Epix Now Is a New Video Streaming Service

Epix, the premium TV network owned by MGM, has launched its own video streaming service. The service is called Epix Now, and it’s an extension of the main Epix offering available on U.S. cable. Which makes it perfect for cord-cutters. Everything You Need to Know About Epix Now Epix Now is a video streaming service for mobile devices and set-top boxes. It features all of Epix’ original programming, as well as thousands of movies. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t free, and is instead priced at $5.99/month. BIG NEWS! EPIX NOW is available for download TODAY ?? https://t.co/xXrdNzZPsA Enjoy Hit Movies & TV…

Read the full article: Epix Now Is a New Video Streaming Service

Epix, the premium TV network owned by MGM, has launched its own video streaming service. The service is called Epix Now, and it’s an extension of the main Epix offering available on U.S. cable. Which makes it perfect for cord-cutters.

Everything You Need to Know About Epix Now

Epix Now is a video streaming service for mobile devices and set-top boxes. It features all of Epix’ original programming, as well as thousands of movies. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t free, and is instead priced at $5.99/month.

Epix’ Original Series include returning series such as Get Shorty, Deep State, and Berlin Station. There are also newcomers such as Pennyworth, Godfather of Harlem, and Elvis Goes There. Movies currently available on Epix include Star Trek, Arrival, and A Quiet Place.

In a press release, Michael Wright, the President of Epix, said:

“Launching EPIX Now and providing consumers nationwide with access to our premium original programming and blockbuster movies is an exciting moment for our company and solidifies our commitment to bring high-level storytelling to as many people as possible.”

Epix Now is available on Android, iOS, and Apple TV. It’s also listed as coming soon to Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices. Beyond this initial launch, Epix promises that Epix Now will “continue rolling out across additional devices over the course of the year.”

Epix Now Could Be Epic for Cord-Cutters

With Epix Now, Epix is launching into a crowded market. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video all boast millions of users. On top of that, Disney, Apple, NBC, and Warner are all expected to launch their own streaming services soon.

Still, Epix Now is crucial in allowing Epix to break out of the cable bubble it currently inhabits. With more and more people cutting the cord every year, it makes little sense for any company to limit themselves to what is a (slowly) dying platform.

Read the full article: Epix Now Is a New Video Streaming Service

Epix launches a $6 per month streaming service offering 4K video and offline access

MGM-owned Epix is joining other premium networks like HBO, Showtime, and Starz with the launch of its own, over-the-top streaming service aimed at cord cutters. The service, called Epix Now, offers access to Epix’s original series and thousands of Hollywood movies and class films for $5.99 per month, and supports offline viewing and 4K video, […]

MGM-owned Epix is joining other premium networks like HBO, Showtime, and Starz with the launch of its own, over-the-top streaming service aimed at cord cutters. The service, called Epix Now, offers access to Epix’s original series and thousands of Hollywood movies and class films for $5.99 per month, and supports offline viewing and 4K video, the company says.

Initially, Epix Now is available on Apple TV, iOS and Android devices, but Roku and Amazon Fire TV apps are arriving soon.

Epix has been working for some time to reposition its network to better compete in the streaming market.

Following MGM’s $1 billion acquisition of Epix in 2017, the company last year announced plans to enhance the service’s offerings with a variety of original series. MGM said by spring 2019, it aimed to have 50 to 60 hours of original scripted content, and 70 to 80 hours of scripted fare, in addition to its first-run theatrical and library film content, according to Deadline.

As of today’s launch of Epix Now, the network has been making good on those promises.

Its service now includes access to several new original shows, including: “Pennyworth,” the origin story of Batman’s butler, Alfred; “Godfather of Harlem” starring Forest Whitaker; “Perpetual Grace, LTD.” featuring Sir Ben Kingsley; the docu-series “PUNK” from Iggy Pop; and “Elvis Goes There with Elvis Mitchell.”

Returning originals include “Get Shorty,” starring Chris O’Dowd and Ray Romano;  “Berlin Station,” starring Richard Armitage, Ashley Judd and Richard Jenkins; and “Deep State,” starring Mark Strong and Joe Dempsie.

