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

Five on Friday: Rebounds, Rethinking and Roku

Featuring Rent the Runway, Snap, Amazon and LinkedIn

A hot topic at Subscription Show this week was how subscription companies are rethinking their models and reimagining a future in a post-pandemic world. Today’s Five on Friday stories echo those plans. After a rough patch during COVID, Rent the Runway is starting to see their subscription business rebound, and Roku, Google and YouTube are duking it, catching the attention of federal lawmakers with antitrust concerns. Also, Snapchat is rethinking their model, inking a deal with NBCUniversal to add audio clips to the social platform; Amazon launches transcripts for podcasts; and LinkedIn shares top subscription jobs for subscription leaders looking for a new opportunity.

Rent The Runway Starting to See Subscription Rebound

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Rent the Runway is starting to make a return. With the pandemic hitting us in ways we couldn’t have imagined, subscription businesses are still looking to different strategies to help expand. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Rent The Runway’s demand has been lower for weekend dress rentals, due to a lack of events. With the shift to working from home, the demand for workwear hasn’t been as high. WFMers want more casual, comfortable clothes.

Image: Bigstock Photos

When Rent the Runway first launched, consumers were able to rent formal dresses for special occasions, without having to pay the designer price tag. The company quickly expanded, offering a “closet in the cloud,” and now people can access a range of apparel and accessories for a monthly subscription fee. They shifted their focus to workwear over the years, with women’s workwear costing 33% more than men’s workwear on average.

After confidentially filing for an IPO in early October, they were looking to the future. Their filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that the company took a big hit during COVID when their subscriber count, as well as their revenue, dropped dramatically. PYMNTS reports that their subscriber base dropped by almost 50,000 subscribers in their latest fiscal year. After looking at their numbers after a six-month period, ending in July of this year, their subscriber count got back up to 126,800 subscribers.

With their filing, the company discussed the shift of access to goods versus ownership. Similar models in the US subscription market include the US recorded music market, as well as home entertainment. While people aren’t collecting DVDs and records as much as they used to, people are embracing a more minimalist lifestyle, even when it comes to clothes.

The company officially went public last week, and it started out strong. The New York Times reports that their stock started off being traded above its IPO price of $21, but that slowed down to $19.29 by the end of the day. As of 7:53 p.m. EDT yesterday, Rent the Runway stock was valued at $16.03. As such a new stock, it may be volatile for a while, but the company is optimistic about the future.

“We entered 2020 with momentum behind us, poised for continued growth. We couldn’t have foreseen the global pandemic and the resulting fight for our survival,” Hyman wrote in the SEC filing. “Today, Rent the Runway has emerged stronger: a testament to the resilience, passion and continuous innovation of our people.”

Roku Battles Google and Amazon Over Terms

Roku has gotten its horns locked with another streaming giant. Those following the streaming service platform may know that Roku and Google have been going toe to toe for quite some time, and they’re taking it all the way to Congress now, pushing the legislative body to turn up the antitrust heat. The newest fighter in the ring is Amazon.

Google announced they would remove YouTube and its apps from the Roku app store on December 9 while they fight over a new agreement, CNBC reports. On Roku’s side, they have claimed Google asked for preferential treatment in search results. Google said these claims were baseless, and they never asked for special consideration. However, a 2019 email exchange between the two says Google did ask for that treatment. Roku warned that they would pull YouTube TV from the platform in April, and followed through with that claim.

Image courtesy of Roku

Amazon is looking for a final deal with Roku, but 9 to 5 Google reports that some of the struggle is with user data that Amazon is requesting, and Roku won’t give up. Amazon wants detailed viewing data about what Roku subscribers are watching across all apps, not just on Amazon apps. With this, they could match information and push ads onto their Roku platforms, but Roku wants to protect users’ data and privacy.

With Amazon Prime Video bundling with IMDb TV, Roku would lose two apps, but it could affect how Amazon sells Roku’s hardware. In 2019, Amazon and Google settled a feud and finally let Android TV and Chromecast have Prime apps, 9 to 5 Google reports. For years, Amazon also did not sell the Chromecast and Android TV devices on their marketplace, and the fate could be the same for Roku if the deal does not work.

Roku has done this before, and it is understandable. They have kept other apps off their streaming hub until agreeable terms are reached, The Motley Fool reports. They kept HBO Max and Peacock off their platform until they felt the terms were right. Roku may eventually reach an agreement with Amazon and Google, but it looks like there might be a temporary standstill first.

Snapchat Looking to Spice It Up with Audio Clips from NBCUniversal

Snapchat, the popular photo and video sharing app, hopes to get a leg up on other social networks. They inked a deal with NBCUniversal to give users access to audio clips from their library of movies and TV shows. With this, Snapchatters are able to add audio clips from shows like The Office, Saturday Night Live, and Parks and Rec to share with their friends, family, or audience.

If you are sent a Snap with one of these sounds, you will be able to swipe up to see the title of the movie or series the audio originated from. A link titled “Play This Sound” will also be displayed, and when clicked, it will display streaming platforms that you are able to watch the movie or show the audio is from.

