Multichannel News

TV Not Just A 'Spectator' Sport For Multicultural Viewers

There’s no doubt that technology has forever altered how viewers consume and watch video content. While most viewers still turn to the boob tube to watch their favorite shows, viewing on other platforms such as the PC, video games and mobile devices continue to increase, thereby shrinking the percentage of traditional TV viewers.

Only 28% of respondents to the Horowitz Associates 2014 State of Cable and Digital Media study of traditional and new media/OTT habits claimed to watch 95% of their TV live, while just another 23% of TV viewers are “spectators” -- lean-back TV viewers who watch appointment TV 85% of the time. That leaves nearly half of the remaining video viewing audience heavily using multi-platform services to watching their favorite TV shows.

In the study, that audience ranges from “traditional curators” (17%) who watch 40% of their TV content through DVR and VOD services, to “Modern Multichannel Families” (15%) who utilized DVRs and on demand programming more than half the time, to “Modern Streaming Families” (9%) who stream their video content from OTT services like Netflix and Hulu – or through other Internet sites -- 44% of the time. The last segment is “Untethered Curators,” (8%) who stream video content 80% of the time. For distributors and network executives trying to best serve viewers on various platforms, the demographic makeup of these segments are just as important as how they’re consuming video.

According to the study, the “Modern Multichannel Families” and the “Modern Streaming Families” are the most ethnically and racially diverse of all the segments, with the "Multichannel Families" over-indexing on African Americans, and "Streaming Families" over-indexing on Hispanics and Asians compared to the total population. The big takeaway is these segments are also among the youngest-skewing because they include the children of today’s cable customers who, the cable industry hopes, will eventually grow up to be tomorrow’s multichannel subscribers -- or at the very least broadband only subscribers.

TiVo In Europe: 2.5 Million Served

TiVo has surpassed 2.5 million subscribers in Europe, thanks in large part to rollouts by Virgin Media in the UK, Com Hem in Sweden, and Ono in Spain.

Broken down further, TiVo said its now covers nearly half of all subscribers at Virgin Media, which is now part of Liberty Global, and a third of ONO subscribers. While that number provides another indicator that TiVo’s seeing solid momentum across the pond with tier one multiple service operators (MSOs), it also spotlights the challenges it continues to face in the US, where it’s primarily working with tier 2/3 cable operators.

TiVo ended its fiscal fourth quarter with 4.2 million total subscribers after adding a record 313,000 subs via pay-TV partnerships during the period. TiVo’s last reported grand total comprised 966,000 TiVo-owned subs and 3.2 million coming from partners. Given the subscriber numbers, that means fewer than 700,000 TiVo subs are coming way of partnerships with US-based cable operators such as Suddenlink Communications, Mediacom Communications, and Atlantic Broadband, among others. TiVo also sells service in Canada, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, and Taiwan.

Survey Highlights Cable’s Big ‘Small Cell’ Opportunity

Cable operators are well positioned to produce a new revenue stream through partnerships that support the rollout of small cell networks designed to beef up the capacity of mobile networks in concentrated, high-traffic areas, a recent Amdocs/Real Wireless survey shows.

According to a survey of the survey of 40 national and large cable operators and mobile network operators (MNOs) in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific, about 70% of the MNOs are prepared to use small cell networks rolled out by or owned by a third party, such as a cable operator. Of the mobile network operators surveyed, about 70% expect to have “significant” small cell deployments underway by 2018, though many predict a slow rollout due to several technical and operational challenges. MNOs surveyed identified several challenges that could hinder the speed of small cell rollouts, including project management (65%), negotiation with partners (45%), and “various technical aspects” (40%).

The survey also showed that 85% respondents viewed automation as critical or important for small cell deployment, and 80% said their existing processes and tools are inadequate. Multiple service operators, Amdocs and Real Wireless said, are “well placed” to overcome several challenges faced by MNOs as they pursue small cell strategies, citing cable’s expertise in the installation and maintenance of dense networks in the field. About 40% of the MSOs surveyed have plans to support small cell deployments.

Rep Walden: FCC's Wheeler Is Putting JSA Cart Before Quaddrenial Horse

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) will use his opening statement at the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) hearing on March 12 to defend two proposals that are drawing criticism from Democrats -- getting rid of the prohibition on integrated set-tops and preventing the Federal Communications Commission from making TV joint sales agreement's attributable under ownership regulations unless that is part of an item resolving the 2010 quadrennial media ownership review to Congress that is, as its name suggests, long overdue.

Rep Eshoo Has Issues with STELA Draft

If the ranking member is any indication, the Democrats on the House Communications Subcommittee have a bone or two to pick with the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) draft.

In her opening statement for the March 12 hearing on reauthorizing the Act, Rep Anna Eshoo (D-CA) said that she had been working with Republican Steve Scalise (R-LA) on video reform legislation in a bipartisan manner, but she could not say the same for the STELA draft.

"Unfortunately, several of the provisions in this discussion draft do not embody the bipartisan values that have been the cornerstone of previous reauthorizations," she said. In particular, she pointed to the draft's elimination of the FCC's ban on integrated set-tops. "We need to be forward-thinking in our approach to legislating, but this bill dismantles a provision that has helped to ensure that consumers can buy cable set-top boxes from someone other than their local cable company, without any eye to the future," she said.

