Tag Archives: Television

Verizon FiOS Growth and Verizon’s Streaming Video Service

Combined Verizon and AOL logos.

Analysts remain conflicted over the potential growth of Verizon FiOS as 2015 continues. New subscriber projections suggest there will only be around 90,000 additions during the second quarter, which are 25,000 fewer than had been anticipated. To put these totals in perspective, for the same period of time in 2014, FiOS subscribers increased by over 135,000. However, despite these underperforming totals, the expansion of Verizon FiOS, especially in parts of New York, Texas, and New Jersey, is expected to increase substantially over the next eighteenth months.

 

Even if FiOS numbers remain down, one of the reasons that observers are optimistic about Verizon’s financial growth over the long haul is that it plans to release its own video streaming service by September 2015. Over the past few months, Verizon has reached agreements with a number of content providers and is continuing talks with even more. While the initial target is to provide around 25 channels to subscribers, including content from Comedy Central, MTV, Food Network, HGTV, and the Travel Channel, the yet-unnamed service will also include video shorts produced by AwesomenessTV, a subsidiary of DreamWorks. While these offerings will whet the appetite of many consumers, Verizon has made clear that it is especially interested in a younger demographic. As a result of this focus, it has established agreements with ESPN, the ACC Network, CBS Sports, and 120 Sports. Content from these networks will include some NFL, college basketball, and college football games, but broadcast restrictions will apply.

 

Although complete details of the Over the Top (OTT) streaming service have not yet been announced, it is clear that Verizon plans to have an ad-based model, similar to what Hulu Plus does, compared to the pure subscription model used by Netflix. While Hulu Plus has not enjoyed the same subscriber growth as Netflix, Verizon hopes to change this by benefiting from its recent purchase of AOL. Since its days of providing users dial-up internet access, AOL has transformed itself into a leader in online advertising. Survey results produced by the advertising industry have shown that AOL is successful in reaching a target audience more than 55% of the time, a figure that is the envy of all advertisers besides Google. Another aspect tied to the success of the ads on the new Verizon service is that the company hopes users will enjoy the content not only at home, but also on their mobile devices. This means streaming over Verizon’s existing wireless network while consuming a lot of data. However, realizing that the threat of data overage fees may turn off some consumers, Verizon has established an agreement in which the advertisers will help subsidize part of the cost for data used while viewing video content.

 

Confirmed and Potential Changes to Sports Bundles and Television Providers

Logos for MLB, the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL.

Continuing the trend of breaking apart cable packages, the NBA announced after the 2015 NBA Finals that beginning next season they will be making changes to their League Pass. In existence since 1994, the League Pass for the 2014-2015 season cost $200 and provided subscribers access to over 1,000 games that were not already available on a local sports network in the region. This plan was offered through TV providers and directly from the NBA via their own online video platform designed for iOS, Android, and desktop computers.

 

The changes in the NBA League Pass bundling will allow subscribers to purchase season-long access for a single team or purchase access to individual games. Although the official pricing tiers will not be released until July 2015, industry experts expect that following a single team for the season will range in cost from $50 to $100, while individual game prices will be in the $2 to $5 range. The latest speculation is that the prices for these tiers will be consistent across markets and teams, regardless of their size or popularity. However, the one restriction will be that this unbundled package will only be offered through the NBA’s video platform, rather than through the television providers. In light of this announcement, there have been discussions to resolve some areas of concern between the NBA and their broadcast partners, including ESPN, Turner Networks, and regional sports networks, such as the Los Angeles Lakers’ SportsNet.

 

While analysts praise the NBA for making this decision, and stress the new growth this move is bound to bring to Commissioner Adam Silver’s league, the NBA is bucking the trend of the other professional sports leagues in how they offer their products. MLB and the NHL also have sports packages, while the most famous, and controversial one, is the NFL’s Sunday Ticket Package, which has also been in existence since 1994. Offered exclusively through DirecTV, a lawsuit was filed recently claiming that the NFL’s package structure and use of blackouts are in violation of federal law and need to be overturned. While this lawsuit is just beginning, a recent development in a case involving NHL blackouts and bundled packages may ultimately impact the case against the NFL. The settlement in the NHL case means that for the next five years fans will be able to purchase a package online, known as Game Center Live, that allows them to follow a single team at prices more than 20% below the current cost of bundled packages. Legal experts expect the lawsuit against MLB to be resolved in the same way. All of this suggests that while television providers may be unhappy with the NBA’s voluntary decision to provide a non-bundled package, it may spare the NBA costly legal battles in the future.

FCC Reclassification, Broadband Access, and OTT: Does it Mean Anything?

