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FuboTV Review – Live Soccer for Cord Cutters

FuboTV launched as a live streaming TV service in January 2015 primarily for soccer fans, offering viewers the chance to watch soccer matches and other live sports on 10 different channels for a low monthly price of $9.99 (with a chance to upgrade with “add-on” packages).

Image result for FuboTVAt the end of December 2016, though, the company announced that it had signed major partnership deals with Fox Networks, NBC Universal, A+E Networks, Crown Media Family Networks, Fuse Media, NBA TV and The Weather Channel. Starting in early 2017, fuboTV plans to offer 70+ premium sports and entertainment channels for an introductory, discounted price of $34.99 per month (which will increase later to $49.99 per month).

As a result, fuboTV viewers will be able to watch live sports events from all major U.S. professional and college sports, as well as international leagues and tournaments. For sports fans looking for a live streaming TV service, fuboTV has suddenly become a very attractive option, especially because the network also plans to bundle in some major entertainment channels as well.

With the huge boost in the number of channels that fuboTV will offer, the streaming TV service is transitioning from being a niche sports streaming service into being a major sports-centric live streaming TV service that can compete with the likes of DirecTV Now, Playstation View, Hulu Live and Sling TV.


CONTENT

Image result for FuboTVAs noted above, fuboTV now plans to offer 70+ channels. Full beta launch is coming in February 2017, although the current website for fuboTV still describes the $9.99 package for 10 channels.  So let’s take a closer look at the core 10 channels still being offered, and then consider the remaining channels.

Here are the 10 channels offered in 2016:

  • BeIN Sports
  • FuboTV Network
  • El Rey Network
  • Univision
  • Univision TDN (Televisa Deportes Network)
  • BeIN Sports En Vivo
  • Football Report TV
  • Revolt
  • UniMas
  • One World Sports

New sports channels coming in 2017

  • FOX
  • NBC
  • Regional sports networks from FOX Sports and NBC Sports
  • Big Ten Network (BTN)
  • FS1
  • FS2
  • FOX College Sports
  • FOX Soccer Plus
  • FOX Deportes
  • Golf Channel
  • NBA TV
  • NBCSN

New entertainment channels coming in 2017

  • A+E Networks (A&E, History, Lifetime)
  • Hallmark Channel
  • National Geographic
  • Fuse
  • FM
  • NBC Universal (Bravo, CNBC, E!, Oxygen, USA Network)
  • The Weather Channel

It remains to be seen how fuboTV will adjust the composition of its special “add-on” packages for viewers. Currently, fuboTV offers four major add-on packages:

  • Entertainment (4 channels, $2.99/month)
  • Lifestyle (6 channels, $2.99/month)
  • Portuguese (3 channels, $19.99/month)
  • Spanish (7 channels, $3.99/month)

PRICING

What we know now is that fuboTV plans to price its new basic package at a special discounted rate of $34.99 per month, and eventually raise that to $49.99 per month. That puts this live streaming TV service almost directly in line with the pricing offered by DirecTV Now, which also started its promotional pricing at $35 per month. In contrast, current fuboTV pricing for 10 channels is $9.99 per month.

PROS

Ever since its launch in early 2015, fuboTV has attracted a diehard audience of soccer fans, who used the service to watch soccer matches from around the world, including the Premier League, the Brazilian League and MLS. There’s no other streaming service that can offer this type of live soccer programming. And, with the new content from the likes of Fox and NBC, it’s clear that fuboTV is trying to become the streaming service of choice for sports fans in the United States beyond just soccer, to include basketball, golf and other major sports.

Image result for FuboTVBut the advantages are more than just all the great new content. Just like the other streaming TV services, fuboTV is playing up all the differences with cable TV. For example, you can cancel online anytime without having to deal with the customer service department.

And, you can watch fuboTV anywhere on any device. The service is currently supported by iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Fire TV, and Chromecast. Once you’ve downloaded the fuboTV app, it’s possible to watch it on your TV, your tablet, your smartphone or your laptop computer. All you need is the Internet.

And, as part of its expansion, fuboTV plans to offer several more extras: programming look back (in which you can watch previously aired content), video on-demand, digital TV guide navigation and a cloud DVR service. As it stands now, users will be able to watch shows they’ve recorded on the cloud DVR within a period of 3 days of recording. So, for example, if you missed the NBA basketball game last night, you could record it and then watch it the next day for no extra charge.

Finally, fuboTV offers a very crisp 1080p HD quality live stream, so all of the matches and games look spectacular on your viewing device.

CONS

With any new service, there are always growing pains, and for fuboTV to make such a drastic change in its strategy could impact its core viewers. If you look at what fuboTV plans to offer (lots of American sports, plus entertainment) and compare it to what fuboTV has been offering for the past two years (lots of Spanish- and Portuguese-language soccer games), it’s clear that the service is going to have two very different types of audiences.

And it will have to be careful that it doesn’t alienate these diehard sports fans with a sudden burst in pricing and streaming content options. In short, will people who are paying $9.99 now still want to pay $34.99 in the future for content they may not want to watch?

If you’re a current subscriber, it’s time to ask a lot of questions about what will or won’t be included in the new programming lineup. For example, will the old Entertainment add-on package of 4 channels (Antena 3, TeleHit, Bandamax, Ritmoson) now be included in the core offering of 70+ channels? What happens to all the live soccer online content? And what happens if you want to watch ESPN, which doesn’t seem to be included in the list of new channels?

CONCLUSION

FuboTV has the potential to become the leading sports-centric live streaming service. For anyone thinking of signing up for a live streaming TV service, it will be almost impossible to beat fuboTV’s wide offering of both national and international sports programming.

