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Analysis for 'Net Neutrality'

  • VideoNuze Podcast #262 - Candid Discussion of Net Neutrality's Risks

    I'm pleased to present the 262nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Today we candidly discuss the potential impact of the FCC's new net neutrality regulations.

    Over the past 20 years we've all benefited from a continuous improvement in wired and mobile broadband connectivity (albeit not perfectly consistent by geography or provider), fostered mainly by a "light touch" regulatory environment that spurred private sector ISPs to invest tens of billions of dollars in network upgrades. Content and services have flourished across both wired and mobile networks.

    Although I strongly believe we should continue to have an open Internet, and have no issue with rules that would have ensured that, I explain why using the 80 year-old Title II model to classify broadband as a utility was incorrect. Mainly I believe it will drive lots of litigation and create lots of regulatory uncertainty for broadband ISPs, which translates into disincentives to invest and further upgrade their networks. As a result, ongoing innovations in content and services, which rest on the foundation of broadband improvements, will inevitably be impacted.

    Further, I'm always wary of the risk of "unintended consequences" that accompany any new regulations. As such, preemptive regulation - such as yesterday's - where no fundamental problem even yet exists, makes me even more anxious. In short, my attitude is "don't fix what ain't broke."

    I fully recognize that I hold a minority opinion on this because I've discussed the topic with many people in the industry already. Colin disagrees with me, for example, because he believes the disincentive to invest argument is overblown. Unfortunately, I think the whole net neutrality debate has become so confused and politicized that any real purpose of potential government intervention has long since been lost.

    Listen in to learn more!



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  • VideoNuze Podcast #259 - Mobile Video's Growth, Debating Net Neutrality

    I'm pleased to present the 259th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week, we discuss mobile video's explosive growth. Cisco's new forecast puts mobile video's share of overall mobile traffic at 72% by 2019, up from 55% in 2014. Mobile video will account for 17.4 exabytes out of the 24.3 exabytes that cross global mobile networks in 2019. We dig into the contributing factors.

    Next up, this week saw the long-expected announcement from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler of net neutrality rules for broadband ISPs. The proposed reclassification to Title II follows President Obama's strong recommendation. While I agree that broadband is now a lifeline service, to me this still feels like a solution in search of a genuine problem. Colin disagrees and thinks Title II is the right move. We also discuss the prospects for approval of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in light of the new regulations.

    Listen in to learn more!



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  • VideoNuze Podcast #256 - Our 2015 Video Industry Predictions

    I'm pleased to present the 256th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week Colin and I share our predictions for the video industry in 2015. In addition, we look back at our predictions for 2014 and share how we did (yes, accountability!).

    Listen in to learn more!



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  • Will Richmond Interview at Columbia University [VIDEO]

    I recently had the pleasure being interviewed by my former colleague Howard Homonoff for his weekly "Media Reporter" show at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information which he produces in addition to his consulting practice. In the interview we touch on a broad range of topics including how technology is helping traditional TV, the impact of online video on pay-TV operators and networks, online originals, NewFronts, rise of devices and mobile viewing, net neutrality, industry deals and much more.

    The interview runs about 28 minutes.

    Watch the interview

     
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  • Net Neutrality in Focus If Verizon Launches OTT Pay-TV Service Using Intel Media Assets

    This morning Verizon finally made official what has been rumored for months - its acquisition of Intel Media's assets, including its OnCue and its IP-based TV set-top box. With the deal (plus other recent acquisitions of upLynk and EdgeCast), Verizon is now well-positioned to launch an over-the-top pay-TV service outside of its FiOS footprint.

    If and when it does so, then last week's net neutrality ruling takes on even higher importance, because incumbent cable operators/broadband ISPs would either have to allow Verizon's traffic through, unfettered, creating direct OTT competition for their core pay-TV services, or discriminate against Verizon, creating a perception of anti-competitiveness and no doubt, a PR firestorm.

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  • House Republicans' Assault on Net Neutrality Begins Next Week

    Republicans on Capitol Hill will start their long-stated attempts to overturn the FCC's net neutrality regulations next Wednesday, with the House Communications & Technology Subcommittee planning a hearing. House Republicans have made no secret of their scorn for the FCC's net neutrality regulations and seem committed to doing whatever's necessary to block them from taking effect. While I've often said that net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem, the FCC's rules are actually not very burdensome, and to the extent that broadband ISPs abide by them, it feels unlikely that they would be expanded any time soon. Still, Republicans view this as an overreach by the government. It will be interesting to see how strongly Senate Democrats and President Obama come to net neutrality's defense, given all the other things competing for their attention.
     
