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September 21, 2018
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streaming TV

Streaming service CBS All Access rolls out support for offline viewing

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CBS All Access, the network’s over-the-top streaming service for cord cutters, will now let subscribers save shows for offline viewing. The feature, “Download & Play,” is only available to those on CBS’s Commercial Free plan, not those on the cheaper, ad-supported tier. It also supports a range of programming, including CBS All Access Originals, reality shows, primetime dramas, news magazines, and other classics from the CBS library.

At launch, the lineup of supported shows includes originals like Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Fight, One Dollar, Strange Angel, and No Activity, plus Big Brother, Survivor, Blue Bloods, Bull, Hawaii Five-0, MacGyver, NCIS: New Orleans, 60 Minutes, and 48 Hours. All classics will also be available for offline access, meaning you can download old Star Trek episodes, Cheers, Twin Peaks and many others.

Content from local stations, local news and sports will not be available for offline viewing.

There are a few caveats in using the download feature. The content is only available offline for 30 days after the download, or 48 hours from the time of playback. If it expires, you’ll then have to download it again.

Downloads are also only available in the U.S. for the time being, CBS says.

However, users are able to download up to 25 videos at once, and can watch videos on up to 5 different devices.

The feature is going live on both iOS and Android, on version 6.0 of the CBS All Access app and higher.

The company considers this a “premium” option, which is why it’s only making it available to Commercial Free subscribers, it says.

In reality, though, CBS may need more time to make ad attribution work on offline content – something that’s still fairly new.

Hulu, for example, only recently announced it would allow offline viewing, including the download of commercials for those on its ad-supported plan. It then became the first in the industry to support downloads with ads, it said during its Upfronts presentation in May.

CBS may choose to invest in similar technology in the future, but for now, it’s easier to just roll out offline support to those who pay more to skip the commercials.

Other major streamers have allowed for downloads for years, it’s worth noting. Netflix added support on mobile back in 2016, following Amazon Prime Video’s launch of offline support the year prior.

The addition of offline support for CBS All Access means you’ll be able to watch shows when you’re out of reach of a network or good signal – like when traveling, commuting, or on a plane, for example. (Maybe I’ll finally finish this new, not so great Star Trek). Or you can use the option to save money on your data plan.

But the feature will matter even more as CBS expands its originals catalog, which will include new shows like a reboot of The Twilight Zone from Get Out director, Jordan Peele; Scream writer and producer Kevin Williamson’s twisted fairytale series Tell Me a Story; and a new Star Trek series led by Patrick Stewart, among others.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Dish’s AirTV box now lets you watch and record live TV, access recordings through Sling TV

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Following reports that Amazon is preparing to launch a new device that would allow Fire TV owners to record live TV, Dish’s AirTV has just done the same. The company announced the launch of a “Local Channels DVR” feature for AirTV customers that lets users watch and record live TV both in and outside the home. The recorded content is made available within Dish’s Sling TV application, alongside subscribers other Cloud DVR recordings.

Dish first unveiled its AirTV Player, a 4K media streamer set-top box, at CES 2017, then later began doling out digital antennas to Sling TV subscribers with the AirTV Player as part of deal for pre-paying for the company’s streaming service.

This year, it expanded its hardware lineup to include a new device, just called the AirTV, which is a networked TV tuner that doesn’t connect directly to a TV, but rather streams local programming via Wi-Fi.

As with Plex – and, presumably, with Amazon’s forthcoming plans – being able to record and stream from live TV is one way companies are working around cable providers, or having to make content deals in order to expand their streaming line-ups. It gives cord cutters way to watch hard-to-access programming, like local news and sports, for example.

Dish’s new Local Channels DVR feature will require an external storage device in order to work, which is not included.

This means it’s similar to something like Tablo’s OTA DVR for cord cutters, which has customers attach their own USB hard drive. In AirTV’s case, the maximum supported drive size is 2 TB.

The DVR also supports dual-tuner functionality, so customers can record up to two shows at once, or watch one live while recording another.

TV show recordings can also be scheduled by the episode or by the series.

Once AirTV is set up, the recorded content is available through the Sling TV app across platforms, including iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.

It will be found in the same menu as the Cloud DVR content – where you find the movies and shows you record through Sling TV’s DVR. But these recordings will have an OTA icon next to them to help users differentiate the AirTV content from the rest.

