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!
Netflix reported solid Q1 results yesterday, gaining 2 million streaming subscribers in the U.S. and another 1 million internationally. Netflix now has 27.9 paying subscribers in the U.S. and 6.33 paying subscribers internationally. With growth re-started since the 2011 Qwikster debacle, a persistent question is how big can Netflix become in the U.S.?
Traditionally many have thought the answer is in the 30 million subscriber range, which is where the biggest premium channel, HBO, has pretty much leveled out. This line of thinking assumes that Netflix is essentially another premium channel and consumers will treat it as such.
But Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings always answers the size question by asserting that Netflix can grow to become 2-3 times HBO's size, implying 60-90 million subscribers ultimately. He points to differentiators like Netflix having more content, being less expensive and available on more devices, having greater personalization, etc.
I'm pleased to present the 173rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we focus on the rising cost of content to pay-TV operators and the rising quality of content found online.
In a post yesterday, Colin validates pay-TV operators' complaints about programming costs, noting, for example, that at Comcast they rose from 34% of video revenue in '08 to 40% in '11 (at Time Warner Cable they were 41% and at DirecTV they were 45%). As we discuss, these escalating costs are eating into operators' profit margins as subscriber rate increases haven't kept pace. As VideoNuze readers know, sports is a major culprit in all of this, though entertainment networks have raised their own rates as well.
Against this backdrop, the quality of content available online is improving markedly. For example in just the past couple of weeks, we've seen Netflix announce another new series, with the producers of The Matrix films and Babylon5, Amazon Studios announce new shows "Betas," "Zombieland" and "Sarah Solves It" and Crackle a second season of "Chosen." Further, anime network Crunchyroll disclosed it's now up to 200K paying subscribers, TheBlaze (Glenn Beck's online video network) is raising $40M. Even the BBC, one of the most traditional TV networks, announced it will be premiering shows on its iPlayer.
In short, the quality of programming online is getting better all the time, while the cost of content to pay-TV operators is escalating, in turn putting pressure on subscriber rates. All of this means viewership patterns are bound to change and with the broader video industry.
Reminder: sign up for "Sizing Up Apple TV" a free video webinar, next Tuesday, April 2nd featuring Brightcove's Jeremy Allaire and me.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 57 seconds)
I had a classic TV Everywhere moment tonight I thought I'd quickly share. I got back to my hotel room in NYC after dinner, flipped on the TV to watch the Celtics try to break the Heat's winning streak and discovered ESPN and many other channels weren't working.
But instead of calling the front desk, waiting for a technician, keeping my fingers crossed, etc. (guessing my fellow travelers know this experience too well), I fired up WatchESPN, entered my Comcast credentials and was watching online within minutes. For the most part, video quality was very strong. The key was being able to watch via the hotel's WiFi network because the stream would have drained my 2GB Verizon data cap.
I'm pleased to present the 170th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. First up today, Colin does a little trash talking of Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. At a Deutsche Bank conference earlier this week, Bewkes said “We don’t think the multichannel bundle is becoming less of a good deal, we think it’s getting to be a better deal and we think it’s getting to be a better deal in the opinion of consumers,” Colin thinks this statement is complete baloney and cites specific research refuting Bewkes' assertions (more detail here).
We then shift gears to talk about online and mobile video advertising. It was a busy week on that front (more of what VideoNuze wrote is here). One that really caught my eye and I wrote about was from Extreme Reach. The company announced an innovative cross-media reporting suite that maps actual TV and online video ad impressions along with conversions. To my knowledge it's the first time such reporting has been possible, enabling buyers to have unprecedented insight into campaign ROI.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 47 seconds)
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)
Yesterday, Cablevision announced that it has filed suit against Viacom, seeking, among other things, to void a carriage deal it struck just 2 months ago. Cablevision is alleging that Viacom illegally coerced it into carrying 14 of its low-rated cable networks in order to get access to the 8 popular ones Cablevision really wanted.
The most obvious first question to ponder is why would Cablevision agree to a deal in December, only to sue to nullify it in February? Surely the presiding judge will ask something similar. If Cablevision was so perturbed by Viacom's negotiating position, why not bite the bullet and sue then? Another interesting question is that given bundling has been upheld by the courts in the past, what's different this time around?
