLion’s industry leading technology and feature set to provide clients with the best tools and services in video streaming, removing technology as a barrier in reaching their consumers,” Wilson and Staeger said in a co-statement.

Endeavor Streaming will continue servicing major media providers, including Univision, Sportsnet, Sky Sports, MSG, National Geographic, and Big Ten Network. The group will also continue supporting Endeavor properties like PBR (Ride Pass) and UFC (UFC.tv and Fight Pass).

The platform recently streamed “UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor,” and received the “OTT TV Service of the Year” award at the Content Innovation Awards ahead of MIPCOM for its work on the NBA League Pass International product.

Meanwhile, the group has launched several new consumer products, including “Serie A Pass” and “Strive,” the latter of which features action from both Serie A and La Liga, Italy and Spain’s professional soccer leagues, respectively.

 

 

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Lead Parks Associates Top 10 OTT Services List

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, in that order, lead Parks Associates updated list of the top 10 subscription over-the-top (OTT) video services in the U.S. market. The list, released Nov. 7, is based on estimated number of subscribers.

The full list in order is:

  1. Netflix
  2. Prime Video Users (Amazon Prime)
  3. Hulu (SVOD)
  4. HBO Now
  5. Starz
  6. MLB.TV
  7. Showtime
  8. CBS All Access
  9. Sling TV
  10. DirecTV Now

 

“Which company is the leading OTT video subscription service remains a topic of debate,” said Brett Sappington, senior director of research, Parks Associates, in a statement. “According to our estimates, Amazon has more Prime Members than Netflix has subscribers. However, when you consider only those Prime Members that use Prime Video, Netflix is the largest. Hulu remains the third largest but continues to grow its subscriber base.”

The firm noted the rise of a second tier of OTT video services from services with recognized brands, including several with high profile original content. Online pay-TV services Sling TV and DirecTV Now round out the top 10, ahead of similar services Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue. Online pay TV has been one of the fastest growing segments in the OTT video space, with aggressive marketing by all, according to Parks.

“HBO, Starz, Showtime, and CBS All Access demonstrate the powerful attractiveness of original content through series like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’” Sappington said in a statement. “This pattern suggests new services such as WarnerMedia’s DC Universe and the forthcoming streaming service from Disney could achieve success quickly.”

The top subscription sports OTT video services are MLB.TV, WWE Network and ESPN+. MLB.TV continues to lead the sports OTT subscription category, benefiting from its long tenure as a streaming service and popularity among dedicated baseball fans, according to Parks. WWE also has a dedicated fan base and publicly reported having more than 1.2 million U.S. subscribers at the end of Q3 2018, according to Parks. ESPN+ is a newcomer to the OTT video marketplace but recently announced that it had exceeded 1 million subscribers.

Other findings include:

  • OTT video subscription penetration has reached 64% of U.S. broadband households, with more than two-thirds subscribing only to one of the top three services, Netflix, Prime Video, or Hulu;
  • The online pay-TV audience is similar to the OTT audience — they are younger and quicker to adopt new technologies when compared to traditional pay-TV households; and
  • Over the past three years, OTT churn rates have gradually fallen each year from 31% of OTT subscriptions cancelled each year in 2015 to 28% in 2018.

World Wrestling Entertainment Ups Q2 SVOD Subs 10%

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) said second-quarter (ended June 30) over-the-top video subscriptions of WWE Network increased 10% to 1.8 million from 1.62 million during the previous period.

Digital engagement continued to grow through the first six months of 2018, with video views up 58% to 14.4 billion and hours consumed up 71% to 509 million across digital and social media platforms.

The staged wrestling entertainment promotor completed agreements with USA Network and Fox Sports, effective Oct. 1, 2019, which increase the average annual value of WWE’s U.S. distribution 3.6 times that of the prior deal with NBC Universal.

Revenueincreased 31% to $281.6 million from $214.6 million, driven by the increased monetization of content as reflected in the media segment.

Operating incomenearly doubled to $21.2 million from $10.7 million in the prior-year quarter, reflecting increased profit from the media segment, which was partially offset by an increase in management incentive compensation based on anticipated strong full-year results and the rise in the company’s stock price.

Operating income margin was 8% as compared to 5% in the prior year quarter.

Through the first six months, operating income ballooned 192% to $43 million from $14.7 million on revenue of $469.3 million, which was up 16.5% from $403 million last year.

“We’re pleased with our continued success in increasing the monetization of WWE content globally,” chairman/CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “This success is evidenced by the completion of our new U.S. distribution agreements with USA Network and Fox Sports, the staging of another record-breaking WrestleMania, and the development of a 10-year strategic partnership with the Saudi General Sports Authority.”

Indeed, WWE produced more than 165 hours of content in the quarter, including versions of its “Best of WWE”series in Spanish, Portuguese, and German, and plans to launch a new series, “WWE Now”in Arabic.

WWE Ups OTT Video Subs 5%, Stops Reporting Disc Sales

World Wrestling Entertainment May 3 reported a 5% increase in first-quarter (ended March 31) WWE Network subscriptions to 1.56 million. The over-the-top video service had 1.48 million during the previous-year period.

The professional wrestling media company no longer reports WWE home entertainment results, having folded disc sales into its media division, which includes legacy pay-per-view events and flagship TV programs “Raw,” and “Smackdown.”

Media revenue increased 10% to $133.4 million from $121.2 million during the previous-year period. Operating income jumped 74% to $43.6 million from $25.1 million last year.

Live event operating income decreased 22% to $2.7 million on revenue of $30.8 million. Consumer products income fell 59% to $6 million on revenue of $23.5 million.

The fiscal reporting switch is understandable considering WWE home entertainment posted Q4 operating loss of $700,000 on revenue of just $900,000, compared to operating income of $1.9 million and revenue of $4.2 million during the previous-year period. It was the unit’s first fiscal loss.