May. 1, 2008

Broadband's Abundance - What Does It Mean

Will Richmond's recent article on Broadand's Abundance really hit home with me. Excerpted:

"Broadband explodes the scarcity model, introducing a world of abundance in which every scarcity constraint is alleviated or erased. Abundance thinking has guided online retailers for years: offering incremental inventory is dirt-cheap, and if made easily discoverable, it will find its buyers."

This is sure to have a profound impact on Broadcast -- cable operators in particular -- and they will need to work to define their role in the Broadband TV/Video world. Why DVR your shows anymore -- when you can simply watch them when you want from the vast Internet library? There are a few reasons in today's world: (1) desire to watch on your TV vs PC and (2) quality. Getting the content from the Internet to your TV still isn't easy (that is what our product ActiveTV does, but it is still in its infancy). And, even with the available technologies, HD isn't an option -- the current Broadband networks simply can't handle High Definition. But, with the pace of advances in Broadband technology, can it be that long before consumer broadband can easily handle HD? And -- given the warm reception ActiveTV and related technologies are getting, can if be long before these become mass market? (I hope not!). 

For sure, it will take a while for Broadcast to go away (It tool 10ish years for Digital Cable to completely replace analog -- from the '96-'02 digital upgrade until '09 when analog will  completely, and in that case, the Cable Operators had incentive to eliminate analog).  The cable companies have one of the most powerful pipes into our homes - something that they can and do leverage as the landscape changes. I am interested to see how they take advantage of their power and address the logical change to storage of content on the Internet vs. at the cable Head End and on our DVRs and the delivery of content via Broadband vs. Broadcast/Cable. It will be an exciting evolution that will, for sure, take much longer than we expect.

What do you think will happen to cable as we know it?

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Apr. 23, 2008

RELEASE! and DSM 520 Upgrade

Here it is -- the last ActiveTV release...http://www.themediamall.com/dlink/install

Also -- If you are one of the select few who have version 1.04.xx of the D-Link MediaLounge software, you will need to manually upgrade your firmware -- this is because for whatever reason, D-Link doesn't recognize this as an older version (even though we are on .06 now). How do you know what version you have? On your 520, click the setup button on the Remote Control, then scroll down to version and enter.  If it says 1.04.xx or less, you will need to manually upgrade (the auto search won't upgrade you). To manually upgrade, put these 2 files on a usb key and plug the usb key into the front of your DSM 520 -- it will auto-detect and upgrade. This is not an ActiveTV upgrade, but gets you back on D-Link's official upgrade path so that you will get all future upgrades automatically (including the ActiveTV one posted above, which will be released by D-Link in the coming weeks).

Enjoy!

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Apr. 15, 2008

Release?

OK – so I spoke too soon (it happens...). The release IS coming – it will be out by 4/26. We encountered a bug that takes hours to replicate, so resolving it has taken a loooooooong time. Folks are working on fixing it tirelessly and my hat is off to them.

I have seen some speculation that we are adding Hulu support in this release – and want to set the record straight (and manage expectations a bit). In fact, we have included the technical capability to watch Hulu content (the good news), but we haven’t yet completed the ad insertion piece (the bad news). Since Hulu uses their own video/ad player, it will take some time for us to include that. But, it is coming – just not in this release. If you REALLY want a sneak preview, you can request the update file from us (email me at tracy@themediamall.com) and we can give it to you once it is ready – but this will only be a BETA/sneak preview and not the official, sanctioned code.

Thanks to the folks who have started reading our blog and commenting on it. I hope it is both enjoyable and helpful. If there are topics you are interested in, please let me know so we can address them here.

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Apr. 13, 2008

The Dalai Lama -- It Takes A Village

Really. The Dalai Lama is visiting Seattle and doing a 5-day event the Seeds of Compassion - about teaching compassion to our kids. I had the pleasure of seeing His Holiness in person on Friday and I gotta say - WOW. Very cool. He is an impressive individual (identified at age 2 as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama; trained as a monk; exiled to Northern India when China took control of Tibet; Nobel Peace Prize Winner; and purveyor of Peace and Human Kindness).  He believes that Compassion is one route to peace -and that we can all make a difference. He was personable and funny, thoughtful and kind. He has a deep interest in the scientific basis for compassion (there is suprisingly quite a bit). As part of the program, a number of distinguished panelists shared their stories of hope, their research on compassion, and their questions for His Holiness - making it an inspiring couple of hours. I will certainly not do his message justice here, but suffice it to say, I will be finding more compassion within myself and giving it away whenever I can - be that in personal interactions or community involvement.

The importance of raising our children with compassion became abundantly clear - they are our hope to end war, save the planet, and relieve human suffering. The lessons were clear. The directive - simple. Act with compassion - every day. Children learn by example and if we all act compassionately every day, there can be no place for war.

