Comcast’s AVOD Service Xumo Streaming Ad-Free Movies

Xumo, Comcast’s ad-supported video streaming service, has launched a weekly series of ad-free catalog movies. Irvine, Calif.-based Xumo, which claims 24 million monthly average users, Oct. 4 made available the 2016 movie Miss Stevens, starring Timothée Chalamet‎ and Lily Rabe, among others. Future releases include Hero, the Halloween-themed Marrowbone and We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Comcast reportedly tested the ad-free movie concept in August to its Xfinity X1 platform subscribers and saw an uptick in Xumo usage. The media giant acquired the AVOD platform in February 2020.

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“As an AVOD industry first, we’re excited to bring Xumo’s Ad-Free Movie of the Week to millions of users across all of our Xumo owned and operated properties,” Fern Feistel, SVP of content operations and marketing at Xumo, said in a statement. “Not only are we delighting our audience, this is already proven to be a significant driver of retention as we continue to test new experiences.”

OTT.X Panelists Discuss Growth and Challenges of OTT Market

While the OTT market is growing exponentially, OTT players are facing several “pain points,” including the need to improve content discovery, better manage data and compete in an ever-more-crowded marketplace, said panelists Sept. 1 during the OTT.X Fall Summit in Los Angeles.

Clunky content discovery is still a problem for consumers and the OTT services that serve them.

“How do we shorten the distance between discovery and either purchase or consumption, either in terms of clicks or in terms of satisfaction to the customer?” said Chris Yates, GM of Redbox on Demand, adding it’s challenging “helping a customer find what they want to watch quickly and in the business model that matters to them.”

And the problem of discovery is only getting more complicated, especially in the ad-supported space, where the number of players is exploding, noted Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo.

“Today across the ecosystem there are maybe 1,500 linear free ad-supported TV (FAST) channels across all the platforms,” he said. “That’s going to be 10,000 in three years’ time.”

Unlike during the rise of broadcast and cable, the barriers to entry in the digital ad-supported marketplace are lower.

“Linear TV or cable TV used to be one of those places you had to have a lot of money to get access to,” Petrie-Norris said. “It is now being democratized. To get a linear national, even global TV channel is now possible for a much more humble budget.”

And that makes for a competitive landscape.

“The biggest challenge is that the FAST space is a gladiator pit where only the strong will survive,” said Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer at Cinedigm.

“Building our audience is the biggest pain point in the sense that there’s an increasingly fragmented distribution environment,” said Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle.

Getting the viewership data for digital content and evaluating what to do with it is a challenge as well.

Some platforms are “walled gardens” and do not share data, Opeka noted.

“In this ostensibly purely digital environment, you would think aggregating data and getting insights from the ecosystem would be much easier,” he said.

Data can also be overwhelming.

“We’re drowning in data and getting really good at making smart decisions out of it is tough,” he said.

Despite the challenges, the market for digital ads is hot.

“We see much more advertising demand than we have supply, which in my 30 years in working in ad-supported media I’ve never seen before,” Guelton said.

“I think advertisers today, frankly they just love the space,” Petrie-Norris added. “It’s all digital. You can track results. … It’s almost magic.”

Still, panelists said that delivering those ads could use some improvement.

Yates pointed to the “coming back soon” screens that pop up sometimes for minutes at a time when an ad doesn’t load.

“That’s an experience that the industry needs to solve,” he said.

Ad placement could also become more attuned to the viewer, perhaps with a smaller load while a consumer is casting around for something to watch and with more ads once the consumer is hooked.

Panelists also addressed the growth of PVOD — a higher-priced digital rental early in or concurrent with the theatrical window — during the pandemic as theaters shuttered.

“The real question is how long is this model sustainable,” Opeka said. “We’ve seen some pretty fantastic revenues out of the few [titles] that we’ve experimented with, way beyond what we would have thought possible … three or four times what we would have thought would be the potential pre-pandemic.”

“The one thing I can predict is if the revenues for PVOD continue to be as astronomical even for independent releases I can almost guarantee the market will be flooded with them,” he added.

Documentary+ Streaming Platform Joins Comcast’s Xumo Network

Documentary+, the streaming video platform of nonfiction films and series, is joining Xumo’s expanding library of 200+ premium ad-supported channels reaching more than 24 million unique users each month.

