With the FCC voting 3-2 to enact net neutrality regulations under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, the focus now shifts to how Comcast proceeds on its planned Time Warner Cable acquisition. The $45 billion deal, combining the two largest U.S. cable TV operators, was announced in February, 2014, and has been in the regulatory slow lane for months as net neutrality took center stage.
Once perceived as virtually guaranteed to be approved given Comcast's formidable lobbying apparatus, the deal is now seen as having no better than a 50-50 chance by many analysts. While Comcast continues to express confidence the deal will be approved and close in early 2015 (and even internally circulated a combined company organizational structure), the dynamic regulatory, political and industry landscapes make any bets on the deal's outcome a total crapshoot.
I'm pleased to present the 262nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Today we candidly discuss the potential impact of the FCC's new net neutrality regulations.
Over the past 20 years we've all benefited from a continuous improvement in wired and mobile broadband connectivity (albeit not perfectly consistent by geography or provider), fostered mainly by a "light touch" regulatory environment that spurred private sector ISPs to invest tens of billions of dollars in network upgrades. Content and services have flourished across both wired and mobile networks.
Although I strongly believe we should continue to have an open Internet, and have no issue with rules that would have ensured that, I explain why using the 80 year-old Title II model to classify broadband as a utility was incorrect. Mainly I believe it will drive lots of litigation and create lots of regulatory uncertainty for broadband ISPs, which translates into disincentives to invest and further upgrade their networks. As a result, ongoing innovations in content and services, which rest on the foundation of broadband improvements, will inevitably be impacted.
Further, I'm always wary of the risk of "unintended consequences" that accompany any new regulations. As such, preemptive regulation - such as yesterday's - where no fundamental problem even yet exists, makes me even more anxious. In short, my attitude is "don't fix what ain't broke."
I fully recognize that I hold a minority opinion on this because I've discussed the topic with many people in the industry already. Colin disagrees with me, for example, because he believes the disincentive to invest argument is overblown. Unfortunately, I think the whole net neutrality debate has become so confused and politicized that any real purpose of potential government intervention has long since been lost.
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I'm pleased to present the 259th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up this week, we discuss mobile video's explosive growth. Cisco's new forecast puts mobile video's share of overall mobile traffic at 72% by 2019, up from 55% in 2014. Mobile video will account for 17.4 exabytes out of the 24.3 exabytes that cross global mobile networks in 2019. We dig into the contributing factors.
Next up, this week saw the long-expected announcement from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler of net neutrality rules for broadband ISPs. The proposed reclassification to Title II follows President Obama's strong recommendation. While I agree that broadband is now a lifeline service, to me this still feels like a solution in search of a genuine problem. Colin disagrees and thinks Title II is the right move. We also discuss the prospects for approval of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in light of the new regulations.
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Akamai has released its Q3 2014 State of the Internet Report, its compendium of global connection speeds and broadband adoption for fixed and mobile networks, along with 4K readiness, attack traffic and IPv4/IPv6 updates. Among the highlights are that broadband adoption rate reached 60% globally, a 1% increase vs. Q2 '14. (Broadband is defined as an average connection speed of greater than 4 mbps.)
South Korea once again led all countries with 96% adoption above 4 mbps, followed by Bulgaria (95%), Switzerland (93%) and Israel (92%). South Korea also had the highest percentage (81%) of adoption of "high broadband" (defined as average connection speed above 10 mbps), followed by Hong Kong and Japan (both at 55%) and Switzerland (54%).
Categories: Broadband ISPs
Sandvine has released its latest Global Internet Phenomena Report based on data collected in March, 2014 across leading wired and mobile broadband networks. Focusing just on North America, Netflix once again dominates primetime usage, accounting for 34.9% of downstream bandwidth, more than the next 6 services combined. YouTube was second with 14.04% of bandwidth.
It's a different story on mobile however, where YouTube remains the top downstream provider, eating up 19.75% of bandwidth, up from 17.7% a year ago, with Netflix in 5th place with just 4.51%. The usage pattern largely reflects the difference between Netflix's long-form content focus vs. YouTube's short-form focus. YouTube's CEO Susan Wojcicki recently disclosed that 50% of YouTube's usage is now on mobile.
This morning President Obama made his strongest endorsement yet for net neutrality, releasing a statement and video (see below) explicitly endorsing the reclassification of broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act, effectively regulating broadband as a utility (note, the change isn't Obama's to make, it's the FCC's, which is an independent agency).
If the FCC did make the change it would be the most significant update to broadband regulatory policy since 2002 when broadband was classified under Title I as a lightly regulated "information service." The change to Title II would mean broadband ISPs would have to adhere to regulations dating back to 1934. In one bit of good news for ISPs, Obama specifically said rates should be excluded from Title II regulation (which means usage-based pricing could still be implemented). Any proposed change is guaranteed to be challenged in the courts by ISPs.
