- There were 85 million social media comments during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- 18 million "Viggle Live" questions were answered during the Olympics
- While the iPad market share of tablets has dropped to a "mere" 65%, it is estimated that 91% of the tablet-based web traffic comes from the iPad--giving a strong indication of where the interactivity from consumers lies.
- The summer season final episode of Pretty Little Liars become the most social TV episode ever with 1.6 million episode related tweets, beating American Idol's May, 2012 record
- GetGlue surpassed 3 million users and Viggle surpassed 1 million users
- 70%+ (depending on whose data you believe) of tablet owners use a 2nd screen while watching TV...astonishing!
The Hype Cycle has been a great tool for discussing the adoption of everything in the technology world from concepts like the PC or smart phone to more complex challenges like â€śbig dataâ€ť. So, as we are about to gather at IBC this Saturday to passionately discuss our views about where the industry is headed, what the real challenges are, and where the opportunities lie for content creators and distributors, app developers and service providers, I thought I would lay out my own views of what is a â€śnascentâ€ť technology triggered feature for the consumer, which of those have reached the peak of inflated expectations, which are already slugging it out in the trough of disillusionment and which have graduated to the slope of enlightenment or have made their way already to the peak of productivity.
As theÂ UltraViolet academyÂ in London approaches to wake us out of our summer slumber and send us on to IBC, I sat discussing the onward march of digital video in today’s Top 20 ratings-driven world with some neighbors around the end of summer BBQs. Â There was a general view that most TV shows were available (in the US) on either HuluPlus or Netflix. Â While there was some discussion about network specific sites like ABC.com, HBO-GO and TV.com (CBS’ site) and some general understanding that there was content missing from HuluPlus and Netflix, most people felt like anything they were missing was probably available to purchase as a catch-up one-off show from iTunes or Vudu.
As I pondered this seemingly simple challenge, I though back to the end of May when I wrote aÂ blog about the current state of digital title availabilityÂ in the various service offerings (rental, sell-thru, subscription) and retailers (iTunes, Vudu, Netflix) and compared them to each other and to their physical counterparts. Â So, with the help of some colleagues, I set out to get to the bottom of the details.
We started with the current TV Guide Top 20 (as of August, 2012). Â I realize that the Top 20 would have been different in May and will be different in October once the season is underway, but this is a unique time of the year where even the most protected of shows has finally exited their Spring window and have been pushed out on DVD or at least a digital purchase service (if not a streaming one–rental by the episode is no longer supported by any site).
What were the results? Â Surprising to say the least. Â First, let me give you an idea of the list (since it is relatively short):
Now with this list, you would have thought there would be a high probability to have nearly all but the HBO and AMC series available already. Â The results?
- iTunes carries 75% of the content (in SD) for purchase (most recent season)–Vudu and Amazon were just a step behind them. Â The missing items were all some sort of reality show.
- Netflix has a (not surprising) poor showing for current seasons (strong for past seasons) with only 15% available, but to my surprise, HuluPlus only came in at 40% (disappointing in a big way). Â Combining the two options only yielded 45% availability.
- Physical still trumped all of the options with 80% of them available for purchase from Amazon and 75% for physical rental from Netflix.
- Combining digital purchase and streaming (across all services) yielded a 90% availability (with only X Factor and So You Think You Can Dance absent)–yielding a problem discussed inÂ my blog last week of finding content across multiple sources.
- It is estimated that 111 million Americans watch time shifted TV content these days at least once monthly (DVR and VOD), but 143 million Americans watch TV or Film content delivered on-line delivered via some connected device (connected TV, PC, tablet) at least once monthly.
- UltraViolet, the content industry-backed initiative to enable consumers to purchase physical media (DVDs or Blu-rays) and get a cloud-based digital copy through several participating retailers has progressed their catalog and UV now penetrates more than 50% of the IMDB Top 100 movies list (and has nearly doubled their penetration at the SD version level).
- While Netflix surpassed 1 billion hours viewed in the month of June, their viewing traffic declined by 25% in the first week of the Olympics.
- 61% of internet users have watched an online movie or TV show
- Delivering another crushing blow to Adobe Flash, Android announced they will not support Flash as of August 15th
ps You can find most of the source data on my Pinterest
As I pondered this seemingly simple challenge, I though back to the end of May when I wrote a blog about the current state of digital title availability in the various service offerings (rental, sell-thru, subscription) and retailers (iTunes, Vudu, Netflix) and compared them to each other and to their physical counterparts. So, with the help of some colleagues, I set out to get to the bottom of the details.
We started with the current TV Guide Top 20 (as of August, 2012). I realize that the Top 20 would have been different in May and will be different in October once the season is underway, but this is a unique time of the year where even the most protected of shows has finally exited their Spring window and have been pushed out on DVD or at least a digital purchase service (if not a streaming one--rental by the episode is no longer supported by any site).
What were the results? Surprising to say the least. First, let me give you an idea of the list (since it is relatively short):
Now with this list, you would have thought there would be a high probability to have nearly all but the HBO and AMC series available already. The results?
- iTunes carries 75% of the content (in SD) for purchase (most recent season)--Vudu and Amazon were just a step behind them. The missing items were all some sort of reality show.
- Netflix has a (not surprising) poor showing for current seasons (strong for past seasons) with only 15% available, but to my surprise, HuluPlus only came in at 40% (disappointing in a big way). Combining the two options only yielded 45% availability.
- Physical still trumped all of the options with 80% of them available for purchase from Amazon and 75% for physical rental from Netflix.
- Combining digital purchase and streaming (across all services) yielded a 90% availability (with only X Factor and So You Think You Can Dance absent)--yielding a problem discussed in my blog last week of finding content across multiple sources.
- the 500 channels of content you were receiving from your Cable, Telco, or Satellite provider,
- the collection of DVD's on your shelf, and
- the available plethora of DVDs to rent at your local Blockbuster.
- Movies came out at the theater first, and then a few months later were available to rent (eg Blockbuster) or purchase (many locations) on the same day.
- A few months after this, they started appearing in your premium TV networks (eg HBO, Showtime).
- A few months after this, they came out on the standard, non-premium broadcast networks.
- BuddyTV let's you tell it which of several pay TV network operators you have in your house and will ask you for your sign-on credentials for popular subscription services. Then, as you search, browse, or hope to discover content, it will show you the available content, and if available on your set top box (live channel, DVR, VOD) will serve it on your first screen (integration with STBs is great, getting the right device to serve up everything else isn't easy).
- Matcha takes a slightly different approach and assumes your tablet is your intended viewing device from the start and even plays most content directly after your decision with one-click, but it does not attempt to integrate your local pay TV operator.
- Fanhattan currently has the most extensive list of sources of content, but acts more like a librarian did in days of yore, pointing you to the right service and leaving you to figure out how to get the video content to your viewing screen.
- Vudu is integrating it's own available library with your Vudu and UltraViolet purchased titles, but no 3rd party service is integrating all of those great "cloud-based" titles you own, and the few apps attempting to integrate your physical DVDs are too painful of an experience to mention.
- Well part of the answer will come from metadata service providers like TMS, FYI and Rovi who will work with subscription and cloud video service providers to be able to serve up better metadata about what is available when and where.
- Part of the answer will lie in the nascent discovery segment where service providers like Digitalsmiths, ThinkAnalytics and Jinni are working to create algorithms that can "see" across multiple content sources.
- Part of this will have to be work delivered by the video aggregation services themselves, allowing 3rd party APIs to query cloud-ownership of your account in addition to the available content for purchase, rental or subscription viewing.
- And finally, the last mile has to be delivered by your 3rd party app or video service provider of choice (assuming your local cable company or iTunes one day start offering you the ability to see content outside their network). The user experience (UX) can make or break any technical solution.
Don't get me wrong--I think the streaming capabilities to watch the events live were usually well delivered, and I have nothing against the massive Twitter and Facebook discussions. I guess my point of view stems from the belief that until now, it has been live sports that has really driven the most valuable use cases for a second screen or companion app while watching the first screen, usually resulting in a more engaged consumer. Knowing the stats of the football, baseball or basketball game of key players, updated in real time, is a big plus for the sports enthusiasts (of any sport). But somehow, the Olympic implementations fell well short.
The Olympics created two official apps for the games: one for live updates and one for score/medal consolidation and schedules. But both apps were really designed for smart phones (not tablets) and were either intended as informational at large or to help enable your 2nd screen as a first screen.
I gave ConnecTV a try and got much better details about key athletes, but had real trouble getting the app to pay attention to the channel or event I wanted to watch. I was disappointed with their normally pretty cool "What's Trending" widget, since what I wanted to know was which of the 5 Olympic channels should I be watching and they seemed to lump all the Olympics into one result.
Viggle gave me lots of opportunities to play quizzes, win prizes, etc--but not a lot of information about the events I was watching.
And Yap.TV did a decent job on the social side (they always do), but again, more about the Olympics in general rather than a specific event either on right then or being shown as a prime time event for the US.
Now, to be fair, I didn't get to check out Zeebox since I was in the US during the Olympics and they have not yet launched here. I did use the NBCU Olympic website on a laptop a few times and must admit, that combined with the Apple TV and Airplay, it was probably the best experience of all. The website was reasonably well architected to let me see what live sporting events were on right then, to have two streaming views to toggle between at any given moment (the one I was watching and the one I was browsing), the alerts on events I "favorited" worked pretty well (we got to see the 100m finals live), and the Apple TV integration from my MountainLion OS-equipped Mac Air meant I could push it all to the first screen for the entire family to watch.
So why was most of my experience pretty poor? My guess is that the normally huge volumes of stats on teams and players for most sports don't really exist for the Olympic athletes who play every four years (except for Phelps of course). I think the sheer volume of it all and unpredictable nature probably created the largest problem for 3rd party apps (they didn't really know what would be played during prime time each night and the actual live streaming was very unpredictable). Perhaps this points the industry into the direction of finding a better, more efficient way to share or even syndicate valuable metadata so that networks like NBCU and sporting brands like the Olympics can aggregate the viewing audiences across multiple apps and engagements rather than just their own "official" apps (since in all cases, the apps were given away for free)--giving them a chance to participate in wider revenue shares and brand awareness in the process. Not to mention the opportunity to get consumers more engaged in the process, lengthening their viewing time of the first screen (the real goal after all).
Looking forward to discussing this controversial view @ IBC on September 8th.
Hope to see you there.
Something else new and interesting happened this week in Europe: Grolsch decided to sponsor a movie experience app for Alliance Films (built by Mobovivo). I can't help but think of the monetization panel we had back in NY where a debate about how and when "real" monetization might reveal itself, but this might be as classic as it gets in terms of brand sponsorship: a major brand from the Netherlands in Europe sponsoring a 2nd Screen app built around perhaps one of the hottest movie franchise creators this summer (Alliance distributes the Hunger Games).
And thinking about the classic Dutch beer with a flip top made me immediately think about IBC. This year the show is about a week earlier than normal, starting officially on Thursday, September 6th, in Amsterdam. We have managed to secure a location for a late afternoon of discussions and cocktails on Saturday the 8th at the Okura Hotel. I am looking forward to key notes, panels and passionate discussions about how 2nd screen is developing in Europe, expecting some of our European-based members to help deliver a great program (Civolution, RedBee, Kit Digital) and expecting some great announcements around the show, which is generally the heralding event of the fall for the TV Broadcast world.
