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.”

LAES: OTT About Change, Speakers Say

While there are many forms of over the top, or OTT, distribution, the term OTT is ultimately a “signifier for change” in the entertainment marketplace, said Erick Opeka, EVP of digital networks at Cinedigm July 17 at the OTT Channels Conference. The conference, which Opeka chaired, took place during the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Speakers on the panel, “OTT 2022: Prognosticating the Future,” discussed the varied landscape for OTT players, from paid subscription to free ad-supported distribution, and the dominance of goliaths such as Netflix.

Panelists speculated about where Netflix would be in the next five years.

“They will look much bigger,” said Pluto TV’s Jeff Shultz. “It will be much harder for anyone to catch them given the lead they have created.”

Neil Davis of Ucast TV speculated that Netflix would be acquired by Apple, and Roku’s Randy Ahn quipped that it would be owned by Roku.

Meanwhile, National Research Group’s Jeff Hall said it would be continuing to expand internationally.

Many panelists noted the many opportunities for international growth of OTT.

Content on Indian knitting patterns can find an audience in India, Hall noted.

“Listen to the consumer,” he said.

Panelists also discussed ways to compete in a market dominated by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and other giants.

“It’s really challenging for an independent to find a place,” Davis said.

Content discovery is key, noted Ahn.

“We make it easy for publishers to build channels,” he said, noting that the Roku Channel is “essentially like a supermarket endcap” for OTT distribution, making it easier for consumers to use and discover OTT content.

Having a strong brand can also be a help “if the brand is important enough,” Shultz said.

HBO’s online service “has a chance to be a Netflix-like brand,” Hall said.

Panelists also addressed the impending Walt Disney Co. streaming service.

“I think they are going to have a harder time than I would like them to have,” Hall said, noting the service would have to expand beyond family programming.

Meanwhile, Ahn said Disney could “potentially redefine entertainment,” and Shultz, noting Disney’s valuable IP, wondered “at what expense it will come to Netflix.”

In another presentation, Tubi’s Adam Lewinson called his AVOD service “free Netflix” and noted it had accumulated 8,000 movies and series, using machine learning to help each piece of content find its audience.

Targeting a niche is also a way to find an OTT audience, noted Here Media’s Paul Colichman on another panel.

“Anyone who’s trying to compete with Netflix [with its wide appeal] should go home now,” he said.

Speakers agreed that OTT has put traditional TV on a path of decline.

IHS Markit research analyst Dan Cryan told the audience that 2016 was the peak of traditional TV.

“In five years, we won’t be talking over the top because it will all be over the top,” said Pluto TV’s Shultz.