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Jessica Ward: Which Media Streaming Device is Best?

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July 7, 2016 – Since 2008, the ability to “cut the cord” has existed with the help of devices allowing us to stream Netflix directly to our TVs. From 2008 to 2013, the idea that this technology could actually replace Pay TV (cable and satellite) seemed absurd. Fast forward to 2014 when the percentage of households using these devices rose from a mere 7% to a shocking 21%. Oh what a difference a year can bring. At this point, individual media groups, like CBS, FOX, HBO and many others, began to find ways to use these devices to benefit them monetarily. Once these groups got on board, it was clear that these media streaming devices were to be reckoned with. The next year (2015) the 14% rise between 2013 and 2014 seemed minuscule compared to the 31% spurt the media streaming industry experienced in 2015. With that, devices like Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Chromecast became serious contenders to the big dogs in the Pay TV marketplace.

None of these bigger than Roku, though. While Roku flies somewhat under the radar without a name like Apple, Amazon or Google backing it, the company has quietly moved it’s way into the top spot owning 37% of the Media Streaming Device market. Not only is Roku among the least expensive of the devices, but thanks to their deals with Sharp, TCL and Sceptre to be installed into their Smart TVs they are more readily available to consumers than the other brands they are competing with. Along with Chromecast, they also have to most to offer consumers as far as free content goes.

While Media Streaming Devices seem perfect for consumers, there are a few deterring factors that satellite TV companies like DirecTV and DISH hope will prevent the majority of consumers moving in that direction. The first factor is that many of the free channels actually do require a subscription to a Pay TV service. Channels like ESPN, Comedy Central and FOX are not available through these devices if you do not currently have a cable subscription set up. There are obviously ways around this. If one person has a cable subscription, they can surely share their subscription with others. This is a roadblock for some consumers, but the majority will find a way around this.

The larger concern is one of user experience and cost as it relates to the consumer’s internet service. In 2016, Netflix publicly stated that an internet speed of 5 Mbps or higher is required for a “regularly positive” streaming experience. This is not just true for Netflix, but for the media streaming industry in general. Unfortunately, those with DSL, satellite internet and even some smaller cable providers may not be able to experience streaming in a way that the service is meant to be due to slower internet speeds. Aside from speeds, another large concern is for those consumers whose internet plan has a hard cap when it comes to data. These services, especially in HD, can be big time data drainers as they take up 3 GB of data per hour. This could make streaming a costly option.

While there are negatives, it’s clear that these services are serious contenders and are here to stay.

Have you been looking into cutting the cord? If so, take a look at the infographic below provided by InternetChoice.org to decide which platform would be best for you!

Jessica Ward is a blogger, DIY addict, coffee snob and marketing extraordinaire at InternetChoice.org. She writes about technology, fitness, marketing, and whatever fills her mind with wonder and fuels her passion. Follow her on Twitter @jessward87

cord-cutting-infographic

 

Walden Speaks On Net Neutrality, Spectrum At Cable Summit

in Congress/FCC/House of Representatives/Net Neutrality/Public Safety/Senate/Spectrum by

WASHINGTON April 14, 2011 – Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, voiced his opposition Wednesday to network neutrality, supported increased oversight of the  Federal Communications Commission and addressed how spectrum issues need to be explored with great caution at the American Cable Association summit.

“I do not believe the FCC has the authority to regulate the Internet,” said Walden in support of the House’s passage of House Joint Resolution 37 , which would nullify the FCC’s recently-passed Open Internet Order.

Walden said that he does not believe the measure will pass the Senate, but that the FCC needed to know that House was displeased with its actions.  President Obama has already indicated that if the measure came before him he would veto it. Walden believes that, if vetoed, there would not be enough votes in the Senate to override.

“The FCC is an independent agency, but it is Congress’ job to provide adequate oversight and we had to let them know that we were not happy with their actions,” he went on to say. “We need the FCC to create policy after they see a problem occurring – not before it happens so they can then be challenged and lose in court.”

The House had included a budget rider preventing the FCC from funding the enforcement of the Open Internet Order but the rider did not make it into the final budget resolution achieved last week.

