Company / division: Other Companies
Discovery to Acquire Scripps Networks for $14.6 Billion (Jul 31, 2017)
iRobot CEO Backtracks on Roomba Data Sale Comments (Jul 28, 2017)
Roomba Owner iRobot Talks About Selling Home Mapping Data (Jul 24, 2017)
Cable Network Owners Discovery and Scripps in Merger Talks (Jul 18, 2017)
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that two cable network owners, Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks, are discussing a merger, though there seems no guarantee that a deal will actually get done. The two are among the mid-tier cable network owners in the US, similar sized domestically while Discovery has a significant international business too. Combined, they would be the size of HBO domestically, and the size of Viacom including the international business. Each company has several networks which reach the vast majority of US households by being in the basic cable tier, but Scripps also has several less widely distributed networks, and the biggest thing they have in common is their focus on non-fiction, non-sports content, an important slice of overall content consumption but missing arguably the most popular dramas, comedies, and sports content that most people consume a great deal of. There have been recent talks about sports-free pay TV packages involving Discovery, though not Scripps. The reality is that the cable network business is only going to become more challenging in the coming years as subscriber numbers and ratings continue to drop in the face of cord cutting, cord shaving, and shifting consumption patterns driven by online video services like Netflix. Joining forces would boost scale and negotiating power and therefore help somewhat, but even the combined company would be dwarfed by the industry giants like Time Warner, Disney, and 21st Century Fox in the cable network business alone. I could see some standalone streaming services coming out of all this too, especially for non-sports fans, but I don’t see any of this solving the underlying problems cable network owners face today or in the future.
FuboTV Raises $55m, Adds Scripps Channels and Financing (Jun 19, 2017)
Gett Acquires Fellow Ride-Sharing Company Juno for $200m (Apr 26, 2017)
Washington Post Culls Ad Tech Vendors Over Site Slowing (Apr 19, 2017)
Cable Network Owners are Culling Underperforming Networks (Mar 21, 2017)
Today, both the Wall Street Journal and Variety published in-depth pieces on the way major cable network owners are culling some of their underperforming networks, either shutting them down entirely or shifting investment to their more successful properties. Both articles have lots of good history, and each also features an interesting graphic with lots of detail that helps readers see which are the worst performing networks. All of this is, of course, a reflection of several trends impacting the TV industry, from cord cutting to cord shaving to increasing content costs and a shift from linear live viewing to VOD and streaming. For now, the focus is on these underperforming channels, and the pieces seem to suggest there are magic subscriber numbers above which the problems are either smaller or don’t exist at all. But the reality is that even big networks like ESPN are struggling. As I argued in a my weekly Variety piece last week, the only thing keeping most cable networks from seeing negative growth is contractual rate increases, which won’t last forever. Interestingly, though, cable networks continue to be some of the most lucrative segments of the overall TV market, with high margins relative to pay TV providers and broadcasters.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 hands-on review – Wired (Mar 17, 2017)
Earlier in the week, I wrote about Swatch’s smartwatch operating system and components, and in passing referred to Tag Heuer’s Android strategy. It’s now in the second phase of that strategy, with a highly modular and customizable approach this time around, and a modest goal of selling 150,000 of these watches, compared to just over 50,000 of its first attempt. That’s obviously a tiny fraction of the overall smartwatch market, and it’s hard to see how it’ll make money at this scale with this much customization. Apple has offered the most customization of any tech-centric smartwatch to date by far, but this Tag watch seems to take the concept much further, which may be appealing to potential customers, though the watch itself looks incredibly thick and bulky, even for a Tag.
It’s fascinating to think about this move in the context of the history of Swatch. Though the company incorporates much older brands, the Swatch name and brand arose in the early 1980s out of the Swiss watch industry’s previous crisis: quartz watches from Asia. Those watches caused a massive decline in the Swiss watch industry as cheap, highly accurate watches from Asia flooded the market. The Swatch brand was created to compete with these quartz watches, offering a simpler mechanical watch with cheaper materials that could compete with the new entrants, and it worked. Now, it appears Swatch wants to defend against the new crisis – smartwatches eating market share – with its own entrant, based on technology co-developed with a Swiss university that specializes in miniaturization. I may be biased, but suspect it’s easier for the tech industry to learn about watches than it is for watchmakers to get really good at technology, even with some help. I’m skeptical that this move will work out, but given how poorly Android Wear has fared, it certainly can’t hurt, and may well do better than competitor Tag Heuer’s Android strategy.
For all the hyberbolic references to monopolies that sometimes afflict the tech industry, here’s a case where one company really does have what appears to be a monopoly, and on a critical component for autonomous vehicles: LIDAR. LIDAR is the same visual radar technology at the heart of the Waymo-Uber lawsuit, because they’re two of only a very small number of companies currently attempting to make their own, while everyone else buys them from Velodyne at $30-40,000 a pop. The global market for LIDAR is currently in the thousands, and the company expects to ship around ten thousand this year, but it and others would obviously have to ramp to tens of millions a year to supply the global automotive industry in the longer term. And those prices will come down massively – Waymo has supposedly reduced the cost dramatically for its own units.
via The Information