Posts for 'Video On Demand'

  • A Deep Dive Discussion of Dynamic Advertising in VOD [AD SUMMIT VIDEO]

    Though online video has become a hugely popular source of on-demand video for consumers, it's not the only one available. Pay-TV operators have invested heavily in deploying their own on-demand systems through set-top boxes, which have gained strong acceptance. Comcast, for example, now reports 400 million on-demand sessions per month with about 40K TV show episodes and movies available.

    However, when it comes to monetization, there's a significant difference between pay-TV VOD and online video. Whereas online video advertising has developed a robust ecosystem that will drive around $4 billion in revenue this year, pay-TV VOD advertising is nascent, as it has suffered from years of underinvestment.

    More recently, though, companies like BlackArrow have developed dynamic ad insertion (DAI) capabilities for VOD, which have been deployed to around 30 million homes. In a fascinating discussion at the June 4th Video Ad Summit, Ashley Swartz from Furious Minds led a deep dive discussion of pay-TV VOD DAI and its relationship to both TV and online video with executives from BlackArrow, Comcast and OMD. For anyone trying to better understand these platforms and their monetization potential, the discussion provides great learning and insights.

    The video is below and runs 31 minutes, 22 seconds.

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  • Disney Online Movies' Demise Is Another Blow for Transactional VOD and Digital Lockers

    Disney's announcement that it was shutting down its Disney Movies Online service on Dec. 31 is another blow for transactional VOD and digital lockers for movies, two corners of the online video ecosystem that are struggling for traction.

    Transactional VOD - renting or buying movies online - has become a tougher sell to consumers in the digital age. Not long ago Hollywood studios' home video divisions boomed as many consumers were keen to buy DVDs and create large collections of movies that they prominently displayed. But while DVD sales have gone off the cliff recently, digital rentals and purchases haven't picked up the slack.

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  • Study: Just 22% of Pay-TV Subscribers Use Paid VOD, But 50% Use OTT Services

    Here's a pretty eye-opening update of how pay-TV operators' VOD movies options are faring compared with OTT services like Netflix, Redbox, Amazon and others: just 22% of pay-TV subscribers order at least 1 VOD movie per month, whereas half of them use an OTT service. The data is according to a new study by Digitalsmiths of 2,000 pay-TV subscribers in North America over age 18 and speaks to the business opportunity in on-demand movies that pay-TV operators have left open for OTT competitors.

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  • With New Disney Deal, Is YouTube Poised to Disrupt Online Movie Rentals?

    Last Wednesday, just before the Thanksgiving break, YouTube announced a deal with Walt Disney Studios which will make hundreds of new and classic movies from Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks available for rental. The Disney deal adds to the online movie rentals (or "iVOD" as this category is also known) initiative YouTube announced last May. Between the breadth of movies soon to be available, its aggressive pricing - including $.99 rentals on recently-released blockbusters, its integration in numerous connected devices and of course, its status as the online video market's 800-pound gorilla, YouTube may just have what it takes to disrupt the iVOD market, impacting the broader Hollywood and movie distribution industries.

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  • Research: Heavier Ad Loads Don't Turn Off On-Demand Viewers

    Over the past several years, as more networks have begun delivering their TV programs for free online, a pressing question has been how "heavy" an ad load is appropriate to include. Too many unskippable ads and the viewer could be turned off to the new medium; too few and the network would undermine its own P&L as viewing behavior shifts online (see my post quantifying these risks). While it's still too early to know precisely where to strike the balance, new research released yesterday indicates viewers' acceptance of heavier ad loads in on-demand programs is actually quite high.

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  • Cinemark Shouldn't Worry: Universal's "Tower Heist" $60 VOD Test Will Also Flop

    Late yesterday, the LA Times reported that Cinemark, the 3rd-largest theater chain in the U.S., will boycott "Tower Heist," the new Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy, because of a test unveiled by its studio Universal Pictures to offer the movie just 3 weeks after its theatrical release for $60 on video-on-demand. Cinemark is concerned that the test would cannibalize box office sales. From my perspective, it needn't worry much as the test is likely to be yet another flop in what has become known as "Premium VOD."

