Thursday, March 31, 2016

Some Baseball Fans Are Striking Out

Local baseball fans in Los Angeles and New York may just strike out when it comes to watching their Dodgers and Yankees play on Opening Day and beyond.  That is because of the same type of disagreement that happens annually between cable programmers and cable operators. In Los Angeles, the Dodger Regional Sports Network, SportsNet LA, is in contract dispute with DirecTv, AT&T, and Cox Communications.   As of now, these operators will not be telecasting Dodger games from SportsNet LA.  In New York, the Yankee Regional SportsNet, YES, is in contract dispute with Comcast Cable.  That means that about 1 million homes in the NY area will not be able to watch YES. 

And while these regional sports networks charge a very hefty monthly license fee for carriage, their drop from the lineup did not lessen the monthly fees that cable subscribers pay to receive their all their cable channels.  According to the NY Post, the Comcast deal has been derailed mostly because of most favored nation issues, where Comcast would receive the best price given its share of the market.  With the merger of AT&T and DirecTv, Comcast is no longer the largest cable operator. 

Will consumers switch to other cable providers to watch their baseball games or will they wait it out and go without?  For the hardcore, the MLB app might help, but local games would still be blacked out.  Yes, the cost of sports programming is too high and ultimately the fan is forced to pay.  It is a no win situation. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Virtual Reality Is For Porn

We recently saw the show Avenue Q, a slightly risque musical parody of Sesame Street, first produced on Broadway about 15 years ago.  In today's NY Post, we learn that Oculus VR, now owned by Facebook, sees its next growth opportunity through the porn business.  Not an unlikely combination.

It seems that new technology has often found its early adopters through the porn industry.  The rise of the VCR brought many new owners for its easier access to porn videos; the rise of the internet has also been directly connected to the online connection to porn as well.  In fact, in Avenue Q, a popular song is based on this very fact, "The Internet Is For Porn":

The show may now feel a bit dated, but perhaps its rewrite could have this song changed to "VR Is For Porn" instead. According to the Post, "VR porn videos already number north of 1,000 from professional studios alone."  That compares to only about 30 games available for release.  It may seem a bit titillating, but the success of VR may seem to find its initial success as a result of this connection to porn.  We will wait and see. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Does Anyone Care About Today's Apple Event

The NY Times tells us today that Apple is having another "event" to announce new Spring updates to its current line of iPads and iPhones.  Unlike other announcements, this event seems to be lacking the sparkle that others have caused.  Are we set for a lackluster event?  Will anything revolutionary get announced or will it be a dud?  I'm guessing that we will be very disappointed. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Apple Cloud Means Business

If you enjoy your Apple products, than you might also be receiving a reminder that your iCloud storage is almost full.  Upgrade for a buck a month and assure that your photos and other data is saved.  Or change your settings and backup frequently to your computer.  Most of us don't do the latter and a buck a month for security also gives us piece of mind.

But iCloud storage is also big business.  With so many iPhone and iPad customers, the revenue can add up.  Apple has been using Amazon for its storage business but now, according to Business Insider, Google may have won a big piece of the business.  And splitting the cloud business offers some redundancy should the need arise.  But the move to Google may also make for good business strategy.

As Google pays Apple to be the search engine for its devices, the risk of losing that revenue always exists.  By spending money with Google for cloud support, their relationship adds more wrinkles and perhaps more leverage in other financial business dealings.  How long this lasts remains to be seen.  Given the dollars that come to Apple from iCloud storage, it may soon be time to bring this business internal and cut out the third parties like Google and Amazon. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

CBS To Sell Radio, Focus On Digital

Death to old media!  CBS is done with the radio business and plans to rid itself of news, oldies, talk, and music stations to focus on the digital business.  Whether that means simply a spin off or a complete sale to someone remains to be seen.  That there may still be a buyer is unclear.  Other radio companies, like iHeart Radio, the former Clear Channel, may go bankrupt!  With so much new competition from Apple Music, Spotify, and other streaming music outlets, CBS is just giving up this fight.

