Posts for 'Cable Networks'

  • Inside the Stream: How Overlapping “Doom Loops” are Crushing the TV Industry

    In this week’s podcast we discuss the overlapping “doom loops” that are crushing the TV industry. These were first articulated by MoffettNathanson, and built upon by Colin. The doom loops include 1) TV networks shifting investment/focus from linear TV to streaming, in turn driving more cord-cutting, 2) Fewer remaining pay-TV subscribers available to shoulder the cost of sports TV networks, in turn leading to more cord-cutting, 3) Audience shifts away from traditional TV driving ad dollars to follow, further pressuring traditional TV’s revenue.

    Yet another more doom loop could be added with news this week that Disney is finally pushing forward with a direct-to-consumer model for ESPN. Given how expensive that DTC service is likely to be, it’s ultimate adoption probably won’t extend much beyond hard-core sports fans.

    But it will cause the unintended consequence of raising the visibility of the multibillion dollar per year “sports tax” non-sports fans have long been paying, which Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred explicated at a Paley Center event last month when he said, “It’s a great business model when a whole bunch of people pay for something they don’t really care if they have or not, which is what the cable bundle did for us. It’s hard to replicate that.”

    So it’s safe to say that ESPN’s DTC service will also drive up cord-cutting.

    The “doom loops” are now on display for all to see, prompting Colin and I to wonder truly, what the remaining life span of pay-TV is?

    Before we get started, we give a quick overview of Wurl’s new ContentDiscovery offering, for which Colin and I wrote an accompanying white paper.

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  • Inside the Stream Podcast: Netflix’s Q1 ’23 Suggests Ad Tier Launch and Account-Sharing Curbs Will Boost Revenue

    Back in our Oct. 21, 2022 podcast, “Netflix is Poised for 2023 Revenue Growth,” Colin and I articulated all the reasons we were optimistic about Netflix’s upside in the new year. Primarily we were focused on its newly launched $7/month “Basic with ads” tier and its plans to eliminate password sharing throughout the world.

    Flash forward 7 months, and Netflix provided its first tangible results and commentary from the initiatives, as well as optimistic signs of where things go from here. In today’s podcast, Colin and I dig into these signs, including most prominently Netflix’s disclosure that $7/month "Basic with ads" subscribers already produce a higher average monthly revenue than do its $15.50/month "Standard" plan (ad-free) subscribers. Some basic math reveals that "Basic with ads" subscribers drive at least $8.50/month in ad revenue for Netflix, which in turn means that aproximately 55% ($8.50 / $15.50) of "Basic with ads" subscribers’ total revenue is already derived from ads, not subscriber payments.

    That Netflix accomplished all of this despite 1) it still being very early days for the ad offering, 2) a massive headwind in the ad business due to recession/etc. worries, 3) all of its ad revenue being “linear TV replacement” or upper-funnel reach and frequency inventory, with nothing yet from more valuable full/lower funnel offerings, suggests the ad business is already a big win for Netflix and has huge potential.

    (At this point I can’t resist noting that I have been badgering Netflix for years to launch a lower-priced ad-supported tier because of the upside…see “Why Netflix Will Launch an Ad-Supported Tier in 2020” from Dec. ’19, “6 Reasons Why Netflix Should Launch an Ad-Supported Tier Now” from Mar. ’20, and “Revisiting Why Netflix Should Launch an Ad-Supported Tier” from Mar. ’21 for a sample of my haranguing. So, in the category of “better late than never,” hallelujah, Netflix finally, finally put aside its religious objections to advertising and saw the light.)

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  • Inside the Stream Podcast: ESPN is Getting Squeezed From All Sides

    Cord-cutting is accelerating. Deep-pocketed Big Tech (Amazon, Apple, Google) are scooping up marquee sports rights in an effort to add value to their services businesses. Linear TV viewing is collapsing. Consumers' attention is fragmenting as myriad social media and other activities beckon for eyeballs.

