Say Goodbye to the DVD Player

DVD

I remember getting my first DVD player and the movie “The Waterboy”. I also remember streaming my first movie in “Hulk”. Years since, people have debated about losing the tangible disc and moving to streaming. Eventually we knew the DVD would become a thing of the past. As technology improved and new devices came out this year, we may have seen the last viable use for the DVD. Here is why:

Blockbuster

Blockbuster

Blockbuster Goes Bye-Bye, Streaming Video Grows

Blockbuster video rentals closed up in November. This was after a long run and competing with Netflix, followed by Red Box machines. When DISH network bought out Blockbuster, they gave it a home. Its apparent that DISH didn’t want to get into the physical video rental business. So the doors closed.

Netflix tried to close their DVD rental doors a couple years ago with the whole Qwikster debacle — a move that almost killed the company. Somehow they came back stronger than ever, pushing more streaming TV shows and introducing quality shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Add to that promotions — such as the launch of Chromecast: Netflix gave 3-month subscriptions to the first buyers.

I have to admit, I still have my Netflix subscription…

Since Netflix switch to TV show-based content over movies, newer movies take a lot longer to show up on the service. That is where Amazon is leading the pack. You can rent or own the home digital rights of a movie or TV show instead of going down to the store and picking up the box.

Well, at least, kinda…

This last week Disney made Amazon pull back owners rights of holiday movies. It brought up some issue about if you actually own a video. Will that stop millions from buying movies? Probably not.

ChromeCast

Streaming Getting Better

Google Chromecast did two things. They brought the streaming app device down to an affordable price (not that it wasn’t already with the Apple TV and Roku). Chromecast also extended the life of older LCD TVs.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on TV’s with apps inside, they could get a cheaper TV and a set top box to run their content. Sure, the TV is not 1080p 120 Hz, but how many homes care about that type of quality? Especially if the TV is in the bedroom or even since our generation spent years staring at a Cathode Ray Tubes with full satisfaction.

Ultimately, they just want to get Chromecast and Netflix, then possibly cut their cable.

Netflix_Web_Logo

Netflix and YouTube in 4K (2160p)

Time to move to bigger and better video quality. 4,000 pixels – or 2160p. At CES, we will definitely be bombarded with 4K television technology — and we will LOVE it.

Even though some home theater experts have adopted 4K, home Internet speeds don’t really take into account 4K streaming just yet. A 4K video will take 6-12 Mbps connection. DSL won’t be able to handle that, especially if you surf and watch at the same time.

Nonetheless, we move forward. Netflix announced earlier their popular “House of Cards” series will be shot and streamed in 4K. YouTube already has 4K video available, although if you try to stream via Roku or Chromecast, it will most likely try to push the 720p version first. 

iPad 2 Smart Cover

Tablets, Game Consoles, Computers Go DVD-less

Even the computer is losing the DVD drive. Current Mac models don’t come with any type of optical drive. Tablets and smartphones also are disc-free. As desktops lose ground to tablets, the DVD will join the floppy disk, Zip drive and tape backup.

The Pawn Shop Effect

The best way to watch the DVD market is to watch the resale of the DVD. Major chain Pawn America runs a special on Tuesdays for DVDs. In May, they started special events where DVD movies only cost $1.

While newer titles might fetch your more, if you pawn a DVD title, they will most likely buy it at .10 cents so they can make .90 cents.

With all these factors (along with others such as DVR technology and flash drives), 2014 looks to be the year we finally lay the DVD optical disc format to rest. Blu-Ray discs still have value, but the DVD player will definitely be placed with the old TV and VCR down in the basement or garage.

Roku Gets YouTube

Roku 3Perhaps unsurprisingly given Google’s now somewhat defunct plans for GoogleTV, YouTube has been one of the glaring omissions from the Roku platform. But not any longer. Roku has announced that a YouTube channel is now available on the Roku 3 in USA, Canada, UK and the Republic of Ireland. Older Rokus will be getting the channel next year, though the exact timing is unclear. For non-Roku owners, a channel is roughly equivalent to an app on other platforms.

