OTT Video News: Week of 2/14/22

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Paramount. A Paramount Company: Viacom is Via-Gone after nearly 50 years

ViacomCBS has rebranded itself Paramount, well technically Paramount Global, which is odd since there’s already a packaging company with the same name founded in Paramount, CA. However, I’m sure that’ll all get sorted out. After all, before becoming the home of The Handmaid’s Tale and Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Hulu used to be the home of someone named Amy’s photo gallery.

I was never really a fan of the name ViacomCBS. For starters, it just screams legacy media. Second, Viacom had/has little consumer-facing brand recognition, and CBS, well, CBS is known for its single namesake broadcast network. Combine the two, and it’s a mouthful…just like it’s going to be when the “Warner Bros. Discovery” merger goes through, which could close in the next two or three months.

The names Viacom and CBS just scream legacy media. Changing the name to Paramount pays homage to the legendary studio created over a century ago due to a three-way merger initiated by Adolf Zucker. It’s also a proclamation that the company is done with its “arms-dealing” (save that for Sony) and all-in on fulfilling its direct-to-consumer aspirations. 

Mr. Zucker would be proud.

Shout out to Curiosity’s Devin Emery for suggesting in 2020 that the newly merged company be named Paramount. 

Instead, we got ViacomCBS. I can’t help but think of previous lacks of imagination (and ego) like when Les Moonves named “The CW” by forming the first letters of CBS and Warner Bros. rather than keeping the much more successful name “The WB” or “CWB” which was allegedly pitched by the Warner Bros. camp.

But onwards and upwards, Paramount has amazing IP, so it’s refreshing to see the company look towards its long-term future instead of short-term revenue.

Some quick hits from the company’s investor presentation: 

  • Paramount+ has reached 32.8 million subscribers
     
  • The company added 9.4 million subs in Q4 for a total of 54 million combined subscribers (Paramount+ and Showtime OTT)
     
  • Global streaming revenue hit $1.3 billion, driven mainly by Paramount+ and Pluto TV, with the latter bringing in $362 million in revenue.
     
  • Pluto TV hit 64 million active users. I’m a big Pluto TV fan but we know that MAU is a bullshit metric. Realistically, I don’t know how the company can just switch up the way it reports though. Perhaps now would be a good time, while the VIAC stock is down.

Roku tops 60 million active accounts and mulls manufacturing its own TVs

Roku maintained its dominance to close out 2021, reaching 60.1 million active accounts, a 17% increase yearly. The company added 8.9 million total accounts throughout 2021 and said its active accounts have now surpassed the video subscribers of all the cable companies in the U.S. combined. However, that growth rate slipped in the second half of 2022, and Roku’s hardware business shrunk in what would typically be peak TV sales season.

This is important because there’s a correlation between Roku’s hardware and platform business. Hardware sales are vital for driving new accounts, and new accounts are vital to increasing advertising and subscription revenue.

According to Busines Insider, Roku may be looking to make its own TVs. Per sources, Roku held a focus group last month to get feedback on different TV models, features, names, sizes, and pricing.

It makes sense for Roku to manufacture its own sets like competitors Amazon and Comcast. However, due to the supply chain problems, it’s difficult for TV manufacturers to get sets to consumers, which inhibits Roku’s platform business. Remember, new accounts fuel Roku’s platform (advertising and subscription) revenue. 

At the same time, supply chain disruptions have made it significantly more expensive to ship TVs. As a result, TV prices have gone up, subsequently reducing demand. 

So although I think now might not be the time, I think eventually we’ll see Roku start to manufacture its own sets at some point.


fuboTV’s experiment likely fell short (which is okay)

In the last newsletter, I wrote about fuboTV switching from monthly to quarterly billing. The spirit of the move (which fuboTV acknowledged as a test) was about the timing of the Winter Olympics and Super Bowl and the fact that this is the time of year when most sports-centric users churn. Well, the test ran until February 17 (yesterday) and fuboTV has decided to revert back to monthly billing which is most likely due to a drop in new sign-ups. I’m all for product and pricing testing, however, it’s tough sledding for a company like fuboTV to experiment with a quarterly model when other comparable services like YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV are offering their product monthly. Link


Speaking of fubo, FUBU

Which cemented denim as part of ‘90s hip-hop fashion is launching a new streaming service, For Us By Us Network is launching in April. It will be available on Roku, Apple, Amazon Prime, Samsung TV, among other platforms, starting at a quarterly price of $24.99 or $79.99 annually. It will be both an AVOD and SVOD platform, combining free ad-based content with premium subscription-based entertainment. Link


TelevisaUnivision announces Vix, its new Spanish-language video service, touted as the world’s largest.

Vix will supplant PrendeTV, Univision’s current U.S. video service, as well as BlimTV and other existing offerings that were launched by Univision and Televisa prior to their merger, which was finalized last month. Vix will include both a free, ad-supported tier and a paid premium tier, called Vix+. The service will be available in 19 territories including the US, Mexico, and Latin America, and will include scripted and unscripted originals as well as live sports and news. Link

For more direct-to-consumer and OTT video news, insights, resources, and events, subscribe to 43Twenty CEO Kirby Grines’ The Streaming Wars newsletter, coming to your inbox every Friday.

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