Walden also provided a brief overview of the his subcommittee’s hearing Tuesday on spectrum use in public safety. He told the group that the issues surrounding spectrum reallocation are complex and while many people would like the issue to be solved quickly, he would not allow the process to be rushed through Congress.

“We will only go through this process once and we have to get it right. It will take time for us to fully understand the issues,” Walden said. “We won’t be rushed on this.”

He said that while spectrum auctions may be a possible solution, the way the auctions are designed will make the difference whether the auctions are successful or not. While the FCC has recommended Congress pass legislation allowing spectrum auctions, Walden said he doubted the bill would pass this year.

When pressed by the cable operators about why the Congress has not explored the issues surrounding retransmission agreements Walden noted the need for legislation that will be effective as well as enduring.

“We want to have competitive markets,” he said, “but we also do not want to install rules which will quickly become irrelevant.”

Retransmission agreements occur between the cable companies and the networks to determine the price the cable company must pay to be able to carry the network’s programming. Increasingly the negotiation of these agreements has become long and hostile processes. In the fall, Fox broadcasting cut off access to its programming to Cablevision while the two companies negotiated a new contract.

When asked by an audience member if the FCC should intervene during these intractable negotiations Walden commented that currently the FCC does not have the authority to force a contract to be signed by either party.

American Cable Association Convenes Policy Summit

in Broadband Mapping/FCC/National Broadband Plan/NTIA/Spectrum by

WASHINGTON April 12, 2011 – The American Cable Association (ACA) held its annual summit on Tuesday, featuring a keynote speech by Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

Matt Polka, President of the American Cable Association, opened the event by highlighting how the ACA helped to protect the rights of small cable providers in the Comcast-NBC Universal merger. He also urged the members to provide data to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s National Broadband Map.

“This is an important project and by providing the government with the necessary data they will be better equipped to see the gaps in the service,” Polka said.

Commissioner Clyburn commended the assembled crowd of small cable operators calling small businesses “the engines that run this country.”

“Rural residents are as deserving of high speed broadband and HDTV as any Manhattan-ite,” Clyburn said, praising the cable operators for bringing service to rural areas.

Clyburn then called on the cable operators to help the Commission deal with the issues surrounding retransmission agreements. Retransmission consent agreements are the agreements between cable companies the networks that set the price the cable companies must pay to the networks to transmit the networks’content.

Over the past few years, those negotiations have become increasingly hostile. Fox, for example,  blacked out access to its content last autumn while negotiating with Cablevision in New York.

The commissioner reassured the audience saying that she understands the issue and how it directly affects small business and the public.

“We want the market to work without intervention, however, if we see consumers being hurt and harm being done we would want to step in,” Clyburn said.

Clyburn then joked that she would be grateful if someone can build a time machine and go back to 1992 and improve the regulations set into the Cable Act.

NTIA Chief of Staff, Thomas Power, presented an overview of the National Broadband Map and echoed Polka’s request for additional information from cable providers. He also addressed the critiques the map has been given for lacking accuracy.

“We have just recently received the latest round of data from the states and already we have seen an improvement in the level of accuracy,” Powers said.

The map will be updated in August.

Powers also said that many of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant winners have already completed their required environmental reviews and are moving forward. Most of the training programs, however, have already begun and have provided communities with more than 65,000 hours of training. Additionally 4,000 computers have been installed in public computing centers.

Zac Katz, a legal advisor in the Office of the Chairman at the FCC, provided a brief overview of how the Commission has been working on implementing the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan.

“To further the expansion of wireless broadband we recently approved an order on pole attachments which will make it much easier to install radios,” Katz said.

This new order sets a firm timetable during which utilities must respond to the attachment requests. Previously utilities would either ignore or take months to respond to requests.

Katz also spoke about the importance of spectrum for future economic growth and how the looming crunch can be averted through proactive policy solutions.

“We know a crunch will happen if action is not taken to free up more spectrum,” Katz commented. “But we have to look at improving sharing technologies and work on exploring additional uses for the unlicensed bands.”

