Videonet has published the latest blog entry by David Price and myself
Our story so far: After beginning an experiment in cord-cutting, David received a rude awakening from his pay TV provider. This got us thinking about how to get around broadband data caps. Two approaches occurred to us right away.
The first is to make better use of available bandwidth by using improved codecs. The second is to postpone data cap charges with a hybrid broadcast solution. Both have their advantages and challenges…
– Steve Hawley
We all know about ‘Over the Top,’ where an online video provider circumvents or disintermediates a pay TV operator (while using the operator’s own network to deliver said video). Then there’s ‘TV Everywhere,’ in which pay TV content providers require users to associate themselves with their pay TV subscriptions or, no play.
Through the Middle
A third online video service model is where a pay TV operator enters into a relationship with an OTT provider or online aggregator and exposes the online service within its pay TV experience. In other words, not OTT or TVE, but “through the middle,” or “TTM.”
At first, it sounds like a gimmick – some kind of desperation move by the pay TV provider to give frustrated subscribers one more reason not to cut the cord. But let’s look a little further…
TTM: A little background
In March 2014, the Danish broadband provider Waoo! introduced Netflix from within its pay TV user interface, through the middle. Here’s a demo video (in Danish).
This is enabled through the integration of software from Netflix, Nordija and Airties, which are Waoo!’s TV middleware and set-top box suppliers, respectively.
DISH embraced TTM too
In December 2014, DISH Network introduced Netflix integration as well. DISH’s implementation is different from Waoo!’s. While Waoo! dedicated a button to Netflix in its main menu, DISH placed Netflix within the electronic program guide, which made Netflix “just another channel.”
So now, I can access Netflix using the same method of access as DISH uses for video on demand.
TTM’s not a gimmick
Again, I thought “it’s a gimmick.” Until I decided to try it. If you own a streaming video player, you’ve probably been through a drill that goes something like this:
- Turn on the TV set (using either the pay TV STB remote or the TV set’s own remote)
- Locate the streaming video player’s remote, press the button to activate it
- Locate your TV set’s remote, and change the input from your pay TV set-top box, to the streaming video player
- Navigate the video player’s menus to the Netflix application, and activate the app
- Navigate the Netflix thumbnails, using up/down/right/left on the streaming player’s remote, or locate the search field and use the text search character matrix.
- Watch videos on Netflix
- Grab the TV’s remote and switch the input back to your pay TV set-top box
- (…At which point, we’ve used at least two different user interfaces – that of your streaming player and Netflix.’ Plus, perhaps, the TV set’s own UI – and as many as three different remote controls)
- (…At which point, my wife asks me to call someone for technical support – but who?)
Compare this classic early-adopter experience with DISH’s TTM experience
- Turn on the TV, using the DISH remote
- Bring up the EPG and navigate to Channel 370
- Press the center button to enter Netflix.
- The Netflix user experience takes over (DISH can’t be held responsible for Netflix’ unusable search and recommendation capabilities)
- Hit Cancel, Cancel, Cancel… to back out of Netflix and return to DISH
- (…at which point we used one remote control and two UIs: that of DISH and that of Netflix)
The first time you access Netflix via the DISH EPG, you must enter your Netflix ID and passcode. Any subsequent use of Netflix goes right from the EPG to Netflix, with no login needed.
Has someone already decided that TTM is too good to be true?
I was initially motivated to write this article because Zatz Not Funny published a report that the YouTube and Amazon apps were being removed from the TiVo Series 2 and Series 3 DVRs, as of April 15. Sure enough, TiVo confirms this. Because the apps reside on the TiVo box, this is really another version of Through the Middle.
I immediately jumped to the conclusion that Amazon and YouTube were starting to get choosy about their distribution channels – and that TTM might just be a fleeting phenomenon as different content providers contend against one another to be the one on top. Or as my wife’s dad used to say: “If it’s any good, they’ll stop making it!”
As it turns out, the moves by Amazon and YouTube are simply because the TiVo 2- and 3-Series are old, and the app developers made the choice not to support them anymore. In fact, video apps from Amazon, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Vudu (and others) are all key selling points for TiVo’s current Roamio DVR, and surely these video providers must appreciate having access to TiVo’s subscribers.