Documentary+ launched as an AVOD streaming service in January featuring an extensive library housing titles, including Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour and VICE’s JungletownSluteverThe Last Shot and films from award-winning filmmakers such as Spike Jonze, Kathryn Bigelow, Penny Lane, Elaine May, Jessica Beshir, Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog and Sam Pollard, with The Imposter, Cartel Land, and Life, Animated to name a few

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The Documentary+ channel on Xumo will feature 24/7 curated content from feature documentaries to cult classics and shorts and series, providing XUMO audiences access to their premium library of documentaries. Launching first on XUMO, the Documentary+ channel will be available on more FAST platforms soon, further expanding the platform’s streaming presence.

“With Xumo we can reach big new audiences and give our fans a 24/7 experience to watch the best in documentary film and television,” founder/CEO Bryn Mooser said in a statement.

Comcast-owned Xumo is available via a multi-screen distribution network of smart TVs, mobile, Web and popular streaming boxes. The Documentary+ on-demand streaming app is available globally for free on all streaming platforms including Apple TV, Amazon and Roku, mobile devices and www.docplus.com.

“The Documentary+ channel will engage millions of Xumo users with its extensive range of premium documentary films and series,” said Stefan Van Engen, SVP of content partnerships and programming at the Irvine, Calif.-based platform. “[We continue] to partner with best-in-class content providers and this new offering from Documentary+ is no exception.”

Data: 60% of Connected-TV Households Stream Ad-Supported Content

Consumer interest in free ad-supported VOD (AVOD) content and live television (FAST) continues to proliferate. New data from The Diffusion Group suggests 60% of connected-TV households stream ad-supported content across myriad platforms — spearheaded by YouTube.

AVOD and FAST services driving the market include ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV, Fox Entertainment’s Tubi, Comcast-owned Xumo and Amazon’s IMDb TV, among others.

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TDG found that 24% of connected-TV households consume ad-supported streaming content on a daily basis, while 32% stream weekly. Among AVOD/FAST consumers, 76% stream YouTube, the longest-running streaming video platform, followed by Pluto TV, Tubi and Xumo.

“Clearly the effects of work-from-home and lack of traditional leisure options during the pandemic accelerated consumer use of free ad-supported streaming services,” Doug Montgomery, senior analyst and author of Back to the Future: The Rise of Ad-Supported Streaming Video, said in a statement. “Most major video providers have been preparing for this moment for years and thus able to quickly adapt to an accelerated timeline. It is a unique moment in the history of the entertainment business and those who move quickly and boldly will likely reap the benefits for years to come.”

U.S. Spanish Channel Service Sony Canal Available on Xumo and Pluto TV

Sony Canal — the free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) suite of channels from Sony Pictures Television for Spanish-speaking viewers in the United States — is now available on Xumo’s free streaming platform with Sony Canal Competencias, and via Pluto TV in the en Español category with Sony Canal Comedias and Sony Canal Escape Perfecto.

The Sony Canal channels are also available to consumers via Samsung TV Plus, The Roku Channel, Plex and Vizio SmartCast.

Sony Canal Novelas is dedicated to popular classic telenovelas and modern serial dramas, including “Doña Barbara,” “Si Me Miran Tus Ojos,” “Los Caballeros Las Prefieren Brutas​,” “Señorita Pólvora” (“Miss Dynamite”) and “Paraíso Travel.”

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The Sony Canal Comedias channel offers culturally relevant modern remakes, featuring sitcoms and comedy series including “Casados Con Hijos” (“Married With Children”), “Aqui No Hay Quien Viva,” “Quién Manda a Quien?” (“Who’s the Boss”) and “Mi Bella Genio” (“I Dream of Jeannie”).

Sony Canal Competencias is dedicated to reality competition shows from Latin America such as “Escape Perfecto” (“Raid the Cage”) and “Ruleta Rusa” (“Russian Roulette”).

Sony Canal Escape Perfecto, available on Pluto TV, is a channel dedicated entirely to competition series “Escape Perfecto” (“Raid the Cage”), which has been remade all around the world.

OTT.X Summit Speakers Talk FAST (Free, Ad-Supported Television)

Free, ad-supported television dominated the discussion during the OTT.X summit’s opening-day keynote panel.

Known by the acronym FAST, the market certainly is in growth mode. Media heavyweights ViacomCBS and Comcast Corp. have acquired Pluto TV and Xumo, respectively, while Comcast’s much-ballyhooed Peacock streaming service also will have a free, ad-supported component.

And as Media Play News reported earlier this week, new data from eMarketer suggests AVOD revenue will grow more than 25% this year compared with 2019.

The AVOD market — spearheaded by The Roku Channel, Disney-owned Hulu, Peacock, Redbox TV, Amazon’s IMDb TV, Pluto TV and Fox Corp.’s Tubi — saw ad revenue skyrocket 31% to $849 million in the most-recent quarter, according to MoffettNathanson Research.

