In 2014 I cut the cord. We live in Toronto, Canada, are not a sports family, and watch mostly drama. The kids watch only Netflix, so for them, cutting the cord really had no impact. We made the conscious decision to buy whatever we wanted to watch, as I suspected we would never come close to the monthly cable bill we had just shed. But the truth is always more complicated, and in a surprising turn of events, I find myself back with Bell Canada’s Fibe TV a year later.
A look back at our purchases and motivations is quite revealing, considering the disruption going on in the video industry.
Topics: Bell Canada
Following are 4 items worth noting from the week of Oct 12th week:
1. Bell Canada is first to offer "TV Everywhere" type service - While U.S. operators have been busy with their TV Everywhere trials, Bell Canada, which has 1.8 million linear video subscribers, has jumped into the lead, announcing this week the launch of "TMN Online." The service, available through the Bell TV Online portal, allows subscribers to The Movie Network premium channel to gain online access to about 130 hours of content.
I spoke briefly with Peter Wilcox, Bell TV's director of product strategy, who explained that ExtendMedia's OpenCASE is being used for content management, in conjunction with Microsoft's Silverlight and PlayReady DRM. Users login with their Bell user name and password and are authenticated against the billing database as valid TMN subs. Only 1 simultaneous log-in is allowed, and Bell is also geo-blocking, so for example, there's no accessing TMN Online from outside Canada. The launch is part of what Bell calls "TV Anywhere" - a broader context for eventual distribution to its mobile subscribers, and further content being added. The deployment is the first milestone in what promises to be a busy 2010 on the TV Everywhere news front.
2. BlackArrow launches ad insertion for Comcast video-on-demand - BlackArrow, the multiplatform ad technology provider, announced its first customer deployment this week, with Comcast's Jacksonville, FL operation. I talked to company CEO Dean Denhart and President Nick Troiano, who gave me an update on how the company dynamically inserts ads in long-form premium content across TV, broadband and mobile. As I wrote 2 years ago, BlackArrow has bitten off the hardest challenge first: working with cable operators to get its system into their headends/data centers. Dean and Nick believe that if the company can succeed in this goal then it will have created formidable differentiation that can be leveraged for the other two platforms.
The key risk is that cable operators are famous for grinding down promising technology startups with their endless testing and brutal negotiating tactics (I say this from personal experience with a promising technology startup earlier this decade, Narad Networks). Robust VOD ad insertion is plenty strategic for the industry, but years since cable operators launched free VOD, the fact that it still isn't widely deployed is a telling sign, particularly while ad insertion technology in broadband is now fully mature. Comcast's role as an investor in BlackArrow should help its odds of success. I'm rooting for BlackArrow; their holistic approach to multiplatform advertising is right on. Whether they have the juice to fully succeed remains the big question.
3. Political battle over net neutrality is heating up - This week brought fresh complaints from Republican Senators who are coalescing to fend off new FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to introduce net neutrality regulations for both broadband ISPs and wireless carriers. B&C reported that 18 Republican senators wrote to Mr. Genachowski concerned that the FCC's process is "outcome driven" and unsupported by data.
I rarely find my views aligning with Republicans, but net neutrality is an exception. As I wrote last month in "Why the FCC's Net Neutrality Plans Should Go Nowhere," Mr. Genachowski's plan is deeply flawed and completely illogical. The core premise of the new regulations - that they're needed to ensure continued broadband investment and innovation - misses the reality that the market is already functioning well. As one example, investment in broadband-related technology is continuing apace. By my calculations, over $180 million was raised in Q3 '09 by video-related companies whose very viability depends on open broadband and wireless networks. The sector's potential is amplified by the fact that venture capital fundraising itself is at its lowest level since 2003, with new capital raised by the industry in 2009 down 58% from 2008. Despite the VC industry's troubles, it continues to bet big on video. Why do we need new Internet regulations to sustain innovation?
4. Have you seen the 9 year-old hockey player's trick goal? On a lighter note, you have to love the serendipity of online video sharing. For example, though I don't consider myself a hockey fan, when a friend sent me this video clip of a 9 year-old hockey player pulling off this incredible trick shot, I was reminded just how much fun online video is and promptly passed the clip on to my circle (it's also now all over YouTube). See for yourself, it's just amazing. And nothing fake about it either.
Enjoy the weekend!
Looking back over two dozen posts in May and countless industry news items, I have synthesized 3 key topics below. I'll have more on all of these in the coming months.
1. Broadband-delivered movies inch forward - breakthroughs still far out
In May there was incremental progress in the holy grail-like pursuit of broadband-delivered movies. Apple established day-and-date deals with the major studios for iTunes. Netlix and Roku announced a new lightweight box for delivering Netlix's "Watch Now" catalog of 10,000 titles to TVs. Bell Canada launched its Bell Video Store, complete with day-and-date Paramount releases, with others to come soon. And Starz announced a deal with Verizon to market "Starz Play" a newly branded version of its Vongo broadband subscription and video-on-demand service.
