Berlin-based streaming guide JustWatch acquires New York rival GoWatchIt

Berlin-headquartered streaming guide JustWatch has grown to over 10 million users across 38 countries in under 5 years. Now, it’s expanding its U.S. presence with the acquisition of New York-based rival, GoWatchIt, from Plexus Entertainment. Deal terms were not revealed but were a mixture of cash and stock for the smaller operation, which had just 8 people on board.

JustWatch says its interest was mostly in the commercial team based in New York. As a result of the acquisition, GoWatchIt founder and CEO David Larkin will remain in New York and will become JustWatch’s SVP Marketing and Strategy.

GoWatchIt is one of now several services that offer a comprehensive guide to movies and TV aimed at helping people find things to watch across an increasingly fragmented streaming landscape, which now includes new services like Apple TV+ and Disney+, and soon, NBCU’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max. As a result of all the new entries, it has become more difficult for consumers to know what’s available, where it streams, and how much it costs. Plus, consumers also want help in finding new shows and movies across services that are personalized to their own interests.

This is where services like GoWatchIt and JustWatch came in.

GoWatchIt was founded in 2011 at a guide to streaming content, as well as digital content and even movies playing in theaters. The service additionally offered an API to partner sites who wanted to inform their visitors and readers where content was available. These partners included The New York Times, National Cine Media, and Common Sense Media, among others.

According to JustWatch, the acquisition of GoWatchIt made sense as the U.S. had already grown to become JustWatch’s largest market, in terms of user numbers. However, the acquisition wasn’t about gaining market share, the company tells TechCrunch. It was more about the B2B partners and clients and the commercial team, particularly founder David Larkin whose new job will have him marketing JustWatch B2B products like the partner API, competitive VOD market intelligence, and JustWatch’s entertainment advertising products in the U.S.

“We are very happy with the acquisition of GoWatchIt and to welcome David Larkin at JustWatch,” noted JustWatch founder and CEO David Croyé, in a statement. “We have already known each other for several years and I’m excited to work with David to increase our footprint in the US. His network in the streaming industry will help us find many more partners for our B2B data and API offerings,” he said.

GoWatchIt was backed by Scout Ventures and other private funding.

Its total team was just 8 people, but only two are joining JustWatch as the technical staff wasn’t needed. JustWatch today has a team of over 50 in Berlin who will continue to run its product development and technology.

In addition, the GoWatchIt website will be closed in the near future, with traffic redirected to JustWatch.com instead. Partner sites using the GoWatchIt API will be transitioned to the JustWatch API, as well.

“I’m excited to join JustWatch from New York and help to accelerate the growth with my industry experience and network,” said Larkin. “Over the last years, JustWatch has grown very fast to become the biggest streaming guide worldwide. The streaming wars are heating up and the biggest growth will come from outside the US. JustWatch is the only truly international player to help users find out what to watch and where to watch it.”

JustWatch competes with a range of services in this market, including also Reelgood which just raised $6.75 million for its own streaming guide, TV Time which has raised $65 million (according to Crunchbase), and many other apps and services all aiming to be consumers’ go-to platform.

JustWatch is nearing the launch of new TV apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV, which will be available in the days ahead.

 

Reelgood raises $6.75 million for its universal streaming guide

Streaming aggregator Reelgood capitalized on the overabundance of streaming services available today by offering consumers a universal dashboard where you can track what you’re watching and discover your next binge. It then translated the activity from its over 10 million users into data it licenses to major companies, including Roku, Microsoft, smart TV makers, NYPost and even hedge funds. Now the company has closed on $6.75 million in Series A funding to continue to grow its business.

The round was led by Runa Capital and includes participation from Reelgood’s seed round investor, August Capital. To date, Reelgood has raised $11 million.

