Roku debuts a 15-minute weekly series that recommends what to watch next

Roku is expanding its programming for its free content hub, The Roku Channel, with today’s launch of its own weekly entertainment program called “Roku Recommends.” The 15-minute show will leverage Roku’s data to highlight the Top 5 titles for viewers to stream that week. While not exactly “original programming” the way that Roku’s recent additions of its acquired Quibi content is, the series will run only on Roku, where it can be found in The Roku Channel and Featured Free, with new episodes every Thursday.

The series is the first production to emerge from the new Roku Brand Studio — a studio that aims to produce video ads and other custom branded content for ad partners. The show is produced by Funny Or Die and Mike Farah, Beth Belew, and Jim Ziegler serve as executive producers.

The show’s co-hosts include entertainment reporter and AfterBuzz TV co-founder Maria Menounos and former NFL player, Andrew “Hawk” Hawkins. The duo will present the Top 5 titles to viewers. These recommended shows or movies may come from any of the thousands of channels across the Roku platform, based on data exclusive to the platform.

“According to Nielsen data, the average streamer spends more than seven minutes searching for what to watch next,” said Chris Bruss, Head of Roku Brand Studio, in a statement. “We are uniquely positioned to use our trending data both to help consumers find incredible movies and shows and to help advertisers go beyond the traditional 30-second ad to entertain streamers who otherwise spend time in ad-free, subscription-only environments,” he added.

The series will also allow for ad sponsors. The company says it has already signed on several national advertisers, starting with Walmart, to sponsor the program. Advertisers will have access to Roku’s Measurement Partner Program to determine whether or not their integration reaches subscription video on-demand (SVOD)-only streaming users, as well as view other metrics about their video ad campaign’s reach, brand perception and impact.

The series comes at a time when the streaming landscape is shifting. Today’s streaming services regularly serve up recommended content based on what their customers are watching — Netflix, for example, shows rows of popular and trending content, as well as a Top 10 list of newly popular titles. But as the number of available streaming services grows, larger entities merge, and content jumps around as licensing agreements end and start, consumers may be more in need of a set of current recommendations from across channels and services, not just those isolated inside one service.

Amazon Fire TV’s update recently addressed this need with the introduction of a new “Find” feature that aims to make it easier for users to search and browse movies, shows and free content across its platform. Roku, however, didn’t have a recommendation system of its own.

It’s also interesting to see that Roku is willing to use its proprietary streaming data in this way — something it could choose to do more with further down the road to help build out a broader set of recommendations, if it chose.

 

#cord-cutting, #funny-or-die, #internet-television, #media, #multimedia, #player, #quibi, #roku, #streaming, #streaming-media, #streaming-services, #television, #tv, #walmart

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HBO Max hits 28.7M subscribers in Q3, but few are over-the-top

AT&T painted a rosy picture of HBO Max adoption during the company’s earnings report on Thursday. Despite not being available on Roku, one of the top streaming platforms in the U.S., AT&T said new HBO Max activations more than doubled from second-quarter levels, reaching 8.6 million in Q3.

In total, 28.7 million customers were eligible to stream their HBO Max subscription by the end of the quarter, the company said.

Of these, 25.1 million came from “wholesale” agreements — meaning a pay TV provider of some kind, like Comcast, Charter, Verizon [TechCrunch’s parent], or AT&T’s own DirecTV, for example. But only 3.625 million were direct “retail” subscribers.

Combined, both HBO and HBO Max topped 38 million subscribers in the U.S. and 57 million worldwide. The 38 million figure put the company ahead of its previously announced year-end target of 36 million, the report said.

However, AT&T’s numbers alone don’t paint a true picture of who’s really watching HBO Max content.

AT&T touts its quarterly “activiations” without clarifying that only a small portion of customers are choosing to sign up for HBO Max directly by paying $15 per month for a subscription. A larger portion are simply becoming eligible to watch the streaming service through their existing HBO subscriptions — but many haven’t yet signed in and actually streamed.

In fact, some significant portion of these 8.6 million new “activations” may not yet even know that HBO Max exists — especially if the service is unavailable on their favorite streaming platform, like Roku. Or they may know it exists but can’t find it on Roku, so they think it just hasn’t launched.

Roku finally took this issue into its own hands, and is now working around the stalled negotiations by adding support for AirPlay 2 on its newer devices. This will give Apple customers a way to stream from apps that haven’t launched on the Roku platform itself.

AT&T also said it’s continuing to invest in HBO Max, having poured around $600 million in the service during Q3, bringing its investment to $1.3 billion for the year so far. And it’s on track for an estimated investment of $2 billion by year-end.

The company also said consumer engagement on the new platform was doing well, up nearly 60% from HBO Now levels. But it offered few other metrics of success, other than saying its “library” titles have been “performing incredibly strong” with its customer base. In addition, only 1 or 2 pieces of leased content have made it into the HBO Max top 10, but AT&T admitted it could have launched with a stronger slate of original programs.

On the product side, AT&T said it would be pushing out software updates every 45 days to improve the user interface and usability of the app. And it’s still on track to launch an advertising-supported version of the service (AVOD)  in 2021, as planned, and expand internationally.

“AVOD not only allows us to broaden the offering [and] the amount of content we put on the platform,” explained AT&T CEO John Stankey, “it allows us to hit a different price point and attract different segments of the market and as a result of that we think that will be an important market expansion capability for us,” he said.

 

 

 

 

#att, #cord-cutting, #hbo, #max, #media, #streaming

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CBS All Access to rebrand to Paramount+, expand internationally in 2021

Viacom-owned streaming service CBS All Access is becoming Paramount+, the company announced this morning. The name change, which will take place next year, aims to better reflect the expanded content lineup that has joined the service following the Viacom-CBS merger in 2019, including content from brands like BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian Channel, TV Land, VH1, Paramount Pictures, and other sports programming. In addition, Paramount+ will expand internationally in 2021, initially to markets like Australia, Latin America and the Nordics.

ViacomCBS’ plans to rebrand the service were previously known. The company earlier this year had told investors a rebranded and expanded service would arrive sometime the summer. It later pushed that timeframe back to 2021, but continued to roll out new content.

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish had earlier described the company’s plans for the expanded service as one which would allow it to showcase the company’s biggest franchises and deep library, but also one that would leverage the company’s IP for original content, as it has already done now with its multiple “Star Trek” series and “The Good Wife” spin-off “The Good Fight,” for example. The rebranded service would also continue to promote the company’s sports offerings, including its continual airing of NFL games as well as those from other leagues, like the NCAA and PGA.

All this would run on CBS All Access’ existing tech platform, not a new service built from scratch.

