illustration of the number five, representing the five subscription business topics for this column, Five-on-Friday

Five on Friday: Betting, Buying and Billions

Featuring Afterpay, Spotify, Comcast, Hulu and Disney

This week, we have a lot of copycats on our hands. Following the announcement of Klarna’s subscription payments, Afterpay followed suit with their own. Spotify is testing out a TikTok-like vertical video feature on their app, Comcast may be able to pull the plug on their content on Hulu, and Disney is betting their money on sports. We also have the top subscription jobs this week in case you’re looking for a new gig.

Afterpay Follows Klarna’s Move

Afterpay, another Buy Now, Pay Later service, is following Klarna’s move. We talked about Klarna launching their platform to help consumers with subscription costs a few weeks ago, but it looks like Afterpay may have more tricks up their sleeve.

Afterpay announced on November 24 that they would allow customers to pay for subscriptions with their service. Afterpay and Klarna both bring layaway back with an updated look, a new draw, and a wider reach for younger audiences. A move like this is smart, as it allows customers to pay for a year of their favorite subscription service, without having to worry about huge up-front costs.

Image courtesy of Afterpay

In 2022, Afterpay will allow customers in both the U.S. and Australia to pay for subscription services like IPSY, BoxyCharm, Savage x Fenty, and more. TechCrunch reports Afterpay is planning to increase their reach to other regions, including Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and areas of Europe. Afterpay also plans on allowing this option to be available in-store.

Another feature Afterpay unveiled was the ability to prepay for items. A customer will buy the item and start making their installment payments after the item ships. This interesting feature will support merchants with some of the upfront costs. With shipping costs rising and delivery delays increasing, it gives merchants more wiggle room to launch things as pre-orders. Merchants will also be able to take deposits for custom orders, which will allow them to offset costs from the beginning.

In their news release, Zahir Khoja, general manager of North America for Afterpay said, “By offering customers the option to pay for subscriptions with Afterpay, we’re not only giving consumers flexibility to pay for more expensive monthly costs, but we’re also helping our merchant partners capture a wider consumer base through this convenient experience. As more retailers expand into the world of subscriptions, Afterpay is more than ready to answer the call for both consumers and merchants.”

In the new Buy Now, Pay Later craze, who will come out on top? Both services offer consumers payment management options, transparently disclosing how much they owe and are pre-approved to spend, when those payments are due and more. With an already expansive subscription market, consumers and merchants both want more choices, so it isn’t surprising that more accessible ways to pay for annual subscriptions are gaining in popularity. Who will jump in the mix next?

Spotify Takes on Its Next Challenge

Spotify has been no stranger to integrating video into its apps. It already features six-second looping videos behind some music and has started to integrate video options into podcasting. It’s now trying to diversify their content with two big moves – a Netflix hub and a video feed.

In a news release, Spotify announced their Netflix Hub where Spotify fans can stream audio from their favorite Netflix shows. With users creating playlists for everything ranging from moods to books to Netflix content, this move makes sense. Free and Premium users in select regions will be able to access official Netflix soundtracks, playlists, podcasts and exclusive Spotify content. Spotify users can find this by searching ‘Netflix’ on Spotify. Their biggest launch with their Netflix hub is an enhanced album experience for Netflix’s new Western Film, The Harder They Fall. Users will be able to enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the soundtrack featuring artists on the soundtrack.

This isn’t a new venture for Spotify. In 2019, they launched a Disney hub, featuring a number of playlists for users to enjoy, including songs from movies, TV shows and theme parks. There was also a rating system showing users the most popular media of the moment. This seems to be absent from the new Netflix hub. In 2018, Spotify also launched a hub that highlighted social causes in music, starting with Women’s History Month.

Spotify confirmed they are testing a new feature in their app named Discover. Discover would allow users to see a vertical feed of music videos that can scroll through, like, or skip. The tool comes up on the navigation bar at the bottom of the Spotify app, between Home and Search. TechCrunch reports that this feature was first found on Spotify’s TestFlight build.

Upon looking further into this tool, it appears that it builds off of Spotify’s Canvas mode, which currently shows videos behind track information. Canvas launched in 2019 and has generated mixed reviews. The biggest thing that Spotify has found: users are more likely to share or save tracks that have Canvas integrated.

When asked for comment, Spotify confirmed they are working on the tool, but did not give any details on a launch date, or if it would widely be rolled out. Spotify has previously tested various tools on their platform that didn’t get fully rolled out, like Stories. However, with the rise of TikTok, and most social media platforms creating their own video-sharing outlets, it wouldn’t be surprising if Spotify followed suit. While they have their fingers in many pies at the moment, this could be one that would help them stand out from Apple Music, TIDAL, and other streaming services.

Image courtesy of Spotify

Comcast Thinking of Pulling the Plug on Hulu

Comcast may make the streaming wars a little more competitive. They are still owners of one-third of Hulu, with Disney owning the rest of the company. Comcast is currently considering whether or not they should remove most of its content from Hulu, and make it exclusive to its own platform, Peacock.

TheStreet reports that NBCUniversal has a one-time window to escape the two companies’ contract-licensing agreement early next year. Should they exercise this option, Comcast’s content would be gone from Hulu by fall of 2022. If this window isn’t used, the content will stay on Hulu until 2024. In 2024, Comcast can require Disney to buy their 33% stake in Hulu and sell that stake at fair market value. The equity value achieved in this deal would be $27.5 billion, according to Fierce Video.

We’re getting mixed signals, however. Comcast CFO Michael Cavanaugh made comments that Comcast was fine to sit with Hulu through 2024. He indicated they were glad they have stuck with Hulu this long, as it has been a lucrative deal for them. “It will be fine if we stay to the end, because I expect value to keep increasing,” he said during the company’s earnings call. However, it was left up in the air whether or not content would stay on Hulu.

