FuboTV Boots Up Next-Gen App on Fire TV
AMC Orders ‘Geeking Out’ Late Night Talk Show
TV Everywhere Continues Its Climb

Skipper: ESPN Mulling Its Streaming Options

Skipper: ESPN Mulling Its Streaming Options

ESPN is in talks with Dish Network and other distributors about joining slimmed-down pay TV bundles, including some that are delivered over-the-top, ESPN president John Skipper said Wednesday at Re/code’s annual Code/Mediaconference in Dana Point, Calif.

ESPN is already being distributed by Sling TV, Dish Network’s OTT-TV service for cord-cutters, and is apparently looking to broaden its opportunities as it seeks new ways to be part of slimmed-down programming packages. Those discussions could lead to more digital distribution opportunities for ESPN. .

“A number of people have expressed interest and we’re in discussions with a large number of people,” Skipper said. “I think other people will enter into some markets with lighter packages in this calendar year,” he added, but didn’t elaborate on who those new, potential partners are.

Among the possibilities, Apple’s been pursuing deals for a national OTT TV service focused on skinny packages that include the major broadcast TV networks but that service has reportedly been bogged down in carriage talks. Amazon, meanwhile, has shown interest in becoming a virtual MVPD, and now sells standalone access to Showtime and Starz and other services to Prime members via its new Streaming Partners Program.

As for Sling TV, that service “has brought in new people to the pay TV universe…and ESPN is a driver of that package,” Skipper said. “We plan to discuss bringing in new packages with other providers.”

Skipper also reiterated that ESPN still has no interest in being sold on a standalone basis – something that HBO and Showtime are now doing on the premium end of the pay TV market – but would rather continue to be included in bundles that include other Disney-owned channels.

“We can sell ESPN as a standalone product, but we do not believe it right now to be good business,” Skipper said. “There are lots of people who want ESPN, and it’s our task to figure out how to get packages to ESPN that work for them.”

Mimik Wins CableLabs Innovation Showcase

Mimik Wins CableLabs Innovation Showcase

A Vancouver-based startup focused on personal media cloud technologies took down the Innovation Showcase at this week’s CableLabs Winter Conference in Orlando, Fla.

That company, mimik Technology, said it showcased a software platform that “turns every digital device into a micro-cloud server.” That software, it said, is built on a small memory footprint that can be ported to a wide range of devices, including smartphones, PCs, tablets, gaming consoles and even cable set-top boxes. mimik has developed an app for Android mobile devices and, according to the company’s web site, has a version for iOS “coming soon.”

With mimik’s software on board, those devices can be transformed into micro-servers that create a “virtual cloud” that can enable the secure sharing and control of digital content across devices, including sensors and other connected devices in the broader Internet of Things ecosystem.

As for its potential with MVPDs, the company’s mimikTV offering enables operators to support OTT apps and content from sources such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and Pandora on legacy set-top boxes. According to the company, mimikTV can also run on any commercial off-the-shelf Android-powered set-top, and supports multiple broadcasting standards.

“We are thrilled to have been chosen by CableLabs from hundreds of applicants to showcase the mimik software platform, and proud to have been voted by the cable industry professionals as the most innovative technology, Siavash Alamouti, mimik’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Our platform is the result of many years of R&D and empowers consumers to take control of their digital assets as well as access and share content in a new way. This is what we call digital freedom.”

Update: Per CableLabs, others that participated in the Innovation Showcase included: CCS, iPosi, Kaybus, LISNR, Movius, OZ, PixelPin, Skyport Systems, and Storj.io.

IFC Taps Dana Gould, Hank Azaria for Scripted Series

IFC Taps Dana Gould, Hank Azaria for Scripted Series

IFC will add to its scripted series lineup with projects from Dana Gould and Hank Azaria, the network said Monday.

