January 7, 2014
Outdoor Channel is starting off 2014 by expanding its ties to two important entities in the field sports space: the National Rifle Association and Ted Nugent. The network has added a pair of new NRA TV series to its lineup and will become the presenting sponsor of two of the group's industry events. NRA All Access presented by Taurus premiered on Outdoor Channel on Jan. 5 at 10 p.m. (ET) while NRA's Gun Gurus (formerly known as NRA's Guns & Gold) is slated to air late-March/early-April. The shows, which benefit from promotion on the network's and NRA's various assets, underline Outdoor Channel's commitment to the shooting genre, which also include the NRA's American Rifleman TV, as well as MidwayUSA's Gun Stories and The Best Defense.
Additionally, Outdoor, which counts some 39 million subscribers, will serve as the presenting sponsor of the NRA's inaugural Great American Outdoor Show, slated from Feb. 1-9 in Harrisburg, Penn., and the 2014 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits, scheduled for April 25-27 in Indianapolis. "Outdoor Channel is proud to continue our partnership with the NRA and to use that partnership to engage, entertain, inform and generate excitement for our viewers and the future of the outdoor lifestyle," said Jim Liberatore, president and CEO, Outdoor Channel, in a statement. "We look forward to working with them to develop creative and unique ways to interact with and engage enthusiasts in the space, such as the debut of two new NRA shows on our network and our participation in their premier trade shows."
As for Nugent, Outdoor has inked an exclusive contract making the rocker and outdoorsmen a network endorser through traditional, digital and social media promotional initiatives. Nugent will also make appearances on the network's behalf at top consumer and industry trade events, including the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT) and Conference in Las Vegas later this month. Nugent will also attend the aforementioned Great American Outdoor Show. The contract also calls for marketing support to the channel's Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild and a weekly podcast that is expected to launch in the first quarter. Multichannel News
Consumers have more choices for how to watch video than ever before, as this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is demonstrating, yet the industry's legacy players-particularly cable-TV providers-still have the upper hand. Now, lawmakers have introduced at least three different bills that would reshape the consumer video market, including online video, similar to efforts used to boost the satellite industry in the 1990s.
A bill unveiled by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.) would help online video providers gain access to broadcast and other desirable content, and prevent cable and broadband providers from discriminating against online competitors. The Rockefeller bill expressly prohibits Internet service providers affiliated with cable companies from degrading competitors' signals or using data caps to discourage consumers from "cutting the cord" on their pay-TV subscriptions.
That bill and the other proposed legislation are the opening shots of what is sure to be a contentious debate, one that crosses party lines and pits a number of influential industries against each other. "What I want is for people to be able to watch what they want to watch, how they want to watch it, and not have to buy 300 channels and pay for them to watch two things out of 300," Mr. Rockefeller said in an interview. "People want to watch video online and get news online. You don't criticize people for doing what they can afford to do and want to do, you enable them."
Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), meanwhile, have introduced legislation that would force cable companies to let consumers choose channels a la carte rather than paying for pre-packaged bundles. Reps. Anna Eshoo (D., Calif.) and Steve Scalise (R., La.) also have offered bills that overhaul the regulatory regime that governs how pay-TV providers negotiate for broadcast content.
None of the bills is expected to pass right away, and companies looking to expand in online video remain uncertain how far Congress will open the door for them. But lawmakers are responding to the exploding popularity streaming Internet video services sold by companies such as Netflix Inc. Also driving the debate is the rising cost of cable and satellite television. John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at the consumer group Public Knowledge, said the average household is paying roughly $90 a month for video alone, including fees and taxes. "Even if online video doesn't have all the content, it's more attractive at that price point," Mr. Bergmayer said. Pay-television providers "know they can't keep passing on higher and higher costs, but programmers keep demanding higher costs."
Cable companies say the market already provides plenty of options for price-conscious consumers and argue against the idea that Congress needs to step in to give Internet-video providers a jolt. "The video marketplace has never been more competitive or innovative, with consumers enjoying dozens of choices from traditional providers or newer Internet video services," National Cable and Telecommunications Association spokesman Brian Dietz said. He said cable's share of the pay-video marketplace has fallen below 55% from 98% in 1992 as satellite companies, phone providers and others enter the market.
The rise of online video services combined with the price pressure on consumers has spawned some cord-cutting, in which households cancel their cable or satellite connections and rely instead on a selection of Internet video services. Cord-cutting households amount to about 5% of the pay-TV audience in the U.S., or roughly six million homes, estimates SNL Kagan principal analyst Ian Olgeirson. That figure increased by one million in 2013. The vast majority of American households still subscribe to cable or a similar service with bundled channels. That is because these services still control access to the most popular programming, which includes live sports and scripted shows with high production costs.
Analysts said Internet companies were unlikely to emerge as viable replacements for cable and satellite providers for a broad range of Americans, absent some sort of regulatory intervention. Sen. Rockefeller's bill attempts to fill that void by ensuring online video providers have access to content and can't be discriminated against by legacy providers. Mr. Rockefeller said he had in mind rules passed in the early 1990s that helped ensure the then-nascent satellite-TV industry had access to broadcast and other content on similar terms as cable providers. Wall Street Journal
Samsung Electronics Co., the world's largest maker of TVs, said Monday that it is tackling the problem of getting ultra-high-definition content to its new TV sets by teaming up with the Internet streaming services of Comcast, Netflix and Amazon. Like other TV makers, Samsung is betting that a quadrupling of the resolution of TV sets will get consumers interested in upgrading their existing, high-definition sets. The problem is that cable TV services and Blu-ray discs don't support the bump in resolution, leaving the ultra-sharp sets without ultra-sharp content.
At a news conference at the International CES gadget show in Las Vegas, Samsung said it would get UHD content through partnerships with U.S. streaming services, bypassing traditional cable and disc delivery. Under its partnership with Comcast Corp., the country's largest cable company, Samsung TVs would get UHD content through an app running on the Internet-connected TV, bypassing Comcast's set-top boxes.
Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the movie studio and creator of TV shows, giving it direct access to content shot in UHD, which is also known as 4K. Similarly, Netflix Inc., the largest provider of paid streaming video, shot its own "House of Cards" show in 4K and has already said it will supply it in that format to TVs from LG Electronics, Samsung's competitor. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings showed up at Sony's news conference later in the day to say the streaming company was also working to deliver UHD video to Sony's Bravia line of 4K sets. Hastings said UHD signals could be streamed if one has download speeds of at least 15 Megabits per second, a speed that is readily available to average households. He said streaming would even work over a Wi-Fi connection.
Still, Internet delivery of UHD movies will place high demands on home broadband connections. As an alternative, Samsung will sell a UHD Video Pack _ a hard drive loaded with movies that can be connected to its TV sets. Sony Corp. already sells a similar box for its UHD sets. Samsung's UHD sets cost $3,000 and up. Sony didn't immediately give prices for its latest UHD lineup. Associated Press
T-Mobile US Inc. said it reached deals to buy spectrum licenses from Verizon Wireless for $2.37 billion in cash, allowing it to improve certain kinds of cellular service in markets across the United States. The agreements also include the transfer of other kinds of spectrum licenses from T-Mobile to Verizon Wireless that the companies value at about $950 million. The deals, combined with T-Mobile's existing holdings, will give T-Mobile low-band spectrum in nine of the top 10 U.S. markets. Low-band spectrum boosts cellular coverage inside buildings and in rural areas. The deals are expected to close in mid-2014 and remain subject to regulatory approvals. Associated Press
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