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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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  • Netflix Closes in On 50 Million Subscribers and International Profitability

    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.

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  • YouTube: All Grown Up, With Many Places To Go

    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:

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #219 - YouTube Apps, Google-Viacom Settlement, Pay-TV-Tablet Downloads

    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)



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  • VideoNuze Podcast #216 - Debating Netflix-Comcast Interconnect; Disney Movies Anywhere

    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)



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  • Netflix-Comcast Interconnection Agreement Seems Fair, So Why All the Fuss?

    There's lots of ink being spilled about yesterday's Netflix-Comcast interconnection agreement with some saying this is basically just "business as usual," while others are proclaiming that this is the "end of the Internet as we know it" and "evidence that net neutrality is required."

    I'm not a network engineer, but since I've worked in the space long enough, I know enough to be dangerous. And from my vantage point, it seems like this is an appropriate, market-driven solution to a problem that is somewhat unique to Netflix, which now drives around 30% of the Internet's traffic during primetime hours.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #213 - The All-Amazon Edition

    I'm pleased to present the 213th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Today we focus on Amazon, which is already an important player in video, and is poised to become more so. Among the topics we discuss:

    - plans to increase the price of its Prime service (and the role of expensive video licensing in driving this)

    - the possibility video could be split off from Prime and become a more pure competitor to Netflix and others

    - the many roles that video advertising could play as part of a new deal with FreeWheel

    - why an Amazon connected TV device (widely rumored) would be highly strategic

    - whether Amazon will enter the pay-TV business (as has also been widely rumored)

    - the role of Amazon's original online productions

    All in all, Amazon is circling the video space in many different ways, with potential to be quite disruptive. It's still very early in the game for Amazon and 2014 could be a big year. We'll see how it plays out.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 32 seconds)



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  • Amazon's Deal With FreeWheel Opens Many Video Advertising Options

    Yesterday, FreeWheel quietly announced that it's powering video ads for Amazon. Though the announcement was light on details, anytime Amazon moves into a new space, as it's doing with video ads, it's noteworthy. I spoke to Doug Knopper, co-CEO of FreeWheel, who noted this is the company's first customer that isn't a pure media company, underscoring for him how  ubiquitous video and video advertising are becoming.

    Though under tight constraints from Amazon about what he could say, Doug emphasized that, as with all Amazon initiatives, the focus is on creating a better customer experience. In FreeWheel's release, Lisa Utzschneider, Amazon's VP of Global Ad Sales positioned video ads as a discovery vehicle, helping customers learn about related products.

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  • Study: VOD Gains in Usage, But OTT Still Preferred

    A new report from research firm GfK has found that 56% of U.S. pay-TV subscribers now use VOD or a TV Everywhere offering from their provider, with 41% saying they use OTT subscription streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime. However, of those that use both, 44% rated streaming services “better” than VOD, while 27% said they preferred VOD, and 29% said the two are equal. The good news for VOD is that this preference flips for those that use VOD more than once a week, with 43% preferring VOD, 30% OTT streaming and 27% equal.

    In addition, for these regular VOD users, 57% said VOD has "excellent" or "very good" content variety compared to 55% for streaming. But those who use VOD less than once a week thought that streaming services were highly superior in content choice - 67% vs. 28%.

    continue reading on VideoNuze iQ

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #211 - Reviewing Netflix's Stellar Year; How Verizon Will Use OnCue

    I'm pleased to present the 211th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    In today's podcast we review Netflix's stellar 2013 results, particularly focusing on international. Then we discuss how Verizon will use OnCue, part of the Intel Media assets it acquired earlier this week. Colin sees them as key to upgrading the current FiOS service. I think that's right short-term, but longer-term I see Verizon using the assets to launch a nationwide virtual pay-TV services delivered over both wired and wireless networks. If Verizon does, it could really shake up the industry.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 23 seconds)



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  • Netflix Caps Off a Champagne Year With Strong Q4 Results

    A year ago, following Netflix's Q4 '12 earning report, I wrote "Netflix Q4 Earnings Improve, But It's Not Time to Pop the Champagne Just Yet." Well, now, following yesterday's strong Q4 '13 earnings report, I think it is that time as Netflix capped off a bona fide champagne year.  Below are my key observations, broken into the same buckets as my analysis a year ago.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #210 - Top 2014 Video Trends to Watch

    I'm pleased to present the 210th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    2014 is shaping up to be another very busy year for all things video. In this week's podcast, Colin and I share our top trends to look for in 2014 and why. And in the spirit of accountability, we also review our 2013 predictions from a year ago - what we got right and what we got wrong.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 26 seconds - sorry, for running long, lots of content this week.)



