Tag Archives: Cable

The Silly App Constraints of Streaming Premium Content

Time Warner Cable announced at the end of last week that they are now providing their users with the opportunity to stream live television on their mobile phones and tablets.  Exciting, yes? Well, not too exciting.  You see, it only works when you are within the confines of your home wi-fi network. Doing a quick search online, there was a report from Nielsen last January stating that the average TVs per U.S. household numbered 2.5 with 31% of households having more than four TVs.  With those numbers, will people be able to find a place to watch TV on their personal devices outside the range of one of their televisions?  At first glance, the announcement of such a seemingly inane addition of yet another screen in the house is silly.  But when you look into it deeper, the issues are more complicated and perplexing.

The silliness stems from the fact that you can’t just stream content to your device anywhere.  The perplexing part relates to the further fragmentation (and possibly confusion) of content delivery.

Time Warner Cable had launched an app last year that would allow its subscribers to view content anywhere.  Due to court challenges and general push-back from providers, TWC dialed it back and removed the feature. This announcement for the iPhone and iPad allows users to watch some shows live in addition to the ability to manage your DVR, search for shows and some other things. Yet, you still have to view shows on apps from HBO, ABC and others.  And, TWC even has a totally separate App just to manage the account – much like HBO offers a completely separate App to enable social interaction with their shows. Which leads to the perplexing part…

One of the beauties about television is that you know where to find everything on one box.  You can search through the guides in umpteen different ways and find what interests you.  As discussed in this blog last week, the challenge in finding everything online is quite challenging.  It shouldn’t be so for the content we want to find on our cable or satellite systems. Even if we can’t get everything through one happy shiny app, we shouldn’t have to download multiple brand apps just to be able to fully consume and interact with that brand. The confusion this brings only leads to a further barrier to adoption.

There are huge economics at play in terms of who owns what with streaming, but most people don’t want to have to bounce between a handful of apps to watch their shows.  I would rather have one App to do it, and if Time Warner, DirecTV, or Verizon is my provider in the house, I would much rather access through one app.  Even with the NFL Sunday Ticket mobile app that I have through DirecTV, I have to open up another app just to view that content.  Is it horrible to have to do this?  No.  But I won’t do it with multiple apps for all the different cable networks I subscribe to – it’s just to unwieldy.

Further to the economics, I pay extra for the Live NFL content on my mobile because I knew that was an add-on premium.  If I had to pay more for the mobile version of other premium offerings, I think I would balk.  That is a nice thing about the HBO Go product and others like it – it comes free with my subscription – but there’s too many apps to download when it could be just one. As more and more people become open to viewing video on mobile platforms, the kinks need to be worked out and access fragmentation is one of those biggest kinks.

As a society, we have sadly become more cynical. So, it might hurt the situation more than help it by coming out with a release that causes people to question whether the products are even worth it.  Perhaps companies can learn a lesson from Apple and only put out press releases when there is really something solid to cheer about.  In the case of the TWC release about Live streaming, it’s a total tease because you’ve got to read the fine print that you can only view the content where your access already exists.  Even though people have supposedly been waiting for live streaming to come, this could be considered a waste of excitement and we’re better off waiting for a live ANYWHERE  product that could be streamed through wi-fi or our data plans. As those data plans start bringing in more money, that may be where the companies will have something to cheer about – especially the ones who have bundled the mobile with cable/satellite.

So, thank you for the offering of live streaming in the house. I’m just not buying it – even if it is free.

The Future Landscapes and New Economics of Original Content

Amid the beginning of the dot-com lunacy at the turn of the millennium, a company called Digital Entertainment Network (den.net) formed as an online channel for original content.  They were positioning themselves to be a form of competition for the traditional broadcast and cable outlets – programming niche original content for youth to access through their computers.  At the time, FBC was getting stronger in its run against the big three networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) and in the spring of 1998, there were only 171 national cable networks.  DEN couldn’t help themselves from getting attention (both good and bad) due to their publicity machine, extravagant parties and the legal issues of its founders.  At the time, it seemed like an interesting model, but not one that could last into the future. Regardless of the content, we really had no clear vision of what that landscape would be and what the economic play would be.

