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Disney+ Launch Marred by Glitches as Demand Overwhelms

Phillip Dampier November 12, 2019 Consumer News, Disney+, Online Video, Reuters No Comments

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co said demand for its much-anticipated streaming service, Disney+, was well above its expectations in a launch on Tuesday marred by complaints from users about glitches and connection problems.

Disney+ is relying on its extensive library of movies and TV shows as well as a new slate of content to take on market leader Netflix Inc and Apple TV+, Apple Inc’s newly launched streaming service.

Disney shares were up about 2%, while Netflix was down 1%.

“The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our highest expectations. …we are aware of the current user issues and are working to swiftly resolve them,” Disney said in a statement.

Some users who tried to access the service were greeted by an image of “Mickey Mouse” on a blue screen, with a message asking them to exit the app and try again. Many others had trouble finding the Disney+ app in Apple’s App Store.

It was not immediately clear how many users were affected by the outage.

“Not too surprised but @disneyplus looks like it’s already falling over. On FireTV Stick can’t load main page (Unable to connect to Disney+) and couldn’t play The Mandalorian (some account issue),” user @pmhesse here tweeted.

“The Mandalorian,” the latest in the “Star Wars” movie and TV franchise, is an eight-episode live-action series which stars “Game of Thrones” actor Pedro Pascal as a helmeted bounty hunter.

“While it’s easy to focus on the temporary problems, there’s no doubt that this also shows an enormous demand for Disney’s services,” said Clement Thibault, an analyst at financial markets platform Investing.com.

“Big launches often have their hiccups when consumers are fighting to be the first to have a given service.”

Users who accessed Disney+ were upbeat about content from the Marvel superhero universe, the “Star Wars” galaxy, “Toy Story” creator Pixar Animation and the National Geographic.

“Today is the perfect day to just stay home all day on my couch in my PJ’s binging all of my favorite Disney movies on #DisneyPlus,” tweeted @JulieDwoskin.

Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Arun Koyyur

Analyst Predicts More Streaming TV Providers Will Close as Programming Prices Soar

The era of fierce competition among live streamed video providers that has fueled cord-cutting will face new challenges as providers cope with rising programming costs and some may exit the business.

Last week, Sony’s PlayStation Vue announced it was planning to cease service in early 2020 because it was not profitable for the game console manufacturer. But Cowen analyst Gregory Williams believes it won’t be the last to close its doors.

Williams told Multichannel News that despite the growing phenomenon of cord-cutting, new streaming subscriptions are slowing down as subscribers choose between a half-dozen major services that are all raising prices, including AT&T TV Now, fuboTV, Hulu Live TV, Philo, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. Williams called the current marketplace for streaming services irrational in the business sense, because providers are at the mercy of programmers that are continuing to raise wholesale prices.

Another serious problem is price disparity. Programmers offer huge volume discounts to large cable, satellite, and telco TV providers, charging smaller streaming services considerably more. That could eventually bring streaming subscription prices to parity with the same traditional cable and satellite providers many consumers left looking for a better deal.

Most streaming TV providers have built business models on slimmed-down packages of channels, rejecting the difficult-to-negotiate a-la-carte “choose your own channels” model many customers have been asking for since the days of 100 channel cable TV lineups. As a result, consumers are still paying for lots of channels they do not watch or want, and as subscription costs advance beyond the $50 a month many services are now charging for a healthy package of most popular cable and broadcast networks, some subscribers may end up going back to their old providers.

Ironically, one of the few a-la-carte providers available is a very large cable company you may already know. Charter’s Spectrum has been quietly selling TV Choice, a package of 10 ‘you-pick’ networks (mostly a part of Spectrum’s Standard TV package) combined with C-SPAN, public, educational, and government access channels, home shopping, and local over-the-air stations, to its internet-only customers for $24.95 a month (not including a $6/mo Broadcast TV Fee and an extra $4.95 a month for a cloud-based DVR service). The resulting bill of around $35-40 a month is at least $10 less than many streaming service providers that may not offer the exact channel lineup you are looking for.

