Dish Networks March 5 announced its Dish Anywhere app, which allows subscribers to watch live and recorded programming on connected and non-connected devices, is now available on Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX tablet. The app was previously available only on Android and iOS devices.
The satellite TV operator continues to push technology trends as a means of attracting and retaining bundled channel subscribers in an era of subscription streaming.
Through the Dish Anywhere app, Hopper with Sling DVR owners can view live, recorded and VOD content at home or remotely from their smartphones and tablets when connected to either Wi-Fi or a 3G/4G connection.
Additionally, the app gives users the ability to view program guides, set recordings and manage their DVRs. The app also allows users to transfer recorded content from the Hopper to their mobile devices when an Internet connection is not available.
"By offering Dish Anywhere to this new group of tablet owners, we continue to show that we are dedicated to the expanding mobile market by allowing our customers to watch everything, anywhere no matter what mobile device they are using,” Jimshade Chaudhari, director of product management at Dish, said in a statement.
Comcast Feb. 11 announced it signed a distribution agreement with Warner Bros. enabling the cable operator’s Xfinity TV subscribers to purchase and access movies and TV shows on any connected device — often weeks ahead of the packaged-media release.
Cable’s first digital content store is selling Gravity, which earned 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress (Sandra Bullock), Best Director and Best Picture. Other Warner titles becoming available for purchase include: 42, Argo, The Great Gatsby, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, Prisoners, We’re the Millers, The Conjuring, The Following, Getaway, The Hangover Part III and "Veronica Mars."
"Comcast is an excellent partner and its Xfinity TV digital storefront is a terrific outlet for Warner Bros.’ great slate of films and TV shows," Jim Wuthrich, president of the Americas, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, said in a statement. "We’re very pleased to see Comcast move into digital sales and we look forward to helping them further expand their digital store."
Launched last November with movies from Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, the Xfinity On Demand digital store became the first pay-television provider in the country to sell Digital HD (electronic sellthrough) content for download and streaming. The platform quickly became a go-to destination for Digital HD, including becoming the nation’s top-selling outlet for the digital edition of Despicable Me 2 through the Thanksgiving weekend, according to Universal Pictures.
Xfinity On Demand reportedly controls about 15% of the Digital HD market. Digital purchases topped $1.2 billion in revenue in 2013, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
“Our Xfinity On Demand platform provides customers with the most current content, where and when they want it, and the incredible success of our digital store and cloud-based digital locker will only continue to grow as we expand the platform,” Michael Schreiber, SVP of content acquisition at Comcast, said in a statement.
Rentrak Corp. Feb. 6 said it is exploring strategic options for its legacy pay-per-transaction (PPT) packaged-media rental business, including selling the division, CEO Bill Livek told analysts during the fiscal call.
The Portland, Ore.-based data tracking company’s PPT business enables independent video rental stores to acquire greater copy depth on select studio new releases by charging on a per-transaction basis. Rentrak, which bases its name on the PPT business, said it expects to generate 7% to 10% revenue growth in home entertainment in the current fiscal year.
Lively said the decision to spin-off the PPT business reflects Rentrak’s increased move toward digital data tracking businesses, coupled with the fact PPT’s largest store-based client — Blockbuster — has ceased operations. PPT’s third-quarter revenue growth was due in part to Warner Home Video’s decision to offer greater selection of new releases on street date to video stores — a move that upped content availability 30%, according to Livek.
“We will not be reporting any revenue from Blockbuster as of Feb. 1,” he said. “Our management team has done a fantastic job of turning our PPT business around this fiscal year. At the same time, given the secular trends in this business … we are actively pursuing strategic options for the PPT business. We believe this business provides significant value for brick-and mortar video stores and we are confident in our ability to find the right option for our home video customers.”
PPT generated $13.1 million in third-quarter (ended Dec. 31) — up 17% from revenue of $11.2 million during the previous-year period. Operating income for the PPT business was $2.1 million compared to net income of $1.5 million a year ago.
CFO David Chemerow said any sale of the PPT business would not include the direct revenue sharing (DRS) business, which he described as a “high margin” segment that measures data collected on all PPT transactions.
Chemerow said he expects PPT revenue to range from $43 million to $46 million in the current fiscal year. That revenue will drop upwards of 25% in the next fiscal year with the loss of Blockbuster and ongoing shrinkage in the home video store footprint, according to the CFO.
