Daily Marauder


THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX, OR IN THIS CASE IN IT: BOXEE UNVEILED by Martha

THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX, OR IN THIS CASE IN IT: BOXEE UNVEILED

Guest Writer: Martha Rivera

A sold out crowd gathered at the Williamsburg Music Hall in Brooklyn, NY last night for the unveiling of the Boxee beta as well as to catch a glimpse of the highly anticipated Beta Box.

Launched in 2008, Boxee is software that aggregates media content from the web and your personal computer and streams it on your HD television. It searches web based content providers like YouTube, Netflix, MySpaceTV, Blip.TV, CBS.com, Revision3, flickr, and Pandora, among others and brings the content straight to your living room television. Missing still from the list of content providers is the online video site, Hulu. In addition to streaming web content, it also pulls media content from your own personal computer including your ITunes, personal videos and pictures. Boxee is an open source platform allowing users to create their own apps. To date, there are over 300.

“Our biggest challenge is distribution,” said Boxee CEO Avner Ronen.   The hurdle is getting cable affiliates and major content providers, like Hulu on board. At the core of the problem is fear of piracy and concern that the advertising is stripped from the content. However, Boxee pulls online content as is, which includes the advertising that is attached to it. Boxee also has the ability to track a host of analytics far outweighing television’s usage reporting. Ronen is hoping media companies and cable providers will become comfortable once they understand usage.

Four weeks ahead of its wide release at CES, Ronen introduced the beta software and Boxee Box, as well as announced the launch of 3 new apps: the hipster soft-core site Suicide Girls, the online gamer e-zine The Escapist and Clicker, TV guide, entertainment search engine and DVR all rolled into one.


Boxee Beta

Overall, Boxee Beta looks great and is much more user-friendly. The UI has been streamlined with a new layout. The menu, previously hidden, is now front and center. The home screen has been redesigned to feature the main menu, featured content, personal queue and the friend feed.

My favorite social networking feature is the ability to connect to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Any media that your friends or followers share with you will automatically populate on your queue. Too busy to watch videos at work? Don’t have the ability to watch video because you don’t have an office or are on the go? Another feature allows a viewer to send media assets to your queue so you can watch when you get home.

The search function has also been streamlined. Now users can search for movies, TV shows as well as local and online content at once. Boxee Beta populates all content from your computer as well as from any web source that works with Boxee. Of note, you can now mark content as “watched.” Better yet, the search function lets you omit “watched” content from the results.

Boxee focused specifically on TV shows in the Beta redesign. TV shows are now organized by season and episode. You can follow your favorite TV shows, and like Hulu, it will automatically populate your queue with new episodes.

Another new feature is the Global Menu. This menu is essentially the shortcuts screen. It provides quick access to predetermined shortcuts, favorite apps, history, and settings.

Other features include allowing users to interact with the apps without having to download them, a now playing button on every screen allowing easier navigation back to the player, a new Last.fm and flickr interface as well as a main background that changes based on the time of day.

As of this writing, 85% of Boxee’s 700,000 users use a Mac. However, Boxee Beta has not forgotten about its Windows’ friends. It will now run on Direct X, which will mean a better experience for the PC user.

Boxee Box by D-Link

The night also included the highly anticipated unveiling of the Boxee Box. Boxee partnered with D-Link, better known as the makers of wireless routers, to create the hardware. Astro Studios, the cutting edge designers behind products like the X-Box 360 and Nike, designed the sleek cube. This small black submerged cube will sit on top of the many boxes taking up space near your TV. The guys at Boxee hope that eventually you’ll do away with all those boxes and just use the Boxee Box.

The Boxee Box will retail at $200 and will be available for distribution sometime in 2Q10.

Why Boxee?

I’m a three-screen user. I watch TV, while surfing on my laptop, with my phone not far away. Having used the Alpha, I don’t know if I can give up my computer that easily. As I was navigating the web content on Boxee, I found my multi-tasking self wanting to toggle out of the screen to search the web while the video played. Because I was unfamiliar with the navigation, or more like because I’m a specific type of navigator, all of a sudden I felt trapped. According to Andrew Kippen, VP of Marketing, “Boxee is about fighting tradition. It’s streamlining your viewing experience by consolidating it all into one. Boxee is the tip of the iceberg for what’s possible.”

The Boxee Beta version seems much more straightforward. It’s easy-to-use features will allow users to not feel so (excuse the pun) boxed in. Then again, in this case, that’s what the creators of Boxee want you to do. Engage with the content within the box.

