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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Cable TV Brings Worthwhile Summer Programming

Traditionally, summertime has been the time of reruns, game shows, and the TV shows that networks knew would not succeed during the normal television watching season between fall and spring. Networks would air remaining episodes of cancelled shows, and no new quality programming would generally air between June and August.

The new television landscape, with many of the most critically acclaimed and artistically adventurous shows now airing on cable TV, has changed all of that. Now, many of the best shows currently on television have seasons airing throughout the summer, avoiding the competition of big network shows and providing an alternative to reruns and reality shows. The two most anticipated cable TV shows this summer are an old favorite and a new drama.

Let’s start with the new drama and save the best for last. Aaron Sorkin’s series “The Newsroom” debuts on HBO June 24. The series stars Jeff Daniels and focuses on the behind the scenes action at a 24-hour cable news network, and early previews have it looking like it might be a satire of the Fox News empire. Sorkin’s had success on the big screen of late, having written the screenplays for the hits “Moneyball” and “The Social Network,” but his last TV show, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” was a major disaster. Hopefully, the freedom of content available on premium cable in general and HBO in particular will mean better results from Sorkin this time around.

The fifth and final season of “Breaking Bad,” AMC’s acclaimed drama, begins July 15 and will be the highlight of the summer for many fans of serial television. The show, which began with a simple gimmick—high school chemistry teacher gets cancer, must make meth to be able to provide for his family—has turned into television’s best drama, a dark, often brutal show that shows just how bad people can be. Get the Emmys ready for stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as the show winds down its historic run.

There are plenty of other shows beginning this summer. Check out this article from the OC Register for some more listings.

HDNet, Available on Many Cable and Satellite TV Packages, Will Become AXS

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s high-definition cable channel, HDNet, launched in 2001, will be changing its name and programming in early July. Cuban has partnered with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, CAA and star TV host Ryan Seacrest to change HDNet to AXS (pronounced “access”), a channel that will focus on live programming and take on the ESPN model, but instead of sports, it will cover music and popular culture. In fact, Cuban told the Hollywood Reporter, “Think of it as a SportsCenter for music and pop culture, and you’ll see what we want [AXS] to be.”

HDNet is currently available on the high-definition programming tiers of satellite TV providers like DIRECTV and cable providers like Charter Communications. With the change to AXS, there will be a standard definition version of the channel as well, bringing it into many more homes than the 30% of cable and satellite served homes where HDNet currently airs.

Many of the live programs being developed for AXS will air from AEG’s L.A. Live, the shopping mall and entertainment across the street from the Staples Center, where the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Los Angeles Kings play. Staples also features many live music concerts, some of which may appear live on the AXS network. Live concerts, already a success on HDNet, will increase in number and be a big part of the AXS programming suite.

Developing new channels for television as more and more networks are building their brands online is a tough sell, but one that Cuban thinks is still worthwhile in this day and age. As a sports owner of a successful franchise, and someone who’s made billions in his day, it’s tough to bet against him. HDNet was a noble failure in its original incarnation; it looks like AXS will build upon the mistakes made the first time around for a new cable empire.

Sports TV Costs Constantly Escalating

Speaking at the Cable Show convention last week, ESPN and Turner Broadcasting executives said they believe there is no stopping the escalating costs for sports television. ESPN is currently the most expensive cable network in terms of the fees cable TV and satellite TV distributors must pay, due to ESPN’s rights for NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, and several college sports leagues, including ESPN’s new $3.6 billion deal with the ACC running through 2026.

DVR technology, streaming television shows and movies from Netflix and sites like Hulu, and other means of consumption have made sports the last remaining appointment television, which makes sporting events valuable to advertisers and to cable TV providers and satellite television providers. Cable operators have seen fees for ESPN and TNT, which holds broadcast rights for NBA, NASCAR and NCAA basketball, continue to rise.

These rising costs put cable and satellite TV operators in a tough spot, as the fees they are charged to be able to air ESPN, TNT and other sports content continue to rise and those fees must be passed on to customers, but customers do not want to see prices for satellite or cable TV packages continue to increase, especially when there are more and more options out there for viewing many programs online or through streaming services.

Some cable operators have considered putting sports programming on its own subscription tier, but have faced resistance, as many households see sports channels like ESPN as the backbone of any cable or satellite TV package. Sports TV is necessary for keeping cable and satellite TV providers afloat, but it is also a huge cost drain. Hopefully, the networks and providers can come to an agreement to make everything work out and continue bringing the highest quality sports programming to the viewers who watch it.

NBCUniversal Providing Record Olympic Coverage on Satellite and Cable TV

NBC Olympics LogoAccording to a press release from the company, NBCUniversal will surpass previous Olympic coverage by more than two thousand hours, providing 5,535 hours of coverage for the Summer Olympics in London across the company’s network and cable TV channels, as well as online. An increase in daytime coverage will put the hours on NBC, the flagship network channel, at 272.5, the most ever for an Olympic broadcast network, with the remainder of the coverage occurring on NBCOlympics.com as well as the entire NBCUniversal lineup of channels, including NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) and Bravo.

