Cheddar’s digital news network is coming to Hulu, too

Cheddar isn’t done making deals with the over-the-top streaming TV providers. Only yesterday, news came out that Cheddar was the first digital-only network to launch a channel on YouTube’s streaming TV service, YouTube TV. Today, the company is announcing a similar deal with Hulu, which will bring its programming to Hulu’s href=”https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/09/hulu-17m-subscribers/”> more than 17 million subscribers.

The new distribution agreement will see Hulu adding Cheddar’s live linear network, plus exclusive morning and afternoon news briefs, key highlights and a selection of Cheddar Originals.

This combination of live and on-demand programming will be available to Hulu’s Live TV subscribers, while the daily news briefs and select other content will be made available to Hulu’s on-demand viewers.

The on-air channel will launch to Live TV viewers later this month.

This is a slightly different deal than the one Cheddar cut with YouTube TV, which was focused more on making Cheddar’s linear programming available to the service’s users. In addition, YouTube TV didn’t only add Cheddar’s flagship business news network, it also added Cheddar’s new general news channel, Cheddar Big News.

However, YouTube TV is catering to a younger demographic who may be more familiar with the Cheddar brand, and more attracted to digital networks in general, rather than their cable TV counterparts. That fits well with Cheddar’s own viewership demographics — 1 in 5 millennials (ages 18 through 24) know of Cheddar, and they’re “decades” younger than those who watch traditional news networks, the company notes.

For Hulu, the new addition means it’s gaining a network that could make its service more appealing to “cord nevers” — the (often young) group of consumers who are choosing never to sign up for a pay TV subscription in the first place. These users still want access to TV news, though, says Hulu.

“Our live TV viewers watched more than 24 million hours of news in the first quarter of 2018, so clearly they are hungry for news content,” said Tim Connolly, SVP, Head of Partnerships and Distribution at Hulu, in a statement about the deal with Cheddar. “We’re happy to partner with a post-cable millennial-focused network like Cheddar to pack even more value into our live offering and give our younger viewers access to a greater, more diverse selection of live news options,” he said.

Cheddar has shifted away from consumer-facing subscriptions and is now an ad-supported network. Around 95 percent of revenue comes from ads and sponsorships. The company may be sharing a portion of ad revenue with streamers as part of these deals.

Live TV services are only one way Cheddar is being distributed. The company has a number of deals across the web and mobile devices, including on Sling TV, YouTube TV, Philo, Comcast X1, Altice One, Pluto, Molotov in Europe, Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, Amazon and elsewhere. This month, it will also launch a show on Snapchat. Thanks to this wide distribution on tech platforms, Cheddar is seeing hundreds of thousands of daily live viewers and hundreds of millions of video views a month on social platforms.

Report: Smartphone usage set to overtake time spent watching TV in China

2018 is the year that smartphone usage eclipses time spent watching TV in China and it’s all down to the growth of digital video platforms, according to a new report from eMarketer.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this had already happened in China, which happens to be the world’s largest smartphone market, but eMarketer forecasts that the momentous moment is about to arrive.

According to the report, the average adult in China is set to spend 2 hours and 39 minutes per day on a mobile device this year, up 11.1 percent on 2017. Watching TV, meanwhile, is set to fall by two percent to reach 2 hours 32 minutes daily.

eMarketer said that the growth of digital video services is “a key driver” in this change. The company forecasts that online video time per day will leap 26 percent year-on-year to reach 58 minutes per adult on average. It is further predicting that by 2020 China’s adult population will spend one-third of their time online watching videos.

The signs have been pointing to digital media’s charge in China for some time, with the country’s top firms putting considerable cash behind the leading players.

Alibaba acquired Youku Tudou in a 2015 deal that valued the YouTube-like service at $4.6 billion, while rival Tencent has its own ‘Tencent Video’ service and Baidu — the third part of China’s traditional tech power trio — incubated video service iQiyi before taking it public in a U.S. IPO that raised $1.5 billion earlier this year. All three of these streaming platforms combine user-generated video with produced series, some of which comes from Netflix.

Beyond those three, there are also vertical focused video services which include animation platform Bilibili (which just went public in the U.S.), live-video platforms such as Tencent-backed Kuaishou, and Chushou, which focuses on e-sports and landed investment from Google earlier this year.

