Archives For mari

WatchESPN iPad app with Live Toolbar
Remember when ESPN’s Damon Philips promised a summer update for the WatchESPN app? Well, it was no lie. The company released an upgraded version of the app today for all iOS users, and added an extra bonus for iPad owners with the launch of the ESPN Live Toolbar feature.

According to the app store, the new toolbar includes:

- Live TV Lineup: See what’s on ESPN’s networks and switch to additional ESPN programming without exiting the video.
- Scores: Follow additional games while watching your game on ESPN. Launch video highlights at the conclusion of an event (where available).
- Top Videos: Watch multiple things at once! Keep up with the latest news and highlights right alongside the live ESPN programming you’re watching. Rotate your device while watching two videos.

ESPN’s not done either. In the preview demo we got back at The Cable Show in June, Mr. Phillips said more feature updates would follow the initial upgrade. In the future, for example, users will be able to create preferences in the app to get select information and video clips from specific sports team queued up in the toolbar.

In other good news, ESPN programming that airs on ABC will now also be included within the WatchESPN app. AND, the company has made the app free to college students and military personnel. Brilliant.

NimbleTV

NimbleTV is back in business. DISH Network cut off the streaming video service last month with a statement saying the company wasn’t an authorized Dish retailer. Now, FTABlog reports that customers in NimbleTV’s New York pilot market are slowly getting service back.

One of several TV Everywhere services on the market, NimbleTV offers its own business model twist. For $29.99/month, the company will transcode video from your pay-TV service and stream it back to you over the web with cloud-based DVR features. NimbleTV pays retransmission fees to content programmers, but does not have a formal relationship with any pay-TV operators. Instead, the company has informally paired up with Dish Network, and theoretically will do the same with other service providers in the future.

Things were fine and dandy for NimbleTV users until Dish cut off access to content in July. The service is returning now, but there are a couple of changes. First, all subscription charges for both NimbleTV and Dish service will be bundled together in one bill. Second, users have to provide a “New York Metropolitan Area address” in order to get access to local New York City channels. Of course, as FTABlog notes, “Did you know that the Empire State Building is at 350 5th Ave, 10118? Just sayin’.”

I’m still not convinced NimbleTV can make a go of its business, but it does count former Slinger Jason Hirschorn as one of its advisers. The company plans to expand beyond New York going forward to several other U.S. cities, and to select international markets.

Digital TV

The retransmission fight between CBS and Time Warner cable shows no sign of abating, but it is triggering some interesting discussions over how consumers and regulators should handle the standoff. Dave suggests that Time Warner subscribers pick up a Mohu Leaf antenna to amplify over-the-air CBS signals while cable access is cut off.

On the regulatory front, GigaOM points us to a blog post by Harold Feld, attorney and Legal Director for Public Knowledge. Among other suggestions, Feld recommends that the FCC should bar CBS from blocking Time Warner subscribers from accessing its content on CBS.com. The theory is that CBS can choose what programming it makes available online, but it can’t discriminate against a specific group of viewers.

Meanwhile, I’m left wondering why no one seems to bring up the obvious discussion point. Should we still have free TV? Broadcast networks now rely heavily on retransmission revenue, and that’s why negotiations with cable companies are such a big deal. But retrans fees trickle down to consumers, which means people are paying for free content just to get it through their cable provider. Is the idea of free TV dying out as business models evolve? More importantly, should we be trying to save it? Continue Reading…

LG SP530 product image

Lost in the Chromecast news yesterday was an announcement from LG and Entone on a new media streamer coming to retail. In itself, the streamer isn’t all that exciting. But pair the box with Entone’s 8-tuner gateway and you have a very interesting proposition for retail or the ISP channel.

To start, the streamer is called the LG SP530 Media Player, and it supports OTT services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube via LG’s Netcast platform (no WebOS in this one). The Media Player is the only Entone box LG is bringing to market now, but there is an option for LG, or any other CE player, to pick up Entone’s Magi media gateway as a partner product as well. The Magi gateway can receive content from over the air and from a cable network, and it can transcode video and stream it back out to any connected device.

Think of the deployment scenarios.

