Dish Bows 4K HDR-Compatible Streaming Stick

Dish Network’s AirTV subsidiary July 15 announced the launch of a 4K HDR compatible streaming stick, powered by Google’s Android TV operating system.

The palm-sized $79.99 AirTV Mini device integrates Sling TV, Netflix and other over-the-top apps, in addition to OTA digital channels when paired with a compatible antenna and a Wi-Fi-enabled network tuner.

“The AirTV brand is committed to making local TV relevant and easily accessible to streamers,” Mitch Weinraub, director of product development for AirTV, said in a statement.

Users simply plug the AirTV Mini into their television’s HDMI port to access the user experience. Once connected, the device will launch directly into the Sling TV app and users will see Netflix integrated into the Sling TV user interface.

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AirTV Mini users also have access to third-party apps available from Google Play. Local channel availability depends on geographic location and antenna quality and placement.

The streaming stick supports Google Assistant via a dedicated button on the remote to get answers about the weather forecast, game scores or traffic and control smart home devices like lighting and thermostats. Users can also press a Netflix button on the remote to launch the Netflix app for an easy and seamless streaming experience.

The remote also has the ability to control televisions and sound bars, and features a prominent Sling TV shortcut button and a voice search button to find favorite shows and movies.

Voice controls are app-sensitive and allow users to find a specific show or movie within the app they are using, or make commands such as “go to guide,” “show me my DVR” or “rewind 10 seconds.”

AirTV Mini is equipped with a remote finder button, allowing users to locate a misplaced remote with the touch of a button.

For a limited time, new and eligible existing Sling TV customers can receive the AirTV Wi-Fi-enabled network tuner with an indoor antenna free when they prepay for three months of Sling TV (subscription must be $25/month or greater).

Roku Remains Top Streaming Media Device in U.S.

Roku’s streaming TV platform accounted for more than 30% of U.S. sales of connected TV devices in Q1 2019, further increasing its lead in streaming TV platforms, according to the latest data from Strategy Analytics.

The British research firm finds that there are more than 41 million Roku-based devices in use, including branded set-top devices, HDMI sticks and smart TVs, accounting for 15.2% of all media streaming devices.

Roku now has a 36% lead over the next major platform, Sony PlayStation, in terms of devices in use. The report predicts that this lead will stretch to 70% by the end of the year, largely as a result of the success of Roku’s smart TV partner strategy.

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Other key findings from the report include:

Amazon’s Fire TV OS was the second-most-sold streaming TV platform in Q1 2019, with 12% of sales, followed by Samsung’s Tizen at 11% and Google (Android TV and Chromecast) at 9%

By the end of 2019 more than 52 million Roku-powered devices will be in use, accounting for 18% of all connected media devices

“Roku had another strong quarter in Q1 and continues to hold a commanding lead in streaming media platforms in spite of Amazon’s growing influence in the living room,” David Watkins, director at Strategy Analytics and the report’s author, said in a statement.

Watkins said Roku’s firs-mover status (it co-pioneered subscription VOD with Netflix), content offering of third-party streaming services, comprehensive search function and simple and intuitive user interface have contributed in its success.

The analyst cautioned Roku is less well-known outside of the U.S. and to succeed on the international stage would need to “face down” the challenges of building brand awareness and drawing users away from well-established players such as Amazon, Apple and Google.

“There was record growth in the smart TV market in the first quarter of 2019 and Roku and TCL have proved to be a great partnership in this rapidly growing segment,” added David Mercer, principal analyst at Strategy Analytics. “Roku is set to become the U.S.’s top smart TV platform this year in terms of sales share, and Google and Amazon clearly have their work cut out to stay in touch with the market leader.”

IHS: China’s TCL Brand Tops North American TV Market

With just about everything made in China, it’s little surprise a Chinese television manufacturer has unseated South Korea’s Samsung for top unit sales in North America.

With China and the United States embroiled in a trade dispute, the rush to import Chinese TVs ahead of proposed tariffs is at a fevered pitch.

China’s TCL unit shipments climbed to 26.2% in the first quarter (ended March 31), up from 16% during the previous-year period, according to new data from IHS Markit.

