|Posted on March 2, 2013 at 11:50 AM||comments (0)|
David Bowie was a prominent musical presence in my youth and young adulthood. Great tunes like Under Pressure collaborated with rock royalty Queen, Modern Love, Changes and Fame have earned Bowie and his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust the worldwide fame over the decades. If you have an Apple ID, you can click on the image below to stream it.
Bowie's at it again with his first album in more than a decade - The Next Day - will be released on March 12. But lucky fans like myself can stream the entire for free during a limited pre-release period at the iTunes Store. I'm listening it to it right now as I type this out, and I'm enjoying it immensely. Bowie has such "eclectic" range in terms of the type of music he puts out, from ominous, soul-searching and haunting like The Stars, Love is Lost, Valentine's Day and Where Are We Now to feel-good grooves like Dancing Out in Space and I'd Rather Be High..
The album is available for pre-order at $13.99, or you can purchase the single Where Are We Now for $1.29, which was released in early January on Bowie's birthday.
To stream the album for free, you'll need to follow these directions. If you already have an iTunes account, you can skip the signup portion of the instructions.
|Posted on January 7, 2013 at 7:50 PM||comments (0)|
LAS VEGAS - January 7, 2013 via Business Wire
Time Warner Cable announced today that subscribers of their cable television service will no longer require a cable set-top box as long as they have a Roku device. They will be launching their new TWC TV app through Roku's channel options. This app is currently available for Apple iPad and iPhone, where subscribers can access Time Warner's video-on-demand library.
Roku users will not be able to watch VOD content, but will be able to access 300 cable networks available through their monthly television subscription service. Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt says "If somebody wants to use the interface that comes with one device or another, that's fine. We're going to continue to have ours. If there's a better one - as long as they [subscribers] buy video from us - I don't care."
Roku CEO Anthony Wood says "The availability of a service like TWC TV on an open platform represents significant milestones for both Time Warner Cable and Roku as well as for the industry overall. More importantly, with TWC TV, customers will have more choice in entertainment than was ever possible before.
A partnership with Roku could also be a serious savings for Time Warner Cable, who will not have to deploy and maintain the cable set-top boxes in their subscribers' homes. In fact, Britt and other executives are predicting that these set-top boxes will eventually become extinct as connected television and streaming devices continue to take hold in the marketplace.
|Posted on October 19, 2012 at 8:10 PM||comments (0)|
A UK-based study back in 2010 made it perfectly clear that based upon "the relationship between illegal P2P file-sharing and internet radio services, researchers found that over half of the survey's participants reported stopping illegal downloading activity due to the presence of online streaming services." This was based upon the premise that piracy was bad, and was hurting the entertainment industry.
But then Torrent Freak blew the whistle on an alleged "suppressed report" conducted by Society for Consumer Research that indicates users of P2P file-sharing services "buy more DVDs, visit the cinema more often and on average spend more than their 'honest' counterparts at the box office. The users often buy a ticket to the expensive weekend-days."
So which is it?
Apparently piracy is good for the music industry, at least according to a new study from the American Assembly, which purports that those who illegally download music are also the ones most likely to purchase music. In a study that took the judging of the morality of P2P file-sharing out of the picture, American Assembly focused on asking people to distinguish between what they considered public vs. private copying, and where they drew the line in terms of "reasonable."
Some surprising findings and conclusions include:
The RIAA states that online piracy is harming their industry. "While downloading one song may not feel that serious of a crime, the accumulative impact of millions of songs downloaded illegally - and without any compensation to all the people who helped to create that song and bring it to fans - is devastating." This argument makes sense. And yet, if you look at the chart above, according to this study there seems to be a distict correlation between illegally downloading and legal purchases.
The American Assembly concludes that "if absolute spending is the metric, then P2P users value music more highly than their non-P2P using, digital-collecting peers, not less. They're better digital consumers."
Interestingly, it seems that key players in the music industry seem to understand this, with heavy hitters like Adele and Sir Paul McCartney limiting their music available on streaming services in favor of putting up with piracy for the sake of the bottom line. Could it be similar to, say, a public relations gimmick that may cost up front, but in the long run pays off? Or are we teaching young people to ignore the law?
In fact, there are no specific laws on the books surrounding this practice in many countries. American Assembly notes that "commercial-scale" infringement tends to trigger criminal lawsuits, whereas small-scale copying that involves sharing with personal networks and without any commercial intent, tend to be viewed as "fair use" when viewed in contrast to copyright laws.
Europe comes closest to having legal guidelines on the books which allow for personal copying in return for paying for copying technologies (blank cd's or tape records, etc.).
