Watching the Aussie market and thinking about SVOD

In our little part of the world the most advanced video advertising market and the market with lots of OTT competition is generally considered to be Australia and New Zealand.

For example :: http://www.nokpis.com/2015/03/02/quickflix-is-starting-to-fall-apart/

Some of the players :: http://www.nokpis.com/ott-asia/#australia – guessing more are coming as well.

So it is interesting to read an article like this :: http://mumbrella.com.au/svod-catalyst-tv-evolution-278126

For example this is a very good point:

Subscription video services have a monetization model devoid of creativity.
They rely on subscriptions and subscriptions alone to bring in the mullah. It makes it easy to balance the books and has the potential to be quite lucrative in a market like the US where there is a whopping 115 million households that will potentially buy the product.
In comparison, Australia will only have nine million households to market to by 2016.
This means that the maximum revenue potential for the entire SVOD market is roughly $1.1b (based on a $10p/m subscription) in Australia.

But I think this also points to the fact that a large regional player looking at ANZ region as just a piece of the puzzle probably doesn’t care too much about the economics. To me the guys that have to worry about these numbers are the one or two country services. Like Quickflix for example which is already hurdling towards going out of business.

This is the good part though:

I am glad that the TV industry is getting scared.
This invasion of innovation and technology will hopefully spur the industry to evolve.
The SVOD infrastructure seems like the perfect foundation for a new ad funded model that blends the programmatic, targeting and measurement benefits of digital advertising with traditional television.
With a web-augmented and data fueled TV and ad experience the TV industry could have something financially viable on their hands. They could give people the tailored and on-demand content that they desire.
They could banish the Nielsen family and create a robust and reliable TV measurement model.
They could continue to sell us that precious ad space.
If the networks use this opportunity to evolve, the arrival of SVOD services could be the best thing to happen to Australian TV since Kerri-Anne Kennerley.

There is room for some innovation. There is either subscription model or freemium or just free with ads. There are lots of other ideas but generally what happens is the folks that own the content don’t allow the OTT services or the OTT aggregators room to innovate. They are stuck doing the same old thing and having to kowtow to the owners of the content. To me the lack of innovation around the OTT space has to be blamed on the content owners who frown on doing things like download or experimentation around social or payment models. That leaves the content owners needing to be the ones to come up with something cool. Maybe they can use TV to do that or try to take advantage of the what OTT can offer by coming up with something truly innovative.

I am not really holding my breath waiting for it to happen though.

Apple to offer carrier billing?

So now I get it. Must say that the tech in Asia headline is quite misleading.

This article explains it better :: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/435673/scitech/technology/smart-allows-purchases-from-apple-itunes-app-store-using-load

Th carrier is creating a virtual credit card via the user’s phone account. So apple sees a credit card still but user doesn’t have one.

Brilliant idea. More carriers should do this.

That being said – apple needs to step up their game. Biggest win for android is being able to modify the payment model.

My old post ::

This is the biggest news in tech if so!

https://www.techinasia.com/smart-communications-philippines-direct-billing-app-store-itunes/

From a developer POV

Clearly Ben is on a roll. I don’t agree with all his monologues and tweets but I think this one is pretty good :: http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2014/12/9/mobile-platforms-and-technical-debt

People tend to get too religious about their phones, OS’s and all things associated with them. The fanboy thing starts to take over, Xiaomi as an example, but this stuff boils down to pure business. There are ONLY two mobile ecosystems right now. 2. Apple and Google. The China thing is another topic in that the rules are very different. However Apple seems to be doing better with their model in China than Google is. Enter Xiaomi though to see what can happen when one combines some of the essence of both players to make a go. It’s magic and it is working. However it remains to be seen if this is only going to be big in China. For the record it is only happening in China right now. I think Xiaomi will struggle outside of China.

Let’s talk about the impact more once they make bigger waves outside of China.