Epix also features unscripted series and films like the late-night comedy docuseries “Unprotected Sets” from Wanda Sykes; Mark Burnett’s boxing competition “The Contender;” 2018 Sundance audience award winner “This Is Home: A Refugee Story;” and sports documentary “Serena.”

Meanwhile, the network’s film library includes both new and classic movies, like “A Quiet Place,” “Daddy’s Home,” “Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Fences,” “Barbershop: The Next Cut, “Me Before You,” and franchises like James Bond, Rocky, Mission Impossible and Star Trek.

On connected TV devices, Epix Now users can also stream all four Epix linear live channels, and on mobile, they can download content to watch offline.

This is not the first time that Epix has made its content available for streaming, however.

In addition to offering a way for authenticated pay TV customers to stream its shows and movies online, the company had also offered access through streaming TV services like Sling TV and Playstation Vue, as an add-on.

In February, Epix said it would launch a standalone subscription service at some point the future, but had declined to share a timeframe for those plans.

Though new to the standalone streaming market, the company believes there’s plenty of room for growth as more consumers cut the cord with traditional pay TV.

For example, HBO had grown its streaming service to over 5 million subscribers, as of last year. And CBS’s streaming properties, CBS All Access and Showtime, had grown to a combined over 5 million subscribers as of that time, as well.

Epix additionally believes its support for 4K Ultra HD streaming will help to differentiate it from others.

“2019 is poised to be an incredible year of growth for our network,” said Michael Wright, Epix President, in a statement. “Launching Epix Now and providing consumers nationwide with access to our premium original programming and blockbuster movies is an exciting moment for our company and solidifies our commitment to bring high-level storytelling to as many people as possible. We look forward to welcoming new audiences to our network,” he said.

T-Mobile plans to offer à la carte media subscriptions, but no TV ‘skinny bundle’

T-Mobile doesn’t want to compete with other carriers or teleco’s by developing its own “skinny bundle” of streaming TV channels, the company said today on its earnings call with investors, noting the market was already oversaturated on that front. Instead, the mobile operator’s strategy will focus on helping customers pick and choose which paid TV […]

T-Mobile doesn’t want to compete with other carriers or teleco’s by developing its own “skinny bundle” of streaming TV channels, the company said today on its earnings call with investors, noting the market was already oversaturated on that front. Instead, the mobile operator’s strategy will focus on helping customers pick and choose which paid TV subscriptions they want to access — a move that very much sounds like T-Mobile is going the “Amazon Channels” route with its mobile streaming plans.

According to T-Mobile President Mike Sievert, today’s customers have a number of choices for streaming TV thanks to the massive expansion of OTT (over-the-top) services that are now available.

“It’s subscription-palooza out there. Every single media brand either has or is developing an OTT solution, and most of these companies don’t have a way to bring these products to market,” he said. “They’re learning about that. They don’t have distribution networks like us; they don’t have access to the phone like we have.”

Instead, the exec explained that T-Mobile wants to help customers access paid subscriptions that already exist, by simplifying aspects of that process such as search, discovery and billing.

“We don’t have plans to develop an nth undifferentiated skinny bundle,” Sievert continued. “There are plenty of those. We think there’s a more nuanced role for us to play in helping you get access to the great media brands out there that you love, and to be able to put together your own media subscription — and smaller pieces five, six, seven or eight dollars at a time,” he said, adding that T-Mobile would begin this work in 2019.

The cord cutting-focused news site The Streamable was first to report T-Mobile’s news.

T-Mobile’s announcement comes at a time when the carrier’s mobile TV plans have been more of a focus, as everyone is trying to figure out what the carrier is up to.

Recently, a Cheddar report said T-Mobile would be launching a free mobile TV service in the weeks ahead. But that turned out to be just a “snackable content app” for T-Mobile’s Metro brand, MetroPCS, and only on two phones to start.

T-Mobile’s decision to go with an Amazon Channels-like offering, where consumers build their own “skinny bundles” by mixing and matching paid subscriptions, is not an uncommon choice. This is the same direction that many in the industry are heading, as of late.

