Roku’s next steps: Hulu, then Yahoo TV Widgets

February 12, 2009

If you read this blog often, you know I’ve been road-testing a lot of set top boxes for the past two years. I do this because I cover video, but also because it’s a disruptive moment in the history of the video and if there’s lessons to be learned about disruptive innovation, this market provides ample opportunity to be tutored. (All props to Clay Christensen at HBS, by the way, for defining the way we all look at disruptive innovation. That’s worthy of a separate post at a later date.)

After spending significant time with the Roku box during some recent sick days, I have concluded that the Roku is still the box that delivers the most punch, especially considering its price. That’s why the Roku box won our Convenience Quotient analysis on set tops last summer and it’s only getting better as the Roku team adds more content. 

The Roku is the only box that I want more than one of — one for the living room and one for the family room.

But it still has a long row to hoe if it’s going to end up in a million homes. In particular, I see a threat in the form of connected TVs. I’m writing a piece for Forrester on that topic right now, should be out in a few weeks, but the conclusion is pretty optimistic: thanks to supply-side energy, the Yahoo TV Widget space is making it likely that connected TVs will be in more than a million homes by year-end, possibly two million.  

So here’s my prescription for Roku to stay in this game. I haven’t discussed these things with the team there, but I’ll make them a matter of public record so that if I’m right or wrong, at least I’ve been bold.

1 – Get going on Hulu. This might mean starting with CBS (which is dramatically more open to radical syndication moves, as evidenced by the YouTube relationship) or Viacom, as a way to show Hulu that this is the way things are moving. The sooner ad-supported TV shows up on Roku, the sooner it’s a must-have $99 box for everyone.

2 – Become the first set-top box to implement Yahoo TV Widgets. I cannot get this widgets solution out of my mind. It’s such an elegant way to open the market to innovation and I like innovation. From what I’ve learned from the people in charge of the Yahoo TV Widgets strategy, the code to accomodate the widgets should be relatively simple to put on the moderately powered Roku box. But the beauty of having widgets on the Roku box is it would immediately relieve Roku of needing to strike separate content deals with every possible content provider. Instead, it can just let content providers develop whatever they want for the platform, making the box more valuable with each passing day. 

The fact is, every box, DVD player, TV, and game system (Wii Widgets?) will eventually implement Yahoo TV Widgets. (I know that’s music to Yahoo’s ears, but when you do the right thing strategically, it tends to work.) So Roku better hurry. 

Last thought: once these steps have been conquered, it’s time to start courting HBO and other pay TV providers to discuss delivering subscription-based content to the Roku. Not something HBO wants to do (not something Comcast wants it to do), but it’s where things are heading. And as long as HBO is priced higher on the Roku than it would be through Comcast, which is certainly what HBO would have to do, it might be feasible by 2010. 

What do you think?


Convenience is the key to technology success – free Webinar

February 4, 2009

I want to share with you the link to my recent Forrester Research Webinar called Why Convenience is  King. This free webinar is usually the kind of thing we reserve for clients only, but it’s a big idea and we’re eager to share it with the world. It includes a very detailed description of our Convenience Quotient methodology, something that is getting great traction among our clients and will form the backbone of much of our research for the next few years — starting with media devices since that’s what I cover, as well as other consumer technologies. Yet many of my colleagues in financial services, retail, automotive, and even healthcare are working to apply the method to their own research areas. Should create a very fertile field of research. To stay on top of it, click through to the free replay of the Webinar.

Why Convenience Is King – creating winning product strategies

On demand Forrester Webinar available. Original air date: Jan 29, 2009.

To successfully launch or revamp products or services, you must keep convenience high. Achieving high levels of convenience requires offering compelling benefits while reducing barriers to consumer use. Principal Analyst James McQuivey explains how to identify the specific improvements required to increase the benefits or decrease the barriers that stand in the way of consumers. James covers:

  • Why Convenience is King
  • How the Convenience Quotient can guide your strategy
  • What Forrester can do to increase your CQ

Click here to play now. 


Free Convenience is King Webinar, Thursday Jan 29

January 28, 2009

Just a note to let you know that I’ll be hosting a free webinar tomorrow about our new Convenience Quotient methodology. I’ve written about it before on this blog as it formed the central theme of my speech to Forrester’s Consumer Forum audience last October. Since that time we’ve completed two new Convenience Quotient reports (one for mobile Internet widgets, available now, and one for whole home audio which is still working its way through our production process).

