Tag Archives: amazon

Could 2018 Be The Year Of The OTT Breakthrough?

Consider, next year Netflix will spend as much as $8 billion on content, potentially more than any other media or technology company.

Amazon will continue its own investment in OTT, and will be given a signal boost thanks to its high-profile simulcasts of NFL “Thursday Night Football,” along with the Amazon Video app addition to Apple TV.

AT&T, in its latest earnings report, said streaming video subscribers jumped by 300,000 subscribers, while its traditional pay-TV customer base had a net loss of 90,000 subscribers.

Meanwhile, according to an FCC filing, AT&T is developing an Android-powered and DirecTV-branded OTT video hub that appears likely to be released in short order. Assuming AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner is approved by regulators, the company will have a vast swath of content, including HBO, to entice new customers to start streaming.

If you’ve been watching the World Series over the last week, you’ve certainly noticed it was “presented by YouTube TV,” with a reminder that you could watch the games without a cable subscription through the service.

Hulu is also launching its bundled OTT video service.

CBS plans to significantly increase its content spend on original programming for its CBS All Access service, and will be rolling out a sports streaming service in the coming months. Disney will launch an ESPN streaming service sometime next year, though the details of what sports it will include remain under wraps for now.

2018 feels like a tipping point. Every major television company will have a dedicated streaming service by the end of next year, while the powerful technology trio of Google, Amazon and Netflix continue to invest and expand their subscription video offerings. And technology will make it easier than ever to watch OTT video on our TV sets, while mobile phones continue to feature screens well-suited to watching video.

For advertisers, these products present new opportunities: to advertise on sports events that may have a loyal following, but are not big enough to air on traditional TV. To advertise on new video bundles with a largely millennial consumer base. To use the scale of a company like Google or AT&T to reach key constituencies not served well by existing video products.

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Despite hiccups, live streaming is moving to the next level

The critics were out in force for Amazon’s inaugural live football stream last week. However, growing interest in live streaming online and a renewed focus from video platform providers on scalability should deliver TV quality and TV scale in the not distant future.

Amazon, Yahoo deliver mostly satisfying experiences

Amazon’s first Thursday night football live stream did not go off without a hitch. Some struggled to join the Chicago versus Green Bay stream at the beginning of the game. Others had their viewing interrupted by buffering issues. Some viewers of the NFL game between Jacksonville and Baltimore streamed live by Yahoo on the previous Sunday reported similar problems.

However, the truth is that in both cases most people that watched the games online enjoyed them as the NFL intended. I watched both and completely forgot how the games were coming to me. So much so that I grew bored with the Jacksonville game and gasped at the foul on Davante Adams in the Green Bay game.

Not just sports driving live viewing

It is not just sports that are driving the growth of live streaming online. According to Freewheel, ad views during live streamed news grew 150% between Q2 2016 and Q2 2017. Ad completion rates were also unusually high, 96%, indicating that viewers are very engaged in the content they are viewing. Again, this is another strong indication that the quality and overall experience of watching live online news is meeting the expectations of viewers.

More live streaming providers coming

Expect the number of live streaming services to continue to increase. A 2016 survey of online video service providers and those planning to launch service within the next year found 44% said their service provided live events. 30% said they provided a mix of live and linear. Live was by far the largest class of video content provided, beating out on-demand content providers handily.

This sharp focus on live streaming by video providers speaks loudly to the state of live streaming technology. They are confident enough in the ability of the Internet to deliver that they are willing to bet their business on it.

Video platforms take on the problems of scale, quality

That said, there are still challenges in delivering live streaming video online. One major video platform provider freely admitted to me at IBC in September that the Internet cannot sustain Super Bowl-sized audiences today. Other live streaming issues need solutions as well. For example:

The action in live streams typically lags far behind the actual event (latency)
Two people watching the same live event online typically see the action occurring out-of-sync with each other
Video start-up time is frequently far longer than changing the channel on broadcast television.
In each case, however, I saw companies at IBC offering solutions to each of these problems. In other words, the Internet is doing what it has always done: as problems arise companies find solutions. I, for one, do not doubt that the Internet will deliver Super Bowl-sized audiences when the viewers demand it.

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Is Amazon’s video strategy working?

Amazon is taking a strikingly different approach to Prime Video than rivals such as Netflix and Hulu are with their services. Rather than bundle content together into a single offering, it is providing most of the video in channels that customers must subscribe to separately. It is working very hard to build up the number of channels available to cover every niche and content genre a viewer could possibly want.

There are already 120 content services available through Amazon Channels. The company continues to press to expand that list. It is rumored to be in negotiations with “dozens” of smaller cable channels to buy them. TV channels providing content with unencumbered rights (rights that aren’t locked into exclusive distribution agreements) are of the most interest. Amazon will be able to launch them quickly to a global audience as part of Channels.

