Archives For Video

hulu-desktop

Amidst Hulu’s identity crisis, their Windows and Mac Hulu Desktop software has gone missing. First introduced in 2009, these apps provided another means of video playback… with the benefit of Apple and Microsoft Media Center remote control support. But they unceremoniously vanished from the web several weeks back, along with all of Hulu Labs. A Hulu support rep indicates they are “investigating the matter” (huh?) and “hope to make the link available again soon.” With no further information beyond guidance for “users to stream off the website” and “soon” having coming and gone, we’re left to wonder if Hulu has pulled the plug on this method of video consumption. Not that we care all that much, having mostly avoided the service since being accosted with two-minute Scientology commercials.

(Thanks Brad!)

Hillcrest HoME TV UI 1

Hillcrest Labs stopped working on its HoME interface for smart TVs close to seven years ago. And yet the UI is still better than most you’ll see on the market today.

I stopped by the Hillcrest Labs HQ earlier this month, and, as part of the visit, got a full demo walk-through of HoME. The reference TV UI includes web apps, movie cover art, a beautiful zooming motion, and easy drill-down options for content discovery across TV and personal media. Kodak used the design in its Kodak Theatre HD player, but unfortunately that product launched in 2008… just before the financial crash, and just as Kodak was starting to slide into bankruptcy.

The HoME interface isn’t used anywhere today, and Hillcrest has decided to back-burner the technology. However, the company still holds numerous patents in the space. While Hillcrest execs have turned their focus to motion-sensing software (more on that another time), they also aren’t closing the door on future TV UI development efforts. HoME could make a return someday.

Hillcrest HoME TV UI 6

In the meantime, check out another photo from my Hillcrest visit. My favorite is the photo library from CES 2005. That happens to be the first year I ever made it out to the Vegas show. Bill Gates was keynoting, and the Ojo video phone was making its rounds. Good times.

PopcornFlix on Sony

The free, ad-supported Popcornflix movie service is coming to Sony’s connected Bravia TVs and Blu-ray devices. Already available on Roku and Boxee, Popcornflix draws from the movie catalog of its parent company Screen Media Ventures. This is no Netflix alternative, and you won’t find recent movie hits available for free. However, Popcornflix reportedly has a library of more than 650 films, and it’s adding more each month. The service was already available on both Roku and Boxee boxes.
Although I admit my tastes are probably too mainstream for most of the movies on Popcornflix (or at least I don’t have the mental energy to search for something I’d like), I do find it interesting to see a content company pursuing direct distribution. This isn’t necessarily a viable solution for many studios who have other types of revenue models in place, but it does suggest that there is a level at which direct distribution works beyond one-off productions like the upcoming Kickstarter-funded Veronica Mars movie. Last June GigaOM reported that Popcornflix was behind only the big guys like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix in number of Roku downloads. The fact that distribution is expanding suggests the revenue stream is worthwhile.

Related- Remember when Sony was considering its own virtual MSO last year? It looks like the company is hoping to add to its content stores in other ways now.

Continue Reading…

WD TV Play Review

Dave Zatz —  February 22, 2013

There’s something of a glut in the media streamer space, with most new entrants falling into the “unmemorable” category — and we regularly pass on covering the parade of derivative boxes. However, Western Digital’s no stranger to this market and we’ve often recommended their solutions over the years. And, with WDTV Play, they bring a compelling new approach… along with competitive pricing ($70).

wdtv-play

Whereas prior WD TV revs seem to emphasize personal media, the new WD TV Play prioritizes streaming media services. And, with the notable exceptions of Amazon Instant, Western Digital pretty much has most of the tent pole apps covered: Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Vudu. While no one can really touch Roku in “channel” count, there’s a lot of crap niche programming. WDTV Play may have fewer channels, but the signal to noise ratio is much more favorable.

What really sets this device apart Continue Reading…

roku2-epix-aolhd

A random web search turned me on to some interesting Roku job openings, emphasizing content relationships and recommendations. Individually, maybe they’re not so compelling. But from a holistic standpoint, perhaps these new positions shed a bit of light on Roku’s ambitions and decision to turn down an Amazon acquisition in favor of additional funding.

The first role is Roku Programming Director… to be located in Los Angeles. Which, of course, much of the content industry calls home. “The Director will survey the landscape of available content, plans and strategies” to assist “business development prioritize content acquisition efforts. ” Hm. By comparison, the Content Programming Manager will be based at Roku’s Nothern California headquarters and will basically function as a full-time recommendation engine: Continue Reading…

Making The Case For Aereo

Dave Zatz —  January 19, 2013

aereo-verge

My Twitter pal Michael Turk, whose name you may recognize from a tenure at the NCTA, recently wrote up his disdain for Aereo:

You know what is 100% free and doesn’t require any payment to the cable industry? Broadcast TV. This guy is suggesting people pay money every month – albeit to a different company – to watch something that is broadcast OVER THE AIR. [...] if all you are watching are broadcast channels, you certainly don’t need to be paying Aereo or anyone else for it.

While Turk makes some reasonable points regarding onerous retransmission fees and Aereo’s legal challenges, there’s way more to the service than basic access to broadcast channels. $8/month grants you access to two micro antennas and 20 hours of cloud DVR storage space (or $12 for 40hrs). So not only does Aereo provide “live” broadcast television, but you can schedule season passes and the like. Further, you’re not confined to a television and set-top box in your home as Aereo pretty much allows you to watch your live and recorded television programming via any modern browser… including the ones found on our smartphones and tablets. Continue Reading…

neotv-slingbox

Among Sling Media and Netgear’s various CES announcements is news that Slingbox streaming is coming to the NeoTV line of streamers. Of course, we’d probably expect a repurposing of the original Flash-based Logitech Revue SlingPlayer for the new (and slightly bulkier) NeoTV Prime running Google TV. But the more Roku-esque models, including the NeoTV MAX we reviewed, will also receive dedicated apps – perhaps as soon as next week. So, for the first time, you can get your hands on a “SlingCatcher” for as little as 50 bucks and stream your Slingbox content to another television in your home… or perhaps to a set in the ski lodge, given sufficient bandwidth. Of course the follow-on question is, “Where’s the Roku client?” And while Sling reps weren’t prepared to elaborate, I get the sense there are both technical and business considerations at play.