Univision's PrendeTV Pushes Into Spanish-Language Streaming with a Free Service. It Has Competition.
Under new leadership, Univision is pushing into streaming with PrendeTV, a free Spanish-language streaming service expected to launch this quarter. And with so many new entrants into the space, it will face tough competition.
PrendeTV boasts that it's the only entirely Spanish platform, with even its library menu written in Spanish.
At its launch, PrendeTV will offer over 30 channels and 10,000 hours of ad-supported streaming, the company announced this week. Univision has yet to announce a launch date but has confirmed that titles "Nosotros Los Guapos," "Strawberry Shortcake," "Walking Tall," "Amar A Muerte," "Love Nature" and "Lo Mejor De Liga MX" will be offered on PrendeTV.
Telemundo, another American Spanish-language network and Univision's largest competitor, offers some of its programming on Peacock, NBCUniversal's streaming platform. But it doesn't have an exclusive Spanish language platform. Meanwhile, ViacomCBS' Pluto TV, Discovery's Vix and Fox's Tubi services all also offer Spanish-language media catered to American audiences.
"The most important thing is that [PrendeTV] has been built from the ground up for the U.S. Hispanic," said Univision Chief Digital Officer Sameer Deen. "What we see as an opportunity is that the U.S. Hispanics are really underrepresented and underserved in the streaming marketplace. We are really taking the time, the energy and bringing all our expertise, to build a product that is 100% in Spanish language, in-culture and really offers a unique and compelling user experience."
Latino households make up a large portion of streaming video-on-demand subscriptions, according to a Nielsen report on Latino cultural connectivity. Seventy-eight percent of Latino households have at least one streaming video-on-demand subscription, compared to less than three-quarters of the total U.S. population.
"This move is a validation that there's a growing market [for Spanish-language media] in general," said Alejandro Rojas, the director of applied analytics at Parrot Analytics. "Spanish spoken content is actually increasing in demand. Overall, it's actually growing faster than English speaking content, though on a much smaller scale."
Late last year, Univision was acquired by Grupo Televisa, Searchlight Capital Partners and ForgeLight, an investment firm founded by Wade Davis, the former chief financial officer of Viacom and Univision's chief executive.
"The announcement of PrendeTV within two weeks of closing our acquisition of Univision underscores our focus and commitment to rapidly driving the transformation and growth of the company," said Davis in a statement.
Bring on the bird puns! On Wednesday, Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal's streaming service, Peacock, takes flight. Initially available to a subset of Comcast cable and broadband subscribers, Peacock will reportedly spread its wings across Comcast's footprint by the end of April before expanding on July 15 to other cable company customers and web and streaming platforms.
The new service will hatch with up to 15,000 hours' worth of content. Peacock's library will include a flock of NBC favorites like Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock and Law & Order: SVU; movies from Universal Pictures and Dreamworks Animation such as Jurassic Park, E.T. and Shrek; and news segments, talk shows, original series and content from Telemundo. Peacock will also offer a selection of live sports (once those migrate back), and in 2021 will have exclusive rights to The Office.
Pricing will be tiered. Comcast customers will have full access with ads for free, or ad-free for $5/month. The behemoth has already forged a deal with Cox, another communications company, to provide their customers preferential access to Peacock, and is reportedly negotiating terms with others. Non-Comcast customers will have three options: limited content feathered with advertisements will be free; double the content with ads for $5/month; or no ads for $10/month.
Peacock will find itself perched alongside feisty competition. Yet whereas most of its streaming market competitors have zigged toward offering subscription-based video on-demand (SVOD), Peacock's advertising-based (AVOD) platform represents a bit of a zag.
"One thing that helps Peacock stand out is that it will feature some content for free," said Ross Benes, analyst at eMarketer.
In such a crowded field (see below), Peacock's relatively strong content slate should help, too.
Select Streaming Services
*Most common plan
**Expected to launch in May 2020
The coronavirus complicates the picture. On one hand, demand for streaming is up. Comcast has touted a 50% year-on-year increase in video on-demand viewing among its cable customers in March.
But countertrends abound. With most filming halted due to physical distancing, Peacock had to push a "significant" number of its original show releases to 2021, per a company press briefing earlier this week. The absence of live sports has increased demand for some other forms of content, but it also weakens what would have been a competitive advantage for Peacock. The postponement of the Olympics hurts, too, as NBC can no longer use the event to goose subscribers nor promote the service on its other assets. And a weak economy threatens to squeeze disposable incomes and tighten advertising spend; Magna Global, a research firm, recently cut its 2020 U.S. ad sales forecast from 6.6% annual growth to a 2.8% decline.
Add it up, and it's no wonder Peacock executives wrote earlier this week that "we are viewing 2020 as a runway to 2021."
A Strategic Bird
That runway metaphor looks apt on a broader timescale, too. Several industry sources told dot.LA that Comcast's strategy is to use Peacock to hedge its business units.
"The overriding initial purpose of Peacock," said media analyst Bruce Leichtman, "is to add value for Comcast's 28.6 million (and growing) broadband subscribers."
Sources also told dot.LA that part of the strategy is to retain Pay-TV customers while also guiding a controlled move toward streaming.
Few companies have as much to lose from cord cutting as Comcast. According to analysts, the firm would be wise to accommodate this seemingly inevitable trend, while trying to limit the rate at which one of its cash cows is cannibalized.
Indeed, several of Peacock's features cater to an audience still attuned to the ways of pay-TV. That starts with offering them free access, which will nevertheless bring in streaming revenue from the ads. And, in contrast to customers who've grown used to ad-free offerings like Netflix, a cable TV audience will not likely find Peacock ads much of a deterrent to using the service. Yet perhaps neither will other potential customers, given that Peacock reportedly plans to limit ad loads to five minutes per hour, and experiment with new kinds of advertising, such as interactive ads, meant to be more user-friendly than the typical spot.
Analysts appear split as to whether ad-supported customers will bring in more revenue than subscribers paying a higher price.
"In general, programmatic advertising doesn't necessarily add a lot" of incremental value, said Brian Wieser of GroupM, an advertising firm, referring to Peacock's ability to target ads to viewers based on data.
But others have reported that Hulu's AVOD customers do in fact bring in more revenue than their ad-free counterparts, and insiders at NBCUniversal anticipate the same, per a source familiar with the matter. Also encouraging on this front is eMarketer's forecast from 2019 of 103% growth in streaming ad spending from 2019 to 2023.
Plus, flying alongside Comcast should help.
"Comcast already has all these relationships with advertisers, so that's a big advantage," one NBCUniversal employee told dot.LA.
Other potential differentiating features include the numerous Peacock "channels" that will carry pre-programmed linear content aligned under certain themes (such as Saturday Night Live, NBC News, and Unsolved Mysteries); the high volume of familiar shows and movies; and the automatic playing of content upon opening the service, much like turning on the tube.
Although Peacock has reportedly locked in several 18-month advertising commitments, analysts and investors doubtlessly await clues on company plans and expectations in the April 30th first-quarter earnings call. But it may be difficult to find them. Since Peacock is not its own company, its performance will not be broken out in financial reports. And, as with many streaming providers, the numerous subsidies that boost subscriber numbers mean not every figure can be taken at face value.
"Because Comcast subscribers will get it for free, pure subscription figures won't tell the entire story," said Benes. "The more pertinent behavior to look at is whether people are actually spending time watching it."
Sam Blake covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Find him on Twitter @hisamblake and email him at samblake@dot.LA
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