Parks Associates Blog

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pocketgear-ing up to take on Apple, Acquires Handango

The cross-platform app market just got smaller…and yet bigger at the same time. This week Pocketgear announced its acquisition of Handango, a leading competitor in the direct to consumer, cross-platform app market. The acquisition and merger of the two will bring the unified company into closer competitive range with the market leader Apple App Store. It will also serve to make the company a more appetizing choice for mobile carriers and device manufacturers preferring to outsource app development and storefront management rather than take on those responsibilities themselves.

Mobile applications have emerged as an ever increasingly important driver in smartphone adoption. Whether they are useful for business, health, travel or just killing time apps add to the value of smartphone ownership. Having the latest, coolest, most consumer sought after app available to your subscriber base or potential handset buyer is becoming an important market differentiator. In this regard Apple has charged ahead of the competition, having reached over 2 billion app downloads from its online store as of 3Q 2009, a symbiotic uptake which, in turn, is helping to drive sales of its iPhone and other devices.

But, with the acquisition of Handango, Pocketgear is positioning itself to offer a greater challenge to Apple in the retail app market. As a cross – platform app retailer, Pocketgear/Handango -which, combined, offers more than 140,000 applications and has generated more than $400m in app revenues to date – has the advantage of a larger potential handset customer pool; a pool which includes the Blackberry Curve, the device that outsold the Apple iPhone in 1H 2009. Pocketgear/Handango also offers a more open developer environment than Apple which has been accused at times of being too restrictive in its approval of new apps for its mobile devices. However, even with all the potential market advantages bestowed by its acquisition of Handango, Pocketgear still must face the uphill battle of competing with Apple in the arena where it holds the greatest advantage – user experience.

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Better Coordination in Healthcare - a Stretch of Common Ground

For anyone following the Health Care Reform Summit yesterday (25 February, 2010), consensus may not be a word that comes readily to mind. However, despite the diversity of concepts and ideas expressed at the gathering there was one that did not meet with debate from either party, i.e., the need for better overall healthcare coordination. Throughout the debate, on both sides of the table, as theories over what could or should be done to improve the American Healthcare system were being bandied about, the idea that increasing the degree of communication and collaboration between healthcare providers would make healthcare less costly and more effective went uncontested. No matter what else, if anything, comes out of the healthcare debate, this bodes well for a continuation of the gathering momentum towards more widespread adoption of Health Information Exchanges, EMRs, EHRs and PHRs.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Qwest and Cablevision and Convergence

There's interesting news today about more pay-TV provider approaches to convergence solutions.
  • Qwest has apparently made an investment in ZillionTV. ZillionTV is aiming to deliver 15,000 movies, TV shows and other video selections by the time it launches, and has distribution agreements with several studios including Walt Disney Co., 20th Century Fox Television, NBC Universal, Sony and Warner Bros.
  • Cablevision is launching a PC-to-TV solution that will allow consumers to watch online video on their TV sets.

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Telecom Italia with a Hybrid OTT Set-top Box

Interesting news from Telecom Italia that they are going to deploy a hybrid set-top box (reported to be an Intel-based box supplied by Amino) that will receive broadcast DTT channels and online video.

With all of the hand-wringing going on about cord-cutting here in the U.S., I think the threat is far more serious in Europe, where free DTT service is already a barrier to growth for both IPTV and cable operators. We've heard from European operators that the hybrid set-top box supporting broadband-enabled VoD services will be a critical service in allowing them to keep at least a broadband connection in a home that doesn't desire a pay-TV subscription.

And, with Intel as part of the Telecom Italia mix, it looks like consumer electronics players may be able to take advantage of opportunities to provide service providers with a means to provide unique services to their customers. Could television manufacturers be allies for the operators? Perhaps, if we see more partnerships such as the one announced at CES between LG Electronics and France Telecom/Orange. I tend to think that the majority of hybrid deployments will involve lower-cost set-top boxes, but there's no reason to think that connected TVs, Blu-ray players, and other Web-enabled CE devices won't be able to take advantage of the VoD services being supplied over broadband connections by the service providers.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Business Models for On-Demand Lifestyles

In the traditional value chain for media, consumers have paid monthly or a la carte to aggregators or distributors. The advent of digital media gave rise to a new relationship, where the consumer and the content owner were connected directly, often bypassing those traditional content gatekeepers.

But even the content owners can lose out on this arrangement since it is still an open question on how to monetize over-the-top (OTT) media. In Europe in particular, consumers are downloading video in large numbers but primarily because the content is free. When they have to pay, they go to more traditional video venues, such as the cinema.

To read more, subscribe to the Parks Points.

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Twitter Decides It’s Time to “Cash In”

With signs of increased social networking ad spend in 2010 along with a solid user base; it’s no surprise Twitter is positioning itself to ‘cash in’ with its soon-to-be launched ad platform. And it’s time…because advertisers are waiting.