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Perennial market leader Samsung saw shipments drop to 21.8% from 28%. No. 3 Vizio shipments nearly reached 14%, according to the data first reported by Advanced-Television.

TCL, which markets TVs featuring the Roku operating system, helped drive North American unit shipments up 30% to a record 9.3 million units.

Samsung still dominates the market in revenue (36.9%) due to its larger screens across its product line and higher price points.

“As uncertainty mounts around a possible tariff-driven rise in costs, these brands have been bolstering shipments to protect against any potential disruption,” Paul Gagnon, research executive director at IHS Markit, said in a statement. “Given that margins for TVs are relatively low compared to other consumer-electronics categories, any tariff increase would have a major impact on sales.”

 

Roku Launches Analytics Tool for OTT Video Advertisers

Roku May 22 announced the launch of an analytics tool that helps marketers better understand ad-supported video-on-demand — such as The Roku Channel, which ranks among the company’s most-popular. Roku has more than 29 million registered active users.

“Activation Insights” software tracks a brand’s linear TV campaign performance, with an analysis of the potential OTT audience missed and the optimal budget spend on the Roku platform.

The software is part of Roku Ad Insights Suite, which helps brands measure campaign reach and effectiveness across linear TV and OTT, including whether the audience is light TV viewers, cord-cutters or viewers who were under or over exposed to a brand’s ads on linear TV.

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According to Magna Global, OTT accounts for 29% of TV viewing, but so far has only captured 3% of TV ad budgets.

“Smart marketers are significantly increasing investments in OTT to reflect the dramatic shift to streaming,” Scott Rosenberg, SVP and GM, platform business, Roku, said in a statement. “By adding the ability to tie advertising performance on linear with a specific audience that advertisers can gain on OTT, we are addressing a long-standing industry challenge for OTT media planning.”

Indeed, Roku claims brands Baskin Robbins and RE/Max found that a sizable audience was no longer being reached via their linear TV ad campaigns. Eighty-six percent of people age 18-49 who saw a Baskin Robbins ad on the Roku platform did not see the ad on linear TV, leading to a 10.6% incremental reach, according to Roku. Additionally, 81% of users age 25-54 who saw a RE/Max ad on the Roku platform did not see the ad on linear TV, leading to a 9.2% incremental reach.

“This year’s TV upfront made one thing very clear, OTT is the new cable and powerful new video channel to reach today’s consumers,” said Michael Piner, SVP, video and data drive investments, MullenLowe. “Roku’s tool helps show us just how effective OTT is at reaching our advertisers’ valuable consumers. It gives us a detailed look behind the GRP, allowing us to identify key audiences we’re missing.”

Tubi Expands Ad Sales Team

Ad-supported VOD service Tubi May 21  named former senior Viacom advertising executive Peter Graseck as VP of East Coast advertising sales. Graseck will lead the New York ad team and work alongside fellow VPs Heather Strofs, West Coast region, and Todd Segall, Midwest region.

The three report to chief revenue officer Mark Rotblat.

“Peter, Heather, and Todd are all talented executives with undeniable business acumen and integrity, and we look forward to leveraging their expertise during this pivotal growth period,” Rotblat said in a statement.

From Left: Peter Graseck, Heather Strofs, Todd Segall

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Graseck’s media career spans a wide variety of advertising and marketing functions; agency media planning at Young & Rubicam, marketing and branded entertainment at NBC Universal, and for the past 12 years at Viacom, he has held leadership roles in integrated marketing, client strategy, and both general market sales for Comedy Central, Spike, CMT, and TV Land, and direct response sales. Most recently, Graseck was the SVP of Viacom Partner Solutions where he oversaw all direct response accounts across Viacom’s cable networks and digital platforms.

Strofs came to Tubi with over 15 years of sales and leadership experience across the New York, Chicago, and West Coast Markets. She most recently served as VP, ad sales at The Oprah Winfrey Network where she collaborated with clients to create custom solutions that allowed advertising partners to reach their consumers in a unique and impactful way across linear, digital and social platforms. During her tenure, she brought on launch partners at OWN’s inception and continued to create innovative solutions across the studio, technology, and auto landscapes.

