Tubi Execs See Bright Future in AVOD

LAS VEGAS — The ad-supported video-on-demand streaming service Tubi touts itself as having the largest library in the space, at about 20,000 titles, four times that of Netflix, and Tubi executives see a bright future in the free alternative to subscription VOD.

“I think 2020 is going to be the year of AVOD,” said Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi in an interview with Media Play News at CES. “I think there are going to be a lot of new players in the space, and I very much welcome it.”

Mark Rotblat

Tubi logged 20 million monthly active users as of June 2019, and 132 million hours a month as of September, noted chief revenue officer Mark Rotblat.

The service is on more than two dozen platforms, including Vizio, Samsung, Sony and Google; at CES, Tubi announced the addition of its service to Hisense’s Vidaa platform in spring 2020.

AVOD is gaining ground as cord cutting accelerates. In the third quarter of 2019, 2 million households cut the cord, up from a half million in the previous-year quarter, Massoudi noted.

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Also, the consumer is being inundated with existing and new SVOD platforms, with longtime players Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu joined by recent entrants Disney+ and Apple TV+ and upcoming services, such as WarnerMedia’s HBO Max.

“Subscription fatigue is a real problem,” Massoudi said. “The idea of subscribing to all these services is just crazy.”

SVOD services will increasingly focus on original content, he noted.

“The role of SVOD will be providing original content to justify the expense on your bill,” he said.

Meanwhile, AVOD services such as Tubi are mining catalog, and deep catalog at that.

“By definition AVOD is not a content forward property,” Massoudi said. “We will never get a shiny title like ‘Friends’ [for which WarnerMedia paid nearly half a billion dollars for streaming rights].”

In contrast, Tubi is judicious about spending on content.

“If I have $1, I can put it on one title or I can aggregate five titles for that dollar and have more viewership,” Massoudi said.

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While Tubi welcomes competitors, Massoudi said the service has a technological jump on new entrants.

“We’re well ahead of the market,” he said, adding studios or other companies looking to enter the AVOD space “would have to do a massive tech investment,” such as the investment Tubi has made in its recommendation engine.

“Content isn’t enough,” he said.

Tubi’s machine learning helps viewers personalize their content and wade through the thousands of available titles.

Massoudi and Rotblat would not reveal any revenue numbers for the independent company. They noted that over the past nine years, the company has raised a mere $35 million, meaning ad revenues are a key driver of the business.

“We are doing financially very well,” said the CEO, noting the staff has doubled to more than 220 in the past year.

While Viacom snapped up AVOD player Pluto TV, Massoudi said Tubi isn’t interested in being acquired.

“We’re focused on being independent,” he said. “We want to take this public.”

BritBox Ups Distribution Partners in the U.K.

BritBox, the subscription streaming video service launched in the United States by the BBC and ITV and now “imported” to the United Kingdom, has expanded distribution in the latter region

In addition to agreements with ad-supported VOD service Freeview Play and YouView set-top boxes, BritBox has inked a deal with Samsung to be included on its line of connected Tizen televisions.

The service, which has about 650,000 subscribers in North America, is also available on the Web, Apple iOS and Android devices.

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“We have an ongoing commitment to provide the greatest experience to our customers, including offering the best range of apps currently available,” Guy Kinnell, VP of TV & AV Samsung Electronics U.K., said in a statement. “BritBox provides a new way to access the best of British content exactly whenever they want.”

Freeview Play, which has more than 5 million monthly users, has U.K. distribution through Sony, Digihome, JVC, Logik, Luxor, Polaroid, Techwood and Toshiba.

“Our viewers love great British TV, so BritBox is a fantastic addition to the Freeview line up, providing extra options to top up on the best of free TV they already enjoy via the nation’s biggest TV platform,” said Owen Jenkinson, marketing director at Freeview.

YouView set-top boxes will also be hosting the BritBox app by the end of 2019, making the new streaming service accessible to millions of additional households across the nation.

“At a time when U.K. produced television is going from strength to strength, BritBox brings a fantastic array of U.K. television, to compliment the SVOD services already available via YouView, which our users will love,” added Susie Buckridge, CEO of YouView.

