Thursday, May 30, 2013

SocialTV comes to Dish Hopper Subscribers

Dish Network has been creating a stir in the broadcasting business this year with the launch of their Hopper Whole-Home ad skipping DVR system has announced the launch a new app called "Social" that it says is the industry’s “first and only set-top app that delivers on-screen social content relevant to the show or channel a viewer is watching.” The app enables customers to join social media conversations about shows that they are currently viewing allowing them to effectively multitask between watching a show and following social media posts about that show on the same screen. Accessible via Dish's "quick launch" bar, Social lets customers link up to four Twitter and four Facebook accounts to the app. Viewers have three options for the type of content displayed in the status bar: Now Watching shows the Twitter feed relevant to the show or channel the user is currently watching. My Twitter gives full Twitter functionality, and My Facebook displays the user's personal Facebook feed with full functionality. Perhaps even more interesting, the Social app contains a data bar at the bottom of the TV screen that displays information related to the program being watched like stats about the top areas in the country where people are tweeting about the program, the program's sentiment rating and percentage of Tweeters by gender and frequency of tweets. Two thumbs up for Dish on this new addition. I believe users will really enjoy this new apps as they have empowered consumers allowing them to follow social conversations and post in real-time without leaving their TV screen.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

DirecTV considers OTA to reduce Programming costs

In 2008 the Sezmi Flexcast video distribution technology was being tested. It's design was revolutionary at the time because of it's combination of the use of antenna and a broadband connection to receive content. The antenna captures the digital signals from the major networks broadcast publicly over the air for free. Unfortunately for the company it never really gained any traction and eventually was purchased by KIT Digital. Interesting news surfaced earlier this week when DirecTV announced that it is considering testing a new set-top that incorporates an antenna allowing customers to pull over-the-air (OTA) broadcast signals, which could allow the satellite giant to avoid paying millions of dollars per year in retransmission consent fees. Patrick Doyle the company's CFO stated that they had used the integrated antenna solution early in its history, before it began offering local broadcast channels via satellite. Once the satellite giant began offering local-into-local broadcast signals on a wide scale basis, the antenna solution didn’t make economic sense.

Business evolves and the economics are changing. Companies like Aereo and look a like Aereo Killer are challenging the broadcasters traditional business model and traditional Satellite & Cable providers are seriously weighing their options. For the past several years retransmission consent and the huge fees that some broadcasters charge have been a growing concern multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD). NBC alone expects to see a 400 percent rise in retransmission revenue this year, which translates into steep cost increases for pay-TV providers, and subsequently their subscribers. According to SNL Kagan, retrans fees could top $6 billion annually by 2018.

DirecTV is not alone in their quest to rein in explosive programming cost increases. Time Warner Cable's CEO recently stated publically that they were diligently watching the Aereo legal challenge and perhaps they would also invest in a technology that could eliminate retrains fee's. At this point it's not clear just how many other MVPD's, are considering options like these. According to an article in Light Reading Cable's 05/16 issue - DirecTV Weighs OTA Tuners. They state that one industry source has only heard similar discussions in international markets, while a second confirms there have been some domestic conversations, but nothing suggesting any near-term action.
In any case, no matter which side of the fence you stand on retransmission consent and the revenue stream/programming expense issue, it is rapidly coming to a head.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Turner To Launch Live Streaming for TNT, TBS

Not to be out done by yesterdays ABC live streaming announcement, Wednesday Turner Broadcasting released news about their newly created "Watch TNT" and "Watch TBS" apps for tablets and smartphones . The networks will both stream on-air content live across multiple platforms 24/7, available via the networks' websites as well as the apps.  Turner continues its push to become a year-round home to original programming as they also announced their upcoming new scripted and unscripted fare including series from top producers like Steven Spielberg, Diablo Cody, Denis Leary, Sylvester Stallone, Dick Wolf and Jamie Foxx.

I expect many more networks to soon join the ranks of HBO, Turner and ABC as more programmers and distributors reach "TV Everywhere" deals. Obviously these are designed to make content more available to subscribers and stave off competition for new OTT rivals. For now all of this seems great speaking from the perspective of one who travels a great deal. At some point however I see an upcoming post about the frustrations of manage 100's of individual apps in order to see my favorite shows while on the road. That app from DishTV looks like it will be the benchmark for other video providers in the future and these separate networks app's are simply a short term work around.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Breaking News: ABC Launches Live Linear Streaming

Marking a first for a broadcast network, today ABC announced the launch of its "Watch ABC" app to allow pay-tv subscribers access to live, linear streaming of viewers’ local ABC station programming, including network, local and syndicated content. The service will launch first as a free preview on May 14 and will be available to all viewers through a special open access preview with WABC-TV (NYC) and WPVI (Philly) through the end of June. In their press release they state that the app will roll out in the other six ABC-owned station markets this summer.  MORE: Multichannel News 5/12/13 - ABC Sets Live Streaming Service Launch

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Yahoo eyes Hulu

Add Yahoo to the growing list of Hulu-suitors. According to reports, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Chief Operating Officer Henrique De Castro recently met with executives at Hulu, the premium video service whose owners have been considering selling it for some months. Hulu would make a powerful weapon to add and they also have mobile applications for their premium subscribers, making the company a natural fit. Mayer's drive into the mobile & digital content spaces seem to offer this deal synergies that could justify the enormous cost of this acquisition. She has made it no secret that her company has been looking to expand its video assets, recently acquiring the exclusive rights to all of SNL's classic clips from 1975 through 2012 while expanding their original exclusive programming. While speaking this past Tuesday during the Wired Business Conference, Mayer's stated that "video is important across all of the company's properties" and that Yahoo is becoming a "mobile-focused firm".

Hulu's board still has a lot of decisions to make and Yahoo has not made and offer. One thing does seem clear at this point and that is that if Yahoo is to pick up the video company, it will fundamentally change the online video landscape, and put Yahoo into competition with a host of new firms.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Cable Spectrum Allocations - less video for more internet

I’ve spent a lot of my career in and around cable operations and it might come as surprise to you but there is not very much profit in the video side of their businesses anymore. The programmers have eaten it up with rising rates and bundling. The Broadcaster have received their share through retrains fee's and the spiraling cost of Sports content… let’s not even bother to start that discussion. So where are the profits? Well for the past 7-8 years it’s been from voice and data services.

So it’s become obvious to cable operators that internet access bandwidth increasingly is more valuable than video entertainment bandwidth.  That is reflected in the growing recognition that it is broadband access which is becoming the foundation service for cable operators, gradually replacing television revenues. Eventually, as linear TV is viewed less, the spectrum it now uses on cable and fiber will be reallocated to expanding data transmission.  Netflix and other streaming video services now are driving bandwidth consumption in the U.S. ISP business. Since at least 2011, real time entertainment content has represented at least 49 percent of peak hour traffic in North America.  Industry statistics reflect that by the end of last year, video had grown to represent as much as 75 percent of peak hour broadband traffic. With gradual attrition of video revenues, it will at some point make sense to allocate more cable bandwidth for Internet access, and less for linear TV.

This kind of evolution to the cable business is not new.  Operators in past decades had prioritized analog signal delivery over digital. As the need to support Internet access grew, operators gradually shifted to “more digital” in the mix, and finally to “all digital,” as doing so freed up additional bandwidth for use for Internet access. The future is yet to be determined but the signs are strong. MSO's have always fought with the "dumb pipe" label but now it is exactly that pipe that holds the keys to power over the consumer's household.