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Oh Canada: Leading with a la carte

It looks like Shaw, Telus, Rogers etc  don’t have the same kind of political clout as does Comcast here in the U.S.  Canadian regulators have mandated that by the end of 2016 consumers will be able to pick and choose their channel lineup.

Chinese-Canadian pop star Wanting Qu in  the CBC show Absolutely Vancouver

Chinese-Canadian pop star Wanting Qu in the CBC show Absolutely Vancouver

The formula is interesting: $25 for basic plus $x per each additional channel. The basic package sounds like now defunct Aereo.

If I had this option I’d immediately sign up and add maybe the two additional cable channels I like.  (Can you even get the Golf Channel in Canada?)



Still some questions remain:

  • Will the operators set the a la carte pricing reasonably, i.e.  $1 not $10?
  • Will niche stations really disappear?
  • Will the operators be able to tweak the formula somehow to recover the lost revenue?

Imagine the droves of consumers that might cancel on day one to take their cable bill from $100 down to $20. This is really stunning that the Canadian government can simply mandate such a change. I doubt the equivalent could happen here in the U.S. until the case made it pass the supreme court, i.e. Comcast et al vs FCC.

In any case it sets up a convenient test bed for U.S. business and consumers. Is it really the end of the world for the operators? The holy grail for consumers? We’ll be watching.


Edit  3-23-15: Changed $20/mo to $25/mo. Some confusion here based on multiple sources. The Multichannel piece has removed the monthly price and other sources   say $25.

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Streaming Options go Wild – But still no holy grail

Major news broke recently that HBO will launch HBO Now, a stand alone product offering all of HBO’s content OTT for $15 per month.

A la Carte? courtesy Porto Bay Hotel & Resorts on Flickr

A la carte?
courtesy Porto Bay Hotel & Resorts on Flickr

With the emergence of several other new OTT services, the problem I see is that this is not cord cutting, it is cord trimming , because these new services are relatively expensive. Let’s look at the lineup of major new services going over the top in addition to some old standbys. If the average cable bill is $100 plus, the goal might be to keep the cord trimmer total to a small fraction of that. I’ll assume this time that your internet service is part of the equation since my “$100″ number includes that.


Internet $45.00

Netflix  $8.99

Hulu Plus $7.99

HBO Now $15.00

CBS All Access $5.99

Dish Sling TV $20.00

 SUBTOTAL $102.97

Of course this is an extreme example which assumes no antenna and some  content overlap in our OTT lineup. How can we improve?

The biggest chunk here is your internet service. If you can find a cheaper ISP you’d be on your way  but unfortunately most of us don’t have such an option. And that’s the good news for Comcast/TWC  still fighting to  merge the two companies and become the dominant internet service provider in the U.S.

What else is needed? True a la carte. Of course CBS and HBO are single channel offerings but very pricey ones. Is a single broadcast network really worth $72 per year? Not when the same content is free over the air it’s not. See Antennas.

Cable operators have been telling us for years that a la carte would not save us money, and with the current state of the art they are correct. What would be nice is something like Sling TV but where the customer gets to pick his own 20 channels. Recent news broke about another mini-bundle to be offered by Apple,  but like Sling this is probably going to be a take it or leave it package.

So does the emergence of all these OTT bundles signal a a possible breaking point in the current Pay TV model?  Or is this just more of the same? Please share your opinion in the comments below…

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Live Streaming the 2015 Oscars

For the 2nd year in a row ABC is  offering a live stream of the Oscars, and again with these  major limitations:

  1. You need to log in with your Cable credentials.
  2. You must be in one of these markets: Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham and San Francisco.
  3. Only “participating TV providers”. ABC is not listing these anywhere for 2015, so I assume it will be at a minimum the providers we saw in 2014.
oscar self 2014

Ellen’s famous 2014 Oscars”selfie” captured from my twitter feed

Damn ABC, are you sure you want anyone to watch this live stream? Why not throw in a few more restrictions like age, income,  and citizenship?

I must wonder who ABC is actually targeting here. If you have a cable subscription in the first place then why do you need to watch online?


