March, 2012

Comcast’s Xbox loop hole?

Net Neutrality Here’s an interesting one: Comcast is getting ready to roll out its Xfinity On Demand app for the Xbox 360, giving Xfinity TV subscribers who also have an Xbox Live Gold subscription access to Comcast’s on-demand library of content through their Xbox console and through the Kinect interface if they also have the gesture-control add-on (h/t Ars Technica).

That content includes thousands of movies and tens of thousands of TV titles that Comcast currently makes available to subscribers on-demand across a wide range of platforms. Since the Xfinity for Xbox service requires users to have at least one TV in the house connected to a Comcast set-top box, the new Xbox app presumably will also include access to the new Netflix-like Xfinity Streamix subscription service Comcast recently introduced that lets Comcast Digital Video customers stream thousands of additional movies and TV shows on-demand through their TV set-top box.

Best of all, according to Comcast’s FAQ page on the new Xbox app, Xfinity content streamed through Xbox Live will not count toward subscriber’s 250 GB per month data cap, because the content “is being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet.” Read More »

Pay to play

Net Neutrality The Wall Street Journal generated some buzz this morning with its story about the rude awakening greeting owners of the new 4G-enabled iPad when they discover that all the streaming video they’re consuming on their speedy new tablets is crushing their monthly data allotments. A weekend’s worth of March Madness can easily chew up 3GB of data from AT&T or Verizon, leaving iPad owners with nothing for the rest of the month unless they’re willing to pay an additional $10 per gigabyte.

The Journal may have buried the lede a bit, though, at least as far as content owners are concerned. Three grafs from the bottom of a long piece the paper mentions that AT&T is “studying a plan to give app developers and content providers the option to pay for the mobile data their products use, thereby keeping those apps and videos from counting against a user’s allotment of data, kind of like an 800-number for apps.”

As the website MacRumors put it, the plan “would presumably allow bandwidth usage for certain apps to be free. For example, watching shows from a TV network app such as ABC Player might not count against your monthly bandwidth allotment. Instead, ABC would pay AT&T (or Verizon) for the mobile bandwidth consumed. In return, ABC would likely see increased usage of their app to watch shows and more revenue from in-show advertising.” Read More »

Aereo combat: Why the networks should be worried

Copyright There are certainly cheaper markets to operate in than New York City. And if you were preparing to launch a risky media startup, you might be expected to try opening out of town, where the downside would be smaller, before taking your show to Broadway. Not so for Aereo, the Barry Diller-backed startup formerly know as Bamboom, which offers to stream broadcast TV channels to subscribers over the Internet for viewing on connected devices for $12 a month. Subscribers will also be able to record programs as they would with a DVR and store them in the cloud for later viewing.

Perhaps Diller just craved the spotlight, and wanted to launch in center of the media universe. But a more likely reason for picking New York is that it’s the seat of the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2008 handed down an opinion in Cartoon Network, et. al. v. CSC Holdings, better known as the Cablevision remote-DVR case.  That case, in which the cable operator’s cloud-based DVR service was challenged unsuccessfully by the networks,  is Read More »

Online publishers need an edge

Digital Publishing A key nugget from the Pew Center’s annual State of the News Media report, out today, neatly captures a critical dynamic of the online content economy that makes it so confounding to content owners.

As Pew notes, the online audience for news is enormous and still growing rapidly. The top 25 news sites in the U.S. topped 342 million average monthly unique visitors in 2011, up 17 percent over 2010. At the same time, online advertising continues to grow at a much faster pace than the general ad market. Total online ad spending hit $32 billion last year, up 23 percent, and online ads now account for 20 percent of total ad spending.

Those two trend lines ought to ad up to good news for online publishers. But as Pew also notes, publishers themselves are capturing very little of the added value created around their content by all that additional advertising revenue. Instead, five top technology providers — Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and AOL — captured 68 percent of the online ad revenue in 2011, up from 63 percent in 2010. Read More »