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.

CES 2024 Highlights AI TV Advancements

LAS VEGAS — CES 2024 ended its four-day run here on Jan. 12 with a total count of 135,000 attendees and more than 4,300 exhibitors, up 17% and 34%, respectively, from the 2023 show.

The exhibitor count is close to the pre-pandemic high of 4,400 at CES 2020, while attendance is still significantly short of the more than 170,000 who attended the show four years ago. But Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which produces the annual show, is quite pleased with the numbers.

“The resurgence of CES proves that face-to-face conversations and meetings are a necessity for the technology industry,” Shapiro said. “For more than 20 years, I’ve said that every company must become a tech company, and the diversity of exhibitors at CES 2024 proves it. The CES footprint and conference programming span the entire tech ecosystem.”

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Shapiro noted that the show’s footprint of more than 2.5 million net square feet of exhibit space was 15% bigger than CES 2023, while more than 40% of the attendees came from outside the United States, representing 150 countries, regions and territories.

The big buzz at the show was artificial intelligence, which was embraced by legacy consumer electronics exhibitors such as Hisense, LG, Samsung, TCL, Sony, and Panasonic to make their smart TVs even smarter.

Hisense, the Chinese CE giant that in the first half of 2023 became the world’s second-biggest television manufacturer, got a jump on its competitors with a press conference the day before the show opened highlighting its new line of ULED and ULED X TVs. The star attraction: the 110UX, which in addition to its 110-inch screen size is five times brighter than the average high-end set and incorporates AI technology to dynamically adjust contrast and depth depending on the scene. The company’s Hi-View Engine PRO chipset — featured exclusively in the U7 and U8 series — leverages deep learning and innovative technologies to create lifelike skin tones, refine HDR detail, and significantly improve image detail.”

Not to be outdone, LG Electronics unveiled its new line of QNED TVs, powered by the α8 AI Processor. AI Picture Pro offers picture quality based on deep learning, according to the company. The feature distinguishes faces, objects, and backgrounds within a scene, enriching the texture and fine details. Dynamic Tone Mapping Pro splits the picture into blocks and analyzes each in real-time to detect the darkest and brightest areas, elevating the details with precise HDR optimization to deliver three-dimensional image quality, according to LG. With Personalized Picture Wizard, users can customize the image quality by simply selecting a few preferred images from a given selection that are intelligently set up through deep learning.

Samsung Electronics in a press conference unveiled its “AI for All” vision, which holds that AI technology will enable people to experience their devices more intuitively and conveniently than ever before. The new Samsung Neo QLED 8Ks feature a built-in AI processor that can automatically upscale low-resolution content to 8K quality. The AI Motion Enhancer Pro automatically detects the type of sport being watched and uses deep learning to help viewers visually track fast-moving objects likes baseballs and footballs with crystal clarity. Samsung Neo QLED 8Ks also feature Active Voice Amplifier Pro, which uses AI to analyze voice and background noise and optimize the TV listening experience.

On the content side, Netflix returned to the CES show floor for the first time in six years with a glitzy mirrored booth where guests were being given an immersive preview of the sci-fi drama series “3 Body Problem,” which starts streaming on March 21. Guests donned a shiny silver gaming headset — modeled after the one in the series — and were taken on a wild cinematic ride rich with special effects, as well as a preview of the new full-length trailer.

“3 Body Problem” is an ambitious epic from “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss, along with Alexander Woo, that was adapted from Chinese author Liu Cixin’s Hugo Award-winning book trilogy. The eight-episode series is set in a fictional past, present and future in which Earth encounters an alien civilization from a nearby system of three stars that orbit one another, a nod to the three-body problem in orbital mechanics.

Hub Research: Smart TV Streaming Use Reached 68% of U.S. Households in 2023

With streaming video on the TV screen the biggest home entertainment change in the past 10 years, streaming via a smart TV has tripled since 2013, from 21% of homes to 68%, according to new data from Hub Entertainment Research.

