Ficto, Free Mobile Streaming Alternative to Quibi, Launches App

Los Angeles-based Ficto, a free, ad-supported streaming service with content produced exclusively for mobile, has launched its mobile app, available on both iOS and Android.

In addition to being free, another advantage Ficto has over Quibi, the pending short-form mobile service from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman bowing April 6, is that Ficto offers interactive programming, according to CEO and co-founder Mike Esola.

“We’re doing stuff that they’re not doing, emphasizing interactivity,” he said. “If you happen to be in your 20s today, you look for things that are more than a passive experience.”

Ficto’s interactive features include live-stream, viewer geo-location, live chat, instant polling, choice-based narratives, 360 viewing, augmented reality (AR) characters and click-through e-commerce.

Ficto offers shows and series ranging from original dramas and licensed film adaptations, to comedies, docuseries, talk shows, game shows and news. The service is launching with 30 shows, averaging 5 minutes per episode, and anywhere from three to 10 episodes in a season — with an additional 20 shows already in production, and more added to the content pipeline weekly.

Ficto developed a unique technology similar to Quibi’s turnstile technology where editors retain creative choice of their series in portrait mode frame-by-frame while also having the ability to stream horizontally, according to Esola, who spent 15 years as a Hollywood talent agent.

Among the programs on the service is “Ingress: The Series by Niantic, developer of mobile AR games Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. It’s a narrative show that includes episodes interwoven with the real world game. The show will allow viewers to seek out clues at real-world locations with augmented reality, according to Esola.

“Storytelling is incredibly important at Niantic and we are always looking for interesting ways to expand on the narrative of our real world mobile games,” said “Ingress: The Series” director Spencer McCall in a statement. “Ficto is creating a platform that is a perfect fit for diving deeper into the mystery of Ingress, and we’re looking forward to creating fun and interactive episodes layered into the gameplay experience which players can enjoy on their mobile devices.”

Other content includes:

  • “Represent,” a docu-series that follows the women who are ready to take the sport of surfing to the Olympic stage, even as the 2020 games experiences a rare postponement;
  • “East of La Brea,” executive produced by Paul Feig, a series that tells the untold stories of Los Angeles through the lives of two very different Muslim women from working class backgrounds;
  • “Date & Switch,” a modern dating show with live polling that lets the audience decide who the bachelor or bachelorette chooses;
  • “Brothers From the Suburbs,” a comedy series that chronicles the highs and lows of three African American teenagers coming of age in an affluent, suburban, white, private school community;
  • “Nothingman,” which follows Otis Tremmel, a selfless, community-minded man with a complicated past, is now homeless and living on L.A.’s Skid Row;
  • “Tom & Grant,” about some heartland bank robbers with a bad plan;
  • “Real Artists,” about a young animator in the near future who is offered what should be her dream job, but discovers the truth of the modern “creative” process;
  • “Hermit,” a comedic series that explores the daily life of a woman who hasn’t left her apartment in six months; and
  • “Dakota,” a musical comedy-drama feature film with an all new original soundtrack by international pop-star Phoebe Ryan, who also plays the titular character.

A full roster of available shows can be found on Ficto’s shows page.

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Ficto is among the first streaming services to pay royalties, according to the company release, utilizing blockchain-based smart contracts creating “a radical new transparency payment layer for all parties involved in production.” Ficto automatically pays royalties in directly to artists based on how often their content is viewed, according to the service.

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At the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, the company launched Ficto Studio, designed to work with CMOs, brand marketers, and agencies to help them design immersive brand promotions that leverage Ficto’s interactive capabilities. Ficto’s branded promotional options range from exclusive title or category sponsorship of a series, to custom augmented reality (AR), geo-location, click-to-purchase, product integration, launch events and creator collaborations. Ficto Studio’s custom sponsor programs provide comprehensive performance metrics, including viewer engagement, interactions, social sharing and listening as well as interactive polling to drive instant, two-way dialog with Ficto fans, according to the company.

