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Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Analysis for 'Broadcasters'

  • Tiger Woods is Aereo's Best Friend in NYC This Week

    A fortuitous confluence of events could give Aereo a nice bump in visibility and adoption in New York City this week. First, CBS went dark for hundreds of thousands of NYC subscribers last Friday afternoon, as the broadcaster and Time Warner Cable were unable to agree on retransmission consent compensation. Then over the weekend, Tiger Woods - by far golf's biggest TV draw - smoked the field to win the WGC-Bridgestone golf tournament, which was televised by CBS (though not seen by New Yorkers). The win makes Tiger the odds-on favorite to win the fourth and final major golf event of the year - the PGA Championship, being played in upstate New York starting Thursday.

    CBS has the weekend afternoon TV rights to the PGA, following TNT's Thursday/Friday and weekend morning coverage. Tiger is gunning for his first major win in 5+ years, since his infamous infidelity scandal knocked him off his game. If Tiger is leading or among the leaders going into the weekend, it would set up intense interest and very strong CBS viewership. But with CBS blacked out - and the network blocking TWC New York subscribers' access to online programming - New Yorkers wouldn't get to see Tiger in action.

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  • Are "House of Cards" Emmy Nominations the Start of a Trend For Online Originals or an Outlier?

    Netflix's original series "House of Cards" received 9 Emmy nominations this morning including in 3 of the marquee categories best drama, best actor (Kevin Spacey) and best actress (Robin Wright). The nominations were a first for online original programming and therefore are a bona fide milestone for the rapidly growing online video medium. In addition, Netflix picked up 3 Emmy nominations for "Arrested Development."

    While Netflix bet big to put HoC in a league with cable stalwarts - and other best drama nominees "Game of Thrones," "Breaking Bad," "Homeland" and "Mad Men" plus the lone broadcast series "Downton Abbey" - an intriguing question to ask is whether the HoC nominations signal the beginning of an Emmy trend for online original programs or whether HoC is more of an outlier? In other words, can online get on the same type of award-winning growth curve for its originals as cable networks have over the last 20 years, helping drive pay-TV subscriber acquisition and retention?

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  • Hulu Owners Realize "You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too"

    Last Friday afternoon, Hulu's owners Disney, Fox and NBCU/Comcast (note NBCU/Comcast is a passive owner) announced that they wouldn't be selling Hulu, despite an active bidding process. Instead, the companies will retain their interests and plan to invest $750 million in Hulu to grow it. Although the principal reason for the sale was a disagreement over Hulu's business strategy, the announcement said Fox and Disney are "fully aligned in our collective vision and goals for the business (although what they actually are were not disclosed).

    This was the second time a Hulu sale failed to materialize and I believe that once again, the reason was that Hulu's owners realized "you can't have your cake and eat it too." Translation: Disney and Fox wanted to retain all kinds of content rights and flexibility, yet still wanted a very high valuation for the business. Since Hulu's next-day broadcast rights are at the core of its valuation, Disney and Fox's attempt to chip away at them led bidders to reduce what they were willing to pay, obviously beyond the level at which Fox and Disney felt it was still worthwhile selling the business.

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  • Interview With NBCU EVP Lori Conkling [AD SUMMIT VIDEO]

    At last month's Online Video Ad Summit, I did a great one-on-one interview with Lori Conkling, who's the EVP, Strategy and Business Development for Media Innovation and Cross Company Initiatives at NBCU (yes, Lori concedes that's a mouthful!). Lori joined the relatively new NBCU group several months ago from A&E Networks, where she oversaw multi-platform distribution strategy for the company's 10 networks.

    In the interview, we touch on a broad range of topics including: fragmentation in audiences, devices and advertising, the criteria NBCU uses in determining which new technologies/opportunities to pursue (e.g. financial, lessons to be learned, etc.), NBCU's interest in original online-only programming, the status of TV Everywhere, mobile video usage patterns, and lots more. For anyone looking to get a peek into how big media companies are thinking about online video, the interview is a must-watch.

    The video is below and runs 39 minutes and 29 seconds.

