Acorn TV Streaming in Mexico — via Banned Roku Devices?

NEWS ANALYSIS — Acorn TV, RLJ Entertainment’s streaming service for British and international television content, June 5 announced its availability in Mexico.

Consumers can subscribe to the service via the Roku streaming player or Roku TV. Content will be in English with Spanish subtitles. The streaming service is available for MXN $89 per month.

“Launching [in Mexico] with … Roku reflects our priority of accelerating the expansion of our distribution footprint,” Miguel Penella, CEO of RLJ Entertainment, said in a statement.

Except that Roku players have been banned for sale in Mexico since the summer of 2017.

At issue are allegations by Cablevision claiming third-party hackers have 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 has twice failed to overturn on appeal — most-recently in March.

Mario Antonio Gonzalez Martinez, a lawyer representing Roku, claims the ban unfairly targets the streaming media device pioneer while doing little to curb piracy.

“This blocking will directly affect Mexican consumers who want to buy a Roku device to see great content, legal, on their television, at affordable prices,” Gonzalez Martinez said in a statement to CordCutterNews.com.

“It is necessary for Roku to make adjustments to its software, as other online content distribution platforms do, so that violations of copyrighted content do not take place,” Cablevision said in a statement.

Roku said it eliminates apps suspected of pirating content. Walmart, Best Buy and Office Depot have joined Roku in lobby efforts to overturn the ban. Roku, together with Netflix, helped create the SVOD business model with a branded Netflix device in 2008.

“Roku is not the cause, nor the source of piracy that is carried out by third parties illegally in Mexico,” said Gonzalez Martinez.

Acorn TV Expanding to Latin America

Acorn TV, the British-centric SVOD service owned by RLJ Entertainment, is expanding its footprint via Roku to Latin America.

The $4.99 monthly service is now available inArgentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru through Roku or Acorn.TV.

“One of our top 2018 priorities is accelerating our expansion of our distribution footprint, and Acorn TV’s launch in Latin America with our partner Roku is another step in this progression,” Miguel Penella, CEO of RLJ Entertainment, said in a statement.

Penella said the expansion would help Acorn TV achieve its goal of generating 1 million subscribers by 2019.

Acorn TV is as old as Netflix, relaunching as a standalone over-the-top video service in 2013. It ended 2017 with more than 500,000 subscribers.

Original programs include BBC comedy “Detectorists,” new ITV drama “Girlfriends,” and the return of Irish drama, “Striking Out.” Other programs feature new seasons of Aussie period drama, “A Place to Call Home,” British drama “Delicious,” Aussie medical dramedy, “The Heart Guy,” dramedy “800 Words,” as well as long-running mysteries, “Midsomer Murders,” “Jack Irish,” starring Guy Pearce, “Murdoch Mysteries,” and “The Brokenwood Mysteries.”

RLJ Entertainment is majority owned (on paper) by AMC Networks.

Parks: Streaming Media Device Use Tops Smart TV

More homes with high-speed Internet service own a smart TV than a streaming media device, yet usage of Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV is higher, according to new data from Parks Associates.

The research firm found that nearly 40% of broadband-enabled homes own a streaming media device, up from about 6% in 2010.

More than 70% of streaming media player (SMP) owners use their devices at least once per week, compared to 59% of smart TV owners. About 44% of SMP owners use their device daily as compared to 37% of smart TV owners. Almost 50% of smart TV owners also own a streaming media player.

Separately, flat-panel purchases including 4K/Ultra HD technology rose from 14% to 30% among U.S. broadband households.

“Smart TVs earned the highest [score] among consumers out of all the CE products tested, but streaming media players still have higher usage rates, indicating these devices have firmly established their role in their ability to connect users with content quickly and easily,” analyst Kristen Hanich said in a statement.

Amazon’s share of streaming media players owned in U.S. broadband households has increased by 4% since last year, taking some of Google’s share of the installed base. Roku’s share has held steady at 37% for the past year.

“Roku leads in multiple usability categories, while the Apple TV leads in terms of gaming and the ability to purchase content,” said Hanich. “Amazon’s Fire TV has moved up to second place in the ease-of-setup category and is close to the Apple TV’s score in several more, including ease of finding something to watch and ease of purchasing content, which could account in part for its growing market share.”

 

 

Comcast’s Solution to Video Sub Losses: Raise Broadband Pricing

Comcast Cable lost 96,000 video subscribers in the first-quarter (ended March 31), and 200,000 subs in 2017 — many to competing over-the-top video services and/or online TV platforms.

So, what is Comcast Cable doing in response to cord-cutters? Raising broadband (high-speed Internet) fees, CEO Dave Watson told an investor group.

Speaking May 14 at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York, Watson reiterated that the traditional cable bundle still represents the best value to consumers eyeing a-la-carte programming alternatives such as Showtime OTT, HBO Now, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, etc.

When pay-TV subscribers opt for OTT video alternatives, they lose the multiproduct discount, while Comcast is able to lower its programming costs, while hiking monthly broadband fees.

