VidAngel Buys Disney

Update: April Fools!

 

Struggling film studio The Walt Disney Company announced plans to be acquired by media juggernaut VidAngel Inc. after weeks of closed-door negotiations. Disney, whose quirky indie properties “Star Wars” and “Marvel Cinematic Universe” failed to expand beyond their cult followings, threw in the towel after years of poor financial performance.

 

“Sometimes you have to know when to quit,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger in a prepared statement, noting that the company’s recent expansion into theme parks had proved even more calamitous than its work in film.

 

The deal comes as no surprise to analysts, who long anticipated Disney’s inability to compete with streaming behemoth VidAngel.

 

Indeed, Disney filed suit last year, claiming that its financial prospects would be “irreparably harmed” by the much-larger VidAngel. Similar arguments were made by Disney’s co-plaintiffs, the struggling family-run studio Warner Bros., and low-budget independent studio Twentieth Century Fox, whose financial woes have prevented it from updating its name for the 21st century.

 

The lawsuit proved to be too little, too late for the cash-strapped Disney, thanks in large part to its bungling of the fast-growing online filtering market.

 

“We thought we understood filtering customers,” Iger told reporters Saturday. “We argued in court that they wanted a filtering option that can’t add new movies, doesn’t offer HD or 4K, and can’t work on Apple TV, FireTV, Roku, Chromecast, Playstation, Xbox, smart TVs, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, Showtime, or iTunes.”

 

“It turns out they wanted to filter movies,” added Iger. “You live and you learn.”

 

Prior to accepting VidAngel’s acquisition offer, Disney’s dire financial straits had forced the studio to begin making movies using only a computer, resulting in such box office duds as Zootopia, Inside Out, and Frozen, Disney’s greatest failure to date.

 

A Disney representative declined to comment on the selling price of the company, though sources close to the deal report a price tag easily north of $1,000.

 

Cinderella Castle
In retrospect, Iger conceded that building a full-scale castle had been “wildly impractical.”

 

Guardian Angel Action Update – Edition #3

 

Good day Supporters,

It’s time for another update for VidAngel friends and allies.

 

Legal Update

 

This week, the 9th Circuit Court scheduled the oral argument on our appeal of the injunction for the morning of June 8, 2017, in Pasadena, CA. You can read both sides’ arguments here on our blog.

 

Legislative Movement

 

The former CEO of ClearPlay, Bill Aho, who spearheaded passage of the Family Movie Act in 2005, has started a coalition to seek legislative protection to ensure the future of the filtering industry. It’s called the Protect Family Rights Coalition and VidAngel is a member. Bill is respected by Congress and all who work with him.  We are grateful to have his perspective on the industry and approach to solving problems.

 

Grassroots Activity

 

People all over America are joining the cause every day.  A great family in Florida has started a group called #SaveFiltering. They have now surpassed 170,000 signatures and are even collecting donations to fuel the cause. VidAngel has started a new page at SaveFiltering.VidAngel.com to let our supporters know of organizations like these and the many other ways they can help.  

 

VidAngel Studios

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 5.20.42 PMWe’re happy to announce the release of our very first eight comedy specials. These are available for free (for a very limited time so enjoy them this weekend) on the VidAngel app and website. We hope you enjoy these comedy specials and dozens more that will be published very soon (we will have taped 50 specials for season one by April 29th).

 
This is not an official launch of VidAngel content. We’re giving you an exclusive early look at our new content so you can provide feedback concerning any potential issues with our first titles. You’re welcome to share the specials with friends now, but we will not promote them until we’re sure that everything works properly.

 
We are publishing The Last Descent, a VidAngel Exclusive Movie. In addition, our first theatrical release, Tim Timmerman, has been the highest rated film to come out of Utah and opened #2 in Utah behind Logan. It is opening in Arizona April 7, 2017 and will be expanding to other locations soon.

 
We hope you enjoy this great content while we fight for your filtering rights in court and in Congress.

 

 

Why is VidAngel making its own content?

 

Your filtering data gives VidAngel deep insights into the type of content you’re looking for. We aim to create family-friendly content based on that feedback.

 

 

Are you changing your mission?

