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Analysis for 'FOX'

  • 4. Comcast Gets Hit Shows from FOX and ABC for Xfinity TV

    This week brought yet another twist in the intriguing relationships between pay-TV operators and broadcast TV networks, as Comcast announced deals with both FOX and ABC to add recent episodes of over 20 hit shows from the networks to its Xfinity TV video-on-demand line-up. The move is a solid step forward for Comcast, giving it access to all 4 major broadcast networks' programs, a first. This is also content that isn't available on Netflix, providing another good differentiator.

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  • Premium VOD is a Train Wreck Though It Just Doesn't Matter

    Yesterday marked the official launch of "Premium VOD" by DirecTV, a plan under which movies will be released just 60 days after their theatrical opening (half the usual time) for 48-hour rental by subscribers for $30. The first movie being offered this way, which DirecTV dubs "Home Premiere," was Sony Pictures' "Just Go With It" starring Adam Sandler. Three other studios, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures and Fox have already signaled their intent to release movies on Premium VOD with DirecTV and other pay-TV operators who have expressed interest.  

    Theater owners and the Hollywood creative community are livid about Premium VOD, which they perceive as paving the road to cannibalizing theatrical attendance which would in turn harm a movie's overall economics, creating a dangerous downward spiral. In addition, there's concern that if consumers switch to watching movies on the small screen then the creative license implicit in a big screen emphasis will get squeezed. While their concerns are completely justified, the good news for them is that Premium VOD will be lucky to achieve even minimal success. Instead it will more than likely end up being a short-lived experiment that will have virtually no impact on larger Hollywood dynamics. Here's why:

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  • Hulu Also Making Move Into Original Video Production

    While Netflix got a lot of attention this week for possibly moving to distribute an original TV series, "House of Cards," an interesting scoop in Adweek notes that Hulu may also be looking to ramp up its original production efforts. According to the article, Hulu has been building two content groups, one focused on branded entertainment and the other on niche comedy and documentaries.

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  • No Surprise, Ivi is Shut Down

    Broadcasters got a win this week as a U.S. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction against Ivi, requiring the service be shut down. The decision comes as little surprise, as Ivi's claim to being a cable system, and therefore entitled to a compulsory license to rebroadcast TV networks, seemed specious from the start. Though Ivi vows to appeal the decision, casting itself as consumers' savior, there's little reason to believe we'll see Ivi - at least in its current form - back any time soon. Moral here: just because the Internet makes it possible to rebroadcast networks, that still doesn't make it legal.
     
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  • Hulu Pulls IPO Due to Lack of Long-Term Content Rights

    The WSJ is reporting that Hulu has pulled its widely-rumored plan for an initial public offering next year due to lack of long-term rights to distribute its three broadcast TV network owners' content. The WSJ says the company may look at other options to raise capital. Hulu's exclusive short-term distribution deals with owners ABC, FOX and NBC are the company's primary asset, and no doubt banks and other would-be investors closely scrutinized whether the rights would be extended.

    As I wrote last April, from a content rights perspective, Hulu is getting squeezed from all sides. Pay-TV providers are ramping up their TV Everywhere rollouts and are trying to lock down online distribution rights themselves, sometimes as part of retransmission consent deals. The NBC rights in particular are subject to extra uncertainty longer-term as Comcast takes over the network. As the biggest subscription TV provider, which is rolling out its own online capabilities, Comcast has little incentive to support an online competitor.

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #80 - Nov. 19, 2010

    Daisy Whitney and I are back this week for the 80th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for November 19, 2010. Before getting started, congratulations to Daisy on the release of "The Mockingbirds," her first fiction book, for young adult readers. It debuted 2 weeks ago and is published by Little Brown. In addition to writing the book, Daisy has put together a clever social media campaign which has lifted the book's visibility. Congrats Daisy!

