Television

I Cut the Cord

About a month ago I decided to cut the TV package off of my Google Fiber account. I simply couldn’t justify paying for all the channels I never watched. Like all TV services, Google is forced to buy network packages, so everyone ends up getting a flood of channels they’ll never watch. In my case, it was all of the Spanish language channels, a ton of sports programming and religious networks, children’s programming, and home shopping networks. When I took a look at the channel line up, out of hundreds of channels that were being offered there were probably 15 to 20 that I wanted, and 6 of those were available over the air for free with an HD antenna. So I did some math added up the cost of services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, DirectTV Now and figure I could save close to 100 bucks a month if I dropped the Google TV package and went 100 percent streaming.

Now, before anyone jumps on the Google Fiber bashing bandwagon, let’s get something straight this is the same situation for any cable and internet service provider because the networks have them hamstrung. The same thing applies to Rectum, I mean Spectrum (formerly Time Warner), Cox, SureWest, ATT, DirectTV, Dish, and on and on. They all have to buy the big network packages and offer more than any customer ever really needs. There simply is no ala carte TV solution available for consumers, which sucks. Given the opportunity, I would buy each channel I watch for a set price and be done with it. Unfortunately, that isn’t coming anytime soon from what I can tell.

Here I am about 4 weeks in, and I don’t think I’ll go back. I don’t have a DVR, although there are plenty of options available. I have access to the content I want to watch. I’m actually watching less TV and engaging more with content like TED Talks on my Apple TV. Since I never watched anything beyond the national news in real time I don’t feel like I am missing any programming that I am interested in, and thanks to my Smart TV from Sony I have Netflix and Amazon built in with both offering 4K content that looks great. My only gripe is networks like CBS are trying to force me to install their app and then pay for individual shows which means I am forced to watch programs like 60 Minutes, and CBS Sunday morning on my Computer or iPad through the CBS News websites, and I’m OK with that.

Over the last year Pay TV has continued to decline as streaming services continue to produce original content, and offer up programming available from other networks. I don’t see this trend ending which is going to force the major networks and cable providers to rethink their strategy. They are going to have to figure out a new model because I’m not the only one cutting the cord and moving on.

Out of all the channels shown below, the highlighted ones are those that we watched, and some of those were few and far between. 5 of them are available for free over the air in HD. 220+ channels and we were watching 15 of them.

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The Kitchen.

Most people never realize just how much work goes into producing a TV commercial. For the most part what we see, if we are fast-forwarding over them, is the fifteen-second edit of the original sixty-second spot. They whiz by in a blip sandwiched between other ads that blend into a seamless stream of no one paying attention. But occasionally someone posts a video showing how things get done.

Have you ever wondered how they match the 3D animations to live action footage? Blend shots together? What the total production of a video looks like?  The video below for Canal+ shows you. No it doesn’t go into any lengthy detailed VFX breakdown, but it does give you a pretty solid idea of what it took to produce the promotional spot titled “The Kitchen”.

The finished sixty second spot

How they made it.

Every 2016 Super Bowl 50 Commercial Right Here

SB50Well this Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, and frankly my give a rip factor is at about zero. It’s not that I’m anti football, it’s just that I really don’t care to watch the Bronco’s play in another one. This is what, number 9 since 1977. I would say I’m going to record it to watch the commercials but the reality is why? All the commercials are now leaked online before the game, so if you really want to see them you can. No need to tune in and sit through the Super Bowl in order to catch some “million dollar thirties”.

Which brings me to this question. Have Super Bowl commercials jumped the shark?

I would have to say yes, because there is no point in forking over that kind of money, for a spot that will air once, probably be missed, not heard, or forgotten, and will only be re-aired as a cut down fifteen second spot for even more cash. The Super Bowl has marquee factor, but if your thirty or sixty second spot is supposed to make an impact, sell a good or service, and be memorable I’m thinking it has less of a chance these days. Every Super Bowl party I have been to, people are yacking it up and having a good time. When the commercial break happens, it’s hard as hell to hear it, sometimes see it,  let alone remember what it was for.

So, if you are  like me and just don’t give a damn about the game this year, but do want to see what a few million buys you in TV advertising, all the commercials are right here. Oh, and a number of these are the full 60 second extended version of the ad.

I think I’m going to go see a movie Sunday night. I’m pretty sure I’ll have the theater all to myself.

Gatorade’s 360 Degree Immersive Baseball Experience is Pretty Damn Cool.

