Which Streaming Bundle Makes Sense to Pay For? A Startup Wants to Help Viewers Figure That Out

MyBundle operates an online platform being used by nearly 220 broadband providers of various sizes that target consumers looking for help navigating the TV world in the streaming age by simplifying the process of putting together content bundles tailored to their needs.

On its website, consumers can enter information on streaming services to which they already subscribe and channels for which they would like to get recommendations. MyBundle then provides the names of service providers that offer all of their desired networks, or nearly all of them while allowing a user to save even more money. Consumers can also use the site to choose a broadband provider and add video streaming services on top.

More from The Hollywood Reporter

The privately held company, which currently showcases more than 150 streaming services now has agreements in place with broadband providers representing approximately 13 million households. Large companies that are looking to grow their broadband subscriber bases with MyBundle include the likes of telecom firm CenturyLink and, as The Hollywood Reporter can exclusively report, newly-signed top 10 U.S. fiber provider Consolidated Communications. Said Rob Koester, senior vp of product management for Consolidated, which has agreed to be acquired by affiliates of Searchlight Capital Partners and the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation in an all-cash transaction with an enterprise value of approximately $3.1 billion: “As the TV landscape changes rapidly, it’s important to have a partner who provides the tools necessary for selecting and getting the most out of streaming options that work for our customers.”

To do that, MyBundle offers a co-branded platform to partners, including the Find My Bundle tool and personalized interactive streaming guide, which are designed to help consumers in its partner network looking to cord-shave, cord-cut or optimize their programming portfolio with the transition from traditional TV and with navigating the increasingly complex landscape of streaming TV. “We help consumers shave the cord,” MyBundle co-founder and CEO Jason Cohen tells THR. “Our Find My Bundle tool has now been used over a million times. That’s not necessarily a million unique users, but it’s been used about 1.15 million times.”

With talk of bundling streaming services a hot topic across the industry and executives, such as Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, saying that pay TV and broadband providers can serve as “fishing boats” for streamers, THR talked to Cohen about the state of the company and the industry.

In a video call from his company’s Fort Lauderdale, Fla. headquarters, the MyBundle CEO discussed why the industry has been looking at offering streaming services in a bundle similar to traditional pay TV, the rising importance of helping consumers find the streaming content they are looking for in a crowded space, MyBundle’s growth since its launch in 2019, and why he doesn’t believe in the “streaming wars.”

How do you feel about where MyBundle stands as a business amid the recent debate about streaming bundles?

I feel lucky that we put the word “bundle” in our company name. What we started with was the idea that it was going to get confusing in the streaming age, it was going to fragment, and then somebody was going to want to put it back together. That doesn’t have to be one player. There are multiple players that could be involved in this bundling.

Some people say that this sounds just like cable. But the people who say that probably haven’t had cable in six, seven years and don’t realize how expensive cable has gotten. The second thing is that the cable bundle was one-size-fits-all. There might have been two or three tiers, but it was “here is what you get,” versus this new world of really picking and choosing what you want.

For MyBundle, we continue to grow our broadband partnerships, and we continue to add products and features, and we got a bunch more coming this year. So it’s about continuously investing in the platform to make it more valuable. But ultimately we still focus on the same things: helping consumers find what they want and helping broadband providers drive more broadband growth – win more broadband customers, retain broadband customers, and monetize them right. That includes building the tools to make their customers’ streaming lives simpler, as well as developing further relationships with the streaming industry, which is where the monetizing part comes from.

What trends are you seeing in terms of bundling?

We are now doing more things like bundling streaming with broadband services. That’s a big thing. Verizon +play is doing it for Verizon customers. Comcast and Charter are getting together, and Xumo is their play. Our belief, really from day two, has been that there are a lot of broadband providers out there that most people don’t know about and that are small, including companies in rural areas. We have [business relationships with] more than 200 now, and that is still scratching the surface. There are a couple of thousands out there. So, we’ve been focusing on growing the broadband partnerships.

How do you position MyBundle when everyone is competing in the streaming market and traditional pay TV bundles continue to lose subscribers?

We have been skating to where we think the puck is going, and the broader industry in the last six months, maybe a little longer, has started to realize that there is a hockey game going on.

The idea of a cable provider and what that means is changing. We saw Charter and Disney strike a new carriage deal. Charter almost was like, “we’re out” [of pay TV]. Obviously, that was a little bit of a negotiation stance. But I think it’s only going in one direction. When someone like Charter is ready to get out of video services, and Verizon and Altice and others are talking down their video services, a lot of the smaller providers in TV are saying, “What am I doing in this business?”