The company’s app to some extent competes with those designed to help you keep track of the episodes you’ve watched across streaming services and TV, like TV Time, iTV, JustWatch and others. But Reelgood’s service stands out for its breadth of catalog — it tracks both movies and TV across some 336 streaming services, the website says. This includes free services like Tubi, Crackle and those from TV networks, plus authenticated “TV Everywhere” services for pay-TV subscribers, and subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime and others. It also can help you compare prices on rental options.

And its robust search and filtering features can help you find titles that are new, coming or leaving services, or by any other filter — like genre, year, Rotten Tomatoes rating, IMDB score and more. The more you use and personalize the service, the better its suggestions for what to watch next then become.

Once you find something to watch, you just press play to launch the streaming service’s app or website.

The work involved in making a simple concept — a universal dashboard for streaming — is fairly complex, Reelgood says.

“Putting together these streaming service libraries involves ingesting massive and unstructured amounts of data from hundreds of different sources for real-time matching and combination using machine learning and human curators,” noted Reelgood’s head of Data, Pablo Lucio Paredes.

Reelgood also touts the quality of its data (averaging 98% across all 300+ services), which it then licenses to publishers, search engines, media players, TVs, voice assistants and other smart devices. Currently, the company has around 50 business customers who pay either for the raw data, the insights or both.

Roku, for example, uses Reelgood’s data for its own universal search feature. NYPost displays streaming availability data on their articles via a widget. Hedge funds look at the data to better understand consumer behavior in streaming services and the movement of content between catalogs.

This year, Reelgood hired Nielsen’s former SVP of global measurement, Mark Green, to lead its B2B data licensing business, called Reelgood Insights.

“I sought out and joined Reelgood because they are poised to capture the billions in revenue spent on viewership data as viewing continues to shift towards OTT,” said Green.

The additional funding will be used to expand the number of platforms where Reelgood is offered, including on a range of smart TVs through partnerships. The company has signed five smart TV deals with major brands that will begin to roll out in 2020, but LG is the only name Reelgood can currently disclose.

Reelgood is headquartered in San Francisco. It has 18 employees, both local and remote, and is hiring across a number of roles.

CBS All Access launches kids’ programming, soon to include Nickelodeon shows

CBS’s over-the-top streaming service, CBS All Access, is the latest to counter the threat from Disney+ by investing in children’s programming. Today, the company is launching a kids’ programming lineup including original shows and other library content. Plus, in one of the first major content integrations ahead of the ViacomCBS merger, the CBS streaming service will soon add a selection of Nickelodeon children’s TV shows to its catalog.

The first Nickelodeon titles will roll out in January, the company says.

In August, CBS had announced plans to launch children’s programming on its service by way of deals with WildBrain (formerly DHX Media) and Boat Rocker Studios. From WildBrain, CBS licensed the kids’ TV series “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” produced with Sony Pictures Animation. And from Boat Rocker, CBS licensed the new “Danger Mouse,” produced with BBC Children’s Productions.

The two shows are the first original children’s series on the service, which today is better known for its original programming aimed at adults, like “Star Trek: Discovery,” “The Good Fight,” “The Twilight Zone,” and soon “Star Trek: Picard.”

Today, the two originals are now live for subscribers alongside a library of kids’ content that includes “Bob the Builder,” “Inspector Gadget,” “Madeline,” “Heathcliff,” “The Adventures of Paddington Bear,” and the original “Danger Mouse.”

Over the next several weeks, CBS says it plans to grow its kids’ library to over 1,000 episodes as more TV series are added.

“Bringing children’s programming to CBS All Access is a significant step toward providing even more value for our subscribers and now for their children as well,” said Marc DeBevoise, President and COO, CBS Interactive, in a statement. “We’re bringing to market a fantastic roster of exclusive originals along with a library of marquee series for families, and we look forward to continuing to expand our children’s programming offering, especially with the future addition of incredible programming from Nickelodeon.”

The company did not specify which titles from Nickelodeon would come to CBS All Access, but it’s possible the lineup could include shows like “SpongeBob SquarePants” or “Dora the Explorer,” which went over to Amazon Prime Video after Viacom pulled them off Netflix back in 2013. Today, some of the early seasons of those shows and others are available as part of Amazon Prime’s free streaming perk, while later seasons can only be rented or purchased.

