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.
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.

Introducing Whipclip, Your New Favorite 2nd Screen App

Originally published at 2nd Screen Society on March 26, 2015
While the industry may still be salivating over livestreaming in general and Meerkat in particular, a new app called Whipclip may well steal the thunder away from them. Designed to allow users to (legally) share high definition clips from current TV shows, WhipClip is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
The legal part is huge: Whipclip is partnering with a host of major TV networks, including ABC, CBS, Comedy Central, FOX, VH1, A+E Network, Lifetime, Bloomberg, OWN and Turner in order to launch the first legitimate TV clipping service.
It’s huge because not only are those networks making their programs available to Whipclippers, they’re actively working with the app to make previously aired shows searchable.
And therein lies the magic of Whipclip: Not only can you go in and find and edit a clip from a show you are currently watching, you can go in and search for a particular term or phrase or name from a sizable back catalog.
That means a user can go to the Bob’s Burgers page and search for “Tina” and turn up every scene featuring that character. Or they can get more specific and search for “Tina smells like ketchup” to turn up that particular scene.
The app serves up a one-minute clip, which the user can then edit down to 30 seconds using a very intuitive clipping tool. Searches can also be for real people, so that an actor’s manager can easily call up episodes of Late Night, Oprah and other shows the actor has appeared on and send them out to fans and/or interested production companies.
That’s pretty revolutionary, as Whipclips can be shared across a range of social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest (to start) as well as via email and text message, easily spreading the word to millions of fans.
The implications of all that sharing from a data perspective are tremendous: networks will be able to keep track of fans’ favorite moments in a show and understand which segments resonated with which demographic and on which platform.
In addition, they’ll be able to use Whipclip as a promotional vehicle, sending out the clips they want fans to share in the hopes of turning a popular moment into a meme.
Whipclip also works as a discovery tool, ranking the most shared moments so that users can easily see what everyone else is sharing. This feature then provides valuable data to the networks, who can use it to predict how well new shows are resonating with fans by the number of clips that wind up in the top lists.
The app launches today (Thursday, March 26th) in the App Store, and as part of the launch, Whipclip has partnered with Comedy Central and Justin Bieber so viewers can clip their favorite moments from the live broadcast of the “Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber” this, Monday, March 30 at 10 p.m. Whipclip users will be able to create customized clips of the #BieberRoast and then share them to their social networks, the first time a televised event has been shared in real-time.
Really ambitious users can also Meerkat themselves Whipclipping moments from the Bieber Roast for total Social Television Synergy.
We will be keeping our eye on this promising second screen app as it rolls out and reporting back on the unique ways fans and marketers are using it.

Facebook In 2015 and The Road Ahead

Co-written with Jesse Redniss, this was originally published at ProMaxDBA on March 26, 2015
It’s 2015, time to turn on Facebook TV. Over the top, personalized and in your stream. Just a few months into the year and the noise surrounding Facebook’s drive to video has already intensified.
When we last posted back in January, we were seeing major media companies utilizing Facebook’s native video player, and ending their strategy of posting video content solely on YouTube, a trend brought to life by the astonishing fact that Facebook’s native video views had jumped from 1 billion a day in September 2014 to 3 billion a day at the end of January 2015.
So let’s take a look at what our friends in Zuckistan have been up to:
The Livestream Experience
Livestreaming is what all the cool kids are doing these days and Facebook getting a piece of the action. For the second year in a row, Facebook is partnering with HBO to host the red carpet live stream of the Game of Thrones U.S. premiere. They are creating a fully interactive experience, with the show’s stars answering fan questions through Facebook and sibling platforms Instagram’s networks.
This is an attempt to move the social TV focus away from Twitter to Facebook, a platform that has traditionally served as a place for users to share thoughts with their friends. Opening up the platform — and the chatter — to the general public is a BRaVe move and Facebook will have to actively encourage users to think of them in this way.
The fact that the Game Of Thrones event is a Facebook exclusive will help too: Facebook put a lot of effort into their Super Bowl and Oscars experiences, but neither was a smash hit and rival Twitter still seemed to be getting the lion’s share of attention. This time though, there is no Twitter, so Throners should be flocking to Facebook. It may not be Meerkat, but it’s the only place to watch the livestream.
This Just In
The other big video news out of Facebook is that they will be running original programming from MSNBC and other news organizations. In fact, MSNBC’s two newest programs will debut on Facebook before they appear on TV or anywhere else.
The trick here will to be to get users to start thinking of Facebook as a media outlet, not just a social network. That’s easier said than done: how do you train people who are used to going to Facebook to see how many “Likes” their latest vacation photo got to go there to watch MSNBC? And while the content is still short form (one or two minutes at most) the habit is a new one.
How Facebook surfaces the videos will be of interest: are they at the top of subscribers newsfeeds every morning or do they just appear randomly in the newsfeed according to the algorithm? The former will let viewers know that this is something new and different and should be better at getting them to change their behavior.
This Too: News From F8
Facebook made several newsworthy announcements at this week’s F8 conference. We will topline the highlights here and explore them in depth in the weeks to come.
Embeddable Video: Now you can embed Facebook videos directly onto a third party site. This will be huge for spreading clips on fan blogs and news sites and presents a real challenge to YouTube who has made excellent use of this functionality for years.
Embeddable Comments: Along with embeddable video, users can leave comments on those videos on third party sites using their Facebook IDs, said comments coming back to Facebook to complete the Circle of Life.
Messenger Apps: 3rd parties can create their own apps using Facebook Messenger and use that platform as their main way to communicate with customers. Look for this to be a big OTT play and part of a log-in-with-Facebook data capture play too.
Spherical Videos: While not widely understood, these immersive multi-camera videos work with Oculus and immersive videos equal immersive fan experiences so they will be getting a lot of attention in the months to come.
YouTube vs Facebook: Discovery
Last week, Wall Street research firm, Nomura, forecast that by 2017, Facebook will reach $3.8 billion in video advertising revenue while YouTube will be at $8.5 billion. So while a Facebook victory does not appear imminent, the battle is just heating up.
The biggest distinction between Facebook and YouTube is in terms of intent and discovery. Users go to YouTube with the sole intent of watching videos and search for videos on their own, creating their own personlized viewing experiences.
Facebook, on the other hand, curates videos for their users: the videos show up in the Newsfeed based on what the Mighty Algorithm decides that particular user might want to see. There’s no real way to search for video: you either watch what they give you or you don’t.
In many ways, the difference between the two services is like the difference between Spotify and Pandora. YouTube is like Spotify: while there are channels and pre-selected playlists, the beauty of the service is in being able to do your own thing and choose the exact videos you want to see.
With Facebook, like Pandora, you are relying on the service to curate for you. If they’re accurate most of the time, you’ll stick with them, as it’s a lot easier than sorting through things yourself.
Is one model superior? Not really, and we predict most people will make use of both, depending on their mood.
YouTube vs Facebook: Interface and Innovation
The other difference between YouTube and Facebook is around the interface: Facebook keeps tweaking theirs while YouTube still looks a lot like 2004.
That may be changing however, as the platform recently rolled out a “cards” function; the plan is for this new feature to eventually replace annotations. It’s much slicker, way less 90’s and shows us that YouTube is indeed interested in keeping up with the Joneses. Our suggestion for Phase 2: get rid of the anonymous comments, home of some of the internet’s nastiest trolls and a reason why millions of people posted their ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos directly to Facebook.
Not to be outdone on the innovation front, 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.
Facebook is also experimenting with autoplay video, something we predicted a while back. According to a story in Recode, Facebook has been testing a Netflix-like system whereby new videos automatically start playing one after the other, creating a TV-like experience. We think this is a great move for Facebook as it, more than anything, will get users thinking of the platform as a video source.
What’s Next
While Facebook’s attempt to challenge YouTube is moving full speed ahead, they’re not the only ones looking to unseat the champion. Twitter, Snapchat and Meerkat are all waiting in the wings, along with startups like Vessel, all happy to give creators more than just 55% of revenue. YouTube won’t go down without a fight, but right now, Facebook seems to be a more formidable competitor.
Especially if they figure out livestreaming.

