In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom wrap up the latest in the big Aereo case before the U.S. Supreme Court later this month, including briefs from an unexpected collection of supporters and financial backer Barry Diller’s comments on the TV service’s future if it loses. The two Davids also weigh Amazon’s rather tardy arrival as a purveyor of video-streaming devices with this week’s launch of the Amazon Fire TV; the Tribune Co.’s evolution as its digital wing buys one TV-oriented data company and relaunches another; and Discovery’s latest in a flurry of deals, as it launches a digital studio in partnership with two big-name Hollywood veterans, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
Netflix and Amazon are streaming-service rivals, but today the two were united as defendants in a multimillion-dollar defamation and wrongful-termination lawsuit by a former employee of both companies. In his suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here), which also names top Netflix execs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos as defendants, Jerry Kowal is seeking at least $1 million — and damages potentially worth millions more. The former Director of Content Acquisition for Netflix claims he was “blacklisted” by the company after he left to join Amazon’s streaming business and that Netflix falsely accused him “of stealing confidential information, disclosing confidential information to Amazon, and using confidential information to compete against Netflix.” In what the suit refers to as “the proverbial David and Goliath,” Kowal says Netflix “did everything it could to dissuade him” from leaving to join Amazon. And when he did exit in June after a year on the job, Netflix “proceeded to interfere with Kowal’s employment with Amazon in a malicious attempt to ruin his reputation and prevent him from working there and leverage its substantial business relationship with Amazon to guarantee that Kowal would be terminated from his position at Amazon and would be substantially hindered in his efforts to secure comparable replacement employment.”
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at the Obama administration’s unusual intercession in the Aereo Supreme Court case on behalf of the networks and the notable absence of tech industry involvement in the case so far.
They also try to make sense of John Malone’s latest complicated stock shuffle that affects SiriusXM and Charter Communications; check in on the many Big Media highlights from this week’s Deutsche Bank investor conference; break out the checkbook for that Amazon Prime price hike; and wonder how DreamWorks Interactive can be on track for both a $310 million global box office haul for Mr. Peabody & Shermanand a write-down of $84 million for that same film.
Execs said in January that they’d probably hike the price of what had been a $79 a year service since it was introduced nine years ago. Even so, Amazon shares are up 2.4% in pre-market trading following today’s announcement about the service that offers members free, two-day delivery on many items bought on Amazon, as well as access to its streaming video service. Under the terms disclosed today, the price for new members and membership renewals for Amazon Prime will go to $99 while Amazon Student members pay $49. The company will keep its Prime Fresh fee at $299. CFO Tom Szkutak told analysts that Amazon was considering the price hike because “during this nine-year period shipping cost have gone up a lot, fuel cost have gone up a lot.” The famously tight-lipped company has disclosed little about the economics of its Prime membership. But Bernstein Research”s Carlos Kirjner estimates that the average member in the U.S. spends about $1,500 a year at the e-retailer vs about $550 for non-members. He figured that an increase of $20 a year or more would restore the economic model that Prime had when it was first launched, even if the higher price leads some to not sign up or renew.
Amazon is officially an original drama series player. A month after Amazon Studios uploaded five pilots — two dramas and three comedies — for users to watch and comment on, the company has quietly notified the auspices of four of them that they are being picked up to series. That includes Amazon’s first dramas: The After from Chris Carter, marking The X-Files creator’s return to series television, and Eric Overmyer and Michael Connelly’s Bosch, starring Titus Welliver. Newly picked up half-hour comedy series include Gael Garcia Bernal starrer Mozart In The Jungle, from Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Alex Timbers and Paul Weitz, and Jill Soloway’s semi-autobiographical Transparent. Amazon’s fifth pilot, comedy The Rebels, from Ice Cube and Michael Strahan, is being put on hold. Five pilots yielding four series represents a much higher batting average than Amazon’s first pilot season, when it tested eight comedy pilots, picking up two — Alpha House and Betas — to series. Of them, Alpha House has been quietly renewed for a second season to begin film in July, while Betas will not be retuning. (UPDATE: Amazon says no final decision on Betas has been made yet.) Here are descriptions of Amazon’s newly greenlighted series, whose pickup was first reported by Variety:
Related: 2014 Amazon Studios Pilots
Amazon.com today announced a licensing deal with BBC Worldwide North America that will make Prime Instant Video the exclusive online-only subscription home for streaming Season One and future seasons of the dramatic thriller Orphan Black. The series returns to BBC America on Saturday, April 19, at 9 PM EST. Prime Instant Video is the exclusive online-only subscription home for PBS series Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, FX drama The Americans, CBS summer series Under The Dome and later this summer, Extant, among other programs that include Veronica Mars, Justified, Falling Skies, Grimm, Workaholics, Suits, Covert Affairs, etc., as well as Amazon’s first original series Alpha House and Betas.
