Verizon and Google Partner for YouTube TV Access

Faced with no proprietary over-the-top video offerings, Verizon April 23 announced a partnership with Google to bring YouTube TV to Verizon subscribers across all platforms, including Fios TV and pending 5G.

YouTube TV is a standalone online TV service that just raised its monthly subscription price to $49.99 from $39.99.

“As we pave the path forward on 5G, we’ll continue to bring our customers options and access to premium content by teaming up with the best providers in the industry and leveraging our network as-a service strategy,” Erin McPherson, head of content strategy and acquisition at Verizon.

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The partnership affords both wireless mobility and Fios broadband subs to stream YouTube TV. Verizon will also offer YouTube TV promotions to customers across platforms.

“With this partnership, we’re making it simple and seamless for Verizon’s customers to sign up to enjoy YouTube TV on-the-go on their mobile phones or tablets or at home on their big screen devices,” said Heather Rivera, global head of product partnerships at YouTube.

YouTube TV offers cable-free live TV that can be watched on any screen (phone, tablet, TV, computer). It includes more than 70 networks such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, in addition to cable networks HGTV, Food Network, TNT, TBS, CNN, ESPN, FX and on-demand programming.

A YouTube TV membership includes six accounts per household, each with its own unique recommendations and personal DVR with no storage space limits.

Verizon More Than Doubles Q1 Video Subscriber Losses

Verizon dreams of a 5G future while stuck in pay-TV reality.

The nation’s largest wireless carrier April 23 reported it lost 53,000 Fios TV subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. That compared to a loss of 22,000 video subs in the previous-year period.

Verizon ended the period with 4.39 million Fios TV subs compared to 4.59 million subs last year — down 199,000 net subs, or 4.3% from 2018.

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The company attributed the decline to ongoing consumer migration away from linear pay-TV to over-the-top video platforms.

While Verizon Internet connections increased 3.4% to 6.1 million from 5.9 million, broadband connections fell nearly 19% to 854,000.

The company ended the period with 6.97 million broadband connections, up 0.1% from 6.96 million subs last year.

Separately, Verizon Media, which includes Yahoo!, HuffPost, TechCrunch, Engadget, Makers and other brands, saw revenue drop more than 7% to $1.8 billion – largely due to declines in desktop advertising revenue offsetting gains in mobile ads.

Regardless, CEO Hans Vestberg touted Verizon’s “leadership” position in 4G and ongoing “innovation” in 5G wireless technology.

Rollout of branded OTT video products remains notably absent following last year’s $1 billion write-down of Go90, Verizon’s short-lived mobile video app.

“We are leading the world in the development of new technologies with the launch of our 5G network,” Vestberg said in a statement. “Our ambition remains unchanged to provide the most advanced next-generation networks in the world.”

 

Sprint Calls Out AT&T Over ‘False’ 5G Claims

Next-generation 5G wireless technology continues to get a lot of attention (and hype) — notably as an enhanced distribution channel for mobile video entertainment.

AT&T and Verizon have been among the first wireless carriers offering 5G networks in the country. AT&T last December said it become the first telecom in the United States offering 5G wireless service over a commercial, standards-based mobile 5G network.

Indeed, consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Yet, 5G is still more marketing than reality. Availability of 5G-compatible phones to consumers might occur by the end of the year — with mainstream usage on par with 4G LTE years away, according to analysts.

That’s why Sprint is calling foul on AT&T regarding what it claims are false advertising and deceptive acts by the corporate parent to WarnerMedia to confuse consumers.

Sprint, which claims to have 54.5 million subscribers and is attempting merge with T-Mobile, took out a full-page ad in the March 10 edition of The New York Times accusing AT&T of allegedly deceiving consumers into believing that their existing 4G LTE network operates on a much-coveted and highly anticipated 5G network.

A recent survey commissioned by Sprint found 54% of consumers mistakenly believed, based on AT&T’s claims, that the company’s 5G E network is the same as or better than a true 5G network. Another 43% of consumers wrongly believed that if they were to purchase an AT&T phone today, it would be capable of running on a 5G network.

“AT&T is not offering its customers 5G but is delighted by the confusion they’ve caused with their deceptive ‘5G E’ marketing and attempt to convince consumers that they’ve already won the 5G race,” David Tovar, SVP, corporate communications, at Sprint said in a statement. “We’re not standing for this kind of deception, and neither should consumers.”

