Solar’s an interesting fight. It feels like two companies are pulling away from the pack, U.S.-based First Solar and China-based Suntech Power. So clearly the U.S. wants the U.S. to win (cough…Solyndra…cough) and China wants the same for their companies. I am probably a biased Westerner, but China is playing hardball. It’s not the loans. China is also subsidizing through land grants, tax breaks, and who knows what else. It’s hard to track and even harder to see what the impact on First Solar will be.
Video games are a $60 billion industry and PC games are making a comeback compared to consoles. With the new second screen, tablets, and the rise of Internet connected TVs, the whole industry is up for grabs. Amazon is in an interesting position to attack this market (so are Microsoft, Google, and Apple).
What would happen if Random House launched an online competitor to Amazon’s book site? Crazy right? But Paramount (NYSE:VIA) is running a little experiment that is basically the same thing. They quietly launched direct rentals of Transformers: Dark of the Moon from their web site. Sounds crazy but combine original content with an off-the-shelf video rental platform and a little known effort called Ultraviolet and it might payoff, just not in the way you think.
Amy Powell, Executive VP Interactive Marketing and Film Production at Paramount says “We’re testing the waters and interested to see consumer feedback. It’s just a little toe-dip to move in the direction we believe will be one of the future distribution means for content.” It’s a “little toe-dip” designed to kick the distribution/technology wannabe gatekeepers in the nuts. But more on that in a minute.
The offering is being delivered on CSGI’s Content Direct platform. Content Direct is an off-the-shelf video rental platform that allows content providers to offer content directly to consumers. It includes member management, billing, ad monetization, and of course content management.
So Content Direct is a new wrinkle in the diffusion of video distribution. Most of the headlines have focused on Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and their TV/mobile plays. A platform like Content Direct means the content providers can open another front in the war for video dollars to scare distributors.
Another interesting wrinkle adjacent to direct-to-consumer rentals is Ultraviolet. It’s a standard/platform/alliance backed by most of the major studios and a who’s who of video industry and technology players. It basically allows for media portability. Bought a video through iTunes on your computer and want to watch it on your Android tablet? Not possible now. But if Ultraviolet takes off you could.
That all said, who really wants to have to go to twenty web sites to shop for a movie. Nobody. But this isn’t about Paramount or other studios offering direct rentals. This is 100% about leverage. The industry fears Apple dominance in video the way they dominate music. They fear Google almost as much. Add direct to consumer offerings and media portability to distribution contract negotiations and the content guys get more leverage. As a result, content providers can ratchet down Apple’s, or anyone else’s, aspirations to take 30% of the dollars in the industry. Even if those would-be gatekeepers own the hardware, software, and ultimately the customer relationship.
Just another interesting salvo in the $500 billion television battle.
Morgan Stanley, as of 2Q11 data, seems like it can weather its obligations but the short-term liquidity considerations are key.
Liquidity reserves are up 50% since the ’08 crisis.
Leverage is way down.
Riskiest debt is down.
And as long as European debt issues don’t drag down all of Europe, foreign exposure seems manageable.
Two other factors are key.
1) Short-term liquidity. MS is still a bank so presumably the Fed can lend a hand (political will a factor).
2) Mitsubishi. The second backstop for a MS crash is Mitsubishi which has deep pockets and an apparent willingness to stand by its partner.
All that together makes it seem like Morgan Stanley will be fine. Of course a lot of people said that in ’08.
eMarketer is reporting that global social ad revenues will hit $5.5 billion this year, an increase of 55%. The vast majority apparently going to Facebook, or approximately $3.8 billion. The market is expected to grow to almost $10 billion in the next two years. So clearly, if Facebook can fend of G+, they’ve got the wind at their backs, for now.
So Yahoo is trying to get into the $500 billion TV battle, again, with what is now typical Yahoo awkwardness. (Terry Semel is either happy or pissed.) Yahoo just relauched their video portal under the moniker Yahoo Screen. It’s a hodge podge of Yahoo original content , webby partnerships with traditional media like ABC News, and stuff from Hulu. And just like Google’s search persona permeated version one of Google TV, Yahoo’s corporate personality shines through in Screen: ok-to-good assets underneath but no clear direction leading to a bungled opportunity.
