Netflix cancels ‘Jessica Jones’ and ‘The Punisher,’ its last Marvel shows

Netflix is no longer in the Marvel superhero business, with the cancellation of “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher.”

The writing has been on the wall since last fall, when the streaming service canceled its other three Marvel shows — “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil.” Plus, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg was already announced to leave “Jessica Jones” after the upcoming third season.

There have been conflicting reports about which company ultimately decided to pull the plug, but this does seem to be part of a broader corporate rift, with Disney ending its overall deal with Netflix and producing Marvel shows for its yet-to-launch streaming service.

Disney has also announced a slate of animated Marvel series on Hulu (where Disney will become the majority owner, post-Fox acquisition), following a similar structure to the Netflix shows — four separate series followed by a big crossover.

Netflix, meanwhile, just released the first season of “The Umbrella Academy,” an offbeat superhero series based on the comics by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá.

In a statement, Netflix said:

Marvel’s The Punisher will not return for a third season on Netflix. Showrunner Steve Lightfoot, the terrific crew, and exceptional cast including star Jon Bernthal, delivered an acclaimed and compelling series for fans, and we are proud to showcase their work on Netflix for years to come.

In addition, in reviewing our Marvel programming, we have decided that the upcoming third season will also be the final season for Marvel’s Jessica Jones . We are grateful to showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, star Krysten Ritter and the entire cast and crew, for three incredible seasons of this groundbreaking series, which was recognized by the Peabody Awards among many others. We are grateful to Marvel for five years of our fruitful partnership and thank the passionate fans who have followed these series from the beginning.

Original Content podcast: ‘The Breaker Upperers’ filmmakers know that breaking up is the worst

“The Breaker Upperers” kicks off with an ingenious premise: What if you could pay an agency to take care of your awkward romantic break-ups? And what if that agency was run by two longtime friends who are starting to drift apart?

The film was a big hit in New Zealand last year and is now available to global audiences on Netflix. Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami joined this week’s Original Content podcast to talk about writing, directing and starring in the movie together.

“I was thinking about how many conversations I’d had with people about the level of dread that they have when they realize they have to break up with their partner,” van Beek said. “I mean, nobody enjoys it. I thought, you could make a lot of money doing that for somebody or offering to do that for somebody.”

They pair also discussed shooting a sex scene of Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords, and finding room for improvisation on a relatively short, low-budget shoot.

The movie was executive produced by Taika Waititi, director of “Thor: Ragnarok,” a film that Sami credited with exposing global audiences a similar style of humor. Both filmmakers said they never expected “The Breaker Upperers” to find an audience outside New Zealand, so they’re delighted to be launching on Netflix .

“It’s fun, it’s colorful, it’s not too long, it’s just the right length,” van Beek added. “I reckon it’s the most amazing movie to watch on a chair, or on a couch, or even lying down on a sheepskin with your legs in the air. Like any kind of position, I think.”

After the interview, we’re joined by Brian Heater for to follow-up on last week’s brief review of “Russian Doll” — this time, we go deep into spoilers, discussing the twists that kept us hooked and how the “Groundhog Day”-style storyline ultimately wrapped up.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You also can send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

Spotify says it paid $340M to buy Gimlet and Anchor

Spotify doubled down on podcasts last week with a double deal to buy podcast networks Gimlet and Anchor. Those acquisitions were initially undisclosed, but Spotify has quietly confirmed that it spent €300 million, just shy of $340 million, to capture the companies.

That’s according to an SEC filing — hat tip Recode’s Peter Kafka — which reveals that the transactions which were “primarily in cash,” Spotify said. Kafka previously reported that Spotify paid around $200 million for Gimlet, which, if correct, would mean Anchor fetched the remaining $140 million.

Those numbers represent an impressive return for the investors involved, particularly those who backed the companies at seed stage.

Gimlet raised $28.5 million from investors that included Stripes Group, WPP, Betaworks and Lowercase Capital, according to Crunchbase.

