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Media Disruption Goes Mainstream

30 May, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

“Disruption” is on everyone’s tongue these days, a popular buzz word and an accurate description of what we’ve seen happen to, and in, all sorts of different industries over the past decade. It was Clay Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, who defined “disruption” in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma. It’s not so much a better, cheaper, faster product as it is an entirely new product, or way of doing things, that addresses an inherent problem in the old one.

Tired of calling for a taxi, hoping the dispatcher writes down the address correctly, and never knowing if the driver takes credit cards? Welcome to Uber, where everything is controlled through a smartphone app.

Similarly, we’ve seen Airbnb take on hotels, and, in our industry, Netflix take on how we consume home entertainment. Indeed, in entertainment the disruptors have been  especially adept at turning a long-standing business model of windows and orderly distribution on its head. And the traditional players are starting to take notice — and fight back.

Subscription streaming, through original content, binge viewing and on-demand access, has made media disruption a tenet of its pioneering low-cost business model — spearheaded by Netflix.

Content holders, including the Hollywood studios, have seen traditional distribution channels altered by SVOD and over-the-top video. Nowhere is this more apparent than pay-TV. Despite a slowdown in video subscriber losses, the pay-TV market has come to realize that while the 150-channel bundle remains appealing — it’s not attractive to a growing number of consumers.

“The single-largest reason why people have dropped out of the multichannel home is because the value they see in the video package is not worth it,” Turner CEO John Martin told attendees May 19 at the 3rd Annual MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York.

Following years of stonewalling and denial regarding over-the-top video, multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) are stepping up to the digital plate — with a vengeance.

Verizon launched go90, an ad-supported app featuring mobile-specific content, including original content, sports, news and music.

Dish Network last year bowed the industry’s first online “skinny bundle” pay-TV service in Sling TV. This year it expanded Sling’s reach (20+ channels) offering multiple streams — and Fox TV content.

Comcast, Cox and Charter are bridging the digital divide without directly embracing third-party OTT. To do that, they’re upgrading existing in-home distribution platforms with enhanced cloud-based platforms.

Comcast Wholesale, a division of Comcast Cable, in February bowed theVideoPlatform, enabling broadcasters, multichannel networks and publishers to launch, manage and provide OTT video across any screen.

“We’re still pushing [conventional pay-TV] products out the door … but we all feel at Comcast that the digital world is well upon us, and we’re embracing a lot of it,” said CTO Tony Werner.

Charter last October launched “Spectrum TV,” a $13 monthly service to broadband-only subscribers that includes a free Roku player and access to four broadcast channels (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), in addition to either Showtime or HBO. For another $7, “TV Plus” offers 16 additional channels, including A&E, ESPN, Hallmark, Lifetime, Freedom (formerly ABC Family), Food Network, HGTV, AMC, FX, History, H2, TBS, National Geographic, Discovery and TLC.

Having acquired Time Warner Cable, Charter will likely continue the former’s beta tests involving broadband-enabled video accessed through a subscriber’s own streaming media device.

“It represents kind of the first stage of a potential substitutional service, which would enable customers to enjoy our video service without leasing a set-top box,” former CEO Rob Marcus said on a January fiscal call.

Sony Computer Entertainment’s year-old pay-TV service — PlayStation Vue — this year expanded access nationwide through a lower-cost offering ($29.99 for 55 channels). Vue launched in 2015 as the first online platform (along with Sling) featuring ESPN, among other pay-TV channels.

Indeed, Verizon’s attempt to include ESPN in a proprietary skinny bundle resulted in litigation — since settled — from the Disney-owned sports network.

“I believe we are in a transformative place in pay-TV,” said Dwayne Benefield, VP, head of PlayStation Vue. “It’s been ripe for innovation for a decade.”

Veteran home entertainment executive Darcy Antonellis left Warner Bros. to help Vubiquity create a business making clients’ digital distribution “frictionless.” It recently announced an agreement to distribute British TV drama “The Missing” to foreign video-on-demand markets in the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Europe and Latin America.