Today, ViacomCBS notes that the new service Paramount+ will also feature an expanded array of originals. This includes “The Offer,” a scripted limited series about the making of “The Godfather;” CIA spy drama “Lioness” created by Taylor Sheridan; a reimagined version of MTV’s “Behind the Music,” that will focus on the past 40 years; a true crime docuseries “The Real Criminal Minds,” based on the fictional TV hit; and a revival of BET’s “The Game.”

These shows will join previously announced plans for new kids original series “Kamp Koral,” from Nickelodeon’s “Spongebob Squarepants,” and the service’s plan to be the SVOD home for “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run.”

Paramount+ will also continue to feature existing originals, like “The Good Fight,” “The Twilight Zone,” Tooning Out the News,” “No Activity,” Why Women Kill,” “Interrogation,” “The Thomas John Experience,” “Tell Me a Story,” “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Picard,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” as well as upcoming series “The Stand,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “The Harper House,” “Guilty Party,” and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”

The company says the broader lineup from this summer has already impacted the service’s viewership and demographics. Following the addition of the new content, including over 3,500 episodes of TV from across ViacomCBS’ brands, CBS All Access broke its records for total monthly streams in August and saw one of its best-ever months for new subscribers. These users were also measurably younger than the service’s overall average subscriber age, thanks in part to the addition of UEFA and other content.

As CBS All Access nears its 2021 rebrand to Paramount+, it will further expand its content lineup to reach more than 30,000 episodes and movies and continue to develop new originals from brands including BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and others.

“Paramount is an iconic and storied brand beloved by consumers all over the world, and it is synonymous with quality, integrity and world-class storytelling,” said Bob Bakish, President and CEO, ViacomCBS, in a statement about the changes. “With Paramount+, we’re excited to establish one global streaming brand in the broad-pay segment that will draw on the sheer breadth and depth of the ViacomCBS portfolio to offer an extraordinary collection of content for everyone to enjoy.”

Paramount+, notably, is also the latest to embrace the plus sign (+) suffix as part of its branding, following the launch of newer streaming services like Disney+, Apple TV+, ESPN+, TiVo+, and just yesterday, the kids-focused media catalog, Amazon Kids+. It’s unclear, however, if the name “Paramount” will resonate with prized younger viewers as much as the company hopes, or if this general trend toward adding a “plus” sign is helping these services truly carve out their own space.

ViacomCBS didn’t announce any plans to change pricing when the new service goes live.

In Q2 2020, ViacomCBS said its domestic paid streaming services, including CBS All Access and Showtime, had reached 16.2 million subscribers, up 74% year-over-year. CBS All Access had also broke its own records for paid subscribers, streams and minutes watched in the quarter.

 

 

 

#cbs, #cbs-all-access, #cord-cutting, #media, #paramount, #paramount-plus, #streaming-service, #streaming-tv, #viacomcbs

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Netflix test puts a ‘Shuffle Play’ button right on your home screen

Don’t know what you’re in the mood to watch? Netflix’s new “Shuffle” feature could help. The company confirms it’s currently testing a feature that puts a big button labeled “Shuffle Play” right on the Netflix home screen, beneath your user profile icon. When pressed, Netflix will randomly play content it thinks you’ll like. This could be a movie or show you’re currently watching, something you’ve saved to your list, or a title that’s similar to something you’ve already watched, the company says.

The new button is currently showing up on the Netflix app for TV devices, much to many users’ surprise. Some users thought the addition could be fun or useful, while others just seem confused.

The company tells TechCrunch the idea behind the feature is to help its members quickly and easily find content that’s tailored to their tastes. This is a challenge Netflix has addressed over the years through a variety of features and tests, like screensavers on its TV apps, pre-roll videos, and even promotional content showcased on the home screen. Ultimately, the company wants the experience of using Netflix to feel more like watching traditional TV — meaning you can just turn it on and something starts playing. (Of course, that’s also what gave us the annoying auto-playing feature, which Netflix finally allowed users to disable with an update earlier this year.)

The new “Shuffle Play” button is the latest in a long series of tests where Netflix has tried to make a shuffle concept work. Last year, for example, Netflix tried out a shuffle mode that let you click on a popular show to start playing a random episode. This may have worked well when users wanted to play a random episode of their default pick, like the “The Office” or “Friends,” but Netflix is losing the former in 2021 and it has already lost the latter.

More recently, some Netflix users discovered a shuffle option called “Play Something” in their TV app’s sidebar navigation. (See below)

Netflix confirmed these are all variations on the general “shuffle mode” concept, which it’s been trying out across surfaces, including what it calls the “profile gate,” as well as the side menu and the main screen. Currently, the “Shuffle Play” button on the profile screen is the only test that’s still underway, we’re told.

The company said it started to roll out the new test to members worldwide last month and only on TV devices. Netflix has yet to make a decision about if or when it will launch a shuffle feature publicly, as it needs to first collect feedback from each different test and compare the results.

#cord-cutting, #netflix, #streaming, #streaming-services, #streaming-video, #tc, #tv, #video

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Plex launches a live TV service with over 80 free channels, most available worldwide

Streaming media platform Plex announced today it’s further expanding into live TV with the addition of over 80 free live TV channels accessible by free users and subscribers alike. The company had already allowed consumers to capture and record live TV by way of a digital antenna and tuner connected to a Plex media server, but this had required investment in additional hardware and involved a more complicated setup process.

The new Live TV service, meanwhile, will offer easier access to a broad range of free content across categories like news, sports, film, classic TV, comedy, game shows, anime, kids, entertainment, esports, and more.

The channel lineup include Reuters TV, Yahoo Finance, Toon Goggles, Kidoodle TV, KidsFlix,
fubo Sports Network, Cooking Panda, DrinkTV, IGN TV, AFV Family, Tastemade, Revry, FailArmy, Dove Channel, Docurama, The Pet Collective, WeatherSpy, Made in Hollywood, and others. There are also channels dedicated to individual programs, like The Bob Ross Channel or Deal or No Deal, for example. Others are more thematic in nature, like Surf TV, the Law & Crime Trial Network, Game Show Central, Retro Crush, Gravitas Movies, and more. A range of music video channels, also genre-based, fill out the selection.

While none of these are big names, they expand Plex’s service with a range of free content where you might catch something interesting upon browsing — like a cooking show, old movie, classic TV episode, funny video, or kids cartoon, for instance.

Initially, Plex users will access the service from a new section called “Live TV On Plex.” From here, you’re taken to a more traditional grid guide that shows you what’s currently airing on each channel and what’s coming up in the hours ahead. In the future, Plex says it aims to integrate the free live channels with its existing product for recording from live TV via the over-the-air antenna, in order to simplify navigation.

Unlike with its current Live TV product, you can only tune into and watch the free live TV programs — you can’t record the shows or movies. However, in true Plex fashion, it’s making it easy to customize the guide to your particular interests, by allowing you to do things like reorder channels to your liking or even hide those you don’t care about.

Though there are several “free TV” services on the market today, Plex aims to differentiate its offering by making over 80% of the live channels available to users outside the U.S., where “free TV” services are more limited.

