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.
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.
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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.
Google highlighted YouTube’s audience and revenue growth in last week’s Q2 ’15 earnings call, with viewing time up 60%, the number of advertisers up 40% and the average spending of the top 100 advertisers up over 60%, all vs. a year ago. While Google has never broken out detailed YouTube performance, these selected data point to strong momentum at the video site.
At the 2015 Video Ad Summit, our session, “How to Capitalize on YouTube’s Vast Landscape With Winning Video Ad Campaigns” helped explain why YouTube is succeeding. The session included Michelle Bandler (Director of Brand Activation, Google), Al Cadena (Senior Account Director, Beeby Clark+Meyler), Hermann Hassenstein (Global Head of Marketing Planning, PUMA) and Art Zeidman (EVP, Chief Revenue Officer, Pixability), with Mike Shields (Senior Editor, The Wall Street Journal) moderating.
The session explored, among other things, how ad buyers think about YouTube and the key challenges the site faces in persuading traditional TV ad buyers to pursue YouTube. These include measurement, sales lift, business processes, incomplete experimentation, etc.
The group also discussed how advertisers work with YouTube influencers on branded entertainment, the rising importance of mobile, the impact of Facebook, how ads are optimized for YouTube and social media, plus much more.
I'm pleased to present the 282nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we dig into Netflix’s Q2 ’15 results. As I wrote yesterday, the big number for me was the 900K subscriber additions in the U.S., breaking out of the narrow 530K-630K range over the past 3 years. If pay-TV video subscriber additions are soft for Q2 when reported over the next few weeks, then it will suggest accelerated cord-cutting and cord-nevering.
Colin also explores Netflix’s big international gains, its emerging movie strategy and its endorsement of the Charter-Time Warner Cable deal. While Netflix may well be negatively impacting the video side of the pay-TV business, we also discuss what impact it is having on the broadband side.
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Netflix released its Q2 ’15 earnings late yesterday, adding 3.28 million subscribers globally, almost twice as many as the 1.69 million it added in Q2 ’14. Everyone knows that Netflix has been expanding fast internationally, but what was most intriguing about the Q2 report was that Netflix added 900K subscribers in the U.S. vs. its forecast of 600K. The 900K compares with 570K U.S. adds in Q2 ’14, 630K in Q2 ’13 and 530K in Q2 ’12.
In other words, in Q2 ’15 Netflix significantly broke out of a relatively narrow growth range it had been in over the past 3 years in the seasonally-weak second quarter. The 900K add is even more noteworthy because Netflix has almost twice as many U.S. subscribers (42.3 million) now than it did 3 years ago (23.9 million). The law of large numbers suggests the bigger a company gets, the harder it is to achieve even comparable unit growth, much less greater growth.
Revenue in the U.S. from premium OTT services could double or triple from $4 billion in 2014 to $8-12 billion in 2018, according to new research study from Ooyala and Vindicia, which was conducted by MTM.
The study, based on input from 45 content and service providers, forecasts that just a small number of OTT providers, mainly existing ones, will dominate. Netflix is seen as the biggest of the group, although its market share will decline from 85% currently to approximately 50% in 2018. However, respondents were optimistic about the opportunity for niche OTT providers such as sports, kids, specialized entertainment and personality-drive services where they foresee 15-20 providers each having over 100K subscribers.
I'm pleased to present the 279th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Change is everywhere in the video and TV industries and this week 6 different news items hit our radar, which Colin and I think illustrate how quickly things are moving. In today's podcast we discuss each of them and why we think they're significant.
The items include continued falling linear TV ratings as measured by Nielsen, Hulu distributing Showtime, new research showing that Netflix's audience is size larger than those of broadcast TV networks, Tennis Channel's converged TV Everywhere-OTT model, HBO premiering 2 new shows on Facebook and Ooyala's new data showing that 42% of video views are now on mobile.
