Netflix looks beyond US as competition mounts

Netflix looks beyond US as competition mounts

  • 17 April 2017
  • From the section Business

Actors Claire Foy and Matt SmithImage copyright
Getty Images

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Claire Foy has won awards for her portrayal of the Queen in the Netflix drama The Crown

Netflix has come a long way since it started as a mail-order DVD rental service. It has largely been responsible for dragging television into the online world and its dozens of original productions such as House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black have helped it win a huge global audience.

Last year its programming became available in another 130 countries, bringing the total to more than 190.

But Netflix faces increasing competition from online rivals such as Amazon and Hulu, while television networks start to launch their own streaming services and make new shows available in binge-ready box sets.

Sky Atlantic, for example, has made all six episodes of the new drama Guerrilla – starring Idris Elba, Freida Pinto and Babou Ceesay – available to stream, meaning viewers will not have to wait a week for their next fix.

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Sky

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Freida Pinto and Babou Ceesay in the Sky Atlantic drama Guerrilla

Growth of US subscriptions, which account for almost 60% of Netflix’s revenue, has also slowed.

Analysts and investors will closely watch its subscriber growth when results for the most recent quarter are released later on Monday.

The company, whose shares have jumped almost 30% in the past 12 months to just over $140, is expected to report revenues of $2.5bn, with the subscriber total tantalisingly close to the 100 million mark.

But some question how long Netflix can continue adding customers at the same pace.

How will international expansion hold up?

Netflix had more than 44 million international subscribers at the end of 2016, nearly 50% higher than the year before, as well as 49 million in the US.

It expects to add another 4 million to the international total this quarter.

Formerly sceptical analysts are increasingly confident that the firm can deliver. A consumer survey conducted for Jefferies bank in Germany and India turned up the surprising finding that services such as Netflix and Amazon are more appealing than local streaming options, despite potential language barriers.

The survey also suggested that Netflix’s pricing could hold up, even in a wider variety of markets.

However, the company has warned that growth could be hurt if the dollar climbs much higher.

Who is watching its shows?

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Getty Images

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Robin Wright stars in House of Cards

Netflix started making its own shows in 2013, with House of Cards one of its first big hits and Stranger Things more recently. The company plans to spend more on original content this year and reduce outlays on licensed material such as movies.

Awards and critical acclaim for dramas such as The Crown have helped attract viewers. Yet analysts at Jefferies fear that cutting back on other content such as films could reduce Netflix’s overall appeal.

Will it be affected by the Hollywood writers dispute?

Netflix casts a long shadow on the negotiations that started in March between the Writers Guild of America and production companies and studios over what writers are paid. The existing agreement expires on 1 May and a strike could be on the cards.

One of the main sticking points concerns residual payments for streamed shows and writers for some Netflix productions are covered by the agreement.

The growth of online television has also contributed to the rise of shorter series than on broadcast networks, which has meant lower fees for writers.

Netflix stands to benefit from any disruption to major broadcasters. It also has flexibility to withstand a work stoppage, since it’s not bound by the traditional TV calendar.

Why are the Fast & Furious films so popular?

The Fate of the Furious breaks global box office record

Vin DieselImage copyright
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Vin Diesel said he felt “humbled and blessed” after the film’s success

The Fate of the Furious has raced to the top of the box office chart – breaking an international record in the process.

The eighth film in the action thriller franchise took an estimated $532.5m (£424.7m) globally over Easter weekend.

The figure makes it the strongest worldwide debut ever – marginally overtaking the $529m (£421.8m) taken by Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

However, the film’s US takings were down sharply on the previous movie.

Furious 7 opened with $147.2m (£117.3m) in the US when it was released in 2015 – but the latest instalment of the series debuted with $100.2m (£80m).

The Fate of the Furious – titled Fast & Furious 8 in some territories – stars Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, who said he felt “grateful, humbled and blessed” after the film’s success.


Why is the Fast & Furious franchise so popular?

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Getty Images

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Charlize Theron plays Cipher – the villain – in the latest film

Rhianna Dhillon, film critic and host of BBC Radio 4’s Seriously… podcast, said the success of the Fast & Furious franchise is down to its “universal appeal”.

