Trio to be resurrected…via broadband
Thanks to faster and faster data speeds, struggling networks can now look to the Internet to keep the cause alive.
Trio, a network that has had trouble expanding its reach beyond 9 million households via traditional cable distribution, will soon call the Internet home.
Last week, NBC Universal announced plans to shut down Trio as a stand-alone linear digital cable television service. Instead, the network, home of the fun "Brilliant, But Cancelled" series, will find new life as a broadband-only video service starting Jan. 1, 2006 at Bravotv.com.
The company did not offer specific details about the Internet offering, but "the Web is a perfect place to expand" Trio's programming to "an unlimited audience," Trio President Lauren Zalaznick said in a prepared statement.
Time will tell if Trio will find a big enough audience to sustain itself via the Internet, but the move certainly is a defining one as video services continue to carve out much more than a niche for itself in the broadband arena. It's also interesting to see a media giant like NBC Universal take a chance with Trio. Although Trio wasn't successful enough for it to make business sense to keep its traditional broadcast life going, NBC Universal apparently believes there's enough of an opportunity via the Internet to keep the network and its brand on broadband life support.
But what does this mean for the operators? I wouldn't be surprised if they were privately pleased with the decision. On the financial end, they won't be paying fees for Trio once it makes the move to the Internet.
That decision will also free up some dedicated digital spectrum for cable operators without having to enlist switched broadcast, a bandwidth-saving technique that operators are looking at to "switch" some networks that don't get a lot of viewers. In a way, Trio has put itself into the category, as its shows (or the network itself) will become available only to the viewers who select it. The only difference is that its content will be traveling via IP to the cable modem and the 6 MHz channel dedicated to the operator's high-speed data service.
TiVo plots bigger portability plan
TiVo Inc. expanded its foray into portability last week after announcing it will enable customers to shuttle recorded shows to the new video-capable Apple iPod and the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP). The move marks an enhancement to the original TiVoToGo application, which allows users to send recorded shows from their Series2 DVRs to their laptops or PCs.
TiVo said it will begin testing the feature in the weeks ahead with a "select group" of Series2 owners who own the new iPod or PSP. The feature will be offered across the board as early as Q2 2006, the company said, noting that subscribers will also need to purchase "certain low-cost" media transferring software.
"By enhancing our TiVoToGo feature, we're making it easy for consumers to enjoy the TV shows they want to watch right from their iPod or PSP — whenever and wherever they want," said TiVo CEO Tom Rogers.
TiVo's decision could also undermine the business model created by Apple and its first video iPod media partner, Disney/ABC.
In October, Disney agreed to provide access to hit shows such as "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" to the new iPod and iTunes service for $1.99 apiece. The TiVo enhancement presumably will allow subscribers to record those shows and move them to the iPod for free. The same model already holds true for EchoStar's new line of portable PocketDISH devices.
TiVo, however, noted that it will "discourage abuse or unlawful use" of the new capabilities by enlisting digital watermark technologies.
NBC Universal has already told Variety that TiVo "appears to be acting unilaterally, disregarding established rights of content owners to participate in decisions regarding the distribution and exploitation of their content." NBC Universal was one of the first programmers to publicly announce support for Time Warner Cable's new "Start Over" service.
VWB enlists MPEG-4 'CoPilot'
TiVo wasn't the only company trying to make headlines last week with a portability play. Video Without Boundaries (VWB) also moved ahead with a new portable product of its own.
VWB launched the "CoPilot," a portable media player/recorder that operates on the capacity-saving MPEG-4 codec. It will retail for less than $200, the company said. VWB is offering models with on-board 512 megabyte or 1 gigabyte flash drives. Both models support expandable memory via SD card slots.
The device features AV input recording for connection to a range of media gear, including DVD players, VCRs, and cable and satellite set-tops.
Co-Pilot is a follow-on to the "Flyboy," a $349 portable media player that sports a 20 GB hard drive. Both the Co-Pilot and Flyboy can feed off of VWB's stand-alone MediaREADY 4000 media center.
License issued for 'TV Anytime' standard
Via Licensing Corp. has issued a joint patent license for patents that are considered "essential" for the implementation of the TV Anytime Phase 1 interactive television standard.
The license for that standard, also known as TVA-1, will be offered to device manufacturers and service providers that intend to adopt it. The aim is to streamline the process and reduce the overall cost of obtaining the necessary licenses.
Rather than going to the individual patent holders, the joint patent license covers patents related to TVA-1 that are owned by the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), France Telecom, LG Electronics, NDS, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung, and Sharp.
The standard addresses how consumers can search, select and acquire broadcast and online content via mobile media devices and set-tops with on-board hard drives. TVA-1 is published by ETSI as TS 102 822.
In July, Via Licensing, a division of Dolby Laboratories Inc., released the licensing terms of patents linked to the 1.0 version of the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) and the Digital Video Broadcasting Multimedia Home Platform (DVB-MHP).
Mediaware helps Time Warner 'Start Over'
More of the technical components that make up Time Warner Cable's "Start Over" service continue to emerge.
This time around, we learn that Mediaware is providing its digital video editing and processing technology for the initial launch of Start Over to about 10,000 Time Warner subs in Irmo, S.C.
Mediaware said it also supplies wares to other vendors in the VOD food chain, including Tandberg Television, Gotuit Media and IMAKE. For a lengthier discussion of the technology behind Start Over, please see the Nov. 8 edition of xOD Capsule.
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