Pubcasting

Time to re-learn some French. Ina, the French Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, is following the lead of the Beeb and opening up their archives. You’ll find about 10.000 hours of programming, either for free or some rather modest fees in the 1 EUR range (so the French are topping the Brits here on a massive scale).

What’s happening here is the re-definition of pubcasting. Way back, they started with black and white transmissions to funny looking wooden tv furniture. Now they’re reinventing themselves into public service content and asset players.

Still missing in this game are unfortunately the players with the deepest pockets. ARD and ZDF, the German pubcasters, prefer to sponsor digital terrestrial TV. Pubcasting on VHF and UHF? That’s the future (of 1963).

Via Gugelproductions

Mobile video: yes. Mobile TV: hmm?

Cellphone companies like Sprint, Verizon Wireless ad Vodafone, have been aggressively promoting mobile video services, which cost an average of $10.70 a month for access to sports, news and weather clips. More than a quarter of cellphones now in use can play such videos. But only 1 percent of wireless subscribers are using their phones to watch them, according to a recent survey by the NPD Group, a market research firm.

The good news is: No problem, probably about the same amount of people talk on a regular basis to their tv sets. Which might not qualify as making a phone call. But watching a sports event on matchbox sized screen ain’t television either …

No, really: broadcasting to handsets via mobile phone networks is a weird idea anyway. It’s either a failure – or punished with network congestion. Mobile broadcasting via DVB-H or DMB makes at least some technological sense. But building the infrastructure is scariliy expensive.

Mobile media is personal media: portable radios are on the shelves since more than 40 years. But Walkmen and iPod are dominating the streets for a reason, not dirt cheap FM receivers. Data storage is getting less and less expensive. And that at much quicker pace than bandwith pricing. So yes, mobile video is a runner. But mobile tv – a bummer.

Via NY Times

Is IPTV TV or … ?

Is IPTV real TV or something else? If you think, that’s a highly hypothetical question, you’re not following in the recent dealings and wheelings of Deutsche Telekom and DFL, the German Soccer League.

The dry facts. DFL sold the Pay TV and Free TV rights to the German Soccer League for a whopping 220 Million Euros per season to Arena, a subsidiary of a larger German MSO. Pay TV provider Premiere, for the last umpteenth years the single source of major league live soccer, got snubbed (and a decent rubbing on the stock market).

Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom got an other asset from DFL. The Internet rights. So far, so good. But now it seems, DFL oversold a bit. Arena is claiming to have some IPTV rights, too – as long as they just stream their productions. And at the same time, Deutsche Telekom seems to have some plans with Premiere. Which, depending on the exegesis of the contracts, might reach pretty far. Just imagine something like an encrypted IP datastream, broadcasted via satellite to a tv settop box.
Seems like, DFL underestimated the power of the IP protocol. Obviously, DT wasn’t interested in paying 45 Million Euros for some PC based geek TV. What they’re already selling is a 49 Euro settop box for bringing IP-based VoD movies onto your tv set. The next step (coming this fall and this soccer season) is some real IPTV, based upon Microsoft’s tv foundation. Essentially, it’s a virtual overbuild (if you’re a cable MSO). Essentially, its tv++ (if you’re interested in the tv dimension of the technology). Essentially, it’s a heavyweight’s muscle play. In Europe, for defending the voice and high speed data access market. (For US carriers, it’s about securing voice and gaining on data.)

For rights holders, this means interesting times. Because new money is flooding into the market. But be aware. First thing: For the telco giants, premium content is merely a marketing expense, not a crucial business affair. A couple of years ago, the music industry saw mobile operators as the digital white knight. Until they realized something quite frightening: the EBITDA of a carrier like Vodafone equals the annual turnover of the wole global music industry. Ooops.
And as the DFL example shows: going digital means, that your traditional licensing models are going down the drain. Selling tv and online rights doesn’t make any sense anymore, if your tv has online access. We’ll have to find different ways to differentiate. Screen resolution might be a way to go here.

Via FTD Bundesliga schürt Ärger der Telekom

Desperate Hollywood Producers?

Dick Wolf, tv top producer of Law & Order fame, dishes it out in Variety. His subject: new delivery forms – and how to make money in a world which has gotten rid of the broadcast model of selling 30 seconds of air to advertisers.

I’m not sure if downloads are the worst thing that’s happened to content suppliers or the best thing, but you can do the math. Let’s say five years from now the ‘Desperate Housewives’ of 2010 gets downloaded a million times per episode. (At $1.99 a download), that’s a gross of $44 million per season. On the current two-thirds split, that’s $30 million for ABC for 22 episodes. That doesn’t include profit participants or the studio, of course, so let’s say ($30 million) is cut 50-50 with the studio and everybody else. To the network, that’s a grand total of $15 million — and 22 episodes of a hit like that are worth a lot more than that.

I’m not sure if he’s aware of the fact how utterly misleading this calculation is.

In 2010 PVRs and the networked home will have dented the traditional revenue model of the ad based network tv. But it will be strong enough to pay his bills for the next, uhm, decades. Why?
Changes in usage patterns take their time. It took multichannel cable twenty years to overtake the networks in cumulated prime time viewer numbers. But the media buyers still spend most of their ad dollars on network tv. Because their behavioural changes take even longer.
Even if everybody would switch to IPTV. What would be the difference? The cable guys would be out of business. And the telcos would deliver traditional tv channels into the homes. Because that’s what the consumers know, want – and mostly will get.

But where he really get’s it wrong is the model. If pay per downloads would really substitute broadcasting, one million downloads per show would be fairly meager. At least for the US market. Yes, audience size does matter. That’s why the production cost of a whole run of Desperate Housewifes can be somewhat on the same level as the GNP of a minor league country. If the Housewifes or Law & Order would deliver just those eyeballs, the show wouldn’t be worth a lot more than that but would have been canceled after airing the pilot.

More important: can $1.99 downloads substitute broadcast tv? Only if you’re a Hollywood producer. Or could you imagine every tv household shelling out $200 a month at least just for watching tv content (and that number’s not even based upon the real tv usage hours)? So even in a virtually broadcast-free world, we’ll have to look for ad support. Otherwise, people will have to find themselves some new (and cheap) hobbies pretty soon.

And finally: what content are people paying for? Usually, it’s brand names. Nowadays, it’s celebrity artists. Or physical goods like CDs and DVDs. Or premium channels. In an on demand future, brand name shows like the Housewifes or Law & Order might be in a good position to make some money on the side, too. Depends on your contract with the network. You get a little bit less from the network, and make your money with syndication and overseas rights. Wolf should be used to that.

Via Reinvent TV