Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Discovery Adds To The Layoff Announcements

In my blog the end of last month, I noted the slew of end of year job layoffs across the media industry.  With the holidays coming and deep into Q4, those notices would only continue.  Although just announced in the press, it is my understanding that layoff notices at Discovery were received last week.  Per Multichannel, it was " a decision to consolidate its regional offices, leaving only a senior executive in cities like Detroit and Atlanta rather than a larger sales team."  Layoffs affected more than the ad sales group as affiliate sales and other functions were also hit.

 As for the programmer community, Discovery, Scripps, Fox, AMC, and others have all seen layoffs at their respective companies.  Given consolidation occurring at the cable operator levels, programming companies could see similar consolidation in the coming year.  And that will only mean more layoffs.  With more content heading toward digital, less people are needed to run affiliate sales and marketing.  And the ad sales efforts continue to get more automated and programmatic.  But like all we have seen before it, this move is cyclical and at some point more employees will again be needed to fun new monetization opportunities. 
the move also reflects a decision to consolidate its regional offices, leaving only a senior executive in cities like Detroit and Atlanta rather than a larger sales team. - See more at:
the move also reflects a decision to consolidate its regional offices, leaving only a senior executive in cities like Detroit and Atlanta rather than a larger sales team. - See more at:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Radio Redux via Podcasting

The world is cyclical and no matter what we do, history tends to repeat itself.  For those that can spot the trends, they can work to not repeat horrible historical events or capitalize on them.  In media, those cycles repeat themselves over and over again, just as TV copied radio, cable copied broadcast, and now digital is doing the same to TV.  We learn from the previous institution and reimagine it under new technological advances.

The world of radio was once the place for serialized dramas, comedies, and other theater of the mind broadcasts until the world of TV added pictures to the sound.  Radio morphed into news, talk, especially sports talk, and music.  But with the rise of the podcast, theater of the mind has come to the digital age.  The latest podcast is the much talked about Serial from the producers of This American Life. Per the NY Times, it is the "re-examination of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a Maryland teenager, that resulted in the conviction of Adnan Syed, her former boyfriend." Episodes range from 30 minutes to an hour and draw out slowly new information about this very real case.  And it is capturing a significant audience of listeners, including my own family. 

In an age where most of us seek out the full experience of sight and sound, this series has reminded us of the power that an audio broadcast can offer.  As more and more people hear about Serial, it is likely that it will enable other podcasts to benefit from this new interest in the spoken word.  And perhaps the radio medium itself can choose to revisit what once made them the instrument when millions of households would sit around the radio to listen to the next episode of Dragnet on the radio or Fibber McGee and Molly.  That podcasting has revitalized the audio broadcast once again demonstrates the cycles in our world and that history does indeed repeat itself. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Aereo Files Bankruptcy

According to the NY Times, Aereo has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 ending its run as a cable TV disruptor.  The Supreme Court ruled against the Aereo business model which enabled consumers to lease remote antennas to access over the air broadcast signals, digitize, and stream them for viewership.  Shows could be recorded for later viewing or streamed live to any device.  That model proved fatal for Aereo.

As to next steps, Aereo will try to sell off its assets.  And other OTT businesses will come up with different means to capture and transmit signals by placing antennas directly at the consumers' home.  Aereo's loss was the broadcasters gain. CBS has jumped on it by creating its own OTT subscription service for viewers to stream and watch its programming.  Perhaps other broadcast networks will follow.  Still, Aereos' appeal was that it aggregated all the broadcast signals onto one platform for an easier experience.  Farewell Aereo, your business model may have been in vain but as a disruptor you sure did light a fire to change. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Amazon To Offer Ad Supported Video Streaming Service

Amazon's plan to rule the online universe has taken a fresh turn with plans to expand its video strategy.  Currently offering Amazon Prime, a $99 a year service that includes video streaming, free shipping, and more, its next move is a separate free, ad supported video streaming service to attract a larger audience.  While no specific launch date was announced, the service could appeal to cord cutters among others.  And while some think it could hurt the Netflix subscription model, I actually believe it will only help it.

