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Top Cable Networks see decline in Subscribers

A recent survey of top major multi-channel video providers indicates the industry has just seen it’s first industry-wide decline in subscribers.   This loss rounded out to about 105,000 customers.  While it’s a small number, it’s still being marked as a turning point in the industry when coupled with the fact that the top networks are also experiencing market share slip  holding only 52% of multi-channel video subscribers as opposed to 58% 3 short years ago.  My how time flies when you have options for cord cutters like free HD off-air TV and Apple TV.  Now, if we can just convince ESPN to loosen their content distribution methods so the sports fans aren’t tied up in cables.  When ESPN moves, everyone else will follow suite.

Updated:

Experian Marketing reports that 6.5% of households nationwide have kicked out cable.  That’s up significantly from the 4.5% number reported in 2010.  Yes, Comcast, DirecTV and the lot of them $uck.  Kicking Out Cable does not.

Additionally, they report that  Households with adults under the age of 35 are twice as likely to be Cord Cutters.

If  you’ve been thinking about canceling cable or satellite but on the fence, check out one of our earlier post that details what you need to know before cutting the cord.  TV on your Terms is a good thing.

 

 

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Roku introduces the Streaming Stick

Roku announced a new product today called the Streaming Stick.  Priced at 49.99, the device is designed to complete head to head with the Chromecast by Google and the Apple TV.   The new Roku Stick is capable of 1080p and connects directly to an open HDMI port on your TV or AV Receiver as a new input.  Unfortunately, the Steaming Stick also requires additional power, either from your home 110V or a USB port if you have one available.  Power input is 5V at 1Amp.  Typical power consumption is 2Amp when streaming HD content.Roku Streaming Stick

The Roku Streaming Stick comes with a WiFi remote, and will also allows management thru the iOS or Android applications available for your mobile device if you prefer.  This allows use of the “send to TV” casting offered by Netflix and YouTube.

The WiFi connection utilizes the N standard, providing the bandwidth and range required for streaming video content across wireless, thru typical home environments.

We look forward to the opportunity to review one of these when we get hold of one.  Let us know your thoughts on the newest player on the market for Cord Cutters that have Kicked out Cable.

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Apple opens up your AirPlay for everyones AppleTV

Apples event earlier this week didn’t have much exciting to say for us cord cutters.  Perhaps the most interesting development of late, not mentioned at all at Apples event, is the rumor circulating about Apple TV adding a new feature of sorts to the AirPlay functionality.  With the new iOS 7 release of software coming mid month, the Apple TV will also see an update.

You’re probably familiar with Google Play.  Using this feature, you can “cast” video from your device to most any Apple or Android device.  The new AirPlay will allow you to do the same, within the Apple ecosystem.  You’ll be able to “cast” any content in your iTunes library to another persons Apple TV.  This won’t be a direct link between your device and theirs, rather their Apple TV will pull the content from iCloud.  The trend away from cables continues…the convenience of wireless continues to have impact on how we use technology.

While we don’t know the specifics and nuances of this new feature, it sounds like it will be convenient to say the least.  We already use the AirPlay function to send content to home theaters, stereos and the like.  The ability to play content on a friends Apple TV without having to load it on their Apple device first is going to be cool.  Now you can tell your friends, “I’ll bring the movies, you get the pizza”

Scotty, beam me some Pulp Fiction!

 

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Articles

Apple TV get’s Disney, Smithsonian, Vevo and TWC

The Apple TV continues to bring new channels to it’s lineup.  This past week Apple added Disney Channel, Disney XD, Smithsonian, The Weather Channel and Vevo TV.  We already gave the Apple TV high marks for the features like Air Play and content library integration.  With each channel and application addition, the Apple TV becomes more of a contender for our time spent ingesting content (watching the glowing rectangle).

Here’s a rundown of the recently added channels for Apple TV.

Vevo TV – This network brings over 75,000 music videos, exclusive original programming and live concert performances.  Users can browse videos by artist or genre.  Users can even create logins for personnel playlist creation of their favorite content.  This new service taylored for the Apple TV is available in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands.

Smithsonian Channel – This network brings 100% original content to your Apple TV.  They include programming categories for broad appeal including Air & Space, Science % Nature, Science, History and a special Kids lineup.  All programs are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.  If you’ve kicked out cable, and are looking for good quality family oriented content to watch, this is a channel you’ve got to check out.

The Weather Channel -  What else is there to say.  This is The Weather Channel on your Apple TV.

Disney and Disney XD – These channels were added to the menu but require cable or satellite packages to access.  These content aggregation and distribution licensing contracts are complex and lucrative.  Disney in particular.  If you are a cord cutter, you’ll have to wait a bit longer, while the un-bundling process continues in the industry, to gain access to this channel without submitting to the cable conglomerates.  Stay strong my friends, our time is coming…

 

What are you watching on your Apple TV?  Tell us in the comment section below, and be sure to check out our Facebook page for up to the minute updates on Kicking Out Cable at www.facebook.com/kickoutcable.