With the Kansas City Royals about to clinch their first division title in 30 years my head has been a little baseball focused these days. This afternoon I came across a new interactive ad from Gatorade designed to work in Chrome, or the latest mobile app version of YouTube. Yes unfortunately for some, you have to check this out in Chrome.

What we have is a 360 degree virtual reality baseball experience that puts you the viewer in Bryce Harpers Point of View (I wish it was a Royals player though). When you load the video you can pan around the stadium from the on deck circle while waiting to get up to bat in the bottom of the 9th. Then you get to go toe to toe with a Major League pitcher and see if you can smack a fastball out of the park.

 

It’s a great use of technology with little product placement or marketing going on. It is however memorable and there is a tiny little Gatorade logo in the bottom right corner of the video reminding you who brought you this experience.

10 Things I Want Google Fiber to Fix.

google-fiber-bunny

UPDATE:

When I wrote this post over a year ago, I was a Google Fiber user. Since then I have moved and spent the last 18 months with Consolidated Communications (Surewest). I have no idea if Google fixed or implemented any of the items listed below. I’m sure they have, Google is a smart company and listens to their customers.

I also want to say that in the last 20 plus years I have used Time Warner, and AT&T for cable and internet service. Yesterday, I signed back up for Google Fiber after it became available in my area. Yes I am going back to Google because it is simply that much better. I say this as someone that works from home, needs the speed and dependability that I had with Google Fiber before. Sorry, Time Warner, AT&T, and Surewest, your products, customer service, bandwidth, and consistent up-time fail compared to Google Fiber.  

Consolidated Communications (Surewest) is every bit as bad as Time Warner in terms of speed and service going out. I have lost my internet service a half dozen times  in the last year during work hours and have had to go to Starbucks or the Library to continue doing my job. So, when you read what is posted below, remember Google Fiber is still better than any of the alternatives out there. 

Back around the first of December I finally got my Google Fiber. Having been a solid user of both the TV and internet service for the last 90 plus days, I have to say it’s pretty damn great. I also have to say if it went away, I’d never go back to Time Warner Cable. Google Fiber isn’t perfect, but it blows TWC out of the water. All in all I like the service. There are however a few things I’d like to see Google fix, add, or improve as they continue to roll out and update the service.

Google, if you are listening, this the top ten list of what I would like.

  1. The Tablet that Google gives is called a “Super Remote” and for the most part it is. What it needs though is a volume control for the TV, and the ability to turn the TV on and off.
  2. When you fast forward or rewind, playback needs to jump a couple of seconds in either direction. You know so when you stop, it attempts to override your slow reflexes and jumps back to the point you want to stop at, not the place your slow finger led you too.
  3. While the TV browser is solid, and much better than anything TWC has, Google should take a page from the Logitech playbook and look at how the Logitech Review implemented their UI/UX for browsing and search for shows. The Review showed the promise of what “Google TV” could be.
  4. I want the ability to install apps on the set-top box. Yes I really do. I want to be able to install things like Amazon Prime and then watch the content on my TV. No I do not want to buy Chrome Cast. I want a native feature that lets me install apps. Once again, Google needs to look at the Logitech Review.
  5. If I can’t install apps, then maybe Google could add Chrome to the current app list that is on the set-top box. Things like Amazon Prime work just fine via Chrome.
  6. I want to hide all the channels I never watch. Maybe you can already do this and I simply don’t know how. If that is the case, Google needs to make that feature easier to find.
  7. Playlists. I really want the option to create playlists of my favorite channels. If this is the future of TV, then this is a must have.
  8. 802.11 AC. I have a super fast fiber connection. I’d like a WiFi connection to match. The 802.11n is great, but I want to take full advantage of AC on all my AC equipped devices.
  9. AMC. I know this is a tough one, but the premier of Mad Men is coming and I miss watching it and recording it to my DVR.
  10. Fix your DVR smart recordings. I’m not sure what is up, but there are a bunch of TV shows I have set to record only first run episodes. For some reason it records re-runs as well. I have a feeling this is because of the way the station tags the broadcast metadata but I’m not sure. Either way it would be nice if this stopped happening.

All in all I really can’t complain about the Google Fiber experience so far. Like I said before it blows away what I had with Time Warner Cable. The fiber connection is fast as hell, especially when you are hard wired to the fiber box. Apps like Netflix are instant on with no buffering, frame drops, or picture degradation due to poor bandwidth. The Google Fiber experience has so far been great, from install to billing, to customer service. They just need to improve a few things, which I’m sure they will as they move forward.

