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7 November 2019

OTT Video News, Deals, Launches and Products

Dish Network waved goodbye to another 79,000 pay TV subscribers in Q3, shrinking the satellite base further to 9.5 million. However, the US operator surprised by beating expectations with a gain of 48,000 Sling TV subscribers, to total 2.7 million subs.

Altice USA’s pay TV subscriber exodus accelerated by 14.3% year on year to 32,000 during the third quarter, dropping to 3.27 million subs, of which 492,000 are on the next-gen Altice One platform. As a result, video revenues dropped below $1 billion for the first time since merging the Cablevision and Suddenlink Communications businesses, falling 5.8% year on year to $993.2 million in Q3.

Cord cutting hit Liberty Global hard during Q3 with 65,700 net video cancellations across the board in Q3, more than double the losses from a year earlier. Liberty has now lost 181,100 video RGUs in the first nine months of 2019. Once a stalwart region for the cable giant, Virgin Media in the UK performed worst with 57,100 video losses, totaling 3.7 million, followed by Belgium with 20,500 cancellations, dropping to 1.88 million. Switzerland has 1.03 million video subs, losing 7,000 in the quarter, while Ireland, Poland and Slovakia saw small video gains.

British broadcaster Channel 4 has signed up for the Britbox streaming service, a joint effort between the BBC and ITV (with the latter more committed to the venture going by recent reports). Channel 4’s inclusion means subscribers can access titles from the UK’s big 3 in one place for the first time, at just £5.99 ($7.70) a month.

Ukrainian DTH platform Xtra TV has revealed some bizarre statistics showing it lost close to 50% of its video subscriber base when it brought in conditional access technology from Verimatrix, replacing its legacy card system. Subscribers left in droves after the operator forced them to replace set top hardware, but still Xtra TV concedes that making the switch was the correct long-term decision in the fight against piracy.

NBCUniversal is considering making its Peacock streaming service completely free, according to people familiar with the matter cited by CNBC. Due to launch in April 2020, a heavy ad-supported Peacock push would certainly align with Comcast’s current developments in the ad tech space.

Danish cableco TDC is threatening to drop Discovery channels after a carriage deal collapsed, the latest in a series of carriage disputes triggered by Discovery’s increasing programming costs. TDC said it refuses to pay over the odds and be forced to raise pay TV packages as a result.

Investment bank UBS reckons cord cutting in the US will slow next year, predicting pay TV subscriber losses of 6.2 million, down from 6.4 million, in research clearly not based on the current curves of most major pay TV providers or factoring in the new wave of US streaming services.

US video distribution network Wurl has resurfaced this week with an ambitious European expansion effort, starting with the delivery of programming and advertising to Samsung’s TV Plus streaming service. The connected TV-centric Wurl network today claims to deliver 125 live, linear and VoD channels to over 50 million viewers in the US and the company is aiming to build on the momentum of connected TV device viewing in Europe.

South African DTH provider Openview has extended its deployment contract with Nagra to continue securing the FTA platform eMedia, using Nagra Protect cardless content protection technology. Openview has 1.8 million active set tops on the market.

Swedish OS developer and consulting services firm Enea claims it is the first to optimize the new Apple TV+ streaming service over mobile networks. Enea Openwave used traffic management algorithms to dynamically optimize Apple’s encrypted video content to deliver a supposedly higher quality viewing experience to mobile users – reducing video stalls. Enea plans to do the same with Disney+, HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock once these offerings arrive.

European broadcaster RTL claims subscribers across its Dutch and German streaming services have spiked 50% in a year to reach 1.4 million, as of September. Videoland in the Netherlands and TV Now in Germany saw viewing time increase by 59% and 27 respectively. It comes as RTL reported a nine-month revenue increase of 3.5% to €4.53 billion, while broadcast revenue dropped 2% to €3.18 billion. RTL’s ad tech division SpotX boosted revenue by 14% to €337 million.

OTT sports provider DAZN and Mediaset are joining forces to bid for domestic Spanish rights to show Copa del Rey soccer matches, according to local paper El Espanol. Rival Spanish media group Mediapro reportedly offered €18 million for the rights but this was rejected by the Spanish Football Federation, which is apparently after €45 million per season.

Connected TV ad spend will reach almost $7 billion this year, growing by 37.6%, forecast to surpass $10 billion by 2021 and onto $13 billion by 2023, according to eMarketer. The research projects Roku’s lead to continue, dominating with 44.2% of connected TV viewers this year.

TCC, a Uruguayan cable operator, has selected 3 Screen Solutions to build and launch a multiscreen service based on Android TV operator tier next year. 3SS will supply its customizable front end technology and UI framework 3Ready, with custom set top launcher, in what will be the German vendor’s first Latin American Android TV project and one of the country’s first operator tier rollouts.

French service provider Canal+ is close to securing an exclusive distribution deal with Disney+ to step up its appeal against rivals Altice, Orange and Free, after Canal+ was recently forced to close its own SVoD service CanalPlay.

Liberty Global’s Virgin Media will move its MVNO business from BT’s current EE network to Vodafone by 2021, including for 5G services.

AT&T has been ordered to pay a $60 million penalty after the FTC found its unlimited data marketing plans – dating back five years – to be misleading.

In a busy week for the FTC, the body has also approved the takeover of Sprint by T-Mobile US with a number of concessions including pledges to expand broadband coverage.

Video processing platform Appear TV has won an account at Spanish broadcaster RTVE, supplying its X Platform for encoding and decoding links between stations using low-latency HEVC technology. Appear TV’s X Platform combines multiple contribution formats in the same chassis, and can accommodate a range of input, processing and output modules.