Stankey: HBO Max, AT&T TV Now Merger Possible

With WarnerMedia staking much of its future on over-the-top video and digital distribution, the May 27 launch of subscription streaming platform HBO Max could eventually spearhead a unified OTT product offering with digital TV service AT&T TV Now, a senior executive told a virtual investor event.

Speaking May 13 remotely on the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Communications confab, John Stankey, who is set to replace AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in July, said the two software-based platforms would ideally become linked in the future. The move mirrors WarnerMedia melding existing HBO Now and HBO Go subscribers into Max.

“You want a platform that can distribute both [services],” Stankey said. “So AT&T being software driven, HBO Max being software driven, user interface capabilities, bundling, price start to move together. I think we’re at a very natural place to see that begin to occur and our TV business and our SVOD business start to become one as we get out over the next couple of years.”

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Indeed, distribution is key to Max (and AT&T TV Now) surviving in the crowding OTT universe. The latter has already gone through two name changes from DirecTV Now, which saw initial consumer interest plummet following pricing changes.

Max is launching without an assist from Amazon Fire TV. Recent data contends Roku has 51% of the streaming media device market in the U.S., and about 30% of the streaming stick market. By comparison, Fire TV has less than 30% of the U.S. streaming device market, but 57% of the streaming stick market.

It also remains unclear whether the $14.99 Max will be offered on Amazon Channels — the e-commerce behemoth’s shrewd platform offering third-party SVOD service to more than 100 million Prime members. Notably, Amazon Channels was credited with driving subscriber growth to HBO Now following its 2015 launch. But in exchange for the landing on Channels, Amazon reportedly extracts significant compensation from services, in addition to keeping user data.

Regardless, myriad services such Starz OTT, BritBox, Acorn TV, Showtime OTT, CBSN and Epix market themselves on Channels.

FandangoNow Launches on Amazon Fire TV Devices

FandangoNow, Fandango’s transactional video-on-demand service, has launched on Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs.

“Fire TV was one of our most requested devices, and we are excited to be able to offer FandangoNow to Amazon customers,” said Cameron Douglas, head of FandangoNow, in a statement.

The move offers users of these devices the ability to watch content purchased or rented from FandangoNow’s online collection of more than 100,000 movies, catalog films and next-day TV shows. New this week on FandangoNow are the critically acclaimed Bombshell and Uncut Gems, both available for purchase, plus Rian Johnson’s Oscar-nominated whodunit Knives Out, newly available for rental.

FandangoNow offers the most comprehensive collection of 4K Ultra HD movies among on-demand video providers, according to the service, and FandangoNow’s 4K content can be streamed on one of Fire TV’s many 4K UHD streaming devices such as the Fire TV Stick 4K or Fire TV Cube. On average, more than 20% of FanangoNow’s movie rentals and sales come from 4K when made available in that format on the service, according to the company.

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“At FandangoNow, we want to deliver the highest quality movies and TV shows to our customers on all their devices,” Douglas said in a statement.

In 2019, FandangoNow experienced double-digit growth in both sales and new users, according to the service.

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FandangoNow is also available on Roku, smart TVs from LG, Samsung, Vizio and Xbox, as well as Facebook’s Portal TV and Oculus VR headsets, with a large assortment of 3D titles.

Amazon Fire TV Gets FandangoNow; Movies Anywhere Wants Your Data

Amazon’s Fire TV streaming video device now accommodates access to digital movie/TV show purchases and rentals on FandangoNow. It’s a noteworthy move since Amazon has historically shied away offering access to third parties in the same business of transactional video-on-demand.

FandangoNow, which is owned by NBCUniversal, is also available on Roku, Chromecast, Xbox, NVIDIA, Portal TV and Xiaomi.

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Separately, Movies Anywhere has begun notifying registered users about updating their privacy agreement in order to continue service on the platform backed by all major studios except Lionsgate and Paramount.

Movies Anywhere, effective Jan. 30, updated its privacy policy covering myriad issues ranging from the type of personal information collected, children’s privacy, user controls and choices and sharing of information.

“We’re sending this reminder to let you know that your Movies Anywhere Video Data sharing consent expires in 30 days,” read the email. “It’s important to renew now so that your account stays current. If you let your consent expire, newly purchased movies will not flow into and out of your Movies Anywhere account.”

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The platform, which has more than 8 million registered users, is also encouraging members to update connections to their digital retailers.

“It’s easy, and just takes a moment to complete,” said Movies Anywhere.