The free content is supported by programmatic advertising, which also supports Plex’s on-demand Movies & TV library and its free News offering. The company says it has no plan to directly sell its own ads for any of these properties, but its continued expansions into ad-supported content have begun to return revenue.

The company declined to speak to its specific revenue situation. But Plex co-founder and Chief Product Officer Scott Olechowski described the numbers as getting “interesting.”

“It’s now becoming interesting enough that we’re able to expand this footprint, the licensing we’re doing, the resources we’re putting into it, and the marketing we’re doing it around it,” he explains. “Because of [Plex’s] independence, the quality of the catalog, and the quality of the app, the amount of interest we’re getting from demand partners is pretty impressive,” Olechowski adds.

Plex may also benefit from the increasing battles between media giants to run their own, competing free TV platforms. For example, Fox Corp. acquired free streaming service TUBI in March and ViacomCBS now runs the free service Pluto.TV, acquired last year. As these services now operate as an arm of corporate giants, it makes sense for them to highlight and promote the parent company’s own content over niche, third-party channels, where the revenue take is smaller.

Now that the service has launched, Plex says the plan is to further expand its lineup with more channels in time, potentially including those it programs itself using content from its existing free Movies & TV library. Longer-term, Plex envisions creating even more personalized channels for its users which would include content from its free services combined with content from your own media library.

More broadly, the company sees live TV as another hole to plug on its way to becoming a comprehensive media platform that includes not only access to users’ personal libraries, but also live and on-demand TV and movies, podcasts, music, news, web shows, and more. The company is still working to add a movies and TV rental and purchase library, and is figuring out a way to direct users to off-platform content, perhaps by way of its movie and TV database, Plex Mediaverse.

The new live TV channels are rolling out now in the U.S. and other international markets, where supported.

#cord-cutting, #live-tv, #media, #plex, #streaming-service, #streaming-tv, #tv

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NBCU’s Peacock streaming service hits 1.5M app downloads in first 6 days

NBCU’s Peacock appears to be having a somewhat better launch than Quibi did, based on data from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower. While numbers pointing to new app downloads aren’t a complete picture of consumer adoption for a cross-platform service, they can provide a window into early traction outside of any official numbers provided by the companies themselves.

In Peacock’s case, Sensor Tower says the mobile app has now been downloaded around 1.5 million times across the U.S. App Store and Google Play within its first 6 days on the market.

For comparison, that’s 25% more than the 1.2 million installs Quibi saw during the same period post-launch in the U.S., but only 12% of the 13 million downloads Disney+ generated within its first 6 days.

Sensor Tower chose not to compare Peacock with HBO Max due to the fact that HBO’s new service replaced the existing HBO Now app, which was already pre-installed on consumer devices. That would not be as apt a comparison.

Peacock, of course, doesn’t have the brand-name recognition of Disney. And arguably, its name doesn’t translate into consumers’ minds as “NBC,” despite its connection to the classic peacock logo. Disney, meanwhile, had a built-in fan base before its streaming service’s launch. And, more broadly, there was pent-up consumer demand for a more family-friendly offering, as well.

Before last week’s launch, Peacock had been available on parent company Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex platforms, but that didn’t include its mobile companion. The mobile app instead officially launched on July 15, and quickly shot up to No. 1 on the iPhone App Store, where it remained through the following day. On iPad, it ranked No. 1 between July 16 and July 18.

Today, the app has since dropped to No. 26 on iPhone (among non-game apps). Meanwhile, on Google Play, it has ranked No. 2 since July 17, and is No. 1 among non-game apps.

Quibi had also seen early traction on the app stores’ top charts shortly after its launch, ranking as high as No. 4 on iPhone on its launch day, April 6. But just over a week later it had rapidly fallen out of the U.S. iPhone app rankings, App Annie’s data indicated, dropping out of the top 50. That saw it coming in behind Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video.

Peacock hasn’t yet fallen that far, which could be a good signal.

There was also much discussion that Quibi’s failure to gain significant early traction had to do with its lack of support for TV viewing, despite launching in the middle of a pandemic when users were staying at home and watching on their living room big screens.

However, it’s worth pointing out that Peacock hasn’t yet rolled out to the two most widely-adopted living room platforms in the U.S.: Amazon Fire TV and Roku. That lends more support to the idea that Quibi hasn’t been struggling to grow because of its mobile-only nature, but because its content wasn’t drawing in viewers.

For what it’s worth, Quibi has disputed recent reports of its slow traction, noting earlier this month its app had gained 5.6 million downloads since launch — more than the 4.5 million Sensor Tower had claimed at the time.

Even if Sensor Tower’s estimates aren’t an exact science, the overall trend its figures paint is one of where neither Peacock nor Quibi have become overnight sensations at launch. Of course, the growth trajectory for any Netflix rival is sure to be tough in today’s crowded market. But these companies have made it even more difficult for consumers to connect due to their lack of a recognizable brand name and their failure to offer dedicated apps for top living room devices at launch.

#apps, #cord-cutting, #media, #peacock, #quibi, #streaming-services

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Amazon Fire TV now pulls in live TV content from Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV

Amazon is upgrading its Fire TV’s live TV experience through new integrations with several live TV streaming services, including Sling TV, YouTube TV, and Hulu + Live TV. Live content from these services will now appear within key areas with the Fire TV user interface, including the Fire TV’s Live tab and Channel Guide, making Fire TV feel even more like a cable TV replacement than before.

Already, Amazon Fire TV had offered integrations with nearly 20 other apps in a similar fashion, including live TV apps like Philo and Pluto TV, as well as its own Prime Video Channels.

But the addition of Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV brings in the three largest and most popular apps among cord cutters who are paying for a live TV experience. Sling TV has 2.31 million subscribers; YouTube TV has over 2 million; and Hulu + Live TV has 3.3 million.

Live content from these apps will be found within three main sections: the Live tab, the “On Now” rows and the multi-app Channel Guide.

Streaming live TV over the internet has become a more popular option for cord cutters over the years, as it offers a less expensive way to have a cable TV-like experience. Unfortunately, that gap has been closing in more recent months, as live TV users have been subjected to continual price increases as the services expanded their channel lineups.

However, many live TV customers remain because even with the increases, it can still be slightly less than cable and offers more flexibility — like working across platforms and not tied to a cable box.

This trend toward live content has also been seen on Fire TV, Amazon says.

The Live tab has become the second-most-visited destination on the Fire TV interface after the Home screen, due to its integrations of live content, the company noted. In addition, live TV streaming apps on Fire TV have seen the total time spent in app and active customers more than double, on average, since Fire TV added its live TV discovery integrations.

Image Credits: Amazon

“Fire TV is hugely popular among Philo fans. Since integrating with Amazon’s live streaming discovery features, the number of active Philo users is up nearly 2.5x on Fire TV,” said Philo CEO Andrew McCollum, whose TV streaming app was one of the earlier additions to Fire TV.

