Posts from Television

Streaming, Ads, and Subscriptions

Yesterday’s post on streaming the Olympics vs watching them on TV produced some great comments. 

A lot of them were about the crappy video quality and heavy ad load on the stream. I am not sure what to take from that but it is clear that NBC has not yet made their streaming experience as high of a priority in terms of user experience as they could and should.

But the more interesting conversation to me was about the business model for streaming the Olympics on phones, tablets, and smart TVs. A number of readers pointed out that the streams use the same business model (advertising) as broadcast TV and so the ad loads will be the same and just as annoying.

But I think the broadcasters like NBC have an opportunity to take a page out of the playbook of the streaming music companies like Spotify and SoundCloud and offer both free ad supported streams and subscription streams that are ad free and offer offline sync (record and playback later).

Would you pay for a $19.99 in-app upgrade on your NBC Sports app to remove ads and get offline sync for the entire 17 days of the Summer Olympics? I know I would but I also know that I am less price conscious than most AVC readers. Please weigh in on that in the comments.

The broadcast television companies have been advertising supported businesses for the most part. In recent years they have been able to get retransmission fees and start getting paid for their programming from the cable operators but I think the subscription opportunity in the streaming world is significant for them, particularly when it comes to big events like the Olympics.

I looked around for a subscription based app for NBC Sports and found something called NBC Sports Gold but that looks like an experiment that doesn’t support the main events like the Olympics. I hope we will see the main events make it onto something like that in the coming years. I think it would be great for viewers and for the broadcasters as well.

Olympics: Streaming vs TV

My friend Patrick told me yesterday that I should check out Team Handball. He said its a lot of fun to watch. I immediately thought “I should find out when they are streaming a Team Handball match.”

My daughter posted on social media that she can’t deal with the non stop advertising that NBC is running on their main channel. I can’t either.

The combination of being able to watch when you want and how you want with the incredibly annoying experience of the main NBC broadcast tells me that this may be the Olympics that streaming starts to beat TV.

So when I saw this Variety headline this morning, NBC Universal’s Olympic Upset: Streaming Trumps TV, I clicked on it and read it.

There isn’t enough data in that article to conclude that streaming has, in fact, passed TV as the dominant way we watch the Olympics.

But I can tell you that the streaming experience definitively has.

Video Of The Week: Made In America

The Gotham Gal and I are making our way through the OJ Simpson documentary, Made In America. It’s a fascinating tale that weaves OJ’s story with the story of race relations in LA from the 60s to the 90s. It is very well done.

Here’s a podcast where my friends John and Will discuss it at length and talk to the director, Ezra Edelman.

The New Entertainment Un-Bundlers

Last month I wrote a post called “The New Entertainment Bundlers” in which I talked about the emerging group of companies that are bundling subscription entertainment (and other services) into an offering that makes it easier and less expensive for consumers to acquire streaming entertainment services.

But something has happened on the way to the forum. Amazon has decided to unbundle its streaming video service and sell it in the US for $8.99/month. Amazon’s Prime service remains a massive player and bundler of entertainment in the market but the decision to unbundle video suggests that bundlers like Amazon and YouTube will also unbundle and compete on multiple dimensions. That makes sense.

Of course, it remains to be seen if a bundler like Amazon will allow another bundler, like Verizon or AT&T, to bundle their unbundled services. From a consumer perspective, that would be best. The more options and the more competition in the market, the better for consumers. It’s nice to see the market evolving in that direction.

Fun Friday: Going Over The Top

Last night we got home from dinner and I wanted to watch some TV.

TV is not really my thing but I am trying to get more into it these days. I did not turn on the cable box. I went straight for Netfix, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, and NBA League Pass.

This morning I thought “do we really need that cable box anymore?” And then I thought that would make for a fun friday discussion.

I just tweeted out this poll:

Please take that poll and, because its fun friday, let’s talk about this in the comments too.

The New Entertainment Bundlers

One of the things that many of us dislike about our cable company is the bundle. We are required to subscribe to a host of channels when we only want a few. The promise of going over the top is that we can now choose the services we want without the ones we don’t.

But we are now witnessing the re-emergence of the entertainment bundle in the over the top world.

The leader in the new bundle movement is Amazon which is putting entertainment options into its Prime service. Estimates for Prime membership go as high as 60mm households. We are one of them and have been for as long as Prime has existed.

The other bundler is YouTube. Their newish Red subscription service offers ad-free youtube, “original shows”, and premium music.

I expect Prime and Red to expand over time to include additional services (games, sports, etc). They are the new entertainment bundlers. I also expect others to enter this business. The most obvious candidates are the mobile carriers who already have a regular billing relationship with us.

The good news is that the new bundlers do not have a monopoly in their ability to offer entertainment to us. They have to compete with each other in an open market. So I expect that the bundles that emerge will be attractively priced and will be differentiated by price and content options.

Bundling has cost advantages like sales and marketing that can be offset across multiple services. And it is easier to subscribe to one service than ten. But over the top promises user choice over our entertainment options. With the new bundlers, we may be getting the best of both worlds.

Fun Friday: The Culture Caucus Podcast

My friend John Heilemann (Bloomberg Politics, Game Change, etc) and his friend Will Leitch (Deadspin, etc) have launched a podcast called Culture Caucus. They are going to talk about sports, television, film, and culture at large and its intersection with the body politic.

The first episode has two parts. The first part is about the changes in late night television shows, who is rising and who is falling, and how politicians think about going on these shows. I sat through the taping of this part and I found it fascinating. The second part features me talking about tech and Twitter.

It’s a long podcast, almost an hour in total. Here is the first episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can follow Culture Caucus on SoundCloud here.

Is It The Content Or The Packaging?

My partner Andy tweeted this yesterday and I replied:

Andy was referring to this tweet:

I was looking for some thoughts on whether these Netflix and Amazon shows are really the best content on TV right now or whether it is the packaging that has caused them to top the rankings.

Peter Kafka rightly points out that those rankings are suspect since they don’t include Game Of Thrones and other HBO shows:

But even if the list is suspect, I stick with the question. Do Amazon and Netflix greenlight better shows than their competitors or do they package them up better?

This response from Andy captures the answer that I believe to be true, the packaging matters a lot to the consumer and also impacts the creators and how they make the shows.

I also like this reply:

I’m not sure what “co-viewing” means but I get the rest and agree with it.

The high level point to me is that the packaging matters a lot. Over the top services, a direct relationship with the content producer, all at once release (promoting binge watching), and great content is the winning formula. Content quality alone is not enough.

Video Of The Week: Watching Videogames

I had a conversation with my son yesterday about watching games vs playing games. He told me he doesn’t watch a lot of videogame play on the web, but he has friends who are really into watching others play videogames.

Of course, this is not new. Amazon bought Twitch.tv for almost a billion dollars a year ago. And more and more people are watching others play videogames instead of or in addition to playing them.

Here’s an example of why:

A Blast From The Past

I’ve been assisting with a project that is attempting to document the history of tech in NYC since Samuel Morse helped to bring the telegraph to market in the 1830s. I can’t help much with what went down in the 19th and early 20th century. But I can help with what happened at the very end of the 20th century. And in the course of doing that, I came across this video of Pseudo Entertainment’s offerings in the late 90s.

What is interesting is the similarity in many respects to the services that our portfolio company YouNow and Meerkat and Periscope have in the market today. The broadcast and consumption devices have changed (from PC to mobile) but the user experience is remarkably pretty much the same.

There’s something important in that realization.

Along the same lines, this conversation between Mark Suster and Ryan Hoover, starting at 8mins, is quite relevant. I love how they take it back to the early days of Howard Stern.