Wolk’s Week in Review: Google unveils latest TV domination plan, AMC+ goes indie

TV[R]EV Week In Review

Well-known industry analyst Alan Wolk is publishing his popular Week In Review columns first on FierceVideo every Friday. This means that FierceVideo readers are the first to get all Wolk's insights as they navigate the fast-moving television business.

Wolk's Week In Review

1. Google unveils latest TV domination plan

Google rolled out its long-awaited update to its Chromecast streaming device along with a new interface for said device called Google TV. The former comes with a remote control (the old Chromecast did not have one, much to its detriment) and the latter comes with a layout that resembles that of Amazon Fire TV and allows users to deep link to shows on many but not all apps. (“Deep link” - TV talk for the ability to watch a show from within an aggregator app when you click versus having that same click first launch the app the show runs on.)

Why it matters

When Chromecast failed to take off because viewers missed the remote, Google, which has a severe case of Magpie Syndrome, did what it often does and moved on to the next bright shiny object

In the interim, Roku and Amazon more or less took over the streaming device market and Samsung, VIZIO and LG upped their smart TV’s interface games, making the need for a third-party streaming device far less pressing.

Which was when Google decided it was time to get back into the game.

There’s nothing wrong with either new product, they both have many good features, play the piano and speak French. It’s just that there’s nothing about either of them that would (a) cause someone who currently has a Roku or Fire TV to abandon their device for Google or (b) cause someone in the market for a new device to decide that Chromecast was worth paying an additional $20 for, rather than just buying a Roku or Fire TV stick.

The only exception would be people who were very tied into the Google Home ecosystem and early adopters of TV technology.

All 50 of them.

That’s the problem with waiting too long to make your move: the market shifts and you’re out of luck.

This whole situation reminds me of AT&T: a lot of people have been talking about what a smart idea these new products are, given YouTube and Google’s ad business and all that, but few of them are stopping to think about whether any actual consumers would want the products that Google is selling.

Always a key consideration, especially when the answer is “no.”

What you need to do about it

If you’re Google, maybe discount the device or bundle it in with YouTube TV (now sans Sinclair’s RSNs) to abet trial. And think about maybe putting the new OS into an actual TV the way Roku and Amazon have been doing.

If you’re Roku and Amazon, smack down Google by cutting your prices if they cut theirs.

If you’re Samsung, VIZIO and LG, keep perfecting your interface game so that external devices are not necessary

If you’re Apple, still time to roll out your low-priced streaming device.

2. AMC+ goes indie

AMC’s streaming ad-free app, AMC+, has been available to pay TV subscribers on Comcast and Dish for a while now, but it just rolled out on Apple TV and via the Amazon Channel store, where viewers without pay TV subscriptions can purchase it for $9/month. (Versus $5/month for Comcast subs and $7/month for Dish.)

Why it matters

AMC is in an odd position as they are smallest of the “name” cable networks and their portfolio, which consists of AMC, Sundance, IFC, part of BBC America and We TV is too big to be dismissed as yet-another-cable-network but too small to compete with the likes of Viacom and Disney.

So, what they did makes a whole lot of sense.

They have a dedicated audience for their shows, but one that is likely not dedicated enough to keep paying $100/month for cable just to watch AMC shows. By giving those viewers an option to pay for the service via the app, they are seizing the opportunity to keep those loyal viewers.

The shift from a primarily ad based model to a primarily subscription based one will not be bump free, and AMC will have to weigh revenue from subscriptions and syndication against production costs, but if they can make themselves a part of many of the new streaming-only bundles that are sure to emerge over the next few years, they should be in good shape.

What you need to do about it

If you’re AMC, just keep on keeping on and be aware of production and marketing costs.

If you’re a smaller cable network, your path probably lies in aligning yourself with one of the FASTs and integrating your content in a special feed on their platform where you can still bank ad revenue.

If you’re a fan of AMC, subscribe and show your support.