Anything New on the Horizon? – Updates to the UPC’s Cable Box

Horizon Main Menu

Not many people had heard of the UPC Horizon service until the UPC parent, Liberty Global, bought Virgin Television earlier in the year.  With the Virgin acquisition UPC got its hands on Tivo, and became a European cable giant running TWO different next-gen TV platforms, and the comparisons began. Would Horizon ever replace Tivo or vice-versa? more “Anything New on the Horizon? – Updates to the UPC’s Cable Box”

Network DVRs vs Home Media Servers – what will win?

Damien Read – February 2013

damien clone smallOver the last ten years digital video recorders (DVRs) have revolutionised TV watching, providing the most loved features for consumers; live pause and one-touch recording/series recordings.

However, there are two competing models for the evolution of these DVRs which are about to get into the ring with one another; cloud based network DVR (your recordings are saved in the network) and terabyte sized home ‘media servers’ that can stream live channels, recorded content and VOD around a home with full DVR functionality.

The central difference between the two is simple  – the location where the hard disks are located when the recordings or the paused TV is saved. Network DVRs store recordings and even live ‘pause’ centrally in the network whereas the ‘media server’ DVR stores them in the home. This subtle difference actually has little implication for the consumer recording experience, but a big impact on what kit is in consumers’ homes, the quality of the broadband needed to deliver content to the home, and content rights structures.

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What We Want From CES This Year!

PrintWe are about to make our annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas on our clients’ behalf, so we thought we would create a shopping list of the things we are hoping to see and the announcements we expect. We would love to hear your views:

Smart TVs  –  In 2013, these really have to start living up to their ‘smart’ billing.  A number of companies (including us) started to get under the skin of Smart TVs in 2012 and realised that they weren’t that smart (see our blog – here).   The main issue was the poor quality of their operating systems.  No one believes that Smart TVs will be running a proprietary OS in five years, so we need to see some light at the end of  the OS tunnel.  LG are showing their Google (ie Android for TV) sets, but will the rest follow?  More interestingly, will Microsoft announce a Smart TV OS based on Windows 8 for third party OEMs?  This could see the Xbox look and feel arrive on a TV screen.  Samsung make laptops with Windows8 so why not TVs?

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Not Comparing Freesat and YouView (part 2)

So Freesat have launched a TV campaign to promote their new <freetime> service (see the ad here on YouTube). This prompted us to continue our analysis of the differences between Freesat <freetime> and YouView. In our previous blog post about this (see Comparing Freesat to Youview) we pointed out that the two products have very different target markets so weren’t really competitive and shouldn’t be compared directly.

However, it was interesting to explore their different approaches to some complex market issues.   The launch of the ad campaign highlights two more areas where they have taken a fundamentally different approach: branding and relations with Sky.

more “Not Comparing Freesat and YouView (part 2)”

This Duck Still Won’t Quack…

Back in 2009 – when BBC catch up content first arrived on Virgin cable we wrote the following:

‘There is a rule in life that if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck it must be a duck.  It is a good rule, but we have been struggling this week with a slight variation to it.  How about if someone really big and important repeatedly tells you something is a duck, and has gone to the trouble of painting the thing to look like a duck, but every time you look at it,  it still doesn’t walk or talk like a duck?

The duck in question is the TV version of iPlayer that is available on Virgin cable.  The BBC and Virgin have made a great fuss over the fact that ‘iPlayer is now available on Virgin’.  But however much we have tried, we can’t make it quack or waddle.‘   (See the blog: ‘iPlayer Looks Like a Duck’). more “This Duck Still Won’t Quack…”

YouView Boxes Are Like London Buses..

You wait years for one, then three arrive at once….

Nigel Walley – August 2012.   So YouView has finally launched, and having waited for years for our first box, there are now three different ones to play with down at iBurbia Studios.  We have a plain old vanilla one, bought in John Lewis; a BT Vision one; and a TalkTalk one.  This allows us to finally get our hands on the things and to ask some of the pressing questions. Namely, is it any good, is it important, and will it succeed?

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Can Push VOD be the New Pull VOD?

Here’s a question I discussed at dinner in IBC last week.  If you could start a new TV business today how would you do it.  If your choice was to either  start a VOD based business or to launch a PVR based business, which would you choose?  When we discussed this in Amsterdam, the question was laced with a key assumption. This was that memory innovation will occur quicker than network innovation – i.e. hard drives will get bigger at a quicker rate than networks will increase in size and coverage. Meaning that push VOD, which  uses a PVR’s recording capability to create an on-demand outcome, could benefit from technology innovation faster that pull VOD will.  It it not unreasonable to imagine a generation of PVRs coming with 2-3 TB of memory and 5-10 tuners.

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Are VOD deals worth the effort?

Nigel Walley – June 2011

We”ve been having a look at Virgin Tivo and having a think about what it means about the future of the TV landscape. Its begun to dawn on us that the implications could be quite significant.  Particularly as the pay platforms and the free-to-air broadcasters are finding it so hard to come to some sensible agreement about incorporating their catch-up services into the next generation pay TV services.   What Tivo and SkyAnytime+ show is that it might be easier if the platforms just ignored the broadcasters and used their PVRs to build their own versions of iPlayer and the other catch-up services.

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What The Hell Is Google TV?

By Nigel Walley – Augst 2010

So Google and Sony have jointly announced the launch of Google TV – a range of set top boxes running a version of Google’s Android software. Google have also announced a range of other box launches in the US before Xmas.  You may have seen the press notices about this, and we would like to offer an explanation and opinion on its importance.

First thing is to understand the background landscape.  Broadly, there are three types of competitor in the TV market at the moment: the pay operators (like Sky and Virgin) who make their own boxes and software; the set top box manufacturers who are making Freeview and Freesat boxes with all sorts of fun stuff added over-the- top of broadcast  (sometimes called the ‘over the top’  or OTT  boxes); and the device manufacturers, like Sony,  who are desperately trying to grab ownership of the TV experience in the home with a device centric strategy.  Google TV has relevance for both the OTT and device manufacturers.

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Is Netflix Coming Our Way?

By Alex Street

The nature of competition in pay TV markets could be about to change. Internet-enabled TVs and connected devices represent a fundamental change to the way content is distributed and markted to the viewer. I’d like to address these issues by looking at one company’s attempt to build a hybrid distribution strategy that capitalizes on the growth of internet-enabled devices connected to the TV set.

Historically, a single TV platform has been in control of the viewer experience in the home. If I was a Sky customer, Sky controls everything interesting to do with TV in my home. In fact I pay them to do so. The arrival of video on demand products on Blu Ray, games consoles and internet TVs challenges this control. For example, quite soon, in my home, when it comes to watching movies or catch up, I’ll have a choice of platform at the point of decision. In other words, instead of picking up the Sky remote, I’ll have several remotes all competing to deliver me the same thing and or similar things. I will no longer be limited to the TV platform I subscribe to. This puts device manufacturers in direct competition with pay platforms and this isn’t a challenge one American company seems to fear.

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