The YouTube channel supports full 1080p HD and the press release suggests that subscriptions will carry over from other platforms so that your favourites can easily be seen on the Roku. The new channel also features “Send to TV”, which after pairing, lets you send a YouTube video from your smartphone or tablet for viewing on the Roku.

As a Roku 2 XS owner, I’m delighted but will have to wait a bit longer until I get the YouTube channel on my device (unless Santa has a surprise for me). Sadly, it will be one less reason to turn on my Nintendo Wii, especially with the HD support on the Roku.

4oD on the Roku

4oDHurrah – 4oD (4 on Demand) is now available on the Roku in the UK! It looks like this is breaking news as there’s no mention of it on either Roku‘s or Channel 4‘s websites and I only happened to notice when I was checking for new channels. A few tweets are beginning to appear. Having a quick rummage, it looks on a par with the web version but without some of the personalisation features.

For non-UK residents, Channel 4 is one of the four terrestrial broadcasters (BBC, ITV, C4 and C5). The BBC’s iPlayer and Channel 5’s Demand 5 are already on the Roku, leaving ITV as the last network to get their catch-up TV service onto the Roku. Hurry up!

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.

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.

Goodbye, MSN TV. Microsoft Finally Pulls the Plug

msn-tvThe first time I actually saw someone using this service was when I went up north. We ate at this awesome steakhouse , which probably was on its last couple years in business (two brothers owned it and they were in their 70s). In the corner, one of the brothers’ wives were typing away on the MSN TV, trying to find out what was going on in the world (pre-2001).

The little box that was known as MSN TV finally got decommissioned today – 16 years after it started. Microsoft announced earlier in the year the TV appliance would be shuttered on Sept 30th. Users had to move their account information to Outlook.com and all other information to Skydrive (Microsoft’s cloud service).

MSN TV first started as Web TV in July of 1995 by Steve Perlman, Bruce Leak and Phil Goldman. The idea was Web TV acted like a thin client – taking snapshots of the web and sending them over telephone lines to your device, which would then project on your TV. It officially launched in Sept 1996 and ran for a year when Microsoft announced they were acquiring the service for $453 million (vested).

MSN TV tried to find its place in the tech world. The WebTV team took their ideas and created not only Digital Video Recorders, but also the XBox 360 game console. Its hardware could be found in Sony, Philips, RCA, Mitsubishi and other client hardware.

So with that, we bid adieu to MSN TV. the last of the real dial-up systems.

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.

Roku Surpasses Apple TV as Most-Used Streaming Set Top Box

Roku-3According to a new report from Parks Associates, Roku has taken the lead as the most popular streaming video device in the US. Further, Parks Associates also showed the number of U.S. broadband households with streaming media device has doubled since 2011.

The group put out a report called Connected TV: Trends and Innovation (report for purchase). In this report, they found that 37% of households with a streaming media device use Roku – as opposed to 24% that use Apple TV.

Parks Associates expect the number of connected TV devices to reach 330 million by 2017. With newer, easier to use devices like ChromeCast entering into the market – along with Apple’s rumored upcoming updated Apple TV on September 10th, this number could grow a lot faster. Adding in 4K or Ulta-TV devices with simple app support that get people introduced to streaming media could spark the market even more.

“Roku customers are passionate about streaming, and we are delighted that independent research shows that we are the most popular streaming platform measured by usage on a U.S. household basis,” said Anthony Wood, Founder and CEO, Roku.

Roku’s newest version – the Roku 3 – is a media streaming device and small game console with programs like Angry Birds, Galaga and Pac Man. You can use the remote with Bluetooth headphones for privacy viewing or pull out your iOS or Android device to control the set top box.

This brings a true fight for the TV’s HDMI port.

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.