Parks Associates Blog

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cox Offers Tech Support in Two New England States


Cox Communications has created a technical support service for high speed Internet customers. Cox is offering its Cox Tech Solutions (CTS) to customers in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

CTS is a team of experienced technicians providing remote and in-home Cox technical support for home networking and peripheral equipment like computers, software, and other electronic devices.

Customers can choose from different types of Cox technical support services via phone, remote log-in, or in-home visits. In addition, they also have the option of subscribing to a premium service, which includes:
  • Resolution of computer crashes and removal of viruses or spyware;
  • Installing and configuring new PC applications or peripheral devices;
  • Configuration or repair of home networking;
  • Resolution of operating system or software error messages;
  • Other PC-related issues.
Customers who subscribe to the $14.99 monthly service plan will have access to unlimited phone and remote log-in premium technical support, as well as discounted in-home services. The plan covers the entire family - up to four computers. The subscription requires an initial home computer tune-up at a cost of $99.99.

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Millions of U.S. households already using Internet-connected CE to watch video-on-demand, finding convenience and savings in these devices

Parks Associates reports three million U.S. broadband households plan to purchase an Internet-connected TV during the 2010 holiday shopping season, further eroding consumer need for brick-and-mortar video sources.

Nearly 25% of U.S. broadband households already own at least one connected TV device, and one-fourth of these households have watched a paid movie-on-demand at least once in the past month, according to Parks Associates' Connected CE Tracker, part of the firm's landmark Consumer Decision Process Service. Parks Associates’ analysts predict connected CE devices will be top sellers in this year’s holiday shopping season.

Only 38% of U.S. broadband households plan to purchase a CE device this year, but it’s the connected CE and smartphones that will be the most popular items. Connected devices are the future of content consumption and entertainment in the living room as they capture the broader trends of integration among different silos in consumers' lives. We will continue to follow their sales through 2011 with Connected CE Tracker.

Connected devices include Internet-connected game consoles, Blu-ray players, tablet computers including the iPad, and digital video players including Roku and Apple TV. By the end of 2010, more than 40 million U.S. consumers will have a broadband-connected game console, more than eight million will have a PC-to-TV connection, more than five million will have a connected Blu-ray player, and over four million will have a networked digital video player (such as an Apple TV or Roku Digital Video Player).

However, even the significant enthusiasm for these devices does not totally offset the drop in CE buying intentions reported for this holiday shopping season. In 2009, almost 50% of U.S. broadband households planned a CE purchase.

Manufacturers, retailers, and technology providers are noting the tight consumer purse strings and continue to roll out the deals. Consumers want deals; that is their trigger as economic conditions have made them more cautious buyers. Market players must stress the value and convenience of Internet-connected devices. It helps that consumers may choose to save the cost of a video membership and eliminate a trip to the store or kiosk.

For more information about Connected CE Tracker or Consumer Decision Process Service, visit

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New player emerges in Bulgaria

At least 11 Bulgarian cable operators and ISPs have merged to form a single company named Bulgarian Telecom and Television (BTT).

According to Dnevnik, the companies currently have a presence in 40 cities and 110 smaller locations, covering nearly one million households and claiming over 150,000 subscribers.

The deal is the largest merger so far in Bulgaria’s telco sector in terms of the number of companies involved and BTT aims to become a national player, introducing new services such as mobile internet.

The companies involved in the merger include NetWorx Bulgaria, Digital Communications, Escom, Internet Communication Optic Network, Telnet, STV, Balchik Net, Optinet, Diana Cable TV, PowerNet and BOL.BG East.

For the complete article, please click here.

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Parks Associates supports Future TV Advertising Forum, London

Parks Associates is supporting Future TV Advertising Forum from December 2-3 in London.

The Future TV Advertising conference will bring together broadcast and advertising to analyze and debate the evolution of TV advertising. Television is inexorably losing ground to online that is gradually offering greater accountability. The conference will address how the advertising community can work with broadcast so that this threat, embodied by new technologies and user behavior, becomes an opportunity. The event will provide a great opportunity to hear and network with key stakeholders in TV advertising: Brands, Media Holding Companies, leading European Cable, Satellite, IPTV, Pay-TV providers and Content Owners.

More more information, visit

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Monday, November 29, 2010

More Thoughts on Google TV

What's your take on Google TV?
It asks a lot from the end-user in terms of the ways in which we are supposed to interact with our TVs. I’m just not convinced that Google searches are the way in which most of us want to experience television, choosing instead 1) search features that rely still on simple “up/down/left/right” commands with a remote controller; and 2) more “push” recommendations about programming, video, and entertainment instead of an active keyboard-like search. After reviewing the product for a few hours, I was literally exhausted by the keyboard strokes and the back-and-forth required. I think that the integrated online/broadcast/pay-TV convergence is going to be much more subtle, with programming choices and recommendations embedded into an existing guide/user interface that doesn’t require the user to pull up a search box every time.

