Acorn TV, the British-centric subscription streaming service owned by RLJ Entertainment, Feb. 9 announced its has secured exclusive North American rights to “New Worlds,” a four-part period drama starring Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey).
As part of the deal, Acorn TV will have streaming access on consecutive Mondays beginning Feb. 16, while iTunes will sell the complete series. iTunes users can also download four free behind-the-scenes featurettes available now at www.iTunes.com/NewWorlds.
“New Worlds” is a drama and love story that depicts the turbulence in both England and America at the time of the English Civil War. King Charles II’s tyrannical rule has led to a climate of violence and fear in England and the American colonies. Amid the chaos, four young idealists fall in love as they commit to forging a fairer future.
Unlike his roles in 50 Shades and The Fall opposite Gillian Anderson, Dornan plays a heroic idealist and outlaw in New Worlds. The Irish actor made his feature debut in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and played Sheriff Graham/The Huntsman in ABC's “Once Upon a Time.”
“New Worlds” also stars Joe Dempsie (“Game of Thrones”), Freya Mavor (Sunshine on Leith, Skins), Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell), Eve Best (“Nurse Jackie”), and Jeremy Northam (“Tudors,” Gosford Park) as King Charles II.
Separately, Acorn TV has added the series finale of “Foyle’s War.” Thereafter, all eight seasons of the show starring Emmy-nominated Michael Kitchen will be available to watch anytime. Notably, Oscar-nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) starred in the first episode of “Foyle’s War,” which is available for free.
The series is streaming at www.Acorn.TV, via the iTunes App store, its Roku channel, and now Samsung Smart TVs/Blu-ray Disc players. Acorn TV costs $4.99/month or $49.99/year.
Rentrak Feb. 5 announced it has sold its namesake pay-per-transaction packaged-media rental business for $7 million to Vobile, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company specializing in video and audio content protection, measurement and monetization services.
Under the deal, Rentrak received $1 million in cash, a $1 million note due in six months and Vobile preferred stock with a $5 million liquidation preference. Vobile plans to hire all Rentrak PPT employees to continue running the business and will rent space in Rentrak’s Portland, Ore., headquarters.
Last March, Rentrak announced it would sell its PPT business as it transitioned singularly to media data measurement.
Similarly to Netflix, which is building its subscription streaming business in part on the back of its lucrative by-mail disc rental service, Rentrak acknowledged the PPT business since 2006 generated more than $100 million in free cash it has used to build its movie and TV measurement businesses.
“While our PPT business no longer fits with our [core business] strategy, it has provided considerable value for studios and brick-and-mortar retailers for many years,” CEO Bill Livek said in a statement. “Vobile has been a strategic vendor to Rentrak for some time. Knowing them as we do, we are confident that Vobile is fully committed to continuing our longstanding tradition of providing outstanding service to the clients of its PPT business. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Vobile in our information businesses.”
Chinese digital movie service You On Demand Feb. 2 announced it signed a license agreement with 20th Century Fox Television Distribution for the streaming rights in China to a broad selection of catalog movies.
Content will be available to subscribers of You On Demand's subscription streaming platform via mobile, digital cable and IPTV.
Movies include The A-Team starring Bradley Cooper and Liam Neeson; Black Swan starring Academy Award winner Natalie Portman; 10-time Academy Award nominated film Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe; Speed, starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves; and Unstoppable, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, among others.
"We are very pleased that this agreement with You On Demand will see many of our high-quality feature films become accessible to viewers in China," Gina Brogi, EVP of worldwide pay-TV & SVOD at 20th Century Fox Television Distribution, said in a statement.
You On Demand, with headquarters in New York and Beijing, has over the years secured high-profile content license agreements with Disney Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures, NBC Universal, Warner Bros., Miramax, Lionsgate and Magnolia, as well as a broad selection of content from Chinese filmmakers.
Yet despite the license agreements, You On Demand struggles to gain traction in the crowded China market. Through Sept. 30, 2014, the service had generated less than $650,000 in quarterly revenue, $965,000 for the year.
China remains a burgeoning movie-watching market, with theatrical sales expected to become the largest in the world in a couple of years. Social media sites such as Youku and Tudou have hundreds of millions of unique monthly users, but online digital distribution remains a challenge.
