Look Ma no more cable TV! Aereo + Nimble TV + Apple TV + YouTube = Cable Be Gone

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Finally consumers have choice – at least those that have the technical knowledge to take advantage. Want to get out of cable but still have cable channels plus broadcast TV? Your prescription is as follows:  Apple TV, iPhone or iPad, Aereo for $8.00 month, Nimble TV for as little as $24.95 month. No contracts, you can add a virtual DVR and then simply launch a browser on your phone or tablet, login and throw the signal through the Apple TV onto your TV. The combo of Aereo + Nimble will cost no more than $32.00 a month (unless you want more than channels than the minimum) and you’ve got TV. Cable TV channels and broadcast. But more on this in another pub shortly.

(UPDATE:  Aereo is on a roll, with plans now to bring its streaming TV service to Atlanta. The Atlanta launch is scheduled for June 17, the company announced Tuesday. The capital of Georgia will be the third city to get the Aereo service, following New York and, from Wednesday of this week, Boston.  source:  CNET. 5/15/2013

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There are really some other very cool non-cable broadcast channels coming out. I’d them term them ‘off Broadway’ TV channels. Some call them online channels. But they are as good as some cable channel programming offerings and maybe some are even better.

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YouTube’s rumored subscription-plan offering is now a reality. The video site is rolling out a pilot program that will allow “a small group of partners” to offer paid channels on YouTube, with subscription fees starting at $0.99 per month. Every channel has a 14-day free trial period, with many also offering discounted yearly rates.  Some partners include:

The Jim Henson Company is launching an ad-free channel online with full episodes of Henson’s kids and preschool titles like Sid the Science Kid and Fraggle Rock. The channel will be available for $2.99/month or $24.99/year. The company is also launching a Spanish-language channel, which will be available for $1.99/month or $17.99/year.

Sesame Street will also offer full episodes on its paid channel when it launches.

National Geographic Kids’ channelwill be available for $3.99/month or $29.99/year, offering long and short-form videos aimed at kids ages 6-12. It will include a mix of library and original content.

Acorn TV, a streaming service focusing on British classic TV programming, is also launching with a channel that’s available for $4.99/month.

B-movie film director Roger Corman will launch a paid channel this summer called Corman’s Drive-In. It will offer more than 400 feature films that have been produced or directed by Corman. These include Grand Theft Auto (Ron Howard’s directorial debut), The Cry Baby Killer (Jack Nicholson’s first film), and Fire on the Amazon (Sandra Bullock’s first film). The channel will also serve as a potential distribution outlet for new films in production. We love Roger Corman!

UFC’s channel will feature classic fights and full versions of older UFC pay-per-view events. It’s available for $5.99/month.

Then there’s Entertainment Studios, which has launched eight paid channels on YouTube, spanning a bunch of different verticals, from cars to comedy, pets, recipes, and entertainment news/pop culture. One of the eight channels, which is titled Smart TV offers “best of” programming from the other seven networks for $9.99/month.

HuffPost Live will arrive on AXS TV, a network backed by Mark Cuban, CBS, Ryan Seacrest Media, AEG, and CAA, on May 13. The interactive streaming news network will run for six hours a day, from 10am to 4pm.

Yahoo unveiled partnerships including a brilliant the deal with NBC Entertainment and Broadway Video to become the exclusive US home to all Saturday Night Live archival content, and a similar agreement with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).  This is especially key now that Seth Meyers is taking over for Jay Leno – the repeats should garner some heavy online traffic that advertisers should eat up.

The Cheap Life with Jeff Yeager, an original how-to show on AARP’s YouTube channel, has topped 1 million video views. The show focuses on providing tips on spending smart and enjoying life at a fraction of the usual cost.

And finally there is the Jerry Seinfeld show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The meaning of something, of course, is relative. show features Seinfeld just cruising along with friends such as Seinfeld co-creator Larry DavidSeinfeld co-star Michael RichardsRicky GervaisAlec Baldwin and Colin Quinn. That covers the comedians in cars; presumably, the getting coffee part will come a bit later. The show debuts on Crackle July 19th.

All in all I’d say online programming is growing up. The cable operators will soon take notice – more than likely too late.

