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February 23, 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

Wattpad’s latest deal will turn its stories into TV shows and movies in Korea

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Wattpad’s ambitions to grow beyond a storytelling community for young adults took another leap forward today with the announcement of a new partnership that will help expand its reach in Asia. The company has teamed up with Huayi Brothers in Korea, which will now be Wattpad’s exclusive entertainment partner in the region. The two companies will co-produce content sourced from Wattpad’s community as it’s adapted for film, TV and other digital media projects in the country.

Development deals like this are not new to Wattpad at this point.

In the U.S., the storytelling app made headlines for bringing to Netflix the teen hit “The Kissing Booth,” which shot up to become the No. 4 movie on IMDb for a time.

Wattpad also recently announced a second season for “Light as a Feather,” which it produces with AwesomenessTV and Grammnet for Hulu.

It additionally works with eOne, Sony, SYFY, Universal Cable Productions (a division of NBCUniversal) and Germany’s Bavaria Fiction.

Outside the U.S., Wattpad has 26 films in development with iflix in Indonesia.

And WattPad’s feature film “After,” based on Anna Todd’s novel, will arrive in theaters on April 12.

Key to these deals is Wattpad’s ability to source the best content from the 565 million stories on its platform. Do to so, it uses something it calls its “Story DNA Machine Learning technology,” which helps to deconstruct stories by analyzing things like sentence structure, word use, grammar and more in order to help identify the next big hits using more than just readership numbers alone.

The stories it identifies as promising are then sent over to content specialists (aka human editors) for further review.

This same combination of tech and human curation has been used in the past to help source its writing award winners and is now being used to find the next stories to be turned into novels for its new U.S. publishing arm, Wattpad Books.

In addition to its hit-finding technology, studios working with Wattpad also have a way to reach younger users who today are often out of touch with traditional media, as much of youth culture has shifted online.

These days, teens and young adults are more likely to know YouTube stars than Hollywood actors. They’re consuming content online in communities like Reddit, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and elsewhere. And when it comes to reading, they’re doing more of that online, too — whether that’s through chat fiction apps like Hooked or by reading Wattpad’s longer stories.

Wattpad says it now has 70 million users worldwide, who now spend 22 billion combined minutes per month engaged with its website and app.

With the Korean deal, Wattpad is further growing its international footprint after several other moves focused on its international expansions.

For example, today’s news follows Wattpad’s raise of $51 million in funding from Tencent; its appointment of its first Head of Asia for Wattpad Studios, Dexter Ong, last year; and its hiring of its first GM of India, Devashish Sharma, who is working with local partners to turn its stories into movies, TV, digital and print in the region.

Huayi Brothers Korea hasn’t announced any specific projects from the Wattpad deal at this point, but those will follow.

“Wattpad’s model is the future of entertainment, using technology to find great storytellers and bring them to an international audience,” said, Jay Ji, CEO, Huayi Brothers Korea, in a statement. “In an era of entertainment abundance, working with Wattpad means access to the most important things in the industry: a data-backed approach to development, and powerful, proven stories that audiences have already fall in love with,” 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

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

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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.

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.

 

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

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