 

No. Our primary mission is to ensure families everywhere have the choice to filter content as they wish. We do not envision VidAngel Studios’ content replacing all the great Hollywood content available.

 

In 2013, when we began work on VidAngel, our plan was to create the best filtering service in the world, attract a large audience of like-minded people, and then build a new family-friendly streaming platform. We knew that people who chose to filter would seek family-friendly content, and that eventually we would become large enough to create some of that content.

 

That day has arrived, and we are so excited for what the future will bring, including new content and filtering.

 

Paul Ahlstrom, one of our VidAngel board members, said it best: “VidAngel is making good popular.”

Onward and upward,
Neal Harmon, CEO

 

VidAngel Studios’ First Theatrical Release In Theaters Today

Today is a big day for VidAngel Studios. Tim Timmerman, Hope of America is hitting theaters throughout Utah. If it does well, we plan to roll it out nationally.

The film was received by a record-breaking Premiere audience of 1,700 people during a two night Premiere event: Wednesday in Utah Valley and Thursday in Salt Lake County.

It’s do or die on the first weekend for Indie films so please get your tickets for tonight or Saturday so that we can spread the movie to a broader national release. Use coupon code TIMMERMAN with any Megaplex theater to get $5 off.

REVIEWS

He’s got a raffish charm, she’s delightful as an ingenue, and their chemistry together sparkles.” – Sean P. Means, Salt Lake Tribune

“This film blew me away! You guys killed it.” – Scott Winn (YouTuber ScottDW)

“Hilarious and refreshingly funny coming-of-age flick. Seriously. Worth the watch.”
“HILARIOUS”
“Awesome! So clever!”
“Really funny movie. I didn’t want it to end!”
-Sneak Peak Audiences

 

How did VidAngel Studios make a movie so fast?
VidAngel Studios did not make the film, but we’re backing the film. This is a film made by director Cameron Sawyer and his Picture Picture Films team over the past four years.  We are thrilled to partner with the Tim Timmerman team and Purdie Distribution (theatrical distribution) on this release.

Why is this movie PG-13?
We’re surprised the MPAA rated this movie PG-13, and it will likely be one of the cleanest PG-13s you’ve ever seen.
What are the content warnings? Two instances of d*mn. Two instances of b*tch*n. Implied drug use – Tim grabs a joint from a fellow student to prevent him from smoking it. High school counselor has a creepy crush on Tim but he doesn’t seem to know it. Strapless and sleeveless dresses with some cleavage. Suggestive material – two high schoolers passionately make out in a van.

ttposter

Can I expect VidAngel Studios content to be appropriate for me and my family?

 

I am writing a response to a series of tweets I received from @Papabrose on Twitter. He was disappointed in Tim Timmerman, Hope of America because he felt like there were sections he would filter.  First off, thanks for voicing your concern.

 

Can I expect VidAngel Studios content to be appropriate for me and my family?

 

VidAngel aims to produce family-friendly while encouraging artists to give their best work. However, that does NOT necessarily mean an unfiltered VidAngel Studios movie will meet your family’s unique standards. In fact, I personally plan to set a few filters for my young children when we watch Tim Timmerman together.

 

If I had been the producer from the beginning, aiming to reach my own young family, I would have made the movie with a few changes. But then, all of my family are younger than high school age. Cameron Sawyer, the director, made this movie for a high school audience and older. In fact, Cameron is already adjusting one part of the film based on responses from me and the VidAngel Premiere audience on Wednesday.

 

This is a well-done indie film. Cameron has done a terrific job creating a film with an uplifting message about honesty, integrity, and the harms of exploiting others for political gain. Is the movie “family-friendly” for all audiences? No. So, as with any content, we advise parents to use discretion in deciding whether to view the movie with their families.

 

Audiences Are Responding Well

 

High schoolers love Tim Timmerman and adults feel nostalgic watching it. We’re at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes so far. Cameron did a wonderful job creating a movie to match his audience and we’re excited to back his film.  

 

Exciting Future

 

Next time we do a film, we can work with Cameron and his team from the beginning, and provide more feedback based on our filter data. Future filter data on this film will give Cameron insights into creating his next film. 

