Amazon and HBO Ink Deal

Amazon Press Release

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Apr. 23, 2014– (NASDAQ:AMZN)—, Inc. today announced a content licensing agreement with HBO, making Prime Instant Video the exclusive online-only subscription home for select HBO programming. The collection includes award-winning shows such as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Big Love, Deadwood, Eastbound & Down, Family Tree, Enlightened, Treme, early seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, as well as mini-series like Band of BrothersJohn Adams and more. Previous seasons of other HBO shows, such as Girls, The Newsroom and Veep will become available over the course of the multi-year agreement, approximately three years after airing on HBO. The first wave of content will arrive on Prime Instant Video May 21. This is the first time that HBO programming has been licensed to an online-only subscription streaming service. This programming will remain on all HBO platforms.

In addition, HBO GO will become available on Fire TV, targeting a launch by year-end. HBO GO is HBO’s authenticated streaming service offering subscribers instant access to over 1,700 titles online including every episode of new and classic HBO series, as well as HBO original films, miniseries, sports, documentaries, specials and a wide selection of blockbuster movies.

“HBO has produced some of the most groundbreaking, beloved and award-winning shows in television history, with more than 115 Emmys amongst the assortment of shows coming to Prime members next month,” said Brad Beale, Director of Content Acquisition for Amazon. “HBO original content is some of the most-popular across Amazon Instant Video—our customers love watching these shows. Now Prime members can enjoy a collection of great HBO shows on an unlimited basis, at no additional cost to their Prime membership.”

“Amazon has built a wonderful service—we are excited to have our programming made available to their vast customer base and believe the exposure will create new HBO subscribers,” said Charles Schreger, President of Programming Sales for HBO.

“As owners of our original programming, we have always sought to capitalize on that investment. Given our longstanding relationship with Amazon, we couldn’t think of a better partner to entrust with this valuable collection,” said Glenn Whitehead, Executive Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, who along with Schreger headed up HBO’s negotiating team. “We’re also excited to bring HBO GO to Amazon’s Fire TV. The features like unified voice search will provide a compelling experience for HBO customers.”

Beginning May 21, Amazon Prime members will have unlimited streaming access to:

  • All seasons of revered classics such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome and Six Feet Under, and of recent favorites such as Eastbound & Down, Enlightened and Flight of the Conchords
  • Epic miniseries, including Angels in America, Band of Brothers, John Adams, The Pacific and Parade’s End
  • Select seasons of current series such as Boardwalk Empire, Treme and True Blood
  • Hit original movies like Game Change, Too Big To Fail and You Don’t Know Jack
  • Pedigreed documentaries including the Autopsy and Iceman series, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and When the Levees Broke
  • Hilarious original comedy specials from Lewis Black, Ellen DeGeneres, Louis CK and Bill Maher

The multi-year deal will bring additional seasons of the current series named above, along with early seasons of other series like Girls, The Newsroom and Veepto Prime members over the life of the deal.

By Len Mullen Posted in News, OTT

ABC, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., 13-461

Today is THE DAY.  April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments that could impact almost nothing.  Seriously, do you know anyone who has Aereo or Skitter?  Regardless of the outcome of this case, broadcasters ought to embrace the technology and the idea behind Aereo and extend their reach beyond the fringe.

So, what is going on here?

Most people do not understand the Aereo proposition. The Supreme Court is not going to rule that Aereo can rebroadcast without paying a retransmission fee. That, as they say, is settled law. The SC is going to rule WHETHER Aereo is rebroadcasting at all. If the court finds that Aereo is rebroadcasting, then Aereo will need to license content just like the cable companies. If the court finds that Aereo is simply leasing an antenna to a customer, there is no law against that. In fact, it was common in the early days of television for communities to erect repeaters to improve reception in a valley or behind a hill and it is common today for people renting apartments or staying at hotels to pay the proprietor to use his antenna.

None of this has any impact on the cable companies’ requirement to pay re-transmission fees. I think a more reasonable comparison would be to satellite companies that erect an antenna for reception of local channels then integrate that signal into their programming. That, of course, was never challenged and no re-transmission fees were ever paid.

In my opinion, that is the basis of the case and the court should rule that it is legal for Aereo to lease antennas and DVRs.

