IHS: U.S. Media Players Jumping on AVOD Bandwagon

In a burgeoning SVOD market, ad-supported video on-demand (AVOD) providers in the United States are on the offensive touting viewership and targeted ad spots, according to new data from IHS Markit Technology.

New AVOD roll-outs and improved ad-tech are expected to drive U.S. online video advertising revenue to $27 billion in 2023, growing 11% annually through 2023.

“The AVOD goldrush is here, and it represents a prime opportunity for service providers, new AVOD entrants and content companies,” Sarah Henschel, senior research analyst, media, for IHS Markit Technology, said in a statement. “Ultimately, the winners and losers in the AVOD industry will be determined not only by content, but also by data strategies and user acquisition.”​​

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The London-based research firm contends the U.S. online video market is seeing a renewed interest in ad-supported services this year due to the maturing of the subscription video market, fears of overcrowding across over-the-top (OTT) services and limits to total consumer spending across online video platforms.

This has spurred a surge in the uptake of AVOD by content owners that are increasingly opting to go directly to consumers. As a result, companies aiming to monetize online video content through advertising now face an extra layer of complexity due to the requirements for solid ad-tech sales and data strategies, along with content and user acquisition.

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Compared to a decade ago, AVOD companies today are competing in a more developed online video market that offers greater potential for digital advertising revenue and a more advanced advertising infrastructure.

Facebook and YouTube are expected to continue leading the market through 2023, trailed by Hulu, Roku, Pluto TV and Tubi, which are set to increase their market share. New players include NBC Universal’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Now.

Despite the increasing number of competitors, there remains copious opportunity for new entrants to claim a slice of the growing AVOD revenue pie. As the competition intensifies, it is important for AVOD companies to sustain strong licensing partnerships with content owners and hone their data utilization skills for ad monetization.

“With the launch of premium services like Disney+, HBO Max and Apple TV+, AVOD services can continue to benefit from cord cutting and act as a compliment to paid services,” said senior research analyst Kia Ling Teoh. “Pure-play AVOD platforms also can expand customer penetration through B2B partnerships with device makers and online linear channels.”

Plex Launches Ad-Supported VOD Service Featuring Studio Movies

Upstart video streaming service Plex Dec. 4 formally launched an ad-supported platform featuring free access to catalog movies and TV shows from Lionsgate, MGM Studios, Legendary and Warner Bros., among others.

The service joins a crowding field of AVOD platforms that include The Roku Channel, Amazon’s IMDb TV, Shout! TV, Crackle, Pluto TV and Tubi, among others.

“Plex was born out of passion for media and entertainment, and offering free, ad-supported movies and TV shows is just the latest step in our mission to bring all your favorite content together in one place,” CEO Keith Valory said in a statement.

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Plex’s ad-supported video-on-demand offering requires no paid subscription or additional equipment to access thousands of titles across a variety of genres such as action, sci-fi, comedy, drama, thriller, anime, kids and family.

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Plex offers a wide range of device support, including: Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, smart TVs, Android and iOS mobile platforms, Xbox, PlayStation, Amazon Fire TV, and more.

Titles available at launch include:

  • American Ultra starring Kristen Stewart (available for a limited time)
  • Bruce Campbell masterpieces Evil Dead 1 & Evil Dead 2
  • Frequency starring Dennis Quaid
  • Multi-Oscar award-winning Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise
  • Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell classic Overboard
  • Teen Wolf starring Michael J. Fox
  • The Terminator with Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Award-winning indie films, including Wristcutters: A Love Story, Dolphin Boy, and The Sandlot Journey.
  • Kids, family, and educational options like The Undersea Adventures of Ripples and His Friends, Make it Work, and Brain Candy TV
  • Music concerts and documentaries featuring some of the biggest stars in music, including Nicki Minaj: Pink Planet, Deadmau5: Live @ Earl’s Court, Taylor Swift: Just for You, and Electric Daisy Carnival Experience.

Rakuten TV Launches FC Barcelona Soccer Series

To soccer fans worldwide, Spain’s FC Barcelona (“Barça”) is one of the top professional clubs in the world led by Argentine’s Lionel Messi.

Rakuten TV Nov. 29 launched “Matchday: Inside FC Barcelona,” a free eight-episode reality-based program that follows the club and its players through the 2018-19 season.

