Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in a blog post that he intends to start a rule making proceeding to broaden the definition of what a multichannel video programming distributor (an "MVPD," or more simply, a cable, satellite, telco operator that distributes bundles of cable and broadcast TV networks) is, to include companies that don't actually own their own delivery infrastructure. My weekly podcast partner Colin Dixon and I call these non-infrastructure companies virtual pay-TV operators, or "vPops" for short.
This "technology-neutral" change would mean vPops using the Internet/broadband to deliver linear TV networks would also be considered MVPDs, therefore entitled to the same regulatory-mandated benefits. Wheeler characterized the move as being pro-consumer and pro-innovation and on the face of it, it definitely appears to be. But, digging deeper, it's not clear that this type of regulatory change would overcome actual market forces that will still determine the average viewer's video choices.
I'm pleased to present the 247th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we talk about so-called "hybrid set-top boxes" and why we believe they're poised to play a critical role in the video ecosystem, especially for pay-TV operators. A hybrid STB can handle both traditional linear TV feeds and also broadband/IP/apps. Comcast's X1 is a great example, as are TiVo's boxes. Another technology approach which creates the same capability is from ActiveVideo Networks.
Colin and I both like hybrid STBs because they give the operator the ability to blend pay-TV/VOD/DVR with OTT. One prime opportunity of this that I see is for Netflix to be included in Comcast's X1, as I explained earlier this week. Just to give one example of how compelling these integrations can be, Colin cites the example of UPC Hungary, which integrated the YouTube app. Within a few months, 72% of its subscribers have used YouTube, averaging 45 minutes per session.
Colin notes the big win for subscribers here is convenience - it's just easier for people to use one device to access everything. We share additional thoughts on why we think hybrid STBs are beneficial and will become a big trend going forward.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 56 seconds)
Following HBO's announcement of HBO OTT last week, a lot of the media coverage has focused on how disruptive it will be to the pay-TV ecosystem. But on today's Comcast Q3 '14 earnings conference call, company executives threw cold water on these prospects, highlighting the challenges and risks that HBO faces in going direct to consumer.
Responding to analysts' questions, NBCU CEO Steve Burke said:
If your head is still spinning from last week's HBO/CBS/potential cord-cutting news, then buckle up, because here's another doozy that seems ripe to be right around the corner: a partnership deal between Netflix and Comcast. You heard that right - two companies that have been sniping at each for years now have a perfect moment to strike a partnership deal with significant upside to both.
First, as far as the deal itself, it would roughly follow the template Netflix has already established with large pay-TV operators in Europe and smaller ones in the U.S. All those deals' details aren't known, but at a minimum they include operators integrating Netflix's app into their IP-based set-top boxes'/devices' UI, certain co-marketing arrangements, and some type of revenue sharing by Netflix (i.e. one-time new subscriber bounties and/or ongoing revenue sharing).
Between HBO's OTT announcement yesterday and CBS's this morning, there're intensifying buzz that the demise of pay-TV, with its expensive multichannel bundles, may finally be upon us. But here's a contrarian thought: what if all of the SVOD activity we're already seeing - plus more that's sure to come - is actually very good news for pay-TV? Before you scoff at me as a head-in-the-sand pay-TV defender, stop and consider the following.
Lately there's been a lot of talk about so-called "virtual pay-TV operators," (vPops as my partner Colin Dixon at nScreenMedia likes to call them), which are also called "virtual MVPDs" (multichannel video programming distributors). These are companies that will deliver linear and on-demand broadcast/cable TV network bundles from the cloud, over broadband to connected/mobile devices, offering an alternative to traditional pay-TV services.
Sony, Verizon and Dish Network have all publicly stated their interest in launching vPop services in either 2014 or 2015. Though it's still early and much is yet to be known about their actual offerings, there are already many reasons to be skeptical that they'll achieve any material success.
Here's more evidence that over-the-top video may be pay-TV's friend, not its foe, as conventional wisdom holds. As reported by Broadband TV News, YouTube is enjoying early and widespread success since its recent launch by pay-TV operator UPC Hungary to hundreds of thousands of subscribers there.
Unveiled at the end of May as part of UPC Hungary's first phase rollout of multiple online apps, YouTube is already generating over a million minutes per day of viewing by UPC Hungary subscribers, the highest among the 20 different apps now available.
Interest in cord-cutting remains relatively muted according to new data from Frank N. Magid Associates. The firm, which has been surveying consumers' attitudes towards cord-cutting each of the past 4 years, found 2.9% of respondents agreeing they're "very likely" to cancel their pay-TV service in the year ahead, a slight uptick from 2.7% found in 2013, 2.2% in 2012 and 1.9% in 2011.
Magid noted that the "very likely" level jumped to 4.9% for 25-34 year-olds, but dropped to 1.4% for those identifying themselves as ESPN viewers (live sports are widely believed to be the most formidable bulwark against cord-cutting).
September is here and that means summer 2014 is in the rear-view mirror. For online video and the broader video ecosystem, it was another busy few months, as viewers around the world continue to shift their consumption patterns, with many companies scrambling to keep pace. Below I've distilled my list of the 10 biggest online video stories of the summer - read on and let me know if I've missed something!
Through our ongoing work with cable operators and programmers on initiatives that range from technical infrastructure evolution to business strategy, IBB Consulting has identified five key trends that will collectively drive the video delivery industry.
Over the next five years, there will be challenges and opportunities that span technological updates, deployment of new services, shifts in the marketplace and the ability to adapt to consumer behaviors.