In related news, The Pirate Bay, the most infamous of all P2P file sharing venues, has just made news by announcing it has moved it's infrastructure to the clouds, which will make it much more difficult for law enforcement agencies to raid the site. It will also cut down on operating costs, according to The Pirate Bay. But the big news according to the rogue site is "if the police decide to raid us again there are no servers to take, just a transit router. If they follow the trail to the next country and find the load balancer, there is just a disk-less server there. In case they find out where the cloud provider is, all they can get are encrypted disk images."
|Posted on September 30, 2012 at 2:05 PM||comments (0)|
While streaming services have undoubtedly changed the way we consume video and music, as in any new technology, some kinks need to be worked out along the way. One snafu that has sprung up with the advent of online media is the idea of piracy and copyright infringement. There are three major players in this soap opera:
Copyright holders have tried to force internet companies to police the itnernet in order to protect their interests through now defunct bills SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). New regulations are being discussed to ensure both fair and open markets, as well as offer protection to those who own the rights to said media.
Internet giants Amazon, Google, Facebook and Yahoo have joined forces to creat a new lobbyist group they are calling The Internet Association, which has a mission to give the online companies a voice in the political process, as well as fight against overly strict regulations that may very well change the entire landscape of the internet.
Amazon is in a particularly unique and vulnerable position because of its business model, which not only sells online content directly, but allows affiliates and vendors to use Amazon to set up their own online presence, which apparently has included bootlegged media. While Amazon has won several lawsuits pertaining to other companies attempting to either limit the number of titles the company sells online, the problem of unscrupulous vendors may become an issue for Amazon, who may have to adhere to stricture regulations to protect copyright owners, as well as to prevent the distribution of counterfeits.
In a separate but related issue, Google has been "cleaning house" in terms of search results it serves up, and webmasters everywhere can't help but notice that the front pages of the SERPs are now loaded with the big names, rendering the littler sites useless in some cases. It's not hard to make the jump that these internet giants could begin to strike deals with Google to influence search results in their favor. The infrastructure is certainly in place after the Google Penguin rendered typical SEO tactics useless, and made brand presence king. In fact, the SEO world is full of conspiracy theories that in order to win in Google's world, you have to pay for advertising with them, and in many cases, you are directly competing with them.
Tougher antitrust laws might bring Google and other companies under scrutinization not only for piracy, but also for possible collusion. As Seeking Alpha noted, "one of Amazon's strengths is its ability to adapt quickly to changing markets. For example, the company has become a pioneer in customer search and in the e-reader market. And while no one can foresee the future of the Internet and how it is regulated, companies like Amazaon have the ability and the means to adopt and adapt to changes in online commerce."
Image: Patrick Hajzler
|Posted on September 17, 2012 at 7:55 PM||comments (0)|
The biggest reason that streaming services providers like Netflix and Hulu Plus aren't eating cable and satellite television providers' lunch is really one major issue - the high cost of acquiring digital content. In fact, we have seen a plethora of various "Me Too" streaming business models launched by the MSOs themselves, but with the same limited lineup of content.
Coinstar CEO Paul Davis, who recently joined ranks with Verizon to come up with "Redbox Instant" has voiced those issues as well. "Just to be real candid, we couldn't afford to do [what other streaming video players have done] on our own, so we would've had to have a curated approach, with a much smaller offering," says Davis during an interview with Fast Company. "But then we wondered, 'Are there advantages to partnering with someone who is already in the space?' "
Davis is completely aware of the challenges Netflix and other streaming providers have to deal with because of the high cost of paying for content. And the provider with the biggest and most valued library wins. Davis wondered if he wanted to play that game right now, or if he couldn't make do with a much smaller, more selective library of titles, similar to its current business model with the famous kiosks supplying a limited number of physical discs to consumers in its sphere of influence.
Since Redbox was catering to a different consumer base than say the (disappearing) Blockbuster stores; a clientele who valued convenience and price over selection, it is reasoning that it can carry that line of reasoning forward in the streaming arena.
Says Davis "Had Redbox started by trying to replicate what Blockbuster was doing with all this variety, it would've very quickly become too complex. But Redbox said 'let's narrow the offering and let's make it super simple.' "
So we can probably expect that the dynamic duo of Verizon and Coinstar will not be going after Netflix's business. What that model will be is still quite unclear - but based upon the innovative little red kiosks dotting the United States and Canada, you can bet it will be innovative, simple, convenient, and save consumers money.
|Posted on September 11, 2012 at 7:55 PM||comments (0)|
After the Federal Communications Commission communicated a series of rules in December of 2010 for internet providers and multi system operators to abide by when facilitating internet traffic on their public internet pipes, a few of the providers cried foul and launched a challenge the following month, stating that the FCC had overstepped its bounds. In particular, Verizon and MetroPCS stated that the FCC's orders exceeded its authority, and will end up harming internet providers. Further, the ISPs stated the rules were arbitrary and violated the First Amendment rights of these companies.