So kick back and enjoy the Olympics over the next few weeks and keep thinking about the Grolsch sponsored app from Mobovivo--then let's share one and talk about what's next for 2nd Screen on the 8th in Amsterdam at IBC.
What that mean for the consumer? Similar to the review I did on the Top 100 titles and their availability on various digital services, expect your content creators to continue to push you back towards a purchasing model (aiming to increase the sell thru from 7 to 10 over the next 3 years).
In the meantime, if you like the Avengers, go check out the app. While it doesn't have much in the way of Simple (control of the 1st screen), Seamless (sourcing of content), or Discovery--it has plenty of Stimulating content and Social implementations. And, as my son would say, "It's pretty cool!"
That's right, 1999. Do you remember those days? The dot com world was still full of joy and optimism about taking over the world and "e-business" was still a buzz word. I was fortunate enough to see Don Tapscott speaking about his new book, "Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation". He was engaging and even funny, but what really stuck with me for the last 13 years is the way he described his kids reaction to one of his prouder moments a few years earlier when he was demonstrating how to surf the web on a public television show. His kids were utterly underwhelmed, "Why don't we film me getting milk out of the fridge, dad, or changing the TV channel?" His point was that our children who were growing up then (Generation Y) would live and breathe this stuff, and as a result, use it in ways we couldn't even imagine (think Twitter).
I had my own first confirmation of this when my daughter was seven and after returning from vacation, we tried to finish off a disposable underwater camera I had taken snorkeling with us. She quickly grabbed the camera after the shot and turned it around, expecting to see the digital image on the back--she had never seen a camera in her young life without one.
stats in the industry (80%+ using second screens, 30%+ engaging in content related to the 1st screen, etc), these stats are going to continue to grow as the generation Y and generation M (Millennial) grow up and get their own smart phones and tablets.
If you think this is still just anecdotal evidence, look at the two graphs I found on the population age demographic curve and its impact recently for growth in online banking.
Your question shouldn't be "Will this happen with enough scale to matter?" Your question should be "How do I leverage this changing consumer behavior to affect my business, improve my consumer engagement, or better monetize my part of the value chain?"
Enjoy your summer.
- 1,700,000 Social media comments during the NFL draft
- 193% increase in social activity during primetime TV since last year
- 67 million iPads have been sold since its launch, 62% market share
- 40% growth year on year in online video advertising
- $3.1 billion predicted expenditure on online video advertising in 2012
- 45% of consumers, while watching television, look for info related to the show
- 518,475 Social media comments made during the New Girl Season 1 Finale
- 1% of people who â€ślikeâ€ť or â€śfanâ€ť a brand on Facebook, actually engage with the brand or buy their products
- 242,000 Comments made during the True Blood Season 5 premiere
- 31% of television viewing on a device other than a television
- 1,200,000 Social media comments made during the American Idol Season 11 Finale
- 23% of adults age 25-54 most likely follow a brand through social networking sites
Keep in mind that I have grouped second screen capabilities into 5 major feature sets (explained further in this blog) based on their ability to control the 1st screen (Simple), to connect viewers (Social), to aggregate multiple content sources (Seamless), to engage the consumer (Stimulating), and to allow the consumer to find relevant new content (Discovery). I gave them a score of high (green), medium (yellow), low (red) or absent (black). Furthermore, bear in mind that some of the apps are not yet available in the US (zeebox, M-GO) or are about to re-launch (Dijit).
I am sure this will stimulate some good conversation next week in NYC. See you there!
There has also been some retraction. In our January and February summaries, we mentioned an app called Umami which we reviewed and mentioned several times in this blog. When you visit that app on your iPad today, you get a message indicating they have closed their beta running of the app--but it has been like this for several months now, begging the question if it will ever re-open.
So what is the trend with 3rd party apps (those apps that try to cover a range of TV shows, movies, networks, sporting events, etc)? All of them are improving their Social capabilities (better integration with Facebook where the app can understand your friends and the TV shows/movies you have liked, curated and time-anchored Twitter feeds to help with spoilers). Many of them have made efforts to improve their integration with the living room device ecosystem (Simple), with BuddyTV continuing to lead the pack here. All of the apps have improved their user interfaces (UI's) and continue to improve their Stimulating feature sets (better information about the shows, some real-time and time-anchored content synchronization, and even show-based trivia and games). Some of them have expanded their efforts in the Seamless integration of content sources, adding Amazon, Hulu and even Xfinity to the popular sources of Netflix and iTunes. And all of them continue to try to implement some better level of search, recommendation and Discovery--perhaps the killer app of the 3rd party space (when combined with Seamless and Simple)--with Matcha, Fanhattan and BuddyTV leading the pack in this regard.
1. Matcha. Launched their iPad launch in mid-March (review here) and has continued to improve its primary reason to exist--search and recommendation (aiming for Discovery). It has expanded its Seamless integration of content sources and has tried to implement better recommendation algorithms. It still lacks integration with the 1st screen (when you hit play, it plays on your iPad), you can rely on Airplay if you have AppleTV to solve that last 10 ft. problem.
2. TV Dinner. Launched in mid-January (review here), mostly focused around a few network shows on the East Coast timezone. They have expanded their shows and timezone efforts since then, but continue to have a primary focus around engaging consumers in social aspects and gaming/trivia during the show airing.
Some of our January front runners continue to improve their user experience (UX). Most notably:
3. BuddyTV. Improved Seamless integration with services (Amazon, iTunes, Netflix) and released further updates on TV operators (Dish, DirecTV, AT&T, Tivo). They have also improved their social feature set, allowing for better leverage of your Facebook for recommendations and communication with friends.
4. Fanhattan in HD. Has taken their focus on Stimulating features to the next level, updated their app to an "HD" quality for the iPad3 retina display. They have also improved their search, recommendation, and Discovery features, adding in some pre-populated genre and power searches for faster, easier browsing and recommendations.
5. TVplus. Launched a new UI, allowing the consumer to more easily focus on what Stimulating information is being delivered with thru their curated (and time-anchored) Twitter feed or their information snippets on facts, trivia, shopping and advertising opportunities.
6. ConnecTV. Has continued to add supported shows and improved the UX by allowing the consumer to "tune" to a show vs. having to use audio to sync to the show. They continue to deliver real value for news and sports programs, though the synchronized information delivered for TV shows still feels a bit canned.
7. Viggle. Has continued to add shows, delivering trivia and game experiences for consumers who then get "paid" in free gift certificates and also try to win larger prizes.
Finally, there are three strong players who have yet to really enter the US market, but will do so soon and will be forces to reckon with in the battle for consumer loyalty.
8. zeebox. Rumored to be making a launch in the US soon, launched in the UK in late 2011 (review here). They have a great app that focuses on real-time content synchronization with "zeetags" enabling consumers to quickly jump to more detailed information about subjects or advertising and they offer some level of control (Simple) of living room devices.
9. M-GO. Rumored to be launching in the fall (review here), will most likely look like a combination of BuddyTV and Fanhattan that also provides and additional source of content which is their own catalog with studios. Look for them to be integrated in Samsung and Vizio devices this fall.
10. Dijit. Rumored to be relaunching app this month (previous review here), which was previously focused on "Control" (Simple) with integration with the Griffin IR beacon. I saw an early demo of the app and think you will find the new UI and feature set refreshing and helpful to TV watchers everywhere.
So, while there are still more than 100 apps out in the wild for consumers to get their second screen companion experiences, I think these are the 10 to watch for the rest of 2012. There will continue to be great reasons to use an app built for a specific major event or a specific film or TV show (as those content creators continue maintaining exclusive content access thru their own apps) and there will be better device control from operators and CE manufacturers as they continue to hold some features back for their own apps, but I predict the majority of the innovation that will drive the growth of this industry will still come from the 3rd party apps whose only business model is finding a way to engage the consumer in repeat use in the hopes of monetizing that experience in the very near future.
A few weeks ago, while reviewing the Walmart / Vudu disc to digital program, I was surprised at how few titles of my desired catalog were available on Netflix (I had assumed a large percentage of the DVD's in my closet would be available on Netflix).
Intrigued by this, I decided to explore further over the past few weeks and decided to check the availability of titles in a proverbial "Top 100" list for various digital video services. In addition to checking on the Disc to Digital service (still nascent), I thought I would check iTunes, Vudu and Amazon (digital rental and sell-thru) as well as Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming and compare them to what should be the "gold standard"--available for sale on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
The first step in any good comparison is the source of the data. I combed thru the AFI (American Film Institute), AMC (theatre chain) and IMDB top 100 lists (IMDB does a top 250). I wanted to make sure the list was some what representative of the demographic for digital video consumers, and based on my view of the titles in the list (and the method of selection--IMDB takes consumer voting), I chose the IMDB list. Note of caution here--Amazon owns IMDB.
Also not surprising, Netflix offers 96% of those titles for physical rental thru their mail-based subscription service.
So, as a consumer, if I can wait 24-48 hours (Prime and Netflix shipping service levels), I can have access to all the titles that matter (pretty much).
But what if I want it NOW? Or if I don't want to deal with the physical good hassle? Your best bet is digital sell-thru (SD), with iTunes in the lead at 82%, followed by Amazon at 77% and Vudu at 73%. This is a factor of the complicated windowing of rental vs. subscription video on demand (SVOD), and in recent years, digital sell-thru has escaped this availability problem.
Have to have it immediately on HD you say? Surprisingly, your better option of availability is digital rental across the board, lead by Vudu at 59%, Amazon at 57% and iTunes at 52%. Oddly enough, digital sell thru for the HD format was held back by security concerns and perceived canibalization of Blu-ray sales.
Really want to own the HD version digitally? Amazon takes the lead here, with 54% of title available, followed by Vudu at 42% and iTunes at 34%.
What if you are that value consumer who is willing to wait until the window opens up for a streaming option? You will be disappointed as a paltry 13% of titles are available on Netflix and another 10% are available on Amazon Prime.
And if you have those Top 100 titles in your closet and want to watch them on your iPad? Before you drive to Walmart for the disc to digital conversion, check your titles on their site as only 42% are available in the SD format and a mere 15% are available in HD (again, the UltraViolet capability is still nascent in the market place).
What conclusions can you draw from this?
- Streaming (SVOD) services are not for new release windows--we already knew that with delays being 45 days to 6 months depending on the title an HBO (or Sky in the UK) exclusivity. But even if you just want to watch some great older titles, they are just not there.
- You can have access to a large number of the Top 100 titles digitally one way or another (70-80% if you are willing to live with SD quality and purchase the title). You will find that most new releases are available for sale in both HD and SD the day of the DVD release while some digital rental is still pushed by 2-3 weeks from that day (encourages you to buy more vs. rent more).
- If you have a collection of the greatest titles in your closet, the industry isn't quite yet ready for you to try to convert it in any meaningful way via UltraViolet.
The debate is simple: Who is going to disrupt the current Pay TV industry?
