How will the programmers respond?
By now, you've probably heard Cablevision Systems Corp. has revealed several more details about a forthcoming trial of a network-based digital video recording service that will allow customers to record TV shows on rented out, 80-gigabyte portions of video servers.
As we pointed out last October, this approach essentially rekindles the concept of the nDVR (or RS-DVR - for remote-storage digital video recorder - as Cablevision calls it) by applying the old Sony Betamax ruling, which held that consumers had the legal right to record programs for home for private use. The same case has held up so far for the traditional, home-based DVR. Now we'll see if it will hold up against Cablevision's network-based version, which places the onus on the customer - not the operator - to place the recording request.
Cablevision has certainly done its homework here, else why would they even move ahead on this trial, set to start in Q2 with less than 1,000 "friendlies"? So far, the reaction from programmers and the networks has been rather restrained. Multichannel News, for example, reported that programming execs they contacted would hold off on commenting officially until after they were able to gather more information, though one pointed to some "potential copyright issues" with Cablevision's approach. Cablevision, for its part, said most programmers contacted about the RS-DVR were generally "comfortable" with the idea, since its RS-DVR replicates the functions of a traditional DVR.
But I highly doubt that the studios and programmers will let this go on very long without putting up a big fight or at least seeking a compromise that will result in revenues for both parties.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Editor in Chief, CED magazine and xOD Capsule
Yahoo!, CBS perchance to stream 60 Minutes
Yahoo! has arranged with CBS to stream content from "60 Minutes" through its own sites and through sites co-branded sites with other service providers, including AT&T.
The appeal of the deal for each of the partners was the potential for profiting from the other's demographic strengths. Though "60 Minutes" continues to be one of the most widely-viewed programs on network TV, its audience skews older. Meanwhile, the most dedicated Internet users tend to be younger. Yahoo! stands to gain older viewers drawn by the show, and CBS has the opportunity to increase the popularity of one of its key franchises with a new, younger audience.
Content will be available this fall when "60 Minutes" begins its 39th season. A special preview, a rare interview with Tiger Woods, became available on Yahoo! starting Sunday, March 26. Yahoo! will create a microsite for the show, and will have links to that microsite on its News, Sports and Entertainment pages.
Each week following the Sunday night broadcast of the news magazine, the microsite will be updated with two news packages. One will expand on a segment featured during the TV broadcast of "60 Minutes." The second will be based on a topical news theme for that particular week. Both will include unaired video footage plus interactive elements such as maps, a reporter's notebook, blogs and photo galleries.
Pace bets on 'Vegas' SD-DVR
Pace Micro Technology Americas launched its latest all-digital video recorder, a dual-tuner version SD-DVR called Vegas, designed specifically for MSOs that run Motorola Inc.'s conditional access system.
The box includes advanced connectivity and support for the DOCSIS Set-top Gateway (DSG) spec. Vegas also supports the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP), a middleware specified by CableLabs.
The box is aimed at a specific niche Pace said is unserved: it is designed for SD subscribers in Motorola-based systems running digital simulcast. Pace did not provide a specific price, but said Vegas will be about $100 less expensive than a dual analog/digital HD DVR.
In North America, Pace's customers include a wide range of cable operators, including Comcast Cable, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, and Videotron, but, for the most part, they are running Pace boxes on networks based on the Scientific Atlanta PowerKEY conditional access system.
Vegas is also a follow-on to recent Pace set-top entrants such as the "Tahoe" HD-DVR and the all-digital, standard-definition-only "Chicago" set-top.
CBS, Verizon deal targets VOD
Verizon and CBS struck comprehensive agreement last week that gives the telco broad rights to CBS content for general retransmission as well as video-on-demand.
The agreement includes analog, digital, multicast and high-definition rights to programming on CBS owned-and-operated television stations; local VOD content from those stations; and CBS Television Network VOD content, including such network series as "CSI," "NCIS," and "Survivor."
All Verizon FiOS TV subscribers with a set-top box will receive on-demand CBS fare for on incremental cost.
Prior to the signing of the comprehensive agreement, Verizon provided programming from the CBS owned-and-operated stations under a special agreement with CBS. —Brian Santo, CED Senior Editor
What does the future hold?
Dick Wolf, the CEO of Wolf Films and the creator of the "Law & Order" brand, knows the world is changing, thanks to broadband distribution, but is clear that he doesn't know all the answers about how the future of television will shake out.
Speaking last week at the TelecomNEXT show in Las Vegas, had this to say about new broadband-driven business models and downloads and how it will affect the television business: "It will either save it or destroy it."
He said it could hurt syndication, although DVD sales are already having an impact.
Sling Media turns mobile devices into personal TVs
Sling Media has released a free beta version of its SlingPlayer Mobile software, which enables Slingbox owners the ability to watch - and control - their home TV from any network-enabled mobile phone or handheld computer powered by Windows Mobile.
