Academy Expands Streaming Platform to Include Best Picture Contenders, Samsung Hits The Accelerator On Streaming Content At SDC 2019 and other top news

Few key things that happened around the Ad Tech & Media Tech world this week.

Academy Expands Streaming Platform to Include Best Picture Contenders

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has launched an expanded version of its Streaming Room platform for members to watch Oscar contenders. Members of AMPAS received a notice from the Academy on Wednesday, noting the expansion now includes best picture hopefuls. Voters were already able to stream documentaries, animated films and shorts on the Academy’s members-only viewing site. “Our streaming platform will provide greater access to movies in consideration to our growing global membership, while taking positive steps toward a greener, more environmentally friendly future,” the message said. Academy President David Rubin had disclosed two weeks ago that the Academy wants to do away with DVDs for environmental purposes along with reducing costs for studios. The Academy Screening Room is an Apple TV and Apple TV 4k app that’s usable with a member username and password. Some of the titles currently posted include “After the Wedding” (Sony Classics), “Dolemite Is My Name” (Netflix), “Downton Abbey” (Focus), “Frankie” (Sony Classics), “Judy” (Roadside Attractions), “The Mustang” (Focus), “Pain and Glory” (Sony Classics) and “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (Roadside Attractions). Studios can still mail DVD screeners to members through approved mailing houses. Those screeners, which are sent to the entire membership, started being sent out on Oct. 18. The message urged members to see as many Oscar contenders as possible in theaters: “We encourage you to view as many films as possible during their theatrical release and at additional theatrical screenings made available. The Academy will continue to host member screenings in Los Angeles, New York, the Bay Area and London.”

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Samsung Hits The Accelerator On Streaming Content At SDC 2019

In perhaps Samsung’s boldest public acknowledgment yet that video content is an essential element in its entertainment strategy, the company announced at the Samsung Developer Conference that it would open its smart TV platform, Tizen, to third-party manufacturers. Sang Kim, Samsung’s SmartTV Product VP, noted that Samsung customers have cumulatively watched 1 billion hours of live TV content on 100 million smart TVs with Tizen TV OS support (all Samsung models shipped since 2016 include Tizen). According to Kim, though 3 out of 4 smart TV users stream video regularly, 44% of its user base are actually “cord shavers”—that is, they consume both streaming video and linear TV content. While it’s impressive that 100 million TVs already support Tizen, the move to offer Tizen to third-party TV manufacturers is clearly an attempt to slow the flow of TV manufacturers like Hisense and TCL from embracing Roku TV and Android TV as their embedded smart operating system platform. Additionally, this announcement is likely to increase Bixby’s customer base, a crucial goal for the South Korean consumer electronics giant. Not unlike Apple, with its TV+ service announced earlier in the year, streaming TV is now a central element in Samsung’s overall consumer entertainment products and smart home strategy. Samsung believes Tizen will grow in its appeal to TV manufacturers since its Samsung TV Plus platform offers free content (including over 70 live TV channels) that can be integrated with Over-The-Top (OTT) cable providers. It should be noted that the Tizen platform can already stream content from hundreds of popular apps, including Apple’s eagerly-awaited new original content service. Samsung TV Plus is the company’s free, ad-supported TV service. It supports over 70 channels with live news, sports and entertainment programming. Samsung pre-installs it on all of its smart TVs (since 2016) and offers a frictionless experience that allows consumers to watch content for free instantly. To stoke the creation of new (especially 4K and 8K) content, Kim emphasized that Samsung is prepared to assist developers with marketing and monetization support. The developer community will be particularly impressed with the new SDKs announced at SDC 2019 that allow content developers to facilitate the distribution and management of ads. In a nod to the privacy concerns many consumers have with viewing ad-supported video, Samsung thankfully announced a tool dubbed TIFA (Tizen Identifier for Advertising). The company says this will give consumers the option to limit tracking or opt-out of targeted advertising.

