I’m pleased to present the 538th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Disney reported its fiscal year and Q4 results yesterday, with the highlight being that Disney+ had 73.7 million subscribers at the end of the quarter. Coincidentally, yesterday was exactly one year since Disney+ launch. Disney had initially forecast Disney+ would reach 60-90 million subscribers by 2024, so it is already at the midpoint.
Colin and I dig into the Disney+ numbers, along with its average revenue per paid subscriber, which is still relatively low by SVOD standards. We also discuss results at Hulu and ESPN+, both of which also had a strong Q4 and a strong fiscal year 2020. Overall Disney seems to have successfully pivoted to the direct-to-consumer model and is now investing heavily behind it. More details will be revealed at its investor day on December 10th.
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I’m pleased to present the 509th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. We wish all our listeners well and hope that everyone is staying healthy.
First up this week, we discuss the success of Disney+ which now has 50 million paid subscribers, less than 5 months since launch. Both Colin and are impressed with the growth, which has been remarkably steady on an average daily basis. Disney+ is clearly way ahead of its forecast of 60-90 million subscribers in September, 2024. Colin thinks there may have been an “under-promise, over-deliver” approach in forecasting. Regardless, Disney+ looks like it’s in a strong position.
We then turn our attention to Quibi, which launched earlier this week. We both like the app and think it’s quite functional. We also recognize that we’re not in the target audience, so the content isn’t necessarily for us. The big issues are that Quibi needs to be on connected TVs to give viewers more flexibility, and also a tier of free content (past the 90-day trial), to serve as an on-ramp for subscriber acquisition. Quibi is competing against an abundance of free alternatives; while it will get many trial sign-ups, conversion to paid will be the key challenge.
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With people spending more time at home due to the virus, there has been a ton of speculation around what impact this will have on streaming consumption. For example, based on prior disruptive incidents, Nielsen estimates viewing could increase 61%. WURL released data that it saw 7%-44% regional increases on its platform last weekend. A message I received yesterday from SpotX said its experienced a 16% increase in video ad inventory across their entire global marketplace. So the data suggests increases, the range of them is pretty wide.
A sub-question within the “streaming is surging” speculation is how it affects AVOD vs. SVOD services. Even before the virus the dynamics in both categories were fluid. AVOD services are benefiting from multiple tailwinds: cord-cutting, CTV-based viewing, targeting, content proliferation, etc. SVOD services were proliferating, with new competitors like Disney+, Apple TV+, Peacock and soon HBO Max (Quibi could be included too, although its mobile-only). From my perspective, the new competition made incumbents like Netflix look vulnerable. I calculated there was a decent chance Netflix would actually lose subscribers in its US/Canada region in Q1, which would be unprecedented.
Sorry VideoNuze readers, my head is spinning again, and this week it’s not just because of the stock market’s wild swings or the drama around the coronavirus. Rather, it’s because yesterday morning, while waiting in the doctor’s office, I read the Wall Street Journal article “Golf’s PGA Tour Gets Big Boost in TV, Streaming Rights.” The article described how ViacomCBS, Comcast and Disney are going to pay the PGA Tour over $700 million per year, up from the current $400 million per year, in a new nine-year media rights deal.
That means the total value of the deal would be $6.3 billion. Add that to the 12-year, $2 billion international rights deal the PGA announced with Discovery in June, 2018 and that’s $8.3 billion in TV money coming to the PGA over the next decade - a good chunk of which will go to its players.
The deal essentially means leaving the status quo of CBS, NBC and Golf Channel handling live and weekend coverage, with ESPN+ taking over streaming from the PGA itself, which has worked with NBC Sports Gold and Amazon Prime. ESPN+ will provide 4,000 hours of streaming coverage per year across 36 PGA tournaments.
I realize that the PGA striking a lucrative media rights deal may not mean that much to many VideoNuze readers. But to me it does, at both a personal and professional level. I am a golf fan; I’ve been watching golf on TV and playing the game since I was 12 years old. For 99.99% of the world, watching golf on TV is akin to watching paint dry. Even for golf fans it is something that is hard to do without multi-tasking (e.g. sending emails, texts, etc.).
I’m pleased to present the 491st edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Disney+ launched this week, nearly 2 1/2 years after Disney announced a massive pivot to focus on direct-to-consumer distribution. Colin and I have both spent time using Disney+ in the past few days and on today’s podcast we share our perspectives.
There’s a lot to like about Disney+, but of course there’s no such thing as completely clear sailing. Potential issues we explore include whether Disney+ can/will create enough new content to keep pace with Netflix (and even whether it should try), how significant churn will be among the first 10 million activations (all of which are on some type of free trial), whether Disney+ can truly scale to 90 million subscribers while maintaining a family focus, what role bundling will play, and more.
Disney+ marks a major step forward in the evolution of the TV/video industries. It will be lots of fun to see how it unfolds.