Should the content be transferred, this could increase the draw to Peacock, as Peacock is still trying to comb its feathers. They stand to gain titles like The Voice, Will & Grace, and other popular shows. The ad-supported streaming services has around 54 million subscribers, with 20 million monthly active users. Disney, on the other hand, has more than 118 million subscribers. Keeping their content on Hulu would allow Comcast to take advantage of the wider audience, but without exclusivity.

Peacock is launching in some European markets this month, hoping to increase attraction to the relatively new streaming service. However, Peacock is still losing money. In their second quarter earnings report released this summer, Comcast predicted that Peacock would lose $1.3 billion this year due to content spending for original content and sports programming.

Image courtesy of Hulu

Disney Bets on Sports

In a move that no one was expecting, Disney has its eyes on sports betting. Bob Chapek, CEO of Walt Disney Company, said that the House of Mouse would expand into sports betting through ESPN.

During their November 10, 2021 earnings call, Chapek said, “We’re moving towards a greater presence in online sports betting, and given our reach and scale, we have the potential to partner with third-parties in this space in a very meaningful way.” Gambling would bring a different revenue stream to Disney, and could help them connect with younger audiences. Chapek’s attitude towards sports betting is a huge pivot from Bob Iger’s approach, where he doubted the company would pursue sports betting.

Disney had a year that was below Wall Street’s expectations, given how rapidly their streaming service took over. With Disney owning ESPN, the sports broadcasting company grew quite a bit. ESPN+ increased their subscriber count by 66%, and Disney even inked a 10-year NFL deal that will begin in 2023, according to Forbes.

Frontrunners for this new pursuit are BetMGM, Caesars, and DraftKings, Hollywood Reporter claims. Disney having roots in ESPN will have its advantages and high draw. Investopedia reports that Disney has already talked to DraftKings, with a $3 billion deal. They were already a passive investor and own 6% of the company’s publicly traded stock through their 2019 acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

With major sports leagues getting on board with sports betting, it’s easier for sports bidding to become a bigger deal in modern media. The NFL has announced their partnership with “approved” sports books like FOX Bet, BetMGM and PointsBet. Other sports leagues like the MLB, NHL and UFC have also signed betting deals. Investopedia reports that the sports betting industry will be worth $43 billion globally by 2025.

Obviously, Disney is doing this for strategic reasons, including jumping on a new opportunity to grow revenue, but Disney has branded itself a family-friendly company. How could sports betting hurt the Mouse? Only time will tell if sports betting is a smart play for Disney.

Image: Bigstock Photos

LinkedIn: Top Subscription Jobs

Senior Strategy & Operations Manager, Subscription
New York, NY

DoorDash is looking for a Senior Strategy & Operations Manager to help grow the DashPass subscription business. We are seeking someone to join our team who loves working with data to identify opportunities and design creative solutions that drive retention. DashPass is one of DoorDash’s fastest growing products, meaning you’ll have the opportunity to make a big impact on the company at large. Senior Strategy & Operations Managers oversee the strategic development of our business. On a typical day you might lead a new initiative, run and refine experiments, dive into data to explain retention movements, build processes that enable teams to scale their work 10x, and make sure we never stop executing. Read more.

Senior NetSuite Consultant – Subscription Billing
360 Cloud Solutions
United States – Remote

A 360 Senior NetSuite Consultant plays a vital role in transforming our clients’ businesses by delivering services and advice based on proven experience in implementing ERP solutions. A 360 Consultant will be a part of a team that performs all phases of the software consulting life cycle including requirements gathering, process/system analysis, implementation, ongoing support, and technical request execution. The Senior Consultant in this role is experienced in finance, accounting, revenue recognition, general ledger, operations, subscription product/service offering models, and business systems. The Consultant in this role will have a firm command of the steps required to ensure ASC-606 and GAAP compliance while satisfying recurring revenue reporting and forecasting requirements. Read more.

Managing Editor, Apple Podcasts
Culver City, CA

Apple Podcasts seeks a strategic and creatively minded Managing Editor to join the team, reporting to the Head of Content. The successful applicant will have a proven history of managing large editorial platforms. There should be a high level of confidence with content curation and audience behavior, and a track record of optimizing engagement based on a solid understanding of analytics and trends. The successful applicant will have an exacting eye for detail and ability to apply it to all editorial spaces, producing a high-quality and vibrant experience for our users. They also proactively find opportunities across our platform to improve the exposure and impact of key projects. Read more.

SVP, Program Marketing, News & Sports
New York, NY

Paramount+, a direct-to-consumer digital subscription video on-demand and live streaming service from ViacomCBS, combines live sports, breaking news, and a mountain of entertainment. We are looking for an SVP of Program Marketing to own the team responsible for developing go-to-market strategy and coordinated 360 marketing campaigns for Paramount+ sports and news programming. In this role, you will work closely with cross-functional leads in defining the overall strategic and creative framework, as well as tactical levers all while coordinating outstanding campaign execution. Read more.

Global and Brand Content Strategy Advisor
Thomas Reuters
Eagan, MN

The Global and Brand Content Strategy Advisor will lead the creation of the content strategies to support and amplify the Thomson Reuters brand and enterprise messaging. The position is part of the Thomson Reuters Content Marketing organization advising partners across the business to deliver best-in-class content along the entire customer funnel. This is achieved by creating strategic, customer-focused content programs that strengthen the Thomson Reuters brand and support Marketing’s goals. This position requires excellent content strategy, relationship management and creative thinking skills. The Advisor will also collaborate closely with the Content Creation team to ensure the content produced is on-brand, speaks with a consistent voice and meets deadlines. Responsibilities also include partnering with Content Operations to analyze performance data and constantly optimize content. Read more.

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