The anti-Netflix: Free, ad-supported video streaming services are growing

    Subscription services might dominate the over-the-top video market today, but free, ad-supported platforms are beginning to find their way to viewers on internet-connected TVs. This growth is proving to be an opportunity for video programmers searching for distribution on the biggest screen in the house.

    The Roku Channel, a free video streaming service from the connected-TV device maker with movies and TV shows and a handful of 24-hour linear channels from digital publishers, is now the fifth-most popular app on Roku in terms of reach, the company said. Roku declined to reveal an exact number of viewers for The Roku Channel, but Roku’s platform as a whole had 20.8 million registered users at the end of June.

    Beyond Roku, other free video streaming services are also managing to build an audience on connected TV screens. Pluto TV now has roughly 10 million monthly active users; Xumo had 3.5 million monthly active users at the end of July, with viewership growing by 325 percent over the past year, the company said.

    Then there is Amazon, which is reportedly working on a free, ad-supported streaming app that would offer licensed movies and TV shows and other programming for Fire TV users.

    The growth of these services comes as people increasingly purchase and use connected TV devices including streaming dongles and boxes, gaming consoles and web-enabled smart TVs. According to a recent eMarketer estimate, there are 88.7 million connected TV households in the U.S., which translates to 71.6 percent of all households.


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