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Late September – Early November Cable News
Collected and Curated with the help of NEXT TV
Mid Nov 2014 TVIC news (Television Industrial Complex)
6 TV Networks Going Over-the-Top
(and Other Content Providers with Digital Plans)
In today’s environment of fervent cord-cutting and Netflix viewing, TV networks are realizing how they’ll have to keep up — by providing over-the-top viewing options for their current and future audiences. In fact, plenty of networks have announced plans to cut the cord in some fashion. And chances are, more will be joining the party.
To clear this up, here’s an OTT cheat sheet of who’s seen the digital light, and is looking to answer:
Arguably the most hard-hitting OTT announcement, HBO’s planned standalone streaming service will debut in the US in 2015 for sure. CEO Richard Plepler confirmed it during Time Warner’s “Industry Day” presentation. HBO’s hinted at making the digital move for a while, mostly by cutting the cord for the HBO Go service in Nordic territories. Now that it’s official in the US, we’ll have to see what that means for Amazon Prime, which currently offers HBO shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” and “Girls.”
Following HBO’s announcement, CBS recently launched “CBS All Access,” which lets users subscribe to its content without a cable subscription. The service is available for $5.99 a month and streams on CBS.com as well as through the network’s iOS and Android apps. Popular series featured on CBS All Access include “The Good Wife,” “Blue Bloods,” and even old shows like “Cheers” and “Twin Peaks.”
ESPN announced their plans for an OTT service earlier this month, in tandem with its rights deal with the NBA. The service will give basketball fans the ability to watch live games on the internet without having a subscription to ESPN on TV. So far, the OTT service only covers NBA content, and few details have been released about how it will actually work.
Expected to launch by the end of this year, DirecTV’s OTT service is said to be called YaVeo and will cater to Hispansic audiences. This will work thanks to a deal with Univision, which will provide content for DirecTV’s digital service. Apparently, DirecTV is in talks with other Spanish content companies to beef up its OTT offerings.
The network’s CEO, Chris Albrecht, has recently come out with plans for a future Starz OTT service abroad, but he’s also made some strong comments in favor of launching one in the US, as well. The international service will include Starz original series along with outside licensed content in places like the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, while the network also looks to expand its offerings to cordless households within its home country.
CEO Les Moonves has made some leading statements on the Showtime OTT front. He’s noted the company’s interest in providing digital Showtime packages abroad and in the US. There’s no commitment, here, but talk of unbundling from cable TV packages seems like it’s only going one way these days…
In addition to TV networks, other content owners are thinking of going direct-to-consumer through digital…
Just this month, Lionsgate announced a subscription VOD service coming to viewers in the first half of 2015. The future service comes from a deal with Tribeca Enterprises, hence its name, “Tribeca Short List.” Falling on the higher-brow end of the spectrum, “Tribeca Short List” will feature critically-acclaimed films from all over the globe. Think of the kind of content you’ll find at the Tribeca Film Festival, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what this OTT service will look like.
Cinedigm launched Docurama online this past May, which provides free documentaries to viewers on various set-top boxes, connected TVs, and straight through your computer or tablet. After that, the content owner partnered with the organizers of Comic-Con, Wizard World, to launch the OTT channel Con TV, which is set to debut online by the end of 2014. Content will include the expected, considering the parternship—lots of sci-fi, fantasy, gamer, and anime TV episodes and movies. Cinedigm also plans to purchase more content for the digital service, looking specifically to “Fight of the Living Dead,” which features major YouTube creators like Justine Ezarik and Joey Graceffa.
Though it recently failed at bringing its OTT service to the UK (it’s been delayed “until further notice”), the company’s still managed to provide direct-to-consumer content in over 170 countries. The service goes for $9.99 a month and works on Sony connected TVs, Samsung Smart TVs, and Blu-ray systems.
There are also some virtual internet-TV services to consider:
Having officially announced its plans for a digital TV service, Dish is well on its way, boasting deals with Disney and A+E Networks to deliver their content online. Dish plans on going the way of cheap-and-small, so the packages will be unlikely to include major networks like NBC (and CBS, which is doing its own thing), but what it does offer should go for around $20 to $30 a bundle.
Sony’s plans for an internet-TV service hint at pricing almost as high as a regular cable package. The service would offer smaller bundles of channels than those usually available on broadcast TV, but it would still go for about $60 to $80. Thanks to a deal with Viacom, the service would include MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and more—not to mention the additional channel they might include after meeting with Disney and Fox.
Verizon’s planning on going above and beyond both Dish and Sony on the internet-TV front. It’s already acquired OnCue, the digital pay-TV service developed by Intel Media, and its bundle will include the “Big Four” broadcast networks, according to the company’s CEO, Lowell McAdam, who talked about what to expect at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in September. Verizon’s planning something unique, too—in addition to offering broadcast TV channels online, their packages will include content from digital content creators like AwesomenessTV. However, keep in mind that nobody’s promising anything, yet.
President Obama Calls for Title II Reclassification to Protect Net Neutrality
President Barack Obama chimed in on the Net Neutrality debate on Monday
with a lengthy statement pressuring the FCC to reclassify ISPs under Title II
regulations, while at the same time abstaining from imposing rate regulation
"and other provisions less relevant to broadband services.”
Why This Matters: “There is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible and free Internet,” said Obama. The FCC is an independent agency, but the President made his stance clear. Shares of major ISPs fell in light of the news.
5 Takes: Variety | B&C | Reuters | NYT | Gigaom
Quote of the Day
“When you think about the health of the bundle, if the bundle were to fray or break up, everyone would suffer. The ones that will suffer the most are those smaller, less branded, less popular channels. By the way, they are not going to suffer, they are going to disappear. In an ŕ la carte world, they completely disappear.”
– Disney CEO Bob Iger
Without Greater Transparency And Meaningful Net Neutrality Rules, The Netflix Interconnection War Will Get Much, Much Uglier
from the sunlight-is-the-best-disinfectant dept
Fri, Nov 7th 2014 11:13am
If you've followed the ongoing feud between Netflix and the nation's
biggest ISPs, you'll recall that streaming performance on the nation's four
biggest ISPs (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable) mysteriously
started to go to hell earlier this year, and was only resolved once Netflix
acquiesced to ISP demands to bypass transit partners and pay carriers for
direct interconnection. Though the FCC has refused to include interconnection
in their consideration of new net neutrality rules, we've noted how it's really
the edges of these networks where the biggest
neutrality battles are now being waged.
While Netflix's deals did resolve the congestion issues for users on these ISPs this past fall, the debate over this practice has since broken down into two distinct camps. One is Netflix, its transit partners, and consumer advocacy groups, who claim that the nation's biggest ISPs have intentionally let key transit points degrade, intentionally creating significant congestion and forcing Netflix to pay them directly if they want their video services to work. On the other side is the mega-ISPs, their PR folks and a smattering of industry consultants, who argue that Netflix is to blame by choosing Cogent as a cheaper transit link to these carriers.
The problem is that because so much of this data is confidential and ISPs aggressively prevent any meaningful access to raw network data (in part because congestion has always been used as a policy bogeyman to justify anti-competitive behavior and usage caps), clearly illustrating who is at blame here can be (quite intentionally) difficult.
However, as we noted late last month, a new study from M-Labs (an organization ISPs have historically tried to hamstring) clarified at least a few key points in the debate. One, the report put to bed (or should have) the mega-ISP claim that Netflix was intentionally choosing congested partners like Cogent to save a buck, noting that other mid-sized ISPs not pushing for direct interconnection deals (like Cablevision) were seeing no congestion over Cogent connections to Netflix. It also made something very clear: natural congestion wasn't responsible for the degrading of user Netflix traffic: it was a conscious ISP business decision for users to have degraded experiences.
Now to be clear there are no saints here, as Netflix, transit partners and last mile ISPs are all running face-first at the video cash trough. Also to be clear, M-Lab went out of its way to avoid naming ISPs specifically in the report, in part to avoid liability (remember Verizon threatened to sue Netflix for even suggesting the problem could be on Verizon's end), but also because the data proving culpability isn't yet complete.
Now if you've followed the adventures of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon over the years, it's very easy to come to some conclusions based on their long, proud history of anti-competitive behavior. Since most of the data is obscured, intentionally degrading transit connection points is a brilliant way to grab the extra cash from content companies through the kind of troll tolls they've long talked about. The FCC has requested confidential data from all parties and is investigating Netflix's claims, but it's not yet possible to completely prove shenanigans without stepping foot in the very rooms that provide interconnection and examining both the hardware and the data.