Microsoft is trying their hardest. Still doesn’t seem to be working. This still applies :: http://www.nokpis.com/2014/10/26/microsoft-is-only-missing-the-apps/

So Ben gets to the essence of all of this. Apple had a vision and Google had another. Take away the marketing, the religious arguments, the open versus closed jargon and what you are left with is two very similar platforms:

One way to look at this is that iOS and Android have been converging – they arrived with more or less the same capabilities despite starting from opposite ends. Apple has given up control where Google has taken it. And of course Google has had to add lots to Android just as Apple had to add lots to iOS (and they’ve generally ‘inspired’ each other on the way), and just as Apple has added cloud services Google has redesigned the user interface (twice, so far). 

I am not purporting that the environments are the same or that they arrived at the same point using the same methods. It is just that if one looks closely at the model. Google started open and is starting to lock it down now. Apple started very locked down and is slowly opening. Both stances created some benefits and negatives in the early days and now the resultant evolution has created some benefits and negatives. Google is better at the old fragmentation issues and overall quality has improved. Tool wise I think Apple has a better product for developers though. Apple is making it easier to do some things but their software quality has slipped. That cannot be disputed. http://www.nokpis.com/2015/01/06/thanks-marco/

One could also discuss that Apple makes better hardware since they actually sell their own stuff. Google is still not really in the hardware business. However let’s not get into this.

The part I still find that NO ONE writes about is the difference in the view from the folks grinding out apps everyday and shipping them. How do we ship these apps? Via the App Store and the Play Store. This is where the huge differences are but there is also some evolution there. I would safely say, much to my dismay, that Google has evolved way more than Apple. Where Apple has made great strides for opening up iOS, there is literally no progress in the App Store when it comes to search, discovery or the App Store developer view. We still wait too long for app reviews, there are too many reviewer mistakes and too many features are tied to actually releases. We cannot modify pricing without releases or even update things like images or text without releases. So 3 years in with a stable app I still wait like everyone else to change some copy or update an image. Comical.

With Google a developer can update copy, bits, images and pricing at any point. Or just ship a new app whenever we want. Granted Google has issues with not policing apps enough or letting any app release (pirate or copy app) but they actually have improved some. I still think both Apple and Google should converge stances. Google needs approvals or review for first apps and Apple needs to let people update apps without approvals.

Where I think the big divide is though is around emerging markets. Apple is somewhat behind in that everything one must do around purchases is tied to Apple payments which need credit cards. I can’t use gift cards for subscriptions since everyone always mentions gift cards. I focus on India a lot and the big reason Apple is not as big as Android is about device cost but more importantly the payment problem. Google implements telco billing or at least does not stop us from putting in our own telco billing. With Apple I am stuck with Apple. This has to change for Apple to succeed. I personally think this is the biggest headwind Apple has in some regions – it just can’t function without a credit card backing. If Apple had some sort of regional telco billing I think the flood gates would open around the iOS ecosystem.

All that being said I think Ben ends on an interesting note that is also where emerging and non-emerging markets differ. Messaging:

But the underlying philosophies remain very different – for Apple the device is smart and the cloud is dumb storage, while for Google the cloud is smart and the device is dumb glass. Those assumptions and trade-offs remain very strongly entrenched.  Meanwhile, the next phases of smartphones (messaging apps as platforms and watches as a dominant interface?) will test all the assumptions again.

The canary in the coal mine

Following up from my post yesterday :: http://www.nokpis.com/2015/01/06/thanks-marco/

Some people are acting like none of us can complain about Apple or that there is nothing wrong. So rather than harp on the sensationalist side of things I thought I would highlight where there is real commentary about the state of Apple from a real developer.

Gruber’s take on the Panic post :: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2015/01/07/panic-report

Look no further than Panic. I have been using their software for years and they are very open about the state of things.

Read their latest blog post first :: http://www.panic.com/blog/the-2014-panic-report/

If we could offer traditional discounted upgrades via the App Store, this paragraph wouldn’t exist. This is one area where the App Store feels like one of those novelty peanut cans with the snake inside.

This is so spot on. Hard to have the marketing and sales flexibility one desires when things like upgrades are not easily doable.

Coda was removed from the Mac App Store in mid-October, at the same time version 2.5 was released. Since new releases always generate a short-term sales spike and we wanted the numbers to be fairly representative of “typical sales”, we looked at one month on either side  — September and November.

