Why MAU is a vanity metric and Roku's latest dispute

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Presented by 43Twenty

Amazon is winning TV and eating its partners' lunch. New data from Parks Associates found that 47% of U.S. broadband households subscribe to Amazon Prime Video, second only to Netflix among subscription-based OTT video services in the U.S. Amazon has built an amazing TV service and its Prime Video Channels program is killing it for its (distribution) partners. Here’s an oldie but goodie wrote by yours truly in May 2018 titled “What Programmers Can Learn From the Fall of Toys R Us”. Wanna know what Toys R Us and WarnerMedia have in common? They relied too heavily on Amazon. For Toys R Us, it killed their business. For WarnerMedia, they got out just in time. Link

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Think about this...a lot of the companies that allowed Netflix to build its empire off their content finally realized years later that “streaming was the future”. So many companies yanked their content from Netflix in order to build their own subscription businesses. Some built their own apps while some allowed affiliate partners to resell their content offerings. Meanwhile, the winners in the “streaming wars” were always going to be won on direct customer relationships. Roku, Amazon, and Apple knew that. Without realizing it, many of the same companies that empowered Netflix have now handed the future to super services like The Roku Channel, Amazon Prime Video, and The Apple TV App. If you’re a distributor, that is 100% fine! But if your organization has any direct-to-consumer aspirations, prioritizing relationships with viewers through your own products is essential for long-term success. Don’t give away the keys.

Why MAU is a vanity metric. ViacomCBS expects 40 million average global monthly Pluto TV users by the end of the year. Look, Pluto TV is a great product and service, however, tallying monthly active users for ad-supported streaming services doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the value of a business. This goes for AVODs that report on the metric. What happens when I’m watching Pluto TV or Xumo on Roku and click through an email they send on my laptop? What about when I tap on a push notification on my phone? Odds are that I’m being calculated as three different unique users. MAU can serve as a good benchmark in some degrees, but as a growth driver, it falls short. Link Bem-vinda Pluto TV. Pluto TV just launched in Brazil and will feature 27 channels including three holiday-themed channels. The service plans to reach 30 channels by the end of the next and hopes to reach more than 60 channels by the end of 2021. Link WarnerMedia, you just did an incredibly brave thing...but is ViacomCBS ready to buzz the tower? It’s been about a week and a half since WarnerMedia shocked “OG Hollywood” (H/T Evan Shapiro on the term) by releasing its entire slate of 2021 movies direct to HBO Max. Last week at UBS’s Global TMT conference ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish emphasized that certain movies are made to be seen in theaters. "I think there's a role for theatrical," said Bob. "Particularly you think of a film like Top Gun, it would be a shame to watch it on a mobile phone because it really is an incredible spectacle." But Bobby, we got TVs too man! He also stated that he believes the current model of releasing films is bound to change. Maybe I’m on an island alone here, and I’m fine with that, but I’ve been to a movie theater probably 2 times in 10 years (Jack Reacher 2 and Rocketman). Both were IMAX and I could drink a beer. Without investing further into innovating the movie-going experience, in my opinion, I don’t see why I wouldn’t rather watch a movie from the comfort of my home. Link OG Hollywood is pissed. OG Hollywood is really mad because they make tons of money from the current movie ecosystem. The most upset seemed to be Christopher Nolan, who called HBO Max the “worst streaming service”. As Scott Galloway pointed out this is similar to JCPenny calling Amazon “a terrible experience” circa 1999. Look, Chris, you’re an awesome director, but you need to step up your diss game if you’re trying to reach 50 Cent vs Comcast levels. Link And AMC Theatres is running out of cash. The company is warning its investors that if it doesn’t find $750 million, it will run out of cash by the middle of January 2021. The company issued new public documents on Friday announcing that because executives can’t predict what the supply of movies will be like, and it’s unclear if people will even file into theaters again soon, the company is unsure of how much money it can make. Link But Jason Kilar predicts a bright future for the movie biz. As streaming subscriptions expand over the next decade and more, the most hated man right now in OG Hollywood, Jason Kilar said on The New York Times Opinion's "Sway" podcast, that he thought the budget of a blockbuster movie would be over $1 billion in the future. Link So while we’re all beefing. Roku has removed Charter’s Spectrum TV app from its Channel Store in the latest carriage dispute over “platform tax”. In this case, we’re probably looking at a negotiation over ad inventory. Link That’s what she shed. After spending years digitizing the anachronistic, half-century-old format of “programs should run 30 minutes or an hour to be interrupted by 30-second ads, The Drum insists that 2021 is “the year of CTV advertising. I get it, ads are a necessary evil, right? They fund a lot of the content and service we love. Even at the detriment of the viewing experience. Ads suck, at least most of them anyway. But they don’t have to. I hope in 2021, we can make ads more relevant, less intrusive, less repetitive, and for the love of all things holy...the same volume as the programming they are embedded in. Industry, we gotta do better. Because eventually, the brands spending millions of dollars on these campaigns will figure out for themselves that fewer people hating your ad = more people watching it = more people buying your product. Link A+E Networks and Discovery join forces. Discovery will be streaming programs from A+E’s most popular channels on its upcoming streamer Discovery+. The alliance is the latest signal that all bets are off when it comes to getting some of the new revenues expected from the streaming business. Link Disney aims for 300-350 million subscribers. Disney announced that it has reached 137 million paid subscriptions across its portfolio of direct-to-consumer services — including 86.8 million of Disney+, 38.8 million of Hulu, and 11.5 million of ESPN+. The company is aiming for 300-350 million within the portfolio. It will add over 100 new titles a year to its Disney+ offering, which now has 87 million subscribers globally. Disney is planning to spend around $15 billion a year on its direct-to-consumer programming by 2024. The price for customers is also rising, to $7.99 a month in the United States. Star is also being rolled out as an international brand within Disney+. Link Other hits from Disney’s investor day last week:

