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).

Magnolia Pictures Bows Streaming Service, Branded Channels on Sling TV

Magnolia Pictures July 10 announced that its streaming service, Magnolia Selects, and three branded genre-specific channels have launched on Sling TV — Dish Networks’ online TV platform.

The home entertainment distributor launched in 2001 by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s 2029 Entertainment, offers critically acclaimed libraries of indie movies.

Magnolia channels “Warriors & Gangsters,” “DOX” and “Monsters & Nightmares,” offer a curated collection of action, documentaries and horror cult films. They are available to Sling subscribers for an additional $3 monthly per channel.

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Magnolia Selects is available for a $5 monthly surcharge.

“By teaming up with Sling TV, Magnolia Selects can continue to be the go-to destination for fans of independent film and premium content,” Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures, said in a statement. “We’ve found a new innovative way to ensure our subscribers have accessibility to our curated library of critically-acclaimed films through Sling TV’s flexible platform and personalized streaming service.”

Magnolia Selects titles include Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire; Swedish horror film, Let the Right One In; Oscar-nominated documentary from Alex Gibney, Enron: The Smartest Guys in The Room and Andrew Jarecki’s true crime story, All Good Things.

Additional content include comedies Tucker & Dale vs Evil and Goon, starring Seann William Scott, alongside the martial arts masterpiece 13 Assassins from director Takashi Miike.

The “Warriors & Gangsters” channel features films such as Ong Bak, 13 Assassins, Kingdom of War and Troll Hunter.

“Monsters & Nightmares” channel titles include The Host, The ABC’s of Death and Survival of the Dead, while “DOX” documentaries and docuseries include Food Inc., The Wolfpack, Iris and Best of Enemies.

PlayStation Vue Ups Pricing by $5

Sony’s PlayStation Vue online TV service is increasing its monthly fee $5, effectively immediately for new subscribers. Existing members will be delayed the price hike until August.

The service’s entry-level “Core” plan now costs $50 monthly, with additional programming tiers “Elite” and “Ultra” priced at $65 and $85, respectively.

Launched in 2015, Vue shadowed Dish Network’s Sling TV as the second standalone online TV service that afforded subscribers monthly access to pay-TV without long-term contracts.

Unique to Vue, subscribers can access the app outside of PlayStation hardware, including on Apple TV, iPad and iPhone.

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With access to more than 650 local broadcasters, in addition to national networks, and HBO, FX, HGTV, ESPN, and NFL Network, Vue also added beIN Sports and the pending NHL Network and ACC Network.

“With costs rising each year for content, we constantly evaluate each deal to ensure we continue to deliver the content you want while considering the overall value of each package,” PlayStation Vue wrote in blog post. “After reviewing this, we have made the decision to raise the price of all of our multi-channel plans.”

Discovery Joins FuboTV

Online TV service FuboTV continues to transition from its original soccer roots.

The service June 18 announced a new, multiyear carriage agreement with Discovery, bringing 13 networks to the live-TV streaming service in the coming weeks.

The deal extends the previous pact between the companies that began with the former Scripps Networks Interactive (acquired by Discovery) and included carriage of their five networks, including HGTV and Food Network.

“This agreement further exemplifies the viewer affinity for our beloved brands and talent, and fuboTV’s commitment to offering high-quality, world-class content to customers,” Eric Phillips, president of affiliate distribution at Discovery, said in a statement.

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Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network and MotorTrend will be available on the streaming service’s base package, fubo Standard, joining HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel, which are already available on the service.

At the same time, an expanded suite of Discovery networks, including Science Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family, American Heroes Channel, and Discovery Life, will be added to fuboTV’s add-on package, fubo Extra ($5.99/month for 30+ channels) joining DIY Network and Cooking Channel.

Additionally, Discovery en Español and Discovery Familia will be available on fuboTV’s Spanish-language package, fubo Latino ($24.99/month for 20 channels), and the Latino Plus add-on package ($7.99/month for 15 channels).

In addition to bringing subscribers each network’s live linear feed, the agreement also includes a library of on-demand Discovery content, bringing fuboTV’s VOD library to over 60,000 movies and TV episodes per month.

“We are excited to be adding more Discovery brands alongside their lifestyle networks, which we already carry,” said Joel Armijo, CFO, fuboTV. “These brands, including HGTV and Food Network, are among our top performing entertainment networks, and this agreement allows us to extend our partnership for years to come. We expect to be similarly successful with our new Discovery networks.”

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.