Pluto TV Bows Service in Germany, Austria

Pluto TV, the Los Angeles-based ad-supported online TV platform, has begun streaming operations in Germany and Austria. The launch follows a similar move in the United Kingdom in October through a collaboration with satellite TV operator Sky.

Sky, which was recently acquired by Comcast, is an investor in Pluto TV, along with ProSiebenSat.1 in Germany.

“The current timing of the launch of Pluto TV in Europe, especially in the German-speaking market, is ideal to harness the great potential for the distribution of linear video offerings via the Internet,”Olivier Jollet, managing director Europe, said in a statement.

Based in the company’s Berlin office, Jollet said the online TV platform’s marketing approach is to underscore the platform’s simplicity at a time when he says typical households subscribe to upwards of three or more – often redundant – over-the-top video services.

“[Consumers] are increasingly losing interest in this,” he said.

Pluto TV launched in 2016 as an app on Sony PlayStation about a year after Dish Network’s groundbreaking rollout of Sling TV – the first standalone online TV service offering pay-TV channels without a long-term contract.

The online TV market now includes PlayStation Vue, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and Charter’s Spectrum TV Plus, among others.

Last month, Pluto inked a licensing deal with Discovery for channels such as Discovery Channel, HGTV and Food Network, Animal Planet, ID, Discovery Life, Science Channel, and TLC, among others.

 

 

 

WarnerMedia OTT Video Platform to Offer Three Service Tiers

WarnerMedia’s much-anticipated over-the top video platform launching in the fourth quarter of 2019 will include three levels of service: an entry-level movie-focused package; a premium service with original programming and theatrical movies; and a third service that bundles content from the first two plus an extensive library of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner programming and licensed content.

Speaking Nov. 29 at the telecom’s analyst day event in New York, CEO John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia said the company’s unnamed/unpriced SVOD service would complement existing business (i.e. HBO Now with 5 million subscribers); benefit current distribution partners; expand the audience and increase engagement around content; and provide data and analytics to inform new products and better monetize content.

Stankey said the SVOD service would be a combination of original content, movies, TV shows, library fare and third-party programming.

“It’s a software experience wrapping creative excellence, that we’re going to showcase specific brands … to help the consumer find the right kind of curated content they want,” he said. “It’s gotta be a great value proposition.”

Separately, CEO Randall Stephenson said the merger with Time Warner continues to take a lot of time …”Unfortunately, a lot of it involve[s] litigation with the government.”

The CEO was referring to the Justice Department’s decision to appeal an unfavorable federal judge’s antitrust decision approving AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

The U.S. District Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia is expected to rule early next year.

“We are well positioned for success as the lines between entertainment and communications continue to blur,” said Stephenson. “If you’re a media company, you can no longer rely exclusively on wholesale distribution models. You must develop a direct relationship with your viewers. And if you’re a communications company, you can no longer rely exclusively on oversized bundles of content.”

Indeed, AT&T’s core DirecTV pay-TV service suffered through one of its worst fiscal quarters, losing nearly 350,000 subscribers. The losses were offset to a degree by DirecTV Now, the standalone SVOD service with about 1.8 million subs.

AT&T warned that elimination of promotional pricing at DirecTV Now would likely result in negative net sub adds in the fourth quarter of 2018 and in 2019.

DirecTV Launching Proprietary Streaming Media Device in 2019

As expected, DirecTV plans to roll out a proprietary streaming media device in 2019 that would enable consumers to access online TV service DirecTV Now using their own broadband or high-speed Internet connectivity.

The device, which would be similar to a Roku or Apple TV device, would help DirecTV reduce subscriber acquisition costs typically associated with the installation of pay TV service, including truck rolls and employees climbing the roof installing satellite receivers.

Speaking Nov. 14 at the Morgan Stanley European Technology, Media & Telecom confab in Barcelona, AT&T CFO John Stephens said the streaming device would afford DirecTV with the same data insights and targeted advertising (driven by data analytics subsidiary Xandr) as linear pay-TV.

“It’s a device that allows us to instead of rolling a [service] truck to the home, we roll a UPS or FedEx truck to the home,” he said.

The executive said the box would help AT&T boost broadband subscriptions, which currently total about 15 million households.

