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DISH Network recently held their annual Team Summit for partners and retailers. Scott Greczkowski of Satellite Guys was in attendance… and came back with a treasure trove of info and photos. The most compelling story for us gadget loving consumers was the unveiling of Echostar’s new whole-home DVR solution, which will be composed of at least one XiP813 triple tuning DVR hub and multiple XiP110 extenders that communicate via MoCA. Also notable, and somewhat different from the last couple years, is the de-emphasis of integrated Slingbox/SlingLoaded functionality as seen from the ViP922.

DISH Network XiP 813

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The DISH XiP 813 appears much more svelte than prior oversized EchoStar DVR hardware… despite sporting 3 satellite tuners, 1 terabyte of recording storage, and acting as a central hub – much like Arris’ new Moxi Gateway.

DISH Network XiP 110

dish-xip110-2

The DISH XiP110 extender units are even more compact than the 813, tuning live satellite television and providing access to all recorded content from that aforementioned hub. They communicate using the high bandwidth and reliable MoCA connectivity.

For those who need more than 3 tuners, additional XiP 813 units can be added to the mix along with however many XiP 110 extenders are desired. Scott says this DISH/EchoStar initiative appears “a lot more advanced than DIRECTV’s MultiRoom Viewing in all ways.” EchoStar is expected to deliver a completed product to DISH Network this fall, but it’s probably a safe bet that customers won’t actually be able to purchase new XiP hardware until 2012.

(Many thanks to Scott and Satellite Guys for the extensive briefing and pics!)

It turns out Shaw Cable (Canada) won’t be the only provider rolling out a 6 tuner Arris Moxi DVR and extenders… As BendBroadband, a smaller cable operator, also intends the leverage Arris’ hub and spoke DVR model in Oregon. Whereas Shaw is going with “Gateway” and “Portal” units, Bend has christened their implementation as the “Alpha Media Gateway” and corresponding “Media Players.”

The announcement was actually made back in February, but most of us (other than Multichannel) missed it. Deployment was expected late April, but BendBroadband’s web site currently indicates both a mid-May or mid-June launch. My money’s on June and pricing runs $17/month for the Gateway, with each extender running $6/mo and an additional $4/mo household DVR fee. Not too shabby.

But still no word that Moxi will return to retail here in the US with this beefy CableCARD-equipped whole-home DVR solution.

(Thanks, Nate!)

New Cord-Cutting Stats

Mari Silbey —  May 11, 2011

Opinions vary widely on whether cord cutting and cord shaving are legitimate trends. And at a panel during Streaming Media East yesterday, execs from MTV, NBA Digital and Roku threw out new stats on the subject. According to Tom Gorke from MTV Networks, digital video is not a substitute for television. Even in its audience of so-called millennials (those born after 1980), MTV has found that the vast majority – 97 percent – are still consuming huge amounts of TV. Bryan Perez from NBA Digital, however, sees audience behavior that is more generationally divided. For those NBA Digital customers who only subscribe to content over broadband, there’s a split between consumers who paid for linear NBA content and then switched to Internet, and those who never paid for linear NBA programming before signing up for a digital package. The average age for consumers in the former group is 40 years old. The average age for consumers in the latter group is 32.

Meanwhile, Jim Funk from Roku reiterated a point made by Anthony Wood two weeks ago. New Roku customers report cord cutting or cord shaving at a rate of 30 to 40 forty percent. But what Funk emphasized was less that consumers are getting rid of cable, and more that the market is just fragmenting. There is more choice, and that means consumers are finding what they need in a variety of different ways.

In short, new stats do little to clear up the cord-cutting debate. Are more people watching more video online? Yes. Is it replacing TV? Probably not. Will it all shift further in the next 12 to 24 months? Absolutely.

I habitually subscribe to all sorts of audio and video services. While I do enjoy my fair share of quality entertainment, it’s more about ensuring a breadth of content and playback options. Over the last few months a selection of mobile streaming video apps have enabled me to regularly conquer the gym hamster wheels cardio gear. Sure, I could TiVoToGo or Sling it, but I appreciate the simplicity and efficiency of subscription content.

Of the HBOGo, Netflix, and Hulu Plus iOS apps, I’ve had the most positive experience streaming Hulu Plus — which provides the most reliable connection, with the least buffering, drops, or resolution changes. Additionally, though all the interfaces could use some organizational improvements, I prefer Hulu’s approach. However, that didn’t prevent me from almost dropping them… prior to the return of the Daily Show and Colbert Report, which are ideally suited for the small screen and my level of attentiveness at the gym.

