Xfinity and Disney/ABC Television Group have announced that Xfinity TV customers can now access three new authenticated TV+ products – WATCH Disney Channel, WATCH Disney XD and WATCH Disney Junior — at home or on-the-go — via a suite of new apps for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and online at WATCHDisneyChannel.com, WATCHDisneyXD.com and WATCHDisneyJunior.com.
The three new WATCH products are the first-ever to provide authenticated users with both access to live, linear network streams as well as an extensive offering of advantaged window “on demand” episodes.
Xfinity TV customers, who subscribe to Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior networks as part of their monthly video service, can now stream these channels live online and via the convenience of their iOS devices. In addition, Xfinity TV customers can view a variety of top series including “Good Luck Charlie,” “Shake It Up,” “Phineas and Ferb,” “TRON: Uprising,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” from Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior on these new WATCH products, on Xfinity On Demand, Xfinity.com/tv and through the Xfinity TV app on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch and Xfinity TV Player app on Android-powered devices, anytime.
The free Watch apps include a simple, kid-friendly user interface that brings the current online viewing experience to the high-resolution, Multi-Touch displays of iOS devices. Once a user downloads one of the WATCH apps or visits one of the WATCH websites, they will receive sign-in instructions to verify their Comcast Xfinity TV credentials, allowing them access to their favorite Disney Channel, Disney XD or Disney Junior programs on their device(s).
Non-authenticated users of the WATCH Disney Channel, WATCH Disney XD and WATCH Disney Junior services will have access to a limited number of “on demand” episodes each month.
Later this year, Xfinity TV will also integrate all of the content available through WATCH apps on Xfinity.com/tv as well as on other viewing platforms. Today, Xfinity TV offers more than 75,000 TV shows and movies, including a variety of kids and family programming, across Xfinity On Demand, Xfinity.com/tv and the Xfinity TV and Xfinity TV Player apps for iOS and Android, respectively.
The launch of Watch Disney Channel, Watch DisneyXD and Watch Disney Junior, as well as the recent launch of WatchESPN with Comcast is part of a long-term, comprehensive distribution agreement between Comcast Corporation and The Walt Disney Company that was announced in January, 2012. The agreement will deliver Disney’s sports, news and entertainment content to Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers into the next decade on televisions, computers, tablets and handheld devices. The new agreement enhances the multichannel business model and supports the companies’ mutual goal to deliver the best video content to customers across multiple platforms using the latest technology and cloud innovation.
For the first time ever, Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers will be able to watch ESPN, ABC or Disney shows live or On Demand and across multiple screens. The companies also agreed to collaborate over the term of the deal to create new, innovative viewing experiences for Xfinity TV customers.
“What if your tablet or phone knew what you were watching on TV and presented bonus features without you having to lift a finger?” asks Microsoft. To kick-start the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Microsoft yesterday unveiled the Xbox SmartGlass, an application for Windows 8, Windows Phone, and other portable devices that connects phones, PCs and tablets with the Xbox 360 console “to make your entertainment smarter, more interactive and more fun.”
Users will, for example, be able to use a tablet to call up a play in the game "Madden NFL" and then play it on a TV screen, or, control websites on a TV using the tablet's touchscreen.
This solidifies Microsoft’s “head start in the battle for every screen,” describes The New York Times. Apple’s iPhones, iPads and and computers are well connected, but Microsoft has sold 67 million Xbox 360 video game consoles and has more than 40 million active Xbox Live members. The company claims its video consumption has grown by 140 percent each year on the Xbox since 2008.
Forbes calls Google and Apple “wild cards” in the connected TV race. “Google’s first connected TV got lots of attention, but little sales,” but it will try again this summer with models from LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio. Apple’s smart TV may or may not be out by the end of the year: Apple has been shopping hardware providers and contract manufacturers, but rumor has it the Apple TV will cost in excess of $1,000. The Xbox allows you to keep your old one.
IE for Xbox
Microsoft will launch Internet Explorer for Xbox this fall in all countries where Xbox and Xbox LIVE are available. Between the Xbox, the Kinect gaming platform and Xbox SmartGlass, Microsoft claims users will be able to surf the Internet voice control, and navigate using mobile devices for “an incredibly easy Web browsing experience on the television.”
