Aereo announced late yesterday that it has raised $34 million in Series C financing. Adding to the $20.5 million in its Series A and $38 million in its Series B, Aereo has now raised a total of $92.5 million. The new funding will support Aereo's ongoing regional rollouts, plus new hiring and technology. Of note, the new financing includes Gordon Crawford, a well-known media investor, whose involvement certainly gives Aereo further credibility.
Aereo is currently live in 10 markets, and said yesterday it plans to be live in 15 by the end of Q1. That's a downward revision from its expansion plan announced a year ago, which was to be in 22 cities by the end of 2013. Last September Aereo announced technical issues delayed its Chicago launch and hasn't updated when that area will go live.
Yesterday Aereo announced that it will not oppose the petition by the major broadcast TV networks (formally a "petition for a writ of certiorari") for a U.S. Supreme Court review of a ruling last May in Aereo’s favor. In that instance, the broadcasters were thrown for a pretty significant loss by Aereo when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled preliminarily that Aereo’s business should not be halted due to alleged violations of the copyrights of broadcasters.
Normally it is big news when two sides so diametrically opposed like Aereo and the broadcasters seek (or at least willingly accept) review from the Supremes. But in this case there may be less than meets the eye (at least from a litigation perspective - see below).
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the biggest food holiday of the year. But for many people, food is a year-round personal obsession, which can now be amplified through mobile, social and video technologies. Operating at the intersection of these powerful trends is a startup called Tastemade, which is building a foodie community of digital natives through an innovative prosumer and user-generated video programming model. When I was in LA recently, I visited with Stephen Kydd, one of the 3 co-founders of Tastemade, who all worked together previously at Demand Media.
I'm pleased to present the 205th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin is in London this week and shares observations on the intense battle for broadband subscribers in the U.K. BT has been aggressively laying fiber in a bid for broadband subscribers. It recently spent about 1.4 billion pounds on soccer rights to supply its BT Sport channels. Colin says BT has seen lift in both broadband and pay-TV subscribers as a result. One wonders whether Google could try something similar here in the U.S. by bidding for NFL and other rights somewhere down the road?
Speaking of the NFL, it and Major League Baseball were in the news this week for filing a brief with the Supreme Court urging review of broadcasters' challenge to Aereo. The leagues basically asserted that if Aereo is deemed legal, more of their games will migrate to cable, which of course has been happening anyway. Meanwhile Aereo's lead investor Barry Diller said this week he could see a 35% adoption rate for Aereo long-term, primarily driven by millennials. This would be hugely disruptive if it were to happen.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 11 seconds)
TV4 Entertainment is a well-pedigreed LA-based startup positioning itself as a creator and super-distributor of multiple online niche channels. Today the company is announcing a deal with Cinebx, whose library contains 10,000+ titles will power a minimum of 6 co-owned online channels, beginning with one focused on classic sports.
Recently I caught up Jon Cody, founder and CEO of TV4, to learn more about the company's strategy. Jon was previously SVP, Digital for Fox Digital Media and launch GM of Hulu, so he knows his way around programming and digital distribution very well, as does the rest of the founding team.
Topics: TV4 Entertainment
When we last left Aereo in its battles with the broadcast TV networks, our trusty (or not so trusty - it's complicated) over-the-top service was in the midst of a maelstrom of litigation and new market rollouts. The dynamic has only gotten more heated, highlighted by the broadcasters' petition for relief from the U.S. Supreme Court filed just over a week ago.
For all of the attention of the broadcasters petition to the Court, the finish line here is far from in sight. The Court is not obligated to take this case, and in fact grants less than 2% of all 'cert' petitions. The broadcasters are seeking resolution of what they say is a 'split' among Circuit Courts, which is certainly a well-established basis for the Court to step in. Yet to date no other appellate court has ruled in opposition to the 2d Circuit - only other lower district courts. So while I would fully expect the Court to eventually take this case, the timing may not be ripe in their eyes. So we may well be back to sorting through the continuing morass for some time. So what is happening in the hinterlands?