But suppose you don’t have a cable package nor an antenna, how can you watch the Oscars online? It’s a shame that Aereo is gone, and that Sling TV doesn’t cover ABC but here are a few other ideas:

Complicated methods:

Proxies and VPN’s: In theory it should be possible to use a proxy, or VPN to access and spoof your location to one of the supported markets. Top it off with some borrowed cable credentials and you’re in. Similarly you might try and access ABC via USTVNOW, again combining it with a proxy service. As of this writing I’m still experimenting with these with only partial success. Check back for updates.

Screen capture from stream2video

Screen capture from stream2video

Sketchy streaming sites: If you Google “live tv streams” you will find these. And they will drive you nuts wtih a dizzying array of pop-ups, and links that are sometimes hard to close. As I write this on Sunday morning this link from seems to have a reasonably good feed from some ABC channel.




Easier methods:

  • Get an antenna.
  • Organize an Oscar’s party with friends that have cable.
  • Sports Bars They might be able to spare you a set on a slow sports night.

In any case ABC needs to stop screwing around with this half ass streaming  and just make it online for all. If free streaming works for NBC and the  Super Bowl, why should it  not work for ABC and TV’s Number 2 event?

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Streaming the Grammy’s 2015

The Grammy’s are good about streaming. As I write this the entire award show is being streamed live, including the categories that don’t make it to the telecast. For the music lover, this is a much better show.


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Editorial: Cutting the Cord on Laggard Security – The Anthem Hack and Corporate Incompetence

I was stunned to read that the Anthem hack involved up to 80 million records, including names, birth dates and social security records. This data set is like gold apparently on the black market. We read technical analysis by experts like the OTA defining 12 step programs to prevent such attacks. Others point to the lack of encryption.

Let us ask a more fundamental question: Is there some immutable law that says my social security number and other records absolutely must be reachable via the internet?

Anthem Security: Coutesy: Pedro Paulo Boaventura Grein , Flickr

Anthem Security:
Coutesy: Pedro Paulo Boaventura Grein , Flickr

Thirty years ago of course none of this would have been possible. The “hackers” would have had to perform a physical break-in. Now I’m not suggesting we go back to a pre-online lifestyle,  but just wondering if my refrigerator, my dog, AND my social security number must be in the cloud 24/7.

If Anthem  can’t survive without having  this information somewhere then fine: put it on a private network. And by private I mean NO PHYSICAL PATH – AT ALL – TO THE INTERNET.  Yes, that means their employees couldn’t reach it from Starbucks or at home.  But then either could the “sophisticated” hackers.

OK I can hear some of you saying that in today’s era an absolute physical barrier is just not practical to which I offer Anthem this advice: DON’T BE INCOMPETENT!

If these 80 million records are worth $25 or more on the black market we have a theft  worth 2 BILLION DOLLARS! If Anthem would have had $2 billion in cash  on campus, do you think they’d be watching it kind of carefully?

So then why when 80 million records start heading OUTBOUND from the network there aren’t all kinds of lights flashing and alarms going off? Is this not possible to detect? I think it is possible and Anthem  SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT IN REAL TIME!

Here is the statement on

“Anthem was the target of a very sophisticated external cyber attack. Based on what we know now, there is no evidence that credit card or medical information were targeted or compromised.”

Really Joe?  “Very sophisticated”? So does that mean you can’t stop it from happening again?

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Groundhog Day – My Favorite Movie no longer on Netflix

Update 3-1-15: Netflix sent me an email that Groundhog Day is back! Let’s see if it is still there on Feb 2 2016.


Some time way back I posted about watching Groundhog Day, still my favorite movie, via Netflix.

Click photo for great blog post on Groundhog Day

Click photo for great blog post on Groundhog Day

But unlike Groundhog Day where the same thing  is repeated forever, Netflix’ streaming service, alas, is quite the opposite. I’m not sure when Groundhog Day disappeared from the Netflix streaming library but it happened at least a couple years back.Yes you can rent the DVD  but I dropped the additional $8/month service long ago. As streaming becomes more and more prevalent I wonder how many cord cutters still like the idea of DVD’s in the mail.


Streaming Groundhog Day no longer on Netflix.

