Samsung aims for a splash with Milk Video -- but only for Galaxy phone users

The new service, which is free for Samsung smartphone owners, follows the introduction of Milk Music earlier this year.

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Shara Tibken
Joan E. Solsman
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With Samsung's Milk Video, users can follow brands and other content curators. Samsung

If the 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute aren't quite right for you, Samsung now has another option -- but it's just for Galaxy smartphone users.

The Korean electronics giant on Wednesday introduced Milk Video, the counterpart to the Milk Music song streaming service it launched in March. The free video product, which features curated feeds and a strong social media component, makes it easy for users to find and share videos that are popular online. Samsung also will offer some exclusive content from partners such as Red Bull, Funny or Die, and VICE.

"The key finding ... when we looked at consumer behavior around video [was] discovery happens in a haphazard way," Kevin Swint, Samsung vice president of content and services, told a group of reporters ahead of the launch. "This experience being kind of random leaves a lot of people feeling like they're the last one to see videos everyone's talking about. ... We thought we could solve that."

Milk Video is the latest attempt by Samsung to expand into media, where it has an unimpressive track record. Earlier this year, it jettisoned its Samsung Media Hub, which was similar to the iTunes and Google Play stores for movies and TV shows. Milk Music -- a Pandora-like online radio offering -- is generally an afterthought in the crowded music-app landscape, overshadowed by the likes of Pandora, Spotify and a slew of others. Yet Samsung continues to focus on the area because having the right kind of music and video content is critical to keeping users on its devices.

Swint said "millions" of people currently use Milk Music though he declined to provide specific figures about active users or the amount of time people spend on the service, beyond saying there's "strong retention and engagement."

Videos offered through Milk Video typically will be shorter features, such as clips from "Saturday Night Live" and other popular TV shows, exclusive video from sporting events through the Red Bull Signature Series, or episodes from two new series soon to be offered exclusively on Milk by Funny or Die.

A "Following" feed features videos from brands and content makers liked by a user, and people can browse categories such as gaming, comedy and technology. Users don't have to set up accounts to stream video, but they will need to sign in with Facebook or another account if they want to follow other users and share videos.

Some other partners on board for the service -- but aren't necessarily offering exclusive content -- are Artists Den, @Hollywood, AwesomenessTV, BuzzFeed, College Humor, Conde Nast, Cracked, DanceOn, Fandango, Maker Studios, The Onion, Refinery29, Tastemade and Vevo.

Hands-on with Samsung Milk Video (pictures)

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Currently, Milk Video is only available in the US and works just on Samsung Galaxy smartphones released since 2012, including that year's Galaxy S3 and Note 2 all the way to 2014's Galaxy S5 and Note 4. But Swint said Samsung likely will expand the service to other products, including TVs, wearables and possibly the Gear VR virtual reality headset that launches next month.

"If you think about the screens we have from big, beautiful 4K HDTVs down through tablets and smartphones and even down to our newest wearables ... it becomes really important for us to focus on delivering a great services experience around really great content," Swint said.

The Milk Video channel list includes names such as Vevo and Red Bull. Samsung

Samsung's decision to keep the service limited only to people who own its devices, without any high-profile exclusive or original content nor any deals that save customers from working against their mobile data plans, all indicate that the service will be small and experimental at first.

Although the Milk Video won't have ads and therefore has one leg up on YouTube, it also means the service doesn't yet generate revenue, and top content providers want to be paid for their choicest content. That means Samsung must pay for the goods if it wants to have anything that will really lure in viewers. The company said it plans to evaluate potential advertising opportunities in the future.

And Swint said Samsung is talking with carriers about making Milk streaming exempt from data plans -- meaning, users will be able to watch as many videos and listen to as many songs as they want and not have it eat into their smartphone plans.

"We're working on it," he said. "Stay tuned."

The bandwagon of investing in video content is already crowded by tech companies. Besides the obvious examples like Netflix and Hulu, companies such as AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft, Sony, SoftBank and Xiaomi have been putting significant resources behind making their own videos to create exclusive lures for video watchers, with varying degrees of success.

But the towering competitor to Milk Video is Google's YouTube. The world's biggest online video source, YouTube streams 6 billion hours of video each month, and nearly 40 percent of its viewing is mobile, according to the company. With such massive worldwide reach, the site is already the de facto place to find video, and the amount of content from premium brands like those that Samsung is touting for Milk dwarfs the Korean company's fledgling service.