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Monday, November 24, 2014

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #245 - Debating Virtual Pay-TV Operators' Odds of Succeeding

    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)



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  • Why Virtual Pay-TV Operators Have Very Low Odds of Succeeding

    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.

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  • Perspective What's this? Why Verizon is the Most Exciting Company in Entertainment Today

    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.

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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 #218 - More Signs That Online Video is Coming of Age

    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)


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  • Millennials Pose a Product Strategy Puzzle for Pay-TV Industry

    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.

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  • Study: 59% of Millennials' Video Viewing is Now On-Demand

    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.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #211 - Reviewing Netflix's Stellar Year; How Verizon Will Use OnCue

    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)



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  • Net Neutrality in Focus If Verizon Launches OTT Pay-TV Service Using Intel Media Assets

    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.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #207 - Pros and Cons of Virtual Pay-TV Operators; Connected TV Device Fragmentation

    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)


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  • VideoNuze Podcast #204 - Hulu Plus in the Pay-TV Bundle Sounds Smart; Amazon Originals Launch

    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)




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  • Verizon Digital Media Services Acquires Streaming Platform upLynk

    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.

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  • Verizon's Latest Discount Illustrates Why Intel Media Faces a Tough Road Ahead in Pay-TV

    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.

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  • Study: 90% of Consumers Still Prefer Watching TV Programs on TVs

    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.

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #135 - Verizon's Speedy Broadband, TiVo's Stream, Apple TV, Tom Brady

    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)



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  • Verizon Won't Easily Snag Netflix

    Verizon is getting its full turn in the rumor mill. Last week, word had it that Verizon is looking to launch an OTT subscription service. Next, Verizon was teaming up with Redbox. And the latest rumor yesterday is that Verizon is planning a bid to acquire Netflix, which sent Netflix's beleaguered stock up by 6%, and more today. As always, you can never be sure what to believe. But let's assume for a moment that Verizon is sniffing around Netflix. While the combination makes a certain amount of sense, Verizon's big challenge will be that if Netflix is truly in play, unlike others, I would expect pretty healthy bidding competition.

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #113 - Verizon and the OTT Market

    I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 113th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Dec. 9, 2011. In today's podcast Colin and I discuss this week's rumors of Verizon potentially launching an OTT subscription video service outside its market areas. As I wrote earlier this week, I'm skeptical of their ability to succeed, but Colin is more sanguine.

    Adding to this week's intrigue was a separate report suggesting that Verizon intends to team up with Redbox on the initiative. Meanwhile Verizon isn't willing to talk about any of this, and these days you can't be sure what to believe. Beyond Verizon, in the podcast we also discuss other players' role in the OTT space such as YouTube, Dish, Amazon and Vudu, and how they're each positioned. Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (16 minutes, 27 seconds)



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  • Verizon Needs to Bring More than a Knife to the OTT Gunfight

    Late yesterday Reuters reported that Verizon is looking at launching an online-only subscription service for streaming movies and TV shows outside its geographical footprint. While such a move initially seems disruptive to incumbents like Netflix and others, the folks at Verizon better remember the old adage about not bringing a knife to a gunfight; if they really want to compete, significant investments in content and promotions are going to be required. Even then, it's not yet clear to me how Verizon succeeds in this highly competitive space.

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  • Xbox 360 Poised to Deliver Pay-TV Service In Shift to Video App Model

    If you believe the rumor mill, Microsoft will announce as early as today that Xbox 360 will be able to deliver pay-TV services from Comcast and Verizon, as well as additional content from HBO, Sony, Amazon and others, as the gaming console continues its transformation into a full-fledged entertainment hub. Focusing specifically on the Comcast and Verizon aspects, the integration would mark a milestone for the pay-TV industry in moving from a services model delivered through the traditional, set-top box  control point to one where video becomes more like an app (albeit an expensive one!) to be delivered through multiple CE devices.

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  • Still No Consensus On Broadband ISP Usage Cap Policies

    AT&T made big headlines this week for unveiling a plan to cap monthly usage by its DSL subscribers at 150GB and its U-Verse subscribers at 250GB. Whereas other broadband ISPs like Comcast have long had a 250GB cap in place, what's different about AT&T's plan is that it is proactively saying it will charge $10 for every 50GB users exceed the limit. Other ISPs have tended to use the cap solely as a mechanism for throttling the tiny portion of users who exceed the cap, rather than as a way of generating extra revenue.

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