“They’re films people of all ages can enjoy, because they have that pure, unadulterated escapism about them, children and adults alike are quite happy to watch things get blown up and smashed up,” she said.

“A lot of what drags movies like The Avengers down is the plot, and Fast & Furious isn’t trying to compete with those heavy, convoluted storylines. This is just cars smashing into each other and it’s okay to enjoy that.

“This franchise isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. Ultimately, from the bottom up, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

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AFP

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L-R: Fast & Furious stars Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuell, Vin Diesel and Ludacris

Dhillon said the diversity of the cast is one of the key reasons the film series has seen continued box office success.

“Hollywood really underestimates minority audiences,” she said. “For example, if you break down the figures, the Latino audience is huge, what with Vin Diesel’s following. I think that has so much to do with it, because not many films offer that.”

She added: “The franchise still attracts huge stars each time – this year as the villain we have Charlize Theron, there’s an appearance from Helen Mirren. These aren’t people you’ve never heard of, they have the most bankable movie stars in the world.

“And Dwayne Johnson has given the films a new lease of life – when you buy a star like him, you’re buying his fans as well.”

Find out more: The Secret of The Fast and The Furious


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Getty Images

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Dwayne Johnson also stars in the eighth instalment of the film franchise

Despite the drop of nearly a third on the seventh film, the US performance of The Fate of the Furious is still pretty impressive – it accounted for nearly two-thirds of all US box office takings over the weekend.

Its nearest competitor was The Boss Baby, which took a further $15.5m (£12.4m) to land second place.

The film’s worldwide performance was boosted by opening in China on the same weekend as other major markets, unlike the Force Awakens, which did not start screening there until several weeks later.

The Fate of the Furious saw three-day takings of $190m (£151m) in China.

More chapters in the Furious franchise, which began in 2001, are planned for release in 2019 and 2021.


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Broadchurch creator ’emotional’ about finale

Broadchurch creator ’emotional’ about finale

Olivia Colman and David TennantImage copyright
ITV

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Olivia Colman and David Tennant have starred in all three Broadchurch series

The writer and creator of television drama Broadchurch has said he feels “emotional” about the third and final series coming to an end.

The last episode of the ITV show, which stars David Tennant and Olivia Colman, will air on Monday evening.

Chris Chibnall told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s a strange feeling actually, it’s quite emotional.

“It’s been an extraordinary journey with the show and [its success] has taken us all by surprise.”

Did the critics like Broadchurch?

Confirming the drama will not return for any future series, he said: “That is it and there will be no more after this one, absolutely.”

The storyline of the final series has centred around the rape of Trish Winterman – played by former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh.

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ITV

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The third season has focused on the rape of Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondhalgh)

Chibnall explained: “When I thought about telling this story, the first thing I did, along with the people I work with, was go and talk to various people and charities who worked supporting survivors of sexual assault.

“We went to Dorset sexual assault referral centre and Rape Crisis and Survivors’ Trust, and the question I asked them was ‘Should we be telling this story in Broadchurch, is it an appropriate thing to do?’

“They were unanimous in their reply and said: ‘Yes, absolutely, you should, you must, because there’s an incredible amount of support out there for people who survive these crimes.'”

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Media captionCreator of ITV’s Broadchurch Chris Chibnall tells Today why exploring themes of sexual violence is appropriate

He added he was also keen for Colman and Tennant’s characters – DS Ellie Miller and DI Alec Hardy – to show exemplary behaviour when dealing with the case.

“I noticed Dorset Police put out a statement the other day in response to the programme saying ‘If you report [a rape] you will be believed by police’, so we wanted to show best practice by these extraordinary people that we’d met,” Chibnall said.


Plans for Doctor Who

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Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie star in the current series of Doctor Who

Chibnall’s next job will be taking over the reins at Doctor Who, after Steven Moffat announced he would be leaving the programme.

The last series of the show to star Peter Capaldi as the Doctor began on BBC One on Saturday, with the opening episode attracting an average of 4.6 million viewers.

But Chibnall was reluctant to give too much away about what he has planned for the show when he takes over.