Antonellis May 19 told attendees at The Internet & Television Expo in Boston direct-to-consumer offerings — including skinny bundles — will be the biggest media disruptors in the next 12 months.

“If you look at overall availability and licensing of content, and how the [distribution] windows, availability and monetization has changed, the need to have a ubiquitous method to manage those changes and availability, as well as the need [to] make sure you’re supporting the opportunities to monetize is very critical,” she said Tom Morrod, analyst with IHS, said ongoing consolidation among pay-TV operators coupled with secondary acquisition of technology companies underscore industry efforts to remain competitive and relative in a rapidly changing market.

He said pay-TV providers are investing in digital platforms that can scale domestically (HBO Now, Showtime OTT) or abroad (Starz Now, HBO Nordics) to compete against SVOD. Alternative strategies include directly incorporating Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video, strategically stepping back from proprietary video distribution and focusing on broadband access. As an example, the analyst cited a broadband operator partnering with Google Android for its set-up box and content apps.

“What we’re seeing is a 'go-big or go-home' moment within the pay-TV industry,” Morrod said.

“It’s going to be about how we change the game with the customer experience … try to meet them where they’re at and where they’re going,” said Cox CTO Kevin Hart.


The highest-profile media disruptor, Netflix likely got the attention of hardcore deniers in January when it launched global service in more than 190 countries. And it certainly stubbed a few Hollywood toes when CCO Ted Sarandos made good on a pledge to bypass the theatrical window and bow Netflix original movies day-and-date with streaming and theatrical distribution. While theaters balked at showcasing critically acclaimed African warlord drama Beasts of No Nation, as well as Adam Sandler comedy The Ridiculous 6, Sarandos appeared to dismiss the snubs, suggesting the scant theatrical screenings were largely done for industry awards and marketing. Regardless, Beasts of No Nation received no Oscar nominations.

And in a first, Netflix and Univision Communications announced a unique promotional partnership that brings the streaming pioneer’s original content to the Manhattan, N.Y.-based Spanish-language TV broadcaster. Typically, broadcasters and TV producers license content to subscription-streaming services such as Netflix, in part as catch-up vehicles for programming heading into new season broadcast premieres. Instead, Univision is getting broadcast rights to Golden Globe-nominated “Narcos” — about Columbian drug load Pablo Escobar — and Mexican soccer comedy “Club de Cuervos,” as a catch-up vehicle for pay-TV subscribers. Both series will air on Univision leading up to the show’s second-season streaming debuts on Netflix.

Garnering less attention is Netflix’s ongoing scrutiny of subscriber data. While its recommendation software was its calling card initially, Netflix now focuses on perfecting the user experience.  In a company video, “How Netflix Creates a More Personalized Experience for a Global Audience” — disclosed by BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield — Todd Yellin, VP of product innovation, describes how analyzing what subscribers actually watch and how they arrive at a selection are critical data points. For example, Netflix found that subs typically look at 40 to 50 title selections before picking something to watch. The video suggested analyzing subs with similar tastes throughout the world is more important than individual age, gender and regional location. Netflix also found that cover art for a movie or TV show is frequently underappreciated. Netflix tests internal cover art versus what distributors supply. For example, a screen shot for series reboot “Fuller House” focusing on a bridge generated 5% more views than screenshots of the show’s characters.

“The videos showcase how data and data analysis provides Netflix with a unique advantage relative to all of its legacy media peers who are trying to enter digital,” Greenfield wrote in blog post.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon made its Prime Video subscription streaming service available as a standalone option for $8.99 — the same price as Netflix’s entry-level plan. Launched 11 years ago, Prime offers free two-day shipping on myriad purchases with Prime Video — and later Prime Music — included as free value-added perks. The full Prime membership is also available on a monthly basis for $10.99 — which is 25% more than the current $99 annual fee. The standalone Prime and Prime Video options are only available domestically.

