Five on Friday: Scaling, Slurping and Subscribing

Featuring Nickson Living, YouTube, 7-Eleven and Instagram

In Five on Friday this week, we are bringing you the hottest subscription stories. We’re talking about the tech-enabled furniture startup Nickson Living’s expansion into Austin, Texas, and 7-Eleven’s new subscription delivery service – Slurpee anyone? Also, Apple wants to take a bite out of sports content, hoping to add live sports to its Apple TV+ subscription service. We’re also discussing YouTube shutting down YouTube Originals and directing those funds to other outlets, and Instagram starting to test their subscription feature for creators.

Nickson Living Expands Operations to Austin

Furniture subscriptions have not taken off on a wide-scale basis yet, but a Dallas-based company hopes to change that, and they have $12 million in series A funding to help them achieve their goals. Launched in 2017 by Harvard business school graduate Cameron Johnson, Nickson Living is a tech-enabled furniture subscription service that helps subscribers reimagine apartment living and create move-in spaces in as little as three hours.

Through the Nickson Living website, interested users have Nickson to curate and install furnishings to transform a standard apartment into a custom-designed home, while being committed to making moving less wasteful, and creating an alternative to fast, disposable furniture. Nickson Living furnishes everything from studios to three-bedroom apartments. Plans start at $199 a month for the studio and go up to $599 per month for a three-bedroom.

“Have your dream apartment without lifting a finger,” says the Nickson Living website.

Nickson Living’s plans include all furnishings and décor, kitchen and bathroom housewares, bedding, smart TVs, and a Bluetooth speaker. They also offer add-on services like housekeeping, television mounting, smart lighting, a washer and dryer, laundry items, painting, as well as a household supply starter kit…even welcome mats and curtain rods! They can accommodate leases that are nine months long or longer.

Nickson Living is currently available in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio areas. Due to high demand, the company has decided to expand their operations to the Austin area. They had already been beta testing in the area and hope to improve the quality of life for apartment dwellers there.

“We are thrilled to officially launch Nickson operations in Austin. The city’s demographics, growth, and position as an innovation hub make it a perfect fit for our service, and we are very excited to give more people the ability to effortlessly call Austin home,” Johnson said of the launch in a press release.

Image courtesy of Nickson Living

YouTube Scales Back YouTube Originals Division

Last week, YouTube announced they are planning to scale back a significant portion of their YouTube Originals division.

Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl announced the changes in a statement on Twitter, sharing his thoughts as well as thank yous.

“Today, there are over 2M creators in the YouTube Partner Program and our creator community has never been more successful: we’ve paid more than $30B to creators, artists, and media companies over the last three years. However, with rapid growth comes new opportunities and now our investments can make a greater impact on even more creators when applied towards other initiatives, like our Creator Shorts Fund, Black Voices Fund, and Live Shopping programming to name a few.”

He also said say that they would honor their commitment for already contracted shows in progress and creators involved should expect to hear from YouTube directly in the coming days.

Image courtesy of YouTube

YouTube Originals started in 2016, starting with scripted shows and movies focused on creators. The next year, the subscriber-only first season of originals totaled 250 million views, reports The Verge. However, as time progressed, YouTube started making ad-supported content featuring celebrities that users could access these without a subscription.

The platform also hosted livestreamed concerts from Taylor Swift, Coldplay, and more. Some of YouTube’s original scripted content moved onto other platforms, the most notable being Cobra Kai which is now on Netflix, ranking in Netflix’s top 10. Money previously used to pay for YouTube Originals will serve a different purpose. 9to5Google reports that the Creator Shorts Fund, YouTube’s Tik Tok competitor, Black Voices Fund and Live Shopping will receive funding to help further those ventures instead.

In his tweet, Kyncl also announced the departure of Susanne Daniels, the global head of originals. Her last day will be March 1, 2022.

Apple Reportedly to Spend Billions on Live Sports

Is sports the next big thing for Apple? It just might be. MacRumors reports that Apple is “ready to spend billions” on live sports content over the next four years with a goal of driving growth of its streaming service Apple TV+.

“With Apple spending $7 billion annually on original content and having roughly $200 billion of cash on its balance sheet, we believe the company is gearing up to bid on a number of upcoming sports packages coming up for contract/renewals in future years. We note that upcoming sports packages potentially for bid over the next four years that Apple can be involved with (in some capacity/semi-exclusive) are: NFL (Sunday Night Ticket), Big Ten, PAC 12, Big East, Big 12, other NCAA sports packages (2024 timing, and the NBA/WBNA,” said Wedbush analyst Dan Ives in a note to investors and republished by MacRumors.