The service just has to make sure that it clearly states what’s going to happen in 2017. It’s now been a month since the company announced the major programming change, for example, and the fuboTV website still doesn’t even have something like a “Coming Soon” announcement on its homepage. The service is currently offering a free 24-hour trial, so that might be one way to sample it to see if it’s right for you.

Review: DIRECTV Now

DIRECTV Now is the new streaming service from AT&T that just launched at the end of November. Unlike the satellite service DIRECTV, this new service is offered completely over the Internet via live streaming. Think of it as an easier, simpler solution to getting the best content that doesn’t involve annual contracts and hooking up a satellite dish.

What content is available via live streaming?

The first question on everyone’s mind, of course, is what kind of content will be available via streaming. This is AT&T, after all, so the expectation is that there is going to be a lot more content on this service than on competing services. In many ways, DIRECTV Now doesn’t disappoint – it handles much like a slightly slimmed down satellite TV service, but at a more affordable price point.

The entry level package offers all the major TV networks, with just one exception: CBS. So the entry package includes the likes of CNN, ESPN, AMC, CNBC, Discovery, Disney, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC Sports, TBS and Nickelodeon.

At the next higher price point, you can get premium channels like ESPN News, MLB Network, NBA TV and BBC World News all bundled together.

For fans of HBO and Cinemax, there’s even the option to add them for only $5 each per month. To give you an idea of how great a deal that is, the cost of standalone streaming either of those would be $14.99 per month. When you order HBO and Cinemax via DIRECTV Now, you also get authenticated access to their apps, so you also get to watch them on your mobile devices, as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection.

Pricing of DIRECTV Now

As part of a special promotional rate that was valid up until the middle of January, it was possible to get the “Go Big” package of 100+ live channels at a discounted rate of $35 per month. Going up to the next price tier – $70 per month – would get you 120 channels, so it’s easy to guess which option most consumers chose as long as AT&T was offering the special promotional rate. In short, $35 was a steal.

And, just to sweeten the pot, DIRECTV Now doesn’t require a contract or any kind of lock-in. This is supposed to be TV, the way you want it. There’s no equipment to buy, either.

At the end of the promotional period, the plan was to raise the price up to $60 for the basic package. So, if you add in both HBO and Cinemax, that would be $70 per month. That’s not cheap, but compared to cable – where nearly one-third of consumers pay more than $100 per month, it’s very affordable.

There’s one other pricing twist to keep in mind. If you’re an AT&T wireless customer, then there might be a better economic argument for choosing this service. That’s because watching video on DIRECTV Now doesn’t count against your data limits. So, for example, if you’re watching a two-hour movie from DIRECTV Now on your AT&T wireless tablet, that wouldn’t be included in your monthly data cap. So, it’s easy to see how some customers might be tempted to drop their existing wireless service provider, sign up for AT&T, and then order DIRECTV Now.

Competitive landscape

The big question, of course, is how consumers will view the new service. Is it a Netflix replacement? Or just a cable TV replacement? And which live streaming service does it most resemble? Based on initial consumer feedback, it looks like DIRECTV Now is basically a replacement for DIRECTV. The live streaming competitor mentioned most often by consumers is Sling TV, which you can get for $20 per month. Another similar competitor is PlayStation Vue.

That pricing is going to present some problems for DIRECTV Now, especially since the price is now $60 and not $35. So you’re comparing a $20 per month service to a $60 per month service. So what does DIRECTV offer that Sling TV doesn’t?

That’s an easy question to answer: a ton more archived content that can be played on-demand. DIRECTV boasts that it has more than 10,000 titles available on demand. That’s easily as many titles as you might expect from a mainstream cable TV or satellite TV provider.

Which is why it’s hard to shake the feeling that DIRECTV Now is basically going to siphon away some of the DIRECTV audience. Wouldn’t you switch over if you could avoid the contract and get almost the same amount of content without changing your provider and getting some cheaper pricing as an extra kicker?

directv-now-phone

Quality issues

The major problem facing DIRECTV Now are nagging questions about quality. The concern among consumers is that AT&T might have tried to rush this product to market without fixing all the bugs. Just check out social media – the complaints keep rolling in about glitches, freezes, buffering errors, and app crashes.

In fact, there’s a real consumer backlash growing on social media, with a lot of people saying they plan to quit after the promotional pricing runs out. Others are actually threatening to sue DIRECTV Now after they got permanently logged out of their account and couldn’t get back in. Essentially, they’re saying that AT&T pocketed their $35 monthly fees without providing the agreed upon service. Let’s just hope these are “teething troubles,” as one business news source called them.

Other features

There’s one more issue that needs to be cleared up about this new DIRECTV Now service, and that’s the need for extra equipment. Technically, if you’re planning only to watch TV on mobile devices (i.e. a tablet or phone), you don’t need any equipment, and certainly not any satellite dish. And, if you’re planning on watching on your laptop, you just watch by heading over to DIRECTVnow.com.

However, what happens if you’re planning on watching on your home TV? That’s where things get interesting, because you will need some kind of set-top box to play the content and access the menu. There’s no AT&T set-top box – instead, you need to have something like an Apple TV or Chromecast. During the promotional period, DIRECTV Now was giving away a free Apple TV worth $149 if you agreed to pay the first three months upfront.

Moreover, one drawback to the service is a lack of a DVR, although AT&T says that it plans to add one soon. So there’s no way to watch shows without commercials, like you might with a cable TV or satellite TV subscription.

Conclusions

So, summing up all the pros and cons, the major pro is an amazing amount of content, both live and on-demand. The pricing is also attractive, but not nearly as attractive if you can’t get the promotional rate. In terms of cons, the overall quality of the service has to be named as one. And the need for a set-top box if you don’t already have one is also an issue.

