The New Streamers: Everybody's Got A (Bad) Angle

I get the idea the new streaming services say one thing to the cable operators. To them, Playstation Vue, Sling, DirecTV Now and soon YouTube TV profess the new businesses are just filling in, getting subscribers who wouldn’t buy cable TV.  (And Hulu’s streaming service, yet to come.)

To consumers, the message is to the point: “Cut the cord. We’ve got you covered.”

YouTube’s blog post announcing YouTube TV lists a half dozens selling points. The last one is: “Half the cost of cable with zero commitments. A YouTube TV membership is only $35 a month and there are no commitments—you can cancel anytime.”

Each of the streaming service makes a version of the same pitch--and even that price point--to differentiate themselves from cable or satellite where the cost of equipment and/or installation comes with at least an implied commitment.

Seriously, I can’t understand why everybody wouldn’t at least try these things. Each of the existing ones offers a free sample week or more. (Hulu's service is on its way, too.)

But  if you’re going to quit, you want at least a cherry-pre-picked version of cable in return--that means top cable networks and local broadcast stations. For devoted TV viewers, it seems a DVR is necessary. For people who don’t watch much TV--something like the cord nevers--a DVR, or a bunch of them that YouTube TV is offering, seems nice but unnecessary.

They’re already plucking series TV and other content on demand. Scheduling DVR accommodations for day-and-date programming isn’t that relevant.

If you buy that premise, DirecTV Now would seem to be a good choice. It offers different levels of service that kind of ruins the premise of the skinny bundle; even the smallest one offers something like 60 channels. You can pick favorites and unfavorites get shunned on the on-screen guide until you want them.

In big markets, DirecTV Now comes with live local ABC, NBC and Fox stations. Nobody gets CBS, a big negative. On its very pleasant user interface, y just pick favorites, and the rest kind of fade away. There’s no DVR, but a big selection of on-demand content. I have it. I like it about as much as a person should like a content app.

A big problem for DirecTV Now is this: It deserved and got an instant bad rap when It started on Nov. 30. Too many people signed up too quickly--200,000 in the first month--and DirecTV Now was all buffer all the time. A great example of the theory of minimally-viable-product taken to a wacky extreme.

Now, says Tony Goncalves, SVP of strategy and business development for AT&T Entertainment Group: “We are seeing some material improvements in the stability of the platform.”

SlingTV also suffers from the same kinds of reliability problems. It doesn’t offer spectacular deals and there’s no ABC or CBS. It’s rolling out a DVR. Beta tests are going on with some Roku customers.

Playstation Vue does offer a DVR, but like the user interface generally, it’s pretty clumsy and not too intuitive. Marketing-wise, I wonder if Sony is losing a bunch of potential customers who think you have to own a Playstation unit to get Playstation Vue. (You don’t. I have it and have never played a game in my life.)

Playstation Vue does offer the four major broadcast networks (including CBS), a good number of ESPN, Fox and NBC sport channels, and all three major cable news channels and what I would consider the other staples.

It doesn’t seem as quick as DirecTV Now but on the plus side, if getting network access is important to you, with Playstation Vue you can ditch CBS All Access. As I said, I have Playstation Vue too--I’m having kind of a bake-off with DirecTV Now. Its major selling point is having all four broadcast networks. Maybe I’m too old.

YouTube TV, before it happens, seems to have some problems--namely, no CNN for news junkies  (but Fox News and MSNBC.) In fact, YouTube has nothing from Time Warner’s Turner cable stable (no TNT, TBS or Cartoon Network), or Viacom’s either (no MTV, VH1 or Comedy Central).

Granted, because it is YouTube, there will be endless choices for MTVish programming and news and entertainment options that YouTube brings to the app. 

If you put all the services up each other you’d think YouTube TV, on paper, would be a slam dunk. But it’s not. There’s time before it launches to fix that.

“It’s hard to imagine an attractive package without Turner,” John Martin, CEO of the Time Warner cable division, told Bloomberg, and while that may be the most self-serving observation in media history, Martin is also exactly right in my book.

Meanwhile, at Tubefilter, writer Sam Gutelle did a quick check about what some YouTube vloggers themselves think of YouTube TV. Generally, it seems, they see it as a plus — “a game changer” says the pretty wise Philip DeFranco, who like others thinks may help legitimize YouTube with advertisers.

Taking a different view is vlogger Boogie 2988 who cautioned: “The people that watch a lot of YouTube are people that used to watch a lot of television. If you make it easier and more convenient for those people to watch television, they’ll watch less YouTube and return their eyes to mainstream television instead.”

We’ll see.

3 comments about "The New Streamers: Everybody's Got A (Bad) Angle".
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  1. brian ring from ring digital llc, March 3, 2017 at 2:54 p.m.

    Hmm. DVR unnecessary? DVR is such a misunderstood technology in our online video / OTT community. Look: DVR is right now in the midst of a *massive* renaissance but everyone in the "OTT" or "online video" world still seems to think that just because we have some number of linear hours going to VOD, which is mostly premium TV & Movie binge watching, that a DVR is not necessary. Ridiculous. DVR's enable same-day time shifting in a way that VOD does not. Want to catch HBO's latest ep of John Oliver? DVR enables you to do that easily, without waiting to figure out when the heck the VOD asset is going to drop. And then there's sports - don't get me started - well, OK, too late - there is *very* strong evidence ( ) that live sports is NOT DVR-proof - in fact 84% of sports fans that also have DVRs use the DVR to enhance their sports capability. Award shows? Same thing. Same-day time-shifting is RAMPANT in the TV world and it's about time we stopped bashing the most important TV technology that has ever been invented, and which is now actually finally receiving renewed attn by the people that matter - the OTT & MVPD operators!

  2. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, March 4, 2017 at 7:19 a.m.

     PJ: Very engaging review of the situation.  Permit me to introduce some additional thoughts and variables. First, notice how the majority of streaming packages are mimicking a slightly amended basic cable package; the something for everyone tiers.  Those cable packages aren’t stopping cord cutters; why would we assume that streaming delivery or even adding a DVR would be the be the necessary and sufficient propositions to lure savvy consumers?

    Second, the price points are not that distant from cable’s.  If you scan the loyalty research, price still seems the major trump card.  Where’s the $11.99, 35 channel option?  And why are price points not moving lower? Perhaps it could be that networks covet their per-sub-fee revenue streams and negotiate for carriage of all or most of their nets (note the YouTube package that rolled out).  Not to mention the protection of existing wired carriage deals.

    Third, these streaming packages evidence a product or supplier-centric orientation rather than a consumer-centric approach. One of the leading gripes of cord cutters is paying for channels they don’t watch.  As a non-representative sample of one, I regularly watch fewer than 10 of the channels in the YouTube TV array, which puts my per channel cost at nearly $4 per channel watched per-month. For this consumer, that price point is not acceptable. If I go the digital TV antenna route, that reduces my channel repertoire to less than five and bumps my per channel cost to over $6. The consumer-centric option? Segmentation strategies seem to support skinny bundles with channel lineups by consumer interest and at lower per-channel price points!

    Fourth, some data suggests that satellite radio experiences low post-free trial conversion rates. Do OTT/streaming video services perform dramatically better?   

    Isn’t ala carte really the end-game? 

  3. Leonard Willis from Thee Creative Agency, March 7, 2017 at 7:12 p.m.

    ATTN: Everyone, Take a peek a t this company. I am sure this will answer a lot of your uncertain concerns.

    Especially the metrics and measurement audience concerns. This company is measured by google and sap has 13 years beta and has been fully operable for over four years. ASA Is now providing advertisementt trial runs on their network for free. Before accepting paid acccounts in 2018. I suggest those with concerns. Keep watch on this company's.


    Heres, the thing! Buyers are looking at IPTV {Internet Protocaol Television = Streaming} like a traditional linear TV Network. You Can't! Traditional is Over - accept it.

    The audience behavior is absolutely diffferent. IPTV Networks are broadcasting to a live audience continousely, who can respond instantaineousely upon seeing an ad "The Now Audience". Linear No Way! Passive

    IPTV, Engages a live "Direct Audience" on every media device or screen in the world (via) Wi Fi Including Home veiwership on Smart Tv's. Traditional Linear TV No Way.

    Media Buyers and planners are the problem, not acceepting media technology moving forward.

    If buyers/planners, who are stuck in third gear still handling anyones ads buys by mid 2017 and not recommending their clients to buy "IPTV and Cross market with SMM" They should be fired.

    TheeCreative Agency
    Leonardo Willis

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