Anchor, meanwhile, raised $14.4 million. Crunchbase data shows its backers included Accel, GV, Homebrew and (again) Betaworks.

Those deals represent a good chunk of change, but Spotify still has more fuel in the tanks.

As we reported last week, it plans to spend a total of up to $500 million this year “on multiple acquisitions” as it seeks to further its position on podcasting which, to date, has been an after-thought to its focus on music. Less these deals, Spotify has around $160 million left in its spending budget for 2019.

In a blog post announcing the deals published last week, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek admitted that he didn’t originally release that “audio — not just music — would be the future of Spotify” when he founded the business in 2006.

“This opportunity starts with the next phase of growth in audio — podcasting. There are endless ways to tell stories that serve to entertain, to educate, to challenge, to inspire, or to bring us together and break down cultural barriers. The format is really evolving and while podcasting is still a relatively small business today, I see incredible growth potential for the space and for Spotify in particular,” Ek explained.

StayTuned Digital helps video creators publish and measure everywhere

If you’re a video creator in 2019, you’re probably thinking about a long list of publishing destinations: YouTube, of course, but also Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and more.

StayTuned Digital is a new startup trying to help video creators and publishers push their content to multiple platforms. The company, which bills itself as “content’s best friend,” is officially unveiling its product today and announcing that it’s raised $2.5 million in funding.

StayTuned was founded by CEO Serge Kassardjian (previously the global head of media app business development for Google Play) and Randy Jimenez (previously CTO at SinglePlatform). Kassardjian told me he saw the need for a product like this during his time at Google, when he would talk to content creators becoming “overwhelmed” by the fragmentation across all the different devices and platforms available to them.

“What’s happened is every single one of the platforms is releasing new formats, new ways to optimize, it’s constantly changing every couple of months,” Kassardjian said.

So with StayTuned, publishers shouldn’t have to worry about all that. Kassardjian said the product does three big things: optimizes the video so it looks good and can perform well on each platform, pushes the video to each platform and then measures the results, which feeds back into the optimization.

Kassardjian acknowledged that getting into the media business, even as a technology provider, might seem like a bad idea right now, but he said, “There’s a misconception that what’s happening in the world is that media and content is dead, but there’s more media and content than ever before.”

Nor does Kassardjian believe that publishers can stop relying on Facebook and other platforms. Sure, they may want to drive more traffic to their own properties or launch their own subscription services, but unless they’re Netflix-sized, they can’t ignore the big platforms entirely.

“We provide ubiquity to where the audience is,” he said.

And when he talks about video publishers, he isn’t just thinking about traditional media companies (although he’s looking to work with them too). He also said StayTuned could work with newer digital companies, e-commerce retailers and other brands that are creating content — and eventually, small businesses.

As for the funding, it was led by Bowery Capital, with participation from CourtsideVC, Quaker Health, Social Leverage, Liquid 2 Ventures, The Fund, Hive Ventures, Grape Arbor and a number of angel investors. StayTuned is also part of the current GCT Startup-in-Residence program.

CEO of Rappler, a media company critical of the Philippines government, is arrested

There’s serious concern around press freedom in the Philippines after Maria Ressa, the CEO of independent media company Rappler, was arrested last night.

Ressa, who was CNN’s bureau chief in Manila and then Jakarta prior to starting Rappler in 2011, was arrested on cyber libel security charges for an article published in 2012, according to Rappler. The article in question centers around alleged links between Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona and wealthy businessmen around the time of his impeachment.

Wilfredo Keng, a Chinese-born Filipino named in the article, filed a lawsuit in protest at reports that he lent the justice a vehicle and allegations linking him to illegal activities. The National Bureau of Investigation last year concluded it had grounds to file a criminal complaint around the libel claim. That’s despite the fact that the law used to prosecute Rappler and Ressa was passed months after the story was published.

Rappler reports that Ressa, a Time Person Of The Year, was denied bail and spent the night in prison.

