Tag Archives | Digital TV

Here’s the iTunes TV Subscription I’d Pay For

Apple TVOver at All Things Digital, Peter Kafka is reporting that he’s hearing that Apple wants to offer a $30 TV subscription service through iTunes, and is trying to stir up interest among content providers. He has very few details, but the basic idea of a technology company taking on cable with an Internet-based service appeals to me. (I’ve written in the past of my flirtations with ditching Comcast, although I remain a subscriber as I write this.)

Sooner or later, we’re all going to get all of our entertainment and information over the Internet, whether it’s from Apple or Comcast or someone else or a combination of multiple options. I’m not sure how it’ll all pan out, or how long it’ll take. But I do know what I’d like to see in such a service. Stuff like this:

A la carte options. I don’t watch 98 percent of the channels included in my cable package, and never will–and the only reason I’m paying for the tier of service I’m getting is to get one or two stations that interest me. I’d much rather be able to select from a handful of stations I know I’ll watch. Better yet, why can’t I pay for individual programs?

Diversity even cable can’t offer. I want niche programming on topics I’m interested in. I want every movie that’s extant, and every episode of every TV show–including ones that never came out on DVD.

One subscription I can watch anywhere and everywhere. I’d like to pay one flat fee for programming I can watch on my TV, my PC, and my phone. (That’s one reason why the idea of an iTunes-based subscription service is intriguing–I’ve already got iTunes on my computers, on my iPhone, and–courtesy of Apple TV–on my TV.)

Both live streams and a great DVR in the cloud. One of the reasons I still pay Comcast each month is because it’s still the best way to get news and other real-time programming. I wouldn’t pay an additional $30 a month for Subscription iTunes unless it brought me MSNBC and CNN and FOX and CSPAN. (Or, alternatively, unless they all become available online for free through some other means.) But I also want to be able to get anything my subscription qualifies me to watch at any time.

Is any of this too much to ask for? I’d cheerfully pay a lot more than $30 a month to the first company who offers it.  And until it comes along, I’ll muddle along with a combination of Comcast, iTunes, Roku, Amazon on Demand, Slingbox, Netflix Watch Instantly, podcasts, various network-specific sites, and old VHS tapes. Between them, I figure they get me about two-thirds of the way to where I’d like to go…


Clicker’s Guide to Online Video

Clicker LogoI’ve lost track of how many search engines have claimed to be a TV Guide for Web video, or have been described as such by others. This morning at TechCrunch50, another contender joined the fray: Clicker, which is headed by former Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone. It’s focused on professional content (content from broadcast TV, cable, and some Web-only items); aims to know more than competitors about the shows it finds to make it easier to find programs you’ll like (such as whether they’re comedies or dramas); embeds shows from Hulu, network sites, and other sources; and lets you maintain a personal library of shows so you can come back and watch your favorites.

Looks useful and straightforward enough, but it’s hard to judge until it’s open for business–which it isn’t yet. Here’s a video walkthrough:

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.3419185&w=425&h=350&fv=loc%3D%252F%26autoplay%3Dfalse%26vid%3D2162433]

Sites like Clicker are going to be important, unless Google and other garden-variety search providers add enough video-specific features to render them superfluous. But to me, the biggest problem with TV shows online isn’t that they’re hard to find, but that too much of the good stuff just isn’t available yet. I’m looking forward to the day when just about anything that’s ever aired on TV in episodic form is available online–including scads of items that never made it to DVD. When that happens–and I’m convinced it will–we’ll really need Clicker or something comparable…


Video Streaming Box Announcements of the Week

Netgear Entertainer Live ($150)


The new Netgear Entertainer Live (EVA2000) was originally announced as a VuNow platform device at Netgear’s CES press conference back in January. At that time, I saw the unnamed Netgear product demo-ed using VuNow’s non-distinctive hardware, but has since been repackaged with some left over Netgear router enclosures. In addition to YouTube and CinemaNow VOD access, and unlikeRoku’s similar small box solution, the EVA 2000 is also capable of streaming a wide variety of local media. PlayOn is supported (and offered at a discount), but that PC-based software hack is only interesting until Hulu drops the hammer (technically or legally). However, this $150 box should gain a bit more traction thanVerismo’s VuNow with the Netgear brand and retail relationships.

LG BD390 Blu-ray Player with Vudu ($400)


Vudu continues to execute on their hardware diversification strategy as LG announces a network upgrade to their existing 802.11n-capable Blu-ray player. The smooth Vudu experience and extensive HD video-on-demand library joins Netflix on YouTube on the well-regarded connected BD390. While the $400 MSRP may seem a bit steep for what it offers and compared to the Sony unit below, this box can be found online for significantly less. We’re hopeful of taking a look at a review loaner in the near future.

Sony BDP-N460 Blu-ray Player with Bravia VOD (~$250)


Sony just unveiled a new Bravia-connected device at CEDIA. The BDP-N460 Blu-ray Player will be available in October “for about $250″ and features “Bravia” Internet services, including video-on-demand, YouTube, Slacker, and Netflix streaming. While it doesn’t incorporate the type of wireless connectivity found in the LG BD390 above, Sony’s upcoming model sure looks aggressively priced to boost holiday sales.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)

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Senate Passes DTV Delay Bill Again

The Senate has passed a slightly modified version of the bill it passed last week, bringing in compromises from the House and sending it back to the lower chamber for a second vote. As with the first one, the switch would be delayed to June 12. It is not clear whether this modified bill will be enough to pass the House: the last bill failed to get the needed supermajority for “fast track passage,” 258-168 (see Steve Wildstrom’s comment below for an explanation). The earliest the bill could be taken up is Monday, a little over two weeks before the transition is to take place.


Legislation Introduced to Push Back DTV Transition

Obama’s transition team has asked for it. FCC chairman Kevin Martin has spoke out publicly against it. Now, West Virginia Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller is attempting to get Congress to act on the digital TV deadline. Saying more time is needed, Rockefeller on Thursday introduced legislation to push back the date until June 12. It really isn’t clear if it will pass — telecoms such as AT&T and Verizon who have purchased the soon-to-be-vacated spectrum are opposed to any change. However,  there is some momentum in Congress to give people more time in light of the problems with the set-top box coupon program, it appears.


FCC At Odds With Obama Over DTV Switch

While the Obama team has asked Congress to delay the February 17 switch to digital television, FCC chairman Kevin Martin has publicly come out against any type of postponement. His argument is somewhat sound: he suggests that any delay could confuse consumers, and possibly have the negative side effect of giving consumers a reason not to take any future deadline seriously. Messaging for almost a year now has advertised the date, and media outlets are increasingly ramping up their coverage of the switch. Indeed, the digital converter box coupon program is in trouble, and as much as 7 percent of those who receive over-the-air programming may not be ready, but is it our fault that they procrastinated?

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DTV Coupon Program Is Out of Money

Analog TV users without cable beware: if you have not gotten your coupons to offset the costs of the digital converter box, you may be out of luck (and without TV) when February 17 comes around. The Washington Post reports that the program is nearing the limit of the $1.34 billion it was appropriated to subsidize the cost of the set-top boxes. Each coupon takes $40 off the price of the boxes, which cost between $50 and $80, and expire in 90 days. Possible sources for more funds could be through either the economic stimulus package, or a new bill funding further coupons.