AppleTV vs. iTV vs. Roku vs. TiVo vs. WTF?

The iPin is AppleTV's latest model, and it's smaller than a grain of rice but 32.5% larger than Plankton from Spongebob.

I’m a long-time advocate of the AppleTV, and intrigued enough by the iTV that I’ve got one on route. So what’s the difference, you ask? First check out Ryan/NewTeeVee’s coverage of AppleTV vs. Roku vs. Boxeee. Liz/NewTeeVee provides more in-depth coverage of the AppleTV/iTV.

So there’s no iTV. It’s just a new version of AppleTV, where the price of the unit was slashed in third. At $99 you won’t likely find a smoother interface to stream your content… assuming it’s as user-friendly and fast as AppleTV’s earlier model (around $300 with some room for storage).

We like the lower entry price making it an impulse buy, and the 99-cent rentals of television shows we miss — despite our best attempts via TiVo or the vintage DVR you’re using because you’re the cable company’s little bitch.

Until now we were buying assloads of missed television shows at twice that price ($1.99), and that’s a bit bloated for a 23-minute show (but certainly fair for an 45-minute show). We’re talking about decent HD, no stupid pre-rolls, an easy interface, and easy purchasing via the credit card Mac has on file. And for 95% of the shows we bought, a rental would be fine.While we’re not happy to see episodes costing $2.99 to own now, we’re hoping that our old AppleTV enjoys a software upgrade that makes it a new one. Otherwise we feel screwed. Except “The Office” and a few other shows, we don’t need to own in a reasonably priced “on demand” word. Wait that’s a drop quote.

We don’t need to own in a reasonably priced “on demand” word.

I find it perplexing that the unwashed masses are only beginning to adopt these things. We’ve got a Roku that’s not used often except for occasional Netflix viewing. The TiVo is the primary device because it plays live Verizon Fios without subjecting us to the horrible Verizon machines… TiVo also allows us to “subscribe” to YouTubers like “Obama Girl” and “Rhett & Link” and “The Onion” and “College Humor.”

Maybe I’ll do a little video demo when I get the new AppleTV because I read Scoble’s tweet that we can use our iPad as a remote to the new AppleTV, something that didn’t seem very easy with the old one.

Bottom line:

  • AppleTV is different in two ways. Cheaper unit ($99 not $300), and now you can rent all that television you missed or if you’re still not paying for access to premium channels because you’re a cheap bastard like me. Wait that made no sense. I’m probably paying more by buying these shows.
  • More choices (in hardware and vendor/price options) means a more confused marketplace but more attention by the mass market. Only one or two will survive, and you’re going to be getting lots of questions from your parents in the next few years. At least there’s no flashing 12:00 to worry about.
  • I’d predict that these will be mainstream by the fall, but I’m a bit gun shy making that prediction a 5th year in a row. I can’t even remember how I hedged this subject in my book, which is coming out in a week or so.
  • If I talk about my book too often, please tell me. I have seen authors do that, and it’s revolting. If I’m walking around with spinach in my teeth, you’d say something right?
  • How the heck did Netflix secure its space in this evolution? We thought they’d be Blockbustered.
  • It doesn’t bother me that only two people read my blog carefully.
  • Seriously- give me one good reason NOT to have a friggin’ Roku/Netflix/TiVo/AppleTV in your house? Sure it’s a few more devices and subscriptions, but we think this Onion spoof on Blockbusters is a reality now. When’s the last time you rented a DVD?
  • Is anyone else feeling like YouTube has gone WAY to far with the pre-rolls lately?

Apple’s iTV: Using Evil Powers to Help The Little Guy?

My A-Team friends and I used to use our special ops training to build cabbage-tossing machines to protect the little guy. And after every car crash, you knew nobody got hurt.

What do Apple’s iTV, the A-Team, Leverage and Burn Notice have in common? Read on…

It’s been rumored that a $99 iTV may soon launched, and Bloomberg is reporting Apple “has a few content deals in the works that will allow iTunes users to rent TV shows for 99 cents” (via Technolog). Most Applephilaholics are fussing about the potential of a new iTouch that offers a camera and other features from the iPhone 4 (it’d be like an iPhone5 without the inconvenience of calls to drop). We at WillVideoForFood are not amused by incremental advancements on these products.