“This would result in PPT revenue in the 2015 fiscal year in the range of $33 million to $35 million,” Chemerow said, which includes the elimination of Blockbuster. Operating income would range from $2 million to $3 million.
“Although we have not made a decision on the PPT business, if we do decide to sell it before the end of our fourth quarter (March 31), we believe will be able to treat that business as a discontinued operation [on the books].”
Meanwhile, Rentrak’s “advanced media and information” business, which tracks TV ratings, box office tallies, transactional VOD and electronic sellthrough, saw revenue increase 35% to $18.5 million from $13.7 million in revenue during the previous-year period.
Rentrak narrowed the quarterly loss to $366,000 from $1.8 million last year. Revenue grew 27% to $31.6 million from $24.9 million a year ago.
With the Sochi Winter Olympics slated to begin Feb. 7, NBC is offering viewers 30 minutes of free TV Everywhere access to the two-week long event. Viewers must first download the free NBCOlympics.com app or NBC LiveExtra app to access the content.
TV Everywhere is the multichannel video program distributors' antidote to over-the-top video (such as Netflix) by offering authenticated viewers on-demand access to repurposed content.
NBC plans to make the Winter Games the most technology-savvy event in history with more than 1,000 hours of coverage planned live and on demand across myriad platforms, including mobile phones and tablets.
During the Sochi Olympics, and for the first time in the history of the Winter Games, all competition across all 15 sports, including each medal-winning performance in all 98 events, will be streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app. The site will also feature exclusive content, real-time results, medal standings, event highlights and analysis, athlete interviews and profiles, and rewinds of all event coverage.
Viewers at first will be able to access Olympic coverage on portable devices free before being prompted to verify subscription to a MVPD operator. On subsequent days, viewers will be prompted to verify subscriptions after five minutes. Verification includes entering a user name and password provided by their MVPD.
NBC is using Ryan Seacrest in an instructional video explaining how the apps work.
"We've tried to make it as easy as possible for the average person," Ron Lamprecht, EVP of digital distribution for NBC Universal, said in a statement.
During the 2012 London Summer Olympics, NBC said almost 10 million portable devices were registered to access content on demand.
“With improved tools, including the multi-day temp pass and more providers offering in-home verification, our goal is for temporary pass to really drive usage and adoption of TV Everywhere in a way that hasn’t ever been done before," Rick Cordella, NBC Sports' SVP for digital distribution, said in a statement.
You On Demand, a New York-based Chinese multiplatform video distribution service, Jan. 30 said it has signed an expanded license deal with Disney Media Distribution.
Under the agreement, You On Demand will make available Disney catalog titles such as Alice in Wonderland and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, as well as Marvel titles, through its subscription streaming service. In addition, new releases such as Thor: The Dark World and Saving Mr. Banks will be available via transactional VOD.
Disney in recent years has upped its profile in China, including involving the communist country’s expansive film industry in Marvel’s Iron-Man 3. Walt Disney, which is building a theme park in Shanghai, last October said it would also open the world’s largest Disney-themed store (53,000 square feet) in nearby Lujiazui.
“This partnership marks the next step in You On Demand's commitment to provide rich and diverse content to customers anytime and anywhere on a wide variety of platforms, including mobile, digital cable, IPTV, over-the-top and online,” Shane McMahon, chairman of You On Demand, said in a statement.
McMahon’s father, Vince, owns and operates World Wresting Entertainment.
With Disney, You On Demand aims to expand its mobile distribution presence in China. In the recently announced distribution agreement with Huawei, You On Demand will add Disney titles via its newly launched mobile app, You Cinema. The App currently comes preloaded on Huawei Mate smartphones. Huawei is the third largest global smartphone manufacturer.
Since overtaking the U.S. last year in shipment volume, China's smartphone market is now the world's largest. Shipments are projected to grow 25% in 2014 to 450 million units from approximately 360 million in 2013, according to market research firm IDC.
The global installed base of TV-centric connected devices surpassed 1 billion units in 2013 and will exceed 2 billion by 2017, driven by smart TVs, IP-enabled STBs, game consoles, Blu-ray Disc players and low cost digital media adapters, according to the latest research from Futuresource Consulting.
TV sales account for 70% of traditional audio visual consumer electronics market value, and smart features and connectivity are the latest in a stream of innovations to sustain the industry, drive replacement demand and encourage consumers to upgrade to the next big thing.
