Analyzing the Disney – Netflix Deal

December 6, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
This already much discussed content deal was announced fresh on the heels of our discussions together Monday at the Forecast : Hollywood event where we discussed at great length the digital subscription window and how it impacts content owner profitability and why it is driving the vast majority of growth in digital video consumption.

But the more I discussed this Tuesday and Wednesday with various industry colleagues, and the more I read articles covered by various newspapers, the more I realized that there are details and nuances in how content windows work and what is driving servicer provider profitability and consumer consumption that not everyone is fully aware.

So let's examine a few of them from the three most important views in this equation: Disney, Netflix and the Consumer.



1. The Consumer. This is the easy one. Assuming that price for the Netflix subscription doesn't increase, this is clearly a win for the consumer. They get access to movies as they move through the Pay TV window (typically 3-6 months after DVD street date for 6 months. Keep in mind, that regardless of who the consumer is, it is cheaper to have Netflix than it is HBO or Starz (on my AT&T package, HBO is $14 a month, Starz is $10 and I pay $8 for Netflix streaming only). For those parents with young kids--this is really, really good value.

2. Netflix. The articles sight analyst estimates that Netflix paid as much as $300 million per year for this deal when Starz only offered $100 million per year. The journalists further mention the concern that Netflix is financially over extended already, having paid significant sums of money already for Relativity and DreamWorks catalogs. But keep in mind how this works for Netflix. This isn't a $25 million per month cost to them (roughly $1 a day at current subscriber levels), bur rather this is an investment in attracting more subscribers. Let's assume this is a 3-year deal. To keep the math simple, we'll assume that any new consumers are only on board for 18-months of service (ie the linear average of all new sign-ups over the forecast period). Let's make one more simple assumption--that the average Netflix subscriber pays $10 per month (meaning some mix of streaming only and streaming + disc). So, while currently at roughly 25m million subscribers, Netflix would need to sign up an additional 5m subscribers to break even over the forecast period (meaning if they don't renew the deal after 3 years, every single subscriber who joined perhaps because of the Disney content leaves the service). I realize growing by 20% seems like a huge growth curve, but keep in mind that it really means they need a linear growth of 7% (1.67m new subscribers per year). And keep in mind that between tablet, SmartTV, and gaming console forecasted growth over this period, only a very small percentage of them would have to join to achieve these numbers. So, in both the short and long term, this looks like a win-win for Netflix, and more importantly, this gives them a steady stream of content for their consumers that is considered both "premium" and is fully of kid-friendly titles. What about additional costs? Likely to be very minimal (bandwidth costs continue to decline at a steady pace).

3. Disney. After our discussions Monday, this certainly seems like a perplexing decision on the surface, but let's analyze the details. First, a quick reminder on windows:

- A movie comes out at the theaters and stays there for 10-12 weeks.
- Then it gets released on DVD/Blu-ray and is mostly available the same day for digital rental and purchase.
- Then it his the Pay TV window (HBO, Starz, Showtime, EPIX, and now Netflix), which typically carries some level of exclusivity for 3-6 months.

So in theory, to the consumer, this is no different than Disney movies being available on Starz or HBO, which should mean that physical and digital buy rates should not be impacted. Keep in mind that for the majority of movies, the consumer makes a decision of when to see it based on their trade-off of price and time--the movie theater being the most expensive but earliest during the marketing hype cycle, and the pay TV window being the cheapest but forcing the consumer to wait as long as 6 months after the movie was released to theaters. So, unless the Disney deal does not move the titles through the Pay TV window (meaning they are available on Netflix, then are unavailable after 3-6 months), this will not impact the other windows--all they have done is potentially triple their revenue (and profit) and have impacted other pay TV window aggregators.

So, while perplexing on the surface, this is a good deal for every player involved and will likely create subscriber growth for Netflix that surpasses that of HBO (30m) before the deal is completed in 2019.

Want to discuss further? Join us at the 2nd Screen Summit on January 7th at the Wynn during CES in Las Vegas (www.2ndscreensummit.com).

@ChuckParkerTech


Driving digital video ownership

December 4, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
I had the opportunity yesterday to share the stage with rockstar analysts Tom Adams (of IHS Screen Digest), Anne Arroyo of the NPD Group, and Larry Taman of GfK to discuss an industry outlook for home enterainment at the Forecast:Hollywood 2013 event presented by Variety and MESA today in LA.  Some interesting data points shared during the presentations:
  • UltraViolet now has 6m user accounts
  • an estimated 30% of U.S. households have tried an OTT streaming service
  • 31% of consumer households view their video entertainment on both physical and digital formats
  • a substantial number of subscription streaming households (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime) also purchase and rent content on eiher Amazon or iTunes 

The real question in front of content creators in the home entertainment space today is how to maintain profitability.  Video consumption has never been higher in the U.S. household, but it is the mix of consumption that is hurting Hollywood studios.  
There has been substantial growth in digital subscription services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, soon to be RedBox Instant by Verizon), physical rental kiosks (RedBox) and disc-by-mail subscription services (Netflix)--all of which earn about 1/3 of the profit per viewing of their "digital transaction" cousins (digital rental and sell-thru) and physical retail sell-thru.  To exacerbate the situation, there is no equivalent concept of "digital ownership" in the consumers' eyes, and as a result as consumers migrate to digital consumption models, they are rarely choosing to replace a physical purchase with a digital purchase, opting instead for digital rental (same margins, 25% the gross value) or digital subscription (1/3 the margin, 25% the gross value).  Keep in mind, we have discussed this several times before at conferences and in this blog.

What is a home entetainment executive to do?  To stick with Tom Adams' theme from yesterday, the required 1-2 punch here is:
  1. Drive down "premium title" availability in digital subscription services, and 
  2. Make UltraViolet ubiquitous.  
The good news is that content owners have turned the tide in the last year on premium title availability in digital subscription services (in effect, managing their windows better).  The charts below show the availability of titles in the IMDB top 100 title list (a measure of evergreen titles which have mainly been around a long time) and the Rentrak top 50 over the last 90 days (a measure of the most recently streeted Top 10 VoD, Rental and Sell-thru titles).  While consumers very likely don't understand it yet, the quality of titles available in their subscription OTT streaming services has degraded by more than half in the last 12 months and is likely to stay there now that Hollywood is managing its windowing for this service separately and with great attention to its impact on other windows.  This is evidenced by the near ubiquitous availability of digital rental and sell-thru titles in both charts (2nd on left) when compared to the pitiful availability in Amazon Prime and Netflix (far right).

The bad news is that UltraViolet, the hopeful savior for the industry's shrinking sell-thru proposition, is only coming in on availability in the 50-60% range in either chart, making it just another format for the already format beleaguered consumer.  So, in a town where being cooperation is often viewed as a weakness, ironically the path to success isn't just about making the majority of any one studio's titles available, but requires that nearly all of the studios make their titles available on UltraViolet.  So peer pressure, cajoling, horse trading and team work is required to build a catalog of titles that gives the consumer a serious value proposition for digital ownership through UltraViolet.  Keep in mind, this isn't a digital rights issue--digital title availability for rental and sell-thru on iTunes is nearly ubiquitous--this is a business decision to NOT support UltraViolet.  While there are other things that can and need to be fixed with UltraViolet (the UX for signing up and acquiring titles, better portability options, retail availbility at Amazon and iTunes, convincing Disney to join, etc), none of these will matter if the consumer does not believe they can build a catalog here with more value than any of the digital services where title availability is much, much higher.

Finally, the other counter intuitive approach to drive "digital ownership", which is supported by the data Anne presented from NPD: develop consumer value propositions in "universal search" that allow consumers to access their "purchased" content readily in a recommendation User eXperience in their favorite subscription service.  In other words, whether the consumer is in his favorite cable interface or on his very slick digital subscription service, reveal titles from the subscription service AND from the consumer's own UltraViolet catalog. In line with Anne's data, the consumers will ultimately buy more because they will benefit from the ownership in their recommendations and in their actual viewing choices.  If you don't believe this, spend an afternoon with NextGuide or BuddyTV--which are 3rd party second screen tablet/smartphone apps that allow the consumer to search Live TV (their subscription service) and Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, etc.  See how quickly they will change the way to search for content going forward because they allow you to choose the sources.  In the mood for a recently released blockbuster?  These apps will point you to the services that carry it.  Just want to watch something from a service you already paid for?  Just remove iTunes and Vudu from the search list and get the best available within your Live TV and OTT subscription services.

Interested in learning about digital title availability or second screen guide apps in more detail?  Come join us at the Wynn on January 7th @ CES.  www.2ndscreensummit.com 

See you in Vegas.

@ChuckParkerTech


Revisiting Microsoft’s Xbox SmartGlass Platform

December 3, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Last week I had the opportunity to moderate a second screen panel and attend several other panels and presentations at the Variety Entertainment App Summit in LA.  While I greatly enjoyed the panel on second screen monetization with YuMe, Magic Ruby, Cinram/1K and MTV, I thought the most eye-opening session was the presentation of Microsoft Xbox SmartGlass by Mark Turner.  While I had seen Ron Pessner present something similar back at a 2nd Screen Society in NY last June and I had been playing with the platform at home for the past 2 weeks (and even wrote about it last week), somehow the epiphany of just how big this could be for the entire second screen ecosystem had escaped me.  Let me talk you through the key points they get me excited and explain why I spent this weekend re-exploring the platform at home.



Context:
  • Nearly 60m Xbox consoles have sold worldwide, nearly 40m of them believed to be in the U.S.  Half of those Xbox consoles subscribe to Xbox online services--even if we use the same ratio as installs to be conservative (the U.S. rate is likely much higher), that gives Xbox more than 20m homes in the U.S.--roughly as many as Comcast or Netflix.
  • Microsoft's stated goals with the second screen platform are to enable 1) Discovery and Control, 2) Immersive Entertainment, 3) better Gaming.  
  • Principles as stated in a slide by Mark: 
    • 1) Connect via People and Content, not devices.  There are only 5 different versions of the platforms in terms of UI: Android, Microsoft Windows 8 PC/Tablet, Microsoft Phone, iPhone, iPad
    • 2) Each screen magically tunes to me.  This is a REALLY BIG deal and we will talk about this most of the blog.
    • 3) Each screen as a "superpower" and the 2 screens cooperate together.
    • 4) There is a clear focus at any given time between the screen.
    • 5) Every second screen experience provides and end-to-end consumer experience. 
  • Development of the experiences is done by the content rights holder (game, video, music) in a web-based CMS using HTML 5 and Javascript.
Ok, I realize that most of you are now feeling like you wasted your time reading this far.

Let me try again.  We discussed the 2nd Screen Technology Hype Cycle in September at IBC.  In that blog and during that weekend, we said the most interesting future capability was an "OS-level ACR", meaning the capability for an iTunes or Netflix to deliver the ultimate video second screen experience because it always knew exactly where the video was at frame level detail.  

This is an implementation of that technology trigger, blowing right past the hype phase (except perhaps for this blog and Ballmer's event last May in LA) and straight into the delivery of real value.  Only instead of delivering this for a video platform, they have created a platform with an SDK for Music, Gaming and Video.

And, there is no "app launching", installing, etc, for anyone in the chain to worry about.  When you put content onto the Xbox, it checks for a relevant enhanced second screen experience.  If there is one, it launches it, and if not, it launches its basic second screen experience.  Create a new or modified experience, and every consumer after that point benefits from it.

While I am slightly torn that there will be no 3rd party content experiences (because I know the content holders will be VERY slow to enhance their content), it is ultimately the right approach (meaning you can't have a UGC YouTube-like second screen system on top of professional content).

Think I am overselling or hit my head?  Go try their music subscription (Xbox Music).  There is a  free trial for 30 days.  Turn on a featured playlist (try the Christmas playlist).  As your Xbox is showing the artist and a few shuffling and Ken Burns-affected photos, your SmartGlass app gives you control (like a remote), Stimulating related metadata to the artist/song and rudimentary Discovery (related music that is just a click a way).  This exists for EVERY SINGLE ARTIST, EVERY SONG in the platform.  In other words, there is a basic, system-provided second screen experience that every piece of content in the platform will enjoy.  Then content creators/owners (or their appointed service providers) and create enhanced experiences for their content.

The default video experience which I wrote about in my last blog is certainly at revision 0.9, but the implications that a basic second screen experience exists for every single title in the catalog with the basic implementation of Control (Simple), a Stimulating Enhanced experience, and an element of Discovery is monumental.

And just before you think I drank some Microsoft Kool-aid at the conference, there are a huge number of things to be improved:
  • Control (Simple).  Tuning required (esp on iPad version).  Better feature control of the Xbox (editing playlists for music, for example), dropping music into a upcoming queue, etc.
  • Enhanced or immersive experience (Stimulating).  The basic experience could be readily improved in breadth and depth just by implementing a scene-level metadata solution (see Digitalsmiths) for every title, and the metadata set for the scene level objects need to be extended (too cursory when compared to Fanhattan or IMDB).
  • Discovery.  Currently, this is very rudimentary (a collaborative filtering approach).  There are 3rd party discovery engines out there that could quickly improve the feature set, but they also need to import my existing effort in the social world (my Facebook likes) and leverage the concept of multiple sources for their partners Netflix and Hulu.  I realize it may be counter-intuitive for Microsoft to launched you to Netflix for a title where they make no money vs. their own version of the same title, but they are not trying to make $0.30 on a rental, they are trying to gain a subscriber who becomes loyal to their ecosystem.
  • Social.  Mark did spend a significant amount of time on the concept, but I left it out up top because it is a closed, Xbox only approach.  There is still nothing that allows me to leverage my other social networks in the "real" world.  This, similar to my comments on leveraging other sources of content, is counter-intuitive, but if you want me to switch to Xbox for the majority of my needs, you need to solve this.
  • Content.  The only major drawback in both the music and video content for Xbox--I cannot take it with me.  I like to purchase/own TV and Film and Music in my Apple ecosystem because I can watch it on a plane, use it while traveling, etc.  This is a must have for the Xbox ecosystem to take on Apple.

However, this is an ecosystem battle and currently it looks Microsoft it way out in front of this war:
  • Cable/Telco - MVPD / Pay TV Operators.  So far, DirecTV and Xfinity lead the way, but are a generation behind this "OS-level" concept of ACR for all content in the ecosystem.
  • Apple.  Obviously we will never know what they are working on until it is out, but so far, it looks like Microsoft has them flatfooted.
  • Android.  Has a long, long ways to go to create a living room ecosystem, though GoogleTV offers them that chance, but they need tighter integration with various players in the chain (the CE players).
  • Amazon.  Has announced "X-ray" for their Kindle Fire HD titles (gives some enhanced experience with related metadata), but this has yet to progress to titles delivered to other non-Amazon devices and into the living room.
  • Sony.  Seemingly asleep, though they own all the right tools for this (Gracenote, Playstation, portable devices, phones, etc).

Excited now?

Come discuss this and more on January 7th at the Wynn in Las Vegas.  www.2ndscreensummit.com

@ChuckParkerTech



My Review of Microsoft Xbox SmartGlass

November 29, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Microsoft has continued to develop the Xbox platform into an entertainment convergence powerhouse that has migrated from the family teenager's bedroom or basement into the living room.  They made a significant leap with Kinnect in the gaming world in early 2010, and then earlier this year launched a video and menu navigation system that leverages voice and Kinnect and even leverages their search engine Bing.

Then this spring they announced Microsoft Xbox Smartglass with a ton of fanfare, lead by Balmer himself and in LA of all places.  While they have continued to follow-up on that with Windows 8 phones and tablets, a formidable device and ecosystem approach in its own right, their greatest weapon for winning the living room battle may be their second screen development platform SmartGlass.



Ron Pessner did a great presenting Smartglass at our 2nd Screen Summit in June in NYC.  He covered some great gaming demos and a demo for Game of Thrones for HBO that showcased some of the high profile uses cases for the technology.

The platform itself launched to iOS app store on November 7th, 2012, giving iPhone and iPad users a chance to try out the app.  When you launch the app, there are some introductory videos on how to use SmartGlass which were in fact very helpful and well-placed for first time usage.

