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.
I'm pleased to present the 245th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Today we debate the odds of success for so-called "vPops," or virtual pay-tv operators - companies looking to deliver pay-TV services over-the-top. I expand on some of the points I made earlier this week for why I think the odds are against vPops succeeding. Fundamentally this comes down vPops' inability to cost-effectively access programming and package it in an appealing way to gain market interest.
Colin sees it very differently, believing vPops CAN create skinnier bundles of channels and successfully target highly specific cord-nevers, cord-cutters and even some existing pay-TV subscribers. Colin believes these bundles can be created at a $30 retail price point and include a compelling array of channels. He also sees room for vPops to offer full channel line-ups at lower cost than today's pay-TV operators, complete with lots of user experience enhancements.
It's a great debate and we're both eager to see what vPops actually DO come to market with over the next 6-9 months to see how things turn out.
Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 50 seconds)
Lately there's been a lot of talk about so-called "virtual pay-TV operators," (vPops as my partner Colin Dixon at nScreenMedia likes to call them), which are also called "virtual MVPDs" (multichannel video programming distributors). These are companies that will deliver linear and on-demand broadcast/cable TV network bundles from the cloud, over broadband to connected/mobile devices, offering an alternative to traditional pay-TV services.
Sony, Verizon and Dish Network have all publicly stated their interest in launching vPop services in either 2014 or 2015. Though it's still early and much is yet to be known about their actual offerings, there are already many reasons to be skeptical that they'll achieve any material success.
The recent news about the DISH-Disney deal is a watershed moment for the entertainment industry. By gaining Internet streaming rights to ESPN, DISH is perfectly positioned to launch a consumer-friendly, IP-based entertainment network. As analysts have long reported, sports are the last holdout for pay-TV. For many consumers, it's the only reason they keep their expensive cable package subscription.
This is only the beginning. Other companies are now approaching Disney for Internet streaming rights, starting with DirecTV. And, more importantly, consumer viewing habits have shifted to mobile devices.
But the most exciting company I see today is Verizon. Here's why.
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.
I'm pleased to present the 218th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Both of us have continued to observe signs of how online video is coming of age, and today we discuss some of them.
We start with news that Comcast will begin selling episodes of "House of Cards" in its Xfinity online store. Putting aside the question of why someone would buy an episode for $1.99 when they could binge-view all 26 episodes in a month for $7.99, both of us thought it's noteworthy that the largest cable operator believes an online-only series is worth selling (and note too, the deal was done with Sony Pictures, and that Verizon also has been selling the series).
Then there was the report that Disney might acquire Maker Studios, a pure-play online video / YouTube content provider. While Colin and I get a chuckle out of the idea that the Disney flag could fly over Epic Rap Battles and PewDiePie, we agree it would be a smart bet to gain reach into the all-important millennial segment.
Then we turn to the $18 million investment by Warner Bros. in Machinima, an online video gamer-centric content creator also targeting millennials. The 2 companies already had a successful collaboration with the "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" web series. No doubt the new investment will spur more gamer-centric originals for distribution by Warner Bros.
We wrap up by discussing just how important millennials are to the video's future. Recent data suggest this group is still pretty glued into the pay-TV ecosystem, but their behaviors are changing fast, in turn leading established media companies to focus on online video more than ever.
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 38 seconds)
Do millennials want pay-TV or don't they? This is one of the most hotly-debated topics in the video industry today. The "don't" camp is well-represented by Charlie Ergen, head of DISH Network, who recently said, "We’re losing a whole generation of individuals who aren’t going to buy into that model because they only want one particular show or they want to watch the show wherever they can or they want to watch it on their schedule and so that generation is not signing up to satellite or cable or phone video today."
