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Cable Technology Feature Article

June 28, 2014

Cable Technology Week in Review

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

It’s been a busy week for the cable and pay-TV sector, starting with a big court case.

The Supreme Court ruled this week in the case of ABC. v. Aereo, holding that the start-up service, which re-transmits over-the-air TV signals to subscribers via the Internet at $8 per month, does indeed transmit performances to the public within the meaning of the Copyright Act. That means that Aereo is in violation. But while the reaction as to the decision has been decidedly mixed, many legal experts and analysts say that the court actually took a step to ensure continued innovation when it comes to the future application of copyright law, by enforcing an application of copyright understanding that protects the economic engine behind content creation. Other online start-ups have come and quickly gone for failing to pay content owners for their goods while making money on it themselves. Why was Aereo different, and what does it mean for the industry?

Check out all of the implications in our full analysis.

DISH Network subscribers can now access pay-TV content with a range of social accounts like Facebook, Twitter or Google. The satcaster has tapped Synacor (News - Alert) to enable its TV Everywhere integration with social media, and plans to deploy its Cloud ID Social Login for in-home and mobile TV Everywhere access via DISH Anywhere, its authenticated streaming service. Now, “by keeping the authentication process simple and layering-on familiar social login capabilities, DISH and Synacor are eliminating the barriers to entry that may deter subscribers from accessing the content they want,” the companies noted in a statement. Synacor's passive log-in technology combined with SSO, which detects when the authentication process already has been completed, allows subscribers to skip repeating the login process while accessing DISH sites and applications, from Web or mobile devices.

Find out more about the functionality, here.

AT&T’s (News - Alert) proposed acquisition of DirecTV is largely about video entertainment, but also has implications for expanded high speed access coverage, according to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee subcommittee dealing with antitrust issues.

Stephenson noted that AT&T at present can serve less than a quarter of U.S. households with a video entertainment service that now is deemed an “essential” part of the core service bundle for consumers.

Though one might argue there also are other reasons that degree of household reach explains why Verizon and AT&T still have only a bit over five million video customers each. Comcast serves about 21.7 million, Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable about 11.4 million, while cable operators nationwide serve about 49.6 million customers.

For full details and analysis, click here.

It’s becoming fairly obvious that today's consumers don't want their multichannel content confined to the living-room TV set. So for operators, the focus is shifting from traditional set-top boxes (STBs) to home-media gateways—which convert digital media streams between networks—and the software that enables these devices. According to the latest SNL Kagan MRG report, client-side TV software solutions implemented on set-top boxes and home media gateways overall will see diminishing growth rates for total STBs, as that part of the market is expected to peak in 2015 and remain fairly static in 2016 and 2017. However, the significant growth in home media gateways (a subset of total STBs) will be driven by increased demand in North America and Western Europe.

Read the full market forecast, detailed here.

ABC News has announced the release of its app on Apple (News - Alert) TV, providing viewers with access to live and on-demand news content. The line-up of original and on-demand content for the Apple TV is instead aimed towards a younger, digitally savvy audience than what ABC typically sees in its linear ratings.

It’s no secret that the audience for daily broadcast news skews older, and is shrinking. But the Apple TV play is meant to draw in younger eyeballs that prefer their news in personalized capsules. “We are delighted to deliver ABC News to a whole new and growing audience,” said James Goldston, president of ABC News. “Now the stories that interest you most and anything that’s happening live is instantly available to you on Apple TV from ABC News.”

Read more about ABC’s change in strategy, by clicking here.

Apple TV could get the company’s latest content porting capabilities, known as Continuity, when it’s refreshed this fall. Apple previewed the functionality for Macs and iOS devices at WWDC earlier this month, and it’s oriented around seamless transition. For instance, the Handoff function lets a user start writing an email, text message or other missive on one device, and finish it on another. With Apple TV integration, it could in theory allow a user to start a movie or TV show on an iPad while on the go, then be able to pick it up immediately and automatically on the big screen when he or she gets home. That could be important for Apple as it tries to hang onto market share in an increasingly crowded video STB space.

Read the analysis, here.

AMC Networks Inc. has become the latest major cable net to explore the possibility of launching its own over-the-top (OTT) Internet-based subscription video service. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, speaking to Businessweek, the outlet will be used to offer niche content, particularly documentaries. Its top-flight network content, like Mad Men and the Walking Dead, will stay right where it is, on the linear, on-demand and TV Everywhere outlets. The niche play seems to be settling into a trend: the news comes shortly after ESPN (News - Alert) said that it was mulling a strategy for offering online access to live Major League Soccer games, as a way to add revenue without alienating its existing model of working solely with pay-TV operators for distribution.

Read more about its plans, here.

If and when video distributors (cable TV, satellite TV, telco TV) win more freedom to buy only the channels they want to distribute, instead of bundles of channels, they will be able to better control retail costs. At the same time, those very actions will increase incentives for program owners to empower rival distribution providers. So even by winning, legacy distributors will be losing. And even while losing, content owners will win. That’s paradoxical, but a reasonable illustration of how the video entertainment market is being driven to change. Can video content owners expect to keep boosting prices at rates much higher than rates of inflation, indefinitely? Can video distributors keep passing along those increases to their customers, indefinitely?

Read out analysis, here.

To check out more details on all of this and more, visit our homepage. And have a great weekend!

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