‘WSJ’: NBCUniversal in Talks to Buy Vudu, Fox Eyeing Tubi

Comcast’s NBCUniversal is reportedly in talks to acquire Walmart’s Vudu service while Fox Corp. is looking at buying ad-supported video-on-demand service Tubi, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Vudu offers transactional digital rentals and purchases, and the move would bring Vudu into the same company fold as the FandangoNow TVOD service.

Vudu also offers an ad-supported free service launched in 2016.

NBCUniversal plans to launch its own video service, Peacock, April 15 with AVOD and SVOD options.

Last fall reports surfaced that Walmart was looking to shed Vudu as it wasn’t part of the retailer’s core business.

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AVOD service Tubi, also reportedly an acquisition target, this time by Fox, saw its monthly active users reach 25 million in December with a total view time (TVT) of more than 163 million hours watched — a year-over-year TVT increase of 160%. The deal to buy Tubi could be valued at more than $500 million, according to the Journal.

The Roku Channel Topped 56 Million Viewers in 2019

It was a banner fiscal 2019 for Roku, co-creator (with Netflix) of the subscription streaming video market. The company continues to make strides in ad-supported VOD through The Roku Channel, which ended 2019 with more than 56 million active viewers.

In the Feb. 13 shareholder letter, founder/CEO Anthony Wood and CFO Steve Louden attributed the viewer growth to expansion of the “quality and scope” of the ad-supported content, launching new subscription channels and increased investment in product and capabilities.

“We have added more than 40 premium subscription channels, launched the ‘kids & family experience,’ and now offer more than 55 live linear channels,” Wood and Louden wrote. “We also continued to expand access to studio and network movie and TV content.”

For the full fiscal year (ended Dec. 31, 2019), Roku exceeded $1.1 billion in revenue and reinforced its position as America’s No. 1 TV streaming platform by hours streamed. The company added a record 4.6 million incremental active accounts in Q4 and ended 2019 with 36.9 million active accounts. Thanks in part to strong holiday sales (and average discount pricing of 10%), player units were up 33% year-over-year.

Platform revenue increased 78% to $740.8 million. Roku added 9.8 million incremental active accounts in 2019 to reach 36.9 million at year-end. Streaming hours increased by 16.3 billion hours to a record 40.3 billion. Average revenue per user (ARPU) increased $5.19 to $23.14 (trailing 12-month basis).

Roku monetized video ad impressions more than doubled again in 2019, and nearly one in three smart TVs sold in the U.S. were Roku TVs.

“In the midst of this ongoing shift in the industry, we continue to execute well against our strategic plans by launching innovative products, being a neutral partner at the center of the streaming ecosystem, building capabilities to aggregate content and engage viewers, and further strengthening our unique advertising platform which offers superior capabilities for brands,” Wood and Louden wrote.

The executives said user engagement with the Roku platform grew as users streamed 11.7 billion hours in the quarter, an increase of 60% year-over-year. This contributed to a record 40.3 billion streaming hours during 2019, a 68% year-over-year increase.

The year-over-year growth rate in streaming hours moderated somewhat in Q4 2019 versus Q4 2018 due in part to the timing of Black Friday falling a week later in 2019 and the partial rollout of the “Are you still watching” feature, which prompts users to confirm they are watching after a period of inactivity.

Finally, platform monetization continued to increase with ARPU up to $23.14 (on a trailing twelve months basis), up 29% year-over-year, as we continued to grow video advertising impressions across the platform, including on The Roku Channel. For Q4 and full year 2019, Roku monetized video advertising impressions more than doubled year-over-year.

Regardless, with growth come additional costs. Roku generated a $17.4 million loss in Q4, compared to net income of $5.5 million during the previous-year period. The loss it expected to increase to $55 million to $60 million in the current fiscal period (ending March 31).


AVOD Service Tubi Grows Monthly Users to 25 Million

AVOD service Tubi saw its monthly active users reach 25 million in December with a total view time (TVT) of more than 163 million hours watched — a year-over-year TVT increase of 160%.

The company plans to grow content spending in 2020 to “exceed nine figures to further expand its current library of content from major studios, indies, and TV producers from around the globe,” according to a press release.

Tubi presently works with more than 250 content partners, which include Warner Bros., Paramount and Lionsgate.

