Archives For TV Shows

Kit Digital social program guide 1

The social TV revolution is in full swing, and last week Kit Digital showed off its contribution at the NAB show in Vegas. Kit’s Social Program Guide is a white label product for service providers that lays social functionality on top of a traditional EPG. Even if you don’t want to tweet from your TV, Kit offers features that help you discover what friends are watching. The guide also provides recommendations based on a combination of personal preferences and activity in your social circle. Want to keep the social stuff limited to your iPad? Kit lets you do that too, offering a cross-platform application for browsing comments and background info on your lap, while leaving the main entertainment up on the big screen.

If my experience at the Cable-Tec Expo last fall is any indicator, lots of companies are getting into the TV guide business. And everyone is touting a combination of cloud-based technology, social content discovery, and new advertising opportunities. Kit Digital is no different, but it does have an appealing interface and some nice touches. I like the asynchronous commenting feature, and the ability to set up individual accounts in a household. Here’s a list of capabilities, as provided by Kit Digital lead analyst and loyal ZNF reader Alan Wolk.

Social Program Guide Features: Continue Reading…

The mobile TV service Dyle was originally scheduled to go live last year, but in a follow-up to its showcase at CES in January, Dyle’s Mobile Content Venture backers want us to know the service hasn’t lost its momentum. Dyle has added 17 more stations to its line-up and is planning for a 2012 launch. Rounding out the 70+ channels already on its roster, Dyle will now include new stations from Belo, Cox Media Group, Fox, Gannett Broadcasting, ION, Post-Newsweek, Meredith, Raycom, CBS Television and LIN Media.

Dyle is showing off its wares this week at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. In addition to announcing an expanded channel list, the company is also reportedly demonstrating its broadcast service on a new LG Android phone. At launch, Dyle says it will cover 35 markets and reach more than 55% of U.S. homes.

So what’s the real deal with Dyle? In short, the venture is designed to pick up where FLO TV left off. If all goes according to plan, Dyle will broadcast live news, sports and entertainment over the air to mobile devices. OTA means no carrier intervention and no data caps. However, it also means availability is subject to markets where the broadcast signal is strong enough. And we’re talking live video, no on-demand. Dyle also says it will launch as a free service, but it doesn’t promise to stay that way. Continue Reading…

Skitter and Aereo

They sound like bad comic book character names, but Skitter and Aereo are two of the latest companies to jump into the video service game. Instead of trying to offer premium content, however, the two start-ups are going old school. They’re both selling traditional broadcast content over the Internet and optionally combining it with a DVR. (Skitter’s DVR service hasn’t launched yet, but is in the works.) On the plus side, you get decent-quality transmission of the prime-time networks, access to TV across a bunch of connected devices, and all the benefits of being able to pause live television, fast forward through commercials, etc. On the minus side, you have to pay a chunk of change every month (around $12) for content that’s supposed to be free.

Whether you like the idea behind Skitter and Aereo or not, the fact that they exist (for now) is an interesting commentary on the state of television. Both companies are offering a very basic content package with a few extra goodies. It reminds of my household circa 2008 when we steadfastly held on to analog cable and combined it with a subscription-free ReplayTV DVR. Most of our TV watching was still focused on the major networks, but the ability to get ESPN and decent reception had us paying a monthly fee to Comcast. Fast forward to today and we pay a much larger monthly bill to Verizon for TV. Granted that bill includes HD channels, a FiOS DVR, VoD, and a much wider selection of linear content, but it’s still tough to stomach when the invoice clears are mailbox every four weeks.

And so Skitter and Aereo enter the scene. Continue Reading…

Now that most of industry’s original interactive TV companies are dead and gone, Comcast may be looking to revive the one thing those iTV enterprises promised above all else – a way to access the web on your TV.

FierceCable’s Steve Donahue uncovered a patent application today detailing how Comcast might enable web-based search engines and TV-based commerce on cable set-tops. In the application, Comcast also notes that it could link its iTV platform to content from other video service providers, potentially knocking down a wall or two around the cable garden landscape. From the patent application summary:

The present invention is directed to content searching of various databases in an interactive television network; caching programming for rebroadcasting to interactive television network subscribers; and interactively offering goods and services referred to in broadcast programming to interactive television network subscribers.

