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Analysis for 'News Corp'

  • 5 Items of Interest for the Week of Oct. 4th

    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!

    Verizon to Launch 4G LTE Networks in 38 Markets
    Verizon will enable 5-12 megabit/second mobile data speeds in 38 markets, reaching 110 million Americans by the end of the year. The 4G technology, known as "LTE" promises a major new growth opportunity for HD mobile video, making smartphones and tablets even more appealing as video viewing devices.

    Time Warner Sees Ally in Web
    Time Warner's CEO Jeff Bewkes understands the Google TV value proposition, explaining that it will help program discovery and provide another option for paying subscribers to view. Those sentiments echo what I said in my initial thoughts on Google TV, that incumbent TV networks should be enthusiastic about Google TV because it doesn't disrupt their business models, but - by fully tying in the Internet - creates all kinds of new on-screen engagement opportunities. I expect other TV networks will follow soon.

    Sony's Crackle movie and TV streaming service debuts on Android phone app
    In a sea of new Android app releases, the new app from Crackle stands out because it offers streaming of full-length TV shows and movies on all Android devices. I sampled it this week on my Droid X and the video quality was outstanding. With the launch of LTE from Verizon later this year (see above), the quality bar will be raised further. Given Android's momentum, all premium quality video providers (e.g. TV networks, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc.) should be optimizing their content for it.

    Rupert Murdoch: Simultaneous Theater-VOD Release 'a Big Mistake'
    A word of caution from News Corp head Rupert Murdoch: so-called "premium VOD" - where theatrical release windows shorten to allow for a new high-priced home VOD option - is a mistake. Murdoch didn't give further details, though he does see some window compression happening. I continue to argue premium VOD would be a wrongheaded move by pay-TV operators who should be focusing on new ways to deliver more programming for lower prices (to compete better with Netflix, etc.) than less programming for higher prices.

    Ford revs up Web series
    The latest branded entertainment entry is from Ford, which has partnered with the producers of "The Amazing Race" to create "Focus Rally: America" a new series serving as pre-launch marketing for Ford's new Focus cars that will be featured on Hulu. Ford will use the series to highlight the SYNC and MyFord Touch entertainment/navigation options. Branded entertainment continues to gain steam as an augment to traditional TV advertising as the format allows brands to tell a fuller story in a more immersive context than 30-second TV spots allow.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
     
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  • 5 News Items of Interest for the Week of Aug 23rd

    Following is the latest update to VideoNuze's new Friday feature, highlighting 5-6 of the most intriguing industry news items from the week that VideoNuze wasn't able to cover.

    Ads skipped by 86% of TV viewers, but TV ads still most memorable

    A new Deloitte survey unsurprisingly finds high rates of ad skipping among DVR users watching time-shifted programs, yet also notes that 52% of respondents say TV advertising is more memorable than any other type (only 2% cited online video advertising). Is there a love-hate relationship with good old TV advertising?

    Endemol USA Plans Kobe Bryant Web Series
    Online video continues attracting celebrities, with the latest being LA Laker star Kobe Bryant, who will be featured in 8 episodes teaching Filipino kids about hoops. The series is being produced and promoted by powerhouse Endemol. More evidence that independent online video is gaining.

    NFL Sunday Ticket To-Go, Without DirecTV
    DirecTV unbundles its popular NFL package, selling online access to non-subscribers for $350. It's not clear there will be many takers at this price point, but it does raise interesting possibilities about unbundled subscribers connecting to their TVs and also how sports will be impacted by online and mobile viewing.

    TiVo Launches Remote with Slide-Out Keyboard
    TiVo is enhancing navigation with a long-awaited keyboard that slides out of its standard-shaped remote control for $90. With TiVo's new Premiere box offering more video choices than ever, quicker navigation is required. As other connected devices hit the market, it will be interesting to see what clever solutions they come up with too.

    MTVN's Greg Clayman Heads to News Corp to Lead iPad Newspaper
    Amid the ongoing shuffle of digital media executives, MTV Networks lost a key leader in Greg Clayman, who's moving to News Corp to head up their new iPad newspaper. Greg's been on VideoSchmooze panels and we've done webinars together; he always brings great insights as well as a terrific sense of humor.
     
