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.
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.
I attended the D: Dive Into Media conference earlier this week for the first time. It is mainly a series of one-on-one interviews with senior executives from a variety of media and technology companies, plus networking. Overall it was a great conference, and it's hard to beat a couple of days in beautiful Dana Point, CA, especially when coming off a blizzard in Boston.
My main interest was the video-related sessions, and from those I had 6 takeaways which I share below (along with selected session video clips), in no particular order:
I'm pleased to present the 162nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon, who is back from spending several days at CES. Though Colin concedes he didn't see anything that really "blew his socks off," he does share specific reactions to what he saw in second screen apps, UltraViolet, home gateways, Ultra High-Definition TVs, Google TV and incremental improvements in Smart TVs.
One thing that did get Colin jazzed was Near Field Communications (NFC), which allows devices to talk to each other, simply by touching. Colin describes it as "magic" and was quite impressed.
We then shift topics to discuss Aereo, which earlier this week announced a new $38 million financing and plans to expand to 22 metro areas in 2013. As I wrote, I think that as Aereo's awareness increases this year, it's going to challenge pay-TV because it effectively eliminates the broadcast TV reception element of pay-TV's value proposition. By "hollowing-out" this important feature, Aereo will cause many pay-TV subscribers to question whether they really need/value the myriad cable networks they don't really watch. Given pay-TV's escalating cost and Aereo as an alternative, many people could begin to scale back.
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 31 seconds)
Yesterday, Aereo announced a new $38 million financing (bringing its total to $63 million to date) and its intention to roll out to 22 additional U.S. cities in 2013 (full list here). Listening to a replay of CEO and founder Chet Kanojia's interview yesterday at the Citi Media Conference in Las Vegas, I'm further convinced that one of the byproducts of Aereo's expansion - if it gains market acceptance - will be to put pay-TV's value proposition in the cross hairs.
For many consumers, Aereo's core offering of inexpensive, high-quality access to broadcast TV networks via IP devices will directly crystallize the question "how much is a monthly pay-TV subscription really worth to me?" That's because, for many pay-TV subscribers, one of the key benefits of their subscription (which they may not even fully realize) is the inclusion of a de facto broadcast antenna.
At the recent VideoSchmooze, Colin Dixon from The Diffusion Group interviewed Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo in a case study focused on innovation. While much of this year's media coverage of Aereo has focused on broadcasters' copyright litigation against it, far less attention has been paid to the perfect storm of technology and consumer trends that have enabled Aereo.
In fact Chet says that even 2 years ago Aereo would not have been possible. In the interview Chet details how the striking reduction in costs / increase in performance for key enablers like bandwidth, storage, cloud computing and transcoding are driving the business. Chet explains how the entire computational industry is subsidizing these trends, which Aereo and others are capitalizing on. In addition, Chet discusses how shifting consumer perceptions are creating an opening for innovative new business models like Aereo.
The interview provides fascinating insights on today's technology trends from a world-class technologist that all media and technology companies - startups and incumbents - need to be paying attention to.
Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group and I are back for the 152nd edition of the VideoNuze-TDG podcast. This week Colin and I first share our reactions to the launch of Boxee TV earlier this week. Colin is struck by Boxee TV's unlimited video recording feature, the first that either of us have seen. Colin also points out potential challenges with upstream bandwidth that could be a challenge for Boxee TV recording programs at HD quality. Overall though, Colin likes Boxee TV's direction and believes it's a better strategy for the company than the original Boxee Box.
As I wrote earlier this week, I see Boxee TV in the context of innovation happening with broadcast TV and DVR. Along with Simple.TV and Aereo, consumers are gaining more control of their broadcast TV experience. In addition, they're all overlapping to an extent with Hulu and Hulu Plus which already offer unprecedented access to broadcast TV programs. It's still too early to tell which of these approaches will succeed, but Colin and I share our predictions.
Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 39 seconds)
Odd as it may seem on the surface, the intersection of broadcast TV and the DVR has become a hotbed of innovation. Yesterday brought the latest player in this space, Boxee TV, which followed news earlier this week that Simple.TV has begun shipping, which itself followed the launch earlier this year of Aereo.
While each has its own unique approach, they all fundamentally provide viewers more flexibility to record and play back broadcast TV programs by leveraging over-the-top, broadband delivery, while seeking to undercut the price of a monthly subscription to pay-TV. They are all segmenting the consumer market, pursuing a cohort of "cord-cutters" and "cord-nevers" open to alternatives to pricey multichannel TV bundles.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 145th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG Report podcast. In this week's podcast Colin and I talk about what resonates most for us about Aereo, based on my interview with its founder and CEO Chet Kanojia, earlier this week (Part 1 here and Part 2 here).