Teads.tv, a provider of innovative video ad units, has raised $5.2 million in a Series A round by Partech Venture and Elaia Partners. As I wrote several months ago, Teads' big differentiator is that it enables premium text-based web pages to carry video ads as well. So in other words, rather than a premium publisher having to create expensive video in order to tap into the booming demand for online video ads, it can monetize existing web pages this way. the video ads only become visible when a pre-determined about of content has been consumed. Teads ads can also run in slideshows, music, video and social media.
(Note: Following is the first of several interviews I'm doing with speakers appearing at X Media Research's upcoming BroadbandTVCon in Hollywood on Nov. 5th and 6th, where I'll also be moderating. VideoNuze readers can save $75 on registration using the code "VideoNuze.")
Following is an edited transcript of my interview with Lisa Judson, GM of YEAH!, a new streaming movie service launched by AMC Networks this past March.
What is the philosophy behind YEAH!?
We believe that movies have become a commodity online and that we could provide a unique experience, to enrich a film with original content about the film. We try to tell the story of the movie while you watch the movie. We see ourselves as movie lovers, so we're aligned with our audience. We don't want to just deliver a movie, but rather an overall experience that will connect and engage audiences (see screenshot below).
Reports surfaced last week that Intel Media's planned OTT pay-TV service "OnCue" has hit a major speed bump, and the company is now looking for potential partners such as Samsung or Amazon to help get the service launched.
I for one was not surprised by the news, as I've regarded Intel Media's pay-TV venture as facing extremely long odds. As well, I view the likelihood of Samsung, Amazon, or anyone else riding to Intel's rescue as being similarly improbable. Since Intel Media reportedly has had a 300-person team working on OnCue for almost 2 years, its potential demise would be an expensive lesson for the company in how hard it is to break into the pay-TV industry.
The Internet is awash in free videos to watch. For consumers, that's been great news as there are more choices available today than ever. For independent content creators, the Internet offers an unparalleled opportunity to build audience and visibility. The problem is that for these creators, actually making money online has remained a tough nut to crack.
Now, a startup named LittleCast is giving content creators an easy way to sell their videos, via Facebook and in iOS and Android mobile apps. CEO Amra Tareen explained to me that the process is pretty straightforward - content creators just upload their videos to LittleCast and decide how much to charge. LittleCast transcodes the video into various formats and HD/SD resolutions and stores them in the cloud. They can then be published in LittleCast's media player on Facebook and in the mobile apps.
Startup BrandAds is announcing availability of its BrandAds Bridge product this morning, aiming to provide universal, real-time video advertising analytics. As Avi Brown, co-founder and CEO of BrandAds told me last week, the company is looking to solve the problem of ad buyers having to use multiple analytics solutions, with each one tied to a particular ad buying platform. Ultimately these need to be synched up in order for a buyer to understand a campaign's total results.
A fortuitous confluence of events could give Aereo a nice bump in visibility and adoption in New York City this week. First, CBS went dark for hundreds of thousands of NYC subscribers last Friday afternoon, as the broadcaster and Time Warner Cable were unable to agree on retransmission consent compensation. Then over the weekend, Tiger Woods - by far golf's biggest TV draw - smoked the field to win the WGC-Bridgestone golf tournament, which was televised by CBS (though not seen by New Yorkers). The win makes Tiger the odds-on favorite to win the fourth and final major golf event of the year - the PGA Championship, being played in upstate New York starting Thursday.
CBS has the weekend afternoon TV rights to the PGA, following TNT's Thursday/Friday and weekend morning coverage. Tiger is gunning for his first major win in 5+ years, since his infamous infidelity scandal knocked him off his game. If Tiger is leading or among the leaders going into the weekend, it would set up intense interest and very strong CBS viewership. But with CBS blacked out - and the network blocking TWC New York subscribers' access to online programming - New Yorkers wouldn't get to see Tiger in action.