Collection of rainbow-colored internet cables

One of the biggest hassles that people experience when they move is finding new cable and internet providers. While there are a bevy of cable packages to choose from, the options for broadband providers are not always as plentiful. With the recent FCC decision to reclassify broadband as a Title II utility, coupled with its change in what constitutes broadband, services with speeds of 25 Mbps or higher, the process of selecting a provider by a new homeowner has gotten even harder. The issue at hand is that for the vast majority of American households, there is only one, if any, Internet Service Provider (ISP) that can supply true broadband. The latest statistics are that 19.7% of American households do not have access to an ISP offering the 25 Mbps speed, while 54.3% have access to only one such ISP.

 

While the broadband provider issue appears to be changing with the development and expansion of fiber networks throughout the country, Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV, is stressing that consumers may see an increased strain on their finances as they purchase internet access. In particular, Lynch believes that those consumers who are broadband-only subscribers, the type who thrive in the expanding Over the Top (OTT) ecosystem of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus, will feel the pinch as cable companies attempt to offset their loss of TV subscribers by raising the price on single-use consumers. While OTT-only dwellings remain a small part overall, the percentage is growing and has now reached 10.5 million households, up over 15% from 2012. This expansion is occurring at the same time that pay TV subscriptions have declined over 0.5% since the start of 2015, the largest decline ever recorded.

 

Although Lynch’s claims must be taken with a grain of salt, considering that Sling TV is a subsidiary of Dish Network and a competitor to the cable companies, there is no denying that the new OTT offering is seeing early growth. Since its February 2015 launch, the $20 per month service has expanded to over 250,000 customers. While this is a fine showing, it is not a surprise to industry analysts who predicted a fast start but see Sling TV’s subscription numbers slowing down quickly. With its focus on offering smaller channel bundles and the option to add other thematic bundles for an additional cost per month, Sling is trying to develop its own niche, no doubt assisted by the existing relationships that Dish Network enjoys with broadcasters. However, Sling’s sustained growth, especially from those consumers interested in a variety of sports offerings, of which the OTT service has limited access, remains the question.

 

Ultimately, all of the talk about falling pay TV customer totals, increasing costs for broadband-only subscribers, and the increase of OTT offerings means that consumers need to be aware of what services are available in their area before they sign a lease or close on a home.

Video Streaming Services Cut into Cable Subscriptions

Hulu Plus and Netflix logos

The way that consumers watch television and movies is changing. For the last few years attention has focused on the members of the ‘cord cutting generation’ who do not want to pay for cable television service. To fill in this void there have been two major developments: Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) services, like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and Advertising Video on Demand (AVOD) services, like Hulu. Although these are the services most people are familiar with, there are other providers in the ever-growing Over The Top (OTT) service industry. Recent statistics related to this burgeoning industry suggest that cable companies need to act quickly and change the way they present their future content if they want to remain viable in the face of OTT competition.

 

Cable providers have looked cautiously at the latest  quarterly earnings release for the industry which the Leichtman Research firm says provides no concrete evidence that consumers are preparing to switch over completely to OTT and leave behind pay TV. However,  other experts claim that these findings undervalue the record low customer growth of only 10,000 across all the major cable companies. Parks Associates, another research firm, believes it has evidence that cord cutting has reached a new level. The latest estimates are that around 7 percent of American households, approximately 8.5 million homes, have high speed internet and OTT services, yet they are not subscribed to a pay TV service. With this number set to increase there is little wonder that upwards of 84% of all internet usage in the United States by 2019 will involve video streaming. Further supporting the belief that cord cutting is a growing trend, Limelight found in a recent survey that over 50% of the 1220 people they interviewed were willing to go completely OTT and cancel their cable subscriptions.

 

It comes as no surprise in light of all of these recent polls and studies that cable providers are attempting to find new ways to engage with this cord cutting generation. Although TV Everywhere systems have been developing for the last half decade, new providers are throwing their hats into the ring, including Sky, Rogers Communication, and Dish Network. The hope of these companies is that they will be able to tap into the OTT market while recent changes in local regulatory practices will allow them to lure some consumers back to traditional cable packages. With less overview necessitating uniform programming packages in the same geographic region, it is possible that cable providers will create even smaller, more focused packages to convince people to not cut the cord. In the meantime, it is a prime market for consumers to shop around and determine what channels and programs are most important to them, whether or not they need a cable subscription, and if they can go fully OTT.

 

FCC removes local regulation rules

FCC logo

While the much-discussed March 2015 decision by the FCC upheld the idea of Net Neutrality, there is a change taking place at the local level that cable providers are hailing as a victory for streamlining the distribution of content to their customers. For the last twenty-two years, local, city, and state committees have possessed oversight of the basic programming packages provided by the cable companies. Now, after a unanimous 5-0 ruling by the FCC to remove this restriction, the providers will be able to determine all the details of their programming packages without having to receive the approval of local authorities.

