Apr 23, 2015


An extremely positive earnings call from Netflix last week reignited the industry’s love affair with original content. The company’s success is widely believed to be the result of its content strategy; one that features buzz-worthy shows like House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. (Since Netflix doesn’t release ratings numbers, we can only assume that this buzz translates into actual subscribers.)

At a time when much of the industry is drowning under the weight of low-budget reality shows, well-written, well-produced, and well-acted series remain a breath of fresh air and audiences still flock to them.

But for how much longer? As more networks and streaming services begin producing their own high-quality original programming, will such content become table stakes for networks looking to expand their user base?

The answer to these questions is quite simple. As more networks up their game and double down on the sorts of series that appeal to a thinking audience, that audience’s attention will be splintered and sub-divided further still. There are only so many hours in a day to watch television — even great television — meaning viewers will be forced to make some difficult choices.

The plethora of high-quality television programs makes it harder for any single show to stand out. Harder still is standing out on a network not traditionally known for its original programming. It can be done — both AMC (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead) and FX (The Americans, Sons of Anarchy, The Shield) have made the transition. Unfortunately doing so becomes more difficult with each new entrant into the ‘original content’ game.

Promoting new series can also be very difficult unless your network happens to have a very large audience. This was true for Netflix, which was able to promote its original series to more than 40 million subscribers via ads inserted on its home screen (among other methods). For niche networks, however, getting the word out for free is not so easy, meaning greater marketing costs (such is the price of success).

For consumers, the abundance of high-quality content makes discovery all the more important. How are viewers to keep track of everything they want to watch? And how does a new series make it onto the radar? The answer often involves spending millions on promotions, more than most networks are willing to spend.

Even if a show does become successful, the network’s problems are far from over. Actors and writers will want more money. A lot more money. And there will be increased pressure to produce more wins, more critical darlings, a task that’s easier said than done (as many network programming chiefs are beginning to learn).

So is it worth it?

Probably. Strong programming choices can help build and retain audiences, and give the network a more loyal, less-fickle audience by more precisely defining the network’s identity. But at a time where everyone seems to be jumping on the ‘original television’ bandwagon, we’d like to offer networks a few tips on how to stand out.

Think niche. If your current audience is relatively small or you are not known for original content, focus your new shows on an underserved target. The History Channel found this out when it launched the hit series Vikings, which, while historically accurate, features a Game of Thrones-like amount of fighting and gore.

Focus on actors/directors/producers with strong social media followings. Not every actor on your show needs to be a social media star, but a few main characters with lots of followers can mean instant audience, instant evangelists, and greatly-reduced marketing costs.

Consider alternate monetization schemes. Interruptive advertising shouldn’t be the only way to make money off your shows. Consider new options like branded content, co-branded promotions, and merchandizing as a way to capitalize on your show’s audience. Also be certain to use your social media networks to increase awareness among potential partners.

There is one final, compelling reason to continue to produce original programming: the long tail. Good programming is becoming evergreen, with shows finding new audiences five or ten years after they’ve first aired. That scenario not only creates long-term monetization potential, but also raises the possibility of revivals. That alone is reason enough to focus on quality over quantity.


Originally published at tdgresearch.com on April 23, 2015.


Apr 22, 2015

Predictions On OTT TV Advertising: My First Report for TDG


My first report for The Diffusion Group came out last week and readers of this blog (or, more accurately, their companies) can get $500 off by mentioning this blog when you email jay@tdgresearch.com -- you can see details here.

Here's the press release describing highlights of the report, which has been getting some very good press, from Digiday and International Business Times

According to a new report from TDG, revenue from OTT TV advertising - that is, commercial advertising placed in full-length TV-quality programming delivered via broadband - is expected to grow nearly four fold between 2015 and 2020. The Future of OTT TV Advertising 2015-2020 represents the first publicly-available ad forecasts associated exclusively with the delivery of OTT TV content.

According to TDG's analysis, the average ad load for a 30-minute legacy linear program will decline by 38% between 2014 and 2020, from approximately eight minutes to around five minutes. During the same period, average OTT TV ad loads will increase 63%, from 3.2 minutes to 5.2 minutes, during the same time period, bringing OTT TV ad loads in line with that of legacy linear TV.

