Last 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
According 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, 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.
HBO 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.
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.
If you are a home theater enthusiast or HTPC owner, as I am, then you have probably heard of Silicon Dust and the HD Home Run. The box has been out for some time and retails for $199, but can be found somewhat cheaper in many locations.
The box takes a cable card and then sends its data out via ethernet to the rest of your network and, as a bonus, it contains 3 tuners. The data is distributed to your network in both ATSC and MP2 format. It all works great with many of your screens, but now Silicon Dust wants to solve the problem with devices like smartphones and tablets.
The new box is a 4 tuner version that can handle hardware transcode that transfers that MP2 and changes it to H.264. Now customers can send 4 separate streams independent of each other and have access to the data on mobile devices as well. It is also smart enough to recognize the difference in screens and resolution and encode for the device. All of this is done behind the scenes.
This latest Home Run box will be available in late spring or early summer. While no price is yet available, the company hopes to keep it in the same area as the previous version.
Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net
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