Entertainment Via Xbox
Adding to the current catalog of customized sports, TV, movies and music apps from TV and entertainment providers, Microsoft is claiming that Xbox will become “your home for sports,” with NBA Game Time, NBA.com League Pass Broadband (U.S.), NHL GameCenter LIVE and ESPN, including the "SportsCenter" and "SportsNation" properties, plus NFL, MLB and NBA coverage.
Finally, Microsoft announced 35 new content partners (both audio and video) launching on Xbox over the next 12 months, which include Comedy Central Stand Up; Nickelodeon; Paramount Movies; The Weather Channel; and Univision, the Spanish-language channel (and the first Spanish-language channel on Xbox Live).
Rodale Inc.’s Men’s Health magazine has a number of instructional apps already, including "Eat This, Not That!" and a workout designer: But you could not read the magazine or advertise in it on the iPhone, until now. Beginning with the September issue of the magazine (available in August) special content will be developed specifically for the iPhone in order to create an enhanced viewing experience that is unavailable on other devices. Men's Health currently has several branded apps for the iPhone, but this new app is the first that allows the magazine to expand its digital publication delivery across iPhone and iPod Touch devices with more than 220 million users globally. Existing Men’s Health iPad subscribers will have access to the publication with no additional charge on their iPhones.
The app was developed using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, and Rodale claims this is the first iPhone application to launch on the Adobe platform in the United States.
“This brand prides itself on being first to market, so developing an iPhone version of Men’s Health quickly is a natural next step for us,” said David Zinczenko, Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health and GM for Rodale’s Healthy Living Group and Rodale Books.
“Offering iPad subscribers a chance to view Men’s Health on their iPhone gives readers a new outlet to consume our content on-the-go or at the gym,” said Sean Bumgarner, Interactive Design Director for Rodale.
Men’s Health has had success with its digital apps before, as Folio describes. Its “Skin Care Center” was the 2012 recipient of the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) award for digital media, known as the Digital Ellie, in the personal service category honoring service journalism on digital platforms. Its “Eat This, Not That!” also won a Digital Ellie in ASME’s inaugural year of the awards, 2010. The brand offers more than 40 apps across the iPhone and iPad.
Men’s Health bills itself as the “go-to source for guys,” and is published 10 times a year in the U.S. by Rodale. The magazine has garnered numerous industry accolades, including being named by the Media Industry Newsletter (MIN) as the “#1 Most Notable Magazine Launch of the Last 25 Years.”
Just short of its 30th birthday, Boston’s independent rock station WFNX (described as "iconic," "legendary" and "progressive" across the press) has been sold to radio giant/clearinghouse Clear Channel Communications. As the New York Times describes it, The deal for WFNX, which broadcasts at 101.7 FM, is pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission.
It is unlikely that new management will keep the old format, as 17 of 21 employees were immediately let go, as RadioInk reports. Three full-timers and one part-timer will keep WFNX on air until the sale completes. As WFNX Program Director Paul Driscoll told New England Cable News, "I think of it as a two month Irish wake, so we're going to send this legendary station off the right way."
Stephen M. Mindich, the chairman and chief executive of the station’s owner, the Phoenix Media/Communications Group, announced the sale Wednesday morning in a memo to employees, which was posted by the Boston Phoenix newspaper (another Phoenix Media property).
“We introduced Nirvana and Pearl Jam to wider audiences in 1991,” claimed Mindich. “Together with the Boston Phoenix we staged the notorious Green Day concert at the Hatch Shell in 1994…for years we broadcast One In Ten, the only program on a commercial radio station in the nation dedicated to the issues and lifestyles of the GLBT community…Here comes the catch....Despite its celebrated history, its cutting edge programming , its tradition of breaking new music, its ardent fans among listeners and advertisers, for some time it has been difficult to sustain the station -- especially since the start of the Great Recession.”
In other words: “Thanks for the memories and you’re fired,” as RadioINK described the notice.
