I'm pleased to present the 336th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Like tens of millions of others, Colin and I have been watching our fair share of the Olympics. And like lots of others as well, instead of watching on linear TV, much of our viewing has been via the NBC app. Although linear TV viewing of the Olympics is down this year, NBC has reported that over 2 billion minutes have been streamed.
That reflects a broader shift in viewing behavior over the last few years as consumers move from linear to on-demand viewing using various devices. Colin and discuss the implications of this and what we might see in 2020.
Listen now to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 44 seconds)
I'm pleased to present the 323rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin and I were both very impressed by the demo that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts did at INTX earlier this week of how the X1 set-top box will blend linear TV and online video streams from this summer’s Rio Olympics into one experience.
We both believe this will be a truly breakthrough viewer experience, showcasing X1’s broadband capabilities and the value of the two-way interactive network. We envision Comcast launching a massive marketing campaign in the months leading up to the Olympics highlighting how experiencing the Olympics will be “best on X1,” in turn driving new subscriber acquisitions and upgrades.
More broadly, we discuss how valuable X1 and Comcast’s back-end infrastructure are as a platform for launching new features and services. We touch on how Amazon too is leveraging its platform for its Streaming Partners Program, underscoring the anticipated competition between big video platform owners. The role of a robust platform in determining the ultimate video winners is becoming increasingly clear.
Listen now to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 54 seconds)
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Programmatic video advertising came of age around the recent Super Bowl. Many video publishers, offering an unprecedented volume of pre-roll ads programmatically, sold out all available inventory for 24 hours before the game and 48 hours afterwards at record CPMs.
The Super Bowl of course has special appeal to advertisers because it's perhaps the only TV event where consumers actually make a point of watching and caring about the commercials! But the increasing desire of marketers to supplement buys in big live TV events with online video advertising shows no signs of abating. From the recent Golden Globes and Grammy Awards to the Winter Olympics and Oscars, advertisers are increasingly using the programmatic marketplace to gobble up pre-roll inventory on sites that reach prospective customers.
Online video platform provider thePlatform announced today that it is powering all of the on-demand video for NBC Olympics across desktops, tablets and smartphones. NBC Olympics uses thePlatform's mpx to upload video, manage metadata, create viewing and ad policies, publish video to its main NBCOlympics.com site, "Live Extra" mobile app and syndication to 3rd parties. NBC Olympics' teams are also using mpx's web-based console to manage their video library.
Here's one measure of how popular live streaming is becoming: according to Akamai, yesterday's concurrent men's quarter-final hockey games from Sochi drove 2.5 terabits per second of peak usage on its network, almost 3 times the peak usage of 873 gigabits per second that Akamai saw during the men's 100 meter final, which Usain Bolt won, during the London 2012 games. It's also 56% higher than the 1.6 Tbps peak Akamai delivered during the USA-Russia hockey game last Saturday (which NBC separately said attracted 600K online viewers via its "Live Extra" app). Update - NBC says yesterday's USA-Czech Republic game alone delivered almost 800K online viewers, a new record for "Live Extra."
Since Comcast announced its plan to acquire Time Warner Cable, there have been a number of articles about how broadband is really the main driver of the deal. No doubt broadband is very important, but Comcast still believes there's a lot of life left in its video service. To that end, the company has invested heavily in its X1 set-top box platform.
X1 is a hybrid box, delivering video via traditional "QAM" technology, while including a guide and other interactivity/content via web-based IP technology. Comcast said that X1 played a significant role in Comcast adding subscribers in Q4 '13, for the first time in 6+ years.
I've had an X1 since July, 2012, and to give a sense of its potential, I've shot an 11-minute demo of how X1 handles the NBC Olympics "Live Extra" authenticated app which is tightly integrated with its Xfinity on Demand service for highlights. First, for a little context, I show how "Live Extra" and the NBC Olympics apps work on an iPad.
Adobe has published its Q4 '13 U.S. Digital Video Benchmark report, finding that authenticated TV Everywhere streams more than doubled in 2013 to 574.2 million, up from 222.5 million in 2012. As the graph below shows, 73% of authenticated views occurred on mobile devices, 22% on desktop and less than 5% each on gaming consoles and connected TVs. For the mobile viewing, tablet share more than doubled vs. 2012 to 42%, with smartphone declining to 31%.
Akamai and NBC Sports announced this morning that Akamai will be powering video streaming, site performance and security services for the 2014 Winter Olympics on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will run from February 6-23.