Video may be the key driver, but it is far from the only reason that keeps Chinese people glued to their phones. Chat app WeChat is the stickest of all mobile apps in China. It claims to have over 900 million active users who send 38 billion messages and over 205 million phone calls via the app each day.

WeChat also includes offline payments which are another major use for smartphones in China. Alongside WeChat Pay, Alibaba’s Alipay claims over 520 million users who use its service instead of cards or cash when paying for goods.

Ant Financial, Alipay’s parent company, is being tipped to raise $9 billion in new funding at a valuation that could reach as high as $150 billion.

Hat tip @sirsteven

Netflix launches 30-second preview videos on mobile

Netflix is introducing its own take on Snapchat and Instagram stories after it began to roll out 30-second preview videos for mobile viewers.

The previews look much like Stories because the thumbnails are circular and the content plays with virtual videos, so there’s no need to move your phone to the side. Added to that, they play like a slideshow, allowing users to swipe or tap to skip to the next video without returning to the main screen. Shows that appeal can be stored for later viewing with a button that adds them to your list.

The feature is hitting the Netflix iOS app from today, and the company said it will be “coming soon” to Android.

The launch is long-awaited. Netflix began offering previews on the web and via its TV app, and the company said the new feature will help those who tune in via their phone to find more content to watch.

“Years of testing has made it clear that video previews help our members browse less and discover new content more quickly. With the launch of mobile previews, we are bringing a video browse experience to your mobile phone in a fun and mobile-optimized way,” the company explained in a blog post.

Netflix is on a run of late, with the company closing in on a $150 billion market cap thanks to growing subscriber numbers.

The company added 7.41 million new subscribers in the first quarter of 2018 — around two million of which were U.S.-based — and it has forecast an additional 6.2 million more joining in the next quarter. That means the company has nearly 119 million customers, as its huge international expansion from two years ago begins to kick in.

The company also continues to see some pretty strong streaming revenue growth. Total sales hit $3.6 billion in Q1, up around 43 percent year-on-year.

Emphasizing social, shareable and meaningful work, Girlboss launches a new site

Girlboss, the juggernaut business and lifestyle brand launched by serial entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso (the founder of Nasty Gal), has launched a fresh redesign of its website as the company looks to evolve beyond publishing.

While publishing will remain a central component of the business that Girlboss is building, Amoruso says that the brand encompasses much more than a content play.

“We’re beginning with editorial content and our conferences and what looks like a publishing business, but the future will look like us incorporating our users in a much different capacity,” Amoruso says.

In a blog post about the site redesign, the company’s new chief operating officer and editor in chief walks through the functional changes that the company wanted for its web and mobile face:

It’s fast.

First and foremost, this experience should be fast. We only used system fonts. We don’t have any weird pop-ups or doodads to slow down the load time or to distract you from the reason why you’re actually here: the content.

It’s intuitive (sort of).

We built this thing to be mobile first. That means you swipe from category to category and scroll endlessly—even on desktop. It might feel a little weird at first, but only 10% of you are on desktop to begin with, so let’s call a spade a spade.

It’s fun.

There’s a lot of color here. Each category is noted with a different color (work is green, money is a coral-ish pink, wellness is yellow, etc), and you see those colors play in different ways on category pages, in related content, on article pages, and more. Those are visual cues that tell you where you are—and they’re also supposed to feel fun and immersive. We’re trying not to take ourselves too seriously here at Girlboss. We talk about serious things, but we hope to inject a bit of wit and humor into everything we do. And all of this color-soaked goodness should reflect that.

It’s useful.

This is a big one. We know that some people may never wander over to our website (although, you’re obviously not one of them), and we’re totally fine with that. We strive to inspire and delight and inform people where they are—whether that’s on email, on social, through podcasts, or IRL at our Rallies. But if you are visiting our website, we want you to walk away feeling like you got something meaningful out of the experience of spending time with us. We want to make things that open your eyes to new ways of thinking, and that offer you life and work and money advice that legitimately helps you advance and grow and save and evolve. That’s what this site is built to do—to make it easy to find the tools and tips and insights we’re offering up, while being transparent about how much time you might need to spend with a story or podcast or video to get what you need out of it.

Beyond the purely functional and aesthetic aspects of the redesign, Gandhi hints that there’s a larger sense of purpose and mission to the company’s choices as well… and an indication of how Girlboss will evolve.

“At Girlboss, when we think about the big picture, we want to help make change. We want to create opportunity and knock down the obstacles that stand in your way. We want to call out tokenism and create spaces where many women can thrive—and help each other make progress and advance,” Gandhi writes.