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“It’s something I’m really excited about — this is the thing that’s really hot,” moderator David Bloom, a tech journalist and consultant, said during the panel on Sept. 1. (The OTT.X summit continues through Sept. 3; click here to register.)

Anthony Layser, VP of content partnerships at Xumo, agreed.

“Things have changed so quickly over the last couple of years,” he said. “I joined Xumo in 2017 and I think at first there were some things that felt a little bit like a gimmick — you’re starting to string together types of content into a linear experience.

“And then I really got a sense, after a few months in, that what’s old is new again. People don’t necessarily want to spend all night searching through box art; they may be interested in a very specific series they are comfortable with — maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s lifestyle.”

The FAST market, he said, “is always changing and it’s exciting to come to work every day and look at data and say, ‘Wow, look at how this piece of content we licensed years ago is taking off.’”

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Networks, said his company over the past 18 months has sought to build “a nice portfolio of premium FAST and AVOD services to complement our four niche subscription services we still operate.”

“We got out of the real heavy, direct-to-consumer side,” he said, “and now focus on what I call the classic model of third-party distribution. You get a lot of bang for your buck — you don’t have to spend a lot of money on marketing, and you can focus all your energy on content spend and everyone else handles all the rest. So it’s a good model. Where we really thought the growth for us was going to come was in the ad-supported space.”

Advertising spending, he said, is “completely disconnected from the consumption right now. If you look at the data coming out of Samsung, where 55% of all consumption on smart TVs is not with traditional environments — the trend is not going to reverse; it’s not going to suddenly swing back the other way, especially given that 265 million sets are sold annually that have linear and VOD baked in, not to mention hundreds of thousands of apps.”

With FAST, Opeka said, “consumers love the choice, they love getting tons of entertainment for free that they don’t have to pay for. A couple of years ago, Pluto really educated all of us. … People mistake linear being dead for pre-programmed, tuned-in being dead. But I think there’s a very different piece here. Leanback is not dead. There’s a real specific use case for a big chunk of the week where you don’t have a lot of time and don’t want to spend 30 minutes digging through thousands of titles or hoping the algorithm finds you. You just want something on while you’re having leftovers. What we’re really talking about is hand-curated, passive, feed-my-eyes, against active, algorithm-driven recommendations. There’s a place in the world for both.”

Tedd Cittadine, VP of content distribution at Roku, said, “There’s no secret we’re really excited and optimistic about the AVOD business in general. We started just over three years ago with the Roku Channel, and the reason we launched it is because our consumers were disproportionately searching for free content. We knew there was pent-up demand for it. And we’ve seen significant growth — it’s been growing faster than the platform as a whole.”

He noted that the “AVOD landscape has changed significantly” over the past few years. “It’s gone from many startup independents to Roku, CBS, Fox, Amazon, YouTube, Comcast”

He noted that as the business becomes increasingly competitive, there are “three key things that drive success.” One is access to a “huge audience.” “It’s incredibly expensive to acquire consumers,” he said. “If you don’t have that huge installed base you can market to and deliver your content to, it can be very challenging to build that audience.” Second is having a “one-to-one, proprietary relationship with data for consumers, and having access to that data to make your advertising more effective.” And the third, he said, is having a “large and successful, well-funded direct ad sales organization to take advantage of monetization opportunities.”

Also speaking on the panel was Andrea Clarke-Hall, VP of business development at Tubi, acquired by Fox in April. “If you take COVID and add an acquisition, it makes for interesting times,” she said. “But it has been awesome. It’s still very early days, but it seems to be a really great partnership. Fox has given Tubi tremendous autonomy, and I think what we’ve seen is continued announcements every week about leveraging Fox ownership to bring better and better content to Tubi.”

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment for Fandango, gave a nod to the transactional side of the business, noting that stay-at-home orders, and the movie theater shutdown, during the coronavirus pandemic has given the business a boost.

“You feel like the last few months have brought transactional back,” he said. “People have discovered there’s new content, movies you might not have ever seen — like The Tax Collector, which has been No. 1 on our service for the last couple of weeks.”

OTT.X Adds Six Members

OTT.X (formerly the Entertainment Merchants Association) has added six members: Breaking Glass Pictures, Here Media, MVD Entertainment Group, MyBundle.tv, Vizio and Xumo.

