Archives For Industry

The mobile TV service Dyle was originally scheduled to go live last year, but in a follow-up to its showcase at CES in January, Dyle’s Mobile Content Venture backers want us to know the service hasn’t lost its momentum. Dyle has added 17 more stations to its line-up and is planning for a 2012 launch. Rounding out the 70+ channels already on its roster, Dyle will now include new stations from Belo, Cox Media Group, Fox, Gannett Broadcasting, ION, Post-Newsweek, Meredith, Raycom, CBS Television and LIN Media.

Dyle is showing off its wares this week at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. In addition to announcing an expanded channel list, the company is also reportedly demonstrating its broadcast service on a new LG Android phone. At launch, Dyle says it will cover 35 markets and reach more than 55% of U.S. homes.

So what’s the real deal with Dyle? In short, the venture is designed to pick up where FLO TV left off. If all goes according to plan, Dyle will broadcast live news, sports and entertainment over the air to mobile devices. OTA means no carrier intervention and no data caps. However, it also means availability is subject to markets where the broadcast signal is strong enough. And we’re talking live video, no on-demand. Dyle also says it will launch as a free service, but it doesn’t promise to stay that way. Continue Reading…

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Beginning last week, a subset of DirecTV subscribers may have experienced tighter HDMI output controls limiting their ability to view HBO via the television and connectivity options of their choice. The scope of the lockdown isn’t yet clear, but at least one HR20 owner and a THR22 (the new, old TiVo) have been negatively impacted by this change. Brent D. tells me there was zero proactive outreach and support informed him implementation was required by the studios by 4/12 and offered to send component cables to overcome his older Toshiba HDTV’s lack of High-bandwith Digital Content Protection (HDCP).

I reached out to both HBO and DirecTV for comment. HBO indicates their copy protection policies haven’t recently changed, while DirecTV’s rep confirms a HDCP requirement for premium channels when using HDMI connections and suggests customers with older TVs switch to component cables. I’d say this is anti-consumer and a misguided approach to reducing piracy as it’s much easier to archive video traveling via an analog component connection. Unless DirecTV or HBO’s ultimate intent is to provide lower resolution 540p video over component…

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What makes this move particularly offensive is, unlike Blu-ray’s analog sunset, DirecTV’s lockdown is occurring on deployed hardware – with no outreach, knowledge base articles (that I can find), and essentially breaking formerly working customer configurations. Impacted subscribers can give up HDMI for component clutter or buy new televisions. Nice?

Brent points out the irony:

It is frustrating to be caught unaware and then not be able to watch the HBO subscription that I pay for. I am beginning to have sympathy for content pirates, as there are so many barriers to me actually using the subscription that I pay for. Yes, the subscription that I pay for! I pay for it!

Skitter and Aereo

They sound like bad comic book character names, but Skitter and Aereo are two of the latest companies to jump into the video service game. Instead of trying to offer premium content, however, the two start-ups are going old school. They’re both selling traditional broadcast content over the Internet and optionally combining it with a DVR. (Skitter’s DVR service hasn’t launched yet, but is in the works.) On the plus side, you get decent-quality transmission of the prime-time networks, access to TV across a bunch of connected devices, and all the benefits of being able to pause live television, fast forward through commercials, etc. On the minus side, you have to pay a chunk of change every month (around $12) for content that’s supposed to be free.

Whether you like the idea behind Skitter and Aereo or not, the fact that they exist (for now) is an interesting commentary on the state of television. Both companies are offering a very basic content package with a few extra goodies. It reminds of my household circa 2008 when we steadfastly held on to analog cable and combined it with a subscription-free ReplayTV DVR. Most of our TV watching was still focused on the major networks, but the ability to get ESPN and decent reception had us paying a monthly fee to Comcast. Fast forward to today and we pay a much larger monthly bill to Verizon for TV. Granted that bill includes HD channels, a FiOS DVR, VoD, and a much wider selection of linear content, but it’s still tough to stomach when the invoice clears are mailbox every four weeks.

And so Skitter and Aereo enter the scene. Continue Reading…

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Wal-mart’s Disc-to-Digital service, launching under the Vudu brand, became available today. That’s the theory anyhow. Unfortunately, reps at two different local Walmart outposts tell me they haven’t yet been trained and I was unsuccessful in getting my discs “converted” during lunch.