The company reports that with streaming video use moving beyond early adopters to the general consumer, SVOD and ad-supported streaming services haven’t been the only drivers. The market also been driven by technology changes that have made smart TVs much easier to connect, use and less expensive to buy.

Hub reports the number of TV platforms (streaming, broadcast, pay-TV) used to access streaming content has nearly tripled from 2013, from 2.6 platforms to 7 platforms.

This has created a crisis in content discovery for viewers trying to find their favorite shows. For example, “Yellowstone,” which premieres on Paramount Channel on cable, streams repeats on Peacock, has its prequel series stream on Paramount+, and is now being shown on the CBS broadcast network.

In 2013, defaulting to a pay-TV provider to find content was preferred by 50% of consumers compared with 31% for streaming. Ten years later, 60% of consumers prefer streaming for content compared with 22% for pay-TV.

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“We wonder if broadcast networks as we know them will remain or transition to all streaming,” Hub founder Jon Giegengack wrote in a post. “We fail to see how the next OTA TV broadcast standard, called Next Gen TV, gains traction with consumers who already barely understand the difference between HD and 4K and 8K resolution.”

BritBox Streaming Service Available on Vizio TVs

British-themed entertainment streaming service BritBox Dec. 15 announced that its $8.99 monthly/$89.99 annual subscription-based app is now available on Vizio connected televisions.

Vizio users have access to a variety of genres, including mysteries, dramas, comedies, lifestyle and documentaries, as well as Agatha Christie titles.

“With a diverse selection of titles spanning from crime to comedy, we will further enhance Vizio’s entertainment offering,” Reemah Sakaan, CEO BritBox International, said in a statement.

The VOD service, which is co-owned by BBC Studios and ITV, surpassed 3.4 million subscribers globally through November since launching in the United States in 2017.

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Hub: Smart TVs Gaining Ground as Viewership Starting Point

Smart TV apps have rapidly reached parity with the set top box as a starting point when viewers choose to watch video, according to Hub’s annual Decoding the Default study.

Just two years ago, nearly twice as many viewers began at the set top box as those who started with a smart TV app. But now, they are essentially equal as default viewing options, according to the report.

Among the viewers who do start at the set top box, live programming, sports, and news are the primary draws.

By wide margins, the viewers who use a service as a default are more likely than other users to say it is the one they would retain if they could keep only a single video source. 

“With the trend toward more live news feeds and major sports offerings on streaming services, two of the primary drivers for viewers who default to the MVPD set top box are being eroded,”  Mark Loughney, senior consultant, Hub Entertainment Research, said in a statement.  “As the smart TV menu becomes a primary destination for more viewers, the importance for providers to have their apps installed on TVs cannot be overstated.”

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Samsung TV Plus Rolls Out Update to Enhance Content Searches

Samsung TV Plus, the ad-supported streaming platform, Nov. 16 began rolling out product update 5.2 aimed at enhancing content discovery.

As part of the new home screen and discoverability features, users will have a dedicated kids screen to connect consumers with “Best of Kids” programming across more than 20 family-safe channels, kids shows and on-demand movies. The new destination will feature popular new content like “Blippi,” “Barney and Friends,” “Baby Einstein,” “Teletubbies,” “Caillou,” “The Adventures of Super Mario Bros 3” and “Sonic the Hedgehog.” as well as family content such as PBS Kids, “Strawberry Shortcake,” “Slugterra,” “Moonbug,” “Ryan and Friends,” Lego Channel, and Kidoodle.TV.

The update will also create a new dedicated music destination where streamers can discover songs and artists spanning more than 200 playlists and 40-plus channels from partners Vevo, XITE and Stingray. On-demand playlists cater to a wide range of music tastes in a variety of formats, including decade-based playlists such as ‘90s country; genre-based playlists such as “Hip-Hop Icons”; and artist-centered playlists for top acts such as Beyonce, Ariana Grande, The Weekend and The Rolling Stones, among others.

