All posts in “Streaming Video”

Tinder’s interactive video series ‘Swipe Night’ is going international next year

Tinder’s big experiment with interactive content — the recently launched in-app series called Swipe Night — was a success. According to Tinder parent company Match during its Q3 earnings this week, “millions” of Tinder users tuned into to watch the show’s episodes during its run in October, and this drove double-digit increases in both matches and messages. As a result, Match confirmed its plans to launch Tinder’s new show outside the U.S. in early 2020. 

Swipe Night’s launch was something of a departure for the dating app, whose primary focus has been on connecting users for dating and other more casual affairs.

The new series presented users with something else to do in the Tinder app beyond just swiping on potential matches. Instead, you swiped on a story.

Presented in a “choose-your-own-adventure” style format that’s been popularized by Netflix, YouTube, and others, Swipe Night asked users to make decisions to advance a narrative that followed a group of friends in an “apocalyptic adventure.”

Swipe Night ChoiceThe moral and practical choices you made during Swipe Night would then be shown on your profile as a conversation starter, or as just another signal as to whether or not a match was right for you. After all, they say that the best relationships come from those who share common values, not necessarily common interests. And Swipe Night helped to uncover aspects to someone’s personality that a profile would not — like whether you’d cover for a friend who cheated, or tell your other friend who was the one being cheated on?

The 5-minute long episodes ran every Sunday night in October from 6 PM to midnight.

Though early reports on Tinder’s plans had somewhat dramatically described Swipe Night as Tinder’s launch into streaming video, it’s more accurate to call Swipe Night an engagement booster for an app that many people often find themselves needing a break from. Specifically, it could help Tinder to address issues around declines in open rates or sessions per user — metrics that often hide behind what otherwise looks like steady growth. (Tinder, for example, added another 437,000 subscribers in the quarter, leading to 5.7 million average subscribers in Q3).

Ahead of earnings, there were already signs that Swipe Night was succeeding in its efforts to boost engagement.

Tinder said in late October that matches on its app jumped 26% compared to a typical Sunday night, and messages increased 12%.

On Tinder’s earnings call with investors, Match presented some updated metrics. The company said Swipe Night led to a 20% to 25% increase in “likes” and a 30% increase in matches. And the elevated conversation levels that resulted from user participation continued for days after each episode aired. Also importantly, the series helped boost female engagement in the app.

“This really extended our appeal and resonated with Gen Z users,” said Match CEO Mandy Ginsberg. “This effort demonstrates the kind of creativity and team we have a tender and the kind of that we’re willing to make.”

Swipe Night

The company says it will make Season 1 of Swipe Night (a hint there’s more to come) available soon as an on-demand experience, and will roll out the product to international markets early next year.

Swipe Night isn’t the only video product Match Group has in the works. In other Match-owned dating apps, Plenty of Fish and Twoo, the company is starting to test live streaming broadcasts. But these are created by the app’s users, not as a polished, professional product from the company itself.

Match had reported better-than-expected earnings for the third quarter, with earnings of 51 cents per share — above analysts’ expectations for earnings of 42 cents per share. Match’s revenue was $541 million, in line with Wall St.’s expectations.

But its fourth-quarter guidance came in lower than expectations ($545M-$555M, below the projected $559.3M), sending the stock dropping. Match said it would have to take on about $10 million in expenses related to it being spun out from parent company IAC.

How Zhihu’s become one of China’s biggest hubs for experts

Zhihu may not be as well known outside of China as WeChat or ByteDance’s Douyin, but over the past eight years, it has cultivated a reputation for being one of the country’s most trustworthy social media platforms. Originally launched as a question-and-answer site similar to Quora, Zhihu has grown to be a central hub for professional knowledge, allowing users to interact with experts and companies in a wide range of industries.

Headquartered in Beijing, Zhihu recently raised a $434 million Series F, its biggest round since 2011. The funding also brought Zhihu two important new partners: video and live-streaming app Beijing Kuaishou, which led the round, and Baidu, owner of China’s largest search engine (other participants in the round included Tencent and CapitalToday).

Launched in 2011, Zhihu (the name means “do you know”) is most frequently compared to Quora and Yahoo Answers. While it resembled those Q&A platforms at first, it has grown in scope. Now it would be more accurate to say that the platform is like a combination of Quora, LinkedIn and Medium’s subscription program.

For example, Zhihu has an invitation-only blogging platform for verified experts and since launching official accounts, it has become a channel for companies and organizations to communicate with users. A representative for Zhihu told TechCrunch that the platform had 220 million users and 30,000 official accounts as of January 2019 (for context, there are currently about 800 million Internet users in China), who have posted a total of 130 million answers so far.

The company’s growth will be closely watched since Zhihu is reportedly preparing for an initial public offering. Last November, the company hired its first chief financial officer, Sun Wei, heightening speculation. A representative for the company told TechCrunch the position was created because of Zhihu’s business development needs and that there is currently no timeline for a public listing.

At the same time, the company has also dealt with reports that its growth has slowed.

