Archives For Placeshifting

boxee-tv-cloud-dvr

In what’s shaping up to be a fall battle of over-the-air DVRs, highly touted Simple.TV has started shipping while Boxee pivots away from local content aggregation into broadcast television archival. Yet, Simple.TV is anything but… by incorporating just a single OTA tuner and requiring owners supply their own USB storage, this remains the provence of geeks. Simple.TV hardware runs $149, but to fully unlock its recording and placeshifting capabilities (to devices like Roku and iPad) will require an annual $50-$60 subscription fee. Potentially more interesting is Boxee TV, which clocks in at a mere $99 for hardware… but similarly requires a subscription for full-on DVR and placeshifting functionality at $15/month in this case. While that may seem steep at first blush, the dual tuner Boxee TV is positioning itself as a cloud DVR and the fee includes unlimited online storage. Bonus: With or without that subscription, Boxee TV incorporates Apple TV-esque features like Netflix and YouTube apps while remaining on Input 1.

Questions about both devices remain. For example, what sort of quality and encoding are we talking about in terms of resolution and audio channels. Also, while Boxee positions itself as a potential cord cutting device, it’s often the cable “television” companies providing our Internet pipe… and associated bandwidth cap, which might limit the usefulness of a cloud-based DVR. Lastly, both Simple.TV and Boxee TV tout the ability to record unencrypted digital cable (aka clear QAM). Well, good luck with that now that the FCC has granted cable operators to right to encrypt basic cable. Continue Reading…

Entone Magi cable TV gateway

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Entone, but the TV set-top company is ready to start raising its profile. Entone announced today that it’s introducing the Magi Hybrid CATV Media Gateway in conjunction with the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo show this week. The Magi is Entone’s first product specifically for cable, and it combines live TV, DVR and web-based video delivery under the FusionTV brand name

CEO Steve McKay says Magi boxes will ultimately come in multiple versions. A high-end Magi box will include many tuners, and full video transcoding capabilities in addition to DOCSIS, CableCARD, MoCA and Wi-Fi support. Lower-end boxes will skip the transcoding function and offer fewer tuners for a more basic service.

Interestingly, when I talked to McKay, he noted that Entone, which has traditionally focused solely on the IPTV space, would never have considered making cable hardware even a few years ago. He said that, “at that time it was suicide for a small company to compete with Motorola and Cisco.” Things have changed, however. McKay pointed out that cable networks are starting to look a lot more like telco networks, and that there’s huge uncertainty now about the two big set-top providers; Motorola because of the Google acquisition, and Cisco because of its greater focus on software with the purchase of NDS.

Entone Magi FusionTV interface for cable 1

Meanwhile, the entire pay-TV industry is finally starting to warm up to the idea of hybrid services, and to the reality of consumer demand for streaming video. Consider:

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Verizon Fiox Media Server concept from Motorola

Now that the industry has come to grips with the fact that consumers want to watch TV on multiple screens, there’s growing momentum behind video gateways. (Gateways combine regular television with IP video, and allow users to share content across a home media network.) The big winner to date has been the Arris six-tuner super box, with customers including Shaw, Wide Open West and BendBroadband. However, there’s new confirmation that Verizon plans to launch a Motorola gateway, dubbed the FiOS Media Server, in the coming months.

I hear it’s likely we’ll only see a managed field trial of the Media Server before the end of the year, but at least Verizon is moving in the right direction. After early talk of porting FiOS TV to mobile devices, we’ve had precious little action from Verizon on the mobile access front. The new Media Server isn’t likely to allow placeshifting outside of a subscriber’s home network, but frankly I’d love just to be able to watch an NFL game on my iPad out on my porch, or upstairs while sorting the laundry.

As for what we know about the new box (which Dave first wrote about last December), it reportedly has six tuners and one terabyte of storage. There is an eSata port, but no word on whether that will be enabled or not. There’s also the ability to transcode up to four video streams for playback on different mobile devices.

tivo-stream-rear

In case you missed it, TiVo held an awkward Facebook sweepstakes to “win” the opportunity to pre-order a TiVo Stream. Today, the lucky 600 were notified with the email below:

Call (877) 289-8486 by September 4th (noon PST) to order your new TiVo Stream and receive it on September 5th. The TiVo Stream is just $129.99 with no additional service fee.

I’m satisfied with TiVo’s pricing. Sure, they could have gone lower on hardware, but TiVo’s always been something of a premium brand and service. Most importantly, they’re launching the Stream fee-free. And I’m down for one.

As a refresher, the TiVo Stream is a small network device that acts as an intermediary between a Premiere DVR and an iPhone or iPad — allowing you to stream live or DVRed content to iOS devices around the home. Also, as the virtual successor to TiVoToGo, the Stream can wirelessly offload unrestricted recordings to that iPad or iPhone to take on the road.

UPDATE: My TiVo Stream review is up.

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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…