Amazon Prime continues new shows parade as Betas debuts

amazon prime logoLast week Amazon Prime debuted its first original series in the form Alpha House. Today, the trend continues as Betas becomes available to subscribers — no word on a potential Gamma show, yet.

The retail giant is following the formula put forth with the comedy series Alpha House. In other words, it is releasing the first three episodes all at once, and then doling them out one per week thereafter.

“Betas has been an incredibly fun show to create for customers. We have a stellar cast of comedians and actors, and we think customers are going to enjoy it”, said Roy Price, Director of Amazon Studios. “he chemistry these guys have on set definitely translates to the screen. While their characters are still very much underdogs, it’s easy to find yourself hoping they make it big in techland”.

Prime video is available via the web or through apps on Google TV, Roku, the Xbox, PlayStation and other set-top boxes. It is also tightly integrated with the company’s Kindle Fire tablets, of which two new HDX models are now available.

Roku Streaming Stick

Roku Streaming Stick Roku  the maker of digital streaming boxes has released a new model the Roku Streaming Stick. The Roku Streaming Stick is the size of a large USB stick. It provides all the content that is on the full-size Roku, including over 700 music and video channels and games. The Roku Streaming Stick works with TVs that have a MHL(Multiple High-Definition}input. The MHL input powers the Roku so there is no need for a power cable. It also passes the remote control signal from the TV to the Roku stick so you can control the Roku with your TV remote.

Roku is working with about 14 TV manufactures including Hinsense, Sony, LG, Samsung, Toshiba and more. All the TV manufacturers that the Roku Streaming Stick works with are a part of the MHL Consortium. New TVs that are Roku Stick ready will have a sticker on them that say Roku Ready. If you have an older TV you can check the inputs, a MHL input will be purple and have the MHL label below it. A MHL port will also work as a HDMI port.

To use of Roku Stick you simply plug it in. It is WiFi ready so it will recognize your Wi-Fi network once you sign into that and then your Roku account you will be ready to go. The Roku Stick streams up to 1080P HD video. The Roku Streaming stick is $99, and is available through the Roku Website, Amazon and various big box outlets.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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HDMBS – High Definition Mobile Broadcast Studio

Over the past 7 years I have pulled a pelican case full of gear that makes up my portable studio and it has traveled with me for well over 700,000 airline miles.. For the past few years my goal has been to have the shows I create on the road, be as high quality as the shows I record in the studio, the current rig was not allowing that.

After my trip to NAB last month I came home with a plan and a build list for a new HD Mobile Broadcast studio , I had some of the gear already had so I had a head start. What clinched this build was Black Magic Design fixing the H.264 capture capability of the ATEM Television Studio. I will only travel with 1-2 cameras, but I can dual purpose this rig for local gigs and support up to 4 cameras.

Here are a few pics of the HDMBS!
UPDATE: Listen to the first 30 minutes of this program to get the inside scoop on why I designed this the way I did.

This is an amazing build and here is the equipment that makes up the HDMBS.

1- SKB 6U Roller rack (Updated) Original Gator Rack Failed trip 2
2- BMD SmartView Duo Rackmountable Dual 8″ LCD Monitors
3- BMD ATEM Television Studio (H.264 Encoder Built in)
4- BMD Intensity Extreme with Thunderbolt
5- Behringer Ultracurve PRO DEQ2496 (Updated 6-30-2012)
6- MOTU 828mk3
7- Consumer Grade Cannon Cameras with HDMI Output
8- 17″ Macbook Pro (Video Capture and Stream if needed)
9- 17″ Dell XPS Laptop (Adobe Audition)
10- Cerevo Liveshell or Livestream Broadcaster Live Stream
11- Westcott X-Drop Kit (5 x 7′, Green Screen)
12- Standard Netgear Wireless Router
13- Extension Cord :)
14- Gefen Toolbox 1080p HD Scaler (Updated)
15- Apple TV (Used to Airplay Videos on Show) (Updated)

Total Weight 47.5 Pounds

Additional gear to shoot a full 4 camera gig when the cameras are spread out..

1. BMD Battery Converters
2. BMD Mini Converter Optical Fiber
3. Sony Wireless
4. Tripods
5. 100ft Fiber Runs

There are “three” different streaming broadcast configurations that I can deploy. The configuration in the pictures above is as follows.

  • Windows Laptop Running Adobe Audition connected via USB to the Motu 828mk3
  • Apple MacPro using Wirecast connected to BMD Intensity Extreme Via Thunderbolt & the ATEM Television Studio Software Switcher via usb and network.

I can use Wirecast, or the ATEM Television Studio for lower thirds and graphic overlays, as well as using either for the master media recording.  The Livestream Broadcaster and the Cerevo Liveshell can accept an HDMI input and push a live stream independently if needed or in combination. Whats cool is because the monitors and the intensity pro have HDMI outs I could theoretically push three separate streams with the gear I have listed.  Remove the audio capture with the PC, and I can deploy this 4 channel HD Mobile Broadcast Studio with a single laptop and the rolling case.