Indeed, Sprint filed a federal lawsuit asking that AT&T’s ads be stopped.

“Every carrier – every company – should tell consumers the truth and be held accountable for the promises they make,” Tovar said.

An AT&T representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

 

 

 

 

House Democrats Seek to Reinstate ‘Net Neutrality’ Legislation

House Democrats in Congress reportedly plan to unveil legislation aimed at restoring net neutrality guidelines mandating Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all traffic on the Web equally.

The legislation, which would ban ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from blocking/slowing Web traffic or offering faster lanes for a fee, would be released Wednesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as reported by Reuters.

Internet giants such as Facebook, Amazon, Google and Netflix endorse net neutrality guidelines.

The Federal Communications Commission in 2017 voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal net neutrality guidelines it established in 2015 in a similar vote under the Obama Administration. Those guidelines classified the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

The repeal enabled ISPs to enforce how its subscribers access the Internet.

Pelosi seeks to work with Senate Democrats getting “Save the Internet” legislation passed that would then require President Trump’s signature — a probable long shot considering Trump’s pick to head the FCC, Ajit Pai, orchestrated the net neutrality repeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to hear the appeal of the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court that twice upheld the 2015 Open Internet Rule.

Regardless, with 22 state attorneys general endorsing net neutrality, and the U.S. Senate — which is controlled by Republicans — voting in 2018 to restore guidelines, the House feels it has the political momentum.

 

 

 

 

NPD: 5G Consumer Awareness Reaches Critical Mass

Next-generation 5G mobile wireless network technology may be more hype than reality at the moment. But consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to new data from The NPD Group.

According to the latest NPD Connected Intelligence, 5G awareness among consumers reached 64% at the end of the second half of 2018. That represented a 20% gain from 44% at the end of the first half of 2018.

The report – based consumer panel research of 3,600 U.S. cellphone users completed in February – found 33% of smartphone owners interested in purchasing a 5G-enabled smartphone once available.

Millennials reported have the highest potential (49%) to make the move to 5G, while consumers on unlimited data plans, who NPD says value downloading and streaming video content, are slightly less eager (43%) to purchase a 5G-enabled smartphone.

Verizon late last year launched limited 5G network rollouts in Houston, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Indianapolis, while AT&T bowed service in 12 cities, including Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.

“In the last several days, we’ve seen the first 5G-enabled smartphone announcements and as expected, the devices are coming with a premium price tag, due to economies of scale, and a slightly larger form factor, given the hardware needs, than what consumers have become accustom to,” Brad Akyuz, executive director, industry analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence, said in a statement. “While consumer sentiment is positive, cost, form factor, and availability of 5G services will ultimately determine whether consumers will upgrade to 5G-enabled smartphones to enjoy much faster connection speeds.”

 

Verizon Lost 168,000 Fios TV Subs in 2018

Verizon Communications Jan. 29 reported it lost 46,000 Fios TV subscribers in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018), reflecting the ongoing secular shift from traditional linear pay-TV to over-the-top video offerings. The telecom lost 29,000 video subs in the previous-year period.

Verizon ended 2018 with 4.45 million Fios Video subscribers, down 3.6% from 4.61 million subs at the end of 2017.

“We expect legacy product revenue to continue to decline in 2019 at rates consistent with last year,” CFO Matt Ellis said on the fiscal call.

Meanwhile, Verizon added 217,000 broadband subscribers – underscoring consumer demand for high-speed Internet service in an era of online TV and OTT video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

The telecom also continues to push 5G, the next-generation faster mobile network technology. The company (along with AT&T) claimed the first commercial and residential rollouts of 5G networks, despite the limited supply of compatible 5G smartphones on the market.

“As we head into 2019 and the 5G era, we’re beginning a period of transformational change,” CEO Hans Vestberg said in a statement. “We are laser focused on delivering customers a best-in-class and game-changing experience on our networks.”

 

Verizon Eyeing New Customers, Entertainment Options for 5G

Verizon last October became the first telecom to launch residential 5G network coverage, with rollouts in Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento, Calif.

The $70 monthly (after 90-day free trial) service includes the choice of a free Apple TV device with 4K functionality or Google Chromecast device, and 90-days of access to online TV platform YouTube TV or Apple Music.

Verizon contends there is an addressable market of 30 million households for 5G – with about 50% first-time customers to the telecom.

