January has already been very busy with news about programming and OTT content on the web. Here are just a few of the more interesting tidbits already this year:
ESPN. A survey showed that 56% of cable subscribers would drop ESPN if that meant they could lower their cable bill. Considering that ESPN has lost 7 million customers over the last year this cannot be good news for them. ESPN’s biggest worry has to be the millions of customers flocking to the various small OTT packages and skinny bundles offered by the telcos that don’t include ESPN. The one positive note for them is that Sling TV – which includes ESPN – seems to be gaining new customers.
YouTube and Non-traditional Video. A recent survey in the UK showed that millennials that use YouTube and other non-traditional sources of video are not reverting to traditional sources of video like cable TV as they get older and settle down. The survey hints that the video habits you learn when young might heavily influence your video preferences for life. US cable companies know that many young people have abandoned traditional cable, but they have always figured that as people age and get their own place that they would then buy traditional TV. If that’s not true then it’s another major factor that’s going to chip away at cable TV viewership.
Seeso. NBC Universal launched a new ad-free web service called Seeso that is a huge collection of comedy programming. The platform is carrying the whole historical pile of Saturday Night Live as well Monty Python and Kids in the Hall. It also is carrying a lot of original new comedy content from hot young comics. The product sells for $3.99 per month. NBC says that they are developing six other niche-targeted video products, but haven’t announced what the other content might be. This is a very different way of offering OTT by building libraries of specific types of programming for a small fee.
Vidgo. Vidgo is a new OTT service that claims it will be launching within a month or so. It claims it is going to carry hundreds of channels and will look more like a traditional cable line-up, including local broadcast network channels. The first launch will be in 15 major markets like New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles. The main selling point is that the content will be available on any Android or iOS device which frees viewers from the restrictions of standard cable. The product has apparently been developed in anticipation that the FCC would rule at the end of 2015 to require programmers to sell to OTT companies in the same manner as traditional cable companies. However, that ruling has been postponed and one has to wonder how the company plans on obtaining the giant pile of content. This product is not aimed at cord cutters and is expected to be priced in the same range as traditional cable. It’s more a platform to give people access to programming from anywhere with a web connection.
Netflix. Reed Hastings announced at CES that viewers had watched 12 billion hours of Netflix programming in the 4th quarter of 2015. That’s up from 8.25 billion hours a year earlier. Hastings says that he thinks that faster internet connections are one of the main factors that are contributing to growth as his content is available to more people each month.
Cox. Cox Cable bailed on launching a new OTT product they had branded as Flare MeTV. The company decided to instead license the X1 platform of TV anywhere from Comcast. This is news because it shows that we should expect OTT providers and packages to both pop up and disappear quickly while companies search for a formula that will work. We are soon going to need a guide of OTT options as the number of packages change rapidly.