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Analysis for 'Skinny Bundles'

  • VideoNuze Podcast #390: CBS All Access Gains on Star Trek; YouTube TV Takes Risky Bet on World Series

    I’m pleased to present the 390th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week, we discuss the impact of the “Star Trek: Discovery” launch on CBS All Access. CBS has said that All Access daily subscriber growth is up 200% over last year since the show’s launch. As Colin notes though, it’s hard to draw conclusions yet about how sustainable the additions will be or whether churn will spike. More originals are clearly needed to broaden the service’s appeal.

    We then turn to the surprising news this week that YouTube TV will be the presenting sponsor of the 2017 World Series. Colin and I agree it’s really a sign of the times when a skinny bundle has stepped up this way. However, since Fox, the network broadcasting the games, isn’t even available yet on YouTube TV in half the top 50 U.S. markets, the sponsorship carries risks. Colin also notes that given YouTube TV’s programming costs, it is likely losing money for each new subscriber.

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  • Can An Entertainment-Centric Skinny Bundle Succeed?

    Can an entertainment-centric skinny bundle succeed? That question will be answered soon when a new service including TV networks from Discovery, Viacom, AMC, A+E and Scripps launches, according to a recent WSJ report. The service will be called “Philo” which is the same name as the technology provider that will power it.

    Skinny bundles have received a huge amount of attention over the past couple of years as a lower cost approach the pay-TV industry is using to retain would-be cord-cutters. However, skinny bundles have faced the vexing question of whether to include expensive sports networks in their offers, which in turn pressure already minuscule profit margins.

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  • Broadcast TV Poised to Play Bigger Role in Skinny Bundles’ Success

    The competitive dynamics among skinny bundles are still developing, but one thing is becoming increasingly clear: including a full array of broadcast TV channels in all of the biggest U.S. markets, and even many of the smaller ones, will be table stakes. It seems as if a week doesn’t pass these days without one of the five major skinny bundles announcing a new carriage deal for certain broadcast channels in a variety of local markets.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #384: Rounding Up the Week’s Top News

    I’m pleased to present the 384th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    On today’s podcast, Colin and I first discuss Q2 ’17 pay-TV video subscriber results. Skinny bundles played a big part in offsetting accelerating losses in traditional multichannel services. Will this continue and if so what are the implications?

    We then dig into the DVD market’s decline which was further accelerated this week when Amazon decided to close down its LOVEFiLM DVD-by-mail business in several European countries. Colin notes that Netflix’s DVD business has had a huge drop-off also and he speculates whether it too might get cut loose. On the bright side, Redbox re-upped its deal with Lionsgate, showing that DVDs still have a bit of life left.

    Finally, Apple was back in the news this week, reportedly allocating $1 billion for original TV shows. We speculate on whether this will be successful and what challenges Apple will face.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #381: Inside Comcast's and AT&T's Q2 Video Results and the Role of Skinny Bundles

    I’m pleased to present the 381st edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we discuss both Comcast’s and AT&T’s Q2 ’17 video subscriber results, which were dramatically different, and what we see as the implications.

    First, Comcast, lost 34K residential video subs in Q2 ’17, as compared with losing just 4K in Q2 ’16.  Colin and I differ in our interpretation, with him more concerned that Comcast’s streak with X1 has likely run its course. I’m more sanguine because as I look more broadly, over the past 4 quarters, Comcast has managed to turn in exceptional performance in the face of massive cord-cutting headwinds.

    By contrast, AT&T’s core video businesses - Uverse and DirecTV - have been hemorrhaging subscribers over the past year, and Q2 highlights how deeply discounted and bundled DirecTV Now is the only bright spot in video for AT&T.  But as I explain, the company’s willingness to all but give away its skinny bundle to preserve its wireless business has potentially profound long-term consequences for the entire pay-TV industry, with Amazon increasingly well-positioned to be a big winner.

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  • DirecTV Now is Quickly Becoming Pivotal to AT&T’s Wireless Business

    With AT&T reporting its Q2 ’17 results yesterday, the pivotal role that the company’s DirecTV Now skinny bundle is playing in sustaining its wireless business is becoming increasingly clear. It has never been any great secret that DirecTV Now, which now has approximately 500K subscribers, was meant to be bundled with AT&T’s wireless service, but the speed with which it is already contributing to the wireless business is quite noteworthy.

