Twitch continues to dominate live streaming with its second-biggest quarter to date

Twitch continues to lead rivals including, YouTube Live, Facebook Gaming and Microsoft’s Mixer, when it comes to live-streaming video. Despite experiencing its first decline in hours watched in Q2 2019, the Amazon-owned game-streaming site still had its second-biggest quarter to date, with more than 70% of the hours watched during the quarter.

According to a new report from StreamElements, Twitch viewers live-streamed a total of 2.72+ billion hours in Q2 — or 72.2% of all live hours watched — compared with 735.54 million hours on YouTube Live (19.5%), 197.76 million on Facebook Gaming (5.3%) and just 112.29 million hours (3%) on Mixer.

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Combined, the total hours watched across all four platforms was 3.77 billion in Q2.

While none of Twitch’s rivals are nearly catching up, YouTube Live did have a good month in May, breaking its own record with 284 million hours watched. Overall, YouTube Live’s hours watched improved in Q2 as a result, while Twitch saw a slight decline.

Facebook Gaming is also gaining steam. It’s now the third-biggest live-streaming platform, having passed Microsoft Mixer.

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Despite its traction, Twitch doesn’t have much of a long tail when it comes to stream viewership. That’s a problem it has faced for some time, as newcomers complained they spent years broadcasting to no one in hopes of gaining a fan base, with little success. Twitch has tried to remedy this problem with various educational efforts as well as product features like Raids and Squad Streams, for example.

However, the new report finds that the majority (almost 75%) of Twitch’s viewership still comes from people tuning in to the top 5,000 channels. Out of the 2.7 billion hours watched in Q2, these top 5,000 channels drove 2 billion of those hours watched.

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In addition, the average concurrent viewership (viewers watching at the same time) of the top 5,000 channels increased by 12% in Q2 2019, compared with Q1. The top 200 channels have the highest concurrent viewership with 10,590 people watching together, on average.

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Also in the quarter, viewership of top titles like Fortnite, League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive declined, while vlogging — aka “Just Chatting” — grew, along with other titles.

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Esports, meanwhile, still draws big numbers, but represents only a small slice of the overall pie.

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The full report, which takes a look at other trends, including which streamers are gaining and losing popularity, is available here.

YouTube lands on Fire TV and Amazon Prime Video arrives on Chromecast, Android TV

It’s nice when people can come together and work through their differences to make it easier to watch stuff. That’s exactly what happened today, when the long-standing detente between Google and Amazon over streaming video services came to an end, with YouTube arriving on Fire TV and Prime Video making its way to Chromecast and Android TV.

Amazon’s second-generation Fire TV Stick, their Fire TV Stick 4K, the Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick Basic Edition and Fire TV Edition smart TVs made by partner OEMs will all get support for the official YouTube app globally starting today, and Amazon intends to extend support to even more of its hardware in the future. YouTube TV and YouTube Kids will also come to Amazon Fire TV devices later this year.

On the Google side, both its own Chromecast devices, as well as partner TVs and hardware that support Chromecast built-in, or that run Android TV, will gain support broadly for Prime Video. Plus, any Chromecast Ultra owners will also get access to Prime Video’s 4,000-title library normally reserved for Prime members, at no additional cost, as part of the new tie-up between the two companies.

Prime has been available on some Android TV devices to date, but it’s expanding to a much broader selection of those smart TVs and streaming boxes from today.

This has been a long time coming — several years in fact, with the most recent spat between the two coming as a result of Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show. Then, in May, the companies announced they’d reached an agreement to put the feud behind them in the interest of consumers, which is what resulted in this cross-platform launch today.

Let the streams flow!

Tesla’s in-car touchscreens are getting YouTube support

Tesla has consistently been adding software to its in-car touchscreen infotainment displays – including sometimes things that probably leave a lot of people scratching their heads. During a special Q&A today at annual gaming event E3 in LA, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that Tesla’s in-car display will support YouTube someday soon.

This isn’t the first time that the Tesla CEO has suggested YouTube might one day have a home in the company’s cars: In response to a fan’s question on Twitter last August he noted that ‘version 10’ of the company’s in-car software would provide support for third-party video streaming. The company debuted its ‘Software Version 9.0’ last year.

