Comcast’s loss of cable users could be great news for TV fans everywhere

For the first time, Comcast has more Internet than cable subscribers. The undeniable trend in TV watching habits could signal welcome changes are on the horizon for cord cutters and TV fans everywhere.



Comcast executive Niel Smit confirmed that Broadband subscribers have surpassed the company’s cable customers at an earnings call this morning. The news follows the growing trend toward TV streaming via the Internet, and the rising interest in cutting the cable cord.

Comcast, which tends to rank poorly in customer satisfaction, has seen competition in the TV sphere has risen of late. Several alternative TV options have launched this year already.

DISH Network unveiled its Internet TV service, Sling TV, in February. Using the Internet instead of cables or satellite, Sling TV provides subscribers with access to popular channels like AMC and ESPN. The basic package is $20/month—a significant savings compared to standard cable.

Ownzones also launched recently. It too offers a low-cost ($9) monthly subscription for access to a set of channels. Ownzones’ Chromecast offer—a free device for a $9 value—helped to attract customers who may stick around, adopting the cord cutter life.

As Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and other TV streaming services expand their offerings, including original series, more people are deciding cable subscriptions aren’t worth the money. Hit TV shows and movies are available at a much lower cost from streaming services than cable companies.

More cable TV alternatives are expected to come on the scene in the coming months. Apple announced plans to launch a TV streaming service that would operate similarly to Sling TV. The service will be separate from the Apple TV media streaming device, opening up the door for more customers.

Media streaming devices are more popular than ever—another trend giving Comcast some trouble. One only needs to look at the buzz over a Roku 4 release or the Apple TV rumors to see that interest is high.

Especially now that fans can watch live sports without cable—and not just European futbol, but the major mainstream US sports—Comcast and other cable providers will have a harder time holding onto customers.

Which means cable companies will be forced to make changes. Comcast, Time Warner and the others will no longer be able to afford to withhold the options customers want. The trend signals that consumers will start to see more flexible TV packages, like Verizon’s “skinny bundles,” for lower prices.

In addition, true cable TV alternatives are expected to continue to multiply to meet demand. At long last, the cable/satellite/Internet TV market will involve some meaningful competition between providers. That spells great news for TV fans and anyone interested in cutting the cable cord.


Two live-streaming sites squashed, but many will watch Mayweather-Pacquiao free—legally and illegally

Sites announce plans to live-stream Mayweather v. Pacquiao, but take a punch from networks. Who will win the piracy fight in the “Fight of the Century”?


The “Fight of the Century” is shaping up to be every bit as huge as the predictions. When Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao touch gloves on Saturday night, millions of people around the world will be watching. But how many will watch Mayweather-Pacquiao live via unsanctioned broadcasts? Networks and promoters are trying to shut down sites that say they’ll live-stream the action—but how successful can they be?

HBO and Showtime have exclusive rights to broadcast the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in the US. It will be available on Pay-Per-View for around $100.

But already the networks are fighting piracy. Two websites announced they would be live-streaming Mayweather-Pacquiao online for free for fans to watch.

Today’s Sports News 

Both of those sites, boxinghd.net and sportship.org, have been hit with a federal complaint filed by the networks along with Top Rank and Mayweather Productions. The complaint asks for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

It also asks for damages to compensate for financial losses and legal costs. This marks the first time a lawsuit has been filed over illegal broadcasting that has yet to take place.

It’s a strong move against piracy and probably intended to set an example prior to the fight. Indeed, the stakes have never been higher.

Pay-Per-View revenues are expected to break all previous records. But that’s only if illegal live-streaming can be stamped out.

Given that the fight is, of course, live preventing piracy will present a big challenge. It’s easy to take down illegal videos of the fight posted after it’s over. But cracking down on live streams as the action plays out is another story.

Making matters more difficult for networks is the international scene. Fans in the Philippines will be able to watch Mayweather-Pacquiao live for free on cable and free-to-air TV. It would be fairly simple for an individual to live-stream the action playing on their TV set to a broad online audience.

In fact, there are apps that would let someone do just that. Twitter’s Periscope and the popular Meerkat app let users stream live video to Twitter fans, all for free.

Viewers in Mexico will also be able to watch the fight free from Televisa and Azteca TV companies. People in the UK, Spain and Scandinavia will be able to purchase access for significantly less than US fans.

HBO and Showtime clearly have a massive fight of their own ahead. The two sites named in the lawsuit have indeed been taken offline. But how many more will spring up in their place on fight night? With so many millions at stake, there are sure to be those willing to take the gamble.