    In supporting slides and on the earnings call, AT&T CFO John Stephens repeatedly called out the role DTV generally and DTV Now specifically are playing, particularly in reducing post-paid wireless churn (the type of wireless service most readers of this post have). At .79%, Q2 marked the lowest-ever quarter of post-paid churn.  More broadly, post-paid churn is down 25 basis points since the close of DirecTV deal.

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  • Startup Suppose TV Simplifies Choosing the TV Service That’s the Best Fit For You

    With the launch of numerous skinny bundles, direct-to-consumer OTT services and innovative new packages from incumbent pay-TV operators, it’s more confusing than ever for viewers to decide which service(s) are right for them and how much they should pay. For skinny bundles in particular, the confusion is compounded by the fact there’s little rhyme or reason to which TV networks are included and which aren’t, leading to what I’ve called the “Swiss cheese” problem of too many holes in their lineups that consequently diminish their value.

    To address this complexity, startup Suppose TV has launched a free online tool that allows users to specify their geographic area and which TV networks are most important to them with further filters like DVR availability and device/multi-stream compatibility. Suppose’s algorithm considers these inputs and then provides unbiased recommendations on the optimal services, starting with the “Best Fit” service.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #372: Weekly Wrap-up: Viacom’s Skinny Bundle, Facebook TV, Amazon Channels Goes International, Snapchat Shows Gain

    I’m pleased to present the 372nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we discuss 4 stories that caught our attention in recent days. First, Viacom’s plan to anchor an entertainment-only skinny bundle without sports or news networks. Colin and I are intrigued, but for a variety of reasons are skeptical Viacom is the right company to lead this.

    Next we turn to Facebook, which has made no secret of its interest in pursuing longer-form video. This week brought news of its initial partnerships and potential business models.

    We then discuss Amazon Channels expansion into the UK and Germany this week, building on the US model for Prime users to easily subscribe to various SVOD services. Both of us have been very bullish on Channels for a while and see lots of potential for it in other geographies.

    Finally we dig into Snapchat Shows, the fast-growing social network’s plan to enlist multiple media companies to make vertical videos. Variety did a really good roundup of all the activity earlier this week, which suggests substantial progress.

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  • Why An Amazon Skinny Bundle Seems All But Inevitable

    Although there are already 5 major skinny bundles in the market - DirecTV Now, Hulu With Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and YouTube TV - it seems all but inevitable that a 6th will emerge, from Amazon, which could be the most disruptive one yet. While I continue to be skeptical about how big the market for skinny bundles currently is, Amazon has a number of unique attributes that could both enlarge the potential audience and change the current competitive dynamics.

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  • Broadcast TV’s Role in Skinny Bundles Bolstered by Networks’ Affiliate Deals

    I’ve been a skeptic of skinny bundles, partially because of the huge holes in their channel lineups (what I’ve dubbed the “Swiss cheese” problem) which I believe narrows their appeal. The most glaring hole has been the absence of all the broadcast TV networks except in a handful of the biggest metropolitan areas. Not having all the broadcast networks is a serious drawback because even in the fragmented cable era, they still draw the biggest audiences outside of sports.

    But there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic that this problem may soon be solved. Three of the four big broadcast networks have announced agreements with their affiliate boards which essentially allow the networks to negotiate carriage in skinny bundles on their behalf. NBC was the first to announce its deal, on April 13th. That was followed by Disney ABC on April 24th. And then yesterday, CBS announced its own deal. While FOX hasn’t announced a deal, it has added more affiliates to DirecTV Now, which is a positive sign of progress.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #369: First Impressions of Hulu With Live TV

    I’m pleased to present the 369th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First, we’d like to thank this week’s podcast sponsor Brightcove,  which has their annual PLAY conference coming up in Boston the week of May 22nd. It’s a great show with lots of valuable sessions. I’ll be interviewing Stacey Shepatin, EVP, Director of National Video Investments at Trillia / Hill Holliday in a spotlight session focusing on the changing world of premium video ad buying. Learn more here and note, the first 50 visitors receive a Brightcove PLAY t-shirt!