    This week Daisy and I discuss my post from yesterday, "Broadcast TV Networks Are Wrong to Block Google TV - Part 2" in which I laid out the case for why the networks are using a backwards-looking strategy in their decision to block their programs from access by Google TV and other browser-based connected devices.

    To their credit, the networks have actually been quite forward-looking in releasing many of their programs for free viewing on their web sites and on Hulu. But now, by creating an artificial distinction between computer-based and TV-based viewing of online-delivered content, they are violating one of the most basic rules of the Internet era: don't create friction between the product and the customer. While that may help them win retransmission consent deals in the short term, I believe that in the long term it will hurt them. Listen in to learn more.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (11 minutes, 43 seconds)


    Click here for previous podcasts

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  • Broadcast TV Networks Are Wrong to Block Google TV - Part 2

    When Fox decided last week to block access to its programs by Google TV, it was no big surprise since its broadcast brethren ABC, CBS, NBC and Hulu had already done so. By speaking in a unanimous voice, the broadcasters have sent a clear signal that viewing their programs on TV, for free, via online delivery, is not to be. While they're happy to make Hulu Plus subscriptions available via connected devices, if you want to watch for free, you'll be restricted to computer, or limited mobile device-based, viewing.

    A few weeks ago in the first part of "Broadcast Networks Are Wrong to Block Google TV," I speculated on what was motivating the broadcasters to block Google TV, boxee and other browser-based connected devices. In the case of Google TV, it's tempting to believe they are looking to extract payments from Google to distribute their programs. Another possible explanation is that programs aren't monetized as well in online as they are on-air (the "swapping analog dollars for digital pennies" argument). Yet another explanation is that measurement of online viewing is not yet fully mature, so they're worried that if their audience shifts to connected device-based viewing, it would hurt their ratings points, and consequently their ad revenues. But none of these are broadcasters' main motivation.

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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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  • Cablevision is Now Offering to Reimburse Subscribers To Watch World Series on MLB.com

    The Cablevision-Fox retransmission fight just took another ugly turn, as Cablevision is now emailing subscribers an offer (see below) to reimburse them $10 if they subscribe to the MLB.com's "Postseason.TV" package which includes the World Series starting tonight.

    The gloves are clearly off in this fight, and Cablevision is obviously not hesitating to introduce its subscribers to the virtues of over-the-top streaming, which could have longer-term negative consequences. What comes next in this battle?




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  • 5 Items of Interest for the Week of Sept. 27th

    It's Friday and that means that once again VideoNuze is featuring 5-6 interesting online/mobile video industry stories that we weren't able to cover this week. Have a look at them now, or take them with you for weekend reading!

    Nielsen Unveils New Online Advertising Measurement
    comScore Introduces Digital GRP `Overnights` in AdEffx Campaign Essential
    Dueling initiatives from Nielsen and comScore were announced on Monday, aimed at translating online usage into comparable TV ratings information, including reach, frequency and Gross Ratings Points (GRPs). While online video ad buying is ramping up, the tools to measure viewership in a comprehensive way have been lacking. This is one of the main issues holding back content providers from participating in TV Everywhere. 

    Analyst: Cord-cutting fears overblown
    New research shared this week by BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield concludes that less than 8% of the market is actually interested in cord-cutting. The big impediment: losing access to sports and cable programming, which is unlikely to migrate to free over-the-top alternatives. Greenfield's conclusion is that cord-cutting isn't a major threat to pay-TV operators over the next 3-5 years. Notwithstanding the research, another factor I'd point to that could tip cord-cutting the other way is consumers' belt-tightening. Much as nobody wants to lose access to programming, if the price is perceived as too high, they'll make compromises.

    Why YouTube Viewers Have ADD and How to Stop It
    Abandonment rates for online video have always been a concern, and using new research, Visible Measures CMO Matt Cutler now quantifies the behavior. Expect 20% of the audience to drop out within 10 seconds of hitting play, 33% by the 30 second mark and 44% by 60 seconds in. Pretty sobering data but incredibly important in thinking about content creation and monetization.
     

