Category Archives: TV

Your Smart TV Spied on You – LG Admits Collecting Information



LG LogoLG – a South Korean company that makes multiple electronics including “Smart TVs” – admitted that their televisions reported back watching habits to the company. Even if the consumer selected a preference that essentially was suppose to deactivate the tracking option.

LG would monitor viewing duration, how the consumer selected channels and filenames on the connected devices (such as USB drives) to deliver better targeted ads. A blog by Doctor Beet first noticed this issue as he wrote about how he turned off the “Collection of watching info” to off, but still recorded how the TV continued to send information to LG.

Blogger Graham Cluley then posted this LG statement stating that a future firmware update will fix this feature. Further, the company will remove the data collection of USB and share drives while assuring customers they never used or retained this data.

In the meantime, if you own an LG TV and do not want information sent to the company, you can block certain websites including (via Tom’s Hardware):

  • ad.lgappstv.com
  • yumenetworks.com
  • smartclip.net
  • smartclip.com
  • smartshare.lgtvsdp.com
  • ibis.lgappstv.com

Dr Who 50th Anniversary



The TV show Dr Who turns 50 today with the broadcast of a major 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor. Celebrating 50 years of the Doctor, it will star Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt as different incarnations of the lead character, though some suggest the real star of the show is his space-travelling time machine, the Tardis. The 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, will shortly be taking over the main role in a Christmas special. The anniversary has been noted round the world, with even Google getting in the act with a playable Doodle.

Dr. Who Doodle

The Doctor’s gadget of choice has always been the “sonic screwdriver” which has more functions that a Swiss Army Knife, rescuing him from many sticky situations. As you’ll imagine, there is plenty of Whovian merchandise, including this notebook and laptop case from the Science Museum shop.

Tardis Case Dalek Notebook

The episode is going to be broadcast simultaneously across the world so if you are in the UK, tune it tonight at 7.50 pm on BBC1. In the US, it’s  2:50 pm ET/ 1:50 pm CT/ 12:50 pm MT/ 11:50 am PT on BBC America. Other countries can the check the listings here.

For me, Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor, will always be my Doctor, but I will be watching tonight.


Netflix – the Streaming Cable Channel?



netflix for ps3Netflix is in talks with multiple cable companies to create an on Demand channel with Netflix content. According to the Wall Street Journal, they are in talks with Comcast and Suddenlink Communications to add this service.

Last month Netflix signed a deal with Virgin Media to put their service on the set top box. There wouldn’t be a Netflix channel per-say, just an app on their on Demand lineup similar to what Dish did when they purchased Blockbuster.

Netflix dominates as one of the top streaming platforms on the Internet. With their app on all set top boxes (Apple TV, Roku, Boxee, etc.), game consoles and app driven TVs; along with an expectation of 40 million streaming subscribers by 2015, the company would be an asset to any device. Even a cable box.

Still, cable companies are declining. Time Warner and AT&T have said no to adding the channel. That could all change in the future if a good deal is worked out.

What About Netflix as an Actual Cable Channel?

While they don’t normally program their content, would a physical cable channel to compete with HBO and Showtime be a possibility? Scheduling their shows like House of Cards, Arrested Development and Orange is the New Black could bring more promotion to the streaming service. It might even break that wall between cable and streaming content.

Netflix definitely has content to show on a cable channel. They might have to reconfigure contracts, but with a good mix of movies and TV binges (similar to what USA is doing with Modern Family and NCIS marathons), those people who don’t like to pick and choose will be satisfied with programmed content.

What Netflix Could Bring to Cable Companies

Netflix has spent that last couple years refining their search algorithms. What is to say that could not be a bargaining chip? Currently, most cable systems online guides are bland and sometimes hard to navigate. If Netflix was to inject their style into an on Demand menu, the user experience would get out of 2002 and more of a web interface that we are currently used to.

With adding Netflix, there is possibility for cable channels to profit. For one example – maybe customers won’t be so quick to cut their cable. Maybe they would even hit the “On Demand” button a little more – or even for the first time. Might not be the best idea to quickly dismiss this idea…


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.