Narrated by John Malkovich, the series claims to offer a “no-holds-barred” view of the club and players during a season that saw the club finish atop Spain’s La Liga as well feature prominently in the ongoing UEFA Champions League competition.

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Rakuten is a primary commercial sponsor of FC Barcelona. The series is available for free across the 42 European countries, including Japan.

Rakuten TV is a European-based VOD offering transactional access to new release movies and TV shows. It also includes an AVOD section, Rakuten TV Free, in a blend of thematic channels embracing Hollywood classics, local, exclusive and themed content.

Rakuten, headquartered in Japan, offers ecommerce in the United States. In addition to FC Barcelona, the company has partnerships with the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, Davis Cup and Spartan Race.

Tubi AVOD Content Available on Amazon Echo Devices

Ad-supported VOD service Tubi Nov. 21 announced its library of more than 15,000 movies and TV shows is now available to stream on Amazon Echo Show devices. The first AVOD service available on the device, consumers can ask Alexa to launch Tubi and begin watching a title or touch the screen to control their experience.

In addition to the more than 44,000 hours of content Tubi offers, Amazon Echo Show users can stream Tubi’s new December titles, including Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. I and Kill Bill Vol. II, as well as the eleven-time Academy Award-nominated film, The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

“We are committed to making great content accessible for everyone, which is why we’re proud to be the first AVOD service available on Amazon Echo Show,” Michael Ahiakpor, chief product officer at Tubi, said in a statement. “We’re also excited that Tubi users will now be able to use Alexa to conveniently find and watch movies and TV shows.”

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In September, Tubi announced customers had streamed over 132 million hours of content — a 40% increase since May — and the service will launch in the United Kingdom in 2020.

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

Tubi TV Launches ‘Not on Netflix’ Ad Campaign

Ad-supported VOD service Tubi TV Nov. 18 launched a star-filled “not on Netflix” marketing campaign to show case its alternative to subscription streaming video.

Claiming to bring “levity” in the midst of the streaming wars, Tubi  launched of six brand commercials featuring recognizable actors trying to find the cure for subscription fatigue during what at first appears to be a typical therapy session.

The ad spots feature Chris Noth, Carmen Electra, Terrence Howard, Nicole Scherzinger, Robin Thicke and Colton Underwood “discovering” AVOD. They’ve all admitted that they’ve met “someone” new to help alleviate them of their streaming problems: Tubi.

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The ‘Not on Netflix’ campaign features:

Chris Noth feeling guilty about wanting to make a change from his ‘first love’; Carmen Electra analyzing her commitment issues; Terrence Howard struggling to shake off past roles still haunting him; Nicole Scherzinger on avoiding drama; Robin Thicke overcoming everyone wanting a piece of him; The Bachelor’s Colton Underwood exploring something ‘on the side’ — with Cassie encouraging it.

In addition to a coordinated digital, social and CTV launch, billboards will also be appearing in New York and Los Angeles with the URL: www.notonnetflix.com.

As Planet Earth Turns to Streaming Video, ViacomCBS Aims for Pluto (TV)

Prior to Viacom’s re-merger with CBS Corp., the media giant had scant over-the-top video properties. Now with the addition of CBS All Access and Showtime OTT, the company claims about 16 million paying subscription streaming subscribers.

That’s 20% less than the 20 million monthly viewers who stream content for free on Pluto TV — the San Francisco-based ad-supported VOD service Viacom acquired earlier this year for $340 million.

That user tally reflects a 70% year-over-year gain in consumer traction for Pluto and underscores Viacom’s strategic move to compete against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and other high-profile SVOD services with old-school ad-supported content.

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“Our focus on an investment in Pluto is evident,” Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, said on the recent fiscal call. “In Q4 alone, Pluto launched 43 new channels and last month, Pluto Latino added 11 new channels given the platform of total 22 channels with over 4,000 hours of Spanish and Portuguese language programming.”

The opportunity for Pluto TV Latino is significant given the size of the Hispanic population, as well as gaps within the existing programming landscape. As the largest minority market, the group has a combined buying power of $1.5 trillion, according to research from the University of Georgia.