“Spongebob,” “Dora,” and other classic Nickelodeon kids’ shows are not included in Nickelodeon’s new agreement with Netflix, which is focused on new, original content using both well-known characters and all-new IP. According to The NYT, that deal was valued at $200 million.

It would make sense for CBS All Access to eventually absorb Viacom’s kids’ streaming service Noggin, which is where you can today find “Dora,” along with other shows like “PAW Patrol,” “Peppa Pig, “Team Umizoomi,” “Wallykazam,” “Bubble Guppies,” “Rusty Rivets,” “Blue’s Clues,” “Blaze,” “Shimmer & Shine,” “Max & Ruby,” “Wonder Pets,” “Nia Hao, Kai-Lan,” and several others. This would round out CBS All Access as a more family-friendly streaming service with a wide catalog, which would help it to better compete with Netflix, Hulu and of course, Disney+.

As a combined entity, it doesn’t make sense for ViacomCBS to ask its customer base to subscribe to both services or choose between them. And Noggin, in particular, doesn’t make sense given the higher churn rate for a service which only appeals to families with younger kids — who age out of the service after a few years. It would be better to put these shows in front of the larger CBS All Access audience, helping it to tout a larger catalog in marketing materials and attract a wider group of cord-cutting consumers.

HBO’s former CEO said to be in talks with Apple TV+ for an exclusive production deal

The man who oversaw the creation of some of HBO’s most highly-praised ‘prestige TV’ could soon be making shows for Apple TV+, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. Richard Plepler, who was HBO’s Chairman and CEO up until he parted ways with the company last February following its acquisition by AT&T, is nearing an exclusive production deal with Apple’s new original content streaming service, the report says.

Plepler, who spent almost 30 years at HBO, including six as its CEO during which the media company aired some of its biggest hits, including ‘Game of Thrones,’ would definitely bring some big-name industry influence to Apple’s efforts. Not that Apple TV+ lacks for that in its early offing, either: The premiere slate of original shows include Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon-led ‘The Morning Show,’ and and a show centred around Oprah’s Book Club, just to name a couple of examples.

The deal, which isn’t yet final but might be signed officially “within the next few weeks,” per the report, would be between Apple and Plepler’s RLP & Co., a production company he established after leaving HBO. There’s nothing yet to indicate what kind of projects he’d be working on for Apple TV+, but it’s a logical target for Apple’s new original content enterprise to pursue, given that its focus thus far appears to be on fewer, big budget and high-profile projects, but critical reception hasn’t been up to par with the kind of TV that HBO has a track record of producing.

NBA TV goes over-the-top to offer live games and original programming to cord cutters

Cord-cutting basketball fans now have a new option for their non-stop hoops coverage. NBA TV is officially launching a direct-to-consumer subscription service today, making it the first linear TV sports league network to go over the top. The service, which will be available both on the web at NBA.com and through the NBA app, will include more than 100 exclusive, out-of-market live games, original programming and on-demand video for $6.99 per month.

You can also pay the annual price of $59.99 for a small discount.

The launch won’t impact customers with pay-TV subscriptions, as they’ll still be able to watch NBA TV by authenticating with their TV provider.

NBA Digital, which is managed jointly by the NBA and Turner Sports, recently announced a new franchise called “Center Court” where it will experiment with viewing enhancements, including new camera angles, live on-screen group chats with celeb influencers, in-depth analytics and statistical graphics, and more.

These games (a list is here) will also be featured on NBA TV through the main Center Court broadcast as well as on the web and mobile, where fans can find the enhanced “frontcourt” and “backcourt” streams. The “frontcourt” streams will incorporate the alternative audio options with rotating groups of NBA influencers, while the “backcourt” streams will feature the Second Spectrum technology, including the statistical overlays.

Center Court coverage will be available through the 2019-2020 season.

