I’m pleased to present the 357th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up, Colin shares his experiences streaming the Super Bowl on numerous services and devices. Overall the video quality was pretty strong, especially on Sling TV. Colin also used the Fox VR app with Google Cardboard and relays his reactions.
While Super Bowl LI was one of the best-viewed in history, NFL ratings this past season declined across the board and we discuss what’s likely happening. As I wrote earlier this week, the wide adoption of ad-free SVOD feels like a major culprit.
We then transition HBO Now, which Time Warner reported earlier this week now has over 2 million subscribers. Neither Colin nor I are super-impressed with HBO Now’s growth, especially by comparison with Netflix’s performance in the same time period. We both think HBO Now’s relatively high price of $15/month is the key issue.
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Time Warner’s CEO Jeff Bewkes said on this morning’s earnings call that HBO Now has passed the 2 million subscriber mark. That would be an increase from the 800K HBO Now had at the end of 2015.
On the one hand, gaining 2 million subscribers since launching HBO Now in April, 2015 is a positive sign of market acceptance for the SVOD service, which entered the market relatively late. But on the other hand, the pace of HBO Now’s monthly subscriber additions seems static, suggesting the service has not been able to accelerate its momentum.
I’m pleased to present the 355th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we discuss four topics that caught our attention and we wrote about: research from GFK MRI that 30% of U.S. millennials are now “cordless” (here), Netflix’s move into reality TV programming (here); Google enabling YouTube ad targeting based on users’ searches (here) and the new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai (here). We dig into all of these topics and discuss their implications.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 49 seconds)
T-Mobile is continuing its attack on AT&T by introducing a bonus of one free year of Hulu for AT&T customers who switched to T-Mobile under a prior offer where they received a free year of DirecTV Now. T-Mobile has been sniping at DirecTV Now’s sketchy service since it launched, so its new offer amounts to a make-good for customers who made the switch, but may have ended up feeling underwhelmed by DirecTV Now.
Last Thursday Amazon announced Anime Strike, its own branded SVOD service, available to Prime members in the U.S. for $4.99/month. Anime Strike is the first SVOD service from Amazon (aside from its flagship Prime Video service), and based on an interview I did with Michael Paull, VP for Amazon’s Channels program, it won’t be the last. Rather, Anime Strike is the latest signal of Amazon’s ever-expanding video ambitions.
The Channels program itself (which launched in December, 2015 and was originally called the Streaming Partners Program), has grown by leaps and bounds, and now includes over 100 different SVOD services that Prime members can easily add, with all video viewable in the Prime Video app across devices. For content providers, Amazon handles all hosting, delivery and billing, in exchange for a revenue share.
Talk about showing up late to the party: the WSJ is reporting that Apple is now planning to invest in original scripted TV shows and movies. Whether the move actually materializes though is unclear. But if it does, it would be happening years after countless false starts and rumors about the company’s plans to build out a content strategy. Importantly, it would also happen as the number of scripted TV shows rocketed to over 450 in 2016, marked by “Peak TV’s” escalating budgets and intense competition.
According the WSJ article, Apple is engaged with various producers and could be offering scripted TV shows by the end of 2017. Apple’s commitment still seems modest by the standards of Netflix, Amazon and numerous TV networks, with just a handful of productions planned.
Just prior to the holiday break FX released its latest update on “Peak TV” - the name company president John Landgraf coined a couple years ago to describe the exploding number of original scripted TV programs being produced. According to FX, which is tracking Peak TV, in 2016 there were 455 scripted originals, up from 421 in 2015 and 182 in 2002.
In that 14-year time period, the biggest volume contributor has been ad-supported cable TV networks, increasing from 30 shows in ’02 to 181 shows in ’16. But zeroing in on just the last 3 years, it’s the SVOD providers (Netflix, Amazon and Hulu) that have had the biggest impact. The group tripled their output from 24 shows in ’13 to 93 in ’16 while ad-supported cable TV rose from 161 to 181, broadcast TV bumped up from 131 to 145 and premium TV (HBO, Showtime, etc.) was basically flat, from 33 in ’13 to 36 in ’16. Put another way, in 2013, SVOD accounted for just 6.9% of all scripted TV and in 2016 they tripled their share to 20.4%.
