Disney & CBS Look to Challange Netflix

Two major networks are looking to compete with Netflix and steal, at least part of their audience. First CBS announced it’s own streaming service with the launch of the new “Star Trek” TV series.

First You Have CBS

CBS is moving fast in the streaming channel arena, with plans to expand CBS All Access to Canada and other international markets by next year.

CBS is also working on the launch of a streaming sports channel patterned after its CBSN digital news service. The movement in the over the top (OTT) market comes as the CBS All Access and Showtime stand alone services are expected to exceed 4 million subscribers in total by the end of this year.

The sports channel is in the early stages of development and doesn’t yet have a name.

The decision by CBS to relaunch the “Star Trek” franchise on CBS All Access rather than on the CBS network or Showtime, or even to sell it to Netflix in the U.S., was a calculated decision to grow the streaming service. “Star Trek: Discovery” – the first new TV series in the “Trek” canon in 11 years, is set to premier on September 24. In an obvious effort to attract users to their new platform – through Star Trek – CBS will premier the first episode on their regular CBS network with the second episode (part 2 of a cliffhanger) airing immediately afterward – exclusively on CBS All Access. In other words if you want to keep watching the new Star Trek – sign up with CBS All Access.

As you can see by watching the quality of the “Star Trek: Discovery” trailer the mission of these networks to launch their own streaming service, with new & exciting content is no joke – and could, potentially be a boon for all of us.

Then You Have Disney

Disney has now officially announced that it’s making its own Netflix competitor, a streaming service that will air original Disney movies and TV shows. In addition Disney announced that it also plans to launch a second Netflix-like offering that will deliver sporting events.

It’s not surprising that Disney wants to directly compete with Netflix and other streaming services, given that more people opt to ditch traditional cable in favor of online entertainment.

The Disney TV streaming service will only launch in 2019, while the ESPN-based service would be available as soon as next year.

Disney also reported that it will terminate the licensing agreement for new titles beginning with the 2019 calendar year.

This means that post 2019 if you want to watch Disney movies and show you will need to subscribe to their exclusive channel.

What All of this Means

How we watch television is rapidly changing. Networks like ABC, CBS and NBC are trying to find ways to remain relevant in this ever changing landscape. Where commercial advertisements were once king now networks are looking to the audience to “subscribe” in order to watch the content they enjoy. At the same time, because of the success of pay-cable TV shows like “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones” audiences now expect much more from their television dramas. Commercial interruptions are a disaster to good TV – and the networks know this. We are well on the way to the extinction of relevant – free – over the air TV.

In fact so much has changed in the television landscape that Netflix is now almost seen as “old school” by networks like CBS and Disney. Ask yourself this question. Why should networks, with immense libraries of (old & loved) TV content and the resources to create new content sell to a “middle man” when they can create their own streaming services and reap 100% profits as opposed to sharing their earning with Netflix or Hulu.

The only question is can they do it – and be successful?

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Comcast Denied

Maybe there is hope for civilization after all. It is not everyday that Comcast is told, “no”. But that’s just what happened late last week.

Comcast is officially walking away from plans to acquire Time Warner Cable, after regulators signaled their displeasure with the deal.

“Today, we move on,” Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn’t agree, we could walk away.”

The deal almost seemed like a foregone conclusion when Comcast announced its $45.2 billion Time Warner Cable acquisition plan last year. It is well known that the cable giant spends more money on lobbying in Washington than any other company and in fact dumped $17 million into its lobbying efforts in 2014 alone.

But ultimately, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission had much too many concerns about the acquisition, which would have given the combined companies as much as 57 percent of the broadband market and nearly 30 percent of the pay TV market, That is scary.

One concern that apparently emerged was the role that Comcast allegedly played in preventing a sale of Hulu, which is co-owned by Comcast, 21st Century Fox, and Disney. Comcast was supposed to stay out of any Hulu business dealings as a condition of acquiring NBCUniversal (which co-owned Hulu) in 2011. However it has been suggested that Comcast influenced the sale process by assuring Fox and Disney that it would help turn Hulu into a platform for the cable industry. This became a particular issue for the Justice Department as it considered potential merger conditions for Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Why This Decision is the Correct Decision

Although Comcast and Time Warner don’t operate in the same market — and therefore aren’t direct competitors the combined company would have too much bargaining power in TV carriage agreements, content licensing and interconnection deals for Internet services. Comcast said the acquisition would have lead to better service for customers, but somehow not many people believed that.

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Lilyhammer Shows Us the Future of TV

Lilyhammer_1Sheet

Season 3 premiered last week on Netflix.

It’s the middle of the Thanksgiving weekend and so the tech news is light. However catching up on the Netflix exclusive series, Lilyhammer I was thinking about the future of TV and how The E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt is leading the way.

Although the Netflix series House of Cards is the series that generates most of the future-of-TV talk it is actually Lilyhammer that started it all. It preceded House of Cards as the first original series from Netflix to offer a full season all at once and be accessible 24/7 for streaming.

Lilyhammer premiered in January of 2012 while House of Cards first aired 13 months later in February 2013.

If you are unfamiliar with the series, the viewer goes on a journey with Tagliano, a New York mob boss, which begins when his beloved dog, Lily, is killed during an attempt on his life by a rival mobster.

