Posts tagged ‘digital video’

Entertainment Retail is Dying: Follow Up

Friday’s post laid out some grim evidence about the state of entertainment retail.  It seems that Nipper, the loyal old dog that got so famous for listening to His Late Master’s Voice through the gramophone, has gotten fat.  If it’s not the economy or other lame excuses, then what’s going on?

Sales of discs are NOT being replaced by digital

As physical sales began declining, many in the business began to assume (and hope) that the declines would be offset by digital sales.  However, the transition to digital from physical is nothing short of a catastrophe.  Total revenue from the sales and rental of content (physical and digital) has been declining over the last several years, and nothing seems to be working to reverse this trend.   The industry is in free fall.

We got here because content owners chose to hang on to the old model and get fat and lazy rather than nurture the development of an inevitable new digital model.  That attentive and amazed terrier somehow turned into a territorial pit bull that didn’t want to switch to a more lean and nutritious bowl of food in the name of health.   Here’s what happened.

Content protection

Content owners began emphasizing how to protect their content as it changed from digital on a disc to digital in the computer.  The music business stood by in paralyzed disbelief as fans turned to crime and stole entire music collections.  In the movie world, studio execs focused on preventing illegal file sharing and created complicated content protection that had the unintended consequence of making it nearly impossible for customers to enjoy content across a variety of devices.

What was great about the DVD – the convenience of using it in any DVD player – was completely undone in the digital world.  What a pain it would be if you had to buy three different DVDs to play in your computer, on your phone, or on your TV!  With the difficulty of watching movies across devices, consumers have checked out and don’t really care about digital.  The irony of all this content protection is that it hasn’t done a thing to stop illegal file share.   Not to mention the content owners have allowed a near Apple-monopoly.

Backwards economics

The next big issue concerns the economics that motivate retailers to sell products to its consumers.   In the DVD world, studios pay to manufacture a DVD – the plastic disc, the case, the paper on which the artwork is printed – and then ship off the package to the retailer.  The retailer pays a wholesale price to the studio and then in turn sells the DVD to its customer with hopefully a bit of extra margin to make some money.  Easy, right?  In the digital world, something happened that I really don’t understand.

Digital files have manufacturing and distribution costs associated with them.  But for some reason, content owners began pushing these costs onto retailers.  As a result, retail margins to sell digital goods took a hit.  When retailer margins take a hit for no good reason, retailers lose interest in selling a product.  Consequently, retailers haven’t readily adopted digital.  There is simply no motivation to help a customer transition to digital.

So, here we are.  The industry suffers as DVDs and Blu-rays sales continue to decline and customers opt for a cheap and easy subscription or rental offer (think Netflix, Amazon, Vudu).  The last standing retailers don’t know what to do with the dying entertainment category.  As smaller retailers go out of business, the big ones are looking at other more profitable things to sell their customers and fill the space in their stores.

The prognosis for the now fat and lazy Nipper is not looking good.  He needs to get up, move around, and start thinking of doing something different.  Otherwise, he’ll become another obesity statistic.

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Blockbuster + Dish = Dishbuster

In an interesting strategic stretch (and I mean hamstring-popping-type stretch), Dish Networks acquired the defunct Blockbuster for (ouch) $228 million.  That’s a staggeringly low price for a company that once cornered the video rental market and had one of the most recognized brands on the planet.

While Dish said that it would enter the video business and re-establish Blockbuster as a leader in the video space, I hope that they are talking about something different behind closed doors that hopefully makes more sense.  I fear that the physical rental model with 1,700 stores is doomed to fail under the pressure of Netflix and the myriad direct to home video services that are cropping up.  And, it seems that Redbox (despite Hollywood’s utter disdain for them), has won a place in the heart of McDonalds-scarfring public that will ensure Redbox some place in this space.  So if Dish follows its awkward strategy of restoring Blockbuster to former glory, then Dishbuster they become.

So the question is, what will Dish do with Blockbuster?  Well, I feel that real estate is the only thing that makes a difference to Dish.  So what then, Dish stores in every neighborhood?  I’m very skeptical.  Blockbuster has a video service that Dish could use, but I can tell you that there are MANY struggling movie services for way cheaper.  And brand equity?  That’s a tough strategy to swallow.  Seems to me Blockbuster is synonymous with an old brand who saw its day in the 90s.

