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  1. Amazon launches free video streaming service miniTV in India Image Credits: TechCrunch Amazon has long maintained that its video streaming service, Prime Video, helps it drive more sales on the shopping app. Now the e-commerce giant is testing what happens when it brings the video streaming service to the shopping app itself. The e-commerce giant on Saturday launched miniTV, an ad-supported video streaming service that is available within the Amazon shopping app and is “completely free.” miniTV is currently available only in India, Amazon said. miniTV features web-series, comedy shows, and content around tech news, food, beauty, fashion “to begin with,” Amazon said. Some of the titles currently available have been produced by leading studios such as TVF and Pocket Aces — two of the largest web studios in India — and comedians such as Ashish Chanchlani, Amit Bhadana, Round2Hell, Harsh Beniwal, Shruti Arjun Anand, Elvish Yadav, Prajakta Koli, Swagger Sharma, Aakash Gupta and Nishant Tanwar. “Viewers will be informed on latest products and trends by tech expert Trakin Tech, fashion and beauty experts such as Sejal Kumar, Malvika Sitlani, Jovita George, Prerna Chhabra and ShivShakti. Food lovers can enjoy content from Kabita’s Kitchen, Cook with Nisha, and Gobble. In the coming months, miniTV will add many more new and exclusive videos,” the company added, without sharing its future roadmap plans. (Amazon began integrating reviews and other web clippings — from media houses — on its shopping service in India for more than two years ago.) miniTV is currently available on Amazon’s Android app, and will arrive on the iOS counterpart and mobile web over the coming months, Amazon said. Amazon’s move follows a similar step by Walmart’s Flipkart, the company’s marquee rival in India, which rolled out video streaming service within its app in 2019. In recent years, scores of firms in India including Zomato have explored adding a video streaming offering to their own apps. The video streaming landscape in “N2B” countries — the nations with the potential to help firms find their next two billion users. (UBS) Amazon has also aggressively pushed to expand its Prime Video offerings in India in recent quarters. The company — which partnered with Indian telecom network Airtel earlier this year to launch a new monthly mobile-only, single-user, standard definition (SD) tier (for $1.22) — has secured rights to stream some cricket matches in the country. Amazon also offers Prime Video as part of its Amazon Prime subscription in India. The service is priced at 999 Indian rupees ($13.6) for a year and also includes access to Amazon Music and faster-delivery. Prime Video had over 60 million monthly active users in India in April, ahead of Netflix’s 40 million users, according to mobile insight firm App Annie (data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch). Netflix, which spent about $420 million on locally produced Indian content in 2019 and 2020, said in March that it will invest “significantly more this year” in India. But in the company’s recent earnings call, founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said investment in India was more “speculative” than those in other markets. Times Internet’s MX Player had over 180 million users during the same period, and DIsney+ Hotstar had about 120 million. Their biggest competition in India remains YouTube, which has amassed over 450 million monthly active users. But other than competition, video streaming services face another challenge in India. In late March, Amazon issued a rare apology to users in India for an original political drama series over allegations that a few scenes in the nine-part mini series hurt religious sentiments of some people in the key overseas market. Amazon’s apology came days after New Delhi announced new rules for on-demand video streaming services and social media firms. Source: Amazon launches free video streaming service miniTV in India
  2. Roku has announced the launch of a dedicated mobile app for The Roku Channel, the company’s longtime hub for free and streamable content that’ll be familiar to folks with Roku devices. But rather than limit the app to Roku users alone, The Roku Channel will be available to even users without physical Roku devices. With this move, Roku is looking to secure more eyeballs and compete more directly for streaming dominance—maybe even against free TV titans like YouTube. The Roku Channel was previously available to non-Roku users via the web but will now make its way to mobile devices as well. The Roku Channel will be its own app, available on iOS and Android, and won’t replace the existing Roku app that allows users to control their devices and navigate the platform. Instead, Roku hopes to broaden its appeal to even non-Roku device viewers. Rather than merely relying on its streaming devices or baked-in OS on smart TVs to win over viewers, why not make its app more accessible to viewers who may be watching on their phones? In addition to this free content, however, you’ll also be able to subscribe to paid premium programming like IFC Films Unlimited, Starz, Shudder, HBO, and Showtime, among others. In many ways, the Roku Channel is a kind of build-your-own Netflix—something that helps it stand out against many other free TV apps and services. Keep in mind that all of those individual paid subscriptions do add up, but it does offer users the ability to hand select the kind of stuff they want to pay for under a