Below is the 19th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for June 5, 2009.
Daisy was in New York this week for the "NewFronts," a day-long meeting that Digitas sponsored, mainly for independent online video creators and media buyers/agencies. The goals were to educate the market and fuel advertiser interest. Daisy reports that despite the mixed news coming out of the independent video world this year, it was an upbeat gathering.
I provide additional detail on Microsoft's announcement this year of new entertainment-oriented features for XBox 360. The gaming console continues to take on more of a convergence positioning, with new instant-on 1080p video, live streams, Zune integration, etc. With an installed base of 30 million users, Microsoft has a prime opportunity to drive convergence and get a video foothold. The new Xbox 360 features coincide with last week's Hulu Desktop announcement and this week's YouTube XL unveiling.
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Netflix has pulled back the curtain a little on its progress connecting its Watch Instantly streaming feature to TVs through its device partners. It and Microsoft have announced that since November '08,1 million Xbox LIVE Gold members have enabled the WI feature, consuming 1.5 billion minutes of movies and TV episodes.
By any measure this is an impressive start. For perspective, this may well be the largest number of people who have connected broadband to their TVs using an external device. More have probably connected their computers directly to their TVs, but as for devices I can't imagine any other having close to a million (Apple TV? Vudu? Roku?). In addition, simple math suggests that these users would already be watching the equivalent of around 1 movie or so per week (1.5 billion minutes divided by 1 million Xbox users divided by 12 weeks = 125 minutes viewed per user per week). Obviously this is just an average and also doesn't account for the ramp up in users over the 3 months. I think consumption will steadily increase especially if Netflix can expand WI's library of 12K titles.
Xbox must represent the largest footprint of Netflix-connected devices, simply because the number of Xbox LIVE Gold members is far larger than the number of owners of TiVo or the Blu-ray players that connect to Netflix. The Xbox adoption rate underscores the validity of Netflix's approach to make WI a value add for its subscribers and to integrate with third-party devices.
VideoNuze readers know I've become extremely enthusiastic about Netflix's broadband activities. The Xbox numbers are a positive early indicator of success. I only see more good news coming down the road.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Amazon and Roku announced yesterday that Amazon's VOD service will soon be available on Roku's $99 Digital Video Player. The deal starts to make good on Roku CEO Anthony Woods's intentions about "opening up the platform to anyone who wants to put their video service on this box."
With Amazon VOD's 40,000+ TV programs and movies added to the 12,000 titles already available to Netflix subscribers via its Watch Instantly service (plus more content deals yet to come), little Roku is starting to look like a potentially important link in the evolving "over-the-top" video distribution value chain.
More interesting though, is that I think we're starting to see the battle lines drawn for supremacy in the download-to-own/download-to-rent premium video category between Amazon on one side and Apple on the other. Though Apple dominates this market today, having sold 200 million TV programs alone, there are ample reasons to believe competition is going to stiffen.
Apple is of course in the video download business for the same reasons it was in the music download business: to drive sales of the iPod and more recently - and to a lesser extent - the iPhone. According to the latest info I could find, iTunes now has 32,000+ TV programs and movies, including a growing number in HD. For now that's slightly less than Amazon VOD, but my guess is that over time the two libraries will be virtually identical.
While Apple has a near monopoly on portable viewing via the iPod and iPhone, it is a laggard in bridging broadband-to-the-TV. Its Apple TV device, introduced in January, 2007, and meant to give iTunes access on the TV, has been an underperformer. Certainly a detractor has been price, with the 40GB lower-end model still running $229. But more importantly, as an iTunes-only box, Apple TV perpetuates a closed, "walled-garden" paradigm that consumers are increasingly rejecting (as companies like Roku astutely understand).
For Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, video downloads are a rich growth market. The company brings significant advantages to the table, starting with tens of millions of existing customer relationships with credit cards or other payment options just waiting to be charged for video downloads. Amazon has strong brand name recognition and trust. And of course, it has a near-limitless ability to cross-promote downloads with DVDs and other products.
Determined not to be left behind in the great race to get broadband delivered video all the way to the TV, it has been integrating its VOD service with 3rd party devices like TiVo, Sony's Bravia Internet Video Link, Xbox 360 and Windows Media Center PCs. Its latest deal with Roku is far from its last.
