Denver-based Frndly TV officially launched in October 2019 offering a skinny bundle of family-friendly programming targeted at cost-conscious customers in Middle America.
Founded by former Dish Network veterans – including CEO Bassil El-Khatib, chief programming officer Michael McKenna, chief financial officer Mike McClain and chief operating officer Andy Karofsky – the service offers a no-frills alternative to the bloated bundles of other vMVPDs and cable operators.
“We saw some opportunities both on the consumer side and on the programming side where there were some networks that were under-distributed on an OTT basis, that had well-established brands and audiences, and so we felt that rather than trying to copy the traditional cable bundle, which is what a lot of people have done, we could capitalize on some of these opportunities that were out there,” said McKenna.
The service, which tops at $10.99 per month, has since grown to more than 500,000 subscribers (as of Q3 2021), reaching profitability within just 15 months after launch.
“I think that we pretty much hit the target on our market. We weren't looking for global domination. We were just looking to carve out a nice market,” said McKenna.
Of course, many other services that started out a skinny bundle, eventually succumbed to the same contractual obligations that have bloated the traditional cable bundle for years. The perennial challenge facing vMVPDs is that if they want to carry Disney Junior, for example, they’re also forced to carry a suite of other Disney channels, including ESPN, which wholesales for up to $10 per month per subscriber.
YouTube TV started out in 2017 as a skinny bundle offering 40 channels for $35 per month. It has since ballooned to over 85 channels at $64.99 per month. Philo also launched in 2017 at $16 per month with a lineup of 37 channels and has since grown to over 60 channels for $25 per month.
But McKenna said that Frndly intends to remain financially disciplined and keep the price low and stable.
“We're not interested in Disney,” said McKenna. “Those types of deals are not net positive for us or our audience.”
Frndly TV Basics
- Niche vMVPD: Frndly TV features a low-cost skinny bundle of 31 family friendly live channels and on-demand programming.
- Friendly pricing: Priced at under $10 per month, Frndly TV was built from the ground up with Middle America in mind. Frndly TV’s core service package includes the Hallmark Channel, Game Show Network, The Weather Channel and many more networks.
- User experience: The service is designed to be easy for subscribers to use. “We set out to make the product not only cost friendly and programming friendly, but also friendly in terms of navigation, so there’s a degree of familiarity that consumers can easily jump into,” said McKenna.
- Customer service: Most of Frndly TV's 30 employees are dedicated to customer service. “It's a funny customer service experience, because there are a lot of things out of your control, like what type of bandwidth is coming into the house,” Mckenna said. “And we get questions like, ‘how do I get my Roku device to work?’ A lot of it is getting them set up for the service and troubleshooting quality issues.”
How much does Frndly TV cost?
Frndly offers three packages. The basic plan offers a single SD stream for $6.99 per month. The Classic tier for $8.99 per month allows users to stream two simultaneous HD streams and offers three months storage on a cloud DVR. At $10.99 per month, the Premium offering supports four simultaneous HD streams and nine months DVR storage.
All three packages include the same lineup of 31 channels and on-demand programming.
The service includes a 72-hour look back feature that lets users watch shows that they may have missed and forgotten to record on their DVR. It also offers a “Start Over” feature that lets users restart a program from the beginning when joined in progress.
What channels are on Frndly TV?
Frndly TV’s lineup of 31 channels includes: A&E, Hallmark Channel, The History Channel, INSP, Lifetime, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Game Show Network, Lifetime Movie Network, FETV, The Weather Channel, Hallmark Drama, UPtv, FYI, GAC Family, Circle, CuriosityStream, Pixl, Outdoor Channel, Dove Channel, getTV, BYUtv, GAC Living, Military History, World Fishing Network, Sportsman Channel, Vice TV, Local Now, Recipe.TV, BabyFirst, QVC, Hallmark Movies Now, and FMC (Family Movie Classics).
McKenna explained that the company is supported by three revenue streams. Basic linear streaming subscriptions, SVOD add-ons, (including offerings like Hallmark Movies Now), and most recently advertising.
In November, the company signed Magnite as its ad server and supply-side platform, delivering targeted ad inventory similar to any cable system.
McKenna reported that the company is very pleased with the return on its advertising initiative at this nascent stage and hopes to grow that part of the business significantly over the coming year.
How do I watch Frndly TV?
The service is available on Amazon Fire sticks and smart TVs, Android Mobile (OS 4.4 or higher), Android TV (5.0 or higher), Google TV, Chromecast, Apple TV (Gen 4 or newer tvOS v10.0 or higher), iPhone 4s or newer, iPad 2 or newer, iPod Touch Gen 5 or newer, iOS/iPadOS v10.0.0 or higher, Roku (Gen 3 and newer) and the latest versions of all the major web browsers.
While the company doesn’t offer native apps for Samsung, Vizio or LG Smart TVs, users can still watch via casting. Meanwhile, Amazon Fire Tablet/Kindle and Windows Phone users can access the service via a web browser.
Who owns Frndly TV?
Frndly TV is privately owned by the company founders, including CEO Bassil El-Khatib, chief programming officer Michael McKenna, chief financial officer Mike McClain and chief operating officer Andy Karofsky, with backing from a private investment fund called Talkot Capital.
In January, Frndly TV expanded its relationship with Family Entertainment Television, adding FET’s FMC (Family Movie Classics) to its channel lineup.
In mid-November the company announced that it had selected Magnite as its ad server and supply-side ad platform to tap into the hot market for connected TV advertising.
“Magnite’s ability to deliver seamless ad experiences combined with the expertise of its teams have already added meaningful value to our bottom line and are helping us maximize our platform’s capabilities, which have translated to growth of our ad business,” said Steve Sklar, head of advertising sales for Frndly TV.
See: Frndly TV Picks Magnite as Ad Server, Supply-Side Platform (November 16, 2021)
Also in November, the company added seven channels from A+E Networks to its lineup, bringing the total to 30. The channels include A&E Network, the History Channel and Lifetime, with its collection of holiday movies.
See: Frndly TV Adds A+E Channels to Streaming Video Service (November 10, 2021)
In October, Hallmark Movies Now video-on-demand service joined Frndly TV’s offering as a $5.99-a-month add-on for subscribers. Frndly TV subscribers also have an option to get Hallmark Movies & Mysteries for $59.99 annually.
Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Drama were already offered as part of the core package.
See: Frndly TV Launching Hallmark Movies Now as Add-On Channel (September 29, 2021) ■
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