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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.

7 Responses to “CES Scorecard: What You Need to Know”

  1. There may be millions of TiVo customers enjoying their boxes on a daily basis, but my guess is far south of 1 million actually have them connected to the Internet.

    TiVo itself has only 1.7 million subscribers with its boxes out there [as opposed to DirectTiVo boxes which cannot connect to the Internet].

    Of those 1.7 million boxes, many are older models that can’t connect to the web.

    My guess is that no more than 500,000 TiVo’s are connected to the web.

  2. re: Xbox 360… on our show, Epileptic Gaming, we’ve been talking a lot about the Xbox becoming a home-entertainment system and when it comes to whether that is something that can be done in the real-world remains to be seen. The most I use my Xbox for besides gaming is DVD playing, but to be honest, I prefer the PS3 functionality over the Xbox. One thing that I wish was mentioned in the above article is the current XboxLive issues plaguing Microsoft. They claim the issues are resolved, but the service was effectively out for almost 3 weeks straight. Digital Distribution is still in its infancy if you ask me… so I’d prefer to get my entertainment the old-fashioned way… over copper coaxial lines & through physical media (like DVDs).

    /end rant

  3. I think you’re dead wrong about the Panasonic-YouTube thing. Anything that makes it easy for regular people to get into the habit of accessing online content directly from their TVs is a positive thing. It’s huge.

    Sure YouTube isn’t HDTV but there is a tremendous value to watching it in your living room. You can share the experience with other people. I have an AppleTV and I have to say that watching a YouTube video with my wife in the living room is much more fun than watching it by myself at the computer. Yea, it’s not HD but I don’t expect it to be. It’s completely watchable even on my 82″ screen. We watched three YouTube videos and talked about them just last night.

    I think a lot of people would enjoy watching YouTube in the living room. They just don’t know it because the only relatively easy way to do it now is with AppleTV. Demand for a service won’t come until people try it and get used to it. Once they’re used to it then they’ll start to demand a higher quality image.

    I guess what I’m saying is, you have to build it before they will come.

  4. jamiegau

    I would place the Microsoft efforts as Class A.
    Not so much because they are doing anything more then we expected them. But that they have slowly continued forward with a model that has changed very little. (Slow and steady can win the race.)

    This slow development in Microsoft strategy is starting to bare fruit. It is starting to get traction. It is starting to get the wider consumer community aware of Video coming from the Internet.

    Personally I think the Microsoft model is hugely floored and will eventually fail in its current form. Still, Microsoft has also showed signs of giving a little here and there to keep them in there. This could be a potent combination of Microsoft plays this right. (For example, DivX and Xvid support now on Xbox360).

    So I say its a Class A event not because of what Microsoft is doing, but the ramifications of such a big company doing it, plus the amount of money Microsoft is likely to spent on consumer awareness and marketing in the coming year.


  5. Great roundup. Thanks!

    I will have to research more about the Web-to-TiVo thing. I’d love to put my already great personal RSS feed from (where i already am subscribed to 250+ RSS feeds) into my TiVo. How open is it going to be to ANY RSS feed?

  6. Re: Tivo…

    Can we all get on the same page and recognize the difference between “Internet” or “Web” TV, and “IPTV”? I think most of us now use “IPTV” to refer specifically to video delivered over closed IP networks managed by service providers (ie AT&T U-Verse), not just any video over IP. Yes?