I'm pleased to present the 223rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we dig into the strong performance of Comcast's recently concluded 2nd annual "Watchathon" on-demand week and more broadly, how viewing behaviors on linear, on-demand and OTT are becoming intertwined.
Comcast revealed that Watchathon week drove 61 million views and 50 million hours watched, with "Game of Thrones," "The Walking Dead" and "The Good Wife" topping the list of most popular shows. Of note was the increase in live ratings for shows that were available on Watchathon. For example, Game of Thrones' season 4 premiere was up 17% in Comcast homes, "The Mindy Project" was up 83%, "Archer" was up 78%, "Parks and Recreation" was up 49%, etc.
Colin and I discuss how this appears to support the idea that allowing easy catching-up via on-demand can be an effective tactic for networks (and pay-TV operators) to drive audience to live viewing. In fact, in a prior survey Comcast did, it found that 82% of U.S. adults are binge-viewing now, with 55% saying they preferred to do so with current season programs. By enabling both, Comcast seems to be finding a sweet spot.
One other related data point we found interesting was from Rentrak, which said fully 66% of viewing of broadcast primetime programs on demand occurred after the C3 window. By Colin's calculations, that could mean for certain shows, 20% or more of total audience isn't being counted for advertisers today.
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 27 seconds)
Signs of online video's growth and vibrancy are everywhere these days, but certain startup content providers still believe the surest road to success is by landing old school distribution (or "carriage") deals with large pay-TV operators. That was the message at last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger from Jamie Bosworth, Chairman and CEO of golf lifestyle focused Back9 Network.
When asked at the hearing why Back9 Network couldn't just operate as an online video service, Bosworth said that "while online viewership is increasing, the average American still watches 20 times more video content via television and the advertising rates mirror that as well." Bosworth's issue is that because Comcast's NBC Sports group owns and distributes Golf Channel, the big cable operator has little incentive to add another golf-oriented network. Further, if the TWC merger were approved, it would stifle TV competition to a vast part of the American population.
I'm pleased to present the 220th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. First up, we discuss the WSJ report from earlier this week that Apple and Comcast may be collaborating in some way to deliver video through a "managed service" from Comcast. Neither Colin nor I can understand why Comcast would enable anything in its territory that would be remotely competitive with its own video services, but since the WSJ was thin on details, we don't know enough yet to fully judge.
We're also dubious about the fit for Apple given the company's emphasis on global scale for its products and also its premium positioning. And we're both struck by the regulatory red flags a "managed service" would raise for Comcast, at the very time they're trying to gain approval for the TWC deal. More of my thoughts are here.
We then turn quickly to Aereo's Supreme Court filing this week. As expected, it paints the case as being about cloud services in general, not just copyright specifically. We agree it's a clever strategy that positions Aereo as pro-innovation and pro-consumer, making it harder for the Supreme Court to rule against Aereo this summer.
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 58 seconds)
The Wall Street Journal reported last night that Apple and Comcast are discussing a partnership for Apple to launch a streaming TV, VOD and DVR service, including dedicated Comcast bandwidth (a "managed service" as opposed to one delivered with typical "best efforts").
On the surface, it's a sexy-sounding deal, especially for those who have long-harbored a vision of Apple moving beyond its modest Apple TV device. However, scratch the surface just a little and you'll quickly find many reasons to be skeptical anything will result. Here are my top 5 (I'm sure there are others as well):
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.
Comcast has acquired video ad manager FreeWheel for $375 million cash, validating reports that have been circulating since the weekend, but at a higher valuation than rumored. The deal is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to close in a couple of weeks. FreeWheel will become an independent operating subsidiary within Comcast, comparable to how thePlatform and STRATA, two prior Comcast acquisitions, function. FreeWheel's 3 co-founders, Doug Knopper, Jon Heller and Diane Yu have signed multi-year employment agreements.
I'm pleased to present the 216th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In today's podcast, we first discuss Disney Movies Anywhere, which launched this week. Both of us like it a lot (more of my take here). Colin believes it could also become a huge threat to UltraViolet if one other major studio were to adopt Disney's KeyChest technology.
