Cutting the Cord: Acorn TV cracks Apple TV

USA TODAY  

Apple TV's app gallery has gained some British flair.

Acorn TV, the streaming home of U.K. television series such as Agatha Christie's Poirot, recently landed in Apple TV's App Store. The service, launched five years ago on Acorn.TV for computers, is also available on Apple iPads and iPhones as well as Roku devices and Samsung Smart TVs.

Now is a good time to explore Acorn TV — there's a 30-day free trial; after that it's $6.99 monthly or $69.99 annually. For British TV binge-watchers, there's the completePoirot series starring David Suchet, including the final season and Emmy-nominated last episode, "Curtain: Poirot's Last Case."

New arrivals include Liberty of London, a reality TV series about a venerable department store, and British crime drama Suspects (Series 1, Feb. 22; Series 2, Feb. 29), which has an original twist of actors improvising their lines.

Acorn TV has a growing international flavor, too. Last month, the service added the third season finale of Australian series A Place to Call Home — deemed "Australia's sexiest soap opera" by Entertainment Weekly — and began weekly episode premieres of Canadian police drama 19-2, nominated for a dozen Canadian Screen Awards. 

Next month marks the arrival of two new series: Janet King, an eight-episode Australian import starring Marta Dusseldorp (A Place Called Home) as a prosecutor (episode 1 hits March 14) and Very British Problems (March 28), a comedy sketch series that tackles British life, narrated by Julie Walters (the Harry Potter films) with appearances from James Corden (The Late Late Show), Jimmy Akingbola (Arrow) andRich Hall (Saturday Night Live).

Also among Acorn TV's thousands of hours are nearly 200 series with complete collections of Agatha Christie's MarplePrime Suspect (Helen Mirren), Brideshead RevisitedCadfael (Derek Jacobi), Doc MartinFoyle's War and Upstairs Downstairs.

Acorn TV got an assist from another entertainment app company, Qello, which recently launched its own Qello Media Solutions division to assist in the development and operation of so-called over-the-top (OTT) Net-delivered video services. "It’s been a pleasure working with Qello to design cutting-edge apps that look fantastic, work flawlessly, and will help our users discover shows they’ll love," said Acorn TV's general manager Matthew Graham in a statement.

“We’re excited for the millions of Apple TV owners to now have easy access to (our) deep library of curated, high-quality international programs."


These new streaming services may entice you to cut the cord

FORTUNE

The number of new networks delivered via streaming services is exploding. Here are six that offer specialized programming that would have been unheard of a year ago.
 

Steve Belk is a resident of Houston, Texas. He’s an entrepreneur and he’s also a cord-cutter, i.e., he’s gotten rid of cable TV. He is, in fact, such an avid cord-cutter that he runs the Cut Cable Today website, which offers step-by-step instructions to anyone looking to ditch their cable provider in favor of a streaming device and a handful of services.

“My wife and I were looking at areas to improve our budget and it just made so much sense,” he said. “We didn’t use a significant portion of the channels, we were tired of expiring ‘promotional bundle deals’ that were misleading, and we knew there had to be a better way.”

The setup that they use will sound like nonsensical jargon to those who haven’t delved into this issue much. But it’s actually pretty simple.

“I use a Mohu Leaf 30 Indoor Antenna to pick up all the local stations in beautiful, uncompressed HD,” he said. “For my streaming device, I use the Roku 3. It’s great and has dedicated buttons for our favorite streaming services — Netflix and Amazon Prime.”

In addition to Netflix and Amazon Prime, the number of new networks delivered via streaming services is steadily increasing. Many of these networks offer specialized, niche programming that would have seemed pretty out-there just a year ago.

If there’s no app for these services, they can simply be streamed from the Internet, as is the case with the just-debuted Shout! Factory TV, which shows everything from vintage episodes of “Rhoda” to the filmography of director Werner Herzog and such uncompromisingly schlocky fare as “Night Call Nurses.”

Fortune presents a list of new streaming channels that you might not have heard of yet. And while they may not be enough to get you to cut the cord, they might make you give that Roku at the electronics store a second look.

Qello

Ari Zoldan is CEO of Quantum Media Group, a tech and media company based in New York City. He said that streaming providers are offering cable providers such stiff competition that the cable companies have realized they’d better get into the act. For example, HBO is launching HBO Now in April, at a cost of $14.99 a month to people without a cable subscription.