This week, for example, Viacom said it would add paid subscriptions to its newly acquired free TV service, Pluto TV. Roku recently rolled out paid subscriptions to its free TV and movies hub, The Roku Channel. And Dish’s Sling TV last year launched à la carte paid subscriptions to premium networks, without requiring the core package subscription.

However, the mobile operators aren’t necessarily going that route. AT&T, for instance, has been leveraging its Time Warner acquisition to launch multiple streaming services. Meanwhile, Verizon (disclosure: TechCrunch parent) saw its some of its streaming TV ambitions dashed with go90’s failure last year.

As the over-the-top streaming TV market is still a sliver of the larger pay TV space, it still remains to be seen which strategies and services will ultimately win over consumers. But companies are placing their bets now, experimenting, and sometimes failing then starting again.

Separately, T-Mobile today discussed its Layer3 home TV service, which was expected to launch nationwide in late 2018. That service is now planned for the first half of 2019, the company said.

Netflix launches ‘smart downloads’ feature on iOS to automate offline viewing

Netflix today is launching a new feature on iOS devices that will help make it easier to watch its shows when you’re offline. The “smart downloads” feature, as it’s called, will automatically delete a downloaded episode after you’ve finished watching, then download the next one – but only when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. The idea […]

Netflix today is launching a new feature on iOS devices that will help make it easier to watch its shows when you’re offline. The “smart downloads” feature, as it’s called, will automatically delete a downloaded episode after you’ve finished watching, then download the next one – but only when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

The idea is that users will no longer have to go through the tedious work of managing their downloads – deleting those they’ve watched or downloading new titles, for example. Instead, the app can manage the downloads for you, so people can spend more time watching Netflix shows.

Smart downloads makes sense for those who plan for intermittent connectivity – like commuters who take underground trains, for instance, or those who travel through dead spots where wireless coverage drops. It also makes sense for those on limited data plans, who are carefully about not using streaming video apps unless they’re on Wi-Fi.

Offline features like this are key to attracting and retaining users in emerging markets where connectivity concerns are the norm. That’s likely why Netflix prioritized Android over iOS, for the initial launch of smart downloads.

The feature had first arrived on Android last summer. It’s now offered across platforms, including iOS and in the Windows 10 Netflix app, the company says.

Offline access is only one area where Netflix is focusing on the needs of those in developing markets. The company late last year also began testing a more affordable, mobile-only subscription.

Non-U.S. users accounted for 7.31 million of the 8.8 million new subscribers Netflix added in the last quarter, as the U.S. market has become more saturated.

To use smart downloads on iOS, you can toggle the option in the Netflix app settings. It then turns itself on when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, to ensure your data plan won’t be used and your device storage won’t fill up as you watch offline. The feature will alert you when the episode in question has been downloaded.

“The faster our members can get to the next episode of their favorite stories, the better. Now, fans on the Netflix iOS app can get in on the fun and convenience of Smart Downloads, spending less time managing their downloads and more time watching,” said a Netflix spokesperson, in a statement about the launch. “The feature is one more way we’re making it easier for Netflix fans to take the stories they love wherever they go,” they added.

Disney+ streaming service will feature non-Disney content at launch

Disney’s soon-to-launch streaming service and Netflix competitor, known as Disney+, will include non-Disney programming at launch, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed in a call with investors following Disney’s earnings on Tuesday. The company had already licensed a CBS show for its service, which led to questions about Disney’s content strategy for the new service. Iger […]

Disney’s soon-to-launch streaming service and Netflix competitor, known as Disney+, will include non-Disney programming at launch, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed in a call with investors following Disney’s earnings on Tuesday. The company had already licensed a CBS show for its service, which led to questions about Disney’s content strategy for the new service. Iger said that while Disney’s long-term strategy will focus on the company’s own internally-sourced programming, it plans to launch this year with shows licensed from outside of Disney.

Last month, Disney had ordered the 10-episode series, “Diary of a Female President” from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer Ilana Peña, Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), and CBS TV Studios.

But it was unclear if a buy like this was something of a one-off for Disney, or if the company planned to strategically shop for more programming from outside of its walls to fill out Disney+.

