AT&T reported its Q4 ’19 earnings this morning and in the “Entertainment Group," it was U-G-L-Y. The top line numbers are mind-boggling: 945K “premium video” subscribers (DirecTV and U-verse) lost and 219K “OTT video” subscribers (DirecTV Now and AT&T TV) lost for a total of 1.164 million lost. In Q4 ’18, AT&T lost 391K premium subs and 267K OTT subs for a total of 658K subs lost. So the Q4 ’19 sub loss was 77% higher than the Q4 ’18 sub loss - although in the category of “cold comfort,” it was 14% lower sequentially vs. Q3 ’19 when AT&T lost 1.36 million combined video subscribers.
But broaden the lens to consider full year 2019 vs. full year 2018 and things look even worse. In 2018 AT&T lost a total of 750K subscribers (a result that was helped enormously by the addition of 654K total DTV Now subscribers in first half of the year, more on that below). In 2019 AT&T lost 4.1 million subscribers or more than four times the prior year.
Now that NBCU has revealed its launch plan, pricing and forecast for the Peacock streaming service, some quick math shows how much Comcast missed out on by not buying out Disney’s stake in Hulu. VideoNuze readers will recall this is what I proposed back in May 2018 (“Why Comcast Should Take Control of Hulu”) when Comcast and Disney battled to take over Fox. With Disney and Comcast each owning around 30% of Hulu at the time, as well as Fox owning around 30% and AT&T 10%, it was clear that whoever ultimately bought Fox would assume majority ownership of Hulu.
At the time I articulated all the reasons why, as part of any deal Comcast might make to step away from Fox, it should negotiate to take control of Hulu. Instead Comcast prioritized Sky (which it ultimately bought for $39 billion) and made a subsequent deal with Disney to sell off its Hulu stake. Disney also acquired AT&T’s approximately 10% stake in Hulu, making it Hulu’s 100% owner. Taken together, the moves make Disney CEO Bob Iger look like a genius, even if Disney was overcoming a late entry into the streaming party.
Comcast could have likely acquired the 70% or so of Hulu it didn’t own for around $13-15 billion, based on the $5.8 billion Disney ended up paying Comcast for its 30% share (Comcast also has an upside based on Hulu’s valuation in 2024) Comcast could have done this in reverse. All of this is assuming Disney would have sold its share to Comcast. My hunch is there was a deal to be had if Comcast had said it wouldn’t bid up Fox’s valuation, in turn saving Disney billions of dollars. All in all, it would have been a very modest deal for a company Comcast’s size.
I think all of my original reasons why Comcast should have acquired Hulu still stand up pretty well a year and a half later. But now some quick math also reveals that acquiring could have generated nearly $6 billion/year for Comcast and NBCU and the springboard it could have become for Peacock, before even factoring in cost savings. I suppose it is worth keeping in mind that had the deal gone the other way, Comcast wouldn’t have received the $5.8 billion for its share in Hulu, but then again Comcast didn’t need the cash, so does that really matter?
In my view there are 5 key things to understand, 3 that relate to subscription revenue and 2 that relate to advertising revenue.
I’m pleased to present the 498th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On this week’s podcast, we do a deep dive into Netflix’s Q4 ’19 results (reported earlier this week), and what they imply for 2020. Colin mostly focuses his comments on the decelerating growth rate in international subscriber additions and the ARPU squeeze that’s coming this year.
My focus is on the all-important domestic or “UCAN” (U.S. + Canada) region. Based solely on Netflix’s prior results and its own Q1 ’20 global subscriber addition forecast of 7 million, I think there’s at least a 50-50 chance Netflix will lose subscribers in UCAN in Q1 ’20. Just two years ago, this would have been an unimaginable thing to say; remember in Q1 ’18 it gained 2.28 million U.S. subscribers and in Q1 ’19 it gained 1.74 million.
That’s all before talking about Q2 ’20 where it will almost certainly lose UCAN subscribers, at a multiple of the 130K it lost in Q2 ’19, given the new competitive landscape. Netflix really needs to launch a lower-priced ad-supported tier, but yet again Netflix management rejected the idea, this time for inexplicable reasons.
Add it all up and Netflix is in for a bumpy ride in 2020. Meanwhile, since announcing its results on Tuesday after the market’s close, Netflix stock is up over $30 (about 10%, or around $15 billion extra market capitalization), once again proving that speculators simply can’t quit the stock regardless of the company’s actual performance or prospects.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (26 minutes, 59 seconds)
Netflix reported its Q4 ’19 and full year results yesterday, exposing the cold hard reality it is facing in the U.S. While the company gained 8.8 million subscribers globally (ahead of its 7.6 million forecast), it gained just 420K in the U.S. specifically (compared to 600K forecast). To put the 420K into more context, it’s by far the lowest Q4 US sub add since Q4 ’11 following the Qwikster debacle. It’s the first time since then that U.S. sub additions have fallen below 1 million in the seasonally strong Q4. And it’s down a whopping 79% vs. just 2 years ago, in Q4 ’17 when Netflix added 1.98 million U.S. subscribers.
