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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Analysis for 'Cable Networks'

  • Despite Online Video's Massive Growth, Startups Like Back9 Network Still Seek Old School Pay-TV Deals

    Signs of online video's growth and vibrancy are everywhere these days, but certain startup content providers still believe the surest road to success is by landing old school distribution (or "carriage") deals with large pay-TV operators. That was the message at last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger from Jamie Bosworth, Chairman and CEO of golf lifestyle focused Back9 Network.

    When asked at the hearing why Back9 Network couldn't just operate as an online video service, Bosworth said that "while online viewership is increasing, the average American still watches 20 times more video content via television and the advertising rates mirror that as well." Bosworth's issue is that because Comcast's NBC Sports group owns and distributes Golf Channel, the big cable operator has little incentive to add another golf-oriented network. Further, if the TWC merger were approved, it would stifle TV competition to a vast part of the American population.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #219 - YouTube Apps, Google-Viacom Settlement, Pay-TV-Tablet Downloads

    I'm pleased to present the 219th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia, who was at the TV Connect conference this week in London. First, up, Colin shares some of what he heard from Francisco Varela, YouTube's global director of platform partnerships. Francisco talked about YouTube taking back development of their apps from Smart TV manufacturers so users can have more immersive experiences.

    We then turn our attention to the settlement of the Google-Viacom litigation, over alleged copyright infringement by YouTube, dating to 2007. It's legitimate to ask if there was ultimately any point to the litigation. As I explain though, I agree that at a minimum the litigation accelerated the development of YouTube's Content ID system which has been very valuable to the entire ecosystem.

    Last, we also discuss new research from Vubiquity which found that 58% of respondents said they're interested in downloading TV shows and movies included in their pay-TV subscription. This echoes my bullishness on TiVo Stream's download feature which I've found extremely useful.
     
    Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 24 seconds)



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  • Why a Disney Bet on Maker Studios is a Bet on the Future

    Big media companies are often cast as lumbering giants, slow to recognize change and even slower to embrace it. But for Disney, that stereotype looks increasingly inappropriate, as the company continues making moves to better position itself for the vastly different upcoming online video era.

    Yesterday's report that Disney is mulling an acquisition of Maker Studios for $500 million, one of the biggest of the YouTube multichannel networks ("MCNs") with over 500 million videos viewed/month in January, is the latest sign that Disney recognizes the future rules of the road in the media industry will be far different than they were in the past. Maker - and other big MCNs - underscore 3 of the biggest emerging rules: (1) that talent can now break big without the backing of the traditional media, (2) that YouTube is a bona fide new distribution platform and (3) that traditional media's grip on millennials may be slipping.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #217 - Interpreting the DISH-Disney Deal

    I'm pleased to present the 217th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In today's podcast, we interpret this week's DISH Network - Disney deal, the highlight of which was DISH gaining OTT distribution rights for ABC-owned stations, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2. The networks would become a foundation for what Colin has dubbed a "VPOP" or virtual pay-TV operator.
     
    Colin notes that for DISH in particular, a VPOP offering would let it acquire new subscribers far cheaper than it currently does. An easy in / easy out subscription model, akin to how Netflix operates, could sit well with the younger, cord-never audience. Still, as I've often said, the biggest driver of success for any VPOP would be lower prices, in order to steal share from incumbent operators in the fully mature pay-TV market. Given the cost of assembling a competitive lineup of networks, DISH would have limited ability to offer bargains.

    Following our DISH-Disney discussion, Colin also shares highlights of new research his firm released this week, "Store My Stuff - Consumer Digital Media Storage" which provides data on how consumers are storing digital media including downloaded movies and TV shows. The report, which was sponsored by PLEX, is available for complimentary download.
     
    Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 14 seconds)


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  • When and How Will TV Everywhere Become Simply TV, Everywhere? [VIDEO]

    In the session "Is TV Everywhere Finally Breaking Through?" at the recent VideoSchmooze, industry executives discussed an important long-term objective for the pay-TV industry: turning TV Everywhere into TV, Everywhere. The insertion of that little comma would convert a key industry initiative into a practical, compelling and ubiquitous consumer experience.

    For device-happy consumers, what's not to love about the idea of being able to watch all kinds of TV programming (sports, news entertainment, etc.) in any format (live, linear or on-demand), inside or outside their homes whenever they want?

    But getting to that eventual goal involves resolving a lot of sticky business and technical challenges. In the wide-ranging panel discussion, our participants Michael Bishara (Synacor), John Harran (Turner), Marty Roberts (thePlatform), John Woods (Mediacom) and Colin Dixon (nScreenMedia and moderator) did a great job of sorting through all of the issues and articulating the opportunities.