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I’m pleased to present the 488th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On this week’s podcast, Colin and I explore how powerful partnerships can be in the increasingly competitive SVOD space. First, Colin shares details on the Amazon-Premier League partnership which was first announced in June, 2018, but will be implemented for the first time in December, 2019. Under the deal Amazon has exclusive streaming rights to 2 blocks of 10 Premier League games. Colin crunched the numbers on what the deal could be worth to Amazon in the UK.
Then we turn our attention to the Verizon-Disney+ partnership announced earlier this week, in which Verizon's unlimited plan wireless subscribers will gain a full free year of Disney+. The deal could easily jumpstart Disney+ with several million subscribers.
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Verizon and Disney announced a promotional deal this morning which will give a free year of Disney+ to Verizon’s new and existing 4G LTE and 5G unlimited wireless subscribers and new Fios and 5G Home Internet subscribers. Some back of the envelope calculations show the promotion could quickly yield millions of new Disney Plus subscribers.
At the end of Q2 ’19, Verizon reported a total of around 94 million wireless retail connections. Verizon has been promoting new unlimited plans, and CFO Matt Ellis said on the Q2 ’19 earnings call that “less than 50% of our customer account base are on unlimited plans.” If say 35% are on unlimited, then around 33 million wireless subscribers would be currently eligible for the Disney+ free offer. If even 10% took advantage, that’s around 3 million new Disney+ subscribers.
I’m pleased to present the 486th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin and I were both excited to see Hulu launch a mobile video downloading feature this week. Hulu had teased the feature over a year ago. As Colin notes though, because it’s only available with the Hulu (No Ads) service and only on iOS devices, just around 15% of Hulu’s overall subscribers will gain access to downloading (at least for now).
We then discuss reports that Disney doesn’t yet have an agreement with Amazon for its forthcoming Disney+ service to be included in Fire TV devices. The deal is held up due to Amazon’s attempt to wrangle more ad inventory in Disney’s other apps. The situation is typical of the complex and sometimes competitive relationships between big media and technology companies today.
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I’m pleased to present the 463rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
The SVOD industry’s dynamics are harder than ever to predict now that Disney+ plans to come to market with a robust content offering priced at just $7 per month. So for example while Netflix reported a strong Q1 ’19, when Colin looks ahead to how Q4 ’19 or Q1 ’20 will shape up for Netflix given omnipresent promotion of Disney+ that’s coming, he sees an adverse impact on domestic subscriber additions.
We discuss how significant the impact could be not just on Netflix but also on Apple TV+ which will come to market in late ’19 too, but have a much less competitive content offering vs. Disney+. A key question is how low must Apple TV+’s price now be to compete?
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The biggest piece of news from last week’s Disney+ mega event was certainly the reveal of the service’s rate: just $7/month, or $70/year, and its implications for competitors, most notably Apple TV+.
Back in September, 2017, just after Disney CEO Bob Iger announced Disney was shifting its strategy toward a direct to consumer (DTC) model, and gave a preview of the massive trove of Disney/other content that would be included, I wrote that success for the service would be highly dependent on its price.
Would Disney+ be priced on the lower end of market expectations (I speculated about $10/month) to achieve strong adoption like Netflix has? Or would it be priced on the higher end (say $20-$25/month) in a market “skimming” approach like what HBO Now has followed? Given the money Disney would be foregoing in third-party distribution fees by going DTC, there was huge conflicting pressures on the pricing decision.
Large corporations’ priorities are testing creative freedom as more shows than ever compete for attention in the “Peak TV” era and video becomes a critical C-level focus. Exhibit A is Apple, which according to a report yesterday from the NY Post, is vexing creators with an abundance of suggestions (or “notes” in industry parlance) on their shows. The notes, which apparently include some from CEO Tim Cook himself, tend to emphasize Apple’s desire to keep shows “family friendly.”
The goal makes perfect sense; nothing is more important to Apple than its brand image. The prospect of seeing an “Apple Original” icon in the opening credits, followed by an opening scene including profanity, violence or nudity, would be a jarring juxtaposition. Yet this is the “Peak TV” world we now live in; with so many shows competing for viewers’ time, those that are most original and creative, and yes, often include attention-grabbing early scenes, stand out (for a point of reference recall that in the first minutes of Netflix’s “House of Cards” pilot, Kevin Spacey’s character puts a wounded dog out of its misery with his own hands).
Earlier this week, Hulu announced stellar 2018 results: 48% subscriber growth (8 million additions), bringing year-end subscribers to 25 million. Ad revenue of almost $1.5 billion, up 45% in 2018, with 50% growth in the number of advertisers. And median average viewer age of 32, which is 25 years younger than the average broadcast TV viewer.