The consensus: if you want to cut the cord, but still want the safety of knowing that you have access to almost all the content you would with a regular cable TV provider, then this service might make sense for you. Moreover, if you only plan on watching via an app on your tablet or on your laptop, then this also might make sense. But if you’re planning to have regular “family nights” in front of the TV, then it’s easy to see how a cheaper service like Sling TV might make a more compelling option for now – at least until DIRECTV Now works out all the glitches in its service.

directv-now-remote

A Technology to Watch in 2017: OLED TVs

The television industry continues to seek out innovative new technologies in the constant pursuit of providing the best possible TV viewing experience. The latest entrant in the game is the OLED TV, where OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diodes. What the OLED TV promises is much greater color accuracy, a wider viewer angle, and much more vibrant images.

Right now, there are only two major tech companies – LG and Panasonic – that are manufacturing OLED TVs for the consumer market. For a time, Samsung was going to move into OLED TVs, but due to production costs, no longer has any plans to use OLED screens. Instead, the company will focus on using OLED screens for its smartphones and tablets.

How are OLED TVs different from LCD TVs?

The key difference between the OLED TV and the LCD TV has to do with how the pixels on the screen are lit. With an OLED display, the pixels themselves provide the source of light; with a conventional LCD display, the pixels are backlit. That may sound like a minor difference, but it produces an exceptionally different picture experience.

With the OLED display, you are able to get a pixel to turn completely off if it needs to be black. You can’t do that with an LCD display. Instead, with an LCD display, you are only getting a “relative” black, not an “absolute” black. A pixel only looks black because it is darker than all the other pixels on the screen, not because it’s actually black. With an OLED display, it’s essentially possible to control every pixel since every pixel can be turned on or off. The result is a superior image that appears to the eye to be amazingly vibrant.

What are some of the other advantages of OLED televisions?

Another unique feature is the curved shape of many OLED screens. This actually provides a superior viewing experience as well, because it introduces the idea of wide viewing angles. With a conventional LCD television, you need to be viewing the image head-on; otherwise it’s difficult to view. That’s not the case with a curved OLED screen – even if you are not sitting on the living room couch right in front of the TV, you can still get an optimal viewing experience.

Another advantage to OLED televisions is that, compared to a LCD TV, they are much thinner and lighter. This has led some to suggest that OLED TVs are “environmentally friendly” because they don’t require as much power to run them, and because it’s easier to ship them around the country without leaving behind quite as big a carbon footprint. (However, that’s not really a technological advantage – that’s more of a marketing advantage.)

oled-diagram

The pricing of OLED TVs

However, all those advantages don’t come with some high costs. In fact, for someone used to paying just a few hundred bucks for an LCD TV, the act of going into a retail store like Best Buy to check out the new OLED TVs may give you sticker shock.

For example, this holiday season, Best Buy is running a special promotion on its LG OLED televisions, in which you can pick up an LG 55-inch OLED TV for as low as $2,499. There are even some 55-inch models available for $3,499.

Wait, what?

Yes, the cheapest LG OLED TV available this holiday season at Best Buy will set you back close to $2,500. And the base price for an LG 65-inch OLED TV is $3,999, although prices can range all the way up to $7,999. And if you really want to wow your holiday guests this season, you can always pick up a 77-inch OLED set for $19,999.

Those prices may seem incredible, but they’re actually a lot lower than they used to be. The first-ever LG 55-inch OLED TV that went on sale in 2013 cost $10,000. So a price of $2,500 for a 55-inch set these days is a relative bargain.

The problem, quite simply, is that it’s still very expensive to produce these televisions, and companies have to pass on these high costs to the customer. And, as seen above, the minimum size for an OLED TV these days is 55 inches, which is probably well more than the average TV viewer wants or needs.

Moreover, there’s just not enough competition in the industry to help bring down prices. Panasonic only unveiled its first OLED TV in September 2015. And Samsung is out of the business entirely, so that means consumers basically have to pay whatever LG asks them to pay if they want a premium OLED TV.

Alternatives to OLED

It’s not surprising, then, that the OLED TV has not yet supplanted the LCD TV as the de facto industry standard. It may be a superior technology, but it’s still too expensive to make a major splash in the television market.

Moreover, LCD TV manufacturers keep coming up with new innovations that make their LCD TVs comparable to OLED TVs. One of these innovations is new Ultra HD 4K technology, which increases the resolution of the TV screen from 1080p to 4K. Four times the number of pixels means four times higher resolution.

And, in response to criticism that higher resolution doesn’t necessarily imply better picture quality, LCD TV manufacturers have been experimenting with High-Dynamic Range (HDR) technology, which will result in a more vibrant image. Darks will appear darker and brights will appear brighter.

What’s ahead for the OLED TV?

At next year’s CES technology trade show in Las Vegas, scheduled for January 2017, look for the world’s top technology brands to unveil the latest and greatest when it comes to television technology. Most likely, we will see new innovations from LG when it comes to OLED technology. And that could mean more than just a superior picture. At the 2015 CES, for example, LG unveiled the world’s first “bendable” TV!

The real tipping point for OLED TVs might occur if the price point can be brought down to $1,500 or even $1,000. That might just convince the average TV viewer to abandon old LCD technology in favor of the best, most vibrant TV viewing experience possible today: OLED.

oled-television

Will VR Make Traditional Forms of Visual Entertainment Obsolete?

