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Week In Review: Does Anyone Really Need Caavo?; Maker Gives PewDiePie The Old Heave-Ho

1. Does Anyone Really Need Caavo?

Caavo is a new set-top-box replacement that combines inputs from multiple streaming boxes (Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Xbox) and MVPD set-top-boxes and displays them all in a beautifully designed interface that allows for voice commands.

It’s a great solution. To problem almost no one has.

Yes, it’s a bit of a pain to switch the input back and forth between the Roku and the set-top-box and (maybe) the Xbox. But the Caavo is selling for $400, and the problem it’s solving isn’t a $400 problem. More like a $40 one.

And whose pain is Caavo really solving? Consumers tend to deal with too many inputs by staying on Roku and switching between Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. Which means the MVPDs are the main beneficiaries of Caavo’s pain relief, as it brings their set-top-boxes back into the mix.

And that’s not necessarily a universal pain point for MVPDs: Comcast itself already has two solutions that make Caavo unnecessary. The first is the X1 set-top-box, which features full integration with Netflix. Voila! Need for multiple inputs solved. Especially once Comcast inks deals with Hulu and Amazon as well.

The second is the Comcast Roku app that reproduces the full set-top-box interface on Roku. So Boom! You have your pay-TV service and all your OTT services on a single $50 device. And while the interface may not be as pretty as Caavo’s, we’re not sure the difference is worth a $400 investment.

Why It Matters

Many in the tech press have been tripping over themselves to praise the Caavo, which was rolled out at Recode’s Code conference this week. The Caavo was the brainchild of the late Blake Krikorian, co-founder of Sling Media, and a Silicon Valley favorite, who died unexpectedly this past year and so there’s an undercurrent of wanting his surviving project to succeed and, in demo, it’s an impressive piece of technology.

There’s also the sense that Caava’s current owners get that this is not a long-term play: they are only producing 5,000 units for the first run. We suspect the longer-term play they have in mind is either as an interface for MVPDs who aren’t Comcast, or as a white label set-top-box replacement for those same MVPDs.

What You Need To Do About It

Not much to do here other than sit back and watch. Do people love Caava so much it becomes a cult product? Do they manage to sell all 5,000 units? How many of those are shipped to locations outside of Silicon Valley? How does TiVo, the original TV helper respond? (If indeed they do respond.) And does Caava wind up getting any white label deals with MVPDs either for the box itself or for the interface?

2. Maker Gives PewDiePie The Old Heave-Ho.

We’ve written recently about how we feel that the current YouTube ecosystem is due for a shake-up, that vloggers, in particular, have audiences that are outgrowing them and moving on, as they enter college and then the work force.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise that the most famous vlogger of them all, PewDiePie, had been ramping up his outrageousness factor in an attempt to remain relevant. A Wall Street Journal story earlier this week pointed out that a shockingly large number of his recent videos featured blatant antisemitism and faster than you can say “Jiminy Cricket,” PewDiePie was dropped by his MCN, Maker Studio, a division of Disney. This on the heels of YouTube pulling him from their Google Preferred list of Creators who were safe for advertisers.

PewDiePie apologized, saying he was just trying to be funny and then went on the offensive, attempting to rally his 50M+ followers, a good percentage of whom have only recently entered puberty.

His efforts were not helped when the media-savvy head of the American Nazi Party, who’d already garnered heaps of press for his endorsement of Donald Trump, “endorsed” PewDiePie, claiming him as one of his own little lebensborn.

Why It Matters

So much going on here: Vloggers rapidly becoming yesterday’s news with a new generation of teens, as the older generation of teens grows up and leaves them behind like Jessie in Toy Story. (Cue “When She Loved Me.”) Disney, which announced major layoffs at Maker this week too, realizing that maybe they actually did need to figure out what was happening with the foundering MCN business, Maker being their answer to “how we’re relating to Millennials.” And Nazis. Media savvy Nazis. And the danger in that.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser, you need to reevaluate your relationship with influencers and think about how much influence they actually have and understand the risks of engaging them. (As we pointed out in the the Los Angeles Times, it was pretty incredible that no one from Maker had actually seen and flagged the videos (which had been up for several weeks) before the Wall Street Journal did. That’s just crazy.

If you’re a network or MVPD, read our piece on Pro-Am content and the follow-up on how vloggers go live. It’s the future and you’ll want to be a part of it.

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