Thursday, November 29, 2012

Guess which Major has the worst Return on Investment

Ok, so I do a post on Broadcast News salaries, and then one on rising student debt.  Wouldn't you know that right after, I'd run across a link to "8 College Degrees with the Worst Return on Investment."  So I wander over to the site with more than a little fear and trepidation.  And guess who comes in at #1: Communications.

  Here's what they had to say -
You'd think the ink-stained newsrooms and TV studios are full of wealthy and famous journalists. Not quite. Although these skills require lots of education and training, they buried the lead regarding the lack of payoff.
Return on Investment (ROI) is a standard measure of how much an investment (say, in your college education) will generate from increased earnings in the future.  The folks at calculated costs based on averages in a recent College Board study for a four-year liberal arts degree at a public institution ($37,343) and at a private college ($121,930).  Returns were based on median salaries for a set of "typical jobs" requiring that degree, assuming a 30 year career with average salary boosts covering inflation and productivity increases (i.e. improved skills coming from experience).  The three jobs they listed for communication are
  • News Reporter -  Median salary: $37,393; 30-year earnings: $2,205, 438; ROI if Public College: 58%;  ROI if Private College: 17%.
  • Copywriter (our upstairs neighbors in Ad/PR) -  Median salary: $52, 549; 30-year Earnings: $3,099,338; ROI if Public College: 82%; ROI if Private College: 24%
  • Marketing Coordinator (our downstairs neighbors in Comm Studies) -  Median salary: $50.455; 30-year earnings: $2,975,834; ROI if Public College: 79%; ROI if Private College: 23%.
So who did we "beat" to earn the top spot? Retail/Tourism, Nutrition, Religious Studies, Fine Arts, Sociology, Psychology, and Education.

One might ask, then, what degrees provide the best ROI?  Math, Information Technology, Human Resources, Economics, Biology, Engineering, Marketing, English (writing).  All have their "typical" jobs with ROI for Public College over 100%; some over 225%.
  I will note that some of the jobs considered in this set of majors (PR manager in Marketing, Communication Manager and Web Content Manager in English) are also typical jobs for people with communication degrees. 
  • Public Relations Manager - Median salary: $86,127; 30-year earnings: $5,079,767; ROI if Public College: 135%; ROI if Private College: 41%
  • Communications Manager - Median salary: $88,498; 30-year earnings: $5,219,609; ROI if Public College: 139%; ROI if Private College: 42%
  • Content Manager - Web - Median salary: $79, 674; 30-year earnings: $4,699,170; ROI if Public College: 125%; ROI if Private College: 38%
So perhaps it's not quite as bad a major as this study makes it out to be.

And we all do this stuff because we love what we do anyway.

Sources - 8 College Degrees with the Worst Return on Investment.
8 Degrees That Will Earn Your Money Back,

Revised to add specifics for PR Manager, Communications Manager, and Web Content Manager (11/30/2012)

Off-Topic: Student Loan graphic

 A lot of students are piling up a lot of student loan debt, and the proportion that's having trouble making payments is increasing.

For our students, and others looking for jobs and careers in media-related fields, there's another reason to monitor your student loan borrowing and try to keep it to realistic levels.
  For the most part, salaries in media fields - particularly news - aren't that great.  Sure, the big names in the top markets can pull down arguably outrageous salaries, but to borrow a "hot" phrase, that's the 1%.  In broadcasting (full post on report here), the median salary for early career positions outside the top 50 markets are in the $25,000-$35,000 range, and median starting salaries for people with no previous fulltime experience run in the $22,000-$25,000 range.  (Median means that half the people with that job have higher salaries, half have lower).  And salaries are not keeping up with inflation - with inflation at 2.9% last year, median salaries in TV only rose 2%, and median salaries in radio news increased only 1.2%.
  The poor showing for median salaries isn't limited to news media or communication jobs more generally.  While the cost of college and student loan debt has skyrocketed over the last decade, median income for those with a college degree has been stable or falling.  As the figure below shows, costs at public colleges have risen 72% since 2000, while full-time earnings for those college grads has dropped 14.7%.

  So, here's my precautionary bit of advice for "media" students - borrow realistically, particularly if you're planning on working in media.  Starting pay isn't great, particularly if you've got student loan debt and payments to make, and you don't want to have debt issues sidetrack or delay your career.

Source  -  Federal Student Lending SwellsWall Street Journal

(updated to include last figure and paragraph on cost vs. earnings)

RTNDA/Hofstra Broadcast News Salaries Report

(Erased by error - second attempt)

The latest of the RTNDA/Hofstra annual looks at the economics and operations of broadcast news stations has been coming out in parts - the latest of which is their look at salaries.  There's a lot of details and breakdowns in the study - job type, by market size, by the size of the station's news staff, etc. - so I'll recommend taking a look at the full report. 
  But here's some highlights - median salaries are up - slightly.  The growth in median salaries in the last year failed to keep up with inflation (2.9%) - TV news salaries were up 2%, radio news salaries grew 1.2%.  That result really isn't a surprise - median salary growth over the last 5 and 10 years both fell below inflation levels for the period.  In fact, only the News Director's median salaries grew faster than inflation in both periods (there was a bigger spurt in News Writer salaries over the last five years, bringing them more in line with reporter and producer salaries).
  Top staff and talent in TV's 50 largest markets can do well, pulling median salaries in excess of $100,000.  In smaller markets, News Directors had the highest median salaries in smaller markets, running from $100K in markets 51-100, to $56,500 in markets ranked 150+.  Line reporters and producers/writers earned considerably less, particularly outside of the top 50 markets (in the $25K-$35K range for median salaries). Those numbers rose to the $35-45K range in markets 26-50, and $40-70K range in top 25 markets.  As has happened in the last few reports, median salaries for Web/Mobile writers and producers tended to run 10-15% higher than their TV counterparts.
  As expected, radio news salaries are lower. In larger markets (population 250K+), median salary for radio News Directors are in the $45-47K range, falling to $37K in medium markets, and $27K in small markets (population under 50,000).  The median salaries for radio news and sports anchors tend to be in the same range as those of the News Director, with reporters and producers about 10% less in medium and small markets.  While the growth in median salaries from last year (2011) was minimal (1.2%), the median salaries in radio news for anchors, reporters and producers have risen in the last decade, with the resurgence of news/talk and sports/talk formats (30-40% over the last 5 years, 30-56% over the last 10).

Now for the scary numbers - the median starting salaries for people with no previous fulltime experience in broadcast news.  Median starting salaries for newbies in TV news are run in the low $20Ks.  Top median starting salaries (with no experience) are for those with some specialized skills (multimedia, studio technical, assignment editors); with median salaries in the $25K to $27K range).  If there's a good side, its that the lowest reporting starting salary for TV news hires with no experience was $15,000.
  Interestingly, median starting salaries for radio news hires are a little higher than those in TV, but share minimums in the $15,000 range.

Source -  2012 TV and Radio News Staffing and Profitability Survey, Part VI: TV and Radio News Salaries Barely Edge Up,  RTNDA research report

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Infographic: Social TV Highlights, 2011/2012 Season

Twitter and Social TV

  Several recent management moves suggests that Twitter's trying to be the social complement to TV - becoming the playground for fans to comment, providing instant feedback to networks and program producers, and (finally) providing an opportunity to engage audiences and make TV viewing both a lean-back and lean-forward activity.