Backing up a bit, this new service falls under the studio-backed UltraViolet initiative — which aims to provide a global content licensing and streaming catalog. Buy a DVD, get a digital copy. Buy a digital copy via Flixter, watch it on Vudu. Etc. And, while I had some initial doubts, it seems as if the component partners and pieces are actually starting to coalesce nicely. However, you’ll forgive me for remaining skeptical and apprehensive in the licensing of digital content… given the abandonment of other relatively prominent solutions, such as Yahoo Music or Microsoft PlaysForSure. Not to mention my less-than-stellar experience today. Continue Reading…

Now that most of industry’s original interactive TV companies are dead and gone, Comcast may be looking to revive the one thing those iTV enterprises promised above all else – a way to access the web on your TV.

FierceCable’s Steve Donahue uncovered a patent application today detailing how Comcast might enable web-based search engines and TV-based commerce on cable set-tops. In the application, Comcast also notes that it could link its iTV platform to content from other video service providers, potentially knocking down a wall or two around the cable garden landscape. From the patent application summary:

The present invention is directed to content searching of various databases in an interactive television network; caching programming for rebroadcasting to interactive television network subscribers; and interactively offering goods and services referred to in broadcast programming to interactive television network subscribers.

There are certainly plenty of roundabout ways to do a little web browsing on your living-room TV set today, but it’s hardly common practice. In fact, the main reason connected TVs are growing in popularity is not because people want to surf Facebook or play Angry Birds, but because they want access to more content on the biggest screens they own. Presumably, Comcast is using this latest patent application to further its own content ambitions – not just opening up access to other video services where necessary, but making its own growing library of on-demand content available on a platform with increased interface flexibility, access to new distribution channels, and greater room for continued content growth.

The new patent application also falls in line with Comcast’s Xcalibur initiative and its overall transition to IP-based television. Comcast is currently testing the Xcalibur service in Augusta, Georgia, and reportedly has an all-IP set-top – something that would pair nicely with a new iTV platform – on its product roadmap.

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  April 5, 2012

A periodic roundup of relevant news… via our other outlets:

Comcast subscribers may soon get HBO Go on the Xbox
The fact that Comcast has blocked HBO Go on some devices has been a major point of contention in recent weeks. Reports say that Comcast and HBO are closing in on a deal to make the HBO Go app available to Xfinity subscribers on the Xbox and the operator may unlock access as early as this week.

Comcast plans the X3, its first all-IP HD set-top
In addition to building out the Xcalibur platform, Comcast has several other IP initiatives in the works. In February the operator introduced Streampix, an on-demand Internet-based service that’s been compared to an early version of Netflix’s (Nasdaq: NFLX) streaming service. Then there’s the Comcast Xfinity app on Xbox

Google reaches halfway mark with new fiber huts in Kansas and Missouri 
Time Warner has been dismissive of Google’s plans so far. A spokesperson told the Kansas City Star, “This [Google Fiber] is a product that doesn’t exist on a network that doesn’t exist.” Google, however, says it will begin offering service on the new fiber network later this year.

Rovi signs new wide-ranging licensing deal with Sony
Rovi announced that it has signed a technology and patent licensing agreement with Sony covering components of Rovi’s interactive program guide (IPG), which is currently in use by Panasonic, Toshiba, Charter Communications, and Suddenlink, among others.

Last week a number of Comcast subscribers had a serious hardware problem on their hands. Netgear modems in California suddenly stopped working. Specifically, owners of the Netgear CMD31T lost Internet service, and subscribers were given a lot of confusing information about why they were being left out in the cold.

Industry analyst Mike Demler first reported the issue on EE Daily News, and noted that he was told by a Comcast technician that his Netgear model was not designed to work in California. Demler’s modem had been working for two straight months, however, and a quick search on the Internet found a data sheet saying the modem should work for all major providers except Time Warner. A trip to the local Frys Electronics store confirmed other Comcast subscribers were having the same problem, and Demler quickly escalated his investigation by reaching out to the PR departments at both Comcast and Netgear.

Fast forward to today, and it turns out that the faulty modem problem is an IPv6 issue. Here’s the statement from Comcast:

Comcast is in the process of deploying IPv6 nationally, as noted on this site in great detail. We recently identified that the retail NetGear CMD31T device ships with and runs an uncertified version of firmware that exacerbates a critical IPv6-related defect. To ensure Comcast customers with these devices will continue to have uninterrupted Internet service, we have rolled back IPv6 temporarily in some parts of our network to give NetGear more time to address the issue. Comcast anticipates NetGear will soon address the issue for their retail devices, which we will test and deploy on an emergency basis.

Of course the Comcast/Netgear problem makes one wonder what other glitches we’ll see as the IPv6 rollouts continue. Comcast plans to have IPv6 deployed in half of its network by the second half of this year. Here’s hoping the migration progresses as (relatively) smoothly as the digital TV transition. I had concerns then too, but ultimately the shift proved largely uneventful.