The implications of an Aereo win are not clear. I think there are a three likely outcomes…

1) Aereo branches out and the reach of broadcast tv extends dramatically. This accelerates cable cutting, streaming, and a resurgence of ad supported television
2) Google or Amazon buy Aereo to add local programming to their streaming products.
3) Comcast improves and lowers the cost of basic programming.

I think the third outcome is most probable.

Aereo will not be widely adopted because it’s not inexpensive and it’s not very good. You have to have a good network connection. You need to buy hardware for each television. You end up paying $8 per month for each set. There is no continuous programming. DVR space is too limited.

Cable re-transmission fees are not related to this court case.

Broadcasters will not shut down OTA channels because 1) they are profitable, and 2) there are alternatives to the the Big Four networks. Syndicated programming and clones of network reality programming would be less expensive and nearly as popular as what airs now. Look at the top ten programs…

2 NCIS CBS 11.1 17,392
4 NCIS: LOS ANGELES CBS 9.3 14,560
7 VOICE NBC 7.2 11,966
8 BLUE BLOODS CBS 7.1 11,051
9 VOICE-TUE NBC 6.9 11,085
10 60 MINUTES CBS 6.8 10,987

Syndicated programming is not much worse…

1 JUDGE JUDY (AT) CTD 7.2 9,908
3 JEOPARDY (AT) CTD 6.7 10,435
4 BIG BANG-SYN (AT) WB 6.0 9,119
5 FAMILY FEUD (AT) 2/T 4.9 7,306
6 LAW & ORDER:CI-WKL (AT) NBU 4.3 5,632
7 MODERN FAMILY-MF-SYN (AT) 2/T 4.2 6,060
8 BIG BANG WKND (AT) WB 4.1 6,457
9 MODERN FAMILY-WK-SYN (AT) 2/T 3.6 5,461

Cable trails far behind…

7 PAWN STARS HIST 2.5 3,692
10 BREAK HBOM 2.1 4,018

It’s easy to imagine broadcast television without ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC.

I think there are some significant barriers to market entry. I’m not sure Aereo is very profitable. I don’t expect to see their hardware cloned and even Aereo has not had a lot of success with the software. I think they well may be a national niche.

There is lots of precedent for people paying to receive broadcast television via equipment owned by others.

– If I rent an apartment and there is an antenna on the roof and a cable in my living room, the landlord is renting an apartment with an antenna not re-transmitting programming.

– DirecTV leases a box that takes a signal from the air and integrates it into your DirecTV program guide. You pay a premium for that equipment and do not own it.

– TiVo streams broadcast television over ethernet to other televisions. TiVo charges a monthly fee for this service — one fee for the transmitter and another fee for the receiver.

If you read the FCC FAQ on Must Carry, it’s clear it does not apply to Aereo…

Note that 1) the requirement for cable carriers is specifically documented, and 2) that this was added to the fcc rules as a matter of fairness to broadcasters who were singularly required to abide by the rule until 1992.

The fcc would have to amend their rules again for them to apply to re-transmitters who are neither broadcasters not cable carriers. The problem with changing the law to include Aereo without specifically naming the company is in the use cases I cited above. Any law would be unenforceable and Aereo could say they are being targeted.

Here are a couple more articulate presentations on the matter…

I don’t expect the media to get this right. I hope the court does. Either way, you should cut your cable. Put up an antenna and enjoy high quality ad supported television. It’s completely free and works when the internet is down!

SiliconDust to Power Simple.TV 2.0

“We’re extremely pleased to be partnering with Silicondust, the leaders in networked TV tuners,” said Mark Ely, CEO of Simple.TV.“Their exceptional hardware design, manufacturing, and distribution capabilities are a perfect match with our TV everywhere services and applications. Together, we will deliver an exceptional streaming DVR solution for consumers who are looking to combine the best of broadcast content with OTT streaming.”

“Our collaboration with Simple.TV will help further our reach into the over-the-top streaming TV space,” said Theodore Head, CEO, Silicondust.“Simple TV’s innovative cloud DVR platform and applications for TV everywhere is an ideal complement to our HDHomeRun devices that currently stream content within the home network to many smart, connected devices such as Smart TVs, Game Consoles, and mobile devices. Simple.TV takes these streams beyond the home.”

More here.

According to CNET, “[t]he big hardware upgrade is dual-tuner support…[T]he new Simple.TV hardware will be powered by Zenverge’s ZN200 chipset and the TransAll transcoding engine.”  The US should see Simple.TV 2.0 in time for Christmas.  Europe will get the new device next year.

