Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Staying Competitive in a Broadband-equipped World

Comcast's Roberts Outlines Strategy for a Broadband TV World

(10/25/05 itvt – Newsletter) In an address before the Executives' Club of Chicago last Wednesday, Comcast CEO, Brian Roberts, provided some insight into how the cable MSO plans to stay competitive in a media world where content providers can offer video directly to broadband-equipped consumers. According to a report on the address published in the Chicago Tribune, Roberts conceded that broadband Internet video-on-demand will eventually render the traditional cable TV business obsolete, and said that Comcast's increasing focus on VOD should be seen as part of its efforts to adapt to this emerging reality: "We really do believe in change," Roberts said. "Other operators looked at on-demand and backed away because it's disruptive. We said 'Let's do it.'" According to the Tribune report, Roberts stated that Comcast needs to adapt to the emerging media landscape of on-demand, Internet-delivered video by becoming more like Google--i.e. by providing sophisticated yet easy-to-use video search services.
The MSO says that over a billion programs have been viewed on its Comcast On Demand VOD service this year to date--well ahead of previous forecasts that a billion programs would be viewed on the service over the course of the entire year. Last year, Comcast subscribers viewed approximately 567 million VOD programs. Comcast's VOD service currently offers around 3,800 programs, 95% of which are offered free of charge (note: Comcast's focus on free on-demand content has irked some content providers) According to the company, which launched its VOD service in its home market of Philadelphia in late 2002, its most-viewed VOD categories include music, movies, sports and children's programming. Its most-watched free VOD program this year has been "1,2 Step," a music video from pop artist Ciara, which has garnered a total of 3.2 million views to date. Another Ciara video, entitled "Oh," has been the second-most popular VOD offering on Comcast this year. The most-watched children's program for 2005 has been "The Chaperone," an episode of the show, "SpongeBob Squarepants," which has garnered 1.3 million views. (Note: Comcast defines a "view" as beginning when a customer selects a program from its VOD menu and ending when the program is deleted from the saved programs file; pauses, rewinds and fast-forwards are counted as part of the original view.)

Time Warner Cable, NBC Universal in "Start Over" Deal
("Start Over" Service is Based on MystroTV Technology)

(10/25/05 itvt – Newsletter) Programmer, NBC Universal Cable, and MSO, Time Warner Cable, have signed a wide-ranging carriage agreement, which, among other things, gives Time Warner Cable the right to offer certain programs from NBC, USA Network, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Sci Fi and other NBC Universal channels on its Start Over service. The latter, which is expected to launch later this year, will allow Time Warner Cable customers to restart TV shows that are already in progress; however, it will not allow them to fast-forward through commercials. The service is based on technology that was developed under the auspices of Time Warner Cable's now-defunct MystroTV project. The deal also gives Time Warner Cable the rights to VOD content from NBC News (including its flagship shows, "Nightly News" and "Meet the Press") and (for the first time) its various cable properties including MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews", "The Abrams Report," and CNBC's "Mad Money" and "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo"). In addition, it calls for NBC Universal to develop "interactive opportunities" for Time Warner Cable and to participate in several of the MSO's new technology trials. NBC Universal Cable president, David Zaslav, said in a prepared statement:

"This multi-faceted agreement with Time Warner Cable demonstrates our commitment to providing our affiliates with the services they need to drive their businesses... Customers will continue to have access to one of the top-rated cable networks on television, USA, while also having the opportunity to utilize new technologies like Start Over. Additionally, we expect Start Over will help deliver more engaged viewers to our advertisers. From HD to VOD and interactive TV, our customers will get to watch the valuable programming we have to offer, from news to entertainment, in new and exciting ways."

Monday, October 24, 2005

P2P & BitTorrent's Threat

Why BitTorrent is a threat to cable and what to do about it. After hearing so much about popular file-swapping program BitTorrent, CableWorld reporter Shirley Brady decided to try it out for herself. What she found was that most cable shows are easily accessible for free online and very easy to download. What, if anything, should cable do about it? Operators and networks are taking various approaches, ranging from aggressive efforts to stamp out P2P sites to starting their own file-sharing networks. CableWorld – Stealing Is Believing

Monday, October 17, 2005

Gone Fishin!

I must say I truly enjoy the media industry. During the twenty years that I've had the good fortune to be involved with it, I have seen enormous growth and change. For many people, they are not comfortable with the "change" aspect. For me, it's an area that I flourish in, it's in my blood and charges me through to the next project, fire or dilemma. A perfect example of this is the industries current state. It is rapidly evolving and morphing right before our eyes. Technologies like DVR's, VOD and video streaming from the internet are finally placing the power in the viewers hands to see what they want, when they want. For me, that just pulls me into another world however as excited as I get about this stuff, I also know that there is a lot more to life. To keep myself grounded I need to reel myself in and take in all the other important things. Truly, it'd this facet of my life that re-charges, re-centers and makes me whole.
This past weekend it was time for a much needed family getaway and we made a run for the North Carolina Mountains and all that they have to offer. Autumn is a beautiful time of year in this part of the country. I had no idea of that fact until moving here from California in late 2001. I have always enjoyed beaches and mountains, hiking fishing and camping however it was an enormous undertaking to get to anywhere nice (and away from people) yet quickly when we were living in Los Angeles, CA. The move from West coast to East has help solve that little life dilemma and we now spend a great deal of weekends (and those long southern summer evenings) out experiencing life and Mother Nature. Here's a little snapshot of our past weekend.

