Altitude Digital - leaderboard - 6-9-15

Analysis for 'Cable TV Operators'

  • 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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  • Cord-Cutting Accelerates in Q1 '15 as Pay-TV Operators Lose 31K Subscribers

    U.S. pay-TV operators lost 31K video subscribers in Q1 '15, compared to a gain of 271K in Q1 '14, according to analysts MoffettNathanson. The loss was the first time the industry has ever lost subscribers in a first quarter, and signals an acceleration of cord-cutting (or cord-nevering, since it's hard to pull the two apart), contributing to a .5% industry contraction over the past 4 quarters (461K subscribers).

    MoffettNathanson has always tried to put pay-TV results in context with both occupied housing net additions and new household net additions. In Q1, the former declined by 407K, but the latter increased by 1.3 million, suggesting around 900K households were added in the U.S. Despite the gain the industry still lost subscribers.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #272: Comcast's Blizzard of Innovation at INTX

    I'm pleased to present the 272nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    At INTX (the re-branded Cable Show) in Chicago this week, Comcast announced a blizzard of innovation, showcasing how its heavy technology investments are resulting in new products and features (see here and here for roundup). In today's podcast, Colin and I discuss the range of announcements Comcast made, which impact its video, broadband and home services.

    Importantly, Comcast also announced a new "customer experience transformation" plan, which includes the hiring of 5,500 new customer and technical service staff. The renewed emphasis on customer experience is ironic, because, as I asserted on Monday, had the company done this 5 years ago, and transformed itself into a "most admired" company, it may well have gotten approval for the Time Warner Cable deal. NCTA head Michael Powell seemed to agree with my assessment.

    Colin attended INTX and also shares thoughts on his session and broader trends of how pay-TV operators are evolving into broadband service providers and how OTT services fit in. For example, Comcast revealed this week that it now has more broadband subscribers than video subscribers, an important milestone for the industry.

    Listen in to learn more!



    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 16 seconds)

    Click here for previous podcasts

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    The VideoNuze podcast is also available in iTunes...subscribe today!

     
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  • Perspective What's this? As Competition Goes Global, Operators Must Rethink Strategies In A Post-Cable Era

    The post-cable era is upon us. At INTX this week, key industry players discussed the trends that have ushered in this new age. Consumers are no longer tethered to living room TVs and set-top boxes. Technology that was once proprietary and took years to deploy is now virtualized, able to scale quickly, anywhere. Traditional video delivery is under pressure from over-the-top (OTT). 
     
    Also consider the now global nature of competition and sizable price tags accompanying the biggest content deals. Netflix says it will expand into 200 countries within two years as it spends more than $3B per year on content. ESPN is shoring up rights to popular worldwide content like the Cricket World Cup and the Indian Premier League games via the Web, without requiring a cable package. Liberty Global is spending $2.5B per year on content as it continues to eye expansion in worldwide markets.

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  • Hulu Gets Distribution With 5 Pay-TV Operators, Signaling Further Market Evolution

    Hulu has announced that it has distribution deals with 5 small-to-mid-sized U.S. pay-TV operators: Armstrong, Atlantic Broadband, Mediacom, Midcontinent and WideOpenWest (WOW!). The deals follow last week's news that Hulu has signed up Cablevision as the first U.S. pay-TV operator to distribute its service.

    Like the Cablevision deal, there weren't a lot of specific details shared about pricing or packaging. The 5 operators will be able to offer Hulu's content on their advanced set-top boxes. While the set-tops aren't identified, a number of these operators use TiVo DVRs as their advanced set-tops to offer integrated OTT/pay-TV/VOD experiences.

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  • Comcast-TWC Deal Floundered Amid Rise in Customer Experience Expectations

    On last Friday's podcast, Colin and I discussed the failure of the $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. I asserted that a key reason the deal didn't get approved was due to the rise in customer experience expectations. Today I'm going to flesh that out further, and describe why customer experience is becoming key to defining the video industry's winners and losers.

    First, it's important to understand that the traditional notion of "customer service" has been supplanted by the far broader concept of "customer experience" - the TOTAL perception of ALL of our touchpoints with any company we do business with. Because we now live in an unprecedented time for humanity - when everything we need or want is just a handful of clicks away, anytime we choose, the bar has never been higher for our expectations of customer experience.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #271: Revisiting Comcast-TWC Deal Failure; Verizon-ESPN Spat

    I'm pleased to present the 271st edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    We had recorded last week's podcast just prior to the news that Comcast was dropping its merger bid for Time Warner Cable, so first up this week we share thoughts on why the deal collapsed.

    In my view, the perception of the deal transformed from being cable-centric to being broadband-centric, largely due to the rise of online video usage. As a result, Comcast, post-merger, having 57% of American broadband connections under the new 25 mbps definition, became a sticking point (never mind that it actually has 56% on its own, reflecting its aggressive broadband infrastructure upgrades).