To use new integrations, you’ll first need to log into the streaming app you subscribe to with your current account information. You can then access the app’s live content across the Live Tab, which organizes live content in the familiar Netflix-like style of scrollable rows. Here, there are rows for things like “Live Sports” and “Live News,” plus content from your subscriptions’ channels.

From here, you can hop into the Channel Guide, which offers the more traditional grid guide, similar to cable TV.

This format is proving popular among live TV service subscribers.

On Monday, for example, Roku introduced its own Live TV Channel Guide, accessible via a new tile, which allows Roku users to browse the free live and linear content Roku offers in a similar way.

Amazon’s Fire TV platform, however, has the perk of Alexa integration.

That means users can ask Alexa to open the Channel Guide or even change the channel, by saying “Alexa, tune to [name of channel],” for example. This works via built-in Alexa on the Fire TV Cube, via a paired Echo device, or by using the Fire TV’s Alexa Voice Remote, depending on your setup.

“We’re excited to welcome Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV into our integrated suite of Live TV discovery features,” said Sandeep Gupta, VP of Fire TV, in a statement. “We believe the future of Connected TV is one that brings live content forward, simplifies the streaming and OTT landscape, and enables customers to discover the programs they want to watch with ease,” he added.

Sling TV’s integration began rolling out earlier this year, Amazon clarifies, but is being officially announced today.

YouTube TV will be available starting today, and Hulu + Live TV will become available in the coming weeks.

#alexa, #amazon, #amazon-fire-tv, #cord-cutting, #fire-tv, #live-tv, #live-tv-streaming-service, #media, #streaming-service, #streaming-tv, #tv

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Amazon Prime Video finally launches user profiles to all customers worldwide

Amazon’s Prime Video is finally adding a feature that’s long since become a standard for streaming video services: user profiles. With profiles, Prime Video users will have access to their own Watchlist, personalized recommendations, and they’ll be able to track their own viewing progress, similar to rival services, like Netflix.

Customers can create up to 6 profiles for their household members, including 1 primary profile associated with the Amazon account, plus 5 additional profiles, which can be a mix of adult and kids’ profiles.

The new profiles will be first available in the Prime Video app on iOS, Android, Fire tablet (Gen 10 and higher), and the Fire TV Prime Video app, in addition to the Prime Video apps built for other living room devices.

Prime Video profiles were spotted earlier this year by NDTV, which led to some erroneous reporting that the feature had officially launched to all. In actuality, Amazon first rolled out profiles to its customers in India and Africa. It’s now making it accessible to all worldwide, including the U.S.

Image Credits: Amazon

For any profile set as a “Kids” profile, the service will only include age-appropriate content aimed at those 12 years old or younger. The search results and search suggestions will also be filtered to only show Kids titles. Children with a Kids profile won’t be able to make purchases, either.

Meanwhile, any adult profile will be able to play all the entitled Prime Video content form the primary account, including content that has been purchased or rented, Prime Video titles, Prime Video Channels, and Live content.

However, if the adult wants to set up parental controls on their account so this content is not accessible on a shared device, like the living room TV, they can do so. In this case, viewing restrictions will be enabled but parents can enter a PIN code to access the content, as they can now.

Parents can also continue to block children from making purchases from an adult profile by enabling Purchase Restrictions under Prime Video Settings, which will also require a PIN to complete the transaction.

The one exception to how child profiles work is on mobile devices. The Prime Video app will allow a child profile to access the adult profile’s downloads on mobile — a decision Amazon made because it didn’t want to restrict access to downloads if the device was taken offline, making it impossible to profile switch.

In addition, for customers that have set up wallet-sharing in their Amazon Household settings, Prime Video will automatically create profiles for those users. This can be disabled from the Manage your profiles page, but once profile sharing is off, it can’t be re-enabled.

The lack of user profiles have been, to date, one of the bigger oversights with Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service, first launched in 2011, and a much-requested feature for years. Today, streaming services don’t just compete on their content library but on how well they can surface the titles from that library by way of personalized recommendations and other tools that keep a user’s favorites and interests easily accessible. But Prime Video ignored this need, forcing all members of a household to share a single account. That choice told customers that even Amazon itself didn’t consider Prime Video a true competitor to other top services, like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+.

It’s finally correcting this matter, but only as the streaming market crowds with new offerings, like recently launched HBO Max and NBCU’s forthcoming Peacock, for example.

Amazon cautions that user profiles are being launched today, but not everyone will see them immediately. The feature is rolling out in phases, so you may see them arrive in a few days’ time, if not today.

#amazon, #amazon-prime-video, #cord-cutting, #media, #prime, #prime-video, #streaming, #streaming-service

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‘Hamilton’ gives Disney+ a holiday weekend bump in US, with app downloads up 72%

The much-anticipated addition of “Hamilton” seems to have paid off for Disney+. According to new data from app store analytics firm Apptopia, Disney’s streaming service saw a big jump in downloads over the July 4 holiday weekend in the U.S., following the worldwide debut of “Hamilton” on Friday, July 3rd. Between Friday and Sunday, that translated to over half a million new global downloads (513,000+) for the Disney+ mobile app, excluding India and Japan. Some 266,084 of those downloads were in the U.S, the firm estimated.

These figures represent a 46.6% increase over the average seen during the previous four weekends in June (Friday through Sunday), Apptopia noted. But the numbers don’t include India or Japan as Disney+ is streamed via Hotstar in the former; and in the latter via a partnership with NTT Docomo through an existing service that later transitioned to Disney+.

Image Credits: Apptopia

The download figures also represented a 72.4% increase over the four prior weekends in June, in the U.S, indicating that a significant amount of interest in “Hamilton,” not surprisingly — given its “founding fathers” subject matter — comes from U.S. subscribers.

Notably, these downloads represent paid subscribers, not free trial users, as Disney+ ended its free week-long trial offering back in June. 

Rival firm Sensor Tower estimates a slightly different “Hamilton”-related bump for Disney+. During the week of June 29 to July 5, downloads spiked 64% over the week prior, Yahoo reported. Its preliminary estimates for July 3-5 put installs at 1 million across all available markets.

Image Credits: Apptopia

Apptopia also found that “Hamilton” represented the biggest content launch of all of 2020, so far, in terms of downloads. That means it also outpaced the streaming launch of “Frozen 2,” which arrived while consumers were under coronavirus lockdowns. It was also bigger than “Onward,” “Artemis Fowl,” and others, the firm found.

Image Credits: Disney

Of course, mobile download numbers don’t provide a full picture of how many signed up just for “Hamilton.” Many of the new Disney+ subscribers likely only signed up via a TV app and have yet to download the mobile companion.

