Blackouts during the Super Bowl, a new ESPN streaming service and more Olympics streaming options made this a sports-filled week. We also saw updates to Roku, Plex and the Apple TV.
Keep reading for our full wrap up of the week in cord-cutting news….
Fiasco at the Super Bowl
The numbers are in and traditional Super Bowl TV viewing declined 7% to 103 million, the Houston Chronicle reported.
A few million more people chose to stream the Super Bowl — and lived to regret it. Ars Technica reported that some PlayStation Vue and Hulu with Live TV subscribers lost their streams of the big game. Ars also pointed out that NBC itself blanked out briefly.
The outage wasn’t such a big deal for Sony, whose service interruptions happened early in the game. However, Hulu’s stream went down during the Patriots’ last-minute drive for the goal line.
Hulu later attributed the outage to a programming error. The streaming service gave affected customers a free month of service to compensate for the inconvenience.
It could have been worse. People might have missed the ads.
Olympics Coverage Will Be Better!
South Korea hosted the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games this morning. Streaming services spent the week rushing out new features and viewing guides to help their subscribers plan their luge and curling binge sessions.
Shortly after last week’s Friday Cord-Cutter came out, Hulu with Live TV unveiled its new Olympics interface. You can personalize the experience by favoriting specific sports. The Hulu app prioritizes event coverage, clips and athlete profiles so you don’t have to wade through all 150 competitions.
The CBC went all out for Olympics fans in Canada. As Flixed reported, the CBC Sports app got reskinned for the Winter Games and will only stream Olympic events for the next two weeks.
In other Olympic updates, Sling TV posted a schedule of Olympic events for their customers. YouTube reviewed its global support, including NBC on YouTube TV in the US and free streaming on the Olympic Channel in India.
ESPN Plus and the Disney’s Streaming Service
Corporate conference calls with investors aren’t usually the stuff of cord-cutting news. Things change when the corporation involved is Disney. Streaming is so important to the owner of ABC, ESPN and now Fox that the subject came up over and over again.
Executives revealed that they would launch a sports-only streaming service called ESPN Plus. Five bucks a month will let you stream all of the sports… that ESPN’s eight channels can’t be bothered to carry. As Flixed’s own Sam Cook pointed out, why pay when many cord-cutters already get full, free access to ESPN as part of their over-the-top streaming service?
Deadline Hollywood compiled industry gossip about Disney’s planned alternative to Netflix. Rumor has it that the new service won’t stream anything with an R rating — all of that will go to Hulu. As for original content, Disney will focus on spinoffs or reboots of existing properties like The Sword in the Stone, Lady and the Tramp and Star Wars.
Profits? Hulu Don’t Need No Stinking Profits
When it comes to the digital world, the rules of Main Street business don’t apply. When Variety dug into the financial reports Comcast filed last week, it discovered that Hulu lost $920 million.
Original content development seems to be driving Hulu’s losses. Shows like the Emmy Award-winning The Handmaid’s Tale don’t come cheap.
Fast Company reported that the CEO of Disney, which owns two-thirds of Hulu, thought The Handmaid’s Tale was a sign that the investment in original content is paying off.
Streaming from Europe
This week, European cord-cutters lost an important vote in the European Parliament. Legislation that bans the practice of geo-fencing passed by an overwhelming majority. Unfortunately, streaming services got an exemption. That means the Netflix experience will continue to vary from country to country within the EU.
Engadget reported that the European Commission approved the proposed merger between Discovery Communications and Scripps Network’s Interactive. Scripps owns many of the cable lifestyle channels like Food Network, HGTV and the Travel Channel. Discovery owns, well, Discovery. This could be good for American cord-cutters if it makes Discovery, Science Channel and other apps more accessible.
Streaming Hardware Updates
Several hardware makers announced updates that benefit cord-cutters. Plex pushed out updates to its apps on Roku, Xbox and computers. Roku owners, who have been able to get live TV for a while, now get time shifting and an instant replay functions. Plex also updated its Xbox and computer apps to support live TV.
Vizio’s SmartCast televisions are getting a new app from CuriosityStream. This gives documentary fans a new way to stream fact-based shows about science, nature and history on smart TVs. We confirmed with CuriosityStream representatives that CuriosityStream’s app will soon support 4K streaming.
We also reported on Tablo’s support for Samsung televisions. The Tablo DVR system for over-the-air broadcasts released an app on all Samsung Smart TVs made after 2015. The Tablo app lets you schedule and play recordings of local TV broadcasts.
Apple TV, iPhone and iPad owners received an interesting update first reported by Apple Insider. The TV app now has a live news section. Install apps from Bloomberg, CBS News, Cheddar, CNBC, CNN and Fox News and the TV app will consolidate the streams in one place. Or download one app, Pluto TV, which has the same streams.
Want More Streaming Services?
Of course you do. That’s why media giant Viacom wants to launch its own streaming service.
Deadline Hollywood reported the comments executives made on Viacom’s investor call. The unnamed service will have “tens of thousands of hours” of content. Viacom owns Paramount, Nickelodeon and MTV so this could be a development to watch.
Business Insider Australia reports that a streaming tech company and Warner Bros will pilot a new streaming video rental service. According to BI, Linius Technology uses blockchain systems to “instantaneously” deliver video while returning tracking data.
We reported on the launch of Canada’s SnackableTV. The free, ad-supported, streaming service focuses exclusively on comedy. American comedian Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud network will anchor the content library. But homegrown comedy won’t lose out as SnackableTV produces its own original Canadian comedies.
Streaming service updates
Finally, several streaming services pushed out updates to their apps or subscription plans. DirecTV Now made it easier to get an Apple TV 4K. A long-running promotion once required new subscribers to pay the first four months up front. DirecTV Now just cut that down to three months. You could walk away with a free Apple TV 4K and 3 months of internet TV service for just $105.
FuboTV raised its pricing this week. While people in a few markets had been paying $45 per month all along, most people could get a fubo Premiere subscription for only $35. Now the $45 rate applies nationwide.
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.