MediaKind Bows Technology Partnership Program

MediaKind Sept. 12 announced its launching a technology partnership program giving content providers, service providers and operators access to cloud-based software.

Dubbed MediaKind Universe Alliance, the platform enables industry collaboration for seamless delivery with a goal of advancing all aspects of video delivery, with special effort and focus on industrializing OTT video to broadcast-quality and scale.

With its growing group of partners, the alliance offers application-specific, end to end solutions that directly address the challenges of content providers, service providers, and operators.

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By harnessing the complementary technology and resources of the MediaKind Universe Alliance partner program, customers can tap into a wealth of expertise, fast-to-deploy solutions and managed services to gain a highly edge in an increasingly fragmented media landscape, according to chief business officer Raul Aldrey.

“The aim of the program is to build lasting connections with our technical partners and continue to launch new, innovative real-world solutions for our customers,” Aldrey said in a statement. By investing time and resources in these long-term and mutually beneficial relationships, we can continue to push the boundaries across the entire media chain.”

The program is guided by principles of open standards and welcomes partners who, through mature technology and proven delivery capabilities, demonstrate the ability to contribute to the advancement of quality and scale of next-gen video delivery and experience, especially within the streaming video ecosystem.

Recent partnerships with Evergent to provide a self-service experience for subscribers using their flexible revenue and customer lifecycle management solution to accelerate time-to-market for direct-to-consumer service offerings from content publishers and pay TV operators who want to incorporate streaming pay TV.

Announced at NAB Show 2019, Google Cloud partnered with MediaKind customers to access its portfolio of solutions and services and tap into an advanced combination of end-to-end TV analytics and machine learning capabilities.

MediaKind also partnered with Microsoft Azure for customer deployments of the cloud-based Mediaroom and MediaFirst TV platforms as a Service.

With Telestream, the collaboration resulted in the inclusion of its ClearVR 360-degree video technology within MediaKind’s new Cygnus 360 Events packaged solution.

China, U.S. Account for Majority Global SVOD Subscriptions

No wonder Netflix wants to enter the Chinese market.

The quasi Communist country topped the U.S. in gross subscription video-on-demand users in 2018, according to new data from Digital TV Research.

China added nearly 60 million SVOD subs compared to 27 million subs in the U.S. India nearly doubled its subscription base.

Netflix does not operate independently in China, partnering instead with iQiyi to distribute select programming.

Gross SVOD subs increased by 139 million in 2018 to 508 million – or up by 38%. The net subscriber count rose by 83 million in 2018 to reach 357 million – up by 31%.

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DTV Research said the average SVOD subscriber paid for 1.43 subscriptions by end-2018 — up from 1.05 in 2010.

“China and the U.S. together accounted for 63% of the global total in 2018,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at DTV Research, said in a statement.

Eight countries had more than 10 million SVOD subs by end-2018 – collectively providing 80% of the global total.

Gross SVOD subs represented 30.5% of TV households by end-2018. The proportion of net SVOD subscribers was 21.4% – meaning that more than 20% of the world’s TV households had at least one SVOD subscription by end-2018.

SVOD became the largest OTT revenue source in 2014 when it overtook ad-supported VOD. SVOD market share reached 53% in 2018. SVOD revenue increased by $11 billion in 2018 to $36 billion – up by 44% from 2017. AVOD revenue increased by $5 billion to $22 billion.

“The U.S. added $6.5 billion in revenue in 2018, with China up by $3.6 billion,” Murray said. “Therefore, the U.S. and China were together responsible for more than half the world’s additional revenue in 2018.”

Report: Euro Broadcasters Must Up Content Spend to Compete Against American OTT Video

With Disney, Apple and WarnerMedia all launching subscription video-on-demand services by the end of the year and into 2020, most platforms have European distribution strategies similar to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

That looming reality is putting pressure on local and regional pay-tv operators to match or at least up original content spending to retain and lure subscribers.

New data from Deutsche Bank found, for example, that German broadcaster RTL would have to significantly increase its €300 million ($330 million) annual original content spending to remain competitive.

ProSieben, ITV, TF1/M6 and the Spanish broadcasters have all reportedly pledged modest increases in original content spending.

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A shot in the dark considering Apple reportedly is budgeting $6 billion for original content, while Netflix has pledged a $2.5 billion uptick on — largely — original movies.

Deutsche Bank contends RTL would have to increase original content spending to at least €400 million ($440 million).

