Report: 70% of U.S. Respondents Say There’s Too Much Streaming Video

AppleTV+ and Disney+ are apparently entering a crowded SVOD market.

Likewise Inc. published new research that found more than half of Americans surveyed with a streaming service believe there are too many streaming services. Launched in 2018, Likewise is a recommendation software company catering to movies, TV shows, books and podcasts.

According to an Oct. 17 survey of 1,501 people, the average streaming household has three streaming services and 70% of those surveyed agreed that despite having access to so much content, they often struggle to figure out what to watch next.

Ian Morris, CEO of Likewise, said streaming services largely provide recommendations to their viewers, but only for shows on that particular service.

“The bottom line is that people need help figuring out what to watch and where to watch it. That’s the problem we’re solving for Likewise users and why we created the Likewise TV app,” Morris said in a statement.

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The survey found streamers spend more than 15 minutes trying to decide what to watch before diving into their next TV show or movie. In fact, nearly one in five spend more than 20 minutes reviewing their choices whenever they are looking for something new to watch.

Other key findings about streaming users from the survey include:

  • Half (49%) say they spend too much time trying to find new things to watch and that number increases sharply for people with more services: 39% for people with one streaming service, 49% for people with two to four, and 68% for those with five or more.
  • 44% find navigating multiple streaming services frustrating and confusing.
    59% say that they often get frustrated when they can’t find a specific show or movie.
  • 86% say that recommendations from friends and family are useful in deciding what to watch next.
  • Over a third (36%) of users with more than one streaming service plan to cancel at least one of their current streaming services within the next year. This increases to 59% for those that have 5 or more services.

 

“The explosion of content on the small screen is a double-edged sword for viewers,” Morris said. “We have more high-quality choices than ever before, but we’re wasting hours and hours looking for the next ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Stranger Things.'”

Likewise found almost half (47%) of streaming users expect to subscribe to at least one new streaming service within the next year. About 41% would consider subscribing to Disney+, rising to 60% for those ages 25-34.

Only 25% would consider subscribing to Apple TV+, with most interest coming from 18-24 year olds, 35% of whom would consider subscribing.
A quarter (25%) would also consider subscribing to HBO Max, with most interest coming from 35-44 year olds, 32% of whom would consider subscribing. Only 8% would consider subscribing to Peacock by NBC Universal.

WWE Streaming Video Service Losing Subs, Pins Hopes on Linear TV

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has new TV broadcast deals with Fox and Comcast, which couldn’t come at a better time for the showbiz promoter.

That’s because WWE’s forays into subscription-based over-the-top video to supplant waning packaged-media sales are flatlining.

The company’s flagship WWE Network averaged 1.51 million paid subscribers the third quarter (ended Sept.30), consistent with downward guidance through the first nine months of the fiscal year.

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Average paid subs decreased 9% primarily driven by the impact of lower subscriber additions earlier in the year. For the fourth quarter, WWE projects average paid subscribers of approximately 1.43 million, representing a year-over-year decline of 10%.

Digital video views increased 12% on a year-over-year basis to 25.6 billion and hours consumed increased 14% to 957 million hours across digital and social platforms.

Media revenue increased to $146.1 million from $142.1 million in the prior year quarter, primarily due to the contractual escalation of core content rights fees, including license fees from the distribution of flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” as well as the timing and performance of WWE Studios’ portfolio releases.

That’s music to the ears of WWE founder/CEO Vince McMahon.

“With our flagship programming now spanning both broadcast and cable throughout the week in the U.S. and our expanding roster of international distribution partners, we remain excited about our ability to deepen the engagement with our fans around the world,” McMahon said.

 

Pay-TV Shocker: AT&T Loses More Than 1.3 Million Q3 Subs, Including 195,000 OTT

HBO Max can’t come soon enough for AT&T.

The telecom giant Oct. 28 said it lost 1.16 million pay-TV subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). It lost an additional 195,000 AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now) subs.

The losses compared with 346,000 pay-TV subs jettisoned and 49,000 DirecTV Now subs added in the previous-year period.

The company attributed the losses to customers rolling off promotional discounts, programmer disputes and competition, as well as lower gross adds due to the continued focus on adding higher-value subscribers.

