NBCUniversal, Amazon Ink Deal for Local News, Telemundo FAST Channels

NBCUniversal has signed a distribution deal with Amazon to offer upwards of 15 local news and Spanish-language Telemundo free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels across the e-commerce giant’s Fire TV platform.

With TV network news viewership in decline and FAST distribution gaining popularity, media companies are hoping the new streaming platforms will resonate with marketers and online viewers.

The channels include NBC New York News, NBC Los Angeles News, NBC Chicago News, NBC Philadelphia News, NBC Dallas News, NBC Washington, D.C. News, NBC Boston News, NBC Bay Area News, NBC South Florida News, NBC San Diego News and NBC Connecticut News. The four Telemundo FAST channels are Noticias Telemundo Noreste, Noticias Telemundo California, Noticias Telemundo Texas and Noticias Telemundo Florida.

“News continues to be a top choice for viewers, and we are proud to reach new audiences with best-in-class journalism from our local stations,” Matt Schnaars, president of NBCUniversal Content Distribution, said in a statement.

Other NBCUniversal properties available on Fire TV include Peacock, “Today All Day” and “Dateline 24/7.” The platform also features apps for NBC, Bravo, E!, Oxygen, Syfy, USA, Universal Kids, MSNBC, NBC News, CNBC, NBC Sports and Telemundo.

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IMDb Bows ‘What to Watch’ Streaming App

Amazon-owned IMDb May 5 announced the launch of a free IMDb What to Watch app for the ecommerce behemoth’s Fire TV streaming device.

The app offers a series of interactive games to help families, friends, or those playing individually discover and decide what to stream. Available to Fire TV devices in the U.S., users receive customized movie and TV series recommendations across multiple streaming services tailored to their current moods and interests.

“Hundreds of millions of customers rely on IMDb when deciding what and where to watch,” Nikki Santoro, IMDb chief operating officer, said in a statement. “The app makes it easy, fun, and fast for customers to discover trending titles and hidden gems, find the perfect movie or TV series to fit any mood, and get the most out of their streaming services on Fire TV.”

Using proprietary and authoritative IMDb data, the app suggests a selection of movie and/or series picks with key details for each title, including genre, trailer, and plot summary. For those looking for input from other entertainment fans, recommended titles also display IMDb user ratings for movies and TV shows, which help customers make informed viewing decisions.

By enabling the “Your Services” feature, users can customize the app settings to prioritize titles available from their preferred streaming services. Every pick also displays the runtime, so viewers can plan their couch time accordingly. Once a viewing decision has been made, customers will be shown where they can stream the title.

The following games are available to play now on the app via the Fire TV Alexa voice remote:

  • Quick Draw: For players who enjoy the element of chance, virtual “playing cards” shuffle through movie and series options, revealing a trio of picks in seconds. Players can click “deal cards” for a fresh set of picks.
  • Watch Challenge: Players are invited to watch, rate, and collect digital stamps as they view curated IMDb lists of titles, including the IMDb Top 250 movies list, award-winning titles, and popular franchises. Themed lists will be updated frequently.
  • This or That: Players will answer a series of simple “This or That?” questions to find the perfect movie or TV series to suit their mood, whether they are seeking an epic romance, a G-rated family title, a supernatural horror film, or a slapstick comedy. Players can refresh choices, including desired viewing time, before their picks are revealed.


IMDb will continue to launch new games on the app, including “Build-a-Cast” and “Time Machine.”

The app is available now to download for free from the Fire TV Appstore. Users who sign into their IMDb accounts on the app will receive updates on new features and games, can sync their personal ratings across IMDb and the app.

Toshiba Bows New Flagship 4K UHD Smart-TVs

Toshiba Dec. 6 announced the launch of its new flagship TV, the M550KU LED 4K UHD smart-TV with the Amazon Fire TV streaming media device embedded.

