TelevisaUnivision’s ViX pursues content funnel strategy, adds 10 FAST channels to Samsung TV Plus

TelevisaUnivision continues to expand distribution for programming from its ViX streaming service, announcing Tuesday the launch of 10 free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels on the Samsung TV Plus service. It’s part of the company’s strategy to cast a wide net in what TelevisaUnivision EVP Adam Waltuch described to StreamTV Insider as a funnel approach to drive viewers to ViX programming through different touchpoints, alongside a continued ramp in demand for its Spanish-language content.

Samsung TV Plus is the first to bring 10 of ViX’s premium channels to a FAST platform, expanding TelevisaUnivision programming on the service to include news and sports, alongside entertainment, novelas, comedies and lifestyle content. Starting Tuesday, the following channel lineup is joining the Samsung FAST service in the U.S.: Noticias Univision 24/7, Zona TUDN, Rebelde, Cine de Oro, Aqui y Ahora, Cine de Retro, Galanes. Pequenos Gigantes, Como Dice El Dicho and Las 3 Marias.

“With hundreds of channels in the U.S. alone, Samsung TV Plus is not only a destination for premium content we know consumers love, but also one of the leading destinations for Spanish language content,” said Takashi Nakano, senior director of Content and Business Development at Samsung TV Plus, in a statement. “We value our marquee partners like TelevisaUnivision and are thrilled to expand our collaboration that brings even more programming to users that reflects the rich diversity of viewers.”

The ViX Spanish-language streaming service launched in early 2022, first with an ad-supported tier and followed in July by an ad-free premium version (the latter which for a short while had different branding as ViX+ before a marketing pivot to unify the AVOD/SVOD tiers under the same name). It’s marked fast momentum after essentially starting from the ground up in terms of distribution, to now, a little over a year later expanding availability of ViX across major connected and smart TV platforms. That includes Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku (and The Roku Channel), LG, Vizio, and more, as well as YouTube Primetime Channels, YouTube TV, and Dish TV and Sling TV in the U.S, among others.

“There’s been tremendous amount of demand from partners in really trying to incorporate us to their lineup,” Waltuch, EVP of Global Distribution and Streaming Partnerships at TelevisaUnivision, said in an interview with StreamTV Insider.

TelevisaUnivision is responding to demand from partners but also trying to make it simple for viewers so they can access ViX content across devices and platforms, a strategy Waltuch said it will continue to follow.

“No matter where consumers want to find us, no matter how consumers want to interact with us, we’re there,” he said.

Continued demand

Interest in ViX has come from a mix of factors. One being the need for a full Spanish-language streaming service, with partners recognizing the demand for that type of content, alongside the premium lineup of shows, films and live sports offered by the service that has further convinced distributors, according to Waltuch. And since launch, “we’ve only seen that interest and that demand go up,” he said.

For example, in June when ViX launched the series “La Casa de los Famosos Mexico,” its version of a popular reality show in Mexico, it was still working with a few partners to get distribution deals ready.

“They were calling and saying we actually need you because demand is so strong for this one that it’s a missed opportunity, for both us and them, to not have ViX with it,” he explained.

There also has been a growing awareness among distributors of the desire and audience for Spanish-language programming. Waltuch said “it’s been incredible to see the interest” and how proactive some partners have been “in recognizing the relevance of our content.”

In addition to demand for Spanish-language programming, partners are interested because ViX’s content is performing. Without naming names, the executive said ViX has heard from several different distribution partners “that we’re the fastest growing platform today for them.”

A ‘huge hypothesis’

As ViX pursues a broad distribution strategy, seeking as many touchpoints as possible, the question arises about how to decide whether to place content on third-party platforms or keep it within its own ViX AVOD/SVOD environment.

Waltuch said with distribution on platforms including FAST like Samsung TV Plus, the thinking was that “each of these mechanisms feed each other and help each other” – ultimately providing a funnel for content from TelevisaUnivision’s owned-and-operated streaming service.

“We want to make sure that [consumers] get exposed to who we are, to the type of content that we have…just the sheer quality for Spanish-language content,” he explained.

