Sunday, January 10, 2016

Question Your TV Service

I used to have Sky at my homes  in London and Wales and it cost me £1,600 pa with BBC licences. I reckon I used to spend another £1000 a year on CDs and DVDs. That's £4k you need to earn as a taxpayer to pay for your entertainment. And that's before the additional £1000 for telephone, mobile and broadband services.

Now I pay £7 for Netflix every month, £7 for Now TV/Sky and £6 for Amazon Prime as well as £12 for a BBC licence. Spotify is £10, which does feel a bit steep.

So, £50 all in seems OK, with some PPV payments for sports and the £1k for telephone, mobile and broadband.

If you are a Sky or Virgin customer you really should do the sums. These are horribly expensive services.

You can now even buy Freeview boxes and TVs that will give you most of the regular channels absolutely free, with recording and catch up, although setting up an arial is likely to cost you.

So, the obvious services are probably not the way to go unless you are very wealthy. I suspect you can do the same in Europe, Australia or the US.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

The End Of Rights

As we move into 2016 it's time to reflect. We've invested heavily in rights -TV Everywhere is the majority shareholder in leading rights management platform, Rights Tracker. We've also spent the past two years working with the RT team to develop a combined assets and rights management platform called Assetry.

Over the past century rights have become increasingly complex. A TV production will have rights in, which involve royalty and other payments to contributors ranging from musicians to financiers, and rights out, which are the rights for sale not just of the program or series, but also of the format and licensing rights.

At the same time, organizations such as broadcasters have gone from dealing with the acquisition of rights on a single linear channel to managing a multitude of services across many platforms and devices.

A spreadsheet can't cope any more, hence our very sophisticated software.

But the wind seems to be blowing in the opposite direction. Netflix is clearly buying global rights, otherwise it could not operate in over 150 countries. So will this become the norm ?

EU regulations are soon likely to prescribe all rights bought by consumers to be portable all over the continent. But rights holders will find other ways to slice and dice, I suspect. By creating language rights, for example. 

But still, is our investment going to be in vain ? I think not.

There will be more and more blanket rights agreements, but there are also more and more rights opportunities.

These range from extending rights, for example, turning a programme into a brand as Shine has done with Masterchef, or Astley Baker Davies' Peppa Pig, or by segmenting international markets for Scandie Noir or Downton Abbey.

As content and assets become virtualised rights become more important. And this now affects everyone from musicians to corporates. We're now working for broadcasters, ad agencies and even pharma companies as well as many if the UK's top TV producers and distribtors. And the opportunities beyond this to play matchmaker and create efficient marketplaces for brands, assets and content are manifold.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 IPies

We are resurecting the annual awards of old. This year we are once more awarding IPies for those that have stood out in the field of IPTV in 2015.

Global Domination Award - goes to Netflix, who have used rights over very mediocre content to build the world's first truly global broadcast network and make themselves pretty much unassailable in the process. The only problem is that they're becoming too expensive to acquire.

Disinterface Of The Year - goes to BT, the UK broadcaster whose UIs are laughable, and they refuse to sack the clowns responsible and hand the task to someone who jnows what they are doing. Special Mention to S4C, where the main interface of their app shows no interface to anything more than a few shows.

The Aaaaarghhh! Award - goes to ITV for its frustrating sevices. You can reskin and rebrand, but the endless ads and poor technical implementation detract from the service to the point of abandonment.

The Disingenuous Award - goes to Comcast, who should be dominating world media, but who are instead doubling down on old business models and seriously pissing off their customers, who would switch to Google in a second...

Desperate Posting Award - goes to DaCast for their endless emails on how to optimise bluescreen live webcasting and the like. Actually, they are agressive and still surviving when I predicted that YouTube would have killed them off years ago. Power to you dudes..

The Infinity Award - goes to Apple, for never getting close with their TV aspirations.

The Technology Of The Year - well, it has to be the venerable MP4 wrapper. FLV has died a death of a thousand cuts and MPEG dash is still not established. WebM and Ogg are also rans...

The Peak Award - is given to services that were once dominant, but which have now had their day. The rise of Facebook has resulted in the errosion of YouTube's business plan, so the Google owned company is the recipient of this year's award.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Spot Selling

There is nothing more ridiculous in modern media than musicians' beef with Spotify.

Spotify pays them more than radio, per listener, and significantly more than YouTube does per viewer.

Indeed, the music industry must be the only industry where you give away more than your product to sell your main product. The pop promo or music video contains the soundtrack plus some expensive visuals, but the soundtrack has no visuals. But musicians do not seem to see this as contradictory.

The music industry is following the lead of the TV industry in needing active management of distribution across release windows, platforms and territories.

But this is more of an art than a skill and the result can mean millions of pounds lost or gained, or even whole careers.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

If You Work In TV, Then Let's Get The Hell Out Of Europe

If you needed any more reasons why the UK should quit the failed European merger experiment, then they are about to give it to you if you work in the European TV industry.

New proposals that are to be tabled by the EC today will aim to enable consumers to 'carry' their content wherever they are in Europe. Now, considering that it is still illegal to rip your music CDs for digital listening, this is quite a leap and is as badly thought out as the riddiculous cookie warnings that litter European websites to no effect.