“It’s way too early to talk about Doctor Who. There’s still an amazing series to go out with Peter Capaldi,” he said.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and we’re putting a team together. But for another year there is an amazing Doctor, there’s an amazing showrunner in Steven Moffatt and I’ve read the scripts for this series and they are phenomenal.”


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Why podcasts are struggling to catch on

When did you last download a podcast?

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iStock

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Around 9% of adults in the UK say they download podcasts

S-Town, the gripping saga about life and death in Alabama, is the latest podcast to have notched up impressive listening figures. But podcasts on the whole still don’t seem to be breaking through to the mainstream.

Have you ever downloaded a podcast? And, if so, did you actually listen to it?

Podcasts have long been seen as the future of radio, a great way to pass the time on a long commute or catch up on a radio show you’ve missed.

They’ve been growing in popularity since the early noughties, when Apple’s iPod first hit the market (“podcast” is a cross between the words “iPod” and “broadcast”).

But, 15 years on, they remain a relatively niche pursuit.

“I don’t know whether podcasting is a mainstream proposition,” says Matt Hill, co-founder of the British Podcast Awards.

“Its core strength at the moment is in narrowcasting. It creates audio content for niche groups of people, but it does so really effectively.”

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iStock

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Podcasts have been growing in popularity over the last decade or so

According to Rajar, the body that monitors radio listening, 9% of adults in the UK say they download podcasts per week – around 4.7 million people.

Which is a fair few – but not much compared with the 90% (or 48.7 million adults) who listen to live radio every week.

Kate Chisholm, radio critic for The Spectator, says: “Podcasting is arguably something for metropolitan people, maybe in their 20s and 30s.

“I don’t think it’s something that particularly seeps out to the mainstream. On one level I would say that’s changing, but then how many people who live on my street would be downloading podcasts? I’m not sure it would be very many.

“They’d listen to Classic FM or Radio 2… but a lot of people look at me blankly when I mention Serial.”


What is a podcast?

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iStock

  • A podcast is a piece of audio made available online, which the listener typically downloads to their smartphone or laptop
  • They are very often speech-based because of restrictions on the use of commercial music
  • Podcasts differ from live radio because you can choose to listen to them when you want, rather than in an allotted timeslot – kind of like how Netflix or iPlayer differ from live TV
  • They can be bespoke specialist content or simply a downloadable version of a previously-broadcast radio show

Serial, of course, is the biggest podcast success story to date – its makers say it has had more than 250 million downloads.

That certainly sounds like an impressive figure – albeit perhaps not as much as it might first seem.

It doesn’t mean 250 million different people have downloaded Serial, but rather that its 26 episodes have been downloaded a total of 250 million times.

Plus, the RAJAR figures show only about two thirds of downloaded podcasts are actually listened to.

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Getty Images

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Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig, won a Peabody award in 2015

“Serial made 2015 the year of the podcast,” says Julia Furlan, podcast producer for BuzzFeed.

“Everybody was saying at that time that podcasting had finally made it, but it’s still hard for a lot of people to find and download a podcast, hard to share it, it’s still something we’re figuring out as medium.”

But, she says: “Since Serial, you do see different names on the top 10 podcast chart, you see larger media companies and brands investing significant money in making new content.

“And I do think those are indicators that there is growth, that Serial did something really big.”

S-Town, released in March and made by the team behind Serial, is the latest podcast to hit the headlines.

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iStock

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The term “podcast” comes from “iPod” and “broadcast”

The documentary begins with a suspected murder in Woodstock, Alabama, and unfolds around its central character – an eccentric local named John B McLemore.

It was downloaded 16 million times in its first week – although again that number is spread across seven episodes, which were all made available at once.

Other recent podcast success stories include Russell Brand’s new show on Radio X – which marked his return to radio after an eight-year absence.

The high listening figures of the few breakthrough hits are what make podcasts a very attractive prospect to advertisers.

Hill says: “Even though the audiences are quite small, those shows do very well with advertisers because those listeners are interested in one specific area – it’s exactly who they want to market to.

“Podcasting is starting to educate advertisers that there is an upmarket audience that would be interested in intelligent speech programming and would be happy to hear advertising alongside it.”