As I reflect, one story really captured the power inside each child. While all the stories of hope were quite inspiring - the one Mary Gordon told really stuck with me. A child who had been mistreated his entire life (saw his mother murdered, was raised in the foster system, was never loved, had failed 2 grades before age 14) had risen above his circumstances and found compassion for a little baby. He held and cuddled the little baby to a deep slumber. He then asked his teacher "Do you think someone who has never known love can be a good father?" Mary then closed her story by saying: "We all know it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes it also takes a child to raise a village." Amen.

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Apr. 11, 2008

Customer Sat #1

I'm am not one to toot my own horn, but I wanted to share this post for any folks who are frustrated with getting ActiveTV to work on their 520. And -- it isn't technically my horn I am tooting, since I don't actually perform the customer support function at MediaMall. We think solving the customer's problem is priority #1 -- if it isn't working for you, we want to know about it -- so we can resolve it for you and anyone else who may be experiencing the same thing. Thanks to wa4qfy for the kind comments which I have excerpted here:

"I can not speak for everyone, but I have NEVER found a support group for a company that really went out of their way to resolve the problem like MediaMall Support."

WOW! We are honored! The full post is here: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showpost.php?p=13611108&postcount=1678. If you have a problem, give us a call!

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Apr. 8, 2008

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same...

It's happening -- the shift of ad dollars online.  According to Reuters, the Online Advertising spend will overtake TV Ad spend in the UK in 2009.  That's next year!  The US can't be THAT far behind -- especially with all the new online video content initiatives that are giving consumers a reason to watch.  Let's face it -- it is nice to be able to watch any back episode of House on Hulu (especially if your DVR erased it due to limited space).  And, where the consumers are is where the advertisers want to be - kind of.  I learned something new about Madison Avenue (which perhaps should be obvious, but wasn't to me).  It turns out that advertisers would much rather place an online ad next to an episode of the Simpons than a video of "Meatface" pumping iron as is evidenced by the fact that Hulu has already sold out of advertising inventory -- despite the fact that they have only a fraction of the viewers that YouTube has.  Of course, advertisers want to control what their brands are associated with -- even if that means paying MORE for access to FEWER eyeballs.  Our new advertising partner, Spotxchange pointed this out to me as I was putting together the description of the benefits of MediaMall for potential advertisers -- I thought -- "put your ad next to the consumer's favorite YouTube clip while they are watching it on the TV" was extremely compelling.  After all -- since the consumer is watching Internet video on their TV, they are less likely to surf away during the commercial (no mouse) or be doing email while the pre-roll runs (no keyboard) -- shouldn't this be an online advertiser's dream?  Not so much.  The feedback I received (thanks Doug) was: Emphasize the major network content (NBC/Fox shows etc.) and downplay YouTube, Madison Avenue doesn't like having their ads show next to poorly-produced, potentially offensive clips (no offense to the UGC).  OK -- so my pitch is -- "display your ad while a consumer is watching a NBC TV show on their TV".  Wait -- isn't that what they already do?  But -- now it is less expensive with more accountability (CPM).  I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same...

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Apr. 7, 2008

Did I Miss Something?

So one of my former colleagues from GetConnected emailed me -- "I was reading your blog and I feel like I missed something..." Yeah -- I guess a lot has changed. I have moved beyond the Web on PC experience and jumped into the Web on TV experience (not to be confused with the WebTV experience -- this time we're focusing on what you want to do in front of your TV and what your TV is made for -- watching video). To further the confusion, I made a brief (2 year) pit stop along the way in online recruiting (Jobster), but am now back on the Broadband Video path. Phew. It was kinda fortuitous though -- The ActiveTV product took A LONG time to build and get to market (four years!) -- so even though I took a pit stop, I was re-engaged before the product was in consumer hands (Oct. 07). AND -- I was able to meet some of the coolest and most talented folks I have ever had the pleasure to work with -- the old Jobster team. What is great is that almost all of my former Jobster colleagues have been bitten by the start-up bug -- and started things themselves! Hats off to:

Ethan Lowry, Adam Doppelt and Patrick O'Donnell at UrbanSpoon -- www.urbanspoon.com

Dave Lefkow at BaconSalt -- www.baconsalt.com

Marty Unger at YouSaidIt -- www.yousaidit.com

Alan Steele and Phil Bogle at Merge Lab -- www.mergelab.com

Neil Crist and Tracey Middlemas at Prosys Group -- www.prosysconsultinggroup.com

Kerry Rupp at HolidayGoLightly -- www.holidaygolightly.com

Mark Maunder at FeedJit.com -- www.feedjit.com

Tony Wright at RescueTime -- www.rescuetime.com

Jason Goldberg at SocialMedian -- www.socialmedian.com

And for sure, I am missing some (feel free to pipe in). All of these Founders deserve kudos for just jumping into their own things. Maybe it is the times, but starting something is always hard and always takes guts. I'd say this legacy points to the fact that it was a REALLY great team with some awesome talent.

