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Top 10 Retailers 2017: A Kaleidoscope of Home Entertainment

26 Jun, 2017



Analysis By: Stephanie Prange

The home entertainment business is more complicated than ever, offering a diverse range of options for consumers. From its origins in renting and selling physical media, the industry has progressed to delivering content in myriad ways, including digital and physical media. That kaleidoscope of home entertainment has grown even further this year with the liftoff of a new format, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

The Top 10 Retailers of 2017, as identified by Home Media Magazine market research, span physical and digital stores, and the content and “players” are both physical and digital as well.

The studios’ partners in delivering content may use subscription streaming models, such as Netflix and Hulu; sell or rent physical discs, such as Target and Redbox; offer transactional VOD, such as Comcast or Apple iTunes; cater to all things digital delivery, such as AT&T DirecTV; or offer a smorgasbord, such as Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon, which offer both physical and digital content options.

“Bold retail innovation among our physical and digital partners this past year has served to significantly elevate our category,” said Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “Our physical retailers have done an incredible job of successfully implementing disruptive, breakthrough measures including displays and special in-store redesigns that have served to drive event-level awareness for our home entertainment products. Within the digital landscape, we are exceptionally proud of our partners’ impactful innovation and support. From exclusive next-generation and mobile experiences to compelling customized mix-and-match bundles and collection rooms, such digital features are effectively serving to inspire discovery and propel engagement among consumers.”

“We are pleased to see retailers continuing to adjust their product mix to meet the increased demand for multi-format SKUs featuring different combinations of Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD while also testing and implementing innovative in-store placement and displays, all in the spirit of providing a more exciting, engaging and satisfying customer experience,” said Dan Mackechnie, EVP of North American distribution for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

This retail kaleidoscope has made the job of the home entertainment executive more complex.

“The diversity of the top 10 retailers clearly illustrates, more than ever before, that today’s consumers are enjoying our content in many different ways,” said Bob Buchi, president of worldwide home media distribution for Paramount Pictures. “From physical to digital and sellthrough to rental, every platform is well represented and vital to our success. When formulating our marketing plans, we work with the retailers to tackle each title independently with the consumer and their specific desires in mind.”

“We try to play to the strengths of each retailer by providing key differentiated assets which are most aligned with their respective consumer base to be used in marketing, promotion and sales of our titles,” added Mike Takac, EVP of sales for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Both physical and digital retailers have upped their marketing game, as well as their execution to the consumer. For instance, Redbox recently linked with Paramount Pictures to promote the theatrical release of Transformers: The Last Knight by offering a discount at the movie theater if Redbox consumers rented Transformers: Age of Extinction. Meanwhile, Comcast is enhancing the pay-TV experience by offering bonus material and extras long associated with packaged media.

“As consumer consumption habits continue to evolve, retailers have become more adept and creative at capturing the attention of their customers to make digital ownership a relevant part of their purchase consideration,” said John Migliacci, EVP of digital accounts for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “By taking advantage of the latest technology and platform developments, and by targeting consumers in new environments and on new devices, retailers are giving consumers more choice about how and where they experience their favorite content.”

“We have a vibrant ecosystem of digital retailers evolving and growing every day,” said Thomas Hughes, EVP of worldwide digital distribution at Lionsgate. “As these retailers continually improve and become easier to use, the value proposition of digital ownership becomes clear to customers.”

Physical media retailers have stepped up their game as well.

“A very significant trend has been at the physical retailers with their increased support of licensed consumer products alongside packaged media,” said Warner’s Takac, adding that retailers are managing the digital transition with a strategy called “disc + digital” whereby “the consumer pays for early EST access and then receives the physical disc upon street date.“

Meanwhile, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is a new physical format entering the arena, and retailers, as always, are front-line players in introducing a new way for consumers to experience entertainment.

“Best Buy has done a great job, dedicating an eight-foot section for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs along with clear signage, while also providing great software support within hardware,” noted Warner’s Takac. “Amazon has also done a good job with their online presence of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, by including the 4K SKU as a clear option, and also featuring a 4K UHD microsite where consumers can learn more about the various technologies like HDR and wider color spectrum that make the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray experience so great. Walmart has done a nice job prominently displaying 4K in their new-release sections.”