“Our goal is to … make entertainment more intuitive and engaging for customers,” Daniel Rausch, VP of Amazon entertainment devices
and services, said in a statement. “We’re excited to see Toshiba invest in a flagship TV that combines Fire TV’s best-in-class entertainment with hands-free Alexa.”

The M series units include REGZA Engine 4K technology, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision, and a bezel-less full-screen design, priced from $799.99 for the 55-inch screen, $999.99 (65-inch), and $1,199.99 (75-inch).

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Toshiba claims the models are the first Fire TV smart-TV with local dimming in up to 48 zones for color adjustment in dark environments. The 120HZ native panel and 480 motion rate help to support Auto Low Latency Mode to enhance video game play, and create smooth, fluid movement from fast-action content.

Separately, the Toshiba C-Series 4K Smart Fire TVs are available at Best Buy priced from $369.99 (43-inch), $469.99 (50-inch), $519.99 (55-inch), $719.99 (65-inch) and $999.99 (75-inch). The Toshiba V-Series HD Smart Fire TVs are also available at Best Buy for $229.99 (32-inch) and $319.99 (43-inch).

Data Suggests Sluggish HBO Max Rollout in Europe

Challenges affecting WarnerMedia’s rollout of the HBO Max subscription streaming service are well documented. Most-recently, Warner cautioned that the departure of the Max app from the Amazon Prime Channels platform could see it lose 5 million subscribers.

Now, new data from Digital TV Research contends the service’s launch across Europe is being undermined by existing distribution deals HBO has with regional pay-TV distributors. Indeed, Max will have a limited impact in Western Europe, with just 3.2 million paying subs across seven countries by 2026, according to the London-based research firm.

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“It is not expected to start in several key European countries due to existing long-term deals with pay-TV operators,” principal analyst Simon Murray said in a statement.

Sobering stats considering that when Max launched in the spring of 2020, it had failed to secure distribution through Amazon Fire TV and the Roku platform — the two gateways representing almost 70% of consumer interaction with streaming video.

Regardless, WarnerMedia parent AT&T expects global subscribers of between 120 million and 150 million for Max and HBO by the end of 2025.

Netflix remains the top streamer with 67 million subs by 2026, including up 10 million at the end of 2021. Disney+ will have 53 million subs by 2026 — double the tally at the end of this year, and just behind Amazon Prime Video.

Overall, there will be 238 million SVOD subs across 18 Western European countries in 2026, up from 167 million at the end of 2021. Germany will lead all countries, adding 17 million, followed Italy and France with 10 million each, and the U.K. with 9 million.

Comcast Bows XiOne — A New 4K, Wi-Fi 6 Global Streaming Video Device

In a swipe at Roku, Amazon Fire TV and others, Comcast Sept. 22 announced the launch of the XiOne, a new global wireless streaming device currently available in Italy and Germany to Sky Q customers and beginning its rollout in the United States to Xfinity Flex subscribers. In Europe, the XiOne enables the first delivery of video services over IP for Sky customers.

The XiOne is the first Comcast-connected streaming device that will be made available to all its global customers across company’s Xfinity and Sky operations, and to its syndication partners.

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The XiOne is a plug-and-play device that claims faster processing and increased memory for proprietary and third-party apps. The device supports WiFi 6, 4K UHD, HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and comes with a new simpler and smaller voice remote designed with streamers in mind.

“When Sky joined the Comcast family, we brought together our engineers to share insights, roadmaps, talent, and technology to support our global customers,” Charlie Herrin, president of technology at Comcast, said in a statement. The launch of our new XiOne device is a direct result of these efforts.”

Comcast plans to make the device available across more channels and to its Xfinity X1 customers and syndication partners in the future.

Peacock Gets Amazon Fire TV Distribution

NBCUniversal’s SVOD/AVOD platform Peacock is finally getting distribution on Amazon Fire TV — a gateway (along with Roku) the streaming service has lacked since launching a year ago. The absence, say many observers, has contributed to sluggish subscriber growth for Peacock, while app downloads have increased.

