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hulu-desktop

Amidst Hulu’s identity crisis, their Windows and Mac Hulu Desktop software has gone missing. First introduced in 2009, these apps provided another means of video playback… with the benefit of Apple and Microsoft Media Center remote control support. But they unceremoniously vanished from the web several weeks back, along with all of Hulu Labs. A Hulu support rep indicates they are “investigating the matter” (huh?) and “hope to make the link available again soon.” With no further information beyond guidance for “users to stream off the website” and “soon” having coming and gone, we’re left to wonder if Hulu has pulled the plug on this method of video consumption. Not that we care all that much, having mostly avoided the service since being accosted with two-minute Scientology commercials.

(Thanks Brad!)

Aereo logo and antenna array

Aereo has been super savvy in grabbing headlines of late. If you’re not caught up on the story so far, the start-up TV company has expanded to a few new markets, won another round in court against broadcasters, and left Fox, CBS and others frothing at the mouth and threatening to move free programming over to a paid service model.

The thing about Aereo is, while the conceptual disruption is huge, the impact of the actual service is still vanishingly small.

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.

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…

StickNFind bluetooth stickers

All this talk about an Internet of Things and I still can’t find my keys in the morning. This is the problem I hoped to solve when I visited the StickNFind booth at CES last week. (An eon ago, but we’re still catching up on coverage) Funded by an IndieGoGo campaign (like Kickstarter), the StickNFind product is a small Bluetooth sticker combined with a mobile app for homing in on objects wherever they go. It’s due to ship commercially in March, and it comes with a reasonable price tag of $50 for two stickers.

There are a lot of things to like about StickNFind. The sticker format makes these tracking devices very flexible. They stick on almost anything, and you can track up to 20 objects (or pets, or kids…) at once. There’s also a nifty “virtual leash” feature that lets you know when a sticker is moving out of range. Unfortunately, StickNFind is also at the mercy of Bluetooth’s limitations. The tracking function only works up to 100 feet, and it requires line of sight. Continue Reading…

Redbox Instant Sets Rates

Dave Zatz —  December 12, 2012 — 21 Comments

redbox-instant

While Verizon and Redbox’s joint venture may be running a bit behind schedule, the Netflix competitor teased us today with program details. As expected, Redbox Instant will stream video from a number of distributors to a variety of mobile and television devices —  including smartphones, tablets, connected Blu-ray players, and Google TV. The all-you-can-eat movie-centric service will run $8 a month, as Netflix and Hulu do. Interesting, they will also offer à la carte rentals and purchases… presumably of the more compelling, new release content. Given their DNA, it’s no surprise their secret weapon is bundled disc rentals via those conveniently located Redbox self serve kiosks. Four nightly DVD rentals a month are include at that $8 tier, but an an extra buck elevates you to Blu-ray. Is that enough to wrest customers away from Netflix or encourage first time streaming subscribers? Guess we’ll begin to find out in early 2013.

Aereo Headed to Smart TVs

Mari Silbey —  December 6, 2012 — 1 Comment

Video Nuze VideoSchmooze 2012 Colin Dixon and Chet Kanojia

At yesterday’s VideoSchmooze conference in New York, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia told the audience that his company will soon release more applications for the 10-foot television experience. Aereo is planning to launch apps for a variety of smart TVs shortly, and for adjunct TV devices, including the Roku. Aereo has a private channel for the Roku today, but will release a more complete experience for the device in the near future. Kanojia also noted that “conceptually” games consoles make a lot of sense for Aereo too.

To date, Aereo is still only available in New York City, and it continues to fight for its legal right to exist. Broadcasters want to shut Aereo down because the company gets around retransmission fees by assigning a tiny antenna to each customer and transcoding over-the-air signals for delivery over IP. So far the courts haven’t forced Aereo to close its doors, but the legal battle has only just begun.

Meanwhile, Aereo’s technology is sophisticated enough that I’m still theorizing the company has a back-up plan if its current business model doesn’t survive. Aereo also has an advantage in that its technology costs are minimal. Kanojia threw out one stat yesterday that drove home that point. He said that the cost of transcoding a single stream of video a couple of years ago was around $6,000. Today, that number is in the single digits.