In addition to the enhanced games, NBA TV promises more than 100 nationally televised out-of-market games, plus other live games from the WNBA, NBA G League and NBA Summer League. The service also has original programming that includes studio shows and reporting, magazine-style shows like “Beyond the Point,” talent franchises like “Shaqtin’ a Fool,” a pre-game show, “The Warm Up” and nightly shows like “NBA Crunchtime” and “NBA Game Time.”

New shows that focus on social conversations, legends and current players include “The List,” “#Handles,” “Say What,” “High Tops” and “Basketball Stories.” And the service includes 24/7 access to classic games, the NBA Finals from 2000-2019 and other archival content.

NBA TV subscribers also will be able to buy an NBA League Pass, the premium subscription to all NBA games, from the same NBA app and website where they can buy or add on NBA TV, starting today.

Once subscribed, NBA TV can be watched via the web, mobile or through connected TV devices and game consoles.

“Innovation has always been at the core of our NBA Digital partnership and the launch of this direct to consumer product, paired with new content initiatives, will provide NBA fans even greater opportunities to engage with NBA TV and our collective portfolio of brands,” said Tina Shah, executive vice president and general manager, Turner Sports, in a statement. “As sports consumption continues to evolve, we will continue to develop new opportunities for fans to access and engage with premium NBA content.”

Access to live sports is one of the areas that stop fans from fully cutting the cord with traditional pay TV. But a variety of resources have cropped up over the years to make that transition easier, including those dedicated to particular sports — like the MLB’s over-the-top offering MLB.TV — or live-streamed games across social media and elsewhere, as with the NFL’s games on Amazon Prime Video. There are also entire services, like fuboTV that grew out of sports’ fans needs for a more comprehensive live sports offering.

But even with new ways to watch, blackout restrictions often keep fans tied to pay TV, perhaps using a friend’s account to log in and authenticate…or even turning to VPNs. NBA TV won’t solve this problem, either, but it can help fans view more games and NBA content.

HBO Max will cost $14.99 per month and launch in May 2020

AT&T and WarnerMedia just announced the pricing of their HBO Max streaming service, along with sharing more details about the timing and content lineup.

The service will cost $14.99 per month — the same price as HBO Now. WarnerMedia also says it will be free for HBO Now subscribers and for viewers who subscribe to HBO via AT&T. And it will launch in May of next year.

The announcement came at an event for investors and media, where HBO’s Casey Bloys also revealed that the network has greenlit a Game of Thrones spin-off called House of the Dragon, based on George R.R. Martin’s book of Westerosi history, Fire and Blood (perhaps explaining why a previously announced spin-off that was recently canceled).

The company also revealed that HBO Max will be the exclusive streaming home of South Park. Plus, Elizabeth Banks, Issa Rae and Mindy Kaling are all developing new shows for the service — and Arrow and Riverdale producer Greg Berlanti announced that he’s working on the new DC Comics-related titles Green Lantern and Strange Adventures.

Today’s presentation for began with lots of commentary about all the corporate synergies between AT&T, WarnerMedia (which AT&T acquired last year) and the service’s namesake HBO.

WarnerMedia’s entertainment and direct-to-consumer chairman Bob Greenblatt said HBO Max will have 10,000 hours of content at launch, including the HBO library, films from Warner Bros. and original content “appealing to all the younger demos.” Ten thousand hours sounds like a lot, but Greenblatt acknowledge it’s less than some competitors (presumably Netflix): “We actually think our value proposition improves when we narrow some of the options.”

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HBO Max Chief Content Officer Kevin Reilly made a similar point, noting that on average, half of the usage on subscription streaming services comes from the top 100 titles, so “quality over quantity” is important. To illustrate that quality, he pointed to titles like Sesame Street, as well as the Lord of the Rings movies, The Hobbit movies, The Matrix trilogy and The Conjuring films, plus every Superman and Batman movie from the past 40 years.

“We’re all-in with DC and the associated brand-love that DC generates,” Reilly said.