NBCUniversal and Amazon disclosed that Peacock, along with 15 network apps, would be made available on Fire TV and Fire tablets in the United States beginning June 24. Amazon, along with Roku, reportedly represent gateways to 70% of connected homes domestically.

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In a virtual call last month with a Wall Street investor group, Comcast Corp. chairman/CEO Brian Roberts said he was looking for more Peacock sign-ups going forward.

Comcast reported 42 million Peacock sign-ups (not subscribers) through the end of the fiscal period ended March 31. But that tally includes three access options, including a free ad-supported option with limited content; a $4.99 monthly option with ads; and a $9.99 ad-free tier.

The Wall Street Journal last month reported that only about 10 million people actually pay for Peacock on a monthly basis.

Report: First-Quarter Streaming Video Use Cools; Roku Market Share Dips

Streaming video continues to resonate with consumers globally, albeit not as strongly as last year when the pandemic was in its infancy, resulting in the abrupt closure of movie theaters, sporting events and sequestering consumers in their homes.

New data from Conviva found that viewing time grew 36% during the first quarter, ended March 31, compared to the previous-year period when streaming video growth topped 57%.

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While North America, the world’s biggest streaming market, saw solid 18% year-over-year growth in streaming viewing, that was down from 57% last year, which included South America. The true streaming explosion occurred internationally, with South America (up 240%), Africa (149% vs. 25%) and Europe (+122% vs. 70%) experiencing triple-digit growth.

Data for the report was primarily collected from Conviva’s proprietary sensor technology currently embedded in 3.3 billion streaming video applications, measuring in excess of 500 million unique viewers watching 180 billion streams per year with 1.5 trillion real-time transactions per day across more than 180 countries.

The report also revealed that as more consumers are migrating to connected TV devices, smart-TVs and gaming consoles (73% market share), current device leaders Roku and Amazon Fire TV’s share of the streaming device market is eroding.

Roku and Amazon Fire TV saw a slight decline (2.9% and 3.6% respectively) in share of viewing time in Q1, as international viewing and smart-TVs continued to surge globally. While Roku captured a significant 30% share of global big-screen viewing time, this dominance was primarily driven by North America, where it commanded 37% share in Q1. In Europe, Roku’s second-largest market, Roku accounted for only 8% share of the big screen, and it did not fare any better in other regions, with 4% share or less in Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America.

“In every region in the world, streaming viewership is growing, representing a global shift in the way people consume content,” Bill Demas, CEO of Conviva, said in a statement. “This rapidly expanding international audience has created an enormous opportunity for content developers, device manufacturers and advertisers to engage new audiences as the brands and publishers who understand exactly how, when and where people are streaming, will inevitably triumph.”

According to Conviva, there is significant variation in the way consumers in different regions stream on TV screens. In Africa, where TV screens represent 56% of all viewing time, the CanalPlus set-top box was the preferred device, with 54% share of all Q1 screen viewing time. In Asia, Android TV held 49% of all Q1 screen viewing time, while in North America, where TV screens are responsible for 81% of all viewing time, Roku continued to dominate with 37% share. In Europe, screen viewing time was divided relatively equally among devices, while in Oceania, Chromecast ruled with 24% and in South America, Samsung TV held 30% share of TV screen viewing.

Social platforms continue to deliver strong return-on-investment (ROI) for streaming publishers, delivering new audiences and increased engagement. The total number of posts from streaming publishers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube combined grew 99% in Q1 2021 as compared to Q1 2020, with total videos increasing 39% and total engagements increasing 24%. Audience growth across all social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok, grew 61% year over year.



Roku Dominates ‘March Madness’ Streaming

With the 2021 NCAA College Basketball National Championship Tournament, a.k.a. March Madness, readying for the Sweet 16 elimination rounds, sports fans are increasingly streaming games via standalone media devices and connected televisions. The opening round set new records with more than a billion minutes streamed across 32 games in just two days, according to new data from Conviva.