The service, we already knew, will feature content from all of Disney’s big-name brands, including Marvel, LucasFilm/Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic, and Disney Studios itself. And we knew, too, the service will focus on family-friendly fare, while snaring the exclusive streaming rights to things like the Star Wars and Marvel movies.

On Tuesday, Disney announced that “Captain Marvel” would be the first of its movies to stream exclusively on Disney+.

Disney will also produce original shows and movies for the service, including a “High School Musical” show, an animated “Monsters Inc.” series, a Marvel live-action title, and a “Star Wars” title, “The Mandalorian,” among other things.

What was less clear was whether Disney-owned content would be all there is to watch on Disney+ – at least until Disney’s Fox deal goes through, that is. The company said it plans to leverage some of its new Fox assets and output further down the road to round out Disney+’s offerings.

In the foreseeable future, however, Disney confirmed will strategically buy shows from other studios, and will continue to do so in the future

According to Iger, the long-term strategy is “pretty heavily weighted to internally sourced versus externally sourced.” But he added that there would be times when Disney would be “glad to license from third parties.”

One of those times, apparently, is launch.

“Because we need to launch the service with some volume – and it takes time to ramp up – we’re buying certain products from the outside opportunistically, and we’ll continue to do that,” said Iger. He added that this is something Disney has done for some time, in other areas of its business. For example, its theme parks licensed IP from George Lucas, as well as the Indiana Jones IP, and the Avatar IP.

“We’ll continue to look at opportunities that we think we can leverage because there is a potential consumer demand for it,” Iger said.

Streaming was a big part of Disney’s conversation with investors on Tuesday, as the public debut of Disney+ nears. Investors will get a first look at the new service on April 11, but the pricing and an exact release date aren’t yet known.

Disney also updated investors on its other streaming efforts, including ESPN+ milestone of 2+ million subscribers, and the company’s plans to use the same underlying technology platform, BAMTech, to power Disney+. The company touched on its plans for Hulu, too, again reiterating its desire to take the service international and to offer bundles that combined Hulu and ESPN+ or Disney+ in one package deal.

Iger spoke also of FX’s plans to output content to Hulu instead of Disney+, as FX doesn’t fit the latter’s family-friendly nature.

The shift to streaming is not coming without an initial hit to Disney’s business, though. The company noted it expected to lose $150 million from stopping its licensing deals with Netflix this year, as it expected. Disney believes that it will eventually make up for the loss as consumers sign up for Disney+.

Disney reported flat growth of $15.3 billion in revenue in its fiscal Q1 2019 and adjusted earnings per share of $1.84, topping analyst estimates. It warned that its investments in streaming, including both ESPN+ and Disney+, would negatively impact the segment’s year-over-year operating income by $200 million in Q2.

 

Image credits: Disney

 

Super Bowl LIII set streaming records, while TV viewership saw massive drop

Football fans didn’t tune into this year’s Super Bowl coverage on TV in as large numbers as in years past. According to Nielsen, the big game drew an average televised audience of around 98.2 million viewers. CBS, however, said the big game was watched across all platforms – including digital and streaming – by a […]

Football fans didn’t tune into this year’s Super Bowl coverage on TV in as large numbers as in years past. According to Nielsen, the big game drew an average televised audience of around 98.2 million viewers. CBS, however, said the big game was watched across all platforms – including digital and streaming – by a combined total of 100.7 million viewers. In addition, the streaming coverage of the game broke new records this year, which helped to make up for the TV audience decline.

The network said the streamed event was watched across 7.5 million unique devices, up more than 20 percent from last year. Streaming viewers watched over 560 million total hours of live game coverage, up more than 19 percent from 2017. And the average minute audience of 2.6 million viewers during the game window was up over 31 percent year-over-year.

The live stream’s record-breaking numbers were aided by the fact that the stream itself was available unauthenticated across CBSSports.com, the CBS Sports app, NFL.com, the NFL app, and Verizon mobile properties – including Yahoo Sports, Yahoo, AOL, AOL Sports, and Tumblr. (Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Verizon.)

