Thursday, March 8. 2012
Sitting at the FT Digital Media conference listening to Channel 4 announce Channel 4/7, essentially a catch up TV service. The killers USP apparently is that it will guide people to things to watch via...social media (cue buzzy froth stage left)
Its still vapourware, there’s no current launch date, but CEO David Abraham did say that it would be rolled out across all major TV latforms later in 2012.
With so much choice out there, viewers are increasingly saying they sometimes just miss the best stuff, despite their PVR and VOD. 4seven will give viewers more chances to catch the most popular and talked about Channel 4 shows from the last seven days."
The downside of a social media based recommendation system is, like Google links, you get a lowest common denominator recommendation cycle, which loses your high end and most Ad-desirable customers) a point made yesterday by Chad Hurley where he noted that you do have to add variability to social choice.
(Later, when questioned Abraham said selection would not be by algorithm, so it seems like they have not drunk all the Kool Aid)
Tuesday, May 3. 2011
For the first time in 20 years, the number of homes in the United States with television sets has dropped.....NYT:
The Nielsen Company, which takes TV set ownership into account when it produces ratings, will tell television networks and advertisers on Tuesday that 96.7 percent of American households now own sets, down from 98.9 percent previously.
A few years ago it was Fixed Line telephony, there is no surere sign that an industry is undergoing Riepl's Law than this - of course, teh converse of teg law is that the Old media never disappears, just has a smaller penetration.
Wednesday, April 6. 2011
Pirate World c 2008 is starting to become the New Tv industry
Two interesting pieces of news - firstly, Hulu, Apple and Netflix are estimated to be sharing $800m of streamed Web TV revenues by 2013:
Note the lack of YouTube in that analysis. The second newspiece is that Google is spending $100m on bringing Mountain View to Mohammed (It's initial approach of bringing Mohammed to the mountain's view with Google TV didn't work, the search based program navigation failed):
Good luck to YouTube, they will need it - its profitability always seems around the next corner, and every which way we run the numbers we can't see how they can make money sustainably without some "interesting" assumptions of Ad rates.
But big picture, it is yet more evidence that the "Pirate World" of Web TV is starting to morph into a "New TV" world as players shake out into winners (make money) and losers (still need subsidies). That 2008 prediction (see chart above, a more detailed slide pack is over here) is starting to firm up nicely.
Tuesday, March 8. 2011
Pirate World c 2008
In 2008, we took a long and serious look (precis is public here) at the evolution of the Online TV world for the Telco 2.0 team, and concluded that there would be a few years of "Pirate World" when economically irrational "FreeConomic" behaviour was the norm, led by companies who were subsidising their entries by money earned elsewhere or were "adventure capital" funded (see diagram above). We estimated this would be for 3-5 years, and in 2008 we were about one year into it, and by 2011 the New Order would emerge, behaving rationally again. Last year there were signs that the previous generation of Pirates (YouTube, Hulu) were starting to look at rational economics (aka being profitable) while other "disruptors" had run out of cash and were on the way out.
However, what we didn't factor in was that some other players then would jump in at this point, hoping to disrupt the Olde New Order disruptors - enter Netflix, and now Facebook. To an extent the Netflix " $7.99 all the video you can eat" deal is economically, um, interesting for a public company without a Big Daddy with deep pockets, but strategically they have no alterrnative (They are in the "if we don't do this we're f*cked" box, I'd predict them to sell out by end 2011).
But Facebook is a new entrant in the ring - today they announced a deal with Warner Brothers, but even more amusing was Goldman Sachs (who has sunk quite a bit of money into Facebook) arguing that they could (someday, maybe beby) become a real force:
The interesting difference here is that Warner/Facebook will try and charge a (30 facepoints - c $3) fee for rental for each movie for now - but the Netflix $7.99 per month for as much as you can watch sets a lower expectation point. Methinks Goldmans are jumping the gun a bit with their hearty approbation, the argument being that the 600m user base is a major opportunity - I'd want to see how regional rights are handled first though (Investment house analysts pumping their own company's investments - lemme see, when do I last recall that happening...), but a new race to the bottom price war is probably imminent - I'd suspect a few more major entrants will be drawn in by this, and Pirate World could be with us a while longer....