If Roku’s online channel store offered a “top charts” section with rankings, we would have another window into Disney+ popularity given its status as a top streaming device and TV maker in the U.S. But it’s worth pointing out that Roku’s user base has given the Disney+ app a 4.3-star rating across 1,55,006 total reviews. For comparison, Netflix has 3,675,383 reviews — which shows how quickly the still relatively new service Disney+ is gaining on the market leader.

In May, Disney announced its streaming service had grown from 33.5 million subscribers as of March 28 to 54.4 million Disney+ subscribers as of May 4.

The service appeals to those who follow Disney’s top brands like Star Wars and Marvel, for example, but it’s also found a lot of growth among families who now more than ever need content to keep kids entertained amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has limited families’ usual activities and kept kids indoors.  At the $6.99 per month price point (or $69.99/yr), it’s one of the more affordable streaming services available.

 

 

#apps, #apptopia, #cord-cutting, #disney, #disney-plus, #mobile, #streaming, #streaming-service

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YouTube TV hikes price to $64.99 per month following new channel additions

YouTube TV is getting another price hike, making its live TV streaming service less competitive with the cable TV services it aims to replace. The company announced today its service would now cost $64.99 per month, starting today, June 30, for new members. The change will also be reflected on the next billing cycle for current members after June 30.

The bump in pricing is now one of several price increases YouTube TV has seen since its debut, starting with a modest $5 per month bump in 2018, followed by a much more substantial price hike last year to $50 per month.

The increases are due to the rising costs of programming for the streaming TV service as the pay TV industry collapses amid a rise in cord cutting — a trend now accelerating at even a faster pace due to the pandemic.

YouTube TV had announced in May it would soon gain 14 more ViacomCBS channels as part of an expanded distribution deal. This included the addition of new channels like BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, TV Land and VH1 which are today being made available. This brings YouTube TV’s base plan to over 85 channels.

Other channels that were are a part of that same deal — including BET Her, MTV2, MTV Classic, Nick Jr., NickToons, and TeenNick — are due to arrive at a later date, the company noted.

While YouTube TV didn’t announce its plans to raise prices back in May, at this point it’s to be expected whenever a service says it’s adding channels to its core offering.

But for YouTube TV’s some 2 million subscribers, new additions aren’t always welcome.

The original promise of live TV streaming services were smaller lineups, sometimes even a la carte options, for a lower monthly price.

Services like Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, Philo, and others offer pared down channel selections compared with the hundreds of channels offered by cable and satellite providers. But in the years since their respective launches, they’ve slowly closed the gap with cable by adding more and more channels to base packages and raising prices.

In addition to the ViacomCBS channels, YouTube TV also recently introduced premium add-ons including Cinemax and HBO Max.

Now, instead of wooing consumers on price, YouTube TV focuses on feature set.

For example, YouTube TV announced today a new feature that allows users to jump to various segments within select news programs on the service, starting first on TV screens and coming to mobile in the next several weeks. It also touted its unlimited DVR, dark mode option, “Mark Watched” feature, and redesigned Live Guide with access to TV programming for the week ahead.

“We don’t take these decisions lightly, and realize how hard this is for our members,” YouTube TV’s announcement read, in detailing the price hike.

“That said, this new price reflects the rising cost of content and we also believe it reflects the complete value of YouTube TV, from our breadth of content to the features that are changing how we watch live TV,” wrote YouTube TV VP of Product Management, Christian Oestlien. “YouTube TV is the only streaming service that includes a DVR with unlimited storage space, plus 6 accounts per household each with its own unique recommendations, and 3 concurrent streams. It’s all included in the base cost of YouTube TV, with no contract and no hidden fees,” he said.

The company also noted it was working to develop more flexible models for YouTube TV users, but didn’t offer details on what those are or when they would arrive.

#cord-cutting, #live-tv, #media, #streaming-service, #television, #tv, #youtube, #youtube-tv

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Nielsen finds connected TV viewing remains higher than pre-COVID-19 levels, despite lockdowns lifting

The significant increases in TV watching and streaming services that were seen during the COVID-19 lockdowns in the U.S. may represent the new normal, new data from Nielsen suggests. During the height of the lockdowns, the weekly time spent watching connected TVs grew alongside overall media use, rising by over a billion hours in the passing weeks. But now that government restrictions and shelter-in-place orders are lifting, connected TV usage continues to remain well above pre-COVID-19 normals, the firm has found.

Connected TVs, which include things like smart TVs, internet-connected devices, and even game consoles, allow users to access a variety of entertainment beyond traditional broadcast or cable channels. They also offer access to sources of over-the-top content, streaming apps, games, and other subscription video services. Because of this wealth of content, connected TV usage grew during the pandemic while traditional TV usage in early May still hadn’t grown much over 2019 levels.

As of March 2020, 76% of U.S. homes had at least one connected TV, Nielsen data found. But that doesn’t necessarily correlate to usage. In January 2020, those homes with connected devices streamed a collective 12.5 billion of hours per month.

Shortly after COVID-19 spread in the U.S., that usage grew. The total number of hours spent with the devices was up 81% year-over-year, equating to an increase of nearly 4 billion hours of connected TV use per week.

Specifically, usage of the devices grew in the living room as families spent more time watching together, with “co-viewing,” as it’s called, growing to account for 62.5% of the share of minutes watched in early March to 64.1% by the end of the month.

Outside of the connected TV space, co-viewing across broadcast, cable and syndicated TV also grew by 2 percentage points (from 34% to 36%) from early March to early May.

What’s most notable about the data, however, is that the trend towards increased connected TV viewing isn’t being significantly impacted by the lifting of government lockdowns. Although people have the option to leave their homes and go to more places, they’re still choosing to spend time indoors watching TV.

In the first week of March, connected TV households spent a combined 2.7 billion watching TV. That continued to grow as restrictions went into place, peaking at nearly 4 billion hours during the week of April 6-12, 2020, in the U.S. By early May, however, when stay-at-home orders lifted across numerous states, connected TV usage had only dropped to 3.5 billion hours per week — higher than before the lockdowns began.

It may seem obvious that consumers would be more cautious about venturing out in the world when there’s no vaccine for COVID-19 and reported cases to continue to climb. But this is hard data that points to the potential longer-term impacts the pandemic will have on the way U.S. consumers behave.

“With 49 of the U.S. states now re-open at least partially, the continued high CTV usage is a testament to consumers’ attraction to the variety of options available and the connectivity they have to it,” said Nielsen. “So in this new normal, we see that connected TV and co-viewing are a big part of the new media consumption equation,” the firm said.

 

#cord-cutting, #media, #nielsen, #streaming, #television, #tv

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The Roku Channel expands to include over 100 live channels, adds a Live TV guide

Roku is expanding its free live, linear channel lineup that’s part of its free movies and TV hub, The Roku Channel. In the U.S., Roku customers will now be able to stream from more than 100 live channels, including those offering free access to news, sports, movies, TV, kids and family programming, lifestyle content and Spanish-language programming. Along with the expansion, Roku is also launching a new Live TV guide to make it easier to browse through its free content.

