Earlier this week, San Francisco-based Brightback announced it has raised $11 million to fund its customer retention automation software platform designed specifically for subscription businesses. The software startup helps reduce customer cancellations and improve sustainability for companies like SparkPost Crazy Egg, Copper, GitBook and Mailshake. Brightback’s Series A funding round was led by Index Ventures. Point Nine Capital, Matrix Partners and Rembrandt Venture Partners also participated in the funding round.
Yesterday Luminary launched a new podcast app using the freemium model, giving podcast fans two options to choose from. Luminary’s ad-supported, free tier features hundreds of thousands of shows and personalized recommendations. The premium tier is ad free and offers uninterrupted listening to Luminary’s library of podcasts including over 40 Luminary Originals. The premium version is available for $7.99 a month following a one-month free trial for U.S. subscribers. The Luminary app is also available in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. The free app is available in the App Store and in the Google Play store.
Last week, Microsoft confirmed the rumors about its gaming subscriptions are true. The company has been working on an ‘ultimate’ gaming subscription that will combine Xbox Game Pass with Xbox Live Gold. The combined subscription will be called Game Pass Ultimate and be available for $14.99 a month. So far, Xbox has invited a limited number of Xbox Insiders to test the subscription before it launches on a bigger scale later this year in existing Game Pass markets.
“SiriusXM. No car required.” That’s the newest offer from satellite radio provider SiriusXM. Subscribers can now experience SiriusXM outside the car with the company’s new ‘Essential Streaming’ plan with over 300 channels on their phone, at home or online. Features include commercial-free music, news, talk, entertainment, sports coverage and analysis, 24/7 comedy channels, thousands of on-demand shows and concerts, the ability to skip songs and online Xtra channels. The initial promotion is $1 for three months, then $8 a month.
In this week’s subscription headlines, Gizmodo says the new Apple News+ app is a disaster, Hulu buys back AT&T’s minority stake for a cool $1.43 billion, and Tinder surpasses Netflix for the first time, making it the top-grossing, non-game app in the first quarter. Also this week, CNET gives us the 411 on the highly-anticipated Disney+ streaming service due out later this year, the latest version of Roku offers big improvements to its search functionality, and Audi changes its subscription program, lowering the entry point.
This Tuesday, Walmart announced a new partnership with Kidbox, a subscription box service for kids’ clothing. The partnership will offer Walmart.com customers exclusive, curated styleboxes for kids, minus the styling fees boxes like Stitch Fix often include. Parents – and their children – can expect to received personally-selected styles from more than 120 premium brands including Butter Super Soft, Puma and C&C California. Each box includes four to five items for $48, which is estimated to be about 50 percent off the suggested retail price for all of the items.
Last week, American Media, Inc. confirmed that the rumors are true – supermarket tabloid National Enquirer is up for a sale, including its U.S. and U.K. editions, along with AMI’s Globe and National Examiner brands. Is this a bargain or a bad idea? According to an April 10 news release, AMI’s board has done a “strategic operational review” and decided it is exploring “strategic options” to tell the tabloids. AMI also owns Us Weekly, Men’s Journal, OK!, In Touch, Muscle & Fitness and other media assets, and it has been growing its experiential marketing and events division and will focus on those businesses instead.
Investors remained fickle after hearing Netflix’s (NASDAQ: NFLX) first quarter earnings report yesterday, with Netflix stock ebbing and flowing since late last week. The report, however, had much to celebrate including revenue of $4.5 billion, a 22.2% increase year-over-year, and the highest quarterly paid net new additions in company history. During the first quarter, Netflix added net new members of 9.6 million, a 16 percent increase over the prior year.
“We ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion,” says Uber in its filing for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission last Thursday. The 10-year-old company is ready to move to the next level by making itself available on the stock exchange. As it does so, the rideshare company’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick, admits there were missteps along the way. He also commits himself to treating customers, colleagues and cities with respect, and he vows to the run the business with passion, humility and integrity.
Last Wednesday, YouTube announced some changes to its two-year-old live TV service, including a price increase and more content to bring customers “the best possible service.” Effective immediately, new subscribers to YouTube TV will pay $49.99 a month for the skinny bundle, after a 14-day free trial. Existing subscribers will see the price increase in their next billing cycle after May 13. For many, the price increase equates to $10 a month, unless you pay via Apple. Those users will pay $54.99 a month to account for Apple’s percentage of the subscription fee.
In this week’s subscription headlines, rumor has it that Microsoft is working on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate that will merge its subscription gaming services, Rent the Runway adds children’s clothing to its monthly subscriptions, and Financial Times hits 1 million paying readers. Also this week, Discovery launches new non-fiction video streaming, MoviePass faces competition, and Facebook considers paying publishers for their news content.
Earlier this week, monetization platform 2Checkout released its Q1 Benchmark Report on Digital Commerce Trends in Software and Online Service Sales. The information in the report comes from millions of global transactions using the 2Checkout platform between March 2018 and February 2019. According to the report, subscription-based products and services now represent 77 percent of total sales volume, compared to 76 percent in 2018 and 75 percent in 2017.
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission took a bite out of healthy snack box company UrthBox and CEO Behnam Behrouzi, when it settled a complaint with the FTC for deceptive business practices. In the nine-page complaint, the FTC alleges the San Francisco-based company failed to disclose that customers were given incentives in exchange for positive online reviews, and they did not adequately disclose key terms of their “free trial” auto-renewal program to new customers. UrthBox will pay $100,000 to the FTC to compensate customers deceived by the free trials.
MNG Enterprises Inc., parent of Digital First Media, continues its takeover attempt of Gannett, the owner of more than 100 media properties and related businesses, including USA Today, Detroit Free Press, AZCentral, IndyStar and ReachLocal. USA Today reports that MNG has mailed proxies to shareholders, asking for them to support MNG’s six nominees to Gannett’s board of directors. This is MNG’s latest attempt to acquire Gannett, after the company rejected its unsolicited proposal to buy Gannett for $12 per share.