Media: November 2005 Archives

TiVo: a brief day in the sun

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PVRBlog notes NBC is griping about TiVoToGo syncing recorded shows over to a video iPod. As they note, NBC doesn't have a leg to stand on. What should be noted here is that this is why companies like NBC are so into the idea of a mandatory broadcast flag. That guide is worth reading.

I wrote my Congressman a while back - John Carter of the 31st district of Texas, about this issue. I got back a fairly standard "thanks for writing" response. However, I'd like to excerpt a bit of his reply:

[...] It is important to find a balance between protecting intellectual property rights while also maintaining high quality distribution

As you may know, a boradcast flag is a sequence of digital bits embedded in a television program that signals that the program must be protected from unauthorized redistribution. This signal does not distort the viewed picture in any way. Implementation of this broadcast flag will permit digital TV stations to obtain high value content and assure consumers a continued source of attractive, free, over-the-air programming without limiting the consumer's ability to make personal copies. This issue has received growing attention over the last year because of the December 31, 2006 deadline that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has placed on the transfer from analog to digital broadcast.

He goes on to note that a court ruled the FCC doesn't have the authority to set that deadline, and says the house is considering legislation to GRANT that authority to the FCC.

You can see the tilt apparent in the letter. Whether this is misinformation that has been fed to my Congressman, and he actually believes that, or whether he is simply a victim of media company propaganda, I don't know. But I do know that it is self-evident that "assuring consumers a continued source of attractive, free, over-the-air programming" doesn't require a Broadcast flag, and that it will be used to limit their ability to make personal copies.

It is ironic, of course, that the content industry has fought tooth and nail against every innovation, despite the fact that they have universally just expanded the market. Can you imagine a world without VCRs or DVD players? (Let alone TiVo) That's the world the MPAA wanted. They failed, but in the Broadcast Flag, they may yet succeed. After all, what good will your VCR (or TiVo) be if it has to obey a Broadcast Flag and simply not record things?

As EFF says, "In short, the Broadcast Flag is about the movie studios demanding unprecedented veto power over digital technology because they believe they can see into the future and have the right to knee-cap technological innovation, free competition, and consumer rights in order to prop up aging business models."

TiVo to iPod/PSP coming

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Via PVRBlog I discovered that TiVo will allow you to move TiVoToGo video to your iPod and PSP. I have several observations about this.

It's a smart move, in that it helps differentiate from Set-Top offerings. One of the most dangerous things for TiVo will be set top DVR offerings. While I use TiVo at home, my wife selected Time Warner's DVR "service" for her office. It's laggy and generally inferior, in my opinion, but it doesn't require any sort of purchase and it's set up for you. Anything that differentiates TiVo from those set top boxes is good.

It gives you real value for your TiVo fee. As Ars Technica pointed out, being able to cheaply populate your iPod (or PSP) with video which might otherwise cost you $2 goes a long way to "soften the blow" of their monthly fee. Ars Technica also astutely points out that this is exactly why media companies want a Broadcast Flag. It isn't piracy, not while the "flag" is merely an instruction to consumer electronics that naughty devices could ignore. It's because they want to charge you many times for the same media.

This is likely to encourage content providers to get their shows up. Whether they do it via the iTMS or via something like TW/AOL's free In2TV service, they're going to want to get them up to compete with "free time shifting".

As usual, the question I ask myself is: if I'm a media exec, why am I not leading the charge? When Apple announced a video iPod, I'd have been the first one to want to slap my media library up for download. Can a 320x240 resolution show really cannibalize DVD sales? I think not. This is really about convenience. But frankly, networks could offer their own media player that forced you to sit through some commercials, and do distribution via p2p to cut their bandwidth costs, and essentially just expand their audience without any downside. Hell, if they put the stuff on a PC, they could even reserve some screen space for text or banner ads if they didn't interfere with the show. Hello, captive audience. But they won't think of that until there's another paradigm dominating the market - and it won't be long now.

Long have I awaited the coming of that which was foretold... George RR Martin's Feast For Crows. Yes, it's the 4th book in the series, and it is like crack. I want that book. But UPS lost it. It shows as "Front Door"; I've never had anything stolen before. But it isn't here. I'm going to have to report it missing and wait for a replacement. I was so busy coding and setting up certificate authorities and such that I didn't have time to even check that it had arrived... and when I did, I discovered it had gone missing. Grrrr.

The upshot of all this is that I make this blog post, because if you haven't read GRRM's masterwork, you're missing out. If you are interested, start with book one, Game of Thrones, and proceed from there. It takes about 200 pages of Game of Thrones to get into the groove, and then there's no stopping it.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Media category from November 2005.

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