The ‘Reel Blog: News, Features, and Insights from the SideReel team

History’s Vikings performs better on SideReel than in Nielsen ratings

Nielsen announced today that Sunday night’s airing of the season finale of History Channel’s first scripted series, Vikings, drew just 3.6 million viewers Sunday night. That number was 5% less than the previous week and 42% less than season premiere on March 3. Source

Those numbers are in stark contrast to the show’s viewership on SideReel, which has seen SideReelers watching the show more and more each week. In early viewing data through the April 14 episode, Vikings has seen an increased number of episodes marked as watched each week. Check it out:

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Soaps: Far From Washed Up

Beloved characters are returning from the dead for second chances at romance and treachery! Sound like the plot of a soap opera? Try two soap operas — namely All My Children and One Life soapsto Live, which return today on Hulu, the gold standard of free streaming services.

2013 is turning out to be the year of digital life after death for series with significant fan followings. Between Netflix’s resurrection of Arrested Development, the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter project, and Hulu’s own takeover of the two classic soaps, we’re seeing that online service providers have created important new paradigms for the economics and production of original content — whether financed through subscription dollars and/or targeted advertising. For instance, Hulu’s innovative model allows for free, advertising-supported viewing of new episodes of OLTL and AMC on computers, or for more flexible viewing options (such as mobile devices, gaming consoles, and smart TVs) through the Hulu+ subscription service.

Hulu’s commitment to its original content is comparable to network-produced primetime series; when not watching the new episodes (which, in a nod to the series’ roots, have been tightened up from 60-minute run times to 30 minutes), fans can check out trailers, old clips, and behind-the-scenes features.

Making these genre-defining series available anywhere and anytime completely changes the soap opera demographic. Once the sole province of daytime TV aficionados, any Hulu user can decide to make Pine Valley his personal primetime destination, or visit Llanview on her morning commuter train. After all, if there truly is only one life to live, there’s no time like the present to hit the play button – which you can do below to watch the full episodes of each show.

One Life to Live

All My Children

– Leah Friedman, SideReel’s Movies and WebTV Content Editor

SideReel Content Trends – SideReelers tracking and watching The Walking Dead

SideReelers were highly anticipating the March 31 season premiere of Game of Thrones, with the 5th-most show tracks in the month leading up to the airing. But it still wasn’t enough to match the fan following of The Walking Dead, which had by far the most monthly show tracks to go along with the 5th-most episodes marked by SideReelers.

The Walking Dead was also able to dethrone How I Met Your Mother on the SideReel Meter, our proprietary measure of a show’s popularity. HBO’s big hit Girls continues to gain a SideReel following, as the show’s second season allowed it to crack the top 10 on the SideReel Meter in March.

The number of SideReel registered users also continues to grow, far surpassing the 6 million mark with more than 125,000 new users registering in March.

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Find out more in this month’s SideReel Content Trends. And see how it compared with last month’s numbers, here.

We love you, Norman

Highly-touted drama Bates Motel, which depicts the teen years and fall into lunacy of Norman Bates of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, was renewed for a 2nd season after just one episode. Since then its seen strong numbers among cable TV programming despite relatively flat ratings. SideReel users, however, are rallying behind Norman. Each of the show’s first four episodes has seen an increase in episodes watched by SideReelers with last week’s episode almost doubling the premiere on March 18. Sign of things to come for the A&E drama?

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Network TV Must Change with the Times

imgresToday Amazon released 14 original series pilots, giving consumers editorial control over its original programming, and catching up with the offerings of competitors like Netflix, which has recently introduced its own group of original series. There’s no question that streaming originals like these will continue to come in droves, as the streaming providers strive to compete with – and perhaps even surpass – traditional TV networks.

But instead of taking license fees and barking about copyright protection, maybe these TV networks should start looking at other ways to reach their consumers. Despite their wishes, it’s pretty obvious that cable boxes won’t dominate the TV landscape forever. As consumers move from individual to multiple screens and want more flexibility, they are seeking options for how they consume TV content – and fighting the sky high cable fees.

With the advent of mobile devices, tablets and Internet-connected TVs, there are too many ways to get TV content for traditional networks to rely solely on reaching consumers through a cable subscription. Guy Bisson, who researches television trends for IHS, knows there is a changing of the guard and that networks should look at it as an opportunity instead of a threat.

“As operators add multi-screen services to their portfolios, building CDNs makes sense and allows them to transition their operations into a lucrative new area,” Bisson said. “By doing this, pay-TV operators can transform the Internet from a threat into an opportunity as well as open up new business opportunities by servicing the content distribution needs of their content partners.” Source

Why fight the audience that they actually want to attract? Instead, networks should look to these new TV outlets as a way to reach consumers anywhere and everywhere.

Ad Age Conference Fallout – Is Cable Box TV Dying a Slow Death?

Is TV truly and irrevocably changing in front of our eyes?digi_logo

That was certainly the sentiment at Ad Age’s Digital Conference (read their write-up here) where future predictions and prognostications were abound as industry heads touted the development of a TV experience encompassing digital services just as much as, if not more than, cable subscriptions.

 

At SideReel, we’ve long believed that the TV consumer is going through a consequential change, desiring much more than what he or she can get on broadcast and cable channels from a set-top box. With game-changers like Aereo, we’re be given more and more opportunities to get our TV in other ways.

