Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Providers

I'm in a reflective mood, so the industry that I helped reinvent is on my mind.

I disagree with Tim Cook that television is 'stuck in the seventies'. In the seventies I had three analogue channels in black and white. Now I have endless content available in full HD. I can pause, stop, watch and select to watch later.

What I suspect irks Cook is the way the rights holders behave. This has largely remained unchanged since the film making industry moved to California around a century ago.

There have been few companies that have really disrupted the TV industry. The big players 50 years ago are the big players now, from CBS and NBC to Disney. New franchises have appeared such as ESPN, Duscovery and CNN, but these are content franchises, not technical ones.

For an industry that is totally based on technology, its influence and value to the TV and film industries are, frankly, negligible, and maybe that's right. The technology is purposeless without the content.

And maybe that's where everyone from Project Venice to Kangaroo went wrong. It's not possible to reinvent television, but it is possible to reimagine it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Not Being All Things To All TV Producers

I didn't make it to IBC this year - NAB was enough for me - but a friend called me from the show this afternoon. He's a senior manager with a major broadcast services company, so I asked him how things were going.

He replied "everyone here is selling platforms that do everything".

And therein lies the problem.

From being an industry of specific skills (Barco did monitors, Grass Valley did mixers and Ikegami did cameras in my day...), we're now in a world of Jacks of all trades.

Adobe's take on the cloud was clever initially but remains malformed as they haven't really done anything sceptical for enabling downloads and storage online.

For example, most online edit apps are Flash based, so five years out of date and pretty much useless in the age of the tablet.

The reality is that every platform does a few things well and none do everything brilliantly, leaving those involved in the industry with the problems and headaches of integration.

When we wrote TV Station In A Box at Narrowstep in 2002 we'd already addressed this - we rolled up asset management, metadata, scheduling and VOD along with PPV and video advertising in one platform. It seems a long time ago now...

So it's not rocket science to build a comprehensive platform for the industry as many others such as Brightcove went on to do.

However, the world has changed. When TV Everywhere acquired the majority of Rights Tracker our aim was to bring together what we saw as the two main components of modern media management - asset management and rights management.

And we did this. We have built the ultimate platform. But the trouble is the world has moved on.

Behemoth software solutions, even in the cloud, are complex and need extensive training.

So, we've changed tack and decided to release the platform not as one great big panacea, but as a series if apps - specific functions that offer advanced capabilities to the creative industry.

I guess we won't be at IBC next year claiming to do everything.

But we will be at MIPCOM showing how we can improve processes for production companies and distributors. Watch this space and get in touch if you'd like a heads up!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wily Old Fox

So Murdoch has moved away from the Time Warner deal. Yeah, sure, like a fox moves away from the coop whilst the farmer is guarding over it with a shotgun. Trouble is the farmer is selling off the increasingly bandy old hens and the fence is looking rickety.. And that gun may not be loaded.

Count my words. He will be back.

Of course, the Time Warner board were right to point to the ridiculous Fox shareholding structure (which I believe should be illegal for a public company - one share, one vote), but all the pressure is now on them to return more value to their shareholders than they have achieved in the recent past.

What would happen if you flattened the Fox shareholding structure and made this more of am equitable merger rather than a fox raid ?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Net Neutrality Sucks

So the net neutrality argument rumbles on.

I don't care. I pay for Netflix, I pay for Spotify, I pay for Sky, but with 20Kbps with Sky Broadband, all are useless. I simply cannot watch video or lirten to music online. Thirty pounds every month down the drain.

Net neutrality is inefficient - it piles ultra broadband availability into hugely populated pockets. So it has to be stopped.

What we need is to make the likes of Google, Twitter, Netflix and Spotify care enough to invest in infrastructure to deliver their services EVERYWHERE. Or at least where it isn't available. Or at least to pay a contribution towards this.