Are you ready to re-charge? Keep in mind that you will never be at your best if you don't take care of number one! For some it may be the gym or run maybe its time with friends and family. As long as it's a big step away form the daily stress and issues it is time well spent.

"If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut."

Albert Einstein

Friday, October 14, 2005

Video on Demand (VOD) News

Video on Demand (VOD) News (TVB October 2005 Report)

US Penetration Estimates:

  • Nielsen estimates 21 million VOD HHs today, expected to reach 30 million next year.

  • Nielsen found that 42% of VOD-accessible homes in the NPM sample watched VOD for at least 60 minutes during at least one week in April-May 2005. The current prime time rating is about 0.15%.

  • MAGNA Global’s On-Demand Quarterly 1st quarter 2005 review estimates 24.5 million VOD-enabled subscribers in 2005 and projects 66 million by 2010.

  • Kagan Research estimates that by end of 2005, 23.9 million U.S. homes will have access to VOD from their local cable operator.

  • Edison Media Research & Arbitron’s Internet & Multimedia 2005 study showed 10% of the U.S. population 12+ watched VOD last month.

Factors Affecting Development of VOD

  • Nielsen’s plans for measuring VOD in 2006 are favorable for establishing pricing for ad-supported VOD content.

  • Disney plans to pursue distribution of “A” grade ABC VOD product with cable operators.

  • MSOs and programmers don’t agree on pricing models, with programmers wanting revenue based on the incremental value of content for cable operators, and MSOs believing that they’ve paid for content once and shouldn’t have to pay again for time-shifted delivery.

  • Growth of direct download (Internet-based video) and P2P-based (peer-to-peer) file-sharing of television programming could limit the appeal of VOD because they compete directly with VOD services.
    Source: MAGNA Global On-Demand Quarterly, June 2005

VOD Research

CBS conducted research on potential VOD usage with its Entertainment Panel (sample of 2457) in December 2004.

  • 44% had access to VOD product.*

  • Among those having VOD access, 21% had ordered something in the past month.*

  • With the choice of ordering VOD for $1 with the ability to fast forward through ads or $.50 without that ability, 62% chose the $1 capability and 38% chose the $.50 alternative.*

  • Among CBS’ TV City New Technology Focus Groups (18 groups in Dec. 2004), 95% found at least one program that they would consider purchasing, and the average number of programs selected was 7.5 programs.*

  • PricewaterhouseCoopers projects 15 million cable subscribers will spend $1.35 billion on pay products this year.**

  • The average share of cable subscribers using VOD at any one time ranges from 6% to 10% – and that is expected to rise to 20% as VOD gains popularity.**

  • Top 10 to 15 titles on most systems account for 50% of all VOD requests.**

  • Movement is toward peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, which allow people to play games with each other or send videos or phone calls.**
    Sources: * CBS Research, ** Broadcasting & Cable 03/28/05

Friday, October 07, 2005

Turning Out the Lights at C-SET

Turning Out the Lights at C-SET

Carolinas Sports Entertainment Television
October 16, 2004 – June 30, 2005

A little before her time… but taken way before her prime.

June 30th 2005 – a sad day for me as the clock struck midnight marking the end of a young television networks existence. As the last show faded to black, what took months to develop soon became nothing more than white noise and static. What a waste it was after all of the hard work and effort that had gone into its creation and the development of its programming. To achieve what we had accomplished, it took a dedicated team and the one that we assembled, I quickly grew to admire and respect. As networks go, I believe that we were scrappers, but each of us was determined, creative and passionate about the common cause we came to know as C-SET. The enthusiasm that we had for what we were creating was infectious and each new employee that joined the group quickly caught it.

In hindsight, it now is so clear. We were the nations first digital – regional television network. We had immediate distribution to all of the Time Warner Digital Cable subscribers (700,000+ in the Carolinas) and the few other cable operators in the region seemed interested in launching the network as well. Our on-air look was superb and the programming was compelling and had the strong regional appeal that it needed. Digital cables penetration in the markets that we served was higher than most areas in the country and was growing at a break-neck pace. Everything seemed posed for growth and success right? Wrong, this little network never had a chance!

