Archives For Placeshifting

Entone Magi cable TV gateway

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Entone, but the TV set-top company is ready to start raising its profile. Entone announced today that it’s introducing the Magi Hybrid CATV Media Gateway in conjunction with the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo show this week. The Magi is Entone’s first product specifically for cable, and it combines live TV, DVR and web-based video delivery under the FusionTV brand name

CEO Steve McKay says Magi boxes will ultimately come in multiple versions. A high-end Magi box will include many tuners, and full video transcoding capabilities in addition to DOCSIS, CableCARD, MoCA and Wi-Fi support. Lower-end boxes will skip the transcoding function and offer fewer tuners for a more basic service.

Interestingly, when I talked to McKay, he noted that Entone, which has traditionally focused solely on the IPTV space, would never have considered making cable hardware even a few years ago. He said that, “at that time it was suicide for a small company to compete with Motorola and Cisco.” Things have changed, however. McKay pointed out that cable networks are starting to look a lot more like telco networks, and that there’s huge uncertainty now about the two big set-top providers; Motorola because of the Google acquisition, and Cisco because of its greater focus on software with the purchase of NDS.

Entone Magi FusionTV interface for cable 1

Meanwhile, the entire pay-TV industry is finally starting to warm up to the idea of hybrid services, and to the reality of consumer demand for streaming video. Consider:

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Verizon Fiox Media Server concept from Motorola

Now that the industry has come to grips with the fact that consumers want to watch TV on multiple screens, there’s growing momentum behind video gateways. (Gateways combine regular television with IP video, and allow users to share content across a home media network.) The big winner to date has been the Arris six-tuner super box, with customers including Shaw, Wide Open West and BendBroadband. However, there’s new confirmation that Verizon plans to launch a Motorola gateway, dubbed the FiOS Media Server, in the coming months.

I hear it’s likely we’ll only see a managed field trial of the Media Server before the end of the year, but at least Verizon is moving in the right direction. After early talk of porting FiOS TV to mobile devices, we’ve had precious little action from Verizon on the mobile access front. The new Media Server isn’t likely to allow placeshifting outside of a subscriber’s home network, but frankly I’d love just to be able to watch an NFL game on my iPad out on my porch, or upstairs while sorting the laundry.

As for what we know about the new box (which Dave first wrote about last December), it reportedly has six tuners and one terabyte of storage. There is an eSata port, but no word on whether that will be enabled or not. There’s also the ability to transcode up to four video streams for playback on different mobile devices.

tivo-stream-rear

In case you missed it, TiVo held an awkward Facebook sweepstakes to “win” the opportunity to pre-order a TiVo Stream. Today, the lucky 600 were notified with the email below:

Call (877) 289-8486 by September 4th (noon PST) to order your new TiVo Stream and receive it on September 5th. The TiVo Stream is just $129.99 with no additional service fee.

I’m satisfied with TiVo’s pricing. Sure, they could have gone lower on hardware, but TiVo’s always been something of a premium brand and service. Most importantly, they’re launching the Stream fee-free. And I’m down for one.

As a refresher, the TiVo Stream is a small network device that acts as an intermediary between a Premiere DVR and an iPhone or iPad — allowing you to stream live or DVRed content to iOS devices around the home. Also, as the virtual successor to TiVoToGo, the Stream can wirelessly offload unrestricted recordings to that iPad or iPhone to take on the road.

UPDATE: My TiVo Stream review is up.

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In one very big, but very early battle between start-up Aereo and its broadcast TV opponents, a judge ruled yesterday that the hybrid TV service provider is not violating copyright law and can continue to operate without paying retransmission fees. The judge denied broadcasters’ request for a preliminatry injunction by noting that:

  1. Aereo uses a separate antenna for each broadcast signal it receives and redistributes,
  2. The programming that Aereo stores is not materially different from the content Cablevision stores with its Remote Storage DVR service.

