Vizio Updates Free TV Streaming Service

Vizio Aug. 2 updated its free streaming video service, WatchFree+, with a new program guide and an expanded content offerings based on user data.

“WatchFree+ provides audiences with access to the channels and programming you expect with cable, but in a free streaming environment that makes it easy to personalize and customize the entertainment experience,” Katherine Pond, VP of business development, said in a statement.

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To support what it characterizes as a “growing consumer shift” to streaming, Vizio’s WatchFree+ offers 24/7 access to live and local programming, premium content and an ever-expanding library of hundreds of free channels across movies, news, sports, lifestyle, music, kids, family and multicultural content.

The platform includes new navigation features that allow for advanced search and discovery of the latest and best free entertainment. Streamlined search also enables users to access movies, shows and more in fewer steps, serving up content that’s curated around each viewer’s interests.

The program guide supports voice navigation for new SmartCast TVs that come with the latest remote control. Additionally, audiences can use voice navigation through the free SmartCast app for iOS and Android devices.

The latest update leverages Vizio’s “Inscape” viewing data to inform programming preferences with context and is key in the redesign of Vizio’s full-screen program guide and curated channels.

Using first-party viewership data, the program guide now includes custom curated channels, a new “Featured” category with seasonal programming, themed collections, and pop-up channels, including:

  • Fork & Flight: A unique mix of today’s most popular culinary and travel TV shows alongside top digital creators and trendsetters. Fork & Flight will take you to the kitchen, the farm and France — all in one day.
  • Investigation: Unlocks the door to real crime and the unknown, giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at investigations, as well as in-depth explorations.

Hub: Ad-Supported SVOD Tiers Gaining Popularity

As the cost of stacking multiple streaming subscriptions rises, free-ad-supported TV (FAST) platforms are gaining users. But new data from Hub Research’s annual “Monetization of Video” study suggests that tiered platforms — where viewers can choose between a paid, ad-free option and a less expensive (or free), ad-supported option — appeal to the largest cross-section of viewers.

In the survey, conducted in June among 1,607 U.S. TV viewers age 16-74, respondents were divided into two groups. Each group was asked to choose from three hypothetical streaming services with identical content.

Group one chose from a paid, ad-free subscription, a free-with-ads service, and a paid, limited-ads subscription (“fewer ads than you’d see on regular live TV”).

Group two chose from the same options, except the limited-ads service was replaced with a paid service offering two tiers to choose from: ad-free and ad-supported.

According to the data, almost twice as many consumers chose the service with tiered options (36%) as the service with a limited-ad option only (19%).

The percentage of respondents choosing the tiered service was just as high as the percentage choosing free-with-ads, and higher than the percentage choosing the service with only a single, ad-free option.

In a question asked before the ad-supported tier of HBO Max launched in June, almost 40% of current HBO Max respondents said they’d consider switching to the ad-supported tier. But more than a quarter of those who don’t subscribe to Max said they’d consider signing up with a less-expensive ad-supported tier as an option.

“It’s true that some TV viewers will do almost anything, including paying a premium, to avoid ads. But there are many who will choose ad-supported TV if it saves money or lets them watch a show they can’t watch somewhere else,” Jon Giegengack, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “Tiered plans give viewers control of their experience. Whether they watch with ads or not, everyone is getting an experience they chose, and not one chosen for them.”

Redbox Adds Wurl to Free Live TV Streaming Platform

Redbox July 22 announced it has partnered with Wurl, a provider of streaming video distribution and advertising services for connected TV (CTV), to facilitate and expand the selection of free channels on Redbox Free Live TV.

With nearly 100 channels of programming, Free Live TV caters to the tastes and interests of Redbox’s 40 million kiosk disc rental customers.

“By utilizing Wurl’s cloud-based technology and access to content providers and channels in the Wurl Network, Redbox will be able to efficiently and rapidly add a wide array of free channels to its service,” Sean Doherty, CEO of Wurl, said in a statement. “Redbox has a long history of providing choice and value to consumers and we are thrilled to be working with them to continue that legacy via their FAST platform.”

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“As we continue to expand our ad-supported offering including Free Live TV, it’s important that we deliver a diverse and compelling line-up of entertainment channels that we know our customers will both love and be able to easily access directly from the Redbox App.,” added Chris Yates, GM of Redbox On Demand. “Wurl delivers great content and technology that will continue to delight our audience.”

Redbox has been a leader in quality home entertainment for nearly two decades delivering choice and value to customers and partners across physical and digital channels. Beginning in 2020, Redbox expanded its service to include free, ad-supported platforms — Free Live TV and Free On Demand — to satisfy demand for free content which is expected to grow to $26 Billion by 2023 (SNL KAGAN 2020). Redbox has transformed itself into a diversified entertainment business including film distribution, premium video on demand (PVOD), transactional video on demand (TVOD), ad-supported linear and on demand (AVOD).