The Convenience Quotient methodology is a way to think about the benefits and barriers to a product’s success with a comprehensive measure of convenience. No, convenience is not a product feature, it is a measure of how easily a product delivers its intended benefits to its target audience. It’s powerful stuff, we’re using it to predict product and category success and we’re going back in our decade of Technographics data to validate it historically.  

I’ve also been buried working on a report presenting the methodology to our clients. Tomorrow’s free webinar will be a sneak peek at the report that is due out in another two weeks. In it, I’ll explain the background behind the methodology and show how we apply it. This is the kind of info we usually reserve for Forrester clients, but the company is eager to let the world in on our powerful secret, so we’re opening this webinar to prospects as well. Please register and attend, I’d love to get your feedback:

Complimentary Webinar “Why Convenience Is King – Creating Winning Product Strategies” January 29th at 11 am EST / 5pm CET. Register by clicking here

This webinar details Forrester’s powerful new Convenience Quotient (CQ) methodology to identify the improvements your product requires to increase the benefits or decrease the barriers that stand in the way of your consumers.

In the meantime, I’d love to start collecting your experiences with product convenience. For now, I’m interested in those of you who design, manage, and market products and services. We’ve set up a poll at SurveyMonkey to capture your experiences with product benefits, barriers, and overall convenience. You can click here to take this 6-question poll.


Why I don’t use my Apple TV anymore

January 2, 2009

This is an important post, one that will set up a few more posts in the next few weeks. The small question is why I don’t use my Apple TV anymore, the big question is why the overall category of Digital Media Adapters (DMAs, as people in the biz call them) has failed to take off.

Let me start with the small question: Why has my Apple TV been unplugged for the last six months?

I was a very enthusiastic buyer for the Apple TV back when it debuted in early 2007 (so long ago, eh?). I had spent much of 2006 buying TV shows on iTunes. I have all the Battlestar Galactica episodes, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (short-lived though its witty repartee was), and the first two seasons of Lost. The Apple TV seemed the ideal way to bring those shows to the TV yet still have them on my laptop while traveling. I not only bought an Apple TV the week it was released, I publicly predicted that the Apple TV would likely sell a million units. 

Then something amazing happened. All the shows I was buying on iTunes became available for free via online streaming. I could spend less, watch more, all without managing precious hard disk space. I stopped buying iTunes episodes altogether. My Apple TV suddenly became a very expensive way to watch family photo slideshows. I tried to watch YouTube on it, but that’s terribly annoying (look for a new post later this month on the question of watching YouTube on the TV screen, I’m still waiting for an explanation of why we would want to do this more than once).

So I unplugged the HDMI cable from the Apple TV and moved it to the Roku box which we watch a ton more than we ever watched the Apple TV. Apple TV has not, to my knowledge reached my original goal of a million units. Though I believe they have sold between half a million and 800,000.

That answers the small question. Now for the bigger question: why is this category not taking off? I’ve addressed this question many times, starting with a whole Forrester report in which we found — using our convenience quotient methodology — that over-the-top set top boxes (what I prefer to call DMAs) suffer from some stiff competition. Namely,  your DVR and DVD player. If you have both, which 30 million households do, you can do most everything you would want to do with a DMA for a lot cheaper. 

But even that powerful duo of DVR+DVD is about to get challenged by an up-and-comer: online video, delivered to the TV set. That’s what the story of 2009 will be. And it’s already happening more often than you think. I have a whole Forrester Report planned on the topic, due in February, so I’ll share more data soon, but suffice it to say that about 5 million homes already watch online video on their TV sets a month. That’s much more than have bought or will buy a DMA. It also suggests the path that DMAs must take. More on that later. 

What do you think? Do you have much use for your Apple TV or other DMA?

(Note, read the January 5 follow-up to this post about hacking the Apple TV to watch Hulu on it)


Video piracy will shift from downloads to streams in 2009

December 18, 2008

Early in the month I wrote a piece for Forrester’s clients called How To Keep Casual Video Piracy At Bay In 2009. (Yes, I enjoy inserting little images like the idea of “pirates at bay” into my writing — I consider it a minor victory.) 

The premise of the report is that the video industry has yet to feel the heat of video piracy because, frankly, it’s just too much of a pain to pirate video. Only 10% of US online adults have ever downloaded video files via a P2P application. That’s because you need big storage, mega bandwidth, and you need to be conversant with a whole range of P2P hosting  sites that are not easy to navigate. In short, it’s inconvenient.

If you know me, you know I believe that convenience is everything in this or any business. That’s why piracy is about to get a lot worse: it’s about to turn from downloading to streaming.

That’s much more convenient. I didn’t have to download a single application in order to watch the opening minutes of Madagascar 2 on Megavideo.com just last week. (Note: I won’t post a link not only because the file has been taken down since then but because I don’t advocate piracy of any kind. I watched until the opening credits just to verify it was there and then stopped. I don’t download illegal video files or MP3s and when people email them to me I delete them. It’s not a high horse, just a personal ethic.)

More and more, people will be able to stream the stuff they want to steal rather than risk downloading it. That’s why the right solution is to make it easier to get legally than it is to steal. As I wrote in the conclusion of my report:

MAKE LEGITIMATE VIEWING EASIER THAN PIRACY AND LEGAL FORMS WILL TRIUMPH

Crushing illegal streaming will be even harder than crushing P2P sites. We don’t recommend that the industry give up, however. Instead, we think automated content identification systems from companies like auditude and Vobile, Inc. do an increasingly reliable job of finding infringing content, making it easier for studios and broadcasters to respond quickly to pirated streams around the world. However, erecting barriers to piracy is only one half of the equation. While they make it hard for the people who sponsor piracy, the best long-term solution is one in which consumers’ fundamental desire for easy access to top content is satiated through legal means.  

So far, the industry gets this, but as I have documented on this blog, there are some exceptions, such as when Warner Brothers TV pulled down episodes of The Mentalist from CBS.com. Interestingly, on the CBS.com fan forum for The Mentalist, one concerned viewer posted links to a variety of sites where you can stream the show illegally. Networks, even human ones, have a way of routing around blockages.


Web stream of my speech at the Forrester Consumer Forum

October 28, 2008

Imagine my surprise to find out that one of the bloggers on the front row of the Forrester Forum streamed my keynote speech live. You can see the archive of the stream here. It begins with Carrie Johnson’s kickoff to the forum and then at about minute 11, she introduces my keynote. It’s not the best quality image or audio, but if you’re really interested in the speech, here it is in its glory.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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What is a Convenience Quotient?

October 28, 2008

A Convenience Quotient (CQ) is something we debuted today at our Forrester Consumer Forum in Dallas. It’s a new metric we have devised to summarize how convenient your product/service/channel is to consumers. In concept it’s straightforward:

Convenience = Benefits – Barriers

Basically, the convenience your product offers is a function of the benefits you offer minus the barriers that stand in your consumers’ way. If you offer tremendous benefits, people will overcome great barriers to get at them. If you offer modest benefits, even the slightest barrier will stand in your way. An example I offered today in my speech is depicted below in the slide (which you can click on to see a bigger version of).

 

A slide from my presentation at the Forrester Consumer Forum

A slide from my presentation at the Forrester Consumer Forum

In this example, you see the way the CQ works. You start from 0, you add up the benefits you provide (that’s the tricky part, obviously, and we’ve developed an approach to doing this which will show up in our research) on a scale from 0 to 1. Then you subtract the barriers that stand in your way. If you end up with a positive score, it means you have more benefits than barriers whereas if you end up with a negative score, well you know that negative scores are never good.

This example shows how CQs might work in the case of a banking website when a customer needs help with a serious issue (lost ATM card, missing deposit, etc.). I ran through sample scores that different alternatives might have: FAQ = 0 (few benefits, few barriers, cancel out); email = -.2 (many barriers, uncertain benefit); 800 number = .05 (some barriers, decent benefits); online chat help = .2 (many benefits, few barriers when done right).

It’s an important concept that we’ll be developing more fully in our research over the next year and I’m already getting smart questions and comments from forum attendees about it, so look for me to talk about it more on this blog as it relates to video entertainment.