Archives For DVR

How much energy would it cost to move all of our digital video recording into the cloud? If the cable companies all followed Cablevision’s path, it would require an estimated 300 megawatts of power, or about one third the output of a nuclear power plant.

At an industry event presented by the Society for Cable and Technology Engineers (SCTE), Comcast’s Mark Coblitz today highlighted one unintended consequence of the Remote Storage DVR (RS-DVR) system Cablevision uses for its cloud-based video recording service. Because of legal rights issues, the MSO has to create and store a unique copy of every program recorded in the cloud by its subscribers. According to Coblitz, if the industry did the same thing as a substitute for roughly 30 million home-based DVRs, energy waste would go through the roof. In contrast to the 300 megawatt number Coblitz cited, a network DVR system keeping just one copy of up to two million different programs would require only about five megawatts of power in total.

The cable industry is examining power consumption issues a lot more closely these days. It’s not so much a matter of environmental responsibility, as it is the financial bottom line. If more operators start to migrate toward network-based recording, you can bet they’ll also begin to exert serious pressure in court rooms and board rooms to move away from the RS-DVR model. True nDVR would be a lot more efficient and environmentally sustainable. More importantly for MSOs, it would be a lot less expensive.

If you were mesmerized by Apple news this week, you might have missed the scoop from The New York Post suggesting that Google is putting the Motorola set-top business on the chopping block. So far it doesn’t appear that anyone else has confirmed the report, but no one’s terribly surprised by it either. Google has enough of an integration mess on its hands without adding set-tops to the list. And while I speculated on some of the potential advantages for Google last year, I would have been more surprised than not to see the company try to make a go of it in cable.

So with that out of the way, who could potentially be interested in the Motorola cable portfolio? It’s important to note that the products include a lot more than just set-tops. There’s also encoding, content management, security, and access network technology. (Full Disclosure: I still do some contract work for the network infrastructure portion of the business.) Jeff Baumgartner has speculated here and here about who might be interested. The potential suitors mostly differ depending on which set of Motorola assets we’re talking about, but there are couple that might be willing to take a flyer on the whole bag of tricks, namely Arris and Ericsson.

Meanwhile, Jeff mentioned one company that had me spitting coffee across the table. He wasn’t talking about an acquisition, but he did suggest TiVo might be in a position to help fill in the gap left if Motorola exited the set-top biz. Yes, TiVo. After all the years of fighting for toehold in the cable industry (and even times when Motorola at least unofficially considered acquiring the company), the idea that TiVo might come out on top here is irony at its finest. There’s nothing to say that will actually happen, but even that there’s editorial consideration of the idea has me chuckling and shaking my head. Here’s what Jeff had to say about TiVo:

It’s been a painful and sometimes downright ugly process, but TiVo’s cable strategy is paying dividends as it sees subscribers rise to new levels thanks to MSO partnerships. Cable’s starting to take a real shine to TiVo’s UI and over-the-top video capabilities. Also, TiVo gives cable a line into the retail market.

For a look at the other side of the coin, check out what Motorola has to say on its blog about its business and the future of the set-top.

Wide Open West Ultra TV service with Arris gateway

Cable provider Wide Open West (WOW) is beating Comcast to the IPTV punch with a new service called Ultra TV. Not that WOW is delivering TV over IP exactly, but it is deploying the Arris six-tuner IP gateway to combine standard TV delivery with lots of IP entertainment goodness.

WOW joins BendBroadband and Canada’s Shaw Cable in picking up the Arris Moxi gateway. Leasing the gateway will cost you $25 a month, but it comes with two media players for two TVs, and it takes the place of your cable modem and router. You get whole-home DVR service, and the ability to shift content from your PCs and mobile devices to your living-room flat screen. (Hello HBO Go) WOW also includes a Flickr app, news ticker and some basic games.

Thanks to an Arris SDK, WOW could add more custom apps to the Ultra TV service at a later date. Essentially, subscribers are getting a combined cable set-top and Roku box (or any other media extender you could name). If WOW wants to, it could even add Netflix, though there’s little incentive given the MSO’s competing VOD library.

Rounding out the tech specs, the Arris gateway for Ultra TV offers 500GB of storage space, a DOCSIS 3.0 modem and DLNA support, in addition to its six TV tuners. The Ultra TV service includes remote DVR scheduling, and VP Steve Stanfill notes on the company blog that, while self-service install isn’t available today, it may be offered in the future.

Aereo logo and antenna array

Fox network creator Barry Diller introduced a new over-the-top video service yesterday called Aereo. Many are already calling it dead in the water, but there are several reasons I’m more optimistic about Aereo than competitive OTT services launched in recent years.

To take a step back, Aereo is offering a service that delivers broadcast TV stations over IP and bundles them with a DVR. Stations are available on iOS and Roku devices, with Android, PC and Mac browser support scheduled to kick in by mid-March. The service is $12 a month, and is currently invitation-only in New York. Aereo will open up to the public in NYC on March 14th.

