Netflix Emmy Nominations Show the Changing Face of Cable TV

The face of cable television, or at least how people watch cable television programming, is definitely changing. One of the major indicators of this is the mainstream media acceptance of shows developed specifically for Netflix, shows that only air on the streaming service and not on channels aired by cable television providers. That acceptance has reached a critical level with Emmy nominations for House of Cards, an original show developed for Netflix, and for Arrested Development, a show that once aired on Fox but whose last season was also created for the streaming service.

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The move by Netflix to produce its own shows has upset the equation, especially now that it has made good on its goal of developing high-quality series in the model of premium cable channels such as HBO. Many analysts expect the Emmy nominations for Netflix to encourage more companies to produce their own shows and prompt those already experimenting — such as Amazon.com, which is developing several new series — to expand their ambitions.

“It is a watershed moment for video content,” technology industry analyst Carl Howe of Yankee Group said. “We’re now starting to see awards that don’t pay attention to how content is distributed. . . . What the awards people are saying is: We don’t care anymore.”

Cable channels had their own breakthrough in 1999, when HBO’s “The Sopranos” became the first series not carried on broadcast television to be nominated for best drama.

So new is Internet television that there is no standardized tool for measuring viewership, as Nielsen ratings do for shows delivered through traditional channels. The average Netflix subscriber watches 87 minutes of television on the Web site per day, more than on any cable network, according to BTIG Research, though Netflix has declined to release figures for how many people watch its original content.

The news is not all bad for cable operators. Many of the firms that deliver cable television also deliver broadband Internet through the same wires. Falling demand for traditional television may correspond with rising demand for data.

Cable providers will be able to survive because they are also often the high speed internet providers for their customers as well. But what about DISH Network and DIRECTV, who do not bundle internet with their pay-TV? Only time will tell.

FCC Votes to Increase High Speed Internet in America’s Classrooms

Last Friday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided with a unanimous vote to modernize E-Rate, a federal program providing funding for schools and libraries to receive high speed internet. Since the program was established in 1997, there has yet to be a major overhaul until now. The recent vote has changed the group’s focus toward increasing access to high speed broadband internet in classrooms, lowering the costs for such services, and streamlining the administrative process.

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“What we need to do is move this program from connectivity to increasing capacity and get schools the Internet — both to their doors and to their classrooms — that they need in order to take advantage of what’s going on in digital learning,” said Michael Steffen, director of digital learning at the FCC.

Friday’s vote was the first step in the process. It now moves into a public comment period, which will last into September in order to give time for schools to provide input.

The FCC still has to determine its specific targets for the program, including how it will finance the upgrade. Last year, administrators received funding requests totaling nearly $5 billion, which is about twice the amount budgeted for the program.

Steffen said that it’s too early to say when the final plan will go into effect, but he said it’s necessary to act quickly in order to keep U.S. students from falling further behind other countries.

“These needs are important,” Steffen said. “We know that our country’s international competitiveness demands getting this done. There are lots of other countries moving ahead and so we’re going to try to move quickly.”

Libraries, schools, and other educational institutions may be the only way some children have access to the internet, as in many rural areas high speed internet access in the home is still very low, and in some urban areas it is too costly for low-income families. Here’s hoping this program will truly even the playing field when it comes to internet access all around.

Google May Carry Cable TV Channels Online

Google is working on a way to bring you cable channels the same way you get your email: through a normal internet connection. The company is trying to license cable channels in order to challenge entrenched cable and satellite TV providers like Charter Communications and DIRECTV. While no deals are imminent, the fact that Google is a powerhouse that tends to get its way has some cable and satellite companies scared.

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Google, an advertising company at its core, has tried to make a dent in the television business before. Previous talks with channel owners in 2011 went nowhere. An attempt at an automated TV ad-buying system was shut down last year. Broadband in the meantime has continued to become more popular and more widely available, spurring interest in alternatives to traditional television distribution.

Google’s renewed push was first reported by The Wall Street Journal Tuesday afternoon. Intel is trying to create a similar over-the-top service, but it has run into roadblocks set up by Time Warner Cable and other incumbent television distributors. These include contracts between existing distributors and some channel owners that prohibit the channels from being licensed to new competitors like Intel. An Intel spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday.

