Archives For Placeshifting

In one very big, but very early battle between start-up Aereo and its broadcast TV opponents, a judge ruled yesterday that the hybrid TV service provider is not violating copyright law and can continue to operate without paying retransmission fees. The judge denied broadcasters’ request for a preliminatry injunction by noting that:

  1. Aereo uses a separate antenna for each broadcast signal it receives and redistributes,
  2. The programming that Aereo stores is not materially different from the content Cablevision stores with its Remote Storage DVR service.

There is a huge amount of money at stake with the Aereo lawsuit because of the growing importance of retransmission fees in broadcaster revenue models. While over-the-air networks used to bring in the bulk of their money from advertising, they now rely heavily on the fees paid by pay-TV providers to retransmit their content. Aereo threatens that revenue stream by sidestepping licensing deals, taking advantage of free OTA signals, and then converting broadcast programs into IP in order to stream them to paying subscribers.

You can bet there will be appeals on the Aereo decision, but in the meantime, the company has demonstrated it has some legal ground to stand on, and that means it can further explore how much interest there is from consumers in a hybrid OTA/OTT service.

Speaking of hybrid services, I’ve written before about Aereo counterparts Skitter and NimbleTV. But I also had a chance to talk recently with the CEO of Entone, which has its own model for hybrid TV delivery. Entone itself is a topic for a much longer post, but for now suffice it to say that there are a lot of companies testing out the market for hybrid TV. Whether Aereo ultimately wins its legal battles or not, it looks like we’re only at the beginning of a new wave of pay-TV services. We’re up to four new players, and counting…

HBO may be making it harder to transfer shows from TiVo hardware, but it’s expanding users’ other mobile options with the HBO GO app. Time Warner Cable let the cat out of the bag in a blog post stating that HBO GO would be available starting today on nearly every Android device, and the updated app’s arrival in the Google Play store confirmed the news.  (Hat tip: Richard Lawler and Engadget) Supported OS iterations include Ice Cream Sandwich, Honeycomb, and most versions of Gingerbread. (No Jelly Bean yet) Supported hardware includes phones and tablets with screen sizes anywhere between 3.5 and 11 inches.

It may seem odd that Time Warner Cable is touting HBO’s news, but given that the cable operator was one of the last to make a deal with the cable network in January, it’s likely trying to make up for lost time with subscribers. Meanwhile, on other mobile fronts, Time Warner has been more of a pioneer. The company was the first cable provider to stream live TV to the iPad, and it added Android support for live streaming in April. The live video feature is limited to your home broadband network, but we remain hopeful that retransmission negotiations will change that restriction in the not-to-distant future.

Meanwhile, HBO Go continues to gain momentum even two plus years after launch. Once again the programmer proves that content is still king, no matter what how the distribution channels change.

belkin-placeshifter

Looking for a Slingbox alternative? Belkin could have you covered when they launch @TV next month. Like Slingbox, Belkin’s upcoming $150 hardware relays audio and video from your DVR or other set-top to computer or mobile around the house or anywhere the world. Computer and iPad or Android tablet viewing software will be free, but the smartphone client will run you $13.

While it’s not clear if this hardware actually streams in HD, it’s entirely apparent who’s producing the box for Belkin… as I turned up this very same Vulkano product via FCC filings last fall. Further, a quick Google search of “Belkin” and “Vulkano” points us to Android Marketplace and iTunes App Store clients (that have been active for months). Monsoon, the maker of Hava and Vulkano, has been down this OEM path before with Pinnacle and Linksys – and here’s to hoping they have better luck with Belkin’s brand awareness and retail shelf space. Assuming consumers are still interested in roll-your-own placeshifting given all the mobile media alternatives. Continue Reading…

tivo-ipstb

As The Cable Show kicks off today, TiVo is out with a few whole home-esque product updates.

First, the upcoming transcoding box and functionality that I had christened TiVoToGo 2.0, has received a possibly less compelling name in the “Stream.” This small square device (shown below) sits on one’s home network to access both live and recorded content via TiVo Premiere DVR hardware and beams it around the home to “second screen” devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Both streaming, for in-home viewing, and file downloads, for on-the-go access, are provided. Although, it’s probably safe to assume not all content will be cleared for offloading.

