05/04/17: Hulu launches live TV service, renews The Handmaid’s Tale


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Good morning. It’s Thursday May 4, 2017 and this is your your first early morning Digital briefing!


TODAY’S CODEBREAKER
 
In-Feed Video: The phrase In-feed video refers to native video ads found in content, social or product feeds. In-feed video is often paired with a headline, description, and logo.
 
 
TOP NEWS
 
This is what damage control looks like. In a new post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company will hire 3,000 new staffers to its global community operations team. Their task: Improving Facebook’s response to violent content and hate speech that’s posted on its platform. It’s not hard to see the motivation: Facebook – particularly Facebook Live – has been used to broadcast a number of violent crimes, including a recent murder in Cleveland. “We’re working to make these videos easier to report so we can take the right action sooner – whether that’s responding quickly when someone needs help or taking a post down,” wrote Zuckerberg. The 3,000 new staffers represent a huge expansion of the community operations team, which currently employs 4,500 people worldwide.
 
Some of its live video woes not withstanding, Facebook is doing just fine for itself. The social media giant reported $7.86 billion in Q1 revenue. By comparison, the company took in $5.38 billion in Q1 of 2016. The company’s net income was $3.06 billion, up from $1.51 billion a year ago. The one area where Facebook came in slightly below Wall Street’s expectations was in its earnings-per-share, which came in at $1.04. Analysts had predicted an earnings-per-share of $1.12. The company’s stock dipped – though by less than one percent – in after-hours trading.
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UPFRONT + NEWFRONT UPDATES
 
The biggest news from Hulu’s Upfront event came right at the top of the presentation: Hulu’s long-awaited Live TV service is now live. (The company is technically calling it a beta launch, just in case there are early problems.) CEO Mike Hopkins, speaking to a huge crowd at Madison Square Garden, confirmed some details that had already been reported: The service will cost $39.99, and will include all of Hulu’s traditional VOD content. It will also come equipped with a cloud-based DVR. It will feature the four major broadcast nets. (That was a close call: The company’s carriage deal with NBCUniversal was only announced this week, despite the fact that NBCU is a co-owner of the company.) Hopkins announced that Scripps’ roster of brands will be included as well. All told, the service will carry over 50 channels, including major sports, news, and kids’ brands. Notably absent are Viacom, AMC Networks, HBO, Starz, and Discovery Communications. And Hulu won’t offer local TV content from the four major networks in every market; the company say’s it’s still working on signing more affiliate deals. At the moment, local content deals are in place with ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBS networks in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. Hulu announced that advertisers will be able to dynamically insert targeted ads into the service. For the service’s cloud DVR, advertisers will be able to update ads in real-time. (In other words, advertisers can make sure that viewers see fresh ads no matter when they get around to watching the content.) To start, the service will be available via Apple TV, Microsoft’s Xbox One, Google’s Chromecast, and iOS and Android devices. Support for Samsung Smart TVs, as well as Amazon and Roku devices, will follow soon.
 
In other news, Hulu announced that it has renewed The Handmaid’s Tale, its critically lauded adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel. Other programming news included the casting of Alec Baldwin in The Looming Tower, the company’s upcoming drama series about the rise of Al-Qaeda and the run-up to the 9/11 attacks. The company also took the opportunity to announce some new ad products and partnerships. Hulu said that Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings product will be available to advertisers across connected-TV devices starting this fall. And the company announced a new interactive ad format, dubbed “T-commerce,” that will let Hulu subs purchase movie tickets directly through connected TV screens. Hulu says the on-screen purchasing feature will expand to other categories, such as restaurants and retail, in 2018. The T-commerce product is launching in partnership with
BrightLine
 
Refinery29
, the Turner-backed digital media company geared toward millennial women, announced its slate of new content. The company’s 2017 programming will include long-form content, live events, and new and returning short-form shows. New long-form series include Fabled – a fairytale anthology series produced by Evan Jonigkeit and ‘Girls’ actress Zosia Mamet – and Girly, a docu-series about girls who are trailblazers in their communities. The company will also launch I’m an Anomaly, a docu-series exploring the lives of rule-breaking women. The company’s 2017 short-form content will include RSVP, a new content brand about everyday living, and The Mention, a series about entertainment subcultures. Refinery29’s live events will include the RIOT Writer’s Lab, a two-day comedy lab launched in partnership with TBS. The new programming will be distributed across Refinery29’s network of distribution partners; the company says it reaches 500 million users worldwide.
 