The update, which includes 40 new channels, would seem to position Roku as more of a direct challenger to rival free video streaming services, including Pluto TV and XUMO. The former was acquired by Viacom (now ViacomCBS) in 2019 for $340 million, while XUMO was bought by Comcast earlier this year for over $100 million.

But instead, Roku is working in partnership with those companies — its free live channels include content that’s powered by XUMO as well as Pluto TV.

Also among the new additions is a video news channel from Reuters. 

The full list of new channels includes: The Bob Ross Channel, Bon Appetit, Condé Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Glamour, GQ, Wired, Game Show Central, Reelz, Gravitas Movie Channel, SportsGrid, Brat TV, FilmRise Action, Revry, Love Nature, MAVTV Select, Deal or No Deal, Family Feud, Got Talent Global, XUMO Free Movies, XUMO Free Westerns, Kidz Bop TV, ZooMoo, Buzzr TV, Voyager, Reuters, PowerNation, Teletubbies, Rainbow Ruby, Redbox Free Movies, Kidoodle TV, Rev and Roll, and Ryan and Friends.

Six Spanish-language channels — Pongalo NovelaClub, Moviemix by Pongalo, AFV Espanol, Latido Music, Love Nature Spanish and AmericaTeve — launched ahead of the news announcement.

Roku has been rapidly expanding The Roku Channel hub since its launch in September 2017. While it initially focused on offering a selection of free, ad-supported movies — similar to Vudu’s “Movies on Us” or TUBI, for example — it has grown to include a range of free content, including TV, news, sports and even live channels, as well as add-on premium subscriptions.

Today, the hub offers more than 100,000 titles, including free movies and TV reaching Roku’s estimated 36 million users.

The hub makes Roku a top choice for cord-cutters, as it centralizes access to free streaming content. The ad-supported content, meanwhile, contributes to Roku’s bottom line. The company today generates more money from its platform business than its device sales. Even amid the pandemic, which saw advertisers pulling back, Roku booked $232.56 million in platform revenue in Q1, which includes ads and licensing fees, versus just $88.21 million in device sales.

Roku says the hub continues to grow substantially faster than its overall platform, with a greater than 100% increase in streaming hours year-over-year in Q1.

The launch of the Live TV Channel Guide will make accessing the expanded lineup channels easier, via a new “Live TV” tile on The Roku Channel. In addition, users can press left on their remote at any time to bring up the guide.

“Now more than ever it’s important for our users to have easy access to free content, such as news, and the ability to find it quickly,” said Ashley Hovey, Roku’s director of AVOD Growth, in a statement. “We’re excited to enhance the streaming experience through a Live Channel TV Guide and bring more free content from The Roku Channel to the forefront.”

Updated 6/2/20, 11:30 AM ET with full list of new channels. 

#cord-cutting, #live-tv, #media, #roku, #streaming, #streaming-service, #the-roku-channel, #tv-streaming-service

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Shuttered restaurants, bars, hotels speed up TV cord-cutting even more

Every chair in a empty restaurant is inverted onto its corresponding table.

Enlarge / Would you pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for cable if your restaurant looked like this right now? (credit: Justin Sullivan | Getty Images )

Everyone is stuck at home, which you would think would mean a lot more TV watching, not less. And up to a point, that’s true: millions of us are putting millions of hours into streaming content from Netflix, Disney+, and others. What we aren’t doing, though, is watching cable—especially sports, which aren’t happening in the bars and restaurants we aren’t going to.

Residential customers have been cutting the cord for years, but now commercial subscribers to pay-TV companies have started jumping into the cancellation heap, The Wall Street Journal reports. Restaurants, bars, hotels, and airlines aren’t continuing to pay for pricey channel bundles when nobody is coming in, and even if they could, those viewers would have nothing to watch.

Cable operators continue to charge fees for sports programming that currently doesn’t exist thanks to a fairly tangled web of rights and contracts. And while some customers could receive rebates down the line, managing cash flow today may be easier if you just cancel the package altogether. That’s even truer for small businesses, which are trying to shore up enough resources to survive long-term.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#biz-it, #cable, #cord-cutting, #cord-cutters, #pay-tv-subscriptions, #pay-tv, #policy

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TiVo enters the streaming market with a $50 Android TV-powered device, TiVo Stream 4K

TiVo today is launching a new device, its would-be Fire TV Stick competitor known as the TiVo Stream 4K. First announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, this $50 Android TV-powered HDMI dongle is TiVo’s attempt to insert itself into the streaming media device market.

The new dongle arrives at a time when TiVo has largely lost its customer base to rivals like Roku, Amazon, Apple, and others who have better catered to the demands of cord cutters. Meanwhile, TiVo’s own DVR for pay TV customers has slowly gone out of fashion as the cord cutting trend accelerated.

As the name implies, the new device supports 4K UHD, along with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos. Chromecast is built in, too.

Thanks to its use of the Android TV platform, the TiVo Stream 4K also has access to thousands of Play Store apps for streaming including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO, Disney+, and others.

But one thing it doesn’t have is a way to record live TV. Instead, TiVo has left that up to its partner Sling TV and that service’s Cloud DVR. The deal with Sling TV also offers integration that includes surfacing Sling’s content in universal search and through voice commands via the included Voice Remote.

The decision to prominently feature Sling TV could make a transition to a streaming device less awkward for first-time cord cutters, who may miss the always-on nature of live TV and its linear programming guide.

The voice button on the remote can also call up Google Assistant, as on other Android TV devices, which means you can do more than search for content. The assistant can answer questions, too —  like giving you the daily weather forecast, for example.

The TiVo Stream 4K also includes access to TiVo’s newer ad-supported streaming service, TiVo+ — its own version of Roku’s free movies and TV hub, The Roku Channel. TiVo+ includes access to thousands of hours of free movie and TV shows and 49 streaming channels across news, sports, kids, food, music, and comedy.

Unlike TiVo devices that preceded it, the TiVo Stream 4K doesn’t require a subscription to continue to use its service. It’s just the one-time purchase of $49.99, which includes a 7-day free trial of Sling TV.

“At a time when viewers are streaming more than ever across a sea of platforms, TiVo Stream 4K integrates that content with recommendation and search features to make it easier to find, watch and enjoy the best news, entertainment and sports from today’s most popular services,” said Dave Shull, TiVo president and CEO, in a statement. “After an incredibly positive reception from media and the wider industry at CES, we are delivering on our promise to launch TiVo Stream 4K, which is symbolic of our company’s transformation from a well-loved DVR provider to a pioneer in the streaming market,” he said.