The FCC fired back yesterday, telling the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Court that the orders were in fact necessary to protect consumers' ability to access the providers' public internet networks. It told the court in a 79 page argument that, first of all, free speech is an individual freedom, and that internet providers as well as other corporations as a whole are not covered under Constitutional freedoms. Further, it stated "They transport the speech of others, as a messenger delivers documents containing speech. Unlike cable systems, newspapers, and other curated media, broadband providers do not exercise editorial discretion. Verizon has defended itself from lawsuits on that very ground. If the First Amendment applies to all, the Open Internet Rules are narrowly tailored to serve important government interests."
In a nutshell, net neutrality orders prohibit internet providers from treating certain packets of internet traffic preferentially if they end up discriminating against other packets of information. For instance, in an article dated June 26 we discussed how the Department of Justice was investigating alleged discrimination of internet traffic, particularly packets of data from streaming services. MSOs and broadband companies have been accused of throttling streaming and peer-to-peer file sharing services. It seems that they are also granting certain companies "most favored nation" status, giving special price breaks to their friends. These types of potential anti-competitive actions can harm consumers and certain industries who rely on the public internet.
|Posted on September 10, 2012 at 6:25 PM||comments (0)|
At the time that net neutrality rules were being defined by the Federal Communications Commission that were designed to ensure that internet providers did not treat certain traffic preferentially, download and upload speeds were defined at 4 Mbps and 1 Mbps respectively in order to be considered broadband internet. However, due to the high demand by consumers for high-definition online video, as well as the fact that internet providers are beginning to offer speeds of 300 Mbps and faster, it looks like the FCC may be planning on raising the threshold for what is defined as broadband.
They are also looking at data capacity thresholds, noting that internet providers like Comcast recently raised their monthly data allowance cap from 250 GB to 300 GB, as well as several internet providers are now charging a fixed rate per every 50 GB consumed that exceeds the cap.
"If we add a data capacity threshold for fixed broadband in the next report, what data capacity threshold or thresholds should we adopt? What data capacity limits to most fixed broadband providers offer today? How often, and under what circumstances, do consumers exceed these limits?" were some of the questions asked by the commission.
If the FCC does change it's definition of what broadband is, this will mean even greater disparity between the number of US citizens who do not have a broadband connection. The current number is about 19 million people who do not have any type of network access that meets the definition of broadband. They may have a satellite or dialup internet connection, or even a DSL connection that offers moderate speeds a few steps up from dialup, but that will not be able to handle any type of video streaming.
|Posted on July 27, 2012 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
While there are streaming providers who may be more popular than Vudu, according to Consumer Reports study released July 26, 2012, it is ranked best in terms of performance and overall customer satisfaction. Apple iTunes comes in a close second, followed by Amazon Instant Video. All three of these services are pay per view, and not all-access streaming libraries like Netflix and Hulu Plus.
According to ConsumerReport.org, 52% of the 15,000+ subscribers polled have used a streaming service in the past month, compared to 47% who viewed a movie at a theater, 43% who rented a DVD, and 32% who watched a movie via pay per view from their television provider.
Jim Wilcox, Senior Electronics Editors, said "Our survey revealed that a healthy selection of titles is one of the biggest factors in overall satisfaction with video services, which is why disc rental services and pay-per-view streaming services scored the highest in our Rankings."
While Vudu is ranked #1, it is not the number one streaming provider in the United States. Netflix has, and continues to hold that crown in terms of subscribers and / or account holders.. According to Consumer Reports, customers' biggest complaint with Netflix was it's limited selection of newly released movies.
It's important to note that we are comparing apples to oranges here. When you rent a movie on Vudu, you'll pay about $3. If you rent a Vudu 99 cent movie of the day, you'll pay $1. Compare that to the "all you can stream" unlimited access you get for $8 per month with Netflix or Hulu Plus. Renting 3-5 movies from Vudu can quickly cost you the same as a monthly Netflix subscription.
It's also crucial to understand that streaming service subscription providers have their hands tied. It is the owners of the copyrights of the new releases who do not grant licensing agreements to Netflix or Hulu. Rather, they allow providers like Vudu, Amazon Instant Video or iTunes to have first dibs, because a single rental generates more revenues than a flat monthly subscription. Likewise, by controlling the release of these newer releases, these copyright holders can create a "scarcity" environment where interested parties are more likely to go to the theater, rent a movie, or purchase a copy of the movie. There is, without a doubt, bigger revenues generated from these other sources as opposed to a streaming library where a blanket licensing agreement allows a subscriber to watch a movie whenever and however often they wish to.
