Netflix Strategy Takes Root, Numbers Surge in Fourth Quarter

Netflix has been through some well-documented ups and downs, but for those who still have doubts about the company, Netflix had a resounding answer this week: 27.15 million. That’s the number of American homes that presently subscribe to the streaming service, a number exceeding even the company’s own expectations for the fourth quarter of 2012. Continue reading Netflix Strategy Takes Root, Numbers Surge in Fourth Quarter

CES 2013: Second Screen Use On The Rise, But Revenue Is Not

During CES last week, representatives from television networks, software companies, cable providers and advertising firms gathered for the Second Screen Summit. 2012 was a busy year for second screens, as multiple companies, along with the Olympics, came out with companion products. But the direction and profitability of second screens remain in question. Continue reading CES 2013: Second Screen Use On The Rise, But Revenue Is Not

Telecom: FCC Approves Dish Network Plan to Convert Spectrum

Many hedge fund and telecom execs have bought up various bands of spectrum in hopes of converting it for wireless networks. The FCC has denied several requests, keeping its strident allotment for airwaves, but the commission recently gave the rare green light to Dish Network.

“Late Tuesday, the FCC unanimously approved [Dish Chairman Charlie] Ergen’s plan,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Under the order, Dish would be required to not use a portion of its spectrum to avoid interference with neighboring airwaves, according to FCC officials. The company would also be required to cover at least 70 percent of the new network in each of its geographic license areas within seven years.”

Ergen started assembling the spectrum five years ago through government auctions and investments in flailing satellite companies, spending roughly $3 billion. “At a stroke, the FCC has now raised its value to as much as $12 billion, according to some analysts’ estimates. Mr. Ergen has to do the hard work of putting that spectrum to use or getting FCC approval to sell it,” the article states.

“Wireless service could give Dish an important new line of business in a mature U.S. pay TV market, where its cable TV rivals are able to sell popular ‘bundles’ of telephone, television, and high-speed Internet service.” Rather than building its own network, Dish could partner with a carrier like Sprint Nextel, or potentially even an outside company like Google, to offer wireless service with the spectrum.

“Consumers, meanwhile, could benefit whatever Dish decides, as the FCC’s decision frees up more bandwidth for data-hungry devices like smartphones and tablets,” explains WSJ. “The drawn-out process of converting that spectrum also highlighted how slowly regulators have moved to put much-needed airwaves to more valuable uses.”

Debunking Tech Perceptions: If TV not Broken, Why is Everyone Trying to Fix It?

  • Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku and Boxee are just some of the companies working on ways to re-imagine the TV experience.
  • “But nobody seems to be able to answer the big question: what exactly is so broken about TV anyway?” writes Matt Rosoff in a commentary for CNN, part of a series designed to “debunk commonly held perceptions about technology.”
  • Rosoff acknowledges that channel guides are inefficient… “But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most TV viewers simply won’t care enough about any of this stuff to shell out $1,500 for a new Apple TV, or spend a few hundred bucks and countless hours fiddling around adding a new box to their TV set and figuring out how it works.”
  • He notes that while the tech industry wants to optimize the television experience, it is important to remember that TV is passive. We don’t want to work at it. It’s not too difficult to turn the set on, find your channel and you’re done. Even Steve Jobs sometimes just wanted to watch TV and vegetate.
  • “That’s why we love TV just the way it is,” writes Rosoff. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Opinion: Will Mobile Devices Eventually Replace the Big Screen TV?

  • In this opinion piece published on CNET, freelance writer Steve Guttenberg predicts that iPads and other tablet devices will eventually make having a large screen TV a thing of the past.
  • “By 2020 younger people who will have grown up with tablets won’t see a need to ever buy a big display, which will by then seem as obtrusive as a pair of 4-foot-tall tower speakers do to most buyers nowadays,” he suggests.
  • For the naysayers, Guttenberg cites audio technology as an example. Twenty years ago, it was hard to imagine that most consumers would be less concerned about a set of quality speakers and more interested in portability or personalization. Yet that’s where we’ve landed.
  • “With music, everyone except for a handful of audiophiles, listens in their cars, computer, or on iPod,” he writes. “A home hi-fi of any quality now seems irrelevant; the same fate is in the cards for TVs. They will start to look too big, too imposing for the room’s decor.”
  • This is interesting to consider now, as tablet sales are taking off in the consumer market. Will mobile devices such as the tablet kill TV?
  • Guttenberg believes we are heading in that direction: “There will always be a market for big TVs, just as there is for great audio, but big-screen sales will continue to shrink over time. Most people will be perfectly content to watch movies and sports on their iPads.”

Pay TV Usage Caps: Will Watching Netflix Lead to Higher Cable Bills?

