Disney+ Live on Samsung Smart TVs in U.S.

Not to be left out of the Disney+ launch, Samsung Electronics Nov. 12 announced the new SVOD service is available on Samsung Smart TV models manufactured from 2016 through 2019.

Samsung offers its own Samsung TV Plus, an ad-supported video service delivering free access to news, sports and entertainment.

Samsung contends Disney+ gives its consumers “unprecedented” access to an extensive library of films, television series and huge variety of original feature films, documentaries, scripted and unscripted series, and short-form content.

Samsung line of Smart TVs offer a universal guide enabling users to browse content selections across multiple sources with customized recommendations.

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Users will also be able to leverage the Bixby feature on 2019 QLED TVs to control their TVs and access content through voice commands.

Samsung has been at the forefront offering a diverse selection of content options available to consumers on Internet-connected TV, including the streaming services users love such as Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube — and now, Disney+.

Indeed, Kevin Swint, SVP, Disney+, consumer tech & media executive, formerly worked at Samsung as VP, product and services, where he conceived and executed new direct-to-consumer strategies globally across Samsung Mobile Division’s apps, content, and services efforts.

Older Samsung Smart TVs to Lose Netflix

Older Samsung Smart TVs will be losing access to Netflix beginning Dec. 1 “due to technical limitations,” according to Samsung.

The affected TVs are 2010 and 2011 models with ‘C’ or ‘D’ after the screen size in the model code.

“If you have one of the affected models, you may see a message on your TV indicating that Netflix will no longer be available on this device,” read a Samsung statement. “You’ll still be able to watch Netflix on your TV by connecting another device with Netflix on it.”

Netflix compatible devices are listed here.

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Samsung Adds CBSN to Ad-Supported VOD Service

Samsung Electronics America Oct. 31 announced the addition of CBSN to its free ad-supported video service Samsung TV Plus.

CBSN joins more than 70 TV channels on the Samsung TV Plus service, which delivers free, ad-supported programming across millions of 2016-2019 Samsung Smart TVs.

Established in 2016 in the United States, Samsung TV Plus is pre-installed on all 2016-2019 Samsung Smart TVs. Users can access TV content with just an Internet connection — no download, additional devices or credit card needed.

The platform mirrors AVOD efforts by The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Shout! Factory TV, and IMDb TV, among others.

“As viewership trends continue to shift, we feel it is important to offer consumers a live and linear TV experience that is completely free and deeply integrated into our Samsung Smart TV platform,” Salek Brodsky, VP of strategic partnerships and business development for Samsung Electronics, said in a statement.

About 34% of U.S. households will not have a traditional cable subscription by the end of 2019, according to the Convergence Research Group.

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With the addition of CBSN, CBS News’ 24/7 streaming news service, Samsung TV Plus provides consumers with an alternative way to access and watch the same news content in the home.

The Samsung TV Plus lineup includes channels spanning news, sports, kids, lifestyle, gaming and more, including: ET Live, Cheddar, WeatherNation, fubo Sports Network, Outside TV+, Moonbug, Tastemade, QVC, PeopleTV, This Old House, FailArmy, The Pet Collective and IGN.

BritBox Ups Distribution Partners in the U.K.

BritBox, the subscription streaming video service launched in the United States by the BBC and ITV and now “imported” to the United Kingdom, has expanded distribution in the latter region

In addition to agreements with ad-supported VOD service Freeview Play and YouView set-top boxes, BritBox has inked a deal with Samsung to be included on its line of connected Tizen televisions.

The service, which has about 650,000 subscribers in North America, is also available on the Web, Apple iOS and Android devices.

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“We have an ongoing commitment to provide the greatest experience to our customers, including offering the best range of apps currently available,” Guy Kinnell, VP of TV & AV Samsung Electronics U.K., said in a statement. “BritBox provides a new way to access the best of British content exactly whenever they want.”

Freeview Play, which has more than 5 million monthly users, has U.K. distribution through Sony, Digihome, JVC, Logik, Luxor, Polaroid, Techwood and Toshiba.

“Our viewers love great British TV, so BritBox is a fantastic addition to the Freeview line up, providing extra options to top up on the best of free TV they already enjoy via the nation’s biggest TV platform,” said Owen Jenkinson, marketing director at Freeview.

YouView set-top boxes will also be hosting the BritBox app by the end of 2019, making the new streaming service accessible to millions of additional households across the nation.

“At a time when U.K. produced television is going from strength to strength, BritBox brings a fantastic array of U.K. television, to compliment the SVOD services already available via YouView, which our users will love,” added Susie Buckridge, CEO of YouView.

 

 

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.”