Quibi Execs Outline Programming and Strategy of Short-Form Content Network

LAS VEGAS — Quibi’s Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman at CES on Jan. 8 outlined the strategy, programming, partners, talent and technology for the short-form network, which is launching April 6 at $4.99 a month with ads and $7.99 a month without.

“Today we’re living through another revolution in entertainment, this time on our mobile phones,” said Katzenberg, noting that short-form content under 10 minutes in length is ideal for on-the-go viewing and the millennial audience.

Creators are working with tech experts to make a new form of entertainment designed specifically for mobile, they said.

One innovation is turnstile, a way of recording a story in both full-screen portrait and full-screen landscape so that as viewers turn their phones they get an equally compelling view of the story. Quibi delivers both edits to users’ phones so they can choose which to see by moving from portrait to landscape. Executives demonstrated how the story of “Nest,” one program coming on Quibi, is told through the two edits.

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Katzenberg said there will be three tiers of content: movies told in chapters, episodic and unscripted series and documentaries, and “Daily Essentials.”

Talent for the movie tier includes Bill Murray, Kiefer Sutherland, Sam Raimi (producing a horror anthology), Katherine Hardwick, Lorne Michaels, Kevin Hart and Steven Spielberg, among others.

In the 120 shows in the episodic and unscripted tier, talent includes Chrissy Teigen, Idris Elba and Tyra Banks, with rebooted versions of MTV’s “Punk’d” and “Singled Out” and cooking competitions part of the programming.

The “Daily Essentials” tier will feature the day’s news and info in partnership with NBC News, BBC, TMZ, Telemondo and The Weather Channel. It will also feature a meditation show, a talk show and a round up of late night show highlights.

Whitman noted that the Quibi format will also feature new advertising creative and that the inventory for the first year is sold out at $150 million.

Quibi is “bringing creators and technologists into the same conversation,” she said.

She added that the programming on the service will be 35% more than the prime time lineup of a traditional TV network.

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Disney+ Mobile App Downloaded 15.5 Million Times in First Two Weeks

The Disney+ mobile app has been downloaded 15.5 million times in its first two weeks of availability, according to a Nov. 26 report from Apptopia.

The mobile app has generated $5 million through in-app purchases, according to the company’s estimates. Apptopia revenue data is calculated post app store fees. The numbers don’t include subscribers who downloaded to devices such as Apple TV or Roku.

Disney+ has been ranking No. 1 overall in the U.S. iOS and Google Play app stores since its launch, according to Apptopia. It has been No. 1 in iOS grossing ranks since Nov. 19 and since Nov. 20 on Google Play.

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Australia and New Zealand were able to start watching Disney+ originals such as The Mandalorian Nov. 19. Disney+ has been ranking No. 1 overall in both app stores in both countries since launch.

More Than 40% of U.S. Households Interested in 5G

More than 33% of U.S. broadband households cite some level of familiarity with 5G and more than 40% of U.S. broadband households are interested in 5G, according to new research from Parks Associates.

The report Technology Market Assessment: 5G Network Services examines several aspects of 5G, including the condition of the mobile market, consumer sentiments toward 5G services and products, service availability, use cases, and competition. It explores the impact of 5G on fixed broadband, wireless services, and includes a five-year forecast for 5G and other mobile data services.

“More than half of U.S. broadband households are unfamiliar with 5G, despite aggressive marketing from mobile service providers,” said Craig Leslie, senior research analyst with Parks Associates. “Limited service availability is impacting consumer awareness; however, once the technology is explained to them, almost half are interested in replacing their fixed-line internet service with 5G home services.”

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Limited 5G availability also means that it will not replace 4G LTE or fixed services anytime soon, the firm predicts.

“With spotty coverage, providers will need to run 4G in parallel with 5G services so there is ‘fallback’ connectivity for areas lacking coverage,” according to the firm.

Providers see the need to offer 5G services, though, as their availability is a significant influencer in service provider selection, even if consumers are unwilling to pay more for 5G, according to Parks.

