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Dungeons & Dragons gets its very own streaming channel

After the film “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” became a hit, topping $200 million at the worldwide box office, Hasbro wants more. Hasbro-owned production company eOne announced Thursday that it is launching a new free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channel dedicated to the widely popular role-playing tabletop game. Variety was the first to cover the announcement.
The Dungeons & Dragons Adventures is a 24-hour FAST channel set to launch this summer. It will feature original programming based on campaigns played by content creators, third-party content from top influencers, as well as older stuff like the 1983 animated Dungeons & Dragons series.
Shows coming to the new channel include:
Encounter Party: Based on the podcast of the same name, the show features six members, including “The Walking Dead” star Khary Payton. The campaign occurs in the Forgotten Realms, a common setting in the game.
Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill!: Variety improv show where special guests and celebrities act out as first-level players in battles against high-level monsters and beasts. The series was co-created by actor Matthew Lillard, mainly known for his role as Shaggy in the 2002 live-action “Scooby-Doo” movie.
Heroes’ Feast: cooking competition/talk show based on the recipes of the bestselling cookbook, “Heroes’ Feast.” The show is co-hosted by “Insecure” actress Sujata Day and chef and internet personality Mike Haracz.
Hasbro said the Dungeons & Dragons Adventures FAST channel will live on several platforms, but the company hasn’t established any deals yet for which specifically, reported Variety.

Paramount+ orders a live-action ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ series

Dungeons & Dragons made a massive comeback in recent years and is more mainstream nowadays. This is thanks to the many content creators that host livestreams featuring creative storytelling and impressive dice rolls.
For instance, “Critical Role,” a weekly show featuring a group of voice actors, has gone on to make millions, signing multiyear deals with Amazon to produce TV series based on its two campaigns, Vox Machina and Mighty Nein.
It’s nice to see more content creators — like Encounter Party, which arguably has less recognition than a high-paying show like “Critical Role”– get a platform to showcase their collaborative stories. However, we’re curious whether the shows will draw a large audience.
The FAST market may be booming, but viewers mainly use the services to watch old movies and shows, like episodes of “The Twilight Zone” or “Teen Mom.” Is the FAST space an optimal place for Dungeons & Dragons content? We’re not sure.
Also, it will be interesting to see what other content creators appear on the new channel, given the backlash from fans earlier this year.
In January, Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) received backlash for updating its Open Gaming License, which appeared to threaten creators’ livelihoods.
Shortly after the protests, however, WoTC announced that it is licensing the game’s core mechanics under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, allowing everyone to publish and sell works based on Dungeons & Dragons. (Hooray!)
While the issue has been resolved, content creators may still be wary of partnering with WoTC.
Either way, the Dungeons & Dragons Adventures FAST channel is certainly a fascinating move on WoTC’s part, and it might be a pleasant surprise for fans.
Or it could flop. Who knows?

Dungeons & Dragons’ publisher will put the game under a Creative Commons license

Dungeons & Dragons gets its very own streaming channel by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch
Dungeons & Dragons gets its very own streaming channel

