Zoë Saldaña Voicing Spanish Episodes of Roku’s Nature Series “Mamas”

Zoë Saldaña is reporting for Mamas duty…

The 43-year-old Puerto Rican and Dominican American actress will form part of Roku’s original documentary series Mamas, which debuts on Friday, May 6, just before Mother’s Day.

Zoë SaldañaThe nature series follows powerful matriarchs of the animal kingdom, spotlighting the universality of motherhood, and exploring what mothers of any species will do to protect their young.

Mamas will feature 14 short-form episodes ranging from 6-8 minutes in length.

The series is available in English and Spanish, with the English version voiced by Connie Britton; the Spanish by Saldaña.

The series is produced by Plimsoll Productions, Deep Blue Productions, and Cinestar Pictures, with Britton, Saldaña, Martha Holmes, Andrew Jackson, Elyse Klaits, Mariel Saldaña, and Cisely Saldaña serving as executive producers.

Species featured in the series include potter wasps, grizzly bears, hummingbirds, yellow baboons, cheetahs, lions, wildebeests, black-backed jackals, strawberry dart frogs, praying mantis, African elephants, hyenas, meerkats, toque macaques, and Tomson’s gazelles.

The series features scenery and landscapes from the forests of Sri Lanka to deserts in Africa.

Mamas dives into the enchanting and challenging lives of mothers in the wild, and the powerful relationships these animals have with their children,” said Brian Tannenbaum, head of alternative originals at Roku. “Connie Britton and Zoë Saldaña take us through the captivating world of a mother’s protective instincts and loyalty to their young. It truly is a must-see documentary series that The Roku Channel is excited to share with our viewers.”

David Castañeda to Star in Peacock’s Drama Series “Poker Face”

David Castañeda has a real poker face

The 32-year-old Mexican American actor has joined the cast of Natasha Lyonne and Rian Johnson series Poker Face at Peacock.

David Castañeda

Lyonne will lead the drama series, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Stephanie Hsu also set to appear along with Castañeda.

Plot and character details for the series are being kept largely under wraps, though sources say the series will follow a procedural format and see Lyonne’s character working to solve different murders in each episode.

Poker Face received a 10-episode order at Peacock in March 2021. Johnson created the series and executive produces via T-Street Productions. MRC Television will produce.

Castañeda is best known for his role in the hit Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, on which he plays Diego. The third season of the series will premiere on June 22.

His other television credits include Blindspot and Southland.

He’ll next star opposite Christoph Waltz in Season 2 of the Roku series Most Dangerous Game.

He has also appeared in films like Sicario: Day of the Soldado, The Tax Collector, End of Watch and The Guilty at Netflix.

David Castañeda to Star on Season Two of Roku’s “Most Dangerous Game”

It’s Game on for David Castañeda

The 31-year-old Mexican-American actor will star in the second season of Roku’s Most Dangerous Game.

David Castañeda

Set in New York, the series will be headlined by newly added lead Castañeda and Christoph Waltz, reprising the role of Miles Sellers. Creator Nick Santora returns as writer and executive producer.

Most Dangerous Game is among the first Quibi series to get a renewal by Roku, which acquired the library of the short-lived streaming service earlier this year.

Castañeda stars as Victor Suero, a down on his luck fighter who springs into action to protect his sister after learning she’s in trouble. He’ll make a fortune if he survives. Out of love for his sister— he’s determined to live.

Miles is the CEO of The Tiro Fund— a front for a centuries-old game in which hunters pay exorbitant fees for the privilege of hunting the most cunning and dangerous prey there is.

“When I read the script I couldn’t sleep for a few days. Thinking of a man given the opportunity of making money to provide for his sister— it reminded me of my family, their struggle and ingenuity in necessity,” Castañeda said in a statement. “This story will connect with them and hopefully many more. Also, Christoph Waltz is the man. I can’t wait to jump on this opportunity with Roku and bring the streamers along for a thrilling ride.”

