Category Archives: Television

Television Trends & Issues on Modern Media Mix

Streaming TV: Is Amazon Prime the Jester?

Netflix is the King of streaming TV. Hulu is the Prince. Is Amazon Prime the Jester? Is Amazon relevant in this online streaming war? Amazon has made huge strides in online shopping. However, online video streaming is a different story for Amazon.

amazon primeLet’s begin with Amazon Prime vs Netflix. Prime costs a dollar less per month than Netflix which is nice, but is it really? According to money expert Matt Granite from USA Today, he says that Netflix has more selection and a better interface than Amazon. However, Amazon Prime gives you free two-day shipping and unlimited photo storage.

Next is Hulu. According to Business Insider, Hulu costs $7.99 per month (with ads) while Prime is about $8.25 per month. So Hulu is cheaper (at the expense of watching ads), but what does that mean for Amazon Instant Video? Well, Amazon does not have ads, but Hulu can get you the latest television episodes.

If you want to know how many subscribers each video streaming service has, here are some statistics. Netflix has more than 86 million subscribers worldwide (CNN Money), Amazon Prime has around 60 million subscribers (CNBC), and Hulu has around 12 million (CNN Money).

Amazon Prime Man In The High Castle

According to Caroline Nolan from The Street, “Without Amazon Prime membership, you will be paying $12 on average for two-day shipping on each purchase.” (Nolan, 1). If I bought two items from Amazon every month with two-day shipping without Prime, that would equal around $288 every year. However, this is shopping and spending all that extra money might be a problem!

I think a huge obstacle with Amazon Prime is their name. When people think of Amazon Prime, they think online shopping and not online video streaming. What Amazon needs is a clever name, and I might be able to help.

What Amazon should have called their online video streaming service is Amazon River. That is clever compared to Amazon Prime or Amazon Instant Video. It helps Amazon by making them more diversified. So Jeff Bezos, if you’re reading this, call me.

Anyway, when it comes to online video streaming, Netflix is the King (or Queen), Amazon is the Prince (or Princess), and Hulu seems to be lowly Jester. Amazon is relevant in the streaming wars, but I think they need to work on their identity. So, Amazon is relevant, but at the same time they almost aren’t, due to an undefined identity.

So, which is the best? Well, it depends. If you want television shows and you want it cheap, you can choose Hulu. If you want television and movies together, you can choose Netflix. If you are an online shopper and are not much of a television watcher but still want online video streaming, you can choose Amazon Prime.

What also matters is what shows and movies you want to watch. Amazon has Transparent and The Man in the High Castle, Netflix has Stranger Things and Luke Cage, and Hulu has The Awesomes and The Mindy Project.

I have also received word that Hulu has struck a deal with Disney and Fox to have live sports. This is exciting to see and unexpected to see. We’ll see what happens to Hulu in the future. This of course is a conversation for a different time.

Personally, I love Amazon Prime. I have had it for about a couple years now and I am quite satisfied with the two-day shipping and television shows. That is of course when I have time to watch them. The Man in the High Castle is pretty good.

What do you think about the streaming wars? Do you have Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, or all three? Comment below and tell me what you think.

Kyle Konigsmark

Watching OTT: Is The Selection of Devices Over The Top?

With the rise in popularity of watching content online through streaming services, many companies are looking to create devices to make watching a variety content easier on your TV. These devices can be stand-alone products like Google’s Chromecast or TV’s with similar features from manufacturers like LG. These devices are making our TV watching experience more enjoyable, but with some many devices out there, which one should people go with? We will take a look at the different products and see which device may be the best investment for the future of TV.

ott apple TVTV is not just what is on cable or broadcast over the air anymore. TV has become mostly digital and is now obtained in many areas. The first companies to release these devices were Apple and Roku, with their Apple TV and Roku DVP, respectively. These devices were released almost 10 years ago and started the push for content outside of your cable subscription. These devices saw the early adoption of Netflix and Hulu, both streaming services that gained momentum around 2010. These services brought many new challenges, both in getting the content to your TV and getting content to these services.

