Tubi Expands Ad Sales Team

Ad-supported VOD service Tubi May 21  named former senior Viacom advertising executive Peter Graseck as VP of East Coast advertising sales. Graseck will lead the New York ad team and work alongside fellow VPs Heather Strofs, West Coast region, and Todd Segall, Midwest region.

The three report to chief revenue officer Mark Rotblat.

“Peter, Heather, and Todd are all talented executives with undeniable business acumen and integrity, and we look forward to leveraging their expertise during this pivotal growth period,” Rotblat said in a statement.

From Left: Peter Graseck, Heather Strofs, Todd Segall

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Graseck’s media career spans a wide variety of advertising and marketing functions; agency media planning at Young & Rubicam, marketing and branded entertainment at NBC Universal, and for the past 12 years at Viacom, he has held leadership roles in integrated marketing, client strategy, and both general market sales for Comedy Central, Spike, CMT, and TV Land, and direct response sales. Most recently, Graseck was the SVP of Viacom Partner Solutions where he oversaw all direct response accounts across Viacom’s cable networks and digital platforms.

Strofs came to Tubi with over 15 years of sales and leadership experience across the New York, Chicago, and West Coast Markets. She most recently served as VP, ad sales at The Oprah Winfrey Network where she collaborated with clients to create custom solutions that allowed advertising partners to reach their consumers in a unique and impactful way across linear, digital and social platforms. During her tenure, she brought on launch partners at OWN’s inception and continued to create innovative solutions across the studio, technology, and auto landscapes.

Segall joined Tubi from Roku where he was head of sales for their Central Region based out of Chicago and was responsible for building out their sales team and market presence. Prior to joining Roku, Segall was senior category sales director at AOL where he led the Finance Vertical as well as their mid-market sales team.

 

Roku CEO: We Are the No. 1 Smart TV Operating System in the U.S.

Roku said 33% of all Internet-connected “smart” televisions sold domestically in the first quarter (ended March 31) featured its branded operating system. That’s up from 25% of all TVs sold in 2018.

“In less than five years, the Roku TV has gone from a disruptive idea to the market leader,” founder/CEO Anthony Wood said on the fiscal call. “We have taken the leads from Samsung and are now the number one smart TV OS in the country.”

Anthony Wood

Wood attributed Roku’s transition from streaming media device manufacturer to ad-supported VOD distributor to ongoing consumer moves away from linear TV toward over-the-top video — and the CE industry’s sluggish efforts to develop “homegrown” software OS platforms in televisions.

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“We really think in almost all cases those [OS] solutions are probably uncompetitive and that we will just continue to see gains and share of licensed OS [platforms],” Wood said. “So there is a lot of room to grow. It’s a big opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Roku continues to drive an expanding AVOD market through its branded Roku channel. The AVOD market gained momentum following Viacom’s acquisition of Pluto TV, Comcast’s planned launch of AVOD distribution, Shout! Factory’s Shout TV, Sony Crackle and San Francisco-based Tubi, among others.

“We are excited about the increased investment and focus by major media companies on bringing free content over-the-top,” said Scott Rosenberg, GM, platform business. “When they do this, they ultimately accelerate the consumer move into OTT and expand the economic pie for all of us. We share in their success.”

Indeed, Roku said user accounts increased 40% to 29.1 million from 20.8 million last year. Consumer streaming hours increased 74% to 8.9 billion hours compared to 5.1 billion hours in the previous-year period.

“The most exciting thing about the Viacom/Pluto tie-up is the fact that Viacom is taking content that was previously only available through pay-TV subscriptions and making it available free through AVOD services,” he said. “That not only will that drive viewing on the platform, I think it will also help accelerate the shift of ad dollars over to streaming.”

Tubi Licenses ‘The Apprentice’ Catalog Featuring Donald Trump

Ad-supported VOD app Tubi May 6 announced it has secured streaming rights to all 15 seasons of “The Apprentice,” the reality TV show that helped put Donald Trump, his family members and Omarosa on the national stage.

Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted the final season after Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016.

San Francisco-based Tubi secured the rights from MGM, which created the long-running series from 2004 through 2017.

The debut season of “The Apprentice” premiered on NBC delivering an average weekly viewership of 20.7 million and was one of the network’s most-watched series with adults 18-49. The franchise has broadened globally with over 20 localized versions.