And that doesn’t even take into account the disruptive power that streaming original TV has. When Netflix announced Arrested Development would be moving exclusively to its streaming service, and then the company’s original House of Cards soared to success, it certainly signaled a changing TV landscape.

But does it signal the end of broadcast and cable TV, or do networks and cable providers just have to wake up and realize that the consumer just won’t stand for only watching TV on a set-top box?

SideReel Spotlight – Is Sharing Passwords Fair or Foul?

Note: SideReel Spotlight is an ongoing series of insights and commentary from the SideReel team about the changing landscape of the TV industry. 

Paid streaming TV services are popping up everywhere. Early contenders Netflix and Hulu+ are continually expanding their catalogs in order to battle increased competition from later entrants like Amazon Prime Instant Video and the soon-to-launch Vdio and Spotify VOD offerings. On the other end of the spectrum, there are established content producers adapting their models for the new content ecosystem. HBO and Showtime grant existing subscribers access to their streaming services (HBO GO and SHO Anytime) at no additional cost. Clearly, content providers are aware that consumers want greater flexibility in their viewership habits — the new issue is how these services can ensure that only those users paying for the content are the ones with access to it.

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Password-sharing might be the next iteration of the ongoing issues that arise in the evolution of how we consume TV content. The battlefield has shifted from combatting digital piracy (with help from governmental regulation) to the sharing of streaming service accounts. HBO GO, for one, doesn’t restrict multiple simultaneous device logins, hypothetically allowing four different people to watch the same show at the same time on the same subscription.

In its terms for HBO GO, HBO specifies that, “you must be a subscriber with an account in good standing with an authorized distributor of HBO that carries HBO GO”. But it doesn’t seem like this is really enforced or policed beyond this conditional legal communication.

The arguments about this type of loophole center on the ethics of shared accounts. In a blog column for the New York Times, Public Editor Margaret Sullivan comes down firmly on one side of this debate, saying “Does password-sharing with strangers reflect the highest ethics? Clearly not.” Source

The other side of the coin is if it’s even really an ethical issue to begin with or a legal one. Is it legal for someone to use a friend’s login credentials to watch something they didn’t pay for themselves? Is it any different from watching pirated content? One interesting question this brings up is whether the subscription fees are merely for access to the content or for the direct consumption of it.

In the past few years, various governments have cracked down hard on online content piracy, shutting down torrent catalogues and sites like megaupload.com. But if I use my cousin’s sister’s friend’s aunt’s Netflix subscription to watch the upcoming Arrested Development premiere, I, too, am watching content that I didn’t pay for. Someone did, but that someone wasn’t me.

Perhaps the issue is that the streaming content providers simply can’t (or won’t) police account-sharing, since cracking down would conflict with the habits of multi-platform users (a desirable demographic). Either way, as we start watching in more and more ways and on more and more devices, gray-area issues like this will continue to come up — and content owners and providers will have to continue to pick their battles carefully to avoid backlash.

SideReel Spotlight – Game of Moans

Note: SideReel Spotlight is an ongoing series of insights and commentary from the SideReel team about the changing landscape of the TV industry. 

You may have noticed wailing and rending of garments on Sunday night. HBO GO — the premium network’s web streaming service included in the price of subscription — crashed hard at the moment of the Game of Thrones season 3 premiere. Superfans of the series were heartened when the network announced (via Twitter) that the episode would become available with none of the multihour or day delays that other streaming services institute.

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But then, a minute before 9 pm/ET, the clamor for the fantasy series killed the site. The episode wouldn’t load online; its Roku and XBox portals ceased functioning; its iOS apps were rendered useless.

And then Twitter freaked out.

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The service was back up for most users after a delay of about 45 minutes, though usability was hit or miss well into the overnight hours. And this was just from people attempting to watch the show legally.

The pirate sites tell an even more interesting story. According to TorrentFreak, the S3 premiere of Game of Thrones now holds the distinction of garnering the biggest torrent swarm in history: “A few hours after the first torrent of the show was uploaded the OpenBitTorrent tracker reported that 163,088 people were sharing one single torrent. 110,303 were sharing a complete copy of that particular torrent while 52,786 were still downloading. These are mind boggling numbers that we’ve never seen before.” Source

HBO GO has the potential to be a fantastic step forward in preventing this kind of piracy — but the fact that it’s currently limited to only those who subscribe through their cable or satellite provider defeats the purpose. There have been rumblings lately that the premium giant would offer a standalone option for cord-cutters, and the statistics we’re seeing from this Game of Thrones event should indicate that this is the way forward — not just for premium channels, but for all original content. The only real hazard to the provider is in not delivering on the promise, the way HBO did Sunday night (in theory, HBO should have had the bandwidth to offer simultaneous access to its streaming service to every subscriber).

It’s not a shock that web users want instant gratification, and it’s also not surprising that we see outrage online the moment a company fails to deliver on a promised offering. What is surprising is that at a time in television broadcasting history where timeshifting is being touted as the only way forward, a high profile season premiere can still be a cultural event in real time.

Based on the despair evident in some of these tweets, it seems as though this is one time users wished it had been just TV… and not HBO.

– Leah Friedman, SideReel’s Movies and WebTV Content Editor