Season 1 of the action-thriller, based on a classic short story by Richard Connell, centers on Dodge (Liam Hemsworth), a Detroit everyman up to his eyeballs in debt, who is looking to secure the financial future of his wife and unborn child before he succumbs to a terminal illness. After meeting a mysterious businessman named Miles, Dodge finds the opportunity to just that—by agreeing to participate in a 24-hour game, in which he’ll be hunted for sport.

The first season earned two Emmy nominations, for Short Form Comedy or Drama Series and Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series (Waltz).

Castañeda is known for his portrayal of Diego Hargreeves in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. Up next, he’ll be seen in Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty also for Netflix, where he’ll collaborate with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ethan Hawke.

Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network to Begin Streaming on the Roku Channel

Robert Rodriguez is livin’ a new stream

The 53-year-old Mexican American filmmaker’s El Rey Network, which is making a rare transition from cable television to free streaming, has set a deal for crucial real estate on the Roku Channel.

Robert Rodriguez

Starting tomorrow, the network founded by Rodriguez will start streaming as a 24-7 linear offering on the Roku Channel, one of more than 190 on the free outlet.

Launched in 2013 as a result of the agreement reached by Comcast and NBCUniversal with regulators yielding new commitments to diverse programming options, El Rey targeted young, English-speaking Latino viewers. It wound down its nearly decade-long run on traditional pay-TV at the end of 2020, having peaked at 40 million households. While other channels have gone dark on cable and returned as digital properties, El Rey is one of the first to attempt such a shift during the streaming era.

The Roku Channel, which has 40,000 on-demand film and television titles in addition to its linear offerings, reaches households with 70 million people. Since launching in 2017, it has become a leading home for free, ad-supported streaming, ranking as the No. 6 overall streaming site in a June Nielsen gauge of household reach. In the spring, Roku Channel launched an original programming banner, whose initial slate includes Quibi titles acquired last January.

With recent data suggesting that 60% of Hispanic viewers regularly stream free, ad-supported services, several other programmers have jumped into the fray. Pluto and Tubi have launched Spanish-language efforts and Univision (initially an investor in the El Rey network) just launched PrendeTV. But El Rey’s backers see little overlap in their streaming effort, which trades as the network always has on Rodriguez’s personal tastes and eclectic resume as the director of an eclectic roster of films from Spy Kids to From Dusk Till Dawn to Sin City.

El Rey does not plan an initial investment in original programming, with its 150 hours of originals almost entirely consisting of previously produced fare. The Roku Channel will be the exclusive first AVOD destination for Rodriguez’s feature film Red 11, which had a festival circuit run. Rebel Without a Crew: The Robert Rodriguez Film School will be another exclusive, starting in the first quarter of 2022. Other shows from El Rey include The Director’s Chair, featuring conversations between Rodriguez and guests like John Carpenter and Quentin Tarantino; and Cutting Crew, which is centered at a barbershop outside of Philadelphia; and El Rey Nation, a geek-fandom panel series.

Roku VP of Programming Rob Holmes told Deadline in an interview that the arrangement would give El Rey access to “millions of engaged streamers.” In the streaming world, he added, networks need to do four things well: deliver compelling programming; create a compelling user experience; acquire and retain users; and then monetize those users. Most programmers are comfortable with only the first of the four, he said.

“You’ve seen huge investments from big folks like Disney,” he said, “but there are many people who aren’t prepared to do those other three things. Recognizing that, they can be very successful at doing that first thing, which they’ve always been good at. …. They can rely on the Roku Channel to bring these other three capabilities and do it at a really big scale.”

Cinedigm, a specialist in streaming, joined forces with El Rey to take its network into the digital realm and refine the user experience. Unlike many other cable networks during the 2010s, El Rey never built an authenticated TV Everywhere app.

John Fogelman, CEO of FactoryMade Ventures and a co-founder of El Rey, told Deadline Rodriguez had been envisioning a leap to streaming since at least 2020. The environment “feels much more right” than cable, he said, but “it just wasn’t available when we started.”