Also, having just gotten an iPhone 4 within the past few weeks (my first true smartphone), I wonder why the Internet searching and content finding wouldn’t be done on a separate device like the smartphone/tablet computer anyway? First, it’s much faster. Second, I don’t incur the wrath of the family by having my searches and Web experiences on the same TV screen with the program they are trying to watch. I did this yesterday while we were watching an NFL game – I split the screen so I could track my fantasy football score. I’d rather have my iPhone fantasy football tracker app open and not disturb my family.

Are the studios afraid of Google; too much of an outsider?
Google makes its money monetizing search, pure and simple. The studios don’t trust Google because they have a well-established advertising model, and there has been no proof that what Google is doing can increase revenues and profits for EVERYONE, not just Google. And, what the industry is learning is that the standard search-based advertising that has made Google rich doesn’t work the same way on a video screen. You still need video-based advertisements. So, there is no evidence that what Google brings to the table improves interactive video advertising.

Are the recent price cuts the death knell, or just a warning shot?
I actually like the idea of having the Google TV embedded into a device that I’m likely to buy anyway, which is a new Blu-ray player to replace my existing DVD player. It’s not going to force me to find another spot inside my entertainment console for yet one more “black box,” and the configuration should be simple – simply unhook the existing DVD player and plug everything straight into the Blu-ray player. The challenge for this model is simply that Blu-ray players themselves are so darn inexpensive. Sony doesn’t have a prayer of selling many Google-capable Blu-ray players at $399 or even $299 when standard BD players are going for under $100. Even connected Blu-ray players providing access to Netflix and other apps (even Sony’s own Netflix-enabled BD player) are sub-$150 and even sub-$100!

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Sony Qriocity Online VoD Service Officially Launches in Europe

From Broadband TV News, Sony Europe has announced the European launch of Video On Demand powered by Qriocity in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
The pay-per-view movie streaming service works with Sony 2010 network-enabled Bravia TVs, Blu-ray disc players, or Blu-ray disc home theater systems

Contracts are in place with major studios including Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM), Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Starz Digital Media, The Walt Disney Company, NBC Universal International Television Distribution, and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, as well as films from local studios.

The play list includes new releases as well as a wide variety of favourites, classic movies and local language movies, many of which are available in both SD and HD. New content will be added regularly and consumers can register for the service and check news of the latest additions to the movie library on the Qriocity Website.

After renting a film, consumers have up to 14 days to start watching their movie, and once playback is started, they have 48 hours to watch the film as many times as they like. Rental prices for SD content start from £2.49 (€2.99) for library content and £3.49 for new releases, while HD content start respectively from £3.49 and £4.49.

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DISH Network's Google TV Offering - Get Ready to Pay a $4 per month "DVR Integration Fee"

From Videonet, DISH is charging $4 per month for a ‘DVR Integration Fee’. That effectively pays for the pairing protocol that enables a Google TV search that simultaneously covers content on the satellite DVR, DISH Network VOD and the Internet. Consumers can also schedule recordings and buy on-demand movies directly from the search bar.

Any DISH Network customer buying a Logitech Revue (effectively a Google TV set-top box) or Sony Internet TV powered by Google TV from retail outlets can take advantage of the DVR integration (with the $4 fee). However, the satellite operator is offering the Logitech Revue to its subscribers directly for $179, a significant discount on the quoted $299 recommended retail price. The new package will work with DISH Network ViP series HD DVRs including the ViP 622, ViP 722 and ViP 722k.

Speaking of the Logitech Revue, I had a Geek Squad installer come on Saturday to fully configure the Logitech Revenue product. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I think that installation issues are going to be a significant challenge for these so-called "smart-TV adapters," particularly those of us who already have an AV receiver and are trying to route the Google TV's audio through the existing home theater/surround sound speakers. The Geek Squad installer requested a fiber-optic cable upon his arrival, and fortunately there were some leftovers from the 2008 full installation of the HDTV and home theater system. He tinkered with set-up for about 45 minutes, and even managed to connect the camera for the Logitech Vid videoconferencing system. The one drawback to this videoconferencing solution is that it is currently not compatible with Skype, which my family already uses for video chatting. I'm hoping that they overcome this hurdle.

Once properly connected, I did see much greater utility out of the whole Google TV experience, and had fun pulling up some YouTube videos and using the picture-in-picture feature to simultaneously watch an NFL game yesterday while tracking my fantasy football team. I'm not sure how pleased my wife was, however!

Another nice find was ESPN3's availability, one of few major networks that has not blocked playback. The U.S. women were playing on Friday, attempting to qualify for the World Cup. The only place to watch the game live was ESPN3. The game pulled up pretty easily, and the quality was pretty good.

The best feature so far, however, has got to be the ability to play my favorite Internet radio station on the whole-home speakers. This has been something I have been trying to accomplish for years with different media adapters, etc. That was a really pleasant feature.

