Five on Friday: Aggregators, Ad Campaigns and Apple Subscription Tips

Featuring Google, ScreenHits TV and Popular Science

In this week’s Five on Friday, Local Media Association, Local Media Consortium and Google launch a $15 million, six-week “support local news” campaign to raise funding and support for local media organizations; ScreenHits TV thinks aggregating streaming services will ward off subscription fatigue; and CPA Practice Advisor warns that, as streaming services grow, so do taxation possibilities for jurisdictions. Also this week, COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders have stimulated the furniture subscription/rental industry, and Popular Science offers some tips to help subscribers get the most from their Apple subscriptions.

$15M Ad Campaign to “Support Local News” Hopes to Raise Support and Awareness of the Need for Local Media Organizations

In our top story for this week’s Five on Friday, Local Media Association (LMA), Local Media Consortium (LMC) and the Google News Initiative are partnering to launch a “Support Local News” ad campaign. The goal of the $15 million Google-backed campaign is to raise awareness for the need to fund newsrooms through subscriptions, donations and advertising.

This critical need is underscored by COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd, all of which required major, national news coverage. However, most newsrooms are lean with limited resources to cover the stories Americans most want to hear about. In fact, in the wake of COVID-19, Poynter says more than 30 local newsrooms have shut down and dozens of others have laid off or furloughed staff and cut pay. How can journalists and newsrooms provide necessary coverage when they are starved of resources?

The “Support Local news” campaign started this Tuesday and is set to run in print, online and on radio and TV stations in the U.S. and Canada for six weeks. Consumers will be directed to the Support Local News website where they can subscribe, advertise or donate.

“This is a significant moment for the local media industry,” said Nancy Lane, CEO of LMA. “People may not understand why they need to support local news organizations with digital subscriptions, donations, memberships and advertising if applicable. This $15 million ad campaign will help us change the conversation. We appreciate Google’s support of local media with this campaign that intentionally includes a diverse mix of publishers, including smaller outlets and those serving underrepresented audiences. We ask other national advertisers to follow this example by running campaigns with local media organizations across North America.”

Six-week, $15 million ad campaign hopes to raise awareness and support for much-needed local media organizations.

ScreenHits TV Wants to Aggregate Your Streaming Subscriptions for $1.99 a Month

Tired of trying to navigate all of your streaming video subscriptions on your devices? ScreenHits TV is hoping to change that with its new aggregator which allows viewers in the U.S. and U.K. to access their subscriptions from one central program guide/dashboard. Scheduled to launch in the U.S. and U.K. on July 15*, ScreenHits TV aggregates services like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, HBO Max and KidoodleTV along with live television, says the Hollywood Reporter. The service starts at $1.99, or £1.99, a month and will be available via Amazon Fire Sticks, the App Store, Google Chrome, Android and on desktop computers.

“With hundreds of streaming services available, the consumer has too much choice and often gets lost in the vast array of content, creating subscription fatigue and content overload,” said Rose Adkins Hulse of ScreenHits TV. “The new app helps to streamline the viewing experience … customers can curate their channels and subscriptions, thus only paying for channels they actually want to watch versus contributing monthly to the channels they never watch.”

The ScreenHits TV website is vague but it shares a few details of its new subscription service:

  • Subscribers can integrate their existing streaming platforms for free.
  • Viewers can watch live premium TV channels and thousands of TV shows and movies, starting at $1.99, or £1.99, a month.
  • Subscribers can bundle their streaming platforms and save 25%.
  • App availability depends on location.

Those interested in the new service click “sign up” and are asked for their email address. To be eligible to receive a free subscription channel of their choice for a year, subscribers must select the streaming services they currently subscribe to. The company does not ask for any credit card information or other details, so this appears to be a soft launch.

At first glance, an aggregator seems like a handy way to access streaming video subscriptions. However, there are services that already do that – Roku, cable companies like Comcast/Xfinity with their X1 set top box, Amazon Prime, etc. Without more details, it is hard to see why ScreenHits TV is advantageous. It seems like this territory has been covered already, and we don’t see how it will reduce subscription fatigue, but we’ll reserve judgment until we see how it actually works.

*Updated from our previous post. The launch date has been rescheduled to July 15.