“Forty-four percent of the 225 million TVs shipped worldwide in 2013 offered smart features, and consumers now increasingly expect these enhancements on mid-range as well as high end models,” Jack Wetherill, senior market analyst with Futuresource said in a statement. “By 2017, over 80% of all TV sets sold worldwide will be enabled for online connectivity and smart features. As a result, apps are also an opportunity for manufacturers to differentiate with unique features and content.”
According to the consulting firm, three years ago, less than 30% of people who owned a Smart TV actually connected it to the Internet. This trend has now risen to 68%, with the U.S. leading at a 79% connection rate. Retailers input suggests consumers are attracted to smart features like gesture control and facial recognition, which may be harnessed for networked applications longer term.
“As fixed and mobile broadband both continue to evolve in speed and capacity, alternative service-level infrastructures are being created to reach the huge base of IP devices with on-demand and simulcast content at quality close to, or matching, that of broadcast,” Wetherill said. “Both TV-centric and mobile multimedia IP devices will drive growth in online content distribution, but it is clear that consumers like the personal nature of second screen, and tablets will elevate multiplatform consumption to a whole new level.”
However, despite the rise of over-the-top video and connected devices, the set-top box market remains robust, sustained by a new generation of devices that integrate DVR functionality with broadcast, cable and IP networks to provide easier time-shifting, content searches, navigation and on-demand access to content.
Set-top shipments remain high — 220 million units in 2013, dominated by pay-TV providers who are upgrading to integrate IP services with broadcast content and on-demand functionality via advanced user interfaces.
Game consoles continue to be the most popular TV-centric media player, with both Microsoft and Sony building entertainment content and service partnerships to add value for their networked users. With the recent release of Xbox One and PlayStation 4, games consoles are high volume — 31 million units worldwide in 2013 — and moving into a new cycle, though the overall market is expected to gradually contract from 2015 onwards, according to Futuresource.
“In parallel with all this, ownership of personal multimedia devices has soared from 2.8 billion in 2013, on track to reach 4.4 billion by 2017 as tablets and smartphones become ubiquitous and supplant PCs as alternative viewing platforms,” Wetherill said.
Bitcoin — the peer-to-peer payment system and digital currency — is slowly gaining acceptance among consumers of home entertainment, according to a new report.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that 38% of 1,000 respondents said they would be interested in using Bitcoin for downloading or streaming TV shows or movies, and 39% said they would be interested in using it for buying movie or sporting event tickets. Another 26% would use the currency for pay-TV services.
Entertainment companies are experimenting with content sales using digital currency. Social gaming company Zynga is accepting Bitcoin in some cases, and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings became the first pro sports team to accept the online currency.
Ben McConnell, managing director of PwC, said studios and distributors could familiarize themselves with Bitcoin as currency on specific releases — both at the theater or at retail.
“They should start thinking about experimenting using Bitcoin in different uses for specific shows, or events for point-of-sale applications,” McConnell said. “Companies could use Bitcoin and compare usage rates with traditional payment systems — especially shows [or products] that have a high technology-leaning audience.”
Shrinking the Cost of Buying a Movie
In 2012, there were 26.2 billion credit card transactions in the United States, spearheaded by Visa, which generated $6.9 trillion in sales volume, according to PwC. American Express charges the highest transaction fee (3.1%), followed by PayPal at 2.9%; Visa, Mastercard and Discover are at 2.7%, among others.
These “swipe” fees, among others, are attached to any packaged media, digital or theatrical transaction when using a credit card.
There were $140 billion in credit card fees (excluding interest) generated by banks and processing firms in 2012. Bitcoin could shrink those fees because it charges no transaction fee; opting instead for $30 monthly subscription fee.
More importantly, digital currency doesn’t require a buyer giving up personal information such as a pin, passcode or social security number to complete a transaction. A Bitcoin transaction entails using a Bitcoin address (which comprises a secret code and assigned mathematical formula) to prove it came from the buyer.
Since a Bitcoin address is anonymous, third parties cannot determine who it belongs to — only that the required funds exist to complete a transaction. All sales are final and there are no chargebacks to businesses.
McConnell said retailers and content holders could benefit using Bitcoin when selling high-volume unit products associated with a special release product or movie.
“Bitcoin could be beneficial to any company in the business of delivering content [over the Internet],” he said.
