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Roku Removes Spectrum TV App from Its Channel Store Over Contract Dispute

Phillip Dampier December 14, 2020 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Online Video 12 Comments

The next generation of retransmission consent wars is here, as programmers and cable operators do battle with set-top box companies that increasingly seek compensation to allow content on their hardware platforms.

Once again, Roku has triggered a dispute after Charter Communications turned down a contract renewal offer permitting Charter’s Spectrum TV app in Roku’s Channel Store. The app allows customers to stream Spectrum’s cable TV lineup over Roku. Existing users tell Stop the Cap! that the app disappeared from the Channel Store, but previously installed versions still work over Roku. The problem, readers tell us, is there is no way to install or reinstall it on new Roku devices.

Charter noted the issue in a new support article explaining why the app disappeared:

Despite our best efforts to reach an agreement, Roku has not accepted Spectrum’s offer to continue our contract, which allowed customers to access the Spectrum TV app from Roku devices.

This change may prevent new downloads of the Spectrum TV app to your Roku device, but you can still access your full video library by downloading the Spectrum TV app to your Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV, Xbox, smartphone or tablet.

If you already use the Spectrum TV app on Roku, your service shouldn’t be affected.

Be sure not to uninstall the app, but you can still add devices by signing in to your current account.

If you’re new to Roku, or if you have not yet downloaded the app, you can still access Spectrum programming on another device, or use your smartphone or laptop to screen mirror Spectrum content to your Roku TV.

Find out more about using the Spectrum TV app, or get help to troubleshoot common concerns.

Roku defended its decision but also admitted it now expects compensation from certain providers in return for allowing their apps on Roku’s Channel Store.

“As America’s #1 streaming platform we are committed to providing access to amazing streaming content at an exceptional value for our users,” Roku said in a statement. “Our contract with Charter for the distribution of the Spectrum TV [app] on the Roku platform expired and we are working together to reach a positive and mutually beneficial distribution agreement. All existing customers can continue to use the Charter app while we work together on a renewal.”

Roku’s willingness to battle with programmers became apparent this year as the company continued to keep HBO Max off of its platform. Other programmers that saw their apps temporarily blocked or unsupported include AT&T TV, FOX, and Comcast’s Peacock.

 

T-Mobile Introduces New Suite of Cord-Cutter Streaming TV Options Starting at $10/Month

After months of testing, T-Mobile’s streaming TV service TVision will debut for some existing T-Mobile wireless customers on Nov. 1, with three packages starting at $10/month.

Although late to the already-competitive cord-cutting streaming TV marketplace, T-Mobile hopes to shake up the market with more choices and, in some cases, lower pricing.

“People sure love TV — but they sure don’t love their TV provider,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said during a livestream previewing the TVision service. Sievert claimed the cable and satellite TV customers are fed up being ‘held hostage’ by programming lineup choices made by everyone but the customer, leaving consumers with costly bundles containing “live news and sports with hundreds of other channels you don’t want. Get ready to un-cable, everybody.”

The service will initially be available Nov. 1, but only to T-Mobile postpaid wireless customers. By the end of November, Sprint postpaid customers will also be invited to sign up. Prepaid T-Mobile and Sprint customers are expected to have access to the service sometime in 2021, along with those who do not have a T-Mobile or Sprint account. Non-customers will pay an undetermined surcharge.

TVision’s Android TV device, with remote control.

Details:

TVision will be available for streaming through apps on iOS, Android/Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. It is currently not available on the Roku platform. Customers can also purchase a TVision Hub, a $50 Android TV device that plugs into an HDMI port on the back of your television to bring the streaming service to traditional television sets, along with a platform to use over 8,000 apps that already work with Android TV, including competing streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and CBS All Access.

Special Offer:

New customers who sign up for Live TV Plus or Live Zone by Dec. 31, 2020 will receive 12 months of free Apple TV Plus service and an $80 rebate offer for the Apple TV 4K set-top box (retails at $179, but will cost $99 after rebate).

Available Packages:

T-Mobile’s philosophy is that customers want to choose between packages containing general entertainment fare, news and sports, local TV, and premium channels. The more categories you want, the higher the price. If you want all four, you are likely going to pay pricing rivaling what you already pay your current provider. True, a-la-carte packages allowing customers to select specific channels is not available. T-Mobile currently has no agreement with CBS, so this means CBS network programming and local affiliates are not accessible on TVision at this time. The three higher priced Live packages include 100 hours of DVR cloud-based recording.

