Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

Hulu to reveal The Big Secret on Super Bowl Sunday.

In a press release, Hulu writes “During Super Bowl XLIII this Sunday, look for the launch of Hulu’s ad campaign. Finally, we’ll reveal the secret behind Hulu.”

Caroline McCarthy said it best.

Ooh! Secrets! I love secrets! Clearly we will learn one of three things this Sunday:
1. Hulu is the Matrix.
2. Hulu is Luke Skywalker’s father.
3. Hulu is people.

Hulu (via Cnet)

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New Google Tools Determine if Your ISP Is Blocking BitTorrent

Michael Calore of Wired writes:

Next time you’re dealing with a dreadfully slow internet connection, you can ask Google what’s causing the trouble.

The company announced a new open platform Wednesday called Measurement Lab, or M-Lab for short. As part of the initial launch, M-Lab includes three publicly accessible tools, including a tool called Glasnost that tests whether BitTorrent traffic is being blocked, throttled or otherwise impeded on your broadband connection.

Find the tests @ Measurement Lab (via Wired)

Streaming Superbowl XLIII

It seemed to me the Bittorrents for the last few Superbowls were mildy popular, but that’s just my observation. I have no stats to back that up. Superbowl broadcast ratings are down. They’ve been down for years. That’s well known.

What isn’t known is how the NFL plans to bring it’s product into the 21st century.

The NFL’s bread and butter has always been the play-by-play broadcast of their games. Other football leagues focused on ticket sales and merchandising or on community spirit. The NFL made their money hopping from network to network to show their precious games and sold the Big Game to the highest bidder. Big Brother even had to step in and make the NFL play fair and give everybody a turn, if I remember correctly.

Has there been ANY sort of an announcement of the NFL’s plans to accommodate the post-television generation? The Official Superbowl Page has a countdown clock and tons of hype… but nothing about how to watch the actual game.

Politics wised up. After a terrible online showing during the election gave bootleg streams of CNN great ratings, we were buried in options for streaming live video of the Inauguration. Will this be the moment that Sports learns the hard way?

There’s a ton of money on the table for the advertiser in the browser window of the re-streaming service that will be hosting the bootleg stream. Will it be uStream.TV this time, again, or will everybody be watching a freed Sling Stream?

Multiplex: DVD Jukebox

Smoking Apples has a behind-the-scenes interview with the guys behind Multiplex.

If you’re like me and own a lot of DVDs, Multiplex may be the software you’ve been dreaming of… and they’re giving away copies. Read the article to find out how to get your freebie. Hurry. It’s for a limited time only.

HBO, Showtime, Starz, and.. Epix?

When we switched from Airwaves to Cable/Satellite, America got introduced to a lot more networks. Some came and went (Preview, CBN, TheBox), others became household names (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax).

As we switch from Cable/Satellite we’re having to get used to a lot of new names. Hulu, Joost, Boxee, Netflix, iTunes, VUDU, and now Epix.

Epix is destined for cable/satellite and will compete with HBO and Starz for your Premium Package dollars – but it’s got one foot in the old world and one foot in the new. It will begin streaming it’s channel via it’s website a full five months before their cable/satellite launch.

A consortium of MGM, Paramount Pictures, and Lions Gate, the channel will feature more than 15,000 movies from the three studios.

The new channel, which is intended to compete with HBO and Showtime, will feature such hits as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Iron Man, and other movies from the studios’ libraries. The channel is also expected to produce original programming and present live concert performances, as other premium channels do.

Via Cnet:

Netflix saw the future and seized it

In early January 2007, 60 Minutes did a segment on Netflix where CEO Reed Hastings spoke of going from DVD rentals to subscription streaming. He also spoke of the AppleTV (nee.. iTV) and a need to get to the market before it becomes the iPod of video.

I can’t find video of the segment, but I can find a CBS News article covering Netflix where it makes mention of the future of the market. The print article doesn’t include any of Reed Hasting’s quotes about a Netflix set-top box or his vision of getting Netflix out of the DVD rental business and getting into the digital streaming business. The article lays down all the reasons Hastings gave for making the switch, without actually crediting him with saying it.

Once it becomes more practical to buy and rent movies within a few minutes on high-speed Internet connections, few consumers presumably will want to wait a day or two to receive a DVD in the mail. If that happens, Netflix could go the way of the horse and buggy.

Online movie delivery already is available through services like CinemaNow, MovieFlix, Movielink, Vongo and Amazon.com Inc.’s recently launched Unbox. Apple Inc. also is emerging as major player, with hundreds of movies and TV shows on sale at its iTunes store and a new device that promises to transport media from a computer to a TV screen.