“Beyond higher speed, consumers are failing to see the value of 5G over their current subscriptions — only 13% of smartphone users are willing to pay higher subscriptions fees for 5G mobile services,” Leslie said. “Operators will need to increase consumer understanding through better communicating 5G use cases and benefits in order to convince them to upgrade services.”

Additional research findings include 31% of U.S. broadband households consider 5G availability to be very important when choosing a new mobile service provider and 20% of U.S. broadband households purchased a smartphone in the first quarter of 2019, down from 40% in the first quarter of 2016.

U.S. Broadband Households Who Watch Mobile Video More Likely to Cut Cord

U.S. broadband households highly likely to cut the cord in the next 12 months watch more than six hours of video content on their mobile phone a week, compared to 2.5 hours among all U.S. broadband households, according to research from Parks Associates.

The report Examining Broadband Cord Cutters notes that fixed broadband providers that do not offer mobile services are particularly susceptible to cord-cutting among their current subscribers. These market trends drove U.S. cable operators Comcast and Charter to introduce mobile services as a way to extend their service-based product portfolios, according to the report.

“Roughly 10% of broadband subscribers are likely broadband cord-cutters, with half of them highly likely to make the change in the next 12 months,” said Brett Sappington, senior research director and principal analyst, Parks Associates, in a statement. “Many are satisfied with their current provider overall, but these subscribers are aware of the other options available to them and could become actual cord-cutters if their current service does not continually meet their needs.”

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The research notes that two-thirds of broadband households currently subscribe to a cable internet service, three in ten subscribe to DSL or fiber optic, and one-third use mobile data services. Verizon, AT&T, and Frontier are the largest providers of DSL and fiber-based fixed-line services.

“Potential broadband cord-cutters rely on their mobile devices for entertainment,” Sappington said in a statement. “They are significantly more likely to watch live video content via mobile, including live TV broadcasts and livestreaming, averaging an hour more per week each compared to average broadband households. As 5G mobile and 10G fixed broadband services start to deploy, the substantial performance improvements will be attractive to this segment of subscribers, which will drive many providers to match these offerings in order to achieve parity in competition and messaging.”

T-Mobile Downgrades ‘Netflix on Us’ Offer

T-Mobile is changing its “Netflix on Us” offer with its two main unlimited postpaid plans.

No longer will subscribers get the Netflix Standard service, with two concurrent streams per account and video resolution of up to 1080p, at no charge. Because Netflix has raised the price of that plan by $2 from $10.99 to $12.99 per month, T-Mobile will start passing on the extra $2 price to its customers.

Customers with the two T-Mobile plans, rebranded to Magenta, can get the Netflix Basic plan, with one stream and video resolution to 480p, at no extra charge. That plan normally costs $8.99 per month.

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“To account for the Netflix price increase earlier this year, Magenta includes Netflix Basic for families,” read a T-Mobile release. “Existing T-Mobile One customers with Netflix on Us that includes Netflix Standard will see the Netflix price change of $2 per month for Netflix Standard passed through starting in July. To avoid that, those customers can either turn off Netflix on Us or change to Magenta.”

T-Mobile began offering the free Netflix promotion in 2017.

Feature Optimizes Low-light Streaming Video for Mobile Phones

VisualOn Inc., a video streaming solutions provider, has launched its Adaptive NightVision feature, which enhances its proprietary media platform player by allowing low-light or dark scenes to display more clearly on mobile devices.

The feature allows subscribers to select the viewing effects they want directly on their mobile devices.

“Something that looks great on a TV in a darkened room may not look good at all on a mobile phone in a coffee shop,” said Colin Dixon, chief analyst and founder, nScreenMedia, in a statement. “The ability to adapt to a specific viewing environment is critical for service and content providers for every viewer to have a good experience. VisualOn’s solution is a great example of the type of player feature that viewers need to effectively compensate for mobile viewing conditions.”

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VisualOn’s Adaptive NightVision is built on an advanced algorithm that analyzes the video, in real time, for contrast, brightness, color saturation and key metrics, according to a company press release. Viewers can set their preferred experience through a slider directly in the Media Platform player.