 

Up until now, the oversight provided by the local committees as part of the 1992 Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act not only dictated which channels could not be excluded from the basic programming packages, but also how much those packages could cost. The new FCC ruling determined that the regulation was no longer necessary because of changes in the market that have created an elevated level of competition for the cable providers, in particular through the expanding footprint of services provided by companies like DirecTV and Dish. Another factor in the FCC’s decision was that since 2013, 220 of 224 requests for exemption from local rate-setting restrictions were approved. With such a high success rate for receiving exemptions, the FCC believes that it is simply removing an unnecessary level of red tape.

 

Cable providers state that with the removal of uniform package requirements, they will be able to present consumers with a variety of service and channel packages, ultimately providing more choices for service packages that don’t include the higher cost premium channels. At the same time the cable providers have cheered the latest FCC decision, broadcasters have been critical of the claims that satellite companies provide reliable enough competition to all parts of the United States to justify this victory for the cable providers. As a result of this rule change, and contrary to the cable companies’ claims, there is a fear among broadcasters that basic TV station signals will now be placed in costly service tiers, ultimately lowering the viewership of local programming.

 

The concern over the FCC ruling is not confined to just local regions, but also the halls of power in Washington D.C. A representative for the National Association of Broadcasters remains perplexed why the one defense available to safeguard consumers from skyrocketing prices has been removed so easily. Furthermore, members of Congress have questioned the FCC’s ruling, stating that this decision will result in increased prices and fewer channel choices for residents in rural and remote areas.

Tepid television: How does television tackle the negative stereotypes?

Summer is half over, and the major television networks already are starting to think about the always important fall lineup and how they’ll roll out their staple shows and new ones attempting to garner interest a myriad of different viewers.

The summer season often is littered with reruns with a few new debuts scattered into the mix for reasons that make plenty of sense, mainly because moms and dads are planning vacations and kids home from school aren’t exactly waiting with anticipation to watch “Two and a Half Men” or “The Big Bang Theory.”

Most parents have outdoor activities on the brain for themselves but mostly for the kids. Summer vacation is about enjoying the weather and getting outdoors, which makes television quite the moot point between May and August.

So naturally, the summer is seen as a virtual black hole for television but it also extends much further than just what is on television. Not only are people watching less TV but the cable and satellite industry watch as new sales decline faster than ratings, and no one is lining up outside of Best Buy or parking themselves in front of their computer to shop for TVs on Amazon, either.

That’s just one of the stigmas that television and cable industry have to fight off, aside from being a medium that ails society.

You’ve heard all the pratfalls of putting too much emphasis on watching too much television that goes far beyond just the summertime blues.

TV makes you dumb. TV makes you irritable.

TV even leads to overeating, in some cases.

Despite it all, television and satellite companies work diligently to promote and market their services by piggybacking on not only pricing and bundles but also the entertainment and practicality that is television (and internet and phone services).

Those services has seen their fare share of cancellations and consumers opting for lower cost choices, but cable and even satellite to some degree aren’t really struggling mightily in the face of not only the stereotypes of television viewing but also increased competition, whether that comes from competitors or summer vacation.

Truthfully, television and its services aren’t going anywhere permanently. They just go away for a few months in the summer perhaps or if you decide life with just Netflix is fine by you. At some point, we all come back to cable, the programming and everything else these entities can offer us.

It’s that type of resiliency that defines cable television at its core and proves that the industry is just as potent as it ever was, even if the beach, sunshine or virtually anything else has a chance of getting in the way.

 

The Peanuts Gang is too Mean for Today’s Children

Everyone has an opinion, and that’s cool with me.  Sometimes another’s opinion will sway me to their way of thinking, sometimes I just agree with their opinion from the outset, and sometimes I simply dismiss their opinion altogether as something that I simply cannot agree with.  The thing is though that I try to always accept another’s right to their opinion, but I do not appreciate it when others try and force their opinions upon me and others.  That is to say that I do think that just because one person doesn’t like something, that that something should then be taken away from everyone.

So, where am I going with this?  Well it appears that there is a father out there who feels so strongly against something that he is calling for it to be retired and never to be heard from again.  What is this something that is so horrible?  It is none other than the Charlie Brown holiday cartoons that have been airing every year for as long as I can remember.  This Dad is particularly targeting “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.”  His reason for his distaste in this classic cartoon is that he believes that it essentially glorifies the now taboo subject of bullying amongst school children, with all of the name calling that goes on in these cartoons.  He takes particular exception with the characters calling Charlie Brown a “blockhead,” and says that such things being broadcast on television shows have no place in today’s world.  Okay, fine, I agree, that name calling is not a good thing, but please allow me to ask some questions.

