Just how bad will cord-cutting get?

Could be pretty bad, judging by the most recent figures gleaned from the pay-TV industry. In its latest “Cord-Cutting Monitor” report released last week, MoffettNathanson LLC calculated that traditional US pay-TV providers lost a whopping 941,000 subscribers in the second quarter, by far their worst quarterly showing ever. That’s up from the industry’s previous record loss of 809,000 subs in the first quarter and 709,000 in the same period a year ago.

As a result, the US cable, satellite and telecom industries have now lost more than a combined 1.7 million traditional pay-TV customers in just the first half of this year. Plus, the annual rate of subscriber losses for the industry accelerated to 2.7% in the spring quarter, up from 2.5% in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the rival OTT skinny bundle providers, or virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs), fared well, gaining an estimated 469,000 paying customers, or about 50% of the cord-cutters fleeing the legacy pay-TV bundles.

“Did things get worse in Q2?” asked Craig Moffett, principal analyst for MoffettNathanson, in his note to investors last week. “Yes, at least for the traditional distributors.”

With more OTT skinny bundle services hitting the video market in the US every season, the cord-cutting craze only promises to get worse, at least in the short term. Indeed, Moffett predicts that the annual cord-cutting rate will soon climb to around 3%, or over 2.7 million subscribers a year. And, as Moffett freely admits, that rate could well climb to 4%, 5% or even 6% per year in the future because the market is still so unsettled and unpredictable. “There is, unfortunately, no roadmap,” he notes.

And yet, even with all the unknowns in the market out there, there’s still hope that cord-cutting could abate at some point. For one thing, as bad as the second quarter numbers were, the quarterly rate of acceleration actually declined from the previous quarter. So, as Moffett puts it, things “got worse less slowly” in the spring despite some “worst-case scenario” market expectations that the cord-cutting rate might take off even more than it did.

Further, with such major TV programmers as Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) and CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) planning to flood the market with even more OTT networks and more skinny bundle services spreading their wings, the video market could easily end up glutted with too many viewing alternatives. That could lead to the weaker streaming services closing their doors, as we already started to see last week with NBC Universal shuttering its two-year-old comedy OTT network, Seeso. (See Disney Joins OTT Bandwagon and CBS Streaming Service to Expand Globally.)

Plus, with no vMVPD or single-network OTT service likely to be able to duplicate the variety and diversity of offerings that traditional pay-TV bundles deliver, there could easily be a backlash against these rival services as consumers realize they’re not getting everything they want. In turn, that could lead to a slow, gradual trickle of subscribers back to the much-derided “heavy” bundles that are shedding customers in bulk today.

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Ad Industry Unites for First European Viewability Standard

The European ad industry has published its first set of viewability principles as it works to create a standards framework that it hopes will become the benchmark online. The new European-wide framework aims to help reduce discrepancies, as currently different platforms and different agencies have their own standards.

The European Viewability Steering Group, set up by the IAB Europe, WFA and European Association of Communications Agencies, aims to provide a “quality benchmark” that should improve the accuracy and consistency of measuring viewable impressions. It is now looking for suitable auditors to ensure its principles are being met.

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Verizon Ends Its YouTube Boycott

Verizon said Tuesday that it will resume buying video ads on YouTube after a five-month break that was triggered by concerns about the kinds of content appearing near its brand.

John Nitti, chief media officer at Verizon, says the company has hired Integral Ad Science, an outside ad analytics company, to verify both that it’s only paying for ads that have a sufficient chance to be seen and that those ads aren’t running near anything offensive, violent or otherwise unsuitable.

Verizon is still testing Integral Ad Science’s solution for YouTube, but expects to return its spending on the platform to normal if all goes well.

Third-party verification focused on viewability and brand safety are missing from both YouTube, which is owned by Google, and “other partners that have a large amount of user-generated content uploaded on a daily basis,” Nitti adds. (Update: Google points out that it has supported third-party viewability reporting on YouTube via companies such as Integral Ad Science, Moat and Double Verify since 2015.)

“This is an overall industry issue that Verizon is trying to address across the board, not just with Google and YouTube, but with all of our partners,” Nitti says. “The need to have consistency and measurement and for us to deploy the Verizon standard is pinnacle to get to the transparency that every marketer deserves.”

