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Analysis for 'TNT'

  • VideoNuze Podcast #180 - Does Live Streaming TV Make Sense?

    I'm pleased to present the 180th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. There was a rush of interest around live streaming this week. Among the news items: ABC,TNT and TBS announced live streaming of their linear feeds; YouTube expanded its live feature and Brightcove launched a new live module, which followed thePlatform doing the same last week.

    For live streaming TV, neither Colin nor I believe it will have broad appeal, with the possible exception of sports and maybe certain breaking news/events. It's no secret that on-demand, time-shifted viewing has surged in popularity, due to DVR penetration above 50% of U.S. homes and the widespread availability of TV programs online for on-demand use. So in a way live streaming TV is trying to put the genie back in the bottle - getting on-demand viewers to go back to linear.

    The fundamental inconsistency to me in this is that if you're tech-savvy enough to be drawn to live streaming on an iOS device, you're even more likely to now be a mainly on-demand viewer. And for those not tech-savvy, who still do enjoy linear viewing, well, why do you need an live streaming app when you can just watch on your TV as you always have? Even the sports use case is a bit thin as watching out-of-home for most will be very expensive given mobile data rates, and most mobile device viewing happens in the home anyway.

    Nonetheless, Colin and I describe all the reasons we think other TV networks are likely to roll out live streaming in the coming months as well. Maybe we're missing something, but it strikes us that these will have more to do with PR (countering Aereo for example) and supporting TV Everywhere/retransmission consent negotiations and won't end up resonating broadly with users. More interesting I think is the CW's move to make its shows available free next day on-demand via Apple TV and other devices which seems in synch with users' expectations.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 17 seconds)

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  • Why Albert Pujols is Over-the-Top's New Best Friend

    When baseball great Albert Pujols signed a staggering 10-year, $254 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last week, he became over-the-top's (OTT) new best friend. That's right, everyone including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon, plus countless online-only content producers, should have been celebrating Pujols's new riches. Why? Because the Pujols deal is the latest example of how pay-TV seems determined to price itself out of reach for certain segments of the population, opening up a huge window for OTT to succeed.

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  • Turner Sports Tees Up Online/Mobile Video Coverage of PGA Championship

    The 93rd PGA Championship, the final major tournament of the season, gets underway tomorrow and Turner Sports, which has exclusive broadcast rights, has teed up significant multi-screen and social media initiatives. As the Olympics, NCAA March Madness and other high-profile sporting events have previously shown, online and mobile video have created an immersive, up-to-the-minute experience for fans.

    Aside from its Thursday-Sunday live broadcasting schedule on TNT, Turner Sports has a full slate of online video coverage on PGA.com, which Turner powers and through mobile. Among the highlights:

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #87 - Feb. 11, 2011

    Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 87th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for February 11, 2011.

    In this podcast, Daisy and I do a deep dive into the role of sports in pay-TV packaging, based on my post from Monday, "Not A Sports Fan? Then You're Getting Sacked For At Least $2 Billion Per Year." I think this is a fascinating topic and something that has been under-reported even though it has huge implications for pay-TV subscription rates as over-the-top services gain awareness.

    The basic premise of my post was that since a relatively small cluster of sports-oriented channels (e.g. ESPN, TNT, Regional Sports Networks and others) collectively cost pay-TV operators $10 per month, then the charges being incurred by non-fans and casual who fans who rarely, if ever watch these channels, could amount to at least $2 billion per year. Since writing the post and gaining feedback from various sources, it's actually quite possible that the annual charges incurred in exchange for little-to-no value could exceed $3 billion. Whatever the number is, it's very large, and effectively represents a massive subsidy that non-fans and casual fans pay each year because of escalating sports TV rights deals and astronomical player compensation.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 8 seconds)



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  • Not a Sports Fan? Then You're Getting Sacked For At Least $2 Billion Per Year

    Last night 100 million plus people tuned into the Super Bowl, once again highlighting the game's singular popularity. But aside from this huge once per year spike in sports enthusiasm, a simple fact remains: if you subscribe to pay-TV services and are not a sports fan (or are just a casual one), you are paying a lot of money each month for very expensive sports-oriented cable TV channels which you mostly don't watch. This degree of wasteful overspending, which could amount to at least $2 billion every year (as I'll detail below), creates a mile-wide opportunity for entertainment-oriented over-the-top entrants to prosper.  

