HBO Max Generates Underwhelming 87,000 First-Day App Downloads

HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s high-profile SVOD platform, generated about 87,000 app downloads on portable devices, according to new data from Sensor Tower. While the tally doesn’t include migration of HBO and HBO Now subs to the new platform, it still is significantly below the 300,000 app downloads upstart Quibi generated on its first day on April 7.

Distribution is key to over-the-top video penetration, and HBO Max didn’t quite have all its channels lined up when it launched service on May 27. Notably missing: Amazon Prime Channels, Roku and Comcast Xfinity.

Later in the day, Max parent WarnerMedia announced it had come to an agreement with Comcast enabling Xfinity and Flex subs to access Max (separate subscription required). This was a big deal since Comcast Cable has more than 20 million video subs and its own competing Peacock SVOD/AVOD service.

Regardless, Max desperately needs as many distributors as possible to stay competitive in the subscriber numbers game with Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu.

“We’re thrilled to cap off the excitement of today’s launch by adding Comcast’s Xfinity to our roster of distributors who are now offering HBO Max to their customers,” Rich Warren, president of WarnerMedia Distribution, said in a statement. “This deal marks another important step in the distribution of HBO Max and provides millions of Xfinity customers with access to the product.”

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Max still lacks distribution through Amazon Prime Channels and Roku — both traditional must-haves for generating OTT subs if the service is going to reach 50 million subs without cannibalizing existing HBO Now, Go and pay-TV subs. Former HBO CEO Richard Plepler acknowledged Amazon was key to HBO Now generating 50% of its 8 million subs.

An Amazon spokesperson said that AT&T’s decision to bypass Prime Channels hurts HBO subs.

“We believe that if you’re paying for HBO, you’re entitled to the new programming through the method you’re already using. That’s just good customer service and that’s a priority for us,” Amazon said in a statement.

Ultimately, financial and data issues beneficial to all parties drive OTT video distribution deals via third part platforms such as such as Prime Channels, Roku and Apple TV+ Channels.

“Unfortunately we haven’t reached agreement yet with HBO Max,” Roku said in a statement. “While not on our platform [with 40 million subs] today, we look forward to helping Max in the future successfully scale their streaming business.”

Rebecca Heap, SVP of entertainment at Comcast Cable, said Max offers X1 and broadband-only Flex subs added content depth, including live content.

“We look forward to partnering with WarnerMedia to integrate the HBO Max app on our platforms alongside close to 200 other streaming services — all searchable with the award-winning Xfinity Voice Remote,” Heap said in a statement.

‘Somewhere South,’ ‘Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street’ and ‘Mind of a Chef’ Streaming on PBS Living Channel in March

PBS Distribution is bowing seasons of three cooking shows in March on the PBS Living Prime Video Channel: six episodes of the new series “Somewhere South,” the third season of “Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street” and the first two seasons of “The Mind of a Chef.”

The subscription rate for the PBS Living Prime Video Channel is $2.99 a month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. PBS Living is also available on Apple TV Channels in the Apple TV app at a subscription rate of $2.99 a month with no additional annual fees.

Available now are seasons one and two of “The Mind of a Chef,” combining travel, cooking, history, science, and humor into one culinary journey. The series goes inside the kitchen and mind of acclaimed chefs from around the globe. Examining the intricacies of what it takes to become a remarkable chef, season one, narrated by Anthony Bourdain, follows David Chang who has earned almost every major cooking award. Chang travels to Japan to speak about his ramen roots and then to Montreal with comedian Aziz Ansari to satiate his thirst for culinary inspiration. Season two is split into two parts, following chefs Sean Brock and April Bloomfield, with eight episodes on each. Brock is renowned for his expansion and preservation of traditional Southern cooking traditions and through extensive historical research, his cuisine has shined a spotlight on the varieties of crops that once made America the envy of the world. British-born Bloomfield got drunk with friends the night before her police academy exam and overslept her chance to join the force, eventually leading to April becoming known as one of the most innovative chefs of her generation. April wrestles with the demands of opening a new restaurant, tests menu ideas, obsesses over ingredients, and cooks with her mentors and contemporaries.