In addition to Verizon, major brands including AT&T, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson said they were freezing their ad spending on YouTube earlier this year after press reports about ads appearing next to content like ISIS videos.

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Nielsen to Credit Video Views on Facebook, Hulu and YouTube

Broadening its visibility into the world of digital video and OTT distribution, Nielsen said it will begin crediting video content distributed on Facebook, Hulu and YouTube.

That added capability, delivered via Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings, will enable TV and digital publisher clients to capture viewing of their content within their reported audience numbers, Nielsen said, noting that this “consistent and transparent view ensures a level playing field” because it provides access to the same information across both publishers and platforms.
While enabled publisher clients will be able to receive credit for video offered on Facebook and YouTube in Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings, Hulu will be providing “select media partners” with credit for current series content that it distributes, Nielsen said.

That expansion follows Nielsen’s announcement last month that “eligible TV viewing” from YouTube TV and Hulu’s new live TV service would be included in its Digital in TV Ratings.

“The inclusion of video content distributed on Facebook, Hulu and YouTube in Nielsen Digital Content Ratings is a major accomplishment and part of our ongoing commitment to providing the industry with independent, comprehensive measurement of the evolving consumer landscape,” Megan Clarken, president of product leadership at Nielsen, said in a statement. “Through capturing this audience, Nielsen is providing publishers, agencies and advertisers with a better picture of today’s media consumption, with comparable metrics.”

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Does Snapchat See A Google-Like Search Opportunity?

by Laurie Sullivan

Apparently search has become an underlying focus for Snapchat. Cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel, in his opening remarks during the Q2 2017 earnings call, mentioned the feature several times. When asked by an analyst to elaborate on search within Snapchat, Spiegel said it’s still early days with search on the platform as people learn they can search for stories and not just friends. He also noted that there are great opportunities to explore.

“The pre-type experience that we’ve [added] when you tap into search is a really important part of the learning process and I think we’re getting better at showing really interesting content depending on who you are,” Spiegel said.
Snapchat introduced Universal Search in January to simplify navigation within the app. The feature amounts to a search bar to help brands build an audience and quickly allow users to find the best content and conversations related to their specific preferences.

The company also has begun to focus on connecting and measuring the effectiveness of its online advertising with offline sales. It created an offline sales measurement systems with the acquisition of Placed in June. With Placed, the company’s goal is to measure activities such as store visits and offline purchases which prove that digital ads drive sales for advertisers.

As search becomes a visual medium with trillions of photos, it has become more important for social platforms like Snapchat and Pinterest to improve their respective search tools.
The ability to search for content within Snapchat could dramatically improve options for brands. Google reportedly will prove that theory with a tool it calls Stamp.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported on Google’s development of an AMP-powered Snapchat-like “discovery tool” called Stamp, but we have yet to hear directly from the Mountain View, California, company as to whether the report will become a reality.

One of the main features, per reports, would be that it ties into Google’s search engine, giving publishers a built-in audience for Stamp stories. The Stamp versions of stories would serve in Google search results, or within other Google products.

Jason Beckerman, CEO and cofounder at Unified, which focuses on social advertising, says the only way for Google to increase market share from Facebook is to add social features that include video and images to the feed, much more than what YouTube can offer.

Beckerman, musing, points to Snapchat’s video ads served between social snapshots from users. “The ability to buy inventory within the feed is very attractive to brands,” he said.

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US Market Ad Revenues Dip Amid Ongoing Concerns

National TV advertising revenues were down 1% in the second quarter — an improvement from the 3% decline in the first quarter. Yet challenges remain.

The estimates came from Brian Wieser, senior research analyst for Pivotal Research Group, and were based on recent second-quarter earnings results from major media companies.

“The traditional medium is unlikely to return any time soon,” he writes in a recent note, estimating a drop of 1% to 2% for the remainder of 2017.

Although TV networks say there is “strong” pricing in scatter markets, near-term quarter-by-quarter buying of TV time proves “pricing does not necessarily reflect changes in demand.”

