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Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Analysis for 'Cable TV Operators'

  • 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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  • Survey: 48% Of Pay-TV Subscribers “Cord Cheat” with OTT Services

    Digitalsmiths has released its quarterly survey on consumer behavior around pay-TV and VOD, finding that consumers are continuing to “cord cheat,” with 48% supplementing their pay-TV subscriptions with OTT services, up from 35% reported in Q2 '13. Most popular for these consumers was Netflix (42%), while for individual movie rentals Redbox kiosks took the lead at 17%.

    Digitalsmiths believes cord cheating is a big threat to pay-TV providers and said they must adapt and better support consumer expectations. According to the survey, the top reasons consumers are choosing OTT services like Netflix, Hulu or iTunes are because they are more convenient (53%), cheaper (48%) and allow full season TV viewing (31%).

    continue reading on VideoNuze iQ

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #204 - Hulu Plus in the Pay-TV Bundle Sounds Smart; Amazon Originals Launch

    I'm pleased to present the 204th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    We start off this week discussing the latest Hulu rumor, that it is seeking a closer alignment with pay-TV operators for Hulu Plus. Colin and I both like the possibilities here, though we recognize numerous obstacles. From a user experience standpoint, the idea of finding all of a TV show's episodes in one place - from pilot to last night's -resonates with me and would be a huge step forward from today's silo'd worlds of SVOD/OTT and VOD/TV Everywhere.

    Colin points out too that Hulu's owners are already key programming suppliers to pay-TV operators, giving Hulu a better shot at partnering than, say Netflix, has. Last but hardly least, Hulu's new CEO Mike Hopkins most recently ran distribution for Fox Networks, so his expertise is perfect for figuring out how to get Hulu Plus carriage with pay-TV operators.

    We then shift to discussing the launch today, of Amazon Studios' first original, "Alpha House" starring John Goodman. While we're uncertain about its critical reception, we do believe that, given originals' strategic role supporting Prime, it's the first step of an aggressive agenda. Amazon is cleverly combining data, wisdom of the crowds and traditional TV skills to select which originals to pursue.

    Listen in the learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 42 seconds)




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  • Comcast Balances Risks of Password Sharing With New Out-of-Home Mobile Streaming App

    When Comcast said earlier this week that it was increasing to 35 the number of channels available for out-of-home streaming for its subscribers, available on iOS and Android mobile devices (in addition to computers), it was another powerful sign of how TV is moving beyond the traditional confines of the living room and set-top box.

    But as I thought about how robust this new out-of-home offering will be, it got me wondering, again, about the risk of subscribers sharing their passwords with non-subscribers. "Do no harm" is a key mantra among all media companies these days who must take care not to have new services or features undermine traditional value propositions. Until now this hasn't been a big issue for Comcast with its out-of-home streaming feature, as it included only on-demand content and a limited number of live channels which were solely viewable on computers. It was interesting package, but not super-compelling.

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  • Digitalsmiths Now Powering Discovery For 7 of Top 10 U.S. Pay-TV Providers

    Digitalsmiths said this morning that its Seamless Discovery Platform has been chosen by 7 of the top 10 U.S. pay-TV operators, which cover 64% of the country's subscribers. Globally the company is powering discovery for over 100 million homes through 46 customers and partners. Most recently Digitalsmiths announced Australia's Foxtel as its latest big customer.

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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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  • Research: Nearly 2/3 of Pay-TV Viewers Know What They Want to Watch, Most Just Want Better Search Tools

    New research released today by Veveo reveals that nearly 2/3 of pay-TV viewers know what they want to watch "almost always" or "most of the time." In addition, almost 75% of them said they'd like better search capabilities from their pay-TV operator, a preference that dwarfed recommendations as an option, which was cited by less than 5% of respondents. Heavier TV viewers' preference for search was even stronger.

    According to Sam Vasisht, Veveo's CMO, whom I spoke to last week, the findings underscore the extent to which search has become an integral part of everyday life for many consumers. The fact that search has become a positive online experience for many means that sub-optimal search tools provided by pay-TV operators becomes more glaringly obvious, leading to viewer frustration and lost revenue opportunities.

    continue reading on VideoNuze iQ

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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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  • VideoNuze Podcast #200 - Debating Whether Cable Operators Should Partner With Netflix

    I'm pleased to present the 200th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we debate whether U.S. cable operators should partner with Netflix, a prospect that was reported this past Monday by the WSJ.

