ITV and BBC to launch yet another streaming service

The streaming segment is already looking pretty crowded, but ITV and the BBC have decided to pair up to add another premium option into the mix with BritBox.

Priced at £5.99 a month, the service will launch in the final quarter of 2019, undercutting digital rivals who have been making life so difficult for the traditional players these last few years.

“We have a world beating TV industry with outstanding content,” said BBC Director General, Tony Hall. “The BBC and ITV are at the centre of that. Together, we have been responsible for delivering the majority of ‘must see’ moments on British TV over the last decade. That ‘must see’ content will now be on BritBox.”

“The agreement to launch BritBox is a milestone moment. Subscription video on demand is increasingly popular with consumers who love being able to watch what they want when they want to watch it,” said Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV. “They are also happy to pay for this ease of access to quality content and so BritBox is tapping into this, and a new revenue stream for UK public service broadcasters.”

Although negotiations did seem to be on rocky ground occasionally, the BBC did appear to be showing a preference to its own iPlayer service, it might attract interest from various different segments of the UK population. The BBC has attracted plaudits for its programming over the last few years, especially around multi-series boxsets, where this service will focus.

BritBox will now become the home for all BBC and ITV programming once they fall off the streaming services which are already in place. Although ITV is free to put its programming on the ITV Hub for as long as it wants, it is believed Ofcom will force the BBC to make its programming available for a year on the iPlayer.

Bearing in mind both of these organizations already have streaming services for free, some might question what the point of this new service actually is, though there is an opportunity to combine forces and drive original programming exclusively for BritBox. Details are relatively thin on the ground, but the team will take the same approach as Netflix and Amazon, creating exclusive original content to attract subscribers.

Netflix share price slumps 11% as Q2 falls short of expectations

Netflix blames price increases and an under-performing content slate for poor performance in the second quarter of 2019.

Revenues and profits might be up, but these are two metrics which have never seemingly bothered Netflix shareholders that much. What seems to be bothering the twitchy investors is tepid subscriber growth and increased competition in the streaming segment; ultimately these will both lead to the revenue and profitability metrics, but the point is to cast an eye on the horizon not today.

And it appears some investors do not share the same optimism as the Netflix management team as share price slumps 11% in overnight trading.

“… as you can see over the past 3 years, sometimes we’re forecast high,” CEO Reed Hastings said during the earnings call. “Sometimes we forecast low. This is one where we forecasted high. There was no one thing.

“And if I think about three years ago, we were also light, and we never really were confident of the explanation. Then, we were $2 billion in quarterly revenue. Now, we’re going $5 billion. And so, it’s easy to over-interpret the quarter membership adds, which are a bit noisy. So, for the most part, we’re just executing forward and trying to do the best forecast we can.”

Subscription numbers are of course all important for what effectively is a single revenue stream business model, and the numbers aren’t the most flattering. 2.7 million net additions compared to the 5 million which were forecast at the beginning of the quarter, including a net loss of 130,000 in the US. When you consider the US currently accounts for roughly 48% of total revenues, this becomes an issue.

Hastings is playing his hand exactly as you would expect. In the early years, Netflix told investors not to worry about the money as subscriber gains are going through the roof; the money would come eventually. Now, Hastings and co. are telling investors not to worry about subscribers because the money is rolling in.

Netflix subs

What is worth noting is that one bad forecast, one dip in subscribers, does not engulf Netflix in flames. Its not ideal, but as long as it doesn’t become a trend there shouldn’t be much to worry about.

Understanding why is of course critical however should Netflix want to rebound to the 7 million subscription gains it is promising over the next three months.

Firstly, price increases have not landed well with the subscribers according to CFO Spencer Neumann. The biggest churn rates across the world were in the markets where Netflix had announced price increases, the US for example, though strong performance in Q1 and a poor content slate over Q2 were also factors which contributed to the numbers.

Neumann suggests the first quarter of 2019 was particularly strong, perhaps pulling forward subscriptions and emptying the sales funnel for the second quarter, while the team has suggested the content slate was not as attractive as previous periods. This should change in the future however as the business moves from a licensing model to one which is more governed by original content.

Over the next couple of years, certain companies are going to start pulling back content from the Netflix catalogue, Disney and WarnerMedia/AT&T are prime examples. Not only will this decrease the variety of content on the platform, removing some fan favourites as well, but it will also strengthen the opposition.

