Category Archives: TV

HBO A la Carte Option on Google Play



HBO-Go

One of the biggest frustrations for cord cutters is they cannot get premium TV shows from HBO or Showtime. Well, HBO has changed that (in a way). Shows like Game of Thrones, the Newsroom, True Blood and more will be found on Google Play starting at $1.99 per episode. You can even get full seasons at $19.

HBO said this was just the beginning of their partnership with Google Play. According to an article on Engadget, they plan to put more content up soon – including older shows and documentaries.

A la carte options are very similar to what iTunes does. I used to get all my episodes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad for $35. Only downfall is I would have to wait 24 hours for the shows to be uploaded and cataloged in iTunes.

This also doesn’t void any contracts with cable companies.

HBO will be rolling this out in the coming months.


Roku unveils new lineup



There are rumors floating around the web of an Apple TV refresh coming soon,and Google is due a TV update of its own, though it really has not been getting much attention. Ahead of the competition, Roku has elected to push out its new device lineup. The company had previously pushed out a brand new Roku 3, but now adds a Roku 1, Roku 2 and redesigned Roku LT.

roku-1-2-3

The new Roku 2 gets a 3-like remote with headphone jack and dual-band wireless for better internet connectivity. It retails for $79.99 and is available in the US, Canada and the UK.

The Roku 1 takes streaming a step further than the Roku LT with support for up to 1080p HD video quality, though there is no remote headphone jack. Availability markets are the same and retail price is $59.99.

The new version of the LT is the most affordable way to stream to virtually any TV with support for up to 720p HD video quality. This one is US only and will sell for $49.99.

In addition, the company announces that “we’re also introducing the M-GO movie and TV store, integrated directly on our home screen menu in the U.S. for easy and instant access to their great selection of movies and TV shows. To make it even simpler, the M-GO service features direct billing with via a Roku account so users can rent or buy through M-GO without any extra account setup”.

Which set top box do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.


Get Ready for HDMI 2.0



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The folks at HDMI Licensing leaked released what will be known as the HDMI 2.0 specification just prior to their official announcement at IFA. Actually, AVForums reader Vism found this in Google cache.

The new HDMI specification looks to be able to handle 4K displays and above. Panasonic – who hasn’t come out with a 4K TV – will be debuting their new line at IFA.

HDMI 1.4 (current version) only supports 4K content at 30 fps. HDMI 2.0 looks to allow 60 fps, which will be great for UHD movies and more.

Panasonic is keeping the wraps on their 4K WT600 TV until keynote time. One things for sure – HDMI 1 cables are going to get a lot cheaper now…


Hulu Plus doubles subscriptions



Hulu continues to surprise me — the service never seems quite mainstream, but continues to thrive. This time the TV service is announcing record gains in subscriptions to its Plus service, the paid subscription plan that it introduced back in 2010.

“Overall, Hulu continues to grow very quickly. In Q1 of this year, we set new records for revenue, and for the first time ever, Hulu viewers streamed more than 1 billion content videos in a single quarter” states Hulu’s acting CEO Andy Forssell. In fact, the company has seen continued growth every year that it has existed — in Q1 2013, Hulu Plus surpassed 4 million subscribers—setting new records for subscriber additions.

hulu usage graph

Mobile viewing is also growing, now accounting for 15 percent of Hulu’s consumed videos in 2013-2014. Living room viewing now makes up 29 percent of the viewing audience.

Forssell also points out advertising revenue — “Hulu is also #1 in market share of all premium online video providers, delivering 1 in 3 of all premium video ads in the U.S. Our reasonable ad load drives the highest recall and awareness for brands, which results in higher effectiveness for the video ads”.

Hulu has recently jumped in the game of original content with Quick Draw and East Los High. This brings the service into direct competition with Netflix and Amazon Prime.


Little Black Box brings XBMC to the set-top box market



XBMC has long been a darling of the HTPC crowd, bringing a free and open source alternative to Windows Media Center. Now a Dutch company wants to bring the platform to a set-top box. Known as “The Little Black Box“, the device has just become available for pre-order.

The box will contain 1GB of memory, 4GB of Flash storage (800MB for the system, 3.2GB for XBMC) and a Meson3 single core processor capable of running at 1Ghz but clocked at 800Mhz.

little black box

The box is available now for €99.99 and according to the site “The first batch will be in limited numbers. As that limited amount needs to be divided between the different distribution channel, availability will most likely become sparse very fast”. The company is accepting pre-orders world-wide.


Should Amazon build a set-top box?



amazon prime logoToday, rumors are circulating around the web regarding Amazon. It is nothing new — the online retail giant has long been subject to such babble. Rumors of an Amazon phone still appear on a regular basis. Thanks to the success of the Kindle Fire, everyone seems to expect a handset to be the logical follow-up.

