The virtual multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) market is rapidly becoming a crowded place.
Initially the dominion of Sling TV, the population of that segment has expanded with the launches of services such as Sony’s PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, and it will soon become home to YouTube TV and a streaming TV service from Hulu.
A service that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is fuboTV, a self-proclaimed sports-first vMVPD that kicked off an original, slimmed-down version of its service in January 2015, and then followed it this past February with the beta debut of a new, bigger OTT TV service. That new service doubled its lineup to 45-plus channels following recent carriage deals with Fox Networks, NBCUniversal, A+E Networks and others.
Now fuboTV is pushing toward a commercial launch of a flagship “Premiere” package under the introductory price of $34.99 per month (it will eventually go up to $49.99 per month), alongside a mix of add-on packages.
As the only truly independent vMVPD of the aforementioned lot, fuboTV executives said the service is in a good spot at this point in the OTT video evolution.
“We feel comfortable and we’re here to compete,” David Gandler, fuboTV’s cofounder and CEO, said, noting that he expects his service to strengthen its basic programming packages in the next couple of months.
Gandler said fuboTV’s focus on a sports-laden basic package, with a heavy emphasis on soccer and the inclusion of regional sports networks from NBC Sports Group and Fox Sports, is already a differentiator.
fuboTV is not as large as some of the competitive services already on the market (MoffettNathanson believes that Sling TV and DirecTV Now have about 1.4 million subs between them), but feels it is set up to grow at a measured pace.
“The tide will carry all players in the short term,” Gandler said, noting that there’s no rush to get to a million subs by next year. “This is not a zero-sum game yet. It’s not a market-share game yet. We’re at the bottom of an S-curve.”
fuboTV has not released any recent subscriber figures, but the service set a record of delivering between 47 million and 48 million minutes of video in February and is on track to double that in March, Gandler said.
Unlike most U.S.-based vMVPDs, though, fuboTV, which also offers a package for consumers in Canada, will be seeking subscriber growth in other corners of the globe.
“Internationally is where we see our greatest leverage and our ability to move quickly,” said Gandler, who expects to launch on another continent as early as this September or October.
The distributor has also been investing heavily into its streaming platform, claiming it’s the first to fully implement SCTE 224, a standard that enables IP video services to handle sophisticated and somewhat tricky blackout restrictions and insert alternate streams of content, if necessary. fuboTV has been able to automate the process.
“There’s no humans. It just does what it’s supposed to do,” Jason Solinsky, fuboTV’s chief technology officer, said of the service’s support of SCTE 224.
The current goal is to migrate the platform completely to a software-driven system outfitted with machine-learning capabilities by the end of 2017, Solinsky said.
Gandler reiterated that fuboTV could pursue potential, ancillary business models in which the company would license its platform to other OTT services and become a competitor to infrastructure players such as The Walt Disney Co.-backed BAMTech. However, the pay-TV offering remains the core focus of its business.
“There are media companies, well-known media companies, that have approached us to discuss our platform and whether there’s an opportunity to license it,” Gandler said. “But we’re not going to build our business around [the licensing model]. We’re a subscription sports service first.”