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What we learned from the Comcast/TWC fail

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For 15 months execs at Comcast were all but certain that their $45 B bid for Time Warner Cable would succeed. This acquisition attempt died a quick death on April 23, 2015. What happened and what can we learn from it?

comcast mike mozart flickr

Los Angeles won’t be seeing these anytime soon. photo: mike mozart flickr

 

On the surface it appears that the US regulators, in this case the FCC and the DOJ simply don’t like mega mergers that are so obviously a no-win for consumers. Comcast went in with some pretty weak arguments.

The simple truth was that Comcast would emerge with 57% of the US internet market and 30% of the pay TV customers. It was just too obvious that the new bigger company would not likely produce better service and lower prices for anyone. Just as it was obvious that AT&T + T-Mobile – another deal killed by regulators – would  not be good for consumers.

If we are not cynical, we can take this to mean that all the money and influence in the world doesn’t always get you what you want. If it did, TWC would have been absorbed by the end of  2015.  There is still some balance in US politics, it is not completely for sale.

For cord cutters? The decision was good news. Netflix and the emerging streaming market were not going to benefit from a bigger Comcast.

There are certainly many mid and upper level managers at TWC breathing a temporary sigh of relief. But those that follow the industry know this is just a pause, and that news of a possible Charter-TWC  merger is already breaking. For Charter to succeed they will have to do a better job convincing us all that there is any benefit to another merger.

 

 


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Guess whose site is “Mobile Friendly”

When APM Market Place did a piece tonight on Google’s new SEO criteria I rushed home to test my own site. Proud to report the results:

 

 

mobileready

The surprising part of the story was that major web sites were not ready and would be penalized by Google. Guess they should have used Word Press. Maybe Nintendo and Kroger will want to buy ad space from Cord Cutter Guide!

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Verizon FiOs Custom TV: Will it actually save you money?

So Verizon has decided to jump into the “exploding number of options” of new trimmed down cable packages. With a basic lineup at $54 and additional “genre packs” at $10 each this seems like a  way to shave a few bucks off of your cable bill.  But how much will you really save?

Photo: "Tax Credits" on Flickr

Photo: “Tax Credits” on Flickr

Toward the end of the Washington Post piece we read this :

“With Internet included, the Verizon package will add up to well over $100 a month…

Seriously? Isn’t that above the average cable bill in the US ? Well these numbers get ambiguous  when it is not clearly stated if internet is part of the package.  (The $54 package does NOT include internet).

I like this Quartz piece which in turn pointed me to the actual Time Warner Cable data where we read these averages for 2014:

video: $76.93
internet: $46.92
total: $123.85

These are good actual numbers to use when comparison shopping and now we can see that the Verizon’s cheapest video only lineup might actually save us about $22 per month if we’re content with it.

But internet is almost a must have in today’s world. If we go to Verizon’s cheapest package with internet at $64.99 we would be saving  $58.86 over the TWC average. Of course our “savings”  comes from the fact that we are simply getting less content i.e. channels.

Conclusion? Cord cutters are having an impact and the Pay TV providers are fighting back in a basic way – by offering low cost options. Of course if you really want to save some dough, shop for your best internet package, put up an antenna, subscribe to Netflix, and cut the cord entirely.

 

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Final Masters round not a problem for cord cutters

Surprisingly watching the 4th round of #TheMasters is not an issue for cord cutters today. That is if you’re happy with the offerings over at masters.com. This isn’t exactly what CBS will be broadcasting later today. But it is a lot of golf offering 4 different video streams.

 UPDATE 11:30am PDT: CBS Broadcast is also free streaming.

Live coverage requires no credentials. Just click the image below:

 

masterslive

 

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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 ABC.com 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 stream2video.tv 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.

 

http://www.grammy.com/live

 

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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 anthemfacts.com.

“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.

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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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