For Amazon, Live OTT Comes With A Twitch

At his Streaming Media blog, Frost & Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn adds a new wrinkle to the ongoing debate over why Amazon kicked Apple TV and Chromecast products out of its online store. According to Rayburn’s sources, Amazon has been chatting up content owners about offering a live, over-the-top video service of some kind.

Rayburn speculates that such a plan could help explain why Amazon recently acquired the cloud-based live streaming platform provider Elemental Technologies at an unusually high valuation:

cable_TV_not1Insiders say Elemental is on a run rate to do close to $100M in 2016. So if the rumors of Amazon valuing Elemental at $500M are correct, Elemental is getting about 5x projected 2016 revenue, a rather high valuation, unless Amazon is also placing value on them for other reasons, like the ability to power their own live OTT service.

I’ll add another data point in support of the notion: Twitch, which Amazon acquired last year for close to $1 billion. As noted in a post here last week, Twitch is rolling out a new set of tools to help its broadcasters linear-ize their channels, by mixing live and on-demand content and creating playlists that turn the channel into a 24/7 experience. Read More »

More Than A Game: What TV Can Learn From Twitch

One of the enduring frustrations of would-be TV innovators, famously voiced by Steve Jobs back in 2010, has been the inability to integrate live, linear and on-demand content into a single, easy-to-navigate platform. “The problem with innovation in the TV industry is the go to market strategy,” the late Apple CEO told the AllThingsD conference that year. “The TV industry has a subsidized model that gives everyone a set top box for free. So no one wants to buy a box..The only way that’s going to change is if you tear up the set-top box, give it a new UI, and get it in front of consumers in a way they’re going to want it.”

As discussed here in previous posts, the Federal Communications Commission is currently considering a number of steps to promote greater integration, from redefining who qualifies as a multichannel video programming distributor to mandating downloadable security for set-top boxes, but none of those steps — or even all Forza-Forizon-2-Twitchof those steps together — would solve all the problems or resolve all of the commercial and technical conflicts that make seamless integration so challenging today, and in any case could be years down the road.

There is one corner of the media business. however, where the integration of live, linear and on-demand content is actually happening today: games.

Over the weekend, the hugely popular site for live-streaming game play, Twitch, announced a number of new features during its first annual TwitchCon in San Francisco, including the ability to upload videos directly to the Twitch platform. Up to now, Twitch channel owners have needed to stream content first and then incorporate the archived stream into their channel as on-demand content. Now, users will be able to upload video directly to the platform without having to stream it first. Read More »

Cracking The OTT Ice On Live Local Sports

What a difference a spin-off makes. Barely a week after Major League Baseball’s 30 team owners approved the spin-off of BAM Tech, the streaming technology arm of MLB Advanced Media, reports surfaced that the league is drafting deal papers with Fox Sports to extend authenticated in-market streaming rights to Fox’s 15 regional sports networks (RSNs) beginning with the 2016 season.

Like most major sports leagues, MLB controls streaming rights for all of its teams’ games and game-related content. The league sells a high-end package of out-of-market games through MLB.com, but only the Toronto Blue Jays currently offer in-market streaming. The league and U.S. RSNs, led by Fox, have been negotiating Franklin_Gutierrez_hitting_HRover in-market streaming rights for years, but the league’s insistence that all streams be hosted by MLBAM –officially to ensure stream quality — has long been a roadblock to any deal because it would require Fox’s pay-TV affiliates to share subscriber information with the league during the authentication process. Under the deal now being finalized, according to the reports, Fox will handle authentication and fans will be able to access the games through their local RSN’s website, via the FoxSportsGo app, or through their service provider’s TV Everywhere app.

As part of the deal, Fox will still be required to use BAM Tech as its primary streaming technology vendor, and to pay a rights fee to MLB equal to around 4 percent of the team’s overall media deal. Read More »

ESPN Gets Caught In Transition

Back in October, ESPN, along with Turner Sports, renewed its broadcast and digital rights deal with the National Basketball Association through 2025 for $2.3 billion, more than twice the price of the previous deal, even though the old deal still had two years to run.

With prices skyrocketing for sports rights and new 24-hour sports competitors from Fox and NBCUniversal circling hungrily for deals that would put them in the game, locking up the NBA for another decade — even at twice the price — seemed to pencil out at the time. It was the last such major deal ESPN would need to nba_espnnegotiate for several years, having recently locked up long-term deals with Major League Baseball, the NFL, the college football playoffs and four of five major college sports conferences, thus putting a cap on its major cost-driver until at least 2021.

”We believe at the end of the deal it will feel inexpensive,” ESPN president John Skipper said at the time. ”It’s hard to imagine.”

After this week, it’s even harder to imagine.

As with any asset, locking in a price when prices are rising is a good strategy. Locking in a price when returns are falling, not so much. And for ESPN, the return on pricey sports rights are starting to fall. Read More »

Live Sports Could Force Adoption of New Streaming Protocols

This post originally appeared in M&E Daily.

For the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, Akamai delivered 7 Terabits per second of streaming video, an eight-fold increase over the 2010 Olympics. That was on top of Akamai’s normal daily volume at the time of around 20 Tbs.