For Amazon, it offers another way to monetize its exclusive online content, shows like Alpha House and the new kids series, Gortimer Gibbon's Life On Normal Street, as well as acquired programs from HBO including The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, and more.  Adding an ad component will also help track and perhaps even enable its advertising to lead to online purchase behavior (on the Amazon website, of course).  The data of users to the service coupled with their purchase behavior could bring premium ad pricing.  Plus, the appeal of the Amazon free streaming service might eventually upsell them to a Prime customer.

Why shouldn't Netflix be worried?  Viewer consumption of programming is based on appeal and interest.  With its blend of original and acquired TV and movie content, and a relatively inexpensive monthly price, Netflix customers will remain as long as there is always a breadth and depth of content choices.  But Netflix might just consider a free ad supported service to both monetize its video content and drive adoption to upsell to its subscription service, too.  And Netflix, because they are not tied to their own e-commerce model could also offer a click through to other online retailers to purchase after viewing an ad.  Netflix might like a piece of that action, as well.  The only downside for Netflix, that customers drop the paid subscription for the free model, but it might be worth the risk.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dish Facing More Network Drops

Dish Network doesn't seem to mind that it is facing multiple contract issues with its programmers.  Last month, CNN and Cartoon dropped off the channel line-up and now they have a possible CBS drop on their hands.  But to keep laying it on, the rest of the Turner Networks, TBS and TNT in particular, are also set to be turned off.  For Dish subscribers, the loss of a cable network is a nuisance, the loss of a broadcaster is a headache. 

With carriage of pro football games, rating dominant prime time programs, and more, CBS can create a major headache for Dish just as it did in its negotiations with Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles.  That drop caused a large number of subscribers to drop their cable service for another provider.  Could a CBS drop on Dish cause the same significant subscriber loss? 

Yes, these programmer - cable distributor boxing matches seem to happen every year.  A network's contract expires, the signal goes dark on the line-up, consumers complain, and eventually, after a PR blitz, the service is restored, and the cycle starts again for another programmer.  A sorrowful process that continues to repeat.  As for the subscriber, we become numb in the process and eventually figure out that no matter where we end up, the same type of fight will emerge on that distributor.  Another reason consumers are dropping their cable cord altogether and seeking content over the top. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nielsen Attempting To Measure Netflix

It is hard to get an accurate count when companies don't want to be counted.  In today's Wall Street Journal article, Nielsen hopes to measure usage of both Netflix and Amazon Prime through its audio feed.  And while it may garner some information, it comes across as half-baked.  First, it only measure on connected TV sets, "Nielsen is still working on a way to measure subscription-video viewing on mobile devices, where such technology won’t work."  And second that it is being done without Netflix or Amazon's support.

Of course, getting good data is key to essentially what content owners want to know, "Is putting content on Netflix impacting the viewership on linear and traditional VOD".  But as more and more Netflix consumption is on mobile devices, the value of the research may be strained.  Common sense may already tell content owners what they implicitly already know.  Viewership is shifting from cable and broadcast to digital streaming media.  Current research already confirms this trend. 

Why doesn't Netflix or Amazon care to be measured by Nielsen.  Their revenue comes from subscription to their services and not from advertising.  Internally, they know who has subscribed and what they are watching.  And so, doing a deal with Nielsen today doesn't seem to be a high priority for either service.  For Nielsen and its customers, the data gleaned from this workaround collection process, via audio, may tell a story, just not a complete one.  Content owners that are doing programming deals with OTT providers see it as another window of revenue opportunity. 

And while it may create an issue of cannibalization that could hurt ad revenue in other windows, it can also help to draw new audiences.  Case in point, Breaking Bad on Netflix of older seasons led new audiences to catch up on the series to then head over to AMC to watch the current season play out.  A win for both platforms.  And one day when Orange Is The New Black sells a cable distribution window, the buzz it has gotten from Netflix should draw large audiences and consequently ad dollars.  And Nielsen needs to find a way to accurately measure all streaming usage. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NYC To Replace Payphones With WIFI

About a year from now, NYC will be offering free wifi access; sure Starbucks offers that now, but the city hopes to create a fast public wifi link using payphone kiosks to transmit a 150 foot perimeter in order to connect.  And NYC hopes to profit from this new business venture through advertising on payphone kiosks.