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PA

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Russell Brand’s first podcast after his return to radio this month was hugely popular

Many of these advertisers offer podcast listeners discount codes, because then they can monitor where their new customers are coming from.

Which means many podcasts are effectively working on commission – and only become financially viable if companies can see a demonstrable boost in customers.

But few podcasts become popular enough to attract advertisers at all. There are just so many of them around – with no quality control.

“I think podcasts are very different from mainstream broadcasting, it’s like the difference between blogging and print,” says Chisholm.

“Like blogs, the quality of podcasts is variable. There’s a big difference between people who blog and people who actually get published.”

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Getty Images

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Advertising is becoming more common on podcasts

Part of the problem facing podcasts is that, in general, audio doesn’t tend to go viral.

Have a scroll down your Facebook feed, and the chances are there will be several videos of dogs, cats, babies, pranks, fails and Kermit the Frog memes.

But people rarely share a great radio programme they’ve heard.

“The internet is a place that you take in with your eyes, it’s a visual medium,” Furlan says.

“I also think that downloading a podcast is quite hard, people think, ‘Oh, I’m subscribed to this, what does that mean? How long is a season?’ All of these things are unhelpful for the industry at large.”

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Desert Island Discs is one of the BBC’s most popular podcasts

With such a slow rate of growth, podcasts may become the minidisc of the radio industry – sold as the future but eventually becoming redundant. Or they may just take time to become established.

“Every year the listening figures creep up, but they haven’t done a Netflix and exploded, it’s slow burn,” Hill says.

“But the thing about a slow burn is it’s not a flash in the pan – those are the things that stick around.”

Furlan goes further: “I think absolutely podcasts will break through in the years to come.

“If you take into account how everybody has a smartphone now, smart cars are on their way, the more technology opens up, the more we are going to see podcasts in our daily lives.”


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James Bond actor Clifton James dies at 96

James Bond actor Clifton James dies at 96

Actor Clifton James as Sheriff JW PepperImage copyright
Rex Features

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Clifton James, who has died aged 96, played Sheriff JW Pepper in two Bond films

Actor Clifton James, who appeared as Sheriff JW Pepper in two James Bond films, has died at the age of 96.

He died close to his childhood home in Gladstone, Oregon, on Saturday due to complications from diabetes.

James was best known for appearing alongside Sir Roger Moore in the Bond films Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun during the 1970s.

His daughter Lynn said: “He was the most outgoing person, beloved by everybody.”

She added: “I don’t think the man had an enemy. We were incredibly blessed to have had him in our lives.”

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Getty Images

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James appeared alongside Sir Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun

In 1973 James played Louisiana sheriff JW Pepper in Live and Let Die, in which he made a memorable appearance in a chaotic boat chase sequence.

His character proved so popular he was asked to reprise the role in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun, involving another car chase, in Thailand, and a scene where he gets pushed into water by a baby elephant.

Paying tribute on Twitter, Sir Roger wrote: “Terribly said to hear Clifton James has left us. As JW Pepper he gave my first two Bond films a great, fun character.”


You only appear twice

While many James Bond characters either feature once or have recurring roles in the series, Sherriff Pepper is among a select few characters to have featured in just two different titles.

Here are four others:

Sylvia Trench: A love interest of Bond played by Eunice Gayson. She appeared alongside Sir Sean Connery in the 1962 film Dr No, as well as 1963’s From Russia with Love.

Jaws: One of Bond’s most famous villains, Jaws was played by the late Richard Kiel. The character appeared with Sir Roger Moore in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me and later in 1979’s Moonraker.

Valentin Zukovsky: An ex-KGB agent turned Russian mafia head who was portrayed by Robbie Coltrane. He featured with Pierce Brosnan in the 1995 film GoldenEye and 1999’s The World is Not Enough.

Rene Mathis: A French intelligence operative played by Giancarlo Giannini. He appeared alongside Daniel Craig in the 2006 film Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace.


James grew up just outside Portland during the heart of the Great Depression, in which his family lost all their money.

He served as a soldier with the US Army in the South Pacific during World War Two, for which he was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze star.