Musk specifically said YouTube would be coming to cars during the E3 event today, at which he revealed that Bethesda’s Fallout 3 would be coming to the infotainment displays, and unveiled a demo video of Android game Beach Buggy Racer running on a display in a Tesla Model 3.

On a recent podcast, the Tesla CEO also said that the company would consider opening the platform more broadly to third-party developers for both apps and games. The company has done a lot on its own to add software ‘Easter Eggs’ to the dash display, but turning it into a true platform is a much more ambitious vision.

On its face, adding attention-heavy apps like streaming video services to a car definitely seems counterintuitive, but to be fair to Tesla, a large number of drivers today use their phones for in-car navigation and those can also all technically display YouTube at any time. It does seem like a case of Musk’s mind racing ahead to a day when his cars are fully autonomous, something he recently reiterated he expects to happen within the next couple of years.

Hulu buys back AT&T’s minority stake in streaming service now valued at $15 billion

Hulu has paid $1.43 billion to buy AT&T’s minority stake in the streaming video company.

The companies announced Monday that the transaction valued Hulu at $15 billion. As a result, AT&T’s 9.5 percent stake in Hulu was worth $1.43 billion.

The valuation is two-thirds higher than last November when Disney reported in a regulatory filing that the streaming video company was worth $9.26 billion. Hulu is owned by Hulu LLC, a joint venture of Disney and Comcast. Disney now has a 67 percent ownership of Hulu, which it gained, in part, through its $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox. Comcast has a 33 percent stake in Hulu.

AT&T, which has been hinting about selling its minority stake in Hulu since November, will use proceeds from this transaction, along with additional planned sales of non-core assets, to reduce its debt.

“We thank AT&T for their support and investment over the past two years and look forward to collaboration in the future. WarnerMedia will remain a valued partner to Hulu for years to come as we offer customers the best of TV, live and on demand, all in one place,” Hulu CEO Randy Freer said in statement.

AT&T acquired the 9.5 percent percent stake in the service by way of WarnerMedia, as a result of its Time Warner acquisition.

AT&T and Hulu were increasingly looking like competitors, not partners. AT&T has its own streaming services, including cord cutter-friendly live TV service DirecTV Now, more lightweight WatchTV and another upcoming direct-to-consumer service that will launch later this year that leverages its WarnerMedia properties.

This new AT&T streaming service, which will work across devices, will launch into beta in Q4 2019, AT&T has said. The service is expected to expand over time to include third-party content through partnerships.

Disney shares are up after the big reveal of its streaming service

Investors seem to think that Disney is on the right track with its plans for the new streaming service, Disney+.

On the heels of yesterday’s announcement of the streaming service’s November 12 launch date and slate of programming, Disney’s stock price is currently up 9% to $127.23 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Ending months of speculation about what would and wouldn’t be included in a streaming package from the mouse house, yesterday’s “investor day”, satisfied public market investors that Disney’s run at the current king of streaming video, Netflix, would be credible.

Netflix shares were down slightly in morning trading, around 3.5% — or roughly $13 — to $354.50.

For stock market watchers, the big question was going to be pricing and on that front, Disney’s service didn’t disappoint. Although the streaming offering from Disney’s entertainment juggernaut was more about moving cash out of one pocket instead of another for most American consumers, as Matthew Ball, a media analyst and the former head of strategy at Amazon Studios, pointed out on Twitter.

American households already spend around $2.8 billion per year renting and buying Disney video — averaging around $24 per year for every household or 40 million annual subscriptions, Ball wrote.

While the market may be setting up the new entertainment landscape as a Netflix versus Disney battle there are important differences between the two and both are likely to thrive in the new era of streaming entertainment.

The companies that are most likely to be challenged by the streaming offerings from Netflix and Disney are AT&T’s Warner Media and CBS/Viacom .

Within Warner Media, layoffs and restructuring in the wake of the company’s acquisition by AT&T, along with the end of the network’s mega-hit “Game of Thrones”, could have serious consequences on its ability to compete as the company rolls out its own (partially ad-supported) streaming service.

