OTT.X to Hold Third Annual X-Fronts Conference May 21-22

OTT.X will hold its third annual X-Fronts conference on May 21 and 22 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The two-day exchange for the CTV/OTT community will consist of pitches and presentations by prominent and up-and-coming AVOD and FAST platforms, networks, and channels to an audience of brands, advertisers and ad agencies, according to OTT.X.

The conference programming will educate media buyers on the ins and outs of the AVOD and FAST landscapes via a series of panels, presentations, research findings, and interactive roundtable discussions focused on the growth of FAST and how it’s being utilized to get the most out of advertising spends, as well as revenue opportunities, operational issues, and projections for the future, according to OTT.X.

Presentations will include details about lineups, content promotion and other plans for the coming year.

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In addition to the presentations, there will be networking opportunities and meeting spaces, both private and semi-private, available for planned or ad-hoc meetings between buyers and sellers.

Michael Hyon Johnson Named Director of Operations for ElectricNow

Los Angeles-based production and distribution company Electric Entertainment has brought on Michael Hyon Johnson as director of operations for ElectricNow, its OTT app and FAST channel.

Johnson previously spent two years as manager of TV and streaming operations at Electric Entertainment.

“We are thrilled to welcome back Michael into the Electric Entertainment family,” Dean Devlin, CEO of Electric Entertainment, said in a statement. “His return to the company brings fresh perspectives, expanded skills and valuable experiences. With the addition of Michael’s acute acumen, we are excited to continue ElectricNOW’s tremendous growth and advancement.”

In his new role, Johnson will manage all aspects of ElectricNow, including but not limited to, the day-to-day overall maintenance of the app and channel. He will serve as the main point of contact for all platform operations and programming as well as liaise with major streaming platforms such as Amazon Freevee, The Roku Channel, Sling and Xumo, and CTV and hardware device companies such as Apple TV, FireTV and Samsung. Johnson will report to Steve Saltman, head of domestic sales.

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Prior to re-joining the Electric Entertainment team, Johnson served as director of media production at MLG Attorneys at Law where he conceptualized and developed the creative vision for video projects, led the creative and production teams, and coordinated all aspects of client interviews and on-location shooting sites. Johnson was the video producer for Immortals Esports, where he developed content and wrote concepts for sponsored partners such as Toyota, Progressive and Nitto. Prior to that, Johnson served as content production manager for Koji.

Submissions Open for OTT.X 2023 Social Impact Awards

Submissions are open for the OTT.X 2023 Social Impact Awards.

The Social Impact Awards are designed to “bring to light the visionaries who are breaking down barriers and spreading messages of hope, unity, and acceptance through their video creations.”

Categories include “Full Length Fiction Title,” “Full Length Non Fiction Title,” “Series,” “Short Non Fiction Title” and “Technology Innovation.”

Content must premiere in the United States on an OTT channel or platform and maintain exclusive availability via OTT distribution. The content must also be available in the United States for at least three weeks. The qualifying period for the content is the 12 months ended Oct. 31, 2023.

Submissions can be made here.

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Prospects for FAST, Explosion of OTT Services and Channels Key Topics Discussed at OTT.X Summit

The future prospects of FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) and the problems of content discovery, distribution and monetization with the explosion of OTT services and channels were key topics of discussion for speakers at the OTT.X Summit Aug. 30.

Moderator David Bloom, a senior contributor at Forbes, opened the keynote panel of industry analysts noting that Nielsen recently reported that the number of shows and films available on streaming platforms is up 39% in the past two years and the number of services is up from 118 two years ago to 169. He asked panelists how services could differentiate and compete in such a crowded marketplace.

“You can’t find anything,” said Michael Pachter, managing director of Wedbush Securities. “Somebody’s going to be the consolidator of all this.”

“I think the big guys, a couple will drop out,” said Mike Vorhaus, CEO of Vorhaus Advisors.

“There’ll be some sort of merger. The little guys will do fine.” Though, the ones in the middle won’t, he said.

Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst of nScreenmedia, agreed that smaller players would have an advantage going forward.

“Before internet delivery everything was controlled,” he said. “It was virtually impossible for a really small provider to reach any audience at all, and that changed with internet delivery. And I actually think the opportunities for smaller providers are increasing rather than decreasing.”

