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Analysis for 'Skinny Bundles'

  • VideoNuze Podcast #426: Magid’s Cord-Cutting Research; Sling TV Updates

    I’m pleased to present the 426th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up on this week’s podcast, we discuss Magid’s latest research showing another uptick in cord-cutting intent among pay-TV subscribers, especially for millennials. Even sports fans are now considering cutting the cord. Perhaps most surprising, cost is no longer the main motivator; it’s not watching enough TV to make it worth it.

    That’s indicative of more pay-TV subscribers shifting their viewership to SVOD, and suggesting an opportunity for low-cost virtual pay-TV operators to gain momentum. One such player, Sling TV just made some interesting updates to its service this week which we discuss.

    I think the Magid research is part of the reason why we need to revise how we talk about cord-cutting. Increasingly, I think an equally, if not more appealing, option for prospective cord-cutters will be downgrading to a skinny bundle, rather than dropping entirely. More on this on VideoNuze soon.


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  • How “Skinny” Bundles Are Enabling a New OTT Linear TV Ad Opportunity [VIDEO]

    Skinny bundles are a hot topic in the industry as a bona fide alternative to prospective cord-cutters. One of the big benefits of skinny bundles is that they rejuvenate linear TV viewing in the living room, which can be a potentially enormous new source of targetable TV ad inventory.

    At our recent VideoNuze Online Video Ad Summit, we dug into this unfolding opportunity on a session with Brendan Canning (SVP and Head of Distribution, Stadium), Samantha Casagrande (Associate Director, Media Investment, Wieden + Kennedy), Andy Hammond (VP, Sales, fuboTV), which I moderated.

    Watch the session video now!

     
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  • VideoNuze Podcast #425: AT&T Disrupts TV, World Cup Streaming Surges and More

    I’m pleased to present the 425th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    On this week’s podcast we cover a number of topics, starting with AT&T’s newest skinny bundle offering, WatchTV, which is bonus feature for subscribers to 2 of its new unlimited wireless plans. Colin and discuss the implications for the industry as AT&T reshapes consumers’ perceptions of pay-TV as a standalone premium service to a supporting feature in their wireless plan.

    We then turn to the World Cup, which is setting streaming records, even in the early matches. Colin shares the data and his personal experiences on quality, which have been very positive.

    Next, we touch on Apple’s latest high-profile content deals, with Oprah Winfrey and Sesame Workshop. Apple’s continuing to spend through the $1 billion it allocated, but we still wonder, how is this A-list content going to be distributed and monetized? Finally we review Instagram’s new long-form video service, IGTV, which was announced this week. We’re both excited about its prospects, particularly relative to Facebook’s other video initiatives, which have been all over the board.

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  • AT&T’s New Skinny Bundle Continues Its Disruptive Video Strategy

    AT&T officially unveiled its “WatchTV” skinny bundle today, following its preliminary tease of it in late April. Though WatchTV only has 31 networks at launch, it’s a very respectable entertainment-focused group, including the newly acquired Time Warner networks, AMC, A&E, Food and HGTV, with select Viacom networks (BET, Comedy Central, etc) coming soon.   

    But the specifics of what’s included are a tangential; what’s most important to understand with WatchTV is that it is the latest, and most aggressive, salvo by AT&T to use “video as bait” to support its wireless business. This strategy has significant long-term implications for the TV industry.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #422: Exploring Hulu With Live TV’s 800K Subscriber Count

    I’m pleased to present the 422nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week Hulu’s CEO Randy Freer said in a CNBC interview that the company had “surpassed 800,000 subscribers” for its Hulu with Live TV service. It was the first time Hulu has revealed subscribers for its skinny bundle service which was launched just over a year ago.

    Colin and I are both impressed with the number, which represents 4% of its overall 20 million subscribers and probably puts it in fourth place in the category behind YouTube TV, Sling TV and DirecTV Now. Based on rough calculations, the Live TV service is likely generating almost $300 million in run-rate revenue now (whether its profitable is another question). That’s a strong start and more evidence Hulu has found a winning formula.

