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In one very big, but very early battle between start-up Aereo and its broadcast TV opponents, a judge ruled yesterday that the hybrid TV service provider is not violating copyright law and can continue to operate without paying retransmission fees. The judge denied broadcasters’ request for a preliminatry injunction by noting that:

  1. Aereo uses a separate antenna for each broadcast signal it receives and redistributes,
  2. The programming that Aereo stores is not materially different from the content Cablevision stores with its Remote Storage DVR service.

There is a huge amount of money at stake with the Aereo lawsuit because of the growing importance of retransmission fees in broadcaster revenue models. While over-the-air networks used to bring in the bulk of their money from advertising, they now rely heavily on the fees paid by pay-TV providers to retransmit their content. Aereo threatens that revenue stream by sidestepping licensing deals, taking advantage of free OTA signals, and then converting broadcast programs into IP in order to stream them to paying subscribers.

You can bet there will be appeals on the Aereo decision, but in the meantime, the company has demonstrated it has some legal ground to stand on, and that means it can further explore how much interest there is from consumers in a hybrid OTA/OTT service.

Speaking of hybrid services, I’ve written before about Aereo counterparts Skitter and NimbleTV. But I also had a chance to talk recently with the CEO of Entone, which has its own model for hybrid TV delivery. Entone itself is a topic for a much longer post, but for now suffice it to say that there are a lot of companies testing out the market for hybrid TV. Whether Aereo ultimately wins its legal battles or not, it looks like we’re only at the beginning of a new wave of pay-TV services. We’re up to four new players, and counting…

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“Netflix for Magazines” has arrived in the form of Next Issue. Originally available only via Android tablets beginning in April, Next Issue has now launched an iPad app. And, after catching the press release on Engadget, I took it for a very quick spin. While the venture, backed by Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc., provide individual magazine subscriptions, its real value is the all-you-can eat access. Two tiers of service are offerred, running $10 a month for “Basic” or $15/mo for “Premium.” The primary differentiator between service levels of publication frequency — Basic seems to be composed of monthlies, while Premium adds weeklies (and The New Yoker) on top of that.

As a voracious reader, I find myself quite interested in Next Issue and many of their current 39 titles… as long as magazines continue to exist. Yet, after a few minutes into the app, I’m ready to cancel my subscription. It does offer some rudimentary interactive features and decent navigation, but the content ultimately feels like scanned pages due to the inability to zoom in/out and the painfully distracting aliased text – as experienced on the iPad 3. The full page interstitial ads don’t win points, either. I can probably get past the ads and zoom, but the awful text rendering is an absolute deal breaker. And, so, I shall terminate my trial early and take another look if/when they improve their fonts for a retina display.

While we’re still a few months away from launch, the Redbox-Verizon collaboration intended to take on Netflix video streaming is seriously ramping up staffing — with the companies advertising several dozen job openings in multiple states:

The Verizon-Redbox JV brings together two innovative companies known for creating brands that customers trust and products consumers want. With immediate DVD and Blu-ray rental through Redbox and instant broadband content from Verizon, we’ll be uniquely positioned to deliver the best of both worlds – physical and digital – to all consumers nationwide. We’ll make it easy for everyone to access and enjoy the entertainment they want to see, using any providers’ mobile or home broadband service – anytime, anywhere. Working at the Verizon-Redbox Joint Venture means you can enjoy the freedom and creativity of a start-up business with the resources of two recognized, established companies

Additionally, as deployment approaches, Fierce Wireless has uncovered a new Redbox logo trademark (above left).

Continue Reading…

NDS Surfaces 3

By far my favorite thing at the Cable Show this year has been the NDS concept demo of Surfaces, a next-gen TV experience that puts video on the walls around you. The theory from NDS – a set-top and video software company out of the UK – is that TV doesn’t have to fit into a TV set. Instead, it can be overlaid on modular panels that give you the flexibility to see video in different sizes and combine it with other information and associated content.

In the demo I saw yesterday, NDS showed everything from TV clips to music playlists, news feeds and a baby monitor “live” stream. The demo was controlled from an iPad, but all of the content appeared on the wall in front of us in a variety of layouts. For example, one moment we were watching a movie across an entire wall of seamlessly connected screens, but the next we were interacting with a mosaic of widgets that pushed TV content to a much smaller window off to the side of the viewing area.

NDS also showed off 4K-resolution video on the wall-sized display. (Sourced from YouTube, by the way…) Words don’t do it justice, and unfortunately neither does the photo I took with my cheap point-and-shoot camera. However, suffice it to say, the effect is stunning. Continue Reading…

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Forget net neutrality. Comcast has some new shiny objects for your attention. And here’s the latest news:

  • Comcast is launching Xfinity TV on the X1 platform. Translated, that means the IP-based Xcalibur platform is storming to life in Boston after extended trials in August, Georgia. Roll out will begin in Boston “in the coming weeks” with several major markets to follow in 2012.
  • There’s a new X1 Remote Control App coming. Comcast says it will let you swipe your touch screen to control your TV, and allow you to create personalized shortcuts favorites. Imagery looks pedestrian.
  • Comcast is introducing “Dayview.” This one’s still in project codename territory, but the theory here is a unified interface that works across TVs, laptops, smartphones and tablets – something akin to a Today homescreen.

Project-Dayview-home-screen

Stay tuned for some analysis on Comcast’s announcement.

The phrase “net neutrality” is a seriously loaded term, which is why Comcast has to be so irritated that it’s once again part of the lexicon as we head into this week’s Cable Show. In case you haven’t been following along, the latest dust-up started when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings raised objections on Facebook over Comcast’s Xfinity app on the Microsoft Xbox. The Xfinity app is delivered over Comcast’s “managed IP network” and, unlike with other over-the-top (OTT) services, video streamed over the app doesn’t count toward broadband usage caps.

Then Sony vice president Michael Aragon jumped with his own cap complaints. He went on the record to say that Sony was postponing its plans to enter the video service market precisely because of the bandwidth cap issue.

Fast forward to today, and we now have a virtual war going on between Comcast, and, well, the rest of the world. Just as the Cable Show starts up – and the government crowd pours into Boston for the event – Comcast finds itself fighting on three fronts. Continue Reading…

better-queue

Having problems finding winners on Netflix? A Better Queue just launched which hopes to improve your experience by linking Rotten Tomatos meta movie rankings to Netfix streaming inventory. Unfortunately, it proves what we already know – there aren’t many recent, mainstream hit movies available for just $7.99/month. But A Better Queue, which doesn’t actually connect to your “queue,” might help surface more obscure, independent, or foreign fare you may not have otherwise easily found.

After taking it for a quick spin this AM… I went ahead and cancelled my Netflix account. I’m sure I’ll return as I always do. Yet, in the interim I’ll attempt to find enjoyment from my Amazon Prime Instant streaming “gift” and, once again, spend some quality time with physical media given recent streaming frustrations. Also, I continue to contemplate a TiVo Premiere XL4 — adding more tuners and drive space to preemptively record more of what I seem to end up buying after the fact via Amazon.

(via The Verge