Monday, March 10, 2014, 11:26 AM ET|
Do millennials want pay-TV or don't they? This is one of the most hotly-debated topics in the video industry today. The "don't" camp is well-represented by Charlie Ergen, head of DISH Network, who recently said, "We’re losing a whole generation of individuals who aren’t going to buy into that model because they only want one particular show or they want to watch the show wherever they can or they want to watch it on their schedule and so that generation is not signing up to satellite or cable or phone video today."
Last week, Ergen and DISH took an important step toward re-imagining pay-TV to make it more relevant to millennials by securing OTT distribution rights to key Disney/ESPN channels. Bloomberg reported that a new OTT service from DISH could sell for $20-30/month, far less than today's typical pay-TV bundle. BTIG's Rich Greenfield subsequently fleshed out what a new lower-priced personal subscription service or "PSS" could look like: a limited access one-stream-at-a-time model geared to single-adults or light TV viewers.
Friday, March 7, 2014, 10:41 AM ET|
I'm pleased to present the 217th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In today's podcast, we interpret this week's DISH Network - Disney deal, the highlight of which was DISH gaining OTT distribution rights for ABC-owned stations, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2. The networks would become a foundation for what Colin has dubbed a "VPOP" or virtual pay-TV operator.
Colin notes that for DISH in particular, a VPOP offering would let it acquire new subscribers far cheaper than it currently does. An easy in / easy out subscription model, akin to how Netflix operates, could sit well with the younger, cord-never audience. Still, as I've often said, the biggest driver of success for any VPOP would be lower prices, in order to steal share from incumbent operators in the fully mature pay-TV market. Given the cost of assembling a competitive lineup of networks, DISH would have limited ability to offer bargains.
Following our DISH-Disney discussion, Colin also shares highlights of new research his firm released this week, "Store My Stuff - Consumer Digital Media Storage" which provides data on how consumers are storing digital media including downloaded movies and TV shows. The report, which was sponsored by PLEX, is available for complimentary download.
Friday, September 23, 2011, 2:13 PM ET|Irony was on full display at the Dish Network press conference announcing the new Blockbuster Movie Pass, as the very first benefit CEO Joe Clayton pointed to was access to 100K+ DVDs by mail (with no extra charge for Blu-ray). That's right - despite Netflix's willingness to practically blow up the company in its belief that "streaming is the future," good old Blockbuster is returning to its roots, emphasizing physical media's primacy, at least for now. That Blockbuster was outgunned by Netflix's own superior DVD-by-mail service years ago just adds to the sense that "all that's old is new again."
Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 9:45 AM ET|Last week, the NY Times shared some details of "Google TV," the new set-top box Google is developing in partnership with Intel and Sony. The article provided a good outline, and now, based on additional information I've gathered, I'm able to provide new details on the box and also explain what it might mean.
The first and most important thing to know about Google TV is that it is not being positioned to induce users to "cut the cord" on their subscriptions to existing multichannel video programming distributors' ("MVPDs" like cable, satellite or telco) services. Or at least that's Google's initial positioning; whether it's genuine or really just a Trojan Horse game plan is another whole matter. For now anyway, Google is taking a "friend of the industry" approach, telling MVPDs that it's briefing that it is looking to complement their businesses by bringing the full Internet to the TV (this follows the same convergence theme as the new Kylo browser).
Google is contemplating an entirely novel strategy for its set-top box, seeking to insert it alongside the existing MVPD's set-top box by daisy chaining them together via HDMI connections. In other words, the MVPD's set-top's HDMI output would be connected to the Google TV set-top's HDMI input, and then its HDMI output would be connected to the TV. The authorized TV channels would still be delivered, but Google TV would collect data from the MVPD's set-top and introduce an entirely new UI for users to control their TV experience, to include searching and browsing channels. It would also add a host of new interactive web-type capabilities around the content.
Since the Google TV box would have a full browser and connect to the Internet via the user's WiFi or wired access, it would also bring all of the rest of the Internet to the TV as well, including the full breadth of online video (yes, that would mean one more thing for Hulu to block). My understanding is that on the whole, the Google TV experience is extremely impressive and well conceived. In short, it will get the attention of any MVPD executive who has a look at it and will certainly get them to thinking about how able - or unable - they are to deliver a similar experience themselves to their subscribers.