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  • Top Video Analysts Debunk Myths of TV's Implosion and Mass Cord-Cutting [VIDEO]

    There are a lot of wild headlines these days proclaiming the death of TV and the prevalence of cord-cutting. But in a session I moderated at the recent VideoSchmooze event in NYC, Bruce Leichtman and Craig Moffett, two of the top video analysts around, shared their current data, which systematically debunks these mythologies. For anyone interested in what's really happening in the video business today, the session's video is a must-watch.

    Bruce and Craig believe that both technology and mainstream media are ginning up these mythologies because they make great headlines. In fact, both cited instances where their data said "x" but the media coverage ended up being "y." All of this underscores how important it is to read media coverage of the industry with a very critical eye.

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  • Forget Orange, Binge-Viewing is the New Black

    Netflix released new research on binge-viewing among its subscribers today, revealing that 61% of them binge-view at least 2-3 episodes every few weeks. The data adds yet more weight to the binge-viewing story line: in September Nielsen found that 88% of Netflix subscribers have watched 3 or more episodes in the same day (70% for Hulu Plus) while research from Piksel found 94% of viewers binging in one way or another. (caveat, there's some apples vs. oranges in comparing the data)

    No other company has done more to promote binge-viewing than Netflix. Whereas the phenomenon started with viewers binging past seasons of shows like "Mad Men" or "Breaking Bad," Netflix has shrewdly capitalized by releasing all of its own original episodes at once, making binge-viewing a current season behavior as well. As a result, TV network executives must now ask whether their traditional approach of scheduling new episodes should be revamped.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #206 - VideoSchmooze Wrap-up and 3 Key Takeaways

    I'm pleased to present the 206th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we discuss 3 of our key takeaways from this past Tuesday's VideoSchmooze, which over 230 industry executives attended. The morning was jam-packed with learning and insights, which I'll continue to share in the coming weeks, along with the session videos.

    First, Colin shares the observation of Craig Moffett, who was on the opening session, that many content providers are assuming Netflix/other OTT providers are not a substitute for pay-TV over time. Craig believes this is an incorrect assumption and that if content providers come to depend too heavily on digital licensing revenues from Netflix and others, they run the risk of addicting themselves, even if/when their core businesses suffer due to audiences shifting.

    Next, on the mobile video session I moderated, Silvia Lovato from PBSKids Digital shared the stunning data point that 75% of its viewership from its 2-5 year-old audience now occurs on mobile devices. I believe this has incredibly profound societal implications 10, 20 and 30 years down the road, as kids learn from the earliest age to expect programming fully on-demand.

    Last, we turn to Smart TVs. On the online video advertising session, John Nitti from ZenithOptimedia (who oversees $10 billion of client spending) Eric Franchi from Undertone said Smart TVs are too fragmented to be an appealing environment for advertisers for now. As more online viewing shifts to the big screen, it's imperative that advertising follow, but the separate ecosystems of each Smart TV manufacturer makes it difficult for both developers and advertisers for now. Some form of aggregation/streamlining must occur to create the scale advertising requires.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 16 seconds)




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  • Survey: 48% Of Pay-TV Subscribers “Cord Cheat” with OTT Services

    Digitalsmiths has released its quarterly survey on consumer behavior around pay-TV and VOD, finding that consumers are continuing to “cord cheat,” with 48% supplementing their pay-TV subscriptions with OTT services, up from 35% reported in Q2 '13. Most popular for these consumers was Netflix (42%), while for individual movie rentals Redbox kiosks took the lead at 17%.

    Digitalsmiths believes cord cheating is a big threat to pay-TV providers and said they must adapt and better support consumer expectations. According to the survey, the top reasons consumers are choosing OTT services like Netflix, Hulu or iTunes are because they are more convenient (53%), cheaper (48%) and allow full season TV viewing (31%).

    continue reading on VideoNuze iQ

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  • Introducing VideoNuze iQ Expert Series Video Interviews

    Following the launch of VideoNuze iQ - the hub for video data and analysis - in early October, I'm pleased today to unveil a new feature, our "Expert Series" video interviews. Expert Series are 20-minute video interviews with industry analysts and executives responsible for the critical new video research. So in addition to VideoNuze iQ's own analysis of newly released video research, you'll now also hear directly from the experts themselves.

    Kicking off the Expert Series is Jonathan Hurd, Director of Altman Vilandrie & Co., a strategy consulting firm focused exclusively on Telecom, Media and Technology. Jonathan oversees a comprehensive AV & Co. survey of consumer behaviors and attitudes toward traditional and new video services. In this Expert Series interview, Jonathan shares key highlights.

