Nielsen adds YouTube TV to audience measurement

Nielsen has announced that YouTube TV viewership at designated market levels (DMAs) will now be included in Nielsen Local TV audience measurement using Digital in TV Ratings (DTVR). This follows the introduction of YouTube TV into national TV ratings with DTVR last summer and is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to measure viewing everywhere as content consumption continues evolve.

To measure local media viewing, Nielsen developed DMA regions that group counties that form common local TV markets. There are currently 210 DMA regions across the US. By including YouTube TV in local ratings using DTVR, Nielsen says it will programmers and advertisers across these local DMAs to gain a more comprehensive view of audiences engaging with linear TV programming across digital platforms.

“Local broadcasters have been eagerly anticipating the inclusion of YouTube TV into Nielsen currency measurement,” said Jeff Wender, Managing Director, Nielsen Local. “We’re excited to be able to help local media buyers and sellers capture digital audiences, as well as provide advertisers a full account of all viewing activity, irrespective of distribution channel.”

Top 30 Online Video Platforms to Watch in 2018

Gone are the days when the means of production and distribution of movies and creative videos were firmly in the hands of large and well-funded broadcast companies. Today, with the explosion of online video platforms, made possible by miniature HD video cameras embedded in handheld smartphones and cloud-based storage capable of housing large video files, the power of video storytelling is freely available to any individual.

Serving as an active broadcasting medium for businesses, entertainment companies, and self-appointed reviewers, online video platforms offer anyone with an opinion the chance to reach a mass or niche audience, spread across the world. Obviously, this format will emerge to be highly preferred and influential in the immediate future.

Here are the top 30 online video platforms that are worth the watch in 2018:

1) YouTube
With 300 hours of video uploaded every minute, YouTube is undoubtedly the king of online video platforms. If an enterprise wants to amplify its brand’s reach, establishing a presence on YouTube is the smart first step. YouTube has become the most important source for video distribution in the modern age. Right now, this infotainment giant has seen tens of millions of channels created, where users upload their video content in droves — by the second.

Highlight Features: Live video streaming, video on demand (VOD), video hosting and monetization, video analytics and broadcasting.

2) Brightcove
Brightcove’s powerful cloud platform offers a sophisticated selection of versatile video technologies to customers in over 70 countries. Founded in 2004 and based in Boston, the company provides a full suite of products and services that reduce the complications associated with publishing, distributing, measuring and monetizing video across devices.

Highlight Features: Ingest and transcoding, HTML5 video player, live video streaming, monetization and advertising, video analytics, mobile devices and OTT support.

3) Comcast Technology Solutions
Comcast Wholesale, This Technology, and thePlatform were merged into Comcast Technology Solutions in 2016, with the aim of providing new content distribution and monetization solutions to industry media partners. At CES 2017, the company announced it was expanding its direct-to-customer (D2C) solutions, which significantly focus on helping content providers manage over-the-top (OTT) services, covering everything from video processing to multi-content delivery network distribution.

Highlight features: Advanced monetization and commerce engine, OTT platform, broadcast and IP convergence, D2C solutions.

4) Ooyala
Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Ooyala is one of the leading and profitably popular online video platforms. Ooyala holds an advantage right out of the box – its platforms are built with Big Data analytics capabilities for advanced business intelligence that allows users to deliver appropriate videos to their target audience accurately. The company’s solutions help broadcasters, media and production companies build engaging and personalized experiences across all screens and maximize return for any video business.

Highlight features: Mobile video, OTT TV, video discovery, video hosting and monetization, live streaming.

5) Akamai
With a wide array of cloud delivery solutions, including superior web and mobile performance, cloud security, enterprise access, and video delivery solutions, Akamai is a solid online video platform to lean on for those who consider video as a primary marketing strategy. The company uses its own in-house CDN platform and media storage solution for online video delivery with higher reliability, adaptability, and scalability.

Highlight features: Video player design and development, video syndication and distribution, advertising, content hosting, video analytics, secure streaming and content protection.

6) Kaltura
Kaltura is used by more than 300,000 companies worldwide to easily deploy applications that include video creation, publishing, syndication, management, monetization and analysis. Its open-source video management system is one of the most commonly chosen online video platforms on the global market. The Kaltura platform is mainly designed and developed for larger institutions in the media, enterprise and education sectors.

Highlight features: Video upload and ingestion, video transcoding and processing, video marketing and sharing platform, video streaming and delivery, video publishing, and video editing tools.

7) DaCast
DaCast is the first web-based video streaming platform with a complete streaming as a service (SaaS) model. The platform offers a suite of features through cloud computing that includes on-demand video, paywall integration, and high-definition live broadcasting. It is an all-in-one solution, offering services such as encoding, decoding, monetization, analytics, etc. It also offers a CDN server.

Highlight features: SaaS-based video platform, HTML5/Flash video player, APIs and SDKs, auto archiving, ad-free broadcasting, and white label service.

8) JW Player
Since the creation of JW Player over a decade ago, the world’s largest network-independent video platform has significantly focused on building products and services that enable businesses to create compelling video experiences for their end-users. The company recently announced the beta release of the latest version of its media player, JW8, which offers a fully-customizable responsive user-interface, improved video load speed and support for next-generation advertising standards including VAST4.

Highlight features: High-quality user experience, developer-led innovation, ad monetization, custom API implementations, and mobile SDK.

9) Muvi
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, US, Muvi is a globally acclaimed video-on-demand platform that promises to help video content providers build their own video streaming platform instantly. With Muvi, video streaming can be easily launched across platforms like mobile apps, websites, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TV ecosystems.

Highlight features: VOD and live streaming, multi-screen and devices, multiple monetization, payment gateway, invoicing and billing, user management, analytics and reports.

10) Ensemble Video
Ensemble Video is one of the top online video platforms, particularly designed for organizations, making it easy for the latter to upload, encode and publish their own video content. The solution can be customized to create a custom-built video platform that can help a business stream its videos across screens and regions. This platform is equipped with advanced video security and built-in analytics to make sense of the viewership and their preferences.

Highlight features: Identity Provider Support, Live Stream and Record, Adaptive Bit Rate, Video Dropbox, Canvas Video Tool, Blackboard Building Block.

11) Amobee
Amobee is an award-winning global marketing agency with corporate clients such as Dell, Lexus, and Airbnb. Amobee’s platform receives more than 480 billion global impressions each month through leading video exchanges. The company’s technology platform and solutions help to capture data from video, the web, and mobile to create insights on consumer behavior.

Highlight features: Business intelligence, ads API integrations, end-to-end platform integrations.

12) Anvato
Anvato is nestled amongst the world’s leading online video platforms. This California based company counts several large media houses as customers and is helping Google better compete with other enterprise storage providers that target media businesses. Anvato was recently acquired by Google, to help the latter with scalable media processing and workflows in its cloud platform. Its customer list includes Fox Sports, Univision, Gray TV, and NBC Universal.

Highlight features: Live streaming, live to VOD, video encoding, cloud editing, syndication, ad insertion, and subscription.

13) BrightRoll
As one of the largest independent video advertising platforms to reach audiences across mobile, web, and connected TV, BrightRoll is powering digital video advertising for the world’s largest brands, including 90% of the top 50 US advertisers. In 2014, Yahoo acquired BrightRoll for $640 million in cash to make its video network the largest in the US market.

Highlight features: Digital video advertising, demand side platform (DSP), supply side platform (SSP) and exchange.

14) Envient
With a wide range of options and features at an affordable price, ClipShare platform (Envient Network) is the ultimate script for starting a video sharing and streaming site similar to YouTube, or Dailymotion. With its video transcoding engine, uploaded videos are converted to mobile and web ready formats in multiple resolutions and qualities.

Highlight features: High-quality video streaming, on-demand content, real-time video conversion.

15) EBD
EBD, a pioneering proprietary software provider, developed its Web Video Player that relies on powerful advertising capacities and community tools. The platform makes the most of web 2.0 technology to monetize video content for institutions and companies, thereby fostering the divulgation power of social networks and advertising initiatives on mobile video.

Highlight features: Content management, distribution and syndication, monetization, statistics and reports.

16) Limelight Networks
Limelight Networks, a world leader in digital content delivery, offers complete online video solutions to publish, measure, manage and monetize high-quality video content on the web. This video platform is integrated with the Limelight Orchestrate Platform, that combines a vast global private infrastructure, advanced content delivery applications, and support services.

Highlight features: CMS content management, HTML5 player, automatic transcode, APIs, reports and analytics.

17) Mediacore
Perceived as one of the most innovative learning platforms for use by enterprises, universities, and schools, MediaCore aims to bring quality education to the world. The MediaCore Video Platform puts powerful video sharing and learning tools into the hands of students and professors, empowering them to easily capture and share video securely and privately across all platforms and mobile devices.

Highlight features: Cross-device compatibility, media library management, in-depth analytics, web-based interface.

18) Pixability
Founded in 2008, Pixability’s platform broke ground when YouTube was still young. The company understood the incredible marketing opportunity that streaming services offered companies, especially when paired with data-driven insights and SEO. This premium video advertising company recently announced its new brand safety technology which guarantees that 100% of the advertiser spend goes to brand-safe placements.

Highlight features: Insights and targeting, media execution, reporting and analytics.

19) Samba Tech
Samba Tech is the largest independent distributor of online videos in Latin America. A pioneer amid online video platforms, Samba Tech recently updated its visual design and identity as it tried wooing a brand new audience: Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs). With a global partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Samba Tech guarantees security and high-quality, as well as the delivery of the company’s message to the target audience, wherever they may be.

Highlight features: Live video, VOD, media management, and business intelligence.

20) SpotX
Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, SpotX is a leading video ad serving platform. The company released figures that highlighted explosive growth in global OTT video advertising spends across its platform. The SpotX platform presents new ad serving, programmatic infrastructure and other monetization tools, including solutions for OTT as well as outstream video ad units. The company recently merged with its sister outfit, Smartclip, to establish a single global firm operating under a joint management team.

Highlight features: Multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), broadcast-quality inventory from tv networks, and VOD.

21) VideoBloom
VideoBloom is a bonafide leader in online video commerce. This online publishing and management platform is designed to offer end-to-end video technology and production solutions. Increasingly focused on user transactions and engagement, VideoBloom’s video solutions are not only designed to manage video but to accomplish predetermined targets.

Highlight features: Video production, online video management, publishing and advertising platform, and video commerce widgets.

22) Ramp
Ramp, a leading provider of enterprise video delivery solutions for large companies, ended 2017 by publishing the latest version of AltitudeCDN, the brand’s flagship suite of software solutions for optimizing the distribution of streaming video. Throughout 2017, a prominent group of enterprise streaming platform providers integrated AltitudeCDN into their solutions to make video delivery a streamlined process for the customers.

Highlight features: Content optimization solutions, Software as a Service (SaaS), multicast support, optimizing live video traffic.

23) Bubblecast
Bubblecast is a prominent online video platform that serves thousands of simultaneous users, with video plugins for WordPress and a customizable flash player. The company is focused on creating video-sharing services, video marketing websites, video social networking services, video blogs and much more.

Highlight features: Video sharing services, monetization, and social networking services.

24) Coull
Coull, a relatively small company based in the UK, was one of the first online video platforms to think up an innovative video model. Coull’s technology lets advertisers and publishers tag individual products within videos, thus making it possible to click through and purchase products right from the video. Further, the company has a partnership with LiveRail, a programmatic video advertising platform to serve its premium advertisers.

Highlight features: Online video advertising, scalable monetization, and contextual targeting of advertisers.

25) Digitalsmiths
Digitalsmiths is one of the leaders in video search and recommendations for TV Everywhere platforms, and enables global video providers to increase viewer engagement. The company offers personalized search, recommendations and browsing applications for all content across smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes, computers and gaming consoles.

Highlight features: Personalized video discovery applications, data management, and unified data service.

26) Flumotion
Founded in 2006, this Spanish technology company is a leader in online video and audio technology. Flumotion offers multiple award-winning solutions that include an online radio platform and online video platform that maximizes content monetization and ROI. The company’s SaaS solution covers the entire value chain and transforms a single audio or video stream into value-added content.

Highlight features: Multi-format transcoding, content delivery, asset management, and media ad monetization.

27) Piksel
Piksel, a global provider of video monetization software, launched the Piksel video platform in 2014. Its advanced broadcast quality and multi-screen solution allows content owners and distributors to quickly start OTT offerings to users without having to invest in an expensive static platform. Built on the SaaS business model, the Piksel video platform is a cost-effective and highly flexible solution.

Highlight features: OTT video monetization, VOD, on-premise hosting, and broadcast monitoring solution.

28) VBrick Rev
VBrick is a complete media management solution suite that enables the delivery of media and video content enterprise-wide. The company was quick to respond to the opportunities in cloud-based webcasting by re-architecting its services from the ground up for the cloud. Its cloud platform allows enterprises to stream on-demand and live video over the corporate network onto any designated device.

Highlight features: Intelligent video networking, schedule broadcasts, recordings, multiple video formats, and centralized video recording.

29) Viddler
Viddler is an online media solution centered on businesses. Additionally, it holds expertise in the extra niche of producing interactive videos. Viddler’s services include a secure cloud-based content delivery network, a robust API, patented video technology, and the backing of a professional services team. The platform has supercharged viewer engagement and analytic features, allowing enterprises to track trends in content and viewership.

Highlight features: Video contest management, opt-in advertising, secure upload and optimization.

30) Vidcaster
Vidcaster, a service mark of Vid Network, makes online training and subscription-based video sharing extremely easy. The platform can be used for video subscriptions, employee onboarding, lead generation, online courses, certification, premium content and customer support. It best suits those who want to create a robust online training platform but don’t have an IT backbone. The platform has a wide range of video site templates that can be set up and launched quickly without additional expenses.

Highlight features: Content management, customizable templates, monitoring and customizable branding.

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U.S. pay TV providers lost 305K subs in Q1, 2018

Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) found that the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. – representing about 95% of the market – lost about 305,000 net video subscribers in 1Q 2018, compared to a pro forma loss of about 515,000 subscribers in 1Q 2017.

The top pay-TV providers now account for about 91.9 million subscribers – with the top six cable companies having 47.8 million video subscribers, satellite TV services 31.1 million subscribers, the top telephone companies 9.2 million subscribers, and the top Internet-delivered pay-TV services 3.8 million subscribers.

Key findings for the quarter include:

The top six cable companies lost about 285,000 video subscribers in 1Q 2018 – compared to a loss about 115,000 subscribers in 1Q 2017. Satellite TV services lost about 375,000 subscribers in 1Q 2018 – compared to a loss of about 340,000 subscribers in 1Q 2017. The top telephone providers lost about 50,000 video subscribers in 1Q 2018 – compared to a loss of 325,000 subscribers in 1Q 2017.

Net losses for the top Telcos in 1Q 2018 were the fewest in any quarter since 3Q 2015

AT&T U-verse did not report net video losses for the first time since 1Q 2015

Internet-delivered services (Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW) added about 405,000 subscribers in 1Q 2018 – compared to about 265,000 net adds in 1Q 2017

Traditional pay-TV services (not including Internet-delivered services) lost about 710,000 subscribers in 1Q 2018 – compared to a loss of about 780,000 in 1Q 2017

“The number of pay-TV subscribers for the top providers peaked six years ago. Since 1Q 2012, top providers have lost about 3.4 million total pay-TV subscribers,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “Since the industry’s peak, traditional services have lost about 7.2 million subscribers, while the top publicly reporting Internet-delivered services gained about 3.8 million subscribers.”

OTT Video Services to Climb to US$51.4 billion in 2022

The growth of subscription OTT services has been driving the changing trends in the Pay-TV landscape. OTT video services have attracted hundreds of millions of subscribers worldwide, causing pressure on traditional Pay-TV operators. This OTT growth trend is expected to continue, reaching a subscriber base of 400 million in 2018, according to a recent report by ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies.

OTT video services offer less expensive alternatives and no long-term contract features compared to existing Pay-TV offerings that are driving an increasing number of Pay-TV customers to switch to these OTT services. In markets such as North America and Europe, Pay-TV operators have jumped into the OTT market to improve churn by providing less costly video service. DirecTV’s Now, Dish Network’s Sling TV, and Sky’s Now TV are among the operators which offer Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (vMVPD) services, linear channels via an internet connection.