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  • Back from the Vacation? Here Are 7 Video Items You May Have Missed

    Happy New Year. If you're just back from a holiday vacation and have been partially or totally off the grid for the last week or two, here are 7 video-oriented items you may have missed:

    1. Time Warner Cable and News Corp fight over fees, then settle - Two behemoths of the cable and broadcast TV ecosystem spatted publicly during the holidays over the size of "retransmission consent" fees that News Corp (owner of the Fox Broadcast Network and cable channels like Fox News) wanted TWC (the 2nd largest U.S. cable operator) to pay to carry its 14 local stations. While a last minute deal averted the channels going dark, broadcasters' interest in dipping into cable's monthly subscription revenues will only intensify as audience fragmentation accelerates and ad revenues are pressured.

    For my part I wish Fox and other broadcasters were as focused on building new and profitable digital delivery models for their programs as they were on trying to redistribute cable's revenues. Even as Rupert Murdoch continues advocating the paid content model, the freely-available Hulu is seeing its traffic skyrocket (see below). But if Hulu's viewership isn't incrementally profitable, then all that growth is pointless. Urgency is mounting too; in '10 convergence devices that bridge broadband to the TV are going to get a lot of attention. In the wake of their adoption, consumers are going to want Hulu on their TVs. If Hulu doesn't allow this it will be marginalized. But if it does without first solidifying its business model, it could hurt broadcasters further.

    2. Hulu has a big traffic year, but no further information provided on its business model - Hulu's CEO Jason Kilar pulled back the curtain a bit on the company's strong progress in 2009, citing 95% growth in monthly users, to 43 million, 307% growth in monthly streams, to 924 million (both as measured by comScore) and a doubling of available content, to 14,000 hours. While noting that its advertisers increased from 166 to 408 during the year, with respect to performance, Jason only said that "we are extremely excited about atypically strong results we have been able to drive for our marketing partners."

    Though Hulu is under no obligation to disclose details of its business model, I think it would dramatically increase the company's credibility if it shared some metrics about how its lighter ad load model is working (e.g. improved awareness, click throughs, leads, conversions, etc.). Per the 1st item above, as Hulu grows, a lot of people have a lot at stake in understanding what effect it may have on broadcast economics. In addition, as I pointed out recently, it is important to understand whether Hulu thinks it may have already saturated its U.S. audience. After a jump in Q1 '09 from 24.6 million to 41.6 million users, traffic actually dipped below 40 million until October. What does Hulu do from here to gain significantly more users?

    3. Cable networks' primetime audience is nearly double broadcasters' - Punctuating the ascendancy of cable over broadcast, this Multichannel News article pointed out that in 2009, ad-supported cable networks as a group captured 60.7% of primetime audience vs. 32% for the 4 broadcast networks. That's a major change from 2000 when the broadcasters had a 46.8% share vs. cable's 41.2%. Cable increased its share every single year of the last decade, powered by its innovative original programming. NBCU's USA Network in particular has become the real standout performer, winning its second consecutive ratings crown, with 3.2 million average primetime viewers, up 14% vs. 2008.

    The surging popularity of cable programming is a crucial barrier to consumers cutting the cord on cable. Since cable networks are highly invested in the monthly multichannel subscription model, they are unlikely to disrupt themselves by offering their best shows to others under substantially different terms than how they're offered today. So to the extent cable programs are either unavailable to over-the-top alternatives or offered less attractively (e.g. less choice, higher cost, delayed availability), little cord-cutting can be expected. And if TV Everywhere achieves its online access goals, the cable ecosystem will only be further strengthened.

    4. YouTube is working to drive higher viewership - Amidst the turmoil in the traditional ecosystem and Hulu's growth, YouTube, the 800 pound gorilla of the online video world, is working hard to deepen the site's viewership. As this insightful NYTimes article explains, a team of YouTube developers is analyzing viewing patterns and tweaking its recommendation practices to encourage more usage. YouTube says time on the site has increased by 50% in the last year, and comScore reports that the average number of clips viewed per user per month jumped to 83 in October, up from 53 a year earlier. Still, as comScore also reports, duration of an average session has yet to crack 4 minutes, meaning video snacking on YouTube is still the norm. YouTube's moves must be watched closely in '10.

    5. Showtime's "Weeds" available online before on DVD - This WSJ article (reg req'd) pointed out that Lionsgate, producer of Showtime's hit "Weeds" series is offering episodes online before they're available on DVD. By putting the digital "window" ahead of DVD's, Lionsgate is further pressuring DVD's appeal. We've seen periodic experimentation in this regard, and I anticipate more to come, especially as the universe of convergence devices expands and consumers can watch on their TVs instead of just their computers. Until a tipping point occurs though, "Weeds" like initiatives will be the exception, not the rule.