Yes, it is possible. Well, maybe not completely. But in the defining way, VR may make traditional entertainment options a lot less popular. The question – how can the VR devices completely replace traditional forms of visual entertainment like television obsolete – might seem ridiculous. So, for starters, just think back some 25 years ago. Would anybody have thought that video rental stores would not be required, because people will be able to download content on-demand from the internet? Could anybody have predicted that fixed line phones would no longer be a necessity, because mobile phones would completely take over? These and many other such questions would have a straight up ‘No’ for an answer. But, they all did happen with the advent of streaming services, mobile phones, and what not. This is how technology works and 25 years is a long time in technology.

The trends are all in the favor of VR. In a report that came out recently, Goldman Sachs has estimated that the VR market will generate more revenues than the television industry within a decade. It has predicted that while the television industry will do a total business of $99 billion in the next ten years, VR will be generating an income of $72 billion in software and $110 billion in hardware, coming to a total of $182 billion. This is almost double of what television manufacturers are going to earn. This is mind-blowing!

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, the creator of Oculus Rift, has always been open about his vision for the VR technology. He has gone on record to say that he has no doubt that VR is going to be the future of entertainment. His argument is logical too. Palmer says that as the demand for the technology increases, the price for the VR goggles is only going to go down. So, more and more people are going to own them. In such a world, the user can have an interactive and completely immersive experience for the price of a low end smartphone. Now, Palmer’s argument is that when people can get such an experience with VR, there will be no need to buy a television set, even at lower prices, while paying the cost of shipping for a 40” screen.

virtual-reality-htc-vive

Now, a counter to that argument can be that television might not be an immersive experience, but a communal one. When you watch television, you are sitting with your family, having conversations while eating a meal, and so on. Of course, you can eat and be with your family while wearing VR goggles as well. But, it is not the experience that you can share. Also, you can be with your favorite actor in the video, but not with your friends. This is the kind of entertainment experience television delivers.

Moreover, VR goggles completely block the real world view. So, you are oblivious to what is happening in your immediate environment. This makes you very vulnerable to accidents. You may have heard about the Pokemon Go incidents that are happening, because people are completely involved in the augmented reality that has been presented to them. Virtual reality is completely immersive, which can become a major safety concern. If you are wondering what accident you could be prone to when you are on your ultra-comfortable couch in a peaceful suburb, then here’s is the answer – you might not hear your crying baby. You may not see the vibrating phone beside you or will be able to realize that someone needs your help. Sure, the companies will be working towards mitigating the security concerns for its users. But, in its current form, there is no real solution. So, a consumer grade product that can be used as extensively as a television is far from reality.

People will surely own a VR goggle to enjoy the experience, and may soon become a novelty product in most living rooms. But, it is hard to say that they will completely forego that unique experience that the traditional modes of entertainment bring to the table. So, the VR market is undoubtedly going to be big. But, these factors put a big question mark on the idea that it will be a mass market.

At best, VR can become another way to consume entertainment in the future, but it has a long way to go and a lot of its issues need to be addressed before it can become a mainstream product of choice. Today, we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were two or three decades ago. So, it is possible that we find a solution to all the caveats that VR presents. For now, VR is no match for a television. Then again, it is almost impossible to predict what trajectory technology will take in the future.

virtual-reality-make-other-entertainment-obsolete

What is TVSquared?

TVSquared is quite a hot topic among the marketing professionals across all business circles. It has gained immense popularity, especially in the recent months. But, if you have not heard about it, then don’t worry. It is a service that is generally used by businesses with sizeable pockets. The reason is that TVSquared is a powerful TV advertising attribution platform that helps advertisers calculate the ROI of various television campaigns designed by the marketers.

TVSquared is a powerful technological solution that considers a variety of factors, various media options, and other contact points between the businesses and their audience, to understand the impact caused by various marketing activities on a business’ audience. There are many services in the market that can provide reliable information on when to schedule your marketing campaigns on television, and also help you understand their impact on your audience. But, TVSquared goes a step ahead from the rest of them.

The company features two solutions for the businesses – ADvantage and Predict. Both of the solutions are interrelated, and provide the best results when used together. The ADvantage platform allows the businesses to track the performance of their television advertisement campaigns in real time. If you are wondering what is so special about them, think about it. It is not so easy to track the performance of television ads. Suppose, you watch a camera ad on television, and happen to visit the website. But, you do not purchase the camera right away. However, a week or so later, you click on a link on Facebook, and come to the same website again. But, this time you make the purchase. So, what would factor would you attribute for your purchase – the TV ad or Facebook link? The ADvantage platform recognizes the contribution made by both the platforms. In your case, it attributes the conversion success to both TV ad and Facebook. However, the contribution from both TV and Facebook are calculated depending on how much time you spent on the website, each time. If you spent more time the first time you visited the website, then ADvantage assigns the television a larger share of the success in your conversion, and vice versa.

This is what makes the service unique. It considers multiple factors that affect audience’s conversion into buying customers. Thus, it provides a far more accurate and insightful look into the behavior of the television audience.

tv-squared-map

Predict, on the other hand, is a powerful solution to “predict” the response to your TV ads even before you embarked on an ad campaign. This particular product makes use of the historical data from ADvantage, and employs machine learning techniques to predict the performance of ads that will be aired during a particular airtime. This has tremendous implications. Just imagine. Instead of just guessing when to schedule your ads, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could schedule your ads at the airtime when you are guaranteed to get desirable results? Predict makes that possible.

So far, TVSquared’s both products have been immensely popular, and rightly so. It is estimated that the two products result in a 25% decrease in cost to the advertisers on their ad campaigns, and a 30% increase in their conversions, which can be purchases, signups, or something else.

The impressive potential of the service has naturally attracted the advertisers from all across the world. The company already serves more than 300 clients from over 40 countries.