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The WWW and the Holy Grail

Adolph Ochs in 1896 put his slogan on a newspaper, “All the News That’s Fit to Print”. It still survives. Only just barely.

Sound arrived to movies in the late twenties, the silent-film industry and the Broadway theater industry were both broadsided. They never saw it coming. It was a running joke to them.

Radio was king for years. No one thought it would be overcome – there was a radio in every home throughout America.

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Then television started to gain traction in the late forties. Radio scrambled to adjust to the newer media – TV. Then, TV began to replace the radio in homes. Orders for TV sets were up 400 percent in 1949, many of them sold by the most popular shows of their time, (i.e. Milton Berle). Supply could not keep up with demand. Free television was for decades considered an American right, rabbit ears, ghosts and all.

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Then broadcast TV scrambled to adjust to newer media – cable TV. For a while during the reign of ‘Free TV’, “Pay TV” was a joke.   Americans now pay for 24/7 foreign news networks in their cable and satellite packages, news, weather, sports, movies, etc. That which used to be free on broadcast TV was no longer free.

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Then the hammer dropped for everyone. The Internet dawned, the digital revolution.  The Holy Grail of media. This was a change as great as the invention of electricity and the construction of transcontinental railroad. It was large, transformative and caused massively sweeping changes. No one was prescient enough to gauge even remotely how big this change was upon the whole planet.

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The recording industry became the first to fall in the digital pipeline. They thought by suing Napster in court they could stop their declining bottom line.  Movies and DVD’s became next to fall in.

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And then 2 large social media behemoths came along; Facebook (2004) the more social of the two and Twitter (2006) the most current up-to-the-minute form of news delivered to us not by a news anchor but by a neighbor.  Twitter made CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX ancient delivery mechanisms of news overnight.  We don’t select publications anymore, we select links.

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An ecosystem of “group journalism” in which consumers with a cell phone eyewitness reporting of the news submitted by ‘US’ rather than actual reporters in the field, changed everything. Witness Captain Sully on the Hudson river. The proliferation of the Internet made every publicly available source of information in the world openly available to everyone. This change in and of itself has altered the landscape for everyone forever. The NYT’s and CNN no longer have a lock on exclusive. Exclusive is old news – we are now the prevailing ‘exclusive’.

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Within all of this history of media, the largest companies, the ones we can name by brand have been caught sleeping by transformative change. From newspapers and magazines to Hollywood, aging media executives resistant to technology became overnight ostriches.  It was easier to take a paycheck, stick their heads in the sand then risk being ‘wrong’ about how future technology could transform their own business. Status quo was ‘safe’ harbor.  A herd of dinosaurs.

The decline and the fall of old media. It was inevitable and unavoidable. Casualties were and are in print, TV and soon cable channels. Yes, even cable TV will be falling (cord cutting: Aereo TV and Otoy). Old media will scramble to adjust just as before, but it will not be enough. The fall of old media is unavoidable.

And for us the consumer, the ‘hippie’ stage (freemium) of the Internet is over.  We will pay for more for media then ever before – not in print but whatever form it comes in. The trees will love us once again. However, the cost for this will be higher than it once was.  What is less talked about are the adjustments that consumers have to make. Paying for media that was free or easy to access is now the norm.

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And still only 65% of the country has broadband Internet access. What Google fiber offers is just a beginning and will become the norm. Google fiber speeds will knock cable TV off its legs.  We wont need coaxial cable – just access to the Internet.  And it won’t have to be coming from the white coaxial cable coming into your home – it will be wireless.   TV channels will be become specific apps downloaded on a phone or tablet.  Bundles will be forgotten. The ‘triple play’ of a phone, cable and the internet that we all familiar with for $ 150.-200 a month will soon be broken down.

Perhaps even the app store will disappear too. The potential disruptiveness of Otoy (http://goo.gl/aQZSl ), as a breakthrough streaming service could, in the near future, could end the need for app stores and computer upgrades.

Advertising will never ever again subsidize any old-media news organizations in the style to which they (and their audiences) have been accustomed.

