Posts tagged ‘television’

nab 2010

It’s the same old story
Same old song and dance, my friend
It’s the same old story
Same old song and dance, my friend

I love NAB, it is a great place to catch up with colleagues, see the new developments and occasionally stumble upon a seismic shift… but where is the really cool new stuff that is going to drive the industry back into high growth?

Is it 3D?

I don’t know, the jury is out, but the marketing folks and just about every booth rendered the 3D story in some respect. What I do know, is that there is only one company that I saw, that actually converted 2D to 3D – and it was good. It was in real-time, and it provides a really interesting path to monetizing ‘old, really long tail content’ and making it a new experience. I don’t promote companies or technologies in this blog, not my style, but if anyone is interested, drop me a line…

Is it ATSC M/H?

On April 9, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) threw its hat into the mobile TV broadcast ring with word that it has begun developing ATSC-M/H, an ATSC-backwards-compatible transmission system to reach mobile viewers via broadcast DTV transmissions. With ATSC-M/H, broadcasters can use their excess DTV broadcast bandwidth to provide new services directly to small hand-held receivers, laptop computers and moving vehicles. It all sounds great, and it will be – if a couple of things happen:

  1. Where are the handsets to drag a compelling business model? Can I get them at my local cell-phone store?
  2. Where is the content to drag the manufacturers to make the handsets to drag a compelling business model? Will the consumer really care about “yet another video service”…?
  3. How do you hand off from one broadcaster to another (like a mega cell)? Well, this problem has been solved technically and that is a seismic shift… problem, who gets the money in this multicast model?
  4. Will the telco’s have enough incentive to let this happen i.e. support a multi-protocol handset, with the vision that this will save precious unicast bandwidth from multicast-affinity content e.g. real-time news/sports?

It’s the economy?

Personally I perceived attendance was down. Floor-space was certainly down, with large curtained-off sections, and the registration are moved to fill hall space in a veiled attempt to prevent booths from rattling around in otherwise less than occupied halls. However, business activity was up… my friends and colleagues told me of a more qualified attendee, with a higher likelihood of decision-making authority, and there was certainly many discussions covering pent-up demand and a perceived relaxation of previously frozen budgetary constraints.

It was a good show. Tiring as usual, but as is so often the case, the same stuff re-packaged differently.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

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April 15, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

a shot in the arm?

I can still remember
It wasn’t long ago.
Things you used to tell me,
You said I had to know.

On October 28th, 2009 the Wall Street Journal featured an article in the business section titled FCC Considers Shifting Some TV Airwaves to Broadband. In it, the author Amy Schatz, reported that “Federal regulators are considering taking back some airwaves from television broadcasters and auctioning them off to wireless companies to increase the availability of wireless broadband services.”

The proposal suggests that some of the bandwidth allocated to broadcasters may be rescinded in order to sustain the presumably rapid growth of mobile bandwidth demands.

Where does that leave the interested parties?

As a broadcaster, how would I justify the very recent investment of capital into infrastructure to deliver DTV (both HD and SD). It has cost money in an environment where the value of broadcast advertising is being seriously questioned. As a cable or satellite service provider it may mean more customers, but who’s going to pay for local content acquisition and long haul/uplink?

As a consumer, I have in some cases reluctantly acquired a new expensive TV or have been provided with a subsidized converter box in order to receive the free to air signals mandated and administered by the authorities.

So, where would the audience go? Would it migrate to broadband and pay for what used to be free-to-air? In a paid broadband environment, what would be the role of government authorities like the FCC? Would different standards apply to what used to be free-to-air and paid channels? Who would subsidize the connection costs? What does it do to the concept of the public commons?

Clearly, this would add even more confusion to the already vague business models. Many, many more questions come to mind.

Whatever happens, you can be sure that regardless of the transport layer, digital content will be delivered via IP. Even content that would be sent over the reclaimed spectrum will eventually be delivered via IP (think 4G). Seems like regardless of the decision, IP delivery of content marches inexorably onwards… A shot in the arm for IPTV?

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

November 5, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

the seven pillars of media

And I see things
That no one would ever glimpse
As your eyes roll back
And the real party begins
And I feel things
That I’m not supposed to feel
As I reassure myself
That I’m nothing but a jewel upon your crown

This week I discuss a new tool that I have developed in exploring mediums. It enables classification of mediums from both the perspective of consumers as well as that of the business and marketplace. I have called it the 7 pillars, because I am unashamedly trading off T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and the themes of change, challenge and sustainability contained therein.