The tournament thus far reveals an ongoing trend streaming games on the big TV screen. Historically the first day of round one sees the most viewership. This held true this year as day one netted 15% more time spent streaming than day two, according to the report.

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Streaming on television increased significantly in the first two rounds to 68% share of time spent in round one, from 48% in 2019 and just 41% in the opening days of 2018. While streaming games on the PC lost market share, the increase in TV consumption comes primarily at the expense of mobile viewing, which decreased to less than half the share held during the previous March Madness. The report attributed this to the pandemic-trend of in-home viewing and the overall, multiyear trend of increased streaming via televisions.

More than 40% of the tournament thus far has been streamed on TVs through Roku devices, followed by Amazon Fire TV (26%), Samsung TV (10%), and Apple TV with 8% share. LG TV and Xbox each tallied 4% share, with Chromecast picking up 3%. Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio, Android TV, and PlayStation lagged behind the field with under 2% share of viewing time.

Conviva reported that social media engagements per post rose an average of 164% for teams in round one as compared to the regular season. Teams tallied 3 million total cross-platform engagements over just two days in the first round of the tournament, with Wisconsin, Syracuse, and Illinois taking the top three spots for total cross-platform engagements.

March Madness often vaults unexpected teams into national view. This year it’s Oral Roberts with 15 times the number of social media engagements per post versus the regular season, and leading in cross-platform, Twitter, and Instagram engagement rates.

Report: Amazon Topped Roku in Q4 Streaming Media Device Sales

Roku, along with Netflix, invented the subscription streaming video market more than a decade ago. Along the way, Roku streaming devices have led the market in unit sales. That trend reportedly changed in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2020).

New data from Strategy Analytics found that Amazon Fire TV controlled 12.1% of the 109.1 million (13.2 million) streaming media devices sold in the period. Samsung Smart TVs and Sony PlayStation 5 followed with 11.9 million (10.9%) and 8.9 million (8.2%) units, respectively.

Meanwhile, Roku finished sixth in the quarter with 6.3 million (5.8%) units sold. Google Chromecast and Apple TV finished with 4.7 million (4.3%) and 4 million (4.3%) devices sold, respectively.

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“[The fourth quarter] is always a strong period for home entertainment products, and, in spite of the pandemic 2020, didn’t disappoint,” David Watkins, director, TV streaming platforms, said in a statement. “Demand for connected TV devices remained strong throughout the holiday period as consumers in most major economies preferred to enjoy streaming video services on their big screens.”


Vudu Coming to Amazon Fire TV Edition Smart TVs and Fire TV Streaming Devices

Vudu, the transactional VOD service owned by Fandango, is launching in March on Amazon Fire TV Edition smart TVs and Fire TV streaming devices.

Consumers will be able to purchase or rent titles from Vudu on a mobile device or computer and the titles will appear instantly in their Vudu library on Fire TV for playback.

Consumers can also stream Vudu’s catalog of 4K Ultra HD content on Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube, or the Fire TV Edition smart TV’s 4K models.

Vudu offers more than 150,000 new-release and catalog movies and TV shows, along with an extensive library of content in 4K Ultra HD. The service has experienced double-digit growth in new accounts in 2020 year over year, according to a Fandango release.

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 “We want Vudu fans to be able to watch movies and TV shows on all of their favorite devices, and Fire TV has been one of our customers’ most-requested devices for streaming content,” Kevin Shepela, EVP and chief commercial officer at Fandango, said in a statement. “With Vudu’s vast library of premium content from new release event movies to favorite films and TV shows, we are excited to deliver to Fire TV users so many new viewing options to watch in their living rooms, many in breathtaking 4K.”

Last week, Vudu launched on Xfinity Flex and X1, and in 2020 it launched on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S, and TiVo. Vudu can also be found on dozens of connected television devices and streaming platforms from Roku, LG, Sony and many others.