I’ll cut HBO some slack as they’re relatively new to the mobile streaming game and quite generous in providing complete seasons of perhaps all their original series. In fact, I hope Showtime is working on a similar solution. But I gave up on this AM’s episode of Eastbound & Down as the frequent and extended blackouts were maddening. At least the price is right (with subscription).

It was free PlayBooks for all at the BlackBerry World Conference keynote presentation today, but that was hardly the biggest surprise of the morning. Taking the stage right after RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis was Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. That’s right, the CEO of Microsoft held court at a BlackBerry conference. Why? To announce a new alliance of course. RIM is now working closely with Microsoft to integrate Bing search at the OS level on BlackBerry devices. Eric Zemen, aka @phonescooper, captured the rather odd video (above) showing how the Bing-on-BlackBerry experience will work.

If there’s one clear conclusion to be divined from Ballmer’s appearance today, it’s that the mobile battle lines have been drawn. Microsoft signed an agreement with Nokia just last month to shore up its OS position with Windows 7. Now it’s supporting RIM in the mobile OS world in order to further its mobile search interests. Bizarre? Yes. But also very calculated. Microsoft was late to the mobile game, and now it’s aligning left, right, and center in order to combat Google and Apple in the space.

You can place your bets now on whether Microsoft’s mobile strategies will work. Certainly the company is taking a scatter-shot approach to the market, but that doesn’t mean one of those shots won’t hit.

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of some of the greatest tweets covering the RIM conference this morning – from the hilarious to the insightful: Continue Reading…

Netflix (NFLX) released its quarterly earnings earlier this week and, while the market was somewhat underwhelmed, subscriber numbers are impressive. In fact, GigaOm declares, “Netflix Now Officially Has More Subscribers Than Comcast.”

Indeed, at first blush, Netflix’s 23.6 million subscribers does exceed Comcast’s 22.8 million. But what exactly does that suggest and is it a reasonable comparison?

From a financial stand point, the proclamation doesn’t hold water as Comcast’s revenue is orders of magnitudes larger than Netflix’s. And it’s not like these two are necessarily direct competitors. Sure, there’s a cord cutting contingent that relies on Netflix to augment their “television” viewing. But many subscribe to both pay television services and Netflix, as I do. Additionally, Netflix is available nationwide whereas Comcast only operates in select regions. So, perhaps a comparison to HBO’s 28+ million subscribers is more appropriate. But, again, these movie services are not mutually exclusive.

At the end of the day, Netflix’s success and service is admirable (although its streaming content catalog is still lacking), and illustrates folks are seeking out alternate distribution methods. Yet, at the end of the day, its rise seems inversely proportional to the demise of Blockbuster’s retail video rental business, rather than a large scale assault on the established premium TV providers.

This post was originally published on the Dice Blog Network.

Light Reading TV interviews Roku Anthony Wood Boxee Avner Ronen

One of the best things about this week’s Light Reading Cable event was Avner Ronen’s unfailingly humorous commentary. That guy could be a stand-up comedian. And in an industry where much is taken far too seriously, a little levity is appreciated.

That said, just because Avner was funny doesn’t mean he didn’t also have some status updates and pearls of wisdom to dispense. Here’s what I got from the Boxee CEO, along with Roku CEO Anthony Wood, and TiVo exec Tara Maitra. For more, check out Light Reading’s own coverage including interviews on Light Reading TV.

Boxeewants to own the user experience
Avner Ronen still insists Boxee doesn’t want to be a cable killer. Instead, the company wants to own the user experience – not the delivery, the content, or the box. To date, the company has 1.7 million users worldwide, and it plans to use its recent funding round of 16.5 million dollars to license more content, get distribution on more TVs, and most importantly, continue focusing on product development. Avner says that Boxee still doesn’t meet the babysitter test – i.e. the babysitter wouldn’t necessarily be able to watch TV upon encountering the Boxee Box for the first time. However, the company is aggressively working on moving from being a geek-only product to one that’s appealing to mainstream early-adopters.

Rokuwants to be a next-generation video network
I don’t know that I could have articulated Roku’s goal of becoming a next-gen video network before CEO Anthony Wood did yesterday. (Ah, so that’s what the little box that could wants to be when it grows up!) But it’s a noble aim, and certainly one that Roku’s made a good start on achieving. According to Wood, Roku has already shipped more than a million boxes through direct Internet sales, and that number could explode when the company hits the retail big box stores this year. Meanwhile, Wood also noted that customer surveys suggest that new Roku owners are cutting back on cable services at a more rapid rate. Last year 30% of new owners said they downgraded cable service or cut it altogether. This year that number’s already at 40%.

Other Roku notes: Wood says the company will probably have more than 1,000 channels by the end of the year, and it will launch its first international product in 2011. Continue Reading…