Confusion Reigns Supreme with Online Movie and TV Streaming Services. Consumers are the losers.

Confusion           caution-mass-confusion  220px-Aereo_logo netflix-appletv   streamingmedia

Recent shifts in technology due to the Internet have destroyed the profitability of several industries including the newspaper and music businesses. The next business that will be made over by technology is television. The profitability of owning TV networks is being undermined by digital video recorders, internet-enabled on-demand viewing, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and piracy/theft.  In this post, I’m going to list many if not all of these choices currently available to you and me – and there are WAY TOO MANY. And a lot of amateur content is taking up an increasing portion of a viewers’ time online and on mobile/tablet devices. You Tube has how many new original channels?  I mean unless you’ve got absolutely nothing to do 24hrs a day other than veg in front of a computer and or TV, you can’t ingest even 10% of this content.

Consumption of network and cable content is taking place in ways that allow viewers to circumvent high monthly cable bills, avoid watching commercials, or both. The new Barry Diller backed ‘Aereo’ – https://www.aereo.com/ will indeed disrupt cable and pay-tv as never before. Every single one of these changes represents a move to a revenue model that is less profitable than the one currently enjoyed by the TV networks. It is simply a matter of time before the revenue and profitability of the major networks begins to fall seriously erode.

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Consumers are awash with the plethora choices of streaming movie services, VOD and TV/time shifting programming (between 30 to 40 and counting). There are so many choices that I defy anyone to tell me exactly what they are buying and what each of them offer, specifically how tey are different. Anand Subramanian of startup NimbleTV was even more blunt. “There’s content everywhere. It’s a mess. It’s a total mess for consumers.”

Hollywood-sign-900Hollywood releases maybe 10-12 ‘big’ picture events every year and all of the releases are timed by Holidays (Thanksgiving/Christmas, July 4th, Memorial Day, Halloween, and Labor Day weekends). Independent movies are released around these times and are scattered throughout the year.  Years back when DVD’s were released, those releases in the stores reinforced the theatrical releases with a barrage of marketing. You saw the same big pictures being marketed again in 6-9 months after the theaters. So, when you went to Blockbuster you had a ‘a-ha’ moment. You’d say, oh yeah, I remember that movie, I missed it at the theaters and you would rent it. It was pretty clear what you saw,  what you missed and what you wanted to see again. Then, HBO and Showtime would re-market the same movies in their PAY-TV window approximately 10-12 months after the theaters.  They’d remain there for 24-36 months sometimes even longer.

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When Pay-TV was in its heyday, there was a ‘pay’ content war between HBO and Showtime. Some studios had exclusives with HBO, some with Showtime. To the average consumer, this didn’t mean all too much.  No one wanted to watch a Paramount movie, they wanted to see ‘Fatal Attraction’.  Maybe with the exception of which pay-tv service had Disney movies (if you had kids).  Now, that doesn’t really matter too much as kids watch gobs of shows on basic, Nick Jr., etc.  Over the years, HBO got wise and supplemented its schedule with well produced original programming and still is. Showtime followed with its original programming and both duked it out with Sports, specifically Boxing.

Time shift forward, now it’s a war between Netflix and HBO.

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Its not HBO and Showtime, but Netflix – http://goo.gl/0N2No . And its not only Netflix, it Amazon Prime, Hulu plus, iTunes and a myriad of other streaming offerings.  I’ve compiled a list below. But the bottom line is how does anyone really understand what they are buying? If you subscribe to Netflix, can I see Disney movies? Will I get mega-hit from Universal like Jurassic Park, Les Miserables, and Despicable Me Part 2? Or do I need to subscribe to several streaming services? And, which ones?

And down the road very soon Barry Diller’s back Aereo TV will expand to 22 cities – https://www.aereo.com/. Why is this disruptive if it only offers ABC, CBS and NBC as the primary driver of the service? (more on this later).

abc_logo nbc-primetime-schedule CBS

Here is the list ( I hope I’ve got most included). I’ll admit I am confused as everyone else and I’m not going to buy or subscribe to more than one service especially when I don’t even know that if I do, I’ve essentially duplicated the movies and content I’ve subscribed to.