Netflix has not blamed competition for the poor performance this quarter, suggesting there has been not material change to the competitive landscape just yet, though some shareholders might be getting a bit worried. Netflix is facing some difficulties at the moment, while bigger disruptions are on the horizon with Disney and AT&T readying their own streaming services.

Netflix Financials

What is also worth noting is content; Netflix is the market leader in the streaming market and is in the strongest position to deal with increased competition. There of course will be some difficult conversations to be had in the future, but this is still a business heading in the right direction.

Total revenue for the quarter was $4.9 billion, up 26% year-on-year, while the management team is forecasting $5.2 billion for the next three months, a 31% year-on-year jump. Globally, paid memberships increased to 151.5 million, while there were more than 7 million free trials across the second quarter.

On the pricing front, although this might have a slight negative impact on churn and subscription gains in the short-term, collecting additional revenue each month is only going to be a positive in the long-term. Netflix is still very affordable for the majority.

Looking forward, the team has suggested the first couple of weeks of the current quarter has demonstrated an acceleration in subscriptions, while churn is returning the levels experienced prior to the price increase. And while it might seem internet TV is taking over the world, there is still plenty of room for growth according to the team, both in terms of the linear/streaming dynamic and the opportunity on mobile.

Another factor to consider is the spend which is being allocated to original and localised content; few in the industry can compete with the Netflix numbers in this column. And as content becomes more fragmented through the various streaming platforms, the more original content Netflix produces, the more attractive is becomes as a service to consumers.

Netflix is still in a very strong position, but it is not going to have the same free-reigning dominance as it has experienced over the last few years. A diluted content library, price hikes and increased fragmentation will have a say in the fate of the business, but it is still in the strongest position of this increasingly competitive segment.

AT&T gets streaming with HBO Max

Gone are the days when the consumer could get all the content they wanted in one place as AT&T’s WarnerMedia joins the streaming landgrab.

With Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney, HBO and numerous other streaming services on the market before too long, the fragmentation of content is looking like it could be a serious problem for the consumer. Whether splitting the spoils has an overarching negative impact on the segments profits remains to be seen, but customers wallets can only be pushed so far; how many streaming services can each customer be expected to have?

That said, AT&T is in a strong position with this proposition. In HBO, it owns a lot of promising content already, playing into consumer nostalgia, and it does seem to be heading in the right direction in terms of original programming.

“HBO Max will bring together the diverse riches of WarnerMedia to create programming and user experiences not seen before in a streaming platform,” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer.

“HBO’s world-class programming leads the way, the quality of which will be the guiding principle for our new array of Max Originals, our exciting acquisitions, and the very best of the Warner Bros. libraries, starting with the phenomenon that is ‘Friends’.”

With the service set to debut in Spring 2020, AT&T is promising 10,000 hours of programming from the outset. Full series of ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’, ‘Friends’ and ‘Pretty Little Liars’ will feature in the content library, as well as new dramas such as ‘Batwoman’ and ‘Katy Keene’.

Looking at future Max Original series, the list is quite extensive. ‘Dune: The Sisterhood’ is an adaptation of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson’s book based in the world created by Frank Herbert’s book Dune. ‘Lovecraft Country’ is a horror series based on a novel by Matt Ruff. ‘The Plot Against America’ will be a reimagined history based on Phillip Roth’s novel.

The ingredients are all in place to ensure AT&T makes a sustained stab at cracking the streaming market which has been dominated by the OTTs to date. There are a couple of questions which remain however.

Firstly, pricing. Can executives price the service competitively while also sustaining investments in content? Secondly, experience. Will the platform meet the high-expectations set by consumers thanks to the high-bar set by Netflix? And finally, culture. Will AT&T allow WarnerMedia to operate as a media business or will it impose the traditional mentality of telcos onto the business?

AT&T has bet big on the content world and it can ill-afford to fluff its lines on its debut. Having signed an $85 billion deal to acquire Time Warner and spent what seems like decades battling various government departments to authorise the transaction, the telco will need to see some ROI sooner rather than later.

The question is whether the momentum in the streaming world can be sustained. Platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime were attractive in the early days because there was consolidation of content onto a single library. With more streaming services becoming available, the fragmentation of content might well become a problem before too long. Consumers will have to make choices on what service to subscribe to, limiting the profits of the individual providers.

The days of subscribing to everything might be a thing of the past before too long; wallets can only be pushed so far.

