Vewd Software Gets $10 Million Lifeline After Bankruptcy Filing

Vewd Software, a Norwegian-based over-the-top video tech provider to myriad companies, including Redbox, Cinedigm and Vizio, has received a $10 million lifeline from its lenders two days after a Dec. 15 voluntary bankruptcy filing.

Under the prepackaged plan of reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, Vewd will swap $118 million in debt as equity to its lenders. The company cited the pandemic and a shareholder dispute for its fiscal troubles.

“As we embark on our next phase of growth in a highly dynamic, fast-paced industry, it has become imperative that we boost our ability to invest into the accelerated roll-out of our new products and solutions,” Vewd CEO Aneesh Rajaram said in a statement.

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Launched in 2002, the Oslo-based company claims to embed its streaming technology on 40 million connected TVs, set-top boxes, game consoles and cars each year.

“We look forward to emerging from this process with a healthy balance sheet, empowering Vewd to continue its growth trajectory within the evolving OTT industry,” Rajaram said. “Future owners have demonstrated a clear commitment to our company’s long-term success and our mission to enable entertainment everywhere.”

Vizio Launches Free Holiday ‘Winter Watchland’ VOD Content

Vizio Dec. 9 announced it has launched “Winter Watchland,” a collection of more than 500 hours of holiday-themed featured movies, TV shows, recipes, and music on its ad-supported streaming service, WatchFree+.

Sponsored by Microsoft, “Winter Watchland” is on-demand programming now available on all Vizio SmartCast TVs.

Holiday curated channels feature more than 31 holiday movies, cooking shows, including new and traditional holiday recipes, and four different fireplace scenes.

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Vizio is also presenting exclusive holiday content, including the U.S. premieres of Christmas on 5th Avenue from Brain Power Studio and Four Cousins and a Christmas from MarVista Entertainment, both available exclusively to SmartCast users.

“This Holiday season, we are pleased to offer our [connected TV] audiences hundreds of hours of free holiday movies, TV shows, music, and exclusives,” Steve DeMain, VP of engagement at Vizio, said in a statement.

To jumpstart SmartCast usage, Vizio is offering discounts from $100 to $400 on select smart-TVs and sound bars. Vizio products available at most major retailers, including Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Costco, and Sam’s Club.

Vizio Ups Q3 AVOD Streaming Hours 16% to 3.6 Billion

Consumer electronics manufacturer Vizo Nov. 9 announced it saw a 16% in AVOD consumption in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). Total SmartCast viewing hours in the quarter topped 3.6 billion, compared with 3.1 billion hours in the previous-year period.

Vizio, along with Samsung, is aggressively pursuing the ad-supported VOD and free ad-supported streaming television market with proprietary platforms targeting their install base.

In the quarter, Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio expanded its app partnerships to include HBO Max, FuboTV, BET+, PBS and Funimation. The company also launched WatchFree+, an updated free, ad-supported streaming service with greater ad inventory control.

“Our dual revenue model is a competitive advantage, and it allows us to leverage our device business to drive growing high-margin revenue within our platform business,” CEO William Wang said in a statement.

Vizio, which claims to be the No. 2 selling TV brand, and No. 1 selling soundbar brand in the U.S., said it ended the quarter with 14.4 million active SmartCast accounts, which was up 35% from 10.7 million accounts last year.

“We are here to define the future of the Smart TV business,” Wang said.

AFM Panel: Digital Marketplace Shifting to PVOD, AVOD and FAST

The digital marketplace is shifting, said panelists at the virtual American Film Market Nov. 1. Premium VOD has accelerated during the pandemic while subscription services’ pullback from buying independent content has made free ad-supported services such as AVOD and FAST the new target for content distributors.

The pandemic made PVOD a necessary distribution model, said Michael Murphy, president of Gravitas Ventures. As it subsides, “it’s going to be interesting” to see if the move to PVOD continues, he said.

