Pluto TV Gets Major League Soccer

Pluto TV May 13 announced the launch of the Major Leaguer Soccer (MLS) channel on the ad-supported streaming video platform.

San Francisco-based Pluto said the move underscored what it claims is the sport of soccer’s strong appeal with cord-cutters and millennial consumers.

“Establishing our first league offering with a renowned and respected organization like the MLS is the perfect match,” Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships for Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Expanding Pluto TV’s sports offerings has long been a goal of the platform.”

Highlights of the available programming include classic matches, such as MLS Cup 2018 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s debut for the LA Galaxy, a 4-3 win over crosstown rivals LAFC.

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Original features on offer will include “The Movement,” which explores the intersection of soccer and culture, and “The Birth of a Rivalry,” MLS’s flagship series about the passion of new rivalries.

Additional programming includes “Matchday Central,” featuring expert analysis from MLS personalities; “Extratimedriven by Continental,” a twice-weekly talk show; “MLS Review,” a weekly show; and highlights including “Top 10 Plays” and “All Goals,” amongst others.

“Major League Soccer’s agreement with Pluto TV offers fans a new way to experience the game and interact with our high-quality content,” said Chris Schlosser, SVP of media at MLS. “Major League Soccer is always evaluating new opportunities to provide our young, diverse and tech savvy fan base increased access to our matches, athletes and clubs.”

MLS’ new channel will join Pluto TV’s 100+ live, linear, curated channels and thousands of movies on demand from nearly 150 major studios, networks, publishers and digital first outfits.

Viewers and fans can access Pluto TV in the living room by utilizing Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku, Android TV, Chromecast, on Smart TVs by Vizio, Hisense, and Sony, or on gaming consoles such as PS4. It is also available on-the-go via apps for iOS, Android, and Amazon, at-the-fingertips on PC and Mac, or on the web at www.Pluto.TV.

Paramount Home Entertainment Ups Q2 Domestic Revenue 3%

Paramount Home Entertainment May 10 reported second-quarter (ended March 31) domestic revenue of $104 million, up 3% from revenue of almost $101 million during the previous-year period. International revenue fell 19% to $50 million from $61.7 million.

Overall, home entertainment revenue dipped 5.6% to $154 million from revenue of $163 million last fiscal year. Revenue through the first-half of the fiscal year is down about 4% to $332 million from $346 million.

The studio’s top-selling disc, Instant Family, has sold almost $4 million in combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units since its March 5 retail bow.

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Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures reported its ninth straight quarter of improved operating income to $29 million, which was up 222% from operating income of $13 million during the previous-year period.

Theatrical revenue leapfrogged 244% to $172 million from $70.5 million last year and largely driven by Bumblebee. Domestic revenue increased 144% to $66 million while international revenue increased to $106 million.

Separately, Nickelodeon’s child-based subscription streaming video service Noggin topped 2.5 million subscribers globally. Noggin, Nick Hits, Comedy Central Now and MTV Hits will be offered as Apple TV Channels on the new Apple TV app for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV later this month, on Samsung this spring and on Mac this fall.

In April, Paramount+ signed its first Latin American partnership with NET in Brazil and Claro video in the rest of Latin America, including on mobile.

At the end of April, monthly active users grew to approximately 16 million, up 31% from 12 million since December 2018.

Viacom also announced several new distribution and content deals. Comcast is adding Pluto TV in its Xfinity Flex service, and Pluto TV will be coming to Xfinity X1 soon. Grew roster of 150+ content partners with recent additions of CNN, BBC and Major League Soccer.

The company is launching Pluto Latino, its U.S. Hispanic channels, in July. International plans include launches in Latin America and Switzerland, and expansion in the U.K., Germany and Austria.

Viacom Adds Flagship Networks to Pluto TV, Announces Slate of Original Digital Programming

Viacom Inc. announced the introduction of its flagship networks to Pluto TV’s channel lineup and a new slate of original digital programming during its second-annual NewFront event at the PlayStation Theater April 29.

BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon will debut channels on ad-supported Pluto TV May 1, according to a Viacom press release, with content from Viacom’s library in three categories of branded channels: co-branded flagship channels that are curated versions of Viacom’s leading networks; signature channels with the most celebrated and diversified programming from each brand; and pop-up channels that deliver binge-worthy series in marathon-style airings, starting with MTV’s “The Hills” — in time for the revival series “The Hills: New Beginnings” premiering June 24.

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“We are thrilled to expand the Pluto TV offering with the addition of Viacom’s world-class channel brands and iconic programming. This is a major step forward in our mission of entertaining the planet,” said Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, in a statement. “Viacom has been entertaining audiences for decades with evergreen content that is bold, daring and inspires worldwide fandom. These channels are guaranteed to provide endless entertainment to both new and existing Pluto TV viewers.”

Viacom Digital Studios will produce new and returning original series around major tentpole events, linear franchises and popular digital shows from Awesomeness, BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, according to a Viacom release.

“Viacom is also teaming up with big-name stars and fan-favorite digital talent to deliver entirely new programming across Facebook, Snap, Twitter and YouTube for Viacom’s more than 880 million fans — the largest social footprint among entertainment companies,” according to the release.

The new content slate includes:

  • “How to Survive: A Break-Up,” in which Eva Gutowski stars in an AwesomenessTV scripted romantic comedy series;
  • “Black Coffee,” BET’s daily morning talk show starring Marc Lamont Hill that catches up with Black Twitter’s liveliest conversations and features interviews with celebrities, athletes, and social media stars
  • an untitled late-night show from David Spade, Comedy Central’s new late-night show hosted by Spade, which will launch show channels and publish content across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
  • “MTV No Filter: Tana Turns 21,” which follows Tana Mongeau and her crew for a behind-the-scenes look as they navigate vlog life, studio time, partying and the occasional controversy;
  • “SpongeBob Smarty Pants Game Show,”a digital game show from Nickelodeon where two SpongeBob superfans compete to win The Golden Pineapple by answering trivia questions, completing messy stunts and competing in SpongeBob-themed games.

Viacom Takes Paramount+ Streaming Service to Latin America; Inks CNN Content Deal with Pluto TV

Viacom International Media Networks is set to expand the Paramount+ streaming video platform to Latin America.

The SVOD service, which first launched in Scandinavia (in response to HBO Nordics in 2017 and later in Central and Eastern Europe – known as Paramount Play), will become available May 1 in Brazil in a partnership with telecom NET, followed by wider distribution through a mobile deal with America Movil.

Paramount+ affords Viacom and Paramount Pictures international streaming distribution of more than 150 movies and original TV shows, including “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, “The Handmaids’ Tale” (available exclusively on Hulu in the U.S.), in addition to branded content from MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.

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“By forging partnerships with the world’s leading operators and distributors, we are able to bring Viacom’s premium content to new global audiences,” David Lynn, president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, said in a media statement. “As the media landscape continues to evolve, we will aggressively innovate to expand our partner offerings, including Paramount+, across our massive global footprint.”

Indeed, while Paramount+ represents Viacom’s aggressive strategy to close the digital divide with rival studios, following the recent purchase of Pluto TV, Viacom is fortifying the ad-supported VOD platform with proprietary and third-party content.

Pluto TV just announced a new channel launch featuring content from WarnerMedia’s CNN – which itself is planning an OTT video product in 2020.

“At a time when news cycles are never-ending, in a world that is constantly evolving, CNN’s coveted daily reporting and in-depth features are perfect for our audience to be informed, with immediacy, accuracy and ease,” Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships at Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Pluto TV’s mission to ‘entertain the planet’ also means informing the planet of what is going on in the world, and there is no better partner than the most trusted name in news.”

