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Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Analysis for 'Broadband ISPs'

  • 5 Reasons to Be Skeptical of Any Apple-Comcast Deal

    The Wall Street Journal reported last night that Apple and Comcast are discussing a partnership for Apple to launch a streaming TV, VOD and DVR service, including dedicated Comcast bandwidth (a "managed service" as opposed to one delivered with typical "best efforts").

    On the surface, it's a sexy-sounding deal, especially for those who have long-harbored a vision of Apple moving beyond its modest Apple TV device. However, scratch the surface just a little and you'll quickly find many reasons to be skeptical anything will result. Here are my top 5 (I'm sure there are others as well):

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  • Top U.S. Broadband ISPs Add Another 2.6 Million Subscribers in 2013

    The 17 largest broadband ISPs in the U.S. added over 2.6 million subscribers in 2013, down almost 105K vs. the approximately 2.7 million subscribers they added in 2012. These ISPs now have 84.3 million subscribers, with cable TV operator ISPs having 49.3 million (58%) and telco ISPs having 35 million (42%). The data comes from Leichtman Research Group.

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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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  • Nielsen: Over Half Of Broadband-Only Homes Are Age 18-34

    Nielsen released its latest Digital Consumer Report yesterday, finding among things, that 52% of broadband-only homes in the U.S. are in the 18-34 age range. Nielsen notes this group accounts for fewer than 5% of total U.S. households, but believes it's important to understanding the future digital living room. Nielsen said 80% of this group owns game consoles and 41% tablets, both twice the rate of traditional TV households.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #212 - Comcast Gains Video Subscribers; Can Roku Replace Set-Top Boxes?

    I'm pleased to present the 212th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Earlier this week, Roku CEO and founder Anthony Wood, who I interviewed at NATPE, described his long-term vision for Roku to replace pay-TV operators' set-top boxes. Anthony believes that as online video apps become more prevalent, and pay-TV operators want to seamlessly offer them, the logistics for doing so will be so complex, that alternative approaches like using Roku, will become more attractive. Colin and I debate the pros and cons of this vision.

    Then Colin walks us through Comcast's stellar Q4 '13 results, announced earlier this week. Of particular note, Comcast added video subscribers in the quarter, the first time in over 6 years. Colin has crunched the numbers and concludes that Comcast will likely have more broadband subscribers than video subscribers by mid-to-late 2014, a stunning development. We explore what this means.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 11 seconds)


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    The VideoNuze podcast is also available in iTunes...subscribe today!

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  • Risk to Net Neutrality is Minimal Even Though FCC's Open Internet Has Been Overturned

    Earlier today the DC Court of Appeals threw out the FCC's Open Internet net neutrality rules. Net neutrality advocates are upset with the FCC for pursuing an illogical regulatory path from the start. They are deeply worried that now, unencumbered by net neutrality regulations, big broadband ISPs (which also happen to be the biggest pay-TV providers) will begin to discriminate against third-party online video services by shunting them to "slow lanes" and charging new delivery "tolls."

    I completely understand these concerns, but I for one don't envision any of this happening, at least not in the foreseeable future. Some of you are no doubt thinking - Will's naive, he's an idiot, he's a shill, etc. so let me explain.

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  • Let's Get Real: TV Isn't Close to Dying and Here's a Great Slide Deck Proving It

    There is no doubt the TV industry is changing dramatically, largely due to the rise of online and mobile video viewing. But is it "dying," "imploding" or being "nuked" as some recent tech media headlines assert? No, not yet anyway. As a close observer of all things video, it's just mind-boggling sometimes to see how data is conflated to support distorted conclusions. If your company's product strategy were guided by today's headlines alone, you'd be on a course to disaster.

    To help set things straight, Piksel's Alan Wolk has put together a really good slide deck with data debunking 7 of the bigger myths floating around these days (1) cord-cutting is a mass movement, (2) kids ignore mainstream TV, (3) your pay-TV provider is the one forcing you to pay for 800 channels, (4) cutting the cord lets you stick it to the cable company, (5) second screen is all about social TV, (6) TV viewing has decreased and (7) in the future we'll be able to watch TV wherever, whenever and however we want.

    See slide deck

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #205 - Sports Leagues Fight Aereo; Broadband Battle in the U.K.

    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)




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  • Study: U.S. Broadband Homes Without Pay-TV are Basically Flat at 9%

    There is a lot of talk these days about pay-TV cord-cutters and cord-nevers and how OTT providers can leverage this group to build their businesses. But a data point from research firm Leichtman Research Group last week that caught my eye suggests this market may be smaller than many people think and also not growing very fast. LRG noted that just 9% of U.S. homes subscribe to a broadband Internet service, but not a pay-TV service, up just slightly from the 8% level in both 2011 and 2012 (see graph below).

    Further, Bruce Leichtman of LRG told me that of the broadband/no pay-TV group, just 37% get their broadband from speedier and pricier cable or telco fiber deployments. That compares with 75% taking these services among other broadband subscribers (remember than cable and telco fiber are by far the most prevalent broadband services).