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  • Verizon Challenges Net Neutrality Regulations

    Yesterday Verizon appealed the FCC's new net neutrality regulations in the DC Court of Appeals, alleging that the FCC has exceeded its authority. The move is a little surprising given that last August Verizon seemed accepting of net neutrality, by submitting a joint net neutrality proposal with Google. What the two submitted and what the FCC eventually passed are different in a number of ways, but one way that they're similar is in the light regulatory touch granted to wireless Internet ISPs, which was a key focus of Verizon's given its massive wireless business. Even the treatment of wired ISPs wasn't terribly onerous, which is one of the reasons why a number of consumer advocacy organizations are also threatening a challenge to the FCC.

    Other than trying to subvert the FCC's authority generally, it's not entirely clear to me what Verizon's trying to accomplish here. One thing's for sure, Verizon will have plenty of help from Republicans who are also challenging net neutrality.
     
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  • Online/Mobile Video's Top 10 of 2010

    2010 was another spectacular year of growth and innovation in online and mobile video, so it's no easy feat to choose the 10 most significant things that happened during the year. However, I've taken my best shot below, and offered explanations. No doubt I've forgotten a few things, but I think it's a pretty solid list. As much as happened in 2010 though, I expect even more next year, with plenty of surprises.

    My top 10 are as follows:

    continue reading

     
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  • Net Neutrality: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

    Though the FCC passed new net neutrality rules yesterday, the fight is far from over. Republicans immediately vowed to block the rules when they take over the House in January, and threats of industry lawsuits flew. Even liberal supporters of net neutrality were unhappy that the rules didn't go far enough. While the rules are here today, whether they will be tomorrow is very much an open question.

    While everyone agrees that a well-functioning Internet is core to American society and the economy, net neutrality's challenge from the start has been between those who believe in pre-emptive regulations because big ISPs can't be trusted, vs. those that don't see a sustained pattern of ISP misbehavior warranting proactive FCC involvement.

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  • 6 Key 2011 Trends in Online and Mobile Video

    Yesterday Colin Dixon from The Diffusion Group and I presented a webinar describing our 6 key trends for 2011 in online and mobile video. Colin is one of the sharpest analysts of the pay-TV and online/mobile video industries and we had no shortage of ideas to sort through. Our list is a joint effort, and during the webinar we each presented the 3 trends we felt the strongest about. In today's post I share and explain each one. At the end of the webinar we conducted a poll asking attendees whether they agreed or disagreed with our predictions. I've noted those results in bold font. If you want to download the slides and/or hear more of our detailed discussion, just register for the on-demand version of the webinar and you'll be emailed a link.

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  • 5 Items of Interest for the Week of Nov. 29th

    Following the Thanksgiving break last Friday, VideoNuze's end-of-week feature of curating 5-6 interesting online/mobile video industry news items that we weren't able to cover this week, is back. Read them now or take them with you this weekend!

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  • 5 Items of Interest for the Week of Sept. 6th

    Though it was a short week due to the Labor Day holiday, there was no shortage of online video industry happenings this week. As I've been doing each of the last few Fridays, following are 5-6 noteworthy industry stories for your weekend reading pleasure.

    Ooyala Raises $22 Million to Accelerate Global Expansion
    Online video platform Ooyala's new $22 million round is a bright spot in what's been a pretty slow quarter for online video industry private financings. Ooyala's new funds will help the company grow in the Asia-Pacific region. Ooyala said it is serving 550 customers, double the level of a year ago.

    Google TV to Roll Out World-Wide Next Year
    Even though the first Google TV-enabled devices have yet to be deployed, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said this week that he envisions a global rollout next year. The connected device landscape is becoming more competitive for Google TV given the growing number of inexpensive connected device options.

    Business Groups Question Net Neutrality Rules
    Three pro-business trade groups urged the FCC to drop its net neutrality initiative, citing the "flourishing" broadband market and concerns that regulations will curtail new investments and hurt the economy. It seems like everyone has a different opinion about net neutrality, so the consensus needed to move regulation forward is still down the road.