(note: Colin wanted to clarify one point - when citing Netflix viewership, he said it was 10 million hours streamed per quarter when it's actually 10 billion hours)
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Netflix has been back under the microscope these past few days as reports (here and here) surfaced that some users were seeing pre-roll and post-roll ads promoting original programs. That immediately led to speculation that Netflix was preparing a full-on ad play that would significantly alter the viewer experience.
This in turn prompted Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings to post on Facebook, "No advertising coming onto Netflix. Period. Just adding relevant cool trailers for other Netflix content you are likely to love."
Hulu has announced that it has distribution deals with 5 small-to-mid-sized U.S. pay-TV operators: Armstrong, Atlantic Broadband, Mediacom, Midcontinent and WideOpenWest (WOW!). The deals follow last week's news that Hulu has signed up Cablevision as the first U.S. pay-TV operator to distribute its service.
Like the Cablevision deal, there weren't a lot of specific details shared about pricing or packaging. The 5 operators will be able to offer Hulu's content on their advanced set-top boxes. While the set-tops aren't identified, a number of these operators use TiVo DVRs as their advanced set-tops to offer integrated OTT/pay-TV/VOD experiences.
2,400 industry executives and fans packed the Madison Square Garden Theater for YouTube's Brandcast NewFront Wednesday night that was part 10-year birthday celebration, part evangelical commercial about online video/YouTube's ascendance and part pure entertainment spectacle.
The evening began with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki noting that hours watched are up 50% year-over-year and that YouTube now reaches more 18-49 year olds on mobile ALONE, than does any single cable network reach on TV. YouTube daily viewers are up 40% vs. 2014. And in a pitch to how advertisers can succeed on YouTube, Wojcicki said that 4 out of 10 of the top trending videos in 2014 were actually ads, not content.
Hulu held its NewFront on Wednesday, highlighting its growth, which includes approaching 9 million subscribers, up 50% vs. 2014, with 700 million hours of video streamed in Q1 '15, up 83% vs. Q1 '14. Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins said that 61% of Hulu's viewers no longer watch on a computer. 82% of Hulu's audience is in the 18-49 year-old age range, with a median age of 33 years-old.
I have long wondered whether Hulu was going to be the odd man out, sandwiched between Netflix, OTT's 800-pound gorilla, and Amazon, with its unlimited resources. But Hulu is clearly investing heavily in both licensed and original content, and seemingly carving out its place in the OTT landscape.
Today Cablevision announced a first of its kind distribution deal with Hulu. The deal follows the introduction of Cablevision's new low-cost "cord-cutter" package (broadband plus a free OTA antenna) last week and its agreement to promote the new HBO Now OTT service. Given all of this I think it is now virtually guaranteed that Cablevision will soon announce that it will also distribute/promote Netflix.
I'm pleased to present the 270th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
(Note, we recorded prior to the demise of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal; we'll discuss that next week.)
Early this week, in "Is Netflix Friend or Foe to the TV Industry? It's More Confusing Than Ever." I laid out both of the arguments. In today's podcast, Colin and I flesh out the debate further, bringing in additional perspectives and data. Importantly, Colin adds his thoughts on how Netflix should be seen internationally.
It's a fascinating debate, which our friends at MoffettNathanson coincidentally weighed in on this week as well. Using Nielsen data, they believe Netflix's audience size is already 6% of all of TV's, double its level from 2 years ago, and has accounted for 40% of TV's audience declines. They also see Netflix's share rising to low double digits over the next 4 years.
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One of the great riddles of the past few years is whether Netflix is friend or foe to the U.S. television industry, including broadcast TV networks, cable TV networks and pay-TV operators. Over the years, Netflix has downplayed in many ways its disruptive potential to the TV industry (my personal favorite is when CEO Reed Hastings would say "We're more of a bicycle to their car" in comparing Netflix to pay-TV).
