Kickstarter Project: Lib-Ray Proposes DRM-Free HD Video Format

  • A Kickstarter project called Lib-Ray is seeking to create an open source format for HD video on SDHC cards.
  • The project was created by Terry Hancock, a contributor to Free Software Magazine and research assistant who worked on the McDonald Observatory Planet Search program.
  • Lib-Ray will include a wizard for authoring high-definition videos, a player for the Flash media, and authoring documentation that would allow others to make improvements. It will use the common MKV video container format with VP8 video at 30 frames per second in 1080p and later add extensions for 60fps, 3D and 4K video.
  • The project is intended for a business model where donors share the costs of the production and the movie is given in return in an open-source format.
  • “It seems like it ought to be really hard, because Blu-ray was expensive to develop,” Hancock told Ars Technica. “But when you look closely, you realize that all of the money went to pay for the DRM. The actual task of making a video standard that supports high-definition playback and a menu system is just not that complicated. There are open standards, so it’s just a matter of picking the ones you want to use and making sure you have a player that can handle those choices.”

Dish Hopper DVR Feature Automatically Skips Commercials

  • Dish Network’s new Hopper DVR includes a feature known as “Auto Hop,” which can automatically skip past commercials.
  • “The Hopper DVR costs Dish subscribers $10 a month in addition to a $99 upfront fee,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Dish also offers a less-expensive traditional DVR with no upfront charge and a $6 monthly fee. The Hopper is made by Echostar Corp., which like Dish is controlled by satellite-TV pioneer Charlie Ergen.”
  • Auto Hop may alarm broadcasters by threatening network advertising revenues. Already nearly a quarter of U.S. households use DVRs and regularly fast-forward through commercials.
  • Dish is clearly sensitive to this and has limited Auto Hop’s use for nationally broadcast prime-time programs aired on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC to after 1:00 a.m. the day after they air.
  • The new feature may become a factor in broadcasters’ attempts to seek higher retransmission fees from pay TV companies.

Samsung Acquires mSpot to Provide Entertainment on Mobile Devices

  • Samsung has acquired mSpot, a mobile entertainment start-up that streams movie rentals from companies including Sony, Disney, Paramount, NBCUniversal, Lionsgate, and Warner.
  • Financial terms have not officially been disclosed, but earlier reports place the acquisition in the $8.8 million range.
  • According to TechCrunch: “mSPot also offered a cloud-based music service, which let you upload your music to the cloud, and stream this content from a multitude of devices, ranging from PCs, Macs, to the iPhone, iPad and Android. Last year the company launched a Pandora-like radio-service for personal music collections.”
  • Samsung says it will use mSpot to provide an “entertainment experience of music, video and radio services for users of Samsung devices, while extending mSpot’s cloud and streaming solutions to a broader base of global entertainment fans… mSpot’s entertainment services will be a key integrated offering on newly announced Samsung mobile devices.” Service to Launch this Fall: May Lead to Mobile TV Comeback

  • The Open Mobile Video Coalition will launch a free service in the fall called
  • “What makes this solution different, and perhaps what gives it the best chance to succeed, is that it is built upon the existing ATSC digital broadcast infrastructure,” comments Ben Bajarin for TechPinions. “DVB-H required quite a bit of new infrastructure investments and many did not make them,” he adds, referring to why earlier mobile TV efforts may have failed.
  • The cost for stations to install new hardware is only between $15-25,000 and can be done in two hours. Devices will require a DTV chip to access the signal.
  • will be available as an Android and iOS app and the rights to major networks have already been secured. The service will launch in 210 markets across the U.S.
  • Bajarin speculates that this mobile TV service will not only be good for live news and sports programming, but for “catch-up” TV that would make for a compelling service.

Dish Claims Distribution via Online Streaming Services Devalues Content

  • Dish Networks argues to AMC that by making their programming available in other venues such as iTunes, Amazon and Netflix, the shows become “devalued.”
  • Television programmers have been responding to this concern by pulling content from sites like Hulu or requiring authentication of subscriptions.
  • “The fact that networks are selling or giving away their stuff online has been a minor but growing issue in carriage fights for a while now,” reports AllThingsD. “But this is the biggest stink that a cable/pay TV provider has made about it, at least in public.”
  • Netflix argues that prior season episodes help generate interest in watching new shows. But there is evidence suggesting that Netflix repeats are also negatively impacting some cable programming such as kids’ shows. This may affect future renegotiations.