If the M-Lab study pushes the needle in any direction, it's indisputably toward the ISPs being at fault. Still, it has been entertaining to see some folks on the ISP side of the argument continue to declare Netflix the villain. Though that M-Lab study pretty clearly illustrates that Netflix's choice of Cogent wasn't the core problem (again because Cablevision saw no Cogent congestion), Frost and Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn magically comes to the complete opposite conclusion. When Cogent this week acknowledged that the company had utilized some traffic management to try and improve Netflix streaming issues earlier this year, that was enough evidence for Rayburn to again declare Netflix the bad guy:
"This morning, Cogent admitted that in February and March of this year the company put in place a procedure that favored traffic on their network, putting a QoS structure in place, based on the type of content being delivered. Without telling anyone, Cogent created at least two priority levels (a ‘fast lane’ and ‘slow lane’), and possibly more, and implemented them at scale in February of this year. What Cogent did is considered a form of network management and was done without them disclosing it, even though it was the direct cause of many of the earlier published congestion charts and all the current debates.
In short, everything is Cogent and Netflix's fault. Again, nobody disagrees that there's too much secrecy in these agreements. But to hear Cogent tell Ars Technica their side of the story, the QOS (quality of service) implemented was only necessary because of intentional ISP failures to upgrade network hardware on their end of the equation:
"The system was put in place only because Internet service providers refused to upgrade connections to Cogent to meet new capacity needs, Cogent Chief Legal Officer Bob Beury told Ars. "The problem was, after years of upgrading connections as necessary to accommodate the flow of traffic as necessary at these peering points, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T refused to do so and let their customers be hurt,” he said.
It's worth noting that Cogent has been in more than a few major disputes
over the years when it comes to settlement-free peering, and hasn't made a
whole lot of friends in the process. It's also worth noting Cogent does appear
to have been caught in a lie, its website proudly
proclaiming it doesn't engage in prioritization of any kind. Since then, both
Rayburn and a number of Comcast employees have been making the rounds,
proclaiming this is, again, proof positive that Cogent is the bad guy in this
entire affair. Except it's not.
The problem is that the idea that ISPs are neglecting basic upgrades to create a problem isn't just the opinion of Cogent, it's also the suspicion of nearly every consumer group in existence, smaller independent ISPs (like Sonic.net) as well as Cogent competitors like Level3. Level3 VP Mark Taylor made the compelling case back in July that Verizon was to blame for the Netflix streaming slowdown on Verizon's network:
"We could fix this congestion in about five minutes simply by connecting up more 10Gbps ports on (Verizon's) routers. Simple. Something we’ve been asking Verizon to do for many, many months, and something other providers regularly do in similar circumstances. But Verizon has refused. So Verizon, not Level 3 or Netflix, causes the congestion. Why is that? Maybe they can’t afford a new port card because they've run out – even though these cards are very cheap, just a few thousand dollars for each 10 Gbps card which could support 5,000 streams or more. If that’s the case, we’ll buy one for them. Maybe they can’t afford the small piece of cable between our two ports. If that’s the case, we’ll provide it. Heck, we’ll even install it."
Another, earlier Level3 blog post claimed that all
of the biggest ISPs were engaged in this behavior. Netflix too has numerous
times now claimed that while the big ISPs insist these are all just run of the
mill transit debates, what's happening with this latest debate is very,
very different. Netflix has repeatedly insisted that ISPs are using their
mono/duopoly control over the last mile to effectively charge for functional
access to their customers, imposing arbitrary tolls to offload network
operation costs to other companies.
Now it's possible that Netflix, Cogent and Level3 are all lying (something Comcast engineers have been telling telecom reporters), but you can't ignore historical context. If you've been paying attention, using monopoly power to impose arbitrary and unnecessary new tolls on content companies is precisely what the biggest ISPs have spent the last decade promising they would do. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have spent the last decade engaging in some of the most anti-competitive behavior in the history of any technology market, whether that's writing laws prohibiting cities and towns from deploying their own broadband, to using astroturf and propaganda to push anti-consumer policies. The discussion of their current behavior can't simply exist in a context-free vacuum.
This week, Rayburn's contrarian, vacuum-sealed analysis of the issue resulted in an interesting Twitter exchange between himself and Netflix's David Tempkin. While Rayburn is busy claiming he has confidential but unpublishable knowledge from the industry that somehow proves Netflix is the villain in this equation, Temkin, in turn, accuses Rayburn of engaging in "biased conjecture," arguing that only the FCC currently has all of the data they need to validate Netflix's claims that ISPs are up to no good:
And there's the rub. As somebody who has written about and studied
Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable behavior for fifteen years, my
gut tells me that yes -- they probably are intentionally degrading
transit connection points, knowing that the resulting cacophony of often dull
engineering analysis would act as cover for their bad behavior. Hiding
anti-competitive shenanigans under intentionally over-complicated technical
analysis is status quo for incumbent ISPs (again, see the usage
cap debate or the wireless carrier blocking
of disruptive tech for just two examples). But even if Level3 and and
M-Lab's data confirms part of my suspicions, I can't claim to fully prove it
without direct access to transit connection points and a close look at ISP
hardware and traffic data -- no matter how many compelling charts I post.
Neither can Dan Rayburn, Susan Crawford,
or anybody else. Not quite yet.
That means there are two things we need here if we care at all about network neutrality and the future of Internet video. One is significantly more transparency across the board, from Netflix, transit partners, and last-mile ISPs, something Rayburn is spot on about. To that end, Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica filed a FOIA request with the FCC earlier this year in an attempt to to get a better look at the data behind this debate, and ran into a brick wall thanks to all of the companies involved in the fight:
"Verizon, Netflix, and Comcast filed requests for confidential treatment of the agreements in their entirety," the FCC's response to Ars said. "In support of its request for confidential treatment, Comcast asserts that, if its agreement were disclosed, competitors would gain valuable insight into the parties' business practices, internal business operations, technical processes and procedures, and information regarding highly confidential pricing and sensitive internal business matters to which competitors otherwise would not have access."
In other words, Comcast wants to quietly accuse everybody of lying, but
neither they (or Netflix) want to release the data that proves it. Hiding ISP
data from the public has also long been a favorite FCC hobby. Take for example
the FCC's $300 million broadband
coverage map, which took ISP claims of speeds and locations as gospel, but
also completely omits any data on pricing at ISP behest. That lack of data
pricing has allowed ISPs for years to claim that the broadband market is more
competitive than it actually is. Without transparent access to hard data, most
telecom policy discussions wind up being little more than verbose games of
The other thing desperately needed is for the FCC to wake up and acknowledge that the debate over net neutrality has very intentionally been immeasurably more complicated, shifting from concerns about throttling or simple service blocking, to issues like interconnection and usage caps (and all the dangerous business models under consideration therein). If the FCC's new rules (hybrid or otherwise) don't incorporate both of these concerns (and so far Wheeler has stated they won't), they're going to fall well short of protecting consumers from the mega-ISPs with a noncompetitive stranglehold over the last mile.
Comcast Inks UPS Deal to Escape 'Most Hated Company' Box
Nov 5th 2014 11:01AM
What do King Kong, Frankenstein's monster, the Iron Giant and Comcast (CMCSK) have in
common? They are all misunderstood beasts that wanted to be loved and not
hated. It's too late for those other gentle giants that were provoked to the
point of destruction, but Comcast thinks it still has a shot at social
In an interesting and praiseworthy twist, Comcast announced a deal with UPS (UPS) last week, allowing Xfinity customers to return their Comcast cable, Internet, or phone equipment at any of the more than 4,400 UPS Stores. The service is free, and disgruntled customers don't need to worry about boxing up and packaging the rented gear. UPS will take it in, providing customers with tracking information.
This is a big deal. Anyone who has ever had to deal with an Xfinity store for returns, swapping defective gear or even paying a monthly bill knows about the dreary experience, which can rival a DMV visit for squandered time. With 26.9 million Xfinity customers and roughly 500 Xfinity branches, the math is cruel. The UPS move is a win-win for customers and Comcast. Departing Xfinity accounts now have a streamlined exit strategy, and Xfinity stores may be less busy in tackling disputes, handling bill payments and swapping out equipment.
One can also imagine that this would be good for in-store morale at Xfinity centers. It probably weighs on the psyche employees to see so many people taking time out of their day to cut ties with Comcast. And there's no way that Comcast wants its ongoing customers to be rubbing elbows with the people who are dumping the service.
It's a Long Way Down
Comcast is in trouble. It's growing in popularity as an Internet service provider, but its customer count for cable television is going the other way. Comcast has posted sequential declines in video customers in 28 of the past 30 quarters.
Cheaper alternatives in the form of satellite and broadband television providers have eaten away at the market share of cable TV providers in general and Comcast in particular. Folks are also cutting the cable cord, taking advantage of the growing breadth of streaming video options that are available. Industry tracker SNL Kagan estimates that the number of pay-TV customers declined by 251,000 last year, making it the first year in which more people have canceled their pay-TV service than set it up. The bad news for Comcast is that it had 305,000 in net cancellations among video customers. In other words, the pay-TV industry grew in 2013, excluding Comcast.
Comcast's cable television accounts peaked at nearly 25 million in 2007. Now it stands at 22.4 million homes. If the trend continues, it will have more Xfinity Internet customers than cable television subscribers at some point next year.