Participating digital retailers include Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Walmart’s Vudu.com, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, Comcast’s Xfinity Store, FandangoNow and Verizon.

Peleton In-Door Cycling Fitness App Coming to Amazon Fire TV

Peleton, manufacturer of an in-door cycling fitness platform featuring live-streamed video instruction, Dec. 4 announced first-time distribution of its app to Amazon Fire TV.

The Peloton App offers a collection of live and on-demand health and fitness classes, including strength training, cardio, toning, yoga, stretching, meditation, running, and cycling classes streamed to the living room television.

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Amazon Fire TV enables online content migration to the television.

Access to the app on Fire TV is free to Peloton members and $12.99 monthly after a free 30-day trial.

The Peloton App is available on Fire TV Stick (2nd Gen), Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV (3rd Gen Pendant design), Fire TV Cube (1st Gen) and the all-new Fire TV Cube. It will also be available on Insignia and Toshiba Fire TV Edition Smart TVs and Fire TV Edition sound bars. The Peloton App is not compatible with Fire TV (1st and 2nd Gen) and Fire TV Stick (1st Gen).

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Disney, Amazon in Dispute Over Fire TV App Ad Revenue

Amazon is much more than an e-commerce behemoth. The Seattle-based company is a major distributor of third-party streaming video services and proprietary content — the former through Amazon Channels.

So when Disney partnered with Amazon to distribute its media apps via the latter’s Fire TV streaming media device, it wasn’t about to relinquish ad revenue from the apps — even if Amazon is reportedly the second-largest distributor of streaming TV apps.

Fire TV, which trails only Roku in Q2 2019 streaming media device shipments, according to Strategy Analytics, enables consumers to stream Prime Video, Netflix, Sling TV and Hulu, among others, to the television.

Amazon wants a piece of Disney’s ad revenue from its branded apps — including ABC, ESPN and Disney Channel — according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited resources familiar to the situation.

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Disney is resisting the request, a move that could see its apps disappear from Fire TV. Indeed, the platform is not slated to carry Disney’s pending subscription streaming service, Disney+.

In the burgeoning over-the-top video ecosystem, media companies and tech companies are grappling with distribution issues — notably carriage revenue agreements — typically reserved for the pay-TV landscape.

Indeed, with Google and Amazon competing for the identical third-party ad revenue, neither offer its proprietary (YouTube, Prime Video) video platform on the other’s platform.

“The traditional negotiations between cable operators and media companies are the most vicious negotiations that I’ve ever been exposed to. And now you see that world colliding with these tech behemoths,” said Steve Shannon, chief executive of Tetra TV, which operates a marketplace for ads on streaming video, told The Journal.

When Amazon launched Fire TV in 2014, it didn’t seek a cut of third-party ad revenue. But five years later, Amazon takes significant revenue cuts from third-party streaming services offered on its Channels platform for Prime members.

The strategy is now being emulated on Fire TV, with the platform reportedly seeking upwards of 40% of third-party app ad-revenue. Disney apparently is willing to offer 10%, according to WSJ.

Meanwhile, Roku reportedly demands as much as 30% of revenue from third-parties operating on its platform. Disney-owned Hulu pays Roku about 15%.

Until the dispute is resolved, Disney+ will be available via Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, Android devices, Chromecast, Sony PS4, Xbox One and Roku.

YouTube TV Now Available on Amazon Fire TV Devices

Google-owned YouTube TV Sept. 30 announced it is now available on Amazon Fire TV streaming media devices.

The $49.99 (monthly) online TV service’s app is embedded in the Fire TV Stick (2nd Gen), Fire TV Stick 4K, all-new Fire TV Cube, all Toshiba, Insignia, Element, and Westinghouse Fire TV Edition smart TVs and previous generation Fire TV devices including Fire TV Cube (1st Gen), Fire TV (2nd Gen), Fire TV (3rd Gen — Pendant Design). The YouTube TV app is not compatible with Fire TV Stick (1st Gen) and Fire TV (1st Gen).

“The YouTube TV app brings 70+ channels of live sports, breaking news, must-see shows and movies from major broadcast and popular cable networks to the big screen,” Michael Polin, Fire TV product marketing, wrote in a blog post.

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Parks: Streaming Media Player Ownership Flattening With Roku and Amazon Leading Space

More than a third (39%) of U.S. broadband households own a streaming media player, but that’s a mere 1% increase from 2018, according to new research from Parks Associates.

Ownership has flattened, the firm noted, although purchase intentions are higher for 2019 compared to previous years.