This shift in ad load is not all bad for content networks. According to Alan Wolk, TDG senior analyst and author of the new report, the value of legacy linear TV advertising in 2020 will be worth considerably more than today. Wolk adds that new forms of advertising such as native and sponsored promotions will generate additional revenue and keep total TV ad revenue stable through 2020 (no growth in total revenue, but no decline, even as dollars are shifted to OTT TV ).

By 2020, OTT TV ad revenue will be approximately $40 billion, just under half of 2020's projected $85 billion in total TV ad revenue.

These are just a few of the unique insights featured in TDG's latest analysis and forecast of the burgeoning OTT TV space. The report includes an in-depth examination of the trends driving (and inhibiting) the shift from legacy to OTT TV advertising, as well as detailed forecasts for total TV ad revenue, weekly OTT TV viewing, and both OTT and legacy linear TV ad revenue.




Apr 21, 2015

Facebook Anthology

an·thol·o·gy anˈTHäləjē/Submit noun a published collection of poems or other pieces of writing. "an anthology of BRaVe insights and articles on Facebook TV"
an·thol·o·gy

anˈTHäləjē/Submit

noun

a published collection of poems or other pieces of writing.

"an anthology of BRaVe insights and articles on Facebook TV"

We’ve been watching Facebook’s gradual evolution from social network to TV network over the past year and everything we’ve seen seems to confirm our belief that the Zuckerberg network is going to be a major player in the television industry, or rather we’ll say the “Future of TV” in whatever format and on whatever screen that may play out in. In light of Wednesday’s upcoming Facebook Anthology announcements, we thought it made sense to take a quick look back and create our own Facebook TV Anthology.

 Back in May 2014, we looked at Facebook’s foray into ACR and their TV focused APIs and saw the beginnings of a strategy: by running ads that matched what viewers were watching on TV, Facebook could begin to monetize those billion plus users and become a major source of revenue.


SCALE AND DATA: Plain and simple, Facebook has it and it’s massive. With multiple ways to pull data insights from the graph, TV focused hashtag mentions API, topics API, key word insights API, likes, shares and comments… The insights and psychographic data attached to a few hundred thousand people verifying they are watching TV is roughly 10x larger than the current Nielsen sample size. Now, what happens if this scales to millions of people synching every day? #metricsgamechange
Then, in October 2014, Facebook introduced its first video ad network and we saw an opening: Facebook could drive tune-in with those ads, Nielsen would measure the ratings and since the MVPDs were starting to allow Facebook authentication, viewers could even start to watch TV directly from Facebook. And most importantly, the hoodie-wearers would control all that data. What seemed like a stretch back then seems far more likely right now.

All of this combines to give Facebook the ability to not just be the primary driver of live tune-in but the viewing platform as well. From Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings, to the networks ability to cull data surrounding viewing habits and integration capabilities, this is a comprehensive approach that takes into account measurement, user data, real-time adjustment and finally monetization.

This January we took a look at the rapid growth of Facebook’s native video, which lead us to wonder if Facebook wasn’t also trying to compete with YouTube to become an MCN: they certainly have the means to promote their short form video content and with a whopping 3 billion video views a day (as of January 2015) they certainly have the audience.

In true Facebook fashion, they will test this across various smaller groups of users to see the optimal mix of content with ads vs. content play without ads. Facebook is pushing so much volume right now that they can take their time to test and roll out various trials for the next year and still create meaningful revenue for 2015, while also playing the long game.” 
In March, we delved into the motives behind Facebook’s newest video innovations: original content, the ability to embed Facebook native video on third party sites as well as native comments and how much more spreadable that made Facebook video. We also compared Facebook’s “The Mighty Algorithm knows what’s best” philosophy towards discovery with YouTube’s “you just pick what you like” attitude and discussed how that might play out with different types of users.


Facebook just launched a product called Topic Data in conjunction with social data firm, DataSift, The product taps into Facebook’s firehose of data to produce anonymized reports of what’s being discussed on the platform. This deeper insight into what’s being buzzed about gives marketers and advertisers a better idea of the type of content to use to target their demographic, making Facebook a more efficient platform overall.