Segall joined Tubi from Roku where he was head of sales for their Central Region based out of Chicago and was responsible for building out their sales team and market presence. Prior to joining Roku, Segall was senior category sales director at AOL where he led the Finance Vertical as well as their mid-market sales team.

 

Roku Selling 1 Million Shares for $80+ Million

Streaming media pioneer Roku May 16 announced it is offering 1 million shares of common stock through Morgan Stanley.

The offering is expected to generate more than $80 million in funds the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company said it would use for working capital and general corporate purposes.

Founder/CEO Anthony Wood May 15 appeared on CNBC’s “Mad Money” with Jim Cramer to explaining how Roku — since launching with Netflix in 2008 — has brought streaming video in the living room through a user-friendly interface and low-cost hardware.

Roku CEO Anthony Wood

“Our goal is to build scale of our active accounts by licensing our technology to third-party TV manufacturers and advertising,” Wood said. “We help a lot of new streaming services build audiences for their platforms.”

Indeed, Roku has almost 30 million registered subscribers accessing proprietary and third-party content, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and pending Disney+ and Apple TV+ services.

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“Streaming video is very popular right now,” Wood said. “We had almost 3 million people cut the [pay-TV ] cord last year, more than 1 million in the quarter alone. So there’s a lot of momentum right now.”

Wood was asked if big media companies such as Comcast (parent of “Mad Money” creator NBC Universal), which are launching their own over-the-top video platforms, have become “frenemies” with Roku.

“Media companies are partnering with us, not destroying us,” Wood said. “Back when we launched Roku, it was just Netflix and most media companies were trying to avoid streaming. Now they realize it’s the future and they’re heavily invested.”

He said Comcast advertises on the platform and the Xfinity TV app is on the platform, in addition to NBC content.

“Content is what drives streaming,” Wood said. “We have built a purposeful operating system for the TV. It’s designed for the business model TV.”

Roku CEO: We Are the No. 1 Smart TV Operating System in the U.S.

Roku said 33% of all Internet-connected “smart” televisions sold domestically in the first quarter (ended March 31) featured its branded operating system. That’s up from 25% of all TVs sold in 2018.

“In less than five years, the Roku TV has gone from a disruptive idea to the market leader,” founder/CEO Anthony Wood said on the fiscal call. “We have taken the leads from Samsung and are now the number one smart TV OS in the country.”

Anthony Wood

Wood attributed Roku’s transition from streaming media device manufacturer to ad-supported VOD distributor to ongoing consumer moves away from linear TV toward over-the-top video — and the CE industry’s sluggish efforts to develop “homegrown” software OS platforms in televisions.

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“We really think in almost all cases those [OS] solutions are probably uncompetitive and that we will just continue to see gains and share of licensed OS [platforms],” Wood said. “So there is a lot of room to grow. It’s a big opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Roku continues to drive an expanding AVOD market through its branded Roku channel. The AVOD market gained momentum following Viacom’s acquisition of Pluto TV, Comcast’s planned launch of AVOD distribution, Shout! Factory’s Shout TV, Sony Crackle and San Francisco-based Tubi, among others.

“We are excited about the increased investment and focus by major media companies on bringing free content over-the-top,” said Scott Rosenberg, GM, platform business. “When they do this, they ultimately accelerate the consumer move into OTT and expand the economic pie for all of us. We share in their success.”

Indeed, Roku said user accounts increased 40% to 29.1 million from 20.8 million last year. Consumer streaming hours increased 74% to 8.9 billion hours compared to 5.1 billion hours in the previous-year period.

“The most exciting thing about the Viacom/Pluto tie-up is the fact that Viacom is taking content that was previously only available through pay-TV subscriptions and making it available free through AVOD services,” he said. “That not only will that drive viewing on the platform, I think it will also help accelerate the shift of ad dollars over to streaming.”

