If you’re like me, you may have noticed that recently you’ve become a little less patient when you to try to watch a video and things don’t go exactly right. Whether it’s difficulty finding the desired video, momentary buffering, an intrusive/irrelevant ad or some kind of device issue - these sources of friction are increasingly noticeable and in turn disappointing.
I don’t find this surprising. We live in a world where instant gratification and seamless user experiences are becoming the new normal. Those that don’t measure up stand out more readily as sore thumbs. Among other things, we can now do a super-convenient voice search using a smart speaker, request a personal driver though Uber or Lyft with just a few taps on our smartphones, get a refund on an Amazon return the moment the package is scanned at UPS and lots more. Simply put, for many of us, the Internet and apps are making life easier all the time.
An article in the WSJ over the weekend “Apple’s iTunes Falls Short in Battle for Video Viewers” caught my attention for a number of reasons, not least of which it touched on how quickly Comcast has succeeded in growing its market share in digital movie rentals and downloads.
While iTunes is estimated to still hold the market share lead in the digital movie rental and purchase industry with a share of between 20% to 35%, that’s down from over 50% in 2012. The article notes that Amazon’s share is now up to around 20% and Comcast’s is at 15%. For Amazon, video rentals and purchases represent another way it leverages its e-commerce expertise. Rentals/purchases are also very complementary to Amazon’s Prime Video service. In many ways, there’s nothing surprising at all about how Amazon has taken a bite out of Apple’s market share.
I’m pleased to present the 378th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up this week, Colin shares reactions to a presentation he attended by Jennifer Dorian, GM of Turner Classic Movies and FilmStruck about how TCM is focusing on its core fans to build community and strengthen its brand. Colin was very impressed with the range of initiatives TCM is taking as examples of how a traditional cable TV network can deepen its relationships with viewers.
We then transition to discuss AMC Premiere, the new $4.99 per month service recently launched by AMC and Comcast allowing ad-free viewing of current season programs. I really like the fact that the companies are experimenting with a new business model, but as I wrote, based on other similar services, I’m not super-confident that there is huge pent-up demand to pay extra to avoid ads, especially since the programming available is limited.
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AMC Premiere, an ad-free version of the popular cable network AMC, will be available for $4.99 per month to Comcast’s Xfinity TV subscribers, the latest initiative by pay-TV incumbents to offer more flexible access to viewers. AMC Premiere provides ad-free access to the network’s current season programs along with a variety of exclusive and first-look content and movies.
However, AMC Premiere does not include past seasons of “The Walking Dead” for example, or any of the iconic programming like “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad,” which put AMC on the map for high-quality originals. All of those have long been licensed to Netflix. The most recent season of “The Walking Dead,” as well as prior ones, are available on demand from Comcast for $2.99 per episode. Many other shows from other networks are available at no charge on demand from Comcast.
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.
YouTube’s app will be added to Comcast’s X1 set-top box later this year, the companies announced this morning. The partnership is a win for both companies and for X1 users. YouTube gains seamless access to millions of X1 users who no longer have to switch inputs to a connected TV device to tap into YouTube’s massive video library on their TVs. For Comcast, integrated YouTube further expands X1’s value proposition as an all-in-one TV/video device.
Of note, the companies said that X1 users will be able to search the YouTube catalog with the X1 voice remote control. Searches for a favorite actor’s clips, a specific music video, recipes, workout routines and more will all be available when users add the word “YouTube” to their voice search request. The YouTube app will bring up relevant results in the same way as, for example, doing the same search on Siri with an iPhone.
I’m pleased to present the 356th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we explore the concept of “TV as an app,” which represents a paradigm shift in how TV is accessed by viewers. Of course the rise of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others has paved the way for app-based viewing, but an entire TV lineup being delivered via an app to a connected TV device is still a significant change from conventional set-top box-based viewing.
“TV as an app” got a boost this week with Comcast’s beta release of the Xfinity TV app for Roku. I’ve given it an initial try and provide some observations. In addition, Colin was moderating a panel on video apps this week and shares further insights he heard.