Broadband Internet access is a booming business in the U.S., especially for cable TV operators. According to data released last Friday by Leichtman Research Group, the top U.S broadband ISPs (accounting for 93% of the market) added nearly 384K subscribers in Q2 '14, the most since Q2 '09. Q2 '14 additions were 29% higher than those in Q2 '13 and 16% higher than those in Q2 '12.
Because the law of large numbers is working against broadband ISPs, adding even the same number of subscribers year-over-year is impressive, while adding more is even harder to do. For example, at the end of Q2 '12 there were 80.3 million broadband subscribers in the U.S., while at the end of Q2 '14 there were 85.9 million.
Topics: Leichtman Research Group
I'm pleased to present the 228th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we first discuss how broadband's penetration in the U.S. is closing in on that of pay-TV's. New research from Leichtman Research Group revealed the top providers added nearly 1.2 million broadband subscribers in Q1 '14 (the best quarter in 2 years), as compared with around 260K pay-TV subscribers. The biggest ISPs now have approximately 85.5 million broadband subscribers, whereas the top pay-TV operators have 95.8 million subscribers.
All of this is relevant because it demonstrates how broadband has become a de facto parallel video distribution platform - the fundamental underlying infrastructure for online video. Many of us take robust broadband almost for granted now, yet in reality it wasn't that long ago that broadband wasn't mainstream and high-quality online video quite scarce.
We then move on to talk about Netflix's big expansion into 6 new European countries. Colin lays out the case why to be bullish on the expansion, while also noting the new challenges Netflix will face.
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The top 17 U.S. broadband ISPs added nearly 1.2 million subscribers in Q1 '14, notching the best quarter of growth since Q1 '12 (see chart below). These ISPs now have 85.5 million subscribers, with top cable operators accounting for nearly 59% or 50.3 million and top telcos accounting for 41% or 35.2 million. The data is according to Leichtman Research Group.
The top cable operator ISPs garnered 83% of the quarter's 1.2 million subscriber additions, vs. just 17% for the telcos. This compares with Q1 '13, when the top cable operator ISPs took 72% of net additions, with telcos taking 28%. LRG notes that Q1 subscriber additions historically account for more than Q2 and Q3 additions combined.
Topics: Leichtman Research Group
I recently had the pleasure being interviewed by my former colleague Howard Homonoff for his weekly "Media Reporter" show at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information which he produces in addition to his consulting practice. In the interview we touch on a broad range of topics including how technology is helping traditional TV, the impact of online video on pay-TV operators and networks, online originals, NewFronts, rise of devices and mobile viewing, net neutrality, industry deals and much more.
The interview runs about 28 minutes.
Topics: Net Neutrality
Google Fiber has captured an eye-opening 75% of homes it passes in certain medium-to-high income Kansas City neighborhoods, according to an extensive new analysis from Bernstein Research. The firm employed a market research company to conduct a door-to-door survey in 5 KC neighborhoods in which Google Fiber has rolled out. This is the first research I'm aware of revealing how Google Fiber may be performing (Google itself has never shared any detailed data on Google Fiber).
In Wornall Homestead, the highest household median income neighborhood ($116K) Bernstein surveyed, it found that 83.1% of respondents were taking Google Fiber service - 15.3% for the $120/mo pay-TV+ broadband bundle, 52.5% for the $70/mo 1 Gbps broadband-only service, and 15.3% for the free 5 Mbps broadband service. This contrasted with Community College, the lowes household median income neighborhood ($24K) surveyed, in which 27.2% of respondents were taking Google Fiber service - 7% for the $120/mo pay-TV+ broadband bundle, 19.2% for the $70/mo 1 Gbps broadband-only service, and 7.3% for the free 5 Mbps broadband service.
Categories: Broadband ISPs
Topics: Google Fiber
The Wall Street Journal reported last night that Apple and Comcast are discussing a partnership for Apple to launch a streaming TV, VOD and DVR service, including dedicated Comcast bandwidth (a "managed service" as opposed to one delivered with typical "best efforts").
On the surface, it's a sexy-sounding deal, especially for those who have long-harbored a vision of Apple moving beyond its modest Apple TV device. However, scratch the surface just a little and you'll quickly find many reasons to be skeptical anything will result. Here are my top 5 (I'm sure there are others as well):
The 17 largest broadband ISPs in the U.S. added over 2.6 million subscribers in 2013, down almost 105K vs. the approximately 2.7 million subscribers they added in 2012. These ISPs now have 84.3 million subscribers, with cable TV operator ISPs having 49.3 million (58%) and telco ISPs having 35 million (42%). The data comes from Leichtman Research Group.
I'm pleased to present the 216th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In today's podcast, we first discuss Disney Movies Anywhere, which launched this week. Both of us like it a lot (more of my take here). Colin believes it could also become a huge threat to UltraViolet if one other major studio were to adopt Disney's KeyChest technology.
