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New Footage Released in Jussie Smollet Case

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  • Chicago Police released footage in the Jussie Smollett case, including footage of them arriving at his apartment after the alleged attack, which shows the actor still wearing a rope around his neck.
  • A special prosecutor was appointed on Friday to look into the case and look into a previous prosecutors’ decision to drop charges against Smollett.
  • Though Smollett has maintained his innocence, Chicago Police have been clear that they believe he staged a hate crime against himself in January.
  • Due to the recent appointment of a special prosecutor, Smollett could be charged in the case again.

Chicago police released video footage on Monday from the Jussie Smollett case, including body cam footage of their response after the incident. 

The footage, which was obtained by local media outlets, runs up to 70 hours long. Smollett, an actor best known for his role on Empire, was accused of staging a hate crime against himself in January. 

In the clip showing police arriving at his apartment after the alleged attack, a man who identifies himself as Smollett’s creative director greets the police and takes them upstairs. He quickly tells the police who Smollett is. 

“He, he is like a star,” he says. “He works on the show Empire…he doesn’t want this to be a big deal, you see what I’m saying.”

Once police enter the apartment, Smollett can be seen with a rope on his neck. Officers ask if he wants to remove it.

Yeah, I do,” Smollett responds. “I just wanted you to see.”

He then removes the rope and tells officers bleach was poured on him. When he learns that he is being recorded, he requests for filming to stop.

Officers also released videos from before and after the alleged attack. One video depicts the Osundairo brothers, the original suspects in the case, in a cab on the way to the alleged scene. Another video shows them fleeing a nearby area.

According to the Chicago Tribune, police also released documents about the case, including text messages between one of the Osundairo brothers and Smollett. The Tribune says that the messages show that Smollett may have reached out to the brothers for drugs on a regular basis. 

Previous document dumps have also shown Smollett texting the Osundairo brothers “Might need your help on the low” prior to the alleged attack.

Special Prosecutor Appointed

This footage dump comes several days after a special prosecutor was appointed to look into Smollett’s case. This opens the door for Smollett to be charged in relation to the incident again.  On Friday, a Cook County judge wrote a 21-page opinion about his decision. 

“The unprecedented irregularities identified in this case warrants the appointment of independent counsel to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system,” he wrote. 

Smollett was indicted on 16 criminal counts. Charges were later dropped against him in a reversal that angered the Chicago Police Department. The prosecutor will look specifically into the decision to drop all charges against Smollett. They will also look into Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx’s recusal from the case, and her choice to appoint one of her aides as a replacement. 

Chief Communications Officer for Chicago Police tweeted about the special prosecutor and maintained their belief in Smollett’s guilt. 

Background on Smollett Case

In January, Smollett claimed that two masked men attacked him by yelling racial and homophobic slurs, tying a rope around his neck, pouring bleach on him, and yelling “this is MAGA country.” When police identified and interrogated two suspects, the Osandairo brothers, they told officers they were paid by Smollett to stage the attack. 

Smollett was charged with several felony counts, including disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. He turned himself into authorities, but charges were dropped on March 26. He had to pay $10,000 in bond to the city of Chicago. 

Smollett maintains his innocence in the case. However, Chicago Police are suing the actor, and the Osandairo brothers are suing his attorneys. He will not appear in the next season of Empire

See what others are saying: (Chicago Tribune) (CBS Chicago) (ABC News)

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Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19

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  • Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
  • The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
  • “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

Chappelle Tests Positive

Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.

“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.

“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.

Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle

Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.

Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.

Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.

“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)

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Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention

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  • In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
  • The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
  • The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.

Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers

Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.

In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.

Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.

When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.

Success Amid Growth of Competition

The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix. 

Still, it reached a massive milestone. 

“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”

Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.

“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”

Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers

Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.

An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service. 

Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Paramount+ To Launch March 4

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  • ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year. 
  • The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection. 

Paramount+ Gets Launch Date

ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year. 

It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.

More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news. 

“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”

State of the Streaming Wars

Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”

The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television. 

ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (CNBC)

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