Nielsen Reports TV Viewing Increase Across All Platforms

  • Americans are watching on average 22 more minutes of television per month than last year, according to Nielsen’s cross-platform video report.
  • The average viewer watched more than 158 hours a month of television content on a TV set in Q1 2011.
  • Viewing has increased across all platforms, with Internet and mobile devices seeing increases of 34.5 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
  • However, a subset of viewers who access video via their PCs tend to watch significantly less traditional TV (especially in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic).
  • Nielsen credits the surge to increased amount and diversity of content in addition to the ability to view content based on viewer’s convenience.
  • Another factor is the rise of the tablet, which offers a bigger and better viewing surface than smartphones.
  • According to Peter V. Dobrow from Comcast, families are increasingly adopting mobile devices for TV viewing. “Families use them, if the adults want to watch one thing, then the kids can watch another on the iPad and the whole family can still be in the same room,” Dobrow said. “We’re pulling together different apps and trying to make it easier to use and more consumer friendly.”

$139 Nook Introduced; E-Reader Announcements from Amazon and Kobo

This has been a significant week for new product announcements as the e-reader war rages on. New devices, features, price points, sales reports (and a potential acquisition) have been announced from Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Canadian-based Kobo announced its new $130 Kobo eReader Touch Edition will ship in June. CNET expressed concern regarding the general speed of the Wi-Fi device and the new Freescale i.MX508 that powers the e-reader, but added: “That said, the Kobo Touch Edition has a compact, elegant design, with only a couple of buttons (since this is a touch-screen e-reader, there’s a built-in virtual keyboard). I didn’t see a Web browser and like other Kobo e-readers, the device seems very reading-centric. It’s also geared to the international market, with Kobo making a push into several countries, most notably Germany, which has the fastest growing e-book market outside the U.S.”

The next day, Barnes & Noble announced it will also have a new e-reader available in June. The new $139 Wi-Fi Nook claims to have the longest battery life of available e-readers (up to two months) and a growing bookstore (with over two million current titles). The Nook has reportedly been a major contributing factor in Liberty Media’s interest in a potential acquisition. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Liberty executives in recent days have said Barnes & Noble’s digital strategy played a key role in their decision to make a $17-a-share bid for control of the company.”

Not to be outdone, a few hours following the B&N announcement Amazon unveiled its all-new Kindle 3G with Special Offers (currently available) — an ad-supported 3G and Wi-Fi device weighing only 8.7 ounces and featuring improved screen contrast with the latest E Ink Pearl technology. At $164, it costs $50 more than the non-3G ad-supported version (reported last month by ETCentric), but $25 less than the ad-free equivalent.

Can the other e-readers compete with the number of current Kindle options? That question remains to be answered — as does the speculation that e-readers may eventually be replaced by more affordable tablet PCs. One thing is undeniable, however: the Kindle continues to gain in popularity.

In an Amazon press release issued last week, Amazon.com announced it is now selling more Kindle books than print books and the $114 Kindle with Special Offers is already the best-selling member of the Kindle family of products. According to the release: “Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.”

Related Wired post: “Amazon Brings Ads to Kindle 3G” (5/25/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article (with video): “Amazon Introduces Cheaper, 3G-Enabled E-Reader with Ads” (5/25/11)

Related CNET article (with video): “Kobo unveils Wi-Fi Touch Edition e-reader for $129.99” (5/23/11)

Related Kobo Blog post (with video): “The Rumors are True! Kobo Launches the Kobo eReader Touch Edition Today” (5/23/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Liberty Says Nook Inspired B&N Bid” (5/24/11)

PlayBook Outsells Motorola Xoom in its First Month

Research In Motion has had an interesting month. ETCentric’s story submission stream has featured a number of PlayBook-related stories in recent weeks… from the tablet’s weak initial launch — to the unfortunate recall of 1,000 units due to faulty operating systems — to the news that it had surprisingly sold 250,000 units during its first month of availability. In fact, despite mixed reviews and April’s slow launch, RIM’s PlayBook managed to outsell the Motorola Xoom in its first month.

In April, initial reports indicated a disappointing launch, with many units reportedly remaining on shelves during the first days of availability. Many reports credited the ongoing success of Apple’s iPad and the current lack of apps made for the PlayBook. Reuters reported: “RIM, which has priced the PlayBook to match the iPad, has struggled to win consumer fans since Apple’s iPhone and a slew of devices running Google’s Android entered the smartphone fray.”