So - yeah, it was a circuitous route -- and if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing!

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Apr. 1, 2008

New Release - Coming Soon!

Although I am an April Fool for sure (born on the 2nd), this is no April Fools joke ;) I am so excited about our new software release (2.57 - coming out next week). I just spoke with David -- our CTO (in Denmark) and Jeff -- our CEO (in NY), and WOW -- it is really jam-packed. We are adding in advertising for the first time with Tremor Media and SpotXchange; there is a bunch of new content (Hulu, Howcast, CNN, ESPN, and lots more), a registration mechanism (so we can figure out how many folks are installing MediaMall). We also recently released a new standalone UPnP Media Server. Obviously the dev team has been seriously cranking. Once we release it, D-Link will post it to the DSM-520 user base so that folks can get the latest stuff. And -- I'll let you know when it is available as well.

I hope your day is filled with Fun and Adventure as we enter Q2 and Spring!

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Mar. 28, 2008

Thanks Jeff for the Great Review

Jeff Gedgaud just did a product review of the D-Link DSM-520 MediaPlayer (the first device powered by MediaMall).  They call the MediaMall feature ActiveTV, and his review of the DSM-520 was as follows:

Ease of Use, Performance: 23/25, Look & Feel: 23/25,
Features 25/25, How much I enjoy 24/25

Total: 95/100

And his review of MediaMall:

"The system is very easy to use and the additional software I installed went automatically to install the Active TV setup and the system had the most up to datefirmware. Active TV is a service provider that adds a section on your media player that has movies, videos and audio like You Tube, MovieLink and VH1 VSpot. You can also get several other pay per view providers such as CinemaNow and Movielink where you can rent or buy full length movies from current release hits to older movies.

These pay per view or monthly subscription services are all available through your PC as well as the media player so you can watch them on your TV or PC. That is one feature that is really nice, especially for finding videos on sites like You Tube, you can browse on your PC to find the content you want and then save it for later viewing. Using the media player to browse for videos is not exactly user friendly so finding them on your PC may be a bit easier. "

Yes - we know the ActiveTV YouTube page is not the best for browsing and searching.  We need to add some features to it -- like an on-screen keyboard and some better browsing features.  It is on the list ;).  We are hoping that YouTube itself will create and manage a great 10-foot UI page, but we're not holding our breath.

I have a question for editors writing about the DSM-520.  Why does MediaMall never get mentioned as the service provider of this great ActiveTV feature?  Is the MediaMall name bad?  Should we call the product Active-TV Player or something like that?  Or is our PR department just really bad (ha! we don't have one -- isn't that obvious?)  We're open to suggestions!

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Mar. 25, 2008

Video Advertising - Keep it open!

I am thrilled about the eMarketer stat — behavioral targeting is projected to grow to a $4.8 billion market by 2012 -- and it seems online video will be taking over the majority share of that.  One of the barriers that has been raised to behavioral targeting with online video is the fact that the cookie data (which stores the users behavior, enabling the ad network to decide which ad to display based on the users behavior -- aka behavioral targeting) often resides in the player -- which, of course, are not standardized.  Eric Franchi raises the issue in his article Behavioral Targeting and Online Video: Making It a Reality: “Cookie data may be utilized to deliver video as it does now for display, but not in every player format (formats being Flash, Windows Media and Real Player to name a few).”

We came across this barrier recently when trying to integrate an ad network into MediaMall.  Since we use our own player that enables the video to play on the TV vs. PC, we needed an ad network that didn't require the cookie data be stored in the player.  We found that, in fact, the logic for using cookies can reside in the page, in standardized jscript, regardless of what player is being used to actually play the media. And that cookie intelligence can then just instruct the player (whatever player it is) to play a given ad once it makes a decision on what to play.  Both tremormedia and spotxchangeuse jscript in the page vs. logic in the player. So — the fact that so many ad networks bake their intelligence/logic into the player, instead of keeping it in jscript in the page, which is video-format agnostic will slow the growth of the category.  I hope to see more ad networks adopting the open approach!

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Top FAQs

What is PlayOn?
PlayOn is software that you install on your Windows PC. It allows you to use your Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Roku, iPhone, Android phone or another supported device to access movies and shows from content providers like Hulu, Netflix, Comedy Central, CBS, YouTube, MLB.tv, your personal media, and many more. PlayOn is both browser and media server software, built into one. It browses content from various online providers, and displays that content directly on your TV, iPhone or Android phone.
How does it work?
PlayOn runs in the background on your PC over your home network. It uses standards called UPnP and DLNA to communicate with networked gaming consoles,TVs, and mobile phones working both as an internet browser to access online media and as a UPnP media server to serve videos to UPnP compliant devices. Learn more
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