    Watch the video

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  • 3 Reasons Hulu's Owners Are Justifiably Bargaining Hard Over Content Rights

    Final bidding was scheduled to close last Friday in the Hulu sale process, with the list of potential buyers apparently narrowed to DirecTV, Chernin Group/AT&T and Guggenheim Digital Media. According to various reports (here and here), Hulu's active owners Disney and Fox (Comcast is a passive owner) have been insisting on a number of content licensing related deal points.

    Hulu's next-day access to its 3 broadcast owners' hit shows has always been the heart of the company's value proposition. But a lot has changed in the online video landscape since Hulu was initially formed in March, 2007. As a result, in my view, there are at least 3 key reasons Hulu's owners are justified in bargaining hard over content licensing rights: the importance of TV Everywhere, the growth of well-funded over-the-top licensees and the potential of online video advertising. Following, I delve into each.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #180 - Does Live Streaming TV Make Sense?

    I'm pleased to present the 180th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. There was a rush of interest around live streaming this week. Among the news items: ABC,TNT and TBS announced live streaming of their linear feeds; YouTube expanded its live feature and Brightcove launched a new live module, which followed thePlatform doing the same last week.

    For live streaming TV, neither Colin nor I believe it will have broad appeal, with the possible exception of sports and maybe certain breaking news/events. It's no secret that on-demand, time-shifted viewing has surged in popularity, due to DVR penetration above 50% of U.S. homes and the widespread availability of TV programs online for on-demand use. So in a way live streaming TV is trying to put the genie back in the bottle - getting on-demand viewers to go back to linear.

    The fundamental inconsistency to me in this is that if you're tech-savvy enough to be drawn to live streaming on an iOS device, you're even more likely to now be a mainly on-demand viewer. And for those not tech-savvy, who still do enjoy linear viewing, well, why do you need an live streaming app when you can just watch on your TV as you always have? Even the sports use case is a bit thin as watching out-of-home for most will be very expensive given mobile data rates, and most mobile device viewing happens in the home anyway.

    Nonetheless, Colin and I describe all the reasons we think other TV networks are likely to roll out live streaming in the coming months as well. Maybe we're missing something, but it strikes us that these will have more to do with PR (countering Aereo for example) and supporting TV Everywhere/retransmission consent negotiations and won't end up resonating broadly with users. More interesting I think is the CW's move to make its shows available free next day on-demand via Apple TV and other devices which seems in synch with users' expectations.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 17 seconds)

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  • ABC Introduces Live Streaming as TV Everywhere's Grip on Broadcast TV Tightens

    ABC will enable live-streaming of its programs through its iOS app, moving beyond an on-demand only programming model for the first time. The "Watch ABC" live feature will no doubt please a subset of the people who have downloaded the ABC app 10 million times to date and who still value live viewing. But Watch ABC will also likely puzzle and irk some users when they discover they must be authenticated as a pay-TV subscriber in order to access the live stream.

    In fact, requiring authentication for Watch ABC is just the latest evidence of TV Everywhere's tightening grip on broadcast TV. Another recent example was NBC making large portions of last summer's Olympics available only to authenticated pay-TV subscribers. In addition, Fox has maintained an 8-day exclusive window for pay-TV subscribers for almost 2 years.

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  • Inside Retransmission Consent - Aereo's Biggest Threat to Broadcasters

    I'm pleased to share Howard Homonoff's second piece on Aereo today. The first was "Here Are Aereo's Legal, Policy and Business Paths Forward."  Howard is Principal/Managing Director of Homonoff Media Group LLC, a management consulting firm focused on traditional and digital media content distribution, social media analytics and regulatory strategy. He is a frequent industry speaker and producer/host of Media Reporter, starting soon on cable systems throughout New York City.

    Inside Retransmission Consent - Aereo’s Biggest Threat to Broadcasters
    by Howard Homonoff

    Technology startups, by definition, often challenge the status quo - striving to deliver products or services that are better, faster, and/or cheaper than existing approaches. Yet, given the long odds against startups’ success, incumbents don’t often go on the warpath against  startups in their space until the startup has at least demonstrated some genuine traction or ability to disrupt that status quo.

