FilmRise’s Ad-Supported Roku Channel Adds Classic Carsey-Werner TV Shows

FilmRise has launched several classic Carsey-Werner TV shows on its ad-supported Roku streaming channel, including the “3rd Rock From the Sun.”

The FilmRise channel ranks at No. 15 among top free channels on the platform, according to a release from the company. The channel generates more than 300 million monthly ad impressions and reaches nearly 20 million users who can watch movies and TV on demand for free, according to the release.

FilmRise will soon launch ad-supported channels on Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, Apple TV, and smart TVs such as Vizio, among other platforms, and is currently in development on iOS and Android for mobile viewing via worldwide apps.

Other Carsey-Werner sitcoms available on the Roku channel include “Cybill,” “Grace Under Fire” and “Grounded for Life.”

“FilmRise’s tremendous growth on Roku sheds light on the power of ad-supported free digital streaming,” said Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise. “By bringing our vast library of quality content to viewers who don’t wish to pay a transactional or subscription fee, we’ve unlocked the potential to reach new and diverse audiences who want to experience the best in film and TV — including timeless TV series and iconic movies.”

Gun Safety Activists Urge Tech Companies to Drop NRA TV Streaming Service

In the wake of the Florida high-school shooting that left 14 students and three teachers dead, gun safety activists are asking tech companies to stop streaming NRA TV, an ad-supported service of the National Rifle Association.

Launched in 2016, NRA TV features original programming supporting gun rights and other issues, in addition to covering conservative events such as C-PAC.

“Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense” and “Everytown for Gun Safety” are calling on companies such as Amazon, YouTube, Roku and Apple to stop carrying the NRA TV app, claiming the platform “promotes dangerous conspiracy theories, racially charged rhetoric and violent demonization of the NRA’s political opponents,” among other issues.

“Everytown,” which is fighting to close existing loopholes in gun purchase background checks and curbing the illegal trafficking of firearms, is helping spread hashtag #DumpNRATV.

The groups are also asking pay-TV operators such as DirecTV Now to cancel programming produced by the NRA.

“American businesses have the responsibility to make ethical decisions about the content they will provide on their platforms,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement.

Watts, a mother of five children, founded “Moms Demand Action” following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012 that left 20 children and six adults dead.

Roku spokesperson Tricia Mifsud took the high ground, saying the over-the-top video pioneer merely acts as a conduit to programming users voluntarily choose to stream.

“We operate an open-streaming platform; however, our content policies prohibit the publication of content that is unlawful, incites illegal activities or violates third-party rights,” Mifsud said in a statement to CNN.com.

 

Roku Putting Emphasis on Content Distribution

Roku wants people to watch content on the Roku Channel. And consumers are responding.

Roku, together with Netflix, helped launch the subscription streaming video market more than 10 years ago with a branded “Netflix” media device – after Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings killed a planned proprietary Netflix player.

It was a shrewd move by Hastings focusing on nascent app technology and content distribution (and content creation) rather than antagonizing established CE manufacturers.

Roku, which comes from the Japanese word meaning “six,” symbolizing founder/CEO Anthony Wood’s sixth venture startup, continued down the hardware path bowing a series of set-top devices (including HDMI dongle sticks) and branded Roku TVs, enabling users to stream video from the Internet through a Wi-Fi connection.

Now Roku seeks to distribute third-party content directly through the Roku Channel. And content creators are responding, say company executives.

“It’s exceeded our expectations and is already material contributor to the video inventory that we sell through our advertisers,” Scott Rosenberg, GM and SVP of advertising, said on the fiscal call.

In addition to distributing content via the ad-supported Roku Channel, content holders can use a program called “Roku Direct Publisher,” which enables them to produce a dedicated app in the Roku Channel store.

“That content can also be syndicated and shown inside of the Roku Channel,” said Rosenberg. “So, it acts as a way to drive additional traffic, additional audience past content partners content.”

Roku says half of the AdAge Top 200 advertisers were clients on the Roku platform last year.