“We are very pleased to see sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray exceeding that of Blu-ray at launch, which all the key retailers have significantly supported,” added Jed Grossman, EVP and GM of home entertainment sales and distribution at Lionsgate.

While the retail kaleidoscope may be complicated, it is testament to the dynamism of the home entertainment industry.

“Home Media Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Retailers illustrates the vibrancy and diversity of the home entertainment market, as the list includes retailers engaged in physical sellthrough, physical rental, EST, TVOD and SVOD,” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association. “Since its beginning, the delivery of home entertainment to the consumer has been about convenience and value. While what constitutes ‘convenience’ and ‘value’ has changed over time, that essential fact remains. Each of these retailers is successfully serving a segment — in some cases several segments — of the home entertainment market by providing their particular formulation of convenience and value to consumers.”


2017 Top 10 Retailers (Presented in Alphabetical Order):

By: Erik Gruenwedel

 

Amazon

After years of tepid spending, Amazon is spending big in 2017 on original content — reportedly about $4.5 billion — as it competes globally against Netflix and other SVOD platforms.

Original content includes Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea, motorsport-themed "The Grand Tour" featuring the cast from BBC's "Top Gear" franchise; Emmy-winning "Transparent"; "The Man in the High Castle"; and Amazon Studios' Paterson.

Original series include "Le Mans: Racing is Everything," which chronicles the 24-hour French car race; kids series "An American Girl Story: Summer Camp," "Friends for Life" and "Danger & Eggs"; and original unscripted series "All or Nothing," which chronicles the NFL's Los Angeles Rams' return to Southern California in 2016.

"We're very bullish on what we're seeing both with how customers are responding and the quality of the [original] content," CFO Brian Olsavsky said on a fiscal call.

Meanwhile, HBO is not renewing its groundbreaking licensing agreement with Amazon Prime Video when it expires in 2018.

The agreement, which did not include current HBO shows "Game of Thrones," "True Detective," "Silicon Valley," "Veep," "Westworld," "The Night Of" and "Insecure," pre-dated Amazon Channels, the upstart platform showcasing (to Prime members) third-party SVOD services — including HBO Now.

"As we see the progress and the sub-revenue acceleration in our digital business, I don't think you're going to see us extend or expand our relationship with our library of programming on Amazon," HBO CEO Richard Plepler said earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Amazon continues to be a top physical media retailer, most recently promoting 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.


Apple iTunes Store

More than 10 years after iTunes launched the digital rental/sellthrough market, the platform now makes it possible to watch a movie or TV show across multiple Apple devices through a software upgrade.

Previously, if you rented a movie on a Mac and transferred it to an iPhone, iPad, MacBook or iPod, it disappeared from your iTunes library. The idea was to dissuade users from sharing content with other Apple devices. The upgrade makes any rental title available across all supported Apple devices simultaneously.

The new software comes as iTunes movie rental usage is softening. The percentage of consumers using the platform to rent content last year dropped to 8.3% from 9.3%, according to a survey of 3,100 respondents conducted by TiVo-owned Digitalsmiths.

Despite revolutionizing digital media consumption, Apple heretofore has been slow to venture further in original content. Speaking recently at Re/code's tech confab in Dana Point, Calif., Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet software and services at Apple, suggested that mindset is changing.

Apple this month hired Sony Pictures Television executives Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg — co-producers of "Sneaky Pete" for Amazon Prime Video, "The Crown" (Netflix), and "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul" for AMC Networks and Netflix.

Apple is co-creating "Carpool Karaoke: The Series" with James Corden ("The Late, Late Show") and "Planet of the Apps" (Apple's first original series), which rates contestants' app potential. The show enables viewers (through an app) to explore further within the show about developers, venture capitalists and other issues.

Both programs will stream on Apple Music, the digital music service with more than 20 million subscribers.

"We've been working with television for a long time and we'll continue to work with television partners for a long time, whether it's Netflix or DirecTV or ABC," Cue said, adding distribution of video via Apple Music represents a "differentiating" factor.

"With Apple Music, we saw there was an opportunity to do new and creative things that hadn't been done before," he said. "That's what we're bringing to the table. That's what we like to do."