But with Netflix tacking on another 2.3 million subscribers in the U.S. in Q1 '15, bringing its total to 41.4 million, the question is taking on increasing urgency. How should the TV industry REALLY think of Netflix? Below I share what I think are the best "friend" and "foe" arguments, concluding with my own assessment of what Netflix really is now.
YouTube is poised to be the next major content provider to join the great subscription VOD land grab for consumers' video spending. Per a Bloomberg report yesterday, YouTube has sent a letter to its content creators sharing its intention to launch an ad-free subscription service, though neither the price nor launch date was specified. Content creators would keep 55% of subscription revenue based on their pro rata viewership.
Plans for a YouTube subscription service were initially mentioned by its CEO Susan Wojcicki last October at the Code Mobile conference.
Strategy Analytics has released the results of a new survey which validate Amazon's decision to bundle Prime Instant Video with free 2-day shipping in its Amazon Prime service. Although Prime members say they're more likely to subscribe to Prime for the shipping benefit than for the videos, once they have the Prime service, they watch the videos almost as they much as they use their Netflix subscriptions.
The survey revealed that 59% of U.S. Amazon Prime members used Instant Video in the past month, almost at parity with the 63% of Prime members that used Netflix. Overall, the survey found that 36% of Prime members only used Instant Video, almost equal to the 40% that only use Netflix, and the 23% that use both. The 40% of Netflix-only's are clearly a huge target for Amazon to pursue as it builds out the Prime Video benefit.
As the pace of new OTT services has ramped up, I've been asked by a lot of industry colleagues and press which ones I believe have the most and least potential. It's a great question, and while I don't pretend to have a crystal ball, I certainly have my own opinions (as VideoNuze readers know!). But even as I've been sharing my thoughts, I've increasingly been asking myself - why is it, for example, that I'm more bullish about some (e.g. HBO Now), more skeptical about others (e.g. Sling TV) and more willing to be open-minded about still others (e.g. Apple's and Verizon's TV services)?
That's led me to think more rigorously about the criteria that I'm personally using to evaluate the potential of these new OTT services. It may be obvious, but when each of us makes judgments about a product or service, we're doing so against some implicit set of criteria. The challenge with all these OTT services is that a lot is still unknown about them and about consumers' reactions to them. On top of this the market is very dynamic. Nonetheless, I think it's still possible to create a set of criteria against which these new OTT services can be more explicitly evaluated (and re-evaluated as more information about them is known).
With that in mind, below I have shared 9 proposed criteria that I think are important in assessing these new (and existing) services' potential (there may be other criteria too!). By scoring each OTT service on a 1-5 scale against each criteria (i.e. 1 meaning "weak" or "not distinctive" and 5 meaning "strong" or "highly distinctive," their respective total scores emerge, forming a picture of potential winners and losers. If you're interested in using these criteria to do your own scoring, I have created a handy Google doc. Feel free to access, export to Excel, modify, etc. I'm interested in your results and comparing notes.
Here are my 9 proposed criteria:
Verizon and Sony are both on deck with new OTT services poised to launch shortly, according to new reports over the past couple of days. Both companies have previously stated their intentions to pursue new video services, but haven't been specific about their timelines or anything else.
That is beginning to change, as Verizon announced yesterday that AwesomenessTV will provide 200+ hours of original content for its forthcoming service, via 2 channels, one targeted to teens and the other to young millennials. The channels will include scripted and unscripted series along with DreamWorksTV animated short-form content.
YouTube has officially announced its new free YouTube Kids app, a dedicated space for kids and families to watch age appropriate content, available on Android and iOS. The app puts even more pressure on kids-oriented cable TV networks, whose audiences were already being decimated by OTT options like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
YouTube Kids creates a safe, accessible, organized space for young kids. The content is organized into four categories, Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Content is licensed from Dreamworks TV, Hit Entertainment, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club and National Geographic Kids. Popular shows included are "Fraggle Rock," "Reading Rainbow," "Sesame Street," "Talking Tom and Friends" and "Thomas the Tank Engine."