The State of Boxee, Roku and Tivo

I’ve been satisfied, and complacent, with my Tivo (i think its a series3), but I’ve kept my eye on both Roku and Boxee as alternatives. It definitely seems that the pace of innovation at Tivo, measued in years not months, may turn into a liability for them. Once I can get MLS Live, FSC, and ESPN over the internet and into a single box, I’d seriously consider dropping my TV Subscription. 

Here’s what I got from the Boxee CEO, along with Roku CEO Anthony Wood, and TiVo exec Tara Maitra. For more, check out Light Reading’s own coverage including interviews on Light Reading TV.

The State of Boxee, Roku and Tivo


Back to the Futurama

I had to go with the wholly unoriginal headline, but this news (thanks to JL) makes my day.  I’m glad they are reviving Futurama, hopefully it’ll replace the crap that is Drawn Together

The ‘Futurama’ is Now: Comedy Central Revives Series (TVWeek)

Five years after Fox canceled the animated comedy, 20th Century Fox TV has officially struck a deal with Comedy Central to produce 26 original episodes of the Matt Groening series. It will return as early as mid-2010.


Maybe a merger would do them some good…

I was a big fan of Satellite TV going back to grad school. Back then, you could get a decent channel package for around $30/month, easily beating the price of cable. Even factoring in buying the Dish and Receiver, the savings at the time paid for themselves in under two years (at least in Blacksburg in the late 90s). I even used to brag how we didn’t lose signal during the last hurricane to rumble through Northern Virginia.

But over the last year, I became greatly disatisfied with Dish Network, my former provider. Although we had the high-def package, the DVR they wanted to rent me would cost an additional 15-20 a month, iirc, which was more than the montly price of a TiVo. The high-def channels were great for ESPN2 MLS telecasts, but we didn’t watch a whole lot if high def channel. Finally, to get Fox Soccer Channel, which invariably has a handful of away DC United games each season, I had to subscribe to the most expensive channel bundle.

Early this spring, Verizon came through our neighborhood and hooked us all up to their Fiber optic Internet service. I already had Verizon DSL (part of that cable company phobia that drove me to Dish Network in the first place), and when I noticed that FSC was on the basic programming tier for Fios TV.

The more I mulled it over, the more sense it made. I haven’t gotten a first full months bill, but while I don’t expect our monthly savings to be huge, maybe on the order of $20-30/month, we’re getting better services than before. We have faster Internet, cheaper TV, and since FiosTV supports CableCARDS, I finagled an upgrade to a TivoHD box. The improvement in picture quality alone over Dish + Tivo, which underwent a painful Digital-Analog-Digital converstion, is worth the pain of switching alone.

The only downside manifested itself last week, when the Actiontec router Verizon supplies started having DNS issues. Rebooting the router “solved” them, which is annoying since I’ll have to remember to reboot it every few weeks.

If Dish Network and DirectTV have to merge to compete, so be it. There are more options today than a decade ago, and that’s not counting Netflix or watching TV Shows on the Internet.

The Technology Liberation Front » Archive » Dish Network ponders merger with DirecTV

Just as the 505-day XM Sirius antitrust saga comes to a bittersweet end, reports have resurfaced that a new satellite merger may be in the works. Dish Network is floating the idea of merging with competitor DirecTV. Dish Network and DirecTV, the two largest satellite television providers in the U.S.

P.S. First person to post about how their life is super-great without TV gets a unicorn.


This is why MLS paid to have its games on ESPN

MLS had to pay to be on ESPN2 for so many years, because that’s what gets and keeps you on the general sport fan’s radar.  On the other end of th spectrum, the NHL refused a revenue-sharing agreement, one without a big fat rights fee, with ESPN last year and chose to go to the more obscure Versus network.  Now, we’re treated to posts that ask "Is ESPN killing the NHL?"  Before we proceed, let me say I have nothing against Hockey as a sport, although I’m not a fan myself. 

It seems to me, that the NHL owners had to have considered the effects of not being on carried on ESPN’s networks.  To not have thought it through is either delusions or incompetent, so to try to blame ESPN for the lack of interest in the NHL rings a bit hollow. Its also naive to complain that ESPN doesn’t promote hockey enough, when it is in its own interests to promote programming that it carries.   Ask any soccer fan how much they promoted MLS before this year to see if this behavior should come as any surprise.

The NHL is in the same position as MLS, a niche sport with a passionate fan base, but limited appeal to casual fans.  Hockey had the good fortune to fly close to the sun, and certainly enjoyed big cash and exposure.  Its just a pity that the fall back to earth is so painful.

The post that started it all – Negative Press: Is ESPN is Killing the National Hockey League by Influencing Public Attitudes?


The impact of SUM on MLS

Soccer America looks at what impact, if any, Soccer United Marketing (S.U.M) has had on our domestic league.  They’re very shrewd promoters, including clauses in contracts that teams coming over to play in friendlies, like Mexico or Manchester United, have to bring their first team regulars.  It sounds like the impact on MSL is fairly mixed so far, but the SuperLiga later this year will be huge.  Beyond the $1M prize for the winning team, the games will be broadcasted on Univision and Telefutura.  At least, S.U.M. has managed to bring the attention of Hispanic broadcast media back to MLS, and that will help the league tap into that audience in the long run.

The combination of coverage on Fox Sports en Espanol (approximately 10 million viewers and TeleFutura (46 million) gives MLS a much greater reach into the Hispanic market through television. Cross-promotion between the Latino and Anglo soccer communities may boost Mexican-American attendance at MLS games.