The results were interesting. We sold a couple hundred fewer units of Coda post-App Store removal, but revenue from it went up by about 44%.

I am guessing they are only leaving the Mac App Store due to technical and pricing flexibility but of course not having to share 30% must be nice. All in all there are still too many issues with the Mac App Store – it is definitely not working out the way Apple intended.

The last couple of months of 2014 got classically “exciting” as Transmit iOS was suddenly flagged by the App Review team for a violation — a well-documented situation, both on our blog, and sites like Daring Fireball and MacStories. Thanks almost exclusively to these articles, we very quickly got a very nice call from a contact at Apple, and the situation reversed almost immediately. Everything ended up just fine.

But I can’t comfortably say “the system worked”. It’s still an awful and nerve-wracking feeling to know that, at any minute, we could get thrown into a quagmire of e-mails, phone calls, code removal, and sadness, just by trying to ship something cool.

I have written about the issue with the review process more than a few times. It really is horribly broken. Reviewers don’t read review notes, they make a lot of mistakes and there is too much time in getting through the issue for each cycle. I really don’t understand why Apple can’t apply some code and thinking to the way the process works. Panic is huge and well known so they have it easy. Folks like us, the mere mortals, have to sit and endure shitty reviewing for each appeal and subsequent follow up reviews. This is why I actually like the Play Store better.

Low iOS Revenue

This is the biggest problem we’ve been grappling with all year: we simply don’t make enough money from our iOS apps. We’re building apps that are, if I may say so, world-class and desktop-quality. They are packed with features, they look stunning, we offer excellent support for them, and development is constant. I’m deeply proud of our iOS apps. But… they’re hard to justify working on.

This one is tough, I don’t blame Apple but it is sad that apps can’t make enough money. People just don’t want to pay. What Panic doesn’t talk about is that the situation on Android is far, far worse. Unfortunately it means one has to come up with other models to make money. I am always stunned when I get customer emails from people who use Spuul complaining about using our free product and having to endure ads. They think there should be no ads but they don’t make any connection to the fact that the ads are how we support a free service. Then you tell them they can upgrade to remove all the ads and they reply that they simply don’t want to pay anything. Okay. Not much I can even say to that. This mentality is all over the app ecosystem.

Panic is just a reminder though that Apple cannot succeed with out developers and their fans but increasingly with the draconian and outdated App Store and the slippage in software quality – Apple risks losing some momentum. It won’t be instant or even easily spotted but these are the canaries – like it or not.

Streaming pile of doo

Funny – I just read this :: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6215246

Notice that most of the list is not really about making anything better for users.

Back to the post…

As I am in the states I have been messing around with all the streaming services available in the states. Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix across a variety of devices like TVs, Roku, Apple TV, Sony Blu Ray, Xbox, iPhone, iPad, and who knows what else. Its amazing all the innovation but yet everything is generally a pain in the ass to use and all suffer from edge cases. Nothing is really awesome and nothing works well across all use cases. 

As a precursor to all of this I know the general issue is that the content owners just don’t allow for innovation. It plain and simple how clear that is. So unfortunately I think the whole industry is held back by the owners of the content. This is why piracy is so rampant and in some sense the best user experience because product people can do amazing things with files, networks, and user experiences. Legal services cannot do anything they want and are mostly held back. Such is life. I don’t think this will change anytime soon.

It’s clear to me that even guys like Jason who is building https://www.vessel.com know this which is why they are focusing on user generated content since if they get it right they can do anything they want in reality. Of course there will be markets economics driving some decisions and they have to compete with YouTube while attracting content makers but still the playing field is much less restrictive than real content or shall we say trapped content. I have no idea how vessel will do but I think it will shake the market up some. YouTube is huge but the search experience, the curation and some of the viewing experiences are really broken. They are so big though they don’t care. Vessel has the time, money and experience to make a go of it.