 Finally, just a few weeks back, we wrote about the promise of Facebook authentication and how allowing Facebook to be both a tune-in driver and portal to the MVPD content some 90% of Americans are still watching, might give them the sort of data needed to really be an industry player and why that notion both scared and intrigued the networks.

If you’re a network, you get to see who tuned in, what type of message they responded to, even learn how long they watched, what other shows they watched that night and whether they felt compelled to comment on anything. That’s the sort of information the MVPDs have had access to for a while (thanks to Adobe Pass) but have never shared with the networks and it’s incredibly valuable

Tomorrow we’ll be looking to see what Facebook Anthology really entails, what content creators they will be partnering with and what they’re thinking in terms of leveraging their strong position and massive user base for both revenue opportunity and programming the stream.  PLEASE STAND BY FOR TOTAL TV WORLD DOMINATION.


Co-written with Jesse Redniss, this first appeared at BRaVe Ventures on April 21, 2015


Apr 17, 2015

Television in 2015: #FutureNOW


“It has to start somewhere, It has to start sometime…..What better place than here, what better time than now?” — RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

While many had predicted 2014 to be the year that the Television Industrial Complex imploded, very little actually happened in that regard. But here we are, more than a quarter into 2015 and BOOM!!! We can feel the girders of power beginning to crumble as the television ecosystem as we know it begins a tectonic shift. The Future of TV is happening NOW!


RATM’s rallying cry is for the new generation to rise up and take control of the radio waves and drive the (r)evolution. We’re in the middle of a radical shift in thinking about TV, the airwaves, fandom, broadband and content control and access paradigms…it’s happening EVERYWHERE. This is not a (r)evolution from the inside, an ascension of the next generation. It’s a complete reconceptualization of the entire industry from the ground up.
Many different factors, affecting all parts of the industry are at play here. This ain’t no game of checkers “KING ME.” Think of it more as going toe to toe in chess with Bobby Fischer, lots of Bobby Fischers, one after another. Here are a few of the matches that we see playing out:
There was a new attendee at this year’s CES and that was SlingTV, the very first Virtual MVPD. For just $20 a month, Sling makes this idea of tv everywhere truly come to life, offering viewers a web-only TV package that will surely open the door for others to challenge the tyranny of the bundle, giving consumers more options and dramatically altering the business model of pay TV. A few hiccups have happened along the way, and their long-term success is far from guaranteed, but their launch has definitely put the industry on notice.


Dish CEO, Joe Clayton explained that Sling TV is a “complementary service, not a supplementary service” aimed at the consumer the satellite provider hasn’t been able to sign on. So what? Well for one, ESPN. Viewers will no longer need a traditional cable package to watch the sports network. How many people are willing to dish out $20 bucks for ESPN ? TBD, but it’s a start and a major hurdle cleared for the “I’m on the fence about being a cord cutter, gotta have my sports” people that are contemplating the move. The reactionaries are pushing back though, stopping Sling from offering DVR service on most networks or even the ability to pause the current show. In the end, that may be more fatal than too much buffering.


There’s a PLATFORM arms race happening here: thanks to the dramatic rise of online-video content. This year, domestic digital video advertising will reach an all-time high of $7.7 billion, a 30.4% increase over 2014. While YouTube has certainly provided a challenge to traditional TV networks, competitors are rising up to take on YouTube. Facebook is making the biggest push to dethrone the all powerful YT, launching native video, native AUTOPLAY video that’s gone from 1 billion views a day in September 2014 to 3 billion at the end of January 2015. 
Speaking of billions, Facebook is able to offer up their billion plus users and all the data they’ve collected about them to TV networks as a way to promote their new shows using (wait for it) their new autoplay video that’s the perfect size for a 30 second promo… which, now that MVPDs are allowing Facebook authentication, could actually allow for direct tune-in.

But wait, there’s more! 

