Tag Archives: Leichtman Research Group

Fading To Black?

Over the last couple of years I’ve written about cord-cutting and today I have another update of sorts.  As you know, this refers to people disconnecting from a “traditional” video provider such as a cable or satellite service and using only content delivered to the via “over-the-top” services – things that sit on top of a broadband connection.  These are services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and others.

Here is what caught my eye:

Thirteen of largest multichannel video providers in the U.S. — about 94% of the market (94.6 million subscribers) — lost about 345,000 net additional video subscribers in 2Q 2013 — down 0.4%, according to the Durham, N.H.-based Leichtman Research Group…The top nine cable companies lost about 555,000 video subscribers in second-quarter 2013, compared to a loss of about 540,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2012…Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, stated: “The multichannel video industry has leveled off, with major providers losing about 0.1% of all subscribers over the past year.”

OK, so not exactly a massive disconnect.  On the other hand, the trend is accelerating by most accounts, especially among younger people.  Now let’s think about the ongoing battle between Time Warner Cable and CBS.  No matter which side you’re on, it gives people the opportunity to seek alternatives, at least with respect to CBS and Showtime programming.  Once they figure out that much of the content is available elsewhere, cutting the cord becomes more viable.

Another anecdote.  This past weekend, I wanted to watch the Solheim Cup golf matches.  The place in which we were staying didn’t get the network carrying the matches and the live streaming via YouTube was not available in the US.  Solution?  I watched on a proxy server in Europe.  Not some sort of illegal torrent – simply a proxy server so they thought I was in France.  For those of us who are a bit more technically minded (and I think anyone under 30 fits the bill), this is a form of cord cutting behavior and negates the need for anything more that a high-speed connection to watch what I want on my own schedule.

Finally, some more research from STRATA shows that none of this is going unnoticed by the marketing community:

Focus on television advertising has hit a three-year low as the gap between TV and digital narrowed to its closest point ever, according to the most recent quarterly survey compiled by STRATA…TV advertising still remains the top advertising medium with 44% of survey respondents saying they are more interested in advertising on TV (spot TV/cable) than any other medium. While TV is still number one, this represents the lowest level of broadcast advertising interest seen in the STRATA quarterly survey in nearly three years. Gaining steadily on TV, digital is the second most popular medium at 35%…28% feel they will have a greater spend in Digital than Traditional in 1-3 years. 27% say they don’t ever anticipate a greater spend in Digital (down 45% and the lowest percentage ever).

Ad spending is a big part of the fuel that drives these businesses (and the Time Warner/CBS dispute points out the relatively new other piece – transmission fees).  If that piece shrinks, along with viewers and subscribers, the industry is in big trouble.  As the Chinese say, “interesting times”.

Your take?

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Butterflies Or Blips?

A report came out yesterday afternoon which got me to think again about the changing television business. Coupled with a few other things going on, I wonder if they’re the harbingers of some sort of butterfly effect in the media business or if they’re just aberrations. Let’s see what you think.

Cable tv

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The report is from the Leichtman Research Group (LRG) and it showed that video subscriber gains in the first quarter of 2013 by top U.S. service providers were not enough to avoid a first-ever net subscriber loss in the category over a four-quarter period.  In other words, fewer people signed up for pay TV – which is pretty much any kind of cable or other video service – than cut one off.  As Multichannel News reported:

Leichtman attributed the downward trend to a combination of a saturated market, an increased focus by service providers on acquiring higher-value subs, and seeing some consumers opt for a “lower-cost mixture of over-the-air TV, Netflix and other over-the-top viewing options.”

So that’s one thing – cord cutting.  Is it overemphasized by many at this point?  Probably, but when you see something happen for the first time ever, you need to pay attention.  Then there is the bill submitted by Senator McCain to use regulatory incentives to encourage programmers and distributors to unbundle their channels and offer a la carte programming.  This means that if you don’t watch a channel you wouldn’t have to buy it as part of a bundle.  So if you’re effectively paying $5 for ESPN as part of a basic cable package and don’t watch it or want it available, you might get a price break.  Then again, those of us who do watch it might be paying substantially more each month as the user base diminishes.  Do I think the bill will pass?  Probably not since the idea has been around for years.  However, it might just be another butterfly flapping its wings, especially given that there are many more options for video (see point 1!).

Finally, ESPN cut staff yesterday despite record profits.  One would assume they know what their projected P/L looks like and they have committed a lot of money to rights over the next few years.  Making cuts now ahead of the new rights kicking in can help maintain that profitability   Again, another butterfly but pair it with the potential for ala carte cable and fewer pay TV buyers, and then ask if these are butterflies or just blips?  What do you think?

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10 Years After

I was thinking over the weekend about what a very different place the world is going to be from a technical and media perspective in just a few years.  Of course, if you take a few minutes to think back and recall how the world was in 2002, just a decade ago, you’d be missing YouTube, iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, and hybrid cars.  Every one of those things is a daily part of my life and probably yours as well.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

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What got me thinking about this was this:

New research from Leichtman Research Group finds that 38% of all U.S. households have at least one television set connected to the internet via a video game system, a Blu-ray player, an Apple TV, a Roku set-top box and/or the TV set itself. This number is up from 30% last year, and 24% from two years ago. Game consoles are the key devices within this category, as 28% of all households have a video game system connected to the web.

I spend some time each week watching Hulu+, Netflix, YouTube, and other services through my Xbox.  That time spent is not incremental to normal TV viewing – it’s content I find more interesting than what’s available.  That behavior ties in with the research:

  • 13% of Netflix subscribers would consider reducing spending on their multichannel video service because of Netflix, down from 21% last year.
  • 16% of all U.S. adults watch full-length TV shows online at least weekly, up from 12% last year.
  • 19% of mobile phone owners watch video on their phones on a weekly basis; while 9% of all U.S. adults watch video on an iPad/tablet.

So I sort of had this flash forward.  If traditional cable boxes become anachronisms, what else goes with them?  I think desktop computers will be history soon, as tablets and other mobile devices access cloud-based services and data.  Even though I have many computers in my home, I spend nearly all my time on a laptop and could very easily transition to a tablet with a keyboard.  Skype and Google Voice could replace my landline and just may shortly.  I’m sure you can add a few legacy technologies/services that need either to pivot or die.

In only 10 years, a lot of our behavior has been changed by a few services and technologies.  In another 10, it will all be different again.  Are you ready?  Is your business?

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