Archives For DVR

It took years for Cablevision to plow the necessary legal ground for its network-based DVR service. Even once the paperwork was filed, actual deployments didn’t start until January of 2011. However, since that time, the buzz around cloud DVR has ramped up in the cable industry. I’ve been hearing since at least last fall that cable operators are testing out new network DVR solutions and planning to move video recording into the cloud. Now, there’s confirmation of sorts from cable vendor Envivio. Envivio says multiple MSOs in Europe and North America are running lab tests with its Halo network  media processor, which would enable network DVR services.

While I’m hesitant to read too much into news about lab tests (the press release also talks about updates to the Halo platform), the announcement does jive with other activity in the cable industry. Comcast, for example, has invested hugely in building out its network in order to host more content in the cloud for VOD services and TV Everywhere delivery. And there is a concerted effort underway across multiple operators to shift electronic program guides (EPGs) into the cloud for easier and faster interface management. While a better cable UI is in everyone’s best interest, the real motivation for cable operators with these EPGs is the future promise of cloud-based content and service management. When cable can introduce new services – including network DVR – without a truck roll, operators will be in revenue heaven.

Meanwhile, as Steve Donahue at Fierce Cable also points out, Charter’s CEO said last month that it would consider introducing a network-based DVR (which could include TiVo), and Comcast has filed its own patents for network DVR technology.

The big question for the next generation of digital video recording is whether it will be true nDVR, or the hobbled remote storage DVR (RS-DVR) that Cablevision has had to deploy for legal reasons. From an operational and an environmental standpoint, let’s hope it’s the former.

 

auto-hop

DISH Network has rolled out an update to their well received Hopper DVR that, among other things, seems to respond directly to broadcaster concerns of an unlicensed on demand service that has led to a multitude of lawsuits.

If you recall, the Hopper incorporates a consumer friendly Prime Time Anytime feature to automate the recording of prime time network programming, with shows retained 8 days. Building upon that functionality, DISH then introduced Auto Hop commercial skip functionality… which, of course, the broadcasters did not respond well to.

To possibly head off or limit the pending legal action, DISH has tweaked both these services to require a bit more user interaction and to enable more granular control. Continue Reading…

Ceton Q DVR Pushed To 2013?

Dave Zatz —  July 16, 2012

ceton-q

It’s been some time since TiVo’s had some competition in the retail DVR appliance space. And Ceton looked poised to join the fray this year. The Ceton Q DVR was expected to arrive in 2012 containing a whopping six tuners, powered by a single CableCARD, two terabytes of storage, and a Blu-ray drive. Ceton has announced upcoming Holiday availability of the Echo Windows Media Center extender, with benefits, yet they’re withholding further details on the Q until September… suggesting to me that we’re no longer on track for release this year. In terms of divining pricing, with the tuner-less Ceton Echo launching at $179, I’d say we’re easily looking at a $400 product – with $600 being even more realistic for a small company. But, with Microsoft seemingly content to let Media Center atrophy and die, I’m not sure how much I’d be willing to invest on a solution based on that platform.

In one very big, but very early battle between start-up Aereo and its broadcast TV opponents, a judge ruled yesterday that the hybrid TV service provider is not violating copyright law and can continue to operate without paying retransmission fees. The judge denied broadcasters’ request for a preliminatry injunction by noting that:

  1. Aereo uses a separate antenna for each broadcast signal it receives and redistributes,
  2. The programming that Aereo stores is not materially different from the content Cablevision stores with its Remote Storage DVR service.

There is a huge amount of money at stake with the Aereo lawsuit because of the growing importance of retransmission fees in broadcaster revenue models. While over-the-air networks used to bring in the bulk of their money from advertising, they now rely heavily on the fees paid by pay-TV providers to retransmit their content. Aereo threatens that revenue stream by sidestepping licensing deals, taking advantage of free OTA signals, and then converting broadcast programs into IP in order to stream them to paying subscribers.

You can bet there will be appeals on the Aereo decision, but in the meantime, the company has demonstrated it has some legal ground to stand on, and that means it can further explore how much interest there is from consumers in a hybrid OTA/OTT service.

Speaking of hybrid services, I’ve written before about Aereo counterparts Skitter and NimbleTV. But I also had a chance to talk recently with the CEO of Entone, which has its own model for hybrid TV delivery. Entone itself is a topic for a much longer post, but for now suffice it to say that there are a lot of companies testing out the market for hybrid TV. Whether Aereo ultimately wins its legal battles or not, it looks like we’re only at the beginning of a new wave of pay-TV services. We’re up to four new players, and counting…

I’ve been dreading this day since I first got my ReplayTV in 2001. Time Warner Cable has earned a patent for a method of disabling trick-mode features on DVRs. The tech lets Time Warner block fast forwarding so recorded programming (i.e. commercials) can’t be skipped over.