Speaking Jan. 8 at Citi 2019 Global TMT West confab in Las Vegas, Ronan Dunne, president of Verizon Wireless, said early consumer feedback on the rollout is encouraging considering the dearth of 5G-combatible smartphones on the market.

Indeed, Verizon only revealed its first branded 5G smartphone – Motorola’s Moto Z3 – the day before the begin of CES Las Vegas. Samsung is making another one for the telecom.

Dunne said that unlike the challenging Fios pay-TV landscape, 5G promises new connections and content opportunities for creators.

“I think the whole content area will evolve … with developments of new genres of the snacking content, the short format content, which is so natural to the mobility space,” he said.

The executive doesn’t think 5G will necessarily be a lifeline to the existing pay-TV business model. Instead, Dunne believes 5G will enable a new business model that will evolve through a combination of what’s happening in the content space and the way people are accessing connectivity.

“Lots of people won’t have a traditional wireline [pay-TV] relationship, in which case they don’t need to buy 600 channels that they don’t watch,” he said.

 

 

Disney/Verizon Partnering for 5G Media, Entertainment

The Walt Disney Co. and Verizon Communications reportedly are partnering to explore entertainment and media opportunities in the nascent 5G wireless network platform.

5G claims to be able to deliver upwards of 10 gigabits of data per second, which could enable the downloading of a movie within seconds on a smartphone versus many minutes on 4G.

Disney’s upstart StudioLab unit is working with Verizon testing 5G applications for the distribution of content.

“We see 5G changing everything about how media is produced and consumed,” Jamie Voris, chief technology officer at Disney Studios, told Variety, which first reported the pact.

Verizon last October launched 5G network capability in four cities – a move rivaled by competitor AT&T. Still in the early stages of deployment and functionality, 5G marketing and hype – however – has shown no limits.

When AT&T recently changed the old 4G LTE logo to 5G on branded smartphones, Verizon (and T-Mobile) cried foul.

“The potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist,” Verizon wrote in a letter reported by Endgadget (which Verizon owns). “We’re calling on the broad wireless industry to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities.”

T-Mobile, in a post on Twitter, was slightly less diplomatic, tweeting a video showing someone sticking a “9G” sticker on an iPhone with the following caption: “Didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating.”

Indeed, without a 5G-capable phone, simply claiming to be able to deliver content faster over old technology is disingenuous.

“People need a clear, consistent and simple understanding of 5G so they are able to compare services, plans and products, without having to maneuver through marketing double-speak or technical specifications,” wrote Verizon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCC: Nearly Half of 22 Million Public Comments on Net Neutrality Fake

During the 2017 run-up to the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of net neutrality guidelines enacted in 2015 during the Obama Administration, the agency solicited public comments on the proposed decision not to treat the Internet as a public utility.

The FCC on Dec. 14, 2017 voted 3-2 along party lines to nullify the Open Internet Order affirmed under previous chairman Tom Wheeler. In doing so, Internet service providers such as Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter were no longer prohibited from charging online streaming services such as Netflix market rates for broadband access, among other issues.

In new FCC disclosures following Freedom of Information Act requests by The New York Timesand other media groups, it was revealed that nearly 11 million of the 22 million comments received online regarding net neutrality were fraudulent, including 500,000 comments received from Russian sources.

The revelation underscores the widespread influx and influence social media can have on more than national elections. Indeed, about 8 million fake comments originated from domain sites associated with FakeMailGenerator.com. Another 2 million comments used stolen identities.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a statement to Congress, claimed that much of the “overheated rhetoric” against his proposed net neutrality rollback originated from fraudulent sources. In fact, most of the authentic comments reportedly consisted of form-letter responses.

Regardless, the New York State Attorney General’s Office in October opened an investigation to the fake comments, including subpoenaing public action groups on both sides of the issue.

 

5G: Supercharging Digital Delivery

It’s the new star in mobile that everyone is talking about: 5G.

The new technology, the next big advance for wireless customers, could have a significant impact on home entertainment.

Over the next decade, media and entertainment companies will be competing to win a share of a near $3 trillion cumulative wireless revenue opportunity, according to the newly released “5G Economics of Entertainment Report” commissioned by Intel and conducted by Ovum.
The report says that as early as 2025, 57% of global wireless media revenue will be generated by using the super-high-bandwidth capabilities of 5G networks and the devices that run on 5G. The low latency of these networks means that video won’t stall or stop — livestreaming and large downloads will happen in the blink of an eye.

The report forecasts that 5G will accelerate content consumption, including mobile media, mobile advertising, home broadband and TV, and improve experiences across a broad range of new immersive and interactive technologies — unleashing the full potential of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and new media.

Wireless carrier U.S. Cellular offers an interactive link that enables users to see the benefits of 5G in their daily lives.

“People are watching more and more of their content on their mobile phones, so having instant access to the highest-quality format of a movie, 4K with HDR, having it no matter where you are, this is enabled by 5G,” says Robert Powers, executive director of global technology and business development at the Fox Innovation Lab — the high-tech think tank and lab launched in 2014 to meld technology and entertainment.

The technology should dramatically increase download times and the overall content experience.

“No buffering, no matter what time; whether it’s Tuesday night at 3 a.m. or it’s Friday night at 7 p.m., you’re getting the same quality experience,” Powers says.

This is sweet music to Netflix and other over-the-top video services that increasingly eye mobile access as a requisite to subscriber growth.

Netflix reports about 70% of its content is streamed through a television in the home, not on a smartphone, tablet or laptop. As the SVOD pioneer expands globally, especially in countries such as India heavily dependent on mobile networks, 5G affords greater streaming video access to millions of wireless devices simultaneously.

Indeed, Netflix partnered with T-Mobile in the United States, offering the carrier’s mobile subscribers free access to content for a year. The carrier, which is trying to merge with Sprint, recently announced plans to spend $3.5 billion deploying 5G nationwide.

“I believe 5G will be a game changer,” Jeff Binder, EVP of home and entertainment at T-Mobile, told a tech confab in August.“4G changed the way people used their phones; 5G is going to change the way all of us use our home as well as our phone.”

Even President Donald Trump is touting the benefits of 5G adoption.

Trump issued a memorandum to jumpstart a federal push with the subject line “Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future.” The memo stated, “It is imperative that America be first in fifth-generation (5G) wireless technologies — wireless technologies capable of meeting the high-capacity, low-latency, and high-speed requirements that can unleash innovation broadly across diverse sectors of the economy and the public sector.”

Verizon launched 5G network coverage in four cities: Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento, Calif. Rollout included the choice of a free Apple TV with 4K functionality or a Google Chromecast device, and 90 days of access to online TV platform YouTube TV.

Verizon has bet its future growth on 5G. In announcing an internal restructuring that focuses on technological improvements, CEO Hans Vestberg on Nov. 5 said, “We’re building on our network transformation efforts … to deliver new customer experiences and optimize the growth opportunities we see as leaders in the 5G era.”

AT&T, too, announced plans for a 5G rollout in several cities, including Houston; Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; New Orleans; and San Antonio. The telecom previously cited Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Indianapolis; Oklahoma City; Raleigh, N.C.; and Waco, Texas, for mobile 5G networks.

With large segments of their subscribers on mobile networks, telecoms and others eye 5G as a conduit toward greater direct-to-consumer efficiencies, including pay-TV.

AT&T is heavily marketing standalone online TV platform DirecTV Now, while Google’s YouTube TV was a main sponsor of the 2018 Major League Baseball World Series.

Dish Network’s pioneering Sling TV could be a 5G beneficiary should the satellite TV operator’s dreams of a proprietary 5G network come to fruition.

“If you want to lead in 5G, I will guarantee you’re going to have to have a standalone network because that’s the only way you’re going to compete with other people in the world,” Dish co-founder and chairman Charlie Ergen said on a Nov. 8 fiscal call.

“We’re at the dawn of something new that will define the next decade and generation of connectivity,” Andre Fuetsch, chief technology officer at AT&T Communications, said in a statement. “Future smart factories and retailers, self-driving cars, untethered virtual and augmented realities, and other yet-to-be-discovered experiences will grow up on tomorrow’s 5G networks.

Much like 4G introduced the world to the gig economy, mobile 5G will jumpstart the next wave of unforeseen innovation.” Intel projects that by 2022 nearly 20% ($47 billion) of total media revenue will be generated on 5G networks. That increases to more than 55% ($183 billion) by 2025, and 80% ($335 billion) by 2028.

The report estimates that average monthly traffic per 5G subscriber will grow from 11.7 GB in 2019 to 84.4 GB per month in 2028, at which point video will account for 90% of all 5G traffic.