Amazon VOD's adoption will benefit from the fact that there are many non-Amazon reasons that people will be buying these devices. For example, consider Roku, TiVo and Xbox 360. With Roku, Netflix is fueling sales. As Netflix subscribers realize that new releases are generally not available in Watch Instantly, but are through Amazon VOD on Roku, they'll be prone to give Amazon VOD a try (the Netflix limitation is course due to Hollywood's windowing, and another reason why I believe it's crucial for Netflix to make deals with broadcast networks for online distribution of their hit programs). For TiVo and Xbox 360, each has a well-defined value proposition for consumers to purchase. Amazon VOD's availability is a pure bonus for buyers.
Still, Amazon VOD's Achilles heel that it is missing a portable playback companion on a par with the iPod and iPhone. Users clearly value portability and Amazon needs to solve this problem (hmm, can you say "Kindle for Video?"). Yet another issue is that despite its various 3rd party device deals, the user experience will always be governed by these devices' strengths and weaknesses. In this respect, Apple's ownership of the whole hardware/software/services ecosystem gives it significant user experience advantages (which of course it has masterfully exploited with iTunes/iPod).
Apple and Amazon hardly have the market to themselves though. Others like Microsoft Xbox LIVE, Vudu and Sezmi are vying for a place in the market. And then of course there are the VOD offerings from the cable/satellite/telco video service providers, who have big-time incumbency advantages. Not to be forgotten in all of this is consumer inertia around the robust DVD market, which to a large extent all of these video download options seek to supplant.
In the middle of all this are Joe and Jane Consumer - soon to be overwhelmed by a barrage of competing and confusing offers for how to get on-demand TV program and movie downloads in better, faster and cheaper ways. In this market, I believe simplicity, content choices, brand and especially price will determine the eventual winners and losers. These are front and center considerations for Amazon, Apple and all the others going forward.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Back on December 16, 2007, I offered up 6 predictions for 2008. As the year winds down, it's fair to review them and see how my crystal ball performed. But before I do, a quick editorial note: each day next week I'm going to offer one of five predictions for the broadband video market in 2009. (You may detect the predictions getting increasingly bolder...that's by design to keep you coming back!)
Now a review of my '08 predictions:
1. Advertising business model gains further momentum
I saw '08 as a year in which the broadband ad model continued growing in importance as the paid model remained in the back seat, at least for now. I think that's pretty much been borne out. We've seen countless new video-oriented sites launch in '08. To be sure many of them are now scrambling to stay afloat in the current ad-crunched environment, and there will no doubt be a shakeout among these sites in '09. However, the basic premise, that users mainly expect free video, and that this is the way to grow adoption, is mostly conventional wisdom now.
The exception on the paid front continues to be iTunes, which announced in October that it has sold 200 million TV episode downloads to date. At $1.99 apiece, that would imply iTunes TV program downloads exceed all ad-supported video sites to date. The problem of course is once you get past iTunes things fall off quickly. Other entrants like Xbox Live, Amazon and Netflix are all making progress with paid approaches, but still the market is held back by at least 3 challenges: lack of mass broadband-to-the-TV connectivity, a robust incumbent DVD model, and limited online delivery rights. That means advertising is likely to dominate again in '09.
2. Brand marketers jump on broadband bandwagon
I expected that '08 would see more brands pursue direct-to-consumer broadband-centric campaigns. Sure enough, the year brought a variety of initiatives from a diverse range of companies like Shell, Nike, Ritz-Carlton, Lifestyles Condoms, Hellman's and many others.
What I didn't foresee was the more important emphasis that many brands would place on user-generated video contests. In '08 there were such contests from Baby Ruth, Dove, McDonald's, Klondike and many others. Coming up in early '09 is Doritos' splashy $1 million UGV Super Bowl contest, certain to put even more emphasis on these contests. I see no letup in '09.
3. Beijing Summer Olympics are a broadband blowout
I was very bullish on the opportunity for the '08 Summer Games to redefine how broadband coverage can add value to live sporting events. Anyone who experienced any of the Olympics online can certainly attest to the convenience broadband enabled (especially given the huge time zone difference to the U.S.), but without sacrificing any video quality. The staggering numbers certainly attested to their popularity.
Still, some analysts were chagrined by how little revenue the Olympics likely brought in for NBC. While I'm always in favor of optimizing revenues, I tried to take the longer view as I wrote here and here. The Olympics were a breakthrough technical and operational accomplishment which exposed millions of users to broadband's benefits. For now, that's sufficient reward.
