Verizon VZ +0.3% announced earlier today in their Q. 2 earnings call with analysts and shareholders, that second-quarter revenue fell 5 percent to $30.4 billion. According to Verizon, this was largely because of “declines in wireless equipment revenue in the consumer and business segments, primarily due to limited in-store engagement and the impact of COVID-19 on customer behavior.” Earnings were up in Q.2 from $3.9 billion last year to $4.7 billion for Q. 2 this year.

Verizon said that they had net cancellations of 81,000 pay TV subscribers in the second quarter, which was an accelerating loss in comparison to the same quarter a year ago. In the first quarter of this year Verizon reported a loss of 84,000 pay TV consumers, almost exactly the same amount as this current quarter. Verizon, like other cable and satellite TV providers, have experienced cord-cutting substantially over the last few years and the cord-cutting behavior is still growing.

I conducted a national online study on cord-cutting in June of this year and the data shows even more households intending to cut their pay TV offerings. Many of the cord-cutters have, or will soon buy, Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) services, like Netflix NFLX +0.6% and Disney Plus, but the traditional full-package cable and satellite providers are suffering from continuing consumer cancellations. Most recently, I saw 8% of pay TV subscribers indicate that they were “very likely” to cut the cord in the U.S. in the next 12 months. In the coveted demographic of 18 to 34 year old consumers, 17% percent said they were very likely to cut the cord which is twice the rate of the U.S. general population. It is not surprising that the 55 and older population are the least likely to say they will cut the cord.

Verizon, and their competitors in the cable and satellite content delivery service business, have suffered for many quarters with consumer cancellations and reductions in their pay TV service. Much of this has been driven by the attractive offerings from the SVOD services, as well as the Free Advertising-supported VOD services, like Pluto and Tubi.

According to a recent report from Goldman Sachs’ lead media analyst Brett Feldman, Cord-cutting is not new, but it is materially accelerating. At an industry level, pay-TV subscribers have declined on a year over year basis every quarter for the last eight years from a peak of 101 million in 1Q12 to 89 million in 1Q20. This represents an aggregate decline of 11% in household penetration (from 88% to 75%) during this period. While this implies modest annual subscriber declines of only 1-2%, we note that over 50% of these subscriber losses have occurred during the last 12 months, with 1Q20 being the worst-ever quarter of cord-cutting. We believe these pressures on the overall pay-TV market are intensifying.”

Verizon reported that 10,000 new net customers were acquired for their internet access service in Q. 2, which was a smaller growth rate than the 59,000 new internet subscribers signed-up in Q. 1. To a large extent the future success of cable/satellite providers rests with their internet access offerings and related services, as well as “skinny bundles,” which are a smaller selection of channels than the traditional pay TV packages.

Verizon Media, which includes Yahoo and AOL, had revenues of $1.4 billion this quarter, almost 25% below Q. 2 last year. These internet units are largely supported by advertising, and many advertisers have cut back or eliminated advertising expendituresdue to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even with more consumers at home consuming more TV and internet content, the traditional cable and satellite TV companies have major challenges with their current pay TV subscription offerings.

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Originally Posted on Forbes

We are now in the very heart of the summer movie extravaganza – at least that would have been true in past summers. But now, across America movie theatres are closed, openings are being pushed back and films are languishing unreleased or pushed out of the in-theatre queue to be released digitally. The Covid-19 pandemic has almost entirely shut down the film industry worldwide.

Despite the massive economic and safety challenges for movie makers and for film attenders, Screen Engine/ASI, a growing movie, TV, digital and entertainment research and strategy company based in Los Angeles, has announced the launch of a new digital, Internet-based product providing a promotional marketing tool for film, TV and video production companies in the era of a stay-at-home society.

Traditionally, movie companies have used “test” screenings and “buzz” screenings to assure the quality of the movies and to create excitement around the upcoming launch of the movies, particularly in key markets. Now, of course, the studios have lost their access to the movie theatres where traditionally hundreds of thousands of consumers have gathered annually to watch movies free for testing or marketing purposes.

