Weekly output: streaming-video aggregation, video customer acquisition, Jeremy Toeman, MLB video, “do not sell my personal information,” Strap Technologies

Most of my work this week involved an event that was supposed to have me in Denver back in June–before FierceVideo’s Stream TV Show got pushed back to October and then moved online. After all that, management wound up not requiring me to moderate a panel as I did at this event last year–instead, they asked if I could write up some of the panels.

Patreon readers got an extra post from me Thursday unpacking my efforts to get AT&T to tell me where I might be able to test its millimeter-wave 5G signal.

11/9/2020: Industry execs share diverging opinions about aggregation, FierceVideo

The first panel I covered featured executives from Google, LG, Netflix and Vizio discussing how the pandemic had boosted their businesses (aside from killing many of their customers, something these guys did not acknowledge but should have) and how they were working to keep these confined-to-home viewers entertained.

11/10/2020: StreamTV panel discusses OTT customer acquisition, FierceVideo

This panel had Amdocs Media, Brightcove, Crunchyroll and Roku execs talking about their tactics to win and keep customers. One big takeaway: Disney+ and Netflix don’t have to play by the same rules as everybody else.

11/11/2020: WarnerMedia predicts second screens and synthetic smarts, FierceVideo

WarnerMedia innovation v.p. Jeremy Toeman–a guy I enjoyed meeting in San Francisco in 2012 when he was with a startup called Dijit–talked about how game-streaming services and artificial intelligence could change the state of TV.

11/11/2020: How big data can amp up fans’ experience of the big leagues, FierceVideo

The last Stream TV Show panel I wrote up covered Major League Baseball’s increasingly advanced fusion of statistics and video.

11/13/2020: Here’s A Hint About How Few People Click Those “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” Links, Forbes

A survey released at the end of a half-day online conference hosted Thursday by the Interactive Advertising Bureau suggested embarrassingly scant adoption of a key privacy measure mandated by the California Consumer Privacy Act.

11/14/2020: This startup wants to replace the white cane for blind people, Fast Company

After seeing the pitch of a startup called Strap Technologies for a sensor-equipped pod designed to let blind people navigate the world without a cane, I took a little more time to get the input of some independent experts on this Austin company’s ambitions.

How DVD Recording Got Paused (June 2012 CEA repost)

(Since a site redesign at the Consumer Electronics Association resulted in the posts I wrote for CEA’s Digital Dialogue blog vanishing, along with everything there older than last November, I’m reposting a few that I think still hold up. This one served as a belated correction to a few Post columns when it ran on June 6, 2012.)

Five years ago, a newspaper technology columnist heralded an overdue upgrade to a popular category of consumer electronics—adding a “record” button to the DVD player.

DVD recording“The DVD player has been around for more than a decade, but now it has finally grown up,” this writer declared. As proof, he cited an end to a squabble over recording formats (decried in a 2003 column by the same scribe) and these devices’ newly-gained ability to record over-the-air digital broadcasts.

The writer was me, and the forecast was wrong. DVD recording never took off or even picked up much speed on the runway.

CEA’s figures show U.S. sales to dealers of DVD recorders crested at 2.47 million in 2009 before ebbing to an estimated 797,000 last year. Meanwhile, combined U.S. shipments of DVD and Blu-ray players topped out at 34.04 million in 2011 and then dropped to 24.71 million in 2011.

I put my money where my words were, buying a Toshiba DVD recorder in 2009. But after a brief flurry of use archiving old videotape recordings to disc, we rarely employed it for anything but playing CDs and movies.

After a friend sold me his TiVo HD–fortunately, with lifetime-of-the-product service attached–we retired the recorder to the upstairs TV and picked up a Blu-ray player for our living room. (Note that after all of my earlier skepticism of 3-D TV, the under-$100 model I chose for other reasons happens to support 3-D.)

Our DVD recorder now sits alone and insert upstairs; I don’t even think I’ve plugged it back in after testing a Roku Web-media receiver with that set.

What did I miss? And are there any lessons to draw from my errant estimate?

Four come to mind.

It’s easier to survive a format war without competition. The debut of the DVD itself was held back by lengthy disagreements over its capacity and features, but viewers didn’t have an obvious, appealing alternative to VHS to buy.

That was not the case when manufacturers lined up behind opposing recordable formats: DVD-RW (often pronounced as “minus RW” by opponents), DVD+RW and DVD-RAM. It took a few years of dispute before the industry agreed to support both the -RW and +RW standards, leaving behind DVD-RAM.