 
PROGRAMMING + CONTENT ACQUISITIONS
 
In its earnings call, Facebook strongly suggested that it’s about to start targeting users with long-form video content. (The company recently introduced a new video tab to its platform, so now would be the time.)
We are looking at kickstarting an ecosystem for longer-form content on Facebook,” said Facebook CFO David Wehner. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook is looking to create “anchor content” for its video tab. No precise word just yet on what the content will look like, though Zuckerberg suggested that he’d be interested in licensing sports programming.
 
Come mid-2018, Amazon Prime Video will lose all of its HBO library content. The decision came from HBO. During Time Warner’s Q1 earnings call, HBO CEO Richard Plepler said the move was geared toward growing the subscriber base for HBO Now, the premium network’s standalone SVOD service.
 
Verizon
just acquired the exclusive streaming rights to a single regular season NFL game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. The rights cost Verizon $21 million. (Did we mention it was the NFL?) The game, which will be played on September 24, won’t be broadcast on national TV in the U.S. – hence the eye-popping price-tag, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The game will be available across Verizon’s video platforms, including AOL, Go90, Complex.com, and Fios TV.
 
 
PLATFORMS, APPS + DEVICES
 
Amazon
’s Freetime Unlimted service is now available on Android devices. The SVOD kid-friendly SVOD service was previously available only on Amazon devices like the Fire TV and Kindle Fire tablets. Despite the expansion to Android, a select number of games and apps will still only be available on such devices.
 
 
RESEARCH
 
Canvs
, the language analytics company that measures emotions around content, analyzed tweets about TV and streaming programming from April 26-May 2 using Twitter data from Nielsen. Insights from the 3,707,318 tweets expressing a specific Emotional Reaction (ER) include:
– Tops in excited ERs: Round 1 of the NFL draft on ESPN (which garnered a whopping 495,683 ERs), where Deshaun Watson was one of the most mentioned players of the evening.  
– Viewers were seriously creeped out by an episode of Ghost Hunters on Travel Channel that took place in Erie, Colorado and featured a family that’s been experiencing demonic activity.
– People thought Becky Williams (portrayed by Gabourey Sidibe) looked beautiful in the red dress she wore during the latest episode of Empire on Fox.
– Tops in funny ERs (excluding sports): Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion episode, part 3, where viewers were particularly tickled by Phaedra Parks.
 
 
EXECUTIVE MOVES
 
Big changes are afoot at Seeso, NBCUniversal’s comedy-oriented SVOD service. Evan Shapiro, who has headed up Seeso since its inception in early 2016, is leaving his post. (Official title: EVP of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises.) The service offers a library of NBCU comedy content, as well as next-day streaming of shows like The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. It also offers some original comedy programming, but most industry insiders believe that the service’s business model is about to change: Expanded access to NBCU’s programming, but no more original content. Shapiro’s exit seems likely to hasten that shift.
 
 
TRIVIA
 
Our Last Trivia Question: Susan and Anne Wojcicki are both CEOs. Of what companies? Answer: YouTube (Susan) and 23andMe (Anne). Kudos to Louis Lewow-Lewow Media Group/GA and Lorrie Shilling/CA. 
 
Follow-up: Who preceded Susan Wojcicki as CEO of YouTube? (Email 
trivia@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, and state.)

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DIGITAL SPOTLIGHT

As mentioned, Hulu has launched its long-awaited live TV service. Check out a demo
here
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