“We certainly hope it’s our own fiber, but it can be on anybody’s broadband,” Stephens said.” “We are testing it with employees today.”

Charter Communications followed a similar strategy in 2015 when it launched standalone online TV service Spectrum TV Plus to broadband customers. New subs were given a free Roku 3 streaming media device to facilitate the $20 monthly service.

Separately, Stephens said oral arguments in the Justice Department’s appeal of the $85 billion AT&T/Time Warner merger are due Dec. 6 – with a decision by the three-judge panel expected next year.

“Quite frankly, we’re confident the decision will be upheld,” he said. “It’s a process we have get through. But we’re not spending a lot of time thinking about it.”

 

Online TV Growth Slows Despite Record Q3 Pay-TV Subscriber Exodus

The most-recent fiscal quarter (ended Sept. 30) was not a good one for pay-TV operators, which continue to see increasing numbers of subscribers exit for video alternatives online.

Or not.

It was also a wake-up call to multi-video program distributors who think online TV is the answer to fickle pay-TV consumers.

 The cable, satellite and telecom operators lost a combined 1.2 million video subs, ending the quarter at 91 million, including 88.2 million residential customers, according to new data from Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Meanwhile, while many pay-TV subs are becoming cord-cutters, they’re not all migrating to online TV platforms such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue.

Kagan found that online TV services gained an estimated 2.1 million subs in the past nine months – not enough to offset a decline of 2.8 million pay-TV subs.

Indeed,Dish Network-owned Sling TV and DirecTV Now added just 75,000 subs in 3Q, compared to about 530,000 additions in the previous-year period. The additions were the lowest since the market’s launch in 2015.

Satellite had its worst quarter on record with a loss of 726,000 subs, according to Leichtman Research Group. Cable lost nearly 1.1 million subs – the worst performance since 2014.Telco subs fell by 94,000, led by Verizon, which jettisoned 63,000 subs.

Telephone providers lost about 80,000 video subs compared to a loss of 180,000 subs last year. Pay-TV services (excluding online TV) lost 1.05 million subs compared to a loss of about 940,000 subs in 2017.

“This marked the most net losses ever in a quarter for the pay-TV industry,” Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said in a statement. “Satellite TV had more combined net losses in than in any previous quarter.  These net losses were largely driven by corporate strategies focused on acquiring and retaining more profitable subscribers.”

Leichtman attributed some of the online TV sub growth slowdown to corporate parents’ emphasis on improving the profitability of the Internet-delivered flanker brands.

“[This] reduced net quarterly adds in the segment, resulting in [online TV] not helping to mitigate overall pay-TV losses to the degree they had in recent quarters,” he said.

Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at end of 3Q 2018 Net Adds in 3Q 2018
Cable Companies
Comcast 22,015,000 (106,000)
Charter 16,628,000 (54,000)
Cox* 4,035,000 (30,000)
Altice 3,322,800 (28,100)
Mediacom 793,000 (15,000)
Cable ONE 328,921 (11,191)
Total Top Cable 47,122,721 (244,291)
Satellite Services (DBS)
DIRECTV 19,625,000 (359,000)
DISH TV 10,286,000 (367,000)
Total DBS 29,911,000 (726,000)
Phone Companies
Verizon FiOS 4,497,000 (63,000)
AT&T U-verse 3,693,000 13,000
Frontier 873,000 (29,000)
Total Top Phone 9,063,000 (79,000)
Internet-Delivered (vMVPD)
Sling TV^ 2,370,000 26,000
DIRECTV NOW 1,858,000 49,000
Total Top vMVPD^ 4,228,000 75,000
Total Top Providers 90,324,721 (974,291)

 

 

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Lead Parks Associates Top 10 OTT Services List

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, in that order, lead Parks Associates updated list of the top 10 subscription over-the-top (OTT) video services in the U.S. market. The list, released Nov. 7, is based on estimated number of subscribers.