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  • New Social TV Network "Vidblogger Nation" Rolls Out On VOD

    Independent video producer SimplyNew Studios has unveiled "Vidblogger Nation," featuring 3-5 minute episodes from video bloggers in 10 local markets around the U.S. Each of the video bloggers is creating 12 episodes for the first season of Vidblogger Nation which will be carried by Comcast On Demand Local. The idea is for the video blogger to each tap into their social networks to help generate audience and engagement.

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  • Comcast's TiVo Deal Breaks New Ground, Unifies VOD, OTT Navigation

    Yesterday, Comcast and TiVo announced an interesting deal that allows TiVo Premiere owners who subscribe to Comcast's digital video service to also receive Xfinity TV VOD alongside over-the-top choices like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, etc. It's a little bit of an alphabet soup situation to understand, which will make marketing it a challenge, but if the two companies are successful, it could actually be quite meaningful to consumers who choose to take advantage of the offer. I caught up with TiVo's EVP Jeff Klugman and had a slew of questions answered by Comcast to understand things better.

    Under the deal, TiVo Premiere owners can have Comcast come to their home at no charge and install the box and a CableCARD, making sure everything is working properly with the video service and their broadband connection (this will start in the SF area, with other markets to follow). One of Premiere's primary benefits is that when a user search is conducted for a TV show or movie, the results include all potential sources - Comcast linear and VOD as well as OTT options. That's beneficial to users because as long as rights are granted according to studios' adherence to windows, trying to understand what's available on which service/device at any particular time is virtually impossible for any average consumer.

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  • 4. Comcast Gets Hit Shows from FOX and ABC for Xfinity TV

    This week brought yet another twist in the intriguing relationships between pay-TV operators and broadcast TV networks, as Comcast announced deals with both FOX and ABC to add recent episodes of over 20 hit shows from the networks to its Xfinity TV video-on-demand line-up. The move is a solid step forward for Comcast, giving it access to all 4 major broadcast networks' programs, a first. This is also content that isn't available on Netflix, providing another good differentiator.

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  • Premium VOD is a Train Wreck Though It Just Doesn't Matter

    Yesterday marked the official launch of "Premium VOD" by DirecTV, a plan under which movies will be released just 60 days after their theatrical opening (half the usual time) for 48-hour rental by subscribers for $30. The first movie being offered this way, which DirecTV dubs "Home Premiere," was Sony Pictures' "Just Go With It" starring Adam Sandler. Three other studios, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures and Fox have already signaled their intent to release movies on Premium VOD with DirecTV and other pay-TV operators who have expressed interest.  

    Theater owners and the Hollywood creative community are livid about Premium VOD, which they perceive as paving the road to cannibalizing theatrical attendance which would in turn harm a movie's overall economics, creating a dangerous downward spiral. In addition, there's concern that if consumers switch to watching movies on the small screen then the creative license implicit in a big screen emphasis will get squeezed. While their concerns are completely justified, the good news for them is that Premium VOD will be lucky to achieve even minimal success. Instead it will more than likely end up being a short-lived experiment that will have virtually no impact on larger Hollywood dynamics. Here's why:

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  • Addressable TV Advertising Struggles To Keep Up With Online Video

    An article in Multichannel News this week, "Online Video May Force TV To Pick Up The Pace," discussed how online video advertising is raising the bar on addressable TV advertising (i.e. ads delivered through set-top boxes against VOD streams and the like). That's an understatement to say the least. From everyone I talk to, and from following the activity in the market, online video advertising has lapped addressable TV advertising and then some. From every perspective - investment, innovation, brand adoption, distribution, interactivity, online video advertising is the place brands want to be. And I see this actually accelerating; every week I speak to an executive or two whose company is delivering another exciting online video innovation.