This framework contains seven pillars which support the media business and is weighted to look at things from a consumer perspective. Why? In the end, media is about the consumer, the audiences, demographics and psychometrics to which the consumer belongs, to their purchasing power and their consequent aggregated ability to endorse or demote marketplace media preferences.

Back in April, 2009 in why target, I made reference to the fact that consumers have three things to trade with a media company:

  1. Privacy (P) – by identifying their attributes, consumers add value by enabling the medium to build monetization cases by clearly measuring and demonstrating value to purchasers of advertising and sellers of content.
  2. Money ($) – either directly through paid subscriptions or subsidies, or indirectly through purchasing advertised content, goods and services.
  3. Time (T) – the amount of time that they spend with the medium and thus building equity in the audiences that are subsequently monetized.

Each of these are shown in the table below…

Consumer Dimensions

Business Attributes

I have started mapping these attributes across clusters of similar mediums, and present TV mediums as the first in this series.

The Lounge room TV experience

Clearly displayed is the technical dominance of and consumer potential that IPTV promises as a medium. However, being better does not count too much if you don’t have market share, and this is where the traditional players of cable, satellite and terrestrial TV shine. Note that IPTV encapsulates my thinking on both walled-garden as well as Over The Top, but in all cases, this is the ‘lounge-room’ experience.

Each of these mediums displays a footprint that broadly reflects the ongoing business model viability ‘at present’. It shows comparative capabilities and offers a quick visual to suggest potential areas of competitive improvement.

It is not perfect, but it does provide a very useful discussion tool, a common language for dialog and a real way to connect with the customer who is now driving the business.

I have analyzed all mediums in greater detail, and explained my justification for the scoring. These scores will be updated each quarter with new observations, press coverage and anecdotal information.

Change is certain, but guessing the future is still very precarious – especially in the media business. As stated by Edgar R. Fiedler “He who lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass.”

Nonetheless, it is a tool that hopefully you’ll find useful.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

October 29, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

significance of social media

So anytime somebody needs ya
don’t let them down, although it grieves ya
Someday you’ll need someone like they do
lookin’ for what you knew

Recently, actually on August 25, 2009, the Wall Street Journal featured an article entitled How Facebook Ruins Friendships.

Bertolt Brecht, the influential German poet, playwright, and theatre director is quoted as saying that “Society cannot share a common communication system so long as it is split into warring factions.”

How do we reconcile this in this age of mobile networks? A common communication system is the technology platform of social media, it does support many groups or what could be potentially ‘warring factions.’

I believe that Brecht was really referring to the commonality of human interaction, not the mechanism, very much contrary to Marshall McLuhan’s “The medium is the message”. It’s a matter of perspective and application.

Today’s Technorati, enamored with the medium, are really not focusing on the power of the message. But, perhaps I’m being unfair, their job is about designing and perfecting the medium. It is our (i.e. the user’s) responsibility to ensure that message remains relevant. Perhaps this is the fascination of social media, each person’s message having relevance in that moment. Perhaps it is the antidote to T. S. Eliot’s observations that “Television is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.”

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

October 8, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

financial signs of change?

Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign

A short post this week, not because of anything other than a sobering analysis posted by Neilsen in the last few days. I wanted to share with you a graphic that I think says a lot.

TV is still the dominant medium, and on average has actually not lost as much as the rest.

spendingbymedium-090709

Although it has often been said that reduction of discretionary spending in terms of marketing dollars leads the onset of financial recessions, and a corresponding increase lags financial recovery, we need to remember that the mediums in many cases rely on Ad spend to support (or be) their business models. Why is cable doing fine whereas the rest not so well? Cross-subsidies from subscriptions? I’d like to know.

Media is not dying but existing business models are clearly under stress. The current financial crisis is only amplifying the underlying trend. However, the allocation of monies across mediums is continuining to changing in response to new economic climes – as it has always done.

People are increasingly watching more TV, in addition to their other media-related activities.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

September 10, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

web video finally in the lounge room?

They took the credit for your second symphony.
Rewritten by machine and new technology,
and now I understand the problems you can see.

Perhaps video is killing the TV star as well.

Now before I start, let me make it perfectly clear that I am not paid by or affiliated in anyway by any of the businesses mentioned in this blog.

Recently I had noticed that my children no longer watch TV. Sure, the TV plays, but most of the time they are multi-tasking with their laptops and cell phones and pay little attention to the big screen. Aware of this, I started to assess my own viewing habits. As it turned out, my wife and I, really enjoy only one particular ‘must see’ program on TV. It is available on free to air. Should I miss it, then I can get it on Hulu or download it from iTunes.

This got me thinking.

I pay $73 per month for “over 200 channels” of premium content. This is generally supplemented with about $20/month on videos because those 200+ channels hardly have any real content, a large percentage of them are music channels anyway!

Looking at my latest BlueRay player, I discovered a Netflix connection. It also had a Pandora interface. Hmmm. For an investment of $9/month from Netflix and plugging my BlueRay into my home LAN, coupled with my HD free to air broadcast, I could get better, more diverse, and more controlled entertainment than the swill fed to me by my content provider. Oh, and those music channels – replaced with Pandora – my playlists, not my service provider’s.

Net result? A savings of about $1000/per year, all the content that I want and the quality is really very good. The content selection exceeds that which I’d get from any additional premium channels. And, anything that I cannot stream, I can get on DVD within a day or so. I am much happier for no longer having to suffer through the over compressed, over-hyped, over-packaged and over-researched scheduled content that is offered to me ‘as a great value bundle’.  The only ads I see are those on local broadcast TV. Not only that, but my entire family can select content and put it onto our playlist from wherever there is a web connection. Not bad.

Little did I know I was already a statistic. As stated in the Pew Internet Project Home Broadband Adoption 2009,

overall, 22% of American adults say they have cut back on their cable or television services over the course of the past 12 months. That compares to just 9% who have cut back on their internet service. Those who have canceled or cut back on cable and TV services are more likely to have their online video viewing to their television screen. Among this economizing group of online video viewers, 32% have connected their computer to their TV screen to watch internet video.

If you believe TDG “Web-Only Video Programming Heading for the Home TV…Finally”, we seem to have reached a tipping point and that over the top video in the lounge room is not only quite possible, but actually starting to acquire momentum.

I seem to remember that when cable first appeared, it had the value proposition of being able to provide good signal quality and more channels. It had value and we paid. Now that we can get great content, at great quality for modest pricing, or free, why would you pay?

I think that the telcos and IPTV have a real shot at riding this curve… provide bandwidth, provide services in the form of IT applications, work with the local broadcasters and make it affordable. That’s the secret.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

Oh, and my family? When we decide to watch a movie together, we’re engaged… Why? Because it is something we want to watch, not just something that happens to be on… more is not better – better is better. I now spend less time in front of the TV screen, but the time I’m there, it’s planned, attentive and enjoyable.

August 6, 2009 at 1:00 am 2 comments

lights in their eyes

One of these mornings the chain is gonna break
But up until then, yeah, I’m gonna take all I can take
Chain, chain, chain, chain, chain, chain
Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools

There has been so much lately about the inevitable demise of TV and the obvious comparisons to where the newspaper industry was about five years ago: in denial.

I don’t think it’s denial, I think it’s the paralyzing strategy of hope.

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy

The TV business went digital. They have converted. They also replaced their entire workflow with computers. However, if you really look closely, they digitized their production with non-linear editors, they digitized their distribution with digital transmission and in between, they replaced those analog black-boxes with new shiny black-boxes with digital chips – but those boxes still do the same old stuff.

In fact, this is a metaphor for the entire business. Replace the shiny outside with a thin veneer of digital, but keep the same business model. Anyone see something wrong with this?

Why the inertia? It didn’t work for music and it hasn’t worked for newspapers – why would TV be the exception?

Do you honestly think that the industry would have changed to digital without a forced mandate? Why spend the money?

Internet-based models generate only a tiny fraction of the revenue and profit of today’s TV business. As internet-based models grow, most TV incumbents will not sustain their current media inflation models, and they will longer be able to support their existing cost structures. As I’ve said before, they won’t necessarily go away, just the amount of money and investment will change, as will their relevance. TV will simply be ‘outgrown’ by the competition. So, they need to become their own competition – and quickly!

I think it all comes down to a willingness to learn. Nothing creates change more quickly or effectively than a crisis. No crisis, no change. If you’re prescient you’re ahead of the curve. If you miss the tipping point, you’re toast.

As long as the revenue and profits bear some semblance of days past, the big TV companies don’t really care. With typical business aplomb sanctified by the quarterly blessings of Wall Street, there is no incentive to consider the long-term position. Just clench your teeth and hope that it doesn’t blow up until your get your package and have moved on. There is no incentive to learn, no incentive to invest and no incentive to change… (just look at the US car industry for how well it learned its lessons from 1973).

…and if you don’t learn, or cannot learn, then you don’t stand a chance. You may not get it right, but at least you won’t be standing in the middle of the road with dangerous lights shining in your eyes. You’ll jump one way or another to your next opportunity. If you’re any good at what you do, and if you learn, your odds of jumping to safety are better than doing nothing.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

July 9, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

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