Net2TV is announcing this morning that its Portico service will be available on Roku in June and that it is enabling dynamic ad insertion. Portico, which I last wrote about here, curates and packages short-form content into longer-form, TV-style programs, for viewing on connected TVs. Portico uses the ActiveVideo CloudTV platform with a thin client, which means it can be deployed and updated quickly on connected devices.
I'm pleased to share Howard Homonoff's second piece on Aereo today. The first was "Here Are Aereo's Legal, Policy and Business Paths Forward." Howard is Principal/Managing Director of Homonoff Media Group LLC, a management consulting firm focused on traditional and digital media content distribution, social media analytics and regulatory strategy. He is a frequent industry speaker and producer/host of Media Reporter, starting soon on cable systems throughout New York City.
Inside Retransmission Consent - Aereo’s Biggest Threat to Broadcasters
by Howard Homonoff
Technology startups, by definition, often challenge the status quo - striving to deliver products or services that are better, faster, and/or cheaper than existing approaches. Yet, given the long odds against startups’ success, incumbents don’t often go on the warpath against startups in their space until the startup has at least demonstrated some genuine traction or ability to disrupt that status quo.
In this context, the intense opposition to Aereo from the broadcast industry is unusual. Aereo has been deployed in just one market and hasn’t disclosed any metrics about customer adoption (unattributed numbers suggest negligible penetration to date). Yet broadcasters have launched vigorous litigation (thus far unsuccessful) and executives have threatened to abandon their decades of traditional broadcast-based business models in favor of cable-based delivery if Aereo is ultimately deemed legal.
Why is it that broadcasters are so up in arms about Aereo? The answer, I believe, is that Aereo directly challenges a concept known as retransmission consent. As a close observer of Aereo’s coverage, I’ve been struck by how little attention retransmission consent has received, and how little it seems to be understood. Below I address 3 questions: What is retransmission consent? Why was retransmission consent originally created? Why is it viewed as so vital by the broadcast industry?
I'm pleased to present the 176th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In the past 2 weeks, Aereo has touched off an escalating war of words between it, the broadcast TV industry and other interested parties. Today Colin and I review some of the recent back-and-forth in this battle.
News Corp. COO Chase Carey kicked things off in remarks at the NABShow last week, threatening to move Fox to cable if Aereo was deemed legal. CBS and Univision later backed him. This week broadcasters petitioned for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to hold a full or "en banc" review of their decision, a strategy my colleague Howard Homonoff suggested they could pursue in a contributed piece on Tuesday. In the petition, broadcasters stated that "unless reversed, (the court's prior decision for Aereo) would wreak commercial havoc" on the industry.
For its part, Aereo took the extraordinary step of taking out a full page ad in the NY Times on Tuesday, in which it said "54 million Americans use some sort of antenna to watch TV." Aereo is appealing directly to consumers, essentially trying to paint the broadcasters as stifling innovation and being anti-consumer. Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia also said this week that broadcasters would face a serious policy fight if they tried switching to cable.
Last but not least, the dispute got personal as well, as Leo Hindery, a former cable executive, and now media industry investor, called Aereo lead investor Barry Diller's involvement "despicable" and "tawdry." That was after he labeled Aereo a "pissant little company" that is stealing copyrighted material because it's not paying retransmission consent fees.
All of this over a company that hasn't yet even demonstrated its value proposition resonates with consumers! Imagine what happens if/when it does.
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(Apologies in advance, Colin's audio isn't very good this week.)
Today, I'm pleased to introduce Howard Homonoff as the newest VideoNuze contributor. Howard is Principal/Managing Director of Homonoff Media Group LLC, a management consulting firm focused on traditional and digital media content distribution, social media analytics and regulatory strategy. He is a frequent industry speaker and producer/host of Media Reporter, starting soon on cable systems throughout New York City.
