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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.

Who’s Buying Boxee?

Mari Silbey —  June 27, 2013 — 9 Comments

Boxee buyer

Rumors surfaced earlier this month that Boxee is about to get bought on the cheap. And while details are virtually non-existent on the identity of the buyer, we’ve never let that stop us from speculating before.

So who is the mysterious suitor? I see four potential acquiring types.

Hardware company
With Boxee’s software roots, it’s possible that a hardware manufacturer like D-Link could pick up Boxee’s video guide and DVR applications to bundle with retail boxes. If the price is right, I wonder if even Roku might be interested. Roku doesn’t want to spend the money to license fancy guide software for its super-cheap hardware. But if it could pick up the Boxee assets cheaply enough, the interface upgrade potential could be compelling.

Service provider
It’s hard to imagine that a pay-TV provider would bother with Boxee, given the other software options available, and the fact that the big operators are building their own next-gen UIs. However, maybe a small innovator would consider grabbing the assets just to break away from the standard software vendors and create some buzz. Wide Open West has made hay with the Moxi interface. Maybe somebody else on the tier-two provider list is ready to step up on the multi-screen UI front.

Media company Continue Reading…

watch-espn

ESPN is spiffing up its WatchESPN app for iOS devices. Starting this summer, the app will include a new live toolbar with interactive features and embedded on-demand videos. VP Damon Phillips describes it as the two-dot-oh version of ESPN’s bottom line, and over time it will evolve even further to include options for customization based on users’ favorite sports teams.

Phillips introduced the updated app with a live demo during a session at The Cable Show last week. In the demo, Phillips navigated between live sporting events by clicking on different options in the toolbar. He also showed how it’s possible to create a split screen with a live event on one side, and a related on-demand video playing on the other. When the live event went to commercial, Phillips enlarged the on-demand clip, and then pinched back to return to split-screen mode.

The new toolbar also offers an option to drill down on detailed stats for live and upcoming games. And in the future, users will be able to create preferences to receive information and video clips on specific teams within the toolbar. As a Redskins fan, for example, I might have an RG3 press conference waiting for me when I open the WatchESPN app.

Phillips let drop several WatchESPN stats during The Cable Show session as well. The app is now available in 55 million households, and ESPN has deals with eight of the top ten video service providers for WatchESPN access.

Eye-Fi Mobi

Eye-Fi has launched the Eye-Fi Mobi, a new camera SD card designed to let you share photos directly from your camera to your mobile devices. This isn’t entirely new, but Eye-Fi claims the set-up process is simpler than ever, requiring “no computer, no account and no cloud.” The price tag is also niftier than before; just $50 for an 8GB card, or $80 for the 16GB version.

We’ve been fans of Eye-Fi for years at ZNF, but I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve used one of their camera cards. The Mobi doesn’t require an Internet connection, but instead directly pairs your camera with a smartphone or tablet. Back in the day, I used my Eye-Fi card to transfer photos automatically to my PC, and then upwards to the cloud as needed. The Mobi doesn’t connect with computers – which is a bit silly – but that may not be a deal-breaker anymore given the proliferation of all things mobile. Users can download the free Eye-Fi iOS or Android app to an unlimited number of devices and share, share away.

For a while I tried to make do with my smartphone for all photo-taking excursions. However, I finally broke down and asked for a real (albeit still inexpensive) camera last Christmas. The quality in most situations is still infinitely better than that of my HTC Thunderbolt. Of course now I just have more digital photos in more places. Perhaps an Eye-Fi Mobi card can help fix the problem.

BELL CANADA - Bell launches Canada's first wireless TV receiver

Bell Canada launched a wireless set-top this week from Motorola as part of its Fibe TV service. Subscribers can connect up to five TVs wirelessly through Bell’s whole home DVR service. The wireless client boxes are available to buy for $199, or to rent for $7 per month.

Bell isn’t the first operator to go wireless. AT&T introduced a similar Cisco box in 2011, and it’s reportedly been popular among U-verse subscribers. I have to admit, though, I find the promoted outdoor use case a bit odd. If I was one of those people on an HGTV show who entertains scores of friends and family every weekend, then maybe I could see installing a set-top on my deck, but the reality is, I’m not. And few people are.

My guess is more people just like the ability to do away with extra TV cords, even in guest rooms, basements, and the home office. If – and it’s a big if – the video quality is reasonable, then why not go wireless?

On the other hand, maybe a tablet serves the same purpose. More and more TV is headed to the second screen. If it’s wireless IP video you want, why not just pick up the iPad? Or even settle back in front of a table-sized PC?

Content plus data bundle

ESPN is considering it. AT&T has discussed it. And now Verizon is jumping on the bandwagon.

At a financial conference yesterday, Verizon EVP and CFO Fran Shammo stated explicitly that we’re likely to see content and wireless data delivery bundled together from certain content providers. In other words, a network like ESPN would cover the cost of video delivery so that users could stream to their hearts’ content without going over mobile data caps.

From the transcript of yesterday’s conference:

So I think you are going to see this ecosystem change, you are going to see some content provider say I’m willing to pay for the content, don’t charge the consumer and when we developed LTE, we developed LTE and our billing system with the capability to segregate that traffic if someone else wants to pay for it.

Now Shammo wants to be clear that this isn’t a net neutrality issue.

Net neutrality is around prioritizing the delivery of content, that’s not what we are talking about, content will be delivered equally across the network. This is just a matter of who pays for the delivery of that content, and I think you are going to see that change and that’s going to open up what can be done on a more seamless basis.

However, by adding in delivery costs, a network like ESPN would be making it harder for smaller content guys without ready capital to compete. Welcome to the world of new media kingpins.

Microsoft Xbox One as TV

Microsoft has been a frenemy to the pay-TV industry for a long, long time. So now that the company is taking over TV interfaces with its Xbox One HDMI pass-through feature, I thought it worth looking back over the company’s (sometimes torturous) history with pay-TV providers. (Note: Nothing on Media Center PCs or WebTV here. That’s another story.)

Timeline

2003 - Microsoft TV Foundation Edition Launches in June at the National Show
Microsoft’s software platform for the cable industry includes an interactive program guide that operators can use to create “On-Demand Storefronts”

2004Microsoft and Comcast do a deal to bring the Foundation software to subscribers in Washington state
Microsoft gets its big break in the cable industry
Microsoft TV Foundation guide for Comcast
2006 - AT&T launches U-verse IPTV service with Microsoft inside
U-verse is the first major IPTV service in the U.S., and it runs on Microsoft code

2006 - Microsoft announces the Xbox Video Marketplace
New video store cements the Xbox as a Trojan Horse in the living room

2007Comcast gives up on Microsoft’s Foundation software
Microsoft’s short (and not sweet) dance with Comcast ends

Continue Reading…