This system is already battle tested, I did my first remote location live stream paid gig today with this system, the ATEM Television Studio handled the 4 camera setup fine. I did have some additional gear with me outlined above, to handle additional audio channels feeding the Motu, and I used the fiber converters to extend the HDMI/SDI  signals off the cameras. The Mac Book Pro did not break a sweat because the camera switching is being managed by the ATEM Television Studio, the Mac had plenty of reserve horse power with only having to process a single camera feed via thunderbolt port and handle some lower thirds and graphics, push the live stream and record master files.

So what does this cost, minus the cameras, computers & Software the HDMBS – HD Mobile Broadcast System cost a little over $3000.00 as pictured. With 1 camera, 2 computers & software add an additional $3,700.00 to the total.

The current Cannon cameras I am using are the Vixia HFg10 $1290.00 and various pro HD cameras. I have one more piece of gear I want to add to this build out, and that would be an external video recording device like the Samurai Atomos but I am going to wait and see how well the on-board recording does for a while.

The true test of this rig will be how it handles being thrown into baggage compartments. I will have extra padding in the doors but only time will tell how it holds up.I hope you enjoyed this review. I will keep you updated on how it travels.

Update 6-10-12 : The original Gator case i picked did not do well on two flights. Front Panel popped off twice with minor damage to gear. I switched to a SKB 6U Roller rack ) pictured above and it is traveling fine. I also added a Gefen Toolbox 1080p Scaler this takes the HDMI output from my Laptop and allows me to have my screen patched in to show web pages etc. I also added a Apple TV this allows you to use you iPad, to send videos vis Airplay to the Apple TV this really gives you full diversity on video sources.

UPDATE: Listen to the first 30 minutes of this program to get the inside scoop on why I designed this the way I did.

Aloha Todd.

Why Cable TV Subscribers Are Making It Miserable To Cut The Cord

This is what I look like waiting for TV shows to be released on Netflix. Not really – this is what I look like all the time. Image Credit – BigStock

There’s a new report out this week (to be filed in the “Duh” folder…right next to “No Kidding”) showing that some 2.6 million cable television subscribers cancelled their service in favor of Internet-based streaming services between 2008 and 2011.

Reported by Slashdot, Yahoo and others this morning, Canadian research firm Convergence Consulting Group summarized the following from their…well, research:

“We estimate 112,000 TV subscribers were added in 2011, down from 272,000 in 2010, and forecast 185,000 TV sub additions for 2012. 2000-2009 annual TV sub additions averaged 2 million. Based on our TV Cord Cutting Model (takes into account economic conditions, annual subscriber additions, digital transition), we estimate 2.65 million (2.6%) US TV subscribers cut their TV subscriptions 2008-11 to rely solely on Online, Netflix, OTA, etc, 1.05 million (1%) in 2011 alone. We forecast cord cutters will reach 3.58 million year end (3.6%) 2012.”

So, essentially, folks are fleeing traditional television for streaming services in decent numbers, but those numbers seem to be slowing. News reports on this are rounding up the typical line-up of culprits for this dialing-back on the rush to streaming – content limitations of streaming services (a.k.a. ‘ I can’t believe Netflix doesn’t have so-and-so) based on sluggish deals being struck by Netflix and others with studios and networks; and the ultimate price-tag of achieving a more robust catalogue of content will break the cost model for places like Netflix and their service will become prohibitively expensive. [Read more...]

The Art Of The Sale

Since the advent of the VCR, the adage has been to look to the pornography industry to see what would happen – which formats would take off, what business models might work, etc., etc., etc. While the pornography industry did seem to be the first on the block to figure out how to make e-commerce work, do they still lead the way today when it comes to the future of video?

While there is a certain profession that perhaps lays claim to be the oldest, right up there with it is the art of the sale, and the pastime of shopping. The shopping experience itself if done well can be a pleasure.

QVC, HSN and other home shopping channels excel at making the shopping experience itself the content. They make no pretense – they are right up front with the fact that their channels are all about advertising.

Many people claim to hate ads, but I’d contend I that it’s really bad ads that most people despise. Advertising that is well done is informative and entertaining and can even be enjoyable. Watching QVC, HSN, ShopNBC, etc. product presentations (particularly electronics, gadgets and sometimes cooking) can for me easily fall into the guilty pleasure category. These people are masters at the art of the sale. Who doesn’t enjoy (or cannot learn from) watching a master ply his craft?

So how are the home shopping channels handling their all-important online presence? QVC and HSN both have iOS and Android apps that make it possible to watch their current live video streams, as well as easily search their catalogs, as well as place and track orders. The ShopNBC app is a fail in that it doesn’t allow you to watch the live video stream. I’d give the nod to QVC’s app as being the most advanced and usable overall.

The NFL Takes a Baby Step

Not long ago I wrote an article wondering if the NFL would join the media revolution that the other major US sports are already in.

Apparently a couple of recent emails I have received are answering that question and the answer is, well, kind of.

Will they provide a way to purchase games online?  Yes, and No.  Will they provide a way pick and choose what game(s) you want to buy?  No.

