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Analysis for 'EPIX'

  • In Wild West of SVOD Launches, EPIX Stays Disciplined and Signs On With Hulu

    Yesterday pay-TV network EPIX announced a multi-year distribution deal with Hulu that will kick in on October 1st, as EPIX’s current deal with Netflix phases out.

    Perhaps most noteworthy here is that in the current Wild West environment where everyone and their brother are launching standalone SVOD services, EPIX has remained disciplined in choosing to instead team up with a large SVOD player (EPIX has a separate SVOD deal with Amazon dating to 2012 as well).

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  • Verizon Needs to Bring More than a Knife to the OTT Gunfight

    Late yesterday Reuters reported that Verizon is looking at launching an online-only subscription service for streaming movies and TV shows outside its geographical footprint. While such a move initially seems disruptive to incumbents like Netflix and others, the folks at Verizon better remember the old adage about not bringing a knife to a gunfight; if they really want to compete, significant investments in content and promotions are going to be required. Even then, it's not yet clear to me how Verizon succeeds in this highly competitive space.

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  • Amazon Prime Instant Streaming Launches; Not a Netflix-Killer (Yet Anyway)

    Amazon is announcing this morning that it has added streaming access to 5,000 movies and TV shows to the package of benefits its "Prime" members get, for no extra charge as part of their $79/year subscription. Amazon is offering a one month free trial to Prime to let new users test it out. The move had been widely rumored and of course the first company that comes to mind as being in the cross-hairs of Prime's streaming is Netflix. Those competitive concerns are legitimate, but for now, Prime isn't close to being a Netflix-killer.

    The big Achilles heel of Prime is content selection. Though 5,000 titles sounds like a lot, it won't take long for experienced Netflix users tempted by a switch to Prime to recognize that most of these titles are already available on Netflix streaming as well. I did a quick comparison of 20 randomly-selected titles on Prime and found that with the exception of a few BBC Shakespeare titles and certain episodes of the PBS series "American Experience," everything on Prime is already available on Netflix streaming. In fact, for now Prime relies heavily on British programming and PBS. Though both provide quality productions, they are far from mainstream popularity in the U.S.



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  • As DVD Sales Wane, Experiments With Movies' Digital Delivery Windows Rise

    Yesterday brought more evidence of how digital distribution release windows and promotions are rising as DVD sales wane. First there was news that Disney had teamed up with Wal-mart to allow buyers of the Toy Story 3 DVD to get a bonus digital version of the film playable through the company's recently acquired Vudu digital outlet. That offer was quickly one-upped by Amazon which announced an increase from 300 to 10,000 movies in its "Disc+" program, which provides a digital copy to the user's Amazon VOD account when they purchase a qualifying DVD.    

    Meanwhile at the Blu-con conference in Beverly Hills, studio executives debated how to best calibrate digital, VOD and DVD distribution. Even emerging practices come with exceptions and debates about results. For example, while VOD has largely gained day-and-date release with DVD, exceptions are still made on a case-by-case basis, such as with Universal's "Despicable Me" which will have its DVD go on sale on Dec 14, but its VOD release not until after Christmas.

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  • For Pay-TV Operators, Will TV Everywhere Be TV Nowhere?

    I continue to be confounded by the fact that the pay-TV industry - both operators and cable TV networks - have not made more progress on TV Everywhere, their most important competitive initiative in the online era. Yesterday I got yet another dose of this sobering reality watching a panel discussion at ScreenPlays magazine's Media Innovations Summit in LA. The panel included Synacor's Ted May, Starz's John Penney, EPIX's Emil Rensing, thePlatform's Marty Roberts and AT&T's Dan York and was moderated by Marketing/PR executive Bob Gold.

    It's not that industry executives can't articulate the value to both operators and networks. For pay-TV operators, it's providing increased value to paying subscribers, which helps both acquisition and retention efforts. For cable networks, its expanded audience reach and advertising, while maintaining their hybrid model of paid distribution and advertising. For both it's staying competitive by providing access to premium content for consumers when, how and where they want it.

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #72 - Aug. 13, 2010

    Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 72nd edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for August 13, 2010.

    In this week's podcast, Daisy and I dig further into this week's Netflix-Epix deal. In particular, we discuss the deal's possible implications, including what it might be mean to the pay-TV industry (cable/satellite/telco).

