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Jinni interface

We first heard that Microsoft was licensing Jinni’s video search and discovery technology back in 2011. Now, however, the two companies have made their intentions official. Jinni says it has signed a multi-year agreement to power the recommendation engine on “Xbox video game and entertainment systems.” The news comes less than three months before the scheduled launch of the Xbox One.

Jinni has been on a tear this year. The company signed up Time Warner and Vudu as customers back in January, and I discovered in June that Jinni will also be embedded in the upcoming Comcast X2 interface.

Recommendation engines are big business, and there are a lot of companies vying for licensing deals in the TV space. Jinni’s technology uses not only standard content metadata, but also data tags that describe qualities like mood and style for different entertainment titles. Jinni’s machine-learning system processes all of that data and uses it to recommend new content that viewers might like.

Says Dave Alles of Microsoft, “Our goal is to make it effortless to get you to entertainment you’ll truly love. Pairing Jinni’s Entertainment Genome with other key advances such as Conversational Understanding, makes finding something to watch on Xbox as fun as watching it.”

Apple TV with iOS 7

Everyone’s on the lookout for the debut of iOS 7 at Apple’s big press conference scheduled for next week. But GigaOM is reporting that, based on available shipping data from an analytics company called Panjiva, a new Apple TV set-top may also be in the cards.

According to the report, Apple received shipments labeled “Set Top Box with Communication Function” from a company called BYD Precision Manufacture based in Shenzhen, China on August 11th, 18th, and 25th. Panjiva is postulating that since Apple’s last set-top shipment was from a different company, Hon Hai, these latest devices are a new product altogether.

Aside from the timing of the set-top shipments, some of the new features in Apple’s mobile OS update also tie nicely with the idea of an upgraded TV product. For one thing, Apple will support device-to-device connections in iOS 7, which would allow a set-top to communicate directly with other gadgets (including gaming controllers!) without the need for an Internet connection. Continue Reading…

ACC Digital Network Roku ads

No one was more excited than I to see that the ACC Digital Network had created a Roku channel. And my excitement lasted just long enough to download the channel and fire up highlights of former Duke basketball player Mike Dunleavy. Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ended.

Where to start? With the video quality? Horrific. How about the overall selection of clips? Lame. And then there’s my favorite: the advertising.

You see, the ACC Digital Network has partnered with a company called adRise, which describes itself as “the largest content distribution and advertising monetization engine for streaming and connected TV devices.” The “monetization engine” throws up an advertisement before every single clip available on the ACC channel. It doesn’t matter if the clip is 30 seconds, or if you exited out of a clip and are trying to return to resume play. There’s an ad. And not just any ad, but the same ad, over and over and over. (Thanks, Progressive lady.)

It’s 2013. Streaming video companies should know by now not to over-saturate content with pre-roll ads, or to stock only a single commercial in the ad inventory. That’s not monetization. It’s scaring your audience away.

In good news, however, the ACC network says it plans to expand from the Roku to other streaming boxes and smart TV platforms. I can’t wait.

tivo-video-portal

Thanks to TiVo’s recent site refresh, a few interesting items have been surfaced, including an Operator-Branded Web Portal PDF. Of course, we’ve long known TiVo has been prepping this cable company “TV Everywhere” offering and even shot some video of it in action (embedded below) at the Cable Show. And given that particular development site appears to have been redirected to a RCN URL, we can’t help but wonder if launch is imminent. From TiVo’s pitch, the web portal offers:

  • What to Watch (recommended shows)
  • Search across TV, operator VOD and OTT content – and get integrated results on what you’re looking for
  • Schedule and manage recordings and ongoing
  • Season Pass recordings on your TiVo DVR even away from home
  • Grid Guide with up to 14 days of programming

Continue Reading…

Chromecast set-up 3

I spent more time playing with Chromecast this weekend while also contemplating the ongoing CBS blackout for Time Warner subscribers. At the moment, CBS is also blocking access to its shows on CBS.com for TWC subs. However, there is some legal argument that the network shouldn’t be able to discriminate against a specific set of viewers online. If that notion ever gains traction, then online access could be a viable alternative to watching CBS on cable.

Which led me to test out streaming from the CBS website. With Chromecast.

The good news is that casting the CBS stream to your TV is extremely easy. Switch TV inputs, open up CBS in your Chrome browser, click the Google Cast button, and you’re good to go. The bad news is that the video quality is atrocious. I’m not a pixel snob, but I was on the verge of getting nauseous trying to watch the disjointed playback. Continue Reading…

Playtime! Chromecast at Home

Mari Silbey —  August 23, 2013

Chromecast set-up 1

I have barely scratched the surface of what Chromecast can do (although Janko has a lengthy review), and already I love it. Here are a few things I’ve learned from laptop streaming only. More experimentation to come with smartphones and iPads.

Lessons Learned

1. Set-up is extremely fast and easy. I know it’s already been said by others, but it bears repeating. I plugged the stick into my TV, navigated to the Chromecast set-up page on my laptop browser, typed in the code listed on my TV screen, gave my Chromecast a name, and that was it. The only hiccup I ran into was that my laptop briefly disconnected from my wireless network during set-up. Once I reconnected it, Chromecast worked instantly. Continue Reading…

WatchESPN iPad app with Live Toolbar
Remember when ESPN’s Damon Philips promised a summer update for the WatchESPN app? Well, it was no lie. The company released an upgraded version of the app today for all iOS users, and added an extra bonus for iPad owners with the launch of the ESPN Live Toolbar feature.

According to the app store, the new toolbar includes:

- Live TV Lineup: See what’s on ESPN’s networks and switch to additional ESPN programming without exiting the video.
– Scores: Follow additional games while watching your game on ESPN. Launch video highlights at the conclusion of an event (where available).
– Top Videos: Watch multiple things at once! Keep up with the latest news and highlights right alongside the live ESPN programming you’re watching. Rotate your device while watching two videos.

ESPN’s not done either. In the preview demo we got back at The Cable Show in June, Mr. Phillips said more feature updates would follow the initial upgrade. In the future, for example, users will be able to create preferences in the app to get select information and video clips from specific sports team queued up in the toolbar.

In other good news, ESPN programming that airs on ABC will now also be included within the WatchESPN app. AND, the company has made the app free to college students and military personnel. Brilliant.