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.
On Disney’s earnings call earlier this week, CEO Bob Iger was asked about the company’s video app strategy - would it be interested in launching one big “aggregated” app housing all of its content, or will it continue to pursue multiple apps with each targeting particular audience segments?
It’s an interesting question because it goes to the heart of whether consumers prefer a big basket of content at one price (the way the pay-TV industry’s multichannel bundle has been effectively offered) or more discrete content services that consumers individually choose to pay for (as has emerged with streaming video and music services, plus a wide variety of other apps)?
I believe Iger’s explanation of Disney’s app strategy was right on the mark:
MobiTV has been around for a while, starting out as a way of offering TV on mobile devices, but more recently helping pay-TV operators deliver their services via apps, without set-top boxes. To learn more about MobiTV’s strategy and where it fits in the fast-changing landscape, I recently interviewed company CEO Charlie Nooney. The transcript follows.
VideoNuze: Explain what MobiTV does and how you fit into the pay-TV ecosystem?
Charlie Nooney: MobiTV offers small to medium-sized cable providers, app-based TV software as a solution to cut cable set-top boxes. This mobile streaming software allows these cable companies to stay competitive in their markets as maintaining cable boxes are expensive and it cuts costs for them. We also hope to "outfinity" larger cable providers like Xfinity and Comcast, with our solution. Additionally, we were the first company to offer streaming Pay TV software, which is a fun fact that helps us stand out in the industry.
I’m pleased to present the 374th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we start by digging into Cisco’s Visual Networking Index forecast which both Colin and I covered this week (here and here). As usual, Cisco believes that video will dominate all Internet traffic, but now also sees live as poised to account for 13% of overall video. We explore this and other facets of the forecast.
We then turn our attention to how developers of video apps must have more of a “merchandising mindset” to dynamically customize experiences based on viewers’ preferences and business objectives Colin recently published a white paper on the topic and we discuss some of the highlights as well as the challenges of creating and updating apps across numerous platforms.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 32 seconds)
Multi-screen video app platform provider You.i TV announced support for Roku’s SceneGraph 7.6 XML framework for building channels on its connected TV devices. FilmStruck, Turner Classic Movies’ SVOD service, which already used You.i TV, is the first content provider to take advantage of the new capability to power its Roku channel.
Last fall, You.i TV raised a $12 million Series B round led by Time Warner Investments, a sister entity to Turner.
YouTube’s app will be added to Comcast’s X1 set-top box later this year, the companies announced this morning. The partnership is a win for both companies and for X1 users. YouTube gains seamless access to millions of X1 users who no longer have to switch inputs to a connected TV device to tap into YouTube’s massive video library on their TVs. For Comcast, integrated YouTube further expands X1’s value proposition as an all-in-one TV/video device.
Of note, the companies said that X1 users will be able to search the YouTube catalog with the X1 voice remote control. Searches for a favorite actor’s clips, a specific music video, recipes, workout routines and more will all be available when users add the word “YouTube” to their voice search request. The YouTube app will bring up relevant results in the same way as, for example, doing the same search on Siri with an iPhone.
Yesterday Facebook shed more light on its plans to get users to consume a lot more video, by announcing that it will launch a connected TV app soon for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV, with others to follow. In addition to the blog post, Facebook’s VP of Partnerships Dan Rose was interviewed at Code Media and provided more details on Facebook’s overall video strategy (see video below).
The connected TV app will allow users to watch videos shared by friends or Pages that they follow, live videos and recommended videos. Perhaps the most interesting use case is watching videos that you saved while scrolling your news feed.
Of course the whole idea of a connected TV app being relevant to Facebook users is predicated on the company’s aggressive push into video. In yesterday’s interview, Rose talked at length about the role of the new “video tab” in the Facebook UI which acts as a central repository for live and on-demand videos, augmenting what is seen when scrolling the News Feed.
I’m pleased to present the 356th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we explore the concept of “TV as an app,” which represents a paradigm shift in how TV is accessed by viewers. Of course the rise of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others has paved the way for app-based viewing, but an entire TV lineup being delivered via an app to a connected TV device is still a significant change from conventional set-top box-based viewing.
“TV as an app” got a boost this week with Comcast’s beta release of the Xfinity TV app for Roku. I’ve given it an initial try and provide some observations. In addition, Colin was moderating a panel on video apps this week and shares further insights he heard.
We then shift focus to this Sunday’s Super Bowl, which will once again feature multiple free streaming options as well as localized dynamic ad insertion in the streams, which is a first. I’m keeping an eye on the ads to see if they offer any meaningful viewer engagement.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 8 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 339th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up this week we discuss Time Warner’s investment earlier this week in You.i TV, a video app development platform. Colin notes that the acquisition furthers Turner’s strategy of owning its own technology and going direct-to-consumer. From my standpoint, You.i TV is critical in streamlining Turner’s app development across multiple connected devices, where viewing is migrating.
We then transition to talking about skinny bundle research from Altman Vilandrie & Co., which I wrote about yesterday. The data confirmed my skepticism about how difficult it will be for skinny bundle providers to offer sufficiently comprehensive channel lineups while still enticing subscribers with cost savings. We dig into some of the most salient data points.
(apologies, the recording quality was a little sub-par this week)
Listen now to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 16 seconds)
Multi-screen video app platform You.i TV has raised a $12 million Series B round, led by Time Warner Investments and including new investor Vistara Capital Partners and existing investor Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors. Funds will be used for product development and channel partner development. You.i TV includes among its customers Sony Crackle, Turner Broadcasting, Rogers Communications and Corus Entertainment.
Seeking to simplify and cost reduce the process of launching new OTT services, Brightcove and Accedo have partnered to introduce Brightcove OTT Flow, powered by Accedo, a turnkey OTT solution for media companies.
