A Year Over The Top

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This week marks one year of sampling a large variety of over-the-top video hardware and software in a makeshift office lab. Why? To understand the reasons people cut the cable cord, or hang out on the “connected” side of today’s Internet-connected TVs. It seems like a good time to share some findings.

1. What I use the most of the over-the-top services: Amazon Prime. Why? Amazon was first to offer Downton Abbey season two, which I could watch on a Vizio screen at home while “getting steps” on the treadmill. (I am OCD about 10,000 steps per day, thanks to the Fitbit, to which I am wonderfully addicted.)

After that, and still on Amazon Prime: Tanked. Tanked is a family viewing activity, marathon-style - but, alas, the main TV in the house isn’t Internet-connected. So I brought home a Sony streamer, which was dissed at the lab for its clunky on-screen remote (it’s as clunky on the Sony PS3). But, it has Amazon Prime. The Tanked binging continued in the living room.

2. Observation: Be careful what you wish for, in terms of user experience. OTT apps like Netflix and Amazon, as well as cable-video apps like Comcast’s Xfinity TV, can use or not use various native features within each streaming device. This means the same app can behave differently from one screen to the next. (Maybe we’ll all just get used to this?)

When marathon-viewing Nurse Jackie on the Vizio screen, for instance, the Amazon app keeps track of episodes I’ve seen with a simple check mark. No such feature on the Sony streamer upstairs. Same app, same show, but you need to remember which episode you watched last.

The flip side of that, which comes with DLNA, is that any software-based video app can leverage native device features that are cool or handy.

Example: At the Cable Show in June, on a back wall of the CableNET area, Cox Communications showed how its Trio guide had taken advantage of a native feature inside a Sony connected TV, such that in-show navigation happens on a scroll bar, frame by frame. It looked great.

3. What I use the most at work: Comcast’s AnyPlay, fed by Motorola’s Televation box. Live, streaming cable TV on the iPad. Love it. Make it do trick-play, I’d love it even more.

That’s a short walk through a year’s worth of OTT-ing in the lab. Next time: What all that streaming did to the broadband meter; the puzzle of getting a signal to everything; and the multiplier on remote-control clutter.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at translation-please.com or multichannel.com/blog.

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