The once-dominant Spanish-language broadcast network, Univision, has been steadily losing viewers for years and has been locked in a battle with Comcast-owned Telemundo for younger, bilingual viewers. Meanwhile, streaming services such as Hulu, Sling, and fuboTV offer Spanish-language content, but the additional cost of these services is leading to “subscription fatigue.”

“There are all sorts of creative programming ideas we can test with the audience that hasn’t been done before,” Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV, said. “If they work, we can be nimble and double down on them.”

Indeed, AVOD revenue is projected to more than double between 2018 and 2024, topping $56 billion across 138 countries — including the U.S.

Next year, NBC Universal is launching an ad-supported streaming service dubbed “Peacock,” which joins industry players such Tubi TV, which bowed in 2014 with more than 9,000 movies and television shows, Amazon’s IMDb TV and The Roku Channel, among others.

“The U.S. will more than triple its AVOD revenue total between 2018 and 2024 to $19.23 billion — or 34% of the global total,” said Simon Murray, analyst with Digital TV Research.

Bakish said Viacom would continue to grow Pluto TV distribution globally and on new platforms, which he said would benefit both viewers and business partners.

He said Pluto has not only been a driver to restoring overall Viacom ad sales growth, it’s also been a platform to enable Viacom to “radically” increase the number of clients it does business with.

“In the crowded subscription universe, as consumers become increasingly more value conscious, we strongly believe that having the leading free streaming service in the country and over time, the world is a huge competitive advantage,” Bakish said.

 

Pluto TV Adds News, Entertainment Channels

Viacom-owned AVOD service Pluto TV and CBS Interactive announced three additional channels launched Nov. 13 on the free streaming service.

Pluto TV viewers now have access to live news, updates, analysis and reporting from the entertainment news brand ET Live and live local news streams from CBSN New York and CBSN Los Angeles.

The new additions join existing CBS Interactive properties and longstanding Pluto TV media partners CBSN and CNET.

“CBS Interactive has long been an integral partner for Pluto TV. We are excited to continue to grow this relationship and extend new value to the Pluto TV audience together,” Jeff Shultz, EVP and chief business officer, Pluto TV, said in a statement.

“In addition to our previously launched CBSN and CNET channels on Pluto TV, we’re thrilled to be bringing more of our ad-supported streaming channels to the platform with today’s launch of our entertainment news channel, ET Live, and CBSN’s local news channels for New York and Los Angeles,” Sarah Jeon, EVP of business development, CBS Interactive, said in a statement.

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ET Live (channel 120) is a 24-hour streaming network dedicated to all things entertainment, tapping into the legacy of “Entertainment Tonight’s” brand.

CBSN New York (channel 237) was the first of CBS’s local direct-to-consumer streaming news services in major markets across the country. CBSN New York features live streams of WCBS and WLNY’s regularly scheduled newscasts and additional weekday one-hour newscasts at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. In addition, CBSN New York provides live continuous coverage of breaking news events with programming led by WCBS and WLNY anchors and reporters as well as an extensive library of local news content that will be available for on-demand viewing.

CBSN Los Angeles (channel 238) features 24-hour anchored programming, coverage of live breaking news events in the region as well as an extensive library of local news content that will be available for on-demand viewing. CBSN Los Angeles’ daily lineup includes live streams of KCBS (CBS 2) and KCAL (KCAL 9), regularly scheduled newscasts and additional weekday one-hour newscasts at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. CBSN Los Angeles programming is led by CBS 2 and KCAL 9 anchors and reporters.

The new programming and channel collaboration with CBS Interactive joins Pluto TV’s more than 200 live, linear, curated channels and thousands of movies on demand from major studios, networks, publishers and digital media companies.

Samsung Adds CBSN to Ad-Supported VOD Service

Samsung Electronics America Oct. 31 announced the addition of CBSN to its free ad-supported video service Samsung TV Plus.

CBSN joins more than 70 TV channels on the Samsung TV Plus service, which delivers free, ad-supported programming across millions of 2016-2019 Samsung Smart TVs.

Established in 2016 in the United States, Samsung TV Plus is pre-installed on all 2016-2019 Samsung Smart TVs. Users can access TV content with just an Internet connection — no download, additional devices or credit card needed.

The platform mirrors AVOD efforts by The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Shout! Factory TV, and IMDb TV, among others.