Based on Parks Associates survey of top-level media decision-makers, Advertising Outlook: Shifting Dollars, social network advertising will experience a boost in 2010; – 76% state increased ad budgets while 56% project an 11% or more increase over 2009.

Paramount to the success of the monetization strategy is developing a consumer-centric ad approach. Twitter must develop relevant, non-invasive advertising solutions that seamlessly integrate into the social media experience. One way to do this is to probe select Twitter users to determine format preferences (e.g., what delivery solutions make the message seem less like an ad?). Having said that, I don’t suggest Twitter is unaware of the implications of introducing ads. I think Twitter executives will tread lightly as poorly placed ad messages will cause massive user backlash.

While we know brands are biting at the bit to engage Twitter users and followers, the real question is, “Are users ready for Tweet Ads?”

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Parks Associates supports IPTV World Forum, London

Parks Associates is supporting the IPTV World Forum from March 23-25 in London.

Stuart Sikes, President, Parks Associates will be hosting the Analyst Breakfast Briefing, "Service Providers and the Digital Home: The Role of Networks, Value-added Services, and Customer Support" on March 25 preceding the keynote presentation.

As broadband and pay television service providers embrace home networking, they face both opportunities and challenges. The home network – delivered through manageable customer premise equipment opens up the opportunity for a service provider to establish a deeper relationship with the customer, expand customer support, and deliver multi-platform value-added services. At the same time, service providers must be prepared to deal with the challenge of increased support calls and technical support requirements. This briefing will provide perspective from Parks Associates primary consumer and industry research, examining the current and future roles of service provider-deployed home networks and related services.

Now in its sixth year, the IPTV World Forum has an established reputation for high-quality and sizeable yet focused audiences - the leading event for multiplatform TV. The IPTV World Forum is the only place to meet all the key decision makers from all the IPTV markets in one place.

For more information about this event, click here.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Walmart to Purchase VUDU

Parks Associates research indicates U.S. premium video rentals and downloads will grow to $8.4 billion in 2014

After abandoning its initial online video plans in late 2007, Walmart has returned to this market with the announced acquisition of VUDU on February 22. With Best Buy working with Roxio CinemaNow, will Walmart leverage the VUDU acquisition to develop its own branded connected CE products?

Walmart is re-entering the OTT (over-the-top) market at an opportune time. Parks Associates forecasts that revenues for premium video rentals and downloads in the U.S. will grow from $2.3 billion in 2010 to $8.4 billion in 2014.

Given VUDU’s recent efforts to transition from a hardware vendor providing set-top boxes to a backend service provider of OTT content for connected CE devices, Parks Associates believes that this acquisition is an opportunity for Walmart to become a “category catalyst” in connected consumer electronics. VUDU currently is working with such CE vendors as LG, Mitsubishi, Samsung, SANYO, Sharp, Toshiba, and VIZIO.

Parks Associates projects that by 2014, more than 40% of transactional revenues for premium online video services will be through connected devices such as connected TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles, and networked digital media set-top boxes. The presence of Walmart, with its retail muscle now in the online video space, could mean significant growth in the number and availability of Web-enabled consumer electronics products.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Parks Associates supports digital health event, Burrill Consumer Digital Health Meeting

Parks Associates is supporting The Burrill Consumer Digital Health Meeting to be held March 22-23rd in Burlingame, CA.

Burrill & Company, in association with the University of Illinois, Mayo Clinic, and Pfizer, is for the first time holding The Burrill Consumer Digital Health Meeting to help prepare the life sciences community for this new era. Learn how PDAs and smartphones will become personal healthcare assistants capable of receiving vital signs and even body fluid samples for analysis and transmittal of results. Wherever patients are in the world, they will be able to connect with their physicians. And their doctors, in turn, will be able to practice medicine virtually anywhere and at anytime, with instant access to the information and systems they need—right at their thumbs. More Info

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Wal-Mart Acquires VUDU - low-cost connected CE for everyone!

After bailing on online video in late 2007, Wal-Mart is back in the game with the announced acquisition of VUDU. With Best Buy working with Roxio CinemaNow, I can see Wal-Mart taking VUDU and developing perhaps their own branded connected CE products.

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Rumbling of Mergers in Europe

Amidst the talk and challenges of a merger between France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom wireless operations in the U.K. comes the news of a possible tie up between Telecom Italia and Telefonica. Setting aside the political implications, this recent news seems to be another step in the courtship between the two behemoths. Telefonica recently completed the acquisition of HanseNet in Germany. Prior to the acquisition, HanseNet was a part of Telecom Italia's operations in Germany. It will be interesting to follow which portions of Telecom Italia's operations will be up for a merger if one were to actually happen. Coming to the political implications stated earlier, the news publication La Repubblica claims that the Berlusconi family bought into Telefonica late last year. That involves Mediaset now? This is turning out to be quite interesting.