“Let the consumer decide how they’re going to spend their dollars,” he said, noting a Gravitas release scheduled for January will have a 21-day theatrical window followed by PVOD.

“The splits in PVOD are better than the splits in theatrical,” he noted, adding “we still believe in the theatrical moviegoing experience.”

“We’re experimenting as the world continues to evolve,” he said.

Greg Barnard, director of content and acquisitions, at Vizio, said that based on the data collected via the company’s Smartcast system, consumers are turning more and more to free ad-supported content.

“People are looking for free options,” he said. “They’re looking to watch free content somewhere. It’s a very high-search term.”

Ad-supported free services are “breathing new life into our library” as SVOD services such as Netflix have “scaled back the number of films they acquire and what they want to pay,” Murphy added.

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Noting that Peacock has licensed a lot of content from Gravitas, he said, “It’s a little bit of a gold rush now in AVOD.”

Discovery and marketing in the digital space is still a work in progress, they said.

“Sometimes, it’s thought that you’ve got to do traditional television, traditional commercials for an awareness campaign,” Murphy said. “With PVOD, we felt that you could be a little bit more specific in your spends, try to spend maybe with the platform, spend with Amazon. And also knowing that although maybe someone’s not going to rent the movie on Amazon, everyone goes to Amazon to shop, so it’s kind of two birds with one stone there. You can get an awareness campaign, as well as potentially a click through or tap through to that ultimate buy.”

“Making content easy to find, discoverable, accessible … is absolutely critical to what we’re doing,” Barnard said. Placement on the screen of the smart TV is prime real estate.

“We own all the marketing on our platform, and that’s really powerful for us,” he said.

Packaging content and gathering the right creative for the digital space is key, they said.

Vizio likes collections around “a series, a moment, a vertical,” he said, adding he’d rather have all the seasons of two series, rather than just one or two seasons of 10 series.

To attract viewers, Vizio often asks for better creative.

“Creative that is just not intriguing enough” for the digital space is a common problem, he said.

Murphy noted he “just added some horsepower to our creative team” with a new hire.

“We need to be more aggressive and forward leaning with our providers,” he said.

Despite the move to digital distribution, Murphy said Gravitas hasn’t abandoned physical disc release, if it’s cost effective, mostly via manufacture on demand.

“Our filmmakers like it,” he said.

Vizio Expands Curated Content Channels

Vizio Oct. 20 announced a slate of new content available through its branded “Features” offering, including a series of custom-curated channels on the CE manufacturer’s ad-supported “WatchFree+” streaming video service.

The Irvine, Calif.-based company’s “Features” concept aims to leverage its first-party, opted-in viewership data and home screen targeting capabilities to deliver personalized content to viewers via free ad-supported channels, movies and shows across the Vizio SmartCast operating system.

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On the heels of Vizio’s first curated offerings, “Fork & Flight” and “Investigation,” the company is expanding to include a wider selection of content genres. Themes and programming are selected based on what viewers have shown the greatest interest in across millions of SmartCast devices. The result is a curated experience that allows viewers to quickly and easily find content they want.

“‘Features’ is a good business model for Vizio because it solves problems for viewers, advertisers and content partners alike,” Steve DeMain, VP of engagement, said in a statement.

In the coming months, channel updates on home and DIY, holidays, live concerts and nature-scape programming, among others, will be rolled out.

For content creators and media companies, curated channels offer an additional distribution touchpoint for AVOD/free ad-supported TV viewers, while creating an additional revenue stream, and even more insight into what content resonates best with viewers.

“Our programming strategy delivers more of what our viewers love across multiple genres,” DeMain said. “And by developing these passionate audiences, we are not only building great sponsorship opportunities for brands, but we are also helping our content partners generate new revenue.”

AVOD Service Documentary+ Available on Vizio SmartCast TVs

The documentary streaming platform Documentary+ is now available on Vizio SmartCast TVs.