Not long ago, an industry friend of mine told me that Netflix had been in a pay TV operator’s EPG, but had pulled out. But the reason that Netflix and the pay TV provider went their separate ways was because Netflix wanted more control over the user experience.
So, these weren’t cases of competitive wrangling or channel conflict at all. One was about discontinuing support for old devices, and the other was about a content provider trying to maintain its look and feel across any device environment.
TTM is BoBW
Pay TV operators that integrate their services with TiVo can choose whether or not to expose TiVo’s OTT apps through the middle, but that’s also another story. In those cases, the pay TV operator is calling the shots, which brings us full circle back to the debate as to whether OTT is a threat or an opportunity for operators.
In the end, I view ‘Through the Middle’ is BoBW (the Best of Both Worlds) as a consumer retention tool for pay TV. But I think it’s more because of the added convenience, and it’s a tacit admission by pay TV operators that OTT can be a friend and isn’t a threat.
[ Side note: This topic takes us into a whole ‘nother discussion about where the pay TV provider’s user experience leaves off, and where the OTT (TTM) provider’s UEx takes over. I promise an article about this soon. ]
Anyone surprised by DISH Network’s bid to acquire Sprint Communications is probably wearing cable-colored glasses. Many cable industry observers look at competitors through the filter of who is offering pay TV or triple-play (TV, broadband access and voice) services, and don’t seem so worried about quad-play competition (adding wireless) because most of the major ones partner with the enemy (Verizon) for that.
Public companies in the US are required by the SEC to file quarterly and annual reports that include management narratives about the health of the company and company risk factors, and that’s a good place to read the tea leaves because at least the tea leaves have some basis in reality. It’s no surprise that the reports of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and all of the others identify satellite as a competitive risk in the pay TV category.
Beyond video, Time Warner Cable and others make general reference to the competitive threat posed by satellite TV operators providing voice and data services through partnerships with telephone companies (and symbiotically, so Telcos can also add TV services to their range of services or reach un-served territories without having to build their own TV infrastructure).
Some of these filings also make general reference to competition from satellite-delivered broadband. DirecTV’s makes specific reference to DISHNet satellite Internet service. Similarly, most MVPDs* recognize facilities-based video from Telcos (IPTV) as a threat. Most MVPDs also recognize video distribution to consumer devices over broadband both as threats (inflicted by others) and as opportunities (for themselves).
But NONE of the 2012 year-end SEC filings by any of the major MVPDs explicitly identify DISH Network or EchoStar as a 4G wireless threat.
DirecTV is the only one that recognizes any specific video-over-wireless threat by identifying AT&T U-verse Mobile, Verizon FiOS TV’s Flex View and Verizon Wireless Viewdini services. And of course AT&T and Verizon are increasingly open about their plans to deliver all of their services over IP, including video (Yes, LTE is IP-based, and no, neither AT&T nor Verizon identify DISH as a 4G competitor in their SEC filings either).
Other than that, it just doesn’t appear on their radar screens.
Meanwhile, DISH’s quad-play plans have been brewing for years
An intriguing series of events over the past several years makes it clear that DISH has ambitious quad-play plans. It’s really no secret: these events have been hidden in plain view.
- In 2009, DISH Network was granted licenses by the FCC, to operate services over the 700Mhz band. The spectrum can be used for mobile broadcast TV, or to tie in with LTE Advanced service.
- In 2011, EchoStar acquired Hughes Communications for about $2 billion, including debt,
- In 2012, EchoStar acquired DBSD North America and TerreStar Networks for a total of about $2.9 billion. This gave DISH new S-band spectrum that could be used by DISH to launch wireless broadband Internet access and voice services over LTE-Advanced network technology. DISH proposed a hybrid satellite-terrestrial mobile broadband network to the FCC, which the FCC first denied and later approved.
- DISH’s 2012 annual report states clearly that all of these acquisitions could require “significant” further capital investment before they can be commercialized.
