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.”

 

Viacom to Acquire Pluto TV

Viacom announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire U.S. free ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV for $340 million in cash.

Among the benefits of the deal is creating a scaled direct-to-consumer offering, giving Viacom direct access to millions of consumers, according to the Viacom press release. It also gives Viacom an opportunity to monetize library product, according to the release.

“Today marks an important step forward in Viacom’s evolution, as we work to move both our company and the industry forward,” said Viacom president and CEO Bob Bakish in a statement. “Pluto TV’s unique and market-leading product, combined with Viacom’s brands, content, advanced advertising capabilities and global scale, creates a great opportunity for consumers, partners and Viacom. As the video marketplace continues to segment, we see an opportunity to support the ecosystem in creating products at a broad range of price points, including free. To that end, we see significant white space in the ad-supported streaming market and are excited to work with the talented Pluto TV team, and a broad range of Viacom partners, to accelerate its growth in the U.S. and all over the world.”

“Since our launch less than five years ago, and particularly over the past year, Pluto TV has enjoyed explosive growth and become the category leader in free streaming television,” said Pluto TV CEO and co-founder Tom Ryan in a statement. “Viacom’s portfolio of global, iconic brands and IP, advanced advertising leadership and international reach will enable Pluto TV to grow even faster and become a major force in streaming TV worldwide. Viacom is the perfect partner to help us accomplish our mission of entertaining the planet.”

Ryan will continue to serve as CEO of Pluto TV, which will operate as an independent subsidiary of Viacom upon closing of the transaction, according to the Viacom press release. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019, the release stated.

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, according to the release. The AVOD service features programming sourced from more than 130 partnerships with media networks, major film and television studios and a wide range of digital content producers.

Pluto TV has more than 12 million monthly active users, 7.5 million of which are on connected TVs, according to the release. Its audience streams billions of minutes of content each month across devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Sony PlayStation consoles, as well as built-in integrations on smart TVs from Samsung and Vizio, and mobile apps on Android and iOS, the release stated. Pluto TV has also secured new distribution deals that will make the service available on tens of millions of additional devices in the coming months, according to the release.

“The acquisition of Pluto TV will advance Viacom’s key strategic priorities, including expanding its presence across next-generation distribution platforms and growing its advanced advertising business,” the press release stated. “Additionally, access to Viacom’s global reach, leading brands and vast, unencumbered library will help solidify Pluto TV as the leader in the free streaming video market in the U.S. and accelerate Pluto TV’s global growth.”

The deal “benefits from Viacom’s strategic decision to curtail the licensing of large library packages to SVOD over the last two years,” according to the release.

Viacom’s current-window programming will remain in the pay-TV ecosystem on its branded networks, the release stated.

News Analysis: AVOD Just Got Real

The biggest news during last week’s CES occurred hundreds of miles away in Los Angeles.

Amazon’s IMDb.com movie industry website confirmed previous rumors and nixed executive denials with the launch of a branded ad-supported video streaming platform.

IMDb Freedive enables customers to watch TV shows, including “Fringe,” “Heroes,” “The Bachelor” and “Without a Trace,” as well as movies, such as Awakenings, Foxcatcher, Memento, Monster, Run Lola Run, The Illusionist, The Last Samurai and True Romance, without purchasing a subscription, according to Media Play News’ Stephanie Prange.

The launch is significant. Heretofore, AVOD was a distant stepchild to SVOD — the latter spearheaded by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. With a media landscape littered with SVOD and subscription-based online TV, ad-supported platforms offer an economical (i.e. free) alternative.

To be sure, Sony Crackle and Shout! TV have offered ad-supported content without subscription largely to niche audiences for some time. The Roku Channel upped the format by tapping into a user base of more than 27 million Roku subscribers — users who registered to the platform for access to third-party platforms such as Netflix.

The channel, which features catalog TV shows and movies, is now among Roku’s Top 5 accessed platforms. Roku recently licensed the platform to Samsung’s Internet-connected TVs.

“Strong active account growth and accelerating streaming hours point to consumers’ growing enthusiasm for [free] streaming,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood.

Freedive takes AVOD to another level.

