Posts from Television

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.

Feature Friday: Archives of Live Broadcasts

I wrote about the live broadcasting craze earlier this week. There are three significant players in this market, YouNow, Twitter/Periscope, and Meerkat. I’m a shareholder in two of them (YouNow is a USV portfolio company and we own a lot of Twitter stock personally). So I’ve been quite interested to see how this market is shaping up and I’ve been using all three apps this week.

I should say that I don’t see myself as a broadcaster. That may change. But I honestly don’t know what parts of my day are interesting enough to broadcast and would be appropriate to broadcast. I’m sure the USV monday meeting would be interesting to broadcast but it would not be fair to all the companies we talk about in that meeting confidentially to broadcast that. I’m sure the SoundCloud board meeting would be interesting to broadcast but I’m equally sure the company would be mortified that I would even dare to think of such a thing. I know that I will get some suggestions in the comments and if any are good, I will reconsider the “I’m not a broadcaster” attitude I have right now.

I did accidentally broadcast two seconds on Meerkat this morning.


That happened because I accidentally pushed a button and went live without realizing it (and tweet spammed almost 400,000 followers) to my great annoyance. That’s a UX fail as far as I’m concerned and I’m not sure I’m going to open that app again.

But I do see myself as a consumer of these broadcasts. We’ve been an investor in YouNow for something like three years and I’ve spent time watching broadcasts on YouNow. It’s a classic Internet content marketplace. There’s brilliance right next to silliness. But when you catch something brilliant on YouNow, it’s kind of magical. Tyler Oakley did a YouNow last night that had 120,000 viewers and he raised $20,000 for his Prizeo challenge during his live broadcast. You can watch Tyler’s broadcast via YouNow’s archive mode.

Which leads me to my feature friday topic – archives of live broadcasts. I’m getting real time mobile notifications on my phone from Periscope and YouNow and Meerkat and I’m also seeing invitations to join these live broadcasts in my Twitter feed. But I’m pretty busy during the day when all of these broadcasts are happening. I realize there’s value in watching live (the chat, the engagement, the favoriting, etc) but honestly I can’t tune in live very often.

What I’d like to be able to do, ideally right from my mobile notifications or the tweet, is to favorite or mark to watch later (I use the favorite button on many platforms as my “read later” button).

Twitter’s Periscope also has archives. I snapped this screenshot today from my Periscope app.

periscopoe

I watched my friend Howard”s broadcasts via this archive screen this morning, further confirming that I (and Howard too) are not interesting enough to be broadcasters 🙂

But regardless of whether or not that particular archived broadcast was any good, I think ironically archives are an important part of the livestreaming experience and I think the leading apps should support this functionality if they want to reach the broadest user base.

We Live In Public

I’ve written about Josh Harris here before. He envisioned all of the stuff that has happened on the Internet in the early 1990s, roughly ten to twenty years before it happened.  And he tried to bring much of it to market in the mid to late 90s, but the technology and the market weren’t ready for it. I talked a fair bit about Josh in my “history of the NYC Internet community” talk that I gave at Web 2.0 in 2008. Josh was one of the seminal figures of the NYC Internet community and we owe him a lot for what he imagined and what he made.

Josh’s ultimate project was We Live In Public, which is also the name of the movie about Josh that was released in 2009. In the We Live In Public project, Josh put cameras all over his loft apartment in NYC and livestreamed his and his girlfriend’s everyday life, which ultimately led to their breakup. It’s always been unclear to me how unscripted or scripted that project was, but it hardly matters. It was entertaining in a voyeuristic way. It predated reality TV and all that has come since.

I got to thinking about We Live In Public after reading The Verge’s post about our portfolio company YouNow. YouNow is the living breathing realization of Josh’s imagined world where everyone is broadcasting their lives in real time on the Internet. There’s been plenty of media attention to Twitter’s Periscope and also Meerkat, but YouNow has been at this since 2012 and has amassed a huge audience who tip the live broadcasters enabling them to make a business out of livestreaming their lives. If you want to take a look at how all of that works and what goes on on YouNow, give this a read.

I have been watching the livestreaming category emerge for years and it’s been fits and starts for sure. Most of the stuff that is getting livestreamed is hardly entertaining and many of us have more important things to do with our time than watch other people hangingat work or at home. But it sure seems like the category is alive and well and maybe even here to stay. Just as Josh imagined it would be twenty years ago.