Farewell EMA, Hello OTT.X

After more than three decades as one of the home entertainment industry’s key trade associations, the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) is broadening its focus and rebranding to become the OTT.X (the Over The Top Exchange).

According to CEO and president Mark Fisher, the new name reflects the organization’s aim to more broadly support the business of bringing entertainment to the consumer through all OTT means – including transactional video-on-demand (TVOD); subscription VOD, or streaming; and ad-supported streaming (AVOD).

Maintaining that the organization will support digital retailers, channels, networks, platforms, and MVPDs, Fisher said the vision of OTT.X is “a vibrant ecosystem of companies continually advancing the consumer experience and business of delivering audio-visual entertainment through OTT technologies,” while its updated mission is “to connect and nurture the OTT ecosystem enabling innovation, collaboration, and competition.”

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He said the association will  continue to focus on the business aspects of the industry, by facilitating business exchange and community, sharing industry insights and research, organizing and managing industry interest groups such as digital supply chain and retailing best practices, and managing a leadership development foundation.

The new OTT.X logo

The group was founded in 1984 as the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), representing the proliferating independent video rental stores that had birthed the home entertainment industry several years earlier.

As the business shifted to regional and then national chains like Blockbuster Video, Movie Gallery and Hollywood Entertainment, the VSDA intensified its lobbying and supply chain efforts and tweaked its annual summer convention, generally held in Las Vegas, to focus more on meetings and less on elaborate booths and exhibits on the show floor.

With the arrival of DVD and the shift in the market away from rental and toward sellthrough, the VSDA scaled down its show even more and in 2006 merged with the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) to become the EMA.

The last big summer trade show was held in Las Vegas in 2007; the association subsequently focused on smaller conferences and seminars and from 2012 until last year presented the annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit for key retailers and content suppliers.

The association’s new direction — and name — are the result of its successful OTT_X Market and Conference last July and its OTT_X @ Pipeline in September, Fisher said.

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“After more than three decades, we continue to reinvent the definition of the industry that we serve as well as our model to serve and support it,” Fisher said. “I’m proud that our team — our board and staff, working together — drafted this transformational plan, positioning OTT.X to grow in both the size of its membership and the quantity and quality of its programs and services.”

“There are so many new and emerging channels and networks looking to collaborate with their peers in building a more effective ecosystem,” said Cameron Douglas, OTT.X chair and head of home entertainment at FandangoNow, one of the industry’s leading digital retailers. “I look forward to working more broadly with digital retailers, MVPDs, digital channels and networks, distribution platforms, consumer electronics manufacturers, and all the companies creating and distributing content to these channels, as well as technology-enabling services supporting our businesses.”

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Earlier in the year, Fisher told Media Play News that the association in 2020 will “formally, fully embrace the broad spectrum of OTT delivery, including SVOD and AVOD, while continuing to support TVOD. We plan to contribute significantly to supporting the ecosystem surrounding OTT including platforms, channels, content providers and service providers by expanding many of our already successful programs as well as launching new ones.

“This includes connecting companies for efficient business negotiations in events like our popular OTT.X business exchange, gathering and sharing valuable business insights and industry research in our conference sessions and facilitating the development, evangelization and education of industry best practices such as the digital supply chain work we’ve been doing over the last decade.”

 

Trade Groups Court Streamers, But Remain Focused on Transactional Side of the Business

The home entertainment industry’s two trade groups are aggressively courting streamers, but they remain focused on the transactional side of the business, as well.

Both Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, and Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), believe both branches of the home entertainment industry can thrive.

“We know that 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is the premium choice for viewing content at its best,” Smith says. “And buying content allows fans to collect their favorites and watch at any time.  SVOD and AVOD services offer an exciting way to access all types of content, from award-winning originals to genre specific catalog titles to episodic television series.”

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“There are some movies that consumers are waiting impatiently to see on their home screen,” Fisher adds. “These movies generally won’t be available on subscription streaming services until much later.  Consumers may not fully appreciate the benefit of this window and that titles are available much earlier.”

Looking ahead at 2020, Smith says, “DEG will continue to support transactional businesses for content while also looking to support DTC services. We will support the studios in their work with retail partners to bring content front and center.  For DTC, our work involves aligning messaging so that consumers understand the opportunities for them in the burgeoning DTC environment.  We also want to make sure the experience of discovery and viewing is optimized.  It’s a very exciting time for both consumers as well as the industry providing and delivering content.

