Cinedigm sets September 15 launch for Cineverse streaming app

Cinedigm has set a September 15 launch date for its Cineverse app, a flagship ad-supported service that will bring the company’s streaming brands including FAST channels under one umbrella.

First announced in July, Cinedigm said the service will initially feature free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels and on-demand TV shows and movies with over 15,000 titles, serving up both Cinedigm-owned and third-party content.

Channels include Fandor, Screambox, RetroCrush, The Bob Ross Channel, Dove, AsianCrush, El Rey Network, Bloody Disgusting, and Comedy Dynamics. The Cineverse service comes with an integrated program guide, enabling users to browse channels and access specific genres.

The Cineverse launch date disclosed Thursday is a little later than a previous August target. Although the service is currently set to go, Cinedigm is still working out details with a large platform partner to be included in the debut that will be ready by the 15th, according to a company spokesperson.

Cineverse will be free for users on an ad-supported basis with no registration required. Those that want to save their favorites lists or pick up where they left off in viewing can register if they choose. In July Cinedigm said it plans to roll out a premium, ad-free version of the platform sometime this fall, but no details on pricing have been announced.

As Cinedigm brings its family of channels under one roof, the company isn’t particularly focused on building up a direct-to-consumer subscription business. In August during Cinedigm’s most recent quarterly earnings call, Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer and president at Cinedigm Networks, emphasized the first phase of Cineverse is all about distribution touchpoints, and expressed it’s very open to bundling Cinedigm content and being incorporated into other platforms, as he noted the company’s not concerned with how consumers find its content.

“Whether they’re going to get it through a bundle through a platform they already subscribed to, whether they’re going to get it from us directly, whether it’s Amazon channels or through Roku, doesn’t matter to us,” Opeka said regarding content.

He pointed to success on the Dove Channel, saying it went form “a low six figure to a mid-to-high six figure subscriber base by bundling.”

Cinedigm has had success in landing its FAST channels on other streaming platforms, including last week’s addition of five on Fubo TV. Its content is meant to complement, rather than compete, with general entertainment subscription services and Cinedigm in the past has structured deals with TV makers Samsung, LG, Roku and Vizio, as well as platforms including Sinclair, Comcast Xfinity, Amazon, and Tubi. It also licenses film and TV content to streamers like Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and YouTube TV.

In terms of distribution for its new streaming service app, it appears partners are still in the works. At launch users can find the Cineverse app on Apple iOS, Google Android, Samsung Tizen and Roku, as well as the web. In disclosing the September launch date, Cinedigm said additional distribution partners and new product features would be announced throughout the rest of the year.

On the August 16 earnings call, Opeka said the focus has been getting to market before the busy fourth quarter “and focusing on third-party carriage deals with hardware manufacturers and other platforms, which are in negotiation.”

The second phase is building up users from its distribution touchpoints, followed by advertising KPIs and growing impressions. Since Cineverse is launching as an app rather than a FAST-based launch, Opeka said there’s a little bit longer of a ramp up comparatively, as FASTs light up immediately.

“So I think you’re going to be looking at several quarters of building as it gets some material footprint under it,” he said in August.

Cineverse is one of Cinedigm’s four key internal growth initiatives as it continues to build up its core streaming and digital business, possible in part from multi-year investments in technology streaming channels and content. For its 2022 fiscal year ended March 31, 2022, Cinedigm grew streaming and digital revenue by $10.6 million compared to the prior year, reflecting a 59% yoy increase driven by both organic and acquired growth.  Streaming growth of FAST, AVOD and SVOD increased 108% year on year for the fiscal 2022, according to an August 18 investor presentation.

Cinedigm touts a large streaming content library of nearly 43,000 titles. At first, it’s zeroing in on the best high-quality content, identifying 10,000-15,000 titles for Cineverse at launch. Eventually, it expects everything in the Cinedigm library to be available on the service, according to Opeka.

The goal for content is to focus on high quality new titles that aren’t available anywhere else, including getting to the point over the next 12 months of new releases every week on its flagship properties such as Fandor and Screambox.

“When you go to a streaming service, what's the first place people typically go? What's new and what's trending - and usually what's trending is what's new,” said Opeka on the earnings call. “So I think our emphasis on bringing in fresh new titles, refreshing the library is going to be the most important thing we do over the next 12 months.”

For Cineverse, the company is tapping proprietary tech from Matchpoint, with a tech stack that automates film and TV distribution at scale.