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Analysis for 'Charter Communications'

  • Charter’s New Skinny Bundle Will Have Narrow Appeal and Limited Long-Term Value

    Last week Charter, the second-largest U.S. cable TV operator, announced plans to launch “Spectrum TV Essentials,” a $15/month package of 60+ entertainment channels. According to Charter’s press release, Spectrum TV Essentials will be “made available exclusively in Charter’s footprint to Spectrum Internet customers who don’t already subscribe to Spectrum video services.” This means targeting broadband-only subscribers who have either cut the cord or never subscribed. It’s unclear how Charter will handle a prospect looking to downgrade from an existing multichannel TV bundle to Charter’s new skinny bundle (or “virtual pay-TV service,” as these bundles are often called).

    Regardless, the way Spectrum TV Essentials is currently constructed/priced it is likely to have relatively narrow appeal and limited long-term value. It can be compared most to Philo TV, another inexpensive entertainment-only service. Charter has agreements with Viacom, Discovery, A&E, AMC and Hallmark to carry their networks, but NOT CBS, Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal or Turner, at least currently. So a ton of popular TV networks/programs will be missing, raising, once again the “Swiss cheese” problem of inexpensive skinny bundles that have too many holes in their programming lineups to have broad appeal. Such is the nature of striving to keep subscriber rates low; many expensive networks must be excluded.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #423: Apple and Amazon Help Pay-TV Operators. Wait, What?

    I’m pleased to present the 423rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Apple and Amazon aren’t two companies that come to mind for helping traditional pay-TV operators, but this week brought news of both doing exactly that. Apple announced at its WWDC the integration of Charter’s Spectrum app in Apple TV that will allow users to gain “zero sign-on” access to the app’s content. Other operators have made their apps available on connected TV devices, but this was a first for Apple TV.

    Then Amazon announced its Fire TV Cube, a mashup of Echo and Fire TV that also aspires to control your entertainment center. The device includes IR blasters to provide limited control over existing set-top boxes, a rare instance where Amazon is looking to help a prior technology rather than disrupt it.

    Colin and I discuss both moves, as well as the broader context that we see for the “appification of TV.” This is already happening with vMVPDs and we expect over the next couple years all major pay-TV operators will have apps for their services available on all major CTVs. For consumers this will be a huge win as they can avoid renting often outdated and expensive set-tops.

    (Note, Colin will be moderating the “Connected TV’s Ad-Supported Future” panel at the VideoNuze Online Video Ad Summit on Tuesday. Register now!)

    Listen in to learn more!


     
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  • VideoNuze Podcast #398: Pay-TV’s Programming Costs, Netflix Embraces Downloading, Facebook Starts Pre-Rolls

    I’m pleased to present the 398th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Many thanks to Brightcove, our podcast sponsor, which, with SpotX and the IAB Tech Lab, shared a great presentation at last week’s SHIFT event about how server side ad insertion complements programmatic (session video is here).

    First up on this week’s podcast, Colin shares his thoughts about why programming costs are likely to continue rising for pay-TV operators, counter to Charter’s CEO Tom Rutledge belief that they’ll moderate. Colin details his reasoning, which could portend higher subscriber bills and therefore more cord-cutting.

    Next, we discuss Netflix’s surprised reaction to the popularity of downloading among its subscribers. I had a laugh out loud moment reading about it earlier this week, since Netflix was steadfastly against downloading until a year ago, when, having been leap-frogged by Amazon, it finally began offering the feature. Netflix’s bias against downloading has been really bizarre and showed a real disconnect in understanding its subscribers.  

    Speaking of reversals, Facebook has had a change of heart about running pre-rolls and now plans to introduce them in Watch. Colin and I discuss why Facebook made the change and what it means for the industry.

    Listen in to learn more!
     
    Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 57 seconds)



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  • Video is Quickly Becoming Bait For Wireless Carriers to Lure and Retain Subscribers

    There is an unmistakable trend taking hold in the wireless industry: video is quickly becoming bait for big carriers to lure and retain subscribers. All 4 of the biggest U.S. carriers have not only launched unlimited data plans, which are being explicitly promoted for video viewing, but in addition 3 of the 4 (T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon) are also tying in aggressive discounts on video services. As I wrote recently, all of this carrier activity will drive more widespread mobile video use.

    The start of the trend can clearly be traced to November, 2015 when T-Mobile launched its Binge On program, which now allows users to watch 120+ video services without impacting the user’s data plan. T-Mobile upped the ante in late 2016 by offering AT&T subscribers who switched to T-Mobile a full year of DirecTV Now for free (a $420 value). In January, T-Mobile further tweaked AT&T by adding a free year of Hulu for these subscribers because of the launch problems DirecTV Now experienced.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #340: Mobile Video Soars, With Big Changes Ahead in 2017

    I'm pleased to present the 340th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we return to the topic of mobile video, which we last discussed in June. Mobile video has reached a milestone, according to new Ooyala data, reaching nearly 51% of all video views, which is 10 times greater share than just 4 years ago.

    Mobile video has soared mainly due to the proliferation of smartphones. However monthly data caps have curbed mobile video, as users have learned how expensive exceeding their plans can be. This is why T-Mobile’s “Binge-On” has been so popular and why we’re now seeing the advent of other “zero-rated” services like DirecTV Now.

    But as Colin and I discuss, mobile video could get a big boost in 2017 as Comcast and Charter both announced this week they’ll enter the mobile business (here and here). Because they’ll be leveraging millions of their WiFi hotspots, they will likely be able to not only offer bigger data plans, but also charge subscribers less by bundling mobile phone with other services.

    (Note, one clarification - I said I didn’t know of any video service on Verizon Wireless that is zero-rated, but in fact Go90 is.)

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #296: YouTube Red is Ho-Hum, Cable TV Earnings Defy Cord-Cutting

    I'm pleased to present the 296th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we discuss our first impressions of YouTube Red, and then turn to Q3 earnings reports from top cable operators, which are defying cord-cutting.

    For YouTube Red, Colin and I agree that the service’s primary value proposition of ad-free viewing is diminished by the fact that the ad experience on YouTube is already quite viewer-friendly and non-intrusive (as I wrote last week and yesterday). Further, the download feature, which could be quite appealing, is underwhelming on iOS, though it’s slightly better in Android. Net, net, neither of us sees much upside for YouTube Red, at least for now.

    We then turn our attention to Q3 earnings from 3 big cable operators, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter. Each has reported very strong video subscriber results, bucking the cord-cutting paranoia. Colin notes that for Comcast, broadband profit contribution actually exceeded video’s profit contribution. I see the combination of cable’s robust broadband and hybrid set-top boxes like X1 as the key to ongoing success.

    Listen now to learn more!



    Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 2 seconds)

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  • Scale and Innovation Drive Charter-Time Warner Cable Deal, But Challenges Abound

    Charter Communications will acquire Time Warner Cable in a $78.7 billion deal, while also continuing its plan to acquire Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion. Assuming the deals close, Charter would become the 3rd-largest pay-TV operator/broadband ISP in the U.S. with a total of approximately 23.9 million subscriber relationships.

    Like the prior Comcast-TWC transaction, these deals are driven by the desire for greater scale which supports the huge investments required to innovate in video and broadband services. In this morning's analyst call, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge repeatedly referenced the ability to spread investments over the larger subscriber base as a key benefit of the deals.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #255 - Assessing Sling TV's Prospects; CES Recap

    I'm pleased to present the 255th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week we assess the prospects for Dish Network's upcoming Sling TV OTT service, which Colin and I each wrote about earlier this week (here and here). We both see Sling TV's slim programming selection as its biggest challenge. Dish is confronting the challenge that both broadcast and cable TV networks are very expensive to carry and so, to the extent Dish wants to keep Sling TV as affordable as possible, it must severely limit what's included.

    We then recap some of the news out of CES that caught our attention including several announcements around 4K TV, the Cisco-Charter partnership for cloud delivery/security and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to regulate broadband under Title II.

