With the new Apple iPad receiving wall-to-wall coverage this week, it was easy to overlook other significant news. Here are 4 items worth noting for the January 25th week:
1. Netflix Q4 earnings increase my bullishness - On Wednesday, Netflix reported blowout results for Q4 '09, adding almost 3 million subscribers during the year (and a million just in Q4), bringing their YE '09 subscriber count to 12.3 million. Netflix also forecasted to end this year with between 15.5 million and 16.3 million subscribers, implying subscriber growth will be in the range of 26% to 33%. Importantly, Netflix also said that 48% of its subscribers used the company's streaming feature to watch a movie or TV show in Q4, up from 41% in Q3 and 28% a year ago. Wall Street reacted with glee, sending the stock up $12 yesterday to a new high of $63.04.
VideoNuze readers know I've been bullish on Netflix for some time now, and the Q4 results make me more so. A key concern I've had has been around their ability to gain further premium content for streaming. On the earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings and CFO Barry McCarthy addressed this issue, offering up additional details of their content strategy and how the recent Warner Bros. 28-day DVD window deal will work. On Monday I'm planning a deep dive post based on what I heard. As a preview, I'm now convinced that Netflix is the #1 cord-cutting threat. Cable, satellite and telco operators need to be watching Netflix very closely.
2. Nielsen announces combined TV/online ratings plan, but still falls short - This week brought news that Nielsen intends to unveil a "combined national television rating" in September that merges traditional Nielsen TV ratings with certain online viewing data. This is data that TV networks have been hungering for as online viewing has surged, potentially siphoning off TV audiences. I pointed out recently that the lack of such a measurement could seriously retard the growth of TV Everywhere, as cable networks hesitate to risk shifting TV audiences to unmeasurable online viewing.
Nielsen's move is welcome, but still doesn't go far enough. As reported, it seems the new merged ratings will only count online views that had the same ads and ad load as on-air. That immediately rules out Hulu, which of course carries far fewer ads than on-air, and sometimes uses custom creative as well. Obviously if the new Nielsen ratings don't truly capture online viewership they'll be worth little in the market. Ratings are a story with many future chapters to come.
3. AOL acquires StudioNow in bid for to ramp up video content - Also not to be overlooked this week was AOL's acquisition of StudioNow for $36.5 million in cash. StudioNow operates a distributed network of 3,000 video producers, creating cost-effective video for small and large companies alike. I'm very familiar with StudioNow, having spoken with their CEO and founder David Mason a number of times.
AOL is clearly looking to leverage the StudioNow network to generate a mountain of new video content, complementing its Seed.com "content farm." In addition, AOL picks up StudioNow's recently-launched Video Asset Management & Syndication Platform (AMS) which gives it video management capabilities as well. For AOL the deal suggests the company is finally waking up to video's vast potential. But with the rise of online video syndication, it's still a question mark whether creating a whole lot of new video is the right strategy, or whether AOL would have been better served by just partnering with a syndicator like 5Min.
Meanwhile, AOL isn't the only portal realizing video is the place to be. In Yahoo's earnings call this week, CEO Carol Bartz said "Frankly, our competition is television" and as Liz wrote, Bartz also said "that makes video really important." Yahoo just partnered with Ben Silverman's new Electus indie video shop, and it sounds like more action is coming. Geez, the prospect of AOL and Yahoo competing on acquisitions? It would be like the old days again.
4. Net Neutrality webinar next Thursday is going to be awesome - A reminder that next Thurs, Feb. 4th at 11am PT/2pm ET The Diffusion Group and VideoNuze will present a complimentary webinar "Demystifying Net Neutrality." The webinar is the first in a series of 6 throughout 2010, exclusively sponsored by ActiveVideo Networks. Colin Dixon from TDG and I will be hosting and we have 2 fabulous guests, who are on opposing sides of the net neutrality debate: Barbara Esbin, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Communications and Competition Policy at the Progress and Freedom Foundation and Chris Riley, Policy Counsel for Free Press.
Net neutrality is a critically important part of the landscape for over-the-top video services, and yet it is widely misunderstood. Join us for this one-hour session which promises to be educational and impactful.
Enjoy your weekend!
Following are 4 items worth noting for the Dec 7th week:
1. Boxee's new box with D-Link - It was hard to miss the news from boxee this week that it will be launching its first box, in partnership with D-Link, in early 2010. Boxee has gained a rabid early adopter following, but the high hurdle requirement of downloading and configuring its software onto a 3rd party device meant it was unlikely to gain mainstream appeal. Strategically, the new box is the right move for the company.