In my own experience of using services while I am in the states I find that the best device to use is still Apple TV but it really could use an update. The remote sucks, the home screen is too cluttered and it needs more apps but the overall experience is better. On a technical note even if I am using Netflix I would rather use it via Apple TV cause it partially deals with one of my Netflix pet peeves which is streaming only and sucks on bad connections. Yes – America is full of shitty connections. However the way the Apple TV works, and it is the only Apple device that does this, the movie is essentially downloading as you watch it which means it does not pixelate or buffer much providing the viewing position is behind the download. If you use the Netflix app, Netflix on the web or Netflix via a smart TV app the streaming only issues will crop up. I need to dig into Roku more but I think it still streams versus downloading. All in all I prefer Apple TV and Netflix.

Problem is though Netflix is pretty shitty content wise. Sure you get the big Netflix hits and a few others but almost all new TV shows are not on it and the movie selection is dim. Which means that as the family gathers around the TV and we want to watch something new – we have being using the Apple TV to purchase movies on iTunes. The selection really is the best for movies and TV shows. Yes it costs money but if 15 of us are sitting in the room and we want to watch a new release, paying 4-10 bucks is still cheaper than going to the movies. So it is actually an affordable deal. Not everything is yet released on it but there is way more new content on iTunes than anywhere else. With Netflix I have to know what I want to watch cause there is no awesome way to sort movies by rating or by other characteristics, it is mostly just genres and then lists in the order that Netflix wants you to see it. I also find that I either want to use the Netflix app on iTunes or I connect my phone to the TV to use the iOS app. The Samsung Netflix apps are shit, the Roku one is okay and the Sony BluRay one is okay. None are amazing. In summation Netflix is the best for streaming, subscription and amount of content all wrapped up into one.

Just a quick side note – Sony makes the worst software ever. No wonder they lose money and are easily hacked.

The big issue I have is Netflix is streaming only. Which sucks if you are on a bad connection, are mobile or want to prep stuff for your kids. There is no way to download anything or cache anything so once you hit the road Netflix is useless. For this I turn to either YouTube or iTunes. YouTube cause I can stream easily on mobile and find lots of kids stuff but of course this is using mobile data. I can’t offline or download YouTube yet. For iTunes I can buy and download stuff and keep it on my device. This is awesome for road trips. It sucks that Apple does this but they can’t seem to figure out streaming. Again this is where any one service cant fit all models well. Netlfix won’t download and iTunes won’t stream. This stuff is not rocket science and it sucks they both can’t figure out how to combine these functions but my guess is that the content guys are part of the problem. I know from my own experience with Spuul that content people can dictate tech or product features. Sad but true.

All this means that there is no perfect service or device – well apart from just pirating whatever you want to watch. I like the Apple ecosystem more than others but it is also ripe for disruption if Apple does not ship a new Apple TV and figure out the cloud. Netflix is obviously the big service for streaming but the inability to control bandwidth, download and sort is such a big miss for me. It will be interesting to see how Netflix conquers new markets with these limitations. Google is in the mix but I honestly don’t use it apart from YouTube – Chromecast is cool and all but Apple TV works better for me. Mostly cause I am into iOS. 

I am sure there a better solutions ahead but the content guys hold the keys I think. So the product guys can innovate all they want but the end result is content is king. The content guys are in the tech dark ages. This is why I am convinced that Vessel is focusing on user generated content first – this way the product can shine.

Merry streaming!

 

Can anyone run Yahoo?

Adding this for everyone :: http://thomasdiong.com/post/105578350652/marissa-mayer-is-doing-a-fine-job

The internet is all on fire with the latest article about Yahoo and the forthcoming book. It is too juicy of a subject not to talk about it. Here I go.

In case you are wondering I have written about Yahoo before – and normally these posts always make my top 10.

Starting from the most popular on down:

Fuck you, I’m the ‘D’ on this

What the hell happened to Yahoo! Messenger

Thinking about Koprol 2.0

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 1

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 2

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 3

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 4

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 5

Fuck you, I’m the ‘D’ on this – part 2 (#marissadidit)

What is happening with Yahoo?