A few months ago at the OTT Con in Santa Clara, I had this discussion in spades with many of the participants in the would-be "cable killer" world (most of whom themselves are "cord cutters" or at least "cord thinners"). My take aways after those discussions were that it was incredibly premature to even think about "Over the Top" or "broadband" video killing the established Pay TV operators like Comcast, DirecTV and Verizon because only the metrics had indicated that all of the current players combined had only made a minor dent in TV Viewing (3 hours of online viewing vs. 34 of traditional viewing per week, 2% of the $200B TV advertising spent on "on-line" video) and that so far the only business being disrupted in a serious manner was DVD sell-thru, which was suffering as much from physical Netflix and the shift from purchase to rental as it was from digital Netflix. My brief conclusion then was simple: Large pay TV operators were bringing in an average monthly bill per household of close to $100 (ARPU) and the would be disruptors were still in the sub-$15 range and those Pay TV operators were "Striking Back" with their own TV Everywhere solutions, so any would-be survivors in the next 3-5 years would have to deliver an incredibly compelling user experience (UX) centered around Discovery (likely on the second screen).
Gigaom tried to articulate this a little more clearly in a recent article (that perhaps started this debate anew) called the 7 ways Comcast is killing the cable killers. In short, large operators have implemented a multi-pronged strategy of defensive and offensive initiatives including blocking peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic, prioritizing traffic on their network (ie giving their own video priority), implementing data caps and data cap exceptions (for their own TV Everywhere traffic), and unleashing offensive TV Everywhere strategies to counter Netflix and Hulu's impact (StreamPix, authenticated Hulu, HBO Go, etc).
But perhaps we should take a step back and look at the wider "home entertainment" industry and look at what is driving content creators, distributors and consumers to change their business practices and viewing habits. Despite the recent decline in the physical media segment of the industry (DVDs and Blu-rays), physical media still represents 47% (~$15B) of the "pay for play" video consumption market, while Pay TV has been slowly growing its share at 34% (~$11B, not including sports) and what we would affectionally call "Digital" (including PPV, VOD, SVOD, and EST) represents only 19% (~$6B), though this is the fastest growing segment. Since it is unlikely that consumers are going to significantly increase the amount of hours of video they watch (who has 37 hours anyway?), we should assume that any further growth in digital will either come at the expense of the physical DVD world or the Pay TV networks. Since Pay TV has continued to grow during the expansion of digital, it is probably a safe assumption that it will either slow its growth or stay flat in the next 3-5 years while physical media continues to decline.
Ok, so what does that mean?
The content creators need to find a way to reduce the impact of the two least profitable market segments on their business. They need to:
- convert physical rental to digital rental (where they change their economics from a ~25% split to a ~70% split),
- provide consumers a reason to purchase content digitally vs. renting, and
- support their large Pay TV customers in their battle with the disruptors who are delivering the most impact on subscription digital rental.
Practically, this means they:
- support digital rental windows that are on par with the physical windows by supporting Apple/iTunes, Vudu, Amazon and of course Pay TV Operator VOD while constantly reducing the viability of physical rental distributors (pushing the Netflix and RedBox windows out past the digital rental windows or forcing them to buy from Wal-mart and others instead),
- put tremendous effort behind UltraViolet and Disc to Digital programs so that consumers can build a digital library of owned titles and attempt to drive household movie purchases per year from the current average of 7 back towards its 2004 zenith of 14, and
- empower Comcast in their StreamPix efforts, support the TV Everywhere models of DirecTV and Dish's Blockbuster, and consistently ratchet up the content cost for Netflix to acquire their content to a price on par with their subscriber base (meaning they pay the same as Comcast for content deals).
- the VOD and PPV offerings from our cable and telco operators were completely abismal until iTunes, xBox, and Hulu launched (and the BBC iPlayer in the UK), forcing the Pay TV operators to improve their own VOD and catch-up channel offerings to combat "churn" (cord cutting, cord thinning), and
- the success of Netflix has forced those same Pay TV operators to launch their own TV Everywhere strategies including HBO Go and StreamPix.
So what happened?Well, it turns out I have more than the 400+ titles I thought I had previously. I have 525 titles in the house (not your average consumer). Even at $1 a title, I am not willing to pay $525 to have access to this whole library digitally. So I went thru a fast filtering process: Would I watch this movie more than 1 more time (ie 1x per year)? It meant the real "keepers" (for my household) were cult-ish fan movies (Matrix trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Batman, the Marvel Avenger series, Mission Impossible, etc), kids movies (mostly Disney and DreamWorks titles), holiday classics (Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, etc), and classic comedies (The Blues Brothers, Eurotrip, American Pie, Austin Powers, etc).
I came up with 170 titles (32% of my catalog) I thought were worth spending the money on converting to digital under the premise that I would watch them more than 1 more time (otherwise, I would rent since we know the average cost will be $3.50+ per title to convert and renting is not much more and is money spent later when I will watch it instead of now when I might watch it in the future).
Then I started determining which titles I would convert to Vudu / UltraViolet. While I know that titles move in and out of availability on Netflix, I don't think the average consumer understands that at all. So my simple logic was that if it was available on Netflix, I would not convert it to digital at Walmart. I was shocked (and even double checked my process) that only 18 of 170 titles were available on Netflix (11% of the 170 chosen titles). Netflix losing the Starz catalog (which covered many Disney titles) is a bigger loss than I think was anticipated by all. In an article in February (a few days before the change), Netflix said they would replace all but 15 of the Disney titles. That certainly does not appear to be the case as just about every kids' DVD title I have (the stuff they watch over and over again) from Disney and from the other studios is NOT available on Netflix.
While the numbers for UltraViolet / Vudu were higher than Netflix (68 of the 170 keepers or 40% of the target), it is no where near large enough to encourage wholesale consumer adoption at any price point. Clearly, the desire to have the kids titles, driven mostly by Disney titles, was the biggest contributor to the loss here (probably 20+ titles), but there were also numerous other non-studio titles missing (eg the BBC contributions like Blue Planet, Walking With Dinosaurs, etc).
So I chose 30 of those 68 title (some were available on Netflix, some I just re-filtered) and went to Walmart. I had high expectations because Vudu made a new feature available online where you can check the title availability and then print the list and take it with you to Walmart which then in turn saves them the data entry process--in theory speeding the whole process up dramatically. The experience was unfortunately worse than it was on April 16th. The sweet lady who last time had so much patience was out of it entirely. I still had to fill in a form--she could not explain why, but rather gruffly told me I had to do so. I didn't have to re-enter all of the titles, luckily. We then went thru the list title by title, checking that each of the discs was available and ran into our first major problem--one of my Austin Powers discs was missing. I said no problem, just remove it. She said quite adamantly it was not possible. I asked what my options were and she said I could get management over here, but there was nothing she or any of them could do as the system would not let them remove anything--I was told to go home and find the disc or come back with a new list. Refusing to be defeated, I let another customer go before me and thought about how they had designed this process. The printout was itself not material--it was the saved catalog in my account they were accessing. I pulled out my iPhone, logged into the Vudu site and removed that title from my list. I didn't print it (I was in the store after all), but she was able to check that it was in fact out of her view of the title list. Problem solved.
Then we hit the second major snag. The system in their photo processing center had to print a label to be attached to the paper work before she could ask for my credit card and then stamp my discs. But that same label maker was constantly being accessed by the photo center as orders from their on-line photo service came in and it printed labels for their pickup. It kept failing to access the label maker (timing out each time) and took nearly an hour to get thru (after 20+ attempts from the attendant). When it finally printed the label, her colleague was able to stamp all of the discs, take my credit card, and send me on my way.
After 30 minutes in the car and 90 minutes in the store, I only ended up with 26 DVDs converted (I had to pull 3 before I left because they were suddenly not available on the Walmart list and had the 1 missing disc). I paid $121 or an average of $4.65 per title for the right to access those titles digitally (streamed to my PS3 or iPad) presumably anywhere in the US.
If the average consumer has 80 titles in their library and filters in a similar manner, they would be faced converting 25 titles and likely finding 10 of them available for a cost of $47.
The conclusions for the industry and the consumer:
- I just think getting the consumer to fork over $47 for 10 titles they already own for the pleasure of watching them streamed to the iPad is going to be a challenge. Why not encourage them to spend the level, but for 50 titles (an offer for $1 per conversion at 50 or more DVDs)? That builds a digital library.
- College-aged kids (with more time than money) are going to rip DVDs vs. spending 2 hours in Walmart and $47. If the become a target demographic, something different needs to be done.
- The studios seem to have reduced the premium title availability at Netflix pretty effectively. It looks like Netflix is negotiating for strong titles shortly after they are available, but then letting them leave their library 6-12 months later.
- This is good for the studios because it creates a reason to purchase digitally, but will not work without signficant education efforts (ie marketing).
- This also spells DOOM for Netflix if the education to the consumer works. It truly means Netflix is a late window video service full of titles that may have once been "A" titles, but have little long term value. Said differently, it is a service to use when watching something, almost anything, is better than trying to find that same poor content on your cable provider's channel listing.
- Walmart clearly needs to improve the actual service itself. I should be able to drop off my DVDs in a box/bag with the list, shop in their store for 20 minutes, and return. Having to wait at the counter for 90 minutes is a definite service failure that needs to be addressed.
- Walmart or Amazon should promote a DVD catalog service (iPhone app with bar code scanner) that allows me to track what I do have in my catalog (some independent ones exist for the iPhone, Amazon has the inklings of this service on their website). It would provide the consumer with a service capability so that I am not renting a title I already own. It would provide the merchant with an opportunity to tell me when it becomes available for conversion. It could provide recommendation and discovery engines with valuable seed data to improve the recommendations for watching new content.
- Ultraviolet needs to drive a consistent consumer experience across all titles (HD availability, streamed or downloaded to a core set of devices including the iPad and several TV service options).
Does this sound like an book-end use case (ie no one is going to use it)? So far (according Broadcast Magazine), the show's live broadcast has roughly 324,000 viewers (1.2m when you count the +1 and PVR viewings). About 20% of the live viewers (5% total viewers) of the Walking Dead in the UK have downloaded the app (63,000+ times so far) and have played the game over 340,000 times (nearly 6 times each).
Honestly, the only disappointing part of this app is that it is only available for use in the UK. I've been saying that consumers need a reason to pick up the tablet or smart phone if you want them to engage with your show--FX and Red Bee Media have certainly found a great reason for the consumer to do so.
Looking at consumer video services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and even GoogleTV) and their second screen counterparts (Matcha, Fanhattan, BuddyTV, etc), the admission of the challenge is painfully evident in the user interface the consumer faces and the result of the Discovery process.
But let's back up a bit first. What is Discovery? How does it relate to Search and Recommendation? I think we will find wide agreement that the concept of Search is one where you know what you are looking for and are trying to find it. Now this can be more complex than "Where can I find a legal version of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol that I can watch in my living room right now?" (which itself can be challenging in today's service offerings). It is not usually as complex as the problem Shazam solves in the music industry ("what is the name of that song that sounds like..."), but can be difficult (I know the actor who was in the movie or what it was about). Search is decidedly a "lean forward" experience, and as most of us have found out over the last 5 years, it incredibly difficult to implement on a 10-foot remote experience, with various virtual keyboards or fancy remotes trying to help us solve this problem.
Recommendation is also relatively straight forward as a concept. Usually, it starts with features I have already seen that I like or genres I know I like and then asking a friend or a service to recommend something similar in hopes that the movie or TV show may also appeal. The simplest approach here is what we all know as the "Amazon" approach (people who watched that movie, also watched this movie). It can also be incredibly complex, taking into account your social network, what is currently popular, what movies or TV shows you have already seen, and what genres you like.