“Our successful demonstration at NAB and the recent feedback from ‘The Long Night’ episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ has prompted greater urgency for Adaptive NightVision,” said Michael Jones, SVP and head of business development, VisualOn, in a statement. “As streaming services mature, consumers want to experience the same quality that is provided by their traditional TV service on their mobile devices. We feel this is really a democratization of content. Adaptive NightVision provides an optimal viewing experience for mobile devices by giving control to consumers while not limiting artists to create content for small screen viewing.”

AT&T’s John Donovan to Deliver Keynote on 5G Opportunities at CES

AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan will lead a keynote session titled “New Frontiers in Mobile” at CES 2019, the Consumer Technology Association announced.

Donovan will join MediaLink Chairman and CEO Michael Kassan to discuss opportunities for 5G, the next generation technology for mobile.

Owned and produced by CTA, CES 2019 takes place Jan. 8-11 in Las Vegas. The keynote will begin at 2 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Park Theater, MGM Park.

Presented by MediaLink, the keynote will explore how 5G will open up opportunities for robotic manufacturing, AR/VR and mixed reality, sporting experiences and public safety, among other industries. After Donovan’s talk, a panel of industry executives will discuss how global companies are developing marketing strategies to best engage consumers in this mobile, data-driven world. Confirmed keynote panelists include National Geographic CMO Jill Cress, Deloitte Digital CMO Alicia Hatch, Magic Leap CPO Omar Khan, Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes, The Stagwell Group president and managing partner Mark Penn, and Ascential Events president and Cannes Lions chairman Phil Thomas.

“AT&T is a leader in the next-generation of connected mobility that will impact every aspect of our lives, and 5G is the platform that will enable that transformation,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA, in a statement. “We are excited to have John Donovan and Michael Kassan lead this powerful CES keynote that will delve into the new world of 5G innovation and the next wave of connectivity.”

Donovan is responsible for the bulk of AT&T’s global telecommunications and U.S. video services businesses, including its Business, Mobility and Entertainment, and Technology & Operations groups, according to a CTA press release. Previously, Donovan served as chief strategy officer and group president, AT&T Technology and Operations, where he led strategic planning for the company overall.

Kassan founded MediaLink in 2003, a strategic advisory firm serving companies at the intersection of media, marketing, advertising, technology, entertainment and finance.

Hulu First SVOD Service to Offer Payment through Venmo

Hulu announced it is the first streaming service to offer payment through the peer-to-peer app Venmo.

“At Hulu, we want to bring our viewers choice and flexibility, in as many ways as possible,” read a company statement. “From infusing our product with your favorite features like Night Mode on Web to supporting all the devices that matter most to you, we constantly strive to make it easy for you to stream, any way you want. And that includes how you want to pay for your Hulu subscription.

“That’s why we’ve partnered with Venmo, the app you love to use to send money, to bring you a new way to pay for your Hulu subscription.”

Beginning Dec. 6, Hulu subscribers with a Venmo account were able to sign up for a new Hulu account and pay with the peer-to-peer app.

“Pay with Venmo in just a few clicks — no need to pull out your credit card and type in your card number,” read the Hulu statement. “Just use your mobile Web browser to sign up for Hulu and select Venmo as your payment option. From there, your Venmo balance or linked payment method will be used for your monthly recurring subscription.”

Existing Hulu subscribers will soon be able to switch payment preferences to Venmo, too, according to the company.

Netflix Bows Automatic Download, Delete Feature for Android

Netflix July 10 introduced “Smart Downloads.” The feature, initially available on Android phones and tablets, automatically deletes a downloaded episode when subscribers finish watching it and then automatically downloads the next episode, according to the company blog.

“We know how annoying it can be to go through all your apps and delete files you no longer need; we also understand that when it comes to Netflix, the faster you can get to the next episode you want to watch, the better,” read the blog from Cameron Johnson, director of product innovation. “Whether it is smart downloading or viewing a mobile preview, we realize the best part of Netflix is connecting with the stories you will love in an easier and more fun way.”

Members can choose when they want to use Smart Downloads, according to the blog. There are more details on the feature here .