Comcast is fast becoming a powerful challenger to Apple and Amazon when it comes to selling downloaded movies and TV shows — the long-awaited replacement for DVDs and Blu-ray discs known in the industry as electronic sell through (or EST). And today’s deal with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will help, bringing movies including American Hustle and Captain Phillips and TV series Breaking Bad and House Of Cards to the cable company’s offerings. Comcast already has carriage deals with Fox, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal (which the cable company owns), and Warner Bros — but not Disney, Paramount, DreamWorks Animation, or MGM. Comcast doesn’t yet support UltraViolet, so consumers who buy movies or shows from it can’t access them from the entertainment industry’s cloud-based storage lockers. Comcast has its own infrastructure that makes it possible for buyers to access the content they buy, even if they move or stop subscribing to the cable video service. Last month, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said that since Comcast began offering EST in November it “has captured 15% of the EST market and expanded the business.” He said that other cable operators likely will soon follow because “it’s been too successful for Comcast.” Consumers spent $424.8M on EST in Q4, up 44% from the period in 2012, according to Digital Entertainment Group data.
The goal is to create an industry standard to provide consumers who buy digital copies of movies additional features, much like they experience when they buy DVD and Blu-ray discs. “We have seen in all of our research and studies with consumers that they’d like to see a better price-value relationship around digital ownership,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment EVP of Worldwide Digital and Commercial Strategy Jim Underwood tells me. Sony and Wal-Mart will kick things off today by offering what they call VUDU Extras+, a collection of enhancements for those who buy streaming rights to a movie from Wal-Mart’s service or redeem their UltraViolet code on VUDU and watch the movie on a PC or Mac. They’ll be included with the sci-fi thriller District 9. Later this year Sony will include VUDU Extras+ with This Is the End, After Earth, White House Down, Grown Ups 2, Mortal Instruments, Smurfs 2, and One Direction — This Is Us. There’ll be no difference in price vs versions without the extras. One feature, “Enhanced Scene Search,” enables viewers to use dialogue or other cues to jump to favorite scenes. Another feature, “Clip & Share,” makes it easy to post certain scenes to Facebook or Twitter. (Probably not any scenes with nudity — and friends will be encouraged to buy the film, of course.) Although some retailers already offer additional content, “many of the extras out there now are a separately viewed file,” Underwood says. “In the digital space we believe the extras should have interactivity and the ability to engage with them in real time while you’re watching the film.”
Sony had the right to bail out on September 30, but will hang in for two years — with two, one-year options to extend the agreement past 2014 — Redbox parent Coinstar says in an SEC filing this morning. The latest change in their alliance also will give Redbox the option to license Blu-ray discs from Sony. When the companies revised their deal last year, Sony said that Redbox could keep DVDs in its kiosks for as long as a year — twice as long as the studio previously allowed. “With three years of data to analyze, we believe it is a positive sign that Sony has not seen any adverse impact from the Redbox agreement and did not follow Warner Bros’ lead in pushing for a delay,” B. Riley analyst Eric Wold says. Warner wanted its videos to have a 56-day head start on store shelves before hitting the kiosks. Redbox refused, and now buys Warner DVDs from retailers instead of directly from the studio. The extension with Sony should come as a relief to Coinstar. Its stock has declined about 20% since last Thursday, when it disclosed Q2 earnings that fell short of the Street’s expectations. Coinstar shares are up 2.4% in early trading. No word in the filing about whether the new deal might affect Redbox’s planned streaming joint venture with Verizon: to be called Redbox Instant By Verizon.
Culver City, Calif. (July 19, 2012) – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) has promoted Jason Spivak to Executive Vice President of Worldwide Digital Distribution. The announcement was made today by Jim Underwood, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Digital and Commercial Strategy, to whom he reports.
In this role, Spivak will continue to lead the team responsible for SPHE’s transactional digital business around the world.
London, UK (March 27, 2012) – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) UK today announced three of the studio’s hottest summer releases, Jack & Jill, The Vow and 21 Jump Street, will arrive in stores through June and July 2012 with UltraViolet digital versions of the movies included with their respective Blu-ray Discs™ and DVDs.
After a customer purchases a Blu-ray Disc or DVD with UltraViolet and creates their free cloud-based UltraViolet account, they will be able to access their movie through any UltraViolet-compatible service or device – from PCs and tablets to TVs and smart phones. UltraViolet gives users unprecedented freedom and flexibility to download and stream their movies most anywhere they can access the Internet. Users can even share their library with up to six family members in their household account.
This is sure to be generating some high-fives over at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. In a nice marketing touch, the DVD for Columbia Pictures’ David Fincher-directed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo that hit the street this week has been packaged to look like a burned (re: pirated) disc, complete with the felt-tip-pen scribbling of the title on what looks to be a label-less face. It’s a nod to Tattoo‘s computer-hacker lead character Lisbeth Salander, who is just the sort that would illegally download a copy of a Hollywood studio tentpole from BitTorrent (don’t try that at home, kids). The look is so effective it forced Redbox to put a disclaimer in its description of the movie on the film’s webpage: ”NOTE TO RENTERS: The handwritten look on the disc of this movie is legitimate and is intended to look like a burned DVD.” The film, which garnered star Rooney Mara a Best Actress Oscar nomination and won the Oscar for Film Editing, has grossed $231.3 million worldwide since its December 21 release.
