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.”
I'm pleased to present the 338th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Today we first dig into an idea Colin outlined earlier this week, that pay-TV could become a “dumb authentication service” as the trend of subscribers migrating their TV viewing away from set-top boxes and toward authenticated TV apps on connected TV devices gains momentum. This is an important shift that is already happening for many people (listen to our podcast 2 weeks ago for more).
In this model pay-TV operators still continue to authenticate viewers and manage billing, but do little else. In fact, the FCC’s current plans to “unlock the box” mean the scenario has even more credibility. We agree that’s a precarious place for operators to be and opens up opportunities for disruptors, like Amazon.
Speaking of Amazon, just this week it made 2 important updates to its Fire TV devices which reinforce the growing role the company is playing in the SVOD and TV ecosystems and why it so well-positioned. Building on this, just today Bloomberg reported Amazon is now eyeing live sports deals, which would push it even further into pay-TV’s turf.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 32 seconds)
Yesterday Amazon unveiled new search and recommendation features for its Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices, aimed squarely at improving users’ experience with third-party SVOD services. The device updates are automatically downloaded and will enable universal voice search to over 75 video apps, including Netflix, HBO GO and soon HBO Now, as well as personalized recommendations across apps to be visible in custom rows on the Fire TV home page.
Both updates continue the evolution of Fire TV’s role as a hub for SVOD and free video services. That’s not a novel approach, as other devices like Roku, Chromecast and Apple TV are also aiming to be central hubs for online video. And arguably, Comcast is starting to take its first steps for X1 to also become a hub, by announcing plans to incorporate Netflix later this year.
(Note, I’m traveling this week, so the following is written by my weekly podcast partner Colin Dixon, founder and Chief Analyst of nScreenMedia. It is also posted here.)
SVOD Maintains Growth Despite Netflix Sluggishness
by Colin Dixon
New data from Digitalsmiths shows that Netflix’s sluggish US growth hasn’t rubbed off on the rest of the SVOD industry. It also demonstrates that TV Everywhere continues to make slow progress, and a small but significant group consider online a viable alternative to pay TV.
Netflix growth has slowed considerably in the US. The company increased subscribers just 0.3% in Q2 2016. That is not true of the SVOD industry overall. Digitalsmiths says that 63.9% now have access to at least one SVOD service. Users increased 3.2% quarter-over-quarter, 6.2% year-over-year, and 13% since Q2 2014.
Yesterday Amazon placed pilot episodes for 10 of its of its original programs on YouTube and Facebook. On the surface, this seems like a smart move, allowing these huge communities to get a taste of popular Amazon shows like “Transparent” and “The Man in the High Castle.” Amazon’s larger goal is to hook viewers and convert them to Prime membership. Free access to pilots have long been available at Amazon itself.
Clearly it is still very early in terms of mining the potential of YouTube and Facebook, but a day in, it’s somewhat surprising to see how few views there are. On Amazon’s YouTube channel, which has a cumulative 34 million views to date, “The Man in the High Castle” has done the best of the 10 pilots, but has just 1,583 views (see below). A distant second is “Transparent” with 258 views. Kids show “Tumble Leaf” is last with only 71 views.