Chromecast gains ground in the race for world domination

The media streaming device wars aren’t only playing out in the U.S., where the big-name developers are based. The race is on to get devices to customers around the world. Most recently, Google Malaysia announced some good news for residents who’ve been waiting for Chromecast to arrive.


The announcement came on Google+ from Google Malaysia that the wait is over. Starting today, Chromecast will be available for MYR170. Is there interest in the device or in cutting the cable cord in Malaysia? The response to the announcement from Google+ followers suggests there is.

Outside of Malaysia, the news is unlikely to attract much attention. But it is a sign that Google is making strides in getting its media streaming stick to audiences around the world.

Global access is a critical victory for media streaming companies—the makers of both devices and services. Netflix, as one example, has said that it’s a major company priority to offer universal access to Netflix TV and movie content to subscribers across the globe.

Of course, it will still be a while before that dream is realized (if it ever is). But, as more services do become available internationally, and as online video advances, viewers will need devices to stream or cast content to TVs.

One of Chromecast’s biggest competitors, Roku—maker of the Roku Streaming Stick and Roku players—doesn’t reliably work in other countries. Roku may work internationally in some places. But there’s no clear list of the countries where Roku works, making it pretty much hit or miss for customers. (A Roku forum question on this topic failed to elicit much useful information.)

Chromecast continues to be popular in the US, and the company continues to work for new customers with special offers. For instance, the Ownzones Chromecast deal has been ongoing for a couple months now. Ownzones has been giving away free Chromecast devices when customers sign up for three months of access to their streaming content for a cost of $9. Given that Chromecast tends to sell for between $30 and $35, it’s a pretty good offer, even without watching any of Ownzones’ (strange selection of) shows and movies.

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Reviewing Apple TV among the 2015 competition

Apple TV is one of the most popular media streaming devices. But with the current 3rd generation now over three years old, how does it stack up against today’s competition?

Apple TV Review

When Apple TV’s first generation device debuted in 2007, it had to be used with a computer running iTunes in order to sync or stream content. That was quickly corrected with a revision the next year, and Apple TV has been a top-of-the-line standalone media streaming device ever since.

The current version, the set-top box’s 3rd generation, gets high marks from Apple TV reviews in 2015 and earlier. The device itself is small and sleek. The remote control it comes with is classic Apple minimalism the company’s customers have come to love.

As advertised, Apple TV makes it very easy for users to stream TV shows and movies to any modern television set. The device works with most popular media streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube, and also plays content from iTunes.

Watch demos of Apple TV and other popular media streaming devices: 

Apple TV does a good job of giving users access to watch live sports—a critical criteria for many viewers looking to cut the cable cord. The NBC Sports Live Extra app just arrived on Apple TV. Other sports networks have compatible apps, including MLB.tv, NBA League Pass and NHL GameCenter.

In all, Apple TV is a solid media streaming device. It’s $99 price tag is at the upper end compared to some other devices, particularly the lower-cost media streaming sticks. But it’s not overly prohibitive and can even end up saving people money if users downgrade their cable packages.

But at three years and counting since the 3rd generation came out, the device is falling behind in some areas. In other areas, the old criticisms are verging on becoming deal-breakers.

First, Apple TV isn’t as powerful or as fast as some other devices (such as Amazon Fire TV), which can make it operate slower. Today’s trend toward 4K resolution, or at least ultra-high definition, isn’t supported by the current model—a limitation that will quickly become a major strike against.

Apple TV lacks a personal video recorder and a TV tuner. It can also be awkward to use with a home theater system because an additional, separate remote is needed to do so without the HDMI Consumer Electronics Control.

One of the biggest drawbacks of Apple TV is that movies rented through the system can only be watch on Apple TV. The native content selection is also (not surprisingly) heavily skewed towards iTunes selections. The movie search function exclusively accesses iTunes. The device is also (even less surprisingly) not compatible with Android devices.

Apple TV can still compete, and do it well. But without an update, it’s becoming more and more a device that only users who are already invested in Apple products will be interested in.

Apple TV rumors surface now and then with hopeful talk of the next version being released soon. With confirmed plans to launch an Apple Internet TV service in the coming months, it makes sense that a new device would soon follow. But for now the rumors are only that.

Customers are eager for an update, though—from Apple TV and other major makers of media streaming devices. The Roku 3 is also pretty advanced in age (in tech years, that is) and users haven’t been quiet about their desire for the Roku 4 to hit shelves. The Roku 4 release date may be as soon as this fall. One thing is fairly certain—the first company to get their next generation device to consumers will get a big leg up in the increasingly crowded media streaming market.