When Netflix rolled out service in Latin America, it quickly faced challenges from a consumer base unaccustomed to using credit cards over the Internet, among other issues. McConnell said digital currency could simplify the process across international borders.
“Any company that is interested in expanding its global footprint, Bitcoint can be a very natural way to test transaction payment systems in local currencies where credit cards transactions are challenged,” he said.
Steep Learning Curve
PwC points out that while some digital currencies have come and gone (Linden Dollars and QQ coins), Bitcoin has gotten bigger since its introduction in 2009, with the U.S. Department of Justice calling it a legal means of exchange in November.
There were 55,000 Bitcoin transactions per day in 2013, compared with 100 in 2009, according to the report. More than 1,000 brick-and-mortar stores are accepting it, along with 10,000-plus online merchants, including Overstock.com.
That said, the survey found that only 42% of respondents understood how Bitcoin actually works, and only 4% said they were “very interested” in using it. Nearly half said they had either no interest or little interest in using it.
“Despite its advantages, Bitcoin has several hurdles before it becomes mainstream, including an infrastructure of consumer-friendly services, faster transaction processing, on-board lawmakers and a more aware and trusting public,” PwC wrote in the report.
LOS ANGELES — Lionsgate released Ender’s Game on Digital HD Jan. 28, two weeks before disc. And director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) loves the concept of early digital … mostly.
“The fact of the matter is, we have the need for instant gratification now, and whether we like it or not as filmmakers, digital download is the way it’s going to go,” Hood said the day Ender’s Game hit digital. “Personally I think it’s amazing that you can be on a device, wherever you want, and say I would like to watch that, and I would like to watch that now, and own it, or rent it, and put it on whatever device is convenient for you.
“You get the content, without the box. But the stuff released digitally today is principally the movie.”
Despite gains by studios and outlets in offering bonus features across digital channels, it’s still disc where consumers get everything and “not just a little piece” of the extras, Hood said.
“The Blu-ray has everything,” he said. Out Feb. 11, the Blu-ray Disc combo pack has an eight-part making-of (“Ender’s World: The Making of Ender’s Game”) and a special effects featurette (“Inside the Mind Game”), both exclusive to the disc. Both it and the DVD have deleted and extended scenes, along with two feature-length audio commentaries.
“I’m very fond of the deleted scenes, and quite sad they aren’t in the film,” Hood said. Two scenes feature conversations between the main character Ender (Asa Butterfield of Hugo fame) speaking with fellow students about how and why Ender was drafted to Battle School. “It’s a lovely little subplot I would have liked to keep,” Hood said. “I love that people get to see it. How do you respond when you’re called to war?”
But it’s the making-of (running longer than 45 minutes) that Hood is pointing viewers to first. “These movies are incredibly complicated to make, and sometimes I don’t think people appreciate the combination of talents needed in the room, from concept artists to mathemeticians to computer scientists,” he said. “You’ll get that sense of just how large of a community you need. It’s more than a village, it’s a town. And there are rock stars in every field.”
One of those rock stars is Ben Procter, co-production designer for the film (who served as art director for Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Tron: Legacy), who relayed that many of the people working on the film are fans of Orson Scott Card’s original novel. And that made it all the more challenging.
“We were pressed for time, we were doing it on a budget, and we didn’t want to let ourselves down, being fans of the book as well,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I think we got a lot more done than we first thought we would.”
There’s nothing “despicable” about Universal Studios’ fourth-quarter fiscal fortunes, thanks to the ongoing retail success of animated hit Despicable Me 2, which features voices by Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig.
As previously reported, 'Despicable Me 2,' the follow-up to 2010's 'Despicable Me,' dominated home entertainment sales in 2013, including ranking No. 1 for five consecutive weeks (through Jan. 12) as the country’s top-selling DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
The title — along with Fast & Furious 6 and Les Misérables — helped increase studio revenue to $1.4 billion, up 4.9% compared with the fourth quarter of 2012. Operating cash flow increased $404 million to $483 million, compared with $79 million in 2012, reflecting the strong performance of the film slate and lower advertising, marketing and promotion expenses.
Universal in 2013 generated its largest overall box office in studio history.
The revenue surge was in part bittersweet for Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which pledged to donate a portion of Fast & Furious 6 disc sales to Reach Out Worldwide, the charity championed by cast member Paul Walker, who was killed in an auto accident Thanksgiving weekend.