The feedback loop is a core advantage of VidAngel Studios content. This is something that all of us will learn to do better over time.

 

In Conclusion

Tim Timmerman is a funny, charming rom-com set in the nostalgic nineties and we’re thrilled to get behind it, but please review the data below before deciding to see it in theaters.

 

Thanks for supporting the premiere and voicing your concern @Papabrose! It gave me a great opportunity to explain how filtering will inform artists future work.

Best,

Neal Harmon

 

Why is this movie PG-13?

We’re surprised the MPAA rated this movie PG-13, and it will likely be one of the cleanest PG-13s you’ve ever seen.
What are the content warnings? Two instances of d*mn. Two instances of b*tch*n. Implied drug use – Tim grabs a joint from a fellow student to prevent him from smoking it. High school counselor has a creepy crush on Tim but he doesn’t seem to know it. Strapless and sleeveless dresses with some cleavage. Suggestive material – two high schoolers passionately make out in a van.

UPDATE: Read VidAngel’s and Disney’s Appeal Briefs to the Ninth Circuit

Legal BattleJustice in the United States court system requires patience (this battle could take years to resolve), but we are trying to keep everyone up-to-date on the progress of the fight to #savefiltering. Here is our report on the appeal to the Ninth Circuit:

December 12th, 2016 - Judge Birotte issues a Preliminary Injunction. You can read the ruling here.
January 11th, 2017 - VidAngel files its Opening Brief on Appeal to the Ninth District Court. The introduction starts at page 17. 
February 8th, 2017 - Disney filed its response (including Disney's standard manipulative mud slinging)

February 22nd, 2017 - VidAngel files its final reply before the Ninth Circuit hearing. 

VidAngel’s mission is to ensure families everywhere have the option to filter content as they wish. The future of filtering is in good hands because these appeals are being argued by Peter K. Stris, who has been to the Supreme Court 7 times.

There is a lot to digest, but we feel that the final two paragraphs of our most recent brief sum it up well:

"Although the public interest in filtering is strong and Congressionally sanctioned, the injunction robbed the public of any viable means to filter. VidAngel is shut down; ClearPlay no longer functions for [streaming] new releases; and the Studios have scared everyone else away.

"According to the Studios, the relevant public interest is in 'upholding copyright protections.' The Studios have confused themselves with the public. The actual public has no interest in seeing America’s only commercially and technologically viable filtering company destroyed through an unnecessary preliminary injunction. The legal questions in this case are as complex and novel as they are important. If the Studios prevail, they will be entitled to damages. If VidAngel prevails, they will not. In either case, there will be a final judgment that 'upholds copyright protections.'"
Now we are just waiting to know when we will get a hearing. We will continue to keep you up to date.

Guardian Angel Action Update – Edition #2

Good Afternoon Supporters,
We’ve got a few hot news items worthy of an update!

Dr James Dobson Lends His Support

We are deeply honored to have the support of the legendary Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and now CEO of Family Talk. I recently spent time with Dr. Dobson in Colorado Springs, and was featured in his national broadcast. The episode is entitled Freedom from Hollywood: The Censorship War with VidAngel. Click here to listen to this broadcast. Please share this with everyone you know…here is our Facebook post with a sharable link!


Legal Update

We have filed our reply brief, our final written response to Disney’s legal arguments, to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is a very important but easy read. Here’s a brief quote:

“Although the public interest in filtering is strong and Congressionally sanctioned, the injunction robbed the public of any viable means to filter. VidAngel is shut down; ClearPlay no longer functions for new releases; and the Studios have scared everyone else away.

“According to the Studios, the relevant public interest is in ‘upholding copyright protections.’ The Studios have confused themselves with the public. The actual public has no interest in seeing America’s only commercially and technologically viable filtering company destroyed through an unnecessary preliminary injunction. The legal questions in this case are as complex and novel as they are important. If the Studios prevail, they will be entitled to damages. If VidAngel prevails, they will not. In either case, there will be a final judgment that ‘upholds copyright protections.'”

We believe the 9th Circuit will schedule oral argument on the appeal for sometime in May. We’ll let you know when it’s scheduled.

Enjoy the entire brief here (it is worth the read).