Facebook’s new Anthonlogy initiative will allegedly pull together a passel of hot publishers— The Onion, Vox. Funny Or Die, Buzzfeed— and press them into service to create branded video content for advertisers, making the hoodie wearers a threat to both ad agencies and TV networks alike and further disrupting the entire freaking ecosystem.

One of the biggest announcements, one that may reshape the trajectory of this industry, came in the form of HBO Now, the network’s own standalone, no-pay TV subscription necessary app.  Now just launched in time for the premier of GoT, and guess what happened? IT WORKED FLAWLESSLY!! (Take that Sling!)
Is this the long awaited Tipping Point, the SIGN that everyone’s been waiting for that will herald an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity (or at least the unbundling of TV networks.) Is it just a clever way for HBO to get the upper hand in carriage fee negotiations with the MVPDs? Or, as some are suggesting, a Trojan Horse for HBO’s upcoming assault on Netflix?

The rapid rise of MCNs — and their powerful hold on millennials is rocking the entertainment industry as everyone from studios to talent to brand advertisers struggles to get a handle on how to handle this rapidly evolving beast and the stars it’s created, stars who have millions of followers who, as AwesomenessTV’s Cameron Dallas movie Expelled showed us, will buy just about anything their BAEs are in, even long form.

Will this new world be ad supported, will it be subscription, how many subscription services will one person pay for, do I really want to auth into 7 different streaming apps, wait, why are there ads in my paid subscription service???? ARGHHHH!!!


And there’s a TALENT and PRODUCT arms race going down: This year’s Golden Globe Awards confirmed that subscription services, whether on traditional cable like HBO and Showtime, or streaming, like Amazon and Netflix, have created a new home for the second Golden Age of Television, hosting the sorts of shows and fostering the types of performances that may not draw huge ratings, but have impact way beyond their reach. This points to the “art form” of storytelling entering a rapid ascension, for both networks and brands and the Modern Medici coat of arms being littered with never ending logos from the likes of Amazon, Netflix, GoPro, CBS and NBCU to Red Bull, GE and many many more to come.

And Paranoia strikes deep: We’re also witnessing a sweeping plunge in live viewing, and the networks are quickly pivoting to keep up with the times. NBC’s head of research, Alan Wurtzel, opened the TVOT conference with a slide that showed that Prime Entertainment Time Shifted viewing for Q4 live linear viewing has slid to around 60% while noting that DVR Playback is not only largest primetime “network,” it’s four times larger than the other four major broadcast networks combined.  That, and a new study from Freewheel showed that 64% of TV shows that are watched via OTT are watched more than 8 days from the original air date.

In other words, there’s a whole lotta time-shifting going on.

Which leaves everyone wondering how we measure all unruly activity. While the industry has been waiting for Nielsen to come out with their OTT TV ratings, they’ve been conveniently ignoring all the other metrics, primarily from social, that signal how much impact a particular show really has. WAKE UP PEOPLE. IT’S 2015. YOU CAN ACCURATELY MEASURE JUST ABOUT ANYTHING. And the industry needs to accurately measure everything (and then universally agree on the validity of those measurements) if all these new platforms (and old ones) are ever going to reach their full potential. Or at least get enough ad dollars in to continue to support production.

These are just some of the seismic changes that are happening right now. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at these changes and what they mean for networks, for advertisers, for producers, for social platforms and most importantly, for the audience at home. We’ll examine why and how they happened, who the key players are, what to look out for and how long it will be before the current structure collapses.

We Better Stop, Hey what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down…Viva la Revolucion!




Waiting For Nielsen


In February 2013, it was reported that Nielsen would soon introduce a system for measuring long-form video views on OTT TV devices. The industry, long in search of a universally accepted method to measure digital viewing, breathed a sigh of relief and sat back to wait for Nielsen to announce the new product’s launch date.
It’s now April 2015, and we’re still waiting.

This delay has led to a serious case of arrested development for TV Everywhere, as well as the advertising that runs on it. This is unfortunate as consumer demand for the sort of quantum viewing experience that TV Everywhere offers has never been greater, and the industry seems to be missing a key opportunity to meet consumer demands.

So why is the lack of a standardized ratings system holding back the growth of TV Everywhere? What are the networks and the MVPDs afraid of?

