Nearly Half of U.S. Adults in Survey Tune Into Local or Ad-Supporting Streaming Services

While SVOD is making big news, free and ad-supported streaming remains a force, according to a new survey.

Nearly half of respondents in a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults said they were tuning into local (i.e. NewsOn, CBSLocal) or free, ad-supported (i.e. Pluto TV, XUMO and Roku) streaming services, at 47 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

The survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of ZypMedia, a software platform that manages digital advertising offerings for media and broadcast companies.

When it comes to consumers that watch free or ad-supported streaming TV, 62% of consumers that have a preference between watching local or national commercials, prefered local ads. That number was slightly more, at 68%, for consumers that watch local streaming services. This was particularly true for millennials (defined as ages 18-34) who said they watch free, or ad-supported over-the-top (OTT) streaming services; they prefered local ads more than consumers ages 55-plus.

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“While SVODs like Netflix and HULU garner much of the world’s attention, free, ad-supported and local streaming services are becoming powerful platforms for brands to make an impact in local markets around the country,” said Aman Sareen, co-founder and CEO, ZypMedia, in a statement. “Millennials are particularly responsive to local advertising messages, making ad-supported OTT a valuable channel.”

In the survey, 30% were cord cutters who watch all content via streaming services, while even more (37%) were “cord shavers” and watch both. More than half (52%) of cord cutters and 47% of cord shavers indicated that they don’t mind watching ads.

In addition, more than half (51%) of consumers surveyed that ever watch free, ad-supported streaming services agrees that the commercials that they see on streaming services are more relevant than the commercials they see on cable TV.

Cinedigm Touts Cloud-Based Tech for Pending Chinese AVOD Channel

Cinedigm April 11 gave a shout out to a cloud-based technology company it is in the process of acquiring.

The home entertainment distributor recently entered into an agreement to acquire Future Today for $45 million in cash, and $15 million in common stock. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2019.

Cinedigm said it would use Future Today’s cloud-based technology and ad-based monetization platform for the June launch of its Chinese-themed ad-supported VOD channel Bambu.

Future Today owns and operates more than 700 content channels with more than 60 million app installs, and managing 200,000-plus film, television and digital content assets Cinedigm claims receive 85 million video views per month.

Using their advertising technology and sales capabilities, Cinedigm says Future Today will play a crucial role in the monetization of Bambu, which includes television, set-top boxes, mobile apps and online services.

With a primary focus on millennial and Gen Z viewers, Bambu offers curated programming spanning far beyond stereotypical martial arts dramas, instead putting the spotlight on actioners, serials, romantic comedies, sci-fi, horror and fantasy, as well as music, reality series and educational programming ranging from instructional Chinese language courses to culinary shows.

Movies include Jackie Chan in the 2017 fantasy Namiya, Ziyi Zhang in the 2013 spy farce My Lucky Star, sci-fi mystery Battle of Memories, supernatural rom-com Beautiful Accident, road trip comedy Breakup Buddies, the noir-inspired crime drama Cock and Bull, cat-and-mouse thriller The Devotion of Suspect Xand father-and-son drama Lost and Love, among others.

TV shows include “Journey to the West,” the most-watched television show in Chinese history; current hit “Diamond Lover,” and the acclaimed documentary series “A Bite of China,” among others.

“[Future Today’s] long-established and highly successful advertising and sales strategies are a truly invaluable resource that will play a vital role in further expanding [Bambu’s],” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement.

Tubi AVOD Service Available on Cox

Tubi March 29 announced the launch its ad-supported VOD service on Cox Contour giving the pay-TV operator’s subscribers free access to more than 12,000 movies and television series.

Cox subs are able to watch movies such as Up in the Air starring George Clooney and Anna Kendrick and Rango starring Johnny Depp and Isla Fisher, as well as TV series such as “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “The A-Team,” “Major Dad,” “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Alf,” among others

In addition, starting April 1, Contour subs will be able to access first seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” “Trista and Ryan’s Wedding Special,” and the co-co nuts fifth season of “Bachelor in Paradise.”

“Our partnership with Cox expands upon our mission to make entertainment accessible to everyone,” Farhad Massoudi, CEO of Tubi, said in a statement. “With the addition of Cox Contour, Tubi will continue to have the widest distribution of any ad-supported streaming service.”

San Francisco-based Tubi claims to be one of the most-watched apps on the world’s largest platforms, including Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Android, among others.

Tubi’s partnership with Cox Contour marks its second MVPD deal after Comcast Xfinity X1, and remains the only AVOD streaming service with distribution as a standalone app.

Cox Contour’s library of apps also includes Netflix, YouTube, YouTube Kids, iHeartRadio and NPR One, as well as a sports app that shows live stats and scores on the TV screen.

 

 

Sony Crackle Merges with Chicken Soup for New AVOD Service

Sony Pictures Television March 28 announced it has merged its Sony Crackle AVOD service with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Inc., a media company producing content for all screens, to form a new AVOD joint venture branded, “Crackle Plus.”