So, Google TV does have some nice capabilities, but I have not recommended it to people who have asked because of 1) the installation challenges; and 2) the current problems that Google is having convincing the broadcast networks NOT to block access to streaming TV shows and other content. Because of this, the Web-surfing-on-TV features are definitely "geek chic," but they are not mainstream applications for the regular Joe who is looking to enhance his/her television viewing experience.

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Netflix Unveils Streaming-Only Plan, Lifts Prices

Netflix Inc. launched its first Internet-only subscription plan in the U.S. and raised prices for DVD-by-mail plans, continuing its shift from a DVD rental business to an online video service.

On Wednesday's earnings call, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company is testing a streaming-only option for its U.S. subscription service, talked about international expansion, and said he doesn't see any evidence that his nearly 17 million customers are choosing Netflix instead of cable. AllThingsD's Peter Kafka joins Digits to discuss.

The company, which says its customers now use its Web-streaming service more than its by-mail rentals, will charge $7.99 a month for customers that only want to watch films and TV shows delivered online.

For the complete article, please click here.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Apple Updates Its iOS Mobile Operating System.

Just in time for the holidays, Apple is offering a new, or at least new-ish, product. The Cupertino, Calif.-based released an update to the software that runs its many mobile devices. The update, dubbed iOS 4.2, allows iPad users to read emails from multiple accounts, connect with one another using a game-themed social network and wirelessly stream music to their stereos.

In particular, the new features target Apple’s popular iPad, which hasn’t been able to perform many of the same functions of its siblings, the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The changes for the iPad are so great, says Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, they revolutionize a product he has already declared “revolutionary.”

The new system does give the iPad, already the standard bearer for tablet computers, some nifty new functions. The iPad can now run multiple applications at the same time, something the iPhone and iPod Touch have been able to do since June. For example, users can stream Pandora radio stations while surfing the web or reading a book on’s Kindle app.

For the complete article, please click here.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Digital Video Player News: Western Digital

Updates from Western Digital on its WD TV Live products:

Customers will now be able to connect with their friends and family through Facebook® - including uploading photos and videos, sharing their status, viewing their wall and getting the latest updates from their NewsFeed - among other entertainment choices, all from their HDTV. Meanwhile, WD TV Live Plus media player customers in the U.S. can now instantly rent or purchase the newest movie releases the same day they become available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc™ through the Blockbuster® OnDemand service.

In addition, new features for the WD TV Live and WD TV Live Plus media players include:

  • Deezer™: a personalized on-demand music service for listening to 7 million tracks anytime, anywhere and one of the most popular Internet and mobile music offerings in Europe;
  • Flingo®: free Internet television from leading studios, TV networks, and video websites;
  •®: a worldwide weather forecasting service; and,
  • USB wireless keyboard support: use any popular wireless keyboard with USB dongle to easily update Facebook status and conduct YouTube® searches.

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DIVA TV's Viewster Online Video Available on TechniSat Hybrid Set-top Boxes

DIVA AG has completed a deal with TechniSat Digital GmbH to include its Viewster VoD widget on Technisat’s Hybrid set top boxes in ten markets beginning in 2011.

This continues the trend of pay-TV operators and technology suppliers racing to deploy online video and Web content services, particularly in Europe.

Other deals of note include:

ONO (Spain) and TiVO: ONO is the exclusive distributor of TiVo's advanced television services in Spain. Similarly, TiVo will become the exclusive software provider for all next-generation set top boxes deployed by ONO, including both PVR platforms and traditional "non-PVR" set top boxes. ONO and TiVo also expect to collaborate on solutions that make the TiVo experience available to consumers beyond ONO's cable footprint in conjunction with terrestrial and Internet delivered content - although specifics of these plans were not disclosed.

Telefónica and MeeGo-based Connected TV Devices (25 markets): In June, Telefónica announced it will jointly explore with Intel and Nokia how to leverage MeeGo's capabilities to provide content and applications to s smartphones, netbooks, tablets, and internet connected TVs.

MeeGo combines Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo open source projects into one Linux-based software platform hosted by the Linux Foundation. MeeGo has already been endorsed by a number of key OEMs and application developers. MeeGo enables an open software environment for rapid development for a range of smart, PC-like devices and exciting new services.

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Viacom joins Google TV boycott

Viacom has confirmed that it is blocking all of its content on Google TV devices from Sony and Logitech. This includes programming from Viacom networks Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, Spike TV, BET, Nickelodeon and others.

So, Google TV may want its MTV, but finds the doors closed. Last Sunday, Google TV users first reported being unable to access the Viacom channels. With the move, Viacom joins the four major US networks ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, as well as the Hulu Plus premium service, in the boycott of Google TV.

Last September, Google TV announced its first official content partners. Broadcasters such as Time Warner’s HBO and Turner Broadcasting and even CNBC, part of NBC Universal, were named as parties who made their programming available to the service.

For the complete article, please click here.

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European Research Update: EU Developments in Digital Living

Parks Associates attended multiple conferences in the latter half of 2010, and we were encouraged by the industry developments throughout the continent. Here is a summary of some of our recent observations, which culminated with the recent CONNECTIONS™ Europe Summit, which Parks Associates hosted on November 15-16, 2010. Visit for more information on this and future Europe events.