Zoldan also sang the praises of Qello, a service that streams full-length music content, such as concerts and documentaries, for $4.99 a month. It’s available on Apple TV, Roku, PlayStation and more on your living room set, and also on mobile devices.


DHX Media announces nine international SVOD deals

CNW

DHX Media Ltd. ("DHX" or the "Company") (TSX: DHX.A, DHX.B), a key player internationally in the creation of content for families and children, has licensed more than 5,000 half-hours of content in non-exclusive deals across nine new subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platforms in the US,  Canada, Chile, France, Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia.

Dana Landry, CEO of DHX Media, said: "Over the last twelve months, we have seen tremendous growth in the SVOD space, with more than two dozen new subscription streaming services being announced or launched, globally. As shown by these recently closed distribution deals, DHX's scale and the marquee brands we can offer have positioned us as a key player in providing content to SVOD services worldwide. We anticipate further SVOD deals as this new era of digital streaming continues to unfold."

USA

  • Qkids – New York-based Qkids, a preschool SVOD from music - concert streaming service, Qello, has licensed approximately 450 half-hours of DHX content across 26 series and specials. Soon to be launching on iOS worldwide, with other platforms to follow this year, Qkids will offer such DHX titles as The Adventures of PaddingtonStrawberry ShortcakeTeletubbiesThe Busy World of Richard Scary and Caillou's Holiday Movie.


Qello is quietly building a "Netflix for music films" - and maybe building the future of digital video

PANDO

So what will be the big buzzword of 2015? I'm placing my bets on "OTT."

OTT stands for "Over-the-top" and it refers to video and audio streaming services that don't directly involve a cable company. For example, when HBOGO announced its standalone service this week, the savvy set of observers called it "going OTT."

We know the big players like Netflix and Hulu. But there's one company that's quietly becoming a major force in the OTT landscape and it's helping to shape the future of how consumers watch video: Qello.

The New York based company is like Netflix, but its $4.99 a month subscription video service is just for concert films and music documentaries. Unlike Netflix and Hulu, which offer a grab bag of movies and television shows across a number of verticals, Qello has chosen to focus on delivering one niche of content and to do it better than anybody else.

In explaining the company's rationale for its vertical business model, Chief Revenue Officer Rich Johnson looks to the evolution of network television.

"The future’s going to kind of look like the past," Johnson says. "So what do we start with? ABC and NBC and CBS, and then there’s the advent of cable and the advent of all these niche networks. The fact that there would be a world where niche verticals live in digital is about as natural as it could possibly be." In other words, Hulu, Netflix, and HBOGO are the early networks like NBC, and sites like Qello are like the VH1 of the OTT landscape -- I'm talking about the old VH1 that actually played music, not the new one which is more known for ridiculous television series like "Dating Naked."

Qello is also unique in that most of its content can't be found anywhere else.

"Less than 8% of our content is on Netflix," CEO Brian Lisi says.

In fact, a lot of it you can't find anywhere. Unlike most video streaming sites, Qello is working with content around which there's true scarcity. Many of the videos it distributes were only available on DVD or, in some cases, out-of-print VHS tapes. For example, if you want to watch "Fleetwood Mac: Live in Boston," your only option other than Qello is to order the DVD off Amazon for $30.

"We’re not just replicating what you can find on TV, because you can’t find it on TV," Johnson says.

That's not just good news for niche consumers, but also for the owners of this content who, after DVD sales dried up, lost their only revenue stream for thousands of titles.

"All those DVDs, Universal has 10,000 of them," Lisi says. "None of them have the exploitation rights around SVOD (subscription video on demand)." Lisi goes so far to say that by creating a dedicated distribution channel for concert films and music documentaries, many of which never entered theaters and therefore had no revenue potential outside of DVDs, studios will be want to produce more of this content. So fans of music documentaries and concert films should be rooting for Qello to succeed.

Of course, for this "vertical Netflix" model to work, it's important to have a virtually complete catalog -- and while over 2000 films are currently available on Qello, more than 18,000 concert films have been released on DVD or Blu-Ray, according to USA Today. Granted, the number of available titles is growing -- earlier this year, the greatest concert film of all time Stop Making Sense wasn't on the service, but Qello has since rectified that. But other beloved films, like Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz are nowhere to be found. How do you run a Netflix for music movies and not have The Last Waltz?

"It’s the music business," Johnson says. "The label needs to sign off, the publisher needs to sign off, sometimes the filmmaker needs to sign off."