    Colin and I have very different opinions on the topic - I believe that on balance it would be disadvantageous for operators to partner and integrate Netflix into their experiences while Colin thinks it would be beneficial for them. As I wrote earlier this week, I think that operators helping Netflix get bigger and stronger ultimately means it becomes a stronger competitor and therefore a more potent cord-cutting and shaving threat.

    Conversely, Colin believes integrating Netflix (as a couple of European operators are doing) would help their subscribers' user experience, which should be their overriding goal. Colin doesn't see Netflix as a threat, even as it looks more and more like HBO over time. I think that's underestimating Netflix's competitive potential. Rather than partnering with Netflix, operators should be doing everything possible to enhance their TV Everywhere and VOD initiatives.

    Listen in the learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 29 seconds)


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

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  • For U.S. Cable Operators, Netflix Partnerships Are Fraught With Risk

    The WSJ has reported that Netflix is holding early stage discussions with at least two U.S. cable operators, Comcast and Suddenlink, about having its app included in their set-top boxes. I've been seeing a lot of arguments for why Netflix partnerships would be good for cable operators, but it seems to me there would be a lot of risk involved for them if such deals materialized.

    Helping Netflix become bigger and stronger would be disadvantageous for cable operators. First and foremost, this would be felt in the area of content rights. By securing past seasons of TV programs, Netflix has driven the binge-viewing phenomenon and become its biggest beneficiary. I expect binge-viewing will only gain in popularity going forward as more people experience it and more devices make it ever easier to do. Adoption of binge-viewing means those distributors with strong video libraries will do better.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #199 - Lots of Potential for New Comcast-Twitter "See It" Tool

    I'm pleased to present the 199th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In this week's edition we discuss the new "See It" tool announced in a partnership between Comcast/NBCU and Twitter.

    Beginning in November, certain tweets about TV shows will carry the "See It" button. When users click on it, they will be given choices to watch the program now on their mobile device, tune their Comcast X1 set-top to that channel to watch on TV, set their DVR or receive a reminder (more about how See It works here).

    Colin and I both like See It's potential to convert the "chatterfest" that now regularly occurs on Twitter around TV shows and live events (sports, award shows, etc.) into higher viewership. Tightly coupling social discovery and the opportunity to immediately watch is very compelling. If Twitter can show See It can actually driving viewership (note, still a big "if"), it would become a very important promotion tool for the TV industry.

    We also discuss how See It works with authentication/TV Everywhere, the critical role that Comcast's new IP-based X1 set-tops play in enabling See It, how the rest of the pay-TV industry might adopt See It, and the potential to spread See It to other social sites. See It's widespread adoption will require a lot of TV ecosystem support, but if its value is quickly proven, we believe that could happen.

    (Last - Colin and I will both be participating in BroadbandTV Con in Hollywood Nov. 4-6.  Come meet us! VideoNuze readers get $75 off conference registration using the code "VideoNuze." Colin will also be hosting a pre-conference workshop.)


    Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 19 seconds)




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

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  • Study: U.S. Broadband Homes Without Pay-TV are Basically Flat at 9%

    There is a lot of talk these days about pay-TV cord-cutters and cord-nevers and how OTT providers can leverage this group to build their businesses. But a data point from research firm Leichtman Research Group last week that caught my eye suggests this market may be smaller than many people think and also not growing very fast. LRG noted that just 9% of U.S. homes subscribe to a broadband Internet service, but not a pay-TV service, up just slightly from the 8% level in both 2011 and 2012 (see graph below).

    Further, Bruce Leichtman of LRG told me that of the broadband/no pay-TV group, just 37% get their broadband from speedier and pricier cable or telco fiber deployments. That compares with 75% taking these services among other broadband subscribers (remember than cable and telco fiber are by far the most prevalent broadband services).

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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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  • thePlatform's Virtual TV Framework Enables Cloud Delivery for All Pay-TV Services

    Here's a great example of how robust the cloud has now become: thePlatform, a leading online video publishing company, is announcing a new "Virtual TV Framework" today, that allows pay-TV operators to deliver their FULL linear and on-demand services via the cloud, to any connected/mobile device. Until now, pay-TV operators have mostly offered only VOD or a limited set of linear channels as part of their TV Everywhere initiatives. Now the new Virtual TV Framework will allow them to replicate ALL of their services for cloud-based delivery.

