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The retransmission fight between CBS and Time Warner cable shows no sign of abating, but it is triggering some interesting discussions over how consumers and regulators should handle the standoff. Dave suggests that Time Warner subscribers pick up a Mohu Leaf antenna to amplify over-the-air CBS signals while cable access is cut off.

On the regulatory front, GigaOM points us to a blog post by Harold Feld, attorney and Legal Director for Public Knowledge. Among other suggestions, Feld recommends that the FCC should bar CBS from blocking Time Warner subscribers from accessing its content on CBS.com. The theory is that CBS can choose what programming it makes available online, but it can’t discriminate against a specific group of viewers.

Meanwhile, I’m left wondering why no one seems to bring up the obvious discussion point. Should we still have free TV? Broadcast networks now rely heavily on retransmission revenue, and that’s why negotiations with cable companies are such a big deal. But retrans fees trickle down to consumers, which means people are paying for free content just to get it through their cable provider. Is the idea of free TV dying out as business models evolve? More importantly, should we be trying to save it? Continue Reading…

mohu-leaf

As the Time Warner Cable CBS retransmission spat drags on, impacted cable subscribers (or is that former subscribers?) have resorted to HDTV antennas and free OTA broadcasts, if RadioShack’s surge in sales is any indication. And, should you find yourself in a similar situation, let me recommend the amazing Mohu Leaf (~$40). We tend to shy away from hyperbole, but prior to the Leaf review unit I sporadically received a single major network over-the-air… but the Leaf’s stellar reception capabilities have brought the full gamut of broadcast television into my kitchen and allowed me to evaluate Simple.TV (despite AntennaWeb indicating need for a rooftop solution). Its thin profile and reversible black/white presentation also allows for subtle yet effective placement around the house. Of course, your mileage may vary, dependent on a multitude of factors, but I’m a believer.

Nielsen: Understanding The Two-Way Causal Influence Between Twitter Activity and TV Viewership

tv-twitter-relationship

LG SP530 product image

Lost in the Chromecast news yesterday was an announcement from LG and Entone on a new media streamer coming to retail. In itself, the streamer isn’t all that exciting. But pair the box with Entone’s 8-tuner gateway and you have a very interesting proposition for retail or the ISP channel.

To start, the streamer is called the LG SP530 Media Player, and it supports OTT services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube via LG’s Netcast platform (no WebOS in this one). The Media Player is the only Entone box LG is bringing to market now, but there is an option for LG, or any other CE player, to pick up Entone’s Magi media gateway as a partner product as well. The Magi gateway can receive content from over the air and from a cable network, and it can transcode video and stream it back out to any connected device.

Think of the deployment scenarios.

At retail, a combination of the gateway and streamer would give us OTT and OTA video all in one interface. MSOs could ultimately add their own apps like with the Xbox and Roku… or not. And we’d be able to watch video on a TV, tablet, or PC interchangeably.  Continue Reading…

Apple DVR proposal would pay for skipped ads

Have you heard? Apple wants to get into the TV business. And the latest? The company supposedly wants to create a premium service that allows users to skip commercials. But wait, there’s more! Apple apparently thinks it can set up a revenue-sharing system that will pay programmers for the ads that viewers skip. According to former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin and “people briefed on the conversations,” Apple is literally proposing to compensate media companies for the dollars they lose to commercial skipping technology.

There are so many oddities and possible permutations to this particular idea that I have to wonder if the media leaks are accurate. First off, there’s the premium ad-skipping service. Haven’t we had DVRs for more than a decade? What’s new? And if nothing, why would Apple need or want to negotiate some new type of payment plan to do what TiVo or other OTA DVRs already do?

Second, there’s the issue of determining the value of a skipped commercial. Is an ad worth more depending on when and where it’s skipped? If viewers increase ad-skipping behavior with other services, is the value of the ad decreased? What if a viewer sees part of an ad, but not the whole thing? How is the revenue split decided? Will Apple provide data on user behavior to programmers to validate ad-skipping fees?

Third, if Apple is willing to negotiate with programmers, why not just use the standard retransmission fee model? Sure, it sucks. But does create a compensation plan that requires complex evaluations for every commercial skipped sound any better?

Maybe Apple’s proposal to programmers is actually a modified retransmission scheme with blanket ad-skipping fees worked in. However, even that seems odd because it suggests Apple is willing to set itself up to pay more for content in order to attract licensing deals. Ultimately that move would put it at a serious disadvantage among pay-TV providers. How would Apple stay competitive?

The whole situation here sounds weird to me. The way I figure it, either the news reports are wrong, or Apple still has a lot of work to do figuring out television programming in the living room.

Netflix exec talks historic Emmy nominations and the company's future

Who’s Buying Hulu?

Mari Silbey —  July 10, 2013

Hulu for sale

Someone is buying Hulu, and the list of suitors is down to three. Before the close of bidding last Friday, AT&T jumped in on a joint offer with the Chernin Group. Peter Chernin founded Hulu years ago when he was still president of News Corp., but his company’s bid was likely too low without the additional backing of AT&T. DirecTV and Time Warner Cable are also in the hunt, and rumor has it that the bids are upwards of $1 billion. Variety reports this morning that Guggenheim Digital is out of the race after submitting a bid below what Hulu was willing to take.

Hulu initially put itself on the auction block back in 2011, but backed away from a sale at the eleventh hour. Google and Dish were the leading bidders then, with Google reportedly offering up to $4 billion for the company as long as Hulu was willing to throw in expanded content licensing rights as part of the deal. (It wasn’t.)

Unlike Boxee, Hulu has built a significant consumer fan base, and the company says it earned close to $700 million in revenue in 2012. However, Hulu still isn’t profitable, and the issue of video licensing fees is a thorny one as programmers try to protect as much of their revenue as possible through the existing pay-TV ecosystem. Perhaps given those conditions, it’s not surprising that a pay-TV company – and not an outsider like TiVo or Google – appears set to come out on top when the Hulu sale finally closes.