Archives For Satellite TV

Digital Media Bytes: TiVo Edition

Dave Zatz —  September 29, 2008

A periodic roundup of relevant news…

  • Nero teams with TiVo for PC DVR software: Gizmodo
  • Is TiVo testing a new user interface: Engadget
  • The complete Tom Rogers interview from All Things Digital: GizmoLovers
  • Stay up to date with TiVo/DIRECTV partnership: TiVoBlog

TiVo v. EchoStar (or would that be DISH Network?) patent litigation carries on… The parties reconvened in Texas yesterday for a contempt hearing held at TiVo’s request. EchoStar DVR functionality has been found to infringe on TiVo’s patents. And instead of shutting down their units as court ordered, DISH applied a software update which they claim no longer infringes. Judge Folsom indicated he may rule this month, though his decision could come as late as November. At the very least, TiVo should see that initial $74 million award plus interest (at some point). So what’s currently in play is the length of time of continued infringement and what that equates to in terms of cold hard cash… TiVo says they’re owed an additional $220 million in “royalties and lost profits,” while EchoStar has calculated a $16 million payment. I’m no lawyer and I find myself prone to narcoleptic outages when delving deeper, so I can’t say if treble damages are still on the table. What I do know is that TiVo will be paid (something) and DISH Network competitor DirecTV will be offering TiVo services once again.

(New) HD TiVo Coming to DirecTV!

Dave Zatz —  September 3, 2008

After a several year hardware hiatus, DirecTV and TiVo are getting back into bed for a new HD DVR in 2009.

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Over the last two years, I’ve flown probably 20 round trips between the DC Metro and Bay Area. My choice of airlines with non-stop flights is limited to United, JetBlue, or Virgin America. United offers the most favorable rewards program, especially considering their global reach (when cashing in). However, they’re usually the most pricey and I’ve become hooked on in-air live TV. Which leaves JetBlue and Virgin America.

While both airlines offer seat-back entertainment and services, for this post let’s focus on the free television programming experience. JetBlue provides DirecTV programming, while Virgin America “Red” serves up DISH Network. JetBlue clearly offers more channels than Virgin America, perhaps twice times as many. Additionally, JetBlue offers some of the “locals” – such as NBC. And a portion of channels you think Virgin America might tune brings up a post-installation DISH video or subscription screen – surprising after a year in service. So, on the content front, JetBlue provides more choice and a better viewing experience.

In terms of control, JetBlue television interaction is limited to a fixed panel on an armrest… which a seatmate may accidentally lean on, adjusting your volume or screen brightness. By way of comparison, VA’s armrest controls reside in a cubby mostly protected from inadvertent elbow channel changes. Additionally, the controller is tethered and can be removed from the armrest. However, VA provides a more natural way (in this day and age) of interaction by providing a touch-sensitive screen. Regarding those LCDs, JetBlue’s appear to be 4:3 while Virgin America uses a larger widescreen. Add in Virgin’s programming grid guide and VA wins on the interaction front.

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EchoStar Licenses Tru2Way

Dave Zatz —  August 12, 2008

Guess that DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem with integrated Slingbox functionality we unveiled at CES was just the beginning… EchoStar (split from DISH Network) has just licensed Tru2Way – the evolution of the CableCARD experience.

solidified its commitment to providing innovative products and technologies to the cable industry with its recent signing of the tru2way™ Host Device License Agreement with CableLabs®. This agreement grants EchoStar the rights required to implement OpenCable™ Application Platform (OCAP™) middleware and the CableCARD™ interface on devices using tru2way technology, allowing users to take full advantage of two-way, interactive cable services.

I get the sense that EchoStar would initially target MSO (cable-co) customers with set-top box technology, though a direct-to-consumer retail play may not be out of the question. As far as DVR interfaces go, I’d say the current EchoStar boxes beat many of the existing cable boxes in usability and functionality. Though, it’s yet to be seen how/if a new player would be welcomed into the fold.

Not much to say on this one, but DISH did provide me a purty image to accompany the expansion of their interactive advertising platform. Basically, television service provider on-demand advertising is here to stay (Comcast, TiVo, DISH)… Their goal really isn’t to be unobtrusive, so we can forget that. However, I’m hopeful it remains tastefully implemented (like TiVo’s thumb bug, unlike their Now Playing ads) and that interactivity will provide advertisers a platform for more entertaining campaigns. And I’ll continue to watch as many movie trailers as they throw my way.

Building on its efforts to reinvent the way audiences experience content and advertising, MTV Networks, a unit of Viacom, is partnering with Cadbury, the makers of Sour Patch Kids soft & chewy candy, and DISH Network Corporation to launch its first-ever advertiser-supported interactive television campaign. iTV voting and polling presented by Cadbury’s Sour Patch Kids will be enabled during The N‘s all-new reality series, “Queen Bees,” which premieres Friday, July 11 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT. The campaign will be available exclusively in DISH Network homes nationwide.

Similar to TiVo’s “Thumbs Up” advertising, DISH Network customers will shortly be presented with interactive ads from NBC. However, instead of DISH driving advertising sales it appears that the network will leverage their existing advertisers to broker deals and/or as a means of driving traffic to their own TV properties. From the press release:

NBC Universal [14 networks] will offer the ability to purchase advertisements with interactive trigger capabilities as a way to enhance their campaigns on NBC broadcasts delivered through DISH Network’s satellite service. The interactive triggers allow viewers to select an icon displayed during a commercial that will take them to a page to obtain more information about the advertiser. When finished, viewers are returned to their programming at the exact place they exited. The advertiser information page may contain details about a product, service or more. NBC will also be able to provide advertisers with detailed reports about viewer participation with DISH Network’s interactive products

Disclosure: I’m employed by Sling Media, a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar, which is a DISH Network hardware and service provider. I’m also a frequent Starbucks customer and Last100 reader. No animals were harmed in the writing of this post. I give thanks to Al Gore for blessing us with his bountiful series of tubes.