    ESPN, YouTube Link Up for Promo Campaign
    This week ESPN and YouTube kicked off their "Your Highlight" campaign, enticing ESPN viewers to upload their own sports clips, with the best ones to be shown on SportsCenter. Then the best of the best will win a trip to ESPN's studios to watch a SportsCenter taping. It's a great promotional concept, using online video to further invest ESPN viewers in the brand. Whoever thought it up deserves a shout-out.

    Life Without a TV Set? Not impossible
    Another interesting data point to tuck into your back pocket: according to a 2010 Pew study, just 42% of Americans feel a TV set is a "necessity," down from 64% in 2006. Pew interprets this as a loss of status for the TV, as other devices like computers and phones have become video capable. The perception of convergence is taking root.


     
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  • Replay of Yesterday's Net Neutrality Webinar is Now Available

    Yesterday VideoNuze and The Diffusion Group hosted "Demystifying Net Neutrality," the first in our 2010 webinar series. Our guests, Barbara Esbin, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Communications and Competition Policy, Progress & Freedom Foundation (against) and Chris Riley, Policy Counsel for Free Press (for) did an outstanding job advocating their positions. Net neutrality is extremely complex and we had a flood of questions, which our guests did a great job of addressing.

    Though Chris made his points well, personally I'm still not persuaded that net neutrality regulations are needed now. As I wrote last fall, my core concern is that no sustained pattern of broadband ISP behavior has been proven. Colin and Chris argue that "corporations can't be trusted" and that inevitable biases will arise for the biggest broadband ISPs who are also the biggest video service providers. All of that may be true. But until it's proven, it's dangerous business to start tinkering with the well-functioning Internet. The FCC should stay vigilant, but not pursue net neutrality regulation now.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).

     
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  • Join Me for Net Neutrality Webinar with TDG Tomorrow, Feb. 4th

    Please join me for the complimentary "Demystifying Net Neutrality" webinar tomorrow, Thurs, Feb. 4th at 11am PT / 2pm ET. This is the first of six webinars VideoNuze is presenting in 2010, in partnership with The Diffusion Group, one of the leading digital media research firms. The webinars are sponsored exclusively by ActiveVideo Networks

    TDG's Colin Dixon and I will host the webinar, and we will have 2 expert guests with us who are on opposite sides of the net neutrality debate: Barbara Esbin, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Communications and Competition Policy, Progress & Freedom Foundation (against) and Chris Riley, Policy Counsel for Free Press (for). Barbara and Chris will advocate their positions and then Colin and I will question each of them before opening it up to audience Q&A.

    The webinar promises to be a deep-dive educational session examining all of net neutrality's pros and cons. For anyone with a stake in broadband/online content delivery and over-the-top video specifically, it will be a must attend session.

    REGISTER NOW - IT'S FREE!

     
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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Jan 25th Week (Netflix Q4, Nielsen ratings, AOL-StudioNow, Net Neutrality Webinar)

    With the new Apple iPad receiving wall-to-wall coverage this week, it was easy to overlook other significant news. Here are 4 items worth noting for the January 25th week:

    1. Netflix Q4 earnings increase my bullishness - On Wednesday, Netflix reported blowout results for Q4 '09, adding almost 3 million subscribers during the year (and a million just in Q4), bringing their YE '09 subscriber count to 12.3 million. Netflix also forecasted to end this year with between 15.5 million and 16.3 million subscribers, implying subscriber growth will be in the range of 26% to 33%. Importantly, Netflix also said that 48% of its subscribers used the company's streaming feature to watch a movie or TV show in Q4, up from 41% in Q3 and 28% a year ago. Wall Street reacted with glee, sending the stock up $12 yesterday to a new high of $63.04.

    VideoNuze readers know I've been bullish on Netflix for some time now, and the Q4 results make me more so. A key concern I've had has been around their ability to gain further premium content for streaming. On the earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings and CFO Barry McCarthy addressed this issue, offering up additional details of their content strategy and how the recent Warner Bros. 28-day DVD window deal will work. On Monday I'm planning a deep dive post based on what I heard. As a preview, I'm now convinced that Netflix is the #1 cord-cutting threat. Cable, satellite and telco operators need to be watching Netflix very closely.

