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How-to: Wall mounting a LCD or Plasma

The Home Theater blog has a good post on how-to wall mount a LCD or Plasma.

Wall mounts are kind of funny -- most every screen you see in ads and in commercial spaces are likely wall mounted in a very clean way, but when you get yours home you'll quickly realize how much of a pain it is to do and requires some real knowledge of construction and electrical techniques. A wall-mounted screen without hidden cabling is kind of an eyesore and I can't help but look at my TV over the fireplace and the jumble of wires below and wish I found someone to do a clean job on it. I tried a local electrician and they had never done one and couldn't really give a quote on what it might cost.

I figure with the ubiquity of cheap plasma and LCD screens, perhaps a cottage industry of installers will pop up to help people hide their TVs in the next few years.

May 31, 2006 in How-To | Permalink | Comments (10)

Cablevision sued over DVR

Cablevision customer with a DVR?  Read carefully.

The AP is reporting that Cablevision has been sued by a group of Hollywood content providers, both TV and movie companies, over a new VoD service whereby Cablevision would host the content, vs. having the content kept on the users machine.

Typical DVR's record television programs on a hard drive and allow viewers to replay the programs at any time.

The network DVR proposed by Cablevision would allow viewers to choose which programs they want to record. But instead of recording on a hard drive at home, the cable company would record the programs on a central computer, then allow viewers to watch them later.

Studios contend that the law gives consumers the right to shift the use of their time, but it does not give that right to companies that license the content only for simultaneous broadcast, meaning that to store the programs and offer them on demand for a fee, companies must obtain a separate license.

This will be an important lawsuit wrt VoD services in general so let's keep an eye on it.

Studios Sue Cablevision Over New Service - New York Times (registration free link)

May 29, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

TiVo Gurus Launched

Tivo announced their Guru Recommendations program yesterday, allowing editors of popular magazines to share suggested show listings. It sounds like a good program, as finding new shows to watch is generally the most difficult thing to do with a TiVo (esp. if you're avoiding channel surfing). I'm sure the magazines pay for placement slots, but I would be interested in suggested shows from Entertainment Weekly and Automobile.

Of course it'd be way cooler if any TiVo user could create suggestions and share them on the TiVo site, like the way Amazon does Listmania. It wouldn't be too tough to extend existing TiVo Online accounts and the online scheduling, along with some browsing and voting by TiVo users to filter the best recommendations to the top.

May 23, 2006 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (3)

ABC.com Users Watch More Than Two Million Streams

Interesting set of statistics from PaidContent.org: ABC.com Users Watch More Than Two Million Streams since ABC started the experiment with online streaming of shows on May 1st. Even more surprising was that 86% of viewers watched (or could remember) the ads, which is twice the retention of regular TV.

This news coupled with the news that ABC won't be replaying old episodes of Lost next season (no more need for this handy utility), I bet they move them to online-only showing, before they're released on DVD or found at the iTunes Store, based on the success of their online streams.

May 18, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

Two interesting news bits in the age of declining TV ad sales

People are watching less and less advertising and everyone in the TV industry is scrambling to figure out what comes next. Two news items this morning offered some hope.

One is that Warner Brothers is offering online streaming of their sitcom reruns to their affiliate stations. This is a big move as other networks have chosen to sell or stream shows directly to viewers, bypassing the local stations. Also, it's great to see networks offer fans ways to view older episodes they might have missed, which until now could usually be found online from less-than-legal avenues like bittorrent and usenet.

The other interesting tidbit is that TiVo is offering long-form commercials on demand. It sounds like an expanded version of what they've had before (I loved the BMW short movies they played years ago) and from the descriptions in the Wall Street Journal, I'd actually opt-in and want to see most of those (I'm a car nut and love Penn and Teller).

May 8, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Future of TV in the DVR era in the New York Times

"Someone Has to Pay for TV. But Who? And How?" is an article in today's New York Times that has possibly the coolest PVR-related illustration to date:

Digihomepage

It's a pretty standard "the sky is falling because no one watches ads anymore" article. It covers the current state of declining TV ad sales (TiVo reports its users skip 70% of commercials) and it covers experiments with online digital delivery of shows for a small price (like NBC shows in the iTunes Store and CBS selling direct). The article also mentions the Philips patent application for a feature that would disable the fast forward button and channel change button when ads are played, which is certainly a step backwards.

