Monday, June 20, 2016

Safe Haven In Any Storm

In 2009 Capitol Records sued Vimeo over copyright infringement, and in yet another example of how slowly the legal process moves, the case was last week dismissed in Vimeo's favour, citing the DMCA again, but seemingly broadening its interpretation in favour of service providers.

Essentially the ruling upholds the key tenet of the Act, that unknowingly hosting content without the necessary rights clearances is not illegal, provided the hosting company then takes down the infringing media. But in this instance it was ruled that the law was on Vimeo's side even though some of its staff were aware of the infringements and may have even posted them themselves. The rationale, seemingly is that these were a tiny part of the service's overall content.

There are a number of troubling elements to this judgement, perhaps the most important being how modern publishers such as Google, Apple and Vimeo obfuscate their roles as publishers and circumvent regulatory scrutiny as a result. Imagine if CBS had broadcast a show to which it had no rights and then argued that it was sorry and anyway, it was inly a small part of its output.

Ironically, this is a similar argument to Uber not employing its drivers and Air BnB not being a hotel company.

The DCMA has been essential in enabling the internet to flourish, but it should protect genuine arm's length businesses such as ISPs not companies that compete directly with broadcasters and publishers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Why The UK Government Is Letting Technology Down

Silicon Valley went from being a place where you grew citrus fruits to a place where you grew the world's largest companies due to a single factor. US Government defence spending.

Governments should both invest in and be patrons of innovation. Such thinking has given us Concorde, CERN and Space Stations.

It shouldn't give us HS2, black cabs and a new bypass for Newport. It should give us hyperloops, driverless cars and ultra fast broadband for everyone.

Government should aspire to champion, promote and implement technology, like it implemented the NHS.

There should be a Department for Technology which could point out that billion pound aircraft carriers could pay for a million drones, that a guy with a gun is more ineffective than a guy with a computer. It should champion home grown tech companies who can take on the world, not sell out to Big Internet at the first sniff of success. It should reform the health industry using software management and innovative hardware.

Where is the technology Aneurin Bevan or the British Al Gore ?

The EU has become a proxy for all the things a government doesn't want to risk, a convenient excuse. A cop out, if you like.

Let's get out of the EU and challenge our government to use and support technology to build and create wealth for us all.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Microsoft Makes Its Move

Microsoft's $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn aptly reveals the strategy of CEO Satya Nadella for the software titan.

The focus is on business and enterprise. There is no longer much value to the operating system business where the company famously made its fortune and built its reputation - Google and open source developers give that away for free, and Microsoft has been forced to follow suite with Windows 10. But there is hug value in Microsoft's Office business, and it has quietly been acquiring apps such as Sunrise and Wunderlist which comoete with features in its outdated Outlook platform.

Indeed, I use LinkedIn for contacts, Wunderlist for Tasks and have pretty much given up on ever getting a decent calendar app that I can access on all my devices.

So, Microsoft is doubling up cleverly and is seeking to become the cloud enablers for comoanies big and small. You also have to factor in some of LinkedIn's acquisitions such as Slideshow, Pulse and

Execution will be tough - Nadella is trying not only trying to turn around a supertanker, he's trying go turn it into a fleet of speedboats. We deal a lot with Microsoft at TV Everywhere (our main platforms are largely hosted on Azure) and it's clear that the will is there and, in my opinion, they are a far better bet for business than Amazon or Google and their megalomania.

But there remain gaps in the Microsoft strategy, especially around video, and units such as MSN and X-Bix may be wondering what future there is for them in this brave new world (oh to roll those divisions up with Yahoo! Into a new super publisher...).

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.