I’m pleased to present the 354th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week Colin and I interview Sling TV’s chief product officer Ben Weinberger. We’ve known Ben for many years from when he was CEO and founder of Digitalsmiths, which was acquired by TiVo.
As loyal listeners know, we’ve discussed “skinny bundles” like Sling TV many times on the podcast and so the interview was a great opportunity to get Ben’s views on the category in general and how Sling TV specifically is doing. We discussed many different topics, including the role of broadcast TV networks and antennas, sports and regional sports networks, how subscribers use the service on different devices, how Sling TV fits with SVOD services and much more.
Importantly, Ben talks a lot about Sling TV’s value propositions including offering more choices and flexible packages. We wrap up with Ben sharing his views on where the market is heading over the next few years.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (33 minutes, 15 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 349th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
DirecTV Now, the latest skinny bundle to launch, was unveiled on Monday. In this week’s podcast, Colin and I provide our initial assessment. Given AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson’s bold reveal a few weeks ago that it would include over a 100 channels for just $35/month, there’s been a lot of anticipation that DirecTV Now could be a genuine industry disruptor.
Well, it turns out the 100+ channels are actually available at $60/month (the “Go Big” tier), though temporarily on special for $35/month. However, the base tier (“Live a Little”), which includes 60+ channels, turns out to be pretty decent itself, especially with a very aggressive $5/month HBO offer. What’s gained by moving up to Go Big for an extra $25 is actually not that impressive.
Still, as we discuss, with no DVR, limited VOD, scarce broadcast TV (and no CBS at all) and a 2-stream cap, DirecTV Now feels like a niche product. At least for now, that means it will have little impact on incumbent pay-TV operators, tamping down concerns it could roil the industry. Skinny bundles still have lots of challenges, though 2017 is going to be an active year, especially with Hulu and YouTube coming, so it will be worth keeping a close eye on whole category.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 43 seconds)
According to industry data compiled by Leichtman Research Group, cord-cutting remained relatively modest in Q3 ’16, with the top 11 pay-TV operators, which account for approximately 95% of the market, losing 255K subscribers vs. 210K lost in Q3 ’15. As has been the trend in recent quarters, cable operators performed better than satellite and telco operators, which are disprorportionately bearing the brunt of the overall market’s slow, but ongoing, contraction.
Topics: Leichtman Research Group
Hulu announced yesterday that it has struck deals with 21st Century Fox and Disney for access to over 35 different TV networks for Hulu’s skinny bundle, slated to launch in early 2017. The agreements are no surprise given Fox and Disney are Hulu’s two primary investors, along with Comcast (which has a back seat role per restrictions related to its NBCU acquisition) and Time Warner, which recently took a 10% stake in Hulu.
But the devil is in the details, because when it comes to Hulu’s ability to include live broadcast feeds in its skinny bundle, the Fox and Disney deals only get it a small part of the way. Fox owns 17 stations around the country and Disney owns just 8. Since there are 210 DMAs in the U.S. that means Hulu needs to strike agreements with lots of different local station owners to enable a standardized nationwide skinny bundle offer including local broadcast feeds.
I'm pleased to present the 344th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week was busier than usual in the video industry and on today’s podcast, Colin and I discuss a number of news items that hit our radar. First we talk about the new Google-CBS deal for the upcoming Unplugged skinny bundle. Next up is VUDU’s Movies on Us, new free, ad-supported VOD service which we both think has potential. We then dig into Facebook’s new feature for advance scheduling and promoting live broadcasts. Finally we review LeEco’s new content and TVs (Colin attended the company’s big launch event this week.)
Clearly there was a lot happening this week as major players in the video industry continue jockeying for position. One news item that broke after we recorded is the rumor about AT&T acquiring Time Warner. That type of deal would be straight out of the Comcast-NBCU playbook and could trigger even more distribution-content tie-ups.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (26 minutes, 17 seconds)
Each week brings more innovation, product announcements and new business models to the ever-changing video industry. This week was certainly no different, and news from 3 companies - Google (a deal with CBS for its Unplugged skinny bundle), VUDU (a new ad-supported on-demand movie offering) and LeEco (a range of new products from the Chinese giant, including TVs and content) - caught my attention. Each has the potential to cause further industry disruption, or amount to nothing. Below I share thoughts on each.
