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Analysis for 'Aggregators'

  • Understanding the Value of Platforms Given the Proliferation of Content [VIDEO]

    Yesterday I had the pleasure of moderating a super session at INTX 2016, the cable TV industry’s annual trade show. The title was “Is Content Really King? Understanding the Value of Platforms in a Crowded Video Space.” The session included Steve Shannon (GM, Content and Services, Roku), Evan Shapiro (EVP, Digital Enterprises, NBCU) and Matt Strauss (EVP/GM, Video Services, Comcast Cable).

    It’s no secret that there’s more great video to watch now than ever. That’s created challenges for viewers to find what they want and for content providers to fully monetize their ever-growing production investments. That’s why the role of platforms is increasing in importance.

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  • YouTube Shouldn’t Be Worried About Amazon Video Direct, At Least Not Yet Anyway

    When Amazon Video Direct (AVD) was announced last week, lots of industry observers saw it as a new YouTube competitor. At some point that may be true, but for now, there is little for YouTube, the undisputed 800-pound gorilla of the online video industry, to be worried about.

    While video content providers will welcome another deep-pocketed third-party distributor into the market, the most important challenge AVD faces is proving that it can make incremental money for these providers, beyond what they can already earn on YouTube, their own direct channels/apps and elsewhere.

    Amazon revealed 4 different ways that content providers can monetize their videos, but each has challenges.

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  • Google Executives Tout YouTube's Momentum But Offer Few Specifics

    Google’s parent Alphabet reported strong Q4 ’15 earnings late yesterday, with $21.4 billion in revenue (up 18% vs. Q4 ’14) and operating income of $5.4 billion (up 22% vs. Q4 ’14). On the earnings call, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat and Google CEO Sundar Pichai repeatedly cited YouTube as one of the key contributors to the company’s very successful quarter.

    But as usual, there were few specifics of YouTube’s actual financial performance disclosed, with Porat only saying “YouTube revenue continues to grow at a very significant rate” primarily due to the TrueView skippable ad unit.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #298; T-Mobile Disrupts Mobile Video, SVOD Licensing in Flux

    I'm pleased to present the 298th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    T-Mobile announced something breakthrough earlier this week, with its new “Binge On” program that allows its subscribers to watch unlimited video from 24 different providers without it counting against their data plans. Granted video quality will be a modest 480p or better, but the significance here is that T-Mobile is enabling long-form viewing out of the home, without needing to hunt down a good WiFi connection or risk massive data plan overage charges.

    Over 2 years ago, I questioned whether optimistic forecasts for mobile video consumption were realistic given expensive data plans. In fact, research has shown that most “mobile” video viewing actually occurs in the home. But with T-Mobile’s Binge On, it will be fascinating to see if other wireless carriers are compelled to do something similar, which would be a huge boon to video providers. Colin and I discuss the ramifications.

    We then turn our attention to SVOD licensing, which is all over the board. Last week, Time Warner said it was going to pull back on SVOD licensing, but earlier this week AMC said it will continue to pursue a one year window. Meanwhile, Time Warner is now rumored to be investing in Hulu, in a deal that would include a content commitment. TV networks and studios are clearly caught between the short term appeal of SVOD revenue vs. the long term concern that it undermines the ecosystem. We dig into the issues.

    Listen now to learn more!

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #296: YouTube Red is Ho-Hum, Cable TV Earnings Defy Cord-Cutting

    I'm pleased to present the 296th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we discuss our first impressions of YouTube Red, and then turn to Q3 earnings reports from top cable operators, which are defying cord-cutting.

    For YouTube Red, Colin and I agree that the service’s primary value proposition of ad-free viewing is diminished by the fact that the ad experience on YouTube is already quite viewer-friendly and non-intrusive (as I wrote last week and yesterday). Further, the download feature, which could be quite appealing, is underwhelming on iOS, though it’s slightly better in Android. Net, net, neither of us sees much upside for YouTube Red, at least for now.

