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.

Jeep First Auto Maker to Offer Access to Amazon Fire TV

The upcoming launch of the 2022 Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs will include a first: onboard access to Amazon Fire TV, the streaming video intermediary to Prime Video and third-party video apps.

“Amazon Fire TV for Auto” interacts directly with Jeep’s Uconnect 5 software system, expanding on Alexa Auto in-vehicle technology to help drivers stay focused on the road and keep passengers entertained. Content syncs with an existing Amazon account like other Fire TV devices, making it easy to navigate favorite apps and resume playback of a show. With Fire TV built-in, customers can pause a show in their home and seamlessly continue watching once they get into their vehicle.

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“Launching Fire TV for Auto as an industry-first technology to the Wagoneer lineup illustrates one of the many ways we intend to deliver class-leading technology and connectivity to our customers,” Christian Meunier, Jeep Brand CEO, said in a statement.

Passengers can view Fire TV in high-definition from the rear seats and the front passenger screen (a privacy filter disables driver viewing). When the vehicle is in park, the driver also can view Fire TV on the main Uconnect 5 screen

Touchscreen controls and support for compatible content can be downloaded on trips where wireless service is limited or to save on data. A Fire TV for Auto-specific remote provides control of the experience and includes push-to-talk access to Alexa, making it easy to find and quickly play shows. The remote includes a button that connects Fire TV with the new Uconnect 5 system for control of vehicle features, such as climate, maps and more.

“We reimagined Fire TV for the automobile with a purpose-built experience that delivers the best in entertainment, anywhere you go,” said Sandeep Gupta, VP and GM of Amazon Fire TV. “With Fire TV built in, customers can stream their favorite shows, and see if they left the lights on at home with Alexa.”

Fire TV for Auto will be packaged with other connected services and made available in fall 2021 in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Fox Rolling Out ‘Free Like Tubi’ Weeklong AVOD Promotion

Tubi, the AVOD platform Fox Corp. acquired in 2019 for $440 million, is mounting a week-long promotional campaign — dubbed Free Like Tubi — with third-party services and consumer electronics manufacturers, to attract viewer eyeballs.

Beginning Feb. 8, Tubi will sponsor ad-free listening through the week on streaming music provider Pandora. Listeners will have free “Video Plus Access” throughout the week. Tubi will give mobile app players free rewards on mobile game provider Zynga if users watch and engage with sponsored Tubi video content.

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Additional cross promotions include unlocking the paywall on Ad Age and giving readers complimentary access. Beginning Feb. 9, Tubi and Postmates will launch a “National Pizza Day” partnership to celebrate the special day and Free Like Tubi Week in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. On Feb. 10, Tubi will host free Amazon Fire TV 4K with Alexa Voice Remote device giveaways.

On Feb. 11, Tubi will partner with “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” where one audience player takes a popcorn quiz and goes on a search for the correct title in a huge bucket of popcorn. Additionally, 100 winners on Ellen’s IG (@theellenshow) stories will receive Visa gift cards courtesy of Tubi.

On Feb. 13, Tubi will give away one Vizio 55-inch V-series SmartCast TV and one Vizio V-series V21-H8 Soundbar. The next day, Tubi and Spotlight Cinema Networks will celebrate Valentine’s Eve with free concessions for the first 20 moviegoing cars at the Arena Cinemalounge in Hollywood, The Frida Cinema in Los Angeles, as well as the Skyline Drive-In and Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center in New York City.

Tubi will host free Roku Express device giveaways on Feb. 14. On Feb. 15, to wrap up the campaign, Guillermo from “Jimmy Kimmel Live” will treat the audience to free giveaways. Additional swag giveaways include “The Masked Singer” (@MaskedSingerFox), “The Masked Dancer” (@MaskedDancerFox) and “Name That Tune” (@NameThatTune).

WarnerMedia Extends HBO Max Discount Pricing

WarnerMedia has quietly extended to March special pricing for subscribers willing to prepay for 12-months of HBO Max service. The service, which traditionally costs $14.99 — the most expensive SVOD on the market — is effectively charging $11.66 monthly for subs paying the annual $69.99 charge.

Since launching May 27, 2020, HBO Max has aggressively sought to boost sluggish subscriber growth that tallied just 8.6 million subs through Sept. 30, 2020 (upped to 12.6 million in December). WarnerMedia now combines Max subs with HBO to boast more than 38 million members.

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The growth was hampered from the start when WarnerMedia failed to secure distribution through Roku and Amazon Fire TV — two major consumer gateways to third-party SVOD services. The Max app is now available on both platforms.

“We’re breaking new ground in the months ahead, and we can’t wait to work with our longtime partners at Roku to build on our past successes and bring Max’s entertainment to Roku’s large and highly engaged audience,” Tony Goncalves, chief revenue officer at WarnerMedia, said in a statement last month.