So what is Discovery? In this blog, I have often defined it by the service's ability to suggest relevant and interesting content to the user in a very simple, "lean back" user experience. In the real world, this might be akin to the difference between "do you have filet mignon?" (Search) vs. "I heard the fresh lobster here is amazing" (Recommendation) vs. the chef preparing a tasting menu of courses based on some consideration of what you don't like/are allergic to and his particular culinary skills (Discovery). Discovery suggests that you are going to end up watching something you didn't know you were looking for, but will very likely enjoy.
So why is this so hard to accomplish that even the mighty Google is struggling with it? The challenge is very likely in the detailed nuances of our likes and dislikes of videos. For example, "Space Balls" and "Aliens" are both science fiction, but hardly even remotely similar movies. Additionally, you may have liked the latest Mission Impossible because it is a spy movie, or an action movie, or a Tom Cruise movie--or it could have been you actually prefer movies where there is suspense, drama, gunfire, intrigue, and scantily clad heroines--but that may be difficult for you to describe yourself, but you know what you like when you see it. Lately, some of the video services have started to attack this nuance a little more directly by featuring complex genre options such as "goofy family comedies" (Netflix) or "epic heists" (Fanhattan).
Another contributing problem is the user interface, or more broadly, the user experience. For example, imagine the PC market before the mouse and graphical interface--no amount of amazing desktop publishing algorithm could solve a problem without a change in the way the user interacts with the program.
So let's consider what we are trying to accomplish again: a "lean back" experience akin to the way we surf channels these days in the living room, but that quickly and easily delivers something for us to sample with ever increasing probability of success. This very likely means the majority of Discovery experiences will need to take place on a 2-foot remote (tablet/smartphone), especially since its more mature siblings Search and Recommendation are likely to be more effective there.
Let's look at what might be important in that user interface. "Lean back" implies quick and easy, without much thought. Let's agree here that we want to find something worth sampling at least in 3 clicks/gestures. Additionally, let's consider the famous Columbia & Stanford University "When Choice is Demotivating" which concluded that consumers faced with 6 choices had a reasonable buy rate, but when faced with 36 choices, those same consumers shut down and walked away. So, as we look for a good UI, let's agree that any presentation that requires a significant amount of processing (by our brain), a significant number of clicks/typing/gestures, or presents too many choices at any given point is not going to work well.
So what is out there then?
Netflix said recently in their tech blog that 75% of their streamed content is the result of their recommendations. I think this is more likely a factor of the consumer use case for Netflix (I am bored and want to watch something, almost anything) than an indication of their algorithm's success. While the recently implemented Just For Kids vs. Adult UX is a good start, the recommendation service still struggles because there is no distinction of which members of the household are using the service at any given point, giving me recommendations on Dinosaur content and Gossip Girl and suggesting spy thrillers to my 8-year old son and wife. Further, their UI is based on a concept of rows of choices related to an algorithm choice ("Top 10 for this account", "Popular with Members Like Me", "Like: a recent title I watched") that presents at least 18 choices on the screen at once with a scrolling access to 12 rows (72 choices). Too much.
Amazon has been absent on the iPad, with only their web browser as a 2-foot interface (no app), and the experience is absolutely painful. The company that built the recommendation culture has fallen flat here. To be fair, their PS3 experience has "Best of Prime", "Popular Movies" and "Popular TV", but that doesn't match with my expectations from them.
So apparently implementing Discovery is very hard, as the great list of companies above haven't really licked the UI/UX yet, and despite claims on performance of the recommendations themselves, the average consumer would not rave about the results either.
I think you will see two major efforts in this space in the near future:
1) a continuous effort to improve the UI so that consumers can be presented with multiple paths to a recommendation (genre, friends, popular, new), but that allows a limited number of clicks/gestures to get to an increasingly better set of results quickly, and
2) further effort on the algorithms themselves to better harness the nuances of the videos we like to watch and integrating that information more seamlessly with input from our social networks, our stated preferences, and external events (new releases, movie awards, etc).
I am sure all of us wish Netflix and the 2nd screen apps the best of luck in solving this since all of us would have a happier 37 hours in our week...
So yesterday morning, on the day Walmart launched their service, I called Walmart and asked to speak to the photo processing departing. A very kind woman answered and said she wasn't sure if the service had launched, but had heard about it and asked if I could call back in 15 minutes so she could ask. 15 minutes later, she told me the service was ready, but that no one in her department including herself had been trained in how to do this, but if I was patient, I was more than welcome to come down to be their first customer.
I went thru my collection to choose a representative sample for this test: 1 from each major studio plus 1 from Lionsgate, a few Blu-rays and even a few titles from a different region (I previously lived in London for 5 years and have a number of DVDs purchased from there).
15 minutes later, I was trying to find the photography department in Walmart. I did see the sign above at the counter and found the kind woman from the phone call. She handed me a form to fill out, listing each of the titles, how I owned the title (SD or HD) and what version I would like to purchase (SD or HD). The form also asked for my name, email address and phone number to create or sign into my Vudu account. When I showed her the 30 DVDs I brought, she became a little anxious. I asked if I could fill out the forms and come back later--she said I was not allowed to leave the DVDs with them. So I scaled back my expectations and instead settled on 8 titles (shown in the form below) which still represented every major studio plus LionsGate, some Blu-rays and DVDs, and my UK-based DVD.
After a few minutes of muttering to herself, the woman kindly asked me to tell her where the "@" was at on the keyboard (she was trying to type in my email address). I knew then we were in for a learning experience. She tried to look up my account but it said I did not exist. She then tried to create my account, but it said my account already existed. I asked to come around the counter to help (she accepted), and asked her to try my home phone number instead of the mobile I had put on the sheet (the sheet did not specify). It then found my account (it turns out you only need the email or the phone number that is listed in your Vudu account, not both).
We then started the process of looking for the titles. The search function on the web terminal she was using was actually very robust. For Cowboys and Aliens from Universal Studios, it offered 10 different source versions of physical product. We found the one I had in my hand (Extended Edition Blu-ray) and she selected it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that converting a Blu-ray disc to the HD format for Vudu was only $2 (it is $5 to upgrade from normal DVD to HD). While a limited test, the next 7 titles offer an interesting current view into the library (stated in HomeMedia magazine yesterday as 4000 titles).
My copy of Batman Begins, a Warner Brothers title, was an SD DVD (plain old DVD) but from the UK. I successfully upgraded to HD for $5.
My daughter's Justin Bieber, Never Say Never was a Blu-ray from Paramount and I converted to HD for $2.
I was surprised that Sony's 50 First Dates was only available in an SD version.
Not surprising, Disney's Pirates of Caribbean was not available.
I was surprised that the Fox title The A-Team was not available for conversion--especially since my Blu-ray came with a digital copy option with the disc.
National Lampoon's Van Wilder from Lionsgate sadly was not available.
And even sadder, Eurotrip from Dreamworks was not available (despite an announcement that day that all their titles would be available).
When I got home, Vudu forced me (in a good way) to finish the UltraViolet portion of the registration. Trying to play the movies before that did not work. Once I completed it, they all worked fine. A good surprise: I was given the HDX version of each title I requested in HD (the highest quality available in Vudu).
So, after 50 minutes in the store and 30 minutes total driving time, I had converted 4 titles successfully for a cost of $11. Had I successfully converted 8 titles (same time period), it would have been roughly 10 minutes per title vs. the 20 minutes it became.
How does this compare to the college kid's (non-legal) option?
- Pro. No tech savvy required. Just bring in your titles.
- Con. Costs $2-5 per title vs. the cost of free for the college kid ripping his DVD, though there is the cost of storage which is not required with Vudu.
- Con. Can't currently watch these titles while disconnected on your iPad (ie on a plane) where as you can do so on the illegal option.
- Con. Took 10-20 minutes per title at Walmart while the time touching the computer to rip an MP4 copy is only 3 minutes (including entering metadata), but you end up waiting an hour or 2 for the actual encoding to occur. Sort of a 1 day of pain vs. 3-5 minutes each day approach.
- Pro. The title is now UV enabled, meaning I will soon have access to it on Amazon, Flixster and other non-Apple video services and it can be streamed to me on the go (no storage required).
- Pro. Presumably, my library of owned titles will soon be "available" so that other services can catalog it and use the list for recommendations.
How can this be improved to drive adoption?
- Create an incentive to do it. Give me a discount for doing 50 or 100 titles or more at once (after all, they are trying to encourage me to build a digital library for ownership, right)? The mathematical issue is simple: I am being asked to pay an average of $3.50 per title (perhaps higher since the majority of my titles are SD DVDs) to convert something I MIGHT watch in the future. If I don't do the conversion, the cost to me to just rent the title on demandis only $3.99 or $4.99. I just doesn't make sense for me to pay this amount to own a title I might realistically only watch once in a long while that has a high probability of being available on Netflix for free.
- Allow me to check title availability before I go to the store--saves all of us time.
- Get a bar code scanner in the store to speed up the process.
- Let me drop off my average of 85 owned titles and pick them up the next day.
- Give me access to the titles in a download fashion (at least to my tablet) so I can watch them on the go.
I think this is a great concept and I do think we need to find a way to stimulate digital ownership. We just have a long ways to go to get it right--and very little time. Apple already has all of this in their ecosystem--and once you buy an iPad, buying the Apple TV is short decision process when you realize the ecosystem that is made available to you for $99.
My recommendation: give the service 2 weeks to get the teams trained up and perhaps the process improved, then try the conversion yourself.
We had many spirited conversations that day and in the following weeks about which actors were left out and where they belonged.
Thanks to tremendous effort by MESA, below is an updated infographic that is complete and ready for your use during NAB this week.
We have identified the major players from contributing market segments including:
- Major brands (who can benefit from the consumer behavioral change)
- Media agencies (primarily pushing the brands in this direction along with Social TV)
- Middleware companies (working to integrate this into their offerings)
- Metadata service providers (driving Stimulating second screen experiences)
- Measurement and analytics companies (helping us all to understand what the consumer is doing)
- Recommendation engines (driving the industry towards Discovery)
- 3rd Party app creators (building some of the best second screen apps out there)
- Testing/QC companies (helping to sort out the platform and revision testing)
- Consulting companies (helping to sort out the objectives)
- Distribution platforms (trying to harness the power of second screen)
- OTT video services (trying to harness the power of second screen)
- Content security services (focusing on making it all secure)
- Synchronization technologies (helping to improve the experience)
- CE Devices and Network Operators (using a Simple approach to incorporate it into their consumer offering)
- Studios, Broadcast Networks and Sports Leagues (trying to aggregate larger audiences thru the experiences)
- Social networks (driving the Social element)
- Mobile (capitalizing on consumers on the go)
- 3rd Party Apps (trying to aggregate audiences around the experience)
- Video ad networks (trying to monetize the experience)
How can the industry work to solve this problem? Part of that solution is UltraViolet. As discussed in previous blogs, the concept is that someday I will have the same experience as the Apple ecosystem (buy a movie with the UltraViolet feature and have access to it from every device I own). The reality today is that none of my SmartTVs or connected devices (except my iPads and PCs/Macs) can stream content from Flixster, some have access to Vudu, but if I purchase on Blu-ray I can use "sneaker net" to carry the disc from room to room.