The unit ntended consequence here will be to play straight into the hands of US Bug Internet companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Sky and Apple, who will now be able to buy content cheaper under a blanket agreement whilst European programme makers and broadcasters will suffer with lower revenues and an inability to compete. Essentially, in trying to offer consumer rights, the EU is tearing down the industry in Europe and handing it to the US.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Securing You Video Service

As telco giant TalkTalk in the UK becomes the latest corporation to suffer from cy ber attacks, I thought it might be useful to share some of the strategies we've used at TV Everywhere to deal with such attacks in the past on our video services.

We've experienced attacks on client systems ranging from political parties to the Red Cross down the years, so have developed a range of strategies for managing such attacks. First of all, let's presume that you've followed best practice in developing your systems, such as the guidelines found at, here are some further tips:

1) If you are able, don't make yourself a target. In other words, try and be nice. Unfortunately, as our Red Cross experience shows, this doesn't deter some of the people out there any more than being a child doesn't protect you from a mugger. There are just bad people in this world... Still, not writing about security as I'm foolishly doing here, or making any claims about the robustness of your systems
2) Monitor - make sure that you have monitoring in place so that you, not your users, are the first to detect an attack. And have a plan to make sure you know who does what in the case of an attack. There are tools that can even help you automate your response - most attacks start big and degrade, so your immediate response is crucial.

2) Control your DNS - your domain management should be separate from your hosting, otherwise you will have no control over your URL if your hosting company or cloud goes down. If you have control, you can repoint the service to a separate network or at least put up a holding page for your users as you put out the fires.

3) In most cases the first front of attack will be a distributed denial of service assault, which is the equivalent of a burglar using a tank to try and get into your house. Once all the walls are down there is little protection. The best way to ameliorate this is to have a large scale Content Delivery Network in place. The CDN can then scale the availability of your website whilst blacklisting the sources of the DDoS.

4) Ensure that you have redundancy. Using either a separate network or cloud hosting, make sure you have somewhere to redirect your traffic if necessary. We have also used degradable services, which mean, for example, that the video stream plays through a flat web page without all the heavy server calls,  JS and HTML that are usually deployed in video interfaces these days. You can also try redirects to apps, which are unlikely to be attacked. Of course, if you don't use a CDN and host your own video, you're in trouble.

5) Get sophisticated, which can use configuring your network to use sacrificial servers where you redirect the attack and bring it down whilst deploying your white hat team to track down the hackers and turn them over to the authorities.

Provided they're not the authorities of course....

Bye bye Sky

I have officially become a cord cutter.

Yeserday saw the termination of all Sky TV services beyond what Freesat offers. So, in a year I have gone from two Sky Sports subscriptions to none. I do not know if this is significant, but anecdotally I have spoken to a number of friends who have taken the same course of action.

When the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix cost under a tenner a month, justifying forty quid for a few football or rugby games just doesn't cut it. Especially when they can be watched down the local pub.

For me, it was the rugby. The only rights found on Sky now are some Pro12, some European Championship and French Super 14 games. I can find alternatives for all of them on BBC, S4C or BT Sport. So, paying a massive tax which goes almost directly into the pockets of Premiership footballers and the Murdoch family becomes really galling.

Along with cutting out other packages, the result was a drop in our Sky bill from £102 to £33. We got most of the packages back by paying £7 a month for Now TV to add to our Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions. 

We also have a couple of Roku dongles and a Smart TV so everything is available on demand on these and our iPads.

Selecting a dongle (or stick) wasn't easy. In the US Roku carries all three on demand services mentioned above. Unfortunately, in the UK Amazon Prime is missing, allegedly due to the investment made by Sky in Roku (whose box is used as a basis for their Now TV box).

As far as I can tell, at the time of writing, the only way to get all the main on demand channels (BBC, ITV, 4, 5) plus the three on demand channels is to buy a Samsung Smart TV. I made the mistake a year ago if buying an LG set, which for some infathomable reason still doesn't have All 4 and ITV Player apps, and before you buy a Chromecast dongle, this suffers from the same shortcoming with a serious lack of services, as does its Amazon Fire TV rival.

So, you must excuse me now. I have a box set or two to watch....

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Netflix Has A Problem

Yes, Netflix has a problem.

It is not acquiring viewers as quickly as it promised shareholders and seems to be suffering from increasing churn, or customers leaving.

The company puts this down to the introduction of chip and pin to the US where credit cards are not automatically renewing.

I think this is a bit of a red herring which hides Netflix' underlying problem.

Once you've watched the 70% of original content, the 30% of box sets and the 2% of movies that are any good on the service, there's nowhere to go.

With more and more viewers watching 'box sets' voraciously, you can work your way through an original series in a weekend, and beyond TV drama and movies, the content pickings are thin to say the least.

Netflix needs to up its acquisition strategy because the competition is coming to get it, with more and more SVOD services being launched every month. HBO Go, especially, contains a lot of must-see TV (or Sky Go/Now TV who have the rights in the UK).

To date, Netflix has played a clever game of balancing the acquisition of C and D level movies with good original programming that it can exploit over the long term. It's clever because it builds a balance sheet rather than creating a P&L black hole.

But Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards are, arguably,  not must see TV in the way Game Of Thrones, Mad Men or even NCIS are (Netflix themselves have admitted the popularity of awful The Blacklist and the naval cop series over their own programming).

Quite simply, Netflix has to find some big new original hits and needs to buy, buy, buy if it is to maintain its market position.