Scatter deals with higher pricing come mostly from scatter-only advertisers — which have higher cost bases — and can account for a higher percentage of spending. Changes in demand for TV ad inventory will not cause all advertisers to alter how they budget for the medium.

Wieser is critical of media companies that did not provide specific details about the health of the major TV advertisers. He said “many of the large advertisers that dominate TV are relatively weak at present — and not enough new advertisers are emerging to replace older ones.”

The largest marketers on television — about 200 — account for around 90% of national TV revenues and about 60% of all TV.

“They are losing market share to companies that are smaller and structurally better positioned to spend money on digital media rather than TV,” he adds.

Although there are opportunities for growth — when it comes to new TV metrics, 35 days of time-shifted viewing versus three or seven days — Wieser doesn’t believe this will have a strong impact on TV networks.

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Facebook Launches Watch en here’s how you signup

Is Facebook TV? The social network introduced its Watch tab yesterday, along with its first pieces of original content. Watch is staring off with limited availability in the United States, and will be available on desktop, mobile, and TV devices. It will expand to more viewers in the coming weeks.

As Facebook relies more and more on video, the Watch tab gives members a dedicated place to find live and recorded content. Shows are episodic, and Watch has its own watchlist so people know what to view next.

Organised lists help the Watch tab feel social. Viewers will see groupings such as “Most Talked About” and “What’s Making People Laugh” that make viewing a community activity. They can see “What Friends Are Watching” for more personal recommendations. Viewers can also post comments and see those from other people.

Viewers can even get involved in shaping some of the programming. In “Returning the Favor,” for example, Mike Rowe helps out people who are helping their communities. Those people are nominated by the Facebook audience. Debut Watch content includes a science show from National Geographic, a kids’ cooking show from Tastemade, a show about celebrity moms from Time Inc, and live Friday night games from MLB. While Facebook funded its first shows with a select group of producers, it plans to open the area up to all creators in the future. The launch includes content from A&E, Hearst, Time Inc., and more.

Creators will be able to monetize their shows through ad breaks and brand sponsorships. Creators will keep 55 percent of ad revenue, while Facebook will take 45 percent. Anyone interested in creating a show is invited to drop Facebook a note.

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CBS is going global with OTT

CBS is providing a model for what OTT delivery can be and somehow the rest of the network tv world is missing the boat. This week CBS made a few momentous announcements. One is that CBS All Access is going to become available outside of the US. NBC, ABC and Fox do not have that sort of reach at the moment nor have they made any announcements indicating a plan for it. Hulu, which of course is the easiest way to stream content from those networks without having an authenticated app has grown considerably over the past year domestically but the service is not available to over seas viewers.

It can’t be overstated that a major part of Netflix’s growth has been due to its international reach. What will be interesting is to see if CBS expands its offerings to cover programming that is popular in the regions it expands to or will partner with terrestrial broadcasters overseas to offer live streaming in the same way it does in the US.

Even without international expansion, the network has seen strong results so far. CBS owned Showtime has proven successful as an over the top product as well. CBS says that there are over 4 million subscribers to Showtime and CBS All Access combined, while not on the scale of Netflix and its 128 million plus users, it is solid growth for a relatively new service.

That is not the only thing CBS is rolling out though. It will be launching an OTT sports channel in the same vein as CBSN. Why is that important? Because CBSN is a free 24-hour service. The network is available via its website, apps on a number of platforms as well as through the CBS All Access app. While the news is live, it does not show the actual CBS Nightly News program. Though it should be noted that it did air a 2016 presidential debate live.

The question on the minds of cord cutters, of course, is whether CBS will put live sports on the internet or will it be a free 24-hour sports news network. There are now numerous examples of online operations streaming sports including Facebook’s MLB streaming, Amazon, and the NFL have a pact for Thursday Night Football and Twitter has deals to stream MLB, PGA and WNBA games.

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Facebook ventures into targeted real estate advertising

Facebook has launched its first ad product designed specifically for residential real estate brokerages.

“Dynamic Ads for Real Estate,” first reported by real estate news site Inman News, allow real estate brokers and agents to advertise directly to Facebook and Instagram users who have already searched for properties on that brokerage’s website. The product goes after a key money maker for Seattle-based Zillow, which allows real estate professionals to advertise to prospective home buyers and sellers on its site.

