Content and Distribution Both “Royals” in InternetTVLand

An insightful article from Keith Richman of Business Insider pointing out that video/entertainment content producers have new obligations to take on in ensuring their content is most effectively distributed to its intended audience. No longer enough to hand over both physical distribution AND building of the audience to a distribution partner.

Keith didn’t include examples, so it will take some work to uncover some best practices in this regard.

He mentioned many distribution companies are producing their own content. I’ve heard that the opposite is also true: low cost of “distribution” to certain audiences is leading content companies to do their own distribution in ways they’d never have dreamed even just three years ago. We’ve passed some kind of inflection point for non-traditional distribution of entertainment.

Also, the jargon in the digital media space is getting confusing to me. The web of interconnections between companies in this ecosystem is generally blurring what categories a particular company does business in. So it’s hard now to mention categories like “distribution” and know just who the heck you’re talking about.

UPDATE: And here’s an interesting tidbit from RampRate analyst Steve Lerner on MGM Studio’s impending bankruptcy. According to Steve, “distribution” was the ball game for MGM, because starting in 2000 it erroneously built business plans based on robust DVD sales projections that shouldn’t have been believed.


NBC Olympic Coverage Reveals Network’s Digital Dumbness

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Remember that post from a couple of weeks ago, where I said NBC might be the first traditional U.S. TV network to decommission itself? When I wrote that I didn’t expect additional evidence to arrive so quickly. But the online razzing that’s being given NBC for their bone-headed scheduling of tape-delayed major Olympic events sure seems to add weight to my case.

If you haven’t seen the flaming blog posts and tweets, the story boils down to every clued-in U.S. fan of the Olympics slamming NBC for avoiding live daytime broadcast of major events (downhill skiing, snowboarding, and other fan favs are most often mentioned so far, I’m sure there will be others in the next 10 days). Instead, NBC goes to extraordinary lengths to hype its prime-time delayed replay of these events, despite the glaringly obvious fact that anyone with an internet connection or a radio knows the results. NBC even avoids revealing results on its own Olympics website for fear of diluting the prime-time audience.

NBC’s digital dumbness is in treating the U.S. audience of 2010 is just like the 1984 audience that couldn’t easily find out the results of events in Sarajevo before U.S. prime time.

Exasperated fans with a little techie skill can set up a VPN account with an off-shore VPN provider and then log in to the Canadian Olympic website that features multiple live videostreams of most of the Vancouver events. BusinessInsider has step-by-step instructions for you (you’ll need to appear as if you’re outside the U.S. because our ISPs are blocking traffic to that Canadian site to protect NBC’s exclusivity in the U.S.).

So as NBC fends off criticism that it’s “the network that’s not showing you the Olympics“, local affiliates are reaping the lower lead-in audiences that don’t include the ticked-off Olympics fans who are avoiding the packaged prime-time show. You’d think that CNBC and MSNBC could serve up daily live events and the main network could still repackage them for prime time, and the combined audiences would keep advertisers and affiliates happy. Doesn’t it make more sense in an era when the most committed viewers are seeking out live coverage? They’ll go get it somewhere else if NBC isn’t bringing it to them — and that’ll get even easier next Olympics.

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Google Dissing Telecom Laggards on Broadband

February 11, 2010 1 comment

I’m thrilled at the news today of Google’s plan to build a public test-bed high-speed broadband network.

Of course Google isn’t going to build a national 1Gbps overlay network (stop your scoffing, Verizon). As reports, Google product manager Minnie Ingersoll says Google’s just “putting its money where its mouth is” in an effort to prod the FCC to put serious effort into a regulatory plan for advanced broadband. The test-bed, slated for a few towns or small cities, is needed to find out just how much headroom there will be in a network where a high percentage of the packets are carrying video or other latency-sensitive application data, and where there is “open access” rather than the severe throttling of traffic that occurs today in the U.S. carrier networks.

