Rakuten TV Gets Direct-Access on Samsung, LG, Philips and Hisense TV Remotes

Rakuten TV March 14 announced partnerships with Samsung Electronics, LG, Philips and Hisense to introduce a remote control button on their smart TV units in Europe and Pan America directly linking to the streaming video service.

The move comes about eight years after Netflix began incorporating its logo/button on TV remote controls in the United States. The SVOD pioneer followed up in Europe in 2015.

Barcelona-based Rakuten TV, which offers digital retail, rental of Hollywood movies, in addition to subscription streaming video throughout Europe, said incorporating its logo/button on TV remotes would increase its presence worldwide, including reaching more than 30 Million households and tripling its distribution from 12 to 40 countries in 2019.

The platform, which is owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, was previously known as Wuaki.tv. A year ago, Rakuten acquired British-based TalkTalk TV, which was previously known as Blinkbox.

The service said it would also increase selection of 4K HDR movies in all the 40 European countries involved in the expansion. Last year it became the first in Europe to offer 4K UHD content in Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Atmos on LG smart televisions.

“This is a major step that our company is undertaking within a plan of expansion, which aims at making Rakuten TV the first choice of entertainment for Smart TV owners,” founder/CEO Jacinto Roca said in a statement.

“This is proof of our commitment with providing an always better experience to cinema lovers. With this move, Rakuten TV will triple its presence on a continental level, strengthening its commitment to deliver the best cinematic experience at home.”

NPD: Retail Websites Fighting Back Against Amazon & Co.

Amazon is the undisputed e-commerce behemoth, generating about $53 billion in revenue in its most-recent fiscal quarter — nearly five times the revenue generated by Walmart.com.

Yet, new data from The NPD Group finds 29% of U.S. online consumer electronics dollar sales were made through traditional retailer websites for the 12 months ending in June. During this timeframe, the retailer ecommerce sites gained online dollar share over third-party ecommerce (i.e. Amazon) primarily in high average sales prices (ASP) for products such as TVs, PCs, tablets, and printers.

Average online spending per purchase was four-times higher on traditional retailer websites ($233/purchase) than through pure-play online retailers ($60/purchase). However, pure play online retailers are seeing an average of five additional annual purchases, when compared to traditional retailer websites, providing more occasions to sell.

Traditional retailer websites made up 46% of online U.S. consumer electronics dollar sales for these higher ASP items, up 3% from the prior-year period. For lower ASP items they make up 13% of dollar sales, as pure play online retailers still dominate this more ‘grab and go’ segment.

“Across the retail landscape traditional retailers are finding success in bringing what they do well in store to the online channel,” Stephen Baker, VP, industry advisor for the TNP Group, said in a statement.

Baker said traditional retail is competing effectively with Amazon and others for higher-priced items by leveraging their merchandising expertise and the strong in-store product selections on their e-commerce platforms.

“This approach is clearly paying off in the CE industry, as evidenced by growing online sales across a variety of categories,” he said.

 

 

Sony Brings E-commerce to TVs and Blu-ray Disc Players

Sony Electronics Oct. 2 announced a collaboration with software company Connekt to enable owners of select Sony Smart TVs and Blu-ray Disc players the ability to buy products directly through the television – dubbed “T-Commerce”.

Through a special embedded app, consumers with select Sony smart TV models will be able to securely purchase products directly from the retailers and brands. Fully optimized for ecommerce, “ShopTV” offers consumers the ability to purchase products from hundreds of brands and retailers, including Macy’s, Best Buy and Fanatics.

“TV remains the most prolific way for brands to reach consumers, and smarter TVs mean smarter advertising where brands can move consumers from awareness to a transaction without ever leaving their TVs,” Tripp Boyle, SVP of Connekt, said in a statement last year.

In the initial phase of the collaboration, consumers will be able to shop directly from the ShopTV app available in Sony’s smart TV app store. Sony and Connekt will work together to extend this capability to in-program purchasing, as well as to enable voice-driven commerce when that capability is deployed.

“Sony is committed to bringing value added features to our consumers,” Nick Colsey, VP, business development at Sony, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with Connekt allows us to offer owners of select Sony Smart TVs the ability to engage and shop directly from the biggest screen in their home.”

In a recent report, Connekt’s research demonstrated that over 75% of consumers would buy products directly from their TV if given the opportunity, while over 70% expressed an intent to use their voice to purchase products through the television.

“For decades, Sony has been a technology innovator,” said Mike Fitzsimmons, CEO of Connekt. “We are proud be partnering on this initiative to drive the convergence of television and commerce.”

 

 

E-commerce Takes a Hit as U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Sales Taxes on Web Merchants

The U.S. Supreme Court June 21 in a 5-4 decision ruled that states can levy a sales tax on products sold by e-commerce merchants regardless of a physical presence in the state. The decision is a multibillion-dollar windfall for states.

The ruling overturned a 1992 decision that held the Constitution barred states from collecting taxes on businesses with no physical presence within their borders.

That ’92 decision helped spawn e-commerce, which, spearheaded by Amazon and others, has hamstrung a brick-and-mortar retail ecosystem that is required to collect sales tax.

But in 2015, Justice Anthony Kennedy questioned the decision involving a North Dakota business. South Dakota responded by imposing a tax on all merchants that had more than $100,000 in annual sales or more than 200 individual transactions in the state.

