Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Termination Day for Netflix

I don't have 'telly'. I have truly cord cut since my aerial was blown over in a storm last winter and watch all content via online apps, either generic to my LG screen, or more usually through a Roku dongle (go and buy one, they rock!).

I have swapped my stupid expensive Skye and Virgin subscriptions for Amazon Prime, Now TV, Netflix and the usual gamut of UK online apps (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5).

Over the past few weeks I've been analysing how I've been using these services.

Now TV accounts for around 70% of viewing time with its extensive range of box sets from Sky in the UK and HBO and ABC amongs many others. This would definitely be my desert island IPTV (or OTT as it now seems to be called) service.

Second is the BBC app, followed by Channel 4 (with a great range of foreign box sets in their 'Walter' series) and then ITV. The expiry of content after a month is a real frustration here since you can often miss the first programme in a season.

Next comes Amazon Prime with some nice series such as Vikings and Turn.

Finally, there's Netflix, which is almost an irrelevance. It has very, very little good, new, original TV box set type content - House of Cards once a year doesn't cut it. The movies are languid. It may be taking over the world, but I reckon we spend less than 1% of our time on Netflix, so it's time to cut another cord and move on...

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

It Was TV

A few years ago I could not figure out how you could turn ITV around, but its management did it by maintaining its ad based model and building an international productions studio. 

It was deft and clever.

However, five years previously my company at the time had developed an online platform for ITV which they eventually dumped and then tried to write their own, and then tried over and over again.

The current iteration, the ITV Hub, is laughable and barely works on most media. It is so bad, I avoid ITV services. ITV are great at content, but dreadful at tech, and this will be their downfall.

After, perhaps, £50 million spent internally over ten years, we could have delivered a much better online presence for, perhaps, £100k. This is how unbalanced this company is.

They are now about to lose viewing at the rate of 10% a quarter to the likes of Netflix and a similar amount in advertising to the likes of YouTube.

ITV has a great production arm and a decent international sales capability and that will be its future.

Except that it will be bought shortly. BT perhaps. Or Discovery, or Comcast.

It is at a rich price and its shareholders will never get a better value.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Why Do We Put Up With Mayfly TV ?

It's a wet bank holiday Sunday and I'm thoroughly enjoying the SWALEC finals on S4C. But, as more and more of the top rugby rights get swallowed up by the pay TV channels, why can't S4C's two channels, or BBC3 or 4 before 7pm be used to show such secondary sports. Or is there scope for a dedicated channel for rugby or for secondary sports ?

Worse than the lack of coverage is the fact that almost no sports is available on demand after it happens (beyond highlights packages). It drives me bonkers in the box set era.

There's nowhere I can pay a quid to watch Saturday's Saracens v Northampton or Munster v Ospreys on a Tuesday evening. The games have been covered and produced at huge cost but then fall into some great dark rights hole, never to be seen again.

The same goes for even Premiership football games. As ephemeral as a mayfly.

Sports in the UK (and in most other markets in the world) needs a Dave TV. Sports rights holders are leaving a significant amount of cash on the table...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Blind Fighting The Blind

And so it came to pass, that the evil giant, Google, brought upon it the wrath of the television industry...

They did this by suggesting that YouTube drives more sales than broadcast TV after commissioning some research (and we all know how accurate research is..)

That's somewhat disingenuous. Of course a medium with a clickable response is theoretically both more measurable and is likely to generate more direct sales response than one which is far more subliminal and subtle (why is it that everyone blindly accepts Google metrics ?).

The old 'I know that fifty per cent of my advertising spend works, I just don't know which fifty per cent' comes to mind. 

Video is emotional, and so is ideal for building brands on broadcast TV. The cluttered, messy environment of Google is not a good place to build brands.

In trying to variously be a user generated video platform and broadcaster, YouTube has taken a decade to find its feet at a massive cost. Netflix has come much further much more quickly by being less arrogant and more focused.

The reality is that YouTube is several businesses rolled into one. It's trying to be a social platform, an online video platform, a broadcaster, a pay per view system and a video advertising platform, plus much else beyond.

It took nearly a decade to move away from an emphasis on point and click short form content and still isn't sure what it's really doing. Except for everything. 

It's not surprising that broadcasters with their tight, well defined decades old business model look on with disdain. YouTube is a cuckoo in the nest.

However, Google is right that YouTube is probably under sampled against traditional TV, especially outside the UK. TV provides very abstracted viewing figures based on very small samples, so it's difficult to gauge real accuracy. Also, engagement with traditional TV seems is likely to be much lower (putting the kettle on, going to the toilet, chatting, as opposed to a personal interaction with a PC or mobile screen).

But the TV companies are also being disingenuous. They have been slow and conservative beyond belief in their approach to an online strategy. The best they have managed is simulcasting and in demand with endless ads. Oh, just like their broadcast properties! You really can't teach an old dog new tricks.

In the meantime a massive gap has appeared between what the traditional broadcast channels are doing and what YouTube is doing. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are exploiting it, and there's room for plenty of others.

In my view the ideal TV business model of the future is in using YouTube and broadcast TV as an audience building platform - the former using a teaser channel and the latter using programme brands, and then running your own show with native ads and sponsored content (you can also throw SATVOD (subscription/advertising/transactional video in demand) into the mix).