Fisher said the EMA in 2020 will “formally, fully embrace the broad spectrum of OTT delivery, including SVOD and AVOD, while continuing to support TVOD. We plan to contribute significantly to supporting the ecosystem surrounding OTT including platforms, channels, content providers and service providers by expanding many of our already successful programs as well as launching new ones. This includes connecting companies for efficient business negotiations in events like our popular OTT.X business exchange, gathering and sharing valuable business insights and industry research in our conference sessions and facilitating the development, evangelization and education of industry best practices such as the digital supply chain work we’ve been doing over the last decade.

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“We’re also excited to be launching our Leadership Development Foundation, dedicated to supporting recent entrants into the home entertainment workforce and providing professional development opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities.”

What’s in store in 2020 on the transactional side of the business?

“We’re still digesting the learnings from the industry-wide Ultimate Media Weekend promotion that we coordinated last year, anticipating another round this year,” Fisher says. “We’ll be examining every aspect of the program from timing to whether the program should be price-point based or not, to whether it should focus on VOD or EST or both.”

“Obviously,” Fisher adds, “this is the year that consumers will be navigating direct-to-consumer options. More consumers than ever before will cut their relationships with their cable TV providers and use OTT services.  Consumers will want to append their costly DTC SVOD services with less-costly SVOD specialty channels and especially with ‘free’ AVOD channels and platforms to supplement their viewing selection.

“The challenges will be to get noticed above the loud noise of the larger studios and existing leading services, and to make the consumer experience as friendly, reliable, and easy as we’ve gotten used to with our cable TV experience — both in functionality and in search and discovery of content.”

Fisher says he’s got “one more point for next year and the future — any launch of a new format or window needs to be coordinated across industries — physical and digital retailers and services/content providers/consumer electronics companies.  Lack of consistency in timing, in promotion, and in terminology have confused the consumer and slowed adoption.  We can do better, and we’re looking forward to supporting the industry as it continues innovating.”

EMA Sets Dates, Location for 2nd Annual OTT Confab, Announces Biweekly Webinar Series

The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) has announced preliminary plans for the second annual OTT_X Market and Conference.

The home entertainment trade group also announced a biweekly webinar series, beginning next year, that will give member companies the chance to present thought leadership and showcase their products

The 2020 OTT_X Market and Conference will be held at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles on  July 21 and 22. The centrally located facility has been home to EMA’s OTT_X (formerly Digital Media) Pipeline for the past decade. The OTT_X Market and Conference will expand to include two full days of conference sessions  as well as specialized tracks of breakouts and work groups.  A themed “show floor” will be added, providing space for organizations interested in acquiring content (retailers/channels/platforms) to meet with those looking to license their content (studios/networks/aggregators) as well as technology and service providers.  Private meeting rooms will be available as well.

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Another new element will be the Partner Showcase, where content providers and technology and service providers can present or demonstrate their offerings. The event also will offer networking opportunities at breakfast and lunch functions and at the Industry Cocktail Party.

“This is the perfect venue to enable all aspects of OTT_X including business exchange, education, knowledge sharing, networking and advancing cross-industry initiatives,” said Mark Fisher, EMA’s president and CEO.  “Both casual meetings and private meetings are comfortably accommodated, and the venue is perfect to host our main conference program, our breakouts, and our show floor.”

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“The OTT_X conference is one of the premier digital events in our industry, offering invaluable resources to seasoned professionals and newcomers alike,” added Erick Opeka, president of Digital Networks at Cinedigm and the Conference Chair.

The webinar series begins Jan. 15. All EMA member companies are invited to propose a topic, along with an outline, for presentation in this webinar series.  Once approved, the presenting company will select from the calendar of dates available.  Presentations will take place on the first and third Wednesday of every month at 1 p.m. Pacific Time and will be scheduled for one hour.

Submissions can be made, starting on Dec. 16, to Mark Fisher at mfisher@entmerch.org.

EMA Elects Officers, Appoints Board Members

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment, Fandango, has been re-elected chairman of the home entertainment trade group the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). Douglas will be serving his second term as chairman.

Joining Douglas as officers are vice chair Suyin Lim, senior director, content acquisitions and partnerships, PlayStation Video; secretary Pedro Guiterrez Jr., director, digital stores movies and TV business and category management, Microsoft Corp.; and treasurer Michele Edelman, head of growth, Premiere Digital Services.