The live stream was also made available on CBS’s subscription streaming service, CBS All Access, which saw a record number of new subscriber sign-ups, unique viewers and time spent on Super Bowl Sunday – following the service’s recent record-breaking weekend attributed to the Season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery and the AFC Championship Game.

CBS All Access sign-ups were up 84+ percent on Super Bowl Sunday, while unique viewers were up over 46 percent, and time spent was up over 76 percent, CBS said.

Streaming, combined with TV viewers and CBS digital properties like CBS Interactive, NFL digital properties, Verizon Media mobile properties, and ESPN Deportes TV and digital properties, brought the total audience to 100.7 million, as noted above. But 149.0 million watched the game either all or in part (meaning they watched at least 6 minutes of the TV broadcast), according to Nielsen data cited by CBS.

However, Nielsen also pointed out that TV viewership saw a massive drop this year for what was generally thought to be a pretty boring game (and boring halftime show.)

According to the measurement firm’s preliminary results released Monday evening, the telecast of Super Bowl LIII on CBS drew an average TV audience of about 98.2 million viewers.

That’s down 5 percent from last year, when 103.4 million people watched the Super Bowl on NBC, and a 12 percent drop from 2017’s game on Fox. The New York Times noted, attributing the declines to the forgettable game, New Orleans fans tuning out, NFL boycotts over Colin Kaepernick’s treatment, and other factors. It’s also the smallest TV audience since 2008, when the Giants beat the Patriots.

 

The forthcoming WarnerMedia streaming service will be partially supported by ads

In November, AT&T opened up about its plans for its forthcoming WarnerMedia streaming service, which aims to leverage the entertainment properties AT&T gained by way of its Time Warner acquisition last year. The company said the service will have three tiers — an entry-level, movie-focused service; a premium tier with original programming and blockbusters; and a […]

In November, AT&T opened up about its plans for its forthcoming WarnerMedia streaming service, which aims to leverage the entertainment properties AT&T gained by way of its Time Warner acquisition last year. The company said the service will have three tiers — an entry-level, movie-focused service; a premium tier with original programming and blockbusters; and a bundle that includes them both. Today, AT&T revealed another detail: Some of the service’s content will be supported by advertising.

Speaking to investors this morning on its Q4 earnings call, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said the new service will have what he referred to as a “two-sided business model.”

That is, the service will include subscription-based, commercial-free programming on the high-end — like HBO or Netflix offers. But it seems the entry-level portion of the service will be ad-supported, according to the exec’s comments.

“Customers have become accustomed to advertising-free subscription services,” Stephenson noted. “And we think HBO and a lot of the Warner Brothers content, that’s really premium content, will fit into that mold,” he said. “But there are other elements where advertising-supported models are going to be important to keep prices down, to keep costs for the consumer down and actually fund additional content acquisition and purchasing,” Stephenson added.

He said the model for the new service would be “heavy” on the subscription side, with “some” ad-supported elements to it. The latter would be enabled by AT&T’s ad tech called Xandr.

The exec acknowledged, too, the challenge of entering the market at this point with yet another streaming offering, but seemed optimistic about AT&T’s chances.

“We have really high expectations for our streaming service. We don’t think there is going to be a proliferation of these that will succeed over time, but those who have very, very strong IP — deep libraries of IP — are the ones that we think are going to succeed over time,” he said.

What was less clear is whether the ad-supported elements to the WarnerMedia service would actually involve any of its content streaming for free to consumers, or whether it will just make the service more affordable — like Hulu’s core TV package, which just dropped its pricing to $6 per month. (AT&T currently owns a stake in Hulu, but it has been weighing putting it up for sale to pay down debt. That’s still on the table, the company said today.)

If WarnerMedia’s service goes the ad-supported route for its entry-level tier, it will face a lot of competition. Today, there are a number of ways to stream free movies and TV on demand, thanks to advertising-supported offerings from a host of major players.

For example, there’s free content on The Roku Channel; Walmart’s ad-supported video on Vudu; Amazon-owned IMDb’s new service FreediveViacom’s new acquisition, Pluto TV; Sinclair’s local broadcaster-focused service Stirr; and sometime this year, media center software maker Plex will offer free movies. Comcast will also launch a free streaming service for its pay TV customers in 2020.