    This is a key irony of the deal's failure - Comcast has invested billions in technology, but its woeful customer service ultimately undermines these investments and defines its reputation. In a hypothetical world where Comcast was a "most admired company," (like Apple, Amazon, etc.), I think it's quite possible regulators would have actually welcomed the Time Warner deal.

    We then turn our attention to Verizon's "Custom TV" packaging and ESPN's lawsuit. As I explained in Has Verizon Put ESPN Into a Public Relations Headlock Over Opaque "Sports Tax?" I think Verizon is making a brazen move to reign in sports costs. Colin and I agree it's the most startling thing yet to happen in a tumultuous year for the pay-TV industry.

    Listen in to learn more!



    Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 6 seconds)

    Click here for previous podcasts

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    The VideoNuze podcast is also available in iTunes...subscribe today!

     
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  • A Netflix Distribution Deal With Cablevision Now Seems Virtually Guaranteed

    Today Cablevision announced a first of its kind distribution deal with Hulu. The deal follows the introduction of Cablevision's new low-cost "cord-cutter" package (broadband plus a free OTA antenna) last week and its agreement to promote the new HBO Now OTT service. Given all of this I think it is now virtually guaranteed that Cablevision will soon announce that it will also distribute/promote Netflix.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #270: Debating Whether Netflix is Friend or Foe to TV Industry

    I'm pleased to present the 270th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    (Note, we recorded prior to the demise of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal; we'll discuss that next week.)

    Early this week, in "Is Netflix Friend or Foe to the TV Industry? It's More Confusing Than Ever." I laid out both of the arguments. In today's podcast, Colin and I flesh out the debate further, bringing in additional perspectives and data. Importantly, Colin adds his thoughts on how Netflix should be seen internationally.

    It's a fascinating debate, which our friends at MoffettNathanson coincidentally weighed in on this week as well. Using Nielsen data, they believe Netflix's audience size is already 6% of all of TV's, double its level from 2 years ago, and has accounted for 40% of TV's audience declines. They also see Netflix's share rising to low double digits over the next 4 years.

    Listen in to learn more!



    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 50 seconds)

    Click here for previous podcasts

    Click here to add the podcast feed to your RSS reader.

    The VideoNuze podcast is also available in iTunes...subscribe today!

     
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  • Is Netflix Friend or Foe to the TV Industry? It's More Confusing Than Ever.

    One of the great riddles of the past few years is whether Netflix is friend or foe to the U.S. television industry, including broadcast TV networks, cable TV networks and pay-TV operators. Over the years, Netflix has downplayed in many ways its disruptive potential to the TV industry (my personal favorite is when CEO Reed Hastings would say "We're more of a bicycle to their car" in comparing Netflix to pay-TV).

    But with Netflix tacking on another 2.3 million subscribers in the U.S. in Q1 '15, bringing its total to 41.4 million, the question is taking on increasing urgency. How should the TV industry REALLY think of Netflix? Below I share what I think are the best "friend" and "foe" arguments, concluding with my own assessment of what Netflix really is now.

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  • Perspective What's this? Where Watch Apps Can Go Next

    Over the past year, a strong wind has blown in the sails of the TV Everywhere market. More content owners are making programming available on this increasingly popular platform and the content is finding an audience on programmer and operator apps across platforms. Adobe reports TV Everywhere and online video consumption is up 146% in the last year. Ad server company FreeWheel noted that 38% of all ad views on long-form and live content came from behind authentication walls. NBCU made a push for TV Everywhere education with its Super Stream Sunday that offered open access to its Super Bowl-related programming.

    Riding high on this growth, the industry should now focus on how to make the opportunity even bigger.  Based on our ongoing work with programmers and MVPDs on authenticated video, as well as our data analysis of sources such as watch app reviews, below is a sample of the strategies we think will help take watch apps to the next level:

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  • HBO's Goldilocks Pricing Challenge

    HBO's upcoming launch of its "HBO Now" OTT service is unquestionably one of the biggest variables for the future of the pay-TV ecosystem. Because of its marquee original content and ubiquitous brand, HBO is unique among all entertainment-oriented cable networks in having the power to attract millions of OTT subscribers.

    While that's an opportunity for HBO, it's also a massive threat to the larger pay-TV industry. The ability to subscribe to HBO standalone will almost certainly make cord-cutting and cord-nevering a more appealing option for some viewers. HBO Now, coupled with other OTT options, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or even Sling TV (for ESPN fans in particular) would be very enticing.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #263 - Debating Cord-Cutting: Is the Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

    I'm pleased to present the 263rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

     

    Today we return to the cord-cutting debate, discussing fresh data showing that the largest pay-TV operators lost approximately 125K subscribers in 2014, slightly worse than the 95K subscribers they lost in 2013. There's both a "glass half-full" and a "glass half-empty" way of looking at the results, and we explore both positions. You decide!

