TiVo: Ad-Supported VOD Gaining Traction

The subscription streaming video market is getting crowded. Pioneering behemoths like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video dominate, spending tens of billions of dollars on original content to lure and retain subscribers in the face of newcomers Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi, among others.

As a result, ad-supported VOD content is attracting greater market share, according to new data from TiVo, which found the average U.S. household had 6.9 streaming services in the fourth quarter 2019, up from five services during the same period in 2017.

At more than 73%, YouTube remains the most popular source of free streaming content, followed closely by Facebook (62.3%). Free video from network sites has skyrocketed in popularity (up 31.9% from the previous-year period), while Crackle (+2.4%), Tubi (+3.8 %), The Roku Channel (o.2%), Xumo, Vevo (+5.4%) and Twitch (+3.3%) also gained viewers.

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Indeed, 37.5% of respondents from a fourth-quarter online survey of 6,145 participants in the United States and Canada, said they were “very satisfied” with AVOD, up from 35.4% during the previous-year period. That compared to 33.1% who said they were “very satisfied” with SVOD, down from 33.5% last year.

As expected, the report found that most respondents still find new movies and TV shows to watch through SVOD services Netflix (34.7%) and Prime Video (25.2%), followed closely by free YouTube videos (23%) and pay-TV (21.2%).

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For TV series that consumers watch regularly, it’s a different story. TiVo said pay-TV dominates, with 35% of respondents indicating they find new episodes of their regularly watched series through cable or satellite TV.

Notably, respondents cited transactional VOD services such as iTunes, Amazon, Redbox On Demand, Vudu, and Google Play, among others, as go-to platforms in search of new movie content. That was ahead of platforms such as Hulu, Showtime OTT and Starz.

Another 54% of respondents say they find out about new shows or movies from commercials or ads that run within their current pay-TV or AVOD content.

“Consumers are increasingly ready and willing to adopt innovative (yet simple) technology, devices or services that can serve as guides on their quest to find what they want to watch,” read the report. “They need technology that adds value to their lives, whether by helping them efficiently locate the content they’re looking for or by leading them to the video pathways that suit their needs and desires.”

Season Two of ‘Castle Rock’ on Disc May 19

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Castle Rock: The Complete Second Season on Blu-ray Disc and DVD May 19 (order date April 14). The season will be released for digital sellthrough Jan. 21. The Blu-ray will include a redemption code for a digital copy.

The disc release will include all 10 episodes from the second season of the Hulu original series about the small town that’s inhabited by author Stephen King’s most infamous literary characters.

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In season two, a feud between warring clans comes to a boil when budding psychopath Annie Wilkes (Lizzie Caplan), from Misery, gets waylaid in Castle Rock. Local businessman Reginald “Pop” Merrill (Tim Robbins) is dragged into the fight, when Pop’s nephew, legendary bully John “Ace” Merrill (Paul Sparks), stirs up trouble.

Season two also stars Barkhad Abdi, Yusra Warsama, Elsie Fisher and Matthew Alan.

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The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King stories such as Cujo, The Dark Half, It, Needful Things, The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.

The season two disc includes the featurette “Annie Wilkes: Mother of Sorrow.”

Hulu to Bow Teen Drama Original Series ‘Utopia Falls’

Hulu will premiere the original teen sci-fi drama “Utopia Falls,” with all 10 one-hour episodes of the Hulu Original series hitting the streaming service Feb. 14.

The series, infused with music and dance, is set in the not-too-distant future, amidst the charred ruins of Earth. It follows a group of teens chosen to compete in the prestigious Exemplar performing arts competition in the seemingly idyllic colony of New Babyl. When they stumble upon a hidden archive of cultural relics, they are forced to question everything they have been taught, ultimately using the power of music to ignite change and expose the truth. Showcasing a variety of musical genres and dance styles (Hip Hop, Pop, Latin, House, Classical, Indigenous, among others) and featuring themes of afrofuturism, youth activism and eco-awareness, “Utopia Falls”is the first ever performance based sci-fi series for culturally diverse and socially and politically minded young audiences, according to Hulu.