Seeing DEN was one of the things that pushed me to make the move from being a network development executive into digital.  I didn’t think DEN, or any other online video platform at that time, was a recipe for success in the future.  I didn’t know what the future held, but I wanted to jump in near the beginning to see where things would take us. 

DEN went away early in 2000 and the larger dot-com implosion came soon thereafter.  Since then, the world, technology and the outlets for original content have changed beyond anything many imagined.  Besides the more than 500 cable channels that are vying for attention on television sets along with the now big four networks, online video sites and their serving capabilities have improved dramatically and there’s so many ways to view video beyond the television sets and computer monitors.

In addition to the challenges of getting your “channel” seen or even generating awareness about its existence, there’s numerous ways to interact with the content and each other that were either dreams or creative lab tests at the time.  Suffice it to say, the model has evolved and we are all trying to keep up with it.

YouTube launched its program to pay 100 content providers good sums of money to provide sufficient content for their own channels.  They just announced four channels – all focusing on extreme sports – yesterday and there is sure to be more. How they plan to promote and discern between the four remains to be seen.

Episodes of shows on television are appearing on sites across the spectrum – both legitimate and not-so-legitimate. Viewers are expecting to not only watch shows, but to vote on them, communicate with their friends during them no matter where they are and view their content anywhere at any time. Content is being created and now has the ability to be sold in so many forms without the help of traditional media companies (e.g. the previously covered Louis CK concert at the Beacon Theatre). All of these are vying for eyeballs.

Even the production of those shows has dropped in price considerably as technology has allowed us to film HD footage on such easily accessible tools as our mobile phones.  Most computers are coming with at least a basic editing suite with near-professional versions becoming more affordable each year.

The reality is that there is so much more original content (good or bad) coming from different sources that we are still yet to see what the big play will be.  The big companies that are looking to establish themselves as key digital distribution platforms – like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and more – will continue to pump money into the products to try to generate an audience that is either advertising or subscription supported or both. There is no doubt that the monies going into these productions are significantly smaller than those budgets for content back in 1998 and the amount of buzz that needs to be generated to reach a certain level to make them profitable is more than what was required back then.

What effectively was derived from a standard platform back then has changed so much in such a short time that it has even soundly shifted the foundation that the original platform of television on which it was built upon.  The general feeling in the established media back then was that of superiority. No matter how intrigued or excited we were by the possibilities of the future, nobody really saw it and prepared those established outlets to be able to deftly move along with the flow.

Ultimately, storytelling is storytelling.  Even without the clear economics, we now have access to so much more than before – and so much more of a fragmented audience to try to reach. Yes,  there are more outlets to get the content out there, and the key difference may be in the one that really aggregates everything in the best way possible.  Currently, if someone wants to search for content, it is relatively hard to find with so many different platforms.  For broadcast type stuff you need to pay for, you’ve got to look at outlets like Hulu, Crackle or Netflix.  The outlets to find content of all types for free consist of those like YouTube, Revver, Break and many, many more.  Throw in iTunes and you’ve got even more outlets.  All this leads to more challenges when trying to find content – let alone pay for it.

We have so much more to discover before finding that next standard. It will be in flux for quite a while longer as the players try to re-establish their footing in the quickly-changing marketplace.  The economic possibilities for Original Content and their outlets remain huge and complex – is it enough to just stay in the game?  I’m certain DEN wishes they still in play. And I am certain we all can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Smart Strategy Leads To A Bigger Piece Of The Pie

You don’t have to be a huge brand to make big-time campaigns  – you just need to have a smart strategy. For a regional pizza franchise like Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta in Denver, those smarts are helping to make them seem anything but a small player in their market.  Having used a hefty amount of Out-Of-Home (OOH) placement in the past with billboards and sponsorship programs with the local NHL team, the Colorado Avalanche, they could stayed the path. They had already made a strong challenge to the larger chains with campaigns like last years’ “We’ve never had to change our recipe. Because it never sucked.” billboards – but they have taken an even bigger step with smart media planning and executions on TV (Network and Local) supported by well-managed social media and grassroots programs.

Karlene Lukovitz expands on much of the details of Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta’s local TV campaign in her MediaPost entry but the basic piece is the strategy for a relatively short flight of on-air spots across Network and Cable channels with augmenting support through their online outlets.  What was 90% spend on OOH in the past flipped to 90% television – all in the interest of making the statement for their NY Style Pizza against the national chains.