It's a Trap
Making it easier to leave Xfinity is risky. The country's largest cable provider has to know that making it more convenient to cut ties will encourage an uptick in cancellations. However, that same change could improve its crummy reputation.
Comcast was Consumerist's Most Hated Company in America this year, recapturing a title it originally nabbed in 2010. Between the cable TV bills that perpetually rise and spotty service, it's easy to dislike Comcast. Why should someone have to call not once but twice to be credited when cable or the Internet goes down? The UPS deal won't make all of those problems go away, but even Consumerist went with the headline "Comcast Does Something Not-Awful" in covering last week's move.
It's not just customers whom Comcast wants to keep happy. The company is trying to sway regulators to approve its pending merger with Time Warner Cable (TWC). Proving that it's easy to drop the service should help its chances to clear antitrust hurdles.
Has Comcast turned the corner? Is this a misunderstood beast trying to prove that it's a gentle giant? We'll see how customer satisfaction, subscriber trends, and the pending merger play out in the coming months as a result of Comcast trying to give customers a break for a change.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends United Parcel Service. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. To read about our favorite high-yielding dividend stocks for any investor, check out our free report.
Early NOV 2014 MVPD NEWS
1 November 2014
the Slow Lane
Why the U.S. Has Fallen Behind in Internet Speed and Affordability
OCT. 30, 2014
Claire Cain Miller @clairecm
America’s slow and expensive Internet is more than just an annoyance for people trying to watch “Happy Gilmore” on Netflix. Largely a consequence of monopoly providers, the sluggish service could have long-term economic consequences for American competitiveness.
Downloading a high-definition movie takes about seven seconds in Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Bucharest and Paris, and people pay as little as $30 a month for that connection. In Los Angeles, New York and Washington, downloading the same movie takes 1.4 minutes for people with the fastest Internet available, and they pay $300 a month for the privilege, according to The Cost of Connectivity, a report published Thursday by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.
The report compares Internet access in big American cities with access in Europe and Asia. Some surprising smaller American cities — Chattanooga, Tenn.; Kansas City (in both Kansas and Missouri); Lafayette, La.; and Bristol, Va. — tied for speed with the biggest cities abroad. In each, the high-speed Internet provider is not one of the big cable or phone companies that provide Internet to most of the United States, but a city-run network or start-up service.
The reason the United States lags many countries in both speed and affordability, according to people who study the issue, has nothing to do with technology. Instead, it is an economic policy problem — the lack of competition in the broadband industry.
“It’s just very simple economics,” said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School who studies antitrust and communications and was an adviser to the Federal Trade Commission. “The average market has one or two serious Internet providers, and they set their prices at monopoly or duopoly pricing.”
Americans Pay More for Internet Access
For relatively high-speed Internet at 25 megabits per second, 75 percent of homes have one option at most, according to the Federal Communications Commission — usually Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T or Verizon. It’s an issue anyone who has shopped for Internet knows well, and it is even worse for people who live in rural areas. It matters not just for entertainment; an Internet connection is necessary for people to find and perform jobs, and to do new things in areas like medicine and education.
“Stop and let that sink in: Three-quarters of American homes have no competitive choice for the essential infrastructure for 21st-century economics and democracy,” Tom Wheeler, chairman of the F.C.C., said in a speech last month.
The situation arose from this conundrum: Left alone, will companies compete, or is regulation necessary?
In many parts of Europe, the government tries to foster competition by requiring that the companies that own the pipes carrying broadband to people’s homes lease space in their pipes to rival companies. (That policy is based on the work of Jean Tirole, who won the Nobel Prize in economics this month in part for his work on regulation and communications networks.)
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission in 2002 reclassified high-speed Internet access as an information service, which is unregulated, rather than as telecommunications, which is regulated. Its hope was that Internet providers would compete with one another to provide the best networks. That didn’t happen. The result has been that they have mostly stayed out of one another’s markets.
When New America ranked cities by the average speed of broadband plans priced between $35 and $50 a month, the top three cities, Seoul, Hong Kong and Paris, offered speeds 10 times faster than the United States cities. (In some places, like Seoul, the government subsidizes Internet access to keep prices low.)
The divide is not just with the fastest plans. At nearly every speed, Internet access costs more in the United States than in Europe, according to the report. American Internet users are also much more likely than those in other countries to pay an additional fee, about $100 a year in many cities, to rent a modem that costs less than $100 in a store.
“More competition, better technologies and increased quality of service on wireline networks help to drive down prices,” said Nick Russo, a policy program associate studying broadband pricing at the Open Technology Institute and co-author of the report.
There is some disagreement about that conclusion, including from Richard Bennett, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a critic of those who say Internet service providers need more regulation. He argued that much of the slowness is caused not by broadband networks but by browsers, websites and high usage.
Yet it is telling that in the cities with the fastest Internet in the United States, according to New America, the incumbent companies are not providing the service. In Kansas City, it comes from Google. In Chattanooga, Lafayette and Bristol, it comes through publicly owned networks.
In each case, the networks are fiber-optic, which transfer data exponentially faster than cable networks. The problem is that installing fiber networks requires a huge investment of money and work, digging up streets and sidewalks, building a new network and competing with the incumbents. (That explains why super-rich Google has been one of the few private companies to do it.)
The big Internet providers have little reason to upgrade their entire networks to fiber because there has so far been little pressure from competitors or regulators to do so, said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and author of “Captive Audience: Telecom Monopolies in the New Gilded Age.”
There are signs of a growing movement for cities to build their own fiber networks and lease the fiber to retail Internet providers. Some, like San Antonio, already have fiber in place, but there are policies restricting them from using it to offer Internet services to consumers. Other cities, like Santa Monica, Calif., have been laying fiber during other construction projects.
In certain cities, the threat of new Internet providers has spurred the big, existing companies to do something novel: increase the speeds they offer and build up their own fiber networks.
Wheeler Considering Hybrid Net Neutrality Approach
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is considering a hybrid approach to regulating
net neutrality, relying on elements of Title II and Sec. 706 to impose new
Why This Matters: Under the proposed plan, Wheeler is considering separating broadband into two parts – a retail element where consumers pay service providers like Comcast or Verizon for their broadband service, and a back-end or wholesale element covering broadband providers that serve as a backbone for content providers like Netflix or Amazon.
5 Takes: Re/code | MCN | Fierce Telecom | Gigaom | Reuters
Verizon: Treating Broadband as Title II Service Would Be Illegal
Verizon told the FCC in a white paper filed Oct. 30 that since all the
major providers and trade associations agree that the FCC has authority under
Sec. 706 to ban anticompetitive paid prioritization, using Title II authority
would be "gratuitous" and likely not withstand court challenge.
Why This Matters: The company went on to outline the reasons why it believes the FCC lacks authority to define broadband as a telecommunications service. One of the most significant, according to Verizon, is that the FCC decided more than 10 years ago that broadband was an “information” service.
3 Takes: B&C | Media Post | The Hill
31 Oct 2014
Quotes of the Day
“Redefining what it means to be an MVPD raises profound questions about
how government will extend regulation to Internet video services and how any
would-be virtual MVPDs will meet their 'social compact' obligations. With so
many unknowns, the FCC should take great care in any such examination so as to
avoid creating new problems that would result in unintended consequences and would
fail to honor principles of competitive neutrality among rival providers.”
– NCTA statement regarding the FCC’s proposal to update the definition of Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (MVPD)
“I really do think that Netflix strengthens a need for a good broadband
connection. With an HBO over-the-top product, you’re going to have to have
pretty strong broadband speeds to support it. It could encourage folks to upgrade
to higher speeds. They can go from 3 Mbps to 15 Mbps, from 15 Mbps to 50 Mbps.
It could get them to buy better products from us that make more money for us
and we don’t have a significant programming expense.”
– Mediacom Communications vice president of legal and public affairs Tom Larsen
Moody’s: Broadband Is the Game
According to a new report from Moody’s Investor’s Service, cable
operators’ cash flow growth is expected to decelerate to between 2% and 3% in
2015, down slightly from the 4% rise expected this year. But a continued focus
on higher margin broadband and commercial services should keep profit margins
fairly steady for the foreseeable future.
Why This Matters: Moody’s believes cable operators will see broadband profits rise, while customer losses and higher content costs impact the video side of the business.
The Take: MCN
Study: Streaming Trumps the DVR in Primetime
According to a new report from Frank N Magid Associates, viewers are
streaming video on a connected TV at a record pace during primetime, and more
than half of adults surveyed prefer streaming to a connected TV over other
devices in the home – including PC, tablet and mobile phone.
Why This Matters: The study also found that that 57% of respondents preferred ad-supported, free streaming on a connected TV, versus 36% for subscription streaming (monthly fee with no commercials), and 7% for VOD (fee paid for each TV show or movie, with no commercials).
