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Cable Technology Feature Article

September 28, 2013

Cable Technology Week in Review

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

It might be a slow drip, drip, drip sort of phenomenon, but video “cord cutting” is increasing, according to an analysis by Frank Magid Associates. Magid says 2.7 percent of subscription TV customers say they are “thinking” about cutting the cord in the next year. That’s up from 2.2 percent a year ago, and 1.9 percent in 2011.

Skeptics will say those are relatively small percentages, and that more people “thinking” about cord cutting is nearly always less than the number of people who will actually do so. Still, subscription TV services have one problem common to all recurring subscription services. Buyers get monthly reminders of how much they are paying, keeping the issue top of mind, at least once a month, for customers who have at least some issues with the value and price relationship.

And so, pay-TV operators know that they need to connect consumers to content is far more effective than just through traditional programming grids and linear services. To that end, Australia’s Foxtel has selected Digitalsmiths Seamless Discovery to provide metadata management in support of its subscription television services with DVD extras-style features. More specifically, Digitalsmiths Seamless Discovery and Unified Data Service enables personalized search and recommendations features for content across live TV, time-shifted TV, premium channels and video-on-demand (VOD) across all connected devices.

Typically, each metadata type is hidden in its own silo. Digitalsmiths Unified Data Service creates a single index where multiple video-related data sources are ingested, aggregated, reconciled and stored, including images, reviews, ratings, statistics, awards, cast, directors, schedule data and merchandising. “Foxtel continues to pave the road with cutting-edge innovation, and our team is excited to partner with one of the world's leading subscription TV companies,” said Ben Weinberger (News - Alert), co-founder and CEO of Digitalsmiths. “Digitalsmiths' metadata management and personalized content discovery features provide Foxtel with the market-leading suite of products for the varying needs of its subscriber base. We look forward to being a key component in Foxtel's ongoing commitment to deliver the highest quality experiences to their subscribers.”

Back Stateside, after participating as a bidder in the recent failed auction of the Hulu online TV service, No. 1 U.S. satellite company DirecTV (News - Alert) is mulling the launch of its very own over-the-top (OTT) video service. CEO Michael White, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference on Wednesday, said that any such launch would be a scaled-down version of what’s in the market today—sort of a Netflix lite. The move is geared to help DirecTV diversify its business model: it lost 84,000 pay-TV customers in the U.S. in the second quarter of 2013, compared with 52,000 in the same quarter a year-ago. DirecTV has undertaken a three-edged strategy for the U.S. market, including streamlining its cost structure through better negotiation with the content providers; introducing TV Everywhere and multiscreen streaming capability on mobile devices; and focusing more on becoming a premium brand in the U.S., particularly with its Genie Whole-Home DVR.

DISH Network is working on its own value proposition, with new programming bundles for businesses, like offices, fitness centers, salons, medical offices and auto repair shops to bars and restaurants. The company has introduced new Business Complete and Complete Plus Sports bundles that gives customers a easy solution for ordering TV service. Business Complete bundle comes with 137 channels, and Business Complete plus Sports includes the 137 channels plus an additional 21 top sports channels. The company charges its customers based upon public and private viewing settings. DISH also offers the PAC-12 Network add-on package, giving sports bars, restaurants and other businesses a choice of this season’s college football games as well as other PAC-12 sports such as basketball, soccer and tennis. In related news, DISH has implemented its standard procedures to assist in the wake of natural disasters. Customers can receive special waivers and for a while can pause DISH service. They are welcome to call DISH Customer Service at 800-333-DISH when they are ready to review their account.

The over-the-top (OTT) set isn’t sitting idly by. Roku Inc. and M-GO are teaming together to add M-GO lineup of new movies and hit TV shows to the Roku line of players. The Roku home screen menu will now show a shortcut that will allow users to easily access the M-GO website, so users can watch the newest available movies, such as “World War Z,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “Now You See Me,” and “The Croods.” Television lovers can catch up on the latest episodes, like “Breaking Bad,” “Modern Family,” “The Walking Dead,” “Two Broke Girls,” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” Paying for movies or TV episodes is simple, because Roku offers billing through an integrated system between M-GO and Roku that allows users to purchase programming directly through M-GO.

Looking to stay abreast of the latest competitive waters itself, Apple (News - Alert) has, as anticipated, released a refreshed version of its Apple TV software (after a premature launch and subsequent deletion last week from the iTunes store). Apple TV 6.0 offers the Pandora (News - Alert) -rivaling iTunes Radio and Music Store, AirPlay functionality from iCloud, conference room mode, and a Photo Stream replacement using iCloud photos and videos. In addition, the Apple TV can now install software updates automatically. The biggest notable update is the AirPlay (News - Alert) from iCloud capability, which takes on the Google Chromecast dongle directly by allowing users to keep content in the cloud and simply pull it down to the TV, no download required. In the past, content would have to be streamed first to an iPhone (News - Alert), iPad or iPod touch, and then synced from there via AirPlay to the Apple TV set-top. The result is a reduction in local bandwidth usage. Take note however: it only works with iOS 7 devices.

And, kids in the U.K. watch more than six billion hours of TV a year, but Hopster TV is looking to ensure that viewing is age-appropriate and constructive. The OTT video service aims to give parents peace of mind when it launches in November, with a combination of TV show episodes and interactive games that enhance the show content—an embedded second-screen experience. The service will be particularly focused on the preschool set, and will offer a dashboard for monitoring kids’ TV consumption. And, it will be subscription-based and ad-free, though specific pricing hasn’t been released. It plans to expand beyond the U.K. if the launch goes well.

Have a great weekend!

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