TiVo, of course, can hardly call itself a pioneer in a market where a number of streaming dongle devices already exist and have for years — including the Fire TV Stock, Roku Streaming Stick, and Chromecast. Leading device maker Roku has also plugged nearly every hole in the market with a variety of form factors and feature sets from its low-end boxes and sticks to its high-end 4K player.

Meanwhile, TiVo has stuck around trying to reinvent its DVR for the era of cord cutting with middling results. Its oddly-designed BOLT-era box for cord cutters was eventually replaced with TiVo Edge, which comes in two packages — one for antenna users, then other for cable TV subscribers. But the demand for watching and recording TV has dwindled, outside of the specific needs of live sports viewers.

With declining hardware sales and subscriber numbers, TiVo has turned its business to advertising, including its TiVo+ streaming service and with skippable pre-roll ads on DVR recordings. More recently, it has announced plans to merge with technology licensor Xperi in a $3 billion deal.

The TiVo Stream 4K will give it another way to put its ad business in front of more customers.

The device is available now via www.tivo.com/streamNOW.

 

#cord-cutting, #hardware, #media, #streaming, #tivo

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44 million US adults now use ‘borrowed’ accounts to access streaming services

Cutting the cord with cable or satellite TV used to mean a cost savings. But with the growing number of streaming services on the market, many consumers are finding that becoming a cord cutter is just as expensive, if not more so, as being a pay TV customer. As a result, many consumers continue to “borrow” a friend or family member’s subscription. According to a new study by Cordcutting.com, there are now more than 44 million U.S. adults who are “mooching” a streaming service subscription today.

Specifically, the number of moochers is going up for both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but is declining slightly for Hulu.

The streaming services haven’t yet cracked down on password sharing, despite the potential revenue loss attributed to mooching.

For example, if Netflix were to charge everyone who’s mooching for their own account, it could generate a estimated $356 million in additional membership fees per month. Combined, the top four streaming services — Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+ — could generate $2.72 billion in revenue from subscription fees if they were able to get all their moochers to pay.

In reality, though, not everyone borrowing a subscription would pay if access was taken away.

The study found that only 47% of Netflix moochers said they would buy a subscription if they lost access, followed by 41% of Disney+ viewers, 38% of Prime Video viewers and just 36% of Hulu viewers.

The streaming service operators often see these halfway-committed consumers as in the process of being addicted to their content, which may translate to their own subscription in time — when they ween themselves off mom or dad, for example, or get a better-paying job.

In most cases, moochers are borrowing an account belonging to their parents, the study found. Others borrow from siblings or a partner, and, in a few cases, some moochers are still streaming from an ex’s account.

There are even apps designed to make mooching easier. For example, Do Not Pay in March launched an extension designed to share Netflix passwords with friends. An app called Jam is preparing to launch its own questionably legal password-sharing service, too.

Despite the sizable number of moochers today — 44+ million up from 34+ million in 2019 — the overall percentage is declining, the report found.

Compared with its 2019 survey, the percentage of moochers has dropped to 11.6%, down from 17%. The change was largely attributed to declines in those sharing Amazon Prime Video credentials.

As it turns out, many Prime Video moochers have since turned into Prime members, where Prime Video is included. Over the past couple of years, Amazon has added some 50 million new subscribers to its membership program, which now tops 150 million worldwide. With built-in access, these new members no longer need to mooch.

Of course, the number of moochers may change as the impact of the pandemic and unemployment play out.

One thing we do know, however, is that COVID-19 has sent streaming skyrocketing.

Nielsen recently reported streaming was up 36% between February and March, with the average person watching doubling the amount of streaming video compared with the same time last year.

Cordcutting.com’s analysis estimates there are now 142.5 million streaming consumers in the U.S., and now 34% — or 63.4 million — have fully cut the cord with pay TV. That’s up 4 percentage points since its last survey in 2019. Gen Z is the most likely demographic to have cut the the cord, as 45% are streaming-only customers, while just 17% of Baby Boomers are.

Netflix continues to be the most popular, followed by Prime Video, Hulu, then newcomer Disney+.

The full report is here.

#cord-cutting, #media, #streaming-services

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Pluto TV expands with addition of CBS Sports HQ, new deals with TiVo and Verizon

Free streaming service Pluto TV is expanding. The company has today gained access to streaming sports network, CBS Sports HQ, as a result of the ViacomCBS merger. It has also forged new distribution deals with Verizon and TiVo, both of which were detailed this week.

The free streamer had been acquired by Viacom for $340 million in early 2019, ahead of the $12 billion merger of media giants, Viacom and CBS Corp. Since the deal’s completion in December 2019, ViacomCBS has been quick to capitalize on the free streaming platform, which has since received its largest product upgrade in years and an aggressive marketing campaign.

On Tuesday, TiVo announced a partnership with Pluto TV that will give TiVo device owners one-click access to Pluto TV’s over 250 live, linear and ad-supported channels and its thousands of movies and TV shows on demand as a part of TiVo’s own ad-supported video network, TiVo+.

Launched last fall, TiVo+ is enabled by partnerships with XUMO, Jukin Media, and others, to deliver a range of free streaming content to TiVo viewers. (XUMO has since been snatched up by Comcast, we should note)

Meanwhile, Deadline exclusively reported on Pluto TV and Verizon’s rumored plans to team up on a distribution deal that will see Pluto TV distributed across Verizon’s wireless network, on connected TV platforms like Stream TV, and on its pay TV service, FiOS.

And today, the addition of CBS Sports HQ will bring live, anchored sports news coverage to Pluto TV, as well as new programming like “Fantasy Football Today,” “Pick Six,” and “Nothing Personal with David Samson.”

The streaming sports network appeals to a younger demographic, with a median age of 35, which makes a good fit for an over-the-top streaming service like Pluto TV.

Despite the cancellation of live sports events due to COVID-19, or perhaps because of it, people are hungry for sports-related content. CBS Sports HQ reports 31% year-over-year growth in unique viewers in March, some of which could be influenced by the overall growth in streaming seen during the COVID-19 quarantine.

“Pluto TV viewers have shown us how much they value news and sports offerings on the platform,” said Jeff Shultz, Chief Business Officer, Pluto TV, in a statement. “In partnership with our colleagues at CBS, we are excited to bring CBS Sports HQ to our growing audience of sports fans.”

CBS Sports HQ is not the first CBS property to make its way to Pluto TV. The free streamer already offered CBS’ streaming news service, CBSN (including local versions like CBSN:NY and CBSN: LA) as well as its streaming entertainment network, ET Live.

Pluto TV has grown to 22 million monthly active viewers in the U.S., and these numbers should increase as new deals and expansions fall into place.

