Streaming services dependent on pirating

By | PCTV, TV | 3 Comments

Streaming media services from companies like Spotify and Netflix have long argued to big media owners that streaming is the way to capture market share back from pirate sites and hence increase revenues. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, put it like this recently (from Torrentfreak):

“Certainly there’s some torrenting that goes on, and that’s true around the world, but some of that just creates the demand,” Hastings says.

Eventually these BitTorrent users may want to switch to Netflix as it’s a much better user experience than torrenting, according to the CEO.

“Netflix is so much easier than torrenting. You don’t have to deal with files, you don’t have to download them and move them around. You just click and watch,” Hastings says.

And there  is some evidence that people are indeed switching from free sites to Netflix. According to Hastings, there is evidence that BitTorrent traffic in Canada dropped 50% after Netflix started there three years ago.

But the dependency goes further than this. In an ironic twist Kelly Merryman, Netflix VP of Content Acquisition has said that popularity on file sharing services plays a part in determining which TV-Series Netflix buys.

Regulator rules that Kangaroo will restrict competition

By | IPTV, PCTV, Video | No Comments

Tim Bradshaw has a good article in the FT today describing the regulators ruling that Project Kangaroo as currently envisaged will restrict competition in the provision of TV online in the UK.

The issue is that ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, the owners of the Kangaroo joint venture, control too much of the UKs television production and allowing them to collaborate on distribution would make it too difficult for other online video services to compete.

Read the FT article for the details of how it works and proposed ways through this impasse, but the interesting thing for me is that this ruling should help people break from the old broadcast paradigm.  Kangaroo is in many ways trying to recreate the old world when search and discovery was limited to flicking through the channels or buying a newspaper.

The potential of the internet is to offer radically new forms of search and discovery – starting with a simple search box that allows you to search by programme name through to socially driven recommendations and editors playlists.  I think this ruling will help get us there.

Sling joins the web TV game

By | IPTV, PCTV, TV, Video | 2 Comments

SlingMedia, creators of hardware/software service which allows you to stream your home television signal to an internet conncected device anywhere – e.g. you could watch your Sky Premiership matches on your laptop when you are on holiday, are now moving into the video streaming portal game.  I.e. they will be competing directly with Hulu, and presumably over here with Kangaroo and iPlayer.

I picked this up from Techcrunch.

The significance of this is that here we have another company betting that streaming direct from the web with no hardware component will be the way forward (and it is a hardware company making this bet).

IMDB offers full movies and tv programmes

By | PCTV, TV, Video | No Comments

As reported on Techcrunch Amazon owned Internet Movie Database (IMDB) will now offer 6,000 movies and videos free of charge from Hulu, CBS, Sony Pictures and hundreds of independent filmmakers.  IMDB is owned by Amazon.

As a service concept I think this is very cool – where better to get the content you want than the place where you go to find out about it in the first place.

It is also getting close to the vision I have had for a long time of how the digital supply chain might end up looking – with destination sites like IMDB, or Yahoo! Movies, or maybe even TIOTI here in the UK being the places people go to decide what they want to watch, and then linking so people can stream the content direct from the owner – e.g. from Hulu or BBC iPlayer.  Maybe that content is watched via an embedded player on the destination site, or maybe the consumer goes over to the content owner’s site, I don’t think that matters too much.  This framework would support either ad funded or subscription models.

The only negative piece to this otherwise nice story is that according to the chatter out there IMDB hasn’t implemented this new functionality like they really mean it.

The failure of BT Vision

By | IPTV, PCTV, TV, Video | 4 Comments

Back in May last year I wrote a post wondering if BT would get the retail proposition for BT Vision right.  An article in the Sunday Times yesterday suggests I was right to pose the question and offers interesting insight into the challenge for classic IPTV plays.

First off the data:

There is great debate around BT Vision, the company’s TV offering that pairs
video-on-demand with Freeview, a work in progress. It has enlisted only
282,000 subscribers so far, despite having the largest UK broadband base of

Then the debate – should BT turn itself into a media company?

According to the Sunday Times article BT has weighed up a bid for premiership football rights, which would make BT Vision a ‘must have’.  This is the strategy that worked for Sky, and which Setanta is deploying now.  I think that if you are charging £30 per month for a service it is really hard to build traction unless you have some sort of unique hook like that.

But it is really hard for BT Vision with its 282k subs to compete with Sky and its c10m subs when it comes to acquiring content.  Setanta has been slowly building brand over the last couple of years and now this season is making a more overt bid against Sky by removing the pay per match option for Setanta customers – and they have experienced some backlash as a result.  Their experience shows how hard it is for new entrants to compete with established broadcasters at their own game.

Much better to find a way to make something on top of their content services – be it an EPG style service with recommendations or new innovations in place shifting or time shifting.

Trend to streaming media backed up by ISP data

By | IPTV, PCTV, TV, Video | 3 Comments

Yesterday I wrote about Amazon extending their video streaming service, and now today I read about traffic data at ISP Plusnet that backs up this trend (via the blogs of Azeem Azhar and Martin Varsavsky).

