Tag Archives: Roku

Shadow IT and Home Streaming

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Torpedoes in the water!

Several remarkable developments took place this past week that are guaranteed to rock some boats:

1) Streaming gains greater steam. HBO and Apple are near agreement in streaming HBO. The significance is substantial. Subscribers need no longer be directly subscribed to their cable / Fios provider to watch HBO. Arguably, once HBO goes than the others will follow suit, raising the number of streaming services – and with that the death knell of traditional cable / FIOS television viewing rings ever louder. After all, why pay for ‘premium’ cable / Fios service to get the channels for the shows you want to watch when you can simply pay a far smaller fee to simply stream directly. No longer will you have to subscribe to a specific channel and wait for when your show comes on when you can simply stream, pick and choose what you want when you want it?

It should also be noted that this is not only impactful for Apple TV users, but others – Roku top among them – are also going to find this development very fruitful and in turn, continue the growing collapse of traditional television viewing that has been in place now for well over 40 years since cable first started appearing in selected suburban locales.

2) Net neutrality is reinforced. The growing presence of internet streaming perhaps is why some corporate folks are not taking this development too well. Witness Verizon and Comcast’s reaction to the recent FCC ruling regarding ‘net neutrality’, where the cable providers are denied the ability to charge a higher fee for those subscribers who seek faster Internet (ostensibly to stream).

In the meantime, Comcast and Sony continue their sniping, denying PS4 users direct access to view HBO Go (http://www.theverge.com/2015/3/5/8156025/comcast-blocks-hbo-go-sony-ps4) – underscoring precisely why this is a good reason why net neutrality is critical for free enterprise and the curbing of monopolies. While Verizon argues that the FCC is harkening back to the 1930’s with their snide press release written in 1934 type, Verizon is being disingenuous (putting it politely) at best for they ignore the reality that the rules changed back during the Clinton Era and then again in 2007 to account for the reality of DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines) readily brings federal legislation up to the 21st century. With sore losers as these, we should be thankful for the FCC being proactive and progressive.

3) The Growing Presence of Shadow IT. Interestingly, it was revealed our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allegedly used her office IT services to conduct personal business when in reality, it’s a little more complicated than that (http://www.zdnet.com/article/hillary-clinton-takes-shadow-it-mainstream/). Regardless of your partisan position regarding Ms. Clinton, what’s remarkable is the fact that her home office revealed usage of a home network – something which we’ve written about in the past here on Shockwaverider (“The Office is Dead; Long Live The Virtual Office”). What’s remarkable is that we’re seeing the growth of a phenomenon: the office as no longer being defined by any one location. Consider: what Ms. Clinton basically did was connect her home office to that of her professional office into a network ostensibly allowing her to continue her work away from the main office.

This is nothing new. To a lesser degree many executives practice shadow IT now, taking with them on the weekends home their company phones, tablets and laptops. Now, we’re seeing a new aspect of this trend: creating home networks that in turn, link to the office. This trend underscores an overlooked point: what is practiced or utilized at home inevitably influences what takes place at work. It’s widely known that the growth of iPads and iPhones in the office were largely attributed to executives having their own personal items, only to become enamored of them to the point where they would insist on utilizing the same in the office.

Now take it one step further.

With the rise of Internet streaming, more and more people are finding the need for home networks, whether they did basic such as a Roku or a series of personal laptops and desktops connected via wireless to a single Internet / web portal access point – to something ala Madame Secretary of State, a full-fledged home computer network (for the record, I do the same via a home network, utilizing a 6 terabyte RAID system. It’s really not that hard to do at all and you’ll find a lot of advantages in doing so,…).

Which is apparently what Madame Clinton found, but with the catch of mix and mis-matching: work email spilling over into non-work. It’s always best to practice safe e-mailing. As a former governmental Records Manager, we can expect to see more of these snafus coming up, so expect to see here at Shockwaverider a posting about practicing safe records management in the not so far future.

In the meantime, expect to see more torpedoes and explosions on the horizon as our world continues its evolutionary arc – but have no fear: the Shockwaverider crow’s nest is always on the lookout,…

 

 

 

 

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Traditional Cable is Dead: Long Live The New Order

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The numbers are increasing: more and more are cutting the cord and getting away from cable / Fios.  As for me, it’s been several months that I’ve functioned without traditional cable television – and I wouldn’t want to go back.

When I first undertook this approach – dumping cable services – I did so with the intent to save money while ensuring a decent means of cheap entertainment we’ve come to expect from our TV set. Would my kids be able to enjoy the show(s) they like to watch? Would they miss out on new shows? Would I do likewise – enjoy the old, experience the new – and importantly, what potential could come of cutting the cord?

I’m happy to report that all of the above – and more – has been achieved.