    Listen in to learn more!



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  • Net2TV's Channels Added to ARRIS Set-Tops As Cable Inches Toward OTT Convergence

    Net2TV has announced this morning that its 18 branded OTT programs will be added to ARRIS Market, a platform for cable operators to combine OTT and traditional linear programming. Arris Market was announced this past July, and is powered by Wurl, which offers an API and hosted HTML5 apps. ARRIS has not yet announced any ARRIS Market deployments.

    The significance of the news - and the ARRIS' Market initiative in general - is that cable operators are increasingly being presented with options to incorporate access to OTT content into their overall value proposition. This is an opportunity for operators to capitalize on viewers' ongoing shift from linear TV viewing to OTT viewing.

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  • Charter Rolls Out Digitalsmiths for Enhanced Video Discovery

    Charter Communications has begun rolling out personalized video search and recommendations to its 5 million subscribers, using Digitalsmiths' Seamless Discovery Platform. Billy Purser, VP of Marketing at Digitalsmiths told me that Charter actually began introducing this to its web and Charter TV mobile app users over the past 3 months and has now started rolling it out to subscribers with IP set-top boxes.

    The Digitalsmiths search and recommendations are based on the company's Unified Data Service, which structures numerous individual data services (e.g. TMS, Rovi, Thuuz, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, Common Sense Media, etc.). This data is then paired with both implicit (e.g. viewer behavior) and explicit (e.g. viewer ratings).

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  • All Eyes on Cable Industry's "Project Canoe"

    To the disappointment of many, it looks like there won't be any big news about the cable industry's "Project Canoe" at the Cable Show convention in New Orleans this week.

    Project Canoe is a high-profile partnership among the nation's six largest cable companies (Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications and Bright House Networks) to enable national interactive advertising campaigns to be executed across the companies' cable operations. The code-name Canoe is meant to emphasize that cable operators are working together in the same boat, so to speak.

    For the past nine months, the partners' Canoe leads have been meeting weekly. Once a top secret initiative, Canoe's existence was leaked in a September, 2007 Wall Street Journal article. But since then there has been no new information, leading to speculation about how much progress has been made.

    Yet Canoe remains a top priority throughout the industry, and for good reason. With big advertisers like GM and Intel shifting their once big-budgeted TV ad campaigns to the Internet in significant sums, it's key that the cable operators need to figure out a way to not only protect the $5 billion or so that they generate in spot-cable advertising today, but also to increase their piece of the $70 billion dollar TV ad spend or cut into other slices of the massive US total ad spend pie. The next 3-5 years will be critical as cable advertising, the Internet and broadband video jostle for advertisers' affections.

    The buzz in New Orleans suggests advertisers and agencies are excited about Canoe, though its development seems slower than they prefer. Why the slow progress that's perceived? Several operators stated that integrating the infrastructure required to execute Canoe with cable's legacy systems is hard stuff. No doubt. Then of course there are other key priorities weighing on the industry resources, such as the February 2009 digital transition.

    Meanwhile, the Internet and broadband video advertising continue steaming ahead, giving advertisers and their agencies the measurement and targetability that they yearn for on TV. Cable operators have been stymied in their ability to jointly offer advertisers easy access to a nationwide or near-nationwide footprint, especially critical for Video on Demand. Canoe addresses this and other opportunities, in part by creating a set of standards for all to follow.

    The only Canoe "news" at this week's Cable Show came from Comcast's Steve Burke, who stated that a CEO would be announced on June 1. Comcast is a key player in Canoe, funding between $50-70 million of the $150 million initial investment. Rumors have swirled that David Verklin, who recently stepped down as CEO of Aegis North America (a large advertising services firm) will assume the position of CEO. If true, that could be the news to break on June 1.

    For those of us who have been around the interactive advertising and TV mulberry bush for many years, Canoe's potential is exciting. But we're hoping that the Canoe gets it in gear. Paddle on, gang.

    What do you think of Project Canoe's prospects? Post a comment now!

     
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