    6. Netflix goes shopping in Hollywood - And speaking of reversing distribution windows, this Bloomberg Businessweek piece was the latest to highlight Netflix's efforts to woo studios into giving it more recent releases. Netflix has of course made huge progress with its Watch Instantly streaming feature, but its appeal to heaviest users will slow at some point unless it can dramatically expand its current slate of 17K titles available online. Hollywood is understandably wary of Netflix given all the variables in play and a desire to avoid Netflix becoming master of Hollywood's post-DVD, digital future. Whether Netflix will spend heavily to obtain better rights is a major question.

    7. Get ready for Google's Nexus One and Apple's "iSlate" - Unless you've really been off the grid, you're probably aware by now that two very significant mobile product releases are coming this month. Tomorrow (likely) Google will unveil the Nexus One, its own smartphone, powered by its Android 2.1 operating system. The Nexus One will be "unlocked," meaning it can operate on multiple providers using GSM networks. The device will further fuel the mobile Internet, and mobile video consumption along with it. Separately, Apple is widely rumored to introduce its tablet computer later in the month, which many believe will be called the "iSlate." The tablet market is completely virgin territory, and while it's early to make predictions, I believe Apple could have most of the ingredients needed to make the product another big hit. The prospect of watching high-quality video on a thin, light, user-friendly device is extremely compelling.

     
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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Nov 2nd Week (Q3 earnings review, Blu-ray streaming, Apple lurks, "Anywhere" coming)

    Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 2nd week:

    1. Media company and service provider earnings underscore improvements in economy - This was earnings week for the bulk of the publicly-traded media companies and video service providers, and the general theme was modest increases in financial performance, due largely to the rebounding economy. The media companies reporting - CBS, News Corp, Time Warner. Discovery, Viacom and the Rainbow division of Cablevision - showed ongoing strength in their cable networks, with broadcast networks improving somewhat from earlier this year. For ad-supported online video sites, plus anyone else that's ad-supported, indications of a healthier ad climate are obviously very important.

    Meanwhile the video service providers reporting - Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV all showed revenue gains, a clear reminder that even in recessionary times, the subscription TV business is quite resilient. Cable operators continued their trend of losing basic subscribers to emerging telco competitors (with evidence that DirecTV might now be as well), though they were able to offset these losses largely through rate increases. Though some people believe "cord-cutting" due to new over-the-top video services is real, this phenomenon hasn't shown up yet in any of the financial results. Nor do I expect it will for some time either, as numerous building blocks still need to fall into place (e.g. better OTT content, mass deployment of convergence devices, ease-of-use, etc.)

    2. Blu-ray players could help drive broadband to the TV - Speaking of convergence devices, two articles this week highlighted the role that Blu-ray players are having in bringing broadband video to the living room. The WSJ and Video Business both noted that Blu-ray manufacturers see broadband connectivity as complementary to the disc value proposition, and are moving forward aggressively on integrating this feature. Blu-ray can use all the help it can get. According to statistics I recently pulled from the Digital Entertainment Group, in Q3 '09, DVD players continue to outsell Blu-ray players by an almost 5 to 1 ratio (15 million vs. 3.3 million). Cumulatively there are only 11.2 Blu-ray compatible U.S. homes, vs. 92 million DVD homes.

    Still, aggressive price-cutting could change the equation. I recently noticed Best Buy promoting one of its private-label Insignia Blu-ray players, with Netflix Watch Instantly integrated, for just $99. That's a big price drop from even a year ago. Not surprisingly, Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandros said "streaming apps are the killer apps for Blu-ray players." Of course, Netflix execs would likely say that streaming apps are also the killer apps for game devices, Internet-connected TVs and every other device it is integrating its Watch Instantly software into. I've been generally pessimistic about Blu-ray's prospects, but price cuts and streaming could finally move the sales needle in a bigger way.

    3. Apple lurks, but how long will it stay quiet in video? - The week got off to a bang with a report that Apple is floating a $30/mo subscription idea by TV networks. While I think the price point is far too low for Apple to be able to offer anything close to the comprehensive content lineup current video service providers have, it was another reminder that Apple lurks as a major potential video disruptor. How long will it stay quiet is the key question.