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More ways to watch live sports for Roku and Apple TV users—but there’s a catch

As the demand for alternative TV gains ground among viewers, networks are steadily increasing access. Even the options to watch live sports, a stubborn holdout, have improved of late. Now Roku and Apple TV users can stream sports live from NBC sports—but the offering has a major flaw and will fall flat with cord cutters. 


For sports fans, cutting the cable cord has been out of the question. Alternative TV simply didn’t afford access to watch live sports events from the major U.S. leagues and competitions.

Until now. Recently there’s been a surge of new sports coverage available for fans without requiring a cable or satellite subscription.

HBO started offering viewers standalone subscriptions earlier this year. The premium network features several original sports programs, including boxing specials like their showcases of the upcoming Floyd Mayweather, Jr. versus Manny Pacquiao “fight of the century.”

CBS, home of CBS Sports, also now offers a standalone subscription. Internet TV newbie Sling TV got ESPN—including a bunch of its sub-channels like ESPN 2, 3, March Madness and more—into its basic and sports extras lineups. Other Internet TV providers and sports networks have also been upping their coverage for customers.

The latest network to get behind the rising demand for alternative sports viewing options is NBC Sports. They announced that the NBC Sports Live Extra app will now be available on Apple TV and Roku players and Roku TV models.

Viewers will be able to live stream the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, the Triple Crown races, the upcoming Olympic games, Sunday Night Football, PGA golf and more. In all, over 3,000 live streams from a wide range of sports events will be available each year, NBC says.

But there is a catch, and a big one. A cable or satellite subscription will still be required to watch.

Today’s Top Sports News:

Said a press release from NBC Sports Group, “The vast majority of live streaming will only be available to authenticated cable, satellite or telco customers…” While the network does recognize the importance of giving fans more flexible options to watch live sports coverage, the effort misses the mark if it’s cord cutters and Millennials the network is looking to woo.

Given that NBC Sports Live Extra is already available online on the NBC Sports website and mobile devices via the Android and iOS apps, the move is pretty marginal. It is unlikely to attract many new customers for Roku or Apple TV, though existing users may appreciate a slight uptick in viewing convenience.

Perhaps this is just the first step and fans will soon be able to stream live sports from NBC without cable. At least, that’s if the network truly cares about pleasing its customers. On the other hand, with Comcast as the owner of NBCUniversal, it’s probably too much to hope for.

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Is Kodi legal? As users rise, so do questions

Kodi (formerly XBMC) is increasing in popularity. The free, elegant, well-regarded media center platform is steadily gaining users and industry cache. But many wonder about the legal issues surrounding the software and, in particular, some popular Kodi add-ons. 


When Kodi first debuted as XBMC, which stands for Xbox Media Center, it found its audience among gamers. Xbox users were looking for a way to use their systems to not only play video games, but also to watch TV and stream other media.

Kodi filled that role. It did it so well that the platform soon expanded. Today, anyone can download Kodi—for free—for use on a variety of operating systems and devices to better organize and enjoy one’s media collection.

Kodi also works with TVs and remote controls to play all kinds of content—movies, TV shows, pictures, music—on a TV screen. It is a popular choice over Windows Media Center for Home Theater PCs. The platform can be personalized and customized in a wide variety of ways.

Watch a demo of Kodi and other popular media gizmos:

There are thousands of Kodi add-ons and plug-ins available to further enhance its function. That includes accessing media streaming services like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and much, much more.

In 2014, Kodi (then still XBMC) was awarded “Best Media Player” by Lifehacker. It’s popularity has risen steadily since then.

Kodi is not only free, but also open-source. Developed by the XBMC Foundation, a non-profit consortium, the platform is meant to be available to anyone to use and enjoy. But the fact that it’s open source has opened the door for some questionable uses.

The legal, and sketchy, ways some people use Kodi

One of the most compelling features of Kodi is that it can fill the role of a media streaming device. Users can stream TV shows and movies onto a TV using Kodi—which is perfectly fine provided one has a subscription if the service is paid (like Netflix or access to cable channels).

The problem is that the open-source development platform means anyone with the know-how can create add-ons and plugins for Kodi. There are some very popular ones that run toward the gray area of legality.

Specifically, these are the extensions that enable users to watch copyrighted content without the required subscriptions. A simple YouTube or web search will reveal just how much interest there is in this, and how many add-ons are available.

But that doesn’t make Kodi illegal. As the argument goes, Kodi is no more illegal than a computer. It could be used in illegal ways. But the technology itself doesn’t violate any laws.