"It's a very powerful platform," said Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit, who added that increased consumer adoption of Comcast's X1 broadband service has seen video-on-demand and transactional VOD go up 25% and 20%, respectively.
In the fiscal call, Smit said rollout of Comcast's electronic-sellthrough platform — a first for the cable industry — got off to a strong start with the availability of FF6 and DM2 over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Universal, which is releasing DM2 spinoff Minions in 2015, has slated Despicable Me 3 for theatrical release June 30, 2017.
HBO offers a multiplatform second-screen content campaign to accompany the second season of Cinemax’s original drama series “Banshee,” which debuted Jan. 11. Cinemax is a premium content channel owned by HBO.
Dubbed “Banshee Origins,” it is a collection of stories written and produced by the show’s co-creator Jonathan Tropper and Greg Yaitanes that gives viewers a window into the backstories of the characters in the series. “Banshee” takes place in the fictional small town of Banshee, Penn. After serving 15 years in prison for stealing diamonds from a Ukrainian gangster (Ben Cross), an ex-con (Antony Starr) travels to Banshee to find his heist accomplice and former lover, Anastasia (Ivana Miličević).
Told in short-form webisodes, flashbacks, and an original 60-page full-length comic book, “Banshee Origins” takes place over a 17-year span before the first episode of season one, and offers a point of view and new insights into the dark past of the characters of the show.
Cinemax is also airing “bumpers” leading into new episodes encouraging viewers to join the cast, crew and @Cinemax on Twitter. The #Banshee hashtag will be visible on each episode, switching to #BansheeOrigins during scenes that have a related Origins story — viewers who search #BansheeOrigins on Twitter will be able to watch the associated origins video within a tweet from @Cinemax.
Finally, the "Banshee" website, features the comic book, video gallery, interactive video game and The Vault — a series of video “hotspots” viewers can access during the broadcast.
The second-screen method of accessing content on laptops, smartphones, PCs and tablets related to programming viewed on the television is a phenomenon that is becoming a permanent to the in-home entertainment experience, according to TV show creators and producers.
In the second part of the study released Jan. 27 by The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), nearly all survey participants view second screen as an inevitable part of the future, and see tremendous potential in content designed for synchronous viewing, the simultaneous usage of both a primary screen and second device, as well as asynchronous viewing.
TV show creators, including Vince Gilligan (“Breaking Bad,”), Bruce David Klein (“Hotel Impossible,” “Frenemies”), Damon Lindelof (“Lost”), Caryn Mandabach (“Nurse Jackie,” “That ‘70s Show”), Mark Scarpa (“The X Factor Digital Experience,” “Grammy Live”), Kara Vallow (“Family Guy"); and Anthony Zuiker (“CSI”), participated in 30-minute interviews with E-Poll Market Research to discuss their thoughts and approaches to second screen.
Specifically, respondents said content not meant for live viewing represented clear second-screen opportunities. While opinions about second screen remain mixed, nearly all producers agreed that, if done properly, second screen offered a significant opportunity to grow and sustain audiences around live TV consumption, and to increase viewer loyalty.
Additionally, survey respondents found that the second screen enhances the viewing experience in a number of ways. Specifically, by building social currency among viewers; making viewers feel special; bringing about a deeper experience with the primary content; creating a shared viewing experience and sense of community among fans; and maintaining a show’s relevance by offering viewers a platform to continue to interact and talk about the program, even when it’s not on air.
Key challenges to successful second-screen immersion included there not being enough time, talent or funding during production to give second screen the proper attention. Also, showrunners say real-time viewing on both screens will pull attention from the primary content, leaving viewers with a disjointed experience, which could hurt the brand.
The report found that producers and creators don’t want viewers to neglect first-screen material to create second-screen content if it’s not going to be truly complementary — and not just promotional — particularly as they seek ways to monetize the second-screen experience.
The majority of producers said current examples of effective second-screen executions for TV shows, included “The Walking Dead,” “The Office” and “Scandal.”
“The results of this research offer a truly ground-breaking look at the opportunities and challenges we face with the second-screen phenomenon,” NATPE CEO Rod Perth said in a statement. “This research offers great insight into the value of program brands and how to sustain them before, during and after they air, which ultimately benefits both advertisers and consumers.”
Part one of the study, released earlier this month, found nearly all (91%) second-screen viewers access asynchronous program content, yet only 42% have tried synchronizing their content experience to live TV.
