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.
I’m pleased to present the 494th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week Colin and I discuss “TV In Your Pocket: Mobile Video Downloading Report,” which we just released. We analyzed 80 top video services, and found that 28 of them offer mobile video downloading. We did 9 different tests probing further for specific features and implementations. In the podcast we share some of our key takeaways and surprises from our research. We also look ahead and make a few predictions about where downloading is going to go. Many thanks to Penthera for sponsoring the report.
We then briefly discuss Roku’s upcoming Stream-a-thon, which we both believe is a very smart move for Roku and its various partners, including HBO, Showtime, Starz and others. Stream-a-thon will expose millions of Roku users to premier programming (“Game of Thrones,” “Billions,” etc.), no doubt driving lots of new subscriptions. It’s a real win-win and once again illustrates how the video landscape is being rearranged.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 13 seconds)
Just before the WarnerMedia team took the stage to unveil details of HBO Max, Sony announced that would it shut down its 4 year old PlayStation Vue virtual pay-TV service on January 30th. The moves are 2 great examples of the constantly-shifting strategies of big media companies.
PS Vue was an early mover in virtual pay-TV (or “vMVPD”). But if you think of the industry in 4 quadrant terms, with price on one axis and channel lineup on the other, PS Vue was relatively high on both - it offered a mostly complete channel lineup competitive with traditional pay-TV operators, but not at a significantly reduced price (which is the top motivator for prospects).
Discovery announced an intriguing direct-to-consumer offering yesterday called “Food Network Kitchen” in collaboration with Amazon. While SVOD announcements seem to occur on a near-daily basis, Food Network Kitchen has different ambitions, combining daily live and interactive cooking classes hosted by celebrity chefs along with a deep on-demand library of classes, plus viewing and voice navigation using Amazon Alexa and Fire TV devices. iOS and Android mobile devices will also be supported when Food Network Kitchen launches next month, with others coming next year.
Categories: Cable Networks
I’m pleased to present the 461st edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On this week’s podcast we first discuss highlights of FreeWheel’s Q4 2018 Video Marketplace Report. Once again FreeWheel’s data reveals important shift from linear TV to OTT consumption. Then we discuss a number of moves that Viacom is making into OTT, highlighted by its acquisition of Pluto TV. As Colin wrote, in many ways Viacom is on the front line of viewers’ shifts due to its traditional focus on younger audiences.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 14 seconds)
AT&T is revamping its programming packages for DirecTV Now, and one thing that is clear is that HBO is returning to its traditional workhorse role in driving consumer appeal for a list of ad-supported TV networks.
According to Cord Cutters News, AT&T will introduce two new packages, DirecTV Now Plus and DirecTV Now Max for $50/month and $70/month respectively. Subscribers to current packages will be grandfathered in, but will see a $10/month rate increase, so the current entry level Live a Little package will move up to $50/month.
Yesterday’s announcement by Roku, that it would begin offering SVOD and ad-free premium cable TV networks (what Roku calls “Premium Subscriptions”) within The Roku Channel, is the latest sign that subscription video services are turning to bigger third party platforms to add and retain paying subscribers. Despite all the industry excitement over direct-to-consumer (“DTC”) business models, third party distribution remains critical.
Roku’s move evokes what Amazon has been doing with its Amazon Channels program for just over 3 years, which I've been bullish on from the beginning. Prime subscribers are able to choose from dozens of different small and large SVOD services and premium cable TV networks and have the fees billed directly to their credit card on file with Amazon. Free trials are commonplace and the content is viewed seamlessly within the Prime Video app on multiple devices.
I’m pleased to present the 442nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we first discuss AT&T’s recently unveiled plans to launch a new streaming service sometime later in 2019, anchored by HBO and including assets from other WarnerMedia properties. Details are still slim, but both Colin and I highlight many different challenges for this service would get executed and priced, especially with respect to HBO’s role.
We then transition to talking about YouTube TV’s winning sponsorship of this year’s World Series. As I wrote yesterday, the execution is superb and includes many creative elements. For millions of viewers, it is impossible to not be exposed to the brand, and the campaign is surely leading to many new trial subscriptions.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 4 seconds)
Last Friday, NBCUniversal officially launched WatchBack, an iOS-only video app that’s meant to gather data on viewing behaviors while offering users a broad range of content and the opportunity to win weekly sweepstakes. It’s an intriguing new spin on how content providers can mine value from direct-to-consumer apps in order to optimize their programming.
I spent a little time with WatchBack and found it to be easy to use with a variety of content providers and programs to choose from. Upon opening the app for the first time, I was asked to register, primarily so I could begin participating in the weekly sweepstakes. However I was able to proceed without registering, though I was required to select my 3 favorite genres, so WatchBack could start recommending content.
Yesterday Hulu and Discovery announced that 5 additional Discovery-owned TV networks will now be included in Hulu with Live TV, the virtual multichannel video programming distributor (“vMVPD” or “skinny bundle”), bringing the total to 8. In addition, approximately 4,000 episodes of Discovery programming will be added to Hulu’s SVOD library.
The deal further increases the value of Hulu with Live TV to its subscribers. But it also raises the question, yet again, of ballooning vMVPD programming expenses and how these impact profitability. Traditional multichannel pay-TV providers have steadily raised their rates over the years to offset higher programming costs (leading to the lower price opportunity that vMVPDs are trying to capitalize on).