Indeed, Comcast added 379,000 high-speed Internet subscribers in Q1, which helped upped broadband revenue 8.5% to $14.8 billion — 64% of video revenue.

“We’ve seen some low-end customers that have dropped video, maintain broadband … it’s accretive when that happens,” Watson said.

The executive said Comcast’s cloud-based X1 set-top continues to meld the traditional set-top with OTT video. The platform, which accounts for almost 60% of Comcast’s residential video footprint, now offers direct-access to Netflix and YouTube.

“We still think video is a very important category,” Watson said. “We’re still going to compete.”

At the same time, Watson concedes that competing streaming media set-top dives such as Roku offer similar features of X1, including the Xfinity app.

“We have a lot of optionality around how we manage the video relationship,” he said.

 

Roku Celebrates 10 Years of TV Streaming with Free Content and Discounts

In celebration of 10 years of TV streaming, Roku May 14 announced it has unlocked free content for Roku customers and is offering discounts on select streaming players.

“The celebration falls just ahead of National Streaming Day on May 20, which encourages people to stream entertainment and recognizes the massive change in the TV industry,” according to a Roku press release. “This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first Roku player, the first ever device to stream Netflix to the TV.”

“For 10 years, Roku has facilitated the massive shift in the way people watch TV and we’re extremely proud of the contribution we’re making to streaming entertainment,” said Matthew Anderson, chief marketing officer, Roku, in a statement. “We can think of no better way to thank our base of nearly 21 million avid streamers than to offer free hit entertainment in partnership with some of the biggest and best TV networks like Shotime, Fox, EPIX, Smithsonian Earth and more.”

Content from select channel partners is available for free in the Roku Channel through May 20, including premiere seasons of the Showtime series “Billions,” “Ray Donovan” and “The Affair”the first season of EPIX’s dark comedy “Get Shorty”; episodes of hits from Fox, such as “The Four: Battle for Stardom,”Beat Shazam” hosted by Jamie Foxx; and “Love Connection” hosted by Andy Cohen; as well as nature and wildlife documentaries from Smithsonian Earth.

Consumers can also save on several Roku streaming players in the United States. For a limited time, customers can get $10 off the Roku Streaming Stick ($49.99) and the Roku Ultra ($99.99), as well as $15 off the Roku Streaming Stick+ ($69.99). The offers are available at major retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Target and Walmart.com, and at Roku.com through May 26.

“Roku pioneered streaming to the television with the launch of the Netflix player in 2008. Since then, the company has transformed how consumers enjoy TV, how content providers reach their TV audiences and how brands reach TV audiences,” read the release. “As of the end of the first quarter of 2018, Roku had nearly 21 million active accounts, and during that first quarter alone, Roku users streamed 5+ billion hours.”

Roku Shrinks Q1 Net Loss as Platform Revenue Tops Device Sales for the First Time

Streaming media device manufacturer Roku May 9 reported a first-quarter (ended March 31) net loss of $6.6 million on revenue of $136.5 million. This represented a 24% improvement from a net loss of $8.7 million on revenue of $100 million during the previous-year period.

Los Gatos, Calif.-based Roku said its operating platform connecting to the Internet is now incorporated in 25% of all TV sold in the United States. Roku remains a significant conduit for third-party online TV services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, fuboTV and Philo.

“Nearly half of our roughly 21 million active users have cut the cord or have never had a traditional pay-TV subscription, which means that they simply cannot be reached through linear TV,” founder and CEO Anthony Wood wrote in the shareholder letter. “This makes our strategic position in the living room extremely valuable.”

Indeed, The Roku Channel, the ad-supported service offering catalog movies and TV shows from Lionsgate, MGM, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros., in addition to live news from ABC News, Cheddar and People TV, among others, now ranks the 15thmost-streamed channel on Roku devices.

In March, Roku said it would make the branded channel available for the first time outside the Roku ecosystem on select Samsung TVs.

“We believe there is a significant opportunity to take The Roku Channel beyond the Roku OS platform to other large-scale platforms,” Wood wrote.

The CEO contends about 10% of all adults in the U.S. between the ages 18 and 34 can only be reached on TV via the Roku platform in the living room.

As a result, Roku is targeting the $70 billion domestic TV advertising market with its first-ever “upfronts” meetings with TV advertisers.

“This is a milestone moment for [over-the-top video], as advertisers have recognized that OTT must now be part of their TV ad-spending strategy,” wrote Wood. “While it is still early days, we believe this is a significant moment for the industry and for Roku.”

Roku-Commissioned Study Finds OTT Ads More Effective

Video ads on the Roku OTT platform are 67 percent more effective per exposure at driving purchase intent than ads on broadcast and cable television, according to a study conducted by MAGNA, IPG Media Lab and Roku.