The new real estate product connects Facebook’s ad platform with a brokerage’s search data to understand a user’s preferences, then automatically shows that user relevant listings from the brokerage’s inventory. The ads are served on Facebook and Instagram.

“Real estate is an area we’re betting big on as a company,” Facebook’s real estate and financial services chief Keith Watts told Inman. “We think its content that consumers want to see.”

In October, Zillow rolled out a new feature that allows its Premier Agents to advertise to Facebook users under a partnership between the two tech companies. It’s not clear how Facebook’s move into real estate ads relates to that partnership. GeekWire reached out to Zillow for additional details and will update this story when we hear back.

“We’re really comfortable aligning our brand with you all, some of the finest real estate professionals in the world,” Greg Schwartz, Zillow Group chief business officer, said at a conference where the Facebook collaboration was announced. “But in technology partnerships we’re extremely choosy.”

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One to Many: Streaming Live Video to Multiple Platforms

As recently as two or three years ago, most live streams were distributed by a single service provider like Livestream or Ustream, whether on a page on their websites, via an embedded player on your website, or both. With the rise of YouTube Live, Periscope, and particularly Facebook Live, the focus has changed from publishing to a single platform to getting your video on every platform possible. As with all things streaming video related, there are multiple ways to get this done. This article will cover the most prominent alternatives.

One great thing about most alternatives is that you don’t have to be a technology guru to use them. Understand a few key concepts that I’ll cover at the start, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a multiple-platform streaming maven.

Before we jump in, note that the companies discussed below are meant to be a representative sampling, not an exhaustive list. As you’ll see, many of the products and services are ones I’ve reviewed or discussed in the past. If you feel like your product or service should have been included, feel free to add it via comment below.

The first point to understand is that from an encoder interface perspective, there are two ways to connect to services like Facebook Live and YouTube Live: via platform-specific presets or via generic configurable destinations. With most of the products or services that we’ll discuss, if you’re using a platform-specific preset, you choose the preset, log in to the service, and your encoding tool and platform shake hands and exchange all required information.

If you’re using a generic destination or preset, you’ll have to provide the same information manually, which I show how to do in Figure 1. On the right is the server URL and stream key information provided by Facebook Live; on the left are the corresponding input fields from a generic destination provided by livestreaming service provider Livestream. By way of background, real-time messaging protocol (RTMP), originally developed by Adobe, is the common language spoken by all live-streaming encoding tools and live-streaming services. If you must create a custom preset, you’ll have to dig around in your streaming service to find these parameters, then copy and paste them into the encoder setup screen. Easy-peasy.

Why will you almost certainly have to use generic destinations? Because the 600-pound gorilla, Facebook’s Platform Policy Live API, states, “Don’t build apps that enable publishers to simultaneously stream to Facebook and other online streaming services.” So, if a product or service offers presets for Facebook Live and YouTube Live, it can’t let you use both simultaneously.

What’s the workaround? Stream to Facebook Live via the Facebook Live preset and to YouTube Live via a generic RTMP preset (or vice versa), which all products and services enable.

Now that you know how the plumbing works, let’s begin our look at on-premises hardware and software programs.

On-Premises Hardware and Software
These are devices or programs that you run from the source of your live stream, whether on-premises or at your live event. In general, the advantages of these products are:

Cost—You pay for it once, and that’s it.

Ease of use—There’s one product to learn, as compared to an encoder and web service.

Security—There’s one less service you’re bouncing your videos through, which may be important to some networks and businesses.

Lower latency—Web services that redirect your streams add some latency between the live event and the video seen by your viewers.

Captioning—This is available in many on-premises encoders but in few web services.

The primary disadvantage of products in this class is outbound bandwidth, particularly for those producing live, off-site events at conferences or stadiums where outbound bandwidth costs are prohibitive. That is, with a web service, you send one stream out to the cloud which is then redirected to multiple web destinations. With on-premises encoders, you’re sending multiple separate streams to the various web destinations, which all require their own bandwidth. The other primary disadvantage is CapEx, at least for several of the alternatives discussed below.

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