For other standalone box makers such as Roku, boxee's box, with its open source ability to easily offer lots of content, is a new challenge (though note, still no Hulu programming and little cable programming will be available on the boxee box). The indicated price point of $200 is on the high side, particularly as broadband-enabled Blu-ray players are already sub-$150 and falling. Roku has set a high standard for out-of-the-box usability whereas D-Link's media adaptors have never been considered ease-of-use standouts. Boxee's snazzy, but very unconventional sunken-cube design for the D-Link box is also risky. While eye-catching, it introduces complexity for users already challenged by how to squeeze another component onto their shelves. If boxee only succeeds in getting its current early adopters to buy the box it will have gained little. This one will be interesting to watch unfold.
2. AT&T tries to solve its iPhone data usage problem - In the "be careful what you ask for, you might just get it" category, AT&T Wireless head Ralph de la Vega revealed an interesting factoid this week at the UBS media conference: 3% of its smartphone (i.e. iPhone) users consume 40% of its network's capacity. Of course video and audio capabilities were one of the big ideas behind the iPhone, so AT&T should hardly be surprised by this result. AT&T, which has been hammered by Verizon (not to mention its users) over network quality, thinks the solution to its problem is giving heavy users unspecified "incentives" to reduce their activity. No word on what that means exactly.
Mobile video has become very hot this year, largely due to the iPhone's success. But the best smartphones in the world can't compensate for lack of network capacity. While AT&T is adding more 3G availability, it's questionable whether they'll ever catch up to user demand. That could mean the only way to manage this problem is to throttle demand through higher data usage pricing. That would be unfortunate and surely stunt the iPhone's video growth. Verizon, with its line of Android-powered phones, could be a key beneficiary.
3. Q3 '09 Nielsen data shows TV's supremacy remains, though early slippage found - Nielsen released its latest A2/M2 Three Screen Report this week, offering yet another reminder that despite online video's incredible growth, TV viewing still reigns supreme. Nielsen found that TV viewing accounted for 129 hours, 16 minutes in Q3. While that amount is more than 40 times greater than the 3 hours, 24 minutes spent on online video viewing, it is actually down a slight .4% from Q3 '08 of 129 hours 45 minutes.
How much weight should we give that drop of 29 minutes a month (which equates to just less than a minute/day)? Not a lot until we see a sustained trend over time. There are plenty of other video options causing competition for consumers' attention, but good old fashioned TV is going to dominate for a long time to come. This is one of the key motivators behind Comcast's acquisition of NBCU.
4. 3D poised for major visibility - In my Oct. 30th "4 Items" post I mentioned being impressed with a demo from 3D TV technology company HDLogix I saw while in Denver for the CTAM Summit. This Sunday the company will do a major public demonstration, broadcasting the Cowboys-Chargers in 3D on the Cowboys Stadium's 160 foot by 72 foot HDTV display. HDLogix touts its ImageIQ 3D as the most cost-effective method for generating 3D video, as it upconverts existing 2D streams in real-time, meaning no additional production costs are incurred.
Obviously those watching from home won't be able to see the 3D streaming, but it will surely be a sight to see the 80,000 attendees sporting their 3D glasses oohing and aahing. Between this and James Cameron's 3D "Avatar" releasing next week, 3D is poised for a lot of exposure.
Enjoy the weekend!
Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 43rd edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for December 11, 2009.
This week Daisy kicks us off, discussing key trends to look for from early adopters online in 2010, based on her recent interview with Bill Tancer, the author of Click, and the head of research at Hitwise. The insights may surprise you. Daisy also discusses what sites are heating up and tools that are available to help you detect trends yourself.
Then I dig into further detail on my post from yesterday, "Lack of Viewership Data Could Stall TV Everywhere," in which I outline concerns cable TV networks have regarding Nielsen's current inability to measure online viewership of TV programs. Until this is fixed, many networks will be reluctant to provide their primetime programs to TV Everywhere providers as they won't receive ratings credit for programs viewed online. If online viewership were to cannibalize on-air viewing, networks' ratings-based advertising revenues would suffer. Listen in to learn more.
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Based on a number of conversations I've had with cable programming executives, Nielsen's current inability to measure online viewing of TV programs and meld that data effectively with on-air viewing is emerging as a key stumbling block to successful rollouts of TV Everywhere services.
Cable networks are justifiably concerned that any viewership that potentially shifts from on-air to online that they are not credited for will adversely impact their ratings and therefore their advertising revenue. Until the issue is fixed cable networks will be reluctant to offer their most popular programs to TV Everywhere providers, in turn diluting TV Everywhere's appeal to consumers.