Under the agreement, CSS Entertainment will own the majority interest in the joint venture. Additionally, SPT will receive 4 million five-year warrants to purchase Class A common stock of CSS Entertainment at various prices.

The addition of the Crackle assets is expected to more than double CSS Entertainment’s overall revenue and add meaningful pre-tax earnings.

Eric Berger, chief digital officer at Sony Pictures Television, will reportedly depart the company upon closure of the deal.

Eric Berger

Sony and Chicken Soup will each contribute certain assets with plans to combine their 10 million viewers and content expertise. SPT’s contributions feature Crackle’s U.S. assets, including the Crackle brand, monthly active users and ad rep business.

SPT and the joint venture will also enter into a license agreement for rights to TV series and movies from the Sony Pictures Entertainment library. In addition, New Media Services, a subsidiary of Sony Electronics Inc., will provide the technology back-end services for Crackle Plus.

Ownership of Crackle’s original content library will be retained by SPT but be made available for licensing to the joint venture. CSS Entertainment plans to include six owned and operated AVOD networks (Popcornflix, Truli, Popcornflix Kids, Popcornflix Comedy, Frightpix, and Espanolflix) and SVOD platform Pivotshare.

Crackle Plus is expected to have more than 38,500 hours of programming, 90 content partnerships; 1.3 billion minutes streamed per month, and an offering of more than 100 networks, both ad-supported and subscription-based, including networks owned by Crackle Plus and third-party networks distributed via Pivotshare.

“Crackle is a valuable asset and we feel confident it will thrive and grow in this new environment with CSS Entertainment,” said Mike Hopkins, chairman of SPT, in a statement. “We were drawn to CSS Entertainment as our partner in this venture because of its aggressive, entrepreneurial approach.

Roku Partners with Adobe for Marketing Access to 27 Million Streaming Viewers

Subscription streaming media co-pioneer Roku is partnering with Adobe offering marketers access to the former’s 27 million subscribers. Roku operates The Roku Channel, one of the largest ad-supported streaming video platforms. The two companies announced the pact March 26 at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas.

Marketers using Adobe software and analytics can now target their audiences on the Roku platform through targeted ad buying and access to Roku’s ad inventory.

San Francisco-based Adobe says marketers incorporating the Roku platform can better scale their campaigns, manage frequency and more effectively measure success on over-the-top video.

With lines continuing to blur between advertising and marketing technologies, marketers want to understand advertising’s paid media paths and how they drive valuable site paths that use that data to better optimize campaigns.

“This partnership with Roku allows Adobe customers even more effectiveness while running campaigns on a leading TV streaming platform,” Keith Eadie, VP and GM, Adobe Advertising Cloud, said in a statement.

With ongoing consumer shifts toward OTT video, marketers are zeroing in on spots and campaigns relevant way on TV and the end-user, Scott Rosenberg, GM, platform business, Roku.

“This partnership gives Adobe clients a seamless way to activate their data and reach customers who’ve moved their TV viewing to Roku devices,” Rosenberg said.

Cinedigm Acquiring AVOD Platform ‘Future Today’ for $60 Million

Cinedigm March 15 announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Future Today, one of the largest ad-supported VOD networks, for $45 million in cash and $15 million in Cinedigm common stock.

The acquisition increases Cinedigm’s over-the-top video footprint to over 7.6 million monthly active users and 67 million total app installs.

The Los Angeles-based home entertainment distributor said Future Today, which owns and operates more than 700 content channels with more than 60 million app installs, and manages more than 200,000 film, television and digital content assets,generated about $23.9 million in revenue in 2018.

Future Today brands include Fawesome.tv, focused on general entertainment movies & television shows, and HappyKids.tv, providing age-specific edutainment in the connected TV market.

Alok Ranjan and Vikrant Mathur, co-founders of Future Today, will continue to lead the subsidiary as co-presidents, entering into long-term employment agreements with Cinedigm upon the deal closing.

“Building our stake in the rapidly surging AVOD business is a top priority for Cinedigm, and the acquisition instantaneously transforms our company into the world’s largest provider of premium [ad-supported] content,” Chris McGurk, chairman/CEO of Cinedigm said in a statement.

Future Today’s cloud-based technology and ad-based monetization platform manages OTT services for more than 350 content owners, producers, distributors and major media companies helping them launch and monetize connected TV channels across all devices.

“Alok and Vikrant have built Future Today into one of the most respected and fastest growing companies monetizing video content today,” said Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks. “Their entrepreneurial spirit and deep knowledge of the video ad space, combined with Cinedigm’s content and relationships, will be a formidable and compelling combination in the rapidly growing AVOD segment.”

The transaction is expected to close in the second calendar quarter of 2019 and is subject to customary closing conditions.

AVOD Service Tubi Gets ‘The Bachelor’ Reality TV Franchise

Ad-supported VOD platform Tubi March 14 announced a content deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution for select catalog seasons of “The Bachelor” reality TV dating show.

