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Analysis for 'Cable TV Operators'

  • VideoNuze Podcast #309: Cable Operators Buck Cord-Cutting; FCC’s Set-Top Box Mandate

    I'm pleased to present the 309th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week we discuss Comcast’s robust Q4 ’15 earnings results. Despite all of the talk of cord-cutting, Comcast had its best year for video subscribers in 8 years, improving its loss to just 39K. In addition, both Charter and Time Warner Cable actually reported video subscriber gains for 2015.

    Once again, Comcast cited its X1 next-gen set-top box as the key driver of success. Colin and I have talked about X1’s value in the past, and it’s clearly a game-changer for the company.

    Ironically, Comcast’s success with X1 is happening even as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is calling for a new technology mandate on the pay-TV industry to give access to third-party set-tops. Colin and I discuss why we think market forces are a superior choice to government intervention.

    Last, we’ll both be watching the Super Bowl this weekend, which will be a milestone in allowing cord-cutters and cord-nevers to stream for free to connected TV devices.
     
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  • VideoNuze Podcast #306: Predictions for 2016

    I'm pleased to present the 306th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week Colin and I share our top predictions for the video industry in 2016. We also look back at our predictions for 2015 and rate how we did (how’s that for accountability?).

    Listen now to learn more!

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  • Despite Acceleration of Cord-Cutting, Top Analyst is Bullish on Cable in 2016

    Cord-cutting accelerated in 2015. Once again, It dominated headlines about the pay-TV industry, portending its imminent demise, as SVOD awareness and original content investments skyrocketed. But despite all of that, top Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson (who has participated in many VideoNuze events) issued a bullish note this morning on cable TV operators’ prospects in 2016.

    Craig’s analysis highlights the subtleties of the pay-TV industry’s dynamics that are too often glossed over in generic media coverage about cord-cutting’s ascent. The nub of his argument is that while the overall pay-TV industry is indeed pressured in many ways, cable operators’ distinct product and technology advantages vs. its primary competitors (satellite and telcos) have led to cable operators taking market share, helping insulate them from macro issues.

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  • Research: Pay-TV Subscribers More Interested in SVOD Than Non-Subscribers

    New research from Interactive Broadband Consulting Group (IBB) suggests that pay-TV subscribers may actually be more fertile targets for adding SVOD services than non-pay-TV subscribers. IBB found that 31% of current pay-TV subscribers plan to add an SVOD service over the next 6 months, vs. 21% for non-pay-TV subscribers.

    The data supports the theory that heavier TV watchers seek more great TV to watch (and therefore are more prone to subscribe to SVOD services which are offering a ton of originals) than lighter watchers. That’s not to say there isn’t also a segment of what I’ve called “entertainment-only’s” who will resist paying for the multichannel bundle which is anchored by expensive sports networks.

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  • Survey: SVOD Usage is Up, But Pay-TV is Still Hugely Popular, Even Among Millennials

    Perhaps the biggest question weighing on the pay-TV ecosystem these days is whether younger viewers who have acclimated themselves to a strictly SVOD diet will eventually become pay-TV subscribers or whether they’ll remain “cord-nevers.”

    The traditional narrative is that as younger viewers settle down, buy a house, make more money and have kids they’ll end up subscribing to pay-TV just like their parents did. With the booming array of inexpensive OTT substitutes, that expectation has become feeling ever more tenuous.

    But a new survey of 1,111 U.S. 18+ year-olds by Clearleap seems to suggest the narrative still has legs, with 91.3% of those over 30 years-old saying they either currently or previously subscribed to pay-TV. That’s a big jump from the 73.5% of 18-29 year-olds that said they have subscribed at some point, which means 26.5% of the age cohort are technically “cord-nevers.” 64.4% of 18-29 year-olds say they currently subscribe to pay-TV while the subscription rate for all respondents to pay-TV was 78.9%.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #296: YouTube Red is Ho-Hum, Cable TV Earnings Defy Cord-Cutting

    I'm pleased to present the 296th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we discuss our first impressions of YouTube Red, and then turn to Q3 earnings reports from top cable operators, which are defying cord-cutting.

