On the heels of this week’s news that AT&T’s new OTT offerings — DirectTV Now and Fullscreen — will officially launch across AT&T devices today, with 100 channels priced at $35 to start and additional bundles between $50 and $70, the telco company has already been catching headwinds around the recent forced-install of Fullscreen.
Priced at $4.99, Fullscreen has accumulated, at best, an admirable few hundred thousand installs based on the volume of reviews on both iTunes and Android stores. But, recently, many of those are attributed to a forced pre-install on AT&T devices as part of an update earlier in November — an update that is frustrating AT&T customers.
Reviews on the product plummeted once AT&T pushed the update to angry consumers who call Fullscreen “bloatware” and a “worse version of Netflix.”
Other commenters note that “by the looks of [Fullscreen’s] reviews, [they] just threw [their] stupid app off a building…rating suicide!” A bit extreme — perhaps, but as we’ve covered ad nauseum, building a subcription streaming service is a long-play game, and perhaps an even more difficult one to win in an extremely cluttered market.
As Fullscreen founder and CEO, George Stromopolous once told me, Fullscreen is trying to reinvent what the future of television looks like for a new generation of viewers, and that takes time.
Despite the massive scale telco companies like Verizon and AT&T or device manufacturers like Samsung have, they still face basic startup challenges when innovating in new categories.
Forcing a pre-install may seem like an expedited way to leap-frog audience development land mines, but just like many startup tech companies have learned, once you’ve lost the user, it’s very hard to win them back.
It’s a strategy that failed for Samsung Milk Video, which shuttered after a year and a half at bat.
The primary concern that should be on the minds of those launching OTT services is how to build a content mix that competes with businesses that have been in market and who won the hearts and wallet share of the consumer. Netflix and Hulu dominate the market, with Amazon coming in a close third.
According to Ed Laczynski, the founder of Zype, a SaaS company that builds the framework and business model infrastructure for streaming services, these challenges are very real for publishers casting broad nets, which Fullscreen is.
“We are finding that customers who have narrowcasted, niche content are doing extremely well, even if the audience size isn’t massive. But, content owners who are launching generic channels and apps are going to have a more challenging time grabbing meaningful wallet share.”
In many ways, AT&T (with DirectTV Now and Fullscreen) is already chasing direct competitor Verizon (with go90), in an already saturated market, with less appealing content. Much of the content offering on DirectTV Now and Fullscreen is redundant to the offerings of Netflix and Hulu, which begs the question as to why users would make the jump from Comcast or Time Warner Cable, or HBO Now, where they have already allocated their dollars, to get the same content. go90 users have been equally vocal about the lack of interesting programming on the service.
But, Fullscreen is working hard to become the victor with a diverse slate of originals and syndicated projects. And various industry executives are betting on Fullscreen to win, including Lifeboat Productions co-founder Jaime Burke, who has mulitple projects with the service — “Cassandra French” and “Making Moves”.
“Fullscreen is being really strategic and smart about their programming,” she said. “Companies who take risks but stay authentic to their audience seem to resonate more in this crowded landscape. It’s another element that sets Fullscreen apart in our minds.”