Founded in 2009 by industry veterans Rich Wolff and Richard Ross, along with Susan Helfrich, Breaking Glass Pictures is a film distribution and media company that focuses on releasing independent films, inclusive of all genres, from around the world. In addition to theatrical, DVD, digital, and VOD releases in North America, Breaking Glass functions as an international sales agent. With an average release slate of 45 to 50 titles a year, and a catalog of more than 400 titles, Breaking Glass also represents other studio’s catalogs for platform placement as aggregators.

Here Media operates media brands serving the LGBT market across the print, television, digital, social media, tablet, events and mobile.

MVD offers a catalog of audio and visual digital rights and has direct relationships with the major digital and VOD platforms.

MyBundle.TV guides consumers through the cord-cutting process by recommending customized bundles of streaming services based on a user’s set of circumstances. At the same time, MyBundle.TV provides OTT services a platform to reach their potential consumers.

Vizio is an American-based TV brand and sound bar company formed in 2002 offering among its products smart TVs.

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Xumo, an ad-supported streaming service, offers more than 190 digital channels of programming across 12 genres in 45 million U.S. households via a multi-screen distribution network of smart TVs, mobile, web and streaming boxes.

Vevo Music Video Catalog Added to AVOD Service Xumo

Music video platform Vevo has added its catalog of music videos to AVOD service Xumo.

Xumo’s ad-supported service is available in 45 million U.S. households via smart TVs, mobile, Web and streaming boxes. It offers 190-plus linear and on-demand channels.

“We are very excited to partner with Xumo as we continue to expand our linear-programmed lean-back music television experiences to our audience,” Rob Christensen, VP of sales strategy and partnerships for Vevo, said in a statement. “Tapping into Xumo’s impressive growth and significant distribution scale is a big step towards helping Vevo achieve its goal of bringing music videos back into the living room.”

“The new Vevo channel on Xumo is a welcomed addition to our service with its incredible range of premium music-related content,” Stefan Van Engen, Xumo SVP of content partnerships and programming, said in a statement. “Vevo’s curated programming will appeal to the largest possible cross section of our viewers who turn to XUMO on a daily basis for the best content available. They will be delighted to discover Vevo.”

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Streaming Services Have Home Field Advantage

With the increased calls for Americans to stay home during the coronavirus outbreak, many see home entertainment — especially streaming services — as a big winner. Indeed, consumers confined to their homes may give the industry a boost, but not all streaming services are equal.

Netflix, which has pretty much maxed out its U.S. subscriptions, may not necessarily benefit monetarily, as subs pay a monthly fee that doesn’t go up with increased viewing.

New and pending SVOD services, however, seem to be poised to benefit. Disney+ is approaching 30 million domestic subs, according to exiting CEO Bob Iger, and its growth may help off-set the hit taken by the Walt Disney Co., headed up by new CEO (and home entertainment alum) Bob Chapek, as its theme parks close during outbreaks. The service will launch in Europe March 24, where social distancing is taking hold as well, perhaps giving Disney+ a boost abroad. Indeed, the studio has ramped up SVOD efforts domestically and internationally. Chapek announced that hit Frozen II would be available on the service March 15 in the United States and March 17 in certain international territories — three months early. Ahead of the impending launch in Europe, the media giant has rolled out promotional offers with mobile carriers T-Mobile and O2 in Germany and the United Kingdom, respectively.

Meanwhile, HBO Max, coming in May, and Comcast’s Peacock, which launches April 15, it seems couldn’t have picked a better time to enter people’s homes.

Another big winner may be free ad-supported services such as ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV, Xumo (newly aquired by Comcast) and Tubi (rumored to be a Fox acquisition target). In-home captive audiences will be a ripe target for their advertising and easily accessible free VOD content.

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While industry events, theme parks and productions may be taking a hit, home entertainment seems poised to increase its audience.

beIN Sports Xtra Launches on Xumo and Roku Platforms Across Canada

beIN Sports March 9 announced that its ad-supported English-language live sports streaming channel is joining Comcast-owned AVOD platform Xumo and The Roku Channel in Canada.

beIN Sports will offer analysis from Canadian native and five-time Saskatchewan Soccer Association Player of the Year Kaylyn Kyle. The former Canadian Women’s National Team player and Olympic medalist was recently on the ground in Madrid, Spain, covering LaLiga’s El Claśico match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

beIN Sports is also streaming live coverage of ongoing LaLiga, Ligue 1, Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, and Turkish SüperLig soccer.

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“It’s easier than ever to catch [soccer] action in real-time,” Antonio Briceño, deputy managing director for beIN Sports in North America, said in a statement.

Launched in 2012, beIN Sports also features wrestling, mixed martial arts (MMA), skiing and handball, among others.

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