The deal also includes audio from Peacock Originals, featuring shows like Saved by the Bell, A.P. Bio, and more. The deal could potentially help drive traffic to NBCU’s streaming service, Peacock, and hopefully increase subscriber counts. With Snapchat’s audience, it could mean some sweet harmony for Peacock.

TechCrunch reports that Snapchat also has partnerships with other studios and companies, including Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and more. With their partnership with Universal Music Group, users are able to access music from major artists through Sounds and AR lenses, Hollywood Reporter shares. They are looking to get a competitive edge against Tik Tok and getting access to different audios will help move people from platform to platform.

In their quarterly earnings report last week, Snapchat currently attracts 306 million daily active users. Since launching Sounds, videos created have resulted in 521 million videos, and 31 billion views, Hollywood Reporter says. For perspective, TikTok claims 1 billion monthly active users, Variety reports. With time and this access, these lucrative partnerships could mean some competition for TikTok. Happy Snapping!

Image courtesy of Snapchat

Amazon Launches Transcripts for Podcasts

Podcasts have seen quite the surge in the last few years, but Amazon wants to make them more accessible and easier to follow. The ecommerce giant first put podcasts on Amazon Music last year, but now they are launching transcripts for their podcasts. This can help those that are hard of hearing, Deaf, or those with auditory processing disorder.

The Verge reports that the transcripts will be interactive, and can be viewed full-screen, or on top of the album art within the app. Amazon revealed a lyrics feature in 2013 where listeners can follow along with the audio in a synced transcript, and this new feature follows suit. Users will be able to navigate a podcast based on the written version, much like the way someone can fast forward or rewind a video. Users will also be able to pinpoint a word or phrase as a starting point. There will be no transcription for ads, however, and the transcription will say “audio not transcribed” over those breaks.

For now, the transcripts will be coming to select Amazon Music and Wondery shows, as well as shows that have worked with Amazon on this feature. More shows will receive transcripts as the program rolls out, and Amazon is being very hands-on with this process. Kintan Brahmbhatt, the director of podcasts at Amazon Music, states this reasoning as “Amazon wants to be the most creator-friendly, most podcaster-friendly, services out there.” Currently, access to transcripts is just available stateside, according to Engadget. It is unknown when the service will be expanded.

Image courtesy of Amazon

LinkedIn: Top Subscription Jobs

Senior Product Manager, Subscription – DTC Platform
Quantum Search Partners (Major Sports & Entertainment Company)
New York, NY

Our client’s DTC Consumer Products team is looking for a talented product owner to lead key subscription commerce initiatives across platforms with a focus on user acquisition, conversion journeys and subscription management across platforms. This individual will play a key role in product development initiatives that shape the future of the ongoing digital transformation and direct-to-consumer growth. Read more.

Principal, Content Acquisition, Record Labels
Culver City, CA or New York, NY

Amazon Digital Music is looking for an experienced content acquisition executive to join our Content Acquisition Team. The executive will maintain and drive Amazon’s relationships with key content partners. The Principal Content Acquisition Manager will be responsible for developing content strategy, securing new content and additional rights, and performing competitive monitoring. Read more.

Head of Revenue – Online Private Lessons Division
iD Tech Camps

iD Tech, the preeminent leader in youth STEM education, is looking for a growth-minded and entrepreneurial Head of Revenue who seeks enrollment and revenue responsibility, and wants to scale our fast-growing 1:1 tutoring business in the USA and beyond. This is a high-profile unit within the iD Tech portfolio of products. The ideal candidate will be creative, data-driven, collaborative within the organization and competitive versus the competition. In this leadership role, you will report to the CEO and have full responsibility for enrollment and revenue growth. Your responsibility is to drive this product line to 5x revenue growth in the next 3 years. Read more.

Product Manager, Games
The New York times
New York, NY

The New York Times is looking for a Program Manager for Games to support its fast-growing and expanding subscription portfolio of products that includes Crosswords, Spelling Bee and new games in development. This is an opportunity to work on a product that people love: The New York Times Crossword is a unique brand, with a 76-year history and regarded as one of the pre-eminent puzzles on the planet. In the last years, we have expanded our puzzle offering into new games, building on our legacy of creating smart puzzles. Read more.

Associate Director, Audience Growth
Los Angeles, CA

SiriusXM and Pandora have joined together to create the leading audio entertainment company in the U.S. Together, we are uniquely positioned to lead a new era of audio entertainment by delivering the most compelling subscription and ad-supported audio experiences to millions of listeners — in the car, at home and on the go. Our talent, content, technology and innovation continue to be at the forefront, and we want you to be a part of it! Stitcher is hiring an Associate Director, Audience Growth. In this role, you will obsess over marketing strategies and campaigns that bring ears to our shows. You’re a strategic and creative marketer who can combine your marketing experience, analytical skills and creative insight to drive listenership. Read more.

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