Year-over-year in Canada and Australia, Tubi saw a 357% increase in TVT. In the coming year, Tubi will launch in additional territories, including Mexico and the United Kingdom. Recently, Tubi announced a partnership with one of the largest broadcasters in Mexico — TV Azteca — to provide Spanish language content.

Tubi also recently announced a global deal with TV manufacturer Hisense to include Tubi as part of its Vidaa platform.

In 2019, Tubi increased its headcount to more than 229 full-time employees, an increase of 78% from 2018.

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Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi

“Our growth over the last year is a clear testament to the success of our focused strategy in a now-cluttered marketplace,” said Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi in a statement. “We’re excited people globally have embraced Tubi as a complement to subscription video and aim to deliver an even larger library of premium content in 2020.”

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Tubi is available on Android and iOS mobile devices, Amazon Echo Show, Google Nest Hub Max, Comcast Xfinity X1, Cox Contour, and on OTT devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Vizio TVs, Sony TVs, Samsung TVs, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, and soon on Hisense TVs globally. Consumers can also watch Tubi content on the web at www.tubi.tv.

Nielsen: 20% of Consumers Streaming Video

In U.S. households with over-the-top video, about 20% of residents are streaming content on a daily basis, according to new data from Nielsen.

The report, citing an online survey, found that 60% of Americans subscribe to more than one paid video streaming service. That’s important considering the influx of new OTT video services entering the market. Nielsen also found that 93% of U.S. consumers said they would either increase or keep their existing streaming services.

According to survey respondents, price is the most vital attribute for a streaming service. This puts the impetus on platforms to satisfy customers’ return on investment, while being affordable enough for the rest of their media habits.

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In fact, when asked about what made them cancel a paid video subscription service, 42% of respondents said they didn’t use it enough to justify the cost.

“The proliferation of on-demand streaming services is the most profound media disruption of the last half-century,” Peter Katsingris, SVP of Audience Insights, said in a statement. “And this disruption is driving profound, real, actionable opportunity across all facets of the industry.”

Netflix accounted for 31% of household streaming, followed by 21% for YouTube, 12% for Hulu and 8% for Amazon. Another 28% was spent viewing other streaming services.

While there are myriad attributes that make a streaming service attractive to users, content, including original and proprietary, is what ultimately gets them to sign-up, according to Nielsen.

Among the top four reasons why survey participants decided to subscribe to additional streaming services were all content-based, with the top reason being to expand the content that they had available.

About 20% of respondents said they canceled a service after watching all the content that they were interested in.

“We’ve only just entered the first chapter of the ‘streaming wars,’ but rest assured that the fight will continue,” Nielsen said. “The platforms that can adapt to the marketplace may rise to the top; should they not continue to evolve nor expand their content libraries, then consumers just might replace them.”

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Cinedigm’s Viewster Inks Deal With Foxxum

Cinedigm’s ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) service, Viewster, Feb. 10 announced a partnership with Foxxum — a marketer for Internet-connected televisions, to expand Viewster’s device support to include TCL, Sharp, Hisense and Vestel televisions.

The Viewster app was developed using Cinedigm’s proprietary software application development platform.

The agreement aims to establish Cinedigm as an emerging player in the international over-the-top video marketplace, making the company’s roster of content accessible to viewers on televisions from most major manufacturers.

In addition to the Foxxum-supported Smart TV devices, Cinedigm’s digital networks now have distribution across TV manufacturers, including Samsung, Vizio, Philips, and LG, among others.

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This move not only increases Cinedigm’s global footprint, but also allows the company to utilize Foxxum’s expertise in the areas of content and channel development, operations and marketing by providing access to the platform’s global ecosystem of connected Smart TV devices, according to Tony Huidor, SVP of product and technology.

The Viewster app is powered by software that enables content distributors and content owners to create compelling ad-supported and subscription-based video streaming services.

The software — dubbed “Matchpoint Blueprint” — will play a crucial role in the international rollout and market expansion of the Viewster app.

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“Foxxum is an international Smart TV marketplace, providing dynamic and innovative services to a wide array of connected devices across the industry,” Huidor said. “This partnership is a vital piece of Cinedigm’s continued mission to redefine the traditional television experience — expanding Cinedigm’s global footprint even further while also allowing us to introduce the tremendous capabilities of our Matchpoint Blueprint service to additional markets through Foxxum’s extensive reach on Smart TVs.”