In the past 12 months AT&T has lost more than 3.2 million pay-TV subs as subscribers migrate toward alternative video services, including over-the-top. It ended the period with 20.4 million combined DirecTV and U-verse subs compared to 23.3 million a year ago.

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AT&T TV Now has lost 713,000 subs since launching Nov. 30, 2016, as a $34.99 monthly standalone online TV service. It ended the period with 1.14 million subs compared to 1.85 million last year.

Unlike other pay-TV distributors, AT&T is not supplanting linear TV subs with high-speed Internet. The company lost 83,000 broadband subs compared to a net addition of 31,000 subs last year. It lost 36,000 DSL subs, an improvement from a loss of 45,000 subs in the previous-year period.

AT&T did add 318,000 high-speed fiber subscribers.

AT&T ended the period with 14.3 million broadband subs, down from 14.4 million a year ago.

“The strategic investments we’ve made over the last several years have given us the essential elements to meet growing demand for content and connectivity,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Stephenson remain upbeat on the company’s future saying the three-year plan delivers both “substantial and consistent” financial improvements over the next three years.

“We grow revenues, [pre-tax earnings] every single year, and free cash flow is stable next year, but then grows in both of the next two years, as well,” he said. “And all of this is inclusive of our investment in HBO Max.”

NBC Universal CEO: ‘Peacock’ Streaming Service Not Chasing Netflix

Seeking to avoid confusion among consumers facing a barrage of new high-profile subscription streaming video services entering the market next month, NBC Universal plans to focus its branded Peacock service around ad-supported content.

Speaking on the Oct. 24 Comcast fiscal call, Stephen Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, said Peacock would attempt to assuage Xfinity subscribers considering ditching the traditional cable bundle for over-the-top video.

NBC Universal CEO Stephen Burke

“I think the most important thing to think about as you’re thinking about Peacock and its role inside NBCU and broader Comcast, is we’re not doing the same strategy that Netflix and people chasing Netflix have adopted,” Burke said.

Comcast, long a defender of linear TV, has slowly adopted Netflix, YouTube and other OTT behemoths into the Xfinity ecosystem in an effort to mollify subs and keep their discretionary home entertainment spending within the pay-TV market.

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“Consumers are still trying to figure this [OTT video] out. Do I cut the cord or not? We’re in the middle of a transition phase from pay-TV model to streaming model,” Rick Kowalski, senior manager of business intelligence at the Consumer Technology Association, told NBC News. “The platforms are still trying to figure out which content and what’s the most comprehensive package they can offer, based on what their vision is. But I think we’re still in a very transitional phase.”

As a result, Burke said Peacock — which will be offered to Xfinity subs as well as the general market — would largely revolve around ad-supported content so as not to add to the monthly cable bill.

“We think that … [is going to] cut the investment pretty substantially, because I think we’re going to get to cruising altitude much more quickly than a subscription service,” he said.

Peacock will target Comcast’s 55 million video subs with a tentative April launch aimed at segueing into NBCU’s 2020 Summer Olympics coverage in Tokyo.

“It’s a very, very interesting time as everybody tries to figure out what their strategy is, and we’re very optimistic,” Burke said.

Peacock will be bundled with Xfinity Flex, Comcast Cable’s Internet-only streaming service affording direct access to OTT services, including Netflix.

“It’s a great opportunity for Flex to be able to give a lot of great NBC programming, shows like ‘The Office,’ to people at no additional charge to a broadband sub or a cable sub,” Burke said.

The executive said that, with the arrival of Apple TV+, Disney+ and HBO Max, there will be a period of “very, very aggressive” marketing and promotion surrounding the new platforms and SVOD in particular.

“At some point, there’ll be an inevitable slowing down and shakeout, and the market will get a little bit more rational,”Burke said. “But I think it’s a moment in time, and consumers are making their choices of apps and viewing habits, and you want to be aggressive to get in there and make sure that your service is one of the consumers’ handful of favorite services.”

Verizon Loses 220,000 Fios TV Subs in Third Quarter

The pay-TV subscriber drain is getting bigger and bigger.

A day after Comcast Cable said it lost 238,000 video subscribers in the fiscal quarter, Verizon Oct. 25 disclosed it jettisoned 220,000 Fios TV subs in the third quarter, ended Sept. 30.

