AT&T’s WarnerMedia is commiting more than $100 milllion for crews of productions shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are stepping up with a commitment of more than $100 million to assist team members of those productions during this time. And as things evolve, we'll continue to evaluate how we can best respond to the challenges we face as an industry as a result of this pandemic,” WarnerMedia CEO and AT&T COO John Stankey said in a memo to staff Friday.
The company – like others in media and entertainment – has paused many productions “for the health and safety of employees, cast, crew and community,” he said.
Here’s the memo:
From: John Stankey, President & Chief Operating Officer – AT&T Inc. & CEO – WarnerMedia
Subject: Updates and Thanks
Words cannot adequately express my appreciation for all you are doing to support each other in a situation like nothing we've experienced before — as a company, as individuals, as community members, or as citizens of the world. We are part of a company that has a distinct responsibility to society at times like these and I'm proud of your efforts to keep the public connected through technology, trusted information and storytelling.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, nothing has been more important than protecting the health and safety of our employees. Most of us are about two weeks into our new work-from-home arrangements, while it has been more than two months for many in our Asia Pacific offices. And we all owe great thanks to those keeping our news, networks and infrastructure going strong by continuing to work in the office, with new protocols and social distancing measures in place. It has been a big change. It's a new way to work, but it's also a new way of life, balancing the needs of work, family, loved ones and our own well-being. I agree it hasn't been easy, but I'm incredibly proud of how we've flexed, adapted and progressed together.
We've also had to reorient how our businesses operate in this uncharted landscape, and our senior leaders are working together to adapt and execute in new ways. To that end, I'd like to share some status updates, and some of the ways we are facing these challenges.
Our tech teams have been operating under very unique circumstances and have adapted quickly to a new way of working so that the launch of HBO Max remains on schedule for May; and the marketing team has had to recast plans to reach potential subscribers in innovative ways. Global theater closures have disrupted the film industry — and as you've seen in recent announcements, we are reworking our release schedule to find optimal dates to deliver our must-see films to consumers in theaters when they reopen; and with more...
The co-founder of The Creative District Improvement Company - a $600 million fund aimed at U.K. studios that launched just days before film and TV production shut down – explains why it is moving ahead.
On March 2, just days before the new James Bond film No Time To Die was pushed back until November, kicking the first domino piece on two weeks in which Hollywood and much of the world's film and TV industries effectively shut down as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, a new fund aimed at investing in U.K. studios was formally unveiled.
Overseen by urban regeneration firm The Creative District Improvement TCDC Company and valued at some £500 million then $640 million, now $600 million due to the fall in the value of the pound, the fund was to invest in a network of film and TV studios across the U.K. — some new builds and some existing — and capitalize on the country's dramatic boom in production, which hit a record $4.7 billion in 2019, and its shortage of facilities.
As part of the announcement, TCDC Co. unveiled its $50 million acquisition of London's iconic Twickenham Studios, home to much Hollywood post-production and an Oscar winner in 2019 thanks to its sound work on Bohemian Rhapsody. The money is scheduled to be used to expand the site and add more stages and workspaces.
Then the COVID-19 crisis struck, and one-by-one film and TV productions across the U.K. — from big-budget features, such as The Batman and Jurassic World: Dominium to major TV projects, such as Netflix series The Witcher, and long-running British soaps — were all closed down. Work at Twickenham — like all facilities — was put on hiatus.
When studio doors can open again, nobody can say for sure. But just three weeks after its formal announcement, and amid a constant stream of news reports about mass layoffs and continued industry upheaval, TCDC Co. on March 23 announced another investment. This time, it was a $290 million development, including four studios, to be built on 22,000 square meters of land on a former locomotive factory in Ashford, Kent, just over 30 minutes from London by high-speed rail link and boasting a Eurostar station connecting it with Amsterdam, the home of Netflix's European headquarters.
Announcing such a major investment amid a global pandemic — and in an industry facing its biggest crisis in history — might appear unorthodox, but the team behind TDCD Co. is bullish about its prospects and why the current situation should have little or no impact on the future.