TVision Vibe (general entertainment) ($10/mo for 30 channels, up to 2 concurrent streams): AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BBC World News, BET, BET Her, CMT, Comedy Central, Discovery, DIY, Food Network, HGTV, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Hallmark Drama, IFC, ID, MotorTrend, MTV, MTV Classic, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, OWN, Paramount Network, Sundance, Teen Nick, TLC, Travel Channel, TV Land, WEtv

TVision Live (emphasizing live news and local stations) ($40/mo for 30+ channels, up to 3 concurrent streams) Does not include networks from the Vibe package, which has to be purchased separately): ABC*, ABC News Live, Bravo, CNBC, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, CNN, Cozi TV, Disney Channel, Disney Jr., Disney XD, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox*, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, Freeform, FS1, FS2, FX, FXX, HLN, MSNBC, National Geographic, NBC*, NBC News Now, NBC Sports Network, Oxygen, Syfy, TBS, Telemundo*, TNT, truTV, USA

TVision Live Plus (enhances live sports options) ($50/mo for 40+ channels, up to 3 concurrent streams): Includes all channels from TVision Live package plus ACC Network, Big Ten Network, ESPNews, ESPNU, ESPN College Extra, FXM, Longhorn Network*, NatGeo Wild, NBC regional sports networks*, NECN*, NFL Network, Olympic Channel, SEC Network, SNY*, TCM, Golf Channel

TVision Live Zone (brings even more live sports and Spanish language networks) ($60/mo for 50+ channels, up to 3 concurrent streams): Includes all channels from TVision Live Plus package plus Boomerang, CNBC World, ESPN Deportes, Fox Deportes, NFL RedZone, Universal Kids, Universo, MavTV

A-la-carte premium channels:

  • Starz ($8.99 per month): 28 channels
  • Showtime ($10.99 per month): 16 channels
  • Epix ($5.99 per month): 4 channels

(*-may not be available in all TV markets. For exact TV lineup in your area, visit here.)

T-Mobile’s CEO Mike Sievert announces TVision, the company’s new streaming TV service. (3:19)

Streaming Flop Quibi Closing Down After Burning Through $1.75 Billion of Investors’ Money

Phillip Dampier October 21, 2020 Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

Quibi is closing down its streaming service in the next several weeks, sources told the Wall Street Journal this afternoon, after spending $1.75 billion of investors’ money and attracting few subscribers and a lawsuit.

The service, founded by Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, never found a footing in the highly competitive streaming business, and has been plagued with problems since its April debut. Katzenberg envisioned the service as a home for short-form video entertainment — typically 5-10 minute chapters of professionally produced shows, designed to be watched by people on the go. Quibi was specifically developed for smartphone viewing, which meant producers had to create shows specifically for small screens. For technical reasons, Quibi was difficult to view in-home.

Katzenberg argued the service would fill a streaming niche for people looking for short video fixes instead of long form programming, arguing highly produced shows would attract a different audience than amateur short-form clips from services like YouTube.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, forcing most would-be Quibi subscribers into home lockdown for school and work. It could not have come at a worse time for Quibi. Soon after debuting, scathing reviews about the quality of some Quibi productions were also published, further deterring would-be customers.

Quibi’s advertising partners, which included Pepsi and Walmart, were patient with the service, but after six months of low viewer numbers, many advertisers began deferring payments on their combined commitment of $150 million in advertising.

Also in early March, a patent infringement lawsuit over Quibi’s Turnstyle feature, which lets viewers watch video horizontally or vertically on their devices and rotate between those positions without disrupting the experience, was filed by Eko, which claimed it invented and patented the technology and saw its work stolen by Quibi employees. Although Quibi won a motion to limit the lawsuit, litigation was expected to continue in a California court.

Over the summer, media reports noted 90% of free trial subscribers canceled their subscription before charges began, revealing Quibi had just 72,000 paid subscribers willing to spend $4.99 a month, a fraction of the tens of millions of subscribers other streaming platforms have attracted.

The Journal reported on Wednesday that Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg called investors to tell them he is shutting the service down. A restructuring firm hired to examine options for the streaming platform reportedly made several recommendations to Quibi’s board of directors, but it seems a complete shutdown was chosen as the best option.

Peacock Launches on Roku After NBCUniversal Reaches Agreement

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2020 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Peacock 1 Comment

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service app is now finally available on Roku devices and Roku-enabled televisions, almost 10 weeks after the new streaming service launched.

Peacock’s appearance on Roku came after NBCUniversal and Roku reached a deal guaranteeing NBCU’s networks (and corresponding apps for 11 NBCU networks, 12 NBCU-owned local stations, and 23 Telemundo-owned local stations) will remain available on the Roku platform and in return, Roku will support Peacock. The deal was seen as crucial by analysts, because Roku has an installed user base of over 43 million accounts, with an estimated 100 million viewers in households across the country.

