LeEco’s coming to America tale has been fraught with one bad piece of press after another. The company added to the laundry list this week by announcing that it formally pulled the plug on its EcoPass content package earlier this month.
The Chinese hardware maker confirmed in a statement to TechCrunch the story first spotted by Variety. “We discontinued the EcoPass Beta program as of April 1,” the statement reads. “We are replacing EcoPass with 3-months of DirecTV NOW with every purchase of a LeEco ecophone or ecotv. “
As with the rest of the bad news swirling around the company since it first burst onto the U.S. scene in a garish fashion last year, LeEco isn’t admitting any sort of defeat here. In fact, the company’s spinning the end of its content package as good news for customers. “We believe this provides greater value to our customers since it has over 60 channels that include the latest movies and shows,” it continues. “We are committed to supporting those customers that did sign up for the services in EcoPass.”
The service carried the usual LeEco bluster. It was introduced as a free three-month trial that came with the purchase of one of the company’ new handsets. It essentially pulled together content from a variety of services and coupled it with a warranty and cloud storage. It was, really, the company’s shot at Netflix.
More to the point, however, it was an attempt to build an English-language version of the video service upon which the company was initially developed. Well before it started building its own phones, LeEco (née LeTV) was a video service, later diversifying into hardware à la Amazon.
The company surely saw EcoPass as a cornerstone for its U.S. play, bolstered by sales of phones and TVs to serve up that content, Fire-style. And accordingly, devices like the Le Pro3 felt like they were built specifically around LeEco’s big video play. The recent acquisition of an English language production company, the (now dead) planned purchase of U.S.-based TV maker Vizio and the funding of the utterly disappointing Matt Damon historical fantasy epic The Great Wall all played into the plan.
The decision to sunset EcoPass is the latest in a string of bad news for a company that seemingly just can’t catch a break of late. Recent stories have found the company suffering a cash crunch and reportedly looking to dump the massive piece of land it picked up from Yahoo.
By all accounts from the outside, it sure looks like it bit off more than it could chew when it threw a massive party announcing plans to bring its phones, TV, bike, VR headsets and electric cars to the States.
The company’s spokespeople have managed to put on a happy face through all of these changes, but, taken together, it doesn’t paint a particularly rosy picture of the company’s overly ambitious U.S. strategies. Back in November, a spokesperson for the company told TechCrunch, “how sincere, how honest, is this company of the thing we are trying to build globally. Between the choices of hiding things, we generally share the challenge we are facing today.”
Right now, however, it certainly feels like there’s a whole lot the company isn’t saying.