Lionsgate knocks on LatAm door with Spanish OTT launch

Lionsgate has dived into Spanish-language OTT video with the launch of a new SVoD service in partnership with Hemisphere Media Group, a Hispanic-targeted content platform provider. The service is called Pantaya and has rolled out in just the US and Puerto Rico for now, perhaps testing the waters before embarking on more adventurous escapades across Spanish speaking Latin America.

The new service is focused on providing premium content such as Latin American and Latino Hollywood movies, plus documentaries and concerts, with many exclusive to Pantaya, although no specific exclusives have been named yet. It costs $5.99 a month and is available on iOS, Android, Roku, web browsers, and on Amazon Channels in the US. Pantelion Films, which is 50% owned by Lionsgate, is one of the Latino Hollywood studios on board the project.

With John Malone as one of the driving forces behind Lionsgate, through the sale of Starz to Lionsgate in return for stock, an international streaming strategy is becoming more and more central to the company’s outlook. Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.4 million people, is acting as the test bed for the joint venture, where around 48.5% of the population have internet access.

Miami-based Hemisphere Media Group is a new name on our radar – a company that has seemingly come out of nowhere to boast of owning a stake in Cinelatino, a Spanish-language movie channel with over 20 million subscribers including 4.6 million in the US. It also operates and owns five US Hispanic cable networks and two Latin American cable networks, as well as a broadcast TV network in Puerto Rico.

Hemisphere was founded in 2013 and claims to be the only company of its type that is publicly traded. It reported Q1 2017 revenues up 7% to $33.2 million, with net income of $2.7 million, a rise of 2%.

Lionsgate and Hemisphere could not answer Faultline Online Reporter’s queries about the technologies used in the launch of Pantaya. However, a statement on the Hemisphere Media Group website notes that its OTT operations rely on the technology platform from Starz, with distribution via broadcast TV network Univision.

However, there are a handful of technology partners which Starz has employed over the years for various stages of the OTT video ecosystem. Starz Play Arabia in the MENA uses an mpx system from thePlatform, owned by Comcast, for back end video management including video ingest workflow, metadata and subscriber management. Starz Play has also combined Deluxe’s OnDemand Media Management Solution, which supplies 1,500 transcoders, with other tech vendors including CDN load balancing specialist Cedexis and goTransverse for billing services. It also supports all major browser DRMs.

Deluxe has struck numerous partnerships with some expert names in OTT technologies, including Arris for its SecureMedia HLS+ system for secure ABR streaming, as well as Swedish app store specialist Accedo, OTT platform provider NeuLion, Kaltura’s Tvinci, SeaChange for its flagship Adrenalin cloud multiscreen software, MediaMelon for ABR efficiency, and Xstream for content ingest and playout.

We are awaiting a response from Deluxe whether its encoding capabilities, or technologies from any of the above vendors, have a part to play in the launch of Lionsgate’s Pantaya service.

HBO Go’s recent belated launch in Latin America was dismissed by Faultline Online Reporter as being late to the party. A different stance has been taken to the launch of Pantaya simply because of the comparative sizes of the two companies – Lionsgate has much more to lose if it went for a full roll out across Latin America but ended up being a flop.

The launch of Pantaya comes a week after Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch also confirmed the company will be launching a “simple and affordable” Spanish OTT service before the end of the year, in Spain – the fourth largest economy in Europe.

Speculation around Lionsgate being another victim in US media consolidation has dried up since the dust settled from the Starz deal, but Malone himself conceded that Lionsgate is the type of media company which doesn’t have the scale on its own to make it, as audiences and ad rates fall as content value shifts towards sports. Hemisphere could be a valuable partner then given its experience in providing Hispanic content.

Also in international areas, Lionsgate has a deal with Chinese online video platform iQiyi, to distribute content via SVoD, TVoD and advertising-supported models to iQiyi’s 500 million unique users. iQiyi is the exclusive holder of Lionsgate rights in China, including titles such as Robin Hood, American Assassin and The Glass Castle.

Pantelion Films and Pantaya CEO Paul Presburger said, “With our focus on exclusive premium content, our knowledge of the Hispanic consumer, and the breadth of our offering, we are positioned to deliver an OTT service to Spanish-language and bilingual consumers that is second to none.”

Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said, “This platform is the next logical step in Lionsgate’s track record of serving the Hispanic consumer with high-end premium content through our Pantelion Films venture with Televisa. By drawing upon the blockbuster films, vast libraries and world-class programming resources of its partners, Pantaya is positioned to become a compelling value proposition for Spanish-language and bilingual audiences across the country.”