Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Netflix effect

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The battleground for viewing figures has arguably never been as hard fought as it is today, with legacy media companies being forced to play catch up and offer multiple services in order to compete, thanks in no small part to the ‘Netflix effect’.

The capabilities offered by Netflix’s video on demand streaming service, which allows subscribers to stream films and TV series on any number of platforms and devices, has seen the over-the-top media services provider reach 130 million total subscribers worldwide as of July 2018.

This success has not been missed by more traditional broadcasters, with Sky agreeing a deal earlier this year to integrate Netflix’s subscription VOD offering into its pay-TV service for customers with its ultra HD Sky Q platform.

These strategic business moves and partnerships are continuing to become more commonplace, with arguably the biggest of more recent times being the bidding war between Comcast and Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox. The latter won the battle, at a reported cost of more than $70bn, but rather than lick its wounds, Comcast simply turned attention to acquiring a controlling stake in Sky plc.

While we can consider Netflix as one of the biggest catalysts behind many of these major partnerships in terms of the need to provide and deliver exclusive and original content, sport is also a driving force.

Amazon in particular has been making a major play in this market, including breaking the stranglehold of Sky and BT for Premier League football rights earlier this year. The online retail giant has also made a foray into tennis, outbidding Sky last year to obtain exclusive rights to broadcast men’s top flight matches from 2019, as well as more recently securing a £30m deal to exclusively broadcast the US Open in the UK next month and for the following four years.

In such a competitive and fast moving marketplace it’s difficult to predict what the future will hold or where the next partnership will come from, but what is clear is that the FAANG giants (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) are re-shaping the rules of the game at all levels.

But this doesn’t just bring challenges, it also opens the door to new opportunities for telcos in particular, through broadening their offerings by adding content assets and exploring partnerships with these leading content providers. AT&T has already paved the way with its acquisition of Time Warner, and now it’s time to see if anyone else will follow suit.

Liberty will be at IBC2018, the world’s most influential media, entertainment and technology show at the RAI in Amsterdam from Thursday 13 to Tuesday 18 September 2018. If anyone would like to meet up at the event please get in touch – info@libertycomms.com.

5G: the latest rural fantasy?

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By Jasmine Gray

The global race to launch 5G is on. In the midst of ongoing British commitments to adopt 5G, the population of rural Britain still remain some of the least connected people in Europe.

A recent study by GoCompare outlines how London, along with major cities Manchester and Nottingham have access to more than 60% of total mobile data coverage, whilst Exeter and Devon, barely sees more than 6%.

The upgrade to 4G in 2012 echoed much of the current 5G hype, promising faster download and upload speeds, faster connectivity and more stable internet access. This has undoubtedly been delivered to those residing in the capital. Money well spent, right?

Securing 5G for Britain has already exceeded £1bn, but the 4G dream is yet to be realised by most of the UK – London boasts up to ten times as much data coverage as most parts of the UK!

This is not a problem that 5G will solve – no matter how innovative the tech. Unfortunately, the huge costs of creating the service will mean limited access for the foreseeable future.

The problem rests in providers’ hands. Companies are left without incentives to create access to their 4G services in the more remote areas of Britain, where the government is reluctant to subsidise. Although the NIC has made recommendations of exactly this kind, they have also suggested a roll-out of full fibre across the whole of the UK. Despite providing a longer-term solution, it could take up to 15 years to execute, leaving rural Britain a decade behind once again.

Government commitments to ‘connect the unconnected’ need to have a real impact. Rolling out the latest mobile data services in rural areas is a positive step forward, but both the government and the providers risk getting less for their money.

Disproportionate shortcomings faced by those without fast broadband and wireless mobile data access continue to undercut government humanitarian commitments. Plans to make access to fast broadband a legal right by 2020 has seen pushback by big providers like BT. If the public sector and providers can reach an agreement, and if these plans are executed effectively, it might just be the parallel policy we need to start bridging the gap in wireless access.

As providers push towards the inevitable 5G launch, city dwellers can look forward to what new technology has to offer.

For the rest, 5G remains painfully out of reach.

Steam: It’s all about Quantity, not Quality (or so it seems)

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Steam was launched in 2003, and PC gaming would never be the same again. Since then, indie developers worldwide have used Steam as a platform on which to showcase their creative talents to the world.

Over the years, Steam has implemented multiple schemes to encourage developers to create their own games, such as Greenlight in 2012 and, more recently, the Early Access and Steam Direct initiatives. As a result, the number of indie games available to download on Steam has skyrocketed from 450 in 2015 to 1,107 in 2017.

Despite giving indie developers such tremendous opportunities, the sheer volume of games being published on the platform renders it unprofitable, both for the Steam platform and for indie devs. Shockingly, they’re often being paid minimum wages, which means they are not able to create quality games because of a lack of budget or incentive.

What doesn’t help is that Steam has a sort of ‘free-for-all’ policy, in which pretty much anything goes as long as it is not illegal or a troll. This essentially means that Steam are going for ‘quantity’ rather than ‘quality’. In principle this is a fine code to live by, but what happens to the truly talented developers who become sidelined because they couldn’t cut through the noise?

Commentators have stated that the huge growth in the number of games available on Steam is directly attributable to schemes like Greenlight and Early Access, and Steam’s unproductive policy of ‘anything goes’. Tomas Rawlings, of Auroch Digital, even stated that it has caused a ‘Steampocalpyse’; the idea that the growth in the number of games makes Steam a highly unpredictable storefront, and it’s driving down the average amount of money that every game makes – especially independent developers. In effect Steam has, ironically, played itself.

Ultimately this means that the big triple-A game developers, that have dominated the industry for so long, will continue to dominate it even more. Perhaps if there were stronger auditing procedures and a drive for higher quality games, the market would see more and more game development companies come to the fore. Only time will tell what impact new technologies like VR will have on ‘Steampocalypse’.

Introducing: Janel Steinberg

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Tell us a little about your background:

I’ve done PR for a large variety of industries from high tech to consumer, representing some of the world’s top brands such as Oracle, PayPal, Rolls-Royce, Nestlé and Johnson & Johnson.

My work has included strategy and planning, media outreach, event planning and execution, material development, executive communications, content development and crisis communications. I love bringing creative solutions to my work and finding interesting stories to tell for the brands I’ve worked with.

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

I’m excited to work with Liberty because they are not only smart and good at what they do but they are also genuinely nice people, which is not a given in this field. The clients represent technology that people will be talking about in the future or they offer a unique take on something that is already being done, both of which make them fun to work on.

What are some of your hobbies?

Travel is something that’s very important to me; if there’s an opportunity to explore a new place or visit an old favorite, I’m in! I also love to try new restaurants and I probably watch far more movies and TV shows than the average person.

What was the last book you read or song you listened to?

The last book I read was Elon Musk’s biography, which I thought was fascinating.

What was your favourite top tech trend of the last 20 years?

The smartphone is so ubiquitous that I can’t imagine life without one.