Certainly Google benefits from the actual test-bed, but it’s getting an equal PR bounce from its willingness to tweak the U.S. carriers for their foot-dragging in building faster data networks and committing to net neutrality on them. FCC chairman Genachowski wasn’t shy about praising Google for this “significant trial” and that likely caused some teeth-grinding at the carrier regulatory affairs offices.

Everyone knows Google isn’t going to invest or pull together the kind of investor pool needed to tackle a serious national high-speed network—even though Google could possibly afford it. No, the goal is to highlight the carriers’ hesitations by having a couple of thousand thrilled broadband users appear in news reports and PR videos, saying how great it is to have one wire pour an unlimited river of cool stuff, including a ton of high-definition video-on-demand, into their homes. Google has absolutely nothing to lose.

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Matt Herren, Vice President – Business Development & Marketing at Information Television Network, posted a comment on a LinkedIn Group (VOD/Media Professionals) answering the question “what will TV be like in 2020?”. Matt envisions a world of unbundled content in which users can BYON (Build Your Own Network) from a combination of ad-supported, PPV, subscription, and completely free content sources.

I like Matt’s vision, and have some additional thoughts:

  • There will still be “networks” and subscription or PPV services that bundle content and seek mass audiences — but on a regional/global basis (timezones notwithstanding).
  • There will still be scheduled programming.
  • Mobile devices will take 50% or more of viewing time.
  • A huge hurdle for content owners/providers will still be “how does my audience find me?”, so there will be various solutions that involve both search technologies (bringing users new/unknown content that matches their online persona) and social technologies.
  • Immersive TV technologies will be in place, although we may need new kinds of viewing environments to make them viable (a home’s media room becomes the ‘RealLifeVision’ room).
  • People will still want/need random distraction where they tune in to “whatever’s on” and watch for a while, not something targeted in their BYON, so they’ll still need the navigation help of “channels” with recognizable brands.
  • A BYON world will need a convenient “one-stop” payment solution involving an entity which probably hasn’t been invented yet to collect funds and distribute royalties.

Any other likely developments?

Categories: Uncategorized

Comcast/NBCU Deal Announced; NBC Network Days Numbered

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

The news of the deal struck between Comcast and GE to sell 51% interest in NBC/Universal to Comcast leads me to think the NBC television network may be the first of the national broadcast networks to decommission itself.

Of course, this is speculation on my part–I don’t have inside knowledge. Logic tells me, faced with broadcast advertising revenue shrinkage continuing at its current precipitous pace, it will not take long for the Comcast quant guys’ internal five-year forecasts for national ad revenue from the broadcast network and local ad revenue from the owned-and-operated stations to be so far underwater that there will no longer be a business there.

There is certainly no shame in operating as a cable/online service. ESPN, CNN, and dozens of other national cable services operate as profitable businesses. There’s no reason to think NBC could not do the same. The broadcast network might morph into multiple cable services (with guaranteed carriage on the Comcast systems and likely carriage on other MSO systems too). It would be interesting to consider what that service lineup might look like in a year or two.

However, at some point all the cable services will be faced with yet another transitioning to a hybrid distribution model where online delivery supports the majority of the service’s viewers. Before that time, Comcast will need to have figured out how to continue extracting user subscription dollars or replace subscriptions with other direct payment solutions from the folks who don’t have a Comcast cable box. Comcast’s win in buying control of NBCU is that it will have to spend less of its subscriber revenue in content acquisition (getting Bravo content wholesale instead of retail, as an example). That will be a boost to bottom-line results for a time. But the time is coming when viewers equipped with high-speed Internet service and more capable devices for finding and playing video content will be reluctant to continue their cable TV service. Comcast had better know how to retain those TV sub revenues through another compelling value proposition.

No Internet TV in my stocking this year?

