Alternatives to Cable TV Flourishing

While the sky is not falling quite as predicted a couple of short years ago with regards to cord cutters hurting the cable TV and satellite TV industries, one type of alternative to traditional cable programming is flourishing, with internet-connected TV devices growing in prevalence. NPD Connected Intelligence predicts that there will be 238 million installed internet-connected TV devices by 2019, representing a 59% growth over that time.

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NPD said connected TVs will drive 45% of the growth in the next four years, while less expensive, streaming media players will drive 35% of that growth.

“With an ever-increasing number of connectable devices expected to be connected to the Internet, viewers will have the ability to choose their preferred option instead of using the only device they have attached to their TV,” John Buffone, executive director, industry analyst at NPD Connected Intelligence, said in a statement. “This shift will inevitably result in diminished usage for some devices.”

This year and through 2019, NPD also expects streaming media devices to be found in more homes than any other connected TV devices, pointing to products from companies such as Google, Roku, Amazon and Apple.  Likewise, NPD expects a consolidation and shakeout of operating systems to occur, as more TV makers opt to partner with the likes of Roku and Google and step away from managing their own app ecosystems.

NPD based its forecast and research on a consumer panel of more than 5,000 U.S. consumers, aged 18-plus.

How will this affect the cable and satellite TV business? Likely, it will still result in revenue for cable and satellite companies as these devices are powered by broadband internet that these providers also offer. Stay tuned to find out.

Cable Company Signal-Carry Rule to End in December

The rule that allows more than 12 million cable subscribers in the United States still using analog television sets to receive broadcast station signals without digital converter boxes will now expire in December, according to the latest reports. On December 12, 2012, the six-month extension to the rule will end along with the signals of must-carry stations in analog format. This is good news for cable companies, who will profit from the necessary converters and cable boxes that these cable customers will need to have once the rule expires.

Once the rule expires, cable customers will need either a digital converter or set-top box in order to be able to view all of their channels, including local channels. This total conversion to digital cable television is a victory for cable providers.

While some foreign language and local public access channels see this move as limiting, the move towards digital is actually a good one for the public as well. The move toward a unified, all-digital cable environment will actually allow cable providers to have more bandwidth to provide more channels, which is good for cable subscribers, and many non-cable customers using rabbit ear antennas to watch broadcast networks have already had to buy a digital converter. Cable providers like Charter Communications already provide digital boxes to all new subscribers, as do many satellite television providers like DIRECTV. The digital picture has resolution up to six times better than analog, even without high-definition (HD).

Many cable subscribers may wonder if they are among the 12 million who need to get a digital converter to be able to watch local channels before December. If you do not have a cable box, or have not purchased a digital converter already, you will need to do so. Contact your cable company today and they can help you, though going to Target or Wal-Mart to purchase one of your own may be more cost-effective.

Major Networks Declare War on Satellite TV Provider Dish Network

Disney, CBS and News Corp., the powerful companies behind three of the four major television broadcast networks, have filed lawsuits against the satellite TV provider Dish Network over the new “Auto Hop” feature, which allows viewers to skip over commercials more easily than ever before. Auto Hop allows viewers to watch shows in commercial-free mode with the touch of a button, eliminating even the fast forwarding associated with most DVR usage to skip commercials; ABC, CBS and Fox, with NBC waiting in the wings, see all of this as a threat to the future of free, over the air television.

If the networks win these lawsuits, it could prevent further technology like this from being offered, but if Dish Network wins, it is likely that other cable television and satellite television providers, such as Charter Communications, Verizon, AT&T and DIRECTV, will begin to offer similar products.

The fact that the networks are suing over this developing technology seems to miss the point: that the way people watch television is changing, and the ad-driven strategy of the major networks may end up going by the wayside. More than 90% of homes get their television through cable TV or satellite TV providers, meaning that “free, over the air television” is not experienced by many homes, and when customers pay for cable or satellite services, the fees they pay support the cable networks that air in those packages. If the networks lose this fight, they will have to consider operating under a similar model; it’s worked very well for ESPN, which demands the most in cable rights fees from providers, a cost passed on to the consumers.

Even further: many thought the VCR would be the death of ad-driven television, as people could tape shows and fast forward through commercials, but that was not at all the case. Besides, many events that bring in the biggest ad revenue are watched live: the Super Bowl and other sporting events, the finales of big reality shows. While networks should start looking to the future, in the present they don’t have much to worry about.

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.

Additional High-Definition Channels Available from Charter Communications

Over the past month, Charter Communications serving the St. Louis, MO metro area and surrounding areas has altered its channel lineup, adding 28 new HD channels. The new complete channel lineup for Charter in St. Louis is available here.

