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Friday, November 28, 2014

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Analysis for 'HBO'

  • Comcast Throws Cold Water On HBO OTT's Disruptive Potential

    Following HBO's announcement of HBO OTT last week, a lot of the media coverage has focused on how disruptive it will be to the pay-TV ecosystem. But on today's Comcast Q3 '14 earnings conference call, company executives threw cold water on these prospects, highlighting the challenges and risks that HBO faces in going direct to consumer.

    Responding to analysts' questions, NBCU CEO Steve Burke said:

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #246 - Will HBO OTT Be Seismic or a Dud?

    I'm pleased to present the 246th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    HBO's big OTT announcement generated massive coverage this week. Following my initial 8 reactions I shared on Wednesday, in today's podcast, Colin and I hash out whether HBO OTT will be a seismic event (as many people want to believe) or whether it will be a complete dud.

    Given the scarcity of details HBO shared, it's still a lot of guesswork. But Colin and I do our best to frame things, including the all-important questions of what content will be included in HBO OTT and what the price point will be.

    These decisions put HBO executives in an extraordinarily sensitive position. It's no exaggeration to say HBO OTT has the potential to reshape HBO's future as well as its parent company Time Warner and more broadly, the contours of the entire TV, Hollywood, OTT and sports industries. Note however, that "potential" is the epically operative word here.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 24 seconds)



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  • Why Proliferating SVOD Services Could Actually Be Very Good News For Pay-TV

    Between HBO's OTT announcement yesterday and CBS's this morning, there're intensifying buzz that the demise of pay-TV, with its expensive multichannel bundles, may finally be upon us. But here's a contrarian thought: what if all of the SVOD activity we're already seeing - plus more that's sure to come - is actually very good news for pay-TV? Before you scoff at me as a head-in-the-sand pay-TV defender, stop and consider the following.

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  • 8 Initial Reactions to HBO's New OTT Service

    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.

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  • Perspective What's this? The Future of TV: 4 Reasons Why It Will Keep Getting Better

    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:

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #234 - Yahoo, CBS, Seinfeld/Crackle and More

    I'm pleased to present the 234th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we touch on a few different topics that caught our attention, including Yahoo's deal to pick up another season of "Community," after NBC dropped it (plus we discuss Yahoo's other video moves). Then we turn to CBS's research head's reveal that the network generates up to 20% more revenue per viewer online than on TV.

    We also review whether HBO premiering the first episode of its new series "The Leftovers" on Yahoo (plus similar efforts by other premium networks) will succeed. Finally, we're both impressed with Jerry Seinfeld's new Acura ads and how they blur the lines between content and advertising. Seinfeld is a huge online video enthusiast as I noted earlier this year.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 41 seconds)



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  • VideoNuze Podcast #224 - HBO-Amazon; Apple TV; Netflix, Comcast, Time Warner Cable Q1 Results

    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)


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  • Comcast-TWC Deal Highlights Importance of Scale In the Broadband Age

    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.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #177 - Debating Netflix's Growth Prospects

    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.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 6 seconds)

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  • VideoNuze-TDG Report Podcast #136 - TakeMyMoneyHBO.com; E3 Reactions; TV is Ossified

    I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 136th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG Report podcast (our podcast's new co-branded name, going forward).

    This week we first discuss a fascinating new web site, TakeMyMoneyHBO.com that invites visitors to submit how much they'd pay for a standalone HBO GO service. It's the latest in the larger dynamics around HBO going direct-to-consumer, rather than solely via pay-TV operators. In my video interview with HBO's co-president Eric Kessler 6 months ago, he explained the rationale for HBO sticking to its roots with HBO GO, which Ryan Lawler at TechCrunch enumerated this week. While Colin and I understand the reasoning, we contend that changing consumer expectations and a strong desire for viewing flexibility will inevitably pressure HBO - and others - to re-think traditional approaches. This is a topic I explored at length over a year ago.

