Taking a page from Comcast Cable’s playbook, Roku Dec. 10 announced the pending bow of its first-ever video content “Stream-a-thon,” from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, 2019.
Registered Roku users will be able to watch complete seasons and movies from third-party sources such as Acorn TV, Adult Swim, Discovery Channel, Epix, Food Network, HGTV, Hopster, NBC, TLC and Travel Channel, among others.
In August, Roku bowed “Featured Free,” offering Roku users a way to find free ad-supported streaming entertainment. The platform includes the latest in-season episodes of top network shows, full past-season and catch-ups that are free and available to browse in a single experience.
The promotion mirrors Comcast’s “Watchathon,” which gives Xfinity subscribers in the Spring week-long access to myriad TV shows from third-party sources, including Netflix and HBO.
“The holidays are the perfect time for new and avid streamers alike to discover, enjoy and share in full seasons of top shows for free,” Matthew Anderson, chief marketing officer at Roku, said in a statement.
The “Stream-a-thon” features the first full-season of “Deep State” from Epix, which is owned by MGM Studios, in addition to full-seasons and episodes from “Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution” and “Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death” (Acorn TV); “Rick and Morty” (Adult Swim); “Storm Chasers” (Discovery); “Diners, Drive-in and Dives” and “Beat Bobby Flay” (Food Network); “Fixer Upper” and “Property Brothers,” (HGTV); “Two Minute Tales” (Hopster); “Making It” and “New Amsterdam” (NBC); “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” (TLC); “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” and “Ghost Adventures” (Travel Channel).
“The Roku platform is easy to use, offers content people love and delivers unrivaled value. We’re delighted with the quality of shows and to be working in partnership with some of the biggest and best providers across television,” said Anderson.
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.
Roku Dec. 4 announced that Chas Smith, SVP and GM of Roku TVs and players, is expected to retire and leave the company at the end of the first quarter next year. The company has a search underway with a leading executive placement firm to place his successor.
“Over the last several years, Chas has been instrumental in transforming our business,” founder/CEO Anthony Wood said in a statement. “He took the idea of giving consumers and TV makers a simple smart TV and made Roku TV the No. 1 licensed smart TV platform in the U.S.”
Smith joined Roku in March 2010 as VP of sales and led online Roku player sales. In 2012, he assumed the role of GM of OEM to lead the Roku TV business. Three years later was promoted to SVP/GM of Roku TV and Roku players and also oversees the whole home division.
Wall Street Dec. 3 reacted favorably early to tech stocks following weekend news the Trump Administration and China had reached a 90-day truce regarding proposed tariffs (taxes) on Chinese manufactured goods and raw materials.
Stocks for Roku, Apple and Amazon all climbed higher in pre-market trading as many — if not all — consumer electronics products, including the Roku Stick and branded televisions, Apple iPhone, Apple TV, Apple iPad, and Amazon Fire TV Stick are majority-made in China.
Trump had pledged to impose tariffs — beginning Jan. 1 — on $200 billion worth of Chinese-made steel and raw materials. Tariffs on another $267 billion in Chinese goods (i.e. consumer electronics) have been postponed as well.
Trump said the tariffs would be held off as trade negotiators between the two countries attempt to hammer out new trade agreements. In a Dec. 3 tweet, Trump wrote:
“My meeting in Argentina [at the G-20 summit] with President Xi [Jinping] of China was an extraordinary one. Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward! Very good things will happen. We are dealing from great strength, but China likewise has much to gain, if and when a deal is completed.”
That was good enough for Tom Forte, analyst with D.A. Davidson, who upped from “neutral” to “buy” on Roku shares.
Meanwhile, Sacha Tihanyi with TD Securities, remained cautiously optimistic, writing in a note, reported by CNBC that “overarching concerns in the U.S.-China economic relationship remain … [and] are not ones that we believe can be easily tackled in a 90-day period.”
Streaming media device pioneer Roku Nov. 7 reported third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) net loss of $11.7 million, up 49% from a loss of $7.9 million during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 39% to $173.4 million from $124.8 million.
