Current Events

Silicon Valley the Reality Show

Coming in November to Bravo channel.

This has happened before. The bright lights of Hollywood shine their lights into the Valley and all hell breaks loose. Let’s see if we’ve inoculated ourselves this time.

The real question is, do you need cable TV to watch each episode?

Current Events

Broadcast Television is Broken

Through the eyes of a four year old child who grew up in the on-demand entertainment world of Netflix, traditional “appointment television” is a foreign concept. The interruption of commercials jarring and confusing. The following is from Patrick Rhone who is writing about his daughter and her utter disbelief in how things used to be when you turned on the television.

“I didn’t turn it off, honey. This is just a commercial. I was turning the volume down because it was so loud. Shrek will come back on in a few minutes” I say.

“Did it break?”, she asks. It does sometimes happen at home that Flash or Silverlight implode, interrupt her show, and I have to fix it.

“No. It’s just a commercial.”

“What’s a commercial?”, she asks.

”It is like little shows where they tell you about other shows and toys and snacks.”, I explain.


The movie comes back on for poor, confused Beatrice. She doesn’t understand why someone would program interruptions into the middle of a movie. Just as she gets back into enjoying the movie again, another commercial break descends.

“Why did they stop the movie again?” Beatrix, asks. Thus leading to essentially the same conversation as before. She just does not understand why one would want to watch anything this way. It’s boring and frustrating. She makes it through the end of the movie but has little interest in watching more. She’d rather play. The television is never turned on again during our stay.

And so it goes, the future is already here. If you don’t let them enjoy media without distraction, they’ll make their own.

Watson Wins Jeopardy

Ken Jennings graciously concedes losing to IBM’s Watson computer on the final day of the three day Jeopardy tournament. More details on the research behind the experiment on my earlier post.

IBM Watson on Jeopardy

In a brilliant piece of PR, IBM Research stormed back on the scene matching their artificial intelligence computer, Watson, against top contestants of the popular American game show, Jeopardy. On February 14, 15, and 16 Watson’s competes against two humans on live television.

According a piece on Wired’s Epicenter blog, 25 IBM scientists spent four years building Watson. “Powered by 90 IBM Power 750 servers, Watson uses 15 terabytes of RAM, 2,880 processor cores and can operate at 80 teraflops, or 80 trillion operations per second”  The database of content upon which Watson draws its “knowledge” is from over 200 million pages from reference texts, movie scripts, entire encyclopedias, as well as, Wikipedia.

How did Watson do?

After the first day, Watson is tied with Ken Jennings for the lead at $5,000, beating out  Brad Rutter who has $2,000. For details on the game and some behind the scenes of what was going on, listen to the interview with Stephen Baker on Arik Hesseldahl’s post on All Things Digital.

Footage from a practice round back in January below.

More details at the IBM Watson mini-site and a documentary on Nova, Smartest Machine on Earth.


NBC holding Olympic videos hostage

NBC is milking their investment in broadcasting rights for the Beijing Olympics by making anyone that wants to view their videos jump through a few hoops.

Hoop Number One: Install Silverlight 2.0.

This limits installation to only Windows machines or Intel-based Macs. Oh, and you have to restart your browser so you if you don’t save the URL of the video you wanted to watch – your left to the mercy of NBC’s navigation.

Hoop Number Two: Reveal your local NBC affiliate & zip code info.

This gives NBC data to see just how much traffic they are taking away from their local affilates with online video. When it comes time for re-negotiation, they can hold this data in their hand to show how they don’t really need the affiliates to reach their audience which is why they need to pay more for the rights to re-broadcast NBC programming.

Despite these two hoops, the desire to see a quick reply of something like the incredible 4×100 meter Men’s relay is so strong that people will jump through these hoops. Not enough to jump out of the current habit of hitting up Yahoo’s Olympic coverage (which is doing a stellar job), but still respectable.

Badi hated installing Silverlight and may never use it again but he did install it and I doubt he took the time to remove it after he saw the video. As far as Microsoft is concerned, mission accomplished.

Despite the hassles, I actually like some of the features of Silverlight as it’s featured on the NBC site. It’s really smart is that you’re able to fast forward (or reverse) in low resolution but once the video starts playing, it gradually sharpens the image to higher resolution. The video clips on the NBC site are of exceptional quality to those used to YouTube clips. As with NBC’s other site, Hulu, NBC is leading the way, showing us how a television company can reinvent itself for the internet.