Fogelman said El Rey will aim to use Roku as the foundation for other streaming deals with other providers. The economics of digital distribution are different from traditional pay-TV, where programmers get a dual revenue stream via carriage fees and advertising. Streaming channels take part in a revenue share from both distribution and ads, but the margins are slimmer and the tech platforms control most of the viewership data. Along with the technical challenges involved in taking a channel from cable to streaming, Fogelman said the whole experience was tantamount to “ripping off the Band-Aid.”

Based on initial feedback through various channels, he said, viewers are grateful to have a chance to keep tuning in. “That beat-up crown that Robert designed” in the El Rey logo, Fogelman said, “really means a lot to a lot of people.”

Ashley Hovey, Director of AVOD, The Roku Channel, said El Rey fits the Roku business model and the realities of streaming. Nine out of 10 U.S. Hispanic households are now streaming in the U.S., she said, making it “clear there is a growing demand for engaging, high quality Latinx entertainment. El Rey is changing the programming world in an exciting way that speaks to the future of audience discovery and engagement.”

Demi Lovato’s Short Form Talk Show “The Demi Lovato Show” to Debut on Roku Channel in Late July

Demi Lovato is ready to gab it up…

The 28-year-old half-Mexican American singer/actor’s short form talk show that had been set for Quibi now has a premiere date on the Roku Channel.

Demi Lovato

The Demi Lovato Show will bow Friday, July 30, as the first of more than a dozen Roku Originals titles set for the platform.

The talker will feature a special guest and cover topics including activism, feminism, gender identity, sex and body positivity, mental health and even UFOs.

Scheduled guests include Jameela Jamil, Lucy Hale, Nikita Dragun and experts in various fields. See the first-look photo above.

“Some conversations can be difficult, but I’ve never been one to shy away from speaking candidly about things,” Lovato said. “We wanted to create a space that normalizes living your own truth – where people can speak, engage and more importantly, learn, together. There’s something therapeutic about having raw discussions that people can relate to and with The Demi Lovato Show no topics are off limits and opinions are welcome. I’m so excited for people to see how these conversations unfold on the Roku Channel.”

The then-working-titled Pillow Talk with Demi Lovato was announced as a Quibi original in February but never aired on the shortform service run by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman. The duo announced in October that the streamer was shutting down, which it did on December 1. Roku revealed in May that Quibi shows would run as Roku Originals on the service.

Lovato has been busy with a number of other projects across various mediums: NBC single-camera comedy pilot HungryYouTube Original docuseries Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devilfour-part Peacock docuseries Unidentified with Demi Lovato (working title) and the singer-actor’s debut podcast 4D with Demi Lovato.

Produced by GoodStory Entertainment and SB ProjectsThe Demi Lovato Show is executive produced by Lovato, Scooter Braun, JD Roth, Adam Greener, Alison Kaye, Scott Manson, Todd Yasui and Sara Hansemann. The series is directed by Hannah Lux Davis.

Francisca Valenzuela to Participate in This Year’s SXSW Virtual Event

Francisca Valenzuela is heading south (by southwest)…

SXSW has announced its first slate of artists for the popular Austin festival’s virtual event, with the 33-year-old Chilean American feminist pop powerhouse set to make an appearance during the March 16-20 digital experience.

Francisca Valenzuela

Valenzuela rose to acclaim in Chile and Latin America following the release of her debut album, Muérdete La Lengua in June 2007. Her second album, Buen Soldado, followed in March 2011. Valenzuela has earned both gold and platinum album certification in Chile.

As a virtual event, the roster of SXSW artists is especially international this year, with performances scheduled from Indonesian indie jangle-pop trio Grrrl Gang; Nigerian-born, London-raised U.K. Afrobeats singer Darkoo; rising Spanish-Cuban Latin pop sensation Samantha Sanchez; and Canadian live-electronic/dance experimentalists Holy F–k among the first round of artists.