As many companies released their own services to stream and/or purchase media, people needed new places to take advantage of this content and its high quality. This brought devices like Google’s Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV and even a new breed of HDTV’s, dubbed Smart TV’s to market. These devices all had a similar goal, bringing the content that had been collected over the years on streaming services back to the TV.

Each of these devices catered to its company’s proprietary services, but also supported the services that had the top spots in the market. Even devices like game consoles started to support streaming services, leading to less devices under your TV. They all would evolve with the adoption of new technologies, some supporting TV newest change, Ultra HD or 4K resolution.

As these platforms gained popularity with 3rd party streaming services, TV and cable networks wanted to get their content on these devices. TV Everywhere was the first step, a platform that brought TV episodes online after they aired, only requiring your account details to confirm you had access to the channel. TV Everywhere is now available on most devices that offer Netflix and Hulu compatibility, as it only requires a browser or app to watch content.

ott google chromeThe spread of TV consumption was investigated by GFK in an Over The Top TV study they conducted. In terms of TV Everywhere, it found that DirecTV customers were the largest users of the service, overtaking the founders, Time Warner, who led in consumption the last two years. The study also claims that the most popular device is a Roku, with Chromecast coming into a close second. Chromecast and Roku are continuing to release new devices and the Chromecast Ultra is Google’s newest edition, featuring 4K content support and improved WiFi functionality.

In the technology space, people are always looking for what’s best. Some have tried to answer that question, but only you can decide what is right for you. If you game on a PS4, it makes sense to also use it as streaming device, making the purchase of a Fire TV not necessary. All of these over-the-top TV devices do similar things, making the decision more about what device fits you and less about which is “best”.

Chris Dummer

High-Tech Storytelling: How New Technology is Revolutionizing Broadcast Television

Turn on the five o’clock news on your local TV station and you’ll see that the anchors are no longer sitting behind their usual desk with a generic background. Instead, they are standing by a plasma TV, or in front of a wall of monitors showing a local cityscape.

storytellingOver the past few decades, broadcast news has become more popular than print news. Instead of reading articles in the Sunday paper as a main source of news, TV viewers are able to get their information, and a lot of it, in a much shorter time. Visual aspects (video and graphics) and sound bites, allow the viewer to understand the story better. But now the evolution of the Internet is challenging TV news.

Many people today, especially millennials, are getting most of their news from websites and social media. Cord-cutters and cord-nevers are now threatening TV news outlets with the fear that their scheduled broadcast will one day become irrelevant.

In order to remain relevant and gain viewership, stations are now using the latest technology to upgrade their sets and to tell the story in new and appealing ways.

News studios are starting to become much more tech-savvy. Anchors and reporters continue to use traditional desks, but are surrounded by monitors and are able to move to plasma TV’s or a multipurpose center that includes monitors and can be used in a variety of ways.

KING 5 News in Seattle, Washington is an example of a studio that recently made the upgrade. The studio is a 360-degree set, which means the anchors and/or reporters can deliver the news from any point in the set, giving them flexibility. Eleven additional cameras were added to allow for this to happen. The studio is filled with LED lights that gives the set a modern feel. Anchors there say the new set helps them to tell stories better and give the viewers at home a better understanding of the story.

A local example of this would be KWWL in Waterloo. Recently, the station built a brand new set similar to KING 5 in many ways. The set includes a desk, monitors, and high-definition quality along with a designated weather center that is also surrounded by many monitors and computers. The purpose of this technology is to give viewers an innovative way to see the news and understand the story.

Along with high-tech studios, TV stations are also using new technology to tell the story better out in the field. TV news drones are starting to become much more popular. Drones are portable and are fairly easy to operate. Drones are best used for giving the viewer a better sense of a natural disaster or a scene, like a major car crash, that can help keep viewers safe.

TV news drones are also starting to replace TV news helicopters because they are less expensive, portable, quieter, and they can fly closer to the ground.

storytelling

Along with drones, some stations are starting to experiment with 360 cameras. These cameras allow the viewer to see every angle of a scene all at once. The BBC experimented with 360 cameras in the Swiss Alps and they were able to pull off a broadcast with immersive views from all perspectives. While they were successful, the camera crews decided that 360 video is best when it is on online platforms. This is because viewers can interact with the 360 images and choose what they want to see. Producers believe that 360 video also is only suitable for some stories.

While TV news is trying to tell the story better and gain viewership with new technology, it may not be everything viewers want. Keeping up with modern technology is a positive thing, but when it comes to news, if the content is not there it may not be as positive as stations think. Comments on articles about studio “set theory” explained how viewers don’t necessarily care about the technology, they care about the quality of the stories that are being presented. Going forward, TV news stations should try and keep up with the latest technology, but should not forget good quality journalism that many people may seek when tuning into their broadcast.

Casey Allbee

Onscreen Superheroes: Will they Live or Die?

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  -Harvey Dent.

This very quote can be applied to the superhero screen genre, from Marvel and DC comics especially. When the first superhero films and TV shows came out, fans couldn’t get enough and were clamoring for more. Now after the superhero genre has dominated the box office the last few years, and even started to take over certain networks on TV, there are those who believe it has become overplayed and are predicting its demise.

Since the year 2000, Marvel and DC have produced a combined total of 54 movies, which comes to about four movies per year. While this number doesn’t seem that large, the average rises significantly when you take a look at just the past five years, with an average of more than five movies per year. Next year alone there are seven superhero flicks scheduled for release from the two powerhouse comic franchises.

Superhero movie release

You may assume that I am part of the group that believes that the market for superheroes is oversaturated and needs to slow down for fear of falling apart. On the contrary, I love how the superhero genre is flourishing right now and it is my belief that is will continue to do so. I hope the genre continues to find success and will be here for the long run.

Some have likened superhero films as today’s modern western. Some find that comparison a sign of good fortune and others a sign of doom. For example, Steven Spielberg stated, “We were around when the Western died, and there will be a time when the superhero move goes the way of the Western.”

On the opposite side, screenwriter Stephen McFeely one of the writers of Captain America Winter Soldier, believes that superhero movies are the new Western, but not based on their similarities in popularity, but grounded in the ideals they embody. Ideals about honor and looking out for the little guy.

In the wake of film box office success, superhero TV shows have become increasingly popular. With some networks, such as the CW, and streaming services, like Netflix, offering many new shows. The CW is even referred to as the DC Channel. With the addition of Supergirl to its lineup the network now has four shows DC comics properties.

Netflix has also made deals with Marvel, with three current Netflix/Marvel original series in its lineup, and with many more to follow. Are superhero television series dependent on the success of the movies, or will television shows continue to stand on their own?

You may wonder what will happen when they run out of superhero storylines to adapt. How will they continue to succeed? But don’t forget that superhero movies are not based on fact or history they are movies based on works of fiction and comics are always expanding and the storylines are ever changing.

Marvel Comics has recently introduced a number of new characters, and these characters have yet to be incorporated into films. There is the new Iron Man character, Riri Williams, and new Spiderman character, Miles Morales. These new characters will allow for additional movies.

Superhero Riri Williams   Superhero miles morales

Another factor that comics fans sometimes don’t take into account is the use of time travel, as used X-Men Days of Future Past. The use of time travel in a film or television series allows for the slate to wiped completely clean and start new. You can even using the same characters in different ways.

I truly believe that the superhero genre is here to stay and is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, with the introduction of new characters and storylines I think it is only going to increase in popularity for the years to come.

Colin Stroehle

NAB Show 2016 Recap

Ten students from the University of Northern Iowa had the opportunity to participate in the 3rd Annual Expedition to the NAB Show in Las Vegas this spring. They studied everything from post production editing and media distribution to the latest trends in virtual reality. Check out their videos on the UNI Digital Media Leadership YouTube channel and like our Facebook Page for more post-show updates!

NAB Show 2016 Overview

Here is an overview of the NAB Show 2016. This will give you look and the size and scope of the convention and a taste of the fun these students had.

 

Post Production Overview

Check out the latest in post production software and equipment. These students got a firsthand look at the latest products from companies like Black Magic, Adobe, and GoPro.

 

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality was a hot topic this year at the NAB Show. Media producers are experimenting with new ways of storytelling and incorporating VR into new media work flows.

Media Distribution

The world of media distribution is constantly changing and the sources of revenue for content has shifted a lot in the last few years. See how come companies are staying ahead of the curve.

 

Special thanks to the IBA for making this trip possible! We’re looking forward to next year’s trip and planning to bring you more great content straight from the NAB Show floor.

NAB Show 2016 UNI Digital Media Leadership

From First Kiss To First Kid: ABC Family Goes Freeform

On January 12, 2016, ABC Family officially became Freeform. This change came as quite the shock to some, and normally when a network is rebranding, it is because they are failing. But, this was not the case. Despite the rebranding and change of unmistakable name, that was announced early October of 2015, the same television shows would be aired. They will even keep their 25 Days of Christmas, Harry Potter Marathons, and Disney movie showings. Apparently this evolution of the network had been in the works for 10-12 years, according to network President, Tom Asheim, and the only thing left was to drop the name that the network had outgrown.

Free Form

So the big question is why change? ABC Family’s viewing demographic was changing and the main audience attracted was no longer those looking for the family-friendly show that the network had been so well known for. Over the past decade, the shows had been beginning to shift towards more teen and young adult content, which is part of the evolution that had been going on mentioned earlier. ABC Family decided to capitalize on the large group of millennials that make up a large part of television viewers in the country. The network’s core audience is viewers ages 14-34, which is an approximated 69 million people target audience. Can you say “Cha-ching”?

When rebranding, the network wanted to follow this huge market and keep up with the millennials as they grow older. They wanted for the network to move past this traditional family viewing and towards its target market of “Becomers”. These “Becomers” are people ages high school to thirty’s, who are asking themselves “Who am I becoming?” They decided to coin this stage of life the “Becoming” stage and those going through it “Becomers”. It is important for them to reiterate that this is a stage of life and not a generation, because they want to follow their viewers from their “first kiss” to their “first kid”.

The network had three main goals for the new name. They, first, wanted to really promote this idea if “Becomers” and the stage of life represented with Freeform. Second, they needed to capitalize on the crossing over and overlap from multiple platforms such as the many social media sites that content is discussed on or the multiple mediums and devices that viewers can use to access and watch Freeform content. The last goal for them was to really make the viewers feel something, and hopefully they would make them feel something positive, such as spark this feeling of “Be you”, “Be Bold”, “Find Yourself”, and so on. This really dives into the meaning behind the word “Freeform” and having no boundaries and making life your own.

Free Form2Of course, the biggest issue for the network was going to be brand awareness. For such a recognizable name to be changed to something completely new and unrelated is a big risk. They jumped on top of the marketing campaign right after the announcement in October and ran promotional ads heavily until January 12, especially through the 25 Days of Christmas that attracts a lot of viewers. They also pushed the social channels really hard with a hashtag to connect with millennials and a Gorilla marketing campaign that used fans’ user generated content the promote the name change for them. People are more involved than just watching the shows they love, they immerse themselves in the atmosphere and community of fans of the show through social media and networking sites by sharing opinions and favorites about the show. The fans were able to describe what the word “Freeform” meant to them to help express the representation behind the new name and what it stands for. One thing they really had to stress to people was that the stuff they loved on ABC Family would still be there. And so far, it looks like the transition has been very successful and well received by viewers.

Free Form3The last thing I found very interesting about the change is to look back and see exactly how much the channel has changed even over just the past ten years. This promo video from 2006 really promotes the family oriented shows and the feelings the occur in the shows, some of which in the video shown are Lincoln Heights, Wildfire, Beautiful People, Gilmore Girls, Fallen, and Kyle XY. This promo video previewing what Freeform will be showing in 2016 focuses more on independence and young adult storylines. Some of the shows in this video are Shadowhunters, The Fosters, Baby Daddy, Recovery Road, Young and Hungry and Pretty Little Liars. The content of the shows and the storylines have indeed evolved over the years as their core audience has changed. The shift is not something that will stop the network, because they will continue to roll with the punches, go with the flow, or you know…be #Freeform.

Ali Holtz

The Bryan Fuller Curse: Why Bad Things Happen to Good TV Shows

Bryan Fuller is a television writer, producer and showrunner. He has a prolific history of creating and developing critically-acclaimed, award winning television shows that have devoted, adoring fanbases. All of his shows have also all been unceremoniously cancelled. All but one before they could reach a third season.

This sad story is nothing new. We have all had a beloved television show in the past that got axed too soon, but why does this happen? Why do shows that have so much promise often underperform?

For each of Fuller’s cancelled projects, there is a pretty concrete reason we can point to: low ratings. It’s why most shows end up getting canned, but is it always because the show just isn’t any good? In Fuller’s case, and undoubtedly many others’, there is much more at play.

Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies, arguably Fuller’s most successful show, was cancelled by ABC after just two seasons. During its short life the show managed to earn 57 award nominations and 18 wins, 7 of those being Primetime Emmy Awards. It premiered to an audience of almost 13 million people, becoming the most watched series of that week.
It seemed like smooth sailing for Pushing Daisies until the writer’s strike of 2007-08. The Strike forced the first season to be cut short, going from an intended 22 episodes to just 9 episodes in the first season. Ratings were a fraction of first season numbers by the time the second season premiered, and the show was cancelled after only 6 of its 13 episodes.

Fuller’s most recent (and most recently cancelled) project, Hannibal performed fairly well in the ratings for most of its three seasons. There had been a pretty steady decline over the course of the third season, which was the reason cited by NBC as to why the series was axed. It was also thought that the network was looking to avoid potential rights issues in planned upcoming seasons. Apparently Fuller wanted to introduce the character of Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs, but the rights to that character are currently unavailable.

Hannibal
Despite the wreckage of cancelled shows in his wake, Bryan Fuller seems to have no problem getting work. He has been developing an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel American Gods which just got picked up by Starz, where he will serve as showrunner. Fresh off cancelling Hannibal, NBC has decided to keep working with Fuller, bringing him on as a writer and executive producer for their remake of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi series, Amazing Stories. So if all of his past projects have been cancelled, why do networks still want to work with him?

First, as we saw before, shows get cancelled for reasons other than just low ratings, and low ratings can be caused by a multitude of things potentially out of the creator’s control. Networks know this. They also know that Fuller’s programming is consistently loved by critics. It’s possible that the wider public isn’t responding to his programming because of it’s dark nature. All of the shows Fuller has created thus far have had to do with death and other macabre themes, which might turn off some potential viewers, so there seems to be a need to present his ideas in a way that is pleasing to a wider audience. Fuller already has a very passionate fanbase. They even voted Pushing Daisies the winner of Esquire’s “TV Reboot Tournament”.

We obviously can’t know what network executives are thinking, but I think they know Bryan Fuller produces fresh, creative shows and does them well, it’s just a matter of the right idea, at the right time, marketed in just the right way, and when we get there, it’s going to be something to behold.

Olivia Guns

ESPN Cuts Costs–Will Sports Fans Cut The Cord?

The ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports,’ ESPN, is headed toward a future that will feature its cable channels unbundled from the current cable/telco model. At least that’s what a large majority of millennials assume…

espn_topsearchThe financial model that encompasses ESPN’s array of content and its marketability has evolved immensely in just the past decade. While ESPN is the ‘Worldwide Leader’ when it comes to cutting-edge ideas, content production, timely and breaking sports reporting, marketing, and acquisition of talented media personalities — all which are critical to viewership in the sports medium — they are not viewed as the ‘Worldwide Leader’ when it comes to their offerings that can be categorized as ‘cord cut content.’

ESPN COST CUTTING = INEVITABLE UNBUNDLING?

Recently ESPN has been receiving attention for a reason it would prefer not to, cost-cutting.

Just last month, the ‘Worldwide Leader’ laid off 300 employees, and while those layoffs were dressed by Disney and ESPN President John Skipper as a consequence of rising rights costs — specifically their nine-year $24 billion dollar deal with the NBA — multiple sources made sure to indicate that the impact of ‘cord-cutting’ cannot go overlooked either.

Along with laying off 300 employees ESPN has also received more attention for its cost-cutting by parting ways with a number of their highly-recognizable/highly-paid personalities. Most notably their former mid-morning shock-jock Colin Cowherd, former Grantland.com editor-in-chief Bill Simmons, as well as the provocative host of ‘Olbermann,’ Keith Olbermann. All of whom had long, respected, and storied ESPN careers before their dismissal this past summer.

Former ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte wrote about the shutting down of Simmons’ former passion project, Grantland, at TheNation.com and provided an insider’s perspective into the dynamics that revolved around its closing.

While there are multiple sources that have indicated the impact of ‘cord-cutting’ for ESPN, there is quite possibly no voice (or in this case, written word), short of their President John Skipper that could have come from a more respectable and profound voice than that of their former ombudsman Lipsyte (since dismissing Lipsyte in December of 2014 ESPN has not hired a replacement).

In his article for TheNation.com Lipsyte remarked;

“ESPN is currently besieged by the rising cost of buying the rights to show sports events, the declining profits in audience fees and advertising revenue as people cut their cable cords, and Disney-ordered budget cuts.” (Lipsyte, The Nation, Nov. 2015)

ESPN’S SHARE OF YOUR CABLE BILL…

PayPerPersonTo fully understand the impact of ‘cord-cutting’ on the ‘Worldwide Leader’ it is critical to know the share of consumer’s cable bill that ESPN currently occupies. According to a digitaltrends.com article from July, which cites a Wall Street Journal report, cable providers are by far paying more to offer their subscribers ESPN than any other network. $6.04 is the going rate for ESPN within a cable bundle, $4.56 more than the next closest cable network, TNT.

This gross cost burden to cable companies bundles, along with an emergence of options to view the Worldwide Leader without ‘the cord,’ has made the conversations about ESPN ‘cutting their cord’ plentiful and consistent. However, pontifications — predominantly from millennials — have gone as far to assume that ESPN will have no other choice than to ‘cut their cord’ sooner than later if they wish to remain feasible in today’s climate of sports content offerings. This line of thinking is not completely incorrect, however, it is reckless to assume that a cable channel with as much, and sometimes more, exposure and ratings than the likes of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC would suddenly feel inclined to completely ‘cut their cord’ and depart from traditional cable.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has acknowledged dropping cable subscription numbers for ESPN, and even went as far to tell CNBC’s Squawk Box that he sees ESPN as a media property that could eventually be sold a la carte, much like HBO, but, that will not happen in the next five years.

Iger went on to say while appearing on the popular CNBC show;

“Technology is the most disruptive force that so-called traditional media … is facing.” [But] we decided to view technology as a friend, not a foe, to bring better customer experiences across all of our businesses from making media look crisper on HD televisions to mobile and online viewing apps to enhanced attractions at theme parks.” (Iger, CNBC’s Squawk Box, July 2015)

ESPN’S FUTURE… DESTINED TO ‘UNBUNDLE?’ (SPECULATION & ANALYSIS)

When evaluating comments by Disney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN President John Skipper, along with taking into consideration their continually strong cable ratings in relation to their competitors I find it hard to believe the train of thought that predominately comes from my millennial peers that ESPN is destined to ‘cut their cord’ or die.

In my mind, the proof is in the pudding that there will always be ESPN channels available to cable subscribers as long as there is cable television. ESPN has made tremendous strides in their digital platform offerings, enough so that consumers that prefer to not have traditional cable can get their fill of sports content through ‘Watch ESPN,’ the ESPN mobile app, ESPN.com and other digital offerings from the Worldwide Leader.

Could there be a ESPN app available for purchase for those without a cable subscription in a half-decade, similar to Time Warner’s HBO Now endeavor? Sure. For the reasons I hashed out in this blog such as the rising costs of content rights and the gradual decline of cable subscribers. That said, indications are clear that the Worldwide Leader is still a ways off from needing to ‘cut their cord’ to sustain and thrive in today’s ever-changing media climate.

Cole Bair