When HBO Now launched in April, 2015, its $14.99/month price was well above competing SVOD services such as Netflix ($11.99/month), Hulu (ad-free $11.99/month) and Amazon ($8.99/month or included with Prime for $99/year). On the one hand, an argument could be made that an HBO subscription is more valuable due to HBO’s rich library and therefore should be priced higher than newer competitors. But HBO’s market-skimming high price strategy means its more aggressively priced competitors are growing far faster than HBO, enabling them to have greater scale, which will be the key to future success.
When Sesame Workshop announced its deal with HBO last week, everyone seemed to have an opinion about whether another “poor door” had been created, this time for Elmo and his iconic friends.
It’s an interesting societal debate, but what was more intriguing to me was that Sesame’s deal with HBO signaled that its own SVOD efforts had not delivered material results (and with the new HBO deal, I’d guess will likely be phased out at some point). That in turn reinforced my belief that the niche SVOD model is extremely difficult given the rise of “super” SVOD services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
I'm pleased to present the 279th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Change is everywhere in the video and TV industries and this week 6 different news items hit our radar, which Colin and I think illustrate how quickly things are moving. In today's podcast we discuss each of them and why we think they're significant.
The items include continued falling linear TV ratings as measured by Nielsen, Hulu distributing Showtime, new research showing that Netflix's audience is size larger than those of broadcast TV networks, Tennis Channel's converged TV Everywhere-OTT model, HBO premiering 2 new shows on Facebook and Ooyala's new data showing that 42% of video views are now on mobile.
(note: Colin wanted to clarify one point - when citing Netflix viewership, he said it was 10 million hours streamed per quarter when it's actually 10 billion hours)
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In last Friday's podcast, Colin and I covered a lot of ground in assessing HBO Now's opportunities and risks. One of the points I raised, which I believe deserves much more attention in understanding HBO Now's disruptive potential, is how it threatens pay-TV's multi-billion dollar "sports tax" on non-fans.
I've been writing about the sports tax - how non-fans effectively subsidize the cost of super-expensive sports networks such as ESPN and regional sports networks (RSNs) that they don't watch - for almost 5 years now. In a back-of-the-envelope analysis I did following a panel I sat on with Mark Cuban back in 2011, I estimated the annual tax on non sports fans amounted to at least $2 billion per year (4 years later, it's now much higher).
I'm pleased to present the 264th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In today's podcast we dig into HBO Now's big opportunities and big risks.
Colin and I agree that HBO has made a pretty aggressive bet with HBO Now. It is reasonably priced at $15/month and includes HBO's full library of original and licensed content. HBO partnered exclusively with Apple at launch, gaining the company's halo, and quite possibly very significant promotional support TBD (not to mention diverting from its traditional pay-TV operator partners).
Importantly, HBO Now gives viewers their first-ever opportunity to access HBO's iconic content without first having to subscribe to an expensive pay-TV service. This "buy-through" has effectively capped HBO's growth, while Netflix zipped past it. We explain why we believe this flexibility has potentially significant consequences for non-sports fans, in turn impacting both cord-cutting and cord-nevering.
There are so many fascinating angles to the HBO Now move. We cram in as much as we can, and will certainly be revisiting it as HBO Now launches in April.
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HBO's upcoming launch of its "HBO Now" OTT service is unquestionably one of the biggest variables for the future of the pay-TV ecosystem. Because of its marquee original content and ubiquitous brand, HBO is unique among all entertainment-oriented cable networks in having the power to attract millions of OTT subscribers.
While that's an opportunity for HBO, it's also a massive threat to the larger pay-TV industry. The ability to subscribe to HBO standalone will almost certainly make cord-cutting and cord-nevering a more appealing option for some viewers. HBO Now, coupled with other OTT options, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or even Sling TV (for ESPN fans in particular) would be very enticing.
I'm pleased to present the 253rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin gets us started this week, discussing the new CBS-Dish Network deal, highlighting that OTT rights were excluded. This is noteworthy because of Dish's plans to launch a $30/month OTT service soon (dubbed "NuTV"), so it's not clear if or how CBS will fit in (CBS has recently launched its own "All Access" OTT service).
There have been previous reports Dish isn't planning to include broadcast networks in NuTV, instead requiring a surcharge. All of this continues to make me skeptical about NuTV's prospects. Note that even CEO Charlie Ergen has tamped down expectations for NuTV.
We then turn our attention to HBO's decision to outsource its OTT backend to MLBAM, as disclosed by Fortune this week. On Wednesday, I wrote that while MLBAM's solution is first rate, and it's a short-term win for HBO to get to market quickly, I still see the decision as a long-term competitive disadvantage for HBO. In my view, HBO needs to develop its own tech DNA to fully compete with Netflix and other OTT players, particularly in leveraging data, which I believe is the new king. Colin disagrees and thinks HBO made the right call.
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Fortune broke the news yesterday that HBO has chosen to outsource the backend technology for its upcoming standalone OTT service to MLBAM, abandoning its own efforts to build the necessary technology. Just after the story broke, HBO's CTO Otto Berkes announced that he was leaving the company.
No question, MLBAM has a very strong technology solution, which it uses for its own streaming video offering, and it is used by other media companies as well. Still, it's hard not to see HBO's sudden shift as an early sign of the numerous challenges HBO has ahead of it in launching its OTT service (which is reportedly targeted for April, simultaneous with season 5 of "Game of Thrones").
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:
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.
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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.
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.
Categories: Cable Networks
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:
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.
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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.)
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 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)
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.
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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.
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.
Categories: Cable Networks