Crackle Plus Series ‘In the Vault’ Tallies 3.4M Views

Crackle Plus, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company and an operator of AVOD streaming services, announced its series “In the Vault” has garnered more than 3.4 million views since its premiere June 1, making it one of the most-watched new shows on Crackle, according to the service. 

The eight-part thriller series, starring Audrey Whitby, Claudia Lee, Anthony Granaderos and Sydney Sweeney, follows students at Woodlawn College, where a coed is killed at a campus party. The series focuses on the murdered student’s surviving dorm hallmates. Each individual possesses their own secret that may or may not serve as a motive for the dark deed that has taken place. No one is safe from the suspicions of others as each episode spotlights a different student as they move from being the protagonist one week to a suspect the next. 

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“We are so excited to see our audience responding to the fun nail-biting edge-of-your-seat thrill-fest that is ‘In the Vault,’” Jeff Meier, head of programming for Crackle Plus, said in a statement. “We thought this series would be a big hit, but the strong word of mouth and social buzz our fans are giving it exceeds even our wildest expectations.” 

Season two of the show will premiere as a Crackle Original later this year, with new cast members joining the student body of Woodlawn College. The plot thickens as the students continue to dig into the mystery of the previous season while fresh intrigue cries out from under the very ground on which they stand. 

Crackle Plus’ recent releases include the exclusive scripted series “Les Norton,” which stars Alexander Bertram and Rebel Wilson; the suspense thriller Blast; “Inside the Black Box,” hosted by Joe Morton; the sketch comedy series “Funny Girls”; and the award-winning BBC series “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Crackle Plus also recently announced season three of the multi-award-winning series “Going From Broke.”

The Crackle Plus streaming service is currently distributed through 85 touchpoints in the United States on platforms including Amazon Fire TV, RokuTV, Apple TV, Smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Vizio), gaming consoles (PS4 and Xbox One), Plex, iOS and Android mobile devices, and on desktop at Crackle.com.

CFO McCarthy: Disney+ Doesn’t Need Advertising to Reach Profitability

On the heels of Disney’s decision to incorporate a less-expensive ad-supported subscription plan for Disney+, CFO Christine McCarthy said the move was not a Hail Mary attempt by management to ensure that the SVOD reaches a previously stated goal of 230 million to 260 million subscribers, as well as profitability for the media giant’s direct-to-consumer business by 2024.

Speaking March 7 at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom confab, McCarthy said the ad-supported option is designed to incorporate consumers who couldn’t afford the standard ad-free $7.99 plan, in addition to advertisers eager to access the platform.

“This was not a Hail Mary,” McCarty said of the ad-supported plan. “This is something we don’t need to make … to make our guidance.”

The executive said the new pricing injects the right kind of company “tension” to help manage the business as it attempts to reach subscriber and financial goals.

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“[Disney+ is] barely 2-and-a-half years old,” McCarthy said. “We’re learning a lot about this business.”

That knowledge includes subscriber data, McCarthy says helps Disney navigate content decisions regarding who is watching, how often and how long.

“Those are the kind of data we never had before,” she said. “We were always going through intermediaries. Once we had that, we really incorporate that into our planning, our content — why something works, and if it doesn’t, why it doesn’t work.”

With upwards of 38% (45.9 million) of Disney’s 130 million Disney+ subs originating out of India, Disney and its local Hotstar streaming brand are dependent upon exclusive streaming rights to professional cricket and other sports. With distribution rights to that sport coming up for renewal, McCarthy stressed that while live sports programming is important, general Disney content is drawing Indian subs as well.

“In 2021, of the Top 15 viewed series on direct-to-consumer [platforms in India], nine of those came from Disney+ Hotstar,” McCarthy said. “Sports is a very popular content to consume, but [subs] also consume other types of content, including Disney+ Hotstar originals.”

OTT.X Speakers: Streaming Market Entering a New, More Competitive Phase

The streaming marketplace is entering a new phase as consumers balk at paying for more subscription services and turn to cheaper and free ad-supported options. But while those more economical options are experiencing growth, that marketplace, too, is getting more crowded and competitive. That’s according to speakers at the OTT.X Online event Feb. 23.

“The days of build it and they will come are over,” said Quincy Newell, CEO of TwentyOne14, which operates Fuse Beat, available on Roku and offering entertainment and lifestyle content targeting Black culture.

“Quality is important and key. Exclusivity is preferable,” he said.

“I think original content is becoming more important,” said Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus. The AVOD service garners original content from parent company Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment.