Roku platform revenue grew 129% to $85.4 million in Q4, with the largest contributor coming from advertising. Indeed, advertising made up about 75% of platform revenue and accounted for more than two-thirds of the $225 million in platform revenue for the fiscal year.

“Our entertainment networks are a great way to make our TVs better. There’s just a lot of areas that are driving our growth and that will ultimately contribute to continue to [average-revenue-per-user] growth,” said Wood.

 

 

 

Roku Ups Q4 Profit, Stock Tumbles Afterhours

Roku Feb. 21 reported fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2017) profit of more than $9.4 million, up 181% from income of more than $3.3 million during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 28% to $$188.2 million from $147.3 million last year.

Roku subscriber accounts reached 19.3 million, up 44% from 13.4 million last year. Streaming hours increased 55% to 4.3 billion hours from 2.8 billion.

Despite the fantastic quarter, investors responded negatively, dumping shares afterhours more than 21% to $40.23. Roku went public last September with an opening share price of $15.78. and closing at $23.50 per share.

At issue for investors is a first-quarter net loss guidance from $15 million to $21 million on revenue from $120 million to $130 million. Wall Street is projecting $131.7 million in revenue.

More importantly, streaming media device revenue declined about 7% to $102.8 million from $110 million. The drop has seen Roku roll out lower-priced units in an effort to better compete against rival devices from Google Chromecast and Apple TV, among others.

“The tectonic shifts we are seeing in the media and entertainment industries continue to strengthen our streaming opportunity,” founder/CEO Anthony Wood said in a statement. “The fourth quarter was a fantastic quarter, reinforcing our position in smart TVs, streaming players, OTT advertising and content distribution.”

YouTube TV Available on Roku Devices

Roku Inc. and YouTube Feb. 1 announced the availability of YouTube TV on select Roku devices, allowing Roku users to stream live sports, local and national news, and shows as they air on live TV.

For $35/month following a free trial, users can get access to live TV from nearly 50 networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW, Disney Channel, ESPN, FX and Telemundo. Sports and premium networks such as SHOWTIME, Shudder, Sundance Now and Fox Soccer Plus are also available for an additional monthly charge.

“We are thrilled to bring YouTube TV to our customers,” said Tedd Cittadine, VP, Content Distribution, Roku. “YouTube TV connects Roku users with great live TV from major broadcast and popular cable networks in a channel built specifically for TVs.”

“The way people watch TV is ever-evolving, and expanding our reach through the Roku platform was a great fit,” said Christian Oestlien, product management director, YouTube TV.

Some additional YouTube TV features available on Roku include:

  • Cloud DVR with no storage limits;
  • A “library” tab that includes easy access to the shows viewers have recorded by browsing movies, shows, and events by new, most watched, and more;
  • A “home” tab with personalized recommendations, including top picks and resume watching (allowing users to easily pick up where they left off on another device when they get home);
  • A “live” tab with a full program guide to see what’s on now and what’s airing soon;
  • A background playback experience so viewers never miss the action while they browse the app;
  • And the ability to share with up to five other roommates or family members in the household with each member getting their own login, DVR, and personalized recommendations.

Currently, YouTube TV is available in more than 80 metro areas and is available in the Roku Channel Store.

Supported Roku devices include all Roku TVs, Roku Ultra, Roku Streaming Stick+, Roku Streaming Stick (3800x, 3600x), Roku Express/Express+ (3910x, 3900x, 3710x, 3700x), Roku Premiere+, Roku Premiere, Roku 4, Roku 3 (4200x, 4230x) and Roku 2 (4210x).

Roku Challenges Amazon, Google With Branded NOW TV Streaming Stick in the U.K.

NOW TV, the standalone subscription streaming service operated by U.K. satellite operator Sky, Jan. 25 announced the launch of a branded streaming stick – manufactured by Roku.

Available in February, the £14.99 ($21) plug-and-play stick comes with a remote featuring voice-activated search technology, in addition to pausing live TV on premium channels, including Sky Sports, Fox, Comedy Central and Sky Atlantic.