Here’s more evidence that most smaller SVOD services are fighting for the attention of a tiny group of prospective subscribers. New research from Limelight Networks indicates that just 13% of SVOD subscribers in the U.S. and U.K. take more than 2 services. Of all respondents, 60% subscribe to SVOD, broken down as follows: 33% taking 1 service, 19% taking 2 services, and approximately 8% taking 3 or more services (which translates to 13% of overall SVOD subscribers).
Since Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have by far the biggest market share, they undoubtedly are among the first 2-3 services most people subscribe to. As a result, all other SVOD services, which in the U.S. exceeds 100, are vying for attention from the sliver of people who go beyond the big 3 to subscribe to others. The data highlights how difficult it’s going to be for the dozens of smaller SVOD services to achieve scale.
Amazon has officially made Prime Video available in over 200 countries and territories around the world, a move that has been expected. Prime Video will be included for Amazon Prime members in Belgium, Canada, France, India, Italy and Spain. Elsewhere, Prime Video is being offered for a special rate of either $2.99 or 2.99 Euros per month for the first 6 months, after which it will revert to the standard rate of $5.99 or 5.99 Euros per month.
When HBO Now launched in April, 2015, its $14.99/month price was well above competing SVOD services such as Netflix ($11.99/month), Hulu (ad-free $11.99/month) and Amazon ($8.99/month or included with Prime for $99/year). On the one hand, an argument could be made that an HBO subscription is more valuable due to HBO’s rich library and therefore should be priced higher than newer competitors. But HBO’s market-skimming high price strategy means its more aggressively priced competitors are growing far faster than HBO, enabling them to have greater scale, which will be the key to future success.
In a move that was long, long overdue, Netflix announced yesterday that it was enabling downloading of content to iOS and Android mobile devices. Not all shows and movies are available for download, but importantly, it looks like most, if not all, of Netflix’s original productions are included. I tried downloading last night and it worked perfectly.
I’ve been saying since 2012 that downloading is a bona fide killer app, after I first started using TiVo’s excellent downloading feature to watch recordings on my iPad when traveling. Amazon totally understood the value of downloading as well, enabling it back in September, 2015. In a press release that both touted the new feature and implicitly tweaked Netflix, Amazon proclaimed it as “The First and Only Subscription Streaming Service to Offer This Feature.”
Evidence of Amazon’s expansive video ambitions is everywhere these days. The company has transformed itself into arguably the most influential industry player heading into the new year. There are now so many Amazon video initiatives, it’s getting hard to keep track.
First and foremost, it’s critical to understand the most important attribute Amazon is bringing to bear in video, that enables everything else and makes it such a formidable new competitor: its unique business model, based on Prime. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained in a Recode interview this past summer (see 37:32 cue point), Prime has become a “physical digital hybrid membership program that is unlike anything else.” Bezos clearly spells out how video helps drive new Prime memberships and retention. Prime members are more loyal to Amazon, purchasing more products.
Comcast announced on Friday that the integration of Netflix into its X1 set-top box would launch this week. But when I checked my X1 on Friday evening it was already available, so I spent some time over the weekend giving it a test drive. Below is a 12-minute demo video I created that highlights the key benefits of the integration and how expertly it was done.
As VideoNuze readers know, I’ve had the X1 since its debut, back in July, 2012. I was immediately enthusiastic about its clean and highly responsive web-like UI as well as its ability to quickly retrieve on-demand content. More recently, the voice-powered remote control has delivered even more value. But the biggest potential benefit I’ve always envisioned for X1 was its ability to handle IP apps, giving Comcast a breakthrough way to provide a seamless experience between its own video services and those delivered over-the-top via broadband (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, etc.).