Gould (The Simpsons, Parks and Recreation) will executive produce and write Stan Against Evil, a comedy horror series featuring the teaming of a perpetually disgruntled former sheriff and the tough and beautiful new sheriff who fight against a plague of unleashed demons that have been haunting the town, according to network officials.

Azaria will star in Brockmire, as a famed major league baseball announcer who suffers a very public meltdown live on the air but looks to regain his career by calling minor league baseball games in a small town.

“Demons and disgrace are at the forefront of IFC’s new comedy strategy,” said Caserta in making the announcement. “And there’s no one we’d rather be in bed with – or save small towns with – than Hank and Dana. One of the hallmarks of IFC’s success is the exceptional caliber of creative genius that we get to partner with, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be making these shows.”

Fox News on Weekly Ratings Roll

Fox News on Weekly Ratings Roll

Fox News is steamrolling its cable network competition in primetime so far in 2016.

Still riding high on its coverage of the 2016 political season, Fox News claimed its third consecutive primetime weekly ratings win in a row among total viewers, averaging 2.2 million viewers for the week of Feb. 1 to Feb. 7, according to Nielsen. The network has now been the most watched network in primetime in all but one of the first five weeks of 2016.

HGTV, on the strength of freshman series Fixer Upper, finished second for the week with 1.6 million viewers, followed by USA Network with 1.5 million watchers. ESPN and Disney Channel tied for fourth with 1.4 million viewers, while FX – helped by a network record-setting premiere for its People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story – finished fifth with 1.3 million viewers.

CNN, TBS, Discovery Channel and MSNBC (all tied with 1.2 million viewers) along with History (1.1 million) finished among the top 10 most watched networks in primetime last week.

Fox News was also tops on a 24-hour basis, besting Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Adult Swim and HGTV, according to Nielsen.

ESPN was the top choice among adults 18-49 in primetime during the period, while Adult Swim was tops on a 24-hour basis within the demo.

Most Watched Shows During The Week of Feb. 1 to Feb. 7

Date Show Network P2+

2/2 People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Fx 5.1 million

2/1 America’s Election Headquarters Fox News 4.9 million

2/4 Democratic Debate MSNBC 4.4 million

2/1 America’s Election Headquarters Fox News 4.3 million

2/1 Iowa Caucuses CNN 4.3 million

2/1 America’s Election Headquarters Fox News 4.1 million

2/1 America’s Election Headquarters Fox News 4.0 million

2/5 Gold Rush Discovery 3.9 million

2/1 America’s Choice 2016 CNN 3.9 million

2/2 Fixer Upper HGTV 3.5 million

Source: Nielsen

WWE Stock Falters on O’Neil Suspension, OTT Miss

WWE Stock Falters on O’Neil Suspension, OTT Miss

World Wrestling Entertainment stock has taken a hit over the past few days in the wake of a 60-day suspension of an African-American wrestler who playfully grabbed CEO Vince McMahon’s arm briefly during a telecast, and a drop in subscribers at its online service WWE Network.

The twitter-verse lit up Wednesday night after WWE suspended wrestler Titus O’Neil for what it called “unprofessional conduct” after the wrestler grabbed McMahon’s arm during a taping of WWE’s Monday Night Raw in Seattle. The incident was not shown on the official broadcast – subscribers to its WWE Network were able to catch a glimpse though – and after news of the suspension hit, several versions of the video were widely available on the Internet.

Many fans saw the suspension – initially a 90-day suspension that was reduced by 30 days – as a racist move by the controversial CEO. WWE denied the suspension was racially motivated.

“The suspension of Titus O’Neil had nothing to do with race and everything to do with unprofessional conduct,” the company said in a statement to the New York Post.

The WWE also sent the post a copy of a text they said O’Neil sent the organization “‘I feel like sh** now so if you have to let me go, I understand. Stupid mistake.’”

O’Neil (his real name is Thaddeus Bullard) graduated from the University of Florida and played football for the Gators (1997-1999) as a defensive tackle under head coach Steve Spurrier. He is well-known for his charity work and is one of the more well-liked wrestlers on the circuit.

