Streaming Video Earnings Season

The success of cable alternatives (as well as the cable companies) depend on the financial might of the companies involved. With the March – June quarter closed out, earning season is upon us once again. Here’s when the various companies are planning to send out earnings announcements.

Company Earnings Date Market Expectations
The New Generation
Netflix July 25, 2011 Earnings: $1.11 / share
Revenue: $0.79 B
Apple July 19, 2011 Earnings: $5.63 / share
Revenue: $24.52 B
Amazon July 26, 2011 Earnings: $0.34 / share
Revenue: $9.36 B
The Old Guard
Comcast Aug 3, 2011 Earnings: $0.41 / share
Revenue: $13.81 B
Time Warner Cable July 28, 2011 Earnings: $1.16 / share
Revenue: $4.93 B
AT&T July 21, 2011 Earnings: $0.60 / share
Revenue: $31.33 B
Verizon July 22, 2011 Earnings: $0.55 / share
Revenue: $27.43 B

Some popular companies associated with streaming are privately held. These include:

  • Hulu – A private company joint venture of NBC-Universal (Comcast), News Corporation, The Walt Disney Company, Providence Equity Partners. They may be changing hands soon.
  • Roku – Another private company that is in private hands. Netflix is rumored to have a stake in Roku.
  • Crackle – This Hulu / Netflix follow-on is wholly owned by Sony.

Apple is rather late to the game to say when they’ll announce earnings. The last two times were January 19th and April 21st. This should place the announcement close to July 19th.

Update: Apple confirmed for July 19th.

Update 2: Netflix now 25th, Amazon the 26th, Comcast Aug 3rd.

Roku Box Refresh Coming Soon?

I’ve noticed that the Roku website is now showing the Roku HD box as “Out Of Stock”. A quick Amazon search shows someone who appears to be selling HD boxes for $78.50, more than the Walmart price for the XD. Many manufacturers will mark products this way as they clear their channels to prepare for introducing new products, but what can we expect from Roku? Let’s sift through the clues.

Roku Product Refresh Timeline

Looking back the Roku box timeline, Roku seems to refresh their boxes annually in the fall (aka before Christmas). Going back the last few years, the Roku had a major refresh in October 2009 where they brought out the SD, HD, and HD-R models. In Sept 2010, Roku brought out the HD, XD, and XDS boxes. I find it almost certain that Roku would be aiming a refresh at this fall. Giving the competition from Apple and other devices like XBoxes, PS3s, and TVs, it would be concerning if they didn’t refresh for Christmas. But does that explain why the HD model is no longer for sale?

Roku and the Walmart Factor

Walmart is known for being tough on it’s suppliers. They expect timely and cheap products at the volumes they can push. One alternative explanation for the Roku HD being out of stock is that it distracts from Roku’s new Walmart sales channel. Roku and Walmart settled on the XD as the right product for the volume. I suspect it’s because of the 1080p and 802.11n wireless. If Walmart, the king of cheap, set’s the bar above your lowest cost product, it’s time to move on past that product and focus on what’s pushing the volume

Roku Pushing Volume or Product Refresh?

I suspect that the reality is a bit of both. Roku is pushing to get unit sales up with the deal through Walmart. If Walmart passes on your lowest cost product, don’t be distracted by it. Instead, I expect Roku to be focusing on making the XD (or a newly launched equivalent) the minimum specs for the next generation refresh that should be coming in the fall. When will Roku announce? Based on their response to the Apple TV last year, I suspect that Roku will put something out there before the fall Apple event where the iPhone 5 and a rumored Apple branded TV would likely be introduced.

Update: The answer is apparently yes.

Streaming Video Linkfest for 6/26

A bit more linky to the world wide web:

Netflix on XBox 360 Brings Roku Disappointment

I had an opportunity to go traveling this weekend and visit family. While there, we were watching Netflix videos. Unfortunately, I had never realized that the Roku box was not amazing until I browsed around on an XBox. Night and day difference. The GUI was polished and responsive, making the Roku box feels downright sleepy.

Admittedly, the XBox has some things going for it. It costs more than the Roku box (at least $199), and that higher price tag brings some serious processing power along with it. Also, there are 55 million units out there. This makes a much larger target for Netflix software writers, so they’ll spend more time on it.

The Roku box does still have a few things going for it. For folks who are just dabbling with internet streaming, it’s the cheapest way to get in the game at $59.00.