To help secure better connections in China, You On Demand recently appointed Weicheng Liu as CEO, replacing Shane McMahon, who remains chairman of the board. Marc Urbach is president and CFO of the company.
"We are excited to be working with them in China as we bring their diverse library to all You On Demand platforms,” McMahon said in a statement.
A sentiment apparently shared by investors as You On Demand shares jumped more than 40% in heavy early morning trading.
SingTel, a Singapore-based telecommunications company has partnered with Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros. to launch an over-the-top video streaming service offering more than 10,000 movies and TV shows throughout the Asian market.
The joint venture, with the letters HOOQ, is headed by Peter Bithos, who previously was the chief operating advisor of Globe Telecom in the Philippines. HOOQ will offer local movies and TV shows to consumers on demand via streaming and download for subscription and transactional VOD.
The service, which hasn’t been priced, is slated to bow in the first quarter in Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Thailand, among other territories.
With the success of Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, demand for OTT video has been growing. SingTel, with about 1.6 million subscribers, believes OTT represents more than a $1 billion opportunity in the Asian market.
HOOQ will offer customers a wide variety of programs ranging from blockbusters such as Spider-Man and Harry Potter to TV favorites such as “Friends” and “Gossip Girl.” Customers can also look forward to an extensive selection of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Indonesian, Korean and Japanese movies and TV series.
The service will use the SingTel Group’s billing capabilities in developing markets where credit card ownership is limited.
“We’re thrilled to partner with SingTel and Sony Pictures Television to help grow the OTT video business across Asia. The combination of SingTel’s expertise and our world-class content is a winning combination for entertainment fans in the region,” Thomas Gewecke, chief digital officer and EVP of strategy and business development for Warner Bros. Entertainment, said in a Jan. 30 statement.
Looking to combat Netflix’s recent subscription streaming service launch, French supermarket chain Carrefour Jan. 27 announced the launch of Nolim Films, a digital platform offering electronic sellthrough and transactional VOD access to 3,000 movies and TV shows.
French users for the first time can register and access content stored in the cloud-based UltraViolet locker.
The French chain said it is looking to attract home entertainment consumers with new-release movies and episodic TV programing not available on SVOD.
Notably, Boulogne-Billancourt-based Carrefour, which operates 10,000 stores globally, including 4,800 in France, is offering consumers the “Day After US” app that enables episodic access to select American TV shows the day after their initial broadcast in the United States.
Titles can be rented for €1.99 ($2.26) for 48 hours or purchased from €4.99 ($5.67) each. Content can be accessed via Tablets, smartphones, PCs or connected televisions.
Carrefour also becomes the first French retailer offering movie discs with UltraViolet functionality — the cloud-based content storage locker with more than 21 million registered accounts. UltraViolet codes from titles purchased at Carrefour or third party retailers can be registered at www.nolim.fr.
Carrefour is the third-biggest packaged-media retailer in France with more than 7 million DVD and Blu-ray Disc titles sold in 2013.
The chain ended 2014 with $95.5 billion in global revenue, including the first positive uptick in non-grocery revenue in six years.
HBO Home Entertainment has launched a campaign aimed at selling digital access (with UltraViolet functionality) to select TV series inside a retail store. The pay-TV channel is marketing the $23.99 HBO Digital HD card at special point-of-purchase displays at Costco Wholesale stores through the end of January.
Costco, which is the nation’s fifth-largest retailer, operating more than 550 stores and generating $64 billion in fiscal 2013 revenue, has been a significant retailer of packaged media, including HBO content.
Consumers can choose from HBO series including “Game of Thrones,” “True Blood,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “True Detective,” which are redeemable via the Flixster Movie Store. Both HBO and Flixster are owned by Time Warner.
Industry-backed UltraViolet enables consumers to access the shows and movies (after registration) from the cloud via any UV-compatible website.
HBO eyes the Digital HD card as a starter kit for consumers who want to test the waters of digital ownership to start their collections. The card also doubles as a gift card, since the recipient can choose the program that he or she wants to download.
“So many consumers still head to their local brick-and-mortar retail store to purchase their favorite TV shows and films on Blu-ray Disc and DVD. Our HBO Digital HD card is an exciting new way to integrate the digital product in a physical environment,” Sofia Chang, EVP and GM of HBO Home Entertainment, said in a statement.
