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Flipboard Jumps Aboard the Subscription Video Train

There’s a streaming service for pretty much everything now. Companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu offer a smorgasbord of licensed and original video series. HBONow, Disney+, and Apple TV+ satisfy the exclusive content snobs, or those held hostage by animated IP. But when it comes to premium news videos, there isn’t really just one destination; each news channel or publisher offers its own digital app. And most have ads too.

That’s part of Flipboard’s reasoning for jumping aboard the subscription video train. If you’re familiar with Flipboard, it’s likely because you’re either a news publication (like WIRED) or because you’re one of the 145 million people who regularly use Flipboard as a kind of personalized magazine for news. Now, the news aggregator is launching a subscription video service called Flipboard TV.

“It’s a kind of renaissance era right now with premium quality content,” says Mike McCue, the cofounder and chief executive of Flipboard. “But then you have an app world that’s really complicated, so it’s important to figure out a premium model that works.”

Flipboard TV will cost $3 per month, and will aggregate news videos from around 100 different sources. These publishers cover a broad range of categories, including news and politics, business, entertainment, food, health, the outdoors, and of course, tech. During an early demo of the new TV service—which lives as a separate tab within the current Flipboard mobile app—videos from publications like The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News were visible. Rolling Stone, US Weekly, and Surfer are in there too. It also includes video segments from local TV stations. (And, in full disclosure, Flipboard also said it is in talks with Condé Nast—the parent company of WIRED, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Bon Appétit, and other publications.)

Flipboard TV will launch in March, but the company announced it today because it was Samsung Day. That’s the official/unofficial name for a day in which Samsung shows off three new versions of its pricey Galaxy smartphone, along with a bizarre folding phone slated to ship later this year. Flipboard has struck a deal with Samsung to offer this new subscription video service exclusively on these new Samsung phones, for a few months at least. After that, the service may show up on other platforms.

Commercial Appeal

A few things worth noting about Flipboard TV: It won’t have ads, at least for now. McCue says Flipboard is sharing subscription revenue with video partners, based on “dwell time,” or, how long people spend watching the videos.

“What publishers like about this is that it’s just additive,” McCue insists. They’re not making original content just for Flipboard, so presumably those videos will continue to live on a publisher’s own website, with ads. And because there are no ads on Flipboard TV, videos start playing almost as soon as you tap on the thumbnail.

Of course, Flipboard isn’t the first service to offer ad-free videos; Hulu and YouTube do this as well, both for $12 per month. But again, their offerings are pretty different from the news-centric Flipboard TV. The service might also not be ad-free forever, since the venture capital-backed Flipboard makes the overwhelming majority of its revenue off of ads.

Flipboard also says it has no plans to get into making original videos itself, whereas other video subscription services have committed to spending millions (or billions) to produce or commission original shows. “It’s our long-standing belief that we shouldn’t compete with our content partners,” says McCue. Instead, Flipboard’s impetus for hosting video is more about expanding beyond news articles and eventually aggregating other kinds of media.

“This is really just the first step. We’re trying to come up with a holistic approach for all of this,” McCue says, adding that creating a structure around podcasts is an obvious next step for the company.

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