Since TV Everywhere is designed to be an ad-supported platform, all parties involved (advertisers, networks, and MVPDs) need to agree upon a standard measurement system in order for that system to succeed. Without it, MVPDs are hesitant to double down on their TVE apps, and networks think twice about making their programming available to the service. No one comes away satisfied, least of all the consumer.

Why would an MVPD be hesitant to put a big push behind its own TVE app, especially given the appeal of these apps to increasingly fickle viewers? It all comes down to carriage and retrans fee negotiations. Let’s say you are Cox and you’re in negotiations with ABC. According to the ratings system you use (some combination of Rentrak, Kantar, and comScore), Comedy Central has two million viewers on your TVE app, and you are prepared to pay them a carriage fee based on those two million viewers.

Not so fast, says Comedy Central. Our ratings system (a different combination of Rentrak, Kantar, and comScore) says we counted three million viewers on your TVE app, so we think you should be paying us more –- at which point the battle commences and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top.

For the networks, the logic works in the opposite direction: they’re okay with launching standalone OTT apps separate from the operators, because the only people questioning their OTT ratings are the ad agencies. They have already started to implement their own OTT measurement systems, systems with which the networks are only too happy to comply.

That leaves operator TVE apps as the problem child….

It is our position that had Nielsen not kept the industry on hold for the past two and a half years, this problem would have been solved long ago. If the marketplace knew Nielsen would not be able to deliver, some other company (or combination of companies) would have come up with a legitimate alternative that the entire industry would now be using. Instead, we’ve had over two years of downtime waiting for a product that has yet to see the light of day. Consequently, an industry that should have been taking giant steps forward has been reduced to taking baby steps.

(To be fair, there is some hope: in October 2014, Nielsen announced a partnership with Adobe to roll out what they called “the industry’s first comprehensive, cross-platform system for measuring online TV, video and other digital content across the web and apps.” While that system has yet to make its official debut, we feel that it will indeed be introduced later this year or in early 2016 and will greatly hasten both the promotion and adoption of operator TVE apps.)

In the interim, the current situation has reduced OTT TV advertising to a purgatory of sorts, where it sits waiting for a universally-accepted measurement system. That’s the starting point of my new report on the future of OTT TV advertising, which offers a deep dive into the current milieu before making some surprising projections about a number of relevant trends, from the fate of programmatic advertising in an OTT TV environment, to the shift from buying ‘eyeballs’ to buying audiences. 

The report will prove valuable to those implementing OTT TV advertising strategies (be they buyers or sellers). TDG Members will receive the report this week and it will be available for purchase as of Monday — just look for the link here. (Keep your eyes open, as it’s a game changer!)

Originally published at tdgresearch.com on April 2, 2015.


Is HBO Now The Canary In The Coal Mine?


HBO Now launched yesterday and it could be the meteor that kills the industry’s dinosaurs, the biggest disaster since Ishtar, or anything in between. The trick — and it is no easy task — will be to convince cordless 20somethings to stop using their parents HBO Go passwords and spend $15/month for the new service instead.
That’s a big ask.

To begin with, HBO doesn’t have all that much “must-see” programming: Girls is over, so it’s Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley andJohn Oliver. They’ve got a passel of movies, good and bad, a couple of buzzed about documentaries (the one on Scientology.) But that’s about it.

There’s the full back catalog. Much of which is already on Amazon. Where for less than $15 a month, you get a lot more programming and free two-day shipping. More importantly, I’m guessing a sizable percentage of their potential audience has had access to HBO and HBO Go for a while now, so the back catalog is of less interest.
One extra large danger facing the service is what we call “binge and purge” — there is no minimum contract requirement, so it will be very easy for viewers to sign up for a month or two, binge on everything they want to see and then drop it. A similar scenario has them sticking with it until Game of Thrones (or Silicon Valley) is over and then dropping the service until next year.

That’s a very real problem for a service that’s twice the price of Netflix and Hulu with less than half the programming choices. If all you’re doing is watching Game of Thrones once a week, $15 a month is going to seem like an awful lot of money. And while the addition of daily news programming from Vice may help create more stickiness, it’s unclear whether that adds up to $15 a month worth of stickiness.