Audiences can find curated content from Documentary+’s collection of nonfiction films and series on Vizio WatchFree+, the free streaming service available on Vizio SmartCast TVs. SmartCast audiences can now access Documentary+’s programming via the updated WatchFree+ program guide, with no additional devices, subscriptions, logins or fees.

The Documentary+ channel hosts nonfiction titles spanning across genres from true crime to exposés to music docs. The average Documentary+ user has watched 80 minutes of content since it launched as an AVOD streaming service in January 2021.

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Documentary+ houses a collection of feature documentaries, cult classics and shorts and features award-winning and nominated filmmakers including Spike Jonze, Kathryn Bigelow, Penny Lane, Elaine May, Jessica Beshir, Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog and Sam Pollard. Included in the existing library is the docuseries with Anthony Bourdain and VICE “A Cook’s Tour,” which follows Bourdain on his travels across the world to explore local culinary cuisines from Tokyo to Portugal to the Napa Valley over 35 episodes.

“We are bullish on the idea that FAST is the next step in the evolution of TV as we build Documentary+ to become the leading premium doc channel,” Bryn Mooser, Documentary+ founder, said in a statement. “Launching on Vizio’s SmartCast is bringing the Documentary+ channel to millions more households.”

“With access to feature-length and short documentary films from the Documentary+ channel on WatchFree+, we are able to serve up a premium content and viewing experience at no cost to the SmartCast audience,” Greg Barnard, director of content acquisition for Vizio, said in a statement. “Adding these high quality, non-fiction films to the ever-expanding library of content options means there is something for everyone with SmartCast.”

In addition to Vizio, Documentary+ is available on smart-TV channels including Xumo, LG Channel Plus and LG Channels as well as on-demand streaming apps including Apple TV, Amazon and Roku, mobile devices, and www.docplus.com.

Electric Entertainment Officially Launches OTT Service ElectricNow With Availability on Vizio Smart TVs

Electric Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production, distribution and post-production company, has announced the hard launch of its OTT app and channel ElectricNow, concurrently with the app’s availability on all Vizio SmartCast televisions.

SmartCast  users have around-the-clock access to Electric Entertainment’s produced content such as TV series “Leverage,” “The Librarians” and “The Outpost,” as well as acquired programming such as the feature films Blood on the Crown, starring Harvey Keitel and Malcolm McDowell, and Heavy, starring Sophie Turner and Daniel Zovatto.

“We soft-launched ElectricNow in spring of 2020,” said Dean Devlin, CEO of Electric Entertainment, in a statement. “The consumer feedback and corresponding viewership has been well beyond our expectations.  We originally set out to create a hub where we could aggregate all of our various fan bases from ‘Leverage,’ ‘The Librarians,’ ‘The Outpost,’ ‘Almost Paradise’ and all of our podcast subscribers into a single space. Now with the app being available to this incredibly large consumer base via Vizio SmartCast, we are reaching a much broader more mainstream audience, picking up new fans along the way.”

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“With the addition of ElectricNow to SmartCast, we are continuing Vizio’s mission to provide our audiences with endless entertainment,” Chris Tanquary, director of business development and partnerships for Vizio, said in a statement. “ElectricNow’s hard launch is a great step in that effort, and gives SmartCast users access to their exciting original and acquired content.”

Electric Entertainment recently announced marathons on ElectricNow for its original programs “Leverage” and “The Outpost,” timed to coincide with the streaming and/or broadcasting of these program’s new episodes and seasons.

Devlin has seen ElectricNow as not only a one-stop-shop destination for fans of Electric’s programming, but also as a marketing tool to lead viewers to their streaming and broadcast partners, according to a company press release.

“Our fans and broadcast/streaming partners have been equally important to us,” he said in a statement. “Bringing them together has been a major initiative for us.”