Meanwhile, Gary Delfiner, CEO of Watchfreeflix, which offers various free streaming channels of licensed content via Roku and other platforms, noted originals aren’t as important as some think.

“I’m not that focused on original content,” he said. “I can’t afford it. I’m not Amazon and I’m not Netflix.”

Watchfreeflix plays to its strengths in horror and action thrillers, among other genres, he said.

“I believe that quantity and not sacrificing quality is the reason people are watching my channels,” he said.

He noted that SVOD services aren’t refreshing their new content that frequently, while he is constantly getting new content and creating new channels, all offered to audiences at no cost.

“I think free is a good price,” he said.

Guelton agreed that free ad-supported services have an advantage, but the competition is getting fiercer.

“When it comes to AVOD, the game is almost over,” he said. “On the FAST [free ad-supported TV], linear side, I think there’s a much longer runway.”

Newell said that his company is careful about what content it acquires and creates to stay on top of the market.

“I don’t want to have long-term licenses,” he said, adding he likes to refresh content based on audience feedback.

His team subscribes to other services to identify gaps in the marketplace and uses social media to communicate with audiences.

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“We have a very large social presence,” added Zack Coffman, founder and CEO of global OTT distributor One World Digital.

Jonathan Skogmo, founder and CEO of Jukin Media, said his team uses social media to incubate content ideas.

Platforms, such as Roku, can be an important and influential marketing partner, speakers said.

“It’s the platforms that hold the gate,” said Berkin Ecevit, sales and business development director at SPI International, a global media company that is moving into the FAST space.

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Getting to the top of the marketing list at such platforms is challenging, he said.

“Valentine’s day you’ve got to have love movies,” he noted. “What if we don’t have those?”

“The big question is what kind of leverage do we have,” Guelton added. “What can we trade? … and, yes, it can be money.”

The type of content distributors can offer is key, too.

“They’re willing to promote it for free if it’s exclusive,” Guelton said, adding the quality of the brand is important as well.

“The Crackle brand is well-respected,” he said, as is that of its parent Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Kathryn Przybyla, director of social media at America’s Test Kitchen, agreed that a good brand gives FAST players a leg up.

“People know who ATK is,” she said.

Coffman said communicating with the platforms is key.

“Start to pay attention to what the platforms are telling you,” he said, adding “if you become a great partner, the platform is more than happy to work with you.”

Skogmo noted that there’s a “sense of choice paralysis” among consumers that makes brand equity and good key art crucial.

“I think you have to have a really clear voice of what you’re curating and why you’re curating,” he said.

Stuart McLean, CEO of FAST Studios, told FAST players to “lean in on graphics packages and thumbnails.”

As a platform player among the panelists, Jennifer Vaux, head of content acquisition at the Roku Channel was coy about what prompts Roku to market a channel above others.

“You’re essentially telling the viewer what they’re going to spend their time with,” she said, adding with hundreds of channels to search through, content owners “really need to cut through the noise.”

As far as what Roku is looking for in acquiring and promoting a channel, she said a strong IP is attractive, as well as a deep library.

“We’re always looking to partner with people who have expertise in different genres,” she also said.

The data that a streaming channel collects is helpful in defining a strategy, speakers said.

“Sometimes content resonates completely differently depending on the platform,” Przybyla said.

In contrast with legacy channels, streamers get real-time data, McLean said.

“We don’t wait for Nielsen,” Coffman said.

“We’re lucky because we are a platform … we generally see what people are watching on our own channels and use that to inform our programming decisions,” Roku’s Vaux said.

While the U.S. market is crowded, speakers noted that going global might make sense.

“I think the world is wide open,” SPI’s Ecevit said.

“That’s a market that is wide open and somewhat untouched,” Watchfreeflix’s Delfiner agreed.

Clockwise from top left, moderator Anthony Layser of Xumo and panelists Jennifer Vaux of the Roku Channel, Jonathan Skogmo of TMB, Kathryn Przybyla of America’s Test Kitchen, and Zack Coffman of One World Digital.

ElectricNow FAST Channel Available on Samsung Smart TVs and Mobile Devices

Electric Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production, distribution and post-production company, has partnered with Samsung to deliver ElectricNow’s FAST channel on all U.S. Samsung smart-TVs and select mobile devices. 

“Our live linear channel will now be reaching the enormous Samsung TV Plus audience,” Dean Devlin, CEO of Electric Entertainment, said in a statement. “This is extremely exciting for us and ElectricNow, specifically since we will be able to expose new viewers to our fan favorites, such as ‘Leverage,’ ‘The Librarians,’ ‘Almost Paradise’ and ‘The Outpost.’ We are happy to report that the ElectricNow app has millions of viewers since its inception and is rapidly growing on a consistent basis.”