The applications of the two products are not limited to just minimizing costs. They provide a wealth of analytics information that is invaluable to businesses. TVSquared has successfully managed to bring the mainstream television advertisement to the internet age. With the power of ADvantage and Predict, markets can plan and schedule the TV ads just the way they do with digital ads. They allow the marketers to explain the performance and predicted performances of TV campaigns in terms of site visits, CPM, conversions, sales, CPC, and so on, thus enabling them to strategize a seamless media campaign encompassing both digital as well as TV ads.

It takes does a genius to see that TVSquared is all set to bring a paradigm shift in how TV ad buyers conduct their business. They will now be held accountable as per the same metrics that online ad buyers are. So, they will have to adapt, and rethink their TV ad buying strategies. The results they deliver will be watched closely, and continuously compared with those of the online ad buyers. After all, every business wishes to pursue media options that bring about the highest ROI, which can be achieved either by reducing costs, or by increasing revenues.

tv-squared-graph

HDR Technology: A Simple Guide to the Next Revolution in Television

It’s late 2016 already, and 4K continues to gain popularity like wildfire. So, what is the next big thing in television then? 8K? Augmented Reality? Well, actually the answer is HDR or High Dynamic Range.

If you have been shopping for a television lately, or have been following tech news related to the television industry, then it’s impossible that you’ve missed HDR. Frankly, HDR has been the talk of the town for all of 2016.

You might have heard from TV manufacturers that there are many kinds of HDR: advertisers will always be advertisers, and in their hunger to differentiate their products, they will mislead the consumers. Take their words with a grain of salt. There actually aren’t that many HDR technologies floating around the electronics industry. In fact, there are only two approaches to HDR as far as televisions are concerned. But before we get into all the nitty-gritty details, let us first understand what HDR is.

What is High Dynamic Range?

If you own any of the fairly recent smartphones, then you’ve probably come across the HDR option in the camera. When you click a picture in HDR mode, a camera will take a range of photos at multiple exposures simultaneously, and then combine them together to produce a final picture that is more dynamic. This way, the bright regions are brighter, and the dark regions are darker than a regular picture. However, this is only HDR with respect to photography.

When it comes to television, the High Dynamic Range works slightly differently. HDR video recordings retain a much larger brightness range. They contain a much wider breadth of the visible light spectrum, which makes television picture quality much sharper and crisp. It’s the closest to what your naked eye sees in the real world. You may have noticed that many of the low-end to mid-price segment cameras tend to miss out on the small details in low light conditions. Cameras equipped with HDR can capture images just like our eyes see in low light conditions.

The great thing about HDR is that you don’t have to invest in a TV the size of your wall to actually notice it. Even small and medium size televisions can come equipped with this technology. And the result? The quality of pictures on your HDR TV will be as brilliant as those on high-end cinema screens, which is why HDR will revolutionize the television industry.

hdr-tv-quality

So, when can I start watching HDR content?

Well, there is a catch. The catch is what it typically is in the industry – format war. Remember HD DVD vs Blu-Ray, DVD vs DIVX, etc? Now similar battles are happening in HDR, but this time, the format war is between the two approaches to HDR itself.

One approach to HDR is developed by the manufacturing giants Sony and Samsung: HDR10. This format has already gained widespread traction in the entertainment industry. A number of movie studios, industry associations, and content providers are already backing this technology.

The other format is developed by one of the biggest names in audio technology – Dolby. Dolby’s homegrown HDR format – Dolby Vision – is at least easy to remember.

HDR10 is topping the Google Trends charts, in comparison to Dolby Vision, but that doesn’t mean Dolby Vision is taking a nose-dive. It’s gaining popularity, but not as much as HDR10. In fact, those who matter in the industry have been happy to accommodate both the formats. Television manufacturers, especially LG and Vizio, have developed their TVs to support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Likewise, content producers and providers like Netflix and Amazon have already backed both the technologies.

At present, it appears that the industry will continue to support both the standards, and this is good news for TV viewers. Now that most of the wrinkles have been straightened out, customers will soon be able to enjoy HDR-compatible content on their televisions.

How do I check whether my TV supports HDR?

It’s quite simple. Manufacturers are happy to announce to the customers that the television they are buying is HDR compatible. So, you can see the same mentioned in the list of specifications on the box in which the TV ships, as well in the manuals that are shipped with it. If you want to buy television sets that support both formats of HDR, then great. Alternatively, if you want an inexpensive TV, then you can buy one that supports at least one of the HDR formats. As the content will be produced to support both formats, you will still be able to enjoy content in HDR.

hdr-tv-dolby-vision

Which HDR format is the future?

The main reason why HDR10 is more popular than Dolby Vision is that HDR10 technology is a standard developed by a group of industry members. Hence, the technology is open for adoption by everyone. On the other hand, anyone who wants their hardware to support Dolby Vision has to buy a license from Dolby. Plus they need dedicated Dolby Vision decoder chip in their hardware. There are other differences between the two technologies, but the license fee is the most important one. This is the primary reason why Dolby Vision-compatible TVs are only handful in number.

Most HDR TVs support HDR10, irrespective of whether they support Dolby Vision or not. but it’s too early to say which one will triumph over the other in the future. As far as the consumer is concerned, there is no need to worry about this war. Most TVs are indeed compatible with both formats, making their televisions future-proof.

hdr-tv-glasses

What do I need to enjoy HDR-compatible programs, and how can I do it now?

The first thing you have to understand about HDR is that it’s an end-to-end technology. To enjoy HDR content, it has to be supported all the way through. What this means is that the content must first be produced in HDR quality; it must be broadcasted on HDR-compatible systems; then, it has to be viewed on HDR compatible televisions.