But perhaps more important than UV is a better connectivity approach to the digital living room itself. The challenge here is that DLNA is not enough. Assuming I have a pre-sorted directory on my PC where I can access that I am looking for is a bad assumption. The majority of SmartTV companies have been busy building their own proprietary approaches to solving this problem (with and without partners). Boxee is trying to solve this problem, but I think its focus on a 10-foot remote experience limits its capability to do so.
I think the best way for the consumer and for the device manufacturers to move forward is for the device manufacturers to focus (similar to LG) on exposing their devices via APIs to applications on tablets (second screens) and local (home movies) and over-the-top video services (Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon, VDIO, M-GO, etc). This allows Second Screen apps (think BuddyTV, Dijit) to deliver the "Simple" capability to control the large TV (1st screen) and deliver the selected TV show or movie to that 1st screen (or tune the channel), but also provides a more natural interface (2-foot remote, touch screen, virtual keyboard) for "Social" interaction, review of "Stimulating" content and "Discovery" of new content, and providing the "Seamless" delivery of the source of that content across services so that it can be delivered directly to the viewing screen. This then gives the consumer the capability to buy devices (Boxee, PS3, Xbox, Blu-ray players) and Smart TVs from different manufacturers and still have a robust alternative ecosystem that is similar in capability to Apple's.
And this approach is an urgent requirement for the industry because the consumer will not wait much longer to improve their own digital living rooms.
Let's face the facts. If the iPad tablet market share holds in the 90%+ range, consumers are going to start buying Apple TVs (Tim Cook described them as iPad accessories), which will obviate the need for SmartTVs and other devices almost entirely:
- removes the need for Blu-ray players since the Ultraviolet experience is built-in to iCloud for the Apple ecosystem
- removes the need for SmartTVs as Apple TV connects to HDMI
- removes the need for other devices for streaming services with Netflix, MLB.tv, etc, on the AppleTV product
- leaving only the home movie challenge which Apple then solves with their iMovie and iPhoto products.
If you don't believe this is urgent, check out my recent experience at home below:
I have had a frustrating last few weeks with my Apple Ecosystem at home (AppleTV, iTunes on a Windows PC as my main library, 4 iPads & 4 iPhones for a family of 4--by no means ordinary in penetration). Apple's latest 10.5x change to the iTunes software has a bug in it that requires you to turn off IPv6 in your network adapter of your Windows 64-bit PC (guess how long it took me to figure that out?).
So for those few weeks, I was forced to deal with the "average" digital living room in my attempts to share and watch content in my home. I am sure most Americans have 3-4 TVs in the house (so say the statistics) of different brands plus a gaming console or two and various connected Blu-ray players. In my house, we have a Boxee Box, an Xbox 360, a PS3, 3 "SmartTVs" (a Samsung TV, an LG TV, and Panasonic) and another connected LG Blu-ray player. We typically use Vudu to rent movies (better experience than Apple in Discovery and delivery in real-time) on the PS3 or Boxee, we watch "high end" TV on the Apple TV (series not yet available on Netflix or Hulu), and watch all other content either live or DVR'd from our AT&T U-verse or from iPads/other connected TVs/devices via Netflix or Hulu+.
What a mess.
Our digital living room experience at home a few weeks ago (and going forward since I fixed the IPv6 problem) was that for special movies and TV series, we would buy them, and they would download automatically into the main library where everyone in the family had access to them forever more from iPads or the Apple TV (using local delivery or the iCloud). Home movies that were already in .mp4 were also available to those devices.
During the "time of digital failure", I tried using the DLNA capabilities of the various devices including Boxee, PS3, and my TV-connected PC to watch home videos or non-DRM'd content (outside of Netflix and Hulu+). I think all of you probably already know how painful this was. Boxee is probably the best at being able to decode multiple formats of personal home video (Canon camcorder, Canon DSLR, iPhones, etc), but is difficult to use to browse and find content (as we shoot and store video). The PC which houses everything is just not built for a 10-foot remote experience (yes I have tried to font changes, I have a Logitech mini-keyboard, and even occasionally us LogMeIn from a laptop instead to control it).
The experience was so painful, that we actually purchased a few movies on Vudu as an experiment (can't download to the iPad, but you can stream) and had another push on Boxee for home movies. Ultimately, it was the "stick" that drove me to fix the Home Sharing bug Apple created.
After you connect your accounts up, you notice that Matcha organizes "suggestions" in 5 rows. First, there is a row on the "Hottest" content. Based on what they showed me, I am assuming this is popular in Matcha vs. popular in broadcast TV in general, etc.
The 2nd row is "Newly Available", presumably content that was just made available to Netflix or Hulu.
The 3rd row is about "Recommendations". I am assuming in this case that they have taken into account my Netflix Queue, Hulu queue and my Facebook likes (I can't tell) to make a recommendation. Most of my recommendations I have already seen, but most of the recommendations are in the right space.
The 4th row is called "Friends" and is presumably a collection of what my friends liked on Facebook. There does not seem to be a discernable order though (most liked, recently liked, etc).
The 5th and final row is called "Queue", which seems to be a combination of the Netflix queue, my Hulu queue, and a Matcha queue.
There are a few filters that can be applied (Movies vs. TV, year of the content's release, genre).
This collection of 5 rows seems to be the primary function of the app--a recommendation service that helps you launch directly to Netflix or Hulu as a result (and presumably Amazon in the near future). How good is it? I think the UI is clean, but not as sophisticated as Fanhattan, which has more discernable selection criteria (Emmy winning, Oscar winning, Top 20, Recently Like, Most liked, all fitlerable by ratings, genre, etc, etc).
There is a product detail page, which similar to Fanhattan, shows the sources and suddenly introduces iTunes and Amazon as a source (rental and purchase). I did try to Like the content and put it in my queue. I cannot tell if the Like went to my Facebook (they also have a dislike which Facebook does not do), but it did add it to my Matcha queue (but not my Netflix queue).
While I am not sure this app is intended to be a second screen app, I would say the following:
- Simple. No control of the 1st screen. Would be a MAJOR improvement if available.
- Social. Other than likes and importing likes, there was little ability to push information socially. Low.
- Seamless. A good effort on gathering sources of content, though the cable/telco/satellite channel line-up for content is missing. Medium.
- Stimulating. Relatively lightweight here (low).
- Discovery. Ahh--isn't this what they want to be? I think the app is a probably in the Amazon mode (your friends watch, this is popular), but has not yet built an algorithm to help me Discover new content. I would say medium for effort, but if this is to be there "raison d'etre", they need to find an algorithm/engine (Digitalsmiths, Jinni, theFilter) to drive real Discovery features for the consumer. They would also need a better seeding process (similar to BuddyTVs) to help capture what I like in general and what I have seen at a cursory level.
As a consumer already exposed to Fanhattan and BuddyTV, Matcha has some feature development to do to get me to switch to their app.
There were some great panels and some interesting points of views exchanged on the most relevant topics affecting those companies in the OTT Digital Video Ecosystem. I thought in general that the panelists and presenters were a good mix of service providers and content owners/distributors (Fox, NBCU, etc), though some of the smaller concurrent sessions where blatant (and poorly presented) commercials.
The quote that summed up the conference for me was "The future of OTT will be won by service providers who can deliver Discovery on the Second Screen" I couldn't agree more.
While there was some interesting banter on exactly what "OTT" meant to different people on the panels (with the day 2 keynote Jon Cody speaker suggesting we scratch the name OTT and replace it with Broadband TV), I was surprised at how few people attending the conference understood the second screen or even what Discovery was (more on that next week). My other big surprise was how pervasive the view that OTT (or Broadband TV) was somehow going to grow up and kill Comcast, DirecTV, and/or Verizon (examples only). Thought the stats were thrown around the conference both days, a ton of the attendees just didn't seem to process them. We all know that Netflix has 20m+ subscribers, that Apple has sold 4m+ Apple TVs and that on-line video is growing quickly, but we somehow fail to remember that of the roughly 37 hours of TV that the average American watches every week (not sure where the average person finds the time), only 3 of that is on-line (web, OTT, or otherwise). Further, that of the $200b in TV advertising, a scant $4b (2%) is spent on online/OTT video, and despite the fact that OTT has taken a significant chunk of the DVD business (close to 20%), when compared to the combined sell-thru, TV advertising and Pay TV amounts, the Netflix, iTunes, Hulu+, Amazon, Vudu, etc, all add up to a less than 5% of total consumer spend (thanks for your Keynote covering some of these points Jon Cody).
I don't think there is any doubt that IP delivered video is going to continue its march to near global ubiquity (as predicted by one of the speakers), but I do believe that 2012-2015 will be marked by the striking back of the operators who will march over to the content creators in Hollywood with their StreamPix (Comcast's answer to Netflix) and Verizon/Redbox partnership (their answer) and demand the same mobile streaming rights that Netflix has for no additional charge since they are already paying millions and millions for their pay TV rights of the same content. I don't think Netflix with 20m subscribers at $15 a month can outspend Comcast with a similar subscriber base at $100 a month, and in the end, I think the big operators will either consolidate the OTT players or try to match their capabilities to do what they do best: raise ARPU and reduce churn. Consumers will win (they will get the video they want, when they want it), and the operators (OTT or otherwise) that continue to provide a great UX (user experience) for their consumers will survive (Apple is an easy prediction here).
Perhaps all of that sums up the quote I took away at the top of this blog, awarding the digital video future to those who build great consumer experiences while recognizing that those with deep pockets might make a few blunders and might move slowly, but that they will move and will flex their dollar-based muscles and ultimately will be providing their own Broadband TV services (across their own and other operator networks).
I have had it about a week now and can certainly share my thoughts.
I was willing to pay for a new 64GB 4G iPad (AT&T) because I was trading up from the iPad 1 (64GB, 3G) and have been trying to use it instead of my laptop (Macbook Air 13") in most scenarios. The iPad 1 was demonstrably slower on many of the apps I frequently use and it was starting to drive me mad.
I was expecting:
- 4G connectivity (LTE and the HDSPA+)
- 2x the processing power
- better screen resolution (though only a nice to have benefit)
What did I get?
The 4G (HDSPA+, same as iPhone 4S) is actually pretty decent. From the rudimentary tests I have run (iPad's side by side, speedtest.net, etc), my guess is that it is 2-3x the normal 3G connection. In the week I have had it, I have seen 4G in almost every location I have been with it. I am happy with this feature.
The 4G LTE is VERY fast. My guess is 10-20x the normal 3G connectivity (technically only supposed to be 15x, but the improved process power probably helps). I was able to stream Netflix in my hotel room in San Jose with great quality and sustain it for 40 minutes (while only showing 1 bar on the signal strength indicator). Very pleased with this even though it is in a relatively small number of markets compared to Verizon.
The processor is a noticeable upgrade. Even on wi-fi, web pages load faster, the common apps I use whether for news, weather, DropBox, etc, all load faster and perform better. I am very happy with this feature as well.
The screen resolution is harder to tell. On video and photos, you can see the difference vs. the iPad 1. I realize many apps are still upgrading their image quality to take advantage of the new resolution. The kindle is easier to read (as is Zinio, etc). PDFs are clearer. There is now a 1080p option for video (which is obviously a bigger file than the 720p, but I am not sure you can appreciate the difference on the small screen. Again, this was a nice to have feature, not a needed one, but I am relatively happy with it so far.