I tried out the SmartGlass platform on both my phone and my tablet. I felt like the phone experience was better for quick navigation (much faster access to recent applications like the Amazon Video app or Hulu than the motion, voice, or even game controller-based remote system), but I thought that the tablet experience was better for the companion experiences and for attempting to use as a navigation aid (swiping with control was harder with the phone UI).

The actual swiping itself and touch responsiveness of the app requires some tuning. In some places, it was too sensitive and would literally fly across multiple screen when I was trying just to move right or left by one tile. In other places, I could not get it to swipe or move one tile left or right. I also found the swiping itself counter-intuitive to the typical tablet control where you use your finger to drag the content across the screen (same with Xbox motion controls by the way), but in the first version of SmartGlass, to move right you drags your finger right like the old mouse pointing devices. I am betting they will reverse that soon to match their motion control system soon.

While using to navigate the menu had its positive and negatives, the companion viewing experience while watching a movie was a good indication of what was to come in the future. It was not exactly clear which titles in the Video store carried this feature, but I got lucky with my pick of the Amazing Spider-Man and got to test drive it. It behaved for control similarly to many Blu-ray-based second screen apps today, showing me chapter pictures and letting me use it for control (skip to chapters, trick play, etc). It also had a Stimulating feature allowing me to see which actors were currently in the scene with brief bio links (this could be much better). While the experience was a good start, they could certainly improve both the depth and breadth of the companion viewing approach, but they are headed in the right direction.

In conclusion, I would say this is actually a pretty strong delivery for a company that announced something in May, has bootstrapped a second screen development platform and SDK, and has revision 1 capabilities in the marketplace by early November (when I recorded the experience). There is much to be improved upon, but I think they should be applauded for the distance they have already covered in such a short time.

Ironically, the day before this is set to publish, there is an article about an update to the Xbox the changes some functionality in Smartglass...will get back to you soon.

Covering the 5 major feature sets:

- Simple. High. Great control of the 1st screen, giving me the ability no only to choose content and manage playback in multiple ways, but allowing me to quickly and easily launch other video apps and control those as well.
- Seamless. Low. The search is only Microsoft's video search or Bing, but there is no integration across Hulu, Netflix, etc, allowing you to launch directly to a title app (one of the better features of GoogleTV for example).
- Discovery. Low. The hooks are all there, but currently there is only rudimentary recommendation based on some lists and some level of collaborative filtering.
- Stimulating.  Medium to High.  Well on their way to creating a great enhanced viewing experience--can't wait to see how they manage this in the gaming world.
- Social.  Low.  They have their native chat/friends system, but no integration outside of that, no way to view other social network activity.

The Coming Battle for Second Screen

November 27, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
In the last few weeks, a key number of market events have taken place that give an indication of what lies ahead for Second Screen.


- Game Consoles. While all of us know have known for some time that Microsoft's announcement in the spring about SmartGlass was an important sign to their commitment to the space, most of us (including me) were surprised they delivered a revision-1 level experience relatively quickly and have a serious vision about what this change in consumer behavior can mean to their platform in terms of changing hard core gamer experience AND changing video entertaiment on the platform. But what I think is passing over the heads of most of the industry is what impact the Wii U will have on gaming and the second screen space.
Remember, that when the Wii came out, nearly all of the industry pundits and hard core gaming bloggers "poned" the Wii as a "toy" for the casual consumer. But within a few months, both Microsoft and Sony were scrambling to catch-up to the phenomena that the advent of motion control-based gaming that the Wii launched. Now, with the Wii U essentially leaping out front again with a second screen-based gaming system, the rumors of Microsoft's and Sony's 2013-shippable consoles are all about having a controller with an HD-screen (likely a tablet of sorts).  If you didn't believe consumer behavior was changing before, watch out now.  The good news for Microsoft this time--they were not caught flatfooted and are well-positioned.  Sony...not so much.

- Consolidation phase. The cycles of a new industry segment begin with a technology trigger, the hype of monetizable changes in the market place, and then multiplication of competitors in the space. With well more than 200 apps in the market place and an ecosystem that contnues to grow at break neck speeds, we can certainly say the duplication phase is well underway.  However, there is even more clear evidence now that we are shifting into the consolidation phase. There are a serious number of companies already in the "App Graveyard" where their hope at achieving both consumer adoption and a business model has been killed off by market forces.  Additionally, the investment money in recent months seems to be pouring into making existing players bigger vs. launching new entrants (eg zeebox investment from Sky, Comcast, Viacom, and HBO).  Finally, the announced acquisition of GetGlue by Viggle (previously acquired Loyalize) and the rumored hunt by Yahoo for TVGuide.com (or something better) to supplement their early 2012 acquisition of IntoNow is further evidence that this phase has indeed begun in earnest.

So, assuming that the key players find working business models, that means we will soon see a viable, profitable industry segment emerge in the second screen space.

However, in the meantime, expect a whole lot more effort to be placed by everyone in the ecosystem on securing their near term future in the space.

Want to continue the conversation on finding the money in second screen?  Join us Thursday in LA at the Variety Entertainment Apps Summit @ 11:45am for the panel on Monetizing the 2nd Screen with Magic Ruby, 1K, YuMe and MTV.

An Updated NextGuide by Dijit – A Second Screen Content Guide App

November 14, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Its been a little over 60 days since the launch of NextGuide by Dijit (and our review)--an app designed to help the consumer to Seamlessly find something to watch from multiple content sources including their channel provider line-up (using Zip Code and service provider information) and OTT sources like Hulu, Netflix, iTunes and Amazon. More importantly, the app's UI and UX are designed to facilitate Discovery of new content for the consumer.



The most obvious improvement to the consumer is the addition of a book marking capability. In the previous version, if you found something you wanted to watch but did not want to watch now, the only way you could remind yourself was to "Favorite", which presumably impacted the recommendation algorithm in the future. Now the consumer has the ability to "Bookmark" the item, which has a reminder feature (30 minutes before the airing of the show). CEO Jeremy Toeman tells me it will impact the recommendation algorithm, but without the same weighting as a full "favorited" item (as you may ultimately not like something to bookmark to watch later).

The improvements to the social activity pane are notable (click on your own avatar), allowing you to easily see your existing Facebook friends, what they have liked (on Facebook, regardless of this app), and what you have in common. This is helpful when using the "Your Friends" view, as you get the most popular items from your friends, and if you have a large Facebook network where perhaps you are not necessarily aligned with video viewing interests of the entire group, this could be return some undesirable results. You can quickly check out the things your friends have liked, sorted in a reverse timeline feed (most recent at the top), giving you a sense of what is trending amongst your Facebook friends. Of course, for your friends on the app itself, the feature is even more powerful, integrating more granular activity.

There are also decent improvements to the UI of the category and favorite channel management feature. You have a point and drag feature allowing you to easily sort categories (popular, LA Lakers, Notre Dame Football) and genres (Horror, Western, etc) as well as rearrange and choose your favorite channel line-ups in a much easier way.

I spent sometime working checking out the apps recommendations and they do seem to be improving (either they are improving the algorithm or my marking of favorites and "watched" is improving the results from better input data).

In our FIVE feature categories, the app measures up like this:

- Simple (control of the 1st screen).  Light.  You can trigger a DVR recording on DirecTV set top boxes (other services may be on the horizon) and can launch titles directly into OTT apps on your iPad (2nd screen as the 1st screen).
- Seamless (content sourcing). Medium and improving. The major sources are covered, but missing are Pay TV networks like HBO and Cinemax or OTT services like Vudu.
- Discovery (offering content recommendations). Strong and improved. One of the better UI's in the Second Screen "guide" world.
- Stimulating (enhancing your viewing experience). Still relatively light (some cursory information about actors).
- Social. Carrying the expected basics and has the good sense to leverage your existing Facebook social network of content likes while offering the opportunity to follow others who may have similar interests and may not be your "Friend". Absent are social feeds during content viewing and even Twitter integration itself.

Overall, I think this app will continue to be a force in the Second Screen "Guide" space (focused on helping consumers find something to watch).

Let me know what you think!

@ChuckParkerTech





An Updated View of which Second Screen Apps to Watch in 2012

October 29, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Earlier this summer, I wrote a brief blog on 10 second screen apps to watch discussing which apps I thought had a compelling enough user experience to propel them forward. Since then, we have gotten together as an industry for debate in NYC (twice--once for Advertising Week, once for CEA), in Amsterdam @ IBC, and on the West Coast at the MultiScreen, NextTV and TV|Next summits. In the meantime, NextGuide and zeebox launched their apps in the US--a lot of changes have taken place.

As we are now a few weeks into the Fall TV season, I thought I would update my views on which apps seem to be furthest along the path to develop the features that will drive serious consumer adoption.

I continue to believe there are really 5 major features sets that drive consumers to pick up a device as their second screen in an attempt to add value to their first screen experience: Finding something to watch (Discovery), determining where to watch it (Seamless content sourcing, often combined with Discovery), launching that content to your first screen (Simple), getting more information about the program, whether sport stats, actor bios, games, or commerce opportunities (Stimulating), and then sharing all of that and more with your friends (Social).



Seamless Discovery. Finding something you really want to watch from the plethora of content aggregators.  There are a number of apps trying to become your modern "TV Guide", but few are doing more than displaying the grid on your second screen or a giving you a list of lists (popular now, most watched by your friends, Emmy Winners). Additionally, the real challenge with a good Discovery experience is the integration of some level of personalization, combined with multiple sources of content (Seamless), all delivered through a clean and easy to navigate user interface (UI).

- NextGuide. Having launched only recently, this app continues to provide real Discovery value through its interface and continued roll-out additional Seamlessly integrated content sources (your local channel provider, iTunes, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix). If the content is available on iTunes, Hulu or Netflix, it will launch the content directly to your second screen (making it become the first screen). It does a decent job of tracking what you've watched or "favorite-d" (thru their app or thru Facebook) and then updates your recommendations based on those preference changes. My guess at what's next? Look for them to continue to roll-out more Seamless content sources, to begin integrating your local channel providers for Simple first screen integration, and to continue to refine and develop their metadata and discovery algorithm.

- Matcha. This app continues to be a good Seamless Discovery tool even though your local channel provider (ie live TV) is not included in the experience. It delivers its real value by launching your chosen content to your second screen (making it the first screen) and developing pretty deep integration to Netflix and Hulu (can read your queues, tell you about soon to expire content, etc). My guess at what's next?  Look for them to find a way to integrate live TV and to further refine their metadata and Discovery algorithm.

Simple. Controlling your first screen world.  

- BuddyTV. There continues one app that sets itself apart from the pack of second screen apps that allow you to control your first screen device world--BuddyTV. The app (for the iOS, Android and GoogleTV) allows you to get personalized recommendations (Discovery) for content across a number of content sources (Seamless) and then allows you to launch that content to your first screen if you have AT&T, Dish, DirecTV, a Tivo DVR or a Google TV device. For Hulu, Netflix, iTunes and Amazon, it launches that content when possible to your 2nd screen. My guess at what's next? Watch for them to continue to integrate more MVPDs (Comcast Xfinity, Verizon are obvious misses), to further develop their recommendation algorithms, and launch a new UI (current iOS app is focused on the iPhone).

Keep an eye on: Comcast Xfinity, DirecTV, and AT&T. All three major channel providers (MVPDs) continue to develop and improve their ability to add value via the second screen with better integration of control functionality, but they are will continued to be limited as a Discovery tool set since by their nature they are limited to providing content only from their own service.

Stimulating. Delivering interesting and relevant information about the content on your first screen in everything from sports stats and actors biographies to games about the content and commerce opportunities.

- zeebox. While having only recently launched in the U.S., this app has quickly gained the support of Viacom and NBCUniversal in the broadcast world and has already gained a strong consumer following with its quasi-Discovery function (what's hot right now) and zeetag feature allowing you to quickly and easily check out information on major keywords being derived during the viewing experience. My guess at what's next?  Look for them to integrate Simple control features for your first screen with major CE manufacturers (Samsung is integrated in the UK) and channel providers (Comcast Xfinity was already announced as a future feature) as well as to continue to develop their Discovery feature in terms of the UI and algorithm.

- ConnecTV. One of the few consumer apps that continues to deliver on a Stimulating content experience across a range of channels and programs, ConnecTV's algorithm seems to be able to pull together content about the program (similar to zeetags) that are pre-populated based on the content metadata and then deliver them (and a curated Twitter feed, etc) in a simple and clean UI for the second screen experience. They also continue to deliver one of the better sport experiences in the generalist second screen app market. My guess at what's next?  Look for them to continue to build out their Stimulating experience with better and more detailed metadata and begin to head down the Discovery path.

- Fanhattan. This app continues to be one of the best Stimulating experiences for TV and movies, delivering a wide array of additional content to the consumer from simple actor bios to the songs (with iTunes link) and related TV apps. While the app also carries a very robust Seamless search function across multiple content sources, their UI limits the tool's capability in Discovery (more of the list approach for lean-back and very powerful but lean-forward in a search mode). My guess at what's next?  Look for them to continue to develop their Discovery capabilities and potentially to head down the path of Simple integration with local channel providers.

- Viggle. The gamification king, Viggle continues to astound the market place with its registered user growth, powered by its reward system, though its current attempts at Discovery are more geared towards its advertising community (switch to this TV show and earn points).

Social. Helping you connect with your friends and colleagues to express your views about what you are watching.  Ironically, while this is perhaps the most written about feature in the second screen world (with SocialTV as a category devoted to its function), it seems to be the least invested feature in the second screen app development world. While nearly every app now allows you to chat or Tweet directly, the general view seems to be that development much beyond that is not a priority. Interestingly enough, while less than 1% of viewers comment in these tools, nearly 50% of consumers enjoy reading the comments (a world of voyeurism).

- Yap.tv. An app dedicated to the social world, focused on telling you what content is socially popular, and then allowing you to check-in, comment, Tweet, and create and take polls based on the show you are watching.


Well-funded horses. While currently not in the out in front because of a shortfall when compared to the compelling experiences above, don't count these apps out just yet:

- Yahoo's IntoNow. Still primarily a check-in app, but expect Marissa Meyer and team to push this TV experience towards Discovery and Stimulating, driving advertising models from that approach.

- GetGlue. Currently the check-in king in the second screen app world and recently touting that its chat traffic as higher than twitter on key TV episodes.  My guess at what's next? Expect GetGlue to work to deliver on their promise of creating a new content Discovery paradigm.

- Shazam. Working hard to develop their well-known brand and high install base of audio ACR into an app that drives value for consumers and broadcasters.  My guess at what's next? Watch for them to continue to develop their Stimulating feature set in the near term.

- Amazon's IMDB. A go-to web site that millions of consumers use to find out more about a show or movie.  My guess at what's next? Expect them to further develop their "X-ray" vision feature that is currently active on the Kindle Fire (hover over an actor and get the Stimulating info pop-up window) to work on other third party platforms as a plug-in while viewing Amazon Prime content.

- M-GO. The DreamWorks and Technicolor backed venture is rumored to be launching before Christmas with integration into several major TV sets with features focused on Discovery and Stimulating.

Others missing from our June review:
- TVplus.  Their consumer app is great (one of the best) when there is curated content for it, but as their B2B business grows, there seem to be fewer shows in their consumer app repertoire.

- TVDinner.  Less market momentum makes success vs. Viggle and others more difficult.


@ChuckParkerTech

UltraViolet marches onward, but can it succeed?

October 22, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
While the last official news from the UltraViolet website is from August 15th of this year, there was an interesting panel last week and some interesting support statements from the BBCFox and Barnes and Noble the previous week.  The title count is supposed to be above 7,000 now, available to more than 5 million consumer accounts through Wal-mart/Vudu and Flixster (as well as the studios' own title websites), with promises to be available soon on the Nook and M-GO.

But is this enough for success?


As both a consumer and industry evangelist, no one would like to see this succeed more than I do, but when you look at the initiative in the cold light of day, it is a tough, uphill climb.  Why the pessimist you ask?  You say its barely been a year after launch and there are already 5 million accounts and 7,000 titles, right?