Then we turn our attention to the Netflix-Comcast interconnection agreement, which has taken on a life of its own this week. It's rare when Colin and I see the world completely differently, but in this case, we do. Colin believes the deal sets a dangerous precedent because Netflix is being provided "extraordinary access" to Comcast's network and also that, going forward, if a content provider wants to get good performance on Comcast's network, it would have to do a deal with Comcast.
I don't see it this way. As I wrote earlier this week, the deal strikes me as business as usual, with the joint press release specifically saying "Netflix receives no preferential network treatment." Netflix made a business decision to negotiate directly with Comcast and manage/deliver their content themselves rather than work through a CDN which is what the vast majority of content providers do. This path obviously made sense for Netflix, but remember, it's in a somewhat unique situation because it accounts for 1/3 of all Internet traffic at certain times.
Because Netflix and Comcast said so little about the deal themselves, and because there is so much suspicion of Comcast (and other broadband ISPs) regarding net neutrality, market power, etc., a lot more has been read into this deal than I believe is warranted.
Colin and I have a very vigorous debate on these issues and ultimately agree to disagree :-)
Click here to listen to the podcast (30 minutes, 27 seconds)
There's lots of ink being spilled about yesterday's Netflix-Comcast interconnection agreement with some saying this is basically just "business as usual," while others are proclaiming that this is the "end of the Internet as we know it" and "evidence that net neutrality is required."
I'm not a network engineer, but since I've worked in the space long enough, I know enough to be dangerous. And from my vantage point, it seems like this is an appropriate, market-driven solution to a problem that is somewhat unique to Netflix, which now drives around 30% of the Internet's traffic during primetime hours.
Since Comcast announced its plan to acquire Time Warner Cable, there have been a number of articles about how broadband is really the main driver of the deal. No doubt broadband is very important, but Comcast still believes there's a lot of life left in its video service. To that end, the company has invested heavily in its X1 set-top box platform.
X1 is a hybrid box, delivering video via traditional "QAM" technology, while including a guide and other interactivity/content via web-based IP technology. Comcast said that X1 played a significant role in Comcast adding subscribers in Q4 '13, for the first time in 6+ years.
I've had an X1 since July, 2012, and to give a sense of its potential, I've shot an 11-minute demo of how X1 handles the NBC Olympics "Live Extra" authenticated app which is tightly integrated with its Xfinity on Demand service for highlights. First, for a little context, I show how "Live Extra" and the NBC Olympics apps work on an iPad.
I'm pleased to present the 214th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Note the interesting coincidence that we're publishing our 214th podcast on 2-14-14; hopefully it's some sort of good omen :-)
In today's podcast Colin and I parse the $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, announced yesterday. As I wrote, I see the deal as all about helping Comcast achieve further scale that is required in order to succeed in today's video environment. Colin notes that after TWC's bruising battle with CBS, during which it lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers, the merger will shift some power away from broadcast and cable networks.
We also discuss regulatory issues, net neutrality, the companies' bet that cord-cutting won't accelerate any time soon and lots more. There are many angles to the merger, which we'll continue discussing as the merger review unfolds.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 7 seconds)
It looks like Apple will be the first casualty of the Comcast-TWC deal. Just yesterday Bloomberg reported that Apple was negotiating with TWC for it to become the first pay-TV operator to make its programming accessible in a new, upgraded Apple TV device. Assuming the report is accurate (and who knows, given the spin game TWC was playing to rebuff Charter's bid), it's pretty fair to say that Comcast will have no interest in Apple getting its nose under the TWC tent.
Comcast has announced that it will acquire Time Warner Cable in an all-stock transaction valued at $45.2 billion. Comcast is already the biggest video and broadband provider in the U.S. and will now get even bigger, assuming the deal is approved. Comcast has committed to divest around 3 million of TWC's video subscribers to stay below 30% of the total U.S. pay-TV market, so the combined company would have approximately 30M video subscribers. Broadband subscribers would be a little less than 30M.
For me, the big takeaway from the deal is that in the broadband era, scale matters a lot - and to compete effectively, a company simply has to have it. Nearly ubiquitous broadband and wireless connectivity, plus massive proliferation of devices, have enabled online-only players to have easy access to massive global audiences. This context has helped fuel the rise of companies including Google, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Netflix, Twitter and many others. With innovative services and solid execution, it's now possible to create huge businesses quicker than ever.
