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A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.

This week saw the launch of yet another streaming pay TV service, this time from Hulu, which is offering around 50 channels, including live TV and the four major broadcast networks, for $40 a month. Hulu is the fifth major company to enter this market over the last couple of years, following Sling, Sony, DirecTV and YouTube. Each offering has its strengths and weaknesses, and each makes different trade-offs in trying to achieve the mythical sweet spot for the cord-cutter. Local channels continue to be the biggest challenge, but another is trying to create bundles consumers will go for, and each company has taken a different approach.

The mythical $35 price point

I’ve noted before that these over-the-top pay TV providers seem to believe there’s a mythical price point around $35 at which cord-cutters will leap to buy their service. Each provider seems to aim at that target with at least one of its offerings, though we’ve seen those strategies evolve over time. Hulu is the only provider not to offer at least one package at or below $35, and that’s at least in part because it packages its $8 or $12 video-on-demand service into its $40 standard package.

But to hit that $35 price point, these companies have to ditch many of the channels that have driven the average traditional pay TV spend per month to around $100. Which ones to ditch? The sports channels are among the most expensive, so that seems an obvious place to start, but they’re also one of the few things keeping live TV alive and a key requirement for many cord cutters.

Only one company — Sling — has kept ESPN out of any of its base channel lineups, while all the others include at least one ESPN channel in every package, and several in the more expensive ones. YouTube solved the problem by dealing almost exclusively with the owners of the four major broadcast networks, so it includes their channels but excludes Turner, Viacom, Scripps and a number of other key channels. Given how much sports is either on regional sports networks or Turner channels (particularly basketball), they’re not offering a comprehensive lineup. Viacom has been hardest hit by these OTT packages, with only DirecTV and Sling carrying their channels and the others taking a pass.

Even though these companies, for the most part, seem to be aiming at that sweet spot of $35 or under, it’s quite possible to spend an amount monthly that’s much closer to the traditional TV package. PlayStation Vue’s top package costs $65 before add-ons, while Hulu’s offering can get up to $65 with extra features and channels. DirecTV’s base packages top out at $70 before add-ons. Consumers have to be really committed to ditching the cable company to go for these packages that offer few savings at these higher price points, especially given the holes in some of the lineups.

Flexibility

One of the great possibilities that should come with OTT pay TV services is flexibility. After all, people don’t just want to pay less; they also want to have more control over which channels they get and pay for, ideally moving toward an a la carte approach. And yet Hulu and YouTube TV offer minimal flexibility at this point, with a single base package with the option to add Showtime. The other three, however, offer more choices, with two to four base packages each and, in Sling’s case, a great number of add-on channel packages to suit topical interests or even channels from other countries. It has gone so far as to call what it’s offering today “a la carte TV.” Even though that’s a bit of a stretch, it’s certainly closer to realizing that ambition than any of the others. Meanwhile, the standard packages often bundle channels in a way that makes little sense to the consumer, mixing sports and news, lifestyle and movies in seemingly random ways that likely reflect deals with content owners far more than true consumer interests.

Features

Some of these players have piled on features in the hopes these will entice customers looking for more than just a screaming deal on a smaller set of channels. DVR functionality is deemed to be a major draw. Most of the offerings have a DVR component, though it’s often a poor substitute for a real DVR, with limitations on skipping ads being the biggest bugbear. Some make up for it with VoD services, but those also often show ads, reflecting just how much power the traditional content owners still have and how much TV business models still need ads to survive.

User interfaces are another potential differentiator, with each company having its own take on how to reinvent the electronic programming guide. Some favor familiarity and a more traditional approach while others, including Hulu, focus on recommendations and a completely new (and unfamiliar) user interface. None of those I’ve tried (and I’ve tried all but PlayStation Vue) have cracked it, and several have either awful user interfaces altogether or significant issues.

Device support

Part of the promise of future TV services is the ability to watch what you want, when you want, where you want, including on the device of your choosing. With that in mind, these services certainly give you options that go far beyond a traditional set-top box, but they don’t all do equally well in supporting a wide range of devices. Interestingly, PlayStation Vue, which was very limited in its device support at first, now leads in this department, but new offerings like YouTube and Hulu are still lacking. Not all offer web interfaces, either, requiring users to either download native apps on their computers or stick to other devices.