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Hallmark Instant Streaming – coming Spring 2013

Amazon Prime Instant Video – The Prime Instant Video library consists of over 30,000 movies and TV episodes, which can be watched via any device the streaming service is available on, including the Kindle Fire, iOS devices, Roku, Xbox 360, PS3, and the Wii U.

iTunes

Netflix

Redbox Instant (Verizon)

Redbox in Stores – Physical DVD rentals

Roku

Boxee

CinemaNow – Best Buy’s service plus

Hulu +  – Hulu now has more than 430 content partners, offering over 60,000 TV episodes, 2,300 TV series, and 50,000 hours of total video

NimbleTV – Just like Aereo (Barry Diller venture)

Motive TV – Like Nimble and Aereo from the U.K. heading to the US

Aereo – Just like Nimble TV

Ultraviolet – Studio driven answer. Welcome to DRM land.

Bigstar.tv

Crackle – SONY/Columbia Pictures

Vudu

RedBox (physical rental)

Kaleidescape

Sony Pictures Gift Store – more SONY choices

Flixster – Gateway to itunes, amazon and vudu

IndieFlix

Popcornflix

Cable Operators VOD library ( Time-Warner 4,000 movies + Comcast, Cox, etc.)

OnDemand via cable

Microsoft’s X-Box – a Gateway to Netflix + others.

Comcast’s Xfinity – Over 10,000 VOD movies (lots of NBC/Universal content)

Starz Play

Encore Play

MoviePlex Play –  Starz Play currently offers approximately 400 film and TV titles, including 300 movies and 100 episodes of Starz original series. Encore Play offers about 900 monthly selections, while MoviePlex provides access to 200 more movies every month.

AvailTVN_LogoAvail-TVN’s View Now – ViewNow’s library of movie content includes titles from both major and independent studios, which can be delivered in MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, as well as a range of adaptive bitrate (ABR) formats, to traditional set-tops as well as internet-connected devices like PCs, smartphones, and tablets. In addition to multiplatform rights, Avail-TVN says ViewNow includes download rights on a large number of titles.

M-GoM-Go – new app that elegantly streamlines all of your media together in one place including movies, music, TV and more. Formed in 2011, M-GO is a dynamic well-funded startup sprung from the cooperation of Technicolor and DreamWorks Animation. The M-GO app will be available for download for free on all major operating systems. M-GO is preloaded on 2012 Samsung and Vizio Smart TV and Blu-ray players as well as Intel Ultrabooks, totaling up to 30 million installed devices.

Watch ESPN is now available on Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD devices. Free to download via the Amazon Appstore, the TV Everywhere app offers access to live sports and channel programming from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN3, as well as ESPN Goal Line/Buzzer Beater when in season. As is the case with other WatchESPN editions as well as other TV Everywhere services, to access the content the viewer needs to first have ESPN in their TV subscription package. In conjunction with announcing the Kindle Fire app release, ESPN also revealed some end-of-the-year numbers on how WatchESPN is faring in terms of distribution and availability. The sports network says that total downloads for the WatchESPN app, which is now available in the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon Appstore, more than doubled in 2012. It’s now available in 46 million households nationwide as six of the top 10 cable distributors also provide access to the service.

epix-hd-logo1EPIX plans to launch a streaming app for the PlayStation 3 during the first quarter of 2013, followed by an app for the portable PlayStation Vita console sometime in the spring. The apps will offer more than 3,000 titles, including blockbusters such as The Hunger Games, Thor, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, as well as EPIX’s lineup of original programming, which features music concert, comedy, and sports events. The apps will be available to PlayStation Network members in the US as a free download. Users will need to authenticate their EPIX TV subscription in order to watch the content.