Now, most of them don’t want to just rip the band aid off, but they’re more and more accepting the proposition, “my TV product costs this and all these other services are here. If I can help people find what they want, I’ll have happier customers.” I feel very strongly that’s going to continue, if not accelerate. Our message or sales pitch to the broadband industry isn’t “shut down TV.” It’s: “We’re building these tools that are complementary.”

One of your messages is that the company can help consumers navigate a crowded streaming market. What’s your take on consumers’ willingness to add more streaming services or cut back on their subscriptions?

Fundamentally, I still believe the two major consumer problems are first, “how do I keep track of all the streaming services I have? And if it was easy to subscribe to incremental services, I would.” Nobody wants 10 different services. But if it was 10 clicks on a bundle, that’s different. We think there’s a big opportunity. The more bundling is embraced, the stickier the customer will be for the streaming service. Everybody wins with a bundle: streaming services win when being part of a bundle, and I think the consumer will buy more when bundling is easy. That is not a zero-sum game.

The second issue is content discovery. And that, of course, has gotten even crazier now that the streaming playing field is a little bit leveling. Netflix is, I would say, still the core of most cord-cutters’ or cord- nevers’ bundles, or unofficial bundles. But it’s not as much in the lead as it was three years ago. There’s great content elsewhere. There’s more and more opportunity there.

It’s not COVID anymore when the streaming guys were kings of the world, with growth at all costs, and Wall Street didn’t care. There are real businesses here. It’s not an unsustainable business model, but it needed to change. Everybody needs to charge a little bit more and spend less on content. Those are two major levers. Ultimately, they still want growth, and they see the value of bundles.

And so you have the CEOs saying now, “we need somebody to come bundle.” Our perspective is: would you rather it be just Amazon, Apple or Google doing that? Or here’s MyBundle, which is no threat to the streaming services. That’s the carrot part. Fundamentally, though, what we’re really saying is, “we’ve got 200-plus broadband providers with 12 million-plus internet customers. The more we integrate the billing, the more we integrate the content discovery, the better the consumer experience.”

You have wanted to develop more business relationships with streaming service providers. Any success on that front? And can you explain the MyBundle business model for working with streaming services in simple terms?

Apple, Amazon, Google and Roku make money with services paying them a percentage. We are the internet app store for the broadband industry. We are the app store that is device agnostic. We’re making money from the streaming services, and then sharing that with the broadband providers, without the streaming services having to go deal with 2,995 of those providers. Instead, we can incentivize the broadband providers to help their customers figure out all the streaming and be the destination for streaming.

The streaming services are the nut that we’re working on cracking.

We’ve done some billing integrations. We’ve been live with Sling TV for a little bit already, that’s been great. We also struck a special deal for billing and customer care for a company called Tastemade+, [a streaming channel for food and travel-related programming]. We basically built this subscription management engine on our side, where if you are a streaming service, and you want to plug into MyBundle, here you go. There are a few other contracts signed and more now in the pipeline.

We’re not Apple or Amazon or Google where it’s “my way or the highway.” We’re a tech company, we’re fast, and we’re making this simple. That’s a big part of our personality and culture. The more streaming services we have billing integration with, the better it is for everybody. There is a real flywheel there.

On some earning call, one of the entertainment industry CEOs said something like, “if we don’t do this, big tech is going to do it to us.” He’s absolutely right. But my answer is: there’s also little tech that can do it with you.

How could that work?

What if you want to do a bundle of, say, Paramount+, Peacock, and Max? All three of them have to get together and ultimately, you need a central player. Those guys have already done their work. We’ve done our work, and that’s all we do. MyBundle doesn’t have a wireless business or fiber business or other business to think about or protect.

Our incentive is to sell streaming services. And as we do the billing integrations, and as it turns into more of that app store model and moves away from a one-time commission to a recurring revenue share model, our whole team is incentivized to not just sell a streaming service, but to make sure that a customer stays a customer. For streamers, it’s about “we get them in, and then we maybe hook them for two months. And if they stay for 60 days, we have the opportunity to show them three shows or four shows.”

MyBundle is also investing in helping consumers find and discover content across services. So we can help partners win new customers, reduce churn and also reclaim customers. For example, when a series you watched or had an interest in returns, we have the opportunity to tell this person, “hey, it’s coming back!” Or: “Shows similar to what you like are coming.”

How do you see the state and success of bundles offered by the likes of Amazon and do they face any challenges?

There are channel stores, such as Amazon’s Prime Video Channels. We know why a streaming service might not want to participate in that. They get no data, and it all goes into Prime. That doesn’t need to be the way it is. A consumer just wants to be able to keep track of their services in one place. There’s a reason why a package of Netflix and Max is available through Verizon and not Netflix.

What we’re doing is similar to Verizon +play. The difference is that we can be the service provider for the rest of the broadband industry without being a channel store. We have MyBundle.tv and MyBundle.com which take you to the same page. That can be a location where consumers purchase their streaming and broadband services. But, and that is key for streaming services, consumers will have a Netflix login, they will have a Paramount+ login, as opposed to it being a channel store.