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Mobile technical support offerings - a trend to watch

While the Mobile World Congress was abuzz with smartphones, operating systems, and apps, I was following announcements related more to enhancing mobile support applications. Given the interest in this space expressed to me during some CES meetings, mobile support is an area that we are adding to our digital home tech support coverage.

I would classify the mobile support offerings into three categories:
  • Mobile security: These features can include "safe browsing" and anti-theft features (such as remote lock or remote wipe capabilities) if a smartphone gets lost or stolen. Companies such as F-Secure and bsecure are active in this space.
  • Mobile device management: This kind of feature is going to be utilized more in the enterprise sector, where IT support for Blackberry devices can be managed more efficiently by delivering services remotely. From personal experience, I know how difficult it can be to reconnect a Blackberry to the office Exchange server after a power outage. With remote device management, the IT professional can actually take control of the handset and facilitate updates and other needed maintenance. Companies such as Motive (Alcatel-Lucent), BOMGAR, LogMeIn, and AetherPal provide solutions in this space.
  • Tech support as a value-added service offering: Just as certain landline providers are now rolling out premium tech support services, I would expect mobile operators to also deploy PC care services. This is already happening with companies such as RSUPPORT in Asia. As mobile operators deploy more netbooks, smartbooks, and mobile Internet devices, they will probably want to address remote support for these devices as well.
  • Mobile backup: Uploading contacts from a mobile phone to a secure remote storage service is something offered by a number of carriers. As we see continued migration toward smartphones that can store a growing amount of media, I think you'll see mobile backup move to also secure photos, music, and video.

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Billboard Music and Money Symposium, Parks supported event

Parks Associates is supporting the 2010 Billboard Music & Money Symposium on March 4th in New York.

This one-day event brings together the best minds from the music, legal, financial and Wall Street communities for an in-depth examination of the financial realities with which the music industry is contending.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Poland’s Largest Online Portal Onet.Pl Selects Extendmedia for New On Demand Video Service

We're really seeing some interesting activity in Central and Eastern Europe as it relates to online video. has chosen ExtendMedia to power its online video service.

Debuting today, OnetVOD is a public, online service offering free, ad supported and pay-to-view movies, TV series and programs to all Polish internet users. With a broad array of content and several payment choices for consumers, OnetVOD provides film and television entertainment directly to the consumer taking advantage of new digital management and distribution technologies. With more than 2,100 titles available at launch, the content library includes titles produced within’s parent company, TVN Group, as well as from major Hollywood studios and other media distributors.

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Comcast and Mozy partner for online storage

Comcast is working with Mozy to offer its broadband customers an online backup service. I guess they're really working to encourage their customers to take the $4.99 per month 50 GB or $9.99 for the 200 GB storage, because 2 GB for free seems pretty chintzy. I think I could safely backup my digital photos for one year with that amount. I guess I'd have to select my best year.

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Coming to a TV Near You: Addressable TV Advertising?

I firmly believe once household-level addressability is available on a meaningful scale, advertisers and media agencies will quickly shift traditional broadcast and cable TV media budgets to the advanced advertising solution. This opinion comes from both a research and practical perspective (based on my current work and previous experience as a media planner/buyer).

And, yes, I remain bullish in spite of the technical and planning/buying challenges…but that’s a whole other discussion.

It’s a no brainer. If given a choice, why would an advertiser continue to buy a mass TV audience (albeit targeted based on Nielsen demographics) when they can address a specific TV audience who is more likely to purchase a product/service and less likely to avoid the commercial? More importantly, why would an advertiser turn down the opportunity to improve the cost efficiency of a TV advertising campaign?

I've been following Starcom MediaVest and Comcast's addressability trials. The findings of their second addressable TV trial include:

· Homes receiving addressable TV ads tuned away 32% less of the time than non-targeted TV households
· Addressable TV campaigns were 65% more cost efficient than traditional TV ad campaigns

These recent findings echo their 2006 addressability trial results, which found:
· Homes receiving addressable advertising tuned away 38% less of the time than non-addressable households
· Addressable TV campaigns were 56% more cost efficient than non-addressable TV ads

Our survey of top-level U.S. ad and media executives, Advertising Outlook: Shifting Dollars, found a majority would pay a premium for addressable TV ads, with almost 40% willing to pay upwards of 20% more over traditional TV ad costs.

