All Things TV - TiVo, Dish Network, DirecTV

Monday, November 28, 2005

Now Playing on TiVo: Personalized Ads

TiVo announced today that it would be firing up a new service in early 2006. You will now be able to tell TiVo what kinds of products and services you're interested in, and it will record targetted ads for you. TiVo has deals with many major advertising companies in the works already.

Uh, ok. Sounds like we're moving in the right direction, but have sort of missed the point. In the last few years, TV advertisers have become increasingly worried about the DVR threat. If people can easily skip through commercials, the fear is that television advertising will become irrelevant, and companies will have to find alternative ways to promote their products. So, embrace the digital revolution and deliver targeted ads. Sounds good. Google is making billions with targeted ads. But, well, I just can't see myself turning on the TV, and thinking "boy I can't wait to watch those ads I asked TiVo to record for me."

So again, good thought, but no thank you.

From Reuters

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

TV Advertisers Need Not Worry About TiVo after all

According to a recent article in The Age, time shifting TV shows and skipping ads with your TiVo/DVR is no real threat to advertisers.

The articles cites a study done by research group Arbitron. Apparently the company used "portable people meters" to track the viewing habits of DVR users. I'm a little afraid of the term "portable people meter". Sounds like something out of The Clockwork Orange. Anyhow, according to earlier studies, up to 70% of DVR users said they skipped ads using their DVR. This new study, which actually measured how users watched TV, found that only 7 percent of TV watching in DVR enabled homes was time delayed. So basically 93% of the time the TV was on it was displaying live TV.

I find that hard to believe. I know that in my house the figure has got to be much higher than that. Pretty much the only time I ever watch TV live is when watching sports. And I try not to do that. I think I wasted a good 4 hours of my life today watching the same commercials over and over again. But it all worked out because the Broncos beat the Cowboys.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Dish Network to Offer Fox Reality Channel

Just in case you just can't get enough of this stuff on network TV, Dish Network will soon be serving up the new Fox Reality Channel for your viewing pleasure.

"Reality TV is extremely popular and has become a programming mainstay in U.S. households," says Eric Sahl, Senior Vice President of something-or-other at Echostar. The network will offer reruns of popular reality shows like "Joe Millionaire" and "Extreme Dating". They will be spiced up slightly with outtakes, before and after interviews, and more never before seen footage.

And when they run out of reality shows, they'll fill in with original programming. "Reality Remix" and "Reality Revealed" will go behind the scenes, bringing you news and additional information you surely can't live without.

I'm not making this stuff up.

From The Denver Business Journal

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TiVo to Allow Transfering Recordings to iPods

TiVo announced today that it would begin testing a new feature that would allow users to easily transfer recordings from its devices to iPods, PSPs, and other portable video devices. If you've been keeping up with such things, you'll recall that this has already been figured out by the geek sector. Instructions on how to transfer video from TiVo to your iPod.

This, however, is a move to make this more mainstream. And it goes directly in the face of Apple, who is busily trying to convince users that paying $1.99 for an episode of "Lost" is a reasonable thing. Why would I pay $1.99 for the show if I can just record it on my TiVo, and easily throw it onto my iPod with official TiVo software. It's one thing if I have to download hacky programs and jump through geeky hoops to get it done. I imagine Apple is not terribly happy. Not to mention the media industry in general. Seems that the day the 30 second spot becomes obsolete is rapidly approaching.

Keep an eye out for this new feature. It will be interesting to see how others react.

From MSNBC

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Friday, November 18, 2005

NBC to Offer Downloadable Shows for DirecTV r15 DVR Users

For users of the new r15 DirecTV DVR, NBC will offer commercial free shows for download, at 99 cents per episode. The downloaded episodes will remain on the DVR for one week before self-destructing. Robert Marsocci of DirecTV says deals with other networks are in the works. Expect similar announcements in the coming weeks.

ABC is currently offering shows via iTunes for $1.99. This, for much lower quality shows for viewing on a teeny iPod screen. Somehow $0.99 seems more reasonable to me. Then again, if you're smart and you record it the first time around, you don't have to pay anything. Removing commercials is cool, but kind of irrelevant since I can fast forward through them anyhow.

Seems like a good idea, though I'm still not sure about charging people for something they can get for free easily anyhow. Seems they need to come up with a better business model for the thing. Maybe combine free downloads of TV shows with targeted CNET ads TiVo users are getting. Maybe offer HD movies for $1.99. Something like that. There must be a way to make this more attractive to users.

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TiVo Losing Ground in DVR Market

According to ABC News, TiVo is losing ground among DVR users. Brandimensions, which conducted the study, found that TiVo is failing in two major areas. First, it can't record two show simultaneously. Second, it can't play back in high definition. Indeed, the Series 2 TiVo is several years old now, putting in the class of "elderly" in tech terms. I acquired my first HDTV about two years ago. I'm still a TiVo user, but it is indeed about time I can record better quality video. With hard drives as cheap as they are, there's just no reason it can't be done. I'd even be willing to shell out, say, $199 (after rebate) for an HDTV TiVo upgrade.

TiVo has indicated that both dual-tuner and HDTV recording are in the works, though there are quite a few other DVR's out there that already have such features. TiVo needs to hurry up, or it's going to start losing fans, despite the massive loyalty it's managed to build over the last 5 years or so.

