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    November 21, 2014
    Amazon Preparing Free Ad-Supported Video Service

    I willingly pay the $99 a year to subscribe to Amazon Prime.  Since I have a Kindle Fire, it’s a great deal for me.  Free streaming movies, television episodes, a free book a month, free music, and the wonderful two-day shipping that comes along with the subscription.  I can do all of this stuff from the great Kindle interface, on that great screen, and anywhere I have access to wireless Internet.  Given the growing popularity of Amazon as video retailer, it’s only natural to expand that offering.  Amazon may be offering free streaming video.

    The key is advertisements.  Amazon Prime members won’t have them; the free streaming video service will.  Amazon already has a pretty big business in ad sales, pushing ads onto Kindles, their subsidiary websites (like the IMDb), and other services.  Amazon’s advertising business is already pretty close to $1 billion dollars, and giving their rising share of the video market, the natural cross-sales ability of advertising stuff for sale at Amazon in Amazon’s videos, and the potential to sell more people on Prime memberships, it’s a no-brainer to give it a shot.

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    November 15, 2014
    Sony Launches Internet TV Service

    The PlayStation 4 is a pretty expensive piece of entertainment, but it’s also a very versatile creation.  Not only does it play games and movies and music, it looks like Sony is also turning your PS4 into a cable box.  Granted, it’s a product test right now, but it looks like the Japanese conglomerate is opening up a new front in the war for control of your entertainment dollar.  Sony has announced the Playstation Vue, a TV alternative streaming video package.  It offers a range of channels, plus on-demand content.  All told, Vue is expected to have 75 channels, which is a pretty great deal for cord-cutters.

    Of course, there’s a little catch to a service that sounds so good.  It’s pretty expensive.  Not by cable television standards, but definitely in comparison to other things like Netflix.  However, like Netflix, it’s also free from contracts, so when you’re done with it, you can just cut the service.  It even comes with cloud storage (though it only stores stuff for 28 days before deleting it).

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    October 27, 2014
    Amazon’s $39 Streaming Media Stick

    With HD TVs, the best feature is probably the HDMI ports that come with them.  All you have to do to get high definition picture and sound is just to hook up something like a Blu Ray player or, increasingly, a streaming media device.  Some of these are set-top boxes, but the real fun is in the tiny media stick category.  Amazon has quietly released a $39 streaming media stick called the Amazon Fire TV Stick.  It’s the price of its competitors, the Roku and the Google Chromecast, but it packs a lot of power in a chewing gum-sized frame.

    Says Amazon, ”Fire TV Stick has 50% more processing power and two times the memory of Chromecast; it has six times the processing power, two times the memory and 32 times the storage of Roku Streaming Stick.  This results in faster and more fluid navigation, plus more storage for apps and games.”

    The Fire TV Stick features most of the streaming features you’d expect, like Netflix and Hulu and (of course) Amazon Prime, but here’s the tipping point.  If you’re an Amazon Prime customer, and why aren’t you, then the Fire TV Stick is going to be an extra good bargain.  For the next two days, you can get Amazon’s Fire TV Stick for $19, half the price of the normal $39 pricepoint.  I’ve gone ahead and picked one up, if only because I couldn’t pass up something that cheap.

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    October 14, 2014
    Netflix Offering 4K TV For A Price

    If high definition just isn’t good enough for you, then there’s a solution.  That solution, of course, is 4K television.  If you have one, I’m sure it’s great.  If you don’t have one, then you’ll be on the non-cutting edge of the wave.  If you do have one and you need a new way to show it off, then perhaps consider turning to streaming video.  Just be prepared to pay a little more.

     

    Netflix is adding a surcharge for 4K content.  Instead of getting 4K streaming for your standard $8.99 package, it will now run you $11.99.  Still, if you have a 4K TV, you may as well pay extra to get the most out of your 4K experience, and another $3 a month isn’t that big of a deal.  Granted, most of what’s on there now is documentaries and Netflix’s own series House Of Cards, but maybe you want that extra definition as you watch Kevin Spacey do nefarious things in Washington, D.C.

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    September 3, 2014
    Wordless Wednesday: Grandma’s Remote

    Image: Renzo Soprano’s Twitter

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    August 25, 2014
    TiVo’s Cable-Free DVR

    With every signal-disrupting thunderstorm, I consider even stronger the possibility of cutting out television entirely.  I like DirecTV quite a bit (definitely much more than my current cable option), but that’s both irritating and a disruption to my freelance writing career.  After all, you can’t write about TV if you can’t watch TV.  However, my satellite comes with a DVR, which is a really handy tool to have when you’ve got lots of programs and lots of options all on at the same time.  Those who have cut the cable don’t have that luxury, particularly if they lean on satellite television for their local programming.

    Enter TiVo, the original DVR company, who have a solution.  The TiVo Roamio OTA DVR is a $50 DVR with four tuners designed to record antenna television.  The Roamio packs in four tuners and a 500GB hard drive, meaning you can record about 75 hours of HD television.  As if that wasn’t enough, it also retains TiVo’s streaming media interfaces for Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video, to further make life easier for the cord-cutters.  It still has a $15-per-month TiVo subscription fee, but that’s a small price to pay for a high-tech VCR replacement capable of recording four programs at once.

