Television is no longer TV, its IP!

The old generation networks: ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. The new-generation networks?  Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant video, Netflix and YouTube.

Consider this:  Microsoft recently reported that Xbox 360 owners spend more time online watching video and listening to music than playing games. The company announced 35 new entertainment partners being added to the Xbox 360 in the next year, including the NBA, NHL, Nickelodeon, and Univision. ESPN is expanding its programming on the Xbox to include live feeds of all of its channels. Microsoft is also launching a music service to compete with iTunes.

                

The Wii U, debuting this fourth quarter, will also feature Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video.

And, Outside of games, the PlayStation Network also now delivers access to streaming content from Hulu Plus, Cinema Now, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, NFL Sunday Ticket, NHL Game Center Live,  MLB.TV,  ESPN and Crackle TV, while users will soon have access to YouTube from the PlayStation Vita.

You’ve got wonder, how will Nielsen ever be able to count the eyeballs watching? At this point, they can’t. They are the ‘dinosaur’ technology.

When my Mom and Dad had breakfast in the mornings, they would pass the newspaper back and forth. Back then, I looked at the classifieds for things to buy second hand and they even had a classified section in most magazines and papers for the ‘personals’. Wanted to go the movies (you know the movie we saw ‘advertised’ by trailer last night during a network show on CBS, say Ed Sullivan or Mary Tyler Moore), we checked the newspaper.  Real estate listings and needed to buy a used car? Newspapers.

               

Fast forward 15 years. Now we check our mobile phones for movie trailers and times. Dating? Not in the newspapers, on mobile or a laptop or tablet. News? Forget the paper. And for many years, the papers were in denial – they kept printing tons of papers, special sections, extra editions and even tried to launch new newspapers in certain cities to compete with the entrenched and big local guys. They lost millions of dollars and saw their stock price get hammered and many folded. The bigger ones put up paywalls (i.e. NYT’s, WSJ, etc.)

Then the music CD died and the way music was listened to and purchased changed. No one could believe that there wasn’t going to be any more music CD’s nonetheless a Tower Records or Wherehouse to close their doors. But they did. And the CD has all but disappeared.

Movies? Same thing is happening and will happen. It may take longer because of the nature of the medium. Movies are different than music in that the files are way larger and with music you listen to ‘Hotel California’ or your favorite music many times over and over. Movies? How many times can you watch the same movie over and over. However, Blockbuster and stores like them are disappearing. Replaced by iTunes, RedBox, (and RedBox I believe has a limited life span even though they are going gang-busters today), Amazon Instant Prime, YouTube, IMDB (yes you can buy movies and stream them there too) and many others.  Even Wal-Mart is in the mix (Ultraviolet and VUDU).

In my generation and others behind me, its what you owned and had that was important. Today, its how you access it. No ownership. No physical ownership that is. Its just not important. When and how you get it, is.

The final frontier is the television. And it’s a big frontier. And, there is more at stake than a plastic CD in a rectangular box that will disappear. Advertisers and the big 4 networks stand to lose the most. Including producers, writers, actors and the like. Add a DVR into the mix and the new choices that the younger generation has now and you’ve got a real problem CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX.  The upfront TV buying season which some estimate generates $19 billion fuels most everything we see on TV. About $9.5 billion for network and $ 9.9 billion for cable.

Network estimates individually for 2012-2013 season are:

  • CBS: $2.92 billion,
  • ABC: $2.65 b,
  • Fox: $2.15 b,
  • NBC: $1.78 b.

So, when Game consoles, tablet makers, mobile phones and the like are all putting mainstream content up and online for consumption, someone stands to lose. Another way of thinking about this would really be a shift of dollars from Network and Cable to third screens. It won’t disappear but in ten years it’s going to look awfully different than it does today. And the way all of this is counted and rated will actually become easier than how Nielsen has done this for decades ( a diary that you write in? Really?).

A new report from Nielsen, the TV audience ratings and measurement people, shows that the number of people who watched TV at least once per month—a pretty low bar—declined from 90 percent of the population to 83 percent last year.

Proportionately, that means TV lost 8.5 percent of its audience in 2011. As many as 17 percent of people never watch TV, the survey of 28,000 consumers in 56 countries.

That’s a huge loss of interest in a medium that in industrialized nations is regarded as a standard like electricity or hot running water.

The number of people watching video on a computer at least once per month is now higher, at 84 percent, than those watching TV.  The implications are obvious.  Some not so obvious. One is that cable affiliates pay big fees to Networks for carriage. If no one is watching, no one will be paying. And, younger kids don’t care what ‘network’ its on, they care when it will be available to see on Netflix or Hulu Plus. A real shift in economics and habits. And I don’t think the TV industry is paying attention. But they will, they will have to.

Welcome to the new world of multi-screens and time shifting. TV as we once knew it not TV, its IPTV.

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The Day the Studios and Theaters Stood Still

Sometime in the near future there will be an explosion heard only in the entertainment trades and whispered and talked about between studios, marketing executives,  theater owners and DVD retailers. The FCC gave everyone permission to enter this pissing match and what a pissing match it will be.

