Competition is heating up for CTV device makers to take control of screens and find ways to grab a piece of the growing CTV advertising spend, which eMarketer projects to increase 32% this year, reaching $19 billion.One way for existing smart TV makers like Samsung, LG and Vizio to monetize their platform is by growing their own ad-supported channels. However, these channels are fighting for viewers against the entrenched positions of built-in third-party apps like HBO Max, Hulu or Disney+. Vizio revamped WatchFree Plus last year, adding a program guide and custom-curated channels. Samsung TV Plus offers over 100 channels of free content. LG Channels has more than 175 free channels spanning across 12 genres.
The question becomes whether a slew of free content is enough to entice viewers away from their latest binge on the other AVOD apps such as Hulu, Tubi or Pluto.
The Survey Says
Broadbeam Media fielded a study in third quarter 2021 to try to understand how consumers were discovering and interacting with AVODs, including OEM owned and operated apps. We found that Samsung has reaching power with devices in 64 million households, but only 14% of Samsung device owners have either watched or are even aware of Samsung TV Plus. Seventy-seven percent of Samsung TV owners are using a Roku, Amazon Fire Stick or other CTV device to stream content. Less than 10% of LG and Vizio TV owners are watching LG Channels or WatchFree Plus compared to 23% watching Roku content. Despite efforts to push their own channels, smart TV manufacturers have not yet been able to compete against other AVODs.
In addition to relying on other devices to stream content, subscribers are also being courted by third-party streaming platforms, which are often already built into CTV devices. However, streamers such as Netflix and HBO Max are investing heavily into exclusive content (e.g., Squid Game and Succession), further driving up streaming app adoption. With 31% of device owners saying that having apps pre-loaded on devices is the most influential factor in their streaming decisions, it’s clear that this makes it easy for viewers to skip their smart TV’s free channels to consume their favorite exclusive content elsewhere.
Quality And Quantity
Smart TV manufacturers make money from subscription revenue share models, so even if viewers are using built-in apps, TV brands still benefit. However, if smart TV makers are serious about growing their ad-supported channels, content offering needs to have quality as well as quantity. Vizio recently reached agreements with Disney, Lionsgate and Sony to expand their WatchFree+ library. Samsung TV Plus added six new channels including Holiday Movies by Lifetime last November.
Casting A Wide Net
With the new smart TV entrance of Amazon and Comcast, both platforms have the potential to grow their own AVOD channels as well. XClass TVs let Comcast offer the platform directly to consumers without an Xfinity subscription and Amazon’s expanded footprint means more household access to IMDBtv. Samsung, LG and Vizio might not be able to touch Amazon’s advertising and brand power, but if they continue to invest smartly into their free channels, more people might just tune in.
With all CTV tactics, advertisers need to watch price along with scale to ensure they are casting the widest reach net possible. With eMarketer forecasting that CTV ad spending in the US alone will surpass $30 billion by 2025, marketers need to assemble a diverse media plan incorporating not only CTV, but third-party streaming platforms as well to reach the most eyes possible on their messaging.