Crunchyroll Anime Streaming Service Launches on LG Smart TVs

The Crunchyroll anime streaming service app launched Feb. 21 on LG Electronics smart TVs in the United States and across international regions.

The service features more than 18,000 hours, 46,000 episodes and films, and 3,300 Japanese music videos and concert specials.

Viewers will also get expanded access to the simulcast series streaming on Crunchyroll shortly after premiering in Japan, including the dark fantasy “Solo Leveling,” “Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End,” and the comedic “Mashle: Magic and Muscles,The Divine Visionary Candidate Exam Arc,” among other content. Crunchyroll’s catalog is available in subtitled or dubbed formats across more than 12 languages including English, Spanish (Latin America and Spain/Castilian), Portuguese, French, German, Arabic, Italian, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil.

“Our new partnership with LG makes it even easier to be an anime fan,” Kaliel Roberts, chief product officer at Crunchyroll, said in a statement. “Anime offers a variety of genres and viewing adventures and now viewers have even more options to dive deeper.”

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Crunchyroll has more than 13 million paying subscribers globally, and serves 200 countries and territories with a dedicated anime streaming library, while also offering events and experiential, theatrical, gaming, merchandise, e-commerce and more.

CraftsyTV FAST Channel Launches on Vizio Smart TVs

The CraftsyTV FAST channel is now streaming on Vizio Smart TVs, announced TN Marketing, the Minnesota-based media company specializing in how-to content and parent company of CraftsyTV. 

Vizio WatchFree+ users have 24/7 access to the channel’s curated programming, featuring expert instruction and DIY videos in a wide range of categories such as knitting, crochet, painting, baking, quilting, sewing and more. 

This launch coincides with CraftsyTV’s Fall Fest event, featuring craft-related programming for the holiday gift-making season. Content offers tips on how to create unique handmade gifts.

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“This expansion with Vizio is an exciting opportunity for CraftsyTV,” Jim Kopp, COO of TN Marketing, said in a statement. “It provides us with the perfect platform to continue to reach and grow our audience and share our content with those passionate about learning and creating. We look forward to connecting millions of viewers with amazing how-to content that will inspire their creativity.”

BB Media: Regions Differ in Preference for Small or Large Screens for Online Video

Regions differ in residents’ preference for small (mobile phone) or large (smart TV) screens, according to a study from BB Media external media analyst Victoria Bestard.

Victoria Bestard

In the United States and Canada (UCAN), 71% prefer smart TVs, while 49% use smartphones. Something similar happens in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), where smart TVs are the most popular choice in 60% of households, with 46% using smartphones.

This trend reverses in Asia and the Pacific (APAC), where smartphones are the most used devices for viewing online content. In fact, 79% of households prefer smartphones, surpassing its direct competitor, the smart TV, by a margin of 25%.

In APAC, there are three countries where smartphones are the most used devices: India, chosen by 88% of households, Indonesia, and China, with 86% and 78%, respectively.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey share this trend, as over 60% of households use smartphones.

“It’s no coincidence that some platforms have implemented mobile plans to offer users the opportunity to reduce costs,” Bestard notes. “In fact, in the Africa region, there are 90 plans, and in Asia, there are 28.”

Netflix is one of the platforms that adopted this type of plan. In South Africa, the mobile plan costs $5.70 (U.S.) 65% less than the standard plan. In Indonesia, the difference is $6.11 (U.S.) or 62% less than the standard plan. In India, the “Mobile” plan is priced at $1.97 (U.S.) or 70% less than the standard plan.

Other streaming services have also expanded their offerings and integrated mobile plans in the mentioned countries, such as Showmax, Zee5, Vidio, and Sony Liv, among others. In India, Amazon Prime Video introduced an annual plan for $7.30 (U.S.), which amounts to 61 cents per month. In Saudi Arabia, Starzplay charges $3.99 (U.S.) for this type of plan.

An interesting analysis arises when crossing smartphone preference and the proliferation of plans designed for single users with the socioeconomic characteristics of countries where this form of consumption predominates, Bestard found. For 2023, one common factor is the very low monthly minimum wages in dollars. In South Africa, it reaches USD $248 (U.S.), while in Indonesia, it’s $184 (U.S.). On the other hand, in India, it doesn’t exceed $60 (U.S.) per month. Additionally, these are countries with a high level of social inequality.

Following this line of reasoning, Latin America could be fertile ground for the expansion of mobile plans and the use of OTTs through smartphones, noted Bestard. Economically speaking, it presents similar characteristics: minimum wages range from $8 (U.S.) per month in Venezuela to $540 (U.S.) in the case of Uruguay.

HBO MAX saw this opportunity and introduced its mobile plan in Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina in June 2021, which was later expanded to the rest of the Latin American countries, she noted. However, it was gradually phased out and became inactive in January 2023.

