Following are 4 items worth noting for the Dec 7th week:
1. Boxee's new box with D-Link - It was hard to miss the news from boxee this week that it will be launching its first box, in partnership with D-Link, in early 2010. Boxee has gained a rabid early adopter following, but the high hurdle requirement of downloading and configuring its software onto a 3rd party device meant it was unlikely to gain mainstream appeal. Strategically, the new box is the right move for the company.
For other standalone box makers such as Roku, boxee's box, with its open source ability to easily offer lots of content, is a new challenge (though note, still no Hulu programming and little cable programming will be available on the boxee box). The indicated price point of $200 is on the high side, particularly as broadband-enabled Blu-ray players are already sub-$150 and falling. Roku has set a high standard for out-of-the-box usability whereas D-Link's media adaptors have never been considered ease-of-use standouts. Boxee's snazzy, but very unconventional sunken-cube design for the D-Link box is also risky. While eye-catching, it introduces complexity for users already challenged by how to squeeze another component onto their shelves. If boxee only succeeds in getting its current early adopters to buy the box it will have gained little. This one will be interesting to watch unfold.
2. AT&T tries to solve its iPhone data usage problem - In the "be careful what you ask for, you might just get it" category, AT&T Wireless head Ralph de la Vega revealed an interesting factoid this week at the UBS media conference: 3% of its smartphone (i.e. iPhone) users consume 40% of its network's capacity. Of course video and audio capabilities were one of the big ideas behind the iPhone, so AT&T should hardly be surprised by this result. AT&T, which has been hammered by Verizon (not to mention its users) over network quality, thinks the solution to its problem is giving heavy users unspecified "incentives" to reduce their activity. No word on what that means exactly.
Mobile video has become very hot this year, largely due to the iPhone's success. But the best smartphones in the world can't compensate for lack of network capacity. While AT&T is adding more 3G availability, it's questionable whether they'll ever catch up to user demand. That could mean the only way to manage this problem is to throttle demand through higher data usage pricing. That would be unfortunate and surely stunt the iPhone's video growth. Verizon, with its line of Android-powered phones, could be a key beneficiary.
3. Q3 '09 Nielsen data shows TV's supremacy remains, though early slippage found - Nielsen released its latest A2/M2 Three Screen Report this week, offering yet another reminder that despite online video's incredible growth, TV viewing still reigns supreme. Nielsen found that TV viewing accounted for 129 hours, 16 minutes in Q3. While that amount is more than 40 times greater than the 3 hours, 24 minutes spent on online video viewing, it is actually down a slight .4% from Q3 '08 of 129 hours 45 minutes.
How much weight should we give that drop of 29 minutes a month (which equates to just less than a minute/day)? Not a lot until we see a sustained trend over time. There are plenty of other video options causing competition for consumers' attention, but good old fashioned TV is going to dominate for a long time to come. This is one of the key motivators behind Comcast's acquisition of NBCU.
4. 3D poised for major visibility - In my Oct. 30th "4 Items" post I mentioned being impressed with a demo from 3D TV technology company HDLogix I saw while in Denver for the CTAM Summit. This Sunday the company will do a major public demonstration, broadcasting the Cowboys-Chargers in 3D on the Cowboys Stadium's 160 foot by 72 foot HDTV display. HDLogix touts its ImageIQ 3D as the most cost-effective method for generating 3D video, as it upconverts existing 2D streams in real-time, meaning no additional production costs are incurred.
Obviously those watching from home won't be able to see the 3D streaming, but it will surely be a sight to see the 80,000 attendees sporting their 3D glasses oohing and aahing. Between this and James Cameron's 3D "Avatar" releasing next week, 3D is poised for a lot of exposure.
Enjoy the weekend!
Following are 4 items worth noting from the Oct 26th week:
1. Online video viewership claims are murky - Props to Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3, for his opinion piece in AdAge this week, "Where's the Outrage Over Online Video Viewership Claims" in which he cites multiple examples of how content providers' hyperbole and the media's lack of fact-checking/analysis allow all kinds of ridiculous viewership numbers to gain traction as fact. Compounding things is the inconsistent definition of what even constitutes a "view." Jim notes that a fraction-of-a-second play start often can be enough. For advertisers in particular, trying to understand where to place their spending in the emerging online video medium, it is "buyer beware." A great reminder of how immature the online video industry remains.
2. Zappos's "world's fastest nudist" viral video campaign adds to media's gullibility - The NY Times had a great item this week on Zappos's "world's fastest nudist" campaign, a series of humorous videos on YouTube showing a guy named Donnie streaking around the streets of New York with nothing but a fanny pack on.
While the videos are clever, the media that picked them up and ran with them as being real are now looking decidedly dim. CNN's Anderson Cooper surely tops the gullibility list, as he and anchor Erica Hill featured one of the videos (showing Donnie buying a taco at a food stand) on AC 360's nightly "The Shot" feature. Cooper blithely passes on that Donnie "holds over 400 nude speed records..." One suspects Walter Cronkite would have dug in and not have been duped by Zappos. However, I'm hardly one to talk, as I was taken in by the "Megawoosh Waterslide Video" this past summer. The old adage "don't believe everything you read" really needs to be updated to "don't believe everything you watch." Meanwhile, Zappos undoubtedly loves all the free publicity.
3. Enough of HDTV, get ready for 3DTV - Speaking of not believing what you watch, and shifting focus somewhat from online video, I got my first peek at what 3DTV looks like earlier this week. 3D has become a mini-rage recently, with various TV set manufacturers launching 3D-enabled models, looking to drive content creators to jump on the 3D bandwagon. The catch to 3D video is that it's much more expensive to produce because of the need for multiple cameras. That may be OK for movies where the extra cost can be recouped through higher ticket prices, but for regular TV shows it's been a serious obstacle.
However, the approach used by a small NJ-based company named HDLogix, whose demo I saw, introduces a workaround to this issue. Instead of requiring original production to be shot in 3D, the company runs existing video through its algorithms to dynamically generate 3D effects (I saw segments of the movie "300"). That means no additional production expense is incurred by the content creator. Don't ask me any more about how it works, as the technology is way outside my sweet spot. I will say this, it's pretty cool stuff and I could see 3D adding a lot of new value to online video, especially advertising.
4. What to look for in 2010 - One last follow-up to the CTAM Summit panel I moderated on Tuesday. My last question to the panelists was to name 1 thing that the 1,500+ cable industry attendees in the audience should be paying most attention to in 2010. These were their answers:
Paul Bascobert (Chief Marketing Officer, Dow Jones & Company) - e-book readers make huge advances, especially with a new Apple product hitting the market
Matt Bond (EVP, Content Acquisition, Comcast) - the "customer is king" - stay focused on that
Andy Heller (Vice Chairman, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.) - the advent of 4G mobile networks and adoption of the "mobile Internet"
Jason Kilar (CEO, Hulu) - follow your companies on search.twitter.com to stay in touch with what your customers are saying
David Preschlack (EVP, Disney and ESPN Networks Affiliate U.S. Sales and Marketing) - the number of access points for content providers will continue to explode
Peter Stern (EVP & Chief Strategy Officer, Time Warner Cable) - make every interaction with customers an opportunity to build a positive relationship
Great food for thought.
Enjoy your weekends!