Archives For Industry

New Cord-Cutting Stats

Mari Silbey —  May 11, 2011

Opinions vary widely on whether cord cutting and cord shaving are legitimate trends. And at a panel during Streaming Media East yesterday, execs from MTV, NBA Digital and Roku threw out new stats on the subject. According to Tom Gorke from MTV Networks, digital video is not a substitute for television. Even in its audience of so-called millennials (those born after 1980), MTV has found that the vast majority – 97 percent – are still consuming huge amounts of TV. Bryan Perez from NBA Digital, however, sees audience behavior that is more generationally divided. For those NBA Digital customers who only subscribe to content over broadband, there’s a split between consumers who paid for linear NBA content and then switched to Internet, and those who never paid for linear NBA programming before signing up for a digital package. The average age for consumers in the former group is 40 years old. The average age for consumers in the latter group is 32.

Meanwhile, Jim Funk from Roku reiterated a point made by Anthony Wood two weeks ago. New Roku customers report cord cutting or cord shaving at a rate of 30 to 40 forty percent. But what Funk emphasized was less that consumers are getting rid of cable, and more that the market is just fragmenting. There is more choice, and that means consumers are finding what they need in a variety of different ways.

In short, new stats do little to clear up the cord-cutting debate. Are more people watching more video online? Yes. Is it replacing TV? Probably not. Will it all shift further in the next 12 to 24 months? Absolutely.

I habitually subscribe to all sorts of audio and video services. While I do enjoy my fair share of quality entertainment, it’s more about ensuring a breadth of content and playback options. Over the last few months a selection of mobile streaming video apps have enabled me to regularly conquer the gym hamster wheels cardio gear. Sure, I could TiVoToGo or Sling it, but I appreciate the simplicity and efficiency of subscription content.

Of the HBOGo, Netflix, and Hulu Plus iOS apps, I’ve had the most positive experience streaming Hulu Plus — which provides the most reliable connection, with the least buffering, drops, or resolution changes. Additionally, though all the interfaces could use some organizational improvements, I prefer Hulu’s approach. However, that didn’t prevent me from almost dropping them… prior to the return of the Daily Show and Colbert Report, which are ideally suited for the small screen and my level of attentiveness at the gym.

I’ll cut HBO some slack as they’re relatively new to the mobile streaming game and quite generous in providing complete seasons of perhaps all their original series. In fact, I hope Showtime is working on a similar solution. But I gave up on this AM’s episode of Eastbound & Down as the frequent and extended blackouts were maddening. At least the price is right (with subscription).

It was free PlayBooks for all at the BlackBerry World Conference keynote presentation today, but that was hardly the biggest surprise of the morning. Taking the stage right after RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis was Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. That’s right, the CEO of Microsoft held court at a BlackBerry conference. Why? To announce a new alliance of course. RIM is now working closely with Microsoft to integrate Bing search at the OS level on BlackBerry devices. Eric Zemen, aka @phonescooper, captured the rather odd video (above) showing how the Bing-on-BlackBerry experience will work.

If there’s one clear conclusion to be divined from Ballmer’s appearance today, it’s that the mobile battle lines have been drawn. Microsoft signed an agreement with Nokia just last month to shore up its OS position with Windows 7. Now it’s supporting RIM in the mobile OS world in order to further its mobile search interests. Bizarre? Yes. But also very calculated. Microsoft was late to the mobile game, and now it’s aligning left, right, and center in order to combat Google and Apple in the space.

You can place your bets now on whether Microsoft’s mobile strategies will work. Certainly the company is taking a scatter-shot approach to the market, but that doesn’t mean one of those shots won’t hit.

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of some of the greatest tweets covering the RIM conference this morning – from the hilarious to the insightful: Continue Reading…

Netflix (NFLX) released its quarterly earnings earlier this week and, while the market was somewhat underwhelmed, subscriber numbers are impressive. In fact, GigaOm declares, “Netflix Now Officially Has More Subscribers Than Comcast.”

Indeed, at first blush, Netflix’s 23.6 million subscribers does exceed Comcast’s 22.8 million. But what exactly does that suggest and is it a reasonable comparison?

From a financial stand point, the proclamation doesn’t hold water as Comcast’s revenue is orders of magnitudes larger than Netflix’s. And it’s not like these two are necessarily direct competitors. Sure, there’s a cord cutting contingent that relies on Netflix to augment their “television” viewing. But many subscribe to both pay television services and Netflix, as I do. Additionally, Netflix is available nationwide whereas Comcast only operates in select regions. So, perhaps a comparison to HBO’s 28+ million subscribers is more appropriate. But, again, these movie services are not mutually exclusive.