4. 2008 is the "Year of the broadband presidential election"
With the '08 election already in full swing last December (remember the heated primaries?), broadband was already making its presence known. It only continued as the year and the election drama wore on. As I recently summarized, broadband was felt in many ways in this election cycle. President-elect Obama seems committed to continuing broadband's role with his weekly YouTube updates and behind-the-scenes clips. Still, as important as video was in the election, more important was the Internet's social media capabilities being harnessed for organizing and fundraising. Obama has set a high bar for future candidates to meet.
5. WGA Strike fuels broadband video proliferation
Here's one I overstated. Last December, I thought the WGA strike would accelerate interest in broadband as an alternative to traditional outlets. While it's fair to include initiatives like Joss Wheedon's Dr. Horrible and Strike.TV as directly resulting from the strike, the reality is that I believe there was very little embrace of broadband that can be traced directly to the strike (if I'm missing something here, please correct me). To be sure, lots of talent is dipping its toes into the broadband waters, but I think that's more attributable to the larger climate of interest, not the WGA strike specifically.
6. Broadband consumption remains on computers, but HD delivery proliferates
I suggested that "99.9% of users who start the year watching broadband video on their computers will end the year no closer to watching broadband video on their TVs." My guess is that's turned out to be right. If you totaled up all the Rokus, AppleTVs, Vudus, Xbox's accessing video and other broadband-to-the-TV devices, that would equal less than .1% of the 147 million U.S. Internet users who comScore says watched video online in October.
However, there are some positive signs of progress for '09. I've been particularly bullish on Netflix's recent moves (particularly with Xbox) and expect some other good efforts coming as well. It's unlikely that '09 will end with even 5% of the addressable broadband universe watching on their TVs, but even that would be a good start.
Meanwhile, HD had a banner year. Everyone from iTunes to Hulu to Xbox to many others embraced online HD delivery. As I mentioned here, there are times when I really do catch myself saying, "it's hard to believe this level of video quality is now available online." For sure HD will be more widely embraced in '09 and quality will get even better.
OK, that's it for '08. On Monday the focus turns to what to expect in '09.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Welcome to December and to the home stretch of 2008. Following are 3 key themes from VideoNuze in November:
Cable programming's online distribution narrows - Last month I concluded that cable programmers (e.g. Discovery, MTV, Lifetime) are going to become much more sparing when it comes to distributing their full programs online. As noted in "The Cable Industry Closes Ranks," after hearing from industry executives at the CTAM Summit and on the Broadband Video Leadership Breakfast, it has become apparent that the industry is going to defend its traditional multichannel video subscription model from broadband and new "over-the-top" incursions.
Both programmers and operators have a lot vested in this successful model, and are surely wise to see it last as long as possible. Subscription and affiliate fees are particularly precious in this economy, as the WSJ wrote on Saturday. Still, many VideoNuze readers pointed out the music industry's folly in trying to maintain its business model, only to see it turned upside down. Many predicted the cable industry is doomed to follow suit. Truth-be-told though, as I wrote in "Comcast: A Company Transformed," major cable operators are already far more diversified than they used to be. Broadband, phone and digital TV (+ add-ons like DVR, HD and VOD) have created huge new revenue streams. Surging broadband video consumption only helps them, even as "cord-cutting" looms down the road.
Netflix moves to first ranks of cord-cutting catalysts - Three posts in November highlighted the significant role that Netflix is poised to play in moving premium programming to broadband distribution. Most recently, in "New Xbox Experience with Netflix Watch Instantly: A 'Wow' Moment," I shared early reactions from a VideoNuze reader (echoed by many others) to receiving a subset of Netflix's catalog through Xbox's recently upgraded interface. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings highlighted the increasing importance of game devices in bridging broadband to the TV in his keynote at NewTeeVee Live this month (recapped here).
Still, Netflix lacks the rights to deliver many movies online, a problem unlikely to be rectified any time soon given Hollywood's stringent windowing approach. As such, in "Netflix Should be Aggressively Pursuing Broadcast Networks for Watch Instantly Service," I offered my $.02 of advice to the company that it should build on its recent deal with CBS to blow out its online library of network programs. In this ad-challenged environment, I believe networks would welcome the opportunity. Hit TV programs would help drive device sales, which is crucial for building WI's adoption. While the Roku box is a modest $99, other alternatives are still pricey, though becoming cheaper (the Samsung BD-P2500 Blu-ray player is down $100, now available at $300, I spotted the LG BD300 over the weekend for $245). A robust Netflix online package would be poised to draw subscribers away from today's cable model.
