Friday, July 1, 2016

Apple Should Not Buy Tidal

Subscription content services are a nice business to own.  They provide a nice monthly stream of revenue that can be accounted for with limited risks in subscriber loss.  Heck even cable has seen a very small percentage still from cord cutting.  In music, the big player is Spotify and Apple Music would surely like to beat them.  But recent news that they might purchase Tidal is not the answer.  Sure it has Jay Z but that does not a business make.  And it certainly won't make Apple Music any better or bigger.  Whether it secures any exclusivity is questionable, especially when you consider what Apple may have learned from the book side of the business and dealing with both book publishers and eventially the Judicial Department.

Still, the strategy of building better content businesses is a good one for Apple.  Could that mean buying someone as big as Netflix or perhaps even a Time Warner Inc, home of Turner, HBO, and Warner Bros?  I would love that move.  But maybe something smaller is a better first step.  Given the Viacom issues and Sumner Redstone lunacy, Showtime and sister networks might be a better idea.  Lionsgate is picking up Starz; once owned, they could be in play too.  And let's not forget Scripps or AMC.  Overall, I believe that video subscription should be Apple's next big content move.

And as for SIRI and the Amazon Alexa competition.  That is a blog for another time. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Starz Deal Demonstrates The Value Of Content

Lionsgate believes that content and distribution are intertwined and so have announced their deal to buy cable pay provider Starz for $4.4 billion.  According to Multichannel, " Although anticipated for months, the combination will give Starz the production heft it has craved as well as a vast content library – the merged entity will have 16,000 movie and TV titles – while Lionsgate gets a distribution arm in the Starz and Encore premium channels. It also paves the way for a broad range of new content partnerships and accelerates the growth of Lionsgate and Starz’s own OTT services."  A win-win for both companies and one that leverages the strengths of each other.   The deal should be approved by end of year.  

This deal comes as a result of the work done by John Malone, CEO of Liberty Media , who invested in Starz, spun it off into a separate company and ultimately put Lionsgate together with Starz to finalize a deal.  Not surprising, Malone's Discovery Channel also has a piece of Lionsgate making this deal more of a family affair for Liberty Media.  Given John Malone's MIdas Touch with content and distribution, the newly combined entity will do quite well. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Globalization Verse Isolationism

We live in interesting times.  While domestically, our political system grapples with issues ranging from immigration to unemployment, from freedom to security, from guns to the right to choose.  And as a democracy, we have a full range of thoughts and actions on how to accomplish our goals.  There are those that believe that we should be armed, that we must build walls to restrict entry, and we must tell others what they can do with their own bodies.  Others seek more regulation and restriction, interdependency, and choice.  But the one truth is that each of us have our own point on the line on where we stand, similar with some and different with others.

But what we face in the US seems no different than what is faced abroad and Brexit certainly demonstrates that a majority were fed up with status quo.  But unlike a revolution, a vote to exit the EU may answer one issue while creating so much more uncertainty.  In this case, no one seemed to plan out what the next steps should be should the vote pass.  Change and uncertainty consistently go together.

The riding question is if such a move to withdraw and separate is truly the right strategy.  Technology, media, communication, environmental issues, and so much more have made this planet Earth a much more smaller place to inhabit.  We all live on this one planet and for now we have no other planet to move to.  Rather than isolating ourselves, restricting movement, pushing others away, we need to learn how to listen, how to get along and ultimately to start growing up and behave like adults, not children.  Violent physical conflict should never be the answer; communication, conflict resolution, and compromise should be the global mantra.  Ultimately, "Can't We All Just Get Along."

As for our upcoming election, perhaps some will see a lesson learned from what the UK is now experiencing;  others will not.  Let's hope that a majority finds that we can find an orderly process.  But the world around us must also grow up too.  Violence should never be the answer.  But that esson might take a lot longer to learn. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Intel Wants You To Know What They Do

Fascinating article in the NY Times about how Intel is using original content to craft its branding message.  It's no longer Intel Inside, rather, it is "experience what’s inside" to further describe the effects that Intel technology has on people's lives.  Of course no one tends to buy an Intel product and we think of them as components inside another brand.  Whether this ad campaign changes its bottom line or pushes them toward a more consumer product push remains to be seen. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

When Spokespeople Get Fired

The world of advertising with celebrity endorsements, funny catch phrases, and ordinary spokespeople, all try to capture the attention of the public and convince us that the product or service offered is the best one.  Over the years, a large number have become quite memorable, from Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes to Jared for Subway, some good and some bad.  And of course some great catchphrases too, from "Where's the Beef" to "Can You Hear Me Now?"

Yet advertising is a tricky business and nothing ever goes as planned.  Who would know that Jared would go from losing weight on Subway sandwiches to child porn.  But once a connection is made between performer and endorsement, managing that relationship, even when the campaign is stopped for a new direction, is a tricky business.  So I wonder why Verizon, who made their name on their spokesperson saying the phrase "Can You Hear Me Now", one that truly resonated in the annuls of advertising, would not have kept their young spokesperson on some kind of exclusive retainer.  Instead Verizon got a slap in the face.

The original...

And now...