    Networks Have Sharing Issues With Hulu
    Hulu's New Hoop
    On the one hand, Hulu's network partners, ABC, NBC and Fox are reportedly pulling back ad inventory that Hulu is allowed to sell, yet on the other, Hulu is reportedly out aggressively selling ads in Hulu Plus, its subscription service. Meanwhile this week Hulu also announced that Hulu Plus will be accessible on both Roku devices and TiVo Premiere, as it continues chasing Netflix in the subscription game.

    The New Apple TV Reviewed: It`s All About the Video
    Apple TV devices started shipping this week, and reviews began popping up all over the web. This mostly positive review indicates that the user experience is solid, but that content selection is still skimpy. That's no surprise given how few deals Apple has struck to date. Yet to be seen is how Apple TV performs when it can access other iOS apps.
     
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  • Over 88% of Hulu Plus Content is Already Available for Free on Hulu.com

    A new analysis of all the content available on Hulu Plus reveals that over 88% of all the full-length TV program episodes available in the $10/mo subscription service are already freely accessible on Hulu.com. For clips, it's almost 98%. Research firm One Touch Intelligence found that out of 28K+ episodes on Hulu Plus, just 3,345 of them can't also found on Hulu.com. Two-thirds of these incremental program episodes are sourced from Hulu's broadcast TV network partners/owners, ABC, Fox and NBC.

    In fairness, Hulu Plus has been live for less than 60 days and will no doubt will be adding more content down the road. But for now the high proportion of free availability diminishes the Hulu Plus value proposition for Hulu.com users considering an upgrade. In addition, the relatively small amount of incremental episodes risks inducing churn, particularly for heavy users most familiar with the service, as they come to realize much of what they've paid to watch is actually available for free. Compounding the problem, Hulu Plus viewers see the same quantity of ads as do free Hulu.com users, so there's no ad-avoidance benefit to subscribing either.

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  • Is Apple Planning to Pair 99-Cent TV Show Rentals With Its $99 iTV?

    Bloomberg is reporting that Apple is in "advanced talks" with CBS, Disney and Fox about making available TV programs for 99-cent rental. The programs would be offered within 24 hours of when they aired and once rented, the viewing window would be just 48 hours. It's not clear whether the iTunes rental model would be targeted only to Apple's "i" devices, or if it would be more widely available. If the program deals happen, could it be that Apple is planning to pair availability of 99-cent rentals with the unveiling of its $99 iTV device at its rumored Sept. 7th keynote event?

    In my earlier post, "Pondering the (Potential) Impact of Apple's New iTV Device," I speculated that the iTV device would have little impact on the pay-TV ecosystem, since major cable TV networks and pay-TV providers will resist Apple's attempts to reinvent their business models. However, I suggested that Steve Jobs could have a trick or two up his sleeve for the iTV's launch. Sure enough, 99-cent broadcast TV rentals, announced just weeks prior to the Fall TV season kickoff, would be a very good trick indeed.  

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  • For Broadcast TV Networks, Google TV is Friend, Not Foe

    Reading this morning's WSJ story, "Google TV Is a Tough Sell Among Would-Be Partners," you get the impression that broadcast TV networks are viewing Google TV as a potential disruptor of their business models. While the networks should take time to fully understand Google's new product, plus assess additional work being asked of them (e.g. enhanced metadata) and how their programs will be incorporated in Google TV's UI, on the whole, broadcast TV networks should view Google TV as beneficial, not disruptive, to their digital distribution efforts.

    Broadcast networks are right to be concerned about what effect viewing on any new digital device will have on their on-air business models. I've written often about my concern that the networks' web sites and Hulu's "ad-lite" approach was threatening to their on-air economics. However, more recently the networks (and likely Hulu) have been increasing their digital ad loads. ABC for one has said that digital delivery profitability is already on a par with "DVR economics" (accounting for ad-skipping by DVR households), and more ads will only further enhance digital's ROI. Certainly ABC's decision to make its programs available on the iPad is evidence that proper monetization, along with a coherent windowing approach, can yield incremental views and profits from distribution to new devices.