News organizations used to be able to overcharge and under-deliver in their deals with advertisers; the pizza place and the car dealership had nowhere else to go, and no one knew how many people saw, or acted on, a given ad anyway.  Not anymore. Nielsen, one of the old guards struggles to stay relevant – even if they purport to have new measuring technology. There are at least the 10 other companies who are in the process of eating their lunch.

We are in for years of re-adjustment. Transformation from print and paper to digital – cable TV to Internet TV, YouTube, social apps and the like. Consumer adjustment will take time. But less than you think. Our kids are growing up ignoring cable and television, without radio and traditional print media. The norm:  downloading of apps, mobile phones, tablets and no desktop computers. It’s different and disconcerting for the parents. It’s happened before – it just happened without the Internet. How we used to do things in the seventies, eighties, and nineties is no more – change is good.  Breath in – breath out.

Television is no longer TV, its IP!

The old generation networks: ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. The new-generation networks?  Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant video, Netflix and YouTube.

Consider this:  Microsoft recently reported that Xbox 360 owners spend more time online watching video and listening to music than playing games. The company announced 35 new entertainment partners being added to the Xbox 360 in the next year, including the NBA, NHL, Nickelodeon, and Univision. ESPN is expanding its programming on the Xbox to include live feeds of all of its channels. Microsoft is also launching a music service to compete with iTunes.

                

The Wii U, debuting this fourth quarter, will also feature Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video.

And, Outside of games, the PlayStation Network also now delivers access to streaming content from Hulu Plus, Cinema Now, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, NFL Sunday Ticket, NHL Game Center Live,  MLB.TV,  ESPN and Crackle TV, while users will soon have access to YouTube from the PlayStation Vita.

You’ve got wonder, how will Nielsen ever be able to count the eyeballs watching? At this point, they can’t. They are the ‘dinosaur’ technology.

When my Mom and Dad had breakfast in the mornings, they would pass the newspaper back and forth. Back then, I looked at the classifieds for things to buy second hand and they even had a classified section in most magazines and papers for the ‘personals’. Wanted to go the movies (you know the movie we saw ‘advertised’ by trailer last night during a network show on CBS, say Ed Sullivan or Mary Tyler Moore), we checked the newspaper.  Real estate listings and needed to buy a used car? Newspapers.

               

Fast forward 15 years. Now we check our mobile phones for movie trailers and times. Dating? Not in the newspapers, on mobile or a laptop or tablet. News? Forget the paper. And for many years, the papers were in denial – they kept printing tons of papers, special sections, extra editions and even tried to launch new newspapers in certain cities to compete with the entrenched and big local guys. They lost millions of dollars and saw their stock price get hammered and many folded. The bigger ones put up paywalls (i.e. NYT’s, WSJ, etc.)

Then the music CD died and the way music was listened to and purchased changed. No one could believe that there wasn’t going to be any more music CD’s nonetheless a Tower Records or Wherehouse to close their doors. But they did. And the CD has all but disappeared.

Movies? Same thing is happening and will happen. It may take longer because of the nature of the medium. Movies are different than music in that the files are way larger and with music you listen to ‘Hotel California’ or your favorite music many times over and over. Movies? How many times can you watch the same movie over and over. However, Blockbuster and stores like them are disappearing. Replaced by iTunes, RedBox, (and RedBox I believe has a limited life span even though they are going gang-busters today), Amazon Instant Prime, YouTube, IMDB (yes you can buy movies and stream them there too) and many others.  Even Wal-Mart is in the mix (Ultraviolet and VUDU).

In my generation and others behind me, its what you owned and had that was important. Today, its how you access it. No ownership. No physical ownership that is. Its just not important. When and how you get it, is.

The final frontier is the television. And it’s a big frontier. And, there is more at stake than a plastic CD in a rectangular box that will disappear. Advertisers and the big 4 networks stand to lose the most. Including producers, writers, actors and the like. Add a DVR into the mix and the new choices that the younger generation has now and you’ve got a real problem CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX.  The upfront TV buying season which some estimate generates $19 billion fuels most everything we see on TV. About $9.5 billion for network and $ 9.9 billion for cable.

Network estimates individually for 2012-2013 season are:

  • CBS: $2.92 billion,
  • ABC: $2.65 b,
  • Fox: $2.15 b,
  • NBC: $1.78 b.

