Viodi View – 07/24/14

Managed Broadband TV – A Decade Old Overnight Success

This is an example of what a possible TV user interface might look like as envisioned in the Viodi authored, June 2003, Streaming TV Whitepaper.
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It’s always fun to see industry friends face-to-face and last week’s NTCA Southeast Regional Meeting in Savannah, GA was the perfect venue for catching up with folks I hadn’t seen in a while. It was an honor to moderate a tech talk panel on the topic of video services. This video summarizes the opening comments I made and set a baseline for the presentations that followed from Mark Chambers of NRTC and Bob Saunders of Skitter.

Click here to watch the video and read more.

Building a Bigger Box

A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.
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Growth was definitely the vibe of this week’s NTCA’s Southeast Regional meeting in Savannah. Operators and vendors provided examples and ideas for how to generate new revenue through the introduction of new products and services that complement the broadband infrastructure. Although one of the panels referenced the idea of “out-of-the-box” thinking, it is clear that operators want to build a bigger box by complement their broadband offering with services that help their customers and result in new revenue.

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“Rural America Is a Big Part of America” #Summit21

A picture of a waterfall in Warren, VT.
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It’s one thing to talk about or even see pictures of rural America, but it doesn’t compare to experiencing it first hand. Last April at the ACA 2014 Convention, I had a chance to catch up with the lone Representative from the very rural state of Vermont. Interspersed in the above interview with Representative (D-VT) Peter Welch are some images captured from my brief visit to Vermont from a couple weeks ago. The images reinforce Welch’s points about the unique nature of rural America.

Click here to view and read more.

How Cable Began – The Rest of the Story #Summit 21

It is often difficult to receive over-the-air television broadcasts in the mountains.
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The following video interview captures the spirit of the folks who built a new industry decades ago. Most people in the telecom industry are probably aware that the cable industry sprung to life in rural areas that were too isolated to receive off-the-air broadcast signals. No doubt, many have heard about the guy with an appliance shop that was attempting to sell TVs and had to figure out a way to bring the signal from an antenna on top of a mountain to display the wonders of television to prospective customers.

Unfortunately, Viodi won’t be able to cover next week’s Independent Show in Kansas City celebrating the NCTC’s 30th anniversary, but the above video is an example of the many stories that could be told by long-time attendees to that event.

Click here to view and read more.

Looking at the Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on How We Live

The sign that greeted attendees to the Autonomous Vehicle Workshop.
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“It’s time to think about the built environment,” said Shannon McDonald, an architect and Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. McDonald was referring to the impact that autonomous vehicles will have on the design of streets, buildings and associated infrastructure. She indicates that this is an important and timely discussion to have, as she compares autonomous mobility to the rapid changes to cities and the explosion in suburbs that resulted from the introduction of the car 100 years ago. She is in an expert in that transition, as she literally wrote the book on one aspect; parking and how it changed cities.

Click here to read more and to view the video.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • BYOB – Bring Your Own Brain – if this works as shown, it will be an affordable personal #robot
  • As follow-up to my interview with Carissa, this just released reel describes her new TV show that helps independent operators teach customers tech.

The Korner – The Solar Window Awning & Shade

Ken Pyle interviews Joseph Hui of Monarch regarding their solar solutions.
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Joseph Hui is on a world-changing mission; to help people live a comfortable and renewable lifestyle. This Arizona State University professor wants to help solve big problems, such as access to clean water, climate control, healthy food, information and transportation. Hui’s company, Monarch Power, is his vehicle for tackling these weighty challenges.

At International CES 2014, Monarch demonstrated some relatively low-cost solar power solutions; think less than $1 to $2 per Watt versus $5 per watt for a typical roof-mount system. Monarch takes a system approach to lowering the cost of technology to make it economically practical. As an example, in addition to providing shade, the Monarch window awning, shown in the above video, also generates solar electric power (280W) and heats water.

Click here to view and read more about how to use the hot summer sun to lower energy bills.

Time Warner Cable Media joins Comcast in adding AT&T U-Verse to Ad Platform; U-Verse Survey!

Time Warner Cable Media, the cable operator’s ad sales division,  is the second MSO in recent weeks to strike a deal with AT&T  to have the latter’s U-Verse TV service linked to the cableco’s fixed scheduling network.  Specifically, AT&T’s U-Verse TV service is being incorporated into Time Warner Cable’s “fixed scheduling network grids” in 15 markets via an agreement between TWC and AT&T AdWorks. The pact gives clients access to a broader range of network options for their ads.

Time Warner Cable Media’s agreement with AT&T AdWorks, becomes effective with the 2013 broadcast year.  The markets covered under the agreement with AT&T are: Dallas; Los Angeles; Cleveland; Austin, Texas; San Antonio, Texas; Milwaukee; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City; Green Bay, Wis., Dayton, Ohio; Raleigh, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Toledo, Ohio; and Louisville, Ky.