     

    We then turn from pay-TV to broadband, where the trend was quite different. The largest broadband ISPs added 3 million subscribers in 2014, up 15% from 2.6 million in 2013, with cable operators accounting for a remarkable 89% of all additions.

     

    With 87.3 million broadband homes in the U.S.at the end of 2014, there is no question that broadband is the foundation on which all online services now stand (a key reason why the FCC's intervention is a risky proposition, as I explained last week).

     

    Listen in to learn more!

     

     

     

    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 1 second)

     

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    The VideoNuze podcast is also available in iTunes...subscribe today!

     
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  • Cord-Cutting Remains Negligible As U.S. Pay-TV Operators Lost Just 125K Subscribers In 2014

    Despite all the talk of massive cord-cutting being just around the corner, evidence continues to demonstrate that the U.S. pay-TV business remains relatively healthy. The latest, from Leichtman Research Group, shows that the 13 largest U.S. pay-TV operators, which together account for 95% of the market, lost just 125K subscribers in 2014. That was basically even with the 95K they lost in 2013 (see chart below).

    LRG president and principal analyst Bruce Leichtman noted that the 220K subscribers lost over the past 2 years represents just about .2% of the operators' total subscriber base. Of course no business ever wants to lose customers, but given the dramatic rise in OTT usage and subscriber levels, along with the vast array of viewing options, losing just .2% over 2 years seems like a pretty good level of stability (consider that Netflix alone added 5.7 million U.S. subscribers in '14).

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  • How Will Comcast Proceed On Time Warner Cable Deal In Wake of FCC's Net Neutrality Vote?

    With the FCC voting 3-2 to enact net neutrality regulations under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, the focus now shifts to how Comcast proceeds on its planned Time Warner Cable acquisition. The $45 billion deal, combining the two largest U.S. cable TV operators, was announced in February, 2014, and has been in the regulatory slow lane for months as net neutrality took center stage.

    Once perceived as virtually guaranteed to be approved given Comcast's formidable lobbying apparatus, the deal is now seen as having no better than a 50-50 chance by many analysts. While Comcast continues to express confidence the deal will be approved and close in early 2015 (and even internally circulated a combined company organizational structure), the dynamic regulatory, political and industry landscapes make any bets on the deal's outcome a total crapshoot.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #261 - TV Everywhere Advances, Linear TV Comes Online

    I'm pleased to present the 261st edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we return to the topic of TV Everywhere, which we've discussed on previous episodes. While TV Everywhere's challenges are well-understood, this week Comcast released encouraging adoption data, which we dig into.

    Comcast also announced it now offers over 70 linear networks via TVE, in addition to on-demand choices. Related, NBC said this week that it will offer authenticated access to its linear feed via its app, but only in its O&O markets. Colin notes that's a very different approach than CBS is using for linear, which is only available via its All-Access service that costs $5.99/month.

    Aside from improved content for TVE, Colin and I also observe that monetization is also improving, with technology providers BlackArrow and This Technology, as examples, recently sharing product updates on dynamic ad insertion (here and here).

    Listen in to learn more!



    Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 5 seconds)

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    The VideoNuze podcast is also available in iTunes...subscribe today!

     
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  • Perspective What's this? A Cord-Cutter Comes Back: Behind The Cost of A La Carte Video

    In 2014 I cut the cord. We live in Toronto, Canada, are not a sports family, and watch mostly drama. The kids watch only Netflix, so for them, cutting the cord really had no impact. We made the conscious decision to buy whatever we wanted to watch, as I suspected we would never come close to the monthly cable bill we had just shed.  But the truth is always more complicated, and in a surprising turn of events, I find myself back with Bell Canada’s Fibe TV a year later. 

    A look back at our purchases and motivations is quite revealing, considering the disruption going on in the video industry.

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  • Comcast: Over 30% of Xfinity TV Subscribers Now Using TV Everywhere

    Comcast said that in 2014 over 30% of its Xfinity TV subscribers used its TV Everywhere app ("Xfinity TV Go") on a monthly basis, representing a 20% year-over-year growth rate. The average Xfinity TV Go viewer watched over 7 hours per month via the app, up 40% vs. a year ago. Comcast said the Xfinity TV Go app for iOS and Android has been downloaded over 11 million times.

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  • BlackArrow Powers Dynamic Ad Insertion on Connected and Mobile Devices for Time Warner Cable

    Once again demonstrating the rapidly blurring lines between online video and TV on-demand, ad tech provider BlackArrow has announced that it will be powering dynamic ad insertion (DAI) in on demand content viewed on connected and mobile devices by Time Warner Cable subscribers. BlackArrow has already supporting DAI for TWC in traditional set-top box VOD and linear streams over IP.

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