“InAir TV”. SeeSpace Blurs the Lines of Your TV Experience.

A few years ago as CES wrapped up I posted about the beginning of the convergence between TV, your computer, and other content mediums. While the progress has been slow, it is definitely underway. Now days almost every TV, Blueray player, and DVD player is net connected with smart apps that allow for additional content delivery. Other hardware devices like the Roku box, Logitech’s Review, and Google’s Fiber initiative are continuing to blur the lines between a passive TV experience, and a deeper, richer interactive experience.

As CES winds down, one of the more exciting things to come from it this year is SeeSpace’s InAir TV, which brings an augmented reality experience to your TV set. InAir TV places Web content inline with the consumers’ TV viewing experience, without having to switch to a second screen. This creates a completely new dynamic medium similar to the UI?UX in the movie “Minority Report”.

The InAir TV which is still in KickStarter phase, involves using augmented reality technology to overlay additional content analyzed from what you are watching. The secondary content floats on a 3D layer between the TV picture and the viewer if you have a 3D TV. This second layer of content creates a more interactive, intuitive, and dynamic viewing experience. For example, if you are watching a Formula 1 race, you would be able to pull up the drivers, their stats, track conditions, leader info, points and standings, plus more. Instead of shrinking the picture on your TV screen to fit the additional information in, it would float above, or beside enhancing the viewing experience.

Interface-1

The hardware is controlled in two ways. The first allows you to control InAir TV using your smartphone using its screen as a track pad. The second takes it to the next level by allowing you to use gesture control via a Kinect, or Leap controller.

KeynoteScreenSnapz003

SeeSpace will be launching a Kickstarter campaign later this month and will be available to pre-order for $99 later this year.

Did You Get Your Daily Fiber? I Get Mine Through Google.

20131201-162038.jpgBy this time tomorrow I’ll basking in the high speed glow of Google Fiber. My loft will be wired with the service and Time Warner Cable will be a fast fading memory. After 9 months of waiting the Fiber will be wired in and running tomorrow morning and frankly I can’t wait. If you read my blog you probably know that Time Warner has been a nightmare with horrible hardware, software, and performance issues. At times I was lucky to have an internet connection faster than dial up, especially at the house on Lloyd in KCK. So anything, and I mean anything is better than Time Warner Cable running on Scientific Atlanta hardware, featuring the worst UI and menuing system on the face of the planet.

Yesterday when I called Time Warner to cancel service, their customer service reps through everything at me to get me to stay. First it was a gift card to Best Buy. I haven’t shopped at a Best Buy in years, and based on everything I read about them these days, neither has anyone else. Next it was the free bundle upgrade for a year. I could have gotten, a Time Warner phone upgrade (people under the age of 70 still have land lines?), or I could have received the premium channel upgrade with free HBO for a year. Apparently Time Warner doesn’t realize that a large group of people watch HBO and like programming through online services, or through HBO’s dedicated apps for iOS and Android. I was on the phone with two very nice women that literally didn’t want to take no for an answer and would do anything to keep me, including dissing Google Fiber customer service, pricing structure, Internet performance, and channel line up. Is Time Warner worried about Google Fiber eating their lunch? It sure felt like it to me.

Here’s the deal, Time Warner for years has had a monopoly on the local cable service. They have also had a bit of a strangle hold on internet service. Case in point, Time Warner was my only option at my old house on Lloyd, and for the first 5 years in Union HIll. During the last 4 years, Time Warner has continued to take my money and provided a sub-standard product. The hardware feels like something from the Stone Age with a user interface and overall user experience that is absolutely abismal. Even the simplest things like searching for a program are painful, feeling like sending a text message on a cell phone a decade ago. I know I am not the only person that feels this way.

If you search online, you will find thousands of rants about Time Warner Cable. Most of the people complaining are griping about the same issues I was. Slow connection speeds during peak hours, antiquated hardware, having to schedule half a day off from work while you wait for a service tech to show up at your house, service being out on a regular basis and not being compensated for the down time, mediocre customer service reps, etc. These are the kinds of ongoing issues that have people looking for any excuse to Drop Time Warner in favor of anything else. Now I’m not saying Google Fiber is going to be perfect. No technology is, but it is going to be a million times better than what I have been dealing with for the last 4 years guaranteed.