    As I argued in my post this week, "Netflix-Epix Deal Ratchets Up Importance of TV Everywhere," the cable industry should be taking note of how much closer Netflix is continuing to come to its traditional turf, and use TV Everywhere to aggressively counter it. However, my perception is that TV Everywhere rollouts are lagging, which is to the detriment of the industry. Listen in to learn more.

    (Note that in the podcast I say it's not clear whether Netflix is actually getting access to all movies that are available on Epix. I've since clarified that with a Netflix spokesman who told me Netflix will get everything Epix has rights to.)

    Click here to listen to the podcast (15 minutes, 42 seconds)


    Click here for previous podcasts

    The VideoNuze Report is available in iTunes...subscribe today!
     
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  • Cox Embraces Over-the-Top Video In Unique Deal With TiVo

    Another day, another head-turning example of how the boundaries between traditional and over-the-top (OTT) online video distribution are blurring. This morning Cox Communications, the 3rd-largest U.S. cable operator, is announcing that it will integrate its entire VOD library into TiVo's Premiere multi-purpose box, the first time a major cable operator has done so with a retail-only product. Cox will promote and offer free installation for Premiere which, when coupled with a CableCARD, will support Premiere as a full set-top box solution in its markets (Premiere boxes cost $300 or $500). The deal is a significant win for TiVo, which has continued to rollout clever products, but has been challenged to go beyond its traditional retail proposition.

    As important, TiVo will continue to make available all of its integrated online video offerings (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Break, Howcast, CNET, etc.), which means that Cox is enabling online video options to be exposed and promoted side-by-side with its own video offerings. As Jeff Klugman, TiVo's SVP/GM of Products and Revenue explained to me yesterday, TiVo's search function would allow, for example, a user searching for "30 Rock" to see results including Cox VOD listings for the current season and upcoming on-air episodes blended with prior seasons available from Netflix, Amazon or Blockbuster.

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  • With Its Epix Deal, Netflix Once Again Shows Data is King

    Among the many speculations surrounding this week's Netflix-Epix deal is how much Netflix is actually paying. While there have been rumors suggesting the tab could run as high as $1 billion, nobody except the principals really knows. However, after talking with a Netflix spokesman yesterday, it is likely that whatever Netflix's is paying, it is virtually guaranteed to receive a satisfactory ROI. That's because Netflix has once again mined the extraordinary value of its user data to inform a critical business decision.

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  • Netflix-Epix Deal Ratchets Up Importance of TV Everywhere

    Today's Netflix-Epix deal should be setting off alarms in the CEO suites of major cable operators around the country that TV Everywhere must get rolled out ASAP. The Epix deal underscores the extent of Netflix's financial resources and its ambition to gain a bigger chunk both of consumers' entertainment mindshare and their spending.

    The first, a shift in mindshare, is already underway. With 15 million subscribers, an expanding streaming library, countless ways to view (e.g. iPad, Xbox, Roku, Blu-ray, etc, etc), a value-packed $9/mo entry tier and a customer-focused brand, Netflix has established a reputation for itself as the cutting edge video leader. In social settings these days, it is practically inevitable that someone will bring up how they're streaming Netflix content to the device of their choosing and how cool it is. Conversely, despite the cable industry's numerous positive digital TV efforts, it is still dogged by lagging customer service, often confusing pricing tiers and suboptimal user experiences.

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  • Netflix Lands Epix for Significant Expansion of Streaming

    Netflix is announcing this morning that it has licensed both new release and catalog movies from premium cable network Epix for instant streaming. Epix is owned by and has rights from three studios, Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM. While the partners didn't specify which movies are covered under the deal and digital distribution rights can be confusing, MGM is the studio behind the James Bond franchise, and Paramount is behind the Indiana Jones franchise, so among other titles, Netflix could be getting some major attractions with the deal.

    Aside from its deal almost 2 years ago with Starz, the Epix deal is the most significant license Netflix has yet reached. It is also further evidence of how important Netflix, with its strong desire to gain content rights, is becoming as a Hollywood customer. The multiyear deal will kick in on September 1st.

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  • Epix is Striving for "Lights-Out" Video Work Flows with Signiant

    Signiant, which positions itself as a provider of "content supply chain management" software, is announcing this morning that Epix, the new premium cable channel, is using its software to deliver and manage video across multi-platform outlets. Epix's VP of Operations Thomas Carpenter, whom I spoke to yesterday, described his goal in working with Signiant as trying to create a "lights-out" work flow that handles content from procurement to delivery with minimal human involvement.