Eric Opeka

Bill Kotzman, Google/YouTube’s partner product manager, TV and Film; Erick Opeka, president, Cinedigm Digital Networks; and Jason Peterson, CEO of GoDigital Medial Group, will also serve on the association’s executive committee as at-large members.

Amazon returns to the EMA’s board, now represented by senior product manager Jude Fitzmorris.

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Other returning board members are Amit Balan, head of marketing at Vudu, and Marty Graham, SVP at ComScore.

Three members newly appointed board members are Opeka, Edelman and Elissa Brown, VP of finance and operations at Movies Anywhere.

“The companies on EMA’s board of director reflect the variety of delivery mechanisms and business models in our vibrant industry,” said Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO. “Each director brings an important perspective, and their wealth of experience will benefit the membership as EMA continues to be the forum for the home entertainment industry.”

The EMA is a not-for-profit international trade association. Members include digital retailers, MVPDs, AVOD and SVOD networks and channels, platforms, companies creating and/or distributing content for these channels of distribution, and companies providing services or technology for the use of others in this community. EMA was established in April 2006 through the merger of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA).

Panelists at EMA OTT Event Contemplate Effect of Coming SVOD Wave

A little more than a month before the start of a launch of a wave of big-name SVOD services, panelists contemplated the effect that the new, deep-pocketed players would have on the OTT marketplace at a Sept. 25 conference in Los Angeles produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher noted a change in the title of the annual event from Digital Media Pipeline to OTT_X@ Pipeline.

“That’s our leaning in and supporting all over-the-top distribution, embracing SVOD [subscription] and AVOD [ad-supported] as well as TVOD [transactional], which we had primarily been supporting in the past,” he said.

In opening remarks, he noted the shifting landscape.

“While SVOD continues to have runaway growth and EST continues to reinvent itself and to promote consumer ownership, AVOD, a format that an industry sage used to refer to as ‘where titles go to die,’ has become all the buzz,” he said. “Frankly, with the launch of WarnerMedia’s subscription service, Disney’s subscription service, Apple’s subscription service, Universal’s service, and Hulu and Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as Britbox, CBS All Access and so many others, I believe even more consumers are going to be driven to cut their cable subscriptions and get all their content either through OTA or OTT and there is likely going to be a limit to what most customers are going to be willing to spend. And when they hit that limit, they’re probably still not going to have enough content available compared to what they’re used to with the hundreds of channels on cable, and they’ll end up supplementing that with AVOD channels. So I think many of us believe that next year will not only bring growth in migration in SVOD services but also unprecedented growth in AVOD.”

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That theme of how the market would change with an explosion of new OTT entrants was echoed by panelists throughout the day.

“The entertainment industry has become as susceptible to change and as volatile with change as the broader technology industry itself,” said Cinedigm Networks president Erick Opeka, who moderated the “Future Evolution of OTT” panel. “Gone are the days of the stability that many of us in this room became accustomed to, where you had 10, 12, 15 years between cycles of technology adoption.”

Mining a niche is a good way to compete with the big guys, panelists said.

“I believe there’s a lot of white space for passion-driven verticals that are underserviced,” said Natalie Farsi, founder and CEO of upcoming lifestyle channel SMART.

Ed Laczynski, CEO of Zype, added a niche OTT player can succeed “where there’s a high level of affinity and or passion and there’s a scarcity of content within that group.”

Focus is key, said Irina Shames, chief revenue officer of Obesh, an upcoming channel focused on outdoor adventure targeting millennials.

“I think there are many companies not necessarily asking, ‘Why are we launching an OTT or why do we need to be present on OTT?’” she said.

As SVOD services proliferate, AVOD may be a strategic move for smaller players.

“It seems to me that a lot of players that had started as subscription are going to be making a pivot to an ad-supported model,” said Opeka.

“With AVOD, we’ve still got about 82 percent of the U.S. that’s gonna want to watch ad-based content because they don’t want to have to pay for all of these services,” added Jeffrey Goldman of Premiere Digital Services.

Transitioning to AVOD “hopefully will be a better business model for us,” said the Africa Channel’s Sheila Cole on another panel, “Managing the Business of OTT.”

Indeed, the research on AVOD shows strong consumer growth.

“The ad-supported space is growing very, very quickly,” said ComScore’s Vince Muscarella. Recent ComScore research showed that the growth in hours viewed per household for ad-supported services is outpacing even subscription viewing. Ad-supported hours were up 60% in May-July 2019 from May-July 2018, while subscription hours grew 44% during the same time period.