Study: Almost Half of TV Content Viewers in U.S. Use an AVOD Service Monthly

Almost half (46%) of TV content viewers in the United States report using an ad-supported streaming service (AVOD) at least monthly, according to a new study.

Meanwhile, 28% use a free ad-supported TV (FAST) service with ad supported linear channels in addition to their on-demand offerings, according to Horowitz Research’s recent State of Viewing and Streaming 2021 report.

Consumers are using a wide range of ad-supported services with linear content. Pluto TV, Tubi, The Roku Channel app, and IMDb TV are the services consumers report using most often, according to the survey of 2,000 TV content viewers conducted in May.

Streaming is poised to eclipse traditional platforms in terms of share of viewing of long-form TV content, the Horowitz study showed. Among consumers overall, 35% of self-reported time spent is now spent on linear content delivered via a traditional service (cable, satellite, or over-the-air through an antenna), while 37% is spent on streamed content (the rest is spent on cable or satellite-delivered VOD, content that is DVR’d, or DVDs).

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Half (50%) of time spent among 18-34 year olds is on streamed content, while only 18% of their time is spent with traditional, linear content.

Six in 10 (58%) streamers feel that ads are a fair “price” for being able to watch TV content for free or for a small price. Almost four in 10 consumers (38%) are starting to notice — and appreciate the more customized, personalized advertising experience they are getting through streaming.

“Consumers’ love for entertainment content and their desire to get as much of that content as they can for as little as they can hasn’t changed,” noted Adriana Waterston, SVP of insights and strategy for Horowitz. “The fundamentals of the industry haven’t changed. What has changed are the expectations consumers have about how, where and when they can consume the content they love, and the technology that exists to deliver those experiences. When delivered in the screen-agnostic, watch-anywhere, and highly personalized viewing experience of the streaming environment, we are seeing some consumers not just tolerating, but welcoming advertising, particularly when it is customized to their interests.”

FilmRise Promotes Trey Durst to VP

New York-based TV and film studio and streaming network FilmRise has promoted Trey Durst to VP of digital content programming.

Previously serving as senior director of digital content programming, Durst will oversee all of FilmRise’s OTT programming activities, including the digital syndication of all FilmRise content domestically and internationally. He will also seek out and assist in negotiating new partnership deals with platforms worldwide. He will continue to be responsible for growing FilmRise’s FAST (Free Ad-supported Streaming TV) channel offerings and points of distribution, managing FilmRise’s key accounts, while organizing the team to leverage editorial opportunities throughout the calendar year.

“Trey has been an extremely valuable asset to our Sales team,” Melissa Wohl, SVP and head of sales at FilmRise, said in a statement. “His promotion exemplifies the company’s growth at a thrilling rate, and his contribution has been enormous.”

Durst joined FilmRise as AVOD content programming manager in 2018. Since then he has been responsible for curating offerings for partner platforms and maximizing revenue. He has cultivated an expertise in the emerging FAST channel marketplace by overseeing the growth of FilmRise’s portfolio of digital linear channels. He combines content monetization and performance optimization to provide FilmRise’s partners with high-value programming.

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Prior to joining FilmRise, Durst was with TEGNA as an OTT account manager, where he managed OTT ad campaigns for Premion’s Dallas and Los Angeles markets as well as their Chevy national campaign.

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish: Pluto TV to Exceed $1 Billion in Revenue by Q4

ViacomCBS has put much of its content distribution future on the Paramount+ subscription streaming service, but the media giant is already dominating the ad-supported streaming market, said ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish.

Speaking at the virtual Evercore ISI Inaugural TMT Conference, Bakish said the global AVOD market, which is exploding as consumers migrate away from pay-TV and toward over-the-top video, is going to be worth about $50 billion in the next four years. Leading the bull run: Pluto TV, which ViacomCBS acquired in 2019 for $340 million. Pluto TV founder Tom Ryan is now CEO of streaming at ViacomCBS.

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“[Pluto TV] is the U.S. market leader, and it’s also undergoing rapid international expansion, making us a global leader as well,” Bakish said. “You look at the U.S., and based on all the data we see, we lead on the [50 million monthly average users] side, we lead on the viewership side and we lead on the revenue side.”

Bakish said that when Pluto was acquired, it had generated about $70 million in revenue in the prior year (2018). On a run-rate basis, in Q4 of 2021 this year, the CEO said Pluto will cross the $1 billion level.

“We expect it to be comfortably above $1 billion for full year 2022,” he said. “That is the power of Pluto TV.”

While the platform is essentially still a U.S. business, it is expanding to 25 foreign markets this year.

“So we see where this thing is going,” Bakish said. “We’ve seen where it’s gone in the U.S., and it’s got a ways to go, and we see where it’s going internationally. I couldn’t be more excited about Pluto. I don’t think we get enough credit, quite frankly, for it.”

