Archives For Placeshifting

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.

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…

Morega TV quad-stream transcoding demo

Dave digs the TiVo Stream, and has a professional history with Sling, but those guys aren’t the only placeshifting players in town. Morega is another contender, powering the DirecTV Nomad box and with other deals in place for its media networking software. I know this in part because I’ve been doing some indirect work for the company, but also because Morega has been upping its profile in the cable space. I can’t say my perspective is unbiased on this one, but Morega has some cool stuff going on.

First off, the Morega software does streaming and syncing of content coming in through your TV. Depending on how a provider wants to use the technology, you can:

  • Stream live or recorded TV to other devices (locally or beyond)
  • Sync recorded TV to a mobile device for offline viewing

Morega demo media source boxAnd, at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo show last week, Morega showed off quad-stream transcoding, i.e. four streams transcoded at once so that you can be moving lots of different content around to lots of different places. (Shot above shows real-time transcoding displayed on a laptop screen for demo purposes) Continue Reading…

boxee-tv-cloud-dvr

In what’s shaping up to be a fall battle of over-the-air DVRs, highly touted Simple.TV has started shipping while Boxee pivots away from local content aggregation into broadcast television archival. Yet, Simple.TV is anything but… by incorporating just a single OTA tuner and requiring owners supply their own USB storage, this remains the provence of geeks. Simple.TV hardware runs $149, but to fully unlock its recording and placeshifting capabilities (to devices like Roku and iPad) will require an annual $50-$60 subscription fee. Potentially more interesting is Boxee TV, which clocks in at a mere $99 for hardware… but similarly requires a subscription for full-on DVR and placeshifting functionality at $15/month in this case. While that may seem steep at first blush, the dual tuner Boxee TV is positioning itself as a cloud DVR and the fee includes unlimited online storage. Bonus: With or without that subscription, Boxee TV incorporates Apple TV-esque features like Netflix and YouTube apps while remaining on Input 1.

Questions about both devices remain. For example, what sort of quality and encoding are we talking about in terms of resolution and audio channels. Also, while Boxee positions itself as a potential cord cutting device, it’s often the cable “television” companies providing our Internet pipe… and associated bandwidth cap, which might limit the usefulness of a cloud-based DVR. Lastly, both Simple.TV and Boxee TV tout the ability to record unencrypted digital cable (aka clear QAM). Well, good luck with that now that the FCC has granted cable operators to right to encrypt basic cable. Continue Reading…

Entone Magi cable TV gateway

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Entone, but the TV set-top company is ready to start raising its profile. Entone announced today that it’s introducing the Magi Hybrid CATV Media Gateway in conjunction with the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo show this week. The Magi is Entone’s first product specifically for cable, and it combines live TV, DVR and web-based video delivery under the FusionTV brand name

CEO Steve McKay says Magi boxes will ultimately come in multiple versions. A high-end Magi box will include many tuners, and full video transcoding capabilities in addition to DOCSIS, CableCARD, MoCA and Wi-Fi support. Lower-end boxes will skip the transcoding function and offer fewer tuners for a more basic service.

Interestingly, when I talked to McKay, he noted that Entone, which has traditionally focused solely on the IPTV space, would never have considered making cable hardware even a few years ago. He said that, “at that time it was suicide for a small company to compete with Motorola and Cisco.” Things have changed, however. McKay pointed out that cable networks are starting to look a lot more like telco networks, and that there’s huge uncertainty now about the two big set-top providers; Motorola because of the Google acquisition, and Cisco because of its greater focus on software with the purchase of NDS.

Entone Magi FusionTV interface for cable 1

Meanwhile, the entire pay-TV industry is finally starting to warm up to the idea of hybrid services, and to the reality of consumer demand for streaming video. Consider:

Continue Reading…

Verizon Fiox Media Server concept from Motorola

Now that the industry has come to grips with the fact that consumers want to watch TV on multiple screens, there’s growing momentum behind video gateways. (Gateways combine regular television with IP video, and allow users to share content across a home media network.) The big winner to date has been the Arris six-tuner super box, with customers including Shaw, Wide Open West and BendBroadband. However, there’s new confirmation that Verizon plans to launch a Motorola gateway, dubbed the FiOS Media Server, in the coming months.

I hear it’s likely we’ll only see a managed field trial of the Media Server before the end of the year, but at least Verizon is moving in the right direction. After early talk of porting FiOS TV to mobile devices, we’ve had precious little action from Verizon on the mobile access front. The new Media Server isn’t likely to allow placeshifting outside of a subscriber’s home network, but frankly I’d love just to be able to watch an NFL game on my iPad out on my porch, or upstairs while sorting the laundry.

As for what we know about the new box (which Dave first wrote about last December), it reportedly has six tuners and one terabyte of storage. There is an eSata port, but no word on whether that will be enabled or not. There’s also the ability to transcode up to four video streams for playback on different mobile devices.

tivo-stream-rear

In case you missed it, TiVo held an awkward Facebook sweepstakes to “win” the opportunity to pre-order a TiVo Stream. Today, the lucky 600 were notified with the email below:

Call (877) 289-8486 by September 4th (noon PST) to order your new TiVo Stream and receive it on September 5th. The TiVo Stream is just $129.99 with no additional service fee.

I’m satisfied with TiVo’s pricing. Sure, they could have gone lower on hardware, but TiVo’s always been something of a premium brand and service. Most importantly, they’re launching the Stream fee-free. And I’m down for one.

As a refresher, the TiVo Stream is a small network device that acts as an intermediary between a Premiere DVR and an iPhone or iPad — allowing you to stream live or DVRed content to iOS devices around the home. Also, as the virtual successor to TiVoToGo, the Stream can wirelessly offload unrestricted recordings to that iPad or iPhone to take on the road.

UPDATE: My TiVo Stream review is up.

Continue Reading…