You mention how time-consuming it can be to find content when you subscribe to several streaming services. How big a challenge is it for streaming consumers to find content they want to watch?

That problem is probably bigger now than it was two and a half years ago because there are another 20 million cord-cutters who are looking for something to watch. And two years from now, there’ll be another 16 million, who are probably less tech-savvy. Whether you’re tech-savvy or not tech-savvy, this is challenging. There’s a lot of opportunity with the concept of watch lists and sharing watch lists.

Ultimately, there are two problems. The first is: “I want to watch a show, where can I find it?” That’s a more easily solvable problem in the sense that you know the question, and there is the answer on our website. We’re also working on more of a mobile solution.

What is still completely a wide, wide open space is the second issue: “I don’t know what I want to watch, I’m looking for new show. What do I do?” Most people blur these two things together when they say, “I spent 20 minutes trying to find something to watch and then gave up.”

It’s not that it took you 20 minutes to find The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s more: “I just finished a show, and I’m looking for something new.” Or: “I’ve got my intense show that I watched earlier in the night, but I want to go to sleep and I need a new relaxing show.” That’s where we think there’s a massive opportunity still to do cross-platform recommendations to give people the ability to create multiple watch lists across services, to be able to share those watch lists with friends on social media. Friends can thumbs up or thumbs down, and they can recommend shows back to you.

MyBundle is starting to offer something akin to gift cards. Can you explain the idea behind that?

We’re giving our broadband partners the ability to give away streaming credits, or streaming services to shoppers or their customer base. The gift card business out there is a pretty big business in all industries. Broadband providers since the beginning have been giving away things, such as “sign up for internet and get a $200 gift card!” What’s their advertising? “We’re fast, you could stream.” So what we realized was why wouldn’t they be giving away streaming services? The Verizons of the world are doing it. T-Mobile has been giving away services.

What we’re doing is enabling all the broadband providers that aren’t that big. There are the top 5, and I think it still makes sense for them to use us. But beyond that, there are numbers six to 10 that have the capital. They could build and figure this out themselves, but they’re best served probably using us, especially the way we do the economics. It’s also very enticing to the streaming services that don’t want to deal with providers six through 3,000.

On both sides, offering special deals or bundles doesn’t make sense unless there’s a middleman, both aggregating broadband providers for streaming services and aggregating streaming services for broadband providers. That’s ultimately our value proposition. With our Streaming Choice Program, we are allowing our providers not just to give away one-time gift cards, but to actually offer bundles that include streaming services.

Two of our partners recently launched such offers. One of them is basically, “you buy a gig, you get Wi-Fi, you get your local TV channels, and here’s $20 of credits to buy streaming services.” So every month, that customer gets the $20 credit, and they can use it. They could add more if they want to do so, of course.

Everything has to be super easy. For companies that have done gift card promotions in the past, ours is a no-brainer, because we basically allow them to keep the economics instead of the gift card company keeping the economics. So when a provider does this, it’s a lot cheaper than any other way they could have done it. We’re also doing that obviously because we are confident this helps the streaming services get more interested, too.

This year and the latest earnings season have brought some latest streaming bundling commentary, and Walt Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox Corp. unveiled their sports streaming joint venture. Any thoughts on these latest developments?

The sports Hulu is another bundle. But it’s not so much a bundle of streaming services from everything I have read. It’s a skinnier version of YouTube TV, or Hulu. It’s a sports package. It’s great because it means more choice, and we are in favor of that. There should be so many more streaming services, and we should chop it up. Just two days ago, DirecTV announced DirecTV Satellite with no locals. I am a little biased, but it all plays exactly into why MyBundle exists.

David Zaslav has been very open about bundling and the need for it. He has mentioned the need for an intermediary. He has mentioned Apple, Amazon, Roku, and Charter and Comcast. Our goal is for him to also be talking about MyBundle.

I think the takeaway from earnings season is that it’s getting wider attention. More and more of the CEOs are realizing that bundling is good and that we need to figure out ways to bundle. I think the distributors are also getting there.

I heard you are not a big fan of the phrase “streaming wars”…

I call it the “streaming revolution.” There are no losers in this “war.” The only loser is the traditional TV ecosystem, which continues to bleed users. I think it gets a lot worse. The underlying economics for the media networks and the cable operators is: “we lost 8 percent of our customers, so we need to raise our price 12 percent.” That’s literally the whole value chain. And more and more consumers are having more and more options. So, how is this sustainable?

But the streaming revolution isn’t finished. The need for help gets more and more each day, for the broadband providers the market is getting more and more competitive.

Best of The Hollywood Reporter