Prognosticated WaterhouseCoopers

I forgot what fun it is to go up against PwC, I missed slapping them around and the article ‘Netflix and Amazon ‘will overtake UK cinema box office spending by 2020’‘ was a mighty fine reason. The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jun/14/netflix-amazon-uk-cinema-box-office-film-dvd-blu-ray-pwc) gives us a few things. The title is fine, I have no issue with that and there is every reason to believe that this is true. I always prefer and love to watch the big screen, but I know that I am a majority here. It is the subtitle that got me. With “Film industry will remain ‘pretty healthy’ but DVD and Blu-ray sales will go into ‘terminal collapse’, says PwC” they gave me a reason to have a go at them. As I search deeper and deeper, we are confronted with a wave of titles that have been released on Blu-Ray and DVD, yet there is no Netflix date, they do not seem to have any titles released to disc from 2017. So that is the first group. I reckon the Marvel fans would race to the shop to pick up Logan as soon as Wolverinely possible. The second thing I found is that a decent list of TV series is absent. This is a lot harder to predict, yet Grimm, Lucifer, Sleepy Hollow, Battlestar Galactica and a list of others do not even show on Netflix. This makes the need of Blu-ray consistently there. There is no doubt that those with really good bandwidth will prefer Netflix, so there will be an impact, yet the size of that impact is not a given for now. You see, as Net neutrality becomes more and more endangered, we will see shifts. We saw President Trump put Jessica Rosenworcel in the FCC seat and she apparently champions net neutrality, yet there is a rustling in some bushes, especially the adult entertainment bush. What people ignore, or like me do not care about is that certain ‘settings’ is seen in International Business Times (at http://www.ibtimes.com/july-12-net-neutrality-day-action-will-slow-down-your-pornhub-videos-2552375). It is a place like ‘Pornhub’ that brings the news. The quote “Pai’s proposal would remove the FCC’s authority to enforce net neutrality and other consumer protections while simultaneously allowing companies including Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to create “slow lanes” that force consumers to pay more for certain sites or as a competitive move among corporate telecom rivals“, is one thing, the second quote from a related article gives us “The Washington Examiner reported Trump deliberately withdrew her nomination when he took office. That move temporarily gave Republicans a majority in the FCC. Since then, the FCC has voted to revoke net neutrality regulations. If Trump’s renewed nomination leads to her confirmation, as is expected, then this idealist could return to take on the telecom industry head on.“, these quotes give only an indication of what will happen next, it is seen a little better when we consider the Law Times (at http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201706126217/focus-on/focus-u-s-and-canada-diverge-on-net-neutrality), which is 3 days old. Here we see: “With the possibility of broadband rate regulation looming on the horizon, companies investing in next-generation networks hesitated to build or expand networks, unsure of whether the government would let them compete in the free market,” he wrote, advocating for a return to a “light-touch” approach to Internet regulation“. This is now the indication, as the FCC rolled back a few things, they leave it with the providers and a ‘free market’ to offer ISP packages, which of course comes at different prices. So, as net neutrality comes back, it comes with the option that is linked to a Service Level Agreement and they tend to come with $$$ labels attached. In addition we see “The CRTC’s decision and policy position on “differential pricing” arose out of Videotron’s 2015 launch of Unlimited Music, a premium service that allowed customers to stream as much music as they liked on services such as Spotify without having the data use count against their monthly allowance“, so as we get premium ISP options, how do you think that this will impact the Netflix use? Are you sure that this billion user service will not come with nails attached? You see, the issue is no longer mere net neutrality in speed; it is now ‘the elimination of data caps for home and mobile Internet use for Canadians?‘ This implies not just Canada; it is merely a stepping stone for America as they use Canada as a show case, what will happen when the gamers are added? This is a simple math part. Assassins Creed Unity sold over 2 million copies (exact number unknown), now in December 2014, the owners had to download a patch that was 34GB in size. So consider 2 million downloads of that patch, how congested will the internet get? As the number was global, there is no way to tell how the patch impacted on areas, yet as caps are removed, we will see more and more shabby developers getting new patches out ‘as soon as possible’ making us download patches more and more. So as there are globally well over 105 million Consoles (next Generation only), the millions of Gaming PC’s, now consider the amount of patches and the impact on the internetworking’s, as well as the Internet of Things, because bandwidth hits all options. Now consider 3 massive games released per month, game download and patches and now consider how Netflix is impacted, because it will. I am putting those two groups together because they get their ‘net mobility’ from the very same fuel tank. Now add Spotify and a few other players in this domain. There was never any question that there was a need for net neutrality, yet in all this it goes via an ISP and that player is greedy, so if the cap cannot be pushed in place, or when it is removed, why do you think will happen next? There will be an impact on speed.