I'm pleased to present the 167th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Today Colin and I assess the prospects for Intel Media's forthcoming over-the-top / pay-TV alternative service, which Erik Huggers described at this week's D: Dive Into Media conference.
Colin and I have very different perspectives on this. I believe that the ground rules of how major TV programmers negotiate their distribution deals (i.e. bundling disparate channels together) essentially eliminates the opportunity for pay-TV operators (or aspiring operators like Intel) to actually innovate with subscription packages. Further, by not addressing consumers' main problem with pay-TV, which is its high cost, Intel is going to have a hard time even getting 98% of consumers' attention in the first place.
Conversely, Colin believes that Erik wouldn't have been on stage at D unless he already had confidence he could get the kind of programming flexibility required to deliver on what he described. With that flexibility, Colin has faith that Intel can offer finer-grained packages, in turn delivering higher value to prospective consumers. However, absent more details, he's reluctant to be too optimistic.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 35 seconds)
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:
Last week Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn crashed horrifically in the Super G at the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, tearing two ligaments and ending her season. Terrifying though it was, it's exactly the kind of video clip (see below) that the skiing world and Vonn's fans want to be able to see immediately.
In this particular situation, Universal Sports, which had the championship's broadcast rights, was able to deliver, posting the clip, which includes audio of Vonn's agonizing cries, within minutes of the incident. As Universal Sports' VP/GM, Digital Media, Elliott Gordon and Director, Streaming Operations, Gus Elliott, explained to me, fast time-to-market drives numerous benefits for the sports network and is enabled by a relatively new relationship with SnappyTV.
Last week, when Time Warner Cable and the L.A. Dodgers sealed a deal creating a new regional sports network to carry the team's games, the Dodgers' CEO Stan Kasten released a statement that read in part, "Our fans deserve the best - the best players, the best baseball and the best experience - whether that's at the newly renovated Dodger Stadium or on television."
That's a wonderful aspiration, but there's one significant problem with it: the reality is that non-fans (or at least those that don't tune in regularly to watch the team play) will be paying the lion's share for all of these "bests." Given the reported terms of the new Time Warner Cable - Dodgers deal, by my calculations, the non-fans' tab could amount to a staggering $6 billion over the life of the deal, making it the single biggest non-fan "tax" the pay-TV world has yet tried to assess on beleaguered non-sports fans.
Conviva, whose software preemptively optimizes video streams on multiple platforms, has renewed and expanded its existing deal with HBO for another 6 years. Conviva's original deal with HBO dates to May, 2011. Conviva has been supporting HBO's HBO GO TV Everywhere domestic distribution, and under the new deal it will be extended to support international distribution as well. HBO's parent, Time Warner, is also an investor in Conviva.
Yesterday, Aereo announced a new $38 million financing (bringing its total to $63 million to date) and its intention to roll out to 22 additional U.S. cities in 2013 (full list here). Listening to a replay of CEO and founder Chet Kanojia's interview yesterday at the Citi Media Conference in Las Vegas, I'm further convinced that one of the byproducts of Aereo's expansion - if it gains market acceptance - will be to put pay-TV's value proposition in the cross hairs.
For many consumers, Aereo's core offering of inexpensive, high-quality access to broadcast TV networks via IP devices will directly crystallize the question "how much is a monthly pay-TV subscription really worth to me?" That's because, for many pay-TV subscribers, one of the key benefits of their subscription (which they may not even fully realize) is the inclusion of a de facto broadcast antenna.
Welcome to 2013! If you were mostly checked out over the past 1-2 weeks (or were only paying attention to the fiscal cliff roller coaster), you didn't miss a whole lot in the video world. However, there were 5 items that caught my attention which I briefly describe below:
If you think your monthly pay-TV bill is already pretty expensive, then brace yourself for rate increases that will definitely be happening over the next several years, particularly in certain geographic areas of the U.S. Why? Because the cost of programming continues to spiral, led by sports. In fact, over the past 24 months, at least $80 billion has been committed by broadcast and cable TV networks to televise sports in the U.S. (note this includes $6 billion, the minimum either News Corp. or Time Warner Cable will likely pay for TV rights to the L.A. Dodgers' games).