Nielsen, the de facto standard in TV ratings measurement, is well aware of these concerns and as Multichannel News reported this past Monday, it plans to accelerate the deployment of its "TVandPC" software which measures online viewing to 7,500 of its National People Meter households by Aug. 31, 2010. While that's a start, as industry executives have told me, it's not just the online viewing data that's needed, but also the proper blending of that data with the on-air data that's critical.
Among the issues is how online viewing, which offers consumers the potential of much-delayed on-demand viewing, should be aligned with Nielsen's "C3" ratings, which captures up to 3 days playback on DVRs. Another issue is understanding and measuring new TV Everywhere viewership patterns (e.g. college students remotely watching shows on a laptop which has been authenticated by Mom and Dad's cable account). Then there's the question of whether the online ad loads are going to be comparable to those on-air (e.g. if the online share of a program's overall viewership carried far fewer ads than the on-air viewership, advertisers and media planners will want to know this). No doubt other issues loom as well.
Add it all up and the process of collecting and then blending online and on-air viewership data is non-trivial and will require a significant investment and testing on Nielsen's part to accomplish. From Nielsen's standpoint, it could be reluctant to make such an investment in overhauling its measurement service unless there were pre-commitments from some of its clients to accepting and buying the enhanced ratings service.
On the one hand, it would seem that cable networks' reluctance to embrace TV Everywhere until adequate measurement systems were in place would be a strong incentive for TV Everywhere providers to support Nielsen's enhancements. However, I've been told that when Nielsen previously made improvements to track Video-on-Demand viewership, not many service providers implemented necessary mechanisms to denote programs were VOD-based, and therefore Nielsen's investment yielded little return. Particularly given the tough economic times, that could make Nielsen more cautious about how it proceeds with online ratings. For now Nielsen has not disclosed its plans.
Still, Nielsen is under pressure to move forward given the formation of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), which is comprised of 14 TV networks, agencies and advertisers. CIMM's goal is to explore new methodologies for audience measurement, particularly for set-top box data and cross-platform media consumption. While some in the industry have tagged CIMM as a Nielsen challenger, its members have said they have no intention of trying to replace Nielsen. Regardless, the presence of an industry-backed group trying to wrap its arms around cross-platform audience measurement is likely to only accelerate Nielsen's online tracking efforts.
As VideoNuze readers know, I've been quite enthusiastic about TV Everywhere's potential, though I'm plenty cognizant of the challenges it faces. Measurement is surely near the top of that list. One of the benefits to Comcast of owning NBCU is that, if it chooses to, it can release NBCU's cable networks' programs for TV Everywhere viewing, absent complete online tracking. This would be comparable to what Hulu's owners have chosen to do by distributing their broadcast network shows online (they're at least partly motivated by the belief that online viewing augments on-air viewing). But Comcast won't take ownership of NBCU for another year or so. By that time Nielsen may well be close to rolling a blended online/on-air offering.
In sum, it could well be that 2010 ends up being more a year of experimentation for TV Everywhere while building blocks like audience measurement get put in place. VOD, which years since its launch still lacks many primetime programs as well as dynamic advertising insertion, offers a cautionary example for TV Everywhere providers of how a lack of investment can block the realization of a new medium's full potential. Cable networks in particular will keep looking for signals that TV Everywhere will be more robust than VOD before they get too enthusiastic about online distribution.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 9th week:
1. Will Cisco's new Flip Video camera ad campaign fly? - Cisco deserves credit for its new "Do You Flip" ad campaign for its Flip Video camera, a real out-of-the-box effort comprised entirely of user-generated video clips shot by ordinary folks and celebrities alike. As the campaign was described in this Online Media Daily article, finding the clips and then editing them together sounds like heavy lifting, but the results perfectly reinforce the value proposition of the camera itself. The ads are being shown on TV and the web; there's an outdoor piece to the campaign as well.
Cisco acquired Flip for nearly $600 million earlier this year in a somewhat incongruous deal that thrust the router powerhouse into the intensely competitive consumer electronics fray. Cisco will have to spend aggressively to maintain market share as other pocket video cameras have gained steam, like the Creative Vado HD, Samsung HMX and Kodak Z series. There's also emerging competition from smartphones (led by the iPhone of course) that have built-in video recording capabilities. I've been somewhat skeptical of the Cisco-Flip deal, but with the new campaign, Cisco looks committed to making it a success.
2. YouTube brings ad-skipping to the web - Speaking of out-of-the-box thinking, YouTube triggered a minor stir in the online video advertising space this week by announcing a trial of "skippable pre-roll" ads. On the surface, it feels unsettling that DVR-style ad-skipping - a growing and bedeviling trend on TV - is now coming to the web. Yet as YouTube explained, there's actually ample reason and some initial data to suggest that by empowering viewers, the ads that are watched could be even more valuable.