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Due March 23 is season three of “Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street,” in which Kimball and his team travel the globe searching for techniques and ingredients that can transform home cooking, producing better dishes and in less time. Viewers travel along from the very first bite to a perfectly executed recipe. The team travels to Mexico, Lebanon, France, Thailand, Italy, Australia and many other countries. They might find a new way to use spices, a simpler way to cook chicken, a fresh combination of spices or tricks and techniques that turn classic dishes into something a little more unique.

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Coming March 28 are six episodes of the new show “Somewhere South,” in which celebrity chef, author, restaurateur and award-winning host for PBS’ “A Chef’s Life,” Vivian Howard, hosts a culinary journey that explores the cultural twists on classic dishes and new traditions that are being formed in the American South. Howard examines popular dishes such as dumplings, hand pies, porridge and many others and speaks on how these dishes change from culture to culture. In North Carolina, Howard tries the collard sandwich, a staple of Lumbee Indian cuisine in the Carolinas. Then she goes to West Virginia to eat pepperoni rolls, a dish inspired by coal miners. She travels to Charleston, where rice is king, and enjoys grits along with other rice dishes that are among the favorites of South Carolina’s bustling food scene.

 

Streaming Service FlixLatino Now Available on Amazon Prime Video Channels

FlixLatino, a subscription video-on-demand service geared towards the U.S. Hispanic population, is now available on Amazon Prime Video Channels to Prime members.

Prime subs can get direct access to a catalog of movies, series, documentaries and animated content, all available in Spanish for $ 2.99 per month. The SVOD was launched in 2018 by Somos Next, an upstart company developing and commercializing audiovisual content in the Spanish OTT market.

Most content is also available with English subtitles to appeal to independent cinema lovers and multi-language homes. Movies are top-grossing theatrical-releases in their country of origin, originally produced in Spanish, from all over Latin America and Spain.

Subscribers can watch FlixLatino on compatible smart televisions, mobile devices, tablets, and computers.

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“Becoming available on Prime Video Channels gives FlixLatino important exposure and reach,” Luis Guillermo Villanueva, COO of Somos Next, said in a statement. “We are confident that this will enhance our growth, and further support our mission to provide quality series, movies, documentaries and animation for the U.S. Hispanic market.”

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Indeed, Prime Channels has been a godsend for streaming services such as Starz OTT, HBO Now, Dove Channel and Acorn TV, among others. In return, Amazon extracts a fee and/or revenue-sharing with each platform depending on the business arrangement. The third-party OTT platform has been replicated by Apple TV+ and other media conglomerates.

 

‘Finding Your Roots,’ ‘Simply Ming’ and Doc on Artist Mark Rothko Streaming in October on PBS Living

Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr. Season 6, Simply Ming Season 17 and American Masters — Rothko: Pictures Must Be Miraculous are streaming in October on PBS Living from PBS Distribution.

The PBS Living Prime Video Channel is $2.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. PBS Living is also available on Apple TV Channels in the Apple TV app at $2.99 per month.

Season 17 of “Simply Ming” includes eight episodes of the cooking series hosted by Ming Tsai. In Season 17, some of Ming’s guests include French chef Jacques Pépin, king of fusion cooking Susur Lee, home cooking proponent Sara Moulton, Top Chef contestant and soul food-lover Carla Hall, Israeli chef Avi Shemtov, and “Bizarre Foods” expert Andrew Zimmern.

Season 6 (16 episodes) of “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” begins streaming this month with two new episodes premiering in October 2019, eight episodes premiering in January 2020, and six episodes premiering in October 2020. It features 27 new guests with family histories that illustrate the power and diversity of the human experience. Using every tool available, from cutting-edge DNA research to old-school genealogical sleuthing, the program reveals long-buried secrets in these guests’ family histories. Among the guests are actors Jeffrey Wright, Sigourney Weaver, Melissa McCarthy and Sterling K. Brown; director Jordan Peele; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; journalists Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell; musicians Queen Latifah and Jon Batiste; fashion designers Diane von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez and Zac Posen; as well as a host of other luminaries, including Jeff Goldblum, Anjelica Huston, Isabella Rossellini, Terry Gross, Marc Maron, Eric Stonestreet, Issa Rae, Amy Ryan and Justina Machado. Some of the guests whose stories are revisited in this season include actors Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore and Marisa Tomei; journalist Lisa Ling; radio talk show host Joe Madison; musician Questlove; and late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