The new technology is also expected to streamline media production. In a June trial, Fox Sports, in cooperation with the Fox Innovation Lab and Ericsson, Intel and AT&T, used 5G technology to stream 4K video over 5G for broadcast at this year’s 118th U.S. Open Championship.

“We set up a 5G network at one of the holes of the golf tournament, and we wirelessly captured and delivered 4K content for DirecTV consumers,” Powers says. In addition to the achievement for 5G delivery, the experiment opened up new possibilities to save money in production.

“What used to happen is we had to run fiber from the back of the camera all the way across the course,” Powers says. “And if now we can send this content wirelessly, we don’t have to spend money on the labor and fiber to lay that down. This is an example of how a 5G network can bring us cost savings on the production side.”

A New Reality in 5G

In addition to better overall delivery of traditional entertainment forms, 5G will help forward virtual and augmented reality.

“VR today is ultimately limiting in that you have a cord coming out of the back of a headset that hooks to a machine and that limits your mobility, and VR inherently is not necessarily yet a social activity,” Powers says. “With 5G we feel like you can cut the cord off of the back of that VR headset and still be delivered the type of visual quality and latency that makes VR possible. And then beyond that, because of the speed of 5G you’re able to make VR part of a social experience.

I think those two factors are things that will improve the overall VR experience and ultimately make it a more commercial or more mainstream product.”

But augmented reality may be the biggest beneficiary of 5G, Powers says, offering the Pokémon Go experience — the groundbreaking AR experience that allowed mobile users to “capture” characters placed in the real world — on steroids.

“In a given square kilometer, 4G enables roughly 1,000 devices to be connected to the network, and in a 5G world that number jumps to a million; a million connected devices per square kilometer,” Powers says. “What that means for us is the ability to — when all of these objects around us essentially can have sensors and they can be connected — this forms a platform where it’s not just like the Internet of things, which we have right now today in our home, but it essentially becomes like the Internet of everything.”

This hyper-powerful, hyper-connected environment will produce entertainment experiences that have better graphics, that are more social and that, ultimately, offer new narrative structures that can follow consumers anywhere they go.

“We certainly haven’t wrapped our minds around it, and we certainly haven’t produced anything commercial, but one thing we did do this summer is we took our first crack at trying to complete one of these experiences on the Fox lot,” Powers says. “We used the Fox lot as the stand-in for our public space, and we tried to build an AR experience that took you around the Fox lot. As you went through it, you went through a narrative, interacting with AR characters that stood next to the Nakatomi Plaza (the Fox Plaza building made famous in the original Die Hard movie) or characters that were located in our commissary, and as you moved around the lot, you would interact with these characters through a narrative experience.”

What they found is that a traditional narrative didn’t work as well in the AR experience as did a more fluid narrative.

“What we found very quickly is, in those times where we move out of that traditional structure, that’s when the AR storytelling really began to pop for us,” Powers says.

The structure is more “amorphous,” he says.

“It doesn’t necessarily matter where you start the story,” he says. “It doesn’t matter whether you go from point A, B to C, or you go from point A, C to B. I think that’s one of the kind of foundational things that we’re really trying to wrap our minds around.”

5G could also allow consumers to engage as a character in a story in AR with friends.

“Imagine you are a horror fan, and you want to do Fox’s newest AR horror experience that is enabled by 5G,” Powers says. “You might gather five of your closest friends, and this experience begins on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. And on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, you have your mobile phone or maybe a tablet or eventually you’ll have very-easy-to-wear smart glasses that can deliver images to you, and the experience starts on that street corner. And as you move through the city, perhaps it next takes you to the Hotel Marmont, but as you move through the city you go through a horror experience that is a narrative story that because of the capabilities of AR blends digital assets with the real-world environments that you are in.”

These experiences are at least three to five years away, according to Powers, who believes entertainment will expand in ways not yet thought of.

“5G will enable the types of new content experiences that will expand the concept of how we think about home entertainment,” he says. “These are experiences that are more personal, they are adaptive and … [they] take you outside of your home.”

The Fox Innovation Lab built an augmented reality experience in 5G on the Fox lot during the summer of 2018, placing characters in real-life spaces to experiment with storytelling in AR. (Photo rendering courtesy of the Fox Innovation Lab/20th Century Fox)