Initially, I thought that such an ambitious plan would enable apartment dwellers across the city to ditch their cable company and get high speed access to watch Netflix and other content without paying an ISP provider.  But 150 feet may not reach many people in their homes.  At the same time, New Yorkers using that end up using the new wifi service will most likely have to be outside to access.  Okay in the summer, less so in the winter.  And wouldn't you rather sit down in a nice coffee shop than stand outside and freeze your behind off as you surf the web.

As to advertising, with so many digital billboards already overwhelming our senses in the city, it is hard to imagine that more kiosks will provide a positive ad experience.  And per Mashable, "Users will only have to log into the network once, making the transition from one hotspot to the next seamless." Thus no real online ad opportunity.  

Such a program seems beneficial to NYC residents with free wifi and free domestic phone capabilities.  And if the radius of wifi access can be significantly expanded, a nice alternative to the cable and phone company; in fact, a potential competitor.  But as a business, it is hard to see it being profitable for its owners.  And while there is worry that a public wifi hotspot could affect our privacy, we have already accepted these wifi hotspots as we enter coffee shops, department stores and other establishments.  It seems few of us care about privacy. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Apps Changing Internet Usage

Today's Wall Street Journal reminds us that when we enter a particular app on our mobile device, we are essentially entering into a walled garden of specific information, disconnected from the open world wide web.  According to the article, we have changed how we surf, spending more time with apps than with an internet browser.  "On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry." 

And we have seemed to fall in love with our apps to find and share information fast.  The article worries that once we are inside a particular app or walled garden, we are then subject to its rules and whims, limited by what the particular app wants to allow us to see or do.  Most interesting to note, "The Web is built of links, but apps don’t have a functional equivalent."  We stay inside the garden unless we choose to venture again outside to seek additional information.  And unless we look outside the gates, we may not be exposed to new information. 

The article certainly doesn't see apps as bad, but as perhaps the next development of a changing platform.  The challenge is to find a way for openness to emerge.  The author's conclusion seems a sound one.  "It is that in the transition to a world in which services are delivered through apps, rather than the Web, we are graduating to a system that makes innovation, serendipity and experimentation that much harder for those who build things that rely on the Internet. And today, that is pretty much everyone."  If that is the case, I'm sure brighter minds are working on new types of app search. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Verizon To Sell A Mobile Cable Subscription

With the purchase of Intel's OnCue business, Verizon is embarking on a plan to offer a mobile version of a cable subscription business according to Wireless Week. Using their LTE mobile spectrum, Verizon plans to deliver a cable-like platform of channels for consumers.  And while launch date, subscription pricing, and other information is yet to be announced, it appears that Verizon sees an opportunity to attract cord cutters with a new approach. 

Cord cutting continues to grow as 150,000 households shed their cable subscription as of July 1 of this year.  According to Mashable, Time Warner Cable and Comcast were hit the worst.  Verizon's new pay-TV service could further attract cable customers to shed their physical cord for a mobile cable experience.  Verizon already understands the overbuild mentality as it markets its FIOS business in markets with cable providers.  Verizon's mobile business could potentially cannibalize some of its own FIOS customers although cable opertaors are more at risk.  And FIOS could market a mobile package that delivers the ultimate in a TV Everywhere approach. 

As OTT continues to mature, and platforms like Hulu and Netflix attracting subscribers, networks like HBO, SHO, and CBS are developing their own OTT models.  Verizon's mobile platform could be a boon to these networks and others.  It may also allow Verizon to start over to build and bundle services that consumers actually want to watch at a price point that is acceptable to them.  And if successful, this new business could truly disrupt the cable subscription model.