So, when Game consoles, tablet makers, mobile phones and the like are all putting mainstream content up and online for consumption, someone stands to lose. Another way of thinking about this would really be a shift of dollars from Network and Cable to third screens. It won’t disappear but in ten years it’s going to look awfully different than it does today. And the way all of this is counted and rated will actually become easier than how Nielsen has done this for decades ( a diary that you write in? Really?).

A new report from Nielsen, the TV audience ratings and measurement people, shows that the number of people who watched TV at least once per month—a pretty low bar—declined from 90 percent of the population to 83 percent last year.

Proportionately, that means TV lost 8.5 percent of its audience in 2011. As many as 17 percent of people never watch TV, the survey of 28,000 consumers in 56 countries.

That’s a huge loss of interest in a medium that in industrialized nations is regarded as a standard like electricity or hot running water.

The number of people watching video on a computer at least once per month is now higher, at 84 percent, than those watching TV.  The implications are obvious.  Some not so obvious. One is that cable affiliates pay big fees to Networks for carriage. If no one is watching, no one will be paying. And, younger kids don’t care what ‘network’ its on, they care when it will be available to see on Netflix or Hulu Plus. A real shift in economics and habits. And I don’t think the TV industry is paying attention. But they will, they will have to.

Welcome to the new world of multi-screens and time shifting. TV as we once knew it not TV, its IPTV.

Algorithms and Sensors – web 3.0 services abound

Its been a while since my last post – I’ve been consumed at my work ( which I have been really enjoying) . However, I felt compelled today to write a bit about algorithms and sensors, which are creating some GREAT services now and even better in the near future. We are watching web 3.0 ‘blossom’ right now. Here is what I mean.

Ever since I’ve gotten my hands on Apple’s new iPhone 4Gs and Siri, my mind has never been the same. Not that Siri is the end all and be all. It has its drawbacks and in fairness, Apple has always and still does call it a ‘beta’.

But the mere presence and interaction I’ve had with Siri signaled something new to me on the internet was really happening – and in a very subtle but meaningful way.

Siri is learning – yes, she really does learn. “Artificial Intelligence” – no one seems to think that the machines are actually intelligent, but they can certainly do a lot of things that used to be hard for computers. Clearly Siri is an ‘AI’ that is programmed to adapt in certain ways and modify its behavior according to how I or what I would request of Siri. Fascinating really.

The real thing to keep your eye on here is that sensors plus big data algorithms are leading us from today’s world where content considered king to one where content is simply one component of a service. Content is becoming secondary and the service and platform primary. There never used to be 13 different ways to rent’ the same movie before. Content is becoming commoditized.   When Siri was first introduced, its creators called it a “do engine.” that is, rather than retrieving a web page (media) that you consume to make a decision, it just does things for you. “Find me a restaurant near here.” “Make me a reservation.” Media will become part of a database back end rather than a media front end.

Some examples of sensory algorithms that in effect build a network-mediated global mind are (this is really us, just augmented):

–          Mobile cell devices -we are augmented with cellphone cameras (electronic sensors again), the ability of events to become a shared experience is has become vastly increased and more so now with social media connects.

–          Smart Parking Meters – In the city of San Francisco, you’re seeing something similar, where all the parking meters are equipped with sensors, and pricing varies by time of day, and ultimately by demand. In effect an “algorithmic regulation” – they regulate in the same way our body regulates itself, autonomically and unconsciously.

–          Predictive AdWords -Google’s Adwords were always more effective than competitors because Google was better at learning from human input – instead of selling ads to the highest bidder as competitors such as Yahoo did, they used machine learning algorithms to predict which ads were more likely to be clicked on. They might choose an advertiser who only wanted to pay half as much if their ad was 3 times as likely to be clicked. Google was the first to harness the collective intelligence of their users to improve ad results. Just like the social media platforms we use to disseminate events and other digerati it’s important to understand just how much this is man-machine symbiosis.