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  • Comcast To Offer Live, VOD Access on Tablets

    Comcast is announcing this morning that it will allow subscribers to stream live programs to their iPads or Android tablets later this year (no definite time disclosed). While the caveat is that only in-home usage will only be permitted, the benefits are still meaningful. For instance, subscribers who were paying for (or considering paying for) additional outlets in 2nd and 3rd rooms, which are only casually used, could now save money by not taking service in those rooms and using their iPads instead.

    Further, subscribers can now watch in rooms that possibly didn't even have a TV. I'm familiar with this example, as I've used my iPad to watch Netflix content in various areas of my house that don't have TVs or cable service. Presumably the roadmap calls for out-of-home viewing as well, giving it full Sling-like benefits (at no additional cost). That would provide even more value to tablet owners.

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  • 5 Items of Interest for the Week of Oct. 4th

    It's Friday and that means that once again VideoNuze is featuring 5-6 interesting online/mobile video industry stories that we weren't able to cover this week. Have a look at them now, or take them with you for weekend reading!

    Verizon to Launch 4G LTE Networks in 38 Markets
    Verizon will enable 5-12 megabit/second mobile data speeds in 38 markets, reaching 110 million Americans by the end of the year. The 4G technology, known as "LTE" promises a major new growth opportunity for HD mobile video, making smartphones and tablets even more appealing as video viewing devices.

    Time Warner Sees Ally in Web
    Time Warner's CEO Jeff Bewkes understands the Google TV value proposition, explaining that it will help program discovery and provide another option for paying subscribers to view. Those sentiments echo what I said in my initial thoughts on Google TV, that incumbent TV networks should be enthusiastic about Google TV because it doesn't disrupt their business models, but - by fully tying in the Internet - creates all kinds of new on-screen engagement opportunities. I expect other TV networks will follow soon.

    Sony's Crackle movie and TV streaming service debuts on Android phone app
    In a sea of new Android app releases, the new app from Crackle stands out because it offers streaming of full-length TV shows and movies on all Android devices. I sampled it this week on my Droid X and the video quality was outstanding. With the launch of LTE from Verizon later this year (see above), the quality bar will be raised further. Given Android's momentum, all premium quality video providers (e.g. TV networks, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc.) should be optimizing their content for it.

    Rupert Murdoch: Simultaneous Theater-VOD Release 'a Big Mistake'
    A word of caution from News Corp head Rupert Murdoch: so-called "premium VOD" - where theatrical release windows shorten to allow for a new high-priced home VOD option - is a mistake. Murdoch didn't give further details, though he does see some window compression happening. I continue to argue premium VOD would be a wrongheaded move by pay-TV operators who should be focusing on new ways to deliver more programming for lower prices (to compete better with Netflix, etc.) than less programming for higher prices.

    Ford revs up Web series
    The latest branded entertainment entry is from Ford, which has partnered with the producers of "The Amazing Race" to create "Focus Rally: America" a new series serving as pre-launch marketing for Ford's new Focus cars that will be featured on Hulu. Ford will use the series to highlight the SYNC and MyFord Touch entertainment/navigation options. Branded entertainment continues to gain steam as an augment to traditional TV advertising as the format allows brands to tell a fuller story in a more immersive context than 30-second TV spots allow.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
  • Verizon is Now Using Clearleap for FiOS Content Management

    Clearleap, a web-based TV technology provider, is announcing that Verizon has integrated its platform to manage content on its FiOS 1 local channel throughout all of its U.S. markets served. FiOS 1 offers local news, sports, traffic and weather. One particular use of Clearleap's technology will be to streamline the uploading and management of video by professional sports teams who offer extra coverage on FiOS VOD (one example of this is with my hometown New England Patriots).

