Tag Archives | Cable TV

Would You Pay $30 For an At-Home, One-Time Movie?

Bloomberg’s Ronald Grover and Kelly Riddell are reporting that Sony, Warner Bros., and Disney are exploring the idea of letting consumers watch movies at home, shortly after they leave theaters and before they’re available on DVD and from services such as iTunes, Amazon Video on Demand, and CinemaNow. The movies might be available via cable companies and/or on game consoles, and the price the Bloomberg story mentions is “as much as $30.”

That sounds like a boatload of money given that you can rent Avatar for $3.99 or buy it for $14.99 right now. I suppose that the studios hope that folks will compare the $30 price to the cost and effort involved in hauling a family of three, four, or more down to a theater and paying for tickets, popcorn, and drinks.

And…well, $30 still sounds like a lot for a movie you can watch only at home, and only once.  $15 might be more in my personal ballpark.

Your take, please:


Cable-Cutting Might Be Hard, But It's Happening

A day after the New York Times wrote about the lasting appeal of cable TV, Hollywood Reporter notes that paid television subscriptions fell for the first time in at least two decades.

Cable, satellite and telco providers lost 216,000 subscribers last quarter, research firm SNL Kagan claims, the worst performance for these industries since the 1980s, when SNL Kagan began tracking this data. The firm expects web TV options such as Hulu to become the primary way of watching television for 3 million U.S. homes this year, out of 115 million TV households in the United States.

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In (Reluctant) Defense of Cable TV

The New York Times’ Matt Richtel and Brian Stelter have a nice story today on the threat posed to traditional cable TV by free and low-cost Internet TV. Despite the growing sophistication of Web service, Americans still haven’t  started cutting the cable cord in droves. Richtel and Stelter point to popular content that’s not available (legally) online–such as American Idol and True Blood–as a primary explanation for cable’s continued viability.

I’ve been writing about the idea of dumping cable for a long time and am instinctively drawn to it…but I haven’t done it. In our household, we’re heavy watchers of Netflix on Demand via a Roku box. We also watch Hulu and occasionally partake of movies and TV on iTunes and Amazon on Demand. But we still consume plenty for Comcast Xfinity cable TV. (For that matter, we also buy DVDs, and I’ve been known to pull out VHS tapes.)

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Hulu's For-Pay Service is Official. You Excited?

Speaking of browser-based entertainment services that are branching out: Hulu has finally announced its plans for a for-pay version of its extremely popular TV service. Hulu Plus will cost $9.99 a month and provide full access to entire seasons (current and past) of shows from ABC, NBC, FOX, and other TV networks. And it’ll be the first version of the service that’s available on devices that aren’t PCs, including the iPhone 4, iPhone 3G, iPod Touch, iPad, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and TVs and Blu-Ray players from Samsung, Sony, and Vizio. (That helps explain why Hulu has done everything in its power to prevent other companies such as Boxee from letting their users watch Hulu shows.)

Hulu says that the freebie, ad-supported version of the service isn’t going away–it’ll just offer fewer episodes, and won’t be available on a cornucopia of gadgets.

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DirecTV's Whole Home DVR Now Available ($3)

After several months of private testing, followed by an open beta, DirecTV has formally introduced their whole-home DVR service. As a fan of the ‘hub and spoke’ digital distribution model, the MoCA-based solution looks quiet compelling. Of course, DirecTV subscribers would need at least one HD DVR. But each additional room (up to 15!) can be outfitted with a less pricey HD receiver to schedule or view recordings from the primary DVR. Free would be nice, but you really can’t go wrong a low $3 monthly surcharge.

Thanks, Jon!

