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

Five on Friday: Features, Fraud and French Content

Featuring YouTube TV, Amazon, Facebook and Disney+

As we head into the fourth of July weekend, we’ve collected some fascinating Five on Friday features for you. In a special promotion, new Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers get six months of Disney+ for free, Facebook files two lawsuits in two different fraudulent schemes, and the French government says that streaming services that collect French revenue must invest 20% to 25% of that revenue in French content tent. Also, YouTube TV adds new features, including 4K viewing and offline downloads, for $19.99 a month, and a growing trend shows the popularity of subscription services that help consumer recycle hard-to-recycle items.

YouTube TV Adds $20 4K Plus Package with New Features

If you are a YouTube TV subscriber, or have been thinking about trying it, YouTube TV has extra features to offer through a new package called 4K Plus. For an extra $19.99 a month, 4K Plus subscribers can watch live and on-demand programs in 4K ultra high definition for networks and shows that offer shows in that format. 4K Plus subscribers can also watch unlimited streams simultaneously, and they can download programming to watch on mobile devices later.

YouTube announced the new service in a June 28, 2021 blog post.

“Watch it like you’re there. With many exciting events coming this summer, we wanted to make sure YouTube TV brings the best viewing experience across all live content. Earlier this year, we previewed a new add-on feature for our members, and we’re happy to introduce it starting today: 4K Plus.

4K Plus will bring some of the most highly requested features to YouTube TV, including the ability to watch 4K content on YouTube TV for the first time. With a compatible 4K enabled TV and/or streaming device, you can enjoy watching content in one of the best, most crisp resolutions.

With 4K Plus, you’ll have access to watch major sports events this summer in 4K, plus live content from networks like NBC and ESPN, sports like college football and basketball later this year and on-demand content from FX, Discovery Networks, Tastemade and more,” said Kathryn Smith, product manager, YouTube TV.

The $19.99 a month price tag is on top of YouTube TV’s currently monthly subscription fee of $64.99. Yes, that’s higher than most other streaming services, but YouTube TV offers live programming from more than 85 channels, depending on your U.S. location. It also includes access to NFL, NBA and MLB networks and channels like PBS, BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon. Subscribers also get unlimited cloud DVR storage space. YouTube TV subscribers can add premium services for an additional fee.

YouTube says that “eligible YouTube TV Family Managers” can go to membership settings on their browser to add 4K Plus features for a free trial for 30 days and get the service for a discounted rate of $9.99 per month for 12 months. After the 12-month promotional pricing period, the price will increase to $19.99 a month. This promotion is only available to new 4K Plus signups in the U.S. who have an active YouTube TV subscription. The add-on can be canceled at any time, but any subscriber who cancels will not have access to 4K Plus. See YouTube’s blog and terms and conditions for additional details.

A sampling of the channels offered on YouTube TV.

Subscription Services Help Subscribers Recycle Hard-to-Recycle Items

Environmentally conscious entrepreneurs have found a niche by creating subscriptions that help their subscribers recycle hard-to-recycle items. BusinessDen recently wrote about The Happy Beetle, a service that launched in March in Denver. Dave Kiefner and his wife Breanne recycle household products that many of us don’t know how to safely get rid of including paint, wine corks, baby food pouches, electronics, alkaline batteries and light bulbs.

With monthly ($11), quarterly ($74) and annual ($108) pricing, The Happy Beetle is currently operating in 13 Colorado communities. In addition to items they pick up year round, they also will accept certain items on a seasonal basis, like holiday lights, school supplies and kitchenware. The Kiefners sort items they collect and then place them with recycling organizations that accepts specific types of items.

Ridwell is a similar organization that launched in Denver in 2018. The company has expanded into other parts of the country including Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Ridwell does pickups every two weeks, and they provide subscribers with a Ridwell bin and cloth bag for core categories including plastic film, lightbulbs, threads and batteries. Ridwell offers quarterly pricing for $48, semiannual pricing for $84 (a $24 discount) and annual pricing for $144 (a $48 discount). In addition to picking up items in Ridwell’s core categories, subscribers can get larger items picked up for an additional fee which covers pick up and disposal costs. Ridwell works with local and domestic reuse and recycling partners.