    Back on the SVOD service, we also discuss James Murdoch’s comment that about half of Hulu’s subscribers are taking the ad-supported option, (which Hulu said is actually more than 60%), but that would still be down from “the vast majority” which Hulu has consistently said in the past. Finally, we discuss the pros and cons of either Comcast or Disney taking control of Hulu due to the battle over 21st Century Fox assets. I wrote last week Comcast would benefit more.

    (Note, Hulu’s VP of Ad Sales Jim Keller will be on Colin’s panel “Connected TVs' Ad-Supported Future” at the VideoNuze Online Video Ad Summit on June 12th)

    Listen in to learn more!


     
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  • Why Comcast Should Take Control of Hulu

    Yesterday’s confirmation by Comcast that it is preparing an all-cash bid for Fox assets that would top Disney’s current bid came as no surprise. All that remains now for this corporate drama to go into overdrive is the decision on June 12th in the AT&T-Time Warner court case. If that deal is approved (which I believe is likely), Comcast is expected to formalize its Fox offer almost immediately. As these machinations continue, one looming question is what will become of Hulu?

    Hulu is of course a joint venture among Disney, Fox and Comcast (via its NBCUniversal acquisition), with each company owning 30% and Time Warner owning 10% (that’s rounding as Hulu employees also own a piece). That means the ultimate owner of the Fox assets - Disney or Comcast - will also become a majority owner of Hulu. It seems to me Hulu would be more valuable to Comcast, and indeed Comcast should be angling to try to figure out how to take control of Hulu regardless of how the larger Fox deal sorts out. Why?

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  • Traditional Pay-TV Subscriber Loss in Q1 Slows to 305K

    Traditional pay-TV operators accounting for around 95% of the market lost 305K subscribers in Q1 ’18, compared to 515K in Q1 ’17 according to Leichtman Research Group. The loss is net of 405K Sling TV and DirecTV Now skinny bundle subscribers gained in the quarter by Dish and DirecTV, compared to 265K added in Q1 ’17. Backing out the skinny bundle gains, traditional pay-TV lost 710K subscribers in Q1 ’18 vs. a loss of 710K in Q1 ’17.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #418: Why Skinny Bundles Could Succeed

    I’m pleased to present the 418th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Earlier this week, I wrote how I’ve been rethinking the opportunity for skinny bundles. I’ve been skeptical, but I’m becoming more optimistic because of expanded local broadcast TV carriage (YouTube TV in particular has invested very heavily), parent companies’ larger strategic priorities that are motivating them to subsidize skinny bundles’ lack of profitability and the ongoing value of linear TV if priced appropriately.

    On this week’s podcast, Colin and I explore all of these reasons in further depth. Skinny bundles are also benefiting from the quality of SVOD’s programming, which makes second-tier cable networks not included in skinny bundles less missed - a dynamic that could have broad consequences for pay-TV in general. We also discuss how Hulu with Live TV could be one to watch among skinny bundles as it benefits from the 20 million plus SVOD subscriber base.

    It’s still extremely early days for skinny bundles but the likelihood of their success is definitely improving.

    Listen in to learn more!


     
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  • Rethinking Skinny Bundles and Their Impact on Pay-TV

    VideoNuze readers know I’ve long been skeptical about the value proposition of virtual multichannel video programming distributors (“vMVPDs”) or “skinny bundles” as they’re commonly known. But as I touched on in last Friday’s podcast, based on some significant changes over the past year, I’m becoming more optimistic about skinny bundles’ prospects and their broader impact on pay-TV.

    To take a step back, 3 main concerns have driven my skepticism about skinny bundles: (1) their incomplete channel lineups (the “Swiss cheese” challenge of too many holes, or missing TV networks) which reduces their appeal relative to pay-TV’s traditional multichannel lineups, (2) the dubious profitability of skinny bundles, especially given underlying programming costs, which raises the question of just how committed the big parent companies of skinny bundles are to them, and (3) viewers’ migration away from linear TV in favor of SVOD, which is driving up cord-cutting.

    Here’s what’s changed:

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #417: Exploring AT&T’s and Comcast’s Divergent Video Strategies

    I’m pleased to present the 417th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. We’re grateful to this week’s podcast sponsor, Ad-ID, which is the standard for identifying advertising assets. Ad-ID has recently released a new paper with examples of the value and importance of using a standard identifier. Learn more here.