 

 

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Al Jazeera America’s Programming offline

This week, Al Jazeera America announced a full schedule of programming to “provide live news and investigative, documentary and discussion programming that fulfills its promise to provide unbiased in-depth coverage of domestic and international news important to its American viewers.”.  That’s all fine and good, except they’ve removed online access to their internet broadcast for all of the United States as part of their marriage to content aggregators.  As Al Jazeera announced, starting today, you’ll only be able to view their content on your cable provider.  This is obviously a step in the wrong direction for those of us looking for more one-off options, not further content aggregation.

They go on to implore us to request access be included our “local television provider”, intending on petitioning the Time Warners and AT&T’s of the world to put them back in the line-up.  They’ve even created a landing page for interested viewers with provider listings as applicable and forms for requesting if not.

While I’ve not been an avid viewer of the news outlet, I did appreciate the outside in view offered on stories.  Blocking of the  Al Jazeera live stream broadcast to the US has simply provided more oversight opportunities for stories to the Fed and big media, while limiting access to their most staunch viewers.  I’d expect a change in distribution here sooner than later.

 

 

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Roku 3 Review

The Roku 3 was released in March of 2013.   The box offers modest hardware improvement over the Roku XD, and saw the debut of the a newly designed interface.  If you’re not familiar with the Roku line of product, they basically make Set Top Boxes that allow you to easily connect to your TV to Netflix, MLB, Hulu, Plex, home movies or one of some 700 plus channels identified in the device guide.  Sounds neat right!

Here’s a quick rundown of the Roku 3

Neat Features includeRoku 3
-Headphone jack in the remote
-Plex integration
-RF remote

Things we expected the Roku 3 to do, and it did
-Resolution supported are 480p, 720p and 1080p
-Audio Support is 7.1/5.1 Surround Sound
-HDMI output of course

Things we didn’t expect from the Roku 3
-The bluetooth remote of the Roku 2 is gone, replaced as noted above with a 5GHz ISM spectrum RF remote.  This is a plus for remote cabinet / AV console mounting
-Dropped 480i/NTSC support

ProcessorThe Processor
This is the first set top box that Roku has produced using a dual core processor.  The Broadcom ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor get’s it done on less than 250mw per core and runs 32-bit processors with the ARM v7 instruction set.  What that means to us in plain English is the box is adequately powered to provide a good user experience and interface operation.

The Remote
The remote on the Roku 3 is RF AND IR.  That’s really cool for those that use all-in-one remotes like the Harmony.  What’s even cooler is that the IR remote from our Roku 2 works on the 3 as well!  Dual spectrums remote make the Roku 3 easy to control with the remote of your choice!

Plugs and Slots
The USB port will support local drive mounting and allows the box to play files directly off the attached drive.  File formats supported include MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264); Audio: AAC, MP3; JPG, PNG.  Additional storage is available thru the MicroSD slot. Roku 3 with HDMI This slot can be used for channel storage or additional games.  A nice feature for quick and easy viewing of camera pictures .

The User Interface
The new tiled interface allows for much more imagery during channel browsing.  This is nice for quick searching through your favorites.
The search functionality really works well.  Once you’ve entered your search term, the Roku 3 will search across all available mediums, Netfilix, Hulu Plus, Plex to find the title you’ve searched.

The Viewing Experience
It works.  Just like previous versions of the hardware, the actual viewing experience is largely dependent on your internet connection, and has little to do with the the actual set top box.  This box has adequate power to decode the video and present to your panel.

Things we wished the Roku 3 would do, but it doesn’t
-DLNA
-Provide broader file type support for local media playback, and trans-coding capabilities

While the Roku 3 is an obvious improvement over earlier models, unless you’re just needing another STB, waiting to see what else the market brings may be your best move.  On the other hand, if you don’t have a Roku at all, buying the Roku 3 at $99 is a safe purchase indeed.

We would love to hear about your experience with the Roku 3…good, bad, or otherwise…

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Redbox Instant on Trial now

Redbox is debuting their new Instant program now, with a free one month trial. The program branded as Redbox Instant is similar to the Netflix we all knew and lost…a mere $8.00 per month get’s you instant access to over 4,500 movie titles and access to physical DVD’s from that red box thing chained to the pole in front of your neighborhood grocery store.(are they all chained up, or just the ones in my neighborhood?)
And, as if that wasn’t enough, for an additional fee of $1.00 per month, you can have access to blue-ray disc as well!
Now, we just need Redbox to make the full court press on content, and they will be pillaging customers from Netflix right and left.

We’d love to hear your experience with the Instant Trial/Service.