Cinedigm Bows CONtv on AVOD Service Pluto TV

Cinedigm April 16 announced the launch of genre-focused CONtv on the ad-supported online television service Pluto TV.

The latter’s users will have access to CONtv’s library of films, classic TV series and original curated programming as a linear ad-supported version or premium SVOD option.

Launched in 2015, the $4.99 monthly CONtv features access to thousands of hours of content from an eclectic collection that puts the spotlight on elusive cult films and television shows, and genre movies ranging from sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, to anime, grindhouse, and martial arts epics.

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Pluto TV, a Viacom subsidiary, features more than 100 live and linear channels and thousands of movies and TV series on-demand. As part of the deal, Pluto TV’s monthly users will also be able to access Cinedigm’s over-the-top networks (i.e. The Dove Channel, Documrama, etc.) across all streaming, mobile and web-based devices.

This month’s slate of new additions include classics, Hey Vern, It’s Ernest! and Angela Anaconda, as well as art tutorial “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross, thriller Open Windows, starring Elijah Wood, and Selena Gomez in the 2014 rock n’ roll comedy Behaving Badly.

“This launch marks the continuation of Cinedigm’s partnership with Pluto TV, furthering our commitment to redefining the traditional television landscape by offering viewers unique premium programming,” Erick Opeka, president of digital networks at Cinedigm, said in a statement.

“We constantly strive to provide content that appeals to both broad and niche audiences. CONtv delivers this ideal offering to viewers adding greater dimension to Pluto’s extensive library of content,” said Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships for San Franciosco-based Pluto TV.

BBC Studios, Pluto TV Ink Content Deal

BBC Studios and Pluto TV April 8 signed an agreement that brings BBC’s programming to Viacom’s ad-supported streaming video service in the U.S.

Select titles from the BBC Studios library (about 1,000 episodes) will air across Pluto TV’s channel lineup and on-demand featuring acclaimed series, including “Being Erica,” “Bedlam,” “Primeval” and “Robin Hood,” among others.

The streamer also plans to launch two of its single-series “Pop-Up” channels with 200 catalog episodes of “Doctor Who” and 300 episodes of Antiques Roadshow.”

BBC Studios content will launch on Pluto TV in May 2019.

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“This new Pluto TV enterprise is appealing for us as we continue to attract new audiences … and expand on opportunities for existing fans to find their favorite shows to stream, in a unique way,” Beth Clearfield, SVP of digital strategy and franchise business management for BBC Studios Americas, said in a statement.

The new programming and channel collaboration with BBC Studios will join Pluto TV’s 100+ live, linear, curated channels and thousands of movies on demand from nearly 150 major studios, networks, publishers and digital first outfits. 

“Pluto TV is elated to be able to expand our range of programming by adding such an esteemed and regarded brand as the BBC,” said Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships at Pluto. “The BBC has long been a key international entertainment leader known for captivating audiences with content that transcends time.”

An assortment of fan-favorite “Classic Doctor Who” stories starring Tom Baker (in The Deadly Assassin, The Ark in Space, The Robots of Death), Peter Davison (in EarthShock, The Caves of Androzani), Jon Pertwee (in Planet of the Spiders, Terror of the Autons), and the very first Doctor, William Hartnell (in The Dalek Invasion Of Earth) will be featured on Pluto TV’s Pop-Up channel.

 

Viacom Completes Pluto TV Acquisition

Viacom March 4 announced the completion of the acquisition of AVOD service Pluto TV.

The acquisition, for $340 million in cash, will advance Viacom’s strategic priorities while solidifying Pluto TV’s leadership in the domestic free streaming video market and accelerating its growth globally, according to a Viacom press release.

Pluto TV will operate as an independent subsidiary of Viacom, led by President and CEO Tom Ryan.

