Skitter, Aereo, and the Return of Basic Cable

Skitter and Aereo

They sound like bad comic book character names, but Skitter and Aereo are two of the latest companies to jump into the video service game. Instead of trying to offer premium content, however, the two start-ups are going old school. They’re both selling traditional broadcast content over the Internet and optionally combining it with a DVR. (Skitter’s DVR service hasn’t launched yet, but is in the works.) On the plus side, you get decent-quality transmission of the prime-time networks, access to TV across a bunch of connected devices, and all the benefits of being able to pause live television, fast forward through commercials, etc. On the minus side, you have to pay a chunk of change every month (around $12) for content that’s supposed to be free.

Whether you like the idea behind Skitter and Aereo or not, the fact that they exist (for now) is an interesting commentary on the state of television. Both companies are offering a very basic content package with a few extra goodies. It reminds of my household circa 2008 when we steadfastly held on to analog cable and combined it with a subscription-free ReplayTV DVR. Most of our TV watching was still focused on the major networks, but the ability to get ESPN and decent reception had us paying a monthly fee to Comcast. Fast forward to today and we pay a much larger monthly bill to Verizon for TV. Granted that bill includes HD channels, a FiOS DVR, VoD, and a much wider selection of linear content, but it’s still tough to stomach when the invoice clears are mailbox every four weeks.

And so Skitter and Aereo enter the scene.

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Walmart Disc-to-Digital Not Ready For Prime Time?

walmart-disc-to-digital

Wal-mart’s Disc-to-Digital service, launching under the Vudu brand, became available today. That’s the theory anyhow. Unfortunately, reps at two different local Walmart outposts tell me they haven’t yet been trained and I was unsuccessful in getting my discs “converted” during lunch.

Backing up a bit, this new service falls under the studio-backed UltraViolet initiative — which aims to provide a global content licensing and streaming catalog. Buy a DVD, get a digital copy. Buy a digital copy via Flixter, watch it on Vudu. Etc. And, while I had some initial doubts, it seems as if the component partners and pieces are actually starting to coalesce nicely. However, you’ll forgive me for remaining skeptical and apprehensive in the licensing of digital content… given the abandonment of other relatively prominent solutions, such as Yahoo Music or Microsoft PlaysForSure. Not to mention my less-than-stellar experience today.

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Comcast Files Patent Application for Web TV Tech

Now that most of industry’s original interactive TV companies are dead and gone, Comcast may be looking to revive the one thing those iTV enterprises promised above all else – a way to access the web on your TV. FierceCable’s Steve Donahue uncovered a patent application today detailing how Comcast might enable web-based search engines … Read more

Digital Media Bytes

A periodic roundup of relevant news… via our other outlets: Comcast subscribers may soon get HBO Go on the Xbox The fact that Comcast has blocked HBO Go on some devices has been a major point of contention in recent weeks. Reports say that Comcast and HBO are closing in on a deal to make … Read more

Comcast, Netgear Run Into IPv6 Glitch

Last week a number of Comcast subscribers had a serious hardware problem on their hands. Netgear modems in California suddenly stopped working. Specifically, owners of the Netgear CMD31T lost Internet service, and subscribers were given a lot of confusing information about why they were being left out in the cold. Industry analyst Mike Demler first … Read more

Google May Be Ready to Sell Part of Motorola, but Who Will Buy?

If you were mesmerized by Apple news this week, you might have missed the scoop from The New York Post suggesting that Google is putting the Motorola set-top business on the chopping block. So far it doesn’t appear that anyone else has confirmed the report, but no one’s terribly surprised by it either. Google has enough … Read more

The Apples & Oranges Of The New iPad

As we’re all well aware, Apple introduced the “new” iPad yesterday. And, while I’m still not quite sold on the tablet form factor, I did place a pre-order. Primarily due the iPad 3’s integrated voice dictation capabilities and much heralded “retina” display — likely featuring more pixels than anything else in our homes. Although, I do wonder how long it’ll take app developers to maximize its potential.

During the marketing spiel Apple made several fascinating and dramatic proclamations. I’m not prepared to classify any as dubious, but it looks as if some could be comparing apples & oranges. For example, I was initially stunned when they said, “This new device has more memory and higher screen resolution than an Xbox 360 or PS3.” Yet, after thinking about it, the factoid isn’t so surprising… and what exactly does it mean?

Other interesting points to ponder: Nvidia has taken  issue with the characterization of their competing chipset, utilized by some Android devices, and what exactly is a PC

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Nest or Comcast for Your Smart Thermostat?

Nest vs Comcast smart thermostat

The tech world went a little crazy when the Nest thermostat launched. However, we haven’t seen quite the same level of excitement for the home automation services making their way to market from the cable and telco providers. And those services are growing by the day. Comcast has launched Xfinity Home to about one third of its customers, and plans to cover almost its entire footprint by the end of the year. Time Warner Cable also said in a recent earnings report that it plans to extend its home automation service to more markets in 2012. And Verizon is quite likely to do the same, having debuted its home control service back in October.

Of course, the MSOs are offering something quite a bit different from Nest. The full Xfinity Home package, for example, includes thermostat control, home security, door and window sensors, motion detectors, smoke detectors, lighting control and a glass-break sensor. Nest is just a smart thermostat. But the beauty of Nest is that it offers something simple, and you only have to buy it once – no subscription fee required.

The operators are betting big that home automation will give them another value-added service to keep margins up and avoid the dumb pipe scenario. However, I have to wonder if subscribers are willing to fatten up the cable/telco monthly bill even more. Home security is its own business, and perhaps the operators can chip away at ADT’s market share. But adding on a regular fee for thermostat or lighting control strikes me as a hard sell. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is like the DVR, and only when the cable/telco industry jumps on board will the market really take off. But personally, if I decide to spent money on temperature control, I’ll pick up the Nest device. It sure is prettier. 

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