The full list in order is:

  1. Netflix
  2. Prime Video Users (Amazon Prime)
  3. Hulu (SVOD)
  4. HBO Now
  5. Starz
  6. MLB.TV
  7. Showtime
  8. CBS All Access
  9. Sling TV
  10. DirecTV Now

 

“Which company is the leading OTT video subscription service remains a topic of debate,” said Brett Sappington, senior director of research, Parks Associates, in a statement. “According to our estimates, Amazon has more Prime Members than Netflix has subscribers. However, when you consider only those Prime Members that use Prime Video, Netflix is the largest. Hulu remains the third largest but continues to grow its subscriber base.”

The firm noted the rise of a second tier of OTT video services from services with recognized brands, including several with high profile original content. Online pay-TV services Sling TV and DirecTV Now round out the top 10, ahead of similar services Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue. Online pay TV has been one of the fastest growing segments in the OTT video space, with aggressive marketing by all, according to Parks.

“HBO, Starz, Showtime, and CBS All Access demonstrate the powerful attractiveness of original content through series like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’” Sappington said in a statement. “This pattern suggests new services such as WarnerMedia’s DC Universe and the forthcoming streaming service from Disney could achieve success quickly.”

The top subscription sports OTT video services are MLB.TV, WWE Network and ESPN+. MLB.TV continues to lead the sports OTT subscription category, benefiting from its long tenure as a streaming service and popularity among dedicated baseball fans, according to Parks. WWE also has a dedicated fan base and publicly reported having more than 1.2 million U.S. subscribers at the end of Q3 2018, according to Parks. ESPN+ is a newcomer to the OTT video marketplace but recently announced that it had exceeded 1 million subscribers.

Other findings include:

  • OTT video subscription penetration has reached 64% of U.S. broadband households, with more than two-thirds subscribing only to one of the top three services, Netflix, Prime Video, or Hulu;
  • The online pay-TV audience is similar to the OTT audience — they are younger and quicker to adopt new technologies when compared to traditional pay-TV households; and
  • Over the past three years, OTT churn rates have gradually fallen each year from 31% of OTT subscriptions cancelled each year in 2015 to 28% in 2018.

Parks: OTT Video Adoption Growing Among Pay-TV Cord Cutters

With Comcast and Verizon this week reporting ongoing declines in traditional pay-TV subscribers, new data from Parks Associates shows that consumer perception of a poor value proposition in pay-TV remains the top trigger for changing, downgrading, or cancelling services.

Among households that have made pay-TV changes in past 12 months, one-third of cord cutters (33%) and 10% of switchers or cord shavers plan to use paid OTT services as a substitute or alternative for pay-TV.

In addition to subscription streaming VOD services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, online TV services include Sling TV, Playstation Vue, DirecTV Now, Pluto TV, Fubo TV, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and Spectrum TV Plus, among others.

“The primary driver for pay-TV cancellation and downgrades continues to revolve around pricing and perceived value,” Brett Sappington, senior director, research, said in a statement. “While some consumers consciously plan to use OTT video services to address the absence of pay-TV content, most consider each offering on its own merits.”

Sappington said the “deeper issue” is in the influence OTT video is having on what consumers consider to be a good value. When video services with good quality are available for under $15, it forces operators to justify an $80 pay-TV bill.

Indeed, consumer Katie O’Shea from Travelers Rest, SC, said she plans to switch to $35 DirecTV Now as soon as she can get out of her $200 DirecTV contract – the latter including broadband service.

“I have 400 channels, most of which I don’t watch or even know what they are,” said O’Shea.

 

AT&T Launching New OTT Video Service in Q4 2019

AT&T Oct. 10 disclosed it plans to launch another over-the-top video service in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The telecom, which acquired Time Warner (HBO, Warner Bros., Turner) in part to deliver content via direct-to-consumer video strategy, operates online TV service DirecTV Now and plans to bow AT&T Watch, a $15 monthly sports-free online TV service.

“This is another benefit of the AT&T/Time Warner merger, and we are committed to launching a compelling and competitive product that will serve as a complement to our existing businesses and help us to expand our reach by offering a new choice for entertainment with the WarnerMedia collection of films, television series, libraries, documentaries,” CFO John Stephens wrote in a regulatory filing.

Stephens said the OTT video service and WarnerMedia content would create “a compelling product” for pay-TV distributors looking to increase consumer penetration of their bundled channel packages.

“It would help us successfully reach more customers,” Stephens wrote.

