In an effort to drum up business for their commercial Stop||Watch audience measurement services, TiVo has launched a free web widget that compares the relative effectiveness of television brand advertising. I’d originally intended to pass on this bit of “news” as it’s not really directed at us gadget-loving consumers and I wonder if TiVo’s sample is differentiated enough to be of value.
At Apple’s earnings call earlier today, COO Tim Cook reiterated the second class citizenry of AppleTV. As paraphrased by Macworld:
Apple TV market isn’t that large, so that’s why we classify it as a hobby, so nobody gets the wrong impression that it’s anywhere close to the other markets. A number of us use the product, love the product, so we’ll invest in it.
In my mind, there are three developments that individually or collectively could thrust ATV into the spotlight.
First and foremost, Apple TV cannot be a primary television device as long as we receive the majority of our television programming through mostly locked down cable and satellite providers. CableCARDs, in their current form, stifle innovation and competition. But the FCC is pushing for some sort of home television gateway prior to 2013. That could dramatically change the landscape. Then again, by 2013 we may all be watching Hulu online from our iPads. Leading to point number 2…
Apple’s got a proven app store business model. As soon as they migrate it to the Apple TV, they’ll simultaneously stimulate development and sales. And, of course, they’ll take their cut of app revenue. We’ve already got a number of decent video-centric iPhone apps that could work well in a lean-back environment, such as Showtime, Slingbox, and Netflix. However, significant work would need to be done to support the various resolutions, aspect ratios, and entirely different form of (remote) interaction.
Lastly, if Apple’s unfortunately named iAd platform proves successful in the mobile space, it’s not inconceivable to envision them pumping an ad-infused ATV (in conjunction with the enhanced functionality noted above) to generate additional revenue. But it’s not going to happen in 2010. As CFO Peter Oppenheimer described their new advertising initiative today,
We’re putting our toes in the water, so don’t expect much from us this calendar year. We think we’ll learn a lot for the future.
Just a few weeks back we heard noise of Google heading into the set-top box space. With DISH Network. At the time, it wasn’t clear if this was merely a rehashing of the upcoming DISH apps or a more significant Android set-top platform play. As it turns out, it does look like Google aims to conquer the television with a dedicated offering. And why wouldn’t they take their open source platform and ad serving business to a larger screen? Following in the footsteps of Yahoo TV, Google has also partnered with Intel and is going with the generic “Google TV.” Beyond DISH, other likely launch partners include Sony and Logitech. Although no concrete functionality, timing, or pricing has been revealed. From the NY Times:
For Google, the project is a pre-emptive move to get a foothold in the living room as more consumers start exploring ways to bring Web content to their television sets. Based on Google’s Android operating system, the TV technology runs on Intel’s Atom chips. Google has built a prototype set-top box, but the technology may be incorporated directly into TVs or other devices.
While the space is getting crowded, television-based Internet content delivery is still in its infancy compared to the mobile marketplace where we’re starting to see some real polished, mature platforms and consolidation. And as you’d expect, the incumbents are firing back. Roku’s CEO says a Google box requires an expensive chip and could run over $200, compared to their highly regarded $99 unit. However, I could easily see Google’s solution subsidized by carriers or advertising. Maybe both. It’s good to see new players and experimentation, but I’m guessing it’ll be at least 2011 before we more clearly see the path forward. Which is also about when I expect the cable industry to start opening up.
In what’s become an annual tradition, TiVo determined the top ads of Super Bowl 44 “using aggregated, anonymous, second-by-second audience measurement data about how 30,000 TiVo subscribers watched the game, and for the first time, determined not just the most viewed commercials, but instead the most engaging ads throughout the game.”
1. Doritos – “House Rules”
2. Snickers – “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry”
3. Focus on the Family – “The Tebows Celebrate Life”
4. Doritos – “Underdog”
5. 2010 Intel Core Processors – “Jeoffrey the Robot Gets Hurt”
6. E*Trade Financial – “Baby Love Triangle”
7. Bud Light – “Observatory”
8. CareerBuilder – “Casual Fridays”
9. TruTV’s NFL Full Contact – “ Punxsutawney Polamalu”
10. Hyundai Sonata – “Brett Favre MVP, Still Playing at 50”
If you missed any of the commercials, or just want to catch them again, hit Hulu, CBS, or YouTube. What were your favorites?
While I avoided the lines at 4:00 in the morning, I couldn’t resist stopping by the local King of Prussia Mall later in the day yesterday to see how Black Friday was shaping up. Frankly, the mall wasn’t as crowded as I expected it to be, but there were still more than a few folks in the Sony Style store, and the Apple Store could have used traffic cops to keep the hordes at bay. Of the Sony products available, one customer rep I spoke to said the laptops were getting the most attention, specifically the VAIO NW and recently launched VAIO CW series. I asked about the Sony Reader products and was told they were being more heavily promoted at a kiosk elsewhere in the mall. Blu-ray players? Not doing so great, unlike last year. Despite the discounted price, this stack of Sony BDP-S360 players didn’t get one interested passerby in the time I was there.
Meanwhile at the Apple Store, it was difficult to move a foot without running into another body. According to the employee I spoke to, the hottest sellers of the day were the Nano and the iPod touch. I also got a quick glimpse of the new mobile payment system in action. Actually, I overheard one clerk asking another where to find the cash drawer he’d just opened with his iPod, so possibly there are still a few kinks being worked out. However, everyone seemed happy with their gadget shopping experience, and I even convinced a guy behind the roped off area to give me a close-up shot of the iPod he was using to ring up orders. Unfortunately, the shot’s blurry because I didn’t have time to adjust my camera settings before I had to move on.
More shopping photos below. Anyone else have stories of braving the stores yesterday?
TiVo will become the exclusive provider of middleware and user interface software for Virgin Media’s next generation set top boxes. Virgin Media will become the exclusive distributor of TiVo services and technology in the United Kingdom. Virgin Media currently anticipates its first TiVo co-branded product in 2010.
In other partner news from the call… The fabled, new DirecTV TiVo hardware will indeed launch next year. And, in my opinion, surely juice TiVo’s subscribers numbers. Although no specific timeline has been provided. The Comcast and Cox TiVo initiatives continue to sputter along. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if either, or both, cable providers pull the plug at some point.
Are we looking at it with a view of adding subscription services in there and pay-per-view movies? Yes, we are looking at that.
However, a company spokesperson acknowledges that free video supported by advertising does “resonate most” with viewers, so I doubt we’ll see it go away. Having said that, I have very little use for the current incarnation of Hulu. It’s content library still exhibits the “random crap syndrome” – which I had hoped would be cured when Hulu exited from beta. Didn’t happen. Still hasn’t happened. Shows come and go. Good luck finding an entire season/series. (ALF doesn’t count.) And then there’s the restrictive playback policies. No PS3 for you. Screw you too, Boxee. I appreciate the Internet as my video transport mechanism, but I prefer to watch television… on television.
So bring on the pay services, I say. I’m an adult with an adult salary and limited free time. Offer me something worthwhile at a not-outrageous fee, and I’ll pay for premium content and the convenience of quality aggregation. Should Hulu manage to provide it.