–          Large connected networks – it could be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or G+, but any one of them connects to most of us somewhere at some point. The massive sharing of data and thoughts, the crowd-sourcing of opinion and the collective conclusions we draw are all kept and logged, improved upon and progressively mature and evolve. Here and on these massive giants, nothing stays the same for very long. The mere platforms themselves have spawned other interconnected platforms like Zynga.

The Internet as a whole is a mirror image of us  – a thriving interconnected network. It improves with knowledge and data and learns 24/7. It’s the community that creates content. Its about how you engage people and who you engage, not the number of followers.  It’s about the collective impact we make together. The Internet is an architecture of participation, interconnected, open source and open protocols. It really is our global brain. Look at the ‘picture’ of the network. It is no coincidence that it looks the way it does.

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Google also thinks about this. Their key business model depends on the success of others – driving traffic to their sites, and producing ad results. Google only does well if their partners do well.

Contrast this with how the dwindling and toxic financial firms, who once positioned themselves as the enabler of the economy, creating liquidity and trading on behalf of clients, began to trade against them, and increasingly created products – from the mortgage backed loans that brought down the global economy to even more reprehensible trading practices that have driven up the cost of food for starving millions and was directly responsible for not only our economic collapse, but the ripple effects that are being felt worldwide. This is capitalism gone wrong. Occupy Wall Street’s fundamentals are not incorrect.

In the end, a company is most successful when it makes all of its stakeholders successful, not just its shareholders – a good example of this is Apple.

Which brings me back to algorithms and sensors. Soon, Apple will release an API for Siri. Many businesses’ that can use it will use it and the revolution will progress in earnest. As Siri learns what I do the most on my mobile device, she will also begin to learn my doctor’s and dentist’s name, the nearest hospital to me and map, my grocery list and cost and what I’ve run out of in my house, the type of movies I watch and music I listen to and where to find the content. In short, Siri will make my life a little more convenient and predictive. It will combine my habits with my surfing activities on the Internet and will suggest based on location where to buy items that interest me conveniently and cost-effectively based on my location.

'Things to Come' 1936

Just think of the services that will come…H.G. Wells would have had a blast.

DPI is coming to a mobile phone near you!

                                 

Consumers will be confronted eventually here in the U.S. with DPI or Deep Packet Inspection. DPI simply put is a new technology that gives mobile carriers a way to tell exactly which applications you run and when on your mobile phone. Are you a  FaceTime user or Skype user? Do you check Facebook on your iPhone using an iPhone app 5 or more times during the day? Check into G+ a lot?  Tweet? Blog remotely to your Tumblr log? Do you text with a friend on the train or bus home? Is that during rush hour or business hours or between 6pm and midnight or in the morning?

                                       

Instead of allowing consumers to consume and buy an ‘unlimited’ data plan on their mobile phones (and by unlimited I mean unlimited for the most part and then ‘throttled’ ), carriers are seeking new ways to charge us for mobile usage. And they will have to figure this out because the number of mobile phones and data usage is increasing exponentially. Having a plan now as to how to avoid network congestion (as opposed to later when it really becomes a issue) makes total sense.  Its all about balancing out a consumers usage with network peak and lull times usage.  If I only was checking and using Facebook on my iPhone, I’d rather purchase a $5.00 a month all-access plan to Facebook than spend $25.00 a month for 2GB of data for everything.  Having a ‘Happy Hour’ on data usage from 7pm-midnight would get me to remember to download my music or movies on my iPad or iPhone during those times. Training the mobile public to use certain applications at certain times makes the use of the network better for all users during a 24hr. period. And carriers would not have to sell ‘unlimited’ data plans to us, which really aren’t unlimited after all.

This is not a new concept and is being tested and used in Europe right now. Orange is testing personalized pricing plans with consumers – working with them to determine which applications and activities they really use and crafting a pricing plan that fits them best.

Orange has a Panther plan for heavy users that costs £25 ($39.40 USD) for 10GB of mobile data and voice a month and a Dolphin plan for £15 a month that offers an hour of unlimited surfing at a time of the users choosing. Under the plan, customers can pick a so-called ‘Happy Hour’ from the following; 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. (the morning commute), 12:00-1:00 p.m. (lunch break), 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (late afternoon) or 10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. (late night).