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Streaming beginning Oct. 26 is American Masters — Rothko: Pictures Must Be Miraculous. One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Mark Rothko’s signature style helped define Abstract Expressionism, the movement that shifted the center of the art world from Paris to New York. This is an intimate portrait of the celebrated painter whose luminous canvasses now set records at international auctions. Interviews with Rothko’s children, Kate and Christopher, as well as leading curators, art historians and conservators present a comprehensive look at the artist’s life and career, complemented by original scenes with Alfred Molina in the role of Rothko. Molina performs segments from Rothko’s diaries, and the documentary features clips from the six-time Tony-winning play Red.

Amazon Prime Channels Launches in Mexico

Amazon has expanded its Prime Channels video platform to Mexico, affording members in the country access to third-party subscription streaming video services.

Launched in 2015 in the United States, Prime Channels is an attempt to thwart online TV and pay-TV by offering Prime subscribers direct access to alternative streaming services.

The platform has been credited helping SVOD services such as HBO Now, StarzPlay, Cinedigm’s Dove Channel, CBS’ Showtime OTT, BritBox and Viacom’s Paramount+ generate sustainable subscriber bases.

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“We are excited to bring even more selection to our Prime members in Mexico with the launch of Prime Video Channels,” Greg Hart, VP of Amazon Prime Video, said in a statement. “By simplifying our customers’ entertainment experience all within the Prime Video app, we can make it even easier for them to select, subscribe and enjoy their favorite TV shows and movies from our channel providers.”

Amazon Prime Channels is also available in the U.K., Germany, Austria, Japan and Canada.

 

PGA to Live-Stream The Players Championship for the First Time in 2020

The PGA Tour has been available via over-the-top video for a few years but largely relegated to highlight clips, previews and lesser known events.

Now the PGA, beginning in 2020, will for the first time live-stream the full field of a major tournament: The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The video event will showcase more than 32,000 shots over 72 holes from a starting field of 144 – live – using nearly 120 cameras positioned throughout course, with each group of players having its own dedicated stream.

Live streams will be available through PGA Tour Live SVOD service, NBC Sports Gold or Amazon Prime Channels.

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The PGA Tour and NBC Sports Group in 2018 announced a new multi-year digital partnership that made NBC Sports Gold the domestic home of PGA Tour Live.

“Our vision is to bring every shot in every PGA Tour golf tournament live and on-demand to our fans, and this is the first step to making that happen,” Rick Anderson, chief media officer for the PGA Tour, said in a statement.

PGA Tour Live Live expanded its coverage for the 2019-2020 season from seven events between September and December.

This includes, for the first time ever, live streaming from the Presidents Cup at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia taking place Dec. 12th – 15th.

All told, approximately 140 hours of additional live content is available, bringing more than 1,100 total hours to subscribers and extending live content across each month of the calendar year.

With NBC Sports Gold and Prime Channels available on dozens of connected devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast, PGA Tour OTT video consumption has spiked 33% in 2019.

“Super-serving golf fans with more comprehensive coverage of The Players is emblematic of our commitment to elevating this championship and builds upon our success in adding enhancements to PGA Tour Live on NBC Sports Gold,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports Group.

 

Facebook Testing Third-Party Streaming Service Access

Facebook has taken a page from Amazon offering users direct access to third-party subscription streaming services such as BritBox and CollegeHumor’s DropOut, Tastemade and MotorTrend.

The social media behemoth, which announced the domestic test Aug. 8, hopes to get users to remain on the platform longer — a draw for advertisers.

“We’re testing video subscriptions on Facebook, starting with a limited set of partners,” the company said in a statement. “We’re excited to bring more of people’s favorite shows and video to Facebook. We’ll be listening to feedback from our community.”

The campaign mirrors efforts by Amazon Prime Channels and Apple TV+ offering third-party SVODs services direct access to their consumers.

