Author Archives: Jordan Demars

Netflix Doesn’t “Cannibalize” Regular TV

Netflix Norway

Source: Huffington Post

The rising popularity of cord-cutting has got pay TV providers worried about their customer base and scrambling to give their viewers a reason to stay.  Netflix seems to be growing into traditional TV’s main competitor for video content.

However, a new study by TiVo Research and Analytics (TRA) shows that most viewers use the subscription VOD service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, regular TV.

Collecting data from nearly 10,000 respondents, the study showed that there was “no significant difference” in amount of regular TV watched between those who subscribe to Netflix and those who do not.  And with over half (57%) of the respondents saying that they subscribed to the VOD platform, Netflix may not yet pose as big of a cord-cutting threat as cable/satellite companies think.

Mark Lieberman, CEO of TRA, says that the study’s results are clear and positive, but do not necessarily bode well for the future of traditional TV:

“Our data show that Netflix is not currently a substitute for traditional television, but offers a way for TV lovers to watch more of the kinds of programs they love. The future of television may tell a different story, but as of today we’ve found that the Netflix subscribers in our study are not watching less traditional TV.”

The future may indeed tell a different story, as another study showed that 20% of Netflix users in the US have already cut the cord.  However, as much of a concern cord-cutting OTT users are for pay TV companies, it’s not time for them to go into crisis mode just yet.  Traditional TV providers still have broadcasting rights to major, one-time events – most notably sports.  As long as they can keep hold of those rights, they always have a chance.

Referenced from RapidTVNews and WebProNews

DVR Competition Heats Up

As live TV viewership is declining seemingly by the day, the focus of US pay TV providers has shifted from beefing up their channel packages to creating and improving their DVR options.  Cablevision, a main cable provider for New York City area, recently announced its improved DVR recording capabilities, allowing customers to record 10 programs at once.  (By the way, bhaalu by Right Brain Interface has no limit for simultaneous recordings.)

This new development, alongside increasing storage to 75 hours of HD programming, is part of an effort to combat similar features offered by other providers, says Steve Donohue:

“In addition to helping Cablevision compete with the Verizon Media Server which the telco is developing with Arris, Cablevision’s network DVR gives it a product that tops the recording capabilities of DirecTV’s Genie DVR, which has five tuners, and Dish Network’s Hopper, which can record up to six programs simultaneously thanks to its Primetime Anytime feature.”

viewing-share

Source: TechCrunch

Although live TV still accounts for 52% of all viewing time in the US, that number drops to 41% for people 18-34 years of age, according to recent studies.  This makes cable/satellite providers tremble in their boots – as it should.  That age group is a key market that sets the trend for future consumer behavior, and they can pose a real problem for pay TV providers should they decide that their subscriptions aren’t worth the money.

DVR services may be the new style of pay TV subscriptions, as live TV air times are conflicting more and more with viewers’ daily schedules.  Right now, customer loyalty to TV providers is hanging by a thread, so maybe its time for some new blood to move into the market.

Referenced from FierceCable, bgr.com, and TechCrunch

Google Announces Chromecast

chromecast-hed-2013Less than two months after launching experimental internet balloons into the Earth’s stratosphere, Google is once again taking another step toward dominating the digital world.  Last Wednesday (24 July), the digital media giant announced the release of its video streaming device Chromecast.  Compatible with laptops, tablets, and mobile phones (Android and iOS), the 5 cm-long gadget plugs into an HDMI port on an HDTV and streams video from the mobile device (acting as a remote) to the TV. 

Although Chromecast lacks the breadth of content (it’s currently only able to stream YouTube, Google Play, and Netflix) that other streaming devices such as Apple TV have, it comes at a fraction of the cost.  The thumb drive-sized device has a retail price of US$35 (S$45), compared to Apple TV’s price of US$99 (S$125).  With more streaming content expected to become available for Chromecast – such as Pandora – we shouldn’t be surprised to see it compete with the big dogs of video streaming.

However, Chromecast’s real advantage over other devices is its multi-screen capability, says Janko Roettgers:

“Chromecast synchronizes media playback across multiple devices, making it possible for you to launch the playback of a Netflix movie on your TV with the help of your phone, then turn off that phone and launch the app on your iPad to pause the movie. That’s simply not possible with [Apple TV's] AirPlay today, and it puts pressure on Apple to add more features.”

Google obviously modeled Chromecast’s simplicity after AirPlay, but, naturally, made improvements.  AirPlay only works with Apple products, and even then there are certain software requirements (I know from experience how frustrating it is to find a cool video on a Macbook and not be able to stream it through AirPlay).

Chromecast sold out on both Amazon and the Google Play store within a day of the release, and is still out of stock on Amazon.  However, Amazon will ship the device anywhere, so we Asian consumers must only wait until Amazon gets another shipment to have one of our own.