AT&T/DirecTV

The telecom's entertainment division reported $9 billion in video-related revenue, compared with $8.9 billion during the previous-year period. Pre-tax earnings declined 0.4% to 23.9%, due in part to higher content costs.

The entertainment division includes upstart online TV service DirecTV Now, in addition to pay-TV units DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and broadband. Both DirecTV and U-verse offer digital sales of movies to subscribers.

AT&T reported a loss of 233,000 video subscribers in the first quarter, compared with a loss of 52,000 subs during the previous-year period. It ended the period with 25 million video subs, compared with 25.3 million a year ago.

The company, which is acquiring Time Warner for $84.5 billion, said the DirecTV Now online TV service is offsetting declines in its linear video business, including U-verse. The telecom, for competitive reasons, does not disclose actual DirecTV Now subscriber data.

"Competitive pressure from cable and the increasing number of over-the-top video alternatives resulted in our video subscribers declining in the quarter. We're taking steps to address the situation, including simplifying offers and bundling with unlimited wireless," CEO Randall Stephenson said on a fiscal call.

To jumpstart DirecTV Now subs, AT&T is offering HBO for free to new subs, while also offering a Starz add-on for $8.

Stephenson says the Time Warner acquisition, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, will help fatten proprietary distribution pipelines with "premium long-form content," including mobile.

"It's what consumers want," he said.

Separately, AT&T rolled out "Ticket Twosday," a promotional campaign for wireless, U-verse and broadband subscribers that gives moviegoers a free theatrical ticket when purchasing a standard non-3D ticket.


Best Buy

It's been four years since Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly essentially pulled the plug on allocating sizable shelf space to packaged media — even going so far as to characterize the weekly Tuesday release slate as unimportant.

Fast-forward to the present and the nation's largest CE retailer continues to sell packaged media in stores and online — including 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

The chain's June 11-17 store circular featured a special promotion for Lionsgate's John Wick Chapter 2, including $5 off the 4K Blu-ray edition. The full-page ad for the June 13 retail release featured images from the movie on LG and Samsung 4K UHD TVs. Best Buy also had Steelbook packaging for the Blu-ray combo packs of John Wick Chapter 2 and Warner's The Lego Batman Movie. It also offered a deluxe edition of Paramount's South Park: The Complete Twentieth Season containing the Blu-ray and exclusive 12-inch art cards.

Indeed, Best Buy first-quarter (ended April 29) entertainment revenue increased 11.3%, compared with an 11.6% decline in the previous-year period. Entertainment represented 7% ($554 million) of domestic revenue, compared with 6% ($470 million) a year ago. The entertainment category includes Blu-ray Disc and DVD movies and TV shows, music CDs, books, video games, hardware and technology toys.

Four years ago, Joly said store floor space optimization mandated shrinking packaged media and redoubling emphasis on growth areas. Apparently, that didn't mean killing DVD and Blu-ray.

"I love these categories," Joly said at the time.


Comcast

Comcast continues to enhance the pay-TV experience by narrowing the divide with traditional home entertainment.

In December, the cabler inked pacts with Universal Pictures, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures to include bonus material and related movie extras long associated with packaged media. The bonus material is delivered through the Xfinity Digital Store platform, which became one of the industry's biggest retailers after launching in 2013.

Access to the digital store is promoted through Comcast's cloud-based X1 set-top, which now includes more than 60% of the cabler's household footprint. Recent X1 upgrades included a so-called "smart" keyboard, a simplified transactional VOD folder, a personalized screensaver,  a power saver and DVR. Subscribers searching for a movie or TV show can do so more intuitively through upgraded software that only displays relevant letters as a user spells out a name of show or actor using the remote. Purchased movies, TV shows and children's content from the Xfinity Store can now be organized by genre, while TV show episodes are grouped by series. Users can personalize their screensaver with their own photos, in addition to rotating through pictures from a connected Facebook, Instagram and/or Flickr social media account. The cloud-based DVR function records programming through its entirety — regardless if it starts early or ends late.

"X1 is an immersive, dynamic platform that enables us to continually provide our customers with one-of-a-kind experiences," said Daniel Spinosa, GM of movies, pay-per-view and commerce. "[It's redefining] the home entertainment movie-watching experience."

