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.”

Research: U.S. Broadband-Only Households to Grow to 40.8 Million by 2023

Broadband-only U.S. households are set to grow from 23.3 million in 2018 to 40.8 million by 2023, according to estimates from Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“The steep upward trend of due to ‘cord-cutting’ is not surprising given the abundance of online video services on the market, although this could be a circular argument, with more companies jumping on the streaming video bandwagon in response to the growing broadband-only market,” said Tony Lenoir, senior Kagan research analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence, in a statement.

Kagan expects the segment of broadband homes without a traditional multichannel subscription to account for nearly one-third of U.S. households in the next five years.

Kagan findings show that over-the-top (OTT) products, whether subscription video on demand, direct-to-consumer or virtual multichannel, are offered at competitive prices which is a major factor fueling cord-cutting. Other reasons for the strong projection of broadband-only growth include the ease of joining and cancelling online streaming services, Kagan found. They typically do not require contracts.

“The value proposition of streaming video services touches a chord with the average consumer,” Lenoir said in a statement. “The vast majority of streaming services offer free trial periods, effectively allowing consumers to shop around while bypassing hardware hassles associated with legacy video distribution. This coupled with the fact that streaming services are typically screen-agnostic and seamlessly portable, offer individual, customized consumption for customers.”

Additional findings include:

  • Kagan expects broadband-only homes, or households without a traditional multichannel video package, but a subscription to wireline broadband, to rise at an 11.9% compound annual growth rate from 2018 to 2023.
  • Broadband-only homes are set to account for 41.7% of wireline broadband households by 2023. Kagan expects cable and telco broadband to serve nearly 75% of U.S. households by that time.

Research: 310 Million Global Connected Households to Have at Least One OTT Service by 2024

More than 310 million connected households will at least one OTT service by 2024, according to a new report from Parks Associates.

The report, OTT Video Services: Disruptive Globalization, estimates approximately 200 million households had at least one OTT service at home at the end of 2018.

“The U.S. leads in adoption of subscription OTT services, but other regions are experiencing significant growth as new services expand across borders,” said Brett Sappington, Parks Associates senior research director, in a statement. “Content producers and OTT service providers want to capture audiences, and revenues, worldwide. As a result, Western Europe and other global markets will experience more rapid subscriber growth than North America over the next few years.”

Global audiences also represent unique challenges that OTT providers must understand and navigate in order to be successful, Parks noted. Device preferences, for example, vary significantly from country to country — while U.S. households prefer smart TVs or streaming media devices, Canadians more often use game consoles than the Americans, and in Asia, smartphones and mobile-only devices are most prevalent, according to Parks. In many nations, connected households have mobile high-speed services only, with no access to fixed services, Parks noted. Other factors, including regulations, business models, viewing habits, and service mix, are also key areas of consideration.

“Ultimately, the success or failure of a service relies on the quality of its content library, but small variations in pricing and user experience can cause significant adoption differences across countries,” Sappington said. “For example, HBO has tested its OTT service with pricing tailored to specific regions, with variances from Spain to the Nordic countries to the U.S. This level of experimentation will continue in the near term as service providers and content creators continue to test and tweak to find the right formula for pricing, content, and service quality for each region.”

Additional findings from the report include:

  • Roku is the streaming media device supporting the most OTT services (66% of all available) in the U.S.
  • Nearly two-thirds of OTT services available in the U.S. are available in at least one additional market.
  • Bollywood’s T-Series YouTube channel has 74 million subscribers.
  • 70% of broadband households in the U.S., 64% in Canada, and 52% in the U.K. have at least one OTT service.

EMA Growing Membership Commitment and Expanding Into OTT, Says CEO

LAS VEGAS — The Entertainment Merchants Association hailed the growing commitment of its membership at a meeting Jan. 8 during CES.

“The engagement of our members over the past year I think is more than we’ve ever seen,” said president and CEO Mark Fisher.