    While in my local Apple store yesterday (yes I'm preparing to finally ditch my PC and go Mac), I saw the new 27 inch iMac for the first time. It was a pretty stark reminder that Apple is just a hair's breadth away from making TVs itself. Have you seen this beast yet? It's Hummer-esque as a workstation for all but the creative set, but, stripped of some of its computing power to cost-reduce it, it would be a gorgeous smaller-size TV. Throw in iTunes, a remote, decent content, Apple's vaunted ease-of-use and of course its coolness cachet and the company could fast re-order the subscription TV industry, not to mention the TV OEM industry. The word on the street is that Apple's next big product launch is a "Kindle-killer" tablet/e-reader, so it's unlikely Steve Jobs would steal any of that product's thunder by near-simultaneously introducing a TV. If a TV's coming (and I'm betting it is), it's likely to be 2H '10 at the earliest.

    4. Get ready for the "Anywhere" revolution - Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to Emily Green, president and CEO of tech research firm Yankee Group, deliver a keynote in which she previewed themes and data from her forthcoming book, "Anywhere: How Global Connectivity is Revolutionizing the Way We Do Business." Emily is an old friend, and 15 years ago when she was a Forrester analyst and I was VP of Biz Dev at Continental Cablevision (then the 3rd largest cable operator), she was one of the few people I spoke to who got how important high-speed Internet access was, and how strategic it would become for the cable industry. 40 million U.S. cable broadband homes later (and 70 million overall) amply validates both points.

    Emily's new book explores how the world will change when both wired and wireless connectivity are as pervasive as electricity is today. No question the Internet and cell phones have already dramatically changed the world, but Emily makes a very strong case that we ain't seen nothing yet. I couldn't help but think that TV Everywhere is arriving just in time for video service providers whose customers increasingly expect their video anywhere, anytime and on any device. "Anywhere" will be a must-read for anyone trying to make sense of how revolutionary pervasive connectivity is.

    Enjoy your weekends!

     
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  • Broadcast TV Stations Most Threatened by Broadband/On-Demand

    Last week a journalist interviewing me for a story asked: "Which industry or industries are potentially threatened the most by the rise of broadband video and on-demand usage?"

    It's a tough question to answer because there are so many different variables at play. However, if pressed, my answer would have to be local broadcast TV stations. Taking aside the current WGA strike which exposes yet another industry vulnerability, local TV stations find themselves on the short end of just about every macro trend being driven by broadband and on-demand adoption. To thrive in the future, stations are going to have to radically reinvent their business models. It's by no means an impossible task, but it is going to require savvy and aggressive strategic moves.

    Consider the perfect storm local stations are up against:

    1. Broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) are avidly pursuing broadband distribution of their hit shows, creating competition to the traditional model of geographic programming exclusivity for local stations. Initiatives such as Hulu and CBS's Audience Network can be thought of as 'digital replicas" of the old analog affiliate model. Networks have gotten broadband religion; notwithstanding their finessed protestations, they're only going to be increasing their digital bets, leaving their affiliates with new competition for eyeballs at every turn.

    2. On demand viewing is shattering prime time viewership and the all important "lead-in" to late news broadcasts. Between DVRs and VOD, more and more of the world is habituating itself to watching programs when they want to, not when they originally ran. So appointment viewing is out and along with it the concept of audience aggregation. Strip out prime time and the local station needs to build audience for its own shows and newscasts by itself.

    3. Local news, weather and sports content are the mainstays of local newscasts, yet the availability of this kind of content is becoming pervasive and conveniently accessible. Remember when you had to stay up late to find out what the scores were? Doesn't that seem quaint now? These days every spec of information about these key categories is just a click away, further undermining local newscasts' value.

    4. Advertisers have more options than ever and are gradually going to move spending to approaches that are both more ROI-centric (e.g. Google) and a better match for their customers' media behavior. Think about it - if you're a Honda, Scion or Volkswagen dealer targeting younger demos, is local TV really the best way to reach this audience? The range of options for local advertisers is already robust and is only going to become more so in the future.

    All of this said, however, all is not lost by any stretch. With the right leadership, I happen to believe that local stations can find ways to manage their way through the chaotic days ahead. Tops on my list would be embracing broadband as a new programming platform to leverage their local expertise, blasting their content out through every possible distribution path, radically re-training their ad sales teams to be Internet-literate, cross platform-obsessed warriors and re-creating their brands' perceptions for the broadband and on-demand era.