Long before there was Google, IMDb.com was the go-to source for actors, TV shows, movies and behind-the-scenes information. Through October, the platform had about 5.3 million titles (including episodes) and 9.3 million personalities in its database, as well as 83 million registered users. Subscription-based IMDb Pro is considered a must-have database for the business-side of Hollywood.

“Once you’ve signed up for Netflix and Amazon and Hulu, you’re more than $30 deep,” Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo, an-ad-supported live TV/on-demand platform, told Digiday.com. “Price-sensitive consumers are seeing [free video streaming services] as viable alternatives or complements to paid services — that’s probably the biggest factor.”

Los Angeles-based Pluto TV launched in 2013 featuring about 100 channels via an ad-supported app that operates on 14 platforms, including Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku and PlayStation consoles.

Last August, Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio rolled out WatchFree, a proprietary ad-supported streaming video platform that partnered with Pluto TV featuring action movies, black cinema, news channels, NBC News, MSNBC, Fox Sports and related fare.

NBC Universal plans to roll out an ad-supported streaming video service in 2020. The media company Jan. 14 re-organized its management structure to accommodate the future streaming service.

Bonnie Hammer, who was named chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, will also oversee NBCU stakes in digital media outlets, including Vox, Snap and BuzzFeed.

The ad-supported service will be available at no cost to NBC Universal’s pay-TV subscribers in the U.S. and major international markets. Comcast Cable and Sky will provide the service to their 52 million subscribers. An ad-free version will also be available for a fee.

Additionally, non-pay TV customers can purchase a subscription to the service. Consistent with the company’s long-standing strategy to distribute its content broadly, NBC Universal will continue to license content to other studios and platforms, while retaining rights to certain titles for its new service.

“Our new service will be different than those presently in the market and it will be built on the company’s strengths, with NBC Universal’s great content and the technology expertise, broad scale and the wide distribution of Comcast Cable and Sky,” said Steve Burke, CEO, NBC Universal.

Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, doubts AVOD will threaten Netflix & Co. anytime soon. He considers the formats largely supplemental to SVOD.

“I’m sure that there are people who can’t afford Netflix who will watch, and there are a handful of subscribers who will defect from Netflix, but most subscribers appreciate the unique content available only on Netflix and will remain subscribers so long as there is fresh original content,” he said.

Pluto TV Bows Service in Germany, Austria

Pluto TV, the Los Angeles-based ad-supported online TV platform, has begun streaming operations in Germany and Austria. The launch follows a similar move in the United Kingdom in October through a collaboration with satellite TV operator Sky.

Sky, which was recently acquired by Comcast, is an investor in Pluto TV, along with ProSiebenSat.1 in Germany.

“The current timing of the launch of Pluto TV in Europe, especially in the German-speaking market, is ideal to harness the great potential for the distribution of linear video offerings via the Internet,”Olivier Jollet, managing director Europe, said in a statement.

Based in the company’s Berlin office, Jollet said the online TV platform’s marketing approach is to underscore the platform’s simplicity at a time when he says typical households subscribe to upwards of three or more – often redundant – over-the-top video services.

“[Consumers] are increasingly losing interest in this,” he said.

Pluto TV launched in 2016 as an app on Sony PlayStation about a year after Dish Network’s groundbreaking rollout of Sling TV – the first standalone online TV service offering pay-TV channels without a long-term contract.

The online TV market now includes PlayStation Vue, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and Charter’s Spectrum TV Plus, among others.

Last month, Pluto inked a licensing deal with Discovery for channels such as Discovery Channel, HGTV and Food Network, Animal Planet, ID, Discovery Life, Science Channel, and TLC, among others.

 

 

 

Pluto TV Adds Discovery Content

Ad-supported online TV platform Pluto TV has inked a non-exclusive licensing deal with Discovery for channels such as Discovery Channel, HGTV and Food Network, Animal Planet, ID, Discovery Life, Science Channel, and TLC, among others.

“Discovery is a renowned leader with premier programming that inspires and entertains all types of audiences. We are excited to introduce Discovery’s award-winning content to our viewers,” Amy Kuessner, SVP content partnerships, Pluto TV, said in a statement.

Indeed, connected TV video plays increased 145%, while viewing hours increased 103% in the third quarter, according to data from digital measurement firm Conviva.