All of this continues to come at a huge cost; by some estimates Hulu is losing upwards of $400 million per quarter. With Disney set to assume a 60% stake in Hulu after the Fox deal closes, managing Hulu’s growth and financial performance is going to be very important for Disney. Fortunately for Hulu, Disney is highly incented to see Hulu succeed because the company is poised to play a linchpin role in what is certainly Disney’s biggest 2019 priority, the successful launch of Disney+, its new SVOD service.
I’m pleased to present the 448th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Continuing our tradition for our final podcast of the year, this week Colin and I discuss the top 10 video stories of 2018 - at least in our humble opinions. Once again it has been a very active 12 months, with lots of innovation and change. Colin and I have had a great time analyzing and discussing the critical industry trends each week and we hope you’ve enjoyed listening to our thoughts in 2018.
Let us know what you think of our choices, whether you agree or disagree!
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I’m pleased to present the 438th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On this week’s podcast, Colin and I take up the question I explored on Wednesday, whether Comcast should divest its 30% stake in Hulu to Disney, as CNBC reported it is interested in doing. Colin and I discuss the many benefits Comcast derives from having a front row seat with 3 senior executives on Hulu’s board. On the other hand, there are many reasons why Comcast would be compelled to sell.
Meanwhile, as part of its acquisition of Sky, Comcast will also be inheriting Now TV, the innovative OTT service Sky runs. Colin shares his personal experience with Now TV and some of the specific things Comcast might learn and consider bringing to its U.S. operations. As always, rights are a central issue to surmount.
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In the wake of Comcast’s winning $39 billion bid to acquire Sky over the weekend, CNBC has reported that Comcast may be looking to swap its 30% ownership stake in Hulu (plus other consideration TBD), for Disney/Fox’s 39% ownership in Sky (a deal for Comcast to buy that was reported this morning). CNBC said that Comcast sees “only limited value in owning a non-controlling stake in Hulu” given Disney’s 60% share once the Fox deal closes.
This logic is understandable and in addition, divesting the stake would also relieve Comcast of partly funding Hulu’s losses (reportedly almost $1 billion in 2017). On the other side of the coin, Disney would own 90% of Hulu and give up its non-controlling stake in Sky as Comcast takes control of it.
For all the talk about cord-cutting over the years, the most important trend in pay-TV these days isn’t consumers dropping out entirely, but rather shifting from traditional multichannel services to lower-priced virtual MVPDs or “skinny bundles.”
The trend of skinny bundle gains offsetting multichannel losses continued again in Q2 ’18 where, according to Leichtman Research Group, the top traditional services lost approximately 800K subscribers. But just the 2 publicly-reporting skinny bundles, Sling TV and DirecTV Now, gained 383K (with the latter accounting for 342K).
On Disney’s earnings call earlier this week, CEO Bob Iger was asked about the company’s video app strategy - would it be interested in launching one big “aggregated” app housing all of its content, or will it continue to pursue multiple apps with each targeting particular audience segments?
It’s an interesting question because it goes to the heart of whether consumers prefer a big basket of content at one price (the way the pay-TV industry’s multichannel bundle has been effectively offered) or more discrete content services that consumers individually choose to pay for (as has emerged with streaming video and music services, plus a wide variety of other apps)?
I believe Iger’s explanation of Disney’s app strategy was right on the mark:
Comcast has officially dropped out of the bidding for the 21st Century Fox assets, clearing the path for Disney to move forward. Comcast still plans to pursue Sky in the UK. But by dropping its Fox bid, Comcast has also foregone the opportunity to take control of Hulu (by virtue of combining its 30% stake with Fox’s 30% stake). Presumably now Disney will take control of Hulu.
I believe this is a major missed opportunity for Comcast, leaving the company under-optimized in the fast-changing premium video industry. As we all know, today’s key industry themes include the rise of cord-cutting and consumers’ move to lower cost skinny bundles, the shift to on-demand viewing, with the accompanying growth of ad-free SVOD services (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu), the rapid adoption of connected TV and mobile devices for viewing and the nationalization/globalization of video services, among others.
Everyone understands that being able to seamlessly run and measure cross-screen video ads is the holy grail. But behind the scenes there are all kinds of challenges, which were explored in the opening session of our recent VideoNuze Online Video Ad Summit, which included Mark London (VP, Ad Operations, Advanced Ad Products, Fox), Greg Lubetkin (Executive Director of Sales Operations, Disney ABC Digital) and Bunker Sessions (VP, Business Development, Extreme Reach) moderating.
The panelists discussed buyers’ expectations for unified analytics, optimizing monetization of all video streams, brand safety, maintaining strong user experiences with ad insertion, the role of AD-ID, how to manage programmatic across platforms and much more.
Late yesterday, Comcast made its $65 billion all-cash offer for key Twenty-First Century Fox assets official. The offer sets up a bidding war with Disney, which had already struck a cash and stock deal with Fox. My guess is that Comcast is going to end up prevailing and the bidding will actually be less heated than many expect. There are many dimensions to this drama, but here are 5 quick reactions I have.