ElectricNow is a premium OTT app and FAST channel featuring Electric Entertainment’s own produced content such as TV series “Leverage,” “The Librarians,” and “The Outpost,” as well as acquired programming such as the feature films Blackway, starring Anthony Hopkins, and The Book of Love, starring Jason Sudeikis and Maisie Williams. The ElectricNow Channel is available on platforms including The Roku Channel, Plex, STIRR, Local Now, Sling TV, TiVo Plus, IMDb TV, Redbox, XUMO, Distro TV and Select TV. In addition to the free streaming content, the ElectricNow App also includes special bonus feature content, a program guide, and video-on-demand and pay-per-view components. The channel and app are home to Electric’s newly launched podcast network, Electric Surge, which includes such series as “The Official Leverage: Redemption Aftershow: A Very Distinctive Podcast,” “Inglorious Treksperts,” “The 4:30 Movie,” “Best Movies Never Made” in a line-up that includes podcasts devoted to “Star Trek,” “Dr. Who” and other sci-fi and entertainment industry-related topics.

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Headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif., Electric Entertainment is an independent studio headed by veteran producer Dean Devlin along with his partners Marc Roskin and Rachel Olschan-Wilson. Electric Entertainment also houses Electric Post, a digital effects and post-production facility.

FilmRise Picks Up FAST Rights to Canadian Series ‘Kim’s Convenience’

FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired multi-territory, ad-supported digital linear (FAST) rights to the critically acclaimed Canadian comedy series “Kim’s Convenience” from Canada-based Thunderbird Entertainment.

The deal gives FilmRise exclusive FAST (free ad-supported streaming) rights to all five seasons of the series, which it will program across its existing FAST Channels as well as allow for the creation of dedicated marathon FAST channels of the series across the United States, Latin America, German-speaking Europe, French-speaking Europe, Italy and Spain. FilmRise plans to offer the series on FAST linear streaming channels on IMDb TV, Pluto, The Roku Channel, Samsung TV+ and the FilmRise Streaming Network, among others.

Originally broadcast on CBC starting in 2016, the series made its international debut on Netflix in 2018. 

Based on Ins Choi’s award-winning play of the same name, “Kim’s Convenience” depicts the Korean-Canadian Kim family who runs a convenience store in Toronto. During its five season run, the series was the winner of multiple Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Comedy Series, Foreign Drama of the Year at the Seoul International Drama Awards (2019), Members’ Choice Series Ensemble Award for Best cast at the 2017 Toronto ACTRA Awards (Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists).

The comedy stars Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (“The Mandalorian”), Andrew Phung (“Run the Burbs”) Andrea Bang (“A Million Little Things”), Jean Yoon (“The Voyeurs”), Simu Liu  (Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), and Nicole Power, who stars in “Strays,” which is the spin-off series from “Kim’s Convenience” that premiered in September 2021 on CBC.

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“As the FilmRise Streaming Network continues to grow, so does our approach in acquiring programs featuring unique stories from people of diverse backgrounds,” Max Einhorn,  SVP of acquisitions and co-productions for FilmRise, said in a statement. “‘Kim’s Convenience’ has had a huge impact on a wide range of viewers, and we are thrilled to bring this culturally relevant series for free to streaming audiences worldwide.”

“Kim’s delightful characters and beloved stories brought love and laughter into the hearts of many during its five seasons,” Richard Goldsmith, president of global distribution and consumer products at Thunderbird Entertainment, said in a statement. “Through our partnership with FilmRise, we are thrilled that new audiences internationally will have the opportunity to connect with and enjoy the heart-warming and hilarious experiences of the Kim family.”

Nielsen Launches Solution to Help Connected-TV Operators and Advertisers Better Target Consumers

Nielsen Jan. 4 announced the launch of a new research solution, Streaming Signals, which helps connected-TV operators and advertisers better understand who is watching a show within a household, according to the company.

Streaming Signals unbundles household viewing, allowing “both media buyers and media sellers to optimize and measure CTV reach for more efficient advertising, maximizing ad revenue and delivery to streaming audiences,” according to Nielsen.

Using custom machine learning models to determine who is in the household based on historical viewership data, Streaming Signals delivers a signal within 50 milliseconds to CTV operators of who is currently streaming program content instantly, according to Nielsen.

