FuboTV Merging With AI Company, Plans IPO

Online live-TV streaming platform fuboTV and FaceBank Group, a sports-themed virtual entertainment company, March 23 announced a definitive merger agreement. Financials details of the agreement were not disclosed. The boards of directors of both companies and the major stockholders of fuboTV have approved the transaction, which is anticipated to close during the first quarter of 2020, subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions.

Following the closing, fuboTV will become a subsidiary of FaceBank, and FaceBank will be renamed fuboTV Inc. The combined company is expected to be headquartered in New York and led by fuboTV CEO David Gandler. Additional announcements regarding the combined company’s management structure and the board of directors will be forthcoming.

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The merger would combine fuboTV’s live TV streaming platform with FaceBank’s technology-driven IP in sports, movies and live performances. This combination will create a content delivery platform for traditional and future-form IP.

“As a tech-driven IP company, FaceBank was looking to find the perfect delivery platform for its celebrity and consumer driven content,” founders John Textor and Alex Bafer said in a statement.

fuboTV said it plans to leverage FaceBank’s IP sharing relationships with celebrities and other digital technologies to enhance its sports and entertainment offerings.

The companies also believe the merger will position fuboTV to continue its global expansion with FaceBank’s Nexway AG, an ecommerce and payment platform with a business presence in 180 countries, accepting payments in roughly 140 currencies. fuboTV was the first virtual MVPD to commit to global expansion and in 2018 entered Europe with its launch in Spain.

“The business combination of FaceBank Group and fuboTV accelerates our ability to build a category-defining company and supports our goal to provide consumers with a technology-driven cable TV replacement service for the whole family,” Gandler said in a statement.

Gandler said that in the current COVID-19 environment, stay-at-home stocks make perfect sense.

“We plan to accelerate our timing to up-list to a major exchange as soon as practicable,” Gandler said.

Since its founding in 2015 as a soccer streaming service, fuboTV has evolved into a live TV streaming platform with sports, news and entertainment channels.

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YouTube TV Extends Free Trial Period

Google-owned online television service YouTube TV is extending its free trial period to 14 days through Jan. 15. The service with more than 1 million subscribers had offered new members a free seven-day trial period.

Launched in 2016, YouTube TV costs $49.99 monthly featuring 70 channels, including most major sports networks. The channel has been a presenting sponsor of the MLB World Series.

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YouTube TV is less expensive than Hulu with Live TV and fuboTV ($54.99) and AT&T Now ($64.99), but costs more than Sling TV ($30) and Philo TV ($20).

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Online TV Confronts Rising Carriage Fees

When launched in 2015, online TV services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now were championed as pay-TV saviors in the face of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Now Vue is history, DirecTV Now has been rebranded AT&T TV and Sling remains stagnant with about 2.6 million subscribers. All the while, the carriage fees paid by distributors to content holders continue to rise, leading to programming blackouts for subscribers.

A carriage dispute is a disagreement over the right to “carry”, that is, retransmit, a broadcaster’s signal. Carriage disputes first occurred between broadcasters and cable companies and now include satellite and other multichannel video programming distributors such as online TV.

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Sports-themed fuboTV just announced it was dropping Disney-owned FX, FXX, FXM and National Geographic due to increased costs to carry the channels.

Disney reportedly is demanding $16 monthly in retransmission fees per subscriber to carry the combined channels, including ESPN — an amount deemed too expensive by fuboTV.

A fuboTV staffer recently went on Reddit to address the issue: “As many of you know, neither fuboTV nor any other distributor is able to license just ESPN from Disney; instead, distributors are required to license the ‘Disney bundle.’ There is no way around this. As such, we [opted] to make the difficult decision of building a channel lineup that is both differentiated and affordable to consumers.”

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The staffer contends the Disney bundle price would require fuboTV to revisit bundle pricing, i.e. raise prices.