Another challenge involves channel owners like the Walt Disney Company and Viacom, who could stand to benefit or suffer greatly from the potential service, depending on how it is developed. Some owners doubt that there is much of a market for cable via the Internet in the first place, and they are content with the three methods of distribution they have today: cable companies like Comcast, the satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network, and the fiber optic providers Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse.

All it takes, though, is one major company with a lot of valuable channels—ESPN, perhaps?—to agree to work with Google, and the whole landscape of the cable television industry could change.

High Speed Internet Comes to Northwest Missouri

A multimillion dollar broadband internet project in Northwest Missouri is nearing its end, connecting rural homes and businesses to high speed internet that was until now unavailable in this outlying portion of the state. The final stretch of the initiative began last Tuesday, with Governor Jay Nixon commemorating the event in Savannah, MO. More than 1,200 fiber miles spanning six counties have been and will be completed.

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“There’s a gas station not far from us. Those guys were dealing with satellite connection before and credit card transactions wouldn’t work correctly, so it’s made a huge impact,” said Dave Girvan, United Electric. “We’ve had great feedback from them.”

United Electric kicked off the project with the help of a statewide initiative known as MoBroadbandNow. Launched in 2009, it expands broadband to homes, public safety agencies and beyond.

“Getting broadband to schools, businesses and health care is vital to compete in the real world. It’s vital to keep this rural economy moving forward the way it is,” said Gov. Nixon.

United Electric received more than $20 million in grants and loans for the UnitedFiber project.

“Initial feedback so far from the businesses and others has been overwhelming,” said Girvan.

More than 5,000 homes fall under the project’s footprint.

“The rural economy has been a back bone over the last few years in Missouri, and making sure they have the technological advantage is important.” added Gov. Nixon.

When the UnitedFiber project began, less than 38 percent of the homes in the company’s service area had high-speed access. When the projects wraps up, that number will change to nearly 95 percent.

MoBroadband depends on federal, state, local and private resources for funding. The state is investing more than $310 million dollars to expand broadband service over the next few years.

A number of projects like these are going on across the country, and it’s definitely a good thing. We’ll keep covering the success stories here at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

ESPN’s New Fall Lineup to Begin August 5

We now know the times and specific channels for the new ESPN shows announced at upfronts a few weeks ago, including an insider-centric NFL studio show that will differ from other NFL-related shows on the network by going entirely without former jocks in the studio and focus on reporters bringing actual news. The new weekly lineup, also including a new daily soccer show, begins August 5 and the new NFL Sunday schedule begins September 8 along with the National Football League’s opening week.

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* On the mothership, NFL Insiders with Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen will air at 3 ET and run for an hour.  Directly after that will be an hour long episode of NFL Live at 4 ET and then Around the Horn and PTI.  ESPN’s lineup was desperately needing some more time to commit to the NFL, so thankfully this new two hour block will fill that gap! In all seriousness though, I’m curious to see how the insiders show will work out and if they can differentiate the two shows.  That’ll be crucial.

* ESPN2 is fittingly enough the land of duos, odd couples, and debate partners.  After four hours of First Take (yuck), Skippy and Stephen A. give way to Jalen Rose and Hugh Douglas as Numbers Never Lie (that’s the show that’s definitely not about numbers) expands to an hour from 2-3 ET while SportsNation moves to 3-4 ET with new hosts Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley.  Highly Questionable airs at 4 ET with Bomani & the Le Batards and OTL moves to the deuce at 4:30 ET.  If there’s one show that’s getting forgotten in all this it’s College Football Live, which will air weekdays at 5 ET on ESPN2.

* The newbie I’m most interested in, ESPNFC, gets a decent daily timeslot at 5:30 ET on ESPN2 although it will get stiff competition from PTI.  FC will not only air Monday-Friday, but also Sundays at midnight, which could end up being a nice weekend recap show for soccer fans with the demise of Fox Soccer.  As we stated back in May, this is a hugely refreshing move given the network has cast aside sports like soccer when they’ve lost rights in the past (ahem… hockey… ahem).  ESPN’s continuing commitment to global soccer is a great thing because it’s Bristol at its best.  Hopefully the quality of ESPNFC permeates throughout the rest of ESPN2’s lineup.  We can only hope.