    On this week’s podcast, Colin and I analyze AT&T’s and Comcast’s video subscriber results for Q1 ’18, which were announced this week. AT&T has aggressively promoted its skinny bundle DirecTV Now, which gained 312K subscribers in Q1, more than offsetting the 188K loss for traditional DirecTV.

    By contrast, because Comcast doesn’t have a meaningful skinny bundle (Xfinity Instant TV is mainly a broadcast TV package that also hasn’t been heavily promoted), it felt the full impact of losing 93K residential video subscribers.

    While the underlying economics of skinny bundles remain questionable, AT&T has settled on a strategy of using their low-cost package to support their core wireless business. Multichannel pay-TV is a business that has contracting margins and accelerating subscriber defections. Colin and I speculate on whether Comcast should similarly embrace skinny bundles to support their core broadband business and have a meaningful alternative to provide to prospective cord-cutters.

    Listen in to learn more!

     
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  • Upcoming AT&T Watch Skinny Bundle Will Take “Video as Bait” Strategy to New Level

    Almost a year ago, in a post titled “Video is Quickly Becoming Bait for Wireless Carriers to Lure and Retain Subscribers,” I detailed how big carriers were aggressively discounting and bundling various video services in order to support their wireless businesses.

    Last Thursday we got a glimpse of how the “video as bait” strategy is soon going to be taken to a new level. In court testimony concerning AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson said that in the coming weeks the company would launch a $15/month sports-free skinny bundle dubbed “AT&T Watch.” As CNN reported, the kicker is that for AT&T’s unlimited wireless subscribers, the service would be free. As such, it is the most dramatic example yet of how wireless companies see video as little more than a bonus feature to drive their core businesses.

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  • 5 Soundbites from NABShow Online Video Program

    Yesterday I produced the Online Video Program at the NABShow in Las Vegas. It was a great day of learning, with 30+ speakers on 8 sessions focusing on the rise of OTT. There were many highlights, but to be brief, below I’ve summarized 5 soundbites that hit my radar:

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  • Research: 12% of 18-34 Year-Olds Are Subscribing To A Skinny Bundle

    12% of 18-34 year-olds in the U.S. are now subscribing to a skinny bundle such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV or PlayStation Vue, according to new research from Leichtman Research Group. This group accounts for 53% of adults who subscribe to a skinny bundle. Just 3% of people 45+ take a skinny bundle.

    The data is part of LRG’s first survey on the topic, so there aren’t any trend lines available. Skinny bundles have been around for several years, and multiple analysts have estimated there are somewhere between 4-5 million U.S. homes now subscribing. It’s still very early days for skinny bundles as there’s been very little mass marketing to date.

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  • YouTube TV Looks Poised for Strong Growth in 2018

    YouTube TV, which launched less than a year ago and ended 2017 with around 300K subscribers, looks poised for strong growth in 2018. YouTube TV entered the crowded vMVPD or “skinny bundle” space with competitors Sling TV, DIrecTV Now, PS Vue, Hulu With Live TV and fuboTV. YouTube TV expanded from 5 initial markets to over 80 by the end of 2017, with plans to expand to over 100 soon, which it believes will cover 85% of the U.S. households.

    It’s always hard to tell just how serious Google is about any new initiative given its massive resources and willingness to experiment and quickly shut something down. But YouTube TV is showing signs of being a serious initiative, not only because of its rapid expansion. Last fall, YouTube TV really hit my radar when it served as the presenting sponsor of the World Series, a deal which must have easily run into the 7 figures or more, raising huge new awareness and starting the redefinition of what the YouTube brand stands for.

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  • Research: Exploring Skinny Bundles’ Momentum with TDG’s Michael Greeson

    Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (“vMVPDs”) or “skinny bundles” have become a very hot topic in the video industry. Offering fewer TV networks and at a lower monthly price they’re seen as a way of keeping cord-cutters in the ecosystem while attracting cord-nevers. To learn more about the dynamics of vMVPDs, industry research firm (and long-time VideoNuze partner) The Diffusion Group recently completed a comprehensive study of vMVPD subscribers. I interviewed Michael Greeson, TDG’s president and director of research, to learn more.

    VideoNuze: From a top-line perspective, what are the most important takeaways from your research?