Clear Channel owns 840 stations across the United States, including four in the Boston area: The Top 40 WXKS-FM; WJMN-FM, which plays hip-hop; and two AM stations, the talk WXKS and the “Spanish hits” WKOX.
As the Times observes, rock stations have been on the decline for much of the last decade, leaving independent stations particularly vulnerable. Last year, Emmis Communications sold WRXP in New York to Merlin Media to a former top Clear Channel executive who converted it to a talk format.
ESPN presented its annual upfront yesterday, with a heavy emphasis on authentication, apps and delivering advertiser value. While the networks struggle to create social TV experience, CNN will likely be the first to make it a norm.
At the same time, ESPN Films announced that it will resurrect its 2010 hit series of sports-oriented films 30 for 30.
As Ad Age reports, Eric Johnson, ESPN's exec VP-multimedia sales, promised advertisers more targeted reach through its digital properties including the espnW platform for female sports fans; a new ESPN radio app for both the iPhone and iPad; ESPNFC, a global soccer destination; and a partnership with Twitter that will start with the NBA Finals.
Johnson claimed as well that with the Watch ESPN authenticated TV Everywhere app (introduced last year), ESPN now reaches 40 million homes, a number it expects to double before 2013.
Of course, few networks have the budget of ESPN, and "Modern Family" fans are hardly as rabid as NBA fans. But ESPN sets the bar for cross-media convergence.
30 for 30 Vol. II
ESPN Films has announced the return of the Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning 30 for 30 film series. As with the first series, which included collaborations with acclaimed filmmakers such as Peter Berg (“Kings Ransom”), Barry Levinson (“The Band That Wouldn’t Die”), Ice Cube (“Straight Outta L.A.”) and Academy Award-winner Barbara Koppel (“The House of Steinbrenner”), ESPN Films will once again partner with a wide array of filmmakers to tell inspirational sports stories. 30 for 30 Vol. II is scheduled to premiere in October.
“30 for 30 was conceived as a finite collection and when the original series ended in December of 2010 with ‘Pony Excess,’ we had underestimated the strength of the connection fans had made between sports documentaries and the 30 for 30 brand,” said Connor Schell, vice president of ESPN Films. “We’re proud to have created a brand that has become synonymous with quality sports storytelling and we see value in bringing back a second collection of 30 films.”
In addition to a second slate of 30 feature-length documentaries, ESPN Films will broaden its scope to support a whole new crop of stories with the creation of 30 for 30 Shorts – a 30-part digital short film series. 30 for 30 Shorts will be similar to the feature-length films in that each piece will represent a specific point of view of the filmmaker and will be a reflection of how they blend the narrative with their own visual style. Beginning in September, a new short film will debut monthly on Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com. A 30 for 30 Short entitled “Here Now” about Pete Rose is currently online as preview of the series.
Volume II of 30 for 30 will have a much more defined multimedia component through closer integration with Grantland.com by featuring filmmaker podcasts with Bill Simmons, topical oral histories, in-depth features and more. Each feature-length film and digital short will be complemented with a long-form written piece on Grantland.com that deepens the experience with additional context.
Films scheduled to air as part of 30 for 30 Vol. II include:
- “Benji” about 17-year-old NBA prospect Ben Wilson whose life was tragically cut short;
- “Broke,” a documentary about pro athletes sucked into bad investments, stalked by freeloaders, saddled with medical problems;
- “Bo Knows,” another documentary about the marketing of pro athletes like legendary sports figure Bo Jackson;
- “The Season of Their Lives,” about the 1982-83 North Carolina State Wolfpack basketball team.
Social TV Via Twitter
ESPN announced a strategic collaboration with Twitter that it believes offers fans and advertisers unique, interactive programs around major sporting events, beginning with the upcoming NBA Finals. The effort will be promoted across Twitter, ESPN networks, ABC and ESPN’s broad array of digital assets, including ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile.
Each program will be co-created by ESPN and Twitter, beginning with GameFace – the first effort, which will be focused on the NBA Finals. GameFace will be seamlessly integrated throughout the live ABC broadcasts and ESPN’s NBA Tonight programming with a dedicated Twitter hashtag #GameFace.
