AT&T Looking To Become $500 Million Netflix Rival

The broadband industry looks set to get a super-fast competitor staking a claim to market domination in the form of AT&T’s expanding ‘GigaPower’ brand, and a perfect compliment to such a statement of intent would most likely be a streaming service to showcase what can be done with such signals, and while that is indeed what the company have confirmed (in not so many words), this week the pair of semi-connected moves were announced in reverse order.

peter_chernin_excellentThe telecommunications giants have suggested that it will be an ambitious new service that they launch in an attempt to compete with the likes of Netflix, offering a subscription streaming platform in co-operation with ex-News Corporation president Peter Chernin to provide ‘over-the-top video services’.

While no firm details have been confirmed, it is believed that the partners (AT&T and media investment firm The Chernin Group) have committed around $500m to making such a service work.

Such funding for the proposed venture would be invested in supplying both ‘video-on-demand channels’ and generalized streaming services, with those in charge undecided as to whether they could try to make money from the subscription route a la Netflix, advertising in the manner of YouTube, or by letting consumers decide between the options as Hulu does.

Believed to be the next step in am AT&T/Chernin collaboration which first saw them attempt to make a joint purchase of Hulu, the interest in streaming from the two parties is clear, and may potentially head in the direction of The Chernin Group’s existing operations, namely following on from their stake in anime specialist site Crunchyroll by offering more niche video websites.

In a statement on the matter, Chernin summarised: “Consumers are increasingly viewing video content on their phones, tablets, computers, game consoles and connected TVs on mobile and broadband networks.”

With the potential to incorporate a video service into existing cable, telecommunications, or future giga-broadband deals, the AT&T and Chernin Group partnership could be one with a strong foundation given their financial clout, but will it be able to deliver where other aspiring Netflix-beaters have failed?

Amazon Tilt In Preference Of 3D Smartphone

In a move that would edge the world one step closer to Samsung’s proposed dream of augmented flexi-viewing of day-to-day life, rumours have emerged surrounding the first-ever Amazon smartphone.

amazon_in_3dSuch a product has been rumoured for a long time, with further rumours establishing the likelyhood that the screen of it will be 3D-capable, rumours which are now close to being confirmed, according to leaked reports by BGR.

The device, still yet to be confirmed by the online retail specialists, is one which is set to be able to utilise ‘unique gesture controls’, as opposed to a finger-based touchscreen (or the tried-and-apparently-now-slipping flexible screens). More literally on top of that fact, a key function of this currently hypothetical handset is reportedly to display ‘additional details’ if the device is tilted in a different direction, a feate believed to be accomplished via ‘retina-tracking technology’ embedded within four corner-based ‘front-facing cameras’ carrying sensors.

An example given is that labels are set to appear underneath app icons in order to offer a description of their function, whilst, tilting the device in a maps service can bring up a business’ Yelp ratings in an almost augmented-reality presentation format above the map location. For Amazon’s more in-house services, the innovation is thought to include integration of IMDb ratings and information on top of a title in Amazon’s video stores, and tilting to display alternative imagery on any product within Amazon’s main retail site.

Adding to the augmented reality side of the phone’s potential, it is thought that a further feature could be the ability to use the rear-facing camera as a means of ‘reading’ and interpreting written documents or general text on real-life objects into more legible computerised versions that can instantly be converted into a passage of text on-screen, in a similar manner to language translation services available around the internet.

However, the innovations could be at the cost of what consumers are now used to, with plans also reportedly featuring the potential removal of any touchscreen menu buttons, with tilting again the method of control in that area of the product, though innovation will again come in the movements triggering ’tiles’ to appear in ‘X-ray’ format overlaying the existing screen.

Whether or not such options will be available upon Amazon’s highly-anticipated announcement remains to be seen, though there could be an assumption that whatever released, unlike Apple’s recent slowing of innovative features, will at least be… something different…

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AT&T Chomping At The Gigabit To Offer Improved Streaming

In a potential move to compete with Google‘s developing ‘Google Fiber’ super-fast internet service, American telecommunications giants AT&T are said to be proposing a ‘major expansion’ of their competing service, with designs on covering as much as 100 municipalities within 25 metropolitan areas across the country.

at&t_speed_demonstrationThe service from AT&T, known as GigaPower, carries a 1 gigabit/second speed cited as being 100 times more powerful than the national average, leading naturally to much more seamless downloads of content including videos and the capability for more connected devices to share the network signal with minimal impact on overall speed.

Whilst currently only operating this function in the Texan city of Austin (USA) and a commitment to expand to nearby city Dallas, AT&T are also in ‘advanced talks’ to propose roll-outs of GigaPower in two markets of the state of North Carolina, in the form of Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem.

Beyond that, AT&T claim further expansions of their ‘symmetrical’ service (designed to have equal download/upload speeds) will be dependent on discussions with relevant city officials and an assessment of local demand for such a service, though they will limit themselves to areas in which they have landline operations, primarily the south of the USA.

Looking to keep up with peak speeds of the most developed internet infrastructures in the world (including the regions of East Asia and Northern Europe), as well as increasing demand from both home and business sectors, will consumers soon be able enjoy a better quality of internet in the USA? If you are in any of AT&T’s future planned metropolitan markets (Atlanta, Augusta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Worth, Greensboro, Jacksonville, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Oakland, Orlando, St Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose) you could soon be in luck…

Lori Lee, AT&T’s ‘senior executive vice-president for home solutions & business’, summarised of the need for better-quality broadband: “We see this as where the world is going. We are about skating where the puck is going and not necessarily where it is today.”