    For YouTube Red, Colin and I agree that the service’s primary value proposition of ad-free viewing is diminished by the fact that the ad experience on YouTube is already quite viewer-friendly and non-intrusive (as I wrote last week and yesterday). Further, the download feature, which could be quite appealing, is underwhelming on iOS, though it’s slightly better in Android. Net, net, neither of us sees much upside for YouTube Red, at least for now.

    We then turn our attention to Q3 earnings from 3 big cable operators, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter. Each has reported very strong video subscriber results, bucking the cord-cutting paranoia. Colin notes that for Comcast, broadband profit contribution actually exceeded video’s profit contribution. I see the combination of cable’s robust broadband and hybrid set-top boxes like X1 as the key to ongoing success.

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  • Comcast Defies Cord Cutting in Q3 ’15, Losing Just 48K Video Subscribers

    Comcast continued to defy the cord-cutting boogeyman in Q3 1’5, losing just 48K video subscribers, compared with a loss of 81K in Q3 ’14 and a loss of 127K in Q3 ’13. Comcast said it was the best third quarter for video subscribers in 9 years.

    Once again, Comcast attributed the improvement mainly to its X1 set-top box, which is now in one-quarter of video homes and accounted for 60% of video connects in Q3. On its earnings call, Comcast noted X1 subscribers have lower churn, use VOD and DVR more heavily and subscribe to more additional outlets than non-X1 subscribers. As a result of X1’s success, Comcast has increased its deployment, now installing 40K X1s per day, compared with 30K per day in Q2. Comcast also said it has deployed 1.5 million voice remotes which further enhance the X1 experience.

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  • Comcast Adds Short-Form Video From 30 TV Networks to X1

    The line between TV and online video is blurring still further, as Comcast has announced that it is adding short-form online video content from 30 broadcast and cable TV networks to its X1 platform and online at Xfinity.com. The beta launch means that millions of X1 customers will be able to surf the Web tab of the On Demand section on X1 to access the clips.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #290: Deep-Dive Q&A With Sports TV Expert Lee Berke

    I'm pleased to present the 290th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    On this week’s podcast we do an in-depth Q&A with our guest Lee Berke, who runs LHB Sports, Entertainment and Media, Inc. Lee has helped dozens of teams create and implement sports TV networks. He has a wealth of insights into the role of sports in pay-TV and how online and mobile video are causing leagues and teams to adjust their traditional distribution strategies.

    Sports are a key driver of increased pay-TV rates and as VideoNuze readers know, I’ve been writing for years (examples here, here, here) about the billions of dollars non-fans pay each year in the form of a “sports tax” - subsidizing expensive sports networks they never watch. With the advent of robust, inexpensive OTT entertainment programming options, the pay-TV multichannel bundle has come under more pressure than ever, with subscriber losses peaking in Q2 ’15.

    In our Q&A with Lee we explore these issues and how he sees OTT impacting teams, leagues and sports TV networks. Lee believes TV will remain the most significant revenue source in sports for the foreseeable future, but also sees the leagues more aggressively experimenting online to serve a new generation of fans. Lee also describes how he’s advising teams, particularly on how to maintain flexibility and capitalize on new technologies.      

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  • Survey: Robust OTT Options are Main Driver of Cord-Cutting Interest

    Research firm Magid has released new survey data showing that robust OTT options are by far the most important driver of cord-cutting interest among those who say they’re likely to cut the cord. Magid found that OTT-related reasons were cited by a combined 77% of would-be cord-cutters, up from the 76% that cited OTT reasons in 2014 and 54% in 2013.

    Per the chart below, the top 3 reasons cited by would-be cord-cutters were: “I am satisfied with online streaming options like Netflix and Hulu” (50%), “I can watch the TV shows and movies I like on the Internet” (41%) and “I have entertainment options on the Internet” (41%).