“This agreement with AT&T AdWorks simplifies the ad buying process for marketers to access consumers and grow their businesses. We relentlessly pursue new opportunities to help our clients grow their businesses,” Joan Hogan Gillman, Executive Vice President of Time Warner Cable and President of Time Warner Cable Media, said in a statement.

By “hard wiring” the network to run ads across a given designated market area with Time Warner Cable Media, AT&T “will expand our clients’ reach through one point of contact — making it a seamless process,” AT&T AdWorks president Mike Welch added.

This agreement, along with a similar pact AT&T signed with Comcast, will allow U-Verse to expand its ad reach via third-party MSO outsourcing.  AT&T had 4.34 million U-verse TV subscribers in the U.S. at the end of September, but that number is expected to increase by 1/3 in the next couple of years, according to AT&T.

“Currently, 32% of AT&Ts customers are covered by (triple play) U-Verse, which will increase by one-third to 8.5M additional customers and 43% coverage by the end of 2015.”

More details of AT&T’s U-Verse and IP DSLAM expansion plans is at:

But the Huffington Post is very skeptical about AT&T’s $40B build-out, including the U-Verse expansion:

“On Nov. 7, 2012, AT&T announced that it would be spending $14 billion to upgrade their wireless and wireline networks. And yet, in fact, AT&T is only spending about $5 billion extra over the next three years, about 8 percent above their 2010-2011 expenditures, if that much. Moreover, on the same day, AT&T filed a petition with the FCC to remove most remaining telecom regulations, using these upgrades as a carrot.  History shows that AT&T’s broadband deployments are rarely, if ever fulfilled once the company receives the regulatory benefits.”

According to Ad Week, there’s no overlap between the Comcast/U-Verse households and the TWC/U-Verse households, so with the two agreements (which cover some 36 markets, all told), U-Verse is effectively outsourcing much of its advertising to other MSOs, as it tries to build a larger client base across the country.

For more information, please see:

AW Comment:

I’ve been a U-Verse subscriber for 4 months now, and can’t express how satisfied I”ve been with both the TV and high speed (12Mb/sec) Internet service.  Both have been rock solid with very high quality video- both SD and HD- and no hiccups in Internet service (as was the case with ADSL Pro @2.5Mb/sec).  Yet customer support has been terrible- even for the most mundane and seemingly trivial issues.

AT&T has a new slogan when you log into their customer website:  “Rethink Possible.”  Yet AT&T has not done a RETHINK on any aspect of U-Verse customer service- from installation to billing to reporting website errors after logging in.  This fact has been confirmed by numerous U-Verse customers I’ve interviewed, in preparation for a feature article comparing U-Verse to Comcast triple play services.  We excluded both Verizon and TW Cable because they do not offer their triple play services in the SF Bay Area and so have no presence here.

I have yet to experience any technical problems with the services- no disruptions or outages.  But I fear that when I do (and it’s inevitable), it will take a very long time to diagnose the problem cause, recover and repair the service.

Please comment below or email me:  if you have any experience with U-Verse service outages and recovery.  I will include your results (anonymously if you like) in the survey I will be publishing soon.  Many thanks!


Viodi View – 07/27/12

Is there a rainbow peeking out of the clouds that points to a brighter day or do today’s clouds lead to a fog bank of chaos? Although there is a great deal of uncertainty in the telecom space, which is manifesting itself through cautious capital expenditures, two things are clear; improving efficiency of operations and finding new diversified revenue streams are critical for operators to survive and thrive.

Give Us Visibility 

With over 650 telecommunications’ operators behind last week’s letter that was sent to the FCC and their elected representatives, the rural telecom industry is as united as it ever has been. In a nutshell, a central point of their argument reflects what economists call, The Permanent Income Theory of Consumption. When the future is cloudy and income streams less clear, investors will tend to make fewer investments that require a long-term horizon. Click to read the rest.

Top US Telcos Reject Broadband Connect America Funding by Alan Weissberger

Ten of the nation’s largest carriers were invited to participate in the Connect America Funding program, offered by the Federal Communications Commission.  The fund would pay carriers $775 per broadband line deployed to an unserved home within its territory up to a specific dollar level (which varies from one carrier to another). Click to read Alan’s analysis.

Multiscreen Authentication for the Small Operator

Obtaining rights to stream programming to multiple screens is one of the major issues that cable and IPTV operators face these days, as shown by the recent dust-up between DirecTV and Viacom. In this interview, filmed at the 2012 ACA Summit, NCTC president, Rich Fickle explains how his purchasing cooperative is working to include multiscreen video as part of their deals with content suppliers. Click here to view this video interview where he discusses NCTC’s efforts to help with the multiscreen authentication challenge faced by smaller operators.