Last winter, Comcast hooked up with rival Dish Network, incorporating the satellite TV operator's Sling TV service into X1.

"Sling TV on Comcast is another step forward in our promise to consumers to be available on their favorite platforms," said Ben Weinberger, chief product officer at Sling TV.

Indeed, the X1 and direct access to Netflix and YouTube helped Comcast add 42,000 subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. The operator ended the period with 21.5 million video subs, compared with 21.4 million during the previous-year period.


Hulu

Much of the attention on Hulu has focused on its online TV platform  Hulu Live With TV — which launched in May. At the same time, the trademark SVOD service continues to up spending on original content — and personnel.

It hired Joel Stillerman to the new position of chief content officer, reporting directly to CEO Mike Hopkins. Stillerman most recently held a similar position with AMC Networks, where he was responsible for launching pay-TV program hits "The Walking Dead" and "Better Call Saul," among others.

Hulu has been on a content licensing run, as well as an original programming quest. The latter includes shows such as "11.22.63," "Casual" and, most-recently, "The Handmaid's Tale."

It announced pay-one window streaming rights to movies released by Annapurna Pictures and, separately, distributor Neon. Future Annapurna movies will stream exclusively on Hulu following their theatrical release. The deal marked the biggest movie output licensing agreement for Hulu, as well as a first-of-its-kind agreement for Annapurna.

Two years ago, the streaming service co-owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast and Time Warner licensed movies from Epix after Netflix failed to renew its $1 billion agreement.

The SVOD service is working with J.J. Abrams on a new series, in addition to "House of Cards" creator Beau Willimon.

Stillerman's arrival comes as Hulu follows a mandate from 21st Century Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch to establish itself as a legitimate competitor to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Fox manages Hulu under the leadership of former Fox TV executive Hopkins. Last August, Fox sold 10% equity interest in Hulu to Time Warner while retaining 30% ownership of the SVOD service.


Netflix

At it approaches its 20th anniversary, Netflix is tackling online pirates, global distribution and programming fluctuations while spending billions on new content.

Netflix's cancellation of "Sense8" and "The Get Down" underscored the reality its programming decisions are subject to the same viewer capriciousness network broadcasters contend with, said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter.

With more than 60 original shows currently streaming and plans to have 1,000 hours of original content available by the end of the year, yanking six series is hardly cause for alarm. Yet, they brought to four the number of series cut in the past seven months.

While Netflix doesn't disclose viewer data for programming, the end of "Hemlock Grove" after three seasons; "Lilyhammer" (three); "Marco Polo" (two); Golden Globe Award winner "Bloodline" (three); music-driven drama "The Get Down" (one); and "Sense8" (two); revealed "growing pains," according to Pachter.

"I think it is likely to rise to 20% to 30% of all of their shows eventually," he said.

Netflix now has more domestic subs than cable television. Cable's top operators (Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, etc.) ended the first quarter (March 31) with about 48.6 million combined subs, according to Leichtman Research Group. That's nearly 5% lower than Netflix's reported domestic streaming sub count of 50.8 million (though, when adding satellite, telecom and online-TV users, Netflix still has a ways to go to catch the 93.3 million combined subscribers of the pay-TV ecosystem).

Netflix also joined a coalition to combat online piracy, dubbed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

While touting its digital exploits, Netflix quietly generated 54% of total Q1 income ($60.1 million) from its legacy DVD by-mail rental business, compared with 49.5% a year ago. Revenue topped $120 million, down 17% from $144 million a year ago. Subscribers topped 3.9 million, compared with 4.7 million a year ago.

Internationally, the SVOD service signed a deal with Dutch-based telecom operator Altice offering distribution in 10 countries — excluding the United States.  Altice in 2015 acquired New York-based Cablevision followed by Suddenlink to become the fourth-largest domestic pay-TV operator. The company has 50 million subscribers worldwide. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the pact gives weight to a planned 1,000 hours of original content.

"Altice's customers will be able to seamlessly access and enjoy all the best entertainment in one place," he said.

In addition, Netflix is looking to jumpstart subscriber growth in Italy by partnering with national telecom Wind Tre. Since launching Italian service in 2015, Netflix reportedly has about 200,000 subscribers.

