Federal Regulators Need More Time to Vote on Set-Top Boxes

The FCC delayed its vote yesterday on the proposal to unlock cable set-top boxes. FCC members “could not agree on a set-top box proposal that requires cable operators to provide their shows and movies on alternative devices rather than just on a cable box,” reports The New York Times. “The plan was intended to bring more competition to the television industry and liberate consumers from an average of $231 in annual cable box fees.” While the proposal will be considered for a future vote, FCC chair Tom Wheeler said commissioners needed additional discussions. However, with an upcoming change of administration, Wheeler’s window to adopt the regulation may be dwindling. Continue reading Federal Regulators Need More Time to Vote on Set-Top Boxes

FCC, Market Trends Push Move to Unlock Set-Top Box Market

Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler continues to promote his plan to “unlock” the set-top box marketplace, ending the dominance of cable and satellite TV companies. Opposing the plan are, no surprise, those same cable and satellite companies, including Comcast and AT&T’s DirecTV, which reap profits of $20 billion a year in set-top-box rentals. CBS also opposes the plan, as do other studios that believe regulation will get in the way of quickly making their content available on multiple platforms. Continue reading FCC, Market Trends Push Move to Unlock Set-Top Box Market

Netflix CFO Explains Plans to Ramp Up Original Programming

Speaking at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia conference yesterday, Netflix CFO David Wells explained that the streaming service’s goal over the next few years is to offer more original programming. The company is aiming for half of its content to be represented by original productions and the other half licensed movies and TV shows. According to Wells, original programming will continue to be content produced by Netflix in addition to a range of co-productions and acquisitions. Netflix is “one-third to halfway” toward reaching its goal, he said. Continue reading Netflix CFO Explains Plans to Ramp Up Original Programming

Comcast Plans to Launch its Own Wireless Service Next Year

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts confirmed yesterday that the company plans to launch a wireless cell service by mid-2017. Speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference, Roberts said the company would leverage its 15 million Wi-Fi hotspots and use airwaves leased from Verizon to handle much of the traffic. “Comcast has a deal with Verizon dating back to 2011 that allows the cable company to sell wireless service using the telecom carrier’s network at set terms and pricing,” explains The Wall Street Journal. Since “Comcast is essentially renting Verizon’s network,” it will not need to invest in major infrastructure. Continue reading Comcast Plans to Launch its Own Wireless Service Next Year

Startup Layer3 Streams 200 HD Channels on Private Network

For the high-end customer, startup Layer3 TV is offering a high-end solution: a wide selection of HDTV networks, delivered over the Internet, and installed by technicians driving all-electric BMW i3s. Unlike other streaming services, such as Hulu and Netflix, which use the public Internet, Layer3 has contracted the use of privately managed networks, a more costly option that provides better, more robust results. Layer3 debuted in Chicago in early September and plans to expand to major markets in the next 18 months. Continue reading Startup Layer3 Streams 200 HD Channels on Private Network

FCC Chair Pushes Compromise Plan to Open Set-Top Boxes

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler hasn’t given up on his goal to open up the TV set-top box market, thus breaking the cable industry’s dominance in this arena. Sources say he is preparing a “compromise version” of his proposal by which cable companies would be required to make their feeds available, via apps, to competitive device manufacturers. In today’s market, the set-top box, which once simply translated cable signals for TV sets, can now be used to offer access to cable TV and video-streaming services such as Hulu or Netflix. Continue reading FCC Chair Pushes Compromise Plan to Open Set-Top Boxes

Netflix-Style Video-On-Demand Service Debuts in North Korea

North Korea has launched its own Netflix-like streaming service called Manbang (“everywhere” or “every direction”), although the content and availability is limited. According to Digital Trends, Manbang offers “citizens in three cities, including the capital Pyongyang, access to five streamed channels alongside a selection of on-demand content.” The service’s set-top box also streams state-approved newspaper articles, documentaries about Kim Jong-un and the leadership, and English and Russian language lessons. The box enables “viewers to search for programs by typing in the title, or by browsing through categories, offering similar functionality to Netflix in the United States,” notes NK News. Continue reading Netflix-Style Video-On-Demand Service Debuts in North Korea

Dish and Comcast to Offer NBC’s 4K Rio Olympics Coverage

According to Multichannel News: “Dish Network and Comcast will be joining AT&T in offering access to NBCUniversal’s delayed 4K coverage of the Summer Olympics in Rio.” Comcast will provide content from Rio on demand via its Xfinity in UHD app for Samsung and LG smart TVs, while Dish will offer content on linear channel 146 and on VOD via the Hopper 3 DVR and 4K Joey box. Dish will also include a sports hub on channel 148 for access to NBCU’s coverage and integrate the NBC Olympics app on its Hopper and Joey devices. Dish’s Sling TV will also carry select coverage on its Sling Blue service. Continue reading Dish and Comcast to Offer NBC’s 4K Rio Olympics Coverage

LeEco Acquires Vizio to Bring its Streaming Services to U.S.

