Archives For TV Shows

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.

In case you’re not getting enough mobile video with Netflix, HBO Go and the like, the Mobile Content Venture (MCV) has you covered. MCV is the alliance behind Dyle mobile TV, and it’s just signed on a new hardware partner to help turn your smartphone or tablet into a TV-tuning delight. Elgato is the third hardware partner MCV’s announced, and, like Belkin, it’s working on an accessory that will plug into your device for access to over-the-air Dyle TV stations. MCV also has a deal with MetroPCS to launch a Samsung phone with embedded Dyle support. The first Dyle products, including Elgato’s EyeTV Mobile TV, should reportedly be available for the holiday shopping season later this year.

It’s still hard to know if live-broadcast mobile TV will take off, but if the service stays free, it’s got a shot. Dave and I both saw Dyle in action at the CES on the Hill event back in April, and there’s a compelling proposition in being able to watch TV without racking up gigabytes against your mobile broadband cap. However, MCV is also focusing heavily on conditional access (i.e. content protection) features, which may signal that the venture’s backers are considering a service fee in the future. MCV says that conditional access technology is critical for audience measurement (i.e. advertising), but it’s also not promising there won’t be a cost at some point for viewing Dyle stations.

Currently there are nearly 100 Dyle stations broadcasting in 35 markets. Grab your Elgato or Belkin adapter later this year, and if you’re in one of the lucky regions with coverage, you can start tuning in. Content partners include Fox, NBC, Cox Media Group, Gannet Broadcasting, and more.

Comcast Xfinity Instant mobile video app 1

With all the promotional buzz around Verizon’s viewdini mobile video portal last week, it was easy to miss Comcast’s new video app, Xfinity Instant. To be fair, Comcast’s mobile app isn’t a commercial product yet, but it was on display right beside viewdini in the Comcast booth at this year’s Cable Show in Boston.

Right now, Xfinity Instant is a project out of Comcast Labs with no set launch date. However, at least in concept, it bears a striking resemblance to viewdini. With a magazine-like layout for tablets, the Comcast app lets users filter video content by actor, genre, title or network. It also provides recommended titles based on your viewing habits, and highlights featured videos in editorial fashion. You can launch a video selection directly from the app and rate content when you’re done watching it.

Comcast Xfinity Instant mobile video app 2

What’s most interesting about the app, though, is that according to the demo guys at the booth, Xfinity Instant was developed with no knowledge that viewdini was in the works. In fact, one Comcast employee explained that the development team hadn’t even heard of viewdini until it was announced at the show. Apparently in the rush to cozy up to Verizon as a viewdini content partner, Comcast senior management didn’t get around to telling its own developers about the potentially competitive product. Continue Reading…

NDS Surfaces 3

By far my favorite thing at the Cable Show this year has been the NDS concept demo of Surfaces, a next-gen TV experience that puts video on the walls around you. The theory from NDS – a set-top and video software company out of the UK – is that TV doesn’t have to fit into a TV set. Instead, it can be overlaid on modular panels that give you the flexibility to see video in different sizes and combine it with other information and associated content.

In the demo I saw yesterday, NDS showed everything from TV clips to music playlists, news feeds and a baby monitor “live” stream. The demo was controlled from an iPad, but all of the content appeared on the wall in front of us in a variety of layouts. For example, one moment we were watching a movie across an entire wall of seamlessly connected screens, but the next we were interacting with a mosaic of widgets that pushed TV content to a much smaller window off to the side of the viewing area.

NDS also showed off 4K-resolution video on the wall-sized display. (Sourced from YouTube, by the way…) Words don’t do it justice, and unfortunately neither does the photo I took with my cheap point-and-shoot camera. However, suffice it to say, the effect is stunning. Continue Reading…

viewdini 1

Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead launched viewdini this morning, a new mobile video portal that sources content from different providers and lets users stream video, search, share and more. Early content partners include Comcast Xfinity, Hulu Plus, mSpot and Netflix. No FiOS TV video yet (ironic), but it’s reportedly on the way.

The concept here is very similar to offerings out from companies like Fanhattan and Clicker, but of course Verizon has a little more heft in the marketing department. Verizon says the app will be available on LTE Android devices later this month, and an iOS version is in the works.

The phrase “net neutrality” is a seriously loaded term, which is why Comcast has to be so irritated that it’s once again part of the lexicon as we head into this week’s Cable Show. In case you haven’t been following along, the latest dust-up started when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings raised objections on Facebook over Comcast’s Xfinity app on the Microsoft Xbox. The Xfinity app is delivered over Comcast’s “managed IP network” and, unlike with other over-the-top (OTT) services, video streamed over the app doesn’t count toward broadband usage caps.

Then Sony vice president Michael Aragon jumped with his own cap complaints. He went on the record to say that Sony was postponing its plans to enter the video service market precisely because of the bandwidth cap issue.

Fast forward to today, and we now have a virtual war going on between Comcast, and, well, the rest of the world. Just as the Cable Show starts up – and the government crowd pours into Boston for the event – Comcast finds itself fighting on three fronts. Continue Reading…

Last fall The Wall Street Journal reported that Sony had plans to launch an Internet-based video service. Now there’s word from Variety that the company is holding off. Apparently it’s not the content licensing deals that Sony’s worried about, but bandwidth caps. At an industry conference yesterday, Sony VP and GM Michael Aragon noted: “These guys have the pipe and the bandwidth. If they start capping things, it gets difficult.”

So here we are, storming into another battle over bandwidth caps. Sony isn’t the only one complaining. Netflix and several others have also raised a red flag because Comcast has said that use of its Xfinity app on the Xbox won’t count against users’ 250GB broadband cap. In contrast, any other video streamed over the web does count against the cap. Critics are calling this a net neutrality foul, and Comcast is countering that Xfinity streaming is different from other services because it’s delivered over a managed network rather than the Internet. It just so happens that both networks are IP-based.

There is a serious discussion to be had here, but it’s a difficult one, and it’s complicated by many factors most people aren’t aware of – like how cable networks are evolving. As a first step to untangling the problem, I have one wild suggestion. Let’s start monitoring how much bandwidth cable companies are devoting to managed IP services versus public Internet service. I’m not saying we should regulate that ratio… at least not yet. But let’s monitor it. We don’t want the Internet side of the pipe to get shortchanged, and if there’s more bandwidth available for public Internet service, there should be less pressure to cap usage. Continue Reading…