Philo Now Streaming via Google Chromecast

Online TV service Philo July 31 announced that its Android app is now Chromecast-enabled. Users can stream the $20 monthly service on TV by casting from the app. The distribution is part of “Philo Connect,” a new campaign enabling video casting from any Android mobile device to any Chromecast or Chromecast-supported TV.

San Francisco-based Philo plans to add Philo Connect to more devices including iOS, Web, FireTV, and Roku.

“We took the time to build Philo Connect to expand our experience to support synchronized viewing on all media devices, not just Chromecast,” Devon Ray Williams, head of product, Philo TV, said in a statement.

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The announcement comes on the heels of a busy year for Philo, which includes the addition of three new channels (TV One, get TV, INSP); the launch of add-on channels (Epix and Starz); a partnership with the National Urban League; and the donation of $1 million in video ad inventory for Black-owned businesses and social justice initiatives to run spots on Philo free of charge.

Philo Adds TV One Channel to Service

Philo has added the TV One channel to its lineup of 60-plus channels for $20 per month. It marks TV One’s first vMVPD distribution deal.

Philo subscribers can watch a broad range of real-life and entertainment-focused original programming on TV One, including classic series, movies and music aimed at adult black viewers, including original series “Unsung”; “Uncensored,” a docu-series exploring the intimate lives of some of today’s most notable personalities; “ATL Homicide”; and “Fatal Attraction.”

The addition of TV One will align with Philo’s lineup that includes recently added INSP and getTV, according to the service. Philo’s programming line-up also features networks including A&E, AMC, BET, CLEO TV, Comedy Central, HGTV, ID, Lifetime, MTV, Nickelodeon, OWN, ASPIRE, VH1 and Revolt.

“We are excited to have TV One’s first vMVPD distribution deal be with Philo,” said TV One and CLEO TV GM Michelle Rice, in a statement. “They have been a great partner and continue to demonstrate a commitment to diverse content.”

“What a great time to bring TV One onto the platform as it has been a highly requested network from our customers for quite some time, and we are excited to bring this sought-after content to our subscribers. We’re proud to be the first vMVPD to offer TV One while maintaining our best-in-class price point of $20 per month,” said Philo CEO Andrew McCollum in a statement. “Adding more diverse programming aligns with our continued commitment to our community. The addition of TV One is the result of our appreciation for the importance of Black-owned channels and content perspectives to our overall business objectives, which in turn create opportunities for diverse creators.”

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Philo’s ethos of “TV for Everyone” includes valuing the broader community and recognizing the responsibility to help accelerate progress by actively dissolving systemic inequity across the board, according to the service’s press release.

Initiatives that align with Philo’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) principles include:

  • a partnership with the National Urban League to create a three-part “Power Lunch Series: How to Build Your Brand”;
  • donating $1 million worth of video ad inventory for Black-owned businesses and social initiatives to run spots on Philo free of charge;
  • working with programming partners and the Ad Council to air anti-racism PSAs across the platform; and
  • a commitment to Black-owned content, including TV One.

 

Last month Philo added INSP and getTV networks to their base package. The network getTV features classic shows and Westerns such as “Good Times,” “Walker Texas Ranger,” “Hot in Cleveland” and “Bret Maverick.” INSP features Western and Western-adjacent content such as the original series “The Cowboy Way,” with a seventh season premiering July 29.

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To access Philo, fans can trial and subscribe at philo.com, free for seven days. Philo allows three separate streams on three different devices and everyone who shares the account can create their own profile and have their own sign-in credentials, saved shows and viewing history. Philo features a streamlined interface, intelligent search, and the ability to easily send your favorite shows to friends. All Philo subscribers can watch their favorite shows live from wherever they are in the United States on most web, mobile and TV streaming devices, including Apple TV, FireTV and Roku. Additionally, subscribers can take advantage of 30-day unlimited-storage DVR at no additional cost, and watch thousands of shows and movies on demand.

YouTube TV Extends Free Trial Period

Google-owned online television service YouTube TV is extending its free trial period to 14 days through Jan. 15. The service with more than 1 million subscribers had offered new members a free seven-day trial period.