The executive said he expects financial support for the OTT video service to come from a combination of incremental efficiencies within the WarnerMedia operations, consolidating resources from sub-scale direct-to-consumer efforts, library content, and technology re-use.

“We expect to defer some licensing revenue to later periods in the form of increased customer subscription revenue,” he wrote.

 

Online TV Services Added 868,000 Subs in Q2

Online TV services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Philo TV and PlayStation Vue added a combined 868,000 subscribers in the second quarter, bringing the total number of virtual MVPD subs to 6.73 million, up 119% year-over-year, according to new data from Strategy Analytics.

Despite this, overall pay TV subs (cable, satellite, telecom and online TV) fell to 93.78 million, breaking a string of two consecutive quarters of growth, according to the report that examines the subscriber bases of 27 public traded and private pay TV operators, accounting for 97% of all pay TV subscriptions.

“While the entire [online TV] segment is growing, AT&T’s DirecTV Now deserves special notice given how rapidly it has grown in a fairly short period of time,” Michael Goodman, director, television and media strategies, said in a statement. “If it continues on its current growth trajectory it will overtake Sling TV as the largest vMVPD in early 2019.”

In comparison, 2Q was not particularly kind to legacy pay TV providers as they lost nearly as many subscribers (973,000) as the prior two quarters combined (-1.16 million). In the quarter, total legacy pay TV subscriptions fell to 87.05 million, down 3.6% from the previous-year period.

“Historically, pay TV in the U.S. has consisted of cable, satellite, and IPTV; however, the introduction of over-the-top pay TV services, commonly referred to as vMVPDs, necessitates a change in our thinking,” said Goodman. “What we have commonly referred to as pay TV (cable, satellite, and IPTV) should now be referred to as Legacy Pay TV, while the definition of Pay TV should include vMVPDs.”

Pay-TV Q2 Sub Loss Lowest Since 2014

Pay-TV operators, including cable, satellite and telecom, lost about 800,000 video subscribers in the second quarter – down from 930,000 subs in the previous-year period, according to new data from the Leichtman Research Group.

The losses were offset by ongoing gains in online TV services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now and Spectrum TV Plus, which totaled 385,000 subs.

Leichtman found that the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. – representing about 95% of the market – lost about 415,000 net video subs in Q2.

Specifically, satellite operators Dish Network and DirecTV shed 480,000 subs – the largest in any previous quarter.

The top six cable companies lost about 275,000 video subs compared to a loss about 190,000 subs in Q2 2017.

Telecoms lost about 45,000 video subs, compared to a loss of 270,000 subs last year.

The top pay-TV providers now account for about 91.3 million subscribers – with the top six cable companies having 47.4 million video subs, satellite TV services 30.6 million subs, the top telecoms 9.1 million subs.

Online TV services Sling TV and DirecTV Now have 4.2 million combined subs.

“This marked the fewest net losses [among pay-TV operators] in the traditionally weak second quarter since 2014,” Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said in a statement.

Leichtman said the rise in online TV is both a product of consumers opting for more economical services, as well as changes in providers’ strategies.

“This newer segment of the industry has helped to mitigate overall pay-TV losses, while also contributing to a share shift from traditional services,” he said.

Sling TV Subscriber Growth Slowing

Dish Network Aug.3 reported that its pioneering online TV service, Sling TV, ended the second quarter (ended June 30) with 2.344 million subscribers – marginally more than the 2.3 million subs reported at the end of Q1.

The satellite TV operator launched Sling TV in 2015 as the first standalone online TV service, and first platform offering access to premium TV channels outside of the traditional linear bundle, including ESPN.

The market now includes Sony PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Philo TV, Spectrum TV Plus, Hulu Live TV, Fubo TV and AT&T’s WatchTV.

Dish said it added 41,000 Sling TV subs in the Q2, down from about 91,000 sub additions in Q1. The company closed Q2 with 10.653 million Dish TV subs. When combined with Sling TV, Dish ended the period with 12.997 million total pay-TV subs compared to 13.332 million pay-TV subs in the previous-year period.

Indeed, Dish lost 335,000 net subscribers in the period compared to 196,000 subs in the last year’s period. Lone improvement: annual monthly churn rate dropped to 1.46% versus 1.83% for second quarter 2017.