Meanwhile, CBS and Viacom are still reeling from the scandal that brought down chief executive Les Moonves — although Viacom’s acquisition of PlutoTV gives the company some breathing room with a free streaming video and on demand option.

As paid services proliferate, the walls around intellectual property will only grow higher. Entertainment companies are all going to vie for more exclusive offerings and that means artists and creators will win as these companies pay more for quality entertainment that they can make exclusively to lock in subscribers. It’ll be a delicate dance between monetizing intellectual property on other platforms and keeping things behind a gate to bring in customers.

Especially as deep-pocketed companies like Apple and Amazon have their own designs on streaming entertainment.

Right now, investors and consumers seem to think that a Disney+ subscription is definitely worth the price of admission. How many other tickets consumers are willing to pay for is another question.

Apple TV+ makes Facebook Watch look like a joke

Apple flexed its wallet today in a way Facebook has scared to do. Tech giants make money by the billions, not the millions, which should give them an easy way to break into premium video distribution: buy some must-see content. That’s the strategy I’ve been advocating for Facebook but that Apple actually took to heart. Tim Cook wrote lines of zeros on some checks, and suddenly Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Oprah became the well-known faces of Apple TV+.

Facebook Watch has…MTV’s The Real World? The other Olsen sister? Re-runs of Buffy The Vampire Slayer? Actually, Facebook Watch is dominated by the kind of low-quality viral video memes the social network announced it would kick out of its News Feed for wasting people’s time.

And so while Apple TV+ at least has a solid base camp from which to make the uphill climb to compete with Netflix, Facebook Watch feels like it’s tripping over its own feet.

Today, Apple gave a preview of its new video subscription service that will launch in fall offering unlimited access to old favorites and new exclusives for a monthly fee. Yet even without any screenshots or pricing info, Apple still got people excited by dangling its big-name content.

Spielberg is making short films out of the Amazing Stories anthology that inspired him as a child. Abrams is spinning a tale of a musician’s rise called Little Voice Witherspoon and Aniston star in The Morning Show about anchoring a news program. And Oprah is bringing documentaries about workplace harassment and mental health.

This tentpole tactic will see Apple try to draw users into a free trial of Apple TV+ with this must-see content and then convince them to stay. And a compelling, exclusive reason to watch is exactly what’s been missing from…Facebook Watch. Instead, it chose to fund a wide array of often unscripted reality and documentary shorts that never felt special or any better than what else was openly available on the Internet, let alone what you could get from a subscription. It now claims to have 75 million people Watching at least one minute per day, but it’s failed to spawn a zeitgeist moment. Even as Facebook has scrambled to add syndicated TV cult favorites like Firefly or soccer matches to free, ad-supported video service, it’s failed to sign on anything truly newsworthy.

That’s just not going to fly anymore. Tech has evolved past the days when media products could win just based on their design, theoretical virality, or the massive audiences they’re cross-promoted to. We’re anything but starved for things to watch or listen to. And if you want us to frequent one more app or sign up for one more subscription, you’ll need A-List talent that makes us take notice. Netflix has Stranger Things. HBO has Game Of Thrones. Amazon has the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Disney+ has…Marvel, Star Wars, and the princesses. And now Apple has the world’s top directors and actresses.

Video has become a battle of the rich. Apple didn’t pull any punches. Facebook will need to buy some new fighters if Watch is ever going to deserve a place in the ring.

YouTube denies that it is canning scripted series, plans to launch ad-supported slate in coming weeks

On the heels of Apple announcing paid, monthly subscription services for video, games, and news, YouTube says it is also doubling down original video content. Parent company Google has denied a report in Bloomberg that YouTube has stopped accepting pitches for scripted shows. But it also confirmed another aspect of the same report: it plans a big focus on paid subscriptions by introducing an ad-supported slate that will include new and existing series in the coming weeks.

It seems that for now the plan is for this to exist alongside YouTube Premium, its $11.99 ad-free subscription service that provides access to YouTube Music and original video content and films, which is not going away. Reports about YouTube’s changing content monetization strategy, moving content out from behind the paywall, have been going around for months.