    We then turn our attention to Q3 earnings from 3 big cable operators, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter. Each has reported very strong video subscriber results, bucking the cord-cutting paranoia. Colin notes that for Comcast, broadband profit contribution actually exceeded video’s profit contribution. I see the combination of cable’s robust broadband and hybrid set-top boxes like X1 as the key to ongoing success.

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  • Hands-On With YouTube Red: Hard to See Much Appeal For Now

    YouTube Red was announced last week and became available yesterday. After taking it for a spin on my iPad (note, access for subscribers is included in the YouTube app), I’m pretty convinced that the current offering is unlikely to gain any significant traction. To be fair, there are more benefits coming to YouTube Red in the near future, but even with those, the service is unlikely to appeal to more than a small number of YouTube users.

    YouTube promoted the primary feature of YouTube Red as ad-free viewing. For sure, watching YouTube without ads is an improved experience, but as I wrote last week, because YouTube’s skippable TrueView ads are already so viewer-friendly, the marginal improvement from not having to click “Skip Ad” doesn’t end up feeling like a big breakthrough, especially for viewers used to YouTube being free.

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  • YouTube’s Viewer-Friendly Ad Experience Raises Bar for New Subscription Service

    What’s a viewer’s willingness to pay in order to have an ad-free video experience? The question is in focus yet again with yesterday’s announcement of YouTube Red, the company’s long-rumored $9.99/month ad-free service. Unfortunately for YouTube Red, in its case, willingness to pay is going to be heavily influenced by the fact that YouTube has arguably the most viewer (and advertiser) friendly video ad model, which will undoubtedly impact interest in paying for YouTube Red.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #294: Puzzling Over Netflix’s Q3 U.S. Subscriber Shortfall

    I'm pleased to present the 294th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Netflix reported its Q3 2015 earnings this week with overall subscriber growth pretty much in line with the company’s forecast. However, net U.S subscriber additions came in at 880K, which was 270K short of the 1.15 million forecast for Q3 this past July in the company’s Q2 earnings report.

    It was the weakest Q3 U.S. subscriber growth since 2011, and continued a downward trend over the past 3 years (1.29 million in Q3 ’13, 980K in Q3 ’14). Netflix said gross subscriber additions in the U.S. were actually up year-over-year in Q3 ’15, and that the shortfall was due to “involuntary churn” caused by credit card companies issuing new chip-enabled cards with new account numbers which in turn caused a disruption in recurring billing.

    While we have no reason to doubt the veracity of Netflix’s explanation, many analysts, including Colin and me, find it very murky. Credit card companies have pushed back on the rationale, and other recurring merchants have said they haven’t seen any similar problems. We share our concerns and raise the possibility that Netflix may be reaching the saturation point in the U.S. with slower growth ahead (Q4 results will go a long way to addressing this).

    Listen now to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 59 seconds)

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #291: Amazon’s Big Video Investments are Paying Off

    I'm pleased to present the 291st edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Video is emerging as a top priority for Amazon and its varied investments appear to be paying off as it builds an ecosystem to compete with Apple. On this week’s podcast Colin and I dig into the key device and content announcements Amazon has made recently (see also my post from earlier this week) and why they’re important.

    Amazon has clearly concluded that video is a successful driver for its Prime service, which is one of the company’s most important consumer-facing priorities. Colin notes that research released from Digitalsmiths earlier this week showed that Amazon Prime video is now used by over 20% of U.S. households, up from 7.5% 2 years ago (by comparison Netflix increased from 28% to 49.4% and Hulu increased from 6.3% to 11.8%).

    Colin and I expect a lot more video-related investments by Amazon as it leverages its deep pockets and multiple lines of business to change the rules of the game in OTT.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 59 seconds)



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  • Across Devices and Content, Amazon Keeps Upping the Video Ante

    HBO thoroughly dominated at the Emmys last night, riding the big success of “Game of Thrones.” However, Amazon took home 5 Emmys (all for “Transparent”), just behind ABC (6), but ahead of CBS (4) and Netflix (4). The Emmys are a high-profile gauge of Amazon’s early success in video, but to get a fuller picture of the force that the company is poised to become, it’s important to look at the range of video initiatives Amazon is pursuing.

