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Dungeons & Dragons gets its very own streaming channel

After the film “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” became a hit, topping $200 million at the worldwide box office, Hasbro wants more. Hasbro-owned production company eOne announced Thursday that it is launching a new free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channel dedicated to the widely popular role-playing tabletop game. Variety was the first to cover the announcement.
The Dungeons & Dragons Adventures is a 24-hour FAST channel set to launch this summer. It will feature original programming based on campaigns played by content creators, third-party content from top influencers, as well as older stuff like the 1983 animated Dungeons & Dragons series.
Shows coming to the new channel include:
Encounter Party: Based on the podcast of the same name, the show features six members, including “The Walking Dead” star Khary Payton. The campaign occurs in the Forgotten Realms, a common setting in the game.
Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill!: Variety improv show where special guests and celebrities act out as first-level players in battles against high-level monsters and beasts. The series was co-created by actor Matthew Lillard, mainly known for his role as Shaggy in the 2002 live-action “Scooby-Doo” movie.
Heroes’ Feast: cooking competition/talk show based on the recipes of the bestselling cookbook, “Heroes’ Feast.” The show is co-hosted by “Insecure” actress Sujata Day and chef and internet personality Mike Haracz.
Hasbro said the Dungeons & Dragons Adventures FAST channel will live on several platforms, but the company hasn’t established any deals yet for which specifically, reported Variety.

Paramount+ orders a live-action ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ series

Dungeons & Dragons made a massive comeback in recent years and is more mainstream nowadays. This is thanks to the many content creators that host livestreams featuring creative storytelling and impressive dice rolls.
For instance, “Critical Role,” a weekly show featuring a group of voice actors, has gone on to make millions, signing multiyear deals with Amazon to produce TV series based on its two campaigns, Vox Machina and Mighty Nein.
It’s nice to see more content creators — like Encounter Party, which arguably has less recognition than a high-paying show like “Critical Role”– get a platform to showcase their collaborative stories. However, we’re curious whether the shows will draw a large audience.
The FAST market may be booming, but viewers mainly use the services to watch old movies and shows, like episodes of “The Twilight Zone” or “Teen Mom.” Is the FAST space an optimal place for Dungeons & Dragons content? We’re not sure.
Also, it will be interesting to see what other content creators appear on the new channel, given the backlash from fans earlier this year.
In January, Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) received backlash for updating its Open Gaming License, which appeared to threaten creators’ livelihoods.
Shortly after the protests, however, WoTC announced that it is licensing the game’s core mechanics under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, allowing everyone to publish and sell works based on Dungeons & Dragons. (Hooray!)
While the issue has been resolved, content creators may still be wary of partnering with WoTC.
Either way, the Dungeons & Dragons Adventures FAST channel is certainly a fascinating move on WoTC’s part, and it might be a pleasant surprise for fans.
Or it could flop. Who knows?

Dungeons & Dragons’ publisher will put the game under a Creative Commons license

Dungeons & Dragons gets its very own streaming channel by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch
Dungeons & Dragons gets its very own streaming channel