European Service Providers Embracing the Connected Home

The operators in attendance at the Connected Home World Summit in London were from many different European markets - from Greenland, Estonia, Italy, Germany, France, and Russia to countries in between. We came away with the following takeaways from the panels and keynotes:

There are very different takes on the economics of deploying the "God Box"/über-box, which would bring in the functionality of the residential gateway (modem, routing, remote manageability, etc.) along with multiple set-top boxes (tuners, transcoding, server capability, etc.). For reasons related to cost, lifecyle differences in CPE, and the risk of one point of failure, many operators are taking a conservative approach in deploying fully integrated customer premise equipment hardware. At the same time, Intel (which was represented at the event by Brendan Traw) has had early success with some service providers, including Telecom Italia and Liberty Global, in delivering a high-powered gateway that takes on much of the functionality of the über-box.

To read more about the EU Developments in Digital Living, subscribe to Parks Associates' European Research Update Newsletter.

Click here to subscribe to other Parks Associates complimentary newsletters.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Intel likes what it sees in Verismo's hybrid TV capabilities; invests $17 million

Intel Capital is putting its money on the growth of hybrid TV. It is the lead investor in a $17 million round of funding raised by Verismo Networks, a company I discussed just a few weeks ago.

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Widevine selected by DIVA TV to protect premium online video in Europe

Widevine has had a very good 2010 in terms of announcements with both online video providers and connected TV device manufacturers. Last week, the company added a European online VoD provider to its list of customers.

DIVA AG, a cross-platform supplier of digital media movie and TV content, will utilize Widevine’s video optimization and digital rights management (DRM) platform to enable the delivery of DIVA AG’s content to mobile devices including Android phones, iPhones, iPads, and specific connected TV sets.

DIVA AG upplies content to global entertainment platforms. DIVA has recently introduced its newest offering, Viewster, which provides content directly to consumers on a variety of devices including smartphones, TV sets, Blu-ray players and home cinema systems from 18 different manufacturers. Widevine’s DRM ensures DIVA’s content remains secure on any device. Widevine’s adaptive streaming monitors the available bandwidth at the device and adaptively chooses the appropriate bitrate for playback, eliminating constant buffering interruptions. The video optimization platform also enables fast-forward, rewind, bookmarking and chaptering functions for the ultimate viewing experience.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

VUDU now available through the PlayStation 3

VUDU's online VoD service is now available on the PlayStation 3. Video-on-demand through the connected game console is currently the largest revenue generator for online video today. We estimate that 10% of all U.S. broadband households are using - at least occasionally - a connected game console to watch premium VoD such as movies. This is generating - today - up to $300 million in premium movie VoD revenues at the game console.

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Hulu Plus out of Beta; On Roku for $7.99 a month

The Hulu Plus subscription service out of preview, and announced two items of note last week:
  • First, the monthly price for Hulu Plus moving forward is just $7.99. Any current subscribers who joined during our preview period will receive a credit for the difference from the $9.99 preview price. This credit will automatically be applied to their next billing cycle.
  • Hulu Plus launches on Roku. All PlayStation 3 owners with a PlayStation Network account, which is free, can download the Hulu Plus application. In the months to come, Hulu Plus will be coming to Internet-connected Vizio, LG Electronics, and Panasonic Blu-ray players and HDTVs; TiVo Premiere DVRs; the Xbox 360; and Western Digital’s WD TV Live Hub Media Center and WD TV Live Plus Network Media Player, with many more mobile phones, tablets, set-top boxes, and Internet-connected devices to be announced.

Hulu is offering several special offers:

  • One free week trials for all new subscribers. In addition, current subscribers who joined during the preview period will receive a credit for one week of Hulu Plus toward their next month’s subscription.
  • Two free weeks of Hulu Plus for both current subscribers and friends they invite through our referral program. Subscribers can learn more by clicking on the “Referrals” tab on their Hulu profile page.
  • 11 weeks ($20 worth) of free Hulu Plus with the purchase of a Sony BRAVIA connected TV or Blu-ray player through January 31, 2011. (See
  • One free month of Hulu Plus with the purchase of a Roku device through December 15, 2010.

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Netflix Launches U.S. Subscription Plan for Streaming Movies & TV Shows Over the Internet for $7.99 a Month

Netflix today introduced a $7.99 streaming-only subscription plan in the United States, the first time it is promoting a 100% streaming option in the U.S. The plan, which allows members to instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix to TVs and computers, is available now to both new and existing members.

