Wolk’s Week in Review: The Great Rebundling continues, Roku’s MLB steal

Wolk's Week In Review

1. The Great Rebundling Continues

Another day, another bundle.

This time it’s Comcast, bundling up ad-supported Netflix, Apple TV+ and ad-supported Peacock for just $15/month. That is a 35% savings on what it would cost to get them all individually.

This bundle, which bears the moniker “StreamSaver” is significant for two reasons.

First, it is further proof of the “Wider Gap Theory” of SVOD, which says that, unless you are doing a baller move like Amazon and making everyone go ad-supported in one fell swoop, the best way to push more people to your ad-supported tier is to make the price gap between tiers much, much wider.

Because if it’s just five dollars, and people are signing up to watch a specific show, that five dollars is going to seem well worth it. But $20? That’s worth taking a second look.

The other reason StreamSaver is significant is that it is coming from Comcast, meaning that at some level you are getting a bundle of broadband, TV and (possibly) mobile. So the old Triple Play package, updated.

Why it matters

The MVPDs could give a flying toss about what their “TV” offering is. They make the bulk of their revenue selling broadband and at this point, TV is just a way to create stickiness—people like paying one provider for as many things as possible, hence the overall appeal of the bundle.

So if they can get their streaming TV from Comcast, even better.

Comcast is also smuggling their skinny virtual cable bundle, NowTV, into the deal, offering the whole shebang for $30/month, which is an even greater savings given that NowTV costs $20/month. 

NowTV, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it (e.g. most of you) offers 40 popular enough cable channels ranging from A&E, AMC and BBC America to The Food Network, HGTV and the Sundance Channel. 

Meaning that a lot of people are going to find that extra $15/month well worth it.

What is also notable is that this package (the $30 one) could well be more than enough pay TV for most people, provided they are comfortable with watching MSNBC and NBC for their news and provided Peacock carries their local NBC station.

The thought being that if there’s, say, an HBO show they really want to see, they can just subscribe to Max for a few months to watch it.

This is how The Great Rebundling is likely to play out over the next few years: broadband and/or mobile providers bundling a little of everything together to create consumer’s “permanent” home base, with consumers seeing other services as “churn worthy” providers they’ll stay with for a couple of months.

Which means the battle is on for who can compile the most attractive streaming bundles. There is StreamSaver and there’s the bundle that Disney and WBD rolled out a few weeks ago.

The distinction here is that Comcast is able to bundle in broadband. There’s no “StreamSaver TriplePlay” offer yet, but I suspect there soon will be. And not just from Comcast either, from other broadband providers and 5G providers as well.

I will also predict—and this is an easy one—that there will be much rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth by New York Times writers and their fellow travelers about how this means that the bundle is back and how it is a sign of end times or worse.

It’s not. It’s just something consumers really want because it’s a lot easier than keeping track of every subscription individually. 

But you knew that.

What you need to do about it

If you are an MVPD, you need to get your own streaming bundle going. Given how much angst the streaming services have about both churn and the lack of ad-supported viewers, this should not prove all that tough to string together. I mean If Apple is doing bundles, everyone is fair game.

You will not have the advantage that Comcast has of having your own SVOD service to throw into the mix, but don’t let that stop you.

Also, think about your interface. If you can provide an easy way to find everything across the bundle and make search and discovery easier, that is a big win, as the chaotic nature of streaming viewing remains a big issue for consumers. 

If you are a streaming service, you want to take part in as many bundles as possible. More bundles = more subscribers, or more subscribers who are not going to churn this month, to be exact.

If you are a FAST service (not a “FAST channel” but a FAST service), then it makes sense for you to try and wiggle your way into these bundles. Yes, your service is free and all, but making it part of the bundle is good for you (more viewers) and for the bundler (more content.) So go for it.

2. Roku’s MLB Steal

It seems that The Roku Channel only paid $10 million for the rights to MLB’s “Sunday Leadoff” game. 

That’s significant in that NBCU, the current rights holder, allegedly paid MLB $30 million each year for the same package two years ago… but was only offering the same $10 million this year.

At which point MLB must have looked at The Roku Channel with its much larger audience and figured that if they were going to be a cheap date, they might as well be Roku’s cheap date.

Why it matters

Couple of things going on here.

First is that The Roku Channel is only available on Roku and Amazon, though you really need to go looking for it on the latter. 

Meaning that all those baseball fans who have figured out it’s a lot easier to use the interface on their LG, Samsung or VIZIO smart TV are going to have to dig out their old Roku stick in order to watch Sunday baseball. 

Or, worst case, buy one for $19.99. But you can expect to hear a high level of griping about that. 

It also means that one of the big four sports is now live on a FAST service. That was not something anyone was expecting, though it does make sense given Roku’s blast into sports—they will have NBA shoulder content (“shoulder” refers to everything but the actual game) and so now they’ll have MLB shoulder content plus the games.

The optics of the deal have got to irk MLB, though, coming at a time when the NBA is jacking up prices for its rights and pushing WBD and NBCU into a potential bidding war. (More about that in the next week or two when everything finally shakes out and we can look at where the chips have landed.)

On the plus side, Roku will likely treat MLB like royalty, promoting them above and beyond the call of duty and, ideally, making them more relevant to a younger audience.

What you need to do about it

If you’re MLB and/or Roku, think about doing some sort of promo to give out Roku sticks at ballparks to help promote tune-in. I know there’s that theory that putting games on TV means fans won’t go to the stadium, but I think we can finally get past that.

If you are one of the other big FAST services and you’ve been wanting to get your hands on sports, this is a great time to be alive. Make sure you track how MLB is doing on Roku, who their advertisers are, and what sort of CPMs they’re paying. In a market with no historical data, that sort of information is vital.

Finally, if you’re Roku, take a bow. This, coming on the heels of your NBA deal, is quite a coup. You should, of course, use this to sell more TVs and dongles and a new campaign targeted at sports fans definitely seems in order.

But I suspect that’s something you’ve already got cooking.


Want to be up to speed about what’s on the horizon for free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST)? Join Alan Wolk and a lineup of industry leaders for TVREV’s Future of FAST Supersession June 24 at the StreamTV Show in Denver. Register today to hear the latest on the state of FAST, detailing what you need know and what you need to do about it.

Alan Wolk is co-founder and lead analyst at the consulting firm TV[R]EV. He is the author of the best-selling industry primer, Over The Top: How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry. Wolk frequently speaks about changes in the television industry, both at conferences and to anyone who’ll listen.

Week in Review is an opinion column. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of StreamTV Insider.