  The roots of Social TV arguably lie elsewhere in the dim pre-History of the online world.  Certain programs have always had a strong fan base, and the rise of email listserves, Usenet newsgroups, and BBSs (computer bulletin board systems) offered the more tech-savvy of those an outlet for connecting and sharing thoughts and comments with one another.  With the rise of the Web, many of these sites and efforts migrated to fan websites, and some program producers were savvy enough to start their own official fan sites.  Among the range of available sites, fans could find chatrooms for realtime interactions, archives of program info and materials, and opportunities to share their own fan fiction and fan art with others.  And when their favs were threatened with cancellation, a platform to energize and motivate the fan base to offer their support.

  The rise of social media provided an alternative mechanism for fan interaction - and opened the way for less tech-savvy fans to join in.
  Rather than just passively absorbing TV fandom, Twitter seems to have recognized the potential of marrying their system to fan interest and activity.  They also saw an opportunity to monetize that by working with media and program creators to package fan comments and interactions into useful feedback, and providing the program/media side with the opportunity to add value to their content by engaging audiences and fans. Several years ago, Twitter started hiring people to help foster media partnerships (Chloe Sadden as director of media partnerships, Fred Graver as head of TV partnerships (US), and Dan Biddle as head of broadcast partnerships (UK)). 
“Twitter had tremendous foresight in the very early days to start working with TV networks, to get them to care about using Twitter hashtags and the Twitter social platform to engage their fans. We’re seeing the fruits of that labour right now. When TV networks do call-outs, it’s almost always about Twitter. That didn’t happen by accident,” says Tom Thai, marketing director at Bluefin Labs. 
Last month, former News Corp President and COO Peter Chernin joined Twitter's Board of Directors.  A recent feature article on C21Media commented on the move:
What he brings to Twitter is undoubtedly what the tech company so desperately craves – ever closer relations with the worlds of traditional media and advertising...
  The article stresses the addition of Chernin as the latest in a series of mostly organic evolutionary steps.
 It quotes Tony Wang, head of Twitter UK:
“Social TV is becoming the way people engage with programming anyway, regardless of what the broadcaster is doing,” he says, downplaying the significance of Twitter’s very active scheme of promoting industry ‘best practice.’ Twitter has become the “global water cooler."
Wang noted that studies suggest that as much as 80% of young viewers (under 25) are using a second screen while watching TV, and almost three quarters of those are using social media to comment on the programs they're watching.  A recent TV Guide study suggested that 70% of viewers have seen a social comment about some show, and 17% started to watch the program because of those comments.  Also, 31% indicated that social comments encouraged them to continue watching.
  Twitter's Fred Graver calls Twitter the new TV Guide -
“Our goal is to get people closer to what they care about and the easier it is for people to find programming that they like or the easier it is maybe for them to supplement the programme they’re watching on-air, that’s a great thing.”
Whether organic or directed, the important thing here is that Twitter doesn't see their partnership with TV and media merely in terms of increasing Twitter users and traffic.  To mangle an old phrase, there's gold in them thar hills of Tweets.  Wang emphasized the focus on the value of being able to make use of the information in those tweets and links -
“The more interesting value proposition is not so much recreating what viewers have been able to find on Twitter already, it’s aggregating the data and making interesting visualisations out of it, surfacing patterns or peaks and making that data digestible to both broadcasters and mainstream audiences. We’re seeing a lot more third-party specialists in this space and we think that’s an exciting opportunity....
For more than two years now we’ve been telling developers not to reproduce that consumer experience but rather focus the innovation further up the stack – by thinking about taking that data, making it interesting, visualised and consumable by broadcasters, at least in the broadcast space.”
As the article notes
Twitter’s contribution to the conversation around TV – and indeed the entire spectrum of human chatter – cannot be disputed, but the company, despite its fluffy-feathered image, is a commercial beast like any other. At the end of the day, it comes down to money and making profit for the investors that have supported it to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Partnership with media outlets and content producers looks to be one way that Twitter's generating recoverable value.  Still, for it to be successful, the media side also needs to see the value and benefits of engaging viewers through Twitter.  I've done a couple of posts on the value of Twitter for news (here, or here) and Social TV more generally (here, here, and here), but here's a nice visual from Seth Ghuniem at WiredSet that outlines how networks and program producers can use Twitter to promote viewing and engagement.

Source  -  Sailing on the Social TV River,  C21Media
Social TV: On-Air / Online Best Practices - Twitter,  WiredSet

Hacking Greece

Greek authorities have arrested a man in possession of 9 million online personal records.  Police confirmed that the records included identity card details, tax numbers, vehicle license plate numbers, and home addresses, suggesting that the data was obtained from government sources.  It's unclear how the files were obtained, or what the man planned to do with the information, but it's most likely the data was hacked from government databases, or illicitly copied from them.

Still, it's the size and comprehensiveness of the theft that's the significant thing.  While it appears that there is some duplication among the 9 million files, the total population of Greece is around 11 million.  So basically, if you're a Greek adult citizen, somebody had a lot of your personal identification numbers.
And Greece has another big national concern to deal with.

Source -  Greek Man Accused Of Stealing Data on 9 Million

Verizon FiOS - (Some) TV Everywhere (at home)

Verizon first started experimenting with streaming live TV channels to tablets a couple of years ago, and had announced plans to make most of the channels on their FiOS system available to customers.  Then copyright and licensing got in the way.  Verizon argued that the multichannel licenses they held and subscribers paid for entitled them to watch the channels regardless of whether it was delivered to a TV set through a set-top box or to a tablet through WiFi.  The cable networks argued that since the licenses were made before WiFi streaming was viable, it did not include that delivery method, and they wanted extra cash to extend license coverage to streaming options.
  It appears that an agreement's been reached, at least for 75 cable networks.  Last week, Verizon debuted an updated FiOS app for the iPad that offers live streaming of 75 networks (or at least as many as subscribers are paying for).  The app also includes the ability to browse and search program listings, update set-top box (STB) settings, program DVRs, and act as a remote for the STB. 
  However, all that only works when the subscribers have paid for a video bundle that includes the channel, subscribes to FiOS Internet service, and uses a Verizon-supplied WiFi router.  In addition, the live program streaming to iPads only works over WiFi in the subscriber's home.  Finally, at least for now, it does not include local stations feed or major broadcast networks.

Not quite "TV Everywhere", but it's a welcome start.

Source  -  FiOS Tucks Into Table TV, Multichannel News

Ultimate Niche- AMEX channel

Fir the Christmas season, American Express is experimenting with its own interactive TV channel.  The channel is running on DirecTV, Dish Network, Cablevision, AT&T U-verse, other multichannel distributors that support interactivity, and some connected TVs - reaching more than 50 million TV households in the US.
  AMEX plans on providing exclusive content as a draw, and then offer viewers the ability to navigate and explore member benefits and offers.  Among the exclusive content, coverage of the U.S. Open, the Tribeca Film Festival, and live concerts.  AMEX has committed to keeping the channel going for a year.

  American Express is among a growing number of giant marketers exploring interactive television, which can permit greater control over content and message placement, highly valued niche audiences, and with interactivity, improved realtime metrics.  Partner BrightLine, which is providing the infrastructure, described the effort as “the largest interactive TV campaign ever.”

Source  -   American Express Interactive Channel Is Set to Reach 50 Million Homes, NY Times

Monday, November 26, 2012

Online Video Ad Exchanges - How Viable?

