HBO has dropped a bombshell, announcing plans to launch a standalone over-the-top service in the U.S. in 2015. The announcement was extremely short on details, except to say it was targeted to the 80 million U.S. homes that do not currently subscribe to HBO. Here are my 8 quick reactions to the news. Many more thoughts to follow as more details are released.
Categories: Cable Networks
A new wave of viewers has emerged: they're connected, they know what they want to watch, when they want to watch it, and most importantly, how they want to watch it. They are chomping at the bit for premium content that is both accessible and affordable. At the same time, the advent of OTT and connected TV devices has made way for a whole new viewing experience where "television" simply refers to the largest screen in the house.
We all know the TV ecosystem of tomorrow will look vastly different than today's current landscape, but what changes can we expect? Here are four predictions for what trends will emerge over the next few months and years:
I'm pleased to present the 243rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Earlier this week both Colin and I were intrigued to see AT&T in the market with a new $39 per month offer putting broadband and OTT front and center, with HBO/HBO Go plus a year of Amazon Prime. Just the low tier of U-verse U-basic TV is included. Colin and I both interpreted this as an aggressive move to attract millennials/cord-nevers.
The offer is also the latest by a pay-TV operator using OTT services as a lure. We've seen several European and smaller U.S. pay-TV operators promote Netflix as well. Colin and I discuss how operators are clearly becoming more flexible with regard to OTT services. We wrap up with a preview of some of the new OTT pay-TV services coming to market and whether a linear TV style package makes sense and whether they too should incorporate OTT services.
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 47 seconds)
Roku has announced that it has sold over 10 million of its players in the U.S. cumulatively since it shipped its first one in 2008. Roku last reported sales of 8 million units in January '14, which means the company has sold approximately 2 million units year-to-date (Roku has previously said it sold around 3 million units for all of 2013).
Roku was an early entrant in what has developed into an intensely competitive connected TV space. Apple, whose Apple TV device was famously referred to as a "hobby" by the company (though no longer) has over 20 million users. Google hasn't released any numbers for Chromecast yet, but undoubtedly its sales are well into the millions also (Google is also launching Android TV). And Amazon launched Fire TV this past spring.
September is here and that means summer 2014 is in the rear-view mirror. For online video and the broader video ecosystem, it was another busy few months, as viewers around the world continue to shift their consumption patterns, with many companies scrambling to keep pace. Below I've distilled my list of the 10 biggest online video stories of the summer - read on and let me know if I've missed something!
Amazon will acquire Twitch, the live-streaming video game platform, for $970 million. Until very recently Google was heavily rumored to be acquiring Twitch. Twitch is Amazon's 2nd-biggest acquisition ever, after its $1.2 billion purchase of Zappos in 2009. Twitch enables users to live-stream and record themselves playing video games, which tens of millions of monthly visitors watch.
Twitch is Amazon's biggest investment in online video to date and follows other video initiatives including Prime Instant Videos, an escalating slate of original programs, numerous high-profile licensing deals (including for various HBO programs and for the PBS drama "Downton Abbey") as well as the recent launch of the Fire TV connected TV device.
Binge-viewing is surely one of the most notable cultural phenomena of the past few years. Barely registering as a concept less than 3 years ago, many recent research reports now cite binge-viewing as having been adopted - if not regularly practiced - by a majority of TV viewers (examples here, here, here, here, here, here).
The shift toward binge-viewing has immense implications for the TV and video industries, touching everything from the creative process to programming/distribution decisions to monetization approaches. Some companies are fully embracing binge-viewing and riding its wave, while others are taking a more cautious approach.
Stepping back though, how exactly did binge-viewing become such a cultural phenomenon? I believe there are at least 5 key contributing factors, with the relationships among them creating a perfect storm of growth.
I'm pleased to present the 224th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This was an unusually busy week with many industry announcements, so today's format is a roundup discussion of four items that seemed most significant to us.
First up is HBO's exclusive new licensing deal with Amazon, which is the latest evidence of the surging value of high-quality content libraries. Second is Apple's reveal that it has sold 20 million Apple TVs to date, making it more than just a "hobby." Next, we turn to Netflix, which reported stellar Q1 results earlier this week. Finally, we look at Comcast's Q1 and Time Warner Cable's Q1 results. Both companies reported healthier video subscriber numbers (though Verizon reported a much smaller quarter for FiOS video subscribers). The question still looms how meaningful cord-cutting is in reality.
(Note, we had major technical issues with Skype this week, so in the last one-third of the podcast I sound like I'm in a fish tank. Apologies in advance.)
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 46 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 221st edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we assess Amazon's new Fire TV connected device. As I wrote earlier this week, I see it as a double, but not a home run, and I further explain some of my main points.
Colin believes Amazon also over-stated the problems with existing connected TV devices in its effort to differentiate the Fire TV. Those 3 differentiators were Fire TV's openness, improved search and better performance. Colin only sees the performance as meaningful, with Fire TV's new "ASAP" content pre-loading feature - but with the caveat that it has to actually work (and not just for Amazon's own video).
We also discuss Fire TV's gaming features, which Amazon is clearly betting on, though we're not quite certain exactly where they'll fit in the market. On the positive side, Colin likes how Fire TV will prioritize searched-for content by price and availability.
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 9 seconds)
Among the apps launched this week on Amazon's new Fire TV was the ACC Digital Network, a joint venture between Silver Chalice and Raycom Sports. ACC Digital Network is the Atlantic Coast Conference's multimedia destination featuring live streaming and other original programming. In addition to being online, it also recently launched on Apple TV.