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Walmart is reportedly looking to sell its Vudu streaming service

Walmart is considering a sale of its Vudu video streaming service, according to a new report from The Information. It’s not known how much the company is looking to sell the service for, nor whether it has enlisted bankers to assist with the sale. Walmart purchased Vudu back in 2010 for $100 million. The Information notes several reasons why Walmart could be looking to sell Vudu now. For starters, the video streaming market is getting increasingly crowded with Apple TV Plus and Disney+ launching next month and HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock services coming next year. Vudu’s digital rentals and purchases business model has also fallen a bit out of favor in recent years, as all-you-can-eat subscription streaming services have become the norm. Vudu has always been considered one of the better places to stream a movie, as the service emphasizes video quality and HDR presentation. It was also a central player in UltraViolet, with a disc-to-digital program that let customers add their movie collection to the cloud. Vudu now supports Movies Anywhere as well. Walmart hasn’t appeared shy about investing in Vudu. Earlier this year, it announced a slate of original content led by a reboot of the 1983 movie Mr. Mom, which premiered last month. Behind the scenes, it’s also reportedly considered offering “shoppable” TV shows and movies, and The Information reported that it even considered launching a subscription streaming service last year. However, sources now say that the amount of investment required to turn Vudu around no longer makes sense for Walmart.

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Sony is closing Vue, its pay TV streaming service you never used

Apple, Disney, and WarnerMedia are all launching new video streaming services that you’re going to hear a lot about over the next few days. But here’s news about one streaming service that’s shutting down: Sony’s Playstation Vue, which offered a digital version of the cable TV bundle, will close up shop in January. “The highly competitive Pay TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected,” Sony said in an announcement on Tuesday. Translation: Sony was losing money on the service — which sold for around $50 a month and was supposed to appeal to people who owned its Playstation gaming consoles — and didn’t have many subscribers. Sony had previously tried to find a buyer for the service, according to a report from The Information. Sony was one of the first so-called “virtual mvpds”: bundles of network programming delivered over the internet that replicate what traditional pay TV distributors like Comcast sell. That group now includes YouTube, Hulu, and Dish’s Sling. At first, digital TV bundles, which retailed for $20 to $40 a month depending on the channels, seemed like they might be appealing to people who wanted to get live TV but didn’t want to buy it from a traditional cable company, or who had a pay TV subscription but wanted to spend less money. But none of the services have gained more than a couple million subscribers, according to industry sources — Comcast, by contrast, has 20 million pay TV subscribers — and all of them lose money. They have also been steadily increasing prices and in some cases adding more channels as they go, which means they are starting to more closely resemble conventional TV distributors.

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Xbox One console streaming is here

Xbox has announced a feature that lets you play any of the Xbox One games on your console remotely on an Android phone or tablet. As reported earlier Tuesday by The Verge, Xbox Console Streaming is the second Xbox streaming service option after Microsoft’s Project xCloud, which lets you stream any game on a mobile device directly from the cloud. “I’ve been spending a lot of time testing Xbox Console Streaming through our internal employee takehome program, spending lunch breaks playing,” Jonathan Hildebrandt, Xbox’s principal program manager, wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “You’ll be able to play your owned and installed Xbox One games, including Xbox Game Pass titles, on an Android phone or tablet remotely from your home console.” Xbox Console Streaming is available now for Xbox Insiders in the Alpha and Alpha Skip-Ahead rings in the US and the UK. It’ll be expanded to more rings and regions later, Hildebrandt said. To participate in the program, you’ll need a phone or tablet with Android 6.0 or higher and Bluetooth 4.0, a Bluetooth Xbox One wireless controller and an optional controller mount. You can then download the Xbox Game Streaming (Preview) app from the Google Play Store. The app will perform a network test, with a required minimum of 4.75Mbps upstream bandwidth and 125ms or less latency. Original Xbox titles and Xbox 360 backwards-compatible games are not yet supported by the service.

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