The state then sued online retailers Wayfair, Overstock.com and Newegg for violating the rule. The case ultimately wound its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision is seen as major hit to e-commerce behemoth Amazon, which charges sales tax on items it sells directly, but not on those sold by third-party retailers. In 2017, Amazon reportedly generated nearly $32 billion in revenue from third-party sellers — more than it generates from Amazon Web Services.

 

Walmart Launches Text-Message Shopping/Delivery Service

Walmart has launched a subscription service in select markets that enables members to order items via text message and have them delivered the same day to their home.

Dubbed “Jetblack,” the platform bowed May 31 in New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn targeting time-strapped affluent shoppers willing to pay $50 monthly for the service.

Subscribers can order anything (including movie DVDs) except alcohol from Walmart.com and Jet.com will receive reminders when frequently-purchased items in the home might need to be replenished.

“Through its curated shopping recommendations … Jetblack can deliver time-strapped urban parents everything from birthday gifts to household essentials,” Walmart said in a statement.

Walmart acquired Jet.com in 2016 for $3 billion in cash and stock, looking to jumpstart its ecommerce strategy and better compete with Amazon.

Internal research found that Jetblack test members purchased 10-times more than the average shopper, according to Walmart.

“The goal is to think about game-changing technologies that will change the way people shop,” Jenny Fleiss, co-founder of Jetblack, told Reuters.

Amazon offers its Prime subscribers same-day deliveries (via Prime Now) of assorted household products as part of its $99 annual membership fee.

U.S. Supreme Court to Punt E-commerce Sales Tax Case?

The United States Supreme Court reportedly appears unsure how to rule on a case involving sales tax charged on out-of-state e-commerce transactions.

Amazon, among other e-commerce services, has long been able to avoid charging sales tax on out-of-state on purchases — a loophole that rankles in-state brick-and-mortar businesses.

A lawsuit brought in South Dakota challenges a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that states can’t charge sales tax on businesses without a physical presence in the state. A reversal of the law could be worth $18 billion to states and could significantly impact (raise prices) on e-commerce.

A lower court case involving Wayfair, Overstock.com and Newegg ruled in favor of the e-commerce platforms.

Interestingly, in an era of tax avoidance, the justices April 17 heard arguments, with comments against taxes coming from left-wing justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, while conservatives, including President Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, appeared in favor of taxes, according to Reuters, which is following the case.

“Congress is capable of craftly compromises,” Kagan said without irony. Sotomayer wondered if changing the law would set off an avalanche of new state taxes, hurting Internet start-ups.

In 2015, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the landmark law was outdated and left most of e-commerce tax free.

“Given … changes in technology and consumer sophistication, it is unwise to delay any longer a reconsideration of the court’s holding,” Kennedy said. “The legal system should find an appropriate case for this court to [revisit the original case].”

South Dakota in 2016 passed a law requiring out-of-state businesses collect sales tax if they generate at least $100,000 in revenue or 200 transactions. It is supported by business groups, including the National Retail Federation, whose members ironically feature e-commerce subsidiaries Walmart.com, Target.com and Amazon.

Trump upped the politics of the case when he went after Amazon on Twitter, accusing the company of having an unfair tax advantage. Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, which frequently criticizes Trump.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the matter by this summer.

 

European Union Proposes Tax Hike on Digital Companies

The European Union March 21 announced plans to implement an interim 3% tax hike for digital companies aimed at leveling the playing field between local and multinational companies based outside the region.

With almost half of the top 20 global companies by market capitalization digital operations (compared to 5% a decade ago), the EU says digital companies (i.e. Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon and Netflix) pay an average tax rate half (9.5%) that of the traditional economy (23.3%) in member countries.

The trade union contends profits made through activities such as selling user-generated data and streaming video content are not captured by current tax rules.

Apple infamously parked more than $120 billion in Ireland to avoid taxes in the U.S. and other countries it operates in. A strategy the company reportedly had to outsource to Bermuda and Grand Cayman after Irish authorities sought to close loopholes.

Tax avoidance strategies used by Apple and other digital multinationals deny governments around the world as much as $240 billion annually in lost revenue, according to a 2015 estimate by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, reported by The New York Times.

Netflix reportedly paid less than £400,000 ($565,000) in 2015 corporate taxes in the U.K. on revenue of £36.5 million.

Netflix told The Guardian it contributed financially in other ways, including wages, value-added taxes (VAT) and funding myriad British-based original content productions.

Maybe, but to USC law professor Edward Kleinbard, U.S. multinational firms are “global grandmasters” of not paying their fair share of taxes.

“[They employ] schemes that deplete not just U.S. tax collection but the tax collection of most every large economy in the world,” Kleinbard told the Times.

New EU rules would deem multinational digital companies having a European presence if they meet at least one of the following criteria: exceed €7 million in annual revenue in a member state, having more than 100,000 users or 3,000 business contracts in a member state in a taxable year.

The new taxes, which the EU believes would generate €5 billion ($6.1 billion) in annual revenue, would apply primarily to online advertising, sale of user-provided data and third-party ecommerce.

Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs at the EU, said the digital economy is a “major” two-way opportunity for Europe and digital firms based outside the region – with legal and fiscal concerns.

“Our pre-Internet rules do not allow our member states to tax digital companies operating in Europe when they have little or no physical presence here,” said Moscovic. “This represents an ever-bigger black hole … because the tax base is being eroded. That’s why we’re bringing forward a new legal standard as well an interim tax for digital activities.”