While I take an optimistic position, do I think 2010 or even 2011 will be the year of household-level addressability? No, I don’t. At this time, key advanced TV advertising investors are still in the technology roll out and testing phase. However, once household-level addressability scales to at least one major digital TV service provider, I predict addressable TV ad dollars will instantly cannibalize traditional broadcast and cable TV ad expenditures.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Parks Associates forecasts advanced TV, mobile advertising, and social networking to lead long-term recovery in U.S. ad spending

Targeted and interactive TV advertising will lay the foundation for the long-term recovery of U.S. ad spending, while spending on broadcast network TV will return to pre-recession levels in 2010, leading the more immediate recovery, according to Advertising Outlook: Shifting Dollars.

This new report from international research firm Parks Associates features a survey of U.S. advertising and media executives and found this group optimistic about 2010 ad spending as well as the long-term impact of advanced advertising formats. A majority would pay a premium for addressable TV ads, with almost 40% willing to pay upwards of 20% more over traditional TV ads.

Addressable TV ads, defined as TV commercials delivered via set-top box to viewers targeted by demographic information, viewing interests, or geography, represent a small portion of current ad budgets but will command higher premiums as more digital TV service operators add addressability within their offerings.

Advertising Outlook: Shifting Dollars also found almost 60% of media decision makers expect spending increases in broadcast network TV in 2010 and over three-fourths expect a budget increase for social networking advertising. Spending on all major mobile advertising formats will likewise increase, with branded microsites, mobile video, and text messaging expected to reap the largest year-over-year percentage gains.

For the full press release, click here.

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The catch-up TV space in the U.K. gets another entrant

There's news on this from both the BBC and the Digital TV Group. SeeSaw offers 3,000 hours of content Channel 4, and Five, and BBC Worldwide programming. It's different from the BBC iPlayer in that it is ad-supported.

SeeSaw joins the individual online catch-up TV services from the following broadcasters:

  • BBC iPlayer: Averaging five million unique users per week (with more than 114 million requests recorded in January), BBC iPlayer content is available for viewing on more than 20 different platforms. The BBC provides some interesting usage statistics here;
  • Channel 4 on Demand (4oD): Around 4,000 hours of content (10,000 programs) with around 2.9 million monthly views;
  • Five.TV/Demand Five: In a typical month, the Five digital family receives 2.5 million visitors from as many as 1.6 million unique users; in September, Five reported more than three million views of long-form content; and
    ITV Player: 6.5 million average monthly unique visitors.

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Turner Broadcasting and Catch-up TV in Europe

Yesterday, the news was that Warner Bros. was expanding catch-up TV services in Central and Eastern Europe. Today, Turner Broadcasting announced that it was working with Brightcove to roll an online video services in the U.K., Spain, France, Italy, Germany and other countries throughout Europe.

Turner will use the Brightcove platform to expand its advertising-supported online video services and to introduce new programming on its web portals. The first sites to launch with the platform include animation channels Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Verizon Wireless and Skype Finally Reached a Deal

More good news for consumers from MWC. While Apple finally allows Sling Player app on iPhone, Verizon Wireless announced that Skype will be made available to its customers. Previously, the VOIP solution provider had a hard time convincing mobile carriers in North America to allow its app to appear in app stores or embedded on the phone, now the first truce is made (if you don't count iPhone's support of Skype on Wi-Fi). Which carrier will be the next?

Scanning through the press release, it appears that it is a win-win for both Skype and Verizon Wireless. Skype obviously makes it more readily available to U.S. mobile users, and revenues for international calls will go to Skype. Verizon also protects its position by restricting Skype use on its network, not over Wi-Fi, and any calls to a domestic number will be counted into the user’s voice minute quota. One question that I do not get an answer is about video calls. Will Verizon permit that and what will be the impact on its network?

Looking back, the issue over Skype on mobile handsets is a typical example of carriers’ cautious stance on protecting their walled garden. Eventually, the benefits of supporting such a popular application trump their fear. After all, consumer use of voice minute is losing and will continue to lose its relevance to mobile carriers, as data usage, along with related revenue models, is the new center of gravity for carriers.

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Measuring the True Threat of "Cord-Cutting"

The press release that we issued a couple of weeks ago on potential of cord-cutting has generated some good feedback. Most recently, Jim Louderback, the CEO of Revision3, wrote a column on the GigaOm site that offered some critique of the analysis that we presented from our recently-completed All Eyes on Video study. Jim's column covered topics such as the margin of error of our surveys and raised questions about whether we were able to include the viewpoint of consumers age 18-24 who, as Jim argues, are likely to be much less loyal to pay-TV providers. I thought that I would cover these topics in this post.

Jim is correct in in discussing the margin of error in surveys, and our studies do come with a margin of error of plus or minus 2%. So, yes, there can be movement from one side to the other of the data points that are presented. So, a 10% finding could mean a swing between 8-12%.

The important thing for us to be tracking is whether there is movement of that population of consumers likely to cancel their pay-TV services above that margin of error from one study to the next. So far, we haven't found it, but it’s a question that we are tracking consistently to see if movement is occurring from one study to the next.