The more transparent the carriers become, the friendlier consumers will become to switching plans and buying services that fit their habits. The days of just a few data choices for us are limited indeed.

Apple’s Half Approach To The ‘Clouds’

This weeks Apple announcement is not quite as cloud centric as you may think. Unlike Googles approach with having a chromebook browser with Linux running underneath and no local storage, Apple is still tethered to the device we use. It’s a world of ‘apps’.

In Google’s view, you do everything using a browser with no local storage or apps. In Apple’s world, while it has taken an elegant approach to its delivery mechanism and user experience bar none, it is still largely delivering a localized environment.

In Google’s world, chromebooks and other devices like these will still need to grapple with the unreliable world of ‘wireless’ connections – or sometimes lack of them and the consumers long time habit and behavior of wanting the content close by them, local.

With Apple’s announcement, they are positioning themselves to take full advantage of the ‘post’ PC world – that is they know that by 2013 (a scant 2 plus years away).

Gartner and others predict mobile phones and THEIR screens will be the No. 1 way we access the Internet to view the web. Here are some more rather startling mobile facts:

*82 percent of consumers have used their mobile phones in a store, 55 percent in a doctor’s office or hospital, 17 percent during a movie at the theater, 14 percent while flying on a plane and 7 percent during church service. Around 17 percent of mobile users have shown a clerk in a store a picture of a product on their mobile phone, saying in effect, “I want this please,” which is a new shopping behavior that is surprisingly being driven by men. 45 percent of users check their mobile devices first thing in the morning, according to InsightExpress.

*Research has determined that mobile advertising is four-to-five times more effective than online advertising, on average…due to various factors, including lack of clutter in mobile, typically one ad per page, and the mobile pages themselves typically do not have a lot of stuff going on—they tend to be very clean. Also, the proportion of the ad on a mobile screen is greater, so it gets more share of eyeballs.

My takeaway from these numbers is that we are steadily becoming a mobile and tablet world, not a PC one.

This is a world the Apple knows better than anyone and using iCloud, it has taken a very good shot at delivering a cloud experience with what really is a local one.  Apple is extending what Apple does best, its core strengths into the cloud. And this is simply the basic integration of Apple’s hardware and software – their elegant OS.  The major difference being it does not yet rely on the browser as the central driving force in the picture (Google’s chrome) rather in Apple’s view what they are giving us an elegant CMS or content delivery system that we manage.  Google is betting on its browser, and they too know its coming to the small screen, therefore, that’s why we are seeing the Android store downloadable app strategy they are pushing out..

Apple which supports its web apps in the App store will have a rude awakening one day as eventually everyone but them will play on a browser using HTML5, but for now Apple’s user experience is by far the best.  A good example of this is when you go to read GoogleNews on your iPhone using Safari and at the bottom of the screen a small box pops up saying ‘ if you want to access Google News, click here to put this app on your device’. If you agree, a small app-like icon gets created on your iPhone using HTML5 just as if you downloaded it through iTunes.

So, Apple IS a cloud player indeed, distributing its OS X online, supporting over the air updates, allowing iTunes to be streamed to any iOS registered device. And iTunes did something that neither Google nor Amazon has done – signed deals with the major music players for their content (video/films excluded for now). This allows us to avoid the time consuming process of uploading our music collection to iCloud (I think I have about 60gigs of files). We can purchase a subscription to Music Match for $24.99 year, and MM will mirror my music collection with the iTunes store – ALL of my music, not just iTunes purchased music. These tracks can now be streamed back to me from the cloud on any MacOS registered device.

However, unlike other pure cloud players, this isn’t a web based operation for all of this. Apple still is enabling core SDK kits (software development kits) for developers to build in access and API’s (application program interfaces) that will let developers integrate their own apps within Apple’s cloud.

To perhaps make this analogy clearer of why it is not a pure based cloud play, look at iTunes. Your music library stays right where it is, with YOU – MM provides software that identifies songs and tracks you have and purchases you made at iTunes against the vast iTunes catalog of music to support MM. All of this not really ‘cloud’ based, but still local.

