Tubi Flips Strategy With Leap Into Original Content

Ad-supported video-on-demand streamer Tubi, which adhered firmly to a licensed-content strategy for its first seven years, is reversing course with the launch of a slate of original content this fall. 

At Monday’s NewFronts, Tubi will preview a slate of 140-plus hours of original feature-length films and TV series, including documentaries from Fox Alternative Entertainment, animated titles from Fox Entertainment’s Bento Box Entertainment, and content in genres including Black cinema, thrillers, horror, sci-fi, romance and westerns, according to the company. 

Tubi originals will also be incorporated into seasonal and owned tentpole programming moments, such as its upcoming Hot Christmas and shark event programming later this year. 

Prior to Tubi’s acquisition by Fox Entertainment in April 2020 of $440 million, Tubi founder/CEO Farhad Massoudi frequently underscored that the service’s appeal for consumers was offering plentiful, free, low-ad-load, licensed content, with licensing and programming decisions driven by Tubi viewer data. 

“If you want to watch an original, you have so many good options on the subscription services,” he said in one early-2019 interview. “What we provide is access to everything else.”

A lot of streaming services “are essentially throwing money” at original content and “increasing their burden every year,” he added. “It’s just going to get more and more expensive.”

Tubi offers live news in addition to a large, diverse library — currently with more than 30,000 titles — that was the first to feature a personalization engine, according to Massoudi.

Now, those offerings will be joined by original content also driven by viewer data providing insights into their “pockets of passion.” 

“Our data-driven original programming approach represents an important and strategic step in moving forward Tubi’s successful track record of disrupting the norm, and its longstanding mission to give our audience more of what they want,” Massoudi said in a pre-NewFronts announcement. “Our strategy super-serves audiences with smart and sensible content by tapping into what they are consuming, and the genres that are most popular on Tubi.” 

Since Tubi’s announcement came with a declaration that it is “completely free and promises to remain free,” the company will clearly need to justify its investment in original content with incremental advertising revenue. 

To that end, the AVOD is now touting 40 million monthly active subscribers -- up from 33 million at the end of 2020. The platform, which reported streaming 2.5 billion hours of content last year, says its total view time rose 54% in Q1, to reach a record 798 million hours. That included a platform-best 2.5 million hours in March. 

Tubi has also released new audience data showing that the median age of its viewers is 37 — “20 years younger than that of linear TV.” Also, 39% of its audience identifies as being multicultural, and 68% does not watch other ad-supported streaming services.

Those competitors now include the free tier of NBCU’s new Peacock service, as well as ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, and Amazon’s IMDb TV. Also coming soon: HBO Max’s limited-ads hybrid offering, reportedly to be priced at $9.99 per month. 

Tubi is promising that advertising within its original content will be “hyper-relevant to viewers and seamlessly integrated” through its viewer intelligence capabilities, and programs to enable advertisers to share those insights. 

The platform will offer a “certified” measurement partner program with “select vendors” and provide custom reporting at the campaign level to inform targeting and creative, per the company. It will also offer on-device sponsored integrations, and frequency management tech to control ad repetition.

Fox and Tubi are "building a new and better way to maximize advertising investment," Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier said in the original-content announcement. "At scale, this makes a very big difference" to the advertising community, added Massoudi.

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