The data from Plusnet’s network (they are a UK ISP owned by BT with over 200,000 customers):

  • Streaming usage is 170% higher than it was a year ago
  • P2P traffic is 8.75% lower in absolute terms than it was a year ago and has fallen more sharply as a percentage of total traffic from 36% to 26%
  • The record hour for highest amount of streaming was broken four times in June (data was released in July)

Plusnet think the increase is due to video streaming services from the major broadcasters here in the UK – iPlayer, 4OD and Sky Player.

I see this as more evidence that people don’t necessarily need or want to ‘own’ content. They just want to be able to consume it. I think it is also starting to show that people will happily suffer a few ads for the convenience of a streaming service versus the hassle of downloading via illegal file sharing.

The trend to streaming media continues

By | Content, IPTV, PCTV, TV, Video | 2 Comments

Amazon announced yesterday the extension of it’s paid video streaming service to Macs and televisions.  Previously TV shows and movies were only available for download to PCs and Tivos.

Regular readers will know that I think this is the way of the future.  In a world of ubiquitous networks streaming is superior to download – we may not be there yet, but we will be soon, and clever streaming services can partially bridge the gap by pushing content they think their subscribers will want to watch soon.

The pricing still feels a bit rich though:

Movies cost on the order of $9.99 to $14.99 to own, and $2.99 to $3.99 to rent. Most TV episodes are $1.99; some older TV episodes are free

I guess this reflects what studios are willing to do.  In my opinion they should price lower – that is the route to maximising revenues over the medium term and keeping the pirates at bay.

When will we get a European Hulu?

By | Business models, IPTV, PCTV, TV | 9 Comments

Some interesting stats on Techcrunch today about Hulu raise the obvious question of when we will get a site with a similarly broad range of professionally produced content here in Europe. I’m interested as a consumer, but also because the market for this is on a par with UGC video, and finally also because once people start watching TV through their PCs all sorts of new services become possible – mostly around sharing, search and discovery. This is what Finnish PVR in the cloud service TVKaista are finding.

From TC:

in May 2008, Hulu served about 88 million videos compared to YouTube’s 4.2 billion videos but it has the luxury of monetizing the vast majority of its videos instead of the three percent that YouTube can sell ads against. Three percent of 4.2 billion is 126 million videos a month that can carry ads, not much more than Hulu.

That pretty much levels the playing field in terms of revenue and profit potential. According to one estimate, Hulu could enjoy $90 million in revenue in its first year. And although it may not be quite as much as YouTube’s estimated worldwide revenue total of $200 million this year, it equals a Bear Stearns estimate for YouTube’s domestic 2008 revenue (of $90 million).

88 million videos is a good number. Enough to show unequivocally that people are ready to start watching TV via their PCs.

Here in the UK the major broadcasters have sites showing their own content, or at least some of it, with iPlayer from the BBC being the standout success so far, but to really unlock this market I think we need a place where people can go to search for all content, without needing to know which channel it was on. That could be via a thin access portal which links out to the underlying sites serving the content (still the most obvious model for me) or it could a single site which clears all the rights and serves all the content itself, or somewhere in between.

The long awaited project Kangaroo (rumoured to be considering a name change to the clever SeeSaw) might just give us what I am asking for here.

ITV and digital television

By | IPTV, PCTV, TV | One Comment

ITV announced what were widely seen as disappointing results yesterday. Executive Chairmna Michael Grade said:

[This year] is turning out to be a much tougher first year of the five-year turnaround strategy than anyone predicted or could have predicted a year ago.

You can read the full commentry on the links above, but two things stood out for me.

Firstly – they pushed back their target of £150m from online from 2010 to 2012. That seems all wrong to me – why should that go backwards? The reason they give is regulatory delays with Kangaroo, but to this suggests they are somehow missing the point. Kangaroo may well end up being a wonderful destination site, but if I was Grade I wouldn’t be betting the digital farm on it. I would be pushing my content out via as many channels as possible, not least my own site. Now I’m guessing the terms of Kangaroo may make that difficult, but therein lies the rub.

Secondly – the notion of a public sector broadcaster with associated obligations is increasingly irrelevant. The trade off used to be ‘we will let you participate in the broadcast oligopoly at below market rates if in return you produce certain types of content that we require – national news, local news etc.’. As satellite, cable and now the web have opened up the market from 3-5 channels to infinity that oligopoly is fast becoming history – making obligations unmanageable. A point Grade made on Tuesday and reported here.

I have long felt that in the future there will only be two main constituents in the professionally produced video value chain – companies that create content and companies that help consumers find content. In the current world ITV fulfills both of those roles, and it might be that they are able to continue to do so in a world where all TV is distributed via the web – but I always prefer focused strategies and would think they have more chance of success concentrating on being content creators.

The search and discovery side of the equation is, I think, ripe for startups.

iPlayer stats

By | IPTV, PCTV, TV | 2 Comments

For anyone that hasn’t heard, iPlayer is a runaway success. The latest stats can be found in this Guardian piece, but the headline is:

Traffic to the BBC’s broadband TV catchup service iPlayer continued to
rise during April, the broadcaster said today, with 21 million requests
for streamed and downloaded shows during the month.

It is being so successful that the UK’s IP networks are getting flooded and ISPs are up in arms. As a result the net neutrality debate is finally being held in earnest over here.