In order to be successful, Aereo will have to deliver stellar quality of service. These are free broadcast TV channels after all, which means people can use their own antennas to get the same content at no cost. However, in addition to the DVR add-on (which is pretty compelling in itself for today’s non-cable households), Aereo promises decent picture quality – no need to futz with antenna positioning or manipulate around dead zones. That’s a potential combination of DVR, picture quality and convenience. Not bad.

In addition, I think Aereo’s got a few other things going for it:  Continue Reading…

Panasonic announced a few weeks ago it was getting out of the US set-top biz, something it pursued briefly in retail, but far longer through cable operator channels. That headline wasn’t terribly surprising, but today’s company news is a little different. According to The Wall Street Journal, Panasonic has also stopped manufacturing VCRs in its home country of Japan. Yes, VCRs. You know those old machines that your mother still hopes you’ll use to copy her VHS tapes over to a new medium? Panasonic is selling out its inventory in Japan, and then VCR sales there will be no more.

As a corollary to the Japanese news, The Wall Street Journal does point out that Panasonic will continue to manufacture VCRs in China and Slovakia. That’s likely because there continues to be a market among consumers who still cling to their VHS collections. Reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi characterizes the generational VCR divide this way:

If you had trouble programming it, you are probably a baby boomer or older.

If you know the cure for the fuzzy picture — pop the tape out; depress the small button on the side; pull back the lid and blow air ever-so gently onto the black strip to dislodge dust and other particles – you are probably a Generation X baby.

One final note: It’s staggering to watch how quickly DVD players are following VCRs down the path of obscurity. The Digital Entertainment Group reported last month that DVD sales dropped 20% in 2011 to $6.8 billion. Blu-ray disc sales fared better, up 19% last year, cresting $2 billion in sales.

moxi-eol

We’ve followed the retail Moxi DVR story arc for years… and, thanks to ARRIS, we finally know when it inevitably concludes:

The Moxi HD DVR and Moxi Mate® are no longer available for purchase. Program guide data and technical support for the Moxi HD DVR will be available until December 31, 2013. Continue Reading…

Is DirecTV Sabotaging TiVo?

Dave Zatz —  January 23, 2012

sabotage

On a few separate occasions over the last couple weeks, I’ve received both inquiries and accusations suggesting that DirecTV is  out to get TiVo… given their underwhelming new DirecTV TiVo DVR. From our writeup last month:

It’s everything we expected, but nothing we hoped for. The unit features TiVo’s original standard definition user interface, now branded as their “Classic” UI, running on outdated DirecTV hardware. So it’s neither the best TiVo experience, nor is it the best DirecTV DVR.

Christopher Price of PhoneNews cornered TiVo at CES and pitched us with the provocative theory that “DTV is sabotaging TiVo by making their boxes inferior to DTV.” From his write-up lamenting DirecTV’s lack of TiVoToGo:

Representatives for TiVo blamed DirecTV squarely for not offering the technology on their units. TiVo even went as far as to say that they had offered DirecTV a solution that would ensure copy protection requirements for DirecTV, but that the service provider still mandated that TiVo remove TiVoToGo from the new generation of DirecTV-enabled TiVo HD units.

While many agree that this new DirecTV TiVo DVR isn’t very compelling, I find Chris’ theory of sabotage highly unlikely – verging on the preposterous. First, DirecTV and TiVo are not competitors. Second, DirecTV will take a bath if the deal doesn’t work out as they bankrolled development of this product and “has obligations to nationally market [TiVo], and those obligations are substantial.”   Continue Reading…

tivo-hd-guide

TiVo has begun rolling out an update to Premiere and Premiere Elite DVRs. In fact, version 20.2 represents the most significant software update to grace the Series 4 platform since its 2010 introduction – featuring a core code rewrite with an updated architectural design and high definition user interface (HDUI) running on a newer iteration of Flash. Not only does TiVo promise me “significant” performance and stability improvements (building upon the second processing core that came online last month), but this moves TiVo closer to a unified software platform amongst their various partners and products. Unfortunately, the HDUI is still incomplete and the Netflix experience remains unpleasant. Having said that, there’s a lot to like here…

One of the most obvious non-HDUI shortcomings has been the standard definition guide, which is now replaced with modernized, HD versions of both the traditional “grid” guide and TiVo’s unique “live” guide (that I’ve never grown accustomed to). The channel banner(s) also sees a visual refresh… and relocation from up top to down below, with the addition of a browsable mini guide – as seen with many other providers. And, if you’ve been tracking the successful Virgin Media’s successful UK TiVo deployment, the handsome updated look should be familiar.

tivo-discovery-bar

TiVo’s “Discovery Bar” has also been rethought Continue Reading…