I'm pleased to present the 346th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week Colin and I discuss YouTube’s continued success, picking up on my post from earlier this week. Google’s executive team highlighted YouTube’s contribution to the company’ Q3 ’16 financial results. One of the big reasons is the viewer- and advertiser-friendly TrueView ad format, which can be skipped in 5 seconds.
But TrueView’s popularity has created a high bar for ad-free subscription services based on YouTube content, to succeed. Vessel was one victim and now even YouTube’s own YouTube Red SVOD service, which has a reported 1.5 million subscribers, is under the same pressure. Colin and I explore the issues YouTube Red faces.
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It seems the only thing predictable about Netflix’s subscriber growth these days is its unpredictability. After badly missing its target subscriber additions both domestically and internationally in Q2 ’16, yesterday’s Q3 ’16 earnings report showed Netflix beating its Q3 forecast, including by a huge amount in international. Domestically, Netflix added 370K subscribers vs. its forecast of 300K, while internationally it added 3.2 million, well ahead of the 2 million it forecast.
I'm pleased to present the 343rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
As has been widely reported, TV audiences for NFL football games have decreased this season, in some cases by double-digit percentages. That has a lot of people wondering what’s going on, Colin and me included.
In this week’s podcast, we discuss the various explanations that have been raised, most notably interest in the presidential election. But, politics aside, we both wonder whether the proliferation of viewing choices from SVOD and other sources are now having an impact. We’ll know more when we see the NFL ratings post-election.
All of this matters because sports (and the NFL specifically) have been critical to the value of pay-TV subscriptions and advertising, which depends on live viewing. If sports viewing declines, that would further upset TV’s value proposition.
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I'm pleased to present the 342nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Earlier this week I wrote about the success Amazon is having with its Streaming Partners Program, which now includes 75 different SVOD services, likely representing about three-quarters of all SVOD offerings in the U.S. As I explain on the podcast, the program appears to be a win for all parties, including viewers.
Colin is enthusiastic as well, noting he’s signed up for 3 different services already. Amazon’s early aggregation success will likely lead to others to follow its model, and one example that’s hit Colin’s radar is VRV ("verve"). Colin shares details about VRV’s strategy and why Mondo Media, a successful adult animation creator, just signed up with VRV.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 12 seconds)
Amazon now has 75 SVOD services participating in its Streaming Partners Program (“SPP”), which is approximately three-quarters of all the SVOD services available in the U.S. As of this past April, Parks Associates said there were 98 SVOD services in the U.S. though clearly more have launched since.
The update on SPP was provided by Michael Paull, Amazon’s VP of Digital Video, at last week’s On Demand conference in NYC, as reported by Multichannel News.
When an SVOD service joins SPP, it is included in a “Channels” section for Amazon Prime members, who can then quickly add it (see below image). All services include a trial period. Once the channel is added, it’s available on all devices that support Prime Video. Amazon provides billing, delivery, operational support as well as periodic promotions and recommendations for the SVOD service, including on Fire TV, all in exchange for a share of the monthly revenue.
Yesterday, Canadian streaming service shomi (pronounced “Show Me”) announced that it was closing down as of November 30th. The news came just two years after its launch by two of Canada’s largest pay-TV operators, Shaw Communications and Rogers Communications. shomi’s future was in jeopardy ever since Shaw essentially exited the content business by selling all of its TV networks to Corus Entertainment for C$2.65 billion in April in order to focus on its pay-TV and broadband businesses. Shaw subsequently took a C$51 million write down for shomi. Rogers will now take a C$100-C$140 million hit.
7Park Data has released an analysis of OTT viewership, finding among other things, that “Orange is the New Black” was Netflix’s most popular show in June in 15 of the 16 countries analyzed (in Ecuador OITNB was fourth, with “Full House” in the top spot). OITNB had its season 4 premier on June 16th, driving a 544% viewership increase from May to June.
Although Netflix released 12 of its originals’ season premieres in June, OITNB was the only one among the top 20 most-viewed. Following OITNB globally was “How I Met Your Mother,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Supernatural” and “Family Guy.” In the U.S., specifically, OITNB was followed by “Family Guy,” “The Office,” “American Dad!” and “Friends.”