The majority (72%) of consumers who access synchronized second-screen content say it is appropriate only for certain kinds of programming, including sports, reality shows and news.
Lionsgate will release The Hunger Games: Catching Fire across all retail channels March 7. The second installment in the "Hunger Games" franchise stars Oscar-winning Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and grossed more than $850 million at the global box office.
The movie, which was the No. 1 theatrical release of 2013 and the 12th highest-grossing film of all time at the domestic box office with more than $414 million, will be available as a Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and Digital HD UltraViolet) for $39.99, on DVD (plus UltraViolet) for $29.95, Digital HD, video on demand and pay-per-view.
The first installment, The Hunger Games, was the top-selling packaged-media release in 2012, with more than 10.3 million units sold generating more than $182 million, according to The-Numbers.com. With Catching Fire possibly becoming the biggest home entertainment release in 2014, Lionsgate thus far has made no plans to release the title early digitally — a strategy increasingly used by studios.
Based on the second novel of Suzanne Collins' award-winning trilogy, with a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and Michael DeBruyn and directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire begins as, against all odds, Katniss (Lawrence) and her fellow tribute Peeta have returned home after surviving the Hunger Games.
The Blu-ray includes two hours of bonus materials featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, "Surviving the Game: Making Catching Fire," deleted scenes, an audio commentary with director Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson, as well as a sneak peek at upcoming theatrical action film Divergent from Summit Entertainment.
The DVD release includes audio commentary with director Lawrence and producer Jacobson, deleted scenes and a sneak peek of Divergent.
Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), put it simply: “You cannot charge consumers for purchases they did not authorize.”
And while Apple didn’t agree with her and the FTC’s ruling, it will be paying at least $32.5 million in refunds of mobile in-app purchases children made without their parents’ consent.
The ruling closes an FTC complaint that alleged Apple violated the FTC Act, failing to disclose to parents that by entering a password, they were approving a single in-app purchase along with 15 minutes of additional unlimited purchases, which lots of children took advantage of, buying in-app, virtual items ranging from 99 cents to $100.
The complaint said Apple didn’t inform account owners of the 15-minute window in which kids incurred unlimited charges. The ruling will also see Apple change its billing practices, to ensure consumers give express consent before they’re charged for items sold via mobile apps.
“This settlement is a victory for consumers harmed by Apple’s unfair billing, and a signal to the business community: whether you’re doing business in the mobile arena or the mall down the street, fundamental consumer protections apply,” Ramirez said.
The FTC complaint relayed “tens of thousands” of consumer complaints about unauthorized in-app purchases, with one parent saying her daughter spent approximately $2,600 in the app “Tap Pet Hotel.” Other consumers reported unauthorized purchases by kids totaling more than $500 in the “Dragon Story” and “Tiny Zoo Friends” apps.
Apple will be changing its billing by April and offering refunds within the next year.
Starz Worldwide Distribution Jan. 21 announced it signed a multiyear distribution agreement for original programming and other content with Amedia, a Russian producer of television content, Pay-TV and VOD.
Under the deal, Amedia will broadcast current and future Starz Original series and other movie and TV content in Russia, Georgia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, and The Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania).
The pact also includes pay-TV and subscription streaming rights, the latter with Amediateka, a service similar to Netflix.
Starz Original series include “The White Queen,” “Magic City,” “Black Sails,” a pirate drama from Michael Bay, and “Power,” among other future projects. Other content in the first year of the agreement includes the VH1 TV series “Hit The Floor,” TV movies Paper Heart, Revenge, Stolen Child, and documentary “Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible.”
Amedia plans to broadcast each episode of the original series the day after their U.S. premieres, including “Black Sails,” which debuts in the United States Jan. 25. Amedia also has output deals with HBO, CBS/Showtime and Fox.
Amedia was founded in 2002 by Russian producer Alexandеr Akopov, with Len Blavatnik, an American investor in a number of media and digital assets worldwide. The company’s annual production volume is over 200 hours of content in various genres — dramas, mysteries, thrillers, romantic comedies and sitcoms.
Amedia was the first to launch coproduction of a TV series with Hollywood studios. 2009 romantic drama "Poor Anastasia" ("Bednaya Nastya"), was the first project produced by the company, and has been sold in 25 countries globally.
Comcast Cable will report modest gains in video subscribers in the fourth quarter — the first quarterly gain in more than six years, Comcast chairman Brian Roberts told an investor group.