HBO has wisely made the first month of Now free and Apple is pushing it hard on the iTunes store. So while a goodly sized portion of its target may download the app just to check it out, it remains to be seen how many of them will stick around once that first bill arrives. (Or for that matter, how many of them will even want an app that duplicates what they already have for free with HBO Go, thanks Mom.)

However, HBO Now is important because it represents a step towards the unbundling of TV. It also serves as a reminder of just how expensive that unbundling might be: Cobble together your own DIY package with Now + Netflix + Sling + Hulu Plus + Amazon and you’re already looking at over $60/month for something that has far fewer options and is far more hassle than anything FIOS or Comcast might serve you for a few more dollars.

We’ll be keeping on eye on HBO Now’s numbers, this month and next as well as the month after Game of Thrones ends. Any way it turns out, it’s going to be interesting.

Originally published at www.braveventures.com



Rounding Up NAB


While it’s easy to dismiss NAB as Nerdy And Boring, it’s worth remembering that unlike CES, it’s flashier cousin, NAB is meant for television engineers and production staff. Hence the seeming overemphasis on dollies and lenses.
There wasn’t a whole lot new coming out of this year’s show as much as a confirmation that last year’s trends (4K, the explosion of video content) have become this year’s tried and true.
One trend that’s becoming far more mainstream is drone cameras, and the introduction of two high-quality, consumer-priced drone cameras, 3DR’ s Solo and DJI’s Phantom2, seemed poised to usher in a more wide-ranging spread of dronedom.
Priced at just $999 (plus $400 for the accompanying software) these cameras are easily accessible to hobbyists, which means:
CAT DRONES! Watch for gratuitous drone shots to start popping up all over YouTube (and Vine) as the UGC contingent looks to up its game by shooting cute cats and how-to-change-a-tire videos from a whole new angle. There’s a definite chance for creative uses here, but we think most initial usage will be of the “Hey look! I bought a drone cam!” variety.
NIGHTCRAWLER DRONES: Jake Gyllenhall’s Leo Bloom wouldn’t have to barrel through the streets of Los Angeles if he’d had his own drone. Look for local news crews (and/or the stringers who work for them) to make extensive use of drones to cover accidents, fires and other disasters from a different angle. That and lots of on-air promotions for “The Channel Four Drone Cam! Coming Your Way!”
PAPADRONEZZI: This is the most disturbing use case as paparazzi are likely to begin using drone cameras to enable more effective stalking of their favorite celebrities. They’ll get video as well as stills and if the celeb in question happens to be a good shot, it’s only another $999 to replace one. 
Drones aside, two other notable stories to emerge from NAB both concerned Adobe Prime Time, the company’s video and advertising management software.
The first was the announcement of a partnership between Adobe Prime Time and Akamai. While in some ways this just formalizes something that was already happening, the net effect is to improve Adobe’s server-side ad stitching. So less buffering, more devices and good luck with that ad-blocking software.
That gives us hope about the near-term future of OTT TV, as anything that can make that experience feel more like standard-issue linear TV is own going to serve to drive adoption.
Adobe’s other announcement was that Crackle TV was going to start running a “live TV” option, where the viewer is immediately served up a program when they open open the app, rather than just viewing a static screen. The trick here is that different viewers will see different (ad-supported) program streams depending on their prior viewing habits. 
This is notable in that it’s a definite future option for just about any network: show viewers your catalog based on what they want to see, not what you want to show them. We’ll be watching how Crackle’s viewers react to the idea of a live feed, whether they embrace it or reject it as hopelessly old school and how all that affects their ad revenue.
All this action from Adobe is a good thing too, in that they are Nielsen’s chosen partner and the activity may indicate that the time is nigh for Nielsen’s long-awaited OTT TV ratings.
That about wraps up NAB. Not a whole lot to report, but at a time of rapid change, that may just be a good thing.
Originally published at brief.promaxbda.org.