    Earlier this week, Hulu With Live TV launched in beta, a year after initial reports about it surfaced. On today’s podcast we discuss some of the pros and cons of Hulu With Live TV and how it compares in the ultra-crowded skinny bundle market. Colin was also able to take Hulu With Live TV for a quick spin and shares his initial impressions of the service, particularly how it stacks up against DirecTV Now, which he’s been using for a while.

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  • Hulu Officially Enters Crowded Skinny Bundle Fray

    As expected, Hulu announced its skinny bundle offering today at its NewFront/Upfront presentation. Dubbed “Hulu With Live TV,” and priced at $39.99 per month, the service includes 50+ live and on-demand channels, 50 hours of DVR recording, 2 concurrent streams and 6 profiles.  

    Hulu With Live TV is the latest skinny bundle to come to market, joining Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue and others rumored still to come from Comcast, Verizon, etc. All of these skinny bundles are vying for a slice of the approximately 15-20 million broadband-only homes in the U.S. (and growing). And though they won’t say it, they’re also looking to draw some of the approximately 95 million existing pay-TV subscribers who are questioning the value of their expensive multichannel bundle as their viewership moves to SVOD services like Netflix, Amazon and others.

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  • Research: 22% of U.S. Broadband Homes Don’t Have Pay-TV, Double Vs. 2011

    As of year-end 2016, 22% of the 100 million U.S. homes that subscribe to broadband did not also subscribe to a pay-TV service. That’s up from 9% of the 85 million U.S. homes that subscribed to broadband but did not also subscribe to a pay-TV service in 2011. Over the course of 2016 alone, the rate of broadband homes subscribing to pay-TV declined from 82% to 78%, resulting in 22 million broadband homes without pay-TV at the end of last year, compared with 8 million in 2011.

    The data comes from a new report from The Diffusion Group, “Life Without Legacy Pay-TV: A Profile of U.S. Cord Cutters and Cord Nevers” that has just been published.

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  • Is There Any Rhyme or Reason for Which TV Networks are Included in Skinny Bundles?

    Here’s a Monday morning brain teaser to consider: is there any rhyme or reason for which TV networks are being included in skinny bundles like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV and soon Hulu? If there is, it’s hard to discern what it is. In fact, the composition of skinny bundles is getting more puzzling all the time.

    For instance, last Friday, Hulu announced that it had reached a distribution deal with A+E Networks for its forthcoming skinny bundle. The deal followed previously announced ones with Hulu’s corporate parents Fox, Disney and Turner, plus CBS. But just a couple weeks ago, when YouTube TV was announced, it didn’t include A+E Networks (nor Turner, Viacom, Discovery, AMC or Scripps), though it did include CBS, Disney, Fox and NBCU.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #360: YouTube TV’s Pros and Cons

    I’m pleased to present the 360th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Earlier this week, YouTube took the wraps off its skinny bundle, YouTube TV. In today’s podcast, Colin and I explore the pros and cons of YouTube TV and also revisit our debate over skinny bundles’ value proposition. We’re both somewhat skeptical about YouTube TV, given the sheer number of popular cable TV networks missing from its lineup. But with YouTube’s massive user base and promotional opportunity, we both believe YouTube TV will attract an audience.

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  • Handicapping YouTube TV’s Odds of Success

    Another day, another skinny bundle launch. Yesterday, YouTube took the wraps off its long-rumored skinny bundle, dubbed YouTube TV, which will debut in unspecified select markets in the coming months. YouTube TV has all the usual skinny bundle characteristics - low price ($35/month), many broadcast and cable TV networks included, but many missing as well (e.g. Viacom, Discovery, AMC, Turner, Scripps, A+E, etc.), and some updated web-like features (unlimited cloud DVR, recommendations powered by Google, UI that integrates YouTube content, etc.).

    Fundamentally, YouTube TV’s value proposition to its target market of millennial viewers is the same as other skinny bundles: for a lower monthly price than a typical pay-TV multichannel bundle, you’ll still get access to a lot of great TV, available on all devices.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #354: Interview with Sling TV’s Chief Product Officer Ben Weinberger

    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.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #349: DirecTV Now Has Potential and Limitations

    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.

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  • Cord-Cutting Remained Modest in Q3, But Potentially Turbulent 2017 Looms

    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.

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  • Hulu Gets Fox and Disney Networks, But Live Broadcasts are a Challenge as World Series Shows

    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.

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