Amazon to license original series and movies to other media companies

Amazon announced Monday the launch of its new unit Amazon MGM Studios Distribution, which will allow the company to license Amazon Originals and other titles to third-party media companies, which could include streaming services (free, ad-supported or subscription) and cable TV.
For the first time, titles such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “Coming 2 America,” “Goliath,” “Hunters,” “The Tender Bar,” “The Tomorrow War,” “The Voyeurs” and “Without Remorse,” among others, will be sold to other media outlets following their initial run on Prime Video.
While the company has distributed shows before, this new venture will be on a much larger scale. Plus, Amazon Originals are mainly exclusive to Prime Video, making it an enticing sale for companies looking to have popular titles on their platforms.
Warner Bros. Discovery made a similar move in January when it struck deals with Roku and Tubi to license 2,000 hours of content, bringing titles like “Westworld,” “The Bachelor” and “Cake Boss” to free ad-supported (FAST) streaming services.
The launch of Amazon MGM Studios Distribution will also allow the company to handle sales of MGM-owned franchises James Bond, Rocky and Creed, as well as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Fargo” and “Vikings.” Last year, Amazon acquired MGM for $8.5 billion, giving the company access to more than 4,000 films and 17,000 TV series.
“The launch of Amazon MGM Studios Distribution reinforces our commitment to bringing the very best content to audiences everywhere worldwide,” Jen Salke, Amazon Studios head, said in a statement. “With the integration of MGM, we wanted to take advantage of the existing team to expand our business in ways that will greatly benefit our customers around the world.”
Later this month, buyers will be introduced to Amazon MGM Studios Distribution at the L.A. Screenings, an international TV marketplace.
According to Chris Ottinger, who will lead Amazon MGM Studios Distribution, the unit will offer flexible bundles, reported Deadline, so sellers can create bundled content packages that work for them. This strategy will likely allow the company to stand out from competitors.
The news comes a week after Amazon announced plans to bring hundreds of Amazon Original titles — including “Reacher,” “The Terminal List” and “Goliath” — to its ad-supported free streaming service Amazon Freevee.
Amazon also introduced new Fire TV Channels, which will allow users to access more FAST channels, like NHL, Tastemade Travel, TMZ and more.

Amazon will juice its Freevee free streaming service with 100+ Amazon Originals in 2023

Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV

Amazon to license original series and movies to other media companies by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch
Amazon to license original series and movies to other media companies

Roku touts its new ad products, including an AI that matches campaigns to TV moments

In Roku’s recent quarter, the company posted better-than-expected revenue of $741 million, but worried investors with its warning of an uncertain ad market and declining average revenue per user. Today, at the IAB NewFronts, the streaming media company introduced its latest ad products to potentially help it address the latter, at least. These included new opportunities to advertise on Roku’s Home Screen, within its original content, and even in its screensaver, among other things. It also hyped its use of contextual AI for automatically running ads right next to the most relevant moments in shows and movies on The Roku Channel.
The company explained that its new artificial intelligence capability searches across the Roku library for “iconic plot moments” that would match a brand’s message and place their ads in real time. To work, marketers will first tell Roku their campaign’s theme. The AI searches the library to match the campaign with key moments. For example, when Tim Gunn says “make it work” in “Project Runway,” an apparel brand could insert its message.
Roku also announced a new slate of Roku Originals, which will include an entrepreneurship docuseries, “Side Hustlers,” produced by Hello Sunshine — Reese Witherspoon’s media company that sold in 2021 for $900 million to Candle Media, the company run by former Disney execs Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, which now has its hand in numerous pies across the streaming landscape. Digital bank Ally was also involved in this production that focuses on people turning their side hustle into their main business.
Image Credits: Roku
Other new Originals arriving this year include “Celebrity Family Cook Off,” a series executive produced by Sofia Vergara and hosted by Manolo Gonzalez Vergara and “Carpe DM with Juanpa,” which will feature social media star Juanpa Zurita, among others.  Roku said it’s also renewing “The Great American Baking Show,” featuring Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Ellie Kemper and Zach Cherry and “Honest Renovations,” featuring Jessica Alba and Lizzy Mathis.
The company claimed its Originals were delivering better than cable, and even better than broadcast audiences every day. 
The streaming company additionally used its time to pitch marketers about how to reach its now 71.6 million active accounts on its service via new ad products and placements.
The pitch, delivered by Roku Media President Charlie Collier, touted Roku’s reach in the U.S.
“Americans spend more time on Roku than any other TV platform, which means they spend more time here with Netflix and Hulu and Disney+ and even more time streaming CBS, NBC ABC, and Fox,” Collier told the audience. “Think about this: 50% of all Super Bowl streaming took place on Roku this year,” he added.
Image Credits: Roku
During the event, Roku shared some of its latest ad deals. It noted that its screensaver “Roku City,” which floats a cityscape on the TV screen while the TV is idle, will open up to brands. While before, the city screensaver would point users to suggested content to stream, it will now be able to feature other brands, as well. This summer, it will feature McDonald’s brand as part of the artwork, for instance, as its first brand partner on the new ad offering. The screensaver is used by nearly 40 million homes, Roku said.
The company also introduced new discovery experiences that allow brands to host content in areas like Home & Garden and Sports experiences that curate content from across TV on the Roku Home Screen. Now, when users turn to Roku search, they may see a featured collection that’s “presented by” an ad partner — for example, Walmart was shown “presenting” the Home & Garden collection.
Image Credits: Roku
Image Credits: Roku
Roku also shared that Instacart was its latest Commerce+ partner, joining others like Walmart, Best Buy, Cox Automotive, DoorDash, Kroger and more on its shoppable ads and other retailer-focused initiatives.
Commerce+ is designed to shorten the path to purchase for consumers, Roku explained.
For example, Wendy’s offered Roku users $5 off powered by DoorDash via a Home Screen ad, then used DoorDash data to help measure the impact of their ad spend. The campaign grew Wendy’s order size mainly among new and lapsed users and delivered a positive return on investment many times over, the company said.
Other news for marketers included Roku’s introduction of a Primetime Reach Guarantee, which it claimed to be a “first” in streaming. Essentially, the guarantee commits to brands they’ll be able to reach more TV households in primetime than the average program airing on a top-five cable channel on traditional TV.
“We’re uniquely positioned to make brands unmissable in TV because Roku is not fighting for turf in streaming—we are the turf,” said Alison Levin, Roku’s vice president of Ad Revenue and Marketing Solutions, in a press release. “We’re bringing the entire power of the platform, not just the pieces, to give marketers more of the scale, delight, and flexibility that they love in TV.”
Roku touts its new ad products, including an AI that matches campaigns to TV moments by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch
Roku touts its new ad products, including an AI that matches campaigns to TV moments

Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV

Amazon is doubling down on free, ad-supported content with today’s introduction of Fire TV Channels, its new, free and ad-supported (FAST) video experience coming to Fire TV devices this week. Though Fire TV had previously offered FAST content, Fire TV Channels will now be continuously updated throughout the day and integrated into several areas across the Fire TV interface, including on Home Screen rows, within Fire TV’s “Free” tab, and in category-specific pages devoted to certain genres.
In addition, Fire TV is gaining a set of new FAST channels from NHL, Xbox, and TMZ, as well as a new Travel category featuring content from Tastemade Travel, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” “Travel Hacks,” and soon, Condé Nast Traveler. Later, Fire TV Channels will also include content from the PGA.
The company explained this Fire TV update was informed by customer behavior and the increasing demand for free streaming content.
“We’ve offered some of this [FAST] content for a while for customers — we’ve helped them discover it throughout the [user interface] by having rows of content for example throughout ‘Home’ or other pages,” explains Charlotte Maines, director of Advertising, Monetization, Marketing and Engagement for Fire TV. “We’ve seen that they’ve been engaging with it when we surface it in a topical way…And what we’ve seen in the past six months alone is that the monthly hours streamed of this content have grown by 300%. So we know it’s working for our customers,” she added.
The growth can be attributed to several factors, the exec said. For one, customers have hit a sort of saturation point with streaming video-on-demand offerings and don’t have interest in adding more subscriptions to their monthly bills, nor do they want to try to keep up with any more services. By comparison, FAST channels are easy to use because users don’t have to create an account, sign in, or jump through any other hoops to start watching.
With the update, the Fire TV interface will now pull all the new and existing FAST content together in an updated experience that provides access to a variety of categories like news, sports, food and cooking, music videos, trailers, gaming videos, comedy, and more, Maines notes.
The news category includes access to both national news coverage as well as over 330 local news channels, including as of later this week, new FAST channels from NBC and Telemundo.
These category pages can be accessed with just a click from Fire TV’s “Free” tab, and Amazon says more categories are “coming soon.”

