Samsung mulls offering TV Plus on other streaming devices

Executives in charge of Samsung’s free, ad-supported streaming television service have weighed the possibility of offering the streamer on devices beyond its own smart TVs, phones and tablets.

The move would allow customers without a supported Samsung device to access more than a hundred linear television channels offered through Samsung TV Plus since it debuted on the hardware maker’s own smart TV sets in 2017.

For the first few years of its existence, Samsung TV Plus was offered exclusively on the company’s smart TVs running Tizen, an operating system developed by the electronics maker. Most of the linear channels distributed through Samsung TV Plus are programmed by third parties (among them, ABC News Live, Bloomberg TV Plus and Qello Concerts by Stingray), but a few channels are programmed by Samsung itself through content licensing deals that keep those feeds exclusive to the service.

Last year, the company decided to offer Samsung TV Plus outside its Tizen ecosystem for the first time, making the service available on newer-model Samsung phones and tablets. At the time, executives noted that Samsung TV Plus was one of the most-used apps on its smart TVs, with viewers collectively consuming “billions of minutes” of content each month.

Now, executives are weighing the possibility of bringing the streamer to non-Samsung phone, tablets and streaming TV hardware, according to a company source who provided details of those deliberations on background.

Such a move would allow Samsung to reach consumers beyond its own ecosystem, which would have at least two benefits: Potential customers who use different platforms may ultimately be swayed toward a Samsung TV, phone or tablet the next time they make such a purchase. Likewise, advertisers are likely to be attracted to Samsung TV Plus if they are presented with the option of reaching customers beyond the electronic company’s own ecosystem.

Executives are pondering around the latter, and are slowly considering what a rollout of Samsung TV Plus on other devices would look like. No strategy has been formalized to bring Samsung TV plus to devices beyond its own electronics, the source cautioned, and the company may ultimately abandon its plans to offer Samsung TV plus on other platforms.

But the incentives of doing so are numerous, particularly if Samsung wants to scale Samsung TV Plus into a full-fledged media business. Platform-agnostic streaming services that offer free, ad-supported access to television shows and movies are quickly generating operating revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter.

While traditional local television stations and cable networks continue to secure the largest chunk of advertisement dollars, the rate of so-called “connected TV advertisement” revenue has accelerated in recent years. Analytics firm eMarketer estimates domestic companies will spend around $11.3 billion on connected TV advertisements in the United States this year, a figure that could grow to as much as $16.3 billion by 2023 and will likely to continue to increase over time.

Late last year, an executive for Fox Corporation predicted that its free streaming service Tubi would generate more ad revenue than its three decades-old broadcast network within the next two to three years. AT&T WarnerMedia, Comcast (Peacock, Xumo), Discovery Networks (Discovery Plus) and ViacomCBS (Paramount Plus, Pluto TV) have poured money, resources and manpower into building out and supporting ad-supported streaming services over the last two years after recognizing the revenue potential compared to its subscription-based services and traditional media networks.

Some tech companies, including Roku and Amazon, initially employed the same strategy as Samsung, obtaining third party content for its own streaming television services (the Roku Channel and IMDb TV) that were, at one point, offered exclusively through their brand-name hardware. Roku now offers access to the Roku Channel through its iOS and Android remote control apps as well as through a native app on Amazon Fire TV devices; content from Amazon’s IMDb TV is integrated into its Prime Video app distributed on Apple TV, Android TV, Roku and other platforms.

Launching and distributing a streaming service doesn’t come without a few obstacles, as Comcast and AT&T WarnerMedia found when they unveiled Peacock and HBO Max last year. Both services launched without initial support for Roku and Amazon Fire TV; the issue centered around revenue share agreements and other terms imposed by the hardware makers in exchange for an agreement to distribute both services on their platforms, insiders told The Desk last year.

Samsung’s own content distribution agreements with certain third parties could also complicate a rollout of Samsung TV Plus on other platforms, a company source said. Those agreements would need to be amended or renegotiated before the app could launch on hardware beyond Samsung’s ecosystem. Without those agreements in place, the company may simply offer a slimmer version of Samsung TV Plus with fewer channels compared to the service offered natively on Samsung devices.

A Samsung spokesperson has not yet returned a request for comment on the company’s plans concerning Samsung TV Plus.

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