A forecast from the Research and Markets firm estimates Netflix will have 128 million subscribers by 2022, up 44% from 89 million at the end of 2016, with the number of international subscribers exceeding the U.S. by early 2018.


Redbox

Since going private in 2016 in a $1.6 billion transaction with an investor group, Redbox has hardly lowered its profile.

The kiosk vendor in May announced it is adding 1,500 kiosks nationwide, with more planned in 2018. The company said the expansion would total more than 41,500 kiosks in the United States.

"Renting discs remains an important consumer offering for families on a budget, or any consumer who wants a better value for new-release content," said CEO Galen Smith.

Indeed, the distributor inked a new deal with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment that enabled access to new releases seven days after their retail street date. Warner titles were previously available to Redbox 28 days after street date.

Redbox and Paramount Home Media Distribution in January announced a new distribution deal that affords renters access to new-release discs day-and-date with their retail store availability.

In a first, Redbox announced a marketing partnership with Paramount Pictures for the studio's Transformers: The Last Knight theatrical release. The company is marketing the movie with posters across more than 40,000 kiosks nationwide. Consumers renting the previous film in the franchise, Transformers: Age of Extinction, on DVD or Blu-ray Disc receive a $5 credit online when purchasing a ticket to see Last Knight.

While Redbox partners with retailers and consumer products brands regularly, this is the first time it has partnered with the theatrical division of a studio to provide nationwide exposure for a box office title.

"The promotion is a win-win for Redbox and Paramount as we're providing incremental exposure to the franchise — the equivalent of more than 350 million media impressions," Galen said.


Target

With its annual Black Friday point-of-purchase displays and weekly retail exclusives, Target remains a top seller of packaged-media movies and TV shows.

The national retailer — similarly to brick-and-mortar retail in general — is struggling to offset a growing e-commerce consumer and home entertainment alternatives such as over-the-top video and subscription streaming. Fourth quarter same-store sales dipped 1.5% while online sales rose 34%.

"Our fourth-quarter results reflect[ed] the impact of rapidly-changing consumer behavior, which drove very strong digital growth but unexpected softness in our stores," said CEO Brian Cornell.

Indeed, Target saw sales declines in consumer electronics, entertainment (packaged media) and music, among other categories, during the winter holiday season.

"Target's holiday performance … is a reflection of what we viewed as a highly promotional season on multiple fronts," Moody's analyst Charlie O'Shea told Reuters.

Regardless, Target aggressively promotes weekly packaged-media specials, including most recently a free $5 gift card with pre-orders of Universal's The Fate of the Furious at target.com/preorder. The movie comes with a collectible clinch sack. Other Target preorder exclusives include a Steelbook case and graphic novel with the Blu-ray of Lionsgate's Power Rangers.


Walmart/Vudu

Walmart-owned digital movie platform Vudu.com celebrated its 10th anniversary in June by offering 10-cent movie rentals on select catalog titles. Other special offers included $4.99 weekend movie rentals and $10-and-under TV weekends.

Separately, Vudu upgraded its app, giving users — for a fee — access to cloud-stored digital versions of their DVD/Blu-ray Disc collections from a smart phone or mobile device. Discs converted to standard-definition cost $2 each, and $5 to convert to HDX (1080p). The app essentially extended Walmart's landmark in-store disc-to-digital service launched with studios in 2012. Consumers can also convert discs from a computer at Vudu.com.

Meanwhile, parent Walmart, the nation's largest packaged-media retailer, reported a "low single-digit" decline in first-quarter (ended April 30) general merchandise sales compared with the previous-year period. Walmart doesn't disclose specific product category sales. The general merchandise segment includes everything from packaged-media movies, music, books, video games, toys, apparel, home appliances, sports equipment, consumer electronics, tools, etc., to seasonal items. The retailer cited delays in consumer income tax returns and post-winter holiday markdowns for negatively impacting higher ticket and discretionary (i.e. entertainment) spending.

Regardless, Walmart set up a display of DVDs with specially themed Father's Day packaging and a free can cooler. The guy-friendly comedies from Warner ranged from $5.96 to $9.96 and were touted with a sign that said "Celebrate Dad with these 'bromantic' comedies." Titles included Oceans 11-13, We're the Millers, Horrible Bosses 2-Film Collection, Blazing Saddles, Vacation and more.



