HBO Max and Hulu will share custody of Emmy-nominated series ‘Abbott Elementary’

In a bit of an unusual agreement, Warner Bros. Discovery announced that HBO Max will have joint streaming custody of the comedy series “Abbott Elementary” with Disney+’s sister streaming service Hulu. The two streaming giants will now share the hit ABC show on their competing services.

Hulu already has priority streaming rights over ABC programming, so the Disney-owned platform will continue to release episodes the day after it broadcasts on the television network. Once a season of “Abbott Elementary” is finished, it will then appear on the HBO Max platform.

HBO Max subscribers will be able to stream the entire first season (13 episodes) of “Abbott Elementary” on August 20.

The reason behind the move is to give first-time viewers who may not own a Hulu subscription a chance to see the show before the next season begins on the rival service. So, when season 2 releases on Hulu on September 22, HBO Max subscribers will have to wait for the finale until it comes to the service. Those who want to watch its season 2 premiere on September 21 can turn to ABC at 9 p.m. ET.

This deal is unlike most streaming arrangements. While these types of deals are what helped Netflix build its robust content library, this one is different because “Abbott Elementary” is produced by both Warner Bros. Television and Disney-owned 20th Television (formerly 20th Century Fox Television.)

Created by and starring Quinta Brunson—who rose to social media fame on Vine in 2014– the workplace comedy “Abbott Elementary” premiered in December 2021 and explores a group of teachers in an understaffed and underfunded Philadelphia public school attempting to help their students succeed even though the cards are stacked against them.

The show made Emmy history recently as Brunson was the first Black woman to receive three comedy nominations and is the youngest Black actress ever nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actress comedy category. “Abbott Elementary” nabbed seven Emmy nominations overall. Also, Hulu reached a milestone of 58 Emmy nominations, compared to 26 last year.

The overall boom in streaming and the launch of well-fortified platforms have created a lot of buy-side demand for pre-sold titles. The competition among services has also created some really awkward situations.

Netflix has been known to grab big titles such as “The Office” and “Friends” which have now switched over to other streaming homes. Thanks to a 2017 agreement, “Schitt’s Creek” moved to Netflix from Pop TV, a pay TV channel owned by Paramount. This April, Hulu revealed that the show and all its six brilliantly written seasons are moving over to the streamer beginning October 3.

The streaming wars continue to ramp up and NBC Universal, like every other media company, is trying to beef up its content library for its service Peacock. The company terminated its licensing agreement with Hulu in March, taking back shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “The Voice.” Hulu still has the rights to older titles such as “Law & Order SVU,” “Friday Night Lights,” and “30 Rock,“ among others.

In February, Paramount Global took “South Park” from competitor HBO Max in a $500 million deal. The long-running comedy will stream exclusively on Paramount+ in 2025. “Harry Potter” is also leaving the service on August 30. The film franchise appeared on Peacock in the beginning of July.

When NBCUniversal took the streaming rights to “Yellowstone” in 2020, the show was brought to Peacock. Even though Paramount owns the rights, Paramount+ didn’t launch until the next year, which is why the company isn’t licensed to stream it on the platform. You can watch it on its linear channel Paramount Network.

Yesterday, Comcast released its second-quarter results, revealing that Peacock’s subscriber base has stalled to 13 million subscribers and losses widened to $467 million.

Hulu (Disney), HBO Max (Warner Bros. Discovery), and Paramount are set to release their quarterly earnings reports next week.

Apple partners with ABC on 2020 presidential coverage in the Apple News app

Apple announced today it will collaborate with ABC News on coverage of the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election in its Apple News app. The efforts will kick off with the Democratic primary debate on February 7, 2020, in New Hampshire, and will feature ABC News videos, live streams, plus FiveThirtyEight polling data, infographics and analysis during key moments in the 2020 election.

The collaboration will extend through Super Tuesday, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, the general election debates, election night and the 2021 presidential inauguration, Apple says.

ABC News, Apple News, and WMUR-TV will also partner for the February debate, the first to be held after primary voting begins.

This isn’t the first time Apple has added special coverage to its News app in the months leading up to a U.S. election. The company began to push its own election coverage after the 2016 election controversies that saw large tech companies, including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, facing congressional inquiries and investigations regarding the Russian interference with elections that took place across their networks.