Next up, the TiVo IP set-top box, first announced in February, remains unnamed as their ungainly “IP STB.” This upcoming device, pictured above from the show floor, acts as an extender for TiVo Premiere hardware to other televisions – providing access to both live and recorded programming, in addition to web content, via the familiar TiVo interface. It’s quite similar to, and will coexist with, the TiVo Preview – but by dropping the integrated CableCARD tuner Continue Reading…

Skitter and Aereo

They sound like bad comic book character names, but Skitter and Aereo are two of the latest companies to jump into the video service game. Instead of trying to offer premium content, however, the two start-ups are going old school. They’re both selling traditional broadcast content over the Internet and optionally combining it with a DVR. (Skitter’s DVR service hasn’t launched yet, but is in the works.) On the plus side, you get decent-quality transmission of the prime-time networks, access to TV across a bunch of connected devices, and all the benefits of being able to pause live television, fast forward through commercials, etc. On the minus side, you have to pay a chunk of change every month (around $12) for content that’s supposed to be free.

Whether you like the idea behind Skitter and Aereo or not, the fact that they exist (for now) is an interesting commentary on the state of television. Both companies are offering a very basic content package with a few extra goodies. It reminds of my household circa 2008 when we steadfastly held on to analog cable and combined it with a subscription-free ReplayTV DVR. Most of our TV watching was still focused on the major networks, but the ability to get ESPN and decent reception had us paying a monthly fee to Comcast. Fast forward to today and we pay a much larger monthly bill to Verizon for TV. Granted that bill includes HD channels, a FiOS DVR, VoD, and a much wider selection of linear content, but it’s still tough to stomach when the invoice clears are mailbox every four weeks.

And so Skitter and Aereo enter the scene. Continue Reading…

simpletv

Simple.TV is the retail DVR you wanted five years ago. And yet it’s still interesting enough to make my personal list of top product announcements coming out of CES 2012. Why? Because it’s a truly viable, inexpensive way to add digital video recording to your TV set-up without cable’s help. Maybe you remember the Replay TV? Or even those precious few DVD players available around 2004/2005 that imported guide data and sported DVR functions? The Simple.TV box does the same, but with a few twists.

Briefly described, Simple.TV is a bring-your-own-hard-drive DVR that slings over-the-air (OTA) and clear QAM cable content to various mobile devices and media extenders — sort of a sexier, evolved HDHomeRun… albeit, with  fewer tuners. Simple.TV doesn’t directly attach to your TV, but if you want to DVR stuff on the flat screen, you can always access the box via apps on your Roku, Boxee Box, Windows Media Center or Google TV device. The Simple.TV transcodes content to MPEG-4 with variable bit-rate streaming, and it makes any video, live or recorded, available through one of the company’s apps. CNET got a hands-on with the device, and found the iPad app in particular to be pretty slick.

Perhaps the best thing about Simple.TV is the price. The cost for the box is $149, and you can add on unlimited remote streaming for up to five users, as well as richer guide data and automatic recording for $4.99 a month via their Premiere Service. If you have cable TV service, you can connect the Simple.TV box to the coax along with your broadband connection. Or if you don’t, you can catch those over-the-air signals.

The cable DVR solution is certainly the simplest option for consumers out there, but for die-hard cord-nevers (like some of my neighbors), and college students or recent grads who don’t have the cash for a pay-TV subscription or premium-tier extras, Simple.TV is a cool DVR alternative. And it’s been a while since we’ve had an inexpensive one of those.

Several pay-TV operators debuted iPad apps with streaming video in 2011, and most started offering live TV before the end of the year. Now Broadcom is hoping to take those TV Everywhere efforts a step further. This morning the chip maker announced an integration deal with EchoStar to embed Sling place-shifting tech in its dual-tuner HD gateway system on a chip (SoC), the BCM7425. The news means set-top makers, like heavyweights Motorola and Cisco, will soon be able to add a dose of Sling into their set-tops with the help of one of their existing suppliers.

To date, Dish Network is the only service provider offering place shifting with a Slingbox or “Slingloaded” set-top. All of the other live streaming apps on the market require users to stay within the bounds of their home Wi-Fi networks. Thanks to current licensing deals, and programmer squeamishness, TV Everywhere is more like TV Everywhere in Your House. However, Cablevision’s (until recently) COO Tom Rutledge already stated publicly in August that Cablevision is working to change that. The Sling-on-a-Chip news could help pave the way. If  “slinging” becomes more mainstream, it will be hard to argue that operators can’t offer the same functionality in their apps, with our without Broadcom’s SoC.

Broadcom says the new BCM7425 will be available in the third quarter of this year for cable, telecom and satellite TV operators.