Categories: Cable TV Operators
Topics: IBB Consulting
Broadband Internet access is a booming business in the U.S., especially for cable TV operators. According to data released last Friday by Leichtman Research Group, the top U.S broadband ISPs (accounting for 93% of the market) added nearly 384K subscribers in Q2 '14, the most since Q2 '09. Q2 '14 additions were 29% higher than those in Q2 '13 and 16% higher than those in Q2 '12.
Because the law of large numbers is working against broadband ISPs, adding even the same number of subscribers year-over-year is impressive, while adding more is even harder to do. For example, at the end of Q2 '12 there were 80.3 million broadband subscribers in the U.S., while at the end of Q2 '14 there were 85.9 million.
Topics: Leichtman Research Group
Bright House Networks, the sixth largest cable TV operator in the US, with 2.5 million subscribers, has announced that will use BlackArrow for dynamic video ad insertion (DAI) for on-demand and multi-screen delivery. As viewers continue to embrace both VOD and myriad viewing devices - and operators make more content and TV Everywhere options available - effectively monetizing these streams is becoming more and more essential.
In an interview with Recode on Tuesday, Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Shawn Layden said the company is still planning to launch a "revolutionary" OTT pay-TV service by the end of 2014.
However, as Intel learned with its own misguided OnCue foray, the big cable network owners aren't enabling any revolutions to occur in the pay-TV industry. To the contrary, they're working hard to extend the status quo. This, plus other factors, means the odds of success for Sony's nascent OTT pay-TV service are extremely low.
I'm pleased to present the 229th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Earlier this week Colin's firm nScreenMedia released new research, finding among things, that cord-cutters are mostly satisfied without pay-TV service. Colin provides his take on the data, noting in particular that just 9% of respondents missed sports, which suggests cord-cutters are mostly self-selected non-sports fans.
We also zero in on millennial cord-cutters and their attitudes. Both of us believe the data counters a quote from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes this week related to millennials, that "Once they take the mattress and get it off the floor, that's when they subscribe to TV." That's been true in the past, but it will get a lot harder given the range of video choices now available.
We then turn our attention to TV Everywhere and recent research showing that while it is valued by those who use it, adoption still remains relatively low. We dig into why this conundrum is likely to continue.
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 18 seconds)
New research from nScreenMedia (my weekly podcast partner Colin Dixon's firm), has found that among pay-TV cord-cutters, 37% said they were "extremely happy and will never go back to pay-TV," with another 47% saying they're "pretty happy with the decision." Conversely, 8% said they were "pretty unhappy with the decision" and 9% "hate it and wish they had the service again."
The overwhelming lack of remorse suggests cord-cutters have been able to cobble together mostly adequate OTT substitutes to pay-TV.
TV Everywhere's conundrum continues. Data from Viacom late last week again showed that people who actually use TVE appear to really value it, plus it improves their perceptions of their pay-TV operator. Nonetheless, other recent research and comments from industry executives themselves show that relatively few people have tried TVE and still fewer use it consistently.
First the Viacom data. Sampling 1,300 Viacom viewers ages 13-49, and 600 kids, ages 2-12, Viacom found that TVE users watch 64% more TV (72% for millennials), as 98% said TVE adds to their pay-TV subscription and 93% said they're more likely to stay with their pay-TV operator as a result of TVE. Respondents said the main reasons for TVE use were to re-watch/replay TV episodes, view flexibly and be an early adopter of new services.
The top 17 U.S. broadband ISPs added nearly 1.2 million subscribers in Q1 '14, notching the best quarter of growth since Q1 '12 (see chart below). These ISPs now have 85.5 million subscribers, with top cable operators accounting for nearly 59% or 50.3 million and top telcos accounting for 41% or 35.2 million. The data is according to Leichtman Research Group.
The top cable operator ISPs garnered 83% of the quarter's 1.2 million subscriber additions, vs. just 17% for the telcos. This compares with Q1 '13, when the top cable operator ISPs took 72% of net additions, with telcos taking 28%. LRG notes that Q1 subscriber additions historically account for more than Q2 and Q3 additions combined.
Topics: Leichtman Research Group
I recently had the pleasure being interviewed by my former colleague Howard Homonoff for his weekly "Media Reporter" show at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information which he produces in addition to his consulting practice. In the interview we touch on a broad range of topics including how technology is helping traditional TV, the impact of online video on pay-TV operators and networks, online originals, NewFronts, rise of devices and mobile viewing, net neutrality, industry deals and much more.
The interview runs about 28 minutes.
Topics: Net Neutrality
I'm pleased to present the 227th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we dig into the Turner-Comcast deal from earlier this week, under which Turner is providing past seasons' and full current season's episodes to some of its most popular programs to Comcast for viewing on VOD and TV Everywhere. As I wrote earlier this week, a key enabler of the deal is Turner's ability to dynamically insert ads in the on-demand streams.
Colin and I agree that, to the extent the deal becomes a template for others, it could have a wide-ranging impact on the ecosystem. To date, Netflix and other OTT providers have been able to aggregate huge libraries of past seasons' episodes, which have fueled binge-viewing.
But as advertising in VOD/TVE grows and improves, it could become the financial foundation for operators to gain far greater content rights. That in turn could change the negotiating balance for content and perceptions of pay-TV operators. Colin and I explain what could be ahead.
Listen in to learn more!
(Note also Colin is hosting a free webinar next Tuesday on Fox Sports Go TVE app. Sign up here.)
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 49 seconds)
Turner Broadcasting will provide Comcast with VOD and TV Everywhere access for some of its most popular programs across all of its cable networks, under a deal announced this morning. A significant aspect of the deal is that it gives Comcast rights not only to past seasons' episodes, but also to all current season episodes - what's known as "stacking rights." The deal is a big win for Comcast and also underscores the emergence of dynamic ad insertion in VOD/TVE streams as an important new revenue driver.