When Google drops $3.2 billion in cash on an acquisition, as it did yesterday with Nest Labs, maker of the Nest self-learning thermostat, you know there are some big, long-term visions playing in the background.
Most of the reviews I've read involve the companies capitalizing on the still nascent "Internet of things," where all devices are intelligently connected, exchanging valuable information that improves our lives. Even though Google and Nest were pretty vague in their joint announcement, I more or less buy into this rationale for the acquisition.
But, looking at the deal through my video-centric prism, I can also see some interesting possibilities coming from a tight integration between Nest and Chromecast, Google's hot-selling connected TV device.
I've been happily using my Chromecast both at home and on the road for 3 weeks now. Chromecast is not quite perfect, but it's an exemplary first version and no doubt destined to get even better. I think there are at least 6 things Google really got right with the device, as follows:
The Internet has been buzzing this week with the idea that Google may bid for the NFL's Sunday Ticket package, which is with DirecTV through the 2014 season. The root of the buzz is a story in AllThingsD that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with Google's CEO Larry Page and YouTube's head of content Robert Kyncl and that one of the things they discussed was Sunday Ticket.
Did they seriously discuss Sunday Ticket or was it the last item on a list of things they were spitballing? Who knows. But let's assume for a moment that Google actually WAS interested in Sunday Ticket. Could it happen and does it make sense?
There's certainly no financial impediment for Google. DirecTV pays about $1 billion/year currently. Even if Sunday Ticket's value increased by 50% (which is less than the 60-70% increases the broadcasters and ESPN paid to renew their NFL deals in the past 2 years), it would still be small change for Google. Rather than the money, I see at least 5 big challenges Google (and the NFL) would have to surmount:
By now, you've no doubt heard and/or read something about Google's clever new Chromecast HDMI device, a $35 media streamer introduced yesterday (Google's intro/demo video embedded below). Chromecast has a lot going for it, and could well become Google's first big hit product in the living room. If it does, there will be at least one significant consequence: instead of TVs continuing to become "Smart TVs," they are going to become dumb yet again. This would be a huge blow to TV manufacturers who have labored to convince consumers to spend extra to derive the benefits a Smart TV offers.
I don't think Google set out to kill Smart TVs with Chromecast, but I have no doubt the team recognized some of the serious shortcomings of today's Smart TVs and sought to capitalize on them. At the top of the list of Smart TVs' limitations are lack of integration with other devices, narrow content offerings and inability to entice developers.
I'm pleased to present the 188th edition of the VideoNuze weekly podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week rumors were once again flying about Apple and Google looking to enter the pay-TV industry, which Colin and I separately wrote about here and here.
In our discussion, Colin notes that any potential move would be expensive, given the need to carry many networks in a typical bundle. Colin also believes that Apple's rumored plan to compensate networks for ads skipped in a premium service it may offer has some merit based on his back-of-the-envelope analysis. But Colin is skeptical the networks will be interested in shifting their model away from advertising.
I see it the other way around; given high DVR penetration, networks could be intrigued by the idea of moving more of their economics to fees. The problem is I just don't see how the economics would work for Apple or consumers.
Regrettably, all of this is based on rumors so we readily admit we don't have solid facts on which to base our arguments. And that's why I consider Apple and Google's pay-TV aspirations to be the industry's longest-running soap opera.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 53 seconds)
It's time for the latest episode of the industry's best and longest-running soap opera, "Google, Apple and the Mission to Disrupt Pay-TV." New reports this week (here and here) suggest that the two tech giants are once again angling to get a piece of the pay-TV industry, which, despite already being under attack from all sides, appears to be holding its own.
As in the past, the current episode is based only on "people familiar" with the discussions Google and Apple executives are each having with pay-TV industry players. Google and Apple executives as usual are offering "no comment." The new episode features twists to keep all of us engaged. Apple is reportedly contemplating a "premium" version of its service that will allow users to skip ads, with Apple compensating TV networks for lost ad revenue (not to spoil the drama, but it's awfully hard to see how the math would add up on such a plan or why the networks themselves would go for it). And Google has reportedly even demo'd its product (shocking!), though no details on what it is or how it is different were released.