Netflix is is also icreasing - by $1 per month to $9.99 - the price of the regular subscription plan that combines unlimited streaming with unlimited DVDs.,

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TiVo's Future: A pay-TV /UI provider? Canal Digital is the latest customer

TiVo is already supplying "OTT" hardware to Cox Communications and Virgin Media. Now, Nordic DTH operator Canal Digital will license TiVo’s middleware and user interface to serve as Canal Digital's next generation platform, seamlessly integrating linear satellite and terrestrial TV channels, Canal Digital's video-on-demand service, and a variety of current and future “OTT” services.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Impact of the New Health Law on the Digital Health Industry

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Affordable Care Act") passed in the spring of 2010 and took effect near the end of September. Although there will be attempts to repeal some portions of the law, Parks Associates believes most of the provisions will stay unaffected and have a positive impact on the long-term prospects of the digital health industry. Of course, given the complexity of our health system, the interconnected relationships among various stakeholders, and the ripple effect of policy changes, these positive influences could come earlier or later than expected, depending on the start dates of certain provisions, whether they are fully funded, and their process of implementation.

First of all, the influx of newly insured people will aggravate the shortage of primary care and specialist doctors and drive the adoption of alternative care models like home health monitoring and online consultation.

Provisions such as prohibiting health insurers from rejecting patients due to preexisting conditions, keeping adult children on parents' insurance longer (till they turn 26), and mandating insurance coverage for most citizens after 2014 will drive more people to use primary care services. At the same time, the shortage of primary care doctors, and especially the shortage of specialists in rural areas, is not going to abate. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts the nation may face a gap up to 150,000 physicians as med school enrollment in the family doctor practice continues to fall and more doctors hit the retirement age in the next 15 years. Technology solutions such as home health monitoring and online visits are reasonable alternatives to alleviate the doctor shortage problem.

To read more about this information, subscribe to the Digital Health Newsletter and other Parks Associates Newsletter.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

ViewSonic Adds 3D Camcorder, Frame

ViewSonic this week entry into the digital camcorder market by unveiling one of the industry's first pock-sized models capable of capturing images in 3D.

The ViewSonic 3DV5 will produce 720p HD video images in both 2D and 3D, and will capture JPEG still images. It also includes built-in software to make it easy to upload clips to YouTube and Facebook.

ViewSonic, which already offers 3D-capable video projectors and monitors compatible with the 3D recordings from the 3DV5, will use the new video capture device to help address the relative dearth of available 3D content, by giving consumers the chance to make their own.

The 3DV5 Pocket 3D HD Camcorder essentially encapsulates two fixed-focus 5-megapixel video cameras with dual (left, right) lenses to capture stereoscopic 3D content at 720p resolution. The camera saves video in MP4 format, has a 4x digital zoom and a built-in stereo microphone. Users can also switch to recording 2D HD video with the push of a button.

For the complete article, please click here.

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Subscriber Losses? Yes, But Cord Cutting - No Way; Cable Companies Account for 3Q 2010 Results

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Cable companies prefer very much to avoid the term “cord cutters” when describing recent subscriber sheds. Comcast attributes the bulk of its 622,000 subscribers lost in the first nine months of 2010 - 275,000 of which departed in 3Q alone, to the economic downturn and the expiration of lower priced promotional packages. Time Warner also cited the economy, as well as a migration by some users to satellite TV services, as the principle cause of its 155,000 lost subscribers in 3Q 2010 (compared to 64,000 lost in 3Q 2009). However, the cable giant is keeping a close eye out for the signs of cord cutting, especially in collegiate communities such as Austin, Texas and Columbus, Ohio - just in case.

And Time Warner may have a point, given that, in these college communities, where the assumed early adopters of “cord cutting,” i.e., the substitution of traditional pay-TV services with Internet delivered TV content, make up an appreciable portion of the local population, cable TV subscription levels AND broadband subscriptions have remained consistently flat and in accord with the level of student enrollment. If cord cutting were truly on the uptake, cable companies assert, wouldn’t the broadband subscriber rate be climbing markedly as cable subscription levels fell? And, although this could hardly be considered good news to cable providers, DirectTV is reporting recent subscriber gains, to the tune of 380,000 overall including 174,000 in the U.S. in 3Q 2010 alone; a 28% increase over 2009.

So where does that leave us on the question of cord cutting? Perhaps it is too early to tell. But, as more and better Over-The-Top TV options enter the market and as more premium content becomes available from alternate sources on alternate platforms, we may start to see today’s tiny ripples become tomorrow’s big, surfable wave. For some, this tidal change may not come as such a surprise. As Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon recently pointed it out, it is not as if such things have never happened before; look at what started to happen to local phone companies five or six years ago when people began dropping their land-lines in favor of mobile only phone services.

This is not a new train, he, and others, may have seen it coming before.

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Viacom to Unload 'Rock Band' Unit

Viacom Inc. the New York-based entertainment company is preparing to unload its Harmonix videogame division, maker of the popular "Rock Band" line of games. Viacom reported profit for the latest quarter fell 59% after it took $260 million in write-downs related to Harmonix, which has long been a drag on the bottom line.

Harmonix has been on the block since September, and Viacom is now in deal talks with both videogame companies and private-equity firms, according to people familiar with the matter. Viacom is expected to hold an auction, and as many as four companies might participate, one of those people said.