The prospects of iTV is wayyyyy more exciting. AppleTV, despite its strengths, is the red-headed step child of Apple. It’s still a bit expensive ($150 refurbished and $229 for 160GB), and is a conceptual leap for those in love with

  • high cable bills
  • road trips to Blockbusters
  • complicated DVRs
  • and the caveman-like posture from watching video on a laptop
My "Burn Notice" friends and I use our espionage and spy skills to help the little guy

Will a $99 price point change that? Yes if it’s fast and loaded with options. Hulu is cool, but I’ll pay $1.99 for 40-minutes of a cool TV-show to avoid slow streams, buffer problems, cheesy ads, and redirects to the network player. Of course most studios won’t want to piss off their primary revenue stream via cable providers — on the prospects of picking up some uncertain income from the 10’s of thousands of people that pick these up. However if adoption of the iTV doesn’t require a device and becomes pervasive as iTunes then we’ll see a radical improvement of the video space that will remind us of what Steve Jobs did to the music industry.

I’m not saying Jobs isn’t a black-shirt douche bag, and Apple does use its clout to pull a lot of dick moves (Flash-retardant). But iTV could help out the little guy, at the expense of Big Bad Cable.

Here’s what we like:

  1. This could make it increasingly mainstream to enjoy network ‘TV” shows on any device (television, laptop, smart phone/iPhone/iTouch) without the hassle of a damned app for every network.
  2. It will legitimize a pay-per-show model instead of ad-supported networks that are bundled with crap you don’t need. For example, I’ve become a USANetwork junkie (hanging out weekly with my friends on Burn Notice, where we use our skills of espionage to help the little people). I’m also watching a lot of TNT (hanging out weekly with my friends from Leverage, where we use our skills of con, grifting, cyberhacking to help the little people). And sometimes I want to catch up on classic episodes from vintage NBC (where I could revisit my old teenage friends from A-Team, where we use our special ops experience to help the little people). I buy an assload of television shows (despite having a minimalist cable bill), and my consumption would increase if I could rent for 99 cents instead of owning for $1.99 — I rarely watch the show again anyway… and if I miss it on the DVR/TiVO I buy it.

    My Leverage friends and I use our skills to help the little guy. The grifter, thief, hack, con artist... and me.
  3. You and I can pay for what we want. I’ve spent 100 times more on “TV” buying ala cart via AppleTV but I’m okay with that — because I don’t like monthly subscriptions that entitle me to crap I don’t need. My AppleTV is loaded with hundreds and hundreds of television shows… for instance, previous seasons of shows I now love. Force me to the “all you can eat buffet” cable bill and I’m just going to get sick while I eat sub-par food with 400-pound losers. It’s like receiving the stupid newspaper each day… it’s not the cost as much as the feeling of continual waste.
  4. By facilitating ala-cart options for viewers, studios will benefit from a new revenue stream independent of the abusively negotiated cable packages and suppressed ad income… and enjoy going direct to consumers, where they can upsell other shows and even develop sole sponsorships instead of cheap-ass GRP ads. I’ve never paid for HBO in my life, but there are shows I’d buy ala cart including Sopranos (a family who uses its mobster experience to torture the little guys).
  5. The biggest interim beneficiary will be “The New Establishment” (Next New Network, Revision3) who will gladly offer gratis its myriad of semi-pro content (Barely Political, Scam School, Film Riot) to gain vital new eyeballs and audiences. These players are aggressively marketing their content as “value adds” on Roku and TiVo. If we don’t see the Disneys and HBOs willing to adjust their cable-centric models, iTV would want to introduce this free and fresh content instead of old episodes of Alf (an alien who used his little-guy sarcasm for no apparent purpose).
Hi. It's Craig. Remember me? You used to pick on me in grade school. Now I work for a large cable company. So suck my Alf, baby. You'll use my shit-ass device, and buy what I tell you to buy.

Cable Faces Imminent Threat. But Unwashed Masses Too Lazy To Care.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a 100-person Utah company, led by CEO Roxanne Austib, has raised more than $67 million from some prominent backers that include Microsoft Corp., Comcast Corp. and Walt Disney Co.’s venture-capital arm. The goal? Bring television video to homes via the Internet. I know. Crazy, right? What next? A computer in every home?

Move Internet Television: But Moving is Scary. I Like it Here.

If the company pulls it off, you could watch programs via the web, your television-shaped monitor (via a converter box unless it already has an Internet jack or wireless receiver), or via your stupid iPhone or iPad (which some bastard called “the fourth screen” today at a conference, and made my omelette travel back up my throat).

But you won’t.

“…Move isn’t laying cable or launching satellites (so it says it)… can charge consumers far less than traditional pay-television operators for a comparable suite of channels. Move hopes to undercut those operators further by offering a pared-down lineup-perhaps as few as 80 to 100 channels.”

