Tag Archives: Business

Every Movie & Show on Disney+

Disney’s new consumer-direct streaming subscription service, Disney+ costs $6.99 a month or $70 if you pay for a full year at once. Beyond just streaming, subscribers can download content to watch when they’re off-line. Disney+ is packed with library titles from the Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel brands, plus National Geographic and even The Sound of Music, Malcolm in the Middle and The Simpsons, which Disney picked up in the $68 billion acquisition of Fox Studios. (If you want to read my taken the business model, you can read my analysis on Disney+.)

Following is the full list of all the Disney+ content planned for it’s first two years, many of which is available at launch this November 12. Continue reading

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What’s Up with Disney+

Disney just announced their streaming service Disney+. Here’s my perspective:

Wow That’s Cheap!

At $6.99 (or $69.99 annually), pricing is so low, they’ll get plenty of people just by leveraging their house file lists and winning customers over from positive publicity. My family already has all the movies in the subscription service that we’d want to watch, which we paid $20+ for on blu-Ray, & probably 75% of them we also paid another $20+ on DVD or laserdisc or &/or VHS. I’m not mad at Disney for that, I’m mad at me.

But even for folks who spent money on all those, the price is low enough that Continue reading

Should You Buy an Apple Watch?

I bought my first Mac in 1987 and have purchased dozens since. I bought two of the first edition iPhones the day they released on June 29, 2007 (for me and my wife), and I purchased at least one iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 shortly after they released. (I skipped the 4S and 5S.) Because it was too big, I skipped the Newton and went for the Palm Pilot, but sure had fun playing with the Newton my colleague at Disney Studios purchased way back when NBC was “must see TV.” However, I’m not buying this Apple Watch. Why? Because, this is the worst Apple Watch ever. 

Apple Watch is certainly cooler than the other smart watches and Fit Bits, etc, but in 12 months or so this Apple Watch 1 will look like the Newton when compared to Apple Watch 2.

Here are the salient pros and cons of both Apple Watch and Apple Watch 2:

Apple Watch Pros 

  • All features better than competitors’ smart watches

    Apple Watch

  • Hardware & software design aesthetics better than competitors
  • New “Force Touch” (press harder) input for right-click-like functions
  • “Digital crown” scroll wheel input (like iPod click-wheel)
  • Apple Watch can control iPhone’s camera for “remote selfies”
  • Notifications discreetly “tap” you with distinct tapping combos
  • Can use Apple Pay without iPhone pairingEdit   

Apple Watch Cons 

  • Expensive for certain planned obsolescence technology

    iPad Air vs Watch

     

  • Battery lasts less than a day
  • Battery takes 2.5 hour to charge to 100%
  • OS is a little too slow & stutters at times
  • Not “connected” unless used with iPhone or wifi
  • Limited replies a la two-way pager era
  • Siri a main input and is still hit and miss
  • Must use iTunes via computer
  • Worse than iPod Nano for music (& music drains battery)
  • Design is a bit more gear-head than fashionista
  • 40% thicker than iPad Air; 30% thicker than iPhone 6 
  • (Watch = 6 quarters thick; iPad Air = 3.7 quarters; iPhone 6 = 4.1 quarters)

Apple Watch 2 Pros

  • Will fix all those cons above

Apple Watch 2 Cons

  • You have to wait at least a year to get one

My advice is, buy the Apple Watch 2 a year from now.  Take the $350-$17,000 you would spend on an Apple Watch 1 and buy Apple stock after the stock sinks due to lower-than-expected Apple Watch sales. The sales figures released by Apple will be lower than the street wants. If no sales figures are released, the street will like that even less, and the stock will go even lower. The stock will still be expensive, but it will be a deal compared to what the stock price will be in June and September when the next iPhones and iPads release, and this time next year when the Apple Watch 2 will be better, and sell better. And you’ll basically be getting Apple Watch 2 for free due to the growth of the Apple stock you buy with your Apple Watch 1 money.  

Do you agree with this advice? Why or why not?

Here’s my post to help you decide between iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

The Internet of Things – Goldman Sachs Infographic

This Infographic is from a research report by Goldman Sachs’ Global Investment Research Division.

“The Internet of Things” is a megatrend about the third wave of internet growth, driven by manufacturers’ development of connecting to the internet everyday objects such as lights, locks, garage doors, thermostats, kitchen appliances, watches, cars, as well as giant objects in a variety of industries. It will essentially interconnect our online and offline worlds.

