Hurrah – 4oD (4 on Demand) is now available on the Roku in the UK! It looks like this is breaking news as there’s no mention of it on either Roku‘s or Channel 4‘s websites and I only happened to notice when I was checking for new channels. A few tweets are beginning to appear. Having a quick rummage, it looks on a par with the web version but without some of the personalisation features.
For non-UK residents, Channel 4 is one of the four terrestrial broadcasters (BBC, ITV, C4 and C5). The BBC’s iPlayer and Channel 5’s Demand 5 are already on the Roku, leaving ITV as the last network to get their catch-up TV service onto the Roku. Hurry up!
OTT, short for “over-the-top-television” is an up-and-coming acronym that we are all likely going to become familiar with in the near future, provided someone doesn’t come up with a different marketing name. The concept is simple – it’s TV that comes “over the top” of traditional channels on a cable system via the Internet delivered in digital packets. It can either be live streaming video, on-demand streaming video, or in the form of a pre-recorded on-demand podcast.
There are many aspects of over-the-top TV that have yet to be shaken out. Specifically, here in the early stages there are some still-murky areas when it comes to details of how advertising is going to work.
Things that we know about how OTT works successfully so far:
People are willing to pay for bundled on-demand professionally created OTT content in the form of Netflix on-demand streaming of movies, TV shows, and other content. The bundled Netflix price for all-you-can-eat on-demand streaming OTT offers the consumer a real value. In most cases, a great deal of marketing money and effort has been spent promoting the majority of individual movies and other content that are available on Netflix, so the consumer has a fairly high degree of familiarity with much of the on-demand streaming content they offer. These are essentially repurposed movies that are already on the shelf.
People are willing to watch on-demand streaming OTT of professionally-created content with embedded ads as demonstrated by the ongoing success of Hulu.Com. The consumer is likely already familiar with a portion of the content, but Hulu also allows the consumer to discover and explore previously unknown TV show content in an on-demand stream with embedded ads. These are essentially repurposed TV shows, some movies, and other content.
Live streaming OTT of live content is still catching on. The most successful live OTT content as typified by what Leo Laporte and company are generating still offers an on-demand podcast version that can be downloaded later. Currently, on-demand, after-the-fact podcast versions of live OTT generated content end up with many more downloads than people watching via live streams. Both live streaming OTT and the on-demand podcast versions can contain ads. For the ads to be effective in this format, they need to be relevant to the audience’s needs and desires. The old “shotgun” advertising approach does not work in this format. This specific type of content is closely associated with word-of-mouth promotion.
There are a few questions that remain to be answered. Will consumers pay for on-demand streaming of TV drama-type content they are unfamiliar with — in other words, will consumers pay to watch an on-demand stream of a new TV show drama, documentary or reality show? Using myself as a gage, I wouldn’t pay for individual on-demand episodes of a TV show or movie I wasn’t fairly familiar with. Promotion and word-of-mouth still has to take place.
If consumers will pay-per-view for an unfamiliar on-demand TV show, can the content still contain ads? I think the answer to this depends on the content and its perceived value – i.e., how well it is promoted, and the resulting perceived value that is generated in the potential consumer.
Once “Lost” was a hit TV show, would the fanatic fans have paid for on-demand streams of new episodes? Probably they would have, if they could have gotten them, say a week or so in advance of the actual broadcasts. “Lost” fans would have also put up with ads in the advance on-demand stream. They might have grumbled about it, but if that were the only way it was available in advance, many of them would have opened-up their wallets and paid the price monetarily and with their attention to the embedded ads in order to satisfy their “Lost” habit. Clearly, the producers of “Lost” – ahem – “lost out” on a time-sensitive revenue stream opportunity.
Bottom line, I believe it all revolves around the content and the real and perceived values that the content delivers.
I liked last season’s remake of the old “V” television series. If I could be assured the production values remained just as high, I might pay to subscribe in some manner. If the “V” series is picked up again by ABC next season, I would also pay to subscribe if I could get episodes via on-demand streaming before they were broadcast.