In this week’s audio podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom look at the possibility that frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch will combine and snap up the UK’s Channel 5, even as a booming ITV opts out; and Amazon’s new combination platter of Prime services that are challenging Netflix more aggressively in Britain, including through a partnership with the BBC to revive the cancelled period drama Ripper Street. They also preview those other big awards this weekend, France’s Cesars, and take their weekly look at the international box office, as both Frozen and The Hobbit 2: The Desolation Of Smaug continue to rack up huge cumulative grosses.
Amazon has come to the rescue of British period drama Ripper Street. The online giant is today launching its Amazon Prime Instant Video service in the UK and with that has announced a commission for a 3rd season of the BBC crime series. It’s also acquired UK subscription streaming rights to the previous seasons. The Victorian era show, which stars Matthew Macfadyen, was cancelled by the BBC in December after a 2nd season ratings drop. The news elicited an outpouring of lament from fans and it was soon rumored that Amazon’s streaming service LoveFilm might pick up the slack. Amazon recently said it was folding LoveFilm into its Prime service in Britain with the new-look platform bowing today, along with the news that new episodes of Ripper Street will be made available exclusively to Amazon Prime Instant Video members before screening on BBC One a few months later.
Shorts International’s channel ShortsHD is making this year’s Oscar nominees in the categories of Live Action Short Film and Animated Short Film available on VOD and digital platforms beginning today. The lineup already has gotten a release in more than 400 theaters nationwide. It’s the ninth year the organization has distributed the program ahead of the Oscars ceremony. The shorts are now available on iTunes, Amazon, and via VOD through cable providers Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter Communications, RCN, Midcontinent and Metrocast. As a refresher, here are this year’s nominees in the categories:
Nine digital media companies have joined forces to create the Global Online Video Association, the first-ever org designed to represent and promote the growing digital content industry. Multi-channel networks Big Frame, BroadbandTV, Collective Digital Studios, DECA, Discovery Digital Networks/Revision3, Fullscreen, Maker …
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom catch up on the many highlights from earnings season announcements, beginning with those by possible dance partners Comcast and Time Warner Cable and what their news might mean for Comcast’s takeover bid. They also take the market temperature on Viacom and tech giants led by Google — which sold off its Motorola Mobility unit after owning it just two years — and Facebook, Apple, Yahoo and Amazon. They also look at exhibitors’ demands for shorter movie trailers and whether studios will play along.
EXCLUSIVE: This is shaping up to be one of the most ambitious projects yet for Amazon Studios. I hear that the production arm of the online retailer’s streaming service is finalizing …
Why should Sony and Verizon have all the fun? Amazon has talked with at least three “big media conglomerates” about the possibility of licensing channels for its own online pay TV service, The Wall Street Journal reports this afternoon, citing “people familiar with the matter.” The paper adds that the initiative “is in the early stages, and it isn’t clear whether it will move forward.” It also doesn’t have a business model yet. For the streaming plans to work, Amazon and others need programmers to agree to license their channels for rates that would enable a newcomer to be competitive. Some, including Disney, say that they would only go along with an initiative that offers the entire bundle of channels that cable and satellite companies sell. Seven companies account for 83% of primetime TV viewing by 18- to 49-year-olds, Morgan Stanley’s Benjamin Swinburne notes in a report today. They heavily depend on fees from cable, satellite, and telco video distributors.