For TelevisaUnivision that means keeping experiences unique, where if ViX FAST channels are sufficient for a viewers’ needs, that’s great, and if they want more, there’s a larger selection on ViX’s AVOD service. “And once you’re in our AVOD, that’s just a fantastic funnel to our SVOD,” where there’s even more content behind a paywall.

“We’ve seen that strategy really work and really using that funnel to get consumers to enjoy us, to experience us,” he continued.

That’s not to say it was a sure thing. Waltuch acknowledged it was a little scary, categorizing the strategy as a “huge hypothesis.”

“You could have theorized that, hey, by having FAST channels you may cannibalize your own AVOD demand. And that hasn’t been true so far,” he said.

He didn’t shy away from the fact that licensing content and channels to third parties has proven to be a good revenue strategy, but noted that’s not a mutually exclusive aim from also growing ViX subscriptions. When it comes to adding FAST channels to platforms like Samsung TV Plus, the driver isn’t necessarily going after only revenue (from licensing or advertising) or to drive AVOD or SVOD ViX subscribers but rather thinking about “all these holistically” – hence the funnel approach.

The first phase of its distribution strategy consists of licensing FAST channels, which Waltuch said “has proven to be very successful.” The deal with Samsung TV Plus doesn’t include any on-demand content, as Waltuch noted the company hasn’t ventured into VOD licensing outside of the ViX environment. According to One Touch Intelligence’s StreamTRAK service, TelevisaUnivision is the fourth-top producer of FAST channels by distinct channel count. For now, the plan is to stick with FAST linear channel distribution, Waltuch said, though TelevisaUnivision remains open “to where the market goes” and what’s best for the consumer.

Another aspect to note about the Samsung TV Plus deal is that it brings live news and sports from ViX to the FAST service, as that programming up until recently was reserved for ViX’s own platform. In an earlier interview with StreamTV Insider, Samsung TV Plus content lead Nakano emphasized strong engagement for news offerings on the platform, while also citing a place for sports on FASTs.

Another potentially attractive aspect of smart TV makers’ own AVOD or FAST platforms as partners is the ability to try some interesting promotional strategies to further drive that viewing funnel for services like ViX, thanks to the integrated interface. This tactic could be seen with NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Samsung competitor Vizio, where the OEM’s WatchFree+ FAST service featured select episodes of popular Peacock titles for free for a limited time while surfacing messaging and a direct link to the streaming app, as part of the TV maker’s Content Connection feature – giving viewers a taste and allowing them to hop straight from linear-style FAST channels to the partner’s SVOD.

Waltuch said ViX actively works with some OEMs to do special promotions, limited time offers and marketing stunts, where through the OEM FAST/AVOD platform viewers get access to more premium, content, with a direct link to watch on ViX. He confirmed the company’s “in active talks with a bunch of different OEMs” to do things of a similar nature.

Bundling: Interested, but strategic

Asked about the prospect of bundling to expand distribution – such as incorporating in programming deals with telcos or operators like Disney including its ad-supported Disney+, ESPN+ and forthcoming flagship ESPN streaming in certain Charter Spectrum TV packages under a new carriage arrangement, or bundling ViX with other AVOD/SVOD services – the executive said that in general bundling is a strategy he finds very interesting. That goes back to the approach in terms of providing the most convenience for viewers, both in terms of where they can consume ViX and how they can access ViX content – but he emphasized not all bundling is good bundling.

“We want to be very strategic about how we think about bundling…It has to make sense for the consumer.”

Although not a direct video bundle, TelevisaUnivision already works with wireless carrier T-Mobile, which offers 12 months free of a ViX premium subscription for T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers on unlimited mobile plans. It’s also one of the streaming options in Verizon’s +play subscription aggregation service for customers, with billing handled by the carrier.

And in terms of more direct bundling, ViX is exploring options. “Yes, we’re definitely interested in bundling with different types of services, and yes, we are in very active conversations with many different companies out there,” he said.

Moving forward, a key priority for ViX is optimizing its distribution strategy, which according to Waltuch, is to ensure it’s a complementary experience across linear, FAST, AVOD, and SVOD, offerings.

“We’re not recycling content,” he commented. “We’re really trying to bring differentiated experiences for all of them, but at the same time, complementary and part of the same ecosystem.”