Foremost for both of us is Aereo's simplicity and ease of access. Aereo aligns with the expectations of digital natives, people who expect self-service offerings that have low entry barriers and commitment levels. Aereo capitalizes on key vulnerabilities of today's pay-TV services - not just that they are expensive, but that they are complicated, with various tiers, channels, fees, clunky set-top boxes and special offers tied to extended contracts, all of which are confusing and burdensome to many people, especially digital natives.
Embedded in Aereo's simplicity/convenience value proposition is its focus. Aereo is not trying to be all things to all people; rather it is starting by offering flexible broadcast TV reception, mainly for use on iPads, for a low daily cost. We were both struck by Chet's comparison of Aereo to the early days of cable TV. While their architectures are fundamentally different, their core initial offer of improving reception and access to broadcast TV programming, is similar. In this respect, you gotta love the durability of broadcast TV as a value driver.
However, cable's early model of cleaning up broadcast signal delivery eventually gave way to retransmission consent fees. For both Colin and me, this is the area that remains murkiest for Aereo. While it won the first round in court, it faces a long journey of legal challenges ahead. In particular, Colin is not convinced of Chet's belief that should Aereo adversely impact retrans fees, cross ownership of broadcast assets would enable media conglomerates to remain whole by shifting around fees to cable assets.
Finally, we are both impressed with how Aereo is capitalizing on so many of today's key technology and consumer behavioral trends. These include the declining cost of IP video delivery, storage costs and processing power, along with the rise of cloud computing, mobile devices (namely the iPad) and the shift to on-demand viewing. Chet views Aereo as a "platform" that unites all of these into a compelling consumer offering. We agree. In particular, its low, "success-based" capex model means Aereo should be able to rollout quickly and inexpensively. I draw a contrast with Google's costly fiber buildout in Kansas City.
Chet downplays Aereo's disruptive impact, but Colin and I agree it's potentially significant. Time will tell.
Listen in to learn more!
In the second part of my interview with Aereo's founder and CEO Chet Kanojia, we begin by discussing how the company relates to the pay-TV industry, and whether it is incenting cord-cutting and cord-nevering, or is simply benefiting from this activity. In fact, Chet believes Aereo is a retardant for cord-nevering, because it helps people inclined in this direction to get accustomed to paying for video. Down the road he envisions how that helps them to become pay-TV subscribers.
Chet sees cable as an inspiration for Aereo, in the sense that it too started off providing a simple convenience service, namely improved broadcast reception. Cable's model of layering on subsequent services is one that Aereo could follow as well.
Of course much has been made about how Aereo potentially relieves pay-TV operators from the burden of expensive retransmission consent fees. No surprise, it was hard to pin Chet down on this issue, but generally he believes that given the cross ownership between broadcast TV networks, cable TV networks and cable TV operators, any pressure on one revenue stream would simply get resolved by adjusting the others.
Other topics we talk about include Hulu, Netflix, net neutrality, bandwidth caps, Barry Diller's role, the composition of Aereo's team, expansion plans and its success-based capex model.
Watch Part 2 of the interview below. Part 1 is here.
There's likely no online video startup that has created quite the stir this year that Aereo has. But what's been lost in the coverage of its legal wrangling with broadcasters and high-profile backing from Barry Diller is a clear understanding of Aereo's business strategy: Who are its target customers? What is its real value proposition? How will it compete in a crowded video landscape? What new business opportunities is it trying to create for the TV ecosystem? And how are things going so far?
These are among the questions that Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia addresses in a 47-minute interview I did with him at the company's offices earlier this week. Chet looks at today's TV ecosystem and sees a world filled with inconvenience, irrational pricing/bundling and misalignments with emerging consumer expectations/behaviors. Like all can-do entrepreneurs, Chet's reaction is to see opportunity; in Aereo's case, that means delivering a "simple, rationally-priced, convenient" service to people who have become accustomed to these types of benefits in other areas of their lives.
As Chet explains, some of Aereo's prospects are "cord-nevers" - younger, Internet-centric users who place a huge value on convenience and are cost sensitive. And others are cord-cutters, who are ready to move on from taking myriad pay-TV channels they don't watch or value. Importantly, Chet doesn't see Aereo incenting these emerging behaviors, but rather benefiting from them.
In part 1 of our wide-ranging interview below, we also discuss Aereo's marketing approach and why sampling is so critical, the breakthrough antenna technology that enables Aereo's service and of course the dynamics with the broadcasters who are so determined to shut Aereo down.
Tomorrow I'll post Part 2.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 142nd edition of the VideoNuze-TDG Report podcast. In this week's podcast Colin and I first discuss NBC's Olympics video streaming. Despite some high profile criticism, we agree that NBC has actually done a pretty good job and has laid a foundation for live streaming to be an expected part of all Olympics coverage in the future.
Next we review Q2 '12 results from some of the largest pay-TV operators. Video subscriber losses continue, although Q2 is historically a soft quarter. Colin notes that recent TDG research shows the pay-TV value proposition is increasingly challenged and he believes that means higher churn is ahead, with bigger opportunities for OTT options.
