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TiVo returning to the UK thanks to partnership with Virgin Media — Engadget March 11, 2010

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It looks like TiVo’s freshly minted Premiere hardware will soon be setting sail eastwards as The Daily Telegraph is reporting Virgin Media’s next generation set-top box will be built around it. Loyal readers of Engadget HD will already be aware that TiVo and Virgin hooked up last November and this latest news relates to the first hardware to be spawned from that relationship. According to TiVo CEO Tom Rogers, the Premiere will “heavily inspire the development work” going into Virgin’s next TV appendage, which may or may not mean that the cable company will simply rebadge the well-received new boxes. What’s assured though is much greater integration with online content, with search linking you out to Amazon, BBC’s iPlayer, YouTube or good old standard broadcast channels. The whole thing’s about unlimited choice, apparently, and should be showing up on the Queen’s isles by the end of this year. We can wait, but we’d rather we didn’t have to.

via TiVo returning to the UK thanks to partnership with Virgin Media — Engadget.


Half of Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’ Users Are Streaming to the TV February 28, 2010

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According to a newly published study from TDG – the nation’s leading new media research consultancy – almost two-thirds of Netflix users that subscribe to a home broadband service are now viewing the ‘Watch Instantly’ streaming video service. One-third of broadband-enabled Netflix subscribers view this streaming video exclusively only on their PCs, 8% view the content exclusively on their TVs, and 24% use both their PCs and TVs.

“Netflix is now the archetype for over-the-top (OTT) streaming video services,” notes Michael Greeson, TDG founding partner and director of research. “Not only has Netflix eclipsed its immediate competitors in terms of online DVD rental, but it has quickly become the ‘gold standard’ for new OTT streaming services.”

The implication of TDG’s research is significant: one-half of broadband-enabled ‘Watch Instantly’ users now view streaming video on their TVs, a phenomenon unimaginable just a few years ago. As Greeson points out, this speaks volumes about the maturation of streaming video technologies that, until recently, had delivered an inconsistent experience that left regular TV viewers wanting.

via Half of Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’ Users Are Streaming to the TV – Press Releases.

LiLi: Skype Wants to Make Your TV More Social January 6, 2010

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Skype will soon be available on your TV set, thanks to TVs from LG and Panasonic with an integrated Skype client that will be coming out later this year. While users will still have to purchase a separate video camera designed to work with the service (priced at around $100-$200), doing so will open up a whole new way for users to connect with friends and family from the comfort of their living room.

The plan to move video conferencing to the big screen makes sense, as anyone who’s ever used Skype for teleconferencing knows. While the ability to make free video calls is nice and convenient, speaking into a laptop or desktop web cam isn’t the greatest user experience, a fact that has been borne out in Skype’s own experience research.

As David Dinka, head of Skype’s experience research division, said in a video that accompanies the announcement, “For many people, if they want to make a video call, they want to speak to their friends and family from somewhere comfortable, and preferably on the big screen. Now, as we know, the TV is the center of many people’s homes, so Skype on the TV is the natural next step for us and our users.”

The move isn’t totally unexpected. Skype CEO Josh Silverman told Om last November that he saw “a future where Skype would be embedded in connected game consoles, televisions and video phones.” But the pace with which Skype, and services like it, are making their way onto broadband-connected TVs is pretty impressive.

It also points to the fact that TVs are no longer one-way content distribution devices, but two-way communication portals. We’ve long been saying that video wants to be social, but very few applications have harnessed a full feature set that will enable viewers to interact with each other while also viewing video content. This point was underlined in a NY Times article yesterday about cross-country friends that used Skype to talk about TV episodes while watching them.

Unfortunately, from that standpoint the upcoming Skype TV integration will have some limitations. Apparently the TVs don’t have enough processing power for users to video chat while also watching TV, according to the NY Times. So while Skype could make TV set a little more social, it won’t do anything to improve the actual experience of viewing television programming.

While not enabling “true social TV” (yet), the move by Skype could have severe consequences for the telecom industry, which has already seen voice revenues decline over the last several years. By cutting out the middle man and giving users a richer experience with which to interact with their friends and family, some could do away with landline voice services altogether.

via Skype Wants to Make Your TV More Social.

