Google Fiber Rolls Out Major Upgrade to Pay-TV; And Other News


Google Fiber Rolls Out Major Upgrade to Pay-TV

Google Fiber has announced a massive update to its pay-TV user interface, in spite of  rumors circulating last month that the company was set to curtail deployment plans and cut staff.The Google Fiber video interface underwent a large-scale overhaul and was redesigned to include more metadata, new personalized recommendation functions (likely leveraging Google analytics technology), and a revamped DVR. These upgrades come despite the fact that Google Fiber is one of the smaller pay-TV players in the world, with only 68,715 video customers as of the June 2016. Current customers will automatically receive access to the new and improved Fiber TV in coming weeks.

“It can be tough to find the shows and movies you love — or discover new ones. So we redesigned Fiber TV’s interface to make it easier to recognize the shows you’re looking for,” said Google Fiber announced. “We added helpful information like Rotten Tomatoes ratings to the program description. And we reorganized the DVR to make it easier to navigate your recordings.”

In addition, Google Fiber announced that it had started taking sign-ups for subscribers in North Carolina, with a range of plans starting from 1-gig speeds for $70 per month.

Paramount Pictures Turns to Teradata for Big Data Analytics

Paramount Pictures has partnered closely with Teradata in order to tackle big data analytics, a collaboration it explored at a panel titled “Paramount’s Journey into the Cloud,” at the Teradata PARTNERS 2016 Conference.

While the company has performed profitability and sales analysis on DVD sales and television channels for decades, Paramount opted to replace it with a digital and consumer-based view of customers recently, partnering with Amazon’s Simple Storage Service and Teradata’s analytics platform to manage and parse the vast amounts of data such an approach generates. By using high volume data generated from user visits to websites, Paramount can assess who is streaming, downloading its apps, what is most popular, which ads are effective, and what viewers prefer.

“We are really trying to get to understanding consumers,” Joe Churchill, vice president of analytics at Paramount said. “With DVD sales we don’t have that information.”

In order to upgrade and scale its data infrastructure, Paramount turned to Teradata NPARC, successfully migrating its data to the hybrid cloud in just three months without any hitches, outages, or interruptions. “Overall, the experience has been very positive,” Churchill said. “Consumers didn’t notice any outage, and have noticed boosts in some of the queries. As we continue to collect data we will definitely need to expand. I can envision a time when we need to expand capacity.”

NBCUniversal Nets $250 Million in Profit from Olympics Broadcast

Despite poor viewership, NBCUniversal has announced that it netted a staggering $250 million in profit from its recently concluded wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro according to CEO Steve Burke.

The high profit figures were reported in spite of a huge ratings shortfall. NBCUniversal reported a 15% decline in viewership Olympics-over-Olympics. Despite the drop, NBCUniversal actually forecasted in August that it was on track to top the $120 million in profit it garnered from the 2012 London Games broadcast. NBCUniversal also stated that it took in $1.2 billion in advertising sales for the Summer Games, representing a 20% increase compared to the 2012 London Games.

NBCU, which is owned by corporate parent Comcast, has paid $12 billion for exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympics in the United States through 2032. Because the Games span 17 days, covering the events over a plethora of linear and digital channels gave NBCU plenty of opportunities to make up for its ratings shortfall. It also helped NBC notch a record 21 successive Nielsen nightly ratings wins.

“There is so much inventory because you have 17 days, and we’re on so many hours during the day that we not only made up make goods during the Olympics, but we actually made up some make good liability that we had in the company that preceded the Olympics.” Speaking to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2016 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference.

When asked whether distributing thousands of hours of content over myriad channels had contributed to the decline in viewership, Burke commented that, though it was one of many factors, simultaneous broadcasting was unavoidable: “There were a whole bunch of different reasons why the ratings were down, some of it was because we put programming at the same time on NBC and on USA, NBC Sports Net, Bravo and other channels. We felt that was important to do because there were times when Michael Phelps would be swimming and the U.S. women’s soccer team would be playing in those were both things that people wanted to see.”

Shares of Comcast rose slightly to $65.23 following the news.

FCC 600MHz Spectrum Auction Starts Up Again

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission’s incentive auction suffered a setback, with the auction garnering only $23.1 billion in bids for 126 MHz of 600 MHz spectrum, falling well below the target $88.3 billion.

“The ball is now back in the court of TV broadcasters, who will need to decide whether to accept lower prices for their spectrum or bet on future opportunities to cash in on their airwaves,” said Dan Hays, a principal with PwC’s strategy and consulting group. “We anticipate that many will choose the certainty of the auction and roll the dice in the second stage starting in the coming weeks.”

Due to the low rate of forward bidding activity, the FCC opted to proceed to a second round of bidding with a lower clearing target, turning to TV broadcasters to set prices for a lower amount of low-band spectrum for mobile use (known as a reverse auction).

The second round commenced recently on September 13, with the FCC seeking to set prices for the 114MHz of 600MHz spectrum up for auction.

“Getting the transition right is as important as getting the auction itself right,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler testified to Congress. “We continue to prioritize planning for an efficient and effective transition with minimal disruption to the viewing public. With the continued engagement of industry stakeholders, that’s exactly what we’ll get.”

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