Archives For Video

appletv-espn

After three years of effectively, if not contractually, providing exclusive ESPN360 ESPN3 WatchESPN set-top box access, the Xbox 360 gains a competitor in the Apple TV ($99) today. Further, as revealed to us at the Cable Show, HBO GO has also made an Apple TV app appearance. However, unlike the Xbox 360 or forthcoming media-centric Xbox One, Apple doesn’t require an annual fee to access compelling online content. And Comcast seems to like Apple a whole lot more than Roku, as they’re permitting HBO GO aTV authentication for their subscribers.

activevideo

ActiveVideo has been on a tear lately, having recently expanded “CloudTV” distribution with Cablevision, Charter, and Roku. The ActiveVideo value prop:

CloudTV’s “write-once deploy-everywhere” content environment eliminates the dependency on consumer device resources that has fragmented user experiences and limited the reach of “TV Everywhere”-type services. Using CloudTV to render the user interface in the cloud, service providers, content providers and content aggregators can offer rich, consistent user experiences and applications across existing and new STBs, as well as consumers’ existing CE hardware.

Where it potentially gets interesting for TiVo followers are a few comments from FierceCable’s Charter coverage:

Charter said it plans to conduct a market trial of CloudTV in an unidentified cable system. […] Charter CEO Tom Rutledge has told analysts in recent months that the MSO is working with TiVo on new user interfaces. ActiveVideo SVP and Chief Marketing Officer Murali Nemani said he couldn’t comment on Charter’s talks with TiVo. But he told FierceCable that ActiveVideo can support the TiVo program guide running on operators’ existing set-tops.

Last year, Charter dropped TiVo Premiere hardware for an unidentified “next-generation platform” that might still leverage the TiVo experience and we wonder who’s helping power TiVo’s upcoming Com Hem IPTV initiative. Surely these upcoming services are bound to be a vast improvement over the discontinued Best Buy TiVo TV and ActiveVideo has indicated that we’ll “be able to see how [they] are supporting TiVo” at the Cable Show next week. Stay tuned. Continue Reading…

fios-home-screen

I admit I was somewhat confuzzled when I first read Verizon’s FiOS TV email outreach. As, likely, you were while scanning this headline. Although “home page” is typically associated with the web browser, Verizon has co-opt the term to describe their newly minted FiOS TV welcome screen.

The FiOS TV Home Page is a screen on your TV that will appear each time you turn on your Set Top box. After you have finished exploring the FiOS TV Home Page, getting to live TV is easy. Either press the “Exit” button on your FiOS TV remote control or wait 15 seconds and you will see the last channel you viewed.

I assume the objective here is more branding reinforcement and VOD or service up-sell rather than useful-new-customer-centric-feature. However, the presentation is attractive and can be quickly cleared if one so chooses. And we suspect this is the way the industry is moving, given my TiVo Mini‘s initial menu screen (after the television has been off awhile) and Roku’s content curation objectives.

FanTV

Fanhattan has just announced their dramatic transformation from web service into living room set-top.

Fan TV is our answer to the future of TV and our vision – to make engaging with your favorite movies and shows simpler and more magical – realized. Fan TV brings your entertainment life together in one place: Live TV, cloud DVR, and streaming.

Based on the press release and seemingly conflicting coverage, it’s not quite clear if this well-rounded streamer (both figuratively and literally) will be distributed through retail channels or in partnership with service providers. Or perhaps they’re contemplating a hybrid approach as Boxee (via Comcast) and TiVo (via CableCARD) are pursuing. Regardless, we may not find out until later this year when the Yves Béhar-designed, Android-powered Fan TV arrives. And hopefully their fortunes will be more Roku than ZillionTV.

On the design front, the Fan TV sales pitch (embedded below) is mostly compelling with attractive hardware and a pleasant interface – comprised of both live television and video streaming. But, I wonder if their position on the form-versus-function spectrum is out of whack with what looks to be a 100% touch-based remote. The ill-fated Sezmi design decision to do away with numeric buttons wasn’t well received and I found GlideTV unnatural and limiting. But we’ll be ready to take a look with an open mind once Fan TV launches. Stay tuned. Continue Reading…

Content plus data bundle

ESPN is considering it. AT&T has discussed it. And now Verizon is jumping on the bandwagon.