Update - my collaborator on the 2008 work, Keith McMahon, has emailed me pinting out that the dealis actually just a licensing arrangement (that emerged in later information, teach me to blog it early...) but also that he thinks our assumptions will not be shaken by Facebook per se:
It uses two really valuable features of Facebook – the fact that The Dark Knight has a fanclub and Facebook credits. From the Warner Bros perspective, Dark Knight was released in 2008 and is already well outside of the exclusivity windows and is available for rental everywhere (iTunes for £2.50). It is also a franchise movie or brand in its own right. Any additional revenues will be accepted with open arms.
My response to Keith was that it wasn't somuch Facebook that I saw extending Pirate World, but Uncle Tom Cobbley and all trying togo down this channel now and being faced with having to match NetFlix pricing, which is "piratical" in that it is irrational (in my view, anyway). Keith also reminded me that we predicted far more recourse to law by the Old Order than we have seen so to date.
Friday, March 4. 2011
Fifth up on Wednesday at the Financial Times Digital Media & Broadcasting conference was "Reinventing TV" with a panel discussion featuring:
- Fearghal Kelly, VP Media Solutions, ioko
Again, very little new, and I felt that Richard Waters didn't press Lovefilm boss Simon Calver hard enough on why they eventually sold to Amazon and what they implied for the current value chains. As with my earlier post on News, you feel the sackcloth and ashes spiel is somewhat overplayed given the dominance of Olde TV still in terms of audience and advertising share, and OTT TV is (five years later from The Great OTT Year at IBC 2006) is still about to win all - next year - and in the meantine Lovefilm sold in to Amazon, Netflix is bumbling sideways at $7.99 for the whole farm. The things that made me open one eye from my pre-lunch torpor to scrawl a note were:
- "Live" TV and "Catch UP" TV are actually two different markets, like say newspapers and magazines.
There was the obligatory Recital Of The Credo - that The Tablet will be the Great Gamechanger for Media (sadly no one pointed out that it still only has a c 2.5% market share - so I went back to energy-saving mode at that point.
Forgive the bored ennui of this post, but if you go to the MyPCTV posts we started writing in 2006 you can see how little has actually changed in this particular game - or arther, how the current players are sleepwalking to their own doom, much like Planet Mobile has. We did a major piece of work on the Future of Web TV in 2008, and -a part froma few minor edits - its pretty much good for 2011. It is with sad resignation that I await Apple coming in with an iTV offering in 12 - 24 months and show the industry how to do it.
Thursday, December 2. 2010
BT Futurologist Dr Nicola Millard on the incongruity of lage organisations recruiting people on social media (such as facebook) then banning it's use within the company.
I have a lot of time for the BT futurology people, they have been fairly good over the last 10 years - but the fact that this is also BT Web TV channel points to something else that we already have been working with smaller clients on for some years and is now clearly entering large scale corporates - that all organisations will become media organisations in time, and probably multi-medis such asTV et al, as well as just a website.
Monday, November 29. 2010
Broadsight's Paul Lancefield has been doing some musing on the future of the TV value chain:
Something big has happened in the TV business and the launch of Apple TV has just underlined it. That's not to say Apple designed this shift or even are the likely victor in the living room. They didn't and they aren't. But their device ecosystem, covering as it does TV, PC, Notebook, Phone and Tablet now proves the viability of this new much heralded model, but more than that, because we can see it in action, because we can play with all the constituent parts we can now begin to get a sense of what it will really mean and the world that is emerging is radically different from the world most of the major TV players are planning for.
Moving forwards we are going to see the massive and deliberate disaggregation of content presented via TV: Note, I'm saying "disaggregation" not "aggregation". I’m not, however, attributing this move towards disaggregation to the normally cited cause. It won’t be because there are multiple standards and technologies competing for your patronage in the Living room that this disaggregation will take place, rather we will see disaggregation by design.
AppleTV is one of the new breed of TV device offering so called "Over The Top" (OTT) content. What this means is it works exactly how most Internet users think it should work; you make a request for content, it get’s delivered. You don’t have to first subscribe to a TV Service as such and you don’t need an installer to come and install any specialist equipment in your home. The content delivered is network agnostic, with the caveat that your ISP connection has to give you sufficient bandwidth and implement TCP/IP (but which networks don’t - TCP/IP is now a given). You no longer need to be connected to Virgin cable or have a subscription to Sky to get HD TV. All you need is a fat-pipe, a TV capable device, 802.11n WiFi and a credit card.