The update was announced as part of Amazon’s broader NewFronts presentation, which also included updates to its free streaming service Freevee — which offers FAST channels of its own. But Freevee is accessible across platforms, including on mobile devices and other non-Amazon media players and TVs, while Fire TV Channels are exclusive to Fire TV.
The company’s pitch to advertisers is that they can now directly target the Fire TV customer base, which tends to include Prime subscribers and younger families, through Amazon’s DSP. This lets Amazon leverage the company’s broader advertising team and capabilities to sell Fire TV’s FAST channel ad space.
Amazon notes it’s sold over 200 million Fire TV devices globally and Amazon’s ad-supported streaming solutions now reach an average of 155 million unduplicated monthly viewers, or 6 out of 10 adults in the U.S.
The company also cited a customer success story where an automotive client ran native ads on Fire TV and Fire tablets that led to an 11% lift in brand awareness and a 14% increase in purchase intent. Plus, citing Nielsen data, Amazon said 72% of its streaming TV viewers are not watching linear TV.
Amazon isn’t the only streamer offering FAST channels these days, however. Competitor Roku has over 350 FAST channels on its platform as of March. Google TV just announced over 800 FAST channels, and YouTube has been experimenting with them, as well. Plex, Warner Bros. Discovery, Tubi, and Sling TV, among others, are also wading into this market, historically led by services like Pluto TV.
The new Fire TV experience will be rolling out to customers this week, Amazon said. Customers will be able to find the new content tiles via the Fire TV Home Screen, as well as within Fire TV’s “Free” tab. Later this summer, Fire TV will bring all the FAST categories together with the launch of an always-on Fire TV Channels destination.

Amazon will juice its Freevee free streaming service with 100+ Amazon Originals in 2023

Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch
Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV

Warner Bros. Discovery promises Max will be a more personalized, technically improved streaming service

With next month’s arrival of the new streaming service “Max” from Warner Bros. Discovery, the company is also promising a revamped product experience with an expanded feature set, improved recommendations and better performance. The new service, which combines HBO Max and Discovery+ content into one offering, will gain an updated user interface that’s delivered by way of a largely seamless transition for existing HBO Max subscribers across most platforms.
However, Discovery+ subscribers will be able to continue to watch in their standalone app, if they choose, the company noted during today’s press event where it introduced the new service and its many forthcoming originals, including a new Game of Thrones series.
Of particular interest, the company openly admitted that its current HBO Max service has a number of technical shortcomings that it now aims to address with the move to Max.
“As we started this journey 12 months ago, we did a thorough assessment of our two streaming businesses, as well as the technology and products of each. And we realized that, while both were solid, they also each had important shortcomings,” said JB Perrette, CEO and president of global streaming and games, while speaking to the gathered crowd.
“In summary, we needed to do the basics much better,” he said, before spinning his mea culpa into an odd form of praise by adding, “if we got this far with some suboptimal features and experiences, imagine what we will do when we get more of it right!”
That’s certainly an interesting way to sell things, we’d say.
Perrette said the new Max service would address several key business objectives, including user engagement, retention, more regular viewership and easier, more personalized discovery of the content offerings, to name a few.

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch ‘Max’ service starting at $9.99/mo on May 23

