This week saw new sources of content appear online and over-the-air. Telecom giant AT&T views streaming as the fix for its declining TV business. Now that streaming is definitely a thing, politicians in the US and Canada see companies like Netflix as both targets and opportunities.
Find out about all of this and more in our weekly recap of news for cord-cutters.
Amazon Prime Video added DreamWorksTV to its Amazon Channels program. DreamWorksTV creates kid-friendly content based on DreamWorks assets like Trolls and Puss in Boots. TechCrunch reported that the two companies will take a freemium approach. Amazon Prime members can stream all existing DreamWorksTV content free of charge. Watching new content will require a $5 monthly subscription to the DreamWorksTV Channel.
The horse race between streaming services continued this week as companies released their subscriber numbers. AT&T held an investor call to discuss the company’s financials. As AT&T’s traditional video services lost more subscribers, CEO Randall Stephenson said DirecTV Now would “give us growth.” Variety reported that the streaming service passed the 1.2 million subscriber mark at the end of 2017.
HBO insiders told Reuters that streaming subscriptions drove its better-than-expected quarterly results. A year ago, two million people subscribed to HBO’s streaming service, now it’s five million. Those people get their streams from the HBONow app as well as skinny bundle services like Sling TV and Amazon Prime Video. This news follows on the heels of last week’s insider report of subscriber numbers at YouTube TV (300,000) and Hulu (450,000).
Towards a Better DirecTV Now
Along with the news about DirecTV Now’s subscriber numbers, AT&T executives gave more details about the streaming service’s remodel. As reported by Engadget, the “next gen” DirecTV Now will launch this spring. We’ve talked about DirecTV Now’s lack of features. The changes underway will give cloud DVR and 4K video streams to DirecTV Now customers. That will be the only way America’s second-largest streaming service will survive in a hyper-competitive industry.
Another Streaming Stick
The news kept coming from AT&T as CEO Randall Stephenson teased the release of an AT&T-branded streaming device. He described it as a “very thin hardware client” that would be very “home-centric”. Somehow this is supposed to make DirecTV Now more profitable. Video industry magazine CED found AT&T filings with the FCC that describe an Android TV-powered streaming stick. It will be interesting to see how AT&T differentiates its Android-based device from the millions of Android-based devices streamers already use.
Canada Tackles Streaming
Canadian policy-makers are struggling with the new era of streaming as several reports this week make clear. The country’s media industry has always had to deal with the enormous volume of content coming from its giant neighbor to the south. Streaming cranks that up to 11. The Ottawa Citizen reported on a review of the country’s Broadcasting Act that could subject international streaming services to the same taxes Canadian companies pay.
In an attempt to appease Canadian politicians, Netflix last year committed to spending an extra half-billion dollars on Canadian content. The Globe & Mail described Netflix’s purchase of Canadian zombie flick Les Affamés as the first sign of the company’s search for quality content from the Québécois film industry.
The broader Canadian media industry, along with telecoms and unions, are uniting against video piracy. Narcity reports the coalition has asked the Canadian government to form an “Independent Piracy Review Agency”. The government body would identify websites enabling video piracy and order Canadian ISPs to shut them down.
Netflix and Legislate
It isn’t just Canadian regulators who are eyeing Netflix. The streaming service is a big target in the United States as well. We reported that the Virginia legislature briefly considered — and then shot down — a proposal to tax Netflix and other streaming services. Municipal tax revenue has declined as fewer people use cable. The proposal would have extended the cable tax to internet streaming services.
We also covered news that Tennessee legislators wanted to make Netflix broadcast emergency alerts. The rule would also apply to Hulu and other streaming services. It’s still in the idea stage, but people question the value since alerts go to more ubiquitous smartphones.
Cape Cod Cord Cutting
Try saying that five times fast. Or you could attend a cord-cutting workshop in Cape Cod. According to Cape Cod Today, a bipartisan team of Massachusetts state legislators wants to teach the people of Cape Cod how to save money by canceling their cable subscriptions. The workshops are part of a larger effort by the politicians to make internet delivery more competitive.
What is Your Quest?
A new channel is coming to TV antennas around the country. Quest is an adventure-themed channel that goes live on February 5. The new network will air shows like Storm Chasers and Life After People. TV industry site Broadcast & Cable estimates that more than forty markets will get Quest by the end of February.
No, the Other Football
The week actually saw streaming sports news that wasn’t related to the Super Bowl. As we reported, YouTube TV will televise the Los Angeles Football Club within Los Angeles. Those deals used to go to local TV stations or regional cable networks. Now YouTube TV will be the only way to watch most LAFC games. Not exactly a fan-friendly move.
This comes as Britain’s Premier League prepares to auction its video streaming rights. Barron’s reported that Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter could drive the price through the roof. Analysts estimate that one of the online giants will end up paying billions to be the UK’s exclusive streamer.
That would explain the Premier League’s legal fight against Kodi boxes. A court threatened a web hosting service with £1.3 million in fines, the Daily Express reported. The judgment demands that the hosting service shut down all sites that enable illegal streams of Premier League matches. With billions at stake, you can expect the Premier League to keep on fighting.
Sit Down for This eSports Viewing Record
More than 1.1 million people streamed the ELEAGUE Major. That capped a week in which Twitch’s ELEAGUE channel ran seven days of live coverage and served up 2.2 billion minutes of video. The eventual champion, Cloud9, is the first American team to win an ELEAGUE major tournament. TNT will start airing a five-episode esports documentary next week. It follows Cloud9 and other American teams as they prepare for the tournament.
Keeping Indies Independent
A couple of news reports should please fans of independent films. The Sundance Film Festival wrapped up with a surprising result: it wasn’t dominated by Netflix or Amazon. The Hollywood Reporter found that most of the distribution deals went to traditional theatrical distributors rather than the streaming giants.
At the same time, the International Film Festival Rotterdam kicked off its own streaming indie service. As we reported, IFFR Unleashed is meant to help filmmakers avoid the compromises needed to please Netflix’s algorithms.
Chris Casper is a former tech industry product manager who escaped from California for New Mexico. Now he writes about science and tech while searching for the perfect green chile sauce.