Breaking the Mold: Indie Producers Build Buzz by Treating Films as Start-Ups

  • Rather than taking the traditional route of shopping a script around the Hollywood studios, independent filmmakers and producers are looking to attract an audience first without any studio involvement.
  • A script entered into a contest for Fresh Voices, a social network for screenwriters , was made into a teaser for “Already Gone” and will be posted on social networks. If it gets a sufficient audience, the short may be purchased and made into a feature film.
  • Studios can see which “pilots” are getting the most buzz to determine which projects to finance and how to market them.
  • “Studios spend a tremendous amount of money in marketing a film, but independent filmmakers are now capable of distributing their content on the smallest of budgets,” reports Mashable. “Sites like Kickstarter, Twitter and Facebook have changed how films are made.”

Google Drive to Compete with Dropbox: Is Google the New Microsoft?

  • “The search engine and online advertising giant replaced its popular Google Docs service with Google Drive, a cloud computing storage service designed to directly compete with start-up Dropbox,” reports Patexia. “This raises the question, has Google become the new Microsoft?”
  • The commentary suggests that Google Drive is an example of how a company waited for others to innovate and then essentially copied the innovation (as Google arguably did with its Dropbox-like Drive service).
  • Due to the company’s size and resources, Google can offer their version of the product at a loss for years, effectively starving the competition out of business.
  • By having large companies like Google effectively compromise smaller competitors, innovation suffers.
  • “Google can’t bully everyone. Its main competitors in the world of tech are Microsoft, Facebook and Apple. Google can try to push those companies around, but it likely won’t do a whole lot,” comments Nick Pell via Patexia. “Only companies with the resources and connections of Google are able to push back against them. This hardly makes for a good environment for innovation.”

Microsoft Takes on Software Piracy: Tech Companies Up in Arms

  • Microsoft has begun a campaign to tackle software piracy at both the state and federal levels. The Redmond, Washington-based company hopes to make foreign manufacturers certify they are using legal software.
  • In its home state of Washington, Microsoft got the backing for a law that bans manufacturers using pirated software. It is now seeking legislation in the California State Legislature that will require state contractors to certify they do not use pirated software. And in Washington, DC, it has spent more than $7 million to lobby for federal legislation.
  • “Microsoft contends it is simply seeking to level a playing field whose tilt has accelerated the offshoring of manufacturing jobs over the last decade,” reports Fortune. “It points to a study by the Business Software Alliance showing that reducing piracy by 10 percent over four years would generate nearly $38 billion in new economic activity and create 25,000 new tech-industry jobs.”
  • Interestingly, other major tech companies including Apple, Cisco, Dell, HP, Google, IBM, Motorola, and Xerox are opposed to Microsoft’s efforts. They are concerned about the cost and complexity of certifying their worldwide supply chains.

Nielsen Cross Platform Report: Americans Still Watching Traditional TV

  • In spite of the rise of streaming video on the Web, Americans are still watching 5 hours of television content daily on traditional TV sets.
  • Some 98 percent are watching on systems connected to cable or satellites, according to Nielsen’s latest Cross Platform report.
  • Still, new technologies are making it easier for people to access their daily TV diet at their convenience.
  • American consumers are “shifting to new technologies and devices that make it easier for them to watch the content they want whenever and wherever is most convenient for them,” indicates the report. “As such, the definition of the traditional TV home will continue to evolve.”
  • “TV watching, in total, appears to be rising, not falling,” reports Fortune. “Which is remarkable (and perhaps depressing, depending on your point of view) given the rise in non-television Internet use, video game playing, and other entertainment options.”

Media Revolution: Insiders Offer Predictions on the Future of Television

  • With the convergence of TV, personal computing devices and the Internet, a new media revolution is upon us. Where is it headed? CNBC interviews CEOs, producers, and Internet leaders to discuss their ideas for “Stay Tuned: The Future of TV,” which premieres Monday, May 7 at 6:00 pm PT, with a re-air at 9:00 pm PT.
  • According to Barry Diller, chairman of IAC and investor in Aereo: “If you’re not experimenting, or innovating, and not risking your ‘so to speak’ closed business to new business models and ways of behavior, you’ll inherit the wind.”
  • Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast says his company’s next-gen X1 interface “brings the best of the Internet and the navigation and the search so you can integrate easily with Facebook, with Twitter. You can create a sports app as we’ve done. It can work on a PC, on the TV or on your iPad or your tablet. So it feels very relevant, very fresh, like the Internet.”
  • Twitter CEO Dick Costolo comments: “We used to have the few people in your living room that you were having a shared conversation with about what you were watching, it’s now exploded beyond the bounds of the living room and it’s the world that’s having a conversation about what we’re all watching… The next evolution is to bring that conversation back into the programming so that these two things start to feed off each other. I think what we’ll see then is the conversation on Twitter starts to actually impact what’s happening during the program itself in a real-time feedback loop.”
  • Bob Iger, CEO of Disney suggests: “The big picture philosophy is not look at the business as one platform, and then another platform, and another. It’s to look at it first — for this company as the investment in and the creation of branded, high-quality intellectual property product.”
  • Robert Kyncl, VP of global content at YouTube adds: “Quality can come from anywhere. It can come from users, pros, semi-pros. We want to make sure that we have all of them, that we don’t have just one class of content creators, that we have all of them.”