Diversification into profitable segments is certainly a sensible strategy in the days of meagre connectivity profits, but $85 billion is a lot to spend on a hunch.

Facebook restricts Live streaming access

Facebook has introduced new restrictions on its video streaming platform, Live, suggesting those who break other Facebook policies will be banned for a period of time.

The move comes in response to the live broadcast of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. The social media platform broadcast the incident for 29 minutes, with around 200 people viewing the content, before it was cut. After heavy criticism, Facebook needed to act in an attempt to prevent a repeat of such a broadcast.

“Following the horrific terrorist attacks in New Zealand, we’ve been reviewing what more we can do to limit our services from being used to cause harm or spread hate,” said Guy Rosen, VP Integrity at Facebook.

“As a direct result, starting today, people who have broken certain rules on Facebook – including our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy – will be restricted from using Facebook Live.”

Although some might suggest this is a potential limitation of free speech principles, Facebook has had to do something about the grey areas. It is unreasonable for moderators to view and approve every piece of content, while artificial intelligence technologies are still not advanced enough to tackle the problem. Taking a merit approach, removing privileges from those who already break the rules, is a less-than adequate approach but one of the few options without shutting down the feature completely.

The ‘one strike rule’ is a tightening up of rules which already existed. Facebook has been limiting the access of those who break the platforms rules, though this is a much more stringent approach specific to the Live feature.

“From now on, anyone who violates our most serious policies will be restricted from using Live for set periods of time – for example 30 days – starting on their first offense,” said Rosen. “For instance, someone who shares a link to a statement from a terrorist group with no context will now be immediately blocked from using Live for a set period of time.”

This is an incredibly difficult equation to balance, and this is not a perfect approach. It is still reactionary not preventative, but it should limit the risk. Unfortunately for Facebook, and everyone in general, whatever is done to attempt to limit these abuses, and technological abuses in general, will only be hurdles; there will always be a way to get around the safeguards.

The only way Facebook can prevent a repeat of this incident is to shut down Live completely, however, the vast majority of those using the feature are doing so as intended. More work needs to be done, but Facebook is attempting to make progress.

Streaming platforms are starting to become less attractive

Netflix started as a platform where old-series could be relived, but now with rivals aiming to replicate the success of the streaming giant, the content world is becoming increasingly fragmented.

The big question which remains is how big is the consumers appetite for content? How many streaming subscriptions are users willing to tolerate?

The news which hit the headlines this morning concerned Hulu. Disney has come to an agreement to purchase Comcast’s stake in the streaming service, for at least $5.8 billion, in a divorce proceeding which will take five years. This transaction follows the confirmation AT&T sold its 10% stake in Hulu to Disney last month.

Disney consolidating control of Hulu is not much of a surprise to those in the industry, but fan favourites disappearing from the various different streaming services might shock a few consumers.

AT&T has also confirmed it will be pulling WarnerMedia content, such as Friends and ER, from rival’s platforms. The Office, one of the most popular titles on Netflix, will be pulled by owner NBCUniversal. The series, and other NBCUniversal content, will also be pulled from Hulu in favour of parent-company Comcast’s streaming service which will launch next year. Disney will also be pulling its headline content, the Marvel movie franchise for example, back behind its own paywall. Amazon Prime has its own exclusive originals, and YouTube has ambitions with this model as well.

Over the next 12-18 months, content will be pulled back away from the licensing deals to reside only on the owners streaming platform. Users will find the content world which they have come to love is quickly going to change. Some might have presumed the cord-cutting era was one of openness, a stark contrast to one of exclusivity in traditional premium media, but it does seem to be heading back that direction.

It is perfectly reasonable to understand why this is being done. These are assets which need to be monetized, and the subscription model is clearly being favoured over the licensing one. WarnerMedia, 21st Century Fox, AT&T, Comcast and Disney might have had an interest in the licensing model in by-gone years, but following the consolidation buzz, it has become increasingly popular to create another streaming service to add into the mix.

The issue which may appear on the horizon is the fragmented nature of the streaming world; consumers wallets are only so thick, how many streaming services can the market handle?

The test over the next couple of months, or years, will be the quality of original programming. Netflix grew its original audience through a library of shows other content companies were ignoring, but today’s mission is completely different; original and local content is driving the agenda.