    In this context, the intense opposition to Aereo from the broadcast industry is unusual. Aereo has been deployed in just one market and hasn’t disclosed any metrics about customer adoption (unattributed numbers suggest negligible penetration to date). Yet broadcasters have launched vigorous litigation (thus far unsuccessful) and executives have  threatened to abandon their decades of traditional broadcast-based business models in favor of cable-based delivery if Aereo is ultimately deemed legal.

    Why is it that broadcasters are so up in arms about Aereo? The answer, I believe, is that Aereo directly challenges a concept known as retransmission consent. As a close observer of Aereo’s coverage, I’ve been struck by how little attention retransmission consent has received, and how little it seems to be understood.  Below I address 3 questions: What is retransmission consent? Why was retransmission consent originally created? Why is it viewed as so vital by the broadcast industry?

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  • NBCU EVP, Strategy and Biz Dev Lori Conkling to Speak at June 4th Video Ad Summit

    I'm pleased to share that Lori Conkling, NBCUniversal's EVP of Strategy and Business Development for Media Innovation and Cross Company Initiatives, will be a featured speaker at the June 4th Online Video Ad Summit in NYC. Lori joined NBCU recently to drive strategy and monetization of the company's cross-platform content. In her role, Lori is also a key executive in advanced advertising, content windowing and mobile. Lori previously ran distribution at A&E Networks; at NBCU she reports into Lauren Zalaznick.

    At the Video Ad Summit, I'll be interviewing Lori about the choices and challenges involved in architecting a successful cross-media strategy. Today, media companies have unprecedented opportunities to engage with their audiences, but determining which ones have the best ROI and should be pursued is harder than ever. In the interview, expect insights about changing consumer behaviors, the shift to on-demand viewing, second-screen apps that work, effective monetization, TV Everywhere, mobile/connected devices and lots more.

    Early bird discounted registration for the Video Ad Summit is available until May 17th. You can save $100 by registering early, and as an added bonus, all early bird registrants will be eligible to win a Samsung 40-inch Smart TV, presented by VideoHub. We'll do the drawing just before lunch. Startups and students are eligible for even deeper discounts, contact me to learn more.

    I look forward to seeing you on June 4th!

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #176 - Aereo Touches Off an Escalating War of Words

    I'm pleased to present the 176th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In the past 2 weeks, Aereo has touched off an escalating war of words between it, the broadcast TV industry and other interested parties. Today Colin and I review some of the recent back-and-forth in this battle.

    News Corp. COO Chase Carey kicked things off in remarks at the NABShow last week, threatening to move Fox to cable if Aereo was deemed legal. CBS and Univision later backed him. This week broadcasters petitioned for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to hold a full or "en banc" review of their decision, a strategy my colleague Howard Homonoff suggested they could pursue in a contributed piece on Tuesday. In the petition, broadcasters stated that "unless reversed, (the court's prior decision for Aereo) would wreak commercial havoc" on the  industry.

    For its part, Aereo took the extraordinary step of taking out a full page ad in the NY Times on Tuesday, in which it said "54 million Americans use some sort of antenna to watch TV." Aereo is appealing directly to consumers, essentially trying to paint the broadcasters as stifling innovation and being anti-consumer. Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia also said this week that broadcasters would face a serious policy fight if they tried switching to cable.

    Last but not least, the dispute got personal as well, as Leo Hindery, a former cable executive, and now media industry investor, called Aereo lead investor Barry Diller's involvement "despicable" and "tawdry." That was after he labeled Aereo a "pissant little company" that is stealing copyrighted material because it's not paying retransmission consent fees.

    All of this over a company that hasn't yet even demonstrated its value proposition resonates with consumers! Imagine what happens if/when it does.

    Listen now!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 5 seconds)




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    (Apologies in advance, Colin's audio isn't very good this week.)

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  • Here Are Aereo's Legal, Policy and Business Paths Forward

    Today, I'm pleased to introduce Howard Homonoff as the newest VideoNuze contributor. Howard is Principal/Managing Director of Homonoff Media Group LLC, a management consulting firm focused on traditional and digital media content distribution, social media analytics and regulatory strategy. He is a frequent industry speaker and producer/host of Media Reporter, starting soon on cable systems throughout New York City.