    For Clearleap, Verizon is the biggest telco launch to date, and it broadens the company's customer base beyond the cable operators it works with that cover 12M subscribers. I talked to Braxton Jarratt, Clearleap's CEO last week who said that it took Verizon just a few months to get up and running with the Clearleap technology. Unlike its cable deployments, in Verizon's case it didn't have to deploy any physical hardware in Verizon's data centers.

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  • Clearleap and Roku Partner, Blurring Traditional Video Distribution Boundaries

    Clearleap, a web-based TV technology platform, and Roku, maker of the popular digital video player, are announcing a partnership this morning that blurs the boundaries between traditional and broadband-centric video distribution. The partnership enables incumbent Pay-TV providers to deliver premium content, including their own video-on-demand (VOD) libraries, plus supplemental online video, to their customers via Roku boxes. As a result, instead of Roku being thought of as one of the "over-the-top" disruptors of the existing video ecosystem, the Clearleap deal will help it - and other connected devices to follow - potentially find a role working with Pay-TV providers to extend their services.

    For industry analysts like me, the deal is a bit of a mind-bender; when I got a sneak preview of the implementation at the Cable Show in LA last month I had to ask more than once about the context and motivations of the parties involved. I refreshed my understanding earlier this week in phone calls with Braxton Jarratt, Clearleap's CEO and co-founder, and Jim Funk, Roku's VP of Business Development.

    Braxton explained that several of Clearleap's cable operator customers have acknowledged the expanding role of online video viewership (e.g. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, MLB, etc.) via connected devices and are growing concerned that they pose a double negative: diminishing the importance of operators' own video services while also generating additional network traffic, but no incremental revenue upside (assuming the broadband user stays beneath their data cap and doesn't need to upgrade their service tier).

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  • Hollywood Considers Squeezing Theatrical Window

    An article in the this past weekend, "Hollywood Eyes Shortcut to TV," describes how some Hollywood studios' appear ready to further squeeze their bread-and-butter theatrical relationships in the name of accelerated electronic distribution to viewers' TVs.

    The article cites proposals that Time Warner Cable, America's 2nd largest cable operator, is discussing with studios to offer movies to Video-on-Demand (VOD) just 1 month after they open in theaters, instead of today's typical 4 months. The idea, dubbed "home theater on demand" ("HTOD" for short) would mean a movie would be available on HTOD while still playing in theaters. Adopting such an approach would be akin to Hollywood sticking its finger in the eye of its theatrical partners, who would obviously suffer some degree of diminished ticket sales.

    Hollywood studios surely know the firestorm an HTOD move would create. In the past 6 months, plans to overlap theatrical and electronic distribution - with Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" and Sony's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" - met with stiff resistance from theater owners. With the new HTOD concept, studios seem intent on pushing further into this perilous territory, motivated by a desire to get movies into viewers' hands earlier than ever before.

    In general I applaud studios willingness to experiment, but I think the value of HTOD and other early release plans is overestimated and more likely to backfire on studios than produce any tangible financial benefits.

    The first issue is cannibalization. It's hard to imagine, given all the marketing effort around a movie's premiere, that the aggregate short-term audience for a particular movie can be expanded all that much. Certainly few people who just paid to see the movie in the theater will pay again to see it at home so quickly thereafter. And if you really wanted to see a movie, wouldn't you have made it to the theater in the first place?

    Instead of tempting people to not bother going out, studios should be giving consumers more reasons to actually do so. Studios have so many new opportunities with social media, local-based services and user-generated content to add excitement to movie premieres. This is particularly true for younger audiences critical to box office results. Some of these new efforts can extend all the way through a movie's DVD and electronic release, adding downstream value as well.

