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virgin-tivo

As TiVo does, they fire off feel-good news (for investors) along most quarterly earnings calls – to possibly soften the blow of continued subscriber defections. Today, they’ve announced a deal in which Google will be mining our TiVo commercial viewing (er, skipping) behavior to enhance their television advertising initiative. Yawn. Much more interesting, via a release late to the wire, is news that TiVo will be re-entering the UK television market in a big way, by partnering with Virgin:

TiVo will become the exclusive provider of middleware and user interface software for Virgin Media’s next generation set top boxes. Virgin Media will become the exclusive distributor of TiVo services and technology in the United Kingdom. Virgin Media currently anticipates its first TiVo co-branded product in 2010.

In other partner news from the call… The fabled, new DirecTV TiVo hardware will indeed launch next year. And, in my opinion, surely juice TiVo’s subscribers numbers. Although no specific timeline has been provided. The Comcast and Cox TiVo initiatives continue to sputter along. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if either, or both, cable providers pull the plug at some point.

Lastly, something perhaps previously alluded to by a TiVo employee on Twitter and something I’ve been scouring the FCC records for, “a new keyboard remote control” is under development. Which could be related to the re-upping and expansion in 2009 of their 2005 RFID remote patent application for personalized viewing experiences. But we remain in the dark regarding the mysterous wireless access point.

Cash Register on White with Clipping Path

The interwebs are abuzz (OMG!) with Hulu’s confirmed exploration of paid tiers and pay-per-view, in addition to the current ad-supported video content model. News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, as quoted by the Associated Press:

Are we looking at it with a view of adding subscription services in there and pay-per-view movies? Yes, we are looking at that.

However, a company spokesperson acknowledges that free video supported by advertising does “resonate most” with viewers, so I doubt we’ll see it go away. Having said that, I have very little use for the current incarnation of Hulu. It’s content library still exhibits the “random crap syndrome” – which I had hoped would be cured when Hulu exited from beta. Didn’t happen. Still hasn’t happened. Shows come and go. Good luck finding an entire season/series. (ALF doesn’t count.) And then there’s the restrictive playback policies. No PS3 for you. Screw you too, Boxee. I appreciate the Internet as my video transport mechanism, but I prefer to watch television… on television.

So bring on the pay services, I say. I’m an adult with an adult salary and limited free time. Offer me something worthwhile at a not-outrageous fee, and I’ll pay for premium content and the convenience of quality aggregation. Should Hulu manage to provide it.

zilliontv-ui

If the ZNF tip line is any indication, ZillionTV has recently expanded their pilot program:

You are eligible to become one of the first television viewers to register for the ZillionTV service for a 1-Time payment of only $99 (plus tax). The ZillionTV Device and motion-sensing remote are FREE, including FREE shipping. There is NO monthly subscription fee. The ZillionTV Service is all about putting you in control. Choose the movies and TV shows you want to watch, when you want to watch them; choose the ad categories you want and view for FREE, or watch no ads at all and pay a nominal ‘pay-as-you-go’ fee. Gain access to a compelling combination of new and classic TV shows, Hollywood movies, classic movies, sports, documentaries, music and so much more.

So the first take away is, as I suspected, the formerly “free” ZillionTV hardware/service is out the window. And the few times I’ve seen startups charge for advance or “beta” access, it seemed to coincide with serious organizational dysfunction. We do know Zillion’s dumped about 30% of their staff, rethought their business model, pushed their official launch into 2010, and replaced their CEO today. Of course, as a gadget guy, most of that is background noise. I’m far more interested in finding out what happened to their sexy hardware renders, as this D-Link router-looking STB shipping during the pilot fails to inspire.

Click to enlarge:

Showtime iPhone app

With the Showtime EBIF app already raking in dough on TV sets across the country, the cable network has decided to go mobile. Showtime launched its own iPhone app this week complete with teaser episodes, video extras, and broadcast schedules. Given that the EBIF version may not be available in your area, the iPhone application is a nice alternative for testing the Showtime waters. Personally, I’ve never been willing to pay the extra fees for premium cable channels, but maybe if I knew more about what I was missing, I’d dole out the cash. I’m not likely to buy a whole season on DVD, or even waste time on episodes in my Netflix queue, but if you put an episode right in front of me, I’ve got nothing to lose. And that’s what Showtime is counting on.

The iPhone app is, naturally, free. But if you’re still hesitant, check out the pics below. The application is powered by mobile ad specialist Transpera.

The New iPhone Apps of the Week

Dave Zatz —  September 24, 2009 — 6 Comments

Hava Mobile
HAVA Player

hava-mobile1

Hava support seemed to think it’d be a few weeks before Apple unleashed their placeshifting app, but here we are. And, as expected, you’ll only be able stream video from your Hava box over WiFi. (You can blame AT&T for that.) Somewhat unexpected is the $10 Hava Mobile fee, which flies in the face of their free mobile clients and is a clear shift in strategy based on my conversation with them at CES… where they indicated the app would be free. Regardless, $10 is quite reasonable compared to the $30 iPhone Slingbox client. I plan to give it a spin in the next few weeks.

myStarbucks
myStarbucks

starbucks-card-iphone

While it’s true Apple’s App Store is a huge hit, with thousands upon thousands of iPhone and iPod Touch offerings, most are worthless and/or marketing fluff. Like the new myStarbucks. It looks pretty but doesn’t do much of anything. Probably the top feature is the store locator, but I’m not sure you can trust it… It indicates that my preferred weekday SBUX, which closed permanently last week, is open for business. The UI is more attractive than the default Google Maps, but the results appear quite similar. So why even blog this app? Because of what it might one day offer… A second app was also released which allows one to manage their Starbucks debit card and can be used to make purchases. Payment scanning is only available in select Seattle and Silicon Valley coffee shops at the moment, but this is an interesting model worth tracking.

ESPN Radio
ESPN Radio

espn-radio-iphone

It may not be free like the fine NPR app, but a one-time $3 fee for the new ESPN Radio seems like a small price to pay to aggregate and access a great deal of sports talk. It features live streaming from several ESPN Radio affiliates, including the morning shows and college football broadcasts. You can also stream SportsCenter highlights on demand and bypass iTunes to directly access a few dozen ESPN podcasts.