Pay-per-Click Marketing comes to Television

Tivo and Amazon have teamed up in a partnership that anyone following the two could have seen coming. It will soon be possible to click your Tivo remote and order items like the latest album from the musical guest on the David Letterman show.

The concept of using your remote to purchase stuff you see on TV is an old one but it’s never taken off.  This time, based on the success of Amazon’s one-click fulfillment platform (including the ingenious mobile version), it might just succeed. They just need to get more than 4 million Tivos into US homes.

Way to go WallStrip!

Techcrunch confirms that CBS has purchased Wallstrip. Lindsay Campbell, the host, drops by CBS headquarters to meet her new colleagues. [Watch]

YouTube Active Sharing

First time I noticed this but there’s an icon up by your profile next to “History” that lets you know about YouTube’s Active Sharing feature.

When you start Active Sharing, your username will appear to other users on the videos you watch. A list of videos you’ve recently watched will also appear on your profile page.

Is this new?

Current Events

Tivo vs. Apple TV

That was quick. I thought the distribution of home movies directly downloaded to Tivo would have been handled by the Amazon Unbox arrangement which I wrote about last week but I instead Tivo is promoting a service called One True Media.

Here’s how it works. Upload your photos and short movies to the service that allows you to add a soundtrack, titles, and simple effects. In return for your subscription ($3.99/month, $39.99/year), you will get a special Tivo subscriber’s code. Any broadband-enabled Tivo can then use this code to subscribe to anything you upload to your One True Media account. More details on the One True Media site.

While this is exciting, there is also a compelling alternative with the Apple TV which supports subscription to any Video Podcast via the iTunes store. While Tivo’s solution seems well integrated and easy to use, it still relies on the publisher to give the Tivo owner a subscription code that they manually need to put into their Tivo setup.

  1. Tivo/One True Media – $$ to publish, free to download, editing platform restricted to One True Media
  2. Apple TV/iTunes – free to publish, $$ (or free to download), use whatever editing platform you like

Historically, the more open publishing models prevail. I’m afraid that charging your publishers to upload their videos is going to limit the market to just those that want to push home movies of their kids to their grandparents. I wonder how many grandparents have an IP-enabled Tivo?

A better idea would be to set up Tivo’s to publish so all you need to do is upload your finished movies to your Tivo box via the USB port and then it’s available on a peer-to-peer network. When grandma or anyone else who browses the Tivo catalog wants to pull a file (either via one-time request or RSS subscription), the peer-to-peer network copies the file either off the seed Tivo or off any other Tivo that is hosting the file. Tivo can manage the index and use the metadata on what you watch to improve recommendations and suggest other things to watch, either from the networks or from the peer-to-peer network.

Who do you think will be the winning solution a year from now? Apple TV or Tivo?

Current Events

Movies to your Tivo via Amazon Unbox

I decided to give Amazon’s new Unbox service a whirl over the weekend (they are offering $15 in credit if you register your Tivo broadband service with Amazon by April 30th) and was very pleased with the experience.

It took only a few minutes to link up my Tivo account and after that, any movie listed on the Amazon Unbox catalog was ready for one-click purchase and download.

I chose two movies (Devil Wears Prada and Little Miss Sunshine which run $3.99 each) and they began to download within minutes and were available for viewing later that evening.

You have 24 hours to view the movie from when you begin viewing and have full Tivo control over stopping, starting, rewinding and fast-forwarding through the movie. Notice the new “red flag” icon which alerts you that the movie will be deleted. Also notice the “save to VCR” option is avaialble although I didn’t try it yet.

It’s early days yet and Netflix has also mentioned that they’re in the download on demand business as well (the Netflix CEO has been quoted as saying that they’re not called “mailflix” for a reason) and from what I see here, it looks like this could be quite a compelling reason to move off of expensive cable plans for HBO and other premium channels if you’re able to get what you want via an on demand service. Add an archive of standard television series and specials and you’ve got a nice alternative to the Apple iTunes/Apple TV product.

Additional bonus is that purchases made here feed into my Amazon recommendation profile (most likely my Tivo profile as well). This will be a space to watch.