This could be an important development, and not just for Cablevision customers. Cable execs have been keeping an eye on the company’s efforts to pioneer the cloud-based DVR, which gives subscribers the ability to use a conventional cable box — without a hard drive — to record shows and fast forward through the ads. Today’s changes boost the number of channels subscribers can simultaneously record to 10 from four, ups the storage capacity to 75 hours of HD from 25 hours, and raises the price to $12.95 a month from $10.95. (The company also is changing the name of the service to Optimum’s Multi-Room DVR, from DVR Plus.) “Our cloud-based DVR is the industry’s most advanced DVR service and provides customers with the flexibility they need to enjoy the programming they love without being forced to choose between shows,” says VP of Video Product Management Bradley Feldman. By comparison, DirecTV’s Genie DVR can record five channels simultaneously and Dish Network’s Hopper can record up to six. If Cablevision’s upgrades give it a clear advantage over its competitors, at a low price since it doesn’t require lots of new equipment, then don’t be surprised if lots of other operators introduce their own cloud-based DVRs.
For decades, TV networks’ promo campaigns for new series had been focused squarely on bringing in viewers to the shows’ premieres. For the first time, Fox last week broke tradition, swapping the tune-in ads for its midseason drama The Following starring Kevin Bacon for billboards urging viewers to set their DVRs.
Encouraging DVR viewing is a two-edged sword as it gives the networks extra audiences — most of which they can’t monetize since a large portion of viewers who time-shift shows skip some or most commercials when watching. But with people’s viewing preferences for this season already firmly established, Fox opted for the unusual campaign to help its new show get on viewers’ season passes as a way to bring in regular audiences. That is especially important for a serialized drama like The Following, where retaining viewership is crucial for its long-term success.
Throughout the opening of the 2012 International CES I’ve had a feeling that the technology news here will delight TV viewers — but frighten Hollywood studios and other content owners. My impression was clinched this morning at a small presentation by EchoStar, Dish Network’s technology-focused corporate cousin. The company’s new gadgets make it possible for pay TV providers to offer customers television’s most popular shows on-demand — including via TV Everywhere-like Internet streams to out-of-home smartphones and tablets — without having to pay programmers additional license fees. Some of those capabilities were displayed on Monday when Dish unveiled its Hopper DVR: Dish subscribers with one of these boxes can watch any ABC, CBS, Fox, or NBC primetime show from the previous eight days. The boxes also use technology from Sling Media (which EchoStar owns) to stream any of the channels that users receive or and shows that they record at home.
But this morning’s presentation made it clear that EchoStar is starting to build bridges with cable operators — the dominant providers of TV services and, ostensibly, Dish’s mortal enemies.
The 2012 International CES isn’t just an opportunity for the digital cognicente to look at new gadgets. It’s also a chance to brush up on the latest industry jargon. Don’t let it throw you. If you know the following words and concepts, then you should be able to easily hold your own in a conversation with someone returning from the annual consumer electronics spectacle in Las Vegas:
Ultrabooks: These are what you get when you cross a laptop computer with a tablet, and they’re grabbling the lion’s share of attention at the 2012 International CES. Ultrabooks are thin and light; most use solid state hard drives instead of the traditional storage drives built around a rotating disc. Intel is leading the cheerleading squad for ultrabooks, which it hopes will reenergize the laptop computer market.
Dish Network CEO Joe Clayton says that ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC shouldn’t have a problem with his company’s just-announced PrimeTime Anytime DVR feature that automatically records the networks’ primetime shows, holds them for a week, and also streams them on-demand to computers, tablets and other mobile devices. But he doesn’t know. “I haven’t personally talked to every single one of them, but I’m sure they’re aware of it,” he says. He adds that Dish shouldn’t have to worry that it’s treading on their right to license TV Everywhere rights, or look-back VOD service to cable operators and online destinations such as Hulu. “This is no different than an opt-in for any DVR,” he says. I’m told that lawyers for the networks are reviewing the Dish service to see whether there’s a problem.
Clayton was in a buoyant mood, though, as he officially disclosed the news that had already leaked about his company’s powerful new DVR product — called Hopper — and Dish’s corporate makeover.
Dish Network is looking to make a splash at this week’s 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — but one announcement, which leaked out prematurely, could raise the ire of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Tech trade publications Dealerscope and TWICE broke news embargos tied to Dish’s press conference later today regarding a multi-room DVR called Hopper: It will have three tuners and a huge storage capacity of 2 terabytes. Hopper will make it possible for users to stop watching a recoded show in one room and resume where they left off in another, reports blogger Dave Zatz, who saw a posting of the TWICE article before it was taken down, and Multichannel News, which caught the one yanked from Dealerscope. But it also includes a feature called Primetime Anytime that will automatically record primetime broadcasts from local stations for ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC and retain those shows for a week — in effect turning Hopper into into a catch-up VOD service. Broadcasters have been licensing catch-up rights to Hulu and cable VOD. The TWICE article also notes that Dish is dropping the word “Network” from its name as it focuses more on technology.
It’s easy to understand why so many media and technology watchers are riveted by TiVo’s bitter patent infringement court fight with Dish Network. TiVo says it owns most of the processes that define the DVR — including the ability to watch one show while recording another. If TiVo can persuade the courts tha…
TiVo just issued this statement regarding the contempt sanctions ordered by the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, in the lawsuit against EchoStar and Dish: “We are pleased by the Court’s ruling to impose contempt sanctions of approximately $200 million …