Launched in 2016, YouTube TV costs $49.99 monthly featuring 70 channels, including most major sports networks. The channel has been a presenting sponsor of the MLB World Series.

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YouTube TV is less expensive than Hulu with Live TV and fuboTV ($54.99) and AT&T Now ($64.99), but costs more than Sling TV ($30) and Philo TV ($20).

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Sling TV Offsets Q3 Dish Subscriber Losses

Sling TV is back.

Dish Network Nov. 7 said it added 214,000 Sling subscribers in the third quarter, ended Sept. 30. That compared to a gain of 26,000 Sling subs in the previous-year period. Sling ended the period with 2.69 million subs, up 13.5% from 2.37 million subs at the same time last year.

Launched in 2015 as the first standalone online TV service, Sling helped create a market that now includes YouTube TV, AT&T TV Now, Philo TV and Fubo TV, among others.

Meanwhile, the legacy Dish satellite TV service continued to shrink, losing 66,000 subs in the period, a significant improvement from 367,000 subs lost last year. Dish ended the period with 9.49 million Dish subs, down from 10.28 million subs at the same time last year.

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Net pay-TV subs increased approximately 148,000 subs in the third quarter, compared to a decline of approximately 341,000 subs in the third quarter of 2018. To mitigate pay-TV sub losses, Dish unveiled a Flex Pack skinny bundle consisting of more than 50 channels and the choice of one of 10 themed add-on channel packs, which include, among others, local broadcast networks and kids and general entertainment programming.

“While we plan to implement these and other new marketing efforts for our Dish TV services, there can be no assurance that we will ultimately be successful in increasing our gross new Dish TV subscriber activations,” the company disclosed in its regulatory filing.

Philo TV Ups Basic Subscription Price 25%

Online TV service Philo TV is ending its longstanding $16 monthly plan (with pay-TV 45 channels) for its $20 plan with 58 channels, beginning May 6 for all new subscribers.

Subscribers who join the service before May 6 and existing subs will not see immediate fee hikes to their basic plans but will instead be grandfathered into the new price point over time.

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CEO Andrew McCollum made the announcement in a post on the service’s website.

“Since we launched 18 months ago, most of the other companies in our space have raised their prices, in some cases multiple times,” McCollum said. “We didn’t want to do that. Still, when we looked at all of the costs of operating Philo — which increase over time — consolidating into a single $20 package was the best way for us to maintain the same offering we have today without raising prices for everyone or having to cut back in places we strive to excel, like customer support.”

The price hikes comes as Hulu with Live TV raised its prices, followed by Google-owned YouTube TV. DirecTV Now, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue have all raised basic subscription plan pricing in recent months.

Philo is also reportedly working on technology that would allow users to share links with friends and watch programming concurrently from different locations.

Doing so could elevate social media interactions between users – a driving point for user retention and marketing. While the app has been completed, McCollum said Philo is waiting to launch it.

“We want to balance creating more options with making sure people don’t feel like they’re being coerced into stuff they don’t care about,” McCollum told TechCrunch earlier this year.

 

Summit Explores OTT’s Promise and Pitfalls

The opportunities and pitfalls of the over-the-top market were the leading subjects of the OTT & Video Distribution Summit taking place Aug. 2 in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Consumers are cutting the cord with their cable companies and moving to OTT because of its superior value, including better choice and lower cost.

“Consumers have basically said, ‘We’re paying too much. I don’t want to watch all those channels,’” said panelist Mickey Alpert, president and CEO, Merisco Solutions, and former EVP at Cablevision.

“Cable companies are literally the most hated companies in America,” said keynote speaker Jeff Binder, EVP, home and entertainment, T-Mobile U.S., because they are regional monopolies and don’t have to cater to customers.

In addition to OTT services peeling away video subscribers, another threat to cable is the coming 5G technology, which will be a “game-changing technology,” he said. Cable companies that have been able to lean on broadband fees, even as cord cutters have eschewed buying a video subscription, may find customers can get rid of broadband with 5G.

“There are changes around connectivity that are coming that are probably a bigger story in some ways I think than the story about how the content industry is changing,” Binder said.

“4G changed the way all of you use your phone; 5G is going to change the way all of us use our home as well as our phone,” he said.