Today’s rumor is different though — there is no phone involved, but instead a set-top box. While I have no real interest in moving from a Nexus phone to a Kindle one, a living room device intrigues me.

I am a recent convert to Google TV and I love the platform. But I am also a Prime subscriber. I replaced Netflix with the Amazon service sometime back because it is not only a bit cheaper, but offers more upside with, not only the streaming video, but also free two-day shipping and a Kindle lending library.

Prime for Google TV has been greatly improved recently, with the app now being native, as opposed to opening a browser window. Thus I imagine an Amazon set-top box to bring Prime to the forefront and make it the focus of the device. And that does not feel like a bad thing.

If the device were Kindle Fire-like, in that it ran a version of Android customized for the big screen, then this could compete with the likes of Roku and Google TV in today’s growing environment of cord-cutters. Xbox may remain the front runner, but the power and financial backing of Amazon could present a real competitor in the market, and that would be good for all consumers.


Is the Hulu Desktop app dead?



Hulu, while being a great service used my many customers around the country (and world if you know how a proxy works), seems to have a bit of an identity problem. To be fair, the crisis almost certainly stems from the networks behind the service. The web site has been known to cut off browsers when it detects they are coming from such devices as Google TV, but now it has apparently done away with its desktop apps.

The apps for both Windows and Mac have unceremoniously, and unannounced, disappeared from the web. The app had been around since back in 2009 and even supported remote controls such as those dedicated to Windows Media Center.

when asked, a Hulu support rep indicates they are “investigating the matter“. He went on to state that the company “hope to make the link available again soon”.

hulu desktop

Personally, I find it no great loss. While I had used a hack for plugging in the Hulu app to my Windows Media Center HTPC, I never actually used it, never purchased the Plus account and have moved on to Google TV which does not have a Hulu app and can not access the service from the browser. I find Amazon Prime to be more than adequate.


Watch Star Trek on Hulu for Free!



Hulu LogoHulu is celebrating William Shatner’s birthday by offering viewers free access to five Star Trek television series from now through March 31, 2013. This includes every episode of “Star Trek” the original series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Deep Space 9”, “Voyager”, and “Enterprise”.

The LA Times points out that when you add it up, it comes to 693 episodes. You’ve got just nine days to do it in. Make some popcorn and have a Star Trek marathon this weekend! The NextWeb has calculated that you would have to watch 69 episodes a day, every day, between now and the end of the month if you wanted to watch them all for free through Hulu.

An easy way to find everything is to visit the page that Hulu put together about it. Click the image of the series you want to watch and you should be good to go. You do not have to be a Hulu subscriber in order to access free Star Trek right now. Apparently, Hulu periodically unlocks some of its content for free (which I was unaware of).


Is HBO Go leaving its TV subscription confines?



hbo go logoHBO has remained a stumbling block for potential cord-cutters everywhere. While offering a wonderful app, the content producer has made it a requirement that users prove the existence of a cable or satellite TV subscription to use the app. Today the first chink in that firewall may have appeared.

Reuters is reporting that HBO CEO Richard Plepler, while talking at the premier event for Game of Thrones season three, stated that “maybe HBO GO, with our broadband partners, could evolve”.

HBO Go was launched back in 2010, but has been limited by the pay-TV shackles. This means customers not only need to pay the monthly TV bills, but also the subscription fee for broadband. HBO could partner with the broadband providers to eliminate the TV portion of the bill while simply adding a small fee for a monthly subscription to the app, potentially saving customers as much as $100 per month.

Plepler pointed out that company was still trying “to make the math work”. The company is faced with tough challenges from services like Netflix, Redbox Instant, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like.


Video Podcasts Behaving Like TV?



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Roku

One of the downsides to Internet-based video content is that generally each new program being played back must be initiated by the user. This isn’t much of a problem if one is watching a full-length movie or television show via Netflix or Amazon Streaming. However, if one is watching short-form content like video podcasts such as “Film Riot” then watching a bunch of episodes in a row tends to be a bit more of a pain since each one must be started playing depending on the playback platform.

I discovered an interesting trick that the Roku is capable of using the free iTunes podcast database app that can be added from the Roku store on your Roku. The app connects with the iTunes podcast database and will display both video and audio podcasts. Select an episode and it will begin to play. If you select an older episode, either video or audio, it will play that episode and then automatically play all episodess that follow it in the correct order.

This is a very useful feature say if you want to catch up with several weeks’ worth of video podcasts. Each podcast plays automatically in the proper order. It is almost like being able to turn video podcast streaming into more of a conventional television viewing experience.