Though I can’t find any of the commercials online, it seems like their creative and media agencies (Cultivator Advertising & Design and Explore Communications) set up a targeted, high impact campaign with most of the annual budget being spent in Q4 ’11 and Q1 ’12.  The strategy of only producing 15 second spots – with nearly a dozen versions or variations for better contextual placement – is a smart one.  Regardless of their creative executions, all are consistent with the brand messaging/tagline of “authentic, New York-style pizza.”

Lukovitz’ post clarifies how the strategy is more effective in helping all franchisees and is not just a vanity play in the goals of the campaign:

Goals include introducing a fresh, compelling approach within the market, ensuring that all franchisees get equal benefit from the campaign (out-of-home tends to work best in the urban, high-traffic locations, as opposed to outlying areas), targeting two core audiences (males for single meals and moms for family meals) and of course, driving pizza sales.

There are some ways the campaign could be optimized.  Explore Communications’ representative said that they are hoping to drive numbers on Facebook, but they are not posting the Facebook call-out within the ads. They are doing a spend on Facebook to go along with the larger campaign – which is fine – but the online driver should be there with a clear url on the TV ads.  Hopefully that url is a concise one as the brand’s url is long.  If you try to Google Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta, there’s a bunch of them – which makes sense as Anthony is quite Italian…  The main site does have a Facebook call-out front-and-center with a strong incentive to Like the page for a free slice.  Additionally, I would look to place some of the spots on their site and Youtube – especially if they are funny.

What this campaign seems to prove is that you don’t have to spend considerably more to have a high-impact campaign on television – you just need to be smart about it.  Shorter flights and multiple creatives for flexibility in placement can help do the trick, but you’ve got to make sure your other marketing platforms are initiated to fill out the program entirely.  While the TV work should be good in the short-term, the planners realize that the true measure of success is that sustain and growth beyond Q1.

Research has shown that consumers want to make use of truly local retailers and restaurants IF the value is there and they know about it.  Sometimes, it’s a challenge to break through the beating drums of the national chains, but it can be done.  Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta and their local Denver agencies are looking to prove just that.

[UPDATE] I received links to the videos on YouTube and am posting to help clarify here.  They were smart to have a simple url at the end.  They should just post the spots all under the brand name instead of the agency’s name.


MTV Shows a Sexy Model for Web Events

It’s rare to see a media outlet that does not either create exclusive shorts or post highlights for web and mobile in order to support on-air properties.  It’s even rarer to see a media outlet putting all their eggs in the online basket in the hopes of generating more buzz for the channel or brand.  MTV just pulled off that rarer feat last week with their MTV O Music Awards online-only program celebrating music and the use of digital to drive fan engagement.  With the infrastructure many organizations have to activate and record events like this, what MTV has done is a model for others moving into the future.

While it is still too early to measure analytics comparable to on-air, the opportunities gained from programming like this are strong enough to carry through to that future time when the numbers could actually hold their own against broadcast. There were a few interesting elements of the OMAs.  The first was the voting process – which was done through Twitter and Facebook.  In a report at CNN Money, they cite eleven million people voting through Twitter.

There was another point that the CNN article brought up that was key.  Having events like this online allows for the inclusion of advertisers who either can’t afford spots on-air or don’t want to be that broad to begin with. The point was made that the real key for advertisers is whether viewers were buzzing about certain parts of the show or actual advertisements.  For that element, it seems that just airing the content in and of itself might not be enough.  There should be communication and connectivity features surrounding the video player.  By doing this, its much easier to track what’s going on in real-time and then port those elements out via Twitter or Facebook regardless of the form the communications were made – generating even more interest for viewing repeats of the show or highlights.

As we’ve seen with basic cable and even network news before, they have done a good job of capturing a bunch of content and either repurposing elements (like ESPN and X-Games) or drawing elements out across multiple programs to drive viewership of other shows (like Presidential or celebrity interviews.)  By doing these lower-cost events, there could be opportunities for cost-effective content creation that could actually make it on-air within the right packaging.

These are just a few of the benefits of this type of programming. Certainly, MTV’s execution might have left something to be desired – I wish they had shown the examples of the nominees’ work (especially for the Digital Genius award) rather than just show their names – but they have time to iron their programming out.  Online and Mobile is still considered a medium where people don’t pay as much attention, so time can be taken to refine mechanics. 

