The ad-supported streaming TV goldrush continues with the launch of Players TV Network. It has already struck a distribution deal to appear in the built-in channel’s app on Samsung TVs. However, it will need to take advantage of many more AVOD distribution options to reach all connected TV users. And there are plenty of partners from which to choose.
Players TV Network leads with pro-sports personalities
Players TV Network (TVN) is a new sports lifestyle and culture entertainment network from Players Media Group. It will feature elite professional athletes like Chris Paul, Vernon Davis, CJ McCollum, and Carmelo Anthony. Anthem Sports is a strategic partner of the venture and will handle advertising and sponsorship sales support for the free ad-supported network.
Players TVN will debut in March 2020 exclusively on Samsung 2016-2020 model year smart TVs as part of the Samsung TV Plus app. The app is a prominent part of the Samsung smart TV experience and gives users access to 100 or more channels across a variety of genres. Samsung says the app had 10 million users as of December 2019.
Samsung will not be the only distribution partner for the service. Players TV Network says it has five others, and that three of them will launch by Q3 2020.
Distribution options improving for ad-supported online TV
Aside from launching a direct-to-consumer app, there are plenty of other distribution options Players TVN can use. The possibilities break out into four broad groups:
Linear channel aggregator apps
The market leader in this category is Pluto TV. It offers hundreds of channels in all the major genres. The company says it has 22.5 million monthly active users (MAUs.) XUMO also has more than 100 channels and claimed to have 5.5 million MAUs in the middle of 2019. Both Pluto TV and XUMO are widely available on popular smart TVs, streaming media players, and other streaming devices.
Linear channel built-in device apps
Players TVN is already working with Samsung to release its content as a linear channel through TV Plus. It could take the same approach through other smart TV OEM built-in apps. For example, LG Channels and Hisense Vidaa would make much sense. Roku powered TVs led smart TVs sales in 2019, capturing a third of the market. However, Roku-powered TVs do not include a built-in linear TV app.
AVOD aggregator apps
Tubi and Crackle are two of the best-known brands in the AVOD aggregator space. Tubi claims to 25 million MAUs. Crackle, at the time of its sale by Sony to Chicken Soup for the Soul at the beginning of 2019, had 10 million MAUs streaming around 1.3 billion minutes of content every month. At the time, Crackle had 90 content partnerships.
Both Tubi and Crackle are widely available on popular smart TVs, streaming media players, and other streaming devices.
Built-in AVOD platform apps
The Roku Channel on Roku-powered smart TVs, sticks, and boxes provide exposure to the 37 million active Roku users. Amazon now includes free ad-supported viewing through the IMDb TV app built-in to Fire TV-powered devices. Players TVN could syndicate the shows through IMDb TV and The Roku Channel to garner even more exposure.
Still hard to reach all connected TV users
Players TVN is right to target the connected TV. It is the viewing screen of choice for most streamers. Nielsen says that 73% of U.S. TV homes (88 million households) had at least one SVOD service, and the same number had an internet-enabled TV-connected device.[i] The TV also commands the longest viewing times, a must for any ad-supported service.
However, being able to reach all 88 million connected TV homes is still problematic. Players TVN would need to strike deals with most of the potential distribution partners in all four categories to guarantee that.
Why it matters
There are plenty of connected TV AVOD distribution options for a fledgling ad-supported streaming service.
Linear channel and AVOD aggregator apps are widely available on connected devices and reach tens of millions of monthly viewers.
Devices and video platforms also include built-in linear channels and AVOD apps that further broaden distribution options.
An ad-supported provider will need to have many distribution partners if it is to reach all connected TV users.
[i] Nielsen defines an internet-enabled TV connected device as a TV connected to a device able to stream video from the Internet. Smart TVs, connected game consoles, and streaming media players like Roku and Fire TV are all included in the category.