NBC Sports plans to stream over 1,000 hours of Olympics content, double what it did 4 years ago from Vancouver. Streaming will include all 15 sports across 98 different events, plus lots of exclusive content such as interviews, athlete profiles and backstories that have become standard Olympics fare.
I'm pleased to present the 155th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon, senior analyst at The Diffusion Group, who joins from London. First up this week, we discuss AOL's video success and the larger concept of video syndication. Earlier this week, AOL revealed that its video revenues jumped from $10 million 2 years ago to $100 million in 2012, largely due to syndication. Colin and I dig into why syndication is so compelling and what's ahead.
Next up, Colin shares insights he gained from a presentation at the OTTTv World Summit in London by Marina Kalkanis, Head of the BBC's Programmes OnDemand Core Services team, which is responsible for the media and metadata services supporting BBC online. Marina's team oversaw BBC's online simulcast and on demand streaming of the London Olympics.
Colin was impressed by the scale of the BBC's Olympics operation and how video was consumed online and on mobile devices. One key takeaway - BBC found online/mobile complimenting linear TV, similar to NBC's experience in the U.S.
Click here to listen to the podcast (20 minutes, 11 seconds)
NBC was justifiably crowing late yesterday that the London Olympics was the most-watched TV event in U.S. history with 219.4 million viewers, but a more profound long-term takeaway from this year's games is that digital distribution of most of the competitions did not seem to hurt tape-delayed on-air viewing at all.
That was not a foregone conclusion, and given the billions in broadcast rights fees it paid, NBC made a sizable bet that with most competitions live-streamed and available on-demand, audiences would still tune in during ad-rich, prime-time hours, despite already knowing (or having seen) the results. The impact of digital distribution could have gone wrong, driving lower prime-time ratings, creating disgruntled advertisers and embarrassing NBC Sports executives. The fact that it didn't buttresses the argument that for sports in particular, digital delivery is a compliment, not a substitute, for on-air.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 142nd edition of the VideoNuze-TDG Report podcast. In this week's podcast Colin and I first discuss NBC's Olympics video streaming. Despite some high profile criticism, we agree that NBC has actually done a pretty good job and has laid a foundation for live streaming to be an expected part of all Olympics coverage in the future.
Next we review Q2 '12 results from some of the largest pay-TV operators. Video subscriber losses continue, although Q2 is historically a soft quarter. Colin notes that recent TDG research shows the pay-TV value proposition is increasingly challenged and he believes that means higher churn is ahead, with bigger opportunities for OTT options.
Speaking of those options, Aereo announced new low-cost plans and both Colin and I agree that they're a clever way to reduce entry barriers and increase viewing flexibility. It's still early, but we like Aereo's odds of success.
Last up, we note the early demise of the Nexus Q media streaming device, a product that both us called a dud a couple of weeks ago.
Listen in to learn more.
Click here to listen to the podcast (21 minutes, 43 seconds)
There's a major breakthrough in the TV Everywhere landscape to report - Comcast is "auto-verifying" its Xfinity subscribers' access to NBC's online and mobile video streaming of the Summer Olympics. A Comcast spokesperson confirmed that this is the first time TV Everywhere content is being made available to its subscribers without them having to submit their user name and password credentials to gain access.
This is a real milestone as authentication has been widely viewed as a cumbersome process step for subscribers. That's because many people have not created user names and passwords with their pay-TV operator and/or can't remember them. In addition, authentication systems are not yet stable, often requiring repeated log-ins to the same app, and also across different apps (I've had to repeatedly log-in to every TV Everywhere app I've ever used). Exacerbating things, so much online video is freely available that the TV Everywhere login process feels intrusive for users accustomed to immediately being able to watch.
Adobe announced last evening that the BBC will be using the company's "Project Primetime" video platform to deliver live and VOD streaming coverage of the London Olympics, which start tomorrow evening. The BBC win follows news from 2 weeks ago that Adobe is also powering NBC's ambitious NBC Olympics Live Extra app, which will offer 3,500 hours of video. If all goes well from the NBC and BBC efforts, Project Primetime will gain significant credibility from the Olympics, helping position Adobe as a major player in the intensely competitive online video platform space.
For its Olympics coverage, the BBC is using "Primetime Simulcast" which allows it to live stream events across the web, mobile devices and connected TVs. Specifically, a new HTML5 app has been developed using Adobe PhoneGap, a cross-platform toolset. Video is prepared and delivered by Adobe Media Server for both HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) and HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) adaptive bit rate streaming formats. The video player uses the Open Source Media Framework (OSMF).