Recently, Ted Sacerdoti applied the methodology of venture capital firm Benchmark Capital to the online video advertising exchange sector, to get a hint of the sector's long term viability.  (Benchmark's used this approach to consider which markets can give birth to successful online marketplaces).  The Benchmark approach looks at ten factors or attributes, and Sacerdoti gives the online video ad exchange A's in all but one (which earns a B+).
Here's a summary -

  1. New Experience v. Status Quo - the online exchanges offer advantages in inventory and flexibility.
  2. Economic Advantages - For now, the exchanges offer lower CPM, and better targeting reduces wasted spending.  Exchanges offer publishers opportunity to monetize, making exchanges advantageous from their perspective.
  3. Opportunity for Technology to Add Value - online offers better metrics, "which enables technology to provide inventory forecasting, pricing recommendations, performance optimization and workflow efficiencies for buyers."
  4. Fragmentation of Suppliers - digital video publishing is highly fragmented and is likely to remain so.
  5. Friction of Supplier Sigh Up - a new third-party standard (VAST) has made it easier to sign up a supplier - often in less than an hour.
  6. Size of market Opportunity - Online video ad is already a billion-dollar market, with forecasts of $5-10 billion in a few years.
  7. Opportunity to expand the market - digital video publishing is growing (expanding inventory), and better online audience metrics opens potential to smaller, highly targeted ad/reach opportunities.
  8. Frequency - exchanges minimize "dead air"
  9. Payment Flow - the exchanges serve as part of payment flow
  10. Network Effects - Incremental added value at the margins, while exchanges minimize transaction costs
Its pretty clear that there are several distinctive advantages for online video ad exchanges within the larger video-ad and advertising markets.  The potential efficiency advantages (speed, inventory, targeting) should make this sector somewhat competitive within the TV and general ad markets.  Still, its the ability to complement and expand those markets that is likely to really drive market growth in the future.  Online ad exchanges bring in a wealth of smaller, highly targeted content "publishers",  better metrics allow improved targeting opportunities for larger advertisers.  Moreover, when you combine those two factors with the small scale opportunities, this opens the market to small and local firms who otherwise wouldn't be able to consider video advertising.
  The opportunity is clearly there - unless or until the exchanges manage to screw it up.

Source  -  Video Ad Exchanges Make The Grade,  Online Video Insider

The (Free) E-Textbook Movement

Prices for textbooks in the U.S. are, for the most part, outrageous.  Particularly within higher education. The annual costs for books and supplies for college students averages $1200.  The old reasons for high cost given to the public - low press runs and higher print-setting costs (due to use of wider range of symbols and languages) - don't apply in today's publishing world.  Yet even as costs decline, textbook prices have skyrocketed.  Which leaves one primary explanation for continued price increases well above inflation rates - a captive market.  Instructors assign required texts, and students have to buy them - whatever the cost.  So textbook publishers feel they can easily raise prices.  And when the market for used texts boomed, their response was to push up the frequency of revisions to restrict that market challenge.
  The rapid increase in prices for textbooks has had some consequences - a number of universities and colleges (mine included) have adopted policies asking instructors to consider textbook prices when assigning them.  Others (again, mine included) have encouraged development of reading packs and texts for classes, and subsidized their production to keep costs low, and/or have established online book imprints for low-cost or free distribution - a California law will require the development of free online textsbooks for the 50 most popular courses in state colleges and universities.  And I'll note that two major academic publishers, Oxford University Press and MIT Press, have undertaken to make many of their texts available in more affordable trade versions. While all of these approaches have been helpful, textbook prices continue to rise.
  (I recently looked around for a text for a new course I'll be teaching - and the most appropriate text was $160, and the other viable alternative was also over $100.  I'm ancient enough to recall that in college, $100 was usually enough to get the books needed for 4-5 courses per semester.  In grad school it rose to $150; maybe $200 if I also bought the recommended texts.  And I typically spent more at used book stores, building up my library.  But today, I can't justify (at least to myself) asking my students to fork over $160 for a text.)
  The rise of eBooks, including the rapid diffusion of eReaders (and now tablets), has opened the door for digital textbooks.  eBooks have several advantages that textbooks could exploit - they're cheaper to produce and market, the publication process is significantly faster (and allows for near-realtime updating), and can easily include multimedia and links to online resources. Mainstream textbook publishers have slowly tested the market, but tend to keep prices absurdly high (to minimize impact on print markets).  Prices for e-Texts, however, don't need to be high - they are relatively cheap to create (mostly authors' time and effort) and very cheap to distribute.  Apple's pushing to keep textbook costs under $10).  And some of the major eBook retailers (Apple, Amazon), along with the FCC and U.S Dept. of Education, are encouraging the development of affordable online texts.  (We've just started the Tennessee Journalism Series here at UT - four short texts now, with many more in development).
  And now there's the booming OpenSource textbook movement.  Some of the boom is in the form of open-source publishers like Boundless Learning, which uses open-source materials to assemble their own versions of popular textbooks.  Boundless is currently being sued by a group of large academic publishers for allegedly engaging in a "business model of theft."  Some are the results of state and foundation supported efforts, like the California Open Source Textbook Project, CK-12, Merlot, and OpenStax.  Others build from University-sponsored efforts to promote free online access to their courses, like MIT's OpenCourseWare project and the University of Illinois' Open Source Textbook Initiative. At the heart of these efforts is the notion of pulling together and building on existing educational materials, and facilitating their online publication and distribution.
  And then there's people like me and my colleagues at the Tennessee Journalism Series - senior professors who have textbooks in our heads but have dreaded the time and effort involved in getting a book contract from an academic publisher, and then going through the full publication process (and more important, the relatively low rewards for that effort in terms of getting tenure or annual reviews at research universities).  Apple, Amazon, and open-source textbook initiatives have vastly simplified the process - so it's time to open the floodgates.  Besides, for most of it, the reward is in getting our work recognized and used - and high prices in academic publishing (both books and journals) get in the way.  Going open-source can facilitate wider access and use, and thus increased recognition.
  As more and more of us go to open-source, the greater the competition for mainstream texts.  That should at least slow down price inflation, if not create a force for price moderation.  I'll looking forward to the transition.  Now only if I could get those dang books out of my head.

Source  -  Free Textbooks Spell Disruption for College PublishersMIT Technology Review

Milestones: iHeart Radio App

The iHeart radio app (accesses radio station streams) recently passed 135 million downloads.  The free service has more than 20 million registered users and generates around 48 million unique visitors a month - making its audience base larger that Pandora and Spotify.

Source  -  iHeart Radio Surpasses 135 Million Downloads!,  RadioOnline

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Online music royalties tidbits

A couple of interesting items, as a bill to restructure online music royalties in the U.S. makes its way through Congress.

  At GigaOm, a piece discusses a blog post from cellist Zoe Keating, who posted
"The law only demands I be paid in money, which at this point in my career is not as valuable as information. I'd rather be paid in data," Keating says, referring to listener data that could be gleaned from online services, which she in turn could use to boost ticket and CD sales.
The current rate (about a tenth of a cent per play) means that only the most popular artists can count on substantive revenues from web plays.  For most artists, revenues come predominantly from touring and merchandise sales.  Ms. Keating notes that data on her fans can be much more helpful - she already uses basic postal code information from iTunes sales to help plan her tours.
Keating understands that in order to prosper in a world of digital music — just like in the world of e-commerce, digital publishing, you name it — information is power. 
 Meanwhile, a Billboard story addresses a recent report from an economist at Washington and Lee University.  He looked at what broadcasters would end up paying, if the proposed online royalty rates were applied to them.  His analysis is a bit seat-of-the-pants, relying on some rather simplistic assumptions to equate the "per play/stream" online rate to an estimate of songs played times aggregate radio audience (12+) (total songs per year x listening audience x royalty rate) - and comes up with a total of $2.47 billion.  The article tweaks the numbers a bit (adjusting for what it says is the 17% of radio programming that is non-music), but still reaches a total over $2 billion, which would be about 20% of total radio revenues.  The Billboard piece also notes another study by the same academic that suggested that if radio had to pay the same royalty rates for their broadcast signal as they do for their online stream, it would amount to $4.7 billion (or 37.8% of total revenues).
  A lot of the people advocating for raising online royalty rates argue that it's a matter of fairness.  I'll note that online music streamers are already paying royalties, both directly and/or indirectly (through licensing fees), so it isn't that online music streamers aren't "stealing" anything.  The bill's about increasing royalties and setting vastly different royalty rates depending on how the music is accessed or sent - and about making people pay extra to stream music they own from the cloud or their digital content lockers) for their personal use (but that's a different post).  The research being reported in Billboard shows that it's not as much about fairness as about privileging one music distribution system over another - and where's the fairness in that?