Speaking of those options, Aereo announced new low-cost plans and both Colin and I agree that they're a clever way to reduce entry barriers and increase viewing flexibility. It's still early, but we like Aereo's odds of success.
Last up, we note the early demise of the Nexus Q media streaming device, a product that both us called a dud a couple of weeks ago.
Listen in to learn more.
Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 43 seconds)
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 139th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG Report podcast.
Breaking with tradition, we're posting this week's podcast a day early to share our thoughts on Aereo's big legal victory - the decision by U.S. District Judge Judith Nathan to deny the broadcast networks' request for a preliminary injunction to block Aereo's service. As Colin and I agree, though the broadcasters have promised to pursue an appeal, for now it's a very significant milestone for Aereo, as it validates the company's assertion that the Cablevision precedent should hold.
Our discussion focuses on the ruling's implications. Certainly it opens up a whole new option for pay-TV operators to avoid paying hundreds of millions in retransmission consent fees by either partnering with Aereo or developing comparable technology (patent issues notwithstanding) to deliver broadcast programs. It also opens up opportunities for OTT providers to potentially beef up their services in partnership with Aereo. While Colin sees Aereo as offering some benefits for the broadcasters, I view the ruling as key setback to their strategy to develop a secondary revenue stream.
The ruling also comes in the context of two other significant developments - the decision by DirecTV to drop Viacom's networks and the news that Netflix's usage surpassed 1 billion hours in June. Both underscore the impact that evolving consumer behaviors are having on the relationship between pay-TV and online video delivery. The Aereo decision scrambles that dynamic even further. No question, we are living in very interesting times.
Listen in to hear all of the details.
Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 17 seconds)
At the recent Cable Show, I had the great pleasure of doing a video interview with Craig Moffett, who is SVP and senior telecom, cable and satellite TV analyst at the investment firm Sanford Bernstein. Craig is likely the most widely-followed Wall Street analyst of the pay-TV industry - both video and broadband - and someone whose work I have long respected.
Craig generously spent almost 45 minutes sharing his views on practically every pressing industry issue. A key recurring theme: that the pay-TV industry is so "ossified" and inflexible that true innovation with TV can only come from outside the industry. I have split the interview into 2 video segments below. For anyone who wants to better understand where the pay-TV and online video industries are heading, and what the key drivers are, I highly recommend these.
In Part 1, we discuss:
- Pay-TV industry's overall health
- Why cable isn't really a video business, but rather an infrastructure business
- The truth about cord-cutting and cord-shaving
- What role online original programs will have with younger "cord-never" viewers
- Why young people already think of pay-TV as a luxury service and settle for "good enough" alternatives
- How expensive sports programming is driving pay-TV's affordability challenge
- What will happen with Aereo
- And more
In Part 2, we discuss:
- The role of usage-based pricing by broadband ISPs
- Why the threat of Netflix is far lower today than a year ago
- Nickelodeon's ratings problem and the role of Netflix in creating it
- Whether cable networks will cut back licensing to OTT operators
- What will happen with Dish Network's Auto Hop feature
- Why TV Everywhere will remain on a slow rollout
- What disruptive roles Google and Apple might play
- And more
Here's a measure of just how all-important big-time sports have become in driving the entire TV ecosystem: in NBCU's latest court filing against Aereo (embedded here), it cites as one of the harmful consequences of Aereo's potential success that NBCU would be unable to fund its programming. But what single example of expensive programming does NBCU call out? Not its news or entertainment - staples of the traditional broadcast network program agenda - but rather its 9-year, $10 billion Sunday Night NFL rights deal.
Sports are considered so critical to broadcasters because they're primarily viewed live and therefore immune to DVR-based ad-skipping (see yesterday's DISH Network "Auto-Hop" news for more on why DVRs are so threatening). As a result, the networks have aggressively bid for sports rights, led of course by the pursuit of NFL and Olympics deals. But those deals have been partly funded by burgeoning retransmission consent fee payments negotiated from pay-TV operators. These payments give broadcasters another revenue stream beyond just advertising (and just like cable networks, as pay-TV operators pay more in retrans fees, rate increases are passed along to ALL their subscribers, whether sports fans or not).
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 125th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Mar. 16, 2012. This week finds Colin on business in Brazil, and he's been doing some sleuthing on how Netflix's rollout is going there. Back on the domestic front, we also discuss Intel's rumored TV plans and the latest on Aereo's rollout.
Colin reports that anecdotal feedback on Netflix's content selection in Brazil is underwhelming as it is perceived as mostly older titles. He raises the critical question of whether Netflix was wise in choosing not to partner with any established players which might have brought content as well as an understanding of local conditions. Colin points out that the landscape is very different in Brazil vs. the U.S., with pay-TV penetration of just 20% and over-the-air broadcast viewing dominant. All that said, Colin has heard that Netflix is advertising heavily to build its brand. And Brazil is of course an enormous market, representing big long-term opportunities.