Secondarily, we want to be trying as much as possible to find out why people are considering cancellation of their pay-TV services. One point that should be of high concern to pay-TV operators is that more than one-half of those who indicate a high likelihood of leaving their pay-TV provider indicate that the service is too expensive. This certainly echoes some of the other comments that have been posted here. If consumers don't feel that they are getting maximum value from their pay-TV service, then there is a higher likelihood of cancellation. In fact, among respondents who are dissatisfied with the cost of their pay-TV service are twice as likely as all respondents to consider cancelling their pay-TV service.

Other comments from Jim and those from other readers have also focused on consumers in the 18-24 age range. They were included in this study, and they’ve provided some interesting insights:

  • Consumers in this age range are just as likely to have a current pay-TV subscription as the other consumer age groups;
  • This group of consumers is more likely to express high satisfaction with the video-on-demand and high-definition features that they are receiving from their pay-TV provider;
  • They are no more likely to express dissatisfaction with the cost of their service;
  • When it comes to service churn and/or cord-cutting tendencies, they are more likely than the average respondent to consider churn to a different provider, and they are swayed more with offerings of expanded VoD and high-definition channels;
  • There is evidence that they are not as loyal to pay-TV as an older consumer, as their reported likelihood of cord-cutting is higher than other age groups (11% of respondents in this population); and
  • Respondents in this age range are more likely to agree with the statement that “If all of the video on the Internet was available on the TV, I would no longer subscribe to [pay-TV services].”

That last bullet point about the impact of online video’s availability for viewing on a TV is one that perhaps has generated some of the most-interesting findings within the All Eyes on Video study. This survey does help to validate the notion that once alternative methods of viewing over-the-top video content (connected game consoles, connected TVs and Blu-ray players, networked digital media set-top boxes such as the Roku Player or Apple TV, etc.) grow in larger numbers, then the inclination to consider cord cutting is significantly enhanced. Our study finds that consumers who have used a connected game console or a TV connected to a PC (these are significant chunks of households … more than 12 million) to watch online video are up to 3x more likely to consider cutting the cord. So, the theory that the game console could challenge the supremacy of pay-TV services is certainly validated with the results of this study.

So, how do pay-TV providers respond to this potential threat? The study results do point to the strengths of pay-TV services, which include the ever-growing libraries of video-on-demand content and expanded high-definition programming. It was these two features – and specifically the migration of high-definition content to 1080p resolution – that are two key arrows in the pay-TV providers’ quiver, as these features – if offered by an alternative provider – generate the most interest among consumers in considering a service provider switch. We even found a good percentage of consumers indicating a willingness to pay a premium for “TV Everywhere” kind of features, and we found higher interest in the 18-24 and 24-34 age ranges.

As I mentioned, we are continuing to track this space, looking at not only the likelihood of cord cutting, but also how pay-TV providers can strengthen their offerings in light of the threat of lost customers and revenues. We’ll also be looking in more depth at how consumers view the role of connected consumer electronics as potential media hubs.

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Warner Bros. and Online Catch-up TV in Europe

Warner Bros. has launched a branded online catch-up TV service in Poland. WarnerTV is available on the Internet platform. Shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Gossip Girl, Friends, ER, and Fringe will be available shortly after their U.S. airing. The Polish service follows on the heels of similar European offerings in the U.K., The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and France.

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SMC is now in the cable gateway market

Two cable-related residential gateway announcements in one week? Things must be getting interesting. SMC Networks has launched a DOCSIS 3.0 gateway - the SMCD3USG. Some of the gateway's features include interfaces for MoCA, DECT, and 802.11n; and the ability to support value-added services such as home control and home security.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Mobile Operators Are Taking Apps Store Seriously

In a sign that mobile operators begin to recognize the downloadable mobile apps market as a viable opportunity and view the handset makers’ aggressiveness in this area as a credible threat, twenty-four operators announced their Wholesale Applications Community initiative today at the MWC event in Barcelona. We warned as early as in our November 2008 industry report "mobile Imaging" that operators need to come up with counter measures to prevent others from using app stores as a Trojan horse into their walled garden and their action today finally echoed our sentiment. This initiative appears to build on the Joint Innovation Lab, an initiative launched in April 2009 by Verizon Wireless, Softbank, Vodafone, and China Mobile. This time, more operators joined, so did GSMA. This move will certainly stir up the competition in the mobile app market. But whether it will eventually knock off Apple from the throne is anyone’s guess. Operators have already lost almost 18 months in this race and it may take another 18 months for this initiative to actually work. By then, consumers might make up their mind already.