Less than one month later, reports circulated that RIM had recalled approximately 1,000 units that were shipped with what the Wall Street Journal described as, “faulty operating systems which may have prevented users from performing the initial setup of the device.” The recall fell on the heels of RIM issuing a first-quarter profit warning, after citing lower-than-expected BlackBerry sales.

Yet not all news was negative. By the third week of May, RBC Capital Markets reported that the PlayBook had sold 250,000 units in its first month (it took Motorola’s Xoom two months to reach the same numbers). If the pace of PlayBook sales remains consistent, RIM will sell over 2 million units this year (slightly less than most analysts’ sales estimates for the tablet).

Of course, these numbers don’t come close to iPad sales, so the question remains: Is there a current tablet that is ready to compete with Apple’s iPad (at least in the near term)?

Related Reuters article: “RIM launches PlayBook but fans don’t play along” (4/19/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “RIM Recalls 1,000 PlayBook Tablets” (5/16/11)

Related BGR Media post: “250,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets sold to date, RBC says” (5/18/11)

Related Wired review: “BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet Lacks All the Right Moves” (4/13/11)

Related CNET review: “BlackBerry PlayBook review: A great surprise” (4/13/11)

Related SmartBlog post: “Will PlayBook play nice in the cloud?” (5/23/11)

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1: the iPad 2 of Honeycomb Tablets

CNET offers a “first look” video review of the new 32GB Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, a Honeycomb tablet recently demonstrated at the annual Google I/O event (the full production unit will be available June 8). The video notes that the “10.1” in the device’s name refers to the screen size and the UI is the same as that of the Motorola Xoom running Android. However, the review also notes that the Galaxy Tab has more in common with the iPad 2 than the Xoom.

The CNET review describes the new device: “As thin as the iPad 2 and even lighter, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the sexiest Honeycomb tablet we’ve seen. Also, it has an 8-megapixel back camera and a 2-megapixel front camera, and powerful dual speakers.” On the negative side, the review points out that lack of ports may be problematic to some users — and that from a design perspective, the plastic back of the limited edition version feels less solid and looks like “cheap kitchen wallpaper” (the release this summer may not have this problem).

The CNET evaluation goes on to praise the clean design, screen size, 1280×800 resolution and overall performance.

The bottom line: “Apple still has superior support for games, apps, music, and movies. While Honeycomb 3.1 seeks to offer more features, it’s still not here yet. So, if it’s down to these two tablets, we still recommend the iPad 2; however, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 would be the Android tablet of choice.”

Related Xconomy article: “The iPad Finally Has a Worthy Rival: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1” (5/13/11)

Related Engadget post and video: “Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Limited Edition (white) hands-on from Google I/O!” (5/10/11)

Related PC Magazine post and slideshow: “Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1” (5/10/11)

Walt Mossberg Reviews New G-Slate Honeycomb Tablet

The new G-Slate tablet from LG (sold by T-Mobile) was launched last week as the first tablet in the U.S. using Google’s Honeycomb software (Android 3.0 for tablets) to offer 4G speed and 3D video. With an 8.9-inch screen, the G-Slate offers less viewing area than Apple’s iPad 2 and the Motorola Xoom, but more than the Samsung Galaxy Tab and RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook.

The greatest challenges for the new device may be how to compete with the highly successful iPad — and how to differentiate itself from the other Android-based devices currently on the market. In his WSJ “All Things Digital” column, Walt Mossberg suggests that the G-Slate aims to be different in three major ways: by offering 4G cellular data speeds, enabling 3D video creation and viewing, and featuring an “in-between” screen size as compared to current offerings.

In his review, Mossberg found the performance to be on par with the Honeycomb Xoom, but overall not as good a choice as the iPad 2 (especially in terms of price, size and weight). And regarding the 3D functionality, he writes, “The 3D feature, which requires the use of 1950s-style colored glasses, seems like a parlor trick to me.”

Mossberg reports that the biggest selling point of the G-Slate is the 4G speed, but adds that the current problem with all Honeycomb devices involves a lack of “tablet-optimized third-party apps.” It’s tough to compete with Apple in this regard, considering it already claims 65,000 tablet apps.

