Video Streaming Widens Appeal Over Pay-TV Among Telecom Customers

Video streaming expanded its lead over subscription TV service in terms of customer satisfaction, rising to a score of 76 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s 100-point scale.

According to the ACSI Telecommunications Report 2018-2019, subscription TV service stagnated at 62, tied with internet service providers for last place among all industries tracked by the ACSI — subscription TV, ISPs, fixed-line telephone service, video-on-demand service and video streaming service.

Video streaming topped all industries tracked.

“Video streaming once again proves itself to be the best of the telecom industries in customer satisfaction,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI. “Traditional telecom providers have tried to step up their game, but they’re not providing original content the way video streaming is, and in part they suffer guilt by association — if customers aren’t satisfied overall with Comcast, they’re probably going to ding Comcast’s on-demand service too.”

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Among video streaming services, Netflix secured first place at 79 after sharing the lead with Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Amazon Twitch the previous year. Netflix ranked at the top for original content among all streaming services, according to the ACSI. Sony’s PlayStation Vue landed in second place at 78, followed by the Microsoft Store at 77. Hulu stepped up to match Amazon Prime Video and Apple iTunes at 76. Five services clustered at 75: CBS All Access, Google Play, Amazon’s gaming platform Twitch, Walmart’s Vudu and Google’s YouTube. Dish Network’s Sling TV was the most improved, meeting HBO at 74. Starz matched the combined score of smaller platforms at 72, while Showtime followed close behind at 71. AT&T’s DirecTV Now fell to 69, ahead of only Sony Crackle, which remained unchanged at 68.

For the past six years, customer satisfaction with subscription TV has languished in the mid-to-low 60s, according to the study. AT&T’s U-verse TV held the lead for subscription TV at 69, followed by Verizon’s Fios at 68 and Dish Network at 67. AT&T’s satellite TV service DirecTV came in at 66, Altice’s Optimum tallied 61, and Charter’s Spectrum came in at 59 to tie with Cox Communications. Frontier Communications and Comcast’s Xfinity came in at 57. Mediacom followed closely at 56. Altice’s Suddenlink tumbles to the bottom of the category at 55.

Customer satisfaction with video-on-demand service slipped to an ACSI score of 67 as viewers continue to turn toward streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, according to the study. AT&T’s U-verse TV service held the lead a year ago, but this year shared the top spot with Verizon’s Fios at a score of 72. Satellite provider Dish Network dropped to 71 but remained just ahead of DirecTV, unchanged at 70. Frontier Communications debuted in the category with a score of 67, in line with the industry average. Three decliners met at 66: Cox Communications, Altice’s Optimum and Comcast’s Xfinity. Charter’s Spectrum remains unchanged at the bottom of the category with a 64.

Unchanged at a score of 62, ISPs remain at the bottom of the ACSI rankings. Most ISPs are still falling short of providing good service at an affordable price, according to the ACSI release. Verizon’s Fios was stable at the top of the category with an ACSI score of 70, but AT&T Internet closed in at 69. Altice’s Optimum fell to 63 but remained the leader among coaxial providers. Meanwhile, Comcast’s Xfinity inched closer to the industry average at 61. Cox Communications tallied 60, tying Altice’s Suddenlink. Charter’s Spectrum and CenturyLink came in at 59.

Vidgo TV Seeks to Bow Pre-Paid Service in the U.S.

Taking a page from pre-paid phone cards, Vidgo TV plans to launch online TV service in the United States targeting users with little or no credit.

Speaking May 15 at the Pay TV Show in Denver, CEO Shane Cannon told attendees the online TV service would appeal to so-called “under banked” consumers with poor credit.

The platform — similar to online TV services such Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Fubo TV and Spectrum TV Plus — would be available via apps for smartphones and tablets, as well as Roku, Google TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV. Users could also cast the channel from their Internet browser to the big screen using Wi-Fi.

The company based in Atlanta launched a $24.95 monthly Latino version of Vidgo TV last winter featuring Univision, TV Azteca and beIN Sports programming, among 30 channels. As expected, Cannon told attendees 70% of Latino users stream sports.

In an interview last year Cannon said build-up of Vidgo TV has taken years to develop and ready for market. It is currently in beta launch.

“It takes that long to integrate into these platforms” Cannon told FierceVideo. “We’ve spent two-and-a-half years building this distribution model.”