“It’s been an interesting year in the industry and for our association,” he said, noting the growth of digital purchase storage locker Movies Anywhere and the expansion and churn in the OTT space (including pending streaming services from Disney and WarnerMedia).

“We initiated a focus on OTT channels” in the past year, he said, in addition to EST and disc, which “is not dead.”

He noted that the EMA had a “very successful OTT conference” at the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit in July, which had to downsize its budget.

The organization “learned how to operate a conference at lower cost,” during the July 2018 LAES.

But the EMA is focused on the entertainment delivery systems of the future. Fisher noted that, in July, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, the EMA and MovieLabs formed the Digital Supply Chain Alliance to strengthen the digital supply chain.

“That alliance have proven to show really rapid results,” he said.

Mitch Mallon, CEO of Stadium Media and chair of the digital EMA steering committee, added that EMA digital membership has grown, digital events have expanded and that the committee has created six white papers.

In the coming year, the committee “will be focusing on how OTT is starting to move out into the European marketplace,” he said, including launching a new project to list digital platforms around the world.

Steve Apple, VP, industry sales at the EMA, moderated a discussion on the OTT market.

Panelist Jason Peterson, CEO of GoDigital Media Group, noted that international markets and cultures require a different approach, including mobile, non-cash, non-banked payment opportunities.

“We’ve really focused on the Hispanic audience,” he said.

Panelist Tricia Lee, SVP, product and development, Sony New Media Solutions, noted that focusing on a rabid fan base can be key in the OTT space, referencing her work building Funimation’s service, which has “hyper-attention fans” in the anime space.

The key is authenticity, she said, adding consumers “are looking for shared experiences, and it has to be authentic.”

Services “need culturally significant content to cut through that clutter,” Peterson added.

Netflix Appoints Neumann CFO

Netflix has hired Spencer Neumann, previously CFO of Activision Blizzard, as its new CFO, replacing David Wells, the company announced.

Wells had served as Netflix CFO since 2010.

“Spencer is a stellar entertainment executive and we’re thrilled that he will help us provide amazing stories to people all over the world,” said Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in a statement. “I also want to again say thank you to David Wells, on behalf of the company and our shareholders, for his invaluable contributions at Netflix over the past 14 years.”

“Netflix is a singular brand, and I’m excited and honored for the opportunity to work with the Netflix team and all of our stakeholders to build on the company’s exceptional track record of success and innovation,” said Neumann in a statement.

Neumann served as Activision Blizzard’s CFO from May 2017. Prior to that, Neumann held a number of positions of increasing responsibility at The Walt Disney Co., most recently serving as the CFO and EVP of global guest experience of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, from 2012 until May 2017. From 2005 to 2012, Neumann worked at the private equity firms of Providence Equity Partners and Summit Partners. Prior to that, he held several other roles with Disney, which he initially joined in 1992, including EVP of the ABC Television Network from 2001 to 2004 and CFO of the Walt Disney Internet Group from 1999 to 2001.

Neumann is also a member of the national board of directors of Make-A-Wish America and holds a B.A. in economics and an M.B. A., both from Harvard University.

DC Universe SVOD Service Offers Holiday Discount, Will Bow Titles Same Day as Disc

DC Universe animated movies will be available on the DC Universe SVOD service the same day as each title’s 4K and Blu-Ray combo pack release beginning Jan. 29 with Reign of the Supermen, the service announced.

Also, DC Universe (dcuniverse.com), which launched Sept. 15 and showcases DC comic book characters, is offering membership discounts for U.S. subscribers for a limited time. Viewers can get the first three months of membership at $3.99 per month (regularly $7.99 per month) or a full year for $59.99 (regularly $74.99) plus taxes through Dec. 20 at dcuniverse.com/join.

From Dec. 14-24 DC Universe members have a chance to participate in 10 days of gifts directly from favorite characters. Ten winners will have the chance to win one of 10 prizes, to be revealed each day, featuring DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains such as Batman, The Joker, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman and The Flash.