But none of those online services have caught on like Netflix’s mail-delivery system, partly because movie and TV studios generally release their best material on DVDs first. The studios have had little incentive to change their ways because DVDs still generate about $16 billion of highly profitable sales.

Like already existing online delivery services, Netflix’s “Watch Now” option offers a lot of “B” movies such as “Kickboxer’s Tears.” But the mix also includes critically acclaimed selections like “Network,” “Amadeus,” “Chinatown” and “The Bridge On the River Kwai.”

The studios contributing to Netflix’s new service include NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, MGM, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, Lion’s Gate and New Line Cinema.

“We are going into this with the knowledge that consumers want to watch (media) in various ways and we want to be there for them,” said Frances Manfred, a senior vice president for NBC Universal. “For now, though, we know television is the vastly preferred option.”

The result is an article that seems as if the ground was going to shift under Netflix and their business model will crumble.

How ironic that CBS (still clinging to their broadcast model and falling way behind the other networks in their online offerings) is having a financial hurt while Netflix is thriving.

Netflix’s bet on the coming trend in video delivery was spot on, and they are reaping the profits. According to Engadget:

The movie rental firm somehow managed to see net income rise to $22.7 million in the quarter, up from $15.7 million in Q4 2007. Revenue was also up by 19 percent, and subscriber growth was pegged at an amazing 26 percent. All told, the firm ended the quarter with 9.4 million subscribers, decimating its own forecast of ending Q4 with 9.15 million customers.

and

The company is reporting that many of its customers are replacing mailed movies with streamed ones, taxing the USPS less and their broadband connections more.

Digital Switch Delayed. No, It’s Not! Yes, It is! No, IT’S NOT!!

I’ve tried writing this post three times this morning. Its not going to happen. The post, I mean.

*Sigh*

YouTube Users Lash Out At Warner/Google With Protest Videos

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch writes:

Two things are clear in the YouTube/Warner Music scuffle. First, neither side is 100% right. And second, users are very, very angry that their videos are being pulled down or muted when they contain background music owned by Warner Music.

Those users aren’t being quiet about it, either. And scores of them are uploading protest videos to say exactly what they think. All are angry at Warner Music. And most express disappointment at Google, too, for reportedly walking away from the deal that allowed Warner’s music to be used legally on the site. I’ve embedded the “best of” below. More are being uploaded in real time, and this has the feel of a situation that is just now starting to boil over.

Videos can be found on TechCrunch.

How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 2: Downloads

[Continued from How To… Part 1: Streaming]

Downloads


Streaming isn’t perfect. If my wife is streaming Hart to Hart from Hulu, I’d better not be surfing YouTube on the laptop. If she was watching Fringe (which we download) I’d be fine.

Also, if the weather’s bad, the internet gets slow. That means lots of paused streams and filling buffers. Downloading your show in advance and watching it from your hard drive requires pre-planning, but your efforts will be richly rewarded.

Downloading allows for higher resolution, multi-channel surround, and the possibility of taking it with you on a gadget.

Like Streaming, there are both paid and free options. Also like Streaming, free comes in official and grey-market sources.

Paid Downloads
Six months ago, there was a small selection of places to buy TV shows that I might have cautiously recommended. Today there is only one: iTunes. It’s pricy, but reliable. That’s the only reason it exists at all. Most video stores have shut down (and the few that still exist are focused more on movies than on television).

Reliability is a big deal. Customers that were unlucky enough to buy video from a store that shut down found that their “purchases” weren’t purchases at all – merely licenses that got revoked when the company shut down the server that unlocked your video whenever the next verification was due. DRM (Corporate-speak for “Copy Protection”) may be dying for music sales, but it’s alive and well on television and movie sales. There isn’t a killer gadget or a killer store to strong-arm the networks into giving up on DRM.

Until that time, most internet downloaders are sticking to original content, or just pirating the good stuff.

Free Downloads: Original Content
Podcasts. Holy Cow, podcasts. This one deserves it’s own post.

Free Downloads: The Good Stuff
Arrrg! Mateys! We have a pirate wannabe! Well, I have a disclaimer for you: No TV network condones file trading. If you are trading a file of a TV network show then you are a pirate. And you know how the industry feels about pirates. If you want to risk it, here’s how:

Bittorrent
File trading methods come and go. The flavor of the week is currently Bittorrent. Bittorrent works like a treasure map and magic compass. The .torrent file is the map, and your bittorrent client (software) is the magic compass that finds the thing you’re looking for (treasure). There is a .torrent file on the internet for every episode of every season of practically every show ever. Find the .torrent file, and find the show.

You can set it up to do it all automatically.