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  • 7 Quick Reactions to Hulu Plus

    Hulu unveiled its much-rumored subscription service this afternoon, dubbed "Hulu Plus." I haven't used the new service, but based on the explanation and the teaser video, here are 7 quick reactions:

    1. Is there consumer demand for Hulu Plus? - This looms as the fundamental question that will be answered as Hulu Plus rolls out. From CEO Jason Kilar's blog post, it appears that, at least initially, Hulu Plus is a bet on consumers having an appetite for a library of broadcast network programs since that's all that's been highlighted so far. Hulu identifies about 2,000 library episodes in addition to current seasons. Unless Hulu Plus really beefs up its catalog, it won't be long before the library holds few surprises for returning visitors.

    2. Hulu Plus lacks many of Netflix's advantages - It's tempting to think of Hulu Plus competing directly with Netflix, and to an extent of course they're after the same general target consumer. But Netflix has several very significant advantages: a brand that's identified with subscriptions and 14 million+ currently paying subscribers, a deep DVD library of 100,000+ titles (which has every single episode Hulu Plus will be offering), a streaming library of 17,000+ titles (offered at no extra cost to subscribers) and integrations with all the same devices Hulu Plus is touting (except the iPhone, which is coming soon). Further, Netflix has far deeper resources; it is a public company with a $6 billion market cap that spends $250 million/year on marketing and has publicly-stated commitment to obtain more streaming rights from Hollywood. With Netflix on one side and cable on another, it's unclear how Hulu Plus will expand its menu. I don't see Hulu Plus diminishing Netflix's rapid growth.

    3. Ads in Hulu Plus would be a big-time buzz-kill - I did a double-take when I first read this line in Jason's post: "Hulu Plus is a new revolutionary, ad-supported subscription product that is incremental and complementary to the existing Hulu service." Whoa - are there going to be ads in Hulu Plus? That will be a flat-out non-starter for many prospective subscribers. Yes, I know about ad-supported cable networks, but that's for first-run programming, not for library or catch-up fare. Hulu Plus must be an ad-free zone. Meanwhile, it's important that Hulu still prove the 100% ad-supported business model for its existing experience. With much in flux regarding ad loads there's new messaging Hulu will likely be rolling there too.

    4. Why wasn't Android or Google TV mentioned? - Is it a little weird that there was no mention of Android or Google TV in today's unveiling? I think so. Android is fast-gaining on the iPhone (surpassed by some metrics) and Google TV is poised to make a big splash in the fall. Why no mention? Is there an anti-Google bias at work?

    5. Hulu Plus adds more support for HTML5 - Hulu Plus is another boost for HTML5 and another small dent for Flash. By making Hulu Plus available on non-Flash supported Apple devices, the it seems the Hulu team has been willing to make the investment to diversify beyond Flash, which it has used since launch.

    6. Comcast must already be considering how it exits the Hulu joint venture - When the Comcast-NBCU deal clears, Comcast will inherit NBCU's ownership stake in Hulu. With Hulu Plus it's hard to see why Comcast will want to retain that stake. There's no discernible benefit to Comcast owning a minority position in a new over-the-top subscription service that whets the appetite of potential cord-cutters. It's one thing for selective NBC programs to be freely available for catch-up on Hulu.com, but a deeper library in a paid subscription service? No way, especially not as Comcast is trying to build value in its own TV Everywhere service.

    7. Hulu gets credit for a well-executed launch - Stepping back, the Hulu team deserves credit for keeping its subscription under tight wraps and executing a solid launch. There have been no shortage of rumors, but to my knowledge there haven't been any specifically identifiable leaks in the Hulu ship. That's a big accomplishment, especially when you consider how many people must have had knowledge of the plans. The launch includes a well-articulated CEO message, a nicely-done sizzle reel (that is in Flash, which makes it not viewable on the iPad or iPhone!), several device integrations and a roadmap of add-ons, and a slow-rollout plan that will generate excitement among early adopters.

