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12 May 2022

OTT Video News, Deals, Launches and Products

Five years ago this week…

Disney was suffering from buyer’s remorse, shunting its multi-channel network (MCN) Maker Studios off to its in-house branded content division, Disney Co/Op to assist with the made-up job of “influencer marketing”. Following an impulsive spending spree in the early 2010s, legacy media firms were coming to terms with the fact that MCNs and their content creators were not as lucrative as first hoped. Disney had paid over $500 million for Maker Studios, but its interest in the MCN quickly waned, with the number of the creators on the roster slimmed down from 60,000 at the time of purchase, to just 300.

Warner Bros. Discovery will form a 50:50 joint venture with British Telecom, whereby the BT Sport business will be transferred to WBD and merged with Eurosport UK, which WBD owns. Sports streaming service DAZN had its bid to acquire BT Sport rejected by the UK operator.

 

Faultline has been openly critical of companies like NBCUniversal when it comes to empty promises of revolutionizing how video advertising is consumed through interactive experiences. The Comcast-owned company finally has something to show for all its hot air, including the smartphone-based AR Portal as a pathway to advertising in the metaverse, without (by the sound of it) requiring a headset. NBCU is also promoting sequential storytelling as a highly targeted ad play, using first-party data to target consumers on three separate occasions throughout the day.

Liberty Global closed Q1 2022 with just under 4.5 million video subscribers spread across the five territories of Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, Slovakia, and the Netherlands. All but Switzerland saw subs losses in the quarter, with the VodafoneZiggo Dutch joint venture hardest hit at minus 70,800. Since the merger of the Virgin Media UK operation with O2, video subscribers are no longer broken out, while the Polish UPC operation has been discontinued following the sale to Iliad’s Play last month, when it had 588,200 video subscribers.

US DVD rental company Redbox has been bought by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, for $375 million. Redbox completed its IPO in October 2021 at a valuation of nearly $700 million, marking a dramatic climbdown.

 

Public broadcaster Channel 4 has taken a step towards privatization through a landmark deal with YouTube, amid ongoing outrage about a pending sale by the UK government. Hundreds of hours’ of Channel 4 content will be injected into the video sharing platform in such a way that allows Channel 4 to sell its own advertising, which is a first-of-its-kind move in Europe.

 

Another SVoD platform is moving in on AVoD and FAST, with Alchimie seeking to strengthen its European footprint through an ads partnership with LG Channels. The deal makes the Alchimie Channels OTT video offering available on LG Smart TVs running webOS 3.0.

Xperi, the parent company of TiVo, reported Q1 2022 revenues up 16% to $257.4 million. Media business highlights from the quarter include a long-term patent portfolio license with a top 10 vMVPD, a new win with US cable company NfinityLink Communications, and double-digit subscriber growth in IPTV. On the media product side, Xperi credits the integration of YouTube TV into TiVo Stream OS and 4K, plus the launch of the TiVo Xtend for connected TV advertisers to grow reach, as well as advancing the TiVo Stream ecosystem with new services, content partners, OEMs and chipset makers.

M7 Group is jumping headfirst into smart TVs via the HbbTV OpApp specification in Europe, complying with the M7 Conditional Access Module and integrating Fast Scan Tables. From June 2022, M7 channels will be available on any smart TVs running Mediatek chipsets, starting with TP Vision, without any additional hardware required.

Vivendi-owned French pay TV operator Canal+ is reportedly looking to acquire US TV network Starz, following rumors that Roku is in the running, as Lionsgate looks to divest the business.

AMC Networks has 9.5 million total subscribers across its video streaming properties after gaining 500,000 users during Q1 2022, although it doesn’t say how many are on the flagship AMC+ platform. New guidance puts projected total streaming subs at between 20 million and 25 million by 2025.

Telefónica-owned Spanish operator TSA has deployed monitoring tools in its head-end form Swedish firm Agama. A full transport stream analysis is covered by multicast analyzers, widgets, and dashboards, with additional network information provided in a single customizable view.

 

Akamai has released what it is calling the world’s first NFT (non-fungible token) artwork that is dynamically powered by the internet. This piece of marketing fluff from the CDN heavyweight is described as a one-of-a-kind digital artwork projecting the world’s internet activity, via Akamai’s 4,000 PoPs, that visually changes in real-time based on internet traffic changes and cyberattacks. Final bids are due June 24, 2022.

 

Roku is polishing its NewFronts spiel through a new partnership with Microsoft, so that advertisers can draw links between ad exposure and subsequent internet searches, using Microsoft’s audience intelligence. Roku is also offering dynamic linear ad insertion, expanded measurement, clean room data, and a Roku advertising watermark.

Switzerland is holding a referendum on May 15 to decide whether streaming services should be forced to invest in local content production. Under the proposals, top tier SVoDs would have to invest 4% of revenues into local content.

India lost 370,000 DTH subscribers in Q4 2021, according to figures published by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, with the total number now at 68.52 million homes. Tata Sky has the largest market share of DTH at 33.48%, followed by Bharti Telemedia (26.37%), Dish TV India (22.04%) and Sun Direct TV (18.11%).

The merger of Canada’s Rogers and Shaw Communications might not go ahead, despite approval from both regulatory bodies. The Commissioner of Competition is now filing an application to oppose the merger, due to worries of its impact on Canada’s competitive wireless market.

 

Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming have suffered viewership drops in Q4, according to new figures from Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet. Twitch managed to grow its in Q4, but the three services combined for an 8% drop in viewing hours year-on-year, from 8.8 billion hours to just over 8 billion.  YouTube’s decline is impressive, given its attempt to poach talent from Twitch over the past year.

Liquid Intelligent Technologies, the pan-African technology group that is attempting to accelerate broadband adoption on the continent, has acquired Telrad Networks, an Israeli telecommunication equipment manufacturer. Telrad seems to specialize in fixed wireless offerings, and was bought for $58 million (199 million NIS) – a big slump from its IPO valuation of $99 million.

Frontier Communications has paid the FTC $8.5 million to settle an investigation into misleading consumers with broadband speed claims. Frontier is not admitting guilt, and the fine is essentially equivalent to a full day’s profit. This is not the best way to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, either.

Microsoft has brought Epic Games’ Fortnite back to iOS, via the Xbox Cloud Gaming service. Microsoft would not waste an opportunity to turn the screw on rival Apple, but for Epic, the availability looks set to mute its continued attempts to challenge Apple’s market position in the courts. A single jury decision on the role of the mobile platforms as gatekeepers to games and video services could cause immense upheaval in the sector. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to launch smart TV apps for the cloud gaming service this year.

TelevisaUnivision has acquired Pantaya, a Spanish-language streaming service with some 900,000 subscribers, ahead of the global launch of TelevisaUnivision’s ViX+ service later this year. No price has been given, but Pantaya was originally a joint venture between Lionsgate and Hemisphere. Lionsgate sold its majority stake last year for $124 million.

intoPIX, Nextera Video, and Adeas have partnered up to show off a reference design for the new IPMX AVoIP (AV over IP) standard. intoPIX’s hardware-focused video compression and video-over-ethernet kit will be used by Nextera and Adeas in FPGA implementations, for moving a 4Kp60 4:4:4 video signal over Cat 5e cables. That the demo will be shown at the AMD Xilinx booth clues us in to the silicon provider.