Thursday, 26 July 2012
Is YouView too late?

YouView has taken an incredibly long time to launch. The idea behind YouView I believe is a brilliant one, however I can't help but think they're a little late to the market and when you see what they have to offer you can't help but think ".oh is that it?"

image

Don't get me wrong its nice having a set top box that enables you to watch on demand content from your TV but the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 have been available from the XBOX 360 (£174) and PlayStation 3 (£187) for several months now. It makes you wonder if anyone will shell out £299 for the YouView set top box. Look at all the new SmartTV's out there that already have the above mentioned services built in or available to download as apps and you end up scratching your head wondering if its really worth it. The majority of the content that YouView boasts to have besides the ones I have mentioned above are freely available right now if you have Digital TV. There is no need for a set top box. You are basically just getting the ability to watch the above on demand content as extra. 

Enter Sky's new service which will be added to YouView called NowTV and all of a sudden the above starts to look a little more viable. While NowTV is currently only a movie service, Sky will later be offering Sky Sports and content from its flagship channels Sky1, Sky Atlantic and Sky Living. Granted if you are a Sky subscriber and have an Xbox you're probably already seeing some of this content on Sky Player. The one problem there is you have to be a Sky subscriber to get to that content and as always some shows are blocked on the live Sky Channels on Xbox because they don't hold the digital rights to stream it over IPTV. It makes you wonder if we will see the same issue taking place if they end up streaming live Sky channels over YouView?

Its important where you get YouView

Look closer at the offers for YouView available from BT and Talk Talk as opposed to buying one solo and plugging it in. Suddenly things start to get a bit clearer, not all YouView offers are equal. Get a set top box from Talk Talk for YouView and with an additional "boost" you can get some of the Sky Channels without the need for a dish and a subscription with Sky. It appears TalkTalk will be offering the service they currently used to offer on TalkTalk TV in addition to YouView content which is great news for TalkTalk customers.

BT appear to be offering the same content from BT Vision to people who get a YouView box with them. However looking at BT's line up I prefer the selection of content and channels that appear to be available from TalkTalk. The dilemma there is I prefer getting my broadband from BT instead of TalkTalk.

Over the coming months it will be interesting to see how this pans out. I'm also interested to see what Sky does with its content. In the past they've always been interested in owning the platform and the rights to the content instead of sharing their content with other platforms for a fee.

posted on Thursday, 26 July 2012 09:03:50 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 12 February 2012
Watching SkyPlayer and other content from your PC on your TV

This article can apply to just about any content that you can watch on your PC but just can't watch on your TV be it via XBOX, PS3 or some type of set top box we have to face the facts that some services are either limited on these devices or have content restrictions.

So for example lets say I want to watch a show that is on SkyPlayer on my TV via my XBOX. You may discover that that show is restricted for viewing via Xbox on your TV but you are perfectly free to view that content on your PC. Sounds silly doesn't it?

Anyway the next option is to connect your laptop or PC to your TV and that can often be pretty impractical especially if you want to use the laptop at the same time.

The Solution
Enter this lovely box of tricks by StarTech called a Ethernet to VGA Over IP Converter, so how does this help?

StarTech

This clever little device plugs into your home network and has a VGA connector on the back that plugs into your TV or monitor. You then install drivers for the device on your laptop which will discover this device on your network and treat it as an extra monitor!

But it doesn't just stop there, the device is also a USB server. That means you can plug any USB device into it and your laptop will think its plugged into one of its local USB ports. You're probably wondering why? Well you may want to plug a USB mouse and keyboard in there so you can control what's happening on the screen from near the TV.

I basically use it by dragging the video I am watching onto the extended display my laptop suddenly has via this device and can carry on using my laptop while at the same time its playing a video in the other window.

So just how good is this?
There is a "but" though, your were expecting one weren't you? You can use this device over WiFi but to get a good quality broadcast I resorted to both my machine and the device being on a 100meg wired network. In theory if I had a 300meg WiFi network instead of 54meg it would have had the same result?

posted on Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:47:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 03 July 2010
The technology push to your living room

I've been reading articles about Google TV, Microsoft, Sony, BT, Sky and (now) Apple with interest regarding their push to your living room to put content on your TV.  There's a hell of a lot of content on the web and the age old issue of watching this content conveniently on your TV instead of having to fire up browsers on your PC is a problem none of the big companies appear to have really solved.

Sure you can watch some of Sky's content on your Xbox 360 now. But you won't get all of Sky's content because of content restrictions enforced by content distributors. You also won't get 4OD, BBC iPlayer or the ITV Player on this service. In addition to that you won't get YouTube, Hulu or Joost. Basically there is not one set top box that will give you all of these services through your TV without having to switch or unplug some box out of the VGA, SCART or HDMI slot on your TV. My guess is that Google are trying to address this with their new set-top box idea. Weather it will work remains to be seen, because at the end of the day it doesn't matter how fancy your platform is, content is still king.