This change can be explained by the fact that, regionally, smartphone usage for viewing content (50%) isn’t far from Smart TV usage (47%), Bestard surmises, noting the difference between Latin American, Asian, and African countries might be based on cultural habits. BB Media’s data reveals that in LATAM, 48% of online content consumers engage in the activity alone, while the remaining 52% do so with their partners, friends, or family. In some countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru, this ratio is closer to 40% of individuals viewing content alone and 60% watching content with someone else.

“With that perspective, it’s understandable that mobile plans might not be as popular in places where the activity is considered a shared moment,” Bestard noted.

“It seems that individualism prevails in Asian and African cultures when it comes to consuming entertainment,” she added.

Vizio Ups Q2 Streaming Users, Revenue as Consumer Electronics Sales Decline

Vizio Holding Corp. Aug. 8 reported 17.6 million SmartCast Active Accounts, which streamed 5 billion hours of content in the second quarter (ended June 30), up 16% from 4.3 billion hours in the previous-year period. Vizio ended the previous-year quarter with 16.1 million active accounts.

The Irvine, Calif.-based consumer electronics company determines SmartCast Active Accounts as the number of Vizio Smart TVs where a user has activated the SmartCast operating system (dubbed Platform+) through an internet connection at least once in the past 30 days. Total Vizio viewing hours, which includes the branded WatchFree+ platform, increased 9% to 8.9 billion from 8.2 billion.

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Vizio, like other consumer electronics manufacturers, is pushing a proprietary operating system offering ad-supported licensed and original content and third-party app access. In the quarter, the platform debuted “Clean Break,” a new series hosted by professional organizer Michelle Hobgood from Vizio’s branded content studio.

In the quarter, Vizio launched Peacock Preview on its WatchFree+ channel offering consumers access to premium content and a seamless way to engage with the Peacock streaming app (with a separate subscription).

Added WatchFree+ channels included a new local channel category collection, “Project Runway” and “Family Feud Classic” bringing the total number of FAST channels to more than 290. The platform also launched third-party apps for the Weather Channel, QVC/HSN, Wild Earth, and Power Nation, bringing the total number of built-in apps to more than 170.

As a result, Platform+ revenue increased 28% to $142.3 million from $110.8 million in the prior-year period. The platform posted an operating profit of $85.8 million, up from from $69.9 million a year earlier.

Meanwhile legacy consumer electronics hardware sales continue to be challenged. Smart-TV unit shipments dropped 11% to 1 million from 1.1 million a year ago. Overall device revenue (which includes sound bars) saw revenue drop more than 15% to $252.1 million, from $298.1 million in the prior-year period. Operating income plummeted to $300,000, from $4 million in the prior-year period.

Overall revenue dipped less than 4% to $394.4 million, from $408.9 million. Net income dropped 17% to $1.9 million from $2.3 million a year ago.

CEO William Wang said the fiscal results underscore the company’s strategy of integrating hardware and software business models.

“Unlike the challenges many are facing in the advertising marketplace, our business is firing on all cylinders, and our team delivered 35% growth in ad revenue during the quarter,” Wang said in a statement. “In addition, our key measure of platform monetization, average revenue per user (ARPU), surpassed $30.”

Hub: 74% of U.S. Homes Own Internet-Connected Smart Television, 64% Use to Stream Video

Internet-connected “smart” televisions are no longer a novelty household item for accessing streaming, transactional VOD or music content. New data from Hub Research found that 74% of TV homes now own a smart TV, up from 61% in 2020, according to a survey conducted among 2,504 U.S. consumers in May.

About 64% of survey respondents said they use a smart TV to stream video, compared with fewer than half of respondents (47%) in 2020. The increase in ownership and usage suggests smart TVs are gaining traction among consumers, gradually replacing streaming devices such as Roku or Amazon Fire TV sticks or boxes, according to Hub.

Half of the survey respondents (52%) said they use a TV remote with voice command capability. That’s up from 38% in 2020. And in homes with a smart TV, 30% of respondents said they have linked their smart TV to a smart speaker to enable voice control — up from 25% in 2020.

In addition to streaming video and watching TV, smart televisions can also be used to stream audio (podcasts) and music. Hub round that 77% of smart TV owners use their set for more than just watching TV or movies, which is up from 63% in 2020. Among these respondents, 49% said they have streamed audio-based entertainment, almost twice the percentage in 2020. 

The second most-used feature is casting or mirroring another device’s screen on the smart TV. More than 38% respondents said they have done this in 2023 – almost three-times the percentage from 2020.

David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said the evolution of the household TV is making valuable new features available to viewers, whether it be better quality picture and sound, streaming, apps, or voice control.