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


Replacing the CableCARD Regime

For about a year, and as directed by Congress, the FCC has been working on their (our) National Broadband Plan. With the goal of ensuring access while maximizing usage and potential. Whatever that may mean. But hopefully does not include Chatroulette. As you might imagine of a government report, the newly released National Broadband Plan covers a lot of territory. So instead of reading each of the 376 pages, take a look at DSLReports for some consumer-centric highlights. You might also want to hit Engadget for a few corporate responses. However, given our general focus here, I wanted to address the cable-co…

Section 4.13 discusses the current CableCARD landscape and associated challenges. Specifically, they address the SDV hurt fest, pricing obfuscation, “installation” hoop jumping, and CableCARD certification burden. And the FCC would like to see this all cleaned up by the fall. This year. It’s certainly a goal we can get behind. But, yeah, good luck with that.

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CableCard Installs Getting Better?

Over the years, I’ve experienced more CableCARD installs than most. As I frequently rotate devices and have lived something of a gypsy lifestyle since unloading our home (along with our projector) and given bi-coastal employment. The vast majority of installs have been problematic. When the Comcast or Cox Communication techs bother to show. I even had to get in touch with my (previous) local franchising authority (Montgomery County, MD) at one point. Which is both good and bad… Fortunately, I know how to get things taken care of. On the other hand, why did getting a timely CableCARD install require filing a report? Plus, in most situations, I still firmly believe a CableCARD install shouldn’t require a truck roll — even if pairing is required. Let me pick up the card at their office and give me a number to call to read off my STB numbers for pairing. Saving the savvy some time (while preserving my PTO).

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Sezmi Launches Into Retail in Los Angeles

Having piloted their “personal TV service” in Los Angeles since November, Sezmi is formally launching into the LA market today via local Best Buy outposts.
Last month at CES, I finally got a look at their product… which pulls together local other-the-air (OTA) programming, premium programming (such as CNN and SyFy) simulcast OTA in select markets, and Internet-sourced content including CinemaNow VOD and YouTube. Their vision is solid, and more holistic than most, likely embodying the future of home entertainment by aggregating multiple content sources within a personalized presentation for each family member (or housemate).
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Okay, Is Now the Time to Dump Cable TV?

A year ago, I toyed with the idea of getting rid of cable and doing all my TV watching online. In the end, I kept Comcast–partially out of lethargy, but mostly because (A) cable is still a much better source of news-related programming than the Web, and (B) I’m very comfortable with my TiVo.

Reason (A) still strikes me as a significant argument in favor of keeping cable. With reason (B), however, I may be at a crossroads. My TiVo HD, which never worked very well, now isn’t working at all–it crashes every few minutes. I’m still trying to troubleshoot it, but I suspect that the drive is bad and will need to be replaced. That’ll require an investment of money and time, and while I may go through with it, I’m also flirting with the notion of retiring the TiVo and giving up cable.

News remains the biggest argument against doing so: I still like the idea of having CNN, CSPAN, Fox News, MSNBC, and other newsy outlets readily available. On the other hand, some of this stuff is available in podcast form–albeit after a delay–and it’s not like I’m glued to TV news every night. (I do, however, like to gorge on it when breaking events warrant, whether they involve election night or a celebrity death or the moving tale of a small boy swept away in his father’s experimental balloon.)

If I cut the cable and give up TiVo, what should I replace them with? I’m still not sure. I like Roku. I own an Apple TV that I don’t use much but would probably enjoy if I made an effort to rediscover it. The Boxee Box looks promising.

But the one box that offers access to the widest variety of stuff–including an endless supply of free material–is a PC. So I’m also toying with the notion of connecting a Windows box or Mac Mini to my Vizio and using it for Netflix, Boxee, YouTube, video podcasts, and a whole lot more. The major downside: Even a cheap PC costs a lot more than a Roku or a Boxee Box. But hey, if I’m no longer tithing to Comcast I’ll have some newfound cash to spend.

I don’t need to give up cable. I can afford it, and there are times that I’m very glad I have it. But more and more, I feel guilty about spending as much I do each month given how little of it I end up watching. It feels wasteful, like filling up your plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet when you know you’re only going to take a bite or two.

Here’s the part where I ask for your advice. What would you do? What are you doing?