The infographic below provides a fairly robust overview of ” Internet of Things” (IoT), which should prompt you to think about how your business, organization or career could leverage or be affected by this megatrend over the next several years.

If you would like to read the report from Goldman Sachs’ Global Investment Research Division, click here or visit goldmansachs.com.

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Throngs of Diffidence: All About the U2 + Apple Deal

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This story is about the business of the U2/Apple/Universal Music deal for the free digital release of Songs of InnocenceMy Songs of Innocence album review is here. This story is 2300 words long, not my usual “about 300.”

Why’d I title this “Throngs of Diffidence?” Because “diffidence” means “lack of self-confidence” and Bono threw out a few self-deprecating statements in the last two years about concern for U2’s relevance. And, because those statements have been über-amplified since the innovative, free release of U2’s Songs of Innocence.

I think it’s ridiculous that reviewers and informed consumers are lambasting organizations like Rolling Stone for giving a good review to Songs of Innocence. A lot of the negative reaction is about the album being automatically placed into 500 million iTunes account holders’ libraries, at no charge to them, but without their prior consent. These reviewers should separate their review of the art from their review of the commerce/business/distribution model. The medium is not the message. Well, that’s not true, so, I guess I mean, don’t blame the messenger/technology. I’ll get to my opinion on that within this story.

Many of the negative reviews seem jaded and not reflective of the actual music on the album. I think that’s because reviewers were rushed to beat their competitors to get a review up, because it was not a normal release with advance copies sent out for review with a customary embargo to have all the reviews hit at once, aligned with the release date.

From my perspective, this deal is about an elegant a solution as is available in these tumultuous times for the music business, or any business dealing with intellectual property. Let’s look at the seven parties involved in this deal, what they want, and if this deal gives it to them.

Party #1: U2

The band has been in the studio for months and months over several years, with several different producers, and seemingly couldn’t find a sound or theme they felt should be the next U2 album. Further, No Line on the Horizon sold five million units sold vs How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb‘s nine million and All That You Can’t Leave Behind‘s 12 million, so their units sold metric has been heading in the wrong direction. (Notwithstanding, all those albums debuted at #1). The band may well have had some anxiety about their next release. Bono told BBC earlier this year, “We were trying to figure out, ‘Why would anyone want another U2 album?’…We felt like we were on the verge of irrelevance a lot in our lives.”

As Engineer Declan Gaffney finished tying together all the disparate tracks into a cohesive album, it became apparent that the album might be done in time to tie in with the Apple event for the launch of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. Gaffney got the master done, getting a full Producer credit for pulling it all together. No time for pressing a first run of CD’s and vinyl, but that wouldn’t be necessary with a deal like this one.

u2 happy 5

This seemingly spontaneous release must have been a huge relief for the band. Look at their faces in these surrounding photos, taken just a moment after the announcement. Larry and Edge look like they can’t believe they got away with this. If you’re the band, this is an outstanding deal. (It’s good for other parties, too. Read on.)

After what must have been a frustrating production process, they finally—and instantly—got the music pushed out to a possible audience of half-a-billion people. That’s  literally 100 times more people than bought their last U2 happy4record, and one of every 14 people on earth. It is rumored that they and their label were paid a reported $26 million for this, plus advertising support of an additional $100 million dollars. As Bono joked at the event, “We’re not going in for the free music around here.”

On the downside, the units won’t count on Nielson SoundScan or Billboard, nor will the album qualify for next year’s Grammy Awards. So what? They get bigger distribution, more revenue, and they can go for a Grammy the next year. If the paid version sells poorly, U2 and Oseary can simply say it was the free release that cannibalized the paid release. (Just don’t tell Party #4–the brick & mortar retailers.) But, if the paid version sells poorly, won’t the concert promoters get anxious? Doubt it. What promoter or sponsor would get sheepish about a tour from a band that had the highest grossing tour in world history, raking in $736 million the last time they went out in 2009-2011? (There were 110 shows in the tour, with a long break in 2010 due to a back injury Bono suffered during one of the shows.) Further, a collateral benefit to massive distribution of free music is that the arenas (or back to stadiums?) on next year’s tour will be packed with people that know the new songs.

Party #2: Apple

Apple is plowing $100 million into running the colorful “Echoes” TV commercial made from the new U2 video for “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).” No big deal, as they would be spending that money on an advertising campaign for the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, anyway, and so why not align with the new release from one of the largest bands in the world who had the largest tour in music history just a couple years ago, and who’s fans have reached fever pitch waiting five years for this release?