Now about Aereo.  One of the things we all get cable for whether you realize it or not is to receive the 3 main Broadcast Networks, ABC, CBS and NBC. These are on basic cable in 100% of all cable systems nationwide. And basic cable costs at least $ 50-70 a month and 9 times out of 10 its bundled with pay-TV and a phone land line along with internet access bringing your bill to over $ 100 a month.  And generally, one has a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription (or another streaming movie service).  There are 2 kinds of camps here or cable subscribers, one with kids and the others without kids. For the people without kids, Aereo + 1 streaming movie service (unless you are a sports nut and MUST have ESPN) would be sufficient. You’d have local broadcast TV and all the movies you could watch/stream. What else do you really need (unless you must watch ‘Honey Boo-Boo’ and then I can’t help you). For the families with kids, this is slightly age dependent. Its hard when you have toddlers NOT to want to get several of Viacom’s Kids channels or Disney’s kids channels (Nick, Nick Jr., Disney Channel, Disney Jr., etc. )  If you have older kids, teens etc. a movie streaming service with Hulu + might suffice.  For those without kids, Aereo + a movie streaming service will drastically cut your bill. Aereo I believe will charge about $ 9.00 a month, no subscription or early termination fee (take that Cox, Comcast, Time-Warner and Fios). Maybe with Amazon Prime or Netflix and your looking at under $ 20.00 a month. Yes, you will need internet access so add another $40-60.00 a month depending on your need for speed. But its definitely less than the typical bundled services. If you don’t think that Aereo has Pay-TV in its crosshairs, you’re crazy. We shall see how this unfolds as it winds its way through the courts. Yes, Aereo is being sued by the broadcasters and others, but it’s also rolling out its service nationwide this spring. I am signing up to see what its like – but it seems like an idea whose time has arrived

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Apple’s Half Approach To The ‘Clouds’

This weeks Apple announcement is not quite as cloud centric as you may think. Unlike Googles approach with having a chromebook browser with Linux running underneath and no local storage, Apple is still tethered to the device we use. It’s a world of ‘apps’.

In Google’s view, you do everything using a browser with no local storage or apps. In Apple’s world, while it has taken an elegant approach to its delivery mechanism and user experience bar none, it is still largely delivering a localized environment.

In Google’s world, chromebooks and other devices like these will still need to grapple with the unreliable world of ‘wireless’ connections – or sometimes lack of them and the consumers long time habit and behavior of wanting the content close by them, local.

With Apple’s announcement, they are positioning themselves to take full advantage of the ‘post’ PC world – that is they know that by 2013 (a scant 2 plus years away).

Gartner and others predict mobile phones and THEIR screens will be the No. 1 way we access the Internet to view the web. Here are some more rather startling mobile facts:

*82 percent of consumers have used their mobile phones in a store, 55 percent in a doctor’s office or hospital, 17 percent during a movie at the theater, 14 percent while flying on a plane and 7 percent during church service. Around 17 percent of mobile users have shown a clerk in a store a picture of a product on their mobile phone, saying in effect, “I want this please,” which is a new shopping behavior that is surprisingly being driven by men. 45 percent of users check their mobile devices first thing in the morning, according to InsightExpress.

*Research has determined that mobile advertising is four-to-five times more effective than online advertising, on average…due to various factors, including lack of clutter in mobile, typically one ad per page, and the mobile pages themselves typically do not have a lot of stuff going on—they tend to be very clean. Also, the proportion of the ad on a mobile screen is greater, so it gets more share of eyeballs.

My takeaway from these numbers is that we are steadily becoming a mobile and tablet world, not a PC one.

This is a world the Apple knows better than anyone and using iCloud, it has taken a very good shot at delivering a cloud experience with what really is a local one.  Apple is extending what Apple does best, its core strengths into the cloud. And this is simply the basic integration of Apple’s hardware and software – their elegant OS.  The major difference being it does not yet rely on the browser as the central driving force in the picture (Google’s chrome) rather in Apple’s view what they are giving us an elegant CMS or content delivery system that we manage.  Google is betting on its browser, and they too know its coming to the small screen, therefore, that’s why we are seeing the Android store downloadable app strategy they are pushing out..

Apple which supports its web apps in the App store will have a rude awakening one day as eventually everyone but them will play on a browser using HTML5, but for now Apple’s user experience is by far the best.  A good example of this is when you go to read GoogleNews on your iPhone using Safari and at the bottom of the screen a small box pops up saying ‘ if you want to access Google News, click here to put this app on your device’. If you agree, a small app-like icon gets created on your iPhone using HTML5 just as if you downloaded it through iTunes.