TV Torrents on a Mac is as simple as P.T.T.
1. Perian.org – This Quicktime plug-in will allow your Mac to play your downloads with the native Quicktime Player and Front Row media center software.
2. Download Transmission. This is your magic compass. Set it to launch on startup, listen for .torrents (maps) in your Download folder, and to drop files (treasure) into your Movies folder.
3. Download ted. This is your map finder. Set it to launch on startup and to drop .torrent files (maps) in your Download folder as they become available. Add some shows.

That’s it. You’re done. Tomorrow there will be shows in your Movies folder.

[NOTE: I will include a Windows version if/when I get my trusty Dell to boot again.]

Manually Searching
Searching manually is great for Barbara Walter’s Specials, TV Movies, and new DVDs that’s you’re too impatient to wait for Netflix to deliver. Manual Searching is also a good skill to have in case the automated way skips an episode or two because you forgot to boot up the computer for two weeks or ted thinks a new season started when it hasn’t.

When you bittorrent, you need to know EXACTLY what episode you’re looking for so you know which .torrent file to use as your map. Start by visiting the encyclopedia of TV titles: epguides.com.

Epguides makes it easy to remember that the last episode of The Middleman I saw was the one where they had to go on a boat to keep cursed musical instrument from killing Titanic aficionados. I also found out that it was called “The Cursed Tuba Contingency” and (most importantly) it was Season 1, Episode 7.

Now I can search for “The Middleman S01E07” on Yahoo, Google, or one of the many .torrent trackers online.

On your Widescreen and In Your Pocket

Downloading holds many advantages over streaming, the biggest advantage being portability. You are no longer tied to a web browser. My wife got an iPhone for Christmas.

The primary reason for the purchase was Google Maps, with Mobile Safari a very close second; however, I know my wife. As soon as TV Junkie #2 catches a few episodes while waiting for the bus… I’ll be loading her iPhone with television. Luckily, I’m prepared.

[To be continued in How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 3: On your Widescreen and In Your Pocket]

Boxee inquiry stirs controversy

A few days ago, after bending to tremendous end-user pressure, the folks over at Boxee asked what a Boxee Box should look like, if they should decide to make one. Then all hell broke loose.

Many people are under the impression that if Boxee makes their own hardware, it would signal a shift away from getting their software on 3rd Party hardware. In other words, you either follow the Netflix model or you follow the AppleTV model… there is no middle ground.

So that brings me to ask? Can Boxee “pull a Netflix” and commission it’s own box while also getting it’s SaaS on other maker’s hardware, or does it not have the name recognition to play both sides?

Pirating the 81st Annual Academy Award Nominated Films

For six years Andy Baio has been monitoring the Hollywood vs The Internet battle, and has been using the Ocsars as a measuring point.

So, how did they do? Out of 26 nominated films, an incredible 23 films are already available in DVD quality on nomination day, ripped either from the screeners or the retail DVDs. This is the highest percentage since I started tracking.

Only three films are unavailable — Rachel Getting Married wasn’t leaked online in any form, while Changeling is only available as a low-quality telecine transfer and Australia as a terrible quality camcorder recording. (Update: A DVD screener of Australia was just leaked today.)

[…]

Surprisingly, it seems like this year’s Oscar movies took longer to leak online than in previous years. If I had to guess, it’s because far fewer camcorder copies were released for this year’s nominees. This could be because of the theaters cracking down on camcorder recordings, but I suspect it’s because fewer nominees were desirable targets this year for cams. (Aside from the obvious blockbusters, like Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda, and Tropic Thunder.) The chart below shows the median number of days from a movie’s US release date to its first leak online.

Tons of data, including graphs and spreadsheets are available.

Article (via Waxy.org)

Boxee asks: What do you want in a Boxee Box?

John Mahoney of Gizmodo writes:

Boxee, makers of fine open-source media center software, apparently couldn’t go anywhere at CES without someone asking them to build a set-top-box. Now they’re asking you if they should go through with the plan.

They’ve posted a survey on their blog to test the waters.

Link to Survey (via Gizmodo)

Watch the Inauguration LIVE

Lots of Network/Internet Partnerships. Lots of links.

FOX is going with Hulu. CBS with Joost’s Everything Obama.

CNN went with Facebook and NBC will be pumping through MSNBC.

C-Span will go it alone with thier Inauguration Hub and the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies will be providing a live feed, complete with closed captioning.

If you’re on the go, you can get live tweets via Twitter, or if you have an iPhone, then uStream has you covered.

Watching ‘Secret Life’ Online: Torrents Mislabeled, Stream Gets Direct Link

Downloaders of The Secret Life of the American Teenager are in a panic. Two episodes into Season 2, no torrents are to be found.