At the end of the day, Netflix’s success and service is admirable (although its streaming content catalog is still lacking), and illustrates folks are seeking out alternate distribution methods. Yet, at the end of the day, its rise seems inversely proportional to the demise of Blockbuster’s retail video rental business, rather than a large scale assault on the established premium TV providers.

This post was originally published on the Dice Blog Network.

Light Reading TV interviews Roku Anthony Wood Boxee Avner Ronen

One of the best things about this week’s Light Reading Cable event was Avner Ronen’s unfailingly humorous commentary. That guy could be a stand-up comedian. And in an industry where much is taken far too seriously, a little levity is appreciated.

That said, just because Avner was funny doesn’t mean he didn’t also have some status updates and pearls of wisdom to dispense. Here’s what I got from the Boxee CEO, along with Roku CEO Anthony Wood, and TiVo exec Tara Maitra. For more, check out Light Reading’s own coverage including interviews on Light Reading TV.

Boxeewants to own the user experience
Avner Ronen still insists Boxee doesn’t want to be a cable killer. Instead, the company wants to own the user experience – not the delivery, the content, or the box. To date, the company has 1.7 million users worldwide, and it plans to use its recent funding round of 16.5 million dollars to license more content, get distribution on more TVs, and most importantly, continue focusing on product development. Avner says that Boxee still doesn’t meet the babysitter test – i.e. the babysitter wouldn’t necessarily be able to watch TV upon encountering the Boxee Box for the first time. However, the company is aggressively working on moving from being a geek-only product to one that’s appealing to mainstream early-adopters.

Rokuwants to be a next-generation video network
I don’t know that I could have articulated Roku’s goal of becoming a next-gen video network before CEO Anthony Wood did yesterday. (Ah, so that’s what the little box that could wants to be when it grows up!) But it’s a noble aim, and certainly one that Roku’s made a good start on achieving. According to Wood, Roku has already shipped more than a million boxes through direct Internet sales, and that number could explode when the company hits the retail big box stores this year. Meanwhile, Wood also noted that customer surveys suggest that new Roku owners are cutting back on cable services at a more rapid rate. Last year 30% of new owners said they downgraded cable service or cut it altogether. This year that number’s already at 40%.

Other Roku notes: Wood says the company will probably have more than 1,000 channels by the end of the year, and it will launch its first international product in 2011. Continue Reading…

Cisco’s Dr. Ken Morse announced this morning at a Light Reading Cable event that set-tops are headed toward a next life as software, or as virtualized elements in the cloud. The statement is not terribly surprising on the face of it, except for the fact that it comes from Cisco. I’ve written plenty of “the set-top is not dead” posts in the past, and Dr. Morse agrees that it will be some time before legacy hardware disappears. However, even the fact that the company is publicly suggesting that hardware set-tops are on the road to extinction is pretty remarkable.

If you’re not familiar, Cisco is one of the largest set-top manufacturers on the planet, along with my former employer, Motorola, and Technicolor (formerly Thomson). However, consumer hardware is certainly not highest on the company’s priority list. In its most recent (disastrous) earnings report, Cisco made it clear that it plans to focus on its core network strengths going forward. That stated strategy refers primarily to ditching unsuccessful retail products, but maybe Cisco now sees set-tops in the same category. Certainly shifting everything to the network or the cloud puts Cisco in a place where it’s much more comfortable. And it seems the company is starting to align its public position with that reality.

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  April 22, 2011

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:

New Tablet Hardware: Specs and Speculation
And the mobile market rolls on. Two tablets launched last week are worth a look – for consumers and content publishers alike. RIM’s Blackberry Playbook and LG’s Android G-Slate.

Imavex Does Live Streaming to Roku and iOS
If you’ve always dreamed of having your own live Roku channel, now’s your chance. Limelight customer Imavex has launched a service with encoding partner Kulabyte for live content streaming to Roku boxes and Apple iOS devices.

Video Distribution in a Box – Limelight with mgMEDIA
What’s interesting about this news is that it’s another signal showing we’ve entered into an age of democratized distribution. Anyone, from the biggest broadcasters to the smallest start-ups, can now get content out to audiences everywhere.