The President and CEO of Sony Corp has had a busy year, so he’s ringing in 2014 in Las Vegas — by delivering the opening speech at CES on January 7, that is. Kazuo Hirai has spoken recently about plans to revitalize his company’s electronics business, so he’ll have plenty to talk about at the annual consumer tech show. Expect to hear more about Sony’s new 4K Ultra HD video download service and its recent deal to carry Viacom’s channels on the Internet-based TV service the Japanese conglomerate is working on. Hirai will speak in the Venetian’s Palazzo Ballroom after Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro’s State of the Industry Address. International CES runs through January 10.
Aereo is a mouse of a company, but it’s frightening a lot of Big Media elephants. After launching in New York nearly a year ago, the service — which streams broadcasters’ over-the-air signals to subscribers who typically pay $8 a month — just announced an ambitious plan to expand to 22 additional cities this year with $38M in Series B funding led by Barry Diller’s IAC and Highland Capital Partners. It’s also beginning to move beyond broadcast: Founder and CEO Chet Kanojia is talking to pay TV channels and Hollywood studios about contributing to Aereo’s programming.
That worries virtually every major broadcaster: Networks and stations don’t receive a dime from Aereo and have sued, alleging that it violates their copyrights. If Aereo wins, then pay TV providers may be emboldened to reject broadcasters’ demands for rising retransmission consent fees — one of the fastest growing sources of revenues for station owners including ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Aereo says that it’s perfectly legal to lease over-the-air antennas and add DVR-like capabilities to record shows, fast-forward and rewind.
I caught up with Kanojia last week at the International CES show in Las Vegas. Here’s our conversation, edited for length and clarity:
DEADLINE: You’re adding 22 cities this year. Is that it for now?
CHET KANOJIA: That’s Phase 1. That’ll hopefully keep us busy through the summer.
DEADLINE: And then?
KANOJIA: Then we’ll do more. We hope to do all the major markets as soon as we can. I think of 2013 and 2014 as build years for us. A lot of infrastructure build-out, get the customer adoption going, get the message right. That gives us a base to move to the next level. The next level may include digital programming, new channels, and who knows what.
DEADLINE: New channels, such as what?
“While unsettling, this is sometimes necessary,” Dish Network‘s Joe Clayton said at an International CES presentation to unveil his company’s new DVR and mobile viewing technology. With his company’s programming costs growing at double-digit rates, “we as …
This surprised me. Samsung said at the International CES confab today that its new OLED TV sets make it possible for two people to watch different shows on the same screen at the same time. The company pulls off that trick when viewers wear special glasses, with earbuds, that isolate the program that the viewer wants. It seems the OLED models can handle all of those moving images because the screens refresh 1,000 times faster than conventional HDTV screens. The company says it will show that off in addition to a voice command feature it calls S-Recommendation: Users can use natural language to ask for different programming characteristics, for example an actor they like, and the TV set will offer suggestions based on what’s available on conventional TV, online, and on the DVR. Recommendations will adapt to a user’s tastes over time.
That’s good news for makers of multi-function devices led by computers, smartphones, tablets, and HDTVs — but potentially worrisome for makers of, say, Blu-ray players — consulting firm Accenture says this morning based on its latest annual Global Consumer Electronics Products and Services Usage Report. The study, released in conjunction with the International CES confab getting underway in Las Vegas, is based on a September 2012 survey of 11,000 consumers in 11 countries. It found sharp increases in plans to buy the four leading multi-function devices while buyer enthusiasm cooled slightly for disc players, and was unchanged for digital photo and video cameras, and game consoles. “This development amounts to a call to action for electronics manufacturers,” says Mattias Lewren, managing director for Accenture’s Electronics and High-Tech industry group. “They need to focus squarely on innovative devices with multiple applications, from browsing to media consumption to communications in various settings. Consumers want ‘do-it-all’ capabilities in various sizes and user experiences that fit their different lifestyle needs.” But people don’t appear to be especially loyal to operating systems that tie devices together. About two-thirds of the people surveyed said that they would buy mobile or computing devices that use different systems; they’re more interested in whether a device is innovative or easy to use. “The platforms that offer a more intuitive user experience, and diverse and sticky applications with compatibility across devices, will be key to creating consumer loyalty in this four-horse race,” Lewren says.
Dick Clark Prods. is developing the “Streamy Awards” to self-congratulate Internet programming. It’s a 2-year-old franchise supposedly recognizing the best in web entertainment. The company is currently looking for a TV home for the event, though some if not all of the Streamys will be situated online. No date or location for the …