Taking a page from YouTube, Amazon launched Amazon Video Direct. The platform gives video creators a platform to sell their content directly to Prime members. The e-commerce giant is offering a monthly $1 million award fund to the top 100 AVD titles on Prime Video. Amazon Video Direct gives content creators and distributors the ability to include content on Prime Video at no charge to Prime members; as an add-on subscription streaming option through the Streaming Partners Program; as a transactional VOD rental or electronic sellthrough transaction; or available free to all Amazon customers as ad-supported fare. Video providers can make their titles available in any country where Amazon Video is available.

Amazon Video includes Amazon Original Series, through Prime Video; monthly subscriptions to Showtime OTT and Starz Now; and new-release movies and current TV shows for rent or purchase.

“There are more options for distribution than ever before and with Amazon Video Direct, for the first time, there’s a self-service option for video providers to get their content into a premium streaming subscription service,” said Jim Freeman, VP of Amazon Video.


Hulu, which is co-owned by The Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox and Comcast, is developing an online “skinny bundle” pay-TV service (Hulu Live) that will operate similarly to Dish Network’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Charter’s Spectrum TV Plus, among others. The reported $30 service is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2017. Hulu Live would market Disney (notably ESPN and Disney Channel), Fox and other pay-TV channels to an estimated 10 million to 15 million broadband-only households. 

“Hulu's become an important investment for us, not just as a distributor of the programs that we make, but ultimately as a buyer of original product and ultimately as a distributor of our channels,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said on a recent fiscal call. “And we think they have a great opportunity to become an [online TV service] because they can leverage their current user base. And they also have a good user interface.”

Separately, Hulu continues to ink distribution deals with pay-TV operators — most recently with RCN Corp. The cabler, which was the first to offer direct access to Netflix, announced a partnership with Hulu to enable its subscribers to watch the SVOD service as a channel through the same set-top box used to watch Live TV.

“In the last year alone, we’ve seen a 23% increase in activation of streaming services … through our TiVo set-top boxes and that number continues to rise,” said Chris Fenger, CCO for RCN Corp. “On average customers consume 15 to 17 hours of content on just one of these services. These rising numbers consistently remind us that integrating popular streaming services into our suite of products allows instant access, convenience through one device, and a superior customer experience.”

Hulu has similar deals with Cablevision, Suddenlink, and will soon be available on Charter, which just acquired Time Warner Cable.

Time Warner

Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes has shrewdly maintained a love/hate relationship (in the media) with SVOD — notably Netflix. While famously comparing Netflix to an invading Albanian army in 2010, Bewkes over the years has softened his rhetoric.

“If you think about subscription VOD, it's an opportunity that started with the first SVOD service, which is called HBO — a long time ago,” Bewkes said on the May fiscal call.

The media giant a year ago launched SVOD service HBO Now, and this year subsidiary Turner Broadcasting System is bowing a subscription streaming service devoted to classic movies. Dubbed “FilmStruck,” the service will be co-managed by Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection. As part off the agreement, Criterion will move its 1,000+ title movie collection from Hulu to the new service.

“I think there is going to be a real fanbase of people who are going to find that product very attractive,” said Turner CEO John Martin.

In February, Warner Bros. announced the acquisition of  DramaFever, a subscription streaming service specializing in Korean dramas and TV shows. DramaFever joins Time Warner’s acquisition of iStreamPlanet and separate digital pact with China’s Tencent, called “Hollywood VIP.” It also launched apps for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

The services underscores Time Warner’s move toward internal OTT video services versus licensing content to third-party services for incremental revenue.

Indeed, despite its deep pockets and willingness to outspend the competition, Netflix’s global platform worries Time Warner. CFO Howard Averill says the decision by TNT, TBS and HBO to retain digital stacking rights to current-season programming instead of licensing to SVOD is about the bigger picture. He says the lost SVOD revenue is dwarfed by the chance to improve pay-TV and its subscriber base.