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  • Akamai Introduces Operator CDN Solutions to Improve Video Delivery

    The explosion of online video viewership is presenting pay-TV operators and broadband ISPs with big challenges and opportunities managing all of the increased traffic across their networks. To help address these, Akamai is introducing new capabilities in its Aura Network Solutions line of operator content delivery network (OCDN) technologies. The goal is to help operators deliver traffic more flexibly and cost effectively while also opening up potential new business models such as TV Everywhere.

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  • Tipping Point? Q1 '13 Broadband Subscriber Growth Was 6x Bigger Than Pay-TV's

    New industry data compiled by Leichtman Research Group shows that broadband ISPs that account for 93% of the U.S.  market added over 1.1 million subscribers in Q1 '13, nearly 6 times the 194K pay-TV subscribers that were added in the period by pay-TV operators that account for 94% of the market.

    Broadband subscriber additions have outstripped pay-TV's for years, but the 6x ratio is more than double the average of 2.8x from the prior 2 years. The 194K pay-TV additions in Q1 were down 56% vs. the 445K added in Q1 '12, while the 1.1M broadband additions were off 15% from the 1.3M in each of the prior 2 years.

    On the surface the data suggests that cord-cutting - a shift from viewing video via pay-TV to via broadband - may finally be taking hold. But while LRG's Bruce Leichtman has indeed found an uptick in his calculations of cord-cutting (up from .2% of U.S. homes to .4%-.5%), he sees a far more nuanced picture of what accounted for Q1's swing, plus lots of uncertainty going forward.

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  • Survey: Interest in Google Fiber Strong Among Early Adopters

    Investment firm Bernstein Research has released the results of a proprietary door-to-door survey of 204 Kansas City households which reveals strong interest in Google Fiber service among early adopters, with potentially strong adoption rates among mainstream audiences longer-term as well.

    Bernstein found very high awareness of Google Fiber, with 98% of respondents being aware of the service, no surprise given the level of local coverage it has received. Of the 204 respondents, 52% said they would definitely or probably buy Google Fiber and 25% said they may.

    However, recognizing the difference between what people say they'll do vs. what they'll actually do, Bernstein forecasts that 15-20% of homes will in fact subscribe to Google Fiber in the first phase of its rollout. Given the uncertainties around competitive responses to Google Fiber, Bernstein is less clear about longer-term adoption, though it is suggesting 40-50% is possible eventually.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #172 - What's Google Fiber Really About?; YouTube Traffic Soars, Goes Mobile

    I'm pleased to present the 172nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we first discuss Google Fiber, which Google announced this past Tuesday would roll out to a second city, Olathe, KS. Nonetheless, as we discuss, it still feels like Google Fiber is a hobby for Google, though its executives recently asserted otherwise. Neither Colin nor I quite understand what Google Fiber's actual market impact or game plan is, and we are skeptical that there's a business case to support its broader rollout.

    We then turn our attention to another Google-related item, which is that YouTube announced this week it is now attracting 1 billion visitors/month, even as (according to my analysis), its U.S. online-only traffic has dropped by 32% year-over-year. But, because comScore doesn't measure mobile access, this isn't an accurate portrayal of YouTube's reach, which is clearly expanding. Colin has further data that adds color to the situation.

    Separate, Colin has released his excellent new white paper, "Second-Screen Apps for TV" (free download here)

    And a reminder to sign up for "Sizing Up Apple TV" a free video webinar on April 2nd featuring Brightcove's Jeremy Allaire and me.
        
    Listen in to learn more!

    (update - the correct pronunciation of Olathe, KS is "O lay the" (thanks Frank Hughes!).

    Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 57 seconds)

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  • Google Fiber To Expand To A Second City; But If It's Not A "Hobby," Then What Is It Exactly?

    Google announced late yesterday plans to extend its Google Fiber service to a second city, Olathe, KS (population 125,000), in Johnson County, about 30 minutes from Kansas City, where Google Fiber has been initially deployed. With the news, the question once again arises, if Google Fiber isn't a "hobby" (as Google executives recently stated), then what is it exactly? And by extension, what are its real implications for broadband ISPs, consumers and over-the-top video?

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  • VideoNuze-TDG Podcast #158 - Implications of Broadband Data Caps

    I'm pleased to present the 158th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon, senior analyst at The Diffusion Group. Colin and I each back in the office, after being together at VideoSchmooze in NYC.

    (Apologies in advance, the audio quality this week is diminished because we couldn't get Skype working on both ends, so I had to use a cell phone connection.)

    On the opening session at VideoSchmooze with the 3 Wall Street analysts, Laura Martin, Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson, Craig made a point that cable operators are, in his opinion, "infrastructure providers," not video providers. He means that because they now supply both video, broadband and other services over the same networks, their real business is maximizing the ROI derived from subscribers' total payments for all services delivered.