Upon playback, the content can be paused, rewound, or fast-forwarded. In addition, if watching a recording in real-time, users can pause the live TV stream.

To gain access to the feature, AirTV users will have to update their device and restart their Sling TV app.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Hulu and Discovery announce partnership for live and on-demand programming

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Hulu and Discovery this morning announced a wide-ranging partnership that will see Discovery’s live and on-demand programming added to Hulu’s streaming service. The multi-year agreement will see nearly 4,000 episodes of Discovery’s shows added to Hulu’s on-demand library, as well as five additional Discovery TV networks – Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Motor Trend, the rebranded Velocity network, and Animal Planet – to Hulu’s live TV service.

This will bring the total number of Discovery TV networks on Hulu with Live TV to now eight. They join existing channels, HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel which were available through a prior agreement with Scripps Networks, which Discovery acquired for $14.6 billion.

The new channels will begin to stream live in December, Hulu says.

Meanwhile, all Hulu subscribers will be able to watch on-demand programming like Deadliest Catch, MythBusters, Say Yes to the Dress, Naked and Afraid, Property Brothers, Gold Rush, Street Outlaws, Chopped, Chopped Jr., Fixer Upper, House Hunters and House Hunters International. 

Hulu and Discovery had been in talks about this deal for well over a year, reports Variety – even before Hulu with Live TV launched in May 2017.

“At Discovery, we are committed to bringing our portfolio of high-quality, safe family friendly brands and content to viewers across every screen, service and device around the world,” said Eric Phillips, President of Affiliate Distribution at Discovery, in a statement. “Our new agreement with Hulu affirms the strength of our brands and their value to viewers in a marketplace with an increasing array of options.”

Along with the overall Discovery partnership, Hulu has also reached a licensing agreement with OWN, part of the Discovery Networks family, which will bring four of the network’s top shows to Hulu. This includes all past episodes of Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots, If Loving You is Wrong, The Paynes and Love Thy Neighbor, which are available to stream for the first time. Hulu was already streaming another OWN show, Queen Sugar from Ava DuVernay and Warner Horizon.

Despite the new additions, Hulu’s pricing remains the same. It’s still $40 per month for its cable-like Live TV service, which also includes the on-demand programming and Hulu Originals. Its on-demand only offering, meanwhile, starts at $8 per month, and goes up to $12 for the ad-free plan.

For Hulu, the deal will allow the service to better compete against a growing number of competitors for cord cutters’ dollars. In addition to the major on-demand offerings from Netflix and Amazon, Hulu’s live TV service is up against rivals like Dish’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, Google’s YouTube TV, Philo, fuboTV, and AT&T’s DirecTV Now and WatchTV.

Hulu claims that the addition of Discovery has now put it over the top in terms of content. When the additions go live, Hulu with Live TV will stream more than 60 live TV channels along with Hulu’s entire streaming TV library, which it says is now the largest in the U.S.

However, Hulu’s live TV service continues to lack AMC Networks and Viacom channels, Variety also notes.

“As the only streaming service offering a complete television experience, Hulu continues to strike strategic, efficient deals with top brands that bring extraordinary value to all of our subscribers,” said Lisa Holme, Vice President of Content Acquisition, and Reagan Feeney, Vice President of Network Partnerships at Hulu, in a joint statement. “Discovery’s brand is synonymous with high-quality unscripted entertainment that TV fans love, which is why we are excited to bring their entire portfolio to our platform, across all of our subscription plans.”

The news of the Hulu deal follows remarks made by Discovery CEO David Zaslav at an industry event earlier this summer, where he said the company was considering a streaming service of its own, where all its networks would be available for a price of $5 to $8 per month.

Going live on Hulu doesn’t necessarily negate that plan – Discovery could always launch on Amazon’s a la carte service, Amazon Prime Video Channels, for example, or even go it alone. But it could reduce consumer demand for such a service, given that Hulu today reaches over 20 million U.S. subscribers.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Streaming service VRV adds NickSplat, a channel featuring classic 90’s Nickelodeon TV

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VRV, a fandom-focused digital streaming service, has signed a deal with Viacom and Nickelodeon to launch a new streaming channel dedicated to Nick’s classic 90’s shows and more. The new channel, called NickSplat (yes really), will stream via VRV as an over-the-top service, and will offer fans access to nearly 30 classic series, the companies say.