While brick-and-mortar retailers selling digital access to entertainment isn't new, the HBO Digita HD card offers an alternative. Purchase of the card enables the consumer to choose from a selection of content. By comparison, Best Buy markets digital access via CinemaNow to individual content on store shelves, a strategy duplicated by Target through its Target Ticket online service.
Last year, Walmart launched a platform designed to simplify the process for consumers to get access to digital versions of packaged-media purchases.
Dubbed “InstaWatch,” the platform enables a consumer of a DVD or Blu-ray Disc movie purchased at Walmart to scan the store receipt through a special "SavingsCatcher" app on a mobile phone to access the digital file on Vudu.com.
"Our [HBO Digital HD] card is designed to give the consumer a choice of multiple titles – which is not something you can get at any of these other retailers at the moment," said an HBO spokesperson.
Blinkbox, the electronic sellthrough movie and TV show platform owned by British supermarket chain Tesco, has been sold to telecom TalkTalk. The service will form part of TalkTalk TV, the telecom’s platform with more than 1.2 million customers.
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
The transaction has been in the works ever since Tesco found itself embroiled in an internal accounting debacle. CEO Dave Lewis is under pressure to right the supermarket retailer after it recently disclosed overstating half-year net income by more than $400 million. The news sent Tesco’s stock plunging and resulted in the government conducting an investigation to see if senior officials at Tesco “cooked the books” to mask slumping profits.
Blinkbox co-founders Adrian Letts and Michael Comish said they expect the digital platform to continue with little interruption.
“As we enter a new chapter, we are excited by the prospect of Blinkbox joining the TalkTalk family and complementing their strategy of being the best value for money TV, broadband, mobile and home phone provider in the U.K., offering customers flexible access to the widest range of free and paid-for content,” Letts and Comish said in a statement.
Blinkbox was the first digital platform offering access to the fourth season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” within days of the conclusion of its initial broadcast last year. Last October, it became the first official UltraViolet vendor for the cloud-based digital locker in the United Kingdom.
UltraViolet is backed by a consortium of more than 70 companies, including Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Paramount Home Media Distribution and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Blinkbox, which offers more than 10,000 digital titles for retail and rental, is considered a key driver in consumer adoption of UV in the United Kingdom. The platform has generated more than 1.5 million registered accounts in the U.K. without a formal launch, according to the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), which manages UltraViolet.
While digital revenue surged, more consumers in the United Kingdom bought and rented DVD and Blu-ray titles in 2014, according to year-end data from the British Video Association.
With the U.K. the third-largest home video market in the world, total retail sales topped £1.43 billion ($2.1 billion) in 2014 with DVDs and Blu-ray accounting for 89% of spending — the remaining on Digital HD.
Video rentals and subscriptions were estimated to be £755m ($1.1 billion), with pay-TV, on-demand and Internet subscription services (i.e. Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video) accounting for 81% of revenue, and the balance being disc rentals.
“Video is as popular as it has ever been despite competition for consumers’ time and money. Research shows that video discs represent an emotional purchase and form of owning content that can be enjoyed again and again. Shoppers are choosing new ways to buy such as Digital HD downloads and renting on demand, but these figures show that DVDs and Blu-rays are still the most popular way to watch and own video,” BVA chief executive Liz Bales said in a statement.
Indeed, some 22 million Brits bought a video to own on disc or as a Digital HD download during the year, more than those that visited the cinema (16 million). Meanwhile 7.5 million people rented a video, according to shopping analysts Kantar Worldpanel.
“Digital consumption of video continues to grow at a prestigious rate in the U.K. Not least of these channels is digital retail. Thanks to industry initiatives such as early releasing (Digital HD), the platform has maintained an impressive growth rate, forecast at 25% in 2014,” Richard Cooper, head of video analysis at IHS, said in a statement.
Top-selling discs in 2014 (DVD and Blu-ray)
1. Frozen (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (Warner Home Video)
3. The Lego Movie (Warner)
4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate U.K.)
5. Mrs. Brown’s Boys – D’Movie (BBC Home Entertainment)
6. Guardians of the Galaxy (Disney)
7. Gravity (Warner)
8. The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
9. The Inbetweeners Movie 2 (Channel 4 DVD)
10. Thor: The Dark World (Disney)
Perhaps it’s fitting that a movie about the largess of personal greed on Wall Street should be the most-pirated movie in 2014.
