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.
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…
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?
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.
And then on the consumer side, we are going to be investing less in the Marketing of consumer.
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.
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.
TiVo’s new CEO has hit the ground running… with a buzzsaw. In a move aligned with today’s quarterly earnings call, 50 employees and additional contract staff have been laid off to likely reassure investors that the company remains on the path to profitability, despite what I assume to be stagnant retail sales and patent setbacks, by clearing several million dollars from the expense column.
Signaling a greater emphasis on MVPD partnerships and a reduced focus on its retail strategy, TiVo is pushing ahead on a restructuring and reorganization
On the other hand, an anonymous source has characterized this as the unloading of dead weight for a leaner operation rather than a wholesale shift in strategy and abandonment of retail. Indeed, Mutilchannel goes on to indicate that TiVo continues to crank away on consumer offerings, with a new non-DVR product headed to market later this year.
To expand the reach of Amazon’s original video programming beyond Prime membership, the company has launched Season 3 of The Fashion Fund … with ads. While Amazon describes this as an “experiment” to Re/code, given the level of effort required to update the video player, inject commercials into the stream, and even lock down the sponsors, I’d say it’s a pretty clear indicator of what’s to come. Fortunately, Amazon also indicates “Prime Video will remain ad free.” Except this one. For now.
In pulling up the 30 minute Project Runaway knockoff, which interestingly “airs” weekly, I was hit with three 90-120 second ad breaks in the timeline of three to four commercials, featuring Philips Norelco, Philips Sonicare, Geico, Lilly Pulitzer, and Proactiv.
By way of DVR reseller Weaknees, we learn that TiVo’s recently devalued Lifetime Service is once again available for $400 under the company’s newer “All In” label. While the math, during this promotion or trial, is certainly more compelling than the prior $600 rate, the cost is not insignificant. Further, existing Bolt hardware configurations, with limited storage and tuners, may not appeal to the sort of power user that recognizes TiVo’s long term value as we collectively await a CableCARD replacement. Based on forum chatter, this reduced All-In rate may also apply to previously purchased hardware of different flavors, with something like a 26 month break even point. Should you find yourself more enthused than I, you’d take part online directly through TiVo (as pictured above) or by activating retailer-purchased units by calling in and mentioning the deal (possibly with Weaknees’ “TiVoInstall200” code word).