“If you’re looking for a flexible way to stream great TV, contract free, the NOW TV Smart Stick is the cheapest in the U.K.,” managing director Gidon Katz said in a statement.

Unlike pay-TV, NOW TV sells subscriptions to genre-specific programing, including an entertainment pass, cinema pass, sports pass (available daily, weekly and monthly), and kids pass.

NOW is also marketing standalone broadband access, with speeds ranging from 17 Mbps to 76 Mbps.

Launched in 2012, NOW TV featured a Roku-manufactured set-top device and offered Sky programing on a monthly subscription. The service launched in Ireland last year.

With 21st Century Fox a minority owner of Sky, Fox helped bring Roku to Europe eight years ago following a $45 million investment from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Notably, when Murdoch put 20th Century Fox up for sale to Disney, the $52.4 billion deal did not include its 7% stake in Roku.

“Fox’s leaders understand the TV part is the fastest-growing part of the business,” Anthony Wood, founder and CEO of Roku told TheStreet last November.

TiVo: Average Global Viewer Watches 4.4 Hours of Video Daily

Fueled by more than $130 billion investment in programing globally, the average person watches more than four hours of video on a daily basis, according to new data from TiVo.

The United States tops all countries with 5.1 hours spent per day on average consuming video. Other documented regions included the Brazil (4.7 hours), United Kingdom (4.2), Columbia (4.1), Mexico (4.1), France (3.7), and Germany (3.3).

TiVo said the average person spends 28 minutes daily searching for video content, based on online survey of 8,500 pay-TV and over-the-top video respondents.

“Viewers, content owners, new streaming services and devices have created a feedback loop where both supply and demand have grown exponentially,” wrote Jocelin Lee, senior manager, strategic research & market insights, and co-author of the report.

While 87% of U.S. respondents said they subscribe to pay-TV, 64% also pay for streaming video, including 44% using a streaming media device.

Not surprisingly, Netflix dominates among SVOD services with 82% penetration in the U.S., followed by Amazon Prime Video at 47% and Hulu at 32%.

Netflix’s highest regional penetrations include Mexico and Brazil at 91%, respectively. By comparison, Netflix has 65% penetration in France.

Among streaming devices, Roku (29%) enjoys a slight lead over Google Chromecast (21%), followed by Apple TV at 18% market penetration. Google Chromecast enjoys superiority in Columbia, Brazil, Mexico and France – all countries Roku is not sold.

Amazon Fire TV Stick ranks No. 1 in the U.K. and Germany – two strong Amazon ecommerce markets.

Roku Introduces New OTT Ad Measurement

Roku Jan. 17 announced a new service for over-the-top advertising measurement.

Ad Insights allows marketers to measure campaign reach and effectiveness across linear and OTT, and more accurately plan their OTT ad investments, according to Roku.

The insights are derived from Roku’s first party data as well as the linear and streaming viewership habits of millions of active accounts and billions of streaming hours, according to the company.

“With our rich first-party data, robust OS and relationships with our consumers we are in a unique position to continue to make meaningful advances in OTT measurement,” said Scott Rosenberg, GM of platform business at Roku. “Our investment in new measurement tools reflects our strong commitment to helping brands fully leverage the benefits of OTT advertising.”

The Roku Ad Insights Suite includes:

  • Reach Insights– Marketers can quantify unique campaign reach by demographic segments across linear TV, OTT, desktop and mobile.
  • Tune-In Insights– TV networks and content owners can measure the effectiveness of content promotions they run across linear TV, OTT, desktop and mobile.
  • Cord Cutter Insights– Marketers can target and measure campaigns delivered to Roku users who don’t have traditional pay TV subscriptions.
  • Survey Insights– Marketers can gather real-time feedback and demographic insights with short on-device surveys.

