Archives For DVR

Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward joins ZNF as a Features contributor. Beyond ZNF, Joel can be found at Joel Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

We at the Ward household like trying new things—or at least my wife and kids tolerate me periodically tinkering with our home computing, entertainment, and networking configurations. Entertainment-wise, we’ve been using Roku for years and enjoy the Verizon FiOS TV DVR system quite a bit. Back in the day, before Verizon and HDTV, we enjoyed our networked ReplayTV DVRs and Netflix DVD subscription. So we’ve appreciated time-shifted TV and renting/streaming video for a long time.

Recently we got the opportunity to test out the Boxee Cloud DVR thanks to Zatz Not Funny’s very own Dave Zatz. I ended up replacing our living room Roku with the Boxee so we could get some real-life experience, including input from the kids who are the primary users of the now-removed Roku. We didn’t replace the FiOS cable box, mainly because we rely on a myriad of cable channels that the Boxee can’t yet support. But that’s a discussion for a little later.

Boxee Cloud DVR hardware

The Boxee Cloud DVR ($99) is a standalone device that has the following features: ATSC over-the-air (OTA) and Clear QAM cable tuner, the “cloud” digital video recorder (DVR) for OTA channels, and a small selection of network and online services.

After using the Boxee for a few weeks, Continue Reading…

directv-voice-search

According to Variety, DirecTV has been working on a Nuance-powered iPhone app update to bring speech recognition to HR24 and newer set-top boxes. My initial reaction was that it’s nothing more than a clever, but not very practical, application of Siri-like skills. Yet, upon reflection, being able to change channel via station name, rather than researching a corresponding number I probably don’t know, seems quite compelling. Natural language interactivity might even come in handy when attempting to determine when a given show airs. However, I don’t imagine voice control would be the most precise or efficient way to schedule and manage DVR recordings and I’m not particularly interested in finding “a Tom Cruise movie this weekend.”

VOD Gets Fast Forward Back

Mari Silbey —  April 25, 2013 — 1 Comment

TV Remote Control

You know how annoying it is when your on-demand session times out and you have to start a show over from the beginning? Oh, and then you find out fast forwarding has been disabled? Well, fear no more. The cable gods are hard at work fixing the problem.

The SCTE, a standards body for the cable industry, has just created a new standard letting operators apply trick-play functions to select portions of a video stream only. That means they can still prevent you from fast forwarding through ads, but if there’s some regular content you want to skip through, go right ahead.

Operators can also disable rewind and pause functionality within a stream, or restrict fast forwarding to twice the normal playback speed.

Related – remember how Time Warner Cable filed a patent last year for disabling trick-play functions on home DVRs? Yeah, still hoping that one doesn’t drop.

Back in February, TiVo had petitioned the FCC to build a new line of all-digital DVRs. And apparently Industry is prepared to abandon analog tuning, as not a single letter of opposition was filed.

From TiVo’s February filing:

This petition requests an extension of that waiver to several new all-digital cable only devices and a slight extension of that waiver to cover devices that permit reception of digital broadcast (“DTV”) signals. One model of TiVo’ s new all-digital DVRs would include ATSC over-the-air reception capability; this model, therefore, requires waiver of both the DCR Rules and Section 15.117(b)’s dual analog/digital tuner requirement.

From TiVo’s April follow-up (embedded below):

As the Commission is aware, the lengthy design and production cycle faced by consumer electronics manufacturers like TiVo makes it extremely important that the Commission act expeditiously to resolve the kinds of technical issues raised in the Petition. In this case, if TiVo is to begin production of its proposed all-digital DVRs in time to begin delivering them for the 2013 holiday season, the Commission must act to grant the Petition soon.

