Archives For mari

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.

Samsung Smart Media Player Boxee

Samsung is speeding along toward the launch of a new retail CableCard device thanks to a waiver granted last week by the FCC. As Dave reported back in May, Samsung is planning to bring its Smart Media Player to market in time for the holiday shopping season. However, the company needed a waiver to avoid having to include an analog tuner in the device. Samsung got its wish with this notice from the FCC:

Specifically, we waive the requirement in Section 15.118(b) of the Commission’s rules that Samsung’s Smart Media Player include tuners that are capable of receiving analog cable channels. We conclude that the waiver is in the public interest because it will reduce the cost and power consumption of the Smart Media Player and provide consumers with a retail set-top box option that can better compete with devices leased by cable operators, thus enhancing competition in the retail set-top box market.

The FCC waiver helps ensure Samsung’s box will actually make to retail shelves, but it’s not the most interesting angle to this story. First of all, the hybrid cable+OTT set-top comes along at a time when retail CableCARD devices were all but presumed dead. Second, while the new set-top doesn’t include a hardware-based digital video recorder, Samsung could conceivably pair the device with Boxee cloud DVR service. Samsung picked up Boxee earlier this summer with plans to include the company’s technology in future “smart” television products. The new Smart Media Player certainly sounds like it qualifies.

Jinni interface

We first heard that Microsoft was licensing Jinni’s video search and discovery technology back in 2011. Now, however, the two companies have made their intentions official. Jinni says it has signed a multi-year agreement to power the recommendation engine on “Xbox video game and entertainment systems.” The news comes less than three months before the scheduled launch of the Xbox One.

Jinni has been on a tear this year. The company signed up Time Warner and Vudu as customers back in January, and I discovered in June that Jinni will also be embedded in the upcoming Comcast X2 interface.

Recommendation engines are big business, and there are a lot of companies vying for licensing deals in the TV space. Jinni’s technology uses not only standard content metadata, but also data tags that describe qualities like mood and style for different entertainment titles. Jinni’s machine-learning system processes all of that data and uses it to recommend new content that viewers might like.

Says Dave Alles of Microsoft, “Our goal is to make it effortless to get you to entertainment you’ll truly love. Pairing Jinni’s Entertainment Genome with other key advances such as Conversational Understanding, makes finding something to watch on Xbox as fun as watching it.”

Apple TV with iOS 7

Everyone’s on the lookout for the debut of iOS 7 at Apple’s big press conference scheduled for next week. But GigaOM is reporting that, based on available shipping data from an analytics company called Panjiva, a new Apple TV set-top may also be in the cards.

According to the report, Apple received shipments labeled “Set Top Box with Communication Function” from a company called BYD Precision Manufacture based in Shenzhen, China on August 11th, 18th, and 25th. Panjiva is postulating that since Apple’s last set-top shipment was from a different company, Hon Hai, these latest devices are a new product altogether.

Aside from the timing of the set-top shipments, some of the new features in Apple’s mobile OS update also tie nicely with the idea of an upgraded TV product. For one thing, Apple will support device-to-device connections in iOS 7, which would allow a set-top to communicate directly with other gadgets (including gaming controllers!) without the need for an Internet connection. Continue Reading…

ACC Digital Network Roku ads

No one was more excited than I to see that the ACC Digital Network had created a Roku channel. And my excitement lasted just long enough to download the channel and fire up highlights of former Duke basketball player Mike Dunleavy. Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ended.

Where to start? With the video quality? Horrific. How about the overall selection of clips? Lame. And then there’s my favorite: the advertising.

You see, the ACC Digital Network has partnered with a company called adRise, which describes itself as “the largest content distribution and advertising monetization engine for streaming and connected TV devices.” The “monetization engine” throws up an advertisement before every single clip available on the ACC channel. It doesn’t matter if the clip is 30 seconds, or if you exited out of a clip and are trying to return to resume play. There’s an ad. And not just any ad, but the same ad, over and over and over. (Thanks, Progressive lady.)

It’s 2013. Streaming video companies should know by now not to over-saturate content with pre-roll ads, or to stock only a single commercial in the ad inventory. That’s not monetization. It’s scaring your audience away.

In good news, however, the ACC network says it plans to expand from the Roku to other streaming boxes and smart TV platforms. I can’t wait.

Chromecast photo sharing local media

Thanks to Google, you can’t stream local content with third-party apps via Chromecast anymore. But you don’t need an app to share content with a Chromecast device.

At least as far as photos are concerned, it’s easy to port pictures over to a TV set using the Chrome web browser. Go to File-Open, or hit Control “O” in a new tab and select the photo from your computer to launch. The photo opens in the browser, and you can then cast that tab to your TV.

Videos are a little more complicated. Continue Reading…

Chromecast set-up 3

I spent more time playing with Chromecast this weekend while also contemplating the ongoing CBS blackout for Time Warner subscribers. At the moment, CBS is also blocking access to its shows on CBS.com for TWC subs. However, there is some legal argument that the network shouldn’t be able to discriminate against a specific set of viewers online. If that notion ever gains traction, then online access could be a viable alternative to watching CBS on cable.

Which led me to test out streaming from the CBS website. With Chromecast.

The good news is that casting the CBS stream to your TV is extremely easy. Switch TV inputs, open up CBS in your Chrome browser, click the Google Cast button, and you’re good to go. The bad news is that the video quality is atrocious. I’m not a pixel snob, but I was on the verge of getting nauseous trying to watch the disjointed playback. Continue Reading…