12/04/17: Disney sues Redbox over “digital codes” offering

Good morning. It’s Monday December 4, 2017 and this is your your first early morning Digital briefing.

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Redbox just ran into a big problem. In October, the company – best known for its DVD kiosks – launched its “digital codes” offering. The service enables consumers to purchase codes from the company’s kiosks; those codes offer information on how to stream Disney movies. But Disney wasn’t too pleased about the program, and now the entertainment giant is suing Redbox. The company argues that the sales violate its copyrights. And the Mouse House means business: The lawsuit, filed in a federal district court in California, seeks an injunction against Redbox’s sales of its movies. Disney is also asking for damages of up to $150,000 – for each title sold through the digital codes offering. In addition, Disney wants Redbox to hand over all the revenue it took in from the sales. Redbox doesn’t have a direct distribution deal with Disney, and hasn’t since 2012.
Turner just partnered with digital media company Refinery29. Over the weekend, the companies hosted a two-day comedy-writing workshop geared toward women, with the goal of fostering new female talent in comedy. Called the Riot Comedy Lab, the program took place from December 2-3. Eight emerging female comedy writers partnered with established TV comedy writers, who provided feedback and advice on their ideas for TV series. At the workshop’s conclusion, Turner and Refinery29 chose one web series idea from the bunch, greenlighting a pilot to be distributed across TBS’s digital platforms. This isn’t the first time Turner and Refinery29 have interacted; indeed, Turner led a $45 million round of funding into Refinery29 just last year.
Vice Media confirmed that it has fired three employees for violating workplace policies – most notably, sexual and verbal harassment. The terminations were first reported by CNN. Vice hasn’t named the three employees. The past few weeks haven’t been kind to Vice. Its latest actions came weeks after a damning Daily Beast report, in which the company was described as fostering a “toxic” environment, particularly when it came to abusive behavior toward female employees. Jason Mojica, the head of Vice’s documentary films division, was suspended last month following allegations of inappropriate behavior. Kaj Larsen, the former L.A. bureau chief of Vice News, was also accused of inappropriate conduct. Vice says it has been investigating the claims.
Getting Maximum Impact from Experiential Marketing
Cynopsis Webinar: Tuesday Jan. 30 at 1:30pm ET
The more millennials turn away from traditional advertising, the smarter it is for marketers to create experiential events that create powerful connections with consumers. Our panel will focus on how to use social most effectively, the latest metrics for measuring success, and more. Among the speakers are Scott Lachut, President, Research & Strategy for PSFK and Damon Haley, Head of Sports Marketing for Troika.