Screen Engine/ASI has released the “Virtual Screening Room” so movie and TV studios can still host “word-of-mouth screenings” and create buzz for upcoming movies, but safely and remotely in movie fans’ homes.

Running these promotional screenings online, vs. inside the confines of a theatre, however, raises worries about security, particularly the pirating or copying of films before they are released. The Virtual Screening Room has been designed to provide security safeguards against such problems, according to Screen Engine/ASI.

Andrew Ly, founder of ticktBox, which was bought by Screen Engine/ASI last year said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “We’ve built a one of a kind cross promotional and marketing platform for studios to run their promotional screenings all within one suite in response to the social changes resulting from the virus outbreak, while eliminating the health concerns of attendees being physically present.” Ly said the new product from Screen Engine/ASI will be used by a number of studios to aid their film marketing, including a premium video-on-demand title coming out later this summer.

TicktBox’s parent company Screen Engine, is one of Hollywood’s leading research and data firms, and is backed by the prominent NYC-based private equity firm, The Wicks Group. Screen Engine has been hiring numerous big names from the TV and movie industries to drive their expansion, including the hiring of Bruce Friend, as Chief Product and Innovation Officerlast year, who has lead numerous research companies, as well as being the executive in charge of research at a number of big studios. Screen Engine also quietly hired the former head of TV station research and consulting at Magid Associates, Steve Ridge, to expand Screen Engine’s work with TV stations. A source who asked to remain anonymous, said that the appointment will be formally announced in the weeks ahead, along with key new clients.

Kevin Goetz, Founder and CEO, Screen Engine/ASI, in an exclusive interview with me, said that he has been building a firm “with the best minds and connections in the industry.” He went to say. “I am thrilled to lead the launch of our groundbreaking virtual, word-of-mouth geographic targeting for entertainment marketing. Our goal is to work with clients and their agencies to optimize their marketing spend by ensuring they are targeting and reaching audiences that are most likely to drive positive word-of-mouth, and in turn, realize full market potential for entertainment IP. In the next few months, our new market targeting solution will expand to allow clients to build customized targets for specific genres and franchises.”

William Shatner, one of the great icon pop culture figures of our time, from Star Trek to pitching Internet company, Priceline, once said, “I love to go to a movie, get a Diet Coke and a barrel of popcorn.” We will be waiting to see if the movie industry can send us all popcorn (buttered or not as you please) alongside our digital content.

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Originally Posted on Forbes

Tencent, the huge Chinese-based, worldwide gaming (Riot, Supercell) and messenger/social media (WeChat) digital company has undertaken new initiatives in the important, growing area of digital video.

Tencent recently announced their purchase of a Malaysian video streaming platform, iflix’s content, technology, and resources. It was also revealed very recently by Bloomberg that Tencent has launched trovo.live in the U.S. the beta “testing” stage, which is very common with digital products. When you checkout trovo it is very similar to Twitch, the livestreaming video, esports and multiplayer games-oriented, video streaming service bought by Amazon in 2014 for reportedly just short of $1 billion.

Tencent also recently paid $263M for a controlling stake in Huya, the Twitch of China. Further demonstrating Tencent’s commitment to digital video, Tencent owns a video subscription service, Tencent Video, with over 110 million subscribers in China.  

In regard to the Malaysian video streaming acquisition, James Mitchell, the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of Tencent said in an email interview with me, “Tencent has purchased iflix’s content, technology and resources. This is in line with our strategy to expand our international streaming platform, WeTV, across Southeast Asia and to provide our users with international, local and original high-quality content in a wide range of genres and languages.” 

Mitchell went on to say, “We are committed to invest in the growth of the OTT industry in the

Southeast Asia region. The growing adoption of mobile devices has resulted in increased internet users and their access to OTT content. SEA’s OTT market shows a robust trend where the region is experiencing an explosion of viewership. The purchase comprises a strong local network across emerging markets in Southeast Asia (not only Malaysia) with a wide and compelling selection of video content such as TV shows, movies and local originals, to stream or download, on any Internet-connected device. Through the purchase, WeTV, will further extend our presence in the video streaming industry across Southeast Asia, to reach a broader audience base within the region and to better serve our users with better viewing experience.”

It should be noted that both China’s huge video streaming service, iQIYI IQ -2.1%and Netflix operate in Southeast Asia. Even more interesting are the rumors that Tencent was very recently looking to buy a large piece of iQIYI, which was originally spun out of Baidu BIDU -2.4% (the giant search engine of China) Baidu still owns a majority of iQIYI’s stock.

Malaysia is an important country, particularly in Southeast Asia. Malaysia is the 45th largest country in the world and has the 25th highest GDP. Overall population across Southeast Asia exceeds 650 million people. The countries in Southeast Asia are growing in Internet and smartphone penetration rapidly which is providing many business opportunities in the media and technology areas in that region.

None of the reports of the deal gave a value for the iflix transaction. Reportedly iflix was valued at $1 billion in 2019 when they were considering an IPO in Australia. Variety reported that the Tencent/iflix deal was only several tens of millions in US dollars which reflects the problems that iflix has been encountering in terms of financing and in terms of tough competition.

In real estate it is often said valuation is based on “location, location, location”, Tencent seems to believe that their continued spectacular success will be based on “video, video, video.”

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In the old days, we talked about all the new things in TV – color, remote controls, cable – the world was our oyster in TV viewing. But there was no Internet then and there were no connected TV sets back then. How did we live without those? Now two-thirds of the US, with access to the Internet, connect their TV to the Internet in one way or another.

One of the predominant ways that people connect their TV to the Internet is thru Smart TVs which are traditional TVs with full Web and Internet connectivity and interactivity. You can watch a “regular” TV show from broadcast or cable outlets, or you can watch YouTube or look at Facebook or watch Netflix NFLX, all on your Smart TV. As Dave Morgan, a long-time advertising expert and the Founder/CEO of Simulmedia, a television advertising technology company based in NYC, said, “Connected TV is a big tablet.”

The current pandemic is giving people a lot of time for a wide variety of activities (if they aren’t busy working or schooling their kids) such as watching TV, including their Connected or Smart TVs. Alphonso, a TV measurement and data company based in Silicon Valley, issued a study recently looking at Web traffic attributed to viewing of Over-the-Top (OTT) content, which is traditional TV content delivered over the Internet not through broadcast or cable. Much of the OTT content is distributed through Connected and Smart TVs.

Below is a chart that shows visits to Websites promoted by advertisers on OTT content climbing dramatically as the country began to “stay at home.” This was analyzed across eight different industry sectors.

This sort of data will certainly encourage more brands and agencies to purchase advertising inventory on OTT and Connected TV. This data is evidence that OTT content is a viable vehicle for building brands.

Allen Bush, the CMO of Alphonso, commented on the future of advertising on Connected TV programming, “Connected TV advertising is still a small fraction of overall TV spend today. Advances in measurement will help double that spend over the next few years as more brands find the right balance between performance marketing and brand marketing.”

Bush explained the increase in Website traffic due to OTT advertising, saying, “In addition to more streaming content being consumed by more households, there’s the simple fact that people are more likely now to do things online (since they can’t go) to at a brick and mortar location.” Alphonso data below shows the huge growth of OTT viewership since the lock-down.

An early proponent of Connected TV and OTT content is Christy Tanner, Executive Vice President and General Manager of CBS News Digital. CBSN, the 24-hour streaming service of CBS News, has allowed CBS “to deliver critical and timely information during this crisis,” Tanner said. She went on to say that she expects the growth of streaming audiences, consuming OTT on Connected TVs, will continue “at a rapid pace.”

It use to be that people said, “I want my MTV.” Now the data suggests that people are just as strongly demanding their OTT content and their Connected TVs.

Originally posted on Forbes.com

Give me a penny for your thoughts, but trillions of pennies for your video. Once again big money is being paid for a free TV service, Tubi TV, this time. A few months ago Pluto sold for big money to Viacom. Now Tubi has sold to Fox (Fox is now made up of TV stations, cable assets, newspapers, and some digital properties after the rest of Fox was sold to Disney). Reportedly, Fox paid over $400 million for Tubi.

