TiVo Said to Be in Merger Talks With Rovi

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Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  March 23, 2016

A periodic roundup of relevant news…

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Unlock The Box?

Dave Zatz —  March 22, 2016

After years of fits and starts, we finally find ourselves on the cusp of a CableCARD successor as the FCC has proposed the pay television industry “unlock the box”– providing customers broader access to programming via hardware and experiences of their choosing.

As a long-time industry observer, I’ve found much of the press coverage unsatisfying – marred by a lack of situational awareness and heavily influenced by lobbying groups on all sides. Sadly, as a blog hobbyist (with a new baby), I can’t give you the polished 4000 words this topic demands. But I can provide one man’s rough yet somewhat educated and largely unbiased opinion, both textually below and via the new LPX Show podcast embedded right here – along with my pals Brad Linder and Mari Silbey.

A Very Brief Primer Continue Reading…

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Woot’s offering up a new, not refurb, 3rd generation Nest learning thermostat for $50 off retail at $200. I much prefer ecobee3, but this is a decent value if you happen to be in the market…

After about a year of limited geographical release, Sony has slimmed down their Playstation Vue over-the-top (OTT) television streaming service to accommodate nationwide availability. Specifically, to get this done, the new packages do away with the locals (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) as those require market-by-market negotiation due to affiliate forces.

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Sling TV, the leader in this space, starts at $20 a month, whereas Vue clocks in at $30/mo. However, that extra $10 gets you about twice as many channels – above and beyond some of Sling’s $5 add-on packs, including FX, Fox News, and three tiers of Nickelodeon. Further, Sony provides a pseudo-DVR service in retaining favorited shows 28 days for later viewing. Perhaps most compelling, while Sling TV is still restricted to a single stream at any given moment, Vue allows up to five concurrent streams to televisions with Amazon Fire TV – since many households have multiple residents and viewing areas. Yet, on the client side of things, Sling TV is available on more platforms including Android and the possibly ubiquitous Roku. As to interface and reliability, it seems both services have their work cut out of them…

Continue Reading…

TiVo’s always had a bit of a marketing problem. Yet it’s not exactly clear if it’s because their value proposition is difficult to communicate (possibly) or their efforts are misguided (definitely) or a bit of both (likely). But it’s deliciously ironic that they’ve announced they’re dialing back their advertising spend … the very same month their research unit indicates a negative impact on brand awareness and sales. Skate to where the puck will never be?

From Broadcasting & Cable:

Cutting TV ad spending led to much lower sales for most of the marketers included in a new study. […] For every dollar cut from the TV budget, sales fell $3 dollars, the research found. Return on investment dropped as well. The average marketer reduced its ad budget by $3.1 million, resulting in lost sales of $8.6 million. […] In terms of other marketing goals, the companies that cut their ad spending reached fewer potential customers.

From TiVo’s quarterly call:

And then on the consumer side, we are going to be investing less in the Marketing of consumer.

Via Cordcutters News, we learn that Roku, Inc has been replacing defective streaming hardware:

Thank you for your recent purchase of a Roku 4, the newest addition to our line of streaming players. We are getting in touch after discovering a manufacturing glitch with a small number of Roku 4 players. We identified your Roku 4 player as potentially among this group, and as a result would like to replace it to avoid any potential issues that would impact your use and enjoyment.

While Roku hasn’t indicated what exactly the “glitch” is, and Cordcutter News hasn’t speculated, I assume it’s heat-related given multiple reports of units with noisy fans (and at least one that melted). As the recall has been going on for several months, with new outreach this week, I suspect Roku was unable or unwilling to pull the impacted batch from shelves — so, as boxes come online, the company contacts registered owners to arrange swap. By comparison, Amazon’s 4k Fire TV must run cooler, as it was engineered to dissipate heat without requiring a fan.

Amazon has unveiled two new Alexa-powered devices in the Amazon Tap speaker ($130) and the multifunction Echo Dot puck ($90). As with the original Amazon Echo, which I found compelling but unnecessary (at the time), both these units respond to voice comments – controlling an ever-growing list of products and services, such as Philips Hue lighting and native Spotify music streaming. However, whereas the Echo both listens and playbacks with a decent (if not stellar) speaker, the new devices are at once more limited and more versatile.

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Amazon Tap (above left) is an attractive and portable Bluetooth/WiFi speaker that features a convenient charging dock. Yet, to engage the virtual “Alexa” assistant, one must physically “tap” the microphone button. Had they’d incorporated a mic into the cradle, I’d easily be down for two. But, as designed, I’d probably just opt for my smartphone and a waterproof UE Roll to meet my mobile speaker needs… at about half the price.

Fortunately, the new Echo Dot (above right) retains the sometimes creepy, but always-on voice recognition and is designed as something like a night stand accessory with basic speaker or to be attached to an existing Sonos, AVR, etc of presumably superior audio quality vs Echo. Sure, there’s a certain amount of smartphone redundancy, but Amazon’s ecosystem of partners far exceeds say Apple’s HomeKit limited environment.