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Pricing Still an Issue for 3G Femtocells

In a recent interview with Light Reading Ericsson's Vice President of Radio products said that femtocells were beaten by WiFi as the technology of choice for data services within the home. Pricing seems to be the key factor inhibiting wide spread adoption of 3G femtocells.

In 2008, the goal of major chip set providers and femtocell systems providers was to break the $100 barrier. Chip sets were still considered to be quite expensive to make femtocell attractive as a mass market product. In addition to pricing, another key factor that drives the cost of deploying a femtocell is the fact that they operate in a regulated and licensed frequency. As a result, femtocells come with some legal caveats in some markets. Operators are still faced with potential truck rolls to assist customers with setting up their femtocells. Wireless operations at most of the major operators are not set up to handle such onsite support with the same efficiency as their wireline counterparts (even though they are part of the same company).

Net effect is that femtos have to be combined with routers or gateways to really get some penetration. Operators will have to consider ‘HomeZone’ type of services offering heavily subsidized data services as long as consumers are feeding off a femtocell. In our recent study titled 'Broadband, Communications and Entertainment Bundles' we found that consumers are more interested in femtocells for their potential to offer unlimited data services than in their potential to enhance indoor coverage.

WiFi is a good interim solution, but it drains the battery rather rapidly. 3G radio by itself is quite demanding in terms of power requirements and WiFi exacerbates that situation. Femtocells certainly have a future. Femto adoption depends highly on what the price point is going to be and more importantly what sort 'subsidies' wireless operators will be able to offer on services riding femtocells and ensuing broadband connections.

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Parks Associates supports Social Networking World Forum, London

Parks Associates is supporting the Social Networking World Forum to be held March 15-16 at the Olympia Conference Centre in London.

This two-day event features four dedicated conference streams: Social Networking World Forum, Enterprise Social Media, Social TV World Forum, and Mobile Social Networking Forum. Tekey speakers from global brands, organizations, social networking publishers and developers, pioneering social media leaders, top agencies, content producers plus many more.

For more information about this event, click here.

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Technicolor (formerly Thomson) supporting ONO with residential gateways

Last summer, I had commented about the uptick in cable broadband-related residential gateway deployments. Cable operators are now starting to look at the residential gateway as a potential path to CAPEX reduction, as they seek to reduce costs on advanced set-top boxes and allow the RG to handle more video-centric functionality. Spanish cable operator ONO is working with Technicolor (formerly Thomson) to deploy RGs. Technicolor announced on Friday that it had deployed 250,000 RGs (the TCW710) to ONO.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Where does Blockbuster go from here?

Today's Dallas Morning News has a good article about Blockbuster's attempts to move deeper into digital distribution. The company is trying numerous ways to move beyond the traditional retail-oriented DVD and Blu-ray rental model, and the article mentions several initiatives, including:

  • Mailing DVDs/Blu-ray Discs to customers who can't find the titles on store shelves (and they don't have to sign up for the mail-order service);
  • The ability to rent or download current releases from BLOCKBUSTER On Demand, which is a key difference between its service and the Netflix service;
  • Deploying unique features that allow an iPhone user to rent a movie on the phone and have it waiting for them at home on their Samsung connected TV;
  • Working with Motorola to create a movie-viewing app for an upcoming handset; and
  • Testing kiosks where content can be downloaded to memory cards.

All of these options are important for Blockbuster to inject some life into its struggling retail business. My view is that the Blockbuster we see in a few years (assuming we still see it) will look very different from the retail-oriented presence it has today. Blockbuster may have to actually have to shift as a backend supplier of content and technology services to entities such as telecom service providers that may not offer full-blown IPTV services but who want to offer VoD services to their customers. You see this happening already in Europe with companies such as SF Anytime, which began as an online video provider but that now offers it to some Nordic telecom operators.

The work with Motorola is intriguing too, because Europe also has examples of online VoD companies that are working with handset developers and consumer electronics companies to offer movies and other video content. Acetrax is a good example of one such company, as it is working with Samsung.

Perhaps Blockbuster should take its cue from a company such as CinemaNow, which struggled in the early days to gain traction as a PC-only video-on-demand service. Now, the company is working more as a backend supplier for not only Blockbuster and its streaming initiatives, but also Best Buy, (the "Netflix of Canada"), Cineplex (a large movie theater chain in Canada), and Hollywood studios such as Warner Bros. and Lionsgate. Over the past couple of years, Roxio CinemaNow has begun working with a growing list of consumer electronics companies (and CE technology suppliers) such as Entone, Funai, NVIDIA, Lenovo, and Toshiba.

One key difference between Blockbuster and the other companies mentioned in this blog is that Blockbuster's new opportunities - taken separately - will certainly be smaller than the $6 billion in revenues that it once enjoyed. However, a smaller Blockbuster could be a more nimble company, able to more adeptly respond to new market opportunities and truly gain a toehold in emerging areas of digital distribution.