    Here Are Aereo's Legal, Policy and Business Paths Forward
    By Howard Homonoff

    If you're an Aereo follower, then no doubt you're aware of the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in favor of the company in the WNET v. Aereo case.  So now that the court has spoken, we can all be happy to have that legal stuff out of the way, right? Well…sorry, but at best, we’re at the end of the beginning (and maybe not even that) of the legal, policy and business confusion surrounding Aereo and its implications.  Having seen the music business lowered as a canary into the mine of digital content disputes years ago, we should be prepared for a long, complex, multi-jurisdictional battle on these issues.  

    So what might we expect now in the post-2d Circuit environment? Let’s look at this through the 3 key venues where this will play out: the courts, the policy arena, and the negotiating table:

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  • Survey: Online Video Advertising Dominates Local TV Stations' Online Tune-In Campaigns

    A new survey of local TV stations by video marketing platform provider Mixpo has found that between 58%-70% of local TV stations' online tune-in campaign budgets (depending on market size) are allocated to online video ads. Fully 85% of local stations intend to use online video advertising for tune-in campaigns in 2013.

    Keeping this in perspective though, online advertising still only represents 14%-24% of local stations' tune-in ad spending, with stalwarts radio and cable still leading. However, online advertising already has strong buy-in from stations, with between 86%-100% reporting that they'll use it in 2013. And online advertising is poised to get a greater share of stations' ad budgets, as between 36%-57% of stations said they intend to increase online ad budgets. Video advertising would be a clear beneficiary of such moves.

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  • Aereo's Court Victory Puts Retransmission Consent Fees Into Spotlight

    Yesterday's victory by Aereo in federal appeals court is certain to have at least one consequence: it will put retransmission consent fees into the spotlight. For those unfamiliar with "retrans" as it is known, these are fees that broadcast TV networks and stations have negotiated from pay-TV operators. Much like the fees pay-TV operators pay to carry cable TV networks (e.g. MTV, USA, ESPN, etc.), retrans allows operators to carry broadcast networks.

    Retrans fees are already a billion dollar plus revenue stream for broadcasters and by some estimates, could be a multiple of this in several years. Broadcasters see the payments as vital to keeping them on parity economic footing with cable networks. Conversely, operators see retrans as a broadcast subsidy, effectively inflating their already bloated programming costs. Retrans has been at the heart of most of the blackout battles between broadcasters and operators over the last several years.

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  • Aereo: The Hands-On Review

    Today contributor Alan Wolk provides a hands-on review of Aereo. Alan is Global Lead Analyst at KIT digital. He frequently speaks about the television industry in general and second screen interactions in particular, both at conferences and to anyone who'll listen. Recently named as one of the "Top 20 Thinkers In Social TV and Second Screen" Alan is one of the main architects behind the award-winning KIT Social Program Guide and writes about the television industry at the Toad Stool blog. You can find him on Twitter at @awolk

    If you are interested in contributing to VideoNuze, please contact me!

    Aereo: The Hands-On Review
    by Alan Wolk

    I’ve been testing out Aereo for the past two weeks (see video below), ever since they expanded their service area to include the entire New York metropolitan area. I tested it at home where I have a blazing fast 50 Mbps FIOS connection using both their new Roku app and my iPad 3, and outside the house, where I rely on a Verizon Wireless iPhone 5 with 4G service. (Well, when 4G is available, that is.)

    Interface: The interface on the iPad and iPhone are fairly similar. There aren’t that many channels:  Aereo has fleshed out the over-the-air offering with iON and a couple of foreign-language offerings, but most users are going to be looking for content from the Big 4 networks and PBS.

    On the Roku app, the channels are arranged in Roku’s linear filmstrip layout, so that getting from one end to the other is quite a hassle.

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  • Best Buy Circular Ad Highlights Cord-Cutting Content Package

    Flipping through yesterday's Best Buy circular, I noticed an ad (see below), which I believe is indicative of the type of pitches that are going to become increasingly prevalent to prospective cord-cutters and cord-nevers. The ad offers a packaged discount to an over-the-air ClearStream HD antenna from Antennas Direct with a TiVo Premiere and highlights logos from Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora. While the ad doesn't explicitly say "Dump your expensive pay-TV service now!," it has several key messages that might as well.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #169 - More on Cablevision vs. Viacom; FOX NOW Syndicates Second Screen Content

    I'm pleased to present the 169th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. First up today, we review the latest video industry litigation, Cablevision vs. Viacom. We mostly agree that major industry change is unlikely to occur due to the litigation, but rather, over time, the expense of pay-TV and appeal of OTT alternatives will drive changes in consumer choices, which in turn is what will change the pay-TV industry's dynamics.