While not disclosing the number of new video subscribers generated through Dec. 31, No. 1 cabler Comcast has for years also been near the top of the industry in video sub losses — including nearly 350,000 through the first three months of 2013.
Speaking Jan. 7 at the Citi, Internet, Media & Telecommunications confab in Las Vegas, Roberts pegged the turnaround on continued rollout of Comcast’s broadband-based X1 platform combined with tweaks in the conventional bundled pay-TV offering.
Indeed, Comcast has begun rolling out a lower-cost ($40) bundled service channel package that includes its proprietary Streampix SVOD service, in addition to HBO, HBO Go and 20 basic channels. Dubbed “Internet Plus,” the 12-month promotion includes cloud-based VOD functionality, and 25Mbps high-speed Internet access.
“Ten of the last 12 quarters we have been improving on prior year’s [video subscriber tallies],” Roberts said. “We feel like the investments in all-digital, the investments in customer service has been chipping away at [video sub losses]. It will take some time for the whole year to grow [video subs], but it is a real beginning of an exciting reversal of trends.”
Roberts said Comcast’s recent launch of electronic sellthrough of movies — a first for the cable industry — paid dividends when the cabler was the No. 1 EST vendor over the Thanksgiving weekend with Despicable Me 2, Fast & Furious 6 and The Hunger Games.
A component of Comcast’s Xfinity on Demand platform, the digital sellthrough platform features movies from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
“On-demand viewing, we’re selling new things. We haven’t even scratched the surface,” Roberts said.
Upscale movie server company Kaleidescape Jan. 7 announced the launch of a new limited-edition Cinema One streaming media player preloaded with 50 personally selected movies.
The limited-edition Cinema One comes preloaded with $750 worth of critically acclaimed titles such as The Shawshank Redemption, the seven-time Academy Award winner Shakespeare in Love, and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, as well as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 and Part 2. Family-friendly films such as Happy Feet, all-time classics such as Casablanca, and the hit TV series “The Big Bang Theory” round out this assortment of movies and TV shows.
The promotion is available until the end of February. The $4,000 Cinema One streaming media player last month was named a 2014 CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards Honoree in the home audio/video components category. It claims to stream content in 1080p Blu-ray resolution quality.
“With Cinema One, we’ve been able to create a novel way to combine content, services, and a movie player into a single device. This puts Kaleidescape in a unique position to deliver the ultimate movie experience right out of the box,” CEO Tom Furlong said in a statement.
Furlong said Kaleidescape users import 200 movies within a few weeks of owning the system. The Cinema One player can be purchased at Magnolia Design Centers or directly from the Kaleidescape Store at store.kaleidescape.com (U.S. only).
Dish Network Jan. 5 said it has developed an app that offers the same functionality of its Hopper DVR to connected LG Smart televisions.
Dubbed the “virtual Joey,” the app can be used instead of Dish’s hardware-based Joey, increasing installation options where coaxial or Ethernet wiring may be difficult to access.
This new app, which will be demoed at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, provides a nearly identical experience to the Hopper Whole-Home HD DVRs currently available to DISH customers. When loaded on an LG Smart TV, the app offers access to and control of the Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR — including live TV, recordings and navigation of the electronic program guide. The software-based clients operate on users' wireless or wired home networks.
"Television placement is so often dictated by where the set-top box can be and where the wires are — this new application literally unleashes the TV," Dish CEO Joseph Clayton said in a statement.
Dish expects to release the app in the first quarter of 2014.
The Hopper remains embroiled in ongoing litigation with broadcasters regarding its AutoHop feature that allows users to automatically delete advertising on recorded network programming.
Initial court rulings have sided toward Hopper’s right to extend the parameters of the DVR as formulated in the 1984 Sony Betamax Supreme Court decision.
The Hopper won Best in Show at last year’s CES — an award that generated controversy after CBS, which owns CNET, the tech website responsible for the award, ordered the Hopper removed from the competition.
Separately, Dish upgraded its “Anywhere” app to integrate the “Hopper Transfers” feature to both iOS and Android phones and tablets. The updated app gives Hopper users the ability to view recorded content where no Internet connection is available. The enhancement is a free update for Dish Anywhere users.
Intel Corp. has begun working with Walmart’s Vudu.com movie streaming service to help facilitate better access to UltraViolet-compatible content via the chip maker’s software embedded on Windows, Android, and iOS platforms.
