Archives For mari

twc.jpgBen Drawbaugh over on EngadgetHD reports that Time Warner Cable will be deploying switched digital video (SDV) to 50% of its markets before the end of 2007. That’s great news in the sense that SDV should free up significant bandwidth. Like analog reclamation, SDV will make it possible to offer more HD content as well as new apps like Time Warner’s Start Over service.

Unfortunately, as Ben points out, SDV is not great news for TiVo Series3 (and potentially stand-alone Moxi) owners. Today’s CableCARDs only permit one-way communication (technically that’s not exactly true, but for all practical purposes it is), which means TiVo customers won’t be able to access switched content, including any new HD channels.

Two-way CableCARDs are coming, but not quickly enough. Despite the fact that cable operators may be getting two-way cards in time for the 7/07 deadline (they need them for VOD services as well as SDV), those cards haven’t been certified for retail devices. Sorry TiVo customers — you’ll have to wait for CableCARD 2.0 and refresh that hardware.


I heard some interesting news on a call today. Apparently this past weekend may have been the worst ever for the big three TV networks. On Saturday night CBS, ABC and NBC got a total audience share of 14. Eek!

I was just remarking yesterday that there seem to be fewer shows on network TV that I want to watch (both Studio 60 and Veronica Mars were canceled). Not that I’m spending much time watching online video today, but no doubt that will change over the next few years.

In the meantime, basic cable seems to be stepping up to the plate. USA Network’s Starter Wife had a good first week, and my favorite new show (which thankfully got renewed for the fall) is The Riches. (Don’t tell me about the season finale because I haven’t watched it yet!) It used to be you could get good shows on premium cable channels, but not so much on the basic tier.

Is cable finally starting to live up to its promise now that Internet TV is looming? And how are the broadcast networks going to survive?

CBS Acquires

Mari Silbey —  May 30, 2007

lastfm_red_logo.jpgIf you scroll down TechMeme today past all the news about Microsoft’s surface computing concept (way cool), you’ll land on several articles about CBS’s acquisition of I have a very selfish reason for finding this interesting. If warrants a buy-out by CBS (to to the tune of $280M), maybe that means Pandora will survive. The way I figure it, either someone with a large bankroll picks it up to compete with CBS, or, preferably, legislators finally recognize just how valuable Pandora-like services are and shut down the CRB’s plans to impose unworkable royalty fees.

Okay, probably just wishful thinking. Please don’t take away my Pandora.

tiny-tivo.jpgIt’s a day full of TiVo. The company reports quarterly earnings this afternoon and apparently none of the financial analysts agree on how investors should react to a predicted $.02 per-share loss. I borrowed the title of this post from a Motley Fool article, which goes on to report that seven analysts recommend TiVo as a buy, four as a hold and six as a sell.

Interestingly, if TiVo can manage to beat Wall Street expectations by just a smidge, it could end up profitable for the first (second?) time in the company’s history. There are several new media extender products launching, but few if any are backed by companies without other business interests. TiVo is traveling a very solitary road, and it is still trying to prove it can continue to do so successfully.

In other news, TiVo announced yesterday that it has formed a partnership with Seven Media Group to bring TiVo services to Australia and New Zealand. Time to kick back with that vegemite sandwich…


Whether you like Apple TV or not, last100 (via AwkwardTV) reports it’s relatively easy now to create plug-in applications with the unofficial AppleTV software development kit (SDK). In a closed ecosystem like AppleTV, having a hacker’s SDK is probably crucial to acceptance and proliferation among the geek community.

What will be interesting to me is how the Apple development environment ends up comparing to deliberately-open TV environments. For example, the Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP) is designed to make it easy for third parties to create cable set-top applications. Motorola (my employer), among others, has introduced an OCAP SDK that will be packaged alongside a Motorola set-top for anyone who wants to build apps for cable TV hardware. Mind you, we’re probably talking about development shops as opposed to individuals, but I do wonder how innovation will play out differently in an open environment versus a proprietary one. And yes, I do recognize the irony in considering cable TV an open environment.

What’s Up with Radio?

Mari Silbey —  May 28, 2007


The argument I hear about television is that we’ll never move completely to a pay-per-program model because the vast majority of people like being able to sit mindlessly in front of a TV screen and channel surf. I agree because that theory has already so clearly played out in the radio world. As popular as the iPod franchise is (we have at least three in my house), it doesn’t take the place of radio.

Maybe it’s because radio is so important that the business of radio is so royally screwed up. The CRB is threatening to kill off much of Internet radio, the two satellite radio providers in existence are cozying up to the FCC in hopes of merging, and few terrestrial radio programs survive on the air today unless they appeal to the lowest common listener denominator. What’s the deal?

Obviously people want radio because companies are busy figuring out ways to stream it to every kind of device. But that technology is going to be worthless if the radio sucks or if subscription fees price the mass market right out of the market. I don’t know what the solution is, but I sure wish someone would figure it out.

New TV Stats

Mari Silbey —  May 27, 2007

Because there’s nothing like an official study to make us think we know which direction the market will go…

A study conducted by Canalys (reported on ZDNet) found that 51% of the European adults surveyed were interested in mobile TV. However, the contentweb-tv-3.jpg they reported being interested in varied widely, from live sports events to YouTube clips. Content is king, but apparently no single type of content rules the realm.

In an entirely different study, Ipsos Insight found that Americans are still watching the vast majority of their television on their TV sets. Even adults who regularly stream and download video from the Web watch just 11% of their TV at the computer, while still watching 75% on a traditional TV screen. In the 12-24 cohort, that number drops to “more than 60%.”

Interestingly, a fair number of folks said they’d be interested in burning video from a computer to a DVD to watch on the big screen. Note, they didn’t say they’d be interested in buying a new gadget to stream content from a computer to a TV. Of course, maybe the survey didn’t ask about that.