“This means challenges to incumbent [manufacturers] in the TV ecosystem as alternative content providers, advertising sellers, and gatekeepers dramatically increase their presence through the growth of smart TVs,” Tice said in a statement.

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Hub: Gen Z Entertainment Choices, Device Use More Varied Than Older Cohorts

There’s a fundamental shift in how the next generation of consumers defines “entertainment,” according to data from Hub Entertainment Research.

Gen Z spends more time watching non-premium video and playing video games than watching TV, according to Hub. Unlike their parents — for whom “must see TV” was not just a pasttime but a cultural touchstone — TV is just one of a constellation of on-screen activities for those under 25. In fact, those over 35 say they spend more than double the time on TV shows that Gen Z does, Hub found. And Gen Z respondents spend more time on both gaming (22%) and non-premium videos on platforms such as YouTube (21%) than they do watching TV shows (17%).

Gen Z doesn’t watch cable much, according to Hub. Gen Z consumers spend about one-fifth of their screen time watching through apps on a smart-TV (the same as their older counterparts), but only 8% of their time goes to watching shows through a cable box (compared with 31% among older viewers). And they spend more time watching on their cell phone than on any other screen.

Platforms such as YouTube face the prospect of being left behind, according to Hub. YouTube has flourished as viewers spend more time on non-premium video. But for Gen Z, TikTok has become a go-to destination in a very short amount of time. Among Gen Z consumers who use both platforms, 54% say they spend more time on TikTok (and 40% spend “a lot more time”), and 73% say that if they could only use one, they’d keep TikTok. More than half of Gen Z viewers say they watch less “regular” TV because of the time they spend watching non-premium video.

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“Gen Z is just as passionate about entertainment as their Gen X parents and Boomer grandparents,” Jon Giegengack, principal and Hub founder, said in a statement. “But they are content omnivores, and TV is just one of a constellation of things competing for their attention. Most importantly: so far, there’s no reason to think they’ll outgrow their attachment to short form video or gaming as they get older.”

Hub: Number and Streaming Use of Smart-TVs Growing

More smart TVs are in homes and more are being used for streaming, according to Hub Intel.

Although the growth of smart TVs as a proportion of all homes is slowing down — as happens when any TV device reaches mainstream adoption — Hub found that smart-TVs as a proportion of all TV sets also continues to grow, indicating consumers are not just adding smart TVs but replacing older TVs.

Another area of growth for smart TVs is the proportion of owners who actually have them connected to their home internet and using them to stream video, according to Hub. As connections and interfaces have become easier, consumers of all ages are increasingly activating their smart-TVs, the research found.

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As a result, a new battle to be the middleman between content providers and the viewer has erupted between the “OEMs” (original equipment manufacturers), according to Hub. With two clear leaders — Samsung and Roku — the remaining OEMs may need to decide if they will keep their smaller-share, homegrown platforms or throw their lot in with one of the big licensees (Roku, Fire TV, or Android TV), the research firm noted.

DistroTV FAST App Added to Vizio Smart TV Line-up

DistroTV, an independent, free, ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) app, is expanding its content offerings to the Vizio Smart TV platform.

DistroTV features more than 270 multicultural channels with everything from news, sports, movies, music and entertainment, and lifestyle content, as well as thousands of hours of VOD content. This includes original content and new channel offerings that cater to English, Southeast Asian/Indian and Spanish-speaking audiences, as well as a recently released channel bundle that targets the African community. Available to stream for free in more than 60 markets through its apps on streaming devices and smart TVs, as well as worldwide on the Web through distro.tv, the app offers access with no registration, sign-up or fees required.

DistroTV’s  streaming lineup for the U.S., U.K. and Canadian audience includes: 45 sports channels; sports, combat sports, niche sports and outdoors channels, such as Stadium and beIN, SPORTS Xtra, Swerve Sports, IMPACT Wrestling Channel, FightNetwork, Wired2Fish, ACL Cornhole, MotoAmerica TV and FuelTV; movies and entertainment channels, including CineLife by Magnolia Pictures, Kweli TV, Watch It Scream, FrightFlix, Bowery Classics, Dark Matter, CinePride and more; 13 documentary channels, including Goalcast, Magellan TV, Beautiful Planet and True History; and new additions to the entertainment, lifestyle and food category, including AXS TV Now, Trace Urban, Bite, Planet Eat and GustoTV.

Other streaming content includes 21 Spanish-language channels available in North America, such as Estrella, beIN Sports XTRA Ñ, Top Cine, Canela.TV, Trace Latina, Casa Comedy and Spanglish and more Spanish language entertainment, movie, documentaries, news and sports channels; 36 live streaming DistroTV Desi South Asian news, entertainment and music channels featuring WION, TimesNow, Mastiii, Epic, MirrorNow, BritAsia and more; and the African channel bundle, DistroTV Africa, featuring 11 entertainment and music-oriented channels available to stream for free.