Notable U.S. contestants included Bill Rancic, Piers Morgan, Bret Michaels, Arsenio Hall, Trace Adkins, Leeza Gibbons, Khloe Kardashian, Cyndi Lauper, Lil Jon, Vivica A. Fox and Geraldo Rivera, among others.

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Last month, a New York appeals court ruled Trump could not dismiss a sexual defamation lawsuit filed by former contestant Summer Zervos just because he is President.

“In our quest to democratize content and make more premium content accessible, we are making a big push into the reality television space,” Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi said in a statement. “‘The Apprentice’ is our second big series (after Lionsgate’s ‘Anger Management’) announcement this month, and we will have more in the near future.”

Tubi claims to consistently rank as one of the most-watched apps on platforms such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Android, among others.

Tubi Secures Streaming Rights to Lionsgate’s ‘Anger Management’

Ad-supported streaming video service Tubi has signed an exclusive deal with Lionsgate to bring all 100 episodes of sitcom “Anger Management” to its viewers.

Viewers can access the show for free across 20 platforms, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Comcast Xfinity and Cox Contour.

The series, which aired for two years on FX, starred Charlie Sheen, Shawnee Smith and Daniele Bobadilla, among others. Lionsgate released the series on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in 2013.

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The show is a loose extension of Sheen’s character on ratings hit “Two and a Half Men,” which had ousted the controversial star after a fallout with series creator Chuck Lorre.

“Anger Management” had a record-setting debut on FX as the most-watched scripted cable comedy series debut.

“We’re excited to be adding ‘Anger Management’ to our comedy offering,” Adam Lewinson, chief content officer at Tubi, said in a statement. “This is just one of many popular series we’re adding to our rapidly growing library of premium content.”

Sheen stars as “Charlie,” a non-traditional therapist specializing in anger management. He has a successful private practice, holding sessions with his group of primary patient regulars each week, as well as performing pro bono counseling for an inmate group at a state prison.

Charlie thrives on the chaos in his life, while still battling his own anger issues. His life is complicated by his relationships with his own therapist/best friend (Selma Blair), an ex-wife (Shawnee Smith) whose positive outlook but poor choices in men frustrates Charlie, and their 13-year-old daughter (Daniela Bobadilla) who has OCD.

Tubi’s content library contains more than 12,000 movies and television series. The service claims its content volume is more than double in size to Netflix – approximately 40,000 hours of content.

AVOD Service Tubi Gets ‘The Bachelor’ Reality TV Franchise

Ad-supported VOD platform Tubi March 14 announced a content deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution for select catalog seasons of “The Bachelor” reality TV dating show.

Launched in 2002, “The Bachelor” affords a lone male contestant the opportunity to be wooed by a pool of female romantic interests. The same concept with a lone female contestant – dubbed “The Bachelorette” – debuted in 2003. “Bachelor in Paradise” bowed in 2014 featuring cast rejections for the previous two shows. All three shows are hosted by Chris Harrison.

San Francisco-based Tubi will offer the first seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” “The Bachelorette: Trista & Ryan’s Wedding” as well as the fifth season of “Bachelor in Paradise,” beginningApril 1.

The series underscores Tubi’s ongoing expansion of its content library of more than 12,000 movies and television series.

“This massive franchise strengthens our larger content partnership with Warner Bros. and marks the first of many big reality series we’re bringing to the service,” chief content officer Adam Lewinson said in a statement.

 

Tubi Inks NBC Universal Catalog Deal

Ad-supported streaming video service Tubi Feb. 28 announced a content deal with NBC Universal, adding nearly 400 television episodes and movies. The deal is part of a strategy to invest over nine figures into content acquisitions in 2019.

Tubi users will have free access to catalog series, “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “The A-Team,” “Punky Brewster,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Quantum Leap” and the original versions of “Magnum, P.I.,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Bionic Woman” and “She-Ra: Princess of Power,” among others.

“We’re excited to be a home to this robust library of content … that appeals across generations,” chief content officer Adam Lewinson said in a statement. “We are aggressively working to expand our library, and this is one of many deals to come for Tubi.”

Tubi’s content library contains more than 12,000 movies and TV series –  claiming to double Netflix’s at 40,000 hours. The service’s app ranks as one of the most watched on Amazon Fire TV, Roku iOS, Android, and Xfinity X1, among others.

San Francisco-based Tubi ended 2018 with more than four-times the content on the service over the previous year. Viewers last December streamed nearly as much content as was consumed in all of 2017.

