Google and Current TV Channel (http://current.tv/) on DirecTV

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

My Cleveland Indians are driving me to various sources of information from XM Satellite Radio (carries the local radio broadcast of games), to MLB.com which had feeds from Chicago of both television feeds (White Sox and Indians) as well as both local radio broadcasts. Once again, this "video-on-demand" picture looked great on both RealPlayer and Windows Media Player (although the latter forced control bars above and below the content, hiding the game information at the top of the screen (score, count, runners on base) and the bottom of the screen (batter, average, miscellaneous information).

Last night I was tooling around DirecTV while listening to the Indians' postgame show on XM satellite radio (they go well into the local call-in show after the game too, pure heaven for a displaced Indians fan). I found a channel with the "Google" logo and it was showing something like a spider web of most recently clicked (video?) news stories on Google, here on DirecTV. Before I knew it there was a home grown documentary of a young man from Wisconsin returning to Mississippi to try to find his grandmother in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Update: I just saw current.tv promoted on the Google channel. 24 September 2005

I assume the video camera was home brew but am not sure about the editing. Apart from that, this personal journey and his grandmother's stories of riding out the storm in her pantry (her "locker") were more compelling than most of the polished network newscast presentations of such victims. It was what it was, a "real life" incident and a grandmother telling her story to her concerned grandson without the intrusion of a professional news gathering crew. Amazing, but I decided to go back and bathe in the glow of another Indians win.

Google is becoming the next behemoth and I wonder how long it will be before hackers turn their attention on Google. I'm not searching for the research to approach this, but my gut tells me that for many hackers the bigger they are, the more tempting the target. Perhaps if Google maintains a sense of humility in all that it is doing it will avoid the disruptions of Microsoft attackers. I suspect we will soon, very soon, see Google coming under fire from various quarters. It seems the inevitable path in the U.S. when one entity seems to get too much power and control. I'll let the sociologists explain this (or why I may be dead wrong).

That Google has a channel depicting "most clicked [video] news stories" would seem to be a peephole into the future, not just for Google but for all media. As all content is digitized, compressed, and found (versus made available) on the Internet, we will continue to move toward a viewer-controlled environment of television choice, which is my assumption.


Stuffing the TiVo Genie Back in the Bottle

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

Forbes magazine online has a story from AP titled, TiVo Users Fear Recording Restrictions at http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2005/09/22/ap2237839.html. In the story, it says
Among the functions included in TiVo's latest software upgrade is the ability to allow broadcasters to erase material recorded by TiVo's 3.6 million users after a certain date. That ability was demonstrated recently when some TiVo customers complained on TiVo community sites that episodes of "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill" they recorded were "red-flagged" for deletion by the copyright holder.
The story also quotes TiVo spokesperson Elliot Sloan who called the red-flag incident a "glitch" affecting only a handful of customers. Nevertheless, TiVo itself acknowledges it has the technology to control the viewer's ability to save programs, if only to protect copyright holders' rights.

Matt Haughey, creator of PVRblog.com, has the central theme of this story right on:

"TiVo would be of limited utility in the future if the studios were allowed to do this with regular broadcast content," Haughey said. "This is like cell-phone jammers. What if you couldn't talk on your cell phone? If customers can't do something with their TiVo that they could in the past, they will stop using it."

OK, so what do I think? Well, what's great about my blog is that I'm on the outside looking in. I don't know what TiVo is thinking so my interpretations are not spoiled by having such inside knowledge. Instead, I can perhaps be more objective in looking at this issue. Here are some thoughts:

  • TiVo has never made any secret about its willingness to work with, rather than against, advertisers. To wit, you cannot fast forward quickly enough to bypass the ads, TiVo deliberately slows the FF speed to the point that you can recognize the sponsor of the ads.
  • TiVo lost is greatest partner and benefactor, DirecTV, whose owner, Rupert Murdoch, already has his own DVR working on BSkyB in Britain. It was no surprise to me that DirecTV announced it would be switching, presumably when their latest, greatest model was available.
  • TiVo may be playing to copyright holders, thinking it might emerge as a favorite among program providers who may decide to take their wrath (and large legal expenses) and attack other DVR providers who don't protect copyrighted material the way TiVo can.
  • I learned from my professional colleague, Jennifer Choate, with whom I worked on studies of early PVR users, that product "annoyances" can "motivate" a potential adopter to reject a new product, as Matt points out above on his PVRblog
  • Finally, I again repeat you cannot put the technology genie back in the bottle. I try to think of exceptions to this rule, and one of the only ones that comes to mind is the moratorium in building new nuclear power plants in the U.S. Any readers care to suggest others?