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Dish, Texas

You may have heard that Dish Network made a very interesting offer recently. For any town willing to change its name to "Dish", Dish Network would give all residents free Dish satellite tv service for 10 years. Well, it seems Clark, TX recently took the bait. Its two person council voted unanimously, Clark will now be Dish, TX, effective immediately.

Seems like a pretty good for Dish, says Strategic Name Development. Dish execs say the value of the deal is $4500 per home, for all ten years of service. Dish, TX, with a whopping 55 residents, will cost Dish Network $247,500 over the next 10 years. That's a heck of a deal, considering the cost of a single 30 second prime time TV spot. I like it.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

TiVo to Release Feature Length Movie for Download

Ok, I admit, the title makes it sound more exciting than it is. The deal is, it's a new feature length documentary featuring Robin Shou, whom you of course remember from the Mortal Kombat movie. Uh, you don't? Ok I don't either.

Anyhow, if you are the lucky owner of a series 2 box with a broadband connection, you are eligible to have your trusty TiVo download this kung fu action tour de force. Must... stop... sarcasm...

The movie is called Red Trousers. Seriously, Los Angeles City Beat calls it "a must see for Hong Kong action fans", and the LA Times says "pure delight". Maybe it's worth downloading. All you have to do is go to the TiVo site, enter your e-mail address and your TiVo service number, and TiVo will take care of the rest. Come November 23rd, or thereabouts, it will be downloaded for your enjoyment.

Seems like a step in the right direction. The process for downloading needs to be more seamless, and preferably not involve removing one's hindquarters from the couch. Choices would be good, too, but I think this is a step in the right direction. If we can get the deal with Netflix to go through, we'll be in business.

Full instructions from TiVo on how to download Red Trousres are here.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

DirecTV Home Media Center

Back in January, DirecTV announced plans for a new "Home Media Center" beast, to be released in 2006. Well, 2006 is nearly upon us, and they've taken the wraps off a preproduction version at the Electronic House Expo. The thing is supposed to allow you to access DirecTV content (video, music, photos) from anywhere in the house.

Users will be able to watch live and recorded content from any client receiver around the house. You can schedule a show to be recorded by the central server from any client. It's still unclear whether existing DirecTV units will be able to co-exist happily with the Media Center server.

From Engadget

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Review of new DirecTV r15 DVR

"Earl" has posted an extremely detailed (maybe just a touch too detailed) review of the new DirecTV r15 DVR on the tivocommunity forums. This includes pictures of the unit, both inside and out. He also posts screenshots of pretty much everything the unit will do.

I'll give you some highlights:

Lots of copy protection. Seems right from the startup screen, the output is protected. Earl hooked his camcorder up to the unit to do screen captures, but almost immediately was confronted with a "COPY INHIBIT" message on the camcorder. Thus many of Earl's screens are pictures of his TV screen. No matter, still more info than you could ever want.

No phone calls needed to get the thing up and running (except for the voice call to DirecTV to activate it). It downloads all program info and software updates via satellite. The software update was apparently accomplished by randomly rebooting the device while Earl was playing with it. Poor Earl, the shock nearly killed him.

Seems very similar in functionality to TiVo, but without the "cartoony" feel. Pretty much all the same stuff is there: ff/rw live TV, on screen guide, season passes, conflict management, to do list, prioritization, finding by title/keyword. Some things TiVo users might miss: no button to toggle between tuners, no thumbs up/down ratings, no suggestions.

Read the full review

Thanks for putting this up, Earl.

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TiVo Overlap Protection

If you pay attention to the little messages your TiVo tries to send you, you may have noticed that the latest and greatest TiVo service update arrived recently. This introduces a new, highly requested feature to make the lives of the TiVo community better all around. Let's review the problem.

The networks, as you have undoubtedly noticed, have started screwing with start and end times of their shows, to make lives harder for the DVR set. One show starts a 8:02, and ends at 9:01. Meanwhile, on another competing network, your favorite show starts at 9:00 sharp. TiVo thinks the shows overlap, and will only let you schedule one show to record. The networks claim this is to deal with small differences in the lengths of individual shows. We all know that's a giant load of crap. Anyhow, up until now, your only recourse was to go do the manual setup dance, and tell your TiVo to record 8:00-9:00, and then 9:00-10:00. Kind of defeats the purpose of the whole season pass thing.

So now the TiVo crew comes to the rescue (finally), with Overlap Protection. If TiVo detects that two shows for which you have season passes overlap, but only by a few minutes, it will record as much as possible of both shows. The show with the lower season pass priority will be chopped off to record the higher priority show.

This is truly one of the most useful, simple features TiVo could have added. Nice work!

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

DirecTV Will Beat Dish in HDTV War

As reported on HD Beat, DirecTV is set to give Dish Network a trouncing in market share for HD. According to research from Kagan, DirecTV, which is currently the leader in total satellite tv subscribers, will maintain this lead even as more subscribers switch to HDTV over the next 10 years. Kagan reports that by 2015, 94 million people will subscribe to HD services, which will equate to more than 88% penetration.

Now if you're just dying to spend hours upon hours with the insanely boring details of all this, you can purchase the full report from Kagan for a mere $1295. No, I did not forget a decimal point. I'm putting them in everyone's stocking this year.

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