    As Colin and I discuss on this week’s episode, ESPN finds itself at the center of this storm, as the venerable TV network gets squeezed from all sides. Adding urgency to the problem, and as we also explore this week, Sinclair's Diamond Sports Group, which owns Bally Sports, a big collection of Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) acquired from Disney as part of its Fox deal, is edging toward declaring bankruptcy.

    While Diamond’s demise is closely tied to the debt it incurred by overpaying for the Fox RSNs in 2019, it raises more consequential questions about the health of the sports TV ecosystem - and therefore the value of sports broadcasting rights themselves. These rights have been funded primarily through the “sports tax” on pay-TV subscribers who are not sports fans (see “Not a Sports Fan, Then You’re Getting Sacked for At Least $2 Billion Per Year,” which I wrote back in February, 2011). Non-sports fans are getting soaked for far more than this in 2023, with huge - and mostly unknown - sums embedded in their monthly pay-TV bills (partly contributing to escalating cord-cutting).

    Net, net, the delicate equilibrium in the sports TV ecosystem is under major pressure. With respect to ESPN, newly reinstated Disney CEO Bob Iger has a pressing - yet until recently unimaginable - question to address: long-term, is ESPN still a good business? And if it’s not, should Disney keep the network anyway, or seek to sell it off?

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  • Inside the Stream Podcast: Does HBO Max Rejoining Amazon Channels Make Sense?

    HBO Max is coming back to Amazon Prime Video Channels, reversing a move by prior owner WarnerMedia just over a year ago. Removing HBO Max led to an immediate loss of 5 million subscribers who had signed up through Amazon Channels (it’s unclear how many rejoined directly).

    On today’s podcast, Colin and I try puzzle through why WBD, which is now HBO’s owner, would want HBO Max to rejoin Amazon Channels. Although Amazon will surely generate some incremental HBO Max subscribers, their lifetime value is likely to be far lower than HBO Max subscribers who sign up directly with the service. That’s because Amazon has “customer ownership” of these subscribers and shares little to no data with SVOD providers that would be critical to retention (starting with an email address to directly communicate with them). I wrote about my personal experience with this in August, 2021.

    The move seems to suggest a push for incremental subscribers, despite the likelihood of a higher churn rate. That’s at odds with streaming services executives recent emphasis on profitability over pure subscriber growth. It’s possible Colin and I are missing something here. If you think you know what it is please let us know.

    To wrap up the discussion we also discuss WBD's reported new strategy to collect its streaming services under the "Max" brand in 2023.

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  • Inside the Stream Podcast: AMC Networks Typifies Challenges Facing TV Networks in DTC Streaming World

    Earlier this week AMC Networks disclosed a large-scale layoff (reportedly 20%) and that their CEO was departing. AMC Networks’ chairman James Dolan said in an internal memo that “It was our belief that cord cutting losses would be offset by gains in streaming. This has not been the case. We are primarily a content company and the mechanisms for the monetization of content are in disarray.”

    AMC Networks’ predicament typifies what’s happening across the industry. In today’s podcast Colin and I share estimates of what AMC might be earning from its streaming services vs. what it earns from its linear channels distributed by pay-TV operators. Other data we share highlights the conundrum broadcast and cable TV networks face: their assumptions for target pricing for their streaming services and subscriber forecasts are too high.

    The monetization disarray AMC and others are experiencing is the messy transition from the pay-TV world that masked what consumers were paying for individual channels and how they were valued vs. the DTC world where consumers are in full control.

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  • Inside the Stream Podcast: Google Fiber TV is Retired, Linear TV Ratings Fall, SVOD Churn is Stable and Much More

    Welcome to this week’s edition of Inside the Stream, the podcast where nScreenMedia’s Chief Analyst Colin Dixon and I take listeners inside the world of streaming video.

    Rather than focus on just one story this week as we usually do, today we do segments on 5 different stories that caught our attention. First we pick up on last week’s podcast about the dustup between YouTube TV and NBCUniversal. The companies avoided going over the cliff together and managed to extend their relationship. But it is a harbinger of more fights between networks and virtual (and traditional) pay-TV operators as the size of the pie continues to shrink due to cord-cutting.

