Power

Samsung TV Plus launches on phones after becoming a runaway success on TVs

Samsung has long failed to build successful media services, but TV Plus seems to break that cycle.

Samsung

The success of TV Plus is especially striking when compared to Samsung's earlier endeavors.

Photo: Aleksander Kalka/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Samsung is doubling down on free, ad-supported streaming: After turning Samsung TV Plus into a massive success story on smart TVs, Samsung is launching the service on some of its latest mobile phones this week. People who own a Galaxy Note20, Galaxy S20, Galaxy Note10 or Galaxy S10 will be able to access TV Plus on their devices starting Wednesday, the company announced Tuesday.

The mobile launch of TV Plus is remarkable for a few reasons. It underscores the growing popularity of ad-supported video viewing, and particularly the kind of linear lean-back viewing that TV Plus is known for. Beyond that, it's also a remarkable redemption for Samsung, which has long struggled to win over consumers for its own media services, and goes to show how important services have become to the company.

If you don't own a Samsung TV, chances are that you have never heard of TV Plus. However, among Samsung TV owners, the service has become a bit of a sleeper hit: "We stream billions of minutes every month," revealed Samsung Electronics SVP Sang Kim during a recent conversation with Protocol. TV Plus is one of the five most-used apps, and the second-most popular free video app, on Samsung smart TVs.

Much of that success is owed to the fact that TV Plus is integrated directly into the guide, with programming being presented in a linear fashion, much like old-fashioned TV networks are displayed in your typical cable box programming guide. The service is also prominently displayed on the home screen of compatible Samsung TVs, and there's a button on remote controls for easy access. With some models, all consumers have to do is turn on the TV, and TV Plus will start streaming immediately.

It's also completely free, which has helped to grow audiences; Kim said that engagement and viewing numbers more than doubled during the pandemic. "It surprised us how successful it has been," he said.

The success of TV Plus is especially striking when compared to Samsung's earlier endeavors. Back in 2014, the company embarked on an ambitious strategy to launch a family of services under the "Milk" brand, including Milk Music and Milk Video. However, both failed to gain enough traction to stick around; Samsung shuttered the video service in late 2015, and then pulled the plug on Milk Music in 2016.

Following that widely publicized failure, TV Plus launched under the radar as a bit of an experiment. The company first launched TV Plus as a video rental service in the U.S. in 2016, while at the same time experimenting with ad-supported videos in its homeland of South Korea. "After seeing the data about a year into it, we clearly saw that there's a lot more scalable opportunity within the AVOD space," Kim said, using the industry shorthand for ad-supported video service.

So Samsung changed the model in the U.S. "It just exploded after that," Kim said.

Samsung is not alone with its success in the ad-supported video space. Linear streaming services like TV Plus, Pluto and Xumo have become massive success stories, which in turn has driven a growing number of programmers to jump on the bandwagon.

A few years ago, these linear streaming services still largely featured unknown and online-only video brands. These days, Samsung streams programming from CBS, Bloomberg, MTV, Fox and Nick among others on TV Plus. In addition, Samsung also began to curate its own channels, including a "Kitchen Nightmares" channel featuring Gordon Ramsay.

Samsung has also begun to increase geographic distribution, with TV Plus now being available in 10 countries. The company has plans to launch in additional markets in the coming months. Kim declined to comment on revenue numbers, but said that "it's one of the key strategic drivers for the company."

The fact that TV Plus is now making the jump from TVs to phones underlines how big of a deal the service for the company is. Samsung has long operated extremely siloed, with little overlap between the phone and the TV business. Insiders have also described product development as entirely dictated by hardware marketing cycles. Every year's newest phone or TV needed to ship with a new lineup of apps, even if that meant reinventing the wheel over and over again.

TV Plus seems to have succeeded in breaking that cycle. "It is shaping our thinking," Kim said, adding: "This is here to stay and grow, I think, in a phenomenal way."

Climate

The minerals we need to save the planet are getting way too expensive

Supply chain problems and rising demand have sent prices spiraling upward for the minerals and metals essential for the clean energy transition.

Critical mineral prices have exploded over the past year.

Photo: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The newest source of the alarm bells echoing throughout the renewables industry? Spiking critical mineral and metal prices.

According to a new report from the International Energy Agency, a maelstrom of rising demand and tattered supply chains have caused prices for the materials needed for clean energy technologies to soar in the last year. And this increase has only accelerated since 2022 began.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Enterprise

The 911 system is outdated. Updating it to the cloud is risky.

Unlike tech companies, emergency services departments can’t afford to make mistakes when migrating to the cloud. Integrating new software in an industry where there’s no margin for error is risky, and sometimes deadly.

In an industry where seconds can mean the difference between life and death, many public safety departments are hesitant to take risks on new cloud-based technologies.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Dialing 911 could be the most important phone call you will ever make. But what happens when the software that’s supposed to deliver that call fails you? It may seem simple, but the technology behind a call for help is complicated, and when it fails, deadly.

The infrastructure supporting emergency contact centers is one of the most critical assets for any city, town or local government. But just as the pandemic exposed the creaky tech infrastructure that runs local governments, in many cases the technology in those call centers is outdated and hasn’t been touched for decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software. Formerly, she was a management consultant for EY. She's based in Los Angeles and can be reached at acounts@protocol.com.

Entertainment

'The Wilds' is a must-watch guilty pleasure and more weekend recs

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Our favorite things this week.

Illustration: Protocol

The East Coast is getting a little preview of summer this weekend. If you want to stay indoors and beat the heat, we have a few suggestions this week to keep you entertained, like a new season of Amazon Prime’s guilty-pleasure show, “The Wilds,” a new game from Horizon Worlds that’s fun for everyone and a sneak peek from Adam Mosseri into what Instagram is thinking about Web3.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Workplace

Work expands to fill the time – but only if you let it

The former Todoist productivity expert drops time-blocking tips, lofi beats playlists for concentrating and other knowledge bombs.

“I do hope the productivity space as a whole is more intentional about pushing narratives that are about life versus just work.”

Photo: Courtesy of Fadeke Adegbuyi

Fadeke Adegbuyi knows how to dole out productivity advice. When she was a marketing manager at Doist, she taught users via blogs and newsletters about how to better organize their lives. Doist, the company behind to-do-list app Todoist and messaging app Twist, has pushed remote and asynchronous work for years. Adegbuyi’s job was to translate these ideas to the masses.

“We were thinking about asynchronous communication from a work point of view, of like: What is most effective for doing ambitious and awesome work, and also, what is most advantageous for living a life that feels balanced?” Adegbuyi said.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins