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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Europe Actually Provides Most Reliable Cable Internet Download Speeds

Cable internet providers often actually provide download speeds far short of what are promised. If a high speed internet provider is advertising download speeds of 30 Mbps, it’s likely you’ll be getting download speeds far slower than that, especially during busy times of the day. But while European internet providers are chided for only providing 74% of the speeds promised, that is much higher than other parts of the world.

More from Multichannel News:

In a study of fixed broadband performance released Wednesday, the Commission said European consumers receive, on average, 74% of the “advertised headline speed” they’re paying with respect to the downstream. And DSL apparently shoulder much of the blame for not doing better.

Cable, at 91.4%, was the most reliable, followed by FTTx services (84.4%) and xDSL-based services (63%), the Commission said. The average download speeds across all countries and all fixed broadband technologies was 19.47 Mbps during peak hours. FTTx was the fastest, at 41.02 Mbps, trailed by cable (33.1 Mbps), and DSL (7.2 Mbps).

All ISPs did better with the upstream, with 88% hitting their advertised speeds. The average upload speed was 6.20 Mbps, with FTTx well out in front (19.8 Mbps), followed by cable’s modest 3.68 Mbps and DSL’s paltry 0.69 Mbps.

The European Commission based its findings on data from SamKnows, a broadband performance testing specialist that has conducted similar studies in the U.K. and the U.S. Results for the European study were taken in March 2012 from a panel of 9,104 participants. A total of 3,065,341,850 measurements were taken across 75,978,173 unique tests, according to the Commission.

The European Commission said the study was its first to show the difference between advertised and actual broadband speeds from all European Union member states. “There are significant differences in the European national markets, most likely due to advertising practices,” European Commission VP Neelie Kroes said, in a statement. “Consumers need more of this sort of data to help make informed choices, so we will repeat the exercise. And we take these first results as further proof of the need for a real connected single market.”

All this goes to show: when doing your research, don’t take the advertiser’s word for it.

Cable TV Ratings Boosted by DVR

Now that ratings can be measured for programming viewed later on DVR, cable TV ratings are getting a boost. Original programming on cable TV has for quite a while been picking up its share of the critical claim and end-of-season awards, but now we’re able to see how they’re picking up in the ratings as well.

Since the advent of the DVR, programming that does not require live viewing (news and live sports, mostly) has not been accurately tracked as far as who watches it. Now we have that view and cable TV is the winner.

More from USA Today:

Nielsen data for this year shows even bigger ratings gains between the day a show first airs and the accumulated audience up to a week afterward, now that nearly half of U.S. homes have digital video recorders. AMC’s top-rated The Walking Dead racked up an average of 15 million zombie lovers for its winter season, adding 31% to its already huge same-day turnout of 11.4 million. A&E’s Duck Dynasty added 4 million, a bigger boost than The Following, Revolution or Elementary. And the audience for USA’s Suits jumped 2.2 million when 7-day viewing was factored in, a 65% increase.

The upticks vary widely, and as with broadcast series, news and sports are almost never recorded for later viewing, while 18-to-49-year-olds — the sweet spot for advertisers — tend to record shows more frequently than older viewers. And younger ones, too: Kids are far less likely to record shows for later viewing, as SpongeBob SquarePants added just 4% for original episodes and Disney’s Austin & Ally rose 16%.

Also in the less-likely-to-record column were History miniseries The Bible, which had the same initial audience as Walking Dead (11.4 million) but added only 1.8 million viewers within a week, a 16% increase, compared to Dead’s31%.

But cable series, which air frequent repeats throughout the week and are increasingly available on demand, often depend on the premiere telecast for a fraction of their total audience. New FX series The Americans averaged 1.9 million viewers, but that accounted for just 30% of its overall viewership; DVR usage alone nearly doubled that total to 3.4 million, while other viewing adds still more.

Keep those DVRs running, everybody.

Cable TV Advertising Up

Total US spending on television advertisement is basically flat from last year, but there is good news for the cable TV sector—as spending has declined for network television, it has actually grown for cable television and for Hispanic television.

