MediaFile

Nielsen: the past, the present, but not the future of TV

This week, Nielsen announced that its viewership numbers will include the TV shows that get to the living room via Internet-connected TVs rather than through antennas or a cable/sat box. It’s a modest acknowledgement of the cord-trimming trend by which viewers are turning to non-traditional sources for “TV” such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

That’s good news, as far as it goes. But only a thimble’s worth. Nielsen, television’s quantifier of record, isn’t going nearly far enough to keep up with the times. Not accounting for rapidly evolving viewing habits and methods is a greater threat to the veracity of Nielsen’s numbers than age-old criticism of its method of computing them. 

Video consumption from Internet sources may still be just a blip – it’s at 4.2 percent now, though it’s growing rapidly. But consumption on devices that are not TV sets – tablets, smartphones, computers ‑ is also happening, with perhaps an even more rapid rate of growth. A recent study by The Diffusion Group (TDG) predicts that 10 percent of TV watching will be on tablets within four years. Nielsen itself reports that about 40 percent of Americans use a tablet or smartphone as a second screen, while watching TV, at least once a day ‑ and 80 percent at least once a month.

Sales of TV sets are in decline as tablets and smartphones fly off the shelves. The living room war is being won by mobile devices, which aren’t even on Nielsen’s radar.

The crux of Nielsen’s business model is in selecting representative households — Nielsen families — from which to extrapolate viewing patterns. Nielsen families agree to have a special box attached to their TV sets that can record viewing habits. There are only 22,000 of these families, carefully chosen to create a polling sample that represents 114.2 million U.S. households.

Tech wrap: Microsoft presses pause on Web TV

Microsoft has put its talks with media companies about an online subscription service for TV shows and movies on hold, according to people familiar with the discussions. The company had been in intense talks with potential programming partners for over a year and was hoping to roll out the service in the next few months. But it pulled back after deciding that the licensing costs were too high for the business model Microsoft envisaged, the sources said.  Microsoft is still working to distribute TV shows over the Web, focusing on delivering programming via its Xbox gaming system to existing cable subscribers.

Dell intends to launch its first consumer tablet computer in late 2012, marking its entry into a hotly contested arena that has already claimed arch-foe HP. The Texas company had dipped its toe in the waters with an enterprise-focused, “Streak” tablet. Chief commercial officer Steve Felice was coy about which operating system Dell might adopt — Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 or Google’s Android — saying both were viable options. But Felice did say he liked the feel of Microsoft’s touch-enabled OS, which would be well-timed when it emerges later this year.

According to an Ipsos/Reuters poll, more than 10 percent of parents around the world say their child has been cyberbullied and nearly one-fourth know a youngster who has been a victim. The online poll of more than 18,000 adults in 24 countries, 6,500 of whom were parents, showed the most widely reported vehicle for cyberbullying was social networking sites likes Facebook, which were cited by 60 percent. Mobile devices and online chat rooms were a distant second and third.

New ‘Gossip Girl,’ other CW episodes heading to Hulu

Current season episodes of “Gossip Girl,” “The Vampire Diaries” and other CW television network shows are coming to online video site Hulu.

The network, a joint venture between CBS and Warner Bros., reached a five-year deal to bring its drama and reality programming to the free, ad-supported Hulu site and the Hulu Plus subscription service. The five most recent episodes will be available the day after broadcast on Hulu Plus, which will be the only online subscription service to carry in-season episodes. (Netflix just inked a deal for streaming of past-season CW shows). On the free Hulu website, five episodes will be available eight days after they air.

The pact includes established hits such as “90210″ and “America’s Next Top Model” plus newcomers “Ringer,” “Hart of Dixie” and “The Secret Circle.” Hulu is expanding its range of content after its network and private equity owners tried to sell the website and then pulled the site off the block following months of complex negotiations.

Should media owners rethink Hulu sale plan?

BTIG’s Rich Greenfield is an analyst who seems to have never met a contrarian debate on the media business he didn’t like. This morning, he turned his attention towards online video site Hulu, arguing in a research note that its owners should think twice about selling the business (subscription needed). First round bid for Hulu, which is owned by News Corp., Disney, Comcast, and Providence Equity Partners, are due Wednesday and are expected to reach as high as $2 billion.

In his note, Greenfield, known for his embrace of hyperbole, says selling Hulu is “a mistake of epic proportions.” He says Hulu is the perfect weapon for combating cable TV’s excessive ad load, supercharging on-demand TV, and for integrating social media’s impact on how consumers watch TV.

Greenfield asks why Hulu owners would sell now, at a time when Hulu is growing viewers, advertising and subscription revenues. As he sees it, on-demand online video is clearly the future and big media would be better served having a say in how the future of video distribution over the long-term is shaped rather than handing Hulu over to Google, Amazon, Yahoo or some of the companies that are supposed to be interested.

Tech wrap: Fake Apple Store defiant

Customers at an apparent Apple Store in the Chinese city of Kunming berated staff and demanded refunds after the shop was revealed to be an elaborate fake, sparking a media and Internet frenzy. Staff were also angry at the unwanted attention after more than 1,000 media outlets picked up the story and pictures of the store from the BirdAbroad blog. Apple declined to comment on the fake store or others like it dotted around China.

