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Week In Review: Virtual MVPD Wars!; Nobody Likes Google Anymore

1. Virtual MVPD Wars!

Last week, we published a story speculating on how the various MVPDs (what humans call “cable companies”)  would be using their newly upgraded TV Everywhere apps to sell skinny bundles to anyone who wanted broadband from them.

It made perfect sense—Comcast aside, most MVPDs would be happy to never see another set top box again, and selling a standalone subscription for their TV Everywhere apps manages to keep potential cord cutters within the ecosystem and bring new customers in. Given that acquisition is the biggest hurdle the MVPDs face, it seemed like a no-brainer.

That’s why we were heartened this week to learn that both Comcast and Verizon have this very trick up their sleeve: they are going to begin selling web-only pay-TV bundles. The only glitch is they are going to sell them nationwide. Or that’s their story, anyway. How it plays out is another matter.

Why This Matters

While MVPDs selling pay-TV packages outside of their geographic footprint may open up a battle royale among all the players, as Discovery CEO David Zaslav noted in a recent interview, we feel it’s unlikely that any of them can gain traction outside their footprint due to the broadband conundrum.

As in “he who owns the broadband connection, owns the customer.”

So while Verizon may have an incredible kick-ass app, all Comcast has to do to shut them down is play with the levers on pricing, making the cost of a Comcast broadband plus streaming TV double-play package less than the cost of Comcast broadband alone. (For the first two years, anyway.) That’s going to shut down any and all competitors and it’s unlikely that the Ajit Pai-run FCC will be particularly bothered by that sort of move.

What You Need To Do About It

Not much to do other than sit back and enjoy the popcorn while this all plays out. Sling TV, Sony and Hulu may be the ultimate losers here, as they don’t have broadband offerings. That said, Hulu is a unique product with a sizable library, and Sling already has traction and (probably) over a million users, so we wouldn’t count them out just yet.

 

2. Nobody Likes Google Anymore

One upside to the recent election and onslaught of fake news has been that the ad community finally got woke and realized the extent to which ads from major advertisers were funding fake news, jihadi recruitment videos, hate speech and the other detritus of YouTube.

Why This Matters

This has caused many advertisers to pull their ad budgets out of YouTube, which is a boon for several players: Facebook, whose “dark post” videos don’t support anything other than the user’s own news feed and Zuckerberg’s bank account, premium digital publishers like Buzzfeed, Condé Nast and Tribune media, who can be trusted not to run pieces on how to blow up Parliament, and television, whose digital properties run TV shows, not hate speech. (Well, for the most part …)

TV is particularly well situated to benefit from this grand awakening as it proves out what they’ve been telling advertisers for years about brand safety. Coming on the heels of the fraud, placement and ad blocking issues that plague the digital ad industry, it should be a very good year for an industry Silicon Valley-ites like to describe as “dead” or “dying.”

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a TV network or MVPD, make sure your ad sales team is taking advantage of this and aggressively going after clients who had once bet big on digital. Now is not the time to be nice.

If you’re an advertiser, it’s time to look at TV again and remember that a 3-second glance is not really a view, except in Facebook’s measurement scheme.

If you’re a digital publisher that isn’t Google, now is the time to press the quality of your content.

If you’re an ad agency, well, just remember that it’s bad form to say “I told you so.” But you can definitely think it to yourself in every client meeting this month.