The final panel of the event brought together a group of Congressional staffers who predicted that cyber security and spectrum would become issues over the next few months.

“Over the next year spectrum policy is going to be gaining more traction in addition to privacy,” said Jack Smedile, Legislative Assistant to Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). “Cyber security will also be addressed but since the issue spans so many different committees it is going to take some careful thought before tackling it.”

 

Analysis: Despite New Entrants, Netflix-CBS Deal Secures Spot At The Top

in Broadband's Impact/Media by

WASHINGTON, February 25, 2011 – Amazon’s new movie streaming service represents a first step into the market but it will be a while before it – or any other new entrant to the sector – challenges Nexflix at the top of the heap.

This week through its Prime subscription service, Amazon offered free streaming movies and television shows to its subscribers. Amazon will offer more than 5,000 movies and shows that subscribers can access through their computers, compatible Blu-ray players or set top boxes that Amazon has begun to feature on its website. This move represents Amazon’s entry into the new and unstructured online video market.

Netflix, already a solid leader in the field, also stepped into a more prominent role this week with a new deal with network CBS. The deal, which is worth $200 million, will give Netflix users access current CBS hits as well as a substantial back catalog of classic CBS shows such as “Frasier,” “Cheers,”  and “Twin Peaks.”

These new deals leave Hulu – which made the initial mainstream foray into online video – with a large gap to make up. Hulu features content from  ABC, NBC, and Fox, but  has remained static since the launch of its premium site, Hulu Plus.  Nor does the company look to be building beyond some small additions since its beta in June. Hulu seems unable to build a larger catalog of shows, as its affiliated networks appear unwilling to license whole blocks of shows like those recently acquired by Netflix. Consumers have  also complained about the dearth of Hulu-compatible viewing devices, forcing them to watch shows primarily on their computers. The restriction on Hulu can be largely attributed to the networks, which have an incentive in the form of more advertising dollars to drive consumers to watch their shows on broadcast television rather than online.

Consumers also place a high priority on hardware and are more interested in watching television on their televisions through DVD, Blu-ray, or stand alone boxes, than they are on their computers. Netflix has been able to convince several manufacturers to build its service into their products. The result is beneficial to both parties as it makes the hardware more appealing and more versatile.  AppleTV, for example, provides a stand-alone player that enables rentals and downloads of video through the iTunes store, as well as a dedicated output to send content to users’ televisions. AppleTV also allows users to access the Netflix catalog, but if other providers want to compete they may need to similarly appeal to  hardware manufacturers to build in their service into devices.

This week’s announcements seem to show that Amazon, Apple, Hulu, and other potential providers have a long way to go if they are going to challenge Netflix’ lead in online video streaming. So far Netflix is the only company with the content, delivery system and current market share to be a complete player in the online video market. Amazon has a certain amount of hardware support, but its catalog is too small and lacks widespread availability. Hulu doesn’t have enough control over the content it provides to make it widely available on all devices other than people’s computers.

New players to the online video battle will find a high price of admission without strong content offerings to consumers. Netflix has found itself able to build not only a larger catalog, but also a more diverse one, encompassing Hollywood, television studios, and foreign production companies.  Market analysts agree that Netflix holds its sizable lead mostly due to its superior number of available titles and its already-entrenched mail subscription service.

“At this point,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson, “the only company generating enough revenue from subscription video to spend on an improving library without taking a significant hit to the bottom line is Netflix.”

 

Content Makers Seek Protection but Waver When It Comes to Network Neutrality

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/FCC/Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, October 28, 2010 – Many content makers have called upon the Federal Communications Commission to protect their ability to distribute content via the internet, yet these same content makers are reluctant to play by the same rules. Recent decisions by content makers to block some Google TV and an ESPN service show the murkiness of the debates surrounding network neutrality.

The recent blocking of Fox Broadcasting programs on the online video site Hulu for Cablevision customers has raised network neutrality questions.