If you ever go to the movies (and many of us do) with more than 1 person – so two people attend a film and you have a child where you needed to hire a sitter, you might not be going to the theater so quickly anymore. Well, maybe you still will. Time will tell this one. Soon, a mere 6 weeks AFTER any movie starts playing in a theater, you will be able to watch it at home in the comfort of your ‘Aunt Fay’s couch’ (nod to Steely Dan) on your nice large LCD flat panel TV.  To help you To help you visualize what this means in numbers, there are about 115 million television households in the US. Approximately 100 million of them are currently cable, satellite or IPTV subscribers. Through these cable boxes (although not every one of them, only the ‘digital’ households that have a set-top box) you will be able to purchase the very same film that was JUST in the theaters 6 weeks ago on cable for $24.99 – called premium V.O.D. – video-on-demand.  BUT, the movie studios will be able to activate a technology to prevent films sold through video-on-demand cable systems from being copied.  This is the ruling that the FCC just allowed in May 2010 after a two year battle with the studios.

Right now, theaters get an exclusive period — 120 days (4 months vs. 6 weeks), on average — to serve up new movies. Then the releases appear on television video-on-demand services at a price of about $4.99. Now the studios want to offer us new movies on video-on-demand services about 45 days after they arrive in theaters.  But, you can’t keep a copy or make a copy (your DVR, VHS or whatever won’t work). Just like a theater, once its over, its over.

So, if you are more than 2 people (+ a baby sitter), and unless you are dying to see the film on a BIG screen, I guess you might wait a few weeks.

So, what’s the big deal? For starters, the theater owners, have made it clear that releasing a movie early on video-on-demand services — thus cutting into their window — would be the equivalent of declaring war. They feel people will be more reluctant to buy movie tickets, at an average cost of almost $8, if they know they can catch the same film just a few weeks later in their living rooms, and for less money than it costs to haul the whole family to the theater. The average moviegoer spends more than $3 on popcorn and soda and the like, the cost of Friday night at the movies for a family of four can easily reach $45 – $60 — or much more in cities like New York and California.   And theater owners say this doesn’t take into account second-run and discount theaters, and that there are big exceptions: “Inception,” for instance, was still raking in millions in theaters 10 weeks after its release.

Next up, DVD retailers are fuming – Best Buy and Wal-Mart have told the studios they will retaliate against anyone who tries early-release V.O.D. because of the threat it poses to DVD sales. Huh, what DVD sales? The DVD is going the way of the CD in case anyone hasn’t noticed. Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy. DVD sales for the year are expected to total about $9.9 billion, down 30 percent from their peak in 2004  (about $13 billion), according to Adams Media Research.

Who is the big winner here? The Studios (or so they think) because as much as 80 percent of that early V.O.D. revenue goes to them, therefore movie executives see a new way to compensate for their dwindling DVD business. And the studios are aware that consumers are growing impatient about being unable to access all movies whenever and wherever they want. An early video-on-demand option might prevent some of those frustrated customers from turning to pirated copies.

So where’s the flaw in this plan? I have a couple of thoughts. First of all, the pay-per-view business has been an anemic business since its inception on cable in 1984 when Request TV, Viewers Choice and The People’s Choice (yes, this was my company back then). Part of the problems was with the windows given to PPV movies, part was the terrible job the cable operators did to market these films to us, part was the billing mechanism (it was archaic) and part was the fact that the VHS back then and soon the DVD was simply an easier option. Not to mention you could rent the same film on VHS/DVD so much earlier than on PPV and then buy a copy to own, to watch again and again.  Second problem is that you can’t keep a copy of what you fork out $24.99 for. This just begs for pirates to hack the system (and it will happen and supposedly already has). So forget the studios argument that an early video-on-demand option might prevent some of those frustrated customers from turning to pirated copies.  Maybe at first, but I have no doubt pirated copies will turn up on the streets all the same – now just earlier and better quality DVD copies.

The fact you can’t keep a copy is just self-defeating. Instead, what the studios SHOULD be doing is giving everyone a ‘cloud’ storage locker for say, $ 10.00-20.00 a year. Once you pay $24.99, the film goes straight to your locker. Then, its kept there to be watched as many times as you want for as long as you keep the locker subscription current each year. Sure, pirated copies will still happen but there is a much better chance that people will be more willing to pay the $24.99 IF they can watch it over again, anytime, and on any ‘authorized’ device you own (i.e. mobile phone, Galaxy ‘Tab’, iPad, etc).  Apple does great job with ‘authorized’ devices and computers.

I’m sure a studio would say ‘well, then your friends can come over and see the same film without paying for it because its in your locker’. Well, its in YOUR locker, not theirs and they can come over anyway under the present scenario. And this is the same ridiculous argument studio exec’s made in the early years of the PPV business.  It didn’t stop anyone back then and only help stifle the PPV business – a misjudgment they appear are doomed to repeat once again.  Will they ever learn from past mistakes?

So, will you pay $24.99 to watch a film at home you can only see one time?  You might if it’s a title you don’t really care to much to see in the theaters. Would you have seen Avatar that way?  NOT ME!

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