The big players are all looking for profitability, he said. “One of the ways they are going about it is they are cutting content and they are raising prices,” he said.

“[Walt Disney Co. CEO] Bob Iger is shameless about this,” he said, noting that Iger said when Disney raised streaming prices virtually no subs left, justifying price increases.

“The big guys, they’ve got a little bit of everything; they can’t go deep on anything — that’s the opportunity,” he said. “Know who your audience is. Know the best way to reach them. And I am reasonably confident you’ll be able to pick up a decent-sized audience. You’ll find your audience.”

Being part of a bundle is a way to survive for streaming services because “they may trip over your channel,” said Laura Martin, managing director and senior internet and media analyst at Needham & Co. Other ways to thrive are to be “super big” to compete with Apple and Amazon or have a “super fandom.” Also, she stressed the need for multiple revenue streams, such as e-commerce, subscription and ads — “all the revenue streams that are possible.”

Dixon suggested finding an audience on YouTube “where there are no boundaries” before building a service.

The analyst panel also addressed the FAST marketplace.

“It’s evergreen and it’s long tale,” noted Vorhaus. “It’s not hits. If you’re making hits for FAST channels you’re going to lose money.”

“They provide content in the same way that traditional TV did, but they’re not traditional TV,” Dixon said. “There are no bandwidth bounds. You can put a channel up, tell the audience about it, have them come to that channel for a week or so and have it go away. You just have so much more flexibility. You need to think about them in a different way. You may have anchor channels that they come back to again and again, but there are also these more ephemeral channels … such as for holidays.”

“It’s impossible to argue with free,” Pachter said, though he questioned whether linear FAST would ultimately be able to compete with AVOD (ad-supported video-on-demand) if content discovery gets easier.

“Ultimately I think AVOD wins,” he said. “I don’t need a channel if I have discovery.”

The growth of FAST channels and whether the hype is justified were topics of discussion for other panelists and speakers as well.

“FAST is being viewed by a large audience and it’s growing,” Srini Ka, co-founder of Amagi, said during the “How Does Fast Become the New Cable TV?” panel.

“We don’t think FAST is overhyped,” Stuart McLean, CEO of FAST Studios, said during the same panel. “Most people think that the FAST viewer is too cheap to pay for cable. The fast viewer is really the heavy video consumer.”

“FAST revenues have grown 20 times in the past three years and are expected to triple again in the next three,” added Carol Hanley, CEO of Whip Media.

Still, speakers noted that the FAST market isn’t the bonanza it used to be.

“There was a perception of FAST as an 1849-style gold rush. … The reality is that that era of FAST over the last two, three years has passed,” said Erick Opeka, president and chief strategy officer at Cineverse.

One side effect of the ad-supported explosion is too much content chasing too few ad units, noted Martin in the earlier analyst panel. “It is a race to the bottom for AVOD and FAST,” she said, as there is no “pricing power” for ads.

Another perennial problem with the explosion of FAST channels and other digital platforms is lack of efficient discovery.

“The FAST system is a big mess,” said panelist Philippe Guelton, chief revenue officer at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, noting the “consumer gets stuck into a platform” or a Roku stick.

Marcy Levitas Hamilton, CEO of TriCoast Worldwide, said getting on platforms, such as a Vizio, is getting harder.

“You have to have the relationship or meet them through someone else,” she said. “A lot of them are closing the door to new vendors.”

Her company has such FAST channels as the horror-focused Dark Matters and the craft-focused Made It Myself TV. Such niche-focused channels make it easier to find an audience and get on platforms, she said. The key she said “is coming up with a great new concept that has an audience already and that you can get the content for.”

OTT.X Summit Taking Place This Week

The two-day 2023 OTT.X Summit opens this week in Los Angeles on Aug. 30 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

The event features a keynote panel of industry analysts, as well as the panels “AI and Opportunities for OTT Streaming” and “How Does FAST Become the New Cable TV?”

The summit also includes a “Research Roundup” of eight presentations, providing the latest findings and insights in OTT from research institutions including BB Media, Comscore, nScreenMedia, Omdia, Parrot Analytics, Pepperdine University, Screen Engine/ASI and Vorhaus Advisors.

Other activities for this year’s summit include a showroom floor with key OTT players, one-on-one pre-scheduled and ad-hoc business meetings, the Heroes of OTT.X Award ceremony, networking breakfasts, lunches, and industry cocktail parties.