His acting career spanned five decades and included stints on stage, TV and film.

Other credits include appearing in the TV series Dallas and films Superman II and The Bonfire of the Vanities.

His last film credit was a 2006 comedy, Raising Flagg but he had also been cast to star in an upcoming independent film called Old Soldiers, according to IMDB.

Alesha Dixon ‘shocked’ by judges’ behaviour on Britain’s Got Talent

Britain’s Got Talent returns to TV screens this weekend but the real excitement on the show may not take place on the stage.

Judge Alesha Dixon says that the bromance between Simon Cowell and David Walliams has hit new heights this year.

“I thought after the last series it would calm down but it seems to get worse.

“This year I think David wrestled Simon to the floor,” she told reporters on the red carpet launch of BGT.

“He knocked him out of his chair. I cannot believe he’s got the balls to do that to Simon Cowell but he did.”

Alesha Dixon

Image caption Alesha told Newsbeat that there are moments on this year’s BGT that “genuinely shocked” her

She also says viewers may see a little more of Walliams than they might expect, after things got out of control during auditions.

“I got on the desk on the last audition of the day and I thought I’d have some fun. Mandy joins me. David gets up and drops his trousers.”

But Amanda Holden took things one step too far.

“David decided to take his trousers down and he was right by me,” she told reporters. “So I pulled his pants down.

“The ‘battered sausage moment’, that’s what we’re now calling it,” said Alesha.

“Apparently Simon was going to have that for dinner until David dropped his trousers.

“I hope the producers keep that in.”

Amanda Holden

Image caption “I want people to sit down on a Saturday night and be able to forget everything,” says Amanda Holden

But if Simon’s dinner plans were ruined, Amanda reckons he’s only got himself to blame.

“Simon’s encouraged bad behaviour for 11 years. We’re always encouraged to be ourselves,” she says.

“We’re never told to do or be anything other than ourselves and I think that’s why it’s worked so well to be honest.”

Amanda says she believes the show is pure entertainment and doesn’t want the audience “to have to think” while they watch.

Meanwhile, Alesha says there are moments in the new series which do more than provide escapism.

“We had a choir on this year, The Missing People Choir, which was a really touching moment and a moment that made me feel so proud to be a part of the show,” she said.

“I felt we were using the platform really responsibly.

“Sometimes the fun and games is brilliant but every now and then an act like that comes along and you realise some things in life are more important.”

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Radiohead quit Coachella stage twice after technical problems

Thom Yorke

Radiohead had to abandon the stage twice during their headline set at Coachella music festival in the US, after they were hit with numerous technical problems.

The band faced complete sound failures along with episodes of audio feedback.

“Can you actually hear me now?” Thom Yorke asked crowds when he returned to the stage for the second time.

“I’d love to tell you a joke, lighten the mood, something like that. But this is Radiohead…”

The live stream audio was also affected by sound problems.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BS5UxkRFXQE/?taken-by=lyndseyparker

The first sound drop-out occurred during Ful Stop, reports Pitchfork.

Another happened during 15 Step, with the second audio failure lasting for most of the song, although the band persisted for some time before the stage went dark.

After a break, they attempted The National Anthem, which was hit by more problems and then carried on with the show.

Near the end of their performance of Let Down, the main stage speakers failed and the band then quit the stage for a second time.

Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival takes place at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.

This year will also see performances from Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar and Stormzy.

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Entertainment news round-up: 9 – 15 April

Entertainment news round-up: 9 – 15 April

It’s been another busy week in the world of entertainment.

The first official photo of the new Bake Off line-up was released, University Challenge came to its nail-biting conclusion, the new editor of British Vogue was revealed and Sesame Street’s first autistic character made her debut.

Here’s a round-up of some things you might have missed:

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Channel 4

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The first official photo of the new line-up for The Great British Bake Off was released. Paul Hollywood (left) and Prue Leith (right) will judge, while Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding (centre) well serve as hosts

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Rex/Shutterstock

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Edward Enninful made history as he was hired as the new editor of British Vogue, taking over from Alexandra Shulman. He will be the first man to edit the magazine

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University Challenge came to a nail biting end this week – Eric Monkman and Bobby Seagull have been the breakout stars of the current series, going viral on social media.