single umbrella rather than having to do so for each service individually. There’s more free TV easily accessible from mobile, web, and our TVs than ever before (more streaming options than we even want or need, you might say). Heck, even a premium service like Peacock offers a free, ad-supported tier, upping the bar significantly from some of the more “meh” stuff you’ve traditionally been able to find on ad-supported services. And all of these services are competing for your eyeballs—the time you actively are or could be consuming content. Nobody knows this better than Netflix, which pits its service against immensely popular games like Fortnite and your own damn REM cycle. Currently, YouTube towers over the free streaming space as a virtually bottomless abyss of content that covers just about every niche interest under the sun. It’s difficult not to pit YouTube against other free services like Pluto TV, Peacock, Vudu, or even The Roku Channel, simply because it dominates the mobile space so successfully. While YouTube does offer a premium ad-free version of its app, you don’t actually need one to access the majority of its vast library of creator video content. And that’s also the primary reason why YouTube remains a streaming king while everybody else scrambles to keep up: YouTube has more content and a limitless pipeline, and it’s all generally free. But while it may be scrappy, The Roku Channel has taken a page from the Google playbook by making its service widely available to just about everyone. Customization and ease of use aren’t half bad, either. And being that YouTube’s translation to TV is godawful, Roku wins bonus points there, too. In fact, there’s quite a lot to like about The Roku Channel, even if it’s still got a ways to go. YouTube may still be the best free streaming service, but Roku proves the little guys aren’t giving up without a fight. Source
  3. Discovery+ enters the streaming wars with a big bet on reality TV KEY POINTS Discovery launched its new streaming service Discovery+ in the U.S. on Monday. The company dubs the service as “the definitive non-fiction, real-life subscription streaming service.” The service has a $4.99 monthly ad-supported tier and a $6.99 monthly ad-free tier. Discovery launched its new streaming service Discovery+ in the U.S. on Monday, hoping to carve out its own unscripted corner of the already crowded streaming space. Discovery+, which previously launched in several other countries, dubs itself “the definitive non-fiction, real-life subscription streaming service.” Its library includes more than 55,000 episodes of more than 2,500 shows from TV brands including HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, TLC, ID and more. It will also offer original series and exclusives, like BBC’s “Planet Earth.” The service has a $4.99 monthly ad-supported tier (on par with NBCUniversal’s Peacock’s premium tier with ads) and a $6.99 monthly ad-free tier (which costs the same as Disney+). It’s also working with Verizon to give 55 million customers up to 12 months of Discovery+ for free, depending on their plan. Other competitors include AT&T’s HBO Max, which costs $14.99 a month, and Netflix, which has a standard plan costing $13.99 in the U.S. The service can be streamed using Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Samsung devices, along with mobile, web and game consoles. “Our No. 1 goal was to be available on every platform in America,” Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav said Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley.” He added that he believes the service is differentiated from its existing peers. “We believe that we’ll let the rest of that group fight out scripted series and scripted movies, but we have a great lane in the U.S. and around the world, and that lane is we have great content that people love: ’90 Day Fiance’ Chip and Joanna Gaines, Oprah Winfrey,” he said. “And we’re completely differentiated.” He said that makes the service a complement to popular existing services. “We’re a great companion to Disney and Netflix,” he said. “If you have Disney or Netflix, you have two great products, but we’re completely different and we go really well with them.” Zaslav wouldn’t share projections for how much the company expects subscribers to grow in the next year. “We think ... that we can be very, very big,” he said. “That’s our bet, we’re putting a lot of resources behind it, and over the next couple of quarters we’ll be reporting out our numbers and then we’ll be projecting out how big big really is.” Source: Discovery+ enters the streaming wars with a big bet on reality TV
  4. Discovery Inks Deal With Vodafone To Rollout Streamer Discovery+ Across Europe Discovery Discovery has signed a “multi-year” carriage deal with telecoms giant Vodafone to continue the rollout of its streaming service Discovery+ across Europe. The agreement encompasses 12 markets, in which Discovery content will be made available to Vodafone mobile customers. These markets include the UK, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Romania, Portugal, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, and Iceland. TV customers in these territories will also enjoy access to Discovery+, with the exception of the UK and Turkey. Discovery+ is already live in the UK on Sky, thanks to a deal signed last year. The streamer launches in the U.S. on Monday. The Vodafone partnership gives Discovery access to around 100m Vodafone TV, fixed broadband and mobile-subscribers across Europe, with the rollout taking place over the next two years. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said: “Vodafone’s vast and deep consumer relationships will provide a powerful engine for discovery+ as together we bring the definitive destination for real-life entertainment to consumers across Europe. Our hybrid agreement with Vodafone advances our broader strategy of expanding our linear distribution relationships to bring our popular content to consumers across more platforms and devices.” Source: Discovery Inks Deal With Vodafone To Rollout Streamer Discovery+ Across Europe