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The series stars Robyn Alomar (“Riot Girls”), Akiel Julien (“American Gods”), Robbie Graham-Kuntz (“Full Out”), Phillip Lewitski (“Supernatural”), Humberly Gonzalez (“Orphan Black”), Devyn Nekoda (“Degrassi: The Next Generation”and Mickeey Nguyen (“Make It Pop”). Also joining the cast are Kate Drummond (“Wynonna Earp”), Jeff Teravainen (“Dark Matter”), Huse Madhavji (“Saving Hope”) and Dwain Murphy (“The Strain”). Hip hop icon Snoop Dogg is the voice of the Archive.

The series will feature music from artists including Kendrick Lamar, Alessia Cara, The Notorious B.I.G., Dianel Caesar, Jessie Reyez, Bill Withers and The Roots. Grammy Award-w inning, multi-platinum music producer Boi-1da  (Drake, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna) will oversee the music in the series.

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All episodes of “Utopia Falls” will also be available to stream on the CBC Gem streaming service in Canada beginning Feb. 14.

‘FX on Hulu’ Bowing March 2

When Disney last year announced it would transition FX Networks programming to Hulu, including edgier original content, the strategy was considered a shrewd competitive move designed to elevate the SVOD platform’s status against perennial frontrunner Netflix.

Speaking Jan. 9 at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif., John Landgraf, chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions shed new light on the move, including when 1,600 episodes of FX programming would begin arriving on Hulu: March 2.

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Original programs, which will debut over the course of several weeks, include miniseries “Devs,” “Mrs. America” with Cate Blanchett playing anti-feminist Phyliss Schlafly, “A Teacher” (Kate Mara) and “The Old Man,” starring Oscar winner Jeff Bridges.

“We see this as a transformative opportunity for the FX brand,” Landgraf said.

While most existing FX (and FXX) programming will appear on Hulu, notable exception includes “American Crime Story,” which remains on Netflix due to a prior licensing agreement.”

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“Nearly the entire FX brand will be available in one place,” Landgraf said.

The executive said FX had peaked with about 85 million pay-TV households and considers the collaboration with Hulu’s 30 million households a positive. Working together with Hulu CEO Randy Freer, “FX on Hulu” will debut original shows the day after their TV broadcast.

New comedies on “FX on Hulu,” include “Breeders,” bowing March 2, and “Dave,” debuting March 4.

“Both our brands together will make Hulu a stronger platform than either could alone,” Landgraf said. “I think [the combination is] going to make the FX brand even more valuable.”

AT&T Bows ‘Pause Ads’ on Streaming Video Content

As expected, AT&T has formally begun selling ads to SVOD, on-demand VOD and DVR users in an effort to mine incremental revenue from the burgeoning over-the-top video market.

Xandr, AT&T’s advertising company, Jan. 8 announced the launch of Pause Ads, which it claims “complement,” rather than disrupt, the viewing experience by leveraging the native functionality of the “pause” button, since consumers only see the ads when they take a break from the content they’re watching.

AT&T launched Xandr in September 2018 following the acquisition of AppNexus.

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“Our findings indicate that consumers aren’t anti-advertising. They’re pro-content, as long as it’s relevant and non-disruptive to them,” Matt Van Houten, SVP of product development for Xandr, said in a statement.

Van Houten said internal research found that 73% of consumers surveyed dislike ads that interrupted programming. But an ad that appears when the viewer hits the pause button is different.

“[It’s] very much about the right message at the right time,” he said.

Pause Ads are enabled within live, video on-demand and DVR programming across cable, broadcast and premium networks on both digital and satellite. AT&T is including beta ads within mobility, Epix and Starz (owned by MGM and Lionsgate, respectively), AT&T TV Now and select DirecTV households.

