Netflix Confirm Lilyhammer Return Date

One of Netflix’s less heralded pieces of original programming but most original by virtue of being its first exclusive (even if it is in fact a production of Norwegian public broadcaster NRK), Steven Van Zandt-led series Lilyhammer has had its Netflix return date confirmed.

lilyhammer_ny_norskWhilst the comedy crime drama will be starting its 8-episode 3rd season by the end of the month on 29 October, Netflix will unusually premiere it part-way through, taking all 8 of the episodes onto their streaming service (in territories/regions where they have the rights, which are noted as being USA, Canada, UK & Ireland, Latin America, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia (Denmark only)) for an instant premiere on Friday 21 November.

The series features Van Zandt (The Sopranos) as “Frank ‘the Fixer’ Tagliano”/”Giovani ‘Johnny’ Henriksen”, a former American gangster in New York City who after testifying against a mob boss is relocated by the witness protection program to the small but well-known town of Lillehammer (Norway) and soon regressing to his old ways, with the American actor having also made his mark on many other departments in the show such as executive producer and music composer, and will by the end of the season have covered ‘director’ as well, with his work on the season 3 finale episode.

Casting-wise, the new season of Lilyhammer will also see an acting debut from 8-year-old singer Angelina Jordan, famed for winning the most recent edition of Norske Talenter (Norway’s Got Talent).

Plot-wise, it is noted that season 3 features the character “Roar” (Steinar Sagen) travelling to Brazil in order to meet his internet bride, but ends up in trouble with the local law enforcement, leaving Johnny and “Torgeir” (Trond Fausa) left to fix the situation, whilst an American ‘family friend’ of Johnny sees great opportunities in Lillehammer and decides to visit.

Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos summarised the streaming service’s upcoming release, stating: “‘Lilyhammer’ is a funny and fantastic example of programming for a global audience – a comedic culture clash that’s drawn in viewers from around the world. We’re especially proud of the many international awards the show has earned, cementing its cross-cultural appeal.”

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Community Creator Dan Harmon Claims Yahoo Will Not Change Show

The popular comedy series Community was surprisingly dropped by host network NBC this summer, but to the relief of fans was quickly picked up by search engine giants Yahoo (through their Yahoo! Screen brand), and to even greater relief, creator Dan Harmon has recently stated that the move into an online-only realm will not change how the show is produced.

community_yahoo_screenTaken on for a total of 13 new episodes in its 6th season, Community has already lost series regular Yvette Nichole Brown for personal reasons (but citing she is able to return as a guest star), but claim that viewers will not see any other major changes, with Yahoo Screen to continue the show’s traditional ‘three-act format’.

Harmon (Rick & Morty), promoting his upcoming documentary Harmontown, was speaking to Vulture as he said of the matter: “I think that the act breaks from the original Community, as it was born into the NBC clock, are very good act breaks. It’s a three-act story as raised at NBC. The [online] commercial breaks are coming at points in a story where, if you were watching a 20-minute play, the curtain might come down, and you might have an opportunity to go get a box of Twizzlers and think about what’s happening, digest, and speak to your friends about what’s going on.

“I like those act breaks; I like where they are, and Yahoo’s intended clock sounds like it’s perfectly compatible with those same spots. So we are breaking three-act stories in the room. My intention also is to keep the same runtime because that will make for the same pacing and the same tone.”

He added of the show in general and how it has managed to take a place in the hearts of its fans: “I think I realised that what was special about Community is the actors. I’ve written lots of scripts almost as good or just as good as the Community pilot. The big difference is Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs. That’s what TV is, you know. I’m sure Chuck Lorre would say the same thing about Sheldon. Ultimately, there’s nothing particularly magical about what we do as writers and showrunners; the best we can do is know what we’re doing.

“We can’t really bring any amount of magic to the final product that the actors can. They’re the heads in the box. We have seen lots and lots of very well-written things without people that we liked in them, and we’ve hated them, and we don’t even remember them. On the other hand, we tolerate lots of very poorly written stuff because we love the people. We watch Wheel of Fortune because of Pat Sajak’s head! We love that guy.”

Set to air on Yahoo Screen in early 2015 (presumably on Yahoo’s preferred traditional method of release than Netflix’s ‘all the season at once’ approach), will Community manage to keep their current structure and fanbase with their new online-only limitations? It’s clear that the creator cares, but he should be called out when he gets a little too gushing (like the first sentence of his second statement):

Though it shouldn’t matter so much considering he was once fired from his own show, and while he is back there now, he also has other work:

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Netflix Ready For HBO Online Challenge

Though the match-up could perhaps be likened to a dominant sports team going up against an upstart challenger that has a decent team spearheaded by one superstar player, the announcement of HBO that they will soon offer an exclusively online service has prompted Netflix‘s response of how it will make both of them to push each other to the limits, and that both will become stronger for it.

netflix_blackHBO had announced last week that by the year 2015, they will be offering a ‘digital version’ of their subscription TV service in 2015, the first for a brand that currently requires their own payments on top of a regular cable/satellite subscription (a system in place since foundation in 1972), including access to their HBO Go catch-up platform, but with the alternative business plan will allow consumers to pay a similar amount for only the online streaming parts.

Responding to the news with a letter to their shareholders, Netflix claimed that they have immediately bumped HBO up to the public status of being considered their “primary long-term competitor”, but that they had their eye on the network in that regard even before the announcement.

They wrote to shareholders: “The competition will drive us both to be better. It was inevitable and sensible that they would eventually offer their service as a standalone application. Many people will subscribe to both Netflix and HBO since we have different shows, so we think it is likely we both prosper as consumers move to internet TV.”

While they have to contend with 25% share price drops due to below-expectation performances during the last quarter without HBO competing, will the news that the long-running brand soon will be be enough to turn off some holders, or will the competition indeed drive both brands to another level in the online streaming market?