Taken together, these deals suggest that studios are warming to the broadband opportunity. This is certainly influenced by slowing DVD sales. Yet as I explained in "iTunes Film Deals Not a Game Changer" and "Online Move Delivery Advances, Big Hurdles Still Loom" broadband movies are still bedeviled by a lack of mass PC-TV connectivity, no real portability, well-defined consumer behavior around DVDs and the studios' well-entrenched, window-driven business model. Despite May's progress, major breakthroughs in the broadband movie business are still way out on the horizon.
2. Broadcast TV networks are embracing broadband delivery - but leading to what?
Unlike the film studios, the broadcast TV networks are plowing headlong into broadband delivery, yet it's not at all clear where this leads. In "Does Broadband Video Help or Hurt Broadcast TV Networks" and "Fox's 'Remote-Free TV': Broadband's First Adverse Impact on Networks?" I laid out an initial analysis about broadband's pluses and minuses for networks. I'll have more on this in the coming weeks, including more in-depth financial analysis.
On the plus side, in "2009 Super Bowl Ads to Hit $3 Million, Broadband's Role Must Grow," "Sunday Morning Talk Shows Need Broadband Refresh" and "Today Show Interview with McClellan Showcases Broadband's Power," I illustrated some opportunities broadband is creating. On the other hand, "Bebo Pursues Distinctive Original Programming Model" and "More Questions than Answers at Digital Hollywood" explained how exciting new programming approaches are taking hold, challenging traditional TV production models. Broadcasters are in the eye of the broadband storm.
3. Advertising's evolution fueled by innovation and resources
Last, but hardly least, I continued on one of my favorite topics: the impact broadband video is having on the advertising industry. Over the last 10 years the Internet, with its targetability, interactivity and measurability has caused major shifts in marketers' thinking. With broadband further extending these capabilities to video, the traditional TV ad business is now ripe for budget-shifting. We'll be exploring a lot of this at a panel I'm moderating at Advertising 2.0 this Thursday.
In "Tremor, Adap.tv Introduce New Ad Platforms" and "All Eyes on Cable Industry's 'Project Canoe'" (from Mugs Buckley), key players' innovations were described along with how the cable industry plans to compete. Content providers are being presented with more and more options for monetizing their video, a trend which will only accelerate. Yet as I wrote in "Key Themes from My 2 Panel Discussions Last Week," many issues remain, and with so many content start-ups reliant on ads, there may be some disappointment looming when people realize the ad market is not as mature as they had hoped.
That's it for May. Lots more coming in June. Please stay tuned.
Online movie delivery is back in the news, but dramatic change is still well down the road in this space as usability, rights issues and incumbent business models/consumer behaviors pose formidable hurdles.
Yesterday Netflix announced a $99 appliance with Roku, enabling the company's "Watch Instantly" streaming service on TVs. That news follows Apple's deals with a number of big studios in early May obtaining "day-and-date" access to current titles. And today brings news that Bell Canada, that country's largest telco, is formally launching its Bell Video Store, also providing day-and-date delivery, of Paramount titles to start (and soon others), plus portable viewing on Archos devices.
Netflix, which I last wrote about here, took a shot across the bow of Apple TV and Vudu by introducing the Roku box, the lowest-priced broadband movies appliance yet. Apples-to-apples comparisons aren't fair as the stripped-down Netflix/Roku box doesn't have a hard-drive or equivalent processing. That inevitably means lower quality delivery vs. locally-stored content with the others, plus uncertainty about HD-delivery. Netflix/Roku's big advantage is that it's a value-add service for current Netflix subscribers, meaning no new fees as with the Apple TV/Vudu approaches.
However, Watch Instantly has older titles and amounts to less than 10% of Netflix's total catalog. I don't see that changing much; Watch Instantly runs smack into studios' incumbent windowing approach and deals with HBO, Showtime and Starz for premium TV. Netflix's model is built on the home video window, so new online delivery rights must be obtained which will be a tough road. However, with Paramount, MGM, Lionsgate and others splintering from Showtime recently to set up their own premium channel, it's possible that some studios' rights may loosen up, but of course at a price.
Still, I don't see the Netflix/Roku box breaking 10% penetration of Netflix's sub base any time soon, barring a box giveaway. Enlarging the value proposition by licensing the Roku technology for inclusion in other devices (e.g. Blu-ray) could also help drive adoption.
Meanwhile, today Bell Canada is announcing the formal launch of its Bell Video Store. In beta since late '07, it offers 1,500 titles, now including day-and-date delivery from Paramount (and others soon according to Michael Freeman, Bell's director of product management who I spoke to yesterday). This is noteworthy, as it appears to be the first time a service provider has received day-and-date online access from any studio. If other providers follow suit we may finally witness some internal competition with sacrosanct-to-date Video on Demand initiatives.
By using ExtendMedia's platform, Bell is also enabling downloads-to-own directly to Archos portable devices. With a couple million satellite homes and fiber IPTV fiber-based deployments continuing, there are multiple three screen options looming for Bell. Yet for now these are limited. Michael confirmed Bell has no plans to offer a branded movie appliance a la Netflix/Roku, meaning it will dependent on XBoxes and other PC-TV bridge devices.
Renewed progress and experimentation are welcome in this space, but lots of hard work remains for online movie delivery to become mainstream.
What do you think of the online movie delivery space? Post a comment now!