In addition to the new Kids and Music destinations, Samsung TV Plus is upping its movies and premium content selections to include an expanded and refreshed “Movie Hub” by adding new channels Movie Hub West, Movie Hub Action and Movie Hub Holidays. The new Movie Hub channels will continue to deliver thousands of live and on-demand titles such as Bridget Jones’s Diary, Collateral, Cruel Intentions, Silver Linings Playbook, The Hurt Locker, Titanic, Gladiator, Imitation Game, among others.

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“With an ever-expanding premium lineup of family-friendly shows, music playlists, news, and sports programming and more, Samsung TV Plus has a clear foothold in the FAST landscape,” Salek Brodsky, SVP and GM, Samsung TV Plus, said in a statement.

Vizio Posts $13.8 Million in Q3 Net Income, Grows Platform Revenue 22%

Vizio posted net income of $13.8 million for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared to net income of $2 million in the prior-year quarter, and net revenue of $426.2 million, compared to $435 million in Q3 2022.

Gross profit grew 20% to $96.5 million.

The Platform+ segment tallied net revenue of $156.2 million, up 22% from Q3 2022, and gross profit of $99.8 million, up 26% from the prior-year quarter.

SmartCast average revenue per user (ARPU) was $31.55 in the quarter, up 14% from the prior-year quarter. The company tallied 17.9 million SmartCast active accounts, which streamed 5.2 billion hours, and grew average SmartCast hours per SmartCast active account to 97 per month, up 12% year-over-year.

The company reported it expanded direct ad relationships by 20% compared to Q3 2022, adding 66 net new advertisers in the third quarter of 2023. 

New WatchFree+ channels added during the quarter included Golf Nation, Celebrating Hispanic Heritage, Cheaters and getTV, bringing the total number of FAST channels to 290. Vizio also launched nine new apps including ESPN, Pet Collective, Black Voices+ and Local BTV, bringing the total number of built-in apps to almost 200.

On the consumer electronics side, Vizio rolled out new 65-inch ($499) and 75-inch ($699) quantum 4K QLED Smart TVs online and at major retailers including Walmart and Sam’s Club. Smart TV shipments to retailers and consumers fell 8% in the quarter to 1.1 million from 1.2 million in the third quarter of 2022.

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“At Vizio, we continue to invest in delivering the best possible experience for our users and partners alike. Over the past few years, we have been continuously retooling and enhancing our operating system to unlock further growth opportunities,” William Wang, CEO of Vizio, said in a statement. “While these efforts not only successfully drove record ARPU in Q3, but they are also opening up additional strategic options as well. Today, we are excited to announce that we are beginning to explore partnerships with other TV OEMs looking for alternatives within the CTV market. Our deep expertise with integrated hardware and software provides a distinct potential for mutually beneficial outcomes for Vizio and future partners.”

Indeed, executives on the financial call touted the importance of the platform business in addition to the consumer electronics segment.

“You cannot think about our device business separate from our platform,” said CFO Adam Townsend, adding that “highly engaged units tend to be with us six-plus years.”

Mike O’Donnell, chief revenue/strategic growth officer, touted the quarter’s home-screen redesign as a “key driver” in improved results. He said consumers are using it more for search and discovery. 

“It’s great for Watchfree+ because we invest a lot of home screen real estate into driving consumers to our owned and operated app,” he said.

He also touted original content deals, such as the recent branded entertainment series “Merry & Bright,” presented by The Home Depot, produced by Vizio and hosted by Grammy-nominated “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks. The deal gives sponsor Home Depot, which offsets content spend, prime positioning on the home screen, he noted.

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.”

Golf Nation Available on Vizio Smart TVs Via WatchFree+ and On Demand

Vizio has added NBTV Channels’ Golf Nation golf-lifestyle programming to its free ad-supported television (FAST) and on demand lineup.

Vizio smart TV owners are able to stream Golf Nation programming at no cost on WatchFree+ channel 612 and on demand. Golf Nation content was initially previewed in December 2022 on GolfNation.com as a VOD provider of commercial-free, golf-lifestyle shows.