If, however, WarnerMedia chooses to charge a small amount for its ad-supported content, then it will have to go up against Hulu’s core package — which looks more compelling as it includes original programming.

On the subscription side of things, the service will be up against paid services like Netflix, Time Warner’s own HBO NOW (and the other ways to get HBO over-the-top), plus the forthcoming launches from Apple (presumably) and Disney.

What’s more is that the company doesn’t plan on entirely cutting off access to its content by bringing it all in-house. As Stephenson mentioned today, AT&T recently extended its license for “Friends” to Netflix, instead of cutting them off.

“We said exclusivity is probably not that critical on that type of content, but it’s critical to have on our platform,” he explained. “So we did license it to Netflix as you saw, but on a non-exclusive basis. And so each of these decisions on significant content like that are going to be evaluated in terms of how critical is it to our platform to have it as exclusive, versus the economics of licensing it to others.”

The forthcoming WarnerMedia streaming service will be partially supported by ads

In November, AT&T opened up about its plans for its forthcoming WarnerMedia streaming service, which aims to leverage the entertainment properties AT&T gained by way of its Time Warner acquisition last year. The company said the service will have three tiers — an entry-level, movie-focused service; a premium tier with original programming and blockbusters; and a […]

In November, AT&T opened up about its plans for its forthcoming WarnerMedia streaming service, which aims to leverage the entertainment properties AT&T gained by way of its Time Warner acquisition last year. The company said the service will have three tiers — an entry-level, movie-focused service; a premium tier with original programming and blockbusters; and a bundle that includes them both. Today, AT&T revealed another detail: Some of the service’s content will be supported by advertising.

Speaking to investors this morning on its Q4 earnings call, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said the new service will have what he referred to as a “two-sided business model.”

That is, the service will include subscription-based, commercial-free programming on the high-end — like HBO or Netflix offers. But it seems the entry-level portion of the service will be ad-supported, according to the exec’s comments.

“Customers have become accustomed to advertising-free subscription services,” Stephenson noted. “And we think HBO and a lot of the Warner Brothers content, that’s really premium content, will fit into that mold,” he said. “But there are other elements where advertising-supported models are going to be important to keep prices down, to keep costs for the consumer down and actually fund additional content acquisition and purchasing,” Stephenson added.

He said the model for the new service would be “heavy” on the subscription side, with “some” ad-supported elements to it. The latter would be enabled by AT&T’s ad tech called Xandr.

The exec acknowledged, too, the challenge of entering the market at this point with yet another streaming offering, but seemed optimistic about AT&T’s chances.

“We have really high expectations for our streaming service. We don’t think there is going to be a proliferation of these that will succeed over time, but those who have very, very strong IP — deep libraries of IP — are the ones that we think are going to succeed over time,” he said.

What was less clear is whether the ad-supported elements to the WarnerMedia service would actually involve any of its content streaming for free to consumers, or whether it will just make the service more affordable — like Hulu’s core TV package, which just dropped its pricing to $6 per month. (AT&T currently owns a stake in Hulu, but it has been weighing putting it up for sale to pay down debt. That’s still on the table, the company said today.)

If WarnerMedia’s service goes the ad-supported route for its entry-level tier, it will face a lot of competition. Today, there are a number of ways to stream free movies and TV on demand, thanks to advertising-supported offerings from a host of major players.

For example, there’s free content on The Roku Channel; Walmart’s ad-supported video on Vudu; Amazon-owned IMDb’s new service FreediveViacom’s new acquisition, Pluto TV; Sinclair’s local broadcaster-focused service Stirr; and sometime this year, media center software maker Plex will offer free movies. Comcast will also launch a free streaming service for its pay TV customers in 2020.

If, however, WarnerMedia chooses to charge a small amount for its ad-supported content, then it will have to go up against Hulu’s core package — which looks more compelling as it includes original programming.

On the subscription side of things, the service will be up against paid services like Netflix, Time Warner’s own HBO NOW (and the other ways to get HBO over-the-top), plus the forthcoming launches from Apple (presumably) and Disney.