  • Netflix subscriptions could end up costing consumers $28 a month instead of $8 if cable companies decide to add charges for Web streaming.
  • “U.S. providers like Time Warner Cable have weighed usage-based plans for years as a way to squeeze more profit from Web access, and to counter slowing growth and rising program costs in the TV business,” reports Bloomberg. “While customer complaints hampered earlier attempts, pay TV companies are testing usage caps and price structures that point to the advent of permanent fees.”
  • As online video streaming increases in popularity, Web data usage soars. Some companies have penalties in place for customers that exceed their monthly gigabyte allowance, while others do not.
  • Adding charges will not only help cable companies’ Internet revenue, but also possibly boost pay TV service by disincentivizing online services like Netflix and Hulu.
  • A Netflix spokesman told Bloomberg, “[The practice] is not in the consumer’s best interest as consumers deserve unfettered access to a robust Internet at reasonable rates.”

Cinematographer Praises the Soon-to-be-Released Canon EOS C300

  • Jonathan Yi is a freelance director and cinematographer who works largely in film and advertising. He teaches camera and cinematography at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts film program.
  • Yi recently posted an impressive six-minute test video of the new Canon EOS C300 that makes comparisons with current DSLRs and reveals a new standard for digital cinematography.
  • “I believe that Canon made a beautiful camera that is sensible, reliable and portable in a way that I’ve always dreamed a camera could be. It prioritizes great skin tone and has higher ISO sensitivity than any other camera out there,” he writes. “I know there’s nothing I can say to change the minds of the RED fan club. For the rest of the skeptics, I think once you get your hands on it you’ll understand how great this camera really is. Please buy this camera in January and go film some good skin tones in the dark. You’ll love it.”
  • The EOS C300 and EOS C300 PL are expected to be available in early 2012, at an estimated cost of less than $20,000.
  • Yi’s (very) detailed review is available on the Canon site, in which he writes: “As Canon’s flagship 1080p HD cameras, the EOS C300 and EOS C300 PL are designed to fit a wide variety of production needs. They are at home as A Cameras for Independent Films, Commercials, Television and Dramas as well as B Cameras on Major Motion Pictures, offering in addition to the more common 23.98P frame rate, several selectable frame rates including a straight 24.00P setting for intercutting directly with film originated material. Full HD 1920×1080 (1080p) is currently the most used and needed deliverable frame size for these applications. The EOS C300 and EOS C300 PL provide easy adoption and simplified workflow that 4K cameras currently cannot deliver.”

CEA Forecasts 30-50 Ultrabooks Expected to Launch at CES 2012

  • At a recent CES Unveiled event in London, Shawn DuBravac, director of research for the CEA, predicted that a large number of ultrabooks will debut at the 2012 CES conference in January. “We expect to see 30 to 50 new ultrabooks launch at CES,” said DuBravac. TechCrunch responded with, “That’s a whole lot of MacBook Air clones.”
  • Each year, there seems to be a single prominent device showcased at the annual confab. “iPad killers were out in force at 2011′s show. 2010 was all about 3D TVs while netbooks was the popular product in 2009,” suggests the post. “It seems that ultrabooks might be 2012′s hot product. But can they break the dreaded CES curse that plagued the previous hot products?”
  • TechCrunch describes how Android tablets failed to challenge the iPad and how 3D TVs and netbooks failed to achieve significant adoption. If ultrabooks dominate the 2012 event, will they face the same fate?
  • “Ultrabooks are supposed to be the answer to Apple’s increasingly popular MacBook Air. Intel designed the computing platform to be as thin as possible while keeping the price low. The first batch of ultabooks start at $899 and offer competitive performance. But they’re still not built as well as the MacBook Air.”

New Cord-Cutting Tool: Boxee to Offer USB Live TV Stick in January

  • Boxee is augmenting its broadband box for cord-cutters with a USB dongle that provides users access to broadcast TV.
  • According to paidContent: “Boxee, which has been working mightily to get people to cut their cable cords with its own broadband box for five years, is preparing a new add-on product in January that will let users pull out the cable cord and plug a USB device into their cable box, giving them access to broadcast TV channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC for free.”
  • “If you live and die by ESPN, then yes, you have to stay on cable. But we believe there are plenty of people who just want access to regular broadcast channels,” says Avner Ronen, CEO and co-founder of Boxee.
  • However, Ronen believes there are consumers interested in basic broadcast content that would benefit from this approach. “The problem with canceling your cable subscription and relying just on the Internet has been the lack of live sports, a presidential address, local news, special events and live TV shows,” he told paidContent. “But these things are all available on broadcast TV channels…for free, over the air in HD.”
  • The Live TV stick will be available for $49, as an add-on to the $180 Boxee Box.

Cisco Launches First Integrated Wireless IPTV Solution

  • Cisco recently launched a wireless IPTV service with AT&T U-verse that features new wireless receivers and wireless access points (WAPs).
  • “Consumers can now rely on wireless technology to deliver high-quality video services throughout the home without the need for cables or wires,” explains the press release. “TV content is sent from the Cisco wireless access point via in-home Wi-Fi to the Cisco wireless receiver next to the TV.”
  • Based on the 802.11n standard, the wireless solution can deliver SD and HD programming to multiple receivers with integrated Wi-Fi, provide interactive services and function as an HD DVR.
  • In addition to enabling consumers to view television anywhere they choose in the home, the “wireless TV solution offers service providers the means for faster service activations and consumer self-installation with easy-to-use Wi-Fi kits…The integrated Wi-Fi receiver also offers service providers the ability to monitor the device’s performance via the network, as the receiver comes equipped with remote diagnostics.”