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“The completion of this deal marks an exciting next step in Viacom’s evolution and a powerful opportunity for us to extend our consumer reach and broaden our ability to add value across the industry as the media landscape continues to segment,” said Bob Bakish, Viacom president and CEO, in a statement. “Together with Pluto TV, we look forward to becoming a stronger partner to distributors, advertisers, content providers and audiences around the world.”

Founded in 2013, Pluto TV streams more than 100 channels and thousands of hours of on-demand content spanning television and movies, sports, news, lifestyle, comedy, cartoons, gaming and trending digital series. It has more than 12 million monthly active users across devices, including smart TVs, streaming players, mobile devices, desktops and gaming consoles, according to the release.

“Pluto TV will have a crucial role in expanding Viacom’s presence across next-generation distribution platforms as a standalone free over-the-top (“OTT”) product, a direct-to-consumer cornerstone, and a partnership solution for wired, mobile and OTT distributors to serve their broadband only and video bundle subscribers on a zero incremental cost basis,” stated the release.

Pluto TV also benefits Viacom’s advanced marketing solutions (“AMS”) business, serving as a source of targeted inventory — particularly for younger demographics — thereby strengthening Viacom’s ability to serve advertising customers and their associated agencies, the release stated.

Viacom Has Global Plans for Pluto TV

On the heels of its $340 million acquisition of Pluto TV, Viacom plans to expand the ad-supported streaming video service globally, featuring the media company’s proprietary content-producing brands, including MTV, Paramount, Comedy Central, BET and Nickelodeon, among others, CEO Bob Bakish told an investor group.

The free streaming service with more than 100 channels launched operations in Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom at the end of 2018.

Speaking Feb. 26 at the Morgan Stanley technology, media & telecom confab in San Francisco, Bakish said Viacom’s decision in 2016 to pull back bulk content distribution through third-party digital channels was a double-edged sword.

“We kind of took it on chin for two years with respect to distribution revenue when we weren’t doing those kinds of deals,” Bakish said, adding that the content backlog presents distribution options for Pluto TV going forward.

The executive said Viacom generates upwards of 13 million monthly users to digital products that include Nickelodeon’s Noggin streaming service, in addition to platforms surrounding Comedy Central and BET.

Viacom also plans to market over-the-top distribution to its linear pay-TV business partners.

“This is a global opportunity,” Bakish said. “It’s going to accelerate our strategy on multiple dimensions. We see a very material opportunity there.”

At the same time, the executive said digital distribution has been hampered by the traditional pay-TV ecosystem, existing distribution agreements and related monetization opportunities.

“We don’t have a demand problem, we have a supply problem,” Bakish said.

The executive contends Pluto TV offers Viacom’s brands and advertisers a very “attractive” demographic that he claims are “essentially” not tethered to traditional pay-TV.

In addition, Bakish contends Pluto’s ad-inventory is 50% unsold due in part to a “nascent” ad force he said didn’t have access to Viacom’s portfolio of national brands and global marketers.

“They didn’t have those kinds of relationships,” he said. “[Now, they’ve] got access to money they never saw before. [Pluto TV] looks like television to advertisers.”

 

Digital Change the Focus of DEW Conference

Speakers discussed changes in digital entertainment content, stars, business models and more during the Digital Entertainment World conference Feb. 4 in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Digital Media Wire founder Ned Sherman noted that in the past year the industry produced nearly 500 original scripted programs, the majority of which for the first time came from streaming services.

“There’s almost sort of an arm’s race going on in this space,” he said, noting the billions being spent on programming by Netflix and other streaming services.

Speakers discussed the advantages and disadvantages of subscription streaming models (SVOD), ad-supported free streaming models (AVOD) and graduated spending models, such as Hulu’s, which has both ad-supported and ad-free services.

(L-R) Forbes’ Dawn Chmielewski, Pluto TV’s Tom Ryan, Tasty’s Ashley McCollum and Vertical Networks’ Jesus Chavez.

Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV, extolled the virtues of free AVOD and his company’s pending acquisition by Viacom, announced last month.

