Rebecca Greenfield collates a bunch of commentary about the slowing growth — almost non-growth — of TV subscriptions in the US. Around 400,000 Americans cut the cord last quarter, but cord-cutters aren’t the trend to watch: it’s cord-nevers.
Rebecca Greenfield via the Atlantic Wire
Cord-never numbers are particularly hard to measure. A cable company, of course, can’t report the amount of people who never subscribed to them in the first place, but we can do some piecing together to get an idea of the changing trends. U.S. census data found that 1.8 million new households were formed, but that only 16.9 percent of those signed up for pay-TV services, according to Ad Age’s Dan Hirschorn. The TV industry has been flat for years; U.S. households continue to rise. Meanwhile, as cable subscription rates have stayed flat, Internet subscriptions are on the rise. Comcast added 156,000 net broadband subscribers, an 8.4% increase; Time Warner added 59,000 residential high-speed Internet subscribers. While something like 100 million U.S. households subscribe to TV services, the U.S. 2010 census data had 120 million households with Internet — those numbers have only risen since then, with these companies reporting increased subscriptions. And what do people do on the Internet? Watch things. Though the most popular Internet activity, as of 2010, was social networking, video saw a 12 percent increase, according to a Neilsen report. Though, those numbers include people with cable.
These cord-never numbers matter more than the cable-cutters because the people who tend to not ever sign up for cable are young — and the youth is the future. Americans ages 12 to 34 are spending less time in front of the TV, found another Neilsen study. As of February 2012, for three quarters in a row, there have been declines in viewing among Americans under 35, The New York Times’ Brian Stelter reports. He attributes this decline to a shift to streaming. “Young people are still watching the same shows, but they are streaming them on computers and phones,” he writes. Right now the cable industry has maintained stable subscription rates because of an elderly population that’s watching television more, adds Stelter. But, those people won’t be around to change the future. The broke twenty-somethings who survive off of Hulu, Netflix, bootleg streams of their favorite shows, and stealing each others’ HBO Go passwords now, might get used to a life without paying for cable, causing a generational shift in the way Americans consume things. That’s what the cable companies should worry about.
And some people are simply watching less of the mass-marketing oriented Hollywood mumbo jumbo, and doing other things.
I expect a revolution in what we call TV, and it will emerge from the rise of the second screen, and the separation of advertising revenue from broadcasting (see Social TV and The Second Screen). Imagine if Twitter built a variant of its tool that was geared to a richer social experience around TV. And imagine that millions of people watching the NBA playoffs are using that app to socially experience the playoffs, running the game on the dumb box in the corner and the Twitter app on the iPad or iPhone or laptop. And imagine that Nike decides to pay Twitter for ads on the second screen. How will the NBA or ESPN respond? What law is being broken?
This is like cord-cutting, metaphorically. It’s cutting the link between advertising dollars and the ‘owners’ of the TV products.
So the revolution comes when the networks and the cable companies loose a large slice of their ad revenues. It will be just like the newspapers losing the classified business to Craigslist.
On the other side of that collapse will be new TV, but first it will all fall to bits. And then I will finally be able to buy access to a single NBA playoff game, or just the Women’s Beach Volley Ball at the Olympics, or just Game Of Thrones from HBO, because the natural unit of TV is a show, an episode, a game, just like the natural unit of music is a song, as iTunes proved.
Greg Bernstein redesigned the iTunes license agreement.
via The Daily
John Gruber predicts Apple’s direction with iOS cord cutting: when we will not have to use a PC to manage our iOS devices.
After Apple’s iPad 2 introduction event last month, I ran into Josh Topolsky, and, of course, we talked about what we thought of it. Topolsky made an interesting observation: that the iPad 2 epitomized how Apple seems to be a generation ahead of its competitors on the device side — both hardware and software — but a generation behind on the cloud side.
I’ve been thinking about the iPad in this context ever since, and I think it’s a perfect synopsis of the state of iOS. There will be no tablet this year from any competitor that matches the iPad 2 in terms of elegance, battery life, or build quality. No competing OS will match iOS in terms of on-the-device user experience.
But most iPad competitors have little-to-no reliance on a connection to a desktop PC, the way an iPad does.