    For anyone interested in TV Everywhere, it's a highly informative 47 minutes. The video is below.

    watch the video

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  • Top Video Analysts Debunk Myths of TV's Implosion and Mass Cord-Cutting [VIDEO]

    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.

    watch the video now

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  • WatchESPN's College Football Audience Up 20% in 2013, But TV Viewing Still Rules

    ESPN has reported a slew of viewership data for the 2013 college football season across both traditional TV and digital platforms. Of note, WatchESPN recorded a 20% increase in average live game usage vs. 2012, to 32,000 live unique viewers. Though that's a healthy increase, the incremental viewership WatchESPN represents is still quite small compared to TV viewing. ESPN said that its networks averaged nearly 1.9 million viewers for the 254 regular-season games that were broadcast. Across all of its networks, a total of 189 million people watched games.

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  • Let's Get Real: TV Isn't Close to Dying and Here's a Great Slide Deck Proving It

    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.

    See slide deck

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #206 - VideoSchmooze Wrap-up and 3 Key Takeaways

    I'm pleased to present the 206th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we discuss 3 of our key takeaways from this past Tuesday's VideoSchmooze, which over 230 industry executives attended. The morning was jam-packed with learning and insights, which I'll continue to share in the coming weeks, along with the session videos.

    First, Colin shares the observation of Craig Moffett, who was on the opening session, that many content providers are assuming Netflix/other OTT providers are not a substitute for pay-TV over time. Craig believes this is an incorrect assumption and that if content providers come to depend too heavily on digital licensing revenues from Netflix and others, they run the risk of addicting themselves, even if/when their core businesses suffer due to audiences shifting.

    Next, on the mobile video session I moderated, Silvia Lovato from PBSKids Digital shared the stunning data point that 75% of its viewership from its 2-5 year-old audience now occurs on mobile devices. I believe this has incredibly profound societal implications 10, 20 and 30 years down the road, as kids learn from the earliest age to expect programming fully on-demand.

    Last, we turn to Smart TVs. On the online video advertising session, John Nitti from ZenithOptimedia (who oversees $10 billion of client spending) Eric Franchi from Undertone said Smart TVs are too fragmented to be an appealing environment for advertisers for now. As more online viewing shifts to the big screen, it's imperative that advertising follow, but the separate ecosystems of each Smart TV manufacturer makes it difficult for both developers and advertisers for now. Some form of aggregation/streamlining must occur to create the scale advertising requires.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 16 seconds)




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  • Binge-Viewing Popularity Exposes Tensions Between OTT and VOD, TV Everywhere Priorities

    Binge-viewing is a bona fide phenomenon that's not only changing consumers' TV viewing behaviors, but also creating fissures in the TV industry. Recently, in "For U.S. Cable Operators, Netflix Partnerships Are Fraught With Risk," I outlined how binge-viewing is driving a competitive dynamic over content rights between Netflix and pay-TV operators' VOD and TV Everywhere plans. Adding further detail, this past Friday, Vulture published an excellent article with specific examples of how this battle is brewing.

    According to Vulture, FX and Turner are telling studios from which they obtain TV shows that they need rights to stream the full current season of shows (known as "stacking" rights) not just the most recent 3-5 episodes. Part of the networks' rationale is they need to give late-coming viewers an easy path to watch from the beginning of a season, rather than just enabling existing viewers a way to catch up.

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  • Study: 73 Cable TV Networks Offering TV Everywhere, NBCU Leads, Discovery Lags

    Market researcher IHS has released its first study of TV Everywhere deployments in the U.S., finding that 73 different cable networks are now allowing authenticated online/mobile access for on-demand viewing. Per the chart below, NBCU leads among the ad-supported segment, with 15 of its 18 networks offering some TVE VOD option, followed by Time Warner (Turner) with 9 networks and News Corp. and Viacom each with 6. Discovery is the only major cable network group not yet offering TVE, but IHS expect that to change soon.

    continue reading on VideoNuze iQ

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  • ESPN-AOL Partnership Highlights Power of Video Syndication

    AOL has scored a huge coup with a deal announced today to syndicate ESPN video content across its owned-and-operated sites, plus its distribution network of 1,700 publisher sites. ESPN video in AOL will be accessible on desktops, smartphones, tablets and connected TV devices.

    Importantly, the deal underscores the allure of online video syndication. By choosing to syndicate through AOL, ESPN concluded - despite its already formidable presence as the top-ranked sports property online - that AOL's distribution network could provide still further online reach and monetization potential. That's no small statement, and it is a testament to both AOL's video growth over the past several years and to the strength of the "Syndicated Video Economy" concept I began talking about back in 2008.

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  • Lisa Judson, GM, YEAH! On Super-Serving Movie Lovers

    (Note: Following is the first of several interviews I'm doing with speakers appearing at X Media Research's upcoming BroadbandTVCon in Hollywood on Nov. 5th and 6th, where I'll also be moderating. VideoNuze readers can save $75 on registration using the code "VideoNuze.")

