Akamai and NBC Sports announced this morning that Akamai will be powering video streaming, site performance and security services for the 2014 Winter Olympics on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will run from February 6-23.
NBC Sports plans to stream over 1,000 hours of Olympics content, double what it did 4 years ago from Vancouver. Streaming will include all 15 sports across 98 different events, plus lots of exclusive content such as interviews, athlete profiles and backstories that have become standard Olympics fare.
Aereo announced late yesterday that it has raised $34 million in Series C financing. Adding to the $20.5 million in its Series A and $38 million in its Series B, Aereo has now raised a total of $92.5 million. The new funding will support Aereo's ongoing regional rollouts, plus new hiring and technology. Of note, the new financing includes Gordon Crawford, a well-known media investor, whose involvement certainly gives Aereo further credibility.
Aereo is currently live in 10 markets, and said yesterday it plans to be live in 15 by the end of Q1. That's a downward revision from its expansion plan announced a year ago, which was to be in 22 cities by the end of 2013. Last September Aereo announced technical issues delayed its Chicago launch and hasn't updated when that area will go live.
There are a lot of wild headlines these days proclaiming the death of TV and the prevalence of cord-cutting. But in a session I moderated at the recent VideoSchmooze event in NYC, Bruce Leichtman and Craig Moffett, two of the top video analysts around, shared their current data, which systematically debunks these mythologies. For anyone interested in what's really happening in the video business today, the session's video is a must-watch.
Bruce and Craig believe that both technology and mainstream media are ginning up these mythologies because they make great headlines. In fact, both cited instances where their data said "x" but the media coverage ended up being "y." All of this underscores how important it is to read media coverage of the industry with a very critical eye.
Yesterday Aereo announced that it will not oppose the petition by the major broadcast TV networks (formally a "petition for a writ of certiorari") for a U.S. Supreme Court review of a ruling last May in Aereo’s favor. In that instance, the broadcasters were thrown for a pretty significant loss by Aereo when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled preliminarily that Aereo’s business should not be halted due to alleged violations of the copyrights of broadcasters.
Normally it is big news when two sides so diametrically opposed like Aereo and the broadcasters seek (or at least willingly accept) review from the Supremes. But in this case there may be less than meets the eye (at least from a litigation perspective - see below).
There is no doubt the TV industry is changing dramatically, largely due to the rise of online and mobile video viewing. But is it "dying," "imploding" or being "nuked" as some recent tech media headlines assert? No, not yet anyway. As a close observer of all things video, it's just mind-boggling sometimes to see how data is conflated to support distorted conclusions. If your company's product strategy were guided by today's headlines alone, you'd be on a course to disaster.
To help set things straight, Piksel's Alan Wolk has put together a really good slide deck with data debunking 7 of the bigger myths floating around these days (1) cord-cutting is a mass movement, (2) kids ignore mainstream TV, (3) your pay-TV provider is the one forcing you to pay for 800 channels, (4) cutting the cord lets you stick it to the cable company, (5) second screen is all about social TV, (6) TV viewing has decreased and (7) in the future we'll be able to watch TV wherever, whenever and however we want.
Newsy, which creates short-form video news segments that are syndicated to major third-party online publishers, has been acquired by E.W. Scripps for $35 million in cash. According to the announcement, Scripps was attracted to Newsy for its approach to curating news, its national brand, potential to enhance content from Scripps' 17 local TV stations and the growth potential of online video. Newsy will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary in Columbia, MO.
I've been a big Newsy fan and recently met up with its CEO and founder Jim Spencer and VP of Marketing Alexandra Wharton. Newsy has a very interesting approach to creating original content, but not doing original reporting. That means it doesn't send reporters out to the field, but rather curates the best video and text news from multiple sources, writes its own scripts and creates its own graphics, capturing the essence of stories in under 2 minutes. All underlying sources are clearly identified and have links back to them.
I'm pleased to present the 205th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin is in London this week and shares observations on the intense battle for broadband subscribers in the U.K. BT has been aggressively laying fiber in a bid for broadband subscribers. It recently spent about 1.4 billion pounds on soccer rights to supply its BT Sport channels. Colin says BT has seen lift in both broadband and pay-TV subscribers as a result. One wonders whether Google could try something similar here in the U.S. by bidding for NFL and other rights somewhere down the road?
Speaking of the NFL, it and Major League Baseball were in the news this week for filing a brief with the Supreme Court urging review of broadcasters' challenge to Aereo. The leagues basically asserted that if Aereo is deemed legal, more of their games will migrate to cable, which of course has been happening anyway. Meanwhile Aereo's lead investor Barry Diller said this week he could see a 35% adoption rate for Aereo long-term, primarily driven by millennials. This would be hugely disruptive if it were to happen.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 11 seconds)
When we last left Aereo in its battles with the broadcast TV networks, our trusty (or not so trusty - it's complicated) over-the-top service was in the midst of a maelstrom of litigation and new market rollouts. The dynamic has only gotten more heated, highlighted by the broadcasters' petition for relief from the U.S. Supreme Court filed just over a week ago.
For all of the attention of the broadcasters petition to the Court, the finish line here is far from in sight. The Court is not obligated to take this case, and in fact grants less than 2% of all 'cert' petitions. The broadcasters are seeking resolution of what they say is a 'split' among Circuit Courts, which is certainly a well-established basis for the Court to step in. Yet to date no other appellate court has ruled in opposition to the 2d Circuit - only other lower district courts. So while I would fully expect the Court to eventually take this case, the timing may not be ripe in their eyes. So we may well be back to sorting through the continuing morass for some time. So what is happening in the hinterlands?
