Football fans will have plenty of ways to tune into the Super Bowl and watch Tom Brady and Co. decimate the opponent (this editor might be a tad bit biased) in 2012. That's because for the first time ever, NBC and the NFL will stream the Super Bowl online at NBCSports.com and NFL.com through SNF Extra, giving viewers access to special features like DVR controls, various camera angles, in-game highlights, and other interactive bits, all in HD.
The news just broke shortly ago that the Comcast-NBC deal has been approved by government regulators. The FCC approved the sale of NBC Universal to Comcast by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Michael Copps was the lone holdout. In a statement he said the deal "opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet." We had been expecting the FCC to ok the deal, but the Justice Department was always more of an unknown.
Almost immediately after the FCC vote, the Justice Department also approved the deal, according to a Comcast press release. Now that both agencies have given their stamp of approval, the acquisition is expected to go through by the end of January. This will make Comcast a first of its kind media powerhouse.
Early indications are that at least some of the FCC's conditions will be in place for the deal to proceed. Comcast will be required to allow online video distributors (read: Netflix) access to their content. Additionally, Comcast will be allowed to retain its stake in Hulu, but will have to relinquish its decision making role. How do you feel about the deal?
One of the provisions in the new FCC mandated net neutrality deal would have Comcast-NBC sharing their content with multiple online video providers. The only problem, NBC has already worked out an exclusive deal with Hulu. This could mean the FCC is looking to take Hulu down a peg, by spreading content more widely.
The relevant section of the regulation reads, "Comcast would be required to offer NBC Universal programming to any online video provider that has reached a similar deal for content with some of NBC’s competitors." This would make Hulu less of a draw if the content could be had elsewhere. Hulu's premium service has already had trouble attracting subscribers.
Of course, it is also possible that the FCC has little intention of enforcing these regulations, in which case Hulu could continue on as usual. We like the idea of having content available everywhere, but without a controlled experience where content producers get a big cut of the take, they might sour on the idea of online distribution even more than they already have.
The Washington Post is reporting today that FCC Chairman Julius Genchowski has issued a statement indicating his willingness to allow the Comcast-NBC merger to proceed. Although, there is still a ray of hope for those opposed to the deal. Genchowski has outlined several conditions that Comcast would need to agree to in order to get what they want.
Comcast-NBC would need to make their content available over the Internet, but the amount of content, and the method are not specified. The new media conglomerate would also be required to share some content with competing cable and satellite firms. This is likely still not enough for many public interest groups to sign on. The fear is that Comcast's ownership of NBC would be a conflict of interest as they sell access to content from many competing sources. Network neutrality is also a concern; it is feared that Comcast would give priority to their own content.
The issue is far from settled. The US Justice Department is still reviewing the deal to ensure it passes anti-trust laws. The FCC and Justice Department have been working closely, though. So this move could indicate approval by both bodies soon.
Google TV was supposed to forever change the way we consume content in our living rooms and revolutionize television. At this point, Google would be happy just to get a single major network on board.
Fox Broadcasting, which is owned by News Corp., just became the latest broadcast network to shun Google TV And block full episodes of its shows from beaming to GTV devices, CNet reports. That makes it a clean sweep, with NBC, CBS, and ABC all having already slammed the door on Google TV.
Fox was slower than the rest in making its decision as it was evaluating the platform, but according to one of CNet's sources, Google's "footprint was too small," at least for the time being.
The real reason Google is having such a tough time getting broadcasters to jump on board, however, is the general feeling that streaming Web content to television sets will cut into ad revenue.
The Google TV platform is facing its first major challenge as ABC, CBS, and NBC are all blocking TV programming on their websites from playing back on Google's Web-TV service, the Wall Street Journal reports. That means Google TV owners are unable to watch full-length episodes of popular shows like "The Office" and "Survivor."
"Google TV enables access to all the Web content you already get today on your phone and PC, but it is ultimately the content owners' choice to restrict their fans from accessing their content on a platform," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.
This latest move underscores the divide between Google and major media companies, the latter of which aren't convinced Google's business model can fairly compensate them. What should be concerning for Google is that other networks might follow suit. Fox Broadcasting and Viacom's MTV both support the platform, but a Fox spokeswoman warned that "a firm decision has not yet been reached."