Whether or not Tim Cook feels throngs of diffidence, his industry (Samsung, Google, etc) and Wall Street certainly have been putting a lot of pressure on Apple to innovate with new products, rather than derivative ones. This U2 deal demonstrates that Apple is very much invested in music (notwithstanding Apple’s three billion dollar acquisition of Beats by Dre in May via the same relationship with Intersope Geffen A&M chairman and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who produced U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky and Rattle and Hum back in the eighties). Apple needed a high-profile, innovative deal like this, with iTunes getting stale after 11 years on the market, and their iTunes social media play, “Ping” dying 24 months after it launched in 2010.

The $26 million Apple reportedly paid for the album is a drop in the bucket for a company with annual revenues up 450% in the last five years and with 39% gross profit margin and $159 billion in cash on hand. They could probably misplace $26 million in the couch of the Cupertino campus break rooms. This $26 million also is seen as a cost of acquisitions and win backs of lapsed iTunes consumers, which will be the bedrock they use to migrate those consumers to the forthcoming Apple Pay program, where the company stands to make an estimated 15% on every iPhone-based credit card purchase consumers make in brick-and-mortar stores that use NFC Apple Unveils iPhone 6(that’s everybody by next Christmas), when they buy gas, groceries, coffee, clothes and whatever (companies such as Square make only 2.75%), according to a story in the Financial Times. This will be an enormous, continuous, passive revenue stream for Apple, and will make the iTunes play 11 years ago look tiny. Major disruption. Sorry, PayPal.

Apple Pay will ultimately be able to connect to any credit card (already signed are American Express, MasterCard and Visa, issued by banks representing 83% of credit card purchase volume in the US), and will generate a one-time security key for each and every single transaction, so there’s relatively no threat of mass theft like we’ve seen recently at Target and Home Depot. On the retailers side, Apple already has deals set up with scores of national chains such as Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Staples, Subway, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Whole Foods Market, Walt Disney World Resort, and more. This will touch an overwhelming majority of consumers. Do you know anyone without an iTunes account? Well, they probably have a credit card account, and ultimately their bank will likely be inviting those non-iTunes people into Apple Pay because it’s far more secure than credit cards. And, don’t forget… it works with the phones, but also with the Apple Watches.

One other benefit Apple gets… Tim Cook gets to feel cool, regardless of that awkward “high one” he and Bono exchanged. I’ve not read or heard of anyone else remarking about that weird “high one” (I don’t know if that’s a legit phrase–I’m just making it up), but it sure seemed goofy to me. Do you agree?

Party #3: Universal Music Group

itunes u2 albums

iTunes store four days after the event. Courtesy of Complex Magazine.

It isn’t clear how the label and the Band split the supposed $26 million fee, but it is clear that the label is pleased with the deal and the impact from it. Interscope (a Universal Music label) exec Dennis Dennehy told Mashable, “Besides giving a new U2 album as a gift to iTunes store customers, the initiative with iTunes clearly encouraged discovery for new fans and a rediscovery for existing ones.”

At one point Thursday afternoon, 26 U2 titles charted simultaneously on iTunes top 200 albums rankings, according to the Mashable story. U2 had no albums on the iTunes chart the day before Tuesday’s Apple event.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, stated to Rolling Stone: “Just six days after its release on iTunes, a record-breaking 33 million people have already listened to the album.” That’s 6.6 times as many units than the last album sold.

Oseary said the band and label worked on the deal for a few months, and became excited about the idea of having an event nearly 10 years to the day of the launch of the U2 Project Red iPod in 2004. Whatever record labels are still standing in 2014 may have less diffidence than they did a few years ago, but a deal that increases revenue and awareness like this certainly can instill and/or increase confidence.

Party #4: Brick & Mortar (& Other Digital) Retailers

If you’re the music category buyer at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble or anywhere else but Apple, you’re feeling fairly diffident right now. But hopefully, you’re boss’ boss (the CMO or SVP of Marketing and/or Sales and/or Strategic Partnerships) has confidence and vision, and is calling Guy Oseary to make you’re own giant idea of a deal with the band.

Apart from that, you’ll do whatever you can to make hay with the October 13th release of the deluxe physical album available in both CD and Vinyl. (Or, will you not stock it out of protest?) The paid album will come with four additional entirely new songs as well as seven acoustic and alternate versions of some of the songs on the album, sos the band and label are giving you a product that has a bigger value proposition than the free one already released.

