Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Hulu is getting into Content Creation

Jennifer Van Grove writes:

If I Can Dream — Hulu’s first foray into original programming — is set to premiere on March 2 on Hulu and IfICanDream.com.

The made-for-web TV show — which will be made available internationally — is a joint collaboration between the online TV syndicator and Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment.

If I Can Dream @ Hulu (via Mashable)

A Beginner’s Guide to Made-for-Internet TV @ Mashable.com

Money Quote:

Web video is expanding right now, and though a lot of attention is paid to episodes of network TV shows like Lost or The Office that you can stream online, there’s an emerging wealth of content made just for the web. There’s going to be even more of it in the future, so this is a great time to get in at the ground level and experience an emerging art form.

Since September we’ve worked with web video analytics company Visible Measures to publish a monthly list of the top 10 most viewed original web series. And with the 2010 Streamy Awards coming up in just a couple of months, we believe this is an ideal time to serve up a quick overview of what web series are and why we’re so interested in covering them.

Read the whole thing over @ Mashable.

Clicker.com – The TV Guide of Online TV

When people find out I cut the cable, no two people ask the same first question – but they all eventually ask:

“How do I find what’s on?”

There was never really a satisfactory answer until now: Clicker.com.

Open Letter to HBO: Be Like Netflix, Not Like Hulu

Dear Home Box Office.

I’m a big fan, dating back to the late 1970s when my uncle showed me Rocky on his brand new 10′ satellite dish, so I was excited to learn about your new streaming service HBO Go.

HBO Go Logo

Immediately after hearing about it’s existence I rushed to my computer, pulled up the site, and clicked “Sign Up”. That’s when I found out that only Comcast and Verizon cable TV customers who buy HBO through their cable company can watch.

What a missed opportunity. I was ready to open up my wallet and pay for content that I find worth paying for, but found out in addition to paying for HBO I would have to pay for cable TV, too.

Here’s 10 cents worth of free advice: Stop thinking of yourself as a cable channel or as a TV network and think of yourself as an entertainment provider. Stop paying Verizon and Comcast to be your middlemen. Take my money directly, like Netflix.

Be Like Netflix
For $8.99 a month, Netflix lets me stream from their website and they give access to their API so their service can be integrated into my TV, BluRay Player, or Boxee Box. (Almost 50% of their customer base stream content). No, it’s not perfect. It’s got DRM and it’s Silverlight-based so you can’t watch it on your iPhone (yet). Most content is Still SD and the HD content is only 720p. But it’s easy to use and more importantly it’s easy to pay for. It’s flexible in how I use their service and doesn’t try to nickel and dime the hardware vendors that are helping them grow – unlike Hulu.

Hulu’s Misstep
The Content Providers (ahem TV Networks FOX, NBC, and ABC) that own Hulu want Boxee et al to pay them for the privelege of pointing traffic at them (which is like wanting the phone company to pay you for printing your number in their phone book) and is attempting to block them in an effort to force negotiations, going so far as to falsely characterize their action as “illegally taking” in Congressional hearings. Why? Because they are too busy fretting over lost banner ad revenue and disproportionate per-impression ad rates compared to cable to see that Boxee is pointing a money firehose at them and pressure is just beginning to build.

…which, if you aren’t paying attention, is the same mistake NewsCorp (Owner of FOX and 1/3 owner of Hulu) and the Associated Press are making with Google News, too.

“Thanks for the customers. Now you owe me money for sending them my way. Even though your recommendations keep me afloat and I would probably be bankrupt without them, you made money by recommending me, so I deserve a cut. You must pay to advertise me.”

Hulu is doing more right than wrong, but their mistake of tying their service to a web page instead of allowing it on a TV is harming them more than helping them – much like your need to tie your online service to your cable channel will harm more than help you.

I understand that contractually you are obligated to do (and not to do) certain things, but I would hope that you see my point of view and can see the value in a cable-optional internet streaming site.

Thanks for listening,
– Gerald

P.S. For what it’s worth: I think Hulu should abandon the paywall idea, pack their site with content, license and control use of their API, grow their user base, and then negotiate better “per impression” ad rates for their in-line ads. A model I don’t recommend for you, HBO, nor for Netflix.

Stream the 2010 Winter Olympics LIVE Coverage + Replays

Four Hundred Hours of live competition coverage + 1,000 hours of full-event replays @ NBCOlympics.com.

NBCOlympics logo

Waaay more live coverage than you’ll get on TV.

NBCOlympics.com

Gorge Yourself on Streaming TV @ TVGorge.com

And pssst… no geo restrictions. Welcome non-US Streamers. Get it while it lasts. I mean, seriously. Look at the list of shows.

TVGorge.com

and it keeps going….

the list continues

…and going…

and continues

Check it out yourself.

TVGorge.com

Comcast Attempts To Wash Away Sins, Changes Name To XFinity.