 

 

Plex Licenses Ad-Supported VOD Rights to Movies from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution

Plex, the online media player system and software, has entered into an agreement with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution for the rights to a package of ad-supported feature films available to users in the United States.

Later this year, Plex’s users in the United States will be able to access a package of library feature film titles from Warner Bros., in addition to already available content like live and recorded over-the-air television, news, Web shows, podcasts, and more than 60 million streaming music tracks.

“Licensing these movies from Warner Bros. enables us to offer more types of third-party content than any other platform and bring it all together in one beautiful solution,” Keith Valory, CEO of Plex, said in a statement.

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Valory said ad-supported movies and TV shows deserve the same attention as subscription-based VOD content.

Indeed, a cottage industry devoted to AVOD, including Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, IMDb TV and Shout! Factory TV, among others.

What began 10 years ago as a “Netflix for your personal media,” Plex.tv has evolved into a multi-media content platform that enables users to access all their media from any device.

While the Warner deal marks Plex’s highest profile content license agreement to date, the platform is continuing to engage with additional partners to secure content agreements and expand its content catalog.

 

China, U.S. Account for Majority Global SVOD Subscriptions

No wonder Netflix wants to enter the Chinese market.

The quasi Communist country topped the U.S. in gross subscription video-on-demand users in 2018, according to new data from Digital TV Research.

China added nearly 60 million SVOD subs compared to 27 million subs in the U.S. India nearly doubled its subscription base.

Netflix does not operate independently in China, partnering instead with iQiyi to distribute select programming.

Gross SVOD subs increased by 139 million in 2018 to 508 million – or up by 38%. The net subscriber count rose by 83 million in 2018 to reach 357 million – up by 31%.

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DTV Research said the average SVOD subscriber paid for 1.43 subscriptions by end-2018 — up from 1.05 in 2010.

“China and the U.S. together accounted for 63% of the global total in 2018,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at DTV Research, said in a statement.

Eight countries had more than 10 million SVOD subs by end-2018 – collectively providing 80% of the global total.

Gross SVOD subs represented 30.5% of TV households by end-2018. The proportion of net SVOD subscribers was 21.4% – meaning that more than 20% of the world’s TV households had at least one SVOD subscription by end-2018.

SVOD became the largest OTT revenue source in 2014 when it overtook ad-supported VOD. SVOD market share reached 53% in 2018. SVOD revenue increased by $11 billion in 2018 to $36 billion – up by 44% from 2017. AVOD revenue increased by $5 billion to $22 billion.

“The U.S. added $6.5 billion in revenue in 2018, with China up by $3.6 billion,” Murray said. “Therefore, the U.S. and China were together responsible for more than half the world’s additional revenue in 2018.”

AVOD Service Tubi Launches in Australia

AVOD service Tubi will launch in Australia Sept. 1.

Customers there will have access to an initial offering of nearly 7,000 movies and TV series, which will rapidly expand in the near future, according to Tubi. Titles immediately available on the service include 3:10 to Yuma, The Blair Witch Project, Kickboxer and Stranger Than Fiction, with additional titles to be made available over the next six months, including Dirty DancingThe Grudge, Requiem for a Dream, Reservoir Dogs, SawTraffic and Young Guns.

“We’re excited to offer Tubi in Australia, as the first of many launch initiatives to advance our global footprint,” said Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi in a statement. “Our library size in Australia will expand rapidly in the coming months and eventually grow to our current library size in the U.S. of 15,000 titles — and beyond. We look forward to further activating new audiences who will discover the growing value of free video on demand.”

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Customers in Australia will be able to access Tubi via Telstra TV, Tubi.TV, or through nearly any internet-connected screen including Samsung TVs, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and Apple iOS, as well as Android tablets and smartphones, according to Tubi. The service will also be available via game consoles, including PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

IMDb TV Now Has a Mobile App

IMDb TV, the ad-supported streaming video service owned by Amazon, Aug. 26 announced it is now available through a branded mobile app on iOS and Android devices.

Users can now stream IMDb TV content from their phones or tablets. Interested parties can download the app from the Google Play Store and Apple App store.

