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OTT Video News, Deals, Launches and Products

Trouble in paradise pervades soon-to-launch UK streaming service Britbox as broadcast collaborators the BBC and ITV are squabbling over funding, according to the FT. ITV is reported to have pledged some $82 million through 2020, while the BBC is reportedly not prepared to match this investment and is more concerned with its iPlayer platform. It suggests similar broadcaster-fronted initiatives across Europe could run into similar problems.

IP-based video contribution vendor LiveU has been bought by private equity firms Francisco Partners and IGP Capital for an undisclosed fee. LiveU’s two most notable deployments are at AT&T, recently working to add 5G mobile connectivity to HEVC bonding portable broadcasting technology, and Sinclair Broadcast, where it supplies HEVC field units for newsgathering.

Hulu has enjoyed parading its 28 million subscribers medal in recent weeks, but the bubble has burst somewhat as it was revealed just 30% of these are on the ad-free tier costing €7.99 a month, according to the company’s SVP and head of ad sales Peter Naylor. But crucially, Hulu’s ad-supported tier with 70% of subs costs just $2 less – so not a cavernous distance. Naylor warned that a 90-second ad cap is essential.

 

US telco Q Link Wireless is prepared to pay up to $3 billion for Sprint’s pre-paid mobile business Boost, which the company is prepared to sell as part of a recent set of concessions for its merger with T-Mobile, according to Reuters. MVNO FreedomPop (remember those guys?) is also interested and is seeking private equity backing, with the report claiming FreedomPop would stretch to $4 billion. Sounds like someone stirring up a bidding war.

Leap Motion, a company we came across last year aiming to bring an aggressively priced $100 AR headset to the masses, has officially partnered with Bristol-based spatial interaction firm UltraHaptics after six years of collaboration. The two firms plan to bring ultra-sound driven tactile sensations to headset users.

 

SES subsidiary HD Plus, which operates the HD+ satellite platform in Germany, has extended its deal with Nagra to cover content protection on smart TVs. HD Plus recently launched on smart TVs from Samsung and Panasonic, without requiring any external hardware, and the platform will soon include other brands.

Extending its deal with Deutsche Telekom, Turkish WiFi expert AirTies is deploying its Remote Manager cloud-based management tool and mesh extenders at the German operator’s Croatian subsidiary Iskon.

In a somewhat predictable outcome, a report asking UK SVoD subscribers whether including advertising on their paid streaming services would be acceptable found that an overwhelming 72% ruled it unacceptable. In addition, 39% of Netflix subscribers would cancel if the service began showing ads on its current tier structure, while 23% of Netflix subs would upgrade to ad-free tier if given the option, according to a survey conducted by consultancy firm Differentology.

Orange and France Télévisions are planning to broadcast content from the Roland Garros French Open tennis tournament live in 8K over Orange’s 5G network. Smartphones from Oppo will be showcasing the coverage via 5G transmitters fitted within the stadium and matches will also be shown on a Panoramic 8K display wall.

Free live OTT platform Pluto TV, recently acquired by Viacom, has expanded in Europe by launching on Amazon Fire TV devices and Amazon Fire Tablets in the UK, Germany and Austria.

Canadians will spend more time daily on digital content than on traditional media, at an average of 4 hours 55 minutes to 4 hours 54 minutes, marking a tipping point in the country’s media consumption habits, according to an eMarketer forecast. Time spent online will grow by 2.6% this year, while traditional media consumption will drop 2.5%. It says average daily video time will increase by 5% to 1 hour 32 minutes, compared to a drop of 5 minutes in traditional TV viewing time to 3 hours 4 minutes, so still some catching up to do.

SVoD penetration has reached 52% in the Nordics, growing by 800,000 households year on year to reach 5.8 million households subscribing to 10 million subscription streaming services, according to Mediavision. Nordic households are increasingly stacking services, now with 1.7 services on average per home.

Qualcomm Technologies has unveiled the Snapdragon Smart Viewer Reference Design, a new VR form factor, built on the Snapdragon XR1 Platform in collaboration with Chinese acoustic components company Goertek. Smart Viewer is designed to decrease product development time of AR and VR Smart Viewers by distributing the workload and tapping into the compute power of host devices via tethering to smartphones or PCs. Key offerings include body and eye tracking, 6DoF controllers, display panel (built with JDI) and standalone mode – where all the computing is done directly on the device.

A 5G-compatible SoC for low-end devices has been launched by Taiwanese fabless semiconductor maker MediaTek, combining its M70 5G modem with Arm’s Cortex-A77 CPU and Mali-G77 GPU. Supporting handsets include the Nokia 5.1 and X5, and the Oppo R15.

The smartphone market shrunk to 373 million units sold in Q1 2019, a year on year decline of 10.5 million, according to Gartner data. Apple and Samsung were the biggest losers, together shipping 17.5 million less smartphones in the opening quarter compared to a year earlier, at 71.6 million units for Samsung (down 8.8%) and 44.5 million for Apple (down 17.6%). Meanwhile and against the odds, Huawei surged 44.5% to 58.4 million smartphones sold – usurping Apple into second spot.

Enghouse Systems has completed its acquisition of IPTV technology vendor Espial for $42 million. The two Canadian firms will merge their SaaS offerings to deliver a media and content offering with next generation IP and 5G network subscriber services to customers.

Comcast will soon replace Cinemax, owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia, in certain cable TV packages with Hitz, a new free on-demand movie offering. Comcast will continue to sell Cinemax for $12 a month.

AR head-mounted display developer Meta, which closed down earlier this year, has been given a new lease of life as a company called Meta View has magically appeared and acquired its assets – now calling itself a spatial computing firm. The Meta 2 headset was renowned for offering a wide field-of-view display for an especially immersive view. Ex-Qualcomm exec Jay Wright will serve as CEO.

French media company M6 Group has bought FTA and pay TV networks from Lagardère for $239.5 million, including the SVoD platform GulliMax.

Starlink, the Elon Musk satellite broadband venture, has now raised $1 billion in funding, a sufficient figure to get the Starlink system to operational level. It comes after 60 small satellites were successfully launched into orbit last week.

Vodafone has launched a mobile esports tournament called the 5G ESL Mobile Open in partnership with esports production firm ESL (Electronic Sports League), part of Modern Time Group. The tournament will be available across Vodafone’s footprint of 17 countries.

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