Your service needs to be spread across hundreds of platforms and distribution outlets and at the core will be the ability to produce brilliant content. Brilliant content that is eight seconds long, fifteen seconds long, thirty seconds long, two minutes long, thirty minutes long - all at the same time.

If you can do this, my fellow broadcast professional, you will live happily ever after and banish the nightmare of TV commissioners and YouTube profitability alike.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Whole Lotta Rights..

You'd think that a rights dispute over two songs written nearly half a century ago would not be the kind of thing that should perturb rock heroes as they enter their twilight years, but think again.

The latest example to hit the headlines is the dispute between Randy California (of Spirit fame) and the possibly the greatest rock band of all time, Led Zeppelin. And it's not some vague track that's in contention, but the first complicated riff that any aspiring guitar player learns - the opening part from Stairway to Heaven.

A judge in California has ruled that there may have been an infringement (Spirit and Led Zeppelin played twice together before Page & Plant wrote the anthem).

You can judge for your self with this excellent analysis by :

You can really hear the similarity, but, boy, you can go through the history of music and find example after example. There was the recent ballyhoo about Adele 'borrowing' Hello from Lionel Ritchie, and even the famous Kansas/Journey and George Harrison/Chiffons spats go all the way back. There's even a website dedicated to plagiarism (sorry, alleged plagiarism mashups):

And this is even without looking at how sampling has worked its way into modern music.

But the real issue here is that music rights are in danger of ending up in the same place as patent rights, where interpretations, especially in the US, have been far too wide and given rise to a whole industry of patent infringement trolls who make the lawyers featured in Better Call Saul seem nice and sensible.

Ironically, artists and songwriters seem reluctant to sue each other, perhaps realising that there's only so much originality that you can get from 12 notes. But, where there's a right, there's a claim and as artists from the golden age of rock come to pass, there are plenty of relatives, estate managers and attorneys who are more than willing to turn over old rocks (so to speak) and dig for gold.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Right Word

One of the challenges of working with any kind of intellectual property is that one man's film is another man's movie. But, what's in a word?

Well quite a bit. Possibly as much as a few billion dollars to owners of intellectual properties, so please bear with me on this.

Using different terminologies makes it difficult to equate two properties or rights. Indeed, they may have different meanings, especially when moving between jurisdictions. And as difficult as they are for humans to codify, it becomes an even greater issue when you ask computers to deal with the tautology.

This is one of the major reasons why it has taken so long to introduce efficient marketplaces for rights, in our view. But for the past three years at Rights Tracker we've had a project aimed at tackling this.

You can break the issues down into two: let's call them IP Types and Metadata.

Very often a property is made up of a collection of rights and assets and these can be arranged in a hierarchy - this is what we call IP Types.

For example, you may have a Brand such as Harry Potter, this then has Books, the Books have Versions (e.g. for different languages). In turn these IP Types can have Assets such as Chapters, Illustrations and Photographs.

Then consider a TV programme where you may have Title, Versions, Series, Episode, with the Episode made up of multiple Video, Image, Music and Document assets.

We're currently building a rights management system for a major pharma company, and here the IP Types are even more extensive with IP Types such as Graphs.

Code snippets, electronic components, drug ingredients are all potential IP Types.

Now you can start to realize the implications of IP Type management, which us why we have spent so much time, effort and brain power addressing this area.

Our resulting project to manage and codify this has resulted in the following developments.

First of all, we create an IP Type and this has fixed or variable Properties. Then, you can Label this (film or movie, for example) and place it in a Hierarchy, defining its Relationships with other IP Types.

Another dimension to this is that every IP Type has its own metadata, and there is very little standardization of this even within industries, although the rise of XML has seen this situation improve.

Our approach is to enable standardized metadata schema to be used, using a minimum data set, e.g. Movie Title, Movie Description, Movie Issue Date, Tags and then to make this extensible.

This keeps the data portable and interchangeable.

We've now introduced the above concepts to our rights and asset management platform, Assetry. This means that we can not only enable any specific IP Type model, but can also make this interchangeable and matchable between organizations. This in turn has the huge benefit of enabling us to not only help our customers to deliver content more effectively, as we do for the Press Association and their daily news video feeds, for example, but also to enable trading in these properties in real time.

This may all sound esoteric, but we believe that the results will facilitate new money making and money saving opportunities to anyone involved in managing intellectual property.

Get in touch with us if you'd like to hear more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Rise And Rise Of Online Video Advertising

The UK government doesn't seem to be doing well in getting tax revenue from the likes of Google and Facebook, but British broadcasters are doing much better according to figures revealed today.

Facebook was the fastest growing television advertiser last year. 

Indeed, the whole industry is doing well with revenues up 7.4% to £5.27billion. But if you consider that Google generated over $6 billion in the UK in the same period you can see why newspapers are struggling so badly.

At the same time, online video is the only category of advertising which is more expensive than the traditional form of the publicity. If you compare TVRs for traditional TV advertising with CPIs for online video, the revenues are more than comparable. The only issue is achieving the volume whilst not alienating viewers. 

The trouble is that many top online services such as Netflix are ad free, and the endless ads in services such as ITV Hub seem a lot more if an imposition inline than they do in traditional media. Add the fact that you cannot ad skip and you can see why viewers may prefer ad free services - ITV has made this an option in its portal.

According to industry sources, the UK is seeing more budget dedicated to online advertising, and online video advertising in particular, than any other ad market.

So, if you want to launch an ad supported online service, video is the way to go...