“vMVPD services offer live TV packages as low as US$10 and customized packages are attracting cost-sensitive customers,” said Khin Sandi Lynn, Industry Analyst at ABI Research. Dish Network’s Sling has secured more than 2 million subscribers in the two years since it launched. Similarly, DirecTV Now has gained 1.2 million subscribers within one year of its launch, offsetting the subscriber loss of its satellite TV platform. “Pay-TV operators recognize the consumer demand for vMVPD services and are trying to expand their OTT offering by providing more content choice to compete against other subscription OTT services such as Netflix,” Lynn noted.

Despite the low cost of basic vMVPD packages, the availability of live sports packages and customization features contribute the higher ARPU compared to other subscription OTT services. Hulu and YouTube launched live streaming packages in 2017 creating more competition in the vMVPD market. “As competition intensifies, content and quality of service are crucial to win the OTT war,” concludes Lynn. ABI Research forecasts that OTT video services will put more pressure on traditional Pay-TV services especially in the developed markets with high broadband and Pay-TV penetration. The worldwide OTT video market is expected to grow at CAGR 10% to generate US$51.4 billion in 2022.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Service Provider OTT Services and Set-top boxes Update report.

YouTube TV, Is There a Path to Profit?

Like other virtual MVPDs, YouTube TV is a money-loser.

That’s the bad news. “Even worse, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious path to not losing money,” Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger explained in a Weekend Media Blast analysis on YouTube TV issued Friday. “The financial model doesn’t scale.”

YouTube TV doesn’t break down its financials publicly, but Juenger estimates that YouTube TV is losing about $5 per month per sub, but readily admits that the toughest assumption in making that calculation is the CPM on the product. Given the current, relatively small size of YouTube TV’s sub base, that’s not a material number for a deep-pocketed company like Google and its parent, Alphabet.

Even at 1 million subs, YouTube TV, which is also exposed to annual price inflators from programmers, would lose $60 million per year. “Not even a rounding error for Alphabet,” Juenger noted. “No analyst would even bother modelling it.”

But what if the losses grow to $10 per sub and YouTube TV pulls in 5 million subs. “Now we have a loss of — $600mm OI. Material yet? How about 10mm subs, now we exceed -$1bn in OI losses. Surely, what would catch investors’ attention.”

With that as the backdrop, it’s clear that YouTube TV’s financial overhang is greater the more successful it becomes from a subscriber basis.

“Google knows this. So what is their plan?” Juenger asks, holding that he doesn’t believe it’s their intention to lose money on every YouTube TV sub indefinitely.

Google hasn’t provided those details, but Juenger speculates on a handful of items – some more disruptive than others — that could be part its plot to improve the business as it moved further down the road:

1. Google believes consumers will “fall in love with the product,” giving it the green light to eventually raise the price enough to generate a profit. Notably, it already has raised the baseline price of YouTube TV following the recent addition of networks from Turner. But raising prices will be difficult, Juenger said, because of video competition and “reference points” from SVODs such as Netflix and Amazon.

2. Google believes its ad model will prove so superior, they will generate CPMs will in excess of what Bernstein has modeled, and spread across Google’s video inventory in a way that helps put YouTube TV in the black.

3. Google believes their advertising model will prove so superior, TV networks will turn over national inventory for Google to sell. But Juenger says it’s unlikely that networks will cede the rights to any of their premium inventory (or semi-premium or dubiously-premium inventory) to a third party.

4. Google believes they will gain enough subs and importance in the marketplace to push back on TV network price demand, and possibly drop overpriced or unwanted networks. Juenger points that that this one is probably folly, as no MVPD, virtual or otherwise, has been able to pull this off.

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TV Set Becoming Favorite Device for Video Streamers

People who stream TV content now prefer to watch it on TV sets instead of personal computers, according to a new report from Conviva.

The report, The Secret Life of Streamers Part II, found that during primetime, between 9 and 10 p.m., connected TV sets accounted for 48% of the episodic video plays in 2017, up from 35% during the 2016 survey.

The share for personal computers has plunged to 19% in 2017 from 39% in 2016.

“Conviva has a unique census-level data set capturing detailed viewing habits of billions of streaming video applications and devices across the globe,” said digital media analyst Colin Dixon of nScreen Media, researcher and author of the report. “Our most recent analysis shows connected TV dominating all devices 24/7, with plays increasing 75%, highlighting the rise of this platform at the expense of other screens.

“The transition from traditional television to streaming television has become more prominent, and viewers are binge-watching multiple shows via connected TV during primetime,” Dixon added.

