December, 2010

Forget net neutrality, broadcasters pose a bigger threat to OTT video

Online Video For all the dire warnings from net neutrality supporters that ISPs might block or degrade competing over-the-top video services unless restrained by the FCC, evidence that was actually happening (or even likely to happen in the near term) has been painfully thin on the ground (as opponents of FCC action never tire of pointing out). At the same time, scarce attention has been paid to the far-more immediate and concrete threat to the development of a competitive video delivery market posed by the traditional broadcast networks, despite abundant evidence of the danger.

Even as the FCC was adopting its new net neutrality rules this week that will restrain the actions of ISPs, the broadcasters were claiming two more, high-profile victims, with nary a peep from the FCC or net neutrality supporters. Read More »

New FCC rules leave online video stuck in neutral

Net Neutrality The full text of the FCC’s memorandum and order in its “open internet” proceeding hasn’t been released yet so the details of the new net neutrality regime are not yet fully clear. But from what was announced at the commission’s open meeting Tuesday where the new rules were adopted by a 3-2 vote they won’t provide much holiday cheer for online and OTT video providers, largely because the rules leave the most important questions unanswered, or at least unclear.

On the plus side for online video providers, the new rules will prohibit the blocking of any “lawful” content or application, and will bar “unreasonable discrimination” against third-party content or services by broadband access providers. That would include things like an ISP blocking Netflix because it competes with the ISP’s cable TV service. Read More »

FCC breakdown in the toll lane? (Updated)

Net Neutrality The Washington telecom circuit is buzzing with anticipation ahead of tomorrow’s FCC open hearing where the commission is scheduled to vote on a chairman Julius Genachowski’s proposal to adopt formal regulations on net neutrality.  Genachowski released a “framework” for the proposal earlier this month that included permitting “usage-based” (i.e. tiered) pricing for wireline broadband access as well as tacit approval of “managed services” over last-mile broadband networks including paid prioritization of bits. The latter could be a boon to content owners and distributors by enabling them to assure end-to-end quality of service for video streams even as total internet traffic grows.

Read More »

Google won’t recover quickly from Google TV debacle

Web TV How’d you like to be the guy at Toshiba or LG who recommended going with Google TV right now? According to the New York Times, Google asked TV makers last week to delay their planned introductions until Google can make improvements to the software and to pull Google TV displays from their exhibits at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Toshiba, LG and Sharp have agreed to pull Google TV from the show floor while Samsung plans to go ahead with its planned exhibit of two Google TV models, according to the Times. Sony and Logitech are expected to continue selling their current Google TV-enabled devices but it is unclear how aggressively they will push them at CES. Read More »

Welcome readers of The Media Wonk

If you were searching for the Media Wonk blog you have been redirected here. I’m glad you found us.

Concurrent Media is the new online home of Paul Sweeting (that’s me), founder and editor of The Media Wonk blog. The entire Media Wonk archive has been incorporated into the new site and can be browsed and searched here. And while you’re here, click on over to the Concurrent Media home page and check out my latest stylings.

The Media Wonk blog made its first appearance in 2006, as part of Content Agenda, a website owned by Reed Business Information. Content Agenda went dark in 2009, when Reed decided to terminate most of its business publishing activities, and The Media Wonk blog was reborn as a standalone site.

In August 2010 I launched a new venture, Concurrent Media Strategies, LLC, which provides strategic business analysis and editorial services to clients on digital media, technology and public policy issues. The Concurrent Media website serves both as the online face of the company and the place where I now do most of my media-related blogging. In December 2010, The Media Wonk web site was shut down as a standalone blog and its archives moved over here.

I’m grateful to all those who have followed my writings over the years and have made their way to the new site. Welcome.

Pointing fingers at Netflix

Streaming Video Following up on his comments at a UBS media conference last week in which he criticized Netflix for its low pricing, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes was back with some even tougher words for subscription DVD and streaming service Monday in an  interview with the New York Times, calling it essentially a pip-squeak that will soon find itself out of its league.

“It’s a little bit like, is the Albanian army going to take over the world?”  Bewkes said. “I don’t think so.”

Why such animosity? Business Insider points to one likely reason: Netflix’s share price has surged nearly 250 percent this year while Time Warner’s has essentially flat-lined. Read More »

Netflix and the price of progress

Streaming Video Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes thinks Netflix is not charging  its subscribers enough to stream movies and TV shows. And he’s worried about what it could mean for the studios.

Speaking at a UBS media conference last week, Bewkes said $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming is not enough for Netflix to fund the acquisition of Time Warner content at the rates Time Warner believes it deserves.

Though Netflix is offering $50,000-$100,000 to stream current television shows, Mr Bewkes said, traditional channels still pay “millions of dollars” per episode, according to a report in the Financial Times. To get access to the same content, Bewkes said, Netflix will have to pay the same as traditional channels. Read More »

Measuring mobile marketing

I had the opportunity to lead a panel discussion at the DigiDay: ONMEDIA conference last week, on mobile marketing metrics. The panelists were Jami Lawrence of Publicis Modem, James Citron of Mogreet, and Carly Miller of Media Storm. A video of the panel is embedded below. You can also find links to videos of the rest of the panels at the day-long event at UStream.


The real value of Widevine to Google

Deals Initial takes on Google’s acquisition of Widevine have focused primarily on the power of Widevine’s widely used DRM technology to help Google curry favor with content owners wary of Google TV and YouTube (see here, here and here). Also getting mentioned are the potential for Widevine’s extensive relationships with CE makers to boost adoption of  Google TV, and  the importance of Widevine’s adaptive streaming technology to Google’s Android platform, which currently has no effective way to cope with fluctuations in end users’ last-mile bandwidth (see here and here).

While nice, those factors are almost certainly incidental to Widevine’s real value to Google. As a threshold matter, none of those considerations required Google to buy the company, presumably at a premium to its current earnings. If it wanted to assure content owners of its commitment to protecting content on Google TV it could simply have licensed Widevine’s DRM like anyone else and added support for it to the Google TV platform. Ditto adaptive streaming. Read More »

Peer pressure

Streaming Video Netflix has been doing its best to stay out of the middle of the smackdown between Level 3 and Comcast, having judged — correctly in my view — that this particular dispute is not their fight. Notwithstanding Level 3’s efforts to portray Netflix as the victim anti-competitive behavior by Comcast, unless Comcast has some sort of death wish for its merger with NBC, which is still pending before federal anti-trust regulators, it’s hard to make the case that Comcast was targeting Netflix content per se in demanding higher payments from Level 3 (although video streaming expert Dan Rayburn has done his best to make precisely that case). The conflict still seems to me fundamentally a commercial dispute between two Internet infrastructure providers over how, how much and at what price they will pass bits back and forth between their respective networks–a conflict exacerbated but not caused by the surge in online video (those interested in the pro-Comcast perspective will want to read Stef van der Ziel’s post about the dispute on his CDN Strategy blog). Read More »

For Netflix, silence may be golden

Over-The-Top Video One of the more striking aspects of the dispute between Level 3 and Comcast that erupted earlier this week has been the resolute silence of Netflix. To hear Level 3 tell it, after all, it is Netflix’s competitive over-the-top video service that Comcast ultimately is seeking to disrupt by jerking around Level 3, and which ultimately makes the dispute a matter of net neutrality. Were it not for the involvement of Netflix, Level 3 would have the FCC believe, none of this would have happened.

Yet Netflix has said nothing, either in support or opposition to either party. If it indeed is the injured party here, it is accepting its martyrdom with remarkable equanimity. Read More »