“We are pleased that NBC agreed to a very positive and mutually beneficial partnership to bring Peacock to America’s No. 1 streaming platform,” said Tedd Cittadine, Roku’s vice president of content acquisition. “We are excited by the opportunities to integrate NBC content within the Roku Channel while we also work together with Peacock on the development of a significant and meaningful advertising and ad tech partnership. This is a great outcome for consumers and we look forward to growing together with Peacock as they bring their incredible content to the Roku platform.”

Roku is also pleased whenever a significant content provider signs a deal with the company. Roku traditionally takes a 20% cut of all subscription revenue when a customer signs up for a service on the Roku platform. It receives at least 30% of the advertising time on free streaming services, allowing Roku to sell advertising and keep the money. NBCU appeared to be reluctant to accept those terms, and that is likely what caused the delay in debuting Peacock on Roku. Neither party would disclose the terms in the contract. Comcast is the parent company of NBCU.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said last week Peacock had signed up at least 15 million new users over the last two months. But Roberts would not disclose how many were actually paying for the service. Peacock’s free, ad-supported tier offers over 13,000 hours of classic and current NBC programs, including entertainment, news, and sports. A small catalog of original series and other premium content is also available for $4.99 a month (or $49.99/yr), and users who want it all — without ads — can pay $9.99 a month (or $99.99/yr). Roberts likely needs a much larger subscriber base to make Peacock a viable proposition, making its availability on the Roku platform crucial.

Some analysts fear carriage disputes like this could open a new front in the “retransmission consent” wars, where national and local networks are blacked out when cable or satellite providers refuse to pay their asking prices. If Roku insists on being compensated in return for making services available in its app store and if content providers cannot reach an agreement, services could suddenly disappear, or never appear at all. HBO Max is still unavailable on Roku because parent company AT&T has yet to sign a contract with Roku, and Peacock remains unavailable on Amazon’s Fire TV platform and Samsung’s Smart TVs.

AT&T Reportedly Looking for a Buyer for DirecTV, But Some Are Skeptical a Deal Can Be Done

Just five years after buying DirecTV for $49 billion, AT&T is looking to sell the satellite TV service after losing over 10 million customers because of repeated price hikes, network blackouts, and the ongoing shift to streaming online video.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that AT&T was in talks with private equity firms, potentially including Apollo Global Management and Platinum Equity about the possibility of acquiring DirecTV and taking the service private.

Regardless of who buys the service, AT&T might lose $30 billion on the five-year-old venture, buying high and selling low at a price that could drop below $20 billion. AT&T is rapidly losing its television customers. More than six million people have dropped TV packages from AT&T’s U-verse TV and satellite provider DirecTV in the last two years. Craig Moffett, an analyst with MoffettNathanson, told the New York Post even at a rumored discount sale price of $20 billion, AT&T may have “overvalued” the “albatross.”

Moffett is skeptical buyers will close a deal, considering AT&T’s remaining 17.7 million television customers are still in the mood to cancel, with an “astounding” 18% of customers leaving each year.

But even with the customer losses, DirecTV moves a lot of money through its operations, making it at least look attractive on certain buyers’ books. DirecTV’s cash flow helped AT&T’s own unimpressive earnings, adding $22 billion to AT&T’s balance sheet since buying the satellite company. A buyout by a private equity firm could further slowly drain DirecTV by saddling it with debt, secured in part by its still healthy cash flow. A buyer could also attract investors by borrowing even more to pay out handsome dividend bonuses. That could leave DirecTV hopelessly hobbled in debt, leaving DirecTV in an “inevitable” position of having to merge with its chief competitor, Dish Network, or face eventual bankruptcy. If that were to happen, rural Americans could face a satellite TV monopoly as their only choice for live video entertainment.

DirecTV customers report innovation at the satellite service seems to have disappeared since AT&T took over. Very little has changed with the service in the past few years, except for AT&T raising prices and getting stingier with promotions. Many rural DirecTV customers still depend on satellite television because of a lack of over the air reception or broadband service. For these customers, saving money on television service means having to bounce back and forth between Dish Network and DirecTV, trying to keep a discounted promotion active on their account. If the two satellite services eventually merge, that will cease.

After AT&T acquired Time Warner (Entertainment), insiders report many of AT&T’s legacy businesses, including DirecTV and U-verse, have become afterthoughts. AT&T’s bigger priorities now lie with its new 5G wireless service and HBO Max, its new online video service. But the company’s most profitable businesses continue to be cell phone service and selling wired broadband internet access, which together now earns the company over $180 billion annually.

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