    The past month has been a whirlwind of news in video devices, content and how Amazon is differentiating through their integration. Last Thursday brought a flurry of announcements related to Amazon’s Fire tablets and Fire TV connected TV devices. The new Fire HD tablet was “designed from the ground up for entertainment,” with an 8” or 10.1” high-resolution display. Among the innovations Amazon touted was a brand new feature called “On Deck,” which will auto-download popular content from Prime Instant Videos to the Fire HD in a “shadow mode.”

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  • Perspective What's this? YouTube 2020 Predictions - The Preposterous Possibilities

    YouTube in its first decade has both transformed itself and the industry, which conjures the possibilities of what it can be by 2020.  YouTube’s audience, currently one billion global monthly unique views, ranks as a top-tier advertising business that fundamentally changes TV, the entertainment industry, and how brands spend their advertising budgets.  Here are ten predictions how YouTube will dominate the video ecosystem:

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #289: The New Apple TV: Solid, Not Spectacular; Netflix Anti-Downloading

    I’m posting this week’s VideoNuze podcast a day early as the first segment focuses on the new Apple TV, which was introduced yesterday.

    Colin and I both see the new Apple TV as solid, but not spectacular. In many ways, it’s just catching up to what other devices have been offering: voice search, search across apps and gaming capabilities. The latter could ultimately be Apple TV’s big differentiator if Apple’s legion of developers take advantage of the new “tvOS” operating system SDK to create breakthrough new gaming experiences. We were both intrigued by the new remote with swipe capability, as well.

    We then turn our attention to Netflix’s anti-downloading stance, which I dug into yesterday. I find it both perplexing and frustrating, with the company’s explanation not adding up. Colin isn’t initially as convinced as I am that downloading is a killer app, though with a 10-hour flight to Amsterdam today, he’s beginning to realize how much value it would have.
     
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  • Netflix’s Anti-Downloading Stance is Perplexing and Frustrating

    It’s been 4 years since Netflix’s “Qwikster” fiasco, in which the company infamously tried to separate its DVD business, eliciting emphatic objections from its subscribers. Netflix offered implausible explanations for its move and ultimately reversed itself. Since then the company has executed flawlessly, expanding its content, extending its international footprint, watching its stock price soar and most importantly, winning back the love of its subscribers.

    Thus it is perplexing and frustrating to see Netflix oppose the idea of enabling its content to be downloaded for offline viewing, as an augment to streaming it. Reminiscent of Qwikster, Netflix is offering up bizarre and non-sensical explanations for opposing the download feature that it readily admits its subscribers are hungry for. Further, with Amazon’s expansion of Prime Video downloading to iOS and Android devices last week, it also appears to be a new competitive lever among SVOD providers.

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  • Perspective What's this? The Inevitability of OTT and 5 Ways to Ensure Success

    Watching TV isn’t what it used to be. We have shifted from one screen having a monopoly on our viewing experience, being obligated to watch in a fixed place and at the whim of the operator’s regularly scheduled programming. Now, broadcasters and publishers must reach multiple screens, make content available to any viewer, anywhere, and most notably, whenever they want to watch.

    The rise of OTT isn’t just inevitable - we’ve arrived.

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  • In Wild West of SVOD Launches, EPIX Stays Disciplined and Signs On With Hulu

    Yesterday pay-TV network EPIX announced a multi-year distribution deal with Hulu that will kick in on October 1st, as EPIX’s current deal with Netflix phases out.

    Perhaps most noteworthy here is that in the current Wild West environment where everyone and their brother are launching standalone SVOD services, EPIX has remained disciplined in choosing to instead team up with a large SVOD player (EPIX has a separate SVOD deal with Amazon dating to 2012 as well).