Unlike Netflix or Disney+, Tubi, Pluto and others are free services (or advertising supported as we like to say) or AVOD (Advertising Supported Video on Demand). Through these companies you can watch a plethora of tv shows, movies and other content. All free. All the time.

According to my research, conducted in the summer of last year, Pluto and Tubi was being used by about the same numbers of Americans (approx 6% of the majority of Americans that watch online video at least once a week or more). Another AVOD service, Xumo TV, was purchased by Comcast recently. My research shows that about half the number of people that watch Tubi, watch Xumo.

When you look at this data, you must ask the question, when (or if) will Crackle be bought? This service was started as Grouper many years ago and bought by Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2006. Sony recently sold a majority of Crackle to CSS Entertainment and they are working together on video offerings. Time will tell if Sony and CSS will sell Crackle to another major media conglomerate. What other companies among the AVOD services will also be sold?

1.   Unity will be a very big, and successful tech IPO in 2020.

2.   Home voice platforms will move toward ubiquity in the U.S. and many more services, content, gaming and other features will be offered through voice platforms.

3.   The “no code movement” will prosper in 2020. New tools enable the average consumer to make an app, game, or other software using creator tools from companies like AppOnboard, Roblox, Tongal, etc.

4.   The App Stores will encounter more competition from other companies as we have seen with Steam, Epic, etc. This year will be the beginning of the Post-App Store competition for Apple and Google.

5.   Everybody coming out of high school and college wants to be a start-up CEO.

6.   The best days are beyond for Netflix. They will see big challenges in 2020 from a wide variety of TV and film like content, including Disney+ who will be the SVOD winner in 2020.

7.   Snap will continue to dominate the social media usage of teens and young adults in the U.S. and other high-value countries.

8.   Cord cutting will continue to grow driving skinny bundles, SVOD, AVOD, and other digital content.

9.   The Internet and the Web are all about video. People don’t want to write, but they love pictures and video. The Web will be the strongest video platform ever. And the phone becomes both a camera and a TV with more video content being consumed on smartphones.

10. 5G will present amazing mobile opportunities for publishers and consumers. The phone will become increasingly central to the production and consumption of video and other content. 5G will be a game changer, especially in markets where traditional IP connections are slow.

11. AI will be central to most big data problems, prediction solutions, discovery solutions, and management decision. AI will be proven to be big business that delivers value now.

12. Tech and media companies will be challenged by the US, European and other government efforts to control data privacy and protect consumers from fraud and privacy breaches. Efforts will grow to break-up Facebook, Google, etc.

Originally Posted on Forbes.com

CBS has made video streaming a major priority for their content distribution. CBS All Access is providing extensive SVOD streaming content to viewers. CBSN is the 24 hour a day news service that is ready to stream content nationally and locally at a moment’s notice. CBSN reports over one million streams a day on average. CBSN reports that for special events and exclusive content they often have more than 2 million streams. For some events and breaking news, they have exceeded that number considerably. For instance, in the last Presidential election, over three years ago, a few million people watched live one of the Presidential debates on CBSN. Many of the CBSN viewers are Millennial and younger users who have embraced their Connected TV and other connected devices (console, mobile phone, PC) to watch content like CBSN whenever they want, wherever they want. CBSN reports that they support over 20 different connected devices for streaming video.

 

CBSN has announced that they have a major commitment to providing local versions of CBSN as part of their “Local Matters” strategy, which is regularly covering local campaigns across the country during this election cycle. Christy Tanner, Executive Vice President and General Manager of CBS News Digital, says that TV news viewers are “hungry to understand what is going on at the local level”. CBSN is one of the key streaming assets of CBS and is managed by Ms. Tanner, in addition to other parts of CBS New Digital.

CBS owns and operates 13 major local TV stations across the U.S., in addition to the many affiliates of CBS. In four of those markets (New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco, the service is already launched and supported by the platform developed by CBSN. The local service of CBSN will be live in the remaining nine owned and operated CBS TV stations in the first half of 2020.

CBS is showing its commitment to streaming video with their investment of time and money into CBSN. As Ms. Tanner said, the “local TV stations are committed to CBSN and will help us achieve success by driving awareness and sampling among their local viewers.”