Weekly output: online-video churn, Trump vs. social media, online-video UX, Tim Cook’s App Store history, Saudi Twitter spies, online-video ads, online-video lessons, Trump vs. TikTok

My biggest regret about this busy news week: I didn’t get to follow Access Now’s RightsCon digital conference. Having spoken at its real-world predecessor in Toronto two years ago–and knowing that friends were on this year’s panel schedule–I can only hope that I can catch up in my non-existent spare time this week.

7/27/2020: Sling’s ex-chief Warren Schlichting is content with churn, FierceVideo

My occasional trade-publication client signed me up to cover their OTT Blitz Week virtual event. I started that by writing up former Sling TV head Warren Schlichting’s observations about running an over-the-top video service.

7/28/2020: Here’s Trump’s Plan To Regulate Social Media, Forbes

Writing about the Trump administration’s proposal to have the Federal Communications Commission rewrite a law allowed me the unexpected pleasure of approvingly quoting experts at the left-leaning think tank Public Knowledge and the right-leading Charles Koch Institute, both of which said this plan seems nuts.

7/28/2020: There’s no UX without ‘you’, FierceVideo

My second post about OTT Blitz Week covered a panel that saw executives from Discovery, Sling, Pluto TV, Xumo and other online-video firms offering their insights on making their user experience feel comfortable for viewers.

7/29/2020: What Tim Cook Left Out Of His Version Of App Store History, Forbes

Apple’s CEO’s prepared statement for Wednesday’s tech-CEO hearings came close to erasing the history of online software distribution before the 2008 debut of Apple’s iOS App Store, and that bugged me. I wrote a correction of Tim Cook’s testimony, and I was flattered to see this post get a “Highly recommended” shout-out on Apple raconteur John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog.

7/29/2020: New charges for Saudi moles at Twitter, Al Jazeera

Stories involving Saudi Arabia behaving badly online often result in appearances for me on this Qatar-based news network. In this case, the news peg was a set of new charges against Saudi spies allegedly burrowing into Twitter.

7/29/2020: We’re not Facebook, OTT ad execs emphasize, FierceVideo

The executives on this OTT Blitz Week panel on addressable (read: targeted) advertising on streaming TV emphasized how they don’t want or need behavioral data that gets too close to individual viewers’ tastes.

7/31/2020: There’s no one template for over-the-top video success, FierceVideo

I wrapped up my coverage of Fierce’s virtual event with a recap of this lessons-learned panel, featuring CEOs from the rhymable firms Fubo, Xumo and Philo.

8/1/2020: Trump’s threat to ban TikTok, Al Jazeera

I made a second appearance this week on the Arabic-language news network to discuss President Trump’s possibly-idle threat to ban TikTok. As I wrote last week at Forbes, the fact that the U.S. isn’t China leaves Trump out of options to banish that social app from American screens.

Streaming-TV sites still need some design work

This year’s version of the “what regional sports networks will shut up and take a cord-cutting baseball fan’s money” story was not like the last three. I wrote it much later in the year, it’s at Forbes instead of Yahoo, and it finally brings good news for Washington Nationals fans.

But the process of researching which streaming services carry which baseball RSNs was as annoying as ever, thanks to these companies not fixing the user-interface problems that gummed up last year’s work.

AT&T TV Now: The channel-finder page of the streaming service formerly known as DirecTV Now requires third-party cookies for reasons unexplained, ensuring it will break in Safari and Firefox. You can search by Zip code but then often must choose a county inside that Zip, a detail no other streaming service requests. AT&T also has yet to update this site to include the four sports networks (for the Nats, Orioles, Rockies, and Pirates) that it just added, much less the Seattle RSN it soon will offer.

This site does, however, get one thing very right that its rivals don’t: It inventories the teams featured on its available regional sports networks.

FuboTV: This sports-oriented streaming service has a simple channel-lookup page that you may not know exists, as neither its home page nor its support site seem to point visitors to it. Too bad, because it’s a model of simplicity: Type in a Zip code, and it lists the local channels first, identifying both broadcasters and regional sports networks with a blue “Local” tag. Fubo also lists the RSNs it carries nationwide in a tech-support story that seems to be regularly updated, but neither that nor the channel-finder associate networks with their core teams.