    The survey data underscores online video's rapid adoption and benefits, along with Netflix's dominance and the rise of tablet/smartphone viewing. But it also clarifies that, for now, cord-cutters' main motivation is mainly economic. Importantly, the survey also shows the durability of live broadcast TV, even among millennials, along with the appeal of pay-TV subscriptions and TV Everywhere.

    The video interview is embedded below and Jonathan's slides are available here. You can connect directly with Jonathan at jhurdATaltvil.com. I welcome your feedback on the new Expert Series format.

    watch on VideoNuze iQ

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #204 - Hulu Plus in the Pay-TV Bundle Sounds Smart; Amazon Originals Launch

    I'm pleased to present the 204th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    We start off this week discussing the latest Hulu rumor, that it is seeking a closer alignment with pay-TV operators for Hulu Plus. Colin and I both like the possibilities here, though we recognize numerous obstacles. From a user experience standpoint, the idea of finding all of a TV show's episodes in one place - from pilot to last night's -resonates with me and would be a huge step forward from today's silo'd worlds of SVOD/OTT and VOD/TV Everywhere.

    Colin points out too that Hulu's owners are already key programming suppliers to pay-TV operators, giving Hulu a better shot at partnering than, say Netflix, has. Last but hardly least, Hulu's new CEO Mike Hopkins most recently ran distribution for Fox Networks, so his expertise is perfect for figuring out how to get Hulu Plus carriage with pay-TV operators.

    We then shift to discussing the launch today, of Amazon Studios' first original, "Alpha House" starring John Goodman. While we're uncertain about its critical reception, we do believe that, given originals' strategic role supporting Prime, it's the first step of an aggressive agenda. Amazon is cleverly combining data, wisdom of the crowds and traditional TV skills to select which originals to pursue.

    Listen in the learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 42 seconds)




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  • Binge-Viewing Popularity Exposes Tensions Between OTT and VOD, TV Everywhere Priorities

    Binge-viewing is a bona fide phenomenon that's not only changing consumers' TV viewing behaviors, but also creating fissures in the TV industry. Recently, in "For U.S. Cable Operators, Netflix Partnerships Are Fraught With Risk," I outlined how binge-viewing is driving a competitive dynamic over content rights between Netflix and pay-TV operators' VOD and TV Everywhere plans. Adding further detail, this past Friday, Vulture published an excellent article with specific examples of how this battle is brewing.

    According to Vulture, FX and Turner are telling studios from which they obtain TV shows that they need rights to stream the full current season of shows (known as "stacking" rights) not just the most recent 3-5 episodes. Part of the networks' rationale is they need to give late-coming viewers an easy path to watch from the beginning of a season, rather than just enabling existing viewers a way to catch up.

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  • After a Strong Q3, When Will it be Time to Talk About Netflix as a Cord-Cutting Catalyst?

    Netflix now has over 40 million global subscribers, including over 31 million is the U.S. alone, after reporting strong Q3 2013 results. Domestically, Netflix now has more subscribers than the biggest pay-TV operator (Comcast) and the biggest premium cable network (HBO).

    Every research report I've seen continues to verify that to date Netflix is NOT driving cord-cutting (which is relatively small anyway). Still I can't help but ask the question in light of the company's renewed momentum: though it's fully justifiable to consider Netflix as an augment to pay-TV service today, is it fair to continue thinking of it that way forever? In other words, could a very different Netflix - as it might look, say, 3 years from now - become more of a substitute for pay-TV service for certain people?

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #200 - Debating Whether Cable Operators Should Partner With Netflix

    I'm pleased to present the 200th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we debate whether U.S. cable operators should partner with Netflix, a prospect that was reported this past Monday by the WSJ.

    Colin and I have very different opinions on the topic - I believe that on balance it would be disadvantageous for operators to partner and integrate Netflix into their experiences while Colin thinks it would be beneficial for them. As I wrote earlier this week, I think that operators helping Netflix get bigger and stronger ultimately means it becomes a stronger competitor and therefore a more potent cord-cutting and shaving threat.

    Conversely, Colin believes integrating Netflix (as a couple of European operators are doing) would help their subscribers' user experience, which should be their overriding goal. Colin doesn't see Netflix as a threat, even as it looks more and more like HBO over time. I think that's underestimating Netflix's competitive potential. Rather than partnering with Netflix, operators should be doing everything possible to enhance their TV Everywhere and VOD initiatives.

    Listen in the learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 29 seconds)


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