The Slingbox redirects, or "placeshifts," a single live TV stream from a cable box, satellite receiver, or digital video recorder to the viewer's PC-located anywhere in the home or anywhere in the world, via the Internet. The PC must be a Windows-based laptop or desktop or a Windows Mobile-based device.
SlingPlayer Mobile allows users to shift that capability to mobile handsets and other handheld devices. SlingPlayer Mobile requires a Windows Mobile based connection. The wireless connection can be Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or EV-DO (it also works with wired USB connections). Users must have a subscription to a carrier that provides connectivity via at least one of those technologies.
The trial version of SlingPlayer Mobile can be downloaded from Sling Media's Web site. SlingPlayer Mobile software available today is compatible with devices that run Windows Mobile Pocket PC 5.0 and 2003 Second Edition. Sling Media will also deliver a version for non-touchscreen devices based on Windows Mobile Smartphone within the next month.
Beginning April 26, SlingPlayer Mobile will be available for $29.99, with a free 30-day trial. Slingbox owners who purchase and register their Slingbox prior to that date will receive a free license for SlingPlayer Mobile. There are no monthly or recurring charges for the use of the software. —Brian Santo, CED Senior Editor
Newby becomes a Digeo newbee
DVR and set-top navigation and set-top application specialist Digeo Inc. has hired Charles Newby to the post of VP of engineering.
Newby, who reports to Digeo President & COO Greg Gudorf, most recently consulted with the cable and satellite industries, with much of that work related to the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP). He also holds the distinction of being a co-inventor of Motorola Inc.'s VideoCipher and DigiCipher conditional access systems.
On the operator side, Newby has served as an executive director of engineering at AT&T Broadband (now part of Comcast Corp.), and was director of systems engineering at Primestar, a cable-led DBS company that was sold to DirecTV in 1999. Digeo CTO Toby Farrand, who had also been serving as VP of engineering, will report to company CEO Mike Fidler.
Fidler called the addition of Newby "a very strategic hire for Digeo," citing his ability to manage the company's three "major engineering disciplines": hardware, software and silicon.
TVN nets NCTC VOD contracts
TVN Entertainment revealed it has signed multi-year VOD deals with 15 service providers, including Champion Broadband, Everest Communications, Knology and 12 other members of the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) members.
TVN will supply the full scope of VOD services and content packages, including first-run theatrical movies, family and kids content, TV network and specialty programming. The separate agreements represent nearly a quarter million new VOD households.
The other NCTC members recently completing deals with TVN are Prairie Wave, Surewest, Sigecom, InterMountain Cable, Guadalupe Cable, Pioneer, Braintree Electric, San Bruno, Southern Cable, Alameda, Morristown, and Cap Rock.
On the programming end of the spectrum, TVN capped off last week by scoring multi-year VOD affiliation deals with MTV Networks and BET Networks.
Under those deals, TVN will supply VOD services, including content distribution and asset management, for MTVN's slate of networks, including the mother ship channel, MTV, and VH1, CMT, Nickelodeon, Logo, and Comedy Central. TVN will provide similar support for BET. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The deal also calls on TVN to supply its "TVNow" quick turnaround service so that "time sensitive" content can be prepped and sent for on-demand distribution to cable affiliates.
DVR use set to soar
DVRs will be found in over 130 million homes worldwide by the end of 2010, according to a new report from the Strategy Analytics. Cable, satellite and other digital TV providers had installed 17.4 million DVRs globally by the end of 2005.
Sales of DVRs should accelerate to hit a level of 40 million units a year in 2010, according to the report "Digital Video Recorders: Demand Surges as Mass Market Era Dawns."
The U.S. and Europe are expected to lead the global transition toward user-controlled TV. DVRs can now be found in 12 percent of US homes; Strategy Analytics predicts more than half of US consumers will have access to a DVR by 2010. The market has been slower to take off in Europe, but even in Europe 25 percent of homes will have DVRs by 2010, up from only 2 percent in 2005.
ChoiceStream nets Movielink, Akimbo deals
On the heels of a deal with Vongo, ChoiceStream Inc. has inked similar licensing agreements for its personalization and recommendation technology with Movielink and Akimbo.
Though hitting the mark when it comes to Internet-based video services, ChoiceStream also hopes its technology finds a home in the cable video-on-demand arena.
Heard On The Net
Universal eyes 'download-to-own' strategy
Showing signs that studio confidence in digital rights management (DRM) technology is growing, the word from Bloomberg is that Universal Pictures will begin to offer "King Kong" and other titles on a "download-to-own" basis starting April 10 in the United Kingdom.
According to the report, the service, offered in tandem with LOVEFiLM, will allow consumers to download Universal movies in the same window as the DVD release.
Time Warner Cable could put on the [TV] hits
Time Warner Cable is in "preliminary discussions" with major broadcasters about offering a subscription-based on-demand service that provides access to hit shows soon after their traditional premieres.
Citing an MSO spokesman, MarketWatch reports that such a deal is still in the conceptual stage. One possible scenario, as reported in The New York Times, could give customers on-demand access to the top 20 Nielsen-rated shows for $10 per month.
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