Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Oscars, Roku and the BBC - Revealing the future of TV

It's been another fast-paced week in the digital video and second screen industries.  While the OTT video world is still reeling from the previous week's announced Disney Movies Anywhere service (a serious threat to UltraViolet) and Marvel's announcement of an exclusive output deal with Netflix (continuing to threaten HBO), second screen took a shot in the arm from the Oscars, and Roku mounted an attack on Chromecast.  At a glance:

  • "Watch ABC" did Second Screen for the Oscars "right"
  • Ellen broke Twitter
  • Roku announced their "streaming stick" device
  • Dish struck a deal with Disney to delay commercial skips
  • FreeWheel was acquired by Comcast
  • The BBC announced the death of analog for it's Channel 3 service
  • An Aereo lost its court battle in Salt Lake City and Denver

Despite January's negative press about second screen and social TV, the Oscar's continued to propel both industries forward (as it has every year), with a shining example of how second screen apps should be built AND the most engaging social activity for a first screen experience ever.  ABC helped to solidify the "convergence trend" in second screen of viewing and companion experiences coming together by killing off its separate app that was required in 2012 and 2013 and integrating the enhanced viewing experience into its "Watch ABC" viewing app.  Upon opening the Watch ABC app on Sunday, you were presented with an option to go "Backstage" (sponsored by Samsung Galaxy) where a number of companion experiences were available from the ability to share in Facebook and Twitter, see photos and video clips of the arriving stars, and entire live camera feeds of different locations along the red carpet.  And yes, of course, the ability just to watch the broadcast feed itself (which unfortunately broke just as the awards show got underway).

Ellen took the social side of second screen to new heights by live tweeting throughout the performance, creating a new world record with the now famous selfie of stars centered around Meryl Streep (taken by Bradley Cooper).  IF anyone is still questioning the power of social media and its ability to engage TV audiences in real-time and in the days that follow, they only need to go check out the retweet traffic from that event--which gained momentum on Monday as those who missed the live showing were suddenly engaged from their social networks.  More than 3 million retweets in the first 24 hours.  And so much in the first few minutes of the selfie, that Twitter itself "broke" for a few minutes as their API servers buckled under the deluge of real-time SocialTV.

Roku took a page from Chromecast and the DIAL protocol and announced its next generation device (another HDMI stick), but took on some of the short comings with Chromecast by adding a remote and making all of its services available in an interface on the main screen.  For second screen, this is further evidence that Control and Discovery are not only inextricably linked to the 2nd Screen itself, but that the DIAL protocol is the most likely candidate for driving both adoption of the ease of use it can present via Control and the ease of development integration it can offer Enhanced second screen experience providers from their native viewing apps.  Stick with me here for a second: the announced device claims it will "cast" Netflix and YouTube out of the box.  Keep in mind here that similar to Chromecast, those hooks are "built in" to Netflix and YouTube via DIAL.  So, the other apps will quickly follow (as they did with Chromecast), creating another viewing ecosystem that allows the fast adaptation of converged second screen companion experiences.  Watch this space closely and expect great user experiences from the apps consumers already use every day (my guess is MLB and ESPN will be first on the scene with something dazzling -- only because its too late for March Madness to harness it this year).

In a very interesting move, Dish struck a trade with Disney agreeing to "delay" the commercial skipping capability until after Nielsen C3 ratings expire on their shows in exchange for the rights to stream ABC channels direct to consumers (not TV Everywhere, but Video Anywhere, to quote Ran Harnevo from AOL).  As Dish is by far the industry leader in the Pay TV Operating space when it comes to second screen (led by Jimshade Chaudhari), I would expect a number of converged experiences to be delivered directly out of their flagship DISH Explorer app as soon as they are able to access those streams.

FreeWheel was acquired by Comcast this week.  If you don't know them, they are an ad decision server that has been helping a large majority of Tier-1 TV networks to dynamically deliver ads to their streamed on-line video experiences (which means highly targeted ads resulting in higher CPMs).  Comcast already owns the Platform and the two-combined capabilities could be a powerful force in the TV Everywhere and Ad Supported Video markets.  This is a big deal for second screen because monetization largely hinges on the ability for the app publisher to be able to deliver lucrative in-line video ads to the consumer during converged viewing/companion experiences.  Worried about the potential powerhouse Comcast already is?  Not to worry as Google's DFP Premium product continues to gain momentum in the industry, combining the ability to manage companion ads (display) and in-line video ads in the same campaign tool.

The BBC announced the end of analog broadcast for Channel 3, but more importantly the birth of its on-line linear channel experience.  Not dissimilar to Disney's efforts in Germany, the BBC plans to continue to offer the programming in a linear IP-feed with 7-day catchup VOD in the iPlayer experience.  Now this is truly the future of TV happening right in front of us.  Some day, major brands will launch "virtual" channels around holidays and events that offer attractive programming both in a lean back experience (as we know and love our TV) and as a more selective VOD experience.  Did I lose you?  Imagine during the Christmas holiday season, Nickelodeon or Amazon launch a linear IP channel of programming (new title in their app) that streams Christmas movies aimed at certain ages or themes from middle of November until the 2nd of January, complete with those same titles being available individually for VOD through some appropriately designed UI along side the linear channel itself.  Or for FIFA to create country themed channels about all of the major players and teams in the world cup, streaming to fans as the build-up in the competition heads to the championship.  Accessing those virtual channels on your smartphone or tablet will be the norm, with individual programs available on demand (and promoted in Twitter in their Video Card feature).

Finally, Aereo took a stiff arm from the courts this week as it lost 2 battles for its services in Denver and Salt Lake City.  As the industry watches the looming April 22nd Supreme Court date approach, the debate about potential outcomes will intensify.  If Aereo is successful, it will very likely mean the beginning of the end for the $4B retransmission fee market in the U.S., which could very likely result in the major TV networks going directly after those Aereo consumers with ad supported products of their own (have you noticed you can't find Fox, NBC, CBS or ABC easily available on your TV without some sort of authentication through your Pay TV provider?). In effect, "Video Anywhere" will be the resulting industry approach, with MSOs participating in the value chain through Tune-in incentives rather than the captured-authenticated TV Everywhere approach (where they prop up their subscription fees).  If Aereo loses, expect retransmission fees to increase and for authenticated TV Everywhere to be the winning approach, requiring TV networks to give Pay TV providers a bigger cut of the streamed shows' ad revenue as their strength as gatekeepers grows.  So an Aereo win = Video Anywhere while an Aereo loss = TV Everywhere.

A lot of change in a week.

Come join the conversation with the industry's leaders in Las Vegas at NAB's 2nd Screen Sunday on the afternoon of April 6th or find us on Twitter @S32Day or @ChuckParkerTech.

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