For years the TV Service delivery industry has existed because if you wanted video to be piped to your goggle box, there was no alternative than to build a dedicated transmission network. Then, after the arrival of the Internet, unicast IP held out the promise that TV could be delivered along with the large number of other services we know and love on the Internet but, until recently, there simply wasn't enough capacity available to provide the kind of timely and quality service TV viewers demand. More recently however, services like Apple TV and Sky Player, have shown the specialist TV transmission business as we once knew it, is no longer essential. I’ve now rented some 15-20 HD films on Apple TV and all have started within 40 or so seconds and played from beginning to end without interruption.
Quality OTT content delivery demonstrates we have entered the promised land and you can now get HD video from any location to any device (albeit delayed for 20-60 seconds for buffering). For the last couple of years we have been living in an n2n world, which is like the p2p world we already know, only with added spice; In an n2n world any device can talk to any other device and handle and operate with any of the popular streamed media formats. But now even before we have had time to fully assimilate the implications of this step, we are moving into what I would like to call the n2nd world. And in this world - at least so far as TV is concerned - the constraints of Apple versus Android or Windows versus OSX or XBox Vs PS3 all become irrelevant. It is a world where anyone can play content out to any device, where the the display, the terminus for what we want to play-out, is no longer the device running the player application. We know this world is coming because iPhones and iPads can already stream out content wirelessly to Apple TV for display. Of course streaming from one device to another to display it is nothing new, devices with DLNA have been doing so for some time. But what is new is that this capability is now part of a unified ecosystem where all the parts of the chain have been designed to work together. Today I can go to a friends house and output the DRM protected video from my cloud data store, or my iTunes rented movie from my iPhone or iPad, to my friend’s Apple TV.
As sure as eggs are eggs, the component parts of this ecosystem will be replicated in the open standards world (though there is a surmountable gotcha I discuss at the end of this article) and adopted by all mobile device manufacturers. So in a short while it will be possible for anyone to throw video from the device they carry in their pocket onto a local display.
The big shift to OTT means the need for dedicated TV transmission systems will, over time, diminish to near zero. The people who put software on Set Top Boxes, the people who integrate back-end systems with those Set-Top-Boxes for playing out linear channel programming and Video on Demand and the people who integrate all the other stuff required to deliver service like billing systems EPG schedule data systems and the like, will have far less work to do. I don’t think the industry has yet fully caught on, but in the new n2n world, there is hardly any need for specialist TV technology people to exist as we know them. A fact particularly unfortunate for me because I have for some years earned a living as a consultant and Program Manager in the Digital TV space.
In the old world, if you owned content you needed a network and you didn’t think too hard about the fact an EPG was imposed on the pipe your content was delivered through because that’s how you got your content in front of the audience. The systems for doing these things were far too expensive and specialist for you to seek to deliver them yourself (though if you were big enough - like Disney - you might take the extra step of arranging your content to match your own wishes in your own channel). But in the n2nd world, the need for your content to be aggregated with other content just so it can be economically passed through a pipe, has been almost entirely eroded. In the n2n world, every element of the old TV pipe including the Set-Top-Box and the EPG, is now a commodity and is replaced by more generic technology already available in the field. Now a bedroom programmer, albeit one with sufficient financial resources to pay hosting fees and CDN caching fees, can deliver video to any device in the broadband n2n ecosystem and retain full ownership and distribution rights over the content.
The EPG of today looks as it does because of the past constraints of TV Service Transmission. If the world had never seen TV and then, all at once, someone invented the Internet, Google indexed search and n2nd technologies - after recovering from a heart attack at the excitement of it all - I’ll wager no one would then go on to invent an EPG as we find it today.
In a world of n2nd distribution current EPG design displays available TV content like Walmart stacks it’s shelves with groceries. Apple doesn't sell iMacs next to HP Notebooks at Walmart, so why would Warner Brother’s do the same with Harry Potter movies? Big blockbuster movies like, Transformers, James Bond and blockbuster TV series like The Sopranos, Band of Brothers, Hero's etc are each a franchise in and of themselves. And thanks to being rendered in the medium of the moving image the brand of the franchise is quickly and strongly established in the minds of their audience.
Brand is something to be built cherished and nurtured in the way an iMac in the Apple Store is presented like a tablet from the gods reverently placed on a shrine. Part of the reason cinemas survive in the world of large flatscreen personal TV's and Home Theatre technology is because going to the cinema is an all encompassing experience, and the experience starts with the sense of anticipation you feel as you walk through the doors. Control the space your content occupies and you control the experience and gain the opportunity to burn your brand franchise into the deepest levels of the viewer's psyche.