With the resources broadcast and cable companies have and the growing trend for viewers to watch content via outlets other than televisions, this is the future and it would be a huge miss for the established outlets to not take advantage of what web-specific events have to offer in broadening their reach, providing additional advertising inventory and generating content that can be repurposed cost-effectively.

Are We Giving Away The Opportunity to Truly Broaden Our Base?

Sort of following along the lines of yesterday’s post – have recent trends and technological advances caused us to become less effective in marketing and the opportunities or choices available?

It used to be that a commercial could run during a Broadcast Television Primetime Show and you knew the basic demos.  Not every commerical would be relevant or extremely tareted, but you saw the ones that did not occur while you were running to the bathroom or grabbing another drink and you might have been turned on to another product or experience that you never knew about before.  The advent of digital media and the targeting that came with that led to the drive to optimize spends for as little wasted impressions as possible.  Unfortunately, I see a huge negative effect in that.  Certainly its something we’ve got to be aware of and look to diminish any downside.

To get deeper into what I’m talking about, let’s look at some of the realities in online and mobile media:

Narrowcasting: When cable came into play and there were many more channels to choose from, the consensus was that people would have a much broader view of the world – when in fact, most people watch the same 15-20 channels all the time.  In the same way, When the internet planted its flag in the ground, everyone talked about how people would have access to everything – anytime, anywhere.  While the anytime. anywhere is becoming more and more true, the “everything” is just not possible.  Instead of reading through a paper to get to my team’s news, political information or local events and stumbling across bits of information about other things, I am able to go directly to my team app or specific local events feeds with little chance of broadening my knowledge or perspective.  It happens in both cable and online/mobile.  people can go their whole day, month, year or decade consuming media that is absolutely targetted to them  and people exactly like them.  not much chances for new experiences there.

Targeting: Cookies have been around as long as we’ve been connection to the internet.  They, and other techonological nuggets are in place to help us in many ways – including keeping track of our preferences and the places we’ve been to.  I do believe that it is the collateral damage of our privacy that I am willing to give up to be able to enjoy my online/mobile experience – to an extent.  What happens though, is that the information is used in a way that can be offputting and not really advantageous to us or the advertisers that are trying to reach us.   Until now, the emphasis has been on where we’ve been and what we’ve seen.  Even with targeted ads, we see many ads that are no longer relevant to us – we’ve brought the product or our interest was just in an article, not a movement. I don’t want to get into too much detail here, but the debate about targeting is certainly in the air based on two other posts today – one by Adam Kleinberg on iMedia and the other by David Morgan on MediaPost. Both are good reads that delve a little deeper into the targetting.  They are from different perspectives, but still get to the point, I believe, of question how targeted do we want to be and what that could mean.

Privacy: There is certainly a growing concern about privacy and it all reminds me of the first 3 episodes of the Star Wars saga (forgive me for referencing episodes 1-3) when everyone voted to give power to what would become the Empire.  Sure, most people would say they want privacy, as long as its not inconvenient. Wendy Davis reports about those numbers – 81% of respondents want an anti-track mechanism – in her post on the Daily Online Examiner for MediaPost.  Her article and a reader’s comment at its bottom already reinforce what I’ve written above if you want to read more.  People already have the power to control their privacy, but its too much to actually do something about.

So, unless there is a mechanism to get into people’s minds and serve them with something pertaining to their wants or needs, there’s going to be a lot of waste with targeting and the opportunity to stumble upon something by accident and broaden minds will diminish.

Even without the rise in DVR usage, it would be harder and harder to have any brand or business reach so many people so easily as to create the water-cooler conversation we might have had about those cheesy Mentos ads, Where’s the Beef, or Mean Joe Green.

Ultimately, it doesn’t have to be as dire as that. 

Of course, it is not as simple to pull a trigger on one execution to reach gazillions of people – as it was just 10-15 years ago.  But, with a good strategy, that could be mitigated.  It’s tough because technology, society and diversity will make it harder and harder to reach larger masses of people and create a zeitgeist – and those who come up with the models to reach the most people in the right way will continue to grow.  Hopefully, they’ll bring the rest of the world with them.