 

High-Definition Redefined

A little more than a year after the grand opening of its new flagship store in the Westfield Century City mall, Video and Audio Center on April 17 held another showcase event. More than 200 invited guests at “High Definition Redefined” got the chance to preview Samsung’s latest 8K TVs, ranging in size from 65 inches to 98 inches. The new TV sets have built-in Artificial Intelligence (AI) processing to upconvert content to 8K. And that’s a critical factor, says Tom Campbell, Video and Audio Center corporate director and chief technologist. “Content is king,” he says. “Content drives our business.” Video and Audio Center carries a limited selection of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, currently the optimum way to view content in the home.

Samsung and Universal in Content Pact on Next-Gen HDR10+

Samsung Electronics and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will bring to market titles mastered with HDR10+, according to a Samsung press release.

HDR10+ is an open source-based, next-generation high dynamic range video standard led by Samsung. HDR adds brightness and contrast dynamically for each scene, delivering brighter brights and deeper darks, according to the release.

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Samsung and UPHE will collaborate on a wide selection of new release and catalog fare with HDR10+ technology, according to the release.

“We are delighted to team with Samsung Electronics on HDR10+ to deliver this striking, cutting-edge technology to entertainment consumers, providing them the opportunity to enjoy unparalleled, state-of-the-art movie-watching experiences across an array of Universal physical and digital titles,” said Michael Bonner, EVP, digital distribution, UPHE, in a statement.

“We have launched a new era of picture-quality technology with HDR10+, providing an amplified vivid viewing experience for consumers” said Hyogun Lee, EVP of the R&D team, visual display business, at Samsung Electronics. “Based on Samsung Electronics’ unique technology and proficiency, we will continue to expand our alliances with premier partners like Universal to provide consumers with the best HDR content possible.”

Samsung Electronics has been collaborating with various companies such as movie studios and OTT operators since the formation of the HDR10+ LLC in August 2017, according to the release. In addition to efforts in Korea, Japan and the United States, Samsung will continue to strengthen the HDR10+ logo and certification program partnership in other territories around the world, according to the release.

Additional details on the HDR10+ certification/logo operating program can be found at www.hdr10plus.org. Logo and technology fees are free.

Dolby also has a dynamic metadata, scene-by-scene, next-gen HDR format, Dolby Vision, requiring a licensing fee.

Spotify Inks Direct Access Deal with Samsung Mobile Devices

Spotify March 8 announced a deal with Samsung offering mobile device users direct access to the second-largest music streaming service in the world (after Apple Music). Starting today, the Spotify app will be pre-installed on millions of new Samsung mobile devices globally.

New Spotify consumers in the U.S. with select Samsung Galaxy mobile devices, including the just-launched Galaxy S10, can qualify for six months of free Spotify Premium, redeemable through the app.

The partnership expands last year’s agreement affording Spotify with Samsung’s virtual assistant software, Bixby. Spotify also enhances the Bixby Home screen by providing Spotify content and recommendations tailored for each listener.

“This partnership makes it easy for Samsung mobile users to access their favorite music and podcasts on Spotify, wherever they are and however they choose to listen,” Sten Garmark, VP of consumer products, Spotify, said in a statement.

The embedded Spotify app aims to make Samsung mobile devices more appealing to consumers.

“Our goal is to deliver the best possible mobile experience … and Spotify is the ideal music partner to help us make that vision a reality,” said Patricio Paucar, VP of marketing, Samsung Electronics America. “Whether they’re listening to the latest hit albums or checking out their favorite playlist, we’re giving eligible Galaxy S10 users access to an amazing six month Spotify Premium offer.”

 

 

Samsung Halting Blu-ray Disc Player Production

Samsung is stopping production of 1080p and 4K Blu-ray Disc players for the United States market — leaving Sony, Panasonic and LG as the last CE manufacturers supporting the next-generation packaged media format.

The South Korean company had been working on a follow-up to the UBD-M9500 4K BD player, which has now been scrapped. Samsung last bowed a new BD player in 2017.

Though speculated after Samsung didn’t showcase any new BD players at CES in Las Vegas in January, the company confirmed the move in a media statement.

“Samsung will no longer introduce new Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray player models in the U.S. market,” a spokesperson told CNET.

Samsung’s decision follows the exit of Oppo Electronics Corp., the Chinese company known as Oppo, which ceased production of a 4K BD player last year.

While observers contend the move could be due to Samsung backing its proprietary HDR10 and HDR10+ high dynamic range formats versus Dolby Vision, a more realistic reason is market forces.

For the week ended Feb. 9, 4K Blu-ray accounted for just 5% of sales of the top 50 titles, according to VideoScan. That compared with nearly 40% for Blu-ray and 55% for standard DVD.