Oseary is not apologetic at all about snubbing the other retailers, saying in the Mashable interview, “Everyone has a phone and they can just call whoever they want to work with.” The onus is on brick & mortar to innovate with strong value propositions to consumers, but also to suppliers. I think there is a lot of opportunity for brick & mortar. And aligning budgets and dovetailing with big entertainment bands and brands go-to-market is a fairly obvious play. The challenge remains for discoverability and establishing revenue on smaller bands and brands, but perhaps you think that’s a problem more for your suppliers. From my perspective, that’s a short-sighted view of partnership. If you partner well with suppliers and help them with discoverability for smaller acts/brands/products, they’ll naturally be more apt to scratch your back on the big releases. u2-songs-of-innocence iphone

Party #5: Consumers That are U2 Fans

They get the latest music from a band they love, after waiting five years for a new album. What’s not to love? Here’s how to get the album for free, now. (You likely already have it.)

Party #6: Consumers That Do Not Like U2

“Haters gonna hate,” as they say. Would these people be upset if they opened their garage and found a free Ferrari in it? Gimme a break. You were not violated, and nobody is forcing you to listen to this music. I concede that there will be a best practice decorum developed for this sort of thing, but clearly parties 1-3 went the “forgiveness is easier than permission” route, because the nature of getting prior permission neuters the surprise element that made this whole deal work. The collateral damage was worth it to them. Apple, U2 and Universal Music apparently foresaw this backlash in advance and had what I see as a three-fold plan to respond to it:

  1. Bono wrote on U2.com, “For the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way… the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail.”
  2. U2 Manager Guy Oseary told Mashable, “”It’s a gift from Apple. If someone doesn’t like the gift, they should delete it.”
  3. Apple posted a simple help page to let iTunes customers delete the album.

Party #7: Consumers Who Tweet & Post “Who is U2?”

These people are just shakespearing, as @TrendingPhrases would state it. They’re probably also gangstaposers. I’m sure they are wondering if the Apple Watch will put Bono’s DNA in their wrists without their permission?

trending phrases u2

In Summary

At a time when Nielsen Soundscan shows 2014 physical album sales down 14.6% and digital album sales down 11.7% (Billboard), U2 is up 660% in units against what their last album sold over a five year period, in just the first six days!

Seems to me, all parties fare well. It’s a big idea, but really, rather simple. It’s about aligning what the parties are already doing. I like the business model. I hope other industries try it.

And, I like the album. You can read my review here.

Going back to that whole “Throngs of Diffidence” thing… U2 has rebooted their art before by leaning into their insecurity about the work they were doing at the time. And doing something like that in the middle of a lack of confidence bout takes… confidence.

Or, maybe faith–which usually produces more fruit than any endeavor done solely by human strength. By the way, the last time U2 put out an album during a bout with this level of self-doubt, it was called Achtung Baby, which sounded very weird to people when they first listened to it. But now, of course, it’s on all the top albums of all times lists.

One Last Thing

I challenge all those who rated Songs of Innocence poorly to wait for the stories about the iTunes stunt to die down, then give the album another listen and see if they change their mind. I’m not asking you to get on the record about being wrong. You can just enjoy the record as your little secret. And if you deleted the free iTunes download, you can actually buy the record. I’ll bet if you put all the reviews in two columns–one, positive reviews and the other, negative–you’ll find that the “negative” column will be comprised of frustrated “musicians” that settled for being critics.

Business (and Life) Lessons from the World Cup (and my Dad & Son)

Art Brown, captain and goalie of the West Point soccer team, in 1961.

Art Brown, my father, and captain and goalie of the West Point soccer team, in 1961.

In watching the World Cup and my son’s traveling soccer games, I’ve come to realize that a look at the basic differences between offense and defense gives insight on human behavior and personalities that we can all use in business, as well as life in general. In this exercise, players on offense might be executives, marketers, salespeople, creatives or anyone with a higher profile role and/or more extroverted personality. Players on defense might be accountants, HR staff, production, engineers, or anyone with a more back office role or more introverted personality.

