Beachfront - leaderboard - 7-1-18

Analysis for 'Skinny Bundles'

  • VideoNuze Podcast #462: YouTube TV’s Rate Hike; NABShow Takeaways

    I'm pleased to present the 462nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Colin and I both shed a tear this week as YouTube TV raised its rate to $50/month (up $10 for those currently paying $40/month and up $15 for those like Colin and me who were grandfathered at the original $35/month price - a whopping 43% increase).

    While Colin says he wasn’t surprised, I actually was. There’s been a huge window for YouTube TV to grab market share as other virtual pay-TV operators raised their rates and/or scaled back promotions. But Google has obviously decided it was done heavily subsidizing YouTube TV. Colin and I discuss the implications of the move and how the “new normal” in virtual operators’ rates will likely reduce cord-cutting.

    Then we switch gears with Colin sharing his takeaways from NABShow - focusing on AI, cloud and live.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #458: DirecTV Now Changes Packaging; Fact-Checking Netflix

    I’m pleased to present the 458th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Earlier this week, DirecTV Now changed its packaging and pricing by introducing 2 new tiers, DirecTV Now Plus and DirecTV Now Max. They are both anchored by HBO, but also lose popular networks from Viacom, Discovery and AMC.

    On today’s podcast Colin and I discuss the likely rationale behind the changes and what impact they’ll have. One thing seems clear: given the spectrum of TV networks they carry, Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV are poised to become leaders in the virtual pay-TV industry.

    Next, Colin updates us on several statements a Netflix executive made earlier this week that he believes need further clarity. Colin delights in “keeping them honest” and his watchdog role benefits all of us trying to understand industry data.

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  • HBO Returns to Workhorse Role in New DirecTV Now Packages

    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.

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  • Charter’s New Skinny Bundle Will Have Narrow Appeal and Limited Long-Term Value

    Last week Charter, the second-largest U.S. cable TV operator, announced plans to launch “Spectrum TV Essentials,” a $15/month package of 60+ entertainment channels. According to Charter’s press release, Spectrum TV Essentials will be “made available exclusively in Charter’s footprint to Spectrum Internet customers who don’t already subscribe to Spectrum video services.” This means targeting broadband-only subscribers who have either cut the cord or never subscribed. It’s unclear how Charter will handle a prospect looking to downgrade from an existing multichannel TV bundle to Charter’s new skinny bundle (or “virtual pay-TV service,” as these bundles are often called).

    Regardless, the way Spectrum TV Essentials is currently constructed/priced it is likely to have relatively narrow appeal and limited long-term value. It can be compared most to Philo TV, another inexpensive entertainment-only service. Charter has agreements with Viacom, Discovery, A&E, AMC and Hallmark to carry their networks, but NOT CBS, Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal or Turner, at least currently. So a ton of popular TV networks/programs will be missing, raising, once again the “Swiss cheese” problem of inexpensive skinny bundles that have too many holes in their programming lineups to have broad appeal. Such is the nature of striving to keep subscriber rates low; many expensive networks must be excluded.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #453: Super Bowl Streaming Hits New High

    I’m pleased to present the 453rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This past Sunday’s Super Bowl set the record for the lowest total score in the Big Game’s history, but it also set the highest record for number of people watching the action via the Internet. According to Colin’s excellent analysis, upward of 7 million people streamed some portion of the game. About 2.6 million did so via CBS and NFL digital properties. But per Colin’s calculations nearly twice as many watched via virtual pay-TV operators, which stream their services over the Internet. We both believe YouTube TV played a leading role.

    So while the total TV audience watching shrunk to 98.2 million, its lowest level in over 10 years, the number of people who trusted the Internet to stream the action rose to a new high. We discuss the implications of this and the growing role virtual operators are playing now. We also observe how the Big Game’s advertising roster included SVOD providers and other digital-first companies, a sign of its ongoing superiority in reaching a mass audience.

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  • YouTube TV’s Performance Remains Shrouded in Mystery

    Over the past two days Alphabet released strong Q4 ’18 results and YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki posted her annual letter to its creator community. There was plenty to learn from both, but one thing persisted for yet another quarter - YouTube TV’s performance remained shrouded in mystery. Since its initial launch nearly two years ago, in April, 2017, Alphabet and YouTube executives have been incredibly disciplined about not uttering a word (as best I know) about YouTube TV’s total subscribers, quarterly additions, profitability (or lack thereof) or product roadmap.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #452: Where Do Virtual Pay-TV Operators Go From Here?

    I’m pleased to present the 452nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week’s news that DirecTV Now lost 267K subscribers in Q4 ’18 (a swing from 368K it added in Q4 ’17) raises critical questions about where the virtual pay-TV industry goes from here? As virtual operators’ discounted promotions trail off, prices rise, programming gets rationalized, competition rises and viewers turn to SVOD and ad-supported OTT options, a far more challenging road lies ahead for growing and retaining subscribers.

    In this week’s podcast, Colin and I dig into these issues and speculate on whether, 2 years from now virtual operators combined are more likely to have 15 million subscribers or 1 million subscribers? In other words, which direction is this industry really going in? AT&T seems determined to play a key role with the collection of assets it has assembled. But timing and execution are critical to its success.

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  • DirecTV Now Loses 267K Subscribers in Q4; First-Ever Loss for Virtual Pay-TV Operator

    Virtual pay-TV operator DirecTV Now lost 267K subscribers in Q4, ’18, per its parent AT&T’s earnings report this morning. DTV Now’s loss contributed to an overall loss of 658K video subscribers (including DirecTV satellite and U-verse) that AT&T sustained in Q4, the biggest in at least 3 years. DTV Now had approximately 1.6 million subscribers at the end of 2018, down from 1.86 million at the end of Q3 '18.

    More noteworthy than the overall AT&T video loss is DTV Now’s strikingly quick reversal of fortune. Just one year ago, in Q4’ 17, DTV Now gained 368K subscribers, meaning its Q4 swing was a whopping 635K. Two years ago, in Q4 ’16, DTV Now gained 267K subscribers. For all of 2018 DTV Now gained just 436K subscribers, compared to the 888K subscribers it added in all of 2017. And to put the 2018 additions in perspective, they were mostly all front-loaded, with DTV Now gaining 654K subscribers combined in Q1 and Q2, then dropping to 49K in Q3 and then the loss of 267K in Q4.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #451: Sling TV and Hulu Offer SVOD Services; NBCU to Launch DTC

    I’m pleased to present the 451st edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week we talk about Sling TV’s new initiative to promote third party SVOD services, including to consumers who aren’t  subscribers to its underlying virtual pay-TV service. Colin and I differ about its potential and whether Sling TV has “permission” to pursue this. We debate the upside of a separate new Sling TV initiative to provide a layer of free on-demand content. We also dig into Hulu’s new emphasis on SVOD aggregation which seems promising to both of us.

    We then shift to discussing NBCUniversal’s plan to launch its own direct-to-consumer (DTC) service for non pay-TV subscribers. Colin is somewhat underwhelmed, while I think it’s a step in the right direction and too early to tell how aggressive the offer will turn out to be.  

    Less than 3 weeks into the new year, it’s clear that big video providers are continuing to experiment and jockey for position.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #448: The Top 10 Video Stories of 2018

    I’m pleased to present the 448th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Continuing our tradition for our final podcast of the year, this week Colin and I discuss the top 10 video stories of 2018 - at least in our humble opinions. Once again it has been a very active 12 months, with lots of innovation and change. Colin and I have had a great time analyzing and discussing the critical industry trends each week and we hope you’ve enjoyed listening to our thoughts in 2018.

    Let us know what you think of our choices, whether you agree or disagree!

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #445: Exploring Pay-TV’s Record High Subscriber Losses

    I’m pleased to present the 445th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    On this week’s podcast Colin and I explore the pay-TV industry’s record high video subscriber losses sustained in Q3 ’18 (more here and here). The two big satellite services, DirecTV and Dish Network were major contributors. But perhaps more important was a dramatic slowdown in subscriber additions for the two biggest virtual pay-TV operators, Sling TV and DirecTV Now.

    As we discuss, with these virtual services in flux and not stanching the bleeding of traditional multichannel TV, the critical underlying trends of cord-cutting and cord-nevering burst onto full display in Q3. Meanwhile, the strategies and success of virtual services like YouTube TV, Hulu Live and others is murky at best. All of this shows how unstable the pay-TV industry as a whole currently is.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #442: WarnerMedia’s Murky Streaming Plans; YouTube TV Hits a Home Run

    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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  • YouTube TV is Owning the World Series, Again

    YouTube TV is back as this year’s World Series presenting sponsor and as with last year, Google’s skinny bundle is once again dominating. Watching the game last night (go Sox!) it was impossible to not be exposed to the brand and also some very creative elements of the “Watch like a fan” campaign.

    YouTube TV renewed its World Series sponsorship for 2018 and 2019 with MLB back in March of this year. As with 2017, before the first pitch was thrown, there was a highly produced 90 second ad.  At first it looked like a promo for various Fox networks, though when the Google Home demo popped in it became clear it was for YouTube TV.

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  • Plucky fuboTV Approaches 250K Paid Subscribers, Exceeds $100 Million in Annualized Revenues

    fuboTV, which started as a niche sports streaming service, but has expanded its scope to become a fully-featured virtual MVPD or “skinny bundle,” announced it is closing in on 250K paid subscribers and also has exceeded $100 million in annualized revenues. The new metrics were part of a broader performance update the company provided yesterday, which also included the following:

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  • New Discovery-Hulu Deal Raises vMVPD Profitability Question Again

    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).

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #435: AT&T Floats Engagement Pricing; CBS Streams Super Bowl to Mobile

    I’m pleased to present the 435th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Escalating programming costs for pay-TV operators are a chronic issue. In the age of cord-cutting and proliferation of SVOD, offsetting these costs with rate increases is no longer an option. One new solution being proposed by AT&T Communications’ CEO John Donovan is “engagement pricing,” whereby TV networks would be paid based on viewers’ actual consumption.

    As Colin explains, it’s a break from industry norms, and even with AT&T leveraging Warner Media’s networks, it will be very difficult to persuade other networks to follow suit. Why get paid on viewership when you’re already getting paid regardless of how many people watched?

    We then shift to CBS Sports’ decision this week to stream Super Bowl LIII to mobile devices without requiring a pay-TV subscription. It’s another nudge toward opening up sports to non-subscribers, though Colin and I agree the vast majority of marquee sports will remain locked behind pay-TV subscriptions.

    Listen in to learn more!

     
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  • Verizon Bolsters 5G Rollout With Apple TV and YouTube TV Offers, In Sign of Things to Come

    Late yesterday Verizon announced that Indianapolis will be the fourth city to get 5G residential service in the second half of 2018. The other 3 initial cities are Houston, Los Angeles and Sacramento. Potentially the biggest news from Verizon yesterday was that it would include both Apple TV and YouTube TV in the initial 5G offering for subscribers in all 4 cities.

    It’s not clear from Verizon’s press release exactly what these offers will be or how the terms will work for subscribers. The cheapest Apple TV is currently $149 and YouTube TV runs $40 per month. If the promotion follows others we’ve seen from telcos, Verizon will likely require a minimum commitment to qualify for the Apple TV and will offer some type of monthly discount on YouTube TV. It’s also not clear what the monthly rate will be for 5G service itself.

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  • Why Google, AT&T and Disney Are Now the Most Important Players in Pay-TV

    For all the talk about cord-cutting over the years, the most important trend in pay-TV these days isn’t consumers dropping out entirely, but rather shifting from traditional multichannel services to lower-priced virtual MVPDs or “skinny bundles.”

    The trend of skinny bundle gains offsetting  multichannel losses continued again in Q2 ’18 where, according to Leichtman Research Group, the top traditional services lost approximately 800K subscribers. But just the 2 publicly-reporting skinny bundles, Sling TV and DirecTV Now, gained 383K (with the latter accounting for 342K).

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #431: Sling TV is Sliding, CBS is Accelerating

    I’m pleased to present the 431st edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    It’s been Q2 earnings season, which provides a valuable opportunity to check in on how different companies’ OTT strategies are flowing through to their financial performance. On today’s podcast Colin and I talk about two companies whose OTT fortunes are moving in opposite directions.

    Moving the wrong way is Dish and its Sling TV skinny bundle. Sling TV was the first to market in the category several years ago. Though it quickly gained over 2 million subscribers, growth slowed to just 41K additions last quarter as others boomed. As Colin and I discuss, a key weakness in its service is the lack of broadcast channels. The other big skinny bundles, YouTube TV, Hulu Live and DirecTV Now have all decided to pay top dollar to include them, which is helping fuel their growth. Sling TV is at a competitive disadvantage requiring subscribers to install antennas which many people can’t or won’t do.

    All broadcasters are benefiting from the shift to skinny bundles, but CBS’s Q2 results show that its OTT success extends further, to direct-to-consumer, targeted advertising and SVOD production, as well. CBS is benefiting from decisions it made years ago to retain digital rights (most famously by not joining Hulu), even though it wasn’t clear back then how the monetization of them would fully unfold.

    Listen in to learn more!

     
    Click here to listen to the podcast (25 minutes, 16 seconds)

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #429: Comcast’s Puzzling Video Strategy

    I’m pleased to present the 429th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    On today’s podcast, Colin and I discuss Comcast’s Q2 results, which it reported yesterday. While broadband subscriber additions were up to a record 260K, video subscriber loss accelerated to 140K.

    Although Comcast management admitted on the earnings call that low-cost skinny bundles are to blame, no strategy was articulated for how Comcast will respond. By positioning itself as a “connectivity” provider that doesn’t have a low-cost OTT/direct-to-consumer alternative, Colin and I believe that Comcast’s 21 million video subscribers are very vulnerable to being picked off by skinny bundles’ aggressive promotional offers (DirecTV Now from AT&T being at the top of the list). If that happens video sub losses will accelerate in coming quarters.

    We’re both puzzled by Comcast’s seemingly passive approach to defending its core video business and discuss potential explanations. Broadband’s saturation and the coming deployment of 5G both seem to limit the upside of the connectivity strategy as well. While all of this occurring, Comcast is looking to spend $34 billion or more to expand internationally by acquiring Sky.

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