There are certainly plenty of roundabout ways to do a little web browsing on your living-room TV set today, but it’s hardly common practice. In fact, the main reason connected TVs are growing in popularity is not because people want to surf Facebook or play Angry Birds, but because they want access to more content on the biggest screens they own. Presumably, Comcast is using this latest patent application to further its own content ambitions – not just opening up access to other video services where necessary, but making its own growing library of on-demand content available on a platform with increased interface flexibility, access to new distribution channels, and greater room for continued content growth.

The new patent application also falls in line with Comcast’s Xcalibur initiative and its overall transition to IP-based television. Comcast is currently testing the Xcalibur service in Augusta, Georgia, and reportedly has an all-IP set-top – something that would pair nicely with a new iTV platform – on its product roadmap.

Free VOD is where it’s at. According to Comcast, 70% of the nearly half a billion video streams that subscribers watch on demand comes from the free section of its VOD library. And, leaving subscription fees aside, Comcast thinks that content should be bringing in cash. So get ready for more ads with Comcast VOD, and, quite likely, with every other cable operator.

At a Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News event yesterday, several cable and programmer folks got together to talk about “advanced” advertising. The term covers everything from interactive ads, to dynamic ad insertion, to cross-platform campaigns, but there was significant focus yesterday on VOD commercials. That’s because a cableco consortium known as Canoe recently ditched efforts to create a national platform for selling interactive ads, and instead decided to spend all of its resources on video on demand. (Canoe laid off 80% of its staff in the process too. Ouch.) With all of the flexibility on the web, the cable industry has been fighting to catch up in the advertising revenue game. Operators have all this premium, time-shiftable content, and yet with little ability rotate new ads in an out of on-demand programming, they’ve felt hamstrung. In 2012, they’re finally ready to do whatever it takes to change that. Continue Reading…

Aereo logo and antenna array

Fox network creator Barry Diller introduced a new over-the-top video service yesterday called Aereo. Many are already calling it dead in the water, but there are several reasons I’m more optimistic about Aereo than competitive OTT services launched in recent years.

To take a step back, Aereo is offering a service that delivers broadcast TV stations over IP and bundles them with a DVR. Stations are available on iOS and Roku devices, with Android, PC and Mac browser support scheduled to kick in by mid-March. The service is $12 a month, and is currently invitation-only in New York. Aereo will open up to the public in NYC on March 14th.

In order to be successful, Aereo will have to deliver stellar quality of service. These are free broadcast TV channels after all, which means people can use their own antennas to get the same content at no cost. However, in addition to the DVR add-on (which is pretty compelling in itself for today’s non-cable households), Aereo promises decent picture quality – no need to futz with antenna positioning or manipulate around dead zones. That’s a potential combination of DVR, picture quality and convenience. Not bad.

In addition, I think Aereo’s got a few other things going for it:  Continue Reading…

Dave threw the gauntlet down back in 2006(!) when he suggested the Xbox was a Trojan Horse, designed to be activated in the future as a central device in the connected living room. Today, that reality has, in many ways, come to pass. According to Microsoft exec Russ Axelrod, more than 20 million Xbox homes are connected to Xbox accounts, and of the total time users spend on their Xbox consoles, 44% is dedicated to non-gaming activities. Analyst firm SNL Kagan points out that in addition to those 20 million Xbox-connected homes, there are also 30 million homes in North America connected to PlayStation Network accounts. That’s 50 million households with connected game consoles. Not a shabby number considering there are roughly 120 million households across the entire US.

Yet despite the growth of connected platforms, the world of distributed entertainment is still limited, at least where TV is concerned. The Xbox can be used as a set-top, but Microsoft has shed its ambitions to become virtual MSO thanks to the high cost of content licensing. And while cable industry veteran Jeff Baumgartner thinks that change is coming, there are still a lot of messy battles to be fought where streaming rights are concerned. The soldiers have emerged, but the war for the connected living room is far from over. It may be several years yet before the victors are decided.