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Saturday, November 22, 2014

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #235 - World Cup Streaming Recap; NBA to Drive "Sports Tax"

    I'm pleased to present the 235th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week, Colin recaps how well the recently wrapped-up World Cup did with live-streaming. As Colin notes, the final game delivered 1.8 million concurrent live viewers. Also interesting was how mainstream streaming mid-day games seemed to become. Unlike March Madness games, which have always been streamed in the workplace somewhat surreptitiously, World Cup streaming seemed completely acceptable.

    Continuing our sports theme, we then turn to a WSJ article this week which revealed that the NBA is seeking to double the approximately $930 million per year in TV rights fees it receives from Disney/ESPN and Time Warner/Turner when these deals expire after the 2015/2016 season.

    If the NBA were to succeed, and gain $2 billion or so in fees, that would translate into around $20 per year for each of the approximately 100 million U.S. pay-TV subscribers (even more when you factor in the pay-TV operator's retail margin).

    The dirty little secret of these super-expensive sports deals is that ALL subscribers pay - whether you're a fan or not - meaning the "sports tax" on non-fans is getting bigger all the time. With escalating pay-TV bills, the big question is whether non-fans will become heavier cord-nevers and cord-cutters.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (20 minutes, 5 seconds)



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  • WatchESPN's College Football Audience Up 20% in 2013, But TV Viewing Still Rules

    ESPN has reported a slew of viewership data for the 2013 college football season across both traditional TV and digital platforms. Of note, WatchESPN recorded a 20% increase in average live game usage vs. 2012, to 32,000 live unique viewers. Though that's a healthy increase, the incremental viewership WatchESPN represents is still quite small compared to TV viewing. ESPN said that its networks averaged nearly 1.9 million viewers for the 254 regular-season games that were broadcast. Across all of its networks, a total of 189 million people watched games.

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  • Mobile Video Experts Share Insights at VideoSchmooze

    Yesterday's VideoSchmooze drew 230+ attendees for a full morning of deep dives into the hottest topics in the industry. One of the sessions focused on mobile video and featured executives from ESPN, PBSKids and VEVO, which are already achieving huge mobile viewership, plus technology provider Beachfront Media, which is powering many popular mobile video apps. While I was moderating, my partner Colin Dixon took notes and he shares his observations below.

    Mobile Video Experts Share Insights at VideoSchmooze
    by Colin Dixon

    At the VideoSchmooze event in NYC Tuesday I sat in on a panel moderated by my podcast partner, Will Richmond, entitled Mobile Video Rising. And according to the panel participants, it is rising indeed. We were treated to a host of eye-popping data showing just how far video to tablets and smartphones has come.



    Damon Phillips, VP of Watch ESPN and ESPN3, said that two thirds of smartphone viewing occurred outside of the home. This is very different from other data I heard in June of this year that said that 64% of smartphone viewing and 82% of tablet viewing occurred in the home. Mr. Phillips went on to say that he was very surprised at the length of time people watched. On a smartphone, 15 minute viewing periods are common, while tablet viewing can go the whole length of a game. With respect to the smartphone, this led Mr. Phillips to comment that ESPN targeted shorter subject matter at the devices. The long viewing times on tablets, however, suggest it is being used as a TV replacement.

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  • ESPN-AOL Partnership Highlights Power of Video Syndication

    AOL has scored a huge coup with a deal announced today to syndicate ESPN video content across its owned-and-operated sites, plus its distribution network of 1,700 publisher sites. ESPN video in AOL will be accessible on desktops, smartphones, tablets and connected TV devices.

    Importantly, the deal underscores the allure of online video syndication. By choosing to syndicate through AOL, ESPN concluded - despite its already formidable presence as the top-ranked sports property online - that AOL's distribution network could provide still further online reach and monetization potential. That's no small statement, and it is a testament to both AOL's video growth over the past several years and to the strength of the "Syndicated Video Economy" concept I began talking about back in 2008.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #194 - OTT's Role in CBS/TWC; Why Linear on Connected TVs; ESPN in College Football

    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)

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  • Huge NY Times Expose Now Running on ESPN's Transformative Role in College Football

    The NY Times is currently running a huge, 3-part, page 1 expose on ESPN's transformative role in college football. It's a must-read for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes, in-depth account of how the sports network's massive financial strength has completely changed college football, from game day and time scheduling to conference re-alignments to how star players are created. Even more broadly, the article speaks to the pervasive role college football now plays in American higher education.

    A key focus of the first two parts, here and here, is the willingness of particular schools (e.g. Texas Christian, Boise State, Louisville) to play weekday night games in order to provide ESPN live football throughout the week. Various representatives of the schools are quoted recognizing the coverage they received from ESPN as being critical to raising their schools' visibility and profiles. For ESPN, importantly, these mid-week games and assorted promotional activities showcased for still other schools how valuable being a flexible partner for ESPN can be.

