Analysis for 'Time Warner Cable'

  • VideoNuze Podcast #186 - 4K TV & HEVC Rollouts; DVR vs. SVOD; Curved TVs

    I'm pleased to present the 186th edition of the VideoNuze weekly podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Colin attended a CDN conference earlier this week first shares observations on the potential long-term rollout of 4K TV and HEVC, along with the deployment of Netflix's Open Connect CDN based on conversations with Netflix and Time Warner Cable.

    Next we turn to data from NPD earlier this week indicating that for watching TV shows, DVR usage is more than twice as popular as SVOD services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, which I wrote about earlier this week. Colin caveats the data, noting that in SVOD-specific homes he believes the usage is stronger than NPD suggests.

    Lastly we touch on news that Samsung will be selling curved TVs, for $13K apiece. Colin and I are skeptics, to say the least.

    Listen in to learn more!

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  • 5 Items of Interest for the Week of Nov. 15th

    After a short break, VideoNuze's Friday feature of curating 5-6 interesting online/mobile video industry news items that we weren't able to cover this week, returns today. Read them now or take them with you this weekend!

    Time Warner Cable Experiments With Lower Tier Video Package
    It's a rare day when a cable operator announces a lower-priced offering, but that's what Time Warner Cable did yesterday, unveiling a test of what it's calling "TV Essentials." The new tier, priced between $30-$40, will most notably exclude ESPN, the most expensive channel in the cable universe, meaning right away TV Essentials isn't targeted to sports fans. I've argued for a while now that pay-TV operators have ceded the low-priced/value-oriented end of the video market to Netflix (and others), which given the ongoing recession is a mistake. It will be interesting to see how the new bargain service fares; 2 things that will limit its appeal though are that no channels will be offered in HD, and that it appears those with broadband Internet and telephone services won't benefit from typical package discounts.

    Nielsen study: We're still a nation of couch pumpkins

    More evidence this week that despite all the deserved enthusiasm over online and mobile delivery, good old-fashioned TV viewing still rules in terms of hours of consumption. Nielsen said that the average person watched 143 hours of TV per month in Q2, essentially flat vs. a year ago. For homes with DVRs, hours of time watched on them nudged up a bit to about 24 1/2 hours. On a related note, this week comScore released its online video viewing data for October, which showed average viewing of 15.1 hours per person. While online video has made huge progress in the last few years, it still has a ton of room to grow to catch up with TV.

    More Videos Ads, More User Acceptance
    Speaking of the comparison between online video and TV, this week brought some interesting new data on monetization patterns for premium online video. Online video ad manager FreeWheel released data that showed mid-roll ads are the fastest-growing category of ads (up 693% since Q1), and now represent 8% of its ad volume. Completion rates have increased for pre, mid and post-roll ads this year, but notably mid-rolls have the highest completion rate, at 90%. FreeWheel's conclusion is that monetization of premium online video is starting to look a lot like TV, with ad pods inserted throughout. Going a step further, if viewer acceptance of mid-rolls stays high, then this represents a valuable opportunity for TV networks in particular to combat DVR-based ad-skipping.

    Startup Claims To Have Set-Top Hulu Can't Block
    It was inevitable that Hulu's decision to block access to its programs would set off a game of whack-a-mole, with various devices springing up to do end-arounds. Sure enough, the $99 Orb TV debuted this week, prominently positioning itself as the device that can bring Hulu (among other content) to your TV. One catch is that Orb streams video from your computer and only does so in standard definition. It addresses the "keyboard in the living room" challenge by also including a smartphone app to control the device. It's not a perfect solution, but it does provide a glimpse into the PR-unfriendly dynamic that Hulu, and the broadcast networks, have created for themselves by blocking access to their content by Google TV and others. No doubt there will be plenty more Orb-like devices to come to market in the months ahead, all positioning themselves as solving the blocking problem.

    Comcast's Top Digital Exec Amy Banse to Open New Silicon Valley Equity Fund for Cable Giant and NBC
    As Comcast enters the final stages of approval for its NBCU deal, the company this week announced a new NBCU management structure. One item that wasn't formally announced yet, but was reported by AllThingsD earlier this week was that Amy Banse, formerly head of Comcast Interactive Media (now headed by Matt Strauss), will be heading to Silicon Valley to run the combined operations of Comcast's current Comcast Interactive Capital venture arm, and NBCU's current Peacock Equity (a JV with GE). With all the distribution, technology and content assets that will be under the Comcast roof, the fund will be at the top of any online/mobile video startup's list of strategic investors. I've known Amy for a while and have enjoyed having her on industry panels; she'll be a huge asset to Comcast in the Valley venture world.
     
