In this week's collection of recent cord-cutting news items from around the web: Viacom launching 14 free channels on Pluto TV; the NFL could be the (Sunday) Ticket to subscriber growth for ESPN+; Cheddar network sold for $200 million; YouTube to make ‘Cobra Kai’ and other originals free to watch; IPTV service Vader shutting down due to piracy probe; studio quality sound comes to Netflix; everything coming to Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Now in May; and more!
"For Viacom, the future of television has an increasingly online sheen," says Variety. "The media conglomerate is bringing a slew of content from its flagship cable networks to Viacom-owned Pluto TV — launching 14 channels on the free, ad-supported internet-streaming platform starting May 1." In addition to channels for BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, "channels will include co-branded channels, which are curated versions of Viacom's networks; 'Signature Channels,' with a selection of top content from each brand; and Pop-Up Channels with marathon-style, binge-able lineups, starting with past seasons of MTV's 'The Hills' and spinoff 'Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County' (ahead of the June 24 premiere of revival series 'The Hills: New Beginnings'). More information about Pluto TV on Roku can be found here.
Netflix has said it doesn't intend to ever run traditional ads, but CNBC reports that "advertising industry experts aren't so sure that will be the case." At an IAB Digital Content NewFronts panel, YouTube, JPMorgan Chase, media agency UM and MediaLink executives were asked about Netflix staying ad-free. "'Well, that’s not what their recruiters say,' said Tara Walpert Levy, YouTube and Google’s VP of Agency and Media Solutions... JP Morgan Chase CMO Kristin Lemkau said consumers would be open to ad-supported options if those options are transparent and consumers understand the value exchange... and Joshua Lowcock of media agency UM said though there's been a move toward getting rid of ads, it will go back the other way."
According to an article in USA Today, "[t]he steady march of TV cord cutting – plus continued inflation in programming costs – has led some smaller cable operators to stop fighting this trend." However, USA Today warns that "if yours invites you to dump its TV service and switch to online streaming, its internet rates may hide a surprise that will be painful to you and profitable to your internet provider." The reason? Data caps, which push users to higher-priced plans or result in bills for data overage charges.
"For the last 25 years, NFL fans who wanted to watch whichever games they wanted on Sunday afternoon had to subscribe to DirecTV and the NFL Sunday Ticket package," says Yahoo! Finance. But it seems the NFL and AT&T (NYSE: T), DirecTV's parent company, are having a bit of a falling out." Disney is reportedly in talks with the sports league and the Yahoo article speculates that "[t]he media company might use the all-you-can-watch football buffet to attract subscribers to ESPN+, its direct-to-consumer sports streaming service." A deal with Disney could also be an advantage for the NFL: "There's the potential for Disney to attract more NFL fans to the package than DirecTV could. The satellite TV service presents a major barrier for a lot of fans who don't want to install a satellite dish on their roof or pay the high monthly price for the requisite television package."
"Altice USA has agreed to buy Cheddar, the three-year-old streaming financial news startup, in a $200 million deal," according to CNN Business report. "Altice, one of the country's largest broadband providers, was an early investor in Cheddar, which launched in 2016. Since then, Cheddar has planted its flag on a host of streaming platforms such as Hulu Live, Roku, DirecTV Now and YouTube TV."
"YouTube is officially bringing all of its original series and specials — available for free, with ads — starting this year," reports Variety. "It's (a) shift in strategy for YouTube, which has previously made premium content available only to subscribers of YouTube Premium, which costs $11.99 monthly in the U.S." But YouTube will be doling out the freebies a few at a time. Current plans are that "(f)or two weeks, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 11, YouTube will make all of 'Cobra Kai' season 1 available for free. Then on Sept. 11, YouTube will serve up the second season of “Cobra Kai” globally for free, with new episodes released weekly... YouTube said it will announce additional free ad-supported premiere dates for other programming at a later date, including supernatural drama 'Impulse' and comedy 'Liza On Demand,' starring digital star Liza Koshy. Other originals that have been stashed behind the paywall include 'Step Up: High Water,' based on the dance-movie franchise."
According to The Streamable, "Vader, an IPTV service that seemingly offered live access to 1,000+ TV channels for just $15 a month, announced that the service is officially shutting down. The announcement came in an email sent to customers, with the company stating that it has 'no choice but to close down Vader. We can’t reveal much publically (sic), but by now some of you should know through the other means what happened. We tried everything in our power to avoid this, to avoid any outage, but enough people worked against us.'" TorrentFreak had reported that it had "received as-yet unconfirmed reports that Vader is currently the subject of an anti-piracy investigation, complicated by the departure of a member of staff a while back." The Streamable ends their article with this bit of advice: "A good rule of thumb is that if the service offers substantially more channels, for less (money) than the legitimate services from AT&T like DIRECTV NOW or Dish Network like Sling TV -- it is likely not legal."
The Verge lists all the new content coming to these three major streaming services this month. "For people who've spent years avoiding it — or have watched it all and are looking for something new on HBO — May sees the premiere of Chernobyl, a five-part dramatization of the 1986 nuclear accident... Other highlights for this month: the adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s beloved novel Good Omens is coming to Amazon Prime Video... The Punisher and the 2008 movie Punisher: War Zone are arriving on Hulu and Amazon... For a more entertaining slice of heroism, My Hero Academia’s third season is premiering on Hulu." See the full list here.
Netflix announced that, as of May 1, "when you watch Netflix on your TV, it should sound even better... Today we’re excited to announce a new feature, high-quality audio, which takes our sound quality to another level. We gave it this straightforward name because it fits: high-quality audio delivers audio that sounds closer to what creators hear in the studio, so every little detail is captured for a richer, more intense experience. Additionally, if you have bandwidth or device limitations, we’ve made the feature adaptive so that we will deliver the best possible audio to match your capabilities. This is similar to what we already do for video." Netflix provides more information in this help topic.
"Hulu has topped 28 million total subscribers in the United States," according to The Hollywood Reporter, "continuing its breakneck pace of growth as it competes for a larger share of the crowded streaming market. The streaming service grew its base by 40 percent, or around 8 million members, over the last year." Leaving out "the 1.3 million people who are signed up for Hulu through promotions like free trials," there are 26.8 million paid members.RokuGuide.com may receive a referral fee for any purchases or subscriptions made through links on this page. See our full FTC Disclosure Statement for more information.