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SVOD services such as Lionsgate’s StarzPlay and Cinedigm’s Dove Channel, Docurama and CONtv have credited Amazon with jumpstarting subscriber growth for their platforms.

CollegeHumor’s DropOut service is priced at $4.99 monthly, with BritBox at $6.99; Tastmade at $2.99 and MotorTrend at $4.99.

Facebook, similarly to Amazon and Apple, will handle the billing. It wasn’t immediately clear if it would also take a revenue cut as Amazon and Apple do. Amazon also maintains control on all third-party user data.

PBS Kids Launches Spanish-Language Shows on Amazon Prime Video Channel

PBS Distribution has launched Spanish-language versions of a variety of PBS Kids programs on the PBS Kids Amazon Prime Video Channel.

Spanish-language versions of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Dinosaur Train,” “Scigirls,” “Cyberchase” and “Caillou” debuted on the PBS Kids Amazon Prime Video Channel May 24.

“We’re excited to expand our PBS KIDS channel offering to include a selection of episodes presented in Spanish,” said Andrea Downing, co-president, PBS Distribution, in a statement. “Our aim is to provide educational and entertaining programming for all kids, and this expansion helps further that mission.”

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The launch includes a total of 30 episodes of PBS Kids programming available in Spanish. Subscribers of the PBS Kids Amazon Prime Channel will not need to pay any extra fee for the newly available programs.

‘Apple Channels’ Platform Launches Offering Access to Third-Party Streaming Services

Apple May 13 has formally launched “Apple Channels,” an app enabling users access to third-party subscription streaming services such as HBO Now, Showtime OTT and Lionsgate-owned Starz, among others.

The platform mimics Amazon Prime Channels, which bowed in 2015 offering Prime members direct access to HBO Now, Showtime, CBS All Access, Shudder, Sundance Now, Dove Channel, Acorn TV, Urban Movie Channel, among other others.

Amazon Channels, which maintains control over third-party OTT usage among Prime members, in addition to revenue sharing deals, has been credited by WarnerMedia, LIonsgate and CBS for driving subscriber growth for their respective brands.

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Apple Channels reportedly is getting from 15% to 30% of third-party revenue from subscribers registering through The App Store on Apple devices.

In addition, Apple Channels users can only stream third-party content through its app on Apple devices; not on other platforms such as Roku, Google Chromecast or PlayStation Vue, among others.

Current third-party SVOD subs can access the platforms through Apple Channels. The platform is not Apple TV+, the new SVOD platform launching later this year.

NPD: Online TV Reaches 15% U.S. Household Penetration

Spurred by the influx of online TV services and connected TVs, direct-to-consumer channel adoption has grown three-fold over the last three years to reach 15% of U.S. households, according to new data from The NPD Group.

DTC video subs are defined as current subscribers to any à la carte TV channel that does not require a pay TV subscription from a cable or satellite TV provider. Excludes content aggregators such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

While nearly 87% of DTC subscribers say they are likely to add channels in the next year – doing so to replace linear pay-TV is not among the leading reasons why.

NPD conducted a survey Feb. 6-11, 2019 of 1,000 domestic consumers, aged 18+ from diverse regions and demographical backgrounds.

In fact, cord-cutting, or pay-TV subs looking to replace cable, ranks just 16th out of 20 reasonscited, according to the Direct-to-Consumer Video Online Study.

A majority of DTC subs (66%) do so in addition to the traditional cable or satellite TV bundle. Low cost to entry is driving adoption and that is the top reason cited for subscribing to à la carte TV channels, with the ability to subscribe only to the channels desired.

“It is imperative for players in this space to understand where consumers prefer to sign up,” analyst John Buffone said in a statement. “Consumers can now subscribe to only the channels they want and get the benefit of a single billing vendor and user interface.”

NPD said online TV market growth will come from both current subs adding channels and new subs. Looking at the combined group of current and prospective subs with a positive likelihood to sign up in the next 12-months, the most likely destination for subscribing to online TV is Amazon Prime Channels (31%), followed by the TV channel’s app (26%).

“[Online TV] aggregators such as Amazon, Roku, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue, stand to gain a lot by garnering subscription revenue for managing [their] channel transactions,” Buffone said.