Archives For DVR

X1-App-Pandora 1

Forget net neutrality. Comcast has some new shiny objects for your attention. And here’s the latest news:

  • Comcast is launching Xfinity TV on the X1 platform. Translated, that means the IP-based Xcalibur platform is storming to life in Boston after extended trials in August, Georgia. Roll out will begin in Boston “in the coming weeks” with several major markets to follow in 2012.
  • There’s a new X1 Remote Control App coming. Comcast says it will let you swipe your touch screen to control your TV, and allow you to create personalized shortcuts favorites. Imagery looks pedestrian.
  • Comcast is introducing “Dayview.” This one’s still in project codename territory, but the theory here is a unified interface that works across TVs, laptops, smartphones and tablets – something akin to a Today homescreen.

Project-Dayview-home-screen

Stay tuned for some analysis on Comcast’s announcement.

As fallout over DISH Network’s new Auto Hop commercial skip feature expands, TiVo has injected themselves into the conversation. From the New York Times:

TiVo has taken the same approach, promoting ways to serve ads to viewers even as they’re fast-forwarding through them. “We’ve gone from being a black hat to being more of a white hat,” said Tom Rogers [...] TiVo owners can find ways to hack the hardware and create an auto-skip feature, but the company has never promoted it, preferring instead to be in business with the broadcasters.

Never mind the gross mischaracterization of TiVo’s quite manual 30 second skip, which is more easter egg than “hardware” hack, and let’s focus instead on TiVo’s increased chumminess with the broadcasters, advertisers, and cable industry… who are often one and the same. While they may find TiVo more “white hat” these days, us subscribers might actually see it in reverse. Something I discussed with The Associated Press back 2009:

He said he’s been wondering, “Who are TiVo’s customers?” People like him, or advertisers? “They’re getting paid on both ends.”

All things considered, I’d say TiVo has been relatively successful walking that fine line as they’ve the brokered deals (and defended patents) needed to survive without overly polluting our end-user experience. But I hope they continue to remember us little people. As the best way to skip commercials doesn’t involve cable television or DVRs. Rather, it remains renting DVDs and Blu-ray discs from Netflix.

TiVo-Parental-Controls

As promised, TiVo’s Spring Update has arrived — and, with it, are refreshed Netflix and YouTube apps in addition to the ability to access parental controls from the HD UI.

Having had the Premiere-only software about a week, thus far, I’d say it’s a mixed bag. The HD UI remain incomplete and while the new app UIs are certainly richer, similar to those on the Best Buy TiVo TV (RIP?), but we pay a penalty in terms of speed. In fact, I can actually switch television inputs and launch Netflix on Roku in about 1/3rd the time it takes to come up on TiVo. But, of course, the point is maybe you wouldn’t need a second box and once you’re streaming (Netflix), audio and video quality are quite high. Beyond these apps, developed by Netflix and Google respectively, new Parental Controls (that mark the end of KidZone) are accessible from the HD UI… yet they themselves aren’t actually rendered within the high def interface (and feature a sad padlock icon that looks like it was grabbed from an old CD of clipart).

Netflix_Search

As with all TiVo updates, no official change log is provided. However, TiVo’s User Experience Veep Margaret Schmidt has unofficially itemized notable additions and fixes on the TiVo Community forum. Amongst the interesting discoveries:

  • Cox customers that had difficulty receiving “Plus Pak” channels should find that issue resolved.
  • Customers experiencing pixelation in Amazon Video downloads should find that issue resolved.
  • If you bring up the Guide over a recording, it now highlights the channel on the foreground tuner, rather than the lowest channel in the Guide.
  • SELECT-PLAY-SELECT-9-SELECT now displays a clock (without seconds) in the upper right corner when using HD Menus.

As to what comes next, TiVo suggests they may actually finish the HDUI this year. Or, at least, move it forward.

  • HD version of the Season Pass Manager
  • HD version of the To Do List
  • HD version of My Shows for Multi-Room Streaming
Beyond that, we know both TiVoToGo 2.0 and Preview-esque Extender hardware are slated for release later this year (and I’ll be buying). Although, I also pine for an updated Amazon Instant app and perhaps a Blu-ray accessory.

dish-auto-hop

DISH Network continues to tempt fate (and the studio empire) given the introduction of automatic commercial skipping via their Hopper DVR and Joey extenders. If you recall, this new and highly regarded whole home solution features “Primetime Anytime” which records local prime time television programming (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) and retains this content 8 days. Those very same recordings, or perhaps a subset given the fine print, will now display the Hopper pink kangaroo icon a few hours after broadcast, indicating “Auto Hop” commercial skip is available.

DISH says Auto Hop is something we “consumers have been waiting for since the dawn of television.” Which isn’t entirely accurate… As we’ve only been waiting since Replay TV excised similar functionality (available on any channel/recording) under legal studio pressure. Will history repeat itself? Or, perhaps, DISH’s technical implementation and limited scope insulates them in some way. Regardless, it’s interesting to compare and contrast their customer-centric approach to the conflicted Comcast that just filed a patent application to inject onscreen advertising overlays when customers fast forward by commercials.

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…