 

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XBMC now “plays” with Apple TV 2

Apple TV 2 owners listen up!  XBMC development has recently squared things away with the Apple TV 2 and iOS thru 6.1, bridging the ecosystem gap between Apple content and the rest of the world.  Now, the fantastically easy to use interface of XBMC is available to your AppleTV, along with a plethora of additional content and viewing/streaming options!  Here is a quick write up on the install of XBMC on an Apple TV.

Star Strek on XBMC

XBMC, for those of you who don’t know, is a free, open source, cross platform media player that will stream almost all popular content formats, from most all popular online and network streams or disk.  XBMC versions 10 and up provide support for the Apple TV to render 720P H.264 encoding directly from the stream.

 

We are working to get our hands on an AppleTV 2 to do some testing on this setup.   Codec support is supposed to include MPEG-1, MPEG-2, H.263, MPEG-4 SP and ASP, MPEG-4 AVC (H.264), HuffYUV, Indeo, MJPEG, RealVideo, RMVB, Sorenson, WMV and Cinepak.  Please send us your notes, feedback and experience  relevant to this setup!

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FCC kills clear-QAM

The FCC just released an interesting Order in which they granted the cable operators the right to encrypt basic channel packages on digital systems, IF they comply with certain consumer-protection measures.  Under the auspices of gaining provisioning efficiencies for the cable operators, the FCC goes on to point out that the ruling will have an impact on a “small number of subscribers who currently view the digital basic service tier without using a set-top box or other equipment”.   This ruling also impacts Cord Cutters that pull local channels off their cable line.  Protecting that “small number of subscribers”, they went on to say that if the cable operator decides to encrypt this tier, they (the 6 largest incumbent cable operators) will be required to comply with additional measures to ensure compatibility with third party equipment currently being used to view basic packages now.  Boxee, HTPC, Hauppauge users, this FCC order will have to be addressed sooner rather than later it seems.

The FCC Media Bureau hypothesizes that allowing encryption of the clear QAM signals would reduce cost, improve customer service, and reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, via the newfound capability to remotely handle connect and dis-connects.  All you cable folks should start seeing lower cable bills and improved service soon…keep waiting.

Consumer Protection Measures were implemented by the FCC to “reduce burden’s on subscribers” during this transition period.  This is where things get interesting for us Cord Cutters.  The FCC is requiring cable operators, again the 6 largest incumbent, to provide equipment that is compatible with IP-enabled clear-QAM devices provide by third parties.

Boxee has been fighting the good fight for us here…or at least it seemed that way early on in the banter.   Letters sent to the FCC by Boxee advocated an approach that would “guarantee that by July 2013 Boxee devices can access basic tier signals without additional hardware”.  Essentially, the FCC ignored Boxee’s request for compatibility by means of a hardware-free solution.  The FCC states “Under the equipment measure we adopt today, the vast majority of consumers will be able to access service that is encrypted using a commercial available security technology or via equipment with standard home-network capability in much the same was as they do today.”

What this all means for Cord Cutters is a little unclear at the moment.  What’s evident, is that our beloved clear QAM signals pulled off that cable line for free are soon to be gone.  Boxee, Hauppauge, and HTPC owners listen up. Installing an HD Antenna may be your only option to receive broadcast quality local channel content.

We’d love to hear your comments on the FCC clear QAM encryption ruling and how you feel it will affect your content viewing.

 

 

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Dish pushes for content de-bundling and Over The Top delivery

Last week, Bloomberg published an article stating that Dish was in talks with Viacom about licensing an Over The Top service, to deliver smaller packages at lower prices. They went on to say that Univision Communications and Scripps Networks Interactive were also involved in the negotiations.  The big cable providers see the numbers.  Just this past year, both total number of cable subscribers, and average time people spent watching traditional content has declined roughly 1.5%.  The tide has turned for the big content providers, and no-longer will mediocre programming supported by poor service retain customers.

Internet TV delivery

These conversations are, or should be, of particular interest to the cord cutting community. Over the last decade, content aggregators, your local cable company, have raised package pricing far in excess of inflation.  At the same time, consumers are watching less and less of the packages they purchase.  By the numbers, the average person watches just 16% of the channels they receive in a typical cable package.  This is down nearly 10% from 10 years earlier.  These trends, specifically the phenomenal pricing increases, have led to special attention from the FCC and potentially regulated de-bundling.  While regulatory oversight of cable aggregator bundling practices may be beneficial, the real win for consumers will come when content owners, the likes of Disney/ESPN/TBS, begin to offer their content directly to subscribers bypassing the aggregators all-together.

The demand on service providers to make content available over the internet, and playable on tablets and phones alike is strong and getting stronger. Like land line telephones, soon the day will come when it’s more of an oddity than the norm to have cable delivering TV to your house.

Here’s to hoping Dish, Univision and Scripps have great success in de-bundling our most valued content and freeing those still tethered to cords.

Cord Cutters Unite!  Follow us on our Facebook page for more conversation with like minded “cord cutters”.

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