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THE ONLINE VIDEO GORILLA IN THE ROOM: EPIX by Marauder

THE ONLINE VIDEO GORILLA IN THE ROOM: EPIX

Epix, the new premium TV channel from Paramount, MGM, and Lionsgate, launched on TV and online at the end of October. The launch opened up movie catalogues from each of the three studios to be watched on three separate platforms; the content triple threat if you will. In a world of packed viewing options, how did we get to the point where three movie studios have launched a new pay TV channel?

Here’s the skinny. In 2008, Showtime’s contracts with Paramount, MGM, and Lionsgate expired. You see, in the premium pay TV world, channels like HBO and Showtime manage two streams of content: their original programming including both television series and films, and their movie studio content. These channels pay the studios premiums to air their movies on TV for a determined amount of time. When these contracts near expiration, negotiations settle in.

In this case, the negotiations between Showtime and these studios were fairly contentious. The studios wanted a higher fee than Showtime was willing to pay. So passionate were these negotiations, the studios basically declined revenues from Showtime entirely to instead walk away from the deal entirely. Showtime will now lose Paramount films released after Jan 1 2008 and MGM/Lionsgate films released after Jan 1 2009. That includes heavy box office winners like Iron Man ($318M US box office) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($317M bo).

Instead of negotiating with another pay TV channels, like HBO or Starz, the three studios instead pursued the completely unexpected option: form their own pay television network.

I worked at HBO for the past 4 years and hence was a little more eager than most to try out the product. When I initially heard about the new pay service, I was generally mystified. In a world of disaggregation,with content scattered on premium networks like HBO, online through services like Netflix and Hulu, download-to-own/rent on iTunes, and on demand, I hardly saw the need for additional options. That said, as audiences trend online to watch content, I was most interested in taking a look at the online product. Here’s a break down:


Availability

If you are a Verizon FIOS subscriber, you have access to the product. In addition, Epix is offering 50 thirty-day invitation codes to Marauder readers who are the first to Follow @epixHD on twitter AND tweet “@epixhd Experience Epix #DailyMarauder.”  If you miss your chance, you can also get a weekend invitation code if you visit the site during the month of November.


Content

Emil Rensing, Chief Digital Officer of Epix, tells me that as of today, there are 183 movies on the service. By the second quarter of next year, the goal is 3,000 movies. I asked Emil about Epix’s competition, eager to find out whether the channel views traditional pay networks like HBO and Showtime as competition vs. online movie providers like Netflix. “I’m personally a subscriber to both HBO and Netflix. I love the DVD service that Netflix provides but we’ll have more content online than Netflix. HBO doesn’t yet have the licenses to put all of their movie content online.“ Being that Netflix claims 12,000 streaming titles online, I pushed Emil on his answer. Within those 12,000 titles, Emil claims 2,000 are movies, “The preponderance of those titles is either public domain or bottom tier selections. They don’t have a lot of titles that will drive the subscription nut…We don’t buy content. We buy hits.”


User Experience

Hulu-Like Video Player

The online video itself looks and feels very similar to the Hulu experience. It rocks the same full screen, pop out, and light dimming options. Epix, however, features 720P HD quality for all of its movies, if you have a connection speed which can handle it of course. If not, it delivers the video to you in a quality compatible with your connection speed. Hulu also has films in 720P through their HD gallery although I only peeped 3 TV episodes in the library when I drove through this morning.


Finding What you Want

Either browse or search for content using predictive content options based on what you type in the search box. In this case, I was typing “Valenti” . I wasn’t looking for My Bloody Valentine but instead for the Valentino documentary.

Watching Movies Online with Friends

Here’s my favorite feature. Viewers can watch a movie with up to 4 of their friends, even if that friend is not an Epix subscriber. This is an acquisition and retention play of sorts but a very smart one at that. To make the analogy work a little harder for you, imagine if I could call you, the non-HBO subscriber, and invite you to instantly watch that next episode of True Blood with me from each of our respective houses. Yah, pretty neat. Here, fellow Marauder Martha and I, watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from each of our houses in NYC and LA.

Movie watchers can type messages to each other while watching allowing an almost couch-like experience. Martha and I tested this feature three times over the course of a week. Our results varied from seamless to all-out failure.


Portability

The content is currently only available in a streamed model meaning that the viewer can only watch when connected to the internet. Starz Play, the online offering from Starz also available from Verizon FIOS, is instead a download model offering the option to watch movies on a computer screen or portable device even when Google decides not to holiday gift free Wi-Fi to the masses.