A key reason that Google is planning to insert its box this way is because it believes that in order to deliver a compelling Internet experience on TV requires a new web-based, and open platform. For Google that of course means Android, which it is vigorously proliferating on smartphones as well. Throw in Google's Chrome browser that it is promoting for online usage and you get a glimpse of how Google's multi-platform strategy comes together. While Sony would be making the box, you have to believe it will have Google branding on it, a first for the company in the living room too.
Monday, November 17, 2008, 9:58 AM ET|
Does the world need another broadband video aggregation site for premium quality video content?
The answer to that question will start to come early next week when Sling.com, the latest entrant in this already crowded space, officially launches. Recently Jason Hirschhorn, president of Sling Media's entertainment group and Brian Jaquet, Sling's Director of Public Relations came through Boston and caught me up on their plans to launch commercially on Nov. 24th.
Many of you know that Sling is the maker of the Slingbox, which connects to your TV or DVR, allowing you to remotely watch programs on your computer. It's a very clever product, though I have to admit its use case has always been a little confounding to me. Nonetheless, just over a year ago, Sling was acquired by EchoStar in a $380 million deal. Shortly thereafter, EchoStar split itself into two parts, Dish Network, the satellite-delivered programming company, and EchoStar Corporation, which includes Sling and other technology-based businesses.
Sling.com, developed by Jason's entertainment group, is the first Sling offering not tethered to any of its devices and therefore open to all users. Acknowledging that Hulu has set a high bar on user experience, Jason explained that Sling.com is attempting to go one step further on usability, and will also differentiate itself with updated social networking capabilities and highly focused editorial content.
In particular, Sling.com offers a slew of Facebook-like features that allow users to subscribe to and favorite programs and networks, with users in turn able to follow these activities. As Jason aptly put it, the goal is to "digitize the water cooler conversation." The whole experience is geared toward engaging the user at a far deeper level than we're accustomed to in passive linear viewing, or even typical at other aggregators' sites.
The real differentiator for Sling long-term though is the integration of Sling.com with the remote viewing offered by Slingbox. Enabled by a new web-based player (instead of the prior downloadable client), users are able to seamlessly browse back and forth between watching live TV and cataloged programs, as shown below.
Taking this one step further, Sling's goal is to get its remote viewing technology embedded in others' set-top boxes as well. So for example, a Comcast STB with Sling inside would allow you to have live TV integrated into your Sling.com, without having to go buy another box.
That's an enticing prospect, but making it happen will be no small feat; the STB giants like Motorola and SA (now part of Cisco) will get on board only when their biggest customers - America's cable operators - ask for it. The prospect of these cable executives wanting to incorporate any technology controlled by Charlie Ergen, Echo's founder/CEO and the cable industry's arch-enemy, stretches my mind. However, stranger deals have been done, so who knows. In the meantime, there are a whole lot of other non-cable homes globally Sling can address first.
But much of that is down the road anyway. For now, Sling.com is going to compete head on with Hulu (which by my count supplies virtually the entire current movie catalog at Sling.com, in turn begging the question of how many different ways one relatively small ad revenue stream can get carved up?), Fancast, the portal sites, YouTube and so on. Jason readily admits that these sites will not compete on content exclusivity; ultimately they'll all have access to everything that's available.
So in this incredibly crowded space, is there room for a newcomer? On the surface, it's tempting to say "no." But history teaches us that "better mousetraps" can elbow their way into even the most crowded spaces. Remember how many search engines already existed when Google burst onto the scene? On a totally different level, I can relate to this challenge myself. A year ago I wondered whether there was room for a new broadband video-centric blog when so many others already existed; now here we are.
The reality is that newcomers succeed because they don't accept the status quo as final. Rather, they find smart ways of delivering new and better value to customers who didn't necessarily even know what they wanted, but when they got it, were delighted. That's Sling.com's challenge. Whether it can meet it remains to be seen. But in this crummy economy, their deep-pocketed backing certainly gives them a leg up on any VC-funded competitors when it comes to long-term staying power.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
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