The solution was developed in response to the companies’ recognition that the OTT launch process typically involves numerous technology providers and custom development which in turn lead to steep development and maintenance costs plus long timelines. In the fast-moving OTT world, these obstacles hinder innovation and competitiveness.
Overall, the quality of streaming of last night’s Super Bowl was strong, although I experienced inconsistent latency across different devices I was using. As shown in the images below, I set up an informal lab in my house, with the game on Comcast, via X1 (center), Roku TV (left rear), Amazon Fire TV on an Insignia (right rear), CBSSports.com (front left and right) and Verizon Go90 (front center).
As can be seen, each device is lagging behind the CBS broadcast feed on TV and to a different extent. I measured the latency at a few points and it seemed to get worse as the game progressed. For Lady Gaga’s national anthem, the Roku and Amazon feeds were approximately 40 seconds delayed, but by the end of the game, each was over a minute delayed. The online streams were approximately half this delay and the Verizon stream still slightly better.
Continuing the trend of making live sports available to viewers across a wide range of devices, CBS will stream live coverage of this Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 broadcast to viewers both online and through an expanded network of over-the-top connected TV devices, including Xbox One, Apple TV, Roku and Microsoft 10. This decision by CBS and the NFL to allow, and even encourage, the consumption of the premier sports event of the year through connected TV devices is significant for 5 reasons:
Yesterday, Variety broke the news that Yahoo has shut down its Yahoo Screen video site/app, dispersing its content throughout the broader Yahoo site. Yahoo Screen was a marquee initiative of company CEO Marissa Mayer, so its demise surely signals the end of Yahoo’s video ambitions. Despite Yahoo Screen’s stellar mobile design, it ultimately fell victim to a completely incoherent content strategy. Yahoo Screen’s failure provides lots of lessons for other video providers scrambling these days to find their place in an increasingly noisy landscape.
Topics: Yahoo Screen
Sometimes the cookie just crumbles. When it comes to digital advertising, who ever said that the browser cookie has to be king? Apps do not care about cookies. And if you haven’t been paying attention recently, apps make up the vast majority of time spent with digital media in 2015.
The mobile revolution has changed how we need to think about advertising. Smartphones provide the ability to target groups of people with extraordinary degrees of accuracy and automatically deliver the most relevant content to people. Programmatic and contextual ads are the evolution of advertising.
Topics: Beachfront Media
I'm pleased to present the 283rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Yesterday Comcast reported its Q2 ’15 results, including the best Q2 video subscriber numbers in 9 years. Comcast lost just 69K subscribers, vs. 144K in Q2 ’14. Comcast’s performance is in contrast to Verizon’s dismal Q2 video subscriber results. I’m eager to see what trend emerges from the whole pay-TV universe in Q2, given Netflix’s breakout Q2 U.S. subscriber performance and whether cord-nevering is accelerating.
Comcast gave a lot of the credit for its Q2 subscriber improvement to its X1 set-top box. Comcast said it is now shipping 30K X1 boxes per day and expects to ship 6 million in 2015. Comcast noted that X1 improves churn, viewing time, DVR penetration and other metrics.
As VideoNuze readers know, I’ve been an X1 subscriber for 3 years now, and continue to be very impressed with its modern web-like experience. But as I discuss on the podcast, the big missing piece in X1 remains access to OTT apps like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others. In fact, the app section of X1 is devoid of video options, instead offering utilities like horoscopes, weather, traffic, stocks, photos, Pandora and Facebook (note Comcast recently announced a new gaming service for X1 with EA).
This lack of OTT access stands in stark contrast to TiVo (which we use for our primary TV), where all major OTT apps are integrated, and searching for a TV show returns results across all services. Comcast has a huge opportunity to please its X1 subscribers with OTT integrations. Last Fall I noted the timing seemed right for a Comcast-Netflix partnership and it’s mind-boggling to me there’s been no visible progress on OTT in 3 years since X1’s launch.
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Yesterday Viacom announced Noggin, a new $5.99/month ad-free, mobile-centric OTT service for preschoolers that will launch on March 5th. Viacom said that Noggin's content will be solely library-based, making it distinct from what's already available on-air on Nick Jr. Noggin will include programs such as "Blue's Clues," "Little Bear" and "Ni Hao, Kari-lan," plus others. In addition to the OTT offering, Viacom said it's talking to pay-TV operators about Noggin being a premium offer for authenticated subscribers.
Noggin is the latest response by TV networks to the dramatic market changes currently playing out. As I recently described, disruption has been particularly acute in the kids' space, where kids' cable TV networks' ratings are plunging as OTT services have avidly built out their kids offerings. Just since writing that piece 2 weeks ago, YouTube has launched a kids-focused app, Netflix has added 5 new kids series and Amazon has renewed 4 others, all amping up the pressure on kids TV networks even further.
YouTube has officially announced its new free YouTube Kids app, a dedicated space for kids and families to watch age appropriate content, available on Android and iOS. The app puts even more pressure on kids-oriented cable TV networks, whose audiences were already being decimated by OTT options like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
YouTube Kids creates a safe, accessible, organized space for young kids. The content is organized into four categories, Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Content is licensed from Dreamworks TV, Hit Entertainment, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club and National Geographic Kids. Popular shows included are "Fraggle Rock," "Reading Rainbow," "Sesame Street," "Talking Tom and Friends" and "Thomas the Tank Engine."
Comcast said that in 2014 over 30% of its Xfinity TV subscribers used its TV Everywhere app ("Xfinity TV Go") on a monthly basis, representing a 20% year-over-year growth rate. The average Xfinity TV Go viewer watched over 7 hours per month via the app, up 40% vs. a year ago. Comcast said the Xfinity TV Go app for iOS and Android has been downloaded over 11 million times.