Local channels are still the biggest issue

As I wrote several years ago, local channels were always likely to be the biggest challenge facing streaming pay TV providers because of the structure of the U.S. market and its affiliate system for TV stations. Because many local stations aren’t owned by the broadcasters, the latter have little control over getting those stations on board as part of a national rollout. As such, each of the services has made its own decision about how to roll out local channels, in some cases, offering all the major channels in theory but in practice only in limited geographic areas, while YouTube TV is only available at all in the areas where it has good local channel support, as befits its strong ties to the broadcasters. PlayStation seems to be doing better on the CBS side, leveraging the work CBS has done for its own All Access service, and it’s the only one of these services to offer any local channels (and even then only one) where I live in Utah.

A growing but frustrating set of options

What we’re left with, then, is a growing but ultimately frustrating set of options for those wanting to ditch their traditional pay TV provider and find a cheaper, more flexible, more modern alternative. Each of these services has its pros and cons, with some leading on content flexibility but lacking on the user interface, while others major in features but force users into narrow channel packages.

The table below summarizes the current situation as well as I can — one other thing I’ve found in researching these services is how hard they make it to easily see the channel lineups, pricing and features. None of them is great at this.

For now, would-be cord-cutters are often left choosing the best of a set of bad options, or even combining several of these to get what they really want. What I was most struck by with Hulu’s launch this week is how it has become my go-to for video on demand but adding live to the experience — especially missing local channels — adds far less than $30 of additional value.

What I want is a service that combines Hulu-like breadth of on-demand content with a live option for the major sports I watch and I guess I’m not alone in that. If I could combine Netflix, Hulu and an on-demand sports service that carried all the games I care about, that would serve me well but it doesn’t exist today. We can only hope that someday it will.

Jan Dawson is founder and chief analyst at Jackdaw, a technology research and consulting firm focused on the confluence of consumer devices, software, services and connectivity. During his 13 years as a technology analyst, Dawson has covered everything from DSL to LTE, and from policy and regulation to smartphones and tablets. Prior to founding Jackdaw, Dawson worked at Ovum for a number of years, most recently as chief telecoms analyst, responsible for Ovum’s telecoms research agenda globally. Reach him @jandawson.

Source: This article was published on recode.net

Categorized in Others

Google’s television streaming service is finally online.

The search giant said that its YouTube TV service is available in five metropolitan areas: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Categorized in Social

Discover and Watch TV Shows and Movies from Multiple Apps in One Place

Cupertino, California — Apple today introduced the new TV app, offering a unified experience for discovering and accessing TV shows and movies from multiple apps on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad. The TV app provides one place to access TV shows and movies, as well as a place to discover new content to watch. Apple also introduced a new Siri feature for Apple TV that lets viewers tune in directly to live news and sporting events across their apps. Watching TV shows and movies across Apple devices has never been easier.

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Explore Apple’s curated collection of trending shows and movies from a variety of genres.

“Using apps on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad has become the primary way for so many of us to watch television,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “The TV app shows you what to watch next and easily discover TV shows and movies from many apps in a single place.”

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New features allow users to easily access favorite video apps and resume watching where they left off.

Key features within the TV app include:
  • Watch Now: Watch Now is where viewers will see their collection of available shows and movies from iTunes and apps. From Watch Now, viewers can then go to Up Next or Recommended to choose what to watch. 
  • Up Next: Users can enjoy the shows and movies they are currently watching, including recent iTunes rentals and purchases — all presented in the order they are most likely to watch first. For example, when viewers finish an episode, the next one will automatically appear at the start of the Up Next queue, as will any new episodes as they become available. At any time, users can simply ask Siri to continue watching a show and immediately pick up where they left off. 
  • Recommended: Viewers can explore a great selection of curated and trending shows and movies, including collections handpicked by Apple’s curators, and dedicated categories and genres such as kids, sci-fi and comedy. 
  • Library: Viewers can access their entire collection of iTunes movies and TV shows that they have rented or purchased on iTunes. 
  • Store: If users are looking for something new, they can check out the Store to discover great new content across video services that they have not yet downloaded or are not yet subscribed to, along with the latest releases on iTunes. 
The TV app will be available for Apple TV, iPhone and iPad and always stays in sync so that when users begin watching on one device they can easily continue where they left off on their Apple devices.