Vizio Smart TV also offers audiences in the United States and Canada home screen access to apps such as Apple TV+, BET+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, FuboTV, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock, Prime Video and YouTube TV.

“We are thrilled to join the Vizio family, particularly at a time when we are continuing to grow our viewership and channel content at a rapid pace,” Navdeep Saini, co-founder and CEO of DistroScale, parent company of DistroTV, said in a statement. “By expanding our distribution via Vizio Smart TVs, we can continue to provide audiences with the content they crave, and all while maintaining our FAST no-sign up, credit card, or email required model.”

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“Vizio appreciates DistroTV’s dedication to building personalized experiences for today’s streaming audience,” Chris Tanquary, senior director of business development at Vizio, said in a statement. “Vizio strives to be a place where viewers have endless entertainment options across all categories and genres, so, there is something for everyone.”

S&P Global: Smart-TVs Have Little Impact on Streaming Content Selection

Internet-connected televisions have become the default consumer option at retail and in the home. But do so-called smart-TVs impact viewer streaming vide choices? New data from Kagan would suggest not.

Approximately three-quarters of U.S. internet households own at least one smart-TV, according to the research firm’s Q1 2022 U.S. Consumer Insights survey. However, the ability to access online digital entertainment directly from a smart-TV has had virtually no effect on consumer TV viewing behavior, according to the survey data.

Smart-TVs are defined as televisions with an integrated TV application platform that permits access to online digital entertainment and related content directly from the device. Smart-TVs encompass both high-definition, or HDTVs, as well as 4K TVs and 8K TVs. Nearly all TVs currently sold in the U.S. are smart-TVs.

But owning a smart-TV does not appear to promote substantially more online video viewing. One-third of adults who own a smart TV (33%) and those that do not (31%) cite watching mostly or primarily VOD content. The survey data also shows that subscription video on demand (SVOD) represents 45% of daily video viewing among smart-TV owners; essentially the same as those without a smart-TV (42%).

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A comparison between smart-TV and non-smart-TV households reveals that both groups watch an average of over four hours of TV programming per day. Among households without a smart-TV, 60% reported watching primarily or mostly live, linear TV compared to 52% for adults owning a smart-TV.

Historical survey data illustrates the rise in smart-TV ownership in the U.S., expanding eight percentage points over the past two years to 74%. Approximately nine out of 10 (88%) of those owning a smart-TV reported accessing online digital entertainment from the device over the past month. The survey data also shows that the average number of TVs per internet household in the U.S. dipped slightly from 2.8 TVs per household in 2021 to 2.5 TVs in 2022, a result of declining ownership of traditional HDTVs, or non-smart TVs, and older standard-definition TVs.

As of early 2022, U.S. internet households owned an average of 1.2 smart-TVs, according to Kagan. Nearly half (45%) of internet households own one smart TV, and another 29% own multiple smart-TVs. Among surveyed internet adults owning a smart TV, 41% reported owning at least one Samsung smart-TV. Vizio and LG were distant competitors, with 19% and 18% of U.S. smart-TV households owning these brands, respectively. TCL and Sony top the long tail of smart-TV competitors with ownership shares of 11% or less.

 

Vizio Ups Q1 SmartCast OS Streaming Hours 14%

Vizio May 12 reported that more than 4.1 billion hours of SmartCast OS content was streamed by the consumer electronics manufacturer’s smart TV owners in the first quarter, ended March 31. That was up 14% from 3.6 billion hours streamed in the previous-year period.

Vizio, like other Chinese CE manufacturers, has implemented a branded operating system affording users access to the internet and third-party apps and platforms. In addition, Vizio also streams select ad-supported video content in attempt to compete against AVOD platforms such as Tubi, Pluto TV and The Roku Channel, among others.

Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio ended the quarter with 15.6 million active accounts, which was up 16% from 13.5 million accounts in the previous-year period. Even better, average revenue per SmartCast user increased 64% to $23.68 from $14.43 per user last year.

Meanwhile, Vizio shipped 1.4 million Smart TVs in the quarter, which was down 11% from 1.5 million units in the previous-year period. Device revenue dropped 16% to $382.9 million, from $453.5 million.

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The company posted a net loss of $11 million on revenue of $485.5 million in the quarter, compared to profit of $3.4 million on revenue of $505.7 million a year ago.

“I am extremely proud of our exceptional first quarter results,” William Wang, CEO of Vizio, said in a statement. “It has been 20 years since [we] first revolutionized the TV market offer[ing] affordable HDTVs, smart-TVs, and six years ago we launched our own operating system.”

Vizio, which launched an IPO a year ago pricing shares at $21 each, saw shares close May 12 at $7.57 per share.