Archives For TV Shows

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Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead launched viewdini this morning, a new mobile video portal that sources content from different providers and lets users stream video, search, share and more. Early content partners include Comcast Xfinity, Hulu Plus, mSpot and Netflix. No FiOS TV video yet (ironic), but it’s reportedly on the way.

The concept here is very similar to offerings out from companies like Fanhattan and Clicker, but of course Verizon has a little more heft in the marketing department. Verizon says the app will be available on LTE Android devices later this month, and an iOS version is in the works.

The phrase “net neutrality” is a seriously loaded term, which is why Comcast has to be so irritated that it’s once again part of the lexicon as we head into this week’s Cable Show. In case you haven’t been following along, the latest dust-up started when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings raised objections on Facebook over Comcast’s Xfinity app on the Microsoft Xbox. The Xfinity app is delivered over Comcast’s “managed IP network” and, unlike with other over-the-top (OTT) services, video streamed over the app doesn’t count toward broadband usage caps.

Then Sony vice president Michael Aragon jumped with his own cap complaints. He went on the record to say that Sony was postponing its plans to enter the video service market precisely because of the bandwidth cap issue.

Fast forward to today, and we now have a virtual war going on between Comcast, and, well, the rest of the world. Just as the Cable Show starts up – and the government crowd pours into Boston for the event – Comcast finds itself fighting on three fronts. Continue Reading…

Last fall The Wall Street Journal reported that Sony had plans to launch an Internet-based video service. Now there’s word from Variety that the company is holding off. Apparently it’s not the content licensing deals that Sony’s worried about, but bandwidth caps. At an industry conference yesterday, Sony VP and GM Michael Aragon noted: “These guys have the pipe and the bandwidth. If they start capping things, it gets difficult.”

So here we are, storming into another battle over bandwidth caps. Sony isn’t the only one complaining. Netflix and several others have also raised a red flag because Comcast has said that use of its Xfinity app on the Xbox won’t count against users’ 250GB broadband cap. In contrast, any other video streamed over the web does count against the cap. Critics are calling this a net neutrality foul, and Comcast is countering that Xfinity streaming is different from other services because it’s delivered over a managed network rather than the Internet. It just so happens that both networks are IP-based.

There is a serious discussion to be had here, but it’s a difficult one, and it’s complicated by many factors most people aren’t aware of – like how cable networks are evolving. As a first step to untangling the problem, I have one wild suggestion. Let’s start monitoring how much bandwidth cable companies are devoting to managed IP services versus public Internet service. I’m not saying we should regulate that ratio… at least not yet. But let’s monitor it. We don’t want the Internet side of the pipe to get shortchanged, and if there’s more bandwidth available for public Internet service, there should be less pressure to cap usage. Continue Reading…

NimbleTV

And then there were three. The New York Times is reporting that a new start-up, NimbleTV, will start beta testing a TV Everywhere service today, joining the likes of Skitter and Aereo in trying to bring traditional TV to the web in a direct-to-consumer service model. NimbleTV proposes to stream a subscriber’s entire pay-TV line-up over the Internet. For a likely (though unconfirmed) fee of $20, consumers will theoretically be able to watch all the shows they pay for anywhere, at any time.

Of the three new TV Everywhere companies, NimbleTV sounds the sketchiest of all. The company isn’t attempting to sign retransmission deals isn’t attempting to operate through existing telco franchise agreements the way Skitter has planned, and it’s not sticking to over-the-air content the way Aereo is. (According to MultiChannel News, investor and board member Barry Diller is headed to Congress tomorrow to testify to its legality.) Former Slinger and current adviser to one of NimbleTV’s VC backers Jason Hirschhorn says the company is picking up where Slingbox left off, but although Sling has miraculously managed to skirt around the industry’s legal land mines, I can’t imagine NimbleTV will be able to do the same. Retransmission rights have become a huge deal, and pay-TV providers are creating their own TV Everywhere platforms. They have no interest in turning that distribution channel over to a third party, particularly one that wants to own its own relationship with the consumer.

To top it all off, who wants to pay an extra fee just to stream TV shows you’ve already paid for? I’d say NimbleTV is one for the deadpool. Anybody else care to weigh in?

UPDATE: Turns out NimbleTV is negotiating retransmission rights and paying content licensing fees, contrary to my initial understanding of the service. However, the company believes it doesn’t need the blessing of pay-TV operators to do business. This puts NimbleTV on less shaky legal ground, but still means it’s got a tough fight ahead of it.

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The social TV revolution is in full swing, and last week Kit Digital showed off its contribution at the NAB show in Vegas. Kit’s Social Program Guide is a white label product for service providers that lays social functionality on top of a traditional EPG. Even if you don’t want to tweet from your TV, Kit offers features that help you discover what friends are watching. The guide also provides recommendations based on a combination of personal preferences and activity in your social circle. Want to keep the social stuff limited to your iPad? Kit lets you do that too, offering a cross-platform application for browsing comments and background info on your lap, while leaving the main entertainment up on the big screen.

If my experience at the Cable-Tec Expo last fall is any indicator, lots of companies are getting into the TV guide business. And everyone is touting a combination of cloud-based technology, social content discovery, and new advertising opportunities. Kit Digital is no different, but it does have an appealing interface and some nice touches. I like the asynchronous commenting feature, and the ability to set up individual accounts in a household. Here’s a list of capabilities, as provided by Kit Digital lead analyst and loyal ZNF reader Alan Wolk.

Social Program Guide Features: Continue Reading…

The mobile TV service Dyle was originally scheduled to go live last year, but in a follow-up to its showcase at CES in January, Dyle’s Mobile Content Venture backers want us to know the service hasn’t lost its momentum. Dyle has added 17 more stations to its line-up and is planning for a 2012 launch. Rounding out the 70+ channels already on its roster, Dyle will now include new stations from Belo, Cox Media Group, Fox, Gannett Broadcasting, ION, Post-Newsweek, Meredith, Raycom, CBS Television and LIN Media.

Dyle is showing off its wares this week at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. In addition to announcing an expanded channel list, the company is also reportedly demonstrating its broadcast service on a new LG Android phone. At launch, Dyle says it will cover 35 markets and reach more than 55% of U.S. homes.

So what’s the real deal with Dyle? In short, the venture is designed to pick up where FLO TV left off. If all goes according to plan, Dyle will broadcast live news, sports and entertainment over the air to mobile devices. OTA means no carrier intervention and no data caps. However, it also means availability is subject to markets where the broadcast signal is strong enough. And we’re talking live video, no on-demand. Dyle also says it will launch as a free service, but it doesn’t promise to stay that way. 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…