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Fubo TV to test video AI integrations in France

CEO David Gandler said the technology could open additional revenue streams for the TV service.

CEO David Gandler said the technology could open additional revenue streams for the TV service.

Fubo TV Chief Executive Officer David Gandler appears at the Needham Growth Conference on Tuesday, January 10, 2023.
Fubo TV Chief Executive Officer David Gandler appears at the Needham Growth Conference on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. (Still image via Needham web broadcast; Graphic by The Desk)

Fubo TV is readying a new set of features that will leverage artificial intelligence to deliver more data and customizable viewing experiences to sports fans from the company’s programming partners.

During an appearance at the Needham Growth Conference on Tuesday, Fubo TV Chief Executive Officer David Gandler said the company is looking at ways to index linear video on a frame-by-frame basis, then integrate metadata culled from artificial intelligence to allow viewers to search for things like action shots on a granular basis.

“If you were to ask Fubo, ‘can you show me every soccer goal that was scored from the left-side of the field?’, it will go in and — because it’s accumulating its own data on a frame-by-frame basis — it’s able to [show] you that,” Gandler said. “You can ask it [to] “show me a 20-minute clip of every goal touchdown pass that I missed over the last two days,’ things like that.”

The AI feature set will first be tested in France later this year, a move that will allow Fubo TV to test it and work out any bugs prior to a broader rollout in other countries, including the United States. The company acquired French streaming TV provider Molotov in late 2021.

Gandler said he was particularly encouraged by new AI programs and products like ChatGPT, a language model that interacts with users in a conversational way. Gandler said ChatGPT — which has developed a significant following since it was introduced — has proven consumers have a strong interest in AI-driven products and features.

“We’ve known that AI was valuable for cars and all kinds of things,” Gandler said. “For direct-to-consumer [products], thre’s so much to do.”

Gandler noted that integrating AI features into Fubo TV has the potential to significantly improve user engagement with the product. It could also open up additional revenue streams for Fubo TV if the company decides to charge for access to those features.

“You can also charge for this type of feature, because it’s a real value add,” he said.

Fubo TV has been exploring ways to generate much-needed revenue after the company announced it was moving away from developing its own sports-betting product (though Gandler on Tuesday said he still believes in sports betting as a viable product). Gandler admitted the company has been steadily “burning cash,” and has recently sought ways to curb its spending while still finding ways to attract users to its product.

Over the last two weeks, Fubo TV ended its carriage of around a half-dozen AMC Networks channels, including IFC and BBC America, and told customers the channels would not come back. Instead, it signed a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Diamond Sports to onboard two dozen Bally Sports-branded regional sports channels. It also has a soft deal to restore the Turner portfolio of Warner Bros Discovery channels to its line-up in the near future (a Fubo TV spokesperson publicly disputes the company has any such deal in place, but the spokesperson has a history of refuting some reports that the company later affirms as true).

Those moves have not come cheap: Shortly after dropping the AMC channels, Fubo TV said it would raise the price of its two core programming packages by $5, with the cheapest package ultimately landing at $75 a month. Additionally, the onboarding of the Sinclair-owned regional sports networks brought a broader rollout of a regional sports fee, which will see customers pay an additional $11 to $14 a month on top of their base subscription price.

Gandler affirmed the price hikes put them in line with rival DirecTV Stream for the position of most-expensive streaming cable TV replacement on the domestic market. But he affirmed that Fubo TV is actually the least-expensive way to get regional sports networks across most of the country without cable or satellite, even if it costs customers over $85 a month to get them.

He also said advertisers are drawn toward expensive, sports-inclusive packages like Fubo TV, because they know those customers have the income needed to afford those services.

“We have the most expensive, one of the most expensive streaming services in the United States,” Gandler said. “So advertisers already know our customers have money. They know we love sports. All of our customers watch sports.”

Still, Gandler admitted the price hikes could cause some consternation for its current financial quarter.

“We’re only like nine days in, but when I look at the first nine days of last year versus the first nine days of this year, I am like, not so exciting,” he said.

The comment suggested Fubo TV could see significant churn from customers who are able to get most of their live sports from national channels — which are readily available on competing services like Google’s YouTube TV, Disney’s Hulu with Live TV, Vidgo and Dish Network’s Sling TV — and who are discouraged by the company’s recent price increases.

But Gandler said Fubo TV is still well-positioned in the market because regional sports networks like those owned by Sinclair have traditionally not been carried on other streaming TV services, which puts it ad an advantage. For this reason, Gandler said Fubo TV decided to focus on local sports, instead of bidding for national sports packages like Friday night Major League Baseball games and the NFL Sunday Ticket.

“I believe in the primacy of sports — I think we were one of the first to position ourselves as sports historically,” Gandler said. “And I believe the [total addressable market] for regional sports customers is significantly exponentially greater than it is for a Sunday Ticket.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).