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Because Pause Ads aren’t tied to standard, 15 or 30-second pods, brands have more opportunities to reach their audiences with relevant advertising in a non-intrusive way, according to AT&T. Beta ads are featured in animated formats without sound that are intended to be “visually engaging,” while remaining “respectful” of the viewer.

Indeed, Disney-owned Hulu has begun testing pause ads this year and shown a positive response from viewers, according to Jeremy Helfand, VP and head of advertising platforms.

“As binge-viewing happens more and more, it’s natural [viewers] are going to want to pause,” Helfand said in a separate media interview.

AT&T, citing internal research, found 66% of consumers want ads that are more relevant to their interests and lifestyle, and that 57% feel ads are not relevant to them.

Citing increased concerns about SVOD fee fatigue among consumers, Brian Lesser, CEO of Xandr, contends the OTT world needs advertising “more than ever” to offset subscription pricing.

“We just need to make it more relevant,” he said.


Average U.S. Home Streaming Bundle Sweet Spot: $20-$21

With the field of subscription streaming video services growing, new data shows the average U.S. household would spend $20 to $21 monthly for combined platforms — slightly more than 20% of the average pay-TV bundle ($96.18).

Soda.com, in a survey of 1,000 consumers who stream video in the home conducted Nov. 7-9, 2019, found the majority (32%) of respondents would pay $20 or more monthly for combined streaming services, while 30% would prefer not to bundle services and 14% would not pay more than $10 for a bundle.

Notably, 44% of respondents said they use two or more streaming services per week.

With SVOD services ranging from $4.99 for Apple TV+ to $15 for HBO Max, which launches in May, consumers are faced with the challenge of mixing and matching services or prioritizing services based on the user’s favorite content.

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Netflix is projecting 61.2 million domestic subscribers at the end 2019, with actual figures to be released later this month. That’s more than 80% of the combined tally predicted for Hulu (28.5 million), Apple TV+ (10 million), Disney+ (15 million), CBS All Access (8 million), HBO Now (8 million) and ESPN+ (3.5 million), according to CNBC.

In August 2019, there were about 86.5 million traditional pay-TV households — a number that is projected to drop to 73 million by 2023, according to Statista. Most pay-TV subs continue their subscriptions based on habit, premium channels and sports.

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The survey contends Netflix remains the best overall streaming service followed by YouTube TV. Sports fans favored sports-themed fubo TV or ESPN+, whiles families sought Amazon Prime Video (Prime membership and free shipping) and Disney+.

Movie fans chose HBO Now (soon HBO Max) and Hulu, while budget-minded respondents opted for Sling TV and Hoopla.


‘Mandalorian’ Tops Parrot Analytics’ SVOD Originals Chart for 5th Week

The Disney+ “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian” remained at No. 1 on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended Dec. 21, its fifth straight week on top of that chart.

A “digital original” is Parrot’s term for a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

“The Mandalorian” also returned to the top spot on Parrot’s list of overall TV shows, including broadcast and cable, after being bumped to No. 2 a week earlier by Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

For the week, “The Mandalorian” registered 113.3 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was  up 4% in expressions compared with the previous week.

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Netflix’s “Stranger Things” stayed at No. 2 on the digital originals chart,  registering 70.4 million expressions, up 6.2% from the previous week.

DC Universe’s “Titans” kept the No. 3 spot on the digital originals chart, with expressions down 12.9% to 54.7 million.

Amazon Prime Video’s fourth season of “The Expanse” rose three spots to No. 4, with expressions up 19.4% to 39.2 million.

Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” dropped a spot to No. 5, with expressions down 7.7% to 38.1 million.

The most notable addition to the digital originals chart for the week was Netflix’s “The Witcher.” The fantasy series, which debuted Dec. 20, landed at No. 9, from No. 36 the previous week, with expressions up 57.4% to 27.5 million.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Report: Apple iTunes Drove Initial Disney+ Sign-Ups

With Disney’s branded subscription streaming video service operational for more than a month, new data suggests a large number of (domestic only) subscribers joined the platform through Apple iTunes. Apple bowed its own SVOD service, Apple TV+, on Nov. 2.