The question is whether other providers will be able to provide the same quality? With subscription revenue being spread thinner across multiple providers, will there be enough money flowing into the coffers to fuel the creation of this content? Will the pressures of increased competition decrease overall quality?

Today it is very easy to find the best and deepest range of content available. You might have to subscribe to more than one service, but at the moment consumers are able to afford it. Tomorrow might be a different case. The more streaming services in the market and the more fragmented the content, the more decisions consumers will have to made. Having 4/5 services is probably unreasonable. And we’re only talking about quality of experience, the mess of different discovery engines is another topic.

The question which remains is whether the economics of a fragmented content segment can support the original content dream which has been promised to consumers, or whether the old-world of low-quality, low-budget, limited and repetitive content returns. Soon enough Disney+ will launch, as will Comcast’s streaming service, to add to Hulu, Netflix, DirecTV, Amazon Prime, YouTube’s premium service, and any others which might be in the mix.

Content will become fragmented, thinner on the platforms, before consumers wallets become strained. How long the budget for content will last in this scenario remains to be seen as executives look to cut corners and increase profitability. It’s hard to see how current trends are going to benefit consumers.

Disney+ streaming service looking good ahead of November launch

Disney might have a lot of ground to catch up on the established players in the streaming world, but its offering does look pretty competitive.

Priced at $6.99 per month, the streaming service will be home to an armoury of content, old and new, launching in November. The platform will also give customers the option to bundle in ESPN+ and Hulu services, creating the depth and breadth of content which one day might be able to compete with Netflix.

“Disney+ marks a bold step forward in an exciting new era for our company – one in which consumers will have a direct connection to the incredible array of creative content that is The Walt Disney Company’s hallmark,” said CEO Bob Iger.

“We are confident that the combination of our unrivalled storytelling, beloved brands, iconic franchises, and cutting-edge technology will make Disney+ a standout in the marketplace and deliver significant value for consumers and shareholders alike.”

Perhaps one of the most useful features of the platform will be the downloadable content. Every title will be available for subscribers to download and watch offline, a move which might push the other platforms in this direction. Netflix is another which has introduced this feature, though it is limited to date.

Alongside properties such as Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, the content library will also include all of Disney’s family favourite films, all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, Fox titles like The Sound of Music, The Princess Bride and Malcolm in the Middle, and original content leaning on well-known assets, such as Marvel Studios’ series Loki starring Tom Hiddleston.

This is perhaps the worry many commentators have had surrounding the Disney entry into the streaming world, as while it certainly does have attractive assets, the breadth and depth of content does not match Netflix. This is one of the reasons Netflix is dominating the streaming world, and perhaps why Sky has continued to maintain its leadership position in the UK premium TV segment; content to serve all purposes, audiences and moods.

Disney will find success in the early days, such is the power of the brand and the curiosity of consumers, $6.99 is cheap enough to allow for curiosity, but long-term success will depend on whether the team are bold enough with content acquisition and curation. Netflix is incredibly aggressive in securing and funding a wide range of international and locally-tailored content, and Disney will have to match these actions to maintain success in the long-run.

That said, the team is promising big things. By the end of year five, Disney expects 50 original series, 10,000 past episodes and more than 500 movies in the content library. These numbers certainly sound promising, as long as the content meets user expectations.

What we don’t know right now is much about the platform itself. Disney has said the content will be available through all devices and has also named PS4 and Roku as launch partners. The idea is to enable users to view the content wherever desired, but whether the platform will be any good we’ll only know in November.

This is where the leaders in the content world have made their presence known. Netflix and Sky for example have intuitive and simple platforms, whereas some are difficult to navigate or do not look pleasing on the eye. This will have a negative impact on user experience and considering how many streaming options are going to be on the market, this will go some way in deciding Disney’s success.

November will come around quicker than many will hope for, but Disney is certainly giving itself a good start in the streaming world with what looks like an impressive offering.

Don’t expect upstarts to knock Netflix off its throne – report

A new report from UK analyst firm Re-Think has painted a gloomy picture for those attempting to muscle into Netflix’s dominance in the streaming world.

With the likes of AT&T, Disney and Comcast all attempting to diversify revenues, the riches being raked in by Netflix in the entertainment streaming market must look very tempting, though the rewards will not come easily. This is not to say there is not room for new services, the price point creates an opportunity for multiple service providers in a single household, but Re-Think is predicting Netflix will continue to hoover up profits.