  • Disney+ has 86.8 million subscribers and is aiming for 230-260 million by November 2024.

  • Hulu has 38.8 million subscribers and is forecasting 50-60 million by then, while ESPN+ with 11.5 million is aiming for 20-30 million.

  • Beginning early next year, Disney will be launching an official Disney Bundle with Hulu (No Ads) at $18.99 a month. Similar to the Disney Bundle it will be a $6 savings over if you got all three services separately. That’s coming early next year.

  • Star, Disney’s international answer to Hulu, will roll out in certain European countries, Canada, and New Zealand beginning on February 23rd. Hulu looks to remain to domestic-only play


We help (DTC) streaming services and (B2B) solutions providers accelerate their OTT businesses. 43Twenty is an OTT growth consultancy and digital marketing agency. We help media, entertainment, and technology companies unlock customer growth and revenue.

  • Strategic Advisory - We provide boards and executives with forward-thinking strategies that drive sustainable competitive advantage and profitability.

  • Digital Marketing - We create custom digital marketing plans that boost online traffic and revenue for streaming services and OTT solutions providers.

  • CX Strategy - We help product and marketing optimize customer experiences that delight, increase customer acquisition, loyalty, and engagement.

  • Retention Marketing - We help streaming services strengthen their relationship with customers throughout the product lifecycle – helping reduce churn, and increasing lifetime value.

  • Workshops - We conduct workshops on customer-centric KPIs, which help prioritize investments and unlocks visibility into the downstream effects and impact of product development and marketing efforts.

  • Vendor Sourcing - We guide businesses through the maze of solutions providers that align with their business short-term and long-term business objectives.

Discover more here or send us email to schedule a meeting.


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Ebook: Optimizing the OTT Customer Journey: Keys to maintaining Direct-to-Consumer Video Growth

We dropped an ebook called "Optimizing the OTT Customer Journey." It explains how streaming video services can increase awareness, inbound traffic, conversions, CLV, and more.

What you can expect to learn includes:

1. Why media companies need to start thinking like software companies

2. Why engagement and retention should be your biggest priorities

3. Nine engagement & #retention KPIs you should be tracking regardless if you're an ad-supported or subscription-based service.

4. How the OTT marketing funnel works

Deck: How to keep your subscribers from hurling their remote at the TV

We recently presented a workshop titled "How to keep your subscribers from hurling their remote at the TV". To attract, grow, and retain subscribers on platforms you own, scaling empathy across each touchpoint, including marketing campaigns, not only keeps consumers from launching the remote, but it is also the key to surviving the streaming wars.

Come grab a copy of the deck we presented, which delves into:

  1. Why OTT brands must focus on product experiences vs. relying on distribution or become faced-with both revenue leakage and data loss

  2. Why MAU is a vanity metric & how to grow subscribers/viewers with customer-centric KPIs

  3. Specific examples citing who is doing it right, and which brands have ample room for improvement

To explore partnership opportunities with The Streaming Wars newsletter, contact TheStreamingWars@43twenty.tv

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