I'm pleased to present the 212th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Earlier this week, Roku CEO and founder Anthony Wood, who I interviewed at NATPE, described his long-term vision for Roku to replace pay-TV operators' set-top boxes. Anthony believes that as online video apps become more prevalent, and pay-TV operators want to seamlessly offer them, the logistics for doing so will be so complex, that alternative approaches like using Roku, will become more attractive. Colin and I debate the pros and cons of this vision.
Then Colin walks us through Comcast's stellar Q4 '13 results, announced earlier this week. Of particular note, Comcast added video subscribers in the quarter, the first time in over 6 years. Colin has crunched the numbers and concludes that Comcast will likely have more broadband subscribers than video subscribers by mid-to-late 2014, a stunning development. We explore what this means.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 11 seconds)
Comcast reported its Q4 '13 and full-year results this morning, which included the company adding 43K video subscribers vs. a loss of 7K in Q4 '12. It was the first time Comcast added video subscribers since Q1 '07. When the biggest pay-TV operator in the U.S. reports a glimmer of health in its core video business, the question begs, are fears about cord-cutting reduced?
While I've always believed that cord-cutting was over-hyped, the reality is that Comcast's positive move does not in and of itself mean concerns about cord-cutting are lessened. That's because Comcast's gain likely says less about cord-cutting dynamics than it does about pay-TV industry share-shifting. For years, the industry pattern has been that telcos and satellite operators have been taking video subscribers from cable TV operators.
Categories: Cable TV Operators
I'm pleased to present the 209th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin was at CES this week and I've been avidly following all of the news coming out of Las Vegas, so on this week's podcast we share some of our top observations. On the list are 4K TVs, Smart TVs, Roku TV, Sony's cloud-based pay-TV service, Aereo's new $34 million financing and AT&T's "Sponsored Data" initiative among others.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 4 seconds - sorry, for running long, lots of content this week.)
At CES this week, Sony announced an ambitious over-the-top pay-TV service that will launch sometime in 2014, making it the latest company to try competing with entrenched pay-TV operators. While Sony brings more assets to the table than did Intel (whose OnCue service never even got to market), the odds of Sony succeeding still seem extremely low to me.
To be fair, Sony's installed base of 25 million PlayStations, its early success with the PS4 and a broader base of connected TVs and Blu-ray players (which Sony says all total to 70 million in the U.S.) give the company a presence in homes that Intel didn't have. Sony also has both studio and TV production operations, plus a sizable back catalog, none of which Intel has. Importantly, Sony also has a well-recognized consumer brand (even if it's not exactly synonymous with innovation as, say, Apple's and Google's are), something Intel also didn't have.
When Comcast said earlier this week that it was increasing to 35 the number of channels available for out-of-home streaming for its subscribers, available on iOS and Android mobile devices (in addition to computers), it was another powerful sign of how TV is moving beyond the traditional confines of the living room and set-top box.
But as I thought about how robust this new out-of-home offering will be, it got me wondering, again, about the risk of subscribers sharing their passwords with non-subscribers. "Do no harm" is a key mantra among all media companies these days who must take care not to have new services or features undermine traditional value propositions. Until now this hasn't been a big issue for Comcast with its out-of-home streaming feature, as it included only on-demand content and a limited number of live channels which were solely viewable on computers. It was interesting package, but not super-compelling.
The WSJ has reported that Netflix is holding early stage discussions with at least two U.S. cable operators, Comcast and Suddenlink, about having its app included in their set-top boxes. I've been seeing a lot of arguments for why Netflix partnerships would be good for cable operators, but it seems to me there would be a lot of risk involved for them if such deals materialized.
Helping Netflix become bigger and stronger would be disadvantageous for cable operators. First and foremost, this would be felt in the area of content rights. By securing past seasons of TV programs, Netflix has driven the binge-viewing phenomenon and become its biggest beneficiary. I expect binge-viewing will only gain in popularity going forward as more people experience it and more devices make it ever easier to do. Adoption of binge-viewing means those distributors with strong video libraries will do better.