    Broadcast TV stations need to look no further than their cross-town rival newspapers to understand the gale-force competitive winds coming their way. Hopefully with these examples plainly visible, they'll prepare themselves appropriately.

     
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  • Hulu Launches Private Beta

    Not breaking news now, but Hulu lifted the veil of secrecy a bit today, releasing some screen shots and setting up a private beta (I'm trying to yank some strings to get access), in advance of a planned public launch early next year.

    Hulu's been surrounded by a bunch of naysayers from the beginning, though much of the nay-ing has been based on little else than cheap shots about the name, delayed launch, etc. Things that in the grand scheme of things mean virtually nothing in my opinion and only serve to distract attention from the real question at hand: can Hulu become NBC and Fox's (for now) formula for success in the broadband video era?

    Now it's time for Hulu to silence the rabble. Until I get my own hands on it, I'm going to reserve in-depth commentary. But at least several things that look intriguing:

    • Shorter commercial breaks and overlays - Looks like the tension between user focus vs. advertiser focus is skewing toward users. A welcome change from traditional media thinking.
    • Widespread distribution - I've been a big fan of this from the start. Deals with AOL, Yahoo, MySpace, Comcast, etc. ensures that Hulu content is widely available where users already are.
    • More content deals - One of the knocks on Hulu was that neither CBS nor ABC joined up front. However, recent deals with Sony and MGM show Hulu continues to gain traction with other premium providers.
    • Features - Beyond the standard range of embed, full-screen, send-to-friend features, it looks like there's an interesting "custom clip" capability to let users crop out scenes from favorite shows to pass along. This user control could enable massive new short form video inventory and could be a precursor to more interesting and creative user-generated mashups. All of this is highly monetizable.

    More thoughts on Hulu to come.

     
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  • Video Syndication Activity Builds

    fox.jpg

    News earlier this week that Fox Entertainment Group would be working with Brightcove to ramp up its syndication efforts adds to the drumbeat around this trend that was already pretty steady.
     
    Six months ago in my December, 2006 e-newsletter, "7 Broadband Video Trends for 2007", I identified broadband video syndication as important going into 2007. Back then I noted that "Syndication is the handmaiden of the ad-supported broadband video business model. Successful online advertising requires scale and targeting. Syndication provides both." I think we're seeing that play out.
     
    Whether the NBC-News Corp JV, CBS Interactive Audience Network, FEG deal, or countless others I've heard will be announced soon, they all point to same underlying fundamentals. Producing high-quality video is expensive. Content providers want to maximize their ROIs. So they want their content in as many places as possible to aggregate as large an audience as they can, so they can harness online advertising's potential. While none of this is a surprise by online standards, it is a departure from the traditional video models of tight control, limited distribution and exclusive deals.
     
    It's very promising to see the how much progress is being made so quickly to evolve to Internet-centric distribution approaches. More evidence that the media industry's future will be quite different than its past.
     
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  • Change is Afoot in the TV Business - April E-Newsletter

    Change is afoot in the TV business. The traditional world of networks’ hit programs being distributed exclusively through local broadcast TV affiliates is being challenged broadband delivery.

    The challenge began modestly about a year and half ago, but more recently it has picked up significant steam. Back in October 2005 Disney/ABC made headlines with a deal to have select programs available for paid download via iTunes. Next up was a trial in the spring of 2006 to test consumer and advertiser interest in streaming full episodes of select programs at ABC.com. When ABC launched this officially in the fall of 2006, the other major networks joined in the action. By my recent count there are now over 40 progams available for ad-supported, free streaming.

     
    All of this activity surely left broadcast affiliates wondering how they fit into this new direct-to-consumer landscape. Of course ABC allows its owned and operated (O&O) stations to also stream its programs, and FOX has shown a willingness to open up distribution further to all affiliates. Meanwhile, the other networks have not made concrete announcements about how their affiliates fit in.
     
    If local broadcasters accepted any of these assuagements, news from the past few weeks should have doused any cheery feeling they may have maintained. Recently, NBC and News Corp announced that they were setting up a new joint venture to manage the online distribution of their programs, simultaneously inking deals with four of the Internet’s biggest sites, AOL, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo (adding Comcast shortly thereafter). Next, CBS announced its “CBS Interactive Audience Network”, together with deals to have CBS programs distributed through at least ten large web sites, with more surely to follow.