  • 6 Items of Interest for the Week of Oct. 18th

    It was another busy week for online/mobile video, and so VideoNuze is continuing its Friday practice of curating 5-6 interesting industry news items that we weren't able to cover this week. Read them now or take them with you this weekend!

    Networks block Google TV to protect themselves
    Yesterday news started breaking that ABC, CBS and NBC are blocking access by Google TV. There are numerous concerns being cited - potential disruption of advertising, encouraging cord-cutting, incenting piracy, diminished branding, unsatisfactory ad splits with Google, and general worry about Google invading the living room. Each item on its own is probably not enough to motivate the blocking action, but taken together they are. Still, doesn't it feel a little foolish that broadcasters would differentiate between a computer screen and a TV screen like this? For Google, it's more evidence that nothing comes easy when trying to work with Hollywood. I'm trying to find out more about what's happening behind the scenes.

    TWC Lines Up For ESPN Online Kick
    An important milestone for TV Everywhere may come as early as next Monday, as #2 cable operator Time Warner is planning to make ESPN viewing available online to paying subscribers. Remote access is part of the recent and larger retransmission consent deal between Disney and TWC. TV Everywhere initiatives have been slow to roll out, amid cable programmers' reluctance.  Further proving that remote authenticated access works and that it's attractive with a big name like ESPN would increase TV Everywhere's momentum.

    Hulu Plus, Take Two: How's $4.95 a Month?
    Rumors are swirling that Hulu may cut the price of its nascent Hulu Plus subscription service in half, to $4.95/mo. That would be a tacit recognition of Hulu Plus's minimal value proposition, largely due to its skimpy content offering. As I initially reported in August, over 88% of Hulu Plus content is available for free on Hulu.com. More important, Netflix's streaming gains have really marginalized Hulu Plus. Netflix's far greater resources and subscriber base have enabled it to spend far bigger on content acquisition. Even at $4.95, I continue to see Hulu Plus as an underwhelming proposition in an increasingly noisy landscape.

    Viacom Hires Superstar Lawyer to Handle YouTube Appeal
    Viacom is showing no signs of giving up on its years-long copyright infringement litigation against Google and YouTube. This week the company retained Theodore Olson, a high-profile appellate and Supreme Court specialist to handle its appeal. While most of the world has moved on and is trying to figure out how to benefit from YouTube's massive scale, Viacom charges on in court.

    Verizon to sell Galaxy Tab starting November 11th for $599.99
    Verizon is determined to play its part in the tablet computer craze, this week announcing with Samsung that it will sell the latter's new "Tab" tablet for $600 beginning on November 11th. The move follows last week's announcement by Verizon that it will begin selling the iPad on Oct. 28th, which was widely interpreted as the first step toward Verizon offering the iPhone early next year. Apple currently owns the tablet market, and it remains to be seen whether newcomers like the Tab can break through. For his part, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said on Apple's earnings call this week that all other tablets are "dead on arrival." Note, if you want to see the "Tab" and learn more about how connected and mobile devices are transforming the video landscape, come to the VideoSchmooze breakfast at the Samsung Experience on Wed., Dec. 1st.

    One-Third of US Adults Skip Live TV: Report
    A fascinating new study from Say Media (the entity formed from the recent merger of VideoEgg and Six Apart), suggesting that 56 million, or one-third of adult Internet users, have reduced their live TV viewership. The research identified 2 categories: "Opt Outs" (22 million) who don't own a TV or haven't watched TV in the last week and stream more than 4 hours/week, and "On Demanders" (34 million) who also stream more than 4 hours/week and report watching less live TV than they did a year ago. Not surprisingly, relative to Internet users as a whole, both Opt Outs and On Demanders skew younger and higher educated, though only the latter had higher income than the average Internet user. This type of research is important because the size of both the ad-supported and paid markets for live, first-run TV is far larger than catalog viewing. To the extent its appeal is diminishing as this study suggests poses big problems for everyone in the video ecosystem.


     
  • Are Pay-TV Providers Getting Hit By a Perfect Storm in Q3?

    The U.S. pay-TV industry, which as a whole lost multichannel video subscribers for the first time in Q2 '10, may be heading for a soft 3rd quarter as well. As Multichannel News reported yesterday, Time Warner Cable's CFO Rob Marcus said at a conference this week that Q3 "video net losses are pacing ahead" of where they were in Q3 '09. He attributed the downturn to recession-related factors of high unemployment, high home vacancy rates and slow new home formation. Though that's a fair explanation, it's only one element in a perfect storm pay-TV operators now find themselves battling.