I’m pleased to present the 427th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
AT&T wants HBO to up its game - producing more content, gaining more subscribers and increasing engagement, in a bid to stay competitive in the streaming era. On today’s podcast, Colin and I explore why the new approach makes sense directionally, but also carries big risks. Can HBO scale up its production spending and broaden its distribution while retaining its brand positioning? It won’t be an easy feat.
While AT&T isn’t highlighting Netflix as its key competitor, it’s clearly implied. And this week’s Emmy nominations, which saw HBO eclipsed for the first time in 17 years as the most honored network (by Netflix), is a clear sign of the times. Astoundingly, Netflix has gone from just 14 nominations 6 years ago to an industry-leading 112 this year.
Beyond the HBO-Netflix content battle, Netflix continues raising the stakes on SVOD user experience. As we also dig into, this week Netflix announced “Smart Downloads,” a clever way of enhancing offline viewing, which will no doubt delight millions of its subscribers.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 38 seconds)
Just weeks after closing its acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T has begun the process of revamping HBO’s traditional success formula, with Netflix envy apparently the main catalyst. According to a new NY Times article detailing a town hall meeting that Warner Media CEO John Stankey had with HBO employees, the new strategy boils down to wanting HBO to produce vastly more content with a goal of driving up engagement time and growth.
That sounds a lot like the formula that Netflix has employed for years, spending billions of dollars per year on scores of original programs in a global land grab for subscribers, while de-emphasizing profit maximization. Of course Wall Street has fallen in love with Netflix’s approach. Conversely, HBO has pursued a more limited “boutique” content strategy, with a few key marquee programs, while maximizing profitability.
Yesterday, NBCUniversal announced plans to reduce the number of ads in commercial pods by 20% and reduce ad time by 10% across all its networks in prime time. The move will almost certainly meet its goals of creating a better viewer and advertiser experience. But an overarching question is whether it will ultimately benefit NBCUniversal and the broader TV industry? The answer to these questions lie in whether NBCUniversal can make the math work on fewer ads and less ad time.
Obviously it’s a risky move for any business to reduce the quantity of what it sells, betting that customers will be willing to pay more for a scarcer resource. But basic laws of supply and demand are in NBCUniversal’s favor: when supply is reduced, then even at constant demand, prices should rise.
I’m pleased to present the 408th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Roku reported a strong Q4 ’17 holiday quarter this week as it continues to transition to an ad-based business model driven off its 19 million+ active users. Roku is in the middle of all of the industry key trends and Colin and I discuss the company’s results and how we see the business going forward.
We then turn to how HBO and Showtime have been revitalized by OTT delivery. 2017 results show how both traditional networks are using direct-to-consumer and new online distribution models to make their programming more easily accessible to viewers and achieve record subscribership. Their success is a textbook example of how OTT is shaking up longstanding industry norms.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 2 seconds)
Count Fox News as the latest TV network planning to launch a streaming service catering to its most loyal viewers, or super-fans as they’ve come to be known. According to a NY Times report this morning, later this year Fox News will launch Fox Nation, a standalone streaming service including hours of new daily programming with new anchors and commentators. The direct to consumer service would exist outside the traditional pay-TV world. No monthly price was revealed for the new Fox News service.
Topics: Fox News
I’m pleased to present the 406th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up this week, Colin and I share our experiences live-streaming the Super Bowl. Both of us were on the road and were extremely impressed. Except for latency of up to a minute or so, neither of us experienced any buffering or pixelation. In short, it was nearly a TV-like experience and really demonstrates how far live-streaming at scale has come.
We then shift gears to discuss strong growth at HBO Now, which just reported hitting the 5 million subscriber mark at end of 2017. HBO Now is benefiting from not being a “buy-through” on top of expensive pay-TV services. By going direct-to-subscriber, HBO Now has made its product much more accessible. We suspect that Amazon Channels and AT&T (which strongly promoted HBO Now in 2017), were pivotal to growth.
(Apologies, our audio quality isn’t that good this week).
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Our afternoon keynote interview at the recent SHIFT // Programmatic Video & TV Ad Summit was with Mike Rosen, EVP, Portfolio Sales and Strategy, NBCUniversal. Mike was interviewed by Matt Prohaska, CEO and Principal, Prohaska Consulting and shared a fantastic insider’s look at how the TV industry is evolving.
Mike discussed a range of topics including how NBCUniversal has organized itself around audiences instead of verticals with content a key focus, how he defines the term “programmatic,” why data comes up in every single meeting and how it feeds NBCU’s optimization platform, what the “new” currency is and the challenge of giving up legacy approaches, which industries are adopting custom segmentation approaches first, how to overcome attribution challenges and much more.
Watch the session video now!
NBCU is enabling clients to buy national TV ads using a self-serve programmatic TV approach. The new private market arrangement is powered by technology provider 4C. NBCU already works with AOL, TubeMogul and Videology to enabling programmatic buying of its ad inventory. The first client using the self-service approach is Target, which will be able to meld its first-party customer data with NBCU’s own audience data to target certain viewers with ads.
Target’s agency of record is GroupM’s Essence, which is where Adam Gerber, formerly SVP of Client Development and Communications at ABC, was recently appointed SVP of Investment for North America.