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Jeff's Quick Guide to TV on the Net

Wow. If you ever wanted to watch some TV on your computer, Jeff Pulver's Quick Guide to TV on the Net has all the options covered. They're not all full streaming live broadcasts, but there are 80 options listed for TV show and network video clips available online.

July 31, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does a DVR Boost Viewing Hours or Not?

Everyone that is thinking of getting a TiVo or another DVR device often asks me if I watch more or less TV in the end. I've never had a good answer: at first I watched much less TV since I was only catching the 2 or 3 shows I really liked, but after a few years I ended up with 50+ season passes to stuff I loved and I probably watch more than I did pre-TiVo.

The New York Times has a tidbit on recent research that showed the heaviest watchers of TV tended to not have a DVR. The article mentions the findings conflict with a small test CBS did last year that showed DVR owners watched more TV.

If you check out Mediamark Research's press release on the study, you'll see that they focused on broader demographics type stuff and "23% less likely to be heavy TV viewers" is mentioned near the end.

I think I'd agree with the CBS executives on this one. The wording of the study findings sounds suspect. They are only looking at the top 20% of TV viewers, people watching 44.5 hours or more of TV in a week. That's more than an 8 hour-a-day job and definitely someone outside the norms of TV watching. I would be much more interested in the other 80%, the people that have normal lives and watch 15-20 hours of TV a week. Even if there was no significant difference between DVR owners and non-owners at that level of weekly TV viewing, it'd still be noteworthy considering they interviewed 26,000 people for the study.

It sounds weird to make a blanket statement like DVR owners watch less TV when you're only comparing people at the edge of the bell curve.

July 30, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (10)

Time Warner and the upcoming Tivo Series 3

Strange news from ConsumerFury.com: Time Warner Cable blocking customers from using upcoming Tivo Series 3!.

I would attribute this most likely to an uninformed tech or customer service drone. They're most likely only familiar with cable cards in TV slots and I could understand them saying they won't install or help you with your Series 3 TiVo but the bit about not allowing them to access their network is kind of crazy. Also, does Time Warner do HD cable in Raleigh, NC?

I'll put this in the unconfirmed rumor pile for now, but it will be interesting to see how cable companies react to sudden requests for Cable cards and the return of set top boxes. I can't imagine they'll be happy about the lost revenue.

Update: looks like this has been resolved and was pretty much what I suspected: customer service reps unfamiliar with the upcoming TiVos making claims they shouldn't have.

July 25, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (26)

Hobotech, TiVos for Aussies

When people are restricted from something they really want, they tend to go to great lengths to get it. In Canada, TiVo wasn't available for a long time and sparked a whole project devoted to making it work.

1welcome_1 Recently I stumbled upon Hobotech, a company in Australia that takes old Series 1 TiVos, adds networking, and converts them from NTSC to PAL format. They've got their own Guided Setup and their own guide for channels and show times put together by volunteers.

TiVo's legal team might look at this entire world of covert TiVo operations and  think "infringement!" but I can't help but look at all these hacks and the length people go to make a TiVo work where it wasn't designed and appreciate the output of these resourceful bastards. That's some impressive TiVo hacking, HoboTech and OzTiVo, keep on innovating.

July 25, 2006 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (10)

TiVo Confirms Series3 Testing, Hitting Retail “Soon”

Dave Zatz has the scoop on FCC filings by TiVo revealing that testing is currently underway for the Series 3 box, and that they should hit retail outlets "soon".

I wouldn't be so quick to run down to Best Buy just yet though, as the HD Cablecard TiVo is a new concept that will have to see lots of testing on different systems and under different configurations. I wouldn't want to drop several hundred bucks (a guess) on a new Series 3 box and have the HDMI port go bad like the DirecTV HD TiVos often had at the launch.

Still, I can't wait to see it and will do everything I can to be the first in line to get one and replace my buggy motorola box.