5 Takes: CNet | Fierce Cable | MCN | Rapid TV News | Tube Filter
Murdoch Calls on TV Industry to Unite Against Amazon and Netflix
Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch called for a cooperative media response to
challenge streaming services Amazon and Netflix, telling a WSJ technology
conference that the media industry needs its own competitor to these streaming
Why This Matters: His comments come after Time Warner announced it would launch an internet-only version of HBO. The move has shaken up the cable industry, where HBO is one of the primary drivers of new subscriptions.
5 Takes: The Guardian | Advanced Television | TBI Vision | The Drum | WSJ
Comcast begins notifying customers: Congrats, your home is a Wi-Fi hotspot
October 28, 2014 | By Daniel Frankel
Amid an aggressive expansion of its Wi-Fi network that aims to have around 8 million hotspots deployed in the U.S. by the end of 2014, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is selling its subscribers on the hospitality angle.
By letting the conglomerate push out an additional, public SSID with their home gateway, Comcast is providing its residential consumers with a means of being hospitable to their guests without giving away their Wi-Fi WEP key.
"Xfinity Wi-Fi will now be available via your existing wireless gateway," reads a bullet-pointed memo sent to Comcast broadband customers.
"The xfinitywifi signal is completely separate from your home Wi-Fi network," it adds. "There will be no impact to the broadband connection to your home, and minimal impact to your home Wi-Fi network."
UPDATE: Comcast representative issued us the following statement Thursday: "When we do introduce the feature in a market, we are transparent with our customers about it and we send them letters and emails well in advance to notify them that the feature is going to be turned on. We provide information about it, we provide links to online FAQs and we provide instructions for how they can disable the second SSID if they do not wish to have it. So far, fewer than one percent of customers who have the feature have disabled it."
Comcast had around 4.6 million hotspots deployed in the U.S. as of September.
Madden: How Wi-Fi is driving new competition in the mobile market
Wi-Fi Alliance's new Passpoint features ease login process, support preferred providers
The top 5 reasons cable operators are making big bets on Wi-Fi
AT&T Adds 216,000 U-verse TV Subscribers in Third Quarter
In its quarterly report yesterday, AT&T revealed that it added
216,000 U-verse TV subs in the third quarter of 2014, off from the 265,000
added in the year-ago period.
Why This Matters: Overall, the company posted consolidated revenues of $33 billion, up 2.5%, and net income of $3 billion, or 58 cents per diluted share, down from $3.8 billion (72 cents) in the year-ago quarter. AT&T also cut its revenue target for the year, saying it now expects a 3-4% increase, after previously forecasting a 5% gain.
5 Takes: MCN | Re/code | CED | Rapid TV News | Fierce Cable
Charter slows video losses, revenue up 8%
Wed, 10/29/2014 - 12:34pm
Aided by an increase in broadband subscribers, Charter Communications increased its revenue in the third quarter while also cutting its net losses.
Charter added 94,000 data subscribers in the third, which helped offset the loss of 9,000 basic video subscribers. Charter had lost 27,000 video subscribers in the same quarter a year ago. On the voice side, Charter added 29,000 subscribers to the fold.
Charter’s third quarter revenues of $2.3 billion increased 8 percent when compared to the same quarter a year ago, aided by residential revenue growth of 7 percent, and commercial revenue growth of 18 percent. Net loss totaled $53 million in most recent third quarter, which was an improvement over the $70 million net loss in the year-ago period.
At the end of the third quarter, Charter had completed more than 80 percent of its all-digital project, with more than 2 million set-top boxes deployed since starting the transition last year. Charter said it remained on track to finish up the all-digital conversion project by the end of this year. Charter started ramping up its all-digital effort after receiving a CableCard waiver from the Federal Communications Commission in order to use two-way, dual-security HD set-top boxes.
"Charter's strategy to create value by delivering superior products and service, at highly competitive prices, is working. As a result, our customer growth continues to accelerate," said Tom Rutledge, president and CEO of Charter Communications. "Our growing levels of customer and product penetration, and revenue per household, are generating faster revenue and EBITDA growth. Our new product suite, Charter Spectrum, has been deployed and is designed to further build that operating and financial momentum, delivering greater value to both customers and shareholders."
Last year Charter announced it was re-branding its services in the systems where the all digital conversions have taken place as “Charter Spectrum.” Using the reclaimed bandwidth, Charter Spectrum offers faster data speeds and more VOD and HD choices.
Charter will host its third quarter earnings call Friday morning.
CBS Launches $5.99 OTT Subscription Service
A day after HBO announced its plan to launch an OTT service next year,
CBS announced that it will launch its own online subscription service for $5.99
per month will give subscribers access to live and on-demand programming from
its network and local TV stations.
Why This Matters: The development suggests an avalanche of television networks and studios moving quickly to announce online apps and services. It’s a sign that the content business is suddenly racing into the broadband space.
5 Takes: MCN | Media Post | Re/code | Variety | Deadline
Viacom Expands Hulu Partership
Hulu and Viacom announced that they have extended a deal to bring shows
from Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, TVLand, Spike, BET and Logo to the
online platform. Thousands of episodes will be added to Hulu's OTT library over
the coming weeks.
Why This Matters: Pay-TV providers have argued that Viacom content is already too ubiquitous on over-the-top services, diminishing its value. In recent months, Cable One and Suddenlink have pulled Viacom’s 20+ channels in carriage disputes.
5 Takes: Fierce Cable | Deadline | The Wrap | Rapid TV News | B&C
FCC Considers Redefining “MVPD” to Include Internet-TV Services
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a new rule-making process to expand the
definition of a Multichannel Video Programming Distributor, (MVPD) to include
internet-TV services in an effort to boost competition and consumer choice in
Why This Matters: Wheeler's move comes after Aereo and competitor FilmOn asked the Commission to redefine the term to include online-only companies. Wheeler is calling for a “technology-neutral” definition of an MVPD.
5 Takes: B&C | BGR | Re/code | Media Post | Video Ink
Retransmission Fees Projected to Reach $9.3 Billion by 2020
SNL Kagan announced that it has revised its retransmission consent fee
projections, saying that it expects broadcasters to reap $9.3 billion in
charges by 2020, nearly twice the $4.9 billion they are expected to earn in
Why This Matters: The growth projections are based on rising per-month, per-subscriber fees for TV station owners in recent negotiations. SNL Kagan also estimates rising reverse retransmission compensation rates based on its study of recent deals.
5 Takes: MCN | The Wrap | Fierce Cable | Deadline | Media Post
Amazon Launches $39 Fire TV Stick
Amazon announced the launch of its new Fire TV Stick today, a $39 dongle
that resembles the Chromecast. For the next two days, Amazon Primes subscribers
can get one for $19.
Why This Matters: Designed to take on challengers like the Roku Streaming sticks and Chromecast dongle, the Fire TV Stick comes just seven months after the release of Amazon’s Fire TV set-top-box. It offers access to Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Twitch, WatchESPN and a variety of other services out of the box.
5 Takes: Tech Crunch | Variety | MCN | Twice | Advanced Television
Non-Linear TV Viewing Leads Traditional TV
According to a new report from Parks Associates, the average U.S.
broadband household now watches more than 17 hours of non-linear video per
week, compared to 11.5 hours of traditional TV.
Why This Matters: The report noted that non-linear video accounts for 49% of the video consumed on the TV, and in fact, it already accounts for 60% of TV video viewed by consumers 18-24.
4 Takes: Rapid TV News | Fierce Cable | MCN | Broadband TV News
Mid October 2014 Cable News
CBS News Prepares to Launch 24-hour CBSN Digital Network
CBS News is in the final stages of developing its 24-hour digital news
channel, called CBSN. An exact launch date for the network has not yet been
set, but according to reports, the company plans to launch by Election Day,
Why This Matters: CBSN will follow the launch of CBS All Access, a paid subscription service that lets users watch CBS programming on any device for a monthly fee of $5.99. It is not clear whether CBSN will be incorporated into that service when it launches, but it will be available for free to consumers via CBSNews.com, and via apps for mobile devices.
3 Takes: Capital New York | Variety | TV Newser
CBS Launches $5.99 OTT Subscription Service
A day after HBO announced its plan to launch an OTT service next year,
CBS announced that it will launch its own online subscription service for $5.99
per month will give subscribers access to live and on-demand programming from
its network and local TV stations.
Why This Matters: The development suggests an avalanche of television networks and studios moving quickly to announce online apps and services. It’s a sign that the content business is suddenly racing into the broadband space.
5 Takes: MCN | Media Post | Re/code | Variety | Deadline
FilmOn Asks FCC for Cable TV Licence
Online video distributor FilmOn is joining its rival, Aereo, in asking
the Federal Communications Commission for help in obtaining a cable license.
Why This Matters: If the FCC redefines MVPDs, companies like Aereo and FilmOn will stand a better chance of qualifying for a compulsory cable license, which would enable them to transmit television shows online, providing they pay retransmission fees to the broadcast networks.
