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Do Retail DVRs Have a Chance?

Mari Silbey —  November 11, 2013 — 16 Comments

DVR fortune cookie

There’s a lot of bad news on the retail set-top front. According to the NCTA, the number of retail CableCARD devices deployed has dropped to 600,000 from 603,000 since August. No big surprise. Despite a few flickers of life, the retail CableCARD market has been on a path of decline for years. But then there’s also the news that Intel has gone belly up with its OnCue set-top plans, and even Amazon is delayed with its Kindle-branded set-top, that was supposed to go to market before year end.

Do future retail DVRs have a shot?

Well, actually, yes.  Continue Reading…

TiVo Pace acquisition speculation

Ever since set-top manufacturer Pace picked up Aurora Networks for $310 million last week, the cable industry has been abuzz over who the company could target next. While speculation is all over the map, Jeff Baumgartner has homed in on two possible acquisition candidates. SeaChange International is one, thanks largely to its video backoffice solutions and advanced advertising technology. TiVo is the other.

There are several reasons why a TiVo purchase (or merger) could make sense. Continue Reading…

Aereo antenna array

The courts have kept the lights on at Aereo so far, but it’s not clear that Aereo itself can afford the power bill. According to The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the online start-up company is facing massive electricity costs thanks to the tiny antennas it has to keep running for every subscriber on its video streaming roster. In the Journal’s analysis, Aereo could end up paying $2 million a year in New York alone if it scales up to the 350,000 subscribers CEO Chet Kanojia says he can support.

Meanwhile, Aereo also announced today that it will launch in the Denver metro area on November 4th. That makes nine markets for the video company, which also debuted in Detroit yesterday, that has said it intends to cover 22 markets by year end.

Kanojia indicates he has some ideas for dealing with the power dilemma. One is to use fuel cells for power generation. Another, and seemingly more likely option, is to combine Aereo’s antennas with its transcoding equipment. Like the cable operators, Aereo is discovering that relying on denser, multi-purpose equipment can (eventually) reduce both cap ex and operating costs.

As for Aereo’s broader business model, Continue Reading…

Arris Sling gateway MS4000 Front AngleX

Hot on the heels of its exclusive partnership with Sling, Arris is already talking additional set-top enhancements. With smarter gateways available to handle video transcoding in the home, Arris wants to slim down client devices and create new form factors that challenge the traditional set-top box. At the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo show, the company described plans to develop hardware like the Chromecast streaming stick. That type of dongle would plug directly into a user’s TV and connect over Wi-Fi to the home gateway – to expand options for whole-home networking and simplify access to premium content from multiple TVs.

Meanwhile on the Sling front, an industry insider suggested at the SCTE Expo that the placeshifting deal was done twice with Arris; first with Arris of old, and second with Arris after the Motorola acquisition. Now that everything’s signed, sealed, and delivered, it’s not clear if any major U.S. cable operators will integrate a Sling solution. However, given Netflix looks to be on the table, I supposed anything’s possible these days in cable land. Certainly cable companies are watching their satellite TV counterparts to see how far they can push the envelope with programmers. Continue Reading…

htc-one-mini-silver-en-slide-04

I am past due for a smartphone upgrade, and my HTC Thunderbolt shows it. But after going big (as in screen size) two years ago to get a phone with Verizon LTE, I’m more determined than ever to find a model this time around that fits a little more snugly in my pocket.

The good news is there are a couple of “mini” Android smartphone models to choose from. The bad news is none of them come with top-of-the-line specs. I don’t need an incredible camera or tons of storage space, but there are other bells and whistles I’d really like to have.

NFC support, for example. Do I need NFC? Continue Reading…

Motorola President Home and Networks Mobility Dan Moloney CES 2010

Every industry has its own small-world feel, and the cable industry perhaps more than most. Enemies and friends disappear and then reappear in new circles. Opponents in one fight end up allies in another. And the once-president of Motorola Mobility joins the Board of Directors for retail rival TiVo.

Such is the case with Dan Moloney. Moloney rose up through General Instruments, and was part of the acquisition of GI by Motorola in 2000. He ran Motorola’s Connected Home business (known by a variety of names over the years), and, after a brief stint as CEO of Technitrol in 2010, took on the role of President at Motorola Mobility when the original Motorola split in two. He left again in 2012 when Google took over, and has largely been off the radar for the last year.

Now Moloney’s back, Continue Reading…

Verizon FiOS TV CES 2011 3

Well this could put a damper on Verizon’s currently cozy relationship with the cable industry. According to the New York Post, Verizon – like so many companies – is in talks with “major programmers” about creating a national, Internet-based pay-TV service. The Post says that while Verizon has pursued access to particular shows in the past, it’s now exploring what it would take to acquire the content rights for a “full suite of channels.”

Verizon has theorized about offering FiOS TV as an app for years, but sadly has been slower to deliver a decent mobile app than several of the larger cable companies. The big question now is not whether Verizon will go down that road eventually (despite its cable alliance), but how and when someone, anyone brings an Internet-based TV service to market. I’m not talking about an option like Aereo, but a true, content-loaded, bring-your-own-device, pay-TV service.

Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities. Intel and Apple are “negotiating” with programmers, with Intel threatening to launch a service before the end of the year. Time Warner Cable has released apps for the Xbox, Roku, and select smart TVs. Cox is experimenting with Fan TV in California. Dish Networks’ Charlie Ergen has talked publicly about going over-the-top with TV service. And the list goes on.

The Internet TV era is definitely coming. Verizon knows it. The cable industry does too.