Through new distribution deals with Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate, IMDb TV is upping its selection of acclaimed movies. Viewers have free access to Academy Award-winning Silver Linings Playbook (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence), Age of Adaline (Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford) and In the Heart of the Sea (Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy), as well as TV shows like “The Middle” (Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn), which is exclusively available on IMDb TV.

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Some of the top streamed movies this summer on IMDb TV included Academy Award-winning La La Land (Ryan Gosling, Emily Stone), Academy Award-winning Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise, Renée Zellweger), Practical Magic (Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman), A Knight’s Tale (Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell) and Drive (Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan).

Other top streamed movies on IMDb TV included Max (Thomas Haden Church), Step Dogs (Joris Jarsky), Zookeeper (Kevin James, Rosario Dawson), Paddington (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins) and The Never Ending Story (Noah Hathaway), among others.

Reports: Netflix Subs Don’t Want More Price Hikes, Open to Ad-Supported Streaming

With Netflix set to release financial results on July 17, two new research reports suggest the SVOD behemoth’s subscribers would consider ad-supported content instead of paying higher monthly fees.

While Netflix doesn’t stream advertising and has made no suggestion it plans to, industry scuttlebutt contends the No. 1 SVOD service might have to consider the option to offset burgeoning content costs and debt.

Recent comments from NBC Universal and Hulu executives have rekindled speculation as to whether Netflix will introduce an ad-based tier. Hulu has always offered a less-expensive ad-supported option, while NBC Universal’s pending streaming service will be both ad-supported and subscription based.

According to new TDG Research, a third of Netflix users would consider changing tiers, more than half of which are moderately likely to or definitely would switch.

While Netflix has consistently spurned ads, the decision is not entirely within its control, according to Michael Greeson, president of TDG and SVP of Screen Engine/ASI.

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Indeed, with two of Netflix’s most-streamed programs — “Friends” and “The Office” — set to leave the platform after 2020, the SVOD service in under increasing pressure to spend on original content to fill the void.

“Netflix’s response to its thinning third-party library is to spend more on originals, which it’s gambling will keep subscribers from jumping ship,” Greeson said in a statement. “But with half or more of its most-viewed shows being owned by three studios, each of which is launching their own DTC services, how long can you convince 55+ million U.S. consumers that your service is worth paying a premium price, especially compared with Hulu (offers an ad-based option), Amazon Prime Video (free with Prime), and Disney+ (coming in a $6.99/month)?”

TDG contends Netflix will need to increase the subscription fees (which it recently did), or create a new revenue stream, such as advertising.

“This should not be an either/or decision, but that’s what it is,” Greeson said.
A separate survey of 1,000 Netflix subs by KilltheCableBill.com found more than 24% of respondents thought their plan was too expensive.

TDG’s research from late 2018 found that Netflix’s most recent price increase strained the limit of the service’s value, even before popular third-party shows are pulled from the lineup.

The research firm contends Netflix could “bullet-proof” its future with the introduction of a less-expensive ad-supported pricing plan.

“The stage is shifting,” Greeson said, “and if, like Blockbuster [Video], Netflix fails to evolve in a timely fashion, the company may see its domestic fortunes reversed.”

Pluto TV Gets Major League Soccer

Pluto TV May 13 announced the launch of the Major Leaguer Soccer (MLS) channel on the ad-supported streaming video platform.

San Francisco-based Pluto said the move underscored what it claims is the sport of soccer’s strong appeal with cord-cutters and millennial consumers.

“Establishing our first league offering with a renowned and respected organization like the MLS is the perfect match,” Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships for Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Expanding Pluto TV’s sports offerings has long been a goal of the platform.”

Highlights of the available programming include classic matches, such as MLS Cup 2018 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s debut for the LA Galaxy, a 4-3 win over crosstown rivals LAFC.

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Original features on offer will include “The Movement,” which explores the intersection of soccer and culture, and “The Birth of a Rivalry,” MLS’s flagship series about the passion of new rivalries.