4 Takes: Media Post | CED | Rapid TV News | Advanced Television
Verizon, Netflix Test Bundled Subscription Plan
Verizon is offering new FiOS triple-play customers (TV, Internet and
phone) in New York a free year of Netflix with their subscription. At $9 a
month, the free year is worth $108 — a marketing cost either Netflix or
Verizon, or both, is absorbing.
Why This Matters: The promotion marks the first time a major domestic MVPD has offered the SVOD service in a bundled subscription.
4 Takes: Home Media | Consumerist | Fierce Cable | Mashable
U.S. Broadband Penetration to Surpass Pay-TV: Study
According to a new report from The Diffusion Group, while residential
broadband penetration will soon top 100 million U.S. households, legacy pay-TV
subscription services have peaked and are in decline.
Why This Matters: TDG predicts that the number of home broadband subscriptions will surpass the number of home pay-TV subscriptions for the first time in the coming months. While this is an obvious concern for incumbent pay-TV providers, the trend provides an opportunity for new video purveyors like Netflix or the growing list of television networks going direct-to-consumer.
4 Takes: MCN | IPTV | Fierce Cable | Advanced Television
QUOTE OF THE DAY: 28 October 2014
"I have to consider whether net neutrality proposals will chill access to capital and broadband deployment. I am extremely concerned that applying Title II to any part of broadband or the Internet will have this effect. And it will impact not only last-mile ISPs that own transmission facilities, but anyone that uses the service as an input to deliver content across the Internet, including some edge providers."
– FCC Commissioner Michael O'Reilly
Aereo Asks FCC for MVPD Status
Aereo filed a brief with the FCC asking to be classified as a
multichannel video programming distributor, a move that would breathe new life
into the streaming service by letting it sign broadcast retransmission deals.
Why This Matters: Aereo has been seeking MVPD status since late June when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it can't stream broadcast signals to its subscribers without paying. Being classified as an MVPD would entitle Aereo to a statutory retransmission license, meaning it could continue streaming broadcast signals to IP devices, but it would have to pay for the programming.
5 Takes: Fierce Cable | Washington Post | Deadline | Media Post | B&C
Networks Selling More Spots as Ratings Drop
To keep lower ratings from decimating advertising revenues, cable
networks are significantly increasing the number of commercials they sell,
according to a new report from MoffettNathanson Research.
Why This Matters: Analyst Michael Nathanson said that networks owned by Discovery, Viacom, Time Warner and 21st Century Fox sold 7% to 11% more commercials in the third quarter compared to the third quarter a year ago, but he warns that “adding too many minutes of commercials ultimately ruins the consumer experience and destroys brand value."
2 Takes: B&C | Media Post
Netflix Leads in Digital Video Subscriptions, TV is Still the Main Screen
According to a new survey from comScore on video viewing habits, Netflix
is the leading brand among U.S. households that subscribe to paid digital video
subscription services, and it’s also the leading subscription service among the
coveted 18-34 year-old demographic.
Why This Matters: When it comes to what kinds of screens people are watching, the traditional TV still seems to win out, but time spent watching TV on mobile and connected devices continues to grab share, particularly amongst tech-savvy Millennials.
3 Takes: Tech Crunch | MCN | Adweek | Re/code | Venture Beat
Nobel winner: cable could have been cheaper in the U.S., but...
Tue, 10/14/2014 - 1:55pm
The Associated Press
U.S. consumers might be paying less than they are for cable and Internet access if regulators had followed the guidance of Jean Tirole in promoting industry competition.
So say experts in assessing the work of Tirole, a 61-year-old Frenchmen who won the Nobel prize in economics Monday for showing how to encourage better products and competitive prices in industries dominated by a few companies.
"He has given us an instruction manual for what tool to use in what market," said Torsten Persson of the prize committee. "Politicians would be stupid not to take his policy advice."
They haven't always listened.
Joshua Gans, management professor at the University of Toronto, says U.S. regulators didn't follow Tirole's advice to require cable and phone companies to sell competitors access to "the last mile" of cable connecting homes to telecommunications networks. Instead, giants such as Comcast and Time Warner now control the last mile.
To reach a home, a potential competitor must pay to install its own cable. That limits competition and allows existing telecom providers to charge more. As a result, Gans says, American consumers pay too much for cable TV and Internet access.
Tirole, a professor at the Toulouse School of Economics in France who earned a doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the third Frenchman to win the $1.1 million Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, which has been dominated of late by U.S. economists. This is the first year since 1999 that an American has not been among the winners.
"I was incredibly surprised at the honor, and it took me half an hour to recoup" from the Nobel committee's call, Tirole said in an interview with the website Nobelprize.org.
Tirole did much of his work with his Toulouse School colleague Jean-Jacques Laffont, who died in 2004. Had he lived, Laffont "would have certainly shared" the prize with Tirole, says David Warsh, who follows academic economists on his Economic Principals blog.
Tirole cannot be easily categorized as pro- or anti-regulation. He agrees with free-market advocates that "because firms know more than regulators, regulation is necessarily going to be imperfect," said Eric Maskin, a Harvard University economist who taught Tirole at MIT and who won a Nobel prize himself in 2007. "But that doesn't mean there shouldn't be regulation. You have to be very careful so you don't do more harm than good."
At a news conference Monday, Tirole said, "The market needs a strong state to function normally."
Left unregulated, companies with few competitors can stop innovating and charge unnecessarily high prices. But attempts to regulate them often fail. Companies typically grow close to the government agencies that are supposed to supervise them and find ways to exploit regulations to block competitors.
Studying specific industries, including telecommunications and finance, Tirole devised rules meant to align companies' interests with those of consumers, thereby nudging producers to provide better products and lower prices.
Tirole is the second French economist to make headlines this year. Thomas Piketty gained global fame with his best-seller, "Capital in the 21st Century," in which he used 300 years of data to document a widening gap between rich and poor. Piketty's book was based on research he conducted with his countryman Emmanuel Saez.
This year's economics prize was the second Nobel to be won by Frenchmen this year, after the literature prize awarded last week to Patrick Modiano.
"After Patrick Modiano, another Frenchman in the firmament. Congratulations to Jean Tirole. A thumb in the eye for french bashing," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted.
The announcement also set off celebrations across the Atlantic at MIT, where Tirole earned his doctorate in 1981 and is still a visiting professor who typically comes to campus three times a year.
"I'm thrilled for Jean," said Nancy Rose, an MIT professor who has known Tirole for more than three decades. "This is a prize I think we were confident would come."
"He's extremely generous. He's unselfish," added MIT economist Bengt Holmstrom. "He's always looking at ways to better government."
Monday's prize completes the 2014 Nobel Prize announcements. The Nobel prizes for peace, literature, chemistry, physics and medicine were awarded last week.
The awards will be presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.
Though the economics award isn't an original Nobel — it was added in 1968 by Sweden's central bank — it is presented with the others and carries the same prize money.
SVOD Services Marked by Burgeoning Content Costs
13 Oct, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Nary a week passes without news of a content license agreement involving Netflix and/or Amazon Prime Instant Video. The No. 1 and 2 subscription streaming services continue to leverage their balance sheets to the precipice with calculated abandon, say some analysts.
Netflix, which reports third-quarter financial results Oct. 15, ended the most recent fiscal period (June 30) with $7.7 billion in content obligations to third-party content holders. That was $1.3 billion more than was owed during the previous-year period.
With content obligations skyrocketing $800 million higher in the third quarter last year, it’s reasonable to assume Netflix’s content accounts payable ledger topped $8 billion at the end September (the end of Q3).
“That’s one of the issues with them that everyone overlooks,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said in an email earlier this year.
Netflix spends about 10% of its budget on original programing, including much-hyped “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.” The majority of spending is on catalog fare (about 60,000 titles), including recent seasons of popular network, BBC and pay-TV serialized shows.
Meanwhile, Amazon Prime, which remains locked in a content-spending race with Netflix, is reportedly set to fork over almost $2 billion this year on licensed content, and about $2.5 billion in 2015, according to Wall Street firm Sanford Bernstein.
In a survey of 1,000 consumers, including 400 Prime members, 60% of respondents said they stream video, while 13% of newer members (less than a year) said streaming video was their primary reason for joining; not the free two-day shipping myriad Amazon.com purchases.
Another 6% of Prime members (longer than one year) said video was the main reason they signed up, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Bernstein estimates Prime would have to add from 10 million to 20 million members above current subscriber levels to break even on the content spend. Indeed, Amazon has projected a $800 million loss in Q3, due in part to Prime costs, which includes escalating shipping fees.
Netflix CFO David Wells, in print and on fiscal calls, contends that content spending remains within financial constraints. That’s because Netflix continues to add more than a million subscribers each quarter — topping 50 million subs at the end of Q2.
BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield, in an Oct. 13 blog post, said he expects Netflix to reach 100 million subscribers by 2017 — that’s about the number of current U.S. cable households.