Distribution

Currently, Epix only has one distributor with Verizon FIOS giving them access to a pool of only 2.5 million subscribers. The two most attractive cable operators in the US according to audience size are Comcast (25M subs) and Time Warner Cable (15M subs). In July, Comcast publically responded that they were not interested in the service and think that it is in fact, “a bad idea.” So that leaves, Time Warner Cable as the most attractive girl in the room. Rumors have been floating around about a DISH distribution deal, which would pick up just over 13M subscribers and give Epix a bit more to talk about. The other pay TV networks are watching, but not really paying attention until Epix finds someone to carry the channel to more people. And even then, it’s really Showtime which has the most to worry about. It seems as though CEO Matt Blank may agree on this one.


Price

$10 per month. The service was initially offered its first weekend as a free preview.


The Low Down

Epix most reminds me of Hulu at least in the reason for its creation. Hearken back to the days in which Hulu was “New Site” and everyone laughed at its imminent failure. Mr. Techcrunch himself, Michael Arrington, liked to call New Site Clown Co. before it was dubbed Hulu.

Hulu was created as a joint venture between two broadcast television networks (Fox and NBC) which wanted more control (and hence revenue potential) over the distribution of their content in an iTunes world. Let’s just remember how NBC felt about Apple during one painful period in which The Office wasn’t available on iTunes.

Similarly, Epix was built by three movie studios, who in a world of Hulu, Netflix, and Showtime, wanted more control over their content. Both decisions were risky for the companies in question. Just ask Jeff Zucker from NBC how those digital pennies, dimes, or whatever currency he’s using these days are doing.

Here’s the main difference between Epix and Hulu: Hulu acts as a central location for all content even if its not featured in its super slick video player. Epix only offers content from these three studios.

Epix isn’t interesting to me as another pay TV network. We have HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, and a few others you probably don’t even realize you have. In a world of Movies on Demand, pay TV networks, Hulu, Netflix, and those things we used to call DVD’s, do we really need one more TV channel? In short, no. No we don’t. The cable operators realize this. They have enough to sell you when you call to set up service. HBO and Showtime used to be the cash cow for the cable companies. With the advent of online and digital phone services, this is no longer the case. The revenue potential on these two services far outweighs the opportunity upside on a pay TV network. So, why would I, Mrs. Cable Company, choose to carry another pay TV network that I will have to relegate marketing budget to? Hmmm…

Back to the consumer perspective. To really dig in on this, it’s important to quickly reference the content windows.


Traditional Windows

Time

Platform

Start

Theatrical Release

Theatrical + 4.5 months

DVD Release/Rental

DVD + 1.5 months

Pay Per View (PPV) Rental

PPV + 6 months

Premium (HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc.)

Premium + 15 months

Free TV (ad supported)

Here’s an example of this structure using a recent box office hit: Paranormal Acitivity. The traditional window, previous to Epix, would look like this:

(Please note. Apart from the movie release, these are NOT announced dates, simply a look at traditional movie windows.)

Movie Release: October 2010

DVD Release/Rental (Netflix): February 2010

Cable Movies on Demand/PPV: March-April 2010

Premium TV Channel (Showtime): September 2010

Free TV: December 2011

So, let’s pretend you’re a Comcast subscriber for a moment. You would have been able to watch the movie on DVD first, then buy it through your Movies on Demand service, then watch it through your Showtime subscription, and finally some time close to never watch it on free TV. Head spinning yet?

Well, Epix is now on the scene and Paranormal Activity happens to be a Paramount film. So, now the film will no longer be available on Showtime.

So now, the story goes first on DVD, then Movies on Demand through the cable company, then Epix on TV and online, and finally when hell freezes over on free TV. Confused again? Yup. I haven’t even mentioned that Netflix is considering delaying their DVD rental offerings 30 days to pay the studios less. Oh, and of course, companies like Comcast are pushing day-and-date movies on demand offerings with the DVD window.

All I wanted to know was when and where I could watch the movie again. Crikey…

In short, Epix is interesting to me purely for its online subscription-model offering. They can’t compete with the movie quality of other pay TV networks like HBO. Yes, Netflix is doing online streaming but Epix claims that they will have more and better quality movies online soon. Epix is connected to a distributor whereas Netflix need not rely on one. Both subscriptions cost about the same but one gives you additional access to 100,000 DVD rentals and the other to a TV channel and on demand network. Epix has the closest relationship and pull with the movie studios except in this case, its just three of them.

Epix needs more distribution to make some noise but if they find some, things will start to get a bit more interesting. Game on.