Video technology provider NeuLion is powering China Network Television's (CNTV) streaming coverage of 5,600 hours of live coverage of the London Olympics, via a new premium service called CNTV 5+ VIP. The service, which is free, has exclusive streaming rights in China. CNTV 5+ VIP is yet another example of how central streaming will be to this summer's games, which start later this week.
Chris Wagner, NeuLion's EVP and co-founder, told me last week that while streaming is ubiquitous in China, what's noteworthy about CNTV 5+ VIP is that it is adaptive and will deliver an HD experience, streaming at an average of 1.6 mbps, compared to most online video in China which is 300-500 kbps. NeuLion is ingesting the linear broadcast and specific event video, encoding and distributing via its CDN as well as providing the video player technology.
Overshadowed this week with the launch of HBO Go is that Synacor has been powering access to the subscriber-only portion of NBC's Olympics video for 14 of its cable operator customers, reaching 9 million subscribers. As Synacor's CEO Ron Frankel told me earlier this week, this is the most extensive TV Everywhere authenticated access instance to date, though it is really just a continuation of the kinds of services Synacor has been offering for years.
Synacor has flown somewhat below the radar as it has steadily built out its content offerings, with deals with 60 different providers now in place (e.g. MLB, NHL, MTV, etc.). Synacor offers a portal to its customers which provides its cable operator customers with single sign-on access via pre-integrated billing and user ID management. This is the same way that TV Everywhere is intended to work as it rolls out. Given its experience, Synacor looks like it will be a key player in making TV Everywhere happen in 2010.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
The Olympic Games continue to be a prime area of broadband video innovation. Following on the heels of the groundbreaking Broadband Olympics from Beijing last summer, yesterday brought news from Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium (which holds the Canadian rights to the 2010 Vancouver Games) of even more extensive broadband Olympic coverage at CTVOlympics.ca and RDSOlympiques.ca.
Alon Marcovici, the VP of Digital Media and Research for the consortium told me yesterday that the every single moment of Olympic competition will be streamed live, so that if you have a broadband connection, you won't miss a moment of the action. I had Alon on a panel I moderated last year at the NAB Show, and his description then of what's involved with this unprecedented coverage was pretty incredible to hear. Broadband has created a whole new workflow, often relying on newer technologies that have not been tested at this scale. It's a bit of a high-wire act, but when it all comes together the payoff for consumers is significant.
For the Vancouver games, the consortium will provide 2,400 hours of online coverage, including a quad-screen mosaic option that will allow the viewer to watch 4 live streams concurrently. Because of the cross-media ownership in Canada, there will be lots of integration with newspaper and radio coverage, as well as bi-lingual (English and French) streams. There's also going to be a real emphasis on user-generated content, such as "Call the Game," a contest where users can overlay their own audio on historic Olympic moments, with entries voted on by other users.
No doubt we'll be hearing more from NBC, which again holds the U.S. rights, about their extensive use of broadband again. Add it all up and the Vancouver Games promise to be another seminal moment in broadband's evolution.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Back on December 16, 2007, I offered up 6 predictions for 2008. As the year winds down, it's fair to review them and see how my crystal ball performed. But before I do, a quick editorial note: each day next week I'm going to offer one of five predictions for the broadband video market in 2009. (You may detect the predictions getting increasingly bolder...that's by design to keep you coming back!)
Now a review of my '08 predictions:
1. Advertising business model gains further momentum
I saw '08 as a year in which the broadband ad model continued growing in importance as the paid model remained in the back seat, at least for now. I think that's pretty much been borne out. We've seen countless new video-oriented sites launch in '08. To be sure many of them are now scrambling to stay afloat in the current ad-crunched environment, and there will no doubt be a shakeout among these sites in '09. However, the basic premise, that users mainly expect free video, and that this is the way to grow adoption, is mostly conventional wisdom now.
The exception on the paid front continues to be iTunes, which announced in October that it has sold 200 million TV episode downloads to date. At $1.99 apiece, that would imply iTunes TV program downloads exceed all ad-supported video sites to date. The problem of course is once you get past iTunes things fall off quickly. Other entrants like Xbox Live, Amazon and Netflix are all making progress with paid approaches, but still the market is held back by at least 3 challenges: lack of mass broadband-to-the-TV connectivity, a robust incumbent DVD model, and limited online delivery rights. That means advertising is likely to dominate again in '09.
2. Brand marketers jump on broadband bandwagon
I expected that '08 would see more brands pursue direct-to-consumer broadband-centric campaigns. Sure enough, the year brought a variety of initiatives from a diverse range of companies like Shell, Nike, Ritz-Carlton, Lifestyles Condoms, Hellman's and many others.