As Netflix attempts to feed the masses ever-more relevant programing, content holders gladly oblige — albeit at escalating fiscal terms. This does not worry Greenfield, who, instead, frets should content holders pull back the reins licensing programing.
“While we have seen the entire industry turn into a willing content seller to Netflix, any change in content creators’ desire to license content to Netflix would be problematic, at least until Netflix has proved its ability to create a regular stream of successful original programming,” Greenfield wrote.
Related Links :
Verizon FiOS Jumps in Netflix Speed Index Five Months After Peering Deal
Today Netflix updated its ISP-shaming speed index, revealing that average
streaming speeds for Verizon FiOS customers rose 31.5% last month to 3.17 Mbps
during peak hours, up from 2.41 Mbps in August.
Why This Matters: This is the first major speed improvement since the streaming OTT service announced that it pays Verizon to boost streaming speeds for customers. Netflix is urging the FCC to include peering deals in the discussion as the Commission pursues new network neutrality rules. Netflix’s preference is to have ISPs join Open Connect, the company’s private content delivery network that relies on edge caching appliances.
5 Takes: MCN | Fierce Cable | Ars Technica | Venture Beat | Gigaom
Top Cablers Drop 3% Of TV Subscribers
by Wayne Friedman, October 10, 2014, 10:44 AM
So-called “cord-cutting” or “cord-shaving” has dinged some big cable networks over the last four years.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the top 40 biggest cable networks -- in terms of penetration of U.S. TV homes -- have dropped 3% average or 3.2 million TV subscribers since 2010.
These networks include ESPN, TNT, Nickelodeon and USA Network.
The report says low-priced, smaller basic cable network plans for subscribers have contributed to the dip in results. Those smaller network plans are now 12% of all pay-TV subscription, up 8% to 10% from a few years ago.
A report earlier this year from Experian Marketing Services said some 6.5% of U.S. homes in 2013 -- 7.6 million homes -- are cord-cutters, up from 4.5% -- or 5.1 million homes -- in 2010.
Experian defines cord-cutting as homes that have high-speed Internet but no cable or satellite television service. According to Nielsen’s 2014 estimates, there are 115.6 million U.S. TV homes and 294 million TV viewers age 2 and older.
The report said adults under the age of 35 are twice as likely not to have a pay TV service -- 12.4% of those homes where an adult under the age of 35 lives are cord-cutters.
Quote of the day 4 Oct 2014
“The time is coming when WiFi will shift from being a ‘secondary’ network to being a primary one; instead of thinking of WiFi as an alternative to cellular where WiFi is available, we will instead begin to think of cellular as a backup network needed only when WiFi is not.”
– Craig Moffett partner and senior analyst MoffettNathanson Research
Rival ISPs fuming about Verizon's takedown of old net neutrality law
October 3, 2014 | By Daniel Frankel
Nine months after Verizon (NYSE: VZ) successfully sued the FCC to have net neutrality legislation thrown out, the conglomerate's rivals are fuming, as they suspect the regulatory body will now enact new rules that are more restrictive.
Specifically, wireless Internet operators, who were free to speed up or slow down certain services under the old regime, question Verizon's judgment in aggressively seeking to overturn the Federal Communications Commission mandates in court.
"They were like a dog chasing a bus," said a broadband industry source to the National Journal, which reported on the industry dissonance toward Verizon Friday. "What are you going to do when you catch the bus?"
Certainly not pleasing Verizon's rivals: The FCC is now considering the reclassification of the Internet as a "telecommunications service" under Title II of the Communications Act.
As the National Journal also reports, one constituency is looking back on the January Verizon-v.-FCC ruling with a bit more fondness: consumer activist groups.
"If nothing else, this proceeding has allowed the FCC to reexamine some of the conclusions baked into the 2010 rules," Michael Weinberg, a VP at the consumer-advocacy group Public Knowledge, told the pub. "Any opportunity to have the FCC potentially strengthen open Internet protections is an opportunity we welcome."
6 oct 2014
NBA Expands Digital Rights in Nine-Year Deal with ESPN, Turner
The National Basketball Association announced that it has renewed its
broadcast rights deals with partners ESPN and Turner through 2024-25.
Why This Matters: The agreements are said to be worth $24 billion over nine years, which would be more than double the current payouts from the two networks. The league's current deals are set to expire following the 2015-16 season.
5 Takes: The Wrap | B&C | CNet | Media Life | Variety
Sony's OTT Pay-TV Service to Be Priced at Around $80 per Month
According to reports, Sony is preparing to launch its Net TV service with
up to 100 live channels for as much as $80 a month. The New York Post
reports that Sony wants to launch the streaming business before year's end to
help boost sales of Sony Smart TVs which would feature the new offering in
their lineup of Internet services, which also include Netflix and Hulu Plus.
Why This Matters: Sony initially wanted to create a lower priced service featuring a more stripped-down programming package; however, the company has faced the same pressure the pay-TV industry has been grappling with in terms of program acquisition – entertainment conglomerates are still leveraging distribution of fringe channels along with their more popular networks.
3 Takes: NY Post | Fierce Cable | TV Predictions
Consumer Advocates Urge Justice Dept. To Block Comcast/TWC Merger
By Kate Cox October 2, 2014
The FCC isn’t the only agency reviewing the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger; the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice is all over it, too. And while the full public doesn’t get to have its riotous say with the DoJ the same way we did with the FCC, businesses and consumer advocates can file in opposition (or support). Our colleagues down the hall at Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, have now officially chimed in to ask the DoJ to watch out for the interests of consumers, and block the merger.
Officials at the DoJ have been quietly looking at the merits of the Comcast/TWC merger since March. That investigation has included interviews with media companies like Disney and CBS, where the DoJ looked into the same kind of potentially anticompetitive deals that the FCC has been (trying) to ask about.
Although there is no official public comment period during this investigation, several of the same companies and groups who expressed concerns to the FCC about the strong possible harms that could result from the merger have also been filing documents with the DoJ. And that’s where Consumers Union comes in.
In their formal opposition (PDF), CU argues the potential harms that could result, both to consumers and to businesses, make the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable anticompetitive. In a nutshell, those harms are:
Killing competition. ….
Squashing innovation. ….
Blocking media diversity…..
More Cable Companies Take TV Off Menu - Wall Street Journal
Customers Care More About Broadband, They Say, and Programming Has Gotten Too Expensive
Viacom Grants Verizon Wireless Nationwide Rights for TV Service
Verizon and Viacom have inked a renewal of their carriage agreement for
FiOS that will allow the telco to distribute Viacom programming out of
customers' homes while also clearing the way for a new, national wireless
Why This Matters: The deal grants Verizon the national rights to deliver Viacom programming to Verizon Wireless customers when the new service goes live early next year.
4 Takes: Variety | CNet | MCN | CED
“The NFL has received substantial benefits from the public in the form of
antitrust exemptions, a specialized tax status, and direct taxpayer dollars
that subsidize football arenas and sports stadium. The provision of these
substantial public benefits requires that the NFL meet basic obligations to the
American public and loyal fans, and this includes abandoning rules that punish
those same fans. If the NFL fails to show leadership to finally end blackouts
once and for all, Congress will be forced to act.”
– Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
FCC May Redefine Television to Include the Internet 1 oct 2014
The Federal Communications Commission is considering whether to treat
certain online video services the same way it treats cable and satellite TV
Why This Matters: The move would help the online services get access to popular programming and could allow them to become stronger competitors to the dominant pay-TV providers like Comcast. Gaining rights to popular channels has been a major hurdle for online TV services.
5 Takes: National Journal | Fierce Cable | Variety | Bloomberg | Advanced Television
Quote of the day 1 Oct 2014:
“America’s ever-growing dissatisfaction and frustration with the pay-TV
industry continues to accelerate under an uncompetitive market structure,
enabling an array of well-documented industry-wide practices to ratchet monthly
bills upward for America’s cable and satellite TV consumers. Today, consumers
bear the financial burden of satisfying the pay-TV industry’s unquenched thirst
to further expand profit margins. Pervasive market failures have allowed cable
and satellite TV providers to arbitrarily raise prices, offer shoddy customer
service, and dismiss cases of erroneous billing.”
– Robert Kenny, director of public affairs, TVfreedom.org
Late Sept 2014 Quotes of the day:
“We oppose the Comcast merger because it’s
anti-competitive, harmful to consumers and potentially dangerous to democracy.
Comcast’s suggestion that we’ve offered to withdraw our opposition in return
for favors from the company is absolutely unfounded and untrue. If combined
with Time Warner Cable, Comcast would gain a monopoly on cable services in much
of the country and become the nation’s largest broadband provider. We remain
convinced that no one should be permitted to gain such a stranglehold on the
movement of news and information.”
– Michael Copps, former FCC commissioner and special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative
"I believe the FCC must find a way to put open Internet policies
back in place. We cannot have a two-tiered Internet with fast lanes that speed
the traffic of the privileged and leave the rest of us lagging behind."
– FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
War of Words Over Comcast’s Comments Rages On
Dish, Discovery Communications and Netflix fired back at Comcast after
the company labeled critics of its $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable a
bunch of “extortionists” looking to shake it down.
Why This Matters: The continuing stream of statements underscores that the merger review is a free-for-all grandstanding opportunity for companies, organizations and individuals with all manner of agendas.
4 Takes: Variety | NY Post | Media Post | MCN
26 Sept 2014
DirecTV Shareholders Approve AT&T Acquisition
DirecTV shareholders voted overwhelmingly yesterday to approve the
proposed merger with AT&T. The final tally had more than 99% of the votes
cast (77% of outstanding shares) going for adoption of the merger agreement.
Why This Matters: The deal still needs approval from the Justice Department and the FCC. DirecTV expects the deal to close by the first half of 2015.
5 Takes: Variety | MCN | Rapid TV News | Ars Technica | Fierce Telecom
24 Sept 2014
Comcast Blasts Extortion Efforts from Opponents of its TWC Deal
Comcast told federal regulators that most of the companies opposing its
$45 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable are extortionists attempting to
get special favors to further their own businesses, while dismissing others as
feeble efforts being peddled without factual support.
Why This Matters: The confrontational remarks are from an executive summary of Comcast's response to petitions opposing its TWC takeover deal, filed by various competitors, public advocacy groups and others.
4 Takes: MCN | Re/code | Deadline | Home Media
OTT Biz To Hit $6B In USA By 2020
by Wayne Friedman, September 24, 2014, 11:01 AM
The U.S., currently the dominant player when it comes to overall over-the-top (OTT) services, will continue to see soaring growth -- but its share of global OTT business will decline.
In six years, the U.S. OTT business is expected to climb nearly sevenfold to $6 billion from the $793 million in 2010, per Digital TV Research. The U.S. currently has 75% of the global OTT business. By 2020, that will be 36% of global business.
Worldwide OTT growth will also climb quickly, rising to $18.1 billion by 2020 from $8.3 billion in 2014 and up from $2.4 billion in 2010.
Just looking at global subscription OTT business -- subscription video-on-demand services like Netflix -- revenues will to $16.7 billion in 2020 from $7.65 billion in 2014 and $1.06 billion in 2010. The SVOD share of all OTT revenues will be 40%, up from 27% in 2010.
Online TV and video rental/pay-per-view revenues will expand to $2.8 billion in 2020 from $197 million in 2010. Download-to-own revenues are estimated to be $4.6 billion in 2020, up from $332 million in 2010.
Comcast's Werner: Triple-play is not enough, we must innovate
September 23, 2014 | By Sue Marek
DENVER--Cable operators can no longer rely on business as usual and must instead focus on developing new products, improving their customer service and leveraging the scale of their networks if they want to remain competitive in the future.
Speaking at Cable-Tec Expo 2014 here, Tony Werner, EVP and CTO of Comcast Cable (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and the Cable-Tec Expo program committee chair opened the conference by telling the audience that the industry's push to deliver fiber, as well as the move toward all-IP networks and the growth in cloud technology is lowering the barrier to entry to deliver content. And that is prompting the growth in OTT providers. "We now have a new wave of competition that is coming to us from all angles," Werner said.
Werner also suggested that his fellow cable operators take a page from their competitors that are able to bring new products to market quickly by taking advantage of cloud storage, cheap broadband and talented virtual workforces. "We need to embrace these same tools and techniques," he said.
CTIA's Baker To FCC: Don't Hamstring Disruptive Competitors
(Cellular Tellicommunications Industry Association)
Wireless under Wired Net Neutrality May Jeopardize Industry 9/22/2014 10:45 AM Eastern
CTIA president Meredith Baker says an open Internet is nonnegotiable, but that doesn't mean applying the same Open Internet rules to wired and wireless broadband. That comes after the FCC has been signaling it is considering that move.
According to the text of a speech prepared for a mobile summit in Atlanta today (Sept. 22), Baker said wireless was different and any attempt to regulate it the same as wired, which the FCC is at least considering as part of its revamp of the Open Internet order, could "greatly inhibit, if not jeopardize, the United States’ global leadership."
"We hear a lot about the need for platform parity. Treating wireless the same as wired broadband. Our objective should be to preserve an Open Internet, not artificially impose the same set of rules on all platforms," she says. "Forcing all platforms under a single set of rules was rejected in 2010, and should be rejected again now."
In 2010, the FCC applied only the network transparency and no-blocking rules to wireless (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/washington/cantwell-introduces-bil...) and said it would monitor for discrimination issues and, if necessary, revisit the decision not to apply the anti-discrimination (actually anti-unreasonable discrimination) rules.
The mobile wireless industry is clearly feeling the heat from net neutrality fans pushing the FCC to extend anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules to mobile wireless.
In a letter to house members inlcuding Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, CTIA: The Wireless Association president Meredith Attwell Baker urged him to urge the FCC to retain the 2010 open Internet order's "mobile specific" approach to regs given the "unique engineering, competitive and legal conditions" of 4G LTE, rather than a one-size-fits both wired and wireless approach.
AT&T Launches Broadband Bundle with HBO, Amazon Prime for $39 per Month
AT&T is looking to win over cord cutters with a stripped-down package
that includes HBO, Amazon Prime Instant Video, broadband and broadcast networks
for just $39 per month – well below what pay-TV subs typically shell out for
Why This Matters: The deal, which is on the table through Dec. 13, is directed at people looking to cut the cord. HBO is often considered one of the few shackles that keep cord-cutters tied to the traditional pricing tiers of cable.
5 Takes: Variety | WSJ | Re/code | Fierce Cable | Wired
No Neutral Ground At FCC Net Neutrality Forum
Title II Fight Plays Out In Enforcement Roundtable 9/19/2014 5:15 PM
By: John Eggerton
Net neutrality stakeholders did not appear to be drawing new territorial boundaries around their positions on new open internet rules in a Friday (Sept. 19) forum. Those boiled down to: Title II is a must vs. Title II is a bust.
The arena was the FCC's latest roundtable discussion on Open Internet rules at commission headquarters in Washington, this one on "effective enforcement."
No one appeared to want to miss the opportunity to shape, but their positions seemed fairly set.
Strongly on the must side was Susan Crawford, Harvard Law professor, former Obama advisor and one of the biggest critics of Big Media, particularly big ISP's.
She hammered Comcast and Time Warner Cable and Verizon and AT&T as terminating monopolies and consumers as collateral damage in "titanic battles" between those gatekeepers for control of the net. She said most Americans have only one choice in ISP's, "the local cable monopoly."
Crawford said the government is the only entity which can take on those companies. Not multistakeholder models, not ombudsmen, not after-the-fact appeals. "They may have a profit motive," she said, but that is trumped by the public interest the FCC is sworn to uphold.
Also squarely on the side of Title II were Chris Riley, senior policy engineer, Mozilla; and Michal Rosenn from Kickstarter.
"We can't have clear rules without building them on Title II," said Riley. Failing that he said the FCC would be force to inject vagueness and exceptions into its rules to distinguish them from common carriers and get them by the courts.
She said the net neutrality fight is about entrepreneurs, not just the Google's and Netflix's. She said that those entrepreneurs need the protection of Title II. Sec. 706 creates a muddled regime full of uncertainty, she said, and no realistic remedy.
Joining Chessen was David Solomon, former Enforcement Bureau chief, who joined Chessen in making the case for case-by-case. Solomon said that the FCC "needs to avoid unintended consequences that chill investment and innovation."
FCC Mulls Extending Net Neutrality Rules to Wireless Carriers
With the comment period for the FCC’s Net Neutrality proposal now closed,
chairman Tom Wheeler is considering whether to apply any new rules to wireless
carriers as well as wired services.
Why This Matters: Wireless carriers, which had been exempt from most net-neutrality rules covering wired ISPs that passed in 2010, are digging in their heels against the new regulations, while the FCC notes that the question remains open. The commission held a roundtable discussion today on the issue.
5 Takes: Fierce Wireless | Bloomberg | NYT | Re/code | CNet
Quote of the Day 15 Sept 2014
“Think about how much your life has changed, and all the things around you that have changed. And yet TV, when you go in your living room to watch the TV, or wherever it might be, it almost feels like you’re rewinding the clock and you’ve entered a time capsule and you’re going backwards. The interface is terrible. I mean, it’s awful.”
– Apple CEO Tim Cook
Cable Operators Continue To Lead Industry In Profitability: Report
September 15, 2014 3:00am
Next time a cable operator complains about rising programming costs, studio execs should pull out the chart on page 6 of the report about media profitability out this morning from accounting and advisory firm EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young).