Until now.

It turns out that Season 2 hasn’t started at all, and that it’s actually S01E12 and S01E13 that we should be looking for.

The properly labeled episodes can be found on a few trackers but the RSS feeds have yet to figure out the mixup.

If you have the bandwidth, ABC Family has both episodes online. Their new year re-design came a week late, but it has welcome changes, including the ability to link directly to a show.

Now we can all stop panicking and go back to bitching about Hulu pulling It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Hulu steps up, takes the blame [UPDATED]

Muhammad Saleem did a great commentary on The Hulu Situation over @ Mashable.

The Hulu Letter can be found on Sunny’s Page for now (and is re-printed blow), but I recommend you read Muhammad’s write-up if you haven’t been following along.

Customer trust is hard won, easily lost.

On January 9, we removed nearly 3 seasons of full episodes of ”It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” We did this at the request of the content owner. Despite Hulu’s opinion and position on such content removals (which we share liberally with all of our content partners), these things do happen and will continue to happen on the Hulu service with regards to some television series. As power users of Hulu have seen, we’ve added a large amount of content to the library each month, and every once in a while we are required to remove some content as well.

This note, however, is not about the fact that episodes of ”It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” were taken down. Rather, this note is to communicate to our users that we screwed up royally with regards to _how_ we handled this specific content removal and to apologize for our lack of strong execution. We gave effectively no notice to our users that these ”Sunny” episodes would be coming off the service. We handled this in precisely the opposite way that we should have. We believe that our users deserve the decency of a reasonable warning before content is taken down from the Hulu service. Please accept our apologies.

Given the very reasonable user feedback that we have received on this topic (we read every twitter, email and post), we have just re-posted all of the episodes that we had previously removed. I’d like to point out to our users that the content owner in this case – FX Networks – was very quick to say yes to our request to give users reasonable advance notice here, despite the fact that it was the Hulu team that dropped the ball. We have re-posted all of the episodes in the interest of giving people advance notice before the episodes will be taken down two weeks from today. The episodes will be taken down on January 25, 2009. Unfortunately we do not have the permission to keep the specific episodes up on Hulu beyond that. We hope that the additional two weeks of availability will help to address some of the frustration that was felt over the past few days.

The team at Hulu is doing our best to make lemonade out of lemons on this one, but it’s not easy given how poorly we executed here. Please know that we will do our best to learn from this mistake such that the Hulu user experience benefits in other ways down the road.

Sincerely,

Jason Kilar, CEO, Hulu

Internet Television Test, Week 27: Six Months Without Cable and I’ve Missed Nothing

Last night when I told my wife it has been six months since we dropped cable, she couldn’t believe it. She was taken aback. The got weirded out about it again this morning as she was pulling up her daily episode of Hart to Hart.

Six months? Really? It doesn’t feel that long. I guess because it’s gotten so easy.

Like having a child, she is so happy with the result that she doesn’t even remember the labor pains. The only real difference in our TV viewing habit is the loss of the remote control (which I hope to remedy, soon).

Has it really gotten that easy, or are we just used to it?

This thought has been on my mind since New Year’s Eve. My family came to visit and my brother, who can’t send an e-mail and defers his web browsing to his fiancee, leapt toward the computer when I pulled up the Three Stooges page on Hulu. He spent the rest of the morning in Saturday Morning Cartoon Mode. He clicked until he found the episode he’d been looking for for years.

Back to the conversation with my wife.

Easy? That’s because everything is set up and bookmarked! I make this LOOK easy!

When she stopped laughing, she kissed me and went to make toast.

I kept wondering if it’s easy for us because it’s all bookmarked and we’ve found all our current shows, or if it’s really gotten that easy for everyone.

The networks have been doing an excellent job of pimping their websites, so I decided to start there.

I went to all the broadcast and cable network sites I could think of. I’ll be posting a write-up soon. (UPDATE: Link). Some (Like ABC and ABC News) were greatly improved, while others (The Discovery Channel) seem to not get the concept.

Then there’s the subject of the shows we DON’T stream.

I’ve come to the conclusion that in January 2009 streaming TV is easier than it used to be, but still not there yet, and bittorrent/RSS is still too difficult for the masses.

More and more people are cutting the cable to go all-internet, but we still don’t have a killer set top box. You can’t expect people to choose between watching on a computer and hooking a computer up to a TV.

AppleTV needs streaming, The Roku box needs downloads, TiVo needs to cut the cable, and a game console is a poor substitute for a dedicated internet television device.

Whoever gets the streaming/download balance correct can rule the Widescreen.
I’m looking at you, Boxee.

This year promises to be interesting.