What I didn't foresee was the more important emphasis that many brands would place on user-generated video contests. In '08 there were such contests from Baby Ruth, Dove, McDonald's, Klondike and many others. Coming up in early '09 is Doritos' splashy $1 million UGV Super Bowl contest, certain to put even more emphasis on these contests. I see no letup in '09.
3. Beijing Summer Olympics are a broadband blowout
I was very bullish on the opportunity for the '08 Summer Games to redefine how broadband coverage can add value to live sporting events. Anyone who experienced any of the Olympics online can certainly attest to the convenience broadband enabled (especially given the huge time zone difference to the U.S.), but without sacrificing any video quality. The staggering numbers certainly attested to their popularity.
Still, some analysts were chagrined by how little revenue the Olympics likely brought in for NBC. While I'm always in favor of optimizing revenues, I tried to take the longer view as I wrote here and here. The Olympics were a breakthrough technical and operational accomplishment which exposed millions of users to broadband's benefits. For now, that's sufficient reward.
4. 2008 is the "Year of the broadband presidential election"
With the '08 election already in full swing last December (remember the heated primaries?), broadband was already making its presence known. It only continued as the year and the election drama wore on. As I recently summarized, broadband was felt in many ways in this election cycle. President-elect Obama seems committed to continuing broadband's role with his weekly YouTube updates and behind-the-scenes clips. Still, as important as video was in the election, more important was the Internet's social media capabilities being harnessed for organizing and fundraising. Obama has set a high bar for future candidates to meet.
5. WGA Strike fuels broadband video proliferation
Here's one I overstated. Last December, I thought the WGA strike would accelerate interest in broadband as an alternative to traditional outlets. While it's fair to include initiatives like Joss Wheedon's Dr. Horrible and Strike.TV as directly resulting from the strike, the reality is that I believe there was very little embrace of broadband that can be traced directly to the strike (if I'm missing something here, please correct me). To be sure, lots of talent is dipping its toes into the broadband waters, but I think that's more attributable to the larger climate of interest, not the WGA strike specifically.
6. Broadband consumption remains on computers, but HD delivery proliferates
I suggested that "99.9% of users who start the year watching broadband video on their computers will end the year no closer to watching broadband video on their TVs." My guess is that's turned out to be right. If you totaled up all the Rokus, AppleTVs, Vudus, Xbox's accessing video and other broadband-to-the-TV devices, that would equal less than .1% of the 147 million U.S. Internet users who comScore says watched video online in October.
However, there are some positive signs of progress for '09. I've been particularly bullish on Netflix's recent moves (particularly with Xbox) and expect some other good efforts coming as well. It's unlikely that '09 will end with even 5% of the addressable broadband universe watching on their TVs, but even that would be a good start.
Meanwhile, HD had a banner year. Everyone from iTunes to Hulu to Xbox to many others embraced online HD delivery. As I mentioned here, there are times when I really do catch myself saying, "it's hard to believe this level of video quality is now available online." For sure HD will be more widely embraced in '09 and quality will get even better.
OK, that's it for '08. On Monday the focus turns to what to expect in '09.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Two days ago, I posted "Why NBCOlympics.com's Video Ad Revenues Don't Matter." I'll take the risk today of "beating a dead dog" by writing again about this same topic, for a couple of reasons.
First, there were some great comments on the site and I received many emails both supporting and challenging my arguments. (As a sidenote, I've discovered an interesting dynamic with VideoNuze - though I've repeatedly tried to encourage readers to post comments so all readers are able to see, folks seem more comfortable just emailing me directly for a one-on-one dialogue. I'm not going to resist human nature here, but again, I would love even more if you share your reactions by posting a comment so the whole community benefits!)
Second, the real trigger for writing a follow-up part 2 today is an incident I experienced yesterday. I gave a presentation about broadband video to a group of investors. These were mainly people who are familiar with broadband video, but not necessarily steeped in it. Upon finishing up and opening the Q&A, an early question/comment was, "Hey Will you lay out great points about broadband, yet I just read somewhere earlier this week that even NBC's Olympic video, which should have been a big revenue opportunity if ever there was one, generated little money for NBC and looks like it was a total failure for them. Given that, why should people bother investing in this medium? It doesn't seem promising."
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. This is exactly the perception that I sensed would be created out of the blogosphere's and mainstream media's coverage of eMarketer's NBCOlympics.com revenue estimate. And why it is so vital that people interested in broadband video not get distracted by this single data point. Instead, maintaining perspective about where the industry stands and what needs to be done to grow should be the real focus.