Tennis Channel Asks FCC to Review Carriage Call

Having exhausted its court appeal options, the Tennis Channel wants the Federal Communications Commission to take another crack at justifying its decision that Comcast discriminated against Tennis Channel in favor of its own, co-owned sports networks Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network.

The FCC upheld Tennis Channel's program carriage complaint, but the DC Federal Appeals court vacated that decision, saying the facts did not support discrimination, and the Supreme Court declined to review that lower court ruling.
“[E]ven under the Commission’s interpretation of § 616 (the correctness of which we assume for purposes of this decision), the Commission has failed to identify adequate evidence of unlawful discrimination," the court concluded, which would seem to be definitive. But Tennis has petitioned the FCC asking it to test Comcast's actions against three "tests" the court suggested "may" establish that Comcast discriminated.

[March 11]

Will Comcast Go You-Tubing?

In case you missed the scuttlebutt, Comcast is reportedly working on an online video service that will compete with YouTube and offer access to gobs of video goodness on the usual suspects (tablets, smartphones, PCs) as well as the set-top box.

How far along that project is and precisely how it will match up with YouTube isn’t known yet, but a person familiar with the idea said Comcast is indeed interested in developing a YouTube-like service, but also confided that the company is not all that close to pulling the trigger on a test. But it’s clear that Comcast has started to build up a stock of YouTube’ish content along with the technical means to deliver niche online video “channels” and a cloud-based video pipeline and architecture that could support storage and playback to myriad platforms.

[March 11]

Comcast Lights ‘Energy Rewards’ Pilot In Pennsylvania

The cable bundle is about to get bigger…and maybe a bit more electrifying. After hints of a cable-energy partnership bubbled up in January, Comcast and a unit of NRG Energy have lit up a pilot that offers a variety of perks and rewards, including prepaid Visa cards and three free months of HBO, Showtime or Starz, to Comcast subs in Pennsylvania who enroll in of two new energy programs. The test program, called Energy Rewards, teams Independence Energy Group (IEG), a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, with Comcast. SNL Kagan analyst Deborah Yao first spotted the Energy Rewards Web site. A Comcast spokesman confirmed that the trial got underway. The perk-filled Energy Rewards program, offered only to Comcast subscribers in Pennsylvania, currently offers two energy plans: a six-month, variable “Guaranteed Savings” plan that offers a 10% savings off the utility’s price, and a fixed plan that locks in a price for 12-month period. There are no cancellation fees, according to the Energy Rewards FAQ. The local utility will continue to bill those customers for electricity, but Energy Rewards members are also in line to obtain several special offers, including a $25 Visa Prepaid Card for enrolling in the program, and a three month “extended freeview” of HBO, Showtime or Starz. [March 11]

TiVo to Congress: Leave Integrated Set-Top Ban Alone

Saying the National Cable & Telecommunications Association is trying to "freeze out" retail competition, TiVo SVP Matthew Zinn plans to tell Congress that it should not allow a provision in the STELA bill that would "undermine the retail market for set top boxes and deprive consumers of choice." It says the provision has no place in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act. That is according to Zinn's written testimony for a March 12 hearing in the House communications Subcommittee on a draft of the bill that includes eliminating the FCC ban on integrated set-top boxes. Zinn said that while he would ordinarily not be opining on a satellite bill, he was weighing in because of a "completely unrelated provision that was slipped in to the STELA reauthorization legislation pushed by a cable lobbying group to eliminate choice in how consumers watch cable programming." Tivo is concerned that removing the CableCard mandate would disadvantage TiVo's Roamio retail set-top. "The provision inserted into STELA would repeal the requirement that cable operators use the same security standard in their boxes as they make available for retail boxes and allow operators to lock out competitive devices, by offering superior access to programming and functions to their own devices, and inferior and faulty access to competitive devices -- as they did before the 'integration ban' became effective." [March 11]

Comcast Business Takes Ethernet To School

Comcast Business announced that Springfield Public Schools in Union County (NJ), has selected the unit’s Ethernet service to support a tech learning environment for more than 2,400 students across the district’s five schools.

In addition to providing the Internet bandwidth (from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps) needed by the thousands of laptops and other mobile devices that access the school district’s network, Comcast Business will also provide a connection between Springfield Public Schools and its primary data center for the secure transfer of all critical administrative and educational data.

Springfield Public Schools is a five-school district that includes one early childhood learning center, two elementary schools, a middle school and one high school. The district offers a “1:1 learning environment” whereby it provides laptops for students in grades 6-12 as well as for all faculty and administrators. The Pre K-5 classrooms have a minimum of four laptops and tablets per classroom. Ethernet services are one of Comcast's growth engines. Overall, Comcast business service revenues grew to $876 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, up from $699 million in the year-ago quarter, and $3.24 billion for all of 2013, compared to $2.56 billion in 2012. About 20% of revenues in the category come from mid-sized businesses served by the multiple service operator's Metro Ethernet platform.

[March 11]