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.”

Lionsgate Inks International Distribution Rights to Hulu Series ‘Ramy’

Lionsgate has picked up international distribution rights to A24’s comedy series “Ramy,” which debuted on Hulu and has been picked up for a second season.

“When I watched ‘Ramy’ for the first time, I knew this is a show that has the potential to break through because I couldn’t stop watching,” said Lionsgate president of worldwide television and digital distribution Jim Packer. “I have the utmost respect for our partners at A24 and am thrilled to expand our longstanding distribution partnership by bringing ‘Ramy’ to audiences around the world.”

Lionsgate will showcase “Ramy” to international buyers as part of its L.A. Screenings presentation May 19. The star and co-creator of the show, Ramy Youssef, will be at Lionsgate’s presentation to talk about his inspiration and vision for the show.

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“Ramy” tells the story of a 20-something, first generation Egyptian-American on a spiritual journey in his politically-divided New Jersey neighborhood. The show explores the challenges of what it’s like being caught between a Muslim community that thinks life is a moral test and a millennial generation that thinks life has no consequences. Youssef stars alongside Amr Waked, Hiam Abbass and May Calamawy.

Study: Online TV Is Second-Most-Popular TV Viewing Choice in U.K., Sweden and Germany

A new survey of TV viewers in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany found that online TV is now the second most popular viewing source behind pay-TV, with usage ranging from just under 40% in Germany to more than 50% in the U.K. and Sweden.

Nielsen company Gracenote and digital media analyst firm nScreenMedia conducted the survey, “TV Universe — U.K., Sweden, Germany: How People Watch Television Today,” in the first quarter of 2019, focusing on pay TV, free-to-air and online TV viewership in the three European countries that account for 31% of the European Union’s total population, according to Statista.

The online TV viewership growth in the three countries “is a remarkable rise as online TV is a relatively new offering,” according to the research firms. In fact, Netflix launched in the United Kingdom in just 2012. Whereas 12 years ago most homes relied on a single-source for TV, today nearly half of viewers in all three of the countries studied are multi-source television households, the researchers noted.

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“Consumer behavior relating to TV viewing is changing rapidly in Europe as it is around the world,” said Simon Adams, chief product officer, Gracenote, in a statement.

Pay TV is currently the most popular television source in the U.K. and Sweden with nearly two in three consumers in each market using it, the survey found, but in Germany the most popular source is free-to-air TV, which accounts for the vast majority of viewers at nearly eight in 10.

In all three European markets surveyed, consumers pointed to on-screen program guides and user interfaces as being critical tools for finding content to watch. Six in 10 viewers indicated visual imagery and TV artwork displayed in guides exert important influence on their viewing choices. Among the 18-to-24-year-old demographic, the number jumped up to around 90%. In addition, respondents indicated TV show and movie descriptions that shed light on content are also factors in their tune-in decision-making, with 70% of U.K. viewers, 65% of Swedes and 57% of Germans saying the program descriptions were at least somewhat important.

The study also found free-to-air TV is gaining traction on mobile with more free-to-air viewers using broadcaster apps to supplement viewing than pay TV viewers use their operator “TV Everywhere” apps. In fact, more than half of free-to-air users in each country use broadcaster apps.

The smart TV is the preferred device to watch video content on in all three countries, according to the study. A significant 70% of total viewing time is on the TV screen in the United Kingdom and Germany, while in Sweden, it is 60%. Samsung is the most popular TV brand in all three countries.

Other insights include:

  • 17% of the U.K. study group use all three TV sources available to them, higher than in Sweden and Germany;
  • While the on-screen guide is the dominant way Swedes and Brits find content to watch, newspaper TV guides and channel flipping are the main ways for Germans; and
  • 31% of Swedes consider online TV to be their primary TV source, the highest of the three countries studied.

 

“The new TV Universe study shows that online TV has become the second most popular source of TV entertainment in a remarkably short period of time,” said Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst at nScreenMedia in a statement. “Also telling is the fact that, though most online viewing takes place on the television, consumers don’t have the discovery tools they need to efficiently find something to watch there. Features such as voice and cross-service search are thinly used in each country. There is also plenty of room for improvement with content recommendations as a quarter or less think they accurately reflect their interests.”

The consumer research study conducted from February to March 2019 surveyed 1,500 adult TV viewers in the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden. The data was weighted to represent the general population of each country. The full report is available for free download now at nScreenMedia.com.

WarnerMedia Could Stream Shows on Its Service Before They Hit Cable

WarnerMedia is planning to give its upcoming streaming service key shows first before they reach cable, according to a report.

Sources told The Informant that the company plans to prioritize its streaming service, running top shows such as TNT’s “The Alienist” on it first before it reaches cable.

