Loop TV is reinventing the jukebox, one screen at a time
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: Loop is reinventing the jukebox, and Plex has started to link to everything. Plus: Paddington!
Cord cutting isn’t just for consumers anymore: Restaurants, bars and other venues are increasingly saying goodbye to paid TV as well. Online video isn’t just a cheaper option for those businesses, but also allows them to embrace new features, to the point where those omnipresent TV screens are starting to look like a 21st century version of the good old jukebox.
One of the companies driving that change is Loop, a Los Angeles-based video startup that got in the out-of-home market when it acquired Seattle-based ScreenPlay in late 2018. Since then, Loop has grown its footprint to over 10,000 TVs in a wide variety of businesses (think Texas Roadhouse or Hard Rock Cafe) and over 100,0000 gas station screens.
ScreenPlay had been a veteran of the B2B video space, with a 30-year history of providing restaurants and bars with custom programming.
- With that history came a lot of legacy tech, and a business model that included salespeople touring restaurants to pitch them on the company’s service. Loop did away with all of that. “We took what was once a $300 a month service with a big Dell computer and a sixth-month sale cycle and we made it free,” Loop CPO Liam McCallum recently told me.
- Loop replaced ScreenPlay’s legacy tech with an Android box that looks like any other streaming player. “Almost like a consumer cord-cutting experience,” McCallum said.
- Loop customers get that box for free, and with it, access to hundreds of streaming channels. It also includes a web-based interface so businesses can add their own logos and cards to those channels.
- Alternatively, businesses can also install a Loop app on Fire TVs, or other Android-based smart TVs or streaming players.
Loop’s streaming box has a few tricks up its sleeve. For instance, businesses can use it to sync video and audio across venues.
- The box also supports caching of videos. “Once you stream, we encrypt it, cache it to the device,” McCallum said. “If and when that disaster happens and the business goes offline, the internet is cut, you don't want the music to stop.”
- Loop’s box also monitors wireless signals from mobile phones nearby to estimate how many people are in the room, which helps the company monetize its ad breaks.
The biggest draw is the content. Loop is licensing channels with viral videos and sports (think surfing, snowboarding and anything that works without audio) from some of the same companies that stream this content directly to cord cutters.
- The company has also acquired out-of-home licenses for music videos from the major record labels, allowing it to program countless music video stations.
- Loop has begun to experiment with Watch Parties for these stations, which was first engineered for the company’s separate consumer music video apps.
- Now, Loop is looking to bring Watch Parties to bars and restaurants, where it will allow guests to vote on the next song via text message, effectively turning those screens into interactive jukeboxes.
- And the company isn’t stopping there: “Expect to see a lot more interactivity in 2022,” McCallum said. Loop is working on emoji reactions, trivia and more.
The rise of startups like Loop is more bad news for cable TV providers, which already are seeing consumers cut the cord by the millions. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for ad-supported video channels to reach new audiences, and Loop’s interactive features may even be a blueprint for some of those companies to bring more interactivity to their free, ad-supported streaming channels in the consumer space as well.