Disney+ and Hulu content to combine into one streaming app

In a significant move made by Disney, the company announced Wednesday that U.S. customers are getting a new app that combines Disney+ and Hulu content.
The company also announced that it is raising the price of the Disney+ ad-free tier later in the year.
During Disney’s quarterly earnings call, CEO Bob Iger revealed that the new streaming option will launch later this year. However, the company also plans to keep Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ as standalone platforms.
The news comes after Disney+ lost 4 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2023. Hulu gained 200,000 subs.
“While we continue to offer Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ as standalone options, this is a logical progression of our [direct-to-consumer] offerings that will provide greater opportunities for advertisers while giving subscribers access to more robust and streamlined content, resulting in greater audience engagement and ultimately leading to a more unified streaming experience,” Iger stated during the earnings call.
Many of us saw this announcement coming since former Disney CEO Bob Chapek hinted at the plans in September 2022.
“Right now, if you want to go from Hulu to ESPN+ to Disney+, you have to go out of one app to another app. In the future, we may have less friction,” Chapek told Variety in an interview last year.
This also appears to support the reports that Disney is planning to buy Comcast’s stake in Hulu by 2024. Currently, Comcast owns 33% and Disney owns 66%.
The integration follows other moves made by competitors, such as Paramount+ combining with Showtime, as well as Warner Bros. Discovery announcing its new streaming service, Max, which merges HBO Max and Discovery+ into one platform.
Subscribers in select countries outside of the U.S. already have Hulu content bundled with Disney+.
When the streamer launched its ad-supported plan in December, the cost of its premium tier went up to $10.99/month, compared to $7.99. Disney+ will get yet another price hike for its ad-free subscription. Soon, subscribers will have to pay even more to get content with no ads.
“The pricing changes we’ve already implemented [have] proven successful, and we plan to set a higher price for our ad-free tier later this year to better reflect the value of our content offerings,” Iger added. “As we look to the future, we will continue optimizing our pricing model to reward loyalty and reduce churn to increase subscriber revenue for the premium ad-free tier and drive growth of subscribers…”

Disney+ loses subscribers for second quarter in a row, drops 4M subs

Disney+ and Hulu content to combine into one streaming app by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch
Disney+ and Hulu content to combine into one streaming app

Roku touts its new ad products, including an AI that matches campaigns to TV moments

In Roku’s recent quarter, the company posted better-than-expected revenue of $741 million, but worried investors with its warning of an uncertain ad market and declining average revenue per user. Today, at the IAB NewFronts, the streaming media company introduced its latest ad products to potentially help it address the latter, at least. These included new opportunities to advertise on Roku’s Home Screen, within its original content, and even in its screensaver, among other things. It also hyped its use of contextual AI for automatically running ads right next to the most relevant moments in shows and movies on The Roku Channel.
The company explained that its new artificial intelligence capability searches across the Roku library for “iconic plot moments” that would match a brand’s message and place their ads in real time. To work, marketers will first tell Roku their campaign’s theme. The AI searches the library to match the campaign with key moments. For example, when Tim Gunn says “make it work” in “Project Runway,” an apparel brand could insert its message.
Roku also announced a new slate of Roku Originals, which will include an entrepreneurship docuseries, “Side Hustlers,” produced by Hello Sunshine — Reese Witherspoon’s media company that sold in 2021 for $900 million to Candle Media, the company run by former Disney execs Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, which now has its hand in numerous pies across the streaming landscape. Digital bank Ally was also involved in this production that focuses on people turning their side hustle into their main business.
Image Credits: Roku
Other new Originals arriving this year include “Celebrity Family Cook Off,” a series executive produced by Sofia Vergara and hosted by Manolo Gonzalez Vergara and “Carpe DM with Juanpa,” which will feature social media star Juanpa Zurita, among others.  Roku said it’s also renewing “The Great American Baking Show,” featuring Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Ellie Kemper and Zach Cherry and “Honest Renovations,” featuring Jessica Alba and Lizzy Mathis.
The company claimed its Originals were delivering better than cable, and even better than broadcast audiences every day. 
The streaming company additionally used its time to pitch marketers about how to reach its now 71.6 million active accounts on its service via new ad products and placements.
The pitch, delivered by Roku Media President Charlie Collier, touted Roku’s reach in the U.S.
“Americans spend more time on Roku than any other TV platform, which means they spend more time here with Netflix and Hulu and Disney+ and even more time streaming CBS, NBC ABC, and Fox,” Collier told the audience. “Think about this: 50% of all Super Bowl streaming took place on Roku this year,” he added.
Image Credits: Roku
During the event, Roku shared some of its latest ad deals. It noted that its screensaver “Roku City,” which floats a cityscape on the TV screen while the TV is idle, will open up to brands. While before, the city screensaver would point users to suggested content to stream, it will now be able to feature other brands, as well. This summer, it will feature McDonald’s brand as part of the artwork, for instance, as its first brand partner on the new ad offering. The screensaver is used by nearly 40 million homes, Roku said.
The company also introduced new discovery experiences that allow brands to host content in areas like Home & Garden and Sports experiences that curate content from across TV on the Roku Home Screen. Now, when users turn to Roku search, they may see a featured collection that’s “presented by” an ad partner — for example, Walmart was shown “presenting” the Home & Garden collection.
Image Credits: Roku
Image Credits: Roku
Roku also shared that Instacart was its latest Commerce+ partner, joining others like Walmart, Best Buy, Cox Automotive, DoorDash, Kroger and more on its shoppable ads and other retailer-focused initiatives.
Commerce+ is designed to shorten the path to purchase for consumers, Roku explained.
For example, Wendy’s offered Roku users $5 off powered by DoorDash via a Home Screen ad, then used DoorDash data to help measure the impact of their ad spend. The campaign grew Wendy’s order size mainly among new and lapsed users and delivered a positive return on investment many times over, the company said.
Other news for marketers included Roku’s introduction of a Primetime Reach Guarantee, which it claimed to be a “first” in streaming. Essentially, the guarantee commits to brands they’ll be able to reach more TV households in primetime than the average program airing on a top-five cable channel on traditional TV.
“We’re uniquely positioned to make brands unmissable in TV because Roku is not fighting for turf in streaming—we are the turf,” said Alison Levin, Roku’s vice president of Ad Revenue and Marketing Solutions, in a press release. “We’re bringing the entire power of the platform, not just the pieces, to give marketers more of the scale, delight, and flexibility that they love in TV.”
Roku touts its new ad products, including an AI that matches campaigns to TV moments by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch
Roku touts its new ad products, including an AI that matches campaigns to TV moments

Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV

Amazon is doubling down on free, ad-supported content with today’s introduction of Fire TV Channels, its new, free and ad-supported (FAST) video experience coming to Fire TV devices this week. Though Fire TV had previously offered FAST content, Fire TV Channels will now be continuously updated throughout the day and integrated into several areas across the Fire TV interface, including on Home Screen rows, within Fire TV’s “Free” tab, and in category-specific pages devoted to certain genres.
In addition, Fire TV is gaining a set of new FAST channels from NHL, Xbox, and TMZ, as well as a new Travel category featuring content from Tastemade Travel, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” “Travel Hacks,” and soon, Condé Nast Traveler. Later, Fire TV Channels will also include content from the PGA.
The company explained this Fire TV update was informed by customer behavior and the increasing demand for free streaming content.
“We’ve offered some of this [FAST] content for a while for customers — we’ve helped them discover it throughout the [user interface] by having rows of content for example throughout ‘Home’ or other pages,” explains Charlotte Maines, director of Advertising, Monetization, Marketing and Engagement for Fire TV. “We’ve seen that they’ve been engaging with it when we surface it in a topical way…And what we’ve seen in the past six months alone is that the monthly hours streamed of this content have grown by 300%. So we know it’s working for our customers,” she added.
The growth can be attributed to several factors, the exec said. For one, customers have hit a sort of saturation point with streaming video-on-demand offerings and don’t have interest in adding more subscriptions to their monthly bills, nor do they want to try to keep up with any more services. By comparison, FAST channels are easy to use because users don’t have to create an account, sign in, or jump through any other hoops to start watching.
With the update, the Fire TV interface will now pull all the new and existing FAST content together in an updated experience that provides access to a variety of categories like news, sports, food and cooking, music videos, trailers, gaming videos, comedy, and more, Maines notes.
The news category includes access to both national news coverage as well as over 330 local news channels, including as of later this week, new FAST channels from NBC and Telemundo.
These category pages can be accessed with just a click from Fire TV’s “Free” tab, and Amazon says more categories are “coming soon.”