The solution is made possible by using machine-learning algorithms, viewing from Nielsen’s panel data, and CTV provider viewership data, according to Nielsen. Once integrated, the CTV provider will notify the Nielsen system and will receive a signal containing information regarding who is most likely watching within the household.

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“For example, if ‘Sons of Anarchy’ is being watched within a household, the 35-year-old male likely watching the show will be shown an auto ad instead of a yogurt ad, giving CTV operators the ability to sharpen ad delivery from their inventory,” read the Nielsen release.

“Nielsen Streaming Signals brings a layer of unmatched real-time, person-level demographic precision to audience optimization,” Ameneh Atai, GM of digital and advanced TV at Nielsen, said in a statement. “We know that the media industry is going through accelerated change, switching to a streaming-first approach, and with an audience watching programming whenever, wherever and on a number of devices. Nielsen is the only one that is unbundling the household because we are the only ones that sit at the intersection of the streaming behavior and audience data.”

Traditionally, clients have looked at on-target percentage when evaluating advertising on CTV. Streaming Signals lets clients to “positively impact” that percentage by knowing before the ad is served who is behind the CTV screen, according to Nielsen.

FAST, AVOD Services Getting Better, More-Exclusive Content, OTT.X@Pipeline Panelists Say

Free ad-supported TV (FAST) and ad-supported VOD (AVOD) services are becoming the hot ticket in digital distribution, according to panelists at the 14th Annual OTT.X@Pipeline event in Los Angeles Dec. 8.

“Suddenly, AVOD is becoming part of the broader distribution strategy for major studios and indie studios alike, whereas in the early days, AVOD services had just 10, 15-year-old catalog,” said Pluto TV’s Will Gurman.

Now, content owners are looking at an earlier window for ad-supported release, and the business is looking for exclusives.

“There’s a huge opportunity now with indie producers, and we’ve done this with a number of films, where in a traditional pay one window we might come in and provide some level of AVOD exclusivity, and we market and we promote, treat the film the way that you’d see years ago from SVOD services before they started moving more and more into originals,” Gurman said.

The business is projected to reach $4 billion by 2024, said Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia, and “a lot of the growth in this industry has happened in the last 18 months.”

Pluto TV, owned by ViacomCBS, is a FAST service with more than 300 channels in the United States and is in 26 regions globally. The service also has thousands of titles available via AVOD.

“We’re about 8 years old and Pluto’s really founded with the contrarian principle,” Gurman said. “When everyone was going to SVOD and going to VOD, Pluto went the other way and went back to linear and back to ad-supported and presented a platform of channels in a familiar format and familiar content and were really a pioneer in growing and building out the FAST channel space.”

As ad-supported services have joined the space, differentiation is becoming more important to rise above the competition, he said.

“Differentiation is key for us now,” he said. But rather than focusing on originals, the service is looking for original channels.

“Certain platforms are investing heavily into original content,” he noted. “For us at Pluto, one thing we’ve really focused on and continued to focus on is differentiating on our channels and making sure — while we don’t have original content — the majority of channels can’t be found on other platforms,” he said. “A great example of that recently was a channel that we launched with professional bull riders, a fantastic organization with a fan base of over 80 million in the U.S.”

The company had been a niche SVOD service.

“We quickly learned about their marketing strength, how strong and important their fan base was and what their experience had been as a niche SVOD service, looking at potentially transitioning them to a new business model that could help them reach a broader audience,” he said.

Now, the bull-riding content has its own ad-supported channel exclusively on Pluto.

“It’s called PBR Ridepass, and we’re certainly looking to do more types of opportunities like that,” Gorman said.

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In fact, the ad-supported PBR channel launched on Pluto on the day the SVOD service shut down.

“We worked hand and hand with them on marketing to all their subscribers [about the transition],” Gorman said.

“It’s not just about the PBR channel in isolation,” he added. “We have a strong audience that likes content with a strong overlap. We have channels of outdoor content, we have action movies. ‘Walker Texas Ranger’ is a great overlap in content.”

Meanwhile, PBR helps viewers discover other channels they like on Pluto, he said.

“There’s a huge opportunity for SVOD platforms to offer linear channels in the AVOD space,” Gurman noted, adding Pluto TV has a channel with Britbox.

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Mike Woods, a veteran of digital content service company Amagi, has started Orka TV to help ad buyers find easier ways to utilize AVOD and FAST services. The digital realm is rapidly becoming the new TV, he said.

“It is all available,” he said. “Everything can be done now.”

He noted that a channel that used to cost $500 million to set up, now costs just thousands.