  5. Former Disney and Discovery execs to launch Struum, a ‘ClassPass for streaming services’ Image Credits: Struum Former Disney and Discovery execs are teaming up to launch a new streaming service called Struum, arriving in the spring, that aims to take the ClassPass model and apply it to the streaming landscape. That is, Struum’s plan is to aggregate content from smaller video-on-demand services, then provide that under its own subscription. The idea for Struum comes from founders Lauren DeVillier, the former head of Product for Discovery Ventures; Eugene Liew, former vice president of Product and Technology at Disney+; Paul Pastor, former executive vice president of Strategy, Revenue and Operations at Discovery Networks; and Thomas Wadsworth, the former lead of Advanced Product Development for Walt Disney Imagineering. The service is backed by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner through his investment firm, Tornante Company. Firstlight Media, a company that provides technology to power video services, is also an investor and collaborator on the new effort. A third investor, Gaingels, focuses on backing LGBTQ+ founders and allies. The team at Struum believes there’s potential for its service, despite the market being saturated by larger subscription players, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, YouTube, HBO Max and Disney+, who today have a combined 75% share of the streaming video distribution landscape, according to 2020 Nielsen data. It argues that there is still a long tail of over 250 niche and speciality services it can work with to grow its content library, while also helping those partners connect with potential customers. The model it’s using to go about this, however, is unique for streaming businesses — and very much inspired by the ClassPass service for sampling fitness classes from local gyms and studios. “I was a huge user of ClassPass and I love that model,” explains DeVillier. “And we just started noodling on this idea of offering this aggregated service using that model.” The founders would talk about ways they could help address the underserved market of streamers, who were “trying to find space and voice,” she says. Struum will work by charging customers a single monthly subscription to provide a range of services, accessed through the Struum app. However, instead of getting a full buffet of content within the app, the consumer is given a number of “credits” they can use to sample and consume content, just like ClassPass did with gym classes. Then, if Struum sees the customer is routinely accessing content from one service, it will suggest they may be better managed by that service. The customer can choose to subscribe to the service from within the Struum app directly. In other words, Strumm acts as a customer acquisition engine for its partners, in addition to hosting their content. For consumers, this means they don’t have to keep subscribing and unsubscribing to various services just to watch particular shows or movies. And for content providers, it allows them to find an audience without having to spin up their own standalone subscription app. Struum generates revenue from its subscriptions, which it shares with its content partners. These may include what Pastor describes as “aspirational tier one” brands, that may be those from the traditional pay TV world that are now looking for a new, streaming audience. They may also include vertical media brands and others who are currently operating an ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) service but want to enter the subscription video-on-demand market. The company has already completed deals with nearly three dozen yet-to-be-named streaming partners, and now has over 20,000 TV series, movies and shorts as a result. It will serve up this content on a platform built in collaboration with Firstlight Media, which runs on Microsoft Azure architecture. The startup’s co-founders have not been working on Struum that long, having only come together around the beginning of 2020, just ahead of the pandemic’s outbreak in the U.S. The pandemic, of course, accelerated the streaming market as consumers stuck at home tapped into video services to stay entertained. But for Struum, it helped the startup speed its time to launch, too. “The ability to be introduced to people — financiers and content partners and talent — within a matter of 24 to 48 hours by getting on the phone through Zoom, not having to fly across the country to do the pitches, not having to drive across town in Los Angeles to do pitches — we were able to more quickly accelerate our business from that aspect,” notes Pastor. Struum also tapped into the ability to hire outside of its base in L.A., as remote work became more of the norm. On its team of 10, it has staff from elsewhere in the U.S. and even the U.K., and it aims to continue as a remotely distributed operation for the near future, even when the pandemic is over. Struum has correctly