Time Warner patent prevention of trick mode DVR features

Although the patent was filed back in 2007, the timing of its issue is interesting in light of the new Dish commercial-skipping feature in the Hopper DVR. The broadcast networks have gone lawsuit-happy over the Hopper, and Time Warner’s patent shows them that the cable company wants to back them up. Of course, the desire to block commercial-skipping features, and actual deployment of the technology are two different things. As Steve Donahue points out at Fierce Cable, the likely backlash against such a move by Time Warner would likely have the MSO back-pedaling as fast as it did four years ago when it first tried to institute bandwidth caps. Unfortunately, as with bandwidth caps, even if Time Warner fails at first, that doesn’t mean it won’t try and try again. Continue Reading…

Less than two weeks after DISH Network announced their clever and automated, albeit limited, commercial skip functionality Fox, NBC, and CBS have filed suit for copyright infringement and breach of contract:

[Fox] were given no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors, DISH Network, because of their surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem. Their wrongheaded decision requires us to take swift action in order to aggressively defend the future of free, over-the-air television.

NBC has filed suit against this unlawful service in order to keep over-the-air broadcast television a strong competitor. Advertising generates the revenue that makes it possible for local broadcast stations and national broadcast networks to pay for the creation of the news, sports and entertainment programming that are the hallmark of American broadcasting. Dish simply does not have the authority to tamper with the ads from broadcast replays on a wholesale basis for its own economic and commercial advantage.

This service takes existing network content and modifies it in a manner that is unauthorized and illegal. [CBS] believe this is a clear violation of copyright law and we intend to stop it.

Of course, no one should be surprised by this highly likely development. What remains unknown is if DISH will be forced to remove the feature from their flagship whole-home Hopper DVR or if they might work out some sort of On Demand-esque licensing.

Coincidentally, DISH & Roku just partnered… and Roku’s CEO Anthony Wood happened to found ReplayTV — who was similarly attacked by the broadcasters about a decade ago for implementing commercial skip. So perhaps he had some advice for DISH CEO Joe Clayton as they prepared their own preemptive legal strike today against ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC:

DISH today filed suit against ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in federal court for a declaratory judgment on questions that have arisen related to the pay-TV provider’s May 10 introduction of a user-enabled commercial skipping technology called AutoHop. DISH’s monthly subscriber fees include significant “retransmission fees” that DISH pays to the major networks. Although the broadcasters have made much of their content available for free using sites such as Hulu, they have continued to demand substantial increases in their retransmission fees. In addition to increasing media reports of planned legal action against DISH, three of the networks — CBS, Fox and NBC — have rejected ads for DISH’s Hopper Whole-Home DVR, the device that features the AutoHop function.

X1-App-Pandora 1

Forget net neutrality. Comcast has some new shiny objects for your attention. And here’s the latest news:

  • Comcast is launching Xfinity TV on the X1 platform. Translated, that means the IP-based Xcalibur platform is storming to life in Boston after extended trials in August, Georgia. Roll out will begin in Boston “in the coming weeks” with several major markets to follow in 2012.
  • There’s a new X1 Remote Control App coming. Comcast says it will let you swipe your touch screen to control your TV, and allow you to create personalized shortcuts favorites. Imagery looks pedestrian.
  • Comcast is introducing “Dayview.” This one’s still in project codename territory, but the theory here is a unified interface that works across TVs, laptops, smartphones and tablets – something akin to a Today homescreen.

Project-Dayview-home-screen

Stay tuned for some analysis on Comcast’s announcement.

What Color Is TiVo's Hat?

Dave Zatz —  May 16, 2012

As fallout over DISH Network’s new Auto Hop commercial skip feature expands, TiVo has injected themselves into the conversation. From the New York Times:

TiVo has taken the same approach, promoting ways to serve ads to viewers even as they’re fast-forwarding through them. “We’ve gone from being a black hat to being more of a white hat,” said Tom Rogers […] TiVo owners can find ways to hack the hardware and create an auto-skip feature, but the company has never promoted it, preferring instead to be in business with the broadcasters.

Never mind the gross mischaracterization of TiVo’s quite manual 30 second skip, which is more easter egg than “hardware” hack, and let’s focus instead on TiVo’s increased chumminess with the broadcasters, advertisers, and cable industry… who are often one and the same. While they may find TiVo more “white hat” these days, us subscribers might actually see it in reverse. Something I discussed with The Associated Press back 2009:

He said he’s been wondering, “Who are TiVo’s customers?” People like him, or advertisers? “They’re getting paid on both ends.”

All things considered, I’d say TiVo has been relatively successful walking that fine line as they’ve the brokered deals (and defended patents) needed to survive without overly polluting our end-user experience. But I hope they continue to remember us little people. As the best way to skip commercials doesn’t involve cable television or DVRs. Rather, it remains renting DVDs and Blu-ray discs from Netflix.