Live Tune-In with Siri

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New Siri capabilities offer immediate access to live events with single voice commands.
 
Siri continues to gain powerful new capabilities, including making it really easy to tune right to live news and sporting events on Apple TV. Siri is now aware of live sporting events across apps so users can simply say things like, “Watch the Stanford game” or “Which games are on right now?” Siri knows additional details of the games, can provide live scores and can take viewers directly to the live stream within the app that’s carrying it. Viewers can also tune directly to live video by just saying the name of the app, for example “Watch CBS News” without having to navigate to the live stream from within the app.

Single Sign-On for Pay-TV Apps

In addition to the new TV app, customers in the US will have a simplified way of enjoying their pay-TV video apps by using single sign-on. Starting in December, subscribers to DIRECTV, DISH Network and more will just sign in once on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad to enjoy immediate access to apps that are part of their pay-TV subscription.
Since its introduction just a year ago, the latest Apple TV has revolutionized the experience in the living room with 8,000 apps, including 2,000 games and 1,600 video apps, across categories such as sports, news, fitness, education, kids, lifestyle and more.

Pricing and Availability

TV App and Single Sign-On

Available in December as free software updates for Apple TV (4th generation), iPhone and iPad customers in the US. For more information, please visit Apple.com. Features are subject to change and only apply to participating apps. Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages.

Siri Live Tune-In 

Available today. For more information, please visit Apple.com. Features are subject to change and only apply to participating apps. Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages.
Source : Apple.com
Categorized in Others

It’s likely you’ll soon be able to ditch the bulky box you rent from your cable company and replace it with free software. Too bad the new rule won’t change the user experience very much.

The box could go away under a proposed rule from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler argues that the new rule, which will face a vote September 29, would save subscribers billions of dollars on annual fees.

But although it should make cable cheaper, the new rule won’t open a door to innovative new services for helping you search and choose programming, which is what the FCC originally intended. After intense lobbying by the cable companies, the FCC has agreed to let them continue to control the user interface, a prime space for selling ads and promoting content. So you are likely stuck with some variation of that clunky cable menu that promotes certain shows and on-demand movies and may also show you advertisements.

In April, the FCC tried to improve the experience with a proposal to generate a new ecosystem of cable TV devices and software applications. That version of the rule would have mandated that cable providers give third-party hardware and software developers access to three valuable streams of data—the video content itself; scheduling and channel information; and instructions to dictate what a device can or cannot do (like record) with the content. Technologists could have used all of this data to create new tools and services for helping people to discover, watch, and recommend movies and other cable TV programming.

But the cable companies opposed the idea, citing concerns over piracy. Besides that, Comcast—the largest cable company—argued that it was moving away from set-top boxes anyway and didn’t need the government to encourage such a move. It cited a new app it has developed, for users of Roku devices and Samsung Smart TVs, that can already serve as a replacement for the cable box.

Now the FCC has significantly revised its proposal. The future it envisions for cable TV no longer entails a new generation of third-party software and devices like we imagined in April. It’s more like the “apps-based” future that Comcast described. Cable TV providers will have to make their apps compatible with all “widely deployed” platforms—Roku, Apple iOS, Android, Windows, and others—instead of just those with which they make deals. But they will maintain exclusive control over the user interface.

Wheeler has touted a feature called “integrated search” as one of the biggest benefits cable subscribers will see under the new rule. But all this means is that if you have a streaming device like Apple TV or Roku, and its search engine can access content from multiple apps, then it will show you pay-TV options from the cable company as well.

If the FCC votes to enact the rules, providers will have two years to comply.

