Thursday, August 14, 2008

How Many Ports Does a Set-Top Box Need?

Once again the fight between Telcos and Cable centers on the interface between TV and the communications stream, the set top box. And it is why some companies, like Sony, want to bypass the box and enable their own TV set to talk to the web. The set top box, the device you love to hate, is today the device that controls what you can and what you can't receive. Tru2way has been described by the cable community as open access; Dish has agreed and is willing to work under this approach, Verizon is not.

"Most vendors, be they carriers, networking gear makers or computer manufactures, view the set-top box as the key to digital content for consumers as ports will dictate how easy it is for consumers to plug their boxes into a variety of networks without adaptors. So as the computer industry and the telecommunications companies get deeper into the digital TV and home networking market, we’ll wait to see if the FCC decides to make Ethernet ports mandatory. Even if they do, a showdown between those in favor of Ethernet and those on the side of cable’s tru2way standard is likely to ensure as each industry seeks to control the home network."

I want devices that can plug and play. Show me that multiple devices can easily talk with each other in a non-technical way, then the consumer will approve and seek out those devices. Make it consumer friendly, and you will get their vote.


Fascinating article in the September issue of Portfolio on Jeff Zucker, CEO and President of Universal. Definitely worth the read. He has had some hits as well as taken some hits, but he clearly has a plan. From the acquisition of Oxygen and Weather Channel to the creation of Hulu, he has a definite vision of where he thinks NBC needs to be. And he certainly works hard at it. And the TV industry is so different today than it was just 10 years ago. Still, some would argue that while his cable strategy is sound, his broadcast strategy for NBC is not.

Can producing less pilots per year achieve better results. Financially yes, creatively hard to say. In this new world of on-demand, networks don't allow shows the time to develop as they once did. Seinfeld, Cheers and many other shows were not the ratings hits in their first years. But someone had the vision to keep them on. 30 Rock fits into that category today; luckily, a show that continues to get critical praise despite less than stellar ratings so far. Hopefully more people will find this very funny show. I feel that other shows though have been let go before their time and were not given the same time to grow and prosper. It is these tough decisions that Jeff and his team have to make to construct a successful schedule. The writers strike didn't help them, but every TV season provides the chance to have a do-over. So stay tuned for this Fall to see if the NBC magic is coming back.