Source -  Data isn't just the new oil, it's the new money. Ask Zoe Keating,  GigaOm
Business Matters: If Big Radio Had Pandora's Royalty Rate, It Would Owe Billions,

EU Telecomms Continue Slide; The World, Better

  It's neither the best of times nor the worst of times for the telecomms sector in Europe - just continued disappointment.

  ETNO, the trade group for European telecomm firms, has released its third Annual Economic Report. And for the third straight year, total telecomm revenues have fallen.  Revenues in 2011 were 274,7 billion euros, down 1.5% from 2010 levels.  Fixed telephony (land lines) revenue fell 8%; mobile revenues dropped 0.6%; while revenues from broadband service gained 4% (although remaining a very small proportion of total revenues.  On top of that, the report indicated that investments in fixed and mobile sectors (infrastructure costs) increased 4.6 percent.  Europe also saw a significant drop in its share of global markets, from accounting for 31% of global revenues in 2010 to 25% in 2011.
  Much of the global shift is the result of gains posted in developing areas.  Telecomm firms in Africa are making inroads with mobile data, mobile gaming, and mobile-based money transfer services.  

Source - The way we were,

Soap Opera Rejuvenation?

Once the bulwark of daytime network TV in the US, the last decade has seen the cancellation of most network daytime soaps.  The decline in soaps can be traced to a number of factors - costs being among the most significant.  Soaps, in one sense, were caught in the middle of the dramatic transformation of TV/video production and distribution costs.  Significant drops in distribution costs facilitated the explosion of cable and online video competition.  Rapidly declining basic production costs encouraged local stations to expand their daytime news offerings.  Drops in network compensation arrangements made syndicated options more viable.
  The explosion of alternative channels through cable and satellite offerings hit networks and local stations hardest in the "daytime" hours.  Networks responded by trying to keep a lid on programming costs, and pressured production companies to cut corners, which some argue was a contributing factor in the quality of soaps.
  Furthermore, soap operas were inherently the most expensive of the major daytime programming types: the format required new content almost daily, called for a large number of actors, writers, and production staff, and needed a large number of sets.  Game shows also needed new content daily, but had only a single set, had only a few on-air talent to pay, and multiple episodes could be filmed in a day (and in many cases, prizes were trade-outs, reducing the cost of "winnings").  Local stations could also draw on an ever-increasing supply of non-original programming through syndication.  Now, the digital costs transformation hit all of these as well, but for soap operas, the production costs were driven by the creative side (actors, writers, production staff), so savings from switching production equipment to digital had a relatively small impact on total costs.  In addition, daytime soap operas (as a genre) tended to not have a lot of syndication value to offset production overruns.
  This put soaps in a difficult position - how to survive in a transitioning and declining market.  Like many other media facing increasing digital competition, a lot of network and production executives first turned to trying to cut costs - cuts that, for the most part, lowered the basic value of the product.  While a common approach, it's one that's more effective in short-term disruptions than major transformations of the marketplace.
The early years of this decade were not good for soap operas, with one executive bungle after another continually compromising what not so long ago had been a robust and deeply enriching genre wholly unique to broadcast television.
Eventually, outlets seem to recognize that cutting costs isn't a viable long term approach - and the survivors look for ways to better compete in the changed market.  Ed Martin, in a post on TV Board blog, takes a look at how General Hospital (ABC) turned it around.
Caught in a death grip by network executives, producers and writers who seemed to care not one whit about the show’s long-term viability, and who collectively chose to make murderous criminals and their supporters the “heroes” of its storylines, “General Hospital” had become a revolting mess.
As sometimes happens when a program tanks, producers brought in a new creative team (executive producer/head writer) was brought in.  Rather than looking to cut costs, they refocused on bringing back the value of the program by returning to what had made it the premiere soap for much of its almost five decades on the air - strong characters, romances, strong story lines with great scenes and almost daily cliffhangers.  It helped that they were also able to incorporate some of the better characters and story lines from recently canceled One Life to Live - drawing in a large portion of that soaps fan base.

  But the turn-around isn't solely with General Hospital.  Martin notes that Days of Our Lives (NBC) has also refocused on its historic strengths in terms of characters and the drama surrounding romantic struggles.  The show's brought back many of the strong characters lost to budget cuts over the last decade, but also striking out in new directions to try to build up a new, younger audience with what Martin says is the most engaging romance in daytime drama.
(While) other soaps had already broken boundaries with love stories about gay characters... “Days of Our Lives” is taking things even further with the story of star-crossed lovers Will and Sonny. They are currently the couple to root for on the show..."
CBS is also breaking new ground with The Bold and the Beautiful - killing off the character that's driven the show for the last 25 years.  Killing off characters isn't all that novel for soaps; it's been the prototypical response when actor demands get too unreasonable.  What's different here is the approach - helped by the fact that the actor is retiring rather than being fired.  Instead of the prototypical sudden accident or illness, the show is using the opportunity to address a sensitive topic while incorporating a wealth of highlights, moments, and reunions.
Rather than rage against the dying of the light, Stephanie has done what she can to celebrate her life and exit on her own terms, but she’s now at the point where she must rely on others to keep her comfortable during her final days. As is to be expected, Flannery is giving a powerful, brutally realistic performance right to the end. And as can only happen on a long-running soap opera, every one of Stephanie’s final moments is informed by the millions of moments that have come before.
  It's difficult to predict whether the focus on rebuilding value and audiences will be enough for soaps to survive as major network daytime dramas.  The dynamics of the broadcast network - affiliate relations, increasing competition, and the current lack of secondary markets for soaps aren't favorable.  But if daytime dramas can rebuild a highly engaged audience base, they can be successful and continue somewhere.  As Martin notes, basic cable's used the decline in primetime entertainment programming to develop its own supply of strong dramas and comedies -
Just imagine the outcome if basic cable could do for daytime storytelling what is has done for prime-time drama.

Source  -  'General Hospital' Leads a Sudden Revitalization Of Daytime Drama,  TV Board

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Leahy's Email Privacy Bill does 180

Last May, Senator Pat Leahy (D, Vt.) introduced the "Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2011" (PDF), ostensibly to ensure that police and government agencies needed a search warrant to access private conversations and information about locations of mobile devices.  The bill was, in part, a response to arguments from Obama's Dept. of Justice that "warrantless tracking should be permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their, or at least their cell phones', previous locations."

As the bill nears its scheduled vote next week, its come out that the bill has been dramatically rewritten.  Rather than protecting privacy, the revised bill specifically allows more than 22 Federal agencies "to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant."  The revised bill would also expand the powers of the FBI and Homeland Security "to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge."
Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said requiring warrantless access to Americans' data "undercuts" the purpose of Leahy's original proposal. "We believe a warrant is the appropriate standard for any contents," he said. 
Leahy is said to have been pressured by groups representing police and district attorneys, as well as some strong politicking from the US. Justice Dept., to limit online privacy protections, or at least include major exemptions.  The revised bill does retain some protections from local and state police actions, but critics say it opens the floodgates for misuse at the Federal level.