Previously, Roku announced it was the first OTT platform to integrate Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings (DAR) and offer audience guarantees based on age and gender, the company noted. In addition to Nielsen, Roku collaborates with leading research providers such as Experian, Kantar Millward Brown, Oracle Data Cloud, Placed and others to provide transparent third-party measurement.

CES 2018: From Consumer to Concept

The 2018 CES in Las Vegas marked a continuation of the trade show’s rather rapid shift from consumer to concept.

Once again, there was significantly less emphasis on traditional consumer electronics and more of a focus on technological innovation, from driverless cars to drones, from connected homes to voice-activated anything.

The “wow” factor dominated the show floor, even as Mother Nature flexed her muscle, with the city flooded by a rainstorm on opening day and the show virtually shut down for nearly two hours on day 2 by a blackout show organizers attributed to the rain.

In the old days, visitors to CES – which this year saw more than 3,900 exhibitors  showcase their technologies on a record 2.75 million net square feet of exhibit space across Las Vegas – could expect to see many of the products on display available for purchase later in the year.

But in recent years, CES has become something of a proving ground for tech firms engaged in a game of one-upmanship – resulting in a parade of technological marvels that, like concept cars, may never come to market.

Indeed, the show floor at CES 2018 was something of a theme park, with people lined up outside several of the bigger booths for scheduled shows.  At the LG booth, visitors were led through a winding canyon of curved TV screens showing majestic waterfalls and other natural wonders. At the Panasonic booth, visitors were treated to an elaborate stage show highlighted by a woman dressed as a robot. And at Samsung, the star attraction was a 146-inch TV, dubbed The Wall, that through modular MicroLED technology can be adjusted to better fit your room by removing or adding pieces.

This focus on futuristic technologies rather than new and improved CE gadgets prompted show producer the Consumer Electronics Association to officially change its name to the Consumer Technology Association in November 2015.

At the time, CTA president Gary Shapiro said in a press release, “Several years ago, our executive board directed us to focus on promoting innovation….The name Consumer Technology Association addresses that.”

For show attendees from the home entertainment sector, prospects of an HDR (high dynamic range) format competition came out into the open. On the eve of the show, Twentieth Century Fox, Samsung and Panasonic announced a push for HDR10+, a non-royalty HDR technology also supported by Warner Bros. Panasonic and Sony displayed 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc players with Dolby Vision’s HDR technology, which is not royalty tree.  And Philips/Technicolor (aligned with LG) touted Advanced HDR by Technicolor, which representatives said promises a cheaper HDR solution that is especially convenient for broadcasters because they  don’t have to employ multiple teams to shoot the same live event. (Shooting in HD as well as 4K with HDR requires two sets of cameras/teams with HDR10+ or Dolby Vision, the Technicolor reps said.)

“CES was just a preview of the tremendous technological innovations to come in augmented and mixed reality as evidenced by the proliferation of devices and experiences being touted at the show,” said Danny Kaye, EVP of 20th Century Fox, and managing director of the Fox Innovation Lab. “Couple that with the onset of 5G and the broad range of support shown for HDR10+, and we’re on the brink of a fundamental shift in the way in which consumers view our content across all of their devices.”

At an event highlighting the Fox Innovation Lab’s VR project Isle of Dogs and HDR10+ support, Karen Gilford, GM of digital locker Movies Anywhere offered an update on its progress since the October launch. At 81 days after launch, consumers had placed nearly 80 million movies in lockers and had streamed more than 3 million hours of content, she said. The locker launched with more than 7,500 movies from five studios — Walt Disney (including Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm), Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment — and with retail support from Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu.

“Movies Anywhere gives fans more control over their libraries with innovative product features that deliver a great experience,” Gilford said. “As the app continues to gain traction, consumers can expect to see the integration of new partners and a continued evolution of product features that serve them in unprecedented ways.”

New release and seasonal titles have been the top performers across redemptions and purchases, she said.

Added Keith Feldman, president, worldwide home entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, “Movies Anywhere advances the experience of our most avid consumers and serves these highly engaged movie fans with relevant and unique content when their interest is at its peak, strengthening the entire entertainment ecosystem.”