Use The Data, Luke!

Storytellers will be the first to tell you that without an audience, they’re not storytellers.  Could the same thing be said if there is an audience but they’re not engaged by what the storyteller has to say?  The answer to that question could be argued either way, but the real takeaway is whether the storyteller is just wasting their time if they are not making the connection with the audience.

This is certainly nothing new.  Many movies, TV shows and books have come out to find no audiences though they are well-made.  The same thing can be said for brands in general.  That is why it is imperative to not only come up with the best story for the product but the best outlets to reach the people it will most connect with.

With ever-changing growth and diversification, that matching is both helped and hindered.  We are able to find out more details about viewers and users, but there are so many more places we have to track.  With new data streams, we can be helped immensely if we take advantage of those streams and mine what really matters out of it.  We are moving away from the categorization of all people being the same based on their age, where they live and what sex they are.  The new data forms are providing much more detail about particular audience tendencies.

Mark Lieberman points out the gains in TV data in his TV Board post, Got Data?  Find the $tories.  He posits how those old or base metrics “don’t tell the story advertisers need to understand in order to connect with viewers. A soft-drink marketer might know that four programs in a given time slot attract women aged 18 to 49, but those high-level metrics won’t show where to find the best ROI for their particular category. Talk about soda without the fizz!

For advertisers, there is now an opportunity to optimize exposure with actual purchasers of a given product, on networks and programs they might have overlooked. For instance, did you know that NBC’s “30 Rock” rates very highly with European car owners? (VW is actually the highest.) Or that Lincoln and Mercury owners are more likely than owners of other cars to watch the Gospel Music Channel?”

While his story focuses on the same principle of telling the story and driving the best ROI on TV with learnings from those new forms of data, it doesn’t go far enough because it only focuses on TV.  There are now so many ways to gauge the audiences and cost-effectively engage them through so many forms of media – whether its broadcast, cable, online, mobile, social, OOH, print, etc… As metrics and consumption shift, its not always prudent to get the most eyeballs.  Sometimes those big numbers matter and that’s not to be discounted, but all outlets should be evaluated wisely as we all know bigger isn’t always better.

Ultimately, the available tools need to be used to determine who you will be telling your story to because its getting increasingly more challenging to simply repeat what may or may not have worked in the past.  And no one wants to be heard as “wuh-wuh, wa, wuh-wuh,” like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons…

Allow Consumption In Any Way – But Smart Decisions Need to Be Made

While monetization for Studios, Networks and Cable companies is key, the reality is that viewers/consumers now have so many ways to watch entertainment and they expect it to be available in the way they want it.  Those sources can either be ignored – which leads to acquiring of content illegally – or they can be provided.  Which comes back to monetization.  They are only going to pay if there is perceived value.  So, which way will the content providers go?  Pick a card?

Here’s an Adweek/Harris Poll relating to television, cable and internet show consumption.  I would certainly add the condition of a wider pipeline – more bandwidth.  While most online viewers are solid (eg. ABC) there is still opportunities for buffering – especially if more people view content this way.  Ultimately, the model has to be figured out because the new paradigm is here.

More than three-quarters (77%) of Americans have now watched a full-length TV show online but less than one-third (30%) of them say they are ready to cut the cord and live off the internet for their entertainment, according to a new Adweek/Harris Pollthat surveyed 2,309 online adults late last month. Almost nine in ten Americans currently have cable TV (87%) but a majority would stop paying for it in favor of watching TV shows online if certain conditions were met (56%):

  • Two in five say they would stop paying for cable TV in favor of watching TV shows on the internet if they could get all of the programs that they wanted to watch for free online
  • A quarter of adults say that they would need to get all the shows they wanted to watch online at the same time that they air on TV (25%)
  • 16% would do so if they could get all the programs they wanted to watch for a small fee online and the same number say they would do so if it was less complicated to set their TV up with internet

Other findings included:

  • Half of U.S. adults say they have watched a show on the internet that they never previously saw on a traditional television (51%)
  • Younger adults 18-34 are more likely (88%) to have watched a TV show online than older demos: 84% of 35-44 year olds, 75% of 45-54 year olds and 64% of 55+ year olds
  • Men and women are equally likely to have watched a TV show on the internet