As you can see, you might have an HDR compatible TV in your living room., but unless you have a source that brings HDR compatible content to you, you cannot enjoy content in HDR on your television. As of now, very few services offer HDR-compatible content, the likes of which include Amazon, Netflix, VUDU, FandangoNow, and some others. These services are pioneering the adoption of HDR. As they manage to get more HDR content into the mainstream, cable channels and other streaming services will be under pressure to match them as well. Considering the way things are going now, you can expect to enjoy a lot of HDR compatible content by early 2017.

For now though, you can stick with the ones mentioned above that support HDR content.

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Do all HDR TVs produce the same type of images?

It is perfectly logical to think that two TVs manufactured by two manufacturers that use same technology (in this case, HDR), should produce similar quality images. But in reality, there can be significant differences. Apart from the HDR technology, there are a lot of other technologies that a particular TV can support, and each manufacturer uses a lot of different technologies in their televisions: so, the combined effect of these technologies is a unique final image for different televisions.

Each TV comes with its own range of brightness, contrast, resolution, color gradient, and other specifications that have their own effect on the HDR picture quality.

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What televisions are the best for enjoying HDR programs?

There is no universally accepted “best HDR TV,” or specifications. To their credit, the Ultra HD Alliance has come up with a set of specifications for color, brightness, and resolution for HDR compatible TVs. The televisions that qualify for these factors are awarded the badge of Ultra HD Premium by the Alliance. However, not all TV manufactures are enamored by this badge, so they ignore it completely and simply promote their products as HDR compatible.

Despite this, there are ways in which you can differentiate between different HDR compatible televisions. LCD TVs use external light sources, which can cause light-related issues like brightness problems. The answer to this is OLED TVs: in OLED TVs, each pixel produces its own light, eliminating the light-induced problems of LCD TVs. However, OLED TVs are not capable of achieving the same peak brightness levels as that of LCD TVs. Nevertheless, the picture quality on OLED TVs is significantly better than LCD TVs due to the improved contrast, but consequently, OLED TVs are much more expensive than LCD TVs. So, even two HDR-compatible TVs that work on different technology can produce different image qualities.

It’s ultimately up to you to decide what type of TV you like. More peak brightness or better contrast?

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Conclusion

Since this is actually a point of concern, you can soon expect there to be another war on these aspects of HDR as well. There could be competition between HDR TV manufacturers to produce higher peak brightness, better contrasts, and so on.

HDR is the technology that is going to drive the next big wave in the television market, and it will be interesting to see where it will take the industry. All Aboard!

What to expect from Hulu + Yahoo

Netflix is currently the biggest streaming service in the market with around 83 million subscribers. That is an intimidating number and its competitors are gearing up to give Netflix a fight for its top slot: the recent partnership between Yahoo and Hulu is a step in this direction. It is clear that both Yahoo and Hulu have decided to take on Netflix together, as both of them have media behemoths backing them. While Verizon has acquired Yahoo’s core business for $4.83 billion, Hulu was started by media barons, and Time Warner has also bought a 10% stake in Hulu for $583 million recently. Now, in light of these recent events, what can a streaming service subscriber like you expect from this new team?

Yahoo and Hulu have recently floated their own free streaming service called Yahoo View. All the content that is currently available with the free Hulu subscription will now be available on Yahoo View. Yahoo View will predominantly focus on offering TV show episodes to its subscribers, but they will also be able to watch a variety of videos and content from Tumblr on this streaming service. In fact, Yahoo View is the only service at the moment that offers access to both movies as well as television shows available on Hulu.

This leads to the next obvious question – if all the content from Hulu is available on Yahoo Live, will that not make Hulu redundant? The simple answer is – Yes. And this is the reason why Hulu is pulling the plug on its free streaming service. Subscribers will soon be left with only the premium Hulu Plus services — they can either go for the $7.99 monthly plan with limited commercials or the no commercial plan of $11.99 per month. The management at Hulu thinks that the company has always tried to offer richer and more personalized content to their subscribers, and over the years, the free service has become very limited, which is not something Hulu believes in offering to its customers.

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So, how will this move impact the current lot of subscribers? The ardent Hulu fans, who watch TV shows regularly on the free Hulu plan, may understandably not welcome this move for obvious reasons. But, for a casual viewer, this change of plans will not really make much of a difference. Hulu does not really offer a great variety with its free subscription. There are only a limited number of television shows like South Park, America’s Got Talent, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and a few more, available with the free version. The five latest episodes of these shows are what you can enjoy on Hulu now. These are also only available for a week after they are aired on live television. So, it’s quite apparent that taking the free Hulu service will not really have any big impact on most of the subscribers, because they weren’t enjoying any kind of exclusive programming anyway. The die-hard fans of the service should also not feel abandoned, because Yahoo View will be offering all the content that was previously available on Hulu for free as well.

Yahoo and Hulu are pushing to make Yahoo View a sort of ultimate destination for cord-cutters to come to get their TV fix. Apart from the free Hulu shows, it will also feature a lot of ad-supported popular television shows. Both the companies are trying to create a brand in the market and they want people to identify Yahoo View as the television of the internet.

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It appears that Tumblr will help them get the word out. The social media platform boasts of 550 million users a month and over 280 million blogs, and it was acquired by Yahoo for a whopping $1.1 billion in 2013. Yahoo is definitely going to encourage people to share their favorite shows and other offerings on their blogs. Netflix, on the other hand, does not have such a huge social media tool in its arsenal.

So, as a cord-cutter, you should be happy that another streaming service is entering the market. The big investors behind the service will ensure that you get a lot of great content to watch, mostly for free. As for Hulu, it will now focus more on the 12 million paid subscribers that it has. You can expect it to put all of its energies on increasing that number by way of more original programming and a bigger content library. As a consumer, you will certainly be a winner.

