Posts Tagged ‘Visual Media’

More Like “TV Somewhere”

May 21, 2010

Cable operators are getting more and more connected to the idea of “TV Everywhere”. This is the idea that is meant to address the predilection of viewers to watch stuff on any device, while preserving the profits that cable operators, show producers and networks make.  Comcast, Cablevision, TimeWarner and Cox are all either in testing of or planning to roll out some sort of intiative to allow viewing to take place on any video-enabled device.   They are, says the LA Times, holding on to this idea, rather than play dice with Apple, which would like them to agree to a 99-cent per episode plan. “Some feared that Apple’s proposition would wreak the same havoc [as iTunes did to the music industry]  upon the average $70-a-month cable-TV customer.” TV Everywhere, on the other hand is free, as long as viewers are already cable subscribers.  The problem is that these roll-outs have not been incredibly successful so far.  For one thing, the authentification process is cumbersome –  Comcast subscribers find that “ it takes 11 steps to determine which cable programs an online viewer pays to receive. Comcast is trying to simplify this authentication process to a single click.” And of the major networks, only CBS is included in these trials, since the others are committed to Hulu.

“While the cable industry sees TV Everywhere as a way to offer subscribers broad access to programming online, others see a far more sinister motivation: snuffing out free online TV. Their fear is that the cable industry is determined to maintain its control as television gatekeeper, locking out competition. ‘TV Everywhere is just a tactic to keep people paying,’ said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, a media consulting firm. ‘The cable companies want more customers. They want to build a wall and penalize us if we don’t pay.’”


There’s No TiVo Effect, But Cable May Be Headed to Dust Anyway

May 7, 2010

Advertisers fear TiVo and DVRs. And for years they have been saying that time shifting will kill off the 30 second spot.  Who will watch them when they can skip over them?  Some of us with time shifting devices rely on those spots so that we have time to take a bathroom break or do the dishes, but as it turns out, says a new study by Duke University, that even people who fast forward through commercials are exposed to them.  The study found that 95% of people still watch TV live, rather than recorded.  And even those who fast forward through commercials still watch the screen o know when the show resumes, and therefore see the ads – just a lot faster.  The study’s authors tracked purchases of new products, advertised products and store brands across 50 categories, as well as the viewing behavior of those with the DVRs. No matter how the researchers looked at it, DVRs did not affect what people bought.


Up till now, predictions that the rise of web video will replace cable, satellite or premium channel purchase have seemed pretty specious.  While they watch plenty of web video, most people really prefer watching TV on their TVs.  After all, over 90% of Americans have access to at least a basic for fee service. But those predictions may be coming into their own, if a recent study by The Yankee Group is correct.  The study found that one in eight American consumers will either scale back or completely eliminate their for-fee service this year.  Now, one in eight could not really be considered a surge, but it is likely a warning sign.  The reason, which should not be surprising if you’ve looked at your cable bill lately, is mostly financial.  Cable and satellite viewers pay an average of $71 per month, and they receive an average annual price hike of 5%, according to research firm Centris. For people who don’t watch sports (which can pretty much be exclusively seen on live TV) that might start to seem like a lot of money when there are alternatives out there.  A big question remains for many – why am I paying so much when I don’t get to choose the channels I get?  Eventually, the web is going to bring an element of choice to people who didn’t have any. At which point, either cable companies will unbundle their products, or start to lose subscribers. This does not mean, by any stretch, that people in any large numbers will be abandoning televisions – far from it, in fact.  More people have more TVs in their homes than they ever did before.  It’s still the viewing medium of choice. But 43% of American consumers  have their TVs connected to the internet connected via a Wii, PlayStation or Xbox.                   

“This is the key part of the equation,” says a Yankee Group analyst.. “Not just are these devices connected to the Internet, but they’re coming prepackaged with the capability to connect to rich video sources. That really becomes a competitor to pay TV service.”

Since the easiest devices to connect to the Internet tend to be video game consoles, and they tend to be owned by 18-34 year olds, Yankee Group expects that will be the group to cut their cords first.

“Just like with telephone land lines, it’s going to become hard to sell pay TV to anyone under 30.”

Consumers ditching cable might have something to do with the logic behind the subscription price for Hulu’s new premium service – because if you are already paying over $100 bucks a month for cable and internet connection, why would you shell another $10 for Hulu, to see some of the shows that you are already paying for on CATV or cable?  It really only makes sense for the cable-disconnected, or to those who are only getting the most minimal cable service.

Pandora Your Stuff – And then Measure It

April 26, 2010

Peter Gabriel has invested in a site called The Filter (for which he is the spokesperson),  which is like Pandora for your computer – it studies the music or movies you already have, and suggests other albums, artists or movies that are based on your taste.    It is available as a free download (  The filter also acts as a partner to media companies who want to have a built in recommendation engine.  Recently NBC licensed The Filter’s technology for its own web sites  – Sony and Nokia also license it. How is The Filter different from, say, the well-touted Netflix recommendation engine, or Amazon’s?  Since it only works with digital files, it can tell whether you actually watched a full movie, or turned it off halfway through.  Originally, says Business Week, the service launched as a consumer Web site in 2008. It encouraged users to download a software application that sucked data from users’ and Flixster accounts. It also observed what they did with their iTunes collections. Then the system took all that information and suggested movies and music. But it didn’t make any money until it started selling its services to media companies.  It should turn a profit this year.