“They will also need to raise spend or see a further acceleration in the decline of their core linear advertising revenues,” Deutsche Bank wrote in a note.

The bank noted that while RTL added a respectable 200,000 SVOD subs in the first half of 2019, about half of its 1.2 million subs are in Holland where its €7.99 ($8.79) pricing looks vulnerable against Disney+ pricing announced pricing of $7.99.

“Even the TV Now offer in Germany from RTL at a lower price of €4.99 ($5.49) looks vulnerable versus with 3-year Disney+ subscriptions being offered at $3.92 per month,” read the note.

Deutsche Bank said Disney content spending of $4 billion [annually) within the platform’s first three years looms large over RTL’s incremental content spend of €100 million and ITV’s £30 million ($36.5 million).

AT&T, Starz Ink New Carriage Agreement, Including OTT Video

AT&T and Starz, a Lionsgate company, Aug. 30 announced a new multiyear content carriage agreement. The deal secures rights for AT&T to offer the full suite of Starz and Starz Encore premium linear and HD channels, on-demand, HD on-demand to subscribers of DirecTV, AT&T TV (formerly DirecTV Now) and U-verse video platforms.

“Our customers want more choice and value in addition to compelling entertainment in our channel offerings,” Daniel York, chief content officer, AT&T Communications, said in a statement.

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“Starz is pleased to have found a mutually beneficial way to extend our relationship over the next several years to give millions of AT&T subscribers access to our acclaimed premium original content and vast library of blockbuster films,” said Jeffrey Hirsch, Chief Operating Officer of Starz. “By working together, both companies are in a position to continue to deliver great value to our shared customers.”

CBS All Access Adding Children’s Programming

CBS All Access, the media giant’s online TV service and VOD platform, Aug. 8 disclosed it plans for the first time to add children’s programming, including original series and more than 1,000 catalog episodes.

The $5.99 monthly platform has teamed up with DHX Media and Boat Rocker Studios to license new seasons of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” produced with Sony Pictures Animation, and Boat Rocker’s “Danger Mouse,” produced with BBC Children’s Productions.

Catalog programming includes the original “Danger Mouse” series, “Inspector Gadget,” “The Adventures of Paddington Bear, “Madeline,” and “Heathcliff,” among others.

“Based on the age and demographics of our subscriber base, with an average age of 44, we see a significant opportunity to invest in children’s programming and provide even more value for subscribers,” Marc DeBevoise, COO, CBS Interactive, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, CBS All Access announced it would add documentary and unscripted content, in addition to a growing roster of flagship series such as “Star Trek: Discovery,” “The Good Fight,” and “The Twilight Zone.”

Joe Ianniello, acting CEO at parent CBS Corp., said the direct-to-consumer services, which includes Showtime OTT, helped fuel a 13% increase in affiliate and subscription fee revenue in the quarter.

“We remain on track to reach our goal of 25 million subscribers [CBS All Access/Showtime] combined by 2022,” he said in a statement.

Indeed, content licensing and distribution revenue in the quarter increased 18%, mainly from growth in domestic licensing and higher sales of series produced for third-party services, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Affiliate and subscription fee revenue grew 22%, driven by increases in station affiliation fees and revenues from online TV, as well as subscriber growth at CBS All Access.

Starz Adds 400,000 Q1 Members, Tops 4.4 Million Subs

Starz added 400,000 domestic streaming video subscribers in the first quarter, ended June 30, to finish the period with 4.4 million members since launching in 2012.

It was the $9 monthly Lionsgate-owned OTT video unit’s best-performing quarter in terms of sub growth.

Total Starz sub growth, including pay-TV channels and StarzPlay internationally, increased by 2.6 million to 26.5 million, which includes 24.4 million domestic subs.

As a result of the sub growth, Lionsgate’s Media Networks division increased revenue 4.9% to $372.4 million.

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Segment profit for Starz Networks increased 3.4% to $103.7 million, which was offset by ongoing content investment in StarzPlay.

Indeed, overall Media Networks profit declined to $60.6 million from $88.5 million in the previous-year period due to content costs.

On the fiscal call, Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch defended the SVOD service’s subscription price as Disney readies less expensive $6.99 Disney+ service on Nov. 12.

“If you look at the history of Starz, we’ve always been a premium, add-on television,” Hirsch said.