That is my core 10 posts regarding Yahoo and they make up most of my blog traffic. I actually had another post on how Carol Bartz was the worst pick as a Yahoo CEO but I erased it one day, actually my first day at Yahoo, thinking that someone might read it and fire me. The rest of the posts were all written after I left Yahoo.

I get emails from people saying I like to bash Yahoo but I don’t. I loved working there, I loved Yahoo before I worked there and I still love Yahoo. I write about it cause I think about it. I do not intend to cause any harm to people working there even if I am sometimes accused of that.

Here is the new article on Yahoo :: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/magazine/what-happened-when-marissa-mayer-tried-to-be-steve-jobs.html . It is a riveting read and of course the book will be a must read.

Nothing in the article is really news apart from the fact that it seems Marissa thinks a lot of herself and likes to be late to everything. I heard about the Ross story first hand and of course everyone knew Ross would quit right away. I personally think Ross should have had a shot at running Yahoo. He would have massively cut staff, it NEEDS to be cut, and he would have focused on the right bits. That would be a better course of action than doing nothing or trying to acquire everything. Yahoo could make money as a smaller, more nimble entity. Ross also wanted to buy Hulu but not sure that would have worked but I think trying a big acquisition is smarter than a bunch of small ones for the purposes of recruiting.

At first I was excited about the Marissa news but I had so many current and ex Google friends tell me what a mistake it was. In hindsight a lot of what they were saying was right. She is out of touch with reality, is not a great manager and is not the right fit for Yahoo. As I am in the States right now hanging with my folks, who use Yahoo religiously, I realize that people like my folks are Yahoo’s current target user base for the USA. Yahoo may not like that fact but it is true. They use Yahoo mail, front page, news, weather and the yahoo news digest app. They used to use messenger but let’s be honest – no one uses messenger anymore. It’s dead. Huge, huge mistake for Yahoo to lose out on the messaging craze. Huge.

Enter Marissa, a CEO who knows little about my parents. Marissa is too wealthy, sheltered and full of herself to ever understand my parents. Yes – I know a lot of tech CEOs are out of touch with my mom and dad but the difference is Yahoo needs turing around, Yahoo’s strength is folks like my mom and dad and it will take knowing them to serve them. I know Yahoo wants the young ones but that ain’t happening. In fact, I am not my parents or a young one but I don’t use Yahoo anymore either. That’s the problem really – no one is really waking up everyday and checking Yahoo like they used to.

On this point one has to hand it to Gruber for somewhat nailing the decline of Yahoo :: http://daringfireball.net/2014/12/yahoo_decline . I don’t disagree with him on what happened but I don’t think those mistakes spelt the end of Yahoo. What cooked Yahoo was years and years of not changing course.

Yahoo knew the old stuff was dying and the new web was taking over – but they didn’t respond to it at all.

They missed mobile, then they missed apps, they missed the emerging markets and they blew their Asian deals. Let me be clear here – Yahoo made money on both their Alibaba and their Softbank deal but what they never did is take advantage of those deals. They should have learned how to import stuff from Japan and China back into the States. They should have worked closely with Alibaba and Softbank on Southeast Asia, India and North Asia. Yahoo had huge leads in these markets and now they have virtually nothing. Korea closed. Yahoo Japan is not Yahoo. There is no Yahoo in China. They are dying in Southeast Asia. Properly executing in Asia could have done a lot for Yahoo in the big picture. They let it all die.

I agree with Gruber that a comeback is highly unlikely but along the way they could have fallen less farther than they did. As to now – I don’t know if it can bounce back. It may just be too late. Apart from Flickr I use nothing from Yahoo and they could spin that off if it were up to me. Their mail sucks. Their messenger sucks. I never hit the front page. The new digest thing was interesting but too fluffy and not customizable enough for my tastes. There is just nothing interesting about Yahoo and to top it off – I live in Asia – Yahoo in Asia is even worse than Yahoo in the States. 

Yahoo makes money. They have too many people. They still need to cut back and focus. Then they would make even more money.

As to a Yahoo/AOL thing. Kill me if this happens.

Maybe Alibaba or Softbank might try to buy them. At least that would be interesting.