One thing pre-roll skipping would surely do is up the stakes for producing engaging ads that immediately capture the viewer's attention. And it would also increase the urgency for solid targeting. Done right though, I think pre-roll skipping could work quite well. At a minimum I give YouTube points for trying it out. Incidentally, others in the industry are doing other interesting things improve the engagement and effectiveness of the pre-roll. I'll have more on this in the next week or two.
3. Watching the NY Times at 30,000 feet - Flipping channels on my seat-back video screen on a JetBlue flight from Florida earlier this week, I happened on a series of highly engaging NY Times videos: a black and white interview with Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem, then a David Pogue demo of the Yoostar Home Greenscreen Kit and then an expose of Floyd Bennett Field, the first municipal airport in New York City. It turned out that all were running on The Travel Channel.
Good for the NY Times. Over the past couple of years I've written often about the opportunities that broadband video opens up for newspapers and magazines to leverage their brands, advertising relationships and editorial skills into the new medium. By also running their videos on planes, the NY Times is exposing many prospective online viewers to its video content, thereby broadening what the NY Times brand stands for and likely generating subsequent traffic to its web site. That's exactly what it and other print pubs should be doing to avoid the fate of the recently-shuttered Gourmet magazine, which never fully mined the web's potential. I know I'm a broken record on this, but video producers must learn that syndicating their video as widely as possible is imperative.
4. Nielsen forecast underscores smartphones' mobile video potential - A couple of readers pointed out that in yesterday's post, "Mobile Video Continues to Gain Traction" I missed relevant Nielsen data from just the day before. Nielsen forecasts that smartphones will be carried by more than 50% of cell phone users by 2011, totaling over 150 million people. Nielsen assumes that 60% of these smartphone owners will be watching video translating to an audience size of 90 million people. Its research also shows that 47% of users of the new Motorola Droid smartphone are watching video, vs. 40% of iPhone users. Not a huge distinction, but more evidence that the Droid and other newer smartphones are likely to increase mobile video consumption still further.
Enjoy your weekends!
Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 31st edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for September 11, 2009.
This week Daisy and I first discuss my post from yesterday, "StudioNow Begins March Into Video Platform Space with AMS Launch." For those not familiar with StudioNow, it has been operating a network that links geographically-dispersed video professionals with its clients' projects using a backend work flow/project management platform.
Yesterday the company launched its Video Asset Management & Syndication Platform ("AMS"), which its clients can use to manage, transcode and syndicate their videos. It's a clever move by StudioNow, and I believe paves the way for the company to compete more directly in the video management and publishing platform space. StudioNow will benefit by leveraging its position as a trusted partner to content providers and directories which it serves on the video creation/production side.
We then discuss the new Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) which was just announced yesterday. CIMM brings together 14 different broadcast and cable TV networks, media agencies and advertisers to create new audience measurement for TV and cross-platform media. CIMM intends to run pilot studies focusing on TV measurement through set-top box data and cross-platform media measurement. It's hard not to see CIMM as a "Nielsen-killer" though CIMM has asserted that it should not viewed as such.
With so many companies involved, Daisy is skeptical of the venture's likelihood of success and favors a more market-driven solution. I think it actually can succeed, but only if the partners are truly committed and invest accordingly. I haven't followed measurement that closely, but in my view the partners' commitment level will likely be correlated to the level of dissatisfaction they each have with Nielsen, and this will determine CIMM's eventual success. More detail in the podcast.
Click here to listen to the podcast (15 minutes, 1 second)
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Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 31st:
1. Nielsen "Three Screen Report" shows no TV viewing erosion - I was intrigued by Nielsen's new data out this week that showed no erosion in TV viewership year over year. In Q2 '08 TV usage was 139 hours/mo. In Q2 '09 it actually ticked up a bit to 141 hours 3 minutes/mo. Nielsen shows an almost 50% increase in time spent watching video on the Internet, from 2 hours 12 minutes in Q2 '08 to 3 hours 11 minutes in Q2 '09 (it's worth noting that recently comScore pegged online video usage at a far higher level of 8.3 hours/mo raising the question of how to reconcile the two firms' methodologies).
I find it slightly amazing that we still aren't seeing any drop off in TV viewership. Are people really able to expand their media behavior to accommodate all this? Are they multi-tasking more? Is the data incorrect? Who knows. I for one believe that it's practically inevitable that TV viewership numbers are going to come down at some point. We'll see.
