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Jessica Ward: Which Media Streaming Device is Best?

in Expert Opinion by

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

 

Broadband Roundup: With Aereo off the Air for Now, Alternatives Seek Advantage, and Legislators Advocate for Municipal Broadband

in Broadband Roundup/Copyright/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2014 -Following the Supreme Court’s blow last week against Aereo, the video streaming service has shut down indefinitely as it drags back into the lower courts. Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia wrote a letter to consumers explaining the decision.

“We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps,” Kanojia said. “All of our users will be refunded their last paid month…the spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud.”

Aereo lost last week’s case because the Supreme Court ruled that the service was violating network television providers’ copyright by streaming their programming without paying royalties.

With Aereo gone for now, The New York Times said other streaming companies are scrambling to fill the void by luring former traditional TV customers with their own offers. Hulu, Amazon, Google and Netflix are all developing cheap alternatives.

Roku, Sling Media, TiVo, Mohu and Simple.TV are selling hardware that lets viewers stream television to digital services or view web video on TV sets.

Simple.TV lets users buy their own antenna and the $199 Simple.TV box, which records programs on a connected hard drive. Premium service features automatic recording and remote access from around the globe. And unlike Aereo, The Times said Simple.TV customers capture signals in their homes, which consequently “fits squarely into fair use,” said Simple.TV CEO Mark Ely.

Eight Democratic congressmen led by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., are vigorously defending municipalities’ rights to build broadband networks. In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, the group wrote that “local communities should have the opportunity to decide for themselves how to invest in their own infrastructure.”

The group called on the FCC to use its “full arsenal of tools” to pre-empt state laws that prevent city-owned broadband.

Speaking of the FCC, Wheeler scheduled a vote in July on rules for closed captioning online video clips for improved accessibility, according to The Hill. While the rules would only apply to online clips of video of video programming that aired on television with closed captions, Wheeler wants all online videos closed captioned in the long run.

The Digital Media Association, which represents Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google’s YouTube, warned that “the time and cost of enabling captions is not substantially less for a 2-minute clip than for a 2-hour full-length movie.”

The National Association of Broadcasters voiced similar concern: ““the FCC must shy away from unreasonable demands that would have adverse consequences for viewers by forcing video clips off the Internet.”

Lastly, Akamai Technologies released its 1Q State of the Internet report. It revealed that global Internet speeds have increased by 24 percent over the last year and almost two percent in the last three months.

After 14 years, FCC Tries Again To Bring Competition to Cable Access

in FCC/Intellectual Property/Media by

SAN FRANCISCO, October 14, 2010 — As expected, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday ordered cable companies to make their programming more accessible to device manufacturers so that consumers have more reasons to buy innovative gadgets that can more seamlessly access both cable television programming and content on the web.

The order means that consumers should be able to self-install cable cards, and high-definition set-top boxes won’t need the cards at all.

The order comes after a regime implemented by the FCC in 1998 called CableCARD failed to take off. It was supposed to allow third party consumer electronics manufacturers to access the programming more seamlessly by providing consumers with the ability to insert the card into devices to access the programming.

So far, only one percent of cable subscribers use CableCARDs, according to statistics cited by the Obama Administration in its National Broadband Plan, which the administration published this March. And only two device manufacturers, TiVo and Moxi, sell the CableCARD-enabled set-top boxes through retail outlets.

Innovators such as Apple, Boxee, Google, Roku, Sezmi, SonyPlayStation 3, XBox 360 and others have tried to cobble together alternative devices, but “their devices often cannot access traditional TV content that consumers value,” and “without the ability to seamlessly integrate internet video with traditional TV viewing, internet video devices like Apple TV and Roku have struggled to gain a foothold in U.S. homes,” noted the authors of the plan.

The order is the FCC’s latest attempt to fulfill the requirement in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which seeks to bring competition to a new market in consumer electronic devices that can access cable television services.

As such, it’s an interim measure until it considers new rules that would enable consumers to buy smart video devices that would enable them to change cable companies without having to buy a new device.

The deadline for that proceeding, as suggested in the National Broadband Plan, is the end of the year.

Consumer electronics manufacturers, a digital rights group, and the cable industry itself approved of the way the commission approached the issue in its order.

“We agree with the Commission that implementing these changes – including increasing options for self-installation, providing more transparency and properly equipping technicians – will assist customers who use retail devices that rely on CableCARDs,” said Kyle McSlarrow, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s president and CEO.

“It has been 14 years since Congress responded to consumer frustration and required cable to allow cable boxes to be sold competitively,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. “We have felt like Lucy holding the football with every cable industry failure to support competition in the set-top box marketplace.”

“Now, consumers will be able to install their own CableCards provided that manufacturers include instructions and, importantly, the Commission will limit the ability of cable systems to subsidize their own boxes with service costs, which puts competitive devices at a disadvantage,” said Harold Feld, Public Knowledge’s legal director.

Photo courtesy of: Angel Raul Ravelo Rodriguez

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