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    August 20, 2014
    Roku’s Streaming-Media TV

    Roku was one of the first companies to tap the power of the Internet to make the home television experience more pleasant.  Everyone wants to watch YouTube videos, but why watch them on a phone screen when you can watch them on a full-sized television like an adult?  Since then, Roku has only expanded their offerings while improving their services, and this latest announcement from the company may be the biggest, and best, news of all.  Roku is launching their first line of streaming-video televisions dedicated to streaming video.

    If you want to stream it,  you can.  Cable or antenna service is only added after you request it during television set-up, but streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Walmart’s VUDU, Rdio, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and more are all included from the jump, with the bigger services (Hulu, Amazon, VUDU, and Rdio) having one-touch launch buttons on the remote.  The televisions range in size from a 32-inch model for $229 to a 55-inch model for $649 and feature three HDMI inputs, just in case you didn’t have enough with 1500 available streaming channels.  The televisions are all 1080p full HD and are compatible with the Roku app for control via tablets and smartphones.

    The sets themselves will be manufactured by Hisense and TCL, both Chinese companies, and will feature the same features with the same remotes; the Hisense models don’t have an MSRP, with sellers able to set prices.  The TCL sets will be for sale beginning in late August, while the Hisense sets will be available by September.

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    April 25, 2014
    Netflix Coming To Cable Boxes

    If you’re one of the 820,000 subscribers of Atlantic Broadband, RCN Telecom Services, and Grande Communications, then you’re about to get a brand new channel.  Or rather, you’re about to get a new potential channel, assuming you want to pay the subscription fee.  Those three cable companies are ahead of the game on what may very well be the next big trend for both cable companies and for content providers.  Netflix is being added to cable boxes by three small cable companies, with more considering the addition.

    As the companies distribute their TiVo systems, Netflix will be one of the available channels on that system.  You’ll still need a Netflix account, but there’ll be no further need for a video game system or a Roku box or any other way to get Netflix from the internet to your home theater set-up.  The easier it gets, the more likely people are to undertake the process and actually subscribe to Netflix (even if the service is going up by two dollars per month for new subscribers).

    Currently, I have to use my Blu-ray player to get online and get to my Netflix since I don’t have a smart TV.  If I could just use my cable box, I’d be in much better shape (and I’d get a much more responsive remote control, too).  The sooner this becomes a thing, the happier I’ll be.

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    April 4, 2014
    Amazon Launches Fire TV Streaming Media Device

    You can never have enough boxes hooked to your television.  Or rather, you have TOO many boxes hooked to your television and lots of companies are trying to help you simplify your life and pare down your HDMI cable collection by offering superior services for a low price.  Hence, Amazon has entered the fray for home theater domination with a low-cost media player.  Amazon has announced the Fire TV, a streaming media player that hooks your TV to your Amazon Prime, Showtime Anytime, and dozens of other streaming services.

    Amazon helpfully provides a comparison guide for the various streaming media servers right there on the purchase page, probably because it’s looking like it’s the superior product.  Unlike the Roku 3 it doesn’t have HBO Go, but it does have superior sound, a faster processor, more memory, and voice search, which seems like the killer app for this streaming media player, according to none other than Gary Busey.  After all, while the other boxes can always hold more space and get faster and maybe even offer games and voice (Apple, I’m looking at you), only Amazon has Gary Busey yelling at furniture.

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    Will you, like Gary Busey, gravitate to the streaming media player with voice control, akin to how you can talk to your iPhone and your Xbox and whatnot?  Or will the Roku’s HBO Go make the difference and tip the balance away from Amazon (which offers Bloomberg TV for you business types rather than HBO).  Will the fact that the Amazon Fire plays video games as well help tip the choice?  Or will you be holding out or just hooking an older, streaming-capable tablet to your television?

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    January 3, 2014
    Television Trends For 2014

    If you’re looking for the next big thing in television, then there’s no better place to look than the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES.  Every year, the best and brightest of the tech world being their craziest ideas to Las Vegas in the hopes of generating buzz, attention, or just finding some fans.  Well, every year it seems something new pops up in the television world, from 4K technology to 3D at home, and this year is no exception.  With CES approaching, here are five TV trends for 2014.

    Some of these, specifically the 4K television, are already familiar to anyone remotely interested in home theater systems.  Others, like cloud DVR service, won’t be shocking as pretty much everything else is in the cloud right now, so why not your DVR?  It seems like a logical progression.

    The one that really took me aback was non-glasses 3D television.  Having given up 3D for dead given the struggle of the Nintendo 3DS and the closure of multiple 3D television channels, it was beginning to look like 3D was over.  Turns out it may yet come back, only without the annoyance of glasses at home.  Anything to improve the user experience seems like a great idea, as glasses aren’t friendly and glasses that need recharging are definitely not any fun.

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