ABI: 2020 Will Be the Year of Direct-to-Consumer Video, Not 8K TV

With the pending arrival of NBC Universal’s Peacock streaming service and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, 2020 represents a major step toward an over-the-top video future where more content goes direct-to-consumer, reaching 900 million subscriptions worldwide, according to new data from ABI Research.

The research firm contends more consumers will be moving away from the traditional pay-TV bundle, while content access becomes more fragmented and consumers are presented with a growing list of distribution options.

“The ability to pick and choose which channels of content best fit [one’s] needs will only become increasingly more important,” Michael Inouye, video and cloud services principal analyst, said in a statement.

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The growing penchant among content owners to DTC is creating a more challenging market for “virtual multichannel video programming distributors” (vMVPDs). As a result, ABI said subscriber bases in some of the services have slowed, if not declined. The arrival of more DTC services in 2020 will further fragment the content landscape, making it an increasingly crowded space as more services vie for consumers’ content budgets.

Separately, the firm says rollout of next-generation 5G networks will accelerate. Analyst Khin Sandi Lynn said implementation of 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) will be great news for consumers. 5G FWA garners high interest from operators to replace last-mile fiber connectivity for residential broadband services.

“This allows greater service coverage and improved network delivery for customers served,” Lynn said.

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While there are still barriers to adoption, similar to traditional 5G (infrastructure is expensive and time-consuming to scale), many other operators and equipment vendors have already been trialing 5G FWA deployment across different regions, according to Lynn.

“Qualcomm’s recent announcement of 5G FWA partnerships, with more than 30 OEMs and ongoing spectrum acquisitions by operators indicates that the ecosystem is getting ready to speed up the rate of deployment,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Lynn said 8K rollout will remain largely industry hype.

“Announcements of 8K televisions by major vendors earlier in 2019 attracted much attention and raised many of questions within the industry,” Lynn said. “The fact is, 8K content is not available and the price of 8K TV sets are exorbitant. The transition from high definition to 4K will continue in 2020 with very limited 8K shipments — less than 1 million worldwide.”

Disney+ Appoints Chris Loveall to International Content Post

Disney+ has appointed international programming executive Chris Loveall to the position of VP of content — international.

Loveall will report into Matt Brodlie, SVP of international content development, working closely with him and Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International’s regional teams on the development and production of original scripted and unscripted series, as well as acquisitions for all markets outside of the United States.

“Chris has great instincts and a deep understanding of storytelling opportunities in the international marketplace,” Brodlie said in a statement. “He will be a tremendous asset as we grow a rich, diverse slate of original content that builds on the Disney+ storytelling ethos in ways that are unique to each of our international markets.”

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“I’m excited to be part of the Disney+ team and look forward to working with them to identify and develop stories that resonate with fans of the service around the world,” Loveall said in a statement.

Loveall most recently served as VP of international programming for AMC Networks, including AMC, SundanceTV and BBC America, and was responsible for the development of original international commissions and co-productions as well as select acquisitions for each network. For SundanceTV, he oversaw the co-productions “Liar” with ITV and “Rosehaven” and “Cleverman” with the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Prior to joining the AMC Networks group, Loveall served as VP of original programming at Pivot, developing scripted drama, comedy and animation projects, as well as overseeing international co-productions including “Fortitude” with Sky Atlantic and “Please Like Me” with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. He has also held a number of programming-focused positions at ABC Signature Studios, The CW and other production companies.

Survey: More Than 14% of U.S. Netflix Subscribers May Cancel It in Favor of Disney+

More than 14% of U.S. Netflix customers are considering ditching their subscription in favor of Disney+ when the new streaming service launches in November, which could amount to a loss of approximately 8.7 million subscribers for the streaming pioneer.

Those are the findings of a survey of more than 600 U.S. Netflix subscribers commissioned by Streaming Observer.

In the survey, 12.7% said they “might cancel Netflix” while 2.2% said they would “definitely cancel Netflix” and get Disney+.

Survey respondents with kids in their household were more than two times as likely to say they plan to cancel Netflix for Disney+.

Roughly two in five Netflix subscribers in the survey said they will try Disney+, which costs $6.99 per month ($69.99 per year), when it debuts. One-fifth of those surveyed said they plan on subscribing to both services, and 40% said they have no interest in Disney+.

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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.

DEG Forms Direct-to-Consumer Alliance

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group has formed the DTC Alliance as a subset of DEG membership.

“Every major media company and TV network will launch a Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) streaming service in the next five years representing a significant new chapter in how television and film content is purchased, accessed and consumed,” the DEG stated in a release. “As DTC streaming currently is a longtail situation with a few high-reach apps and many low-reach services, DEG’s DTC Alliance is designed to support direct-to-consumer media services of all sizes to tackle difficult challenges and coordinate voluntary best practices and initiatives; advocate for the industry by presenting a common front to the commercial community; and promote member channels through campaigns aimed at building awareness among consumers, as well as through industry-leading events.”

Under the umbrella of the DTC Alliance, DEG has established six committees to set objectives and agendas in the following areas: Marketing Nomenclature, Data Analytics, International Expansion, Rights Repository, Title Availability Directory and Uniform Metadata Standards.

“With the DTC Alliance, DEG is bringing together DTC content companies and service providers to build a robust and efficient marketplace for all players, and to promote the new DTC experience to consumers,” said Amy Jo Smith, DEG president and CEO. “DEG has a track record of more than 20 years in bringing new media platforms, including DVD and Blu-ray Disc to market. We are very excited to apply this extensive market-building experience to the DTC arena, and encourage all appropriate companies to participate in setting the DTC Alliance’s initial objectives and a forward-looking agenda for this new industry.”