Additional programming includes “Matchday Central,” featuring expert analysis from MLS personalities; “Extratimedriven by Continental,” a twice-weekly talk show; “MLS Review,” a weekly show; and highlights including “Top 10 Plays” and “All Goals,” amongst others.

“Major League Soccer’s agreement with Pluto TV offers fans a new way to experience the game and interact with our high-quality content,” said Chris Schlosser, SVP of media at MLS. “Major League Soccer is always evaluating new opportunities to provide our young, diverse and tech savvy fan base increased access to our matches, athletes and clubs.”

MLS’ new channel will join Pluto TV’s 100+ live, linear, curated channels and thousands of movies on demand from nearly 150 major studios, networks, publishers and digital first outfits.

Viewers and fans can access Pluto TV in the living room by utilizing Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku, Android TV, Chromecast, on Smart TVs by Vizio, Hisense, and Sony, or on gaming consoles such as PS4. It is also available on-the-go via apps for iOS, Android, and Amazon, at-the-fingertips on PC and Mac, or on the web at www.Pluto.TV.

Tubi Licenses ‘The Apprentice’ Catalog Featuring Donald Trump

Ad-supported VOD app Tubi May 6 announced it has secured streaming rights to all 15 seasons of “The Apprentice,” the reality TV show that helped put Donald Trump, his family members and Omarosa on the national stage.

Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted the final season after Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016.

San Francisco-based Tubi secured the rights from MGM, which created the long-running series from 2004 through 2017.

The debut season of “The Apprentice” premiered on NBC delivering an average weekly viewership of 20.7 million and was one of the network’s most-watched series with adults 18-49. The franchise has broadened globally with over 20 localized versions.

Notable U.S. contestants included Bill Rancic, Piers Morgan, Bret Michaels, Arsenio Hall, Trace Adkins, Leeza Gibbons, Khloe Kardashian, Cyndi Lauper, Lil Jon, Vivica A. Fox and Geraldo Rivera, among others.

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Last month, a New York appeals court ruled Trump could not dismiss a sexual defamation lawsuit filed by former contestant Summer Zervos just because he is President.

“In our quest to democratize content and make more premium content accessible, we are making a big push into the reality television space,” Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi said in a statement. “‘The Apprentice’ is our second big series (after Lionsgate’s ‘Anger Management’) announcement this month, and we will have more in the near future.”

Tubi claims to consistently rank as one of the most-watched apps on platforms such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Android, among others.

BBC Studios, Pluto TV Ink Content Deal

BBC Studios and Pluto TV April 8 signed an agreement that brings BBC’s programming to Viacom’s ad-supported streaming video service in the U.S.

Select titles from the BBC Studios library (about 1,000 episodes) will air across Pluto TV’s channel lineup and on-demand featuring acclaimed series, including “Being Erica,” “Bedlam,” “Primeval” and “Robin Hood,” among others.

The streamer also plans to launch two of its single-series “Pop-Up” channels with 200 catalog episodes of “Doctor Who” and 300 episodes of Antiques Roadshow.”

BBC Studios content will launch on Pluto TV in May 2019.

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“This new Pluto TV enterprise is appealing for us as we continue to attract new audiences … and expand on opportunities for existing fans to find their favorite shows to stream, in a unique way,” Beth Clearfield, SVP of digital strategy and franchise business management for BBC Studios Americas, said in a statement.

The new programming and channel collaboration with BBC Studios will join Pluto TV’s 100+ live, linear, curated channels and thousands of movies on demand from nearly 150 major studios, networks, publishers and digital first outfits. 

“Pluto TV is elated to be able to expand our range of programming by adding such an esteemed and regarded brand as the BBC,” said Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships at Pluto. “The BBC has long been a key international entertainment leader known for captivating audiences with content that transcends time.”

An assortment of fan-favorite “Classic Doctor Who” stories starring Tom Baker (in The Deadly Assassin, The Ark in Space, The Robots of Death), Peter Davison (in EarthShock, The Caves of Androzani), Jon Pertwee (in Planet of the Spiders, Terror of the Autons), and the very first Doctor, William Hartnell (in The Dalek Invasion Of Earth) will be featured on Pluto TV’s Pop-Up channel.