So, Apple IS a cloud player indeed, distributing its OS X online, supporting over the air updates, allowing iTunes to be streamed to any iOS registered device. And iTunes did something that neither Google nor Amazon has done – signed deals with the major music players for their content (video/films excluded for now). This allows us to avoid the time consuming process of uploading our music collection to iCloud (I think I have about 60gigs of files). We can purchase a subscription to Music Match for $24.99 year, and MM will mirror my music collection with the iTunes store – ALL of my music, not just iTunes purchased music. These tracks can now be streamed back to me from the cloud on any MacOS registered device.

However, unlike other pure cloud players, this isn’t a web based operation for all of this. Apple still is enabling core SDK kits (software development kits) for developers to build in access and API’s (application program interfaces) that will let developers integrate their own apps within Apple’s cloud.

To perhaps make this analogy clearer of why it is not a pure based cloud play, look at iTunes. Your music library stays right where it is, with YOU – MM provides software that identifies songs and tracks you have and purchases you made at iTunes against the vast iTunes catalog of music to support MM. All of this not really ‘cloud’ based, but still local.

For us users, the benefit is an elegant, easy intuitive way to sync our content between all of our tablets and mobile devices (Macs included). And this sync does include most other services and docs Apple’s got to offer, calendars, contacts, documents, online storage and photos.  This is far different than Google that has a true cloud offering using GoogleDocs where you store the document and edit in the clouds.  With Apple, you make changes locally and then those changes are synced to the cloud.

This method allows us to be far less vulnerable to the woes of the wireless world or lack of it at times. And, ultimately, it will keep us all purchasing not just apps but what Apple REALLY wants us to buy – newer iPads, newer iPhones and brand new Macs.  Apple is really in the hardware business, unlike Google that wants to drive everyone to the web on inexpensive chromebooks running Linux to see more advertising or Amazon that wants to drive purchases online. It a half hearted approach but it’s a damn elegant one and one that I am particularly enjoying because everything just works!

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Apple’s App ecosystem…some notes

For those of you who don’t read these things, here are some takeaways and bullet points from the latest report from Distimo. The full report can be found here: http://www.distimo.com/

Less than two months after the launch of the Mac App Store, a top 300 Mac application already generates half the revenue of a top 300 iPad application on average.

The average selling price of the top 300 applications is seven times higher in the Mac App Store ($11.21) than on the iPhone ($1.57) and almost three times higher than on the iPad ($4.19).

The Mac App Store has 2,225 applications available in the store approximately two months post-launch. Comparatively, the Apple App Store for iPad had 8,099 applications two months post-launch.

Although on the Mac gaming has been less popular than on Windows, the Mac App Store promises a bright future for Mac gaming: there are already 646 games in this store (29%), and 39% of the most popular applications are games as well.

The proportion of free applications in the Mac App Store is lower than in any of the other application stores analyzed in this report: only 12% of the applications are free.

The 300 most popular free and 300 most popular paid applications in the three Apple application platforms (iPhone, iPad and Mac App Store) are published by 1,014 publishers in total. 173 publishers distribute applications in more than one of these stores (17%), the Mac App Store being one of these stores in 49 cases (5%).

Look Ma, no cash, credit cards or wallet – I’ll pay now using my iPhone!! (TechCrunch must have missed the ‘memo’ – http://tcrn.ch/geYvMd)

Don’t you see it coming? Put in your PIN number, and pay with your iPhone through iTunes. C’mon, what have you missed? 30% fee you say? Yes, maybe a bit much for a retail merchant but that can be adjusted for retail down to compete with AMEX, VISA and MC easily.

Your physical wallets (which many of us lose very often) credit cards (which are nothing by ‘fraud machines’ and cost BILLIONS in fraud every year and are also lost) are a thing of the PAST!!  Apple with its lock me down iTunes store policies and passwords and pins COULD become a monster virtual credit card overnight. You’ve got your phone everywhere with you, therefore why not use it to pay for everything from groceries to TV’s?  A Retailer can simply accept an iTunes pin and password (using a software update package to its server/system), take a merchant fee transaction ‘hit’ and not be bothered with cash or credit card fraud, swiping the card, expatriation dates, back of the cards 3 digit ‘special number?

Eh, am I barking up the wrong tree?