In the months since, Apple News rolled out its own guide to the U.S. midterms, followed by a real-time election results hub on Nov. 6, 2018. And most recently, it added a guide to the 2020 Democratic candidates and debates.

The need for news platforms users can trust is a key part of Apple’s agenda with its News app. Apple cites ABC’s winning of four Edward R. Murrow Awards this year, including for overall excellence in television. It also hosted the most-watched debate of the 2020 presidential cycle so far in September 2019, with over 14 million viewers across ABC and Univision, and 11 million online video views.

FiveThirtyEight, meanwhile, is known for its statistical analysis, data visualization, and reporting on politics and the election, which includes things like trackers on the latest polling, candidate endorsements, and fundraising.

“Access to quality news and trusted information is always important, and never more so than in an election year,” said Lauren Kern, editor-in-chief of Apple News, in a statement about the collaboration. “We’re proud to partner with ABC News to present the millions of people who use Apple News each day with dynamic live coverage and responsible analysis during the major news moments of the 2020 election.”

“This election is one of the most consequential in modern history, and this unprecedented partnership with Apple News will deliver our world-class political journalism to more people than ever before,” noted James Goldston, president of ABC News. “It will enable millions more people to have a deeper understanding of the key issues, candidates, and events by providing straightforward information, insight, and context during the entire 2020 cycle — reaching our audience anywhere and anytime they want breaking and in-depth news,” he said.

Prior Apple News election coverage involved a range of media partners, such as Axios, Politico, The Washington Post, Fox News, CNN, The New York Times, CBS and others.

It’s notable that Apple has this time selected ABC as its coverage partner. Apple has historically had close ties with Disney, which owns ABC, thanks to Disney CEO Bob Iger’s close relationship with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Disney’s acquisition of Jobs’ company, Pixar, in 2006. However, with Apple’s launch of Apple TV+, a Disney+ competitor, Iger resigned from Apple’s board of directors, saying the two companies’ paths were conflicting. But as tihs 2020 election news partnership demonstrates, the two companies can still work closely together, at times.



ABC News is covering the midterms in augmented reality

Augmented reality is certainly the gimmick du jour these days. Case in point: ABC News is covering tomorrow’s U.S. midterms using a custom-made 360-degree stage and AR technology. The media organization posted a behind-the-scenes look at its glitzy and over-the-top “Election Headquarters” AR-powered stage on its Sunday political affairs program “This Week,” and today published a 360-degree video of the stage to Facebook.

The set itself took around six months to build and seven weeks to load into the studio, says ABC. That’s a lot of work considering that the set is temporary — it will be taken down around a week after the election.

It’s pretty massive, too. The set’s parts were being manufactured in Wilmington, North Carolina, which was impacted by the hurricane. The supplies for the stage’s large, ring boundaries were on some of the last trucks out of the city, but the rest of it was created piecemeal — filling eight tractor-trailers with more than 25,000 square feet of scenery, notes ABC.

Behind the scenes on Election Day: 360 video of the ABC News election set and AR experience

As part of our comprehensive coverage of the high-stakes 2018 midterms elections, ABC News has designed a custom 360-degree stage complete with an augmented-reality experience.Take a sneak peak at this behind-the-scenes 360 video of the set during rehearsal, and tune in tomorrow at 4:30 pm ET at and 8pm ET on ABC News for complete election results and analysis.

Posted by ABC News on Monday, November 5, 2018

Meanwhile, the augmented reality portion took a year of planning, designing and programming, including 700 to 1,000 hours of data testing. The graphics required approximately 36,000 lines of computer code and more than 1,000 AR tracking markers to be placed within the set, according to ABC News Director of Graphics Operations Tamar Gargle and Creative Director Hal Aronow-Theil.

“We have had consultants from three vendors: Astucemedia, who are our graphics and creative consultants; Vizrt, for the graphics engines and graphics tracking; and Mo-Sys, the camera-tracking system,” Gargle said, in a statement released by ABC News this afternoon.

ABC says the goal is to give viewers data without having to cut away to full-screen graphics.

Instead, the system will project AR images through the combination of an optical tracking system mounted to studio cameras that communicate with the real-time 3D graphics system.

