Tag Archives: DirecTV

It Sucks When You Stop Showing Up To The Party And Nobody Cares

After a ten-day blackout of Viacom-owned cable networks on DirecTV, the sides finally announced this morning that they have come to an agreement. It may be a while before it is absolutely clear what the real impact of this standoff was. During the blackout, there were measurable elements that fluctuated but the real ramifications could be much more than ratings or stock prices. It wasn’t surprising that Viacom took the position that they were in the driver’s seat or that DirecTV engaged in a publicity campaign to ensure that its viewers believed that the negotiating stance was there for the consumer.  What was enlightening was the general ho-hum response by the general public and the nod to what the future holds – both in entertainment outlets and negotiating tactics – as the multitude of choices in channels and consumption platforms is not just a cliché but a reality.

Courtesy Deadline.com

First off, what I found interesting is that the DirecTV subscribers are not in Viacom’s wheelhouse demo. From a non-scientific analysis, it would seem that the majority of the people who are paying for DirecTV are not the ones who are the target for much of Viacom’s offerings. The assumption is that the kids are interested in the Nickelodeon and MTV channels and they aren’t paying the bills. But that’s obviously not entirely true as the bigger issue for Viacom is that there are so many ways to consume the content. They went so far as to remove the online episodes of the grown-up or bill-payer shows (such as Jon Stewart’s Daily Show), only to make those available days later. But, there’s not much new product in the summer to drive demand or viewership. My kid loves a Nick Jr. show, but there were enough episodes in the DVR that she had no idea there was a blackout – let alone have any clue what it means.

Besides the opportunities that consumers have to find content elsewhere – (DirecTV has a whole array of extras that allows viewers to watch content through YouTube and similar online outlets on the TV) how can the sold advertising be allowed to not be shown? The quick-response viewership decline that Deadline pointed out – “Live, full day ratings in the target demos for its channels were down 27% in the week that ended July vs the same week last year – the previous week, before the loss of DirecTV, they were -14%” – only tells half the story. If advertisers are able to, they’ll capture how much of an effect the loss in advertising had on their actual sales.  Perhaps the biggest losers are studios who are trying to promote their films to the key movie-going demo watching Viacom’s channels. But, again, the timing is bad – I don’t know that the demand for the next Batman film is lessened because DirecTV viewers couldn’t see the spots on a few of the many more outlets they access regularly.

The worst by-product of this for Viacom, and perhaps even DirecTV, is that the absence of something provides an opportunity for people to find alternatives. The timing of DirecTV’s addition of Disney Jr during the blackout opened up eyes to the possibility of an alternative for any child who couldn’t get their Nick Jr fix. If the loss was to something outside of the media environment, can anyone be so sure that they will come back?

I’ve been in Paris during a strike by the Metro and museum workers. My feet killed me from so much walking and I ate very well as an alternative to museums, but there is no doubt I would be returning once the trains were running.  Disruption in access to a few channels leads to much less discomfort than the loss of transportation. Viacom and other content providers and carriers should keep that in mind as they threaten tactics like this in the future.

The hardball tactic is fine from a negotiation standpoint – with its true business value debated. But, the risk to the ultimate bottom line of consumer’s interest is a different story that nobody can ill-afford to take lightly. Because, if you’re not around, there’s no certainty that anyone will really care.


With An Ever Growing World, It’s Incredible How Much Stays The Same

Heading into my birthday today, I came across something from the past that drives home the saying that, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” The other day, I saw that the Lily Tomlin film, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMAN was on DirecTV.  I had fond memories of the movie and even celebrated my 11th birthday by bringing a bunch of friends to see the movie. Watching it as an adult certainly brought a different perspective to the film and I had to overlook the problems and just enjoy the campy fun.  But what struck me the most was how poignant the issues surrounding advertising, tag lines and import of product still ring true three decades later.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe that someone will start shrinking due to the mixing of products. But, the tag lines you can hear in the first few minutes of the film as Lilly Tomlin drives the station wagon through the neighborhood of Tasty Gardens makes me laugh because we seemingly all still live our lives in catch-phrases. I’m sure the same phenomena will stand for into the future as it has since the beginning of communication.

Check out the first three minutes of this digest Super 8 reel of the film (remember those?) to see exactly what I’m talking about:

Beyond the use of a four letter word within the first minute of a PG film, I got a kick out of watching it – especially due to my chosen profession – and am thankful that my neighbors are not like hers and clothing styles have gotten considerably better.