At retail, a combination of the gateway and streamer would give us OTT and OTA video all in one interface. MSOs could ultimately add their own apps like with the Xbox and Roku… or not. And we’d be able to watch video on a TV, tablet, or PC interchangeably.  Continue Reading…

Apple DVR proposal would pay for skipped ads

Have you heard? Apple wants to get into the TV business. And the latest? The company supposedly wants to create a premium service that allows users to skip commercials. But wait, there’s more! Apple apparently thinks it can set up a revenue-sharing system that will pay programmers for the ads that viewers skip. According to former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin and “people briefed on the conversations,” Apple is literally proposing to compensate media companies for the dollars they lose to commercial skipping technology.

There are so many oddities and possible permutations to this particular idea that I have to wonder if the media leaks are accurate. First off, there’s the premium ad-skipping service. Haven’t we had DVRs for more than a decade? What’s new? And if nothing, why would Apple need or want to negotiate some new type of payment plan to do what TiVo or other OTA DVRs already do?

Second, there’s the issue of determining the value of a skipped commercial. Is an ad worth more depending on when and where it’s skipped? If viewers increase ad-skipping behavior with other services, is the value of the ad decreased? What if a viewer sees part of an ad, but not the whole thing? How is the revenue split decided? Will Apple provide data on user behavior to programmers to validate ad-skipping fees?

Third, if Apple is willing to negotiate with programmers, why not just use the standard retransmission fee model? Sure, it sucks. But does create a compensation plan that requires complex evaluations for every commercial skipped sound any better?

Maybe Apple’s proposal to programmers is actually a modified retransmission scheme with blanket ad-skipping fees worked in. However, even that seems odd because it suggests Apple is willing to set itself up to pay more for content in order to attract licensing deals. Ultimately that move would put it at a serious disadvantage among pay-TV providers. How would Apple stay competitive?

The whole situation here sounds weird to me. The way I figure it, either the news reports are wrong, or Apple still has a lot of work to do figuring out television programming in the living room.

Who’s Buying Hulu?

Mari Silbey —  July 10, 2013 — 8 Comments

Hulu for sale

Someone is buying Hulu, and the list of suitors is down to three. Before the close of bidding last Friday, AT&T jumped in on a joint offer with the Chernin Group. Peter Chernin founded Hulu years ago when he was still president of News Corp., but his company’s bid was likely too low without the additional backing of AT&T. DirecTV and Time Warner Cable are also in the hunt, and rumor has it that the bids are upwards of $1 billion. Variety reports this morning that Guggenheim Digital is out of the race after submitting a bid below what Hulu was willing to take.

Hulu initially put itself on the auction block back in 2011, but backed away from a sale at the eleventh hour. Google and Dish were the leading bidders then, with Google reportedly offering up to $4 billion for the company as long as Hulu was willing to throw in expanded content licensing rights as part of the deal. (It wasn’t.)

Unlike Boxee, Hulu has built a significant consumer fan base, and the company says it earned close to $700 million in revenue in 2012. However, Hulu still isn’t profitable, and the issue of video licensing fees is a thorny one as programmers try to protect as much of their revenue as possible through the existing pay-TV ecosystem. Perhaps given those conditions, it’s not surprising that a pay-TV company – and not an outsider like TiVo or Google - appears set to come out on top when the Hulu sale finally closes.

flareWatch Cox with Fanhattan

Cox Communications is piloting an IPTV service in Orange County, California that combines cable television with Fanhattan’s Fan TV set-top and user interface. Todd Spangler at Variety broke the news about flareWatch late last week, and Cox has since confirmed the trial and Fanhattan partnership. Spokesperson Todd Smith says:

Cox is testing a video service with a unique user interface as part of a small trial in our Orange County, California market… We are early in the trial, but expect the product and experience could evolve during the trial based on customer feedback.

The big news here is the fact that Cox is bundling online TV service with a broadband connection rather than tagging it on to a traditional cable package. Beta pricing is listed at only $34.99 per month, and that includes big-name channels like ESPN and Disney.

However, the other interesting angle is Cox’s use of the Fanhattan UI. Forget the sweet little Fan TV box for the moment, Fanhattan has somehow succeeded on the software front where so many other start-ups have failed. It’s gotten a foot in the door with cable, and it’s done so without years of heartache and litigation. (Ahem TiVo, Boxee…)

I like Fanhattan. The TV guide app’s been plugging along since 2011 and getting better along the way. But what makes it so much better than a thousand other video discovery and aggregation apps?

Maybe it’s a case of good timing, or maybe Fanhattan has friends at Cox. Whatever the case, the accomplishment is significant. Fanhattan is playing with the big boys.