“Additionally, it’d come with high penetration (user) requirements, which would limit our ability to offer a differentiated offer for different consumer cohorts,” the staffer wrote.

In a media statement, fuboTV said it has added dozens of entertainment networks to its base package, including channels from AMC Networks, WarnerMedia, Viacom and Discovery.

“fuboTV remains a leading platform for the best movies and TV shows across every genre — from comedy and drama to nature and reality — both live and on demand,” read the statement.

Last month, Sling TV raised its monthly subscription fees by $5 to $30 each for Sling Orange and Sling Blue to offset program distribution costs. A combined bundle fee costs $45 monthly.

“Sling doesn’t own the networks you watch — we have to pay programmers for their channels so that we can provide them to you, and the price of programming has been going up,” Warren Schlichting, president of the online service, wrote in a blog post. “Unfortunately, we have to share those rising prices with you, so we can continue to provide you with the same great experience you’ve come to expect from Sling.”

 

Discovery Joins FuboTV

Online TV service FuboTV continues to transition from its original soccer roots.

The service June 18 announced a new, multiyear carriage agreement with Discovery, bringing 13 networks to the live-TV streaming service in the coming weeks.

The deal extends the previous pact between the companies that began with the former Scripps Networks Interactive (acquired by Discovery) and included carriage of their five networks, including HGTV and Food Network.

“This agreement further exemplifies the viewer affinity for our beloved brands and talent, and fuboTV’s commitment to offering high-quality, world-class content to customers,” Eric Phillips, president of affiliate distribution at Discovery, said in a statement.

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Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network and MotorTrend will be available on the streaming service’s base package, fubo Standard, joining HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel, which are already available on the service.

At the same time, an expanded suite of Discovery networks, including Science Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family, American Heroes Channel, and Discovery Life, will be added to fuboTV’s add-on package, fubo Extra ($5.99/month for 30+ channels) joining DIY Network and Cooking Channel.

Additionally, Discovery en Español and Discovery Familia will be available on fuboTV’s Spanish-language package, fubo Latino ($24.99/month for 20 channels), and the Latino Plus add-on package ($7.99/month for 15 channels).

In addition to bringing subscribers each network’s live linear feed, the agreement also includes a library of on-demand Discovery content, bringing fuboTV’s VOD library to over 60,000 movies and TV episodes per month.

“We are excited to be adding more Discovery brands alongside their lifestyle networks, which we already carry,” said Joel Armijo, CFO, fuboTV. “These brands, including HGTV and Food Network, are among our top performing entertainment networks, and this agreement allows us to extend our partnership for years to come. We expect to be similarly successful with our new Discovery networks.”

FuboTV to Stream AT&T Regional Sports Network

In a first, FuboTV, the sports-themed online TV service, has inked a distribution deal for regional TV sports network AT&T SportsNet — broadcast home of the Houston Rockets and Houston Astros franchises.

Under the agreement, FuboTV ($44.99 per month) will live-stream more than 250 live sports events — the first virtual MVPD to carry AT&T SportsNet in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and portions of New Mexico.

FuboTV carries about 75 broadcast and pay-TV channels, including local CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates in the region. In addition to sports, fuboTV also features more than 10,000 TV shows and movies on-demand.

“Both [the Rockets and Astros] have had enormous success in the last few years with the Rockets making it to the Western Conference finals and the Astros winning the World Series [in 2017],” Nina Kinch, VP of affiliate relations for AT&T Sports Networks, said in a statement.“We have had a lot of demand to bring these teams to an OTT provider and we are happy that fuboTV will help us do just that.”

FuboTV subs can watch on the web via https://fubo.tv and on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Android and iOS mobile devices.

 

FuboTV Approaching 250,000 Paid Subscribers

Live TV streaming service FuboTV approached 250,000 paid subscribers in September, more than double the 100,000 subscribers it had a year ago, according to the company.