59,700,000 Cable Cutters

On 8/2/2013, Time Warner Cable (TWC) stopped transmitting CBS programming to 3,200,000 subscribers in key markets.  Associated transmission fees top $400,000 per day.  For the time being, TWC seems to be in the drivers seat, but, if this drags on into the fall, fans of college footbal, the NFL, and CBS programming may look elsewhere for entertainment.  In the long run, TWC may lose more than CBS.

While other premium service providers have been reluctant to poach blacked out customers, Channel Master and RadioShack have both offered discounts to ‘victims’ of the blackout.  Time Warner has recommended its customers turn to broadcast and Aereo for blacked out programming and is giving rabbit ears to its customers.

CBS chief Les Moonves dismisses all of this as a charade…

“Right now over 85% of our viewing is done through satellite, cable, or the phone companies. The remaining 15% are not the most advertiser friendly, appealing to advertising.”

I don’t think Les is right.  I own a home, have two new cars, send a kid to college, and own seven high definition televisions, four desktop computers, three laptop computers, five tablets, three cell phones, and two antennas.  And I watch all the commercials broadcast along side the terrific CBS shows.

I’m not alone.  GfK estimates 22.4 million households representing 59.7 million consumers receive television exclusively through broadcast signals and aren’t subscribing to a Pay TV cable or satellite service.  in other words, seven times the number of households being blacked out choose to watch advertising that arrives through an antenna.  The percentage of broadcast only homes has increased from 14% in 2010 to 19.3% today.  More troubling for the premium service providers, antenna use is rising fastest among younger people and minorities.

According to GfK (via Andrew Dodson)…

  • 19.3% of all U.S. households with TVs rely solely on OTA signals
  • GfK estimates 22.4 million households representing 59.7 million consumers receive television exclusively through broadcast signals
  • Minorities make up 41% of broadcast-only homes
  • 49% of Latino households that prefer speaking Spanish home have a Pay TV service — down from 67% in 2010
  • 28% of TV households where the head of the house is 18-34 in age, exclusively watch TV via broadcast signals, up from 18% in 2010
  • 19% of TV households where the head of the household is 35-49 relies on OTA signals; 17% in which the head of household is 50 years or older
  • Two out of 10 younger OTA households have never purchased a pay TV service
  • 30% of TV homes with an annual income less than $30,000 rely solely on OTA TV — up from 22% in 2010
  • 11% of TV households with incomes of $75,000 or greater rely solely on OTA TV

Manufacturers and advertisers are paying attention. Fox has launched a new Movies! channel and Sony will roll out its own movie channel in the fall.  EchoStar is planning the release of two new OTA DVRs for this Christmas season.  Aereo, Skitter, and Filemon all offer broadcast television over the internet and Google/YouTube and Intel are talking about their own alternatives to terrestrial/satellite offerings.

If you are blacked out or dissatisfied with cable or paying too much for television this might be a good time to consider cutting the cable.  One thing is for sure — you won’t be alone!

By Len Mullen Posted in News, OTA

EchoStar DVR Details!

I got an email from Shelley O’Connell (EchoStar Marketing) this morning providing details of the new Channel Master K77 DVRs.  It’s all good news…

  • Program Guide
  • USB Storage
  • Available Later This Year

Follow this blog for updates.  I’m a HUGE fan of EchoStar products in general and the DTVPal DVR in particular.  I’ve posted the email below.  Enjoy!

Hi Len, great to hear from you again!

We are so excited about this product. I can’t provide too much information just yet, other than what has already leaked through the FCC filings. J I can tell you that there will be two versions of the product – a lower-priced model for which you can supply your own USB external hard drive (no capacity limit), and a model with an internal hard drive (of a substantial size). Yes, it will include a program guide and both models are capable of extended USB storage – some people now save content libraries on USB hard drives the way we used to with VCR tapes! This product is perfect for that function.

Channel Master is an amazing partner to work with, they are the undisputed world experts on OTA. They actually still hold the original patent for the very first aerial TV antenna from 1949. Combine that with our DVR technology and it’s a match made in heaven for OTA DVR consumers. And from a design standpoint, this one’s a sports car. It makes our beloved DTVPal DVR look like a school bus.