Mossberg’s bottom line: “The G-Slate isn’t as good a tablet as the iPad 2. I’d only recommend it for people who want the higher cellular speeds, or who prefer Android.”

Amazon Launches its New Ad-Supported Kindle

Amazon announced that its new ad-supported Kindle will launch April 27, nearly a week earlier than originally expected. The e-reader — dubbed Kindle with Special Offers — will ship for $114 through Amazon, Target and Best Buy (that’s $25 less than the Wi-Fi only version).

According to Amazon, the cost reduction is a result of the device being subsidized by advertising. Early sponsors include General Motors, Proctor & Gamble and Visa. “Special offers” will be made available directly to the new Kindle related to Amazon.com gift cards, audible books and products from the various Amazon stores.

The latest Kindle is 21 percent smaller and 17 percent lighter than its predecessor, but features the same 6-inch reading area. The company claims the device features the “most advanced E Ink Pearl display technology” and touts 50 percent improved screen contrast with crisper, darker fonts.

It’s worth noting that the ad-supported model is getting more press than the Kindle’s new specs. We’ve seen similar approaches with other devices and services in the past, with mixed results. It will be interesting to see how consumers respond.

Sony Announces S1 and S2 Honeycomb Tablets

At a Tokyo press event, Sony announced a pair of Android 3.0 tablets — the S1, featuring a 9.4-inch touchscreen display, and the smaller S2, with dual-screen 5.5-inch displays that can can fold like a book. The tablets will connect to Sony’s cloud-computing library of movies and music in addition to Sony PlayStation Android-based games and digital books from Sony’s Reader store.

The S1 media tablet features front- and rear-facing cameras and what Engadget describes as “a curved wrap design that resembles a folded magazine.” The S1 also features a Tegra 2 SoC, touch panel UI, and integrated infrared for use as a remote control for Sony devices. The second tablet, the dual-screen S2 clamshell, features two 1024 x 480 pixel displays, Tegra 2 SoC, and camera. Engadget reports: “Sony takes advantage of the two screens with a custom book-style UI layout for its e-reader app, split keyboard and messaging displays for email, and split display and game controllers for PS One gaming.”

In a video report, IDG reports the S1 and S2 are PlayStation certified, WiFi and 3G/4G compatible, and will support DLNA (enabling users to buy a movie from the online Qriocity store, for example, and stream the content to a TV from the tablet via WiFi).

Sony said the devices will go on sale worldwide by September. The company has yet to announce prices, but according to Engadget: “…sources told us back in February that Sony was considering a $599 MSRP on the S1 while the S2 would likely come in at $699. Still no word on the Windows 7 slider but with the other two leaks official, it’s now only a matter of time.”

Related Huffington Post article: “Sony Shows Off S1, S2 Honeycomb Tablets With PlayStation Integration” (4/26/11)

Digital Workflow: Viewing Dailies on Tablet PCs

As part of the next step toward streamlining the film and television production workflow, Sample Digital and Technicolor have introduced apps that enable executives to view “dailies” on their iPads. According to the Los Angeles Times, the apps provide production execs around-the-clock mobile access to daily footage, scripts, visual-effects shots and trailers.

“Until a few years ago, dailies from shoots were typically stored on DVDs and then shipped to various locations, a process that became more costly as production increasingly moved out of Hollywood and projects took on multiple financing partners. More recently, dailies are delivered online and accessible on PCs and laptops, which aren’t as easy to lug around as a tablet.”

The dax|Mobile app from Sample Digital costs $249.99 on the iTunes store, while the subscription-based digital workflow system runs $1,250 to $2,000 per TV episode and up to $15,000 per movie. Encryption for the streaming video to prevent illegal copying is available for an additional fee.

Additionally, Technicolor has teamed with PureBlend Software Design Group to offer the Technicolor MovieSlate on-location production app that works for both Android and iOS systems to provide access to dailies and other content.

Impact of The iPad Effect on Tablet and PC Industries

Rob Woodbridge of UNTETHER.tv hosts a three-person online video panel for Episode 12 of his site’s program, The Week in Mobile. The informal 56-minute discussion provides an interesting take on how mobility is shaping content consumption — with a focus on “The iPad Effect” and its rapidly developing impact on the PC industry.