After a flurry of criticism from legislators and regulators, Fox restored the service but the blocking of content has raised key questions. A number of content makers also have announced that they will block access to their content from the new Google TV device the Logitech Reveu. The device is a set-top box that integrates the web with the television-watching experience. The Reveu includes online video viewing apps along with a web browser which allows users to surf the web.

While it is clear the blocking of content by Fox was anti-consumer, it did not actually violate network neutrality principles. However, it does however raise the issue of whether content makers should be held to the same neutrality requirements as network providers.

While there is no official set of regulations or rules defining network neutrality, generally it deals with the blocking or slowing down of content or services by network operators. In this case, content maker Fox is blocking the content.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said in a statement: “This is not only contrary to the commission’s Broadband Internet Policy Statement of 2005, which states, in part, that ‘…consumers are entitled to access the lawful internet content of their choice.’ “The tying of cable TV subscription to access to internet fare freely available to other consumers is a very serious concern. Consumers are losing their freedom to access the internet content of their choice – through no fault of their own – and this is patently anti-consumer.”

While Markey is correct in that consumers are losing their freedom to access their choice of content, the blocking by Fox does not violate the internet policy statement, which only applies to network providers and not the content makers.

Both Free Press and Public Knowledge condemned the action but did not call the action a violation of network neutrality.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said: “For a broadcaster to pull programming from the internet for a cable company’s subscribers, as apparently happened here, directly threatens the open internet. This was yet another instance revealing how vulnerable the internet is to discrimination and gate-keeper control absent clear rules of the road.”

George Ou of Digital Society compare the blocking of content  on Hulu to ESPN360. The ESPN service provides live video to customers of cable companies which pay extra for the service. While this may seem like an apt comparison, the ESPN service is not free. It is a paid subscription service where the ISP rather than the end user pays for the service. Hulu is free to all viewers regardless of their ISP.

ABC, CBS and NBC have announced that they will block Google TV from accessing their online video content. The new service by Google includes a web browser allowing users to surf the entire web including online video sites such as Hulu or network specific sites.

“It is truly disappointing that broadcasters would leverage their programming to deny access to viewers who watch the shows over another medium — on cable or online.  When a broadcaster exercises its market power in pursuit of maintaining a business model while stifling competition by blocking Hulu, Fox.com (or Google TV), the broadcaster violates that public trust and harms consumers,” said Public Knowledge Co-Founder Gigi Sohn.

“Google TV enables access to all the web content you already get today on your phone and PC, but it is ultimately the content owner’s choice to restrict their fans from accessing their content on the platform,” Google said.

This blocking of content is not just limited to the Google box. Last year, Hulu blocked access for Boxee, a software platform which aggregated online video. Boxee tried to come to a deal with Hulu but when Hulu was unwilling to cooperate, the firm developed a work around for the blocking by Hulu.

If content makers are asking the FCC for protection from discrimination, network providers should demand the same. With the increasing popularity of online video as a substitute for traditional cable television these blocking measures will likely increase. This could become a problem not just for online video; it is possible for popular services such as Facebook or Twitter to demand access fees from ISPs.

This practice would be allowed under the rules proposed by the FCC. Even the chairman’s Third Way proposal does not have any provisions for this type of network infringement. The proposal is fully focused on network providers and does not address content providers.

The internet thrives when users are able to connect to their choice of services via their choice of connection method. The FCC has yet to rule on the issue of network neutrality but has been given strong support by congressional leaders who have also condemned Fox for its blocking of access.

Cablevision Accuses Fox of “Bad Faith” In Retrans Fight

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San Francisco, October 25th, 2010 — Cablevision Systems on Monday accused Fox Television parent News Corp of violating federal regulations that govern the terms of negotiations underlying business agreements between video distributors and broadcasters.

The move sets the stage for a potential intervention by the Federal Communications Commission, or failing that, legislative action in Congress.

Both Cablevision and Fox have been locked for more than a week in an impasse over the annual fees that Cablevision pays Fox for its television programming.

Cablevision says that Fox is demanding more than double the $70 million that it’s been paying for the programming, while a spokesman for Fox says that the company is not demanding that amount at all.

