Parks Associates Blog

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holiday Purchase Intentions and Recession-proof Gaming Industry?

We now have incredibly fresh data on consumer purchase intentions between now and January 1, 2009. We put a survey into the field late last week titled Digital Media Evolution, and a significant focus is on consumer electronics purchases made this year and those planned for the rest of 2008. I've organized the data under some major themes.
What Will Consumer Electronics Purchases Look Like this Year?
About half of consumers surveyed (49%) indicate that they will purchase fewer consumer electronics this year due to economic uncertainty. Interestingly enough, 17% of consumers plan to spend more on consumer electronics this holiday season, even as they reduce gifting for other products.

How Much are Consumers Planning to Spend?
Twenty-eight percent of consumers don't plan to spend for any consumer electronics this year, but 19% plan to spend more than $500. For gaming software, 49% don't plan to buy, but 16% plan to spend $100 or more.

Top Planned Holiday CE Purchases
When asked "How likely is your household to purchase any of the following products before January 1, 2009," gaming software (either for the console or the PC) tops the list. Smaller electronics look to be more popular this year.

There was in interesting article in CNET today about the gaming industry and whether it's recession-proof. However, here's a stat that was cited that simply cannot be true:

"[Forty-six] percent of consumers expect to purchase a video game system of some kind on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving."

That simply cannot be 46% of all consumers. Maybe 46% of consumers who plan to purchase a consumer electronics product? Even that seems way too high.

We'll see come Monday what the end result of Black Friday was. The wife and I had discussed buying an HDTV for the bedroom, but I'm convinced that we may see even better deals right after the Christmas holiday, so I'm waiting. Plus, who in their right mind wants to crawl out of bed at 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving?

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Blockbuster's go-to-TV strategy: 2Wire is the partner

While Netflix has been busy making different consumer electronics partner announcements, Blockbuster has been silent for a long time. Finally, it was announced today that 2Wire is the CE partner for Blockbuster's Internet movie services. The 2Wire MediaPoint™ digital media player is free if one prepays for 25 BLOCKBUSTER ONDEMAND movies at $99. In its release, 2Wire touted the Media Player's connections (Wi-Fi and Ethernet) and support for HD content. The Dallas Morning News did a nice write-up today on the Blockbuster-2Wire collaboration, noting that the service will start with 2,000 titles (well below the 12,000 offered by Netflix, and the 20,000+ from both iTunes and Blockbuster says that its big differentiator will be more timely content. They note that titles such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Smart, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, The Strangers, and The Love Guru will be among the available offerings when launched.

Hmmmm...Sarah Marshall is probably worth an Internet stream. The others? I'm not so sure.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Faltering Economy Blamed for Stranded Eldercare

Two articles in today’s issue of the Wall Street Journal examined the eldercare market from two different angles. One article highlighted recent budget woes at more than 15 states in the U.S., which resulted in funding cut for home and community care services. The fragile and the disabled are hit particularly hard as states like Alabama, Massachusetts, and Alabama started to scale back various Medicaid Waiver programs usually targeting this vulnerable population. These beneficiaries will also find longer waiting lists, reduced state subsidies, or complete elimination of reimbursement for certain home support services. Worst of all, since there is no light at the end of the tunnel for our economy, more cuts are likely, according to the article.

A separate article looked into an AARP report released recently. The report found that families who care for clinically ill relatives increasingly felt the pinch both economically and psychologically. As high as 34 million Americans provide unpaid care to their loved ones at a certain point in any given year. Their services carry a hefty $375 billion price tag in 2007, up from $350 billion in 2006.

Combined together, the two articles painted a grim picture of the eldercare market where the fragile and the disabled are left with a shrinking pool of helpers and rising cost of care. Who will bail them out?

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Sonic Solutions Acquires CinemaNow

Wow. Looks like Sonic is really going to ramp up its Qflix download-to-burn offering with the acquisition of CinemaNow. It's another fire sale ($3 million) in the Internet video space. However, I think there's a lot of upside for Sonic, not only in the download-to-burn space, but also as CinemaNow is working more closely with CE vendors and service providers to offer its content as part of a value-add broadband VoD offering.


Sony adds Slacker Personal Radio to BRAVIA Internet Video Link

We told you back in July that more people are enjoying listening to their music collections at their TVs. Looks like Sony is taking this to the next level, as they have integrated Slacker content with their BRAVIA Internet Video Link TVs. Slacker offers CD-quality music across many different genres, allowing users to personalize their listening experience.


Sony doesn't like the Xbox streaming its content from Netflix

Sony has yanked its titles from being played on the Xbox via Netflix. No surprise there, since Sony is trying to get its own PlayStation NETWORK running in direct competition to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.