No one knows how TV 2.0 is going to turn out, and apparently neither does Yahoo. Yahoo has always flirted with video on the web. One of the first web-based “channels” I ever watched was the Yahoo Finance video channel. It was a low-budget, people-curated, aggregation of things going on in finance. It felt like some kid reading search results on camera. And as evidenced by Yahoo’s Prime Time in No Time, things haven’t changed much. Production values have gone up a little and the search result readers are older but Yahoo’s original content is still some webified version of people curated aggregation. With semi-lame original content on one end and Hulu traditional media on the other, it looks like Yahoo is throwing together everything and anything that looks like tv under one portal. As such it’s hard to understand what Yahoo’s strategy is for creating an audience other than let’s try every.
Of course the definition of television is getting weird so Screen might just be a sign of the times. Just 3 years ago there was broadcast quality television and YouTube with not much in the middle. But with content guys trying to hold onto their ad and sub dollars combined with an ever increasing number of well-funded challengers, everyone is seems to be in the content creation game these days. Google, Netflix, and others are apparently funneling hundreds of millions into original content. So the definition of what is TV is going to get really fuzzy near term.
Yahoo’s kitchen sink approach is probably okay given the current state of things. More helpful is Yahoo’s enviable demographic numbers. Despite the growing impression that they don’t know what they’re doing, Yahoo still seems to have a ton of traffic in key media areas: news, finance, celebrities, sports, women, etc.
So combine their quirky original content, partnerships with traditional media, and a strong demographic base and you might have something. Ah, but this is Yahoo. It feels like they should be able to do something but the lack of direction means more aggressive and focused players will likely eat their lunch. Sound familiar.
Feeling the heat from Kindle Fire? Best Buy slashed prices on the Playbook by two hundred dollars. Still not enough though. If you’re going to get a pale imitation of an iPad you want it at a pale imitation of the price.
$100 million presumably from those promoted tweets. I never click on ads in general and I’ve certainly never clicked on a promoted tweet so I’m biased but I’d be interested to know what the click through rates are.
On September 20th the Google+ was opened to the public. Since then Google+ made a huge move from nowhere to 8th place in social network market share according to Experian Hitwise. (Who knew Tagged was player.) According to Paul Allen’s estimates the site has gone from 13 million to 42 million in 60 days and added 7 million new users in just two days from 7/21 to 7/23.
Of course the recent increase in users could just be pent-up demand unleashed by the site being opened up. Even with this data it’s still too early to tell if Google+ is going to be a real player. Facebook is still king with it’s 700 million users. If Google+ adds 1 million users a day for a year, which would be astronomical growth even for Google, they still wouldn’t be halfway to Facebook’s numbers (Facebook isn’t going to suddenly stop growing). I still don’t think Google has come up with any massive innovation other than not being jerks about data ownership. And maybe that’s enough. That and no one in a marketplace likes having one dominant player.
Business Insider is quoting two sources that Dish was the highest bid at $1.9 billion because Google’s $4 billion bid came with a lot of strings attached.
“Dish was the highest bidder, coming in around $1.9 billion. It beat out both Amazon and Yahoo.
Google bid much more â something in the range of $4 billion. But that bid came with special conditions, as has been previously reported â Google wanted more content for a longer period of time, and perhaps other concessions as well.” Read BI’s full article here
As I’ve mentioned before, TV is the next huge battleground for Google at $500 billion. So $4 billion is peanuts to make Google’s content issues go away. But it’s not that clear cut for Google. The fact that the content guys are saying they want the ad model to go away is important. With WSJ reporting that YouTube is on the cusp of launching their TV channels, it’s a complicated game Google is playing here.
Dish is a bit different. They already have content. Opening up on the Internet front in addition to satellite has got to be game changer for them. They also don’t have the complexity issues that come with the Internet guys.