Archives For DVR

Verizon Fiox Media Server concept from Motorola

Now that the industry has come to grips with the fact that consumers want to watch TV on multiple screens, there’s growing momentum behind video gateways. (Gateways combine regular television with IP video, and allow users to share content across a home media network.) The big winner to date has been the Arris six-tuner super box, with customers including Shaw, Wide Open West and BendBroadband. However, there’s new confirmation that Verizon plans to launch a Motorola gateway, dubbed the FiOS Media Server, in the coming months.

I hear it’s likely we’ll only see a managed field trial of the Media Server before the end of the year, but at least Verizon is moving in the right direction. After early talk of porting FiOS TV to mobile devices, we’ve had precious little action from Verizon on the mobile access front. The new Media Server isn’t likely to allow placeshifting outside of a subscriber’s home network, but frankly I’d love just to be able to watch an NFL game on my iPad out on my porch, or upstairs while sorting the laundry.

As for what we know about the new box (which Dave first wrote about last December), it reportedly has six tuners and one terabyte of storage. There is an eSata port, but no word on whether that will be enabled or not. There’s also the ability to transcode up to four video streams for playback on different mobile devices.

Does Aereo Have a Back-Up Plan?

Mari Silbey —  September 17, 2012

Broadcasters aren’t giving up on shutting Aereo down. A new court brief filed on Friday has several programmers fighting a judge’s ruling this summer that Aereo is legally in the clear (for now) to continue operating. The new filing claims that the ruling ignores an existing statute which requires licensing payment “whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or different times.”

We’ve always known that Aereo has an uphill battle ahead of it, but one thing that’s occurred to me more recently is that the company may have a back-up plan. CEO Chet Kanojia was the star speaker at last week’s Multichannel cloud TV event, and I had a chance to ask him afterward if Aereo is working on an alternative business model in case the current one doesn’t work out. Kanojia was adamant that the company is only focused on the here and now, but he also agreed that there are other applications for Aereo’s technology. Personally, I wonder if Aereo’s tiny antennas and transcoding tech could be repurposed for something other than just broadcast content. The entire TV delivery system is changing after all. Could Aereo help other TV service companies move to a cloud-based distribution model?

It’s also interesting to note that Kanojia has serious street cred in the cable industry. He worked with Time Warner Cable on its Maestro solution. Maestro didn’t pan out, but Cablevision picked up the idea and ran with it for its RS-DVR service. So Kanojia is no stranger to this space.

TiVo’s purchase of TRA this summer was no happy accident. The DVR company sees television analytics as an important part of its future.

At a Multichannel News event I attended last week, Senior Director of Product Marketing Evan Young commented that TiVo views the shift toward cloud TV as a way for TiVo to “leverage information from subscribers to deliver a better service.” Read: TiVo wants to make money from user data.

To be fair, everybody wants to make money from user data. In fact, with TV headed toward an IP future, the software companies are circling, each hoping to swoop in and become the Google of the television world. (Including Google, but that’s another story) TiVo is just one of many with its eye on analytics, customized TV, and ultimately targeted advertising. The shift for TiVo is interesting, however, because of its prior anti-establishment position. Young also made reference to “our MSO partners” at the Multichannel event, making it clear that TiVo knows where its future lies.

There was one other interesting TiVo note at last week’s event too. Young talked about the advantages of network-based DVR for cable subscribers, but also emphasized the headache of trying to wean consumers off boxes at home. Any transition would inevitably mean consumers would lose any previously recorded content unless it could be backed up locally on another hard drive. So, while TiVo sees a lot of benefits to the cloud, it also isn’t planning to do away with hardware any time soon.

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…