Netflix reported a large miss on its subscriber forecast in Q2, with 670K net additions in the U.S. (44% below its forecast of 1.2 million) and 4.47 million net additions internationally (10% below its forecast of 5 million). From my standpoint, the international miss is almost irrelevant because the segment includes so many different countries with so many different adoption patterns that Netflix is still new to understanding. With all of those moving pieces, missing by just 10% isn’t too shabby.
Conversely, the domestic miss of 44% is a real head-scratcher which I believe raises, yet again, real questions around how well the company understands the dynamics of the domestic SVOD market, how much growth remains and how well its forecasting function is run. For eager investors, who have bid up the stock on lofty expectations, getting a handle on these issues seems critical.
I’m pleased to present the 427th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
AT&T wants HBO to up its game - producing more content, gaining more subscribers and increasing engagement, in a bid to stay competitive in the streaming era. On today’s podcast, Colin and I explore why the new approach makes sense directionally, but also carries big risks. Can HBO scale up its production spending and broaden its distribution while retaining its brand positioning? It won’t be an easy feat.
While AT&T isn’t highlighting Netflix as its key competitor, it’s clearly implied. And this week’s Emmy nominations, which saw HBO eclipsed for the first time in 17 years as the most honored network (by Netflix), is a clear sign of the times. Astoundingly, Netflix has gone from just 14 nominations 6 years ago to an industry-leading 112 this year.
Beyond the HBO-Netflix content battle, Netflix continues raising the stakes on SVOD user experience. As we also dig into, this week Netflix announced “Smart Downloads,” a clever way of enhancing offline viewing, which will no doubt delight millions of its subscribers.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 38 seconds)
More evidence of the boom in connected TV ads: AppNexus reported advertising spend in its connected TV marketplace grew by 748% in Q2 ’18 vs. Q2 ’17, with sequential growth of 69% in Q2 ’18 vs. Q1 ’18. AppNexus said it sees over 20 billion monthly CTV impressions on smart TVs, set-top boxes and game consoles, which underscores the rapid adoption of ad-supported video on CTV.
Wicket Labs, whose platform provides audience insights for subscription video services, has raised a $2.8 million round, led by WestRiver Group. Existing investors Madrona Ventura group and Divergent Ventures also participated. Wicket Labs was co-founded by Marty Roberts and Ian Blaine, previously executives at thePlatform, which was one of the industry’s first online video platforms, and was acquired by Comcast in 2006.
Topics: Wicket Labs
Yesterday Netflix announced a very cool new feature called “Smart Downloads,” which automatically deletes an episode you’ve downloaded and finished watching on your mobile device, triggering the download of the subsequent episode. The process happens as soon as you’ve connected to WiFi and occurs invisibly in the background. Smart Downloads is available for Android devices now and for iOS devices later this year.
Smart Downloads is a clever way of automating a manual process, so that users always have something downloaded and ready to watch (although having to manually download a TV episode clearly falls in the category of “first world problems”). Smart Downloads is a a savvy move by Netflix to increase subscribers’ engagement time, which in turn leads to higher satisfaction and better retention. But perhaps most fascinating about Smart Downloads is that it illustrates how fully and quickly Netflix has evolved from an avowed downloading skeptic to an impressive innovator.
Premium video consumption is splintering across platforms and services, creating huge challenges for content providers seeking to optimize ad revenues. To address this problem, video ad tech provider Operative has launched a new industry-wide initiative called “Premium at Scale” which aims to enable converged ad buying across linear and digital, based on business outcomes and audiences.
Operative’s CEO Lorne Brown told me in a briefing that Premium at Scale is an open, interoperable framework that will integrate media companies’ existing ad tech stacks as requested. Operative aims to play a central role in streamlining this process, helping transform TV from linear and digital silos to a platform model that will better compete with Google and Facebook.
At the recent VideoNuze Online Video Ad Summit, I did a really interesting fireside interview with Hayden Lynch, SVP of Ad Solutions and Innovation at Group Nine Media, which owns well-established passion brands like NowThis, Thrillist, The Dodo and Seeker. Collectively these brands drive over 6 billion video views per month, though just around 50 million are on owed and operated properties.
As Hayden explains, this creates huge challenges and opportunities for Group Nine, and he estimates approximately 10-20% of its current views are monetized. Hayden articulates why the distributed approach makes long-term business sense and what the company is doing to improve its monetization, especially with Facebook. He also describes the company’s strategy to move into linear, why it’s launching a half dozen shows on Snap, and the goals of its recent NewFront, among other topics.
Topics: Group Nine Media
Just weeks after closing its acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T has begun the process of revamping HBO’s traditional success formula, with Netflix envy apparently the main catalyst. According to a new NY Times article detailing a town hall meeting that Warner Media CEO John Stankey had with HBO employees, the new strategy boils down to wanting HBO to produce vastly more content with a goal of driving up engagement time and growth.
That sounds a lot like the formula that Netflix has employed for years, spending billions of dollars per year on scores of original programs in a global land grab for subscribers, while de-emphasizing profit maximization. Of course Wall Street has fallen in love with Netflix’s approach. Conversely, HBO has pursued a more limited “boutique” content strategy, with a few key marquee programs, while maximizing profitability.