Roku, which created the SVOD market with Netflix in 2008, generated $73.3 million in device revenue, up 9% from $67.2 million last year. Platform revenue, which includes The Roku Channel and third-party advertising, ballooned nearly 74% to $100 million from $57.5 million.
The company ended the quarter with 23.8 million active user accounts, up 43% year-over-year, with more than half of new accounts coming from licensed sources, primarily Roku TVs. Engagement increased with users streaming 6.2 billion hours, up 63% year-over-year.
“We are just starting to witness the massive transition of TV viewing and TV advertising to streaming,” founder/CEO Anthony Wood and CFO Steve Louden wrote in the shareholder letter.
The executives contend the third quarter could be the highest fiscal period yet for pay-TV subscriber losses. A boon for OTT video and platforms such as Roku, according to Wood and Louden.
“The way TV content and advertising are delivered is evolving rapidly and we believe our purpose-built scalable solution is well positioned to be a catalyst for the transition that is underway,” they wrote.
Consumption of streaming video – via over-the-top platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu — continues to mushroom.
New data from digital measurement firm Conviva found a 63% increase in third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) video viewing hours from the previous-year period. Video program plays increased 53%.
“Streaming TV consumption shows no signs of slowing down, and publishers have stepped up to the plate, delivering better quality and reliability that viewers have come to expect,” Conviva CEO Bill Demas said in a statement. “The demand for quality is pushing connected TVs to the top in terms of device share, commanding more than 50% of total viewing hours at the expense of PCs that have lost 7%, while mobile remains relatively flat.”
Indeed, the report — based on Conviva’s claims of tracking 1 trillion data events daily around the world – found that live sports (i.e. NFL football) streaming increased 3% in September, driven by Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football webcasts. Amazon said more than 8 million people collectively streamed the first four games of the season.
Connected TV video plays increased 145%, while viewing hours increased 103%. 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.
And consumers are streaming longer-form (TV shows and movies) entertainment, with 111% increase in video plays and 93% increase in video hours streamed.
Finally, Roku remains the No. 1 streaming media device, commanding 40% market share in viewing hours.
More than a third (35%) of Roku users do not subscribe to a legacy pay-TV service, according to new research from The Diffusion Group.
That is notably greater than the 27% of adult broadband users in general, most of which enjoy streaming TV, according to the firm’s ninth “Benchmarking the Connected Consumer” report.
“Given its substantial footprint and brand strength, Roku devices are becoming a favorite of those living without legacy pay-TV,” noted Diffusion Group president Michael Greeson in a statement. “The assortment of free and fee-based video apps in the Roku portal is undoubtedly a reason why we observe these correlations. For many TV streamers, buying a Roku, and getting access to the Roku video ecosystem, is no longer just an easy way to supplement their legacy pay-TV service, but a means of replacing it.”
By 2020, The Diffusion Group forecasts that streaming sticks will near 45% penetration among U.S. broadband households, with iSTBs close behind.
“Should Roku remain the dominant brand, and continue to expand its vast OTT content ecosystem, legacy pay-TV will suffer,” Greeson said in a statement.
The annual “Benchmarking the Connected Consumer” report details the ownership, placement, connectivity, and use of media-centric consumer electronic devices in the broadband home.
Skinny bundles and virtual MVPDs are an imperfect solution to the desire of consumers to get the content they want at the price they want, while an a la carte online delivery system that perfectly satisfies consumers’ desires has yet to be fully realized.
That was the consensus of panelists at the “Internet TV Packages” panel at the Digital Hollywood conference Oct. 18 in Los Angeles.
“The consumer cares about two things, value and choice,” noted panelist Thomas K. Arnold, publisher of Media Play News. While choice has expanded over the years from only a few networks to an array of cable channels to videocassettes and discs and digital delivery, finding content is getting more complicated.
“The important thing here is curation. The old manual curation by networks is going away,” said panelist and consultant Robin Wilson, director, RW TV. He said the future is one in which consumers can “self-curate” content or in which curation is automated.
