Disney: Ad-Supported Disney+ Could Mirror Hulu Pricing

Disney’s pending launch of a cheaper, ad-supported option for Disney+ has no price point or launch date. But that didn’t stop Wall Street analysts from calling out Disney senior management for further details on the subscriber option SVOD rival Netflix is looking to emulate in the fourth quarter.

Speaking on the May 11 fiscal call, CFO Christine McCarthy and CEO Bob Chapek both reiterated that an ad-supported Disney+ option is coveted by marketers as well as a way to attract incremental subscribers.

CEO Bob Chapek, CFO Christine McCarthy

“We will continue to evaluate what makes sense for the service in terms of pricing,” McCarthy said. “And I will say that you can look to our experience with Hulu and [its] ad-supported tier. We believe that this will contribute to ARPU. And we look at it as certainly something additive that will work towards achieving our long-term profitability goals.”

Hulu charges $6.99 monthly for access with advertising, and $12.99 monthly for ad-free access. Disney+ currently costs $7.99 monthly, but Chapek hinted a price hike was in play in part to pay for upwards $32 billion in multiplatform content production across Disney properties.

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“As we increase our content investment, we believe that that’s going to give us the ability to adjust our price,” Chapek said. “We are bullish about our future content going forward, not only in terms of quality but also in terms of quantity. And that’s really what’s driving our bullishness, for what we might see as the pricing power that we would have going forward.”

The executive said the company remained in “good shape” in terms of being able to meet an internal deadline for rollout of the Disney+ ad tier.

“That’s largely because we’re already doing it,” Chapek said. “The combination of our ESPN+ streaming tech stack, and our experience in Hulu and the software, we think that our current advertising capabilities really substantially prepare us to already bring this tier into operations.”

He said Disney doesn’t need to acquire additional assets or develop anything new internally since it acquired IT backend engine BAMTech in 2017.

“We’ve been looking forward to the [Disney+ ad-tier option] for a while,” Chapek said. “So, this is something that’s well-greased, if you will. And our teams are hard at work at making that become a reality.”

FilmRise Inks Content Deals With Rooster Teeth, Lorne Michaels’ Above Average

New York-based film and TV studio and streaming network FilmRise has inked content deals with Rooster Teeth and Lorne Michaels’ Above Average Presents.

Under the deal with Above Average, a division of Broadway Video, FilmRise will create streaming TV episodes featuring a variety of comedy sketches taken from the more than 40 hours available from the Above Average library. FilmRise will distribute the newly formatted comedy series to all digital platforms as well as feature it on the FilmRise Comedy AVOD App and its FAST Channels. 

“Our deal with Above Average expands our digital native offerings to include comedy with high-profile, high-quality programming,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement. “Above Average is a brand that features some of the biggest names in comedy and has over 8 million subscribers in its network and 2.4 billion views on YouTube.”

“We are thrilled to expand Above Average’s audience to streaming viewers around the world,” Marc Lieberman, president of Above Average, said in a statement. “Since the launch of Above Average, we have watched the network grow exponentially, and are excited to partner with FilmRise’s innovative team to expand our digital footprint worldwide.”

Initially FilmRise will roll out two seasons, consisting of 15 episodes each. Episodes will range from 22 minutes to 30 minutes long. The programs will include comedy sketches from “7 Minutes In Heaven,” featuring talent such as Paul Rudd, Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, Amy Poehler and Andy Samberg, among many others; “Cool Kids’ Table”; “Forgotten Assholes of History”; “Hudson Valley Ballers”; “I Wanna Have Your Baby”; “Is This Okay?”; “Paulilu Mixtape”; “Sound Advice”; “The Idiot’s Guide to Smart People”; “Thingstarter”; and “Waco Valley.”

FilmRise plans to launch the first two season in July 2022.

Under the Rooster Teeth deal, FilmRise has acquired the exclusive SVOD, AVOD and FAST rights to more than 400 episodes across three properties of digital native content from the subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery. The three properties are the first animated series that FilmRise has acquired for the digital native content division.

The deal includes exclusive SVOD, AVOD and FAST rights to all episodes of “Red vs. Blue,” “Camp Camp” and “Nomad of Nowhere.” FilmRise will curate groupings of episodes seasons from each property and package them into traditional half-hour TV style seasons and episodes for streaming audiences.

“We are thrilled to expand our rapidly growing slate of digital-first content with these incredible programs from Rooster Teeth, a digital entertainment pioneer that has created a passionate global fandom and lifestyle brand,” Einhorn said in a statement. “FilmRise recognized early on the huge landscape of talent in the digital native content space. We’re delighted Rooster Teeth will partner with our expansive streaming network to bring their content to wider audiences.”