David Sidebottom of Futuresource reported that AVOD is a “very U.S. phenomenon,” with one in five Americans having used one of these services in the last month, according to his research.

Still, internationally, as in the United States, “what we see more than anything is fragmentation in the marketplace” with consumers offered “huge choice,” he said. But every international territory is not the same. Netflix is driving SVOD growth in France and Germany, for instance, with TVOD starting to pick up in Nordic region.

Other changes noted at the conference were the impending launch of a new website and OTT newsletter from the trade association, as well as a push for diversity. Indeed, the conference included a panel on the subject and featured a diverse group on the dais.

“This is the first conference that it’s not just a bunch of us old white guys up on stage,” said the EMA’s Fisher. “We have 48% of our speakers being female and at least the start of integrating more underrepresented minorities and people of color into our program.”

He credited Parrot Analytics’ Alejandro Rojas, who presented research on OTT profitability, for pushing the organization to embrace more diversity.

Movies Anywhere Adding Eighth Retail Partner, Rolling Out Ad Campaign as Users Hit 8 Million

As Movies Anywhere approaches its second anniversary in October, the movie library collection service boasts 8 million registered users; 7,800 titles; and 200 million movies stored — and it is poised to add an eighth retail partner, Verizon.

Movies Anywhere GM Karin Gilford noted these milestones during a presentation at the Entertainment Merchants Association’s OTT_X@Pipeline 2019 conference in Los Angeles Sept. 25.

Retail partnerships, such as the new deal with Verizon, are important to improving the overall experience, she said.

“On a day to day basis, we are working with them so that how we connect to the overall ecosystem is smooth,” she said.

Details on the Verizon pact are to come.

A key mission of the Movies Anywhere is to “drive purchasing habits,” she said.

“We want to drive transactions, obviously, but we want to make it a habit,” Gilford said. “We want to make it fun to build a collection. We want to have a great place to house that collection. We want make it really accessible everywhere you are.”

Service research shows that “once people use Movies Anywhere … they buy more movies,” she said.

The service has recently stepped up marketing.

“We launched a new advertising campaign that just kicked off a couple of weeks ago,” she said.

The campaign has rolled out on TV/OTT (cable channels via Simulmedia, Roku, FireTV); in theaters (via National CineMedia); in airports (LAX, JFK digital signage plus the Boingo wifi service); and online channels including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. An advertorial campaign is rolling out through October on channels such as Vox, Fandom and Twitch.

The blitz is designed to plant a flag in an increasingly crowded digital entertainment universe.

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“We want to establish [Movies Anywhere] as differentiated from the SVOD services that are coming,” Gilford said, alluding to the impending launches of Disney+ and Apple TV+, among others.

 

Movies Anywhere welcome page

Gilford showed the new 30-second spot for the service, as well as aspects of the welcome page.

The service designed the welcome page to greet consumers with “a really conversational approach,” she said and to make clear what Movies Anywhere provides.

“A lot of consumers don’t understand the economics and the business models that power the entertainment industry,” she said. “Why do you have to have ads in these episodes? Wait, all of these movies aren’t free? Those things do still come up even in 2019, and so it is really important, especially for something like Movies Anywhere, to be very clear about what we’re doing, what type of content is in here and what the mission is.”

The service has added new features, including 4K with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos,  and a “Deals” section that calls out special offers from partner studios and retailers. The “Deals” feature came out of an analysis of data from the service showing a usage spike when there were special offers in the marketplace.

Movies Anywhere is also using data to inform studios about usage patterns in a way previously unavailable and is beginning to use data to customize the user experience.

“Studios having visibility into that data is going to make for a more powerful home entertainment business and a more powerful EST business,” she said.

While Movies Anywhere is backed by several major studios (Disney, Fox, Sony, Universal and Warner)  prominently featured on the welcome page, Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate are not part of the service, which also does not feature television programming.

Retail partners include iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Walmart’s Vudu, Xfinity, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV and FandangoNow.

EMA Producing OTT_@Pipeline Conference Sept. 25

The Entertainment Merchants Association is producing OTT_X@Pipeline at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles Sept. 25.

It’s the 12th year for the conferences, formerly titled Digital Media Pipeline. The event is a one-day business-to-business conference bringing together the OTT community for research presentations, knowledge sharing and networking.

