An industry peer passed along a fascinating invite soliciting existing DirecTV Now customers to test a new AT&T Android streaming set-top first uncovered by Variety. As to why this box needs to exist, I can’t quite say… given the great options AT&T and DirecTV already leverage, like the similarly Android-powered Amazon Fire TV. But AT&T/DirecTV suggest it’s possibly designed to improve performance (and they did cut off first gen Fire TVs for whatever reason):

We built a streaming device to give you an even better experience. And we’d like you to be a beta tester so you can help us make sure we do just that.

Another thought I had is that this box might target cord cutters with AT&T Internet that might receive some preferential network treatment from the mothership, but I haven’t yet confirmed my pal’s provider. Will update when I do. In any event, as a new AT&T wireless customer I can say I’ve been enjoying my (free) slim Watch TV. bundle… that is missing a Roku app. Perhaps this new streamer will also provide access to that service.

On the hardware front, this is our first closeup of the remote. And I wonder if the button centered below the navigational pad suggests Google Assistant voice control. The number keys are also curious – does that indicate some sort of AirTV-esque over-the-air channel integration or a DirecTV Now guide revamp?

Given what’s described as a 6-month beta test, it may be awhile before we learn more.

Long-time digital media developer Jon Maddox, who you may know as half the team behind the stellar Channels app and DVR software that maximizes HDHomeRun network tuner hardware, weighs in on the Amazon Fire TV Recast DVR competition:

Early Deals We’re Tracking

Dave Zatz —  November 13, 2018 — 11 Comments

Black Friday “the day” appears to have morphed into Black Friday “the month” and, as such, some deals are already flowing. Remember to get your ebates account going and let’s start shopping!

$100 Smart Displays

The 8″ Lenovo Google Smart Display, 7″ Google Home Hub, and 8″ Amazon Echo Show will all be $100 from various retailers at various moments this holiday season. Both platforms are compelling in their own right (and frustrating in others). For example, Google provides superior photo frame functionality and is quite versatile as a (somewhat neutered) Chromecast endpoint. By comparison, Amazon provides exceptional audio and is the sole solution for Ring doorbell video. If choosing between the Google models, Lenovo has the larger display and more powerful speaker, whereas the Home Hub takes up less counter space and is Audrey-cute while provided enhanced visual presentation by adjusting photo color based on ambient lighting.

Deeply Discounted Televisions & Streamers

While the LG OLEDs aren’t quite the deal they were last year, there will be many good options, in various sizes and quality levels and below are a couple of good values worth considering. Pro-tip: Best Buy will bring 55″ and larger sets into your home for free and take away your old projection or plasma for $20.

Smarter Home

You’re home’s not just smart, it’s highly intelligent since you’ve found all sorts of good deals – right?

TiVo Releases New DVR

Dave Zatz —  November 11, 2018 — 26 Comments

With little fanfare, TiVo just introduced a new 6-tuner, 1TB Bolt DVR to the consumer market. And, as with the existing 6-tuner, 3TB model, this $300 unit is designed solely for cable customers… who are dissatisfied with their provider’s hardware options, in terms of pricing or functionality. Like other recent TiVo Bolt additions, this one comes bundled with the quite-nice Vox voice-control remote.

Interestingly, both the new Bolt OTA, released just a few weeks ago, and this unit appears to be manufactured by TiVo partner Arris — as discovered by BigJimOutlaw within a single manual that covers both devices… leading me to wonder if TiVo is streamlining their retail catalog in an effort to control costs, as they’ve previously signaled, and more precisely target market demand.

Of course, the subscription-centric TiVo prides themselves on delivering a superior user experience for television content alongside a number of top tier streaming apps like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube… some of which the Bolt line will even stream in 4K. Although the company’s business model may be shifting to better integrate online and “linear” content (good) within an updated ad-filled interface (not good).