2. DivX acquires AnySource - Though relatively small at about $15M, this week's acquisition by DivX of AnySource Media is important and further proof of the jostling for position underway in the "broadband video-to-the-TV" convergence battle (see this week's "First Intel-Powered Convergence Device Being Unveiled in Europe" for more). I wrote about AnySource earlier this year, noting that its "Internet Video Navigator" looked like a content-friendly approach that would be highly beneficial to CE companies launching Internet-enabled TVs. I'm guessing that DivX will seek to license IVN to CE companies as part of a DivX bundle, moving AnySource away from its current ad-based model. With the IBC show starting late next week, I'm anticipating a number of convergence-oriented announcements.
3. iPhone usage swamps AT&T's wireless network - The NY Times carried a great story this week about the frustration some AT&T subscribers are experiencing these days, as data-centric iPhone usage crushes AT&T's network (video is no doubt the biggest culprit). This was entirely predictable and now AT&T is scrambling to upgrade its network to keep up with demand. But with upgrades not planned to be completed until next year, further pain can be expected. I've been enthusiastic about both live and on-demand video applications on the iPhone (and other smartphones as well), but I'm sobered by the reality that these mobile video apps will be for naught if the underlying networks can't handle them.
4. Another great Netflix streaming experience for me, this time in Quechee VT courtesy of Verizon Wireless - Speaking of taxing the network, I was a prime offender of Verizon's wireless network last weekend. While in Quechee, VT (a pretty remote town about 130 miles from Boston) for a friend's wedding, I tethered my Blackberry during downtime and streamed "The Shawshank Redemption" (the best movie ever made) to my PC using Netflix's Watch Instantly. I'm happy to report that it came through without a single hiccup. Beautiful full-screen video quality, audio and video in synch, and totally responsive fast-forwarding and rewinding. I've been very bullish on Netflix's Watch Instantly, and this experience made me even more so.
Per the AT&T issue above, it's quite possible that occupants of neighboring rooms in the inn who were trying to make calls on their Verizon phones while I was watching weren't able to do so. But hey, that was their problem, not mine!
Enjoy the weekend (especially if you're in the U.S. and have Monday off too)!
I'm back in the saddle after an amazing 10 day trip to Israel with my family. On the assumption that I wasn't the only one who's been out of the office around the recent July 4th holiday, I've collected a batch of industry news links below so you can quickly get caught up (caveat, I'm sure I've missed some). Daily publication of VideoNuze begins again today.
YouTube mobile video uploads exploding; iPhones are a key contributor - The folks at YouTube revealed that in the last 6 months, uploads from mobile phones to YouTube have jumped 1,700%, while in the last week, since the new iPhone GS was released, uploads increased by 400% per day. I didn't have access to these stats when I wrote on Monday "iPhone 3GS Poised to Drive User-Generated Mobile Video," but I was glad to see some validation. The iPhone 3GS - and other smartphone devices - will further solidify YouTube as the world's central video hub. I stirred some controversy last week with my "Does It Actually Matter How Much Money YouTube is Losing?" post, yet I think the mobile video upload explosion reinforces the power of the YouTube franchise. Google will figure out how to monetize this over time; meanwhile YouTube's pervasiveness in society continues to grow.
Nielsen study debunks mythology around teens' media usage - Nielsen released a new report this week "How Teens Use Media" which tries to correct misperceptions about teens' use of online and offline media. The report is available here. On the one hand, the report underscores prior research from Nielsen, but on the other it reveals some surprising data. For example, more than a quarter of teens read a daily newspaper? Also, 77% of teens use just one form of media at one time (note, data from 2007)? I'm not questioning the Nielsen numbers, but they do seem out of synch with everything I hear from parents of teens.
Paid business models resurfacing - There's been a lot of talk from media executives about the revival of paid business models in the wake of the recession's ad spending slowdown and also the newspaper industry's financial calamity. For those who have been offering their content for free for so long, putting the genie back in the bottle is going to be tough. Conversely for others, like those in the cable TV industry, who have resisted releasing much content for free, their durable paid models now look even more attractive.
Broadcast TV networks diverge on strategy - Ad Age had a good piece this week on the divergence of strategy between NBC and CBS. The former is breaking industry norms by putting Leno on at 10pm, emphasizing cable and avidly pursuing new technologies. Meanwhile CBS is focused on traditional broadcast network objectives like launching hit shows and amassing audience (though to be fair it is pursuing online distribution as well with TV.com). Both strategies make sense in the context of their respective ratings' situations. Regardless, broadcasters need to eventually figure out how to successfully transition to online distribution, something that is still unproven (as I wrote here).