“The streaming service is going to be king,” one of the sources told The Informant.

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WarnerMedia’s OTT streaming service is scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter and plans to roll out original fare in 2020, according to executives.

“Our beta will not have original programming, but we will introduce it in 2020,” said Kevin Reilly, president of TBS, TNT and head of content and strategy at the new service, Feb. 11. “Expect it in all the verticals: kids and family, teens up to adult.”

WarnerMedia is jumping into an increasingly crowded streaming space. Disney is entering the market with its Disney+ service Nov. 12 at $6.99 a month ($69.99 a year), and Apple is mounting a new service, Apple TV+, with pricing to be announced this fall. Meanwhile, Comcast is slated to launch a free ad-supported VOD service for Xfinity subscribers next year (with non-pay-TV subs charged an undisclosed monthly fee) with content from NBC Universal. The new entrants join established SVOD services Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Survey: More Than 14% of U.S. Netflix Subscribers May Cancel It in Favor of Disney+

More than 14% of U.S. Netflix customers are considering ditching their subscription in favor of Disney+ when the new streaming service launches in November, which could amount to a loss of approximately 8.7 million subscribers for the streaming pioneer.

Those are the findings of a survey of more than 600 U.S. Netflix subscribers commissioned by Streaming Observer.

In the survey, 12.7% said they “might cancel Netflix” while 2.2% said they would “definitely cancel Netflix” and get Disney+.

Survey respondents with kids in their household were more than two times as likely to say they plan to cancel Netflix for Disney+.

Roughly two in five Netflix subscribers in the survey said they will try Disney+, which costs $6.99 per month ($69.99 per year), when it debuts. One-fifth of those surveyed said they plan on subscribing to both services, and 40% said they have no interest in Disney+.

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Research: OTT Revenue Forecast to Reach $22 Billion in 2019

Based on 66 OTT providers, led by Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, U.S. OTT access revenue grew 37% to $16.3 billion in 2018 and is forecast to reach $22 billion in 2019, according to a new research from Convergence Research.

The research firm has released two new reports, “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: OTT and TV” and “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: Bundling, TV, Internet, Telephone, Wireless.”

Still, U.S. TV subscriber average revenue per user (ARPU) is still forecast to be three times U.S. OTT subscriber household ARPU in 2021.

The firm estimates 2018 U.S. cable, satellite, telco TV access (not including OTT) revenue declined 3% to $103.4 billion in 2018 and forecasts 2019 will see a similar decline. Also, 2018 saw a decline of 4.01 million U.S. TV subscribers and 2017 a decline of 3.66 million, according to the firm, which forecasts a decline of 4.56 million TV subs for 2019. The U.S. TV subscriber
base will decline 5% in 2019, from a decline of 4% in 2018, according to the firm’s estimates.

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By the end of 2018, the firm estimates 30% of households did not have a traditional TV subscription with a cable, satellite, or telco TV access provider, up from 26% at the end of 2017. The firm forecasts that number to reach 34% of households by the end of 2019. Convergence Research estimates 2018 saw almost 5 million cord cutter/never household additions.

The firm projects that a number of OTT plays, including large and niche, will fail due to insufficient subscriber traction, cost and competition, noting major programmers continue to accelerate their direct-to-consumer drive, including Disney and WarnerMedia. Other developments noted by the firm include:

  • Hulu spends more on content per sub than either Amazon or Netflix and continues to discount (notably with Spotify);
  • CBS/Showtime’s OTT subscriber trajectory has been faster than expected;
  • Discovery has backed and supplied Philo, gone live with Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV, and will be launching an OTT service with the BBC;
  • NBC Universal will be launching an OTT service in 2020;
  • and Viacom has backed and supplied Philo and others, acquired Pluto and Awesomeness TV and is producing for Amazon and Netflix.

Indian Content Streaming Service ShemarooMe Launches in U.S.

Shemaroo Entertainment Limited, one of India’s leading integrated media content houses, has entered the U.S. market with the launch of its OTT video streaming  service, ShemarooMe.

“Building on its vast content library and expertise gained over the past 57 years and in more than 30 countries, ShemarooMe will give Indian American audiences on-the-go access to the company’s exclusive portfolio of Bollywood, regional language, devotional and children’s content,” according to a company press release.

Shemaroo unveiled the streaming service in India earlier this year.

“As the second largest group within the Asian American population that has the highest household income as well, Indian American audiences will remain a sizeable growth opportunity for digital entertainment companies,” according to the release.

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Indian American consumers can choose from seven content categories: Bollywood Plus, Bollywood Classic, Gujarati, Punjabi, Marathi, Kids and Bhakti (devotional) through two subscription options. The customizable, individual category plans are priced at $4.99 per month/$49.99 each per year, and the all-access plan is priced at $9.99 per month/$99.99 per year.