We’ve also been able to confirm that part of the shift will indeed include cancelling two existing shows, Origin and Overthinking with Kate & June, which will not be on the new slate — one of the other details reported by Bloomberg.

The move signifies that Google is rethinking how it competes in the world of streamed video as the landscape gets increasingly crowded with a selection of options from which to choose. That’s happening not on one but two levels.

Many of the biggest existing services, as well as those that are now coming online, are putting millions into commissioning original movies and series. Netflix alone is estimated to be putting some $15 billion into its own slate this year. In other words the ante is very high for snagging big names and then investing in the production of films and series with them, and with competition the prices are getting higher.

Interestingly, $15 billion is also how much in advertising revenues that YouTube generated last year, and that is the second area where YouTube is changing up how it is planning to compete. With a number of companies now vying for for a share of your entertainment budget with monthly subscription fees or one-off payments for specific items, YouTube is exploring a no-fee approach, playing to its strengths and offering its original TV content not as part of subscriptions but as an ad-supported free service.

One of the notable aspects of building original content plays for streaming services is that it means the provider sidesteps some of the more tricky, expensive and time-consuming aspects of negotiating regional deals with rightsholders. YouTube appears to be hoping to tackle this as well, from what we understand, by developing new series and formats that will appeal (and be accessible by) a global audience.

YouTube is easily Google’s most successful and popular effort in the world of social media, and beyond that it’s one of the most popular destinations on the web.

But the report and Google’s quick refutation underscores an ongoing issue for the company. One of the more persistent challenges for Google has been figuring out the best way to leverage YouTube’s audience and platform that has essentially been built around user-generated content — with its huge emphasis on user-created or user-uploaded videos that are by default presented with comments, ads, and carousels of further videos to watch — into one that can also be seen as a home for more finely-tuned premium video content, to create a one-stop-shop at a time when the several others are building services that can pull viewers away.

Media fragmentation is annoying consumers

Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications division published its 13th-annual Digital Media Trends survey, focused on identifying changes in the ways US consumers engage with various types of media.

Led by an independent research firm, the survey had roughly 2,000 consumer respondents across demographics – with the report categorizing respondents based on age (Gen-Z: ages 14-21, Millenials: 22-35, Gen-X: 36-52, Boomers: 53-71, and Matures: 72+).

While already accompanied by a succinct 13-page executive summary, the report can largely be summarized in just a couple of sentences: more people are using streaming or alternative media services than ever before, largely due to more user freedom and customization, though the growing quantity and fragmentation of platforms are becoming more frustrating for users to manage.

The survey results directionally echo already well-discussed dynamics, which we’ve previously dug into such as here, here and here. Instead, the most poignant aspects of the report were not the answers or conclusions themselves, but the immense level of support many of them received.

 

Somewhat interesting:

Reed Hastings says Netflix won’t be part of Apple’s upcoming video streaming service

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during a Los Angeles press event tonight that it will not be part of the streaming video service Apple is expected to unveil next week at its Cupertino headquarters.

While it will have original content, Apple’s service will most likely initially focus on third-party content, competing against Amazon Channels with la carte subscriptions to third-party channels (Amazon’s lineup includes HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, but not Netflix, which prefers to control its own in-app experience).

Asked how Netflix will compete against rivals with a lot of money like Amazon and Apple, Hastings said “with difficulty,” adding that “it is definitely getting more expensive to source content” as the streaming video market becomes increasingly fragmented.

As the largest video streaming service in the United States, however, Netflix has been the subject of antitrust lawsuits and debates. When asked about potential antitrust regulations aimed at large tech companies, Hastings describe Netflix as “really mostly a content company powered by tech,” saying it spends much more on content than tech (Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos said last year that 85 percent of its total spending goes to new shows and movies, and in October the company announced plans to raise $2 billion in debt to fund new content).

Despite its focus on international growth, Hastings also said that even though Netflix once considered entering China by creating a joint venture with a local partner, it currently has no plans to do so, noting that the strategy still didn’t help competitors such as Apple’s iTunes.