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  • Sesame - HBO Deal Also Underscores Difficulty of Niche SVOD Model

    When Sesame Workshop announced its deal with HBO last week, everyone seemed to have an opinion about whether another “poor door” had been created, this time for Elmo and his iconic friends.

    It’s an interesting societal debate, but what was more intriguing to me was that Sesame’s deal with HBO signaled that its own SVOD efforts had not delivered material results (and with the new HBO deal, I’d guess will likely be phased out at some point). That in turn reinforced my belief that the niche SVOD model is extremely difficult given the rise of “super” SVOD services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

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  • Comcast Should Prioritize Integrating Popular OTT Services in X1 Instead of Curating Online Video

    There’s been a lot written in the past few days about Comcast’s reported plan to introduce a new platform called “Watchable,” that will curate short-form online video content from various providers for viewing on its X1 set-top boxes and eventually on mobile devices. The initiative is seen as helping Comcast increase its appeal to millennial viewers and drive additional online video advertising revenue.

    On the one hand, I applaud the company’s desire to dive more deeply into online video, which has many synergies with Comcast’s broadband and TV businesses. Without knowing any of the details, the biggest issue to me with Watchable is that it’s hard to understand why Comcast would prioritize it as a current initiative when a far more significant opportunity would be integrating popular OTT services into X1, which would have huge subscriber acquisition and retention benefits.

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  • The Anti-Binge: Hulu Takes a Stance Against the Growing Obsession

    At a time when the rapid rise of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming services is upending the traditional broadcast and cable TV industries (see last week’s market meltdown for more on that), Hulu is pursuing the tried-and-true,  announcing at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Summer Press Tour that it would not release all of its original content for immediate binge watching.  Instead, Hulu will release new episodes one at time each week, following a typical TV release schedule. So, only when the full season has run, will all episodes be available for binge watching enthusiasts.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #285: Understanding SVOD’s Role for Viewers and the Media Ecosystem

    I'm pleased to present the 285th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    It’s been a wild week for major media companies as mixed earnings reports, fears that cord-cutting is accelerating and anxiety over ad dollars leaving TV all combined to send big media stocks plummeting. Meanwhile, with Netflix expanding internationally, Hulu and Amazon gaining ground and many other SVOD services launching in 2015, the question of what role SVOD will play for consumers and in the media ecosystem of the future is becoming more relevant all the time.

    Those are the topics of today’s podcast, as we start by analyzing recent Parks research (which both Colin and I wrote about, here and here) revealing high levels of churn for various SVOD services. Colin is less concerned about high churn than I am, as I see high churn as indicative of a broader challenge SVOD services have with consumers, namely, not being seen more as transactional opportunities, given how frictionless it is to add/drop these services.

    Colin and I agree that great content is going to be the key to SVOD services retaining subscribers. But with more people walking around with binge-viewing bucket lists, I think it’s going to be harder than ever to hook viewers on shows they didn’t have an interest in already, especially given the proliferation of great content. We explore these dynamics further.

    Listen in to learn more!



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  • Why SVOD Services Are At Risk Of Being Downgraded by Consumers to Transactional VOD

    Research released late last week by Parks Associates, which revealed high levels of churn for many smaller SVOD services, reinforced for me that many of these services are at risk of being seen as little more than transactional VOD opportunities by consumers. If this occurs it would have huge implications for both the SVOD services and larger ecosystem.

    First, to review the research, Parks found that for SVOD services other than Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, the churn rate over the past 12 months was equal to 60% of those who subscribed to such services. For Hulu Plus, 7% of U.S. broadband subscribers cancelled their subscription in the past 12 months (equaling churn of half or more of Hulu Plus’s subscribers). Parks estimated Amazon’s churn at around 25% (though that’s clouded by value of the overall Prime service). Only Netflix fared well, with churn in the past 12 months running around 9% of its subscriber base. Note, none of these SVOD services publicly disclose their churn rates.

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