Fans will be encouraged to tweet photographs of their “game face” throughout the finals. At the conclusion of each game, NBA Tonight analysts will highlight the competition and reveal the best photographs on-air. The best photos will also be featured in a photo gallery on ESPN.com/NBA.
“Working together, ESPN and Twitter are giving marketers a clear and powerful way to link on-air and online social conversations around sports,” said Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter’s Vice President of Global Brand Strategy. “It’s the first time advertisers can engage the audience around ESPN’s premier content across screens and where the conversation is happening on Twitter.”
Added Ed Erhardt, president, ESPN Global Customer Marketing and Sales, “Advertisers and marketers have been asking for meaningful opportunities that tap into the power of social media. We know fans use ESPN and Twitter as their main source for content and connectivity. By taking that scale and combining it with the passion of sports fans, this program answers the value equation of social media while providing a new way for fans to engage with ESPN.”
On Twitter, #GameFace will be supported through Twitter’s Promoted Products suite (including a Promoted Trend during the Finals), and the experience will be plugged on the @NBAonESPN Twitter handle.
The latest version of the ESPN Radio app for iPhone, iPad and iTouch provides both live and on demand content, and includes a new feature that allows fans to build their own sports stations. Versions for Android and Windows 7 smartphones are slated to launch later this summer.
“This latest version of the ESPN Radio App builds on our promise to deliver the best sports audio content across any device,” said Marc Horine, Vice President, ESPN Digital and Print Media. “With this update, fans now have complete control over their listening experience as the app provides the functionality to customize specifically by sports, teams and athletes they care most about.”
Beginning today (May 16), fans can download the premium version of the app at no cost for a limited time. After that, for a one-time fee of $4.99, fans can access the full experience of the app, complete with the new personalization features and enhancements. The premium app will continue to give millions of ESPN Radio listeners access to live radio streams from more than 35 ESPN Radio stations, fan favorite shows like “Mike & Mike in the Morning,” “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd, “Waddle & Silvy” (Chicago) and “The Michael Kay Show” (New York), plus select play-by-play broadcasts, live scores and text messaging.
ESPN Radio launched its first app in September 2009 and has since been one of the top paid sports apps in the marketplace. Additionally, it was named Best Radio App by Radio Ink Magazine at the Digital Convergence Awards in May 2011. The ESPN Radio App is available from the App Store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore.
As video consumption increases and viewing devices vary, consumers are still using televisions most often to watch video, according to The Evolving Video Landscape study released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). So should ad buyers take back those digital dollars they robbed from TV budgets? Not necessarily. Consumers are increasingly using televisions like iPads, for social media, music and web browsing.
Consumers are watching more video than they have in the past, across a variety of platforms. One-third of U.S. adults online (34%) say they watch more video content today than they did a year ago. Viewing of television video programming is up 28%, with consumers citing convenience and the appeal/variety of programming as the top factors for increased viewing. Viewing of content on portable devices has also increased, with 40% watching more on those devices today than a year ago.
Many consumers (66%) who are watching video content on television are simultaneously using other consumer electronics (CE) devices. This behavior is more prevalent among younger consumers, as 85% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 70% of 25- to 34-year-olds multitask with another device while watching video on a television. U.S. adults online report watching some type of video content an average of 3.2 hours a day, five days per week.
Televisions continue to be the most commonly used device for watching video but other devices are gaining in popularity. HDTVs are the most prevalent devices used for video viewing, used by two-thirds (66 percent) of U.S. adults online. Computers are also commonly used to watch video, with 62 percent using a laptop to watch video and 55% using a desktop. One-third (33%) of consumers are using their smartphones to watch video content, and 17% are using their tablets.
“Consumers are watching more video than they have in years past and they are seeking devices and technologies that deliver a quality video and audio experience,” said Shawn DuBravac, CEA’s chief economist and director of research. “However, younger consumers accustomed to multitasking are defining new video behaviors as they watch video content across multiple platforms, on their own schedule, all while interacting socially on their devices with their friends.”
