Pluto TV Inks Deal to Bring AVOD Platform to LG Smart TVs

ViacomCBS-owned AVOD service Pluto TV has inked a global distribution deal with LG Electronics to bring its platform to LG’s smart TVs.

Pluto TV is now available on LG 2020 smart TV models in the United States, with rollouts on 2016 to 2019 models to begin in fall 2020. Expansion plans to other regions will be announced at a later date. Pluto TV currently has a global footprint spanning 22 countries.

Pluto TV content is featured via LG’s proprietary LG Channels feature offering access to more than 200 free streaming channels. Once fully integrated later this year, more than 99 Pluto TV channels will be available on LG smart TVs, according to the service.

“We’re thrilled to be able to bring Pluto TV and our leadership in free, ad-supported streaming television to LG’s lineup of critically-acclaimed smart TVs,” Brendon Thomas, VP of distribution for Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Through this partnership, we are excited to have another opportunity to accelerate our mission to entertain the planet by bringing an unparalleled lineup of programming, with instant discoverability through the LG Channels experience, to millions of LG users, for free.”

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“In the highly unusual times we are living in, people are turning to home entertainment in even larger numbers than ever before,” Matt Durgin, director of North America partnerships at LG Electronics, said in a statement. “With the debut of Pluto TV on LG smart TVs, our customers now have access to an even more expansive and diverse roster of free streaming content that will keep everyone entertained and engaged at home.”

Pluto TV delivers 100,000-plus hours of free content to an audience of more than 24 million monthly active users in the U.S. alone, according to the service. It includes hundreds of channels and tens of thousands of titles on demand featuring content from more than 200 major media partners.

NPD: DVD and Blu-ray Player Sales Jump in Pandemic

Consumers are getting physical.

Sales of DVD and Blu-ray players were both up 27% in unit sales for the week ended April 18 compared with same week a year ago, according to data from the NPD Group.

“Sales are up as consumers stay at home and look for multiple forms of entertainment,” said NPD analyst Stephen Baker. “These include DVDs and Blu-ray discs to entertain children while their parents are working, backup access devices if Internet access is challenged by streaming, or simply the consumers’ realization that they may need a physical disc player as an alternative to streaming and either they didn’t already have one or the one they do have needs an upgrade.”

Meanwhile, streaming player sales jumped 42%.

Overall, NPD-tracked U.S. Consumer Tech sales increased 23% year-over-year (29% week-over-week) during the week ended April 18 to nearly $1.8 billion. This topped the 21% increase tracked during the week ended March 21 sales spike.

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“We saw broad-based increases across almost all categories, unlike in March, when the work-from-home categories dominated,” Baker said.

TVs unit sales also jumped, exceeding 1.1 million units, the highest volume ever outside holiday, an 86% increase in units. Every TV size 32 inches and above had double-digit growth while 65 inch-and-above TVs were up 139%. Consumers also bought smaller sizes as 32-inch TVs, which declined by 15% over the first 10 weeks of 2020, increased by 40% over the last 5 weeks.

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Other strong categories included networking (70%), headphones (29%), printers (61%), DIY components (111%), PC microphones (147%), range extenders (173%), TV mounts (41%) and soundbars (69% in units).

Vizio Rolling Out Chromecast Update to Access Disney+ on Smart TVs

Vizio will roll out a Chromecast built-in update that will allow users to cast Disney+ content to their Vizio SmartCast TVs.

The update will start rolling out in early December.

Owners can already watch content from the Disney+ app using Apple AirPlay 2 by tapping the AirPlay icon and selecting their SmartCastTV when in the app.

Vizio can roll out updates to models dating back to 2016.

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“We want consumers to know that when they purchase a Vizio TV, it will keep its value for years to come,” said Bill Baxter, Vizio chief technology officer, in a statement. “Our team is continually improving SmartCast to ensure users have the best home entertainment experience with more ways to enjoy their favorite content.”

VIZIO SmartCast TVs users can also view apps such as Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu and YouTube directly from the SmartCast Home screen.

Older Samsung Smart TVs to Lose Netflix

Older Samsung Smart TVs will be losing access to Netflix beginning Dec. 1 “due to technical limitations,” according to Samsung.

The affected TVs are 2010 and 2011 models with ‘C’ or ‘D’ after the screen size in the model code.

“If you have one of the affected models, you may see a message on your TV indicating that Netflix will no longer be available on this device,” read a Samsung statement. “You’ll still be able to watch Netflix on your TV by connecting another device with Netflix on it.”