Online TV platforms such as Sling TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, Spectrum TV Plus, PlayStation Vue, Pluto TV and Fubo TV helped mushroom video plays 292%, including 212% increase in viewing hours from the previous-year period.

For Discovery, the Pluto deal follows similar arrangements signed in September with Dish Networks’ Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV.

“Having our world-class Discovery content as part of Pluto’s offering reinforces Discovery’s commitment to reach all viewers across all screens, platforms and devices,” said Gabriel Sauerhoff, SVP of digital distribution at Discovery.

 

Pluto TV Launches Classic Game Show Channel Buzzr

Free streaming TV site Pluto TV announced the launch of a new channel, Buzzr, featuring classic game shows.

On Buzzr, viewers can play along with iconic game show hosts such as Gene Rayburn and Alex Trebek in a pop culture TV time capsule. The channel features such shows as “Supermarket Sweep,” featuring contestants filling their carts with grocery items in an effort to have the highest total at check-out; “Match Game,” in which host Rayburn is the ringmaster to a panel of celebrity guests; and “Classic Concentration,” hosted by Trebek, in which contestants challenge their memories and ability to solve complex puzzles.

Pluto TV delivers 100-plus live and original channels and thousands of on-demand movies in partnership with major TV networks, movie studios, publishers and digital media companies, according to the company, and is available on all mobile, web and connected TV streaming devices.

Parks: OTT Video Adoption Growing Among Pay-TV Cord Cutters

With Comcast and Verizon this week reporting ongoing declines in traditional pay-TV subscribers, new data from Parks Associates shows that consumer perception of a poor value proposition in pay-TV remains the top trigger for changing, downgrading, or cancelling services.

Among households that have made pay-TV changes in past 12 months, one-third of cord cutters (33%) and 10% of switchers or cord shavers plan to use paid OTT services as a substitute or alternative for pay-TV.

In addition to subscription streaming VOD services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, online TV services include Sling TV, Playstation Vue, DirecTV Now, Pluto TV, Fubo TV, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and Spectrum TV Plus, among others.

“The primary driver for pay-TV cancellation and downgrades continues to revolve around pricing and perceived value,” Brett Sappington, senior director, research, said in a statement. “While some consumers consciously plan to use OTT video services to address the absence of pay-TV content, most consider each offering on its own merits.”

Sappington said the “deeper issue” is in the influence OTT video is having on what consumers consider to be a good value. When video services with good quality are available for under $15, it forces operators to justify an $80 pay-TV bill.

Indeed, consumer Katie O’Shea from Travelers Rest, SC, said she plans to switch to $35 DirecTV Now as soon as she can get out of her $200 DirecTV contract – the latter including broadband service.

“I have 400 channels, most of which I don’t watch or even know what they are,” said O’Shea.

 

Cinedigm Video Gaming Streaming Service Lands on Pluto TV

Cinedigm Oct. 23 announced that its e-sports digital network, Wham, is now streaming on the online television service Pluto TV.

Launched in April, Wham covers all aspects of the gaming industry, from e-sports to casual gaming. The channel’s offerings include original series, teams competing in e-sports tournaments, and coverage of live special gaming events, as well as updates on the genre’s news.

“Pluto TV’s dynamic platform is the perfect complement to Cinedigm’s mission to redefine the traditional viewing experience,” Erick Opeka, president of digital networks at Cinedigm, said in a statement.

Pluto TV is an ad-supported online television service with more than 100 live and linear channels, in addition to movies and television series on-demand. As part of this deal, Pluto TV users will now be able to access Cinedigm content as linear networks across all streaming, mobile and web-based devices.

“We are excited to welcome Cinedigm, a veteran industry leader in digital entertainment, to Pluto TV,” said Amy Kuessner, SVP, content acquisitions, Pluto TV. “WHAM is the perfect addition to our channel lineup, as a trusted source and voice with an insider’s view and an exciting slate of programming looking at the fast-paced world of e-sports and gaming.”

 

Roku Expands Roku Channel, Home Screen Capabilities; Reports Strong Financials

Roku Aug. 8 announced the launch of two new ways for consumers to find free streaming entertainment.

With the launch of the Roku Channel for the web in the United States, consumers now have free access via PCs, mobile phones and tablets, according to a company press release. Consumers can visit TheRokuChannel.com to begin streaming once they log in or create a Roku account.