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but he probably won’t be lugging a great big flat-screen TV with built-in Internet connectivity in his sleigh this year. Oh, you might get that nice 32″ Sony you’ve been eyeing at Best Buy, but if you want to stream Netflix movies on it, you’ll still need some other device. Not that there aren’t any Internet-enabled TVs on the market yet, it’s just that we’re still way in the early part of the growth curve for them. Why? Well, James McQuivey of Forrester Research had it right on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday: Not a lot of features yet. Too expensive. The interface isn’t there yet. These early Internet-ready TVs are placeholders for the vendors while they figure out what features will drive sales, what price points will drive sales, and how to create interfaces that create a “lean-back” web surfing experience using a TV remote. Stay tuned. Maybe by Christmas 2010.

Hello world! Online TV Adviser is online

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

I really like TV because I like stories, so here’s one for you. As a boy, I imagined someday there would be a magic tray, with a pillow on the back, that would sit on my lap and let me see every movie ever made, all the TV shows I liked, and let me see and talk to my friends sitting in their houses with their magic trays. I hadn’t thought about that childhood fantasy until a little while ago, when I was wondering what kind of blog I’d like to write. I decided since that fantasy has essentially become reality, it would be great to write about the world inside and around that magic tray.

Who is this for? It’s for me, to share what I know about technology trends from 25 years as a tech industry analyst. I get to explain things that at first might seem complex so they’re easier to understand (something I’m usually pretty good at). I get to express my opinion about what’s great and what stinks about the Internet TV experience (believe me, there’s smelly stuff out there). If I’m lucky, I’ll  hear from readers saying what they think about the Internet TV experience (and I’m guessing I’ll learn more from my readers than the other way round).

Most Internet TV sites and blogs serve the industry itself, the program producers, distributors, platform and network and hardware vendors, the marketers pitching online TV products and services, the advertisers trying to buy “eyeballs” (gross…), and the analysts and investors trying to figure out how to make Internet TV into a big business. These folks will get something out of the things I’ll write about, especially if they’re interested in knowing what the viewers, the audience, their customers, think about what they’re offering.

But it’s mostly for viewers, whether savvy Internet navigators (millions of you) or someone just discovering Internet TV (hundreds of millions, maybe billions worldwide). Maybe you’ve seen some web video on YouTube, Hulu, or some other site. You want to find what else is out there. You may be asking, what should I try? Where do I look for interesting things to watch? Should I cut the cord on my cable or satellite TV service and find all my own TV entertainment? Isn’t there some service I can subscribe to? Does it cost money? Does it have ads? Can I watch it on my regular TV? Do any of my friends watch the things I watch? Do they talk about it, and what do they say? Is all this stuff too hard for me to figure out? Will Santa bring me an Internet TV for Christmas?

The only thing I’m sure about is the Santa thing (sorry, he’s not coming with an ITV this year). The rest, well, it can be confusing, but most cool tech stuff is a little overwhelming at first. Here you’ll get some no-jargon descriptions of what the heck Internet TV is, how to view it, how to find things you want to watch, how to enjoy online TV whether you have a low-end or high-end viewing setup, and some guidance on the latest things that’ll help you have a great online TV experience. I’ll talk about how viewers are leading the industry to where it’s going in the future, and maybe spank a vendor or two for not doing a good job following your lead. And if you have a friend or relative who can’t figure out this Internet TV thing for themselves, send them here–maybe we can help get them up the learning curve.

I’ll really need your help–your comments are going to make or break me, because I can only read a few sites and talk to a few people in a day. I need you to speak up on your own, to say what you like and don’t like about the vendors you deal with, the choices you have for finding and watching online TV, and the devices and apps you use to do it. Your questions will help shape what I look at and talk about here. Your problems and complaints will help sharpen the focus on what should happen to make Internet TV evolve faster and truer to your needs. I can’t address everything readers ask about, and with luck there will be too many comments to answer them all directly, but your voice is really important here. I ask you to provide a name and email to post comments, to keep the spam count as low as possible.

I post on Twitter, so follow me there to get alerted to my latest posts here. If you want to tell me something privately, email me paulzagaeski at