He also noted the service will stream the 90’s classic Friends, as well as The Big Bang Theory, for which it reportedly paid over $1 billion.

As for originals, Reilly said the company plans to launch 31 Max Originals series (combined with HBO series, that makes for 69 original shows on HBO Max in its first year). Half of them, apparently, will be targeted at a young adult audience, with most of the episodes released on a weekly basis — Reilly argued that this allows for more cultural impact, “rather than fading quickly after a binge and burn.”

In terms of the product itself, WarnerMedia’s Executive Vice President Andy Forssell argued that “despite a decade of SVOD evolution, it’s still too hard to find something to watch,” and said HBO Max will “blend the smart use of data with real human touch, and present them via novel product experiences.”

He then showed off how the service will include curated highlights sections focusing on things like Friends episodes with high-profile guest stars. Forssell acknowledged that this might not seem revolutionary, but he argued that it offers a “significant deviation from how SVOD services have used screen real estate.”

It will also expand HBO’s Recommended by Humans feature, where celebrities and other real people can recommend their favorite movies and TV shows. And there will be kids’ profiles and shared profiles — so that the watching you do with others won’t interfere with the progress and recommendations from your own solo viewing.

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In July, AT&T first announced its plans for HBO Max, but the details around launch and pricing weren’t yet known. Instead, the attention so far has been on HBO Max’s content lineup.

The service aims to capitalize on HBO’s reputation for premium fare to attract consumers — many of whom already pay $15 per month for HBO Now. But it will pad that HBO library with a combination of programming from other WarnerMedia properties like Cinemax, New Line, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., The CW, CNN, TNT, TBS, TruTV, Turner Classic Movies, Crunchyroll, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes, and others.

We now know HBO Max will be home to Game of Thrones and its upcoming spin-offs, plus favorite HBO series like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Deadwood, Westworld, and others.

It’s also bringing back Gossip Girl, rebooting Grease, making a Dune TV show, and streaming all 21 Studio Ghibli films.

Other HBO Max shows will include a Riverdale spin-off Katy Keene; Search Party; Batwoman; Adventure Time; Stephen King’s The Outsider; Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams’ horror series Lovecraft Country; Joss Whedon’s The Nevers; Julian Fellowes’ (Downton Abbey) The Gilded Age; David E. Kelley’s The Undoing; Rules of Magic, a prequel to Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic; The Boondocks; and Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai; plus back catalog content like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Pretty Little Liars, Doctor Who (2005 and onward), The West Wing, Top Gear, The Office (original version), and others.

Upcoming literary adaptions include Tokyo Vice, The Flight Attendant, CirceMade for LoveStation Eleven, and Anna K: A Love Story. 

More recently, HBO Max has announced a new documentary on Anthony Bourdain, an overall deal with Lisa Ling, a documentary about Amy Schumer, a Melissa McCarthy comedy film, a documentary with Monica Lewinsky, and a new deal with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot (the deal allows Bad Robot to make TV under the WarnerMedia umbrella and then sell it to other streaming services).

Abrams was part of today’s event. He said it’s too early to announce any specific programming under the new deal — Bad Robot already works with HBO on titles like Westworld, and Abrams has a new show in the works called Demimonde — but he declared, “There’s no company that values storytelling more than WarnerMedia.”

And for classic movie lovers who mourn the loss of FilmStruck, Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff said the service will offer a rich library of films from the Warner Bros. and MGM catalog, curated titles from Turner Classic Movies, as well as “decades and decades of more great titles from The Criterion Collection.”

AT&T said on Monday it plans to spend about $2 billion on the service over the next two years and aims to sign up some 50 million subscribers by 2025.

The service will arrive at a time when competition in the streaming market is heating up. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video’s successes have paved the way for new entrants like Apple TV+, which launches Friday, and Disney+, which arrives mid-November. NBCU is also joining next year with its streaming service Peacock, which will offer The Office and other classic shows, alongside new originals, like a Battlestar Galactica reboot.