For us users, the benefit is an elegant, easy intuitive way to sync our content between all of our tablets and mobile devices (Macs included). And this sync does include most other services and docs Apple’s got to offer, calendars, contacts, documents, online storage and photos.  This is far different than Google that has a true cloud offering using GoogleDocs where you store the document and edit in the clouds.  With Apple, you make changes locally and then those changes are synced to the cloud.

This method allows us to be far less vulnerable to the woes of the wireless world or lack of it at times. And, ultimately, it will keep us all purchasing not just apps but what Apple REALLY wants us to buy – newer iPads, newer iPhones and brand new Macs.  Apple is really in the hardware business, unlike Google that wants to drive everyone to the web on inexpensive chromebooks running Linux to see more advertising or Amazon that wants to drive purchases online. It a half hearted approach but it’s a damn elegant one and one that I am particularly enjoying because everything just works!

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LTE capable iPhone = 10 Mbps speed is coming – faster than a speeding bullet!

LTE ( Long Term Evolution) – Verizon’s LTE field trials in Boston and Seattle have shown downlink average rates of 5 to 12 Mbit/sec and of 2 to 5 Mbit/sec, which will give mobile customers browsing speeds comparable to a typical wired home Internet experience, the company said. More than likely we will see this around this summer with the release of the iPhone5.

How wonderful is that. The problem is that once you have that kind of speed to use, you’ll use it alright. And especially with video. That’s just what Verizon and eventually ATT want. Why? Because they won’t have ‘unlimited’ bandwidth plans anymore for mobile – they will meter – http://bit.ly/hO .

And they will have to. Not only will you be bale to use this for sending and receiving video, pictures and other data, but you’ll be able to make crystal clear VOIP calls using software on your phone – thereby getting around the minute usage meter. But you can figure that the carriers will simply meter bandwidth and replace metered minutes with metered bandwidth. I’m not sure which is worse but I guess it will depend on whether you talk, text or tweet (which is really 2nd gen texting anyway)?

Look Ma, no cash, credit cards or wallet – I’ll pay now using my iPhone!! (TechCrunch must have missed the ‘memo’ – http://tcrn.ch/geYvMd)

Don’t you see it coming? Put in your PIN number, and pay with your iPhone through iTunes. C’mon, what have you missed? 30% fee you say? Yes, maybe a bit much for a retail merchant but that can be adjusted for retail down to compete with AMEX, VISA and MC easily.

Your physical wallets (which many of us lose very often) credit cards (which are nothing by ‘fraud machines’ and cost BILLIONS in fraud every year and are also lost) are a thing of the PAST!!  Apple with its lock me down iTunes store policies and passwords and pins COULD become a monster virtual credit card overnight. You’ve got your phone everywhere with you, therefore why not use it to pay for everything from groceries to TV’s?  A Retailer can simply accept an iTunes pin and password (using a software update package to its server/system), take a merchant fee transaction ‘hit’ and not be bothered with cash or credit card fraud, swiping the card, expatriation dates, back of the cards 3 digit ‘special number?

Eh, am I barking up the wrong tree?

The Day the Studios and Theaters Stood Still

Sometime in the near future there will be an explosion heard only in the entertainment trades and whispered and talked about between studios, marketing executives,  theater owners and DVD retailers. The FCC gave everyone permission to enter this pissing match and what a pissing match it will be.

If you ever go to the movies (and many of us do) with more than 1 person – so two people attend a film and you have a child where you needed to hire a sitter, you might not be going to the theater so quickly anymore. Well, maybe you still will. Time will tell this one. Soon, a mere 6 weeks AFTER any movie starts playing in a theater, you will be able to watch it at home in the comfort of your ‘Aunt Fay’s couch’ (nod to Steely Dan) on your nice large LCD flat panel TV.  To help you To help you visualize what this means in numbers, there are about 115 million television households in the US. Approximately 100 million of them are currently cable, satellite or IPTV subscribers. Through these cable boxes (although not every one of them, only the ‘digital’ households that have a set-top box) you will be able to purchase the very same film that was JUST in the theaters 6 weeks ago on cable for $24.99 – called premium V.O.D. – video-on-demand.  BUT, the movie studios will be able to activate a technology to prevent films sold through video-on-demand cable systems from being copied.  This is the ruling that the FCC just allowed in May 2010 after a two year battle with the studios.