The O’Neil move likely played a role in WWE’s stock dipping on Feb. 10 – it fell 4.4% (72 cents each) to $15.75 per share from $16.47 the previous day.

While the incident did keep social media humming for awhile, the real hit to the stock occurred the following day (Feb. 11) when shares dipped as much as 10% after WWE revealed that subscribers for its WWE Network fell to 1.2 million in the fourth quarter from 1.3 million in the previous period. The stock finished the day at $14.94 per share, down 5.1%. WWE shares closed at $16.40 each, down 2%, (30 cents) on Feb.12.

The weak WWE Network numbers overshadowed what was otherwise a strong quarter for the content company – revenue was up 18% and the company reported $3.4 million in net income, compared to a loss of $600,000 in the previous year.

‘Gravity Falls’ Finale Sets Disney XD Record

‘Gravity Falls’ Finale Sets Disney XD RecordThe “Gravity Falls” finale set a Disney XD ratings record.

The series finale of Disney XD’s animated series Gravity Falls set a ratings record for the network on a Nielsen Live+3 basis, the network said Monday.

The Feb. 15 episode drew a record 2.9 million total viewers, 1.5 million kids 6-14 and 909,000 Boys 6-14, according to Disney. Overall, Gravity Falls accounts for Disney XD’s top 9 regular animated-series telecasts of all time among the network’s targeted kids 6-11 demo and represents the top 7 telecasts among boys 6-11.

Further, the all-day Gravity Falls takeover event and series finale reached 10.7 million unique total viewers, including 5.4 million kids 2-14 and 3.1 million Boys 2-14, said network officials.

Rovi Rises on 4Q Beat

Rovi Rises on 4Q Beat

Rovi shares soared more than 15% Friday after the company posted Q4 results that beat analyst expectations.

Rovi, a key maker of interactive guide technology and a major supplier of metadata, pulled down Q4 net income of $26.3 million (65 cents per share), on revenues of $149.5 million, up 11% on a year-over-year basis. Analysts were expecting earnings of 40 cents.

Rovi attributed the rise in revenue in part to catch-up payments from AT&T and Sony. Rovi posted service provider revenues of $124 million in Q4, up 18%.

On Thursday’s earnings call, Rovi CEO Tom Carson said the strong quarter was “led by licensing,” noting it had renewed its intellectual property deal with AT&T (which acquired DirecTV last year), Sky, Europe’s largest pay TV operator, and inked a new deal with Canadian operator Shaw Communications. The Shaw deal, he said, includes its new Free Range TV mobile video app, which is powered by Comcast’s X1 platform.

Rovi has also salted away a multi-year license with Charter Communications, which is in the process of acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

“Assuming the Time Warner Cable acquisition closes, we will have two of the big four U.S. service providers under new contracts,” Carson said.

Carson said Rovi is working to get renewals done with the other two – Comcast and Dish Network.

But it’s not counting those chickens yet. Rovi forecasted 2016 revenues of $490 million to $520 million, and earnings of $1.35 to $1.65 per share. “We are excluding any revenue associated with renewing these two deals from our estimates, including any advertising or TV Everywhere revenues from Comcast after Q1,” Carson said.

In addition to getting those renewals done, Rovi said another big focus this year involves Fan TV, the video navigation platform Rovi acquired in 2014 for $12 million.

Though IP-connected Fan TV devices are no longer part of Rovi’s game plan (Time Warner Cable stopped selling those last fall), Rovi has since evolved Fan TV into a modular entertainment discovery platform for service providers and developers, offering it via APIs, apps and as an operating system for set-top boxes.

Carson said a “large European service provider agreed to use the Fan TV platform,” but won’t be saying more until after that customer announces their product and service plan that will rely on Fan TV.

Rovi said it expects to announce new deals for Fan TV, both as a full solution, and as an element that complements other discovery services during the course of the year.

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