That’s true to an extent. One major exception could turn out to be versions of Kodi that contain—without a commercial license—certain software snippets that can unscramble the Content Scramble System with which many DVDs are encrypted. That does put Kodi at risk of violating the U.S.’S Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But so far no one has stepped up to take any legal action.

Whether the developers who create the questionable add-ons, or the people who use them, are in violation of any laws is another big question. Copyright holders would certainly say yes. But it can be difficult to pinpoint the precise offense per today’s laws. Plus, simply locating violators can be a headache, as most developers use anonymous screen names.

Kodi does take care to discourage users from installing suspect add-ons. It provides a list of blacklisted add-ons on its website.

For anyone who wants to use Kodi in the standard, sanctioned ways, there are no legal concerns to worry about. There’s just an amazingly versatile, user-friendly, free platform to enjoy.

Learn more at kodi.tv

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In Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, piracy via live-streaming could be a tough battle

The upcoming fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will be one of the biggest sports events of the decade—and most-watched boxing match the sport has seen in far longer. But with today’s live-streaming technology, profits from at-home viewers could take a hit.


Mayweather and Pacquiao will finally meet glove-to-glove on May 2. To say the fight between boxing’s best has been eagerly awaited by fans is a gross understatement. Even people who aren’t big boxing followers have been waiting for the day the two would meet in the ring.

The matchup is being billed as “The Fight of the Century,” and it doesn’t seem like just a bunch of marketing hype. In terms of money, it has already made history.

Each fighter will take home a paycheck somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million. Experts predict total revenue will be $300-400 million. Of that total, ticket sales will bring in plenty, with prices ranging from $3,500 to $250,000. The 1,000 public tickets that went on sale were all sold within one minute.

See More of Today’s Sports News

Pay-Per-View sales are expected to bring in millions and pummel all past records. The PPV price will be $90 to $100. That’s just enough to squeeze out a lot of people who’d love to watch the action live. And that creates a market for piracy.

Just having a market, though, isn’t enough. Without the means to transmit the fight live, would-be lawbreakers would have their hands tied.

The live aspect is key, both in terms of garnering views and in thwarting arrest. Sure, someone always posts copyrighted fight videos on YouTube, which stay up for a short while—sometimes very short—before being removed. That’s small-time piracy and pretty easy to contain.

The bigger threat comes from live-streaming the action as it happens. It would extremely difficult to catch the culprits. And there could be a big potential audience.

Unlike during any of the previous decades’ mega-fights, live-streaming technology today is advanced and available to the masses. There are not one, but several live-streaming apps on the market—free, easy-to-use, and anonymous.

Anyone can now live-stream video via Twitter using Periscope or the Meerkat app. What’s to stop someone from doing so as a boxing match, or anything else, plays out live on TV? Nothing really.

Of course, that doesn’t mean someone will. It’s all unchartered territory But with Twitter followers being treated like currency, there is (at least perceived) value in having a bigger number. That could be all the motivation someone needs to try to attract new followers by live-streaming copyrighted content.

Of all the copyright infringements, mainstream piracy has the biggest potential to do damage. Will it be a long, drawn-out battle between copyright holders and Internet pirates? Will it be a knockout? Will it never get off the ropes? The world will be watching when the bell rings on May 2.


Fans can finally watch sports without cable as Internet TV, standalone channels open new options

As alternate ways to watch TV have been gaining popularity, access to live sports events has presented a major obstacle. But all that is finally changing.


For sports fans, the scant coverage outside a cable TV subscription has remained a deal-breaker for customers who would otherwise cut the cable cord. But with increasing demand and a definite trend in the direction of ditching high-priced cable packages, fans are finally seeing sports coverage available from alternative TV sources.

A big breakthrough in busting sports out of the cable/satellite TV box was Sling TV. Sling TV is an Internet TV service from DISH Network Corp. that launched earlier this year. It delivers TV to subscribers over the Internet, instead of via cables or satellite dishes. The basic package includes 19 popular cable channels for $20 per month.

Notably, top sports network ESPN is included in the Sling TV standard lineup. This makes Sling a pioneer in being able to offer customers access to live sports events from all the major US leagues.

Just to drive the point home, ESPN2 and ESPN3 also come as part of Sling’s basic “Best of Live TV” package—along with TBS and TNT, which broadcast men’s college NCAA basketball games during the March Madness tournament. Plus, the Internet TV service offers a $5/month add-on sports package, which includes another nine sports channels.