“As viewership trends continue to shift, we feel it is important to offer consumers a live and linear TV experience that is completely free and deeply integrated into our Samsung Smart TV platform,” Salek Brodsky, VP of strategic partnerships and business development for Samsung Electronics, said in a statement.

About 34% of U.S. households will not have a traditional cable subscription by the end of 2019, according to the Convergence Research Group.

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With the addition of CBSN, CBS News’ 24/7 streaming news service, Samsung TV Plus provides consumers with an alternative way to access and watch the same news content in the home.

The Samsung TV Plus lineup includes channels spanning news, sports, kids, lifestyle, gaming and more, including: ET Live, Cheddar, WeatherNation, fubo Sports Network, Outside TV+, Moonbug, Tastemade, QVC, PeopleTV, This Old House, FailArmy, The Pet Collective and IGN.

Amazon Upping Ad-Supported Video Options for Non-Prime Subscribers

Amazon Prime Video, along with Netflix and Hulu, remains among the top subscription-based video-on-demand streaming platforms in the United States and around the world.

But the e-commerce behemoth is quietly increasing efforts around its ad-supported VOD subsidiary, IMDb TV, and streaming media devices such as Fire TV.

In the third quarter, Amazon announced more than 20 new Fire TV products, including the first Fire TV Edition soundbar; the updated Fire TV Cube; the first OLED Fire TV Edition smart TV; and the first Fire TV Edition smart TV with far-field Alexa voice control.

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Amazon also expanded the lineup of content for Fire TV customers, including the recently announced YouTube TV app, Apple TV app, and the free News app. In Q3, Fire TV announced more than 37 million active users worldwide and continues to be the No. 1 selling family of streaming media players in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and India, according to Amazon.

Speaking on the fiscal call, Dave Fildes, director of investor relations, said Amazon is slowly increasing ad-supported video access, including third-party brand access.

“It’s still early in this space, but we’ve done a few things with IMDb TV, live sports [‘NFL Thursday Night Football’], things like adding more inventory through Fire TV apps, adding more OTT video supply through Amazon Publisher Services or APS integrations and streamlining access for third party apps and really just making it easier for advertisers to manage their campaigns and provide better results,” Fildes said.

AVOD Service Xumo Renews Deal With LG

AVOD service Xumo has renewed its relationship with LG Electronics to continue powering the Channel Plus service for LG smart TVs.

Currently available in 45 million U.S. households, the service has been rebranded LG Channels for 2019 LG webOS smart TVs in the United States, Canada and internationally. LG Channels, powered by Xumo, has also rolled out in seven additional countries — France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Brazil, and most recently, Mexico.

For the past three years, Xumo has powered LG Electronics’ premium Channel Plus service, available within the traditional programming guide of LG smart TVs that gives viewers access to more than 180 free, curated channels across 12 programming genres from broadcast TV to streaming channels and thousands of free movie titles. Total hours streamed continues to increase by a minimum of 10% month over month, according to Xumo.

“Our initial and ongoing partnership with LG has laid the groundwork for Xumo to deliver what has become the next generation of television programming,” noted Xumo CEO Colin Petrie-Norris in a statement. “We’re thrilled to continue powering a wealth of streaming content to not only existing Channel Plus viewers in the U.S. and Canada, but to consumers the world over who demand wide choice and premium, live and on-demand streaming entertainment.”

LG Channels has launched for free internationally with 50-plus of Xumo’s top digital channels, such as Eleven Sports, eSports Revolution, FailArmy, Football Daily, Motorvision, NowThis, Stingray Ambiance and This Old House, with more to be launched each subsequent month, according to Xumo. Localized streaming channels will also be added to the lineup for each specific country as the service expands.

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Channel Plus is available on webOS-enabled 2012-2018 LG smart TVs and is also now available on 2019 LG smart TVs as LG Channels. The full channel lineup can be viewed here.

Xumo offers more than 180 digital channels of free premium programming across 12 genres, including sports, news, kids and family entertainment, live events, comedy, lifestyle and movies. The ad-supported service is available in 45 million U.S. households via a multi-screen distribution network of smart TVs, mobile, web and streaming boxes. Xumo delivers its over-the-top video-on-demand and live linear digital channels through content partnerships with media providers such as CBSN, PeopleTV, NBC News, Food52 and HISTORY, as well PGA TOUR and many others.