Apple was in early talks to join the bidding for Hulu, the online video site that Walt Disney Co, News Corp and its other owners have put up for sale, Bloomberg cited two unidentified sources as saying.

Verizon Wireless signed up 1.3 million fewer iPhone customers than AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers spent less per month than expected in the second quarter, disappointing Wall Street. While Verizon Wireless added three times more net subscribers in the quarter than AT&T, it only activated 2.3 million Apple iPhones compared with 3.6 million activations at AT&T.

Tech wrap: New iPhone seen in time for school

Apple plans to launch a new iPhone with a faster chip for data processing and a more advanced camera in September, Bloomberg said. The new iPhone will include the A5 processor along with an 8-megapixel camera, the report said, quoting two people familiar with the plans. Apple is also testing a new version of the iPad that has a higher resolution screen, the report said, adding a cheaper version of the iPhone aimed at developing countries is also in the works.

A U.S. judge rejected Samsung’s request for a peek at Apple’s unreleased iPhone and iPad, brought in the course of high-stakes patent litigation between the two companies. Apple sued Samsung in April, claiming Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets infringe several patents and trademarks. Samsung counter-sued, asserting its own patents against Apple. In the ruling, the judge said Apple’s legal claims are only based on its products that have already hit the market.

A senior Chinese official said there is no cyber warfare taking place between China and the United States. The two countries might suffer from cyber attacks, but they were in no way directed by either government, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said.

Five marketers who better bring it big on Super Bowl Sunday

Call it the Ad Bowl. Or the Buzz Bowl. Or the BS Bowl. Doesn’t matter, it all boils down to this: Sunday’s Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for advertisers, some of which dished out $3 million for the chance to reach an audience of 100 million consumers for 30 seconds. At that price — $100,000 a second — the stakes are high. A good commercial can be a triumph, creating just the kind of water-cooler talk that propels a brand to a new level with consumers. A bad commercial? Well, those behind it better start dusting off the old resume.

Still, like anything else, the risks are greater for some more than others. So here is our list of… Five Marketers Who Better Bring It Big On Sunday.

1). General Motors. Almost the entire auto industrycould be included in this one, since Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen and Audi are among those who will help the category account for roughly a quarter of all the commercial time during the game. It’s a turnout that reflects the improving fortunes of the U.S. auto industry, which snapped a four-year sales decline in 2010. GM, however, stands out because of the sheer number of ads it bought, five in all, after a two year absence. Can it strike the right tone with consumers? Can it differentiate its lineup? Will it play it safe — flags waving, trucks pulling 100 million tons of load, some catchy tune from an All-American rocker? Or will it try to liven things up, like Audi and Volkswagen have sought to do? (see below)

Hulu Plus cuts price by 20%. Is it cheap enough?

Did you sign up for Hulu Plus during its trial run? You may want to ask for a partial refund.

Hulu Plus, the online video service’s premium subscription plan, offers web potatoes deeper access into its inventory of movies and TV shows. The service saw its official launch Tuesday, and the finished product is apparently worth 20 percent less than the beta version. The company cut the monthly subscription rate to $7.99 a month from $9.99 a month now that the premium service is ready for prime time.

Hulu is clearly cutting is price to compete with Netflix, which has been offering a streaming video only subscription for $7.99 a month. But for that fee, Hulu Plus subscribers still have to watch commercials. And the selection of movies is inferior to that on Netflix.

Hulu’s rise continues…

Hulu, the video site owned by NBC, News Corp and Disney, is safely ensconced in the No.2 most viewed video site in the U.S. according to latest February data from comScore. And Hulu is making progress not just in the quantity of views but in the quality of views: Users watched a record amount of video per person during the month. The average Hulu users watched 23.3 videos  at 2.4 hours of video per viewer. This compares with the average online video length at 4.3 minutes.

It’s all very promising for the powers at NBC Universal, and its new owners at Comcast, as well as News Corp and Disney, who have been reported to be considering charging to view some of the videos on Hulu. One imagines they’ll probably add more cable content as part of the TV Everywhere initiaitve.

It’ll be more interesting to see how Hulu’s viewer numbers perform in March as it will be the first month after Viacom pulled its Comedy Central videos, including the hugely popular Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Our bet is that Hulu’s continuing growth will offset most of the losses from viewers of Jon Stewart.

Warner’s music comes to Hulu, still not on Vevo

JasonMrazWarner Music has just announced that it has signed up to offer music videos, live shows and interviews of its artists on the popular online video site Hulu.

This is interesting as Warner Music is the only one of the so-called big four major music companies that hasn’t signed up to put its music on Vevo, the premium music video site jointly owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Abu Dhabi Media Company. Vevo is built on the technology platform of YouTube. Warner and YouTube have recently fallen out then settled over licensing terms.

Ultimately, this is about business for Warner. As the only publicly traded music company, Warner Music Group seems keen to occasionally go a different route from its other major label rivals as its executives will argue they have shareholders to answer to.