And now, along comes Sprint
In a situation that conjures up mental images of the classic three fish scenario:
- In October 2012, Japan’s SoftBank made a bid to acquire 70% of Sprint for about $20 billion, ostensibly to establish a foothold in North America. Softbank seems to want Sprint only with Clearwire.
- In December 2012, Sprint announced a $2.2 billion agreement to acquire the remaining 49 percent of Clearwire that it doesn’t already own. Sprint indicated that Clearwire’s other voting stakeholders (Intel, Comcast and Bright House Networks) had approved. Regulatory approval remains pending here in April.
- In December 2012, DISH requested that regulatory approval of Sprint’s Clearwire acquisition be delayed.
- In January, DISH made its own bid to purchase Clearwire for about $2.3 billion. Some observers believe that DISH’s Clearwire bid was also aimed at dissuading Softbank from buying Sprint
In mid-April 2013, DISH confirmed its intentions to buy Sprint, confirming rumors had been circulating for at least a year
- Perhaps feeling threatened by DISH, Verizon seems to want in on Clearwire as well
During 2013, Sprint is in the process of rolling out its 4G LTE network nationally. In addition, DISH seems comfortable that Clearwire would be under DISH’s control, regardless of whether or not Sprint’s acquisition of Clearwire goes through; assuming DISH’s acquisition of Sprint does happen.
The end result of all this acquisition activity for DISH would be a virtually unparalleled range of spectrum, from which they can build broadband video services over wireless. In fact, DISH CEO Charlie Ergen said so this week.
But that’s not all
In further support of the hypothesis that DISH is actually interested in building a quad-play service platform and not just collecting licenses, it should be remembered that DISH has also made other types of network acquisitions.
In 2011, DISH acquired South.com, which owns FCC licenses for Multichannel Video and Data Distribution Service (MVDDS) broadband wireless spectrum. This could conceivably enable DISH to deliver multichannel TV and/or broadband multicast services over line-of-sight over-the-air terrestrial broadcast, in territories where incumbent providers can’t. To be fair, I have spoken with observers who think just the opposite: that DISH is holding these licenses with no intention to build.
Also in 2011, DISH acquired Liberty Bell Telecom. Liberty Bell is licensed to operate in 13 western states and could conceivably become a platform for DISH to offer wireline broadband and triple-play services in that region.
With all of these factors taken into consideration, there seems to be little question of DISH’s long range intentions: that DISH wants to leapfrog the cable triple-play and become a quad play operator. In fact, DISH itself has reported on all of these acquisitions in its SEC filings, so the writing has been on the wall.
What could possibly happen?
An acquisition of Sprint by DISH would instantly make DISH a 4G wireless competitor with a national footprint, giving it a major competitive advantage over DirecTV, and over cable TV (although as noted earlier, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Bright House Networks now partner with Verizon Wireless).
A Sprint acquisition also would place DISH in more or less a peer position against AT&T and Verizon, in terms of the range of available services, since DISH would be able to offer a quad-play of pay TV, data, voice and mobile services, and all three operators of these operators would have national wireless footprints.
But even if DISH’s aggressive bid for Sprint (and/or Clearwire) were to fail, it seems likely that DISH will introduce wireless services anyway, sometime in the foreseeable future, since the FCC did approve DISH Network’s request to use its wireless spectrum for an LTE wireless service. But Sprint would give DISH a faster path to market.
Three fish and a game of chicken
I think the three fish scenario, in which DISH acquires Sprint which acquires (or at least controls) Clearwire, would be good for DISH and good for competition. By many reports, DISH actually wants to build a service, whereas Softbank is mainly interested in Sprint as an investment and to give Softbank a US roaming partner.
DISH may also be motivated by a factor other than competition: it must have completed 35% of its deployment over its 700Mhz spectrum by June 2013. Could the acquisition of Sprint be a catalyst that helps DISH fulfill that requirement as well? June looms large. If that speculation is correct, DISH CEO Charlie Ergen is playing a heck of a game of chicken. DISH has asked the FCC for special considerations in the past and could conceivably ask for another to extend this deadline.