“Despite moves by major studio conglomerates come 2024 Netflix will remain the dominant force in streaming, earning more streaming revenue than the big three put together,” the report states. “Its market share will dilute from 63% last year to 52% by 2024, but our forecasts show that Netflix cannot be shifted from the number one spot.”

Despite going through years of dredge, swallowing the ‘reward’ of being a loss leader in an emerging market, Netflix shareholders are beginning to see the breaking dawn. During the last earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings proudly told shareholders revenues had grown 35% to $16 billion across 2018, with operating profits almost doubling to $1.6 billion. The business finished with 139 million paying memberships, up 29 million across the year.

139 million might sound like an incredible number already, but then you have to consider whether this is just the beginning. International subscriptions, outside of the US market, accounted for approximately 63% of the total offering plenty of headroom for growth. The team is forecasting an additional 9 million additional subscriptions over Q1 alone.

This is the challenge which the upstarts are facing. Not only is this a company which is sitting very comfortably in the number one spot, but it has momentum which it is doubling down on. At IBC last year, Maria Ferreras, VP of EMEA Business Development at Netflix pointed towards partnerships with telcos (carrier billing), more original and local content, as well as launching in new markets to continue the growth.

During the results call, Hastings confirmed these plans were scaling up. The relationships with local partners were working well, and the team were searching for more, while more investment was being directed towards content. Investments over the last twelve months totalled $7.5 billion, and this number will only grow. It probably won’t be on the same trajectory as previous years, but the number of big-budget titles are visibly increasing on the platform.

“The extraordinary success of Netflix has got it lined up in the sights of the big studios and content houses and the big question now is how well it will stand up to that assault on multiple fronts,” the report states.

Hulu is an established platform, as is Amazon Prime, but with Disney entering the market with an impressive portfolio, while Comcast is pushing forward, and AT&T will soon start making waves with its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. There is a lot of competition emerging on the horizon, but these the upstarts have a lot of distractions.

Over the next couple of months, we see two developments which will worth keeping an eye on in this space. Firstly, the protection of traditional TV services and also the consumer appetite for AVoD services, streaming with advertising.

Advertising is clearly big business. In the UK, you only have to look at the success of Sky as the leader in the premium content space as an example. Like the social media giants, Sky has created a sophisticated advertising platform, AdSmart, allowing advertisers to drive engagement through hyper-targeted campaigns. This model continues to work with Sky, but perhaps it is living on borrowed time.

The Netflix model is the opposite. An upfront payment and the promise of no advertising to break-up shows or movies on the platform. The more people who subscribe to Netflix, or similar platforms, the lower the tolerance for adverts will become. Netflix might be missing a cash generation opportunity, but it also might be irrevocably changing the industry. This will not happen overnight, but it might be the light at the end of the tunnel.

The second point, protecting legacy services, is going to be a tricky one. The likes of Comcast and AT&T will have cash revenues to worry about as they effectively cannibalise themselves in search of the OTT dream. Looking at the revenues on the traditional TV services, Re-Think is forecasting AT&T will decline from $64.7 billion in 2018 to $47.7 billion in 2024, Comcast from $25.8 billion to $20 billion and Disney from $11.5 billion to $9 billion.

Should these companies encourage users to migrate to their streaming alternatives, the decline could be even steeper. This might give the streaming service more opportunity to succeed in an increasingly fragmented market, but investors might get spooked. It’s a catch-22 situation, with one option killing revenues but the other holding back a more future-proofed concept.

The challenges for those trying to break Netflix dominance is not only dealing with the beast’s popularity, but also handling the internal politics of change. This might be much more of a challenge, especially when you consider the traditional culture of the challengers.

Ultimately the feedback here is relatively simple; Netflix is king and don’t expect the usurpers to wobble the throne too much.

Austria and Australia join the march against Silicon Valley

The days of the wild-west internet seem to be coming to a close with Austria and Australia becoming the latest nations to update the rules governing the business activities of the internet giants.

At the foot of the Alps, the Austrians are proposing a new 5% sales tax on digital revenues which are realised in the country, another European state to tackle the ‘creative’ accounting practices of Silicon Valley. Down under, the Australian Government plans on introducing tougher rules which will place greater accountability on social media platforms for extreme and offensive content.