Or we need to make our governments responsible for delivering broadband in the way they are responsible for water and electricity.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dark Skies Over Europe

As long predicted on this blog, the Sky rollup seems to finally be on the cards after being derailed by the News International scandals a couple of years ago.

The amazing thing about this deal will that it will leave Rupert Murdoch in effective control of BskyB, Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia whilst generating up to $10bn for 21st Century Fox and its proposed takeover of Time Warner.

This flurry of dealmaking is also happening at the content maker level with the proposed Shine - Endemol - Core Media rollup.

The Sky rollup makes sense with the EU increasingly regulating in favour of pan-European rights, but will all of this get past the regulators ?

Whatever happens, it looks like a larger and larger slice of the English language media market will be in the hands of a septuagenarian and an octogenarian as the kids from Silicon Valley bite at their heels.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Why Net Neutrality Is Bollocks

The premise that all traffic should be equal over the internet seems like a great democratic principle, enshrined in the DMCA. But it's time to rethink.

Here in Wales I pay Sky for a service that they only partially deliver deliver: the TV works, I can watch premium channels and record stuff. But nothing that depends on the internet works. This is Sky Broadband, which regularly delivers speeds of 20Kbps (yes, that's a K not an M). So, no on demand, no premium services and I haven't been able to sign up to Sky Sports 5 since this seems to demand some kind of internet handshaking which I give up on after an hour or so.

I also cannot use my Spotify and Netlink accounts, which probably pleases Sky, but it isn't what I pay for.

The Welsh Assembly Government are committed to building yet more un-needed motorways rather than bringing this fifth world country into the 21st century. In the meantime BT is creaming in the money from its near total monopoly.

So why shouldn't the likes of Google and Facebook, who make a fortune from my personal data, and Spotify and Netflix, to whom I pay a subscription, band together with Sky and sort this situation out ? Each should pay towards upgrading our local exchange.

We worry about these vast monopolies not paying tax, but they also don't pay their dues. In a connected world, markets should be ever more efficient, but they aren't. Layering monopolies on top of monopolies is unacceptable in any other industry. Why is it acceptable on the internet ?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Taking On Big TV - The Only Option Is Small TV

The many efforts to disrupt television have had minor effects. There certainly hasn't been a start up that has shaken up the space. Perhaps Netflix is the closest to this - the only other contenders, now Aereo has been taken out of the equation, are industry owned Vevo and Hulu and Google owned YouTube.

There is no Skype or Uber or AirBnB for TV. 

The reason is very simple - rights and regulations.

Ironically, Uber is now having to deal with rights: that is the right to operate as a minicar service. Equally AirBnB have similar issues with regulators. Far from it for me to comment that vested interests like London's cabbies or New York's hoteliers have any sway (any more than the likes of Disney have over US copyright law) in these challenges.

However, the companies mentioned above have already reached critical mass, so have the wherewithal, resources and moral high ground to fight back. No TV or video industry usurper has managed anything near critical mass.

I will stick to the belief that I first espoused some thirty years ago that the real changes will come from narrowcasting and localcasting. Anything big is noticed and stamped upon by those with a vested interest: the ever ballooning likes of Comcast, Liberty Media and Fox. The only changes can come from very small players finding a model that takes on Google's model, which devalues specific audiences for content owners, and which can build small, valuable and dedicated audiences.

Anyone for Stealth TV ?

Liberty To Roll Up ITV & Virgin ?

News that Liberty Global has picked up BSkyB's stake in ITV raises the prospect of a mega merger on the American model in the UK.

Since Virgin Media divested itself of all of its content businesses some time ago (arguably to pay down its debts not for strategic purposes) there is a lot of logic in the proposition. Competition is not a concern in the way it was with BSkyB's aborted attempt (which resulted in the current stake that is being traded), and content remains king.

Also, as Murdoch's audacious bid for Time Warner shows, scale matters in the global media market as the likes of Google and Amazon cast an ever longer shadow over the future of television.