Disney said more than 10 million people signed up for the service in the first 24 hours. Wall Street firm Cowen & Co. estimated the service had 24 million subs by the end of November.

In a report from 7Park Data, monthly subscriptions accounted for 70% of post-launch subscriptions. The Disney+, Hulu and ESPN combined bundle represented about 20% of total subscriptions. Disney said more than 10 million people registered (not subscribed) for the service in the first 24 hours.

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Regarding pre-launch sales, 7Park said 56% were for at least a year — 30% opted for a 3-year plan (only offered to D23 members) and 26% chose the annual subscription. The Cyber Monday sale ($10 discount for 1-year plan) boosted annual subscriptions on 12/2 and 12/3, accounting for 35% of sign ups.

Receipts directly from Disney accounted for 58% of the subscriptions with iTunes coming in second at 33% in the first month. Roku and Google Play accounted for 7% and 2% of sign ups, respectively.

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7Park said that with Disney+ offering a sevent-day free trial (14 days to Delta Air Lines SkyMiles members), the data does not track how many free trials converted into subscribers.

Docuseries ‘Hillary’ to Bow on Hulu March 6

The four-part docuseries Hillary will bow exclusively on Hulu March 6, the service announced.

Directed by Oscar nominee Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes), Hillary is a portrait of a woman in the public eye, providing unprecedented personal access to former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Executive produced by Burstein, Howard T. Owens and Ben Silverman for Propagate, the series gives viewers an up-close view of the woman who has permeated American culture for more than 30 years and her historic presidential run.

Hillary is a deeply personal, reflective and unflinching look at the woman who is arguably the most recognizable female political figure in history,” Randy Freer, Hulu CEO, said in a statement. “Hillary is yet another example of Hulu’s continued commitment to elevating powerful and relevant stories about the human experience and joins our growing slate of original documentaries including award-winning Minding the Gap and Ask Dr. Ruth.”

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“This was a fantastic opportunity,” said Burstein in a statement. “Secretary Clinton gave me extraordinary access to her life story, which is utterly compelling.  Beyond that, given the particulars of her narrative, we were able to highlight the history of the women’s movement over the last fifty years, and especially what happens to women who aspire to take on roles traditionally inhabited by men.”

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for viewers to see a real, unvarnished look at the incredible career of Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of the most influential politicians in American history,” said Owens, co-founder of Propagate, in a statement. “Thanks to extensive interviews with Secretary Clinton, her family, friends, staff, and politicos from both sides of the aisle, this is one of the most compelling political documentaries in history. Hulu has been a terrific partner, and we look forward to doing much more together.”

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Featuring exclusive interviews with Clinton herself, her husband former President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, staff, friends and journalists, the series offers revealing moments from never-before-seen 2016 campaign footage alongside biographical chapters of Clinton’s life and seeks to examine how she became at once one of the most admired and vilified women in the world.

Analyst: SVOD Growth Leading to Media Consolidation

The subscription streaming video market has just expanded with the inclusion of Disney+ and Apple TV+ into a market controlled by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. And next year includes the addition of HBO Max and NBC Universal’s Peacock.

Heading into 2020, new projections from Strategy Analytics Television & Media Strategies suggests the SVOD market will consolidate with third-party traditional media companies eyeing a seat at the table through mergers and acquisitions.

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The London-based research firm says traditional domestic pay-TV operators will lose nearly 9% of their subscriber base in 2020 with third-party media companies eyeing mergers and acquisitions to remain relevant.

“As a result of the proliferation of broadband and connected devices consumers have more choices than ever in how, when, and where they connect with movies, TV, music, and games,” Michael Goodman, director, digital media strategies, said in a statement. “As consumer adoption of online alternatives grows the degree of disruption felt by traditional distribution models is accelerating.”

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