OTT_X@Pipeline kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with a breakfast followed by panels, spotlight chats, research presentations and a keynote speaker to be announced. It ends with a cocktail party 5:15-6:15 p.m.

Panels include “What’s the Future of OTT?” and “Efficiencies Toward Profits.” There will be a Movies Anywhere update at 4:45 p.m.

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Research presentations include “To License or Not to License,” about the question of whether to invest in more original content or rely on licensed acquisitions, presented by Alejandro Rojas of Parrot Analytics; “International Development of Premium Digital Video Markets,” a review of the latest trends in international markets for SVOD and transactional digital video, presented by David Sidebottom of Futuresource; and “Navigating the Fragmented TV Landscape,” in which Samba TV will share the latest viewership trends.

EMA SVP Sean Bersell to Leave Association

Entertainment Merchants Association SVP Sean Bersell is leaving the association after nearly 20 years.

Bersell recently moved to Pittsburgh with his wife Heather Norris to be closer to family and “has decided it is time for him to embark on some new endeavors,” according to an email to board members and other stakeholders from EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher.

“Sean has been with the EMA for almost 20 years, starting in August 1999,” Fisher wrote. “He was originally brought on to manage the government relations program as the industry was under fire after the Columbine massacre for allegedly marketing and selling violent videos and video games to minors. Sean led our successful response to that through several federal investigations, countless proposed laws throughout the country, and nine lawsuits — culminating in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. EMA, which recognized First Amendment protections for video games. He also was instrumental in our efforts to protect the right to rent and resell videos and video games and to ward off punitive regulation of the industry’s products.

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“In addition, he has led our public relations and member communications activities, managed our digital supply chain efforts for several years, and organized our conference programming for the past year. But more than that, he has been involved in practically every significant strategic decision of the organization over the past 20 years as we have navigated the industry’s many transitions.

“I have personally appreciated and valued Sean’s advice and guidance over the decades that we worked together, and will miss working with him.

“We are grateful for his service to EMA and wish him and Heather all the best.”

Bersell started his career in 1985 as legislative counsel for U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici. From 1991 to 1993, Bersell served as the assistant director of the National Park Service in charge of the Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs.

In 1993, Bersell joined the government relations staff of the 58,000-member American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and eventually worked his way up to senior director, public affairs for the professional society.

Bersell is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of New Mexico School of Law.

EMA Event Spotlights Digital Delivery

The over-the-top market is exploding, and the Entertainment Merchants Association this year at its annual Los Angeles conference gave it a starring role.

The OTT_X conference, focusing on the OTT market, ran July 16-17 concurrent with the eighth annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit presented by the EMA. In addition to OTT panels and spotlight presentations, the EMA facilitated OTT business meetings in addition to meetings scheduled for LAES participants. The joint event attracted about 400 attendees.

The new focus is part of a bigger shift for the EMA.

“It was really apparent last year that the event needed to change,” said EMA CEO and president Mark Fisher July 16 in opening remarks, adding “as the industry changes so does the EMA.”

“We’ve intentionally shed our support and income from the video game segment,” he said, to be more focused. The organization has also shed physical retail members and distributors.

“It’s a pivot,” he said, but “we’re not going to leave behind the TVOD space.”

A leader in that transactional VOD market, FandangoNow chief Cameron Douglas, also chair of the EMA board, noted the annual confab “used to be an event with meetings between retailers and studios.”

Now, the EMA, via its Ultimate Movie Weekend promotion, is promoting cooperation between studios and digital retailers.

“Who would have thought there would be a major studio backed campaign — except Fox and Disney — that was focused on rental instead of EST,” Douglas said.

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks and chair of the OTT_X  conference, explained the name in opening remarks.

“The X in the name really reflects the core mission of why we’re all here today,” he said. “It’s an exchange. First and foremost, it’s an exchange of ideas.”

Such collaboration is crucial in an era of fast digital disruption.

“These changes are happening so frequently and at such a precipitous pace, the only way we can come out of this is by fostering a community,” he said.

Key challenges for OTT video platforms are customer acquisition and retention, monetization and content discovery, according to speakers at OTT_X.

Having original content is one way OTT platforms are meeting these challenges, said presenter Kathi Chandler-Payatt, executive director and entertainment analyst, The NPD Group. Using Netflix Originals as a case study, she noted that while both original movies and episodic shows are a small percentage of content on Netflix, they garner an outsized share of viewing. Originals made up 16% of new seasons vs. licensed in 2019, but those originals garnered a prodigious 24% of minutes watched. The same holds true for original movies, which are 11% of content and 22% of minutes.