    The value of sports programming was a topic we tackled last week at the MIT Enterprise Forum (panelists included Mark Cuban, Avner Ronen, Paul Sagan and me). Moderator Woody Benson challenged us at the start with how he could reduce his current $260/mo cable bill. As part of the discussion, Mark volunteered that pay-TV operators probably spend around $10 per month in licensing fees just for sports-oriented cable channels (these include channels like ESPN and its sister networks, TNT, and Regional Sports Networks, "RSNs" like NESN and Comcast SportsNet here in the Boston area and others). Mark estimated that this adds up to about 25% of the total monthly amount pay-TV operators spend on programming. My sense is that Mark's $10 per month amount might be a little high, but since he owns the NBA's Mavericks and sees the TV deals, he's in a good position to know.


    (The video starts with about 40 minutes of one-on-one discussion between Mark and Woody and then shifts to the full panel)

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  • Are Live Sports Pay-TV's Firewall or Its Albatross?

    I've long assumed that live sports carried on cable TV networks (e.g. ESPN, Fox Sports, TNT, TBS, NFL Network, regional sports networks, etc.) would be a key firewall against cord-cutting since the games they air are unavailable online. In other words, if you're a sports fan, dropping your pay-TV subscription would be unthinkable. While I still believe that's mostly true, recently I've started wondering if it's possible that sports actually may also be an albatross for pay-TV operators, limiting their ability to effectively compete with online-only alternatives.

    I use the word albatross because pay-TV providers actually have very little flexibility to offer non-sports fans lower-priced packages that don't include sports-oriented channels. In fact, the most surprising aspect of last week's announcement by Time Warner Cable of a new lower-priced tier  called "TV Essentials" it's testing is that it will exclude ESPN, which is virtually unheard-of in pay-TV packaging. Because the underlying deals that cable networks have with sports leagues and rights-holders are so expensive, the networks try to get carried on the most popular pay-TV service tiers, thereby ensuring the highest number of subscriber homes (basic cable networks are paid by distributors on a per subscriber basis, so the more subscriber homes, the higher their revenue).

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  • Cable's Original Programs Should Be A Bulwark Against Cord-Cutting

    A WSJ article today, "TV's Alternate Universe," about the proliferation and inventiveness of basic cable programs, provides an unintentional reminder of the value these shows have as a bulwark against cord-cutting. The article points out that basic networks will spend $23 billion this year on 1,462 originals, up from $14 billion on 863 shows just 5 years ago. The fact that these shows are both finding an audience and that they are virtually unavailable for free online makes them highly strategic assets as the pay-TV industry is increasingly buffeted by over-the-top video competition.

    Two years ago, in "Cutting the Cord on Cable: For Most of Us It's Not Happening Any Time Soon," I argued that there are 2 key reasons mass-scale cord-cutting was unlikely, at least in the short term: first, the difficulty of watching online-delivered video on TVs (instead of on computers) limited its appeal as a substitute for pay-TV service for mainstream consumers,  and second, the loss of numerous popular cable entertainment programs resulting from cord-cutting would give many people pause.

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  • HBO and Cinemax Join Comcast's On Demand Online Technical Trial

    The list of cable networks participating in Comcast's upcoming technical trial of On Demand Online continues to grow. This afternoon HBO and Cinemax announced that initially they will provide 750 hours a month of programming, which will expand over time.