Though the company had announced an expanded slate of new original programming earlier in the event, including new series like Big Bang Theory and True Detective spinoffs, a live-action Harry Potter, DC Comics titles like “The Penguin,” and others, the exec also acknowledged that the product itself has to do a better job at surfacing its content for subscribers.
“HBO Max has an amazing depth of content, but it’s largely unexplored because we don’t make it easy enough to find,” he said. As an example of this problem, he noted that three-quarters of its viewership came from the home screen only, while on Discovery+ the majority of usage came from other screens deeper in the app. In addition, four times as much content drives the majority of viewership on Discovery+ than on HBO Max.
Image Credits: Warner Bros. Discovery
One might argue that’s because of the nature of the programming on the respective services, where Discovery+’s lifestyle content drives repeated viewing, perhaps, compared with flagship series like “Game of Thrones” that are viewed in real time, but are not necessarily the types of shows to be rediscovered later and then rewatched. However, the company is betting that product changes will be able to improve these metrics around discoverability.
For starters, the revamped app will feature a new content navigation menu at the top that will help consumers more easily find the series and movies, as well as the new releases they may want to watch. Across the app, the company promises streamlined categories, improved content detail pages, shortcuts, dedicated brand hubs and thematic content rails, to make the app easier to explore.
HBO’s brand will still have a prominent position in this new interface, too, but will be showcased alongside the company’s other top brands that will serve as gateways to their respective content.
There will also be genre hubs to dive into different types of content and a new quick shortcut that lets users save content to a list for later viewing.
For users on the new Ultimate Ad-Free tier, the service will feature an expanded catalog of 4K UHD content, including across programming like “Game of Thrones,” “The Last of Us,” “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings,” “The Dark Night” trilogy and others. This catalog will expand to include all the Warner Bros. movies released this year and in the future.
Image Credits: Warner Bros. Discovery
Plus, individual user profiles will for the first time offer more personalized experiences where users are recommended new things to watch based on their prior habits and viewing, via things like “because you watched” recommendations, suggestions of what to watch next that appear when you finish a series or movie and immersive hero images tailored to the end user. This personalized experience will extend beyond the home page, too, so users are seeing tailored recommendations across the full service.
A combination of machine learning and human editorial curation will help to drive these recommendations, Perrette explained.
Parents will be able to configure their kids’ profiles, including through the use of parental controls. While that’s not new, the revamped Max will introduce a default kids profile for its new subscribers, with options for parents to set the profile to either little kids, big kids, big kids plus, pre-teens or teens — an expanded set of kids’ tiers that goes beyond those offered by some rival services, where the “kids” experience is often aimed at younger school-age children. This tends to frustrate older kids, and teens when they outgrow cartoons and other “kids” content, but aren’t yet old enough for more adult fare, like much of what HBO offers.
Under the hood, the company touted other technological improvements focused on user retention, performance and stability.
For example, Max will proactively alert customers about failed payments through notifications and on and off-product messages, including for the first time in-app alerts on connected TVs. It also added support for PayPal as another payment option and made it easier for its marketing teams to run promotional pricing without requiring weeks of engineering work.
Image Credits: Warner Bros. Discovery
The company additionally promised updates to its core architecture to deliver “faster, more reliable, and more efficient performance.” Among the changes, Max will offer a new connected TV sign-in process where users don’t have to type in their credentials with their remote and a more dependable downloads experience.
“…We maniacally focused on app performance to get our customers watching their content as fast as possible,” Perrette said. “So app start times, video start times, and the general navigation response times will be 20 to 30% faster, depending on which device you’re using.”
The exec said HBO Max app customers will be automatically updated to Max on May 23 when the shift is made. On most platforms, this update will happen automatically, but others will prompt users who open the HBO Max app to download the new Max app instead. It will then only be “two clicks” to continue watching, Perrette noted, as usernames, passwords, profiles, watch histories, watch rails and billing will carry over automatically. Discovery+ subscribers won’t be forced to transition apps but will be prompted at different times to try the new Max app.
Image Credits: Warner Bros. Discovery
The new service will offer three pricing tiers, starting at $9.99 per month for ad-supported, $15.99 per month to go ad-free and $19.99 per month for ad-free viewing with 4K UHD and Dolby Atmos. The latter two tiers also include offline downloads but are limited to either 30 or 100 downloads, respectively. The top-tier service also includes four concurrent streams instead of just two.

‘Game of Thrones’ fans are getting a new spinoff based on characters Dunk and Egg

Warner Bros. Discovery promises Max will be a more personalized, technically improved streaming service by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch
Warner Bros. Discovery promises Max will be a more personalized, technically improved streaming service