Amazon is not just waiting around for other providers to fill out the content available through Prime Video. It is working with companies directly to fill out important genre categories. For example, animated content creator Genius Brands International is partnering with Amazon in the creation of a channel offering targeted at children. Kids Genius Cartoons Plus! will be available Thursday to Amazon Prime members for $3.99 per month. Genius properties such as Baby Genius and Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab will be available as well as non-Genius shows such as Inspector Gadget and Carl Squad.

Building the library of included content with originals, sports

Amazon recognizes that a large collection of content available as part of a basic subscription is critical to success. It gives customers a no-commitment reason to go to the video portal. Once there, Amazon can use its marketing muscle to get them to subscribe to other content. That is why it has committed to spending $4 billion this year on original content. It is spreading the investment around in genre’s like comedy (The Tick), drama (Mozart in the Jungle), and Crime (Bosch.)

It is also plunging into the world of premium sports. Amazon members will be able to watch ten Thursday football games this season, starting this week with the Bears versus Packers. This is the first time Amazon has streamed live content as part of Prime Video membership. It will be a test of the home-grown streaming platform that Amazon uses, as live streaming continues to be challenging for providers.

Is Amazon’s strategy working?

Amazon doesn’t provide any specifics on how many people are watching the content it provides through Prime Video. Luckily, there are other data sources we can draw on to assess how well it is doing.

Last year, Clearleap reported that 75% of Amazon Prime members say they watch video available through the platform. Most, however, see Prime Video as a nice bonus, not the main reason to subscribe. Still, if most of the 66 million Prime members are using the video apps that is certainly a big win for the company. Unfortunately, engagement still lags well behind other online video providers.

According to comScore, Netflix and Hulu are used more than twice as much as Amazon Video. Hulu streaming households watch 28 hours and 54 minutes a month, while Netflix homes watch 26 hours and 54 minutes a month. Amazon video streaming homes watch just 10 hours and 42 minutes a month.

This data strongly suggests that Amazon customers start looking for video somewhere else before they turn to Prime Video. For Amazon to be successful, it will need to reposition Prime Video as the first place its customers turn to when they want entertainment video on television.

Netflix CFO hints content spending could get more cautious

Netflix CFO David Wells said his company’s nearly unparalleled content spending could become more cautious, particular as competition increases for top content.

Speaking today at a Goldman Sachs investor conference, Wells said Netflix could possibly become more budget constrained in the future, but as long the company is able to grow the top-line and operating margin, it will continue to invest in content.

As more competitors like Amazon, Apple and Facebook look ready to spend big money for top-tier content, Wells said the bidding for that content is getting higher. He said that you have to have confidence that you’re going to monetize it effectively—confidence he said Netflix gets from its subscribers totals—but he insisted that Netflix is still disciplined on price.

When bidding on content, Wells said Netflix considers the cost and compares it to how similar content has already performed in order to determine the efficiencies Netflix can expect.

“If there’s more competition for top-tier content, we may end up producing one less show,” Wells said.

Wells’ comments seemingly had a positive effect on Netflix stock, as shares rose nearly 2% while he was speaking.

Netflix, of course, has been one of the most aggressive companies in terms of spending on content. Its $6 billion content budget for 2017 puts its ahead of SVOD rivals like Amazon Prime Video and premium programmers like Time Warner’s HBO.

While Netflix continues to spend heavily on content, the threat of price increases for the services continues to loom. When asked directly about future price increases, Wells was careful to not specifically point to when prices would increase, but instead frame his answer around building more value into the platform.

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Twitch Launches Extensions For Its Streams. You can stream there too.

Twitch has taken a big step toward making its streams more customizable, interactive, and engaging. The video platform has announced a series of extensions, which append specific tools, displays, and other add-ons to channel pages and live video streams.

The list of Twitch extensions contains more than 20 choices at the time of the feature’s launch, with third-party developers like Streamlabs and Muxy delivering several new toys for streamers. The available extensions include a virtual pet that interacts with the on-screen action, game-specific trackers for titles like League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Rocket League, and a heat map that follows viewers as they move around the screen. Streamer GiantWaffle demonstrated the last of those three examples in a recent clip:

One of the most exciting extensions is an integration with Amazon, which owns Twitch after purchasing it for close to a billion dollars in 2014. Members of Twitch’s Affiliates program can now link up with a similar initiative from Amazon. In doing so, they can use an extension to advertise specific items they use in their streams and can link to the Amazon retail pages for those items. Should their activity lead to any purchase, they will be rewarded with commissions.