Viacom bought Harmonix in 2006 for $175 million, and made an additional $150 million payment in 2008 as part of the deal. But for much of that time the unit has been locked in brutal competition with rival game "Guitar Hero," from Activision Blizzard Inc., which is roughly 60%-owned by Vivendi SA.

For the complete article, please click here.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Toshiba's Android tablet sales stop in UK after major flaws

Toshiba's entry into Android tablets hit a major setback today as UK retailers have stopped sales of the Folio 100. A set of leaks of company memos from Dixons chain stores Currys and PC World have shown that both are freezing sales after a "high return rate" for multiple issues. Shops have pulled it off their websites and deliberately boosted the price to £999 ($1,613) to deter customers from asking about a sale.

Among the issues reported at MoDaCo's forums have been the absence of Android Market and Flash support despite the use of Android 2.2, random wakeups from standby and a lack of responsiveness. Some owners have also commented on a poor-quality display and low build quality with a relatively fragile plastic shell compared to the tighter build of the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the aluminum iPad. Flash should be available on Monday, but most workarounds have so far involved rooting and installing custom firmware.

Toshiba hasn't commented on the halted sales, and its lack of communication has been cited by some forum goers as a reason for returning the Folio 100.

For the complete article, please click here.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Comcast iPad Customers to Get TV Service - Android on the Way

For Comcast customers, the concept of TV Everywhere took another step towards reality as Comcast announced the release of its Xfinity TV app for the iPad. The current app will allow you to use your iPad to search TV listings, change channels, and remotely schedule your DVR. By December, iPadders (or is it iPaddies?) will be able to watch pre-recorded video content on the iPad. Moves such as this one reinforce the opinion of many TV service providers that the iPad is the next "screen" for the consumer, as well as a growing revenue opportunity.

Lest mobile phone users feel left out by Comcast, the company plans to offer similar apps for the iPhone/iTouch, Android, and Blackberry platforms.

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Samsung shows printed-out 19-inch AMOLED TV

Samsung this week showed off a prototype TV set that uses a printed 19-inch AMOLED panel. The screen's resolution is 960x540, and it has a resolution of 58ppi, while brightness is set at 200cd/m2. Samsung didn't give an estimated production date, saying only that the technology is still being developed.

The TV on display was capable of showing 16.77 million colors with an eight-bit color scale and covered 62 percent of the color gamut. The printed AMOLED technology is making headway, as Seiko showed a 14-inch OLED panel in May of last year using a similar inkjet method with a resolution of 60ppi, a six-bit color scale and a 100cd/m2 luminance.

For the complete article, please click here.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Next-gen mobile TV technology gets more backing

Chip makers IPWireless and ST-Ericsson have joined forces to develop a platform designed to lower the cost of building Integrated Mobile Broadcast (IMB) technology into smartphones.

IPWireless is one of the companies that pioneered the development of IMB. ST-Ericsson is now joining the push to allow operators to deliver TV to smartphones, laptops and tablets using IMB and frequency spectrum they already have, but so far haven't been able to take advantage of.

The first commercial IMB services are scheduled to arrive next year, according to IPWireless. In June, operators O2, Orange and Vodafone said they would conduct a joint U.K. trial to assess how mobile broadcast services can be deployed using a shared network infrastructure.

For the complete article, please click here.

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Netflix Delays Android Mobile App Over Security, DRM Fears

Netflix Nov. 13 said it will release an instant streaming app for Android on specific smartphones next year, delaying the launch because of content protection hurdles caused by fragmentation in the open source platform.

Apple and Microsoft both have strict control over the iPhone and Windows Phone 7 platforms they offer, making it easier to build secure apps for devices using those platforms.

This isn't the first complaint about the difficulty in writing software for the platform. More than 200,000 Android handsets ship daily and devices floating around are powered by Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, and soon, version 2.3.

Because not every build offers the same protections, this makes it difficult to write one unifying app that won't break across the builds

For the complete article, please click here.

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Monsoon revamps Vulkano media streamer lineup

Monsoon has rebranded its lineup of Vulkano placeshifting multimedia streaming devices and added a new, barebones model. The Vulkano and Vulkano Pro introduced this past summer now become the Vulkano Deluxe and Vulkano Deluxe Pro, respectively, while a third model, the Vulkano Platinum, has been added.

It also foregoes any onboard storage, but does get Wi-Fi and allows users to watch live streaming TV content on their Android, BlackBerry and iPhone smartphones as well as the iPad. It uses H.264 compression for not quite HD video quality but just 150kbps of necessary bandwidth.

For the complete article, please click here.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Wal-Mart Says ‘Try This On’: Free Shipping

For years, Wal-Mart has used its clout as the nation’s largest retailer to squeeze competitors with rock-bottom prices in its stores. Now it is trying to throw a holiday knockout punch online.

Starting Thursday, Wal-Mart Stores plans to offer free shipping on its Web site, with no minimum purchase, on almost 60,000 gift items, including many toys and electronics. The offer will run through Dec. 20, when Wal-Mart said it might consider other free-shipping deals.