Lionsgate’s global expansion of Starz has resulted in the development of an additional 20 episodic programming projects, according to Kevin Beggs, chairman of the media company’s TV group.

Beggs dismissed Netflix’s headline-grabbing mega production deal with “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss, contending Lionsgate doesn’t chase those kinds of deals.

“For writers and directors who are overperforming, there’s always been an unbelievable upside the way we structure our deals,” Beggs said, alluding to Lionsgate’s practice affording content creators with multiple compensation options, including backend unavailable at Netflix’s business model.

Roku Tops 30 Million Subs, Stock Up Nearly 9%

Roku hit a fiscal home run Aug. 7, beating its estimates for second-quarter (ended June 30) revenue, gross profit and pre-tax earnings.

The streaming media device manufacturer and over-the-top operating system, said it ended the quarter with more than 30 million active user accounts — up 39% from 22 million accounts in the previous-year period.

Total revenue increased 59% to $250.1 million, while platform (ad-supported) revenue skyrocketed 89% to $167.7 million.

Streaming device revenue increased 24% to %82.4 million from $66.5 million last year.

“The industry-wide shift to streaming is accelerating,” founder/CEO Anthony Wood and CFO Steve Louden wrote in the shareholder letter.

At the same time, Roku is attempting migrate revenue away from hardware to advertising and evergreen software sales. As a result, hardware operating income dropped 69% to $4.5 million from $14.7 million, due in part to lower pricing for Roku players and streaming sticks.

“As anticipated, gross margin declined sequentially due to continued mix shift to video advertising, the introduction of premium subscriptions and our strategy of driving down player [average sales pricing] … grows our active accounts faster,” Wood and Louden wrote.

The net effect resulted in loss from operations increasing to $10.4 million from $100,000 last year.

Regardless, Roku’s status among TV manufacturers seeking connectivity with the Internet remains strong.

According to Kantar Milward Brown, Roku is the No. 1 TV streaming platform in the U.S. by hours streamed. Last month, Strategy Analytics reported that the Roku operating system powers about 41 million OTT devices and smart TVs in the U.S. This is 36% greater than the next closest competitor and expected to grow.

Separately, Parks Associates consumer survey data revealed Roku had 39% of the U.S. streaming media player installed base as of Q1 2019.

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Roku disclosed it has partnered with Walmart to roll out a series of OEM branded streaming devices under the retailer’s name.

“This is in addition to Roku TVs and Roku players already sold through Walmart,” they wrote. “Our purpose-built OS allows us to offer superior streaming experiences to consumers at attractive price points.”

Wood and Louden contend 3.5 million U.S. TV households cut the cord from March 2018 through February of 2019, moving from traditional pay-TV to streaming.

“‘Cord-cutters’ and ‘cord-nevers’ access video on their TV exclusively through streaming and Roku has the largest share in the U.S.,” read the letter. “This is a valuable strategic position for our advertising business as brands cannot reach these consumers via traditional linear TV.”


OTT Video Consumption Skyrockets

Consumers in the United States continue to migrate toward over-the-top video distribution with streaming viewing hours in the second quarter (ended June 30) more than double (130%) from a year ago, according to new data from Conviva.

While major markets dominate overall domestic streaming consumption, Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix are the top 3 cities when streaming video consumption is normalized by population — ahead of tech hubs Boston, New York, and San Francisco.

The percentage of televisions connected to the Internet increased 143%, largely driven by Roku with 173% growth and 43% market share of connected TV viewing. Amazon Fire TV was up 145% in viewing with an 18% share. Apple TV was up 129% to account for 10% share.

“In 2019, streaming is coming into its own,” read the report.

Video-on-demand now accounts for 66% of all viewing hours, up from 59% last year. While mobile devices command near equal share of live versus on-demand viewing at 22.8% and 23.7%, respectively, PCs garner more share of on-demand viewing at 16.5% versus 12.6%, while connected TVs command more share of live at 56.5% versus 53.1%.

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Notably, Roku accounted for the majority of all live viewing via connected TV with 53.8%.

The report found that online TV services such as DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV saw triple-digit growth in viewing year over year.

Market dynamics, including consolidation and the increase of hybrid business models from media companies such as NBC Universal, Apple, Disney and WarnerMedia, suggest there is even more room for growth and innovation as the lines between business models blur.

Conviva said the growth gap between studios content creators and online distributors closed even more in Q2 than previous quarters, but content aggregators continue to best other services in terms of consumption as well as quality, with viewing hours up 168% year over year.