First of all, my costs have dramatically dropped. I now pay half of what I was paying for earlier, and yet not only enjoy the shows that I usually indulge in, but now have even greater access to more shows that I didn’t before.

My kids also enjoy their regular shows, but now have access to new shows they weren’t aware of.

We can enjoy anything we like at any time regardless of scheduling as there is no schedule: it’s all on demand.

We now gain greater access to more educational shows, shows of interest and more importantly, tap into previously unexplored realms – such as YouTube – that previously were not readily noted.

So let’s talk about the details.

1. Costs

Traditional plans – whether you’re using cable or FIOS – cost anywhere from $90 to $170 per month, depending on what you’re using. What many folk do is get a ‘cheaper’ package in an effort to save money – limit the number of channels they can watch so as to lower monthly costs. But the providers are ready for that: I noted that whenever I shopped for traditional cable/Fios, the fees would shift about. Generally speaking and as an example, what the providers will do is charge you more fees – such as ‘set box’ monthly rental’ – whenever you try lowering your monthly costs. In my case, when I tried to negotiate for a lower monthly fee, I saved some $40 for monthly channel access, but wound up paying more – from $3 per month to $12 per month – for the set box rental! In fact, I was looking at paying $144 per year ($12 per month) for set box rental. Right,…

Also, ask for the lowest speed possible. You’d be surprised what you can do with 10/10 + upload/download speeds: don’t fall for the hype of faster being better (unless you’re a serious gamer addict and your life revolves are playing the latest and greatest online games).

And beware: sometimes what happens is the providers will play with you, offering you speeds but in the end, you can find that (by testing and logging your results over a period of time) that you’re either just reaching those speeds or are just hovering below them. In such instances, you consider keeping a log, doing regular speed tests and print out screen shots of your test results so as to bring these results to the attention of your provider and, if need be, filing a formal complaint with the FCC and the BBB (Better Business Bureau).

2. Platform

Congratulations, you’ve dumped traditional cable. So now what?

For some folk, it’s the Apple TV while for others, it’s Roku.

With Apple TV, you get access to a number of steaming services, but not nearly as varied or richly populated as Roku. Apple TV is great if you’re an Apple user (and if you are, I’d recommend it: the ability to readily link your iTunes and your MacBook / Desktop to your TV is rather cool) but Roku simply offers a whole lot more of freebies.

In that vein, it’s worthwhile to get Hulu and/or Netflix (which is available for both Apple TV and Roku). For $8 per month, Hulu is a bargain: there are literally hundreds of shows with their respective seasons that’ll entertain you and your family. Lots of choices and most of all, for the price, you simply can’t beat it. Consider comparing the cost of getting Hulu for $8 per month versus getting the same shows via traditional cable at $45 per month (just the cable / Fios service portion of your monthly bill) and do the math.

Also, you’ll find that this approach cuts back on ‘channel surfing’. No more hopping around looking for your show(s) on the multitude of channels. Log in, go to your show (you can set up Hulu to create your own programming of shows you like) and enjoy.

3. New Realms

YouTube is getting interesting. Try searching for movies or shows and chances are, they’re on YouTube. In addition, creators are getting wise to YouTube and increasingly, you can watch shows you’ll only find on YouTube (my personal favorite is “The Great War” where viewers can watch weekly updates about World War I as they happened on the week you’ve watching a hundred years ago. And this from a group of ‘amateurs’!).

It’s all changing,…

Let’s understand something: traditional channel viewing is geared to carry the shows you enjoy. Take the shows into a different medium – say, via ‘streaming’ services – and you’ll find there is little reason to remain with traditional cable / FIOS channel lineups. The providers know this. When asked as to why I was dropping my regular cable service, the cable rep asked me, “are you intending to stream?”

“Yes, I already do.”

Sigh. “Yeah, a lot of people are saying that.”

The results are getting interesting. Large entities (such as NFL and Disney to name two of the bigger ones) are already playing hard ball with such folk as Comcast. And rightfully so: for years, the providers held the upper hand, offering the only primary means of delivering quality entertainment to people’s homes and business, changing more to the studios / commercial entities and passing the costs on to you in the form of increased monthly bills while they pocketed the difference. Now that’s changing.

The fight over Internet ‘freedom’ that’s been taking place at the FCC is not so much about freedom per se, but it’s really about the providers’ bread and butter. Providers seek (among other things) to control access and charge people more money for Internet access and speed in an effort to recoup losses incurred from folk abandoning traditional channel delivery. But it’s too late: as much as they are pushing for this, the more the entertainment ‘houses – NFL and Disney to name a few – are pushing back, gradually cornering Comcast, Time/Warner, Verizon, etc. – into difficult negotiating positions. Simply put: aside from Internet access, what’s there for the providers to offer? And if they insist upon pressing home the need to limit and/or charge more for Internet access, the more they’re going to undermine themselves. After all, all it takes is one provider to buck the pack and offer more competitive fees for their customers leaving the others to scramble.