    Following is an edited transcript of my interview with Lisa Judson, GM of YEAH!, a new streaming movie service launched by AMC Networks this past March.

    What is the philosophy behind YEAH!?

    We believe that movies have become a commodity online and that we could provide a unique experience, to enrich a film with original content about the film. We try to tell the story of the movie while you watch the movie. We see ourselves as movie lovers, so we're aligned with our audience. We don't want to just deliver a movie, but rather an overall experience that will connect and engage audiences (see screenshot below).

    Read the entire interview

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  • No Surprise, Intel Media is Struggling to Launch Its OTT Pay-TV Service

    Reports surfaced last week that Intel Media's planned OTT pay-TV service "OnCue" has hit a major speed bump, and the company is now looking for potential partners such as Samsung or Amazon to help get the service launched.

    I for one was not surprised by the news, as I've regarded Intel Media's pay-TV venture as facing extremely long odds. As well, I view the likelihood of Samsung, Amazon, or anyone else riding to Intel's rescue as being similarly improbable. Since Intel Media reportedly has had a 300-person team working on OnCue for almost 2 years, its potential demise would be an expensive lesson for the company in how hard it is to break into the pay-TV industry.

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  • How Technology Made "Breaking Bad" My First All On-Demand Series

    (Note: I will NOT disclose anything about last night's series finale, so fans, you're safe to read on without spoilers.)

    Last night was the series finale of the hit AMC show "Breaking Bad." I count myself among the millions of super-fans who fell in love with the series from the start and have been loyal ever since. Importantly though, my viewing experience with Breaking Bad distinguished itself from every other TV show I've ever watched: it was the first one where I watched every single episode on-demand and without ads.

    In fact, my experiences with Breaking Bad perfectly illustrate so many of the video industry themes I write about on VideoNuze each day that I thought it would be worth sharing some of them and what I learned.

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  • Adobe Lands Turner for TV Everywhere; Sees Big Growth and Releases New Features

    Adobe is announcing today that Turner Broadcasting is its latest customer of Adobe Primetime, the company's multi-screen TV Everywhere and monetization solution. Turner will be using Primetime to power TNT and TBS apps and web sites, along with the Primetime player and dynamic ad insertion, PayTV Pass authentication and Primetime DRM.

    Jeremy Helfand, VP Adobe Video Solutions, told me that until now Turner had been using a combination of home-grown and point product solutions, which are being replaced with the Primetime suite. Turner has been the earliest and staunchest supporter of TV Everywhere among cable TV networks, going back 4+ years to the high-profile joint news conference with Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, announcing the initiative.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #194 - OTT's Role in CBS/TWC; Why Linear on Connected TVs; ESPN in College Football

    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)

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  • Huge NY Times Expose Now Running on ESPN's Transformative Role in College Football

    The NY Times is currently running a huge, 3-part, page 1 expose on ESPN's transformative role in college football. It's a must-read for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes, in-depth account of how the sports network's massive financial strength has completely changed college football, from game day and time scheduling to conference re-alignments to how star players are created. Even more broadly, the article speaks to the pervasive role college football now plays in American higher education.

    A key focus of the first two parts, here and here, is the willingness of particular schools (e.g. Texas Christian, Boise State, Louisville) to play weekday night games in order to provide ESPN live football throughout the week. Various representatives of the schools are quoted recognizing the coverage they received from ESPN as being critical to raising their schools' visibility and profiles. For ESPN, importantly, these mid-week games and assorted promotional activities showcased for still other schools how valuable being a flexible partner for ESPN can be.

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  • Who'd Have Thunk It? Netflix and Amazon Are Playing a Central Role in CBS-TWC Retrans Dispute

    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:

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #188 - Mixed Prospects for Apple and Google in TV

    I'm pleased to present the 188th edition of the VideoNuze weekly podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week rumors were once again flying about Apple and Google looking to enter the pay-TV industry, which Colin and I separately wrote about here and here.

    In our discussion, Colin notes that any potential move would be expensive, given the need to carry many networks in a typical bundle. Colin also believes that Apple's rumored plan to compensate networks for ads skipped in a premium service it may offer has some merit based on his back-of-the-envelope analysis. But Colin is skeptical the networks will be interested in shifting their model away from advertising.

    I see it the other way around; given high DVR penetration, networks could be intrigued by the idea of moving more of their economics to fees. The problem is I just don't see how the economics would work for Apple or consumers.

    Regrettably, all of this is based on rumors so we readily admit we don't have solid facts on which to base our arguments. And that's why I consider Apple and Google's pay-TV aspirations to be the industry's longest-running soap opera.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 53 seconds)


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