Not to be outdone, publishers in the United States also recorded impressive growth of 137% in viewing hours year over year. The overall growth in consumption is indicative of headroom for existing streaming services alongside future entrants.

“Increased competition will also spur innovation and, as the industry saw with hybrid models with subscription and ads, more convergence in business models,” read the report.

Facebook and YouTube saw 15% more videos posted as news media led social media with the largest growth in average total video views, up 197% year-over-year. Entertainment led in growth of views per video, up 99%.
While ad-supported VOD and online TV continue to gain traction among consumers, Conviva found that ad buffering remains a “silent engagement killer” among users.

The difference between a viewer making it past the 5% mark in the video stream depends greatly on whether or not the ad flows correctly. In addition, the average streaming ad length reached 24.87 seconds despite the fact viewership drops significantly with 20+ second ads.

“The TV industry of yesterday was built on inflexible standards, antiquated measurement, and limited data. Streaming offers the vast potential of a rapidly maturing market, flexibility, targeting, and data to understand the audience like never before.”

Cinedigm Bows Stand-Up Comedy on Xumo Streaming Service

Cinedigm Aug. 6 announced the updated launch of a fully-curated linear version of over-the-top video service Comedy Dynamics on the Xumo streaming television service.

Comedy Dynamics, which partnered with Cinedigm earlier this year, previously featured movies, series, original content, and specials. Beginning Aug. 6, the linear channel will deliver stand-up comedy specials carefully curated by the Comedy Dynamics staff.

Comedy Dynamics is available in more than 35 million homes across the nation via Xumo’s multi-screen distribution network of smart TVs, mobile, web and streaming boxes.

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In addition to Comedy Dynamics, Xumo carries Cinedigm OTT properties Combat Go, CONtv, Docurama and Dove Channel.

Programming includes stand-up specials from Tiffany Haddish, Tom Segura, Iliza Shlesinger, Whitney Cummings, David Cross, Gary Gulman, Maria Bamford, Mike Birbiglia, Bill Hicks, Cameron Esposito, Tim Allen, D.L. Hughley, Bryan Callen, Bob Saget, Marc Maron, Jeff Dunham, Janeane Garofalo and Lil Rel Howery, among others.

Comedy Dynamics will also present programming highlighting a series of different themes each month that include content specific to Back to School, Labor Day, Grandparent’s Day, Halloween and more. In addition to holiday-specific content, Comedy Dynamics will also focus on celebrating culture with blocks of comedy dedicated to showcasing stars from across the globe.

“Stand-up comedy has, arguably, never been more popular, with filmed specials enjoying record ratings and comedy clubs filled to capacity every night,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement. “Comedy Dynamics is leading the way — revolutionizing the television landscape with hundreds of hours of award-winning hit specials from an eclectic mix of groundbreaking legends and rising superstars.”

Streaming Video, Tax Benefit Up Discovery Q2 Revenue, Profit

Aggressive expansion to over-the-top video distribution across its content portfolio help Discovery Inc. post second-quarter (ended June 30) net income of $947 million, compared with net income of $216 million during the previous-year period.

The bulk of that increase came from a non-cash tax benefit and higher operating revenue. Total revenue increased 1% to $2.88 billion.

Discovery continues to benefit from the $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive in 2017, home to popular Food Network, HGTV (“Flip or Flop,” and “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines), Travel Channel and DIY Network programming, among others.

In the quarter, Discovery launched nine additional networks on YouTube TV in the U.S. and signed a multi-year live and on demand carriage agreement with fuboTV.

Earlier this year, Discovery and BBC Studios announced a series of agreements for a new 10-year distribution deal, which includes content for a pending global streaming service.

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The company also has a partnership with the PGA European Tour for subscription streaming video service, Golf TV, expanding its content portfolio and move towards becoming the “digital home of golf” around the world.

The wide-ranging agreement includes international multi-platform live rights, in selected territories, to all European Tour events and the next two Ryder Cups.

“We delivered another quarter of strong operating and financial performance with the benefits of the Scripps Networks acquisition flowing through all areas of our global business, while also accelerating our pivot to digital and direct-to-consumer offerings,” CEO David Zaslavsaid in a statement. “With an exceptional team in place, strong top-line performance and a healthy balance sheet, we are confident in our ability to continue executing on our strategic priorities to drive long-term growth and shareholder value.”