In addition to Valenzuela and Sanchez, other Latinx artists scheduled to take part in this year’s SXSW virtual event include Alien Tango, BELAKO, Candeleros, Dayramir Gonzalez, El Shirota, Los Blenders, Luisa e os Alquimistas, Petite Amie, Ruido Rosa, Tuyo, Vaya Futuro and Vocal Vidas.

Passholders will have access to these unique artists performing from their home countries with streaming available via web, mobile, and the SXSW Online Connected TV app (Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, Samsung TV Plus, and Android TV). Select content will be viewable in VR via SXSW Online XR. This year’s SXSW Online passes begin at $249 and will go up to $399 in March. Passholders get access to conference keynotes and featured speakers, mentor sessions and workshops, musical showcases and events, comedy showcases and podcast, online exhibitions and more.

Previously announced speakers include Queen LatifahThe ChainsmokersLL Cool J and a keynote from Willie Nelson.

Click here for a full list of artists.

Roku Acquires Quibi’s Programming, Including Nicole Richie’s “Nikki Fre$h” Series

Nicole Richie is freshening up Roku

Roku has acquired the exclusive global distribution rights to the portfolio of Quibi’s programs, including the 39-year-old part-Mexican American actress & television personality’s series Nikki Fre$h.

Nicole Richie

In its biggest original programming foray to date, Roku’s acquisition covers most of the recently shuttered mobile-only streaming venture’s library, while some daily news shows aren’t part of the package.

A key draw for Roku is the talent, a roster including Richie, Idris Elba, Kevin Hart, Liam Hemsworth, Anna Kendrick, Chrissy Teigen and Lena Waithe.

The lineup includes titles like Most Dangerous Game, Dummy, Murder House Flip and the Reno 911 reboot, starring Carlos Alazraqui.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed, though the valuation is said to be less than $100 million, according to insiders. Roku shares rose 5% to $398.60 on the news. At one point early in the trading day, they reached $402.81, an all-time high.

The programming will be available for free starting later this year. Shows will have advertising, as they did on the $5-a-month Quibi service, and they’ll be housed on the Roku Channel. The hub for free and premium streaming channels, including 150-plus free live, linear offerings, has become a mainstay of the company’s strategy since Roku launched it in 2017. By the fourth quarter of 2020, it was being viewed by households representing an estimated 61.8 million people, the company said, double its reach at the end of 2019.

“The most creative and imaginative minds in Hollywood created groundbreaking content for Quibi that exceeded our expectations,” said Quibi Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. “We are thrilled that these stories, from the surreal to the sublime, have found a new home on The Roku Channel.”

AppleTV+ Releases First Trailer for “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special”

Mariah Carey is bringing the Magic this holiday season…

AppleTV+ has release the trailer and key art for the half-Venezuelan American Grammy-winning singer’s Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special, which will start streaming on December 4.

Mariah Carey

The show will feature Carey, the unofficial Queen of Christmas, with Tiffany Haddish, Billy Eichner, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg, Jermaine Dupri, Misty Copeland and Mykal-Michelle Harris, as well as Carey’s 9-year-old twins, son Moroccan and daughter Monroe.

The special finds the world faced with a holiday cheer crisis, which the North Pole knows only one person can solve: Santa’s great friend, Mariah Carey. Combining musical performances, dancing and animation, the show finds Carey saving the day.

The soundtrack single and new music video for “Oh Santa!,” co-written by and featuring Carey performing with Grande and Hudson, will be distributed by Sony Music and released on Apple Music and other streaming platforms December 4.

The companion soundtrack to the special will include Snoop Dogg and Jermaine Dupri as additional musical guests, in addition to a new version of “Sleigh Ride.” The soundtrack will be available exclusively on Apple Music on December 4, and all other platforms December 11.

The Apple TV+ subscription service is available on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, select Samsung, LG, Sony, and VIZIO smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, PlayStation and Xbox consoles, and at tv.apple.com.

Carey is the bestselling female artist of all time, with more than 200 million albums sold to date and 19 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 singles (18 self-penned), more than any solo artist in history. She recently published her memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, which debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.