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Leonardo DiCaprio And Netflix Team Up To Save Gorillas

Netflix are collaborating with Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio in a bid to help tell the world about endangered mountain gorillas in the eastern Congo.

VirungaThe streaming company will release a documentary made by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Production company which will be called Virunga. Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, the documentary will show a small team of park rangers battling to protect endangered mountain gorillas in Africa.

DiCaprio, who will be executive producer for the film said, “Films like ‘Virunga’ are powerful stories that are a window into the incredible cultural and natural diversity of our world, the forces that are threatening to destroy it, and the people who are fighting to protect it. Partnering with Netflix on this film is an exciting opportunity to inform and inspire individuals to engage on this topic.”

For Netflix, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said,”Leo intuitively understands that there is nothing like the power of film to reach people’s hearts and minds. With ‘Virunga,’ we’ll work with Leo to introduce viewers around the world to an incredible, gripping story that will have audiences guessing right up until the final act.”

It is reported by The World Wildlife Fund that less than 800 mountain gorillas are left in the wild, with around half of them living in the Virunga Mountains. The film will follow the park rangers as they, “Protect (Virunga National Park) from armed militia, poachers, and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources.”

The film will be released on November 7  both on Netflix around the World and in New York and Los Angeles theaters simultaneously.

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YouTube Reach $1b In Copyright Payouts

Since the idea of a free video sharing site is one that attracts plenty of people looking to make some quick advertising money by copying established content (whether it is an outright theft of the footage or something that most would consider a little more fair game and overall beneficial), there are plenty of people that quickly face punishment from the site over doing so, but since the site is the one hosting this content and the one who has the money, they end up covering the cost of fines (unless you are marketing genius Kim Dotcom), or if you are smart about it, giving off a share of the proceeds.

Youtube-music-streamingAnd in total, YouTube has reportedly broken the $1b mark in payments made under their ‘Content ID’ initiative, a feature established in 2007 which assists content rights holders in matching their clips to YouTube videos, with any infractions found on YouTube leaving the holders with a decision – have the video taken down, or keep track of it whilst making some of the advertising money (and publicity) from it.

With over 5,000 companies tracking both video and audio (including licenced music) from across YouTube’s archives, it is believed that many media groups are starting to lean towards the ‘keep’ option.

Google’s ‘legal director for copyright’ Fred von Lohmann said of the trends: “The vast majority choose to monetise and track rather than block the videos. A large part of it is because of Content ID.”

In a far and opposite cry from an early-days copyright lawsuit against Viacom for $1b (which was settled with no cash earlier this year), it appears as though more big names such as networks and record labels are becoming okay with the idea of ‘unauthorised’ use of their property… provided they receive a slice of the benefits.

One company that takes advantage of the feature on most occasions is European production company FremantleMedia, whose ‘senior vice-president of digital’ Olivier Delfosse said of their reasoning: “We have made it a core part of our digital business. [We had (a clip of Korea's Got Talent that earned more views through a third-party than official), an example of] a fan teaching us what fans want. We monetise almost all of our fan-uploaded content… it’s become a significant revenue stream for us.”

While it is unclear as to how much of the advertising money the chancers get from their now ‘acceptable’ uploads, the content providers at least appear to be warming a little to YouTube’s 7-year-old idea, but will it develop to a harmonious mutual benefit for all involved, or will one party attempt to squeeze more out of the current arrangements?

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Mobile Device Viewing Continues To Grow In New ComScore Statistics

The latest comScore online video statistics have been published, with the inclusion of the not-too-surprising discovery that more and more people are using mobile devices as a means to access their favourite content.

ComScoreThe measurement specialists this week released the latest in their line of research papers, entitled “The U.S. Total Video Report”, (viewable in full with registration) reviewing the continually altering market of TV and video content and how viewing habits are shifting with technological developments.

In America, it is noted that the patterns of viewing are fast developing (based on the feedback of 1,159 people issued with an online questionnaire, which in its nature may lend a little bias to streaming), and that young audiences are naturally  at the forefront of some of these changes.

The demographic noted as ‘adults aged between 18-34′, are noted as choosing to watch original TV programmes via digital platforms around one-third of the time, with comScore citing that there is a clear correlation between a higher age of viewer and increased liklihood of watch a show on TV as tradition intends.

Delving further into the issue, it was found that 1 of 6 in the young adult group had in the month preceding the survey not seen an original show by way of television set/pay-TV services, with set-top boxes and consoles joining mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablet computers) and desktop as alternative ways to watch as providers continue to serve plenty of options for audiences.

Also asking the key question of ‘why’, comScore found that although viewers of all ages have raise their streaming game, older viewers are more likely to use the online technology for functional reasons, such as catch-up when a show was missed on regular TV schedules, whilst younger adults are known to actively seek out the content for streaming, with lack of commercials and saving money part of the reasoning as well as functionality.

Younger viewers were also noted to have been more likely to watch shows on a time-shifted basis, with 46% of the 18-34s watching programming at a later time than original airing, and compared with 35% of 35-54s.

This data helped pave the way towards some other key streaming-related findings, with young adults being 77% likelier to have a ‘cord-never’ household, more likely to have a Netflix subscription (50% compared to 32% from the survey as a whole (though all groups are likelier to have Netflix in a household with children, increasing with number)), of which around 44% are watching through a dongle such as Chromecast (followed by computers, connected TV products, and mobile devices), and are much more likely to timeshift and watch content ‘when they feel like it’ if they have a subscription to a streaming platform.

Citing what a lot of people may already know, the comScore findings at least put some round numbers on the developments, and as with previous reports of this nature, the main question will be how far can [insert trend here] go before it reaches its peak?