“There is a web of tracking markers, essentially reflective stickers, that have been applied to the lighting grid and the set pieces that are in the ceiling. The tracking system uses those markers in conjunction with sensors attached to the cameras to calculate where the camera is in ‘space’,” explained Gargle. “This data is sent to our graphics system, which maps the graphics to the proper place in ‘real’ space so it appears that the graphic is in the room.”

Included in the augmented display is a 3D image of the U.S. Capital and the seats within the House and Senate, showing real-time election result data.

This is not the first time ABC has experimented with using AR for news coverage.

The company tried AR when covering the British royal wedding earlier this year, and did an AR medical story on “Good Morning America” to show a 3D view of a heart, to help people understand heart disease.

However, it’s not clear that using AR to show off election results actually helps people better understand the data — especially when compared with something like giving people a look inside a human heart, which can be harder to visualize.

In fact, the technology, glitz and glamour used here could end up being a distraction — a way to draw in viewers more attracted to a spectacle, at a time when politics itself is one. If anything is needed, it’s a reverse from over-the-top media showmanship to one where news is reported with a little more gravity and a little less pizzazz.

more 2018 US Midterm Election coverage

Overwatch League strikes a milestone deal with Disney and ESPN

If you’re sick of hearing about esports, you need to get over it. The space continues to grow, inching its way into the traditional media landscape. Today, in fact, Activision Blizzard announced that the Overwatch League playoffs will be aired on ESPN and Disney XD.

The Overwatch League in itself is a huge step for esports, as it’s the first true city-based league for a competitive video game. While most esports leagues consist of privately owned teams with little or nothing to do with geography, Overwatch League is a pro league made up of city-based teams such as the Dallas Fuel or the San Francisco Shock. Many of these teams are owned by big names in the traditional sports world, such as Robert Kraft (CEO and owner of New England Patriots, who owns the Boston Uprising) and Jeff Wilpon (COO of the New York Mets, who owns the New York Excelsior).

The agreement, which also includes a recap/highlights package from 2018 Grand Finals coverage on ABC on July 29, marks the first time that live competitive gaming has aired on ESPN in prime time, and will be the first broadcast of an esports championship on ABC. Activision Blizzard said in the announcement that this is just the start of a multi-year agreement.

That said, EA’s Madden NFL 18 did broadcast an esports tournament on ESPN2 and Disney XD earlier this year.

Overwatch League playoffs begin tonight at 8pm ET, and will culminate in the Grand Finals, taking place in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, on July 27 and July 28.

Here’s what Justin Connolly, EVP of Affiliate Sales and Marketing at Disney and ESPN, had to say in a prepared statement:

The Overwatch League Grand Finals is by far our most comprehensive television distribution for an esports event over a single weekend: 10 total hours over four networks and three days. This overall collaboration with Disney/ABC, ESPN and Blizzard represents our continued commitment to esports, and we look forward to providing marquee Overwatch League coverage across our television platforms for fans.

The rise of Twitch stars, like Ninja, and the growth of the competitive gaming scene have paved the way not only for a new type of sports media, but for a growing new economy. While challenges remain around monetizing the content, the pieces of the puzzle are slowing coming together to create an audience large enough to incentivize advertisers to spend big money.

In fact, sponsorship revenue and ad spending revenue are expected to hit $655 million and $224 million, respectively, by 2020, according to Newzoo. That doesn’t sound like much when you think about the NFL, which raked in $1.3 billion in revenue in 2017 alone. But, like this deal proves, the esports space is growing and working its way into the mainstream, hoping to get the attention of young men between 18 and 34 who have become increasingly difficult to reach via traditional advertising.

Alongside the live TV broadcast of the Overwatch League playoffs on ESPN and Disney XD, the playoffs will also be live-streamed via Twitch, and on the ESPN app and DisneyNOW.

Roku adds news to its free channel, including the new streaming network ABC News Live

Last fall, Roku launched its own channel to provide its cord-cutting customers with access to free movies and TV shows in a single destination. Today, it’s adding live news to its channel, too.

In partnership with ABC News and others, The Roku Channel will now feature live news streams and linear news programming, alongside its entertainment options.

ABC News will be the flagship partner for the launch, as Roku will be the exclusive over-the-top home for its new live and linear streaming network, ABC News Live. However, The Roku Channel will also include live and linear news from Cheddar, PeopleTV, and others.