While some pundits say only younger consumers are peeling away from traditional viewing, even Baby Boomers, still working and facing a time crunch, are also moving away from appointment TV, said panelist Josette Bonte, managing director, Digital Content Strategies.
“There is definitely a problem to be solved by the industry,” she said. “I would like to have my own skinny bundle.”
“Current skinny bundles are just a patch up job,” Wilson added.
“It’s the same problem that’s always been the problem,” Arnold noted. “These internet services, they’re great for service, but bad for discovery.”
Consumers who are watching subscription services have a hard time breaking out of that silo, Arnold said.
“Your likely going to stay on Netflix or Amazon after watching a show,” he said.
To truly curate your own content can be difficult, he said, noting that his family had to “piece together our own skinny bundle” from offerings on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to watch an entire series of a show they loved.
He predicted that consumers in the future would be paying more for entertainment but in smaller increments, comparing it to gym memberships that have retained consumers by offering ultra-low prices.
“At $10 a month, people are going to get them all [even niche OTT subscription offerings],” he said. “At $10 a month you’re not going to really notice it.”
Bonte said niche SVOD services “definitely have the chance to complement the bundles.”
Technology — perhaps from Google, Amazon or Roku — will overcome the difficulties of getting to different apps and online services to get content, panelists said.
“The idea of switching from HDMI 1 to HDMI 2 will be as archaic as rewinding the videocassette,” Arnold said.
Device integration with artificial intelligence will also assist in content discovery, Bonte said.
Panelists also pondered the growing competition in the SVOD market led by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, soon to be joined by Disney and WarnerMedia — and the data from SVOD services that is informing what content consumers are fed.
Netflix is “definitely good at use of data” to determine content, Bonte noted. It’s an advantage for the company, Wilson added.
Netflix knows a lot about what consumers are watching, but “they won’t tell us,” Arnold said, adding that research company Parrot Analytics is using social media and other measurements to try to estimate the popularity of SVOD original programs.
One audience member noted that Netflix’s recommendation engine is less than perfect, causing her frustration as it served up the same type of content over and over.
Data targeting with ads, too, needs improving, Wilson noted. The ads served up should be more efficient, “not bombarding” the consumer.
One audience member noted that Rotten Tomatoes, which calculates content ratings based on human reviewers, is one of the most popular content recommendation sites online.
Newfangled content delivery technologies have a way to go, Arnold noted. “People who talk about artificial intelligence forget that first word, artificial,” he said.
Sonos and Roku are in talks to integrate Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant software into Sonos’ audio devices, according to a report from CNET citing an anonymous source.
The integration would allow voice commands to be sent to a Roku device, such as a Roku TV, via a Sonos speaker.
“The discussions are in the early stages,” the source told CNET.
Sonos spokeswoman Laura Morarity told CNET the company “won’t speculate on any potential future partnerships,” adding “that said, Sonos is committed to bringing the voice services our customers want to our platform. So naturally, we’re open to having discussions with any number of companies crafting innovative voice experiences.”
Roku Oct. 16 announced it would resume sales of streaming media devices in Mexico. This follows a favorable ruling from the 11th Collegiate Court in Mexico City.
“Today’s decision is an important victory for Roku and its Mexican distributor, Latamel Distribuidora, and Mexican retailers in the legal battle against an improper ban on sales of its popular streaming players in Mexico,” Stephen Kay, general counsel at Roku, said in a statement. “We are pleased with the Collegiate Court’s decision and look forward to continuing to build Roku’s TV streaming business in Mexico.”
Roku had been banned for sale in Mexico since the summer of 2017.
At issue were allegations by Cablevision claiming third-party hackers had created apps on Roku to pirate their content. The Fourteenth District Judge in Civil Matters in Mexico City agreed last summer, invoking a country-wide ban that Roku twice failed to overturn on appeal.
Roku CMO Matthew Anderson said customers in Mexico, despite the sales ban, continued to stream increased hours of video content.
“We look forward to launching the latest Roku devices in Mexico soon and giving customers an even richer streaming experience,” said Anderson