Well, let's back up and examine what ingredients are required for consumers to "cross the chasm" in market adoption of new products.  With roughly 110 million households in the U.S., UltraViolet (UV) is just approaching the 5% penetration point.  While that seems like a lot of consumers when comparing it to Netflix (22m+ subscribers) and Comcast (similar numbers), the right comparison here is the DVD player install base (near 100%) or the PC install base (also in the high 90 percentile in the US).  So, how do you convince consumers who are clearly buying and renting a lot of DVDs (despite the press to the contrary, see this blog) to start paying a little extra to have digital ownership?

First, consumers need to believe that there will be title ubiquity.  If this is only available on 50% or 75% of the titles that are available on DVD, then this is just another format that complicates their lives ("Hey, I want to get this on UV, but it isn't available...").  I know, I know.  Many of you are going to chastise me with emails and tell me that 5 of the 6 major studios are now supporting UV and that eventually Disney will have to come around.  Unfortunately, consumers don't shop for titles by studio (shocking as that is), nor do they care about the challenges our industry faces.  What they know is that more titles are available to purchase digitally on their favorite list (let's assume the "IMDB Top 100" list represents that) from iTunes, Vudu and Amazon than from UV and for a price that is cheaper than the UV enhanced physical SKU.  What can the studios do about this?  Start by standing up themselves and making a public commitment to start putting every new DVD / Blu-ray title on UV (even if there is a not a UV SKU sold physically at retail) and give a reasonable time table to make their top 90% of SKUs available in the format (only Warner to date has demonstrated this kind of commitment).

Second, it is difficult to crow about having retailers signed up when the largest DVD / Blu-ray sales retailer (Amazon), the largest digital video retailer (iTunes), and the largest digital "rentailer" (Xbox) have not signed up for the program.  No matter how you slice up the markets where the consumers you want to attract are currently buying or renting, each one of these companies represents represents the lion's share of them and I would venture to say you cannot create mass adoption without them.

Third, consumers' appetites are VERY strong for accessing their content through subscription packages.  They sign up in droves for cable, satellite, telco and even Netflix/Hulu packages.  If you want to create mass adoption, work with those subscription services to allow consumers to stream the UV titles they already own thru their services as well (yes, make it part of the deal in your next licensing negotiation).  Once consumers can access the content they "own" through the video services they use to watch the other 35 hours of content each and every week, they will see it as a valuable feature and may consider it during their decision process to rent or buy titles (physically or digitally).

If you are interested, here today's title count.  UV improved by 2% since our last review in September.

I am very curious to see what the marketing campaign leading up to Christmas looks like.

Ok, let the harassing emails ensue.

@ChuckParkerTech


Netflix sneaks in some Simple second screen functionality

October 18, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Depending on how up to date you are on your Twitter feed (or your S3 2Day curated news service), you most likely read the brief story on Gigaom about Netflix quietly rolling out some second screen functionality for the PS3 implementation of their streaming service.  I tried the service last night and included a few screen shots to give you an idea of what is capable, but let me try to take this conversation in two directions: 1) a discussion about what you can do today with an iPhone or iPad with your Netflix service, and 2) where the real opportunity for Netflix and other OTT video service operators lies.



First, the quietly launched (perhaps even experimental) service.  If you hadn't read the article or hadn't been watching Netflix on your PS3 while also trying to use Netflix on your iPad or iPhone at the same time, you would never have noticed this functionality is live (I am assuming this is on purpose).  In terms of the language we use in this blog, this implementation is focused on Simple (the ability to control the first screen).  The functionality worked decently enough for me on the iPhone and iPad, letting me choose something from either second screen and launch it to the first.  It allowed me to choose subtitles, use "trick play" (forward, rewind, etc) and worked a bit like AirPlay in that I could take the video stream from the PS3 back to my iPad/iPhone and it would start playing from there--presumably as I walked out of the room to enjoy my content somewhere else.  Assuming you educate consumers about this function, this is an easier way to search for content, especially since you can search for other shows (including the next in the series, etc) without interrupting program on the first screen.  However, it falls short of the full promise of Simple in that you cannot control volume (for example) and can't use the second screen to cause the app on the first screen to launch (presumably a more complex problem to solve in terms of APIs and devices)--but that would of course open up a real opportunity to Discover content on your second screen and have it launch directly to your TV regardless of what service the content is on--Seamless (vs. now you can use Buddy TV, NextGuide, Matcha or Fanhattan to Discover content, launch it to Netflix on your iPad, then with Netflix running on your PS3, play that stream to your first screen).

Now while this seems like a great leap forward for the heavy Netflix streaming user population, the real deep water here for OTT video service providers and the consumers is ironically in all of the other feature sets.  In a few of my previous blogs, we discussed the concept of "OS Level Syncing" as the promise of the future, which similar to BD-Live's current Blu-ray implementations, can be ultra-content aware of the video stream down to the frame level.  That presents opportunities for Stimulating and Social features that can create real value for the consumers (synchronized content about the TV show/movie like the actors currently on screen vis-a-vis TVplus, the history or related facts behind the fictional setting in zeetag-like fashion, commerce opportunities to buy that special biker jacket a-la Sons of Anarchy from Magic Ruby, or even just a time-synced, curated Twitter feed to create an asynchronous community of viewers).  It also creates advertising and brand engagement opportunities with consumers including better product placement, better gamification opportunities, and brings the promise of contextual advertising one step closer to reality.  Because the OTT video service provider knows EXACTLY where your video stream is (and presumably with good metadata from a company like DigitalSmiths or Watchwith, what is in the frame/scene), they have the opportunity to take each of these use cases to the next level in terms of a robust, integrated consumer experience (works better than audio content recognition).  Suddenly, 55,0000 titles of streaming on Netflix or all of the streams available on Amazon, Hulu or Vudu become immersive consumer engagement opportunities for major brands and sponsors in pre-recorded features on a level never imagined outside of class broadcast TV.

So the real question here is simple: Is this Netflix experiment the sign of things to come from Netflix based on (boring) utility features (Simple), or is this the tip of the second screen iceberg of commercial opportunity from the largest streaming service in the world (Stimulating, Social, Discovery)?


Choosing episodes from a series without interrupting the 1st Screen 

iPhone UI for choosing where to play content

Subtitling management function on the iPhone

Choosing episodes on the iPhone

Browsing content without interrupting the 1st Screen

1st and 2nd Screen shown together



Is Social TV failing? Is that the right question?

October 9, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Somrat Niyogi, CEO of Miso, recently penned an article for TechCrunch that centered around the omni-presence of Twitter on live TV and that its apparent volumetric success implies that Social TV and its sibling Second Screen are failing.

An article clearly written to his peers in the industry, Somrat quickly concludes the reason he perceives that Social TV (and by extension Second Screen) are failing is that the industry fails to write apps that are compelling enough for the consumer to want to use (vs. Twitter apparently).

He goes on to state that the whole industry is trying to create a business proposition first and the consumer proposition is an afterthought. His argument starts to lose a little focus as he begins to ramble on about too many consumer propositions (a "feature checklist" mentality), then raises the specter of switching barriers (presumably from Twitter, email and Angry Birds mentioned earlier), and then comes back around to recommending extreme use case focus (pick one feature and hit it out of the park). Finally, he takes a dig at the entire TV industry, chastising them for not working together on this all important topic.

Hmmm. Seems like a reaction to the recent press and industry support for zeebox (the self-espoused Swiss Army knife of Second Screen apps with investment from NBCU and Viacom) compared to the languishing progress of Miso's Sideshow singular focus.

But rather than sling mud, let's examine the problem as presented and discuss a more objective view of the state of the industry (vs. a singular app).

First, Somrat agrees that the consumer behavior change is real. Let's all agree that this is the catalyst and potential opportunity and threat for everyone in the TV ecosystem. While content creators often lament about creating a second screen experience that distracts their viewers from their creative output, the reality is that email and Angry Birds are already distracting them (threat) and the opportunity is to build an engaging experience that gets viewers deeper into the creative story or live sport (and hopefully in a manner that supports the major business model of the ecosystem--advertising).

On experience feature sets, I think we would all agree that regardless of what features you try to include or ignore, there has to be a compelling reason for the consumer to pick up the device and open the app AND then clean and simple user experience for them to keep coming back (what Somrat describes as "habit"). We have discussed in many of the industry-wide conferences on the subject (note cross ecosystem collaboration) over the past 10 months that there are generally 4 or 5 major feature sets that could be compelling for the viewer as a reason to pick up the second screen.

  1. The first is to control theTV/set top box/DVD player, etc--Simple. After all, this is what the consumer has been doing for 50 years (grabbing the remote).
  2. The second is Social (hence the massive Twitter activity which Somrat laments is the harbinger of doom).
  3. The third is to Discover new content--and to his credit, for these to be compelling, they have to help the consumer find content in multiple content ecosystems. In other words, there is already a guide for your cable package (a gride guide, but it works), your OTT streaming provider (Hulu, Netflix) and your Video on Demand (whether iTunes/Hulu/Xbox or your cable provider), but to add value, you need to offer content suggestions Seamlessly across these walled gardens and then easily get the content in front of the consumer.
  4. The fourth is all of the additional Stimulating contextual information that a companion experience can provide. That might be a slew of interesting statistics for baseball, background information on the characters for your favorite drama, or even a shopping experience for that one TV series you obsess over.


Can you building compelling app with all of these features? zeebox is certainly trying to do so. But the real question here isn't the complexity of use cases, it is the simplicity of experience delivery. Keep in mind that your Smartphone has hundreds of use cases and until the iPhone came along, the industry suffered from this problem for years. Long before Somrat's argument, there were those who argued the device need to either be a GPS (TomTom), a phone (Nokia), a portable music player (Creative, Zune) or an email device (Blackberry). Apple finally built a UX that enabled you to easily manage those complex use cases in one device--and birthed the Smartphone market (or at least bore the first legitimate child).  Google quickly followed with Android (still trying to clean-up the UX).

Finally, on the subject of collaboration, I would encourage everyone who is fighting the good fight in the Social TV and Second Screen ecosystem (content creators and distributors, service providers, app developers, etc) to join us in our cross industry efforts to take on some of these challenges together as we meet in LA, NY, London and even in the Bay Area. You can find out more about our mission and our current efforts (and cross industry membership) at www.2ndscreensociety.com.

No, this won't be easy. Yes, many will fail. But together, we can work to find a way to bring the key players in the ecosystem together to develop compelling user experiences for the viewers while working to do so in a manner that creates a sustainable business model for those players who add value in the chain.  And don't forget, we are in the absolute infancy of this market when compared to its growth potential.


@ChuckParkerTech


Is Social TV failing? Is that the right question?

October 9, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Somrat Niyogi, CEO of Miso, recently penned an article for TechCrunch that centered around the omni-presence of Twitter on live TV and that its apparent volumetric success implies that Social TV and its sibling Second Screen are failing.

An article clearly written to his peers in the industry, Somrat quickly concludes the reason he perceives that Social TV (and by extension Second Screen) are failing is that the industry fails to write apps that are compelling enough for the consumer to want to use (vs. Twitter apparently).



He goes on to state that the whole industry is trying to create a business proposition first and the consumer proposition is an afterthought. His argument starts to lose a little focus as he begins to ramble on about too many consumer propositions (a "feature checklist" mentality), then raises the specter of switching barriers (presumably from Twitter, email and Angry Birds mentioned earlier), and then comes back around to recommending extreme use case focus (pick one feature and hit it out of the park). Finally, he takes a dig at the entire TV industry, chastising them for not working together on this all important topic.

Hmmm. Seems like a reaction to the recent press and industry support for zeebox (the self-espoused Swiss Army knife of Second Screen apps with investment from NBCU and Viacom) compared to the languishing progress of Miso's Sideshow singular focus.

But rather than sling mud, let's examine the problem as presented and discuss a more objective view of the state of the industry (vs. a singular app).

First, Somrat agrees that the consumer behavior change is real. Let's all agree that this is the catalyst and potential opportunity and threat for everyone in the TV ecosystem. While content creators often lament about creating a second screen experience that distracts their viewers from their creative output, the reality is that email and Angry Birds are already distracting them (threat) and the opportunity is to build an engaging experience that gets viewers deeper into the creative story or live sport (and hopefully in a manner that supports the major business model of the ecosystem--advertising).

On experience feature sets, I think we would all agree that regardless of what features you try to include or ignore, there has to be a compelling reason for the consumer to pick up the device and open the app AND then clean and simple user experience for them to keep coming back (what Somrat describes as "habit"). We have discussed in many of the industry-wide conferences on the subject (note cross ecosystem collaboration) over the past 10 months that there are generally 4 or 5 major feature sets that could be compelling for the viewer as a reason to pick up the second screen.

  1. The first is to control theTV/set top box/DVD player, etc--Simple. After all, this is what the consumer has been doing for 50 years (grabbing the remote).
  2. The second is Social (hence the massive Twitter activity which Somrat laments is the harbinger of doom).
  3. The third is to Discover new content--and to his credit, for these to be compelling, they have to help the consumer find content in multiple content ecosystems. In other words, there is already a guide for your cable package (a gride guide, but it works), your OTT streaming provider (Hulu, Netflix) and your Video on Demand (whether iTunes/Hulu/Xbox or your cable provider), but to add value, you need to offer content suggestions Seamlessly across these walled gardens and then easily get the content in front of the consumer.
  4. The fourth is all of the additional Stimulating contextual information that a companion experience can provide. That might be a slew of interesting statistics for baseball, background information on the characters for your favorite drama, or even a shopping experience for that one TV series you obsess over.


Can you building compelling app with all of these features? zeebox is certainly trying to do so. But the real question here isn't the complexity of use cases, it is the simplicity of experience delivery. Keep in mind that your Smartphone has hundreds of use cases and until the iPhone came along, the industry suffered from this problem for years. Long before Somrat's argument, there were those who argued the device need to either be a GPS (TomTom), a phone (Nokia), a portable music player (Creative, Zune) or an email device (Blackberry). Apple finally built a UX that enabled you to easily manage those complex use cases in one device--and birthed the Smartphone market (or at least bore the first legitimate child).  Google quickly followed with Android (still trying to clean-up the UX).

Finally, on the subject of collaboration, I would encourage everyone who is fighting the good fight in the Social TV and Second Screen ecosystem (content creators and distributors, service providers, app developers, etc) to join us in our cross industry efforts to take on some of these challenges together as we meet in LA, NY, London and even in the Bay Area. You can find out more about our mission and our current efforts (and cross industry membership) at www.2ndscreensociety.com.

No, this won't be easy. Yes, many will fail. But together, we can work to find a way to bring the key players in the ecosystem together to develop compelling user experiences for the viewers while working to do so in a manner that creates a sustainable business model for those players who add value in the chain.  And don't forget, we are in the absolute infancy of this market when compared to its growth potential.


@ChuckParkerTech


Second Screen and College Football

October 9, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
As an experiment, I thought I would test drive a number of popular apps over the weekend while watching a popular football game.  The Notre Dame / Miami match-up was perfect for the trial.

Since the game was being shown on NBCU, I gave their NBC Sports LIVE EXTRA app a try.  While it is a pretty decent app, even allowing you to stream the game on a 30-second delay, there was no real second screen experience--more of a first screen on your tablet if you are no where near a TV.



So I gave their rival network app a try: ESPN ScoreCenter.  It took me a while to find the right place in the app to get a second screen experience (under "college gamecast").  The experience was actually VERY good.  I was impressed with the near-real-time updates of the play-by-play activities intermingled with some curated tweets and other information (see image).  It got me thinking and I went out and searched for "college football" apps.  Surprisingly, there is only one that comes up in the search that is relevant: also an ESPN app called ESPN College Football.  Ironically, the interface eventually gets you to the same "college gamecast" functionality.

Satisfied with the "dedicated app" experience (despite being from ESPN and not NBC or NotreDame), I thought I would give the 3rd party apps a try.

With all the recent U.S. launch press zeebox received, I thought I would try them first.  The zeetags were interesting, though the Twitter feed had some trouble, and there was no play-by-play or game graphics to enhance my game experience.  It did point me to the right places to download team specific apps, etc, which was helpful.  Assuming the Twitter feed can be fixed, it is a decent experience.

I tried a few of the apps more focused on connecting you to the show itself (BuddyTV, Fanhattan, NextGuide), and while I was not expecting anything special beyond getting to the game itself, I tried each app.  BuddyTV and NextGuide were the best at pointing me to the right channel, with BuddyTV able to actually set my AT&T receiver to the actual game itself--but then then second screen experience ended.

I tried my favorite TV synchronization app TVplus, but they had clearly not set anything up for this football game.  Out of curiosity, I tried the currently popular gamification app Viggle, but again no experience was setup for the football game.

Then I read back through some of my notes about other reviews and gave ConnecTV a try.  It delivered what I thought was the best 3rd party second screen experience.  While it did not have graphics of the plays, it interlaced a "last play update" with other contextual information about every 30-45 seconds.

As the majority of 3rd party apps fell well short of expectations, perhaps this is an example where the dedicated app is still required for a great second screen experience.

The good news is that if you like NFL Football, there are plenty of good second screen app experiences to choose from.

@ChuckParkerTech










A quick recap of the The Imminent Power of 2nd Screen Consumer Engagement @ Advertising Week

October 2, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Rick Liebling of Y&R moderated a great panel of second screen industry experts yesterday in the NASDAQ Market Site in Times Square, largely focused on the impact second screen potentially has on the advertising space.

His able-bodied panel was represented by David Pugh of Magic Ruby, Joe Inzerillo of MLB Advanced Media, Jordan Berkowitz of Ogilvy & Mather, Sue Kaufman of Group M and Brody O'Harran of Microsoft Xbox--a great cross section of the burgeoning industry.


Rick waded into the session with a question about the longevity and reach of this second screen phenomena. The panel pointed out all the current salient points: great content on the first screen, a great user experience, the challenge of passive viewing (engrossed in the first screen) and interactive viewing (perhaps the next generation), and the importance of the context of the experience (from the consumer's point of view). Sue pointed out that while some content creators struggle with the concept of purposely distracting their viewers, many advertisers view this as a means of stealing back the viewer's attention from Angry Birds and other casual games and getting them engaged into the show and the advertising.

Brody gave some interesting perspectives on how seconds screen will play in the Microsoft world, with SmartGlass and Windows 8 just around the corner (late October). Expect the interactive capabilities to be built into the experience, all the way down to the 1st screen capabilities and into the games (allowing you to choose your NFL Madden play in a manner that for the first time prevents your living room opponent from seeing your choices, for example).

When the discussion turned to how the various players in the segment want to engage with advertising agencies, the conversation quickly got interesting. Dave pointed out that his firm doesn't seek to replace the first screen advertising, but rather to enhance it and help it be both more targeted and contextual (giving examples of how that might with in their Fox Sons of Anarchy app). Joe had some great insight for the room, describing the "check box mentality" of many players in the industry as the real enemy of the future of second screen (where app developers/sponsors rush to have an example from major feature sets like Social just to have them)--and with 6m app downloads and the highest Apple grossing app ever, Joe and the MLB certainly have taken the pains to get the At Bat experience right for their consumers (in multiple user experience scenarios). Sue brought the discussion upstream towards integrated brand management and presentation, tying multiple engagement approaches together.

When asked what it will take to truly drive these opportunities forward for clients, Jordan had perhaps the most prescient quote of the day, "Second screen isn't a channel, it is a behavior." And while Dave and Joe exalted the value of simple, clean technology capability to propel the space forward, Sue reminded everyone of the holy grail of the advertising community--the opportunity to create engagement with the consumer on the sponsoring brands in discrete, actionable and measurable experiences. And then Joe brought us back to full circle in the way only someone from such a successful second screen franchise can, reminding all of us not to lose sight of just how hard it is to creating meaningful, engaging experiences for consumers and that experimentation will be required along the way.

A power-packed session if there ever was one.

If you are in NYC, there is another panel this afternoon sponsored by the 2nd Screen Society at 3pm at the NASDAQ Market Site (4 Times Square, NYC). Should be another engaging session.

@ChuckParkerTech

Long anticipated zeebox second screen app launches

September 27, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
zeebox announced their US launch today, starting with a partnerships that include NBCUniversal, Comcast Cable (Xfinity), HBO and Cinemax. For those who haven't had a chance to see the app while in the UK, it is certainly worth downloading. They are promising enhanced experiences for The Voice and Notre Dame Football on NBCU and for True Blood and Boardwalk Empire on HBO. They are additionally touting feature sets that include a 7-day program guide (for Discovery), live synchronization with their now famous zeetags (which enable contextual commerce and the look-up of Stimulating content related info), and of course Social integration with Facebook and Twitter.






I took the app for a short test drive and love the UI and flow from Discovery to show-level detail. The initiation process was relatively easy, asking for your channel line-up provider and Facebook and Twitter account info. Since the Ryder Cup is just about to begin, I thought I would check-in on the Twitter banter from across the pond and wasn't disappointed at all. I was also impressed with the zeetag responses and suggested apps for the program you are watching.





Simple. The app in the UK integrates with a large number of devices (Samsung for example) and supports Sky's pay TV service, and I would expect is already integrated with Comcast Cable (will check next week), with announcements of future device partnerships in the U.S. to come.

Social. As I mentioned above, the integration is pretty decent, with ability to "filter" the Twitter feed for "Family Friendly" (see image) and to set the speed at which the live tweets fly by (I can't tell if they are curated or recorded for synchronized playback from your DVR--more to follow soon).

Stimulating. The app has this feature set nailed to a tee, with zeetags leading the way as an innovative way to enable consumers to find interesting related content and commerce opportunities (and soon to be contextual advertising).

There doesn't appear yet to be a feature focused around the Seamless sourcing of content from multiple sources (only your major channel provider line-up appears to be supported at initial release) and it is too early to opine on its ability to help me Discover new content (I will come back in a few weeks with a review on apps with that feature).

In summary, I predicted back in June that when zeebox launched in the US, they would be one of the top 10 apps to watch, and their experience at launch certainly doesn't disappoint. They are a serious contender in the 3rd party space and their major partnerships will certainly propel them quickly into the U.S. consumer marketplace.

If you happen to be in NYC next week, we are hosting a technology demo at the Advertising Week Experience (AWE) and come by to check out the second screen panels on both Monday and Tuesday afternoon being supported by the 2nd Screen Society as part of our Advertising Week activities.  If you are "in the business" of second screen, shoot us a note and we can try to connect during the week--there is even an S3 members' only cocktail party Tuesday night at Y&R's Madison Ave. offices and sponsored by Magic Ruby and Mobovivo. I am sure this app with be a popular subject in conversation for some period of time.

See you next week.

@ChuckParkerTech

A quick wrap-up of the 2nd Screen Society panel at the Next | TV Summit

September 25, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Last Thursday (20 Sept), I had the opportunity to spend the day at the Next | TV Summit @ the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.  While the day was interesting all around (a lot of TV Everywhere, digital video growth, etc), I found the second screen panel perhaps the most interesting and engaging of the day (no surprise here).

Guy Finley, the executive director of the 2nd Screen Society, moderated the panel which consisted of Stephen Brooks from Magic Ruby, Stacy Jolna from ConnecTV, Ed Haslam from YuMe, Alex Rowland from Alphabird, Julien Signes from Envivio, and Chris Wyatt from YouToo.



- The panel opened with a lot of discussion around ad supported digital video and the lack of any real inventory to put ads against (except on UGC sites like YouTube).  The panel felt like growth was needed in total viewing (transition from linear / analog to digital) if the ad market was going to prosper there.  While some amazing stats like 40B click views per month were mentioned by Ed Haslam, fragmentation of those clicks is a real challenge in aggregation of spend.
- Julien spent some time describing the challenge that lay before real TV Everywhere ubiquity, which is part of the choke point holding back the digital video growth.  The other challenge of UGC content (no filters for advertisers to protect their brand) was also discussed as a general choke point contributor.
- Reversing the Tivo trend of cutting out advertising (many of the panelists were a part of the early DVR pioneering company) in second screen with the concept of "sync, share, and play" became a debated topic--an interesting rally slogan for second screen (to engage audiences further).
- The conversation then moved to low cost digital production (web vignettes) and content curation to help unlock the ad inventory potential, and then the panel swung to targeted advertising (perhaps the real deep waters of second screen engagement scenarios).  
- On this subject, perhaps the most valuable of the day, the panel debated the engagement scenario of ads as a means to keep the user interested (pre-roll, second screen, etc) and the concept of synchronizing first screen ads to increase the consumer engagement via the second screen.  

My (perhaps obvious) prediction: we are in the late 1990s with on-line advertising when comparing second Screen and its potential impact on TV ad dollars.  If you will recall, there was a great ensuing debate about whether or not major brands would shift dollars away from print, radio, and TV for the on-line world--and then AdSense from Google came along, making it efficient and measurable.  Dollars shifted over time to on-line spend because of the measurability--which is what second screen can really provide TV advertisers.

Can't wait to see how this develops.

Want to catch the next panel live?

We are supporting Advertising Week in NYC by hosting another panel on October 1st, supporting a 2nd Screen Society members' cocktail mixer, and supporting the show all week (October 1st - 5th) as part of the Advertising Week Experience (AWE) in the Times Center from Oct. 1-4.  For more information on attending, please contact Don Hurley, Director of Member Services (Don@MESAlliance.org(310)882-3742).



Looking forward to seeing you there.

@ChuckParkerTech

Quick wrap-up of the 2nd Screen Society Panel at the Multiscreen Summit

September 19, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
I had the pleasure of attending a great panel this afternoon on the monetization and consumer engagement of second screen with a strong cast of industry players at the Multiscreen Summit here in Hollywood.

Guy Finley, the executive director of the 2nd Screen Society, moderated the panel which consisted of Babba Uppal from Endemol, Tom Engdahl of Magic Ruby, Matt Kennedy of 1K Studios, Zane Vella of WatchWith, Marjorie DeHey of MEF and James Hursthouse of Roadhouse Interactive.



Since the world seems to be infographic mood, I thought I would summarize the session with this awesome graphic penned live during the discussion by Wyn Wilson of ImageThink, courtesy of Variety/Unicomm:


- After quick intros, the debate quickly descended into what would come first--a great consumer experience or monetization (the proverbial chicken and egg).
- To Babba's point, the argument about whether your rating points are increasing or decreasing because of second screen isn't the right discussion--engaging the audience you already have is more important.
- There was some good discussion about how valuable synchronization was for a Stimulating experience--both for live and recorded programming. Zane described how simplicity for live viewing was better than confusing technology.
- Tom described the synchronized shopping experience for the Sons of Anarchy Gear app and how it was driving consumer behavior for that program's cult following to buy show related items.
- Matt discussed the challenges a service provider faces in helping to build great consumer experiences related to movies in today's Blu-ray sync-capable world.

Want to catch the next panel live?

We are hosting another panel at the Fairmont Hotel today (Sept. 20th) in San Francisco in support of the TV Next Summit and will be in NYC with a panel, members' cocktail mixer and show floor support during AdWeek Oct. 1-4.

Looking forward to seeing you on the West or East Coast soon.

@ChuckParkerTech
Location:Hollywood

A wrap-up of the 2nd Screen Summit in Amsterdam (#S3AMS)

September 13, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 

If you weren’t fortunate enough to attend our 2ndScreen Summit at IBC on Saturday, you really missed a special gathering (see the Twitter feed).  The afternoon was punctuated by some great presentations (“The Future of TV” by Alan Wolk of Kit Digital, “Synchronisation and Media Interaction with Your Consumer” by Alex Terpstra of Civolution), a strong review of the current 2ndscreen market data by Renaud Fuchs of Ericsson, and two great panels on monetization (featuring Joe Inzerillo of MLB) and consumer engagement (highlighted by Anthony Rose of zeebox).  We even hosted cocktails during the event and a sizable dinner after the event to take advantage of everyone’s creative juices.  For those of you that were registered attendants or are 2nd Screen Society members or advisors, you can find the presentations and audio downloads here.  For everyone else, here were the key take-aways for me from the summit and for second screen at IBC:


  • The Future of TV (by @awolk).  Why is Second Screen the best thing that ever happened to Pay TV operators (slides 43-44)?  Data.  The opportunity to truly capture consumer engagement, measure ROI, improve the user experience (UX).
  • Synchronisation and Media Interaction with Your Consumer (by @ADTerpstra).  There are a host of new technologies around the synchronization of the second screen device that can drive some engaging consumer use cases--and Civolution has a pretty cool demo app to show the possibilities off.
  • 2nd Screen by the Numbers (by @RFuchsTCH).  Social TV will be an $8 to $12b business in 2020.  Viggle's users check-in 5 times per day on average with a session length of 93 minutes.  There were 15 apps launched specifically for the SuperBowl.
  • Consumer engagement panel.  When initially asked, Inzerillo couldn’t have said it better than “if you deliver a great consumer experience, the monetization will follow.”  Panel members ranging from broadcast TV consultants and service providers to content creators and founder of the UK’s most popular 2nd screen app had a spirited discussion about what it takes to really engage audiences, whether "social" was the most important feature set (they didn’t think so) and how "gamification" and "synchronized content" played into the equation.  While opinions ranges on many facets of engagement, all of them agreed that if there ever is a killer app in the second screen space, it will both engage yet not distract the users while providing utility (control of the experience), social interaction (including with those actually in the living room), and stimulation (because not all content is viewed equally).
  • Monetization panel.  In every summit so far, this has been the most anticipated and hotly debated topic: is anyone going to make any money in this space, and if so, how?  Inzerillo talked about the early days of streaming (back before it was called OTT) and compared that to their current revenue profile of something north of $600m annually.  While he admits it is hard to pull apart precisely the revenues coming from someone using the 2nd screen as a first screen (ie just streaming to their iPhone or iPad), his estimation was that 5-15% of their tablet-based revenue was coming from activity without the live video feed (with the thought that they were getting the video feed from their first screen and were using the app for the stats, commentary, etc).  I realize everyone’s immediate reaction is to ask for more specifics (and believe me, they asked in the conference), but maybe the take away here should be simpler than that: they are managing a business that generates a “significant” amount of revenue from a segment that did not exist a few short years ago (tablets, smartphones) which has a strong engagement component around the 2nd screen interactivity—and according to Joe, it is all additive (vs. cannibalistic).


Beyond our event, there was of course IBC at large, and it seemed that every booth you walked by had some sort of second screen experience to throw at you if you slowed down enough.  However, some notable takeaways during the various twists and turns of the show floor were Kit Digital's IBC 2012 Innovation Award Winning Voice and Gesture app (in conjunction with Channel 4), Red Bee's IBC 2012 Innovation Award for Content Creation (for their app with FX on the Walking Dead), Civolution's "hat trick" of three IBC awards, and Viaccess-Orca's innovative UI for 2nd Screen content designed to emulate a glossy magazine.

If we were to measure success of the event by the amount of debate and engagement both at the 2nd Screen Summit itself and on the wider IBC show floor, I would say the momentum in the second screen space is growing quickly.

Look out for our panels on the West Coast in a few weeks (Multi-Screen Summit, Next TV Summit), in NY during the first week of October (Ad Week), and our next dedicated event at CES in Las Vegas in the new year.

@ChuckParkerTech

My review of NextGuide by Dijit – A Personalized Video Guide

September 11, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 

The long anticipated wait is over.  When CEO and co-founder of Dijit Jeremy Toeman (@jtoeman) told me in May that he wanted to launch a new 2nd screen app focused on consumer search, recommendation and discovery, I had some pretty high expectations.  The concept of Discovery has been something I have written about in this blog a number of times, and by every account to date, it is something that is hard to deliver on because it is part approach/sophisticated algorithm integration and part UI/UX (user interface / user experience).  There are a few decent apps in this space already (BuddyTV, Matcha, Fanhattan), and they all have different strengths and weaknesses, but NextGuidehas made a strong entrance into the marketplace in its 1.0 release on iOS for the iPad.


 The first thing you notice when you download the app is its relatively quick seeding algorithm (process for determining something about your likes and dislikes).  It will quickly ask you what services you have available (linear broadcast provider, Hulu, Netflix, iTunes) and then if you connect it to your Facebook account, will pull “likes” from your Facebook (including those about things other than movies and TV), offer a few popular categories (eg vampires, major genres) and then start to create an easy to navigate browse recommendation stream for you.