While the jingles, fashion and vernacular have changed the tags have all stayed remarkably the same. We’ve learned over the years and technology has enhanced every part of media. But, at the core, marketing is marketing no matter how much we grow…

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 Bastardization of Exclusivity

Perhaps its a sign of the times. People take a whiff of exclusivity and get a contact high. Sadly, the bar has continued to drop on what makes up exclusivity.  Just today,  two nicely packaged letters came in the mail.  One read “An Exclusive Invitation” and the other had “You’re Invited” printed nicely under the computerized calligraphy.

Seeing that the Equinox gym and spa that is opening around the corner had sent the mail with “AN EXCLUSIVE INVITATION”, there were hopes that at least a favorable introductory rate was being offered inside.  All that was offered was an invitation to “get on the list today” and a bunch of marketing images.  There was no excitement about the new neighborhood.  They did not offer a couple of free weeks or greatly discounted fees if you register before they open.  It was just an invitation to get on the list – which seems like it’s not so much of an exclusive invitation.  They spent a lot of money on the printing and the envelopes and probably also paid some outfit a premium to package them and send them to the targeted people in the vicinity of the new location.  What looked promising became a complete turnoff because they promised something that they had no intention to deliver or thought the audience was so dumb they would accept that invitation as something special.  The location also has something to do with it.  In West Los Angeles, there are many who get exclusive invitations to many businesses and events that are truly exclusive (and usually have free or special rates attached).   This mechanic can work in other locations or with other brands, but Equinox seems to be confused about the customer they are going after and how that relates to what they are offering.

The Invitation with the calligraphy was not much better, but at least it was quasi-cute and probably didn’t cost as much.  Additionally, there was nowhere that mentioned the word Exclusive.  DirecTV and Universal sent out a faux wedding invitation to the premiere of BRIDESMAIDS on pay-per-view.  There was no discount offered, just four ways to RSVP – via remote control, website, phone or via text.  This one was more palatable for the reasons that it didn’t portend to offer exclusivity.  It was consistent with the product and there was a true opportunity for consumers to get some real actionable information in both the premier date, location and the fact that there were multiple ways to order a DirecTV movie. 

The invite from DirecTV was not a real invite to an event like you would expect from a mailing like this, but it was certainly a better interaction than the Equinox one.  It also was lesser quality in terms of printing, but more enjoyable.  The Equinox invitation missed out on an ideal opportunity to generate good awareness about their pending arrival in the neighborhood.  They didn’t even list the expected open date or where they will be located.  It seems that this mailing is the template for them whenever they open a new venue, but its a shame that they didn’t offer more on the card dedicated to the specific location to more about the specific location.  Even if you go to the url they list, it doesn’t list the open date or location address. It has the opposite effect of what they  intended as it seems much less personal.

Perhaps some will fall for the “Exclusivity” and believe something is there, but the worst that can happen is that your customer gets beyond the velvet ropes and finds that there is nothing there.  As costs for mailings and other direct response mechanics increase, all businesses should be constantly evaluating the production costs and the returns and then questioning whether it may cause additional costs in lost prospective customers.

In the case of BRIDESMAIDS, they didn’t really turn people off.  With Equinox’ bastardization of  the Exclusivity concept, there’s got to be a lot of people turned off and even less enthused or caring about their business.  Please take this as a non-exclusive lesson to not be marketing bastards…


Football Help Us!

DirecTV has launched what could be considered either funny or scary – I’m still trying to figure out.  It’s one of those things where completely separate parameters can tip the scale from oddly entertaining to gratingly painfull.  Those separate parameters are controlled by the owners and players of the NFL.

Peyton Manning and Eli Manning “perform” in this cheesy send-up of a 70’s cop show to promote DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket.

I give DirecTV a lot of credit for doing this Original Content campaign.  There’s obviously not much they can do to incorporate the NFL and its players in uniform due to the lockout. And, unfortunately for DirecTV, the preseason sign-ups for the NFL Sunday Ticket is one of their largest drivers of new subscribers.  With the risk of a lost season (not as bad now as when they were producing this for when they launched almost a month ago) it allowed them to hit a key target group in a fun way – a way that almost whets the appetite for quick jumps to conversion when the lockout ends and the games begin.

Granted, they probably should have hired Spike Jonze (who set the standard by directing Beastie Boys’ Sabotage music video), and both the dialog and action is not outlandish enough to make some of the sequences a little lame.  But, it’s solid content with good execution and the right personalities to make it all worthwhile.

It could be looked upon fondly if the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is done soon. Of course, the scary painful element would come if the NFL season were cancelled and they decided to make this into a series.  Anyone up for Miami Hoops Vice with LeBron and D-Wade as Crockett and Tubs with Bosh in Edward James Olmos’ part?  Sadly, I’m more scared of that becoming a reality…