HT: Dunord


Olympic TV ratings

NBC’s Olympic ratings in the US just made the guarantee to sponsors.  An analysis of the ratings is posted at the Sports Economist “Olympic TV Ratings in the US I’m posting this here for future refrence as it’d be interesting to compare the Olympic’s ratings with those for the World Cup this summer. I don’t expect the World Cup to have ratings anywhere near this high, since most of the games will not be shown on a major network.

Through Saturday night, NBC has averaged 20.6
million total viewers for the Games and a 6.3 adults 18-49 rating. That
makes Torino the lowest-rated Olympics since at least 1992 and likely
ever among 18-49s, according to numbers provided by Nielsen. The
second-lowest, 2000’s Sydney Summer Games, averaged an 8.3 rating.


Two TV Recommendations

Two quick recommendations of TV shows that are worth checking out. First, the Sci-Fi channels reincarnation of Battlestar Galactica is shockingly good. I knew they’d respect the source material since they did an admirable job with the Dune mini-serieses but I didn’t expect it to be as good as it is. There are throwbacks to the old series but the setting they’ve reimagined and character changes they chose to make actually make the whole story better. Plus, its good to see Edward James Olmos in charge of the Fleet!

The second recommendation is the Venture Brothers, on Cartoon Network’s adult swim. To enjoy it,you’ll have to get past the fact that its lighter on plot and heavier on jokes that poke fun at adventure cartoons, heroes, villains and what it’d really be like for them to live in the real world. Lots of references to comic book and popular culture to watch out for as well.


Cable Surveys show low customer satisfaction

I’m coming to realize that satellite dishes are just a lot less evil than cable companies. Not that I have any legitimate beefs with Dish Network beyond not being able to get certain channels – Fox Sports World, GolTv, Telemundo – without subscribing to their largest packages.

The American Customre Satisfaction Index shows that Customer Satisfaction with the Cable Industry Remains Dismal

Consumer complaints are also much more common relative to any other measured industry. Almost half of all cable customers have registered complaints about one thing or another. When buyers have meaningful choice alternatives, this level of customer (dis)satisfaction is neither competitive nor sustainable. Cable is the only industry to score below 60 in ACSI. With the satellite companies removed, the weighted average for the cable industry is 59.

Your average cable customer at best is mildly annoyed

Under normal competitive conditions, there would be mass customer defections. The reason this is not the case for the cable industry is due to local monopoly power, which means that in most markets, the dissatisfied customer has nowhere to go.

Since most customers don’t have vable choices, the cable companies are free to ignore their complaints.

Nevertheless, the weak ACSI for the cable industry suggests that its customer base may well become vulnerable to new competition. Another factor is that technology is expensive and entry costs are high. Thus, it is difficult to create competitive markets with meaningful buyer choice.

If someone came up with a cheap and simple alternative to cable, they’d probably be ridiculously rich

Satellite television does better with customers, mainly because of lower price, in many instances half that of cable. Although the satellite companies don’t offer the same array of services and are often limited in terms of local channel availability, the services they do offer are seen as having higher quality and a better value.

If you can get a sattelite dish signal, there’s no real reason not to have one instead of terrestrial cable.

From BroadBandReports


More on channel bundling

Explanations why channel bundling may actually be good, since you get more channels for a lower price, over at . This doesn’t address how some channels are only availble in high priced bundles. Maybe it’d be possible to pick what N (5, 10, 30) channels you get?

More plausibly, price discrimination is at work. Consider a simple example with two individuals. John values Disney at $100 a year and FoxNews at $10 a year; Sally has the reverse valuations. Without bundling, the cable company will offer each channel for about $99, and sell a channel to each consumer, reaping $198 in revenue (N.B.: I am assuming that the cable company has a good idea of demand in general, although it cannot identify which consumer is willing to pay how much for what.)


Viacom channels back on Dish Network

Doc Searls has a good summary about Viacomm and Dish Network settling their recent spat over carrying Viacomm’s bundle of channels. Unfortunately, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Why not? I think it’s because nobody who makes most of their money on advertising wants to see consumers become customers. Viacom, for example, is primarily in the advertising business. The programming they sluice down channels to consumers is just bait. Most of what they sell is best-guess numbers. They can’t begin to think about selling programming directly to viewers or listeners, partly because that’s not their business, but mostly because they don’t want advertisers to know specifics about actual viewing and listening – such as how often people tune away from advertising, or skip over it with their TiVos. Meanwhile the cable and satellite services are mostly in the business of satisfying habits.

But speaking as a consumer who would rather be a customer, a la carte is what I’d like. I think that’s exactly where we’re headed in the long run. And that the inevitability of advertising loss is the deeper issue behind the dispute between EchoStar and Viacom. That loss is will be felt on the supply side, by Viacom.

I think 95% of viewers would welcome being able to choose what channels they get and paying only for them. But the Viacom’s of the World don’t have any incentive to give it to them. Here’s a list of the channels I watch or want:

  1. Local over the air channels (get it via antenna now anyway)
  2. ESPN/ESPN2 (for MLS games although I might get the MLS DirectKick package this season.)
  3. Comedy Central – for the Daily Show.
  4. Fox Sports World, Fox Sports World Espanol
  5. ESPN Deportes
  6. TechTv
  7. And that’s pretty much it…