The closest alternative is Sling TV, which has very slim packages of networks in three different configurations, ranging from $15-25 a month. But chances are, some channels you watch won’t be included.

Williams predicts that just three to five services will survive the consolidation wave or exit that is expected to be triggered by Sony’s decision to leave the marketplace. The services most vulnerable are likely those lacking a deep-pocketed, healthy corporate backer or those with the least market share.

An executive for one of PlayStation Vue’s rivals told Multichannel News Sony faced platform costs that “were simply too high.” Sony paid broadcast retransmission consent fees to local stations in every market the service was offered and also licensed popular, but very expensive regional sports channels. Sony also outsourced its streaming technology to Disney-owned BAMTech, among the more expensive platform providers.

Sony Shutting Down PlayStation Vue Streaming TV Service

Sony is throwing in the towel on its streaming TV service, PlayStation Vue, with the announcement the service will close down early next year.

“Today we are announcing that we will shut down the PlayStation Vue service on January 30, 2020. Unfortunately, the highly competitive Pay TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected. Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core gaming business,” the company said on its blog.

PlayStation Vue debuted over four years ago, but was immediately met with two difficulties that proved insurmountable:

  1. Many wrongly believed the service was only available to those owning a PlayStation gaming console. While there are over 100 million PlayStation 4 units in use today, a significant number of cord-cutters do not own any gaming console and thought that put PlayStation Vue out of reach.
  2. Sony has no ties to other TV providers, making it impossible to get the kinds of volume discounts available to large satellite, telco TV, and cable operators. As the costs of video programming continue to increase, PlayStation Vue losses widened for Sony and left customers looking for savings off a traditional cable TV bill frustrated by increasing rates for streaming providers. PlayStation Vue hiked rates $5 a month last July, reaching $50 a month, and it was clear more rate hikes would be needed in the future.

PlayStation Vue was always a money loser for Sony and reportedly has around 500,000 subscribers — a relatively small number in comparison to services like Sling and AT&T TV Now. Within the last week, reports leaked out that Sony was looking for a buyer for PlayStation Vue, but apparently could not find one that met the company’s terms. Sony is under pressure by Wall Street activist investor Daniel Loeb, who wants the company to restructure and eliminate money-losing services like PlayStation Vue to boost Sony’s stock price.

PlayStation Vue primarily offered live feeds of linear TV channels. Linear TV viewing is on the decline as viewers increasingly move towards on-demand viewing and services like Netflix and Hulu that deliver plenty of that content at a much lower cost.

SiriusXM Hiking Rates Nov. 13; Satellite Radio Monopoly Makes Rate Increases Easy

Phillip Dampier October 24, 2019 Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, SiriusXM 4 Comments

The satellite and app-based radio service SiriusXM has announced a broad-based rate increase for its customers that will take effect Nov. 13, 2019. Most customers will see a rate hike of $1 per month.

The company made the announcement with little fanfare, announcing the rate changes in private e-mails sent to customers.

Sirius and XM Radio used to be separate, competing satellite radio services. But in the waning days of the George W. Bush Administration, regulators approved a merger between the two entities after a 57-week review process, establishing a satellite radio monopoly.

The Bush Justice Department approved the Sirius and XM Radio merger on March 24, 2008, after being persuaded that satellite radio faced significant competition from traditional AM and FM radio, online streaming services, and the growing use of MP3 players. The FCC under Chairman Kevin Martin followed with a 3-2 approval on a party-line vote favoring the Republican commissioners. Martin said the internet delivered all the competition a combined SiriusXM could handle.

“The merger is in the public interest and will provide consumers with greater flexibility and choices,” Martin said of the merger at the time.

Martin’s predictions turned out to be largely untrue, as the combined company quickly merged into a single satellite radio service, began a series of rate increases, and faced the wrath of state attorneys general for its poor customer service and difficulty processing subscriber cancellations. For years as competing providers, Sirius and XM charged $12.99 a month, with substantial discounts for customers agreeing to multiple-month subscriptions. Lifetime subscriptions were also available. As of November 11th, the most popular subscription options — XM Select will cost $16.99/mo and XM All Access will cost $21.99/mo.