The Piracy Continuum

Stuart Rosove of Irdeto explains the nuance associated with identifying content theft. In this interview, he explains the framework for how Irdeto looks at the content security continuum. Ensuring easy access to the legitimate consumer on whatever device she wants is one of the problems Irdeto is trying to solve. Rosove points out a number of use-cases that the industry is working on (e.g. who owns the digital content in the case of a divorce). Click here to view.

From Online to the TV and Back

With all the talk surrounding the appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO and the challenges she faces in pleasing the stock market, it is sometimes easy to overlook that Yahoo! is a profitable business with a significant position in many areas. Yahoo! is also is a leader in original programming according to Comscore data, “With 21 out of the top 25 most-watched online series…..captures more than 57 million unique viewers a month who come to Yahoo! to watch video.”An example of original Yahoo! programming is the just released series, Electric City, created by and starring Tom Hanks.

In this interview, Russ Shafer, Senior Director of Global Product Marketing for Yahoo! Connected TV, provides an update on the rollout of the Yahoo! Connected TV offering. Click here to view.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

The 100+ MPG Fleet Truck

Improving the efficiency of their fleet is one painless way for operators to reduce operational expenses in these uncertain times. Although the utility vehicles featured in Jay Leno’s video have greater upfront costs, the promised operational cost savings could pay for the Via Motor’s trucks over time. Built with a standard chassis and body from GM, these hybrid-electric trucks look no different from a regular vehicle, but they provide a robust generator capability at the work site and a promised 100+ mpg.

Via Motor’s website promises life-cycle savings due to lower maintenance and fuel costs. In rural areas, where there is lots of “windshield time” it will be interesting to see if the efficiency gains will be as great as what Via Motor’s touts. Given the small amount of fuel these vehicles use, it would be interesting to see if a compressed natural gas-powered version of this vehicle will be developed.

These vehicles could offer an interesting fleet alternative for telecom operators. As hinted at in this video, fleet sales are the initial focus of Via Motors. With automobile legend Bob Lutz leading Via, this Orem, Utah based upstart car-maker has a credible chance at changing the fleet vehicle market. Click to view the video.

Making TV Better for the Middle Class

On one extreme, there are the television cord-cutters;those people who will use broadband and/or a combination of off-air content to eliminate the need for a franchised cable or IPTV service. On the other extreme, are those people who are satisfied with the value they receive from and are willing to pay for the convenience provided by the video packages from their franchised operator. In between these bounds lies, what Entone’s CEO Steve McKay calls, the “middle class”.

McKay estimates that 50 to 60% of viewers are interested in the convenience and features of pay television, such as live TV, DVR capability, high quality and access to live sports, but are intrigued at the cord-cutting approach as a way to cut costs and receive greater value. Clearly, with game consoles, Blu-ray players and connected TVs, it is becoming easier for this group to cut the cord. Despite these developments, McKay argues that this market segment would appreciate the value that an operator could provide by integrating broadband video and linear content into a single interface.

Entone is targeting this “middle class” with their new FusionTV service. Building on their experience with their gateway products, such as the Janus Media Hub, FusionTV allows operators to add broadband video to their existing franchised video offering. At the same time, those operators without an existing video service can use FusionTV to build a service based on broadband video content.

By using a gateway approach with integrated hard-drive, Entone may simultaneously drive two different channels of video to three distinct televisions from one central device (a media player type device required for HD signals). McKay indicates the hardware cost of this approach will be competitive with the alternative of placing a set-top box at each television.

By being a centralized unit, the user interface is common from device to device, content, whether the delivered media is from within the home or via the network. Media is accessible from any television and, by mid-2011, outside of the home on Entone-supplied client for devices such as the PC, smart phones and tablets.

The focus is providing linear programming, whether off-air or via a traditional cable or IPTV system, together with premium broadband video programming. At launch, FusionTV will integrate with Vudu, Pandora, Flicker, Twitter and Facebook. Although YouTube is not part of the first release, McKay hinted that integration with this ubiquitous video service is on the near-term horizon.

McKay suggested that the current six trial deployments, which include Tier 1, two Tier 2 and 3 Tier-3 telcos, are helping shape how the product evolves. McKay pointed out that one of the bigger challenges that the industry faces is the search and discovery conundrum. In other words, how does one make broadband video a more television-like service, instead of the type and click experience of the PC.

From my conversation with McKay, it sounds like Entone has a plan to integrate into Fusion TV intelligence to simplify the discovery and presentation for those of us in the middle class who like the TV to be a simple up/down experience. What they will be showing next week at TelcoTV is just a preview of what is ahead in Entone’s quest to make broadband video and personal media an integral part of the television experience and make TV easy for the middle class and a relevant offering for the operator.

Image courtesy of Entone.