Subscription TV

Mar 26 2013

News - Intel Drawing Closer to IPTV Service, Deals with Content Providers

Intel announced last March that they were working on developing a "virtual cable provider", offering subscription TV services over broadband to Intel-powered set top boxes. Now, Bloomberg is reporting that Intel is finally close to securing deals with a number of major content providers to help launch the service. Intel's proposed service would roll up live TV offerings, online DVR funtionality, and on-demand content in a manner in which traditional cable and satellite subscription services could never match. It's not impossible to imagine that content providers might see such a service as an antidote to growing discontent with rising subscription TV rates, but it's also difficult to imagine networks such as CNN and NBC that are owned by companies that also own cable service providers rushing toward an Intel backed a la carte future.

Intel

Intel is betting it can create a more flexible service, delivered through consumers’ broadband accounts, that gives subscribers more choices over the channels they receive and offers an easier-to-use electronic programming guide, Huggers said. The service would offer live channels and on-demand programming.

Bloomberg

Oct 17 2012

News - FCC to Allow Encryption of Basic Cable Channels

Earlier this year, Boxee and the Consumer Electronics Agency teamed up for a scuffle with the cable companies. The dispute arose as the FCC was reviewing rules that prevented cable companies from encrypting basic tier channels. Cable companies had been restricted from encrypting these channels for a number of years, but the FCC was reviewing whether the restrictions should remain in place as part of the review of the analog must-carry rules. Boxee and other consumer electronics manufacturers were concerned that they were about to be locked out of offering products that could be plugged directly into a coaxial jack. 

The FCC has decided to go ahead with raising the prohibition on basic channel encryption, but the 6 major cable companies will have to meet one of two criteria before they can move ahead. The cable companies can choose to offer converter boxes such as the ones that Boxee and Comcast agreed to work on this summer that will enable devices to receive the encrypted signal, with the stipulation that the convertors be made available for free for a minimum of two years. Alternatively, the cable companies will have to develop software-based decryption systems that can be licensed to CE manufacturers for inclusion in their devices. Undoubtedly the cable companies already have a phalanx of accountants crunching numbers to see which nets the greatest return in the long run: rental fees for the convertors or licensing fees for the software-based solution.

The days of plugging a TV into the wall and getting cable are coming to an end. After a lengthy review process, the FCC has granted cable operators permission to encrypt their most basic cable programming. But the commission is inserting a number of measures it's hoping will prevent the public from suddenly finding themselves without access and open the door for third-party set-top boxes like the upcoming Boxee TV. 

The Verge

Oct 07 2012

News - Cablevision Signs Deal to Offer Streaming for Disney Networks, Including ESPN and ABC

Disney CablevisionCablevision has been feeling a bit left out of the whole TV Anywhere concept that has been bringing streaming versions of network offerings to subscription TV customers. As one of the smaller cable providers, Cablevision has lagged in signing deals with major broadcasters to offer streaming versions to customers, but the company picked up a big win this week by signing a deal to offer streaming WATCH versions of the Walt Disney Company's networks. This of course involves offerings such as WATCH Disney Channel and WATCH ABC Family, but probably more importantly for most Cablevision subscribers, WATCH ESPN which brings content from ESPN's repertoire of networks online. 

 Mum's the word on how much cash was involved in the deal, but we do know it's a multi-year agreement and that Walt & Co. feel rather content about it, with a company's spokesperson saying, "With our robust and ever-growing multi-platform content offerings, we're pleased to be able to expand our relationship with Cablevision."

Engadget

Oct 06 2012

News - Dish Backs Off Plans for Blockbuster vs. Netflix Brawl

Many folks were left scratching their heads when Dish Network bought up the crumbled shell of Blockbuster. The once mighty movie rental chain had been felled in large part by Netflix's DVD-by-mail rental service, with Netflix's streaming service and Redbox's kiosk rental model swooping in for the final kill. Not that Blockbuster didn't try to fight back. It was in Blockbuster's own DVD-by-mail rental service, brand recognition, and retail footprint that Dish thought it saw an opportunity to turn Blockbuster into a Netflix-killer and enter a new market competing with the likes of Verizon and AT&T. The retail locations, once trimmed of unprofitable locations, would become the retail outlets for new Dish devices that would tap into special sections of Dish's satellite spectrum for an LTE service for data and video streaming. Alas, that plan is unlikely to pass FCC muster, so Dish is scaling back its plans for Blockbuster, at least in the short-term. These details do go a long way toward explaining the limited roll-out of the Dish-exclusive Blockbuster Movie Pass streaming service. Without FCC approval for Dish's new devices and spectrum usage, there wasn't much reason for announcing the big picture plans that would bring Blockbuster Movie Pass to everyone. There do not seem to be any immediate plans for changes in what Blockbuster is doing or the services it's offering right now, though the Dish-specific Blockbuster services are being rebranded to Blockbuster@Home. The most interesting details revolve around how Dish's approach to handling Blockbuster has left Dish confident that the company will, at worst, break even on the purchase. 