    Then Colin and I have a spirited debate about Google’s Fiber TV, which is being retired, and the broader question of whether Google Fiber’s 1 gigabit per second broadband service is a worthwhile product offering (Colin thinks it is and I think it isn’t, and I haven’t since it launched way back in February, 2010, see “Google’s Fiber-to-the-Home Experiment Could Cost $750 Million or More.” Also see "Google Fiber is Out of Synch With Realities of Typical Consumer Technology Adoption" from July, 2012 and "No Surprise, Google Fiber is Falling Short of Expectations" from August, 2016.)

    From there we discuss the steep drop in L7 TV ratings that has continued in the first week of this Fall season. But even at these depressed levels, I assert that the most popular broadcast TV shows like “NCIS” still draw audiences that may likely be bigger than the first 7 days following the drop of a popular show on a big SVOD service like Netflix. Related, we discuss new Kantar data on SVOD churn in Q2. For more insight, have a look at my post from November, 2019, “Will Spinning Video Subscriptions Become a Thing?”

    Finally, there’s a game of musical chairs happening in our industry and this week’s move by Kelly Campbell from president of Hulu to president of Peacock is just the latest example. We discuss why these executives’ shuffling matters to all of us as consumers.

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  • Inside the Stream Podcast: What’s Really Behind the YouTube TV - NBCUniversal Dispute?

    Welcome to this week’s edition of Inside the Stream, the podcast where nScreenMedia’s Chief Analyst Colin Dixon and I take listeners inside the world of streaming video.

    YouTube TV and NBCUniversal have become embroiled in a highly public dispute about the details of their distribution agreement. On today’s episode, Colin and Will discuss what’s really behind the dispute and the larger industry shifts that impacting the negotiation.

    It is a very complicated situation as each company is trying to hold on to certain industry conventions (such as most favored nation pricing), while also broadening into new areas (such as including Peacock Premium, a streaming service, with underlying YouTube TV subscriptions). Each company also comes to the table with a host of business imperatives, with many driven by Wall Street’s expectations and the overall streaming market’s evolution.

    Colin and I try to break things down. As I mention, one significant factor weighing on my assessment of things is Comcast’s gigantic missed opportunity when it decided not to acquire the 70% of Hulu it didn’t already own, back in 2018 when Comcast and Disney were battling over control of Fox (see "Why Comcast Should Take Control of Hulu" from May, 2018). Comcast had a one-time opportunity to vastly expand its footprint in streaming and CTV advertising and likely to position a combined Hulu-Peacock entity for eventual spin-off (see "Quick Math Shows Comcast Missed Out on Almost $6 Billion in Annual Revenue by Not Buying the Rest of Hulu" from January, 2020).

    Instead Comcast passed and became a passive owner in Hulu. Comcast will eventually realize a nice return on this stake, but Comcast needs strategic assets for the streaming era far more than it needs additional cash.

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  • AT&T’s Acquisition of Time Warner Didn’t Make Sense to Begin With

    AT&T is spinning off WarnerMedia to Discovery, just 4 1/2 years since it announced it was acquiring Time Warner (as WarnerMedia was then known) and just three years since the deal actually closed, following exhaustive regulatory challenges and litigation. For AT&T, the U-turn in strategy is a tacit admission that it didn’t realize the benefits it touted as the rationale for the deal.

    That’s no surprise because, as I said at the time, the benefits were illusory and were completely out of synch with realities that broadband, streaming and connected TV were driving. The press release announcing the Time Warner acquisition was filled with corporate gobbledygook such as “The future of video is mobile and the future of mobile is video” and “Combined company positioned to create new customer choices - from content creation and distribution to a mobile-first experience that’s personal and social.”