     

    Broadband’s Long Arm Reaches into the Broadcast Industry
    If I were a broadcaster keeping score over the past year-and-a-half, I would say things have gone from bad to worse to (as my 5 year-old would say) worser.
     
    Consider: in less than two years, broadcasters’ competitive position has shifted from a world where all viewers had to tune into their local channels to watch original episodes of “Heroes”, “24”, “CSI” and other hit network programs to a new reality where these programs are going to be dispersed to all the nooks and crannies of the Internet, ready for on-demand consumption by audiences everywhere.
     
    What does this mean for the broadcasters? For starters it means steadily declining audiences as viewers get siphoned off to these new distribution outlets. It also means rising competition just to maintain a parity “user experience” as these other distributors wrap all kinds of interactive and engaging features around these programs (e.g. online contests, blogs, clips, mashups, etc.). And finally, it suggests falling advertising revenues as marketers recognize not only broadcasters’ shrinking audience size, but also that the most desirable demos have moved on and are consuming and interacting around these programs through other outlets.
     
    Based on Broadband Directions’ recent market intelligence report, “The Broadcast Industry and Broadband Video: Confronting New Challenges, Embracing New Opportunities”, my conclusion is that these deals all signal the networks’ clear realization that consumers (particularly the younger, most desirable ones) are changing their behaviors and that if the networks don’t keep pace, they will become dinosaurs themselves.
     
    The networks understand that a broadcast affiliate system established to overcome the geographic limitations of retransmitting analog signals is fast becoming anachronistic in a world of high-quality, boundary-less digital distribution. So, to my mind, their recent initiatives represent nothing short of an attempt by the networks to eventually create a “digital replica” of the analog broadcast model, ensuring that network TV programs reach into the far corners of the Internet, easily accessible to consumers who increasingly live their lives online. The networks’ emphasis on a forward-looking approach, rather than stubborn complacency around the status quo, seems like a smart game plan to me.
     
     How Broadcasters Can Stay in the Game – A Blueprint for Surviving and Thriving
    As many of you know, I believe strongly that broadband’s open delivery platform challenges all incumbent distributors’ business models. The Internet puts entities that stand between producers and viewers in an increasingly perilous position. Their ability to survive and thrive will rely not on their traditional capabilities, but rather on new ones that add new value to viewers’ and advertisers’ expectations.
     

    Therefore, I think there are at least 5 key elements in any plan for local broadcasters to prosper in the broadband era:

     

    1. Become online distributors of networks’ programs
    First, broadcast TV affiliates must aggressively press the networks for equal access in distributing TV programs through their web sites. Access to these programs is “table stakes” for anyone who wants to have equal footing for audience’s attention in the broadband era. I’m not privy to the behind-the-scenes dealings between the affiliate boards and the networks, but for the broadcasters’ sake, I hope they are being relentless in their pursuit of these rights.
     
    2. Invest in creating distinctive local content
    As network programs migrate to other venues, it is imperative that local broadcasters invest in creating content that will appeal to their audiences in their own right. For too long news, weather and traffic have been the broadcasters’ mainstays. Broadband opens up endless possibilities for broadcasters to exercise their creative muscles and boost the appeal of their home-grown programming.
     
    3. Distribute programming around the Internet
    As the saying goes, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” As the networks pursue new Internet outlets, so too must broadcasters tap into new ways of distributing their original content. Broadcasters must realize that audiences outside their traditional transmitting range will also have an interest in some of their original content. By using new online syndication tools and partnerships, broadcasters can extend their reach, and their revenue potential. Witness the recent deal between Yahoo and CBS’s O&Os, which has extended these broadcasters’ reach across Yahoo’s vast network.
     
    4. Harness the enthusiasm of local citizens to contribute video and other content
    Speaking of content, the user-generated variety is no longer a fad monopolized by YouTube. Media companies of all stripes are recognizing that users represent untapped potential as contributors to the creative process. This is particularly true in the local community where broadcasters’ economics cannot allow them to give equal coverage to all local events. The rallying cry should be “go forth carrying your video cameras.” See what the Washington Post, for example, is doing to cultivate local bloggers. Given the right training, incentives and integration, local citizens can make a huge contribution to local broadcasters’ broadband efforts.
     