“It’s really about adding value both to the distributor and to the networks,” Averill said.

Martin says a market of online TV aggregators emerging offering “smaller channel packages of better networks,” will be a positive for the industry.

“We’re putting the consumer at the center of all of our digital [video] decisions,” he said.


Among pay-TV operators, Comcast remains the most entrenched in the status quo, contending digital entertainment is best done through proprietary business models, such as TV Everywhere and its cloud-based X1 set-top. X1 offers a hybrid IP/QAM video gateway with an advanced user interface and the ability to port third-party apps that tie into a cloud-based infrastructure. It features a cloud-based TV guide and includes recommended Web videos and a new mobile application.

Last summer, Canadian cable TV operator Shaw Communications abandoned its own IPTV platform and instead chose to license X1.

To underscore Comcast’s go-it-alone digital mandate, when Starz — a Comcast affiliate — launched a branded app that enables pay-TV and non-authenticated subscribers (for $8.99 monthly) access to original programming, Comcast balked at the notion of a-la-carte access. The cabler insists subs should access Starz original programming through its Xfinity platform.

The company says 86% of its subs are using Xfinity On Demand monthly, including viewing about 25 hours on average per sub. Earlier this month, Xfinity launched a Spanish-language Kids Zone.

Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit says X1 and Xfinity have contributed to subscriber churn declining double digits; VOD viewing is up 50% and transactional VOD is up 160% because of X1.

“From a content provider perspective, [X1] is a great platform because we can promote content and people can get to the media they want faster,” Smit said.

Comcast, which annually promotes on-demand viewing through its Watchathon video smorgasbord, this year for the first time included Sony’s ad-supported video streaming service, Crackle.

Last year, Comcast subsidiary NBC Entertainment became the first major network to offer binge-viewing access to a new primetime series, “Aquarius,” starring David Duchovny. The network also launched SVOD comedy service Seeso.com.

NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said the move marked a “forward-thinking way” to offer entertainment to consumers in an evolving home entertainment ecosystem.

“With ‘Aquarius’ we have the opportunity to push some new boundaries to give our audience something no broadcast network has done before,” Greenblatt said a year ago. “We are fully aware how audiences want to consume multiple episodes of new television series faster and at their own discretion.” However, months later Greenblatt appeared to backpedal on binge viewing following reported affiliate backlash to the concept. Although NBC said 90% of viewers watched “Aquarius” via broadcast, affiliates said binge viewing undermined efforts to generate ad revenue on a weekly basis.

“[Binge viewing] is not going to become standard practice for the network," Greenblatt told the Television Critics Association.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In the push toward digital distribution, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is taking a virtual approach. The studio is offering 100 films in its library for rent or purchase through Oculus Video, a new virtual reality cinema platform from the company that created the Oculus Rift system.

Movies on the service include Birdman, Alien, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Cast Away and Die Hard. Other Fox titles going virtual include Gone Girl, Life of Pi, Taken, The Maze Runner, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, 28 Days Later, Black Swan, Predator, Office Space and Walk the Line.

A mainstay in video games, virtual reality is just one concept at Fox Innovation Lab, an initiative whereby Fox and tech companies work together to enhance the consumer experience of content through TVs, consumer electronics and mobile devices.

"VR cinema is a new way of presenting our movies, and has the opportunity to bring in mass market consumers to virtual reality," said Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The studio, which cut its VR teeth on a special feature accompanying Reese Witherspoon’s Wild Blu-ray Disc release, last fall bowed “The Martian VR Experience,” a 20-minute interactive feature that enabled viewers (with VR headgear) to experience Mars and similar challenges confronted by Matt Damon’s stranded astronaut character in Oscar-nominated The Martian.