Also, Roku is beginning the roll out of a navigation change to the Roku home screen called “Featured Free,” which provides users with direct links to free content from The Roku Channel, ABC, The CW, CW Seed, FOX, Freeform, Pluto TV, Sony Crackle, Tubi and more. Featured Free includes the in-season episodes of top network shows, full past-season catch-ups and more.

“We want to be the best destination for free streaming entertainment. We’re delighted to deliver even more value to our customers without subscriptions, complicated logins or fees,” said Rob Holmes, Roku’s VP of programming and engagement, in a statement. “By expanding The Roku Channel to the Web, we’re broadening the access points to high-quality, free streaming entertainment. With Featured Free, we’re making it easy for our customers to see the great, free content already available on the Roku platform in one place, while creating value for our content providers by connecting them with Roku’s growing audience.”

Launched last fall, The Roku Channel is currently the No. 5 most popular streaming channel on the Roku platform based on active account reach, according to the press release.

In addition, The Roku Channel app has begun rolling out to select Samsung smart TVs.

Featured Free is available domestically through a phased software roll out over the coming weeks.

Roku also reported its financial results for the second quarter. “Q2 revenue and gross profit came in ahead of our outlook, driven by strong Platform revenue growth and player demand that exceeded our expectations,” read a company letter to shareholders. “Revenue grew 57% year-over-year, our fastest growth rate since Q4 2013. Gross profit, a key performance metric, grew 107% and gross margin expanded 12 percentage points to 50% compared to the prior year period.”

In other Roku news, studio Gunpowder & Sky announced  DUSTx, a free destination for science fiction content that will be available on all Roku devices starting Aug. 18.

It kicks off with more than 20 films, 30 series and 200 of short films. Titles include Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure; Paycheck, based on Philip K. Dick’s short story and starring Ben Affleck; A Scanner Darkly, the 2006 animated sci-fi thriller directed by Richard Linklater, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, and starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder; “Beyond Westworld,” the 1980 television series based on the Michael Crichton helmed film Westworld; and “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” the 1988 cult-favorite comedy series created by Joel Hodgson.

A division of Gunpowder & Sky, DUST operates channels that are available on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, VRV, Pluto and Xumo. Through its partnership with USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, DUST recently premiered the George Lucas 1967 short film, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, followed by legendary filmmaker Robert Zemeckis’ 1972 student short film The Lift.

“Since DUST’s inception, our mission has been to build a contemporary sci-fi brand,” said Floris Bauer, co-founder and president, Gunpowder & Sky, in a statement. “Today, DUST has a thriving community of more than 2 million fans, showcasing varying content from up-and-coming creators to masters like George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis. We are also producing and releasing original feature films and TV series under the DUST label. Having our own premium channel, and launching DUSTx, marks a natural and significant next step in the evolution of the brand.”

Vizio Rolls Out Free Streaming Service With Pluto TV

Vizio has announced the rollout of a new streaming service, WatchFree.

Available now on nearly all Vizio SmartCast TVs, WatchFree, in partnership with streaming TV service Pluto TV, offers free, direct streaming access to more than 100 live and linear channels, according to a Vizio press release.

“With the TV landscape continuously evolving, we’re excited to offer consumers a comprehensive entertainment solution packed with free and unlimited content offerings.” said Bill Baxter, Vizio’s chief technology officer, in a statement. “Powered by Pluto TV, WatchFree is a next-generation streaming service with an easy-to-navigate, cable-like interface that delivers creative and thoughtful content selections.”

WatchFree is accessible via a dedicated input. SmartCast TV users press the “Input” button and select “WatchFree.”

“Powering Vizio’s WatchFree service is a pivotal next step in our goal to deliver free, premium entertainment to as many consumers as possible,” said Tom Ryan, Pluto TV co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “From hit TV shows to blockbuster movies, news, sports, lifestyle and more, WatchFree is a gamechanger for cord-cutting enthusiasts.”

Pluto TV channels available through WatchFree include Pluto TV Movies, Action Movies, Black Cinema, News 24/7, NBC News/MSNBC, Fox Sports, Frontdoor, Cats 24/7, Crime Network, MST3K and The Surf Channel. Pluto TV will soon launch two new pop-up channels also available on WatchFree, featuring Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Unsolved Mysteries.”