For years the world watched in amazement as the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon climbed higher up the ladder of influence. We gazed in wonderment as Silicon Valley seemed to pluck profits out of thin-air and their CEOs hit celebrity status. But then the scandals started to roll-in and we all realised these companies had abused the privilege of self-regulation.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal was the watershed moment, a saga which dominated headlines around the world for months and hauled politicians away from free lunches and back into the debating chambers. All of a sudden everyone realised the likes of Zuckerberg, Bezos and Page were not our friends, but incredibly intelligent businessmen who were exploiting the grey areas sitting idly between the mass of criss-crossing red-tape.

What followed this scandal was a more forensic look at the business models of the internet giants. Those looking close enough found trickily worded terms and conditions, confusing processes, ransom opt-ins and abused freedoms. Users were being tracked without their knowledge, personal information was being traded as a commodity and tax havens were being exploited. Opinion on Silicon Valley turned sour.

On the other side of the coin, it wasn’t just the craft and cunning of Silicon Valley lawyers to blame, but inadequate rules for today’s digital era. Politicians and regulators woke up to the fact rules and legislation needed to be updated to create a fair and reasonable policy landscape to hold the internet giants accountable. Experts were brought in to account for the vast gulf in competence and the march towards Silicon Valley began.

A perfect storm has been brewing around the internet giants and as the weeks pass more countries are taking a more stringent approach to the business of the internet. Australia has been trundling along with incremental progress, and now Austria has entered the fray.

“Through the digital tax package, we are closing tax loopholes and thereby ensuring that large digital corporations, agency platforms and retail platforms are called to account,” said Austrian Finance Minister Hartwig Löger. “Through fair taxation of the digital economy, we are establishing equity in taxation.”

Moving forward, a digital tax of 5% will be introduced for large digital corporations, those with global sales of € 750 million, of which €25 million originates in Austria. The new rules will also take away VAT exemptions for deliveries from foreign countries. Previously, orders valued below €22 were exempt from the tax.

“Through this measure, we are taking digital agency platforms to task,” said State Secretary of Finance Hubert Fuchs. “No one is entitled to evade the obligation to pay tax.”

Austria is of course not alone in this tax assault. As the member states of the European Union cannot agree on a bloc-wide tax mechanism, plans were blocked by nations who benefit from the status quo such as Ireland, individual states have gone on alone. France and the UK have already set plans in motion, but we expect such proposals to start snowballing before too long.

Australia is targeting a different area of contention however. Following events in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the simultaneous live-streaming of the incident, the Australian Government has introduced new rules which will hold social media and other social media platforms accountable for the dissemination of offensive material.

The Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material bill creates new offences for content service providers and hosting services who fail to act expeditiously to remove videos containing “abhorrent violent conduct”. Such conduct is defined as terrorist acts, murders, attempted murders, torture, rape or kidnap.

The technology community and legal experts have slammed the new rules, and while there are some valid points, the social media and hosting platforms might have to be forced forward. It is an incredibly difficult task to identify these videos, such is the complexity of identification in such as vast swarm of uploaded content nowadays, but without the threat of penalty there is a risk progress will not move at a desired pace.

Following the incident, Facebook pointed out that it did take down the video quickly, though it was not able to use AI to identify the content. This is where it becomes incredibly difficult for the technology industry; these applications need abhorrent content to be trained to identify abhorrent content. It’s a bit of a catch-22 situation, but harsh penalties for non-compliance will force the industry to find a solution.

“We have heard feedback that we must do more – and we agree,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a letter to the New Zealand Herald. “In the wake of the terror attack, we are taking three steps: strengthening the rules for using Facebook Live, taking further steps to address hate on our platforms, and supporting the New Zealand community.”

Sandberg has promised new restrictions on how live videos can be uploaded and streamed to the platform, though details were incredibly thin. Facebook will not want to introduce too many restrictions, making the process too convoluted and tiresome will impact user experience, though it clearly has to do something. The opportunity to broadcast horrific acts has become too accessible.

This is the problem which Facebook and everyone else in the digital economy is facing. The promise is to open up the gates and allow people to express themselves, but unfortunately there are people who will take advantage of this situation. It is an incredibly difficult equation to balance.

Technology will eventually help the internet companies get to a suitable position, with the potential of AI grafting through the millions of uploads, however the training period is going to be a difficult process. The risk of going too sensitive is restricting free speech, though with content uploaded from shows such as Game of Thrones, there is plenty of room for error.