    Then Colin offers his reactions to E3 and what the major gaming console providers announced with streaming video apps this week. Last I discuss my video interview with top Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett that I posted yesterday, in which Craig states that the TV industry is so "ossified" that re-invention can only come from outsiders.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 46 seconds)




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  • Re-posting My Video Interview With HBO Co-President Eric Kessler as "Game of Thrones" Piracy Soars

    There's lots of online buzz right now about an apparently massive amount of online piracy for HBO's hit show "Game of Thrones." To better understand HBO's online strategy with its HBO GO app, I recommend watching the interview I did with co-president Eric Kessler at last November's VideoSchmooze event, which I've re-posted below. This interview is the primary source for a lot of the back-and-forth going on about the GOT piracy issue and what's behind it.

    In the interview Eric is very clear in explaining why HBO is focused on maintaining exclusive distribution through pay-TV providers, which means the HBO GO app is only available to HBO/pay-TV subscribers. Coincidentally, this week's podcast touches on how restrictive access to popular programming helps breed piracy.  In this case HBO has rabid GOT fans, but many aren't cable subscribers as Forbes points out, and therefore can't subscribe to HBO. I explained this conundrum back in March, 2011 in "Could HBO be the Next BLOCKBUSTER."

    By limiting its distribution, HBO is adhering to a traditional model that still works reasonably well and is very rationale, yet also leaves lots of opportunity on the table and encourages illegal behavior. It's yet another one of the many dilemmas arising as analog era business models collide with digital era distribution realities.

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  • HBO Offers Free Online Access to Two New Shows to Non-Subscribers

    HBO announced yesterday that it will offer online access to premiere episodes of its two newest shows, "Girls" and "Veep" to non-subscribers on HBO.com, YouTube, Dailymotion, TV.com, and via distributors' free VOD platforms. "Veep" will also be offered as a free download on iTunes. Access will begin the day after the shows launch on HBO and run for a month. The initiative is savvy on a number of different levels, and continues to show how HBO is tapping new online video opportunities while cautiously adhering to its traditional distribution model.

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  • Verizon Needs to Bring More than a Knife to the OTT Gunfight

    Late yesterday Reuters reported that Verizon is looking at launching an online-only subscription service for streaming movies and TV shows outside its geographical footprint. While such a move initially seems disruptive to incumbents like Netflix and others, the folks at Verizon better remember the old adage about not bringing a knife to a gunfight; if they really want to compete, significant investments in content and promotions are going to be required. Even then, it's not yet clear to me how Verizon succeeds in this highly competitive space.

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  • Video Interview: HBO Co-President Eric Kessler at VideoSchmooze

    A highlight of last week's VideoSchmooze:NYC Online Video Leadership Forum was the leadoff fireside interview I did with Eric Kessler, HBO's co-president. Our conversation focused on HBO GO, the streaming app that HBO officially launched on May 1st, which has received approximately 5 million downloads to date.

    In the interview, Eric offers a comprehensive explanation of how HBO's business model works and the value-added role that HBO GO plays in extending subscribers' life-cycle. He provides a slew of new data points on HBO usage by content type and device, as well as how it's changing subscribers' perceptions of HBO. Eric also notes that the most critical decision HBO made was to include virtually all of its programs' episodes in HBO GO, although the move undermined its lucrative home video/DVD business for a segment of buyers.

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  • HBO GO: 98 Million Streams to Date and Staying Exclusive

    In an interview with me at yesterday's VideoSchmooze, HBO co-president Eric Kessler said that HBO GO has delivered 98 million video streams to date. HBO GO is offered at no extra cost to existing HBO subscribers as long as their pay-TV provider and HBO have agreed to make the service available. Eric also noted that HBO intends for HBO GO to remain the sole streaming outlet for its programs as it believes this type of exclusivity is a key differentiator vs. aggregators like Netflix, Amazon and others, most of whose content is non-exclusive. Clearly this is what HBO GO users want: over 70% of viewership has been for HBO's original programs.