Here are the channels that will be featuring Olympic coverage, along with what they will be covering:

  • NBC – 272.5 hours of coverage, nearly 50 hours more than the coverage the network had in Beijing. Many major events will air on NBC live, as well as on taped delay in primetime.
  • NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus/OLN) – 292.5 hours of total coverage, averaging 14 hours per day, covering United States team sports, including Team USA basketball, US women’s soccer, and field hockey.
  • MSNBC – 155.5 hours of a variety of long-form Olympic programming, including badminton, basketball, soccer and wrestling.
  • CNBC – Olympic boxing, including the debut of women’s boxing, comprising 73 hours of boxing coverage.
  • Bravo – 56 hours of Olympic tennis.
  • Telemundo – 173 hours of Spanish language Olympic coverage.
  • Specialty channels for basketball and soccer covering 770 hours will be available on cable television, satellite television, and telco providers.

In addition to the television coverage, NBCOlympics.com will stream every event live for the first time ever for more than 3,500 total programming hours, including awards ceremonies for all 302 separate medals. These events will only be available to those who have subscribed to a cable or satellite provider that carries the channels airing the events.

Sports fans should check back often for updates as more becomes available about specifics of Olympic TV coverage.

Industry Research Projects Cable Modem Market to Reach $8.6 Billion by 2018

WinterGreen Research has published a new study, entitled Cable Modem: Market Shares, Strategy, and Forecasts, Worldwide, 2012 to 2018. According to this study, the cable modem market will reach $8.6 billion by 2018, as cable companies develop new strategies to bundle television and internet service and the lines blur between content delivered through traditional cable means and via the World Wide Web.

The market research has shown that the cable modem business is driven by the expansion of entertainment and information services in the home, with trends leading toward increased delivery of use of wireless devices to access video content and data. Though cable television as we know it is not going away, many viewers of television shows are deciding to, instead of watching programming at its assigned time on TV, stream shows over the World Wide Web on network websites and sites like Hulu, or through the Watch Instantly feature available on Netflix. Cable modems will become more and more important not only for internet access but for television as more people make this switch in the future.

Because of all of this, cable modems are in position to be a part of profitable and sustainable business opportunities for major companies like Comcast, Time-Warner Cable and Charter Communications.

The sky is not falling for cable television, though, even as more and more people watch certain entertainment and sports programming on the Web. Cable TV providers offer sports, news, shows, real-time entertainment and music in a bundle of services far beyond that which many Web searchers find for themselves, according to this WinterGreen study. It will be up to cable companies to continue to adapt, however, making sure that wireless modems are a part of their primary service bundles moving forward as more and more subscribers expect these cable modem services.

The Wireless Remote Control Made Cable TV Possible

Eugene Polley, inventor of the wireless TV remote control, has died, of natural causes last Sunday in Downers Grove, IL. Without Polley’s invention, which was considered a huge luxury upon its debut in 1955, today’s television watching experience with cable TV or satellite TV would be far different, as his invention was the precursor to today’s modern remotes allowing us to navigate hundreds of channels in seconds; it’s no longer a luxury but a necessity.

The original remote channel changer, the Flash-Matic, debuted in 1955 and used a beam of light directed at sensors in the corners of the set to change channels, as well as turn the picture and/or sound on or off. This was the device created by Polley, who worked for Zenith Electronics from 1935 to 1982. A year later, Robert Adler, another researcher for Zenith, created the Space Command remote, which used sound instead of infrared light to change channels and turn sets on and off. While Adler received much of the credit for the development of the remote control, the devices used today are far more influenced by the initial design of Eugene Polley.

Eugene Polley was a true American success story. After leaving college after two years, he found a job in the stockroom of Zenith Radio Corporation in 1935. From there, he rose through the engineering department and over the years and earned 18 United States Patents for his inventions. Another major contribution through his work was the development of push-button radios for automobiles.

Eugene Polley was preceded in death by his wife Blanche and daughter Joan. He is survived by his son, Eugene, Jr. and a grandson. Couch potatoes around the world should pour one out for the man who made sitting on the couch and flipping through channels on cable television possible with his classic invention.

Pac-12 Networks to Launch in August; Still No Deal with Satellite TV

Following in the footsteps of the Big Ten Network, the Pac-12 Conference is launching its own series of networks August 15, 2012. The series of networks will feature one larger, national Pac-12 Network that covers the whole conference, as well as regional networks covering the more popular service areas for cable television in the conference (for example, an Arizona regional Pac-12 Network covering ASU and the University of Arizona).

Like the Big Ten Network at its beginnings, the new Pac-12 Networks will not be available in all homes, even in the areas where those teams (USC football, UCLA basketball, and others) are most popular. This is because, though the Pac-12 Networks have a working deal with Time-Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox and Bright House, they do not have a deal with DISH or DIRECTV satellite TV.