“It is great to keep growing with partners like Cinedigm who add value to the Foxxum App store through Viewster and offer our viewers a huge variety of films and series all over the world. Such kind of cooperation strengthens our App Portfolio and boosts user engagement on our Smart TV platforms,” added Ronny Lutzi, CEO at Foxxum.

NAB Show to Bow ‘Streaming Experience’ Content Showcase

The NAB Show is introducing The Streaming Experience, a new content showcase curated by streaming and online video expert Dan Rayburn that will feature more than 50 OTT platforms and streaming devices.

The showcase, which will give NAB Show attendees a first-hand look at the latest streaming video services, according to organizers, will be located in the Central Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center and is open to all registered attendees during exhibit hours starting April 19.

The NAB Show takes place in Las Vegas April 18-22.

A living-room setting will allow attendees the opportunity to test OTT services side-by-side to compare content, video quality, ad formats, playback features and delivery methods. The Streaming Experience will feature hardware from Amazon, Apple, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, LG, TCL and Samsung. Streaming services on display will include Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Disney+, Hulu, NBC Sports, Netflix and YouTube TV, among others. New services from HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi may also be showcased, dependent on their launch dates, according to organizers.

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“Streaming is a major focus of the 2020 NAB Show, and the new Streaming Experience is the largest showcase of its kind in the industry,” said NAB EVP of conventions and business operations Chris Brown in a statement. “We are excited for attendees to join their industry peers in this living room environment and experience nearly every live and on-demand streaming service on the market today.”

Additional details of the Streaming Experience, including renderings of the new space, can be found here.


‘Glewed TV’ Streaming Big Wave Surfing Reality Series

Upstart ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) service Glewed TV on Jan. 28 announced a partnership with big wave explorer Garrett McNamara to offer viewers exclusive wellness and family video content. The series is being co-sponsored by brands Buondi and Thule.

The bi-weekly series “The McNamaras” will feature adventures, showcasing McNamara and his wild family life as they travel the globe searching for giant waves, while advocating ecology, being healthy and raising their kids to become “conscious citizens” for a better planet.

McNamara, best known for discovering and pioneering the biggest wave in the world at Nazaré, Portugal, is an eight-time Guinness World Record holder for the largest wave ever surfed. He is also part of the only team to have ever surfed waves generated by a 300-foot calving glacier in Alaska, and the only foreigner to receive the Vasco de Gama Medal of Honor from the Portuguese Navy for his contribution to Portugal.

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“Viewers are going to really enjoy following Garrett and his family on their extreme adventures. We look forward to sharing it with the world,” V. Paul Coyne, CEO of Glewed TV, said in a statement.

Glewed TV sources and produces more than 7,000 hours of content, with categories including food, children, sports, DIY, educational, documentaries, animals/wildlife, travel, comedy, product reviews and movies.

The first “McNamaras” episode offers an introduction to Nazare, Portugal, home of the biggest wave in the world, where McNamara and his wife Nicole got married and spend half of the year. When their 5-year-old son Barrel asks his dad to ride horses, viewers discover one of McNamara’s secret fears.

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Research: A Quarter of U.S. Broadband Households Use AVOD Services

A quarter of U.S. broadband households have watched video on a free, ad-based OTT service in the past 30 days, according to research from Parks Associates.

No single AVOD service dominates this market, according to the report 360 View: Video Services & Connected Consumers. Among the leaders, 7% of U.S. broadband households use The Roku Channel, 6% use Pluto TV and 6% use Crackle, according to Parks.

“Entertainment and communication features like offline viewing are becoming an important part of consumer viewing habits, especially for younger generations. Nearly 50% of current pay-TV subscribers have a DVR,” said Elizabeth Parks, president, Parks Associates. “VOD and DVR are key elements in operator video strategies now that OTT on-demand services are mainstream. TiVo announced a 4K streaming device at CES that aggregates where content can be accessed from, putting an emphasis on search and discovery and an integrated experience for the consumer.”

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“Consumers and their entertainment choices remain the key driver of change within the entertainment industry,” said Parks senior analyst Steve Nason. “At CES, Quibi, led by Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg, announced a mobile-only service featuring short-form content and subscription tiers with and without advertising, which will target younger, more mobile consumers.”

