If your head is still spinning from last week's HBO/CBS/potential cord-cutting news, then buckle up, because here's another doozy that seems ripe to be right around the corner: a partnership deal between Netflix and Comcast. You heard that right - two companies that have been sniping at each for years now have a perfect moment to strike a partnership deal with significant upside to both.
First, as far as the deal itself, it would roughly follow the template Netflix has already established with large pay-TV operators in Europe and smaller ones in the U.S. All those deals' details aren't known, but at a minimum they include operators integrating Netflix's app into their IP-based set-top boxes'/devices' UI, certain co-marketing arrangements, and some type of revenue sharing by Netflix (i.e. one-time new subscriber bounties and/or ongoing revenue sharing).
"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 243rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Earlier this week both Colin and I were intrigued to see AT&T in the market with a new $39 per month offer putting broadband and OTT front and center, with HBO/HBO Go plus a year of Amazon Prime. Just the low tier of U-verse U-basic TV is included. Colin and I both interpreted this as an aggressive move to attract millennials/cord-nevers.
The offer is also the latest by a pay-TV operator using OTT services as a lure. We've seen several European and smaller U.S. pay-TV operators promote Netflix as well. Colin and I discuss how operators are clearly becoming more flexible with regard to OTT services. We wrap up with a preview of some of the new OTT pay-TV services coming to market and whether a linear TV style package makes sense and whether they too should incorporate OTT services.
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Here's more evidence that over-the-top video may be pay-TV's friend, not its foe, as conventional wisdom holds. As reported by Broadband TV News, YouTube is enjoying early and widespread success since its recent launch by pay-TV operator UPC Hungary to hundreds of thousands of subscribers there.
Unveiled at the end of May as part of UPC Hungary's first phase rollout of multiple online apps, YouTube is already generating over a million minutes per day of viewing by UPC Hungary subscribers, the highest among the 20 different apps now available.
According to a new eMarketer forecast, in 2014 YouTube will account for 18.9% of the U.S. online video ad market, down from 21.2% in 2013. Still, YouTube will see a healthy 39.2% year-over-year net video ad revenue increase, from $810 million in '13 to $1.13 billion in '14. eMarketer forecasts YouTube's U.S. video ad revenue to continue growing, by 34.2% in '15 to $1.51 billion and by a further 18.3% in '16 to $1.75 billion.
September is here and that means summer 2014 is in the rear-view mirror. For online video and the broader video ecosystem, it was another busy few months, as viewers around the world continue to shift their consumption patterns, with many companies scrambling to keep pace. Below I've distilled my list of the 10 biggest online video stories of the summer - read on and let me know if I've missed something!
I'm pleased to present the 237th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we dive deep into the question of whether YouTube is indomitable or vulnerable to new competitors. Colin observes that the 45% revenue split YouTube keeps has opened the door for everyone from Vessel (former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar's startup) to Yahoo to others to approach YouTube stars about better deal terms. Major MCNs like Maker Studios (acquired by Disney) and Fullscreen (rumored to be acquired by Otter Media) are expanding beyond YouTube with their own properties.
However, I don't see much changing with the revenue split, except maybe the largest players getting improved terms. For both established and startup content providers, YouTube offers unparalleled audience reach, publishing tools and monetization. I offer a few examples as proof of YouTube's power: PewDiePie (which now has an astounding 29 million subscribers), Vice News (a pure YouTube news channel now able to take over the NYTimes.com's masthead ad) and Sorted Food (a British startup that has gained 870K+ subscribers on YouTube and now tops its Food category).
For all of these content providers and tons of others, YouTube provides an open, flexible distribution platform unlike anything before it in the media business. Ad splits will continue to be a bone of contention, but YouTube is poised to only get stronger going forward.
In an interview with Recode on Tuesday, Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Shawn Layden said the company is still planning to launch a "revolutionary" OTT pay-TV service by the end of 2014.
However, as Intel learned with its own misguided OnCue foray, the big cable network owners aren't enabling any revolutions to occur in the pay-TV industry. To the contrary, they're working hard to extend the status quo. This, plus other factors, means the odds of success for Sony's nascent OTT pay-TV service are extremely low.
Here's a new measure of how deeply online video viewing, and Netflix in particular, have penetrated the living room: 49% of all U.S. households now have at least one TV connected to the Internet, slightly over double the 24% level from 2010. For Netflix, 49% of its subscribers report watching online video on their connected TV weekly vs. 8% weekly use among all non-Netflix subscribers. 78% of Netflix streaming subscribers watch Netflix on a connected TV.
TVs are connected either through game consoles, Blu-ray players, Smart TVs or devices like Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, etc. The data is according to the 8th annual Leichtman Research Group's Emerging Video Services study.
Binge-viewing is surely one of the most notable cultural phenomena of the past few years. Barely registering as a concept less than 3 years ago, many recent research reports now cite binge-viewing as having been adopted - if not regularly practiced - by a majority of TV viewers (examples here, here, here, here, here, here).
The shift toward binge-viewing has immense implications for the TV and video industries, touching everything from the creative process to programming/distribution decisions to monetization approaches. Some companies are fully embracing binge-viewing and riding its wave, while others are taking a more cautious approach.
Stepping back though, how exactly did binge-viewing become such a cultural phenomenon? I believe there are at least 5 key contributing factors, with the relationships among them creating a perfect storm of growth.