I'm pleased to present the 199th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In this week's edition we discuss the new "See It" tool announced in a partnership between Comcast/NBCU and Twitter.
Beginning in November, certain tweets about TV shows will carry the "See It" button. When users click on it, they will be given choices to watch the program now on their mobile device, tune their Comcast X1 set-top to that channel to watch on TV, set their DVR or receive a reminder (more about how See It works here).
Colin and I both like See It's potential to convert the "chatterfest" that now regularly occurs on Twitter around TV shows and live events (sports, award shows, etc.) into higher viewership. Tightly coupling social discovery and the opportunity to immediately watch is very compelling. If Twitter can show See It can actually driving viewership (note, still a big "if"), it would become a very important promotion tool for the TV industry.
We also discuss how See It works with authentication/TV Everywhere, the critical role that Comcast's new IP-based X1 set-tops play in enabling See It, how the rest of the pay-TV industry might adopt See It, and the potential to spread See It to other social sites. See It's widespread adoption will require a lot of TV ecosystem support, but if its value is quickly proven, we believe that could happen.
(Last - Colin and I will both be participating in BroadbandTV Con in Hollywood Nov. 4-6. Come meet us! VideoNuze readers get $75 off conference registration using the code "VideoNuze." Colin will also be hosting a pre-conference workshop.)
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 19 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 198th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Just as Hulu was announcing this week that Hulu Plus is now Chromecast-enabled, new research from Parks Associates revealed that 50% of people already using Chromecast to watch Hulu content on TV are actually watching the free Hulu.com service. They're able to do this by using Chromecast's "tab casting" feature to stream from a tab in the Chrome browser. Their behavior undermines a key Hulu Plus value proposition (and differentiator from Hulu.com) of being able to watch Hulu content on connected TVs.
This isn't random behavior either; the Parks research also revealed that 34% of Chromecast owners stream Hulu content to their TVs every day, with 43% watching Netflix this way.
In today's podcast, Colin and I talk about how Chromecast is convoluting Hulu's model and more broadly how technology and consumer behaviors continue to pressure Hollywood's licensing/windowing practices. As a Hulu Plus subscriber, Colin also shares 2 other wrinkles: first, that certain Hulu Plus content is just available for "web-only" viewing and NOT for connected devices like Roku, Xbox or Chromecast, and second, that in the case of the USA Network program "Psych," there are actually more recent episodes freely available on Hulu.com than there are on Hulu Plus. I've reached out to Hulu PR for comment and will update as appropriate.
(UPDATE: A Hulu PR representative told me that permission to stream to devices is granted by the content provider and varies by show, so it's not possible to stream all Hulu Plus content to devices. More info about the policies is here.)
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 41 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 194th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. First up this week we discuss CBS CEO Leslie Moonves' remarks on CNBC essentially declaring victory in the company's retrans dispute with Time Warner Cable because it had preserved its ability to license its programs to Netflix and Amazon. Listeners will recall that 3 weeks ago on the podcast we talked about how OTT licensing was at the heart of the dispute and the consequences for TV Everywhere.
Next we transition to questioning whether there's any real benefit for TV networks and pay-TV operators to stream linear channels to connected TVs. Colin observes that recent data from the BBC indicating very low levels of linear streaming on connected TVs appears to question the value of the Disney-Apple TV and Time Warner Cable-Xbox 360 deals. We speculate that these are mainly meant for 2nd or 3rd TVs that don't have pay-TV set-top boxes.
Last, we chat briefly about the massive 3-part series that the NY Times ran just before Labor Day on ESPN's dominant role in college football - a long, but fascinating read. As I wrote, it's well worth the time for anyone interested in the influence of big time TV money not only on college sports but also on the broader American higher education system.
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 41 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 192nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
In this week's discussion, we talk more about the unexpected role that Netflix and Amazon are playing in the CBS-Time Warner Cable retransmission consent dispute, which has knocked CBS off the air in major markets like NYC, LA, Dallas and elsewhere. As I wrote earlier this week, though "retrans" disputes have become commonplace, a new wrinkle in this particular one is that digital distribution rights are actually the main sticking point.
Having made lucrative digital deals with both Netflix and Amazon, CBS is justifiably reluctant to simply throw digital access to its programs into a deal with TWC, as it has in the past. The standoff highlights the uphill battle that pay-TV operators are having gaining content rights for their TV Everywhere services, which remain like Swiss cheese, with major holes in program availability. It also underscores the transformational role OTT powerhouses like Netflix and Amazon are having on the broader TV industry.
Further, Colin believes there's an opportunity for new market entrants (e.g. Intel Media, Sony, Apple, Google, etc.) to bid for both digital and linear rights, and then package access for consumers in inventive new ways. Colin sees broadband's lower cost of delivery creating a big advantage for these new players. I'm skeptical however, noting that the huge expense involved in licensing content and promoting a service from scratch would more than outweigh delivery savings. But, with so much change happening in the market these days, nothing can be counted out.
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 25 seconds)
Disputes between broadcasters and pay-TV operators over so-called "retransmission consent" fee payments are a dime a dozen. Broadcasters, seeking their slice of the monthly fees pay-TV operators pay cable TV networks, have bargained hard for this new revenue stream. In this sense, the current CBS-Time Warner Cable retrans standoff is business as usual. What is new, however, is that digital rights - and more specifically the huge licensing fees that OTT's richest players, Netflix and Amazon, are now paying - have taken a central role in this particular drama.
As the WSJ reported last Friday, the real obstacle between CBS and TWC isn't what TWC will pay to retransmit the CBS signal, but rather what digital rights will be included, and at what incremental cost. Five years ago, these rights were a virtual throwaway, but now it's a totally different situation. Here's what changed:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.