Pluto TV, LG Electronics Expand European Content and Distribution Partnership

Pluto TV and LG Electronics June 3 announced the expansion of their partnership to offer Pluto’s ad-supported channels on all 2016-21 LG televisions running webOS in select European markets.

The Pluto TV channels were first launched on LG Channels in 2020 in the U.S. market. ViacomCBS acquired Pluto TV in 2019 for $340 million.

With LG TV owners in Germany and the U.K. being the first to access the Pluto TV app earlier this year, consumers in France and Spain can now access the entire library of original and unique channels on their LG monitors.

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LG Smart TV owners in the regions can access an extensive selection of movies, from international favorites like Star TrekFighting Temptations and The Ring, to local gems like Mientras duermes. A wide variety of series across genres like crime and investigation, cooking, telenovelas and drama will also be available, from “Derrick,” “Ana y los 7” and “Plus Belle La Vie” to “Jamie’s Superfood,” “Midsummer Murders” and “The Hard Times of RJ Berger.”

Pluto TV’s lineup includes selected channels for younger audiences with Nickelodeon shows and animated series such as “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Dora the Explorer” and “Blue’s Clues,” while audiences will also have a vast range of dedicated lifestyle channels to choose from, spanning gaming, poker, animals, cooking, nature and sports.

Xumo TV Joins Apple TV Platform

NBCUniversal’s Xumo TV has joined the Apple TV platform — now making the ad-supported VOD service with 10 million average monthly users available on three major streaming platforms, including Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

“According to Comscore’s most recent State of OTT report, more than 30% of Americans stream video via internet connected televisions,” Chris Hall, SVP of product at Xumo, said in a statement.

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NBCUniversal, which launched the Peacock SVOD service last summer, acquired Irvine, Calif.-based Xumo in January 2020 for $100 million as it sought to further diversify video distribution beyond premium cable.

“As streaming audiences grow, Xumo’s 200-plus diverse, free and popular channels are more widely accessible than ever, across all of the devices that people use the most,” Hall said. “With this level of distribution, we are continuing to deliver in-demand content to tens of millions of consumers.”

Redbox Free Live TV Adds Crackle Content

Redbox May 27 announced it has teamed with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment to add Crackle to its Redbox Free Live TV platform. At launch, the channel will feature programming such as “Cold Blood,” “Crown Vic,” “Grand Isle,” “Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story,” and “Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story,” among many other titles.

With nearly 100 channels, including three Redbox channels designed and programmed for movies, Free Live TV features a lineup of feature films and television, news, lifestyle, and sports entertainment programming. Free Live TV is available on Redbox.com, Roku, iOS and Android devices, Apple TV, Vizio Smart TVs, LG TVs, Xbox One and Chromecast.

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“The Crackle team is enthusiastic about partnering with Redbox, a brand that is so well known for convenient entertainment delivery,” Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus, said in a statement. “This agreement adds an important new consumer touchpoint for Crackle Plus on a very important FAST platform.”

Redbox says it delivers entertainment to 40 million customers across multiple entertainment windows, including packaged-media distribution, premium video-on-demand (PVOD), transactional VOD, ad-supported linear and on-demand (AVOD).

“As we continue to expand Free Live TV, we’re committed to creating a great experience for our customers with a range of entertainment available across their favorite devices,” said Jason Kwong, chief strategy and digital officer for Redbox.

U.S. Spanish Channel Service Sony Canal Available on Xumo and Pluto TV

Sony Canal — the free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) suite of channels from Sony Pictures Television for Spanish-speaking viewers in the United States — is now available on Xumo’s free streaming platform with Sony Canal Competencias, and via Pluto TV in the en Español category with Sony Canal Comedias and Sony Canal Escape Perfecto.

The Sony Canal channels are also available to consumers via Samsung TV Plus, The Roku Channel, Plex and Vizio SmartCast.

Sony Canal Novelas is dedicated to popular classic telenovelas and modern serial dramas, including “Doña Barbara,” “Si Me Miran Tus Ojos,” “Los Caballeros Las Prefieren Brutas​,” “Señorita Pólvora” (“Miss Dynamite”) and “Paraíso Travel.”

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The Sony Canal Comedias channel offers culturally relevant modern remakes, featuring sitcoms and comedy series including “Casados Con Hijos” (“Married With Children”), “Aqui No Hay Quien Viva,” “Quién Manda a Quien?” (“Who’s the Boss”) and “Mi Bella Genio” (“I Dream of Jeannie”).

Sony Canal Competencias is dedicated to reality competition shows from Latin America such as “Escape Perfecto” (“Raid the Cage”) and “Ruleta Rusa” (“Russian Roulette”).

Sony Canal Escape Perfecto, available on Pluto TV, is a channel dedicated entirely to competition series “Escape Perfecto” (“Raid the Cage”), which has been remade all around the world.