Congress held a hearing today to review the proposed purchase of NBC by Comcast. In that hearing Rep. Rick Boucher asked NBC CEO Jeff Zucker about the blocking of Boxee from Hulu content. Mr. Zucker’s answer was uncompromising, if a bit ham-handed. “What Boxee was doing was illegally taking the content that was on Hulu without any business deal,” said Zucker. He added, “What we preclude are those who illegally take that content.” He also said NBC was willing to negotiate with Boxee.
Boxee has responded to the assertion that they were engaged in illegal activity. Boxee’s Avner Ronen pointed out that they were in no way “taking” the video. Boxee simply accesses the content on Hulu via a web browser. The video is not copied, and it playes in its original form straight from the Hulu website. The process is no different than using Firefox or IE to load Hulu; there’s certainly nothing illegal about that. Ronen said he believes that Boxee users can add value to Hulu’s content, hinting that many users may be willing to pay for access to Hulu.
Ronen wrote that he intends to take NBC up on the offer to negotiate, and will contact them. However, if NBC continues to throw around words like “illegal”, the negotiations could be rocky indeed. Is this a case of a CEO being disingenuous to Congress, or just confused about technology? You can view the C-Span footage of the exchange here if you like.
It’s an interesting idea, if it pans out. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that CBS and Disney are in discussions with Apple about participating in Apple’s future plans to offer subscription TV through iTunes. If the deal consummates, shows from CBS’s parent network and CW, and Disney’s ABC, Disney Channel, and ABC Family networks would be available.
The deal, according to the Journal, involves Apple paying content providers $2 to $4 per subscriber per month for a broadcast network, and $1 to $2 per month per subscriber per month for a basic-cable network. The monthly cost for a subscriber is estimated at $30 to $40, and access would be to all available network content.
Apple’s concept could morph into something wanted by many cable subscribers: the chance to choose the networks they want, rather than having to buy a fixed bundle (which includes a lot of networks they don’t want). Such flexibility would certainly be welcome.
This aspect of the deal, however, might serve to limit its potential. CBS has a cozy relationship with Viacom, and NBC was just purchased by Comcast. It’s unlikely they’d be willing to enter into a venture that might undermine these concerns. (Disney’s another matter, as Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, is Disney’s largest single shareholder.)
If all the ducks fall into a row, Apple’s new service should be available sometime in 2010.
NBC has lost many battles over the past few years, but it looks as though it might actually win the war over its copy protected media. Executives from the company claim to have found a “template” for protecting their videos from piracy, and it appears as though it’s actually working. You may have noticed lately that copy protected content from NBC and others have been slowly drying up from video swapping sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, Veoh and even Soapbox. And as a result, NBC has been very vocal about the fact that it is generally satisfied with the new systems these services have put in place. As proof NBC cites its recent successes in controlling content from the both the Olympic Games and select Saturday Night Live clips. Clearly NBC views YouTube and other similar services as the primary battleground in protecting their content and attributes a large percentage of online video piracy to being committed out of convenience. According to Rick Cotton NBC’s general council; "What has happened up to now is the ability to access and download infringing content has been trivially simple, and the lesson it teaches people is that if it's that easy it can't be wrong,". NBC however seems to recognize that it needs to find alternatives to these services or risk pushing users to harder forms of piracy such as Bit Torrent. Arguably its full length episodes at both nbc.com and hulu.com do just that. Only time will tell if NBC’s main beef was truly over controlling its content, or simply locking it down to traditional distribution models.
Does the end of copy protected media on sites like YouTube put the death nail in user submitted video? Hit the jump and let us know what you think.
NBC's fling with Microsoft's Silverlight platform appears to be over, at least for the time being. NBC had previously agreed to stream the Beijing Olympics to viewers using Silverlight instead of Flash to deliver the content, but now that the Olympics have wrapped up, NBC has turned back to Flash for this week's NFL season opener.
Even still, the short-term relationship can be viewed as a success for Microsoft, who managed to increase its install-base through the apparently time limited partnership. Overall download specifics were never disclosed, but we do know that at one point 1.5 million downloads were being registered per day, and according to a spokeswoman for Microsoft, at one point "more than 50 percent of the visitors to NBCOlympics.com on MSN already [had] Silverlight 2 installed." Having a large install base is important because it makes it easier for Microsoft to convince developers to use its platform.
And for Adobe, it means getting back a major partner, but not without a downside. While viewers were able to watch NFL games with Flash installed, reports have surfaced complaining of unwatchable video quality saddled with freeze frames, blurry action, and skipping back and forth while as the feeds tried to buffer.