Other new DC animated movies coming in 2019 include Reign of the Supermen, due Jan. 29, plus Justice League vs The Fatal Five and Batman: Hush.

Also, DC Universe has released the final trailer for the first season finale of original series “Titans,” which will include the face off of Robin vs. Batman. The finale debuts Dec. 21, on which date all episodes from season one will be available to binge.

In the three months since its debut, “Titans” has been viewed by 97% of members, according to the service.

Other series available to binge include “Green Lantern: The Animated Series,” starting Jan. 1, and “Batman (1989),” “Batman Returns,” “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin.”

Members have read 2.7 million comics on the service to date, with viewers reading comics that relate directly to the video content they are viewing, according to the service.

“This early glimpse at how our members are engaging with DC Universe points to why fans joining the digital service are not just video viewers; they are reading comics, participating in the community, and winning rewards on a service that allows them to not only stream exciting series and movies but share their fandom in a place that is all their own,” said Sam Ades, SVP and GM, DC Digital Services.

The “DC Daily” show, which has released a new episode every weekday since launch, is among the most-watched programs on a daily basis, according to the service. Guests have included Kevin Smith, Minka Kelly, Brian Michael Bendis, Caity Lotz, Jesse Rath and Paul Dini.

Since going live, the service has run weekly sweepstakes giving away rewards to members, including a tour of DC, a ride in the Batmobile, a trip to the Aquaman movie premiere, tickets to screenings across the country, and hundreds of books, posters, toys and more.

The DC Universe service is available in the United States on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV and the Roku platform, as well as the web and mobile web.

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.

Cinedigm to Launch Service for OTT Operators and Content Distributors

Cinedigm is planning to launch matchpoint, a managed-service technology platform that “enables content distributors, OTT service operators, web publishers, and OEMs to efficiently and cost-effectively create compelling OTT and media subscription services,” according to a company press release.

The service will be offered at “competitive pricing to suit the unique needs of potential customers,” and will be available for preview at the upcoming CES in Las Vegas at the Mirage Hotel from January 8-11, according to the company.

Features of the platform include OTT applications; support for mixed-media content types, including music, streaming audio, linear video channels, podcasts, audiobooks, eBooks, digital comics and magazines; support for third-party distribution, offering distribution channels into third-party ecosystems such as Amazon Channels and virtual MVPDs; and systems analytics, detailing  content consumption and content performance analysis, subscriber growth management along with churn prediction and cohort analysis, marketing performance and attribution management, user engagement and user retention tracking, territorial and device penetration analysis, ad fill rates and ad performance monitoring, customer service and ticket management, and quality of service monitoring.

In development for more than four years, matchpoint serves as the platform for the management and operation of Cinedigm’s portfolio of OTT channels. The company recently utilized the matchpoint Dispatch distribution module to automate the delivery of more than 5,000 hours of digital programming to third-party partners, including the launch of Dove Channel on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 platform, which resulted in a 93% cost savings and completion of delivery in less than a third of the time it would have taken with third-party vendors, according to the release.

“From the rise of third-party distribution to the evolving needs of consumers, the OTT space looks very different than it did three years ago,” said Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Networks, in a statement. “However, most vendors have not been able to keep pace with these innovative developments. We created the matchpoint platform to address the key challenge facing the OTT space — creating a product that is cost effective and at the same time efficient in delivering great content experiences globally on any platform — be it an app, virtual vMVPD, or third-party ecosystem.

“With the introduction of matchpoint, we are now able to more effectively and easily meet the growing demands of the OTT business. Additionally, we have significantly decreased our time-to-market output, while reducing the many challenges that arise with the digital distribution of multiple types of media through automation — providing fast deployment and extensive support for a wide variety of media and mediums.”

The service will be commercially available to customers beginning in fiscal Q1 2019, according to the release.