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  • A Classic TV Everywhere Moment Watching the Celtics-Heat On WatchESPN

    I had a classic TV Everywhere moment tonight I thought I'd quickly share. I got back to my hotel room in NYC after dinner, flipped on the TV to watch the Celtics try to break the Heat's winning streak and discovered ESPN and many other channels weren't working.

    But instead of calling the front desk, waiting for a technician, keeping my fingers crossed, etc. (guessing my fellow travelers know this experience too well), I fired up WatchESPN, entered my Comcast credentials and was watching online within minutes. For the most part, video quality was very strong. The key was being able to watch via the hotel's WiFi network because the stream would have drained my 2GB Verizon data cap.

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  • 5 Year-End Video Stories You May Have Missed

    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:

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  • Another Syndication Victory: Perform Sports Tops ESPN In November Viewers

    Another great example of how video syndication is continuing to deliver results: in November's comScore rankings of U.S. sports properties, Perform Sports edged out perennial leader ESPN in number of total monthly unique viewers. As the chart below shows, Perform had 24.532 million viewers and ESPN had 24.092 million. Yahoo Sports is a distant third with 9.988 million, followed by another syndicator, CineSport, with 8.367 million and NFL with 5.936 million.

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  • 80 Billion Reasons Why Pay-TV Will Become Even More Expensive

    If you think your monthly pay-TV bill is already pretty expensive, then brace yourself for rate increases that will definitely be happening over the next several years, particularly in certain geographic areas of the U.S. Why? Because the cost of programming continues to spiral, led by sports. In fact, over the past 24 months, at least $80 billion has been committed by broadcast and cable TV networks to televise sports in the U.S. (note this includes $6 billion, the minimum either News Corp. or Time Warner Cable will likely pay for TV rights to the L.A. Dodgers' games).

    The chart below itemizes all of the deals that I'm aware of; no doubt there are others as well that aren't included. Also not included are the expected increased costs of renewals for some of sports' highest-profile events like the Super Bowl and NCAA March Madness in coming years.

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  • Back from Vacation? Here Are 5 Stories Worth Noting

    If you were trying to tune out last week, whether lying on a beach or on a family getaway, you didn't miss all that much exciting online video-related news. However there were some items worth noting and below I've highlighted five that caught my eye.

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  • England's Summer of Sports Streaming Continues as Golf's Open Takes Center Stage

    This summer, England is the epicenter of sports video streaming; a couple weeks ago Wimbledon had multiple online video enhancements, then starting July 27th will be the Summer Olympics, the biggest live streamed sporting extravaganza ever. Sandwiched in between, running today through the weekend, golf takes center stage, as the storied Open Championship from Royal Lytham & St. Annes offers a variety of online video features to immerse golf fans in all the action.

    For U.S. viewers, the centerpiece of online viewing will be ESPN's simulcasting of its 73 hours of TV coverage on WatchESPN, including 10 1/2 hours of live play of the first two rounds. Of course WatchESPN is an authenticated TV Everywhere service, so you have to be a pay-TV subscriber to access it (and not all pay-TV providers support it yet either). I've been tuning in this morning and the quality of the video is outstanding. ESPN also has a separate feed for cameras positioned at holes 1 and 18 so you can see all the players come through, plus other "outside the ropes" video and non-video features.

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  • Disney/ESPN's EVP Preschlack: "TV Everywhere is Pay-TV's Most Strategic Initiative" [VIDEO]

    Yesterday at the Cable Show in Boston, I interviewed David Preschlack, who is EVP of Affiliate Sales and Marketing for Disney/ESPN Media Networks, and one of the company's point people on its WatchESPN TV Everywhere efforts. As you'll see, David is very bullish on TV Everywhere, calling it the pay-TV industry's "most strategic initiative."

    WatchESPN is now available to 40 million U.S. homes, with 8 million downloads to date. David sees customer education as a critical step to broadening its adoption. One key improvement for WatchESPN has been reducing the authentication process from 14 steps 2 1/2 years ago to just 3 steps today. As David explains, the company has also gotten more adept at messaging throughout the process, to help engender subscriber trust. Coming next is WatchDisney, which will offer the company's kids programming on multiple devices for linear and on-demand viewing. Watch the video (8 minutes, 54 seconds).

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  • Disney, Comcast and Why TV Everywhere Alone Is Not Enough

    Yesterday's press release from Disney and Comcast, announcing a comprehensive new ten-year distribution agreement covering over 70 different services is a testament to the idea that improved access to programming is key to maintaining the appeal of the traditional multichannel pay-TV business model. The deal grants Comcast sought-after multi-platform streaming and on-demand rights for 70 different Disney, ABC and ESPN programming services. This is the essential vision of "TV Everywhere" - anywhere/anytime/any device access to the full range of cable and broadcast programming, with the caveat that you have to be an authenticated subscriber to pay-TV services.