“For Cablevision to still be making those claims is yet another example of their ploy to secure an advantage through government intervention,” said Fox in a statement issued to the media.

“News Corp. never engaged in real negotiations, they only made a “take it or leave it” proposal for Fox 5, and they timed the Fox blackout to leverage major national sporting events to force Cablevision to accept unreasonable demands,” said Charles Schueler, Cablevision’s executive vice president of communications.

Fox said Cablevision is lying.

“From the genesis of our talks with Cablevision, Fox has negotiated in good faith. We have never made any “take it or leave it” demands, nor are we asking for $150 million in fees,” Fox said in its Monday statement on the negotiations.

Under the FCC’s rules that define what a “good faith” negotiation constitutes in retransmission consent negotiations, broadcasters are prohibited from offering a “single unilateral proposal” during the negotiations with video distributors such as cable companies and satellite companies.

The federal government has such rules governing the broadcasters because the broadcasters are using the public spectrum to transmit their programming.

And despite Fox’s rhetoric about government intervention in a private business dispute, the company benefits from such “government intervention” because existing law prohibits cable companies from going to other broadcasters to replace the programming that is being withheld by Fox.

Under pressure from lawmakers in Congress, William Lake, the FCC’s media bureau chief on Friday sent out a letter to both sides asking them to submit evidence that they’re negotiating in good faith, and to submit that information by close of business Monday.

It’s unclear what options the FCC has in light of the claims made by Cablevision on Monday, but its claims are likely to spark off at the least congressional hearings after the mid-term elections, and the airing of legislation proposed last week by Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Cablevision is part of a wide-ranging coalition of cable companies, satellite companies, non-profit advocacy groups and think tanks that petitioned the commission earlier this year to change the rules regarding retransmission consent saying that they’re out of date.

Among other things, the group wants broadcasters to allow video distributors to continue to be able to transmit broadcast programming if the fee negotiations break down and the contracts between two sides expire.

For a detailed discussion about the retransmission consent debate, and to see what ideas have been floated in the policy community about how the law might change, check out the Intellectual Property Breakfast Club’s June discussion panel on the subject.

Photo courtesy of: Angel Raul Ravelo Rodriguez

Will Copyright Law Save New York Area Baseball Fans?

in Copyright/Intellectual Property/Media/Media ownership/National Broadband Plan by

SAN FRANCISCO, October 19th, 2010 — As the landmark dispute over retransmission consent fees between Fox and Cablevision threatens to  drag on through Tuesday, New York area baseball fans who are also Cablevision subscribers are scrambling to make alternative plans to view or hear the game.

One ostensibly legal option they have is to view the Tuesday game between the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies on a new internet television service that retransmits broadcasters’ signals over the internet.

The Seattle-based start-up ivi launched a new service mid-September that streams live television over the internet from ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, The CW, and PBS.

Users download a program onto their computers, provide their credit card information and are promised a one-month free trial before having to pay $4.99 a month.

It’s not clear yet whether the service falls under the parameters of current copyright law, although the founders of the web site contends that it does, and have filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in federal district court against the broadcasters to establish that contention.

In a suit filed in federal district court for the Western District of Washington late September, ivi says that the Copyright Act specifically allows others to retransmit broadcasters’ signals as long as they pay the fees to the broadcasters as spelled out under federal law.

“”The Copyright Act expressly approves of the secondary transmission of an original television broadcast where the secondary transmission is subject to a statutory license,” a team of ivi’s lawyers told the court in its filing.

“ivi is not another Pirate Bay or Napster trying to gain from others’ works,” said ivi’s Founder and CEO Todd Weaver in a statement accompanying its pre-emptive lawsuit. “We recognize that it is disruptive to existing cable offerings and remain confident that we have adopted a model that is allowed under all applicable laws.”

ivi filed suit against ABC, CBS, CW Broadcasting, Disney, Fisher Communications, Fox Television, Major League Baseball, NBC Universal, Twentieth Century Fox, WGBH Educational Foundation, and WNET.org.