    2. Nielsen announces combined TV/online ratings plan, but still falls short - This week brought news that Nielsen intends to unveil a "combined national television rating" in September that merges traditional Nielsen TV ratings with certain online viewing data. This is data that TV networks have been hungering for as online viewing has surged, potentially siphoning off TV audiences. I pointed out recently that the lack of such a measurement could seriously retard the growth of TV Everywhere, as cable networks hesitate to risk shifting TV audiences to unmeasurable online viewing.

    Nielsen's move is welcome, but still doesn't go far enough. As reported, it seems the new merged ratings will only count online views that had the same ads and ad load as on-air. That immediately rules out Hulu, which of course carries far fewer ads than on-air, and sometimes uses custom creative as well. Obviously if the new Nielsen ratings don't truly capture online viewership they'll be worth little in the market. Ratings are a story with many future chapters to come.

    3. AOL acquires StudioNow in bid for to ramp up video content - Also not to be overlooked this week was AOL's acquisition of StudioNow for $36.5 million in cash. StudioNow operates a distributed network of 3,000 video producers, creating cost-effective video for small and large companies alike. I'm very familiar with StudioNow, having spoken with their CEO and founder David Mason a number of times.

    AOL is clearly looking to leverage the StudioNow network to generate a mountain of new video content, complementing its Seed.com "content farm." In addition, AOL picks up StudioNow's recently-launched Video Asset Management & Syndication Platform (AMS) which gives it video management capabilities as well. For AOL the deal suggests the company is finally waking up to video's vast potential. But with the rise of online video syndication, it's still a question mark whether creating a whole lot of new video is the right strategy, or whether AOL would have been better served by just partnering with a syndicator like 5Min.

    Meanwhile, AOL isn't the only portal realizing video is the place to be. In Yahoo's earnings call this week, CEO Carol Bartz said "Frankly, our competition is television" and as Liz wrote, Bartz also said "that makes video really important." Yahoo just partnered with Ben Silverman's new Electus indie video shop, and it sounds like more action is coming. Geez, the prospect of AOL and Yahoo competing on acquisitions? It would be like the old days again.

    4. Net Neutrality webinar next Thursday is going to be awesome - A reminder that next Thurs, Feb. 4th at 11am PT/2pm ET The Diffusion Group and VideoNuze will present a complimentary webinar "Demystifying Net Neutrality." The webinar is the first in a series of 6 throughout 2010, exclusively sponsored by ActiveVideo Networks. Colin Dixon from TDG and I will be hosting and we have 2 fabulous guests, who are on opposing sides of the net neutrality debate: Barbara Esbin, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Communications and Competition Policy at the Progress and Freedom Foundation and Chris Riley, Policy Counsel for Free Press.

    Net neutrality is a critically important part of the landscape for over-the-top video services, and yet it is widely misunderstood. Join us for this one-hour session which promises to be educational and impactful.

    REGISTER NOW - IT'S FREE!

    Enjoy your weekend!

     
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  • Join Me for Net Neutrality Webinar With TDG on Thurs. Feb 4th

    I'm excited to announce that VideoNuze has partnered with The Diffusion Group, one of the leading digital media research firms, to host a series of 6 complimentary webinars in 2010. The webinars are sponsored exclusively by ActiveVideo Networks. Each webinar will focus on one specific topic key to the evolving online video/digital media landscape (suggestions are welcome btw!). Colin Dixon from TDG and I will host the webinars and we will also have 1-2 expert guests joining us each time to provide diverse perspectives and insight.

    The first webinar in the series will be "Demystifying Net Neutrality" on Thursday, February 4th at 11am PT / 2pm ET. If you're in the digital media industry, it's been hard to miss the intense recent debate over net neutrality, sparked by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's speech last September, which called for the FCC to impose unprecedented new Internet regulations. However, earlier this month, the DC Court of Appeals indicated it may invalidate the FCC's 2008 order punishing Comcast for blocking BitTorrent traffic, suggesting the FCC may not even have proper authority to regulate the Internet after all. Meanwhile, large and small media and technology companies have continued to heavily lobby the FCC, providing data and arguments on both sides of the issue.

