By Tim Hermes, BTR Founder and Publisher
The next few years in the telecom industry? Whack, as the kids say. And they may be right. Could even be another Wild West as vendors, operators, content providers and OTT providers all scramble to gain, recapture or just get a toehold in the emerging three-screen (3S) market.
After attending a day at SeaChange's superb conference last week, "Monetizing Multi-Screen Video," one thing became clear: no one knows -- yet -- how this is all going to shake out. While the word "Netflix" was thrown around more than a Frisbee at a Grateful Dead concert, other interesting thoughts came to light.
- Cable obviously doesn't want to be a "dumb pipe" and simply serve as the data highway. Cable wants to rule the roost and in many aspects have the assets to do so. Having content as well as the pipe, positions the industry nicely. Right now they are playing “nice” with Big N … but in the future?
- A la carte and ultra-niched programming to 3S is a big bone of contention. While some say it's the ultimate solution and the ultimate "customer comfort," others say the structure behind it would strain the network too much and cause nightmares in provisioning, billing and customer service. But the opportunity for my family, for instance, to get only our favorite shows at a reasonable price seems too good to not pursue. I believe the industry will pursue this.
- Cord-cutting is not the money-saving maneuver for the consumer we thought it was. Instead, according to one analyst at the conference, it’s a preference for affluent viewers. He quoted research that showed cord-cutters are NOT the cable customers you think -- those in lower income brackets looking to save a utility bill each month. Instead, they are the upscale folks with specific viewing desires who have multiple devices and are cutting to view OTT on their devices anywhere, anytime. (Although they'll still need a network of some sort to get that programming. That seems to elude some folks.)
- Bundling is everything. The challenge is determining the bundle itself and making it work across the 3S environment. Can a cable op or other provider configure a platform that allows me to get JUST ENOUGH bandwidth to watch Netflix when I want, but not enough bandwidth to justify cutting the cord?
- The international market -- and Western Europe in particular -- is already steps ahead.
That’s just a few of the issues that arose during last week’s conference. So many questions. And so few answers ... right now.
With the myriad of ways to turn the 3S reality into revenue: licensing, advertising, subscriptions, fees, there is going to be, in my opinion, a cavalcade of "trial pricing" as the ops -- no matter who they are, administer pricing schemes to incorporate multi-screen delivery. Not to mention the new revenue opportunities like ad insertion in OTT shows, and much more. My guess is it's only a few years, if not months, before Netflix has its own ad sales staff with a piece of the pie kicking back to the network content provider. And iTunes? Oh, my.
But as BTR’s Carl Weinschenk says, "the marketing is ahead of the technology." That is for sure. It's all gotta work. Now. So there’s work to do.
Time to roll up the sleeves, folks. It's gonna get bumpy.
Tim Hermes is CEO at BTR. Contact him at [email protected].