Lousy economy still looms large - Wherever you go, there it is: the lousy economy. Though the market staged a nice little rebound over the last 5 days, things are still fragile. Across the industry broadband companies are doing layoffs. This is only the most obvious of the side effects of the economic downturn. Another, more subtle one could be downward price pressure. As I wrote in "Deflation's Risks to the Broadband Video Ecosystem," economists are now growing concerned that the credit crunch could lead to collapsing prices and profits across the economy. I noted that such an occurrence would be particularly damaging for the broadband industry, where business models are still nascent, so ROIs and spending are softer.
Here's to hoping for some good economic news in December...
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Yesterday I had my own positive broadband video experience, remotely watching portions of the NewTeeVee Live conference held in SF from the comfort of my office. Om Malik and crew put together a packed agenda and I had wanted to go, but a personal conflict kept me in Boston.
I caught most of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' keynote (until the UStream feed froze up, arghh...) and thought he offered some interesting tidbits about how he sees the broadband video market unfolding. VideoNuze readers know I've been avidly following Netflix's recent moves with Watch Instantly and I've come to think of the company as one of three key aggregators best-positioned to disrupt the cable model (the other two being YouTube and Apple).
Three noteworthy points that Hastings made:
Standards needed to interface broadband to the TV - Hastings catalogued the efforts Netflix is making to integrate with various devices like Roku, LG, TiVo, Xbox, etc, but concluded by saying that these one-off, ad hoc integrations are not scalable and are really slowing the market's evolution. Most of us would agree with this assessment. Still, he was quite pessimistic about a standards setting process's ability to move quickly enough - saying this could be a 10-30 year endeavor. Instead, if I understood him correctly, he thinks the TV approach should just be browser- based, and also that today's remotes should be scrapped in favor of pointer-driven (i.e. mouse-like) navigation.
Game consoles in leading position to bridge broadband to the TV - Hastings made a pretty strong case for the Wii - and to a lesser extent the PlayStation and Xbox - as the leading bridge devices. The Wii in particular could be a real broadband winner if it could support HD and Flash. As I've been thinking about broadband to the TV, I've concluded - barring anything from left field - that game devices, IP-enabled TVs and IP-enabled Blu-ray players are where the action will be concentrated for the next 3-4 years (this doesn't take account of forklift substitutes like a Sezmi or others sure to come).
NewTeeVee has a good wrap-up of Hastings' talk as well, here. The video replay isn't up yet, but when I see it, I'll post an update.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
CES 2008 broadband video-related news wrap-up:
NETGEAR® Joins BitTorrent™ Device Partners
Categories: Advertising, Aggregators, Broadband ISPs, Broadcasters, Cable Networks, Cable TV Operators, Devices, Downloads, FIlms, Games, HD, Mobile Video, P2P, Partnerships, Sports, Technology, UGC, Video Search, Video Sharing
It's funny how often I'll be talking to someone and they will casually start interchanging the terms "IPTV" and "broadband video/online video/Internet TV".
Yet it's important to clarify that there are differences and they do matter. While some of the backend IP transport technology is common between IPTV and broadband video, the front end technology, business models and content approaches are quite different.
In presentations I do, I distinguish that, to me at least, "IPTV" refers to the video rollouts now being pursued by large telcos (AT&T, etc.) here in the U.S. and internationally. These use IPTV-enabled set-top boxes which deliver video as IP packets right to the box, where they are converted to analog video to be visible to the viewer. IPTV set tops have more capabilities and features than traditional MPEG set-tops, and telcos are trying this as a point of differentiation.
However, at a fundamental level, receiving IPTV-based video service is akin to subscribing to traditional cable TV - there are still multi-channel tiers the consumer subscribes to. And IPTV is a closed "walled garden" paradigm - video only gets onto the box if a "carriage" deal has been signed with the service provider (AT&T, etc.). IPTV can be viewed as an evolutionary, next-gen technology upgrade to existing video distribution business models.
On the other hand, broadband video/online video/Internet TV (whatever term you prefer) is more of a revolutionary approach because it is an "open" model, just like the Internet itself. In the broadband world, there's no set-top box "control point" governing what's accessible by consumers. As with the Internet, anyone can post video, define a URL and quickly have video available to anyone with a broadband connection.
The catch is that today, displaying broadband-delivered video on a TV set is not straightforward, because most TVs are not connected to a broadband network. There are many solutions trying to solve this problem such as AppleTV, Microsoft Media Extender, Xbox, Internet-enabled TVs from Sony and others, networked TiVo boxes, etc. Each has its pros and cons, and while I believe eventually watching broadband video on your TV will be easy, that day is still some time off.