6 Best TV remote apps for Android

Imagine an alternate universe where there were not remote controls. Every time you had to change a channel, you had to get up from your couch and press the buttons on the TV. For a majority of us TV buffs, that is worse than a Zombie apocalypse. Sure, we don’t have to suffer that because in our universe we have remote controls. But, not all the time. Sometimes, it can be a pain to locate those remote controls. Checking under pillow covers, cushions, and below sofas does not always work. That is why a lot of smartphones today come equipped with an IR blaster, which allows you to transform your smartphone into a universal remote for operating all your remote controlled devices at home. The biggest advantage of using phone for this purpose is that it is always with you. Even when it is not with you, you can just give it a call to find its location in the home. Quite handy, isn’t it! Here we bring you top universal remote apps, which you can use to control your TV right from your smartphone.

Smart IR Remote – AnyMote

Without a doubt, this is one of the best remote control apps on Android. Its interface is simple, and it is super easy to configure the remote for your devices. It supports a wide variety of devices, and it is unlikely that your TV isn’t supported. In the event that your device is not supported, you can configure the remote specifically for your device too. Also, the app provides a lot of automated functions like reducing the TV volume when you get calls, and so on. It is a premium app, but people love it.

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Peel Smart Remote

Peel Smart Remote does two jobs perfectly – replace your TV remote, and provide you a complete TV guide. The app requires you to mention a few details such as your cable provider, and/or zip code. With that info, it extracts your live cable programming schedule. It even allows you to create personalized lists of which programs you like and which you don’t. Later, it reminds you of upcoming screen times of the programs.

ASmart Remote IR

ASmart Remote IR is possibly the most user-friendly TV remote app out there. It is a universal remote that can control a host of devices, including TVs, cameras, and ACs. The best thing about this app is that you can create multiple rooms in the app to reflect the rooms in your home with sets of remotes for each room’s devices. The rooms are displayed as tabs at the top, and whenever you enter a room, you can click on it, and access the remotes configured for that room.

SURE Universal Remote

If you do not have an IR blaster on your phone, then SURE Universal Remote can easily be the best TV remote app for you. The app features for IR and Wi-Fi compatibility. So, even if you do not have an IR blaster, you can control your TV from this phone via Wi-Fi. Further, the app is compatible with the Wi-Fi to IR transmitters available in the market, which enable you to use the remote via IR, even if your phone does not have a built-in IR capability. The interface is fluid, and very intuitive to use.

Easy Universal TV Remote

The Easy Universal TV Remote app stays true to its name – it is easy, and it is a universal remote. The app can be configured for using with pretty much every device. It supports all popular brand TVs, and can be easily connected to them. If your phone has an IR blaster, then you will love your experience with using this app. If you don’t have an IR enabled phone, then the remote app works with a Wi-Fi connection to control your TV. Moreover, you can also attach an external IR blaster to your phone as well to use this app.

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Twinone TV Remote

If you are not tech savvy or have family members who find it hard to use technology, then Twinone TV Remote is the best remote app for you. The app has an amazingly simple interface that is easy to use for anybody. The app comes with all the basic functions like changing channels, changing volumes, and so on. This is a complete no-frills app, which brings essential functions, without confusing the users with too many options and buttons.

10 Things That You should Know Before Buying a Television

You will find televisions of every size and specifications in the market today. LEDs, OLEDs, UHD, 4K and now even 8K, the technologies backing the television sets are getting more sophisticated by the day. There is a dizzying array of choices in terms of price, and models. The only downside to such an excellent number of options is the confusion that they cause. Do not worry; this guide has got you covered. Here are 10 useful tips that will help you zero down on the television of your choice.

Pick a screen that everyone can see

Size always has and always will be one of the most important factors. Television size makes a huge difference to the viewing experience. So, first ascertain the number of people who will be watching the television. The television should be big enough to provide a decent viewing angle to all the people in the living room. Other than that, the buyer should also take into account the space in which the television is going to be placed. If you have a large living room, screen sizes between 55” to 65” work best.

Consider your sitting habits

The dimensions of the screen that you choose should also depend on how close you sit to the TV. You should measure the height of the television and sit at a distance that is three times that height. This is the ideal distance to watch television without any pixels. This is true even for high definition television. On the other hand, if you are planning to buy a 4K powered television, you can easily reduce that distance to 1.5 times the height.

Do not go for less than 1080p

There is a race out there among TV manufacturers to produce TV models with the highest resolutions. For the uninitiated, resolution is essentially the sharpness that a television is able to produce. Now, here is what you should know before buying a television set. The lowest resolution available in the market is 720p. These are almost a dying breed. Now, moving on to the next level, let’s focus on 1080p. This is where you will find most HD televisions today. This is the format in which you will be able to find most cable programming too.

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Buy higher resolution to be future ready

In the resolution race, the next in line is the 4K UHD. There are latest 4K TV models available from all major manufacturers. The 4K television has four times better resolution than regular HDTVs. The benefits of the extra pixels show in the form of a richer and more lifelike picture that appears on the television. This is not the end of the line as far as pixels are concerned. Many manufacturers have come up with 8K versions as well, but they are prohibitively expensive. However, the 4K programming will slowly catch on. This is the future of television and it is only a matter of time before older TVs will become obsolete.

There is a downside to 4K. Currently, there are limited options available on cable or otherwise for 4K broadcasting. So, even if your television has the capability to display such a high resolution video, there is not a lot of content in the market to enjoy it. There is absolutely no content available for 8K television as of now.

Know the Refresh Rate

This is the rate at which pictures are refreshed on the television screen every second. The Refresh Rate is expressed in Hertz (or Hz). The most commonly available refresh rate in the market is 60 Hz. However, many a time, when fast moving objects appear on the screen, the pictures can get blurred. Many of the TV manufacturers now offer higher refresh rates of the order of 120 Hz and sometimes even 240 Hz. The faster the refresh rate, the better the picture quality of fast paced scenes, but the prices will also increase correspondingly.

