Архив метки: TV

Chasing Shazam, SoundHound Quietly Passes 100M Users, Averaging 200K Downloads/Day


If you’ve watched television in the last year, you may have seen a commercial or a program  bearing a small blue icon with a black squiggle on it. That would be Shazam — the app that you’ve probably used to identify a song in the car or at the jukebox. Three days ago, Shazam announced that its app had been used by 250 million people (actually used, not just downloaded) and was expanding its TV efforts beyond partnerships by creating “a comprehensive experience for TV,” which would allow “users to tag any show on any channel.” [More in Anthony Ha’s coverage here.]

Those are pretty amazing numbers, considering some 900 million Android and iOS devices have been activated to date — that would mean Shazam is on close to 30 percent of those devices. But, when your co-founders show up in a Super Bowl ad celebrating innovation in mobile technology, it could happen to you.

That being said, you might think that the market has its music-identification king, but SoundHound would beg to differ. Just three days after Shazam’s announcement, the other music search and discovery app has responded by releasing some numbers of its own.

Today, the company quietly announced that it has passed the 100 million users milestone with no hubbub, no fanfare, just a press release. And this, too, according to Vice President of SoundHound Katie McMahon, tallies the number of people who have actually used the app, not just those who downloaded it.

What’s more impressive is how quickly SoundHound has grown. In January 2010, when it “rebranded,” the app had “just” 2 million users. It hit 50 million users in October 2011 and now, in September, has crossed 100 million. That’s give or take 50 million users in a year and a half and 50 million+ in just under a year in winter 2011 and 2012, so things are up-trending. If it hits 150 million in six months, look out.

To put this in context, Shazam was founded in 1999 and has been on the iPhone since 2008, whereas SoundHound was founded in 2005, launched first a year later (though the company might argue against that) and grew relatively slowly until its rebrand in 2010.

Either way, both have experienced growth that most mobile developers can only dream of, and knowing Shazam’s already high numbers, TV partnerships and SoundHound’s relative size two years ago, my first reaction when I saw this announcement was skepticism. Anthony Ha can attest that I actually said something slightly more profane. (“100 million? Horsefeathers! Dubious indeed,” or something like that.)

Certainly, SoundHound’s timing with this announcement is meaningful. The company doesn’t want you to forget that Shazam has a fairly serious competitor in the “Wait, what’s that song?” space. So serious in fact that SoundHound has seen an average rate of more than 200K downloads per day on Android and iOS — a rate which, at its highest, peaked at 1 million in a single day.

So how has SoundHound been able to do this without TV partnerships and a staff that at the start of the year was just 32 people strong? (Staff is now 65, by the way.) Partly, this is due to the fact that SoundHound comes pre-loaded on all HTC Android devices, so that helps. McMahon also tells us that SoundHound hit one if its first inflection points when Apple announced in 2010 that SoundHound was the most downloaded paid app of all-time on the iPad — this was right around the time of the its rebrand.

Its second inflection point came, she said, when they made the app free to download and took the limits off of how many queries one could use without paying. Naturally, user numbers took off. It also has to be mentioned, when talking about strategic advantages, that Katie McMahon, now the VP of SoundHound, spend almost six years as the VP of Business Development at Shazam. Yep. Katie was instrumental in the launch of Shazam’s iPhone app and was there until she joined SoundHound in early 2010. Clearly, having a Shazam insider on board during the early days to share what worked and what didn’t has been a boon for SoundHound.

McMahon said, of course, that the real core of the app’s success has been its technology — especially its Sound2Sound technology, which searches sound against sound, bypassing traditional sound-to-text techniques. When I first heard about SoundHound it was in the context of, “hey, this is that cool app that lets you sing into it and can still identify the song you’re singing.” The implication, at the time, being that Shazam couldn’t handle the dulcet tones of our angelic voices.

So, while the app counted integrations with iOS 5 and iCloud and forged a streaming partnership with Spotify last year, a big part of its growth is its technology. SoundHound owns all the technology that powers its apps, as Colleen Taylor pointed out last year, with three patents around voice recognition technology. If Siri doesn’t end up in our vehicles, it could be Shazam or SoundHound playing a role in that next frontier.