All the noise about the heat issues? I don't run sustained hard core games for 45 minutes at a time, and have not experienced the heat while watching movies or using other applications. Not an issue for me so far.
Would I recommend one? If you have the iPad 1 and use it more than casually, I would suggest you upgrade, especially if you move around in non-wifi areas with it. I think if you have an iPad 2, probably a tougher sell unless the 4G is critical.
It used to be that we all had the "Discovery" experience in Blockbuster (going to rent a video, expecting a 15-minute trip and spending an hour combing the walls of the store looking for something to watch). Then, DVD sell-thru became VERY affordable. So affordable that not only were the big releases being sold by Wal-mart, Target and Bestbuy below their wholesale pricing (losing money to drive traffic to their stores), but as the DVD industry matured, cheaper back-catalog titles became available in the check-out aisles of grocery stores. Spending $5, $7 or even $10 for a title to have forever seemed like a bargain compared to the time suck of the trip to Blockbuster combined with its late fees. More importantly, buying a cheap title to watch when it was a slow night in the near future was a perhaps a better alternative then cable TV. For years HBO filled this need--a subscription movie service that allowed you to essentially turn on the TV and watch something "good" when you had time on your hands for entertainment.
Next physical Netflix started to make a serious dent in all of this--but it only worked for those people who had patience and essentially replaced the new release for those willing to wait and the back catalog for those who planned ahead and always had a title around to watch. I think this is the first time consumers had an alternative to the timesuck/late fee experience to watch new movies and to the "what's on HBO?" experience (despite all of us having DVR's, but not having the foresight to use them to solve this problem).
Then we had a step change improvement -- rental went digital thru iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, and Xbox. Now, the "Discovery" process happened in your living room. There was some initial disappointment with titles only available on certain services and sometimes later than the physical DVD rental and sell-thru date. The fact that the studios made more money per rental (improving their share from 25-65% on average) hastened the demise of Blockbuster nearly overnight and brought digital rental day and date with physical rental and often sell-thru.
Then Netflix dropped the boom and started a digital subscription (SVOD) service. In theory, this was no different than HBO--you had a bouquet of content that you didn't really understand and had no guarantees on what would be in there tomorrow, but instead of setting your DVR or waiting until the next movie started, you could now actually search/discover and watch "something" instantly. And cheaply. Cheaper in fact than HBO.
Consumers voted with their feet/pocket books and Netflix grew their subscribers at an alarming rate, threatening even the mighty HBO.
Not surprisingly, the physical sell-thru rate started dropping quickly. Consumers now had a better rental experience either in Netflix or digitally and had a digital subscription video service that replaced the "what do I watch when I am bored" scenario.
Studios wanted and needed sell-thru, digital or physical, to regain its previous levels (while their share is similar with digital rental, the gross sales on sell-thru 3-5x higher). But how? Digital purchasing meant you acquired a title on a single device (your Vudu box, your PC) and at the time the concept of cloud ownership was non-existant (even with the mighty Apple).
What consumers needed was confidence that they could buy something digitally and have it on any of their devices when and where they wanted it.
The industry launched the concept of an industry-supported digital locker service in 2008 (then called DECE), but like all industry initiatives, it languished under the weight of its own support. The 75 initial members pulled it in many directions and then suddenly with Microsoft and Sony clearly at the helm, Apple refused to join. The battle lines had been drawn and the law abiding consumer suffered (and digital pirates continued to flourish).
Now as scant 4 years later, Ultra Violet has launched (the industry's answer to a consumer digital locker). But there are serious challenges to drive consumer adoption:
1. The experience isn't consumer-centric. You don't have the same experience movie to movie (same offer) or retailer to retailer (different sign-up processes, different viewing process).
2. In four years, Apple has launched and owns the tablet segment, probably where most digital movies and TV that are owned are viewed BY FAR.
3. Netflix has used the 4 years to cement a 20m strong subscriber base, offering unlimited movies for less than the purchase of a single new release.
4. The "connected TV" promise has become a confusing wasteland of technical solutions that make Apple all that more appealing.
And now, Wal-mart / Vudu wants to help you convert your physical library to digital with a hefty fee--and most of the physical titles you own you probably also have access to on Netflix. What to do?
While in my previous blog, I described the time vs. money trade-off of the legal conversion option, the other challenge is the easy access to a large library in which content is likely but not guaranteed to be there tomorrow vs. the cost (and hassle) of converting those titles to UltraViolet and Vudu.
My guess is that of the 400+ titles I have at home, probably 3/4 of them are available on Netflix. The other 25% are going to have issues with availability (Disney, other smaller studios) or won't pass the rental option test (ie if I am truly only going to watch that title once in a long while, is a $4 rental a better option at the point of viewing vs. a $2-5 investment for a title I may not watch for some time).
If consumers think all this thru while thinking about what the Wal-mart experience may be like (and that they likely can't view these titles on their iPad while traveling), my guess is that this will not take off very quickly.
I will try it myself on April 16th and let you know how it goes.
As for the other burning question, "How can the studios improve digital sell-thru"? That's an easy list to create but hard for them to accomplish:
1. Make the UltraViolet offer consistent on every title (streaming, download, HD for the right price, viewable on an iPad).
2. Make it easier to register the UltraViolet copy (should be as seamless as my Blu-ray player detecting it and marking my digital locker appropriately).
3. Make the iTunes digital copy work with Ultraviolet (for a small fee).
4. Like iTunes, let me purchase UltraViolet digital only titles (Paramount started this late last year).
5. Provide an incentive for me to convert my physical library that counters that hassle and the Netflix inertia.
If the studios can't do these things in the near term, I predict that a "Seamless" 2nd screen app (Fanhattan, M-GO, BuddyTV) will come along shortly that will "catalog" my digital collection and combine that with the sources of subscription and rental services, and further combine that with my Cable/Telco/Satellite provider program line-up and a slick recommendation / Discovery engine (DigitalSmiths) that includes my social network "likes', and consumers will have the tools to reduce their "purchase" of physical and digital content to only what they need, when they need it...this is a race that Discovery, Social networks, and 2nd Screen might just win.
Does this sound like a deal to anyone or does it sound like the consumers are getting the short end of the stick?
A few things to think about first:
- Apple does not support Ultraviolet, so you will not be able to view your converted library on your iPad or AppleTV.
- There will be content gaps. Disney does not currently support Ultraviolet, and there will be many other smaller studios that don't yet support them either (the other 5 majors do). I am curious to see how this will be handled on April 16th at your local Wal*Mart store.
- If my memory is correct, the average consumer in the US currently has a library of about 70 DVD and Blu-rays (I will try to dig up this data to confirm). That mix in 2012 is probably 80% DVD and 20% Blu-ray (I am making an educated guess about penetration over time). So the cost to convert the average person's library (assuming all titles were supported by Ultraviolet) would be roughly $182. Ouch! I have over 400 DVDs and about 40 Blu-rays, so I need to get a 2nd mortgage to convert my library.
- $2 vs. $5 presumably for better quality video. Let's think through this. Your typical DVD puts out an average bit-rate of about 10 mbps in video rate (this is a measure of how much data is transferring from the disc/player to your tv screen). I say average because intense scenes (big explosion, etc) push more data and slow moving scenes push less. The average bit-rate of a Blu-ray is roughly twice that (about 20 mbps). The typical "SD" or standard definition download or stream from iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, etc, is around 2 mbps. What is typically called "HD" for high definition is pushing 4-6 mbps (720p vs 1080p matters here because there is more data to push). Vudu's "HDX" is supposedly in the 10 mbps range. Now I am sure all of the videophiles out there (and the experts behind download services compression algorithms) will jump in here to say that they are compressing the data "in a smater way" than is typically done for DVD and Blu-ray and therefore get a better picture as a result. I would dispute that for a wide range of fact-based reasons, but even if we gave them a 20% improvement based on this urban legend, what do we have: We are paying $2 for a video to be transferred to my digital locker that is only 20-30% as good as my physical SD version and $5 for a video that is 25-30% the quality of my Blu-ray HD version. Seems like a pretty poor deal.
- What are my options? Well, legally, none. Despite the urban legend that I can rip DVDs and Blu-rays for "personal use", it is still illegal according to the digital millennium act. But what if I were a 19 college student who perhaps cared less about these kinds of laws? I could use a number of paid-for and free software programs available on the internet to "rip" a copy of the DVD or Blu-ray into an .mp4 file. Let's pretend I pay $30 for "good software" (making this up). Let's pretend that I have to spend 12-15 minutes each time I want to make a copy for my personal consumption (typing in the title, the destination, importing into my program for viewing, etc, though the actual transcoding might take an hour while I am doing something else). Let's pretend that I get paid $10 an hour as a college student. My 70 title library would now "cost" me $170-205 (12-15 minutes) to put together. The cost for this library moves and and down based on the consumer's perception of the value of their own time.
- What about quality trades? The great thing about getting an officially sanctioned copy of the title in your digital locker is that it has all of the searchable metadata (title, summary, cast, etc) already done for you. The pro for using locally available software is that you can have a high-quality encode (depending on the source and your tool) every time (ie better than the $5 version).
- What are my options moving forward for new titles? A little research on Amazon tells me that I can buy an "Ultraviolet enabled" version of the title when I buy new movies. The price difference varies. It seems that Warner Brothers is including it with the DVD and Blu-ray for nearly the same price as the discs used to be alone, where as Paramount, Sony and others are charge $2-7 more for a bundled product that is the DVD + Blu-ray + Ultraviolet Digital Copy. My other alternative is of course to buy it from iTunes (typically at the same price as the DVD or Blu-ray), and while I do not get the physical disc nor do I get an UltraViolet compliant digital copy, I get the movie in my "iCloud" service, and can download/stream to any of my apple devices (AppleTV, iPads, etc). If you have tried registering a purchase in Ultraviolet, you know that the experience is complicated and confusing--unlike a purchase from Apple. There has been some activity (from Paramount) offering the digital-only UltraViolet copies to consumers, but this is typically not the case (ie buy something in Vudu, it is stuck in Vudu).
- Solve the pricing issue. Give the consumer a bulk-rate discount to convert 50 or 100 movies at a time to encourage them to do it. Drop the $2 vs $5 disparity since both are inferior in quality that the version on the disc in the first place.
- Create digital service options that are Ultraviolet compliant. Meaning, let me purchase a movie in the Vudu service and view it on my Amazon or Flixster service. Make all the other digital services as easy as using iCloud when accessing my digital locker.
- Get the rest of the content creators / studios to join UltraViolet (they all have agreed to iCloud for Apple).
- I am not going to suggest they get Apple to join UltraViolet because with iCloud for movies, it is clear that with iPads covering 85%+ of the tablet market and the iCloud service being simple and free, they don't need join--they just need a legal physical library conversion option (which I doubt the studios will grant unless they join UltraViolet)...
The audio sync actually worked really well. While I am not a fan of the use of trivia or opinion polls being the use case for synchronized content experiences (so many better ways to engage the consumer), it worked with even relatively low volume levels.
I loved the concept of an integrated commercial experience. While watching a car commercial on the first screen, my iPad had a deep dive experience available which coincided with the 1st screen showing. This is definitely the future of 2nd screen advertising.