So while the FCC recently bungled Charter’s CableCARD waiver request, they have an opportunity to let TiVo get busy on their next generation Premiere DVR hardware. Yet, with the agency’s leadership in flux (and that nonsensical Charter ruling), it’s conceivable that TiVo may not receive a timely or desired response. In any event, two recent TiVo user surveys suggest the company is evaluating a 300-hr, 4-tuner, digital cable and OTA Premiere successor. Continue Reading…

Aereo hearts cable

People think of Aereo as a cable competitor, but the company’s real fight is with OTA broadcasters who don’t want to lose retransmission revenue. And if Aereo were to win its war in court, some pay-TV providers might very well decide to partner with the company rather than battle against it.

Jeff Baumgartner reports that the topic of cable partnerships came up this week at the annual NCTC winter conference. The National Cable  Telecommunications Cooperative is made up of independent cable operators, and Aereo’s CEO Chet Kanojia participated on a panel at the organization’s recent event. Reportedly Kenojia said Aereo would “take a very open approach with everyone we choose to work with,” and that he’d be “‘ecstatic’ to work with a like-thinking cable ISP.”

In other words, despite its marketing rhetoric, Aereo – like TiVo before it – would love to break into the cable biz.

Personally, I’m convinced that even if Aereo doesn’t win in court, it has other options for peddling its services. Beyond the now-famous dime-size antennas, Aereo appears to be operating sophisticated transcoding and video delivery technology. I imagine the Aereo solution is similar to what the TiVo Stream or Morega’s DirecTV Nomad device provides, except that the transcoding process takes place in the cloud rather than on a device in the home. The basic transcoding isn’t novel – plenty of companies offer transcoding services – but the ability to do it well and at scale is another thing entirely. Until all television content is transmitted in IP, Aereo has another potential technology ace up its sleeve, and plenty of patents to support it.

directv-genie-c41

The DirecTV C41 next gen “advanced whole home client” made a brief appearance at the FCC. And it really is a limited engagement, as there’s not much to contemplate beyond the label above and reference to the 2.4GHz RF. However, last month Pace fired off a press release announcing DirecTV’s hardware successors:

Pace (LSE: PIC), a leading global developer of advanced technologies for service providers, today announced the recent approval for production of DIRECTV’s next generation HR44 “Genie” Media Server and C41 “mini Genie” device. These innovative new products are developed in compliance with the RVU protocol.

The announcement goes on to say that these boxes are intended to replace the existing DirecTV Genie H34 and C31 whole-home DVR hardware – a solution Engadget declared “the best” (along with DISH’s Hopper). Interestingly, while Pace may be behind the announcement, it’s Technicolor who submitted the new hardware to the FCC for review.

Cox Cisco 2013 iPad app

While CES now feels like forever ago, we’re still catching up on some of our notes and leftover photos. Among them are scrawled observations and camera shots covering the “magical” new TV interface introduced by Cisco and Cox. (Yes, someone actually used that word.) I was struck by two things during the presentation that Dave and I attended. First, the Cox Trio TV user interface and accompanying iOS app are beautiful. But second, they don’t do anything that I don’t already expect the next-generation of electronic program guides to do.

The updated Trio HD guide (built by NDS, now Cisco) rolled out to Cox customers in December, but the latest iOS app was unveiled for the first time at CES. (An Android version is reportedly scheduled for Q1.) In addition to cosmetic touch-ups, the Trio HD update includes the ability to establish profiles for individual users, and provides new personalized content recommendations that cut across live TV, future broadcast listings, and video on demand.

cox-cisco3

The new iOS app, meanwhile, works with iPads, iPhones and iPods, streams 90 Cox television channels, and provides access to the full Cox VOD library. It doesn’t use the same UI as Trio, but because the underlying information is delivered from the cloud (that magical place in the sky), it does support the same user profiles. It also relies on the same ThinkAnalytics content recommendation engine accessed by the Trio EPG.

In the future, Cox plans to offer new features that allow subscribers to stream content from a second-screen device to the TV, and to move recorded content in the other direction from a DVR to a tablet or smartphone. Exactly how it plans to enable those features, however, is still in question. Continue Reading…