The Secret Life of Streamers Part II follows a similar study done in 2016. That report noted a lunchtime bump in PC usage during lunchtime.

“The data strongly suggested people were catching up with their favorite shows on their PC while they ate their lunch,” Conviva’s new report said. “The lunchtime bump is still there. Plays at noon are 20% higher than for the average hour. However, this is lower than last year, where the lunchtime peak was 29% higher.

Some of the lunchtime viewings appear to have transferred to the smartphone, the report added. Last year, episodic plays from a smartphone in the noon hour were only 8% above average. This year the difference has increased to 19%.

Conviva also found that the average viewing session on connected TVs, 77 minutes, is twice the amount of time viewers spend watching streaming video on personal computers and mobile devices.

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How HBO gets into 50 percent of US homes

According to HBO CEO Richard Plepler, the company has an opportunity to reach 50% penetration of homes in the US. Reaching that goal requires a lot more growth because HBO is in around a third of homes today.

HBO grew subscribers an impressive 5 million in 2017. Moreover, Mr. Plepler says the 35% of the company’s growth has come in the last five years. Performance such as this is likely the reason Mr. Plepler believes he can ultimately drive the service into half of US homes:

“We think there’s a lot of growth left. We’re going to attack it.”

However, where is all that growth coming from today, and where is it likely to come from in the future?

HBO Now growing strongly

HBO launched its direct-to-consumer online service HBO Now in April 2015, after several years of relatively little subscriber growth for the premium channel. It took the company almost two years to reach 2 million subscribers. However, 2017 was a watershed year for the service. The company saw subscribers climb from 2 million in February to 5 million by the end of the year.

The increase of 3 million subscribers in HBO Now helped propel the channel to its best year of subscriber growth ever, increasing by 5 million. So, where did the other 2 million subscribers come from, and how will it get to 50% penetration?

Traditional pay TV unlikely to help

If HBO saw any subscriber growth from traditional pay TV operators at all last year, it was minimal. Cable, satellite, and telcoTV operators are shedding subscribers at a steady clip. They lost around 3.5 million in 2017. However, their customers are also dropping premium tiers like HBO to save money. Mr. Plepler says that his best pay TV operator partners have HBO in 50% of customer homes. However, deepening penetration of a shrinking market may not result any growth at all.

vMVPDs an important part of HBO’s growth

Virtual MVPDs like Sling TV and DirecTV Now allow customers to subscribe to HBO through their services. For example, a DirecTV Now customer can add HBO for just $5 a month. Sling TV and PlayStation charge the standard $15 a month.

In 2017, vMVPDs grew strongly. Sling TV finished the year with 2.2 million subscribers, up 40% from one year earlier. DirecTV Now ended the with 1.46 million subscribers, up from 200,000 one year earlier. Assuming the same penetration level of vMVPDs as regular pay TV, HBO could have more than a million subscribers coming from Sling TV and DirecTV Now. Penetration at DirecTV Now could be even higher, with HBO through DirecTV Now costing a third of HBO Now.

The number of HBO subscribers from vMVPDs is likely higher still. PlayStation Vue and Hulu Live both allow customers to subscribe to HBO. However, neither Sony nor Hulu have announced how many subscribers they have to their vMVPD services.

Around half of traditional pay TV cord-cutters sign up for a vMVPD. As cord-cutting accelerates, expect vMVPDs to continue strong growth for some time to come.

YouTube TV could deliver a big bump in subs

There is one major vMVPD that currently doesn’t have a reseller arrangement with HBO: YouTube TV.

Google does not report how many subscribers it has for YouTube TV. However, in the Q4 2017 Video Trends report from TiVo 8.5% of survey participants said they were using the service. 3.8% said they used DirecTV Now and 2.3% used Sling TV.

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As Sports Rights Soar, Maximize Content Across Platforms.

Like many other media companies involved in sports, local radio stations face a difficult game plan: Sports rights fees continue to soar, but consumers have more ways than ever to access sports news and entertainment. That leaves radio broadcasters, as well as their TV and digital counterparts, looking for ways to attract audiences to their game coverage and related content, and to generate ad dollars to support pricey sports programming.