Girlboss in this new incarnation seems to be as much of a networking and social engagement site as it is a publisher. This new model fits squarely within the new notion of what brands can mean and the role they can play.

“It’s important for us to keep evolving and casting a line to build a social-first environment,” says Amoruso. With the new site, and an executive team built out on the back of $3.1 million in financing from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Gary Vaynerchuk, Atom Factory and Slow Ventures, it looks like they’ve succeeded.

Streaming sports service fuboTV raises $75 million from AMC and others

Days after Disney-owned ESPN launched its new streaming service, ESPN+, a three-year old streaming TV service for sports fans, fuboTV, is announcing the close of $75 million in Series D funding. The round included new investor AMC Networks, and existing investors 21st Century Fox, Luminari Capital, Northzone, Sky, and the former Scripps Networks Interactive, which was recently acquired by Discovery, Inc.

FuboTV has been working to carve out a niche for itself in the streaming TV market, where a number of competitors are delivering television programming to cord cutters by way of the internet.

In terms of subscribers, that space today is led by Dish’s Sling TV and AT&T’s newer DirecTV Now. But the market has also seen a lot of newcomers over the past year or so, with launches from Hulu’s Live TV, YouTube TV, and Philo. PlayStation Vue is a competitor as well, while CBS runs its own over-the-top streaming TV service with just its content, CBS All Access.

While many streaming TV services offer some sports content in their base packages, or sell additional access through add-ons, fuboTV’s core focus has been on serving the sports fan.

The service provides access to live games from the NBA, NHL, UFC, and more soccer than other streaming providers –
including matches from Bundesliga, EPL and La Liga to Liga MX, MLS, FIFA World Cup qualifiers, UEFA
Champions League matches and more.

That access doesn’t come cheap, however. FuboTV’s basic package with 70-plus channels, Fubo Premier, is $19.99 for the first month, which then becomes $44.99 per month after.

Customers can then customize their package with other options, like a “Sports Plus,” “Adventure Plus,” or “International Sports Plus” upgrade; a DVR with 500 hours of storage instead of just 30; or the option to add a third stream.

Even though the entry-level package is more than a full subscription to a mainstream service like Sling TV or YouTube TV, fuboTV managed to reach over 100,000 paid subscribers as of September 2017, and is continuing to see double-digit growth, it says.

Since the last funding round ten months ago, the company has streamed its first MLB All Star Game, Playoffs and World Series; Tour de France; NFL regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl; college football; and the Winter Olympic Games. And it has exited beta on Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, iOS and Android; revamped its user interface; and debuted new features like “Lookback” and “Startover.”

The lineup it offers has begun to broaden beyond sports in recent months, as well.

While it has added several new sports additions in the last ten months, it has added entertainment networks, too  – including those from its strategic investors. These include AMC, BBC AMERICA, CBS, CBS Sports Network, CBSN, Food Network, FUSION TV, HGTV, IFC, MSG, MSG+, NESN, NFL Network, Pac-12 Network, Pop, SNY, SundanceTV, The Olympic Channel, Travel Channel and WE tv.

Combined, fuboTV offers viewers over 30,000 sporting events per year, 10,000+ titles in its video-on-demand library.

In addition, fuboTV has been adding broadcast affiliates and now offers Fox in 87 percent of U.S. households, and NBC and CBS in 72 percent and 68 percent, respectively. In total, it has 257 local broadcast affiliates and owned-and-operated stations on the service.

FuboTV doesn’t just generate revenue from subscriptions, however – it also sells advertising.

The company tells TechCrunch it’s forecasting a revenue run rate of over $100 million by this time next year.

“We are very bullish from an ad perspective, even though we only launched server-side ad insertion in January,” notes fuboTV co-founder and CEO David Gandler. “One quarter in, advertising represents low single-digit percentage of our overall revenue, but it is growing quickly. As a benchmark, we are already experiencing ad revenue per subscriber above Spotify’s recently published ad revenue per user data,” he says.

With the new investment, fuboTV plans to double its office space and engineers and product team, and open a second headquarters. The funding will also be used to develop new products and content offerings, and for marketing.

 

Correction, 4/18/18, 4 PM ET: AMC participated and is a new investor; AMC did not lead the round. The article has been updated to reflect. 