It really hasn’t been an overnight success, even though its acceleration in the last year and a half to two years has been ridiculous. I mean eBay has how many apps? 100? And it just crossed 100 million users.

Even if it’s still a good ways behind Shazam, this still has to be heartening for the small and still relatively young company. McMahon says that the next steps are building up partnerships with advertisers and expanding aggressively internationally, just as Shazam did before it. It may not have the same luck in TV in the U.S. in the near future, but there’s plenty of open space. And it’s all about creating that thoroughly addicting user experience, making SoundHound a hub for music search, song recognition, instant lyric display (so cool), music downloading and playback, and being able to expand artists’ reach through integrations with Twitter and Facebook.

But perhaps my favorite thing, and something that all entrepreneurs should pay attention to: When I asked Katie what the team did to celebrate, she told me that the company enjoyed some cake together in the office and that CEO Keyvan Mohajer said some words to encourage the team. But that was it, then it was back to work, “because we know that we have a lot of work left to do to make SoundHound better.”

There you go. Carry on then.

Chasing Shazam, SoundHound Quietly Passes 100M Users, Averaging 200K Downloads/Day

Shazam Makes Its Big TV Push, Says App Can Now Tag Any Show On Any Channel

Shazam for TV Tag Result_Glee

When you use Shazam, you’re probably identifying a song on the car radio, in a coffee shop, or anywhere else. Recently, however, the company has been expanding into the world of TV, thanks to partnerships with shows like American Idol, and also with brands, including nearly half of the advertisers during the Super Bowl.

Shazam just announced  that it’s expanding its TV efforts beyond individual partnerships. Chief Revenue Officer Doug Garland says the company has created a comprehensive experience for TV, allowing users to tag any show on any channel. This functionality is actually live in the current version of the app — Shazam just waited a little while to announce it. (Unable to resist the pun, Garland says, “We were getting it ready for prime time.”)

When you’re watching a show, you should be able to tag it the same way you’d tag a song, by opening the Shazam app and tapping the big button. In this case, it’s not really about identifying the show (since you probably know that already). Instead, it offers cast information, trivia, celebrity buzz, live Twitter feeds — and yes, it can also identify featured music.

In some ways, this sounds like a bigger challenge than audio tagging, because, as Garland puts it, Shazam For TV is not just “pre-ingesting” music “well ahead of the time” — it allows users to tag live content, and to do that it’s processing footage. The company says users can now tag content from 160 U.S. channels, though the app won’t work for some local-only content. And it seems to be focused on live TV for now — I tested the app out with episodes I’ve downloaded from iTunes, and it mostly whiffed.

The description of Shazam’s technology reminded me of social TV app IntoNow, which also identifies TV shows based on sound, and which was acquired last year by Yahoo. Garland says Shazam has a big advantage over TV-only apps, because it already has an enormous audience on the music side.

“When we talk to Fox, we did for American Idol, we can tell them that we bring not just a great platform and an engaging user experience — we have massive reach,” he says.

Speaking of reach, Shazam is also announcing that it has been used (not just downloaded, but actually used to tag content) by 250 million people worldwide.

The app is also becoming more social. The company says users will now be able to see what their Facebook friends are tagging, and to comment on those tags. Plus, users’ tags will appear in their Facebook timelines.

Shazam Makes Its Big TV Push, Says App Can Now Tag Any Show On Any Channel

Amazon Confirms The Launch Of New, Episodic Publishing Format — Kindle Serials

kindle serial

Confirming the reports that TechCrunch’s Peter Ha was hearing yesterday, Amazon just announced the launch of a new publishing format: Kindle Serials, where a book-length story is delivered over several episodes.

Of course, serialized novels are actually an old idea — most famously, it’s how Charles Dickens published most of his books — and we can see other examples of serialized storytelling in comics and TV. In the literary world, however, the idea has mostly fallen out of fashion.