Who is the parent or legal guardian of children?  Is it you, the adult; or is it the television and whatever shows are being broadcasted on it?  Doesn’t every television today have the ability to change channels and to be turned off?  Is anybody making you force your children, or anyone’s children for that matter, to watch, not just this television show, but ANY television show?  Finally, are you capable of discussing the issue of bullying with your children, or do you believe that by advocating the cessation of a television show that has things in it you don’t care for make the problem disappear?

I respect that father’s opinion, and his right to voice it, but in this particular instance I am neither swayed to his line of thinking, nor do I agree with it — but that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

 

“Desperate Housewives” Finale Makes for Distraught People

You have undoubtedly heard the phrase, “appointment television” referring to television shows in which people make it a point to watch at whatever appointed time that program is going to be aired.  These are shows that their fans cannot, and will not miss; “Hey Bob, can you make it to my son’s bar mitzvah on Sunday?”  “Sorry Steve I gotta watch {insert favorite show here}.”  That is appointment television, and yes, there are some people out there who will turn down, or reschedule events based upon when, and what time their favorite program comes on.

Well, yesterday, Sunday, the 13th of May, 2012, one such program exited ABC’s broadcasting schedule forever; and apparently has left many a viewer so distraught to where their lives have lost meaning.  That television show was, “Desperate Housewives.”  I myself have never watched an episode, though I have friends who absolutely loved it (at least the first season) and they did try and persuade me to give it a shot; but I held fast.

I have a television, and there is satellite service connected to it, which gives me access to more channels than I know what to do with.  I also have some shows that I like more than others, but there are none in which I must drop everything to watch.  I guess I am too cynical to become that invested in fictional characters and their fictional lives.  I have my own life, boring as it may be, which tends to keep me preoccupied with reality.

I realize that television can be, and is a form of escapism from the drudgery of our daily existence, but seriously when the ending of your favorite television show prompts you to take to your Twitter account and broadcast such messages as these:

“just watched the last episode of desperate housewives.. so.. what do i do with my life now?”  https://twitter.com/#!/emmamclean_x

“So that’s it. No more Desperate Housewives. I’m not unhappy or happy with the way it ended. Gutted it’s over.”  https://twitter.com/#!/gridon

“Desperate Housewives.. I cried. I religiously watched that show… I feel like I just lost a bunch of girl friends.”  https://twitter.com/#!/AlexisDiNatale

Then maybe, just maybe, you might have a problem.  Trust me, everything will be just fine, and the world will go on without “Desperate Housewives” and so can you.  Besides, you can bet that somewhere out there will be another television show you will be able to become too emotionally attached to, and then “Desperate Housewives” will simply be a faded memory.

The Miracles of Science; and Drunk Spray

Modern science has brought about many miracles, not the actual unexplained and spiritual miracles, but you know, technological miracles that may have only been dreamed of, and even at times science has brought about things that few have ever thought of.  In short, science is pretty damn cool; unfortunately for me I was never really mathematically inclined enough to pursue a life in science; thus he I am pounding away on a keyboard.

Some examples of the miracles of science are the light bulb, before that we lived a remarkably dark and dreary life by the flicker of a flame.  Radio and television, the fact that we can transmit sounds and pictures through air and space may be taken for granted now, but I often wonder how exactly does that work?  The Apollo Moon Program, we landed men (plural) on the Moon people; that is a huge feat of science as well as engineering.  Of course the internet is cool, but I don’t know if it necessarily qualifies as a miracle of science, it is definitely important though.  Last, but not least is this new device developed by an actual scientist which is called “WAHH Quantum Sensations,” and it is designed to give you the feeling of being intoxicated with a single spritz.

Yep, a real life honest to God scientist decided that developing something, anything that could possibly improve the human condition was just a little too hard.  So, he instead decided what the world needed was something that would change the human state of mind in an instant.  Gee thanks there Professor Peabody, I found that drinking alcohol simply took too much of my time and I needed a way to cop a buzz now, not a couple of hours from now.  What is the marketing going to be for this little piece of sophomoric “technology?”  “In today’s busy go-go world, who has time to stop off at the pub to visit friends and have some laughs?  You need “WAHH Quantum Sensations!”  Just one spritz and you have that feeling of sharing a pint with your friends, but without having to take time out of your schedule.”  Obviously this little drunk spray is not a miracle of science, more like a waste of a science degree; but he will probably make millions with it; so that’s something.