Now some will say the “law of large numbers” is catching up with Netflix and that’s true to an extent; it’s a lot harder to add a million subscribers off a base of 60 million than it is off a base of 20 million. But this explanation just scratches the surface of what’s happening now at Netflix.
I’m pleased to present the 497th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week Colin and I share our initial impressions of Peacock, NBCU’s new streaming service. Our impressions are based on watching the investor day presentations yesterday. We break down our discussion into covering Peacock’s economics, release plan and user experience. Again these are all our first impressions and not meant to be an exhaustive analysis.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to me is that Peacock’s Premium tier viewer monetization is below its two nearest ad-supported comparables, Hulu and CBS All Access. Both charge $6 per month while Peacock is $5 per month. Peacock is also ensuring maximum ad load of just 5 minutes per hour, which it forecast would amount to $6-7 per viewer, compared to the $7-10 per viewer Hulu is currently generating.
Peacock’s pricing and financial projections remind me why I still believe Comcast should have bought the remaining 70% of Hulu it didn’t own, as I wrote in May, 2018. It feels like an even bigger missed opportunity now. It probably would have cost Comcast around $12-$14 billion to do so, a fraction of the $39 billion it paid to acquire Sky - and it would have been more strategic.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 44 seconds)
This afternoon at 4pm ET, Comcast will host an Investor Meeting to share details about NBCUniversal’s upcoming Peacock streaming service. It is a session comparable to what Disney and Apple did last year for Disney+ and Apple TV+ respectively (and what AT&T/WarnerMedia will do for HBO Max). So we all get to learn all the official information about Peacock: pricing, availability, content, overall strategy/fit with existing businesses, marketing, etc.
Following the format of other investor days, we will hear from senior NBCU and Peacock executives, and likely someone from Comcast. Matt Strauss, an old friend of mine, who was moved over from Comcast to become Chairman of Peacock and NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises late last year, will no doubt be the maestro of this afternoon’s session. All the dribs and drabs of information that have been shared by the company previously will be reconciled with all of the rumors and speculation that have gurgled up from around the web.
There was nothing surprising when I read last week’s coverage of FX CEO John Landgraf’s tally of original productions in 2019. According to Landgraf, the number of original dramas, comedies and limited series across all SVOD and TV networks in the U.S. reached a new high of 532 (approximately what he previously predicted). That was up from 495 in 2018, 487 in 2017 and just 182 in the pre-SVOD days of 2002.
This dynamic, which Landgraf has dubbed “Peak TV,” is leading many, if not most, ad-supported entertainment-oriented cable TV networks onto a road to nowhere if their goal is to remain ad-supported entertainment-oriented cable TV networks in the long-term. What is far more likely is that being this type of network will become unviable and so they’ll morph into studios that provide premium original and library content, mostly for bigger platforms (e.g. Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Hulu, etc.) and sometimes for their parent companies’ direct-to-consumer OTT services.
Early bird discounted registration is now open for VideoNuze’s Connected TV Advertising Summit on Thursday, June 11th at the Westin Times Square in NYC. Early registrants save $100 per ticket. Further discounts are available for students, startups and media partners (to be announced soon). 5-pack and 10-pack tickets are also available at further discounts.
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Connected TVs (CTVs*) are already used by more than three-quarters of U.S. households. eMarketer has forecast that CTV ad spending will more than double to $14 billion by 2023, a forecast that could prove conservative given the confluence of cord-cutting, ad-supported OTT services launching (e.g. Peacock, HBO Max, etc) and aggressive pricing for CTVs by leaders like Amazon and Roku.
CTV advertising has enormous potential because it combines the best of traditional TV advertising’s attributes while also offering the targeting, measurement and interactive capabilities of digital advertising.
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If the future of your business is tied to the growth and success of CTV advertising, then the Summit is a must-attend event.
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*Connected TV (CTV) refers to any TV that is connected to the Internet and can play OTT video content/ads and also display graphical ads. CTVs have the capability to return user data to device manufacturers, content providers and ad buyers. CTVs support secure transactions such as subscriptions and e-commerce.
Examples of CTVs are smart TVs as well as TVs that are connected to the Internet via streaming media players/sticks (e.g. Roku, Fire TV), gaming consoles (e.g. PlayStation, Wii), DVRs, pay-TV operators’ IP set-top boxes (e.g. X1) and other devices.