Archives For Industry

Earlier this week, as part of PBS Mediashift‘s 2012 guide to “Cutting the Cord” one entry in the series covered the darker side of this phenomenon:

I catch my favorite shows, new and classic movies, real-time sports, and breaking news for free, on my TV, through the Internet. […] There is the legal way, and the other way. Netflix, iTunes, Blockbuster, Hulu and PlayOn are lovely services. I have never used any of them. Instead, some of us revel in the freedom and free price tag of less-than-legal downloading services and streaming sites. Ones I may or may not be utilizing at the moment: uTorrent (part of the BitTorrent family, a program for downloading copyrighted files); FirstRow Sports and Justin.tv (both great for sporting events, the first more reliable from my experience); LetMeWatchThis.ch (a streaming site popular for its catalog of both little-known and just-released mainstream movies); and Torrentz and The Pirate Bay (the best sites I’ve stumbled across that house movie files ready to download).

Of course, to those that follow this space, the text isn’t particularly dramatic or revealing. It’s quite clear a large number of folks who have the technological knowledge and wherewithal are helping themselves to content online. And as industry analyst Michael Gartenberg responded, it’s “easy to cut the cord when you’re stealing”. But I find the article most notable simply because it’s hosted by PBS – an entity that creates, licenses, and presents content. So I’d think they might have also discussed how theft potentially hurts their business or cover the approaches they’re taking to make PBS content more accessible. Rather, their editor responded to a copyright infringement remark on Twitter with, “PBS prob not worried about sharing Downton Abbey. You can watch episodes free at video.pbs.org“. Which seems to show a poor understanding of how BitTorrent functions and the limitations of PBS’ licensing – which I assume does not extend internationally.

However, PBS must have sensed something was amiss with their presentation, as the article was updated to remove much of the cited text above and a disclaimer was added. Further, I guess PBS also has second thoughts regarding people sharing Downton Abbey, as they ironically filed suit today (along with Fox and Univision) against Aereo… for unlicensed content distribution.

Free VOD is where it’s at. According to Comcast, 70% of the nearly half a billion video streams that subscribers watch on demand comes from the free section of its VOD library. And, leaving subscription fees aside, Comcast thinks that content should be bringing in cash. So get ready for more ads with Comcast VOD, and, quite likely, with every other cable operator.

At a Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News event yesterday, several cable and programmer folks got together to talk about “advanced” advertising. The term covers everything from interactive ads, to dynamic ad insertion, to cross-platform campaigns, but there was significant focus yesterday on VOD commercials. That’s because a cableco consortium known as Canoe recently ditched efforts to create a national platform for selling interactive ads, and instead decided to spend all of its resources on video on demand. (Canoe laid off 80% of its staff in the process too. Ouch.) With all of the flexibility on the web, the cable industry has been fighting to catch up in the advertising revenue game. Operators have all this premium, time-shiftable content, and yet with little ability rotate new ads in an out of on-demand programming, they’ve felt hamstrung. In 2012, they’re finally ready to do whatever it takes to change that. Continue Reading…

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…

Saturday Night Live ran an amusing advertisement that lampoons Verizon’s copious use of jargon and perplexing product branding, spotlighting 4G LTE and concluding with the tagline: It’s an old person’s nightmare. But don’t take my word for it, play the embedded skit above.

When asked if I found the bit entertaining, I was reminded of MadTV’s “iPad” prognostication and (the very real) Sprint Samsung Galaxy S II EPIC 4G Touch television commercial – a smartphone so impressive, it requires six names!

Continue Reading…

tivo-cable-ratings

While most have little choice when it comes to cable providers, there are clear winners and losers when it comes to TiVo.

Years ago, the FCC, cable industry, and consumer electronics contingent, agreed upon the CableCARD as a means of of providing separable security to open the set-top box market for retail devices. Yet, there’s far more to the story as it’s been a rocky road… requiring additional government guidance for cable companies and due to the adoption of switched digital video (SDV) in many markets. We may find ourselves in the golden age of CableCARD, but not all providers are created equal. And what prompted this post was the discovery that Bright House brazenly charges for SDV Tuning Adapter rentals.

Look, we recognize that CableCARDs have been a burden for the MSOs. In fact, less than 550,000 TiVo DVRs are active on digital cable – after nearly 5 1/2 years on the market. So the cablecos have incurred all sorts of expense from required integration of CableCARDS into their own set-top boxes to training and support for what amounts to a small minority of customers who possess retail CableCARD devices like TiVo or the HDHomeRun Prime. Further, it’s not exactly a level playing field as IPTV (AT&T U-verse) and satellite companies (DISH, DirecTV) aren’t held to the same standard – even though they provide essentially the same consumer service, they’re regulated differently given their delivery mechanisms. And perhaps this explains why a cable company like Bright House appears to be throwing up roadblocks for retail CableCARD device owners… and why they bring up the bottom of our list as the absolute worst cable television provider for TiVo owners. Continue Reading…

Both Time Warner Cable and Cablevision have announced TV Everywhere updates with promises to bring live streaming to more devices. Beyond iPads, the new platforms they plan to support include laptops, game consoles and select smart TVs.

While I’m all for any extra features the cablecos want to throw at us, an expanded ecosystem of supported devices isn’t top on my list. In Time Warner’s case, how about making more content available? Or for any of the MSOs, how about extending streaming outside the house? Cablevision has hinted that it’s working on opening up the geographic boundaries for its app, but there’s no concrete word on when that might happen. And given the heated retransmission battles that continue elsewhere, I have to wonder if this particular streaming fight with content owners will get solved outside of court.

Meanwhile, I’m also curious to know how much demand there is for live mobile streaming. If I want to place-shift my TV, it’s usually to get access to on-demand shows. Or if there is a live event I want to hit, it’s usually coming from ESPN. (Gotta love WatchNow) Perhaps this isn’t a battle cable companies should even be fighting? How much do we need live TV on the go?