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“Our partnership with FilmRise provides instant worldwide international distribution and exposure on multiple streaming platforms leveraging our global fan base, expanding our programming into many new territories and bringing new fans into our community,” Geoff Yetter, head of licensing and consumer products at Rooster Teeth, said in a statement.

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“Camp Camp”

“Red vs. Blue” is an animated comedy set against the Halo video game world, chronicling the lives of soldiers on the Red Team and the Blue Team. “Camp Camp” is an animated comedy series surrounding the misadventures of a cynical 10-year-old sent to summer camp against his will. “Nomad of Nowhere” is a Western-fantasy hybrid, following bounty hunters Captain Toth and Skout as they track the Nomad (a non-verbal scarecrow) for his magical capabilities. The series examines the relationship between the two female bounty hunters in the face of the ever-evolving nature of their adventures. All three series were produced in-house by Rooster Teeth’s animation studio in Austin, Texas.

Ampere: AVOD Services Grew Original Content by More Than 100 Titles in Past Two Years

Major advertising-funded VOD platforms have joined the original content goldrush, with services such as Roku, Tubi and IMDb TV collectively releasing more than 100 new original titles in the past two years, according to a new report from Ampere Analysis.

Also, U.S. AVOD services with the highest investment in original content have seen the largest growth in usage, according to Ampere. Tubi, which has launched 20 original titles, saw monthly usage grow by 164%, by Ampere’s estimates, between Q3 2020 and Q3 2021.

AVOD originals cannot compete with titles from larger SVOD services, which are also creating more originals. AVOD platforms can’t match the billions of dollars spent by the leading SVOD players in the creation of original content, according to Ampere. AVOD services are smaller in scale, and the advertising business model will struggle to justify the sorts of multi-million-dollars-per-hour content investments which the leading SVOD players have applied to new flagship titles. However, according to Ampere’s analysts, one fundamental calculation for investing in original content remains true for both service types: As platforms expand globally, original content investments scale well. Investing in originals is a consistent way to offer exclusive content worldwide without incurring additional licensing costs in each market, according to Ampere.

Additionally, while AVOD originals do not yet provide enough of a draw to pull viewers away from larger SVOD platforms entirely, they do differentiate services within the increasingly fragmented AVOD market, and offer a reason for viewers to choose one service over another, according to Ampere.

Roku has invested more extensively in original-branded content, in part because of its acquisitions of Quibi’s content assets and its focus on low-cost-per-hour content. Of the six most popular AVOD platforms in the United States, Pluto TV is the only one not to have invested meaningfully in original programming — although it is in a position to take advantage of the programming slate of its parent company — Paramount — and outside the United States has become the temporary home for hit Paramount originals such as “Star Trek: Discovery.”

“Despite AVOD originals not having an impact in the wider streaming market — largely limited by their current lack of reach — AVOD platforms should not stop their investment,” said Joseph Hall, analyst at Ampere Analysis, in a statement. “Our analysis shows that the AVOD platforms with the highest growth in use since Q3 2020 are those with the most released or announced original programming.”

FilmRise Acquires North American Streaming Rights to ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ TV Series

New York-based film and television studio and streaming network FilmRise has acquired North American rights to stream TV episodes based on the anime property “Yu- Gi-Oh!” from Konami Cross Media NY, a member of the Konami Group.

The deal grants AVOD streaming rights for the FilmRise Streaming Network, including all FilmRise owned and operated apps and FAST channels. 

“Adding ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ to our content offering is a major step forward for FilmRise in our aim to offer fans the opportunity to watch their favorite anime programs for free. This iconic Japanese property will be featured alongside other beloved anime content on our FilmRise Anime channel, a growing new destination for North American anime fans,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-production at FilmRise, said in a statement. 

“We are excited to partner with FilmRise to expand the reach of the ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ series to fans on their successful and rapidly growing FilmRise Streaming Network,” Kristen Gray, president of Konami Cross Media, said in a statement.

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The “Yu-Gi-Oh!” franchise is based on the manga series that inspired a trading card game played with monsters, spells and traps, several video games, the television series and more. The video streaming package includes 808 episodes of the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” TV series in English, and 541 dubbed in Spanish. It includes “Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters” (236 episodes); “Yu-Gi-Oh! GX” (155 episodes); “Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s” (123 episodes); “Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL” (146 episodes) and “Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V” (148 episodes).

Mad for Ads

I’m old enough to remember that when cable first appeared on the television scene, one of its biggest enticements was little to no advertising with the content compared to broadcast.

Slowly but surely, over the decades each cable channel gathered more and more advertising until watching a two-hour movie could stretch to nearly four hours with ads, and I could do a load of laundry and wash the dishes during the typical interminable ad break.