The losses underscore ongoing secular changes in how consumers are watching television in the home — notably the rise of over-the-top video options such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, in addition to online  TV platforms such as Sling TV, YouTube TV and AT&T TV Now, among others.

Verizon, which doesn’t have an OTT video play after losing $1 billion in the short-lived go90 mobile app venture, ended the quarter with 4.2 million Fios TV subs. That compared to more than 4.4 million in the previous-year period.

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The telecom is countering a lack of internal OTT features by embracing next-generation 5G and inking a partnership with Disney for the latter”s pending SVOD platform Disney+.

Subscribers to Verizon’s unlimited data plan will get one-year free access to the $6.99 monthly Disney streaming service.

Verizon did add 30,000 Fios broadband subscribers, which was down from 48,000 net additions in the previous-year period. The telecom ended the quarter with more than 5.8 million broadband subs, up from more than 5.7 million last year.

The company added 440,000 mobile phone subs, which was up from 295,000 phone net additions in third-quarter 2018.

In a statement, CEO Hans Vestberg ignored Fios, highlighting instead Verizon’s legacy wireless business and 5G initiatives.

“Verizon continued its momentum in the third quarter by driving strong wireless volumes in both our consumer and business segments, while delivering solid financial results, highlighted by continued wireless service revenue growth, increased cash flow, and EPS growth,” Vestberg said in a statement. “We are focused on our 5G rollout strategy, looking to deploy next-generation networks while enhancing our 4G LTE network. Going into the fourth quarter, we are energized by the strong performance of the business and we are confident in our strategy to drive value for our customers and growth for our shareholders.”

Comcast Q3 Video Sub Loss Balloons to 238,000

Comcast Cable Oct. 24 reported it lost 238,000 video subscribers in the third quarter ended Sept. 30. The company lost 95,000 video subs in the previous-year period.

The cable operator, along with other traditional linear TV distributors, continues to face secular challenges as consumers migrate away from the traditional cable programming package.

For the nine-months of the fiscal year thus far, the cabler has jettisoned more than 550,000 video subs, compared to 325,000 subs during the same period last year.

As a result of growing OTT consumption, Comcast Corp. unit NBC Universal is launching branded SVOD service, Peacock, early next year.

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Comcast added 379,000 high-speed Internet subscribers, up 13.4% from 334,000 net broadband additions in the previous-year period. The uptick in broadband subs didn’t go unnoticed at the corporate level.

“Cable had its highest third quarter broadband net additions in 10 years, which drove its best quarterly net additions in total customer relationships on record,” chairman/CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement.

High-Profile SVOD Newcomers Spearhead Crowding Market

As widely reported, Apple and Disney are launching separate high-profile branded SVOD services next month, with NBC Universal slated to do the same next year.

The moves prompted AT&T to announce a public unveiling on Oct. 29 of WarnerMedia’s subscription streaming video platform HBO Max — months before its early 2020 launch.

Each new service has a lot riding as parent media/tech companies forge full-steam ahead into crowding over-the-top video waters heretofore controlled by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney-owned Hulu domestically.

On the retail end, consumers now face myriad inexpensive SVOD services delivering original and non-exclusive content. When combined, the choices can be overwhelming and expensive.

“Options are great for consumers when it comes to deciding what to watch,” said Peter Katsingris, SVP of audience insight at Nielsen. “But they’re also decidedly complicated for an industry that continues to fragment and search for unique ways to influence their behavior and perhaps steer eyeballs toward their network, program, service or brand.”

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Indeed, Disney CEO Bob Iger calls the pending $6.99 Disney+ service “the most important product the company has launched” in his 14 years as chief executive.

Disney expects to attract 60 million-to-90 million subscribers for Disney+ through 2024, which would be more than half of Netflix’s current 158 million global subs. It is giving away the service to Verizon’s unlimited data subs as part of a promotion.

Apple is targeting more than 900 million iPhone users worldwide through various incentives for the $4.99 Apple TV+.

Short-form video competitor Quibi ($4.99) from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, inked a partnership with T-Mobile, securing access to the telecom’s 83 million subscribers.

