“And in This Corner…”

Undoubtedly, when Ralph Kramden got together with his pal Ed Norton to watch the Friday night fights on his small, black and white TV set, he thought he had it pretty good.  Little did he know that decades into the future, fans of the sweet science would be able to step into the ring with their favorite pugilists.kramden tv

Virtually, anyway. DirectTV has announced plans for a virtual reality (VR) app that will enable boxing fans to view fights up close and personal.

Affiliated with Big Knockout Boxing (BKB), the virtual reality app for VR-ready smartphone users is now available for Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition and Cardboard (Android and iOS) headsets.

The app allows users to select from a variety of fight highlights and select their choice of up-close camera feeds.

“We know that VR can be a deeply engaging entertainment medium. It delivers a compelling sense of ‘being there’ that’s unmatched by any other technology,” said DirecTV’s VP of Digital Entertainment Products Jon Molod. “We believe that much of VR’s growth will be mobile driven. As the technology evolves we hope to find new ways to use VR to enhance not just BKB, but all sports experiences.”

Other providers are following DirecTV’s lead. Netflix and Hulu have announced plans for their own VR apps, and SyFy has already brought theirs to market. In the very near future, fight fans—and sports fans of all stripes—can put themselves into the middle of the action.

Just don’t forget to duck.

(Here’s a bonus for you Honeymooners’ fans: Ralph Kramden’s surprisingly accurate vision of the future of television.)

We’re Number Deux! We’re Number Deux!

What does the average U.S. Netflix streaming speed in July have in common with the 2014 U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team?

Give up? Both came in second place to Canada.

2014 canada

Netflix’s recently released July ISP speed index shows that the average prime time streaming speed in the U.S. was 3.2 Mbps, slightly below the 3.29 Mbps speed north of the border.

The Netflix index measures average Netflix streaming speeds across all devices during prime time.

In the U.S., Cox finished atop the standings, with an average speed of 3.62 Mbps. Cablevision-Optimum was second at 3.59 Mbps, and Verizon FiOs third at 3.54 Mbps. The positions of these three were unchanged from June.

Charter moved up two places from June, averaging 3.46 Mbps in July. Comcast dropped one spot to fifth (3.45 Mbps), Bright House was up one spot to sixth (3.42 Mbps), and Suddenlink dropped two positions to 7th (3.42 Mbps.)

The top half of the Netflix ISP speed index was dominated by cable providers, while DSL carriers tended to be lower down in the standings. All of the DSL carriers came in below the U.S. average. Read more

Will the Last Pay-TV Subscriber Please Turn Off the Set?

While things are hardly as dire for the pay-TV industry as my title might suggest, subscription numbers for the first quarter of 2015 are far from rosy. In fact, net pay-TV adds were the lowest they’ve been in ten years.

So says Leichtman Research Study Group in their most recent analysis of the pay-TV industry.

While the first quarter of the year has typically been the strongest for adding new subscribers (due, in large part, to holiday television gift giving), Leichtman reports that the top 17 cable and telephone companies added less than 10,000 net new video subscribers in the first quarter of 2015, compared to 250,000 adds in the same time period a year previous.

Phone companies were a bright spot among the top U.S. pay-TV providers, adding a combined 140,000 new customers in the first quarter of the year: Verizon FiOS added 90,000 subscribers, and AT&T U-verse added 50,000. DBS providers were down 74,000 subscribers, with DirecTV up 60,000 and DISH down 134,000. Cable companies were down 58,264 subscribers, with Time Warner up 33,000 and Mediacom up 1,000. Others more than counteracted these gains, however—Cable ONE was down 29,884 subscribers, Cablevision 28,000, Comcast 8,000, and Suddenlink 6,400. Read more

Like the Winter’s Snow, Pay TV Subscribers Continue to Slowly Recede

On the heels of a drop of 95,000 subscribers in 2013, the pay TV industry lost another 125,000 in 2014 according to data compiled by Leichtman Research Group (LRG).

But is this a thing? Perhaps not—given that LRG estimates the top pay TV providers serve in excess of 95 million customers, these losses may amount to no more than a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Telephone companies fared the best according to LRG, adding more than 1 million video subscribers in 2014. DBS providers added 20,000.   These gains were erased by the top cable companies, who lost a collective 1.2 million subscribers, or nearly 2.5% of their customer base. The biggest declines were posted by Cable ONE (down 19%), Mediacom (6%), Cablevision (5%), and Suddenlink (4%.) Comcast lost the fewest customers among the cable companies, down less than 1%. Read more

Netflix and ‘House of Cards’: The Numbers Don’t Lie

There’s a reason why the ice storm that struck the D.C. area this past weekend—Mother Nature’s latest insult in this seemingly interminable winter of 2015—didn’t sting quite as much as it might have: on Friday, Netflix made the entirety of the third season of its political thriller “House of Cards” available for viewing. Let the binge watching commence!

The series, which debuted in 2013, marked a significant gamble for Netflix. The company was in the process of morphing from a mail-based DVD distributor to a provider of streaming video content. Yet without a way to differentiate themselves from other online content providers, Netflix’s market share would never be truly secure. The key to the service’s ongoing viability would be coming up with something that nobody else could provide consumers. It rolled the dice with Frank Underwood and “House of Cards.” Read more

I’ll Have Two Large Videos, Hold the Ads, Please

In a widely anticipated move, Google announced plans to launch a YouTube subscription service that would spare viewers from the advertising that appears both before and during selected videos.

(Google purchased YouTube in 2006 in a transaction valued at $1.65 billion.)

Dubbed “YouTube Music Key,” the service is designed to compete with companies such as NetFlix.

Pricing for YouTube Music Key will start at $7.99 per month, and, in addition to removing advertising, will also allow viewers to watch videos offline and listen to music while using other applications. Read more

The Snowball Keeps Rolling Downhill: IPTV Market Up 14% Worldwide in 2014

The worldwide pay-TV market is estimated to have grown by 5% in 2014, encompassing more than 924 million subscribers, according to technology market intelligence company ABI Research.

“IPTV is expected to grow a market-leading 14% in 2014, followed by satellite TV platform at 7%,” said ABI Research vice president and practice director of core forecasting Jake Saunders. “The growth rates of cable and terrestrial TV platforms are expected to slow to around 3%.”

Much of the worldwide growth is driven by countries in the Asian-Pacific and Latin American regions, combining to add 13 million subscribers in 2014. By contrast, the North American cable TV market is expected to shrink by 1% in 2014. Cable TV operators in North America lost 400,000 customers in the third quarter of 2014 alone, ABI Research reports.

In the increasingly competitive marketplace, providers are trying to grow revenues by offering high definition (HD) channels, advance services and premium content. “The worldwide HD subscriber base is growing on all pay-TV platforms,” said Khin Sandi Lynn, ABI Research industry analyst. “Approximately 57% of total pay-TV subscribers will be HD subscribers by 2019. ABI Research forecasts the global pay-TV market will generate US$324 billion in service revenues by 2019.”

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