Special Report—The SVOD graveyard: 5 services that have already bitten the dust amid the streaming revolution

Graveyard (Image: Pixabay / darksouls1)
A saturated SVOD market made it tough for even established content providers to launch streaming offerings. (Image: Pixabay / darksouls1)

Dark, mortal terminology gets thrown around a lot on the media and telecom business. As new technologies constantly emerge, there’s always something in the incumbent realm that’s said to be dead or dying.

From brick-and-mortar packaged media and bookstores to QAM-delivered video, we all gotta go sometime. But it turns out that disruption ain’t easy, either. 

And as the field of subscription video on demand services has proliferated over the last seven years, there have been a few casualties. We can probably expect a few more from the ranks of virtual MVPD providers, which are all going for the same finite set of consumers.

Here’s a brief look at some of the streaming services that haven’t made it. 

AMAZON’S ANIME STRIKE: Amazon announced earlier this month that it was liquidating its anime SVOD channel, along with the Bollywood-focused Heera, and putting all the content in the general population of its Amazon Prime Video platform. Launched only a year ago, Anime Strike secured licensing rights to much of 2017’s most acclaimed anime titles, including “Inuyashiki,” “Princess Principal” and “Made In Abyss.” But Strike found itself in a competitive market for SVOD anime. Not only do large, general entertainment platforms like Netflix and Hulu stock it, but there were better entrenched specialty offerings like Crunchyroll to contend with. Also, on top of their $99-a-year Amazon Prime subscription, Anime Strike users had to pay $5 a month, giving the channel what was, in effect, a double pay wall. 

FULLSCREEN: Otter Media, the oddly named joint venture between AT&T and The Chernin Group, acquired the YouTube multichannel network Fullscreen in 2014 and launched it as a standalone SVOD service in April 2016. But the $6-a-month mix of original talks shows like “Shane and Friends” and series including “Jay Versace Is Stuck in the 90s” never caught on. George Strompolos, founder and CEO of Fullscreen announced in November that Fullscreen would be shutting down this month. “We came to the conclusion that funding SVOD — a longer-term investment — was limiting our ability to invest in our dynamic Creator, Brand, and Rooster Teeth divisions that have more established scale and immediate impact,” Strompolos said. 

SEESO: This might be the biggest SVOD bust so far. Comcast/NBCUniversal launched Seeso with great fanfare two years ago, billing it as a leading SVOD destination for comedy. The platform seemed like an interesting way for NBC to monetize the fact that all of the stackable pieces of its late-night empire were being passed around the viral internet on a daily basis. Seeso provided an SVOD home for all those Saturday Night Live skits and Jimmy Fallon segments that were getting passed around for free on YouTube. Further, the $3.99-a-month platform could house all the zany original series ideas from NBCU studio players like “Community” creator Dan Harmon, whose comedic impulses seemed perfect for short-form on-demand digital consumption from youthful audience that got the very specific jokes. Turns out, however, that without the grounding of executive notes and primetime budgets, NBCU’s laughmakers couldn’t come up with a hit that could carry the service.  NBCU shuttered Seeso in August. 

VIMEO SVOD: This one didn’t even get off the ground. Joey Levin, CEO of Vimeo parent IAC, announced plans to launch a Vimeo-branded SVOD service to compete with stalwarts Netflix, Amazon and Hulu at CES a year ago. “We’re going to spend real money on programming for the first time ever, and put real marketing money behind it,’’ he said. But the streaming company backed off the SVOD plan by June. Simply put, they looked at the market. More than 100 standalone OTT services now serve U.S. viewers. While the growth of new entries is slowing, the market is still saturated. As top SVOD platforms Netflix, Amazon and Hulu collectively spend more than $12 billion a year on original content, the economics are daunting. “This was a difficult decision—the idea of pursuing an SVOD service for Vimeo has always been intriguing,” Levin said. “The opportunity ahead for Vimeo to empower creators is too large and too important for us to attack with anything other than absolute focus and clarity.”

COX’S FLAREKIDS and FLAREME TV: Cox Communications shuttered its Flare-branded digital media assets two years ago, which included the FlareMe TV and FlareKids SVOD platforms, the FlarePlay video gaming service, and the myFlare digital storage service. According to the cable company, the Flare services attracted more than 300,000 users. "However, as market conditions within these services continued to harden, we were unable to monetize the user interest and web traffic to the level we needed to sustain the business," Cox spokesperson Todd Smith said at the time. "As a result, we made the decision to shut down all Flare products, have begun to notify customers and will work to make the transition for these customers as smooth as possible."