Category Archives: Broadband

Broadcast, Broadband, and OTT

ott

Last week the Pew Research Center published its findings on Americans’ broadband consumption. The tectonic plates defining the digital divide have shifted somewhat over the past year.

..home broadband adoption seems to have plateaued. It now stands at 67% of Americans, down slightly from 70% in 2013, a small but statistically significant difference which could represent a blip or might be a more prolonged reality. This change moves home broadband adoption to where it was in 2012.

This trend has accompanied an uptick in Americans whose only broadband access is delivered via smartphone. The Pew article goes on to note pertinent demographic trends as well.

  • People still overwhelmingly prefer to watch video content on a larger screen through a standard in-home broadband connection when possible.
  • A significant proportion of smartphone-only access people cite cost as the major reason they do not have a home broadband connection

This portends several possible outcomes.

  1. Some people will shift viewing from traditional cable and OTT to IP-delivered content over LTE.
  2. These customers will often face data limits imposed by carriers, excepting the T-mobile binge plan.
  3. The LTE-only demographic may be less desirable to advertisers than other OTT viewers, and may cause content distributors to shy from advertising models to paid subscriptions when accessed via LTE.

The study also counts 15% of Americans as “cord cutters.” Not surprisingly, this market segment skews young, so it’s reasonable to assume the cord cutting trend to accelerate as the millennials start their own households. Hold that thought.

Broadcast trends

Some have spoken about the consolidation in the broadcast industry as a parallel to what happened around the turn of of the century in the newspaper business. That’s an over simplification. Broadcasters have one significant business advantage over their print media counterparts. They hold licenses for access to a very valuable and finite resource, spectrum. Local broadcasters have also fared better than print brethren at stemming the tide of disintermediation by the Internet. Broadcast TV, even when delivered via cable, is less expensive to the consumer than streaming services on a per minute basis. Further, broadcasters have done a very good job of maintaining their brands on the Internet, breaking the story online and adding depth (to the extent one can in two minutes thirty seconds or less) on air at 6 PM.

Rather than a pure play for synergies and operational efficiency, broadcast consolidation in the US is mostly a spectrum grab. Now that the FCC is planning the first Incentive Auction permitting channel sharing among broadcasters and wireless Internet providers, that spectrum is only likely to go up in value.

Make no mistake. The broadcast industry is experiencing a sea change. Less emphasis will be placed on traditional broadcast operations with more emphasis on multi-platform distribution. Everyone participating in the value chain will need to adapt.

The irony is that although more bandwidth will be available to consumers for broadband, enabling them to cut the cord, less over the air content will be there for free.

 

Has consumer cloud-based editing arrived?

Recently I was sent a link to an article about JayCut.com. Because I work for a publicly traded company that develops non-linear editors of both the executable and cloud-based kind, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to get into the specifics of any vendor’s software design or business model. Anyone who saw Avid’s web-based editing demo at NAB or last May’s Editors Lounge has seen Avid’s vision of what editing in the cloud can be.

Long before taking up NLE design as a vocation I was enamored with the idea true “online” editing. Years ago I was a fan of JumpCut — the online editor eventually bought, then shuttered by Yahoo!

JayCut UI

JayCut's UI is similar to those of consumer-facing online editors before it. Is its fate going to be similar too?

If Yahoo! couldn’t jump start JumpCut, what would make a someone attempt a consumer-facing web-based NLE again? The world has changed a lot since 2006 when I first encountered JumpCut. Here are just a few of the shifts that might make a consumer-facing NLE viable.

  • Smart phones are the new camcorder. Nearly everyone under 35 has a phone capable of recording video. Assuming an unlimited data plan, sending even large files to the cloud is a lot easier than waiting to get home and tethering the phone to a PC to download videos. (JayCut can only do this from Android phones currently.)
  • Facebook and YouTube are the de facto publishing platforms of the Millennials. They don’t make DVDs. They don’t even do email. If they want to edit their video, they will want to do it where their video lives.
  • Cisco with its Flip cameras and other online players are interested in consumer video to drive traffic and revenue. Linksys + Flip = Lots of Cisco hardware being sold to ISPs.