Add-ons are not new to Twitch streams, but with the launch of its extensions, the video platform is working more closely with third-party developers. “Twitch is a platform where communities create, share, and interact with the content they love,” said Ryan Lubinski, Product Manager for Extensions at Twitch, in a press release. “With Twitch Extensions, we’re taking interactivity to the next level by empowering our developer community to create customized interactive content, directly integrated with the Twitch platform, opening up a whole new world of creator-viewer interaction.”

Twitch hopes that more developers will design their own extensions to add to the current roster. If you have a relevant idea you wish to bring to fruition, you can find more information at the Twitch Developers homepage.

OTT viewers watch more Netflix than Amazon, YouTube and Hulu combined

Netflix continues to loom large over the OTT video market and new numbers show that’s translating to an overwhelming command over total U.S. OTT viewing hours.

According to ComScore, Netflix accounts for 40% of all U.S. OTT viewing hours. That’s good enough to account for more than Amazon’s (7%), YouTube’s (18%) and Hulu’s (14%) shares combined.

While Netflix leads the pack in terms of penetration in Wi-Fi households at around 40%, Hulu is leading the charge in terms of average viewing hours per month per household at close to 30.

Hulu is also leading the top four video services in terms of engagement with viewers. Typical Hulu households average 2.9 hours of viewing per day, while Netflix averages 2.2, Amazon averages 2, and YouTube, somewhat surprisingly, averages 2.1.

ComScore said the increase in YouTube’s engagement times can likely be attributed to the service’s transition over time toward including more long-form content.

While other SVODs are outpacing Netflix in engagement times among viewers, Netflix is still likely out front in terms of the popularity of its original series.

Demand for Netflix originals is on average 8 times higher than that for Amazon’s originals, according to a study by Parrot Analytics released earlier this year.

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Amazon Still Far from Being the TV-Killer


One of the most common assumptions I hear — and read in parts of the trade press – -is that the TV industry will be killed off in its entirety to make way for a host of new web-native alternatives. Whilst the impact of OTT apps and platforms has undoubtedly had a significant impact, the fundamental mistake the doom-mongers make is they fall down at the first hurdle by failing to differentiate between Pay TV platforms and individual broadcasters. The former group are set to face unprecedented levels of direct competition in the coming years, the latter are set to enjoy unprecedented competition for their content.

So yesterday’s news that Amazon is adding linear TV channels to its Amazon Prime service – such an ad-free version of ITV for £3.99 or Discovery (£4.99) and Eurosport (£6.99), in addition of course to the £79-a-year subscription fee — shouldn’t be interpreted as broadcasters or pay TV operators waving the white flag to their Silicon Valley (or in this case, Seattle-based) overlords. Quite the opposite in fact, it’s a sign they’re still in a position of strength. Here’s why:

Tech Platforms can Only Win by Working with Broadcasters, Not Against Them

Pay TV competition will only be be healthy for broadcasters. To take the UK TV industry as an example, there has been a longstanding (and perfectly healthy) tension between broadcasters like ITV and Channel 4 and pay TV operators like Sky and Virgin Media (Liberty Global). They broadcaster-pay TV operator relationship is the classic frenemy relationship, even if the friendship part has been amplified in recent years as they found common cause in the PR spats with the tech giants.

However, YouTube is now ten years old and most have come to realise that the economics of the platform are ill-suited to high-cost productions. That’s not to say that YouTube hasn’t been a revolutionary platform in its own right, or that it hasn’t given rise to new forms of content and new ways of interacting with it, but TV it ain’t. Which is why when YouTube TV, a cloud-based pay TV replicant launched in the US earlier this year, it was largely dependent on channels from ‘traditional’ broadcasters like CBNC, MSNBC, USA, FX, Disney Channel and even Silicon Valley’s enemies at Fox News. Because nobody in their right mind wants to pay a monthly subscription for PewDiePie.

The platform winners will be those that best nourish the broadcasters they depend on. Flagship proprietary shows and original content will always have their place as a means of differentiation for the likes of Netflix, Amazon, YouTube TV or Facebook’s imminent equivalent, but for the foreseeable future they’ll only be a small slice of the wider offering. Platforms that try to go it alone and produce all of their own content will quite simply fail.

The Content Wars are Only Just Beginning

It’s no secret that OTT apps are heavily dependent on TV content, which is often branded with the channel they first appeared, so for example when you see UK TV content on Netflix you’ll often see something like this:

However, broadcasters aren’t only making money by redistributing their hand-me-downs. Even when you’re watching seemingly ‘exclusive’ content on an OTT app or platform, there’s often still plenty of money flowing into TV coffers behind the scenes. Take Amazon’s latest flagship show, American Gods. It was produced by Fremantle North America, which is owned by RTL Group, Europe’s largest broadcaster. Then over on Netflix even classic binge shows like Breaking Bad and its successor Better Call Saul were both produced by AMC.