The interface is something akin to a neatly arranged collection of movie and TV show cover tiles of varying sizes (presumably sized by your strength of preference or sponsorship) and then are given some indication of their origin (friends recommendation, popular, new release, etc).  You have the option to swipe over to any specific category (like your favorite football team or your collection of favorite TV shows or movies) and it will try to generate categories for you from within the detailed information page of a TV show or movie.  It also gives you a time-based view (inking in your linear broadcast TV channel line-up) and even offers a pretty robust search capability.  And of course, all of the social features you'd expect are available in the app.

Its initial short comings (it is version 1.0 after all) come partly from its integration with your living room devices (if you have DirecTV, it will control the DVR for you and even launch Netflix or Hulu to your iPad, but nothing further yet) and partly from the strength of its metadata (it confused some of my Facebook likes for specific movies or TV shows for similar shows/movies of the same name).  It does present you content source options from which to watch a movie/TV show once you hit "watch" but is currently limited to iTunes, Netflix and Hulu (no Vudu, Amazon, etc).  The jury is out on the actual strength of the recommendations themselves.  So far, it has a decently clever way for you to tell it which episodes you have and haven’t seen in a series (to recommend the next one, but not an easy way to mark a whole season as "watched") and the UI is very good at allowing you to browse in a very personalized manner, but I need a week with it before I can really say if it is recommending content with a strong understanding of my preferences or helping me actually discover new content. 

Overall, this is an exciting new development for the consumer, giving them more options to leverage an app that is even in version 1.0 is already delivering decently on all five major 2nd screenfeature sets (Simple, Seamless, Social, Stimulating, Discovery) with a UI/UX that looks very promising.

@ChuckParkerTech

Second Screen by the Numbers for Summer, 2012

September 6, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Second screen continues to explode as a segment of the digital living room.  While the 2012 Summer Olympics certainly stole the show by becoming the "first Social Olympics" in every aspect, there has been much progress across the board to keep everyone's enthusiasm in the space buoyant:



  • 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!

I would expect more and more progress to be evidenced by the numbers when the fall TV and sports season gets truly underway.

See you @ the 2nd Screen Society Summit on Saturday @ IBC.

@ChuckParkerTech

ps you can find most of the source data for the numbers above on my Pinterest


The Second Screen Hype Cycle

September 6, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 

I was reading an article recently from an industry “evangelist” describing the second screen phenomena as very “nascent technology”, that the odds of you discovering that something is on television that you didn’t pre-record or already know about is low, that the majority of consumers will continue to want to channel surf to watch the lion’s share of their content and that the “remote is not going anywhere anytime soon”.

Not a middle of the road stance.

I thought long and hard about that article.  Part of the problem being described is a classic market adoption challenge known as “crossing the chasm”.  Fair enough--people’s behaviors take time to change as we are all creatures of habit.  But as I read and re-read the article, I started looking at the individual feature comments and thought in terms of the feature sets we have used to describe second screen (Simple, Social, Seamless, Stimulating, Discovery).

And then I re-read the most recent Gartner report called the “Hype Cycle for Broadcast and Entertainment - 2012.”
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 “big data”.  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 “nascent” 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

To give few examples from the 2012 Gartner chart, 3D TV Services are still at the technology trigger stage, Social Analytics are at the peak of inflated expectations, 3D Flat Panels and Displays are in the trough of disillusionment, while IPTV is making progress up the slope of enlightenment and Mobile Music Streaming is already on the plateau of productivity. 

I hope you enjoy the graph and my brief explanation of my views below.  I am looking forward to having a spirited conversation about my point of view with many of you in Amsterdam @ IBC 2012 at the Okura Hotel on Saturday, the 8th of September, at 4.30pm (come by for a cocktail at least).  Registration is linked here.
@ChuckParkerTech



Technology trigger.  For the most part, these features are on their way to the consumer, but are still in the very early stages of development in our industry:
o   Simple.  STB integration.  Operators are only just now opening up and publishing their APIs to allow third parties to integrate their app functionality.  Some of the operators are still struggling to control their own STBs.  BuddyTV is the leading 3rd party app in this space, while the major players like DirecTV, Comcast, and AT&T lead the way for operators in the US—outside North America it becomes very complex quickly and there is a long road ahead.
o   Simple.  CE device integration.  Manufacturers are making progress with their own apps, but are also less sure how to proceed with 3rd party developers.  LG is leading the way in this space today as they publish APIs to integrate into their device world.
o   Simple.  Game Console integration.  While Xbox has taken a big leap out front with SmartGlass by committing to an SDK for their platform, the rest of the console market is still at the drawing board.
o   Social.  Time-zero adjusted social feeds (for pre-recorded events).  App developers and content creators are only now recognizing that time-shifted content (eg the Olympics) must have the option for time shifted social commentary to avoid the spoilers.  TVplus does this very well.
o   Stimulating. “OS-level” ACR.  The concept of the device or player being aware of the video time code and being able to respond to event triggers has been around for awhile and Flingo is building a business based on the concept, but for the most part, this is truly nascent technology.  Expect announcements in this area at IBC and CES from players like Apple, Netflix and Roku.
o   Stimulating.  Stream capture ACR (NOC).  While the concept of tracking watermarks and fingerprints in video has been around for years (see Civolution), using this to manage event triggers on the 2nd screen is only just getting started.  The most likely to succeed here are probably Civolution with their 17k monitored channels.
o   Stimulating.  Synchronous commerce.  The first few attempts have been either interesting or painful—a lot of work required in this field to balance relativity and ease of use for the consumer.  There are some apps by Magic Ruby (Fox’s SOA Gear) and WatchWith that are worth watching in this space.
o   Stimulating.  Ad insertion.  We are only just now seeing 2ndscreen ads being inserted by an awareness of the content on the 1stscreen—but this is a rich monetization opportunity for the industry.  I would expect Zeebox to take an early lead in this space and Young and Rubican will work hard to make this space valuable for their clients.
o   Stimulating.  Live news support.  There are a few interesting apps which are leveraging the audio stream to summarize news stories on the fly to give additional information, but this powerful concept is still nascent.
o   Stimulating.  Synchronous live content event triggering.  Apps like Zeebox and TVplus have delivered some very interesting use cases from this capability, but scaling this capability beyond major events is the real challenge.  Check out Mobovivo’s Toronto Blue Jays app designed for live syncing at the stadium between broadcast, the jumbotron and the 2nd screen for a glimpse of the future.
o   Stimulating.  Recorded content event triggering.  This becomes more of a metadata availability and association challenge to deliver an experience beyond niche content, but TVplus, Zeebox and WatchWith continue to lead the way in this field.  Expect companies like Digitalsmiths who provide scene level metadata to help close the scalability gap her for the industry.
o   Seamless.  Integration of cloud-based content.  As consumers begin to use Ultraviolet and iTunes cloud-based content ownership, there need to be services which can integrate these sources into search and discovery experiences (similar to what is done today for subscription services).  Today, there are not any 3rd party services delivering on this promise that reach beyond native first party experiences (ie iTunes, Vudu, Amazon).

Peak of inflated expectations. 
o   Social.  Live Curated social feeds.  The technology is working, but when and how to implement is creating a consumer backlash (spoilers) for except truly live events (which did not include the Olympics).
o   Stimulating.  Live sports support.  Getting stats for your favorite professional sport is a reality (AtBat, Courtside, NFL ’12), but taking it beyond an interesting use case into monetization is going to drag this feature down to the trough of disillusionment before it can ascend again for business leaders.  Cost effective scale and ubiquity will be the challenges here.
o   Stimulating.  Gamification.  From simple trivia games to complex fight scoring and zombie kill counting, exciting games are engaging consumers in large numbers.  Viggle and TV Dinner are touting strong numbers of engaged consumers in this space and anyone who’s seen Mobovivo’s AXS TV Fights app or Red Bee’s AMC Walking Dead app can attest to the interactive engagement those experiences create.
o   Discovery.  Discovery (the ability to be presented with relevant content in a lean-back mode).  Quickly headed for the trough, this is a much sought after (holy grail) feature that no one is implementing well (yet).  Most of what consumers are getting today is a collaborative filtering-based recommendation (think Amazon-style “people who viewed this also liked...”), but Digitalsmiths’ Seamless Discovery seems to be gaining traction with both pay TV operators and connected CE manufacturers with a next generation algorithm.  Expect this to be THE use case for operators to chase in late 2012 and 2013 with announcements at IBC and CES.
o   Seamless.  Integration of major OTT content sources(Hulu, Netflix, Youtube, Amazon).  There are some apps showing initial progress (Matcha, BuddyTV, Fanhattan), but this will suffer from UI challenges before it gets better.
o   Seamless.  Integration of live broadcast TV sources(cable, telco).  Operator apps are doing this well, but perhaps the best implementation to date has been BuddyTV (integrating your MVPD and OTT provided content).
o   Seamless.  Integration of home network files(professional).  Clearly apps like Boxee have jumped out in front, but for this to be valuable to the consumer, the apps need to effectively integrate at least the presence of all major content in the home (iTunes, Vudu, Amazon).

Trough of disillusionment.
o   Discovery.  Search.  While this is technically feasible, poor metadata and a lack of integrated sources of content have made this a poor consumer experience.  Fanhattan is probably the best at this so far.
o   Discovery.  Recommendation.  While the Amazon collaborative-filtering approach has been around and social networks are just now being integrated, this is for the most part a poor experience for consumers, usually relying on a list-based approach (top 10 this week, your friends are watching, etc).
o   Stimulating.  Audio ACR.  Having made quick progress up the to the Peak of inflated expectations, the wider-industry is now utilizing this for “check-ins” mostly as the quality for event triggering has been unreliable.  Climbing up to the slope of enlightenment is going to require ubiquitous scene level metadata and use cases that integrate better polling of the audio stream to determine relative time code accuracy.  Despite the “acoustic” challenges, there are some great apps being delivered by companies like Red Bee Media (AMC’s Walking Dead), Yahoo’s IntoNow, ConnecTV and TVplus.   Expect companies like Civolution to begin integrating this with “OS-level” and stream capture ACR to improve the overall user experience.

Slope of enlightenment.
o   Simple.  Blu-ray player integration.  BD-Live based 2nd screen applications for your Blu-ray content already integrate well into the video stream, allowing application developers to trigger events based on metadata and with Wi-Fi capabilities, give a consistent and accurate experience to the consumer.  There are a number of decent apps in this space based on movies and TV shows from the likes of Disney and Magic Ruby.
o   Seamless.  DVR integration.  Nearly all of the operators have created apps that integrate both the recording and playback of content from the DVR.  They continue to make progress in making these assets available in content search and discovery and to opening the integration to 3rd party apps.
o   Stimulating.  Rich, related metadata.  There are many apps which perform this function at some level (some are apps dedicated this use case like IMDB).  However, Fanhattan and Zeebox continue to lead the way in this field, leveraging metadata service providers like Digitalsmiths and Tribune Media Services.
o   Social.  Facebook integration.  Nearly every 2nd screen app is able to effectively integrate Facebook into the experience, leveraging the app as a single-sign-on gateway in addition to allowing “check-ins”, “likes”, and comments.
o   Social.  Twitter integration.  Perhaps the most used 3rd party widget in the 2nd screen world, the automated searching of appropriate keywords and hashtags has made this a pretty robust experience for live events (pre-recorded events are still spoiler-challenged).  Perhaps the best overall socially integrated app these days is Yap.TV.

Plateau of productivity.
o   Simple.  The classic remote.  The last improvements came from companies like Harmony, allowing more efficient programming and usage of the 1960’s-based device.
o   Discovery.  The grid guide.  While some operators have customized the grid guide with favorites and there is discussion of a “custom channel” approach, any real improvement in this content search and discovery method is most likely to come from new UI approaches.

How Available (Really) Are Top TV Shows in the Digital Video World?

September 4, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog, M&E Connections, M&E Daily · Comments Off 

As the UltraViolet academy 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.  There was a general view that most TV shows were available (in the US) on either HuluPlus or Netflix.  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 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.
So, unlike the Top 100 movie title availability, digital can be a better option (across many services), but is no where near the option most of us believe it is (by having a single subscription service).  The good news on the movie front is that UltraViolet has continued to make progress since May and the title availability in the Top 100 is now about 50%, with a marked improvement of titles in the “SD” digital format (probably due to Wal-Mart’s exchange program).
So, if we want to capture the consumer, the lesson remains for the movie side of the business–get the majority of titles available in the system.  But for the TV side of the digital video world, we need to either simplify the consumer offering or make it easier for the consumer to navigate across the various services to find the source of the content they desire.
See you in London on Wednesday.
@ChuckParkerTech

Digital Video by the Numbers for Summer, 2012

September 4, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
With the summer now officially over, the digital video space continues to march forward.  I am sure much of this will be discussed at the UltraViolet workshop in London tomorrow (Wednesday, September 5th, 2012) at the PARK PLAZA WESTMINSTER BRIDGE.  Below is some empirical evidence of the progress:




  • 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
@ChuckParkerTech

ps You can find most of the source data on my Pinterest


How available (really) are top TV shows in the digital video world?

September 4, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
As the UltraViolet academy 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.  There was a general view that most TV shows were available (in the US) on either HuluPlus or Netflix.  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 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.
So, unlike the Top 100 movie title availability, digital can be a better option (across many services), but is no where near the option most of us believe it is (by having a single subscription service).  The good news on the movie front is that UltraViolet has continued to make progress since May and the title availability in the Top 100 is now about 50%, with a marked improvement of titles in the "SD" digital format (probably due to Wal-Mart's exchange program).

So, if we want to capture the consumer, the lesson remains for the movie side of the business--get the majority of titles available in the system.  But for the TV side of the digital video world, we need to either simplify the consumer offering or make it easier for the consumer to navigate across the various services to find the source of the content they desire.

See you in London on Wednesday.

@ChuckParkerTech

The "Seamless" sourcing of video content from multiple aggregation services

August 30, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
10 years ago, life was simple in your living room.  You really had 3 libraries of content to worry about:
  1. the 500 channels of content you were receiving from your Cable, Telco, or Satellite provider, 
  2. the collection of DVD's on your shelf, and
  3. the available plethora of DVDs to rent at your local Blockbuster.  
But even simpler then was the fact that there were only a few rights windows, and as a consumer, you understood them pretty well:

  • 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.
Video entertainment was easy, despite the poor available search methods of channel surfing your EPG and browsing your shelf or local store's shelves.

In 2012, you are perplexed by a long list of growing of (sometimes exclusive) digital sources of content with different restrictions and availability dates.  Some titles are available for sale but not for rent (eg iTunes, Vudu, Amazon).  Some titles are available for rent, but not in your subscription service (eg Netflix Streaming, Amazon Prime).  Sometimes the digital version is available the same day as the DVD/Blu-ray is available in stores for sale, but even the physical DVD rental has different availability dates in the few remaining Blockbuster stores and the Netflix mail service than it does at the RedBox kiosks in your local grocery store.  Throw in TV catch-up services where the DVD is often available after it is available for free or subscription online and you are thoroughly confused.  Or at least should be.

Sure you now have more powerful search capabilities in your EPG and digital video services, but finding what you want to watch often involves checking multiple services for availability and then deciding which option gives you the best living room experience--and it all takes time and effort.

Arrgghhh.

But there are a few technologies and service providers who want to try to make your life simple again, but be forewarned: the challenge ahead is steep.

There are young and innovative apps (eg BuddyTV, Matcha, and Fanhattan) that are trying to help deliver a search capability across multiple content aggregation services, and in some cases, will help you play that video directly to your entertainment device.  There are innovative"cloud" ownership models at iTunes and Amazon, allowing you to effortlessly access content from multiple devices.  The pay TV operators (eg Comcast, DirecTV) and premium TV networks (eg HBO, Showtime) are pushing a TVEverywhere strategy, allowing you to access their restricted content on almost any device (in the home).  And finally, the content industry is trying to launch a service called UltraViolet that will allow you to purchase physical DVD's and Blu-ray and obtain a "cloud" copy of the same title that is available in a number of digital video services.

Let's take a quick review of what the future might hold.  The average tablet or smartphone user is now getting their video content from a plethora of sources.  Typically, he or she has access to some pay TV operators networks (eg Comcast, DirecTV) with its accompanying TVEverywhere service..  Additionally they often have a digital subscription service (eg Netflix, Hulu).  They are also renting and purchasing titles through digital video service providers (iTunes, Vudu, Amazon), potentially with some associated cloud service.  And yes, the vast majority of content is still physically rented or purchased on  a DVD or Blu-ray (potentially with UltraViolet).