The internet giants will want to resist change, despite giving the impression of encouraging more regulation and government intervention, but it won’t be able to hold back the tides forever. With privacy concerns, fake news, tax evasion, political influence, anti-trust accusations and the unknown power of data analytics, the internet giants are simply fighting on too many fronts.

These are companies who have incredible financial power and immense armies of lobbyists, but Silicon Valley is the bad guy right now. Politicians have spotted an opportunity to make PR points by unloading on the punching bag, and you can guarantee there will be many lining up to take a swing.

Queen Liz set to live-stream and monetize Prince Phillip

Tired of having to explain why Prince Philip keeps offending people and cultures, Queen Elizabeth is said to be setting up an OTT live-streaming service to monetize the gaffs.

In between impressions of Colin Macrae, Prince Philip, the Duke of Cambridge, is well-known for unintentionally insulting anyone who didn’t gain at least three O-Levels from Eton or Harrow. According to sources, Queen Elizabeth has decided to mount the latest Go-Pro on her husband, which will be then live-streamed through a currently unknown website, with subscribers only having to pay £2.99 a month.

“Her Majesty wants to demonstrate she is more than just the Head of State,” said Dennis, a Buckingham Palace insider. “After 92 years, Her Majesty wants to demonstrate to the people of the UK and the world that she has excellent business acumen. We expect thousands of people to sign up almost immediately, such is the prominence of Prince Philip’s comments.”

Although unconfirmed, the Palace is reportedly in discussions with several telcos around the world, many of whom are seeking exclusive rights for a zero-rating offer. The UK telcos are bidding particularly aggressively, with EE reportedly the keenest, sniffing out a bargain to continue building its content platform. Insiders at Three suggest it wants the right to be the focal point of a new campaign which will be know as ‘Go Groan’.

“Video is constantly being hyped nowadays, and the Royal Family members are constantly sending cat and rugby memes to each other,” said Dennis. “The Queen published her first post on Instagram in March, during a visit to London’s Science Museum, and now she’s hooked. She sees this platform as a great opportunity to make some extra money off her husband’s personality. Those corgi’s go through a lot of doggie biscuits.”

April fools day cartoon

Spotify’s ‘Duo’ tariff gives a whiff of what’s to come

Sharing accounts might be the norm in the world of content streaming platforms, but Spotify’s new ‘Duo’ tariff might be a sign of changing attitudes.

In many homes throughout the world, streaming platforms are shared. This is a truth which is generally accepted as the norm, but it does technically violate the terms and conditions of the service and does impact the experience for the user. For example, if users are sharing a premium Spotify account, it can only be used on one device at any point.

Duo seemingly addresses this point and does so at a price point which is a lot more palatable. For €12.49 a month, users can link two accounts to the same bill, offering two ‘tailored’ experiences but with a bundling discount and a single point of payment.

Spotify has already experienced some joy with the idea of bundling having launched the family plan. Here, six profiles can be linked into the same bill for €14.99 a month. Increasing premium subscriptions being reported during earnings calls suggest this is perhaps having a positive impact on the business.

Spotify

Netflix is another streaming platform where users may be taking advantage of how easy it is to connect and share passwords. Although Netflix does allow up to five profiles on a single account, there is little preventing these profiles from being shared outside the home. Netflix has not seemingly made a massive fuss of this so far, though we suspect this was not the desired outcome.

Ultimately these are commercial entities seeking profit. The perfect scenario for these organizations will be for every user having their own subscription, though the practice of password sharing contradicts this; why would you spend £9.99 a month when you can simply log into Mum and Dad’s account?

While there is still room for subscription growth, this is not necessarily a massive issue for the OTTs, but there will come a day where they will have to start thinking about how to tackle the issue. Considering how quickly the world is adopting the new content status quo of entertainment on demand, it won’t be too long before that glass ceiling is hit.

Spotify’s approach is an excellent way to tackle the issue of password sharing. At €12.49, Spotify will not be hording in a tsunami of profits, but it will be gaining more revenue in effectively the same position. There are two users sharing an account, paying a single bill; the platform is being used by two people. With Duo, both users are still using the service, but Spotify is collecting more revenue. It’s as close as you can get to free money.

How the other OTTs plan on tackling this issue remains to be seen, though we suspect they almost certainly will. Content is becoming an increasingly expensive habit to fuel, and at some point the companies will have to be true to their terms and conditions.