When you own a valuable brand, you try to shift it as far away from ‘commodity-land’ as you can manage. All the time you are a commodity you are competing on little other than price but when you are a TV brand, you are competing on promise, anticipation and excitement and these things flourish in the context of individuality (but not in the ‘supermarket shelf’ straightjacket of the EPG). So my prediction is content is going to become increasingly disaggregated. Content owners will increasingly present their wares from within their own content specific portals.
There will be limits to this process of disaggregation of course. Some content benefits very much from time-bound delivery as distinct from on-demand delivery (sports and news to name two) and there can be no doubt many returning tired from a day’s work will want a video magazine of news and entertainment to be prepared for them for when they slump in the couch. In the n2n world, owners of complimentary content co-operate and co-ordinate to deliver it as part of a unified TV magazine (here I am using the term magazine in the non-print material sense). Still there will be little incentive to present content on a ‘supermarket shelf’ alongside non-complimentary direct competitors, especially if you own the market leading brand. Co-operating with complementary content partners and developing your own portal (and so retaining control over the entirety of the customer experience) is the far more attractive option.
Areas to watch:
The EPG Model
As a counterpoint to my argument above, while we wait for the n2nd ecosystems to mature, there is still opportunity for a content aggregating device or OS which gets OTT video content efficiently onto the TV screen to have an significant impact. The current leading contenders are Apple TV and Google TV, though there are other devices worth looking out for, such as the Boxee and Roku STB’s.
Both Apple and GoogleTV, however, are excessively paternalistic and look too much to how things were done in the past whilst in Google’s case, simply throwing a bit of indexed search into the mix. It has not been build from the ground up to support how content owners will present their wares in the future. It is informed too much by the notion shows are self contained entities (which for now they are) and need to exist independent of their own hypermedia portals (which increasingly they do not). In the old world, developing a client TV content presentation solution was expensive. It involved integrating bespoke software (known an embedded system OS and a higher level TV centric addition that has become known as Middleware) and few vendors have ever managed to produce an integrated solution in less than nine months and each integrated solution would be specific to a physical network and so would only reach a small fraction of the total market for any give show. In the new n2nd world, where the n2nd TV Service pipeline has almost every element in place already, the delivery of a new TV show the added work to be done will be the delivery of a portal app for iOS or Android or the like and will be closer to 2 weeks. Abstraction technologies like Titanium allow web based hypermedia content to be delivered to native compiled applications for both iOS and Android are already available and massively reduce the effort required to get hypermedia and video content running together natively across multiple devices.
For an analogous model to the one I am proposing will emerge, look at how printed magazines / newspaper vendors have responded to the emergence of the tablet computer. News International publish a monthly magazine called Eureka which can be downloaded as an entire app (e.g. the Magazine itself is an app). The app doesn’t present the magazine content in a traditional page 2 follows page 1 style at all. It is a true hypermeida reading experience. But importantly the reader doesn’t first download a magazine reader and use it to order the magazine, for Eureka the “reader” and magazine are one. The reader code is part and parcel of every magazine download and in terms of network and device resource usage is extremely “cheap.” We can expect to see a similar strategy for n2n and n2nd OTT video delivery.
Of course generic magazine “reader” apps exist, such as the excellent reader produced by Comixology and used by Marvel and DC comics, but even in this case the presentation of available purchase options is not unified across the two companies. You download both the Marvel version of the App and the DC version of the app.
In the short to medium term there will be a place for a TV centric operating system which looks after some of the content owners content navigation requirements, but this will reduce over time, especially with the emergence of n2nd solutions. Both Google TV and Apple TV are well positioned to morph into the required solution (Google TV already has an Apps solution and Apple TV, built as it is on iOS and utilising the same A4 processor as the iPad, could easily implement the iOS apps solution).
The Player Device / Display Device interface
Open solutions for streaming TV to a separate local display device. In the n2nd world you carry your downloaded content and streaming content subscription rights with you. Round at a friends house and want to watch the game on his HD TV? Simple,
pluck your phone out your pocket and stream to his / her TV.
But for this possibility to emerge as a general solution beyond just e.g. the Apple technology ecosystem, content owners must be able to trust the link between the player and the display device (the n and the d of n2nd). This is no small problem. Player devices already have DRM solutions, however content owners will need to know their content won’t easily leak out of the display device before they will be willing are to supply to a given technology ecosystem. The only way to ensure this is either to use a closed ecosystem like that provided by Apple, or to implement a trusted certification process for certifying players and display device solutions together with a centralised database serving up per-play entitlements. The current DLNA standard simply doesn’t address this need, so something new is required.