I wasn't that impressed with the social features. The UI looked like a screen scrape of a Twitter screen (as did the Facebook feed). The Social Buddy feature was a mystery, with a stranger UI (in Twitter).
Of course, being a dedicated app gave it the best access to exclusive Stimulating content. The features allowing you to see the cast (contestants) and their backgrounds was the highlight of the app (and if you are a Celebrity Apprentice fan, perhaps worth looking past its other feature faults).
- Simple. No ability to control the first screen.
- Social. Weak integration. I would expect them to focus on this feature set as a priority next.
- Stimulating. Good access to the deep dive information to support the show, including the ability to compete in trivia games, etc. No synchronized experience outside the trivia game. Medium.
- Seamless. No provision of multiple sources to view the show.
- Discovery. No features around discovering new content, not even other seasons of the show.
|Detailed Contestant View|
|Social Buddy UI|
The app (due to launch any day) isn't necessarily a second screen app, but is an interesting foray into how engagement is changing between celebrities and fans. Mobovivo put the app together for Adrian and has a few other apps in the works on a major sports team and a TV network that look like it will raise the bar even higher for the rest of the market on building a great consumer User eXperience (UX) for second screen apps.
As Adrian discussed his app (Reckless Adrian Grenier), it was clear that he has bigger plans for the app in the near and mid-term future. He sees this as a way to have fans share photos of themselves with him and other celebrities in his projects, a way to get an autograph from Adrian even if they don't physically meet, and a way to further engage fans beyond a webpage, Facebook or Twitter. It was refreshing to hear someone take this change in behavior as an opportunity to improve the way he engages his fans, rather than a threat.
Trevor clearly sees how rapidly this market is unfolding. He is rapidly expanding his operation to cover LA and is partnering to give his team scale and creative skill sets on the projects they are delivering on. He's got a very clear vision on the feature sets of a second screen engagement, with a big focus on Stimulating and Social, and is working hard to evangelize a strong UX for the consumers with his clients.
While I won't review the other apps he plans to release here (until they are ready for review), I will say that he is someone is this space that should be watched closely.
What kind of metadata is needed to drive a good UX (User eXperience)? What kind of metadata is required to support better advertising or commerce? Who provides this kind of metadata? What are the examples where this is done well in the marketplace today? How much metadata should the content creator or app developer try to capture?
Let's back up a bit and "normalize" all of our experience in this space.
I like to think of metadata in the video space falling into 3 categories: technical (frame rate, frame size, commercial break, bit rate, etc), descriptive (summary, actors, director, reviews) and contextual (what objects are in the scene, what is happening at that point). Clearly, the first is a requirement to deliver a quality video service no matter the channel of delivery, the second is critical to search and recommendation, and the third is critical for any higher value experiences (better commerce, contextual advertising, discovery of new content for a consumer).
One the first (technical metadata), there are a ton of providers out there working on this problem, and for most consumers and business partners out there, this problem is largely solved. This allows you to bring up the right quality choices when watching NetFlix, Hulu or Vudu and ensures you are matching the right codecs with the right devies (and DRM).
The second (descriptive metadata) is technically solved, but is mostly a user interface and scale problem these days. In other words, the ability to put together a summary of a film or TV show combined with the actors/cast, a price point, and an availability date by country is a pretty standard capability for nearly all video delivery solutions. Doing that in many countries across many different business models, devices, and millions if not billions of consumers is the scale problem (or cost problem). Doing it in a manner that allows the consumer to easily find (search) what he/she is looking for (EPG or classic search box) is mostly a UI/UX problem--meaning we know how to deliver the result, but often deliver it in such a confusing manner that the consumer doesn't use the function (or it takes 20 minutes to do so).
So let's focus on the hardest, but most valuable set: contextual metadata.
This is exactly what is required for an enriching content experience on the second screen, a better way to engage audiences in advertising, a more effective way to engage consumers in commerce, and, I believe, the best way to power true Discovery use cases for consumers (vs. search or simple recommendation).
What kind of metadata is needed to drive a good UX (User eXperience)? What kind of metadata is required to support better advertising or commerce? Capturing the information that describes the scene is critical to drive these experiences. A simple example: you are watching "Risky Business" with Tom Cruise. He puts on his new wayfarer sunglasses in the final scene and gives his final line of the movie. With a synchronized experience, we can: a) provide a factoid describing how that scene created a new pop trend for that style of sungalsses in 1986, b) show a Ray-Ban brand advertisement on your tablet, inviting you to click thru to see their new line of reto wayfarer glasses, c) drop you into a store front to buy those exact sunglasses or similar ones, d) show thumbnails of other scenes where Tom Cruise does his signature sunglass scene (TopGun, Mission Impossible, etc), allowing you to put those movies in your queue, rent them for later, etc.
Who provides this kind of metadata? This space is relatively new. Digitalsmiths is probably the most comprehensive in terms of breadth of titles and algorithms (different data captured) applied. RCDb has been doing this for a more limited set of titles and is moving into the metadata syndication space (helping content owners themselves get this rich metadata to third party app developers). Rovi, Gracenote, TMS, FYI and Redbee are all developing their capability or licensing it from others (see the second screen ecosystem discussion in this blog).
What are the examples where this is done well in the marketplace today? A few good apps to checkout are Fanhattan and BuddyTV (for deep, rich metadata) and TVplus (for synchronized metadata experiences).
How much metadata should the content creator or app developer try to capture? This is unfortunately a function of cost. Since you don't know the use case ahead of time (commerce, advertising, better UX, etc), you need to capture as much as you can upfront and normalize it for the array of use cases you foresee in the near term, and then leverage third party services like those mentioned above to supplement or re-tag in an automated fashion in the future.
This is probably the most important element to getting a cost efficient and scalable UX in place for second screen and social TV yet the least understood in our market place.
- 1,073,809 social impressions on the Brit Awards
- 45% of British people use social networks to discuss what is on TV
- 100m cumulative check-ins on GetGlue
- 33% of all discussions on social networks are about traditional media
- $32m+ invested in second screen and social TV in the last 3 months
- 30% of tablet usage happens while watching TV
- 17.5m social impressions on Super Bowl XLVI
- 59% of British people use smartphones to discuss what is on TV
- 17.1m social impressions on the 2012 Grammy's
- 60% of second screen app users return within 2 weeks
- 73% of viewers would like to interact with TV commercials for products they are interested in
- 55% of reality show viewers vote for contestants in the US
- Simple (controlling your first screen). BuddyTV was awarded because of its quick and very relevant ability to help the consumer find content from their second screen and make it effortlessly appear on their TV.
- Social (supporting social interaction through Facebook, Twitter, and live chat). Yap.TV won the audience over with its clean and simple interface for monitoring and contributing Tweets, live chat, and polls. TVplus was one of the few apps that had both a curated Twitter feed (so the entries on large events donâ€™t just FLY by) which was also tied to the timeline of the program (no spoilers)â€”a must for any recorded viewing or for those not in the primary timezone when a live, time-shifted show airs (think East Coast vs. West Coast in the US).
- Seamless (providing consumers with multiple sources of their content options). Fanhattan provided the cleanest and most consistent interface for this feature, providing it in several different views while the consumer searched for content and updating the information across TV seasons (since business rules typically treat the content differently). BuddyTV was close second in this process, having fewer sources of content, but integrating the results with the Simple ability to deliver the content directly to your TV screen instantly.
- Stimulating (providing interesting and relevant related content or services). TVplus set the standard for a synchronized content viewing at the event, firing a content event about every 30-45 seconds, and timing those events to the feature whether live or recorded. Fanhattan was a very close second, with incredibly deep and relevant content and services provided for the test shows (the ability to purchase music, an app, or even items from Amazon for example).
- Discovery (providing new and interesting content recommendations). BuddyTV won the category, closely followed by Fanhattan. Both integrate your social network, scouring Facebook for your friendsâ€™ content Likes and integrate them into your own preference process in different UIâ€™s, but allowing the consumer new, interesting, and relevant content suggestions.
- Best Overall (as judged by experts and voted on by the audience). Fanhattan took the honors, with its clean and simple interface being the most consistent reason for the selection in the voting. BuddyTV was a close second with its strong showing in several of the categories above.
I noticed while preparing for the last few blogs that AT&T U-verse updated their 2nd screen app. I checked it out the other night and it was actually a significant improvement over the previous version (I reviewed it here last November), which got me thinking about the network operators in general. Last November, I postulated that operators would focus strongly on Simple and would likely be ok (medium) on Social and Stimulating, but would be weak (naturally) in Seamless. I also think they are (at least currently) significantly behind the power curve on the concept of Discovery (they are still in the grid guide mentality and think Search is a form of Discovery). Anyway, while I don't have easy access to every app out there (the US market alone has a significant number of network operator apps (satellite, cable, telco), I was able to access DirecTV and TimeWarner Cable through some friends/neighbors and add in my own U-verse view. I'd like to round this out with Verizon and Comcast in the next few weeks, but need to find some friends who live in neighborhoods with that service (no always easy in the LA Metro area).
AT&T U-verse. I took the plunge on U-verse 2 years ago for better broadband speeds and haven't been disappointed in content options or download speeds. The app I previously reviewed was really meant to be your mobile phone app--when you are somewhere else and essentially want to record something on your DVR you forgot to set. The new version of the iPad app is actually pretty impressive. There is even an on-demand section for content to stream to your iPad. They are making progress, which as a subscriber, is received well even if they aren't going to match BuddyTV or Fanhattan anytime soon.
Seamless. It was not surprising to find no way to view other sources of content. They did try to let the consumer browse content by networks for VOD (not sure why) and allowed some titles to be streamed to the iPad (but not channels). None.
Discovery. Nothing. Not even and attempt.
I thought Lost Remote did a great job summarizing their experience yesterday. Not surprisingly, mine was very similar. After finishing my mini-focus group with the neighbors, I headed to a quiet living room where I could test Umami's new features, give Viggle and ConnecTV another go, test the (now) classics of BuddyTV, Yap.TV and TVplus, and see if the much marketed change in IntoNow would stack up. I have to admit, similar to my red carpet experience and despite the apps continuously crashing, I kept coming back to the official ABC Oscar app because it had unique content (the multiple and selectable camera angles).
First things first, like I said in my previous blog, I liked the concepts in the ABC official Oscars app, I just hated the poor app quality. I voted 3 different times before the votes actually 'saved' in the app. It crashed continually. It had poor Social features. But the exclusive and selectable camera angles made me keep coming back.
Umami had some interesting new features to crow about. The trending Twitter indication was interesting (but for consumers, probably less so). The Freeze Frame app was a cool way to share content (though I suspect as yet unapproved by content creators). Essentially, you hit a button and the magic server in the cloud snaps a picture (I am assuming this only works for live TV and not even time shifted east coast / west coast TV). If you could get the photo right, it was pretty cool.
ConnecTV? It did better. The room was VERY quiet and the audio sync'd successfully 3 of 4 attempts. It was the first time the "synchronized" content did not appear random (though based on some DVR pauses, I don't think it was synchronized but just tied to the current real-time moment). I still don't like the advertising engagement (not in synch with the TV) or the use of real state from a UI perspective.