It was disappointing that my little Roku box isn’t the end-all of video streaming. I’ll get over it, somehow. I’ve also realized that I need to sample Netflix across a larger number of devices to see how the experience varies.

Update: Destroyed the typos.

Yahoo to Acquire Hulu?

The business world is abuzz with the idea that Yahoo or some other suitor has made an unsolicited bid to purchase the streaming video upstart Hulu. There are two things that have surfaced as part of this that may piece together what’s happening.

Hulu’s Revenue for 2011

The Sacramento Bee article had a quick throw-away on Hulu’s revenue to possibly justify it as a takeover candidate.

In February, CEO Jason Kilar said Hulu will have 1 million paying customers by the end of the year and generate nearly $500 million in revenue, up from $263 million in 2010. He has said the company is profitable.

First, the quick math. 1 million customers x $7.99 / month x 12 months. That’s about $100 million, out of $500 million in revenue. That leaves about $400 million in revenue for ads. There’s an axiom for the internet that says “Look at who is paying money. They’re the customer. If you’re not paying money, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”

If a company acquires Hulu, it’s not for 1 million customers who are actually paying. It’s for their advertising base of 27 million viewers. The HuluPlus viewers are interesting, but the advertisers pay the bills.

What about Yahoo acquiring Hulu?

Yahoo has a very advanced ad platform, up there with Google and Microsoft. If Yahoo were the suitor, they’d be vertically integrating and competing against Google’s YouTube purchase. YouTube is the number one web video destination (another “free” site – so the customers are the advertisers) with Hulu being close to number three. An acquisition extends the battle for web advertising space as Yahoo makes a move into video.

I do think that an acquisition by a non-media company (Comcast being a media company example) with some deep pockets would be beneficial for Hulu. It’d have more money to invest in content, which drives their customer base and advertising opportunities. I’m cautious about a media company media acquisition since they’re very conservative and tend to protect existing markets more than grow new ones.

Since everyone involved is staying mum, we’ll have to see how it develops.

Various web reports

How To Pay Less For iTunes Videos

If you’re using iTunes videos to ditch the cable company, it’s always great to pay a bit less for it. One strategy to do that is to pick up iTunes gift cards for a discount and have the credit in reserve for when you’re Jonesin’ for your next video fix. But how to do it? Say hello to Granny.

What is Gift Card Granny?

So, how does Gift Card Granny work? Well, let’s ask Granny:

Gift Card Granny is a gift card marketplace site that connects buyers and sellers of discounted gift cards. We don’t ship or sell any gift cards ourselves… instead, we do the research for you. There are literally thousands of different sites where you can buy and sell gift cards. Our staff works hard to find out which brokers have the very best deal of the day on each specific card – and we list the different deals for you to choose from. If you like the price on the card you see, you can click on a link and you’ll go directly to the broker’s site. If you decide to buy it from that broker –  they will send it to you with no taxes and no shipping fees.

So, Granny helps people locate gift cards sold online and get them at below face value. Excellent. But who are the sellers?

Gift Card Granny pulls information from different gift card resellers (Card Pool, Gift Card Castle, GiftCards.com, Plastic Jungle, and Giftah to name a few) as well as eBay. Each seller has different gift cards that they buy and sell, making it hard to find what you’re looking for. Granny aggregates together all the information about how much is available on various gift cards and the size of the discount. The dedicated gift-card websites have been around a while and have a loyal following. Ebay is, well, Ebay.

What Can You Save On iTunes Gift Cards?

I have now purchased iTunes gift cards from two places, Plastic Jungle and Gift Card Castle. For Plastic Jungle, it was $25 for $23.xx (7% off). The gift card arrived as an e-mail with a code in it. I logged into iTunes, entered the code, and my iTunes account was credited $25. Gift Card Castle sent me a $25 gift card for $22.50 (10% off). I had to wait for it to be mailed, but, once it arrived, I used the same process to enter the code and get iTunes account credit. Overall, it was very satisfying to get anything Apple at a discount.

One thing i did notice is that, occasionally, Granny isn’t up to date. The 10% off Gift Card Castle one was not indexed by Granny. I just happened to be wandering through and found a good deal.

What About Amazon Instant Video Discounts?

One last thing to mention is that while Granny will index Amazon gift cards, the only ones that turn up are on Ebay. This is because Amazon only sells “electronic” gift cards. I have not been brave enough to wander onto Ebay and take a chance with this. For the other dedicated sellers, they have clear methods to resolve disputes. I’m going to stick with them for now.

If you have bought gift cards on Ebay and had it work out, please leave a comment.