Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 30th week:
1. Alicia Keys concert on YouTube is an underwhelming experience - Did you catch any of the Alicia Keys concert on YouTube this past Tuesday night celebrating World AIDS Day? I watched parts of it, and while the music was great, I have to say it was disappointing from a video quality standpoint -lots of buffering and pixilation, plus watching full screen was impossible.
I think YouTube is on to something special webcasting live concerts. Recall its webcast of the U2 concert from the Rose Bowl on Oct 25th drew a record 10 million viewers. That concert's quality was far superior, and separately, the dramatic staging and 97,000 in-person fans also helped boost the excitement of the online experience. It's still early days, but to really succeed with the concert series, YouTube is going to have to guarantee a minimum quality level. Notwithstanding, American Express, the lead sponsor of the Keys concert had strong visibility and surely YouTube has real interest from other sponsors for future concerts. It could be a very valuable franchise YouTube is building and is further evidence of YouTube's evolution from its UGC roots.
2. Being a Jeff Zucker fan is lonely business - In yesterday's post, "Comcast-NBCU: The Winners, Losers and Unknowns" I said I've been a fan of Jeff Zucker's since seeing him deliver a brutally candid and very sober assessment of the broadcast TV industry at the NATPE conference in Jan '08. My praise elicited a number of incredulous email responses from readers who vehemently disagreed, thinking Zucker's performance merits him being sent to the woodshed rather than to the CEO's office for the new Comcast-NBCU JV.
To be sure, NBC's abysmal performance under Zucker (falling from first place to fourth in prime-time), will be one of his legacies, but I take a broader view of his tenure. A good chunk of NBCU's cable network portfolio came to the company via the Vivendi deal around the time Zucker took over responsibility for cable. Since that time the networks have grown strongly in audience and cash flow has doubled from about $1 billion to a projected $2.2 billion in '09. NBCU added Oxygen (which combined with its iVillage property makes a strong proposition for women-focused advertisers) and The Weather Channel, in a joint buyout with two PE firms.
While Zucker's hiring of Ben Silverman to run NBC was a misstep, NBCU has enjoyed stability on the cable side, with two of the highest-regarded women in TV, Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick cranking out hit after hit for their respective networks. A CEO's tenure is always a mixed one, with plenty of wins and losses. It can be hard to know how much of the wins to ascribe to the CEO personally, rather than the executives below, but at the end of the day, NBCU was transformed from a single network company to a cable powerhouse; even Zucker skeptics have to give him some credit for this.
3. Comcast rebrands On Demand Online to Fancast Xfinity TV - yuck! - Largely lost in the NBCU commotion this week was news that B&C broke that Comcast is changing the name of its soon-to-be-launched TV Everywhere service from On Demand Online to Fancast Xfinity TV. Yikes, the branding gurus need to head back to the drawing board, and quick. The name violates the first rule of branding: pronunciation must be obvious and easy. Not only is it unclear how you pronounce Xfinity, it's a an unnecessary mouthful that doesn't fit with any of Comcast's other workmanlike brands (e.g. "Digital Cable," "On Demand," "Comcast.net"). If we're talking about a new videogame targeted to teenage boys, Xfinity is great. If we're talking about a service that provides online access to TV shows, there's no need for something super-edgy. I'd suggest just sticking with "On Demand Online." But even more importantly, priority #1 is getting the product launched successfully.
4. Sports Illustrated demo builds tablet computing buzz - If you haven't seen SI's demo of its tablet version being shown off this week, it's well worth a look at the video here. Never mind that there isn't such a tablet device on the market yet, the rumors swirling around Apple's planned launch of one has created an air of inevitability for the whole category. As the SI demo shows, a tablet can be thought of a larger version of an iPhone (likely minus the phone), providing larger screen real estate to make the user experience even more interesting. It's fascinating to think about what a tablet could do for magazines in particular, along the lines of what the Kindle has done for books. The mobile video and gaming possibilities are endless. Judge for yourselves.
Enjoy the weekend!