Whatever works (and as long as it works)
This comes to you from a rental cabin in the mountains above Denver. Cellular service from three carriers is in that blessing/curse that is the "dead zone." The multi-function remote for the non-HD widescreen apparently multi-tasked itself into a brick: Tuning TV channels is or adjusting volume requires standing up and walking over to it (horrors).
Two things are working as anticipated: The cable modem (Comcast is the provider up here), and the video iPod. With minimal effort, I latched the iPod to the big screen. Within a few painless moments I was watching an episode of "Project Runway," downloaded from iTunes over the broadband connection.
To my mind, this is just as "on-demand" as anything within Comcast's on demand menu, had it been navigable. (Although the download time was painful, even with broadband.)
Which brings us to the on-demand manifesto of last Tuesday (Feb. 6), penned electronically by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, to all of us. The essence: Digital rights management is a necessary evil. It's part of iTunes because that's the only way copyright holders will allow their titles to be sold on iTunes.
Plus, Jobs said, at the end of 2006, Apple had sold 90 million iPods, and 2 billion songs, for an average of 22 songs per iPod. But, most iPods hold close to 1,000 songs, and most iPods are nearly full. Twenty-two out of 1,000 songs is 3%. Meaning most people rip unprotected CDs than they do buy new songs.
"It's hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future," Jobs wrote.
Jobs, and anyone else seeking to aggregate and sell music, TV shows and movies, has three choices, when it comes to DRM: Stay the course, license its DRM (called "FairPlay") to third-party manufacturers, or ditch DRM altogether.
"Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats … this is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat," Jobs wrote.
"Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music."
Jobs' bottom line: Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. Please stop asking me to open up iTunes and its content.
Meanwhile, up here at the cabin, Apple's behind-the-scenes work to make it easy for me to watch on-demand shows on a TV with a stubborn remote, is all that really matters. Besides the fresh snow last night that begs for fresh tracks.
(Find the full text of the Jobs letter here.)
— Leslie Ellis, Independent Analyst, CED Contributing Editor
(pinch-hitting for this week's edition of xOD Capsule)
CTAM study: On-demand awareness gaining
Over the past two years, consumer awareness of cable-delivered on-demand services grew from 34% to 56%, according to a new study issued by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) last Wednesday.
Plus, more and more people with high definition TVs are watching HD on-demand fare: Nearly two-thirds (67%) said they're aware of HD programming through and have watched and HD show or movie from the on-demand roster.
Interest in HD Programming through On Demand Source: CTAM
Almost half of the consumers polled who weren't aware of HD on-demand said they want it - as did 43% of satellite HD customers.
Will people switch to or upgrade their existing cable subscription in order to get HD on demand? The numbers: 13% of existing satellite customers, 20% of existing satellite HD customers, and 19% of digital basic customers said yes, they'd be likely to subscribe to cable HD on demand before summer.
"Although cable HD on Demand is just beginning to be delivered, customers are chomping at the bit to have it," said CTAM president and CEO Char Beales, in a statement. "Cable's customers have been enjoying a huge library of on-demand selections; add HD on demand to the mix and today's cable customers will be even more satisfied."
Charter goes national with Everstream
Charter Communications is live and nationwide within its footprint for a VOD collection, analysis and reporting software suite developed by Everstream, the Concurrent Computer Corp. subsidiary.
The rollout is helping Charter to focus on operational performance of its VOD fare, while measuring audience impressions, viewing time and reach (for long form, 60 seconds or longer ad campaigns.)
Specifically, Charter is using Everstream's "Data Suite" software to extract, distribute and store usage data about Charter's VOD and interactive services. Data Suite consists of an "interactive data gateway," which extracts usage information at the edge of the network, and an "interactive data warehouse," a data repository that crunches the information into an actionable format.
The Charter installation will also grow to use other Everstream applications, to measure service performance, subscriber viewing experiences, and to compare performance between markets, divisions, and regions.
"Charter's commitment to Everstream exemplifies the importance cable operators are placing on on-demand services and the evolving multi-billion dollar advertising market," stated Charlie Lougheed, president and co-founder of Everstream, in a prepared statement. "Through in-depth service metrics and VOD ad measurement, operators like Charter are positioned to enhance the subscriber experience and increase their appeal to the advertising community."
Rentrak adds nine
Rentrak Corp. added six network groups and three cable providers to its customer base for on-demand measurement. The networks: A&E Television Networks, CNET Inc., Havoc TV Inc., IFC Films, The Inspirational Network, and PBS KIDS Sprout.
The cable providers: Armstrong Cable Services, Elijay Telephone, which serves systems in northern Georgia, and Wide Open West, an overbuilder serving metro areas of Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
Combined, that makes 49 subscribers, including all studios, cable, broadcast, and on-demand-only networks offering transactional on-demand, subscription-on-demand, free-on-demand and real-time encoding, the company said.
Each uses the company's "OnDemand Essentials" product for daily access to on-demand performance data, such as performance by title, audience, weekly top titles, and competitive performance by network category (sortable by MSO, date range, and TV markets).
HavocTV, which provides independent music video programming and "action sports content," said it chose Rentrak for timely usage measurement information. "(We) needed reliable usage measurement to provide our management team with the tools necessary to respond to viewer interests, and to engage our advertising partners in the On Demand platform," said Dave deKadt, president and founder of the company, in a prepared statement.
Panasonic to Open Blu-ray test center
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., parent company of the Panasonic consumer electronics brand, said last week it will open a test center for Blu-ray recorders. The center will be called the Panasonic Hollywood, and tests will commence "immediately," the company said.
Blu-Ray discs contain embedded copyright protection technology, and conducting format verification for entertainment content in replicated discs requires technical sophistication and testing, the company said: "Until now, there has been no testing service available for content verification before disc replication, although many in the motion picture industry expressed the need for a testing center."
Panasonic used the news to invite other members of the Blu-ray Disc Association to join in the tests for Blu-Ray video playback and recording products.
Seagate pushes on Perpendicular Media
Seagate Technology is the first company to "break the 15 million mark" in shipments of hard drives built for perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR). Its tally: 16 million. More interesting: Analysts predict that 75% of Seagate's shipments will be PMR-based by the end of this year.
"For those wondering if Seagate was bluffing when it announced its intentions for a swift migration to perpendicular recording - the answer is clear the company is flexing its technical muscles," said John Kim, VP of market research for TrendFocus.
Perpendicular magnetic recording matters because it offers storage expansion of 2.5 terabytes for desktop computers, and a half-terabyte for laptop hard drives in the next three to five years. The first drive to feature the technology was Seagate's "Momentus 5400.3," a 2.5-inch notebook drive with a capacity of 160 Gigabytes. That shipped in Dec. '05. Since then, Seagate introduced perpendicular drives across its desktop, enterprise and consumer electronics lines.
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