PROGRAMMING + CONTENT ACQUISITIONS
Amazon ’s aggressive play for indie films shows no sign of abating. As first reported by Variety, the company’s Video Direct platform has picked up the exclusive streaming rights to forty films that screened at the 2017 SXSW festival, including Grand Jury Award winner Most Beautiful Island. The company says it will pay out at least $1.9 million in upfront bonuses for the new acquisitions. Amazon Video Direct first launched about a year ago. Under its Festival Stars program, titles stream exclusively on Prime Video for a 24-month window. One thing that some filmmakers and producers may find appealing: Amazon’s long streaming window aside, the Festival Stars deals don’t preclude licensors from seeking outside theatrical distribution.
In other Amazon news, the company announced that it has greenlit Carnival Row, an original fantasy drama. The eight-episode series will explore the relationships between mythical creatures and the citizens of a neo-Victorian city. It’ll begin filming in 2018, with a premiere slated for 2019. Legendary Television will produce.
PARTNERSHIPS + DEALS
NBCUniversal just got a little more crafty. The company has acquired a majority stake in Craftsy, a website focused on cooking, lifestyle, and decorating content. The acquisition will be managed through NBCU’s Cable Entertainment Group. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. In an internal memo, Cable Chairman Bonnie Hammer made clear that NBCU aims to use Craftsy to create content connected to NBCU’s linear properties. “As Craftsy expands its own entertainment content, it can benefit from access to NBCUniversal’s lineup of talent and properties,” she wrote. “Imagine synergies with shows like Bravo’s Top Chef and Syfy’s Face Off, and opportunities to develop creative new content for kids on Sprout.”
PLATFORMS, APPS + DEVICES
Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku…PBS Kids? PBS’s children’s entertainment unit has launched its own streaming stick, dubbed PBS Kids Plug & Play. The connected device features over 100 hours of video, games, and other content. It also offers offline access to PBS Kids’ shows. Oh, and it’s shaped like a race car.
Univision NOW has launched on Roku devices. The streaming service, which offers access to VOD programming and exclusive original content, was already available via Apple TV, UnivisionNow.com, and through apps for both iOS and Android.
VIRTUAL + AUGMENTED REALITY
Google has acquired VR game studio Owlchemy Labs. The company, founded in 2010, has so far raised about $5 million in seed funding. Its games are available across all of the major VR platforms, including the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive headsets.
Tweet of the week: @JHuntsmanWHBC: With that 3, LeBron has now passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for 2nd on NBA all-time playoff scoring list!! Congrats to the King.
Canvs , the language analytics company that measures emotions around content, analyzed tweets about TV and streaming programming from May 3-9 using Twitter data from Nielsen. Insights from the 2,277,668 tweets expressing a specific Emotional Reaction (ER) include:
– There were thousands of congratulatory messages sent during Game 2 of Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors on TNT, during which LeBron James sunk a three-point shot to move up the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The only legend ahead of James on the chart now is Michael Jordan.
– Excitement central: Viewers were super thrilled to cheer on the horse of their choice during the 143rd Kentucky Derby on NBC.
– Fans totally enjoyed watching the special musical episode of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, with many commenting about how well the actors sang.
– Tops in crazy ERs: part 4 of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta Reunion, with viewers particularly shocked by the antics of Phaedra and Kenya.
Hulu has named Joel Stillerman as its new Chief Content Officer. The hire comes as Hulu continues to ramp up its original programming ambitions with shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Harlots. Stillerman, a long-time programming exec, formerly headed up original programming and development for AMC Networks’ AMC and Sundance channels. It was Stillerman who ushered AMC out of its movies-only phase, overseeing the development of shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Not a bad track record.
Turner has named Jennifer Dorian as its new EVP of Turner Portfolio 360 Brand Strategy, a newly created position. In the role, she’ll lead a company-wide initiative to identify new revenue growth opportunities from 360-degree brand extensions across Turner’s franchises, talent, characters, and networks. Dorian will now have dual titles, holding onto her current role as GM of Turner Classic Movies and the streaming movie service FilmStruck.
Our Last Trivia Question: UK comedy series Catastrophe streams on Amazon Video in the U.S. What network does it air on in the U.K.? Answer: Channel 4. Kudos to Louis Lewow-Lewow Media Group/GA, Andy Pittman-TAMU/TX, Susan Nessanbaum-Goldberg-M and S Entertainment/CA, Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/CA, and David Westberg SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/CA,
Follow-up: A legendary American actress appeared on Catastrophe as Mia, the male lead’s mother. She passed away shortly after season three wrapped production. Who was the actress? (Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, and state.)