    There are still many unknowns about Hulu Plus, but for now this is plenty to chew on.

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  • Here's What Fox, NBC and Hulu are Doing with Increased Online Ad Loads

    Get ready to see more ads in TV programs viewed online. Following my exclusive 2 weeks ago about ABC doubling the number of ads in its iPad app, and soon on ABC.com, the same increased ad load is happening with Fox's and NBC's online programs, and in my opinion, likely with Hulu as well. Here's what I've learned:

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  • Glee is Ready for Summer with New "Superfan" Player

    With Glee's finale behind it, Fox is launching a new "Superfan" player today, aiming to keep up fans' interest during summer re-reruns. Superfan marks yet another evolution in the online video player experience, cleverly merging social media with the viewing experience.

    The first thing you notice about Superfan is the radically different look vs. the prior, standard player for Glee and other Fox programs.

    Superfan:



    Old player:



    Bill Bradford, Fox's SVP of Content Strategy at Fox explained to me that with Superfan, Fox is trying to make it easier to drill down into additional non-linear content while watching the full episodes. Superfan prominently promotes links to Twitter, Digg, Facebook and other social media. When you click to open one of these, the video window minimizes to the lower right-hand corner (1 click brings it back to center screen) so you can easily multi-task; it's a pretty cool experience. There are also links to behind the scenes footage, iTunes to buy the show's music, actor bios and a "photo booth" feature.

    One basic thing that's missing for now is a conventional slider bar that displays progress and allows specific scene selection. Bill said they're going to explore that in future releases. Bill also explained that context sensitive links can dynamically appear when a relevant scene triggers them, which is a pretty exciting feature, especially for e-commerce apps, though I didn't see these enabled yet.

    For Glee, a show that skews to a younger, more engaged audience, Superfan makes a lot of sense. I expect we'll see more efforts like Superfan as more programs try to bring the online "water cooler" interactions of social media closer to the programs themselves. Superfan is powered by Coincident TV, a relatively new software provider focused on immersive "hypervideo" experiences blending online video and social media. Thinking more broadly, I also see Superfan as a precursor to the types of on-screen, interactive experiences that are going to be common with Google TV and other convergence devices.

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  • Hulu Missed Its Window for Subscription Success

    Unless Hulu has something very unpredictable up its sleeve in the $9.95/mo subscription service it's rumored to begin testing in May, the bad news for the site is that it has already missed its window of opportunity for subscription success. In a one sense it's not Hulu's fault; as a startup 3 years ago, it had to choose what strategy to focus on and execute. Hulu chose the free, ad-supported route, with widespread distribution that has made it the 2nd most-used video site.

    The problem is that the world has changed significantly since Hulu was started 3 years ago, and launching a successful online subscription service now is far harder to do now than it would have been then. Here are some of the top reasons why:

    Subscription competition - 3 years the online video subscription field was wide open, but now there's Netflix to contend with. As the company's blowout Q1 '10 results amply demonstrate, Netflix is firing on all cylinders.  By providing unlimited streaming as a value add even for its $8.99/mo subs, Netflix has muddied the waters for any would-be online-only subscription competitor, which has to articulate a value prop to prospects of why they should pay the same or more for online-only access, for what will likely be a smaller catalog initially. Netflix also has the device partnerships, 28-day studio deals for more content, well-baked UI/recommendations and deep financial resources. 3 years ago it had none of this; back then it was still imposing confusing online usage caps and pursuing its own set-top box with LG Electronics.

    TV Everywhere - 3 years ago cable operators were contemplating their navels when it came to online video delivery, now with TV Everywhere they have a game plan (though admittedly not a lot of actual success just yet). For most cable networks, preserving their relationships in the cable ecosystem is paramount. Taking a leap by licensing content for a Hulu subscription service isn't going to be very appealing. Absent cable content, Hulu will be pitching a monthly subscription to archived commercial free broadcast network programs; that's a pretty narrow value prop.