Does AT&T have to worry about their young spokesperson "Lily, does Activia have to worry about Jamie Lee Curtis, or does it pay to keep them under some exclusivity?  Verizon certainly will find out if Sprint has caught them napping or not.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Goodbye Cablevision, Hello Altice

I started my ad sales career at Cablevision of Boston, a Charles Dolan business that was a part of the Cablevision Systems empire.  I left and rejoined Rainbow Media, a subsidiary of Cablevision and the network side of the business.  There I worked with cable networks like Bravo and IFC; eventually, more networks and responsibilities were added to my job description.  I watched the industry move from start up to mature and was sad when the Boston system was sold to Comcast and especially when Bravo and half the team I worked with was sold to NBC.  Eventually I was downsized too and left the Cablevision team.  Since then, Rainbow left Cablevision to become a standalone business AMC Networks, just as MSG did the same.  And today, Cablevision itself has officially sold itself.

The cable industry continues to mature.  Where once it was the upstart competing with broadcast; today, it is grouped with broadcast and competes with streaming.  Those early days were quite special and money flowed freely.  Business trips, management conferences to amazing locales, turkeys at Thanksgiving, stock options and more.  But as accountability tightened up and profit margin mattered more than employees (or even customers), many of those perks were dropped. 

I look at my career as I look at my life as chapters in a book still being written.  Those early chapters with Cablevision and Bravo/IFC were amazing.  I think back to them at times and smile.  To see the company that I spent more than 15 years with become no more does make me feel a little sad.  No regrets though as one must continue to keep writing the new chapters in living one's life.  Who knows what the next story will look like. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Screens Bigger, 3D Blows According To Katzenberg

Speaking at CineEurope, Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animation, stated what we all know.  3D is gimmicky and used poorly while movie goers really prefer bigger screens, per Variety.  I couldn't agree more. 

I have always found 3D movies distracting, even when done on films like Avatar.  The glasses used are uncomfortable and the screen is more likely to strain the eyes then produce a better picture.  Instead, theater owners that have spent capital improvement on bigger screens, better seats in a stadium style arrangement, and a superior audio experience, have hopefully found consumers coming back again and again. 

At the same time, the price point used to buy a seat must remain reasonable, especially for a family outing.  If you price too high, these customers will find their home theater experience more than adequate.  Recently, I took our family of 4 to the movies.  Using Flixster, we bought the film, theater time and exact seats.  When we got to the movies, we only had to wait to pick up the printed copies.  No waiting in lines, no wondering if the movie was sold out or if we would find seats together.  At the same time, the cost for tickets, including the Flixster fee, exceed $50.  Add a stop at the refreshment stand and many families will be using their entire monthly entertainment budget. 

 Some movie houses have added more dinner options to encourage consumer spending, others have arcade areas to catch a few quarters more.  Ads before the movies adds more revenues.  One ad especially caught our attention.  It was for a production of One Man, Two Guvnors that had been filmed during its Broadway run and would be run in the theater.  An interesting way to add more options to what a movie screen can deliver.  As for the movie industry, continue to build a better destination experience, especially inside the auditorium and movie lovers will continue to return.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Spectrum vs Xfinity vs Optimum

It's official!  Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks are part of Charter Communications.  And with the merger will come new marketing intended to forget the old brand and think only good thoughts of the new cable company.  And the name Charter has chosen to market cable, phone and data is Spectrum.  If you think you have seen that name before, you have.  The Flyers and Sixers once played in the Spectrum.  There once was a cable network called Prism (sounds like Spectrum a bit) and there is a company already called Spectrum Brands.

Of course the notion of renaming its services under a different brand name comes right from the cable playbook.  Comcast introduced us to their Xfinity brand while Cablevision started it with its Optimum brand.  Whether Altice decides to keep that name once it acquires Cablevision in the next month or so remains to be seen.  Still, the strategy has proved a successful one.  Many people have no idea that the brand and the company are the same.

Can Charter take the Time Warner Cable properties and upgrade them and thus help improve their service and reputation?   Current TWC customers, especially in California, hope so.  If cord cutting doesn't kill them first, an opportunity to regain consumer trust and build a world class operation could certainly be possible.  We will have to wait and see how Charter Communications takes on this acquisition and invests in its infrastructure. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Self Driving Cars To Combat Texting While Driving

With my son learning how to drive, I tend to say ad nauseum to watch out for the other drivers.  And it amazes me to watch how horribly others drive.  Sure, know one wants to start an accident, but I see daily drivers holding their cell phone by their wheel, looking down as they drive.  It makes their driving erratic and as my neighbor learned the hard way, caused an oncoming car to swerve into her lane and hit her.

The law may tell us to not text and drive and to keep our cell phone in our pocket, but the buzz and ring are Pavlovian, resulting in a desire to take them out and look at them.  We are all guilty.  It seems the current law may not be working no matter how many tickets the police may give or how many accidents are the result.

It may just be time to quickly embrace self driving cars.  If we can't control our impulses to text and drive, then we need our cars to be our friend and drive for us.  Uber without a driver.  For every life we save or accident we prevent, the better our self driving car experience will be.  For us and for others on the road.  But until all cars are self driving, put the cellphone away while driving and for your sake if not others, stop texting and driving.