The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Entries in Digital video (3)

Wednesday
Jan022013

Will We Ever Really Get TV Anywhere?

I was raised on television and I consume a lot of it.  I am not a couch potato, but rather a road warrior, who likes to see favorite shows when and where it is convenient for me.  And, I subscribe to a lot of services that aspire to let me do that on my tablet, laptop or smartphone.

Admittedly, my family is not ready to cut the cord completely, but I have been evaluating several services that are meant to encourage just that.  Unlike Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, services like Aereo and NimbleTV (currently in beta) are pushing the envelope of broadcasting by enabling subscribers to watch live TV channels on a mobile device over the Internet, and providing cloud storage for recordings of the shows that I want to time-shift my viewing.

Where Aereo struggled to provide the breadth of programming I receive on a full cable package, Nimble TV has chosen to address this issue by subscribing users to a Dish Network account, which then streams most major basic cable channels in my area.  This opens up an array of programming that starts to make this solution truly viable as a cord cutting option.

Unfortunately, the quality of the stream has been sporadic, and this is particularly true of the recorded content.  Quality control tools appear in the UI (Low, High, and Auto) but, as of the beta, do not seem to allow toggling between SD or HD recordings.

Both Aereo and NimbleTV seem to struggle with executing robust DVR capabilities, one of the most essential experiences of my current home television provider. As an inaugural TiVo user, DVR features have become integral to my TV viewing.  On NimbleTV, programs appear to be available to be recorded in the guide even if they have already aired, but in fact can’t actually be recorded once they have aired.  Episodes appear in the “recorded” list, but actually won’t play back.  When I have been able to watch a recording, the image is pixilated, blurry and often unwatchable, even with full wifi connectivity. Riffing on what Seinfeld said about rental car reservations, scheduling a show to be recorded is only half the battle. Being able to actually view the recorded content really is the whole point.

 Which brings me back to my point about being a TV junkie and a road warrior. Streaming services are fine when coverage is strong, when there is wifi, and when data caps aren’t a limiter.  But as a traveler on trains, planes and subways, they fail to service my addiction.  Plane, rail and hotel wifi often provide me with inadequate bandwidth for uninterrupted streaming (and in some cases the airlines, Amtrak and wifi providers prevent streaming video services altogether.)  Many media players don’t effectively throttle to changing bandwidth, and my history with both Aereo and NimbleTV is that they have yet to perfect the user experience for variable bandwidth conditions.

 Without a complete solution for enabling quality television viewing when bandwidth is constrained, I find I still revert back to the dependability of purchased programming downloaded from iTunes paired with a streaming service from Hulu, Amazon, Netflix or a broadcaster’s own mobile app, like HBO GO.  Television substitute services may provide the convenience of aggregation and the benefit of smaller monthly bills, but if it is at the expense of quality and usability, they don’t feel like a better deal to me.

Editor's note: In fairness, I used both products in beta, and have assessed these experience based on my interest in switching from my existing services based on the interactions I had in beta.

Wednesday
Jun232010

Will Consumers Be Better Than Broadcasters At Programming Online Video?

First published on Technorati June 22, 2010

Most days, the average Internet user curates a flood of content from multiple destinations into a patchwork of information, updates and insights that help them stay connected. It’s a lot of work to hunt, gather, personalize and sample all the content available, and even more if you are part of the growing percentage of consumers interested in watching video. Tubemogul reports Web media brands posted 326 million video streams in the first quarter of this year, which is an increase of more than 300 percent compared to Q1 of 2009, and does not include all the user generated content uploaded to photo and video sharing sites.

“Some times you just want to push play, and see what’s on,” said Blair Harrison, CEO of Frequency, a real time video site that lets you lean back and watch samples of video playing continuously from all over the Internet. “But with so much video coming online each hour, there really is no way for a consumer to get a sample of what’s playing on the web” Harrison contends that consuming video on the web has become a laborious and disjointed experience, forcing people who want to enjoy rich media online to jump from link to link, collecting clips or navigating between embedded players and web pages just to sample video content.

Launched earlier this month by Harrison, the former CEO of IFILM, which sold to Viacom for $49 Million in 2005, Frequency aims to make it easy for anyone to quickly scan and tune into what’s playing online at any time. He brought together a crew of experienced digital media engineers from that company, and built a platform that offers content publishers a promotional engine for long form video clips. Frequency’s tools create a continuous stream of previews, auto-generated in different bitrates, from feeds aggregated by the company’s platform. Users navigate the clips which play like previews of coming attractions, touting the longer version on the publisher’s website.

When consumers enter the Frequency site, there is always something playing. Like a stream of 140 character headlines on Twitter, the Frequency player cycles through fifteen-second clips from across the web, categorized by topic and source. If you want to learn more on a topic, simply pick a tag, and the player pivots to play previews that share that term in common. If you like to follow a particular publisher or collector of videos, you can create a personalized channel that just tunes into their “frequency”, or channel of auto-play clips.

“There are over 200,000 video clips being posted to the web every hour,” said Harrison. “We want to make it simple for anyone to quickly discover and watch what is appealing to them at any particular moment they’re looking to tune in. “

Frequency is a privately funded, early stage video network, and is also client of Waldo Finn, LLC, a business and strategy consulting firm, which employs the author of this post.

Wednesday
May262010

Will Google TV Change The Way We Enjoy the Web?

Article first published as Will Google TV Change The Way You Enjoy The Web? on Technorati

Google’s announcement this week of the launch of its Google TV service comes after several attempts - and slightly different approaches - by Apple and Microsoft to converge online video viewing with broadcast television watching. Although the company identified several partners – Intel, Sony and Logitech - who will be deploying the Google TV service on set top boxes and home entertainment hardware like Blu Ray players and Internet-connected televisions, it remains to be seen how consumers will actually experience the service.

Google’s primary objective will be to monetize the Google TV content through targeted advertising and expansion of its audience for existing online services by making video more discoverable through search. Search has been a key component of online programming guides like Clicker.com and Yahoo TV, that help aggregate television and video content from across the web. However, search behemoth Google is also the owner of You Tube, and has a lot to gain from creating more opportunities for consumers to experience video on new platforms.

How Google will facilitate the way a consumer traverses media from different sources, and the many ad networks those sources represent, is unclear largely because the service will be embedded with other solutions and services on branded game consoles and DVD players, some provided by hardware manufacturers that may have a designed a brand user interface already.

“It's too early to tell how Google TV will be received in the market, and there are many unknowns about the product including price. But Google TV's openness is key,” said Mike Pohl, CEO of Jinni, one of the Google TV partners featured in the announcement. “Developers will create the apps that will make Google TV useful and unique for consumers. Jinni, as an alliance partner, is developing a smart guide for Google TV that will be crucial for seamlessly combining web and TV content."

Clayton Morris of Foxnews.com echoed the questions of many end users who heard the announcement but didn’t yet know what to make of it. He wrote, “Will Google TV allow me to press play on an Internet episode of Lost — or will it force me to watch the broadcast version with more commercials? [Or] does that mean I can simultaneously watch UFO Hunters on The History Channel while searching the Web?”