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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?

Thought municipal wireless was dead? Yeah, me too. But apparently that’s not the case. The city of Wilmington North Carolina is  launching the world’s first white spaces wireless network today built on spectrum available between broadcast TV frequencies already in use. The technology enables Wi-Fi connectivity in public spots around Wilmington, and, after today’s launch, that Wi-Fi access will be available for free to local users. Don’t get too jealous, though. Speeds are set to max out between one and two megabits per second.

The fact that the new Wilmington network is coming online for free is partly a result of broadband regulatory battles. White spaces technology is still hotly contested because of concerns around signal interference, and differing opinions surrounding how spectrum should be allocated. By remaining a non-commercial endeavor, however, the Wilmington initiative is able to avoid some of that white spaces controversy. The freebie network also keeps Wilmington well clear of other North Carolina legislation passed last year restricting community broadband efforts.

Does the Wilmington launch mean new life ahead for municipal wireless? I wouldn’t bet on it. Given the state of the economy, and lack of commercial incentive, it’s hard to see too many of these efforts getting off the ground any time soon. However, the Wilmington network could signal new life for white spaces broadband in general. Depending on how well the network performs, others might start to see white spaces as a viable broadband access alternative. Certainly the technology has some high-profile backers. Microsoft is pushing new innovations in white spaces and hoping to persuade regulators that it should be authorized for broader use. With a little real-world success and corporate cash, white spaces might just have a future ahead.

It’s all about wireless. We’ve got 4G nearly everywhere, mobile broadband in cars, and Wi-Fi hotspots out the wazoo. The cable companies are in bed with Verizon to get their wireless share, and Verizon is sucking up spectrum like a giant Bissell vacuum cleaner. Who needs that wired stuff after all?

It’s a wireless fun fest today, but I predict within 18 months (that’s a totally arbitrary guess- could be a year, could be two years) that the love affair with wireless will have entered a new and cynical phase. Not only that, but we’ll see renewed interest in wired broadband investments. Here’s why.

1. Data caps on mobile broadband are only going to get worse. Today I keep wi-fi off on my 4G phone because mobile broadband almost always performs better than whatever public wi-fi hotspot I find myself in. However, I’m grandfathered in on an unlimited data plan. When that unlimited deal goes away, my 4G access is going to be a lot less useful.

2. Wi-Fi hotspots kinda stink. By and large this is true, and as we expect to be able to do more online, the quality of public wi-fi is going to become more and more of an issue. At the same time, there’s going to be a bigger strain on these hotspots as more people try to offload from their mobile broadband connections.

3. More cool broadband stuff is coming. Between more video coming online and experiments with 1Gbps connections, we’re going to continue to have more incentive to use more data. For a quality experience, we’ll resort to the tried-and-true broadband connections we can get at home and work. Which means, those home and work connections are once again going to grow in importance.

There’s a lot of investment going on in consumer wireless broadband today, but the pendulum should swing back the other way once some of the inevitable wireless disillusionment takes hold. Continue Reading…

Here’s the thing about CES. Most of what we hear is stuff we’ve heard before. The big question is always whether this time it’s for real or not. In this year’s early announcements, we get news that Lenovo is launching a TV set with Android 4.0, Belkin is starting a line of accessories to give existing smartphones and tablets the ability to tune into the new Dyle mobile TV service, and Toshiba is on track to  bring its autostereoscopic 3DTV to American shores this quarter. Now, any bets on which products will actually gain traction in 2012? Personally, I’d keep my Vegas winnings tucked away for now.

On the Android front, Lenovo is releasing its Ice-Cream-Sandwich TV set in China, with no word yet on a US debut. Beyond that, however, we’ve seen no evidence that consumers care about Android access on their living-room flat screens. Google certainly hasn’t made a go of it yet with Google TV, and the TV app environment in general is still pretty lackluster. There are lots of apps, but mostly what people watch is Netflix. While experts predict the next three years will be big for connected TV sales, we still haven’t seen a shake-out among TV app environments. Consumers won’t show a preference until somebody demonstrates a TV marketplace with several notably superior apps not available elsewhere. (i.e. apps with really good content a la HBO Go) I doubt Android’s going to be able to do that in 2012.

Dyle TV is an interesting one. The Mobile Content Venture announced just last week that it would start delivering live TV to MetroPCS subscribers, and at CES, Belkin is introducing a line of accessories designed to make existing devices capable of receiving the Dyle mobile DTV service. Unfortunately, broadcast mobile TV services don’t have the best track record. Continue Reading…

With CES upon us, USA Today chatted with Sony executive Kaz Harai on wide array of home entertainment topics — including Sony’s foray into cloud services across various platforms and the, perhaps inversely related, decline of Blu-ray sales.

But what I found most interesting are their  “smart” TV intentions. First, Kaz is on target when stating both Sony and their competitors simplify messaging to convey the benefits of an Internet-connected platform. As, while I believe widgetized televisions are selling, I’m not convinced web feature, as currently implemented, see much use. Next, kudos to Ed Baig for this killer question, “Will there be an Apple TV?” To which Kaz reponds,

I’m on my product development guys to do the very best they can to deliver a compelling experience and have competitive product in the market, whether Apple is there or not.

There’s been significant speculation that Apple might enter the television space Continue Reading…

Several pay-TV operators debuted iPad apps with streaming video in 2011, and most started offering live TV before the end of the year. Now Broadcom is hoping to take those TV Everywhere efforts a step further. This morning the chip maker announced an integration deal with EchoStar to embed Sling place-shifting tech in its dual-tuner HD gateway system on a chip (SoC), the BCM7425. The news means set-top makers, like heavyweights Motorola and Cisco, will soon be able to add a dose of Sling into their set-tops with the help of one of their existing suppliers.

To date, Dish Network is the only service provider offering place shifting with a Slingbox or “Slingloaded” set-top. All of the other live streaming apps on the market require users to stay within the bounds of their home Wi-Fi networks. Thanks to current licensing deals, and programmer squeamishness, TV Everywhere is more like TV Everywhere in Your House. However, Cablevision’s (until recently) COO Tom Rutledge already stated publicly in August that Cablevision is working to change that. The Sling-on-a-Chip news could help pave the way. If  “slinging” becomes more mainstream, it will be hard to argue that operators can’t offer the same functionality in their apps, with our without Broadcom’s SoC.

Broadcom says the new BCM7425 will be available in the third quarter of this year for cable, telecom and satellite TV operators.