Until now, The Roku Channel had offered a combination of free content aggregated across other partner channels, like FilmRise and Vidmark, plus content Roku itself licensed from studios like Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Brothers.

Since its launch, The Roku Channel has become one of the top 15 on Roku’s platform, and the number three ad-supported channel.

One of Roku’s goals in offering its own channels is to help users find content that would otherwise be distributed across a number of places on its platform. Roku had already done something similar with its “4K Spotlight” channel launched in 2015, as well as with the “Roku Recommends” channel’s curated selection, launched in 2011.

With The Roku Channel, the goal was to organize the best free content you could find on Roku. And with the addition of news, Roku is once again aggregating partners’ streams in one easy-to-find destination.

Of course The Roku Channel isn’t the only way to watch news on Roku – most major news organizations offer their own channel app.

But many of the news experiences available today are based on clips from the linear TV world, instead of a digital equivalent to the 24/7 news channels found on traditional cable television. That means that instead of being able to “flip on the news” as you can on TV, watching news on Roku has been more of a “choose your own adventure”-style experience of browsing clips to find something you wanted to view, explains Roku’s VP of Programming, Rob Holmes.

“We recognized that users are looking for easy ways to find high-quality content and to engage in a lean back experience,” he says, of bringing streaming news to Roku.

The channel will serve as the launch platform for ABC News Live, the news organization’s brand-new live streaming news service, designed for over-the-top viewing.

Roku and ABC had been in discussions about building out a live news experience for over a year – even before the company launched The Roku Channel, in fact. But with its arrival, it seemed like the best place to introduce the streaming news experience.

“Our ambition here is not to re-create cable, but to reinvent what a 24/7 news channel looks like for [the nonlinear audience],”says Colby Smith, VP of ABC News Digital. “We’ve spent the last three years or so really building up our live operation – experimenting with thousands of live streams and production formats. Of course, we consider ourselves expert live producers – ABC News has been around for many decades. But we’ve also analyzed mountains of data through that experimentation to really dive in and understand what works on each screen size,” he continues.

“And what we’ve learned more than anything in non-cable environments is that viewers want to be shown what’s happening in the world, not told what’s happening,” Smith says.

ABC’s live stream will focus on the most interesting thing that’s happening around the globe in that moment, he says. The content, however, may come from a number of sources – ABC News’ own boots-on-the-ground reporting; its domestic or international partners’ streams; or even social media streams cleared through places like Facebook or YouTube.

ABC News Live, like The Roku Channel itself, will be free and ad-supported, but Roku and ABC aren’t discussing the revenue share or how the ads are sold. (It’s a bit unclear, then, to what extent this is a new revenue stream for Roku itself, versus just another means to woo potential customers to the Roku platform.)

Roku is the only streaming platform to host ABC News Live outside of other ABC News properties, including its own Roku channel and the ABC News website and apps.

ABC says it partnered with Roku on the launch because it wanted to work with a distributor that understood the non-linear TV audience.

“There so many distributors that just want to re-create a TV Everywhere experience, or just want to plop in cable into a digital environment for cord cutters,” says Smith. “That’s not at the heart of what we believe in.”

The channel itself will offer some scheduled programming – including its own take on an hourly news update, in addition to the live stream. It may also cut to its post-White House press briefing coverage at times, and it may stream its Emmy-winning ABC News featured stories during breaks from live coverage.

In addition to ABC News Live, The Roku Channel will also integrate Cheddar’s linear news feed, which has also newly become available on Hulu and YouTube TV. And it will include the ad-supported pop culture and celebrity news network, PeopleTV, from People and Entertainment Weekly.

Roku OS 8.1

The Roku Channel will also get a slight makeover alongside the launch of news. It will now organize content into thematic “Collections,” and “Continue Watching.”

The updates will launch in May with the release of Roku OS 8.1, which will add multicast private listening through the Roku mobile app. That means up to four people on iOS and Android can listen to the TV through their headphones, instead of through the TV set itself.

Hoodline is trying to fix local news deserts with a new automated news wire

 Local news is kind of a mess. While the global platforms have been exploding, making it easier to follow events at a world wide level, local news sources have atrophied. Those two things are, obviously, intertwined. As the news moved online, the revenue sources that powered local papers and news stations have taken a hit, resulting in smaller news rooms and outlet closures. What this adds up to… Read More