Apple may Offer Streaming Video to Devices via AirPlay

Apple is considering adding streaming video to its AirPlay service, which currently allows users to stream audio from an iPhone, iPad or iTunes to a home stereo or other devices. According to Bloomberg, two people familiar with the matter (who asked to remain anonymous) suggested the new feature would enable streaming video from an iPhone or iPad to television sets — and that Apple would license its software to CE manufacturers who could potentially use AirPlay in their devices for streaming movies, television and other video content.

Expanding AirPlay functionality could possibly spark more use of Apple devices and services in the home, despite the company’s limited success selling the $99 Apple TV set-top box thus far. Bloomberg reports that, “For Apple, AirPlay is a way to expand into the living room without having to introduce new products.”

While Apple and others such as Google are looking to explore the possibilities of streaming video and Web-connected televisions, a challenge for streaming content from a mobile device involves bandwidth issues and whether signals can be carried without interruption. Regardless of any technical obstacles, there is clearly a shift in how consumers are accessing TV shows and movies, with an increasing number of people accessing instant streaming services from the likes of Netflix and Hulu. Apple’s Steve Jobs — banking on a complete shift from physical media toward content distribution in digital form — has gone so far as barring Blu-ray players from Mac computers.

Time Warner Draws Controversy with Live-Streaming iPad App

Time Warner Cable recently released a new iPad app that provides subscribers access to live-streaming television content via their iPad (Cablevision is expected to release a similar app shortly). And not surprisingly, the TV networks have expressed concern. Channel owners including Viacom and Scripps see the streaming capability as a contract violation, and reports indicate that cease and desist orders are underway.

To stream programs from Time Warner, customers download the iPad app, log in to their account, and choose from a selection of channels. The current version of the app only works inside the home for customers who receive both TV and Internet from the operator. The problem with this approach is that the networks view iPad streaming as a separate service from cable television, one that may require a different fee.

While Verizon and Comcast are also working on streaming apps for iPads, clearly the business model has yet to be ironed out. And we still don’t know if consumers will be watching TV through an app from their cable company, an individual channel’s app, or through a service such as Netflix.

Related New York Times story: “Dispute Over Time Warner Cable’s Streaming to iPad Bursts into the Open” (3/28/11)

Related Engadget story: “TWCable TV app for iPad now available, but Dish has something to say about being ‘first with live streaming'” (3/15/11)

Are Consumers Ready to Cut the Cord?

As alternatives to traditional cable TV services continue to be introduced, the discourse grows regarding whether or not consumers are ready to “cut the cord.” Recent data from ESPN and research firm SNL Kagan suggests that any cable subscriber losses are being offset by gains elsewhere. However, as a percentage, fewer households are subscribing to cable than in the previous year. And financial services firm Stifel Nicolaus recently reported that pay TV might not be making a comeback over the longer term. The research report indicates year-over-year subscriber growth was at a mere 0.3 percent during 2010 — “the lowest year-over-year growth on record.”

According to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher King: “Cable operators have been quick to point to housing and the anniversary of the nationwide digital transition in 2009 as reasons for recent subscriber declines; however, our analysis suggests that growth in the pay TV market has underperformed household formation in recent quarters and the impact of the 2009 digital transition should no longer be an issue.”

The pay TV market is over-saturated (at more than 84 percent of households), and while many continue to blame the state of the economy and the saturation on the declining numbers, it is interesting to note that Netflix added 6.4 million subscribers during 2010. As the cost of pay TV subscriptions continue to rise, consumers are beginning to “further re-evaluate the value they place on traditional pay TV services which bodes well for the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Apple TV among others,” King wrote in the report.

Editor’s Note: For those interested, the GigaOM post “Cord Cutting Threat Ain’t Over Yet” features some very interesting charts including Pay TV Subscriber Growth 3Q09-4Q10, Pay TV Penetration 4Q06-4Q10, and Netflix Subscriber Growth 2010 (as compared to Pay TV).

Stream Live Video from Your Camera with the Teradek Cube

Billed as “the world’s first camera-top wireless HD video encoder,” the Cube from Irvine, CA-based Teradek streams up to 1080p over Wi-Fi, Verizon 4G, and wired Ethernet.

The battery-powered H264 encoder sends video directly from a camera to a decoding device such as a laptop or iPad. The Cube is available in HD-SDI and HDMI models running in the $1500-2000 range, and is designed for those in the business of live streaming — or those looking for production solutions such as on-set video monitoring or eliminating the need for camera tethering.

To operate, the Cube slides into the camera’s hot shoe and goes live with a single button via Livestream.com. Gizmodo reports the process is “unhampered by firewalls, blocked ports, and other network roadblocks.”

Early adopters earn a month of Livestream.com premium membership (about a $350 value) with a Cube purchase.

Hulu Examines its Business Model: Online Cable Operator?

Internet TV pioneer Hulu is reportedly in discussions to transform its business model. Since its 2008 launch, Hulu has been one of the leaders in free online television delivery and web-video ad dollars.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Hulu’s three owners (NBC Universal, News Corp. and Disney) are concerned that free Web versions of their TV shows are cutting into their traditional business, and the three are at odds regarding how much of their content should be offered for free.

News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting and Disney’s ABC are considering pulling some of their free content from Hulu (and selling more content to Hulu competitors), while Hulu management is discussing the idea of retooling Hulu as an online cable operator that would use the Web to provide live TV channels and video-on-demand content to customers. If they opt to move forward with such a plan, some form of Hulu’s free service would likely remain and it is possible Hulu Plus could be folded into the new service.

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