Netflix compatible devices are listed here.

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Vizio Adds Features to Smart TV Experience

Vizio announced the rollout of new features to its smart TV experience, SmartCast Home, adding such entertainment apps as CBS All Access and allowing users to personalize their SmartCast Home experience via the app sorting feature.

The latest iteration of SmartCast Home is rolling out via free cloud-based updates to Vizio SmartCast 4K Ultra HD TVs and displays, as well as select HD and Full HD models.

“Vizio continues to fulfill consumer demands by way of free, rolling cloud-based updates that enable new, intuitive smart TV features via Vizio SmartCast,” said Vizio chief technology officer Bill Baxter in a statement. “With versatility, simplicity and value in mind, Vizio SmartCast is an ever-evolving entertainment solution. Everyday users, cord-cutters and smart home enthusiasts alike are able to continuously receive new features, the latest apps and other beneficial enhancements that help ensure they are getting the most out of their viewing experience.”

With the update, Vizio SmartCast Home users can sort and position their favorite and most frequented apps on the home screen. To change the order of apps within the app row at the bottom of the SmartCast Home screen, users scroll to the end of the app row and select the “Sort App Row” icon. From there, they will be prompted with on-screen cues that guide them through the process of highlighting and selecting various apps to customize their position.

New to Vizio SmartCast Home is the CBS All Access app, offering such programs as “NCIS,” “The Young and the Restless” and “Madam Secretary”; exclusive original series such as “Star Trek: Discovery” and “The Good Fight”; and streaming of local live broadcasts. YouTube TV — which allows SmartCast users to watch and record live TV from more than 60 networks — Baeble and Toon Goggles, among other apps, have also been added to the SmartCast lineup.

With the latest updates, the Vizio WatchFree free streaming service is now also included in the App Row.

SmartCast also now offers dedicated TV and Movie Detail pages highlighting the selected title’s trailer and synopsis, along with cast and director credits, running time, parental ratings, critic insights and more. The TV and Movie Detail pages will also soon allow users to browse seasons and episodes across multiple apps such as FandangoNow and Hulu, and then view on their app of choice.

Report: 4K UHD Demand to Boost TV Growth in 2018

Consumer demand for TV sets is poised to return to growth in 2018, boosted by 4K Ultra HD models, according to the latest “Worldwide TV Market Report” from Futuresource Consulting.

The recovery of several markets linked with a transition to 4K UHD models will push the market up by 5% to $85 billion, according to Futuresource.

“We believe 4K UHD TV sets will ship over 100 million units this year, equivalent to two-thirds of the entire large screen market,” said David Tett, market analyst at Futuresource Consulting, in a statement. “Consumers increasingly want larger screens, and this is playing nicely into the 4K UHD proposition.”

The world’s two largest markets, China and the United States, both saw falls in 2017 but have a positive outlook in 2018, Futuresource projects.

“They have been ahead of most other markets in terms of adoption of 4K UHD and large screens generally. Over three quarters of sets that sell in the U.S. and China this year will be over 40 [inches],” said Tett in a statement. “However, other regions are now catching up, and Western Europe is on course to match the 44% Chinese household ownership of 4K UHD TVs by 2022.”

With a substantial installed base of 4K UHD TV households to target, content is now becoming available across markets, according to Futuresource.

“Consumer research shows that there has been a significant step-up in the proportion of 4K UHD TV owners who say they have watched this content at home,” Tett said in a statement. “This is the result not just of an expanding number of SVOD subscribers, but also a growing choice of content via linear TV.”

Big premium TV vendors are increasing using voice assistant platforms to attract consumers, according to Futuresource. Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are being incorporated into the latest TVs from LG, Hisense, TCL and Vizio. Samsung, meanwhile, is utilising its in-house Bixby assistant in its 2018 QLED range.

Also, in pursuit of better margins, most vendors have introduced either QLED or OLED display technology to larger screens, according to Futuresource.

“The two largest TV vendors are currently on opposing sides; Samsung is the driving force behind QLED and LG is OLED’s primary backer,” said Tett in a statement.

Futuresource expects a 41% CAGR between 2018 and 2022 of these technologies, resulting in around 8 million sets shipping in 2022.
Among other findings, Futuresource expects high dynamic range (HDR) to be present in 60% of 4K UHD sets this year. HDR 10 is the most commonly found solution currently across vendors but the availability of a range of technologies including HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Advanced HDR and Dolby Vision is leading to some consumer confusion, according to Futuresource.