The announcement many people seem to be waiting for is for Apple to tell iOS users they no longer need iTunes on the Mac or Windows. The announcement I’d like to see is for iOS users to no longer need to pay for MobileMe to wirelessly sync calendars, contacts — and any other small bits of data from apps from the App Store.
iBooks does this. If you pause while reading a book on your iPad, then resume reading on your iPhone, it picks up on the same page in the book. Kindle and a bunch of other e-reading services do this too. The point isn’t that iBooks is unique or ahead of the curve in this regard. It’s that you don’t need MobileMe for iBooks. It’s all handled by the iTunes Store itself. You buy books on your device, you read them on your device, and your history, bookmarks and other metadata all get synced to your iTunes account in the cloud. And it works great. But a lot more apps should work like this. Should wireless Safari bookmark syncing cost $99 a year? Shouldn’t it be easy for iOS game developers to sync progress for the same game across multiple devices using the same iTunes account? App Store developers shouldn’t have to rely on another third party — Dropbox — for this sort of functionality.
And those third-party iOS developers that are depending upon Dropbox — there’s a veritable cottage industry of Dropbox text editors alone — have a far better syncing experience than Apple’s own creative apps. The iPad versions of the iWork suite and GarageBand are exquisite apps — easily some of the best-designed user experiences for creative software ever made. But the process of getting, say, a slide deck created in Keynote on your iPad open in Keynote on your iMac is downright antediluvian. Google Docs has none of the UI panache, but the syncing is invisible. You just open Google Docs, and there are your files. Doesn’t matter which machine you used to edit or create them, or which machine you’re using now, they’re all just there. That’s part of the overall experience.
That’s where Apple is behind.
Apple has ordered as much as 12 petabytes worth of data storage from EMC unit Isilon Systems, according to a thinly sourced report on StorageNewsletter.com.
The order is said to coincide with the forthcoming release of a new product that Isilon is expected to announce next week.
So huge an order for data storage would coincide with the construction of Apple’s huge data center in Maiden, N.C., and that’s expected to be the hub for a new version of iTunes that relies more on storing media in the cloud and less on using its customers local hard drives.
If you have trouble getting your head around the petabyte, the fine folks at another EMC unit, the backup service Mozy (soon to be a unit of VMWare) produced this fascinating graphic. As they tell it, one petabyte is enough to store more than 13.3 years worth of HD video, meaning 12 petabytes would be enough to store nearly 160 years worth.
Oh yes, Apple will be offering streaming media from the cloud very very soon.
The tech world is awash in stories about Rockmelt, a newly debuted start-up, that has announced a social browser, based on Chromium, the open source browser code developed by Google.
Robert Scoble wonders if the company is philosophically correct (Does RockMelt (a new social browser coming tomorrow) have the right startup philosophy? — Scobleizer), which is an odd angle, but he is correct in his observation that it will be hard to move folks from the browser they know, and the ways that they use social tools like Facebook and Twitter already.
Om Malik echoes Scoble’s philosophy comment, wondering why the twitterati seem negative about Rockmelt:
Why is there such a negative reaction?
Change is hard, but there’s something else: advanced users have a framework of WHERE they’ll accept change. I call it “battlefronts.” Places where the industry is actively fighting it out. Right now I expect a LOT of change on mobile apps, for instance, but not much change on my desktop or laptop computers or operating systems. Browser wars? So 1996. But 2010? We’re in a mobile phone war, for gosh’ sake. Too much change in wrong place and it gets a blowback.
Tonight I’ll have several videos, for instance, from companies who are doing apps for Windows Phone 7. Those will be very well received, I expect, compared to RockMelt.
So, why do I care about RockMelt? Because social continues to radically change everything about my life. Look at Foodspotting, Foursquare, Tungle.me, and/or Plancast. Those are radical changes to how I live my life. I want a browser that integrates those into my Facebook and Twitter experience. So far that hasn’t arrived. Will RockMelt bring it to us in the future? Possibly, but today they haven’t and have aimed at slower adopters.
I think that’s a strategic mistake. How about you? In the interview RockMelt covers why they made the bets they did at 19m 40 seconds into the video. “There are 2.1 billion people who use browsers…that’s a lot of people.” Listen to their answer.
Is it the right philosophy for a startup to have?