One more thing, in case you were wondering
MVPD is the acronym for the term Multichannel Video Programming Distributors, defined by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 for pay TV operators. MVPDs include cable and satellite TV operators and Telcos that offer TV services.
The FCC’s Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming, Fourteenth Report, released July 20, 2012, reviewed the period between 2007 and 2010. It is very educational and highly recommended. OTT providers, by the way, are classified by the FCC as “OVDs” (Online Video Distributors), a new category that was established in 2010, separate and distinct from the MVPD category.
All of the cable, telco and satellite operators have been responding to the threat of OTT video for several years now. Time Warner Cable’s 2012 annual report goes a step further and cites the threat of OTT voice.
Note: this post was edited on June 4, to correct the Hopper’s capacity from 250 to 500 HD recording hours, and to clarify that 1 TB of its capacity is reserved for Prime Time Anytime. Revised June 13 to clarify how Prime Time Anytime recordings are presented to the user and add a screen-shot.
Earlier this spring, DISH Network introduced its Hopper whole-home DVR. In this article, I provide both the perspectives of a user and of an industry analyst.
First, a quick summary. The Hopper is a three-tuner satellite TV receiver that receives and distributes DISH Network’s pay TV and Blockbuster Video content to as many as four HD TV sets (one connected to the Hopper itself plus up to three Joey client set-top boxes). A 2 terabyte hard drive stores up to 500 hours of HD or 1,000 hours of standard definition content. Two Hoppers can be installed in a single home, to support up to four Joeys – and therefore, a total of six TVs. The setup distributes video over MoCA over coax and supports the DLNA framework, so users can set up a networked computer as a DLNA server to view home media content on TV. The Hopper also supports 3D programming, a range of TV apps, plays Sirius XM radio programming, has a nifty ‘remote finder’ feature, and can pre-cache selected Blockbuster on-demand titles.
Prime Time Anytime (the good and the controversial)
Arguably, the Hopper’s most valuable feature is Prime Time Anytime. When enabled by the user, the feature automatically records the programming of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox so it is available to the user for up to 8 days (FIFO). These four ‘channels’ are delivered as a single MPEG-4 HD stream, to one tuner – so even though the Hopper has three tuners, it can record 6 HD program streams simultaneously. These recordings are stored in a partition of the Hopper’s 2TB hard drive that’s reserved for Prime Time Anytime, so there is no impact on the amount of space available for subscriber-initiated DVR recordings.
The user selects Primetime Anytime from the Hopper main menu, and the ‘DVR recordings’ user interface appears. Users can then select the ‘icon’ or ’tile’ for that TV show to see past programming within the eight day window.
But Prime Time Anytime has gotten DISH in a lot of hot water with TV programmers and advertisers. It’s “Auto Hop” feature can be enabled by the user to automatically skip the commercials within recorded “Big Four” network programming that’s more than one day old; resurrecting the entire decade-old discussion of ad-skipping.
I’m of two minds about this. Let’s put it into perspective. On one hand, the outcry from the TV programmers is understandable: ad-skipping disrupts their business model. TV programmers lived on advertising revenue alone until relatively recently, when some began to charge for the programming itself. But on the other hand, this horse has long been out of the barn. Shame that they didn’t use the legal system to to quash the DVR fast-forward feature back in the days of the dinosaurs, when DVR (“PVR”!) was new and they had the opportunity.
Also, at a macro level, the TV industry already has some well-established work-arounds. Although Web-delivered TV has been seen as a threat by just about everyone in the TV industry at one time or another, it’s also an opportunity. Ask Hulu, which, after all, is a JV of three of the four networks, and carries the programming of the fourth one. Hulu Plus has proven that consumers are willing to pay for a service without (well, with fewer) ads. Also, the interactive TV features, enabled by today’s IP delivery and modern TV middleware, enable a ‘clickable’ user experience, which – because it’s ‘opt-in’ (the user clicks the link because he/she wants to) – is less of an annoyance than having to sit through linear advertising. But I digress.