    In addition, even with movie ticket prices now approaching or hitting $20 apiece, in my opinion, HTOD's proposed fee of $20-30 is way too high. Most VOD movies today cost around $5-6; trying to justify a multiple of that price for HTOD, for the sole benefit of earlier in-home access, is a huge stretch. In reality, consumers seem plenty willing to wait in exchange for lower prices. That's the key takeaway from Netflix's willingness to do the 28-day DVD window deals with major studios. If a consumer can pay a paltry $9/mo they'll be just fine waiting until the movie becomes available on DVD or for streaming. Hollywood needs to be careful not to overestimate the value of its product.

    Last but not least, HTOD is a risky play because cable-delivered VOD itself is going to be coming under intensifying competition. Recently I explained how competition for movie rentals is intensifying, making VOD just one of many, many choices for consumers. Initiatives like Google TV undermine VOD because when a consumer can just as easily access movies from various online outlets directly on their TVs, VOD usage will inevitably suffer. Though I'm skeptical about new efforts from retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, they will add more on-demand movie choices and will further turn up the pressure on VOD.

    Electronic distribution is a hot topic these days, and studios are right to explore their options. But while studios' relationships with theater owners are far from optimal, in my opinion studios need to be very careful about jeopardizing them further. Rather than undermining theatrical release with ever-earlier electronic distribution plans, studios should be figuring out how to build more value into them.

    (Note - if you want to learn more about how Hollywood succeeds in the digital distribution era, make sure to join us for the upcoming VideoSchmooze breakfast in Beverly Hills on June 15th! Click here to learn more and register for the early bird discount)

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
  • NDS Leads $20 Million Investment in BlackArrow for Advanced Advertising

    Amid all the coverage that online video advertising receives, it's also important to remember that advanced advertising in on-demand and pre-recorded TV continues to evolve. News today that NDS, one of the largest technology providers to multichannel video programming distributors ("MVPDs") is leading a $20 million Series C round in BlackArrow, a provider of advanced advertising solutions, is a reminder of progress. Last week I spoke to Todd Narwid, VP of New Media for NDS and Dean Denhart, BlackArrow's CEO, to learn more about the deal.

    To put the deal and its upside in context, it's important to first understand there's a big difference between how online video advertising against free streams in the open Internet works vs. how advertising against VOD and DVR programs in paid, subscription-based services run by MVPDs works. In the Internet world, there are pretty well-established standards, allowing significant interoperability among sites and ad servers. While measurement challenges persist, the act of getting video ads inserted where they're supposed to be is now pretty straightforward.  

    Conversely, in the MVPD world, the first challenge is just getting ad serving systems approved and deployed. Because ads are served from within the MVPD's own infrastructure, new ad servers must be tested and integrated with existing video delivery infrastructure residing in distribution centers often called "headends" in the cable world. Unlike MVPDs' broadband deployments, much of MVPDs' TV delivery architecture pre-dates the Internet and therefore is heterogeneous and often difficult to integrate with. In addition, there are the tens of millions of deployed set-top boxes which also differ in their capabilities and openness. MVPDs have made significant progress in creating their own standards and in deploying advanced services, but as anyone who's ever tried to implement any kind of advanced service in the MVPD world can attest, it's hard work and has ground down many promising technology start-ups.

    When I first wrote about BlackArrow, on its launch in Oct, '07, I liked its vision of delivering advanced advertising in VOD and DVR programs, but I noted the above challenges gave it a steep hill to climb. Since then, BlackArrow has made progress, deploying with Comcast in Jacksonville, FL and with other operators (though Dean isn't able to mention them due to MVPD restrictions). Still, MVPDs have so many priorities and their resources for testing and integrating new technology are limited. Further, there's a lingering sentiment that MVPDs have only made a half-hearted attempt to really monetize VOD and DVR.

    Given these circumstance, the NDS deal appears to offer BlackArrow a lot of upside. As one of the largest technology providers to MVPDs globally ("conditional access" systems that provide secure MVPD video delivery are its main product line, among others), NDS immediately gives BlackArrow both credibility and significantly improved sales and support reach, particularly outside North America. The companies also announced a joint solution offering, which will be key to realizing actual sales  Importantly, NDS gives BlackArrow improved financial footing for what promises to be a very long-term process of deploying advanced advertising by MVPDs. Conversely, for NDS, as Todd explained, BlackArrow provides the monetization piece of the puzzle that MVPDs need to create business cases to help them justify NDS's advanced technology delivery systems.  