From the Future of Television Conference

I am in New York this week spending time at The Future of Television East event, which was held Tuesday and Wednesday. It was another interesting conference, with a mixture of media executives and the "old guard" of television plus the companies that are now making noise in the online video space (Hulu,,, etc.).

There are definitely some differing opinions about what online and mobile video means to the broadcasters. Representatives from NBC-U, CBS, and ABC are all very positive about raising TV audience numbers. However, a new IBM study says that active online video viewers are watching less TV.

Interesting data from CBS about average audience age for a how like How I Met Your Mother:
• On air: mid-40s
• Online: 28

CBS says says that while 75% of Internet users are watching some video online each week television viewing has gone up 8% in all demographics since 2000. Teenagers are watching 7% more television over that time.

What Jeff Zucker said last year about how digital media is effectively turning “analog dollars into digital pennies” looms over all of this supposed good news the broadcasters are reporting. Many in the audience were interested in knowing whether the broadcasters felt that they were actually growing their revenues as opposed to simply stemming their losses. Nobody ever answered that question. I sense that we’re still in such a fuzzy area about this new age of digital distribution that nobody really knows the answer. Lots of hope that VoD and targeted advertising can boost revenues for both the broadcasters and the cable operators. Lots of hope that social networking aspects of this new digital era will allow consumers to be more fully immersed in both programming and advertising, but it seems largely theoretical right now.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

TiVo is putting the "T" in T-Commerce

I saw at least one order-the-pizza-from-the-TV demonstration at last week's TelcoTV conference, so I thought it was interesting that the theory has now become a reality, at least with TiVo and Domino's Pizza. The companies announced today that they have introduced a service to give broadband connected TiVo subscribers the ability to order pizza for delivery or pick-up, and track delivery timing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Introducing General Displays & Technologies ... and another Connected TV

GE's going after the connected TV market now. A joint venture between General Electric and Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer Tatung will market LCD TVs next year in the U.S. The new company, called General Displays & Technologies, plans to introduce its first GE-branded models in the spring of 2009.

We are developing advanced, Internet capabilities for content delivery to televisions, without the need for a PC. This includes IPTV through cable, satellite, and advanced fiber-optic television connectivity," said Mike McConnaughey, the new firm's CEO. "The long-term strategy is to allow consumers to customize their viewing experience by downloading widgets and a variety of services directly to their HDTVs."

The company will partner with NBC Universal, a subsidiary of GE, to develop an open platform for content delivery.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

From TelcoTV

We're at the TelcoTV show in Anaheim this week, and getting updates on the trends in telco/IPTV services on a global basis. Some of the things that have caught my eye include:
  • Web integration of VoD and remote DVR services. Everyone seems to be talking about a Facebook integration and recommendations for VoD titles. I saw an interesting demonstration from SeaChange, where their Affinity recommendation engine allows users to recommend things like VoD titles. That could enhance the VoD take rate.
  • Also, interesting to hear of strategies that put IPTV content on PCs. Cisco has worked with Adobe to provide a solution to Telecom Italia, where their content is available on the Telecom Italia portal. Working with Verimatrix, SeaChange is offering a "soft set-top box" application for PCs. They are aiming this at universities, where students may be less inclined to have TVs, but still want to view premium TV content on their laptops.
  • All kinds of interesting social networking applications built around Facebook applications and enabling features such as recommendations, chat, etc. Nortel announced a number of social networking and interactive services, including Digital Vault, where subscribers can upload their personal content to secure network-hosted storage solutions.
  • There are all kinds of multi-screen demonstrations, where viewers can watch DVR content and then move it to a mobile device to continue watching. You can bet that telcos are looking to leverage their mobile assets and add a new dimension for viewing.
  • Delivering non-linear advertising (interactive, VoD, etc.) is a big topic this year. It will be an interesting area to watch.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Best Buy: "Seismic changes in consumer behavior"

Best Buy reported today that falling consumer spending, driven by the recent turmoil in the financial markets and other macro economic factors, has resulted in lower-than-expected revenue for the consumer electronics retailer. The uncertainty regarding future consumer spending has limited the company's ability to project revenue for the critical holiday shopping season and the balance of the fiscal year. Given both the change in economic environment and the significance of the holiday shopping season to the company's annual earnings, Best Buy is lowering its guidance for the fiscal year and widening its range for potential revenue and earnings.

Best Buy has altered its guidance for the remainder of its fiscal 2009. With a 7.6% decline in same store sales in fiscal October, the company projects declines of anywhere from 5-15% through February 2009.

MGM and Yahoo - how well will ad-supported movies do?

Good commentary today on CNET regarding MGM's decision to run full-length movies on YouTube. You have to wonder how many ads can be running during a feature-length movie before a viewer gets too annoyed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Out-of-Home TV Measurement Takes a Back Seat.

