Reuters TV plots expansion after dropping paywall

Two months after giving up on its pay model, Reuters TV is going for scale with its personalized video app.

To that end, Reuters TV is going to start showing up in a lot more places. When the service launched in February, it was only available on the iPhone and iPad. Last week, it arrived on Apple TV. A Web-app version will come out next week and will expand to Android by early next year, and to Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Xbox by the middle of 2016. Initially accessible only in the U.S. and U.K., Reuters TV will also be available worldwide by the end of the month — as long as those markets have access to the platforms it supports.

Reuters TV started as a subscription-plus-advertising video service, charging users $2 per month and serving them a limited number of ads. The global news service quickly discovered it is hard to build a large audience when you’re charging for content.

“It created an extra barrier [to customer adoption],” said Reuters TV managing director Isaac Showman, who declined to say how many paying subscribers Reuters TV has picked up. “We were best served by loosening that barrier, particularly at an early stage.”

Reuters TV dropped its paywall on Aug. 25. It still offers an ad-free subscription version, but a “significant majority” of users are still opting for the free version, which features only a 5 percent ad-load rate, said Showman.

Looking ahead, Reuters is focused on driving awareness for the video app, which offers users a personalized news broadcast based on a variety of signals, including how much time viewers have to watch content, their location, their past viewing history and recommendations from the Reuters TV editorial team. Generally, Reuters uses these factors to create five- to 30-minute broadcasts packed with short-form news clips. (Discounting different versions of the same clip, Reuters TV averages 40 to 50 new videos a day.)

Starting this week, Reuters is rolling out “Reuters TV for Publishers,” a program that allows publishers to embed a five-minute feed of Reuters TV content on its website for free. Publishers can sell ads against the feed and keep all the revenue, Showman said.

“Every publisher gets the same video, and we guarantee that the content will be up-to-date,” said Showman. “It’s a great revenue-generating opportunity for them, and for us, it helps drive awareness [of Reuters TV].”

To further goose awareness, Reuters is running an out-of-home ad campaign targeting people in New York and San Francisco. These cities along with other urban areas such as Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles are home to 90 percent of Reuters TV viewers live, according to Showman. Three weeks into the campaign, it’s already driven a 300 percent lift in awareness when compared to the control market.

“We want to make sure that as many consumers as possible know that Reuters TV exists,” he said.

Since the shift away from subscriptions, Showman said viewership has tripled. (He wouldn’t say exactly how many viewers Reuters TV averages but said the typical user watches in the morning for eight minutes a day, three times a week.)

That said, audience growth is still the most important goal for the fledgling service. Another way Reuters TV is aiming to drive video viewing is by taking advantage of offline viewing. According to Showman, Reuters TV’s offline-viewing feature is incredibly popular, with more than 60 percent of users watching content from the service when their phone or tablet is not connected. “Our mission is to get as many people as possible to embrace that,” he said.

Images via Reuters