PlayStation Vue Adds Local Fox, ABC TV Stations

Sony’s online TV service PlayStation Vue has added 16 local television stations to its channel portfolio, including Fox and ABC affiliates.

With most online TV services such as Sling TV, Fubo TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and Spectrum TV Plus offering the same pay-TV channels 00 including premium channels HBO and Showtime, Starz and Cinemax – increasing points of differentiation involve featuring local TV stations.

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New ABC stations on Vue include: WATM ABC 23 in Altoona & State College, Pa.; KYUR Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, Alaska; WTEN News 10 in Capital District, NY; WAOW ABC 9 in Central Wisconsin; WCTI ABC 12 in Coastal North Carolina; WOAY in Eastern West Virginia; KAEF ABC 23 in Eureka, Calif.; KTXS 12 in Midwest Texas; KBMY 17 in Minot-Bismarck Area; KRCR ABC 7 in Northern California; WBND ABC 57 in South Bend, Elkhart, Ind.; WTXL ABC 27 in Tallahassee, Fla. And KTKA in Topeka, Kan.

Fox stations include: WZAW in Central Wisconsin; WVFX Fox 10 in Clarksburg, WVa., and KIIT Fox 11 in North Platte, Neb.

AT&T CEO: WarnerMedia Looking to Partner SVOD Service With Pay-TV Operators

WarnerMedia’s pending fourth-quarter soft-launch of a branded subscription streaming video service will look to partner with — rather than antagonize — third-party pay-TV operators.

Speaking May 14 at the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media and Communications  Conference in New York, Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, said the service would be centered around HBO and be included with a pay-TV subscription.

“The MVPDs, Comcast, we think are going to be an important partner to all of this,” Stephenson said. “If you’re a Comcast subscriber and you acquire HBO, you will get this [OTT video] capability with your HBO subscription on Comcast.”

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The proposed symbiotic relationship between SVOD and linear television distribution is significant considering the former was launched in part to replace pay-TV.

Indeed, Dish Network launched pioneering Sling TV in 2015 in an effort to offset declining satellite TV subscribers. AT&T followed with DirecTV Now.

Yet, online TV subscriber growth has cooled. Sling added just 7,000 subscribers in the most-recent fiscal period, and DirecTV Now lost 83,000 subs compared to a gain of 312,000 subs last year.

Stephenson said the new SVOD service is projected to generate “tens of millions of subs” — a figure dependent upon AT&T sustaining its base of DirecTV and U-verse subscribers.

The strategy is not dissimilar with Comcast, which plans to launch an OTT service free to Xfinity subscribers, with non-subscribers charged a monthly fee.

“Keeping the satellite, the U-verse customer base in check and stable is really important because it’s going to be a major distribution platform [for SVOD],” Stephenson said. “And then we want to just continue to push digital distribution on top of that as well.”

Much of that distribution will be centered around HBO, which is currently generating strong viewership through the last season of “Game of Thrones”.

Stephenson said content investment at HBO has “stepped up considerably” this year with the second seasons of “Big Little Lies” and “Succession” slated to follow “Thrones,” in addition to new series, “Chernobyl”.

“We’ve got a lot of really great content coming online as ‘Game of Thrones’ winds down,” he said.

Report: Pay-TV Providers Lost 1.3 Million Subs in Q1

It was a bad quarter for the pay-TV business.

New data from Leichtman Research Group found that the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. — representing about 95% of the market — lost more than 1.3 million video subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31) — up 426% from a net loss of 305,000 subs in the previous-year period.

Pay-TV providers now account for about 87.8 million subscribers — with the top six cable companies having 46.7 million video subscribers, satellite TV services (28.3 million subs), telephone companies (8.9 million), and the top publicly reporting online TV with 3.9 million subs.

Satellite TV services such as Dish Network and DirecTV drove pay-TV losses with about 810,000 subs dropping service compared to a loss of about 375,000 subs in the previous-year period.

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Cable operators lost about 335,000 video subs — compared to a loss of about 285,000 subs last year. Telephone providers lost 105,000 video subs, up from a loss of 50,000 subs last year.  Online TV services lost 75,000 subs, compared to a gain of 405,000 subs last year.

Notably, AT&T had a loss of about 625,000 subs across its three pay-TV services (DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, and DirecTV Now) compared to a gain of 125,000 subscribers in 2018.