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #287: Assessing the Opportunity for Comcast’s Watchable Video Service

    I'm pleased to present the 287th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week Colin and I dig into the idea of Comcast launching a curated video service called Watchable, which was initially reported by Business Insider. Colin is extremely skeptical of the plan and outlines 4 key reasons why. I’m a little less skeptical, but as I explained earlier this week, believe there’s a lot more upside for Comcast in integrating major OTT services into its X1 offering.

    Regardless of the specifics, we both believe that Comcast and other pay-TV operators need to move more deeply into online video as the traditional TV and pay-TV businesses come under increasing pressure.
     
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  • Cable Operators Have Standout Q2 in Both Video and Broadband, OTT Should Accelerate Momentum

    It’s been a rough few weeks for all companies in the TV and pay-TV industries as cord-cutting and advertising shifts have taken center stage. Stock market sentiment has turned bearish as investors have extrapolated that the long-stable days of TV and pay-TV are officially over.

    But a more granular analysis of actual video and broadband subscriber data for Q2, as well as a clearer understanding of what’s driving the market forward, suggests that such a broad brush approach to all players is misplaced. In reality, big cable operators had a standout second quarter in both video and broadband and should be poised for even further gains going forward as OTT becomes the single biggest industry influence.

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  • Comcast Should Prioritize Integrating Popular OTT Services in X1 Instead of Curating Online Video

    There’s been a lot written in the past few days about Comcast’s reported plan to introduce a new platform called “Watchable,” that will curate short-form online video content from various providers for viewing on its X1 set-top boxes and eventually on mobile devices. The initiative is seen as helping Comcast increase its appeal to millennial viewers and drive additional online video advertising revenue.

    On the one hand, I applaud the company’s desire to dive more deeply into online video, which has many synergies with Comcast’s broadband and TV businesses. Without knowing any of the details, the biggest issue to me with Watchable is that it’s hard to understand why Comcast would prioritize it as a current initiative when a far more significant opportunity would be integrating popular OTT services into X1, which would have huge subscriber acquisition and retention benefits.

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  • VidCon vs. Pay-TV: A Modern Tale of Two Cities

    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…"

    If you’re looking for a stark illustration of the diverging fortunes of the online video and pay-TV industries - as well as the generational attention/passion gap between the two - then comparing the buzz out of last week’s 6th annual VidCon with the poor early Q2 video subscriber numbers from big pay-TV operators is about as good as it gets.

    For those not familiar with VidCon, it’s the annual convention of YouTube creators, fans and increasingly advertisers that want to weave themselves into this community. This year VidCon drew somewhere between 20K-30K attendees (up from 1,200 just 5 years ago) to the Anaheim Convention Center, with the vast majority being teenagers seeking to get up close to their favorite YouTube celebrities for a coveted selfie.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #283: Comcast’s X1 Shines in Q2, But OTT Apps Are Still Missing

    I'm pleased to present the 283rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Yesterday Comcast reported its Q2 ’15 results, including the best Q2 video subscriber numbers in 9 years. Comcast lost just 69K subscribers, vs. 144K in Q2 ’14. Comcast’s performance is in contrast to Verizon’s dismal Q2 video subscriber results. I’m eager to see what trend emerges from the whole pay-TV universe in Q2, given Netflix’s breakout Q2 U.S. subscriber performance and whether cord-nevering is accelerating.

    Comcast gave a lot of the credit for its Q2 subscriber improvement to its X1 set-top box. Comcast said it is now shipping 30K X1 boxes per day and expects to ship 6 million in 2015.  Comcast noted that X1 improves churn, viewing time, DVR penetration and other metrics.

    As VideoNuze readers know, I’ve been an X1 subscriber for 3 years now, and continue to be very impressed with its modern web-like experience. But as I discuss on the podcast, the big missing piece in X1 remains access to OTT apps like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others. In fact, the app section of X1 is devoid of video options, instead offering utilities like horoscopes, weather, traffic, stocks, photos, Pandora and Facebook (note Comcast recently announced a new gaming service for X1 with EA).