The first eight Kindle Serials titles seem to consist mostly of thrillers or mysteries, which sounds like a good fit for the format. Authors include Neal Pollack and Andrew Peterson. Oh, and they’ll be releasing Dickens novels this way, too.

If we stick with the comparison to TV shows the Amazon pricing model is like a season pass — you pay once and get all future episodes. Amazon also says that readers will be able to join in a discussion around the stories as they continue.

The Serials announcement was made at Amazon’s press conference today, where CEO Jeff Bezos also talked more broadly about the success of the Kindle Direct Publishing program. Of the top 100 Kindle books, Bezos said 27 are from KDP. He also noted that Amazon has created a new publishing format before, namely Kindle Singles, which was intended to fill in the gap between magazine articles and full-length books. There have now been 3.5 million Singles sold, he said.

Amazon Confirms The Launch Of New, Episodic Publishing Format — Kindle Serials

If Content Is King, Multiscreen Is The Queen, Says New Google Study

Screen shot 2012-08-29 at 18.46.43

New research out from Google, working with market analysts Ipsos and Sterling Brands, puts some hard numbers behind the often-noticed trend of how people in the U.S. are using a combination of phones, tablets, computer and TVs to consume digital content.

While each of these has a significant place in our consumption today, their real power lies in how they are used together — in combination, 90% of all of our media consumption, or 4.4 hours per day, is happening across all four (which doesn’t leave much room for paper-based books and publications; or for radio). This not only has implications for how content is designed, but also for how companies like Google will continue to hedge their bets across all four screens.

The state of TV viewing perhaps illustrates consumer usage best of all: polling 1,611 people across 15,738 media interactions and nearly 8,000 hours of activity during Q2, the study found that users are watching TV on average for 43 minutes per day — the most of any screen — but 77% of that time we are simultaneously using another device like a smartphone or tablet.

The study also found that although a lot of attention is being focused on smartphones and apps, this device is not only the smallest screen in our world, it’s also the least-used, at 17 minutes per day, compared to 30 minutes on tablets, 39 minutes on PCs and the 43 minutes watching TV.

But, while smartphones may be used the least overall, they are the most-used when it comes to on-boarding to a digital experience — or sequential device usage, as Google calls it. The research found that a majority of online tasks get initiated on a smartphone while being continued on another device — perhaps with a larger screen for easier use.

That effectively means that while your total content experience perhaps doesn’t need to be designed for a smartphone experience, at least the initial part of it should be, and that part should be integrated with how that content might be used on other devices — so, for example, watching a film first on a phone and then finishing it on a TV, or starting a shopping experience on a phone and finishing it on a PC.

The survey also found that smartphones are the most common sidekick device used simultaneously with other screens. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that smartphones are small and in many ways complement the services we get on PCs, televisions and tablets, not just with apps but also with voice and text services.

So what are the implications for a company like Google?

Since the bulk of its revenue, despite all its other activities, still comes from ads alongside search, if Google eats its own dogfood, I think we’re likely to see more and more integration with how it lets users search on one device and then continue that experience on another, as well as joined up search experiences across third-party and Google’s own internet properties — both courtesy of their Google accounts.

Given that Google will have advertising following users along the way, it also implies Google continuing to make sure that it has a role to play across all of the screens. Whether it does so as a software-only player, or also through an increasing role in the hardware itself, remains to be seen, although products like Google’s new tablet with Asus, and its new ownership of Motorola Mobility, seem to point in the latter direction.

The full research findings are available here and embedded below.

If Content Is King, Multiscreen Is The Queen, Says New Google Study

MobiTV Pulls Its IPO: Unfavorable Market Conditions, Or Unfavorable Business Model?


At the end of August, mobile TV and video platform MobiTV filed its S-1 and announced its plans for a $75 million initial public offering. Founded in 1999, the company had been one of the early movers in the movement to bring live and on-demand TV to mobile devices, which led to partnerships with NBC, ESPN, Disney, CBS, and a bunch of other sizable media companies. The company closed over $100 million in outside investment in their time, had partnered with the big four carriers, and revenue was on the rise, so it seemed like a company on the road to a successful IPO, right?