SiriusXM also now charges a range of fees customers may face:

  • Activation Fee: For each radio on your account, SiriusXM may charge a fee to activate, reactivate, upgrade or modify your subscription package.
  • U.S. Music Royalty Fee: Package pricing does not include the U.S. Music Royalty Fee, now 21.4% of the price of most audio packages which include music channels.
  • Invoice Administration Fee: If you request to receive a paper invoice, SiriusXM will charge you an invoice administration fee on each paper invoice rendered, except where prohibited.
  • Late Fee: If payment is not received in a timely manner, a late fee may apply.
  • Returned Payment Fee: If any financial institution or credit card refuses to honor your payment, a fee may be charged.
  • A La Carte Channel Change Fee: If you have an “A La Carte” Package, for each subsequent transaction to change your initial channel selections, you may be charged a fee.
  • Transfer Fee: If you transfer a Subscription from one radio to another you may be charged a transfer fee.
  • Cancellation Fee: Cancellation fees may be applied to Subscriptions activated in combination with a device purchased directly from SiriusXM.

SiriusXM customers can always get a much lower rate by threatening to cancel service. To cancel, call 1-866-635-2349 Monday through Friday 8:00 AM through 10:00 PM, ET, Saturday and Sunday 8:00 AM through 8:00 PM, ET. Tell the representative you are canceling because the service costs too much. You should be offered a retention rate of $30-35 for the next 5-6 months of service or around $60-100 a year (the lower end for Select, the higher end for All-Access). Just set a calendar reminder to repeat the cancellation threat a week or two before your retention rate is scheduled to expire and you can usually get that offer renewed. Note that the Music Royalty Fee will continue to be charged separately. A credit card is often required to get retention pricing, and service will automatically rebill at the prevailing rate after the promotional rate expires.

November 13, 2019 SiriusXM Subscription Rate Change

When will the subscription rates change? 

For packages that are impacted by the rate adjustment, the new subscription rates will be effective November 13, 2019. The new rates will apply to subscription purchases made on and after that date, or renewals of existing subscriptions that are processed on and after that date.

Which packages will be impacted by the rate change on November 13, 2019?

The standard monthly rates for Select, Select Family Friendly, All Access, All Access Family Friendly, Premier, Premier Family Friendly packages will increase. The standard monthly rates for A La Carte, A La Carte + Howard, A La Carte + Sports, A La Carte + Howard + Sports, and A La Carte Gold packages will increase.

The standard monthly rates for additional radios that are eligible for the Family Discount for these same packages will also increase.

By how much will the rates change?

The standard monthly rates for Select, Select Family Friendly, All Access, All Access Family Friendly, Premier, Premier Family Friendly packages, and A La Carte packages for a primary radio will increase by $1 per month. The standard rates for additional radios that are eligible for the Family Discount will also increase by $1 per month.

Which packages or plans are not impacted by the November 13, 2019 rate change?

The standard rate adjustment does not apply to the following packages: SiriusXM Premier Streaming, SiriusXM Essential Streaming, Mostly Music, News, Sports & Talk, Basic, Basic Plus, Español, Español Plus, MiRGE All-in-One, Traffic, and Travel Link, as well as Aviation weather packages.

My current subscription plan does not renew until November 13, 2019 or later. When will I be billed at the new rates?

You will be billed the new rate the next time your plan renews on and after November 13, 2019.

I have a plan for the Lifetime of my radio. Does the rate adjustment on November 13, 2019 impact the Lifetime plan?

No. Lifetime plans are not impacted by the rate adjustment.

Will the rate adjustment affect my trial subscription?

No. Trial subscriptions are not impacted by the rate adjustment.

I’m still on a trial subscription but I’ve already ordered a new subscription that will start when my trial subscription ends. Will you charge me the new rate?