    Full length episodes of True Blood, Hung, Entourage, etc, along with recent movies such as Transformers, The Dark Knight, Atonement and classics like Jurassic Park, Speed and Rosemary's Baby will all be available. Some programs will be available in HD and immediately after they're shown on the linear networks.

    HBO/Cinemax follows last week's announcement that Starz is on board with the trial, which itself followed the launch announcement that Time Warner networks TNT and TBS were participating. The list will no doubt grow further in the coming weeks.

    I've been bullish on Comcast's On Demand Online initiative from the outset, and HBO/Cinemax's perfectly illustrates the power of the model. As the most popular premium TV network, HBO would confer a lot of additional value to its subscribers by making its programs conveniently available online. But to date the only real option for doing so has been to sell them on a per program download basis through outlets like iTunes. The problem is that HBO subscribers end up paying twice for the same content.

    On Demand Online gives HBO a mechanism, finally, to give its subscribers online access without additional fees. This is accomplished through Comcast's "authentication," which queries its database to enable online viewing privileges. The upcoming technical trial is intended to prove that the authentication process actually works. It must, as the stakes are quite high when premium networks like HBO are in the mix. The last thing they want is to have unauthorized broadband users watching their coveted shows instead of subscribing to the monthly service.

    All of the details of On Demand Online are not yet understood, but I continue to believe that if it's executed properly, it will be a game-changer for the cable and broadband industries.

     
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  • NBA Plans Mobile/Broadband Blowout for All-Star Game this Weekend

    Sports continues to be on the front lines of the broadband video revolution and with its All-Star game this weekend it's the NBA's turn to show its stuff. Not to be outdone by the Olympics, MLB or NHL, the NBA is going all out with mobile and broadband video supplements to this weekend's game festivities, building on last year's "TNT OverTime Extra" initiative.

    Among other features, there will be 4 additional camera angles available in OverTime Extra. There's an integration with Facebook (similar to what CNN did with the inauguration) which will build community interaction during the game. New also is the NBA.com All-Star Live app which will allow iPhone users to watch the extra 4 camera angles live on their iPhones. (hmm, I wonder what AT&T thinks of all that network consumption?) And there's "All-Star Scene" offering a range of fan-generated content and interactivity.

    Broadband is continuing to prove itself as a highly valuable companion to traditional on-air sports coverage, opening up significant new engagement and monetization opportunities. Much more is yet to come.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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  • Microsoft Flexes Broadband Muscles at CES

    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.

     
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  • Turner Breaks Ice with Streaming Episodes

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    Turner Networks took a pretty significant step today - for cable networks - by announcing that it plans to stream all 7 of its original TV series slated for this summer. Though broadcast networks have been aggressively launched streaming efforts since last fall, this is the first big network group that has followed suit.

    On my Cable IPTV panel last week, we spent some time discussing the divergence in strategies between the cable nets and the broadcast nets. A key takeaway was that it's not going to be so easy for cable nets to stream their programs online. That's because all cable nets have complex provisions in their "affiliate agreements" with cable and satellite operators that circumscribe their ability to distribute through additional channels.

    Of course these provisions vary from agreement to agreement, but you can be sure that operators paying hefty per subscriber per month fees to cable nets are going to vigilant about allowing valuable programming to show up elsewhere, thereby (potentially) undercutting the value of their programming packages. For now the issue is being defused by Turner by positioning these streaming activities as primarily promotional. So says Jeff Gregor, CMO of TBS/TNT/TCM in today's B&C piece:

    "We want new viewers to come in, and, while we certainly want them to watch shows when we air them live, we want them to watch during encores and on-demand when and where appropriate."

    I'm skeptical that we'll see a rash of similar announcements from other cable nets any time soon. Lots of lawyers are still working hard to figure out how much wiggle room affiliate deals allow. Ultimately though, these restrictions will be renegotiated and cable programming will flow freely. Cable nets, like all other content providers, will conclude that online distribution is essential.

     
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