"Content is King." No, wait, "Distribution is King." No, wait, "Content and distribution are equals and need to work together." And on the debate has raged for years about what's at the core of the media and entertainment industry's success. Meanwhile, Netflix keeps proving that data is fast becoming the real king, with profound implications for all players in the industry.
The latest evidence of data's ascendance and Netflix's ability to harness it is the company's new 4 movie deal with Adam Sandler. Opinions about Sandler are all over the board, but in a must-read interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix's content head Ted Sarandos neatly summed up why Netflix made such a big commitment to him:
"The more global we become, the more access we have to global behavior data so we can see what people are watching all around the world. Very uniquely, he (Sandler) stands out for his global appeal to Netflix subscribers. Even movies that were soft in the U.S. outperformed dramatically on Netflix in the U.S. and around the world."
I'm pleased to present the 244th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Netflix kicked up a lot of dust earlier this week, when it announced the sequel of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," produced by The Weinstein Company, will be available simultaneously as part of Netflix monthly subscriptions and in IMAX theaters when it premieres in August, 2015. The so-called "day-and-date" strategy prompted two of the three big U.S. IMAX chains, Regal and Cinemark, to declare they won't show "Crouching Tiger" on their screens.
The core issue here is whether a meaningful percentage of Netflix subscribers will opt to watch the movie as part of their subscription, thereby cannibalizing potential theater sales. Colin and I agree this risk is high, mainly because a family of four would pay at least $60-$80 just for tickets to see the movie in IMAX, a stark premium over their $8 Netflix subscription.
Admittedly, IMAX is a very unique experience, but with the quality of today's HDTVs and home theater, for many, watching at home is quite stellar. As such, theater owners seem well justified in boycotting the movie to preserve their long-term value proposition.
The "Crouching Tiger" move raises a host of other questions Colin and I also dig into: Will it have a positive impact on piracy? Is Netflix signaling a serious push beyond TV into movies (see also its 4-movie Adam Sandler deal this week)? And, is Netflix shifting toward a more exclusive content strategy?
Click here to listen to the podcast (20 minutes, 28 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 216th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In today's podcast, we first discuss Disney Movies Anywhere, which launched this week. Both of us like it a lot (more of my take here). Colin believes it could also become a huge threat to UltraViolet if one other major studio were to adopt Disney's KeyChest technology.
Then we turn our attention to the Netflix-Comcast interconnection agreement, which has taken on a life of its own this week. It's rare when Colin and I see the world completely differently, but in this case, we do. Colin believes the deal sets a dangerous precedent because Netflix is being provided "extraordinary access" to Comcast's network and also that, going forward, if a content provider wants to get good performance on Comcast's network, it would have to do a deal with Comcast.
I don't see it this way. As I wrote earlier this week, the deal strikes me as business as usual, with the joint press release specifically saying "Netflix receives no preferential network treatment." Netflix made a business decision to negotiate directly with Comcast and manage/deliver their content themselves rather than work through a CDN which is what the vast majority of content providers do. This path obviously made sense for Netflix, but remember, it's in a somewhat unique situation because it accounts for 1/3 of all Internet traffic at certain times.
Because Netflix and Comcast said so little about the deal themselves, and because there is so much suspicion of Comcast (and other broadband ISPs) regarding net neutrality, market power, etc., a lot more has been read into this deal than I believe is warranted.
Colin and I have a very vigorous debate on these issues and ultimately agree to disagree :-)
Click here to listen to the podcast (30 minutes, 27 seconds)
(Note: Following is the first of several interviews I'm doing with speakers appearing at X Media Research's upcoming BroadbandTVCon in Hollywood on Nov. 5th and 6th, where I'll also be moderating. VideoNuze readers can save $75 on registration using the code "VideoNuze.")
Following is an edited transcript of my interview with Lisa Judson, GM of YEAH!, a new streaming movie service launched by AMC Networks this past March.
What is the philosophy behind YEAH!?
We believe that movies have become a commodity online and that we could provide a unique experience, to enrich a film with original content about the film. We try to tell the story of the movie while you watch the movie. We see ourselves as movie lovers, so we're aligned with our audience. We don't want to just deliver a movie, but rather an overall experience that will connect and engage audiences (see screenshot below).
At the NABShow last week, NeuLion and Deluxe Digital Distribution announced a partnership creating the "NeuLion TVE Platform with Deluxe OnDemand" which enables customers to deliver branded online movie stores. Targeted customers include retailers, service providers and content owners who can tap into Deluxe's catalog of 50K movie and TV show titles.
At NABShow I did a video interview with Chris Wagner, NeuLion's EVP and co-founder, who explains the deal and its potential.
Ever had the experience of hearing about a movie, being intrigued by it, wondering when/where you'll be able to see it, and then, as time passes, forgetting all about it? GoWatchIt, a free service, cleverly solves this problem, allowing you to search for and save movies to a queue and then alerting you as they become available in the future, whether in theaters, on DVD/Blu-ray or online/on-demand.
