Launching what it calls the UK’s “most complete digital video service” Amazon is upping the ante in its rivalry with Netflix. The online retailer will fold its LoveFilm streaming service into its British website as of February 26 and combine it with Amazon Prime which offers perks like premium delivery services and Kindle ebook borrowing. The combination will effectively make Amazon the UK’s largest digital TV and film streaming provider. LoveFilm, which Amazon acquired in 2011 for about £200M ($334M), will rebrand as Prime Instant Video. It has a catalog of over 15,000 movies and TV episodes and is the main rival to Netflix which launched in the UK in January 2012. Among its TV offerings are The Walking Dead and Vikings which are available the day after their U.S. broadcast. Amazon has pledged to increase its investment in original programming and Prime will offer new series and pilots from Amazon Studios. A la iTunes, the new service will also give users the option of digital downloads and rentals of some 50,000 titles including new releases. The service will come with a £79 ($131.55) annual subscription fee. Amazon says that’s a 35% savings compared to paying for LoveFilm and Amazon Prime separately. Customers who join this week ahead of the launch are being given a discounted rate of £49 ($81.55). Netflix goes for just under £72 …
Global Showbiz Briefs: China Says Not Raising Film Quota; César Awards To Honor Scarlett Johansson; Taylor Lautner To BBC3
Not So Fast: China Says It Isn’t Increasing Movie Quota
Contrary to reports earlier this week, China is not planning to increase its quota on films imported from Hollywood. Official state news agency Xinhua said Tuesday that the quota will remain unchanged at 34, citing an official with the country’s film governing body, SAPPRFT. In February 2012, China and the U.S. signed a pact to increase the number of films approved for theatrical release in China from 20 to 34. The parties also agreed on an increased revenue share of 25%. In the first year the change was implemented, local Chinese films lost market share but since have rebounded strongly with about 58.7% of box office takings in 2013. In a statement on Monday, MPA Asia chief Mike Ellis said the org was unaware of any official plans on changing the quota system but noted that the belief that an open market “best serves filmmakers and audiences alike. … Removing the quota for international films is something we’ve been advocating for some time and would provide the widest possible movie experience for audiences while benefiting the Chinese screen community and our member studios.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: LoveFilm Brings ‘Copper’ To UK Via Stream; Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi Launch AMBI Pictures; More
‘Copper’ Will Make UK Debut Streaming On LoveFilm
LoveFilm has acquired UK rights to Cineflix series Copper. The series follows Vikings as the second to debut in the UK exclusively via the streaming service, bypassing traditional broadcasters. Netflix competitor LoveFilm will make the show available for streaming starting Friday. Tom Weston-Jones, Kyle Schmid and Anastasia Griffith star in the period police drama co-created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos. Copper airs on BBC America in the U.S.
On the heels of its recent deal for Viacom TV content, Amazon-owned LoveFilm has struck a new pact with Warner Bros International Television Distribution. The deal will give Netflix competitor LoveFilm a library of hundreds of hours of animated content that includes Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Brave And The Bold, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and Thundercats. LoveFilm previously pacted with WBITD for live-action library content.
LOVEFiLM, an Amazon company, today announced the arrival of hundreds of hours of popular reality TV series, comedy and children’s entertainment on the LOVEFiLM Instant streaming service following a deal with worldwide entertainment leader Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN). The wide selection of new shows will allow members of LOVEFiLM Instant in the UK to experience some of the greatest entertainment from across VIMN’s exciting broadcast portfolio – which includes MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Comedy Central.
Global Showbiz Briefs: San Sebastian, Zurich Fests Partner; LoveFilm, CBS Ink; ITV’s ‘Come Dine With Me’ Streams
Zurich, San Sebastian Film Festivals Opening Windows On Each Other
The Zurich and San Sebastian Film Festivals are creating a unique partnership for their upcoming editions, which run almost simultaneously. Zurich will open a San Sebastian Window, which will offer insight into contemporary Spanish cinema by showcasing entries from the different sections of San Sebastian’s program. In turn, a Zurich Window will enhance the San Sebastian program with contributions from German-speaking countries, particularly Switzerland. The parties intend to strengthen their alliance in the coming years. Zurich runs Sept 26-Oct 6, and San Sebastian is September 20-28.
CBS Studios Fare To Stream in UK, Germany Via LoveFilm
Amazon’s LoveFilm has singed a multiyear licensing deal with CBS Studios International to bring content from the group to the UK and Germany. Subscribers will be able to stream network TV series including The Good Wife and Blue Bloods as well as Showtime programming such as Nurse Jackie, Californication and Dexter. The original 1960s Star Trek series and and Star Trek: Voyager also will be available.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Éclair Group Raises $16.6M; OWN Heads To Oz; Depardieu Breaks Silence; LoveFilm Streams Dis Pics
France’s Éclair Group Raises $16.6M Digital Switch, Development
Here’s some good news for France’s troubled postproduction sector. The Éclair Group has raised €12.4M ($16.6M) to complete its digital transition and speed up development across all of its businesses. The recapitalization was financed by the company’s current management, France’s Fonds de Consolidation et Développement des Entreprises, and by Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications. (Ben Ammar had acquired 43% of Éclair back in 2007 and was keen to merge it with his LTC Laboratories but was blocked by the competition authority at the time.) Éclair will also use the funds to strengthen its restoration business and to equip French cinemas in partnership with Deluxe and HP.