The panel cites a recent Fast Company article in which analysts anticipate 35 of the 45 million tablets expected to sell in the upcoming year will be iPads and that the only way for others such as Dell, Motorola, Samsung and RIM to compete with Apple is to dramatically undercut the price — begging the question, “Is the tablet PC industry really an industry yet at all?”

Additionally, as PC makers are being adversely impacted by the growing success of the iPad — not only with tablet sales, but in regards to laptops and desktops sales — another result may be the surprising “stealthy” success of MacBook Airs (for which the panel credits the proliferation of apps). According to Fast Company, the Air grabbed 15 percent of of the total notebook sales for the last quarter of 2010.

The discussion also addresses mobile privacy abuse in a new era of apps and Amazon’s concern regarding the consumer power enabled by NFC wireless technologies.

Tablet Trends: Interact with Favorite TV Shows via the iPad

We recently reported on a number of new features and trends regarding media consumption via tablet PCs, especially since an onslaught of new iPad apps have been making headlines. One such potential trend may involve synchronized bonus content and interactive features related to live TV shows.

In February, Fox announced the availability of its free app for the series Bones, that enables access to a series of content add-ons while viewing the program live or via Fox.com, Hulu or DVR. Features include social media integration (users can comment with other fans and try to solve cases) and the ability to purchase songs played during the show from iTunes. The Fox launch follows the release of ABC’s iPad sync app for the hit drama series Grey’s Anatomy.

As content providers, perhaps we should be looking beyond complementary content for tablets, and consider what additional video approaches might leverage this growing platform. According to paidContent: “It’s interesting that so far the TV industry is treating tablets more as a sidecar for original programming on TV than a source of original content in its own right, as News Corp.‘s new The Daily is trying to do. Or perhaps sometime soon we’ll see a video-centric company try to evolve its product on the iPad the way News Corp. wants to do same for the news business.”

The paidContent article includes an interesting video promo for the free Grey’s Anatomy iPad app that features interactive components such as polls, quizzes, bonus content, and more.

Walt Mossberg on the New Apple iPad 2

In this video interview from San Francisco, Wall Street Journal “Personal Technology” columnist Walt Mossberg provides his first impressions of the new thinner and lighter Apple iPad 2, premiered by Steve Jobs at an invitation-only event on March 2.

New features worth noting include front and rear-view cameras, a thinner form factor than the iPhone, faster graphics, and dual core processors. It seems that Apple addressed the shortcomings recently targeted in advertising by its competitors. Mossberg comments that Apple did enough to stay ahead, but suggests they’re not going to claim 90 percent of the market share like they did last year due to the sheer volume of competing tablets this time around.

Mossberg comments on Apple’s focus on content creation, as opposed to content consumption, which the company hopes will change the way some consumers see the device. He also suggests it is a big deal that Apple has been able to maintain its $499 price tag for the new version. (The Wi-Fi versions start at $499 for a 16GB model and $699 for a 64GB configuration, while the 3G iPads are priced from $629 to $829.)

NCAA March Madness via Online, Tablets and Mobile Devices

According to a press release from Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA, this year’s 68-team NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament will feature newly enhanced March Madness on Demand (MMOD) live products. The services (produced by Turner Sports Interactive) will be available across multiple platforms, including online, and as an app for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and for the first time, the iPad. Features available over Wi-Fi and 3G include live viewing with larger format streams, a personalized channel lineup, live in-game stats, social companion views, and more.

Live streaming of every game broadcast by CBS Sports and Turner Sports will start with the First Four on March 15, and run through the Men’s Final Four semifinals and national championship game on April 2 and April 4.

Beginning March 10, free mobile apps will be available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad from the iTunes Apps store.

For a complete list of features, check out the press release included in the Engadget post.

Discovery Channel HD Offers Free iPad App

Fans of Discovery Channel HD programming may be interested in the free Discovery app for the iPad (released March 2, 2011). Three days after the app’s release, its developer Bottle Rocket Apps announced that Discovery Channel HD was “the top free iPad app on the entire iTunes App Store.”

Features of the new app include chat sessions with show hosts and fans, images (including production stills), daily video clips, scheduling information, tune-in reminder alerts, science news, social interaction via Facebook and Twitter, and more.

The app is available at iTunes: Discovery Channel HD by Discovery Communications

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