The writing’s on the wall; it’s a brave new world. The company valuation of provider’s companies are in flux and with that, unless they move fast and adjust to the changing market realities, cable / Fios TV providers going to find things challenging.

Change is good, especially if you’re the consumer. All it takes is a little research, planning and a willingness to save money to get better quality home entertainment.

Cutting the Cord (Part II)

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The numbers don’t lie: more and more folks are canceling their cable / FIOs / satellite services. As the above chart so notes (http://techgage.com/news/cord-cutting-not-slowing-down-decline-of-cable-tv-subscribers-continues/) the slide is gradually growing, particularly in light of faster internet being more readily available – a development which was also recently noted in the Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/getting-rid-of-cable-tv-the-smartest-ways-to-cut-the-cord-1405472757?mod=rss_Technology

Likewise, in response to the number of readers contacting the WSJ following publication of their article on this very subject matter, the WSJ followed up with a (rather) brief response in their blog answering just a few basic questions:

http://blogs.wsj.com/personal-technology/2014/07/18/cutting-the-cable-cord-answers-to-your-questions/

Clearly, this is a revolution in the making; a growing mainstream of folks are dropping out and tuning in through other means – and doing so doesn’t require you holding a Master’s in Computer Science or advanced technology. For additional discussion on approaches, here’s one helpful site worth reading if you’re in doubt as to which direction you should consider:

http://www.steve-oh-mg.com/streaming-television-revolution-confessions-of-a-cord-cutter/

And if you’re still in some doubt, here’s another helpful site for the novice cable cutter worth checking out:

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/cord-cutting-guide,news-17928.html

Mind you, it’s a growing market. Amazon, Roku and naturally Apple are all veying for this fast growing cable cutting market segment (for the record, I use Apple TV; just my choice) – so much so that now there’s even a growing developer’s middle market – as witnessed by this sample site:

http://skystreamx.com/cutting-cable-android-tv-box/

And lastly, concurrent with this trend is the growing realization users also have free access to digital TV stations – a fact that many are not fully aware of. In a nutshell, the FCC mandates duly licensed television stations to broadcast not only in their standard / regular VHF range, but also in a variety of upper frequency digital TV broadcast ranges. Many viewers are not aware of the fact that there’s a plethora of free TV routinely being  broadcast 24 x 7.  Below is a very helpful website worth checking out (it’s free) that’ll give you the lowdown on what digital (free) stations are readily broadcasting in your immediate area and what your options are – i.e., whether or not you could be served by an indoor or outdoor antennae, and what direction you’d need to point the antennae toward:

http://www.tvfool.com

Let’s face it: the traditional way of watching TV is changing; channel surfing is morphing into a more direct, focused effort of watching TV. Considering the numbers of channels the typical users gets through their subscriptions balanced against the cost of such services, people are fooled into thinking they’re getting their moneys worth by continuing utilizing the traditional cable / FIOs / satellite services; financial reality says otherwise. Consider: add into the equation the amount of time you spend watching each and every channel you’re paying for you’ll find that it’s a loss for the average consumer – a waste of money.  Think of it this way:

Number of channels / (divided by) Monthly cable bill x (times) Number of minutes spent on each channel

So, let’s say you have 500 channels that you’re paying $150.00 per month; this would come to a $3.30 per channel monthly cost.  Multiply this figure by the number of minutes you watch for any of the channels you watch (to do it right, do a spreadsheet and lay out all of your channel line ups, note how many minutes per month you watch each and every channel you’re paying for and total it up).

Chances are the vast majority of those channels are going to be listed as “0” minutes spent – and therein lies the inherent problem intrinsic with TV subscription services: you’re wasting your money paying for channels you’re simply not watching. Gee, it may be nice to offer you all these channels at seemingly low competitive rates, but are you going to really watch all that?

This is how the traditional cable / FIOs / satellite services work: you’re subsidizing the majority of channels by paying a premium for those select specific channels you tend to view more often; this is necessary as these select channels would likely not be able to exist without these subsidies. This is all well and good, but ask yourself: is your viewing practices offering a true balance between what you’re paying for and what you’re watching?

It all comes down to what and how you use your television.  So ask yourself: what are your viewing practices? Here’s what you do (and it’s rather easy and surprisingly revealing): do a viewing log. Mark down the following every time you turn on the tube:

the channel you’re watching;

the show you’re watching;

how long you’ve watch that show on that specific channel;

Repeat.

Do this for a month and see for yourself. Once you’ve done this ask yourself: are you getting your money’s worth from your TV subscription services?

Given how much it costs per month, you could be looking at anywhere from $1,800 to $2,400 per year you’re paying out for something you’re not really fully using.  Add up over several years and you’ll find yourself paying out serious money for something you’re not fully using.