The report, 360 Deep Dive: Adoption and Use of Connected Video Devices, found connected video device manufacturers may need to shift focus from hardware sales to service and advertising revenue, as ownership reaches saturation, according to Parks.

“Streaming media has reshaped how U.S. consumers interact with entertainment content and services, so as the market matures, sales increasingly come at another vendor’s expense,” said Parks senior analyst Kristen Hanich in a statement. “Video-quality features are the most important factors when consumers buy a connected video device, although Roku and Amazon have certainly benefited among streaming media players by having broad product portfolios that include lower price points.”

Among streaming media players, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV are the clear market leaders with almost 70% of the installed base of streaming media players in the United States, according to the firm. Consumer-reported data reveals that between Q1 2017 and Q1 2019, Roku’s share of the U.S. streaming media player installed base grew from 37% to 39%, while Amazon’s share of the installed base increased from 24% to 30%.

The report looks at the state of the connected video device space, including smart TV platforms, streaming media devices, smart set-top boxes and gaming consoles, examining the changing roles of these devices and how consumers are engaging with new functionality, such as voice control and live TV integration.

“As the addressable market shrinks, rivalry increases,” said Parks senior analyst Craig Leslie in a statement. “The combined installed base for Roku and Amazon is three times larger than the nearest competitor. The adoption of Roku and Fire TV streaming media players continues to grow at the expense of Chromecast and Apple TV.”

Vevo Ups Music Video Consumption 140%

Music video platform Vevo June 19 announced that its catalog of videos saw a 140% increase in U.S. viewing during the first quarter (ended March 31) compared with the fourth quarter of 2018 (ended Dec. 31) on its app on Amazon Fire TV Edition Smart TVs.

The service said the results show audiences will watch music videos on the best screen available, including in their living rooms. Vevo music videos are now available on several major video devices, including Fire TV.

Vevo’s monthly views on all connected TVs have grown 47% since 2018, and in the last year the service saw more than 33 billion views across these properties in the U.S. alone.

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News of Vevo’s distribution expansion comes as the changing consumption of TV has shifted in recent years and OTT enters the mainstream and with a target approach to reaching viewers who seek music content.

With back-to-back years of streaming growth in the living room, nearly 20% of Vevo streams now occur on connected TVs.

“We have begun to re-define the return of music videos to the living room for consumers and advertisers,” Kevin McGurn, president of sales and distribution at Vevo, said in a statement.

Vevo is available on the following devices and services: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Echo Show, Roku, Apple TV, Virgin Media (U.K.), Sky Q (U.K., Germany, Italy) and Sky’s Now TV (U.K., Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain).

Amazon Reveals 34 Million Fire TV Users, Topping Roku

Amazon has quietly staked the lead in active users of streaming media devices. The ecommerce giant disclosed it has 34 million Fire TV users – about 5 million more than Roku.

Amazon revealed the data May 14 in a presentation by Jen Prenner, global head of marketing at Fire TV, at the Pay TV Show in Denver.

The tally, first reported by TechCrunch, represents a 13.3% increase from the 30 million users Amazon disclosed in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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Amazon now claims Fire TV has become the No. 1 streaming media device in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, India and Japan.

Roku, by comparison, claims its operating system was embedded in 33% of all Internet-connected smart TVs sold in the U.S. in the first quarter.

Roku Shares Dip on News Amazon is Looking to Expand AVOD Service

Shares of streaming media device manufacturer April 3 Roku closed down nearly 3% after a news reports suggested Amazon is looking to expand ad-supported video-on-demand content on its Fire TV media devices.

If true, the news is significant for Roku, which operates The Roku Channel AVOD service – the fifth most-popular app on the Roku platform.

BusinessInsideand Chedder, citing sources familiar with the situation, said Amazon has been seeking bigger advertising commitments from marketers for the expansion.

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Advertisers spent more than $7 billion on digital spots in 2018, according to eMarketer. Fire TV reportedly has 30 million active registered accounts compared to 27 million for Roku.

The reports say Amazon has been asking for ad pricing commitments comparable to what media companies ask for primetime TV upfronts. Marketers reportedly have been reluctant since Amazon has not disclosed the scope of its expanded content offering.

While Amazon wouldn’t comment, the reports say the ecommerce behemoth is offering marketers targeted viewers, in addition to specific sales data and related non-personal information verifiable by Nielsen.

Separately, (Amazon-owned) IMDb’s AVOD service, Freedive, recently upped its offering of catalog movies, including Blade Runnerand Legally Blonde, and TV shows, “Heroes,” and “Fringe,” among others.