Apple TV To Enable App Folders

Dave Zatz —  January 12, 2016

Given the 3000 “channels” Roku boasts, you’d think the streaming pioneer would provide some sort of sensible organizational structure. Sadly, many owners (such as myself) are left with an unwieldy scrolling grid of providers. Yeah, we can rearrange app placement within the grid.. but there’s no way to isolate by category or viewer. And it’s not like this is a new concept as WDTV brought way more robust presentation, including tabs and folders, to the television… about three years ago.

Well, the “new” Apple TV is poised to leapfrog Roku (and Amazon) when they release tvOS 9.2 in the coming weeks. Beyond a new (and improved) podcast app and Bluetooth keyboard support, Apple will port a variant of their rudimentary mobile OS foldering feature to the big screen.

While I can’t speak to actual folder usage (as the feature is in developer beta), given Apple TV remote control fussiness, advanced app management may not be the most comfortable to implement. Yet, I’m highly confident it’ll be worth the effort and look forward to getting organized on my brand-spanking-new unit. Continue Reading…

Who are the cord cutters?

Dave Zatz —  January 11, 2016

Amongst the festivities as Channel Master released Sling TV to DVR+ during CES, the over-the-air entertainment company shared some interesting market data.

After two years of success with DVR+ and building a strong customer base, we are pleased to be able to share some insights about our customers, their needs and habits. […] we think you may find some of these facts surprising because they are in contradiction to what many of us have been led to believe about cord cutters.

The most fascinating portion of the analysis indicates cord cutting isn’t all about broke millennials. And, as I’ve argued all along, the motivation to drop traditional subscription television doesn’t appear to be solely financial. Rather, it’s likely about perceived value.

Our customers skew toward Gen X and Boomers. While we have Millennial crossover, the majority of our customers are age 35 and up with significantly more disposable income than Millennials, and they still don’t want a pay-TV service.

Magnavox and Mediasonic are generally known as manufacturers of rudimentary digital VCRs, while TiVo and Tablo thought of as the providers of more full-featured over-the-air DVR solutions… saddled with a recurring fee. But, from CES, CNET has uncovered some significant updates to Magnavox’s line of digital video recorders, exceeding the similarly fee-free Channel Master DVR+ capabilities on several fronts.

The new trio of DVRs are expected by year-end, supposedly starting at $400 — and, once again, fee-free as the company has underwritten the responsive Rovi guide. Magnavox’s OTA tuner count will range from 1-6, with 500GB – 2TB of integrated storage… that can be expanded via USB drive. As with prior Magnavox models, these also include DVD-burning capabilities (which may also make them subject to Macrovision copy protection, according to CNET). Continue Reading…

Yeah, we’ve been tracking the Internet of Shit. But bizarro “Internet of Things” really hit fever pitch this week at CES, where everything is connected — including this camera-equipped fridge for those times when actually opening the door is just too much effort. Just because we can wire something up doesn’t mean we should. And I’m fairly confident the market will prove folks are looking for meaningful solutions that add value and reduce effort (without breaking the bank). Pretty sure a disposable Bluetooth smartphone-linked pregnancy test isn’t what Al Gore had in mind.

first-response-bluetooth

DISH has owned CES in recent years with spectacular product reveals… and 2016 sees that trend continue with massive upgrades to their flagship DVR (that I first caught wind of back in September). The 3rd generation Hopper carries forward integrated Slingbox capabilities and (limited) commercial skip, as they introduce 4k support and jump to 16 tuners. Sixteen! DISH isn’t kidding when they declare “channel conflict eliminated” as this surely provides enough to handle all your satellite units during an evening of heavy recording plus some remote streaming.

Hopper_3_with_Voice_Remote

Continue Reading…

Pioneering Internet streaming service Sling TV has unveiled their upcoming interface refresh from CES. And our pal Brad Linder went hands on. Beyond recent guide presentation updates, the thrust of this transition is functional — with personalization taking center stage.

A new MyTV dashboard collates content you’ve previously flagged as Favorites, Recommended content based on viewership, and any On Demand programming you may have left in progress – so you can pick it up at another time or from another device. Further, On Now is a new customized guide presentation based on what you generally watch and when you watch it. Beyond these changes, Sling has also realized the UI does not need to be consistent amongst devices — what works on a touchscreen up close may not be suitable from a leanback experience. Not to mention navigation conventions vary by platform, say Xbox One versus Roku.

While the new approach does seem compelling and more interactive, at least in regards to Sling’s target millennial audience, it’s likely too visually rich and complex for my mom… who owns two Roku TVs and doesn’t particularly care for Comcast. Perhaps a future update could incorporate a slimmed down, “lite” mode with a more traditional presentation to expand Sling TV’s demographic to include seniors. In any event, Sling expects the multi-platform rollout to commence later this quarter.

By way of Com Hem, an international TiVo partner, the DVR pioneer appears poised to launch smart watch apps for remote control — citing both the Apple Watch and Android Wear platforms. Beyond replicating existing smartphone app functions, like changing channels as while browsing the live guide, TiVo indicates voice control is also on the docket… as alluded to last September.

Initially, these Dick Tracey-esque wrist interactions appear specific to Com Hem TiVo customers (and the apps are saddled with a ‘beta’ designation). Yet, with CES just kicking off, I suspect we could learn more about potential retail customer support within the next 48 hours.

As to other TiVo news from the Vegas trade show, an HBO GO announcement seems like a lock and I’m hopeful we’ll learn more of an OTA-only Bolt solution… with or without “Aereo” branding. Continue Reading…

T-Mobile’s innovative and contentious video streaming compromise took additional heat this week … when it was disclosed that YouTube, a non-Binge On partner, is being served to customers at 480p by default – irrespective of LTE speed and coverage. As to how many customers noticed the reduced quality on their own or are aware they can opt out of Binge On, we just don’t know.

Google’s YouTube complaint:

Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent

And T-Mobile’s response:

Using the term “throttle” is misleading. A better phrase is “mobile optimized” or a less flattering “downgraded” is also accurate.

I assume most consumers are satisfied with T-Mobile’s favorable rates over lesser quality cellularly-served video given the relatively small screens and abundance of WiFi. But it’ll be interesting to see if this runs afoul of FCC net neutrality guidance, should the situation escalate and despite their initial blessing.