The study, “Under the Hood of Over-the-Top Measurement,” commissioned by Roku, tracked and measured ads from four brands — Applebee’s, H&M, McCormick and Truvia. The study used the Roku platform to identify households with exposure to linear TV and/or OTT ads. MAGNA surveyed a total of 4,621 consumers — both those exposed to the ads and an unexposed control group. The survey consisted of traditional brand metrics, such as ad recall, brand favorability and purchase intent.

The study also found that consumers consider brands that run video ads on the Roku platform to be twice as innovative as traditional linear TV alone. In addition, consumers found the ads to be more memorable than those on linear TV, due in part to fewer ads on OTT.

“It’s clear that OTT offers advertisers distinct advantages over traditional TV,” says Kara Manatt, SVP, intelligence, solutions and strategy, MAGNA Global. “Given that OTT needs fewer exposures to generate the impact that linear TV provides at higher exposure levels, brands can run campaigns on OTT that are both more efficient and effective.”

Other findings, according to the study: moving impressions to Roku from linear TV provides a 32 percent increase per exposure in perception that brand has a unique story to tell; Roku audience targeting spurs larger brand lift per exposure than linear television; and OTT ads require less exposure than linear TV.

“Consumers are shifting their TV time from linear to OTT, making it important for marketers to also shift their ad investments,” said Scott Rosenberg, Roku GM of platform business. “This study demonstrates that ads on Roku deliver not only incremental reach, but also higher ROI than linear TV ads.”

MAGNA is the centralized IPG Mediabrands resource that develops intelligence, investment and innovation strategies for agency teams and clients. Part of the Interpublic network, the IPG Media Lab identifies and researches innovations and trends that will change the media landscape and how brands engage with their audiences.

Roku Bowing Voice Search in the U.K.

Roku April 24 announced it will soon make its enhanced voice search feature available to Roku users in the United Kingdom.

The software enables users to use their voice to find entertainment to watch. The new feature will be available for Roku players through the Roku mobile app, and for the Roku Streaming Stick+ through the remote control. Roku OS 8.1 will begin to roll out through a software update beginning May 1.

Enhanced Voice Search allows for more natural language understanding and can search for movies, shows, actors and directors, or even launch streaming channels, in a more conversational tone.

“We want to get our customers to the show they want to watch quickly,” Lloyd Klarke, director of product management at Roku, said in a statement. “Enhanced voice search makes it even easier for our users to find new movies and TV shows to watch.”

The Roku mobile app, available for iOS and Android, acts as a remote, streams media from a mobile device to the TV, includes a keyboard and offers features like voice search and private listening. In addition, Roku OS 8.1 will enable private listening for up to four devices concurrently for all Roku players.

Separately, Roku announced the addition of live and linear news content to The Roku Channel. The ad-supported channel now offers access to ABC News Live, in addition to Cheddar, People TV and others.

Roku Shares Fall Following Best Buy, Amazon Pact

Shares of streaming media device manufacturer Roku April 18 closed down nearly 12% after Best Buy announced it would start embedding Amazon Fire TV software into branded and third-party smart TVs. Roku shares closed at $31.72 per share.

Roku, which helped create the SVOD market with a branded Netflix player in 2008, had been including its software in Best Buy’s Insignia TVs.

Now, Best Buy is planning to bow 10 4K UHD televisions with Amazon’s Fire TV Edition, including units from Toshiba. And Best Buy for the first time will sell Chinese-made Insignia TVs on Amazon.com.

Roku’s operating system ranked No. 2 in North America behind Samsung’s mobile Tizen operating system created in 2012, according to IHS Markit.

“Roku TVs are available at Best Buy and across all the other major retailers, making it easy for consumers to choose from dozens of Roku TV models,” said Tricia Mifsud, VP of communications, said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

The share price drop is likely temporary considering Roku’s stock gained 9% April 17 following Netflix’s record Q1 fiscal results. A majority of domestic subscribers to the SVOD behemoth do so via a Roku device and/or app.

Earlier this month, Roku announced that Sanyo-branded smart TVs would begin using the Roku TV platform. Other manufacturers using Roku include China’s Hisense, Hitachi, RCA, Sharp and TCL.

Roku reports first quarter results May 9.

 

 

Sanyo Adopting Roku TV Technology

Roku April 4 announced that the Sanyo consumer electronics brand has joined its licensing program. Funai Corp., which is the exclusive licensee for Sanyo televisions and home video products in North America, expects to ship the first Sanyo Roku TVs in Canada this quarter.

“The Roku operating system makes our smart TVs an attractive option for consumers, Peter Swinkels, GM, product planning at Funai Electric, said in a statement.

Launched four years ago, the Roku TV licensing program offers OEM partners a cost-effective way to build smart TVs. The Roku operating system provides consumers with access to a regularly updated library of content, in addition to automatic tech updates.

“We’re thrilled to expand the Roku TV program with our 10th brand – Sanyo – through our work with Funai,” said Chas Smith, GM of Roku TV & Players.

Other CE brands on the Roku TV program include: TCL, Best Buy house brand, Insignia; Sharp, Hisense, Hitachi, RCA, Philips and Element.