    Net neutrality is so important, the argument goes, because as new over-the-top players (e.g. Netflix, Xbox, Roku, Boxee, etc.) seek to bring video services into the home, they need to be assured their services won't be impaired by broadband ISPs like cable operators Comcast and Time Warner Cable or telcos like Verizon and AT&T, who also happen to be the largest incumbent video providers themselves. Opponents essentially argue that net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem, and that the Internet has thrived until now due to the government keeping its hands off, and it should stay that way.

    On the webinar, Colin and I will untangle all of this, with the assistance of Chris Riley, Policy Counsel for Free Press, a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media, which is a leading proponent of net neutrality and another guest, TBD who is opposed to net neutrality. The webinar promises to be a deep-dive educational session examining all of net neutrality's pros and cons. For anyone with a stake in broadband/online content delivery, it will be a must attend session.

    REGISTER NOW - IT'S FREE!

     
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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Oct 19th Week (FCC/Net neutrality, Cisco research, Netflix earnings, Yahoo-GroupM)

    Following are 4 items worth noting from the Oct 19th week:

    1. FCC kicks off net neutrality rulemaking process among flurry of input - As expected, the FCC kicked off its net neutrality rulemaking process yesterday, with all commissioners voting to explore how to set rules regulating the Internet for the first time, though Republican appointees dissented on whether new rules were in fact needed.

    Leading up to the vote there was a flurry of input by stakeholders and Congress. Everyone agrees on the "motherhood and apple pie" goal that the Internet must remain open and free. The disagreement is over whether new rules are required to accomplish this, and if there are to be new rules what specifically should they be. As I argued here, the FCC is treading into very tricky waters, and law of unintended consequences looms. Already telco executives are talking about curtailing investments in network infrastructure, the opposite of what the FCC is trying to foster. The FCC will be seeking input from stakeholders as part of the process. Even though chairman Genachowski's bias to regulate is very clear, let's hope that as the data and facts are presented, the FCC is able to come to right decision, which is to leave the well-functioning Internet alone.

    2. New Cisco research substantiates video, social networking usage - Speaking of the well-functioning Internet, Cisco released its Visual Networking Index study this week based on research gathered from 20 leading service providers. Cisco found that the average broadband connection consumes 4.3 gigabytes of "visual networking applications" (video, social networking and collaboration) per month, or the equivalent of 20 short videos. (Note that comScore's Aug data said of the 161 million viewers in the U.S. alone, the average number of videos viewed per month was 157.) I'm not sure what the difference is other than Cisco is measuring global traffic and comScore data is at U.S. only. Regardless, the Cisco research continues to demonstrate that users are shifting to more bandwidth-intensive applications, and the Internet is scaling up to meet their demands.

    3. Netflix reports strong Q3 '09 earnings, streaming usage surges - Netflix continues to stand out as unaffected by the economy's woes, reporting its Q3 results late yesterday that included adding 510,000 net new subscribers, almost double the 261,000 from Q3 '08. The company finished the quarter with 11.1 million subs and projects to end the year with 12 to 12.3 million subs. If Netflix were a cable operator it would be the 3rd largest, just behind Time Warner Cable, which has approximately 13 million video subscribers.

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings also disclosed that 42% of Netflix's subscribers watched a TV episode or movie using the "Watch Instantly" streaming feature during the quarter, up from 22% in Q3 '08. Hastings also said in 2010 the company will begin streaming internationally, even though it has no plans to ship DVDs outside the U.S. He added that in Q4 Netflix will announce yet another CE device on which Watch Instantly will be available (just this week it also announced a partnership with Best Buy to integrate Watch Instantly with Insignia Blu-ray players). Net, net, Watch Instantly looks like it's getting great traction for Netflix and will continue to be a bigger part of the company's mix. Yet as I've mentioned in the past, a key challenge for Netflix is making more content available for streaming.

    4. Yahoo's pact with GroupM for original branded entertainment raises more questions - Shifting gears, Yahoo and GroupM, the media buying powerhouse announced a deal this week to begin co-producing original branded entertainment for advertisers. The idea is to then distribute the video throughout Yahoo's News, Sports, Finance and Entertainment sections. GroupM has had some success in the past, as its "In the Motherhood" series, created for Sprint and Unilever, was picked up by ABC, though it was quickly canceled. As I pointed out in my recent post about Break Media, branded entertainment initiatives continue to grow.

