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In case you haven’t heard, Netflix is proudly trumpeting the arrival of banner ads. While this might please stock holders, I’m not sure how much value advertising clutter affords the typical customer. In fact, on my 1024×768 laptop the new banner ad for Sony’s Monster House combined with the Netflix Father’s Day promotion fills nearly 50% of Firefox with crap.

Personally, I find this development at odds with CEO Reed Hastings’s recent comment to Business Week: “We think the differentiator will be this incredible Web site.” Plastering Netflix.com with banner ads is not incredible and certainly doesn’t differentiate you. Actually, it does differentiate you from most pay services which are banner-free — web advertising has largely been the domain of free online services (such as yours truly).

With that in mind, I wrote Netflix customer service hoping to broker a deal. I told them as a paying customer, I’d rather not see third-party advertising. Assuming they would choose Sony’s deep pockets over my relatively shallow ones, I also offered a compromise of having Netflix lower my monthly fee by 25 cents for every banner ad I’m served. Customer service rep Crystal responded, “We understand your concerns with advertisements on the Netflix site. These advertisements are designed to enhance customer experience with content that appeals to our members’ movie tastes and cannot be removed from your individual site experience.” Sadly, she didn’t respond to my almost-revolutionary advertising model.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a huge deal (more like a slightly disturbing, though not entirely unexpected, development)… However, someone should call them on it and I nominated myself. ;)

Been thinking about getting a Slingbox? Is $100 off retail enough to force your hand? If you’re game, add the $199 Slingbox to your cart and then use code DISH2006 for another $50 off.

(via Gizmodo)

Never enough time…

  • Netflix talks small film distribution and movie downloads. (Business Week)
  • Echostar, DirecTV, and WildBlue team for satellite broadband service. (CNET)
  • Connecticut gives IPTV thumbs up. (GigaOM)
  • What Netflix could teach Hollywood. (NY Times)
  • Kenya and Uganda get PVR in time for World Cup. (All Africa)

smugmug.jpgValleywag reports photo-sharing site SmugMug has received a cease and desist letter from TiVo in regards to their usage of thumbs up/down functionality and/or graphics. CEO Don MacAskill claims SmugMug is not in violation of TiVo’s trademarks as they aren’t using the symbols in an interactive television application. MacAskill suggests TiVo’s legal department will be rather busy if they start going after the likes of Digg and every other thumbs up/down ranking system. Without being privy to the letter, I’m not ready to pass judgment either way… Though I have to ask: What would Fonzie do?

A few retailers have begun offering TiVo’s 180HR dual-tuning Series 2 model for online purchase. So if you’ve been pining away for KidZone, now may be a good time to get in. The 80HR DT units can be purchased directly from TiVo with bundled pricing, or bought outright through Costco ($319) or Best Buy ($349) minus the $150 rebate. Amazon, Buy.com, and Circuit City don’t have the boxes in stock yet. Don’t forget that all TiVo activations require a 1 year commitment, though they also come with a 30 day money-back guarantee.

FYI The dual-tuning models work best in homes using analog cable without a cable box and it doesn’t work at all with satellite installations or even plain antennas. Consider yourself warned. ;)

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Google has developed a system that uses a PC microphone to eavesdrop on a co-located television. “Big Brother” determines what you’re watching to present relevant web information, social applications, and more targeted advertising… that you can’t quite see from the couch, anyway. Monitoring TV viewing habits actually seems less invasive than archiving search data (in the event of any DOJ subpoenas) as long as you use pseudonyms around the house.

Google says: We showed how to sample the ambient sound emitted from a TV and automatically determine what is being watched from a small signature of the sound — all with complete privacy and minuscule effort. The system could keep up with users while they channel surf, presenting them with a real-time forum about a live political debate one minute and an ad-hoc chat room for a sporting event in the next. And, all of this would be done without users ever having to type or to even know the name of the program or channel being viewed.

(Thanks, Todd B!)

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Those of you with Series2 units… go sign up for system software 7.3! Expect up to three days before TiVo peeps manually load your priority request. The major enhancement is the release of KidZone, a feature adding a managed and insulated partition for children. Kudos to TiVo for delivering on time — several months ago Bob Poniatowski assured me that KZ would be released in June and here we are.

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Only TiVo offers TiVo® KidZone so you’ll never be surprised by what your kids are watching. And, it’s all included as part of the TiVo service. By signing up for the TiVo KidZone priority list, you will ensure that you are one of the first families to receive TiVo KidZone as soon as it’s available in our next service update.

TiVo KidZone creates a child-friendly environment on your TiVo® DVR. In
KidZone, only age-appropriate channels and recordings are available. Children cannot set up new recordings or change any settings on the DVR. On DVRs that are equipped with a DVD player, children cannot play DVDs in KidZone.

UPDATE: If you signed up earlier today, you should be able to update your TiVo to 7.3 by forcing a connection. Check out TiVo’s KidZone Quick Start PDF for an overview. If you have a broadband connected TiVo you can choose and modify programming selections via your Series 2, otherwise you’ll manage recording options online. In addition to KZ, you’ll find a nice little enhancement to quickly delete multiple recordings without waiting for individual confirmation. I also noticed many graphical network logos have been pushed down, though that might be independent of 7.3.