For now, though, it’s the chance to get the content they want at a lower price that is drawing consumers to OTT services.

“Customers value choice and flexibility,” said panelist Kathy Payne, head of content acquisition management, Amazon Channels. “At Amazon, we’ve decided we’d like to offer channels a la carte.”

Amazon Channels aggregates such OTT subscription services as HBO, Showtime and Starz. There are more than 150 channels offered in the United States, Payne said, not to mention the hundreds available internationally.

“We’ve heard from customers loud and clear that they like the option to just buy channels a la carte,” she said. “It’s really easy to come in and pick what they want.”

In addition to a la carte there are bundled OTT services that are making a go of it, such as Philo, which started in colleges. “It’s a TV package that hasn’t really been available before. [It’s a service] without paying this huge amount for sports,” noted keynoter Andrew McCollum, Philo CEO.

There are also ad-supported services that offer programming to consumers for free. Roku Channel has aggregated some of those. Roku’s Seth Walters, VP, demand partnerships, called it “our sandbox for creating our most premium ad-supported service on Roku.”

Making a go of it as a new OTT service is a challenge. The number of domestic OTT services has reached more than 200, with the three top players dominating, noted Brett Sappington, senior director of research, Parks Associates.

“It’s Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and everybody else,” he said, adding there is a second tier of services, such as HBO, Showtime, Starz and CBS, that range from 1 million to 5 million subscribers.

A smaller service must differentiate itself and appeal to a niche, rather than try to compete with the big pocketed broad services offered by Netflix and others, he said.

“If you cannot specifically identify who your customers are then you’re probably not going to be successful,” he said.

Offering exclusive or new content helps, as consumers rank new release or original content as most important, according to Parks research.

Many OTT services overlook marketing, and that’s a mistake, Sappington said. Startups “don’t realize the marketing costs involved,” he said.

He praised the marketing efforts of independent film streaming service Fandor, mentioned in a panel at the summit. Panelist Felice Oper, COO of Fandor, said they had sold 290,000 subscriptions through a Costco bundle with subscription theater ticket service MoviePass in just two and a half months.

“It was a very successful transaction,” Oper said. “We’re still working with Costco.”

Keynoter Darcy Antonellis, of Amdocs-owned Vubiquity, talked about the international reach of the OTT business and the services her company supplies it, noting her team is often on a plane.

“We all have to be thinking global,” she said.

“It’s all about understanding where the audiences are,” she added. “It’s an on-demand world, but it has to be in a form and a language for a particular culture.”

She offered an anecdote about a viewing spike at 3 p.m. that they found involved parents waiting for their kids to get out of school. She said the industry must start to understand how to service consumers when and where they need entertainment.

A prominent woman in the industry, she also addressed the dearth of women in the entertainment and technology business. Having mentored girls 8-13, she noticed, “You could almost set your watch, because of peer pressure, when they were gonna shut off STEM [science, technology, engineering and math].”

“It’s a real challenge for our country,” she said. “You don’t want any room as smart as one brain, and you don’t want any room as smart as a collection of similar brains.”

Sling TV Subscriber Growth Slowing

Dish Network Aug.3 reported that its pioneering online TV service, Sling TV, ended the second quarter (ended June 30) with 2.344 million subscribers – marginally more than the 2.3 million subs reported at the end of Q1.

The satellite TV operator launched Sling TV in 2015 as the first standalone online TV service, and first platform offering access to premium TV channels outside of the traditional linear bundle, including ESPN.

The market now includes Sony PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Philo TV, Spectrum TV Plus, Hulu Live TV, Fubo TV and AT&T’s WatchTV.

Dish said it added 41,000 Sling TV subs in the Q2, down from about 91,000 sub additions in Q1. The company closed Q2 with 10.653 million Dish TV subs. When combined with Sling TV, Dish ended the period with 12.997 million total pay-TV subs compared to 13.332 million pay-TV subs in the previous-year period.

Indeed, Dish lost 335,000 net subscribers in the period compared to 196,000 subs in the last year’s period. Lone improvement: annual monthly churn rate dropped to 1.46% versus 1.83% for second quarter 2017.