CES Scorecard: What You Need to Know

If you’re not into the second-by-second minutia of CES, it can be hard to take a low-key approach to the tech industry’s yearly kickoff. There’s just too much news, too much hype, too many “revolutionary” gadgets and services that you’ll never hear about ever again. But this year was especially significant for those of us who care about online video, as many of the major announcements concerned getting TV onto the web or the web onto TV. So here’s a need-to-know guide for the top five NewTeeVee-related announcements out of Las Vegas this week.

1. Panasonic meet YouTube, YouTube meet Panasonic: In a move that could have a profound impact on the future of Internet video, Google and Panasonic unveiled a partnership that will see YouTube access built directly into Panasonic HDTVs.

  • Was it expected? You better believe it was expected. After all, when Sony announced at last year’s CES that it would allow access to AOL video in its Bravia line of HDTVs, don’t you think Google and Panasonic took notice?
  • Is it innovative? Mildly. Sure, there aren’t a slew of HDTVs currently on the market that offer this kind of functionality, but if you have an Apple TV you can already do this. And how good will the videos actually look on your screen anyway?
  • Is it likely to take off? I wouldn’t hold my breath. How many people actually care that they can access YouTube on an HDTV? I think this plan is a junker waiting to happen.
  • Is there something better out there? It’s called a computer and browser. Look, these videos weren’t meant for HDTVs and the chances of enjoying them are minimal at best. Trust me, you’ll enjoy them more on a computer.
  • Overall importance grade: D

2. Comcast’s Fancast finally goes live: Sure, it may have been a long time coming, but Comcast has finally launched Fancast, meaning you can have a directory of professional TV and
movies with links to where to watch or buy content.

  • Was it expected? Uh, yeah, it was expected way back when it was announced that Comcast was a Hulu launch partner. Beyond that, don’t we always expect a new video service at least every other day?
  • Is it innovative? No. I’m looking for something fresh in this space and I just can’t seem to find it. An IMDB-like video service is fine, but is it needed?
  • Is it likely to take off? You’re kidding, right? This service has about as much chance of taking off as I do of becoming the first baseman for the New York Yankees.
  • Is there something better out there? This service is so clunky and awkward, I’d say that even Hulu is somewhat better than Fancast. Now there’s a ringing endorsement.
  • Overall importance grade: D

3. MTV Networks heads to the web: How many times have you seen My Super Sweet 16? If it’s less than five times, you’re probably lying. If you’re not, you’ll be happy to know that you can now watch MTV Networks’ full lineup of programming on a host of services including, Veoh, Hulu and that pesky service above, Fancast. Excited yet?

  • Was it expected? Yes and no. Did we know that MTV was going to definitely release its programming to other online services? No. But did we come to expect it after FOX, NBC, CBS and others did it? Very much so.
  • Is it innovative? Not really. Let’s face it, how many more companies need to put their programming online before we finally realize that it’s not even news anymore?
  • Is it likely to take off? Out of all the programming currently available online, I’d say Viacom has the best chance at seeing its shows take off. With properties like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, just to name a few, look for the same kind of success online.
  • Is there something better out there? Yeah, it’s called ESPN. Ever heard of it?
  • Overall importance grade: C

4. TiVo to feature web video: Huh? Didn’t the company already announce that a while ago? Can’t you already watch some of your favorite IPTV shows on the device? Yes you can. But according to TiVo, now you can get a “season pass” for all of your programming with the help of RSS feeds.

  • Was it expected? This was expected months ago and was partway rolled out for a while. But in its infinite wisdom, TiVo decided to hold off its major release until we wanted to throw the box out the window to finally allow for RSS capabilities. Thanks, TiVo!
  • Is it innovative? Adding RSS to a device so you can download videos on the fly? No.
  • Is it likely to take off? Chances are, this could prove to be a watershed moment for some IPTV shows. After all, with millions of TiVo customers currently enjoying their boxes on a daily basis, this could be the exposure they need.
  • Is there something better out there? Personally, I don’t think there is anything better to get IPTV onto your HDTV. Can you do it with a computer? Sure. Can you use your Apple TV? Uh huh. But will it look so much slicker on a TiVo? Definitely.
  • Overall importance grade: B

5. Microsoft beefs up its Xbox Live offering: In a move that could easily bring about even more change, Microsoft announced that it has signed MGM and Disney-ABC on to its Xbox Live Marketplace, while also noting that its IPTV service — Mediaroom — has eclipsed the 1 million user-mark.

  • Was it expected? Well, with Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace growing by the day, we should have expected even more video on the service going forward, right?
  • Is it innovative? It’s innovative in the sense that no other video game console has done what Microsoft has been able to do with video, so the answer is probably “yes.”
  • Is it likely to take off? I think it already has. Wouldn’t you agree?
  • Is there something better out there? Sure. A computer is a good place to start and let’s not forget about the TiVo. But when it comes to game consoles, we’ve hit the top with the Xbox.
  • Overall importance grade: C

So there you have it — the news roundup from CES. Anything else you want to know? Didn’t think so.

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who covers everything from Google to HDTVs. He currently writes for over 15 popular technology publications, including CNET’s Digital Home, InformationWeek and Future Publishing in the UK.