The analyst perspective
I look at the Hopper/Joey as a solution of transition, for three reasons:
- First, the Hopper uses Broadcom’s BCM7420 processor and not the BCM7425, which has Sling capability built in. This means that the Slingbox capability has to be added via an external Sling Adapter (a DISH-branded Slingbox). Unlike the DISH ViP922, DISH chose not to build the Sling electronics into the Hopper.
- Second, the Hopper is not a true video gateway. It doesn’t transcode video into formats that can be delivered over IP to a tablet, game console, PC or smartphone in the home; as is the case for gateway solutions coming this year from several DISH competitors. DISH will counter-argue that the Hopper doesn’t need to be a full-blown video gateway because it enables distribution to non-set-top devices – inside or outside my home – through Sling, and that’s a valid point. In my opinion, Sling is better than competing “TV Everywhere” solutions because users can access all of their subscribed programming and DVR’ed content, and not just what the content providers give access to.
- Third, DISH chose to leave Google TV technology out. Say what you will about Google TV, but all future set-tops will be Internet-enabled. DISH did a pretty good (95% there) job of integrating Google TV with its ViP722 receiver, and the combo remains available. I still have a Logitech Revue, so I can toggle my TV to the Internet, but it isn’t the same as being able to search for something, and get the EPG, DVR recordings, and the Web in one search result. I miss the convenience.
Although Sling’s client device coverage, is impressive, Sling falls slightly short by not supporting game consoles (thereby missing a sizeable demographic that Pay TV providers can’t afford to ignore). There also are no Sling clients for Internet-connected “smart” TVs.
The Hopper’s lack of Google TV is justifiable for technical and cost reasons. Google TV runs on Intel and ARM processor architectures, but the Hopper’s Broadcom BCM7420 is MIPS-based. Therefore, adding Google TV would have involved a co-processor, which would have made the Hopper far more expensive.
The user perspective
This article started out as a user perspective on the Hopper and Joey, so I’d better say something about that. We’ve had it in our home for a month now. We really like it. The combo uses less power than old DISH CPE, and it doesn’t have a phalanx of blinky status lights or noisy fans that can keep you up at night. Also, the user experience is well thought out, convenient to use, and the non-techies in our household took to it fairly quickly.
In my case, the installation was expensive to DISH because the Hopper replaced my existing ViP722 and ViP922 set-top boxes. Also, although wiring was already in place for these old set-tops, DISH’s installation procedures apparently required the installer to run new coax cabling between the Hopper and the Joey. Even though the new wiring is the same 75 ohm RG6 conductor as the old, the new set-tops use MoCA, so wiring has to be rated for 3ghz.
The other reason for new wiring was to connect the Hopper to our home broadband router, because the Hopper/Joey do not use powerline networking as the 722 and 922 did. The broadband connection is used by DISH to download TV metadata, Blockbuster content and the TV apps that are part of the overall DISH experience.
For the mainstream new user that DISH has targeted, the Hopper and Joey are a great solution. It works well, uses proven technology, and is convenient as all heck. Because it lacks Sling, transcoding, and Google TV, it’s not for the TV geek set – and the DISH officials I spoke with were the first to admit this. We TV geeks will have to be satisfied with next-generation solutions which do have such users in mind, and DISH has an enticing technology portfolio at its disposal.
Pay TV providers have moved beyond the “sky is falling” thinking, that the Internet will be their doom – and indeed have also moved from the thinking stage about new service models that leverage Internet delivery. Comcast and Time Warner Cable, not to mention both major satellite TV companies, AT&T and Verizon, are all in the process of launching Internet-delivered features.
Because operators would love to avoid subsidizing their cost, the emergence of Internet video-enabled consumer electronics mean that STBs can actually become optional. Certainly, Internet-delivered video can supplement their limited walled garden approach, and reach a wider range of screens within their service footprints.
The two biggest impediments to pay TV’s success in distributing content over the Internet are the ability of their networks and legacy CPE to accommodate it, and their ability to secure the rights to distribute the programming over the Internet to non-TV devices.