In other show news:

  • Chinese TV manufacturer TCL announced plans to join Roku’s “Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program,” a new platform enabling OEM brands to incorporate voice-activated Roku Connect software as a home entertainment network. TCL manufactures Roku-branded TVs. “Consumers will love the benefits of … having more affordable options –using their voice, having a simplified set up and Wi-Fi connectivity, and holding just one remote control,” said Roku founder/CEO Anthony Wood.
  • LG Electronics  showcased what it said is the world’s first 88-inch 8K OLED display featuring 33 million pixels — four times the clarity of 4K Ultra HD. “OLED is clearly a next- generation technology leader and for this reason, LG Display is accelerating its research and development into OLED so that we can provide  differentiated products to customers and markets,” CTO In-Byung Kang said in a statement.
  • Digital platform security firm Irdeto announced the launch of its next-generation piracy control solution. The new online piracy detection and enforcement solution provides data-driven web video discovery tools with expert analyst oversight, multi-language site searches, integrated social media and search engine discovery, as well as peer-to-peer stream discovery such as SopCast and Ace Stream, according to Irdeto. These new features enable content owners and distributors to quickly and accurately identify and then shut down pirated content across streaming video on demand, direct download and hybrid pirate websites.
  • Media services company Pixelogic announced its London facility is the first in Europe to offer Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray authoring with its proprietary Dolby Vision authoring tools. Since launching the service last year, Pixelogic has delivered more than 20 UHD Blu-ray Disc titles in Dolby Vision authored in its Los Angeles office, including BBC Worldwide’s first Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray title, Earth: One Amazing Day. Other titles include Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Lionsgate’s Saban’s Power Rangers, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Resident Evil: Vendetta.
  • Samsung announced what it billed as “the world’s first QLED TV featuring 8K AI upscaling technology.” This technology upscales standard definition content to 8K by employing a proprietary algorithm to adjust screen resolution based on the image quality characteristics of each scene. The technology “uses a proprietary algorithm to improve the TV’s picture performance regardless of native image,” said David Das, SVP, consumer electronics marketing, Samsung Electronics America. This includes detail enhancement — upgrading standard definition content, noise reduction, edge restoration function — which more clearly outlines on-screen objects, according to Samsung. “The TV intelligently upscales the resolution to an 8K viewing experience,” Das said.

Stephanie Prange and Erik Gruenwedel contributed to this report.

Chinese TV Maker Hisense Selects Amazon Alexa

Following an industry trend linking voice-activated technology with consumer electronics, Chinese TV manufacturer Hisense and Amazon Jan. 3 announced the ecommerce behemoth’s voice-control system Alexa will be available for the first time on select models of Hisense 4K Smart TVs – including a 100-inch UHD Laser TV.

Hisense’s Smart TVs include apps from Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube, among others. In addition, Alexa-enabled Hisense 4K Smart TVs will offer a wide variety of voice features to help users control certain primary functions, including voice commands, changing inputs and controlling volume.

Alexa also connects to music services like iHeartRadio and Pandora, in addition to myriad skills enabling users to shop for groceries, gifts and ordering take-out. Alexa also enables users to connect to other smart home products, including lights, air conditioner, heater and other connected devices.

“While content providers and other TV manufacturers tend to focus on quantity of content, Hisense recognizes that the future is all about simplicity, making it easy for consumers to find and watch their favorite content, play music, control their smart home and more,” Mark Viken, VP of marketing, said in a statement.

Notably, Hisense entered the U.S. market manufacturing branded Roku TVs, while opting not to use the streaming media device pioneer’s new voice-activated technology. Indeed, Hisense has a history of incorporating Alexa in smart home products.

“[Hisense is] bringing Alexa directly to customers’ living rooms,” said Steve Rabuchin, VP, Amazon Alexa. “This means customers can do things like turn the volume up, control their smart home, get a movie recommendation or even order dinner on select models – with just their voice.”