We then shift focus to this Sunday’s Super Bowl, which will once again feature multiple free streaming options as well as localized dynamic ad insertion in the streams, which is a first. I’m keeping an eye on the ads to see if they offer any meaningful viewer engagement.
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Comcast has announced that its Xfinity TV app is now available for beta use on certain Roku streaming devices and Roku TVs, with broad rollout planned for later this year. The partnership was initially unveiled in April, 2016. The Xfinity app for Roku is the first deployment of the Xfinity TV Partner Program, which Samsung also joined.
The “TV as an app” model means that Comcast subscribers will be able to get full access to linear and on-demand content plus DVR functionality via Roku, without having to take a Comcast set-top box, a first for the cable company. Comcast has positioned the Xfinity TV app on connected devices as beneficial for subscribers who want choices in how they access their subscriptions. The screen shot below shows a clean implementation reminiscent of what Comcast X1 users already see.
I’m pleased to present the 353rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
There are lots of reasons to be optimistic about mobile video’s upcoming growth and on this week’s podcast, Colin and I explore them. 2017 is setting up as a major year of change for mobile video, with numerous positive catalysts.
These include wireless carriers zero-rating their video services and investing in content, mobile data plans becoming more flexible, cable operators entering the wireless market, Facebook emphasizing video, smartphones’ enhanced capabilities, a more conducive regulatory environment and much more. (Colin and I also wrote about these earlier this week here and here)
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It was 10 years ago today that Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that even Jobs could have imagined how profound and far-reaching the iPhone’s impact would be. One short decade later, there is arguably not a single Internet application that hasn’t been impacted by mobile. Meanwhile, many new applications have been created solely as a result of the mobile phenomenon.
Mobile video is certainly one application that was essentially created by the iPhone and subsequent smartphones. Watching video on smartphones is now a completely mainstream behavior, which countless millions of people engage with regularly. But despite mobile video’s already impressive growth, there are at least 7 reasons mobile video is now at a tipping point, with the biggest growth still ahead:
Categories: Mobile Video
I'm pleased to present the 347th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On this week’s podcast we discuss Facebook’s video ambitions. Colin was in London at the OTT TV World Summit where he saw a fascinating presentation by Matthew Corbin, who’s in global product marketing for Facebook. Colin shares highlights of what he learned, including how Facebook thinks of itself as the “world’s discovery agent.” Matthew said Facebook thinks of itself “not as a broadcast network, but as a network of broadcasters,” which feels like an apt description. Combined with Facebook’s targeting capabilities, this translates to lots of potential.
On Facebook’s Q3 ’16 earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg also highlighted how he wants video to be at the center of all of Facebook’s apps and services. It’s becoming clearer that the primary way Facebook is going to be able to continue its torrid revenue growth is by shifting over more TV ad spending, hence the push toward video.
After discussing Facebook, we shift gears and spend 5 minutes reviewing the excellent Comcast-Netflix integration which I wrote about earlier this week.
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Comcast announced on Friday that the integration of Netflix into its X1 set-top box would launch this week. But when I checked my X1 on Friday evening it was already available, so I spent some time over the weekend giving it a test drive. Below is a 12-minute demo video I created that highlights the key benefits of the integration and how expertly it was done.
As VideoNuze readers know, I’ve had the X1 since its debut, back in July, 2012. I was immediately enthusiastic about its clean and highly responsive web-like UI as well as its ability to quickly retrieve on-demand content. More recently, the voice-powered remote control has delivered even more value. But the biggest potential benefit I’ve always envisioned for X1 was its ability to handle IP apps, giving Comcast a breakthrough way to provide a seamless experience between its own video services and those delivered over-the-top via broadband (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, etc.).
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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Last week’s Q2 earnings reports provided another valuable window into how Amazon, Comcast, Google and Facebook have all hit on winning formulas in video (at least for now), while Apple continues to spin its wheels, under-optimizing its ability to capitalize on the massive shifts underway in video and TV.
To briefly review, Comcast lost just 4K subscribers in Q2, vs. a loss of 162K three years ago, as its sleek X1 set-top box gains further traction and satellite and telco competitors stumble. Facebook reported a blow-out quarter, with earnings of $2 billion, double what they were just 6 months ago. Facebook has become a mobile powerhouse and is now laser-focused on video, as Facebook Live becomes widely adopted (though still under-monetized).