Ad-blocking browser Brave signs up Dow Jones as a partner

It looks like at least one major news publisher is on-board with Brave, the ad-blocking web browser founded by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich.

Brave Software and Dow Jones Media Group announced today they will be partnering in a deal that will bring Dow Jones content (specifically, full access to Barrons.com or a premium MarketWatch newsletter) to “a limited number of users who download the Brave browser on a first-come, first-serve basis.”

In addition, Barron’s and MarketWatch are becoming verified publishers on Brave’s Basic Attention Token (BAT) platform, a blockchain-based system that will allow consumers and eventually advertisers to pay publishers. (Brave had a hugely successful initial coin offering last year.)

And the companies said they will be working together to experiment with different ways to use blockchain technology in media and advertising.

“As global digital publishers, we believe it is important to continually explore new and emerging technologies that can be used to build quality customer experiences,” said Barron’s Senior Vice President Daniel Bernard in the announcement.

The language that the companies are using, as well as the absence of publisher’s flagship newspaper The Wall Street Journal from the deal, suggests that Dow Jones isn’t going all-in on this experiment yet.

But it’s certainly a dramatic change in tone from the way most publishers talk about ad-blockers. In fact, a group of newspapers (including the Journal) published a letter two years stating that Brave’s business model was “indistinguishable from a plan to steal our content to publish on your own website.”

Brave recently announced the launch of a referral program that rewards creators with BAT when they convince their fans to switch over to the browser. The company also said it has 2 million monthly active users.

YouTube TV adds its first digital-only networks with launch of two channels from Cheddar

The first digital media networks have popped up on YouTube TV, with the addition of two new channels from the startup Cheddar. Earlier this month, Digiday had reported how YouTube’s streaming television service, YouTube TV, would soon gain new channels from a variety of digital media publishers, including Cheddar, Tastemade and The Young Turks Network. The move would help to better differentiate YouTube TV from its rivals delivering TV over the internet, while also making the service more appealing to the younger demographic YouTube TV targets – those who didn’t grow up watching traditional TV.

One of YouTube TV’s new channels is Cheddar’s flagship financial news network, and the other is Cheddar’s general news network, Cheddar Big News.

Variety was the first to spot that the new Cheddar channels had gone live.

While it hasn’t been all that common to find digital media natives streaming alongside broadcast and cable channels across the newer crop of streaming TV services, YouTube TV is not the first to add Cheddar to its lineup.

Dish-owned Sling TV had already added Cheddar’s financial news network to its streaming TV service, and will soon add Cheddar Big News, too, as will the streaming service Philo, Variety noted in its report.

On YouTube TV, Cheddar viewers will be able to watch its programming both live and on-demand.

The addition of digital media channels like Cheddar’s could help YouTube expand its lineup quickly and affordably, without having to carve out more complex deals with cable TV network owners. But the company will have to be careful in selecting those digital channels it decides to make part of its lineup. Too much digital-first content could dilute YouTube TV’s overall brand proposition – that this is a streaming “television” service on par with its competition, and not one with filler content you could watch elsewhere – like on Facebook’s video section or even YouTube proper.

Cheddar’s live streams, for example, are also available on Amazon, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, Comcast X1, Twitch and elsewhere.

YouTube TV recently raised it pricing to $40 per month, up from $35, to be more in line with the competition.

That’s a crowded market as of late. In addition to Sling TV, YouTube TV’s rivals including PlayStation Vue, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Hulu’s Live TV, fuboTV, CBS All Access, and Philo.

Now it has to make good on what those extra dollars are delivering to viewers.

 

 

 

YouTube promises expansion of sponsorships, other monetization tools for creators

YouTube says it’s rolling out more tools to help its creators make money from their videos. The changes are meant to address creators’ complaints over YouTube’s new monetization policies announced earlier this year. Those policies were designed to make the site more advertiser-friendly following a series of controversies over video content from top creators, including videos from Logan Paul, who had filmed a suicide victim, and PewDiePie, who repeatedly used racial slurs, for example.

The company then decided to set a higher bar to join its YouTube Partner Program, which is what allows video publishers to make money through advertising. Previously, creators only needed 10,000 total views to join; they now need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of view time over the past year to join. This resulted in wide-scale demonetization of videos that previously relied on ads.

The company has also increased policing of video content in recent months, but its systems haven’t always been accurate.