The crush of pending streaming video services prompted Netflix CEO Reed Hastings last month to tell a British audience to expect “a whole new world starting in November” following the SVOD invasion, which includes Hulu’s U.K. market expansion.

“Scale will be key in the [direct-to-consumer] space, but clearly the coming year is just the first phase in this era,” David Sidebottom, analyst with Futuresource Consulting, told the IBC365 platform. “D2C services will likely evolve, with their parent companies continuing to evaluate the benefits of D2C vs. third party [content license] agreements.”

“This will be particularly the case as services expand on an international basis, where legacy agreements, existing scale distribution partners and differing levels of SVOD uptake will be factors in their evolving D2C strategy,” he said.

Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wed bush Securities in Los Angeles, believes that with the surge of original content and catalog exclusives such as “Friends” and “The Office” migrating online, consumers have more reasons to choose OTT.

“If all that was happening was incremental services being offered, consumers might feel bamboozled,” Pachter said. “Instead, so much content is shifting to OTT services that many consumers will opt to subscribe to more than one service.”

Pachter says exorbitant pay-TV contracts paved the way for OTT video, with online TV offering a less expensive premium channel option.

“I expect cord cutters to look at rabbit ears and multiple SVOD services as a substitute. That’s why DirecTV lost 2 million subs since AT&T bought them,” he said.

More importantly, Pachter says that with Netflix losing Disney/Fox, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. content, consumers will feel compelled to try new services offering recognizable programming and/or favorite shows.

Indeed, the analyst believes Netflix will lose around two-thirds of its content (measured in viewing hours) and will have a tough time replacing that with content of similarly perceived quality.

Disney+ has an enormous library of content not available anywhere (Snow White, Fantasia, etc.) that will find its way to their service; the studio is also going to put its recent movies there and take those away from Netflix.

“That tells me that Disney+ gets to 30 million subscribers relatively quickly,” Pachter said.

He believes that Apple TV+, with just 12 original shows, will struggle with non-iPhone users unwilling to pay for limited content.

“Until Apple TV+ gets critical mass, there is no way they will be competitive,” Pachter said.

The analyst is “pretty confident” the HBO Max model will work, if it transfers existing HBO Now subscribers for a free probationary period lured by original content.

“If it’s $3 to $4 per month, they’ll get 10 million subs immediately and probably get to 80% conversion [from HBO Now] in a few years,” Pachter said.

FCC’s Pai Says Streaming Video Competition Negates Need for Pay-TV Rate Regulation

Ongoing proliferation of over-the-top video services has created an effective argument against continuing basic rate regulation on pay-TV operators,  says FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

In an Oct. 3 in blog post, Pai said increased availability of subscription streaming video services has established credible competition to pay-TV; and thereby negates the need to further regulate basic cable rates.

The Commission on Oct. 25 is set to address a request by Charter Communications seeking to recognize that AT&T’s bundled streaming video packages offered in Hawaii and Massachusetts are comparable to its cable TV packages.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

The 1992 Cable Act mandated basic rates in areas lacking effective competition in the video marketplace. Due to the evolving video landscape, rate regulation is now limited to certain parts of Hawaii and Massachusetts.

Pai would like to end that.

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“Charter is now subject to effective competition from AT&T’s streaming service,” he wrote. “Adopting this order would be a major step toward the Commission recognizing the realities of the modern video marketplace, and the increasingly important role that streaming services are playing in it.”

The move, which has been applauded by business groups, could redefine the way the government recognizes, taxes and regulates OTT video.

Federal attempts in 2015 to regulate streaming video were challenged by lawmakers eager to promote OTT investment and infrastructure in their districts.I

Indeed, Pai, who pushed the FCC to reverse its net-neutrality safeguards adopted under the Obama Administration, warned against regulating OTT video back in 2015.

“Some have proposed extending to over-the-top providers many of the rules that currently apply to cable operators and satellite providers, regulations that in many cases are over two decades old,” Pai told an industry group at the time.

“I strongly oppose this idea. Given the remarkable success of the over-the-top video industry — success driven in part by regulatory restraint — I don’t believe we should change our regulatory approach,” he said.

