Microsoft Flexes Broadband Muscles at CESMonday, January 7, 2008, 9:52 AM ET|
Microsoft grabbed the early PR spotlight at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), now underway in Las Vegas, announcing a variety of deals across the broadband video spectrum. The deals, announced by Bill Gates in his traditional night 1 keynote, reinforce Microsoft's intentions to play multiple roles in what Gates calls the "first true Digital Decade."
Here's a look at Microsoft's deals and why they matter:
NBCU 2008 Olympics on MSN, using Silverlight
Microsoft and NBC, which has the broadcast rights to the '08 Summer Games from Beijing, announced that MSN would be the exclusive partner for NBCOlympics.com including thousands of hours of live video coverage, and that Silverlight, which is Microsoft's "Flash-killer", would be used. As I mentioned in my "6 Predictions for 2008", the '08 games are going to be the biggest broadband video event yet. The deal gains MSN lots of traffic and Silverlight lots of exposure and downloads, not to mention serious validation as a live streaming platform if it executes well.
ABC/Disney and MGM content on XBox LIVE
In a further move to bolster the premium-quality content available in XBox LIVE (the content offering that accompanies XBox 360), Microsoft announced that both ABC/Disney and MGM would now be providing both SD and HD content. These moves bring XBox LIVE's catalog closer to parity with iTunes, while keeping up the competition with Amazon Unbox and other stores. Separately, Microsoft said that XBox racked up 17.7 million units sold during the '07 holiday season.(correction, Microsoft press release misstated this number. Holiday sales were actually 4.3 million units, bringing cumulative units sold to date to 17.7 million, thx Karl)
XBox users have been remarkable active purchasers and downloaders using XBox LIVE, and previous briefings I've conducted with XBox executives suggest that the initiative has been particularly successful with HD. Since Xbox is purchased primarily as a gaming platform, it serves as a great Trojan horse opportunity for Microsoft to gain broadband access to the TV. Meanwhile, XBox LIVE has served as the deal unit for Zune's library as well, so these moves are important to watch as they benefit Microsoft's efforts to dislodge iPod from its perch as the leading digital media player. Only disappointment here is no ad-supported counterpart was announced for ABC programs, leaving AOL as ABC's only announced broadband syndication partner, as best I can tell.
BT and XBox 360 Integration
Microsoft leveraged Xbox 360 for another convergence play, announcing with BT that the company's "BT Vision" IPTV service would be available for XBox 360 owners as an integrated service offering. This means that no separate set-top box would be required for BT Vision subs. Though the box won't roll out until mid '08, this concept has compelling upside for both sides and could be a nice blueprint for future IPTV deals. It eliminates set-top capex for BT, while providing strong marketing benefits to both parties, helping drive broadband/TV convergence on the back of the popular XBox gaming console.
Showtime, TNT and CNN with new apps on Mediaroom, Samsung supporting Extender
Elsewhere, Microsoft announced that Showtime, TNT and CNN would be creating new apps for Microsoft's Mediaroom IPTV platform, which it says is now installed on 1M set-tops globally. And lastly, that Samsung will support Extender for Windows Media Center, which means that HD content can be sent over wired or wireless-N networks from PC to TV. Extender hasn't caught on yet, but Microsoft is continuing to push it as a bridge device. I've yet to test it, but have that on my list of to-do's.
Taken together, these announcements from Microsoft show the company's vast resources allow it to play a role in all aspects of the broadband era - software, devices, services, content, gaming, etc. Less pronounced in these deals was the company's recently added online advertising prowess, which will soon be applied to broadband video as well. Stay tuned for news on this front as '08 unfolds.
Categories: Aggregators, Broadcasters, Cable Networks, Downloads, FIlms, Games, HD, International, IPTV, Partnerships, Sports
Topics: ABC, BT, CNN, Disney, MGM, Microsoft, NBC, Olympics, Samsung, Showtime, TNT, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE
Showtime Innovates with "Dexter" FinaleThursday, December 20, 2007, 9:04 AM ET|
I continue to be impressed with Showtime's innovative use of broadband video to increase fan loyalty while adding new value to their programs and bolstering their brand image.
