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R. Kelly Facing Two New Federal Indictments For Sex Crimes

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  • R. Kelly was arrested on Thursday in Chicago after he was hit with over a dozen federal charges including child pornography and enticement of a minor.
  • A second federal indictment in New York accused the singer of other crimes, including kidnapping, transportation for prostitution and sexual exploitation of a child.
  • His attorney said Kelly was not surprised by the charges, but claimed that these accusations are an attack on his client.

Federal Indictment in Illinois

Singer R. Kelly was hit with two federal indictments accusing him of criminal sexual activity in Illinois and New York.

A 13-count indictment from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois includes charges of child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. Kelly was arrested on Thursday for these counts. 

According to this indictment, Kelly “did knowingly employ, use, persuade, induce, entice and coerce a minor, namely Minor 1, to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct” on multiple occasions. The charges also involve four other minors between the ages of 13 and 17-years-old, whom Kelly had also allegedly engaged in sexual conduct with.

Federal Indictment in New York

On Friday, the United States District Court in the Eastern District of New York unsealed a five-count indictment against him. The charges here include racketeering, kidnapping, transportation for prostitution, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child.

The New York indictment says that Kelly made rules for his sexual partners, which included women and young girls. These rules included partners not being allowed to leave their rooms, not being allowed to look at other men, being forced to wear baggy clothing when they were not accompanying Kelly to events, and being forced to refer to Kelly as “Daddy.”

Kelly’s Attorney Responds

In a statement, Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, confirmed that Kelly was arrested in Chicago while walking his dog. He says the charges appear to “largely be the same as old conduct previously alleged.”

“Mr. Kelly was aware of the investigations and the charges were not a surprise,” Greenberg added. “He had already assembled a team of outstanding federal litigators. He and his lawyers look forward to the truth coming out and to his vindication from what has been an unprecedented assault by others for their own personal gain.” 

Kelly already faces over 20 sex abuse-related charges handed to him by Cook County in February and May. He is pleading not guilty to all of those charges. 

The charges, in this case, followed the release of a Lifetime docu-series, Surviving R. Kelly. The series featured interviews with accusers and their families and prompted a boycott of his music along with the hashtag #MuteRKelly. 

Kelly is expected to appear in a Chicago federal court on Tuesday for his arraignment for the new federal charges. No timing has been set for his appearance in New York. 

See what others are saying: (CBS Chicago) (Associated Press) (NBC New York)

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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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Olivia Rodrigo Smashes Records with “drivers license”

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  • Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” has set multiple records on Spotify, becoming both the most streamed song in one day for non-holiday music and the most streamed song in a week.
  • It also has become the most globally requested song on Alexa in one day on Amazon Music. 
  • After its Jan. 8 release, the song became a trending audio on TikTok. Since TikTok’s rise to popularity, the app has helped many songs reach viral success at lightning speed. 

“driver’s license” Breaks Records

At just 17-year-old, Olivia Rodrigo is smashing records with her new single “drivers license” after debuting the tune on Jan. 8.

On Friday, Spotify announced the single set the record for most streams in a week. Prior to this, it set the record for most streams on the platform in one day for a non-holiday song.

As of Monday morning, the song has over 125 million plays on Spotify. According to Pop Crave, it was also the fastest song to reach 100 million streams on the popular music service. 

Over on Amazon Music, “drivers license” became the most globally requested song on Alexa in a single day. It also became the biggest global streaming debut on the site. 

Song Goes Viral on TikTok

Rodrigo is best known for her role as Nini on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” She has also appeared in a variety of other Disney projects where she showcased her singing and songwriting capabilities. In “drivers license,” she croons about using the newly minted independence her license affords her to mourn a recent breakup.  

The pop ballad has become a popular audio on TikTok. Many use it for dances, to discuss the possibility that Rodrigo wrote it about her co-star Joshua Bassett, or to just wallow in its lyrics. It has been used by some of the app’s most popular creators, including Charli D’Amelio. 

Its success on the platform has likely contributed to its success on streaming platforms and charts. The app has had an immeasurable impact on the music industry by helping songs and artists reach the mainstream at lightning speed. Hits like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X first found a home on TikTok before breaking records on the billboard charts. 

Rodrigo has been happy and surprised to see her song perform so well and be so positively received. 

“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this,” she wrote on Instagram after learning that “drivers license” was the number one song on global iTunes charts. “thank u guys so much for listening. I can’t believe this is real life.”

See what others are saying: (Teen Vogue) (CBS News) (Billboard)

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