In vengeance, Tagliano tells the FBI everything he knows about his rival in the hope of putting him in prison for life.

When asked by the feds where he would like to live in the witness protection program, he shocks them by choosing Lillehammer, Norway. He pronounces it Lilyhammer, which explains the title —which is also a nod to his deceased pet.

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Sound heavy? Don’t worry. Lilyhammer doesn’t play that way. In fact, the series sometimes goes too light and broad in its mix of comedy and drama. But that’s OK because it works as this really plays like The Sopranos on another strange parallel world.

As you would probably expect Van Zandt also supervises all of the music on Lilyhammer, which is why you see fabulous guest appearances and performances by the likes of rock legend Gary “U.S.” Bonds, whose 1961 version of “Quarter to Three” was an E Street Band staple on tours in the 1970s. I haven’t seen it yet by the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen apparently makes an appearance in Season 3.

Part of the TV future is the synchronicity presented here between ideology and the technology and it’s marketing that drives Netflix. Netflix is thinking globally with a series Lilyhammer which is seen in 50 countries.

Lilyhammer is set in Norway and is produced by a Norwegian cast and crew. But it stars an American actor playing an American-born and bred character whose values often clash with those of Norway.

No matter what country you are in, there are so many different languages spoken among the characters that you can’t view the series without subtitles and you must pay attention. Multitasking while watching this series simply won’t work.

You can learn more about Lilyhammer here.

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HBO Joins FireTV

amazon-fire-tvEarlier this month I picked up Amazon’s FireTV in hope that it would be the only streaming box I would need, replacing both my AppleTV and ChomeTV.

Although I was impressed with much of FireTV I was surprised and disappointed that HBO GO was not included.

Fast foreard to today when we learned that Amazon Prime Instant Video members will soon have access to HBO content. The two companies have apparently signed a multi-year licensing agreement.

The first wave of HBO shows and mini-series will be available starting on May 21, and content will continually be introduced in the coming years. The licensing deal includes access to “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Six Feet Under,” “Big Love,” “Deadwood,” “Family Tree,” “Enlightened,” “Eastbound & Down,” “True Blood,” and “Treme”. In addition previous series will be available as addition HBO shows roll out as the multi-year agreement progresses.

And in addition, and this is key to me, HBO GO will be available on Amazon’s Fire TV by end of the year. This is really good news to me because I need to clear some space in my entertainment center!

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Cutting the Cord with Frank Underwood

Kevin-Spacey-in-House-of-CardsCord cutting is a reference to the new trend of cancelling cable TV and going with internet services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime exclusively. The main hurdle for many, like me here is “live sports”. However I do believe streaming media services will continue to eat away at broadcast TV and just maybe someday become the dominant player.

Today begins Season 2 of the hit series, “House of Cards” on Netflix. Unlike broadcast networks the entire season is available to the subscriber to watch and whatever pace he or she choses. The entire second season of the Emmy award winning series is now available for your enjoyment on Netflix.

House of Cards is an amazing TV show only available on Netflix, proving that with the right amount of financial support, quality TV shows can be made and distributed outside broadcast channels. Starring Kevin Spacey. Robin Wright and Kate Mara, House of Cards focuses on the delicate politics of Washington D.C and otherwise known as the house of cards that is America’s government.

Personally I like to watch shows like this all at watch in one weekend perhaps, getting lost in the work the show’s creators have created.

"Lillyhammer", while a little uneven, mostly delivered on its first eight episodes, telling the story of a mobster, Frank Tagliano, who ratted on his bosses and moved to Lillehammer, Norway under the Witness Protection Program, because it remembered watching the 1994 Olympics there on TV and thinking that it was a nice town. When he gets there, he finds something a lot different than advertised, and struggles to rebuilt his life, stuck in his old ways. So instead of full-on changing, he meets the country of Norway halfway, forcing them to travel the rest of the distance, essentially founding and establishing organized crime in the mostly peaceful nation.

“Lillyhammer”, while a little uneven, mostly delivered on its first eight episodes, telling the story of a mobster, Frank Tagliano, who ratted on his bosses and moved to Lillehammer, Norway under the Witness Protection Program, because it remembered watching the 1994 Olympics there on TV and thinking that it was a nice town. When he gets there, he finds something a lot different than advertised, and struggles to rebuilt his life, stuck in his old ways. So instead of full-on changing, he meets the country of Norway halfway, forcing them to travel the rest of the distance, essentially founding and establishing organized crime in the mostly peaceful nation.

 

To demonstrate that this type of quality series on non-broadcast television is not a fluke I also recommend Netflix’s “Lillyhammer” starring Steven Van Zandt. Yes that’s right the very same guy from Springsteen’s E Street Band and HBO’s “The Sopranos”. This series just entered it’s second season.

With the huge success of “House of Cards” everyone forgets about the Norwegian-American co-produced show that started it all for Netflix in late 2012. Lilyhammer was the reason a lot of people signed up for Netflix in 2012, promising a new generation of television on a streaming service, and a show itself that was funny, relatable and sort of an extension of The Sopranos, thanks to star Steven Van Zandt, an alumnus of the HBO drama and member of Bruce Springstein’s E-Street Band.

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