    As Thomas explained, Epix's work flow is particularly challenging because the channel is trying to blend online, linear and on-demand distribution right from launch. This contrasts with typical situations where the linear channel and its work flows are first solidified, and then online, on-demand and other distribution is layered on later. With Epix's approach, Thomas said it's been a necessity to automate work flows as much as possible to drive maximum efficiencies.

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  • Netflix's ABC Deal Shows Streaming Progress and Importance of Broadcast TV Networks

    Yesterday's announcement by Netflix that it will be adding to its Watch Instantly library past seasons ABC's "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Legend of the Seeker" is another step forward for Netflix in strengthening its online competitiveness.

    At a broader level though, I think it's also further evidence that the near-term success of Watch Instantly and other "over-the-top" broadband video services is going to be tied largely to deals with broadcast TV networks, rather than film studios, cable TV networks or independently-produced video sources.

    Key fault lines are beginning to develop in how premium programming will be distributed in the broadband era. Content providers who have traditionally been paid by consumers or distributors in one way or another are redoubling their determination to preserve these models. Examples abound: the TV Everywhere initiative Comcast/Time Warner are espousing that now has 20+ other networks involved; Epix, the new premium movie service backed by Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM; new distribution deals by the premium online service ESPN360.com, bringing its reach to 41 million homes; MLB's MLB.TV and At Bat subscription offerings; and Disney's planned subscription services. As I wrote last week in "Subscription Overload is On the Horizon," I expect these trends will only accelerate (though whether they'll succeed is another question).

    On the other hand, broadcast TV networks, who have traditionally relied on advertising, continue mainly to do so in the broadband world, whether through aggregators like Hulu, or through their own web sites. However, ABC's deal with Netflix, coming on top of its prior deals with CBS and NBC, shows that broadcast networks are both motivated and flexible to mine new opportunites with those willing to pay.

    That's a good thing, because as Netflix tries to build out its Watch Instantly library beyond the current 12,000 titles, it is bumping up against two powerful forces. First, in the film business, well-defined "windows" significantly curtail distribution of new films to outlets trying to elbow their way in. And second, in the cable business, well-entrenched business relationships exist that disincent cable networks from offering programs outside the traditional linear channel affiliate model to new players like Netflix. These disincentives are poised to strengthen with the advent of TV Everywhere.

    In this context, broadcast networks represent Netflix's best opportunity to grow and differentiate Watch Instantly. Last November in "Netflix Should be Aggressively Pursuing Broadcast Networks for Watch Instantly Service," I outlined all the reasons why. The ABC deal announced yesterday gives Netflix a library of past seasons' episodes, which is great. But it doesn't address where Netflix could create the most value for itself: as commercial-free subscription option for next-day (or even "next-hour") viewing of all prime-time broadcast programs. That is the end-state Netflix should be striving for.

    I'm not suggesting for a moment that this will be easy to accomplish. But if it could, Netflix would really enhance the competitiveness of Watch Instantly and its underlying subscription services. It would obviate the need for Netflix subscribers to record broadcast programs, making their lives simpler and freeing up room on their DVRs. It would be jab at both traditional VOD services and new "network DVR" service from Cablevision. It would also be a strong competitor to sites like Hulu, where comparable broadcast programs are available, but only with commercial interruptions. And Hulu still has limited options for viewing on TVs, whereas Netflix's Watch Instantly options for viewing on TVs includes Roku, Xbox, Blu-ray players, etc. Last but not least, it would also be a powerful marketing hook for Netflix to use to bulk up its underlying subscription base that it intends to transition to online-only in the future.

    Beyond next-day or next-hour availability, Netflix could also offer things like higher-quality full HD delivery or download options for offline consumption. Broadcasters, who continue to be pinched on the ad side, should be plenty open to all of the above, assuming Netflix is willing to pay.

    I continue to believe Netflix is one of the strongest positions to create a compelling over-the-top service offering. But with numerous barriers in its way to gain online distribution rights to films and cable programs, broadcast networks remain its key source of premium content. So keep an eye for more deals like the one announced with ABC yesterday, hopefully including fast availability of current, in-season episodes.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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