To be successful, traditional media companies “must remain diligent to the threat posed by the tech giants and drive scale, innovation and the most relevant content to acquire and retain customers,” advises a new Nielsen report on commercial trends in sports.

In many markets, radio stations air local play-by-play rights to pro teams and top college sports and that marquee content attracts loyal listeners and top-dollar from advertisers. Such content can be a key differentiator for radio stations, as well as a valuable promotional platform for their other programming. To maintain that value in the face of growing competition online, on OTT services like Hulu and YouTube, and TV networks, radio networks can look to Nielsen’s new findings on the evolving sports market.

In one suggestion, Nielsen says sports rights holders should maximize their content across all possible platforms, including the obvious on-air and online extensions, but also smart speakers, augmented reality, virtual reality and subscription content.

In addition, Nielsen says, as brands increasingly look for layered, multi-platform sponsorships, sports rights holders can offer advertiser more access to teams and their hosts, as well as their expertise. Rights holders should also extend their sponsorship activities to other platforms, Nielsen advises, including “digital content and activation capabilities, in order to engage fans, collect data and service sponsors.”

Media companies should also look for underdeveloped programming opportunities, such as showcasing women’s sports, which are receiving more attention from fans and brands, Nielsen notes. Radio stations, for instance, could run women’s sports on-air or on streaming platforms, or even exclusively via digital streaming. “The sector is booming as the growth opportunity represented by under engaged females is recognized, as brands demand a focus on women’s sports and as gender equality takes ever-greater prominence,” the report says.

Consumers Are Now More Likely to View Ads Online Than on TV

GroupM unveiled its 2018 “State of the Digital” report, which predicts where people worldwide are expected to consume content in the coming year. And for the first time, the WPP network sees online surpassing every other vertical—linear TV, print and radio—in terms of where people will choose to spend their time with media.

The study, when weighted by expenditure, estimates that consumers will spend an average of 9.73 hours per day with personal media in 2018, up from 9.68 hours in 2017. GroupM predicts online to take a 38 percent share of total time spent with media; for the first time, linear TV trails behind and is expected to end the year with a 37 percent share. The group predicts radio and print to then take 18 percent and 7 percent shares, respectively.

Last year, linear TV held a 38 percent share over online’s 36 percent.

GroupM noted in the report that it wasn’t able to accurately measure TV’s online distribution, so those numbers were “lost in that online aggregate.”

The report likened the rise of digital ad expenditures to that of global e-commerce spend, which it also sees jumping considerably in 2018. Based off the 35 countries that supplied e-commerce totals for this study, GroupM predicts the dollars spent online to climb 15 percent to $2.4 billion in 2018 from $2.1 billion last year.

This is also the first time GroupM predicts e-commerce shopping to “grow notably faster” than Internet usership, which is estimated to climb 4 percent in 2018, compared to 6 percent in 2017.

Across the 35 reporting countries, the network estimates 47 percent of all online display investment to be transacted programmatically in 2018, from 44 percent in 2017 and just 31 percent in 2016.

GroupM’s research also touched on which of the hot-button issues around emerging tech are really top of mind for marketers, according to employees surveyed within its WPP network. For example, respondents described blockchain as a “slow, clunky and expensive” tool they don’t see as practical just yet.

“Blockchain’s main attraction is its distributed ledger, which tells everyone everything and thus presents the opportunity to reduce inefficiency or cheating,” Adam Smith, GroupM Futures director, said in a statement. “However, its Achilles’ heel is the need to keep every participating computer updated with everything all the time, and that’s too slow for a real-time world.”

The study’s respondents within GroupM reported improved development around AI and data use, although they admitted the need for further improvement on the latter. Those respondents brushed off the threat of clients in-housing their work, saying that it’s “more often talked about than done.” GroupM employees surveyed “reported [more] hybrid arrangements” than full in-house operations, “with clients often happy to take on strategy but leave risky and expensive execution to agencies.”

Clients are hiring more digital staff in-house and leaning more on specialist agencies than generalists, according to the study.

In a statement, GroupM global CEO Kelly Clark listed automation and talent as the “big themes in advertising’s current revolution.”

“One of the downsides of specialization is the increase in specialists who know more and more about less and less,” Clark said in the statement. “We have to use automation to liberate brand power so talented people can look across the entire media ecosystem to help clients optimize short-term results and create long-term value.”

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