Martin Scorsese’s theatrical screed The Wolf of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio, was illegally downloaded more than 30 million times, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio and reported by Variety.
The Paramount Pictures release narrowly edged out Walt Disney Studio’s Frozen and Fox’s RoboCop at 29.9 million downloads each, respectively.
The remaining Top 10 pirated movies included Warner's Gravity (29.4 million) and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (27.6 million); Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World (25.7 million) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (25.6 million); Lionsgate’s The Legend of Hercules (25.1 million); and Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (24.4 million) and 12 Years a Slave (23.7 million).
Notably, Sony’s infamous buddy comedy The Interview was illegally downloaded more than 900,000 times during its Christmas Eve digital launch.
Meanwhile, HBO’s perennial pirate favorite TV show “Game of Thrones” again ranked atop the list for the third year in a row with 8.1 million illegal downloads, according to BitTorrent.
Runner up was AMC Networks’ “The Walking Dead” with 4.8 million illegal downloads, followed by CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” (3.9 million) and “How I Met Your Mother” (3.5 million). Other pirated favorites included Fox TV’s new Batman prequel series “Gotham” (3.2 million); The CW’s “Arrow” (2.9 million); ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy (2.8 million); History Channel’s “Vikings” (2.7 million); USA Networks’ “Suits” (2.5 million); and Comedy Central’s “South Park,” with 2.4 million illegal downloads.
With HBO launching a standalone subscription streaming service this year, it remains to be seen how that affects “Thrones” piracy going forward. To date, HBO has only licensed select catalog programming to Amazon Prime Instant Video.
“Big Bang Theory” and “HIMYM” are available on CBS’s nascent subscription streaming service CBS All Access, while “Walking Dead,” “Gotham” and “Arrow” are aligned with Netflix.
“Vikings,” “Suits” and “South Park” are available on Hulu Plus.
The aforementioned movies and TV shows are all avaialble on disc for sale and rental.
Sony Pictures Dec. 31 announced access to ‘R’-rated buddy comedy The Interview has been expanded to major cable, satellite TV and telecom operators, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Verizon and AT&T U-verse, among others.
The infamous $44 million comedy from Seth Rogen and co-starring James Franco about a pair of bumbling TV producers who score an interview-turned-assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jung-un has been at the center of a month-long hack against Sony Pictures.
The film, which has generated $3.3 million at the box office (through Dec. 30), in addition to about $15 million in digital retail and rental sales (a record for Sony), is also now available on DirecTV, Verizon FiOS, and Walmart’s Vudu.com. The Interview rents for $5.99 and sells for $14.99.
The cyber terrorists, who call themselves Guardians of Peace and have now reportedly threatened a major U.S. cable station, vowed harm to moviegoers earlier this month, which prompted four of the nation’s largest theater operators to scuttle a planned Christmas Day launch. Sony then worked out a Christmas Day theatrical bow with 301 indie theaters, in addition to digital sellthrough and rental access Christmas Eve on select online platforms.
The Interview is expanding to 580 indie theaters Jan. 2.
“We have always sought widest possible distribution for [the movie], and want to thank our new partners for helping us make that happen,” Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Pictures, said in a statement.
As expected, Sony Pictures on Christmas Eve began offering controversial comedy The Interview on select electronic-sellthrough and transactional video-on-demand platforms, including Google Play, YouTube Movies and Xbox Video, among others.
The ‘R’-rated buddy comedy from Seth Rogen and co-starring James Franco about an interview-turned-assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jung-un, can be rented for 48 hours for $5.99 or purchased for $14.99.
The movie, which has been at the center of a month-long siege on Sony Pictures by cyber terrorists, will also begin screening nationally Christmas Day on more than 300 independent theaters.
“After discussing all the issues, Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the sidelines and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country,” David Drummond, SVP of corporate development and chief legal officer with Google, said in a statement.
President Obama praised Sony’s decision to release the movie digitally.
“As the president made clear [Dec. 19], we do not live in a country where a foreign dictator can start imposing censorship here in the United States. With today’s announcement, people can now make their own choices about the film, and that’s how it should be,” Eric Schultz, deputy press secretary at the White House, said in a statement.
The Interview, with a $44 million production budget, was originally set for nationwide theatrical launch on Christmas. That plan was scrapped after the hacker group calling itself Guardians of Peace threatened to harm moviergoers, and, as a result, four of the nation’s largest theater operators canceled screening the movie.
Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton said releasing the movie was essential to the future of the studio following the hacking that exposed company data, unreleased movies and confidential employee information.
“We chose the path of digital distribution first so as to reach as many people as possible on opening day, and we continue to seek other partners and platforms to further expand the release,” Lynton said in a statement.
As expected, Apple Dec. 8 announced Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Frozen as the top-selling download title on iTunes in 2014.
The animated box office hit has been a global cash cow for home entertainment, dominating packaged media, music and consumer goods retail sales. Apple added that Frozen's Oscar-winning theme song, “Let It Go,” was the eighth-most-downloaded song of the year, and the “Frozen Free Fall” and “Frozen: Storybook Deluxe” apps were top downloads on the App Store.
Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the top-downloaded movie on iTunes, despite being released digitally just three weeks ago. Notably, Amazon ranks Guardians as the most popular packaged-media release based on preorders. The title streets Dec. 9.
HBO Home Entertainment’s Game of Thrones: Season 3 is the top downloaded TV show of the year. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Breaking Bad: The Final Season is fourth on the list.
Upscale movie server company Kaleidescape Dec. 4 announced the launch of Alto, a cloud-based movie player with more than 8,500 movies and 1,600 TV show seasons from Warner Home Video, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, among others.
Alto retails for $2,495, which is significantly less than the $4,000 Cinema One streaming media player Kaleidescape bowed earlier this year — the latter a 2014 CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards Honoree in the home audio/video components category.
Like Cinema One, Alto claims to stream content in 1080p Blu-ray resolution quality. In addition to an engaging user interface, Alto stores downloaded content on a hard drive — up to 100 movies in Blu-ray (1080p) quality, and 600 movies in DVD quality (720p).
Alto offers users the ability to upgrade their DVDs and Blu-ray discs to digital versions downloaded from the Kaleidescape Store.
“We help consumers discover and enjoy the finest movies, and we help the studios develop the emerging electronic-sellthrough market segment,” CEO Cheena Srinivasan said in a statement.
As expected, the amount of time Americans spend watching broadcast television declined more than 4% (12 minutes) in the third-quarter compared with the prior-year period, according to new data from Nielsen.
The average consumer over the age of 18 still watches 4 hours and 44 minutes of TV every day. Time-shifting content (using a DVR or video-on-demand technology) continues to resonate — albeit slowly at 30 minutes a day. That’s up just two minutes compared with the third quarter in 2013.
Meanwhile, the daily time spent using a smartphone increased 23 minutes, from 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 33 minutes per day. DVD and Blu-ray player usage remains unchanged at nine minutes per day — more than double the four minutes spent using a streaming media device.
“The evolving media landscape has not lessened consumer demand for professionally produced content. What has changed is the number and reliability of new media available to viewers,” Dounia Turrill, SVP of insights at Nielsen, said in a statement. “What used to be a schedule to watch programming now seems like little more than a suggestion.”
Meanwhile, radio consumption remains strong at 2 hours and 44 minutes per day, which is down just three minutes year-over-year. Time spent accessing the Internet via a computer increased 6% to 1 hour and 6 minutes. Using a video game console increased 20% to 12 minutes per day.
Among racial and ethnic groups, Nielsen found that black viewers watch the most broadcast TV at more than 201 hours per month. Hispanic and Asian American viewers watch about 117 and 82 hours monthly, respectively.
Indeed, Asians watching over-the-top video increased 17% — underscored by the fact tablet penetration among Asian-Americans also rose 17% during the period.
BitTorrent, the file-sharing platform often associated with illegal downloads of movies and music, says its users actually purchase or rent more content than the average Internet user.
The platform said 52% of 2,500 respondents in an online survey conducted in September said they bought or rented at least one movie in the past month. Another 16% said they acquired or rented at least one movie in the past few days; 12% in the past week; and 17% in the past six months.
BitTorrent said users spend an average of $54 a year on movies, with 35% of respondents spending more than $100. Notably, 60% of respondents said they buy or rent movies on disc.
Most popular genres include action at 32%, comedy (16%), Sci-Fi (15%), drama (11%), horror and romance at 5%.