Referenced from CNN.com, gigaom.com, and asia.cnet.com

New, Less Expensive Fibre Broadband

ituThe International Telecommunications Union (ITU), after holding a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, is well on its way to approving a new standard of fibre broadband called G.fast.  The service, which could provide internet speeds of up to 1Gbps (1000Mbps), is geared toward companies who want or need to provide such speeds (for HD or Ultra HD video streaming) but want to avoid expensive fibre installation costs.  According to ITU’s website, G.fast delivers fibre-like speeds using copper wire, and can do so up to 250 metres from away from its main distribution point.  This would allow for customer installation without technical support (hopefully), thereby drastically reducing costs for both providers and consumers.

Jim Barthold says G.fast would make it possible for smaller companies to provide large amounts of bandwidth which has previously been impossible for them to afford:

“The standard is backed by multiple service providers, chip manufacturers and system vendors, ITU said, because its top speeds would enable service providers to deliver upcoming bandwidth-rich services such as ultra high definition TV and multiple broadband service levels without investing in fiber to the home (FTTH). It would, in all likelihood, make IPTV service a reality for a number of smaller telcos with limited financial and network resources.”

Widespread use of G.fast will surely follow its approval, predicted to be in early 2014. The only drawback of the service, which was addressed and resolved at the Geneva meeting, is making sure that G.fast equipment doesn’t interfere with FM radio frequencies. 

It seems now that traditional copper wire can yet still serve a revolutionary purpose.  This new standard of fibre broadband – designed almost exclusively for the purposes of IPTV – will no doubt launch the industry into a new era where smaller companies, simply because of lower startup costs, can challenge those with more resources.  With G.fast, success in the IPTV market will depend much more on the quality of the product by leveling the bandwidth playing field.

Referenced from FierceIPTV and ITU.int

More Original Content from Netflix

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Following 14 total Emmy Award nominations for its original series House of Cards, Arrested Development, and Hemlock Grove, Netflix says it plans to expand its original content repertoire.  Not only has it ordered new seasons for all of its shows, but the company said in a letter to its shareholders that it also intends to venture into stand-up comedy and full-length documentaries.

Netflix’s long-term goal is to overtake rival HBO as the go-to provider for video content.  To do that, says Joan E. Solsman, the company will have to overcome deficiencies between it and HBO:

“Unlike HBO, Netflix doesn’t own own the content it’s helping to produce, though that would be a natural path for Netflix to take in the long term. And Netflix international reach is trifling compared to HBO’s. Earlier this year, Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes said HBO has 114 million global subscribers. Netflix’s worldwide subscribers were more than 37 million, it said Monday.”

Although Netflix recently edged out HBO in US subscribers, the fact that HBO owns all of its content allows it to have an overwhelmingly superior global presence.  Having “original” content is all well and good, but Netflix will continue to be globally overshadowed by HBO until owns outright all the content it produces (the global success of Game of Thrones is proof of this).  

In the meantime, however, we can all be resigned to the fact that we will, for the foreseeable future, have to use services like MyRepublic’s Teleport if we want to watch shows like House of Cards (which is fantastic, by the way).  

Referenced from TechCrunch and CNet

Fox’s Appeal on Dish Decision Denied

getsrchttp3a2f2fimagestDish Network once again was given the nod in a barrage of cases involving automatic ad-skipping on its Hopper DVR service (called “AutoHop”).  Last Wednesday, a U.S. appellate court denied Fox network’s request to overturn a lower court’s November 2012 refusal to file an injunction against Dish.  The appellate court agreed that Fox has not provided adequate evidence showing that AutoHop would result in copyright infringement or breach of contract between the two companies.

Although this latest ruling has not necessarily dealt a mortal blow (Fox says they may file another appeal), it certainly will set a precedent for similar suits, namely those filed by NBC and CBS against Dish.  At a basic level, the suits against the satellite TV provider deal with its liability for plaintiffs’ lost ad revenues due to AutoHop. However, the courts say that by giving their customers control of the ad-skipping feature, Dish absolves itself of any direct liability for the lost revenues.

Sourcefednews.com explains Dish’s indirect liability:

“Additionally, Dish can’t be held liable indirectly either because time-shifting is a protected fair use and networks cannot challenge commercial skipping because they don’t have a copyright interest in the commercials themselves.”

Fox’s consecutive failures, for the same reason, to stop AutoHop seem to all but condemn both existing and future suits on the matter, at least in the U.S.  Could this case set a global precedent for ad-skipping procedures on VOD platforms? That depends on the country and the similarities between its laws and those of the U.S.

Referenced from FierceCable and the Chicago Tribune

See the appellate court’s full decision here.

YuMe Online Video Advertising

yume_logo_484 (1)Online news source Video Ad News recently conducted an interview with Ed Haslem, senior vice president of marketing at YuMe, an online video advertising firm.  The purpose of the interview was to discuss the release of YuMe’s Household Targeting ad service.

Haslem explained briefly what the service provides:

“In a nutshell, Household Targeting delivers 100% in-stream, interactive video ads to all screens in a household – smartphone, tablet, CTV, PC. By utilizing our Connected Audience Network these ads will reach more than 147M video viewers per month, in the United States.”

