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Online TV addiction: Man, it’s hard to shake

Chromecast set-up 3

I spent more time playing with Chromecast this weekend while also contemplating the ongoing CBS blackout for Time Warner subscribers. At the moment, CBS is also blocking access to its shows on CBS.com for TWC subs. However, there is some legal argument that the network shouldn’t be able to discriminate against a specific set of viewers online. If that notion ever gains traction, then online access could be a viable alternative to watching CBS on cable.

Which led me to test out streaming from the CBS website. With Chromecast.

The good news is that casting the CBS stream to your TV is extremely easy. Switch TV inputs, open up CBS in your Chrome browser, click the Google Cast button, and you’re good to go. The bad news is that the video quality is atrocious. I’m not a pixel snob, but I was on the verge of getting nauseous trying to watch the disjointed playback. Continue Reading…

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…

mohu-leaf

As the Time Warner Cable CBS retransmission spat drags on, impacted cable subscribers (or is that former subscribers?) have resorted to HDTV antennas and free OTA broadcasts, if RadioShack’s surge in sales is any indication. And, should you find yourself in a similar situation, let me recommend the amazing Mohu Leaf (~$40). We tend to shy away from hyperbole, but prior to the Leaf review unit I sporadically received a single major network over-the-air… but the Leaf’s stellar reception capabilities have brought the full gamut of broadcast television into my kitchen and allowed me to evaluate Simple.TV (despite AntennaWeb indicating need for a rooftop solution). Its thin profile and reversible black/white presentation also allows for subtle yet effective placement around the house. Of course, your mileage may vary, dependent on a multitude of factors, but I’m a believer.

Nielsen: Understanding The Two-Way Causal Influence Between Twitter Activity and TV Viewership

tv-twitter-relationship