The larger broadcasters have been waiting for this day and have had years to prepare. As we’ve mentioned on VAN many times before, one of the main pillars of ITV’s transformation strategy has been an investment in content production studios. So even if ad revenues decline, which they have been lately (albeit based on just one quarter), the company will be able to play its content strengths as competition hots up between the various OTT apps and platforms.

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The Grand Tour hits UK SVOD pole position

Having gone all in on taking Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May to its online video channel, Amazon is celebrating success with The Grand Tour among UK subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) viewers.

According to SVOD content tracking and analysis research from GfK, The Grand Tour was the most viewed title in both November and December 2016, attracting the biggest audience reach for an Amazon show in the UK since GfK’s tracking service began in 2015. It also became the most streamed show on Amazon in November 2016, accounting 8% of all the online video streams watched. The following month, that increased to 17% of all streams viewed, nearly double that of the second placed title, The Man in the High Castle.

Attempting to explain the reasons for the spike, GfK noted that one key reason behind Amazon’s investment in The Grand Tour was not just to attract publicity and views, but to encourage sign-up amongst a different target audience from existing subscribers. GfK believes that The Grand Tour has been successful in this aim. It found that in November and December 2016, the top reason for sign-up was ‘to watch original series made by the provider’, claimed by 22% of Amazon users. This was the highest percentage ascribed to this reason since June 2016, when the launch of BrainDead and Mr Robot 2 also sparked interest.

The analyst added that the value of Amazon investing in an exclusive deal with The Grand Tour cast was also proven by the second most popular reason given for sign up in December: ‘to watch exclusive content not available elsewhere’.

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US OTT Churn Rate at 19%.

The churn rate for OTT video services is 19 percent of U.S. broadband households, according to Parks Associates, meaning that roughly one in five households has canceled a streaming service in the last 12 months.

The OTT Video Market Tracker service finds the overall churn rate for OTT services has been stable for the past year. At the end of 2015, 20 percent of U.S. broadband households had canceled at least one OTT video service in the past 12 months. Churn is found to be lowest among the top three most established services: Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

Households with OTT video subscriptions increased their spending from an average of $3.71 per month in 2012 to $7.95 in 2016. Spending on physical media purchases and rentals declined from an average of $15 per month to $8 per month, while spending on digital transactional video declined from an average of $2.42 per month to $1.42 per month.

“The churn rate has held steady, with one-in-five broadband households canceling an OTT video service in the past year,” said Brett Sappington, the senior director of research at Parks Associates. “These are not free trials but instances where consumers are spending real money to try out new OTT services. One-third of households that currently subscribe to an OTT video service have canceled one or more services in the past year, which shows that there is quite a bit of experimentation occurring right now.”

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Sky-Discovery carriage dispute a sign of things to come

The eleventh-hour settlement of the high-profile carriage dispute between Sky and Discovery is not likely to be the end of the discussion as to what those channels are really worth.

The deal means that Sky subscribers will continue to enjoy Discovery’s bouquet of 12 thematic genre channels, yet it must be noted that according to Futuresource Consulting analysis, comparing data for the last seven months of 2016 with the same period for 2014 shows that Discovery’s ratings (excluding Eurosport) have declined, while Sky’s share of eyeballs has remained the same. That backs up Sky’s original beef with the programmer.

“The disagreement was simple – Sky said Discovery’s viewing on its platforms had fallen and it did not want to pay what was being asked to renew their long-term carriage agreement,” said Futuresource analyst John Bird. “Discovery said it was being paid less than it was 10 years ago, despite Sky subscription price rises and a claimed 20% increase in viewing of its channels on Sky platforms (the acquisition of Sky Germany and Italy in this period may well be a factor behind this assertion).”

But Bird added that the falling viewership was “almost certainly” due in a large part to the cannibalisation impact of on-demand viewing on traditional linear multichannel TV.

According to the latest survey in the Futuresource international consumer research program Living With Digital, 12% of UK respondents now say that SVOD services are their most frequently viewed video platform, up from 6% a year earlier, compared with 15% for pay-TV channels.

In terms of real numbers, there are now approaching 6 million Netflix and 4 million Amazon Prime Video users in the UK (many taking both).

“As total TV viewing hours are relatively flat, it is inevitable that viewing of these services (as well as other alternative platforms like YouTube) will be taking share from traditional linear TV channels,” Bird explained.

To ward off the impact from defecting viewers, Sky has made more content available on-demand and digitally, with an array of options that include Sky Q, Sky+, Boxed Sets, Sky Store, Sky Go and Sky Now, the latter of which will carry Sky’s full content portfolio online from 2018. Also, Futuresource said that viewing of Sky Atlantic (which carries HBO content) is 75% on-demand.

In the future, Discovery may need to negotiate carriage compensation that takes into account digital statistics within Sky’s various ancillary platforms.

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