Hulu to stream reality show internationally, incessantly — Engadget December 18, 2009

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See this forlorn-looking male model? He’s got a lot on his mind. Really, he’s just like the rest of us — a starry-eyed dreamer who’s headed to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune. To this end, he’s shacked up with four fellow photogenic wannabes in a Hollywood crash pad where they’ll be webcast 24-7 for Simon Fuller’s new Internet-only talent show, If I Can Dream. In addition to weekly episodes broadcast on Hulu, voyeurs viewers will be able to watch the action in the house live, as it goes down. You see, Hulu (who’s not had much luck getting a foothold outside of the states) will be streaming the thing to select international markets in an attempt to spread their brand and influence worldwide. Will it work? Who knows? Besides, Jersey Shore is more our speed. PR, video after the break.

via Hulu to stream reality show internationally, incessantly — Engadget.

How Much Data Does America Consume? – GigaOM December 10, 2009

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How much data and information do people in the U.S. consume? What kind of data? Those were some of the questions researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) recently set out to answer. They turned up some eye-popping results.

The report, “How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers,” reveals that U.S. households consumed approximately 3.6 zettabytes of information in 2008. (The numbers also include television and radio transmissions.) That’s roughly the amount of information found in thick paperback novels stacked seven feet high over the entire U.S. — including Alaska — according to UCSD estimates. One zettabyte is one billion trillion bytes.

Among the other findings:

  • The 3.6 zettabytes of total information used by Americans in their homes far exceeds storage or transmission capacity.
  • The total is roughly 20 times more than what can be stored at one time on all the hard drives in the world.
  • Less than 2 percent of the total information was transmitted over the Internet.
  • Between 1980 and 2008, bytes consumed increased 350 percent, for an average annual growth rate of 5.4 percent.
  • The average American’s information consumption tops 34 gigabytes a day.
  • On average 41 percent of information time is watching TV (including DVDs, recorded TV and real-time watching).
  • American consumers watched 36 million hours of television on mobile devices each month.
  • Computer games are the biggest information source, totaling 18.5 gigabytes per day for the average American consumer, or about 67 percent of all bytes consumed.
  • Americans spent 16 percent of their information hours using the Internet (second only to TV’s 41 percent).
  • Americans consume about 1.8 hours of Internet video every month, or roughly 0.89 exabytes.
  • Communications and web browsing result in 65.7 hours of usage per month, per user, and generate about 8.01 exabytes of data. […]

via How Much Data Does America Consume? – GigaOM.

Boxee Beta Releases New Social Dashboard – ReadWriteStart December 9, 2009

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In a world where content is king, Boxee has found a way to give entertainment producers the royal treatment. After a successful App challenge and calculated rollouts of its Mac, Windows and Linux releases, internet television platform Boxee is launching into private beta with a new and improved look. ReadWriteWeb got an early look at the product and found out how the company plans to increase its growing user base.

Says Boxee’s VP of marketing Andrew Kippen, “We’re trying to change how people view television. It the past it’s been something people have associated with unhealthiness. Instead of force feeding programs to passive audiences, users are exploring and interacting with web and TV content and each other.”

Kippen hopes that the company’s new design will be more conducive to dialogue and exploration. Rather than appearing like the mobile app interface of an iPhone, the new Boxee offers an experience much like that of social dashboard Seesmic. In addition to OAuth integration, users will notice the following changes.


New Homepage

With Boxee Beta, users are greeted by a dashboard with three columns in the form of a newsfeed, featured content and a program queue. The newsfeed offers starred content and comments from Boxee, Twitter and Facebook friends. The center column is reserved for featured community content. In the future this area will be monetized through a pay-to-promote program. And finally, the program queue lets you to keep track of your Netflix queue and latest Boxee-related TV subscriptions.

TV and Video

In the past users were asked to differentiate between their local and web files. Boxee Beta mixes local and web content in recognition that users simply want to watch their favorite programs regardless of the formats or location of files. Instead of filtering by types of file or having to open an application, Boxee Beta has a new integrated search feature and allows us to pull up files by genre and price, rather than having to switch between file types. The company also organizes your favorite TV shows by episode and season.

Some New Applications

Social : While both Justin.tv and Hulu’s Watch Now Facebook application allow users to chat alongside their favorite entertainment programs, nothing beats the resolution of your home entertainment system. The Clipsync application lets viewers interact with others while watching content on Boxee. Some examples of activity include trivia games and chat.