So to truly solve your problems, you need an easy to use (and I would suggest tablet-based) app that allows you tell it which services you have access to and which devices you own.  For example, you might want to tell that service provider you are using AT&T's U-verse for linear channels, have Netflix and Hulu, have purchased titles on iTunes and Vudu, prefer renting titles from one of several services, and have purchased a number of titles on UltraViolet.  You then might want to tell it that you prefer watching content on either your big screen TV (and which devices serve up that content) and/or your iPad.

What does today's reality looks like:

  • 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.
Assuming we are at the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" or possibly in the "Trough of Disillusionment" on this feature set, how does this complex problem get solved?  
  • 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.

So do not despair.  All of the answers are technically feasible and my bet is you will see services like BuddyTV, Matcha, and Fanhattan (and soon to launch Dijit and M-Go) continue to make progress against these integration points, eventually making your life as simple as it was 10 years ago, with the promise of "video on demand" which you actually want to watch finally delivered.

Whew.

@ChuckParkerTech



The Olympics and Second Screen – not so great

August 6, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
While the 2012 Summer Olympics has certainly been appropriately dubbed the first "Social Olympics" (Twitter and Facebook comparisons discussed daily on the broadcast discussions by commentators) and even NBCU has come out and described it as a TV Everywhere success (streaming every event live for authenticated Pay TV subscribers in the US), it has be abysmal for Second Screen enthusiasts.

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.

Yahoo announced a major upgrade to their IntoNow application to drive better use of live stats during the Olympics, but at least my attempts over a multi-night period never delivered anything much better than the previous version.  Even my prime time viewing attempts worked out rather poorly.







NBCU created a live viewing companion app that tried to have interesting features during their nightly primetime playback of the days events, but the curated Twitter feed fell extremely short (only their own tweets presented) and the facts presented about every minute during the event were either uninteresting or just not relevant.






One of my go to apps in this case is usually tvplus, but on the few nights I tested it, the stats and events didn't update.  The curated Twitter feed was much better than NBCU's, but I am not using a 2nd screen app for the Twitter feed.









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.

@ChuckParkerTech










Preparing for Second Screen at IBC

July 26, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Second Screen doesn't appear to have taken much of a summer break since our 2nd Screen Society conference in NY on June 26th.  Discovery just recently announced a new Social TV app, Yahoo and Twitter announced support for the Olympics, and two official Apps have been launched for the Olympics (London 2012: Join In and London 2012: Results). While I am disappointed that I didn't see a synchronized app come out of the official Olympic camp, I would expect 3rd party apps to be all over the games when they kick-off tomorrow on the 27th of July (you see can these headline articles here). If you are in the UK, I would highly recommend trying Zeebox for the experience. If you are based in the US, TVplus runs a great synchronized experience as well (see our app review from a few weeks ago).

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.

@ChuckPakerTech







Better than bonus material? What Second Screen could do for title sell-thru

July 17, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
When DVD's first arrived on the scene back in the late '90s, the majority of consumers thought they were a significant leap ahead of VHS tapes because of their size, ability to quickly access anywhere on the disc, better picture quality, etc.  But as the industry realized the opportunity to create a sell-thru model (vs. the rental model with VHS), they started trying to figure out what it would take to get consumers to collect or gift DVD's (the biggest reason for purchases).

And bonus material was born.


I am sure all of you have seen this at a cursory level, but the behind-the-scenes effort of creating a "behind the scenes" is actually a serious undertaking.  In DVD's hey day when the average U.S. consumer was buying 14 DVD titles a year (vs. today's 7), actors and directors grumbled about contracts requiring them to film interviews, do audio commentaries, and edit appropriate bloopers or deleted scenes for the DVD bonus material.  Marketers at the studios were convinced that consumers would pay a higher price point for the "collector's edition" of certain collectible franchises either for themselves or as gifts (esp. @ Christmas) and they had the uplift and margins to prove it.

And then DVD sales began to decline.  At this point, bonus material was either used as a sales promotion feature (removed from discs destined for rentals stores like Blockbuster or Netflix) or the cost of creating the material was seriously questioned and removed (for those uncollectible, less gift-able titles).

And now here we are again, only with Second Screen.  There are studios experimenting with creating incredibly engaging apps for key franchises to promote the sale of the Blu-ray or DVD.  Disney was the first to really push into this with their re-released Bambi title a little less than a year ago, with an incredible user experience that was only activated via BD Live in the sell thru versions.

Since that title, various studios have been experimenting with 2nd screen applications as companions to the movie with games (Sony and the Smurfs) and commerce (Fox and Sons of Anarchy Season 3).  Then last week Marvel (owned by Disney) arrived on the scene with the first 2nd Screen application designed to promote the Blu-ray sale before it is released.  The Avengers Blu-ray won't release for sale until the 25th of September (5 weeks from now), but if you download the app now, you can see some of the character files (Captain America, Black Widow) and play one game, but over time, as you keep coming back (each week presumably), more content is unlocked for you to review.  They are hoping to build up audience anticipation, and similar to Bambi, then only make certain features available when a purchased Blu-ray unlocks something in the app via BD Live.

So where is all of this headed?  In previous blogs, we've discussed the financial reasons for studios to promote digital rental over physical rental (they get a much bigger split) and physical sell-thru over digital rental (similar split, larger overall pie).  Their next big trick is to figure out how to promote digital sell-thru (not because the splits are better than physical, but because physical is in decline with viewing shifting to Netflix-like services where their margin share is abysmal).  The is why there is such a big push on UltraViolet (allows consumers to convert physical libraries to digital libraries, and allows them to truly collect digital libraries across devices.  So be on the look out for the studios working with iTunes, Vudu, Amazon and others to create a digital method of encouraging you to buy the movie title vs. renting the title via transaction or subscription services (they need a method similar to BD live that only enables key features in the 2nd screen app when you are watching a purchased movie vs a rented or streamed version)--I would expect UltraViolet to pick this up in their next feature set release.

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!"

@ChuckParkerTech


Breathing Digital – Is Second Screen a fad or the growing slope of a demographic mountain?

July 10, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
I was having that familiar discussion in London last week about what 2nd screen was and whether or not this was a real market trend or just an overhyped fad.  Of course, it is always hard to know these things before they happen (else we would all be very rich), but in thinking through a new way to answer beyond stating the most recent statistics of 80%+ people using a 2nd screen while watching TV only to hear the the person I am speaking to me immediately tell me they never do, etc, I thought about a key note I saw at a conference in 1999.



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.

Now that my children at 9 and 13, I can see giant changes approaching in the way that they live digitally.  They prefer texting over phoning.  They don't use email, opting for Facebook messaging or even Instagram instead.  They will never know what a bedroom or playroom TV is (having lived with an iPad for every other room in the house).  And as I watch them around the living room, it is clear they will likely only very rarely experience a film, TV show or sporting event without a second screen.  While we are currently astounded by the 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.

@ChuckParkerTech

An industry lunging forward – Second Screen industry shows visible progress

July 3, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
I think all of us in attendance last week in NYC at the 2nd Screen Summit were partly excited and partly surprised at how much progress this nascent industry has continued to make.  For example, in February there was some high level discussion about what it would take for the game console market to develop 2nd screen apps and most of the cocktail-hour pundits predicted the gaming segment would move as slow as they produce next generation consoles--at a snail's pace.  Only a few weeks ago, the entire media industry lamented on why Steve Ballmer would launch yet again another tablet--but all of us were very wrong.  Microsoft's Xbox team has been quietly but quickly developing concepts for 2nd screen user experiences (aka "SmartGlass") for the range of consumers who love everything about their gaming consoles.  
And while everything demonstrated was admittedly demo-code, Ron Pressner did an excellent job delivering an eye-opening view of the potential of the platform that they are building for developers.  Imagine being immersed in a complex role-playing game (RPG) and using your smart phone or tablet to look at the map or get more details on the kinds of characters and adversaries you face.  Imagine singing karaoke and being able to search for songs and queue them up while someone else is singing (seems so obvious that you wonder we ever lived without it).  How about a homerun game where the pitcher traces the path of the pitch on their smartphone that then becomes the pitch for the player on the Kinnect-driven console or watching your favorite movie and having a constantly updating set of actors bios on your smart phone or tablet--or better yet, a fly over map that updates based on where the scene for the Game of Thrones currently is, with all the lore and mystique of the location tied in for you in real time.  More exciting for the industry--Microsoft is building a platform with an SDK to facilitate 3rd party development.

And that was the opening session!

Peter Scott form Turner Sports and Damon Phillips from ESPN did a great job outlining how the 2nd screen complements live sports viewing and further engages the consumer.  The day only accelerated with great discussion among first and third party app developers and the related service providers on what it takes to build great, engaging consumer applications that complement their companion programs rather than distract from them.  Jason Forbes from zeebox went on to describe his company's view of the 5 pillars of a great consumer 2nd screen experience while Jacob Shwirtz of Viacom and Babba Uppal of Endemol described the importance of interactivity, addressibility and analytics from the content creator's point of view.  Jeremy Toeman of Dijit reminded all of us just how raw and basic (and dangerous) Twitter can be for the masses and how important simplicity in the user experience is.

Discussions carried on into the evening through dinner with passionate debates about where this industry is headed and what is required to accelerate it to a revenue generating platform for everyone in the chain.  And Thursday morning, 15 sleepy-eyed stalwarts discussed what concrete steps we can take together to take more measured steps forward.

There is a real sense of excitement because of one basic unifying change--consumers are utilizing a second screen in the living room at an astonishing rate.  While they might be currently checking their email or texting a friend, the data is absolutely compelling if you can find a way to engage them in a deeper relationship with the entertainment on the primary screen--even though no one quite has the business model figured out yet.

So stay tuned for more sessions similar to last week's NYC show with our engagement planned in September at IBC.  And if you haven't seen our twice weekly news summary, shoot me an email chuck@MESAlliance.org and I will ensure you get added to the list.

Enjoy the BBQs this week.

@ChuckParkerTech

Second Screen by the Numbers Q2 2012

June 27, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
This is the third time we have tried to summarize the big numbers demonstrating 2nd screens progress in the marketplace--the first time was just before CES in January of this year, and the second time was in March of this year.  Well the market is not standing still and as our 2nd Screen Summit is about to kickoff in New York City, here is a recap of the activity over the past few months:

  • 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 “like” or “fan” 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

A feature ranking of 3rd party Second Screen Apps

June 21, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Over the last 9 months, I have been reviewing second screen apps from all walks of life in this blog--apps for specific TV series or film titles, apps from cable/telco/satellite operators, apps from broadcast networks, sports league apps, major event apps, and of course apps built by "third parties" designed to cover multiple networks, titles, TV series, events, and sports.  The last time I did a feature summary of the major apps out there was shortly after CES.  Most of the apps have improved there feature set since then and as a background to the 2nd Screen Summit next week in NYC, I thought it would be a good time to review them again.



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!

10 Second Screen Apps to Watch in 2012

June 19, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
The last time we published an app summary was just before the CES show this year in early January  and then again leading up to our 2nd Screen Summit in LA in mid-Febraury.  While the nascent 2nd screen app market segment has been exploding with new apps for shows, network channels, movies, major events, and sports all over the place, 3rd party apps have been quietly improving themselves and trying to find their way into more consumer living rooms.  As we prepare for another Second Screen Summit on June 27th in NYC, we should pause and review the progress those 3rd party apps have been making.



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.


A few noteable newcomers (at least this blog last did a major summary) are:
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.


Building critical title mass for digital video services

May 31, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
In the on demand video world, title availability can either help or hinder consumer adoption.  Finally ready to try a new digital video service but can't find your favorite more or a new release?  This experience just pushes you back to the physical world (Amazon.com and Netflix disc rental).  As the content industry is a few years into an effort designed to increase digital sell-thru (vs. digital rental and subscription services) in an attempt to improve their overall margin structure as physical sell-thru continues to decline, they have developed UltraViolet as a way to encourage consumers to build a digital catalog at home, across multiple services, DRMs, and devices, to gain the freedom they experience with physical DVD or Blu-ray.  The most obvious way to do this today is thru Walmart's Disc to Digital program on their Vudu digital video service.



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.

Not surprising at all, 99 of the Top 100 titles were available for sale on Amazon.com in the DVD format (our gold standard). The only title not yet for sales on DVD was the recently released Avengers movie, which won't release on DVD until this fall. 88% of the titles were available on Blu-ray for sale from Amazon.com--an indicator that not all Top 100 titles are viewed equally by their rights owners.


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.


But what if I wanted it now but don't have $7-$20 of appetite for my entertainment? The best best is digital rental (SD), and here Amazon and iTunes are tied at 72%, with Vudu trailing at 62%.

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.





Looking for evidence of the “Digital Living Room” of the future

May 24, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 

When I attend industry conferences, I often spend time asking myself if I am generating enough value by attending to justify the travel cost, the time away from family, and the pain of the accompanying late nights and early morning meetings.  After arriving in Boston for NCTA’s 2012 CableShow, I noticed the relatively light attendance when compared to previous CableShows or other industry events.  Now I am not complaining that the cab lines are short or that I could get a sandwich at lunch time (vs. a few hours before or after) without a problem, and I am certainly not complaining about the host city—Boston is fabulous town.  But when I looked around the show and asked others what were the big “a-ha’s”, there wasn’t an immediate reply.  Everyone quickly said they caught up with tons of industry contacts, colleagues, and of course customers, but we don’t need the show floor expense with demos and meeting rooms to accomplish that.  What were we hoping to see at a show anchored by giant media conglomerates like Comcast (with 22m Xfinity subscribers and NBCUniversal networks) and TimeWarner Cable?  I think everyone was hoping to see some progress against the promise of a better digital future for the consumer—and despite how much attention the press gives all of the great digital living room start-ups and OTT video service providers, the vast majority of consumers still get their media from a Pay TV operator.  I guess my long-winded point is that if those new user experiences aren’t reaching the consumer thru cable operators, they aren’t really reaching the masses.


So with that as our lens, what did the 2012 Cableshow reveal about our future?  I would start with a theme of incremental improvement.  Comcast launched the Xfinity X1 platform with much fanfare on Monday, billing it as a major new platform and revolutionary break thru for the consumer.  While I agree it is a significant improvement from the operator’s point of view (lower long term capital requirements and lower operating expenses, faster roll-outs of UI improvements, etc), I am not sure the consumer got much at all.  He or she still uses a remote to turn on the system, the grid guide is still the default content discovery UI, and content is still presented to the consumer based on the way the operator deals with the business model (linear broadcast TV, VOD, OTT services) vs. the way people consume content (they want to watch something and the source is rather immaterial).  There are some nice use cases buried deep in the UX (i.e. after you search for a TV series, each episode can show multiple sources for acquiring the content from your DVR to VOD to a scheduled showing in the guide), but all those use cases are decidedly lean forward use cases, and the only recommendation engine is based on genre matching with no account of your viewing history, social networks, or even basic collaborative filtering (according the engineer I reviewed the demo with for an hour).  Seems a bit bleak if this is the future.

There were glimmers around the show floor of TV 2.0-style use cases making progress.  Nearly every vendor has some solution for TV Everywhere and multi-screen use cases in and out of the home.  Some vendors were selling platforms and SDKs to launch second screen tablet experiences, and the majority of the content creators were clearly trying to weave social networking into their go to market strategies for their content.  There were even some vendors making progress against perhaps the most difficult problem of all, Discovery, demonstrating semantic language searching capabilities and improvements in the UI for the delivery of recommendations.  There was great demo by Samsung of an embedded SmartTV app that allowed one of their TV's to access the full Cablevision service with no set top box (the Xbox and PS3 announcements for Verizon and Comcast are VOD services only)--a sign of things to come.  Ironically, the best visible progress I saw for the consumer was from a 3rd party second screen app that will re-launch itself in June—while not in a cable provided solution, at the least the consumer will be able to use the app in conjunction with their cable service.

So my take this week on the rather lightly attended 2012 Cable Show is that there were no big “a-ha’s” for the consumer, and while the large cable companies are making progress, they are moving slowly.

