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Week In Review: The Rise Of Local Streaming Apps, The Fall Of DirecTV Now Subscriber Numbers

1. The Rise Of Local Streaming Apps

It’s been a big week for local broadcast networks and OTT. Sinclair launched STIRR, their new app that combines their local broadcast channels with some really forgettable VOD content. The New York Times ran a big story on Locast, aka Aereo 2.0. And Syncbak’s SBTV app, which does more or less the same thing as STIRR, only less conservatively, is out there too.

Why It Matters

The Flixpocalypse is coming.

(Yeah, we made that one up. Feel free to steal it.)

But by sometime in the middle of 2020, there will be seven extremely large SVOD services (maybe even eight, if CBS/Viacom happens) pumping out something like $15 billion worth of original programming a year.

Or $12 billion, Or $20 billion.

Regardless, it’s still going to be way more than any of us could ever hope to watch.

When that happens, people are really going to start wondering why they’re paying for cable because with all the Flix content out there—most of which will either be ad-free or ad-lite—who is going to want to sit through all those shows with all those commercials instead?

Actually a lot of people.

Because they’re lazy or because they’ve never gotten around to signing up for Netflix or any other Flix. (We easily forget that Netflix doesn’t have anywhere near the penetration of MVPD pay TV.) Or because they can’t afford it.

That said, a whole lot of people will start wondering why they’re still paying for a cable bundle they rarely watch, the answer to which will likely be “because that’s the only way you can still get local news and sports.”

And that’s where STIRR, STBV, Locast (I keep wanting to call it “Lojack”) and similar services come in.

Because if I can get my local broadcast stations, with their news, weather and sports  for free, then the idea of giving up pay TV starts to make a lot more sense, especially given that I’d still be able to watch ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW to my heart’s content.

So that trickle of full-on cord cutters might start to turn into an even bigger trickle.

We’re thinking it might go from the current 1% a year to as high as 7%. Remember that changes like this don’t happen quickly, and that all those people over 60 who watch 5 hours of network TV every night aren’t dying off any time soon. As in come 2029, they’ll all be over 70 and watching 5 hours or more of network TV every night.

But for the rest of us, the Flixcopalypse might prove the be the beginning of the end.

The very beginning.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a vMVPD, consider putting out a super-skinny bundle with just the local broadcast networks in it. If you can keep that at around $15/month, a lot of people are going to find that easier to deal with than trying to locate, sign up for and use a different app for every single local station.

If you’re Hulu Live TV in particular, a well-priced combo of local broadcast plus the Hulu service seems like an easy “W.” 

If you’re Roku, Apple or Amazon, creating a new bundle with a bunch of Flixes, a bunch of local stations, some newspapers and magazines, Spotify, the kitchen sink and whatever else you might throw in is probably something you’re already thinking about. Call it “The Great Rebundling” (we do) but it’s going to happen soon.


2. The Fall Of DirecTV Now Subscriber Numbers

So DirecTVNow (DTVN) lost over 250,000 subscribers and you’d think the sky was falling on vMVPDs.

Why It Matters

What this proves to us is not that vMVPDs are poison, but rather that promotional pricing is. AT&T, by its own admission, was handing out big discounts like water bottles at the end of a marathon, and the phasing out of those discounts (some were as low as $10/month) is likely why so many viewers left.

What we’d really like to know is what became of the those 250,000+ viewers who left DTVN. Did they go to another vMVPD? Cut the cord entirely? Revert back to traditional MVPD pay TV?

And while we’ll never actually know the answer to that, our guess is that it’s a combination of all three, with more moving to another vMVPD, one that features a single pricing option and a more user friendly interface, hint, nudge.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a vMVPD, remember that while promotions may get you a viewer for a few months, a good interface will get you a customer for life. (Or something close to it, and given the cost of acquisition, you should most definitely focus on long-term relationships.)


3. In Case You Missed It: Anatomy Of A Fake News Story

Maybe you’ve been seeing headlines this week or reposts on your socials about how “60% of viewers have already cut the cord.”

Maybe you’ve been thinking to yourself that if that’s true, how are Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Charter, Cox et al still in business?

So thanks to a hat tip from TV Answerman Phil Swann, we did a little digging and discovered that the “survey” was performed by someone listed as “Creative Director” at an SEO marketing firm on behalf of a client, that the people in the survey were all discovered via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (e.g., people who get paid to take surveys), and despite all this, the story was picked up by over half a dozen well known websites, some of which even purport to cover the TV industry, and reported as fact.

If nothing else, it’s a very illustrative story of how confirmation bias combined with the promise of multiple clicks can help a #FakeNews story go viral.

Check the TVREV story out here.