Does the name “Altria” make you think of:
Giant Cover-Ups,
Bullying,
Lying Scientists,
Lying To Congress, or
Cancer?
…No? Good.
That’s why they aren’t called Philip Morris anymore.

Mega corporations don’t flush decades of name recognition when their customers like them. ValuJet had a crash so bad that they had to become AirTran just to survive.

A corporate name change is like a get-out-of-anything card. No matter how terrible you treated your customers, your countrymen, or your planet – a name change makes everyone forget it all. It’s as if you never did it in the first place.

Who, him? He’s not me. I’m not him. I’m NewCorp!

Now Comcast is changing their name. I’m sure it has nothing to do with their stance on traffic shaping, bandwidth capping, throttling, and net neutrality. I’m sure it also has nothing to do with their reputation for high bills, expensive bundles, high-pressure customer retention, poor service, poor customer service, and closed-network ways. I’m sure, as John Gruber suggests, they’re doing it just for kicks.

Philadelphia Inquirer via Daring Fireball

Jeff Zucker, with his pants on fire, tells Congress that Hulu content was ‘illegally taken’.

If you want to watch him repeatedly refer to pulling up a web site in a web browser as “illegal” check out the video in the C-Span Archives, (Sorry I can’t embed it here) but it can be summed up in this excerpt:

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA): What about Boxee? Mr. Zucker you probably are in a better position to answer that. Did Hulu block the Boxee users from access to the Hulu programs?

Zucker (NBC): This was a decision made by the Hulu management to, uh, what Boxee was doing was illegally taking the content that was on Hulu without any business deal. And, you know, all, all the, we have several distributors, actually many distributors of the Hulu content that we have legal distribution deals with so we don’t preclude distribution deals. What we preclude are those who illegally take that content.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA): “Well would you have negotiations with Boxee upon request?”

Zucker (NBC): “We have always said that we’re open to negotiations.”

Of course, Boxee’s Avner Ronen had this (among other things) to say:

I’d like to set the record straight regarding Boxee’s access to Hulu. Boxee uses a web browser to access Hulu’s content – just like Firefox or Internet Explorer. Boxee users click on a link to Hulu’s website and the video within that page plays. We don’t “take” the video. We don’t copy it. We don’t put ads on top of it. The video and the ads play like they do on other browsers or on Hulu Desktop. And it certainly is legal to do so.

He also mentiones that Boxee has almost a million users. Not too shabby for a piece of software that just left alpha stage a few weeks ago and has just begun its beta period.

Boxee Blog (via Business Insider)

Lifehacker Asks: Which Media Center Is Right For You?

They’re laying it all out. The most even-handed look at the strengths and weaknesses of three different media center apps. Check it out.

Source: Lifehacker.com

Lifehacker

Netflix: Oh, Yeah, nearly half of our subscribers are streaming now.

Buried among the hoopla of new indie titles and stellar earnings, TechCrunch noticed this little statistic: Nearly half of Netflix’s subscribers are streaming.

TechCrunch

1.3 Million Watched State of the Union @ Whitehouse.gov

Mashable writes:

According to the White House blog, 1.3 million people watched U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech live on the White House’s website — or at least on sites that embedded the official video. The White House also said that 50,000 people participated in a Q&A with officials on Facebook after the speech.

White House Blog

NFL Network comes to Hulu

Just in time.

Hulu

String of New Deals Brings Hundreds of Indie Films to Netflix Streaming

Including titles from The Criterion Collection, Gravitas Ventures, Kino Lorber, Music Box Films, Oscilloscope Laboratories and Regent Releasing.

via TechCrunch

Is Your Net Connection Fast Enough for 1080p?

When streaming HD video, how long do you have to let it buffer before it plays all the way through without stuttering? Stress test your ‘net connection over at Apple.com’s HD trailer page.

Apple.com HD Trailers

Giving Up Cable Doesn’t Mean Giving Up TV

Get The Most From Cutting Cable with Online TV (Early 2010 Edition, Part 1 of 5)

Intro


Online TV*. The landscape changes fast. The barren wasteland of 2004 became a desert oasis in 2007 and is blossoming into a viable alternative in 2010. While you still can’t (legally) see everything that’s available on cable, there is a lot to watch and the price tag of free is terribly tempting.

There’s lots of ways to dip your toe into online TV. Online TV services are built-in to many new TVs, Blu-Ray Players, Video Game consoles, set-top boxes, and even cell phones. (Not to mention it’s all over the web.) You can get into Online TV right now by clicking any links in the sidebar. Getting it isn’t the problem – getting the most from it is the trick.