    To the extent that large numbers of video subscribers may cut the cord at some point down the road to use OTT services instead, cable operators would respond by trying to recapture lost revenue and margin via increased, "usage-based" pricing on broadband for heavier OTT users. Craig believes there's approximately $50/month/video subscriber of video profit margin that would need to be recouped.

    In our discussion, Colin and I discuss the concept generally, and in particular whether this type of revenue shifting is feasible. Colin is skeptical whether this can happen, pointing to competitive, regulatory and consumer demand obstacles. I'm more in Craig's camp, and believe that operators would certainly try their best to accomplish this, as it's a natural thing any business would try to do.

    Putting all of this into context however, it's still a largely hypothetical discussion. There isn't yet cord-cutting to an extent that operators feel the need to recoup profits through broadband. And where data caps exist they're still high enough that few subscribers need to buy more bandwidth to accommodate their OTT viewing.

    Still, it's interesting to speculate on the topic, as higher broadband pricing would make OTT services like Netflix, Hulu and others relatively more expensive, therefore making them less attractive relative to pay-TV video services.

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




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  • VideoNuze-TDG Podcast #156 - Google Fiber, Google TV, YouTube

    I'm pleased to present the 156th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon, senior analyst at The Diffusion Group. Google is all over the online video industry and today is an "all Google" podcast, as we focus on updates related to Google TV, Google Fiber and YouTube.

    First up is Google TV, and Colin discusses new features including voice-based search, the PrimeTime TV/movies app and updated YouTube app, as well as a new AirPlay-like app that allows users to watch video through their Google TV that was discovered on their Android devices. Colin views all of these as the continued evolution of Google TV, which long-term he believes will become an interesting device.

    Next up, the first installations of Google Fiber occurred this week in Kansas City. The much-hyped project promises to deliver 1 gig speeds for $70/month, though a profile of an early customer indicated actual speeds around 600-700 mbps. Still, that's a huge jump from typical broadband ISP service and Colin shares scenarios of what may happen when speeds and bandwidth caps are no longer constraints.

    We finish up with YouTube, which this week revealed that it will re-invest in 30-40% of the original channels it helped launch, meaning 60-70% won't get additional funds. Like TV networks, YouTube is learning what works and what doesn't, and re-upping accordingly. It's also worth noting that the YouTube app launched on Nintendo Wii this week, further spreading YouTube's reach into the living room.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (16 minutes, 39 seconds)




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  • Back from Vacation? Here Are 5 Stories Worth Noting

    If you were trying to tune out last week, whether lying on a beach or on a family getaway, you didn't miss all that much exciting online video-related news. However there were some items worth noting and below I've highlighted five that caught my eye.

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  • VideoNuze-TDG Report Podcast #143 - Should Google Fiber Frighten Incumbent Operators?

    I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 143rd edition of the VideoNuze-TDG Report podcast. In this week's podcast Colin and I discuss the prospects for Google Fiber, and specifically whether incumbent pay-TV operators and broadband ISPs should be "very, very afraid," as a report from industry analyst SNL Kagan asserted earlier this week.

    Google's innovative spirit and willingness to spend heavily on Google Fiber is terrific, but as I said last week, I think its big challenge will be penetrating beyond a core early adopter audience. While uncapped gigabit broadband service is indeed compelling, more mainstream audiences will weigh its benefits against the costs of its missing features, being a guinea pig for an unproven service and increasing their monthly bills for TV and phone service, among other things.

    In a sense, Google Fiber feels to me a little bit like Time Warner's Full Service Network pilot in Orlando in the mid-90's, with its high deployment costs, disruptive innovation, untested consumer premise equipment, lack of scalability and massive hype. That's not to say Google Fiber will end up like FSN as a complete flameout, but it's still not clear to me what the real impact of the project is going to be. I think incumbent operators need to be vigilant, but there's no real cause for fright, at least not yet anyway. Colin is a bit more bullish on Google Fiber, though I suspect that's because he's so enticed by the idea of a having a gigabit connection himself (being the early adopter that he is!).

    Click here to listen to the podcast (20 minutes, 2 seconds)




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  • Comcast's SVP Matt Strauss: "You Have to Envision a World Where Video Will Be Everywhere" [VIDEO]

    Comcast reported strong 2nd quarter results this morning, adding another 156K broadband subscribers, while losing 176K video subscribers, an improvement over the 238K it lost in Q2 '11. It's the seventh straight quarter Comcast has improved its video subscriber losses, while driving the average monthly revenue per subscriber up another 8% to $148.57.

    At the recent VideoNuze 2012 Online Video Advertising Summit, I did a fireside chat with Matt Strauss, Comcast's SVP, Digital and Emerging Platforms, who articulated Comcast's strategy for meeting consumers' ever-higher video expectations. Matt observed that "you have to envision a world where video will be everywhere." This seems to be the rallying theme for all of Comcast's recent video efforts. Matt describes how the company has reorganized itself to collapse traditional boundaries between linear, on-demand and online groups, including now having just one user experience team.

    Watch the video

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