Part of the reason for the uptake of originals is preferential marketing, she noted.

“It’s very smart from a platform perspective to push originals,” she said because the platform owns it. Thus, making a show with Netflix may give content producers a leg up in discovery.

“People think content is king, but discovery is king,” she said.

Originals have a short window to prove themselves, she said. She quoted Netflix VP of originals Cindy Holland as saying that the service generally knows within 28 days whether a new show or season meets Netflix’s expectations in terms of audience reach. In addition to viewership during that period, metrics such as season completion also figure in renewal.

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OTT_X event chair Opeka moderated the panel “Monetization Trends in OTT.” Ad-supported VOD streaming services, such as Xumo, whose CEO Colin Petrie-Norris was on the panel, are ascendant, many speakers noted. Xumo has 160 curated channels and 40 million households in the United States, Petrie-Norris said.

AVOD “can generate very high yield per consumer” with advertising, he said.

Tubi chief content officer Adam Lewinson also cited the growth of AVOD in a keynote presentatoin. AVOD aggregator Tubi has 20 million monthly active users, with 100 million minutes streamed in June and well over 15,000 titles or 44,000 hours of content, “more than double the content volume of Netflix,” he said. June yielded its largest revenue month ever, he said.

“AVOD is for real,” he said.

There are challenges, however.

“The biggest challenge in streaming right now … in all VODs, it’s really about customer acquisition, retention and churn,” he said. “A subset to that is content discovery. Once you crack those problems, that’s when you get to scale.”

A seamless experience on the platform is also “incredibly important,” he said, “just having a seamless experience where the tech fades away.”

“You also want to be ubiquitious,” he said. “You do want to be everywhere that people are streaming.”

Tubi has also employed machine learning in its proprietary content personalization engine.

“The more data that we have on our viewers the more we are able to personalize,” he said.

A key advantage to AVOD is the “barrier to entry is so low” because viewers don’t have to pay, he said.

As for Tubi getting into original programming like its paid SVOD counterparts, “we have no intention of going down that road,” he said. “It’s tremendously competitive. You wind up overpaying for content.”

There is already too much content, he noted.

“Original series are just whizzing by at an epic pace,” he said.

That doesn’t mean Tubi isn’t willing to spend on content.

“I have a nine-figure content budget for the year, and we’re spending it,” he said.

On a panel about windowing of content, Paul Colichman, CEO of Here Media, said he was “worried that [AVOD is] the emperor’s new clothes,” a false hope of a monetary savior, noting the amount of revenue that trickles down to content producers who license their titles to such services is small.

Still, competition from increased content is pushing content owners to find new outlets.

“It used to take years for us to put up content on AVOD,” said Cinedigm’s Natasha Pietruschka, adding that now, “Where else can we fill those revenue gaps?”

Transactional digital retailers took the stage during the LAES session. Panelists noted that since consumers are paying directly for content, whether for rental or purchase, the key concern for TVOD platforms is making that experience seamless and easy and the quality top notch.

“The bar is so high because you have paid specifically for that title whether rental or purchase,” said FandangoNow’s Douglas, who was on the transactional panel. “It better play.”

He said FandangoNow has concentrated on making the viewing experience top-quality with extensive 4K offerings and a living room app that rivals any.

While Redbox has made its name on physical disc rentals, Chris Yates, GM of Redbox On Demand, said the new digital sales and rental arm doesn’t cannibalize that core business, it supplements it. It offers a choice when consumers don’t want to go to a kiosk and has resulted in “improved affinity for our brand,” he said.

Speakers at both events discussed the looming launch of new SVOD services, including Walt Disney Co.’s $6.99 Disney+.

Disney is “out in front of the others,” said IHS Markit’s Sarah Henschel during a research presentation. Awareness of the service jumped from 24% in Q1 to 35% in Q2 even before the Disney marketing machine really gets rolling, she said.

The firm expects upcoming services to add 36.7 million paying domestic subs by 2023.

“I think Disney and Apple [with its pending SVOD service Apple TV+] have a leg up because they are already consumer facing brands,” Henschel said. “Disney has the strongest hold in my opinion right now.”

When asked how many in the audience would buy the new service when it launches, the majority of attendees raised their hands.