Like most negotiations, whether or not content owners choose to distribute on Qello often comes down to one thing: Money. And The Last Waltz is, in a word, "expensive," says President Bob Frank. But with Qello currently available on Roku, Apple TV, and Playstation 3 and 4, and with XBOX and Chromecast coming next month, that puts Qello in a much better position to make these deals.

"We have a bit more leverage, now," says Frank. "(We can say) 'We’re on Apple TV, we’re a real company.'" In fact, Johnson says, "I think we were on Apple TV with ESPN and HBO the same launch day. That should say something."

Negotiations aren't always a simple question of dollars and cents, however.

"If you go to a big music company, they don’t know what they own," Frank says. "If they released it on VHS back in 1987, there’s a chance it doesn’t exist anymore." That said, he believes that "ten years from now, even those assets are going to be creating revenue."

Assuming Qello's vertical strategy works, does that mean in the future there will be "Netflix for horror movies"? And a "Netflix for romcoms"? Will the great unbundling of video that's going on with the OTT revolution become, um, "rebundled" with different video platforms offering different niche content under one subscription, just like cable? It's possible. Until then, sites like Qello are making it more attractive for consumers than ever to cut the cord and get down with OTT.


Cutting the cord: Qello streams and shows you the music

USA TODAY

Streaming music video service Qello delivers sound and vision of live music to a variety of devices.

When it comes to streaming music, Spotify and Pandora — plus newcomer Beats Music — are probably the first services that come to mind.

Each of those are great at what they do. But the best musical moments combine sound and vision. Short of heading to your favorite live music venue, tap intoQello, a subscription video streaming service that specializes in high-def concerts and music documentaries.

Playable first on Android tablets in 2011, Qello has expanded its reach to iOS devices (Apple TV included), Amazon's Kindle Fire, Windows mobiledevices, Samsung and Sony smart TVs and the PlayStation 3, as well as the Web at Qello.com.

And by mid-March, Qello is expected to migrate to the PlayStation 4 and Sony's PlayStation Vita handheld system, as well as Roku devices. Targeted for the third quarter of 2014: the Xbox One.

The goal of Qello's co-founders — music video producer Brian Lisi, record label exec Bob Frank and tech entrepreneur Rich Johnson — was to create a streaming service akin to the original MTV. "So we set out on a journey to say DVDs are crumbling but the demand, for people like us who are gigantic music fans, is bigger than it has ever been," Johnson says. "With all these devices coming, it's probably going to be bigger than it ever was before."

You can try the service free for a week (15 days on the PS3), then you pay $4.99 monthly for access to Qello's growing catalog of more than 2,200 concerts and music documentaries, most of which are in high definition. Stick with free and you can watch one track from every concert and get documentary previews, and Qello TV, which works like streaming radio, with more than 30 channels based on genres that play tracks endlessly.

Fans of pop and rock get treated like VIPs. Beyoncé is here with two full-length concerts, the I Am … World Tour (2009) and Live at Roseland (2011), and Madonna has three entries. including MDNA World Tour, released last year. (Madonna also appears in a Queens of Pop video.)

Among the current most-watched videos on Qello: U2: 360 at the Rose BowlEarth, Wind & Fire — Live in JapanQueen Rock MontrealRoger Waters — The Wall, Live in Berlin and Imagine Dragons: The Making of Night Visions.

Also available are two Mumford & Sons concerts including the recent Road to Red Rocks (2013); there's a pair each from Florence and the Machine and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, too. For classic rockers, there's Ladies & Gentlemen: the Rolling Stones from 1972, The Rolling Stones — Rock & Roll Circus, the 1968 TV special that also included the Who and Jethro Tull, and Some Girls Live in Texas '78, as well as In Exile, a documentary on the making of Exile on Main Street.

Other videos feature performances by Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Sara Bareilles, Stevie Nicks, Parliament Funkadelic, Tina Turner and Tupac Shakur.


Qello: the Netflix for Concerts

EPOCH TIMES

When it comes to consuming entertainment, the power is undoubtedly moving into the hands of the consumer. With the proliferation of screens and on-demand expectations, we are no longer at the mercy of what the broadcasters are delivering us, but we are choosing what we want, when we want it. For music fans that love to watch full-length, high quality concerts a la Palladia, there might be no better source to soothe their desires to experience live music than an application (app) called Qello.

After discovering Qello at the top of the music section in iOS app store, I reached out to the company to learn more. CEO, Brian Lisi explained that the 3-year-old company is quite the hidden giant in the streaming media space. Lisi says, “With worldwide rights to the largest library of HD concert films and music documentaries, we have the ability to monetize our assets in more countries than any other streaming media company in the music space.” Qello is a two-pronged story: the music and the technology.