Last week, Ergen and DISH took an important step toward re-imagining pay-TV to make it more relevant to millennials by securing OTT distribution rights to key Disney/ESPN channels. Bloomberg reported that a new OTT service from DISH could sell for $20-30/month, far less than today's typical pay-TV bundle. BTIG's Rich Greenfield subsequently fleshed out what a new lower-priced personal subscription service or "PSS" could look like: a limited access one-stream-at-a-time model geared to single-adults or light TV viewers.
Verizon Digital Media Services has unveiled research finding that 59% of millennials' video viewing is now done on-demand, with 41% on live TV. Online accounts for 34% of millennials' viewing, with DVR following at 15% and on-demand at 10%. Non-millennials have the opposite viewing pattern, with 59% of their viewing still live TV, next is DVR with 17% with online and on-demand following at 12% each. Verizon found that 64% of millennials said they subscribe to an OTT video source, compared with 33% of non-millennials.
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)
This morning Verizon finally made official what has been rumored for months - its acquisition of Intel Media's assets, including its OnCue and its IP-based TV set-top box. With the deal (plus other recent acquisitions of upLynk and EdgeCast), Verizon is now well-positioned to launch an over-the-top pay-TV service outside of its FiOS footprint.
If and when it does so, then last week's net neutrality ruling takes on even higher importance, because incumbent cable operators/broadband ISPs would either have to allow Verizon's traffic through, unfettered, creating direct OTT competition for their core pay-TV services, or discriminate against Verizon, creating a perception of anti-competitiveness and no doubt, a PR firestorm.
I'm pleased to present the 207th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we first discuss the prospects of a nationwide "virtual pay-TV operator" launching in 2014, as Viacom's CEO Philippe Dauman asserted will happen, in his remarks at the UBS conference earlier this week. Colin and I agree that if this were to happen, Verizon is the most likely candidate. Of note, the company has recently made 2 acquisitions (of upLynk and EdgeCast), through its Verizon Digital Media Services group, that could be very strategic in a virtual pay-TV operator play.
Colin is reasonably bullish that this this type of operator will emerge, but I still remain skeptical. Intel Media's flameout this year with its OnCue service underscores the challenges. We dive into further detail on the challenges and opportunities for virtual operators. (And note, Colin has a free white paper on 5 reasons why virtual operators will ultimately succeed)
Next we turn our attention to how fragmentation among connected TV devices is causing headaches for content providers and consumers, which I wrote about yesterday. Colin contrasts today's devices with buying a TV, noting how ridiculous it would be if some brands could access certain TV networks, and other brands accessing different ones. The TV industry would never have scaled in that case.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 46 seconds)
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)
Verizon Digital Media Services (VDMS) announced this morning that it has acquired upLynk, which offers content providers an innovative cloud-based adaptive streaming platform for multi-device TV Everywhere distribution. upLynk gained wide visibility earlier this year when it announced that Disney was using it to power the Watch Disney apps, ABC player and ABC Family player.
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.
Despite the massive proliferation of video-enabled devices, a new survey released this morning by Verizon finds that 89% of "borderless" consumers and 90% of "non-borderless" consumers still prefer watching TV programs on their TVs. The survey is part of a new research initiative called the Verizon FiOS Innovation Index: Borderless Lifestyle Survey and is based on approximately 2,300 adult respondents.
According to Verizon, "borderless consumers" are defined as owning a computer, a smartphone or tablet, have an Internet-enabled device with them at all times, are interested in technology and connectivity upgrades and the benefits of a connected home. Verizon believes that fully 40% of Americans are now borderless consumers, with those 18-34 comprising the largest number.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 135th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for June 1, 2012. This week we cover 3 different topics: Verizon's announcement of ultra-fast new broadband service tiers (up to 300 mbps); TiVo's new "Stream" companion device which will allow 1-click video downloading to iOS devices and the fresh rumors around Apple introducing a television following CEO Tim Cook's interview at the D10 conference this week. We wrap up on a light-hearted note - the hilarious video from Funny or Die for Under Armour, "Tom Brady's Wicked Accent."
Click here to listen to the podcast (20 minutes, 11 seconds)