    Michael Greeson: First and foremost, while these services are successfully connecting with cord-cutters, they are entirely missing out with cord-nevers. Cord-cutters account for 54% of total vMVPD subs. The consumers were largely driven from legacy services by high service costs and paying having to pay for channels they don’t watch, and vMVPD services appear to better address these needs.

    Cord-nevers, on the other hand, account for only 9% of vMVPD subs—clear evidence that these offerings are failing to resonate with younger buyers. And for good reason: cord-nevers are largely driven by a genuine lack of interest in multi-channel pay-TV services. They prefer a ‘build it yourself’ service that allows them to select and pay for only the channels they want, versus signing up for a bundle of channels.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #407: Netflix Has Erased Up to $6 Billion of TV Ad Inventory; YouTube TV Improves

    I’m pleased to present the 407th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week, Colin explains a very interesting analysis he has done indicating that Netflix viewership may be erasing up to $6 billion in TV ad inventory annually, which could be up to 8% of the market. Colin explains how all the binge-viewing that’s going on is taking time away from ad-supported TV, a trend that is only accelerating.

    Part of the TV industry’s solution to this problem is to make ad-supported TV available more inexpensively through so-called “skinny bundles” or “vMVPDs.” One of these, YouTube TV, this week announced it added the Turner networks and plans to raise its rate by $5 per month. We discuss how YouTube TV appears to be gaining momentum and what Google’s long game likely is.

    Listen in to learn more!



     
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  • YouTube TV Adds Turner Networks, Bumps Price By $5 Per Month

    YouTube TV announced it is adding 7 networks from Turner to its base package, including Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, TNT, truTV and Turner Classic Movies. YouTube TV will also add NBA TV and MLB Network to its base package soon, with NBA League Pass and MLB.TV available for additional fees. YouTube TV is also raising its rate by $5 to $40/month on March 13th, though all subscribers on board prior to then will be grandfathered at the current $35/month rate.

    VideoNuze readers know I’ve been skeptical about how big the market opportunity is for skinny bundles like YouTube TV. A big challenge for skinny bundles has been striving to offer a sufficiently complete channel lineup to have broad appeal, while also keeping programming costs down, so consumer pricing is low enough to be a differentiator. At a more specific programming level, I’ve believed that skinny bundles had to carry the big 4 broadcasters in local markets given their still dominant viewership. Doing so is a tough, expensive slog.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #401: Top Video Trends for 2018

    Happy New Year! I’m pleased to present the 401st edition of the VideoNuze podcast, and our first of 2018, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    As is our tradition, we discuss our top trends for the new year. 2017 was extremely busy for the industry and we expect 2018 to be no different. Among our top trends are wireless providers pushing deeper into video, YouTube TV starting to break out among skinny bundles, cord-cutting accelerating and Amazon pursuing many different opportunities to build its video business. We also discuss 4-5 additional trends to watch.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #400: The Top 10 Online Video Stories of 2017

    I'm pleased to present the 400th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    In this week’s podcast Colin and I discuss our top 10 online video stories of 2017. It’s been another incredibly busy year with tons of industry innovation and progress. As always, it has been a lot of fun to analyze all of this and report on it. Let us know what you think of our choices, whether you agree or disagree!

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    Unless there’s some big news, this will be my last post for 2017.

    Happy Holidays to all!

     
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  • DOJ’s Suit Against AT&T-Time Warner Deal Ignores Industry Realities

    Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division sued to block AT&T’s proposed $108 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The suit breaks with decades of past practice where the DOJ has permitted “vertical mergers” (deals between companies operating in different segments of an industry) accompanied by certain operational limitations (so-called “behavioral remedies”). AT&T has pledged to counter sue, which means the deal’s outcome will now be decided in court.

    Though I’m not a lawyer, I’m willing to bet that AT&T is going to prevail for one simple reason: the DOJ’s complaint virtually ignores realities in the TV and video industries. It is only by ignoring these facts that the DOJ is able to lay its foundation for asserting that the AT&T-Time Warner would have too much power, potentially harm competitors and stifle innovation. AT&T’s task is to demonstrate the DOJ’s foundation is faulty, and therefore that its decision to block the deal is unfounded.

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