Launched in 2002, “The Bachelor” affords a lone male contestant the opportunity to be wooed by a pool of female romantic interests. The same concept with a lone female contestant – dubbed “The Bachelorette” – debuted in 2003. “Bachelor in Paradise” bowed in 2014 featuring cast rejections for the previous two shows. All three shows are hosted by Chris Harrison.

San Francisco-based Tubi will offer the first seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” “The Bachelorette: Trista & Ryan’s Wedding” as well as the fifth season of “Bachelor in Paradise,” beginningApril 1.

The series underscores Tubi’s ongoing expansion of its content library of more than 12,000 movies and television series.

“This massive franchise strengthens our larger content partnership with Warner Bros. and marks the first of many big reality series we’re bringing to the service,” chief content officer Adam Lewinson said in a statement.

 

Research: More Than 52% of Broadband Households Report Watching Internet Video on a Connected TV

A majority (52%) of U.S. broadband households are watching online video on a TV that is connected to the internet, according to research from Parks Associates.

The study, 360 View: Digital Media and Connected Consumers, also finds that watching TV or movies at home is the most popular leisure activity among U.S. broadband households, with 55% selecting this among their top two favorite leisure activities.

“While the total number of hours consuming videos has declined, consumers are watching more internet video on the largest screen available,” said Billy Nayden, research analyst with Parks Associates, in a statement. “The number of hours consumers report watching video on a TV increased for the first time since 2014, with connected devices enabling internet video services on TV and shifting consumers away from PC and mobile viewing. As OTT competition becomes a battle for the living room, the challenge for device makers and content producers is finding the correct product mix to maximize both profit and utility.”

The study found subscriptions are the dominant business model for OTT services.

As more services emerge, many stakeholders fear an impending subscription overload in U.S. households, according to Parks.

“As consumers’ taste for OTT experimentation wanes, they will start to resist the push to add another monthly subscription to their households,” Nayden said in a statement. “Many providers are starting to lead with freemium and ad-based models, in anticipation of this pushback.”

Other findings were:

  • 19% of consumers subscribe to either Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video and another OTT service, compared to 13% in 2017;
  • Consumers watched 25.7 hours of video per week in 2018, down from 29.5 hours per week in 2016;
  • Local broadcast/channels and programs are the most enjoyed type of programming.

Viacom Completes Pluto TV Acquisition

Viacom March 4 announced the completion of the acquisition of AVOD service Pluto TV.

The acquisition, for $340 million in cash, will advance Viacom’s strategic priorities while solidifying Pluto TV’s leadership in the domestic free streaming video market and accelerating its growth globally, according to a Viacom press release.

Pluto TV will operate as an independent subsidiary of Viacom, led by President and CEO Tom Ryan.

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“The completion of this deal marks an exciting next step in Viacom’s evolution and a powerful opportunity for us to extend our consumer reach and broaden our ability to add value across the industry as the media landscape continues to segment,” said Bob Bakish, Viacom president and CEO, in a statement. “Together with Pluto TV, we look forward to becoming a stronger partner to distributors, advertisers, content providers and audiences around the world.”

Founded in 2013, Pluto TV streams more than 100 channels and thousands of hours of on-demand content spanning television and movies, sports, news, lifestyle, comedy, cartoons, gaming and trending digital series. It has more than 12 million monthly active users across devices, including smart TVs, streaming players, mobile devices, desktops and gaming consoles, according to the release.

“Pluto TV will have a crucial role in expanding Viacom’s presence across next-generation distribution platforms as a standalone free over-the-top (“OTT”) product, a direct-to-consumer cornerstone, and a partnership solution for wired, mobile and OTT distributors to serve their broadband only and video bundle subscribers on a zero incremental cost basis,” stated the release.

Pluto TV also benefits Viacom’s advanced marketing solutions (“AMS”) business, serving as a source of targeted inventory — particularly for younger demographics — thereby strengthening Viacom’s ability to serve advertising customers and their associated agencies, the release stated.

Tubi Inks NBC Universal Catalog Deal

Ad-supported streaming video service Tubi Feb. 28 announced a content deal with NBC Universal, adding nearly 400 television episodes and movies. The deal is part of a strategy to invest over nine figures into content acquisitions in 2019.

Tubi users will have free access to catalog series, “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “The A-Team,” “Punky Brewster,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Quantum Leap” and the original versions of “Magnum, P.I.,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Bionic Woman” and “She-Ra: Princess of Power,” among others.

“We’re excited to be a home to this robust library of content … that appeals across generations,” chief content officer Adam Lewinson said in a statement. “We are aggressively working to expand our library, and this is one of many deals to come for Tubi.”

Tubi’s content library contains more than 12,000 movies and TV series –  claiming to double Netflix’s at 40,000 hours. The service’s app ranks as one of the most watched on Amazon Fire TV, Roku iOS, Android, and Xfinity X1, among others.

San Francisco-based Tubi ended 2018 with more than four-times the content on the service over the previous year. Viewers last December streamed nearly as much content as was consumed in all of 2017.