Source -  Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrantsCNet News

Does the world really need an app for that?

For fun (and/or outrage" - 2012's most inappropriate iOS, Android apps (from FierceMobileContent blog)

HoboHunt - After 5 rejections from Apple for excessive offensiveness, it was ported to Android.  The game calls for players to stalk the homeless, take their pictures, and overlay those with crosshairs and weapons - before sharing them online.  Claimed to "raise awareness of homeless issues."

iScab -  the goal of this game is for players to pick at sores as they randomly appear on a patch of virtual skin.  Picked scabs get deposited in the jar and starts a new round of itching, scabbing, picking, etc.  If you're good enough, you can collect "special scabs."

Poo Blaster challenges gamers to clean a series of befouled toilets by directing a virtual stream of urine at the polluted areas of porcelain.

Read more: 'Poo Blaster' - most inappropriate iOS, Android apps of 2012 - FierceMobileContent

PooBlaster - The gameplay's a little tougher - you have to clean disgustingly dirty toilets by directing a "virtual stream of urine" at the messes.  (Or should that be a "stream of virtual urine"?).  The makers tout this app as a "simulation of how men clean toilets."

Gayometer Pro - from the app's Google Pay page: "Ever wonder if you or someone you know is gay, but aren't quite sure? ...With the patented technology behind our new Gayometer, you can, with the click of a button, know for a fact which team anyone plays for!"
All in fun, of course.

Need I really go on?

Source  -  The most inappropriate iOS, Android apps of 2012FierceMobileContent
Ever wondered if you or someone you know is gay, but aren't quite sure?

Read more: Gayometer Pro - most inappropriate iOS, Android apps of 2012 - FierceMobileContent
"Ever wondered if you or someone you know is gay, but aren't quite sure?"

Read more: Gayometer Pro - most inappropriate iOS, Android apps of 2012 - FierceMobileContent
"Ever wondered if you or someone you know is gay, but aren't quite sure?"

Read more: Gayometer Pro - most inappropriate iOS, Android apps of 2012 - FierceMobileContent
Poo Blaster challenges gamers to clean a series of befouled toilets by directing a virtual stream of urine at the polluted areas of porcelain.

Read more: 'Poo Blaster' - most inappropriate iOS, Android apps of 2012 - FierceMobileContent
Poo Blaster challenges gamers to clean a series of befouled toilets by directing a virtual stream of urine at the polluted areas of porcelain.

Read more: 'Poo Blaster' - most inappropriate iOS, Android apps of 2012 - FierceMobileContent
Poo Blaster challenges gamers to clean a series of befouled toilets by directing a virtual stream of urine at the polluted areas of porcelain.

Read more: 'Poo Blaster' - most inappropriate iOS, Android apps of 2012 - FierceMobileContent

Tablets - Has Print Found Its Digital Analogue?

Traditional print media outlets didn't have a lot of success going online - at least not at first.  While poor management/judgement was a major contributing factor, I'd suggest that the lack of a convenient reading platform for digital content was just as critical.  You could bring print content to a desktop's screen, but the totality of print bundles (newspapers, magazines, etc.) didn't translate as well, and to be frank, the reading experience from desktops sucks.  You can't quickly skim contents, its not portable, and its tough to share.  News organizations did find audiences for their stories and content online - particularly among those with desktops at work (who could access stories piecemeal during breaks).  However, most news isn't unique - and the Internet also allowed a lot of competition to emerge.  Laptops added some portability, but in the early years were heavy and had low battery life - again not ideal for reading print media products.  Experiments with longer-form content, such as magazines and books, proved the viability of digital forms, but not the desirability of desktops and laptops for extended reading.
  Then came the development of eBook readers - lighter, portable, relatively inexpensive, good battery life, and with a screen size that mimics paperbacks.  The major success of the Amazon Kindle device combined with the Kindle eBook store started an explosion in digital book publishing (see earlier posts here and here).  While Amazon encouraged marketing deals with a number of magazine publishers and newspapers, neither was very successful - at least partially due to the Kindle form factor.  The smaller screen size that was fine for books didn't work as well for the larger magazine and newspaper formats.  In addition, magazines felt constrained by the lack of color and limited advertising opportunities.  Newspaper readers had to remember to download daily versions (via link to desktop or a less-than-ubiquitous Wifi connection), and the refresh delays of early e-Ink based readers proved frustrating for those wanting a quick skim of articles.
  Next came smartphones, which offered constant & widespread connectivity, was easily portable, and had decent battery life.  Amazon and other eBook sellers quickly offered free reader apps, but the tiny screen proved problematic for books and magazines.  With newspapers, however, smartphones opened a new niche market for news - as an access point for headlines and breaking news (particularly sports and weather), and with the possibility of providing apps that could push news to an interested readership.  Apps also facilitated monetization, whether through subscriptions, individualized ads, or sales (of focused apps).
  Then came the iPad.  It offered a sleek, highly-portable connected device with a large (comparably) color touchscreen.  For book publishing, it was like an eReader on steroids - larger, faster, with multimedia capabilities (audio, video, links) built-in, where the action to turn a page mimicked traditional media page-turning. (See earlier post)  Tablets weren't merely an option for reading device - they started expanding the concept of books and texts, and their markets (textbooks in particular, see here and here).  And most importantly, eBook readers weren't just reading more free books; they were buying more books (post on Harris study).  Adding tablets to the expanding eReader base has ramped up diffusion and the development of digital book publishing.
   The combination of the iPad and the Flipboard app provided an exemplary demonstration of the potential for tablets as a digital platform for magazines as well as news.  The iPad provided a high-resolution colour screen, which while smaller than most print magazine formats, was large enough to provide quality read that magazines sought.  Flipboard provided a test base for content bundling and reading experience that also came close to the magazine ideal - easily skimmed, able to integrate text and image, and to go deeper with a tap or continue to the next "page" with a swipe reminiscent of turning a page.  And the ability to seamlessly integrate advertising.  The experience is so exemplary that it passed 20 million users and 2000 content providers last summers.
   It would seem that tablets offer a viable digital platform for the consumption of traditionally print content forms, when combined with growing broadband access.  On the other hand, tablets are proving to be excellent platforms for Internet access, for delivering audio and video, as well as a good gaming platform, and a reasonable computing platform.  So the question for traditional print outlets is will readers embrace tablets, and how the rise of print through tablets will impact product demand.

  For the last year or so, a wide range of trade and academic studies suggest that tablets may provide a viable digital solution for print content delivery.  The latest study to come out is from analytics firm comScore,  They surveyed a rolling sample of U.S. tablet owners for three months, ending in August, and found that reading on tablets continues to increase.
“Tablets are fundamentally redefining how people consume news and information, with the format more conducive to reading longer form content than PCs or smartphones,” said Mark Donovan, comScore SVP of Mobile. “In the case of online newspapers, tablets are now driving 7 percent of total page views, an impressive figure considering the relative infancy of the tablet space. Publishers that understand how these devices are shifting consumption dynamics will be best positioned to leverage this platform to not only drive incremental engagement among current subscribers but also attract new readers.”
  More than a third (37.1%) of tablet owners use their device to read a newspaper at least once a month, and 11.5% report reading newspapers on their tablets daily.  Magazine readership through tablets was around the same - 39.6% read magazines on their tablets at least monthly, and 9.7% reported reading magazines on their tablets daily. Readership is highest among the 25-34 demographic.  An interesting aspect of the report was that tablet newspaper readers weren't very different from tablet magazine readers in terms of demographics, or in terms of the specific tablets that were used for reading (iPads, Android tablets, Kindle Fire, NOOK tablet). 