But given Wal-Mart’s scale and influence in the marketplace, its free pass for shipping sets a new high — or low — in e-commerce. And it may create an expectation among consumers — free shipping, no minimum, always — that would make it harder for smaller e-commerce sites to survive.

For the complete article, please click here.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

IGUGU Gamecore - another PC-to-TV solution

Here's another offering in the wireless PC-to-TV solution category. The IGUGU Gamecore includes a transmitter/receiver to provide connection between the computer and television, and IGUGU has also designed a ten-foot user interface for PC applications on the TV, particularly gaming. ASUS' WiCast product is another one on the list.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Viasat VoD now available on LG Electronics NetCast connected TVs in the Nordics

This press release came from Accedo Broadband, a participant at next week's CONNECTIONS Europe Summit in Amsterdam. Viasat has become the latest pay-TV operator to extend premium content such as VoD to the connected TV environment.

From Broadband TV News, Viasat OnDemand is to appear on connected TVs manufactured by LG Electronics for the Nordic region. The MTG-owned pay-TV provider has signed an agreement with LG that will see Viasat content made available on all LG sets enabled with the ‘NetCast’ functionality.

Hans-Holger Albrecht, President and CEO of MTG, said the link with LG showed Viasat to be platform agnostic. “The cooperation with LG is a key step in broadening the availability of our Viasat OnDemand service, which is already accessible through Viasat’s OnDemand set-top box, our online portal, on mobile phones and now also directly via broadband-enabled TV sets.”

The application was developed for Viasat by Stockholm-based Accedo Broadband.

The over-the-top solution is available to any Viasat OnDemand with a broadband connection. Included are episodes of hit TV series as broadcast by TV3, TV6 and TV8 in Sweden, TV3 and Viasat4 in Norway and TV3 and TV3+ in Denmark, as well as access to 200 feature films at any given time.

I have been trying to keep up with the tally of managed service operators working with the connected TV community. So far (and I'm sure that this list is not comprehensive), I have:

  • Orange (France) and LG Electronics: Content includes Orange Sport Info, 24/24 Actu (news service) to Liveradio and other content such as TV programs, videos, music and practical information.
  • TeliaSonera and Philips: TeliaSonera International Carrier has announced that its Media Distribution Service (MDS) was chosen by Philips for its technology platform for premium VoD.
  • DISH Network and Google TV: Offers a $179 Google TV package for subscribers to provide the Logitech Revue smart TV set-top box adapter.
  • TiVo and Cox: The two companies will offer TiVo Premiere with integrated Cox On DEMAND service to Cox subscribers. Customers will need a CableCARD for access to Cox services.
  • TiVo and Virgin Media: Virgin Media distribute the HD/3D set-top box with 1 TB of storage and an internal modem to provide for both HD video and other online video.

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Announcements from Amino Communications this week - search/recommendations and interactivity

blinkx, the world’s largest and most advanced video search engine, today announced a partnership with Amino Communications, the world’s leading developer of pure IPTV and hybrid/OTT devices and solutions. Under the terms of the partnership, Amino and blinkx will develop an integrated search, recommendation and personalization solution powered by blinkx technology to be deployed on Amino’s hybrid/OTT set-top boxes, including the award-winning Amino Freedom, which brings broadcast, on-demand TV, open Internet and local content together in a single device. Based on technology that was perfected over 12 years at Cambridge University, blinkx uses a combination of patented conceptual search with speech and image recognition software to understand rich media more thoroughly than any other solution available today. This deep understanding of content enables blinkx to deliver unrivaled accuracy and relevancy in its search, personalization and recommendation capabilities. More here

Companies Integrate Multi-screen Presentation Software with High-Definition Set-top Boxes to Provide Web Services, Internet Video, and Applications on TVs
Amino Communications, the world leading developer of pure IPTV and hybrid/OTT devices and solutions , and Bluestreak Technology Inc., a proven leader in delivering software presentation solutions on wired and wireless embedded devices, today announced from Telco TV that they have partnered to provide new interactive television solutions to IPTV and to Cable operators. The joint solution integrates Bluestreak Technology’s MachBlue family of application platform products with Amino’s Freedom DVB-T hybrid/OTT media center to deliver web services, Internet video, and applications to the TV. “Televisions are quickly becoming the primary source for accessing digital services, including live and on-demand television programming, telecommunications products like VoIP and videoconferencing, Internet services and applications, and Over-The-Top (OTT) video,” said Dominique Jodoin, Bluestreak Technology CEO and President. “As a result, our IPTV and cable operator customers are repeatedly turning to Bluestreak Technology to optimize all of these services through a common client and application environment so they can rapidly offer consumers a wide range of services around television entertainment experiences. Companies, like Amino, deliver the powerful, high quality hardware and software necessary for Bluestreak Technology to seamlessly deliver the converged digital services that make it easy and fun for consumers to discover and consume content and web services.” More here

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More consumer electronics/digital rights management/adaptive streaming announcements

This past week exemplified the move that companies traditionally in the digital rights management space are making in connected consumer electronics. I have talked about this trend in several posts this year. Here are the announcements:

Widevine and Panasonic

Panasonic Corporation selected Widevine as its preferred provider of video optimization and digital rights management (DRM) solutions. Widevine’s video optimization will provide adaptive streaming and virtual DVD experiences, while its DRM will keep content protected on Panasonic consumer electronics such as Viera® connected TVs, Blu-ray disc players and more.