    This lack of OTT access stands in stark contrast to TiVo (which we use for our primary TV), where all major OTT apps are integrated, and searching for a TV show returns results across all services. Comcast has a huge opportunity to please its X1 subscribers with OTT integrations. Last Fall I noted the timing seemed right for a Comcast-Netflix partnership and it’s mind-boggling to me there’s been no visible progress on OTT in 3 years since X1’s launch.

    Listen in to learn more!

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #282: With Strong Q2 Results, Netflix's Disruptive Potential Increases

    I'm pleased to present the 282nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we dig into Netflix’s Q2 ’15 results. As I wrote yesterday, the big number for me was the 900K subscriber additions in the U.S., breaking out of the narrow 530K-630K range over the past 3 years. If pay-TV video subscriber additions are soft for Q2 when reported over the next few weeks, then it will suggest accelerated cord-cutting and cord-nevering.

    Colin also explores Netflix’s big international gains, its emerging movie strategy and its endorsement of the Charter-Time Warner Cable deal. While Netflix may well be negatively impacting the video side of the pay-TV business, we also discuss what impact it is having on the broadband side.

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  • Here's the Most Important Number in Netflix's Q2 '15 Earnings Report

    Netflix released its Q2 ’15 earnings late yesterday, adding 3.28 million subscribers globally, almost twice as many as the 1.69 million it added in Q2 ’14. Everyone knows that Netflix has been expanding fast internationally, but what was most intriguing about the Q2 report was that Netflix added 900K subscribers in the U.S. vs. its forecast of 600K. The 900K compares with 570K U.S. adds in Q2 ’14, 630K in Q2 ’13 and 530K in Q2 ’12.

    In other words, in Q2 ’15 Netflix significantly broke out of a relatively narrow growth range it had been in over the past 3 years in the seasonally-weak second quarter. The 900K add is even more noteworthy because Netflix has almost twice as many U.S. subscribers (42.3 million) now than it did 3 years ago (23.9 million). The law of large numbers suggests the bigger a company gets, the harder it is to achieve even comparable unit growth, much less greater growth.

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  • Comcast's New Stream Service Bets On Broadcast TV's Value, Just Like Aereo Did

    Comcast has announced a new $15/month online video service called Stream, offering yet another choice to consumers not interested in the full multichannel TV bundle.

    Stream will be available only to Comcast’s broadband subscribers on a no-commitment, monthly basis, with no equipment required. Stream will include broadcast networks and HBO plus Streampix and a cloud DVR. It will be available only on laptops, tablets and smartphones, so no TV access. And the linear feeds will only be available in-home, though it sounds like recordings will be viewable out of home. Stream will debut in Boston in late summer, then Seattle and Chicago later this year and elsewhere in 2016.

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  • 67% of Pay-TV Subscribers Don't Cite Sports As Justifying the Multichannel Bundle

    Here's some data that contradicts conventional wisdom: in a new survey from Clearleap, 67% of pay-TV subscribers said sports are not the reason they maintain a subscription, citing viewership of programs on other TV networks instead. Even sports fans didn't express a lot of enthusiasm for sports as justifying the multichannel bundle, with almost half citing other programs they watch as requiring a subscription.

    There has always been a strong industry consensus that live sports were the firewall for pay-TV's multichannel bundle. Even as entertainment programming has proliferated in OTT services and elsewhere, the only place to get marquee sports programming was on pay-TV. Therefore, the reasoning went, sports were the "glue" keeping subscribers on board.

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  • Scale and Innovation Drive Charter-Time Warner Cable Deal, But Challenges Abound

    Charter Communications will acquire Time Warner Cable in a $78.7 billion deal, while also continuing its plan to acquire Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion. Assuming the deals close, Charter would become the 3rd-largest pay-TV operator/broadband ISP in the U.S. with a total of approximately 23.9 million subscriber relationships.

    Like the prior Comcast-TWC transaction, these deals are driven by the desire for greater scale which supports the huge investments required to innovate in video and broadband services. In this morning's analyst call, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge repeatedly referenced the ability to spread investments over the larger subscriber base as a key benefit of the deals.

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