“Since we got started in 2018, we’ve helped our members save 2 million pounds of waste from the landfill while giving hard-to-recycle materials useful new life and providing much needed items to our local communities,” says Ridwell.

Amazon Music Unlimited Offers 6 Months of Disney+ Free to New Subscribers

In an unexpected pairing, Amazon Music Unlimited, Amazon’s premium streaming music service, is offering a special Disney+ promotion. New subscribers get Amazon Music Unlimited, starting at $7.99 a month for access to more than 75 million songs, podcasts and thousands of stations and playlists. They also get a free six-month subscription to Disney+ which includes Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and more. After the promotion is over, subscribers will pay $7.99 a month for Disney+. This is a limited time offer and subject to change or revocation at any time.

Why would Amazon, who owns Prime Video, offer a free six-month promotion to Disney+, one of its competitors? We can only speculate, but our guess is that they are trying to attract a specific demographic to Amazon Music Unlimited, boost subscriber numbers and keep up with top competitors like Spotify and Apple Music.

According to Variety, Disney had 103.6 million subscribers as of April 3 and, in January 2020, Amazon Music had 55 million users, including Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers. Amazon did not specify how many of the 55 million were free streamers and who were Music Unlimited subscribers. This promotion will benefit both businesses; it is just surprising to see Amazon supporting Disney+.

Facebook Files Two Lawsuits Against Defendants for Fraud Schemes, Including One that Cost Facebook $36 Million

Facebook is in the news again this week as the company files suit against two groups of individuals for fraudulent behavior. In the first lawsuit against N&J USA Incorporated, Mohit Melwani and Vishaal Melwani ran deceptive ads on Facebook that sold a variety of items including clothing, watches and toys. When a Facebook user clicked through the ad, they were directed to a third-party ecommerce site to complete the sale. Users either never received the purchased items or the items were of poorer quality or were not as described. To hide their deception, the defendants blocked user complaints and negative reviews. Jessica Romero, director of platform enforcement and litigation, said this is one of Facebook’s first lawsuits for a bait-and-switch scheme.

In a second scheme, a group of four individuals ran a scam resulting in $36 million in unauthorized ads. According to Facebook, the defendants in this case misled victims into downloading a fake Ad Manager for Facebook from the Google Play store. This allowed the alleged fraudsters to access Facebook login credentials and other information, placing the ads. Facebook has refunded the advertising and marketing agencies who were victims of the fraud, and Facebook wants their money back and to send a signal this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Media Post reports that the fake ad manager was installed more than 10,000 times between December 2020 and last month.

“The suit seeks to expose the full conduct of Thêm Hữu Nguyễn, Lê Khang, Nguyễn Quốc Bảo and Pham Hữu Dung’s and hold them accountable for creating the app, tricking people into installing it, compromising people’s Facebook accounts and then using those accounts to run deceptive ads. This is our second lawsuit against an account takeover attack,” said Romero. “Today’s legal actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to protecting users, enforcing our policies and holding people accountable for abusing our services.”

New Legislation Decrees Streaming Services Collecting French Revenue Must Spend 20% to 25% on French Content

In more streaming news, the French government has decreed that streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ must invest 20% to 25% of their French revenue into French content. Variety says this is France’s effort toward the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) that the European Commission has imposed on streaming companies. France is the first country to adopt new rules. It is likely that other countries in the European Union will follow suit, though the legislation will likely differ based on the individual countries and their lawmakers.

Whether the streamers dedicate 20% or 25% depends on their goal. For example, if a streaming company wants to access French films 12 months or earlier after their theatrical release, they must pay 25%. If the streaming company is okay accessing films that are 12 months or older, they need to invest 20%. Other legislation related to streaming services is also being discussed, and the French government wants the parties to come to an agreement on their own. If they don’t, the government may step in.

It will be interesting to see if the rules in France, and in other nations as they develop their own legislation, have a major impact on the content selection that services like Netflix and Amazon will provide for their international subscribers.

Streaming wars heat up in 2020.

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