A group of 24 broadcasters and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball for their parts filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against ivi in federal district court for Southern New York just over a week later.

The group’s lawyers argued in a court filing that ivi doesn’t qualify under copyright law as a “cable system” entitled to make use of the law’s compulsory licensing provisions.

“Defendants are nothing more than publicity-seeking pirates that use the pretext of a non-existent loophole to exploit the creative efforts of plaintiffs and other broadcast stations and copyright owners for unjust profit,” the group’s lawyers wrote.

Major League Baseball has its own web site and iPAD application that streams games online live, but some people who’ve used it claim that it’s “horrible.”

Other fans who are Cablevision subscribers in New York called in Monday to a New York City public radio station to discuss ways to access Tuesday’s game online. Among the suggestions were access via “Project Free TV” and tuning into retransmission via Justin.tv.

Business Dispute Between N.Y. Cable Firm, Broadcaster Threatens To Cut Customers Off — Again

in Intellectual Property/Media by

WASHINGTON, October 15, 2010 – Cablevision customers may be cut off from watching baseball in upcoming days if a business dispute between the cable company and a local broadcaster isn’t resolved by midnight Friday.

The New York cable television company is once again fighting over the fees it must pay a broadcaster — in this case Fox — to provide the programming to its own customers.

Cable companies have been complaining that broadcasters have been holding them hostage and using high profile events such as this week-end’s baseball playoffs to jack up their fees.

Broadcasters, for their part, say that their programming is worth significantly more than what the cable companies are paying for it.

Earlier this year, Time Warner Cable reached an agreement with Belo Corp. over this issue of retransmission consent fees. The two companies agreed on undisclosed terms for Belo’s 12 stations around the country, as well as local news networks, according to a report in the trade magazine Broadcasting and Cable.

“This state of affairs is getting tiresome as these disputes grow more frequent,” said Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge’s president and co-founder, who was one of the petitioners for a rule-making at the FCC to address the issue earlier this year. “It is because of situations like this that Public Knowledge joined 13 other parties in March to ask the FCC to consider changing the rules governing the terms and conditions under which broadcast stations are carried on cable networks.”

The petition proposes that the broadcasters should continue to allow the cable companies to carry their signals even after the contracts between the two sides have expired as the two sides negotiate, among other things.

Cablevision, along with Time Warner Cable, and the American Cable Association were among the 13 petitioners.

For a review of the issues at stake, and what the companies’ lobbyists are arguing in policy circles in Washington, DC, readers can refer to the Intellectual Property Breakfast Club’s event video from this June.

Sen. John Kerry Wades Into Retransmission Consent Spat

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WASHINGTON, December 22, 2009 – The annual dance between broadcasters and cable providers gained a new player on Tuesday as Sen John Kerry, D-Mass., sent a letter to executives at Fox and Time Warner Cable urging the companies to resolve their respective issues over retransmission consent between now and December 31, when the current agreement expires.

Retransmission consent is the process by which broadcasters charge cable providers a fee to deliver their programming to cable television subscribers.

Without a renewed agreement between Time Warner and Fox, millions of Americans will be left without popular sports and entertainment programming during the first days of the new year.

“I have sought to place the interests of consumers at the center of our work,” Kerry wrote. “If both parties conclude that the best alternative to a negotiated agreement is to have screens go dark for consumers, then they will have neglected the core interests of the millions of households that subscribe to Time Warner Cable in affected markets.”

Kerry noted that all FCC licensees are obligated to serve the public interest under the Communications Act. “I hope and expect that you will resolve this matter consistent with those obligations,” he noted.

Consumer advocacy group Free Press praised Kerry for speaking out against exorbitant retransmission fees: “Senator Kerry is right to blow the whistle on the spat between Fox and Time Warner,” said policy director Ben Scott.

“[C]onsumers shouldn’t have to cope with suddenly losing TV service of local sports programming on New Year’s Day because two corporate boardrooms decided to butt heads. These shenanigans expose serious hypocrisy in the industry” “We hope Senator Kerry’s intervention will serve as a reality check,” Scott said.

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