Broken down by activity in the past year, 47% of respondents said they watched a movie in the theater; 38% said they bought a DVD or Blu-ray Disc title; 23% utilized a subscription streaming service; 23% bought a digital movie; 22% said they rented a disc; and 16% said they bought a transactional VOD movie rental.
Indeed, BitTorrent contends allowing its users access to digital movie content, trailers and sneak peaks enhances the chances for retail transactions.
In 2013, Cinedigm partnered with BitTorrent to offer free seven-minute opening clips of Arthur Newman, starring Oscar winner Colin Firth and Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt, four days before the indie launched theatrically.
While sneak peaks and clips of theatrical releases online aren’t new, offering legitimate content on a file-sharing network synonymous with piracy represented a twist — and leap of faith among a movie distributor.
It also underscored BitTorrent’s efforts to legitimize a reported user base of 170 million. Movie studios lost nearly $2 billion in revenue on potential disc sales for the top 10 pirated movies of 2012, according to a recent research report, which cited data from BitTorrent.
“We’re able to connect Cinedigm with real movie fans that actively support content creators and by doing so BitTorrent can demonstrate how we add value through continued innovation,” Shahi Ghanem, chief strategy officer of BitTorrent, said in a statement last year.
B. Riley & Co. analyst Eric Wold said the promotion with BitTorrent enabled Cinedigm to look for creative ways to effectively promote their indie films to the right audiences and for the right cost.
“Cinedigm is not held to the traditional marketing/promotional ways of other studios,” Wold said.
Entertainment network Epix Nov. 25 announced it has launched a TV Everywhere app on Google Chromecast.
Though a bit lost in the crush toward subscription streaming and over-the-top video, Epix, which is co-owned by Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Paramount, was the first pay-TV network to launch on Xbox 360, PlayStation, iOS, Android tablets, Windows 8.1 and Roku players.
Authenticated subscribers have access to more than 3,000 movies, including the "Hunger Games," "James Bond" and "Star Trek" franchises, plus original programming such as documentaries “The Road to the NHL Winter Classic” and “The Road to the NHL Stadium,” Russell Brand: Messiah Complex and “Hollywood Sessions,” co-produced with the Los Angeles Times.
“The marrying of Epix with Chromecast’s easy-to-use device offers a unique and unparalleled experience. With this partnership, we’re continuing to build on our momentum of delivering great programming how, when and where viewers want to see it,” Keary Hanan, SVP digital programming and production, said in a statement.
Aereo TV, the shuttered subscription-based digital TV broadcaster whose business model was thwarted by the U.S. Supreme Court, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Chapter 11 will permit Aereo to maximize the value of its business and assets without the extensive cost and distraction of defending drawn out litigation in several courts.
Aereo has appointed Lawton Bloom of Argus Legal LLC in Virginia to serve as Aereo’s chief restructuring officer during this period.
In a Nov. 21 post on its website, founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said the reversal of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision in June by the top court proved too difficult an obstacle.
“The Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo’s technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty. And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proved too difficult to overcome,” Kanojia wrote.
Aereo TV launched three years ago in Manhattan, N.Y., offering subscription service for live and on demand access to local TV broadcasts on portable devices via micro antennae. Aereo’s legal claim was that its technology was simply capturing free over-the-air digital signals — something televisions in the past did with rabbit ear antennae.
Broadcasters and media companies didn’t agree. This set off a series of litigation with Aereo winning battles in the federal district courts of New York and Boston and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
CBS CEO Les Moonves, a vocal critic of Aereo, lauded the technology but characterized the service as theft of copyright material.
Regardless, Kanojia said Aereo has helped evolve TV distribution as evidenced by the flurry of over-the-top video services and on-demand platforms coming to market.
“We feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to build something as meaningful and special as Aereo. With so many shifts and advances in technology, there has never been a more perfect time to take risks, challenge the status quo and build something special,” Kanojia wrote.
Vudu.com has joined Disney Movies Anywhere as a participating retailer, allowing movie fans to access their DMA content through the Walmart-owned digital movie service.
Disney Movies Anywhere (www.disneymoviesanywhere.com), which launched in February with about 400 Disney, Pixar and Marvel titles, utilizes a proprietary cloud-based storage platform, while Vudu is compatible with a number of digital platforms, including UltraViolet — the cloud-based platform supported by other studios.
The agreement coincides with Disney's Nov. 18 launch of the sing-along edition of animated hit Frozen, as well as the digital version of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (available on disc Dec. 9), which are available through Vudu (www.vudu.com/dma).