Televisions have also emerged as a device that can do more than just play video. Among consumers using televisions to watch video content, nearly half (47%) also use their sets for other purposes. One in three (34%) consumers who use a television to watch video also use their set to listen to music, and one in five (21%) uses a television to listen to audio. Usage also varies by age and the type of display owned. Younger consumers, those under age 25, rely on their TVs more for music, social media, going on the Web and communicating. Consumers with Internet-enabled TVs use their displays in a number of ways as well: 47% listen to music, 28% use social media, 26% surf the Web and 23% view photos.
Future television purchases will be based on better picture quality and larger screen sizes as consumers will continue to seek the latest innovations in the market. Almost half (48%) of consumers planning to purchase a TV in the next 12 months will be replacing an aging, obsolete or broken set. However, half (51%) desire improved picture quality in a new display and half (50%) want a larger screen size. One in four (24%) consumers with intentions to purchase a TV over the next year expect to purchase a 3DTV; 21% plan to purchase an OLED display; and a quarter of consumers (25%) plan to purchase an Internet-enabled TV. While stated purchase intentions do not always translate to transactions, the study clearly shows many consumers have their eyes fixed on newer TV technologies.
“Easy access to the Web makes TVs more versatile, allowing us to stay connected, informed and entertained,” said DuBravac. “In the future, new technologies, like OLED and 3D, will continue to improve the viewer experience, and Internet-enabled sets will fulfill consumers’ desires to be connected.”
The Evolving Video Landscape Study (April 2012) was conducted between February 22 and March 2, 2012. It was designed and formulated by CEA Market Research, the most comprehensive source of sales data, forecasts, consumer research and historical trends for the consumer electronics industry. Please cite any information to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®. The complete study is available free to CEA member companies at members.CE.org. Non-members may purchase the study at the CEA Store.
All of the major TV broadcasters hate the idea of bypassing televisions, but some of their local affiliates love the idea.
All major TV broadcasters have joined forces to fight Aereo, “an upstart company backed by Barry Diller that seeks to distribute stations online to paying customers,” as Hollywood Reporter describes. If Aereo successfully fends off the lawsuits, then Aero will retransmit broadcast programming online (and charge for it) without paying retransmission fees.
Broadcasters see it as a slippery slope. As Matt Bond, executive vp content distribution at NBCUniversal, told a New York federal court on Wednesday, it makes no sense for cable systems or satellite broadcasters to pay for NBCU content: They need only follow the Aereo example and snag it for free. (Aero uses an individual antenna to do so.) Bonds declared that "I know for a fact that cable companies have already considered such a model." Bonds and his opposite numbers at rival networks foresee impaired retransmission negotiations with cable and satellite providers, and lost ad dollars.
At the same time, local station owners are actively working with technology startups that want to broadcast their content to tablets and smartphones, reports USA Today. "It's watching TV in your car or on the train," Colleen Brown, CEO of TV station owner Fisher Communications told USA Today. "There will be a time when consumers don't care how they get TV."
USA Today names Aereo alongside new ventures Syncbak, Dyle and Mobile500 as providing mobile digital TV technology for consumers looking to cut the cable cord.
Mobile500 Alliance is a joint venture of 50 TV station companies (Fisher Communications included, and Brown chairs the alliance), which plans to release an antenna and iOS app this summer to allow iPhone and iPad users to receive local TV broadcast signals. The content will be free, but the antenna will cost $50 to $100.
Thus far,other companies that aimed to deliver TV via Internet (including Filmon, Ivi.tv and iCravetv) have been blocked by lawsuits: But none was backed by a heavyweight like Barry Diller, or by a consortium like the Mobile500Alliance.
More on this as the story evolves.
Dish Network is introducing a new DVR feature, called Auto Hop, which allows customers to skip all commercials on high-def programs from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.
“Viewers love to skip commercials,” said Vivek Khemka, vice president of Dish Product Management, on the Dish Network blog. “With the Auto Hop capability of the Hopper, watching your favorite shows commercial-free is easier than ever before. It’s a revolutionary development that no other company offers and it’s something that sets Hopper above the competition.”
Auto Hop is a one-click option, which sets it somewhat apart freom more complicated options by Sage TV, Myth TV and Windows Media Center. One caveat is that the commercial-free viewing does not activate until 1 A.M. following the day or night a show is recorded—cold comfort for advertisers. Those who watch a delayed viewing before 1 A.M. still have the option to use the Hopper’s 30-second “hop forward.”