These streamers are gaining at the expense of traditional TV, which has impacted other parts of AT&T’s business.

In the third quarter, it lost another 1.2 million satellite and fiber-optic-TV customers as well as 195,000 AT&T TV Now (previously DirecTV Now) subscribers. AT&T’s profit was down 22% year-over-year to $3.7 billion and revenue had fallen 2.5% to $44.6 billion.

Eventually, AT&T’s plan is to merge its AT&T TV Now live TV service into HBO Max and add on a discounted ad-supported tier to HBO Max to make it more affordable.

TiVo’s ad-supported streaming service, TiVo Plus, launches today

TiVo’s answer to The Roku Channel, TiVo Plus, is launching today. The company had already unveiled its plans for ad-supported streaming earlier this month with the debut of two new models of its DVR, the TiVo Edge. Like The Roku Channel, TUBI, Vudu’s Movies on Us, and others, TiVo Plus is available to stream for free. But unlike others in this space, TiVo Plus is available exclusively to TiVo devices owners.

The service is enabled by a TiVo partnership with XUMO, Jukin Media and other publishers.

It includes a variety of content from sources like TMZ, America’s Funniest Home Videos, FilmRise, Outside TV+, PowerNation, FailArmy, Hell’s Kitchen | Kitchen Nightmares, Food52, Ameba, BatteryPOP, Baeble Music, Kid Genius, Journy, NatureVision, People are Awesome, Puddle Jumper, The Asylum, The Pet Collective, The Preview Channel, Unsolved Mysteries, Adventure Sports Network, AllTime, Complex, and others.

TiVo also has deals with Gannett, Loop Media, Revry, Newsy, Tastemade, Latido Music and Mobcrush to expand TiVo Plus even further.

The company says there will be “thousands” of movies and TV shows available in an app-free environment.

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Despite the obvious comparisons to The Roku Channel, the TiVo Plus interface isn’t as well-designed. Where Roku puts the focus on the content that’s available for free streaming, TiVo Plus highlights the publishers. The content is organized in generic and broad groupings, like “Movies and TV,” “Sports,” “Kids and Family,” “Entertainment, Comedy Pop Culture,” and others, instead of being more editorially curated or personalized to the viewer.

Though TiVo Plus is a free service, being a TiVo owner is not. For example, the new TiVo Edge DVR for cable customers is $400, followed by a $14.99 per month service fee, which can be paid either as an annual fee ($149.99) or all at once with a lifetime plan ($549.99).

The same DVR for cord-cutters is $350 and the service fee is $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year and $249.99 for a lifetime fee.

The DVRs include support for Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision HDR, 2TB of storage, TiVo’s OnePass, SkipMode (automatic commercial skip),

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This was the first time that TiVo lowered its subscriptions for the DVR for antenna users, in an effort to respond to market pressures. Most streaming media devices — like Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, etc. — don’t require subscriptions, as the companies don’t license TV guide data for their users nor do they operate with cable TV-like business model involving ongoing service fees. That’s allowed customers, and particularly cord-cutters, to get comfortable with one-time purchase fees and has weakened TiVo’s position.

With a dwindling customer base, TiVo has turned to advertising — not only with its new ad-supported streaming service on its devices, but also with skippable pre-roll ads on DVR recordings, as recently reported and confirmed by TiVo. 

TiVo Plus is rolling out starting today and continuing over the next few weeks to customers with Series 6 devices with Experience 4 (TE4). It will be available on the Home screen, when it goes live.

Disney+ tweets all the movies and shows coming to its streaming service

In an impressive bit of pre-launch marketing, Disney today announced by way of a massive Twitter thread basically every movie and TV show coming to its upcoming streaming service Disney+. The thread, which was posted in chronological order starting with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, reveals not just Disney’s best-known titles but also its long tail of cult classics, flops, oddities and other lesser-known films.