 

CES: Speakers Discuss the Growing Pains and Promise of Direct-to-Consumer Entertainment

LAS VEGAS — Speakers discussed the variety and expansion of online services, as well as strategies to cut through the content clutter and engage the online entertainment consumer during the panel “Into the Zeitgeist — The Direct-to-Consumer Entertainment Economy” at CES Jan. 9.

The panel took place at the Variety Entertainment Summit during the Las Vegas show.

The advent of pending services from the Walt Disney Co., WarnerMedia and Apple “certainly makes our lives more interesting,” said Hulu’s Kelly Campbell, adding the question is if they can scale quickly.

Farhad Massoudi, of the AVOD service Tubi, said there was a limit to what average consumers will spend on subscription services and that it was “ludicrous” that average income folks would subscribe to a growing smattering of subscription video-on-demand services. That’s where ad-supported platforms such as Tubi, which sports a movie and TV library much bigger than Netflix, come in, he said.

“Most SVOD services are going to struggle,” he said.

FandangoNow’s Cameron Douglas doesn’t consider these services competitors to the company’s transactional VOD business.

“We’re really agnostic as to what people are consuming and where,” he said.

In fact, they successfully distribute Amazon’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and would love to have a transactional offering of Netflix’s hit Bird Box.

“We do hope all of the studios, Netflix included, allow us to monetize those products,” he said. “There’s no reason that movie content that starts in the digital space can’t find a home on transactional.”

Whatever the distribution model, engaging the consumer is key, panelists said.

“We always want to super serve the super fans,” said Discovery Networks’ Peter Faricy. Discovery along with the PGA Tour created the Golf TV brand, which underpins a new live and on-demand international video streaming service specifically for golf fans.

Another way to attract consumers is by offering products that serve their needs.

“Consumers want choice, flexibility and control,” Hulu’s Campbell said. To that end, Hulu offers the choice of live, ad-supported and ad-free subscription options.

FandangoNow’s Douglas said the VOD service leverage’s its relationship with online movie ticketing platform Fandango by “taking 60 million Fandango uniques every month” and touting availability of transactional digital movie and TV offerings for home viewing.

“The [transactional] space is growing about 10% each year, and we are tripling that growth,” he said.

The service also attracts consumers with superior content quality, such as 4K UHD titles and — through a deal just announced — Imax content.

YouTube’s Neil Mohan said the online behemoth, which adds 400 hours of content a minute every single day, serves its viewers with recommendations that cater to them.

“The recommendations that we give to you should really speak to you,” he said.

Tubi, too, uses recommendation algorithms to serve its audience, Massoudi said.

The content itself should also engage consumers, said Conde Nast Entertainment’s Oren Katzeff. His company, which he said has some of the most binged shows on Netflix, creates content in a way that makes viewers want to watch more episodes.

He said engaging consumers also requires looking at data to see not just what they want, but when they want it and how they want it.

Ideally, content should build a relationship with consumers.

“From a creation standpoint, how do you create content that people not only want to watch [but to comment on and engage with further],” he said.

Roku Expands Roku Channel, Home Screen Capabilities; Reports Strong Financials

Roku Aug. 8 announced the launch of two new ways for consumers to find free streaming entertainment.

With the launch of the Roku Channel for the web in the United States, consumers now have free access via PCs, mobile phones and tablets, according to a company press release. Consumers can visit TheRokuChannel.com to begin streaming once they log in or create a Roku account.

Also, Roku is beginning the roll out of a navigation change to the Roku home screen called “Featured Free,” which provides users with direct links to free content from The Roku Channel, ABC, The CW, CW Seed, FOX, Freeform, Pluto TV, Sony Crackle, Tubi and more. Featured Free includes the in-season episodes of top network shows, full past-season catch-ups and more.

“We want to be the best destination for free streaming entertainment. We’re delighted to deliver even more value to our customers without subscriptions, complicated logins or fees,” said Rob Holmes, Roku’s VP of programming and engagement, in a statement. “By expanding The Roku Channel to the Web, we’re broadening the access points to high-quality, free streaming entertainment. With Featured Free, we’re making it easy for our customers to see the great, free content already available on the Roku platform in one place, while creating value for our content providers by connecting them with Roku’s growing audience.”

Launched last fall, The Roku Channel is currently the No. 5 most popular streaming channel on the Roku platform based on active account reach, according to the press release.