Availability will be “later this fall”. Sorry for the cryptic answer! However, there will be an exclusive private pre-sale/promotional event prior to public launch. It should coincide nicely with the holiday shopping season. We’re only inviting a very select group and I will add your contact info to the list and pass along to Channel Master, that way you will be hearing directly from them as we get closer! This product is the flagship base from which Channel Master will continue to add exciting new features and services in the future – an Ethernet connection is highly recommended for the “full” experience beyond just great OTA/DVR functionality.

Always a pleasure,

Shelley O’Connell
Marketing Communications | EchoStar

Echostar to Release New OTA DVRs!

from 7/10/2013 FCC PUBLIC NOTICE

EchoStar states that the Channel Master K77 models will combine access to broadcast programming with over-the-top and DVR functionalities, promoting consumer choice in both retail equipment and in services for households seeking a non-MVPD option for video programming. EchoStar maintains that requiring an analog tuner “would dramatically increase the device’s cost, size, and energy consumption without any countervailing benefits to consumers.”

from 8/9/2013 Echostar Waiver Application

Specifically, waiver of the analog broadcast tuner requirement for the two models of the Channel Master K77 will provide consumers with access to new, competitive, cost-effective choicesthat combine over-the-air television content – including dual-tuner watch-and-record capability – with over-the-top streaming content functionality from providers such as VUDU and Pandora, all in a sleek, ultra-thin, energy-efficient form factor. As Ness Electronics noted, their “market studies demonstrate that low cost products that provide consumers with the ability to combine access to broadcast programming with over-the-top and DVR functionalities, such as the Channel Master K77, are needed to satisfy consumer demand.”

For these reasons, EchoStar respectfully urges the Bureau to waive the Section 15.117 analog tuner requirement for the Channel Master K77 models of HD ATSC receivers no later than September 1, 2013, before fall product line-ups in retail stores are finalized.

This is great news for those of us who have been in mourning since echostar left the OTA market.

TWC Facing Class Actions


Time Warner Cable Inc., which has engaged in retransmission consent disputes with both CBS Corp. and Journal Broadcast Group, now faces two class action lawsuits for breach of contract in Los Angeles and Milwaukee.

The suits allege that the blackout is a de facto breach of contract and demand compensation for loss of programming.   One suit demands a credit of one day’s service for each day of the blackout.  The suits may be legitimate as CBS has allowed continued broadcast during the negotiation process and TWC has unilaterally decided to stop the broadcast — in other words TWC has unilaterally decided to not provide services they advertise and promise.

If TWC loses any of these suits, aggregators will negotiate content contracts from a weaker position.  One possible outcome is that TWC offers to ‘carry’ CBS for a fee.  In this scenario, CBS sells content and pays TWC for delivery.  This, of course, opens the doors to a brave new world of a la carte programming and competition that will improve programming quality while driving down costs for consumers.  Right?

Aereo One Month Later

It’s been a little over a month since I signed up for Aereo.  My first impressions have been documented in this review.  I just wanted to let you know of two developments that have made Aereo a much more attractive product…

  1. Fox Movies! has been added to the list of Aereo channels.  Fox Movies is a 24×7 movie channel that brings classic Fox movies to broadcast television.  I cannot believe how often I stop on this channel.  The fact that this channel was added so quickly makes me confident that GetTV will be added in the fall.  Great job Aereo!
  2. Aereo is now a Playon channel.  For $50 you can purchase a lifetime subscription to Playon.  Playon streams internet programming and local files to ‘edge’ devices.  Supported devices include consoles (PS3, Xbox 360, WII U, and WII), tablets (iPad, Nook Color, and Kindle Fire), and many smart devices (televisions and Blu-Ray players).

Since both Playon and Aereo offer free trials, I urge those who have been considering cutting their cable service to try sample this dynamic duo.  Read my Playon review here and my Aereo review here.

Note:  If you are having problems with the Playon Aereo channel, make sure you have the latest version of Flash installed.  See this.

Aereo: First Impressions

I have updated this post to add some Aereo channels.  Notably, Aereo has added Movies! which is an excellent 24×7 movie channel.  I noticed that the current version of Playon adds an Aereo channel.  I’ll be reactivating my Aereo account to test this.  The results will be documented here and this entry will be linked from a new post to ensure people see it.  Great summer for cable cutters in New England! 

I received my invitation to try Aereo on May 27, 2013.  By this time, Aereo had already changed their pricing plan.  Instead of getting two antennas for $80 per year, I would get one antenna for $8/month or two antennas for $12 per month.  That’s about an 80% increase in price!

Continue reading