No advertising was also an initial enticement for streaming services, and first-mover Netflix is still sticking to its guns on that feature, as is the new upstart Apple TV+. But competitors seem to be jumping into the advertising market with both feet, with Disney+ recently announcing it would provide an ad-supported option for budget-minded customers beginning in late 2022.

I recently watched an original on the ad-supported option of one of these services and was dismayed to see how many ad breaks there were. It seemed every time the drama crescendoed another ad broke the tension.

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I am seeing signs that the ad-supported streaming tier is going to turn into coach-class, as opposed to first-class. Those first-class streamers who can pay will see shows uninterrupted while those that can’t will get what they used to get with cable and what made them leave cable in the first place — more and longer ad breaks.

Vizio’s WatchFree+ to Bow Exclusive Lifestyle Series With Tori Spelling

Vizio is collaborating with MyTime Movie Network to launch the new lifestyle streaming series “@Home with Tori,” starring actress, author,and TV personality Tori Spelling.

Currently in production and scheduled to premiere on Vizio’s free streaming service WatchFree+ in May, the 10-episode Vizio exclusive TV series centers around themes curated by Spelling, best known for her role in the 1990s TV show “Beverly Hills 90210.”

The series will feature everything from family-themed episodes with mothers and daughters to pool parties and cocktail specials. Spelling will showcase tips and tricks for cooking, baking and entertaining as she prepares dishes from locally sourced foods joined by her family, expert chefs, and celebrity guests, including Patti Stranger of “The Millionaire Matchmaker.” “@Home with Tori” celebrates themes ranging from family traditions, travel, birthday and holiday festivities.

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“To say I’m excited to film a series with my friends and family from the comfort of my own home would be an understatement,” Spelling said in a statement. “From cooking to entertaining, we hope to inspire viewers to create memorable experiences from home. We are going to have a lot of fun, and I’m thrilled the Vizio audience will be along for the journey with us.”

“We were excited to work with Tori Spelling and Jacob Nasser to create these episodes that Vizio audiences will love,” Greg Barnard, director of content acquisition at Vizio and executive producer of “@Home with Tori,” said in a statement. “Based on our Inscape data, we know that they enjoy cooking, DIY, and entertainment, and together we developed the episodes that were a natural fit for Tori’s passions and that would resonate with what our viewers want to watch most. This show invites audiences to join Tori and special guests in her home for an exclusive entertainment experience and is another great example of how we continue to deliver programming that is unique, relevant and available only on Vizio.”

“@Home with Tori” is the first original production from MyTime Movie Network, a female-focused network of channels that’s available in 19 countries and six languages.

FilmRise Inks Streaming Distribution Deal for ‘Kids in the Hall’

FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired SVOD, AVOD and FAST streaming rights to Broadway Video’s Canadian sketch comedy series “Kids in the Hall.”

The deal includes rights to all five seasons (110 episodes) of the series, which is being rebooted by Amazon with all five cast members of the Toronto-based comedy show returning.

“Since Amazon’s announcement of their plans to reboot the series, there has been overwhelming demand from fans to re-watch the original episodes,” said Max Einhorn, SVP, co-productions and acquisitions for FilmRise, in a statement. “We are excited to bring both die-hard fans and a whole new generation the entire series to stream on their favorite platforms.”

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“Kids in the Hall,” an irreverent sketch comedy series that debuted on HBO and CBC Television in 1989, features Canadian comedians Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Dave Foley and Bruce McCulloch.  The first three seasons ran on HBO until moving to CBS in 1993. The series finale aired in 1995 and was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series.

Chicken Soup for the Soul AVOD Streaming App Added to Vizio Service

The Chicken Soup for the Soul AVOD streaming service application has been added to the Vizio service, Crackle Plus, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company, announced.

The streaming service will offer three thousand hours of at launch, including exclusive programming from Chicken Soup for the Soul original series such as “Smart Home Nation.”

“Vizio is pleased to launch the Chicken Soup for the Soul app and offer our audience titles from such a beloved brand,” Katherine Pond, VP of business development for Vizio, said in a statement. “Bringing the feel-good content that Chicken Soup for the Soul is known for to Vizio audiences is another way that we can deliver on our promise to offer entertainment that viewers know and love.”

“We are excited to bring the Chicken Soup for the Soul AVOD service to millions of Vizio viewers,” Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus, said in a statement. “We plan to provide a unique blend of entertainment from content and distribution partners who share our vision.”

The Chicken Soup for the Soul streaming service will provide entertainment stories that range from mysteries to miracles, comedy to true crime, the royal family to romcoms in the form of lifestyle programming, original scripted movies, Hollywood blockbusters and classic TV series, according to a Crackle Plus release.