“It is a new platform and could be a new form of media,” Dunn told The Financial Times. “We didn’t want this to be a marketing tool. We want it to be a commercial endeavor that we can sell. In order to do that consumers have to want to use it again and again.”

Sling TV

Sling TV last month beta-launched a new streaming service that enables subscribers to watch live and on-demand content on up to three separate devices. Currently, Sling TV subs can stream content on one device at a time. The new option includes programming from Fox Networks Group, AMC Networks, A&E, HBO, Turner, Scripps, Epix and Univision. The multi-stream option includes access to $5 monthly channel add-ons, including “Hollywood Extra,” “Lifestyle Extra,” “World News Extra,” HBO and Cinemax. Existing Sling subs can trial the program free for seven days.

Dish Network-owned Sling TV in 2015 became the first online skinny-TV bundle, offering 20 pay-TV channels, including ESPN, Disney, AMC, TNT and HGTV, among others. The SVOD service said it saw a 1,140% year-over-year viewership increase during the recent NCAA men’s college basketball national championship tournament.

“Since launch, our customers have asked for more channels and multiple streams. We believe our new multi-stream service … is the first step in answering their requests,” Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV, said in a statement. “We look forward to incorporating our customers’ feedback throughout the beta phase as we evolve the multi-stream service to include additional channels, features and functionality.”

And in a switch, Sling subs can soon use their credentials to authenticate Dish TV Everywhere apps Fox Now, FXNow, Fox Sports Go and Nat Geo TV. The pay-TV industry heretofore has sought (with middling success) to leverage TV Everywhere as an antidote to subscription streaming — notably Netflix. Fox is now using Sling TV to validate TV Everywhere.

“This flexible platform … reflects our commitment to providing the consumer with a better and more seamless TV experience,” said Randy Freer, Fox Networks Group COO.

To Dish CEO Charlie Ergen, Sling TV represents legitimate ad-supported competition to subscription streaming. He said Sling TV provides an alternative to content providers to lure incremental subscribers and get involved in an advertising model that's more lucrative than linear TV.

“The lifecycle of a [pay-TV] customer today is less than it was three years ago. We take an approach [with Sling TV] that we think is more economical … and offers alternatives,” Ergen said. “We give people the ability to binge-view on all of their devices with less advertising [but with] more meaningful [targeted] commercials. It ends up a way for content providers to put the [OTT video] genie back in the bottle from a value proposition.”

Paramount Pictures

In a move underscoring the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape, Paramount Pictures, AMC Theatres and Cineplex Entertainment last summer launched a first-of-its-kind in-theater and digital revenue-sharing initiative that redefined home digital distribution windowing. Under the agreement, Paramount releases are made available for digital purchase 17 days after the film dipped below 300 domestic theaters. In effect, consumers for the first time had retail access to theatrical movies still showing in theaters. AMC, Cineplex and other exhibitors received a percentage of digital revenue for 90 days from the initial U.S. theatrical release, with each exhibitor’s share proportional to its theatrical gross market share.

Paramount, which corporate parent Viacom is selling a minority stake in, announced the move was an effort to work with exhibitors both to grow revenue in a rapidly evolving entertainment environment and to maintain the value of exhibition and  acknowledge the role of exhibitors in the larger distribution cycle.

“Movie-lovers want us to respond and meet their desires. Exhibitors want to keep their businesses strong. Filmmakers want us to put a premium on the theatrical experience and optimize consumer access to their creations. Our hope and intent is that this initiative offers a degree of innovation that benefits all parties,” Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, said in a statement.

While the studio said the strategy “responds to consumer desires for earlier digital access” and piracy, it is no secret studios and theater operators are reacting to Netflix, which is releasing theatrical titles day-and-date with streaming access.

Grey said Paramount designed the plan after analyzing the performance of its recent film slate against metrics related to length of time in wide release, piracy activity and sales across windowing periods.

Gerry Lopez, CEO of AMC Theatres, said the strategy allowed theaters to engage with consumers throughout the lifecycle of films and meet studio needs while reducing the piracy window.