Five to Keep an Eye On:

By: Chris Tribbey

In addition to the top 10 home entertainment retailers, here are five others that stand out for their contribution to the business.

Barnes & Noble

When it comes to new-release content, brick-and-mortar retail is still crucial to promotions and distribution.

This year, both Disney and Warner Bros. have looked to Barnes & Noble to help promote new releases. Disney partnered with the retailer for the release of Beauty and the Beast, with Barnes & Noble locations nationwide hosting events for the film April 1. The children-focused programs included giveaways, themed activities, readings of Cynthia Rylant's Beauty and the Beast picture book and sing-alongs to the movie's soundtrack.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. looked to Barnes & Noble to ratchet up attention for The Lego Batman Movie, with the retailer hosting a series of events in January and February dedicated to the film. The promotion culminated March 11 with Lego building areas for kids, giveaways and special merchandise.


Charter/Spectrum On Demand

In addition to offering its own online TV subscription service — Spectrum TV Stream — to its broadband-only customers ($13 a month for a basic channel package), Charter Communications recently dipped its toes into the original content waters, announcing in late April a unique deal with AMC Networks.

The agreement has original content from AMC available first to U.S. Spectrum TV cable customers and subscribers to the cable company's OTT service. The co-produced content will belong to AMC following the initial Charter release window. The companies expect to debut their first original content in 2018.

"By delivering unique, high-value products and services, [Charter continues] to differentiate the Spectrum customer experience," Ed Carroll, COO for AMC Networks, said in a statement. "As AMC Studios becomes an increasingly important part of our business, this first-of-its-kind partnership represents a new horizon for us."


Dish Cinema/Sling TV

First launched in early 2015, Dish's Sling TV service marked the first time a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) offered non-subscribers access to both live TV channels and on-demand content. And in recent months, Dish has made several moves to make Sling TV unique in the space.

In March, Sling TV announced a new, cloud-based DVR service, giving subscribers 50 hours of content storage for $5 a month. In April, Dish debuted an a la carte option for Sling TV subscribers, allowing subscribers to choose which premium and genre channels are included in their subscription. Also in April, Sling TV announced the availability of Showtime as a $10-a-month add-on option, bringing a fourth premium network into the fold (after HBO, Starz and Cinemax). And most recently, on June 1 Sling TV added OTT movie service Tribeca Shortlist to its ranks, giving Sling TV's Orange and Blue plan subscribers a new, free content channel.


FandangoNow

From content distribution deals to hardware app launches to debuting original content, transactional VOD service FandangoNow has made plenty of waves of late.

An early February distribution deal with HBO Home Entertainment saw FandangoNow offering individual current and catalog episodes of the network's original series, from $2.99 an episode in standard-definition, to as little as $38.99 for a full season. "Games of Thrones," "Westworld," "True Detective" and "Silicon Valley" are among the more recent HBO series included.

Also in February, FandangoNow debuted its first original program, "Extreme Home Theaters," a series of short-form videos looking at standout home theater set-ups. The series is aimed directly at the home entertainment enthusiast.

And FandangoNow has made sure its 50,000-plus film and TV titles are available across platforms: Purchases are UltraViolet-enabled, and FandangoNow's app is carried on Xbox, Samsung, LG, Vizio, Roku and Chromecast devices.


Verizon/FiOS On Demand

With Verizon closing its $4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo in early June, executives there are looking to leverage the billion-plus combined users of both Yahoo and AOL (which Verizon acquired for $4.4 billion in 2015) to launch a new over-the-top service, one that could offer a skinny bundle-like selection of TV channels, targeting digital-only consumers.

Marni Walden, Verizon's EVP and president of media and telematics, said during the June 8 Guggenheim Media Day event that the launch of the new OTT service was not "way off in the distant future" and that Verizon is being cautious in terms of what's included, learning from feedback to its ad-supported go90 streaming offering.

"[Go90] was targeted at a very much younger audience, [and] we've learned [that] having a bunch of content isn't necessarily a winning strategy," Walden said. "I think you can't [be] too limited, but too much is a problem. … Thousands and thousands of titles, I think, is not going to be our strategy. It's going to be the right content."


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