Rappler has made its name for its forward-thinking digital-first reporting but also, in no small way, for reporting criticism of controversial President Rodrigo Duterte. Elected in 2016, Duterte has made international headlines for policies that include a violent war on drugs while his diplomatic controversies have included homophobic slurs against diplomats and calling then U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a whore.”

Duterte has clashed with Rappler regularly. He has accused it of being funded by the CIA and regularly referred to its reporting as ‘fake news’, while Ressa has regularly spoken out against the President in international circles. In a 2016 Bloomberg interview, she detailed how the Duterte administration had turned Facebook into a “weapon” and utilized “patriotic trolling” to silence critics online.

This is far from the first threat to Rappler’s business. Last year, the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked its registration for an alleged breach of the country’s constitution.

The SEC’s issue centered around the ownership of Rappler. The company has taken investment from Omidyar Network, the philanthropic fund from former eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and North America-based media fund North Bridge Media, which counts Quora and Disqus among its portfolio.

Philippines law forbids any overseas ownership of media companies, but Rappler claims its investors used a Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR) to invest. PDRs don’t provide voting equity or board membership, making them a vehicle for media investments in the country. National broadcaster ABS -CBN is among others to have used them.

There’s plenty of cause for concern over media freedom in Southeast Asia. Two Reuters reporters in Myanmar were arrested in December 2017 and later sentenced to seven years in jail for handling state secrets. The duo, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, published an investigation that exposed the execution of 10 Rohingya men by Buddhist villagers and members of the national army.

Brightcove acquires Ooyala’s video business for $15M

Brightcove just announced that it’s acquiring Ooyala’s online video platform business.

The deal brings together two long-lasting players in the online video industry. Brightcove was founded in 2004 and went public in 2012, while Ooyala was founded in 2007 and was acquired by Telstra before management bought back the company last fall. (Back when it was part of Telstra, Ooyala sued Brightcove for alleged theft of trade secrets.)

When Ooyala had become newly independent, CEO Jonathan Huberman said the company had two main businesses, its video platform and its media workflow tools — and although the video platform accounted for the majority of its business, Huberman saw more opportunity on the workflow side.

Brightcove says the deal includes Ooyala’s video content management and publishing platform Backlot, Analytics, Live and the underlying IP. It also says it will be bringing on “substantial portions” of the Ooyala team, including its operations in Guadalajara, Mexico.

In the acquisition release, Brightcove CEO Jeff Ray said:

Ooyala has tremendous global customers who understand the power of video and its ability to transform business and reach new customers. This transaction, which includes immediately growing our highly skilled and committed global workforce, accelerates our ability to deliver faster innovation and deeper support for all customers. We also will increase our market reach and further strengthen our ability to secure new business in key target markets. We look forward to welcoming Ooyala’s OVP customers and ensuring a smooth transition and a world-class experience for them.

Update: Brightcove says it disclosed the price in its earnings call — approximately $15 million, consisting of $6.25 million in cash and the rest in Brightcove shares.

Wattpad’s latest deal will turn its stories into TV shows and movies in Korea

Wattpad’s ambitions to grow beyond a storytelling community for young adults took another leap forward today with the announcement of a new partnership that will help expand its reach in Asia. The company has teamed up with Huayi Brothers in Korea, who will now be Wattpad’s exclusive entertainment partner in the region. The two companies will co-produce content sourced from Wattpad’s community, as it’s adapted for film, TV and other digital media projects in the country.

Development deals like this are not new to Wattpad at this point.

In the U.S., the storytelling app made headlines for bringing the teen hit “The Kissing Booth” to Netflix, which shot up to become the No. 4 movie on IMDb for a time.

Wattpad also recently announced a 2nd season for “Light as a Feather,” which it produces with AwesomenessTV and Grammnet for Hulu.

It additionally works with eOne, Sony, SYFY, Universal Cable Productions (a division of NBCUniversal), and Germany’s Bavaria Fiction.