In addition, The Roku Channel app has begun rolling out to select Samsung smart TVs.

Featured Free is available domestically through a phased software roll out over the coming weeks.

Roku also reported its financial results for the second quarter. “Q2 revenue and gross profit came in ahead of our outlook, driven by strong Platform revenue growth and player demand that exceeded our expectations,” read a company letter to shareholders. “Revenue grew 57% year-over-year, our fastest growth rate since Q4 2013. Gross profit, a key performance metric, grew 107% and gross margin expanded 12 percentage points to 50% compared to the prior year period.”

In other Roku news, studio Gunpowder & Sky announced  DUSTx, a free destination for science fiction content that will be available on all Roku devices starting Aug. 18.

It kicks off with more than 20 films, 30 series and 200 of short films. Titles include Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure; Paycheck, based on Philip K. Dick’s short story and starring Ben Affleck; A Scanner Darkly, the 2006 animated sci-fi thriller directed by Richard Linklater, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, and starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder; “Beyond Westworld,” the 1980 television series based on the Michael Crichton helmed film Westworld; and “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” the 1988 cult-favorite comedy series created by Joel Hodgson.

A division of Gunpowder & Sky, DUST operates channels that are available on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, VRV, Pluto and Xumo. Through its partnership with USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, DUST recently premiered the George Lucas 1967 short film, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, followed by legendary filmmaker Robert Zemeckis’ 1972 student short film The Lift.

“Since DUST’s inception, our mission has been to build a contemporary sci-fi brand,” said Floris Bauer, co-founder and president, Gunpowder & Sky, in a statement. “Today, DUST has a thriving community of more than 2 million fans, showcasing varying content from up-and-coming creators to masters like George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis. We are also producing and releasing original feature films and TV series under the DUST label. Having our own premium channel, and launching DUSTx, marks a natural and significant next step in the evolution of the brand.”

LAES: OTT About Change, Speakers Say

While there are many forms of over the top, or OTT, distribution, the term OTT is ultimately a “signifier for change” in the entertainment marketplace, said Erick Opeka, EVP of digital networks at Cinedigm July 17 at the OTT Channels Conference. The conference, which Opeka chaired, took place during the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Speakers on the panel, “OTT 2022: Prognosticating the Future,” discussed the varied landscape for OTT players, from paid subscription to free ad-supported distribution, and the dominance of goliaths such as Netflix.

Panelists speculated about where Netflix would be in the next five years.

“They will look much bigger,” said Pluto TV’s Jeff Shultz. “It will be much harder for anyone to catch them given the lead they have created.”

Neil Davis of Ucast TV speculated that Netflix would be acquired by Apple, and Roku’s Randy Ahn quipped that it would be owned by Roku.

Meanwhile, National Research Group’s Jeff Hall said it would be continuing to expand internationally.

Many panelists noted the many opportunities for international growth of OTT.

Content on Indian knitting patterns can find an audience in India, Hall noted.

“Listen to the consumer,” he said.

Panelists also discussed ways to compete in a market dominated by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and other giants.

“It’s really challenging for an independent to find a place,” Davis said.

Content discovery is key, noted Ahn.

“We make it easy for publishers to build channels,” he said, noting that the Roku Channel is “essentially like a supermarket endcap” for OTT distribution, making it easier for consumers to use and discover OTT content.

Having a strong brand can also be a help “if the brand is important enough,” Shultz said.

HBO’s online service “has a chance to be a Netflix-like brand,” Hall said.

Panelists also addressed the impending Walt Disney Co. streaming service.

“I think they are going to have a harder time than I would like them to have,” Hall said, noting the service would have to expand beyond family programming.

Meanwhile, Ahn said Disney could “potentially redefine entertainment,” and Shultz, noting Disney’s valuable IP, wondered “at what expense it will come to Netflix.”

In another presentation, Tubi’s Adam Lewinson called his AVOD service “free Netflix” and noted it had accumulated 8,000 movies and series, using machine learning to help each piece of content find its audience.

Targeting a niche is also a way to find an OTT audience, noted Here Media’s Paul Colichman on another panel.

“Anyone who’s trying to compete with Netflix [with its wide appeal] should go home now,” he said.

Speakers agreed that OTT has put traditional TV on a path of decline.

IHS Markit research analyst Dan Cryan told the audience that 2016 was the peak of traditional TV.

“In five years, we won’t be talking over the top because it will all be over the top,” said Pluto TV’s Shultz.