Archives For Industry

I’ve been dreading this day since I first got my ReplayTV in 2001. Time Warner Cable has earned a patent for a method of disabling trick-mode features on DVRs. The tech lets Time Warner block fast forwarding so recorded programming (i.e. commercials) can’t be skipped over.

Time Warner patent prevention of trick mode DVR features

Although the patent was filed back in 2007, the timing of its issue is interesting in light of the new Dish commercial-skipping feature in the Hopper DVR. The broadcast networks have gone lawsuit-happy over the Hopper, and Time Warner’s patent shows them that the cable company wants to back them up. Of course, the desire to block commercial-skipping features, and actual deployment of the technology are two different things. As Steve Donahue points out at Fierce Cable, the likely backlash against such a move by Time Warner would likely have the MSO back-pedaling as fast as it did four years ago when it first tried to institute bandwidth caps. Unfortunately, as with bandwidth caps, even if Time Warner fails at first, that doesn’t mean it won’t try and try again. Continue Reading…

Comcast Xfinity Instant mobile video app 1

With all the promotional buzz around Verizon’s viewdini mobile video portal last week, it was easy to miss Comcast’s new video app, Xfinity Instant. To be fair, Comcast’s mobile app isn’t a commercial product yet, but it was on display right beside viewdini in the Comcast booth at this year’s Cable Show in Boston.

Right now, Xfinity Instant is a project out of Comcast Labs with no set launch date. However, at least in concept, it bears a striking resemblance to viewdini. With a magazine-like layout for tablets, the Comcast app lets users filter video content by actor, genre, title or network. It also provides recommended titles based on your viewing habits, and highlights featured videos in editorial fashion. You can launch a video selection directly from the app and rate content when you’re done watching it.

Comcast Xfinity Instant mobile video app 2

What’s most interesting about the app, though, is that according to the demo guys at the booth, Xfinity Instant was developed with no knowledge that viewdini was in the works. In fact, one Comcast employee explained that the development team hadn’t even heard of viewdini until it was announced at the show. Apparently in the rush to cozy up to Verizon as a viewdini content partner, Comcast senior management didn’t get around to telling its own developers about the potentially competitive product. Continue Reading…

Less than two weeks after DISH Network announced their clever and automated, albeit limited, commercial skip functionality Fox, NBC, and CBS have filed suit for copyright infringement and breach of contract:

[Fox] were given no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors, DISH Network, because of their surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem. Their wrongheaded decision requires us to take swift action in order to aggressively defend the future of free, over-the-air television.

NBC has filed suit against this unlawful service in order to keep over-the-air broadcast television a strong competitor. Advertising generates the revenue that makes it possible for local broadcast stations and national broadcast networks to pay for the creation of the news, sports and entertainment programming that are the hallmark of American broadcasting. Dish simply does not have the authority to tamper with the ads from broadcast replays on a wholesale basis for its own economic and commercial advantage.

This service takes existing network content and modifies it in a manner that is unauthorized and illegal. [CBS] believe this is a clear violation of copyright law and we intend to stop it.

Of course, no one should be surprised by this highly likely development. What remains unknown is if DISH will be forced to remove the feature from their flagship whole-home Hopper DVR or if they might work out some sort of On Demand-esque licensing.

Coincidentally, DISH & Roku just partnered… and Roku’s CEO Anthony Wood happened to found ReplayTV — who was similarly attacked by the broadcasters about a decade ago for implementing commercial skip. So perhaps he had some advice for DISH CEO Joe Clayton as they prepared their own preemptive legal strike today against ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC:

DISH today filed suit against ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in federal court for a declaratory judgment on questions that have arisen related to the pay-TV provider’s May 10 introduction of a user-enabled commercial skipping technology called AutoHop. DISH’s monthly subscriber fees include significant “retransmission fees” that DISH pays to the major networks. Although the broadcasters have made much of their content available for free using sites such as Hulu, they have continued to demand substantial increases in their retransmission fees. In addition to increasing media reports of planned legal action against DISH, three of the networks — CBS, Fox and NBC — have rejected ads for DISH’s Hopper Whole-Home DVR, the device that features the AutoHop function.

viewdini 1

Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead launched viewdini this morning, a new mobile video portal that sources content from different providers and lets users stream video, search, share and more. Early content partners include Comcast Xfinity, Hulu Plus, mSpot and Netflix. No FiOS TV video yet (ironic), but it’s reportedly on the way.

The concept here is very similar to offerings out from companies like Fanhattan and Clicker, but of course Verizon has a little more heft in the marketing department. Verizon says the app will be available on LTE Android devices later this month, and an iOS version is in the works.

X1-App-Pandora 1

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…

dish-auto-hop

DISH Network continues to tempt fate (and the studio empire) given the introduction of automatic commercial skipping via their Hopper DVR and Joey extenders. If you recall, this new and highly regarded whole home solution features “Primetime Anytime” which records local prime time television programming (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) and retains this content 8 days. Those very same recordings, or perhaps a subset given the fine print, will now display the Hopper pink kangaroo icon a few hours after broadcast, indicating “Auto Hop” commercial skip is available.

DISH says Auto Hop is something we “consumers have been waiting for since the dawn of television.” Which isn’t entirely accurate… As we’ve only been waiting since Replay TV excised similar functionality (available on any channel/recording) under legal studio pressure. Will history repeat itself? Or, perhaps, DISH’s technical implementation and limited scope insulates them in some way. Regardless, it’s interesting to compare and contrast their customer-centric approach to the conflicted Comcast that just filed a patent application to inject onscreen advertising overlays when customers fast forward by commercials.