I totally get the point made by people in their comments and emails that video providers must show they can make real money in the broadband medium. Ultimately, that's paramount. In particular it's key that broadband not get tagged as the "digital pennies" medium, in contrast to the traditional "analog dollars" model.
But I'll continue to insist that the path to industry revenues and profits begins by demonstrating the technical/operational viability of the broadband medium, massive user adoption of it and differentiated engagement with it. To be sure, progress is being made on all fronts. Still, there is still a long road ahead to drive significant shifts in advertiser spending to broadband. If you're a media buyer today, you're very intrigued by broadband and are likely experimenting with it.
But you're looking for more proof points before making bigger spending commitments. Can broadband's architecture scale to handle massive traffic loads, or are the Chicken Littles right that the Internet will crash under video's massive weight? Can broadband video's quality compare with TV, and HD in particular? Given the broadband choice, will users in fact shift their consumption patterns? And if they do, how different will their awareness and engagement with ads be? Importantly, when is broadband video actually going to be widely and easily available on TVs, not just computers?
These are but a few of the questions repeatedly being asked. And many of these are what NBCOlympics.com has helped to answer. NBC could have done lots of things to squeeze more money out of its Olympics video (though my guess is that no matter what revenue they generated cynics would have still said, "Is that all?"). Instead they focused on user value/experience and pushed the broadband envelope considerably. Others are doing the same. More needs to be done, and I believe it will.
As the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day." So too with this exciting new medium. Revenues will not gush immediately. Staying focused on the core building blocks is the key. In short, I'm bullish long-term, but highly realistic short-term.
What do you think? Please post a comment! Or send me an email if you really prefer!
There was much reporting yesterday of eMarketer's estimate that NBC generated revenue of $5.75 million from its broadband Olympics video. The firm's press release dismissively called the sum "a passable performance." Others, from the blogosphere to mainstream media piled on, characterizing NBC's video revenues as underwhelming, using terms such as "pittance," "piddling," and "unimpressive."
Let's hold on a second here. At the risk of sounding like an irrepressible NBC supporter, I'd like to offer the alternative viewpoint: NBCOlympics.com's video ad revenues actually don't matter.
Don't get me wrong, when it comes to high-stakes Olympics broadcasting - and a sagging economy to boot - every dime counts. Rather, my point is that by focusing on the broadband ad number (which at virtually any level would have been a mere rounding error on NBC's $1 billion+ of overall Olympic ad revenues) we are getting distracted from NBC's real and very valuable broadband accomplishments.
Consider this: there were more on-demand and live sports choices for Olympics viewers than ever, NBC and its technology partners conquered herculean operational challenges without any major snafus and the foundation was laid for broadband to play an increasingly important and integral role in all future iconic programming events.
Focusing just on the operational achievements for a moment, a conversation I had yesterday with Brick Eksten, President of Digital Rapids, the company that provided all of the video encoding and streaming technology for NBC's live streaming events was a reminder of all the complexities NBC and its partners took on. There were up over 100 live simultaneous feeds that needed to be ingested, encoded in multiple bit-rates and delivered in real time across the globe to the right distribution points. All of this had never been done before.
Unlike domestic implementations or those focusing mainly on on-demand delivery, live broadband delivery from China meant spec'ing out all the delivery systems in advance and then shipping all of the gear well in advance of the event itself. There were many unknown variables, beginning with the vast potential range of concurrent users. So long hours were invested by partners modeling different scenarios to meet targeted delivery quality goals. Compounding matters, Brick explained that due to space, manpower and time limitations, Digital Rapids and others were challenged to push their systems to do things not previously done.
Meanwhile, NBC faced a pioneer's balancing act, simultaneously trying to preserve the value for its on-air broadcast rights/supporting advertisers, while meeting consumers' expectations for broadband on-demand access to everything. NBC could have chosen to charge for broadband access (as CBS originally did with March Madness, and as MLB continues to do) or provide only highlights clips or nothing via broadband at all. Instead, it offered up - at no charge - 2,200 hours of live streaming and 3,000 hours of on-demand.
Some fans on the sidelines have groused this wasn't enough. Now some analysts are saying that NBC could have generated more ad revenue if it had opened the broadband spigot further. These comments miss the bigger point: NBC moved the broadband market dramatically forward with its Olympics coverage. Focusing on what NBC proved with the first "Broadband Olympics," rather than what attributable revenue it generated, is what's most important for all of us to remember.
What do you think? Post a comment now.