This is what they are doing.  First, they are, for the first time ever, providing an online subscription to games.  It’s not A la carte though.  Instead, you have to buy a subscription to all of the games.  And, it’s only for the pre-season.  That’s 50 games for $39.99 and you can sign up here.  And here’s what you will get:

ALL NEW! Watch over 50 preseason games live and on-demand* with enhanced features like Big Play Markers, home and away game radio broadcast*, and multiple-game viewing. Scout for your fantasy team all preseason long and never miss a rookie’s breakout moment or your favorite veteran’s return to the field.

This news was encouraging.  While it didn’t imply that I’d be able to get just my team’s games during the regular season, it did seem to imply that I would at least be able to watch games on my media center PC and not have to resubscribe to my DirecTV service, which I dropped a couple of months ago.

Then I received a second email.  For $99.99 (regularly $129.97) you get the aforementioned pre-season game package and, get ready for it, audio only of regular season games and you can watch video replays of all games, which will be available AFTER the game happens.  Details are here.

Watch over 50 preseason games* in HD with enhanced viewing options. Listen to every NFL team’s official live radio broadcast, wherever you are. Replay every NFL Regular Season game and customize it to your specification – in HD and commercial-free. Enjoy unlimited access to Preseason Live, Audio Pass, and Game Rewind when you buy Game Access.

Well, great.  It’s a step forward, but still far behind the other major sports.  I would guess, at this point, that this is it for the 2010 season.  It’s really not any substitute for their exclusive and pricey DirecTV deal.  And that deal also still requires you to pony up $300.00 for every game – still no team packages for a lesser price.

Basically the NFL still has not learned how to deal with the modern world of online content.  They still don’t realize how much money they are leaving on the table.  How many people could they add to their subscriber list if they added online regular season games?  If they added a team package to their DirecTV Sunday Ticket?  Even the Olympics, that bastion of stodgy, sue-first technophobes, have allowed online broadcast of their events for the past 2 or 3 Olympics.  Maybe 2011 NFL?

UltraViolet Light My Way

Ultraviolet is a brand new service just announced by some Hollywood and technology heavyweights.  The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a collection of 58 studios and tech companies, is betting it’s future on Ultraviolet.

This will be a video standard – more like a codec and not a web site.  Actually, more cloud storage than anything else.  Essentially you will purchase a movie and store it on Ultraviolet (the cloud) and it will be available wherever you are and on whatever device you are using.  This is very ambitious and very promising.

And not just movies, but TV shows will be available at kick-off.  There is hope that later updates will add music and maybe even e-books.

Per their website (referring to the logo pictured at left):

“This logo will start appearing on movies for sale (designed for digital downloads and DVDs/Blu-ray Discs), in retailers’ stores and online offerings, and on devices or the apps that run on them. It will signify that everything with the UltraViolet logo is designed to give consumers a consistent, easy and “just works” experience – no matter who makes it or where it’s purchased.”

So, who are the big players involved?  Netflix, Philips, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, HP, LG, Intel, Nokia, Comcast, CinemaNow, Adobe, NBC Universal, Lionsgate, Paramount and WB to name just a few.

As you can see, most of the big players are here.  The biggest absence  is Disney.  This may be because of their ties to Apple, who has an interest in their own online video service.  If UltraViolet takes off, though, then I would guess that Disney will feel obligated to follow.

That leaves the biggest question as WHEN?  Well, the press release issued on July 20 gives no indication of that.  My guess is not next week or even next month, but maybe (probably) by the end of the year.

Will the NFL Join the Media Revolution?

The NFL is the last major US sport holding out.  MLB, NHL, and NBA all have deals in place to bring you whatever game you want, live, on your PC.

But, if you’re a football fan, and want to see the game of an out-of-market team, then you have one option.  Get DirecTV and then, on top of that, shell out $300 for NFL Sunday Ticket.  What if you don’t care about the other 14 games going on?  Too bad.  Pay for them anyway.  Want a package to just watch your team?  You can’t have one.  Want to buy a particular game and, heaven forbid, watch it on your PC?  No way!

Oh, unless you live outside the USA (Game Pass).  That’s the one caveat the NFL has allowed.  You can watch a game, online, pay-per-view style, if you have an IP address that exists outside the borders of this country.  Yes, you can watch it via….ahm….let’s say….non-sanctioned streaming services.  I won’t list them, but they aren’t hard to find.  Or, if you do live in this country, they will sell you a radio (IE audio only) broadcast of your team that will stream live.

Will they change this coming season?

That’s what I have been trying to look into.  And, the short answer is, there is nothing being said at this time.  I emailed the NFL and got no response.  I checked with a couple of fellow fans/bloggers/online TV users and they have heard nothing.  The season is still a couple of months away from beginning and a lot can change, but at this point it doesn’t look promising.

Right now they seem to be steadfastly stuck in the 1990’s.  While the other major US sports pass them by, the NFL continues to leave revenue on the table.  Do these corporations never learn?  Will they continue to push their old, broken business models all the way into irrelevancy?  Does the NFL really think they are immune to this?  They may be sadly mistaken.  Not that I think the NFL will fade away, but they need to get their online act together before it starts biting them in the wallet.