At a financial conference yesterday, Verizon EVP and CFO Fran Shammo stated explicitly that we’re likely to see content and wireless data delivery bundled together from certain content providers. In other words, a network like ESPN would cover the cost of video delivery so that users could stream to their hearts’ content without going over mobile data caps.

From the transcript of yesterday’s conference:

So I think you are going to see this ecosystem change, you are going to see some content provider say I’m willing to pay for the content, don’t charge the consumer and when we developed LTE, we developed LTE and our billing system with the capability to segregate that traffic if someone else wants to pay for it.

Now Shammo wants to be clear that this isn’t a net neutrality issue.

Net neutrality is around prioritizing the delivery of content, that’s not what we are talking about, content will be delivered equally across the network. This is just a matter of who pays for the delivery of that content, and I think you are going to see that change and that’s going to open up what can be done on a more seamless basis.

However, by adding in delivery costs, a network like ESPN would be making it harder for smaller content guys without ready capital to compete. Welcome to the world of new media kingpins.

samsung-smartmediaplayer

Just when you thought the FCC and Charter had put the final nail in CableCARD’s coffin, Samsung reveals plans to produce a hybrid cable+OTT set-top box for a fall 2013 launch. Assuming the FCC gets around to granting TiVo’s analog tuner waiver request in a timely fashion.

Smart Media Player, an innovative product with a compelling consumer value proposition based upon seamless integration of desirable services and reduction of monthly cable equipment rental fees. Smart Media Player will access unidirectional (not interactive) linear cable content through a CableCARD, connect to interactive, over-the-top services and Internet content through the consumer’s broadband Internet subscription, provide a free electronic program guide, and offer a seamless, integrated Samsung user interface.

samsung-cablecard

Of course, given CableCARD’s history, most CE companies threw in the towel long ago — with manufacturers like Sony, LG, and Panasonic abandoning the technology (to the presumed delight of cable operators). So it’s refreshing to see Samsung take a flier on this previously poorly supported tech in producing a convergence device that liberates consumers from inferior cable set-tops (video below). And it’s exactly the kind of cable box I’d like in my clutter-free kitchen, with access to Netflix, YouTube, and DLNA apps. But with the FCC giving Charter a pass on CableCARD support, we wonder if Samsung should even bother at this point. Perhaps they’re counting on logic to prevail, as both the CEA and TiVo have lodged protests against the bungled decision:

The Bureau’s Order, like the Charter Request, deals in assumptions and hopes rather than in facts. The Commission cannot let stand this nullification of law and regulation, without process or public comment.

Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward joins ZNF as a Features contributor. Beyond ZNF, Joel can be found at Joel Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

We at the Ward household like trying new things—or at least my wife and kids tolerate me periodically tinkering with our home computing, entertainment, and networking configurations. Entertainment-wise, we’ve been using Roku for years and enjoy the Verizon FiOS TV DVR system quite a bit. Back in the day, before Verizon and HDTV, we enjoyed our networked ReplayTV DVRs and Netflix DVD subscription. So we’ve appreciated time-shifted TV and renting/streaming video for a long time.

Recently we got the opportunity to test out the Boxee Cloud DVR thanks to Zatz Not Funny’s very own Dave Zatz. I ended up replacing our living room Roku with the Boxee so we could get some real-life experience, including input from the kids who are the primary users of the now-removed Roku. We didn’t replace the FiOS cable box, mainly because we rely on a myriad of cable channels that the Boxee can’t yet support. But that’s a discussion for a little later.

Boxee Cloud DVR hardware

The Boxee Cloud DVR ($99) is a standalone device that has the following features: ATSC over-the-air (OTA) and Clear QAM cable tuner, the “cloud” digital video recorder (DVR) for OTA channels, and a small selection of network and online services.

After using the Boxee for a few weeks, Continue Reading…