Gurman and Woods noted that the monthly active users (MAU) measure of ad-supported service success is antiquated and can be fudged — for instance by counting imagined co-viewers. Pluto TV focuses on viewing hours or revenue, for instance. Revenue per hours of viewing is a key metric, Woods said.

“If you’re getting revenue per second, you’re doing pretty good,” he said.

Kino Lorber, Giant Pictures Launch Free Ad-Supported Streaming Service Kino Cult

Kino Lorber has partnered with Giant Pictures to launch Kino Cult, a free ad-supported streaming destination for genre lovers of horror and cult films.

Featuring hundreds of hours of curated, theatrically released films all in high-definition, with new titles added monthly, Kino Cult launches widely in the United States and Canada on Oct. 1 across Web, mobile devices and connected TVs, with VOD apps on major devices, such as Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Google TV, iOS, Android and more.

Giant Pictures is the technology partner for Kino Cult, responsible for the device apps, channel distribution and ad-tech in the new venture.

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“From the arthouse to the haunted house, the channel will dive deep into unapologetically weird genre cinema, blending recent art house discoveries fresh from cinemas with high quality restorations of notorious grindhouse gems,” according to a press release.

Kino Lorber brings 40 years of experience as a theatrical and home entertainment distributor of international and American indie films to Kino Cult, where the focus will be on “the wild and the weird of genre cinema,” according to the release. Kino Cult plans to serve its audience with a deep catalog of hundreds of relevant titles, many of which are streamable for the very first time, all in HD, the press release noted.

The channel will offer cult cinema across action, horror, comedy and sci-fi, both new and rare vintage hits of genre cinema, giving movie fans “access to films that have not been easy to find in the streaming age,” the press release stated.

Distribution Solutions Putting Content on Pluto TV

Distribution Solutions, a division of Alliance Entertainment, has announced a new partnership with Pluto TV to distribute its content through the free streaming TV service across the United States.

Content from Distribution Solutions will begin appearing on Pluto TV channels starting in fall 2021.

“We are excited to partner with Pluto TV,” Ben Means, president of Distribution Solutions, said in a statement. “Through this partnership, premium independent content from our label partners will be available to their impressive audience of 52 million monthly active users.”

More than 450 hours of content from Distribution Solutions’ label partners will be available for streaming on Pluto TV, curated to plug into the Pluto TV channels.

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Notable titles coming to Pluto TV include family favorites such as The Cat in the Hat and Benji; cult classics such as Gone in 60 Seconds (1974), the Andy Sidaris films and “Gumby”; true crime content such as the “Becoming Evil” docuseries; and recent indie horror hits such as Hostile and Open 24 Hours.

“We are thrilled to welcome Alliance Entertainment and its expansive collection of top-quality content to the world of Pluto TV,” Will Gurman, VP of global content partnerships for Pluto TV, said in a statement. “With this partnership, we look forward to bringing our viewers an even wider array of genres and programming to lean back and enjoy, ranging from reality to history, kids content, and more — all for free.”

Survey: More Than Half of U.S. Consumers Added a Streaming Service in the Past Year

A February 2021 survey of U.S. consumers found more than half (55%) had added a streaming service in the past year, including nearly three-fourths (74%) of consumers aged 25-34 and 72% of consumers aged 35-44. The survey found 70% were currently using streaming TV services.

The survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers over the age of 18 was conducted by marketing solutions company Vericast.

Products advertised on streaming TV were more relevant than on traditional cable TV, according to 64% of consumers aged 25-34 and 69% of consumers aged 35-44 surveyed. As a result, almost half (46%) of all respondents indicated they are more inclined to research or purchase a product or service they saw on streaming TV than on traditional TV. In the past year, more than one-third of consumers have made a purchase based on a connected TV ad.

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“Brands can — and should — leverage connected-TV to target and reach consumers more effectively than traditional TV,” said Amanda Shelton, Vericast VP of product, digital marketing and technology group.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • 64% of consumers use their mobile device or tablet to shop while watching TV on a streaming service, with 82% of parents noting they browse or shop online while streaming TV;
  • Viewing ads is preferred over paid subscriptions, with more than half of consumers (54%) willing to view ads in their streaming TV experience for a lower monthly subscription cost;
  • Consumers age 35-44 were most willing to view ads in their streaming TV experience for a lower monthly subscription cost (69%), followed by age 25-34 (64%) and 18-24 (59%); and
  • Consumers were willing to trade data for a better ad experience, with 68% of consumers saying they were willing to share data with brands to improve their streaming TV ad experience, including the types of shows they watch regularly and anonymous demographic data.