OWN Programming Heading Down Under
OWN and Discovery Networks International are planning a weekly block of OWN programming for Discovery Home & Health in Australia. Starting August 4, Aussie viewers will have access to shows that include Oprah’s Next Chapter, Super Soul Sunday, America With Lisa Ling and The Oprah Winfrey Show: Behind The Scenes. The Australia bow will follow the recent UK launch of OWN programming on TLC.
In the company’s first such deal, Amazon-owned LoveFilm has acquired exclusive streaming rights to History‘s Vikings for the UK and Germany. The Netflix rival will make all nine episodes of the hit show available via LoveFilm Instant in the UK on May 24 and in Germany on June 15. Vikings, handled internationally by MGM Television, is the No. 1 new cable series of the year in the U.S. and was renewed for a second season in April. This marks the first time LoveFilm has pacted for a series to stream on the service ahead of traditional broadcast television. Amazon Studios recently used the platform for its pilot screening process, making a slate of 14 pilots available on Amazon Instant Video, LoveFilm UK and LoveFilm Germany.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Lovefilm & Warner Bros’ UK Deal; Alex Williams Joins ‘The Reckoning’; Critics’ Week In Cannes
Lovefilm & Warner Bros Strike UK Deal
Netflix competitor Lovefilm has entered what it calls a “milestone” deal with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution for the UK. From today, library content that includes The West Wing, One Tree Hill, Nip Tuck and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will be available to subscribers. The Amazon-owned streaming service has 2M+ subscribers across Europe. Netflix entered the market in January 2012 where Sky also continues to build its business. The three companies each have deals with the major U.S. studios. In November, Netflix signed its own multi-year pact with WBITD that included shows like The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl.
Blockbuster UK has been pulled back from the brink of bankruptcy with private equity firm Gordon Brothers Europe riding to the rescue and acquiring the company’s business and assets. Blockbuster sought bankruptcy protection in January with Deloitte taking over the day-to-day operations and looking for a buyer. Financials were not disclosed, but Gordon Brothers said the 264 stores across the UK and Channel Islands will continue to operate on a business-as-usual basis, saving over 2,000 jobs. When Blockbuster first went into administration in January, it had 528 stores. Supermarket chain Morrisons bought 49 of them and about 200 were closed, BBC News notes. As with UK retail giant HMV, which has also sought bankruptcy protection, Blockbuster has faced stiff competition from online streaming services, which in the UK include Lovefilm and Netflix. Gordon Brothers said it will make “substantial investment” and fully utilize Blockbuster’s “existing trading platform, powerhouse brand and extensive customer database.” It intends to enhance “the customer experience through the use of new product offerings, new technologies and better basic retailing.” Gordon Brothers CEO Frank Morton said, “We acknowledge the industry is in transition;
Hyde Park Names Stephen Gary VP
Ahead of Cannes, Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment Group has picked Stephen Gary as VP of its international sales division. He comes from IM Global, where he worked on titles like Before Midnight Dead Man Down. He’ll report to Hyde Park International’s president Eric Christenson. The company’s current slate includes Every Secret Thing with Diane Lane and Elizabeth Banks, Adult World with Emma Roberts and John Cusack and Sunlight Jr. with Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon, as well as an untitled Elmore Leonard project that stars Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Tim Robbins. Gary’s career began in the global finance and distribution department at William Morris Endeavor and includes a stint at Essential Entertainment, where he executed sales on The Expatriate and Barney’s Version. - Joe Utichi
Global Showbiz Briefs: NBCU-Lovefilm TV Deal, Ian Fleming Miniseries, Aussie Fracking Doc, Hong Kong Fund
NBCUniversal Inks TV Series Deal With Lovefilm
Amazon’s European service LoveFilm has secured an agreement with NBCUniversal International TV Distribution to deliver audiences on-demand access to hundreds of episodes of iconic American TV. Deal includes recent and library titles including comedies like the U.S. version of The Office starring Steve Carrell and 30 Rock starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. Deal also includes NBCU science fiction dramas like Heroes as well as David Hasselhoff’s 1980s cult TV classic Knight Rider. Lovefilm’s latest major studio deal follows agreements with ABC, BBC and ITV.
Blockbuster now becomes the second UK retailer this week to go into administration, the British equivalent of bankruptcy protection, after music and DVD chain HMV did the same on Tuesday. As it has in the U.S., the movie and video game rental giant has faced increasing competition from online streaming services, which in the UK include Lovefilm and Netflix. Deloitte, which was also hired by HMV, will take over the day-to-day operations at Blockbuster UK which has 528 stores and employs 4,190 staff. Stores will continue to do business while the firm seeks a buyer. In a statement, Deloitte’s Lee Manning said, “We are working closely with suppliers and employees to ensure the business has the best possible platform to secure a sale, preserve jobs and generate as much value as possible for all creditors.” The first Blockbuster UK store opened in 1989. In April 2011, Dish Network acquired Blockbuster Inc. in a bankruptcy auction for $320M. Blockbuster UK is owned by Dish, but operates separately from its U.S. parent.