How does the service work? It uses complicated “heuristic algorithms,” as Haslem calls them, along with other processes that normal humans like myself could not possibly understand.  The main point is that the service looks to close the gap that exists between online video and TV advertising, insofar as household exposure.   Online ads, unlike those on TV, are usually only seen by a single family member at a time, giving TV ads a marked advantage.

Haslem said brands that would likely use YuMe’s service are those that already use TV ads heavily: cars, movies, restaurants, travel, etc.  Because these brands routinely include an entire household in the decision process (unlike, say, buying a set of golf clubs for Dad), adding online ads with family-wide exposure makes perfect sense.

YuMe plans to go public soon, as it filed for a US$65 million (S$82 million) initial public offering earlier this month, which was higher than expected (possibly due to this new service).  The company posted US$123 million (S$156 million) in sales for the 2012 fiscal year.

See full interview at VideoAdNews.com

Asia-Pacific Satellite Industry Committee

images (2)The CASBAA Satellite Industry Forum takes place every year, and was held this year on 17th June at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.  The theme of this year’s forum was “An Industry in Transition,” highlighting the growth of the industry in the Asia-Pacific region.  Fittingly, the opening speaker at the forum was Gwynne Shotwell, president of satellite company and new CASBAA member SpaceX.

Many topics were explored this year, among which were the industry’s huge rise in competition (and, thus, drop in prices), different aspects of and bodies involved in regulation, and talk of new satellite technologies.  Discussions were mostly geared toward managing these aspects in order to secure future success for the industry.

CASBAA’s press release for the forum quotes Paul Brown-Kenyon, CEO of MEASAT and Chairman of CASBAA’s Satellite Industry Committee:

“The future is…different. It’s going to be an exciting future – lots of innovation, lots of change…but the key thing is it’s uncertain. The trick is to figure out how to deal with that uncertainty – how to build in the flexibility, to evolve and capture the growth. It is going to come in interesting areas.”

With over 70 satellites hovering over the Asia-Pacific region operated by more than 20 providers, those “interesting areas” could be isolated to companies that differentiate themselves from others.  The market is beginning to look more and more monotonous, so a breakthrough service or idea is certainly at the forefront of all companies’ minds.

CASBAA Adds 7 New Members

CasbaaThe Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA), the lobbying body for multichannel TV across the Asia-Pacific region, has added 7 corporate members, bringing the total membership to 130.  These new additions, including companies headquartered in places like Mexico (Grupo Televisa) and Germany (SmartCast), illustrate just how widespread and diverse the TV industry has become.  Also among the new additions was SpaceX, a California-based company that develops and launches rockets and is currently executing a US$1.6B (S$2B) contract with NASA.

The new member corporations will only add to CASBAA’s claim of over 445 million connections within the TV industry.  Every connection serves to raise the already high influence the association has throughout Asia, which CASBAA has been striving to do ever since its inception in 1991:

“… within a footprint spanning China to Australia and Japan to Pakistan, CASBAA works to be the authoritative voice for multichannel TV promoting even handed and market friendly regulation, IP protection and revenue growth for subscriptions and advertising.”

CASBAA also bolstered its Asia-based membership with Hong Kong law firm Haldanes, information services provider Media Partners Asia (MPA), and online Software as a Service (SaaS) platform Movideo (the largest of its kind in Asia).

With older members such as Sony Pictures, Disney and BBC (to name a few), CASBAA has already established itself within the content production community.  Its new members, however, represent the association’s ongoing desire to have lobbying power from every facet of the broadcasting community.

See full article at bloomberg.com

Slo-Mo Filming for iOS 7?

1373426908Alongside the anticipation of Apple’s new iOS 7 operating system (still in beta testing) is the widespread expectation of the iPhone 5S’s US release this fall.  And if we know anything about iPhone releases, we know that the months leading up to them are fraught with rumors of the phone’s new features, and this time is no different.

The feature that most people expect to be included in the 5S/iOS 7 is a new camera mode, called “Mogul,” that can shoot video in super-slow motion.  Although slo-mo video apps already exist for current phones and operating systems, Mogul would be integrated directly into the phone’s camera, making slo-mo filming as easy as flicking a switch (so to speak).

John Koetsier says the new feature could be an avenue for Apple to one-up the Samsung Galaxy S4′s existing slo-mo capability:

“Typically slow-motion video capture requires lower-resolution capture — the Galaxy S4′s 13-megapixel camera captures slo-mo at only 800-by-450 pixels, almost certainly due to the massive flood of visual data pouring into the camera, CPU, and Flash memory at 120 individual frames every single second…One way Apple could differentiate itself with a coming iPhone 5S, of course, is allow full-frame slow-motion, which would be spectacular.”

If the new feature does end up on the new iPhone, imagine what kind of implications that would have for Instagram or Vine, especially if the videos are in HD.  If so, I really hope somebody decides to re-create Bo Derek’s slo-mo beach run.

Referenced from VentureBeat and cnet.com