*As far as Sundays go, not too much has changed with the ESPN staples of SportsCenter and NFL Countdown dominating the morning.  OTL and Sports Reporters air at 8 and 8:30 ET on ESPN2 with Colin Cowherd’s new football show on from 9-10 ET (what joy) followed by an hour of SC and the acclaimed Fantasy Football Now beginning at 11 ET.

ESPN airs on DIRECTV on channel 206, with ESPN2 on 209, ESPNews on 207 and ESPNU on channel 208.

Fox Sports 1 Still in Negotiations with Cable and Satellite TV Providers

The launch of Fox Sports 1, the News Corp attempt to unseat ESPN and its family of networks from the top of the cable sports mountain, is a little over a month away. But, like any new cable network, they’re facing challenges—namely, whether or not service providers will be picking up the channels for carriage to their subscribers. Estimates right now show that the network may fall short of the 90 million homes they expected to air in at the time of launch.

DISH Network, Time Warner Cable, and DIRECTV, who collectively represent more than 46 million subscribers, are still in negotiations with Fox about FS1.

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The fact that so many deals are open a month before a network launch is not unusual in the cable industry. Typically, carriage deals like FS1’s get finalized in the days leading up to or just after a channel’s launch.

Though talks have been described as amicable for the most part, news that some big deals aren’t done runs counter to the widespread belief in the sports industry that FS1 will flip a switch next month and launch to 90 million homes. While neither Fox nor distributors would comment about the state of talks, ticklish carriage negotiations and a new FS1 rate fee are slowing the process.

As with other sports TV deals these days, one of the main snags is over price. Distributors currently pay around 23 cents per subscriber per month for Speed, according to SNL Kagan. Sources say FS1 is being offered at 80 cents per subscriber per month at first, with increases that would push the fee to the $1.50 range over the life of a multiyear carriage deal.

Originally, distribution executives believed they would be able to carry FS1 at the same lower rate they pay for Speed until their Speed contracts end, but sources say Fox has not made that offer to any distributor that hasn’t signed new carriage deals.

Also complicating matters is the presence of other Fox-owned networks in the talks. For example, Fox also is converting Fox Soccer Channel into an entertainment channel called FXX and has to convince distributors to approve that change, too. Other Fox sports channels are part of the discussions, as well.

While none of this is unusual, Fox would like to have deals in place before launching if it wants to be more successful in its attempts to unseat ESPN than NBC Sports Network has been. More on this story as it develops at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

Norway Considers Broadband High Speed Internet Coverage for the Arctic

The Arctic is one of the few places on Earth where high speed internet is not available. Fiber optic cables, satellites, and hot air balloons are just some of the ways internet has been brought to more remote locations in Africa, Asia, and Australia, but they have yet to make their way to the Arctic. That may all change as Norway is considering bringing high speed internet to the Arctic, with the Norwegian Space Center teaming with Telenor Satellite Broadcasting to see how to cover northern areas outside of the reach of current communications satellites.

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Space center director Bo Andersen on Thursday told The Associated Press the system could be in place in the early 2020s if it gets the necessary funding from private and public sources. The estimated cost is 2 billion-4 billion kroner ($330 million-$650 million).

Demand for high-speed Internet in the Arctic is expected to grow as shipping, fishing and oil companies move north amid warming temperatures and melting ice. Last year, summer sea ice cover in the Arctic fell to the lowest extent on record.

Geostationary satellites, which are in orbit over the equator, provide coverage up to 75 degrees north, Andersen said. But above that latitude, the signals become too weak, and the only option is another satellite network that can only handle voice and limited data service.

“We see very clearly that there is an increasing need for broadband in the high Arctic,” Andersen said.

Ola Anders Skauby, a spokesman for Norwegian energy company Statoil, said “new satellite solutions would be beneficial” as the offshore industry moves north in search of oil and gas.

“Our plans for the Arctic depend on a number of issues: safe operations, logistics, weather conditions and more,” he said. “Broadband coverage is part of this picture and for operations in some regions further north than where current operations are taking place development of new solutions for high-capacity broadband … will be needed.”

More on this story as it develops here at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.