OTT Video News, Deals, Launches and Products

Facebook users spent 50 million fewer hours using the social media platform in Q4 compared to the previous quarter, a drop of 5%. CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims the decreased usage is due to recently reducing posts from media, brands and businesses, as part of the company’s push to prioritize personal interactions. Video is Facebook’s main focus going forward, as Zuckerberg said this week, “Over the next three years, we know video will continue to grow, so our job is to build video experiences that help people connect with family, friends, and groups.”

YouTube TV will begin streaming live soccer matches from Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) in the LA area. All locally televised matches will be available on YouTube TV, along with LAFC original content.

Music streaming services will soon begin giving back to the music industry after widespread criticism since their inception, sparking a dispute between the major music streaming service providers and the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA). Songwriters will get a 43.8% pay rise from streaming services such as Spotify over the next five years, jumping from 10.5% of revenue to 15.1%, according to the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB). “This is the best mechanical rate scenario for songwriters in US history,” said NMPA CEO David Israelite.

Online and satellite radio service SiriusXM added 569,000 new subscribers in the last quarter and 1.4 million during 2017, bringing its total US subscriber base to over 32.7 million. SiriusXM posted record revenue for 2017 of $5.4 billion, including $1.4 billion in revenue during Q4, both rising 8%. Net income for the year was $648 million, but the fourth quarter contributed a net loss of $37 million.

Liberty Media has closed the refinancing of the first lien loan of certain subsidiaries of Delta Topco, which holds all of Liberty’s interests in the Formula 1 motorsports franchise. Using a combination of $150 million of excess cash and $250 million loans, it reduced the first lien term loan from $3.3 billion to $2.9 billion.

Fox Broadcasting has out-spent NBC and CBS in buying TV rights to NFL’s Thursday Night Football, which will see it sign a check of $550 million each season for the next five years, showing 11 games a season, according to Sports Business Journal. This beats the $450 million paid by NBC and CBS for the last two seasons.

Amazon has struck a deal with HBO for its Prime Video service in Japan, to show current and previous HBO TV series. The agreement was made by HBO in the US, not HBO Asia, according to Variety. Famously, HBO CEO Richard Plepler declared last year that the company had no plans to expand its relationship with Amazon. A sign of the times.

Google has taken on-board around 2,000 engineers, designers and support staff from Taiwanese electronics manufacturer HTC in the $1.1 billion acquisition of the HTC Design Team, which was first announced in September. The team at HTC helped develop Google’s Pixel and Pixel 2 smartphones, and the deal will make Taipei Google’s largest engineering facility in the Asia Pacific region, reportedly investigating VR as a future focus.

Middle Eastern broadcast TV network beIN Sports has been slapped with a $22 million fine by Egypt’s competition authority, after being found guilty of anti-competitive practices. After winning rights to show African football competitions, beIN Sports made Egyptian viewers direct their satellite dishes at Qatar’s Suhail Sat satellite, rather than Egypt’s Nilesat satellite. The board of the Competition Protection and Prevention of Monopolistic Practices concluded that beIN Sports had financially impacted both consumers and Nilesat.

Broadband-only households in the US will soar from 19 million in 2017 to 37.2 million by 2022, accounting for 29.2% of all households by this time, according to research group Kagan. It expects 38.4% of residential cable and telco wireline subscribers to ditch legacy multichannel distribution for a broadband and OTA video service combination by 2022.

Chicago-based media technology and data science firm 4C Insights has completed an integration deal with US electronics manufacturer Vizio. Marketers using 4C Insights’ software platform can now access data from Vizio’s smart TV viewership data subsidiary Inscape, enabling targeted ads on TV and social media. Inscape claims it reaches 7.7 million active TV devices.

Troubled chip maker Sigma Designs has announced the departure of its President and CEO, Thinh Tran, who will be replaced by current SVP and CFO, Elias Nader.

French content distribution and monetization company Alchimie has extended its collaboration with Dutch software firm Unified Streaming. Alchimie has licensed a webserver plug-in called Unified Origin since 2015, to offer scalable live and on-demand streaming to its partners, using HLS, Smooth Streaming and MPEG-DASH, with built-in support for PlayReady, Widevine and FairPlay DRMs. Alchimie claims to handle €70 million ($87.2 million) worth of transactions a year.

German commercial broadcaster RTL Deutschland is launching a free ad-supported channel in the coming months, focused on US series and German originals. RTL’s catch-up service TV Now will house an OTT service called Now US and there are plans to distribute Now US through partners. Broadband TV News says sources close to the launch have noted that Now US will not be pure OTT, eventually launching on either cable, satellite, IPTV or DTT.

Content security specialist Irdeto has expanded its Russian presence with the launch of its Hosted CA product at the CSTB 2018 trade show in Moscow. Targeted at medium-sized cable operators, Irdeto says it provides a “pay-as-you-grow” mode with no upfront capital investment required and a one-time activation fee per device. Content owners can secure basic to premium 4K content and can renew over the air.

Russian broadcaster CTC Media, once owned by Modern Times Group, has acquired an undisclosed stake in film company Vodorod for an undisclosed price. CTC Media says it will dictate the types of movies produced by Vodorod and also push out TV series, suggesting the deal is for a majority stake.

Original content spending between Amazon, Netflix and Hulu is expected to reach $10 billion annually by 2022, tripling the current spend on originals, according to a report from The Diffusion Group.

The BBC’s popular Match of the Day program has renewed its English Premier League TV highlights for three years, costing £211.5 million ($299.7 million). Match of the Day was watched by 37 million people during the previous season, racking up 40 million requests on the UK public broadcaster’s iPlayer catch-up portal.

Microsoft has acquired gaming start-up PlayFab, which provides back-end services for developers to quickly launch online games. The undisclosed purchase comes after PlayFab raised $13 million from investors. Its platform and analytics tools help to better monetize games for developers by cutting down on infrastructure costs. Customers include Disney and NBCUniversal.

China’s Tencent Media Holdings has made an undisclosed investment in media company Skydance Media. The deal includes a partnership for Tencent to co-finance and distribute Skydance movies in China, and for Skydance to access Tencent’s Asian connections in the gaming sector to expand its presence.

Ninth-placed US cable operator Atlantic Broadband has signed an agreement to acquire the South Florida fiber network business from FiberLight, adding 350 route miles to its existing footprint in the area. The takeover is subject to regulatory approvals, expected to close with six months.

Semiconductor vendor Skyworks Solutions says Broadcom is using its 802.11ax wireless connectivity solutions in the new Broadcom Max WiFi reference platforms. The collaboration claims four times faster download speeds, six times faster upload speeds, enhanced coverage and up to seven times longer battery life compared to 802.11ac WiFi products on the market today.

French TV channel TF1 has failed to reach an agreement with Orange, following drawn out discussions lasting two years over the MYTF1 catch-up service. TF1 says it will pursue legal action against the French operator, which is continuing to distribute TF1 channels commercially with no contract in place.