    Less clear to me is Yahoo's approach to video. CEO Carol Bartz said last month that "video is so crucial to our users and our advertisers..." that "there's a big emphasis inside Yahoo on our video platforms" and that "a big cornerstone of our strategy is video." OK, but these comments came just months after Yahoo closed down its Maven Networks platform, which it had only acquired in Feb '08. Having spent time at Maven, I can attest that its technology would have been well-suited to supporting the engagement and interactivity requirements of these new Yahoo-GroupM branded entertainment projects. Yahoo's video strategy, such as it is, remains very confusing to me.

    Note there will be no VideoNuze email on Monday as I'll be in Denver moderating the Broadband Video Leadership Breakfast at the CTAM Summit...enjoy your weekend!

     
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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Oct 12th Week (Bell's TMN, BlackArrow-Comcast, Net neutrality opposition, hockey's wunderkind)

    Following are 4 items worth noting from the week of Oct 12th week:

    1. Bell Canada is first to offer "TV Everywhere" type service - While U.S. operators have been busy with their TV Everywhere trials, Bell Canada, which has 1.8 million linear video subscribers, has jumped into the lead, announcing this week the launch of "TMN Online." The service, available through the Bell TV Online portal, allows subscribers to The Movie Network premium channel to gain online access to about 130 hours of content.

    I spoke briefly with Peter Wilcox, Bell TV's director of product strategy, who explained that ExtendMedia's OpenCASE is being used for content management, in conjunction with Microsoft's Silverlight and PlayReady DRM. Users login with their Bell user name and password and are authenticated against the billing database as valid TMN subs. Only 1 simultaneous log-in is allowed, and Bell is also geo-blocking, so for example, there's no accessing TMN Online from outside Canada. The launch is part of what Bell calls "TV Anywhere" - a broader context for eventual distribution to its mobile subscribers, and further content being added. The deployment is the first milestone in what promises to be a busy 2010 on the TV Everywhere news front.

    2. BlackArrow launches ad insertion for Comcast video-on-demand - BlackArrow, the multiplatform ad technology provider, announced its first customer deployment this week, with Comcast's Jacksonville, FL operation. I talked to company CEO Dean Denhart and President Nick Troiano, who gave me an update on how the company dynamically inserts ads in long-form premium content across TV, broadband and mobile. As I wrote 2 years ago, BlackArrow has bitten off the hardest challenge first: working with cable operators to get its system into their headends/data centers. Dean and Nick believe that if the company can succeed in this goal then it will have created formidable differentiation that can be leveraged for the other two platforms.

    The key risk is that cable operators are famous for grinding down promising technology startups with their endless testing and brutal negotiating tactics (I say this from personal experience with a promising technology startup earlier this decade, Narad Networks). Robust VOD ad insertion is plenty strategic for the industry, but years since cable operators launched free VOD, the fact that it still isn't widely deployed is a telling sign, particularly while ad insertion technology in broadband is now fully mature. Comcast's role as an investor in BlackArrow should help its odds of success. I'm rooting for BlackArrow; their holistic approach to multiplatform advertising is right on. Whether they have the juice to fully succeed remains the big question.

    3. Political battle over net neutrality is heating up - This week brought fresh complaints from Republican Senators who are coalescing to fend off new FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to introduce net neutrality regulations for both broadband ISPs and wireless carriers. B&C reported that 18 Republican senators wrote to Mr. Genachowski concerned that the FCC's process is "outcome driven" and unsupported by data.

    I rarely find my views aligning with Republicans, but net neutrality is an exception. As I wrote last month in "Why the FCC's Net Neutrality Plans Should Go Nowhere," Mr. Genachowski's plan is deeply flawed and completely illogical. The core premise of the new regulations - that they're needed to ensure continued broadband investment and innovation - misses the reality that the market is already functioning well. As one example, investment in broadband-related technology is continuing apace. By my calculations, over $180 million was raised in Q3 '09 by video-related companies whose very viability depends on open broadband and wireless networks. The sector's potential is amplified by the fact that venture capital fundraising itself is at its lowest level since 2003, with new capital raised by the industry in 2009 down 58% from 2008. Despite the VC industry's troubles, it continues to bet big on video. Why do we need new Internet regulations to sustain innovation?