Content distributors also hold a lot of sway, they dictate how their content can be distributed. If a channel is distributed via the Internet and over encrypted satellite in the eyes of the content provider they are separate mediums which require separate content rights. Hence Sky's problem of only being able to broadcast some of their Sky 1 shows via SkyPlayer and blocking the channels for the duration of that show for SkyPlayer customers while satellite customers get to view it.

Likewise content providers may give the writes to distribute a show over a streaming Internet Service with the caveat that it cannot be streamed to a service that connects to a TV as this right could have been solved to a terrestrial provider. This arrangement makes things incredibly difficult while all the user wants to do is watch their TV shows in the most convenient way possible.

I wish Google TV every bit of success although I am struggling to see how they will be able to offer the content we want all through one set top box. In addition to this problem when watching a series on TV sometimes people would like to start from the beginning of a series people are all raving on about. Content providers don't make it easy to get to this content and their appears to be a high amount of people using illegal downloads via services such as Bit Torrent to get to this content. The video/TV entertainment industry appears to be out of touch with how people would like to consume their content. The same thing happened in the music industry which saw a huge shift in how music was distributed which lead to services such as Spotify.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a service that held just about every movie, TV series, documentary that had ever been made, made available on demand? You could pay for the content per item or for a monthly fee have access to all of it?

posted on Saturday, 03 July 2010 10:42:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 29 May 2009
Sky to be available on Xbox 360

Well we all know it makes sense and a lot of you have said how it would be such a good idea to watch on demand TV on your Xbox 360. If you can see it on your PC why can't you see it easily on your games console which is actually connected to your TV? Well Microsoft and Sky have finally seen sense and quite soon Microsoft will be offering Sky content on the Xbox 360. If you look at how Sky delivers its current offering called Sky Anytime PC, they are using Microsoft's Silverlight technology while everyone else (BBC, Channel 4 and ITV) are using Adobe Flash.  As you can see Sky and Microsoft are quite compatible on the technology front.

While Sky Anytime PC is a good service they do not offer all of their channels live through the service. The majority of the content provided is a catch up service for missed TV episodes (not bad) and for Box Office Movies. It doesn't (and I could be wrong here) look as if Sky will be offering their flagship channel Sky One live through this service, it would be great if they did.  In the ideal world I would like to see everything that is offered via my satellite dish also offered over an IPTV service including on demand content.

It used to be possible to view Sky Player content on your Xbox 360 but only using a Windows XP or Windows Vista machine as a proxy hopefully this should change all of that.

posted on Friday, 29 May 2009 21:53:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 25 November 2007
4oD on XBOX 360 and TV over the Internet

image If you've been reading my blog you will have noticed my fascination of trying to stream content via my Xbox 360 for services provided by the BBC iPlayer, SkyAnytime PC  and now Channel 4's 4oD service (TV and Film on demand). Basically the BBC, Sky and Channel 4 all provide separate services for which you can download content off the Internet. This could be an episode of Star Gate SG1 you may have missed (Sky), Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (Channel 4) or East Enders (BBC and no I don't like it but my wife does).

What all of these technologies have in common is they all use Microsoft's DRM (Digital Rights Management). What this means is that the content provider (BBC, Sky or Channel 4) can control how long you are able to watch this content until it expires, this also controls who can watch it. All this is taken care of in the background where a licence is downloaded to your machine enabling you to watch the content. While all of these providers may appear to have different innovative interfaces, under the covers they are all really using Windows Media Player which supports DRM. The BBC got a lot of flack for not using an open source platform for doing the same thing. The truth is this method has probably worked out cheaper, as so many other providers are using the same technology its tried and tested (until someone cracks it of course).

One of the let downs I found of these services was there was no way of watching the content you missed on your TV. You had to watch it on your computer. Unless you were a bit computer savvy and knew how to plug your computer into your TV (not all TV's support this) there wasn't really much of an alterative. That was until the Xbox 360 started to be able to stream content from your Windows Media PC. I found the Xbox 360 proved to be a cheaper alternative than having a dedicated PC for watching content from the Internet on your TV. I have also found it also works well with content from Channel 4's service 4oD. The only problem I have found is that 4oD's videos are not as higher quality as those provided by Sky (this may probably change), it gives the impression of a pixilated image on my 1080i LCD screen. I think Microsoft can provide a lot more upgrades for the Xbox 360 to take advantage of this place in the market. Although I suspect they may be keeping a bit quiet about the potential because they may be thinking of a separate content deal they want to put together, so they can charge Xbox Live subscribers for the privilege.  

It looks as though no one has really taken advantage of the potential for a TV Over Internet Provider (TOIP) box that could pull all these providers together maybe even including Joost?

posted on Sunday, 25 November 2007 12:44:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]