I'm pleased to present the 339th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up this week we discuss Time Warner’s investment earlier this week in You.i TV, a video app development platform. Colin notes that the acquisition furthers Turner’s strategy of owning its own technology and going direct-to-consumer. From my standpoint, You.i TV is critical in streamlining Turner’s app development across multiple connected devices, where viewing is migrating.
We then transition to talking about skinny bundle research from Altman Vilandrie & Co., which I wrote about yesterday. The data confirmed my skepticism about how difficult it will be for skinny bundle providers to offer sufficiently comprehensive channel lineups while still enticing subscribers with cost savings. We dig into some of the most salient data points.
(apologies, the recording quality was a little sub-par this week)
Listen now to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 16 seconds)
New research from consulting firm Altman Vilandrie & Company highlights the major challenges that current and pending “skinny bundles” face. Skinny bundles - which are scaled down, customized and less expensive groups of TV networks - have become a hot industry topic, and are perceived as valuable in pulling cord-cutters and cord-nevers back into the pay-TV ecosystem.
But AV&Co.’s 7th annual consumer video survey, which is the most extensive research that I’ve seen yet into the prospects for skinny bundles, paints a picture of how narrow the opportunity may in fact be. VideoNuze readers know that I’ve been very skeptical of skinny bundles, whether from Sling TV, PlayStation Vue or soon Hulu and DirecTV Now. The AV&Co. research largely confirms my concerns (see here and here).
Topics: Altman Vilandrie
I'm pleased to present the 334th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
In this week’s podcast, Colin and continue the debate we began back in early May (see here) about whether Hulu’s “skinny bundle” makes sense. We took up the debate again because earlier this week Time Warner announced that it was acquiring a 10% interest in Hulu and that its ad-supported cable networks would be included in the skinny bundle.
As I wrote on Wednesday, the deal seems to muddy Hulu’s skinny bundle proposition further. With all of the TW networks included, Hulu’s cost of programming also rises, in turn driving up the skinny bundle’s retail price. If the bundle ends up starting at $40, $50 or $60 per month, it won’t be able to create meaningful cost savings vs. pay-TV. Even with TW’s networks, there’s still the “Swiss cheese” risk inherent to all skinny bundles - not offering enough breadth to satisfy a family. If all that isn’t enough, Hulu will be competing with its best customers, a very risky approach.
Colin disagrees and thinks this is a big opportunity for networks to take more control of their destiny. Colin argues that given all the uncertainty of the video market, being able to experiment and get actionable insights from viewer data is valuable. In short, he only sees upside opportunity.
It’s a great debate and we’re both very eager to see how the Hulu skinny bundle will actually look when it’s introduced.
Listen now to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 2 seconds)
After months of rumors, Time Warner officially announced this morning that it was taking a 10% ownership interest in Hulu for approximately $580 million. Time Warner also announced that its ad-supported cable networks (TNT, TBS, CNN, etc.) will become part of Hulu’s “skinny bundle” set for launch early next year.
With Time Warner joining Disney and Fox in owning and guiding Hulu (along with Comcast, which is a silent partner), these 3 big cable and broadcast TV networks owners are taking the extraordinary risk of disrupting pay-TV, the very business model that has worked so well for them for decades.
I'm pleased to present the 321st edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Hulu was in the news in a big way this week, confirming a WSJ report that it plans to launch a skinny bundle next year. As I wrote on Monday, the move raises numerous questions, which Colin and I debate on this week’s podcast.
Absent more information, I’m still somewhat skeptical. It feels very risky to me for Disney and Fox to convert Hulu into a pay-TV competitor. It’s also not clear that the economics of a direct subscriber relationship are superior to the steady flow of monthly retransmission consent and affiliate fees. Finally, I wonder about how big the addressable market is and how appealing the Hulu skinny bundle actually will be, particularly from an all-in cost perspective.