“The leading pay-TV provider in the U.S., AT&T, accounted for 47% of the net losses in the quarter,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “[The quarter] was the third consecutive [period] of record pay-TV net losses.  This accelerated downturn in the pay-TV market coincided with the decisions by AT&T and other providers to increasingly focus on long-term profitability when acquiring and retaining subscribers.”

 

Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at end of 1Q 2019 Net Adds in 1Q 2019
Cable Companies
Comcast 21,866,000 (120,000)
Charter 16,461,000 (145,000)
Cox 3,980,000 (35,000)
Altice 3,297,300 (10,200)
Mediacom 764,000 (12,000)
Cable ONE 320,611 (11,500)
Total Top Cable 46,688,911 (333,700)
Satellite Services (DBS)
DirecTV 18,679,000 (543,000)
Dish Network 9,639,000 (266,000)
Total DBS 28,318,000 (809,000)
Phone Companies
Verizon FiOS 4,398,000 (53,000)
AT&T U-verse 3,704,000 0
Frontier 784,000 (54,000)
Total Top Phone 8,886,000 (107,000)
Online TV
Sling TV 2,424,000 7,000
DirecTV Now 1,508,000 (83,000)
Total Top Online TV 3,932,000 (76,000)
Total Top Providers 87,824,911 (1,325,700)

 

 

Kagan: Pay-TV Households Declining to 70.5 Million by 2023

The migration of U.S. consumers away from traditional multichannel pay-TV has been ongoing for the past decade and the shift is expected to increase moderately in the next 12 months, with several noteworthy accelerants contributing to long-term subscriber losses, according to Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

While traditional multichannel video subscriptions has long been the top home entertainment choice for U.S. households, the loss of content exclusivity is expected to shift the consumer base towards over-the-top video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, and fuel the growing ranks of online-only video households.

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At the same time, Kagan contends increased prices for broadband, coupled with a series of OTT price hikes are impacting subscriber growth in the virtual multichannel space – notably at DirecTV Now and Sling TV. However, the combined households relying on traditional and virtual multichannel services for video entertainment are still expected to account for the majority of occupied homes through 2023 with 64% of the market.

Indeed, Kagan projects total traditional multichannel subscriptions (including residential and commercial) will drop 16.4 million to 73.6 million. Traditional residential multichannel households (excluding commercial and overlap) will drop 15.6 million to 70.5 million.

Virtual multichannel households will increase 6.4 million to 13.5 million. Combined traditional and virtual multichannel will drop to 84 million residential subscribers. Online video-only (Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue, etc.) households will add 10.6 million subs to 25.2 million. Burgeoning over-the-air (OTA) digital antennae households will add 3.8 million households to 21 million.

Dish Widens Q1 Pay-TV Sub Loss as Sling TV Growth Cools

Dish Network May 3 reported it lost 266,000 pay-TV subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. That compared to a loss of 185,000 subs in the previous-year period.

The nation’s fourth-largest pay-TV operator ended the period with 12 million subscribers — down almost 1.1 million subs from 13.1 millions subs last year.

The loss reflects ongoing secular changes in the pay-TV market as increasing numbers of consumers opt away from linear television toward over-the-top video products such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Now and Showtime OTT, among others.

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Separately, Dish’s pioneering online TV service, Sling TV, added just 7,000 subs in the period, compared to a gain of 91,000 subs last year. The standalone live streaming service ended the period with 2.41 million subs compared to 2.3 million subs last year.

Sling TV helped create an online TV market targeting cord-cutters and millennials that now includes PlayStation Vue, Spectrum TV Plus, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Fubo TV and Hulu with Live TV, among others.

While subscriber growth declined, revenue per Sling customer increased. The increase was mainly driven by three factors: Customers taking higher priced packages, increased add-on revenue from extras, ad sales and cloud DVRs, and the $5 increase on the orange package implemented in the third quarter of 2018.

“Sling’s promotions have done well for us but we are focused on attracting profitable customers,” Warren Schlichting, EVP and group president, Sling TV, said on the fiscal call. “It’s a marathon not a sprint. We like where we are, we like our position in the market with our competitors taking their prices out that’s only improved ROI, and you’ll see more of the same, in the second quarter from us.”