This is set in an easy equation (not an accurate one, but it shows certain factors). Fuel = data_amount * speed * users, so if data_amount is infinite, how will that impact speed? The same we see when the user base become massively larger, speed is again impacted. yet there is another consideration, to keep speed high, the number of user and data_amount needs to remain in a state of balance and set at a nominal place, when we realise that this is not an option from day one, speed will always be impacted and that is where the ISP’s are now, creating in a conjoint setting the Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) and the option to price it all. The FCC can claim it is out of their hands and as the FCC is about avoiding ‘anything that negatively affects competition and innovation in the sector‘, the FCC rules are altered and whatever comes back might seem nice, but will come with the ability to let the ISP call the shots. As such Netflix, unless it sets ironclad contracts with ISP’s, these users will see a shift of options and usage, at a price that is.

How does this make sense?

You see, even as the numbers are global based, the US has a lot more congestion than the UK at present, yet the current growth as seen, which is before the upcoming 5G data need, the ISP’s have been milking their system and these providers have not been addressing the ‘fuel tank’ they had. Now, this issue is in the UK and Western Europe is nowhere near the mess that the US is in, but as the UK rural growth is now growing at an accelerated rate, the congestion is still becoming a factor, Cisco tells us: “Services like YouTube, iPlayer, Netflix, NOW TV and Amazon Prime Video continue to be a huge draw, which has in turn helped to fuel demand for superfast broadband connections”, in addition, we get “Cisco forecasts that the average Internet user is expected to generate 140GB (Gigabytes) of Internet traffic per month in 2021”, which is average and I expect that to be a conservative low estimate. Now consider that a Netflix movie can take up to 7.5GB, now consider 3 million people in London alone will watch a Saturday movie, and now consider that in the UK another 15 million will do the same, do the numbers start adding up? Even if these 18 million do not start it on the same time, there will be a sizeable overlap, there is enough indication that congestion will be an issue, which either ups the price of the internet, or there will be an increased agitation for Netflix. This is why there is enough questions on ‘terminal decline’, there is in addition consideration that when 5G hits, the curve will steepen by a lot. It is too soon to predict a near exponential growth for data need, but it is not unrealistic, especially when we consider the push from 3G to 4G and data usage curve when most moved to 4G.

Now I go back to these gamers, even as the Statistics state the gamers group to be a steady penetration of around 42%, their data need has grown more than exponential. The Next generation consoles, as well as the growth of being online whilst gaming has grown. So this is not just about downloads and patches, merely the online presence which fuels uploads, Even as some statistics state that they are on average 5 hours per week online, there is enough data to question that. Polygon gave us the title ‘PS4 owners spend about 50,000 years a week gaming’, again a global number, but that already gets us an average of 7 hours a week, which is 40% higher and these are 2016-2017 numbers. As it all comes from the same ‘fuel tank’, I hope that we can clearly see that it impacts the ability to service Netflix. I believe that congestion will be its worst enemy and as we see a shift in costing, the prediction is unlikely to become reality (yet, I am willing to accept that I could be wrong)

So back to the Guardian article! The quote “PwC predicts a “terminal decline” for DVD and Blu-ray sales from £1.22bn in 2016 to just £533m by 2021. The report predicts that internet video will overtake DVD sales this year, but some analysts claim this has already happened“, I believe that the market will adjust in a different way. I believe that the initial shift will be in price. The price of $40 for a new movie cannot be maintained with monthly services and as the margin is large, we much consider that shift. It has been stated a few times that “high-definition mastering costs for Blu-ray will run close to US$40,000 per title with a pressing cost of US$2.00 per Blu-ray disc”, so at 100,000 discs sold, the making comes to about $2.50, so selling at $20 would still leave a large margin, There is a given that mastering goes down in price, yet at this pace, the impact becomes negligible. So when we consider that owning a movie we like at $20 is still a good idea, even if we have Netflix, my view is that there is an impact, yet not to the degree PwC claims.

Could PwC be right?

Yes, that is indeed the case, especially if the economy does not pick up. If the economy stays in the bad shape it currently is in now, Netflix might be the only option for some people, yet the options will still depends on whatever internet options that household has. In that, we see the impact on both sales down as the economy faltered whilst buying movies is equally a non-option.

There is one element that has been ignored by me and it is time to address that now. The mention ‘some analyst’s claim this has already happened‘ is one that needs a look at. It comes from the January article ‘Film and TV ​streaming and downloads overtake DVD sales for first time‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jan/05/film-and-tv-streaming-and-downloads-overtake-dvd-sales-for-first-time-netflix-amazon-uk). one element is ‘Netflix has rapidly grown to 6 million UK subscribers since launching in 2012‘, which is fine and the issue that physical retail is in decline cannot be countered either. The fact that the UK cost of living has been through the roof; so as we see the price of a Blu-ray being equal to 2 months of Netflix, people adjusted their budget. Yet in all this, the internet bandwidth remained an issue. As long as it could be pushed through Wi-Fi and more importantly the Free Wi-Fi places, people were fine, yet just like some of the more advanced filters, when those places start actively blocking Netflix, the user game changes too. You see, Spotify demands cellular data and does not stream via Wi-Fi. So remember the earlier formula? Spotify has 50 million users. Now consider that the other elements were speed and data amount. As these services grow congestion will be a logical consequence, meaning that the ISP’s have reasons to push through the SLA solution, solving all their issues and none of yours.