    Why does this matter? Because cloud-delivery makes it easier for pay-TV operators to enhance their subscribers' experience with existing services and to develop new ones, while also reducing delivery costs. It's no secret that the landscape for video services has become much more competitive with the advent of innovative OTT options from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others, so consumers are expecting more from their pay-TV operators. As well, given the high price of pay-TV service, delivering more value has become a key industry priority - this is the essential role of TV Everywhere.

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  • Innovid and Cisco Partner for Second Screen Interactive, Contextual Video Ads

    Interactive video advertising provider Innovid, and technology giant Cisco have unveiled a new partnership today at IBC meant to deliver interactive, contextual video ads to second screens.

    As Innovid's CEO and co-founder Zvika Netter explained to me, the proof-of-concepts at IBC show how Innovid taps in, via API, to a Cisco-powered metadata stream associated with a pay-TV operator's services to TVs and second screen apps. The metadata allows Innovid to deliver interactive iRoll ads to the second screen apps that are synched with ads that are running on TV. A second proof-of-concept also shows this done by location. Second screen apps from pay-TV providers have become a key priority as part of their TV Everywhere initiatives.

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  • ActiveVideo Lands Liberty Global for CloudTV Strategy

    ActiveVideo Networks has scored a big win, announcing that Liberty Global, the largest international cable operator with over 24 million subscribers, has chosen ActiveVideo's CloudTV software to enhance Liberty's rollout of Horizon TV, its next-gen video platform. Sachin Sathaye, ActiveVideo's VP of Strategy and Marketing, told me that Liberty will use CloudTV as a complement to Horizon for existing set-top boxes and connected TV devices (i.e. where new Horizon STBs aren't deployed). Services will include cloud DVR, VOD navigation and advanced apps. Timing for rollout hasn't been disclosed yet.

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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)

    Click here for previous podcasts

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

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #192 - More on Netflix's and Amazon's Role in the CBS-TWC Retrans Dispute

    I'm pleased to present the 192nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    In this week's discussion, we talk more about the unexpected role that Netflix and Amazon are playing in the CBS-Time Warner Cable retransmission consent dispute, which has knocked CBS off the air in major markets like NYC, LA, Dallas and elsewhere. As I wrote earlier this week, though "retrans" disputes have become commonplace, a new wrinkle in this particular one is that digital distribution rights are actually the main sticking point.

    Having made lucrative digital deals with both Netflix and Amazon, CBS is justifiably reluctant to simply throw digital access to its programs into a deal with TWC, as it has in the past. The standoff highlights the uphill battle that pay-TV operators are having gaining content rights for their TV Everywhere services, which remain like Swiss cheese, with major holes in program availability. It also underscores the transformational role OTT powerhouses like Netflix and Amazon are having on the broader TV industry.

    Further, Colin believes there's an opportunity for new market entrants (e.g. Intel Media, Sony, Apple, Google, etc.) to bid for both digital and linear rights, and then package access for consumers in inventive new ways. Colin sees broadband's lower cost of delivery creating a big advantage for these new players. I'm skeptical however, noting that the huge expense involved in licensing content and promoting a service from scratch would more than outweigh delivery savings. But, with so much change happening in the market these days, nothing can be counted out.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 25 seconds)




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

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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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  • Tiger Woods is Aereo's Best Friend in NYC This Week

    A fortuitous confluence of events could give Aereo a nice bump in visibility and adoption in New York City this week. First, CBS went dark for hundreds of thousands of NYC subscribers last Friday afternoon, as the broadcaster and Time Warner Cable were unable to agree on retransmission consent compensation. Then over the weekend, Tiger Woods - by far golf's biggest TV draw - smoked the field to win the WGC-Bridgestone golf tournament, which was televised by CBS (though not seen by New Yorkers). The win makes Tiger the odds-on favorite to win the fourth and final major golf event of the year - the PGA Championship, being played in upstate New York starting Thursday.

    CBS has the weekend afternoon TV rights to the PGA, following TNT's Thursday/Friday and weekend morning coverage. Tiger is gunning for his first major win in 5+ years, since his infamous infidelity scandal knocked him off his game. If Tiger is leading or among the leaders going into the weekend, it would set up intense interest and very strong CBS viewership. But with CBS blacked out - and the network blocking TWC New York subscribers' access to online programming - New Yorkers wouldn't get to see Tiger in action.

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