Mar 28, 2015

It's Always The Ones You Don't Expect



Originally published at TDG Research on March 26, 2015
The current explosion of OTT TV services has fixated both industry and popular media, with renewed cries of “Television as we know it is dead.” It’s an obsession I find to be misplaced. If anything is going to change the way we watch television and make OTT TV happen, it will be the TV Everywhere (TVE) apps deployed by the MVPDs –- that is, operator TVE apps.
This may sound counterintuitive, given the rash of recent activity around standalone network apps and skinny bundles, but remember that most revolutions happen from within, and no one is in a better position to make OTT TV happen than the MVPDs. If only they can get out of their own way…
So why are MVPDs best positioned when it comes to OTT?
A Built-In Audience of Millions – All of the new OTT pay-TV services, from Sling TV to HBO Now, must first build an audience from scratch. This includes Sony’s Vue, which has the advantage of tens of millions of PlayStation owners, but still must convince them to (a) get rid of their current pay-TV service (if they use one), and (b) spend $70/month for a service that, barring the presence of multiple PlayStations, only works on one television at a time.
The MVPDs, however, enjoy a huge built-in audience for their TVE apps: the millions of consumers who are already paying for their home TV service. All the MVPDs have to do is convince them to download a free TVE app and start using it. There’s nothing to give up, nothing to replace, and (most notably) nothing to pay. That’s an incredibly strong selling point.
All Those Ad Dollars – Thanks to this built-in potential audience of millions, selling ads on operator TVE apps will be much easier when compared with other OTT TV apps. As the networks start to see the ad revenue flow in, they’ll become less resistant to the idea of striking deals to put their shows on the operator apps. They may even go crazy and allow viewers to access their home DVR or VOD systems through these apps. Stranger things have happened.
Ease Of Use – Because operator TVE apps are integrated into the user’s existing pay-TV system, they (theoretically) should be easier to set up. For instance, the app should (again, theoretically) automatically log on to the home Wi-Fi system, since the user is already registered, and the Time Warner app, once set up, can recognize the user as a Time Warner TV customer.
There are also dozens of channels available through operators TVE portals that you can flip through with minimal hassle. This is a major advantage with operator TVE apps. If you are using a dozen standalone apps, each from a different network, switching from one channel to another is a major hassle.
Operator TVE apps also let you easily move between your devices. So when your brother gives up his spot in front of the 72-inch home theater in the den, you can slide right in, cast the Patriots game from your iPad to the TV set, and you’ll be sitting pretty in seconds. That’s the advantage of having a TVE service that’s also connected to your set-top box.
The MVPDs Control The Internet (or at least the last mile) – Because MVPDs are also broadband network owners, they get to make the rules. Rules like “if you really want the broadband-only package, we can sell it to you, but for five dollars more we can throw in our basic pay television package with 35 channels…and a free TV Everywhere app.” That’s a difficult offer to resist, no matter how much of an Apple fanboy you might be.
And as operator TVE apps get more popular and households start streaming hours of video, families who are MVPD customers won’t be looking at draconian bandwidth caps, since unlimited high-speed bandwidth will be part of their ‘titanium’ double- or triple-play package.
On The Other Hand – While MVPDs are in great position with respect to OTT, It’s not all smooth sledding from here. MVPDs are notoriously bad at user interfaces, and if their TVE app is torturous to use, then the millions of potential viewers will refuse to use it. Similarly, if the MVPDs and networks fail to give users access to TV content from VOD or DVR (or both), then that’s a big minus (though the ‘free’ part of ‘free TVE app’ will always be very compelling).
How Real Is This? Very. Last month, Comcast released some rather telling numbers. It seems that 30% of its TV subscribers are already using the ‘Xfinity To Go’ app at least monthly, with users averaging just over seven hours of viewing per month. Moreover, the app has been downloaded more than 11 million times. Now contrast this with the 100,000 subs Sling TV signed up its first month and you’ll have an idea why I’m betting on the MVPDs.
Summary
Yes, the tsunami of new OTT broadband pay-TV services is worthy of attention and something TDG first predicted way back in 2009. Despite the uptick in quantity and quality of new OTT TV services, it would be a tremendous mistake to underestimate the power of MVPDs when it comes to OTT, especially given the many advantages listed above.