YouTube said in February it was working on better systems for reviewing video content when a video is demonetized over its content. One such change, enacted at the time, involved the use of machine learning technology to address misclassifications of videos related to this policy. This, in turn, has reduced the number of appeals from creators who want a human review of their video content instead.

According to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, the volume of appeals is down by 50 percent as a result.

Wojcicki also announced another new program related to video monetization which is launching into pilot testing with a small number of creators starting this month.

This system will allow creators to disclose, specifically, what sort of content is in their video during the upload process, as it relates to YouTube’s advertiser-friendly guidelines.

“In an ideal world, we’ll eventually get to a state where creators across the platform are able to accurately represent what’s in their videos so that their insights, combined with those of our algorithmic classifiers and human reviewers, will make the monetization process much smoother with fewer false positive demonetizations,” said Wojcicki.

Essentially, this system would rely on self-disclosure regarding content, which would then be factored in as another signal for YouTube’s monetization algorithms to consider. This was something YouTube had also said in February was in the works.

Because not all videos will be brand-safe or meet the requirements to become a YouTube Partner, YouTube now says it will also roll out alternative means of making money from videos. 

This includes an expansion of “sponsorships,” which have been in testing since last fall with a select group of creators.

Similar to Twitch subscriptions, sponsorships were introduced to the YouTube Gaming community as a way to support favorites creators through monthly subscriptions (at $4.99/mo), while also receiving various perks like custom emoji and a custom badge for live chat.

Now YouTube says “many more creators” will gain access to sponsorships in the months ahead, but it’s not yet saying how those creators will be selected, or if they’ll have to meet certain requirements, as well. It’s also unclear if YouTube will roll these out more broadly to its community, outside of gaming.

Wojcicki gave updates on various other changes YouTube has enacted in recent months. For example, she said that YouTube’s new moderation tools have led to a 75-plus percent decline in comment flags on channels, where enabled, and these will now be expanded to 10 languages. YouTube’s newer social network-inspired Community feature has also been expanded to more channels, she noted.

The company also patted itself on the back for its improved communication with the wider creator community, saying that this year it has increased replies by 600 percent and improved its reply rate by 75 percent to tweets addressed to its official handles: @TeamYouTube, @YTCreators, and @YouTube.

While that may be true, it’s notable that YouTube isn’t publicly addressing the growing number of complaints from creators who – rightly or wrongly – believe their channel has been somehow “downgraded” by YouTube’s recommendation algorithms, resulting in declining views and loss of subscribers.

This is the issue that led the disturbed individual, Nasim Najafi Aghdam, to attack YouTube’s headquarters earlier this month. Police said that Aghdam, who shot at YouTube employees before killing herself, was “upset with the policies and practices of YouTube.”

It’s obvious, then, why YouTube is likely proceeding with extreme caution when it comes to communicating its policy changes, and isn’t directly addressing complaints similar to Aghdam’s from others in the community.

But the creator backlash is still making itself known. Just read the Twitter replies or comment thread on Wojcicki’s announcement. YouTube’s smaller creators feel they’ve been unfairly punished because of the misdeeds of a few high-profile stars. They’re angry that they don’t have visibility into why their videos are seeing reduced viewership – they only know that something changed.

YouTube glosses over this by touting the successes of its bigger channels.

“Over the last year, channels earning five figures annually grew more than 35 percent, while channels earning six figures annually grew more than 40 percent,” Wojcicki said, highlighting YouTube’s growth.

In fairness, however, YouTube is in a tough place. Its site became so successful over the years, that it became impossible for it to police all the uploads manually. At first, this was the cause for celebration and the chance to put Google’s advanced engineering and technology to work. But these days, as with other sites of similar scale, the challenging of policing bad actors among billions of users, is becoming a Herculean task – and one companies are failing at, too.

YouTube’s over-reliance on algorithms and technology has allowed for a lot of awful content to see daylight – including inappropriate videos aimed a children, disturbing videos, terrorist propaganda, hate speech, fake news and conspiracy theories, unlabeled ads disguised as product reviews or as “fun” content, videos of kids that attract pedophiles, and commenting systems that allowed for harassment and trolling at scale.

To name a few.

YouTube may have woken up late to its numerous issues, but it’s not ignorant of them, at least.

“We know the last year has not been easy for many of you. But we’re committed to listening and using your feedback to help YouTube thrive,” Wojcicki said. “While we’re proud of this progress, I know we have more work to do.”

That’s putting it mildly.