    Comcast-NBCU deal - 3 years ago Comcast was still licking its wounds from its ill-considered bid for Disney; now it has a deal to acquire NBCU, one of Hulu's original partners and a top-tier cable network owner. While Comcast will say all the right things during the deal's review process, I've wondered how long Comcast would even retain its Hulu stake once the deal is completed. Hulu's free "ad-lite" model is antithetical to Comcast's belief in subscriptions and bottom line accountability. A Hulu subscription service is unlikely to help either. Why would Comcast want another competing subscription offer in the market, much less one that would tempt would-be "cord-cutters?"

    Lack of ownership will - 3 years ago, NBCU and News Corp were full of platitudes about their new online video baby. But in addition to NBCU's changed status, News Corp has become the most vocal content provider for the paid online content model. MySpace's travails are rumored to have soured Rupert Murdoch's appetite for chasing fickle online users. Meanwhile, Disney, the last partner to the Hulu venture, is plenty interested in subscriptions, but it wants to offer them directly. Then there's Hulu's key financial partner, Providence Equity Partners. I've never quite understood their investment decision given Hulu's limited exit opportunities, but one thing's for sure - they're unlikely to be motivated to help fund the considerable development and marketing expenses Hulu must undertake to make subscriptions succeed.

    Retransmission consent - 3 years ago, the idea of broadcasters getting paid for their content still seemed like a stretch. But broadcasters are winning their chosen high-stakes battles, and given their success, are far more inclined to pursue a wholesale model (i.e. getting distributors to pay them monthly) than back a retail, subscription model. Plus, a Hulu subscription model departs from the message of free broadcast service that the broadcast lobby is using with the FCC and Congress to justify why it should retain its excess spectrum, rather than yielding it to mobile data providers under the National Broadband Plan's reclamation program.

    User expectations - As if these weren't enough to contend with, the single biggest impediment Hulu faces is likely itself. Having invested its brand heavily in the free ad-supported positioning (and computer-based viewing only) Hulu lacks what experts would call "brand permission" to now pursue subscriptions. Companies are frequently chastened to find out what their customers really think when stretching for new products or business models. Moving customers from free to paid is one of the hardest things any company can do (just ask YouTube which is attempting to do the same); trying to pull it off from a cold start is nearly impossible in my mind. Hindsight is 20-20, but what Hulu probably should have done 3 years ago is offered a "freemium" model that would have immediately conditioned its users to thinking Hulu stands for both free and paid.   

    I've learned to never say never in this business, but to succeed, Hulu has to surmount the above challenges and more. If it can do so, it will be a significant win for the company. If it can't it will be yet another reminder of how treacherous things are even for well-funded startups trying to navigate a quickly-shifting competitive landscape.

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  • Broadcasters' New Mobile DTV Joint Venture Offers Potential

    One of the more interesting things coming out of the NAB Show this week was the announcement by a dozen local TV station groups of a new mobile direct TV content service intended to reach 150 million Americans. The service, which is still unnamed, is backed by Belo, Cox, E.W. Scripps, Fox, Gannett, Hearst, ION, Media General, Meredith, NBC, Post-Newsweek and Raycom. No details on programming were revealed except to saying local and national news, sports and entertainment would be included.

    For the last several years, it's felt as if local broadcasters have been on the short end as online and mobile delivery have gained steam. One looming threat has been from broadcast network partners, who have increasingly embraced online distribution, which threatens to shift audiences from consuming programs through local affiliates' stations to consuming at the networks' web sites and aggregators like Hulu.

