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    Why Redbox Is Moving Into Free, Ad-Supported Streaming Video

    Redbox, best known for its network of fire-engine-red DVD-rental kiosks, has thrown its hat into the free-TV ring — with an ad-supported service that looks a lot like ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV.

    The company’s Redbox Free Live TV service, which soft-launched earlier this month, is now available nationwide as of Tuesday (Feb. 18). Like Pluto TV’s core service, Redbox’s version streams video in a linear fashion, like a traditional TV channel, with scheduled blocks of shows — in other words, you can’t select titles you want to watch.

    The idea is to build a new advertising revenue stream for Redbox, leveraging its customer base of over 45 million people who use its kiosks and digital VOD services, according to CEO Galen Smith.

    “Our consumers are very value-conscious,” Smith said in an interview. “As we think about meeting their entertainment needs, we think this is a great way to give them additional choices.”

    While it’s called “live TV,” the Redbox service for now doesn’t include any traditional cable or broadcast TV channels or programming. It’s a mélange of some older movies and television shows, mixed in with short-form internet video. None of the content-licensing deals are exclusive.

    Popular on Variety

    Redbox Free Live TV launches with three Redbox-branded channels with movies from studios and content owners including Lionsgate, the flagship launch partner: Redbox Rush (action and adventure); Redbox Comedy; and Redbox Spotlight (featured and recommended titles).

    In addition to Lionsgate, partners currently include Fremantle (“Family Feud”), FilmRise (“Unsolved Mysteries,” “Forensic Files” and a collection of movies), Vin Di Bona Prods.’ “AFV,” TMZ, USA Today, Jukin Media’s FailArmy and Pet Collective, Group Nine’s NowThis, Gravitas, Kabillion, Comedy Dynamics, Maverick Movies, People Are Awesome, and Cinedigm’s Dove Now, Docurama and ConTV.

    The AVOD service currently has close to 30 channels, and Smith said Redbox plans to launch about 10 new ones every month. “We’ll figure out what content really resonates with consumers and continue to expand on that,” Smith said.

    With its roll into AVOD, Redbox will face a range of rivals, including the Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Tubi, IMDb TV and Vudu.

    On the advertising front, Redbox is working with partners including Meredith’s Xumo for selling ad inventory but the goal is to eventually bring that in-house, Smith said.

    Redbox Free Live TV is available on Roku, iPhone, Apple TV, Android, Vizio and LG smart TV, as well as on the Redbox website.

    Redbox operates about 41,000 rental kiosks and the Redbox On Demand digital service (which notably excludes Disney titles). In December 2019, the company stopped renting video-game discs, explaining that going forward it is focusing on physical DVD and Blu-ray movie rentals alongside digital VOD rentals and sales.

    On a separate front, last year, Redbox launched Redbox Entertainment, a new division to produce and distribute original content across its service. To date, the division has released “The Fanatic” starring John Travolta and “Running With the Devil” starring Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne. Another Redbox Entertainment-backed film, “The Lost Husband,” produced by and starring Leslie Bibb and starring Josh Duhamel, will hit theaters in April.

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