Now GoWatchIt has partnered with the Sundance Institute, whose 2013 Film Festival is currently underway. Sundance is historically the place where some of the hottest independent films are debuted. However, given the nature of film distribution cycle times, frequently these movies won't actually become available for viewing for many months.
Disney's announcement that it was shutting down its Disney Movies Online service on Dec. 31 is another blow for transactional VOD and digital lockers for movies, two corners of the online video ecosystem that are struggling for traction.
Transactional VOD - renting or buying movies online - has become a tougher sell to consumers in the digital age. Not long ago Hollywood studios' home video divisions boomed as many consumers were keen to buy DVDs and create large collections of movies that they prominently displayed. But while DVD sales have gone off the cliff recently, digital rentals and purchases haven't picked up the slack.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 140th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG Report podcast.
In this week's podcast Colin and I discuss NOW TV, which Sky, the big British satellite-based pay-TV operator, launched on Tuesday. Initially the service allows unbundled access to Sky Movies, a collection of around 600 early window movies, on either a monthly subscription or a la carte rental basis. The big breakthrough here is that traditionally Sky Movies was only available if you first subscribed to the basic service, which costs around 60 pounds/month.
Colin views the move as an attempt to re-start growth at Sky, moving the company beyond the approximately 10 million subscribers it has, mainly by appealing to broadband-only households. Clearly in NOW TV's cross-hairs are both Netflix and LoveFilm. More broadly, Colin and I discuss how NOW TV might or might not be a model for U.S. pay-TV operators to consider. I wrote earlier this week that with the cost of pay-TV service continuing to rise and consumers' expectations shifting, it's time for the industry to present more flexible pricing and packaging options to subscribers.
Listen in to learn more.
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 36 seconds)
Last week at the NABShow, Rovi's Product Marketing Director Simon James came by the VideoNuze booth for an interview. Simon talks about how Rovi is helping jump-start UltraViolet's "disc-to-digital" efforts. At the show Rovi announced its TotalCode Enterprise 2.0, which supports the downloadable UV Common File Format. Simon also describes a recent deal with Samsung that allows Blu-ray owners to create a digital copy of their discs themselves, avoiding the step of going to a retail outlet. See video below (8 minutes, 5 seconds)
Yesterday YouTube got a lot of coverage of its new licensing deal for hundreds of movies from Paramount because separately, the studio's parent company, Viacom, has been involved in a bitter copyright litigation with YouTube for years. While it's noteworthy that the parties are able to do business despite suing each other, the bigger questions here are whether YouTube's initiative to rent Hollywood movies makes sense and can succeed?
Last Thursday night, a Bloomberg headline, "Online Film Viewing in U.S. to Top Discs in 2012, IHS Says," caught my eye. The article reported that media research firm IHS Screen Digest is forecasting that "legal online viewings of films will more than double to 3.4 billion this year from 1.4 billion in 2011." Meanwhile IHS is forecasting that DVD/Blu-ray viewing will decline from 2.6 billion viewings in 2011 to 2.4 billion in 2012.
Over the weekend, as I kept seeing other publications essentially reiterating the Bloomberg story, I started wondering how IHS arrived at its forecast, the details of which I haven't seen. Doing a little back of the envelope analysis, as I show below, it's awfully hard to see how streaming movies in the U.S. will more than double from last year, unless some very unexpected things happen with Netflix (IHS notes that 94% of streaming movie volume was subscription-based, and of course, Netflix massively dominates this segment). Rather, it seems likely DVD/Blu-ray will hold on for another year.
I'd wager the two most spoken words in the media and entertainment industries these days are "devices" and "access." Executives are gripped by the idea that consumers must have access to their content across a growing universe of video-enabled devices. In fact, the premise of the industry's two most strategic initiatives - UltraViolet and TV Everywhere - is that by enabling access to content on multiple devices, traditional business models will either be reinvigorated (in UV's case for DVD purchases) or buttressed against attack (in TVE's case for pay-TV's multichannel bundle).
If only things were that straightforward. While it's undeniable that improved access on multiple devices is extremely valuable, especially for today's on-the-go viewer, the shortcoming of both UV and TVE is that neither addresses fundamental changes in consumer behaviors or preferences. Broader access is only half the battle here; the other half is devising the right business model that meets consumers' vastly changed expectations. Until this piece of the equation is solved, I doubt that either UV or TVE is going to have the industry's hoped-for impact.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 123rd edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Mar. 2, 2012. This week's podcast has a different format; instead of discussing one topic in depth, we touch on three areas - the new lawsuit against Aereo, Netflix's deal with Starz ending (and whether the "flix" is coming out of Netflix) and UltraViolet's strategy of using discs to drive adoption.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 117th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Jan. 20, 2012. In this week's podcast we dig into UltraViolet (UV), the digital library/format recently launched to enable consumers with multi-device streaming access to Hollywood movies.
It's still early days for UV, but there have been some hiccups in the rollout, with numerous longer-term challenges looming as we detail. Still, UV is a critical initiative to help studios reinvigorate the sell-through model that has declined in the wake of lower-cost options like Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, etc. and so there are strong incentives to make it successful. We also review new UV messaging that's rolling out and what's ahead for 2012. Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 2 seconds)
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