Getting the most out of it means the best picture/sound and making it easy to use. You can do this with four basic hardware pieces, many of which you may already own: A computer, a TV/Monitor, a Blu-Ray Player, and an A/V Receiver. After that there are things you can add like video game consoles, DVRs, remotes, smartphones, projectors, and more… but for right now, let’s stick with the basics. If you choose the basic four pieces wisely and wire it together correctly, it becomes a system so easy even company can use it.

You don’t NEED all 4 pieces to get online TV. To get a majority of it, all you need is a computer built in the last few years. But an easy-to-use, internet-based, large screen home theatre with multi-channel sound is cheaper and easier to obtain than you think.

*Note: “Online TV” refers to streaming and downloading movies and television shows, online content for Blu-Ray movies, and Internet Original video content. Other internet content such as music, music videos, social networking, and online gaming is beyond the scope of this article.

Piece 1 of 4: A Screen


Whether it’s a 13″ laptop, a 65″ OLED HDTV, or a 10 foot projection, to fully enjoy Online TV you need a screen to see it on.

My guess is that you will be watching this on your living room television. If this is the case, you can just skip the rest of Part 1 of this article. Part 5 will deal with wiring it all together, and I’ll discuss using your existing stuff.

If, on the other hand, you are planning to build a new internet-based home theatre from scratch, then read on.

When buying a screen, size matters less than resolution and refresh rate.

Resolution
Whether it’s a TV or a computer monitor, your screen should have a native resolution of 1920 x 1080.

Pitfall #1: Buying a TV
Not all “1080p” TVs are 1920 x 1080. Some TVs “support 1080p” but have a 1366 x 768 screen. These TVs “support 1080p” signals, but scale the 1080p picture down to 720p then back up to 768p – resulting in a soft, muddy picture. Check the native resolution, because that’s what you’ll actually be looking at.

Pitfall #2: Buying a Monitor
Not all “1080p” monitors are 1920 x 1080. Some are 1920 x 1200. Like TVs, these monitors support 1080p signals but stretch the image 10% too tall when connected to DVD Players, Blu-Ray-Players, Netflix Boxes, and video game consoles – making everyone look sickly thin with elongated heads. These are 16:10 monitors, and you want 16:9.

Some 16:9 aspect ratio monitors have resolutions higher than 1920 x 1080, but as long as it’s 16:9, your picture will be the correct shape. Resolutions higher than 1920 x 1080 are great for computers but wasted on TV/Movies because nothing is distributed at higher resolutions than that.

Refresh Rate
While showing 1080p, it should have a refresh rate of at least one of these: 60Hz, 120Hz, 240Hz, 480Hz, etc. (Movie buffs like 24p and 48p modes, but the screens that output them are as uncommon as the commercial content encoded at that framerate.) Beware TVs that claim 240Hz on the box but reveal in the fine print that it only does 240Hz in 480p mode and does 1080p at 30Hz. Check the 1080p refresh rate, because that’s what you’ll actually be looking at.

Ports:
After resolution and refresh rate, the next important thing is ports.

An increasing amount of copy-protected content requires an HDCP-compliant port, such as HDMI and DisplayPort, or else it degrades the picture. Neither DVI nor Component connectors are HDCP-compliant, so if you’re connecting anything to your TV with DVI or component, you aren’t looking at full 1080p as often as you think.

To get the most from Online Television, your screen should have at least one (1) HDMI 1.3b or higher port, or one (1) DisplayPort/MiniDisplayPort.

More ports can be better but if you’re getting all four basic pieces you’ll only need one on the screen.

A Word on Built-In Online TV Services:
If you’re going to do at least 2 of the 4 pieces, and one of them is a screen, chances are the other piece will do Netflix Streaming so it’s (next to) pointless to have it built-in to your screen. It needlessly complicates the menus and prevents us from tossing the remote in a drawer and forgetting about it.

A Word on Dynamic Contrast Ratio:
Anything that passes all the other tests is going to be good enough. Don’t go broke chasing a bigger number spread.

That’s it
Your screen doesn’t need anything else. It doesn’t need a tuner or speakers or Picture-In-Picture or a fancy remote. It just needs to be able to show you the best visual representation of what 1080p content can offer.

Next up, Blu-Ray.

Have You Switched From Cable to The Internet? 36% Say “Yes”, another 82% Say “Some”.

Back in March ’09 I asked: Have you switched from Cable to The Internet? The results were incredible. Back then, 1 in 4 (24%) had made the switch completely. I said I would keep you posted if things change.

Jan 2010 poll: 36% Yes, 82% Some

As of today, more than 1/3 of those polled (36%) have cut the cable and gone all-internet.

The biggest leap is those that answered “some”. Back then just over half of those polled (52%) had streamed or downloaded some TV. At the time, I could hardly believe the number was so large …but now 4 out of 5 polled (82%) are getting some content via the internet.

Disclaimer: This poll is ongoing, therefore flawed, but it illustrates an unmistakable trend that is getting too big to ignore.

Take the poll here.