Specifically, Intel is supporting Vudu with software APIs (“application programming interface”) and cloud services to handle the UltraViolet common-file format processing, which is designed to simplify UV delivery across multiple platforms, according to a spokesperson.
A software API specifies how software components should interact with each other. In addition to accessing databases or computer hardware, such as disk drives or video cards, an API can be used to ease the work of programming graphical user interface components.
UltraViolet is the industry-backed cloud-based digital content storage platform aimed at spurring physical and digital sellthrough of studio movies at a time when subscription streaming, on-demand programming and low-cost rental kiosks infiltrate the home entertainment market.
Intel Core processors are standard on most PCs, laptops, and tablets.
Paramount Home Media Distribution Dec. 26 kicked off the home entertainment launch of Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, starring Johnny Knoxville, with a multiplatform campaign that includes early digital access and live viewing event on Twitter.
The raunchy comedy earned more than $100 million at the domestic box office. It hits retail on Blu-ray Disc/DVD Combo Pack on Jan. 28. Paramount will stream an unrated cut of the comedy to registered digital consumers on Jan. 3.
Consumers who buy the digital edition (standard or Digital HD) at CinemaNow, iTunes, Sony Entertainment Network, Target Ticket, Vudu.com and Xbox Video, among other locations, can watch the movie along with Knoxville, and enter (at www.GrandpasBadBoard.com) for a chance to win prizes during a live Twitter viewing party, beginning at 5:00 p.m. PT on Jan. 3.
Starting Dec. 26, viewers can register at the movie’s website to watch the Jan. 3 digital edition and play the accompanying board game, which includes questions relating to scenes in the movie. Players who qualify and correctly fill out the board and submit their cards will be entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win an iPad Mini or a trip for two to Las Vegas (see the website for complete details).
Comcast Dec. 20 released its annual Xfinity On Demand Awards list outlining the top movies and TV shows subscribers accessed on demand through its broadband Xfinity TV service.
Comcast tabulated its findings based on more than 400 million monthly views via Xfinity On Demand, according to Steve Meyer, executive director of video strategy and analysis for Comcast Cable.
“We crossed the 30 billionth view milestone and shattered our monthly viewership records twice — in March with our first-ever Watchathon and then again in November on the heels of our Fall TV Fest,” Meyer wrote in a blog post. “[This year] also saw the most-views-ever on Xfinity On Demand in the first three days after broadcast — NBC’s The Sound of Music.”
It should be noted that Comcast owns NBC Universal and Universal Studios.
According to tabulations, Universal Studios’ Despicable Me 2 was the most-purchased digital movie of the year — despite its Dec. 3 release. That was followed by Fast & Furious 6 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment), Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment’s The Hunger Games, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s The Wolverine and Reds 2 (Lionsgate).
“Even though we only launched [Comcast’s electronic sellthrough] service on Nov. 19, we've already seen some encouraging signs related to adoption of the feature,” Matt Strauss, SVP and GM of video services for Comcast Cable, wrote in a blog post.
Most-viewed new release movies (for rent) included Identity Thief (Universal) followed by Flight (Paramount Home Media Distribution), Argo (Warner Home Video), Django Unchained (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment) and Taken 2 (Fox).
The most-viewed kids movie was Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Wreck-it Ralph, followed Parental Guidance (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), Despicable Me 2 (Universal), Here Comes the Boom (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and The Croods (DreamWorks Animation).
Most-viewed indie movie: 6 Souls (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment), followed by An Awkward Sexual Adventure (New Video Group), Erased (Anchor Bay), The ABCs of Death (Magnolia Home Entertainment) and The Haunting in Connecticut 2: The Ghosts of Georgia (Lionsgate).
According to Comcast, repurposed episodes of PBS’s “Downton Abbey” was the most-watched TV series on demand in 2013 among subscribers, followed by NBC Universal’s “The Blacklist,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Fox Broadcasting Co.’s “Sleepy Hollow” and AMC Networks’ “The Walking Dead.”
Top new series watched on demand on Comcast in 2013 included “The Blacklist,” “Sleepy Hollow,” CBS’s “Under the Dome," AMC Networks’ “Bates Motel” and History's “The Bible.”
Most-viewed kids TV series included Disney Channel’s “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” followed by PBS’s “Calliou,” PAW Patrol (Nick Jr.), “Dora the Explorer” and “Team Umizoomi” (Nickelodeon).