Tuesday, April 7, 2020, 12:15 PM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
As stay at home guidelines remain in place, it seems like more and more free TV and video are being made available, spanning the short and long ends of the tail (meaning super-premium through user-generated) - and everything in between. Not only does this create more choices for viewers, which will be welcomed, it also means more competition for subscription video services which were already vulnerable to belt-tightening. And for free TV/video that is ad-supported, it means more inventory and choices for advertisers.
Here’s what’s caught my eye just in the past week:
500 hours of HBO on The Roku Channel
At the short end of the tail, Variety reported late last week that HBO has added 500 hours of classic HBO content, Warner Bros. movies and Sesame Street episodes for free to The Roku Channel (includes “The Sopranos,” “Silicon Valley,” “The Wire,” etc.) If you haven’t done so recently, it’s worth browsing around The Roku Channel, there’s a lot of quality and quantity, well-grouped and categorized by free and paid. The Roku Channel also launched in U.K. no doubt the first move in an international rollout.
Comcast offers broad range of short and mid-tail content
Two weeks ago, Comcast gave its X1 and Flex customers free access to select short-tail premium programming on Showtime, Epix, CuriosityStream, History Vault and others. Today it also unlocked VOD content from two dozen mid-tail TV channels including African American Networks, REVOLT, TV One, CBeebies, Cinelatino, Cine Sony, Filipino On Demand, KOCOWA, TV5MONDE and many others.
Vizio - 30 free linear TV channels for its SmartCast TVs
Vizio unveiled 30 free linear TV channels today, including content from mid-tail providers USA Today, CBC News, TMZ, Hollywire, Hungry, Food52, CONtv and others. The channels are available exclusively for Vizio’s SmartCast TV users. Vizio also reported its free apps and streaming services experienced a 59% increase in viewing sessions in the last 3 weeks of March.
Sling TV keeps its Sling Blue service unlocked
Under Sling’s “Stay in & Sling” initiative the company’s Blue service remains free as a public service. Sling Blue includes 45 live channels including CNN, Fox News, HLN, MSNBC, Bloomberg TV and others.
Free kids content from multiple sources
Before the virus, there was already a lot of free TV/video and instructional content for kids, but now there’s even more, including from Amazon, Nickelodeon, Noggin (free for 60 days)
Quibi’s 90-day free trial
With all the free and paid content already available, Quibi just offered up a whole bunch more of it with its 90-day free trial. I’ve only sampled a bit (and reminder it’s only available on phones), but there are bound to be a few gems to be found.
SomeGoodNews and user-generated content
The long end of the tail - where unlimited free user-generated content has been found since the early days of YouTube - is alive and well. Relative upstarts like TikTok are booming. John Krasinski’s new hit, “SomeGoodNews,” which has released a couple episodes is a perfect illustration of how celebrities can mine social media, engage starstruck fans and include celebrity appearances for compelling content.
As the virus continues to make millions of us home bound, we should expect even more free content offers. Video services know it is a prime opportunity to get viewers’ attention, build goodwill and incubate revenue for when the virus passes.