According to the NY Times, CBS "aims to streamline its business to focus on its broadcast network, the premium channel Showtime and digital."  But if the focus is digital, doesn't the content coming from radio help promote a digital business.  Can't they work with their radio assets to create another outlet to reach today's consumer and expand their business reach.  Will this radio contraction really support expansion in their other digital businesses or is this something else?  Could CBS start to split assets to drive shareholder value as they begin to sell off piece after piece.  And could ultimately CBS, the broadcast network, also be up for sale?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Patience Is No Longer A Virtue

We are no longer a society that reflects patience; rather, instantaneous is our mantra.  Like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka, "We Want It Now!"  From technology to politics to business, we expect results immediately.  We have no patience for time to allow change to occur.  Broadband must be faster, cars must drive quicker, politics must immediately address and respond t needs, and changes must be immediate.  We have no patience to wait.

TV is no longer linear, it is on demand and streaming.  A letter takes too long to send, a fax somewhat faster, an e-mail more immediate, but a text is instantaneous.  Can't wait a day or two for a package, a drone may help lessen the time it takes for it to arrive.  Time has become our great enemy.  Speed is essential.  And when it doesn't arrive quickly, we become angry.

And our children, seeing us adapt to quicker outcomes, expect it too.  They have learned from adults that our expectations are higher, our drive for immediacy, intense.  We have certainly benefited from these time saving, but we have also started to forget to breathe, to let things play out, and to use time to our advantage, as a way to process and think and learn.  Especially that patience can be a virtue. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Google Fiber, What Happened?

The rise of broadband and the threat of cord cutting seemed to be the perfect recipe for Google to enter into a market and attract cable subscribers to its fast internet pipeline.  First launched in Kansas City and then pushing out to other markets, Google was the big new entrant that could truly upset the apple cart.  But for all the significant investment and buzz, the results have been less so.

According to Multichannel, "Google Fiber ended 2015 with just north of 53,000 video subs, according to a blog post from MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett that pointed to fresh data from the U.S. Copyright Office."  Cable operators must be heaving a sigh of relief.  As other overbuilders have learned, it is hard to come into a community and take from the incumbent.  Was the deal not enough for consumers to switch?  Did the marketing message fail to hit its mark?  Or are we looking at a quiet launch, and the numbers don't yet fit the potential? 

The other thing to note, is that the Google Fiber number reflects the launch of video subscribers and does not report broadband customers.  Regardless, cable operators in these markets shouldn't laugh too hard.  Google has deep pockets and has shown a willingness to invest in projects for long term outcomes.  The fight may have started slow, but it is likely to be a lot more rounds. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

More Cable Network Drops

If you are searching for Yankee preseason games on YES on your Comcast channel line-up, keeping looking.  A contract dispute has led to the dropping of the channel.  And except for press stories, no word from Comcast to its customers or any rebate for the dropped service.  But they are not alone; droped networks are part of the fabric between cable operator and cable network in the game of contract negotiations and renewal.

More recently, AT&T's U-Verse cable networks have dropped Univision, Galavision, and others in the contract dispute as well.  That drop affects about 6 miilion subscribers although their acquired DirecTv customers are not impacted.  DirecTv operates under separate contracts from U-Verse.  It is a tiring story that repeats itself across the country.  And as cable consolidation continues, expect its impact to become greater in the near future.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Driverless Cars Are Not In The Near Future

Driverless cars hit a big bump, literally.  We recently learned in the Huffington Post that Google's testing of their driverless car prototype hit a municipal bus in Northern CA earlier this month.  And while no one was hurt, it does hurt the program.  As to responsibility, Google claims some of it was their fault, but whose fault would it be if it were a serious or even fatal accident?  For now, a human driver is definitely needed.

Still, car manufacturers should continue with cars with driverless support such as help with double parking, self-braking, and other safety measures.  But a completely driverless car, without an attentive driver, will take many, many more years till fruition.