It was only a small part of a multifaceted company that consisted of a new NBA franchise (Charlotte Bobcats), a struggling WNBA team (Charlotte Sting) and a brand new $265 million dollar Charlotte arena. In this very young yet very dysfunctional company, the focus was all on the Bobcats. This was understandable, as the team was the flagship of the business. In theory, the Bobcats’ success would be like a tide, it would raise all boats and hence all companies in the family would benefit. Unfortunately the first year NBA franchise was struggling due to many internal and external problems and these issues were overwhelming the senior management team that the network directly reported to. Although those leaders were ultimately responsible for nurturing and growing the total business, they lacked the foresight, knowledge and desire to be concerned with anything other than the NBA franchise. This was the catalyst to the young networks demise.

Such a shame, millions invested in creating it’s programming, building the infrastructure and securing its initial distribution and the few in charge had a different agenda. They made the decision to shut it down after just 8½ months of operation. I wonder what they would have done if it had actually been their personal investment. This is ludicrous to me however in this case, it was not my personal investment nor was it my call to make. For me, this experience was another one of life’s many lessons. One like several others that I have had the benefit of learning from during my career that could be great material for a business schools textbook or master’s thesis paper. My final takeaway on this is that it truly was a challenging and rewarding experience. I’m extremely proud that I played a major roll in developing the business and for having the good fortune to work with some of the industries finest talent. To my X-CSET peers, I wish each of you the best and if I can ever be of any help to you in anyway, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Video over the Internet
(from the September 14, 2005 post at www.reinventtv.com)

If you are interested in either the Akimbo PVR to receive quality video streams through the Internet or the Slingbox to to "place shift" their own content over the Internet, you might want to check out Maury Wright and Matthew Miller at the EDN's Digital Den.

"... assuming some form of a home network, the products and services won't bust the bank. Remaining obstacles include distributing digital video in a home, the rather narrow choice of Internet content, and, of course, the business models involved. Still, our evaluation suggests that digital video is in the nascent stage and will still offer designers and entrepreneurs many opportunities in the future."

Unlike TiVo or DVR's, which records from a broadcast source, subscribers instruct Akimbo to get the desired content, and then watch it later. A 30-minute show can take only a few minutes to arrive by means of a cable modem. Akimbo is selling its Internet PVR for $100, including three free months of service (normally, $10 per month).

"Still, to survive, Akimbo may need to tweak its business model. It provides much of its content on a pay-per-view basis on top of the $10-per-month subscription fee. Perhaps an extra charge for adult content is legitimate if the company feels it must offer such programming. But subscribers interested in subjects from wine to golf are likely to feel that they are being nickel-and-dimed to death."

With Slingbox, you are able to watch or listen to anything available on your home TV or stereo from any high-speed Internet connected device anywhere in the world. So, if you are staying in a hotel in Los Angeles but want to see your beloved Yankees airing on YES back in New York, it is still possible to view what airs on your TV back home. This is known as place shifting.

"In all [EDN test] cases, it [was] best to view the video stream as a relatively small window. At one-quarter to one-third of a 19-in. display set to 1024×768-pixel resolution, the video quality looks good. ... Overall, the Slingbox experience was positive, but the company could do so much more with just slightly better software."
Read their review for more in-depth information.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Broadcasters Potential On-Demand Services

Broadcast Networks’ Potential On-Demand Services MediaWeek - 10/03/05

  • The broadcast networks are all in discussions with cable operators to offer their programs on a VOD platform.

  • Some networks could launch on-demand products as early as next summer or at the start of the 2006-07 season.

  • Broadcasters think that revenue from VOD could offset some of the production costs for scripted programming.

  • Cable operators are interested in deals with broadcasters because of the need for more content on VOD and the potential alternative of using the Internet as a plausible VOD vehicle.

  • CBS research shows that the average TV viewer would purchase about 100 hours of VOD programming a year, and watches about 1,000 hours of TV in that time.

  • There are questions about consumers agreeing to pay for broadcast repeats in VOD, but broadcasters have to pay rights fees for talent and music, etc.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Advertisers, relax, it's only your most coveted viewers who will skip your ads

Magna Global reports that in the second quarter around 965,000 subscribers signed up for DVRs, down from 1.15 million in the prior quarter and 1.32 million in the fourth quarter of 2004. There are currently around 8 million DVR subscribers in the U.S.

“We believe this quarter’s decline reflects the gradual
maturation of the marketplace for DVRs,” read the report, written by Brian Weiser director of industry analysis at the Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned research unit.

“If predictions of large numbers of DVR subscriptions in the
next couple of years are unfounded -- and the data we are seeing shows the rate of growth is slowing, not increasing -- our point of view is that DVRs appeal to higher-end subscribers,” Mr. Weiser told AdAge.com.

Time Warner Cable added 132,000 DVR subscribers with its current total standing at 1.1 million or 22.4% of its digital cable homes. Comcast has a total of 775,000 DVRs in the market.

Saturday, October 01, 2005