The success of show sales on things like the iTunes store definitely points towards the future of TV: make shows good enough that people willingly pay for it (sans ads).  Of course, cable outfits like HBO and Showtime have been doing this for decades so it will be interesting to see how the major networks compete in the future. I'm still hopeful the networks can create great programming worthy of purchase and adapt to this new world instead of the alternative: relying on lawsuits to block any technology that doesn't fit their current business model in a perpetual war between them and their own customers.

May 7, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

Cox is asking a lot of questions about TiVo...

Michael sent a link to the TiVo Community where a member talks about a customer survey mentioning TiVo-powered Cox units may be coming soon. It's likely just customer research, but it would be cool to see TiVo-powered units coming out for cable companies.

May 4, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

TiVo Desktop for Mac 1.9.3

TiVo updated their mac client to handle intel-powered macs a couple weeks ago and someone on the TiVo boards noticed with a bit of hacking you can play video from your mac to your TiVo. It's basically a way to enable the existing PC feature described here, but on the mac. It's probably just an unsupported feature that was left in for future versions, and it's good to hear mac development of TiVo clients is still moving forward.

May 4, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Sorry State of Pay TV

Some friends bought a new house and recently asked me what I would pick given their three TV programming options (they are also interested in trying out HDTV for the first time): Comcast cable, Dish satellite, or DirecTV satellite. Here's what I answered with:

Comcast - Lots of channels on the system with a dozen or two HD channels including local stations. Downside is it can run expensive ($60+ with a basic package that includes HD, a HD DVR, and a movie channel) and the HD DVR is pitiful to use. Hopefully more HD channels are coming soon, but I've heard nothing.

DirecTV - Lots of standard-def digital channels that are very clear, sharper than my current digital cable line. They dropped TiVo for the basic DVR, and you'll have to use a new one that many people complain about. For HD, you can get a dozen or so channels on a ~$500 HD DirecTiVo combo box, but the kicker is they are changing formats in the next two years to offer hundreds of HD channels, but the HD TiVo box will no longer work. Also at the moment, most people can't legally get HD local channels through DirecTV and must use an antenna. A decent package for one TV might run about $50 or so.

Dish Network - Having never been a customer, I couldn't offer first-hand advice, but from what I've seen it is close to DirecTV in terms of so-so DVR options and some HD channels. I've never heard any rave reviews of the DVR options and the Dish Network did just lose a major lawsuit with TiVo, which could have implications down the line. Same ballpark pricing as DirecTV.

In the end I realized there isn't a particularly stand out option, as they all have significant faults and these were their only options. Also, I realized it's kind of a shame you can't get a good TV package with a good DVR even at a fairly high monthly cost. Eventually they picked Dish because they had Comcast for several years and weren't too hip on it and DirecTV offered limited HD along with HD DVR hardware that is in limbo.

Personally I'm still holding out for a Series 3 TiVo. Comcast's offerings coupled with a really good DVR would make for a great service. I just hope they start carrying more HD channels and have a plan for the future of several hundred HD channels (at which point I'll probably have to jump to fiber with Verizon and Verizon IPTV).

May 4, 2006 in Op-Ed | Permalink | Comments (18)

Tonight's Lost is going to be "TiVo-proof"

This story tells the tale of a network triumph for advertising. Tonight's episode of Lost -- a show already so deeply embedded with secret signs and clues -- will feature details about the episode sprinkled within ads themselves. This is both brilliant and frightening. I can't recall wanting to watch commercials other than the annual Super Bowl but tonight I'll actually refrain from hitting the FFWD button so I don't miss anything.

Networks and marketers have been trying all sorts of ways to get DVR owners to slow down and watch. So far most innovation has been including products within shows themselves but leave it to the Lost writers to come up with a way to include the show in commercials. Thankfully, this is probably a proof-of-concept that can't be repeated often -- it must take tremendous planning to have every company with a commercial to film it featuring some tidbit from the show -- and even so, only shows with a cult-like following will keep viewers watching.

But I know I will, and I'm not too happy about that.

May 3, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (23)