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s streaming service Quibi is doing a show about Snapchat’s founding

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman today announced a slate of new series and projects heading to their forthcoming video streaming service, Quibi. The list includes an origin story to complement Telemundo’s hit show “El Señor de los Cielos;” a music competition show produced by Justin Bieber manager and entertainment exec Scooter Braun; a show from Jennifer Lopez’s company about the power of giving and paying it forward; as well something called “Frat Boy Genius,” which will focus on the rise of Snapchat — and specifically its creator, Evan Spiegel.

“It is the story of how he built and created Snapchat, which is one of the great social platforms of our time,” touted Katzenberg. “And we want to tell a story that is as compelling and interesting about the creation of Snapchat and Evan’s story as “[The] Social Network” was for Facebook,” he added.

The project will be based on the screenplay by the same name, which had written Spiegel as a hard-partying Stanford student, according to Vulture’s review of the much-hyped script.

“He should be flattered,” remarked Katzenberg, of Quibi’s plans for the Spiegel-focused project.

Katzenberg and Quibi CEO Meg Whitman were at SXSW to speak about the upcoming streaming video service, which plans to offer short-form video designed for mobile. On Quibi, consumers watch “quality” video cut into smaller pieces, including both scripted and unscripted original content, exclusives from Quibi’s partners and other daily news and sports programming.

Already, some of Quibi’s content plans have been announced.

For example, Deadline reported last fall that filmmakers Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro and Antoine Fuqua and producer Jason Blum will all create series for the service. And a pitch deck had touted other examples of Quibi’s programming — like a show called “Inspired By” with Justin Timberlake and “Under the Gun” with Kobe Bryant. Plus, Katzenberg himself had revealed in a LinkedIn post that Quibi was working on a basketball-related series with Steph Curry’s production company.

However, the story about Snapchat’s founding highlights how Quibi could benefit from its combination of tech and entertainment industry roots, in terms of deciding what to greenlight.

Whitman, a former HP Enterprise president and CEO, also pointed to another example: her penchant for using data to make decisions.

“I am deeply analytical and Jeffrey will argue in stories and allegories,” Whitman said. “And I will say: ‘Jeffrey, do you have any data to suggest that what you have just said is true?’ And he’ll say, ‘no I don’t have any data — but it’s true,’ ” she explained.

“Then I will come with data, facts, total available market size, market segmentation, market research, and he will say, ‘you know, not everything yields to analysis.’ And I’ll say ‘no, not everything does, but most things do,’ ” she said.

For the most part, today’s onstage discussion was a pitch for why Quibi will work and why it needs to exist — with Katzenberg touting its promise as an app that will benefit from 5G mobile networks as well as the cord-cutting behavior among younger millennials, who are no longer interested in traditional pay TV.

Both execs also stressed that Quibi was not a Netflix or YouTube competitor — despite angling for the same share of consumers’ mobile minutes and a set amount of downtime not spent on social media and mobile gaming, for example. They instead believe Quibi will be additive, and other services — like Netflix and Disney+ — can still win, even as Quibi wins.

Katzenberg said that Quibi aims to grab 20 minutes of the 70 minutes per day people spend watching short-form video, but doesn’t believe it will necessarily come at the expense of YouTube or others.

“Six years ago it was six minutes. A year and a half ago, it was 40 minutes. And today it’s 70 minutes,” he said, illustrating mobile video’s rise. “People love being able to watch great short-form content on the go.”

“What we know is that our users are watching a lot of video on mobile. They’re excited about the opportunity to see something differentiated. But honestly, we’re using a lot of judgment, and we’ll know whether it works when it launches,” Whitman added. 

Quibi will publish more than 100 pieces of content every week, meaning it’s going to be making 5,300-5,400 pieces of content per year, Katzenberg said. He also mentioned a few others examples of programming, including a daily round-up of the best of late night TV, and spoke more vaguely of the potential for a show that delivered music news, the way that MTV’s Kurt Loder once did.

The streaming service is launching in April 2020, Katzenberg also confirmed today, putting a more definitive time stamp on the launch time frame beyond “early 2020” or “spring.”