“This model aligns the interests of consumers, filmmakers and exhibitors to maximize the theatrical experience first and then enables legitimate digital access,” he said.

Cloud Storage

Movie studios, in an effort to boost content ownership, have been marketing Digital HD touting early retail availability with cloud-based storage and ubiquitous access through UltraViolet and other platforms.

To get consumers to buy 4K Ultra HD movies, TV shows and other content online, the Secure Content Storage Association (SCSA) disclosed specs for “Vidity,” a technology that allows consumers to move their video content to all their devices.

Founded by 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, SanDisk and Western Digital, Vidity enables playback of 4K Ultra HD, with support for high dynamic range, and HD movies across multiple devices.

“Once you buy the title, you have full control over that purchase,” said David Huerta, GM of the SCSA.

Disney has been proactive through its Disney Movies Anywhere platform that enables consumers to purchase digital titles through iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Google Play and Microsoft Video. In addition to bowing apps for Amazon (including Fire TV) and Microsoft (including Xbox), Disney Movies Anywhere launched on Roku and Android TV.

The moves were significant since both Amazon Instant Video and Microsoft Video do not support UltraViolet.

Warner Bros. — a supporter of UltraViolet — is trying to link UV and Disney Movies Anywhere, CEO Kevin Tsujihara told an investor group last year. He said the fact Disney movies are digitally separate from the rest of the industry is problematic to consumers and the growth of electronic sellthrough.

While digital sales of movies increased 50% in 2013, growth slowed to 30% in 2014 and 2015, which Tsujihara said is not enough to offset declining disc sales.

“It would be my goal to bridge [UltraViolet] with what Disney is doing, so the consumer doesn’t have to guess is that a Disney movie, or is that a Fox, Sony, Paramount, Universal or Warner Bros. movie?” he said.

The executive said Disney and other studios could maintain separate retail platforms while combining cloud-based functionality on the backend. Combining user data between UltraViolet and Disney would help the industry grow digital content sales.

The amalgamation of platforms underscores Warner’s strategy of upping focus on digital distribution of content in home entertainment as a means of growing margins. Tsujihara contends digital sales don’t have to surpass physical. Even at a 50/50 split, digital’s higher margins would more than offset physical while impacting the bottom line.

“People will still buy movies,” Tsujihara said.

To buttress its Digital HD platform, Comcast in April announced that it had entered into a content licensing agreement with Walt Disney Studios to offer digital library titles and new releases, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, through its Xfinity On Demand digital store.

Under the deal, Comcast joined Disney Movies Anywhere as a participating retailer. Over the coming weeks, a selection of new releases and classic films from Disney will be available for purchase, contingent on license terms, and can be accessed through the cloud. The collection will include Disney franchises such as "Pirates of the Caribbean," Pixar’s "Toy Story" movies and Finding Nemo, as well as Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen.

Through the Xfinity On Demand digital store, Xfinity TV customers have the ability to purchase movies and television shows — often weeks before they are available to rent or purchase on Blu-ray Disc and DVD — stored in the cloud.


Google-owned YouTube reportedly is readying an online TV service aimed at joining the Sling, Vue and Spectrum bandwagon. Dubbed “Unplugged,” the $35 service would offer requisite pay-TV channels, in addition to variations of its well-entrenched video platform.

YouTube Red, Google’s foray into a standalone subscription streaming business model, bowed in February featuring several of its proprietary Internet stars.

YouTube Red, which created the go-to platform for user-generated video, original content includes "A Trip to Unicorn Island," a documentary showcasing the life and journey of YouTube star Lilly Singh as she embarks on a 26-city global tour preaching happiness is the only thing worth fighting for.

Created by AwesomenessTV, "Dance Camp" is a story of unlikely friendships, unleashing passions and discovering oneself all through the power of dance. "Lazer Team" is an action-comedy featuring four small-town losers who stumble upon an alien ship carrying a mysterious cargo, leading to a battle to save Earth from an all-powerful enemy.