Colin, on the other hand, is much more optimistic. He doesn’t believe there’s much risk, thinks the economics are better going direct and believes the service can be very appealing. So clearly we’re coming at this from very different angles.
Listen now to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 40 seconds)
With so much uncertainty in the TV and online video industries these days, I keep telling myself to never be surprised by anything anymore. But last night, when the WSJ headline, “Hulu is Developing a Cable-Style Online TV Service” popped up in my Twitter feed, I have to admit it tested the boundaries of my imagination.
The most immediate head-scratcher was that such a move would position Disney and Fox, two of the three network shareholders in Hulu (along with Comcast, which is now a silent partner due to terms of its NBCU acquisition) as direct competitors of pay-TV operators, their biggest distributors. These companies spend billions of dollars per year to carry the very same TV networks that would now be included in the skinny Hulu lineup.
Another day, another new video service. Or to be specific, another 3 new video services, all coming later this year from AT&T, which announced DIRECTV Now, DIRECTV Mobile and DIRECTV Preview yesterday. The most intriguing of the group is DIRECTV Now. Though few details were released, it feels like it will be more along the lines of skinny bundle Sling TV than full line-up PlayStation Vue. It will likely feature a low entry price with add-on packages of certain networks.
While analysts and press recently reported that Sling TV ended 2015 with 500K-600K subscribers, I remain skeptical about how broadly attractive the service ultimately will be and more generally, how appealing the “virtual pay-TV operator” model is. Barring anything surprising from AT&T, it’s likely that many of my same challenges Sling TV faces will apply to DIRECTV Now as well.
I’ve written about these at length in the past (here, here, here), but to quickly recap:
Skinny bundle service Sling TV got a lot of press last week as parent company Dish Network reported its Q4 ’15 and full year results. Based on a lot of assumptions, analysts MoffettNathanson estimated that Sling TV ended the year with 523K subscribers. Meanwhile, the WSJ cited unnamed sources estimating Sling TV now has more than 600K subscribers.
Once again, Dish Network provided no detailed breakout on Sling TV’s subscriber growth. As many analysts have observed, that’s a deliberate strategy to obscure the subscriber losses occurring in Dish’s core direct satellite service. On the earnings call, Sling TV’s CEO Roger Lynch only said that the vast majority of Sling TV subscribers are not currently pay-TV subscribers, noting they were either cord-nevers or cord-cutters.
So-called "skinny bundles" of TV networks face long odds of success given the dispersion of actual TV viewership, cross-ownership of broadcast-cable TV networks by media conglomerates and underlying economic realities, according to a new analysis by MoffettNathanson.
The conclusions align with points I made in last Friday's podcast and previously, as I've asserted that the "Swiss cheese" channel lineups found in skinny bundles will lack broad appeal. This was a central finding from recent Bernstein research as well. Conversely, bulking up channel lineups with more TV networks (as Sony has done with its new PlayStation Vue service) eliminates the opportunity for a cost-savings value proposition that would resonate most with would-be cord-cutters or cord-nevers.
Sling TV has received an enormous amount of attention since being announced last month at CES. Some hyper-enthusiastic observers have heralded Sling TV as a sign that traditional pay-TV is on the verge of crumbling. But, having now spent some time with Sling TV, I think a more accurate assessment of Sling TV is that it is fundamentally an old school linear TV service, modestly freshened up with a new online wrapper. In its current form, Sling TV looks very unlikely to gain much traction.
Dish Network has finally announced its OTT virtual pay-TV operator ("vPop") service, dubbed "Sling TV," priced at $20/month and available in Q1 '15 on multiple connected and mobile devices.
Sling TV includes 12 linear cable TV networks from Disney (ESPN, ESPN2, Disney Channel and ABC Family, plus a feed of Maker Studios' videos), Turner (Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, TNT and Adult Swim) and Scripps (Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel). Beyond the obvious missing cable TV networks, none of the big 4 broadcast TV networks are included.
In addition to the $20/month tier, Sling TV is also offering two $5/month packages - one for kids (with Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV and Duck TV) and one with news and information (with HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV).