HBO thoroughly dominated at the Emmys last night, riding the big success of “Game of Thrones.” However, Amazon took home 5 Emmys (all for “Transparent”), just behind ABC (6), but ahead of CBS (4) and Netflix (4). The Emmys are a high-profile gauge of Amazon’s early success in video, but to get a fuller picture of the force that the company is poised to become, it’s important to look at the range of video initiatives Amazon is pursuing.
The past month has been a whirlwind of news in video devices, content and how Amazon is differentiating through their integration. Last Thursday brought a flurry of announcements related to Amazon’s Fire tablets and Fire TV connected TV devices. The new Fire HD tablet was “designed from the ground up for entertainment,” with an 8” or 10.1” high-resolution display. Among the innovations Amazon touted was a brand new feature called “On Deck,” which will auto-download popular content from Prime Instant Videos to the Fire HD in a “shadow mode.”
YouTube in its first decade has both transformed itself and the industry, which conjures the possibilities of what it can be by 2020. YouTube’s audience, currently one billion global monthly unique views, ranks as a top-tier advertising business that fundamentally changes TV, the entertainment industry, and how brands spend their advertising budgets. Here are ten predictions how YouTube will dominate the video ecosystem:
I’m posting this week’s VideoNuze podcast a day early as the first segment focuses on the new Apple TV, which was introduced yesterday.
Colin and I both see the new Apple TV as solid, but not spectacular. In many ways, it’s just catching up to what other devices have been offering: voice search, search across apps and gaming capabilities. The latter could ultimately be Apple TV’s big differentiator if Apple’s legion of developers take advantage of the new “tvOS” operating system SDK to create breakthrough new gaming experiences. We were both intrigued by the new remote with swipe capability, as well.
We then turn our attention to Netflix’s anti-downloading stance, which I dug into yesterday. I find it both perplexing and frustrating, with the company’s explanation not adding up. Colin isn’t initially as convinced as I am that downloading is a killer app, though with a 10-hour flight to Amsterdam today, he’s beginning to realize how much value it would have.
Listen in to learn more!
It’s been 4 years since Netflix’s “Qwikster” fiasco, in which the company infamously tried to separate its DVD business, eliciting emphatic objections from its subscribers. Netflix offered implausible explanations for its move and ultimately reversed itself. Since then the company has executed flawlessly, expanding its content, extending its international footprint, watching its stock price soar and most importantly, winning back the love of its subscribers.
Thus it is perplexing and frustrating to see Netflix oppose the idea of enabling its content to be downloaded for offline viewing, as an augment to streaming it. Reminiscent of Qwikster, Netflix is offering up bizarre and non-sensical explanations for opposing the download feature that it readily admits its subscribers are hungry for. Further, with Amazon’s expansion of Prime Video downloading to iOS and Android devices last week, it also appears to be a new competitive lever among SVOD providers.
Watching TV isn’t what it used to be. We have shifted from one screen having a monopoly on our viewing experience, being obligated to watch in a fixed place and at the whim of the operator’s regularly scheduled programming. Now, broadcasters and publishers must reach multiple screens, make content available to any viewer, anywhere, and most notably, whenever they want to watch.
The rise of OTT isn’t just inevitable - we’ve arrived.
Yesterday pay-TV network EPIX announced a multi-year distribution deal with Hulu that will kick in on October 1st, as EPIX’s current deal with Netflix phases out.
Perhaps most noteworthy here is that in the current Wild West environment where everyone and their brother are launching standalone SVOD services, EPIX has remained disciplined in choosing to instead team up with a large SVOD player (EPIX has a separate SVOD deal with Amazon dating to 2012 as well).
When Sesame Workshop announced its deal with HBO last week, everyone seemed to have an opinion about whether another “poor door” had been created, this time for Elmo and his iconic friends.
It’s an interesting societal debate, but what was more intriguing to me was that Sesame’s deal with HBO signaled that its own SVOD efforts had not delivered material results (and with the new HBO deal, I’d guess will likely be phased out at some point). That in turn reinforced my belief that the niche SVOD model is extremely difficult given the rise of “super” SVOD services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
There’s been a lot written in the past few days about Comcast’s reported plan to introduce a new platform called “Watchable,” that will curate short-form online video content from various providers for viewing on its X1 set-top boxes and eventually on mobile devices. The initiative is seen as helping Comcast increase its appeal to millennial viewers and drive additional online video advertising revenue.
On the one hand, I applaud the company’s desire to dive more deeply into online video, which has many synergies with Comcast’s broadband and TV businesses. Without knowing any of the details, the biggest issue to me with Watchable is that it’s hard to understand why Comcast would prioritize it as a current initiative when a far more significant opportunity would be integrating popular OTT services into X1, which would have huge subscriber acquisition and retention benefits.
At a time when the rapid rise of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming services is upending the traditional broadcast and cable TV industries (see last week’s market meltdown for more on that), Hulu is pursuing the tried-and-true, announcing at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Summer Press Tour that it would not release all of its original content for immediate binge watching. Instead, Hulu will release new episodes one at time each week, following a typical TV release schedule. So, only when the full season has run, will all episodes be available for binge watching enthusiasts.
I'm pleased to present the 285th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
It’s been a wild week for major media companies as mixed earnings reports, fears that cord-cutting is accelerating and anxiety over ad dollars leaving TV all combined to send big media stocks plummeting. Meanwhile, with Netflix expanding internationally, Hulu and Amazon gaining ground and many other SVOD services launching in 2015, the question of what role SVOD will play for consumers and in the media ecosystem of the future is becoming more relevant all the time.
Those are the topics of today’s podcast, as we start by analyzing recent Parks research (which both Colin and I wrote about, here and here) revealing high levels of churn for various SVOD services. Colin is less concerned about high churn than I am, as I see high churn as indicative of a broader challenge SVOD services have with consumers, namely, not being seen more as transactional opportunities, given how frictionless it is to add/drop these services.
Colin and I agree that great content is going to be the key to SVOD services retaining subscribers. But with more people walking around with binge-viewing bucket lists, I think it’s going to be harder than ever to hook viewers on shows they didn’t have an interest in already, especially given the proliferation of great content. We explore these dynamics further.
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Research released late last week by Parks Associates, which revealed high levels of churn for many smaller SVOD services, reinforced for me that many of these services are at risk of being seen as little more than transactional VOD opportunities by consumers. If this occurs it would have huge implications for both the SVOD services and larger ecosystem.
First, to review the research, Parks found that for SVOD services other than Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, the churn rate over the past 12 months was equal to 60% of those who subscribed to such services. For Hulu Plus, 7% of U.S. broadband subscribers cancelled their subscription in the past 12 months (equaling churn of half or more of Hulu Plus’s subscribers). Parks estimated Amazon’s churn at around 25% (though that’s clouded by value of the overall Prime service). Only Netflix fared well, with churn in the past 12 months running around 9% of its subscriber base. Note, none of these SVOD services publicly disclose their churn rates.
Google highlighted YouTube’s audience and revenue growth in last week’s Q2 ’15 earnings call, with viewing time up 60%, the number of advertisers up 40% and the average spending of the top 100 advertisers up over 60%, all vs. a year ago. While Google has never broken out detailed YouTube performance, these selected data point to strong momentum at the video site.
At the 2015 Video Ad Summit, our session, “How to Capitalize on YouTube’s Vast Landscape With Winning Video Ad Campaigns” helped explain why YouTube is succeeding. The session included Michelle Bandler (Director of Brand Activation, Google), Al Cadena (Senior Account Director, Beeby Clark+Meyler), Hermann Hassenstein (Global Head of Marketing Planning, PUMA) and Art Zeidman (EVP, Chief Revenue Officer, Pixability), with Mike Shields (Senior Editor, The Wall Street Journal) moderating.
The session explored, among other things, how ad buyers think about YouTube and the key challenges the site faces in persuading traditional TV ad buyers to pursue YouTube. These include measurement, sales lift, business processes, incomplete experimentation, etc.
The group also discussed how advertisers work with YouTube influencers on branded entertainment, the rising importance of mobile, the impact of Facebook, how ads are optimized for YouTube and social media, plus much more.
I'm pleased to present the 282nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we dig into Netflix’s Q2 ’15 results. As I wrote yesterday, the big number for me was the 900K subscriber additions in the U.S., breaking out of the narrow 530K-630K range over the past 3 years. If pay-TV video subscriber additions are soft for Q2 when reported over the next few weeks, then it will suggest accelerated cord-cutting and cord-nevering.
Colin also explores Netflix’s big international gains, its emerging movie strategy and its endorsement of the Charter-Time Warner Cable deal. While Netflix may well be negatively impacting the video side of the pay-TV business, we also discuss what impact it is having on the broadband side.
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Netflix released its Q2 ’15 earnings late yesterday, adding 3.28 million subscribers globally, almost twice as many as the 1.69 million it added in Q2 ’14. Everyone knows that Netflix has been expanding fast internationally, but what was most intriguing about the Q2 report was that Netflix added 900K subscribers in the U.S. vs. its forecast of 600K. The 900K compares with 570K U.S. adds in Q2 ’14, 630K in Q2 ’13 and 530K in Q2 ’12.
In other words, in Q2 ’15 Netflix significantly broke out of a relatively narrow growth range it had been in over the past 3 years in the seasonally-weak second quarter. The 900K add is even more noteworthy because Netflix has almost twice as many U.S. subscribers (42.3 million) now than it did 3 years ago (23.9 million). The law of large numbers suggests the bigger a company gets, the harder it is to achieve even comparable unit growth, much less greater growth.
Revenue in the U.S. from premium OTT services could double or triple from $4 billion in 2014 to $8-12 billion in 2018, according to new research study from Ooyala and Vindicia, which was conducted by MTM.
The study, based on input from 45 content and service providers, forecasts that just a small number of OTT providers, mainly existing ones, will dominate. Netflix is seen as the biggest of the group, although its market share will decline from 85% currently to approximately 50% in 2018. However, respondents were optimistic about the opportunity for niche OTT providers such as sports, kids, specialized entertainment and personality-drive services where they foresee 15-20 providers each having over 100K subscribers.
I'm pleased to present the 279th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Change is everywhere in the video and TV industries and this week 6 different news items hit our radar, which Colin and I think illustrate how quickly things are moving. In today's podcast we discuss each of them and why we think they're significant.
The items include continued falling linear TV ratings as measured by Nielsen, Hulu distributing Showtime, new research showing that Netflix's audience is size larger than those of broadcast TV networks, Tennis Channel's converged TV Everywhere-OTT model, HBO premiering 2 new shows on Facebook and Ooyala's new data showing that 42% of video views are now on mobile.
(note: Colin wanted to clarify one point - when citing Netflix viewership, he said it was 10 million hours streamed per quarter when it's actually 10 billion hours)
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Netflix has been back under the microscope these past few days as reports (here and here) surfaced that some users were seeing pre-roll and post-roll ads promoting original programs. That immediately led to speculation that Netflix was preparing a full-on ad play that would significantly alter the viewer experience.
This in turn prompted Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings to post on Facebook, "No advertising coming onto Netflix. Period. Just adding relevant cool trailers for other Netflix content you are likely to love."
Hulu has announced that it has distribution deals with 5 small-to-mid-sized U.S. pay-TV operators: Armstrong, Atlantic Broadband, Mediacom, Midcontinent and WideOpenWest (WOW!). The deals follow last week's news that Hulu has signed up Cablevision as the first U.S. pay-TV operator to distribute its service.
Like the Cablevision deal, there weren't a lot of specific details shared about pricing or packaging. The 5 operators will be able to offer Hulu's content on their advanced set-top boxes. While the set-tops aren't identified, a number of these operators use TiVo DVRs as their advanced set-tops to offer integrated OTT/pay-TV/VOD experiences.
2,400 industry executives and fans packed the Madison Square Garden Theater for YouTube's Brandcast NewFront Wednesday night that was part 10-year birthday celebration, part evangelical commercial about online video/YouTube's ascendance and part pure entertainment spectacle.
The evening began with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki noting that hours watched are up 50% year-over-year and that YouTube now reaches more 18-49 year olds on mobile ALONE, than does any single cable network reach on TV. YouTube daily viewers are up 40% vs. 2014. And in a pitch to how advertisers can succeed on YouTube, Wojcicki said that 4 out of 10 of the top trending videos in 2014 were actually ads, not content.
Hulu held its NewFront on Wednesday, highlighting its growth, which includes approaching 9 million subscribers, up 50% vs. 2014, with 700 million hours of video streamed in Q1 '15, up 83% vs. Q1 '14. Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins said that 61% of Hulu's viewers no longer watch on a computer. 82% of Hulu's audience is in the 18-49 year-old age range, with a median age of 33 years-old.
I have long wondered whether Hulu was going to be the odd man out, sandwiched between Netflix, OTT's 800-pound gorilla, and Amazon, with its unlimited resources. But Hulu is clearly investing heavily in both licensed and original content, and seemingly carving out its place in the OTT landscape.