Source : https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602349/cable-tv-service-will-get-cheaper-but-no-more-interesting/

Categorized in Others

The “Internet of Things” is here and has more data on you than you may know. The significant cultural and technological shift of this deep embedment into our lives, bodies, homes and almost everything else we touch has allowed for efficiency, flexibility and convenience with our day-to-day lives. That connectivity is an incredible thing, but one major question remains within the burgeoning IoT industry: how do companies secure the data collected on you?

Consider the information at stake. Your Wi-Fi-enabled security cameras can give real-time information about when and if you’re home. Same with your Internet-connected alarm system. Even a smart TV has valuable information; it’s connected to your Netflix or Amazon account. Any account information on these accounts can lead to a credit card or identity details. Of course, the mother of all identity concerns comes from the smartphone: it’s a centralized resource of account information that can connect with almost all smart devices, your smart home and even your car — something that becomes even more vulnerable as the age of self-driving cars approaches.

Recently, a CBS 60 Minutes story demonstrated the multitude of capabilities of a hacker that only has a person’s phone number.It’s clear that the IoT age presents security concerns in ways that seemed unthinkable just a decade ago. The solution, though, may stem from one of the most unique innovations of the digital era: the blockchain.

Originally developed as part of the Bitcoin digital currency platform, the open blockchain model has inherent transparency and permanence. These are essential to creating a secure means of direct authentication between smart devices. The model currently used for Bitcoin can be propagated into other applications — any industry that requires archival integrity can adopt the blockchain. For the IoT industry, a blockchain can be created to manage device identity to prevent a spoofing attack where a malicious party impersonates another device to launch an attack to steal data or cause some other mayhem. Blockchain identity chains will enable two or more devices to be able to communicate directly without going through a third-party intermediary and in effect make spoofing more cost prohibitive.

Regarding this type of authentication, the model allows users to synchronize multiple devices against a single system of authority that is distributed and censorship resistant. This would apply to an open blockchain, not permissioned or private. The identity chain, created for each device is a permanent record. Through cryptography, only validated devices receive access. As new devices are added, their identity records become part of the blockchain for permanent reference. Any change to a device configuration will be registered and authenticated in the context of the blockchain validation model, ensuring that any falsified records can be caught and ignored.

This is a new technology and will take some time to move from testing into our everyday lives. Many industry leaders and governments will begin testing this year. Beyond whether or not the tech works, many stakeholders will need to get on board. An industry conglomerate that agrees on a blockchain design would be helpful. Having all the IoT devices write to the same source or have systems that are interoperable will be critical. It’s not necessarily that every IoT device manufacturer or software developer write data to the same blockchain; instead, it could go further upstream and be an agreement between OEM manufacturers of essential components that are used in the authentication process flow.

In addition to baseline authentication (device model, serial number, etc.), the blockchain can create records of any data it generates — for example, a smart front door lock can have a transaction log of video activation when someone exits/enters the home or unlocks it remotely. Each item in the history creates another historical link in its respective identity chain that can provide further data to use for authentication matching. If someone with malicious intent was to try and change the protocol of the door lock without the correct credentials or there was a change in the configuration, the blockchain validation model would not allow for the door lock to be changed.

An important component of the blockchain’s effectiveness comes from its standing as a public record, with user nodes all auditing the same record. Of course, with a public record, there will always be privacy concerns over sensitive data. However, the blockchain protects against this through the use of one-way hashes. In the blockchain world, a cryptographic hash function is a mathematical algorithm that maps data and shortens its size to a bit string, “a hash function,” which is also designed to be one-way and infeasible to invert. This means it is nearly and practically impossible to obtain the content of a hash without the source data.

The Internet of Things is still a new industry, one that will become more pervasive and significant as our technological innovations turn science fiction into our everyday lives. At this early stage, it’s critical to establish a scalable solution that will push the industry forward as the volume of connected devices grows exponentially. The blockchain represents a unique type of solution, one that is established as a secure means of protecting financial data but flexible enough to be applied to any high-stakes record keeping. With the IoT age demonstrating the ability to connect just about every aspect of a person’s life, it truly doesn’t get any more high stakes than that.

Source:  http://internetofthingsagenda.techtarget.com/blog/IoT-Agenda/Blockchain-Defender-of-the-Internet-of-Things

Categorized in Internet of Things

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