Some of the newly available HD channels from Charter TV include Fox Business, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), the Tennis Channel, and the ID Channel. The addition of these channels further increases the wide array of high-definition programming available from Charter TV. In addition to the new channels, Charter Communications has restructured the current channel lineup to group channels together more intuitively for a smoother, more pleasant television watching experience.

The new HD choices further fill out the HD channel lineup available from Charter. Here is some information on the new HD favorites:

  • Fox Business – This additional Fox News channel rivals CNBC for business coverage, but in the style of presentation that the Fox News empire is known for. Fans of Fox News will find this new business channel indispensible when keeping up with financial news and economic opinion.
  • Turner Classic Movies – This channel has access to all the movies in the Turner Archive, bringing classics from the silent era up to the second Golden Age of film in the seventies. Programming focuses on classic movies related to what’s going on in the world, broadcasting WWII movies around the anniversary of D-Day, and star tributes around the birthdays of iconic film stars. Any film fan will be glad to have this channel.
  • The Tennis Channel – The Tennis Channel brings tennis action from across the world. For tennis fans who want to watch tournaments other than the four Grand Slam tournaments, this channel is essential for keeping up with the men’s and women’s tennis rankings.
  • ID Channel – ID stands for Investigation Discovery. This Discovery Channel offshoot focuses on true crime shows like Hollywood Crimes, Deadly Women and 48 Hours.

Customers interested in the new Charter lineup can obtain Charter cable service.

DIRECTV is Growing: Satellite TV Company Reaches 20 Million Subscribers

Earnings reports for cable and satellite TV companies are now available for the first quarter of 2012, and while some cable television companies like Comcast are losing subscribers, satellite TV providers in the United States are growing, with DIRECTV adding around 81,000 subscribers to reach a total of 20 million in the United States, according to the Associated Press. DIRECTV has also added more than 500,000 subscribers in Latin America, where 8.5 million subscribers are now using DIRECTV for satellite television.

There are a number of reasons for the growth of satellite TV in the US. For one, equipment has gotten better and more advanced, so that bad weather no longer causes television outages (at least not as often as it once did). With DIRECTV satellite TV, and some other services, subscribers now get local channels and regional sports networks along with the cable channel package; this was not often available in the past.

The major reason for the increase in subscribers to DIRECTV, though, is the exclusive contract DIRECTV has for NFL Sunday Ticket. NFL Sunday Ticket is the satellite TV package that brings every NFL game every Sunday to the homes and businesses with the package, and it’s the only way to have every NFL game available for viewing each week, and DIRECTV is the only satellite TV provider that can get its customers access to NFL Sunday Ticket. Additional features of NFL Sunday Ticket include the RedZone channel and the ability for home viewers to plug in their fantasy team info to get updates and watch the players from their fantasy teams live.

DISH Network satellite TV and AT&T U-Verse cable TV are also growing, with Comcast Cable losing 37,000 cable subscribers. Cablevision Systems made minimal gains. Check back often for industry news about cable television and satellite TV.

DIRECTV Essential for Fantasy Football Players

NFL Sunday Ticket
Game Mix, available with NFL Sunday Ticket.

The NFL has become by far the most popular professional sports league in America. While a lot of this has to do with fan loyalty and the excitement of the games themselves, fantasy football has increased the interest in the League far beyond its past highs. Now, many football viewers don’t just want to watch their home teams play, they want to be able to watch every televised game every Sunday, and the only way to do that in your home in America is with NFL Sunday Ticket.

Currently, NFL Sunday Ticket is only available with DIRECTV satellite television. If you want to watch NFL Sunday Ticket in your home, you’ll need to sign up for DIRECTV; even sports bars with satellite packages must use DIRECTV to get NFL Sunday Ticket.

For some fantasy football players, going to the sports bar to see all the games at once is enough, but for those who want to take it a little bit further, getting DIRECTV with NFL Sunday Ticket for the home adds even more functionality with the Fantasy Football TV App.

This app allows DIRECTV subscribers to track fantasy teams through on their TV screens. Fantasy football players can:

  • Choose to display league’s weekly matchups, in-game stats on players, or detailed head-to-head stats with a weekly matchup
  • Watch the game featuring one of the fantasy teams’ players in real time
  • Minimize the main menu to see only the weekly matchup score in the right hand corner of the TV screen

Those fantasy football players who want to be able to track their players, weekly matchups, and league standings while watching all the games on Sunday should take advantage of NFL Sunday Ticket from DIRECTV for home.