    More recently, the FCC's  National Broadband Plan, with its "voluntary" spectrum reclamation would transfer valuable bandwidth to mobile carriers - a move that was quickly perceived as further marginalizing local broadcasters' role in the digital ecosystem. If this wasn't enough, the launch of Apple's iPad highlighted the growing role that consumer electronics devices - and the apps that are built for them - will play in empowering users to search and access content from many new sources, further fragmenting traditional broadcast audiences. All of this has unfolded against the recession's backdrop, which has suppressed consumer spending and local ad spending.

    Now, with the new joint venture, local broadcasters seem to have the beginnings of a cohesive plan to show that they too have an important place in the digital era. Throughout the NAB Show various industry executives repeated the mantra that local broadcasters play a vital role in news, weather and emergency information, a not-so-subtle reminder to policy-makers that broadcasters shouldn't be shunted aside in favor of shiny new gadgets.

    Still, it's early days for the venture and for mobile DTV in general. Next month a big DTV trial in Washington, DC is scheduled using the ATSC-M/H technical standard. The new JV doesn't have any agreements yet to put DTV tuners in handsets or with carriers for integration. Larger questions of governance still loom as well. Broad industry initiatives like this often suffer from members' differing goals, tactics and motivations. An even larger question is consumers' desire for the mobile DTV format. With countless viewing options already, and more coming every day, local stations' DTV efforts will be in a competitive battle for attention.

    Big questions remain about what the new JV's ultimate impact will be, but at a minimum it at least appears to show that local broadcasters are getting serious about how they fit into the digital video ecosystem.

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  • Fox and Netflix Agree to 28-Day Window

    Netflix and Fox are announcing this morning an expanded content licensing agreement which creates a 28-day DVD window and gives Netflix streaming access to certain prior season Fox TV shows. The 28-day window, which delays Netflix access to new DVDs until 28 days after their release date is similar to a deal that Netflix struck with Warner Bros. earlier this year.

    I continue to be a fan of the 28-day window, as it allows studios a little more time to eke further revenue out of the rapidly-declining DVD sales business, while expanding Netflix's catalog for streaming and reducing its cost on physical DVD purchases. Netflix's Watch Instantly streaming feature has been a game-changer for the company, essentially reinventing the company's value proposition from a DVD subscription business defined by the number of discs out at any time, to one where subscribers get unlimited digital use. The key to its success is building the library of titles for streaming and that's what these 28-day deals are all about.

    Update: Universal also announced a 28-day deal with Netflix this morning. Release is here.

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  • Blockbuster Hangs In with New Fox, Sony and Warner Deals

    Netflix wasn't the only distributor modifying how it does business with Hollywood studios this week; Blockbuster also unveiled new deals with Fox, Sony and Warner, giving it "day-and-date" availability of these studios' films for store and mail rental (note, not for its on demand streaming service). Blockbuster also got "enhanced payment terms" from the studios in exchange for giving them a first lien on Blockbuster's Canadian assets (which would imply that if Blockbuster files for bankruptcy, the studios could end up owning/operating a slew of Canadian stores). Seems like steep terms for Blockbuster to hang in there.

    As I wrote a few weeks ago in "The Battle Over Movie Rentals is Intensifying," there are multiple distributors jockeying to be the consumer's preferred movie source. That means consumers need to figure out, on a title by title basis what works best for them.

    For example, I'm a Netflix subscriber and let's say I want to watch the recently released "Sherlock Holmes" DVD. Netflix doesn't get it until April 27th per its 28-day window with Warner Bros. But when I check online, a local Blockbuster store I've never been to shows that it's in stock (though I'm a little skeptical). Do I want to drive down there to find out? Meanwhile, Comcast is offering it on-demand. But do I want to pay $4.99 for it when I'm already paying a monthly Netflix subscription? Alternatively, there's iTunes and Amazon VOD. But then I need to either watch on my computer or on the TV that's hooked to the Roku or temporarily connect my laptop to the TV. See what I mean about the choices facing consumers?

    (Note - online movie distribution is among the topics we'll cover at the next VideoSchmooze on April 26th. Early bird discounted tickets available for just one more week!)

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