 
Legislative Movement
We are still actively seeking a legislative clarification to the 2005 Family Movie Act, to prevent the studios from continuing to misconstrue in the courts. We have more meetings in DC this coming week with various allies. As soon as we have further news on that front, I will let you know.

 
Grassroots Activity

People all over America are joining the cause every day. A group called #SaveFiltering, started by a Florida family, has now surpassed 160,000 signatures. We’ve also started a new page at SaveFiltering.VidAngel.com to let our supporters know how they can help.
Support VidAngel Studios’ First Theatrical Release

VidAngel Studios presents the award-winning comedy that’s taking film festivals by storm, TIM TIMMERMAN, HOPE OF AMERICA.

There are multiple ways to support our first film:

  1. If you are in Utah March 1st or 2nd, you are invited to attend the EXCLUSIVE premiere of VidAngel Studio’s FIRST ever theatrical release: Tim Timmerman, Hope of America! Let us know so we can get you tickets!
  2. If you are not near Utah, request that Tim Timmerman, Hope of America come to your local theater by clicking here.
  3. If you’d like to book a theater for a screening for your company or organization, please contact timmermanmovie2017@gmail.com
  4. Like Tim Timmerman on Facebook.
  5. Share the trailer on Facebook.

For more information about the premiere, frequently asked questions about the film and to watch the trailer, click here.

Why is VidAngel making its own content?
Your filtering data gives VidAngel deep insights into the type of content you’re looking for. We aim to create family-friendly content based on that feedback.

Is VidAngel changing its mission?
No. Our primary mission is to ensure families everywhere have the choice to filter content as they wish. We do not envision VidAngel Studios’ content replacing all the great Hollywood content available. We envision that it become a model for artists to use filter feedback to better meet the needs of their audience.

Conclusion
As always, would love to hear from you and answer any questions you have. Thanks for your support in this fight!

Sincerely,
Neal Harmon, CEO

Dr. James Dobson Lends His Support

We are deeply honored to have the support of the legendary Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and now CEO of Family Talk. I recently spent time with Dr. Dobson in Colorado Springs, and was featured in his national broadcast. The episode is entitled Freedom from Hollywood: The Censorship War with VidAngel. Please share this with everyone you know…here is our Facebook post with a sharable link!

img_1237

BREAKING: ClearPlay Streaming Has Secretly Been Shut Down Since September

When a Federal judge decided to temporarily shut down VidAngel in December, he accepted the argument that ClearPlay still offered customers a viable filtering option. He said,

“[T]he evidence in the record shows that another filtering service, ClearPlay, offers filtering to Google Play users who access authorized streams from Google Play’s licensed service. An injunction in this case would not prevent VidAngel or any other company from providing a filtering service similar to ClearPlay’s, and thus wouldn’t negatively impact the public interest in watching filtered content in private.”

In making that finding, the court refused to credit VidAngel’s argument that the studios’  terms of service that Google must accept to stream motion pictures prohibit Google from allowing any applications to “modify the audio or visual components of any… content.”  As VidAngel’s expert witness had advised the court, ClearPlay relied on just such an application.

VidAngel has now learned that before Disney’s lawyers blithely assured the court that the Family Movie Act protected services such as ClearPlay’s and assured the court that VidAngel could offer such a service if it wanted, ClearPlay’s ability to filter new content had already been terminated.  Google implemented technical measures in September 2016 to prevent ClearPlay from filtering any new content.  Given that Google was enthusiastic about working with VidAngel to make filtered content available to families before they asserted their terms and conditions in 2014, it appears that the studios have now meted out equal treatment to ClearPlay.

That the cessation of ClearPlay’s filtering in September 2016 escaped notice until February 2017 highlights that customers never viewed ClearPlay’s service as good or convenient.   It also raises questions concerning whether Disney will notify the court that it misrepresented a key fact the court relied on in granting Disney’s requested injunction.

VidAngel learned what had happened only after a customer brought to its attention that ClearPlay had ceased adding new movies.

Gary

[redacted email]

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Clearplay’s streaming service isn’t functioning for any new movies. I called them today and they told me that Google changed “the code” (they had no additional details they could share) back in September, which is prohibiting their ability to stream movies. They have no idea when it will be fixed. The call ended with them trying to sell me a Blu-Ray player (what is that?) and asking me to try and find a red box. A red what?

