Posts from Television

Pay Per View Poll

I stayed up until 1am ET last night to watch the Mayweather McGregor fight.

We used the Showtime Pay Per View app on AppleTV to watch the fight.

We paid $99 to watch the four fights, including the main event.

I heard that many were able to watch the fight for free using Twitter’s Periscope feature.

So I ran this Twitter poll this morning. If you haven’t voted, you can here.

It seems like paying $99 to watch at home, as we did, was not the dominant way that folks watched the fight.

“Some Other Way” includes going to a bar to watch it, which may have been the most popular way of all.

What Did And Did Not Happen In 2016

As has become my practice, I will end the year (today) looking back and start the year (tomorrow) looking forward.

As a starting point for looking back on 2016, we can start with my What Is Going To Happen In 2016 post from Jan 1st 2016.

Easy to build content (apps) on a cheap widespread hardware platform (smartphones) beat out sophisticated and high resolution content on purpose built expensive hardware (content on VR headsets). We re-learned an old lesson: PC v. mainframe and Mac; Internet v. ISO; VHS v. Betamax; and Android v. iPhone.

And Fitbit proved that the main thing people want to do with a computer on their wrist is help them stay fit. And yet Fitbit ended the year with its stock near its all time low. Pebble sold itself in a distressed transaction to Fitbit. And Apple’s Watch has not gone mainstream two versions into its roadmap.

  • I thought one of the big four (Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon) would falter in 2016. All produced positive stock performance in 2016. None appear to have faltered in a huge way in 2016. But Apple certainly seems wobbly. They can’t make laptops that anyone wants to use anymore. It’s no longer a certainty that everyone is going to get a new iPhone when the new one ships. The iPad is a declining product. The watch is a mainstream flop. And Microsoft is making better computers than Apple (and maybe operating systems too) these days. You can’t make that kind of critique of Google, Amazon, or Facebook, who all had great years in my book.
  • I predicted the FAA regulations would be a boon to the commercial drone industry. They have been.
  • I predicted publishing inside of Facebook was going to go badly for some high profile publishers in 2016. That does not appear to have been the case. But the ugly downside of Facebook as a publishing platform revealed itself in the form of a fake news crisis that may (or may not) have impacted the Presidential election.
  • Instead of spinning out HBO into a direct Netflix competitor, Time Warner sold itself to AT&T. This allows AT&T to join Comcast and Verizon in the “carriers becoming content companies” club. It seems that the executives who run these large carriers believe it is better to use their massive profits in the carrier business to move up the stack into content instead of continuing to invest in their communications infrastructure. It makes me want to invest in communications infrastructure honestly.
  • Bitcoin found no killer app in 2016, but did find itself the darling of the trader/speculator crowd, ending the year on a killer run and almost breaking the $1000 USD/BTC level. Maybe Bitcoin’s killer app is its value and/or store of value. That would make it the digital equivalent of gold and the likely reserve currency of the digital asset space. And I think that is what has happened with Bitcoin. And there is nothing wrong with that.
  • Slack had a good year in 2016, solidifying its position as the leading communications tool for enterprises (other than email of course). It did have some growing pains as there was a fair bit of executive turmoil. But I think Slack is here to stay and I think they can withstand the growing competition coming from Microsoft’s Teams product and others.
  • I was right that Donald Trump would get the Republican nomination and that the tech sector (with the exception of Peter Thiel and a few other liked minded people) would line up against him. It did not matter. He won the Presidency without the support of the tech sector, but by using its tools (Twitter and Facebook primarily) brilliantly.
  • I predicted “markdown mania” would hit the tech sector hard and employees would start getting cold feet on startups as they saw the value of their options going down. None of this really happened in a big way in 2016. There was some of that and employees are certainly more attuned to how they can get hurt in a down round or recap, but the tech sector has also used a lot of techniques, including repricing options, reloading option plans, and moving to RSUs, to mitigate this. The truth is that startups, venture capital, and tech growth companies had a pretty good year in 2016 all things considered.

So that’s the rundown on my 2016 predictions. I would give myself about a 50% hit rate. Which is not great but not horrible and about the same as I did last year.

Some other things that happened in 2016 that are important and worth talking about are:

  • The era of cyberwars are upon us. Maybe we have been fighting them silently for years. But we are not fighting them silently any more. We are fighting them out in the open. I suspect there is a lot that the public still doesn’t know about what is actually going on in this area. We know what Russia has done in the Presidential election and since then. But what has the US been doing to Russia? I would assume the same and maybe more. If your enemy has the keys to your castle, you had better have the keys to their castle. And as good as the Russians are at hacking into systems, the US has some great hackers too. I am very sure about that.  And so do the Chinese, the Israelis, the Indians, the British, the Germans, the French, the Japanese, etc, etc.  This feels a bit like the Nuclear era redux. Mutually assured destruction is a deterrent as long as both sides have the same tools.
  • The tech sector is no longer the belle of the ball. It has, on one hand become extremely powerful with monopolies, duopolies, or nearly so in search, social media, ecommerce, online advertising, and mobile operating systems. And it has, on the other hand, proven that it is susceptible to the very kinds of bad behavior that every other large industry is capable of. And we now have an incoming President who doesn’t share the love of the tech sector that our outgoing President showed. It brings to mind that scene in 48 Hours where Eddie Murphy throws the shot glass through the mirror and explains to the rednecks that there is a new sheriff in town. But this time, the tech sector are the rednecks.
  • Google and Facebook now control ~75% of the online advertising market and almost all of its growth in 2016:

  • Artificial Intelligence has inserted itself into our every day lives. Whether its a home speaker system that we can talk to, or a social network that already knows what we are about to go out and purchase, or a car that can park itself and change lanes on the highway automatically, we are seeing AI take over tasks that we used to have to do ourselves. We are in the age of AI. It is not something that is coming. It is here. It may have arrived in 2014, or 2015, but if you ask me, I would put 2016 as the year it had its debut in mainstream life. It is exciting and it is scary. It begs all sorts of questions about where we are all going in the next thirty to fifty years. If you are in your twenties, AI will define your lifetime.

So that’s my rundown on 2016. I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year and we will talk about the future, not the past, tomorrow.

If you are in need of a New Year’s Resolution, I suggest moving to super secure passwords and some sort of tool to manage them for you, using two factor authentication whenever and wherever possible, encrypt as much of your online activities as you reasonably can, and not saying or doing anything online that you would not do in public, because that is where you are doing it.

Happy New Year!

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.