Jul. 10, 2008

Moving Beyond the DSM-520

We have had great feedback from our DSM-520 users, and we want to offer ActiveTV to many more users!  We are completing development on a UPnP version of ActiveTV...it will first be available for the PS3, XBox 360, and HP MediaSmart TV.  It will offer a limited but powerful set of video content sources, including Hulu, YouTube, CBS.com, CNN.com, ESPN.com, and Netflix.  WOW.  And -- to kick it all off, we are offering a FREE Beta version for folks who have one of these game consoles/TVs.  If you are interested in participating in our Beta, you can subscribe to this blog (we will be offering all subscribers the Beta version) or drop me an email at tracy@themediamall.com and I'll make sure you get on the Beta list!  It is still about 2 months out, but it is something to look forward to this fall!

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Jun. 16, 2008

Welcome Summer - Let the Party Begin!

Despite the rainy and cold weather we have had this Spring in Seattle, it seams the heat wave has really hit the east coast. And with the temperature rising, so are the tempers. I am talking about the cable MSO's tempers. It seems that they have gotten vocal about cable TV networks taking their content online. An article today in Advertising Age quotes Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt as saying "Guess What? We do mind" in response to a question regarding cable TV networks taking their content online for full-length web streaming. Apparently, Time Warner Cable even went so far as to threaten withholding subscriber revenue from Cable TV Networks that publish their content online.  MSO vs. Cable TV Network -- who are you betting on?

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May. 11, 2008

Active-TV.org

The Active-TV movement -- the ecosystem that is developing in support of a PC-assisted methodology for getting Internet-based content to your TV -- has a big supporter and resource in Daniel Mann. His recent post shows why PC-assist is a stronger technology than other proposed options. It is inexpensive -- it can be built into almost any networked STB or TV for a negligible increase to the Bill of Materials (BOM), and it is built for the future -- what I mean is that whatever new technologies are used on the Web to support video and other applications, Active-TV can handle them. Since Active-TV leverages the PC's processing power, and PC's can keep up with the new web technologies, it is an elegant solution to the problem. The other options don't offer affordability or sustainability. One option is to offer an expensive incremental STB, but many folks don't want another set-top, much less spend hundreds of dollars on it. Or, you can attempt to build it right into the TV, but in that case the technology will never be able to keep up with the web given the useful life of a TV is 8 yrs -- think about what video formats we were using 8 years ago, in 2000.... I didn't even watch video on the web back then. The fact that they are expensive and not "built to last" leads me to believe they are simply less elegant solutions. But, there is also lots of hesitancy around the Active-TV solution. PC-assist worries TV OEMs. They don't want the proper operation of their TV to depend on another device -- the PC. But -- they need to get over it. The PC is an asset, not a liability, and it can make the TV significantly more functional, opening the door to more content than we ever dreamed we'd be able to consume on our TVs.

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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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