Streaming video service Iflix raises more than $50 million led by Fidelity International as it prepares to go public

Iflix, the streaming video service that competes with Netflix in Southeast Asia and other emerging markets, announced today that it has raised a new round of funding led by Fidelity International, with participation from returning investors Catcha Group, Hearst, Sky and EMC. The Malaysia-based company did not disclose the amount of the round, but said it totals more than $50 million and will be used for growth ahead of a potential public offering.

Iflix also added new media companies as investors, including MNC, Yoshimoto Kogyo and JTBC, from Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, respectively. The company currently claims 17 million active users, up from 9 million six months ago. In a press release, co-founder and chairman Patrick Grove said “These investments are a clear affirmation of IFlix’s business model and growth prospects, and strengthens our ties to some of the region’s largest providers of local content.”

The company announced seven months ago that it had sold off its remaining shares in its Africa business, called Kwesé Iflix, to focus on its markets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The latest round brings its total funding raised so far to more than $350 million, according to Crunchbase.

Netflix raised prices—and lost 126,000 U.S. subscribers

For the first time since 2011, Netflix lost U.S. subscribers.

The streaming video service said on Wednesday it lost 126,000 subscribers in the U.S. in the second quarter of 2019. The loss in U.S. subscribers wasn’t helped by the underwhelming 2.7 million global subscribers the company added — about half short of the 5 million it was expecting.

The easiest thing to do is point fingers at the growing number of streaming services competing with Netflix. For example, Disney+, available this holiday season starting at $6.99 a month, has everyone already claiming they’ll dump Netflix.

However, the drop in U.S. subscribers and lackluster global growth was largely due to more boring reasons, according to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. In his investor’s note, Hastings said price hikes that went into effect in January contributed to the weaker-than-expected quarter results. The “Basic” plan increased from $8 per month to $9, the “Standard” two-screen plan jumped from $11 to $13, and the “Premium” plan increased from $14 to $16.

“Our missed forecast was across all regions, but slightly more so in regions with price increases,” Hastings said. “We don’t believe competition was a factor since there wasn’t a material change in the competitive landscape during Q2…”

Though it had a poor second quarter, Hastings expects things to rebound in the second half of the year, fueled by the successful launch of original programming such as Season 3 of Stranger Things.

Q3 has started with Stranger Things Season 3, and the first two weeks of Q3 are strong,” Hastings said. “In addition to the recently released Season 3 of Stranger Things, our second half content slate includes new seasons of La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), The Crown, and the final season of the iconic Orange is the New Black as well as big films like The Irishman from Martin Scorsese and action movie 6 Underground (directed by Michael Bay and starring Ryan Reynolds).”

All this recent and upcoming original content should help Netflix continue to grow. Hastings said he expects Netflix to attract 7 million new subscribers in the next quarter compared to the 6.1 million subscribers the service added during the same period in 2018. The majority of the subscriber growth, 6.2 million subscribers, is predicted to come from abroad. Netflix expects to add 800,000 in the U.S.

Even factoring in beloved shows like Friends and The Office leaving Netflix, Hastings is optimistic the streaming service still has long legs as it invests even more in exclusive original video.

“We’ve been moving our content from semi-exclusive catalog and 2nd-window unbranded content to branded exclusive 1st window original content for many years,” Hastings said. “Much of our domestic, and eventually global, Disney catalog, as well as Friends, The Office, and some other licensed content will wind down over the coming years, freeing up budget for more original content.”

At a certain point, though, everyone’s gotta take a good look at their monthly bill for streaming services because there are just too many of them. A few bucks here for this and for that might not seem like much at first, but it quickly adds up.

Netflix’s bottom line will take a beating if you decide to leave, but you might be better off if you do.

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YouTube lands on Fire TV and Amazon Prime Video arrives on Chromecast, Android TV

It’s nice when people can come together and work through their differences to make it easier to watch stuff. That’s exactly what happened today, when the long-standing detente between Google and Amazon over streaming video services came to an end, with YouTube arriving on Fire TV and Prime Video making its way to Chromecast and Android TV.

Amazon’s second-generation Fire TV Stick, their Fire TV Stick 4K, the Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick Basic Edition and Fire TV Edition smart TVs made by partner OEMs will all get support for the official YouTube app globally starting today, and Amazon intends to extend support to even more of its hardware in future. YouTube TV and YouTube Kids will also come to Amazon Fire TV device later this year.

On the Google side, both its own Chromecast devices, as well as partners TVs and hardware that support Chromecast built-in, or that run Android TV, will gain support broadly for Prime Video. Plus, any Chromecast Ultra owners will also get access to Prime Video’s 4,000 title library normally reserved for Prime members only at no additional cost as part of the new tie-up between the two companies.

Prime has been available on some Android TV devices to date, but it’s expanding to a much broader selection of those smart TVs and streaming boxes from today.

This has been a long time coming – several years in fact, with the most recent spat between the two coming as a result of Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show. Then, in May, the companies announced they’d reached an agreement to put the feud behind them in the interest of consumers, which is what resulted in this cross-platform launch today.

Let the streams flow!