Although Hydra was just deployed about a year ago and remains a work in progress, TiVo has announced development of yet another new interface — intended to better aggregate linear cable content alongside streaming video… to generate revenue. From the Seeking Alpha transcript of TiVo’s quarterly call:

we began investing in a new opportunity that combines our expertise in Pay TV and OTT to build unique entertainment discovery platform for the Internet age.

With the proliferation of content from multiple sources around the world that is delivered through broadcast, TV, OTT, on-demand and internet streaming, TiVo offers a powerful platform to engage audiences through a single, unified content discovery experience. The platform will enable end-users to experience content from leading digital brands integrated with live, recorded and OTT streaming titles. We are re-imagining the guide as one integrated content network that allows you to access all of the content you want to watch seamlessly. We believe this product has the potential to change how you watch TV again.

In addition, this unified discovery experience and content network will enable multiple high CPM targeted advertising opportunities for TiVo. These include sponsored discovery, content merchandising, display promotions, in-stream advertising, DVR ad replacement et cetera.

[…]

we’re going to create the guide for the Internet age and create content network precisely to be able to enable digital content and linear content to be commingled and integrated and create a seamless discovery experience. So the content aggregators as well as digital brands are really interested in getting the content exposed to mainstream TV viewers and enabling the easy access without having to be discovered through a separate application or a separate streaming device. Now TiVo provides the ideal platform for them to be able to do that. And what we’re trying to do is integrate streaming with live TV and be able to create a very compelling experience. The advantage also for us is that we can introduce digital ads in that Sponsored Discovery, merchandising of content, and creates a number of opportunities for us to be able to increase revenues and growth for TiVo.

[..]

One example is content merchandising. Recently we did a test with our consumer base. We ran the test for about two weeks. We promoted content essentially for about three free streaming movies. We targeted about 900,000 retail and MSO devices. And the click-through response when we promoted this – these movies was about 12%, almost 100,000 devices. And very importantly, what it did was generate about 1.75 streaming hours per responding device. That’s really significant and this kind of uplift is what content providers look for and that’s why when I was asked the earlier question I said with this solution that we are trying to build we can create some unique capabilities and monetization potential. And so it will be giving us revenue growth through advertising.

Of course, advertising is nothing new in this business and has been a mainstay going back decades… although TiVo’s prior forays were mixed-to-poor as far as I can tell – both in sales and consumer uptake. However, Roku’s proven the model and advertising has been their biggest business several years running. As an aside, Comcast’s similar aggregation disclosure preempting TiVo is quite curious… given the ongoing litigation between the companies.

Craig Newmark Cuts The Cord

Dave Zatz —  November 5, 2018 — 21 Comments

You may recognize Craig Newmark as founder of the eponymous craigslist and noted philanthropist, but I know him as a TiVo aficionado and television buff… who just cut the cord and dropped the hardware DVR. Which reinforces for me that cord cutting isn’t always about saving a few bucks but, rather, convenience — including access to top shelf content… that doesn’t always originate via traditional channels.

Craig tells me he subscribes to a number of streaming services and picks up series here and there which, incidentally, is also how my household largely functions. He generally uses the native apps on his LG OLED but also periodically beams to a Chromecast Ultra given the convenient Google Assistant vocal control. For comparative purposes, the primary Vizio television in my home can be voice-controlled by both Alexa (decent) and Google (stellar) — and, as Craig suggests, both the space and our personal approaches are evolving.

Prepping For Black Friday

Dave Zatz —  November 2, 2018 — 4 Comments

With Black Friday rapidly approaching, it’s time to begin preparations. And, while BF is often associated with holiday shopping, it’s also an ideal time to stock up on just about everything your household may need, from power tools to hiking boots. Heck, I even ordered a high chair about 50% off a few years back… before my daughter was born. As such, you need to create a wishlist – to scan deals efficiently and to avoid impulse purchases. Which ties into monitoring tools. I rely on the Slick Deals app for smartphone alerts (based on products in the aforementioned laundry list) and Wirecutter’s Twitter deals feed. Lastly, you need an ebates account for decent cash back from retailers (other than Amazon).

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