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.
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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.
Amazon has announced its new Kindle Fire HDX tablet which includes many new features, but from a video perspective the one that stands out as a key differentiator is the ability to download Prime Instant Videos and watch them while not connected to the Internet. The downloading feature will be available to Prime members at no extra charge.
The new downloading feature opens up great new use cases (on a plane, at a beach, no WiFi, etc.) that add meaningful value to Prime membership and help to differentiate Prime from Netflix and the HDX from the category-leading iPad.
I'm pleased to present the 196th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Colin was at the big IBC event in Amsterdam last week and today we discuss 3 of his key themes: how Amazon Web Services (AWS) has become deeply immersed in the online video industry, the rollout of HEVC (high efficiency video coding) plus 4K TV, and the prevalence of multi-screen video solutions.
Colin explains how AWS has succeeded in online video, particularly with cloud-based transcoding that leverage its elastic computing resources. This is a theme I hear repeatedly as well and wrote about recently with T3Media's integration with AWS.
Colin then discusses how HEVC is rolling out, but notes continued industry reservations about 4K TV. Last, Colin observes that multi-screen video solutions were on display everywhere at IBC. With the rise of mobile phones, tablets and connected TV devices, multi-screen has become mainstream. One thing Colin notes was nowhere to be found at IBC was 3D, which he views as now dead on arrival.
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T3Media has integrated its cloud-based T3 Library Manager content management solution with Amazon Web Services (AWS), so that common clients can seamlessly connect to their Amazon S3 and Amazon Glacier accounts. Mark Lemmons, T3Media's CTO, explained to me that the company's content provider clients gain a new level of scale and control over their storage and compute resources with the Amazon integration.
I'm pleased to present the 194th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. First up this week we discuss CBS CEO Leslie Moonves' remarks on CNBC essentially declaring victory in the company's retrans dispute with Time Warner Cable because it had preserved its ability to license its programs to Netflix and Amazon. Listeners will recall that 3 weeks ago on the podcast we talked about how OTT licensing was at the heart of the dispute and the consequences for TV Everywhere.
Next we transition to questioning whether there's any real benefit for TV networks and pay-TV operators to stream linear channels to connected TVs. Colin observes that recent data from the BBC indicating very low levels of linear streaming on connected TVs appears to question the value of the Disney-Apple TV and Time Warner Cable-Xbox 360 deals. We speculate that these are mainly meant for 2nd or 3rd TVs that don't have pay-TV set-top boxes.
Last, we chat briefly about the massive 3-part series that the NY Times ran just before Labor Day on ESPN's dominant role in college football - a long, but fascinating read. As I wrote, it's well worth the time for anyone interested in the influence of big time TV money not only on college sports but also on the broader American higher education system.
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 41 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 192nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
In this week's discussion, we talk more about the unexpected role that Netflix and Amazon are playing in the CBS-Time Warner Cable retransmission consent dispute, which has knocked CBS off the air in major markets like NYC, LA, Dallas and elsewhere. As I wrote earlier this week, though "retrans" disputes have become commonplace, a new wrinkle in this particular one is that digital distribution rights are actually the main sticking point.
Having made lucrative digital deals with both Netflix and Amazon, CBS is justifiably reluctant to simply throw digital access to its programs into a deal with TWC, as it has in the past. The standoff highlights the uphill battle that pay-TV operators are having gaining content rights for their TV Everywhere services, which remain like Swiss cheese, with major holes in program availability. It also underscores the transformational role OTT powerhouses like Netflix and Amazon are having on the broader TV industry.
Further, Colin believes there's an opportunity for new market entrants (e.g. Intel Media, Sony, Apple, Google, etc.) to bid for both digital and linear rights, and then package access for consumers in inventive new ways. Colin sees broadband's lower cost of delivery creating a big advantage for these new players. I'm skeptical however, noting that the huge expense involved in licensing content and promoting a service from scratch would more than outweigh delivery savings. But, with so much change happening in the market these days, nothing can be counted out.
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 25 seconds)
Disputes between broadcasters and pay-TV operators over so-called "retransmission consent" fee payments are a dime a dozen. Broadcasters, seeking their slice of the monthly fees pay-TV operators pay cable TV networks, have bargained hard for this new revenue stream. In this sense, the current CBS-Time Warner Cable retrans standoff is business as usual. What is new, however, is that digital rights - and more specifically the huge licensing fees that OTT's richest players, Netflix and Amazon, are now paying - have taken a central role in this particular drama.