Netflix will further ramp up its rivalry with Amazon’s Lovefilm when it expands into the Nordic region. The company, which launched in the UK and Ireland in January where Lovefilm was already an established player, will offer streaming of TV shows and movies in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland before the end of 2012. Along with the UK, Lovefilm also operates in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Netflix, which has UK deals with studios including Disney, Fox, NBCU, Paramount and Miramax, did not announce partners for the Nordic territories, but promised a “wide array of Hollywood, local and global TV shows and movies.” It does have a historical relationship with Norway, however, having acquired the Norwegian-produced series Lilyhammer as the first original to launch on the service. Netflix had previously said it would bench international plans until a return to profitability somewhere around the midpoint of this year. In July, the company reported stronger-than-forecast Q2 earnings, but also a “consolidated loss” in Q4. Hinting at the Nordic move, it also noted it would launch in another overseas market during Q4 “which will drive us temporarily back into the red.” CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells said in a note that shareholders “are depending on us to succeed in our global expansion, market by market, and eventually return to substantial global profits.”
Stepping up its competition with Netflix, Amazon’s Lovefilm has entered a new subscription VOD deal with Miramax for the UK and Germany. The pact starts this summer and follows a recent streaming agreement with Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution. The company also has deals in place with Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal, eOne, Studiocanal, Disney, ABC, the BBC and ITV. It operates in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Norway. In the UK, Lovefilm competes directly with Netflix, which launched in January with output from Disney, Fox, NBCU, Paramount and Miramax among others. Among the library titles included in the Lovefilm/Miramax deal are Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill pictures.
With a view to enabling Amazon customers worldwide to watch online content wherever, whenever and however they want, the company has announced the creation of a new London design and development hub. Amazon will put teams from its subscription movie service, Lovefilm, and its interactive TV agency, Pushbutton, under one roof where they will create new interactive digital services for TVs, game consoles, smartphones and PCs. The Digital Media Development Center, according to managing director Paula Byrne, will “develop the next generation of TV and film services for a wide range of digital devices.” She further told Bloomberg that the goal is to ensure “every single person who is an Amazon customer wolrdwide is able to get to watch content where and when they want it, on the device they want it and to a very good standard.” The software developers and engineers who’ll be stationed at the new center previously worked on Lovefilm Instant, a service that provides members with unlimited streaming on over 280 internet-enabled devices.
Amazon-owned Lovefilm has entered a multi-year streaming deal with Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution for recent and upcoming movies and TV series. Subscription service Lovefilm, which operates in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Norway, also has agreements in place with Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal, eOne, Studiocanal, Disney, ABC, the BBC and ITV. The first feature titles available via the pact will roll out in March next year and will begin with Fox films originally released in the UK in 2011. Fox TV titles will become available next month and will include early seasons of Sons Of Anarchy and all seasons of 24, Prison Break, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. Lovefilm rival Netflix launched in the UK in January with deals in place with such content providers as Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, the BBC, NBCUniversal, Sony, Disney, MGM and Miramax.
LoveFilm raises the stakes this morning in its battle with Netflix to dominate the UK streaming market. The Amazon-owned service says it has an exclusive multiyear license with NBCUniversal International Television Distribution for Universal Studios titles in the second pay window — which typically begins more than a year after a film first appears in theaters. The deal will provide LoveFilm with titles including It’s Complicated, Nanny McPhee Returns, Leap Year, Green Zone, The Wolfman, Fast And Furious 5, Bridesmaids, Snow White and the Huntsman, Bourne Legacy, Dr Seuss’ The Lorax and Safe House. LoveFilm also has rights to films from Disney, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, Entertainment One and STUDIOCANAL. The goal is “to deliver the widest choice of content on as many platforms as possible,” says LoveFilm’s Jim Buckle. Its videos can be streamed to more than 175 devices including PCs, Macs, Playstation3, Xbox 360, iPads, and Internet-connected TV sets and Blu-ray players.
The government body is expanding on its existing investigation into whether BSkyB’s deals with major Hollywood studios give it too much power in pay TV, The Guardian reports. Regulators have already provisionally determined that those deals are too restrictive and need to be changed to promote competition. But today they said that they would extend their review to July to consider whether the recently launched streaming services there from Netflix and Amazon’s LoveFilm change the business dynamic. BSkyB says it plans to introduce its own Web streaming service called Sky Movies. “We recognised in our provisional findings that, were developments in the market to occur, it would be necessary to take them into account before reaching our final views,” the Commission said. Specifically, it asked for comments on whether the Netflix and LoveFilm can be considered a “substitute for traditional pay-TV services and Sky Movies.” It also wants to know whether, with the streaming services in the market, Sky Movies and pay TV are “likely to remain as significant to consumers in choosing their pay-TV retailer.”