IntoNow surprised me by having a relatively cool feature. They showed recent photos of the red carpet and the Oscars and asked for a like or no-like, and then shared the rating of other users with you. Very much the "Social Networking Hot or Not" example from the movie. I actually think their Twitter feed implementation is better, though still needs curation and time-syncing. The massive real-estate to display who else is using the app seems odd at best.
Yap.tv hasn't changed much. Very much the social-only app, but I have to say that having the Twitter feed literally fly by is not a great experience.
Miso? No comment.
You wouldn't believe the abuse I have taken over the past few months from some of my unbelieving neighbors who have constantly told me that they want to watch their TV show or movie and not have any of it distracted with a tablet or laptop.
For today's big event, I offered to join the girls briefly while they watched to get some live feedback (of the naysayers), but they rebuffed me with great laughter. While I was reviewing the apps, I sent a few pics to their iPhones just to show them what they were missing. I was quickly invited down the street to share the iPad experience with them.
It was actually a great experience to see the naysayers (pictured above) convert so quickly into real enthusiasts. They were quickly pulling the iPad on to the coffee table so that everyone could see the various camera angles from the ABC Official Oscars app and the arrival photos from the E! Live from the Red Carpet app.
Let's start with the ABC Official Oscars app:
- I received a ton of comments about the poor nature of the ABC app during the week. It was crashing for people, not well designed, etc. I was eager to check it out tonight.
- The ability to see multiple camera angles during the red carpet the was a very cool feature and my focus group subjects spent most of their on it.
- The app did crash quite a bit. Really.
- I did try the voting feature. 3 times. It wiped out my entries for 2 of the attempts.
- The orientation of the app was quite frankly bizarre. The iPhone version stayed in landscape 90% of the time. The iPad app stayed in portrait 95% of the time. Seems very, very backwards.
- I was not a fan of the Twitter feed implementation. Too official.
- They missed the opportunity to have a live, synchronized experience (think TVplus). My test subjects constantly asked why they couldn't see a link the various actors, know about the dress, the dress maker, etc.
- Simple-none. Social-low. Stimulating-high. Seamless-none. Discovery-none.
- But, in the end, having access to the other camera feeds for the Red Carpet still made the app indispensable.
- The 360 Glam Cam was certainly very missed.
- The arrival photos were great, though the app did crash suddenly quite a bit while trying to flip through them and there was no easy ways to see new ones without exiting that feature and going back into it.
- There were great news links (near live blog-like posts).
- There was also a very interesting shopping experience that is likely a hit for those watching this online a few days later.
- The Twitter experience was ok, but not great.
- Simple-none. Social-medium. Seamless-none. Stimulating-high. Discovery-none.
If I had to pick between one app or the other, it would be a hard choice. Neither of them are great across the classic features we think about when reviewing these apps like Social or Simple (including stability), but both of them have access to Stimulating content that just can't be overcome by other apps' classic quality features. Live video feeds from multiple angles that are selectable by the viewer and fashion review assets (photos and in theory the glam cam) are what really counted and enabled the test subjects (and myself) to tolerate the other feature weaknesses.
Oh yeah, and are these kinds of experiences mass market yet? Just ask my neighbors, some of which who don't even have a DVR, what they plan to do for the next Red Carpet event.
The keynote was presented by Bill Baxter, CTO of BuddyTV. The topic of his presentation was when Second Screen would second screen be a mass market experience. His conclusion was that is was already; however, during the discussion, he gave some great insight to BuddyTV's experience around social engagement (about 0.5% of users actually comment in the app via chat or Twitter, but 50% of them read the comments and Tweets). Additionally, he postulated that when consumers used his app to control the 1st device (Simple), they were twice as likely to engage in other parts of the app (Social, Stimulating, etc).
The initial panel consisted of 45 minutes of passionate discussions around what creates an engaging consumer experience with input from BuddyTV, M-GO, Fanhattan, 1K and TVplus (moderated by myself). There was an excellent debate around the concept of a "killer feature" that would propel second screen forward across the chasm to mass adoption.
It was followed by a 40-minute panel on metadata, with participation from Automated Insights, Digital Smiths, RCDb, Rovi and TVplus (moderated by myself again). Ajay Shah from TVplus started the conversation off by explaining how his team currently builds their synchronized experiences and the metadata experts discussed the potential evolution of metadata services to support the developing second screen market--including the concept of metadata becoming "sexy".
We had a very interesting "app shoot-out" just before lunch. The concept was for each app to have 3 minutes to show off their capabilities in Simple, Social, Seamless, Stimulating and Discovery across a Modern Family episode and the recent airing of The Voice. The audience then voted on Twitter and on write-in ballots for the best app in each category and best overall. The winners which were presented at the end of the day were awarded as follows: Simple - BuddyTV, Social - Yap.tv, Seamless - Fanhattan, Stimulating - TVplus, Discovery - BuddyTV, and Best Overall to Fanhattan. Congratulations all.
In the afternoon, we had some great data insight presented by NPD on how the CE device market was shaping up to support second screen, followed by a great panel on the subject with Verizon, LG, Samsung and Testronics (moderated by Tom Engdahl).
That was followed by a great panel discussion from Fox, Disney, Technicolor, Civolution, Blu-Focus and Jargon around collaboration in building great second screen applications, with a very lively debate around the requirement to "templatize" / build a platform vs. the need to support creativity and a great UX.
Renaud Fuchs from Technicolor then delivered a very interesting data set on the second screen app market to date, with views on what market phase we were in (multiplication or consolidation) and presented some compelling data on Get Glue usage.
Finally, the day was capped off with a panel on Monetizing the Second Screen with inputs from Second Screen Networks, GetThis, MediaLink and McCann Worldgroup (moderated by Seth Shapiro). While not conclusive, there was a good debate that continued from previous panels about commerce and advertising (and loyalty programs) balanced with a great user experience.
A great inaugural event for this fast-paced market segment with the most asked question during the cocktail reception being "When and where should the industry gather next?"
- Feb 12th. Review with the Grammys.
- Jan 29th. App comparison summary.
- Jan 8th. App comparison summary.
- Dec 8th. 2nd Review of the app.
- Dec 6th. Review of the app.
I’ve had a number of people ask for a moreÂ basic introduction to the concepts of Second Screen and to answer the question of “so what?”Â with some current statistics.
Let’s try this:
- The concept. ThisÂ pictureÂ says it all. Â Â The simple act of watching television (sports, movies, or your favorite TV series) with a smart phone, tablet, or laptop in your hands.
- What to do. The idea is to further engage the consumer in the event or show in front of them with 3 basic use cases (see thisÂ infographic):
1. Videophile/sports enthusiast. Additional fan-based content about the show or sporting event. This could be as simple as the details about the careers of the cast or as complex as relevant information about the current scene synchronized to the playback of the show itself.
2. Commerce. Presenting relevant information to the viewer so that they can purchase that hat, that handbag or dress, that jersey, etc.
3. Advertising. Putting relevant and engaging advertisements that the consumer would actually be interested in seeing.
I discuss the apps themselves based on their ability to control the 1st screen (Simple), to connect viewers (Social), to aggregate multiple content sources (Seamless), to engage the consumer (Stimulating), and to allow the consumer to find relevant new content (Discovery). Further explained in thisÂ blog.
Perhaps a better explanation is thisÂ Disney Tron Legacy video.
So what? Â check out some of the statsÂ here.
Earlier today, we talked about the 10 apps we plan to review next week at the 2nd Screen Summit. Â But how many apps are actually out there? Â I think the way to think about this is consider the business model or objective of the app and then group them based on their backing or investment levels. Â For example, there are apps with great funding coming from the network operators (Verizon, DirecTV, etc), but we need to keep in mind the objective of their backers (reduce churn and if possible raise ARPU). Â While broadcast networks (ABC, NBC) or network brands (Bravo, Syfy, USA) have a completely different goal in mind (create stickiness for their shows and potentially to sell advertising). Â Branded show apps or feature film apps are clearly about building brand stickiness, and all of the third party apps are trying to figure out how to generate revenue (either thru some form of advertising or marketing or commerce). Â What does all of this mean for the consumer? Â It means you will probably find the best show-based Stimulating content coming from the branded network or show apps, while the best features for Simple will come from the network operators. Â It also immediately implies that 3rd party apps are the consumers best shot at driving forward feature development because it is the only way for them to differentiate themselves against the advantage network operators and branded networks/shows have on them to have a shot at convincing the consumer to use their app instead.
So, while not quite the same landscape or ecosystem we reviewed a few weeks ago, on the iPad, it looks something like the images below. Â Come next week and discuss with us (www.2ndscreensummit.com).
So, while not quite the same landscape or ecosystem we reviewed a few weeks ago, on the iPad, it looks something like the images below. Come next week and discuss with us (www.2ndscreensummit.com).
|Branded TV Network / Show Apps|
|Network Operator Apps|
|Well-funded 3rd Party Apps We'll Review on Feb 22, 2012|
|Other Well-funded 3rd Party Apps|
|3rd Party Apps with Less Funding / Presence|
|More 3rd Party Apps with Less Funding / Presence|
As many of you already know, we are holding aÂ 1-day conference next week at the Loews in Santa Monica (Feb 22) with two parallel tracks: one on Second Screen and one on Social TV.
We are planning to run a 2nd screen app “shoot-out” around lunch time. Â Essentially, we are going to take the audience through a three-minute tour of each of 10 Second Screen TV apps where in the 1st minute we walk through a series of use cases for the consumer on a scripted TV show, in the 2nd minute we perform similar tasks on a live / reality TV show, and then give the app developers a chance to show off the features they believe differentiate themselves in the 3rd minute.
Then we’ll let the conference audience vote using Twitter hash tags and combine that feedback with the views of a small panel of “expert” judges (50/50).
Finally, we’ll award the winners in 6 categories at the end of the conference day (just before cocktails):
- Best in Simple (ability to control the first screen)
- Best in Social (ability to interact with others via Twitter, Facebook, live chat, etc)
- Best in Seamless (ability to provide multiple sources for viewing content)
- Best in Stimulating (ability to provide the consumer with interesting and relevant content during their viewing experience)
- Best in Discovery (ability to provide the consumer with recommendations on other content he/she may be interested in)
- Best Overall 2nd Screen Experience
Here are the list of apps we plan to review next Wednesday:
We are planning to run a 2nd screen app "shoot-out" around lunch time. Essentially, we are going to take the audience through a three-minute tour of each of 10 Second Screen TV apps where in the 1st minute we walk through a series of use cases for the consumer on a scripted TV show, in the 2nd minute we perform similar tasks on a live / reality TV show, and then give the app developers a chance to show off the features they believe differentiate themselves in the 3rd minute.
Then we'll let the conference audience vote using Twitter hash tags and combine that feedback with the views of a small panel of "expert" judges (50/50).
Finally, we'll award the winners in 6 categories at the end of the conference day (just before cocktails):
- Best in Simple (ability to control the first screen)
- Best in Social (ability to interact with others via Twitter, Facebook, live chat, etc)
- Best in Seamless (ability to provide multiple sources for viewing content)
- Best in Stimulating (ability to provide the consumer with interesting and relevant content during their viewing experience)
- Best in Discovery (ability to provide the consumer with recommendations on other content he/she may be interested in)
- Best Overall 2nd Screen Experience
Visit www.2ndscreensummit.com to reserve your place in the conference and get a chance to vote on your favorite apps. See you on Wednesday in Santa Monica.