As the WSJ reported last Friday, the real obstacle between CBS and TWC isn't what TWC will pay to retransmit the CBS signal, but rather what digital rights will be included, and at what incremental cost. Five years ago, these rights were a virtual throwaway, but now it's a totally different situation. Here's what changed:
I'm pleased to present the 190th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
We start our discussion with data that TiVo Research and Analytics (TRA) released this past Monday, which concluded, among other things, that Netflix does not cannibalize traditional TV viewing. TRA also identified the percentage of respondents who subscribe to Netflix (and other services) who watched "House of Cards." Using these numbers, Colin calculates that about 10 million people watched the program, a healthy amount by any standard (Netflix hasn't publicly released HoC's audience). Colin sees a class of "super-viewers" whose traditional TV consumption is augmented by, not substituted with, Netflix.
One thing that caught my attention in the TRA data was that while Netflix had a 57% adoption rate among respondents, Amazon Prime was right behind it, at 50% (Hulu Plus was further back at 18%). To be fair, it's not clear whether these Prime members are actually watching video included in Prime, or are mainly focused on the unlimited shipping benefit. But, assuming that many DO watch video, it's an impressive number for Amazon, and underscores how far Prime has come in the 2 1/2 years since Instant Videos were launched.
Colin and I discuss Amazon's broader agenda and how its aggressive pursuit of video is strategic in supporting both Prime and the Kindle ecosystem (all of which I described in my post this past Monday). Given Amazon's willingness to operate on razor-thin margins, I foresee the price for licensing high-quality content continuing to rise, which will in turn pinch profitability (and subscriber growth) at pure play OTT providers like Netflix.
Click here to listen to the podcast (16 minutes, 48 seconds)
Google's new Chromecast device dominated the video landscape last week, making it easy to miss a highly noteworthy news nugget from Amazon: on its Q2 '13 earnings call last Thursday, Thomas Szkutak, the company's SVP/CFO said, "We're having new Prime members come to Amazon largely because of video." Szkutak's comment was a stark reminder of how far video has come for Amazon in the 2 1/2 years since it was first included in the $79/year Prime service.
Video - and other content/apps - are critical to Amazon because they all support two of the company's most important consumer-facing priorities: growing its highly profitable and sticky Prime service and supporting its line of Kindle devices in the fiercely competitive tablet market. Amazon's ability to successfully use video in service to these other businesses no doubt helps drive its willingness to spend heavily on content licensing and also to invest in its own original productions.
Three items last week brought to mind one central question I've long wondered about: can traditionally free, ad-supported online video providers make the leap to a paid, subscription model? The first item was a long piece in Variety that chronicled the struggles the first set of YouTube content partners trying subscriptions is having upselling their free viewers. Second, Reuters broke the news that Machinima, one of the biggest online video players (and a big YouTube partner) is planning to go it alone in creating its own subscription service to complement its free, ad-supported offering. And third was the milestone news that Netflix, by far the most successful online subscription service, garnered 14 Emmy nominations, including 9 for "House of Cards" alone.
How do these all tie together?
Netflix's original series "House of Cards" received 9 Emmy nominations this morning including in 3 of the marquee categories best drama, best actor (Kevin Spacey) and best actress (Robin Wright). The nominations were a first for online original programming and therefore are a bona fide milestone for the rapidly growing online video medium. In addition, Netflix picked up 3 Emmy nominations for "Arrested Development."
While Netflix bet big to put HoC in a league with cable stalwarts - and other best drama nominees "Game of Thrones," "Breaking Bad," "Homeland" and "Mad Men" plus the lone broadcast series "Downton Abbey" - an intriguing question to ask is whether the HoC nominations signal the beginning of an Emmy trend for online original programs or whether HoC is more of an outlier? In other words, can online get on the same type of award-winning growth curve for its originals as cable networks have over the last 20 years, helping drive pay-TV subscriber acquisition and retention?
SVOD services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime Instant Video are all the all the rage these days and a core part of their popularity is their ever-expanding library of TV series. No question, binge-viewing a TV season or series on an SVOD service is now one of life's little pleasures.
In SVOD's wake, one technology that always seems to get overshadowed is the DVR. But, according to data from NPD, watching TV shows on DVRs is actually more than twice as popular as watching them on SVOD services like Netflix. When asked how they watched TV shows in Q1 '13, viewers cited DVR/TiVo 42%, and SVOD 16%. As seen in the chart below, DVR/TiVo was in third place, after linear viewing on the TV network itself.
I'm pleased to present the 177th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Earlier this week, Netflix reported solid results for Q1 '13, adding a total of about 3 million new subscribers, 2 million in the U.S. and a million internationally. Netflix projects it can ultimately obtain 60-90 million U.S. subscribers, which would be 2-3 times as many as HBO, the biggest "premium TV" network.
