Monday, June 16, 2014

Honda Stage Shouldn't Concern Cable Television

Honda Stage logo

Japanese automaker Honda recently announced a new foray into the internet which is pretty monumental and has shocked many media observers. Here are the details from USA Today:
In a move sure to be closely watched, Honda said Wednesday it is committing millions of dollars to create its own YouTube music channel featuring recorded performances from dozens of live events and concerts.
Honda is teaming with concert promotors Live Nation, radio giant Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, Sean "Diddy" Combs Revolt, Vevo and YouTube in the initiative. 
Billboard describes why Honda made this move:
The automaker has found TV a challenging place to reach its biggest growth segment, 20-to-35-year-olds, who are increasingly on the go, on their phones (U.S. smartphone penetration reached a record 65.2% in 2013, per ComScore) and fast-forwarding through ads when they watch linear television at all (DVR penetration reached an all-time high of 49% of TV households in 2013, according to Nielsen). Honda is allocating its entire cable budget -- “and some more,” says the company -- into music this summer. 
According to reports, Honda and their partners will be teaming up together in the following ways:

  • Live Nation events and artists will be featured prominently on the channel.
  • Clear Channel will co-produce concerts featured on the channel once a month. The concerts will held at IHeartRadio Theatre in Los Angeles (whose stage is being renamed Honda Stage) and will be simulcasted on Clear Channel radio stations/IHeartRadio.
  • Revolt's LA studios will also have their stage renamed Honda Stage and Revolt will co-produce concerts which'll be featured on the channel. 
  • Vevo will be distributing all of Honda Stage's concerts throughout their platforms.
This venture is a major win for consumers. Millennials will have another option online to watch some of their favorite artists perform free of charge. It's also a win for the internet. In order for YouTube to eclipse television, they need advertisers to trust in their product and content creators to invest loads of money (they get the best of both worlds in this deal). Despite these benefits, I don't understand how this helps Honda, here's why:
  • YouTube viewership is extremely sporadic. There is no guarantee who will tune in to watch a YouTube clip during a certain time period unlike in television where there is already a precedent set because of trends which have existed for years. Because of this factor, it may take longer for some videos to develop an audience which could make it harder to sell products in a timely manner. For example, a video promoting a 2014 model could pick up steam in 2015 or later.
  • There doesn't seem to be any brand interaction between the products and the artists performing. Placing your brand name in connection with a concert isn't going to create brand affinity unless consumers actually see the product in action hence why commercials still exist. As much as everyone hates commercials, they're still a pretty effective way to get your message out there if produced correctly.
Cable networks shouldn't be concerned with this move because viewers still watch the millions. There are many businesses and companies who still value the platform which cable provides which is why they'll never run out of advertisers. Here is a graph courtesy of TVNewser which proves that point. 


Independent cable networks such as Pivot or Fuse may be hurt by this move because it means there is one less established advertiser who is willing to take a risk on a network which doesn't garner high ratings compared to the ESPNs and USA Networks of the world. 

But the dearth in advertisers could help increase competition and creativity in the types of shows which get picked up by these independent networks. It's always great for television when a network owned by a non-media conglomerate is willing to take risks in an industry which has been known for being bland (blandness on TV has ironically helped the internet emerge).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Can Internet Sports Channels Rival ESPN? Part 1

For many years, ESPN has been the most dominant force in sports television. It's online, television and print offerings are high-quality and their throne has never been seriously challenged by anyone. Those who tried to challenge it usually fell short and ceased operations.

In this era where sports are bigger than they've ever been, there are more rivals for ESPN than ever before. Fox and Turner, who both started ESPN rivals in the 90s which failed to put a dent into ESPN's superiority, have come back with a vengeance in an attempt to accomplish this major feat. But, the most interesting rivals who've emerged come from the world wide web.

Internet sports channels have found a new way to connect with fans by providing an exclusive peek into the lifestyle of those who influence the games we watch. They've also provided viewers with videos featuring different stunts and tricks which will probably catch the attention of a younger audience more than two talking heads arguing about a topic. There is also a sense of uncensorship which the likes of ESPN couldn't commit to for various reasons.

The two big determinants to rivaling the likes of ESPN will be advertising and winning sports rights. As of now, none of these channels seem poised to acquire live games because of their dependence on YouTube which distributes their content. This conscious coupling forces the channels to split ad revenue with the video behemoth. If any of these entities were to ever become serious about competing for deals with television networks, they would need their own video player and their own infrastructure to pull it off in order to prevent having to split any profits with YouTube. The likelihood of splitting is slim to none because it's unlikely that any of these channels will be willing to leave the comfort of YouTube, the number one distributor of online video. It's hard to convince online viewers to leave YouTube for a different standalone video website no matter how good the content is. Previous attempts have been unsuccessful.

(On a sidenote - Online video distributor Google is considering a bid for Saturday night NBA games. If they win, it'll be interesting to see if Google produces those games in a traditional television style or if they end up as a free-flow internet style broadcast. I'm also curious as to whether they would import talent from Internet sports channels who aren't traditional journalists)

It's also hard for internet sports channels to garner television-style advertising deals because the Internet doesn't have an established ratings system like television. It is also more likely that advertisers will be exposed to a bigger mass audience on television than they would online because viewing habits and behaviors haven't transformed as much as we think they have....yet. Television still remains the dominant visual medium. 

"Blacktree TV," an entertainment program, recently moved from YouTube to actual television and they told StreamDaily that their profit from television overpowered their internet profit by far even though they're on a new television network (Soul of the South is currently available in 14 U.S. markets) which doesn't have as much reach as the internet.

“Eighty percent of our revenues came from YouTube 2 years ago, and now we’ve flipped it,” says BlackTree TV founder Jamaal Finkley. “We still appreciate what the YouTube ad sales revenue does for us, but traditional [TV] dollars are a better backbone for building a media business.”

This tells you that many traditional advertisers are still more comfortable investing in an obscure television show instead of a YouTube video even if the online video garners more views over time than the show does in it's scheduled timeslot. 

Advertisers want guarantees from television networks in terms of the number of viewers who'll tune in to a certain show during a certain time period. Online video can't provide that luxury to advertisers yet because viewership is so sporadic. Advertisers know what they're paying for with television networks but that same precedent doesn't exist with online channels.

Internet sports channels have a long way to go before they can seriously rival their traditional television counterparts but there's no question that if they continue to build up their fanbases and produce quality programming that they'll put a dent into ESPN and Fox Sports' profit margins sooner rather than later. Internet sports channels are focused on successfully producing something which has rarely translated successfully onto sports television: quality sports lifestyle and entertainment programming.

ESPN Getting Cozy With MSNBC?

When Dan Patrick began the second incarnation of his radio show, post-ESPN, he faced undeserved heat from the empire he most commonly refers to as "The Mothership." ESPN wouldn't let The DP Show include any of their employees as guests. It was a policy which reeked of bitterness and stupidity but it wasn't something which was mutually-exclusive to Keith Olbermann's better half.

ESPN didn't want to aide it's competition by allowing their employees to appear on non-ESPN shows or by allowing competitors on ESPN's shows either. Fortunately, things have changed over the years with ESPN's management. They've relaxed these policies and they're now sharing their wealth of talent with the entire media universe. Just over the past couple of weeks, Dan Patrick has featured Dan Le Batard, Sage Steele and Bomani Jones on his show.

The Connecticut-based sports empire has used unique ways to showcase their various faces for show and tell. ESPN has befriended national publications such as The Wrap, Hollywood Reporter and USA Today to promote their latest shows, products and personalities. The most intriguing move I've seen though is the proliferation of ESPN personalities on MSNBC.

Sports have played a role in the national conversation lately with all of the controversy surrounding Donald Sterling (which explains why MSNBC would need a guest/panelist from ESPN in the first place). But, it's still intriguing to me that MSNBC has relied on ESPN's personalities giving their perspectives when NBC has it's own sports department and their own personalities who're also capable of weighing in on issues (and need as much promotion as possible to have any chance at rivaling ESPN).

Over the last year, MSNBC has featured ESPN personalities such as:
  • Jeremy Schaap
  • Sage Steele
  • Jemele Hill (6 appearances)
  • Cari Champion 
  • Jon Gruden
  • Andy Katz
  • Michael Smith (2 appearances)
  • Matthew Berry
I personally love the idea of seeing cross-network appearances once in a while because you're seeing personalities interact with each other who wouldn't normally do so due to their places of employment. I'm just intrigued in the fact that it has happened so often in this scenario. 

Here's a list of the NBC Sports employees who've appeared on MSNBC during the same time period:
  • Anita Marks
  • Jimmy Roberts
  • Bob Costas
  • Jordan Schultz
  • Rob Simmelkjaer
The most recent appearance happened recently on "All In With Chris Hayes". Jeremy Schaap was a guest on the show promoting an E:60 report he conducted about World Cup workers being taken advantage of in Qatar. This type of story is definitely interesting to MSNBC's prominently liberal audience due to the implications it has on worker's rights. 

It makes me wonder if ESPN would consider collaborating with MSNBC on these types of stories which delve into the intersection between sports and politics since they've seem to become so cozy.