In the meantime, we are still dealing with the death-throws of the old broadcast model with its old appointment based viewing schedule combined with the old shotgun advertising approach. ABC broadcast TV affiliates would have had a cow if “Lost” episodes had been made available as a paid on-demand OTT stream before the episodes were actually broadcast via the network.
The final destination of OTT and when it ends up at that destination depends on what is right for the time. Both delivery infrastructure capabilities and consumer demand will make that determination.
Okay, it’s been three days of watching the Tour de France online and my experience has been less than perfect. The audio has been fine, but the video has been, mostly, bad. The Prologue, on Saturday, froze continuously while we tried to watch the On-Demand version. Yesterday’s Stage 1 was pretty close to prefect. Today’s Stage 2 was great until around 50km to go when the video began freezing – and I mean CONTINUOUSLY freezing – as in, I had to refresh the page to get the video started again and then it would freeze again within a minute or two.
I was on the verge of calling, or emailing, Versus to cancel and ask (or demand) for a refund.
But, I will give them props for beating me to the punch and sending out an email today answering what must have been a landslide of feedback about these issues. They even got rid of the Autobahn plug-in that they had been using, and which may very well have been the source of these issues.
Below is posted the email I received from Versus today.
Dear Tour Tracker user,
First of all apologies for the problems over the last few days with the Tour Tracker service. We know that many of you have experienced problems and have contacted us through our support email or posted your feedback online. We’ve responded to many of you, but while we’ve worked on fixing these problems we know many of you have not yet received a response.
Due to the problems with the Autobahn plugin, after today’s stage we removed the video player and replaced it with one that does not require Autobahn. Initial reaction is that this has fixed the streaming problems. This was also why the On Demand video of todays stage was delayed.
Another issue (particularly for the prologue) has been the start time of the coverage. We start the coverage when the International TV broadcast starts, some days this includes the start, some days it does not – it depends on when the host broadcaster in France decides to start the broadcast. The feed goes up on the Tracker at the same time as anyone in the world gets a TV feed.
The daily schedule of broadcast times is now published on the FAQ page:
The other issue that many of you have commented on is the audio feed and the lack of background noise. We’re frustrated with this as well. We’re working hard on a resolution to this with the host broadcaster in France to correct the problem.
We’re cycling fans too and understand that the problems over the past few days have been extremely frustrating, we appreciate your understanding and hope you will enjoy the rest of the tour without any further streaming problems with the service.
While the world is buzzing about the Soccer World Cup and the vuvuzela, I will be following the OTHER big European sport – cycling. Being a cycling fan in America isn’t easy. While the big races are covered live on all of the big Euro TV networks, America has only sporadic coverage on Versus and Universal Sports.
Now, since I turned off the satellite for the summer because Lost ended, 24 ended, and football hasn’t started, I have had to scramble to watch bike races. Video recaps are surprisingly not too hard to find online. But now the granddaddy of all bike races is set to start this Saturday. That is, of course, the Tour de France. And, I want my full coverage – every stage, in it’s entirety.
The Tour has been covered daily in the US in recent years by the Versus Network, and they have done a great job. But, no satellite, no Versus. Enter the new beta version of their web site. For $29.95 I can get full coverage of every stage in it’s entirety, both live and, thankfully, since stages start around 7-8am my time, on-demand. It is being broadcast in “full” HD, even real-time GPS tracking of the riders! It’s a geek/cycling fan’s dream-come-true!
In the past I have watched some video recaps and extras on the Versus website and the quality has been good. So, I have high hopes for this. I am plunking down my $29.95 and I will let everyone know what I think after the race actually gets started this weekend. It should be an epic race this year so the coverage better also be epic!
Now, if I could just avoid all of those Twitter spoilers until I get home from work and actually watch that day’s stage….
The once-king of movie rentals is now losing on market share big. Their online rental system is non-existent, thanks to a patent battle win by Netflix in 2006. So how can Blockbuster cure part of their problems? Maybe sell to Google?
Back in 1985, David Cook put together the first Blockbuster store in Dallas, Texas. Scott Beck, John Melk and Wayne Huizenga took it to franchise – which would then be bought by Viacom.