The chart below itemizes all of the deals that I'm aware of; no doubt there are others as well that aren't included. Also not included are the expected increased costs of renewals for some of sports' highest-profile events like the Super Bowl and NCAA March Madness in coming years.
New research from The Diffusion Group forecasts that the number of "pay-TV refugees" - U.S. homes subscribing to broadband, but not to pay-TV services - will increase 58%, from 10.9 million in 2012 to 17.2 million in 2017. Pay-TV refugees consist of both "cord-cutters" (homes that once subscribed to pay-TV, but no longer do) and "cord-nevers" (homes that have never subscribed to pay-TV). The percentage of broadband subscribers who are pay-TV refugees will increase from 12.5% in 2012 to 17.2% in 2017.
Although it forecasts the number of cord-cutters to increase over the next 5 years, TDG's founding partner and director of research Michael Greeson believes the pay-TV industry's main concern should be with cord-nevers which will more than double during that period. Of the 17.2 million pay-TV refugees in 2017, TDG forecasts 40% or 6.9 million of them to be cord-nevers, up from 29%, or 3.2 million, in 2012.
Topics: The Diffusion Group
Talk to any pay-TV operator executive these days and you'll get an earful on the relentless rise in their programming costs - what they pay to deliver both cable and broadcast TV networks into their subscribers' homes. Programming costs drive up subscribers' rates, in turn exacerbating pay-TV's affordability crisis, which in turn exposes the industry to cord-cutting, cord-shaving and over-the-top alternatives.
As I've written numerous times, scratch the surface of the programming cost issue and the focus quickly turns to sports networks and more specifically Regional Sports Networks ("RSNs") which have the geographic rights to air their local professional teams' games. One pay-TV executive who's attempting to take a hard line on RSNs' escalating costs is Michael White, CEO of DirecTV, who, on the company's earnings call on Tuesday, once again said that "regional sports networks' structure in the industry is broken" and that "we are taxing most of our customers who wouldn't be willing to pay for that content."
If you were trying to tune out last week, whether lying on a beach or on a family getaway, you didn't miss all that much exciting online video-related news. However there were some items worth noting and below I've highlighted five that caught my eye.
The Viacom-DirecTV carriage dispute has taken another odd turn, as full, current episodes of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert are once again available at their respective sites and at Hulu. Given that digital distribution and its effect on Viacom's networks' linear ratings is a core issue in the negotiations, and that last week Viacom removed some of its networks' show from the web, the renewed availability of Comedy Central's stars Stewart and Colbert are hard to understand.
In fact, if you want a good chuckle, see the screen grabs below - when each of last night's episodes play, there is a message across the bottom of the page that reads "DIRECTV HAS DROPPED COMEDY CENTRAL. DON'T MISS YOUR FAVORITE SHOWS. CALL DIRECTV AT 1-800-531-5000." Hello?? I'm not missing my favorite shows - I'm watching them right now online, just above this urgent message! And by the way, I'm getting them for free, just after they originally aired, and fully on-demand. Does this make sense to you? Right, me neither.
One of the big side effects of the current Viacom-DirecTV and Dish-AMC carriage disputes has been a renewed questioning of the durability of the traditional multichannel TV bundle by many industry observers. But while outsiders and consumers may be looking for the pay-TV industry to reinvent the way it packages and prices its services, attending the NECTA cable industry conference last Friday was yet another reminder of how committed the industry is to preserving the multichannel TV model.
To be fair, for many households (particularly heavy viewers), multichannel service is optimal and a great value. But consumers aren't monolithic, and it's time for the pay-TV industry to get real about multichannel's limits. Operators' main approach continues to be promoting an entry level tier of digital TV that has grown ever more expensive (moderator Bruce Leichtman pegs the mean monthly spending on multichannel TV service at $78.63, 7% higher than in 2011). This has, in turn, created a well-documented affordability issue for the industry.