    Speaking of changing dynamics, it's no secret that live TV viewing is under huge pressure as viewers turn to on-demand choices and DVR usage. To help reverse things, Colin discusses an interesting new initiative announced this week by Fox and Watchwith. Fox will be syndicating its FOX NOW "sync-to-broadcast" second screen companion content via Watchwith to numerous network partners such as Shazam, Viggle, ConnecTV and NextGuide, helping drive higher usage and monetization. As Colin wrote earlier this week, it's a clever way of proliferating FOX NOW content and improving the live experience.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 21 seconds)

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  • Aereo Expands to 19 Million NYC-Metro Residents As Cord-Cutting Campaign Kicks Off

    Aereo announced this morning that it has expanded service to 19 million residents in 29 counties in the New York City metro area, moving Aereo beyond the 5 boroughs. The move is part of Aereo's nationwide expansion to 22 additional markets throughout 2013.

    In addition, Aereo took the wraps off its first consumer marketing initiative, with executions emphasizing its live, DVR and portability features. The ads will be placed on billboards, phone kiosks and main transit points in NYC. Importantly, they each carry the company's tagline: "Live TV. Online. No Cable Required." which pointedly positions the company as a cord-cutting option (see below for an example), as I explained recently would happen.

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  • 6 Video-Related Takeaways from D: Dive Into Media Conference

    I attended the D: Dive Into Media conference earlier this week for the first time. It is mainly a series of one-on-one interviews with senior executives from a variety of media and technology companies, plus networking. Overall it was a great conference, and it's hard to beat a couple of days in beautiful Dana Point, CA, especially when coming off a blizzard in Boston.

    My main interest was the video-related sessions, and from those I had 6 takeaways which I share below (along with selected session video clips), in no particular order:

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  • Startup Fredio Aims to Bring Free TV to Your Smart TV

    Broadcast TV networks continue to find themselves in the middle of a ton of innovation, as clever entrepreneurs look for ways to help viewers discover and consume their content. The latest entry in this space is a startup called Fredio ("FREE-d-oh") which announced its launch at CES. Fredio enables viewing on smart TVs of freely available TV programs that are posted online.

    The proposition is relatively simple: all broadcast TV networks, and some cable TV networks (for certain shows), have been putting their episodes online for years now. But if you want to watch them you're typically limited to viewing on your computer, tablet or smartphone. If you want to watch on your smart TV, you're out of luck because no apps exist, with the exception of Hulu Plus, which requires a subscription

    Fredio aims to change that by creating a free app for smart TVs that crawls the web for free TV shows. The app then categorizes them by network, allowing quick search and personalization through a straightforward UI (limited online demo here). You'll also be able to search Fredio online or on its tablet/smartphone app, select shows there and have them ready to play on your smart TV. When a show is selected, Fredio simply calls the network's web site to initiate the stream.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #162 - CES Reactions; Aereo's Disruptive Threat

    I'm pleased to present the 162nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon, who is back from spending several days at CES. Though Colin concedes he didn't see anything that really "blew his socks off," he does share specific reactions to what he saw in second screen apps, UltraViolet, home gateways, Ultra High-Definition TVs, Google TV and incremental improvements in Smart TVs.

    One thing that did get Colin jazzed was Near Field Communications (NFC), which allows devices to talk to each other, simply by touching. Colin describes it as "magic" and was quite impressed.

    We then shift topics to discuss Aereo, which earlier this week announced a new $38 million financing and plans to expand to 22 metro areas in 2013. As I wrote, I think that as Aereo's awareness increases this year, it's going to challenge pay-TV because it effectively eliminates the broadcast TV reception element of pay-TV's value proposition. By "hollowing-out" this important feature, Aereo will cause many pay-TV subscribers to question whether they really need/value the myriad cable networks they don't really watch. Given pay-TV's escalating cost and Aereo as an alternative, many people could begin to scale back.


    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 31 seconds)

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