Maybe Scoble and Om are circling around this philosophy thing, looking for a handhold, trying to grasp Rockmelt. But it’s like a bowling ball with no finger holes.
I think Rockmelt might turn out to be the equivalent of Tivo for the social web.
Tivo is a response to the established way of watching TV, making time-shifting and and ad avoidance possible. The idea caught on, and a lot of people bought DVRs. But the devices did not have a big impact on TV programming or even user experience, in the big picture. It’s a small idea, really.
Contrast that with iTunes/iPod impact on the music business. Or the changes in the entertainment business coming from Netflix streaming. Did you know that 20% of US prime time internet traffic is Netflix streaming movies today? That is going to lead to a wholesale change in all corners: user experience, TV devices, business models, and the future of theaters. Everything.
So Rockmelt, like Tivo, is pointing in the right direction, but it just doesn’t get you there. And what is that direction? The coming social operating system.
The future is apps, not better browsers. The browser is a kludge, in a way, providing a gateway to the web for operating systems that were designed with no web in mind. We are beginning to see the emergence of new operating environments — most notably iOS from Apple — that are based on the notion of an always on, connected web with billions of devices attached to it, and with people using those devices to communicate.
As more and better apps are built that are based on the premise of a connected web, browsers will be used less, until their use will become something like the Mac OS Terminal app: a way to get into the guts of things, used mostly by developers.
And these connected apps will take advantage of the metaphors and magic conjured up by the platforms they run on. And the most interesting and compelling metaphor to arise from today’s web is the social revolution.
The next generation of operating systems will be social at the core. We won’t be fooling with files and folders. We will be connecting with others, reading streams from our friends, and tossing observations and hopes and insights into the wake we leave behind, spreading out to all that think we matter.
So, yes, browsers will be social in that new social world, but so what? Everything will be.
Apple released a new version of Ping in iTunes 10.0.1. Don’t let the .0.1 fool you, this is a big step forward.
Cosmetically, the biggest change is the provision of a sidebar that stream of updates from those you follow on Ping, but the biggest advance is that you can post and like music in your own library.
Federico Viticci, iTunes 10.0.1 Goes Live with Ping Sidebar
The most important feature introduced in this new version of iTunes isn’t the sidebar, though: you can now like and post songs / albums directly from your Music library.
This was the major goof in the initial Ping release, as I stated when it first came out (see iTunes Ping: Social Music).
Here’s how the streaming sidebar looks, with the post edit textbox opened.
And each song in your library can be liked or made the subject of a post by a pulldown:
So Apple is starting to make the changes necessary for Ping to be actually usable. I am still waiting for recommendations of people to follow, and finding other people’s posts on music I like. Maybe the naysayers will start to retract their snarky commentary, although I guess we will have to wait for a few more ‘minor’ releases like this one.
Apple has a long way to go to satisfy all the Ping naysayers out there, but one gap is being fixed immediately:
Apple’s newly announced music social network will be making its way to the mobile iTunes, but doesn’t lose a beat. You can follow (stalk), comment, and read up your feed.
In the same piece, Mark Gurman says we will be able to turn off the stupid iPhone spell check, too.
Update: 10:03am - I have been informed (see comments) that Ping is already on iTunes in the current version of iOS.
Apple has rolled out the long-rumored and much awaited social iTunes in the form of Ping.
Ping is a streaming, social network-based suite of capabilities that has been integrated across the world of iTunes, in a way that is reminiscent of early versions of Last.fm, and using the now standard open follower model popularized by Twitter.
To use the service, an iTunes 10 user has to click on the new Ping label in the left sidebar of iTunes, in the STORE area. Then there is some setup, basically geared toward what should be presented to followers and privacy controls on followers:
Once this is set up the user has a minimal profile with location, bio, name provided by the user and some musical genre categorization offered by by iTunes, along with streams of actions taken by the user, like buying music, liking albums, and purchasing tickets for concerts:
(I did include an avatar, but Apple is still ‘processing’ it. I wonder if humans are eyeballing it for nudity or something.)
I followed a few celebrities, like Dave Matthews, and I sent out a call on Twitter, and got a few followers and following set up, for experimental purposes. Now when I look at ‘recent activity’ there are actually posts and activities from inbound stream (=those I follow).