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U.S. - Japan Clean Tech Symposium 2010

Parks Associates is supporting the U.S.-Japan Clean Tech Symposium 2010: Why Being in Japan and Partnering with Japanese Companies are Essential for Clean Tech on February 18th in San Francisco.

This event will highlight clean tech opportunities and encourage collaboration between U.S. and Japanese companies through discussion and sharing of strategies and plans (e.g., investment in U.S. and Japan; innovation opportunities for U.S. and Japanese companies; entry into third-country markets by U.S. and Japan collaboration).

For more information, click here to see event brochure.

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Google's Stimulus Plan

Google’s announcement today that it will build an “experimental” fiber network to offer super fast broadband Internet access of 1 gigabit per second to between 50,000 to 500,000 U.S. households is the stimulus model for economic recovery. Google is investing its own cash surpluses, rather than deficit government funds, to create an information superhighway which will put the U.S. back on pace with Japan, France and other nations that already enjoy much faster Internet access for less cost per megabit. This investment will create jobs, upgrade our broadband infrastructure and push Internet access toward the inevitable market based pricing model, whereby those who greatly value really fast data speeds will pay a premium within a tiered price structure. Of course telcos and cablecos will vie for their share of the premium customers that Google’s experiment will identify. Will they build their own super highways or might they find themselves leasing capacity from Google?

The Google fiber network sidesteps the net neutrality debate, as theirs will be a private, opt-in network independent of the public Internet. If you drove to work this morning on one of the nation’s many toll roads or dropped off a child at a private school, you have confirmed the effectiveness of market based pricing. Today American Airlines announced that all but its frequent fliers will now be assessed a $50 fee for same day flight changes (formerly known as stand-by). As airlines have effectively used tiered pricing to survive and occasionally earn a profit, so will Internet providers who wish to offer a first class option.

Hey Goldman Sachs, what infrastructure investments will you be announcing this quarter?

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Parks Associates to focus on opportunities in digital media & connected CE at CONNECTIONS™ Europe

Parks Associates announced the agenda for CONNECTIONS™ Europe: Monetizing Connectivity and User Experiences, which the international research firm will host on April 27, 2010, in Amsterdam.

CONNECTIONS™ Europe is the leading executive summit featuring European and international consumer research, top executives, and innovative companies in the digital living markets. The summit will examine business models and challenges related to digital media, including the potential of 3D video in the home, the role of value-added services in building ARPU, monetization of over-the-top content, and the challenge of pushing content to multiple connected CE, including smartphones and other mobile devices.

The preliminary agenda for CONNECTIONS™ Europe features the following sessions:
Bringing the Content
Extending the Video Experience to Multiple Screens
-- Controlling the Experience
Value-added Services & the Video Ecosystem
-- Mobile Video: The Cloud, the App Store & the Connected Home

CONNECTIONS™ Europe will feature Parks Associates’ expert consumer and industry research, with the company’s analysts presenting data from consumer research projects including All Eyes on Video, Consumer Decision Process, Residential Energy Management, and Digital Media Evolution.

Early sponsors for CONNECTIONS™ Europe, also members of Parks Associates’ Premier Program, include ActiveVideo Networks and PacketVideo. Visit for more information on the Premier Program.

Visit for more information about CONNECTIONS™ Europe. The deadline for speaker submissions is March 1, 2010.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Digital Media II - Analyzing the evolution and impact of digital media across multiple platforms

Digital Media II is a primary consumer survey measuring the adoption and use of existing platforms and gauges the market potential for future platforms including digital cameras, TVs, digital photo frames, and Blu-ray players.

Key Topics include the following:
- 3D TV
- The market potential for "slate" and tablet PCs
- Triggers for adoption, usage scenarios, and hardware configuration for emerging platforms
- Hardware configurations used for consuming Internet video on the TV
- Market interest in motion-controlled user interfaces
cloud media and digital locker services
- Prevailing digital media habits with PCs, MP3 players, mobile phones, game consoles, TVs, and other digital devices
- The demand for connected TVs and key video and non-video applications
- The digital media business models most likely to succeed
- The emerging websites and social networking destinations
- Online destinations for TV, PC, and mobile content
- New content sources and services

Parks Associates will survey over 2,000 U.S. broadband households. Additional countries will be added at client request.

Survey launches early March, click here for more information.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Parks Associates supports Digital Music Forum East

Parks Associates is supporting the Digital Music Forum East to be held from February 24-25 in New York City.

Digital Music Forum East is the only event in the United States that brings together the top music, technology and policy leaders for high-level discussions and debate, intimate meetings and unrivaled networking about the future of digital music. More Info

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I hope that AT&T is serious about upgrading their 3G network

AT&T will have more incentive to upgrade their 3G network. On February 4, AT&T announced that it would support use of the SlingPlayer over their mobile network. Prior to this announcement, AT&T had limited use of the Sling app only to Wi-Fi networks.