 

Report: Long-Form Mobile Video Viewership Surges as iOS Use Declines

Consumption of short-form video on mobile and connected devices in the home is being challenged by long-form video, according to new data from the Q2 Brightcove Global Video Index, analyzing how viewers are watching video content, which devices they are using, and what types of content they are consuming across these various devices.

Long-form video (21-40 minutes) and ultra-long-form video (41+ minutes) saw faster growth in the share of “time watched” on every device, from connected TVs to smartphones.

Ultra-long-form content took the highest total share of “time watched” across all devices, despite short-form video (0-5 minutes) having the highest number of assets published.

The report found that 53% of global video views begin on mobile devices, smartphones, and tablets, taking away share from traditional desktop computers. Smartphones saw the highest growth, to 45% from 38% only one year ago.

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In emerging markets, especially Asia Pacific, mobile is king, where 84% of all video consumption is on mobile phones, and with Japan/Korea at 58%.

In the Middle East and Africa, smartphone use tops 57%. In every region but U.S. and Canada, mobile devices took share away from desktop computers.

The report found that the increasing quality of delivery to mobile devices, cheaper data plans, and more affordable Android smartphones from China has had a significant impact on how content is consumed.

“Leveraging mobile video continues to be crucial for OTT providers, as they look to not only reach younger viewers — who traditionally have been mobile first — but also older viewers who have discovered that mobile video is a convenient way to consume content outside the home,” Jim O’Neill, principal analyst, Brightcove, said in a statement.

O’Neill said the amount of content being consumed on mobile devices has more than doubled over the past year. He cites the fact content owners and distributors are making premium content available to consumers on any device.

“This growth will continue as more content — especially high-value sports content — becomes more prevalent and easily accessible on mobile devices,” O’Neill said.

“Mobile is no longer dominated by snackable content — instead, it provides a multi-course meal to consumers,” O’Neill said, “At the International Broadcasting Conference (IBC) earlier this month, the discussion has changed from what’s included broadly in the content mix to delivering content direct-to-consumers with more personalization and fewer limitations.”

Separately, Brightcove said the dominance of iOS on mobile devices has eroded in the past year with video viewed on Android devices now more prevalent.

Globally, Android smartphone share has increased to 68% from 59% one year ago, with Apple iOS remaining dominant for tablet plays.

Android use is highest in Asia Pacific, where 92% of video plays are on Android phones and tablets. Europe is the next highest with 70% of video plays on Android devices. Only Japan/Korea continues to see growth in iOS.

 

NPD: Consumer Electronics Revenue to Increase 3% Annually Through 2021

Increased consumer demand for big-screen televisions, wireless headphones, speakers and over-the-top video, consumer electronics is projected to grow 3% annually through 2021, according to new data from The NPD Group.

“Steady single-digit growth is notable in a mature market where consumers are not replacing or repurchasing items at the same rate they did in prior years,” Stephen Baker, VP, industry advisor for The NPD Group, said in a statement. “While some categories offer new, greenfield growth opportunities, the majority of revenue growth will occur from trade-ups and average sales price (ASP) increases, as opposed to rising unit volume sales.”

The movement to large screen TVs is raising category revenue, despite  expected flat unit sales overall. By 2021, more than 25% TV unit sales will be for a screen size larger than 65-inches, and those will account for 60% of the category’s sales dollars.

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Audio, true wireless headphones have become the format of choice for consumers and are expected to see tremendous growth over the forecast period. NPD said true wireless headphones will hold three-quarters of the headphone market dollar share by 2021.

“True wireless earbuds have evolved into virtual must-have mobile phone accessories, and many products now offer features such as hands-free digital assistant access and touch/tap controls for interfacing and controlling smartphones. This bond between headphone and smartphone will help drive new sales in the future,” added Ben Arnold, executive director, industry analyst. “Headphones is just one example of a mainstay category that is driving growth through new feature sets, we expect brands in other segments will take a similar approach to find growth in this competitive environment.”

While smart home technology will begin to slow compared to recent years, NPD expects it will remain an area of strength as decreases in ASPs will make products more accessible and drive acceptance among consumers. Home automation revenue is expected to grow 40% from 2018 to 2021.

During this timeframe NPD says smart display dollar sales are expected to triple as they become more available and serve both as a smart home interface device and a point of modern convenience.