The OTT.X Summit is free for all OTT.X members and $500 for non-members. Register here.

Access for the 2023 OTT.X Livestream costs $250 and is free for all OTT.X members. Workshop sessions will not be available for viewing on the livestream.

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Study: Despite Subscriber Declines, Pay-TV Revenue Still Dwarfs OTT

Linear pay-TV may be in a freefall regarding subscriber losses, but the market still commands a strong pole position against over-the-top video distribution in access revenue, according to a new report from Convergence Research.

The report estimates that 2022 U.S. cable, satellite and telco TV access revenue declined 6% to $85.8 billion in 2022 and forecasts a 9% decline in 2023 (ARPU should grow 3%) and 13% in 2025.
 
Based on an analysis of more than 80 OTT services (more than 50 providers), led by Netflix, Disney/Hulu, HBO Max and Prime Video, the report projects that U.S. OTT access revenue will grow 21% to $62.7 billion in 2023 from $49.6 billion in 2022, with another 13% spike to $72 billion in 2025.
 
Convergence notes the OTT video revenue hike will be split between programmers and independents. Programmers face a complicated trajectory not only in terms of competition and profitability but in balancing linear and OTT programming, advertising, and theatrical distribution.  
 
 
U.S. OTT household penetration, subscriptions per household, and net OTT subscriptions continue to progressively see more moderate annual growth through 2025 — at about 50% of the 2020-22 growth.

“We estimate 2022 saw a decline of 7.37 million U.S. pay-TV subscribers, and we forecast a decline of 8.44 million TV subs in 2023; hence U.S. TV subscribers declined by 11% in 2022, and we forecast 14% in 2023 and 16% in 2025,” Convergence’s Brahm Eiley wrote in a post. 
 
The company estimates that at the end of 2022, almost 70 million U.S. households (over 53% of households) did not have a TV subscription with a pay-TV provider — a percentage that should increase to 72% of domestic households by 2025. 
 
The report finds that 3.2 million U.S. residential broadband subscribers were added in 2022 and revenue grew 6.5% to $84.8 billion.
 
“We forecast higher sub additions and slightly lower revenue growth for 2023,” Eiley wrote. “While cable continues to maintain the lions’ share of residential broadband subs, its annual share of net additions has fallen precipitously, a trendline we project will continue through 2025 due primarily to T-Mobile and Verizon.”

Digital TV Research: Streaming Video Revenue to Top $235 Billion by 2028

Worldwide over-the -top video revenue is set to reach $235 billion by 2028, driven by growing consumer adoption of ad-supported VOD (AVOD) and free ad-supported streaming television (FAST), according to analysis from Digital TV Research.

Streaming video revenue would increase $81 billion from $154 billion in 2022. About $17 billion will be added alone in 2023.

AVOD is projected to grow faster than SVOD. AVOD revenue would reach $91 billion, up by $50 billion from $41 billion. This growth would be nearly twice as much as SVOD.

“From the 138 countries covered, the top five will command two-thirds of global revenues by 2028,” analyst Simon Murray said in a statement. “This proportion is down from 73% in 2022, revealing that the rest of the world will grow faster.”

The United States, as expected, will remain the dominant territory. Its share of global revenue will be 41% by 2028. U.S. revenue will climb by $25 billion between 2022 and 2028 to reach $97 billion.

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FilmRise Acquires OTT Rights to ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Hemlock Grove’

New York-based film, and television studio and streaming network FilmRise has acquired the distribution rights to two of Gaumont’s Emmy Award-nominated series, “Hannibal” and “Hemlock Grove.” The deal allows FilmRise to distribute both programs on the FilmRise branded OTT apps in the United States. 

The deal includes all three seasons — 39 episodes — of “Hannibal” and all three seasons — 33 episodes — of “Hemlock Grove.”

“Hannibal”

“Hannibal,” created and written by Bryan Fuller, explores the early relationship between renowned psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and a young FBI criminal profiler (Hugh Dancy), who is haunted by his ability to empathize with serial killers. The series stars Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford and Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier.

“Hemlock Grove,” based on Brian McGreevy’s best-selling debut novel of the same name, premiered on Netflix in 2013 and stars Famke Janssen (“X-Men”) and Bill Skarsgard (“It”). The series examines the strange secrets and happenings that are a part of daily life in the small Pennsylvania town of Hemlock Grove, where the darkest evils hide in plain sight.