Here’s where it gets interesting. Comcast just launched a service called TV Everywhere that, um, uses Move software to provide its paying prisoners free on-demand access via the web. So will Comcast keep Mmmmoving? Or drop Move like Time Warner dropped its retarded older stepbrother AOL?  I’d expect a bloodbath, and I will enjoy every moment. As the WSJ acknowledged, this “could turn cable providers into little more than utilities, maintaining thousands of miles of dumb pipe-pipe through which Move’s snazzily repackaged TV programming would be flowing.” Say what you will about Comcast, but I don’t think it will become a dumb pipe without a fight.

Would you like to know the very sad “secret weapon” cable maintains? We’re change-adverse, lazy idiots.

He looks like we behave under the trance of lame utility companies.

We take don’t like breaking up with important service providers even when they suck (how many excuses have you used to avoid adopting voice-over-IP?) We default to whatever damned boxes our cable/fiber/phone providers install. The model T Ford comes in black and black. We are statistically proven to prefer the burger with the McDonalds wrapper against the exact same burger wrapped in white paper.

We don’t trust new companies- especially on something important like a utility. What? Clear? Saw them at BestBuy and in lots of newspapers and billboards. But who are they? Verizon’s my phone company. It’s the only one I’m allowed to use. Just like the US Post Office is the only way I can send a letter. Groceries delivered via web order? No I like to smell my canned food before I buy it.

But the TRS-80 Comes With a Tape Recorder AND Basic.

Take TiVo for example. It’s better, but few Comcast or Verizon customers realize they don’t have to put up with the TRS80-like machines the cable/telecom companies issue like obligatory military uniforms. Even better, the AppleTV (for $200) will give you every damned television show or movie you could ever want for a couple bucks and 2 clicks… with no stupid monthly obligation.  Do we buy them? Nope. We’re saving up for an iPad as big as a goitre.

But the Unwashed Masses DO Need Their Fashion Accessories.

So perhaps Move soars over every hurdle and obstacle that cable and telcom companies can lobby into its way. Then it manages to (with a nervous and tempered endorsement from big media and tech players) launch a less expensive, easier, high-quality offering that effectively makes Comcast/Verizon a giant Bill-Murray wielding hose… Some early adopters try it and love it. They tell all their pretend virtual friends. But unless 100% of that $67 million is going into mass advertising, we unwashed masses remain confused, and stick with our drunk & swearing spouses we call cable/telecom. It’s our fault they abuse us.

It's our fault he drinks so much.

Yes, we unwashed masses continue overpaying for never-used cable channels, ignoring the blinking 12:00 on the Betamax, and continue our 45th year of renting standard-issue 30-pound rotary phones for $5 a month from Ma Bell. We unwashed masses already tried your fancy microwave machines and facsimile phones, and that will be enough for now.

The only phone that works with your telcom company. It's not so bad.

Old Media On “Death March,” And YouTube is “Draconian”

We are highly amused by thoughts from former Disney CEO (Michael Eisner) at the recent NATPE event (see TubeFilter for more). Eisner is now CEO of The Torante Company, and its digital studio is called Vuguru. Very web 2.0 branding.

He speaks about traditional media’s “death march,” and says YouTube’s revenue share “draconian.” But he also poured $250K into a web series, Booth, with no distribution strategy. Really?

One can never underestimate the networking power of a media Titan like Eisner. Remember the most important rule for new content creators seeking advertising sponsorship: “sell your audience not your content.” Does professional content, with no distribution strategy, have a shot against “The New Establishment”?

I’m talking about Next New Network, Mondo, FunnyorDie, Machinma, Revision3, Demand Media, MyDamnedChannel, ForYourImagination. These guys are hit and miss, but many have created:

  • Popular content with an existing audience
  • Self-sustaining shows (with existing sponsors)
  • Lower-cost production
  • Solid distribution plans via television sets, websites and devices (Roku, TiVo).

I’ve continued to prematurely predict the demise of the YouTube “star” and the rise of semi-pro content. Look no further than audience size for proof: the top YouTube people have 500K views per day, while the semi-pro content is a fraction of that.

As the appetite increases for more polished content, I’d place higher odds on The New Establishment until online-video “grows up” and becomes… video.

This will especially be true when a major player (Apple, cable, Google, Hulu, whoever) develops a “subscription-based” and “on demand” model so that we can buy content broadly, and not rely strictly on advertising. Remember that charming vision of “3 screens” (television, computer, mobile)?

P.S. Michael if you read this… can you ask your son, Breck, to upload his college film, “Alice in the Underground”? I had a voiceover cameo in that short film, and would love to send my 160K YouTube subscribers to see it!