Who is going to disrupt the Pay TV industry?

May 17, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
I've spent the last few weeks having renewed discussions with a variety of people whose opinion I respect in this space, including those in the Twitter-sphere, the blogosphere, and in plain old real life, and with the NCTA Cable Show happening in Boston next week, I think it is the right time to open this debate up again.

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.



But when you dig deeper into the economics behind all of this, you find out that the big money makers for the content creators and distributors are Pay TV packages and the sell-thru of movies and the least profitable segments are the subscription digital services and the subscription physical rental services.  Combine this with the sheer weight and power of the major Pay TV Operators (Comcast has 22m subscribers, similar to Netflix, but at nearly 10x the revenue on average) where the top 4 players (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, and TimeWarner Cable) make up 61% of the US pay TV subscriber market, and you can imagine they have commensurate purchasing power with the content creators to secure the same rights that Netflix and Hulu have without additional costs.

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).

So while I don't believe that the Pay TV Operators will be bankrupted by the digital disruptors in the near future, I do believe the disruptors deliver significant consumer value and will continue to do so in the coming 3-5 years.  Think about it this way:
  • 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.
Since we shouldn't expect those large operators to spend development dollars unless they are increasing their revenue (ARPU) or reducing churn, I would expect the next disruption battle to be centered around Social TV, the Second Screen and Discovery.  Here, disruptors will emerge that will start to impact the ad-supported TV market (including sports), which is at least twice the size of the pay for play video world, and will start to make the transactional rental and sell-thru market more efficient for the consumer (easier to find your content at an appropriate price) while potentially introducing new revenue opportunities for the industry (commerce, advertising, analytics).  

Ultimately, some of those disruptors will find a business model that works in this larger video ecosystem and they will survive or be acquired by the existing large players in the space, but the macro-economics of the ecosystem won't change significantly because of them.  Consumers, will however, benefit from that disruption in an improved user experience (UX).


Returning to Wal-mart to try the Disc to Digital conversion to Vudu again

May 8, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Since I visited Walmart previously on the day they first opened their service, I thought I would give them a few weeks to work out the kinks and try again.  I also thought I would test my own theory that I put forward in several blogs (What is holding back digital sell-thru?, Converting your physical disc library to a digital locker).  The short summary of that discussion was that if I had the supposed average 80+ titles in my library as the average consumer, I would find that only 75% would be available on Netflix (reducing the need to purchase) and of the remaining 25%, half would not be available for conversion on Walmart / Vudu.

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.

Summary


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). 
The real question.  Will others join this service option (Amazon for example)?  Will Apple develop something similar (with their ability to nail the service with simplicity)?

My Review of the Walking Dead Second Screen app built by Red Bee Media

May 4, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
There has been a huge amount of discussion in the trade press and blogosphere about what consumers are doing on their second screen and if they should be engaged in them at all. Certainly in this blog, we have discussed that one reason they might want to engage is to get access to more Stimulating content--everything from stats for sports fans to more detailed information about the show or even commerce opportunities.

Well the Walking Dead FX app built by Red Bee Media is certainly the most stimulating app a fan could hope for. If you are not familiar with the show, it is in essence a show about zombies and the humans who are trying to survive in a world full of them. That means lots and lots of zombies need to be killed--perhaps the attraction of the show itself. This app capitalizes on that fundamental "raison d'etre" of the show--by creating a game out of trying to predict who will kill the most zombies in a particular episode, what will be the most used weapn for the kills, and what the final kill count will be at the end of the show.


The UI is simple and clean. You have the opportunity to check out trailers, previous kills, etc, but once you click into the main portion of the app, it starts to sync via audio-based ACR (automatic content recognition) to determine what episode you are watching. It offers you choices of human killers and their weapons for the episode--and of course the kill count prediction. That's it! You then just watch the episode and as the kills unfold, the app (using audio ACR) lets you know who killed that zombie and with what weapon, and the kill count tally rises by one. A perfect combination of a passive experience (you can glance down or not as desired) that is incredibly Stimulating for the demographic of the fans of this show.

At the end of the show, your score is tallied (based on your predictions) and you are then offered the opportunity to share your prowess with your friends via Facebook and Twitter.

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.
















Why is Discovery so hard to implement for video services?

April 26, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
Last week, Google said it was trying to tackle one of the hardest problems on the internet -- video Discovery.

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.

Hulu has an anemic "Featured" (stuff someone is paying them to put in front of you) and "Most Popular" (think Top 40 radio) set of categories. At first glance you seem to be presented with only 9 choices, but the scrolling begs you to look down through row after row, presenting hundreds of choices.

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.

Vudu comes up significantly short with only "Top Picks" as a real category on the iPad experience. Their PS3 experience is more like Amazon's (popular rental titles, popular purchases, etc).











BuddyTV, a popular second screen app known for enabling you to Simply control your DirecTV and AT&T set top box and to recommend shows on right now from Netflix, Amazon or your channel service provider, does have a rather cool seeding process for their algorithm (asking you your preferences on a short list of movies and integrating your Facebook Likes to try to guess what you like) and presents them directly to you with only 5 initial choices (good). They do fall prey again to the scrolling process (seemingly endless choice) and separated visual choices for OTT video services from the channel line-up (oddly enough).









Fanhattan, a well-regarded second screen app known for its ability to provide tons of Stimulating content about a movie or TV show, does provide a decent filterable genre and category approach, including things like what your friends most or recently liked, but its "similar to this movie" recommendation feature is buried deep in the UI and while a powerful way to discover content, is too complex ro be "lean back" and get you there in 3 clicks/gestures.





Matcha is an app that is designed to be a "2nd screen as your 1st screen" recommendation experience, linking directly to your Netflix, Hulu and Facebook, and in theory launching you directly to those services when you pick a feature (except for Amazon, since they do not have an app). They actually do a slightly better job than Netflix, but they fall prey to the "row UI" approach, cluttering your decision field with 3 rows of 6 choices at any given time and oddly burying the recommendations row down below the initial screen, but at least limit the rows to 5 in numbers (but seemingly infinite choice to the right). They do a very good job of indicating the logic behind some of their recommendations (showing small thumbnails of Facebook friends if they have seen it or the Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB logos and ratings for the most popular content.


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...

@ChuckParkerTech
www.chuckparker.tv

Thoughts on Using Audio Sync for Automated Content Recognition in Second Screen Apps

April 20, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
(this originally appeared in Civolution's Vision Newsletter at NAB 2012)

There has been a lot of a debate in the blogosphere and trade journals about the value of automated content recognition (ACR) to the user experience and the best way to provide that capability.  Let’s start by exploring the value of the feature first.  Most apps are using the concept of ACR to provide ease of use for the consumer by identifying the show they are watching and “checking them in” to the show (IntoNow is probably the most well-known for this, but many others like ConnecTV and Viggle use it as well).  Shazam uses it to provide a launch point to additional information about a product you are watching in a commercial.  TVplus uses it to provide a synchronized content experience.  There have been discussions about holding the microphone open (or checking occasionally) and when the consumer is determined to be watching something else, to prompt them to change channels (whether for rewards or otherwise). 



 Let’s start by reviewing the consumer value options first.  Can we use ACR to affect the first screen?  Absolutely.  Think Flingo here.  If the TV or the 2nd screen knows what content is playing, it can change audio, change content sources, pause automatically (when you are exploring something deep on the 2ndscreen), etc.  Can we use ACR for social features?  The check-in is an obvious case which saves the consumer from having to type in the show name, etc.  It could even describe the scene you are watching or the play that just occurred in a game and pre-populate your Tweet (NCAA March Madness does this for cheering).  Probably the most valuable feature set to the consumer is providing additional Stimulation.  You can provide synchronized experiences, deliver engaging commerce or product information, provide contextual facts, trivia, the latest scores, stats, etc, etc.  Discovery could be the most appealing feature when combined with knowledge of the user (ie which member of the household) which would be used to keep track of what they really watch for purposes of providing better recommendations and discovery.

How can ACR be used to drive better features for the business model? With integration into the 1st screen it could provide the ability to influence consumer behavior.  For example, the app detects they are not watching the intended show and offer to tune them to the correct one.  It can also provide feedback to advertisers that they are watching commercials (perhaps justifying the Viggle points they receive).  It can provide better knowledge about the consumer (their likes, dislikes) for more targeted advertising, and when combined with the timecode or scene, provide contextual advertising or commerce opportunities (which are more lucrative to the provider).  Finally, with all of the information, better recommendations mean better influence on the consumers viewing behavior—an incredibly powerful and lucrative feature (think about Google and the order of their links and adwords—what would American Idol pay to strongly influence the consumer to change channels and watch their show?).

Now if we believe there is real value in ACR for both the consumer and the business, how do we effectively implement it?  Audio synchronization is the most widely used form of ACR in the 2nd screen and Social TV world today.  The most common form of audio ACR is “finger printed” audio.  Essentially, very similar to the way Shazam works with music, a database is created of the audio tracks of the TV shows and movies broken down into small segments of audio and then the device “listens” to what is happening and tries to match it to something in its database.  That’s why it takes 6-12 seconds to create a match and it is so susceptible to background noise (the dog barking, baby crying, other guests talking).  This is also why it is so hard to use audio finger printing to create a synchronized experience.  ConnecTV, IntoNow, Viggle, and many other apps use this approach for checking you in.  TVplus does manage a synchronized content experience using this method.
The next level of sophistication for audio-based ACR is “audio watermarking.”  Instead of creating a database of all known audio tracks, you insert inaudible sounds into the audio track that create synchronization points.  Think of it as something akin to the way a dog whistle works.  The sounds can be created in a manner to cut through most background noises, and if managed correctly, can function like the time code or clock of the feature.  Of course, changing the audio track in post production is expensive (when done for the thousands of shows that exist) and requires support of the content owners and distributors (so that no one replaces audio track—often the decision of the cable/telco network operator (Comcast, AT&T, etc) or of the digital video service provider (iTunes, Vudu, Netflix).  The Sons of Anarchy “SOA Gear” app is an example of this watermarked audio approach.

If you have used any of the apps designed for movies (King’s Speech, Tron, Bambi, etc), you will notice that they have an ACR method based on synchronizing with your Blu-ray player.  Essentially they reach out via local wi-fi and get the time code of the movie that is playing and relay that back to the app.  This is not affected by background noise and doesn’t require a change to the audio track, but does require the cooperation of the content creator to allow the connection from the app (in BDLive).  Some of the more sophisticated apps have both Blu-ray and audio ACR capability, checking for the Blu-ray connection first, and then using Audio ACR as a backup.
In the next 6-12 months, you will see the movie and TV apps (Netflix, Hulu, Boxee, Vudu, etc) start providing some level of synchronization capability , allowing either their own app or 3rd parties (if they are smart) to access the time code and name of the feature that is playing.
Flingo adds another level of sophistication to this concept.  They insert themselves into the “Operating System” of the smart TV, allowing the app to know the time code and feature name of anything that is playing.  In theory, this enables them to work across multiple apps.


Where is all of this headed?  While the most effective method of synchronizing is great if you are developing the feature (I have seen an example that checks for Blu-ray connectivity first, then looks for a set top box that is can communicate with, and then finally uses audio sync for ACR), it is a difficult approach for 3rdparty apps (those that create experiences for many TV shows and movies instead of a single experience for a single event or feature).  The most cost effective way to reach the most consumers is audio finger printing, while the best experience for the consumer is direct integration into the OTT movie service, set top box or Blu-ray player.  I would expect, however, that even when the app can speak to the movie service directly, for there to be a “fail over” option of audio-based ACR.  So if you are building an app, some level of audio ACR capability is probably an entry fee to this fast growing market place, and your ability to supplement that with tighter integration to the set top box, blu-ray player, or the OTT movie service itself can be a major differentiator against the competition.




@ChuckParkerTech

Thoughts on Using Audio Sync for Automated Content Recognition in Second Screen Apps

April 20, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
(this originally appeared in Civolution's Vision Newsletter at NAB 2012)

There has been a lot of a debate in the blogosphere andtrade journals about the value of automated content recognition (ACR) to the userexperience and the best way to provide that capability.  Let’s start by exploring the value of thefeature first.  Most apps are using theconcept of ACR to provide ease of use for the consumer by identifying the showthey are watching and “checking them in” to the show (IntoNow is probably themost well-known for this, but many others like ConnecTV and Viggle use it aswell).  Shazam uses it to provide alaunch point to additional information about a product you are watching in acommercial.  TVplus uses it to provide asynchronized content experience.  Therehave been discussions about holding the microphone open (or checkingoccasionally) and when the consumer is determined to be watching somethingelse, to prompt them to change channels (whether for rewards orotherwise). 


 Let’s start by reviewingthe consumer value options first.  Can weuse ACR to affect the first screen? Absolutely.  Think Flingo here.  If the TV or the 2nd screen knowswhat content is playing, it can change audio, change content sources, pauseautomatically (when you are exploring something deep on the 2ndscreen), etc.  Can we use ACR for socialfeatures?  The check-in is an obviouscase which saves the consumer from having to type in the show name, etc.  It could even describe the scene you arewatching or the play that just occurred in a game and pre-populate your Tweet(NCAA March Madness does this for cheering). Probably the most valuable feature set to the consumer is providingadditional Stimulation.  You can providesynchronized experiences, deliver engaging commerce or product information,provide contextual facts, trivia, the latest scores, stats, etc, etc.  Discovery could be the most appealing featurewhen combined with knowledge of the user (ie which member of the household)which would be used to keep track of what they really watch for purposes ofproviding better recommendations and discovery.

How can ACR be used to drive better features for thebusiness model? With integration into the 1st screen it couldprovide the ability to influence consumer behavior.  For example, the app detects they are notwatching the intended show and offer to tune them to the correct one.  It can also provide feedback to advertisersthat they are watching commercials (perhaps justifying the Viggle points theyreceive).  It can provide betterknowledge about the consumer (their likes, dislikes) for more targetedadvertising, and when combined with the timecode or scene, provide contextualadvertising or commerce opportunities (which are more lucrative to theprovider).  Finally, with all of theinformation, better recommendations mean better influence on the consumersviewing behavior—an incredibly powerful and lucrative feature (think aboutGoogle and the order of their links and adwords—what would American Idol pay tostrongly influence the consumer to change channels and watch their show?).

Now if we believe there is real value in ACR for both theconsumer and the business, how do we effectively implement it?  Audio synchronization is the most widely usedform of ACR in the 2nd screen and Social TV world today.  The most common form of audio ACR is “fingerprinted” audio.  Essentially, verysimilar to the way Shazam works with music, a database is created of the audiotracks of the TV shows and movies broken down into small segments of audio andthen the device “listens” to what is happening and tries to match it tosomething in its database.  That’s why ittakes 6-12 seconds to create a match and it is so susceptible to background noise(the dog barking, baby crying, other guests talking).  This is also why it is so hard to use audiofinger printing to create a synchronized experience.  ConnecTV, IntoNow, Viggle, and many otherapps use this approach for checking you in. TVplus does manage a synchronized content experience using this method.
The next level of sophistication for audio-based ACR is“audio watermarking.”  Instead ofcreating a database of all known audio tracks, you insert inaudible sounds intothe audio track that create synchronization points.  Think of it as something akin to the way adog whistle works.  The sounds can becreated in a manner to cut through most background noises, and if managedcorrectly, can function like the time code or clock of the feature.  Of course, changing the audio track in post productionis expensive (when done for the thousands of shows that exist) and requiressupport of the content owners and distributors (so that no one replaces audiotrack—often the decision of the cable/telco network operator (Comcast,AT&T, etc) or of the digital video service provider (iTunes, Vudu,Netflix).  The Sons of Anarchy “SOA Gear”app is an example of this watermarked audio approach.