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  • DreamWorks Gives Netflix A Much-Needed Lift, But Not Until 2013

    DreamWorks Animation's new output deal with Netflix gives the beleaguered streaming-only provider a much-needed lift, but unfortunately not until DreamWorks' 2013 movies are released. Under the deal, Netflix may pay up to $30 million per movie, an increase from the $20 million that HBO is believed to have been paying DreamWorks. The press release also notes that some of DreamWorks' catalog movies such as "Kung Fu Panda," "Madagascar 2," "Chicken Run" and "Antz" will also be included over time.  The DreamWorks deal comes on the heels of last week's news that Netflix licensed library programs from Discovery Communications.

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  • HBO GO Is Terrific; The Question is How Aggressively Will It Be Deployed Longer-Term?

    I've been testing HBO GO for the last couple of weeks and my reaction is overwhelmingly positive. The service is easy to navigate and incredibly responsive. Importantly, the video quality (particularly in the iPad app) is top-notch - you'll quickly forget the video is actually being delivered over the Internet and a WiFi network). And with over 1,600 pieces of content, there's no shortage of what to watch. Though I'm not an HBO subscriber, I've watched a number of HBO programs on DVD over the years (e.g. Entourage, The Wire, The Sopranos) and so the ability to get both past seasons, as well as current season episodes, in one space is highly convenient.

    Obviously I'm not alone in my reactions as there have been over 3 million downloads of HBO GO just since its May 2 official release. Considering HBO has 28 million US subscribers, that's an impressive penetration level (even more so because HBO doesn't yet have agreements for HBO GO with all pay-TV providers, so some HBO subscribers can't yet access the service).

    For now HBO has positioned HBO GO as a value add for existing subscribers. That's a fine place to start, but as the video landscape becomes ever more competitive, it's hard to see how HBO will be content to deploy such as strong asset mainly in a defensive manner, and not be tempted to start using it more aggressively. If and when that happens, that would be a major change in the pay-TV model. Though I questioned HBO's future in "Could HBO Be the Next BLOCKBUSTER?" HBO GO creates scenarios for how the company thrive in the online video era.

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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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  • HBO GO Launches on iOS and Android Devices: A Necessary But Insufficient Step

    Today marks the "official" launch of HBO GO - the premium cable network's authenticated TV Everywhere service - on mobile devices running iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod) and the Android OS, although it has been technically available since late last week in the iTunes App Store and Android Market. HBO signaled May 2nd as the date of availability in a teaser video posted last month on YouTube, and I'm guessing a press release will be forthcoming.

    With the iOS/Android rollout, HBO has taken a necessary, but insufficient step toward improving its standing in a world that has grown dramatically more competitive in a very short time. HBO GO, which is only available to HBO subscribers, and even then, only to those whose pay-TV operator has a deal to authenticate HBO GO, is narrowly focused on delivering more value to those who have already  chosen to subscribe to HBO. As HBO co-president Eric Kessler told the NY Times in February, "It's about enhancing the satisfaction and continuing the life cycle of the subscriber."

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  • 1. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes Flip-Flops, Now Admires Netflix

    Certainly top on this week's unexpected list was Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes' newfound affection for Netflix, expressed in an interview with Charlie Rose at the Tribeca Film Festival (see below video, starting at the 4:40 point). Until now Bewkes has been withering in his derision for Netflix, famously comparing them to the Albanian army, and all but saying HBO would only offer its programs for streaming on Netflix when hell froze over.

    But this week Bewkes totally flip-flopped, saying things like he looks at Netflix with a certain sense of "fondness," "Welcome brother" to the subscription business, "You've gotta admire them," "They've done a bold thing, a good thing in many ways," "They're offering a subscription service that is very valid and effective" and "They've got a lot of interesting stuff on there mostly that's available in other places but that's no criticism."

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