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February 24, 2019
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Roku on track for $1 billion in revenue in 2019

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Roku plans to be a billion-dollar company in 2019, the company said on Thursday as part of its announcement of strong earnings. The company beat analyst estimates and reported strong growth in active users and streaming hours with earnings of $0.05 per share, compared with the $0.03 analysts had estimated, and revenues of $276 million, compared with the expected $262 million.

Roku also reported 40 percent year-over-year active user growth, with 27.1 million active users by year-end, and a 69 percent year-over-year increase in streaming hours, which reached 7.3 billion.

The company said it plans this year to invest in international expansion, its ad-supported service The Roku Channel, advertising, and its Roku TV platform.

While cord cutting is driving some of Roku’s growth, only around half of Roku’s customers fit this description, CEO Anthony Wood pointed out. The other half are more like “cord shavers” – those who are still pay TV subscribers, but are shifting more of their TV viewing to streaming services.

Roku’s ability to also attract pay TV customers combined with the fact that 1 in four smart TVs sold in the U.S. now runs its software, is helping the company’s market share grow.

Roku estimates that 1 in 5 U.S. TV households now uses the Roku platform for at least a portion of their TV viewing. In the year ahead, Roku aims to better capitalize on its traction by increasing the monetization per user and scaling the number of households using Roku.

In addition, the company sees a big opportunity in international.

“International is one of the top four areas we’re investing in,” Wood noted.

“Roku has more than 27 million active accounts globally today. Most of those are in the United States. But we believe many of the assets we built for the U.S. market will help us expand into other markets. And clearly streaming is a global opportunity with one billion households worldwide,” he said.

The company begin investing more substantially in international in 2018, and has now reached 20 countries. It has added more local content and is expanding its relationships with international resellers, said Wood. “We think you’ll start to see the results of this increased investment bearing fruit in 2020,” he added.

Roku also has high hopes for The Roku Channel.

The channel is now one of the top five most popular on the platform and grew from around 1,000 free movies and TV episodes in 2017 to now around 10,000. Last year, it added more streaming partners like ABC, Cheddar and People TV and even expanded into subscriptions, with add-ons like Showtime, Starz, and Epix.

The company believes the channel will continue to become a main destination on its platform, which helps Roku to monetize through advertising and its cut of subscription revenue, when customer opt to add on extra packages. But today the channel is still lacking many of the major subscription services, compared with the more robust lineup offered by Amazon Channels. For example, HBO is not offered through The Roku Channel today, nor is CBS All Access.

However, the company believes its financial performance will improve this year – reaching the billion in revenue mark, with platform revenues accounting for two-thirds of that. This, in part, will be due to growing its installed base and extracting more revenue from each customer, including through The Roku Channel.

It’s worth noting that Roku recently made it possible to stream from The Roku Channel directly on mobile devices, which will likely play a role here.

Roku has been growing at a rapid pace alongside the larger cord cutting and streaming TV trend.

In the past three years, it increased active accounts by 4 million, 6 million and then nearly 8 million, respectively, it said. And it quadrupled the size of its platform revenue from just over $100 million in 2016 to over $400 million in 2018. In the U.S., its active account base of 27+ million would make it equivalent to the No. 2 traditional pay TV provider.

In addition to international expansions in 2019 and investments in The Roku Channel, Roku aims to increase its Roku TV market share, and roll out new ad products in areas like marketplace, programmatic, and self-serve.

Roku’s investments in its platform led to 77 percent year-over-year growth to reach 151.4 million in revenue in Q4. But the player business is still growing too – 21 percent year-over-year to reach 124.3 million in revenue, Roku said.

However, a lot will changing in the streaming landscape this year, as new offerings from AT&T (WarnerMedia streaming service), Apple, Disney, Viacom (which just bought Pluto TV), and NBC hit the market.

But Roku believes it will weather these changes, too.

“I founded this company on the belief that all television was going to be streamed,” Wood told investors. “And it wasn’t that many years ago when there was no streaming, and then the only streaming was Netflix. It took a long time for the incumbents to embrace streaming. But they have. And that’s very gratifying to see every major media company in the world developing streaming strategies, which is great — it’s great for us, because we’re the leading streaming platform,” he said.

 

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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

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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 make 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 careful 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.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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

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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

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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

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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.

 

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Suppose TV can now alert you to changes in TV packages, so you get the best deal

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Last year, a startup called Suppose TV entered the market to help consumers find the best deal on TV services. The site offers an online tool that lets you compare different services – including things like channel selection and pricing. But doing so still took a lot work in terms of entering your criteria, setting your channel priorities, and specifying other requirements . Today, the company is rolling out a new, automated feature to make this whole process even easier. With its “TV Service Alerts,” the startup can now email you when TV services change their prices, channel lineup or features. This way, you can make a cost-saving switch or jump to one that’s a better fit.

As the streaming landscape becomes more fragmented, this sort of thing could become a must-have tool for those who are getting overwhelmed by the various options, and don’t have the time to keep up with all the changes.

Today’s streaming services are constantly tweaking their offerings – editing their bundles, as well as hiking and lowering prices, as they try to figure out what works best.

Last year, for example, Sling TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue all raised their prices for live TV, and Netflix did for its subscription video service. Netflix has also just this month raised prices again, while Hulu dropped its price for subscription video, but raised its price for live TV.

Meanwhile, the packages are continually in flux, too. For example, Sling TV added a new free tier and  à la carte channel subscriptions; Hulu dropped some channels and put them into optional add-on bundles with newly added channels. And most keep adding channels to their packages and add-on selections over time.

Who can keep up with all this?

Suppose TV can help. The site may not be pretty, but it’s handy. Here, you can customize your prefered lineup, by setting your channel selections and feature preferences. Then, as the various streaming services’ packages change, it can now email you personalized alerts that tell you if you can get a better deal.

The company’s website can also help you find services where local broadcast and regional sports networks are available to you – something that varies on a market-by-market basis. (This is currently available across the largest U.S. markets and a selection of smaller ones.) And it can now point you to promo discounts and deals for streaming services, when available.

This sort of tool will become even more useful this year, as new services begin to arrive, like Disney+, Comcast’s NBCU streaming service, and the upcoming AT&T/WarnerMedia offering, among others.

For consumers, Suppose TV’s tools can help them make a better decision, but the startup’s business lies elsewhere.

The company is also today launching an API that provides access to its live TV database and recommendation engine, which will allow partners help their customers find the right mix of streaming services.

“With our API solution, Suppose supports the delivery of TV service selection tools by partner companies like broadband providers, television OS platforms, or retailers,” says Suppose TV co-founder Andrew Shapiro, in a statement about the API launch. “These companies are well positioned to help their customers sign up for and manage their TV services.”

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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