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Indeed, pending Oscar-nominated new release  The Favourite (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) and Stan & Ollie (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), reportedly are not getting 4K UHD releases, while Oscar nominee Bohemian Rhapsody and Widows (Fox) are.

Regardless, home entertainment studios remain bullish on 4K UHD.

Format sales surged nearly 70% in the third quarter last year, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. There were 392 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles available in Q3 representing more than $162 million in consumer spend for the period, and 595 4K titles available digitally.

“4K UHD discs already account for almost one in 10 new release discs sold in the U.S,” Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, told Media Play News.

Paramount Home Media Distribution boss Bob Buchi in January said the studio would offer most of its theatrical releases on 4K UHD Blu-ray, as well as select catalog titles.

“The response to our catalog 4K releases has been very promising, so we expect to see increased interest in owning treasured classics in the very best format available,” he said.

 

News Analysis: AVOD Just Got Real

The biggest news during last week’s CES occurred hundreds of miles away in Los Angeles.

Amazon’s IMDb.com movie industry website confirmed previous rumors and nixed executive denials with the launch of a branded ad-supported video streaming platform.

IMDb Freedive enables customers to watch TV shows, including “Fringe,” “Heroes,” “The Bachelor” and “Without a Trace,” as well as movies, such as Awakenings, Foxcatcher, Memento, Monster, Run Lola Run, The Illusionist, The Last Samurai and True Romance, without purchasing a subscription, according to Media Play News’ Stephanie Prange.

The launch is significant. Heretofore, AVOD was a distant stepchild to SVOD — the latter spearheaded by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. With a media landscape littered with SVOD and subscription-based online TV, ad-supported platforms offer an economical (i.e. free) alternative.

To be sure, Sony Crackle and Shout! TV have offered ad-supported content without subscription largely to niche audiences for some time. The Roku Channel upped the format by tapping into a user base of more than 27 million Roku subscribers — users who registered to the platform for access to third-party platforms such as Netflix.

The channel, which features catalog TV shows and movies, is now among Roku’s Top 5 accessed platforms. Roku recently licensed the platform to Samsung’s Internet-connected TVs.

“Strong active account growth and accelerating streaming hours point to consumers’ growing enthusiasm for [free] streaming,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood.

Freedive takes AVOD to another level.

Long before there was Google, IMDb.com was the go-to source for actors, TV shows, movies and behind-the-scenes information. Through October, the platform had about 5.3 million titles (including episodes) and 9.3 million personalities in its database, as well as 83 million registered users. Subscription-based IMDb Pro is considered a must-have database for the business-side of Hollywood.

“Once you’ve signed up for Netflix and Amazon and Hulu, you’re more than $30 deep,” Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo, an-ad-supported live TV/on-demand platform, told Digiday.com. “Price-sensitive consumers are seeing [free video streaming services] as viable alternatives or complements to paid services — that’s probably the biggest factor.”

Los Angeles-based Pluto TV launched in 2013 featuring about 100 channels via an ad-supported app that operates on 14 platforms, including Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku and PlayStation consoles.

Last August, Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio rolled out WatchFree, a proprietary ad-supported streaming video platform that partnered with Pluto TV featuring action movies, black cinema, news channels, NBC News, MSNBC, Fox Sports and related fare.

NBC Universal plans to roll out an ad-supported streaming video service in 2020. The media company Jan. 14 re-organized its management structure to accommodate the future streaming service.

Bonnie Hammer, who was named chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, will also oversee NBCU stakes in digital media outlets, including Vox, Snap and BuzzFeed.

The ad-supported service will be available at no cost to NBC Universal’s pay-TV subscribers in the U.S. and major international markets. Comcast Cable and Sky will provide the service to their 52 million subscribers. An ad-free version will also be available for a fee.

Additionally, non-pay TV customers can purchase a subscription to the service. Consistent with the company’s long-standing strategy to distribute its content broadly, NBC Universal will continue to license content to other studios and platforms, while retaining rights to certain titles for its new service.

“Our new service will be different than those presently in the market and it will be built on the company’s strengths, with NBC Universal’s great content and the technology expertise, broad scale and the wide distribution of Comcast Cable and Sky,” said Steve Burke, CEO, NBC Universal.

Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, doubts AVOD will threaten Netflix & Co. anytime soon. He considers the formats largely supplemental to SVOD.

“I’m sure that there are people who can’t afford Netflix who will watch, and there are a handful of subscribers who will defect from Netflix, but most subscribers appreciate the unique content available only on Netflix and will remain subscribers so long as there is fresh original content,” he said.