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  • Plenty More Questions About HBO Max’s $9.99 Per Month Ad-Supported Tier

    Yesterday, CNBC reported that HBO Max’s upcoming ad-supported tier will be priced at $9.99 per month, a $5 per month discount vs. $14.99 per month for its existing ad-free service. The $5 differential is mostly in line with the approach other subscription services with an ad-supported tier, such as Hulu, Peacock and Paramount+ have taken and is therefore unsurprising.

    But there are still many interesting questions about the HBO Max ad-supported tier and how it will be positioned relative to the ad-free tier. One big one is which content will actually carry ads, and which won’t. At AT&T’s recent investor day, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said “We will not be having advertising inside the HBO original series.” Does “inside” mean that only mid-roll ads are off the table, but pre-rolls and post-rolls will be ok? Or does it mean no ads for HBO original series, period? If the latter, does it imply that Max originals are going to be the main content that will have ads?

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  • NBCUniversal Announces First-Party Data Hub and ID

    At its ONE21 developer conference this morning, NBCUniversal announced plans to launch its NBCU Audience insights Hub, which will contain all of its first-party audience data. The “proprietary data clean room” will give authorized partners permission to run restricted queries across their and NBCU’s audience data without exposing users’ personally identifiable information.

    Using the NBCU data, partners will be able to discover overlaps in their audiences to drive better targeting and cross-platform campaign planning. Partners will gain access to NBCU’s linear TV APIs and certified reach measurement models to improve efficiency and effectiveness. NBCU plans to add to its measurement capabilities so that partners can do their own self-service multi-platform attribution. The clean room framework is being powered by Snowflake and VideoAmp is the first measurement partner to be integrated.

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  • Peak TV Originals Drop Slightly in 2020; Rebound Likely in 2021 Due to AVOD

    The number of scripted original TV shows released on broadcast, cable and streaming dropped slightly from 532 in 2019 to 493 in 2020 according to FX Networks, which has been tracking the number for the past 10 years. FX chairman John Landgraf previously dubbed the spiraling number of scripted originals “Peak TV.” Back in 2009 there were 210 scripted originals, according to FX.

    The reduction in 2020 is likely a temporary pause due to the effects of Covid shutting down productions and shifting network strategies. That’s because the streaming industry, where the majority of Peak TV originals has come from, is continuing to expand aggressively, in both subscription and ad-supported.

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  • New Deals Highlight Distribution’s Ongoing Role

    While lots of attention in 2020 focused on direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming services, deals announced this first business day of 2021  are a reminder how important third-party distribution remains for premium content. The names and roles of some of these new distributors are different than in the past, but they all underscore how even in a DTC world, third-party partnerships are critical to success.

    For example, Discovery highlighted the growing importance of device makers as distribution partners for its DTC discovery+ service which is now live, announcing deals today with Amazon (Fire TV), Apple (iOS devices and Apple TV), Google (Android, Chromecast, Android TV), Microsoft (Xbox), Roku and Samsung (smart TVs).

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #540: discovery+ Set to Launch; Kids’ Streaming Report

    I’m pleased to present the 540th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.  

    discovery+ is set to launch in the U.S. on January 4th and on this week’s podcast Colin and I share our thoughts on why we’re optimistic about the service, especially in international markets where live sports will be included. We both like the service’s positioning as a complement to major SVOD providers, mainly by focusing on unscripted content.  

    Before we get into discovery+, Colin provides some highlights from his new “Making Screen Time Family Time” report which revealed viewing behavior for families with kids under the age of 12. Colin notes the data around co-viewing, especially on weekday mornings.

    Listen in to learn more!

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  • Discovery Launches discovery+, Pursuing Unscripted Positioning in Crowded Streaming Market

    Discovery announced its discovery+ streaming service today, with a U.S. launch date of January 4th. There will be an ad-light version for $4.99 per month and an ad-free version for $6.99 per month. The service will roll out in 25 additional countries initially, at localized price points and with different packaging options. The first advertising partners announced include Boston Beer Company, Kraft Heinz, Lowe’s and Toyota.