(mostly everybody is following, and not doing much else yet.)
The integration of concert information associated with artists is very cool, and suggests how Apple expects social commerce to be a main source of revenue:
The instrumentation for Ping is spread throughout the store, so anytime you are looking at music for sale you will be able to ‘like’ it, rate it, buy it (d’uh) or write a post (stream based) or review (album based).
In the future, all online commerce will be socialized.
I find the fact that reviews and posts aren’t the same thing sort of strange. But we’ll have to see what gives after some more rooting around.
Lastly, everything I am saying about music could be extended to the other sorts of media that iTunes markets: TV shows, movies, books, whatever. But it hasn’t been at this point.
I have only fooled with Ping for an hour or so, so my empirical analysis will have to be delayed for a few days, at least. However, the largest glaring gap to me right now is the fact that my own music — the stuff I have on my hard drive — isn’t part of the Ping experience. If I want to ‘like’ or post about something I am playing on my local iTunes instance I would have to open the store, find the song or album there, and then make my gesture. This is just a pain, but could conceivably be remedied when Apple allows me to upload my music to that enormous cloud server park they are building. Then all my music will be indexed, cross tabulated, and sharable.
Recall that a few weeks ago a new release of iDisk that included the tantalizing capability to stream audio from the cloud to my iPhone or MacBook (see Apple Takes A Baby Step Toward iTunes In The Cloud). There is no doubt in my mind that we are headed in that direction.
Imagine a future release of Ping where I could share playable playlists, or live stream a Stowe Boyd radio station, or I could listen to a new track recommended by a friend and comment on that streaming recommendation. Or imagine streaming movies in sync with my son Keenan, with Facetime heckling superimposed so it is like a living room experience, although he is in his bedroom at college.
Apple is on the threshold of something fundamentally transformative. It turns out that some commentators agree:
Ping may function like a cross between Facebook and Twitter for iTunes by allowing you to follow celebrities, create social cliques and get artist updates via an activity stream. I think it could have tremendous impact on social sharing and commerce.
From a content perspective, there are three different types of media we love to talk about: movies we see, music we listen to and books we are reading. These are accepted social norms. In fact, many relationships are made on the basis of collective love of a movie and many friendships have started with mixed tapes.
It makes perfect sense for a music service to be social. I’m not alone: The popularity YouTube, the fast-growing MOG and the sadly defunct iLike and Imeem show that people gravitate towards music as a common, collective experience. A recommendation from friends on Last.fm often resulted in me buying many-a-few music tracks. My friends who listened to Thievery Corporation turned me on to The Broadway Project and Chris Joss, which I ended up buying on the iTunes store or via Amazon’s MP3 store.
This click-and-go-somewhere-to-download model of affiliate links can never match a unified experience. Amazon, for example, encourages bloggers and others to link to things they like and then get a piece of the action. This separates social from commerce and treats them as two discrete activities. On the post-Facebook Internet, I don’t think anyone can afford to keep these two actions distinct.
I agree with Om, and obviously Amazon will have to rethink its ‘enormous catalog’ model for commerce, and scramble to make it all social. And Apple and its competitors will have to provide hooks so that I can take my Ping stream and embed it in my blog, direct it to Twitter, and so forth.
I have been saying for years that ‘in the future, all online commerce will be socialized’, and Apple is showing how this is going to be realized.
Apple apparently considered integration with Facebook, but couldn’t come to terms, according to Kara Swisher. Strategically, Facebook is likely to become a direct competitor with Apple, so Jobs is playing go with Zuckerberg, and has won this game.
Amazon might make the devil’s bargain with Facebook to counter Jobs, but that’s a matchup that might just not do much. We’ll have to see if Bezos is impatient.
But there are many doubters out there too:
Ping is an interesting idea and music is something that we have been sharing with friends for the longest time. It strikes me as interesting that Apple has come up with a way to allow people to “share” their music tastes but not the music itself - which I never would have expected Apple or the record labels to do. Is this one way to make “sharing” music OK?
Apple is good at what it does - hardware, software, design and, of course, marketing. But social networking? Even if it is tied to music, I just can’t see widespread adoption of Ping - even if it’s forced on us through iTunes.
