Archives For TV Shows

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…

NimbleTV

And then there were three. The New York Times is reporting that a new start-up, NimbleTV, will start beta testing a TV Everywhere service today, joining the likes of Skitter and Aereo in trying to bring traditional TV to the web in a direct-to-consumer service model. NimbleTV proposes to stream a subscriber’s entire pay-TV line-up over the Internet. For a likely (though unconfirmed) fee of $20, consumers will theoretically be able to watch all the shows they pay for anywhere, at any time.

Of the three new TV Everywhere companies, NimbleTV sounds the sketchiest of all. The company isn’t attempting to sign retransmission deals isn’t attempting to operate through existing telco franchise agreements the way Skitter has planned, and it’s not sticking to over-the-air content the way Aereo is. (According to MultiChannel News, investor and board member Barry Diller is headed to Congress tomorrow to testify to its legality.) Former Slinger and current adviser to one of NimbleTV’s VC backers Jason Hirschhorn says the company is picking up where Slingbox left off, but although Sling has miraculously managed to skirt around the industry’s legal land mines, I can’t imagine NimbleTV will be able to do the same. Retransmission rights have become a huge deal, and pay-TV providers are creating their own TV Everywhere platforms. They have no interest in turning that distribution channel over to a third party, particularly one that wants to own its own relationship with the consumer.

To top it all off, who wants to pay an extra fee just to stream TV shows you’ve already paid for? I’d say NimbleTV is one for the deadpool. Anybody else care to weigh in?

UPDATE: Turns out NimbleTV is negotiating retransmission rights and paying content licensing fees, contrary to my initial understanding of the service. However, the company believes it doesn’t need the blessing of pay-TV operators to do business. This puts NimbleTV on less shaky legal ground, but still means it’s got a tough fight ahead of it.