More from CNBC:

Network TV spending declined 5.2 percent thanks in part to weaker ratings and a shift in the calendar which moved certain NCAA game ad dollars out of the quarter. It’s no surprise that newspapers continue to suffer: local newspaper revenue dropped 3.3 percent and national newspapers really suffered, down over 9 percent. Another big loser: network radio, down 15.2 percent.

The big winners were media targeting the growing Hispanic market. Spanish language TV saw a 13.5 percent increase in ad spending. Hispanic magazine bucked the downward trend in the magazine business, growing 12 percent. That bodes well for privately-held Univision and Telemundo, which is owned by CNBC’s parent, Comcast.

Cable TV also continues to thrive as advertisers shift their dollars to follow ratings and more niche audiences, with spending up 5.2 percent. Winners here include the likes of Discovery (DISCA), Food Network’s parent Scripps, plus the larger cable-heavy companies like Viacom and Time Warner.

Total spending may be flat, but the top ten largest advertisers spent nearly 6 percent more than a year ago. Procter & Gamble spent more than any other advertiser and 9 percent more than last year. The next two biggest spenders, AT&T and L’Oreal, also spent more than 25 percent more than the year-earlier quarter.

Which companies pulled back their spending? Comcast’s spending declined more than 17 percent largely because its movie studio released fewer films. While automotive was the top-spending category, total spending declined fractionally, with General Motors spending 2.6 percent less though Ford spent nearly 13 percent more.

With cable television advertising thriving due to sports programming and more original programming, it shows that the cable TV industry is not going away anytime soon.

DIRECTV Unveils Wimbledon Experience

Tennis fans who subscribe to satellite TV provider DIRECTV are in luck, as the nation’s leading satellite TV provider, from now until July 7 when the tournament concludes, is giving its subscribers the true Wimbledon Experience.

While ESPN is covering the early rounds of the tournament, they can’t broadcast all of the matches—that’s where DIRECTV comes in. Channels 701-707 broadcast in HD multiple matches on the same channel, exclusive early round and outer court matches, and the ability to call up live scores and stats on screen.

The DIRECTV Wimbledon Experience gives viewers real-time updates at the press of a button. Simply press the red button on the DIRECTV remote while watching any of the Wimbledon Experience channels and you’ll get:

  • Match Guide: Showing who’s playing, on what channel, what matches are coming up, and current scores.
  • Recent Results: Scores for recently completed matches.
  • Men’s and Women’s Draws: See how the tournament is progressing through each round.

With this sort of inclusive coverage of the most historic Grand Slam tournament, DIRECTV truly is the best option for tennis fans across the United States. And when the US Open comes around, there’ll be something just as comprehensive.

To get started with DIRECTV, contact your local satellite TV provider.

Another Kansas City Suburb to Get Google Fiber

The Google Fiber pilot program in Kansas City, Missouri has been a success so far, with many of the neighborhoods the company sought to reach signing up enough customers ahead of time for Google to build the infrastructure necessary to bring the super high speed internet to the people there. Another Kansas City suburb, further out this time, will be joining the fray, with Lee’s Summit, Missouri the next town on the Google Fiber schedule.

More from the Southeast Missourian:

Lee’s Summit is the ninth Kansas City area city to reach an agreement with Google Fiber since the service was first introduced to the area in 2012. Google Fiber plans to construct a high-speed broadband network that can transmit up to one gigabit of data per second, which is almost 100 times faster than conventional home broadband.

The Kansas City Star reported the Lee’s Summit City Council on Thursday approved three agreements that cover installation and operation of the fiber optic network in the city.

There is so far no indication when the service will be available to Lee’s Summit residents.

Other Kansas City suburbs to the East of Downtown have yet to get access to the Google Fiber network. There customers depend upon pre-existing services for high speed internet.

We’ll keep updating as more towns are added to the Google Fiber experiment here at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog. It’s important for this program to be a success, so that other companies will begin to offer ultra high speed internet for their customers as well. Competition in this sphere breeds improvement to the technology available to consumers.

ESPN Preparing for 4K TV

After shuttering ESPN3D, the cable TV sports giant is looking ahead to the next potential development in television broadcasting, 4K TV, also known as Ultra HD.