As you read these simple observations, be thinking of your own behavior and how you interact with your colleagues, clients, vendors, family and friends:

  • Offense requires inventiveness whereas defense is preventive — Those traits are typically not equally strong in the same personality
  • Inventiveness in its nature is improvisational, and yet defense requires impromptu responses
  • Offense is creative and opportunistic–you only have to be “on” when you have the ball
  • Defense is high-stress and requires keen alertness at all times*
  • Offense is easily measured and recognized by what happens (goooooaaaaalllls!), so those on offense get a lot of credit and recognition
  • Defense is measured by stats such as saves, but the vast majority of people don’t look for that data
  • Offense is high-profile and every time someone scores, there is massive celebration
  • Defense is, for the most part, only noticed when they make a mistake
  • The camera always follows the ball which is 100% of the time with the offense

Offense requires inventiveness whereas defense is preventive
Those traits are typically not equally strong in the same personality

For what it’s worth, here’s some personal context. I played soccer growing up and was half-back. Kind of half offense and half defense, but colleagues of mine would probably tell you I mostly play offense. That said, I do come from a good “defense” bloodline. My dad was an all American goalkeeper and captain of the West Point team during college, and he later became a coach and the officer in charge of the West Point soccer team. So, he must have been very trained and groomed for this, right? Not. On his first day of soccer ever, when he tried out for his high school soccer team, the coach asked, “Who here plays basketball?” My dad raised his hand. Without yet seeing any athletic endeavor from my father, the coach said, “You’re goal keeper.”

So, here are some takeaways from my perspective:

  • Neither offense or defense is better than the other
  • It takes both good offense and good defense to win
  • The goalkeeper is the ultimate defender–and during the game is more important than the coach–seeing the whole game and interconnecting the team’s individual players via strategy, coordination and communication
  • Maybe we could all stand to look for and celebrate the metrics of our colleagues on defense (If a defender’s goal is to stop goals, then they “score” goals when they stop them)
  • Everybody on the team is on both offense and defense, they are just on different places of the field
  • Offense and defense are on the same team (Don’t fall into the trap of seeing someone with a different personality or role than you as your opponent)

Everybody on the team is on both offense and defense,
they are just on different places of the field

Did this help you? What insights do you have from this, or from any sport?

*Since Germany whipped Brazil 7-1, I’m mindful how german shepherds trained for protection sometimes get severe anxiety due to their feeling of responsibility to allow nothing to happen. The anxiety comes from having to be always ready, always on.

Super Bowl Synergy: Free Music From U2

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Here’s a quick, practical example of Super Bowl-sized synergy. Synergy is the collaboration of two or more organizations to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Synergy works best when it’s just a natural alignment of organizations’ regular activity. When you align what companies are going to do anyway, nobody has to spend additional money and the impact is far greater–exponential even.

Here are seven organizations and their individual goals. Let’s see if they align and synergize:

U2 wants to sell music. They need a big debut for their next album

iTunes wants brand exposure and market share

Red (the not-for-profit) wants to raise money and awareness to get medicine to the poor

Bank of America wants to be the top of mind brand bank to this generation

This generation wants global impact, and, like every generation, they want to feel cool

The NFL wants big, cool commercials during the Super Bowl broadcast

The poorest of the poor need medicine to stay alive

Here’s what these seven separate groups are doing together this Superbowl Sunday:

Bank of America will run a TV commercial during the Super Bowl that will feature U2 and debut their new single “Invisible.” The spot will tell consumers they can download the single for free on iTunes, and that BofA will donate $1 to Red for every download (up to $2 million). Consumers will also become aware of this need and can donate additional funds to Red with the click of a button. Those donations will be matched dollar for dollar by other Red donor organizations such as the Gates Foundation.

It’s good business and contributes to the common good.

The campaign is expected to raise more than $10 million in total to fight AIDS tuberculosis and malaria. Everybody wins (except for the losing team of the Superbowl). It’s good business and contributes to the common good.

My guess is that Monday after the Super Bowl, U2 will easily hit that two million download goal. And, iTunes will gain market share. And, consumers will get free music. And the Super Bowl will get buzz. And, Red will have raised $10 million. And, the poorest of the poor around the globe will get medicine so they can stay alive.

Below is a pitch from Bono on how you can help eradicate this disease. And, remember, you’re helping do just that simply by downloading U2’s new single “Invisible” from iTunes on Super Bowl Sunday.

20140125-072707.jpgHere’s another example of synergy and alignment: You can listen to my friend Mark Hall’s new Casting Crowns album, Thrive, for free on iTunes Radio. You can buy it, too, and also read his new book, also called Thrive (published by my company).