For the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Akamai’s Media Products Division senior VP and GM Bill Wheaton told the 2nd Screen Sports Summit in New York last week, server_rackthe CDN expects to deliver 7 Tbs in the U.S. alone. Worldwide volume, Wheaton estimated, could reach 25 to 30 Tbs., on top of Akamai’s normal daily load of 32 to 34 Tbs.

By 2020, if current projections hold, the Olympics could generate 1,000 times today’s level of demand for video, Wheaton said, or roughly 25,000 Tbs of data. Other global sporting events, like the FIFA World Cup could generate similar levels of demand, as consumers around the world increasingly turn to the internet, particularly with mobile devices, for watching live sports.

As demand increases, so too do consumers’ expectations of quality.

“With television, it doesn’t buffer, it starts quickly, it’s always on, it always works. That doesn’t happen today on the internet,” Wheaton said But expectations are changing. “People are paying real money for this, they expect it to work.” he said. Read More »

The Unknown Unknowns Of Buying Sports Rights

The process of deciding whether to greenlight a movie in Hollywood involves a lot of variables and input from multiple studio divisions, but the math is pretty straightforward: Each distribution unit — domestic theatrical, international, home entertainment, TV, etc. — is asked to estimate how much revenue it could deliver based on the “elements” attached to the proposed film (script, director, stars), the genre, the proposed timing of its release, competing projects at other studios, and other such factors.  Each division, in turn, has its own methodology for arriving at its estimate, based on the track records of the stars/director/etc., the performance of “comparable” recent films, and so forth.

march_madness_tbs_cbsThose projections are then weighed against the project’s proposed budget and projected marketing costs, allowances are made for non-quantifiable variables (star relationships, etc.), and a reasonably well-informed gut call gets made.

The process of approving franchise sequels is even more straightforward since many of the numbers are hard-coded before there’s even a script. The movies may still flop, due to creative failures, marketing miscalculations or shifts in the zeitgeist, but at least the people making the call know what they can’t know.

Compare that with the challenge facing TV sports rights buyers. Speaking at the Second Screen Society’s Sports Summit in New York this week, executives from two of the biggest buyers of sports rights — CBS and Turner — highlighted the growing number of unknown unknowns facing sports buyers. Read More »

Live Music’s Long, Strange Trip Over The Top

Live music has been on a bit of an over-the-top roll lately. The five shows in the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well tour, which wrapped up in Chicago over the weekend, together racked up more than 175,000 paid live streams, making it easily one of the largest paid live music events ever to go over the top. Archived shows will be available through August 5, which will push the combined live and on-demand numbers even higher.

Though major festivals like Coachella and Bonaroo draw bigger online live audiences, those shows are free; the Dead shows cost $79.95 for the full, five-day run (individual shows were less). Archived shows will remain available through August 5, which will push the combined live and on-demand PPV take even higher.

Grateful_DeadWhile the Dead may be sui generis when it comes to pay-per-view streaming, live music streaming in general is attracting new interest from both startups and established players in the concert business.

This week brought word of a partnership between Verizon Digital Media Services and LiveXLive to live stream at least three day-long festivals this fall in the U.S. and internationally.

Launched in May, LiveXLive is a subsidiary of hedge-fund backed Loton Corp., created to pursue what its founders believe is a growing opportunity in live music streaming.  While live-streaming music festivals obviously is not new, LiveXLive’s is thinking much more ambitiously. Read More »

Live Streaming Gets A Prosumer Twist

Broadcasters, news organizations and marketers have all begun experimenting with Meerkat and Periscope, but the reach of those efforts has been limited to people using the Meerkat and Periscope apps on particular platforms.

Meerkat last week rolled out a new, embeddable player that will expand the reach of Meerkat broadcasts, but now someone from the professional broadcasting world is looking to offer a more robust solution for distributing live broadcasts generated from mobile apps.

webstreamur_iphoneappMobile Viewpoint B.V. is a maker of wireless video and data transmission equipment for professional broadcasters that uses 3G and 4G wireless broadband links to transmit live, IP video from remote locations. At the NAB show in April, the Netherlands-based company introduced a “low cost” live streaming platform called WebStreamur aimed at small-scale and semi-pro videographers that leverages YouTube to deliver live streams via WebStreamur channels to any device from anywhere on the web.

“Since the beginning of Mobile Viewpoint we looked into the broadcast of smaller but attractive sport events on the Internet,” CEO Michel Bais said in a press release at the time. The growing popularity of watching video online via streaming platforms like YouTube, LiveStream, Meerkat and Periscope opens a marketplace for the delivery of live sports and other events that do not have the reach to get on normal Broadcast Television… WebStreamur gives the smaller content producers and sport teams easy access to a bigger audience and a global marketplace to monetize their content.” Read More »

YouTube and Twitch Channel Cable TV

With the upcoming launch of YouTube Gaming, YouTube will have dedicated apps for its three most popular categories of videos: music (Music Key), kids (YouTube Kids) and now video games.