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Reuters

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Ed Sheeran settled a $20m (£13.8m) copyright infringement claim against him in the US, over his hit song Photograph. Songwriters Thomas Leonard and Martin Harrington claimed it had a similar structure to their song, Amazing, which was released by X Factor’s Matt Cardle in 2012.

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John Cleese had said there was ‘no way’ he’d work again at the BBC but now he’s signed up to star in the sitcom Edith, reuniting him with his Clockwise co-star Alison Steadman.

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Tom Hiddleston won a Golden Globe for the Night Manager but this week he missed out on a Bafta nomination for the role. The Crown led the way with five nods, with Damilola, Our Loved Boy, Fleabag and Happy Valley up for three each.

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Sesame Workshop

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The first Sesame Street muppet with autism, Julia, made her debut on the children’s TV show in the US this week.

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Getty Images

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It was announced that Jude Law will play young Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts sequel, following in the footsteps of Richard Harris and Sir Michael Gambon, who shared the role of Harry’s headmaster in the Potter films.

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Getty Images

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Comedian Charlie Murphy, the older brother of actor Eddie Murphy, died of leukaemia at the age of 57. He starred on comedian Dave Chappelle’s show and also appeared in films including Jungle Fever, Night at the Museum and Lottery Ticket.

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Getty Images

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Sylvester Stallone is suing film studio Warner Bros over profits he says he is owed from the 1993 film Demolition Man. He says Demolition Man made at least $125m at the box office, and under his deal with the studio, he is entitled to at least 15% of that.


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Harry Styles single finally topples Ed Sheeran’s chart reign

Harry Styles single finally topples Ed Sheeran’s chart reign

Harry StylesImage copyright
Getty Images

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Harry Styles is the second One Direction star to top the singles chart

Harry Styles’s debut single Sign of the Times has broken Ed Sheeran’s 13-week spell at the top of the charts.

The One Direction star has achieved his first number one as a solo artist with this release – the first from his self-titled debut album.

His song sold 3,000 copies more than Sheeran’s, with just under 40,000 downloads and 3.5 million streams, the Official Charts Company said.

Sheeran’s Shape of You fell to number two, while his Galway Girl is at three.

The Official Charts Company added that Shape Of You is still the most streamed song of the week, with nearly seven million plays.

Styles, whose debut album is released next month, is the second member of One Direction to top the singles chart, after Zayn Malik managed the same feat in 2016 with Pillowtalk.

Top five singles
Artist Title
1) Harry Styles Sign of the Times
2) Ed Sheeran Shape of You
3) Ed Sheeran Galway Girl
4) Clean Bandit ft Zara Larsson Symphony
5) Drake Passionfruit

Sheeran has also retained his domination of the album chart, with Divide still on the top spot, followed by Rag ‘N’ Bone Man’s Human and then Chainsmokers with Memories – Do Not Open.

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EPA

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Ed Sheeran still reigns supreme in the album chart

In its first week, Divide outsold the rest of the top 500 combined and became the fastest-selling album ever by a male artist.

Last month Sheeran also held 16 places out of the top 20 in the singles chart, including numbers one, two, three, four, five and six – not surprisingly, this was a chart first.

Top five albums
Artist Title
1) Ed Sheeran Divide
2) Rag ‘N’ Bone Man Human
3) Chainsmokers Memories – Do Not Open
4) Drake More Life
5) Take That Wonderland

The album chart also saw the return of Mike + The Mechanics, whose new release Let Me Fly is at number nine in their first offering since 1996.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi first trailer released

Audiences are getting their first look at The Last Jedi, as a trailer for the Star Wars film is released online.

The movie follows on from The Force Awakens and will feature the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa.

Many fans pointed out that it looks like, for a brief moment, Fisher makes an appearance in this new footage.

The trailer was unveiled at a Star Wars celebration in Orlando, Florida and amassed thousands of views online in just a few minutes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB4I68XVPzQ

A new poster has also been presented to the public, which includes images of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Daisy Ridley (Rey).