I'm pleased to present the 228th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we first discuss how broadband's penetration in the U.S. is closing in on that of pay-TV's. New research from Leichtman Research Group revealed the top providers added nearly 1.2 million broadband subscribers in Q1 '14 (the best quarter in 2 years), as compared with around 260K pay-TV subscribers. The biggest ISPs now have approximately 85.5 million broadband subscribers, whereas the top pay-TV operators have 95.8 million subscribers.
All of this is relevant because it demonstrates how broadband has become a de facto parallel video distribution platform - the fundamental underlying infrastructure for online video. Many of us take robust broadband almost for granted now, yet in reality it wasn't that long ago that broadband wasn't mainstream and high-quality online video quite scarce.
We then move on to talk about Netflix's big expansion into 6 new European countries. Colin lays out the case why to be bullish on the expansion, while also noting the new challenges Netflix will face.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 57 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 227th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we dig into the Turner-Comcast deal from earlier this week, under which Turner is providing past seasons' and full current season's episodes to some of its most popular programs to Comcast for viewing on VOD and TV Everywhere. As I wrote earlier this week, a key enabler of the deal is Turner's ability to dynamically insert ads in the on-demand streams.
Colin and I agree that, to the extent the deal becomes a template for others, it could have a wide-ranging impact on the ecosystem. To date, Netflix and other OTT providers have been able to aggregate huge libraries of past seasons' episodes, which have fueled binge-viewing.
But as advertising in VOD/TVE grows and improves, it could become the financial foundation for operators to gain far greater content rights. That in turn could change the negotiating balance for content and perceptions of pay-TV operators. Colin and I explain what could be ahead.
Listen in to learn more!
(Note also Colin is hosting a free webinar next Tuesday on Fox Sports Go TVE app. Sign up here.)
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 49 seconds)
The latest evidence supporting the craze around binge-viewing was released by consultancy Miner & Co., finding that 70% of U.S. TV viewers now consider themselves binge-viewers. Miner defined binge-viewing as watching 3 or more episodes in a single session. For most, binge-viewing is still a monthly activity (90%), followed by weekly (63%) and daily (17%).
The survey found that 55% of binge-viewers and 61% of frequent binge-viewers were millennials. It also defined three categories of binge-viewers: "Streamers" (35%) who use services like Netflix/Hulu Plus/Amazon; "Marathoners" (18%) who watch TV marathons and "DVRers" (16%) who mostly binge-view using their DVR.
Netflix will be integrated by 3 small U.S. cable TV operators via TiVo, per a joint announcement by the companies. Atlantic Broadband, Grande Communications and RCN will begin integrating Netflix in multiple ways: by assigning Netflix its own channel in their on-screen guides, exposing the Netflix app for quick access to sign-up or login and incorporating Netflix content in recommendations and search results alongside linear, VOD and the subscriber's DVR content.
For Netflix, the deals follow similar implementations in Europe with Virgin and Com Hem. Netflix has avidly pursued inclusion in the primary pay-TV experience, helping it become even more mainstream by eliminating the step of switching inputs to a connected device. Another benefit to Netflix is the cable operators will also integrate with Netflix's Open Connect content delivery platform.
There are many different ways to think about the deals; below are 5 of my key takeaways:
I'm pleased to present the 224th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This was an unusually busy week with many industry announcements, so today's format is a roundup discussion of four items that seemed most significant to us.
First up is HBO's exclusive new licensing deal with Amazon, which is the latest evidence of the surging value of high-quality content libraries. Second is Apple's reveal that it has sold 20 million Apple TVs to date, making it more than just a "hobby." Next, we turn to Netflix, which reported stellar Q1 results earlier this week. Finally, we look at Comcast's Q1 and Time Warner Cable's Q1 results. Both companies reported healthier video subscriber numbers (though Verizon reported a much smaller quarter for FiOS video subscribers). The question still looms how meaningful cord-cutting is in reality.
(Note, we had major technical issues with Skype this week, so in the last one-third of the podcast I sound like I'm in a fish tank. Apologies in advance.)
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 46 seconds)
Netflix announced strong financial performance for Q1 '14 late yesterday, continuing its momentum from 2013. The company reported a total of 48.35 million global subscribers, including 35.67 million in the U.S. and 12.68 million internationally. That was up a total of 6.25 million subscribers vs. the end of 2013, and just slightly behind the 6.4 million subscribers added in Q4 '13.
It's becoming harder and harder to remember the days when YouTube was principally known for its quirky user-generated videos featuring cats on skateboards and the like. The evidence of YouTube's transformation into a legitimate video distribution powerhouse seems to pop up on an almost daily basis. Here are a few of the disparate items that have hit my radar:
I'm pleased to present the 219th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia, who was at the TV Connect conference this week in London. First, up, Colin shares some of what he heard from Francisco Varela, YouTube's global director of platform partnerships. Francisco talked about YouTube taking back development of their apps from Smart TV manufacturers so users can have more immersive experiences.
We then turn our attention to the settlement of the Google-Viacom litigation, over alleged copyright infringement by YouTube, dating to 2007. It's legitimate to ask if there was ultimately any point to the litigation. As I explain though, I agree that at a minimum the litigation accelerated the development of YouTube's Content ID system which has been very valuable to the entire ecosystem.
Last, we also discuss new research from Vubiquity which found that 58% of respondents said they're interested in downloading TV shows and movies included in their pay-TV subscription. This echoes my bullishness on TiVo Stream's download feature which I've found extremely useful.
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 24 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)