Yesterday, the company essentially withdrew its public offering, citing “unfavorable market conditions.” Yes, in the wake of the Facebook IPO debacle, some companies got cold feet, and others would say it put a “freeze” on the IPO market, especially for tech companies.

However, IT service management company ServiceNow had, by most accounts, a successful IPO at the end of June. What’s more, travel search engine Kayak is moving forward with its plans to IPO, recently pricing shares between $22 and $25. The travel search engine has seen its IPO delayed on a number of occasions (it originally filed for an IPO in 2010), and its CFO left to pursue other projects, even joining the advisory board of a competing, next-gen flight search startup.

Certainly, Kayak still relies on ITA for its flight inventory and questions have been raised about the sustainability of its model, as next-gen competitors emerge and focus on personalization, granularity, and the world beyond price comparison. However, in the first quarter of 2012, Kayak saw year-over-year revenues increase 39 percent to $73 million and, as Sarah wrote last week, the company has been focused on product advancements, launching a redesigned iPad app, a new website UI, a more universal consumer experience, direct booking, and ramping up its mobile experience.

Palo Alto Networks is also on course to IPO soon, recently pricing its public offering between $34 and $37 a share, as it plans to sell 6.2 million shares. At the top of the price range, its valuation could reach $2.5 billion.

If these companies IPO successfully, it will go a long way towards warming that “freeze” in the IPO market. And, by all accounts, these two companies will get there — and fairly soon.

Which then raises the question, is MobiTV’s withdrawal of its IPO a result of a horrid IPO market, or something else?

Well, the fact of the matter is that, as Ryan wrote at the time of its initial filing, things didn’t look too pretty for MobiTV. It actually kind of makes you wonder what the company was thinking.

In its most recent S-1 amendment, MobiTV admits that it has a “limited operating history and a history of losses.” Really, the company has yet to turn a profit, taking a loss for the past three years. In 2008 through 2011, MobiTV showed losses of $25 million, $14.6 million and $14.7 million, and most recently, $11.7 million. Sure, those losses are declining, but it’s still in the red. As of December 31st, 2011, the company had an accumulated deficit of $120 million.

The company depends on four customers for most of its revenue (the four major carriers), and if any of those four were to terminate their relationship with MobiTV the company would be in trouble. It would be hard pressed to replace that revenue source, i.e. the company has few options in terms of supplementary revenue sources. They make this clear in the language of their S-1.

What’s more their customers control end user relationships, pricing and terms, and the market they’re operating in is constantly in flux, fragmented, and extremely competitive. Again, as the company says, “many of our current and potential competitors have greater resources than we do and offerings by over-the-top providers may cause consumers to reduce their demand for mobile content through carrier-branded services.”

Yep. MobiTV’s end users are seeing a growing landscape for mobile content that’s filled with choices, as Netflix and Hulu don’t have to depend on carriers, and that’s where most customers are going at present. Makes it hard to imagine that carriers are going to stick with them in the long run as things get tighter and customers opt for other sources for their mobile content.

What’s more, the company has been seeing its cash deplete at a fairly alarming and consistent rate, and with salary and benefits, it was paying its top five executive just under $3 million. All the while its four carrier customers make up about 96 percent of its revenue.

MobiTV is quickly trying to find its way into some fixes, mentioning strategic acquisitions, international expansion, and investing in R&D and managed services, but it’s hard to see how these lead to better margins — and none of this really makes one feel great about the future of the business model, with the tenuousness of its entire business should one customer choose not to renew its contract.

In some ways, it was a wonder that the company was tapping the IPO market, but we now see that it has decided that wasn’t such a good idea. Whether an IPO is in the cards in the future remains to be seen, but things sure don’t look rosy the way they stand now. Especially in such a rapidly changing and dynamic market.

MobiTV Pulls Its IPO: Unfavorable Market Conditions, Or Unfavorable Business Model?