Cable operators collectively will end this year with cash flow (EBITDA) margins of 41.3%, up from 40.7% last year — not including Comcast, which is categorized as a conglomerate. It’s the best performance cable has generated in the last five years (the period covered in the report). To be fair, cable operators spend a lot on capital improvements that this financial measure overlooks. Still, the strong performance — driven in part by growing sales of broadband services — is way ahead of most in the pack of 10 media and entertainment sectors that EY tracked, which together should average 28%.
After cable operators, the most profitable sectors in media are: cable networks (37.0%, down from 37.2% in 2013), interactive media (35.8% from 34.8%), electronic games (28.8% from 27.3%), Big Media conglomerates (26.3% from 25.6%), satellite TV (25.0% from 25.7%), publishing and information services (20.9% from 19.7%), TV broadcast (19.4% from 18.4%), film and TV production (12.1% from 11.4%) and music (11.1% from 10.8%).
Quote of the Day 12Sept 2014
“Internet users spoke out loud and clear on Wednesday. They’re united
against FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to allow fast and slow lanes on the
Internet. The chairman must now listen to the public, abandon his pay-to-play
plan, and pursue the best and only path to real Net Neutrality protections – by
reclassifying Internet service providers as common carriers.”
– Free Press Action Fund president and CEO Craig Aaron
Cable One adds sports surcharge to subscribers’ bills
Fri, 09/12/2014 - 12:14pm Mike Robuck
Due to burgeoning sports programming costs, Cable One has added a monthly sports surcharge of $2.94 across its footprint.
The surcharge, which will take effect in the next billing cycle, impacts all residential standard cable tier subscribers.
“Despite our best efforts to control increasingly expensive sports programming fees, Cable One, like other cable and satellite companies, can no longer continue to absorb these increased costs,” Cable One wrote in a statement. “Sports programming costs now make up more than one third of our programming fees, so we’re forced to pass on a very small portion of these costs to our customers.”
In a letter to customers, Cable One said increasing programming costs from ESPN, NBC Sports, and the NFL Network, as well as on general entertainment networks such as TNT, TBS, USA Network, and regional sports nets, led to the sports surcharge. The sports surcharge covers a small percentage of those programming increases, Cable One said.
On a Cable One FAQ, the cable operator said the increase was not related to the recent deal with SEC Networks. Cable One also wrote in the FAQ that other video service providers, such as DirecTV, have had sports surcharges in place for years.
Cable One, which is a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company and the nation’s 10th-largest cable operator, offers its triple play services to 720,000 customers in 19 states.
Moonves to Stations: Get More Retrans Money out of Pay-TV Operators or Else
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia Conference in New York on
Wednesday, CBS president Les Moonves urged affiliate TV stations to get tough
with pay-TV operators during retrans negotiations. Moonves said there’s no
reason CBS should be penalized if the local station didn’t get a good deal for
retransmission from its local systems operator.
Why This Matters: Cable operators pay to carry local broadcast networks and the owners then pass on a portion of those fees to the networks they are affiliated with. Moonves, who has a goal of reaping some $2 billion in retransmission fees by 2020, threw down the gauntlet to the leaders of non-owned CBS stations to get those dollars in his pocket – or else.
3 Takes: Fierce Cable | NY Post | B&C
Study Finds Cord Cutting on the Rise
According to a new research report from Frank N. Magid Associates,
consumer intent to cut the cord and drop pay TV is up. 2.9% of pay-TV
subscribers say they are “very likely” to cancel their service in the year
ahead, up from 2.7% last year and 2.2% two years ago.
Why This Matters: Though the percentage of people getting video content from broadband is still small, cord cutting worries the TV industry. The number of pay-TV subscribers dropped last year and the trend could accelerate as more content goes on line and mobile devices become more powerful and popular.
5 Takes: Variety | B&C | THR | Media Post | CNet
Here’s one reason for why the cable bundle offers so many channels you don’t want
By Cecilia Kang September 10 , 2014 The Washington Post
Analysts say the lynchpin of the cable bundle is ESPN. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Why do cable subscribers end up with so many channels they have no interest in watching? Blame ESPN, says a small Cedar Falls, Iowa, cable provider.
“When we renewed our ESPN carriage this month, two big strings were attached. As a condition of renewal we were required to add two new networks. There was no room for discussion and no negotiation,” Zeman wrote.
The idea of unbundling cable channels may sound good, but the reality is that if ESPN viewers were to pay for ESPN alone, it would cost about $30 a month, according to a report last year by Needham Insights research firm. Programmers say consumers are better off with bundles. The cost of producing shows are so high, and so the expense and risk of launching a new channel like Disney’s Fusion network are offset by their most popular networks — ABC and ESPN.
ESPN has become a network of networks of its own. It runs ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Classic, ESPNews and ESPNU and makes more than $7.2 billion a year just from subscription fees. It has exclusive rights to the NFL's Monday Night Football and to the U.S. Open tennis tournament. On television, sports is king because it commands the largest live audiences. But sports leagues also charge skyrocketing costs for the rights to broadcast their games. Those costs are passed down to cable companies, which then pass them to consumers, analysts say.
“And so the bundle gets bigger, even though that’s the last thing viewers or cable providers want," Zeman wrote.
Internet companies lobby FCC for open Internet
Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:21pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week
A group of over two dozen of the largest Internet companies, including eBay, Netflix and Facebook, are urging the FCC to refrain from Net Neutrality policies that would create so-called slow lanes and fast lanes. The companies also argued that the Commission treat fixed and wireless broadband providers in the same manner.
Speaking as part of the Internet Association, the companies asserted that an "open and decentralized model is precisely what enabled the Internet to become one of the greatest engines for growth, prosperity and progress the world has ever known."
The most recent proposal leaves all options on the table. The FCC is asking for comment on the possible reclassification of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that would essentially treat them as public utilities. The FCC also wants to hear from the public and industry about the wisdom of allowing ISPs to craft deals that would give preferential treatment to content providers that paid for it.
Fixing internet jams is a possible condition as the FCC and Justice Department review of the Comcast / TWC deal.
By Todd Shields and David McLaughlin Sep 11, 2014 9:35 AM ET
The questions came last month from the Federal Communications Commission, which is separately investigating Internet congestion like the bottleneck that caused Netflix videos to stutter and stop before the agreement with Comcast. Netflix said it was forced to pay, and Comcast says videos stalled because Netflix re-routed its Internet traffic.
Fixing jams where Web traffic flows into Comcast’s system is among a range of possible conditions that may be imposed as the FCC and Justice Department review the deal. The biggest U.S. cable company stands to gain 7 million more video customers and a cable presence in top markets New York and Los Angeles.
Comcast would gain as much as half the U.S. market for broadband, or high-speed Internet service, putting it in position to degrade video traffic or charge Netflix and other online video providers, including Google Inc.’s YouTube and Amazon.com Inc.’s Instant Video, according to critics. ……..
Since agreeing to pay Comcast for interconnection, Netflix also paid Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Verizon, the company said in its filing asking the FCC to block the merger.
Time Warner and CBS Chiefs Considering Taking HBO and Showtime Direct to Consumers
At an investor conference Wednesday, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and CBS
CEO Les Moonves seemed to open the door to the possibility of using HBO and
Showtime to directly challenge Netflix, including offering them on the Internet
to people who don’t already subscribe to pay TV.
Why This Matters: A direct-to-consumer offering would infuriate the cable and satellite companies that HBO and Showtime need to market the channels to subscribers. But there’s a growing sense of the Internet as a viable alternative.
5 Takes: Deadline | Forbes | TV Predictions | Reuters | B&C
Verizon Plans to Launch Web TV Service by Mid-2015
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York,
Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam revealed that the company plans to launch an
Internet-based television service in the first half of next year.
Why This Matters: Sony and Dish Network are also planning to launch online TV services in the near future. Verizon expects to launch by mid-2015, offering mobile users a bundle with major broadcast providers plus a collection of custom channels. The company acquired Intel’s nascent OnCue OTT technology early this year.
4 Takes: Deadline | Reuters | THR | The Verge
Viacom Reaches OTT Deal with Sony 10 sept 2014
Sony and Viacom announced a deal Wednesday that will give Sony’s
long-awaited virtual pay-TV service access to at least 22 Viacom cable channels
Why This Matters: Sony is developing an online video service tailored to so-called cord-cutters and cord-nevers. In addition to popular services, including BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, Sony will be able to offer customers access to Viacom’s TV Everywhere websites and apps as well as its full VOD package.
5 Takes: MCN | The Wrap | Media Post | CNet | Bloomberg
Online Viewing Now Almost Level With Traditional TV:
A sweeping report on viewing habits finds that people turn to online sources for entertainment nearly as often as they turn to the TV.
Posted on September 4, 2014
Well that escalated quickly. According to the fifth annual Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media Report, streaming video is now nearly as popular as traditional television. After surveying over 23,000 people in 23 countries, Ericsson found that 75 percent of respondents watched streamed video several times each week, while 77 percent watched scheduled broadcast television several times each week. ……..
Download the 12-page report from Ericsson ConsumerLab for free (no registration required).