Samsung is expanding its ad-supported streaming efforts: The company quietly launched its TV Plus streaming service on the web in recent weeks, and also added the ability to cast videos to devices supporting Google's Chromecast technology to its mobile app this month. Both represent a major expansion for TV Plus, which previously was only available on Samsung-made smart TVs and phones.
A Samsung spokesperson confirmed that the web version of TV Plus launched in Q2.
With its expansion to the web and other smart TV platforms, TV Plus is more directly competing with other free streaming services like Pluto TV and Tubi. The move also further demonstrates how the TV business is changing from a sole focus on unit sales to one that is all about advertising and services revenues.
The web version of TV Plus appears to have soft-launched in May, but has not been publicly announced by Samsung yet and is not mentioned in Samsung's TV Plus-related marketing materials.
It gives viewers in the U.S. access to around 140 streaming channels, with its lineup including channels like ABC News Live, PBS Kids, ION Plus, Vice and a number of genre-specific Vevo channels. These channels can be accessed by anyone, regardless of whether they own a Samsung device or not, but some channels do require users to sign in with a free Samsung account.
Samsung first launched TV Plus as a transactional streaming service in 2016, and subsequently shifted to an ad-supported model that mimics the look and feel of traditional cable. The service is tightly integrated into the programming guide of Samsung smart TVs, allowing viewers to channel surf broadcast networks and TV Plus programming.
That model has been a hit with consumers: "We stream billions of minutes every month," said Samsung Electronics SVP Sang Kim during a conversation with Protocol last September. The company has told advertisers that the service has been installed on close to 50 million smart TVs worldwide.
Since then, Samsung has brought the service to mobile phones with an app for its Galaxy devices, and also expanded its geographical reach. TV Plus is now available in 23 countries, including India, Brazil and Mexico, as well as much of Europe. Altogether, Samsung TV Plus is streaming more than 1,000 channels around the world.
Samsung isn't the only device maker targeting viewers on third-party devices: Roku first launched its Roku Channel streaming service on its own streaming boxes and Roku-powered TVs. Since then, the company has also launched a dedicated mobile app and a web app as well as apps on Samsung smart TVs and devices running Amazon's Fire TV platform. Recent job listings suggest that Roku may be looking to launch the channel on "other popular streaming media platforms" in the future.
Roku's business also shows why consumer electronics companies are willing to give up on exclusivity in favor of wider distribution for their content services. During the first three months of the year, the company's hardware business generated around $108 million in revenue. Advertising and other services brought in nearly $467 million during the same time frame.