    4. Have you seen the 9 year-old hockey player's trick goal? On a lighter note, you have to love the serendipity of online video sharing. For example, though I don't consider myself a hockey fan, when a friend sent me this video clip of a 9 year-old hockey player pulling off this incredible trick shot, I was reminded just how much fun online video is and promptly passed the clip on to my circle (it's also now all over YouTube). See for yourself, it's just amazing. And nothing fake about it either.

    Enjoy the weekend!

     
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  • Recapping 5 Broadband Video Predictions for 2009

    For those who weren't up for reading 700-1,000 words each day last week, today I offer a quick recap my 5 broadband video projections for 2009.

    1. The Syndicated Video Economy Accelerates

    This one is easily my least controversial prediction, since I've been writing about this trend for most of 2008. The "SVE" as I call it, is an ecosystem of video content providers, distributors and the technology companies who facilitate their relationships. In '08 video content providers increasingly realized that widespread distribution to the sites that users already frequent would improve on the "one central destination site" approach. That's a big change in the traditional media mentality. In '09 the SVE will only accelerate, as the technology building blocks for distributing, monetizing and measuring syndicated video continues to improve. To be sure, the SVE is still nascent, but many companies across the broadband landscape have begun embracing it in earnest.

    2. Mobile Video Takes Off, Finally

    In '08 VideoNuze has been mainly focused on wired broadband delivery of video to homes and businesses. But as the year has progressed, powerful new mobile devices have mutated the definition of broadband to also include wireless delivery. The huge success of the iPhone and other newer video-capable devices, coupled with 3G, and soon 4G networks, have contributed to mobile delivery finally realizing some of its long-held promise. Still, as some of you commented, obstacles remain. iPhones don't support Flash, the most popular video format. Wireless carriers are careful with doling out too much bandwidth for video apps. And so on. Still, '08 was a big year for video delivery to mobile devices, and I think '09 will be even bigger.

    3. Net Neutrality Remains Dormant

    Proponents of "net neutrality" legislation, which would codify the Internet's level playing field, expected that under an Obama administration they would finally be granted their wish, particularly since he supported the concept on the campaign trail. But I'm predicting that net neutrality will be dormant for yet another year. Mr. Obama has been emphatic about basing policy decisions on facts and data, and this is an area where net neutrality advocates continue to come up short as there's yet to be any sustained and proven ISP misbehavior. With Mr. Obama and his team having urgent fires to address all around them, there are only two scenarios I can see that move net neutrality up the prioritization list: a startling new pattern of ISP misbehavior or some kind of deal ISPs agree to in exchange for infrastructure buildout subsidies from the stimulus package.

    4. Ad-Supported Premium Video Aggregators Shakeout

    One of the best-funded categories of the broadband landscape has been aggregators of premium-quality video - TV programs, movies and other well-produced video. These companies have been thought of as potential long-term online competitors to today's video distributors (cable/satellite/telco). However, it's proving very difficult for these sites to differentiate themselves. Content is commonly available, user experience advantages are hard to maintain, user acquisition is not straightforward, audiences are fragmented and ad dollars are under pressure. All of this means that '09 will see a shakeout among the many players in this category, though it's hard to predict at this point who will be left standing (though at a minimum I expect Hulu and Fancast to be in this group).

    5. Microsoft Will Acquire Netflix

    My long-ball prediction was that at some point in '09 Microsoft will acquire Netflix. Though many of you emailed me offering kudos for boldness, not many are buying into my prediction. Fair enough, I'll either be flat-out wrong on this one or I'll get a gold star for prescience. I provided my rationale, which starts with the assumption that Apple and Google (Microsoft's two fiercest rivals in the consumer space) are best-positioned for success in the battle for the biggest consumer prize of the next 10 years: delivering broadband video services directly to the TV.

    I think Microsoft needs to directly play in this space, and Netflix is a perfect vehicle. It has a great brand, a large and loyal subscriber base and excellent back-end fulfillment systems. In 2008 Netflix great strides in broadband, building out its "Watch Instantly" feature. Yet to grow WI's catalog from its current 12K titles to anything approaching the 100K+ available by DVD will require deep financial resources to deal with a recalcitrant Hollywood, and also shelter from quarter-to-quarter earnings pressures. Netflix's measured approach to broadband is consistent with its historical overall operating style. While that style has worked exceedingly well in the past, the broadband-to-the-TV service landscape is wide open right now, and Netflix should be pursuing in a thoughtful, yet ultra-aggressive way. Combined with Microsoft it would be poised to become the broadband video category leader over the next 10 years.