ESPN’s top tech exec, Chuck Pagano (not to be confused with the Indianapolis Colts head coach of the same name) said the company is preparing for developments in 4K TV, but after the failure of the 3D experiment, they are not going to hurry without fully taking into account how many customers will actually be using it.

More from Multichannel News:

He said many components that will make up the underlying 4K production system, including switchers and graphics engines, are still in development. Vendors are telling Pagano not to expect many of those pieces to be available in desired quantifies until 2015.

“Right now I have too many cogs between the two ends of this ecosystem. I’ve got a camera and I’ve got a TV set,” he said. “There’s still a lot of things to figure out before we can say we’re going to be playing in this space or not yet. We’re actively looking [at 4K], but I can’t tell you I have a date in mind.”

Pagano, who was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame last year, is likewise not convinced that consumers will notice or appreciate the difference between 4K and regular HDTV unless they’re viewing it on massive displays. He and his colleagues have studied HDTV and 4K images side-by-side on a 55-inch screen and “scratched their heads,” because there’s not a huge difference. If consumers can afford a 100-inch screen and squeeze it into their houses, then that’s something else.

“But we’re just getting our fingers a little with dirty with trying to understand the mechanics,” he said.

And it’s not just about screen size. Those TVs will also need to support higher frame rates to get a fuller experience. Most TVs use an HDMI 1.4b-complaint interface that supports up to 24 frames per second. While that works fine for film, live television will likely need to support a minimum of 60 frames per second – a function that should be supported in the emerging 2.0 version of HDMI.

“It’s still confusing on where that’s going to go,” Pagano said. Likewise, he said H.265/High Efficiency Video Coding [HEVC],  a codec that is 50% more efficient than H.264/MPEG-4 will be a “key ingredient if we decide at some point to go with 4K.”

One thing is for sure: for 4K to work with a broader group, ESPN will need to embrace it. If the sports giant does not, or goes with another technology, 4K will be dead in the water.

Raven Industries Collaborates with Google on High Speed Internet Project

There is a new possible solution for high speed internet access in remote, rural, and underserved areas of the United States and the world as a whole. You’ll be surprised when you hear what it is: balloons.

That’s right; Raven Industries, Inc. is collaborating with Google to provide high speed wireless internet accessibility by utilizing high-tech balloons. The pilot project is called Project Loon; the companies will share technologies in the project.

More from Nasdaq:

Search engine giant Google will use the 60 feet tall high-tech balloons designed by Raven as well as its flight control system. The system along with the software developed by Google will direct the path of the balloons. These high altitude balloons carried by the wind will be able to move in the right direction providing high-speed Internet access.

Over the years, Internet has gradually become a necessity. However, a fast and easily accessible Internet connection is still out of reach in the developing nations and rural areas. With the help of this high altitude balloon engineering, people can get improved Internet access.

This improved technology has the potential to change millions of lives through improved medical care, access to knowledge and enriched agriculture. However, the Aerostar segment will continue to face government uncertainty and sluggish demand. This innovation is in line with its attempt to offset government uncertainty by enhancing proprietary technology revenues, including the sale of advanced radar systems, high-altitude research balloons and aerostats in international markets.

You’ve got to hand it to Google for going out there and trying new things, but we at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog can’t help but thinking this will go the way of the Hindenburg once more local governments become amenable to laying high speed fiber in their jurisdictions, and begin to see internet as a necessity rather than a luxury.

Charter Communications Doubles its Capacity in North Texas

Leading cable TV and internet provider Charter Communications has completed its all-digital upgrade in North Texas, covering Fort Worth and 40 surrounding communities, enabling the provider to double its HDTV channel lineup and broaden its Video On Demand library. By completing the four month upgrade process they are now offering 141 HD channels, including 80 new ones such as ABC Family, BET, Cartoon Network, and, most importantly for many Texans, the Longhorn Network, which is ESPN’s channel focusing on University of Texas sports.