“As a company we’ve always understood the pulse of our diverse audiences, and our history is a testimony to that,” said Shemaroo CEO Hiren Gada in a statement. “We are excited to extend our content offerings to loyal fans of Indian entertainment in the U.S. with a host of integrated features such as linear channels, live streams and video-on-demand services. With this launch, we look to further build strategic partnerships in the world’s leading OTT market.”

The ShemarooMe OTT app can be downloaded through Google Play, the iOS App store or online at http://shemaroome.com/, and will soon be available on Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV and Roku, according to the release.

EMA to Present OTT Conference July 16-17

The Entertainment Merchants Association will present an over-the-top channels market and conference “OTT_X” July 16-17 at the Universal Hilton in Universal City, Calif.

The invitation-only event for C-level leaders in the OTT segment of the entertainment industry will consist of one-on-one business meetings between content providers and ad-supported and subscription OTT channels, a half-day conference featuring industry analysts and thought leaders, a service and technology providers showcase, high-speed introductory meetings specifically designed for burgeoning OTT channels, and networking events, according to the EMA.

OTT_X will be co-located with, but separate from, the EMA’s Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, the annual get-together of the home video industry, according to the EMA.

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, will chair the confab.

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“Until now, there hasn’t been a set marketplace where buyers and sellers, providers, and distributors of OTT content can come together to network and connect in a meaningful way,” Opeka said in a statement. “That’s one of the driving forces that makes OTT_X such an important event. Through this dynamic gathering of industry leaders and pioneers, we have created an incredible opportunity where executives can explore potential partnerships with the outlets and providers that are best suited to their unique interests and needs. Our ultimate goal is that this will enable efficient and effective agreements to be made, while further expanding and revolutionizing the OTT landscape.”

“The OTT segment of the video industry is growing tremendously and needs a premier event to bring key players together to do business, share knowledge, and expand their contacts, and that is what EMA is providing with the OTT_X market and conference,” added Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO, in a statement.

The OTT_X steering committee consists of David Bloom (media journalist), Dean Cates (The Africa Channel), George Chung (JungoTV), Paul Colichman (Here Media), Gary Delfiner (Digital Sylvia), Pat McDonough (Mill Creek Entertainment), Colin Petrie-Norris (Xumo), Steve Raymond (Vubiquity), Carlos Sanchez (Legendary Entertainment) and Randy Wells (Magnolia Pictures).

Sling TV Launches Puppet ‘Slingy’ to Promote Service

OTT service Sling TV is introducing “Slingy,” a puppet star of its new digital ads.

The puppet is designed and created by Tim Clarke, one of the masterminds behind “The Muppets” puppet design, according to the service’s blog.

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“Slingy is on a mission to let everyone know that Slinging is easy and anyone can do it — even a puppet!” reads the blog. “Slingy is passionate about educating live TV lovers who want to cut the cord and is even willing to show up at people’s homes and offices to tell them about Sling. After a visit from Slingy, consumers can’t help but get excited about the choice, flexibility and control that Sling TV offers without the baggage that comes with cable.”

Last year, Sling TV launched a tongue-in-cheek TV campaign featuring celebrity couple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as “slingers.”

Research: U.S. SVOD Household Spending Steady Since 2016 at Just Under $8 Per Month

U.S. broadband household spending on subscription OTT video services has held steady for three years, averaging just under $8 per month since 2016, according to research from Parks Associates.

The figures suggest adoption of multiple services or expensive services by some consumers is offset by a larger base of consumers who either subscribe to one or two relatively inexpensive services or who do not spend any money on OTT video services (30% of consumers), according to Parks Associates.

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“The stability in average household spend belies the activity going on under the surface,” said Brett Sappinton, Parks Associates senior director of research, in a statement. “2019 may be poised to break that trend. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon continue to pack on new subscribers. At the same time, services like ESPN+ are also experiencing phenomenal growth, and new offerings from Disney and WarnerMedia are set for release later this summer. One of three things will happen — more households will become OTT streaming households, rival services will begin to pull subscribers away from Netflix, or that spending number will go up.”

Parks Associates will discuss strategies to launch successful services in the complimentary webcast “Avoiding OTT’s Top 5 Mistakes,” co-hosted with Swrve March 26 at 11 a.m. CST.

“The deluge of OTT platforms has created greater competition for video based on choice and quality of content,” said Barry Nolan, chief strategy officer at Swrve, in a statement. “Yet as people spend more and more time consuming digital media, OTT platforms are seeing a lag in customers insights, loyalty, and revenue. We believe that by delivering the perfect message at the perfect time, OTT platforms will have a richer and more enduring experience with their customers.”