Panel of online TV heavyweights tells it like it is

October 8, 2008

Last night I had a chance to be the peanut butter and jelly in an impressive online video sandwich. I was spread between Michael Eisner on the one side and a panel of online TV heavyweights on the other. I’ll end the metaphor there before it gets out of hand, but it was a power-packed event, sponsored by Veoh Networks, where I presented the results of a study commissioned by Veoh and performed by Forrester Consulting about online video viewers.  

The panel, moderated by Veoh CEO Steve Mitgang, really packed a punch, with Albert Cheng of ABC, arguably the father of online TV viewing, Amanda Richman, SVP of digital at MediaVest, Greg Clayman (you have to follow the link, trust me), EVP of digital distribution at MTV Networks, Tom Morgan, CSO at Move Networks, and Patrick Keane, CMO of CBS Interactive. 

Pardon the lousy Blackberry photo quality

Pardon the lousy Blackberry photo quality

One highlight came early on when the topic of whether online video was cannibalistic of broadcast content or not. This is a question I get a lot, so it was great to hear them all answer with variations on the same theme:
Albert
TV viewing has never been higher. That’s what you would expect from it, you have a much bigger distribution pipe that used to be constrained and now it’s not. Viewing should go up. 
Greg
We went live with full episodes of South Park recently. Since then, South Park ratings have never been higher. 
Tom
Two hours before a show airs, we see a spike of people catching up on prior episodes. For two hours after the show, another spike where people who missed the show that night and didn’t DVR it can watch it to keep up. These are the shoulders of a show if you will, and they are increasing the audience.
I’ll be writing and speaking about this topic for a while to come, because I agree completely…for now. The day will come when habits move away from appointment viewing and everything becomes on-demand, just as Eisner said earlier in the evening.

Cutting the cable cord: is it time?

October 3, 2008

Some weeks ago, Nick Wingfield at the Wall Street Journal and I had a conversation that went something like this:

Nick: So are people ready to cut the cable cord yet?

[note from me: “cutting the cord” does not refer to childbirth, sorry; it’s a play on what has happened to the phone business as so many people — nearly 10% have gone cell-phone only in the past decade]

Me: No. We don’t see it in our data, in fact, we don’t really measure it that much because the numbers are so small.

Nick: Hmmm. [silence]

This silence made me uneasy. It’s a good question and it’s one I wanted to have an answer for. I told Nick that we would probably start tackling this in earnest in early 2009 because by then it would be measurable via surveys. 

Then something funny happened. In a series of in-depth interviews I did with people who watch more than an hour of online video a week (the average is 56 minutes a week), these participants volunteered to me that they had recently abandoned cable.

The range was surprising:

– A 24-year old employee by day and student by night. He and his young wife can’t afford cable on their tight budget. By buying a few iTunes episodes each month, streaming a bunch for free on CBS.com, ABC.com, and Hulu.com, and by having a Netflix subscription (and an Xbox 360 through which Netflix streaming can occur), they get all their video needs satisfied for half the price of their prior cable bill.

– A 37-year old homemaker with three kids who has never had cable before because it was costly (and because most if it was inappropriate for her children – I need to comment on that in a later post), is now happy that she will never need cable.

And then this: Nick’s article in today’s WSJ about cable cord-cutting. I’m not surprised he found the examples he did. I found mine without hardly looking. Looks like our next survey is going to have to dive deep into this!

Exciting times ahead, eh, cable companies?