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VIZIO and an industry first - an ad for connected TVs

How'd that Hulu ad from the 2009 Super Bowl work out? Pretty darn well, it turns out. At the end of 2009, Hulu offficials noted that the number of monthly users was 43 million, double the number from year-end 2008. They also indicated that the 924 million viewed clips over the last 30-day period was three times the amount from a year ago.

Let's see what success VIZIO has with their Super Bowl commerical from yesterday, which is the first time I've ever seen a connected TV advertised. Having Beyonce lead things off doesn't hurt! I don't know if I'd give all the credit to the ad, but I do see sales of connected TVs growing 150% this year.

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Ziggo unveils technical support services

In a press release that we issued last week, we stated that the European market for digital home technical support services was wide open, as consumers tend to look at a variety of potential providers - retailers, independent companies, PC OEMs, and broadband providers - to solve PC and other home technology problems. These results come from our Customer Support in the Digital Home: Europe study.

Ziggo has now launched a tech support service in The Netherlands. Service Plus includes both phone in-home support for a variety of technical problems.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Parks Associates hosting Residential Energy Management Webcast

Parks Associates is hosting a Residential Energy Management on Thursday, February 25th at 1 PM Central.

With the president’s stimulus bill squarely behind Smart Grid development, 2010 should see significant investment in new technologies from the back office to the network to the meter and to devices in the home. Will consumers pay to purchase devices with energy savings potential?

For more information, visit

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Nagravision and Samsung Internet@TV Partnership

This was interesting news, particularly since we completed a Webcast today where we talked about the very dymanic market for supplying Web capabilities to the consumer electronics market. Today, Nagravision announced that it was partnering with Samsung Electronics America to provide TV applications an interactivity to Web-connected Samsung products such as connected TVs and Blu-ray players.

It's interesting that a company like Nagravision - which has a strong foundation in providing content protection, delivery, and interactive features to pay-TV providers is working with consumer electronics companies. At a time in which we are seeing different actors - including broadband service providers such as France Telecom; online video providers such as Roxio CinemaNow; and broadcasters (particularly in Europe with the Project Canvas and HbbTV efforts - all developing solutions to bring more content and services to the connected TV, Nagravision's announcement should be one of many that we hear in this developing space.

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Consumer Reports Gives Seal of Approval to "Connected TVs"

Broadcast & Cable reported on Consumer Reports' tests of Web-connected TVs and Blu-ray players and devices such as broadband-connected TiVos and game consoles. It sounds like the reviews were generally favorable - Consumer Reports indicates that video quality was pretty decent. One of the key conclusions from them is for consumers to take a closer looks at the connected Blu-ray players, as they will obviously be lower-cost alternatives to a full-blown connected TV. That makes sense - the major manufacturers are basically duplicating the same features and Web services on their Blu-ray players as their TVs.

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Will the Super Bowl really drive HDTV sales?

Interesting data from Retrevo regarding drivers for the purchase of an HDTV in the short-term. According to their latest Pulse Report, price beats the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics in a big way as the key driver for buying an HDTV. Furthermore, about half of consumers in this study weren't aware of whether they would be able to watch the Winter Olympics in high-definition. Yeesh...seems like NBC has a lot of work to do.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Parks Associates supports Cable Congress 2010

Parks Associates is a media partner at Cable Congress 2010 to be held March 3-5 in Brussels, Belgium.

Cable Congress 2010 features high-level keynotes and panel discussions featuring top executives from Europe and the world's leading cable, technology and media companies.

For more information about this event, click here.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Game consoles and original programming

There was an interesting article cited in the Minneapolis Star Tribune indicating a move by console manufacturers to expand their consoles beyond the video download boxes they have already become to host more original programming. Some examples cited in the article:
  • Microsoft is testing a remake of the TV game show "1 vs. 100," where players on the Xbox LIVE network compete and are represented by 3D avatars.
  • Sony is pushing two videogame-themed shows "Qore" and "Pulse," along with a reality show called "The Tester," where 11 contestants will compete to win a job as a PlayStation game tester.
  • The Nintendo Wii is home to exclusive content through the console's Nintendo Channel. The channel includes trailers, commercials, and interviews with game developers.

One of the questions raised in the article was whether the game console as a video player could be a threat to pay-TV services. There is some interesting data that just came back from a Parks Associates study called All Eyes on Video that suggests that the expanded entertainment capabilities of game consoles could actually threaten pay-TV subscriptions. When asked if they are likely to cancel pay-TV services in the next 12 months, active video consumers using either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 console are much more likely to consider cancelling their pay-TV service.

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