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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.

NimbleTV

NimbleTV is back in business. DISH Network cut off the streaming video service last month with a statement saying the company wasn’t an authorized Dish retailer. Now, FTABlog reports that customers in NimbleTV’s New York pilot market are slowly getting service back.

One of several TV Everywhere services on the market, NimbleTV offers its own business model twist. For $29.99/month, the company will transcode video from your pay-TV service and stream it back to you over the web with cloud-based DVR features. NimbleTV pays retransmission fees to content programmers, but does not have a formal relationship with any pay-TV operators. Instead, the company has informally paired up with Dish Network, and theoretically will do the same with other service providers in the future.

Things were fine and dandy for NimbleTV users until Dish cut off access to content in July. The service is returning now, but there are a couple of changes. First, all subscription charges for both NimbleTV and Dish service will be bundled together in one bill. Second, users have to provide a “New York Metropolitan Area address” in order to get access to local New York City channels. Of course, as FTABlog notes, “Did you know that the Empire State Building is at 350 5th Ave, 10118? Just sayin’.”

I’m still not convinced NimbleTV can make a go of its business, but it does count former Slinger Jason Hirschorn as one of its advisers. The company plans to expand beyond New York going forward to several other U.S. cities, and to select international markets.

Digital TV

The retransmission fight between CBS and Time Warner cable shows no sign of abating, but it is triggering some interesting discussions over how consumers and regulators should handle the standoff. Dave suggests that Time Warner subscribers pick up a Mohu Leaf antenna to amplify over-the-air CBS signals while cable access is cut off.

On the regulatory front, GigaOM points us to a blog post by Harold Feld, attorney and Legal Director for Public Knowledge. Among other suggestions, Feld recommends that the FCC should bar CBS from blocking Time Warner subscribers from accessing its content on CBS.com. The theory is that CBS can choose what programming it makes available online, but it can’t discriminate against a specific group of viewers.

Meanwhile, I’m left wondering why no one seems to bring up the obvious discussion point. Should we still have free TV? Broadcast networks now rely heavily on retransmission revenue, and that’s why negotiations with cable companies are such a big deal. But retrans fees trickle down to consumers, which means people are paying for free content just to get it through their cable provider. Is the idea of free TV dying out as business models evolve? More importantly, should we be trying to save it? Continue Reading…

tivo-social

Let’s face it, most social apps and interaction on television platforms are tedious silos… including TiVo’s very own Twitter app that launched on Virgin Media in 2011. However, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers has communicated that family and friends will “soon” be able to share viewing recommendations. And we wonder if, instead of managing this through a television UI, it’d be handled via the so-called “second screen.” A number of clues indicate that may be the case… Beyond TiVo’s upcoming TV Everywhere portal, a commissioned tivo.com redesign concept by Haraldur Thorleifsson and hosted on Dribbble includes a Friends tab indicating “TiVo is social. See what your friends are watching.” Of course, this text is most likely a placeholder. Yet, likely indicative of what TiVo’s been percolating. Indeed, TiVo Director Evan Young conveyed at the 2nd Screen CES Summit that the company has been researching things like user profiles, yet is taking a thoughtful approach – intending to add value in a non-creepy manner.

Nielsen: Understanding The Two-Way Causal Influence Between Twitter Activity and TV Viewership

tv-twitter-relationship

slingbox-share

Since we haven’t actually gotten around to an in-depth review of the newer HD Slingboxes or covered the current state of Sling’s webplayer (that has essentially replaced Mac and PC desktop software), we figured we should at least touch on this little nugget that Engadget turned up. In years and devices past, sharing one’s Slingbox meant sharing a password. But Sling has never shied away controversy, despite network and studio protest, and has revised sharing capabilities with individual, revocable tokens. The Slingbox viewing experience remains one-to-one and invites have been distributed by email address via the Sling.com portal. What’s new this week for Slingbox 350 and 500 owners is Facebook sharing which potentially reduces friction and provides Sling an opportunity to advertise post to your wall (with your permission). Accepting an invite sends guests directly to Sling’s portal, and this isn’t related the possibly discontinued Facebook SlingPlayer introduced in 2011.