Man, Diaz will regret this a year or so from now. Maybe he missed the experiment with streaming via iDisk? Did he miss the launch of the new Apple TV? Can’t he imagine a Flipboard channel based on what’s happening in your iTunes network, with embedded videos, photos, music samples?
Another oddball take on Ping:
Chris Matyszczyk, How Apple’s Ping dings Twitter, Facebook
Ping picks at the nice parts of Facebook and Twitter—friending and following—and offers these benefits to its users without the generalists’ pains.
Unlike Twitter, for example, these are all real people. Unlike Facebook, you can just wander around and see who or what you like without having to become someone’s friend and without having to like anything at all.
This is real people with a real enthusiasm meeting in a bar and talking about a subject they love, rather than about a subject they often hate—themselves. There’s very nice music playing in the background, too.
How many truly passionate, fundamental enthusiasms do large numbers of people share? Movies and sports, probably. Books and food, perhaps. (I wonder if there really are all that many.) Right now, these are often all being talked about on Facebook, each fighting with another for sufficient attention across very mixed groups.
It might not happen that hundreds of niche social networks will suddenly become enormously successful as people decide to fragment themselves across their various enthusiasms. But there are a few core subjects that arouse passion, conversation and the spending of money. Music is one. Apple is another.
Why do the passions have to be shared by large groups of people? Isn’t it sufficient that there are many small groups of people sharing passions? Oh, and don’t leave out TV, which is an enormous passion, as are sports. And yes, people will tolerate — or even seek out — fracturing their social being across multiple services: the post-modern identity is a network of identities, a multiphrenic sense of self.
Are these tech mavens completely missing where this is headed?
Once again, media watchers fail to connect the dots. In this case, the tectonic shifts underlying TV are missed while the details fill the discussion:
A New York Times/CBS News poll this month found that 88 percent of respondents paid for traditional TV service. Just 15 percent of those subscribers had considered replacing it with Internet video services like Hulu and YouTube.
Younger people, though, are more intrigued by the possibility: respondents under the age of 45 were significantly more likely than older ones to say they had considered replacing their pay TV service. The poll was conducted Aug. 3-5 with 847 respondents and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Even through the downturn, the number of people subscribing to pay TV continued to grow. Cable, satellite and fiber-optic providers added 677,000 customers in the first quarter of this year, according to the investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein.
The firm’s preliminary numbers for the second quarter, which is traditionally weak, show a slight drop in subscribers. Satellite providers and Verizon’s FiOS service have been stealing market share from cable.
The cable and satellite companies say that their customers are reluctant to pay more — the Comcast chief executive, Brian L. Roberts, described customers who paid only for video, without a bundle of other services, as “very price-sensitive” — but insist that cord-cutting has not been an especially disruptive trend.
To keep customers, especially the price-sensitive ones, the carriers are getting creative. They are trying to bring the living-room experience to every other screen in a customer’s home, including laptops and tablets. Last week Verizon became the latest carrier to announce plans for an app that puts live TV on the iPad, pushing out the walls of cable TV’s walled garden a bit.
lenty of people say they have foresworn cable for good. They are largely young adults who know their way around the Internet and have grown accustomed to watching video on computers and other devices.
The Times/CBS News survey found that people under the age of 45 were about four times as likely as those 45 and over to say Internet video services could effectively replace cable.
All the kvetching about whether a specific show is available on the pioneering tools today completely misses the point. The reason that the TV experience is going to move to the web is that the web is social: people want to discuss the football game with friends, share movies, and vote on who is the best dancer. And the younger folks more than older ones.
The race to provide the best social TV experience is on, and although Apple hasn’t really rolled out any strategically important social tools yet, I bet that their next generation iTunes in the cloud — based on the huge server farm called ‘The Orchard’ — will start to incorporate social features, along with an industry-changing capability to live stream recorded, and not too far down the pike, live TV.
This will be as transformative to TV as the iPod and iTunes were to the music business.
The natural unit for music is a song, not albums, as iTunes proved.
The natural unit of TV is the show, not a series, not a channel, and not a bundle of TV channels. This is what the networks and the cable companies are about to find out.
And the experience will be social, which is how people watch TV: talking, yelling at the screen, texting their friends about the last play, voting. The cable and network businesses have completely missed that revolution. Look to Apple to blow that open.