Hyper-live TV Magazine Content
The integration of time-bound content with unicast delivery hypermedia style navigation. TV magazine style show will have a start time, but if you start late, it will contain skippable segments and also the reverse, optional segments which will take you away from live transmission, only to return you to live minus the length of the optional segment when done.
OTT content is currently hobbled by a bad channel surfing experience. The need to channel surf however is likely to reduce as the navigation paradigm is replaced by a hybrid time-based hypermedia based. But even with this reduction, it is still a viewer unfriendly to have to wait 10-30 seconds for the stream to buffer before video can be displayed. However in 2011 Sky will be introducing adaptive encoding which will allow the much faster display of low resolution video when acquiring unicast streamed video. After an initial low fidelity video lock is obtained, the quality of the stream will be increased as more of it buffers.
Update - we post this in the morning, in the evening Microsoft announces it is getting into TV and it could blow up broadcasting...
Tuesday, September 7. 2010
News that Google will launch an into-the-TV service later this year:
That last line says all you need to know. Well, except its a battle to lock up search on another type of screen:
Schmidt also said Google would announce partnerships later this year with makers of tablet computers that would use Google's Chrome operating system, due to be launched soon, rather than its Android phone software, which has been used for mobile devices until now.
Interesting that they think Android hasn't got the jets..... (Update - I may have misread the Reuters piece - Kevin Marks says TV has Android its some tablets that will use Chrome, but that is interesting too)
Tuesday, August 3. 2010
From Walled Web to World Web and back again
Gawker reports on Wired thinking that "The (Open) Web is Dead" and a Walled world is emerging (see diagram above):
Word from inside Wired is the magazine is prepping a cover story in which editor Chris Anderson declares that "the Web is Dead." At a magazine founded by digital utopians, that would be something close to sacrilege.
The issue of course is The Money (or lack of it) in the World Wide Web World (as above Wired editor Chris Anderson, champion of FreeConomics, should know well) makes it hard to invest in improving the Open stuff quickly when new Closed stuff comes along. The problem in short is that as the new wave in the web emerges, it is more economical initially to build Walled Worlds - and worse, old standards start to come apart as they become redundant because:
(i) In any newly emerging technology where lots of things are not clear, it is easier to design your own end to end experience until standard "subcomponents" arrive. Early motor cars had a dizzying array of different clutch/brake/accelerator arrangements and mechanism for example. Ditto AOL, CompuServe et al had to develop a lot of peviously non existent technologies themselves before Mosaic appeared.
In other words, by 2024 there will probably be another Open World again.....
Thursday, May 20. 2010
Google Web TV Value Chain - Ad supported we would expect (Broadsight Analysis)
An "iPhone" like value chain has been in most digital media consultants' slide decks for quite a few years now. The technology is actually not that hard (see our lab lashups of MyPCTV here), what is more the issue is that putting together the whole value chain is hard. People were expecting Apple to do it, but Google has come out the gate first:
Google TV is a new experience for television that combines the TV that you already know with the freedom and power of the Internet. With Google Chrome built in, you can access all of your favorite websites and easily move between television and the web. This opens up your TV from a few hundred channels to millions of channels of entertainment across TV and the web. Your television is also no longer confined to showing just video. With the entire Internet in your living room, your TV becomes more than a TV — it can be a photo slideshow viewer, a gaming console, a music player and much more.
The Google TV value chain (now, and predictably to come) is shown in the media supply chain diagram above. We expect a lot of acquisitions by Google to bolster their positions across the value chain. Google will alsouse it as a major new channel for its Advertising engines
But we also expect a lot of competition. A lot of players from the Media, ICT and Consumer Electronics area are going to try and ensure hey are not outmanouvered or left out by this play. This marks the start, not the end, of the Web TV war.
Of course its anything but a slam-dunk as Google (and any other player) has to persuade people to take on Yet Another Set Top Box or a Smart TV, and there are many Good Enoughs (eg IPTV, existing WebTV and the MyPCTV approach that I noted above) that can run as over the top services.
One just wishes Google was more trustworthy as a company, they are not my first choice of someone to run such an end to end value chain.
We also expect to see an increasing PR assault on the BBC, as it has a business model that can counter the Google approach fairly successfully.
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