  The comScore study results, in terms of increasing use of tablets for media consumption, fall in line with a wealth of other studies.  And the consistency in user demographic breakdowns raises some interesting questions - is this a reflection of a audience segment of regular (heavy) readers, who use whatever platforms are available? Do they see tablets as a supplement to print outlets, a complement, or a substitute?
  At this point, I think that tablets are proving to be a valuable digital platform for the delivery of a wide range of traditional media content - and the first decent substitute for print.

Sources - Tablets Capturing Newspaper Viewers, Research Brief (MediaPost blog)
Tablets Reinvent Americans' Relationship with Print,  comScore press release

Online Video: Going Long(er), Better

“Online video distribution continues to redefine television around the world,” said Bismarck Lepe, cofounder and president of products for Ooyala.
  Analytics firm Ooyala tracked the online video viewing habits of more than 200 million unique online users from over 120 countries around the world - and found that tablet owners watched 54% more videos in the third quarter than at the start of the year.  The great dichotomy in online video is between short-form videos (generally clips and UGC shorts, under 10 minutes in length) and long-form videos (10+ minutes, generally professionally produced - TV shows, movies, live event streams, etc.).  And with the emergence and widespread adoption of new viewing options, online video viewers are developing preferences among their viewing options.  For long-form video, screen size and viewing comfort seem to matter. 
For those users that have a TV set connected to the Net (via connected TV (CTV), game console (GC), or other OTT device), 94% of their online video viewing time was with long-form videos.  More than 40% of viewing time was for videos an hour or longer. Tablets are rapidly becoming the mobile device of choice for watching long-form videos, passing smartphones and desktops in the last few months in terms of the time spent watching online videos. More than 70% of tablet viewing was of long-form programming, up from 46% of viewing time in Q1 2012.  A full 30% of tablet viewing time was of videos at least an hour long.

  The study also found an increase in the time spent watching long-form videos through game consoles and connected TVs.  Those devices seemed to be the preferred venue for watching live streaming - the time spent watching live streaming on those devices doubled in the last six months.  The report also found that live streaming viewers were "more engaged" that those watching recorded content (i.e., VOD).
"Break engagement down by device and content length, and the same engagement patterns emerge. The most engaged viewers are watching on tablets and connected TVs and gaming consoles." 
   The results suggest a promising future for online delivery of "high-end" video content.  Diffusion of connected devices that can bring streamed high quality content to your TV (CTV/GC) or your lap (tablets), along with improved high-speed broadband connectivity, are providing audiences with increased options.  Studies like this are showing that use of those viewing options is growing, and becoming a viable alternative or substitute for traditional content delivery media.  There's also suggestions here that the connected/tablet options can be as engaging to the viewer - and valued enough that 1 in 4 tablet owners subscribe to a premium content service while online video advertising revenues are growing around 50% annually.  This suggests that there's money to be made in promoting connected devices and putting your content online.

Sources - Tablets Become Second TV, Viewers Watch Longer Videos More Frequently, VidBlog
Tablet TV Takes Off,  VideoMind
(Ooyala blog)
Ooyala Releases Global Video IndexVideoMind (Ooyala blog)
Access the report at Ooyala Global Video Index site, and grab the infographic here

Monday, November 19, 2012

Smartphones rely on Wifi for data

A new study of smartphone use in the UK finds that almost 80% of data traffic to Android phones is carried over Wifi.  The Nielsen study used an app that recorded how data was received, on a sample of 1500 Android smartphone users.
“Wifi is on average three-and-a-half times more dominant than 3G when it comes to delivering mobile internet data services,” said David Gosen, managing director for digital at Nielsen Europe.  “It peaks around midnight as users gravitate towards social networks, driven by their desire to stay connected through all waking hours."
The big difference is pricing, I suspect.

Source - Wifi carries 78% of UK Android

edit - added headline

2013 Cyber Threats Forecast

Georgia Tech's Information Security Center, along with the GT Research Institute, has released its annual forecast of top Cyber Security threats.  Here's some of the list:
  • Cloud-based botnets - "One possible example is for attackers to use stolen credit card information to purchase cloud computing resources and create dangerous clusters of temporary virtual attack systems" 
  • Search History Poisoning - manipulating search engine results and other customer-targeted services
  • Mobile Browser/ Mobile Wallet Vulnerabilities - just how safe are the apps?
  • Malware Counteroffensive - continued efforts to hamper detection and bypass on mobile devices
In releasing the report,GTISC director Wenke Lee noted:
"In 2013, we expect the continued movement of business and consumer data onto mobile devices and into the cloud will lure cyber criminals into attacking these relatively secure, but extremely tempting, technology platforms. Along with growing security vulnerabilities within our national supply chain and healthcare industry, the security community must remain proactive, and users must maintain vigilance, over the year ahead."
The report can be downloaded by visiting

Source  -  Georgia Tech Releases Cyber Threats Forecast for 2013Dark Reading

Friday, November 16, 2012

BBC scandal fallout at NY Times

It looks like the continuing child abuse scandals will also have ramifications for the NY Times.  Back in August I posted on the Times' decision to hire Mark Thompson as its new President and CEO.  The decision raised several eyebrows - Thompson, who had been Director General of the BBC, had no print experience and no commercial media experience; in addition the deal was quite lucrative ($1 million salary; with bonuses, $8 million for the first year) for an organization that had been losing a lot of money for a long time ($143 million last quarter alone).  Thompson started his new job at the Times this week.
  Thompson's tenure as Director General of the BBC included the period when the first abuse scandal (involving BBC presenter and personality Jimmy Savile) surfaced - and when someone at the BBC killed an investigation of the allegations by their news team.
  Thompson initially claimed to have no knowledge of the allegations or the questions surrounding Newsnight's investigation or its termination.  After documents started surfacing showing that his BBC office had been sent clippings of other news reports of the emerging scandal as part of the daily news briefing sent to BBC executives, and that his office had fielded numerous inquiries, Thompson reiterated his ignorance, saying he never bothered to read the morning clippings and wasn't told about any inquiries.  Then, he changed the wording of the denial a bit, to say that he had never been formally notified of any child abuse allegations or the Newsnight investigation.  Even that denial's being questioned as it now turns out that lawyers representing Mr. Thompson (while he was still BBC Director General) sent a letter to the London Sunday Times threatening to sue for libel if it carried any story about the Newsnight investigation or its cancellation of its investigation.  The letter, by the way, contained a detailed summary of the allegations against Savile.
  As questions mounted, NY Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., sent a letter to Times staff expressing his continued support for his new CEO.
"Our opinion was then and remains now that he possesses high ethical standards and is the ideal person to lead our company."
I've got to wonder a bit about the nature of that support and proclamations of ethics, as evidence mounts that, at a minimum, Thompson's office staff and lawyers were aware of both scandals (allegations that Savile had a long history of child abuse, including on BBC premises) and Newsnight's cancelled investigation), and thus Thompson had every opportunity to find out about them.  It's becoming pretty clear that one of three things is true - 1) Thompson's lying about his ignorance of the matters; 2) that as Director General of the BBC, he never bothered to follow current events, get briefings on inquiries and issues directed to his office from his staff, or bothered to read letters sent on his behalf by his lawyers; or  3) that he tried to insulate himself from matters by directing staff and lawyers to make sure they didn't "formally" tell him anything.
  As a former BBC producer and current member of Parliament Roger Gale quipped. Thompson was very well paid “to, apparently, not know what was going on under his own roof.”