“In addition to its robust digital video service, Walmart is a top destination for Blu-ray and DVD purchases, and bringing Disney Movies Anywhere to Vudu enhances the value of those purchases,” Janice Marinelli, president of Disney Studio in-home and digital distribution & Disney-ABC content Distribution, said in a statement.
Prior to the deal, some Disney Movies Anywhere codes included with new Blu-rays could also be redeemed at Vudu, allowing consumers to store Disney films at both locations. This new agreement directly links a consumers' accounts to both services.
Disney Movies Anywhere, which bowed with Apple’s iTunes iOS operating system, earlier this month expanded availability to Google Play, which uses the competing Android operating system.
For a limited time, users who connect a participating digital retail account receive a free digital copy of Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph.
“Vudu’s availability across in-home entertainment devices like smart TVs, Roku 3, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well as Apple and Android smartphones and tablets means Disney fans can now enjoy their movies on more devices than ever,” Jeremy Verba, GM of Vudu, said in a statement.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — On Sept. 5, independent distributor Gravitas Ventures released the Olivia Wilde and Jason Bateman comedy-drama The Longest Week day and date in both theaters and on VOD and electronic sellthrough via digital platforms.
And while the film pulled in almost nothing on the big screen, it made “a few million” via digital, according to Gravitas CEO and founder Nolan Gallagher. Indeed, according to Rentrak data covering digital sales and rentals, The Longest Week quickly hit No. 14 on its top 20 EST and VOD list (for the week ended Sept. 14).
Speaking Nov. 11 at the American Film Market conference, Gallagher said people are consuming VOD in record numbers, especially on mobile devices, and that it’s become increasingly important for film distributors to treat a digital release with the same gravitas as theatrical.
“Getting the film up there, online, that’s possible,” Gallagher said. “It’s a matter of aggregating your audience ahead of time. Treat your VOD debut the way you’d treat your theatrical debut, and there can be real money in it.”
Paul Davidson, SVP of film and TV for distributor The Orchard, can attest to that. His company released the documentary film Harmontown, about writer-comedian Dan Harmon, in early October. The film follows Harmon on tour for his podcast series, which regularly pulls in more than a million listeners.
“When you have a community around [a property], you can plan a release around it. That’s very appealing,” Davidson said. “It’s easier to get to ‘my audience,’ a small cross-section. That’s realistic in the short term.”
But in theaters, across digital platforms, day and date? That’s just not so simple for independent filmmakers.
Still, getting on VOD platforms is easier than ever, thanks to the investments made by companies to remove the barriers for entry, according to Doug Sylvester, president of multiplatform video services company Vubiquity.
“What then becomes the issue is getting noticed,” Sylvester said. “More and more owners of content … have to take on that responsibility.”
Amazon, Netflix and iTunes have done a masterful job of knowing the consumers using their services, Sylvester said. However, they don’t share that data very quickly with everyone else. “You can get a very clear picture [of data] across platforms, but you’re looking back six months,” he said.
There’s a reason for that, according to John Sloss, founder of New York-based film and media advisory services company Cinetic Media. “The people who hoard data, keep it secret, profit off it,” Sloss said.
Upscale movie server company Kaleidescape Nov. 11 announced it entered into a license agreement with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment for electronic-sellthrough rights to 1,000 movies and 210 TV show seasons.
The transaction brings to 8,500 movies and 1,600 TV seasons available for download on the Kaleidescape Store.
Kaleidescape said its online store features new recommendation software, as well as a link enabling users to access digital versions (for a fee) of their DVD and Blu-ray Disc collections stored in the cloud.
The Kaleidescape Store, which serves all Kaleidescape Systems in the United States and Canada, also facilitates cloud-based UltraViolet functionality.
The agreement includes Bridesmaids; films from the "Bourne," "Jurassic Park" and "The Mummy" franchises; in addition to Despicable Me, Hop and Curious George. Additionally, award-winning television series such as “The Office,” “30 Rock” and “House” are available.
“Kaleidescape is focused on the overall experience in purchasing, choosing and watching movies at home … for families who own a personal movie library,” Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, said in a statement. “We like to support innovative companies within the UltraViolet ecosystem, and Kaleidescape is well-known for its innovative products and services.”