Hulu Goes Freemium

April 26, 2010

The ad model is one way to generate revenue, and as has been suspected for quite some time, Hulu is about to test a subscription service starting in late May.  There will still be a free Hulu, the LA Times says,  for the five most recent episodes of shows, but a more comprehensive selection will be available for $9.95 a month.  Hulu has been under pressure from its owners, Disney, NBC and News corp  to start generating more than the $100 million in revenue it is making from advertising, and also to wean viewers off of the free model.

The Periodic Table of Elements

April 9, 2010

We spoke last week about Theodore Grey’s e-book “The Periodic Table of Elements” which was made specifically for the iPad.  You can see the inestimable Mr. Grey, his Periodic Table table, and how he made his e-book on YouTube: 

Hulu Makes a Profit

April 2, 2010

I started writing the Media Mash-Up shortly before the birth of Hulu, which seemed at the time like a major innovation. It’s now two years old, and its making a profit. The company says that it will make $100 million in net revenue by the middle of the year.  Last year, it generated $100 million, and turned a profit by the last quarter. Which is more than you can say for that other free video site, YouTube.  I think it’s a question of perception.  YouTube has trying to tout itself as a purveyor of long-form video, and has changed its interface, etc., but still, that’s where you go to see clips. Peter Kafka, in MediaMemo says that the downside for Hulu CEO Jason Kular is that “his network owners still aren’t entirely comfortable with the company’s model, and are worried that all the free programming that Hulu offers cuts into their existing businesses. Hence the push for a subscription plan, which… will include an app for Apple’s iPad (AAPL). “

The New YouTube

April 2, 2010

And this week saw that redesign of YouTube, which, by the way, still has the tagline “Broadcast Yourself”.  Its new interface is supposed to align it better with its owner, Google, being cleaner, and more focused on search. Says CNet, the site has been “has been tweaked for content owners as well. If a video owner has created other videos, these now show up on the top of the page without cluttering up the sides with a myriad of thumbnails and links. YouTube is also giving content owners a way to add branding, be it a profile picture or a logo above each video player–regardless of whether that user is viewing that video from a content owner’s channel page. The company hopes this will spur more subscriptions, and give users a better sense of who made it.” The site encourages conversation between the content owners and site visitors. People can now ask questions and have the person who uploaded the video comment under the Uploader Comments section. The best rated comment rises to the top.

But the real kicker for YouTube is that during their beta test, which started in January, users stayed on the site 7% longer. And that’s what every site aims for.

Lawyers and Pirates go to the Movies

April 2, 2010

We all know, by now, the sad story of the RIAA, and how it sued 18,000 people, among them 12 year olds and the deceased, for illegal downloading of music.  As much as bad publicity for the music business, these suits cost far more than they brought in, and sensing failure, the agency finally stopped it litigious behavior. But this week, the Hollywood Reporter said that a group called the US Copyright Group is taking a page from the RIAA’s book and is litigating against about 50,000 people who allegedly downloaded 10 independent movies. This is not going to be an easy feat for the group. First of all, to bring a lawsuit the attorneys will need to convince judges to order Internet service providers to disclose the names of their users. (One ISP has apparently turned over that information on its own, but the others say they won’t do so without a court order).  And even if it gets the names of individuals, the group will then have to get users to settle with them rather than face a court hearing.  And almost certainly, some of those users, won’t settle. The idea for the suit originated in Germany, where real time technology that keeps track of downloads on torrents can be checked against a spreadsheet of copyright protected films.  These have been used to take pirates to court and they have apparently been successful. The IFTA and the MPAA are so far not interested (the MPAA is sort of interested, actually, but they want to see proof that this can work before taking up the cudgel themselves). Says HR, “The US Copyright Group plans to issue a press release soon touting the success of this program. The lawyers are also traveling to the Festival de Cannes in May with hopes of convincing other producers —  and perhaps major studios — to try their luck suing hundreds of thousands of pirates.”

Reports of Cable TV’s Vitality Greatly Exaggerated

March 26, 2010

Maybe cable TV isn’t as alive as we think it is. Max Fisher of The Atlantic thinks it’s doomed. And he thinks that the FCC’s national broadband plan is going to sound the death knell.  Actually, he thinks it was doomed anyway, and this is just going to hasten its demise. As he says, it was never a good model, because you pay both the cable company to receive a channel, and the station itself through advertising.  Which, frankly, is exactly why the cable companies have been making money hand over fist for years, and so far the medium has been looking pretty frisky for something that’s on its death bed. Web TV, though, will give users a degree of control that they lack with the bundling system on cable. So far, the quality of streaming on the web has not met the quality of television, but that will change over time. In Mr. Fisher’s  vision of the future, networks, not having to fill 24 hours with programming will be free act “more like movie studios”, releasing programming when it was appropriate (the implication is that, in this utopia, all network programming would be of the highest quality). This new world would also be a boon to independent producers of TV shows.  Which it already is, but I guess what he means is that more people would actually watch them.

Mobile TV

March 19, 2010

Although digital TV was meant for the TV set in your living room, TV stations are now starting to broadcast signals that can show programming anywhere.  For instance on mobile devices. The NY Times reports that if enough people watch using the mobile TV technology, known as “ATSC Mobile DTV Standard,” local stations will be able to charge more for commercials and increase their revenue.   The technology will be used on new portable televisions with up to 10-inch screens, while smartphones and laptops with special adapters will also receive the signals. Still, the devices have to be within about 60 miles of a broadcast tower for a clear picture. The boon for advertisers is that “The Mobile DTV standard also allows for two-way communication. When viewing an ad, a viewer may push a button to see more information or have it sent by e-mail. The system can also be used for voting, polling and audience measurement.”