Then we turn our attention to the Netflix-Comcast interconnection agreement, which has taken on a life of its own this week. It's rare when Colin and I see the world completely differently, but in this case, we do. Colin believes the deal sets a dangerous precedent because Netflix is being provided "extraordinary access" to Comcast's network and also that, going forward, if a content provider wants to get good performance on Comcast's network, it would have to do a deal with Comcast.
I don't see it this way. As I wrote earlier this week, the deal strikes me as business as usual, with the joint press release specifically saying "Netflix receives no preferential network treatment." Netflix made a business decision to negotiate directly with Comcast and manage/deliver their content themselves rather than work through a CDN which is what the vast majority of content providers do. This path obviously made sense for Netflix, but remember, it's in a somewhat unique situation because it accounts for 1/3 of all Internet traffic at certain times.
Because Netflix and Comcast said so little about the deal themselves, and because there is so much suspicion of Comcast (and other broadband ISPs) regarding net neutrality, market power, etc., a lot more has been read into this deal than I believe is warranted.
Colin and I have a very vigorous debate on these issues and ultimately agree to disagree :-)
There's lots of ink being spilled about yesterday's Netflix-Comcast interconnection agreement with some saying this is basically just "business as usual," while others are proclaiming that this is the "end of the Internet as we know it" and "evidence that net neutrality is required."
I'm not a network engineer, but since I've worked in the space long enough, I know enough to be dangerous. And from my vantage point, it seems like this is an appropriate, market-driven solution to a problem that is somewhat unique to Netflix, which now drives around 30% of the Internet's traffic during primetime hours.
Nielsen released its latest Digital Consumer Report yesterday, finding among things, that 52% of broadband-only homes in the U.S. are in the 18-34 age range. Nielsen notes this group accounts for fewer than 5% of total U.S. households, but believes it's important to understanding the future digital living room. Nielsen said 80% of this group owns game consoles and 41% tablets, both twice the rate of traditional TV households.
Categories: Broadband ISPs
I'm pleased to present the 212th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Earlier this week, Roku CEO and founder Anthony Wood, who I interviewed at NATPE, described his long-term vision for Roku to replace pay-TV operators' set-top boxes. Anthony believes that as online video apps become more prevalent, and pay-TV operators want to seamlessly offer them, the logistics for doing so will be so complex, that alternative approaches like using Roku, will become more attractive. Colin and I debate the pros and cons of this vision.
Then Colin walks us through Comcast's stellar Q4 '13 results, announced earlier this week. Of particular note, Comcast added video subscribers in the quarter, the first time in over 6 years. Colin has crunched the numbers and concludes that Comcast will likely have more broadband subscribers than video subscribers by mid-to-late 2014, a stunning development. We explore what this means.
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Earlier today the DC Court of Appeals threw out the FCC's Open Internet net neutrality rules. Net neutrality advocates are upset with the FCC for pursuing an illogical regulatory path from the start. They are deeply worried that now, unencumbered by net neutrality regulations, big broadband ISPs (which also happen to be the biggest pay-TV providers) will begin to discriminate against third-party online video services by shunting them to "slow lanes" and charging new delivery "tolls."
I completely understand these concerns, but I for one don't envision any of this happening, at least not in the foreseeable future. Some of you are no doubt thinking - Will's naive, he's an idiot, he's a shill, etc. so let me explain.
There is no doubt the TV industry is changing dramatically, largely due to the rise of online and mobile video viewing. But is it "dying," "imploding" or being "nuked" as some recent tech media headlines assert? No, not yet anyway. As a close observer of all things video, it's just mind-boggling sometimes to see how data is conflated to support distorted conclusions. If your company's product strategy were guided by today's headlines alone, you'd be on a course to disaster.
To help set things straight, Piksel's Alan Wolk has put together a really good slide deck with data debunking 7 of the bigger myths floating around these days (1) cord-cutting is a mass movement, (2) kids ignore mainstream TV, (3) your pay-TV provider is the one forcing you to pay for 800 channels, (4) cutting the cord lets you stick it to the cable company, (5) second screen is all about social TV, (6) TV viewing has decreased and (7) in the future we'll be able to watch TV wherever, whenever and however we want.
I'm pleased to present the 205th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin is in London this week and shares observations on the intense battle for broadband subscribers in the U.K. BT has been aggressively laying fiber in a bid for broadband subscribers. It recently spent about 1.4 billion pounds on soccer rights to supply its BT Sport channels. Colin says BT has seen lift in both broadband and pay-TV subscribers as a result. One wonders whether Google could try something similar here in the U.S. by bidding for NFL and other rights somewhere down the road?
Speaking of the NFL, it and Major League Baseball were in the news this week for filing a brief with the Supreme Court urging review of broadcasters' challenge to Aereo. The leagues basically asserted that if Aereo is deemed legal, more of their games will migrate to cable, which of course has been happening anyway. Meanwhile Aereo's lead investor Barry Diller said this week he could see a 35% adoption rate for Aereo long-term, primarily driven by millennials. This would be hugely disruptive if it were to happen.
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