The update was announced as part of Amazon’s broader NewFronts presentation, which also included updates to its free streaming service Freevee — which offers FAST channels of its own. But Freevee is accessible across platforms, including on mobile devices and other non-Amazon media players and TVs, while Fire TV Channels are exclusive to Fire TV.
The company’s pitch to advertisers is that they can now directly target the Fire TV customer base, which tends to include Prime subscribers and younger families, through Amazon’s DSP. This lets Amazon leverage the company’s broader advertising team and capabilities to sell Fire TV’s FAST channel ad space.
Amazon notes it’s sold over 200 million Fire TV devices globally and Amazon’s ad-supported streaming solutions now reach an average of 155 million unduplicated monthly viewers, or 6 out of 10 adults in the U.S.
The company also cited a customer success story where an automotive client ran native ads on Fire TV and Fire tablets that led to an 11% lift in brand awareness and a 14% increase in purchase intent. Plus, citing Nielsen data, Amazon said 72% of its streaming TV viewers are not watching linear TV.
Amazon isn’t the only streamer offering FAST channels these days, however. Competitor Roku has over 350 FAST channels on its platform as of March. Google TV just announced over 800 FAST channels, and YouTube has been experimenting with them, as well. Plex, Warner Bros. Discovery, Tubi, and Sling TV, among others, are also wading into this market, historically led by services like Pluto TV.
The new Fire TV experience will be rolling out to customers this week, Amazon said. Customers will be able to find the new content tiles via the Fire TV Home Screen, as well as within Fire TV’s “Free” tab. Later this summer, Fire TV will bring all the FAST categories together with the launch of an always-on Fire TV Channels destination.

Amazon will juice its Freevee free streaming service with 100+ Amazon Originals in 2023

Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch
Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV

Roku gains 1.6 million active streaming accounts in Q1, warns of continued ad uncertainty

Roku delivered its first-quarter results on Wednesday with better-than-expected revenue and the addition of 1.6 million active streaming accounts in the period. Although the company’s results came in above analyst estimates, Roku told investors that it sees its advertising business remaining challenged.
The company’s revenue for the quarter reached $741 million, up just 1% from the year-ago quarter, and a net loss of $193.6 million.
Notably, the company revealed that it reached 71.6 million active accounts, a 17% year-over-year increase. Streaming hours reached 25.1 billion, up 4.2 billion hours or 20% year-over-year. Average revenue per user fell 5% year-over-year to $40.67.
“Similar to our viewpoint during our last earnings call, we expect macro uncertainties to persist throughout 2023,” the company wrote in a letter to shareholders. “Consumers remain pressured by inflation and recessionary fears, and thus discretionary spend is likely to remain muted. Accordingly, we expect the advertising market in Q2 to look much the same as it did in Q1, with ad spend from certain verticals improving (travel and health and wellness), while others remain pressured (M&E and financial services).”
In its letter, Roku wrote that it was the most popular streaming platform for this year’s Super Bowl with approximately half of all streams. The company notes that of those viewers, 12% started the game through either its Sports experience or a game-related ad.
Roku expects Q2 total net revenue of about $770 million, total gross profit of roughly $335 million and adjusted EBITDA of negative $75 million.
The company’s earning results come a month after Roku conducted a second round of layoffs and let go of 6% of its workforce, or around 200 employees. Roku disclosed the cuts in an SEC filing, explaining that the decision was part of a larger plan to lower its year-over-year operating expense growth and prioritize projects that it believes will have a higher return on investment. The company had laid off 200 U.S. employees back in November, citing economic conditions in the industry.

Roku announces a second set of layoffs impacting 200 employees, or 6% of its workforce

Roku soars past revenue expectations as it bets on streaming devices to boost growth

Roku gains 1.6 million active streaming accounts in Q1, warns of continued ad uncertainty by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch
Roku gains 1.6 million active streaming accounts in Q1, warns of continued ad uncertainty