Blockbuster and Dish

Dish planned to entice consumers to buy its wireless services by streaming Blockbuster movies on mobile devices. Without the wireless network, a nationwide streaming service would function a lot like Netflix, except Blockbuster would be starting from scratch against a big incumbent, Ergen said. Netflix has 24 million U.S. streaming-video customers.

Bloomberg

Oct 01 2012

News - Dish Network to Offer Satellite Internet, Planning New Internet TV Service

Dish Network

Dish Network has been busy looking for ways to monetize the Internet. Earlier this week Dish announced that it would begin offering satellite-based broadband Internet on October 1st. The service, dubbed dishNET, is aimed primarily at rural areas that are not serviced by the telcos or cable companies. With two tiers offering 10 or 20 GB caps, this is definitely only a service intended for data, though urban subscribers in regions where Dish contracts with a local exchange carrier will be able to tap into a more competitive wireline service that will also be available under the dishNET branding.

DishNet will be available nationwide as of October 1st, and will offer two main packages: the $39.99 / month package (plus equipment fees) will offer users 5 Mbps down and 1Mbps up, with a 10GB data cap. Stepping up to the $49.99 plan increases the download speeds to 10 Mbps and bumps the data cap to 20GB. 

The Verge

Satellite Internet is nothing new. Hughes Communications, recently purchased by former Dish parent company Echostar, has been selling satellite-based Internet service for decades, but Dish's efforts to grow into the ISP market become a bit more interesting when combined with reports that Dish has been talking to companies such as Viacom about offering subscription TV service over the Internet. The service would bundle together small collections of channels for less than traditional cable and satellite subscription TV services usually charge. Dish is no stranger to Internet-based subscription TV, having established a strong toehold in international distribution with DISHWorld, but this new service is expected to target domestic markets. If successful, such a move would provide Dish with a low-cost alternative to attack cable competitors and, combined with the recent launch of dishNET, highlights how Dish is looking to the Internet to grow and diversify. 

According to the news agency, Dish is in talks with Viacom, Univision and Scripps. The satellite operator would also bundle broadcast content in with a new Internet-based service, much like Aereo is doing in New York City. There is no word/rumor yet on pricing except that the new offering would be cheaper than a standard pay-TV subscription.

Zatz not Funny

Sep 29 2012

News - NPD Reports Cable Companies Account for Nearly Half of VOD Rentals

Online VOD services such as YouTube and VUDU have been getting quite a lot of attention in recent years, representing as they do, one more aspect of the online video juggernaut that seems poised to run roughshod over traditional subscription TV services, but according to the NPD, it might be too early to rule out the old guard. The NPD's VideoWatch VOD report for H1 2012 reveals that nearly half of all paid VOD rentals are ordered through the traditional cable companies with Comcast leading the charge. In fact, of the top 5 leading VOD providers the only online provider is iTunes, a provider that arguably has more in common with the cable, satellite, and telco old guard than with the mass of online upstarts. The report highlights the fact that there is a great deal of room to grow in the market for online VOD providers, but it also underscores the entrenched forces that stand in the way.

VOD

According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, although renting movies through Internet video on demand (iVOD) is making inroads with a small but growing group of consumers, cable companies are consumers’ first choice when they order on-demand movies on a per-use basis. Led by Comcast in the first half of 2012, 48 percent of all paid video-on-demand (VOD) movie rentals were generated from cable VOD. 

NPD Group

Sep 29 2012

News - Cable Companies Reportedly Looking to Stream Games

Mario and Yoshi on CableFor many, there is a growing sense that in the future, all media will be streamed over the Internet. Indeed, most of us who got into HTPCs early on did so specifically because a PC is the single most flexible device for tapping into any streaming service. Video games represent one of the last great hurdles to the total IP streaming living room. Gaikai and OnLive are two companies that have stepped up to take on the challenge of bringing streaming gaming to the home, and despite OnLive's recent woes, the two companies may be facing some stiff competition in the near future. Your friendly, neighborhood cable company may well be looking to move in on the still nascent game streaming market. With increasingly capable settop boxes already in use and with a more direct connection to subscribers' homes than companies like GaiKai and OnLive, the cable companies will have some serious advantages in making a game streaming service successful. With the right selection of games and a capable enough service, the cable companies could even turn the screws on traditional game consoles.