As I wrote earlier this week, if that were to occur - and it's still a big if - it would mean Netflix would have to get a lot of middle and lower income American homes to layer on another $8/mo or more to their already substantial pay-TV bills, OR there would have to be material cord-cutting that essentially frees up household budget for SVOD subscriptions. Colin suggests a third way, which would be "cord-shaving" - subscribers cutting back on existing pay-TV services like sports networks or premium channels to make room for Netflix in their budgets.
That of course leads to the question of what HBO might do as it observes Netflix's continued growth. It's hard to see HBO standing still, yet, for reasons HBO has discussed in the past, unbundling itself from pay-TV would be a huge step for the company. Last but not least, Amazon - which become Netflix's biggest U.S. SVOD competitor - is rumored to have a set-top box introduction planned, which could also shift the competitive balance in the U.S. Bottom line, there are a lot of twists and turns yet to occur in SVOD in the U.S.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 6 seconds)
At starting prices of $8/month or so, affordable subscription video on demand (SVOD) services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Blockbuster and others would seem to appeal to middle and lower income Americans. But a new report from Nielsen finds the exact opposite is true: wealthier homes, with household income over $100K/year, adopt SVOD services at 185% of their index, while lower income homes, with household income under $50K/year, subscribe at just 47% of their index.
Adding to the picture, "Professional" homes subscribing to an SVOD service are at 150% of their index, while "Blue Collar" homes are just 63% of their index.
The data seems to support a contention that Netflix has repeatedly made, which is that SVOD services are typically adopted in addition to - not in substitution for - pay-TV services. To the extent that pay-TV rates have continue to increase, it makes sense that only upper income homes can afford to then layer on an SVOD service on top of pay-TV.
I'm pleased to present the 173rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we focus on the rising cost of content to pay-TV operators and the rising quality of content found online.
In a post yesterday, Colin validates pay-TV operators' complaints about programming costs, noting, for example, that at Comcast they rose from 34% of video revenue in '08 to 40% in '11 (at Time Warner Cable they were 41% and at DirecTV they were 45%). As we discuss, these escalating costs are eating into operators' profit margins as subscriber rate increases haven't kept pace. As VideoNuze readers know, sports is a major culprit in all of this, though entertainment networks have raised their own rates as well.
Against this backdrop, the quality of content available online is improving markedly. For example in just the past couple of weeks, we've seen Netflix announce another new series, with the producers of The Matrix films and Babylon5, Amazon Studios announce new shows "Betas," "Zombieland" and "Sarah Solves It" and Crackle a second season of "Chosen." Further, anime network Crunchyroll disclosed it's now up to 200K paying subscribers, TheBlaze (Glenn Beck's online video network) is raising $40M. Even the BBC, one of the most traditional TV networks, announced it will be premiering shows on its iPlayer.
In short, the quality of programming online is getting better all the time, while the cost of content to pay-TV operators is escalating, in turn putting pressure on subscriber rates. All of this means viewership patterns are bound to change and with the broader video industry.
Reminder: sign up for "Sizing Up Apple TV" a free video webinar, next Tuesday, April 2nd featuring Brightcove's Jeremy Allaire and me.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 57 seconds)
Audience fragmentation isn't a new concept, but the proliferation of high-quality online-only originals suggests the trend is only going to intensify. These days, a week doesn't go by without another key player announcing a new or renewed online-only series, in turn creating ever-more choices for viewers and advertisers. Combine the surge in originals with the broad adoption of video-enabled connected devices, and the pieces are falling into place for even more changes in viewing behaviors.
Categories: Indie Video
Welcome to 2013! If you were mostly checked out over the past 1-2 weeks (or were only paying attention to the fiscal cliff roller coaster), you didn't miss a whole lot in the video world. However, there were 5 items that caught my attention which I briefly describe below:
Research firm GfK released data from its third annual Over-the-Top TV report late last week, finding, among other things, that consumption by Netflix subscribers age 13-54 is roughly 2,000 minutes per month, about the same as it found in its '11 study. That amount is in the same general ballpark as the 2,388 minutes/sub/mo that BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield calculated for June, 2012, and in line with the 2,000 minutes/sub/mo that I calculated during Q4 '11.
The survey of 1,051 persons age 13-54 and conducted in June, 2012, found the average Netflix subscriber watches 5.1 TV shows and 3.4 movies per week. The survey revealed that 39% of this age group are Netflix subscribers (up from 35% in '11), with 47% having ever been a Netflix subscriber.