    Aside from the above recession-related matters, pay-TV operators are also up against belt-tightening that's rooted in basic household economics. As Craig Moffett at Sanford Bernstein pointed out in a note last weekend, in the past 25 years, cable and satellite spending has increased from 1/2 of 1% of discretionary spending to 1.4%, a growth rate that's triple other household discretionary line items.

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  • Broadband Subscriptions Chug Along in 2008

    Last Friday, Leichtman Research Group released is quarterly roundup of broadband subscription growth sorted by major cable operators and telcos. LRG, run by my former colleague and friend Bruce Leichtman, has long been the bible for many in the industry for tracking broadband subscriber growth. LRG's numbers continue to demonstrate why broadband video has become such an exciting new distribution medium while adding context to Comcast's and Time Warner's recent moves to begin making online access to cable programming available to their subs.

    To highlight a few key numbers, at the end of '08 the top broadband ISPs had 67.7 million subscribers, with top cable operators accounting for about 54.5% and top telcos the remainder. Top cable operators continue to maintain their edge in subscriber acquisition as well, grabbing 59% of all new broadband subs in '08.

    And no surprise to anyone, with the rising penetration levels, the annual increases in total new subs have continued to slow: in '06 top cable and telco ISPs added 10.4M subs, in '07, 8.5M subs and in '08, 5.4M subs. Still, in the teeth of harsh economic downturn in Q4 '08, these ISPs were still able to add over 1M subs, growth that contracting industries like autos, retail and home-building would no doubt have killed for.

    Broadband has long since become a utility for many American homes, a service that is as much expected as essentials like electricity and plumbing. A key reason broadband video is enjoying the success it is owes to the fact that broadband subscriptions have been driven for other reasons (e.g. faster email access, music downloads, always-on connectivity) over the years. Video has only recently become an additional and highly-valued benefit, which broadband ISPs now expect will drive interest in faster (and more expensive) broadband service plans.

    Broadband's importance to the cable industry is demonstrated by the chart below showing #1 cable operator Comcast's performance over the last 2 years, which I originally posted on last November ("Comcast: A Company Transformed).

     

    Note the company has now lost basic cable subscribers for 7 straight quarters, even as it continues to add digital video subs and broadband subs (and voice subs) at a healthy clip. I expect these trend lines will continue in their current pattern. No doubt this is the kind of picture that has helped spur Comcast (and #2 operator Time Warner Cable) to begin planning online distribution of cable programming, a feature that I believe will provide highly popular. Operators are in a tremendous position to capitalize on the shifting interests of their subscribers.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
  • New Research from TDG Sheds Light on Consumers' Three Screen Intentions

    This past Tuesday I highlighted some of Nielsen's recent data which showed, among other things, significant online and mobile video usage by younger age groups. In that post I noted that marketers need to pay close attention to these trends to ensure their products and services meet these users' needs and expectations.

    New research from The Diffusion Group (a long-time VideoNuze partner) provides a window into how users think about accessing video across multiple screens, and who the providers might be. TDG has recently completed a survey of 2,000 adults (18 or above) which tested interest in two-screen and three-screen services along with content and features. TDG has graciously provided a sample of the slides for complimentary download by VideoNuze. You can download the slides here.

    TDG defined a three-screen service as "a single video service which feeds all your household TVs, PCs and mobile devices, for a single monthly fee, from a single service provider, and with relatively equal content, variety and quality of service for all three devices."

    TDG found that almost 25% of those surveyed responded positively to such a package. Whereas video marketers would have traditionally considered heavy TV viewership (25 hours/week and above) to be the most important criterion for driving more video services adoption, these so-called "three-screen intenders" don't exhibit heavier TV viewership than non-intenders (though they're slightly higher in moderate viewership, 11-25 hours/week).

    Rather, the behavior that distinguishes three-screen intenders is how much online viewing they're doing. The intenders are far higher consumers of online video in general, and of online TV programs in particular. In other words, their behaviors are already self-selecting them as the targets for a three-screen service offering. That of course makes it much easier for marketers to find and target them.

    All of this certainly supports Comcast's and Time Warner Cable's recently revealed plans to offer their video subscribers online access to programs. Better news still for these companies is that TDG found that cable operators were the top choice by intenders as the preferred three-screen provider. Cable was chosen by 31.7% of intenders, almost double the amount that selected satellite operators. Translation: there is a sizable group of consumers interested in three-screen services and cable appears to be in the prime position to capitalize on this.

    Of course, the next question then is whether cable operators should charge for these services or imitate Netflix's example with Watch Instantly by including them as a value add to existing digital services. In my opinion, at least some of the online viewing capability should be included for no extra charge. That would go a long way toward establishing loyalty, and position cable for even greater competitive gains.

    Click here to download the complimentary slides.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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