Deeper Dive—Tracking global growth for Pluto TV, Roku Channel and more AVODs

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Roku this week said the Roku Channel is launching in the U.K. (Pinho/Unsplash)

Ad-supported streaming services in the U.S. are spreading their free content into international markets in search of more users and more ad revenue.

This week, both ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV and the Roku Channel announced significant international launches. Peers including Tubi have also been growing globally while upcoming AVOD giants like NBCUniversal’s Peacock will eventually look outside the U.S. for more business.

Here’s a breakdown of where most major ad-supported streamers are in their international expansion plans.

The Roku Channel

Roku this week said the Roku Channel is launching in the U.K. The service will hit the country with support on Roku streaming devices and Roku TV along with a big assist from pay TV provider Sky, which will offer the service on its Now TV devices and the Sky Q set-top box.

The U.K. is the second international launch for the Roku Channel since it officially arrived in 2017. In 2018, the service showed up in Canada.

Roku TVs and players have made their way into many international markets including Mexico, Brazil, Europe and Canada. During the company’s most recent earnings call, CFO Steve Louden said Roku was starting to ramp up ad sales for the Roku Channel in Canada and that the service was already in the top five in terms of reach in the country.

“So, you can start to see that a model of scale engagement and monetization is going,” said Louden, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “Canada is a bit farther ahead of some of the other ones. But I think it's a good proof point that the model can work.”

Pluto TV

Pluto TV this week went live on multiple devices in 17 Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, El Salvador, Uruguay and Venezuela.

ViacomCBS also announced that Pluto TV Brasil is slated to launch at the end of 2020. Last year, Pluto TV expanded its availability in Europe, making its app available on Apple TV along with iOS devices in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the U.K. The German-language Pluto TV is also available on Sky Ticket and Amazon Fire TV devices, and Pluto TV in the U.K. is also available on Roku, NowTV and Fire TV.

It’s unclear which international markets Pluto TV might be targeting in the near-term, but the company is clearly not finished expanding. In February, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said Pluto TV is still in the early stages of entering international streaming on the free side.

Tubi

Tubi was acquired by Fox for $440 million, and the media giant focused on Tubi’s reach in the U.S. when it announced the deal. However, Tubi has also expanded into some international markets.

Tubi is available in Canada on multiple devices and platforms, and last year the service launched in Australia, too. The company said that due to changes in European Union laws, it’s no longer available to European users as of May 2018. Tubi said it’s working on bringing its app into compliance with General Data Protection Regulation laws in Europe and is hoping to relaunch in EU countries soon.

Late last year, Tubi said it plans to launch in the U.K. in early 2020. The company confirmed that the launch hasn’t happened yet.

Peacock

Peacock is launching in the U.S. next week with early-bird access to Peacock Premium for Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex customers. On July 15, both Peacock Premium and the free tier will open nationally.

Peacock Premium will also be bundled with video service for Cox customers, and Comcast said in January it expects to bundle Premium with additional partners in the coming months. Given Comcast’s ownership of Sky in the U.K., it’s reasonable to believe the service will show up there at some point. International expansion will likely be a big contributing factor in Peacock reaching its projected 30 million to 35 million active users by 2024.

Xumo

At CES in 2019, Xumo CEO Colin Petrie-Norris told Variety his company planned to launch in France, Germany, Spain, the U.K., Brazil and Italy that year. Approximately one year after that, Xumo was acquired by Comcast.

In the meantime, though, Xumo has been expanding its international distribution network. The company was already powering LG Channels on LG smart TVs, and in January, Xumo announced similar agreements with Sony and Panasonic.

Hulu

Hulu has grown its subscriber base at a much faster pace over the past few years. The service was at 30.7 million subscribers earlier this year, and Disney expects it to reach between 40 million and 60 million by 2024.

However, with the focus right now on Disney+ (which has already amassed 50 million paid subscribers), Hulu’s international launch likely won’t kick off until 2021. During Disney’s most recent earnings call, former CEO Bob Iger did say the company is working on an international rollout plan for Hulu and already has a lot of the specifics figured out.

CBS All Access

CBS All Access launched in Canada in 2018, and after that the service showed up in Australia. The global expansion plans have slowed since then as CBS and Viacom went through a lengthy process of recombining and becoming ViacomCBS. The company is now working on building out All Access into a more robust streaming product with content from Viacom’s channels and Paramount’s film library, but ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said more international expansion is in the works.

“…We are in early days, but we are absolutely working the international space, and we will update you as that plays out later in the year,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

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