“While the concept of artificial intelligence seems daunting, when used strategically and responsibly by brands it will usher in a more personalized, convenient future,” says Rachel Lowenstein, Manager, Strategic Innovation, Life+ for Mindshare North America. “We’re still at the nascent stage of A.I. in media and advertising. Delivering on the 1:1 personalization that A.I. can afford a brand to have with consumers will not just be a differentiator in the intelligent not-so-distant future, but a crucial requirement.” In the next Cynopsis Digital Webinar, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to work A.I. technologies into your media strategy. Lowenstein will be joined by panelists from IBM Watson Advertising, Scripps, and Zone TV. Register for this can’t-miss webinar here.
The Google Home smart speaker just added a little something to its repertoire. The device has a new multitasking feature, enabling it to perform two unrelated jobs simultaneously. The feature first rolled out last week, but nobody seemed to notice at first. CNET was the first to pick up on it. For the time being, the multitasking feature allows the Google Home to perform no more than two unrelated task at the same time. Users also have to issue individual commands for each separate task; the device won’t be able to process two commends made within the same sentence.
Back in May, Nickelodeon launched its Entertainment Lab, a new division designed to explore emerging technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and A.I. Cynopsis Digital recently spoke with Nickelodeon SVP Chris Young, who heads up the unit.
Technologies like AR and VR are still relatively young and untested. How do you figure out how to successfully apply them to kids’ entertainment?
With any new technology, it takes time to figure out what the best-case use for it is, and how you author for it. So there are lots of things you have to figure out before you can discover what the killer idea is for that particular medium. We’ve been doing a lot of development trying to answer those questions. We always lead with the idea that Nickelodeon’s mission is to make the world a more playful place, and we’ve been trying to connect kids with that idea within the realm of technology. When something like AR pops up, you can immediately see that it would be a lot of fun to hold up your phone and have a Nickelodeon character appear in your living room to entertain you.
And what about VR?
The same goes for virtual reality. For a number of reasons, we don’t know if it’s a technology that’s going to be in kids’ homes anytime soon. For one, the hardware is expensive right now. But we’re not thinking about what we could do tomorrow; we’re thinking about what we could do in the next couple years.
Would you say that kids today are particularly receptive to interactive entertainment?
Our audiences are digital natives. They’ve grown up with this technology. They really gravitate towards it. They’re gamers, they’re social, they’re creators. It’s an opportunity to really connect with them in an area where we know they’re passionate. And yes, interactivity is something we can offer them with this kind of tech. When it comes to VR, AR, and certain aspects of A.I. and machine learning, we can think about how things like gaming and technology might change the way we author content for the future.
Facebook has a major new source of revenue in the works. The social giant is preparing to test pre-roll ads that will play before videos. Arriving in the coming weeks, those test ads will only appear in the Watch tab, Facebook’s recently launched section for longer-form video content. Videos that show up in users’ News Feeds won’t be affected. The move to test pre-roll ads comes as something of a surprise: Facebook has long opposed the format, favoring mid-roll spots.  AdAge was the first to report the new ads; Facebook hasn’t commented.
Netflix just greenlit a new animated comedy series – but it won’t arrive until 2019. Called Twelve Forever, the series hails from Julia Vickerman, a writer, producer and animator who’s worked on shows such as The Powerpuff Girls and Yo Gabba Gabba. The series centers on a 12-year-old girl who creates a fantasy world in which she never has to grow up. Twelve Forever is based on a 2015 short of the same name, on which Vickerman served as creator, writer, and character designer.  
In other Netflix programming news, the service has canceled comedy series Haters Back Off. The show centered on the character Miranda Sings, an endearingly talentless performer. The character was created and portrayed by comedian Colleen Ballinger, and was first popularized through YouTube. The series was one of Netflix’s most blatant efforts to reach out to young millennials and Gen Z’ers. Alas, it seems that not enough of them were watching.
Vidme is shuttering its user-generated video service. The startup, which was founded in 2014, cited an inability to compete with Facebook and Google. Vidme described its video service as a cross between Reddit and YouTube, with videos curated by community members. The service will go dark on December 15. In addition, all paid Vidme channel subscriptions have already been suspended. In an email to Variety, company co-founder Warren Shaeffer wrote that Vidme is laying off four full-time employees. Nonetheless, the company itself isn’t folding: According to Shaeffer, Vidme plans to introduce a new product next year.
Philips unveiled its first Roku-powered TV. The 40-inch model, which sells for $349, is now available at Sam’s Club locations. It’ll soon be available through Samsclub.com as well. Phillips isn’t the first hardware-maker to build a Roku TV model; RCA, Element Electronics, TCL, and several other brands have done so as well.
Group Nine Media, the digital media holding company backed by Discovery Communications, just named a high-ranking new exec. The role of President goes to Christa Carone. She’ll oversee Group Nine’s sales and marketing units, along with its data insights division. Carone most recently served as COO of Group SJR, a WPP agency. Simultaneously, she served as Managing Director of Colloquial, a joint venture between Group SJR and WPP agency J. Walter Thompson. Group Nine, whose brands include Thrillist, The Dodo, and NowThis, is about one year old. Just last week, the company announced a new $40 million funding round. Existing investors including Discovery, Axel Springer, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures participated.
… for the week of Monday, December 4, through Sunday, December 10
– People Now at People.com, Monday-Friday at 8:30 AM ET and 11:30 AM ET. Guests include TV Stassi Schroeder (Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules), singer/songwriter Ashanti, and actor Dax Shepard (Netflix’s El Camino Christmas)
–  Netflix: Craig Ferguson: Tickle Fight, a new comedy special, debuts Tuesday, December 5
Hulu: Season 2 of Shut Eye debuts Wednesday, December 6
Netflix: Season 2 of The Crown debuts Friday, December 8
Netflix: El Camino Christmas, an original comedy movie, debuts Friday, December 8
Amazon Video: Unscripted series The Grand Tour makes its season 2 debut on Friday, December 8
The first two seasons of Netflix’s Narcos told the story of which infamous drug lord? (Email trivia@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and state.)
Our Last Trivia Question: Which two documentarians directed Netflix’s Making a Murderer? Answer: Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi. Kudos to Andrew Bellamy-Producers Guild of America/NY, Andy Pittman-TAMU/TX, David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/CA, Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/CA, Conor Moran-Pixability/NY, and Lorrie Shilling/CA
“I was thrilled to learn that I was named as one of this year’s [Top Women in Digital] honorees as Cynopsis is the trade I’ve read since before I began working in TV.”
 – Ashmi D | Showtime
“Receiving the Top Women in Digital Award, along with so many talented people, was truly a highlight. I heard from friends I hadn’t talked to in years after that. Everyone follows Cynopsis, it seems!” -Pam H | Blue Chalk Media

Amazon’s The Grand Tour returns on Friday. So, naturally, hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May recently sat around complaining about their terrible English looks. It seems that’s just how they get in a season-two kind of mindset. Check it out here.
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