Unlike JumpCut, JayCut is not a pure consumer play. It offering includes video distribution software and services for business, differentiating itself from Brightcove somewhat as a tool for online collaboration. (Mashups with a more adult-sounding name.)

Also entering this space is Kaltura.com/.org — an open source online video editing and distribution platform with a nifty WordPress plug-in to boot. Kaltura will host your applications and content, and also allows for DIY on your own server. The Kaltura player also allows for collaboration. Blog admins can set permissions for user to add, comment, and edit videos embedded in a blog post.

Perhaps these tools are still ahead of their time. But if not 2010, when?

Not much there in Netflix deal

So Netflix is paying $1 billion to Epix for the rights to stream titles from Paramount Pictures, Lions Gate and MGM. This could have been a big deal, but it preserves the cable networks’ 18 month exclusivity window. At the end of the day the Roku box remains a gateway to sometimes good, but somewhat stale Hollywood fare.

HBO and friends live on for a few more years as they evolve their businesses. Cable companies can continue to force customers into bundles that lump four or five “movie” channels showing pretty much the same stuff. Do cable companies see their reign coming to an end, and are just cash cowing their existing business models? It’s clear the “movie” channels are weaning themselves from studio fare. They continue to expand their original programming efforts — and doing it quite well. But what about the cable companies? Beyond caller ID on my TV for the phone line no one in my family uses, we’re not seeing a lot of innovation from Comcast, Charter, and company.

A more disruptive deal from Netflix would have forced big cable’s hand. We’ll just have to wait until the next round of studio deals with distributors to expire.

Google gets in the man’s face

This morning while taking a shower I heard an interesting piece on NPR. The Obama stimulus plan included $7 billion to upgrade the nation’s broadband infrastructure. Looking back at FDR’s rural electrification program, what’s not to like? For one, a lot of applicants are applying from places that already have broadband access – they just don’t like how much it costs. That’s not in the spirit of this supporter’s backing of the program. But I digress. For as much as I don’t like the idea of parts of the nation geiting cheaper broadband before other parts of the nation get any, the more egregious behavior (as we’ve learned to expect) comes from the near monopolies who have chosen not to deliver broadband access to the outer reaches of their territories. Somehow this public option (and someone on the AM dial will call it such) is patently unfair.

Look, if the second most hated industry, the health insurance behemoths can get the very people they’ve spent the last couple of decades screwing to pile onto the street en masse to defend those insurance companies’ right to screw them. Why shouldn’t the most hated industry, the cable and phone companies stand up for their constitutional right to screw Americans? Surely Glenn Beck will rally the troops. Yep, the largest (and bankrupt) ISP in Maine, FairPoint is fighting rural broadband. I can just see it —  they get a bunch of folks storming the Augusta legislature demanding the socialists in Washington keep their paws of their cherished 56k connections.

Typically this is one of those stories where the outrage lasts all as long as a sound bite, but I was reminded of it reading this Times article. Google’s decided the Internet is too slow. Megabits? Who cares? We need at least a gigabit to the home.

First the company stands up to the Chinese Communists, then it prods the US telecom industry to deliver decent service. How about Larry Page and Sergey Brin run in 2012? Unlike most corporate weasels, Google doesn’t throw its money at lobbyists to plead their case in the halls of corruption and moral bankruptcy. Google spends its money proving its point in the real world.

In an interview, Richard S. Whitt, Google’s Washington telecommunications and media counsel, said Google did not see the test as a new business venture as an Internet service provider, but rather as an effort to push the industry into offering faster Internet access at lower cost.

“We are not getting into the I.S.P. or broadband business,” said Mr. Whitt, using the industry shorthand for Internet service provider. “This is a business model nudge and an innovation nudge.”

Whatever. Just keep sticking it to the man and we’re good. Now if only Google wanted to nudge the healthcare industry.

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