Music for All

It was the variety and depth of the catalog that first struck me. At first blush, I thought the concert selection was heavily weighted in classic rock, but while browsing the genres deeper, I found full concerts from everyone from Frank Sinatra to Johnny Cash, to Death Cab for Cutie, Blake Shelton, the Black Keys, Radiohead, Childish Gambino, and hundreds of others. There is also a nice selection of music documentaries.

When it comes to content acquisition, Lisi says the mission of the company is to continuously add to the library while keeping to the standards of high quality production value. The Kenny Chesney and Madonna concerts in the catalog, to name a few, were multimillion dollar productions. You won’t find short-form amateur videos on Qello. Content comes from licensing deals with all of the major music labels as well as boutique labels that provide some of the newer indie selections.

I looked for other streaming companies that might have the same concerts and documentaries that Qello houses. Netflix and YouTube seem to have about only 10 percent of the selection. Qello is essentially the Netflix for concert films and music documentaries. A one-stop shop geared toward music lovers with easy navigation and sleek user face.

Technology and Partners

For the technology side of the equation, it sounds like this was the chicken that came before the egg. With an entrepreneurial technology background, Lisi and his team developed a platform to stream high quality content to new media devices worldwide. Qello originally launched on Android products: phones, tablets, and Google TV—and soon after developed an app for iOS: iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV via Airplay, as well as Sony and Samsung Connected TVs, Microsoft Windows phones, and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Lisi says more partnerships are in the works.

Curration and Editorial

While comparing Qello to Netflix, I realize that Qello’s offering extends the on-demand streaming model with curated content such as editor Setlists. Qello subscribers can design their own Setlists or they can listen to any of the Qello curated Setlists like the “Not Another Cover Band” Setlist with Gov’t Mule doing Pink Floyd’s “Money” and Stevie Nicks doing Dave Matthews “Crash into Me.” Also unique, Qello gives iOS users access to purchase audio tracks of artists directly through iTunes. They do digital premiers on Facebook with Q&A’s with artists. And on the editorial front, Qello just launched a blog called Inside the Q with legendary Rolling Stone editor, Ben Fong-Torres (characterized in “Almost Famous”).

Qello is likely to appeal to the true music fan who loves the live music experience and seeks to consume media on his or her own terms. A personal wish, perhaps Qello might put an end to concert goers holding their cellphones up the whole time to record the show. That would be good.


The Business: Is Qello The New Netflix For Music?

OKAYPLAYER

Crowd-avoiding music nerds, stand up! For the audio-visually inclined homebody seeking something good (and affordable) to watch in the post-Blockbuster Video era, online streaming services Netflix and Hulu have become the standard destinations. But for the music obsessed (and concert obsessed), a relatively new service namedQello wants you to consider using their service to stream your favorite concerts and music documentaries via your computer, tablet, smart TV or smartphone. We took a deeper look at Qello’s technology and caught up with their Co-Founder Rich Johnsonto get the dish on some details behind their story, their service, and whether we can find entries in their catalog for Black Milk, Sleepy Brown or ____ (<– insert your favorite obscure hip-hop/soul artist known for b-side rare’s that you always name drop when having to share your too-cool-for-school tastes in music).

What Is Qello? Launched in 2010, Qello claims on their site that it’s “the world’s leading on-demand streaming service for full length HD concert films and music documentaries, with members in more than 40 countries.”  According to co-founder Johnson, the company came into existence fairly organically:

“My co-founder Brian Lisi had been doing some production of HD concerts, and he was filming a show for a band called Alter Bridge in Amsterdam. At the end of the show he was like – ‘Man, I really wish we could continue having a good time doing work like this’…that was the aha moment and Qello was born at that time…we’re lovers of music.”