“They have world class brands, well-known programming. They’ve got advanced advertising capabilities, and they are a global company,” he said, noting Viacom will help Pluto TV expand internationally.

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The acquisition will “accelerate what we’ve already built,” he said. Pluto TV is “the leading free streaming television service in America,” with 12 million monthly users and 100 channels, he said.

Free AVOD fills an important need as “there has been a certain amount of subscription fatigue,” he said.

“The problem comes down to payment,” he said. “There’s only so many services that people will pay for.”

He mentioned a survey by Ampere that found the average SVOD home subscribes to 2.8 streaming services.

“You have Netflix and Amazon Prime, and everybody else fighting for that 0.8,” he said.

He said that, rather than creating channels that match those on traditional cable,

“we will create new channels that include content from Viacom.”

“I think AVOD content has been a big theme to start out this year,” said Ellation’s Eric Berman in “The Future of the Television Business” panel.

“There’s a big conundrum in the AVOD model,” said Popsugar Studios’ David Grant on the same panel. “Somehow the content has to be created.”

Viacom is buying Pluto TV, but the AVOD service is “not funding that content,” he noted.

“When is the AVOD system going to be able to fund the creation of television-sized content?” he asked.

The very nature of content is undergoing a transformation, speakers noted. Digital content isn’t constrained by the need to fill a half-hour sitcom slot or hour-long drama. It also can explore niche subjects.

As opposed to globalization, “for me the greatest power of digital is actually localization,” noted keynote speaker Gerrit Meier of the Red Bull Media Network, which creates programming around sports such as surfing and mountain biking, among other subjects. Through the internet, local communities around the world can find a voice, exposing sports “that I have never heard of before,” he said.

“Those are all stories that should be told,” he said.

Content, too, can morph to suit a mobile audience, noted Jesus Chavez, CEO of Vertical Networks.

In designing mobile content, “I’m competing with everything that’s on a person’s phone,” he said. It must be engrossing in the mobile space, he noted.

Digital stars, too, have a new style. They exude authenticity and communicate more closely with their audiences.

“We are always looking to populate our projects with people who have relevance in the social media space,” said Shelley Zimmerman, co-head of digital media company Awesomeness (owned by Viacom).

Studio71’s Dan Weinstein noted that the new digital stars are more relatable, as opposed to the “untouchable” movie stars.

Speakers also discussed augmented and virtual reality.

Hilary Hoffman, EVP, global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, detailed a Jurassic World campaign that used augmented reality to allow Facebook users to view dinosaurs that jumped out at them at retail and at home. She said the campaign was much more successful than anticipated, but that monetizing AR will require more ease of use.

“Right now, it’s more promotional,” she said, but it “has so much great potential.”

Tubi TV AVOD Service to Spend $100+ Million on Content in 2019

Tubi TV, the advertising-based video-on-demand service, Jan. 30 announced plans to spend more than $100 million on content in 2019.

The San Francisco-based service currently features a library of more than 12,000 movies and television series from more than 200 content partners, including most major studios.

Launched in 2014, Tubi said viewership increased 430% in 2018 compared to 2017, with December generating nearly as much content streamed as all of 2017.

The company said it turned a profit in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2018, with revenue up more than 180% in 2018. More than 1,000 advertisers ran spots on Tubi, including consumer products and automotive advertisers reaching audiences via ads on movies and TV shows.

Late last year, Tubi became the third streaming service to be made available on Comcast’s X1 platform — behind Netflix and YouTube. The service plans to launch beyond the U.S. and Canada, with the first territories expected to be announced this quarter.

“In 2018, Tubi saw tremendous growth as consumers, fatigued by SVOD subscriptions and services, sought alternative entertainment choices,” CEO Farhad Massoudi said in a statement. “We will continue to use profits to make bigger bets on content, enhance the viewing experience, and continue to press ahead into new grounds in what is our core advantage: technology and data.”