Today (April 6), DISH Network announced that it won a bankruptcy court auction for the assets of Blockbuster Video, with the deal closing later this quarter. Now this is interesting! Just as DISH and other pay TV operators have really started to gain momentum in harnessing the Internet, this almost looks like a move in the other direction. I’m really looking forward to hearing their side of the story!
The annual TelcoTV conference is one of the premier events in the IPTV industry. As a conference with a telecom heritage (not streaming media or broadcast), TelcoTV’s focus has been IPTV (pay TV over managed IP access networks) and not IP Video (video on a best-effort basis). Many of the attendees are Telcos that looked at video as an engineering problem first, and by the way, also an answer to the competitive threat posed by cable – rather than the other way around.
In November, I had the privilege of moderating “Capitalizing on the OTT Opportunity,” the closing panel discussion of Day 1. On my panel were executives of two Tier-1 pay TV providers: Verizon’s FiOS TV and DISH Network. There were also the head marketing person from Netgem, a French provider of hybrid IP-broadcast set-tops and middleware, and an executive of Dailymotion, a content provider.
The basic premise of the panel session was to discuss the impact of Internet-delivered video on pay TV. In a few words, the impact will be very positive in the long run and there are lots of reasons why. But at the moment, everyone in the industry is blundering about and fearing for their own safety and survival, like spelunkers in a dark cave.
Verizon was the first large US-based service provider to deploy and scale an IPTV service (technically, a hybrid solution using IP for on-demand and cable TV technology for live TV). DISH Network is the first pay TV operator to deploy Google TV. Netgem has no U.S. presence yet, but has deployments in Europe – including one of the largest TV service providers in France, SFR (which operates Neuf Cegetel) which has more than 3 million IPTV subscribers – as well as Telstra, the incumbent Telco in Australia. Dailymotion’s video content is found on FiOS TV, Google TV, and many other platforms. So the panelists could all speak from personal and company experience.
I wrote an early analysis on Google TV, released in August (for which I’m about to release an update). So I was very curious about the actual product, and had it installed the week before TelcoTV so I could speak about it intelligently as the moderator.
So what was my verdict? For the most part, I have been very impressed (with the integration and the user experience), but also disappointed (for lack of content). However, I have every confidence that the early disappointments will be addressed and that, as a platform, Google TV will ultimately be seen as the game-changer it is. I have three reasons for this assessment.
1) The content owners’ blockade against Google TV is likely to be temporary
Because they don’t want to disrupt their long-established business models, the major American TV networks have blocked their content from being accessible by Google TV over the Internet. Network TV is largely ad driven, and has been since its very early days. So is Google: 98% of GOOG’s revenue is from advertising. So it’s a tug-of-war over ad dollars. The major networks and Hulu are blocking Google TV because no ad revenue sharing deals have been cut. Once they resolve their business issues, the content will flow. It’s as simple as that.
The TV content that Comcast distributes online via its Xfinity TV online service won’t work on Google TV because it uses Move Networks codecs (and in 2011, Microsoft Silverlight), which current Google TV-enabled devices can’t decode.
Also, Comcast seems to see Google TV as competition – in some ways correctly and in some ways erroneously. Comcast is reported to be readying its own Internet TV device, code named XCalibur. So, in that sense, yes, the two devices would be competing over online video ad dollars. But Comcast seems to be ignoring the potential of Google TV as a distribution medium that they can leverage, which is the potential that DISH saw. As a sidebar, if, by limiting the types of Internet-delivered content viewable by XCalibur, Comcast is acting as a gatekeeper, it is violating the “open networks” and “open services” tenets of Net Neutrality – another reason why the FCC should regain its backbone, but that’s another story.
2) Industry opinion leaders were nonplussed with Google TV, but impressions will change once it’s understood for what it is
Many in the industry punditocracy have said that Google TV’s success hinges on the availability of programming. True, but that’s only part of the story and is (in my opinion) temporary. They neglect the technology and service integration side of the discussion.