Here Are Aereo's Legal, Policy and Business Paths Forward
By Howard Homonoff
If you're an Aereo follower, then no doubt you're aware of the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in favor of the company in the WNET v. Aereo case. So now that the court has spoken, we can all be happy to have that legal stuff out of the way, right? Well…sorry, but at best, we’re at the end of the beginning (and maybe not even that) of the legal, policy and business confusion surrounding Aereo and its implications. Having seen the music business lowered as a canary into the mine of digital content disputes years ago, we should be prepared for a long, complex, multi-jurisdictional battle on these issues.
So what might we expect now in the post-2d Circuit environment? Let’s look at this through the 3 key venues where this will play out: the courts, the policy arena, and the negotiating table:
Yesterday's victory by Aereo in federal appeals court is certain to have at least one consequence: it will put retransmission consent fees into the spotlight. For those unfamiliar with "retrans" as it is known, these are fees that broadcast TV networks and stations have negotiated from pay-TV operators. Much like the fees pay-TV operators pay to carry cable TV networks (e.g. MTV, USA, ESPN, etc.), retrans allows operators to carry broadcast networks.
Retrans fees are already a billion dollar plus revenue stream for broadcasters and by some estimates, could be a multiple of this in several years. Broadcasters see the payments as vital to keeping them on parity economic footing with cable networks. Conversely, operators see retrans as a broadcast subsidy, effectively inflating their already bloated programming costs. Retrans has been at the heart of most of the blackout battles between broadcasters and operators over the last several years.
Today contributor Alan Wolk provides a hands-on review of Aereo. Alan is Global Lead Analyst at KIT digital. He frequently speaks about the television industry in general and second screen interactions in particular, both at conferences and to anyone who'll listen. Recently named as one of the "Top 20 Thinkers In Social TV and Second Screen" Alan is one of the main architects behind the award-winning KIT Social Program Guide and writes about the television industry at the Toad Stool blog. You can find him on Twitter at @awolk
If you are interested in contributing to VideoNuze, please contact me!
Aereo: The Hands-On Review
by Alan Wolk
I’ve been testing out Aereo for the past two weeks (see video below), ever since they expanded their service area to include the entire New York metropolitan area. I tested it at home where I have a blazing fast 50 Mbps FIOS connection using both their new Roku app and my iPad 3, and outside the house, where I rely on a Verizon Wireless iPhone 5 with 4G service. (Well, when 4G is available, that is.)
Interface: The interface on the iPad and iPhone are fairly similar. There aren’t that many channels: Aereo has fleshed out the over-the-air offering with iON and a couple of foreign-language offerings, but most users are going to be looking for content from the Big 4 networks and PBS.
On the Roku app, the channels are arranged in Roku’s linear filmstrip layout, so that getting from one end to the other is quite a hassle.
Several weeks ago, after watching Intel Media chief Erik Huggers interviewed at the D: Dive Into Media Conference, I expressed skepticism that the company's marketing plan for its forthcoming pay-TV service would work. Huggers explained that Intel would emphasize a breakthrough, high-quality video experience, rather than a "value approach" where consumers could possibly save money by switching to Intel.
While I agree with Huggers that there's a lot left to be desired in today's pay-TV experience, the reality is that the industry's big players have set the tone for how consumers make their decisions to switch providers: price first, features second. The latest evidence of this was another Verizon mailer that arrived at my house last week (see below), offering a 2-year, $89.99/month bundle of video/broadband/voice and a $250 Visa card. Verizon will also bump the broadband speed to 50/25 mbps as a bonus.
Aereo announced this morning that it has expanded service to 19 million residents in 29 counties in the New York City metro area, moving Aereo beyond the 5 boroughs. The move is part of Aereo's nationwide expansion to 22 additional markets throughout 2013.
In addition, Aereo took the wraps off its first consumer marketing initiative, with executions emphasizing its live, DVR and portability features. The ads will be placed on billboards, phone kiosks and main transit points in NYC. Importantly, they each carry the company's tagline: "Live TV. Online. No Cable Required." which pointedly positions the company as a cord-cutting option (see below for an example), as I explained recently would happen.