  The NY Times' public editor reaches similar conclusions - 1) That Thompson, as editor in chief and Director General, should have known and had ample opportunity to find out; 2) That Thompson's story with respect to the Newsnight investigation has "evolved" (i.e., changed).  Still, he and Sulzberger feel that Times coverage of the BBC scandals and their new boss has been thorough, as if that, and not the personal ethics and competence of their new CEO, was the issue.

  In addition to the above, Thompson's likely to also get linked to the latest BBC/Newsnight child abuse scandal, where they falsely accused a retired politician of child abuse.  (The BBC's acknowledged its fault in a recent settlement of the resulting libel claim, along with coughing up a large settlement) As it looks now, a lot of the blame's likely to be directed at a bloated management structure and what seems a corporate culture that saw little of value in oversight or competence.  Structures and cultures that developed during Thompson's tenure, and under his direction.  And a lot of the people Thompson supervised and directed are stepping down in the wake of the scandals and the inquiry into management structures and decisions.  The emerging management issues does give some support to the latter two possibilities listed above: that Thompson's not that good a manager or executive.  Most analysts see the management (and newsroom) at the NY Times to already be quite bloated and inefficient, with little evidence of strong managerial skills - they don't need to get worse.

    Personally, I don't think any of these behaviors are good professional traits for leaders of news organizations.  They clearly do not reflect "high ethical standards" - either in business or in journalism. I'm getting the feeling that Thompson will prove to be another embarrassing gaffe in the NY Times' search for a CEO in recent years.  (And frankly, given his history, Sulzberger's evaluation doesn't help things).  For me, the question is how long before the Times feels the need to shed itself of its latest embarrassment.
Sources -  Times See No Evil CEO Mark Thompson's Veil of Ignorance Continues To Unravel,  JustOneMinute blog
As Mark Thompson Starts New Job, the BBC's Implosion Is Felt in New York, Public Editor's Journal, NY Times
Mark Thompson's Office Was Reportedly 'Warned' About Jimmy Saville Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Huffington Post
Mark Thompson Claims Ignorance Of Letter About Jimmy Savile Scandal Sent On His Behalf, Huffington Post

edits - added missing link to earlier post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What future for cable MSOs?

Today I want to look at the future of cable, considering that cable MSOs are facing a lot of the same changes and issues as the TV networks. 
  The future of cable depends on your definition.  A while ago, I coauthored a chapter on the economics of cable that found that the cable industry in the U.S. had gone through three distinct phases - cable as CATV (Community Antenna TV), cable as TV of Abundance (massively multichannel TV), and transitioning to cable as broadband over the last couple of days.  The future for cable as CATV ended officially with the 1984 Cable Act, although cable as multichannel TV had been transforming the industry since the late 1970s.  Similarly, you could argue that the future for cable as multichannel was dismal after the 1996 Telecomm Act, as the Act opened the way for multichannel competition.  (Actually, DBS started a few years earlier, but the Act removed cable's local monopoly status).  Luckily for cable, there was broadband, and Internet access has been the profitable service for cable systems for the last decade.
  Now, even the cable industry is recognizing that it is broadband digital services, not multichannel TV delivery, that is the future of the industry.
"Clearly the relative importance of the video business has declined over time. I think broadband clearly is becoming the anchor service."  Glenn Brit, CEO Time Warner Cable
You can also see it in Comcast's move with Xfinity, which is essentially a broadband service featuring lots of TV channels - a service that is more like Verizon's FiOS and AT&T's U-verse services than old-style cable over coax.
  Still, that would leave cable MSOs with expensive hybrid systems on the ground, competing with fiber-based telco broadband services on the broadband front, and with those services, DBS satellite services, and IPTV (video streaming over the Internet) for access to TV programs.  The real problem for cable as broadband, though, are two emerging services - LTE and 4G wireless broadband and Google's Giganet overbuild.  Both have the potential to provide faster broadband data service than existing services.
  Most cable as broadband providers set aside around 30 Mbs of bandwidth for data/Internet services, which is split among all online users linked to the neighborhood hub.  They've been pushing the hubs further downline, so fewer customers are sharing, but would need some significant upgrading to offer higher speeds.  Some of the big MSOs have upgraded some systems to 30-50 Mbs (Charter-30Mbs, Time Warner-35Mbs, Cablevision-50Mbs), but still split that bandwidth among active users.  And if you want to get the highest speeds you pay significantly more.
  In contrast, the telco-based services tend to use DSL-based approach, which provides each user with dedicated bandwidth.  The advertised speeds of these tend to be lower than what cable offers, but remember that cable splits that bandwidth among a number of users.  Thus, the actual speeds that telco-based services provide often can end up being faster, and the service more reliable.  Depending on what kind of DSL service is offered, between 10-30 Mbs of dedicated bandwidth is available.  Telco-based systems also charge more for higher bandwidth availability/speeds.
  The latest report from the FCC shows that the current network/ISPs are doing a good job at actually reaching advertised speeds.  Also that users are moving to higher bandwidth offerings, past the point where you have the speed to stream HD video programming in real time (that's about 10 Mbs to be safe).
  While those speeds seem high, 4G and Google's fiber networks promise significantly more. There's currently a wide variety of 4G mobile broadband systems under development. As they're emerging, here's what the technical standards call for in terms of broadband bandwidth: HSPA+ provides 20-672 Mbs download speeds; Mobile WiMax can provide 37-365 Mbs; LTE provides 100-300 Mbs (LTE-Advanced can handle up to 1 Gbs (1000 Mbs)); and even weak sister MBWA provides for 80 Mbs.  All of these are similar to cable's offerings in that these numbers reflect total bandwidth available to be shared among users.
  If you've got LTE service available, you've got twice the bandwidth/speed of the best that cable and telco-TV land-based services currently offer - at least until the local node gets clogged with users.  And most of the upgrades to 4G are building to the high end of data bandwidth standards, so 4G mobile broadband users will see access speeds 2-30 times faster than current land-based network offerings.  And then there's Google's Giganet fiber network.  Google's pilot fiber network in Kansas City promises dedicated Gigabit access speeds (1000Mbs), a Terabyte of Cloud storage, and provides a free Google Nexus 7 tablet as a remote control (in addition to a rapidly expanding range of TV networks).  That's 20 times the bandwidth / speed currently available from traditional cable and telco based ISPs, for about the same price. It's also 2-10 times the capacity that 4G mobile broadband offers.
  What 4G and Giganet services provide are the speeds that allow multiple users of the ISP account to watch separate HD-quality video streams. If 4G services can offer viable flat rate pricing, this is likely to speed up the move to Internet video streaming as a significant source of TV viewing.  Amazon's already offering flat rate pricing for LTE service on its top Kindle Fire HD model ($50/yr for 250 Mb per month) - which will encourage others to follow.
   TV watching is already shifting to Internet video delivery (as shown by most media use research, and the booming Netflix, Hulu+, and Amazon Prime subscriber base), but bandwidth and pricing become limiting concerns.  If viewers can get bandwidth capable of handling one or more HD video streams, at a price that doesn't make them pause and wonder if the program they want to watch is worth the added data fees, the transition to online delivery will speed up.  Critical to that perspective is flat rate pricing, like what cable offers - access to the programming you want for a flat monthly fee.  Viewers are less likely to shift to online delivery if they have to wait too long to start watching, or if they're worried about exceeding caps and/or the added cost of the program.