Social Video Apps: Will Instagram For Video Be the Next Big Thing?

  • With Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of the popular photo-sharing app Instagram, is a video version next on the horizon?
  • ReadWriteWeb profiles two such social video apps — Socialcam and Viddy.
  • Socialcam is an iPhone and Android app that claims to have 20 million users. Viddy is an iPhone-only app with some 16 million users. Both apps allow you to take video from your smartphone and apply filter effects, add music and upload to your favorite social network such as to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Tumblr.
  • “Both services are polished and nicely designed apps,” suggests the review. “But forget the filters and cheesy music, the real value will be in how many users each can get — and how active those users become. It’s too early to tell which has the upper hand on that front. Both are heading towards the user numbers that Instagram had when it sold (about 35 million).”
  • Will video become the next big thing on social networks?

NAB Files Motion to Dismiss its Suit Against White Spaces Proposal

  • The National Association of Broadcasters has dropped its opposition to the FCC’s “white spaces” proposal. White spaces make use of unused broadcast spectrum to enable what has been described as “Wi-Fi on steroids.”
  • The NAB had serious concerns about white spaces causing interference with adjacent TV broadcasts. It withdrew its objections saying the FCC has addressed these concerns.
  • The technology has been moving forward in spite of NAB’s concerns. The FCC gave its approval in 2008 and approved a device last year for Wilmington, NC.
  • According to Ars Technica: “Now the remaining obstacles to widespread adoption of white spaces technology are mostly technical. Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge told us that supporters of the technology are working on building the databases needed to track which television channels are available for use at any particular time and location. He said the databases are being set up on a ‘market-by-market basis. When they hit a critical mass of markets, or can accommodate multiple markets, this technology will take off much more strongly.'”
  • With the NAB’s objections now ended, the technology may finally get traction to widespread use. Will white spaces become a cheap alternative to cellular networks?

TV Everywhere: Sony Virtual MSO Waiting on Comcast Bandwidth Caps

  • Sony confirms it is working on a “virtual MSO” that could provide TV programming anywhere without geographic limits. It is, however, waiting for clarity on whether Comcast will apply bandwidth caps that could prevent viewers from using such a service.
  • “These guys have the pipe and the bandwidth,” said Michael Aragon, VP and GM of global video and music at Sony Network Entertainment. “If they start capping things, it gets difficult.”
  • Comcast says it will offer its Xfinity service without any caps since it uses the company’s own private network. But other services from Sony or Netflix will be subject to caps. The FCC has said they will look into the situation as this may violate Net neutrality.
  • “Virtually every tech giant out there has been rumored to be exploring a virtual MSO model, though few have confirmed such intent, including Apple, Amazon and Intel,” reports Variety. “Sony is a logical market entrant considering its digital content storefront is made available through a wide range of devices manufactured around the world, from its XBox rival Playstation to Bravia TV sets.”

Educational Tablets: San Diego Schools Switch from Netbooks to iPads

  • In one of the nation’s largest tablet deployments, the San Diego Unified School District is purchasing 25,700 iPads for use in 340 5th-8th grade classrooms plus some high school classes.
  • The district will spend $15 million on iPads and has already spent more than $35 million on netbooks. Administrators requested switching to the iPad because the devices have no boot up time, have a larger screen, longer battery life and can use a large array of educational apps.
  • Teachers will receive training in the use of the device and educational apps. The iPads will have access to the district cloud where they can access files from the netbooks and instructors’ tablets.
  • There are 1.5 million iPads already in use at schools across the country. Experts caution that teachers need to be prepared to incorporate the devices into their curriculum.

Social Sports: ESPN Leverages the Power of Twitter with Web Intents

  • ESPN has incorporated Twitter’s Web Intents into their website offerings. Web Intents provide pop-ups for users to access Tweet, Reply, Retweet, Follow and Favorite functions.
  • “For each article ESPN shows a visitor, they have implemented a scrolling/following sidebar that contains its Twitter sharing widget,” reports the Twitter Developers site. “As a user scrolls through an article, the container follows the position on the page.”
  • “At any point, a user can click the Twitter bird logo to invoke a Tweet Intent to enable a customized sharing experience,” adds the site. “A Tweet box with text pre-loaded by the ESPN editorial staff pops up, enabling a user to quickly share the news with their followers.”
  • ESPN readers are generating some 1,250 Tweets per day amounting to 10 percent of all Tweets containing ESPN links. These Tweets resulted in an average of 15 clicks back to the website.
  • The sports site has also developed customized MLB and NFL widgets that highlight Twitter conversations from top writers and allow fans to interact with the writers directly on the page.