As a preferred provider, Widevine’s client will be included on millions of Panasonic connected media devices, enabling content providers to securely deliver content utilizing Internet protocols to the Panasonic device of the consumer’s choice. Widevine’s client will be initially installed on Panasonic Viera connected TVs, followed by other Panasonic devices in the near future.

Irdeto and Logitech

Irdeto announced announced on Wednesday that its technology has been selected to enable access to premium online content from the Logitech Revue™ with Google TV™. Based on the Google TV platform, Logitech Revue offers – in an integrated user interface – TV programming, the Web and Android-based apps that can deliver premium content services and enable entirely new experiences. Logitech is drawing on Irdeto’s technology to deliver premium content services through apps such as Netflix Watch Instantly.

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Q&A: What to expect for consumer electronics shopping this holiday season?

What are we expecting from consumer electronics sales this holiday over last?
  • Consumers are feeling more confident in their CE spending. A higher percentage of broadband households expect to spend more in 2010 on consumer electronics than last year.
  • Based on a released study Consumer Decision Process – 2010 3Q Summer Updates, a total of 68% of U.S. broadband households made at least one CE hardware purchase between January 1 and mid-August, a rate 10% higher than that tracked for the same period in 2009.

What devices/companies will drive advertising spending for consumer electronics this holiday season?

The major consumer electronics brands – from Sony, Samsung, LG, VIZIO and the like – will drive foot traffic at retail simply because of the advertising they are doing for 1) 3D TVs and 2) connected TVs. We expect Sony’s Google TV and Logitech’s Revue (also a Google TV product) to capture at least attention, if not overwhelming sales.

Why, during the depths of the recession, were people still willing to pay out for expensive CE devices such as HD TVs?

A big trend was consumers pulling back on outside-the-home entertainment (dining, movies, theater, etc.) and thinking of ways to “cocoon” and bring entertainment home. In many cases, consumers view the purchase of a large HDTV and/or a home theater system as a cost-saver, because it allows them to recreate the sights and sound of the theater without the expense. Add in an $8.99 Netflix subscription with unlimited streaming – including HD content – and consumers really feel like they’re getting a value. I think that smartphones are success for many reasons, but one key thought is that for the on-the-go consumer (younger, or older heavy business traveler), that smartphone augments or outright replaces multiple devices for communications, entertainment, and Internet access. So, in a sense, it could almost be considered a cost-saver.

What do you expect from the iPad - how much will sales kick up during the holiday compared to earlier this year?

We expect strong sales of iPads to cut into sales of netbooks and mid-range laptop computers. iPad has expanded its retail channels (e.g. Target, Verizon), and the supply issue that bottlenecked iPad sales during the summer is history. So we are going to see higher rate of iPad sales in 4Q compared with 3Q10 for Apple.

What will be some other hot consumer electronics buys?

  • smartphones
  • e-Readers
  • iPads and other tablet computers
  • Roku Video Players
  • Apple TV
  • Products such as the Western Digital WD TV Live Hub
  • Kinect/Xbox 360 and PlaystationMove
  • digital SLR cameras

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DISH Network is now offering Google TV

DISH Network announced on Wednesday that it is offering its Google TV product to $179. With a Logitech Revue box and DISH's DVR, subscribers can search for content for DISH's linear, DVR, and VoD content.

DISH Network’s Google TV solution, which requires a DVR integration service of $4 per month, includes the Logitech Revue™ with Google TV™, a small set-top box available for a special price of $179 (MSRP $299) – an exclusive deal for DISH Network customers. The Google TV experience is compatible with DISH Network ViP series HD DVR satellite TV receivers including the ViP 622, ViP 722 and ViP 722k.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Color comes to E Ink, LG electronic-paper displays

The first commercial electronic paper displays that can show color were unveiled Wednesday at the Flat Panel Display International show in Japan. The screens open the way for electronic book readers like Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader to add color, but so far only a single Chinese device maker has committed to the technology.

Two companies were showing the screens: E Ink, which dominates the e-paper market, and LG Display, which is one of the world's largest display makers. Compared to the monochrome displays used in current electronic book readers, the new displays offer a dash of color, but users shouldn't expect the same sort of color depth and vibrancy that's seen in laptop computers and flat-panel TVs.

Mass production of the 9.7-inch screen, which has an 800 pixel by 600 pixel resolution, is already beginning and E Ink's first customer, Chinese device maker Hanwang Technology, was showing an e-book reader that features the screen.

For the complete article, please click here.

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