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SH-T MY DAD SAYS: COMING TO A TV NEAR YOU by Marauder

SH-T MY DAD SAYS: COMING TO A TV NEAR YOU

Shit My Dad Says

Several months ago, Justin Halpern (29) had done what many of us consider to be the worst case scenario and moved back in with his parents in San Diego, CA. On August 3rdof this year, he launched a twitter feed to document the all out HYSTERICAL monologues his 73-year old dad embarcks on. Gems like:

“Son, no one gives a sh-t about all the things your cell phone does. You didn’t invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that.”

As you can see, the Twitter feed quickly amassed over 700K followers in only a few months. Hence, CBS came to develop the concept into a family comedy. Will & Grace” creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick will executive produce and supervise the writing from Halpern to be joined by Patrick Schumacker.

Yes, so what I’m saying here is, Justin went from moving back in with his parents to potentially picking up a TV deal.

I heart the internet.

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BROADCAST/CABLE by Marauder

BROADCAST/CABLE

Comedy Central is developing a weekly series with satiric newspaper The Onion that will poke fun at the sports world. The as-yet-untitled series will play off the Onion Sports Network online video series, which is, according to Lauren Corrao, Comedy Central’s president of original programming development, “outstanding, hilarious and exactly what you’d expect from the gang.” Broadcasting & Cable (11/5)

Onion Network


With an average delivery of 19.4 million viewers, this year’s six-game World Series outdrew last year’s set by 38%, per Nielsen ratings data. The 2009 World Series ranks as the sixth most-watched of the 12 Major League Baseball championships covered by Fox. (Iwantmedia 11/6, Mediaweek11/5)


Oprah Winfrey has yet to decide whether she’ll extend the life of her syndicated daytime talk show on broadcast television, a spokesman for her production company said Thursday, in response to an Internet report saying her show would move to her new cable network in less than two years. (Dow Jones 11/5)

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BROADCAST/CABLE by Marauder

BROADCAST/CABLE

Scripps Networks Interactive , owner and operator of the Food Network and HGTV lifestyle television networks, is to acquire a controlling interest of 65% in the Travel Channelat a $975 million valuation and enter into a joint venture with current owner Cox Communications (Techcrunch11/5)

Travel Channel

U.S. regulators said they’re actively working on a request from Hollywood to use anti-piracy technology so studios can offer first-run movies over cable and satellite services. (Bloomberg11/5)

USA averaged 3.47 million prime-time viewers during the week that ended Nov. 1, making it the most-watched, ad-supported cable network during that period. While USA won the overall viewership crown, ESPN‘s lineup of professional and college football won the day in the 25-to-54, 18-to-49 and 18-to-34 demographic groups. Mediaweek (11/3

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BROADCAST/CABLE by Marauder
November 2, 2009, 11:56 PM
Filed under: BROADCAST/CABLE | Tags: , , , , , , ,

BROADCAST/CABLE

Media-watchers say the big story of the the 2009-10 television season is the rise of the Fox network, up 3% in viewers thanks largely to its new musical comedy “Glee” and the strength of medical drama “House.” Fox is the only broadcaster that is “up in all demos.” (Iwantmedia 11/2, Reuters10/30)

Glee


Comcast is closing in on a deal with General Electric that would give the country’s largest cable provider majority control of NBC Universal. According to unnamed executives, the two sides arrived at a tentative agreement Friday and the deal could be signed in the next week. The New York Times(11/1) , Reuters (11/2)

 

Several weeks after David Letterman was shaken by an image-rocking scandal, CBS‘ “Late Show With David Letterman” has shown little sign of weakening audience support. Far from hurting the host’s popularity, the sex-and-extortion headlines seemingly have had little impact on his late-night show and possibly even

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM DAILY MARAUDER by Marauder

HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM DAILY MARAUDER

ring2

Remember this cinematic classic? The Ring (and yes the American version) still goes down as one of my favorite Halloween films of all time. That’s why I was more than pleased to turn myself into Samara from the scariest portion of the film: the ending in which she climbs through the television.

Daily Marauder Halloween

Considering that I’ve been working in television for 4 years, there’s nothing scarier than a small child with really horrible hair extensions climbing through my tube. Girl, let me help you fix that weave! Now, I too can be Samara in yet another way to waste time on the internet. Yay!

Go grab your creepiest pic of you and head over to Seenow.com for some Halloween fun. And remember, don’t do what I do on Halloween and insist on eating every last candy corn pumpkin in the bag.

Vomit Pumpkin

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