ScreenHits TV’s programming guide

Streaming Services Need to be Aware of New Tax Liabilities as Popularity Grows

The popularity of streaming video services continue to grow with the average household subscribing to three services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube TV. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., that popularity grew with record sign-ups. The time spent streaming favorite shows increased by 36%, reports CPA Practice Advisor. While the growth and retention in streaming services is great for the companies, it also creates an important issue for them – taxation.

The popularity of streaming services makes them ripe for taxation.

Jurisdictions across the country are finding ways to tax streaming subscription services (e.g., sales tax, tax on digital products and services, etc.) as a way to increase their own revenue. One example that comes up often is Chicago’s 9% amusement tax. Streaming taxes in jurisdictions including Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Washington, D.C. are also becoming more common. CPA Practice Advisor says they expect this trend to continue, and they caution streaming services to be on the lookout to ensure they are in compliance. They offer these tips.

  1. Stay up-to-date on tax and other regulatory changes in the jurisdictions where they do business.
  2. Connect with others in the industry and with tax advisors to determine which streaming taxes are applicable.
  3. Configure technology to handle specialized taxes.

For more information on streaming subscription taxation, see “As Streaming Subscriptions Spike, So Do Tax Complexities,” by Steve Lacoff, GM, Avalara for Communications, on CPAPracticeAdvisor.com.

Furniture Subscriptions and Rentals Grow During Pandemic

Furniture rentals at companies like Cort Furniture Rental, Rent-A-Center and Aaron’s have been around for decades. They have served as a way for people to buy furniture on a payment plan with the option to return it at any time. The subscription model has further morphed the concept of furniture rentals – or subscriptions – with services like Feather, Fernish and Inhabitr joining the mix. In a recent article for Furniture Today, Anne Flynn Wear says the pandemic has accelerated the furniture subscription category.

“We’ve seen companies come to the realization that the work-from-home situation for their employees is no longer just a temporary situation,” said Lisa Woodworth, senior vice president of marketing for Cort Furniture Rental. “Some employers are already looking at the cost and value of supporting their employees with work-from-home benefit packages, including providing furniture.”

Image courtesy of Feather

Kristin Toth Smith, COO of Fernish, said that in our current economy, ownership is not as strong as it once was. People still want and need new furnishings, particularly with so much more time spent at home, but money is tight and people aren’t as married to the idea of ownership. Instead, they want choices, freedom and flexibility. Furniture subscription services offer those options for consumers.

Feather, for example, offers both a membership and non-membership plan. As an annual member, for $19 a month, members get discounted furniture payments, free furniture delivery and assembly, significant discounts, one free change per year and payments that are put toward furniture ownership. Fernish is similar. Subscriptions are available for a minimum of three months, and they require a minimum monthly payment of $99.

Read more about how COVID-19 has impacted the furniture rental and subscription market in “Pandemic Effect Accelerates Subscription Category” at FurnitureToday.com.

3 Tips to Maximize Your Use of Apple Subscriptions

Apple has been talking about bundling its subscription services to make them more attractive to subscribers. Consumers don’t have to wait until that happens to make the most of their Apple subscriptions though, whether they use Apple TV+, Apple News+, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, etc. Popular Science recently put together 21 tips and tricks for getting the most of your Apple subscription. Here are three ideas to try now!

  1. Apple Arcade – The gaming subscription service offers new games all the time, so be sure to look for New Arcade Games in the app to find the latest and greatest.
  2. Apple News+ – Apple offers a free version of Apple News on iOS devices, but subscribers can also sign up for the premium product, Apple News+. To get the most of this subscription, customize alerts so you get notifications on the topics that interest you. Also, download articles for offline reading.
  3. Apple TV+ – Launched last fall, Apple TV+ offers some great original programming, and they are planning to add third-party, licensed content soon. To get the most of your Apple TV+ subscription, watch it through your web browser or on your Android device (yes – Apple will play with Android occasionally!).

For more great tips like this, visit “Twenty-one Tips for Making the Most of Your Apple Subscriptions” by David Nield on PopularScience.com.

Have a subscription success story or news tip to share? Email us at customerservice@subscriptioninsider.com today!