As for advertisers or transmission fees? "The Auto Hop feature is all about the consumer," Dish Chief Executive Joe Clayton told the Wall Street Journal. Calling commercial-free television a “Holy Grail” that viewers have wanted for 40 years, he asked “What’s wrong with giving the consumer what he wants?”
Here’s what’s wrong. As Broadcasting & Cable reports, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Craig Moffett observed that "Auto Hop adds to an already long list of broadcast-unfriendly features of Dish's service, including 30-second skip buttons on their remote controls." DVR services from DirecTV and TiVo do not offer the feature, while Dish promotes the feature with a button on its remotes. Moffett believes Dish is rather reckless, having announced it will not renew a carriage agreement with AMC, depriving its viewers of programming like “Mad Men” and “The Walking Dead.”
Moffett speculates that the networks may take legal action against Dish, or at least, seek higher retransmission fees from the company.
Newspaper websites have been weak on the rich media content that attract visitors. But a select few are venturing into over-the-top broadcasting, producing video on par with their TV competitors, reports Diana Marszalek of TVNewsCheck. The websites for the Denver Post, Boston Globe, the Twin Cities’ StarTribune, SeattleTimes and Louisville’s Courier-Journal are all moving into in-house-produced video content. And they are attracting talented journalists, like DenverPost.com’s Anne Herbst, a national Edward R. Murrow award winner.
“The good news from my perspective is that content is king, not the medium any longer,” said Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Chairman Kevin Benz in an interview with TVNewsCheck. That enabled the StarTribune.com, a newspaper website, to win regional Emmy awards. A Boston.com (the Boston Globe website) video series on the late Senator Ted Kennedy was similarly up for a national Emmy.
And content drives traffic: StarTribune.com enjoyed a 297% increase in videos played from April 2011 to April 2012, though the paper did not detail how that translated into dollars. Presumably, it is a strong case-builder for display advertising.
Local papers will not have quite the budgets the manpower or budgets to become ersatz TV stations, but they can meet the trend halfway. Digital First Media last week announced that it would launch 12 new community newsroom projects, to build upon the success of the Newsroom Café launched by the Register Citizen in Torrington, Conn. The Café was an experiment that led to the Register Citizen being named the 2011 Innovator of the Year by the Associated Press Media Editors.
All of its Denver outlets, including The Daily Camera, dailycamera.com, BuffZone.com and BoCoPreps.com in Boulder, Colo., are planning a variety of community engagement approaches, including enabling local residents to upload video they shoot of sporting events, or of recording sessions for local bands in the “Camera Garage studio.”
That content will not have the quality of, for example, a story produced by Herbst for DenverPost.com; it will lean more toward the iReports on CNN.com. But in time, it should be a boon to newspapers that rely in display, search and targeted ads.
Five months after Comcast announced it, its Xfinity TV subscribers now have access to its ESPN gateway to streaming sports and news. Comcast is offering an authenticated app (iOS only, for now) to access WatchESPN.com.
As paidContent describes, this will double the number of households with access to WatchESPN to 40 million. The app gives the viewer more targeted choices than, for example, XfinityTV.com or the Xfinity TV app, by allowing sports fans to select individual programs from across the ESPN network. Still, it is integrated with the Xfinity TV app, which enables viewers to set up remote recording.
But can you advertise on it? Not yet, but soon. LostRemote interviewed Amy Phillips, the Senior Director of Communications at ESPN, who said “We initially stripped out ads but are introducing more and more advertising into streams [but] we’re working with advertisers and agencies to explore those opportunities.”
They will have to, to stay in line with ESPN President John Skipper’s pledge to maintain broadcaster value. Skipper in February commented that the channel will not use digital platforms to draw viewers away from cable and satellite. “We don’t cannibalize ourself, we use those platforms to cross-promote,” with mobile alerts and fantasy game applications, among other offerings. So perhaps ESPN is speaking with its existing advertisers for upsells and cross-media packages.
Right now there are no social features, so it appears the app is in its infancy, design-wise and business-wise.