    Verizon will offer new and existing Play More and Get More Unlimited subscribers 12 months free of discovery+. Verizon will give Start and Do More Unlimited subscribers 6 months of discovery+. And new Verizon 5G Home Internet or Fios Gigabit Connection subscribers will also receive 12 months of free discovery+. Verizon offered similar free access to Disney+ at launch (and later the bundle with Hulu and ESPN+) which proved highly effective, driving an estimated 15% of Disney+’s first year subscribers.

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  • Samba TV’s Q3 Viewership Report Provides Insights About Dynamic Quarter

    It’s no surprise to anyone that the TV industry is being roiled by huge viewership changes accelerated by the pandemic. Samba TV’s new State of Viewership Quarterly Report for Q3 provides useful insights about the key trends that unfolded in the quarter, following an unprecedented first 6 months of the 2020.

    Among Samba TV’s key findings:

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  • Peacock is Poised to Play Many Roles for NBCU and Comcast

    Peacock launched broadly yesterday, though as a Comcast Xfinity broadband subscriber, I’ve had access to it for several months using my Flex device. I’ve spent a bunch of time with it and have been quite impressed. That the Peacock team put it together during the pandemic is quite a feat.

    Some of the highlights to me are the very strong UI, the comfort food of popular programs like ’30 Rock,” “Parks and Rec,” “SNL,” and others, plus plenty of movies, the modest ad load of 5 minutes max per hour and the “Channels” which are about 30 virtual linear networks sorted into a traditional program grid.

    As I’ve spent time with Peacock and followed the pre-launch coverage it’s become apparent how many different roles Peacock is poised to play for NBCU and its parent Comcast. Here’s a quick rundown:

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  • Survey: 53% of Adults Agree They’re Watching More TV During Pandemic

    In a new survey by Leichtman Research Group, 53% of American adults agreed (selecting 8, 9 or 10 on a 1-10 scale) that they spend more time watching TV during the pandemic. Just 16% selected 1, 2 or 3 that they disagreed that they were spending more time watching TV.

    LRG didn’t find significant age, income or gender differences among those agreeing. 56% of pay-TV subscribers agreed while 45% of non-subscribers agreed. The results are from an online survey fielded in April and May. Q1 also saw the worst decline in pay-TV ever, with over 2 million subscribers lost, while SVOD services like Netflix added record subscribers. Lack of live sports, budget tightening and the availability of inexpensive or free OTT services were surely primary drivers.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #514: Digging Into Pay-TV’s Q1 Losses and ViacomCBS’s Gains

    I’m pleased to present the 514th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. As always, we hope our listeners are staying well.

    This week we share thoughts on the nearly 2.1 million video subscribers that large pay-TV operators lost in Q1. It was a record loss, and approximately half of it was attributable just to AT&T. Virtual pay-TV operators also had a tough first quarter. As a result linear TV networks must look to direct-to-consumer models, which is what ViacomCBS is doing with CBS All Access and Pluto. Subscriber gains have been impressive and we examine the company’s successful strategy.

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  • NBCUniversal Emphasizes Viewer and Advertiser Experience

    NBCUniversal used its One Industry Update livestream to emphasize that improving the viewer and advertiser experience remains a top priority. Laura Molen, President, Advertising Sales and Partnerships, said “this moment has only accelerated our efforts to make the ad experience more engaging for consumers and more effective for advertisers.” She continued, “I know we talk a lot about commercial time - and we’re still committed to bring that number way down.”

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  • Lots of Free TV/Video Available, Spanning Short and Long Ends of the Tail

    As stay at home guidelines remain in place, it seems like more and more free TV and video are being made available, spanning the short and long ends of the tail (meaning super-premium through user-generated) - and everything in between. Not only does this create more choices for viewers, which will be welcomed, it also means more competition for subscription video services which were already vulnerable to belt-tightening. And for free TV/video that is ad-supported, it means more inventory and choices for advertisers.

    Here’s what’s caught my eye just in the past week:

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