These days you can pick any sport and you're guaranteed to find examples of how online video is improving the fan experience. Beyond improved access, through live streaming to multiple devices, and post-event catch-up through highlight clips, another dimension of online video's value is now also emerging - fan engagement and interaction. A perfect example of this is the US Open tennis tournament's first-time use of Google Hangouts during its men's and women's finals matches.
Recently, I caught up with the two US Tennis Association executives responsible for the hangouts, Phil Green, senior director, advanced media and Peter Dopkin, director, strategic and business development, advanced media, to learn more. Listening to the strategy behind the hangouts, and how they were executed, what struck me is that in the digital age, forward-thinking sports executives are able to bring the fan, analyst and game together as never before.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 144th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG Report podcast. In this week's podcast Colin and I first discuss Google's recently-announced changes to how its search results are determined. Google will now factor in instances of copyright infringement to demote bad actors in its results. Colin sees the change as due to Google's interest in deepening relationships with Hollywood, where YouTube's business is increasingly pointing. However, there has been some dispute about just how much impact Google's change will have on results in YouTube.
Next up we discuss the idea of Apple building set-top boxes for the cable TV industry, which the WSJ wrote about yesterday. I add some further detail to my post ("Apple to Make Cable Set-Top Boxes? Not. Going. To. Happen.") which Colin mostly agrees with, however noting that Apple could add real value to cable's anemic VOD navigation. It's been fun to read all the coverage of the Apple-cable development; I'm clearly among the strongest skeptics. Perhaps I'm missing something big here, though I don't think so. Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 53 seconds)
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(as noted in the podcast, we were each using new microphones this week and Colin's audio setting is a little low; we'll adjust next week)
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)
Recognizing that online video isn't just for big media brands, last year Google and American Express teamed up to create "My Business Story," a video tool for small businesses to create and post free videos that connect them with new and existing customers. At the recent VideoNuze Online Video Advertising Summit, Lauren Goody, Google's Group Manager, Account Solutions and Rachel Chan, American Express's Director, US Media & Integrated Marketing Platforms discussed the initiative's success with Mark Robertson, founder and publisher of ReelSEO.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 138th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG Report podcast.
Today we discuss two new products that Google introduced this week, the Nexus 7 tablet and the Nexus Q media streamer. Viewing both through the lens of online/mobile video, I think both products are duds, and are generally inferior to other competitive products already available, especially those from Apple. A particular source of concern for Colin and me is the lack of differentiated content. For instance, the Nexus 7 offers no unlimited viewing plan like Amazon Prime for the Kindle Fire, the device it is most similar to.
Colin is less skeptical, and has even ordered a Nexus 7, though more for professional reasons than anything else. However, he's completely underwhelmed by the Nexus Q, thinking the entire whole home audio product category isn't really addressing a strong consumer need. Further, maybe Google has a master plan it's not sharing, but to both of us, the company's silence on how Google TV fits with the two Nexus devices suggests a real lack of coherency in Google's approach to digital media. Listen in to hear all of the details.
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 45 seconds)
It's no secret that with consumer behavior fragmenting over different video sources and media-related activities, advertisers are having a tougher time than ever reaching their targeted audiences. Especially elusive are younger, lighter TV viewers. No surprise, these lighter viewers skew younger with about 31% of 18-49 age group in the category. They're also choice targets for advertisers: they're wealthier, more educated and more diverse.
To help prove the efficacy of online video advertising as a method for reaching these viewers, yesterday Google/YouTube and Nielsen released new research demonstrating that lighter TV viewers (who average 39 minutes per/day) are more effectively and cost-efficiently reached with online video advertising that compliments traditional TV advertising.
Google has taken the beta tag off of AdWords for video, opening up the ad platform targeted to small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to run video ads on YouTube. To help drive interest, Google is also offering $50 million of free advertising credits to prospects. I wrote about AdWords for video last September when it was first announced, and I continue to be enthusiastic about its potential to broaden video-based advertising to SMBs for which traditional TV advertising was out of reach.