Streaming Groundhog Day no longer on Netflix.

In any case  you can still stream Groundhog day from Amazon, but even if you have Amazon Prime (which I do) it is not free. Now if you Google “groundhog day streaming” you get a whole list of sketchy sites claiming to serve up that content for free – no doubt with tons of ad-ware and scam offers included. Don’t even waste your time on these.

But it leaves me to wonder. Why does the Netflix streaming library change constantly while the DVD library seems to be more or less complete? Who knows.


“You want a prediction about the weather, you’re asking the wrong Phil. I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”

Bill Murray as Phil Connors in Groundhog day, 1993.


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Is the Super Bowl even an issue for Cord Cutters?

I’ve written extensively about streaming the Super Bowl in the past. But unlike  other sporting events, this most watched broadcast would appear to present no barriers to cord cutters. Unlike other years not even a log-in will be required.


Tom Brady's football courtesy frankieleon flickr

Tom Brady’s strategy for Super Bowl 2015
courtesy frankieleon flickr

There is only one case I can think of and that is someone who is both out of range of the broadcast  AND has a  slow internet connection, say something like DSL or even dial-up. Of course that’s why God created sports bars.

I’d like to hear from anyone with difficulty watching Super Bowl 2015 for free.  And even more interested in who you think is going to win and why. As for me I’ll be rooting for the west coast Seattle team.


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Reality TV for Foodies – and it’s streaming

A recent tip from Kevin pointed me to Forekast, an aggregator site of “world vents”, that can  be anything of “global interest” , e.g. sports, TV shows, holidays…. Some of the listings are streaming, some not. (Thanks for the tip Kevin).

Scanning through the upcoming listings I came upon Feedback Kitchen, a streaming series set to start tomorrow featuring Mario Batali.

I’ve always appreciated content that demands little attention, and presents little stress to the viewer. I guess that’s why I like things like the Golf Channel and the food network. (I think Chopped is the best food contest show ever made – full Chopped episodes  here).

Feedback Kitchen looks like the kind of program you could watch while drinking a glass of wine, and having a totally separate conversation with your friends on the side.

Let’s see where it goes…

Feedback Kitchen – Teaser Trailer by FeedbackKitchen


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Say Goodbye to Time Warner Cable

A memo went out last week to Comcast and TWC employees announcing the new management structure after the merger is complete. I think it hit the press the same day.Rumor has it that the deal will be complete by  the end of Q1. Despite some emerging critics of the acquisition, Comcast seems to know their way around Washington, and this internal announcement indicates extreme confidence.

photo: Consumerist Dot Com on Flickr

photo: Consumerist Dot Com on Flickr

To cable subscribers and cord cutters this merger will probably have little impact, at least in the beginning. Network infrastructure as well as management  will be consolidated very slowly. Comcast will want to avoid the fiasco that occurred when Adelphia Cable was absorbed resulting in network outages and sent customers fleeing to DIRECTV.

The “good news” is that TWC and Comcast were never direct competitors. For my market the number of pay TV providers will remain at four: Comcast, AT&T U-verse, DIRECTV and Dish. That’s why I have more of a problem with the AT&T DIRECTV deal – it really does eliminate competition.

After the Comcast TWC deal is complete Comcast will control roughly 30% of the pay TV market. But who cares really? What worries some is that Comcast will also become the biggest internet service provider in the country and will  “use its market power to dictate the terms of broadband openness, cost and access…

We can only hope that regulators somehow maintain an environment where competition thrives. Some of us are old enough to remember the days when “Ma Bell” controlled the world of communications in the U.S. Placing a phone call to someone 100 miles away meant per minute billing. Imagine what internet service would cost today had the Bell system remained intact? Let us not recreate it.

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Nonsensical News from CES: Charter did what?

Just now reading about this story about how Charter can update the “look and feel” of services without updating the set-top box and I can’t make any sense of it.

Another puzzler: “The approach will let Charter compete more effectively with Comcast Corp. and other pay-TV companies …”

Really ? Since when does Charter compete with Comcast. Here is the article on Bloomberg. Let us know in the comments if it makes sense to you….



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