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.
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.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 32 seconds)
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.
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%.
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.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 23 seconds)
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.
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.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 26 seconds - sorry, for running long, lots of content this week.)
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.
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.
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.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 16 seconds)
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%).
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.
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.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 42 seconds)
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.
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?
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.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 29 seconds)
YouTube is now getting nearly 40% of its views from mobile devices, up from 6% in 2011. That nugget was shared by Google's CEO Larry Page in its Q3 2013 earnings call yesterday. YouTube is the latest content provider to share strong mobile viewership data; in the past several weeks BBC said its iPlayer mobile views are now up to 32% of total, VEVO said 50% of its views are mobile and PBS Kids said 75% of its are mobile.
These are clearly leaders in mobile and their viewership shows mobile's potential. More often these days, I'm hearing content providers say 20-30% is the range for their mobile views. Note, if you want to learn more about mobile video, both VEVO and PBS Kids (along with ESPN and Beachfront Media) will have executives speaking on the mobile video session at VideoSchmooze on Dec. 3rd (early bird discounted registration is now available).
The WSJ has reported that Netflix is holding early stage discussions with at least two U.S. cable operators, Comcast and Suddenlink, about having its app included in their set-top boxes. I've been seeing a lot of arguments for why Netflix partnerships would be good for cable operators, but it seems to me there would be a lot of risk involved for them if such deals materialized.
Helping Netflix become bigger and stronger would be disadvantageous for cable operators. First and foremost, this would be felt in the area of content rights. By securing past seasons of TV programs, Netflix has driven the binge-viewing phenomenon and become its biggest beneficiary. I expect binge-viewing will only gain in popularity going forward as more people experience it and more devices make it ever easier to do. Adoption of binge-viewing means those distributors with strong video libraries will do better.
I'm pleased to present the 198th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Just as Hulu was announcing this week that Hulu Plus is now Chromecast-enabled, new research from Parks Associates revealed that 50% of people already using Chromecast to watch Hulu content on TV are actually watching the free Hulu.com service. They're able to do this by using Chromecast's "tab casting" feature to stream from a tab in the Chrome browser. Their behavior undermines a key Hulu Plus value proposition (and differentiator from Hulu.com) of being able to watch Hulu content on connected TVs.
This isn't random behavior either; the Parks research also revealed that 34% of Chromecast owners stream Hulu content to their TVs every day, with 43% watching Netflix this way.
In today's podcast, Colin and I talk about how Chromecast is convoluting Hulu's model and more broadly how technology and consumer behaviors continue to pressure Hollywood's licensing/windowing practices. As a Hulu Plus subscriber, Colin also shares 2 other wrinkles: first, that certain Hulu Plus content is just available for "web-only" viewing and NOT for connected devices like Roku, Xbox or Chromecast, and second, that in the case of the USA Network program "Psych," there are actually more recent episodes freely available on Hulu.com than there are on Hulu Plus. I've reached out to Hulu PR for comment and will update as appropriate.
(UPDATE: A Hulu PR representative told me that permission to stream to devices is granted by the content provider and varies by show, so it's not possible to stream all Hulu Plus content to devices. More info about the policies is here.)
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 41 seconds)
Hulu has announced that its Hulu Plus apps for Android and iPad are now Chromecast-enabled (iPhone coming soon). The Hulu Plus apps join the initial launch apps (Netflix, YouTube, Google Play), which were announced concurrent with the device's debut in late July.
I'm not a Hulu Plus subscriber so I haven't tested with Chromecast, but from the company's blog post, it looks like all the existing apps' features are maintained, with integrated one touch casting to the TV via Chromecast the only change. In my original post on Chromecast, I noted that a key Chromecast advantage for content providers was that it leveraged existing apps, and via a simple SDK could enable the integrated casting capability. This means Chromecast updates are relatively simple and inexpensive to execute - both huge factors in getting content providers' much-coveted attention.