It wouldn't be unprecedented considering ESPN almost collaborated with PBS on a documentary involving football player concussions, although I'm sure ABC News would reject any type of partnership between a major rival and their corporate cousin.

I also wonder whether these appearances are just another perk involved in the trade which ESPN and NBC agreed to earlier this year involving Michelle Beadle and Ryder Cup cable rights?

** It should be noted that other ESPN personalities have appeared on other cable news networks as well. Stephen A. Smith was on Anderson Cooper 360 on May 23rd and May 29th discussing the Donald Sterling situation.

ESPN spokesperson David Scott responded to this story with the following:
We have no problem allowing our talent on other networks and if there’s been an “increase” as you claim, it’s due to the recent news cycles that have caught the attention of news networks. When big sports stories break, ESPN’s experts are in high demand because of their insight and depth of knowledge they provide daily to fans of ESPN.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Quick Takes: Vice/Time Warner, Viacom/Defy, Ann Curry

- Vice/Time Warner

This deal poses a lot more questions than answers if it goes through:

1. How does Vice uphold it's place as being anti-establishment if it's owned by the establishment?

2. Vice shares a lot of ideals with HLN's new shows launching in the fall, but if Vice takes control of HLN, will it want to keep those shows or start anew with a fresh slate of its own branded shows?

3. Will Time Warner be willing to support two separate international news organizations or will FTVLive's rumors come to pass with CNN being sold. TW has shown in the past it is willing to let go of legacy brands (Aol, Time Warner Cable, Time).

4. How do CNN and Vice work together? Does an increase in Vice's international budget mean a decrease in CNN's? Can Shane Smith actually work with a network he has such disdain for (even though he partnered with them back in 2010)?

5. If HLN becomes Vice TV, will it be 100% news or will we see adequate representation from all of the branches of Vice i.e. Vice Sports, Creators Project, Noisey etc.

6. What happens to the CNN Center? Vice TV would presumably produce all programming in NYC since that is where Vice is located. This would leave CNN Center with only CNN's weekend shows and Turner Sports left as tenants. The control rooms for all of Turner's networks also exist in the building but those could just as easily transfer to NYC as well.

7. What happens to HLN's talent? Robin Meade beats CNN's morning show on many occasions but she surely doesn't fit Vice's strategy or demographic. Is she transferred to CNN or will she be a free agent? The same could be asked about Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell and Dr. Drew; each of whom I don't believe would find it difficult to attain another television position if they were released.

8. Does online success transfer to 24 hour cable news television? Vice is successful online and is able to garner millions of views daily. Their HBO show is also critically acclaimed but is Time Warner sure that Vice has enough content and brand loyalty to fill in 24 hours a day and turn in a profit? Vice's content closely matches Current TV, which is now six feet under, buried and forgotten.

- Viacom/Defy Media

The crossing of brands in this deal is limitless which makes it such a great partnership. Viacom's number 1 network, Nickelodeon, has had problems with viewership recently due to the fact that it's chief rival Disney constantly finds a way to build up big franchises and stars to anchor it's ship to victory. The same can't be said for Nickelodeon, where there are no big major stars synonymous with the network other than Spongebob. Defy Media gives Nick some new stars with a built in audience to mold their network around including YouTube's #1 comedy duo known as Smosh. Nick has already started using this strategy with members of AwesomessnessTV and The Fine Bros. and with this deal, it'll be much easier to connect with some of the Internet's rising stars. Tosh.o and Ridiculousness from Comedy Central and MTV respectively also gain a plethora of video content to use from while TeenNick will be able to find its own identity with Clevver News, which reaches a similar teenage girl audience as the network which mostly airs Degrassi and reruns of Nick shows. These are just some of the crossings which are possible through this deal.

- Vector Management/Eric Ortner Media Group

Ann Curry's manager just landed a new joint venture deal with Live Nation which could signal the route which Curry's next chapter will take. Eric Ortner promises to create new opportunities for his journalist clients to expand their presence. Curry's teary exit from "Today" will leave many networks weary of giving her a traditional anchor/reporter position which is why I expect Curry to utilize her following (1 million+ followers on Twitter) and her passion for stories to become her own brand which re-engineers how consumers get their news. Distributing stories in the same way Live Nation distributes it's music could be an interesting experiment that Curry decides to delve into. Does this mean in Curry's next endeavor, we'll see her moderate her own town halls/live discussions on major international issues? Another idea would be to launch her own documentary series which can be expanded into different ventures in the same vein as Ortner's other client Soledad O'Brien and her Black in America series.

Search Here!!