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #114 - Sports Rights Fees and OTT

    I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 114th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Dec. 16, 2011. In today's podcast Colin and I discuss the escalation in sports rights fees, player salaries, sports networks' affiliate fees and pay-TV rates.

    Earlier this week I wrote about the massive, $254 million contract baseball slugger Albert Pujols signed with the Angels and how a new 20-year, $3 billion deal with Fox Sports enabled the team to afford the deal. But that's already old news, because since then the NFL signed $28 billion worth of deals with CBS, Fox and NBC (on top of the $15.2 billion renewal with ESPN agreed to in September), and ESPN forked over another $500 million for broader rights with NCAA.

    Why does all this matter? Because as I've said repeatedly throughout the year, these deals are largely funded by non sports fans, through their ever-higher monthly pay-TV bills. As Colin and I agree, it's an unsustainable trend that's largely being enabled by consumers' ignorance and inertia about what they're paying for. Coincidentally, just today the NY Times has an article on this topic, the first one I've seen from a mainstream newspaper. The  byproduct of escalating pay-TV rates is that they're opening the door for OTT alternatives to thrive. Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (16 minutes, 11 seconds)



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  • Why Albert Pujols is Over-the-Top's New Best Friend

    When baseball great Albert Pujols signed a staggering 10-year, $254 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last week, he became over-the-top's (OTT) new best friend. That's right, everyone including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon, plus countless online-only content producers, should have been celebrating Pujols's new riches. Why? Because the Pujols deal is the latest example of how pay-TV seems determined to price itself out of reach for certain segments of the population, opening up a huge window for OTT to succeed.

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  • ESPN3.com Attracted A Record 548,000 Unique Viewers for Women's World Cup Final

    ESPN3.com attracted 548,000 unique viewers on Sunday afternoon for the USA-Japan Women's World Cup Finals, the highest the network has received for a women's sporting event, and the 8th-highest of all events streamed on ESPN3.com. Total viewing time on ESPN3.com, ESPNnetworks.com and the mobile WatchESPN app was 38.6 million minutes, or an average of just over 70 minutes per unique viewer. The iPad was the most popular device for using the WatchESPN mobile app, with 38 minutes average time spent viewing.

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  • Cable Flexes Its Muscles (Again) With ESPN's Wimbledon Win

    Score another sports programming victory for cable, as ESPN announced today that it has acquired all of the U.S. TV rights to Wimbledon tennis in a 12-year deal beginning in 2012. ESPN's win was NBC's loss, as the broadcast network's 43-year association with the tournament comes to an end.

    For ESPN, and for cable TV networks in general, it is another step in a steady progression of using their economic supremacy over broadcasters to obtain television rights to marquee sporting events. While ESPN is the undisputed leader, numerous other cable networks like TNT, USA, Versus, Golf and of course the regional sports networks (RSNs) such as Comcast SportsNet and Fox Sports Net have staked their claim to early round or full coverage of high-profile sports events.

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  • Time Warner Cable Promoting WatchESPN App for Wimbledon Viewing

    Time Warner Cable is sending the below email to subscribers promoting the WatchESPN app for anytime/anywhere Wimbledon viewing. The email is the first consumer-facing example I've seen of a cable operator promoting a specific cable programmer's TV Everywhere app.

    The email's copy hits the right messages nicely, emphasizing free access for existing Digital TV customers, anytime/anywhere/anyplace access on mobile devices and tablets, and easy app download instructions. The email is a winner in terms of getting the message out that TWC understands its subscribers' new viewing expectations and that it delivering a service that meets them.

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  • @Cable Show: HBO GO Has 2.6 Million+ Downloads, Watch ESPN Has 2 Million+ Downloads

    At least two major cable networks, HBO and ESPN, are getting strong traction with their mobile apps not long after launching them. HBO GO, which was unveiled in early May, has already gained over 2.6 million downloads, while Watch ESPN has generated over 2 million downloads since launching in early April. The data was released by Alison Moore, HBO's SVP, Digital Platforms, and by David Preschlack, ESPN's EVP of Affiliate Sales and Marketing in a TV Everywhere session I hosted this afternoon at the Cable Show in Chicago.

    Both Alison and David stressed their twin goals of delivering anytime/anywhere experiences to their viewers while also supporting the subscriber authentication, TV Everywhere goals of their main pay-TV distributors. In fact TV Everywhere was, well, everywhere at this year's Cable show, dominating general sessions and informal discussions of the industry's future. Mostly there's broad consensus about how strategic untethering popular cable programming from the set-top box is, although many issues still remain unresolved. Chief among them are measurement, rights clearances and business relationship details.

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