If you have already purchased a Select, Select Family Friendly, All Access, All Access Family Friendly, Premier, Premier Family Friendly, or A La Carte package in a plan that will start when your trial ends (or if you purchase it before November 13, 2019), you will be charged the current rates for your first billing period, even if your trial does not end until after November 13, 2019. Then, whenever your plan bills again, you will be charged the new rates (or the rates in effect at that time) for those packages.

Examples:

If you chose a monthly billing plan to follow your trial, the first month will not be impacted by the adjustment. The new rates will apply to the second and subsequent months of your plan.
If you chose a quarterly billing plan to follow your trial, the first three months of your service will be at the current rates. You will not be billed at the new rate until your plan bills again (after the first three months).

Will the subscription rates for my ‘infotainment’ services from SiriusXM, such as traffic, Travel Link, Aviation, or Marine weather change on November 13, 2019?

The rates for traffic, Travel Link, and Aviation services will not change on November 13, 2019. The rates for Marine packages will change on November 13, 2019.

If I subscribe to one of the packages impacted by the rate adjustment, will you notify me before my subscription rate changes?

Yes, if we have valid contact information on your account, we sent or will send a notification to you by mail or email, before your plan bills or renews. This might be a good time to visit the Online Account Center to make sure your contact information is correct. If you have never before visited your online account, you will need to go through a short registration process before you can access your account.

When will the subscription rates for Marine weather change?

The new subscription rates will be effective November 13, 2019 for packages impacted by the rate adjustment. The new rates will apply to subscription purchases made on and after that date, or renewals of existing subscriptions that are processed on and after that date.

Which Marine weather packages will be impacted by the rate change on November 13, 2019?

The standard monthly subscription rates for all SiriusXM (Inland, Coastal, and Offshore), XM (Skywatch, Fisherman, Sailor, Master Mariner) and Sirius (Inland, Mariner, Charter) will increase.

How much will the rates change?

Effective November 13, 2019:

  • The standard rate for SiriusXM Marine Inland and Sirius Inland subscription packages will increase by $2 per month.
  • The standard rate for SiriusXM Marine Coastal and Offshore, XM Skywatch, Fisherman, and Sailor, and Sirius Marine and Charter subscription packages will increase by $5 per month.
  • The standard rate for XM Marine Master Mariner subscription packages will increase by $10 per month.
  • The standard rate for Sirius Marine Voyager subscription with Select, All Access, and Premier packages will increase by $1 per month.

My current Marine weather subscription plan does not renew until November 13, 2019 or later. When will I be billed at the new rates?

You will be billed the new rate the next time your plan renews on and after November 13, 2019.

Verizon Customers Get a Year of Disney+ for Free

Phillip Dampier October 22, 2019 Competition, Consumer News, Disney+, Online Video, Verizon No Comments

Some Verizon customers can receive 12 free months of Disney+, starting Nov. 12.

All Verizon Wireless Unlimited customers, new FiOS Home Internet, and 5G Home Internet customers qualify for the offer.

Customers must enroll for the offer between Nov. 12, 2019 and June 1, 2020. One subscription per account. Must be 18 years of age or older and a legal U.S. resident. After the 12-month promotional period, customers will be charged the prevailing subscription rate of $6.99+tax/month until canceled. Charges will be billed to your Verizon account. For New Mexico residents, Disney+ ends automatically after 12 months. Verizon is not zero-rating Disney+ usage, so it will count towards your total data usage.

Customers can get more information here: http://verizon.com/disneyplus.

The deal with Disney+ is an exclusive among U.S. wireless carriers. The Wall Street Journal reports under the latest agreement, Disney and Verizon will share the cost of providing the content to the carrier’s subscribers, according to a person familiar with the arrangement.

“Giving Verizon customers an unprecedented offer and access to Disney+ on the platform of their choice is yet another example of our commitment to provide the best premium content available through key partnerships on behalf of our customers,” said Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg. “Our work with Disney extends beyond Disney+ as we bring the power of 5G Ultra Wideband technology to the entertainment industry through exciting initiatives with Disney Innovation Studios and in the parks.”

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