FuboTV users on average spent 51 hours per month in the app last month, up from 11 hours in September 2017, the company reported. Also, the average revenue per user hit $40 in September 2018 versus $22 in the same month last year.

“What our team of less than 150 employees has built — from the ground, up, despite our competition having access to tens of thousands of engineers alone — impresses me every day, and it should put the streaming TV industry on notice,” said David Gandler, FuboTV co-founder and CEO in a statement. “Our September results and year-over-year growth are proof of our success. We have and will continue to deliver the most optimal quality experience for our customers and strong value to our investors, as we take the company to the next level.”

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.

 

FuboTV Hires New Chief Technology Officer

FuboTV, the upstart online TV service co-funded by 21st Century Fox, has hired Geir Magnusson Jr. as its new chief technology officer.

Magnusson, who is the co-founder and former CTO of Sourcepoint Technologies, replaces Jason Solinsky, the ex-Google engineer FuboTV hired two years ago to its sports-centric platform.

“Geir has a strong track record of scaling complex global platforms and a proven ability to guide transformation at leading tech companies,” David Gandler, co-founder and CEO of FuboTV said in a statement. “We believe Geir’s expertise and passion for innovation will ensure we maintain our leadership position as we deliver to consumers a next-generation live OTT experience.”

The platform earlier this month launched 4K HDR10 support in beta, claiming to be the first virtual multichannel video programming distributor to offer content in ultra-high-definition and high dynamic range.

Starting July 2, broadcasts of Russia 2018 World Cup soccer on Fox and FS1 were available in 4K HDR10 with FuboTV on all Chromecast and Fire TV devices that support the format. FuboTV will also launch 4K HDR10 on Roku and Apple TV in the coming weeks.

FuboTV Bows 4K HDR Beta Service

Online TV service FuboTV has launched 4K HDR10 support in beta, claiming to be the first virtual multichannel video programming distributor to offer content in ultra-high-definition and high dynamic range.

Starting July 2, broadcasts of Russia 2018 World Cup soccer on Fox and FS1 are available in 4K HDR10 with FuboTV on all Chromecast and Fire TV devices that support the format. FuboTV will also launch 4K HDR10 on Roku and Apple TV in the coming weeks.

FuboTV investors include 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox Sports and FS1.

“Launching 4K HDR is a testament to our dedication and relentless pursuit to developing for consumers the world’s premier live video streaming service for live sports and entertainment,” David Gandler, co-founder and CEO of FuboTV, said in a statement.

To view ultra-high definition and HDR content, subscribers must have a 4K HDR-enabled television, HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 compatible cable and run the FuboTV app on a streaming device that supports the formats. Bandwidth speeds of 30Mbps-40Mbps or higher are recommended. 4K HDR-capable TVs may also need calibration to present the content correctly.

The platform was among the first streaming services to launch Cloud DVR, 60FPS picture quality and in-app billing, and was the first to fully implement SCTE 224 blackout technology standards. Also, after several months of testing, fuboTV officially launched dynamic ad insertion in January – ahead of Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV.

Sling TV Tops 2.2 Million Subscribers

Dish Network Feb. 21 announced that its Sling TV unit ended 2017 with more than 2.21 million subscribers – up 47% from 1.5 million subs at the end of 2016.

Launched in early 2015, Sling TV was the first standalone online TV service, offering access to 20 pay-TV channels priced from $20 monthly without a contract.

The service was the first to offer ESPN outside the pay-TV ecosystem. The concept was so new (Disney licensed ESPN as an experiment) that a blank screen aired during commercial breaks – underscoring marketers’ unfamiliarity with the distribution channel.

Today, online TV represents an alternative to cord-cutters and ongoing erosion of pay-TV households in the Netflix-fueled, over-the-top video era.

Other online TV platforms include PlayStation Vue ($40-$75), DirecTV Now ($35-$70), Spectrum TV Plus ($30), YouTube TV ($40), Hulu With Live TV ($40), FuboTV ($45) and Philo TV ($16).