Chinese tech company LeEco (formerly LeTV), has paid $2 billion for California television seller Vizio, which presently controls about 20 percent of the U.S. market. The Beijing-based company is often referred to as the Netflix of China, although it sells hardware devices such as TVs, set-top boxes, smartphones and electric cars in addition to its streaming services. With the acquisition, LeEco can now bring its services to the U.S. “Our strategy is to integrate our platform — including software and services — with devices,” said LeEco exec Winston Cheng. Continue reading LeEco Acquires Vizio to Bring its Streaming Services to U.S.

Consumers Can Talk with Alexa to Order Products on Amazon

Amazon announced that its voice-controlled digital assistant Alexa will have the ability to order “tens of millions” of products. “Alexa — which is built into Amazon’s Wi-Fi-connected Echo and Tap speakers and its Fire TV set-top box — won’t be able to place an order for everything in Amazon’s online store and shopping apps,” reports The Wall Street Journal, but “will have access to all of the products in Amazon’s Prime shipping program.” The company is “adding more products every day into that Prime product wheelhouse,” said an Amazon spokeswoman. “We really want to see how customers are using it and get their feedback on how it can be improved. We’ll continue to figure out expansion as time goes on.” Continue reading Consumers Can Talk with Alexa to Order Products on Amazon

PlayStation Vue on Roku Devices Offers Alternative to Cable

Sony’s PlayStation Vue streaming TV service is now available on Roku’s set-top boxes, media sticks and television sets. The Vue service enables users to stream dozens of cable channels such as CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox News and MTV over the Internet. Vue can be accessed as a Roku app in addition to apps for iPhones, iPads and Amazon’s Fire TV. Next week Vue will be offered for Android users. “Now that Vue is available nationwide and on many streaming-video devices, it’s truly a viable alternative to a traditional cable-TV service,” suggests The Wall Street Journal. Continue reading PlayStation Vue on Roku Devices Offers Alternative to Cable

BitTorrent Launches Ad-Supported Music and Video Platform

BitTorrent has launched its open, ad-supported music and video platform that allows consumers to access media content via apps for Android, iOS and Apple TV. BitTorrent Now is the latest effort to shed the piracy stigma of the popular peer-to-peer technology for more legitimate uses. Up until now, BitTorrent offered free and paywall versions for artists to get their content to people. With the new ad-supported service, artists have an alternative for generating revenue while users can stream their content through an Android app launched yesterday, and iOS and Apple TV apps to follow. Continue reading BitTorrent Launches Ad-Supported Music and Video Platform

Cable and Telecom Companies Lobby Against FCC Proposals

Last month, 60 lawmakers signed a letter objecting to an FCC regulation that would open up the cable TV set-top box market. More recently, Democratic congressman Bobby Rush’s staff pushed his colleagues to sign another letter, this one opposing an FCC proposal to limit how broadband providers can share users’ personal data. These are just recent efforts by the cable industry to oppose what it sees as unfair advantages enjoyed by tech companies such as Google in the light of new FCC proposals. Continue reading Cable and Telecom Companies Lobby Against FCC Proposals

Google Partners with Xiaomi and its 4K Mi Box for Android TV

During its I/O conference, Google introduced new hardware partners for Android TV and Google Cast, its solutions for watching Web content on TV screens. One of these is Chinese electronics company Xiaomi, showing a new Mi Box that supports 4K, high dynamic range and, for the first time, will ship to the U.S. The Bluetooth remote-equipped Mi Box offers voice recognition and built-in Google Cast technology, enabling the user to cast content from iOS and Android devices. Google also says new Sony Bravia and RCA TVs and a Sharp Net Player will ship running Android TV. Continue reading Google Partners with Xiaomi and its 4K Mi Box for Android TV

Rovi Agrees to Acquire DVR Pioneer TiVo in $1.1 Billion Deal

Rovi Corporation has agreed to purchase TiVo Inc. for $1.1 billion, in a deal that merges two TV tech patent holders as companies including Apple, Comcast and Google are looking to control the set-top box. The FCC is proposing to allow customers who rent STBs from cable companies to “buy their own boxes or alternatives, which would open up what is now a largely closed market,” reports Bloomberg. “This deal was driven by an increasingly competitive set-top box market,” said analyst Paul Sweeney of Bloomberg Intelligence. “Cable operators such as Comcast are investing serious capital to develop next-generation boxes that are threatening the TiVo and Rovi platforms.” Continue reading Rovi Agrees to Acquire DVR Pioneer TiVo in $1.1 Billion Deal