The only Google TV launch partner to date that has implemented the full vision of Google TV is DISH Network (with Logitech and with Sony, although I only have tried DISH with the Logitech Revue). This means that DISH’s TV DVR and EPG metadata are handed off to the Google TV search function, so you see a search result that includes them. That’s real TV through DISH Network, not just Web videos from YouTube (which also appear in the search result).
The other part of the integration is control of the set-top box. This means that DISH had to write software that ties their set-top box, the Revue, and Google TV via their respective APIs. If a program turns up in the search result and you want to DVR it, you press the DVR button on the Logitech Revue keyboard (or the regular DISH remote) and that’s it.
3) Google TV is not being merchandised or positioned correctly at retail.
If you go into a Sony Style store or a Best Buy (both were Google TV launch partners), you’ll find Google TV set up for demonstration. But in my experiences, both were set up with DirecTV, which hasn’t done the Google TV integration. Also, most sales people in consumer electronics shops are not subject matter experts, or trained on Google TV.
When the Sony person told me that he happened to be the designated “go-to” person for Google TV, I thought “Great, you don’t see that too often anymore! I got the right guy.” So I confidently picked up the remote and searched for a popular movie that I know is on pay TV right now. When I asked whether a Google TV search result would include TV programs and movies, he said “yes.” What a let-down when the only search results were the movie’s Web site, a Wikipedia entry, and some trailer videos on YouTube. No “real” TV. I guess he thought that, because the content was tied with something that’s on TV now, that it qualified as “TV.” I knew better, and more importantly, consumers do too.
The other disappointment was that the Sony products use this little game-controller-like remote control, and you have to press a trigger to use the keyboard. Reminiscent of the IBM PC Junior of the early 1980s. Because the Google TV integration has not been done with DirecTV, the retail experience quickly got into a mode where I was using the little mouse controller on the Sony remote. To be charitable, I’ll just say that this violates the most basic principles of TV user interface design 101, and did not pass the 57-year-old curmudgeon test.
But Google TV, as a technology and as a tool-set – and as a concept that addresses new expectations about what TV should be – is a really good effort. What it needs is consumer awareness that rises above noise-level. If Google has the wherewithal to give away 10,000 Logitech Revues to developers, and now, 100 free 46″ HDTVs to consumers, why not deploy their minions to Best Buy and Sony Style stores to make sure it’s set up with DISH and to demonstrate it correctly?
I reiterate that DISH did a good job with it. Yes, it’s a little rough around the edges – as the old adage says, “beware of version dot-oh software.” We’ll see if the updates shipped by Google and Logitech in mid-December made a difference. I am told that DISH is working on some tweaks also. Hopefully, at some point, the technology will be refined sufficiently so it doesn’t require a companion device like the Revue.
Give it time. Anyone in TelcoTV circles will tell you that it also took years for the content owners to trust IPTV.
There has been a lot of discussion over “TV Everywhere,” the service option being launched by many of the pay TV operators, including Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and others; which allows pay TV subscribers to access programming via the Internet. DISH also has been using this term, in reference to its Sling-enabled devices.
I haven’t really heard of it being characterized in this way, but isn’t TV Everywhere simply another example of a supplier (in this case, a supplier of programming to consumers) finding a new and ready distribution channel (broadband Internet access) and harnessing it in order to remain an option for some would-be cable-cutters, and maybe attract some people that aren’t on their service at all, in the process?
TV Everywhere was topic of a panel discussion at the NCTC Independent Show, and blogged about by Bernie Arnason, co-founder of TelcoTV, on his Telecompetitor blog. The point was made that “over the top” (OTT) video should be differentiated from TV Everywhere because OTT disintermediates the pay TV provider while TV Everywhere is a pay TV service. So when a pay TV provider refers to extending its own service package over the Internet, it should have a different name – and “Under the Bottom” was suggested. Semantics aside, whatever “TV Everywhere” is, the point that it’s different from OTT is well taken.
It’s understandable that Avail TVN, a “wholesale” supplier of pay TV programming to Telcos and other operators, would feel this way about it. In their case, TV Everywhere is another way to position their TV programming, so it would appeal to operators that may never do a facilities-based IPTV solution.