‘Kids & Family’ Service Added to the Roku Channel

Roku has announced the addition of the “Kids & Family” service on the Roku Channel, making it easy for children and parents to find a selection of tailored content available for free and through premium subscriptions, according to the company.

In addition, Roku is rolling out parental control features for the Roku Channel.

“We recognize that it can be a challenge to find quality kids and family entertainment across multiple streaming channels, particularly free, ad-supported options,” said Rob Holmes, VP of programming and engagement, Roku, in a statement. “’Kids & Family’ not only provides a selection of great free, ad-supported content from partners like pocket.watch with ‘Ryan’s World’ and Lionsgate’s ‘Leapfrog,’ but also highlights kids’ entertainment from existing premium subscriptions partners. Parents looking to find great programming for their children will enjoy the ease of going to the Roku Channel as their one place for kids and family entertainment.”

“Kids & Family” delivers a blend of shows, movies, and live linear and short-form video typically found across multiple free and paid kids’ channels and brings them together to watch in a single place, according to a Roku release. In addition to free, ad-supported options, users who have already subscribed to premium subscriptions through the Roku Channel will be able to view subscription-based kids and family content from partners such as Hopster, Noggin and Zoomoo, as well as children’s entertainment from services such as HBO and Starz, directly within “Kids & Family.”

Roku’s in-house editorial team created the “Kids & Family” experience to feature series, movies and entertainment for kids, according to the release. It offers 7,000 free, ad-supported movies and TV episodes from more than 20 partners such as All Spark, A Hasbro Company, DHX Media, Happy Kids TV, Lionsgate, Mattel, Moonbug, and pocket.watch, among others. Programming includes  shows such as “Care Bears,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “Leapfrog,” “Little Baby Bum,” “My Little Pony,” “Rev & Roll,” “Super Mario Brothers” and “Thomas & Friends”; live/linear streams featuring 24/7 kids programming available from Moonbug, pocket.watch and partners powered by Xumo, including Ameba, BatteryPop and KidGenius; five exclusive episodes of 22-minute series “Ryan’s World” by pocket.watch available directly on the Roku Channel for the first time; and premium subscriptions from Blue Ant Media’s ZooMoo, CONtv, Dove Channel, HBO, Hopster, Noggin, Starz or Up Faith and Family through the Roku Channel, featuring such series as “Bubble Guppies,” “Dora the Explorer,” “PAW Patrol,” “Peppa Pig” and movies including Adventures of Elmo in Groucholand and Muppets Take Manhattan.

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“There is a tremendous opportunity to expand our reach with the quickly growing audience on the Roku Channel,” said Chris M. Williams, founder and CEO, pocket.watch, in a statement. “Family time is often enjoyed in the living room where Roku is so successful and we’re thrilled to bring our biggest creator partners, like Ryan from ‘Ryan’s World,’ into the heart of the home through the new pocket.watch channel.”

Kids & Family” will have approximately 40% of the advertising time of traditional linear television, according to Roku. Lego Systems has signed on as the first advertising sponsor of the service.

“Roku offers a custom experience that will help us connect with our kid and family audiences, who are consuming content on an evolving array of platforms,” said Michael McNally, senior director at the Lego Group, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be the exclusive sponsorship partner in ‘Kids & Family’ on The Roku Channel.”

PIN-based playback controls to the Roku Channel help parents set access limits to content based on ratings within the Roku Channel. If the setting is enabled, a PIN will be required in order to view videos on the Roku Channel based on the content rating.

“Kids & Family” is now available to users of the Roku Channel in the United States and will be available on Roku devices, via the Web and on select Samsung smart TVs that access the Roku Channel.

‘Robotech’ Catalog Streaming on AVOD Platforms

All series and the feature Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles from the anime franchise “Robotech” are available to stream at no cost on AVOD platforms, including The Roku Channel, Vudu and FilmRise, FilmRise announced.

The announcement was made July 18 during the Robotech panel at San Diego Comic-Con by Harmony Gold.

The content available to stream includes all 85 episodes of  the original syndicated television series, all 85 re-mastered “original edit” episodes of the entire series, all 36 episodes of “Super Dimension Fortress Macross,” all 23 episodes of “Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross,” all 25 episodes of “Genesis Climber Mospeada,” the feature The Shadow Chronicles, and up to 11 hours of bonus features from both the series and the film.

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View the trailer here.

Cinedigm Adds Combat Go and Wham to Ad-Supported Roku Channel

Cinedigm has added two more digital channels — the martial arts platform Combat Go by JungoTV and the esports network Wham — as linear offerings on the free, ad-supported Roku Channel.

Both channels also feature a VOD component, and join Cinedigm networks The Dove Channel, CONtv and Docurama, which launched in the Roku Channel Store in September.

The Roku Channel is a top five channel on the platform in active account reach, according to the Cinedigm release. Customers can access content via Roku devices, including Roku TV, as well as via the Web.

Combat Go is a partnership between Cinedigm and the global distribution company JungoTV. Created by JungoTV CEO George Chung, a five-time World Karate Champion and Inductee in the Black Belt Hall of Fame, Combat Go presents curated content selected by martial arts experts, featuring fight commentary and analysis, original docuseries and martial arts movies.

Created for gamers, Wham Network provides programming covering all aspects of the gaming industry from esports to casual gaming. The channel’s offerings include original series, top teams competing in esports tournaments, in-depth coverage of special gaming events, and updates on the latest in esports and gaming news.

“Cinedigm is proud to continue our partnership with Roku, as we bring Combat Go and Wham Network to one of the best-selling streaming devices on the market,” said Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks. “Martial arts and esports have quickly emerged as two of the most popular sports in the world. Now, with the additions of Combat Go and Wham Network, Roku users will be able experience this global phenomenon first-hand, as they discover and enjoy a diverse range of hard-hitting martial arts action and in-depth esports programming carefully curated by the industry’s top experts.”

Roku Inks JVC to Smart TV Program

Roku announced an agreement with China’s Shenzhen MTC Co. to build smart TVs under the JVC brand featuring the Roku operating system. The JVC smart TVs are expected to ship in the U.S. later this year.

“[The] Roku streaming platform … is incredibly easy to use and offers access to countless movies and TV episodes all from the home screen,” John Araki, chief technology officer of JVC, said in a statement. “We are looking forward to marrying our longstanding history of innovation with Roku’s popular smart TV platform as we aim to improve our customers’ everyday life with smartly designed products making life a little more fun.”

The Roku TV licensing program offers TV OEM partners a cost-effective way to build smart TVs connected to the Internet. Roku provides hardware reference designs, so TV brands can offer smart TV options at competitive price points.

The Roku operating system provides consumers with access to an ever-growing library of content as well as regular, automatic software updates.

“We look forward to working with MTC to grow the JVC smart TV presence in the U.S.,” said Chas Smith, GM of Roku TV & Players. “We know most TV manufacturers will license a TV OS and are proud of our low-cost purpose-built solution and the level of collaboration and support that we offer our partners while delivering a superior experience to consumers.”

 

 

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.”