Super Fandom: If you’ve ever wanted to have yourself a Kurt Russell movie marathon, then the Clicker Boxee application is your answer. ReadWriteWeb recently covered the web version of Clicker as a TV guide for web video and the Boxee application allows users to pull in all the relevant metadata on shows, channels and even actors.

Niche Content: Boxee Beta’s latest content partners include The Escapist gaming network with episodes like the ever-popular Zero Punctuation video game reviews as well as the Suicide Girls’ community programming. By changing Boxee’s default settings to allow for adult content, users will discover that a number of additional adult applications exist.

via Boxee Beta Releases New Social Dashboard – ReadWriteStart.

Will YouTube Begin Charging for TV Shows? December 1, 2009

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YouTube is in talks with content providers to add a pay-per view element to its business, which would allow partners to charge end users to view some premium content on the online video site, according to MediaMemo’s “multiple sources.”

The talks center around YouTube creating a new micro-payment model for streaming videos that would rival similar offerings from Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s video-on-demand service. According to the report, YouTube would offer first-run shows a day after airing on broadcast and cable networks for about $1.99 each.

The news comes not long after earlier reports that YouTube was in talks with major film studios to introduce a movie rental service. In that report, YouTube was expected to charge about $3.99 for movie streams, putting it in general parity with movie rentals from iTunes and Amazon.

The key stumbling block seems to be whether consumers would pay for video streams at the same price that they pay for downloads from iTunes. But networks and studios don’t want to charge less for streaming service, fearing they might then have to renegotiate existing deals.

While Youtube already has some full-length programming from premium content partners, most notably CBS, most of that content is older, long-tail videos from shows long gone by, like Start Trek: The Original Series or Beverly Hills: 90210. But if it were able to launch a micropayments system, it could potentially open up a new realm of premium videos available to users.

YouTube isn’t the only ad-supported video site pondering a pay model; Hulu has long been rumored to be interested launching a subscription service that would add to its revenue stream, for instance. In both cases, the pay models aren’t meant to supplant the ad model, but to add additional revenue for value-added services on top of the existing business model.

via Will YouTube Begin Charging for TV Shows?.

The Problem With the Boxee Box – GigaOM November 25, 2009

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Boxee generated a lot of excitement on the part of online video fans when it said it would release a dedicated hardware device that will enable users to connect its open-source media center software directly to their TVs. But by becoming a hardware company, Boxee may have to choose between alienating its biggest fans and alienating potential content partners.

As Sam over at OStatic points out, much of Boxee’s success stems from a “very enthusiastic community of users” that has helped augment its media center platform by building out various content channels. But while some content owners have created their own channels, not all channels are built by the content owners themselves — or even sanctioned by them. As just one example, Boxee’s new chief creative officer, Zach Klein, told an audience at the Future of Television conference in New York last week that when he joined Boxee he was surprised to find that users had built channels for IAC’s Vimeo and College Humor, where he previously worked, without that company’s permission.

We saw the possible repercussions of such unsanctioned channel-building earlier this year, when Boxee got into a public cat-and-mouse game with Hulu over the online video site’s content being available through Boxee’s software. Since then, Hulu has gotten even more aggressive in trying to protect its content from being embedded on video aggregation sites without its permission.

Boxee has always defended its software by saying that it was just another browser, even if it was clearly meant to be used for navigating online video content when a user’s laptop is connected to a TV. But by becoming a hardware play, the company may have to rethink what content it makes available.

And therein lies the rub. If Boxee simply ports the software and all the channels that it and others have created into its Boxee Box without the permission of content owners — in other words, if it’s committed to remaining open and allowing anyone to build content channels for the device — then it risks alienating potential content partners. Or worse, it risks getting itself into legal trouble for distributing copyrighted content to the TV without getting the content owners’ permission.

For now the company says it’s committed to providing the same content on the Boxee Box that’s available through its desktop software — even if it doesn’t have rights to distribute that content. In an email to NewTeeVee, Andrew Kippen, Boxee’s vice president of marketing, writes, “It’s always been our goal to keep a consistent experience across all platforms — Windows, Mac, Linux, AppleTV, and now, the Boxee Box. We’ll do our best to make sure our users can access the same content across all the different platforms.”

