Friday, January 14, 2011

Roku Streaming TV Box - Thumbs Up

The Roku Internet Video Streaming "above the set top box" is a winner.

It has the chance of creating a transformative television viewing experience.

Though I am not quite ready to turn off the satellite television service and leverage the Roku exclusively, I can see the day where my viewing habits are changed in a manner similar to what the Tivo caused me to do.

As a Tivo owner since it first came out I now watch more television from the local hard drive than live.   No longer do I need to set the alarm on my wrist watch or queue up a video tape in a recorder so that I catch a show that I was interested in watching.

The Roku (and Boxee, etc) basically shift the "hard drive" into the cloud.  There is a variety of content options:

  • Free Internet Videos - YouTube
  • Free Video Podcasts - Revision3, Twit, CNET, etc
  • Free News - France24, Al Jezeera, Russian Television
  • Subscription Based Movie Services - NetFlix, Amazon
  • Subscription Based Television - Hulu
  • Streaming Internet Radio Services
If the game is about capturing the attention of the viewer and then getting them to pay - then this form of television viewing has the advantage over the last generation of scheduled television.   Tivo was an intermediate step - it grabbed scheduled television and stored it for dynamic access.  With Internet video you can consume episodes of an entire season at you own pace.  One better than the DVR.

From a geographic broadcast perspective - gone is the limitation of terrestrial broadcast, the complexity of FTA satellite and the confinement of the cable package line up.   In theory the Internet will provide for a global video network as more content is distributed via IPTV.

The major change is the pricing model.  We are going to a "pay for what you eat" model.  Yes there is more content available from the present network broadcasters.  As the advertising model of broadcast television is destroyed AND the cable systems are disintermediated - having the consumer pay directly is the likely model going forward.

I purchased a DVD from Amazon the other day.  For this they gave me a $5 credit to watch a free movie in their Internet streaming service.   This shows me that we will move to an "Electronic Wallet" scenario.  You do something that the content owner wants you to do - you get a service credit in your wallet.  From there you get to watch their content.  

I can image that retailers who used to purchase million dollar commercials on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX will begin to offer "gift codes" that can be entered into a streaming content service, thus paying for your viewing.  The broadcaster will provide an invoice to the advertiser for the codes that were redeemed on their service.   

NOTHING IS FREE.  It is all merely a changed business model, giving everyone what they want.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

From Land Fill To Solar Power Generation Plant

Big metro Atlanta landfill to become solar power plant

Republic Services, which owns Hickory Ridge, is closing the landfill and turning it into a solar farm, using $2 million in federal stimulus money, a new kind of solar panel and help from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority.

When finished this year, it will be the biggest single producer of solar power in Georgia and the state's first landfill solar farm, according to both the company and GEFA, which awarded it $2 million in stimulus money last year, after a competitive bid.

"Georgia is a very good state for solar energy," said GEFA spokesman Shane Hix. "We'd like to see this used as an example of what can be done with landfills across the state."

Republic first tried out the technology in San Antonio, at a site a fraction of Hickory's size.

Then it "went looking for larger scale sites," said Republic engineering manager Tony Walker.

Republic wants solar caps to become a legitimate alternative to closing landfills in the usual way, which requires layers of dirt and vegetation on top.

There's a benefit to Republic. The solar landfill cap saves maintenance costs. "It's a landfill closure system that maintains the gas inside, keeps the water out and produces renewable energy," Walker said. "And it's very economical for us."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Intel To Build Digital Rights Management Features Into New Generation Of Chips To Thwart Streaming Media Pirating

Intel adds streaming security to Core chips

Previously I figured that using Linux would be an adequate work around against DRM that is placed into Windows.   As security elements are put into the hardware all OS level security elements (or the lack there of) would be irrelevant.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

As Cable System Operators Fight With Content Providers And Also Announce Their Annual Price Increases - Internet TV Goes Underutilized

The following three stories are more connected than people think:

  1. Time Warner and Sinclair Squabble Over Retransmission Fees Threaten Television Consumers
  2. CNN: Internet (Capable) Television Sales Go Up But No One Uses It
  3. Cable & Satellite Television Operators Announce Their 2011 Price Increases
now let me add a 4th one for good measure:

If people better understood the players involved in the process of piping video into their living rooms they could exert more power over the process and force a change in the economic behavior of all of the players listed above.

In the ecosystem of video there are:
  • The content producers/copyright licence holders  (NFL, CNN, CBS, Miramax Pictures)
  • The content distributors - the television broadcast networks (ABC, CNN, Fox Television)
  • The network/satellite operators - DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Verizon FiOS
  • The Internet service providers - AT&T, Level 3, Verizon
As you see in some cases one company can occupy several roles.   Comcast hopes to become a cable system operator and a content distributor and a content producer with its purchase of NBC Universal (Studios).

In the world of Internet TV the content distributors as we know them will be forced to change their business model.  Right now the NFL Network, for example, occupies a channel on various cable systems.  They also have the in which live streaming is permissible for premium users.

As the model advances - one day we will be going directly to the NFL to receive their content.  Today the potential profits of using their broadcast network partners who sell commercial advertising space and have a brand as expressed through their sports analysts makes it more reasonable for the NFL to distribute through this INTERMEDIARY.

Once enough users have Internet Television and Mobile video capabilities - the NFL could justify keeping the content for themselves.  Otherwise called DIS-INTERMEDIATION.

Each year these cable systems raise their rates.   I received a notice in the mail to this effect a few weeks ago.
My recent venture to the local customer service office where people were upgrading their equipment and paying to reactivate their service showed me exactly how much leverage the cable operators have at this present time.

The solution to countering them is NOT more government regulation.  Instead there are means by which consumers who are knowledgeable can incubate competition and cause those who are getting fat to be more price sensitive.

Per my analysis the threatened loss of the "cable packages" is the heart of the Net Neutrality debate.   As people cancel their content subscriptions but retain their Internet service these companies are rendered into having a "Dumb IP Pipe".   This means that content providers like Google (YouTube) generate money through advertising dollars while the cable operators are left with individuals paying $49 per month flat rate for their "Ultimate (Speed) Internet Connection" at 20Mb.  

IPTV threatens the cable/satellite system franchise.  If each year's 10% price increase results in the loss of 300,000 subscribers (totally made up numbers for the sake of argument) then they will be forced to be more price conscious.

I am waiting for the content producers to take it on the chin. 
If you notice we still are seeing record contracts and box office takes for athletes and actors.  Even though the team/the league and the movie studio do the actual negotiations for distribution - the fact is that these funds are available to be paid for no other reason than the fact that the CONSUMER is being DISINTERMEDIATED.

The cable provider pays Fox Television and CBS for the privilege to carry  their network content.  Fox and CBS pay the NFL and NBA for the broadcast rights to the original content.   IF these intermediates can merely pass their added costs down to the consumer via increased cable rates - the grand TRANSFERENCE will continue.

IPTV first threatens to harm the middle man networks and cable packages.  
It also offers a global reach for content.   If some day a global branding could supplant the parochial loyalties that we have to our city sports franchises the competition could work to place a check upon the run away pricing that we are charged for tickets and merchandising.