Of course, should AT&T want to go even further with their ethos and target a little extra broadband power in anticipation of future demand, then you can be fairly sure their internal researchers could squeeze out an extra, say, 21% to bring a total speed of… what?

Roku Finally Gets Official Youtube Channel For Current Models

The little Roku media streamer that packs thousands of channels into it’s small frame has always had one serious flaw, the omission of any official Youtube channel on some models.

Roku-YoutubeDepriving it’s users access to the biggest video website in the world was always going to suck big time. But not any more, after Youtube officially and finally comes to Roku’s full range of boxes.

You will need to own a Roku that was launched after July 2011 and will work on the Roku LT, Roku 1, 2, & 3, as well as the Roku Streaming Stick.

The Youtube channel supports streaming in HD, and runs playlists just like it should. If users also own a smartphone or tablet, the mobile device can be used to search and send to the Roku box using the casting icon.

Before the official channel release, Roku had a native Youtube app and casting function that worked on the Roku 3 and Roku Streaming Stick, but now it is available for all current models of the device which boasts around 1,500 channels including Netflix.

Roku users used to bemoaning the fact that Youtube was not available can now head over to the Roku Channel Store from your device.

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Time Warner Prepare $99 Streaming Box

While it is currently a market that the likes of Google, Apple, and industry-specific names such as Roku have a dominant hold on, it appears as though a company that makes its name in larger spaces of the TV shelf are aiming to break into the internet streaming set-top-box market, with their new over-the-top product Fan TV, from Fanhattan.

time_warner_cable_fan_tvThe device, carrying the support of Time Warner Cable, will set prospective customers back around $99, a lot more than Google’s non-box TV streaming effort, but not overly expensive for the type of product being offered, with an offering of both live TV and Internet-streaming services at its disposal.

With the support of of TWC, the product carrying an innovative design both inside and out should be released by Fanhattan in either May or June, set to include exclusive features for Time Warner Cable video subscribers including key access TV and video-on-demand, though for non-subscribers other streaming options are set to be available including Crackle, Redbox Instant from Verizon, Target Ticket and music streamer Rhapsody.

Though Time Warner will be offering support (that sees it join services available on Roku, Samsung smart TV sets, and Xbox 360 as part of the ‘TWC TV’ range) there are not set to be any financial investments towards Fanhattan under the terms of the deal.

The partnership is still aiming to be a productive one on both sides, though, as Time Warner Cable’s general manager of video Mike Angus said of the upcoming release: “It’s really a paradigm shift from what’s in the market today. It provides new ways for our customers to discover the content we have. Fan TV’s user interface is pretty brilliant.”

Claiming that their work with Fan TV is designed as an alternative as opposed to a replacement for their existing services, TWC TV have perhaps chosen wisely in some aspects such as the lack of a DVR function on Fan TV, though providing their TWC TV platform (with up to 300 live channels and over 5,000 video-on-demand options), albeit in a more limited form than their ‘full’ service should be attractive enough to provide an alternative as required without needing to outshine the providers.

Gilles BianRosa, the CEO of Fanhattan, believes in the quality of his company’s product though, citing an advanced ‘content-discovery engine’ (a cornerstone of the company’s business operations since foundation in 2011), as well as ‘touch-based remotes’ as potential headlining features, whilst hinting at a future deal to bring a Netflix app onto the platform. Focusing on the present, though, he said of the ‘live TV focus’ with recommendations through multiple services: “We have built the best TV experience to surface all the content in your subscriptions.”

While the rumours surrounding Time Warner Cable‘s potential new owners (reportedly Comcast to the sound of $45b) meaning the collaboration might go the way of a failed bid to launch Fan TV with Cox Communications last year, the manufactures will hope that there is still enough time to launch and gain exposure in their own right before that happens. But will TWC’s backing be able to help them reach such a status regardless?

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Dish Plan To Serve Internet TV In New Expansion

Amongst the range of companies looking to increase their internet TV footprint in the near future as the market develops, satellite TV operators Dish Network have been revealed as the latest name to join the list, after reportedly developing an internal ‘roadmap’ designed to put more of their TV offerings online.

dish-hopper-joeyBloomberg report from ‘sources familiar with the negotiations’ that Dish are in discussions with a number of television programmers over potential content licencing deals for their new service. Said rumoured targets are believed to include CBS, A&E Television Networks, Time Warner/Turner Broadcasting, and Comcast/NBCUniversal, with their recent arrangement with Walt Disney Co. (provider of ABC and ESPN footage and their own-brand content, amongst others) possibly fresh in their mindset for an online streaming service.

Such a deal provided Dish with Disney rights to stream content both live and on-demand, in return agreeing to disable an automatic commercial-skipping feature of their ‘Hopper’ DVR systems for a period of 72 hours after the broadcast of a show, a similar deal to which they are proposing to their prospective future partners, many of whom are vocal opponents of Hopper.

While that sort of ‘blackmail’ might broker some sort of deal between Dish and a number of providers (though such a deal is also reportedly dependent on the conditions of Dish securing at least two of America’s ‘big 4′ networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) and at least 10 of the higest-rated cable networks for a service as a guarantee of its potential), whether it will actually be able to provide some sort of innovative platform from it (believed to be in the manner of the ambitious but failed Intel TV project) would remain to be seen, though the current internal ethos would appear to be that the more licenced content Dish can acquire for their new streaming service, the better their chances of succeeding in that market.

Dish Network and their rumoured programming partner targets have declined confirmation or comment on the matter, but like most stories in the industry it is highly likely that some sort of arrangement is being… arranged.

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