#cord-cutting, #media, #pluto-tv, #sports, #streaming, #streaming-service, #tivo, #viacomcbs

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Amazon to stream NFL’s Thursday Night Football through 2022, plus one exclusive game each season

The NFL’s Thursday Night Football is returning to stream on Amazon. The companies announced today they’ve renewed their agreement, which will allow Amazon Prime Video to offer a live, digital stream of Thursday Night Football to a global audience through the 2022 season. This time around, the NFL and Amazon also announced a new deal allowing Amazon to exclusively stream one NFL game globally on Prime Video and Twitch for each of the next three seasons.

Amazon and the NFL have been partnered on streaming Thursday Night Football since 2017, initially with a one-year deal that was said to be valued at $50 million. The companies renewed that agreement in 2018 for two more years, valuing each season at $65 million (or $130 million in total).

The terms of this new deal weren’t disclosed, but an initial report from CNBC claims the deal price has been upped once again. That makes sense, of course, given the new agreement is not only arriving two years later but also now includes an exclusive game.

Over time, the audience for the NFL games has grown slightly. The 2019 Thursday Night Football games delivered an average audience of 15.4 million viewers across all properties (broadcast, cable and digital), up 4+% from the 2018 games.

Digital streams in 2019 surpassed an average minute audience of over 1 million, up 43% year-over-year (729K). This includes the streams across Prime Video, Twitch, NFL digital, FOX Sports digital and Verizon Media mobile properties. (Note: TechCrunch’s parent company is owned by Verizon).

Viewers will be able to stream the 11 Thursday Night Football games broadcast by FOX through the Prime Video and Twitch websites and apps across living room devices, mobile phones, tablets and PCs. That makes the games available to Amazon Prime’s more than 150 million worldwide users in over 200 countries and territories, Amazon notes.

But Amazon won’t be the only place to watch most of these games.

The games are also broadcast by FOX in Spanish on FOX Deportes, and will be simulcast on the NFL Network. This continues the league’s “Tri-Cast” strategy, which includes a combination of broadcast, cable and digital distribution.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s exclusively streamed game isn’t a Thursday Night Football game, but instead is a regular season game played on a Saturday in the second half of the season. This game will also be televised over-the-air in the participating teams’ home markets.

As before, the digital streams will include access to Amazon features like X-Ray and Next Gen Stats powered by AWS. Prime members can pick from either the FOX or FOX Deportes broadcast and from a range of alternative audio options exclusive to Prime Video.

Amazon and the NFL will also collaborate on additional content and fan viewing experiences around the game streams in the future.

“As our relationship has expanded, Amazon has become a trusted and valued partner of the NFL,” said Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer for the NFL, in a statement. “Extending this partnership around Thursday Night Football continues our critical mission of delivering NFL games to as many fans in as many ways as possible both in the United States and around the world,” he added.

 

#amazon, #cord-cutting, #football, #media, #nfl, #sports, #streaming, #tc, #twitch

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AT&T loses 897K more pay TV subscribers in Q1 2020, adding pressure to HBO Max launch

AT&T gave a first look into how the pay TV business is faring amid the coronavirus pandemic…and it’s not great. The company reported today as a part of its Q1 2020 earnings that its traditional pay TV services, including DIRECTV and its newer streaming option AT&T TV, saw a combined net loss of 897,000 subscribers in the quarter. Meanwhile, its over-the-top streaming service, AT&T TV Now, also lost 138,000 subscribers, following a number of price hikes.

The company’s newer pay TV service, AT&T TV, only just became available nationwide in March. But despite its “streaming” nature — it ships with an Android TV-powered box to deliver TV over the internet — consumers may have already caught on to the fact that it’s still just the worst of pay TV wrapped up in a new delivery mechanism.

The streaming service is expensive compared with today’s over-the-top and video-on-demand options. It’s also laden with fees for things like activation, early termination and additional set-top boxes. And its bundle with AT&T Internet offers each service for $39.99/month for the first 12 months, but ties subscribers into 2-year contracts where prices climb in the second year.

AT&T’s Q1 TV subscriber numbers indicate how quickly the pay TV market is imploding. And perhaps it will decline even more rapidly now that people no longer want to risk coronavirus exposure by having service techs install equipment in their homes. While AT&T TV’s DIY installation may help in that area, it’s unclear if the new service will ever broadly appeal to consumers in the streaming era.

AT&T ended the quarter with 18.6 million pay TV subscribers, down from 19.5 million in Q4 when it lost 945,000 subscribers.

This all puts much more pressure on WarnerMedia to deliver with its May 27th launch of HBO Max. The new direct-to-consumer streaming service promises all of HBO, plus original content, and a library of movies, classic TV and film, fan favorites, and more. But at only $14.99 per month, it won’t be able to replace the lost revenue from high-priced pay TV subscriptions — only offset it.

AT&T also today admitted how the coronavirus outbreak has forced it to rethink its theatrical model.

Just yesterday, WarnerMedia announced the new kids movie “Scoob!” would skip theaters and head straight into homes, where it will be offered at either a $19.99 rental or $24.99 digital purchase. It will later have its “exclusive streaming premiere” on HBO Max.

“We’re rethinking our theatrical model and looking for ways to accelerate efforts that are consistent with the rapid changes in consumer behavior from the pandemic,” said WarnerMedia CEO and AT&T COO John Stankey, as reported by The Wrap.

“When theaters are closed, it’s hard to generate revenue,” he said. “And I don’t expect that’s going to be a snapback. I think that’s going to be something we’re going to have to watch the formation of consumer confidence, not just about going to movies, just in general about being back out in public and understanding what’s occurring there,” Stankey noted.

Overall, AT&T missed on both revenue and earnings in Q1, largely citing impacts from the coronavirus outbreak which reduced earnings by 5 cents per share ($433 million). Total revenue in the quarter was $42.8 billion, short of Wall St. estimates of $44.2 billion. Adjusted EPS was 84 cents per share, versus an expected 85 cents.

A $600 million decline in revenue was attributed to lost ad sales, specifically those that were expected from now-postponed live sports events like March Madness, as well as lower wireless equipment sales.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia division — which includes HBO and Turner broadcast networks in addition to Warner Bros. theatrical releases — was heavily impacted by the pandemic, as well, reporting $7.4 billion in revenue, down from $8.4 billion a year earlier.

“The COVID pandemic had a 5 cents per share impact on our first quarter. Without it, the quarter was about what we expected — strong wireless numbers that covered the HBO Max investment, and produced stable EBITDA and EBITDA margins,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We have a strong cash position, a strong balance sheet, and our core businesses are solid and continue to generate good free cash flow — even in today’s environment. In light of the pandemic’s economic impact, we’ve already adjusted our capital allocation plans and suspended all share retirements,” he added.

The company said it will continue investing in 5G and broadband, two of its only bright spots in the quarter, in addition to investments in HBO Max.

AT&T withdrew its financial guidance due to the “lack of visibility related to COVID-19 pandemic and recovery,” it said.

#att, #cord-cutting, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #hbo-max, #media, #pay-tv, #streaming, #streaming-services, #television, #tv

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