The alternative would be for Boxee to provide content on the device only from companies with which it’s officially partnered, such as Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Current, Pandora, Digg and Tumblr. But there’s also a whole lot of content on Boxee from major broadcast video sites or cable networks that Boxee doesn’t have deals with, like Hulu, CBS, CNN, Comedy Central or MTV.

While Boxee is taking a chance by making unverified content available without a deal, others are playing it safe. Roku, which already sells a broadband-connected set-top device, only has content from partners available through its channel store. The company also issued an SDK earlier this year that will allow just about anyone to build their own content channels for Roku devices. But in that environment — on its platform and on its box — Roku will have the ultimate say when it comes to who is included.

If Boxee kowtows to content owners, the platform will not only become less open but it will also mean it will offer less content than what it currently makes available — which could make it less attractive to consumers.

via The Problem With the Boxee Box – GigaOM.

Amimon creates wireless networks to connect PCs and TVs | VentureBeat November 18, 2009

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Chip maker Amimon is announcing today that it has created wireless modules that can connect computers and high-definition TVs so that consumers can effortlessly watch PC content on their TVs.

The devices could make it a lot easier to watch PC-based Internet video such as Hulu.com videos, flash media, digital photos and games on a TV. Based on the Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) wireless standard, the new chips can be embedded into notebook computers or netbooks, which are smaller than laptops and are meant for surfing the web. The modules can wirelessly transfer data from the computer to the TV screen, which would also have a wireless module attached to it, at high speed. It would be fast enough to smoothly transfer HD video, the Herzlia, Israel-based company says.

The modules (pictured) are pretty small and can transfer HD video wirelessly throughout a home. The notebook computers with the WHDI modules are expected to be on the market in 2010. Amimon’s WHDI wireless chips use the 5-gigahertz radio spectrum to transfer data wirelessly.

Amimon raised $10 million in funding in July.

Amimon’s latest chips can transfer full high-definition video, which is defined as video in the 1080p format running at 60 frames per second. The previous chip set could only do 1080i video at slower speeds. The new chip set is compliant with the WHDI industry standard and is expected to ship in customer products in 2010. […]

via Amimon creates wireless networks to connect PCs and TVs | VentureBeat.

My Dad Doesn’t Want to Talk to Me Anymore November 11, 2009

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Yesterday I called my dad on my cell phone (neither of us have landlines) to tell him about something his granddaughter did, and a few minutes into the conversation he asked if I were near my computer. If I was, couldn’t we Skype instead? In my home Skype is both the P2P telephony program and a verb for video chat. My dad now prefers to Skype with me rather than talk on the phone, a tipping point of sorts in the way we communicate. He said he grew up watching cartoons where folks like the Jetsons talked via videophone, and since the possibility is here today he wants to use it.

In this multimodal communications world, the phone companies, which still rely on voice for both wired and about a quarter of their wireless revenue, should be worried. Voice revenue isn’t growing in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t if carriers got a bit more creative. So far, data is helping phone companies that have wireless networks as well as those that are providing Ethernet backhaul for anticipated growth in data.

However, the real focus at carriers should be about getting beyond merely providing the pipe in this multimodal world. Check out what BT is doing with its Ribbit acquisition, as an example.

Skype CEO Josh Silverman would certainly be thrilled to hear about my dad’s preferred form of communication, as would the Telepresence folks at Cisco hoping to get the same thing happening in the business world. Silverman told Om in September:

“We are pretty big on video calling,” Silverman told me. The company is putting a lot of resources into building a better video conferencing experience, he said, because he believes that person-to-person video calling is going to be as big as video. That absolutely makes sense because today the definition of communication is constantly changing. In the past, the world was all about voice, then instant messages and now video calling. People are sending messages and status updates via Twitter and Facebook. The communications are now multimodal.

Perhaps in the not-too-distant future my phone calls with be less about voice and more about video, voice, link sharing, and even media sharing all within the context of a television or PC screen. I can turn parts of it on or off as needed. It’s like the vision for social TV that Liz outlined back on March (subscription required) rather than the Jetsons-style videophone that my dad is so excited about right now. The carriers are implementing on this social vision for television [LiLi), but they should be thinking about adding this to voice as well.

// Actually I have had quite a similar experience with my parents 😉

via My Dad Doesn’t Want to Talk to Me Anymore.