Roku Widens Quarterly Revenue, Loss — Despite Strong User Adoption

Streaming media device pioneer Roku May 8 reported consumer streaming hours increased 74% in the first quarter (ended March 31) to 8.9 billion hours, compared with 5.1 billion hours in the previous-year period.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based company said user accounts increased 40% to 29.1 million, from 20.8 million a year ago.

“The shift to streaming and away from linear TV and legacy distribution platforms has enormous momentum,” founder and CEO Anthony Wood said in a statement. “We estimate that in Q1 2019 more than one-in-three smart TVs sold in the U.S. were Roku TVs, making the Roku OS the #1 selling smart TV OS in the U.S.”

Despite the strong user metrics, Roku said its quarterly net loss increased 56% to $10.7 million from a net loss of $6.9 million in the previous-year period. Revenue increased 51% to $206.7 million from $136.6 million in 2018.

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Wall Street shrugged off the loss as it had expected a significantly higher decline as Roku ups content and operating expenses. Analysts also projected revenue of $190 million, which Roku topped by nearly 9%.

Indeed, ad revenue ballooned nearly 80% to $134 million from $74.8 million last year. Roku device sales increased about 18% to $65.4 million from $51.7 million last year.

Amazon, Google Bowing Apps on Competing Streaming Media Devices

In a first, Amazon and Google April 18 announced the two companies will launch the YouTube app on Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV-enabled smart TVs, as well as the Prime Video app to Chromecast and separately-enabled devices.

Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku dominate the streaming media device market.

Google Chromecast

Prime Video will also be available across Android TV device partners, and the YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will also come to Fire TV later this year. Google owns Android TV.

The YouTube app will be the easiest way for users to watch YouTube content on Fire TV. Users will be able to sign in to their existing YouTube account, access their full library of content, and play videos in 4K HDR on supported devices. In addition, standalone YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will also launch later this year on Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs where available.

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Amazon Fire TV Stick

“Bringing our flagship YouTube experience to Amazon Fire TV gives our users even more ways to watch the videos and creators they love,” Heather Rivera, global head of product partnerships at YouTube, said in a statement.

Chromecast, along with Android TV users, will have access to the Prime Video catalog, including the latest seasons of Amazon Originals “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Hanna,” “Homecoming,” “Bosch,” “Catastrophe” and “The Grand Tour,” along with Amazon Original movies such as Donald Glover’s Guava Island, and Academy Award-nominated films The Big Sick and Cold War. 

With Prime Video users can also rent or purchase titles or choose from more than 150 Prime Video Channels, including Showtime, HBO, CBS All-Access, Cinemax and Lionsgate-owned Starz.

“Whether watching the latest season of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ catching teams go head-to-head on Thursday Night Football or renting a new-release movie, customers will have even more ways to stream what they want, whenever they want, no matter where they are,” said Andrew Bennett, head of worldwide business development for Prime Video.

Roku Enhances User Experience with Software Update

Roku April 9 revealed it is rolling out new software – dubbed OS 9.1 – designed to make user access to video and music content easier.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based streaming media co-pioneer (along with Netflix) search for content genres using text or voice search now features a browsable collection of movies and TV shows. The titles are categorized from free, on-demand, subscription and 4K.

New voice commands include saying “replay” to go back a few seconds, “turn closed captions on/off,” to toggle closed captions, or if you can turn the TV display off while streaming select music channels like Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn by saying phrases like “turn display off.”

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A new “guest” mode (previously known as Auto Sign Out Mode) allows third-party users  to sign in to subscription channels using their own account credentials on your device. You can enable or disable the feature for specific Roku devices from the “my linked devices” section on the “my account” page on Roku.com. You can also sign a guest out of a device if the guest left early or selected the incorrect sign-out date.

In addition to a “my offers” link affording Roku users to special deals and discounts, the software upgrade enables users to bypass re-entering log-in credentials when activating a new Roku device.

“Automatic account link” is available on nearly 10 subscription streaming services including Pandora and Sling TV, with additional services expected to be supported soon.

The software update is available on select Roku streaming players today and is expected to roll out to all supported players in the coming weeks,” Ilya Asnis, SVP Roku OS, wrote in a blog.

Roku TV models are expected to receive the update in early summer.