    OK, there's the summary. I'll be checking back in on these as the year progresses.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
  • Penthera full banner - 3-10-20
  • Debunking the Paranoia Around Comcast's ISP Policies

    While much of the world was on vacation last week, yet another Comcast-related fracas broke out in the blogosphere, this time over the company's latest update to its broadband internet access policies. While this latest flap cements Comcast's status as the favorite target of those who put a totally unfettered Internet on a par with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, my immediate reaction was more "what's the big deal?"

    The latest fracas centers on a seemingly innocuous, yet possibly longer-term significant change in Comcast's "Acceptable Use Policy" which governs how much use you can get out of your Comcast High-Speed Internet service each month. In the past there was no theoretical limit, though Comcast says it always had on eye on its heaviest users (under 1% of its total base of 14 million) who would be contacted when an undisclosed threshold was reached. Last Thursday, Comcast posted a change in its AUP stating that starting October 1st, the usage cap would be 250GB/mo.

    The blogosphere's reaction was immediate and sometimes raucously over-the-top (one well-known blogger pronounced the change "the end of the Internet as we know it"). While Comcast tried to translate the 250GB cap into say, how many emails a user could send each month (50 million) or songs that could be downloaded (62,500), others began furiously crunching the numbers to see more extreme scenarios, like how many HD movies/mo you'd be able to download.

    For my part, I believe that Comcast's new cap - like much of the swirl surrounding its recent BitTorrent throttling - is much ado about nothing, at least for now. Where others see a raging fire threatening to burn down the Internet, I barely see signs of smoke just yet.

    Yesterday I peppered Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas with questions about the cap. While I had to ask several times whether it is intended to stifle broadband video consumption in any way (a favorite conspiracist belief), Charlie finally did provide an emphatic "no." He cited Comcast's own Fancast broadband portal as a key company priority, which itself would be harmed by any sort of broadband crackdown.

    For sure some of you are thinking, "yeah but Will, he's their PR guy, what do you expect him to say?! Why do you believe him?!"

    Fair questions. But contrary to the end-of-the-world crowd, I don't think Comcast has any sinister hidden motives with the cap, or with its network management policies. I do however think that Comcast does not take enough care in determining its policies or communicating them to its broadband users and other constituencies. Combined, these feed the distrust and dislike of Comcast that seems to be pervasive.

    Even in my conversation with Charlie yesterday I found myself having several "huh?" moments that seem to strain credulity. For example:

    Q: Why set a cap and especially one that's so high that it has little practical effect? A: Well, our customer feedback told us we needed to have a cap.

    Q: How was the cap size determined? A: We thought it was a generous amount. Q: But the specific size? A: We thought it was a generous amount.

    Q: Why release news of the cap in the last week of the summer (when many are on vacation and not paying attention) and in the midst of the ongoing FCC network management issue, instead of rolling out a comprehensive new plan that could be messaged accordingly? A: The cap and the FCC network management have nothing to do with each other, they are separate issues. Q: But in the media's coverage and public's perception, they are all considered part of the same picture. A: The cap and the FCC network management have nothing to do with each other, they are separate issues.

    Q: Now that there's a formal cap, how about providing a simple tool so users can monitor their monthly usage, like cell phone companies do? A: Heavy users know how to find these tools; someone just told me last week that a Google search for "bandwidth meter" yields 290,000 hits. Q: Yes, but how about just offering a tool as a "good neighbor" gesture that your customers would appreciate? A: The cap is irrelevant to 99% of our users.

    No doubt you'll find these answers as confounding as I do. All I can conclude is that 10+ years into the broadband game, Comcast still hasn't recognized how vital its broadband service is to its users nor how it has become part of a far-larger tableau including freedom of speech, the economy and American competitiveness. Comcast's seeming tone-deafness to all of this was fully evident in its continuously revised responses to the FCC's BitTorrent inquiry earlier this year.

    This explanation will strike many as too generous and trusting. However, until I see real evidence of perniciousness on Comcast's part, to think anything else just feels like paranoia to me.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
  • Penthera full banner - 3-10-20
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