Comcast reported its Q2 ’16 earnings this morning, once again showing strong improvement in video subscribers and keeping cord-cutting in check. The second quarter is always seasonally slow in the pay-TV business, but Comcast reduced its video subscriber loss to just 4K in Q2 ’16, its best performance in over 10 years. The trend in just the past 4 years is impressive; Comcast has steadily reduced its subscriber loss from minus 69K in Q2 ’15, minus 144K in Q2 ’14 and minus 162K in Q2 ’13.
I'm pleased to present the 330th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin and I were both very enthusiastic about news earlier this week that Comcast will integrate Netflix into its X1 set-top box, a move we’ve been advocating for a while. In this week’s podcast we discuss how complicated this negotiation must have been, and why joint subscribers will be the big winners.
Surely a motivating factor for Comcast was the acknowledgment that viewers are spending more time on SVOD, which new research from IBM Cloud Video highlighted this week.
More specifically, the research showed how important video has become for Amazon Prime members, with 75% of them now watching. By not charging for video in Prime, Amazon is potentially a big disruptor in the video/TV industry down the road.
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Yesterday, Recode reported that Comcast will integrate Netflix into its X1 set-top box. Loyal VideoNuze readers know that I’ve been advocating for this type of partnership for almost two years, back to when I articulated the benefits in “Why the Timing is Now Perfect for a Netflix-Comcast Partner Deal” in October, 2014. There are lots of benefits to Comcast and Netflix by partnering (as I’ll further explain below), but the biggest winners once the integration is complete later this year, are the companies’ mutual viewers.
I'm pleased to present the 323rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin and I were both very impressed by the demo that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts did at INTX earlier this week of how the X1 set-top box will blend linear TV and online video streams from this summer’s Rio Olympics into one experience.
We both believe this will be a truly breakthrough viewer experience, showcasing X1’s broadband capabilities and the value of the two-way interactive network. We envision Comcast launching a massive marketing campaign in the months leading up to the Olympics highlighting how experiencing the Olympics will be “best on X1,” in turn driving new subscriber acquisitions and upgrades.
More broadly, we discuss how valuable X1 and Comcast’s back-end infrastructure are as a platform for launching new features and services. We touch on how Amazon too is leveraging its platform for its Streaming Partners Program, underscoring the anticipated competition between big video platform owners. The role of a robust platform in determining the ultimate video winners is becoming increasingly clear.
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Yesterday I had the pleasure of moderating a super session at INTX 2016, the cable TV industry’s annual trade show. The title was “Is Content Really King? Understanding the Value of Platforms in a Crowded Video Space.” The session included Steve Shannon (GM, Content and Services, Roku), Evan Shapiro (EVP, Digital Enterprises, NBCU) and Matt Strauss (EVP/GM, Video Services, Comcast Cable).
It’s no secret that there’s more great video to watch now than ever. That’s created challenges for viewers to find what they want and for content providers to fully monetize their ever-growing production investments. That’s why the role of platforms is increasing in importance.
I'm pleased to present the 320th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
As both Colin and I wrote this week (here and here), Comcast delivered very strong video and broadband subscriber gains in Q1 '16. Despite all of the rhetoric around cord-cutting and the fact that SVOD services - which were considered a potential substitute for pay-TV - have boomed, Comcast had its best first quarter in 9 years, adding 53K video subscribers vs. a loss of 8K subscribers in Q1 ’15.
As Colin and I discuss on the podcast, Comcast is benefitting from weakening competition, its own investments in product/content/user experience, and triple-play bundling, powered by broadband adoption. As has been the case for a couple of years now, the X1 set-top box, now in 35% of video subscribers’ homes, continues to be the linchpin in video, driving up ARPU, VOD and DVR usage, reducing churn, etc. In an era of rising viewer expectations, X1 delivers a superb, differentiated, web-like experience.
Given all of the above, I think Comcast has a strong outlook at least through 2016 if not beyond. Colin is a little less sanguine and we discuss our differences.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 4 seconds)