Tag Archives: Streaming

NAB 2017: Next Gen TV is Coming!

While at the National Association of Broadcasters Show (NAB) we saw all types of technologies one could imagine. One of the largest booths there was the NextGen TV Hub booth. NextGen TV explained the future of TV; how streaming and broadcast TV would be become one. This was the answer our group had been looking for! Broadcast TV was not afraid of competing with streaming because of new legislation being brought forward by the FCC that will allow TV stations to broadcast using the ATSC 3.0 format, a newer version of the digital transmission format used today.

Next Gen TVThis was better explained at the session tittled “DTV: The Next Generation.” Here, we sat down and listened to companies who will be assisting with this new merger between streaming and broadcast television. They discussed the positive effects that are to come with the merger and what they hope to see with the new creation coming to the world of television. So with the blending between the two digital platforms, the future looks bright for TV and streaming as they become one. Watch our video on Next Gen TV from the NAB Show for more details!

Seeso’s Niche Streaming Service Competes with the Big Boys

In the online streaming market, giants such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube dominate with the amount of variety of content they carry.  On Netflix you can watch horror movies to your heart’s content, Hulu allows you to keep up with your favorite programs, and YouTube allows users to share and create their own content for all to enjoy.  But these services are broad, and lack any sort of niche appeal.  Enter Seeso, a new streaming service which focuses exclusively on comedy.

seesoSeeso is a service which is part of the recently formed NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, which is headed by Evan Shapiro.  Seeso was officially launched on January 6th of 2016, after an open beta that started in December of 2015.  The service has a monthly subscription fee of $3.99/month to gain access to the ad-free content.

Seeso boasts an impressive roster of programs that include a number of NBC shows and original content.  Some of the NBC and NBC affiliated programs that Seeso currently carries include Saturday Night Live, Monty Python, Parks and Recreation, The Kids in the Hall and others.  But Seeso’s main appeal is its original content such as Take My Wife by Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito, Harmon Quest from Dan Harmon, and My Brother My Brother and Me which is based off of the podcast of the same name from the McElroy brothers.

When asked about original content Shapiro said this to Decider.com, “In the first month, our original content was less than 3 percent of our overall content, yet it still drove 40 percent of our subscriptions.  Seven months later, original content is around 8 percent of our overall content and drives more than 80 percent of our new subscriptions.”

Much of Seeso’s content and drive can also be found in its name.  A spokeswoman for NBC said this to the Wall Street Journal about the name of the new service, “The name plays off the curated experience and the ‘right brain comedy’ programming filter.  It’s a reference to the mapping the comedy genome philiosphy (the “You came to SEE The Office, SO we’ll show you other workplace comedies you’ll love.)”

Seeso is online at Facebook, Twitter, and provides content at YouTube.  Across all three social media platforms Seeso has maintained a consistent brand of brightly colored blues, yellows, and greys.  But it’s on YouTube that you see much of Seeso’s branding and promotional material at play.

Almost all of the videos are fast, bright, and most importantly funny.

Some even claiming that Seeso is a actually a cult in a series of short mockumentary style videos.  This series of videos are by far the longest and strangest part of Seeso’s marketing campaign.

While this promotional material may be incredibly funny, is it really effective?  Did they get more people to subscribe to Seeso, or at least try out the free trial?  That’s hard to say, especially since as of writing this, Seeso hasn’t released any subscription numbers or reported any earnings.  But it certainly is entertaining enough to warrant some thought into the service.

Chase Danielson

I’m Not Sure What I’m Trying to Sell You: The Problem with YouTube Red

What if I told you there was a subscription service out there with exclusive, original video content and a huge library of music you can watch and listen to at your leisure? YouTube has entered the streaming service ring with their own paid subscription service, YouTube Red, that boasts exclusive content, an ad free viewing experience, and offline options that subscribers can enjoy. So where has the buzz been for YouTube Red and why is every video for YouTube Music buried in dislikes?

YoutubeBefore we get into it, let’s go over what YouTube Red actually is and how it works. YouTube Red is a monthly paid subscription service where users are allowed access to YouTube’s exclusive, original content, an ad free viewing experience, background usage on mobile devices, and the ability enjoy downloaded videos and music offline. Since Google owns YouTube, a Red subscription also nets you access to Google Play’s large library of music in addition to YouTube’s selection. YouTube Red is priced at $9.99 per month – the same as Netflix.

Unfortunately for Google, the reception for the announcement of YouTube Red has been less than desirable. The beginning of the marketing hardships began with the announcement of YouTube Red in late October of 2015. The announcement was immediately met with aggressive criticism from both users and content creators on YouTube. Users who were excited by this announcement, however, are those subscribed to Google’s monthly “All Access” subscription, as the two services will be consolidated.

Why are consumers unhappy with this announcement? Apart from a single video advertising YouTube Red, nobody really understands what YouTube Red is supposed to be. The advertisement tells consumers about the advantages of having YouTube Red, but doesn’t do a good job about what YouTube Red is supposed to be. In fact, YouTube itself, disregarding the subscription service struggles to identify itself clearly. There’s educational content, gaming videos, reviews, advertisements, short films, tutorials, music, and so much more. The identity of YouTube depends entirely on the user.

As a music streaming platform, YouTube is number one. To cater to the music listening audience, and make an attempt at viral marketing, YouTube released several YouTube Music ads celebrating diversity involving subjects of different racial backgrounds and gender identities. Considering the timing of these advertisements, you could say this is a direct response to Donald Trump’s political campaign from 2016. Many Internet users rallied behind companies that stood up for diversity, and while YouTube’s approach seemed like a good idea, the campaign was negatively received. The advertisements showed up incredibly frequently, weren’t very well executed, and to add insult to injury, were unskippable. Which is unfortunate considering what appears to be a genuine attempt at acknowledging their diverse user base.

Apart from co-existing with Google Play, which is also owned by Google, and not expressly stated as being independent, or the same service, consumers were incredibly confused at what YouTube was trying to accomplish with these ads other than the aforementioned “celebration of diversity.” Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO said, “YouTube gives people of any race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or interest a place to come together and a place to belong.” An admirable sentiment about an incredibly powerful and diverse online platform that anyone can use. The source of this campaign’s failure lies within YouTube’s failed ability to brand themselves.

If you were asked what YouTube stands for, what would you respond with? Is it what YouTube really stands for or what you think it stands for? I think Observer nailed what was missing when they said, “YouTube carries everything—so it stands for nothing. No one knows what YouTube believes in, so no one cares what YouTube believes in. And you don’t pay for something when you don’t know what it means.”

Ultimately, I conclude that YouTube’s marketing failed in this aspect. Celebrating the one year anniversary of YouTube Red, numbers suggest they have roughly 1.5 million subscribers. Twitch Prime – has roughly 1.9 million subscribers within the first four months of its release. So what do you think? Would you purchase a YouTube Red subscription? Did YouTube’s lack of brand identity cause the negative reception of their service announcement? Comment below!

Kevin Thorn

How to Compete with Netflix: Where the Streaming Industry Stands

Dan Harmon, the creator of critically acclaimed shows such as Community and Rick and Morty released a short series, Harmonquest, exclusively on the streaming service SeeSo. Naturally, I signed up for a free trial and binge watched the show in five hours. Beyond Harmonquest, SeeSo offers a load of popular comedy shows as well as quite a few entertaining original shows. To top it all off, it’s only $4 a month! However, I decided to promptly end my subscription afterwards. But why wasn’t SeeSo able to retain this subscriber to their service? What is SeeSo and the rest of the streaming industry doing wrong?

netflixWhen it comes to streaming movies and television shows, consumers aren’t asking for an be-all, end-all product. Here are the three most important characteristics of a quality streaming service. First and foremost is abundance and customization. Big streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all have a wide selection of quality shows, with the ability to favorite shows and customize their viewing experience.

Almost every single service offers customization by making your own account, and services like Crackle and Tubi TV have tons of content to pick from, however, if you subscribe to Crunchyroll or Acorn TV you’ll find yourself surrounded with content directed at niche audiences. This can both work in favor or against a particular service, but may still fall within a customizable experience.

The second factor, and arguably more important than the first is that a streaming service must provide high quality, smooth streaming. This is where many free services, and some paid ones fall short.

netflixOn Crackle, if you go on their site to watch a movie, you are stuck with the highest quality stream at 480p. For those wishing to immerse themselves in whatever they are viewing, images riddled with blurry artifacts and muddy sound takes away from the experience. On SeeSo, when I subscribed back in mid-July of 2016, playback would often stutter despite having high connection speeds. Further research shows they have yet to optimize their playback technology for browsers. But even ignoring stuttering playback, there is no option to adjust quality settings for SeeSo, and with no high definition options available, SeeSo commits an unforgivable sin for a paid service.

The final part of streaming’s Holy Trinity is that the desired service can’t cost too much. The streaming industry has been giving cable providers trouble with super competitive pricing at less than $15 a month per service to cable’s monthly $100+ and it’s no surprise why. But this isn’t about how expensive a service is compared to cable, it’s about how they compare against other streaming services. SeeSo, Acorn TV, Crunchyroll, Mubi.com, all cost less than $8 a month. In fact, you could pay for SeeSo and Crunchyroll for the price of Netflix’s standard subscription fee. This is where many smaller streaming services beat the big players, and Netflix continues to gradually raise their subscription prices.

A similar war was fought before the video streaming war even began, and that is in the music industry. Services like Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Pandora Radio, are constantly competing to gain and maintain subscribers to the services.

netflix netflix netflix

But how do they go about doing it? Unlike the realm of video, music streaming services can’t rely on simply specializing on a single genre like Acorn TV or Crunchyroll. Their war is shaped a little differently. Pricing will always come up when comparing services and Spotify has taken several steps to directly compete with Apple Music – lowering their family plan from $30 a month to only $15 for six users directly competing with Apple Music’s family plan at the same cost and number of users, and exclusives shine in the spotlight with Tidal pulling in users by getting first dibs on popular new releases.

While it may be nice to stick with comfortable picks like Netflix and Hulu, there are hundreds of other streaming services out there that have a lot to offer to consumers whether it’s unique, quality exclusives or just incredible bang for your buck. Ditch your comfort zone, end try leaving your Netflix or Hulu subscription behind to explore what else is out there for a month, while some experiences may not work out, there’s a chance you’ll find a service that is exactly what you’re looking for.

Kevin Thorn

Team Stream: The Beauty of Being Biased

People like to hear what they want to hear.  A simple concept and the foundation for team stream broadcasts. Last year’s NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and National Championship game featured a national broadcast, as well as two different team stream broadcasts, for the first time ever. How effective was this? Well, if you look at the ratings it may appear as a failure, but there is a lot more to it than that.

Bleacher Report’s team stream broadcasts stem from their Team Stream app. The app customizes your content to give you a better user experience based on your favorite sports teams. These broadcasts are created to cater to a  specific fan base. They display custom graphics, music, show packaging, team centric replays and custom halftimes with school features.

This year’s National Championship was not only unique because of the team streams, but also because it was the first time a national champion was crowned on cable. The championship game was broadcasted on three different channels. TBS showed the national broadcast, TNT  showed the UNC team stream, and truTV showed the Villanova team stream.

team stream

Why would such a big sporting event switch from broadcast to cable? Money. In 2010, a 14-year/$10.8 billion deal was made between CBS and Turner. They are scheduled to rotate years hosting the championship through 2024. However, there is the option for adjustments to be made at their yearly meeting if they feel a need for change. After the sharp decline in rating from 2015 to 2016, there is definitely a lot to discuss.

The 2016 championship game averaged 10 million fewer viewers than the year prior. In terms of household ratings, they were down 37% which made for the lowest-rated national championship game ever. There were three outlets to view the game, and it was a great game that came down to the buzzer. There are multiple reasons for the drop off and it sure is not the team streams.

team stream basketball

CBS is available in roughly 116.4 million homes, while TBS is only in about 93.8 million homes. This just goes to show how broadcast ratings crush cable. This was the second most-viewed basketball game ever on cable (averaging 17.8 million viewers and peaking at 22.3 million) but it was a bust in terms of a national championship audience.

Outside of the broadcasting conversion, there are several other elements to look at. Both Final Four games leading up to the Championship were noncompetitive. It is known that lack of momentum will affect ratings, and it did.

Also, the year prior prior had a lot more headlines and star power. It was Duke and Wisconsin in the 2015 Championship, both filled with NBA talent and very large followings. 2016 was North Carolina and Villanova, North Carolina is a big name but Villanova has a fairly small fan base. Last but not least, there was a late tipoff. The game tipped-off at 9:19 PM Eastern Time and didn’t finish until after midnight.

There was some negative feedback about the team stream broadcasts but most of that was simply confusion. People would flip to the first channel that had the game on not realizing it was a customized broadcast and find it “biased”. However, as more and more people become familiar with this process, the more popular it will become. I believe that this is a very unique idea and great moving forward in sports broadcasting. The switch from network to cable really didn’t allow us to get a true measure of how effective it is.

Right now it seems like CBS is taking same outlook as myself. The CBS Sports Chairman had this to say in response to if CBS will be using team streams next championship game “We have some issues to work through, like our affiliates. But I think Team Stream has been innovative. It’s a good way to increase exposure and promote the final weekend.”

Ryan Herring

Innovation or Inevitability?: The Future of Selective Music Pricing

There aren’t many business models that would ever propose you let the consumer name their price as low or as high as they want for a product or service, yet that’s exactly what the artist Pretty Lights (Dereck Vincent Smith) has done with his label Pretty Lights Music.

In an ever-changing digital music market, the artists and music producers of today face overwhelming odds when it comes to distributing their music in a way that differentiates them and appeals to consumers, especially in a world of torrenting and mp3 conversion.

music pricing torrentDereck Smith and some of his fellow producers such as Griz and Gramatik of Grizmatik think they’ve found a solution through selective pricing, giving far more power to the consumers in the way they can freely access music.

When it comes to the consumption of music, the early 2000s marked a strange time in the Industry with the emergence and rise of illegal downloads through torrenting. Since then, it’s safe to say illegal downloads have become a regular means of obtaining music with millennials and younger generations in general. As early as 2006, Pretty Lights sought to adapt to this drastic change in consumption by adapting the way his music was priced along with two of his friends and fellow producers Griz & Gramatik.

pretty lights music pricing

“There is no escaping that reality” according to Gramatik. From artist Gramatik’s standpoint and the standpoint of many, the issue comes down to the idea that in music consumption there are two types of people; Those who will pay for the music they love no matter what to support those artists, and then there is now individuals who avoid paying for music as much as possible.

The shift in consumption has been partially because of the technology available for obtaining music, and much of the change is simply due a strong disinterest from millennials to pay for all of the music they have such easy access to.  With the rise of digital distribution and streaming services, the amount of music millennials find themselves having access to compared to older generations is staggering.

Though there have been those who have shown a fair amount of success through choosing to distribute their music through a selective pricing options , there remain many skeptical of the direction of selective pricing. Some believe selective pricing doesn’t offer a large enough portfolio for artists, putting them at a disadvantage against other artists by not providing a large enough portfolio of music at a consistent and predictable price.  But observing the success of artists like Pretty Lights, it seems hard to deny that selective pricing may become the primary distribution channel for artists to reach consumers.

Tom Randolph

Advanced Tech and the Rise of Indie Film Quality

movie film strip

High quality video production technology for storytelling has never been more accessible. Nowadays, you can create beautiful pieces simply using a smartphone. If you want to get even fancier than that, the barrier to entry for high quality video production, namely price, has dramatically decreased.

red digital cinema  gopro

Those in the industry know that companies like Arri and RED have ruled the high definition video production scene with 2k-8k cameras. These cameras cost upwards of $20k. In addition to that their operators use stabilizer rigs and drones to get amazing cinematic shots which add to the production value and cost even more.

On the other end of the spectrum, GoPro just announced some new gear that does all of that for $1,100 and fits neatly in a backpack. Plus, many consumer DSLRs and mirrorless cameras now shoot in 4k and do it for around $3k or less which is far easier on the wallet than that Epic RED Dragon people keep raving about.

Another thing any indie-filmmaking-baller-on-a-budget has going for them is the ease of access to incredible resources for knowledge. NoFilmSchool, CreativeLive, and VideoCopilot are just a few of those great resources. When you pair the lower cost of high quality gear with the ability to learn the do’s and don’ts of filmmaking from anywhere with an internet connection, you have the opportunity to create some very high quality content.

Does this sound like the perfect storm for discovering the next Quentin Tarantino or just a sign that cat videos will have higher production value?

tarantino

Amazon and Netflix have taken notice of this trend and have been acquiring the streaming rights to many indie films at various film festivals. This is a good strategy to hedge their bets against the possibility of major studios and TV stations pulling their content as tv ratings decline and more consumers cut their cable cord. It has created an opportunity for indie filmmakers to gain global distribution for their work through these two corporate giants, which in turn gives the giants great diversity of content to drive subscriptions. It’s a win/win. Sounds great, right?

amazon netflix

As the saying goes, anything worth having doesn’t come easily. One of the biggest obstacles with any indie film project is funding. While this decrease in price of high quality video production equipment helps immensely, there are many other costs involved. For example, talent can be fairly expensive depending on the actor. A well-known actor with solid performance will come at a premium while an unknown will be a risk but cost much less. Let’s face it, the audience will not care if the film was shot in 4k if the acting is shit.

Many filmmakers, photographers, and creative storytellers will tell you that the best camera is the one you have with you. While I agree with this statement, I cannot deny the positive impact new technology has had on the production quality of creative work. It’s refreshing to see that high quality is no longer exclusively paired with the big six studios and that sometimes even the big six use gear typically aimed at the average joe.

The barrier of entry into indie filmmaking may have decreased with inexpensive gear and copious knowledge of technique online, but the aspiring indie filmmaker now faces a new problem. There’s a plethora of people producing films with high quality video. With that in mind, how does anyone stand out?

One of my favorite indie short films is Uncanny Valley. Yes it has amazing special effects but the more compelling part of this film is the story. It tackles a concept that is relevant, thought-provoking, and original. Hollywood blockbusters have been rehashing ideas for years now, so this was a very welcome retreat from that.

uncanny valley

That is the answer to my question. Original ideas stand out. But that’s just part of the answer. The other part is development. Original ideas that have been developed from pre-production to distribution are unstoppable. I believe this trend in technology and creativity will all lead to more original content being fully developed and produced at a very high quality. And I am very excited for that.

Devin Harschnek

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