Also now available on Chicken Soup for the Soul is programming from Kin, which has celebrity-driven lifestyle programming. It includes 18 exclusive episodes of “Tia Mowry’s Quick Fix,” and 12 episodes of “All Things Adrienne” (Adrienne Houghton) as well as other series with more fresh content arriving in the coming months.

Chicken Soup for the Soul originals and AVOD exclusives available at launch include:

  • “Smart Home Nation” (original), produced by Efran Films in association with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment and Parkside Entertainment, and hosted by Tanya Memme, explores smart houses on planet Earth. From ‘A’-list mansions with security systems that can recognize your face from down the block to heated backyards that allow you to swim outside while it’s snowing, the series highlights experimental tech havens that would look right at home in “The Jetsons.”
  • Senior Moment (exclusive), a romantic comedy-drama film directed by Giorgio Serafini and starring William Shatner, Jean Smart and Christopher Lloyd. The film follows Victor Martin (Shatner), a retired NASA test pilot, after he loses his license from drag racing his vintage convertible around Palm Springs. Forced to take public transportation, he meets Caroline (Smart) and learns to navigate love and life again.
  • “Vacation Rental Potential” (original) follows designer and real estate expert Holly Baker as she explores beautiful vacation rental properties across the United States, helping clients maximize their earning potential.
  • Off the Rails (exclusive) is Kelly Preston’s final film, with Jenny Seagrove, Sally Philipps, Andrea Corr and Judi Dench about a group of 50-something women on a European vacation who have a change of itinerary when a teenager (Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips) joins their plans.
  • Hope Gap (exclusive), starring Annette Benning, Bill Nighy, and Josh O’Connor, follows two parents’ visit with their son that takes a dramatic turn when dad reveals he’s leaving his wife.
  • Thanks for the Memories (exclusive), a romantic comedy two-part limited series with Tamzin Merchant, Tom Wlaschiha, and Bekka Bowling, tells the tale of a woman (Merchant) who, after receiving a blood transfusion, finds she now has memories that aren’t her own.

 

“For years Chicken Soup for the Soul has been the go-to destination for those looking to find comfort, enlightenment, humor and inspiration,” Amy Newmark, author, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul self-help book series, said in a statement. “With our new AVOD streaming service we are thrilled to now have a home for the exciting video content that we have been creating for years. We look forward to producing new series that will help us better serve our audience and change the world one story at a time.”

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The VOD app launch on Vizio follows Chicken Soup for the Soul’s recent FAST channel launches on Vizio’s free streaming service, WatchFree+, as well as Plex, FreeCast, Redbox, LG Channels, Stirr and Xumo.

Crackle Plus streaming services are currently distributed through 60 touch points in the United States, including Amazon FireTV, RokuTV, Apple TV, smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Vizio), gaming consoles (PS4 and XBoxOne), Plex, iOS and Android mobile devices, and on desktops at Crackle.com. Crackle is also available in approximately 500,000 hotel rooms in the Marriott Bonvoy chain.

‘Antiques Roadshow’ U.K. Channel Available on Samsung TV Plus in U.S.

A BBC “Antiques Roadshow” U.K. channel is now available in the United States on Samsung TV Plus, Samsung’s free, ad-supported streaming service, available on Samsung Smart TVs.

The series, in its 44th season, follows host Fiona Bruce and her team of antiquarian experts as they tour the United Kingdom’s most sumptuous and unusual locations to uncover artifacts, search for hidden treasures, and reveal the remarkable stories of unique and incredible items.

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The “Antiques Roadshow” U.K. channel, preloaded and accessible from the home screen, joins more than 200 premium channels already available on Samsung TV Plus across the United States on millions of Samsung Smart TVs and galaxy devices and on the Web.

Interpret: Disney+ Subs More Amenable to Ad-Supported Content

Disney+ subscribers are more amenable to ad-based content than the general population, according to Interpret data, making the company well-positioned as it plans to introduce a lower-priced, ad-supported subscription tier for its digital streaming video service.

Interpret’s VideoWatch data shows that 55% of Disney+ viewers are already consuming content on ad-supported services, compared with 44% of the general population.

“When Disney first entered the subscription OTT space, it redefined the benchmarks for success for a new streaming service,” Brett Sappington, VP at Interpret, said in a statement. “Prior to its entry, companies were pleased to exceed 1 or 2 million subscribers. When Disney was able to quickly capture millions of customers, they set a high bar for others to reach. The same could happen in the ad-supported streaming space as well. With its large current subscribership, a known content brand, and existing relationships with advertisers through its television business, Disney+ is well positioned for success with an ad-supported tier.”