If you’re a content distributor, odds are that you and the Internet aren’t really on speaking terms these days. The recording, movie, and publishing industries all blame it for sagging sales, declining revenues, and shuttering up operations, even in cases where it just isn’t so. (I’m looking at you, Hollywood.) The problem is that most of them fear what they don’t understand. For cable, though, they understand perfectly what the Internet is. That’s why they’re so terrified of it.
Sorry about the late post, folks. I had family in town over the weekend and, well, you know how that goes.
Cable’s been trying to make some waves with online video announcements as The Pirate Bay continues to dominate the prosecution in their trial. There’s also allegations that the US might be #1 in broadband, but it depends on which metrics you use or give weight to. I’ve also got a bunch of stories on online services and home media extenders. All that and more in this week’s Broadband Bytes!
Verizon will allow you to stream music, pictures, and (soon) video from your PC to any FIOS STB in your house. FIOS MediaManager is available to all double-play video/Internet customers for free and while the initial interface is a bit on the clunky side, it’s that kind of innovative product that keeps customers. Providers can also extend this to offer media streaming outside of the home. If you don’t have to mess around with a HTPC or setup your own streaming solution, why would you? Verizon is also letting subscribers remotely schedule DVR recordings.
What’s 400MB, written by John Carmack, and totally changes online gaming? Quake III in a browser, that’s what. Quake Live launched to queues of over 55,000 players waiting to get their hands on what is likely to be the most popular free-to-play non-casual browser game. This isn’t your typical small casual flash game and it’s likely to draw a big crowd. With a success like this, will you be ready for browser-based games pushing gigabytes of data? If you need an upgrade in a screen, there are tons of the best gaming monitor reviews to read on the internet, it’s good to spend sometime knowing what will be the most bang for your buck.
The first Blu-Ray quality movies for purchase on an STB come from VUDU, not a big-name MSO or media store like iTunes. At between $14 and $24 per title, that’s a considerable discount over Blu-Ray discs, though you do sacrifice some portability.
Netflix plans to launch a streaming-only plan this year or next. The powerhouse in mail-order DVDs has seen most of its subscriber growth centered around the 12,000-title strong Watch It Now feature and its availability on everything from PCs to XBox360s to TV sets. The company has proved itself savvy enough to be ahead of what consumers want, a lesson that others could learn from.
T-Mobile is rolling out unlimited voice plans for long-time customers at a mere $50 per month. Customers will also be able to tack on data and SMS/MMS for just $35 per month more. With competitive pricing like this, you have to give customers a reason to keep a landline around.
If you’re being hit by black hat hackers, it could be personal, not business. About a quarter of malicious activity in 2008 was aimed at making a statement rather than the traditional ID theft or malware planting. I’m sure that’s not much comfort to Time Warner as they ride out a DDoS attack on their DNS servers.
On the DVR front, AT&T has finished deploying whole-home DVR in 69 markets. This will allow customers to watch recorded programs on any TV in the house and is a smart move on AT&T’s part to drive DVR adoption. While there’s no fee for this service, AT&T does charge for the STBs for each set. Dish Network, meanwhile, will be deploying a new kind of DVR next week that can record from satellite broadcasts, analog over-the-air and HD over-the-air and function as a digital-to-analog converter box. Not all is good in DVR news, however. The Supreme Court is going to hear appeals in the Cablevision networked DVR case and the content cartel is aggressively lobbying to make sure it gets outlawed. This will be an important case to watch as it will have a lasting effect on video innovation.
Forget triple-play: welcome to the quad. Cox Communications plans to use recently-purchased spectrum to deploy cell-phone serivce in its markets. Since Cox can leverage its existing infrastructure to keep transport costs low, the profit margins should be substantial. They will also deliver video services to handsets for existing video customers as they had tried to do with Pivot. AT&T and Verizon have been using wireless revenues to help subsidize the construction of their next-generation networks for quite some time with a lot of success. Qwest, meanwhile, has had poor financial performance as it does not offer its own video or wireless products.
Cablevision was onto something awesome when they decided to do a DVR without additional hardware in your home, instead recording and playing back the streams directly from their headend with no equipment for you to maintain. Now the courts have decided that content providers are up in the night with their claims that such technology infringes copyright and have allowed Cablevision to move forward with this technology. What does this mean for you? It means cheap DVR with the ability to watch from any set in the house. Score one for technology and the consumer.
The deadline for Broadweave's takeover of iProvo has come and gone without much news or fanfare at all. In fact, other than the phone customers from Mstar, we don't know if any transition has taken place. Neither the Daily Herald nor Deseret News could reach Broadweave for comment and I know that Joe Pyrah has been trying for about a week. Broadweave's website also lacks updates on the current status of the transition. Either one of two things has happened: the sale still isn't finalized or the transfer has gone over so seamlessly that nobody noticed. Anyone care to shed some light on it? (Free tip: when the press is trying to get a hold of you, get back to them quickly. Not responding to a reporter looks really bad.)
Visitor comments on the phone switch have been mixed. One commenter reported a significant degradation of call quality after the switch and blames Veracity's phone switch, one that he alleges to have had problems for a long time now. On the flip side, multiple comments have indicated that customer support is substantially improved and it's easy to reach someone with questions via phone or e-mail, certainly an area where Mstar received a lot of harsh criticism. Certainly the ability to accomplish the emergency port of 1200 numbers was impressive.
I think the real test of the transition will be when the video customers are cut over. Four of the iProvo NOC technicians left prior to the sale being finalized and Veracity is primarily in the voice and data business. Broadweave doesn't bring a lot of in-house video experience to the table either with just a small pilot operating in the Sienna Hills subdivision of Washington City. A lot of complaints about the system video centered on advanced features such as VOD, HDTV and DVR, areas where rapid improvement will need to be made.
Comcast has already been attempting to capitalize on the uncertainty of the transition and if they can push those missing features via their own products, don't doubt that they will. Several commenters have reported receiving promotional offers in the mail pushing triple-play with a DVR for $70/mo for 6 months. Ads have also appeared in the Daily Herald to entice business-class customers, the most lucrative accounts, into switching to Comcast. Given the lack of notice from Broadweave about the switch and the somewhat confusing pricing information concerning package pricing, Comcast may have a winning bet with their FUD campaign.
As usual, any comments that fill in the gaps or relate user experiences are appreciated.