Hulu + Live TV: You can’t miss the channel-lookup interface here, since it’s waiting behind a “View Channels In Your Area” link on this service’s live-TV page. Plug in a Zip code and you get a clean listing of channel icons, with “Live Local Channels” at the top. Unfortunately, they’re all shown only as icons, without any pop-up text to identify the more cluttered graphics among them, and it’s up to you to remember which RSN features which sports franchise.

Sling TV: Sling charges just $30 for the basic service (one good reason why I’m a subscriber) and apparently isn’t too concerned about getting people to buy up to a higher tier to watch pro sports. Seeing what regional sports networks you might get that way requires clicking around a support site that keeps pointing you to a now-useless “Game Finder” page (well, useless unless you had not learned that the coronavirus pandemic has made a mess of every pro sports league’s schedule). The link you actually want, “Finding Your Game On A Regional Sports Network,” clarifies that Sling only carries three such networks, the Comcast RSNs in the Bay Area and Washington, what I like to think of as the Other Bay Area. 

YouTube TV: Google’s streaming service doesn’t make you search hard for a channel lookup–the form is right on its home page and is automatically populated with the Zip code for what Google thinks is your location. Click the big blue “Submit” button or type in a different Zip code before confirming that, and you get an improved version of Hulu’s interface that labels channel logos with their names. But as at everywhere but AT&T TV Now, you still have to look up which RSN carries which teams.

I would like to think that these sites will do better and ease the 2021 version of this work. But in case they don’t, I finally took the time to crate a spreadsheet (the Forbes post features a cleaner, searchable version) that I can update whenever these services add or drop a channel. I hope there’s more of the former happening than the latter, so that when I’m looking at the prospect of a 162-game Nats season next spring I won’t be limited to one service carrying those games.

Weekly output: Elon Musk, PGA Tour, FuboTV, inflight WiFi

This week began with my leaving the house two days in a row for work events–an experience I may next have sometime in April–and ended with the cancellation of conferences in Dallas and Miami at which I was going to moderate panels and would have had my travel expenses covered in return. Well, things could be worse.

Patreon members got an extra post from me: a recap of a really dumb thing I did on my home network that briefly took out our VoIP home phone service.

3/10/2020: Elon Musk: ‘I hope I’m not dead by the time people go to Mars’, Fast Company

I attended the Satellite 2020 trade show in Washington largely to see the Musk keynote that wrapped up the show Monday afternoon. Yes, that means I spent an hour and a half in a packed room with hundreds of other people; no, I have not exhibited COVID-19 symptoms.

3/10/2020: PGA Tour’s new rights deal adds ESPN+, FierceVideo

I covered breaking news at my favorite trade-pub client Monday. My first post covered the nine-year rights deal the PGA Tour announced that morning, and which is already worth a good deal less since the entirety of pro sports is on hold until the novel coronavirus ebbs.

3/10/2020: FuboTV adds MLB and NHL channels, FierceVideo

My second post at Fierce also covered sports on television, in the form of the streaming-TV service Fubo adding two channels that now have no games to air.

3/11/2020: One small perk of the coronavirus outbreak: Faster airplane Wi-Fi, Fast Company

I wrote this the week before after covering the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Aviation Summit, a daylong conference that featured a panel about inflight connectivity as well as industry executives voicing concerns about “booking softness” that now seem woefully understated. Another thing that’s aged badly: the headline on this piece.

TV-shopping bookmarks for cord-cutters

I had yet another story about how to watch baseball games online this week, which meant I had yet another round of checking the sites of streaming-TV services to see which regional sports networks they carry in various places.

That should be easy, but some of these “over the top” video providers don’t let you do this right on their home page. They may not even link to the relevant channel-finder page from anyplace obvious, and in one case a channel-finder feature lurks on a tech-support page.

So I had to open last year’s version of this cord-cutting story to find all the links I’d gathered then. To save me from having to do that again, and to spare you from some extra clicking around, here are those local-channel-lookup links:

DirecTV Now

FuboTV

Hulu with Live TV

PlayStation Vue

Sling TV

YouTube TV

You’re welcome. As a bonus, two more links:

• The Streamable put together a chart showing which services carry the regional sports networks of which baseball teams, which would have saved me a ton of time in researching my own post if only I’d known about it at the time.

•  CNet’s David Katzmaier put together an enormous Google spreadsheet showing which services carry which TV networks (the big four of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC plus MyTV and the CW, with PBS stations remaining absent) in more than 200 TV markets. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since August of 2018… but I can’t blame the authors for not diving back into what must have been an exhausting effort.