HDR compatibility for premium TVs

Now, before you go into the details, this is an upgrade for UHD televisions. High Dynamic Range or HDR essentially refers to the wide variety of colors that the television can showcase. In simpler words, it makes blacks blacker and whites even whiter. So, if you want your picture quality to be more lifelike, choose TVs that have UHD with HDR.

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Look for more ports

Now, this may not look like the most important factor when picking a television, but it should be one of the criteria. The reason is simple. In the future, you may need to connect the television set to a speaker, a gaming console, a plug-in like Roku, or something else. You already need 3 ports and these are just the basic add-ons. Many times, manufacturers try to save costs by providing fewer ports. So, you should pay higher attention to the number of USB and HDMI ports the television offers. Also, makes sure that if you are opting for a 4K television, then your television has HDCP 2.2 (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection).

Contrast Ratio Is What You See

The specifications for the contrast ratio are always available on the television. But, take this tip and completely ignore them. You should believe how the contrast is working in front of your own eyes. Most of the times, numbers can be misleading. Believe your eyes.

Go For Substance Over Style

Curved televisions may look grand, but the fact of the matter is that they really do not make much of a difference to the picture quality. You should understand that they add more of a pull factor than any functional feature to a television.

Smart TV Is No Big Deal

Smart TVs are everywhere and they are not a great feature for any television. So, if you are buying a television by getting wowed by only this factor, you are barking up the wrong tree. Ask the salesman for all the other features of the television and then make your decision.

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Always Buy A Sound Bar

As the TVs have transformed from old boxes to size-zero, this development has affected the quality of speakers on them. Keeping this in mind, it would be a good idea to buy a sound bar while purchasing a television. It will serve you well.

Rovi, TiVo, and The Battle of TV Guides

2015 marked a milestone in a relatively less known war that has been plaguing the tech and entertainment industry. This is the patent war. This is a war between what are called as patent trolls and the average organizations. Patent trolls, as they are known, are some obscure companies that buy relatively unknown patents and start bullying organizations by threatening them with lawsuits for intellectual property infringements. Whether the patents they actually own do cover the products or services offered by the other organization is highly debatable. But, fearing lawsuits, most companies simply settle for a sum. Some companies are not intimidated, and they fight their battles in the court. In some cases, they win, while in others, they fail.

If this sounds all too familiar, that is because many analysts feel that, more often than not, Apple vs. Samsung lawsuits fall in this category. Whether Apple does possess a valid justification or is simply trying to weed out the competition the dirty way is something that is for the judiciary to decide. But industry experts agree that a desperate change is needed in how patents are issued and how patent licensing should work, so that companies with genuine cases are not strong-armed by the patent trolls.

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If you are wondering what Rovi and TiVo have to do anything with all this, well, the answer is quite complicated. As you must know, Rovi provides TV programming guides. Roughly about 18 million American households use Rovi TV guides through various apps and devices. But, have you ever wondered what is so special about Rovi guides? Why doesn’t everyone else build their own TV guide? It’s not like Rovi is the only company which has a copyright on making TV guides, right? Well, the simple answer is that Rovi has about more than 1,500 issued and pending patents in the US alone. Because of its patents, it has intellectual property rights on many features and functions of TV guides in general. That’s why most other companies simply go with Rovi when they offer TV programming guides. Even the giants like Google, Facebook, Samsung, Sony, Apple, and Comcast simply prefer to sign licensing deals with Rovi rather than build their own TV guides and antagonize Rovi. However, not everybody is comfortable with this idea.

Some companies like Amazon, Netflix, Sharp, Hulu, Toshiba and others stood up against Rovi. Amazon took on Rovi head on in court, and won the case in 2014. Amazon had attracted the case from Rovi, just because it bought IMDB. The patents which Rovi claimed that Amazon’s IMDB was infringing, that they were just describing TV guides, but on the internet. With Rovi losing the case, these “but-on-the-internet” cases are slowly losing their steam. It was Netflix’s court battle against Rovi in 2015 that deserves special attention. The US District Judge Phyllis Hamilton invalidated 5 of the patents Rovi was holding, essentially making it impossible for the company to cause trouble toward other companies based on those patents. Hamilton noted that these patents were not given for new technology or revolutionary concept. Instead, those patents were awarded for generic ideas. Ideas such as combining two categories into one set of suggestions such as crime dramas, sci-fi fantasies, and so on. Hamilton noted that patents cannot be given away for abstract ideas.

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With these two lawsuits, Rovi’s death grip on the TV guide industry has taken a serious hit. It may not be too farfetched to presume that Rovi might find its customers abandoning it and developing their own TV guides instead. Perhaps, it is this reason which has pushed it to acquire another player in the industry to ensure that it continues to maintain its market share in the industry and stays relevant. A few months ago Rovi announced that it is acquiring TiVo, a DVR and TV guide company, for $1.1 billion.

This deal gives Rovi all of the 10 million customers of TiVo. Also, as TiVo brand is more popular and customer-friendly, the company, post-merger, will take the name of TiVo. This deal is expected to give Rovi the foothold it wants in the industry. Also, the company will threaten new competitors with lawsuits, as it still has a lot of patents in its bag, which it can use. Even though it is impossible to guess how many of those lawsuits it will actually win in the future, if at all it is challenged. A lot of companies might simply choose to avoid the confrontation and sign a licensing deal with Rovi. Coupled with its newfound bump in the market share after it buys off TiVo, it is safe to say that Rovi will continue to be the leader in this industry.

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