    For MVPDs, who are witnessing the rapid adoption of online video and the threat of cord-cutting down the road, it is essential to be able to offer subscribers more flexible viewing options like VOD and DVR and to give their content partners opportunities to effectively monetize these views. This has been the Achilles heel of VOD and DVR to date, and the scarcity of ad-supported programs in VOD (particularly relative to what's available online) is a direct reflection of this.

    Going forward, the challenge for MVPDs will only intensify as content providers face escalating choices about where to optimally monetize their programming. This is where BlackArrow fits in. Plus the company has always had a multi-platform vision, so once it's enabled for TV and DVR, BlackArrow could also provide a pathway to online monetization, which given MVPDs' TV Everywhere initiatives, is also a growing priority.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).

  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #53 - March 19, 2010

    Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 53rd edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for March 19, 2010.

    This week Daisy and I dig into my post from this past Wednesday, "The Battle Over Movie Rentals is Intensifying" in which I described a new $30 million ad campaign that launched this week to promote consumer awareness of movies accessible through cable TV operators' Video-on-Demand (VOD) initiatives. The campaign is being funded by 8 Hollywood studios and 8 cable operators and will run for the next 12 weeks.

    In the post I noted how the so-called "day-and-date" availability of movies on VOD (simultaneous with their DVD release), plus the consumer convenience of immediate viewing on the TV, are key VOD differentiators. In today's podcast Daisy and I explore how compelling these differentiators actually are, and how other options such as Netflix, Amazon and iTunes compare. After trying to explain the nuances a bit further, Daisy's reaction was that this stuff is so confusing that "her head is swimming."

    Daisy's hardly an amateur, so if that's her reaction, one can easily imagine how many consumers will react as well, as they are bombarded with movie rental offers. Trying to figure out what movie viewing option(s) best meet their needs is going to take some work. But hey, nobody ever said that having a lot of choices is necessarily a lot of fun! Listen in to learn more.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (14 minutes, 45 seconds)

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  • The Battle Over Movie Rentals is Intensifying

    News this morning of a $30 million advertising campaign being launched by 8 Hollywood studios and 8 cable operators promoting "Movies on Demand" is fresh evidence that the battle over movie rentals is intensifying. According to the press release, the 12-week campaign, dubbed "The Video Store Just Moved In" is meant to raise consumer awareness of the convenience and affordability of renting movies on cable.

    Cable Video-on-Demand (VOD) has been around for a long while (in fact 20 years ago my summer internship for Continental Cablevision was studying the ROIs for VOD's precursor, "Pay-per-view"). What's new more recently is the growth of so-called "day-and-date" availability - which means movies are released to VOD at the same time as they become available on DVD. The other recent phenomenon is the widespread adoption of digital set-top boxes and other technologies which makes selection, ordering and delivery easier than ever.

    Day-and-date availability is a key competitive differentiator for cable vs. other options, though on the surface it seems somewhat incongruous that studios are on board with this considering their desire to protect DVD sales (this was the key goal of the 28-day "DVD sale" window Netflix and Warner Bros. recently created). Yet Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group said that apparently research has shown that simultaneous VOD release doesn't hurt DVD sales. All titles Warner Bros. releases to VOD this year will have day-and-date availability.