Culver City, CA (March 22, 2012) – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) today announced that Kim Overall has been appointed to Senior Vice President, Northern Europe. The announcement was made by Matt Brown, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Commercial, to whom Overall will report.
Overall joined the company in 2008 as the Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand. Prior to SPHE, she was European Vice President of International Sales & Marketing at Paramount Home Entertainment as well as Vice President of International Marketing for DreamWorks Home Entertainment, both positions based in London.
Culver City, Calif. (March 20, 2012) – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) today announced that Jim Underwood has been appointed Executive Vice President, Worldwide Digital and Commercial Strategy, reporting to David Bishop, SPHE President.
Promoted from the role of Executive Vice President, Corporate Development at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Underwood will now be responsible for SPHE’s transactional digital business around the world and will develop and implement the studio’s integrated strategy for the home entertainment market across all channels of distribution. In his new role, he will oversee SPHE’s digital distribution, digital strategy and operations, commercial planning, and business affairs groups. Jason Spivak will continue to lead the team responsible for SPHE’s transactional digital distribution, reporting to Underwood.
Culver City, Ca. (1/31/12) – Matt Brown has been named Executive Vice President of Worldwide Commercial for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, announced SPHE Worldwide President David Bishop, to whom Brown will report.
Brown, who was previously Executive Vice President – North America and International, now adds oversight for all commercial initiatives in Europe to his current portfolio of responsibilities, which had included North America and international excluding Europe.
Brown will work closely with Aodan Coburn, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Operations and Licensing, in managing the regions encompassing Latin America, Asia Pacific and the Emerging Markets. Coburn’s expanded responsibilities will be in addition to his current focus on global licensing and supply chain. He will report to Brown on all commercial matters, and he will continue reporting to Bishop for operations and supply chain.
With 350M Sony networked devices including TV sets and PlayStation game consoles expected to be in the market over the next two years “right now that integration has never made more sense,” Sony Corp Of America CFO Rob Wiesenthal told investors at the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference. ”The momentum is there and the capability is there. …You want to maximize the value of all these assets by keeping them together.” He says that the company is approaching $1B in revenue this fiscal year from its PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network. He’s also optimistic about the recent Sony/ATV deal to pay $2.2B for EMI’s music publishing operation which includes rights to 1.3M songs. The plan is still a little mysterious. “We’re coming up with a structure that we haven’t disclosed yet” to make music publishing a separate company. Still, he notes that “music publishing rights are a critical element of any music business” — with revenues that can come from just about any show or device that plays tunes. He also says that he’s encouraged by prospects for the overall music industry, even though it’s just a shadow of its former self. He says that music video site VEVO “is worth a fortune” and adds that “you’ll see music companies incubate new services.” He notes that “a lot of our business now is related to TV” through shows such as The X Factor and America’s Got Talent. In addition to …
That’s the most interesting part of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s announcement today about its video plans for the movie starring Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Yes, it’s noteworthy that people who buy a Blu-ray disc will also be able to access digital streams of Moneyball from the industry’s new UltraViolet initiative. Sony’s a vocal supporter of that, and already offers the same online streaming deal for people who buy Blu-ray discs of Smurfs and Friends With Benefits. But Sony’s stood alone so far in selling digital downloads of movies before they hit the stores. Digital sales of Moneyball begin on December 22 while the discs come out on January 10 (DVDs will go for suggested retail price of $30.99 and Blu-ray for $35.99). That’s a longer window than Sony gave to its first two films that provided early digital downloads: Bad Teacher was sold online about two weeks ahead of discs in October. The second film, 30 Minutes Or Less, had a similar window in November. The studio liked the results. Sony says total digital revenues were 24% higher than comparable films released the same day as discs — and it saw no signs of cannibalization from VOD.
Zurich Film Festival To Present Paul Haggis with Golden Eye
The festival will also screen a retrospective of the Oscar-winning screenwriter and filmmaker’s work, which includes Million Dollar Baby, Crash and In the Valley of Elah. In addition, Haggis will lead one of the festival’s master class workshops, where he will discuss his work and career. Previous honorees at the festival, which will run Sept. 22-Oct. 2, include Roman Polanski, Milos Forman and Oliver Stone.
Universal, Sony Merge Home Entertainment In Australia
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures International Entertainment will combine operations in Australia in 2012 for the distribution of DVD and Blu-ray movies and TV shows. The new unit will be headed by Jim Bachelor, currently managing director for Universal Pictures Australia and New Zealand; and Kim Overall, managing director, Australia and New Zealand, SPHE, who will be in an advisory role. The unnamed joint venture, announced today by Eddie Cunningham, president of UPIE, and Matt Brown, EVP, international for SPHE, must still meet antitrust guidelines in Australia.
The start-up movie-streaming service Flickme is up and running in beta mode beginning today, kicking off with licenses from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Bros Digital Distribution. Mitch Galbraith, the former COO of Funny Or Die, is CEO of the venture, which enables users to watch Hollywood films in a social-media environment. The company, started earlier this year by Galbraith and Mark Smallcombe, is funded by Sequoia Capital. At the outset, Flickme members will be able to log in with their existing Facebook accounts, follow people with similar tastes in movies, exchange recommendations and earn badges. A use also can buy or rent select catalog movies and share a discount on that title with up to 10 friends via Facebook and Twitter. Current prices range from $9.99-$17.99 to buy a title or $2.99-$3.99 to rent.