It appears that Apple could have the pick of the draw when it comes to this, but there are several other streaming services that have rights to live sports that may think otherwise. Amazon currently has rights for NFL Thursday Night Football, having inked the deal in March of last year. They would potentially be looking at NFL’s Sunday Night Ticket to help bring more revenue in.

However, reports were made earlier this year where it appears that Apple is looking to broadcast Major League Baseball games next year. MacRumors said these talks were “substantial and serious,” and it would allow a way for Apple to tap into that lucrative sports revenue.

However, Apple TV+ currently does not have any support for live television, so a tool would have to be built to support any life sports coverage. CordCutters News reports that Apple could be another potential bidder for Major League Soccer’s new media rights contract, another potential avenue for getting in on live sports action.

In an interesting twist that could lead to more sports cont, Sports Business Journal’s Robert Ourand predicts that Apple will acquire ESPN from Disney, according to Cord Cutters News. He reveals that prediction in a January 3, 2022 tweet. That seems like a bit of a leap, but rumors have suggested this could become reality.

7-Eleven Launches Subscription Delivery Service for $5.95 a Month

Slurpees, hot dogs and snacks, oh my! 7-Eleven is jumping on the subscription bandwagon with its new 7NOW Gold Pass subscription delivery service. For $5.95 per month, a 7NOW Gold Pass subscription will allow customers to receive unlimited deliveries on over 3,000 of their favorite 7-Eleven items including hot, fresh food items, drinks, household items, snacks, groceries and more. In select cities, alcoholic beverages can also be ordered. Identification will be required upon delivery.

The service operations 24/7 and contactless delivery of items purchased through the 7NOW app are typically made within 30 minutes or less. There are no additional costs. Through the 7NOW app, subscribers can use a real-time tracking feature on their order, so customers can follow their order door-to-door. 7-Eleven tried its hands at delivery in 2018, launching their service in New York, and now the program is expanding.

In a January 19, 2022 press release, 7-Eleven shared a few other perks of the subscription service. For example, the Gold Pass service pays for itself with just three delivery orders per month. And the more subscribers spend, the more perks they get. Subscribers with a basket of $10 or more will receive the option to select a free product, like a free small Slurpee. They will also be able to redeem double the rewards points on 7-Eleven’s reward system.

7-Eleven Launches 7NOW Gold Pass. Image courtesy of 7-Eleven

7-Eleven’s Senior Vice President and Chief Digital offer said of the launch, “Our 7NOW Gold Pass subscription delivery service brings convenience to a whole new level, giving our customers the ability to order what they want, when they want it – and now as often as they want without an added delivery fee. Whether our customers are ordering their favorite snacks and drinks for a fun night in with friends and family, or keeping their home stocked with everyday essentials, they can have it all now with the 7NOW Gold Pass service.”

Interested customers will be able to try 7NOW Gold Pass for free for 14 days. The subscription is automatically renewed until canceled on the account page in the app. The app is available in the App Store, Google Play or online at 7NOW.com.

Instagram Subscriptions Coming to a Screen Near You

After rumors swirled around that Instagram was starting their own creator subscription service, it’s finally beginning to roll out. In November, we discussed Instagram being watched by Sensor Tower and Apptopia for listing changes.

ABC News reports that this test would be subject to Meta’s not collecting subscription fees from creators until 2023.

“With Instagram Subscriptions, creators can develop deeper connections with their most engaged followers and grow their recurring monthly income by giving subscribers access to exclusive content and benefits, all within the same platform where they interact with them already,” Meta said of the launch.

Instagram rolled out the subscription service to a small handful of creators that were able to test drive this feature. Creators can set their price as low as $0.99 per month, or as high as $99.99 per month, depending on how much they think their content is worth. There are currently eight price points to choose from.

Creators can unlock a “subscribe” button on their profile, to be able to offer new benefits to their subscribers. One perk a subscriber could see is exclusive Instagram Lives and Stories. Subscribers will also have a badge indicating they are a subscriber next to comments and messages, to help content creators better identify their supporters. Instagram predicts that, with subscriber-only broadcasts, creators will see more engagement and more enriching engagement than they have seen previously.

TechCrunch reports that only 10 total US creators have been able to gain access to this feature, and this is considered an “alpha” test, where both creators and fans can give feedback. Adam Mosseri of Instagram said in a video that subscriptions are one of the best ways for influencers and creators to have a predictable income.

The Verge reports that creators have been doing their own subscriptions for a while, utilizing the Close Friends feature of Instagram, charging fans a fee off-platform. Hopefully, a more widespread creator rollout like this will bring more regulation to the platform and take more work off of the creator. Meanwhile, TikTok is rolling out a similar subscription option for creators.

Image courtesy of Instagram

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