Mar 23, 2015

The Vue To A Kill

Originally published at www.2ndscreensociety.com on March 19, 2015.

Like Dish’s Sling TV and Apple’s rumored new Apple TV package, Sony Vue, which launched this week in several cities, is not going to destroy the television industry.

Sorry haters.

Vue is even more curious than its predecessors in that it requires viewers to be in possession of a Sony PlayStation box, said boxes retailing for upwards of $200. Now there are lots of people who own Playstations — Sony sold over 20 million Playstation 4s alone — but the Venn Diagram of People Who Own Playstations + People Who Have Broadband But Not Pay TV + People Who Would Want To Spend $50-$70/month To Watch Pay TV On The One Set Their Playstation Is Attached To has got to be very small.

The service is a bit fatter than the slim bundles Sling and (allegedly) Apple are putting out there: it has 80 stations, some of which you need to pay extra for, bringing the price from $50/month to $70/month. It even has DVR and VOD capabilities.

What it doesn’t have though, are any networks in the Disney/ABC line-up, which also includes ESPN.

That’s a major omission and it will be challenging to see the real value in paying $70 for an ESPN-less package that only plays on one TV versus spending a few dollars more to get the same service (plus hundreds of other networks) on every TV from your MVPD, who’ll probably cut you a deal on your broadband service for taking both.

What’s interesting though, is how many networks have agreed to carriage deals with these new V-POPS (Virtual Pay-TV Operators) and what that might mean. It could be a signal that they’re ready to play ball when someone comes along with an option that provides an more viable challenge to the status quo. That was, if you recall, what Intel’s On Cue was supposed to do: take on the industry from the high end by offering a “luxury” service so to speak, but they got derailed by their inability to land enough deals to create a viable service.

So that is the question: are all these networks cutting deals with this round of V-POPS because they know they’re not a real threat to the current pay TV system and they’re looking to experiment? Or are they serious about going virtual?

My money is on the former option: they see these services as easy wins, ways to get so-called “cord nevers” back into the pay TV universe, while learning something about them. Since Sling, in particular is designed to be an individual service, networks will be able to get better data about who their viewers are, especially the next generation of viewers. (Provided, of course, that Dish shares that data with them.)

What’s more, they get to gauge the public’s appetite for these sorts of systems: who is signing up, what was their previous status (cord never/cutter/pay-TV customer) and how long do they keep the service? Do they use the service on a connected device or an a mobile device? What shows are they watching? There’s a lot to learn before they go big time with a V-POP.

Right now we are in experiment mode with all these services. The whole notion of a V-POP has undergone a 180, from a premium service with better UX that replaces pay TV to a slimmed down bundle with minimal UX that lets people dip their toes into the pay TV waters and it may well change again.

The next few months are going to be interesting.