Sling TV doesn’t include CBS, home of CBS Sports, but the network has seen to it that fans can have access even without a traditional cable subscription. CBS started offering a standalone subscription this year for $8/month.

HBO also started offering access to all of its content as a standalone service for around $9/month. HBO features a number of original sports shows, including ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’ and extensive boxing coverage and commentary. The upcoming Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight on May 2—already destined to make history—has garnered a lot of viewers for HBO. Though the fight will be available via PayPerView, HBO has covered the extensive lead-up with many viewers watching through a standalone subscription or via HBO GO.

WhereverTV is another Internet TV provider that offers sports access. Sports channels include Eurosport offerings and a handful of WTV Sports listings. It’s not the mainstream coverage that will be needed to lure US sports fans, but it’s a start. Wherever TV recently appointed a new CEO, so changes are in the works for the service.

Media streaming devices also offer unique sports channels. For example, RedBull TV plays on Roku devices. Other specialty sports channels, like Tennis Channel, are still only available with a cable TV subscription. Yes, even though Tennis Channel made a big push to promote its new availability on Roku players, viewers still have to sign in with their cable provider.

Nonetheless, for sports fans the options are finally starting to look good enough to compete with cable TV. The day is close when sports will no longer hold customers back from cutting the cable cord.


The new, old, and original titles coming soon to Netflix’s ‘Fuller’ lineup

Netflix customers will soon be able to stream some all-new TV shows, some titles new to Netflix, and some old shows that are getting a new spin.


Netflix announced some new TV and movie titles that will be available for streaming, some as soon as next month.

‘Grace and Frankie’ will join the Netflix lineup in May. The show follows longtime rivals ‘Grace,’ played by Jane Fonda, and ‘Frankie,’ played by Lily Tomlin, after their husbands reveal they’ve fallen in love with each other and plan to get married. The movie ‘Legally Blonde’ starring Reece Whitherspoon as a girly airhead turned Harvard law student.

Aziz Ansari has gotten the green light from Netflix for his new comedy series. Ansari co-created the sitcom with his old producer pals from ‘Parks and Recreation.’

He has released two stand-up events as Netflix exclusives — ‘Buried Alive’ and ‘Live at Madison Square Garden.’

Netflix has signed on for a spinoff of the TV series ‘Full House.’ Full House ran from 1987 to 1995. John Stamos, who starred as ‘Jesse’ in the show alongside Bob Saget and Dave Coulier, announced the sequel show on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live.’ Titled ‘Fuller House’ it will focus on ‘D.J.’, played by Candace Cameron, all grown up and the mother of two sons with a third child on the way. Like her father in the original series, D.J. is a widow. Sister ‘Stephanie’ will be trying to make it in the music business. D.J.’s best friend ‘Kimmy’ will also play a central role as the mother of a teen daughter.

Netflix has ordered a 13-episode first season. ‘Fuller House’ will premier sometime next year.

Netflix is clearly moving more toward ownership of original shows. The company is facing increasing competition in the media streaming space. It’s betting big that having exclusive content will help it win out with both customers and investors.


Android TV is coming soon to a living room near you

Google’s Android TV has been pretty under-the-radar. But that may change very soon. Android TV is now poised to take over TV sets across the country. 


Google first announced Android TV in June of 2014. After watching Google TV flounder and fail, the company regrouped with a better plan to get into people’s living rooms.

Android TV is basically a software system for modern “smart” TVs to make them even smarter. Google is billing Android TV as the solution to the TV search problem.

On smart, Internet-connected TVs, with access to lots of online videos and media streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, searching for something to watch can be a frustrating and time-consuming task. Android TV will act like a search engine, and recommendation engine, installed on TV sets to make it easier to find shows, movies and other great stuff to watch.

Android TV rolled out on Nexus Players (from Google and Asus), which pretty much meant that the user base would be small. But now Google has taken its plan to the next step. Their partnership with Sony to build Android TV into Sony’s latest TV models is finally bearing fruit.

Sony has announced that it’s latest line of smart TVs includes sets running Android TV. TVs also have 4K and HDR support, so images will be more vibrant and life-like than ever.

The price tag won’t be cheap, though. Sony’s new TVs are expected to retail for $4,000-8,000.

The cost will certainly limit the market for Sony, and thus Android TV. The biggest movement in entertainment today is toward cutting the cable cord and cable bill. Millennials and other consumers are fed-up with the high prices and low flexibility of traditional cable services. While Android TV will appeal to consumers who use media streaming services and devices (Google’s platform is being promoted as “Google Cast Ready”), it will need to be available in a more affordable package before it’s widely adopted.