Right now, theaters get an exclusive period — 120 days (4 months vs. 6 weeks), on average — to serve up new movies. Then the releases appear on television video-on-demand services at a price of about $4.99. Now the studios want to offer us new movies on video-on-demand services about 45 days after they arrive in theaters.  But, you can’t keep a copy or make a copy (your DVR, VHS or whatever won’t work). Just like a theater, once its over, its over.

So, if you are more than 2 people (+ a baby sitter), and unless you are dying to see the film on a BIG screen, I guess you might wait a few weeks.

So, what’s the big deal? For starters, the theater owners, have made it clear that releasing a movie early on video-on-demand services — thus cutting into their window — would be the equivalent of declaring war. They feel people will be more reluctant to buy movie tickets, at an average cost of almost $8, if they know they can catch the same film just a few weeks later in their living rooms, and for less money than it costs to haul the whole family to the theater. The average moviegoer spends more than $3 on popcorn and soda and the like, the cost of Friday night at the movies for a family of four can easily reach $45 – $60 — or much more in cities like New York and California.   And theater owners say this doesn’t take into account second-run and discount theaters, and that there are big exceptions: “Inception,” for instance, was still raking in millions in theaters 10 weeks after its release.

Next up, DVD retailers are fuming – Best Buy and Wal-Mart have told the studios they will retaliate against anyone who tries early-release V.O.D. because of the threat it poses to DVD sales. Huh, what DVD sales? The DVD is going the way of the CD in case anyone hasn’t noticed. Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy. DVD sales for the year are expected to total about $9.9 billion, down 30 percent from their peak in 2004  (about $13 billion), according to Adams Media Research.

Who is the big winner here? The Studios (or so they think) because as much as 80 percent of that early V.O.D. revenue goes to them, therefore movie executives see a new way to compensate for their dwindling DVD business. And the studios are aware that consumers are growing impatient about being unable to access all movies whenever and wherever they want. An early video-on-demand option might prevent some of those frustrated customers from turning to pirated copies.

So where’s the flaw in this plan? I have a couple of thoughts. First of all, the pay-per-view business has been an anemic business since its inception on cable in 1984 when Request TV, Viewers Choice and The People’s Choice (yes, this was my company back then). Part of the problems was with the windows given to PPV movies, part was the terrible job the cable operators did to market these films to us, part was the billing mechanism (it was archaic) and part was the fact that the VHS back then and soon the DVD was simply an easier option. Not to mention you could rent the same film on VHS/DVD so much earlier than on PPV and then buy a copy to own, to watch again and again.  Second problem is that you can’t keep a copy of what you fork out $24.99 for. This just begs for pirates to hack the system (and it will happen and supposedly already has). So forget the studios argument that an early video-on-demand option might prevent some of those frustrated customers from turning to pirated copies.  Maybe at first, but I have no doubt pirated copies will turn up on the streets all the same – now just earlier and better quality DVD copies.

The fact you can’t keep a copy is just self-defeating. Instead, what the studios SHOULD be doing is giving everyone a ‘cloud’ storage locker for say, $ 10.00-20.00 a year. Once you pay $24.99, the film goes straight to your locker. Then, its kept there to be watched as many times as you want for as long as you keep the locker subscription current each year. Sure, pirated copies will still happen but there is a much better chance that people will be more willing to pay the $24.99 IF they can watch it over again, anytime, and on any ‘authorized’ device you own (i.e. mobile phone, Galaxy ‘Tab’, iPad, etc).  Apple does great job with ‘authorized’ devices and computers.

I’m sure a studio would say ‘well, then your friends can come over and see the same film without paying for it because its in your locker’. Well, its in YOUR locker, not theirs and they can come over anyway under the present scenario. And this is the same ridiculous argument studio exec’s made in the early years of the PPV business.  It didn’t stop anyone back then and only help stifle the PPV business – a misjudgment they appear are doomed to repeat once again.  Will they ever learn from past mistakes?

So, will you pay $24.99 to watch a film at home you can only see one time?  You might if it’s a title you don’t really care to much to see in the theaters. Would you have seen Avatar that way?  NOT ME!

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