Last week at Digital Entertainment World in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to discuss several fun topics with industry peers David Gale, Greg Diefenbach, and Jeff Chi. We shared perspectives as part of the “Entertainment on the Go: Distribution Strategies for Video” session, in the form of rapid-fire reactions to a curated list of recent headlines. I’ve shared some of the topics and my responses with you.
Sling TV Debuts With Major Cable Channels
The moment has finally arrived. With the launch of several Programmer-specific OTT offerings (WWE, CBS) and the announcement of several more (HBO, Nickelodeon), Dish Network was the first US Pay TV Operator to launch a multi-Programmer OTT offering via Sling TV. In addition, the inclusion of Maker Studios as a content channel is unique, an interesting shift of a MCN to be more than “just” YouTube and truly multi-channel – but more on this later.
Similar to HBO GO establishing itself as the benchmark for every subsequent TV Everywhere experience, Sling TV will be the benchmark for all the subsequent multi-Programmer offerings – for better or for worse. While I’m hopeful for its success, it must address several core usability issues (I tested on an iPhone). First, there is no pause or rewind – the video is what’s on right now. Missed the joke? Need to make a cup of coffee? Welcome, 1990s. While I may value the accessibility and mobility of viewing the content on the go, it’s a step (way) back. While there is a selection of movies, to view the content, I first had to access my account via a desktop browser (assuming I had it available), download an application, install the app, purchase the movie, and then watch it on my mobile device. While the $20 price is compelling, the content is still a “bundle”, and only time will tell whether more content channels are offered a la carte or whether the bundling results in simply an alternate version of the pay television subscription, ostensibly cheaper.
As a user, Sling TV wins on mobility, but Pay TV wins on usability. It’s too soon to tell who will win on price – hopefully, the consumer.
Netflix to Raise $1.5B in Debt for Content and Other Expenses
Netflix has invested heavily in optimizing its physical and digital distribution, creating a platform of near ubiquity for its digital content. It pivoted away from aggregating all content and focused on a curated library, betting on original programming – very successfully, both critically and from viewers – with House of Cards.
The recent announcement stated the intent to use the billion plus dollars to expand both its original programming library and its geographic footprint. However, regional competitors continue to sprout: Stan in Australia – which beat Netflix to the market and grabbed the rights to Better Call Saul (debuting as the most watched series premiere in cable history) – and Shomi in Canada. As Netflix’s content obligations continue to grow in the billions, the key question will be whether its bets on global tentpole content (Marco Polo) can succeed locally.
ESPN Is Airing The College Football Championship in 12 Different Ways
Packaging multiple channels of live content isn't new – ABC launched the Oscar Backstage Pass in 2011. However, this helps to raise awareness about the opportunity to create shoulder programming for live tentpole events. With the addition of this ancillary content, not only do viewers have a perspective that isn't typically available to a broadcast audience, but publishers now have additional opportunities for monetization, from more targeted advertising (“Ducks” vs. “Buckeyes”) to brand sponsorship (think: "Behind the bench with Gatorade") to native programming (think: "Views from the sidelines" using GoPros).
The live broadcast experience has always been limited by the assumption that the audience only has a single screen for simultaneous viewing – the digital age has evolved into audiences that now have access to multiple screens.
The question is: Will publishers create such a compelling and immersive digital experience that it may rival the the in-person experience?
Stay tuned for insights and trends on more of the latest video distribution headlines in part 2 of this post tomorrow.