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The report’s other findings include:

  • One-third of broadband households are interested in vMVPD service bundles.
  • One-in-five pay-TV subscribers claim that they can access an OTT service via their channel guide or on-screen menu.
  • One-third of broadband households have trialed an OTT subscription service in the past six months.
  • 26% find purchasing items seen in advertisements appealing or very appealing.
  • 31% of US broadband households subscribe to HBO, the market leader in premium channels.
  • One-quarter of US broadband households use an antenna to watch live TV channels.
  • Overall 78% of broadband households watch live TV channels.
  • More than a quarter of U.S. broadband households are interested in innovative offerings accessed via television, such as offline viewing, video gaming, food delivery, ride sharing, and gambling.

TiVo: Ad-Supported VOD Gaining Traction

The subscription streaming video market is getting crowded. Pioneering behemoths like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video dominate, spending tens of billions of dollars on original content to lure and retain subscribers in the face of newcomers Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi, among others.

As a result, ad-supported VOD content is attracting greater market share, according to new data from TiVo, which found the average U.S. household had 6.9 streaming services in the fourth quarter 2019, up from five services during the same period in 2017.

At more than 73%, YouTube remains the most popular source of free streaming content, followed closely by Facebook (62.3%). Free video from network sites has skyrocketed in popularity (up 31.9% from the previous-year period), while Crackle (+2.4%), Tubi (+3.8 %), The Roku Channel (o.2%), Xumo, Vevo (+5.4%) and Twitch (+3.3%) also gained viewers.

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Indeed, 37.5% of respondents from a fourth-quarter online survey of 6,145 participants in the United States and Canada, said they were “very satisfied” with AVOD, up from 35.4% during the previous-year period. That compared to 33.1% who said they were “very satisfied” with SVOD, down from 33.5% last year.

As expected, the report found that most respondents still find new movies and TV shows to watch through SVOD services Netflix (34.7%) and Prime Video (25.2%), followed closely by free YouTube videos (23%) and pay-TV (21.2%).

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For TV series that consumers watch regularly, it’s a different story. TiVo said pay-TV dominates, with 35% of respondents indicating they find new episodes of their regularly watched series through cable or satellite TV.

Notably, respondents cited transactional VOD services such as iTunes, Amazon, Redbox On Demand, Vudu, and Google Play, among others, as go-to platforms in search of new movie content. That was ahead of platforms such as Hulu, Showtime OTT and Starz.

Another 54% of respondents say they find out about new shows or movies from commercials or ads that run within their current pay-TV or AVOD content.

“Consumers are increasingly ready and willing to adopt innovative (yet simple) technology, devices or services that can serve as guides on their quest to find what they want to watch,” read the report. “They need technology that adds value to their lives, whether by helping them efficiently locate the content they’re looking for or by leading them to the video pathways that suit their needs and desires.”


Cinedigm’s Viewster AVOD Service on Philips TVs

Cinedigm’s relaunch of its AVOD service Viewster is available worldwide via global television manufacturer Philips, the content supplier announced.

The Viewster app was developed using Cinedigm’s proprietary Matchpoint Blueprint application development platform.

The partnership establishes Cinedigm’s entry into the international marketplace. In addition to the ZEASN-supported Philips televisions, Cinedigm’s roster of digital networks have distribution across top-tier TV manufacturers, including Samsung, Vizio, Hisense, and LG, among others.

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“Cooperation with ZEASN to relaunch the Viewster App is a meaningful milestone, and it also presents Cinedigm with an incredible opportunity to distribute our unique programming offerings to one of the major television manufacturers in the world,” said Tony Huidor, Cinedigm’s SVP of product and technology, in a statement. “Philips’ wide distribution of their television hardware across major international territories will be integral to our strategy as we work to establish a global footprint, introducing both our digital networks as well as our proprietary Matchpoint Blueprint platform to new markets on one of the world’s leading television brands.”

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Jason He, CEO of ZEASN, said in a statement, “We are excited that the Viewster App has been successfully relaunched with the help of ZEASN’s services. ZEASN has been committed to providing the best smart home services for Internet users around the world. The Viewster App newly built by Cinedigm will bring a better user experience to Philips’ smart TV users and will help ZEASN to build a more complete Whale Ecosystem in the smart home industry.”