While the Google-owned site has long supported discreet “channels,” those are largely a convenience for individual video creators as they look to build their own YouTube_music_keycorporate or personal brands. They were not created by YouTube with an eye to sorting the content in its vast online library by category or genre. Nor, by extension, were they created to try to segment YouTube’s vast audience by interests, tastes or demographics  the way, say, a category-specific cable TV network like Nickelodeon or CNBC seeks to do.

By creating category-specific apps, however, YouTube is clearly edging toward that model.

The launch of YouTube Gaming, of course, is also Google’s response to the rapid growth of Twitch, the live-streaming gaming site it came close to buying last year only to have Amazon snatch it away at the last minute. While Twitch’s audience of 100 million active monthly users is a small fraction of YouTube’s more than 1 billion, they’re a dedicated bunch. The average Twitch user spends 106 minutes a day on the site, according to the company, and peak concurrent usage can reach 1.5 million. Read More »

Democracy On an iPhone: Why 2016 Could Be A Big Year For Meerkat and Periscope

All presidential campaigns send trackers to stalk their opponents. Armed with video cameras, or even just a smartphone, trackers follow opposing candidates around from whistle stop to whistle stop to document any unscripted moments that could be turned into an attack ad or used in a fundraising pitch.

periscope_logoAny candidate who makes it past the New Hampshire primary, conversely, quickly figures out they’re being stalked and learns to avoid, whenever possible, going off script. And if they don’t they don’t make it past Super Tuesday.

The spread of video-capable smartphones during the last couple of election cycles has made the stalking even more intimate, as Mitt “47 percent” Romney found out in 2012. Even at events that have been carefully screened for opposition trackers, what you say can end up on YouTube.

But as P.J. Bednarski points out in a post on the MediaPost Vidblog, the peril is likely to get ratcheted up even higher for candidates in 2016 thanks to the popularity of live-streaming apps like Meerkat, YouNow and Periscope: Read More »

#MayPac: When Piracy Goes Mobile

Pay-per-view operators in the U.S. had trouble handling the last minute rush of signups for the “Fight of the Century” on Saturday, forcing promoters to delay the start of the welterweight championship bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio by 45 minutes as operators scrambled to process the late orders and maximize the take.

MayPac_PPVIn contrast, the live-streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat worked flawlessly — so much so that it was possible to watch the entire fight for free as thousands of “Meerkasters” and “Periscopers” turned their phone cameras to their TV sets and rebroadcast the official HBO and Showtime broadcasts. There were so many streams available that Twitter users were able to catch every round, even as Periscope and Meerkat scrambled to respond to DMCA takedown requests, simply by jumping from one stream to the next.

There were also, of course, any number of free live streams of the fight available online for those who wanted to search for them, just as there are for any such big-ticket event, many of higher quality than anything you could see on Periscope or Meerkat. Boxing promoters in particular, in fact, have been battling pay-per-view piracy since the days of illegal, “black box” decoders in the 1980s and 90s. Read More »

NAB 2015 Recap: Top Live, Linear & OTT Trends

LAS VEGAS–Last week’s National Association of Broadcasters convention here saw multiscreen, over-the-top broadcasting move, physically and figuratively, from a back corner of the Las Vegas Convention Center to front-and-center of the discussion.

“Broadcasting obviously does not exist in isolation, but as a vital piece of the dynamic and ever-changing media and entertainment landscape,” NAB president Gordon Smith said in his keynote address. “As we get closer to realization of the next generation of television broadcasting, we are beginnN15_ShowOpening_GordonSmith_1ing to envision the new business opportunities it could enable. I believe next gen may be the key to building TV’s future.”

Evidence of that future was everywhere at the show, from cloud-based IP workflows that support both over-the-air and over-the-top delivery to panels on programmatic ad strategies and multi-platform ad insertion to the dedicated pavilion for “connected media.” But broadcasting’s over-the-top future involves more than new workflows and devices. It also means new viewing behaviors, new monetization strategies and new financial models.

Here’s a rundown of the top themes and trends in live, linear and over-the-top video Concurrent Media spotted at the show, along with profiles of some of the leading trendsetters: Read More »

YouTube Needs To Get Its Live Act Together

YouTube is not confirming but not exactly denying a report by the Daily Dot on Wednesday claiming the video site is getting ready to relaunch its live-streaming platform in with a new emphasis on games and e-sports. An announcement could come as soon as June, during the E3 game expo in Los Angeles, the report said.

Asked for comment, YouTube provided the website with a link to a GIF with no further explanation.  Asked in a follow-up inquiry whether the GIF was meant as a joke, YouTube replied that no, “the GIF really was [its] official response.”

Make of it what you will. But for YouTube’s sake I hope the original report is correct, because Google really needs to do something big in live streaming, and soon. Read More »

NFL Testing New Formations

The NFL seems to be in a test pattern. On Monday, the league announced that it will make next season’s match-up between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars available exclusively via the internet outside of the NFL_Networkteams’ home markets, rather than on national television. That was followed by an announcement that the league will suspend its local TV blackout rule for the entire 2015 season allowing games to be shown in their local markets even if the game is not a sell-out.

The league described both moves as tests, although what exactly is being tested in each case was left a bit vague. Read More »