Gary Stevenson, president of Pac-12 Enterprises, hopes that there will be a deal in place with these satellite television providers by the time the Networks launch, but there is no guarantee. Big Ten Network and Comcast previously had some trouble coming to terms, so Pac-12 sports fans served by DISH Network and DIRECTV may have to wait awhile for service from the Pac-12 Networks.

The Pac-12 Networks will increase exposure for collegiate Olympic sports, the area in which the Pac-12 usually dominates, but will also carry as many as 35 Pac-12 football games and at least 120 men’s basketball games, which will bring in the true bread and butter of the viewership. Additional cost to viewers will not be immediate, but will likely result in about a dollar of bill increase over time once the channels have found their place in the cable television lineups.

Fans of college sports should keep their eyes peeled for the Pac-12 Networks in their particular areas and check back for updates here at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

TiVo Debuts IP Set-Top, Streaming to Tablets

TiVo, one of the pioneers of recording, rewinding and pausing live TV with DVR services, has announced some new technology meant to bring cable and satellite TV providers the ability to extend live TV and DVR like content to tablets and smartphones both in and outside of the home.

As reported by Multichannel News, the new TiVo Stream device provides transcoding features built in to enable content viewing on multiple devices while working with a TiVo Premiere DVR. Content is enabled on mobile devices, such as iPads and iPhones. This device, along with an IP Set-Top box, will be released both to retail and to some select cable providers to whom TiVo already provides DVR services. The advantage of the TiVo streaming device over the competitor Slingbox from EchoStar Technologies is that it enables streaming or download of shows simultaneously to multiple portable devices without interrupting what’s playing on TV, and allows users to transfer shows to mobile devices for viewing outside of the home.

These products will likely be available to cable and satellite TV providers who already use Premiere DVRs from TiVo as part of their service and product offerings. These include Virgin Media in the United Kingdom, along with DIRECTV and Charter Communications in the United States. Pricing for the products has not yet been released, but according to a statement by TiVo President and CEO Tom Rogers, they are designed with the low-capital costs operators demand.

No word on whether this announcement has been rushed to market to further compete with EchoStar, which has been pitching use of the Slingbox for set-top boxes from cable and satellite TV providers. Check back often for more news about these new products and when they will hit the market in the United States with DIRECTV satellite TV and Charter Communications cable television.

Satellite TV World News: Belly Dancing Channel Purveyor Arrested in Egypt

Showing that some of the rest of the world does not have the same freedom when it comes to satellite TV that is experienced in the United States with providers like DIRECTV, the owner of a TV station featuring 24 hours a day of belly dancing was arrested in Egypt on Thursday for inciting licentiousness and facilitating prostitution, according to the Associated Press.

This satellite TV station in Egypt, called ElTet, broadcasts videos 24 hours a day featuring scantily clad belly dancers performing their dances to live in-studio music. The station has become quite popular over the past year of availability because it presents a quintessential Egyptian art form that has become harder and harder to experience in person due to the country’s increasingly conservative atmosphere. The police raided the apartment of Baligh Hamdy, the owner and operator of the channel; many of the videos had been filmed there. Police confiscated tapes and arrested the owner.

This raid has many people scared that the Islamist political class growing in influence will push for more censorship and use vague public decency laws to clamp down on the arts and freedom of expression. Though belly dancing can be salacious, it is still an art form that many women of the older generations teach their daughters and granddaughters, and is an important part of Egyptian culture.

The raid was performed because of the complaints of viewers, said an Egyptian police official.

Charter Communications Adds New COO

Charter Communications, the MSO based in St. Louis, continues to add new talent at the top. A new CEO, Tom Rutledge, formerly of Cablevision, was named to the top position in December and now, according to Multichannel News, Rutledge has added his former second in command at Cablevision, John Bickham, to the position of COO at Charter Communications.

At Charter, Bickham will manage all operations across the MSO’s customer base of 4.8 million customer relationships. Bickham has years of experience in the cable television  and service provider industry, having spent 18 years at Time Warner Cable before serving under Rutledge at Cablevision. Bickham will be the first COO to hold the position since 2010. Adding Bickham to the team will relieve some of the day to day pressure of work on the CEO, freeing him up to develop more plans moving forward for the company rather than handling the day to day operations.

John Bickham will likely receive as much as $30 million over the next four years in his role running day to day operations for Charter Communications. The cable company serves nearly five million customers in the Midwest and across the country, with the customer base most concentrated around the company’s flagship in St. Louis, MO.

In the St. Louis area in particular, there are many businesses that work with Charter Communications to bring cable, internet, and phone service from Charter to customers in the area. It is not yet known if John Bickham will be working to expand the service of these businesses, like The Charter Bundle. Strategy and operations from the new CEO and COO are likely to come out more in the year to come as they both have settled into their roles atop the communications giant.

Check back often to keep up to date on the comings and goings with Charter Communications, DIRECTV and other media giants at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.