Nov 25, 2013

Take The Piksel Recommendation Engine Survey

Are you happy with the way your provider recommends shows for you to watch? Do online services like Netflix do it better? Or maybe you know exactly what you want to watch and just want them to leave you alone. Whatever the case, please take this very short (10 question) survey on TV recommendations.

Survey ends on Saturday December 7 !!

Nov 12, 2013

Backdoor Saviors: Why Virtual MVPDs May Be Just What The Industry Needs To Stay Relevant

To no one’s great surprise, Intel’s attempt at creating their version of the mythical Apple TV didn’t pan out. The OnCue service - a streaming set top box and 21st century pay TV service that would replace the viewer’s current service— never came together and now Intel is looking for someone to buy it.

This week’s rumors are about Verizon and Liberty Global, with the former possibly wanting OnCue as their answer to Comcast’s X1 platform… or as a launchpad for their own VMVPD: Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor-- a web only version of their pay TV service.

The allure of a VMPVD (for operators, anyway) is that they it would allow them to expand their footprint beyond their current geographic restrictions and reach a whole new set of customers. Which is why many in the industry view them as potential time bombs that could lead to all out warfare.

I’m much less concerned about that and actually see them as potential saviors for the industry, providing an outlet for all those 20something “cord nevers” much in the way that iTunes provided an outlet for millions of Napster users.

Allow me to explain.

Who is the prime market for a VMPD? Not the family of four with three big screen TVs, a home hub set top box and little inclination towards early adopterdom. Rather, it’s the 23 year old young professional who’s never home to watch live TV (outside of sports) but who understands that the only way to watch HBOGO/ESPN Live/FoxNow/The Olympics is to have a valid pay TV log-in and he’s tired of using his parents credentials to gain access.

Which is why a low-cost, low-hassle virtual package is going to prove to be very appealing.

Low cost is going to be a big factor here,  and so the Intel box, designed to be a premium product with a beautiful interface, is not going to be all that necessary. Because our target really doesn’t need a set top box of any sort as very little of his viewing is going to be live. So an app that lives on Roku or Apple TV (as well as an iPad) is going to be enough, particularly if it comes with a cloud-based DVR capable of storing about 10 hours worth of programming. (He doesn’t need more as the DVR is just a way to fill the 24 hour gap between live broadcast and VOD availability.)

What he will then have is a valid pay TV log-in for all his favorite channels along with the zero-hassle ability to tune in to CNN or NBC to watch election results, disaster coverage and the Super Bowl.

He will also go from being a “cord never” to being a loyal paying customer of Comcast, Uverse, Verizon or whoever it is he also gets his broadband service from.

Which is part two of the equation.

While there will be some initial agita over competitors launching VMVPDs in new territories, there won’t be much long term poaching of customers: you still need a broadband connection to access your virtual MVPD, and since that’s not something potential interlopers can provide, it gives the incumbents a huge advantage

Because short term deals aside, it’s always going to be cheaper and more efficient to get your service via a double or triple play package. (And don’t rule out the appeal of a single bill, which, while it may sound trivial, is actually a nice selling point.) And when it comes to pay TV, our prospect is always going to be all about cheaper and more efficient.

If the MVPDs are smart, they’ll negotiate a different set of rights for their virtual offspring, one that allows for a more Netflix-like device agnostic experience along with different package configurations, like the one Comcast rolled out last month that lets customers sign up for broadband plus HBO.

There’s still a lot to be worked out as technology changes are embraced by the masses, but the virtual MVPDs will provide the industry with a back door into the sorts of device agnostic, (partially) unbundled, forward-looking solutions consumers on the cutting edge have been asking for.

Nov 2, 2013

Slaves of the Internet, Here's Your Problem

My new Vostro Laptop

I hate the word "content" and strive to use it as infrequently as possible. I find it to be emblematic of the way stories, photos, movies and TV shows have been reduced to the status of filler and it carries the assumption that the end user could care less what the content is, so long as it is "compelling," an equally nebulous term.

But there's a reason it's become so ubiquitous and that's because the internet is filled with a whole lot of "content"-- poorly written/designed/filmed/concepted content, and the truth is very few people seem to care.

That's the unfortunate response I have to Tim Kreider's much-commented-upon screed Slaves Of The Internet, Unite!

You see while I get that it sucks that people are always asking him to write and speak for free (that's my world as well) I also get that the reason that happens is that audiences don't see enough of a difference between work that's really good and work that's just okay. And if that's the case, there's no reason for anyone to pay for work that's really good, when there's an unending source of "just okay" content (and in this case, the stuff I'm referring to is aptly called "content.")

So if your goal is to put out an 800 word listicle or a "How To" service piece, the audience doesn't seem to care a whole lot about craftsmanship. They care about the bullets and the quick takeaway and that's it. They care that there was some sort of photo to catch their eye, but unless it's egregiously offensive, that's about all they'll notice.

So while it's unfortunate that the people who used to be able to make a living out of those kinds of creative endeavors (and to be fair, the work that Kreider and the people he is talking about create is far more nuanced and skillful than just 800 word listicles or stock photos) the audience for whom their work is intended just doesn't see the value of it.