Your modest cable box may soon serve as a game console that can stream high-end game content running on powerful remote servers. That's according to a Bloomberg report that says AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and Cox Communications are all in talks to bring streaming game technology to their subscribers.

Ars Technica

Sep 16 2012

News - Google Fiber Bulks Up TV Channel Lineup

Fiber TV

Even before Google Fiber launched, the word started to leak that Google would be looking to offer both blazing fast Internet speeds and some sort of TV service. Sure enough, when Google Fiber finally started its launch process this summer, Google announced that they would be offering an IPTV subscription service on top of the Internet service offerings, and while an interesting move, the intial channel lineup had some prominent omissions. Evidently Google has been working behind the scenes to build out the fledgling service as they made two seperate announcements this week about new additions to their channel lineup. Earlier this week came word that Google TV would be receiving the full ABC/Disney/ESPN trifecta combo, along with some specialty networks such as Ovation and TBN.

Here are all the additional new channels: ABC Family, ABC News Now, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, ESPN, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU, Longhorn Network, Ovation, SOAPnet, TBN, TBN Enlace, Velocity.

TechCrunch

Not long after, Google announced the addition of the Turner family of networks, including the Cartoon Network and CNN. There may still be some notable omissions from the Google lineup that might be enough to be a deal-breaker for some folks, but it is becoming a more compelling alternative to the traditional subscription TV providers.

Just days after taking in a number of major Disney channels, the company has announced that Turner stations are now included as well. The agreement brings notable entries to the lineup, such as Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, and TNT. 

The Verge

Jul 03 2012

News - Boxee and Comcast Reach Agreement, Developing System to Access Encrypted Basic Cable Channels

Boxee Live TV Screen

Back in February, Boxee and the Consumer Electronics Association announced that they were working together to convince the FCC not to overturn rules that required cable television service providers to offer basic tier channels unencrypted. The FCC had indicated that they were open to revisiting the rules regarding unencrypted cable channels as part of a required review of rules requiring service providers to offer both analog and digital transmissions. Cable television service providers, anticipating a relaxation of the rules requiring analog retransmission, were hoping to further streamline their digital offerings by turning on encryption for all tiers. Boxee, who had just recently released their Boxee Live TV add-on, was concerned that the move would shut them out as encryption would return cable television service to the days when every subscriber had to have a set top box all of the time.

In a filing with the FCC last week, Boxee and Comcast announced that they have come to an agreement and are working together to develop a system that would allow retail consumer electronics to access encrypted basic tier channels. Initially, the system would involve an ethernet-based digital transport adapter (E-DTA) that would sit between the set top box and the consumer electronics device. In the long term, their plan calls for a standard for an integrated E-DTA that would eliminate the need for a set top box or service provider supplied E-DTA. This does not appear to have any impact on the development of CableCard or AllVid, but would rather serve as a modern update on establishing cable-ready TVs and devices. Access for such devices would still be restricted to basic-tier channels. Although the agreement is only between Comcast and Boxee, the language does suggest that the two companies could offer the solution as an industry standard, however, without a timeline or specific details on which standards bodies would provide certification, it might be a good idea not to get one's hopes up until other companies or organizations start to weigh in on the concept.

Boxee users may soon be able to access encrypted basic cable channels, thanks to an agreement with Comcast.

In a June 27 filing with the Federal Communications Commission, the companies said they have resolved a dispute over access to Comcast's basic-cable tiers via devices like Boxee's Live TV dongle.

PC Magazine

May 28 2012

News - Cox Communications Updates iPad App with New UI

Cox TV Connect LogoCox Communications was a little slower bringing live TV streaming to the iPad than some of the other cable TV providers in the US, and the initial release of the app took a somewhat unusual approach to presenting TV listings that made it difficult to judge the relative start and stop times of programming on different channels. It would appear that someone directed their criticism to the right ears, because Cox has updated the app to version 1.1.0 and updated the UI to present programming in a more traditional EPG-style grid. Now if only the company could start integrating remote DVR programming control and maybe show Android tablets a little love as well.

 Cabler Cox Communications joined in on the live TV streaming to iPad craze by releasing its own Cox TV Connect app late last year, and recently updated it to version 1.1.0. 

Engadget

 

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