In fact, Netflix disc by mail service (or Blockbuster, Redbox, etc.) has a comparable selection of films to Vudu and other services, but it operates on a queue basis, which adds to the "scarcity" factor that coyright holders are betting on. In other words, they believe you will get tired of waiting for the DVD to become available through (Netflix / Blockbuster) and will simplty rent it from Vudu, iTunes or Amazon, or perhaps you'll even purchase a physical copy.
Streaming 411 has long advocated for a home streaming selection that includes a monthly subscription to a library like Netflix or Hulu, plus supplementing with pay per view titles from Vudu, Amazon or iTunes.
|Posted on July 26, 2012 at 1:25 PM||comments (0)|
There are several newsworthy and interesting developments that are happening in the streaming and related industries. Here are the highlights:
Finally, the opening ceremony of the Olympics in London is tomorrow night, although the Men's & Women's Soccer events were live beginning yesterday morning. There are free live feed sources, including the NBC Olympics Live Extra, the official live streaming app of the 2012 summer Olympics for US viewers, available through iTunes. It's important to note that some of the features require a cable subscription authentification, but users can access a variety of alternative camera angles, access to full replays, and more. You can also watch video from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Canadian residents can access the CTV Olympics London 2012 free app as well.
Are you a photo buff? Check out Reuters Olympics London 2012 app.
|Posted on July 12, 2012 at 6:45 PM||comments (0)|
Yesterday a federal judge, Allison Nathan of the United States District Court in Manhattan, just denied the temporary injunction sought by television broadcasting companies to force start-up streaming provider Aereo to stop streaming local television programming to it's customers. The entertainment and streaming industries are both watching these court cases very closely, as their outcome could potentially change the way consumers access their entertainment, causing a sort of deregulation of the current media distribution channels.
Despite this ruling, broadcasters still plan on pursuing their lawsuit against Aereo.
As mentioned before, a success story for Aereo could change the entire pay TV landscape. Consumers are growing increasing weary of the hefty monthly costs of subscription television from cable and satellite TV providers. Retransmission fees are one of the reasons why consumers are footing the bill. If Aereo wins this court case, they will essentially be providing a precedent for the elimination of retransmission fees for network television.
It's important to understand why Aereo thinks they can stream network content without paying these fees. If I decided I didn't want to pay Dish Network for the privilege of watching TV anymore, I could go out and purchase an antenna and capture the major networks like ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS for free (minus the cost of my antenna). The reason I might not be able to do this is that a large antenna might not be allowed in my community; or, I simply might live too far away to pick up the broadcast signals clearly, at a clarity and picture level that is worth it to me to go the free route.
But is it fair for some to be able to use an antenna and not me, if one of the prohibitions mentioned above stopped me from enjoying free TV? That's where Aereo provides an important service. They essentially "rent" and house an antenna for me, and then stream the content over the internet right to my computer at a clarity level that is worth the price point they charge. They can keep their subscription costs low (currently $12 a month in New York City) because they aren't paying the retransmission fees that cable and satellite TV pay.
Cord-cutting (the term that the industry is using for no longer relying on cable and satellite bundles for television service) is certainly a growing interest among consumers, but there are a few things keeping consumers from making a mass exodus. For starters, streaming libraries are still on the thin side for newer content. Entertainment companies who own the copyrights of the content put a steep price tag on the content, but give cable and satellite providers a price break (that's an entirely different article, looking at net neutrality issues and misusing the "most-favored-nation" status for price breaks). But Netflix - well, they have to pay top dollar.
However - a deregulation caused by an Aereo win could end up causing a domino effect on the copyright costs of content, especially if the entertainment companies realize that the so-called "mass exodus" to cutting the cord will not be stemmed, despite their best efforts. In other words, there may come a time when the scales are tipped, and entertainment companies realize it is worth it to lower the licensing fees placed on their content.
If I Was a Betting Person. . .
Well, that's what this website is all about, really. I am betting that the current business model cannot sustain itself, and that eventually this website will be a trusted source for consumers and even the entertainment companies and streaming providers . . . because we've watched the scenario play out in front of our very eyes, and made decisions based upon said scenario.
The Players Today
The plaintiffs in this court case included PBS, Fox, Tribune Univision, and CBS. And they vow to continue their fight. Can you blame them? They will have to adjust their entire business model around this brave new, consumer oriented world. The tides always shift between the consumer and the corporation. That's normal, and it shouldn't be despised. If the corporation didn't have something to work for, then why be in business. But at some point the consumer needs to get the upper hand. We may be seeing that shift right now . . .
Aereo said yesterday evening in a news release "Today's decision should serve as a signal to the public that control and choice are moving back into the hands of the consumer -- that's a powerful statement."