Without Sling, Dish’s legacy satellite TV subscriber base would be about 9.6 million – down almost 4 million subs (30%) in the past five years.

Philo TV Ups Basic Subscription Price 25%

Online TV service Philo TV is ending its longstanding $16 monthly plan (with pay-TV 45 channels) for its $20 plan with 58 channels, beginning May 6 for all new subscribers.

Subscribers who join the service before May 6 and existing subs will not see immediate fee hikes to their basic plans but will instead be grandfathered into the new price point over time.

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CEO Andrew McCollum made the announcement in a post on the service’s website.

“Since we launched 18 months ago, most of the other companies in our space have raised their prices, in some cases multiple times,” McCollum said. “We didn’t want to do that. Still, when we looked at all of the costs of operating Philo — which increase over time — consolidating into a single $20 package was the best way for us to maintain the same offering we have today without raising prices for everyone or having to cut back in places we strive to excel, like customer support.”

The price hikes comes as Hulu with Live TV raised its prices, followed by Google-owned YouTube TV. DirecTV Now, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue have all raised basic subscription plan pricing in recent months.

Philo is also reportedly working on technology that would allow users to share links with friends and watch programming concurrently from different locations.

Doing so could elevate social media interactions between users – a driving point for user retention and marketing. While the app has been completed, McCollum said Philo is waiting to launch it.

“We want to balance creating more options with making sure people don’t feel like they’re being coerced into stuff they don’t care about,” McCollum told TechCrunch earlier this year.

 

Poll: 44% Say Netflix Vital Source of Video Content

While Disney rolls out its branded “Disney Plus” subscription streaming video service for investors, new data from Hub Research finds that 44% of consumers consider Netflix an important source of content.

The research firm’s “The Evolution of Video Branding” study found that the vast majority of respondents from a January poll of 1,692 consumers in the United States chose Netflix over other over-the-top video services for their video content.

Other entertainment sources include CBS (29%), ABC (28%), NBC (28%) and ESPN (24%).

Among younger respondents (16-34 years-old), 59% opted for Netflix, followed by Hulu (26%), ESPN (24%), HBO (17%) and Amazon Prime Video (17%). Among older respondents CBS ranked first with 41%, followed by ABC (37%), NBC (37%), Netflix (35%) and Fox (26%).

Notably, the report found that while respondents were familiar online TV services such as Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue, 80% claimed they were unaware of what each platform’s value proposition was.

Indeed, among younger respondents, simply branding video content “original” was enough to make them consider streaming it. And 69% considered Netflix the best choice for original fare.

“It would be easy to explain Netflix’s strong position as a must-have TV source by citing the sheer variety of its content,” Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Then again, the same can be said of the variety of shows on broadcast networks. Whether it’s a function of a higher level of show quality or of strong branding — or both — Netflix has managed to set itself apart from networks that offer a similarly wide variety of genre choice.”

Report: Younger Demos Prefer Online TV

The rise in popularity of standalone online TV services such as Sling TV and DirecTV Now is largely due to age demographics, according to new data from Leichtman Research Group.

The firm found that found that 18-44 year-olds accounted for 71% of respondents from an online survey of 6,715 households in the U.S. that had online TV services, which included Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, Charter Spectrum Choice, Fubo TV and PlayStation Vue. Overall, 16% of adults ages 18-44 currently have online TV service – compared to 6% of adults older than 45.

Among current online TV subs, 43% transitioned from a cable, satellite or telecom pay-TV service, while 17% switched from another online TV service, and 15% were non-subscribers to any type of pay-TV service.

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The report also found that among Madison Ave.’s coveted 18-34 demo, 42% had online TV, 26% had traditional pay-TV and 33% had no pay-TV service.

Nearly 75% of online TV subs claimed to be “very satisfied” with their service, but 20% said they are “very likely” to switch to another online TV service in the next six months.

Among online TV subs, 93% also have an SVOD service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and/or Hulu, compared to 71% of traditional pay-TV subs, and 74% of non-subs.

Notably, 78% of online TV subs consume the product at home, compared to 82% of HBO Now subs and 88% of Netflix viewers.

“[Online TV] services were first introduced about four years ago, and the market for these lower-cost [monthly] services is still growing and evolving,” Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG, said in a statement. “Consumers continue to experiment with the various services, along with other traditional and streaming options, to find the best combinations of video content and cost.”