July 19, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (10)

Quit saying "tivo" when it isn't a TiVo

I know I'm being a bit of a stickler here, but last week on Pimp My Ride, they opened the show by saying they'd stick hi-def TiVo into a guy's van. I watched closely knowing that's no easy task and unsurprisingly, even though you hear the word "TiVo" in the episode about half a dozen times, it most definitely wasn't TiVo.

Here's a clip of the episode, showing the installation segment that includes this "tivo" (embedded flash video):

Quicktime_playerscreensnapz001If you look closely, you can see DirecTV (screenshot right) in the menus as they install this mobile satellite system (another quibble: it doesn't do HD). The box he keeps referring to as a TiVo is actually LG's LRM-519 (screenshot lower right) which looks like a standard def DVR with a DVD burner in it, running Microsoft software (talking to a standard DirecTV receiver since it can't decode DirecTV signals on its own). There is no actual TiVo software or hardware of any kind involved in this setup.

Quicktime_playerscreensnapz002My point in explaining all this is that this Pimp My Ride segment shows the popularization of "TiVo" to the point at which any DVR is called a "TiVo" by salesmen, customer service reps, and now TV personalities. I know companies don't like it when they become so popular and ubiquitous that their name becomes generic (see: xerox, kleenex) but I'm especially worried about TiVo becoming generic because the experience of using a TiVo versus anything else is much different.

I get tons of email from dissatisfied cable and satellite customers that were offered a "TiVo" and ended up with a buggy, hard to use standard company-provided DVR. I've even heard a story of a family friend signing up to DirecTV, insisting on a combo TiVo/Satellite box (they'd used one before and liked it) and being assured they would receive a TiVo unit. When an installer showed up with the R15 device and argued that it was "the same as TiVo" the customer halted the install, complained to DirecTV, and is considering further action against DirecTV.

I know on the one hand it's a testament to how great a product/service is when people use it as a generic term but in the case of TiVo it seems to be leading to a lot of customer confusion. I could see the day when TiVo goes after other companies that promise you a tivo over the phone or in a store and then deliver a generic DVR.

July 12, 2006 in Op-Ed | Permalink | Comments (37)

NYT dissin' the CableCard

Firefoxscreensnapz003 The New York Times recently ran a tech story "A CableCard That Hasn't Been Able to Kill the Set-Top Box" talking about how the CableCARD standard was included in a lot of TVs but hasn't taken off, so many TV manufacturers are scaling back their support of CableCard.

What is annoying about this article is that it hinges entirely on quotes from companies producing hardware, cable company spokespeople, and industry analysts, including this gem:

"The CableCard is essentially dead," said Mr. Doherty of Envisioneering. "It will go down in history like the Edsel."

I really wish the writer mentioned the other side of the story. Cable companies dragged their feet supporting CableCard and only did the minimum to meet FCC regulations. The TV manufacturers released CableCard-ready hardware years ago, before most companies offering programming had their act together. From what I've heard from other Comcast customers like me, it's apparently difficult to get a CableCard and they try to talk you out of it (since they end up losing the $5-10 per month you'd be paying for a box). Most importantly, the big CableCard applications like the Series 3 TiVo and Microsoft Vista Media Center systems will be some of the first DVRs that can record in HD thanks to the CableCard.

CableCard uptake has been low for several reasons. There aren't too many compelling reasons to opt for one today (aside from simply having a cleaner/cheaper cable TV setup). There are specifications for hardware and software that take quite a bit of time to pass muster. Now that the standard has been in place for a few years, we'll finally see some good applications later this year when feature-rich DVR apps come out of TiVo and Microsoft, and people will be lining up to get them.

This story in the NYT reads like a premature eulogy, told from industry insiders with a vested interest in seeing the standard fail miserably. In a few years when there are millions of Series 3 and Vista Media Center boxes floating around, the story of CableCard will surely be rewritten as one of success, and something that empowers customers who weren't getting the features or flexibility in the cable company DVRs of the past.

July 5, 2006 in Op-Ed | Permalink | Comments (19)