fuboTV CEO David Gandler: Sports-First Strategy Pays Off for Growing vMVPD
Besides 40,000 live productions, the service carries RSNs in major markets
When competing with massive media and technology companies in the burgeoning direct-to-consumer vMVPD sector, smaller entrants must accentuate some portion of the live-TV experience to differentiate themselves. fuboTV, for example, opted to focus on live sports coverage, branding itself as a “sports-first, cable-replacement product.” And the results have paid off so far: paid subscribers more than doubled in September 2018 (250,000) from September 2017 (100,000).
“Sports-first, cable-replacement product — what does that mean? That means that you lean in with the sports and you stay for the entertainment,” said fuboTV CEO David Gandler at the Streaming Summit at NAB Show New York last month. “We get the passionate sports fan to say, ‘I like this product.’ But then it has to pass the household test: ‘Oh, it has Bravo, CNN, and Fox News.’”
‘Sports Alone Is Just Not Enough’: Expanding the Offering
fuboTV now boasts more than 40,000 live sports productions on its service and carries nearly all the major cable sports channels, as well as 500 stations that air NFL games. In addition, it is the only service that carries the several RSNs in major markets: YES, MSG, SNY, NESN, and others.
Gandler said the average engagement time per subscriber early on was roughly eight to 11 hours per month. However, to build a stable business and retain long-term subscribers, a direct-to-consumer service like fuboTV needs users to watch 50-100 hours or more per week — just like traditional television.
“That’s how you improve your retention rate, because it becomes more sticky,” he explained. “Our selling point was, we have amazing sports [and] we can talk about features and stuff.”
Blazing the UHD and HDR Trail: 4K Consumption on the Rise
fuboTV was also the first vMVPD to offer content in UHD and HDR, when it began live-streaming FIFA World Cup matches in 4K HDR10 this past summer. It has since streamed MLB games and college football games in 4K and HDR. In addition, Gandler said, the company is completing a deal with NBC Sports to deliver Premier League games in UHD.
“We have seen significant growth [in UHD- and HDR-content consumption] even since June,” he added. “Just to give you a sense, [we have seen] about 10 times more viewership today for UHD content than we had even during the World Cup. And I believe that we had more users watching the World Cup on fuboTV than YouTube TV had.”
Building Out a Scalable Infrastructure: Avoiding Outages
Content isn’t the only strategy paying for fuboTV, however. According to Gandler, the company’s ultra-scalable backend infrastructure and tech stack have helped fuboTV avoid similar outages suffered recently by YouTube TV, Hulu, DirecTV Now, and others — often occurring around large consumption of live sports events.
“Where we develop our skill set and our chops is on the live component,” he said. “Because we’re sports-first, we need scale. You see games where there are channels that have zero viewership, and, within a 30-, 40-second span, you could start seeing hundreds and thousands of interactions per second across the whole platform.
“Today, we can very easily handle a million concurrent [streams],” he added. “But, even more complicated than just the concurrencies, it’s all of the microservices that are happening on the backend. For instance, you came in from ZIP code 10019 today; we have to authorize you: are you a paying subscriber? what is the package you have?”