On Friday, November 7th, Nielsen Media Research and IMMI announced the indefinite suspension of their out-of-home TV measurement service. IMMI and Nielsen announced the partnership in early 2007 and began delivering the first national out-of-home television ratings in September 2008. Not surprisingly, the postponement of the out-of-home TV viewing measurement service is a result of current economic conditions. It is unclear if or when the service will resume. I posted a blog regarding IMMI’s measurement of audience exposure to multiple media platforms in mid-October. I argued the fact that IMMI’s service is a valuable resource for media agencies and marketers moving forward in the digital age especially when digital media currency standards are evolving. The reality is the nation is currently challenged by a weak economy and therefore something’s got to give. As a result, more accurate measurement of TV viewing outside of the home will be prolonged.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

AT&T bought Wayport for $275 Million in Cash

Not a bad deal for the Austin company. Not a bad deal at all, especially considering the current market conditions. Back in the days when I was writing about Wi-Fi hotspots 4, 5 years ago, I predicted only a couple of companies would survive which seemed at a time an exploding market. On the list were Wayport and Boingo. Wayport was able to secure many strategic locations coveted by other companies interested in the hotspot market. Lately it also has been managing AT&T's Wi-Fi hotspot services. I further predicted that Wayport would eventually become an acquisition target, although I did not expect that it took so long.

Before fast 3G+ networks blanket the country and mass adoption of non Wi-Fi mobile broadband embedded devices, there's still a place for Wi-Fi hotspots. Large incumbent carriers like AT&T are providing Wi-Fi hotspots as a value-added feature for its broadband and mobile customers. One more reason to go get that iPhone.


Parks Associates finds mobile broadband operators face challenges in managing traffic and user control

Refined business models will control network use and yield more revenue --

The tremendous growth of mobile broadband usage, with annual growth rates of 200% in parts of North America and upwards of 800% in parts of Europe, will create future challenges for service providers if not properly managed.

A new custom study from Parks Associates, Mobile Broadband in North America and Europe: Change is Key to Continuing Profitability, found that many carriers rely on outdated business models, excessive pricing or flat-rate billing, to manage traffic. Excessive pricing slows growth and invites cutthroat competition. Flat-rate carriers charge a single rate for unlimited service, which does not effectively monetize traffic. Both models are unsustainable given current growth trends.

The custom study, conducted by Parks Associates on behalf of Camiant, a global provider of policy control for the wireless, fixed, and cable industries, included interviews with executives at major mobile broadband providers in Canada, Europe, and the U.S. The study determined adoption and usage of mobile broadband and carriers’ capabilities with respect to network and user control.

Denissov and Camiant’s VP of Business Development Randy Fuller will present the study findings during a free webcast on Wednesday, November 12, at 12 p.m. ET.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Sneakernet Media Adapter - Western Digital's WD TV HD Media Player

For all the talk of wireless HD and questions surrounding the pros and cons of Wi-Fi, 5 GHz, 60 GHz, and UWB solution, Western Digital has offered up the WD TV HD Media Player. Basically, USB drives, digital cameras, camcorders, and portable media players that can be recognized as mass storage devices can be plugged into this device and then played on the TV. Western Digital announced this product on Monday with this press release.

Sky, Virgin Media End Channel Dispute, Ink Carriage Deals

Following successful negotiations, Sky and Virgin Media reportedly have agreed two new channel carriage deals that will run concurrently until 12 June 2011

Under the first deal, Sky’s Basic channels will return to Virgin Media’s cable TV service on 13 November. These reportedly include Sky1, Sky2, Sky3, Sky News, Sky Sports News, Sky Arts 1, Sky Arts 2, Sky Real Lives and Sky Real Lives 2.

The second agreement, according to the officials, provides for the continued carriage of Virgin Media TV’s basic channels as part of Sky’s retailed channel line-up on satellite. These basic channels are: Living, Living 2, Bravo, Bravo 2, Trouble, Challenge and Virgin 1.

Both agreements include fixed annual carriage fees for the channels and will allow BSkyB (News - Alert) and Virgin Media to secure additional capped payments provided their channels meet certain performance-related targets, according to the companies.

Read More

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KPN sees strong growth

Dutch telco KPN has reported a growth of 69% as subscribers for its IPTV service reached 700,000 in Q3. KPN estimates it now has a 21% share of the Dutch digital television market. The telco's total revenues for the Q3 hit E3.652 billion, up 20% from the same period of last year, while net profits fell 0.6% by the same comparison to reach E353 million.

For more information about KPN, click here.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

TeliaSonera reaches 450,000 IPTV subs in Q3

Scandinavian telco TeliaSonera added 23,000 IPTV customers in the third quarter of this year across all regions to bring its total to 450,000, with over half of its IPTV customer base in Sweden paying to receive the service.

