Fox buys Tubi

You’re all probably familiar with the major players in the streaming wars, the tier that includes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. But if you look beyond them and turn off the flashing lights advertising the impending launches of Quibi, Peacock, and HBO Max, you might just be able to spot another layer of streaming warriors fighting on a separate battlefield. That’s the ad-supported video streaming market, and one of its biggest competitors was just acquired by the Fox Corporation.

On Tuesday, Fox Corp. sold its 5% stake in the Roku streaming platform to help finance a $440 million purchase of the streaming service Tubi TV, saying in a statement that the company was “essentially exchanging a passively held minority investment for full ownership and control of a leadership position in the free ad-supported streaming market.”

Though not quite as sexy as Netflix or Amazon, Tubi currently has 25 million users who watch thousands of movies and TV shows on the service for free (while putting up with unskippable ads, of course). Tubi has partnered with studios like Paramount, Lionsgate, and MGM to offer content that doesn’t have exclusive licenses attached, and its users reportedly tune in to watch 160 million hours of that content per month.

The acquisition gives Fox Corp. (the part of the company that remained after Disney bought many of their film assets) its own direct-to-consumer streaming platform. But unlike the top tier streaming companies, this one won’t have original programming as a draw. According to a press release, Fox Corp. will “evaluate opportunities to expand the Tubi offering not through original content, but rather in a cost-effective manner by leveraging our expertise in national and local news and sports programming.” The Verge also claims Fox Corp. “will use Tubi to offer a large number of its older TV shows and movies for free to subscribers,” but I was under the impression they don’t own those assets anymore, so I’ll be on the lookout for more clarification on that.

In any case, this is the type of non-flashy move that could pay dividends for Fox Corp., who is always looking for more people to advertise to. Media conglomerates have evidently been buying up these ad-supported streaming platforms for a little while now, with THR pointing out that Viacom recently purchased Pluto TV and Comcast bought something called Xumo earlier this year. Hey, just because we’ve never heard of ’em doesn’t mean they’re not valuable to someone!

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