To get up and running quickly on Fire TV, SportsLabs, a division of Silver Chalice, turned to 1 Mainstream, a platform for deploying HD video services on a variety of connected TV and mobile devices that launched last December. I caught up with Rajeev Raman, 1 Mainstream's CEO (and previously head of product at Roku), to learn more about how the company is helping content providers quickly build and deploy apps.
In baseball terms, Amazon's new Fire TV connected device will be neither a home run nor a strikeout; more likely it looks like it will be a solid double. Amazon deserves credit for some clever new features that will distinguish the Fire TV in an increasingly crowded connected TV landscape. But, by beefing up its specs - and therefore its own costs - Amazon has priced the device relatively high at $99. That in turn will likely limit its appeal mainly to certain segments of the market: families with younger kids and/or casual gamers.
Of course a connected TV device from Amazon has been long-rumored and highly expected since it complements so well numerous other initiatives such as Prime, Kindle, Prime Instant Video, Amazon Studios, etc. How exactly Amazon would execute on the opportunity was debated. Would it roll out an inexpensive stick or more polished box (or both)? Which devices would it compete directly with? What content strategy would it use (free! pay-TV!)? And what features would differentiate it?
These are highly uncertain times for global TV manufacturers. As IHS reported last week, sales of TVs declined by 6% in 2013 to 225.1 million units, following a 7% contraction in 2012, creating first ever back-to-back down years for the global TV industry. IHS pinned the blame for the declines mainly on market saturation and difficult economic times.
To rebound from the doldrums, TV manufacturers are betting heavily on consumers upgrading to 4K TV and Smart TVs. 4K, or Ultra-High Definition TV, has significant challenges with content availability, price and picture quality differentiation it must overcome to go mainstream. Meanwhile, although the price premium for Smart TVs has shrunk, bringing them closer to conventional HDTVs, their value proposition is still not widely understood by consumers and access to online content is still very limited.
In this already difficult climate, another challenge for TV manufacturers is now taking shape from a whole new category of devices: low cost streaming sticks.
For a glimpse into cloud computing's significant contribution to the successful scaling of online video advertising, yesterday BrightRoll shared some details of its relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) which it has been working with since 2008. According to BrightRoll, AWS now processes 30 billion data points per day in order to deliver 3 billion video ads per month. BrightRoll said in 2013 it delivered over 23 petabytes of content, which will double in 2014. In a related case study, Kenneth Cheung, BrightRoll's senior director of engineering said that "If AWS didn't exist, BrightRoll would be a different company."
I'm pleased to present the 213th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Today we focus on Amazon, which is already an important player in video, and is poised to become more so. Among the topics we discuss:
- plans to increase the price of its Prime service (and the role of expensive video licensing in driving this)
- the possibility video could be split off from Prime and become a more pure competitor to Netflix and others
- the many roles that video advertising could play as part of a new deal with FreeWheel
- why an Amazon connected TV device (widely rumored) would be highly strategic
- whether Amazon will enter the pay-TV business (as has also been widely rumored)
- the role of Amazon's original online productions
All in all, Amazon is circling the video space in many different ways, with potential to be quite disruptive. It's still very early in the game for Amazon and 2014 could be a big year. We'll see how it plays out.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 32 seconds)
Yesterday, FreeWheel quietly announced that it's powering video ads for Amazon. Though the announcement was light on details, anytime Amazon moves into a new space, as it's doing with video ads, it's noteworthy. I spoke to Doug Knopper, co-CEO of FreeWheel, who noted this is the company's first customer that isn't a pure media company, underscoring for him how ubiquitous video and video advertising are becoming.
Though under tight constraints from Amazon about what he could say, Doug emphasized that, as with all Amazon initiatives, the focus is on creating a better customer experience. In FreeWheel's release, Lisa Utzschneider, Amazon's VP of Global Ad Sales positioned video ads as a discovery vehicle, helping customers learn about related products.
I'm pleased to present the 210th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
2014 is shaping up to be another very busy year for all things video. In this week's podcast, Colin and I share our top trends to look for in 2014 and why. And in the spirit of accountability, we also review our 2013 predictions from a year ago - what we got right and what we got wrong.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 26 seconds - sorry, for running long, lots of content this week.)
Judging by the pre-show buzz, the main focus at this year's CES (which kicks off next Tuesday) will be on Ultra High-Definition TV, or "4K" TV. If this seems familiar, it's because UHDTVs were the main focus of last year's CES as well. Clearly TV manufacturers have settled on UHDTV as the next "big thing" to motivate consumers to upgrade. However, in 2013, UHDTV's high prices, impractically large screen sizes and lack of 4K content led to extremely limited adoption in the U.S. So the question is: will UHDTVs find better success in the U.S. in 2014?
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)
Amazon's PR machine is gearing up to support the company's imminent push into original programming, with a high-profile piece on Saturday in the Wall Street Journal and today in the NY Times. In both, Amazon video executives are quoted explaining the process by which Amazon selected its first crop of originals, with a particular focus on Garry Trudeau's "Alpha House," the first series that will launch on November 15. No doubt we'll see lots more PR around Amazon's subsequent originals' release.
The PR emphasis is a departure for famously reticent Amazon, but its presence is a sign of how strategic original video has become for the company, and how high the stakes are for it to succeed. Over the past 2 years Amazon has become much more competitive with Netflix in licensing hit TV programs from networks and studios to be included for its Prime members. Now the battleground is shifting to originals.
Categories: Indie Video
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.