Anyway, that one option pointed to by Disney isn’t even working now, and it hasn’t for months.

Disney Claims ClearPlay Is The Legal Streaming Option – This Is What They Won’t Tell You 2017/02/03 at 11:10 pm

We checked ClearPlay’s site and verified that no new movie has been added since September 2016. The last available streamed movies were Ghostbusters (published in early September) and Independence Day (published in August). No movies posted then are streaming enabled. That had escaped our notice during trial because older videos were still up and running.
clearplay streaming shut down
clearplay streaming shut down
clearplay streaming secretly shut down
We then took a deep dive into the code and confirmed that Google had shut off its API as to all new movies published to its system. The logical explanation is that Google has now enforced the terms of service the studios imposed on it, preventing ClearPlay from offering a streamed filtering service. (For any curious engineers, we give instructions below for recreating our test.)

The bottom line is that the viewing public is currently left without a streamed filtering option for Hollywood content in spite of a federal law (the FMA) guaranteeing that right to customers. So far, Hollywood has successfully blocked every type of filtered streaming and has sued every company that ever provided filtered content (including ClearPlay).

Please call upon your Congressperson and Senators to clarify the Family Movie Act to make it even clearer that streamed filtering is legal. To find your Congress members’ contact information, and our advice on what to say, please visit SaveFiltering.VidAngel.com

 

 

To recreate the change in the code that has blocked ClearPlay, conduct the following steps:

Steps to recreate working code for older movies.

  1. Rent Independence Day Resurgence here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wr1xNdTzS1M
  2. Go to the YouTube Player Demo and enter the YouTube ID: Wr1xNdTzS1M
  3. Click “Update Player with Selected Options”
  4. Try clicking “Play,”  “Pause,” or “Seek” and you’ll find that the controls function.
  5. If you enter 1000 seconds and click “Go,” it will skip. Or click “Mute” to mute.

Note the VIDEO ID below is Wr1xNdTzS1M and the video is loading properly.

image05

Steps to recreate code that no longer works for new releases.

  1. Rent Jack Reacher here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqkN55TzitE
  2. Go to the YouTube Player Demo and enter the YouTube ID: EqkN55TzitE
  3. Click “Update Player with Selected Options.”
  4. Try clicking “Play” or “Pause” and you’ll find the controls DO NOT function.
  5. If you enter 1000 seconds and click “Go,” it will NOT skip.
  6. After some time, you should get the message “An error occurred. Please try again later. Learn more.” (see below)

Note the VIDEO ID below is EqkN55TzitE and the video is NOT loading properly.

image03

You can repeat this process with any title in the ClearPlay library to confirm that ClearPlay has been blocked from filtering movies released after ClearPlay’s streaming was shut down by the Google Play/YouTube code change.

Disney Claims ClearPlay Is The Legal Streaming Option – This Is What They Won’t Tell You

UPDATE: ClearPlay Streaming Has Secretly Been Shut Down Since September

Disney claims ClearPlay is the legal streaming option. But because of studio restrictions ClearPlay’s service is severely limited (see graph below). What’s more, the studios have admitted they have the power to shut down that service at any time because ClearPlay is violating Google’s terms of service.

How does VidAngel know all this? Because we filtered movies on Google Play before ClearPlay did. The studios shut down our access to Google Chromecast HD streaming and we received a cease-and-desist for violating terms of service.

And this isn’t just antagonism to VidAngel, but to filtering in general. Google Play (which has licenses to stream Hollywood movies) later asked the Studios if they would filter HD movies using VidAngel technology. The studios said no again, this time to Google — one of the biggest companies in the world.

Lionsgate and Sony have also expressed interest in licensing to VidAngel because they realize the filtering market is huge. But they are forbidden to do so by their contracts with the Directors Guild of America.

This IS about filtering. Disney understands that if they can win a fight over decryption or copyright, then they can kill filtering (or render it unusable), allowing them to maintain a veto power over how you watch movies in privacy of your own home.

Fight for filtering by contacting Congress at savefiltering.vidangel.com #SaveFiltering