Digital Media Strategies

We cover all of the major media sectors, including advertising, TV and video, music, games and social media.

October 8, 2007 17:10 dmercer
As we predicted, BD player prices are plunging in time for the Christmas buying season. At €399 (£299), Sony’s new 40GB PS3 will be a tempting option for any early adopters thinking of starting out on the long road towards upgrading their DVD collection to high definition. The PS3’s form factor and design may not appeal to buyers used to wafer-thin DVD players. But then it also includes a hard drive (albeit one scarcely able to cope with HD content) and wireless connectivity, not features of your standard BD player. Sony must be confident that the new PS3 will be supported by a raft of new games titles in the next couple of months, given that it has sacrificed PS2 compatibility to squeeze cost out of the new console. Lack of choice in games is one of the biggest complaints of early PS3-ers, and the new device will not do well if buyers are not able immediately to get their hands on two or three compelling titles. The new price point will certainly make holiday season gift buyers think twice about the Xbox 360, which enters the European market at £250. Microsoft will not want to start another round of price cuts, but if sales strength is not maintained thru November it may have no choice. Nintendo is unlikely to be affected: it seems increasingly clear that the Wii is in a market of its own, and many Wii owners will also be future PS3 adopters. sub=addfavbtn&add=">Add to Technorati Favorites

October 2, 2007 12:10 dmercer
Italy's Telecommunications minister, Paolo Gentiloni, has announced that the country's analogue switch-off date will now be 2012. This compares to the current official plan to complete the digital transition by next year, which was always highly improbable. Back in 2000 we wrote: "Italy continues to bemuse outsiders. Decision-making is still geared towards satisfying ever-changing political priorities, rather than developing coherent long-term strategies. ...There has even been a suggestion (by the Communications Minister) that analogue switch-off could occur as early as 2003. To describe such ideas as pure fantasy would be polite." In fact, in 2000 the official "switch-off" date was announced as 2006, which remained the objective until 2006 loomed too close for comfort, and was then revised to 2008. So Italy has an impressive track record of tearing up its old digital TV plans; now realism finally appears to have taken hold. The 2012 objective should be realistic, assuming the proposal for mandated DTT tuners is formally adopted, although there is still a long way to go - half of Italian households still rely solely on analogue terrestrial TV signals. As we predicted, France's new DTT strategy has already had an impact on the rest of Europe. We will watch the details of Italy's transition plan with interest. Add to Technorati Favorites

September 25, 2007 09:09 dmercer
Following Sling's recent deal to distribute its Slingbox through UPC, the pan-European cable operator, announced at IBC, I drafted a comment that Sling could end up getting Tivo'ed. By which I meant that while Tivo started out as a disruptive force, it has depended on operator partners for its survival. Those partners' primary interests lie in maintaining a strong vertical relationship with their customer base, and reducing technology partners to vendor status. Sling also started out as a maverick independent, but deals with UPC and other distributors risk jeopardising its disruptive potential. So news that Sling is to be acquired by Echostar only intensifies those concerns. How disruptive can Sling be when it is owned by a major distribution partner of Hollywood? You can hardly blame Sling's founders for taking the money, and if they had a choice of similar partners, EchoStar was a good one. Charlie Ergen's outfit is as close to the maverick end of the scale as a Hollywood partner can be, but that ain't very close... According to EchoStar: "EchoStar has been pleased with the progress and commitment the company has made establishing Sling Media and the Slingbox as powerful and beloved digital media brands. EchoStar’s acquisition of Sling Media will allow us to offer innovative and convenient ways for our customers to enjoy their programming on more displays and locations, including TVs, computers and mobile phones, both inside and outside of the home. This combination paves the way for the development of a host of new innovative products and services for our subscribers, new digital media consumers and strategic partners." The sting is in the tail. It's not a question that Sling can be good for Echostar - it will allow the firm to offer new TV and web-based services. And it will put pressure on DirecTV and the US cable companies to address their own place-shifting strategies more urgently. But the interest centres on EchoStar/Sling's international strategy and partner relationships. I hope to have more by the end of the week, after Sling's press event in London on Thursday. Add to Technorati Favorites

September 11, 2007 17:09 dmercer

September 11, 2007 17:09 dmercer

September 11, 2007 17:09 dmercer
At IBC Microsoft was giving demonstrations of Silverlight , first introduced at NAB in April. This is Microsoft's browser plug-in answer to Adobe Flash, allowing anyone with a browser (including, eventually, Linux) and a fast connection to stream high definition video. The plug-in was demonstrated offering some impressive "immersive" video experiences, including a multi-window "video puzzle" (the user had to re-create a full screen video from scattered puzzle pieces), as well as picture-in-picture and multi-screen capability. The demonstration was running on an Apple Macbook Pro, which did manage to freeze at one point until a new plug-in had been installed. What did they say about never performing with kids, animals and Microsoft software? But with an adequate broadband connection and sufficient PC power, these demonstrations indicate again how close the PC/web combination is to rivalling the TV/broadcast model for high quality content distribution. Interestingly Microsoft confirmed that they were unable to bundle Silverlight with Vista because of EU rulings. This may hold back its market penetration in the near term but is unlikely to do any lasting damage. Add to Technorati Favorites

September 11, 2007 17:09 dmercer

September 11, 2007 17:09 dmercer
OpenTV's Matthew Huntington gave us an update on the company's progress at IBC. Matthew and I both go back to the early days of interactive TV, so there was some fond reminiscing of those heady times when it looked, if only for a fleeting moment, like the TV set might become a real rival to the PC in online services. Yes, people really did used to think we would be buying our weekly shopping, checking our bank accounts and sending email on the family TV set. And for a short time a few brave souls probably tried it a few times, using Sky's Open.... service. I vaguely recall managing to send a couple of emails using the remote control, which is scarcely believable in today's broadband world, never mind using dial-up. OpenTV benefited hugely from being the early leader in interactive TV, and in spite of more interactive TV misses than hits, has maintained its lead ever since. Now the company is looking to the next generation of interactive TV interfaces that will be possible on more powerful set-top boxes from 2009 onwards. Here is a (not very good) photo of what we might be seeing on our TV screens in a few years' time. 070920070062.jpg OpenTV is taking a refreshing user-centric approach to next-gen design challenges and evidently taking an innovative approach to how users will want to navigate a world of almost unlimited content from multiple sources: the wheel text input application seemed particularly useful. The company recognises that search and recommendation will be major challenges in the content environment and will need strong partners in this field, but it appears to be moving in the right direction. Patents have been filed in areas such as multi-faceted navigation. Home shopping, fortunately, did not feature prominently in the demonstration. Add to Technorati Favorites

September 8, 2007 15:09 dmercer
We met today with Gerhard Bickmann, CFO of German cable operator, Kabel BW, who spoke at NDS's annual IBC press lunch. In a one-to-one discussion, Herr Bickman shared with us his views on digital TV and platform competition in Germany. In contrast to KDG, Germany's largest cable company, KBW is not planning to enforce a customer migration to digital TV, as it would lose too much money on subsidising or giving boxes away for free. Instead it is awaiting some clear decision from the German government that Germany should complete the switchover to digital by a certain date. This would make it clear to consumers that analogue switch-off was coming, and they would be more inclined to consider migrating to digital cable. Herr Bickmann's frustration with German policy-making was evident, given that other countries in Europe (Finland and Luxembourg) have made clear their intentions that all cable networks should become 100% digital. He seemed if anything, and perhaps surprisingly, less concerned with the threat of competition from Deutsche Telekom. DT's rollout of VDSL is not considered to be a major challenge as the availability of the highest speeds will be very limited. KBW is confident that it will trump DT's offer with universally available 100Mbps broadband once it begins to roll out Docsis 3.0 technology next year. Add to Technorati Favorites

September 6, 2007 21:09 dmercer
SES Astra's top brass, Ferdinand Kayser, President and CEO, and Alexander Oudendijk, Chief Commercial Officer, kicked off IBC tonight with an update to press and analysts on Astra's latest initiatives. Most significant is their attempt to wean German consumers off their favourite diet of free digital TV. 16.7 million Germany homes receive television through either their own or a community dish, and the vast majority of those watch only free channels. While analogue receivers are still numerous, the transition to digital is well under way, with around half now using digital receivers, again primarily to watch free-to-air channels. On September 1st SES Astra set about trying to change this by introducing a "basic pay" satellite platform called Entavio. SES Astra serves as the service provider and business enabler, but the platform is intended to be open to any broadcaster or device manufacturer that conforms to the system specifications. An Entavio set-top box will still receive vast numbers of FTA TV and radio channels, but it also has built-in addressability and pay TV capability. At launch, Entavio customers can choose to pay €1.99 a month for the new Premiere Flex package. They may also opt for the regular premium pay TV packages from Premiere. The plan sounds logical for broadcasters and device vendors, which are desperate to create additional value from the German market. But it would seem to be a momentous challenge to persuade millions of German TV viewers, who have never paid a monthly fee for TV, to start doing so, even if it is only €1.99 a month. Much will depend of course on what channels are on offer for this sum. There has been considerable controversy in Germany in the run-up to the Entavio launch, with arguments between consumer groups, regulators and broadcasters over the proposed migration of free channels to pay TV. I suspect there are many more battles to be fought before most Germans start paying up. Over The Top or Round The Back? Exploring The Emerging Multi-Billion Web Video Landscape, Revenue Outlook and Adoption Scenarios Attend Strategy Analytics' Analyst Forum at IBC. Registration is Free. Add to Technorati Favorites