    The day-and-date advantage is evident at least vs. Netflix for the 9 movies the press release cited as the opening slate being promoted: "Precious," "New Moon," "Ninja Assassin," "Pirate Radio," "Astro Boy," "Bandslam," "Did You Hear About the Morgans," Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "The Fourth Kind." A search on Netflix for the 9 revealed that 5 are listed as "Short wait," 1 becomes available on Mar 20th, 1 on Mar 23rd, and 2 on April 13th (none are available for streaming). However, it's a different story for Amazon - all of the cable VOD movies are currently available for rental from Amazon (except "Mr. Fox") and for purchase. The Amazon rental price is $3.99 for each, whereas the rental price from Comcast (my service provide) is $4.99.

    For now anyway, it seems Hollywood studios have decided that cable VOD and online rental firms get day-and-date access, while subscription services like Netflix wait longer (btw Redbox too is being pushed into the "wait longer" category). According to the NY Times article, this is likely because VOD and online rental give studios a 65% share of revenue vs. lower percentages for other outlets.

    For consumers, the cable VOD option is likely the most convenient and instantly gratifying. There's no new box to set up or pay for as with Roku, TiVo or another, which would be needed to access Amazon VOD, for example, on TV. For those that haven't bridged broadband to their TV with such a box or a direct connection, on-computer viewing only would be a limitation in the experience. Still, while the day-and-date option is key for those consumers who just have to see a particular title right then, because it's a la carte, it's a far more expensive option than a monthly Netflix subscription, which starts at $8.99/mo. Convenience clearly has its price.

    Consumers aren't monolithic though; there isn't one right or wrong model. Each viewing option offers pros and cons and consumers will choose which one, given the particular moment or circumstance, best meets their needs. With the battle for movie rentals escalating, the real winner here looks like the consumer who is being presented more choices than ever.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).

  • Clearleap Fuses Broadband Video and VOD in MaxPreps-Comcast Deal

    Yesterday's Multichannel News described a deal between and Comcast that shows how well broadband video and video-on-demand fit together, a notion I suggested earlier this year. In the deal, MaxPreps, a provider of high-school sports content (which is owned by CBS), is producing video content in the Houston market for exclusive distribution on Comcast's VOD system. The deal gives Comcast a local sports differentiator vs. satellite and telco competitors, while for MaxPreps it gives valuable access to TV viewers.

    Gluing the parties together is Clearleap, a technology provider I last wrote about here. As Braxton Jarratt, Clearleap's CEO explained to me, MaxPreps uses a team of freelance videographers to shoot and edit the video. They're given access to dedicated Clearleap accounts so that they can upload the video for a local MaxPreps content manager to review their work.

    The content manager uses Clearleap to make edits, set the release schedule, create playlists if desired, and approve the final package. Clearleap then transcodes the video to the appropriate format and pushes it to Comcast for general availability. Braxton said an hour-long football game could be live within 15 minutes for VOD viewing and that the deal was operationalized in just a few weeks, with very limited capex. In effect the process helps turn VOD into a dynamically programmed content outlet much the way we think of the web.

    For those accustomed to working solely online, constant, near real time content updates are routine. But for anyone who has worked with VOD systems, which are characterized by long lead times to get content ingested, prepared and made live, this workflow is a breakthrough. In fact, the MaxPreps-Comcast deal and workflow provides a possible glimpse into how a hybrid broadband-VOD model could work in the future and again why incumbent video providers who already have a set-top box sitting in the living room enjoy certain advantages.

    As I illustrated in last week's post about Comcast's results over the last 3 years, incumbent video providers are in a steel cage match for subscribers, particularly higher-spending ones who value digital options. Yet it has become exceptionally difficult to differentiate through exclusive content, as most channels now seek as wide distribution as they can get.

    For cable companies, whose roots are in their local communities, local sports VOD content could be a meaningful point of difference. And sports are just a starting point. One can imagine local entertainment, events, and localized versions of national programs all created/managed via the web, but viewed by consumers on VOD. The key is having the technical ability to cost-effectively collect and manage the video, and then insert it into the VOD system.

    If the MaxPreps-Comcast deal in Houston scales to additional territories, and Comcast rolls out additional VOD content, I expect other video providers will adopt a similar model.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.