(If you could redesign the format from scratch, you might pick DVD-RAM, which allowed much of the same play-while-recording flexibility of hard drive-equipped digital video recorders. But most existing DVD players couldn’t read those discs.)

This delay cost DVD recording more than I had realized in 2007. It allowed DVRs to cement themselves as the video-recording solution of choice.

Pay-TV incompatibility can kill video hardware. Aside from some models with “QAM” tuners for basic-tier cable and fewer, older models with CableCard slots, DVD recorders couldn’t record pay-TV programming unless their intrepid owners set up “IR blaster” controls for their cable and satellite boxes.

But why bother when a cable or satellite company will rent you a DVR that just works with its service? Nobody had a good answer to that question, and newer ventures in home video hardware—for instance, the Google TV hardware I tried in 2010—have run into the same problem.

So if you want to know why you still can’t buy a Blu-ray recorder for your TV in the U.S., there’s one answer.

Just because the features you want exist in separate products doesn’t mean they’ll all come together. I expected DVD recorders would soon gain the ability to record in “enhanced definition” 480p resolution—the same upgrade provided by progressive-scan DVD players and generally welcomed by viewers. That never happened, leaving DVD recording stuck in standard-def.

I also though it obvious to use the “TV Guide on Screen” metadata sent out with over-the-air digital TV broadcasts to provide a simple interactive program grid with one-touch recording. Instead, DVD recorders, our purchase included, required me to punch in start and stop times, as if I were still using the top-loading VCR my parents bought in the early 1980s.

Portability isn’t as important as I think. My advocacy for DVD recording was rooted in the idea that viewers would want a permanent copy of their favorite videos—say, the broadcast of their team winning the World Series or the Super Bowl.

Digital video recorders, however, have generally left out convenient video-export features ever since ReplayTV declined to enable a FireWire digital-video output on its pioneering DVRs. And viewers seem okay with that, as long as they can at least transfer copy-restricted recordings from one DVR to the next.

That’s something to consider as home movie viewing shifts from discs to online streaming. I would like to think that some movies are works for the ages and merit safekeeping in physical media you can take wherever you go. But if you can pull up your favorite flicks online, maybe that doesn’t matter.

Which somehow seems a little sad.

Weekly output: Apple coverage, Xbox One, CTIA, MVNOs and the lack of broadband wholesaling

A long weekend is a good way to end a second workweek spent mostly out of D.C. (I did get home from CTIA in time to sleep in my own bed Thursday night, except it was Friday morning by the time our weather-delayed flight pulled up to the gate at National.)

5/20/2013: Looking for love, or a business icon to shower with adulation, BusinessJournalism.org

My old Post colleague Phil Blanchard writes a column for the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, and in this week’s post he quoted my thoughts what makes so much Apple coverage vapid and vaporous.

5/21/2013: Xbox One: So That’s Why ‘Xbox’ Sounds So Vague, Discovery News

Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One don’t-call-it-a-game-console has the ambitious goal of becoming the new interface for TV, but how will it do better than the last big-name attempt to get the cable or satellite box out of the picture–Google TV?

USAT CTIA report

5/23/2013: At CTIA, smaller phone vendors take center stage, USA Today

This is my first–and, if there’s any justice in the world, my last–piece to be illustrated with a photo of Jennifer Lopez. (Credit for that goes to Verizon Wireless, which announced a marketing deal with her Viva Móvil phone-retail chain at CTIA.)

As you can see in the comments, one of the vendors I mentioned either gave me the wrong info about its water-resistant treatment for phones or I misunderstood them–it’s not quite clear which. I invited their PR guy to leave a comment about those while I forwarded his request for a correction, and he surprised me a bit by accepting the invitation.

5/24/2013: Wireless Says “MVNO” To Resellers, Residential Broadband Just Says No, Disruptive Competition Project

I was struck by how many interesting resellers of the major carriers’ networks showed up at CTIA, and then it hit me: Why is this kind of wholesaling so common in wireless and so rare in residential broadband? I asked around and came up with a few theories that may explain it.

I’d usually have my USAT Q&A listed here, but they’re holding that for Monday. I trust you all can hold out that long.

On Sulia, I posted a bunch of items from CTIA: for instance, Lopez’s appearance, a Bluetooth-controlled deadbolt lock, and the absence of most big-name vendors. I also noted how Flickr’s otherwise-welcome changes can leave Flickr Pro users feeling a little unloved and–D.C. commuters take note–reported that non-Verizon phones now work in a lot more of Metro’s underground stations, maybe all of them.