The latest example is a mini-site built for its "Dexter" season finale featuring an exclusive video of the 3 executive producers chatting about the finale and the program's story lines, with comments from various actors interspersed. The video premiered after last Sunday night's finale and is paired with a chat capability powered by Meebo, allowing rabid fans to interact with each other.
I caught up with Rob Hayes, SVP of Digital Media at Showtime and his colleagues Ken Todd and Michael Kuritzky to learn more about their motivation and how the mini-site has performed. It sounds like a resounding success. Video views are running 5 times greater than any one clip offered on the Showtime web site and the chat room has generated tens of thousands of users. There's also a sweepstakes on the site, which requires an email address to sign up. Rob reports that these sign-ups have increased Showtime's email list by 30% alone.
Showtime's motivation was to forge a deeper connection between fans and the program by providing ongoing interaction. So while there's no direct monetization of the mini-site, Rob said next time around, they could easily insert pre-rolls or overlays. And that means that Showtime, a stalwart premium programmer, would be leveraging broadband to create a new advertising revenue stream.
All of this demonstrates how this relatively modest video initiative is at the center of generating multiple rewards. It provides new value for fans. A basis around which to interact. Email addresses to use for ongoing communications. A new monetization path. Lessons learned for how to succeed in a multi-platform environment. An enhanced brand image. And the list goes on. Kudos to Showtime for continuing to be an innovator and showing others that broadband success comes in all shapes and sizes.
Categories: Cable Networks, Technology
Showtime Finding Broadband Marketing GrooveMonday, October 29, 2007, 1:04 PM ET|
The premium cable channel Showtime is coming up with some solid examples of how to creatively use broadband video to promote its programs.
To support Dexter's episode last night, Showtime is developing a parallel story line around the "Dark Defender" with a series of short animated webisodes. Episode 1 is now up at MySpace and Sho.com. Ken Tod, Showtime's VP of Content/Digital Media explained that creating this kind of ancillary content allows the company to target specific audiences more directly. So for example, Dexter has a following among comic/sci-fi fans and Dark Defender has specific appeal to them.
And for Brotherhood, a program set in Providence, Rhode Island, they landed a cardstacker to create the state's capitol building out of 22,000 cards. Posted on YouTube 3 weeks ago, it's generated 350,000+ views.
For Showtime, and for any other premium content providers, broadband's ability to expose potential viewers to their shows is huge. Doing so with novel approaches like the ones above continue to demonstrate how broadband opens up a whole new creative palette for marketing and programming teams. More evidence that traditional marketing equations are changing.
Categories: Brand Marketing, Cable Networks
Topics: MySpace, Showtime, YouTube
Just Back From Digital Hollywood: Broadband Video’s White HotThursday, June 14, 2007, 2:21 AM ET|Just back in from 2 days at Digital Hollywood. First, kudos to Victor Harwood for successfully expanding the conference to 2 adjacent hotels this time around. As always, it was a major schmooze-fest. Some quick observations: tons of energy, lots of networking and meetings, and many people trying to figure out how to turn ideas/technologies into real businesses.I moderated a session that should win an award for Clunkiest Title (see more about session here), but we had an standing room-only audience and all our panelists were fully engaged in a spirited discussion. (I certainly learned a lesson - don't bring up the whole "how's-broadband-going-to-connect-to-the-TV" discussion with only 10 minutes to go! Everyone has an opinion on that one.)Executives from 3 content providers (Showtime, IMG and Associated Press), plus 3 technology companies (thePlatform, Digital Fountain and Entriq) thoroughly hashed out everything from how distributors will distinguish themselves in the broadband era (answers included optimizing advertising, best user experience, most traffic, not possible) to how broadband-only content providers generate a following (viral distribution, building a brand, doing distribution deals) to what business model has the most potential (some agreement that ad-supported and paid will eventually both work, but that ad-supported is where much of the action will be for a while).It's just so fascinating to me how quickly we've moved from the "here's what I think's going to work" stage to "here's what is actually working" stage. While I'm fond of saying that the broadband video industry is still in the 1st inning of its ultimate evolution, there are already a lot of very solid lessons learned.
Topics: Associated Press, Digital Fountain, Entriq, IMG, Showtime, thePlatform
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