More from Multichannel News:

“By removing analog signals from our network, we gained the bandwidth and ability to bring so much more value to our customers. With a digital set-top box on every television, our customers now have a host of new and exciting digital entertainment options available at the touch of a button,” said John Owen, Charter’s  regional VP in Fort Worth, in a statement.

The MSO has not completed all-digtal upgrades in any other markets, a Charter spokeswoman said.

At this stage in the upgrade, Charter is using two-way, CableCARD-based set-tops to assist with its transition, eschewing simple, less expensive one-way digital transport adapters (DTAs) that MSOs such have Comcast have leaned on to power their analog reclamation strategies.

In North Texas, the all-digital upgrade is just one part of more than $40 million in improvements being made to Charter’s network. In addition, the company is replacing hundreds of miles of aging cable and making other core infrastructure improvements that will continue into 2014.

It is likely that if this upgrade is a success, Charter Communications will perform similar upgrades in other markets where they are the leading provider, with St. Louis and surrounding areas likely successors. We’ll keep an eye on the story at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

DreamWorks and Netflix Create More Competition for Cable TV

The major reasons for subscribing to cable TV are the original programs available on basic and premium cable channels and to watch live sports. One of those reasons may fade away soon enough as DreamWorks and Netflix are the latest to get into creating streaming programming outside of the normal cable TV sphere.

More from the New York Times:

In a multiyear deal announced early on Monday, DreamWorks Animation will supply a torrent of new episodic TV programs to the Internet streaming service. The partnership calls for 300 hours of original programming, perhaps the biggest commitment yet to bring Hollywood-caliber content to the Web first.

The new programs will be “inspired” by characters from past DreamWorks Animation franchises, which include “Shrek” and “The Croods,” and its coming feature films. Series will also come from Classic Media, which the studio bought last year. Classic Media’s holdings include characters like Casper the Friendly Ghost, Lassie, She-Ra and Mr. Magoo.

The agreement is the latest in the hotly competitive market for streaming content, with major services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon vying to capture viewers who are gravitating to the Web, especially younger ones.

Until now, DreamWorks Animation’s primary focus has been the release of about two costly movies a year. Its success record is strong, but one miss can send its stock price plummeting, as was the case late last year, when “Rise of the Guardians” severely underperformed expectations; the company eventually took an $87 million write-down tied to the film.

Netflix already has a critically acclaimed original program in House of Cards, based on a British series about a corrupt politician climbing his way to the top. As Netflix subscriptions grow, these original programs could become even more popular and create even more of a challenge for cable companies like Charter Communications.

Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable Top JD Power Business Customer Survey

JD Power and Associates’ recent business wireline customer survey was topped by Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable, two of the four cable companies in the top five in the rankings. Bundling voice and data services led to higher satisfaction with these business customers.

More from Multichannel News:

Cox rated highest in the very small and small/medium-sized business categories, with a score of 700, according to the survey, and did particularly well in performance and reliability and billing. Cable companies fared best in the very small business segment, no surprise at that category has been a primary focus for most MSOs. Cablevision Systems’ Optimum Business service placed second in the segment with a 686 score, followed by Charter Communications (670) and Comcast (667).

Cox also led the small/medium-sized business segment with a score of 715, beating out Verizon Communication’s score of 685.

Time Warner Cable led the large enterprise category with an overall satisfaction score of 705, edging out Verizon’s 693 score. According to the study, TWC performed particularly well in five of the six factors: performance and reliability; billing; sales representatives and account executives; cost of service and customer service.

Satisfaction scores for bundled customers averaged about 668, according to the survey, vs. 660 for data-only customers and 653 for voice-only subscribers. Average performance in four of six factors (performance and reliability; sales reps and account execs; billing; and communications) is highest among customers bundling their services.

The desire to bundle is increasing. According to J.D. Power, in 2013 15% of customers cited the ability to bundle as being the main reason for selecting their provider, compared to 6% in 2012. Additionally, business customers that bundle data and voice services are less likely to contact their service provider with customer service needs, which can lower overhead for providers, the survey said. These customers are also the most loyal to their service provider, with 21% saying they “definitely will not” switch providers in the next 12 months — a higher percentage than any other group, according to the study.

Charter Communications was not involved in the survey.