There is a huge amount of money at stake with the Aereo lawsuit because of the growing importance of retransmission fees in broadcaster revenue models. While over-the-air networks used to bring in the bulk of their money from advertising, they now rely heavily on the fees paid by pay-TV providers to retransmit their content. Aereo threatens that revenue stream by sidestepping licensing deals, taking advantage of free OTA signals, and then converting broadcast programs into IP in order to stream them to paying subscribers.

You can bet there will be appeals on the Aereo decision, but in the meantime, the company has demonstrated it has some legal ground to stand on, and that means it can further explore how much interest there is from consumers in a hybrid OTA/OTT service.

Speaking of hybrid services, I’ve written before about Aereo counterparts Skitter and NimbleTV. But I also had a chance to talk recently with the CEO of Entone, which has its own model for hybrid TV delivery. Entone itself is a topic for a much longer post, but for now suffice it to say that there are a lot of companies testing out the market for hybrid TV. Whether Aereo ultimately wins its legal battles or not, it looks like we’re only at the beginning of a new wave of pay-TV services. We’re up to four new players, and counting…

HBO may be making it harder to transfer shows from TiVo hardware, but it’s expanding users’ other mobile options with the HBO GO app. Time Warner Cable let the cat out of the bag in a blog post stating that HBO GO would be available starting today on nearly every Android device, and the updated app’s arrival in the Google Play store confirmed the news.  (Hat tip: Richard Lawler and Engadget) Supported OS iterations include Ice Cream Sandwich, Honeycomb, and most versions of Gingerbread. (No Jelly Bean yet) Supported hardware includes phones and tablets with screen sizes anywhere between 3.5 and 11 inches.

It may seem odd that Time Warner Cable is touting HBO’s news, but given that the cable operator was one of the last to make a deal with the cable network in January, it’s likely trying to make up for lost time with subscribers. Meanwhile, on other mobile fronts, Time Warner has been more of a pioneer. The company was the first cable provider to stream live TV to the iPad, and it added Android support for live streaming in April. The live video feature is limited to your home broadband network, but we remain hopeful that retransmission negotiations will change that restriction in the not-to-distant future.

Meanwhile, HBO Go continues to gain momentum even two plus years after launch. Once again the programmer proves that content is still king, no matter what how the distribution channels change.

belkin-placeshifter

Looking for a Slingbox alternative? Belkin could have you covered when they launch @TV next month. Like Slingbox, Belkin’s upcoming $150 hardware relays audio and video from your DVR or other set-top to computer or mobile around the house or anywhere the world. Computer and iPad or Android tablet viewing software will be free, but the smartphone client will run you $13.

While it’s not clear if this hardware actually streams in HD, it’s entirely apparent who’s producing the box for Belkin… as I turned up this very same Vulkano product via FCC filings last fall. Further, a quick Google search of “Belkin” and “Vulkano” points us to Android Marketplace and iTunes App Store clients (that have been active for months). Monsoon, the maker of Hava and Vulkano, has been down this OEM path before with Pinnacle and Linksys — and here’s to hoping they have better luck with Belkin’s brand awareness and retail shelf space. Assuming consumers are still interested in roll-your-own placeshifting given all the mobile media alternatives. Continue Reading…

tivo-ipstb

As The Cable Show kicks off today, TiVo is out with a few whole home-esque product updates.

First, the upcoming transcoding box and functionality that I had christened TiVoToGo 2.0, has received a possibly less compelling name in the “Stream.” This small square device (shown below) sits on one’s home network to access both live and recorded content via TiVo Premiere DVR hardware and beams it around the home to “second screen” devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Both streaming, for in-home viewing, and file downloads, for on-the-go access, are provided. Although, it’s probably safe to assume not all content will be cleared for offloading.

Next up, the TiVo IP set-top box, first announced in February, remains unnamed as their ungainly “IP STB.” This upcoming device, pictured above from the show floor, acts as an extender for TiVo Premiere hardware to other televisions – providing access to both live and recorded programming, in addition to web content, via the familiar TiVo interface. It’s quite similar to, and will coexist with, the TiVo Preview — but by dropping the integrated CableCARD tuner Continue Reading…