"I think one has to look across the valley, that's a term we're using a lot," says Jeremy Rainbird, who helped launch Sharon Horgan's label Merman and set up the fund with real estate developer Piers Read, producer of hit Brit comedies The Inbetweeners and Peep Show. "Yes, we're going to go deeper...
Castmembers Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle appear in the coronavirus-themed videos, exploring key tactics to curb the spread of the respiratory illness.
With the goal of sharing evidence-based information about the coronavirus COVID-19, the cast of Contagionin collaboration with scientists from Columbia's Mailman School of Public Healthand Participantunveiled a series of PSA videos on Friday.
Castmembers Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle appear in the videos, exploring key tactics to slow the spread of the respiratory illness, such as social distancing, how to properly hand wash and ways to decipher the information in this difficult period.
'I'm here to talk to you about social distancing, something we've been hearing a lot about on TV I think, in the last couple weeks,' says Damon in his PSA. 'In the movie, I played a guy who was immune to the hypothetical virus that was spreading around the world. So, a few things to start. One, that was a movie, this is real life. I have no reason to believe I'm immune to COVID-19. And neither do you, no matter how young you are.'
He continues, 'This is a new virus, it's going to take some time for our bodies and our doctors to understand it and understand the best way to protect us. So, new viruses emerge all the time, this isn't the first, and it won't be the last. So, the good news is, we have seen things like this before, and we emerged stronger as a result. And in time, we're going to win against this one as well.'
Later in the video, Damon goes through the details of what social distancing is and why it's crucial to do if government officials are issuing those instructions.
All of the PSAs were written with guidance from the medical experts who advised Steven Soderbergh on Contagion, including Dr. Larry Brilliant, Mark Smolinski, Laurie Garrett and Dr. W. Ian Lipkin. The original screenwriter of the film, Scott Z. Burns, was also involved in authoring the projects.
View Damon's PSA below, and the additional videos can be foundhere.
Source: Hollywood Reporter
More time indoors means more time for film and television binging, and HBO Now is enjoying a particularly large spike in popularity: The platform's usage jumped 40 percent from its four-week average, according to WarnerMedia.
WarnerMedia announced a slew of details about its film and television platforms and various releases Tuesday, including the large gains at HBO Now, the standalone service that gives subscribers on-demand access to HBO's original programming. Overall TV viewing across the company's portfolio grew by 20 percent, according to the announcement, which was written by WarnerMedia executive Cheryl Idell. The company's data, which was not independently verified, also notes considerable viewership boosts at TNT, TBS, and TruTV.
As for individual shows, “Westworld” is currently HBO's most popular show. The mind-bending sci-fi series is airing its third season. Recently-aired programming is also performing well and dark times haven't stopped viewers from tuning in to dark shows: “Euphoria” doubled its viewership over its four-week average, while “Chernobyl” and “Game of Thrones” have seen gains of over 50 percent. The same goes for “Big Little Lies” and “His Dark Materials,” which each released new episodes last year.
HBO's library of older projects are also seeing bumps in popularity, including “The Wire” which has seen its viewership triple recently, according to WarnerMedia. Meanwhile, “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” have seen their audiences double.
On the film side, WarnerMedia said engagement is up 70 percent from the four-week average. The company cited “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” “Armageddon,” “Black Swan,” and “Apocalypse Now” as several of its most popular films.
Unsurprisingly, WarnerMedia also cited “Contagion” as one of its most popular films. “Contagion,” which is available on Cinemax's on-demand and digital platforms, has ranked as Cinemax's top title throughout the last two weeks, according to WarnerMedia. The film, among many other pandemic-related movies, has also seen a resurgence in popularity on platforms such as iTunes. WarnerMedia added that its “Ebola: The Doctor's Story” documentary is also among its most-watched titles, with viewership up sevenfold over recent weeks.
HBO Max, WarnerMedia's upcoming streaming service, is still expected to launch in May.