BET+ Streaming App is Coming to Vizio SmartCast

Vizio Aug. 3 announced that viewers of its SmartCast streaming video platform will soon have on-demand access to ViacomCBS’s BET+ streaming service. BET+ offers movies, TV shows, comedy and stage plays from black creators.

Content includes: “First Wives Club,” “Tyler Perry’s Ruthless,” “The Family Business” and “American Gangster: Trap Queens” from creators Tracy Oliver, Tyler Perry and Carl Weber, in addition to catalog series “Martin,” “House of Payne” and “Being Mary Jane.”

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“This addition to our line-up of premium apps aligns perfectly with our dedication to deliver content for every audience that can be enjoyed instantly on the big screen,” Katherine Pond, VP of business development, said in a statement.

SmartCast users can find BET+ in the app row on the home screen starting Aug. 4. Users can access the streaming service for a free, seven-day trial before purchasing a premium, commercial-free subscription for $9.99 per month.

BET+ joining a list of SmartCast streaming services that includes Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Peacock and Amazon Prime Video. SmartCast also includes support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast built-in, allowing viewers to stream, control, and share content from their phone, tablet, or laptop directly onto the big screen.

Vizio Updates Free TV Streaming Service

Vizio Aug. 2 updated its free streaming video service, WatchFree+, with a new program guide and an expanded content offerings based on user data.

“WatchFree+ provides audiences with access to the channels and programming you expect with cable, but in a free streaming environment that makes it easy to personalize and customize the entertainment experience,” Katherine Pond, VP of business development, said in a statement.

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To support what it characterizes as a “growing consumer shift” to streaming, Vizio’s WatchFree+ offers 24/7 access to live and local programming, premium content and an ever-expanding library of hundreds of free channels across movies, news, sports, lifestyle, music, kids, family and multicultural content.

The platform includes new navigation features that allow for advanced search and discovery of the latest and best free entertainment. Streamlined search also enables users to access movies, shows and more in fewer steps, serving up content that’s curated around each viewer’s interests.

The program guide supports voice navigation for new SmartCast TVs that come with the latest remote control. Additionally, audiences can use voice navigation through the free SmartCast app for iOS and Android devices.

The latest update leverages Vizio’s “Inscape” viewing data to inform programming preferences with context and is key in the redesign of Vizio’s full-screen program guide and curated channels.

Using first-party viewership data, the program guide now includes custom curated channels, a new “Featured” category with seasonal programming, themed collections, and pop-up channels, including:

  • Fork & Flight: A unique mix of today’s most popular culinary and travel TV shows alongside top digital creators and trendsetters. Fork & Flight will take you to the kitchen, the farm and France — all in one day.
  • Investigation: Unlocks the door to real crime and the unknown, giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at investigations, as well as in-depth explorations.

Vizio Smart TVs Add ‘Midnight Pulp’ Horror, Thriller, Action Movies App

Vizio SmartCast Televisions have added the Midnight Pulp app, offering a mix of all things strange across the horror, thriller and action genres. Now SmartCast users have round-the-clock access to an expertly curated selection of cult and genre titles that include movies such as Ringu, Detective Chinatown and The Changeling.

Chris Tanquary, director of business development at Vizio

Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio aims to use Midnight Pulp to build audience engagement via ad-supported video-on-demand and SVOD apps on Smart TVs, mobile and connected TV devices; on the web; and/or as linear, free ad supported television (FAST) channels.

It is one of seven OTT channels owned and operated by DMR that have become destinations for their respective genres and is now available as a streaming app on Vizio.

“Midnight Pulp has added new genre-bending content, while evolving over the last two years engaging audiences with its niche content stew of the horror, thriller and action entertainment, Matthew Kiernan, Midnight Pulp channel manager for DMR, said in a statement.

“With the addition of Midnight Pulp, Vizio continues to expand its entertainment options for the modern consumer, giving viewers on-demand, instant access to the content they love,” said Chris Tanquary, director of business development at Vizio.