In Sweden, the push for IPTV resulted in a rise of more than 100,000 new subscriptions year-on-year to reach 320,000, however the company reported no growth on a quarter-on-quarter comparison in the country. TeliaSonera had a total of 839,000 digital TV subscribers across all regions, including its cable TV operations in Denmark.

Net sales by the Broadband Services division fell 1% year-on-year to reach SEK 11,063mn (US$ 1,376mn) in the third quarter of 2008, however growth in voice and IP traffic, and higher sales of IP-based services, "did not fully offset the decline in traditional fixed voice", according to the company. The total number of broadband subscribers across all regions reached 2,405,000 by the end of the third quarter of this year, up 26,000 from three months previously. Broadband average revenue per user (ARPU) for the three months to September was SEK 275, up slightly from SEK 273 in the same period of 2007.

“Third quarter performance was good with growing sales and strong EBITDA, driven by Mobility Services and Eurasia," said Lars Nyberg, President and CEO of TeliaSonera. Sales in Broadband Services were essentially flat in absolute terms, but there is a considerable change in the underlying product mix, which puts pressure on margins. Improving operational efficiency remains one of our top priorities.

"We are in a period of global financial turmoil and it is very difficult to project how long it will last. However, TeliaSonera has a strong balance sheet and operates in a relatively non-cyclical industry. Therefore, we see no immediate effects of changing customer behavior in our operations. Regulatory intervention, intense competition and customer migration remain the primary challenges."

Total net sales across all operations for the third quarter of this year rose 4% relative to the same period of 2007 to reach SEK 25,817mn, while net income fell 13% by the same comparison to reach SEK 5,411mn.

Stockholm-headquartered TeliaSonera is active in North and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Spain, and has IPTV operations in a number of countries including Sweden, Norway, Lithuania and Estonia.

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New Technologies and Care Enhancement Models Will Add $1.4 Billion to the Diabetic Care Market in 2013

New technology-enabled monitoring solutions and services will reshape the diabetic care market and earn $1.4 billion in product and service revenues by 2013, according to Parks Associates’ Executive Update: Enhancing Diabetic Care through Intelligent Medical Devices.

This executive update finds companies like Medtronic, Cardiocom, Diabetech, and Healthways are developing new products and service models in response to this paradigm shift in diabetic care. They are laying the foundation for the digital-health service sector and driving adoption of new applications that include continuous glucose monitoring, online access to professional help, and educational sessions on wellness and fitness. These new offerings come in response to growing demand from consumers and industry players for lifestyle changes, better care coordination, and early intervention among diabetic patients.

Executive Update: Enhancing Diabetic Care through Intelligent Medical Devices examines the increasing role of technologies in the continuum of diabetic care management—from prevention and education to proactive management.

For additional information, visit

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Alex St. John Stepping Down No Big Deal for Wild Tangent

The gaming press is reporting the closing of Wild Tangent's internal development studio and Mike Peronto's replacing St John as company CEO. Alex will remain chairman of the company.

The closure of its own development studio is not too surprising, given that for the past several years, Wild Tangent has been mainly focused on game distribution/retail, which is increasingly based on a sponsorship/advertising and session-based model (Wild Coins), instead of the traditional download model. The benefit of having its own content arm is diminishing as it seeks out partnerships and outside content. It's been monetizing Runescape and a bunch of Korean MMOs in addition to traditional downloadabel casual games.

I was however intrigued about the CEO replacement so I reached out to Alex. As confident as he's always been, he told me it was nothing new and the press just made it sound like a big deal. Alex has been serving in the chairman/evangelist role for the past several years while Mike has been running daily operations. Alex said it's now the time to give Mike the title he deserves.

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WiQuest has closed its doors

EE Times has reported that UWB chipset company has closed its doors, and indicated that Intel has ended its research efforts in UWB. So, is it a death knell for ultra-wideband? Eric Broockman, Alereon's CEO, says no in a blog he posted last Friday. His indication is that WiQuest's struggle to get a single-chip solution that could meet the widely varying regulatory restrictions that different countries have put in place was a reason why it - but not the entire UWB industry - failed. The WiMedia version of UWB has the backing of both the Bluetooth SIG and the USB Forum, but if I'm a handset maker, I'd be leery of implementing a short-range radio solution in my devices if I wasn't 100% assured that it could meet the regulations set forth in international markets.

Others argue that the lack of a killer application and a subsequent inability by UWB chipset makers to grow volumes significantly to drive down chipset costs (which are estimated still at $15) are reasons why the industry hasn't seen the growth that was once projected. Finally, it does appear that companies are continuing to take a close look at a variety of wireless solutions that can serve as both short-range cable replacement and for whole-house distribution of video content. So, the field appears wide open for Wi-Fi, 5 GHz, 60 GHz, and the remaining UWB companies.