Swedish comedian and producer Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (a.k.a. "PewDiePie"), who is best-known for his “Let’s Play” commentaries and vlogs, stars in "Scare PewDiePie," a reality-adventure series featuring thrills, chills and laughter as PewDiePie encounters terrifying situations inspired by his favorite video games.

“The diverse, dynamic creators behind these films have already built massive audiences on YouTube, rivaling many cable shows," Susanne Daniels, global head of original content at YouTube, wrote in a blog.


AT&T, which last year purchased satellite operator DirecTV, acquired Quickplay Media to backend rollout of streaming video platforms under the DirecTV brand.

The telecom said it would offer three streaming options (via apps), including DirecTV Now, featuring on-demand and live programming from numerous networks, plus premium add-on options such as HBO Now and Showtime OTT.

DirecTV Mobile targets those consuming video on a smartphone, regardless of the wireless provider. Ad-supported DirecTV Preview features select DirecTV programming, in addition to millennial-focused video from Otter Media, a joint venture of AT&T and The Chernin Group.

Otter Media in April launched Fullscreen, a $4.99 subscription streaming service targeting the 13- to 30-year-old mobile audience. Created by CEO George Strompolos, Fullscreen features more than 800 hours of content and will be available at www.fullscreen.com and via apps on iPhone, iPad, select Android phones and Chromecast.

AT&T delivers more than 60 million streams and downloads to its pay-TV subscribers each month. Streaming video represents more than 60% of AT&T’s network traffic.

“It’s an opportunity to start pulling folks who haven’t moved into subscriber video services into subscriber video services,” said John Stankey, CEO of AT&T Entertainment Group.

The services would be similar to Dish Network’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Charter Communication’s Spectrum TV Plus. Launched last year, these services became the first Web-based platforms offering pay-TV channels such as ESPN, CNN, HBO, AMC Networks, TNT, Showtime and TBS without a traditional pay-TV subscription.

“These offers will provide a broad range of customers with greater freedom and choice to watch, binge and even buy premium content, regardless of how and where they enjoy their entertainment,” said Stankey.


Crackle, Sony’s ad-supported streaming video service, in April announced it would offer original content on Comcast Cable’s Xfinity on Demand. The deal is Crackle’s first content distribution agreement with a cable operator.

“Now, viewers will be able to access Crackle’s original programming on demand, without having to leave their set-top box environment,” Eric Berger, EVP of digital networks for Sony Pictures Television, and GM of Crackle, said in a statement.

Crackle’s original long-form content will also be available for TV Everywhere viewing with an Internet connection via the Xfinity TV app and website. Original programming includes Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”; animated series “SuperMansion,” starring and executive produced by Bryan Cranston; scripted drama “The Art of More,” starring Dennis Quaid, Kate Bosworth, Cary Elwes and Christian Cooke; “Sports Jeopardy!” with Dan Patrick; and Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, among others.

“We are continually expanding our on-demand content offering and Crackle’s growing portfolio of high-quality original series is a unique and valuable addition to our Xfinity On Demand platform,” said Franz Kurath, VP of content acquisition for Comcast Cable.

Separately, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment launched a 4K Ultra HD movie streaming service. Called ULTRA and powered by the Sony Pictures Store, it is available on Sony 4K Ultra HD TVs with Android TV.

The service is also compatible with UltraViolet, and users will be able to link their ULTRA profiles to their existing UltraViolet libraries and stream content they already bought or redeemed through UV-compatible retailers, such as Vudu or the Sony Pictures Store.

“ULTRA takes advantage of the latest industry innovations — 4K resolution, high dynamic range, a wider color spectrum, digital movie extras and UltraViolet interoperability — so viewers get the most out of their televisions and their movie collections,” said Jake Winett, VP of consumer services and advanced platforms at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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