Interactive TV Trends: Multiple Screens Leading to a New TV Experience

  • Multiple screens are being used while people are watching TV.  According to Nielsen, some 70 percent of tablet and 68 percent of smartphone owners are using their devices while watching TV. Checking email and looking for related content or checking social connections are the most common activities.
  • This dynamic is starting to have a wide-reaching effect. Advertisers, for example, want to use multiple screens to more efficiently reach audiences; networks are incorporating Twitter and Facebook to increase viewer engagement and participation; and TV OEMs are starting to package TVs with tablets.
  • Startups are targeting TV with apps like Yahoo’s IntoNow, which can identify a show and bring up relevant information and social opportunities. Peel is an innovative recommendation engine and universal remote.
  • TVs will be able to recognize users and recommend content based on preferences. They will also be able to incorporate your tablet and smartphone choices. And, of course, cloud-based apps will allow us to buy and watch TV anywhere on any device.

Affordable AMOLED TVs Expected to be Mass Produced by 2014

  • The promise of super-thin and colorful OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology for TVs has yet to be realized, even though the industry has been regularly impressed with prototypes and limited editions.
  • According to Electronic House, “OLED TVs are poised to make a comeback, or a debut, or a comeback debut.” Researchers predict that AMOLED (Active Matrix OLED) will appear in a number of devices, including TVs.
  • LG, for example, is planning a 55-inch OLED TV in 2012, and one of the larger Asian manufacturers has a deal with DuPont to use the company’s “printing-based process that it says will reduce manufacturing costs for large-display AMOLED TVs.”
  • “Current manufacturing technology doesn’t scale up to TVs,” says Bill Feehery, global business director for DuPont Electronics & Communications. “Today OLED material is heated up and evaporated, then they use a screen to create the pixels on the display. Our goal was to use an ink-jet printer-like technology to print it.”
  • Feehery suggests the hefty premiums of early units will come down in cost once mass manufacturing of AMOLED TVs begins in 2014.
  • “AMOLED is already used in mobile phones and can deliver vivid colors, higher contrast, faster response and a wider viewing angle than traditional LCDs, while consuming less power,” reports Electronic House.

Bob Iger Named to Apple Board, Arthur Levinson to Serve as Chairman

  • Apple has named Disney chief exec Robert Iger to its board, while Arthur Levinson will take over the chairman post previously held by Steve Jobs.
  • Bob Iger was a friend and business partner of Jobs. The two worked together when Disney acquired Pixar Animation Studios in 2006.
  • Levinson, chairman of biotech company Genentech, has been co-director of the Apple board for six years.
  • “They’re trying to shore up the Disney relationship or strengthen that relationship because it’s an important part of where Apple is going,” said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos, referring to the possibility of a future Apple television and its need for licensing deals. “The content piece is the critical key to the living room,” Munster added.
  • “He is going to make an extraordinary addition to our already very strong board,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said of Iger, commenting that Iger’s role at Disney in harnessing new technology makes him “a great fit for Apple.”

TV Tune-In: New Second Screen Companion Hopes to Socialize TV

  • Rogue Paper Inc. has developed a second screen app named TV Tune-In that is designed to let TV viewers engage in real-time commentary with other viewers.
  • The company refers to the app quite simply as an “Audience Engagement Platform.” It works by tracking the user’s time zone and program being watched.
  • According to Rogue: “Viewers can just plop down on the couch, turn on both screens, and dive into the sea of snarky comments about their favorite shows. The app allows users to watch live and time-shifted, to enjoy the entire delicious dish in sync with the episode you’re watching on your TV or laptop.”
  • The platform is targeting the 40 percent of consumers identified by Nielsen who simultaneously use mobile devices while watching television. These multi-taskers should be of interest to advertisers as well.
  • “From the 1950s when viewers gathered around the television and discussed the programs, to conversations happening in real-time, television has always been social,” explains Rogue Paper CEO Stephanie Boyle. “TV Tune-In harnesses the social aspect of television and provides a toolkit for broadcasters to engage their audiences and actively participate in the conversations happening around their content.”

Will LG Electronics Debut a New Google TV at CES?

  • LG may debut a television set with Google software at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, according to “two people with knowledge of the project.”
  • The move would be a boon for Google in the field against entrants such as Apple and Microsoft.
  • Google is working to build support for its Google TV software, despite disappointing sales from its Logitech partnership. The company introduced a redesigned version last month after the earlier release failed to meet expectations.
  • “The revamped version of Google TV service has a simpler interface,” reports Bloomberg. “The upgrade was designed to show the YouTube video- sharing service better and opens up the platform for Android developers to build applications for TV. Android is Google’s software platform for mobile devices.”
  • LG rival Samsung has also been in discussions to develop a Google TV product.