What’s more is that the company doesn’t plan on entirely cutting off access to its content by bringing it all in-house. As Stephenson mentioned today, AT&T recently extended its license for “Friends” to Netflix, instead of cutting them off.

“We said exclusivity is probably not that critical on that type of content, but it’s critical to have on our platform,” he explained. “So we did license it to Netflix as you saw, but on a non-exclusive basis. And so each of these decisions on significant content like that are going to be evaluated in terms of how critical is it to our platform to have it as exclusive, versus the economics of licensing it to others.”

Free streaming service Tubi plans to invest $100M+ on content in 2019, expand internationally

Free TV and movie streaming service Tubi is preparing to double down on content acquisitions this year, the company announced this morning. The service today offers over 12,000 movies and TV series, totalling 40,000 hours of content. All of this can be streamed for free as the content is paid for not via customer subscriptions, […]

Free TV and movie streaming service Tubi is preparing to double down on content acquisitions this year, the company announced this morning. The service today offers over 12,000 movies and TV series, totalling 40,000 hours of content. All of this can be streamed for free as the content is paid for not via customer subscriptions, but rather by advertising. Now the company is preparing to invest over $100 million to expand its library this year, after hitting profitability in Q4 2018, and tackle new markets.

Founded in 2014, Tubi has benefitted from the trend towards cord cutting, as well as the increasing number of younger consumers who never opt to pay for cable or satellite TV in the first place – sometimes called the “cord nevers.”

The company claims that its viewership increased by over 4.3 times from December 2017 to December 2018, which allowed it to hit the profitability milestone. In the fourth quarter alone, it saw more revenue than in all of 2017 combined, it also noted. And it grew revenues by 180 percent-plus in 2018.

On the advertising front, the company says it ran campaigns from over 1,000 advertisers in 2018, including those from the majority of the top CPG and automotive companies.

However, several aspects of Tubi’s business aren’t being disclosed alongside today’s news – only the highlights. What the company won’t say is how many monthly active users it has, how many hours they watch, or how many ad impressions take place across its platform. These sorts of metrics are critical to measuring success in ad-supported video.

According to estimates from Sensor Tower, Tubi has close to 51 million installs on mobile, with 1.7 million of those coming in December 2018, a 21 percent year-over-year increase. That could indicate that Tubi’s viewership growth is largely taking place on other platforms – like TVs through media players or deals with service providers, like Comcast, for instance.

Along with its plans to grow its library, Tubi is preparing to expand outside the U.S. and Canada, with the first market launching this quarter.

To help fund its growth and content acquisitions, Tubi closed on $25 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank in December.

These plans come at a time when Tubi’s business model has been seeing increased competition.

For example, Roku entered ad-supported programming with its own The Roku Channel launch in fall 2017, and said earlier this month it now has 27 million user accounts. Of course, Roku doesn’t break that down by how many use its platform for other services, versus those who specifically launch Roku’s own free content – but that is its ad-supported channel’s potential reach.

In addition to Roku, Tubi competes against Walmart’s ad-supported video on Vudu; Amazon-owned IMDb’s new service FreediveViacom’s latest acquisition, Pluto TV; Sinclair’s local broadcaster-focused service Stirr; and soon, Plex. Comcast will also launch a free streaming service for its pay TV customers in 2020.

Tubi, like many of these services, believes in its potential as consumers tire of being nickeled and dimed for video subscriptions.

“In 2018 we at Tubi saw tremendous growth as consumers, fatigued by SVOD subscriptions and services, sought alternative entertainment choices,” said Farhad Massoudi, CEO of Tubi, in a statement. “We will continue to use profits to make bigger bets on content, enhance the viewing experience, and continue to press ahead into new grounds in what is our core advantage: technology and data,” he added.

In reality, however, Tubi competes for attention among a growing streaming market, which includes those paid subscription video offerings. Today’s consumers are building out customized bundles that make sense for them – a little Netflix and HBO perhaps, fleshed out with some free content through services like Tubi, for example.