Its lineup includes series like “AAAHH!!! Real Monsters,” “CatDog,” “Doug,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “All That,” “Are You Afraid of the Dark?,” “Clarissa Explains It All,” “Kenan & Kel,” “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” “The Angry Beavers” “The Wild Thornberrys,” and many others.

VRV says additional shows will be added at a later date.

The channel will also be available both as a $5.99 per month a la carte subscription and it will be included in the VRV premium bundle, which is $9.99 per month. In a sense, the a la carte option is the equivalent of it being its own streaming service, but one without its own standalone platform, as with Viacom’s Noggin, aimed at the preschool set.

VRV’s premium bundle offers a variety of channels beyond NickSplat, including also Ellation’s anime streaming service Crunchyroll, Funimation, Rooster Teeth, Shudder and others, as well as exclusive series like “HarmonQuest,” “Killjoys,” “Thundercats,” and “Gary and His Demons.”

“VRV, with a sophisticated user base that loves the best in animation, is the perfect platform to launch our NickSplat channel,” said Sam Cooper, Viacom Executive Vice President of Distribution and Business Development Partnerships, in a statement about the launch.

“Viacom’s content – including our deep library of genre-defining television – is highly in demand, and our audiences are always looking for new and innovative ways to enjoy our programming. We’re committed to finding the best partners to bring our individual brands direct to the consumer, and this relationship with VRV is an exciting step forward in our strategy,” Cooper added.

VRV arrived in 2016 as something of a competitor to Amazon’s Prime Video Channels, which also provides access to niche digital streaming content in a single destination. However, VRV offers members over 20,000 hours of free content, with the option to upgrade to the Premium tier for more, as well as its exclusives. Amazon’s Channels, on the other hand, is only an a la carte service where members pick and choose which channels they want. There aren’t any channel bundles available at this time.

In addition, unlike Amazon Channels, VRV isn’t targeting a mainstream user base, but has been more focused on serving various fandoms – anime fans, gamers, comics fans, sci-fi and fantasy fans, and others.

With NickSplat, it’s now going after a slightly different demographic – kids who grew up watching Nickelodeon on linear TV and are nostalgic for those old shows. Maybe they even want to stream them for their own kids these days.

For Viacom, a partnership with VRV gives it a chance to monetize its older library content in a different way than throwing it out on a bigger platform, like Netflix (where, frankly, it would be seen by more viewers). However, VRV is not the only place some of these old shows can be found – there are also Nick classic series on other services, like Hulu and Amazon – the latter where they can be purchased by episode or season. In other words, if you’re sorta obsessed with one or two old Nick shows, you may want to just go find them elsewhere. NickSplat only makes sense if you want a big back catalog of classic Nickelodeon.

VRV is available online and as an app on Xbox One, PS4, Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast, Android and iOS.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook’s Kodi box ban is nothing new

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According to recent reports, Facebook has updated its Commerce Policy to specifically ban the sale of Kodi boxes on its site – that is, devices that come with pre-installed Kodi software, which are often used for illegally streaming digital content. However, the ban is not a new one – Facebook confirms its policy on Kodi box sales hasn’t changed since last summer, and its external Policy Page – the one being cited as evidence of the new ban – was updated in December.

It’s true that the changes have flown under the radar until now, though.

The policy change was first reported by Cord Cutters News, and later linked to by TorrentFreak and Techdirt.

The original report claims that Facebook added a new rule on its list of “Digital Media and Electronic Devices” under “Prohibited Content,” which specifically calls out Kodi boxes. It says that Facebook posts “may not promote the sale of devices that facilitate or encourage streaming digital content in an authorized manner or interfering with the functionality of electronic devices.”

The Policy page lists a few examples of what this means, including wiretapping devices, jamming or descrambling devices, jailbroken or loaded devices, and, then “promoting the sale or use of streaming devices with Kodi installed.” (The only permitted items are “add-on equipment for Kodi devices, such as keyboards and remotes.”)

But this ban on Kodi boxes, Facebook says, is not a recently implemented policy.

According to a Facebook spokesperson, it launched a new policy last summer that prohibited the sale of electronic devices that facilitate or are intended for unauthorized streaming or access to digital content – including Kodi boxes. This policy has not changed since last summer, but its external Policy Page – this one being cited by the various reported – was updated in December 2017 to offer additional illustrative examples and more detailed information on all its policies, including the one related to unauthorized streaming devices.