If you have used any of the apps designed for movies (King’sSpeech, Tron, Bambi, etc), you will notice that they have an ACR method basedon synchronizing with your Blu-ray player. Essentially they reach out via local wi-fi and get the time code of themovie that is playing and relay that back to the app.  This is not affected by background noise anddoesn’t require a change to the audio track, but does require the cooperationof the content creator to allow the connection from the app (in BDLive).  Some of the more sophisticated apps have bothBlu-ray and audio ACR capability, checking for the Blu-ray connection first,and then using Audio ACR as a backup.
In the next 6-12 months, you will see the movie and TV apps(Netflix, Hulu, Boxee, Vudu, etc) start providing some level of synchronizationcapability , allowing either their own app or 3rd parties (if theyare smart) to access the time code and name of the feature that is playing.
Flingo adds another level of sophistication to thisconcept.  They insert themselves into the“Operating System” of the smart TV, allowing the app to know the time code andfeature name of anything that is playing. In theory, this enables them to work across multiple apps.


Where is all of this headed? While the most effective method of synchronizing is great if you aredeveloping the feature (I have seen an example that checks for Blu-rayconnectivity first, then looks for a set top box that is can communicate with,and then finally uses audio sync for ACR), it is a difficult approach for 3rdparty apps (those that create experiences for many TV shows and movies insteadof a single experience for a single event or feature).  The most cost effective way to reach the mostconsumers is audio finger printing, while the best experience for the consumeris direct integration into the OTT movie service, set top box or Blu-rayplayer.  I would expect, however, thateven when the app can speak to the movie service directly, for there to be a“fail over” option of audio-based ACR. So if you are building an app, some level of audio ACR capability isprobably an entry fee to this fast growing market place, and your ability tosupplement that with tighter integration to the set top box, blu-ray player, orthe OTT movie service itself can be a major differentiator against thecompetition.




@ChuckParkerTech

Converting physical DVDs and Blu-ray discs at Walmart to my Vudu (and UltraViolet) account

April 16, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
A few weeks ago when the story first broke about Walmart planning to launch an Ultraviolet-compatible disc-to-digital conversion service thru their own Vudu video service, I raised some points about cost vs. hassle, availability of titles, and potentially what could be done to use this (and hopefully other similar services) to drive growth in digital sell-thru for the studios. I also raised some points later about what would help drive digital sell thru.

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.

@ChuckParkerTech
http://www.chuckparker.tv

Updating the Second Screen Ecosystem Infographic

April 16, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
In February when many of us met to discuss the quickly developing second screen marketplace at the Second Screen Summit, we referred to an infographic that helped describe the players in each of the contributing market segments.

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)

You can receive a PDF of the landscape by emailing chuck@mesalliance.org
Send us your feedback.

Harnessing "Exclusive" Content to Aggregate Larger Audiences in the Digital Living Room

April 12, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog, M&E Daily · Comments Off 
I think there are 4 primary reasons consumers are willing to pick up a device in the living room while watching TV: 1. Simple. It starts with turning on the TV itself, but it is really about getting the content you want to watch onto the TV (whether the right channel, the right device for Blu-ray or digital video, or something you found on your 2nd screen and want to watch on the 1st screen). Last week's blog covers this challenge in detail. 2. Social. Currently a huge topic in the press and in the industry, this is about engaging others via Facebook, Twitter, or specialized second screen applications while you watch the show. A hugh phenomena right now. 3. Discovery. More and more, consumers are picking up a device to find something to watch rather than trying to use the EPG or the 10-foot remote experience of searching for content on the 1st screen. This is still a very nascent consumer experience, but one where real improvements are imminent in the space. 4. Stimulating. Another reason consumers are watching with a device in their laps is because they want more information about the movie, TV show, sporting event, or live event they are watching. They are looking up the actors, checking the stats of their favorite players, seeing who made that dress--all of the information they want to check in real-time while watching the first screen. In my last blog, I discussed the evolution of the digital living room in terms of the devices outside the Apple ecosystem and how difficult it is for consumers to get a truly integrated content experience (devices don't play well with each other or with content). Part of the solution, I argued, could be solved by UltraViolet, the video content industry's effort to provide a path for digital sell-thru. Another part was a combination of CE devices / operator STBs opening their control systems to 3rd party developers (APIs, web servics) so that other applications like digital video service providers (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon) or second screen applications (Fanhattan, BuddyTV, TVplus) can allow consumers to find their content and get it to play effortlessly (Simply) on the first screen (their TV). But there is another major element missing in this effort to make the consumer experience in the digital living room a better one: access to stimulating content. If you used the Masters 2012 app last weekend while watching the golf tournament (or read my blog on it), you noticed there were 6 sources of video available (the live broadcast plus 5 other camera setups). If you watched the Oscars and the pre-show red carpet event using the official Oscars app or the E! Red Carpet app, you also would have noticed additional camera angles that were not available through any other source. Movie titles do this (create an app specific to the title with exclusive bonus materials). TV shows and even TV networks do this to--making content exclusively available thru their show specific or network specific app. When you ask yourself why they do this, you initial conclusion is that it must be about money, yet in nearly every example I can find of exclusive content, the app itself is made available to the consumer for free. Perplexing. So let's step back from this for a minute. Why do TV shows, sports events, or studios invest in custom created apps for their content? They want to aggregate bigger audiences around their content. In fact, that is why TV networks, movie studios, and sports leagues exist--to aggregate audience to increase monetization thru content licensing, advertising or subscription. So why keep the special camera angles, bonus features, and star-studded interviews exclusive? My guess is that part of this is down to the human nature of the managers involved in the process to promote the app that they have built. But most of it is about cost and control. The content creator doesn't want to bear the cost (time, resources, money) of distributing the content to third parties, and additionally, they want to maintain quality control over how the content is used. Are there models today where this problem is already is solved? Certainly. Look at at big brand or movie title. When they launch a new product or movie, they develop a very specific set of rules on how the logos, brand images, photos, and even movie trailers are to be used and then make them available under a limited use license to "trusted" 3rd parties to put to use to help them promote their brand or movie. So how do we bring this together in the living room? We need a way to get content creators and application developers to syndicate this stimulating content. The content creator needs a cheap and efficient way of making the special content available to "trusted" 3rd parties so that when you are watching the Masters in 2013, you get access to the great materials in the Masters 2013 app and in the ConnecTV or TVplus app. When you are watching the Oscars next year but prefer to use IntoNow or Miso, perhaps you will still have access to those additional camera choices. When you watch the Hunger Games this fall, you will hopefully have access to the bonus materials thru the custom app AND through Fanhattan. While nothing is free, perhaps there is a reciprocal business arrangement between the apps (digital video services, second screen apps, social TV apps) and the content creators that can make this all worthwhile (sharing ad revenue, customer affiliation, or even a simple syndication fee). If we can solve this access to content challenge and the challenge of the multi-brand device living room, we can create an environment where the consumer will have more reasons to watch the content in the first place, increasing overall consumption perhaps even at some premium pricing--and everyone in the ecosystem wins: the content creators aggregate a larger audience, the distributors aggregate a larger audience, the app developers aggregate a larger audience, and the device makers sell more devices.

Masters 2012 App Reivew on the iPad

April 11, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 


For anyone who saw the final round of the Masters last Sunday, you were treated to an exciting and incredibly stimulating entertainment experience filled with double eagles, come from behind efforts, and a sudden death play-off shoot out.  The Masters 2012 app for the iPad matches that excitement and stimulation on every level.  While this app doesn’t provide tons of social tools (perhaps the demographic is wrong) and doesn’t provide any control of your 1st screen, it more than makes up for those missing feature sets by providing a stimulating experience beyond what most consumers could have wished for.  The app was the perfect companion to one of golf’s most historical weekends, with the ability for the consumer to not just see the obvious additional information items like the leaderboard and bit of information about the players, but to see live video from the broadcast (delayed 30 seconds) or from one of 5 other camera locations on the course, to see the leaderboard with video highlights on the exciting holes (loaded nearly in real time), to see an in-depth view of the players weekend progress in addition to their professional backgrounds, and and incredibly rich and stimulating historical perspective on the course and the tournament in the form of a decade by decade multimedia timeline and video fly over course map.

The user interface of the app is clean and simple, with the features centering the live video window (with 6 camera location options including the live broadcast) and highlight a mini-version of the leaderboard.  The video for the various camera feeds was delayed from live by 30 seconds, but started quickly and had no pixelation or frame issues, even when shown full screen on my iPad 3.  Drilling into the leaderboard revealed a rich and interactive view of the players’ progress, with video highlights available with a simple touch and an ability to select your favorite players so that they would always appear at the top of the board when you checked on their progress.  There was even an alert feature, letting you know when your favorite player was on a key hole or had moved up or down in the race to victory.  A live text update of significant events was provided just below the mini-leaderboard (presumably in case you missed something), and current video highlights were promoted just beneath the live video window, helping you quickly and easily find the most amazing shots of the day and the weekend.

The lower nav bar on the app allowed for more detailed exploration on the course and the tournament, providing a rich media view decade by decade of both.  There was also a very well developed course map with the lore and legend of the course combined with the obvious video flyover of each hole.  Of course, there was a detailed photos section (both current and historical), and an ability to check the player pairings for each day (with tee times) so that you could more easily follow your favorite players around the course.


While watching the end of the tournament with a few friends on Sunday, we found ourselves constantly referring to the app to see recent hole highlights (the double eagle by Louis Oosthuizen) and to check on the leaderboard as a guide to switching camera angles while the broadcast was focusing on players we were less interested in.  When Bubba Watson started to come from behind, everyone wanted to know who he was and what tournaments he had won.  As the tournament headed to a sudden death play-off, the room immediately wanted to see the hole they had to play and how the 2 players had fared on that hole earlier in the day.  The only real missing feature set was the social arena.  While I don’t think most golf fans want live Twitter feeeds, something like the ability to share a link to those favorite video clips so that your friends who were not in the room could share the moment with you, even if not in real-time, would have been nice. 

The Masters 2012 app has truly been world class delivery for a stimulating second screen experience.  I am hoping to see this level of effort for the other major tournaments (British Open, Ryder Cup, etc) in golf going forward.  At least for this consumer, it will certainly raise my interest and viewing time for all of those supported tournaments.

@ChuckParkerTech




































The Evolution of the Digital Living Room

April 5, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 

Apple with its iPad, Apple TV and iCloud for movies and TV shows has delivered a seamless ecosystem to the consumer's digital living room for owning and watching content from multiple devices in the home.  The rest of the industry (SmartTVs, connected devices, Android tablets) struggles to create a similar experience when they are a single-brand ecosystem and fail miserably when there are devices from multiple manufacturers in the household.
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.


My Review of Matcha as a Second Screen experience

March 27, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
I noticed Matcha present at the OTT Conference on 20-21 March and was very curious as to what their app experience was all about.


When you launch it, it immediately asks you to connect Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and Hulu, and quickly let's you know that it is essentially a video recommendation service which will also serve those videos on your iPad or laptop (so a second screen app that turns the 2nd screen into the first screen). They clearly have ideas for Amazon Prime and Xfinity even though neither are working yet (bottom greyed out portion of UI).

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.
































My Review of the CBS / Turner NCAA March Madness App as a Second Screen Experience

March 24, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 

I have been reviewing second screen app experiences for some time now (approaching 100 apps), and this is the first time I ever felt like someone nailed it for sports.  While we can have an argument over the aesthetics of the user interface (UI) based on the consumer’s personal preference, this is clearly the “sports fanatic” UI with the right amount of options and control.  Oddly enough, I’d like to meet the product manager and shake his or her hand.

Let’s talk thru the experience.  First, upon opening the app in my iPad (using the iPad3), you see a clean and simple presentation (below), showing you what games are on today (and what the current score is, time remaining, quarter, etc) and giving you the option to check the match-up for the games in the near future.  You notice some sponsorship (Buick, Coke Zero, CapitalOne) and some relatively unobtrusive banner ads at the bottom.



Choosing a game opens up a whole new vibrant and stat-oriented interface—something akin to a jet fighter’s cockpit display, with the streaming video in the center (should you choose to update to the $3.99 paid version) and all of the ancillary information surrounding it.  At the 11 o’clock position is the live score of the other games on today.  At 12 0’clock is the current score and game clock, with an ability to turn on the video, team alerts (close games, your favorite team, upsets, etc), and the ability to turn on the radio broadcast (in the event you don’t want to pay for the video or have low bandwidth).  Just below that is a great graphic called the “lead Tracker”, allowing you to see what the lead was at any point in the game (easily demonstrating the fan adrenalin level of the game).  On the left and right hand sides is an ability for you to choose one of three options for either team playing: a Twitter feed (very likely curated based on my testing), current team stats, or a list of the players with photos and stats.  The real estate at the bottom holds a clever implementation of a “cheer” button, which launches a combined window for Twitter and Facebook with a pre-populated (but editable) text with all the right hashtags to say something about your team.  For unpopulated text boxes, you can “comment” and it brings up a similar box, and you can check-in in a similar fashion (the other well architected feature is that you can click Facebook or Twitter separately if you manage those social networks differently as many do).  I even love their “Enjoy More Tweets” approach, which generates a refresh of the curated Twitter feed.


I went ahead and signed up for the live video feed and I have to admit the quality (on wi-fi) was pretty good.  I tried the radio feed as well--also very good.  I did notice that the video feed was delayed almost exactly 30 seconds from the live feed to my TV (I am assuming on purpose), though the scores seemed to update more quickly than that (created some odd scenarios as times).  I also took note that when my 1st screen went to a commercial, so did the live video stream (30 seconds delayed actually), but it had its own set of streamed video commercials (not those Hulu video/internet hybrid commercials).  This part seemed at odds with the rest of the design (since I would have thought they would want to capitalize on the ability to re-emphasize the brands on the 1st screen, but it seems they went for selling the inventory twice instead).



Poking around a bit more on the menu bar on the top left of the UI, I found the Bracket Challenge section (where the super fan could have filled out his or her own forecast of the games on their CBS Sports account and tracked their progress), and a current bracket with final and live game scores, allowing you to see at a glance what the impact of the game outcome was on the tournament at large.


In terms of the classic way I have been reviewing these second screen experiences:

-          Simple.  No way to control my TV, but not surprising with an app designed to reach this many people (and with a near-live video stream of its own available in the app).
-          Social.  A well-constructed UI with the ability to ask for more feeds, pre-populated “cheering” and check-in buttons for both Twitter and Facebook, and the ability to comment in free form as well gave this a high rating in my book.
-          Seamless.  There was no attempt at integrating other sources of content, though the network carrying the games are displayed
-          Stimulating.  This was stimulation on steroids!  While there was no synchronized features (everything was planned for a live event), I don’t think that is a drawback in this case (most of these games will be watched live by the fans).
-          Discovery.  No ability to discover other content, but great ability to see when the next games are, etc.

Now you may recall that I have reviewed a number of sports apps before and I typically rave about the professional league apps (NFL Live, NBA Courtside and MLB At Bat).  I have to admit that I think this is the best sports fanatic app I have seen in terms of it completeness and its flexibility for the user to control what they see and what they don’t see.   While it didn’t score well in 3 of the categories, I don’t think that matters for the sports fanatic that this was clearly built for who, like my neighbors with the Oscars and Red Carpet experience, is so overwhelmed by the abundance of Stimulating and Social feature categories that there isn’t time to think about what else the app could do for them. 

Wow.  What a great experience.

Chuck Parker
www.chuckparker.tv

My Takeaways from the OTT Conference and the future of broadband TV

March 23, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
I was fortunate enough to attend the Over the Top digital video conference this week in Santa Clara (thank you MESA).  It was one of the larger conferences that I have attended for the content with about 400-500 people in the main presentation room during the keynotes (CES and NAB are bigger, but most people are not there for the content, they are there for the sales opportunities).


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).

Chuck Parker
www.chuckparker.tv

The new iPad–worth the extra dough?

March 23, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
I have had a few people ask me what I thought of the new iPad (the iPad 3).
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.
Enjoy
Chuck Parker
www.chuckparker.tv

What is holding back sell-thru in digital?

March 20, 2012 · Posted in 2nd Screen Blog · Comments Off 
A friend and industry expert made a great point about my last blog entry relative to the choices consumers have beyond ownership in terms of managing their digital collection of movies and TV shows.

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.

Chuck

www.chuckparker.tv



















« Previous PageNext Page »

  • Upcoming Events

ESCA EU 2014 Button
HITSDMA 2014 Button web2
  • Hollywood IT Society

  • 2nd Screen Society

  • Content Protection

  • ITV Alliance

  • Signup for the M&E Daily
    * indicates required
  • Stay Connected