identified a problem in the modern streaming landscape, in terms of large amount of untapped content now distributed across hundreds of smaller services, much of which lingers in obscurity. However, the approach it’s taking to address the problem — by aggregating the content under its ClassPass-like subscription/credit model — will still force the service into competition with AVOD players, as this is where consumers turn when they can’t find anything else to watch on Netflix and elsewhere. That means the challenge Struum faces will be convincing those consumers to essentially change their TV habits. “Today, those habits and rituals are built around first going to a Netflix … and the next thing is to go to Amazon,” explains Pastor. Consumers might then turn to Disney+ or HBO Max as a third option, he says, depending on whether they’re looking for family fare or more adult content. “What we’re hoping to be able to do, by aggregating these pieces together, is to say, listen: your third or fourth choice should be Struum. It’s a place where you can manage one subscription and explore all these [other} services,” Pastor adds. After launching, Struum plans to quickly iterate on the customer data it has — another advantage of the aggregational model — to optimize its content library and help guide its future partnerships. “We come from a very strategic background approach. And we come from a discipline of listening to consumers — that’s so much the history of the Discovery and the Disney brand. That’s very much the near-term focus,” Pastor says. The company plans to launch in the spring with support for web, mobile and TV platforms. An international expansion is also on the roadmap farther down the road. Source: Former Disney and Discovery execs to launch Struum, a ‘ClassPass for streaming services’
  6. France’s major broadcasting companies have struck a deal with producers that will allow them to remove their content from streaming services — including Netflix and Amazon — so it can be shown exclusively on their own competitive platform, which is still in the works. Last summer, French broadcasters France Télévisions, M6 et TF1 unveiled plans for Salto. This OTT service would be like Netflix, but focused on French content, presumably for viewers in France. The deal was yet another sign of the growing resentment in Europe, particularly in creative fields, about the loss of control to U.S. tech giants. Last October, for instance, Delphine Ernotte, CEO of France Télévisions, proclaimed her frustration that so much of the network’s content was showing up on overseas services. “We must stop dancing with the devil Netflix,” she said. And the European Union has adopted rules requiring all such streaming services to carry at least 30 percent local content. That metric could get harder to reach without the French TV shows. Beyond cultural issues, the tussle with services like Netflix goes to the heart of how France funds such cultural activities. France Télévisions owns the channels France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5, and France Ô. The company makes money from both advertising and a TV license fee. It also funds a healthy chunk of TV production. As viewers drift away or watch that content on other platforms, this carefully calibrated model is being eroded. Salto was proposed to allow the partners to restore some balance, and to better recoup their investments. But they first needed to get the producers on board. That finally happened today, according to a story in Paris-based Le Figaro. Before the deal, these broadcasters had limited rights in terms of how they could rebroadcast content via services like their own website or on cable box replay services, a horizon sometimes as short as seven days for the latter. In some cases, a show that appeared on French TV is available on Netflix a week later. The producers agreed to give the Salto partners much more extensive and exclusive rights over the content, so viewers can binge-watch a French series for several years after it appears. That will essentially block French producers from selling the same content to Netflix, Amazon, and others. In return, the partners agreed to increase the amount of programming they purchase from independent producers from 75 percent to 82.5 percent. While that’s settled, there are still numerous questions surrounding Salto. When will it launch? How much will it cost? Where will it be available? And it’s possible that while Salto might make financial sense, it could curtail the size of the audiences for shows if they are no longer widely available to international audiences. Source
  7. It's Disney's turn to launch a streaming service Image copyrightDISNEY Image captionDisney+ will be accessible through smart TVs as well as smartphones and tablets Can an almost century-old company learn from its glorious past and create itself a brave new future? Coming to a small screen near you… eventually. Disney has finally announced its long-anticipated streaming service, but it won’t be available until November in North America - and in some markets, it will take much longer. That’s due to several factors, but mostly because Disney is still in the process of clawing back the rights to its content, sold to other streaming platforms before it had platform aspirations of its own. It will take as long as four years before all of the deals have expired, the firm said. The delay could hobble Disney’s chances to succeed in the streaming market, described by chief executive Bob Iger as his “biggest priority”. When it does eventually launch, however, Disney+ will be a streaming juggernaut. The service will bundle together some of the firm’s major franchises, including the work of Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic and Star Wars, for a monthly subscription price of $6.99, or $69.99 a year. And because the firm has had its chequebook out lately - spending $70bn on 20th Century Fox - Disney+ will also incorporate content from recently acquired companies, such as the first 30 seasons of The Simpsons. Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image captionDisney+ will be the exclusive home of Star Wars films and other spin-off content More widely, Disney also owns sports network ESPN, which now has more than 2 million paid digital subscribers, and India’s Hotstar - which enjoys 300m subscribers in a market predicted to continue to grow extremely quickly. Disney is also a majority owner in Hulu, the US streaming service that has plans to expand globally soon, the firm said. Straight to Disney+ These are all big moves that place Disney right at the heart of a crowded but increasingly lucrative streaming market - one where being distinct is vital. Netflix expects to spend $15bn on new content this year to achieve this aim. Apple, last month, launched its Apple TV+ service, with help of Oprah and friends who will be creating exclusive content. Disney’s strategy to reassure its investors, it seems, is to state that obvious: its been doing this for a very long time indeed. The launch of Disney+ took place in a fitting location that has seen plenty of transformation over the past few decades: Sound Stage 2, on the firm’s iconic, sprawling Los Angeles campus. Built in 1949, the studio was the space where the original Mary Poppins was filmed, as well as, decades later, Pirates of the Caribbean. Both heralded new technologies in filmmaking. But, Disney’s illustrious past could end up being a hindrance. It sold 900m movie tickets last year, bringing in more than $7bn in box office revenue. It can’t afford to lose the core of its business, and so it will keep its big name content off Disney+ until well after its traditional run-out in the cinema and home entertainment sales (as in, buying it on Blu-Ray, or downloading it). Disney+ subscribers will instead get additional content, mini-series based on characters in the new films, or behind the scenes footage. There will be straight-to-Disney+ films available when the service goes live, such as Christmas film Noelle, starring Anna Kendrick, and a remake of Lady and the Tramp. These films will be made with “all the care” of typical Disney movies, the company promised, but as with straight-to-video in years gone by, consumers will surely not see them as being in the same league. Over-subscribed? Higher hopes will be pinned on exclusive series made for Disney+, such as The Mandalorian, a the first live-action Star Wars TV series - which will be on the service from launch. This is an expensive endeavour for Disney. It doesn’t expect Disney+ to turn a profit until 2023 at the earliest, and in the meantime it is losing out on revenue it was getting by selling on its content to other streaming providers - it was getting $150m from Netflix alone, according to reports. At $6.99 a month, Disney is laying down a huge challenge to Apple, which hasn't yet told customers how much its service will cost when it too launches later this year. Above all, though, the unanswered question remains: just how many subscription services can the public take? A generation of delighted “cord cutters”, who cancelled traditional TV subscriptions in favour of streaming, might soon start to wonder how much it might cost just to, you know, plug the cord back in. Source
  8. Disney pulls the plug on FX Networks' standalone streaming service Don't worry: FX Networks' shows will be available on Hulu. American Horror Story / FX Networks There's bound to be a lot of changes, both big and small, at 21st Century Fox now that Disney's acquisition of the media giant is completed. One of those is the shutdown of FX Networks' Plus subscription service, which it launched with Comcast back in 2017. FX+ offers on-demand and ad-free streaming of the network's shows, including American Horror Story, The Shield and Sons of Anarchy, for $6 a month. According to the notice posted on the FX+ website, it will no longer be available by August 21st, 2019 and members only have until August 20th to enjoy the service. The current season of FX shows will continue airing on its channels, as usual, and will be available for on-demand viewing in the FXNow app and on the FXNetworks website for a limited time with pay-TV subscriber authentication. Those who don't have access to a cable subscription don't have to worry, though, because Disney plans to distribute the network's shows through Hulu. Disney took full control of Hulu in May, giving the service the resources it needs to develop more original programming. The House of Mouse is also gearing up to launch Disney+, but it'll mostly serve as home to its family-friendly programming. Its adult-oriented shows will go to Hulu. According to Variety, FX CEO John Landgraf admitted at an event in May that the network doesn't have a large enough programming to sustain its own streaming service. He said Hulu will give FX the option to offer its shows ad-free as part of a bigger service, and that's "really exciting" to him. Source: Disney pulls the plug on FX Networks' standalone streaming service
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