To date, Disney has advertised the extensive catalog coming to Disney+, which launches on November 12, by highlighting the top titles from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, NatGeo and more.

It has also touted its dozens of upcoming original productions like “The Mandalorian,” a “Lady and the Tramp” remake, a “Rogue One” prequel, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” and many others.

But today’s Twitter thread is a reminder that Disney’s back catalog goes deep.

For every Disney animation classic, there’s a crappy direct-to-video sequel, like “Belle’s Magical World,” for example. There are the cheesy ’80s TV shows. And while Pixar may have spun “Toy Story” into one of its best-known franchises, it also produced the broadly panned “Cars 2.”

Then there are the titles you may have forgotten — or never knew existed in the first place — from “Meet the Deedles” to “Zenon Girl of the 21st Century” to “Fuzzbucket” to “The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoesto that movie about the country bears.

For anyone who grew up on Disney, the list is a nostalgic look back at not just the studio’s hits, but also the titles that quickly faded from your memory, or those that even make you cringe.

While most streaming services today round out their catalog lineup with less popular content in order to claim a larger number of total titles available, they don’t tend to promote their B movies and crappy TV shows in any of their marketing or advertising, for obvious reasons.

Disney’s approach, by comparison, is refreshingly transparent.

While you may never have watched “The Biscuit Eater” or “Justin Morgan Had a Horse” or “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad,” and may never care to, Disney+ is at least letting you know what sort of filler content comes with your $6.99 per month subscription.

As you scroll your way down through one of the biggest tweetstorms ever, you’ll likely come across a few niche titles that appeal to you, despite not being the stuff of headlines. And because each title gets its own tweet, you can let everyone know exactly how excited you are for “The Cat from Outer Space,” or anything else that strikes you.

Today’s massive tweetstrom wasn’t the only way that Disney overloaded one of its social channels to demonstrate the size of its back catalog. It also put together an over 3-hour YouTube video that previews everything coming to Disney+.

Disney+ is available for pre-order ahead of its November 12 launch.

NBCU launches LX, a local news network aimed at younger cord cutters

NBCU is again going after Gen Z and millennials with the launch of a new digital news brand and soon-to-arrive streaming network, called LX — short for “Local X.” Local, because the focus is on local news and “X” because…well, it sounds cool? (NBCU says it’s for LX’s “exponential abilities,” if you want the official reasoning.)

The service will be run by NBCU’s 42-station group, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, which will next year begin delivering LX’s programming as both an over-the-air and streaming network.

The company says the news programming on LX will feature “visually rich,” longer-form content — which is a switch from NBC’s other, earlier efforts in targeting the younger demographic.

For instance, NBC’s new streaming news network, NBC News Now, launched in May, delivers hourly live updates called “Briefly’s” as one of its key features. NBC also invested in a Snapchat news show, “Stay Tuned,” where it delivers a selection of top stories in just a few minutes.

LX is a different sort of news-telling experience — one that’s more akin to a news magazine, rather than a traditional local newscast.

Its “Visual Storytellers,” as the reporters are called, will work within their own communities — including L.A., Boston, Dallas, Miami, and New York  — to offer local stories and background on complex issues, says NBCU.

Among the group of storytellers are L.A.’s Chase Cain, formerly of Hulu, who will use 360-degree videos as part of his storytelling efforts; Ngozi Ekeledo, previously a reporter for the Big Ten Network in Chicago, now in Boston; a two-time Emmy winner whose background is in local TV news, Clark Fouraker, in Dallas; plus Bianca Graula a bilingual journalist who will focus on Miami stories; and former Vice News Tonight reporter Alexa Liautaud, in New York.

The programming launched on Monday with stories about climate change, urban farming, a surfing program for black women in C.A., and a young female Asian chef and James Beard nominee who launched a successful restaurant without experience or training.

Currently, the content is airing on YouTube at NBCLX, on LX.com and across social media platforms (@NBCLX.)

In April 2020, LX will debut as an over-the-air streaming network with live programming included, too. That means local newscasts will be added into the mix of coverage.

