Cutting the Cord

We are going finally do it. We are going to finally get rid of cable TV, completely. I think.

When Hulu Plus came to the Xbox, all my excuses went away. Between that and Roku, I can see it in the living room and the bedroom. No need to pull out a computer, just grab a remote.

That seems to be the trigger for acceptance in my home. If we have to pull the laptop out and watch it there, we won’t. We never got Netflix until we had devices that could stream it. Just never thought it was worth it. But when we tried it with streaming, we loved it.

With Netflix and Hulu Plus we can see just about every show or movie we want. We have been hanging on to cable for access to local news and sports. I know will stream most games, but I cannot stand to watch the quality. I pulled out a set of powered rabbit ears and hooked them up. We don’t get a lot of over the air channels.

My big question is what happens when football season comes around. My little set of rabbit ears still picks up a few channels, including Fox. But CBS is not strong enough for viewing. At least I can watch some games. If we choose to leave cable internet for DSL I may look at an exterior antenna. I could insert that signal into the existing cable network in my home.

Either way, missing out on a few channels isn’t that big of a deal for us, since we routinely load episodes of our favorite shows into our queues. But for some families, missing out on channel surfing is a problem.

I read an article a while back about some families who were in an experiment. They got various Internet TV boxes/services and cut cable. Then reported their experiences. Their main complaint was that watching TV became active. They could not just flip channels and watch something. This is a huge change from normal TV viewing.

My Netflix queue has dozens of titles in it. When I am bored on the computer, or remember a show, I’ll surf to the site and add things to the queue. Right now it would take us weeks to watch everything that is loaded without ever loading another show.

Still, having a lot of shows you want to watch isn’t the same as flipping channels, though. I was talking about this with some people at lunch the other day. One said that we needed Pandora for TV. That’s not a bad idea. Some sort of Netflix “Suggestions for You” on overkill. Just select a show, and then get a list shows like that one to try. Sort of like Apple’s Genius playlists generated from ratings you submit. Still won’t be quite the same as flipping, but would provide some of that random stumble upon a show experience.

The biggest annoyance of Hulu Plus is that even though you pay a monthly fee, not every show is available for viewing everywhere. Some are web only. Scanning through available networks I was so happy to see shows from the speed network. I promptly added a few. Only to realize that they were available to view only through the website. Epic fail.

It’s bad enough that I still have to sit through commercials (although if you have cable TV you pay more for the privilege of sitting through more ads.) but any show available on should be valuable to your premium subscribers. Some of the web only shows were not current season, first-run, they were older episodes from older show. It is just a matter of what rights Hulu had been granted.

But Netflix doesn’t have that problem. And some shows that are web only in Hulu are available on any screen through Netflix. Looks like Hulu needs to get better at negotiating.

Still, paired together, Hulu Plus and Netflix should take care of most people’s needs for video entertainment. The easier it is for people to watch this content, the more people will adopt it. The cable companies have a small window to figure out how to stay in the video content delivery business. Some providers have been trying, but there is a lot of mush out there right now.

Netflix and Hulu Plus provide an alternative to cable/satellite providers that is available right now.

I’ll keep you updated.


I’m Looking for TV Show Ideas

So, the other day I posted about a different distribution model for TV programming. You can read about it in detail there, but generally I am convinced that the shift going on in video distribution holds a major opportunity for Christians to present shows with characters that interact with the world from a biblical perspective. The post is long and full of data, but the conclusion is the same: The key part of this is finding a show that people want to watch more than once.

The model is geared for social media users age 18-34. Those are the people most likely to watch internet TV. That statistic is growing, so it will change over time but for now that is the target.

So where do you find show ideas? It cannot be cheesy. It cannot cost an arm and a leg to produce. So no sci fi epics. Looking at programming directed at this age range, there are a lot of reality shows. I could see a show about Christians that are actually impacting the world, living out 1 John 4. You could follow them around, but there is a lot of framework that would need to be developed. Or maybe it should be a different premise? Or it could be a sitcom? Or a drama?