What am I missing with this acquisition? Why does it make sense?  It sure seems like tomfoolery to me.

Here’s a quick blurb from Barrons:

Satellite television provider Dish Network (DISHthis morning said it will spend $228 million to acquire the assets of BlockBuster (BLOAQ) after winning a bankruptcy court auction for the defunct video rental chain yesterday. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

Tom Cullen, head of sales, marketing and programming for Dish, said BlockBuster’sstores, of which there are over 1,700, will complement Dish’s video offerings and provide for cross-marketing opportunities.

It sounds as if Dish expects to actually make a go of this video rental thing:

“While Blockbuster’s business faces significant challenges, we look forward to working with its employees to re-establish Blockbuster’s brand as a leader in video entertainment,” said Cullen.

UV has got to do…something

It comes as a “no duh” that Netflix is winning the battle to get customer’s mindshare when it comes to digital video.  Their strategy of embedding on pretty much every single device that is being manufactured is paying off handsomely.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my next toaster came with a Netflix app.

As I’ve written about, Amazon has entered the fray and is even providing a better value for the money versus Netflix.  But Netflix’s everywhere strategy has landed them a 61% chance that any given (legal) movie stream or download is coming from them.  Ouch to Amazon as they try to capture share.

But the point here isn’t so much about Amazon or Netflix, but rather about the up and coming UV service.  And once again I pose the question: how are they going to make some real noise in the marketplace in order to be heard?  With Netflix everywhere, and Amazon planning to get to everywhere, how on earth can UV wiggle into the fray and expect to come out with any meaningful share?  It’s a daunting task to say the least.  And it’s even further complicated by the Byzantine rules that customers will have to follow in order to enjoy their content.

As you breeze through the attached article which talks of the battle between Amazon and Netflix, think of little ‘ol UV.  What will they do to be heard above these titans?

The digital video market continues to grow as DVD sales tank, and Netflix is currently king. According to the latest data from the NPD Group, there’s a 61 percent chance that any given (legal) movie stream or download is coming from Netflix. Netflix’s aggressive strategy of being on every device and set-top box is apparently working, and Amazon clearly has a long way to go if it wants to really compete on the instant streaming front.

After Netflix, NPD says Comcast made up another eight percent of “digital movie units,” while DirecTV, Time Warner, and Apple all shared the third-place spot with four percent each. NPD’s data was collected from 10,618 US-based Internet users over the age of 13 between January and February of 2011.

The firm combined all legit online movie services in order to come up with its numbers, but pointed out that customers do seem to know the difference between “electronic sell-through” (EST, also known as downloads), Internet video on demand, cable video on demand, and streaming services. Customers apparently recognize that services like iTunes (which NPD categorizes as EST) offer the most current releases, “while Netflix streaming gets credit from customers for providing the best ‘overall shopping experience’ and ‘value for price paid.'”

Instant gratification appears to be what’s pushing customers to favor digital video—whether it’s from Netflix or another source—over DVD and Blu-ray. “Overwhelmingly digital movie buyers do not believe physical discs are out of fashion, but their digital transactions were motivated by the immediate access and ease of acquisition provided by streaming and downloading digital video files,” NPD entertainment analyst Russ Crupnick said in a statement.

That’s the angle that Amazon is going for with its recent rollout of Amazon Instant Video. At $79 per year, Amazon’s offering is cheaper than a year’s worth of Netflix (which is $95.88 per year on the streaming-only plan), but Amazon’s library is still considerably smaller than Netflix’s. That’s in addition to the fact that Netflix subscribers can stream videos to practically every popular device that they would want to use—iOS devices, Android devices, Roku boxes, Apple TVs, Xbox 360s, and more. Amazon, on the other hand, claims that there are almost 200 Internet-connected Blu-ray players, TVs, and set-top boxes that can play videos from its new service, but aside from the Roku, most are relatively obscure.

Amazon clearly wants to compete with Netflix, but it will have to step up its game if it wants to chip away at Netflix’s dominance in the digital video market. Indeed, Amazon needs to edge past iTunes and the various cable offerings to even show up on the leaderboard, so the team had better get cracking  to get more content online and deliver it to more places.

What will UV need to do in order to compete with this?

Gigaom

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