And the network will feature fewer and shorter ad breaks at that time, the company says.

More broadly, the service aims to attract an audience of younger people who no longer watch television in the traditional sense. Today’s cord cutters and “cord nevers” often get their news from social media, podcasts, apps, and other digital-first sources.

That’s a challenge for a news division focused on local TV.

“Our younger audiences want stories that are relatable. They want to feel a connection with the people delivering the news to them. They want more context about what’s happening in their neighborhoods. LX will deliver this and more,” said Valari Staab, President, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, in a statement. “Our team has been working hard to create a place that younger audiences can go to watch stories that are about them, and get the background about complex issues happening in their own backyard but still walk away feeling inspired about the power we all have to affect positive changes for our communities,” she added.

 

AT&T faked DirecTV Now numbers, lawsuit alleges

AT&T faked the numbers for its DirecTV Now streaming service ahead of the company’s Time Warner merger, according to a lawsuit filed by investors, Bloomberg reported. The suit alleges the media giant pressured employees to boost DirecTV Now’s numbers by secretly adding the product to existing customers’ accounts. It also claims the company touted DirecTV Now’s user growth, when in reality, subscribers were leaving as their promotional periods ended and the service’s price hikes were limiting new sign-ups.

The suit says a variety of tactics were used to promote the idea that DirecTV Now was growing organically. For example, it claims that employees were taught how and encouraged to convert activation fees that customers typically had to pay to upgrade their phones into DirecTV Now subscriptions. This involved the customer being told the fee was being “waived,” when instead the customer was charged anyway and the payment was applied to up to 3 DirecTV Now accounts using fake emails.

One former employee even said that around 40%-50% of customers he dealt with in early 2017 were complaining about being charged for DirecTV Now, which they had never signed up for. This was supported by other employees, the suit cites, and was a directive that came top from upper management to the sales channel.

In addition, the suit speaks to overly aggressive sales quotas, high churn from deeply discounted promotions, technical issues, and unsustainable pricing. It noted how AT&T finally disclosed that by the end of 2018, none of the 500,000 heavily discounted DirecTV Now subscribers remained on the service, and subscriptions had dropped by 267,000 as a result. In April 2019, it reported another 83,000 subscribers had left the service, and in July, 168,000 had abandoned it.

But ahead of the Time Warner merger, AT&T touted the service’s success, the suit said. It didn’t disclose any of the risks associated with DirecTV Now, despite SEC obligations. The plaintiffs believe AT&T should have noted what made its stock risky, including the fact that DirecTV Now was not profitable, its growth had been dependent on aggressive promotions, and it faced severe technical challenges.

“By buying AT&T’s securities at these artificially inflated and artificially maintained prices, the Class members suffered economic losses, which losses were a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ fraudulent conduct,” the suit states.

“We plan to fight these baseless claims in court,” AT&T said in a statement to Bloomberg.

DirecTV Now had a rough start to begin with, having suffered heavily from glitches, including freezing, buffering, and more. While that can happen at first with new streaming services, AT&T’s glitches were bad enough that many wanted to cancel.

TechCrunch reported in 2017 how customers complained they weren’t able to get refunds from AT&T, even though they weren’t able to use the service as promised. Some had even filed complaints with the FCC, we found. In January, we also noted how the service’s price hikes and promotional packages ending led to a sizable loss of subscribers and that AT&T was “losing the cord cutters.”

The filing of the lawsuit comes at a time where AT&T has seen much upheaval. This month, activist investor  Elliott Management Corp. disclosed its $3.2 billion stake in AT&T and criticized the company’s acquisition strategy. It also suggested that AT&T should sell some assets that don’t fit its future direction, like the DirecTV satellite service and Mexican wireless business.  AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson defended the company’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner today, in response to this criticism.

In addition, AT&T CEO of Communications, John Donovan, recently announced his retirement, with WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey being promoted to president and chief operating officer at AT&T.

The full complaint is below.