Outside the U.S., Wattpad has 26 films in development with iflix in Indonesia.

And WattPad’s feature film “After,” based on Anna Todd’s novel, will arrive in theaters on April 12.

Key to these deals is Wattpad’s ability to source the best content from the 565 million some stories on its platform. Do to so, it uses something it calls its “Story DNA Machine Learning technology,” which helps to deconstruct stories by analyzing things like sentence structure, word use, grammar and more in order to help identify the next big hits using more than just readership numbers alone.

The stories it identifies as promising are then sent over to content specialists (aka human editors) for further review.

This same combination of tech and human curation has been used in the past to help source its writing award winners and is now being used to find the next stories to be turned into novels for its new U.S. publishing arm, Wattpad Books.

In addition to its hit-finding technology, studios working with Wattpad also have a way to reach younger users who today are often out of touch with traditional media, as much of youth culture has shifted online.

These days, teens and young adults are more likely to know YouTube stars than Hollywood actors. They’re consuming content online in communities like Reddit, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and elsewhere. And when it comes to reading, they’re doing more of that online, too – whether that’s through chat fiction apps like Hooked or by reading Wattpad’s longer stories.

Wattpad says it now has 70 million uses worldwide, who now spend 22 billion combined minutes per month engaged with its website and app.

With the Korean deal, Wattpad is further growing its international footprint after several other moves focused on its international expansions.

For example, today’s news follows Wattpad’s raise of $51 million in funding from Tencent; its appointment of its first Head of Asia for Wattpad Studios, Dexter Ong, last year; and its hiring of its first GM of India, Devashish Sharma, who is working with local partners to turn its stories into movies, TV, digital and print in the region.

Huayi Brothers Korea hasn’t announced any specific projects from the Wattpad deal at this point, but those will follow.

“Wattpad’s model is the future of entertainment, using technology to find great storytellers and bring them to an international audience,” said, Jay Ji, CEO, Huayi Brothers Korea, in a statement. “In an era of entertainment abundance, working with Wattpad means access to the most important things in the industry: a data-backed approach to development, and powerful, proven stories that audiences have already fall in love with,” he said.

BuzzFeed News employees vote to unionize

Shortly after BuzzFeed News employees revealed that they had voted to unionize, its editor-in-chief said the company wants to meet with them to discuss voluntarily recognition. Employees announced today that they are organizing as BuzzFeed News Union under the NewsGuild of New York.

“Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity, and more,” says a mission statement posted to BuzzFeed News Union’s site. It adds that employees have been meeting for years and ramped up its efforts last fall when BuzzFeed laid off video staffers and its podcast team. Organizing efforts gained more urgency two weeks ago, when BuzzFeed cut 15 percent of its workforce, or about 250 jobs.

BuzzFeed News’ deputy news director Jason Wells reports that the publication’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, told employees “we look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union.”

Wells’ notes that BuzzFeed News is “on track to be one of the last major newsrooms to unionize in the wake of industry pressures that have shrunk many media outlets.” Other outlets with new employee unions include HuffPost and the Los Angeles Times. The NewsGuild of New York also represents the New York Times, Reuters, the Daily Beast and the Los Angeles Times.

In their mission statement, BuzzFeed News Union’s organizers said they want an agreement that “requires due process for termination, a diverse newsroom, reasonable severance amid layoffs, a competitive 401(k), rights to our creative works, and affordable health insurance.”

It also calls on BuzzFeed News’ management to address pay gaps and give employees on contract, or “permalancers, who are paid through a third party but are functionally members of our team,” the same treatment as other staff.

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said during a 2015 company meeting that he didn’t think “a union is right for BuzzFeed,” though his recent response to employees demanding that the company compensate their laid-off colleagues for unused paid time off make signal a more conciliatory approach. After the meeting, BuzzFeed News paid out all unused vacation and comp days to laid-off staff even in states they are not legally required to do so.