Tag Archives: webtv

Redbox floating fine down the video stream future

A ubiquitous streaming TV and movie world is no longer in question only whether it will be advertising supported or also include viewer subscriptions. While at various commitments, just about everyone is planning online distribution of professionally produced video. NBC, FOX, ABC and CBS have Hulu, while many of the top multiservice operators (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable) are each planning the rollout of their own “TV Everywhere” platforms. Comcast’s version, OnDemand Online, is expected to go national by the end of the year.

“TV Everywhere” initiatives are online authentication WebTV portals that provide access to content similar to Hulu. The catch is that a user must prove that they are a TV subscriber to gain access to the online content. The rising tide has increased expectation that we will also see a Hulu subscription service in the near future. This is just yet another proof point in the fallacy of the free internet economy future. Content does not want to be free and I anticipate soon that most professionally developed articles and video to require an access fee, whether through subscriptions or micropayments.

Sports WebTV streaming has continued to advance with the 2009 football season. All Sunday Night Football games will be streamed on NBCSports.com and NFL.com using Microsoft’s Silverlight. Similar to last year the offering will have four different camera angles, and it will also feature a HD option, DVR type features and slow-motion replay. CBS, arguably the leader in real time online sports streaming, announced that it will provide all SEC college football broadcasts on its network for free at CBSSports.com. Interestingly, CBS will be using Adobe Flash instead of Silverlight, which is a move away from what was used for March Madness earlier in the year.

As Amazon, the Roku and Netflix push forward the streaming of movies over the Internet, Blockbuster is unfortunately highlighting the transition with the announcement that it will close nearly 1,000 locations by the end of 2010. Beyond increasing emphasis toward mail and streaming services that directly compete with Netflix, Blockbuster  also plans to expand from 497 to 2,500 kiosks by the end of this year and to 10,000 by 2010. Why would Blockbuster bolster its kiosk business so dramatically? Redbox. Despite fighting a few frivolous lawsuits by movie studios in court, Redbox is one of the few non streaming video options that is thriving. DreamWorks has even stated that the conversion rate from rental to purchase of DVDs with Redbox is markedly higher than what is seen from Blockbuster and Netflix. The business model timeline for Redbox may be short, but for now the company proves you can be successful in the video market without a streaming service. Prediction: expect Redbox to rollout a streaming offering before the end of 2010.

Despite Econalypse – Internet Still Innovating

Approaching the midpoint of 2009, the worldwide econalypse is in full effect. The close of April ushered in an 8.9 percent jobless rate in the U.S., which is believed to be at a 25 year high and now articles highlighting the worst hit cities are beginning to appear. This post is not about what is failing, but instead the new ideas, innovations and interesting developments rising out of the econalypse. It is not exhaustive, but it hopefully will unearth exciting and different ideas that could lead to a thriving 2010.

 The genesis of this topic came from Po Bronson’s What Should I Do with My Life, Now? article and the Editor’s Letter in the February 2009 Fast Company. The final motivational push came from the 2009 Fast Cities special section that focuses on cities with an eye to a better more efficient and socially beneficial future.

Infamously, “The Video” from October ’08 is now considered the marker for the end of Web 2.0. A staple of the era was the RSS Reader, however this past week Slate discussed how the advancements in browsers have surpassed the once celebrated efficiency of RSS Readers that perhaps have now arrived at their extinction. The ability to load multiple sites in their native design through tabbed browsing is subtly groundbreaking. Browsers are rendering sites faster and it eliminates the “other inbox” that could grow unwieldy in only a few hours depending on the number of subscribed feeds. The browser is quickly graduating from a tool to access the Internet to the program that runs every computing activity. Pundits have suggested it is the new Operating System, while this shows a misunderstanding of the functions of an OS it does highlight the direction we are heading.

Online Search is an emphasis of Connected and like a slow rising tide, the landscape, expectations and definition of Search is gradually and most assuredly changing. For several years Google has dominated search through its superior keyword search algorithm. Semantic search is the holy grail of search, and similarly to the cup of life, we have yet to uncover and unleash its power. In the place of semantic search we have seen an explosion in social search. Mahalo had been the leader with its human-powered search engine that displayed results based on user input, but Web 2.0 social search was a clear second to Google. What if people could ask questions and search for information in real time with a global network? This is precisely where microblogging technologies like Twitter excel, however Aardvark may prove to be the technology that takes social search beyond the limitations of keyword search. Unable to improve upon what former colleague Fernando Rizo has already written on the topic, check out this analysis on what Aardvark and similar technologies will do to the world of search.

WebTV and online distribution of video has been a primary recent focus of Connected. Through excellent journalism and activism, Time Warner Cable abandoned its test of broadband data caps. Continued reporting that unearthed the economic fallacy that ISPs have attempted to use to rationalize data caps and metered billing will hopefully maintain net neutrality. This is a necessity for WebTV as big name players such as Amazon and Hulu continue to make legal, high quality content available to consumers. Original Webseries also continue to find a place in the growing WebTV space. A few recent top examples include:

Finally, the process of creating video is now a full fledged passion and recently I learned about tilt-shifting photography and video. This is an amazing example of Creative innovation:

March Mayhem

This post is not necessarily about the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament or sports in general. It is about how the internet and webtv is impacting sports and the U.S. culture. March Madness has been a major event for a while now, but the internet has taken it to a completely new level of intrigue and accessibility. It is officially a mid March national  institution.

A few years ago, options at the office for following the start of the tournament were limited. You could check score updates online, listen to games on the radio (broadcast or streaming) or take a long lunch. Last year CBSSports.com and NCAASports.com changed everything by providing good quality live streaming video for free. A quote this past week from the USA Today article helps highlight the magnitude:

Last March, 92% of the viewers that watched games at NCAASports.com did so through work computers, according to Nielsen Online. It’s tough to tell how “March Madness” affects workplace productivity. Employment consulting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas has made varying estimates since 2002. Last year, it said that NCAA-watching could cost employers as much as $1.7 billion in wasted time. – USA Today

Through the first three days of the tournament CBSSports.com received 4.8 million unique visitors, which represents a 65 percent increase compared to 2008. Another interesting statistic is the nearly half of the video streams are through the high-quality HD option provided through Microsoft’s Silverlight player. Silverlight was also used by NBC for the 2008 Summer Olympics, a relationship that has been extended to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Putting aside network congestion, it is of little consequence how many individuals watched HD video on their office computer this past week. The significance is that there is scalable, reliable technology that allows for HD live streaming of sports games. By connecting a computer with internet access to a HD TV, March Madness fans can watch any live game in its entirety instead of being limited to the feed from their local CBS station. CBS does a fantastic job staggering games and ensuring viewers see the most exciting action, however giving viewers the ability to choose the game they want to watch or more importantly to flip between games showed exactly what is possible with webtv. The picture quality through Silverlight was impressive and the experience was well beyond my expectations. The only limiting factor is the ISPs. I unfortunately experienced buffering issues near the end of the day today that I can only assume I have Time Warner Cable’s throttling policies to thank.

How huge would it be if this could be done for the NFL or NCAA football? I know there are On Demand options through cable and satellite providers, but what if the middle man was cut out and consumers could buy HD On Demand packages that stream over the web directly from leagues? This is where it could all get very interesting because live sports is the final frontier for webtv. Once reliable options become available, there truly will not be a need for cable.