The inaugural season of original shows, ranging from five to 30 minutes, includes:

  • “Ambush with David Feherty,” featuring hidden camera hijinks with the golfing comedic figure;
  • “Three Courses,” which travels to play, eat and drink with influencers Gabi Powel and Hannah Leiner;
  • “Golf Unseen,” which goes to exotic golf locations with cultural experiences, hosted by Carolina Romero and Mike Mason (nine-time X Games medalist);
  • “Tee Shots,” with drinks, chat and golf swings hosted by mixologist Bill Binder;
  • “Versus,” in which rotating golf celebrities and influencers compete head-to-head.

 

“We are excited to premiere Golf Nation’s line-up of curated content on Vizio Smart TVs,” Greg Barnard, director of content acquisition at Vizio, said in a statement. “And thanks to a major brand sponsor of the channel, Golf Nation will be featured on the Vizio Home Screen at launch, helping Vizio users discover live and on demand content at the beginning of their TV viewing experience.”

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“Thanks in large part to Vizio, Golf Nation will boast one of the largest golf-oriented audiences in the U.S.,” Nick Buzzell, chairman and CEO of Golf Nation, said in a statement. “The significant distribution lift excites our brand partners who authentically sell products featured in our shows.”

All Golf Nation shows can be watched and live in perpetuity on www.golfnation.com, its Android app and on Spirits Network, parent-company NBTV’s first entertainment vertical. In upcoming months, they will be available on Golf Nation iOS app, Apple TV and additional streaming services.

TiVo Report: TVOD Users Grow as Moviegoing Interest and Number of SVOD Services Used Drops

Transactional digital users are growing as interest in seeing a new movie in the theater continues to decline, according to TiVo’s Q2 2023  Video Trends Report. Meanwhile, content quality perceptions of subscription streaming services have dropped substantially since the same period last year and the number of streaming services used by respondents has also dropped even as consumers report watching more hours of video.

TVOD users grew from 50% in Q2 2022 to 51% in Q4 2022 to 52% in Q2 2023. At the same time, only 44% of respondents in the Q2 2023 report noted that they would prefer to go to the theater to see a new release, compared to 51% in Q2 2022. A quarter of respondents noted that they would prefer to pay $30 to stream a new release at home. Furthermore, only 34.6% report that they’ll most likely see a new movie in the theater, compared to 56% who would most likely wait to stream it.

The average number of streaming services used by consumers decreased from 11.6 in Q4 2022 to 10.9 in Q2 2023, followed by a decrease in consumer spending from an average of $189 a month to $170 over the last six months. While consumers are undoubtedly reconsidering their spending habits, the report also saw a jump from 4.4 hours a day in video consumption in Q4 2022 to 4.7 hours per day. When looking at how respondents spent their time watching video, the report found that ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) and free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) consumption increased considerably from Q4 2022. While paid streaming service average number used dropped from 7.6 in Q4 2022 to 6.9 in Q2 2023, non-paid grew from 3.9 to 4.

Churn also continues to be a problem with 23% of respondents saying they had canceled an SVOD service in the last six months. Among SVOD users, 35% said they used a shared password for at least one service.

At the same time, the discovery dilemma continues to rage on, with more than 60% of respondents noting that they typically open more than one app before settling on something to watch (and over half finding it annoying to need to do so).

Content quality perceptions of SVOD services have dropped substantially since Q2 of last year, according to the report. The percentage of those who rated an ad-free SVOD service as moderate to very good quality dropped from 78.6% in Q2 2022 to 77.4% in Q2 2023. There was also a slight dip in the perception of TV network app content quality. In contrast, perceptions of the quality of vMVPD and AVOD services were up slightly.

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TiVo, a wholly owned subsidiary of entertainment technology company Xperi, surveyed 4,518 U.S. and Canadian consumers 18 and over. U.S. respondents reported a significantly higher average number of streaming sources at 12. This is compared to Canadian respondents who only utilize an average of 7.1 sources.

Year-over-year TiVo has seen the demand for new smart TVs remain consistent, with around one-third of respondents noting that they’ve recently purchased a new smart TV in each of the last several versions of its Video Trends Report.