Netflix is here to stay, nobody opposes that, there will be an impact on DVD/Blu-ray sales and nobody opposes that either. It is the part of ‘terminal collapse‘ that I oppose and I am certain that at some point it will happen, yet not in the time period PwC says it will be. I could be wrong of course, but I don’t think so.

If they were wrong, then nothing is lost, for that PwC analyst there could be a golden future in show business for them as a the new member in Orange is the new Black Season 7 named ‘Wall Street Bitches‘ (speculated conjecture).

In the end?

In the end, the Guardian article does have one larger benefit; it is bringing congestion issues to the surface, as such the article had a good side, In the UK most people know it as ‘Internet Rush Hour’, yet what happens when the infrastructure will no longer provide for that side? The BBC gave us in 2011 “UK broadband speeds drop by an average of 35% from their off-peak highs when most people are online in the evening, according to a report”, yet the growth that we have seen then was at the beginning of 4G, even as the ISP’s upgraded their equipment, the user base In the last year alone, went up by 1.5% for the entire population. In addition, over the last 5 years, the amount of inactive internet users decreased by 13.3%, which is a lot, also consider that the UK Netflix user base is expected to double between 2015 and 2020; these numbers show a dangerous part. The largest one is that the numbers seem to have been incorrectly speculated. I get there as the growth of subscriptions grew by 1.8 million during 2015-2016, which was almost a third of the 100% expected growth. You might think that the Guardian article is therefore a lot more accurate, I still disagree, merely for the fact that congestion is a larger risk, which now gets us back to the Net Neutrality issue. Because as this grows, ISP’s will have additional ammunition to start thinking and pushing for Service Level Agreements on consumer markets, it is what the FCC sees as ‘anything that negatively affects competition and innovation in the sector‘, yet what the ISP sees as commercial opportunity. Here I truly hope to be wrong, yet some sources (read: ISPreview) are already revealing prices to rise close to 10%, in addition, the prices will rise even more next year due to the 2017 Digital Economy Act. This is where we get back to the ‘Pornhub’ part. You see, I give not a toss about them, but they illustrated a part that other sites are now getting into. When we look at Endgadget, we get: “There’s one slight issue with age gates in that we’re still no clearer on how they are to be implemented. Proving age using credit card details, the electoral roll and pay-monthly mobile phone contracts have all been suggested, but the government has admitted that forcing you to expose your identity might be a step too far. And so, it’ll likely be some time before this new law can be enforced as the government and newly appointed regulator decide on the best and least intrusive way for porn sites to verify age.” You see, it is not about the fact that it is about adult content, it is about the option to classify, so consider that via politicians (never a good start) to settle on what defines the boundary and needs more than mere access. It is the first time that there would be commercial option to slice services, not cutting them, but restraining the maximum bandwidth. When we see the quote ‘the new data-sharing regime effectively being lawful already’, we might think ‘government’ but that is the least of our concern, it is “Any business that handles large volumes of personal data is required to employ a data-protection officer under the new rules, and any breach must be disclosed within 72 hours”, you might think that this covers it, but what about back-ups, what about social media with multiple ownership over a larger amount of nations? It is the commercial value that is being played with and the EU does not have a great track record when it comes to commercial versus private interest. So as these elements come into play, there are now already three upcoming levels that would cater to ‘Service Level Agreement’, which is defined to charges a person has. It gives one more level that Net Neutrality is already a thing of the past. This is seen in “Reed Hastings seemed to walk away from fighting for net neutrality but his company has done a big 180”, so in the two days that I worked on this, Netflix did a massive corporate ‘about face’, the direct implication of ISP’s and the limit of bandwidth is showing now, almost a year before it actually hits us. News Network (at http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/after-ceo-downplayed-the-importance-of-net-neutrality-netflix-changes-tact-and-rejoins-the-fight/news-story/654c63348e3dbd4f7d697fe322eeb350) also gives us “major Telco company AT & T is in bed with media conglomerate Time Warner. Because of this high level of “vertical integration” there’s a lot more scepticism in the US that companies will be compelled to engage in anti competitive and “non mutual” practices”, which I already knew. Yet the clarity as given in my earlier setting in ‘anything that negatively affects competition and innovation in the sector‘, is now showing its fruition and that is before the dozens of new 5G services come to our mobiles and TV settings. As this collides, and it will! People will happily return to a worry free Blu-ray ad DVD, if the makers adjust pricing and remove the 5 iteration contribution application, the discs will be here to stay for at least a decade or (hopefully) two more.

 

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