In other words, Facebook has been banning Kodi boxes since it decided to crackdown on unauthorized streaming devices last year. It’s just now being noticed.

The ban affects all posts on Marketplace, Buy and Sell Groups, and Shop Sections on Pages.

Facebook explains it takes a very strong enforcement approach when “Kodi” is mentioned with a product for sale.

As Techdirt pointed out, that’s problematic because the Kodi software itself is actually legal.

However, device makers like Dragon Box or SetTV have been using the open-source Kodi platform and other add-ons to make copyright infringement easier for consumers.

Facebook does seem to understand that Kodi software isn’t illegal, but it knows that when “Kodi” is mentioned in a product (e.g. a device) listing, it’s very often a product designed to circumvent copyright. The company tells us that its intent is not to ban Kodi software altogether, however, and it’s in the process of reviewing its guidelines and these examples to more closely target devices that encourage unauthorized streaming.

That could mean it will, at some point, not outright ban a device that includes Kodi software, but focus more on other terms used in the sale, like “fully loaded” or some sort of description of the illegal access the box provides, perhaps. (Facebook didn’t say what might change.)

As for Kodi, the company says Facebook’s move doesn’t affect them.

“It doesn’t impact us, since we don’t sell devices,” says Keith Herrington, who handles Business Relations at the XBMC Foundation (Kodi).

He said his organization would love to talk to someone at Facebook – since they’ve never been in touch – in order to ensure that devices that are in compliance with Kodi’s trademark policy are not banned. Both Amazon and eBay have worked with Kodi on similar policies, he added.

“We’ve gotten thousands of devices which were in violation of our trademark policy removed from eBay,” Herrington said.

It’s unclear how well-enforced Facebook’s ban really is – I’m in Facebook groups myself where people talk about how to jailbreak “Fire sticks” and include posts from those who sell them pre-jailbroken. (It’s for research purposes. Ahem.)

Industry crackdowns go beyond Facebook

Facebook isn’t the only company that’s attempting to crack down on these devices. Netflix, Amazon and the major studios are suing Dragon Box for facilitating piracy by making it easy for consumers to access illegal streams of movies and TV shows.

In January 2018, a U.S. District Court judge handed down a preliminary injunction against TickBox TV, a Georgia-based set-top box maker that was sued by the major studios, along with streaming services Netflix and Amazon, for profiting from the sale of “Kodi boxes.”

Google has removed the word “kodi” from the autocomplete feature of Search, along with other piracy-related terms.

And more recently, the FCC asked Amazon and eBay to stop selling fake pay TV boxes. It said these boxes often falsely bear the FCC logo to give them the appearance of legitimacy, but are actually used to  perpetuate “intellectual property theft and consumer fraud,” the FCC said in letters to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and eBay CEO Devin Wenig.

Why Streaming Piracy is Growing

There’s a reason Kodi devices are so popular, and it’s not just because everyone is being cheap about paying for access to content.

For starters, there’s a lack of consequence for consumers who do illegally stream media – it’s not like back in the day when the RIAA was suing individuals for pirating music. While there has been some activity – Comcast several years ago issued copyright infringement notices to Kodi users, for example – you can today basically get away with illegal streaming. The copyright holders are currently focused on cutting off piracy at the source – box makers and the platforms that enable their sale – not at the individual level.

The rise of cord cutting has also contributed to the issue by creating a highly fragmented streaming ecosystem. Shows that used to be available under a single (if pricey) cable or satellite TV subscription, are now spread out across services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Sling TV, HBO NOW, and others used by cord cutters.

Customers are clearly willing to pay for some of these services (largely, Netflix and maybe one or two others), but most can’t afford a subscription for each one. And they definitely don’t want to when all they’re after is access to a single show from a network. That’s another reason they then turn to piracy.

Finally, there is the fact that film distributors have forever withheld their movies from streaming services for months, creating a demand for illegal downloads and streams. Though the release window has shrunk some in more recent years, the studios haven’t yet fully bought into the idea of much smaller windows to cater to the audience who will never go to the theater to watch their movie. And when this audience is cut out the market, they also turn to piracy.

Eventually, the record industry adapted to consumers’ desire for streaming, and services like Spotify and Apple Music emerged. Eventually, streaming services may be able to make piracy less attractive, too. Amazon Channels, could become a key player here if it expands to include more add-ons. Today, it’s the only true a la carte TV service available. And that perhaps – not skinny bundles – is what people really want.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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