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“These beloved horror series are welcome additions to FilmRise. Bryan Fuller’s ‘Hannibal’ was a creative achievement for network TV when it launched on NBC, as was ‘Hemlock Grove’ as one of Netflix’s early original series,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions for FilmRise, said in a statement. “We are excited to be among the first truly free streaming destinations to offer these shows.”

“We are excited to be working with FilmRise on the distribution of two of our most popular series,” Nicolas Atlan, president of Gaumont USA, said in a statement. “Their network’s audience reach has grown exponentially over the years, and we are happy that we can offer, through this deal, the opportunity for old and new fans to watch these series.”

Parks: 83% of U.S. Internet Households Subscribe to at Least One OTT Service

A solid majority — 83% — of U.S. internet households now subscribe to at least one OTT service, according to new consumer research from Parks Associates. Meanwhile, 45% still subscribe to a traditional linear pay-TV service.

The firm’s new white paper, “Engaging Next-Gen Video Viewers: Leveraging AI and ML,” developed in partnership with FPT Software, addresses the increased use of video services, content preferences, discovery challenges and the role of bundles.

“The most successful video services going forward will be dominated by innovative technologies, including AI [artificial intelligence] and ML [machine learning], that drive sustained high levels of engagement with consumers through advanced content moderation and curation,” Sarah Lee, research analyst at Parks Associates, said in a statement

AI and ML can create a personal experience by leveraging data to understand patterns and relationships at a very granular level, beyond recommendations that “standard” big-data-based systems, according to Parks.

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“There is a vast range of AI and ML use cases in media and entertainment — companies are only starting to scratch the surface,” Ira Dworkin, managing director of communications, media and entertainment for FPT Software, said in a statement. “These can range from generating richer metadata that can be used to drive experiences to reducing time required for content preparation to driving deeper advertising engagement. Leveraging and extending the data that already exists for many M&E companies to build bespoke AI/ML models can help to drive new insights, ultimately reducing churn and improving subscriber loyalty.”

Parks Associates research finds that 30% of U.S. internet households are “service hoppers” or streaming video subscribers who frequently switch services and re-subscribe multiple times. Businesses that harness AI can develop more effective and efficient strategies to keep these viewers from “hopping,” according to Parks.

“By understanding the viewer on a deeper, personal level, businesses can deliver a more positive, individualized experience that drives acquisition, satisfaction, and retention,” Lee said in a statement. “AI and ML models can provide this understanding and identify factors that result in higher customer acquisition and long-term subscriptions.”

Netflix Still on Top in Terms of Original Content, with 37% of All Movies and Shows

Netflix remains the leader among streaming services in producing original content, according to a proprietary study from BB Media commissioned by Media Play News.

The study identified a total of 8,877 original titles in the United States across 41 streaming platforms, of which 4,950 are films and 3,927 are series. The majority of these original movies and shows are distributed through the SVOD model (8,028), followed by AVOD (812) and FAST (465).

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Among streaming services with the biggest offer of original productions, Netflix leads with 3,260 titles, or nearly 37% of the total original-content output. It is followed by HBO Max (1,747 titles); Yupp TV (633 titles), an OTT content provider for South Asian programming, including live television and films, with recording and storage features; IQIYI (458 titles), the big Chinese online video platform based in Beijing and Shanghai; and Amazon’s Prime Video (391 titles).

When analyzing streaming platforms with the most hours of original content, the ranking remains almost the same, except for Prime Video displacing IQIYI in fourth place, and Shudder at No. 5.

Comparing the number of original titles launched in 2020 and 2021, Netflix also leads.

This year, between January and October 2022, Netflix launched 995 original titles, HBO Max released 105, and Prime Video issued 96 titles.

The BB Media/Media Play News study found that HBO’s “House of the Dragon” and “Game of Thrones” are tied at No. 1 in terms of viewer preference. Prime Video’s “The Rings of Power” landed in second place and Disney+ came in third with “She-Hulk.” Netflix’s “Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” was No. 4.

BB Media is a data science company focused on media and entertainment. The company monitors more than 3,800 streaming services across 240 countries and regions, their prices, plans, bundles and commercial offers. BB Media has offices in Miami, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and São Paulo.