From there, it was pretty much opening stores and gobbling up others like a Pac-Man game. I remember a local company called Doorstep video that was acquired by Blockbuster by 1990. By 2000, Blockbuster was the dominant movie rental chain.
Enter the Online Movie Revolution
Once the Internet began to infiltrate, the ability to order movies at home caused concern to the rental industry. The only thing to do is join the revolution. Blockbuster and Netflix show up with rental business models. What a great idea – Rent a movie from the computer and wait a week for a disc, watch it, then wait another 2 weeks for the next disc.
Of course within time, that model would get better. No late fees, return at any time. They even found it worked on a gaming model with Gamefly.
Blockbuster sweetened the pot with the option to return to their stores and get more movies while they wait for the next titles. Add no late fees – It looked like a great option. Netflix went a different route. They went the online way – Movies from your computer right now. Through the web or through a set-top box.
Movies on Demand – Netflix on everything
Netflix’s model seemed to be more powerful than Blockbuster’s. Of course, you could only get Blockbuster on limited devices. Netflix is on the web, through your Boxee, Roku, TiVo and more. Last year, Netflix subscriber base grew and Blockbuster lost share. They closed stores, but that was not enough to keep up with Netflix and now emerging Red Box locations – where you can rent movies in the grocery store (which you have to go to anyway).
Franchise owners sued Blockbuster for their “Total Access” feature. Netflix sued Blockbuster for copying their online model. Blockbuster was also investigated for their “No Late Fee” claim. The issue was over it possibly being misleading. Blockbuster would charge a “restocking fee” for any movie 30 days late, as well as charge the renter the full price of the video if it also was over 30 days late.
It’s probably a good thing they didn’t buy Circuit City in 2008. Blockbuster might not have been around today if that acquisition came through.
So why should Google buy Blockbuster
After all that, you may be wondering why I think Google should buy Blockbuster. It seems like the company is a failing business model, but that’s not completely true. It’s just disorganized.
Blockbuster needs to enter the on demand market the same way Netflix has – ASAP. What a better way than through Google.
YouTube by Blockbuster
YouTube has struggled to get their online rental model going. Distribution companies like Paramount and Universal try to limit the on-demand option by at least 30 days. On Demand rentals turn into a “let’s watch this movie while we wait for the new stuff”. Hopefully you can find something in the sea of B-movies.
With Blockbuster’s online rental, along with brick and mortar stores and YouTube’s on-demand models, it might be a great marriage. Add to that, YouTube has reach on Boxee, Roku and TiVo already, along with a host of other devices. For $14.95 a month, you could get the best of both worlds.
How moving Google on the block would change Blockbuster
There is still something to be said about the store on the corner. Google could definitely take advantage of the older business model. Just look at how popular the Apple store is.
Google Blockbuster stores could not only have movie and game rentals, but also be the place to try out the Android OS. Maybe play with a Android tablet or phone. You could buy some Blogger wear and get expert advice on Google Adsense or maybe how to make a good YouTube video.
Get in on the Gaming
Oh, yeah – we didn’t even touch game rentals. Of course, Google would enter in a new market. They would compete with Game Fly for rentals and Best Buy for purchases. The “games on demand” market is in it’s infancy. When it explodes, Google will be right there to cash in.
Google would get local exposure, while Blockbuster’s model would grow dramatically. YouTube would get a boost on their online movie rentals, Android might get a home and Google would get into the gaming market at the right time – when it is low.
One should expect that to change when people start spending again, because there is still a great predicted growth in this market.
Blockbuster is trying to cut costs to keep investors happy. Their stock price is bordering on losing their filing. They have put their international assets on the market and will be closing stores in the next quarter to compensate. Google stepping in and paying a modest price including stock buyout would keep the company from going under.
Of course, this is only a suggestion. Other companies would also profit from getting Blockbuster – Best Buy and Walmart for example. Even Apple could see great advantage to incorporate what Blockbuster has. It’s just a question of who’s gonna do it.