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6 December 2018

A US invasion – fuboTV, Pluto TV making mark on Europe

People continue to rant about the worsening state of congestion in the streaming space, yet the trend of foreign services arriving and thriving, while homegrown players struggle, doesn’t seem to be slowing. Sports-centric fuboTV has made its European debut by launching in Spain, while ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV has expanded into Germany and Austria after launching in the UK in October – both arriving posthaste from the US.

In Faultline Online Reporter fashion, we take a look at the strategies and vendors key to the nascent expansion efforts of these two streaming firms.

FuboTV, a rumored acquisition target of Verizon earlier this year, had about 250,000 subscribers in the US as of last count in September, and has now gone live in Spain with an aggressively priced €3.99 ($4.50) a month offer for 13 live TV channels. Its trump card, however, lies not in its traditional deck of sports content but in becoming the first streaming service in Spain to show Movistar Series – bringing popular US content from Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, Starz, HBO, NBC, CBS and the CW straight to millions of cord nevers and cord cutters.

The service is known for redistributing channels such as NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS and international soccer over the internet. FuboTV’s decision to pick Spain for its European debut was due to the country’s high rates of soccer streaming piracy, according to CEO David Gandler, speaking to Reuters, pointing to Southeast Asia for his company’s next launch. At its current price, fuboTV should find itself sliding right in with local services in most Asia Pacific countries, while other overseas entrants have struggled and been forced to lower prices to raise appeal.

On the technology front, fuboTV has previously used Ateme’s Titan live virtualized encoding software and was also one of the first to deploy SCTE 224 in May 2017, the metadata standard which has risen quickly since its launch to become a critical component of workflow for OTT services of all flavors, but especially linear. It enables precise communication of blackouts and alternate streams of content, with the ability to modify video streams on a per user basis to implement the requirements of its major network partners. This is most relevant for geographic blackouts for regional sports networks in the US, since content may be restricted to their local operating area, as well as for enforcing device restrictions on some premium sports content.

US encoding vendor Syncbak has also referenced fuboTV as a customer of its SBTV app, powered by its SimpleSync platform which includes hardware, content management tools and dynamic ad insertion.

Confusingly, US encoding start-up Bitmovin was given a contract upgrade by fuboTV late last year, after a few years of using its Player product, for live encoding alongside some other anonymous encoding suppliers. We have reached out to fuboTV and some of the vendors involved in attempt to ascertain the supplier relationships for the Spanish launch, which ultimately may influence future country launches. Our bet would be on Ateme taking on the European contract.

In the US, we know the service is integrated with multi-DRM and encryption key security from BuyDRM and Zixi’s Feeder UDP-based transport stream protocol software. FuboTV has also selected SpotX’s programmatic advertising service.

But while fuboTV is going about business via the front door, PlutoTV has flown into Europe on the back of one of the continent’s largest operators. Its launch in Germany and Austria this week is effectively an expansion of its UK deal with Comcast-owned Sky (a shareholder in both Pluto TV and fuboTV), offering some 15 channels on the newly released Now TV Smart Stick, a Roku streaming device. The line-up includes Pluto TV’s tailor-made channels and some programs from third-party media firms.

Pluto TV takes an aggregator approach to TV by providing channels to choose from with programmed schedules. Scheduled programming through these OTT services supplies viewers with a traditional linear experience by eliminating the hassle of choosing a program at first glance. Viewers can simply let the TV play whatever is scheduled to be on and not waste time browsing through shows or searching for a particular show, then a specific episode.

Pluto TV offers 100 channels in the US, claiming 10 million monthly viewers and 120 content partners.

We feel fuboTV faces a tougher task than Pluto TV, despite it being exactly what a piracy-rife Spain needs right now. If the firm, founded in January 2015, proves a disruptive success in less popular sports content, there is a chance it can go on to make its mark on showing games from the English Premier League and La Liga (Spain’s top soccer league) – and that’s where the real money is made. However, with Sky involved in its $75 million Series D funding round secured in April, an expansion into any of Sky’s markets like the UK and Germany where sports is its crown jewel, would presumably be met with hostility.

Pluto TV CEO Olivier Jollet said, “Now is just the right time for Pluto TV’s launch in Europe, especially in the German-speaking market, to exploit the great potential for linear video distribution over the internet. In order not to miss anything, an individual household needs three or more subscriptions, and users are increasingly losing interest in this.”