     5. Create new value propositions for local advertisers
    Last but not least, it is essential that broadcasters create new value propositions for local advertisers. National advertising is seriously at risk with the Internet’s rise. However, local advertising is somewhat insulated by the big online players’ inability to reach into each and every community with a robust content offering. Broadcasters must develop new video ad formats beyond simple pre-rolls, which should include geo-targeting, interactivity and performance-based rates. None of these are easy -- they will all require creativity, persistence and re-training of local sales teams.
     
    Conclusion
    I believe the networks’ march into broadband distribution will be relentless. Just wait until there’s mass availability of consumer devices or other technical approaches that bridge the PC/broadband world with the TV world. This will allow network programming to be carried all the way into the living room, instead of being limited to wherever the computer currently resides. When this unfettered broadband access to the TV occurs, broadband distribution will take another giant, disruptive step forward.
     

    Change is afoot in the TV business. Broadband threatens to re-order the industry’s traditional participants into new winners and losers. Broadcasters need to run fast to stay in the first group. Let’s keep an eye on how they do.

     

     
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  • The TV Industry’s New Call Letters: Y-A-H-O-O, M-S-N, A-O-L and M-Y-S-P-A-C-E?

    Today’s announcement from NBC and News Corp, that they have set up a venture to distribute full length programs plus promotional clips through 4 major distributors (with more to come) heralds a potentially new, and radically different era, for the broadcast, and possibly the cable TV industries.

    In one fell swoop, 2 of the major broadcast networks have granted distribution rights to four of the Internet’s most-trafficked sites. If one assumes that it is inevitable that the broadband/PC world will be linked up with consumers’ living room TVs (whether through AppleTVs, Xboxes, Slingcatchers, etc.), then it sure seems to me as though we are on the brink of seeing a full-scale digital replica of the analog broadcast TV affiliate model being born. If that’s the case, what does that mean for existing players, most notably local broadcast TV stations? And how about cable TV and satellite operators, who have long relied on retransmitting high-quality feeds local broadcast feeds of network programming as a staple of their value proposition?

    I’ve been writing about how the video distribution value chain is being impacted by broadband video for a while now. My March 2006 newsletter, “How Broadband is Changing Video Distribution” recapped my firm’s Q1 2006 report, “How Broadband is Creating a New Generation of Video Distributors: The Market Opportunity for Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Apple and Others”. In this report we identified these companies as a so-called ‘Group of 5” which were best-positioned to benefit as new broadband-centric distributors and explained our reasons for this conclusion.

    Flash forward one year. Today’s announcement cements the distribution heft of 3 of the 5 (Yahoo, MSN and AOL). Meanwhile, Google’s acquisition of YouTube has strengthened its distribution prowess. If it can build on initial partnerships with the many content providers with which it works, its power will only grow. And of course, Apple now boasts almost 60 TV networks and content producers providing programming to iTunes. Its launch of AppleTV strengthens its hand as the hardware provider-of-choice in linking up the broadband and TV worlds.

    We’re exploring all of this in a report we’re (quite coincidentally) working on right now, which examines broadband’s impact on the video distribution value chain. It both updates the Q1 2006 report, and also expands it to include the roles of emerging players such as Joost, BitTorrent, Wal-Mart and others. We’ve been very fortunate to have access to many of the players in the space to gain unparalleled insights into their plans. The report is due out soon. I’ll keep you posted on its progress.

     
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  • WSJ.com Nails User Experience

    At Broadband Directions, one of the mantras is that open broadband access allows all kinds of traditional media companies with no video heritage to get into the video business. Newspapers are a perfect example. Since our report last summer on the top 40 U.S. newspapers, I’ve been closely tracking their progress in broadband video.

    Reading WSJ Online’s coverage of the NBC-News Corp deal I was very impressed with their approach. If you have an online subscription, the page is available by clicking here. Part way into the story, there were 2 video windows displayed, each with a caption describing the video. Clicking the play button resulted in an in-line, high-quality video. One with reporter Martin Peers, and the other an interview with S&P analyst Tuna Amobi. Both with unobtrusive 5 second pre-roll ads. Truly a “multimedia” experience. I thought it was a great example of how far at least one newspaper has come in incorporating video into their presentation of the news. A real user experience win.

    Coicidentally, I’m going to have Bob Leverone, VP of Video at Dow Jones (who oversees WSJ.com video, among other properties) on my Cable Show ’07 panel in Las Vegas on May 9th.

     

    I think it will be a great opportunity for attendees to hear how yet another competitor is moving into video.

     
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