In sum, cable MSOs face increased competition, and may soon be relegated to the less valuable and attractive alternative for broadband services - the aspect they're embracing as the future of cable MSOs. A combination of technology and pricing strategies are at play. Within the next year or so, cable broadband speeds will be surpassed by mobile 4G and pure fiber networks.  Without yet another significant and costly rebuild of their systems, they're increasingly likely keep losing subscribers to alternative broadband services.  In addition, the trend among cable MSOs has been to shift from flat rate pricing (without caps) to pricing with caps and usage-based pricing.  That's not what users prefer, especially those considering shifting their viewing to online sources.
  Another key concern driving cord-cutters is the rising cost of multichannel video and pay TV.  Here, all MVPDS are hostage to rising carriage fees from cable networks and local stations.  With full bundling, these services are quickly reaching the point where subscribers are wondering if the cost of the whole bundle is worthwhile for the 6-10 channels that they actually watch.  If cable, in particular, unbundles channels, that can have a significant impact on their local advertising rates and revenues, as well as reduce subscriber revenues.  In addition, unbundling could accelerate the move online, with users finding that they can get much of what they want from a few fairly low-cost services.
  The FCC's not helping with their current investigation into Cable MSO's data caps and pricing strategies, and the push of some public interest groups for "Network Neutrality".  Analysts fear that fear of FCC action in both areas may accelerate the shift to usage-based pricing to avoid antitrust concerns, which could push broadband subscribers, particularly online video watchers, to shift to other options.

  Historically, cable's been fairly slow to innovate.  Expansion of channel capacity has often been held up due to the need to amortize existing network investment, and the cost of upgrades.  And while cable system operators were quick to offer Internet-access once the upgraded system permitted, they've been slow to add other digital Internet based services (IP telephony, home monitoring, videogaming platforms, etc.), even when projections suggested they'd be highly profitable.  Yes, a large part of the delay in offering telephone services was a section of the 1996 Telecomm Act that let local phone companies offer video services only after local cable offered telephone services (encouraging local systems to delay offering telephone services in order to keep telcos out of their market).  But that's just one case.  Most of the delay is likely due to the same line of thinking that created problems for newspapers and broadcasters as their industries evolved and changed - they saw themselves as in the "cable" business - as a multichannel TV carriage system - not as a broadband digital networking service.
  Well, as the statement from one cable MSO executive said - they recognize that broadband's the business they're in now.  Too bad they didn't realize it before they were on the way to become the more limited, more costly, and less valuable, option in that rapidly changing market.

Sources  -  I've Always Thought Cable Companies Would be Fine When TV Collapsed, But They May Actually Be Screwed..., Business Insider blog
Cable Needs to Fear Less, Innovate More, MediaPost blogs
Time Warner Cable Head Says Company Future Is Broadband, Not TV,  ReelSE
Google Fiber Goes Live, Google Enters TV (MVPD) Biz, Media Business & Future of Journalism blog
A Report on Consumer Wireline Broadband Performance in the U.S., FCC Report, July 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reacting to TV's Ratings Decline in the US

US broadcast networks have seen a sharp drop in basic ratings this Fall season. ABC, CBS, and Fox have all seen average prime-time ratings for the coveted 18-49 demographic at least 10% lower than last year, with Fox's ratings a full third lower.  Only NBC has seen its average ratings for this demographic increase (led by their Sunday Night NFL programs, which have regularly topped other programs this fall).
  Network executives are eager to suggest that viewing's not off - just delayed and/or accessed via alternative channels.
“People are watching more programming than ever but they are increasingly time-shifting,” said Les Moonves, chief executive of CBS, in a conference call last week, echoing the views of executives at News Corp, Time Warner and Walt Disney. “Because more and more people are absorbing content, and we’re going to get paid more and more.”
   Another, unstated, reason for increased time-shifting may be the massive number of negative political advertising - viewers may be switching their viewing to recorded versions to more easily bypass political ads.  If direct viewing rebounds, that would suggest that political ad avoidance may have been at work.  But even if that was one of the initial prompts for time-shifting, the added value of greater viewer choice and control could encourage increased delays in viewing.
   TV might also be seeing the result of weaker programming among broadcast networks, and the increased quality and availability of original programming on cable networks and Internet video streaming sites. 
Bob Iger, chief executive of Disney, acknowledged that the ratings drop-off could be related to the quality of the programming. “The other story is that there seems to be somewhat of an absence of what I’ll call new, big, real, buzz-worthy hits,” he said. “Because of that, I would say that it would be premature to either write the epitaph or suggest we’re seeing a trend.”
   The trend has the networks pushing for a further expansion in ratings measurement.  Working with Nielsen, the broadcast networks and advertisers agreed in 2007 on a new benchmark for setting ad rates - C3, which counted all viewings within 3 days. But three days is no longer enough for the networks, who are pushing for C7- counting any viewing of a program within a week of its first airing, from any source, on any platform.  Even then, some researchers suggest that C7 counts only 90% of all program viewing.
Despite TV executive's cries for more accountability, national TV advertisers aren't necessarily interested in extending C3 to C7 ratings. Better to leap ahead to the next phrase of measurement to behavioral or contextual metrics, including addressable and interactive messaging, something that will show a more exacting return on their media investment ROI.
   Part of their reluctance is that advertisers in the original airing aren't necessarily watched, or even included in, delayed viewing or alternative delivery channels (say on an affiliated cable network or streamed from the network's website).  Networks understandably want to know the full size and make-up of program audiences (count everything), but advertisers (just as understandably) only want to pay for the audiences that actually watch their ads.  It's unclear whether any single metric can satisfy both.  And as the quote suggests, online metrics can do more than simply counting exposure (viewing) - opening the way for advertisers and marketers who have priorities other than simple reach.

  Nielsen will try to develop one, as it works to maintain its dominance in TV ratings. As noted in an earlier post, they've already tried to get industry agreement and ratification of its own limited online metrics approach.  More recently, it's bought SocialGuide, a firm that supplies real-time Social TV data on thousands of programs aired on both English-language and Spanish-language channels in the U.S.  Noting that a third of Twitter users regularly tweet about TV-related content, Nielsen announced the acquisition with its typical bravado:
“The skyrocketing adoption and use of social media among consumers is transforming TV-watching into a more immediate and shared experience," stated Steve Hasker, president of global media products and advertiser solutions at Nielsen. "As TV networks see this phenomenon unfold, they require understanding of the impact of social TV on their programming, ratings and advertising effectiveness.”
I think it's pretty clear that we're seeing a significant shift in audience TV watching preferences and behaviors - a change of the scope (if maybe not size) of that prompted by the rise of cable and cable networks. Regardless of funding mechanisms, media outlets are facing increasing competition, and need reliable and valid ways of measuring audiences and preferences - not only for their traditional distribution channel, but across all of the various media platforms they and the viewer utilize. As for advertising, TV needs to realize that advertisers don't really care about a program's audience - they want and need measures of audiences for the ads, and would love to also find ways to measure an ad's level of engagement with, and impact on, its audience. And networks and program producers/owners should also start looking for metrics on audience engagement and impact.

That's why I think the TV and advertising industries shouldn't focus on finding a single metric. That may have been fine when their was only one viewing option and limited competition, but in today's more competitive media environment it's time to realize that TV and advertisers need audience metrics for different purposes - and thus should really use different metrics.
Sources - US TV networks suffer sharp dip in ratingsFinancial Times
Why TV Networks Want To Move From C3 To C7 RatingsTV Watch
Nielsen Buys SocialGuide, Extends Social TV Data Reach, MediaDailyNews