I am a TiVo user and on my old Series2 model, a software update now prevents me from downloading the program guide without a telephone line. Well, that's a problem because I gave up my rarely used $47/month landline back in May. Mind you, my phone jacks were not close to my television, so I didn't use a phone line with TiVo anyway, and the program guide was downloaded overnight via the Discovery Channel, an investor in TiVo (at least in the past). Maybe this should be a separate posting.

Anyway, I Personally still hope TiVo succeeds as a business. They invented the mass market technology, and there's something right about the "inventor" reaping the rewards. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, especially if you operate in ways that might drive away customers.


Cramping TiVo Users' Style

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

Thanks to UGA student, Charles Kirchner, for bringing this to my attention. Thanks, too, to Boing Boing for posting this: "TiVo has added several anti-features to its PVR. Now, some shows can't be saved forever, or moved using TiVo2Go."TiVo Users Thwarted

I have TiVo and will be watching for this. I'll also check in with tivocommunity.com to see if they're on this.

OK, I'm back. There is discussion on this topic at http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?t=259169. I'm not sure if you have to be a member to read this (because I am a member). Another TiVo user reported that a program s/he recorded could not be saved: "The 'higher-value content' which had restrictions on my TiVo was a 2 year old King of the Hill for Pete's sake! I could maybe in some small way understand it if it were for some PPV boxing fight or something, but for crap like that?"

In addition, the story was picked up on news.com: "TiVo execs said the technology was supposed to be used only for pay-per-view, video-on-demand, DVD or VHS content, and showed up on other content as a mistake."

The New Decline and Fall of Commercial Television

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

There was an interesting story on public radio this morning about how television is using alternative media to promote its new shows. The backdrop is that television networks are finding it more and more difficult to promote themselves through their own network airtime.

You can hear the story, titled "TV marketers - outside the box", on the Marketplace website, at http://www.marketplace.org/shows/2005/09/19/AM2005091910.html .


Video on Demand, Report II

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

I'm not sure how non-sports fans will relate to this posting, but I guess you could substitute a passion for any perhaps daily television programming not available in your market but something you really want to see. My Cleveland Indians (and you have to understand I survived the Indians of the late 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s) are the hottest team in my favorite sport, baseball, and they are becoming the biggest story in basebal (the Yankees have literally more than five times the money spent on their player salaries than the Indians). I live near Atlanta and so have had maybe 3 or 4 nationally televised games. If you go back, you will see that I reported on my first viewing of mlb.com during a free trial. Well, when the Indians made a believer out of me by late August, I ponyed up to the bar and paid, I believe $14.95 for the remainder of the season for ALL MLB teams through spring training of 2006. Hey, I could have afforded that with my paper route in 5th grade!

mlb.com is offering video-on-demand, albeit limited to one major sports package. While I have focused on the Indians games, they have closed to within striking distance of the Chicago White Sox. So once the Indians beat KC 11-0, the video feed (again, beautiful in its smaller than 300 by 400 pixel window...sorry, it's probably 15% smaller than that), I tuned in the White Sox game. OK, 1-1, so I switch to the NY Yankees who are losing 5-4 in the 8th inning (the Indians trail the White Sox for first place in their division, and lead the Yankees for the "wild card" non-division winning team with the best record in the lead).

I have a few thoughts I want to share. First, yawn, many media wags have referred to TV as "lean back" and PC use as "lean forward." I'm just sitting in my chair, not leaning forward or back. In fact, I have the Indians' post game show on radio while the Yankees game is in a different window for video and audio. I am also multitasking as I write this blog posting.

As a TV viewer, I can tell you I am 100% comfortable with this setup, although I definitely note that this is sports, live programming, and not comparable to prime time viewing with 500 channels. It is, however, 15 channels of baseball. In addition, I can tune in my Indians on any computer, anywhere. I'm not stuck to driving home at breakneck speed to catch a game on "regular" TV. Very nice. If I switch the feed to full screen, it's not broadcast quality (unless I view from, perhaps, 12 feet away or more).

I think program providers that are now dedicating individual channels to simultaneous live broadcasts of whatever's on similar genre programs are really on to something. mlb.com comes relatively close to that by listing all the games in text format. My guess is that by next spring they will have at least recent still photos from each game next to the link to the video feed.

Given a choice, I'd prefer, I'm sure, to watch these games on television, and I'd probably continue to multitask with the PC. Nevertheless, there are 2 truths that will make these possibilities inevitable (yes, I mean inevitable): 1. compression technologies continue to improve (some observers forget this) and 2. bandwidth continues to increase as cost decreases. I guess if I worked as an executive program provider, I'd make up a calendar with this slogan to go right next to the desktop sign "The Buck Stops Here."