How does Qello work? According to Johnson, the Qello catalog is approaching 1700 entries, and their website shares that you can use their technology tofind concerts and music documentaries on everyone from Bob Dylan to Bob Marley via a library covering 30 genres of live concert films from the 1920s to today. Okayplayer’s ownBrainchild gave the service a week-long trial when they started offering it through Apple TV,and thought it was good concept, but noticed that the catalog leaned pretty heavily toward classic rock. My own browse of Qello’s catalog revealed notable entries featuring Childish Gambino, Run DMC,  Steel Pulse, James Brown, Miles DavisDaft Punk and–thankfully!–The Roots. But overall I’d agree with Brainchild; the catalog did seem a bit dominated by rock music. My personal gripe–surprise–no Prince just yet (O purple one if you’re reading this, please get at Qello (or vice versa). We’d love to see you there). Qello’s Johnson chimed in with three considerations that his team uses for their curation process of the catalog:

“We definitely do our best to curate what we think our users are going to want. We have a ton of data on what our users are interested in viewing, so we always take that into consideration, number one.  Number two is the availability of the asset… we want the biggest artists in the world–and the most obscure in the world as well so that we can give everybody a great and diverse experience. If I like old school hip-hop and someone else likes jazz, we want to make sure we give everybody exactly what they want…the most challenging thing is getting access to that genre or type of music because not every genre of music or every band has a concert film that was recorded or a documentary. So we try to give the users what they want, try to source it. And if we can, we usually roll out new assets on Tuesdays on our ‘New Music Tuesdays.'”

So are rock catalogs more “accessible” than hip-hop and soul? 

According to Johnson:

“Accessibility mostly has to do with the size of the following for the artist. If an artist has a huge following then its cost effective to create a concert film, clear a film, and do all the leg work it takes to create an asset. Its not someone at a concert with an iPhone putting it up on youtube. These are all professionally-produced concert films or documentaries and most are produced for theatrical release, TV release or DVD. Its not a four or fivethousand dollar investment. It’s a six figure investment. Sometimes its a seven figure investment. If you look at stuff from Madonna or Kenny Chesney that are assets in our catalog, they were millions and millions of dollars. I wouldn’t say there’s a trend to what we get access to, its really just more: Has there been a business case to create that asset in the past or going forward? There’s a ton of great indie bands out there that I’m sure would love to have concerts filmed, and we’d love to bring them to fans, but sometimes there’s just not a business case yet that gives them the ability to record and clear one of their shows for Qello’s needs. Hopefully thats changing as we get more users and there’s more of a revenue stream that we can pass back to the content owner and the bands.

Okay. But keep it one hunnit–Can we expect to find more hip-hop on Qello?

I’m personally a huge hip hop fan and I’d say we have the largest collection of hip-hop films and documentaries; [larger] than anybody else has.” Johnson shared. “Unfortunately you’re comparing that to a very small sample size. We have the Up In Smoke tour –one of the most classic hip-hop shows ever done, Tupac‘s last show at House of Blues, three Snoop Dogg titles… if they are available or out there, I’d say 70 percent we have. There’s a couple things out there that I really love that we don’t have that we’re trying to get. The A Tribe Called Quest documentary is one we’re trying to get that’s not in there that I love. I think Wu-Tang is going to be pushing out a new documentary soon and if they do that I’m sure we’ll get that. But its not like every hip-hop artist in the world has come out with a concert film that’s out there and we don’t have it, its that they haven’t done it, and/or the licenses haven’t been cleared. If someone came to me and said here’s a list of a hundred  hip-hop titles that Qello doesn’t have, I’d probably turn around and say it’s because 90 percent of these don’t have streaming rights associated with it. It’s a (streaming) rights conversation, not a ‘I don’t want,” conversation. We definitely want hip-hop. Hip-hop specifically is a big genre of ours, a personal love of mine, and a big genre for our customers and users.”

Whats the damage? Qello’s service charge is $4.99 USD/month for an unlimited “All Access” pass, and it’s slightly more cost effective to pay in one yearly lump sum of $44.99 USD. As for “free.99” options, they do have one–albeit very limited in service, but that’s to be expected. For the Qello “free” option, you get one track from every concert and a preview for every documentary.

Taking a note from services like Spotify, Qello allows you to curate your own playlists for the concerts and music documentaries they offer. They also recently created a partnership with Youtube. Two other random cool points I’d throw in is that they have a couple of vintage concerts from Nina Simone and Hugh Masekela. While only time will tell if the Qello’s business model works, they do make a pretty good point in the FAQ: “For a third of the price of a beer at a concert, you get access to everything. It’s a no brainer.” Qello’s co-founder Rich Johnson added at the end of our chat:

If everything goes as planned, we’ll be–and we’re on the way to being–the go-to source for users that want access anytime, anywhere to the largest catalog of HD concerts and music documentaries on a worldwide basis…(we’ll have) access to more platforms and more users…and we hope to get to a point where we we’re able to provide a content producer. The content producers will make more concert films and documentaries. If they do so we’ll bring them to our users, and its a win-win for everybody