A&E Networks has become the latest major US TV programmer to join the over-the-top (OTT) video parade, launching an online video streaming service styled after its Lifetime cable network.
The new subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) service, called Lifetime Movie Club, debuted Thursday at a price of $3.99 a month. No pay-TV subscription is required. So far, the service is only available on Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s family of devices, including iPods, iPads and iPhones. But, like such other OTT pioneers as Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) and Showtime Networks Inc. , A&E aims to expand its reach to traditional pay-TV distributors and other outlets as soon as possible. (See Dish to Sling HBO by Saturday .)
With the move, A&E is following in the footsteps of CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), HBO, Showtime, Nickelodeon, Tennis Channel and other major TV programmers, all of which have either already launched OTT services in the past few months or have announced plans to do so shortly. For example, Showtime intends to introduce its à la carte subscription-based over-the-top video service, simply called Showtime, for broadband-only subscribers next week.
All of these new programmer-driven services are jumping into an increasingly crowded online video market dominated by such major players as Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), Hulu LLC and YouTube Inc. Brett Sappington, director of research at Parks Associates , estimates that there are now 75 online video services "active" in the US today, including 12 that have launched so far this year. At least another ten are expected to debut in the second half of the year, including the new Showtime service.
Unlike such other new OTT services as CBS All Access and HBO Now, Lifetime Movie Club will not feature live TV programming. Instead, in a more conservative strategy, the Lifetime service will only show TV movies from the parent Lifetime cable network at least a year after their initial airing. Plans call for rotating about 30 of Lifetime's library of 300 women-oriented titles each month, grouping them under such categories as "Summer Lovin," "Dramatic Affairs," "Murder & Mayhem" and "Ripped From the Headlines."
A&E is also reportedly looking at spinning off other OTT services as "complementary" offerings to its main cable channels. One likely possibility is the History Channel, which, like Lifetime, has many hours of older library content that could be packaged easily into a web video offering.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading