Apple to halve cost of iTunes TV downloads; supplier rebellion brewing?

7 09 2007

Apple is planning to cut the cost of TV downloads via its iTunes service from US $1.99 to just 99 cents, reports Variety.

The move would create a single price point for both audio and TV downloads, which Apple believes will drive consumption for the latter category, which remains completely dwarfed by equivalent music track downloads. Given Apple’s success in dominating the digital downloads sector, any changes to pricing could prove an adrenalin shot to sales of TV downloads.

It’s reported that pricing for movie downloads will likely remain unchanged and there hasn’t been any comment on price points for the recently-launched TV downloads offer via the iTunes U.K storefront, where shows sell for double the existing equivalent price across the Pond.

Reuters builds on Variety‘s coverage, suggesting that other TV networks may be emboldened by NBCU’s move, with a Gartner analyst even speculating that video content may all but disappear from the iTunes service.

News Corp., Time Warner, Viacom and Walt Disney Co. all have contracts with iTunes. One of them is due to expire by the end of this year, and another by next year, according to industry sources, the report adds.

In related news, Apple and partner record labels are to go before the European Commission on 19 and 20 September, to defend accusations of price-fixing across the Eurozone.

A tale of two DVR strategies: the pathfinder and the luddite

15 08 2007

Rewind to earlier this decade, when DVRs were but a nascent segment of the entertainment landscape and the debate playing out again and again in broadcast network boardrooms and future media conferences was DVR: friend of foe?

Jump back to the present, 17% of U.S. homes and around 7% of U.K. homes use DVRs. Despite some curious pieces of research from both sides of the pond, including NBC’s finding that viewers fast-forwarding through breaks had higher recall of the ads they’d seen, we all know the reality: the vast majority of DVR households:

  1. Skip through ad breaks.
  2. Are oblivious to the traditional 30-second spots running in these breaks (though it’s arguable that first in / last out spots, as well as sponsorship bumpers are creating impact).

As characterised by the years earlier friend of foe debate, there are still two classic responses from industry: embrace the change and come up with new ways of engaging audiences; or prohibition.

What better example of strategies rolling out on both sides of the debate than this interview with Brian Sullivan, BSkyB’s customer group managing director, and the individual who has been the driving force behind Sky+ being installed in over two million  U.K households.

Meanwhile at the luddite end of the scale, comes news that Time Warner Cable is to disable ad-skipping via its Look Back TV catch-up service. This from the very same company which ran a small-scale trial in the early 1990s of prohibiting ad-skipping on DVRs — unsurprisingly the feature, one of the key USPs of a DVR, got a resounding thumbs down from consumers. Yet history repeats itself…

Online video: another one bites the dust

28 07 2007

For all the successes in the online video landscape, some offers from major brands have been spectacularly underwhelming and have either had the plug pulled or been left to quietly die.

ThisJustIn, the comedy site launched just six months ago and aimed at being a “brand extension and potential development pipeline” for HBO, has been axed by parent company TimeWarner, reports Variety.

The report states: “the site, which was a joint venture with AOL (and replaced that company’s existing comedy channel), never got off the ground. It suffered from what some visitors said was a confusing layout as well as a lack of marketing exposure.”

Apart from the absolute no-brainer that intuitive navigation should be a given, it also highlights the importance of on-air cross-promotion for any online initiative launched by a broadcast network.

Other famous casualties on the Road to Online Damascus include CBS’s Innertube and Annheuser Busch’s lame duck

The latter fell at at the first usability hurdle by being compelled to introduce an age verification system during registration, so complex that traffic plummeted. Even once in, users were subjected to such lacklustre content, they seldom came back.

3 Out of 4 U.S. Internet Users Streamed Video Online in May

18 07 2007

ComScore’s latest data, released yesterday, states that 74.3% of US internet users watched streamed video online, during May, with each user watching an average of 158 minutes of content; over a third of these (35%) via YouTube.

Numbers are aggregated across Google sites, collectively accounting for 49.2% streaming video market share, followed by Fox (40%), Yahoo (26.6%), TimeWarner (22.3%) , Microsoft (18.5%) and Viacom (14.7%). Both ABC and Disney — curiously split out in a study which otherwise aggregates across the network sites — languishing at < 10%.