One thing is clear, without a good show this idea goes nowhere.

[Photo Credit]

Apple TV and AirPlay = Win

The other day I saw a comment from Intel’s CEO about the Apple TV. Last night I read a NY Times article about how it compares to other media streaming devices. The device isn’t even out yet, and it is already being panned.

Sometimes people don’t see the forest because of the trees. The Apple TV will stream video itself, and probably will see that capability improve as Apple updates the device. But the real genius of the new Apple TV is AirPlay. Until the beta of 4.2 I mostly had conjecture and hope, but seeing this article from 9to5Mac, the “Go to Market” strategy is coming into focus a bit more.

The things people are saying about the Apple TV, even Apple’s marketing strategy, focus on what it does that every other streaming box does. And, the Apple TV doesn’t really stand out from that crowd. It’s a media streaming box. But when you couple it with AirPlay, you get a whole other level of interaction and media consumption. The NY Times article completely left out AirPlay, but for me, that is the key strength of the device; easily streaming content from computers and iOS devices to the TV screen.

From the 9to5Mac article:

AppleTV is a Airplay-compatible device, meaning it can stream video/sound from other Apple devices. We found out last night that it isn’t just iTunes content that it will be able to broadcast. Any H.264 content from the web can be broadcast over Airplay to your HDTV.

That includes any video that can play on your iOS 4.2 device, like: Facebook video, YouTube, Netflix, Videos, BBC News, MLB and really anything else you can watch on your iOS device. That also includes videos built into Apps and magazine subscriptions too. All of this can be beamed to your AppleTV via Airplay.

That means you can watch most Internet video on AppleTV over AirPlay. The day AppleTV is released, you’ll be able to watch free SD clips of shows that appear on like the Daily Show and Colbert Report via Airplay. You theoretially should be able to watch Hulu Plus so long as it is encoded in H.264 (and doesn’t get blocked once the networks figure out what Apple has done here).

So, in many ways, an iOS device becomes a remote for the Apple TV, where you select content and send it for display it on your TV. This will be done using Apple’s intuitive (I hope) interface. If this is simple enough for normal people to grasp, the Living Room is about to change. Surf on your iPad or iPod, find a video, send it to your TV and enjoy. The more apps that are developed with this capability the more useful it becomes.

Apple TV is supposed to ship in September. 4.2 releases in November.

Simple is Key: Why Intel Makes Chips and Not Devices.

I saw an article that quoted Intel CEO Paul Otellini talking about the new Apple TV (which doesn’t use an Intel chip, by the way) where he said that he thought the device should have been more like Google TV, offering the “full internet” alongside TV. He went on to say Apple’s device will appeal to his “mom” because it’s “simplistic,” while Google’s device will appeal more to those wanting more, like his son.

This is why Apple makes devices and Intel makes chips. Otellini is looking at the word through his lens, but the rest of the world wants simple and easy. I am a fairly technical guy, and I hate working on a PC. It’s not easy. If you do anything out of the normal use of basic applicationss, it gets very complicated. And because it’s a PC, you seem to have to do things beside normal application use from time to time.

A major draw for Apple is the fact that people can easily use their products. Even the complicated stuff is easy by comparison. Need to rebuild your Mac? Just throw in the OS disc and follow the on screen prompts from erase to reload from Time Machine. I have not used the new Apple TV, but I have used the old one, and just about every Apple device from the last decade. Apple does easy.

Time and time again, products have been introduced just to fail because mainstream people will not adopt them. If it’s not easy, or similar to what they already do, people don’t like it. Technical people own media PCs and hack their old Apple TVs and run boxee and such. They canceled their cable bills long ago. Normal people have the cable guy come and set up the box and show them how to run the DVR. They are interested in a more on-demand kind of video service, but not if it is hard to understand.

Does the Apple TV do everything it could? No. It doesn’t even do everything it should, yet. But it will be easy enough that normal people will use it. Now it’s up to Apple to keep updating the system.