Tubi’s advantage, of course, is that it doesn’t have to spend the billions on content and originals that subscription video services like Netflix do to win users. Instead, it relies on titles that have mainstream appeal, but may not be winning any awards – like older movies, kids shows, B-flicks, horror films, and reality TV.

At the end of the day, however, Tubi won’t necessarily gain from people tiring of subscription video, but from the growing influx of cord cutters who are searching for older or niche content not included in subscription libraries -or who just want to watch a free movie.

 

Roku’s à la carte premium subscriptions arrive today, but without HBO

Earlier this month, Roku announced it would soon begin selling subscriptions to premium video services directly from its own TV and movies hub, The Roku Channel. Today, those subscriptions are going live, allowing Roku users to sign up for channels like EPIX, Showtime, STARZ, and others, then stream them without needing to install the channel’s […]

Earlier this month, Roku announced it would soon begin selling subscriptions to premium video services directly from its own TV and movies hub, The Roku Channel. Today, those subscriptions are going live, allowing Roku users to sign up for channels like EPIX, Showtime, STARZ, and others, then stream them without needing to install the channel’s own app on their Roku device.

Instead, all the content from the add-ons will be found in The Roku Channel section itself, alongside the other free and ad-supported TV shows, movies, news, sports, and entertainment programming already offered. However, the premium channels will have their own area inside The Roku Channel, including a spot on the homepage, as well as their own dedicated tabs, the company earlier said.

In time, Roku hopes to leverage the data from users’ unique blend of subscriptions to better personalize its recommendations.

A number of companies today offer the ability to watch premium programming through add-ons subscriptions, but fewer allow you to do so à la carte – that is, most require you to subscribe to a core TV package first before adding on extras. Amazon’s Prime Video Channels is probably the best known of the à la carte providers, though Sling TV rolled out a selection of premium a la carte channels last year.

Roku doesn’t plan to offer its own “skinny bundle” base package of streaming TV content at this time, the company recently told TechCrunch.

“I think where we are today is really focused on these à la carte subscriptions,” said Roku’s vice president of Programming, Rob Holmes. “Ultimately, from a user standpoint, there’s a lot of value in being able to pick and choose exactly what you want to sign up for — without having to sign up for one of these base packages to start with. That’s how we think about it today.”

Once subscribed to one of Roku’s premium selections, customers will only be able to watch the content through The Roku Channel itself. In addition to the revenue split on these add-ons, this benefits Roku because it puts attractive premium content right next to Roku’s ad-supported fare of some 10,000+ free movies and TV episodes. When customers are in search of something to watch next, it will be easy for them to just browse within the section they’re already in.

Plus, Roku says add-ons subscribers won’t even be able to use the premium networks’ own apps at launch, which keeps them further isolated in Roku’s own universe.

In order for customers to watch the premium content outside of Roku devices, like Roku TVs or media players, they’ll need to install the free Roku mobile app. The updated version of the iOS app is arriving today, and the Android update will be available in mid-February, the company says.

The selection of premium networks at launch includes: STARZ, Showtime, EPIX, plus Baeble Music; CollegeHumor’s DROPOUT; CuriosityStream; Fandor Spotlight; FitFusion; The Great Courses Signature Collection; Grokker; Hi-YAH!; Hopster; Lifetime Movie Club; DOX, LOLFlicks, Monsters and Nightmares, Magnolia Selects, and Warriors & Gangsters presented by Magnolia Pictures; MHz Choice; NOGGIN; Shout! Factory TV, Smithsonian Channel Plus; Stingray Karaoke; Tastemade; Viewster Anime; and ZooMoo.

Notably missing from the lineup is HBO, which offers its own over-the-top streaming service, HBO NOW, and has deals with a number of à la carte and streaming TV providers.

Roku says the Premium Subscriptions feature will become available on select Roku devices in the U.S. today. They offer a 30-day trial period, and are paid for using the payment info you have on file with Roku’s own billing system.

All supported devices should receive the update in the coming weeks, starting with Roku players and then Roku TVs. To see if your device has been updated, look for a new row called “Browse Premium Subscriptions” below the Featured row in The Roku Channel.