Further TiVo content deals

There was a further announcement from TiVo’s advertainment division yesterday, in a new deal to place promotional material on TiVo’s. This time it’s with Fox Studios to promote five of their films this year. The content could include video elements from the films, including the full-length theatrical trailers, exclusive interviews or behind the scenes footage. Other video elements could also include music video performances associated with the film or film soundtrack.

From the piece, it doesn’t sound like an opt-in scheme, as they refer to putting the content on the “reserved” hard drive space of TiVo’s and quite what channel the content will be pull from isn’t specified.

One of the opt-in advertainments that sounds like an idea is “Telescoping” 30-second commercials. When the viewer is watching TV they will be able to link through to further material held on the TiVo, while the live TV is paused, ready to continue watching when they’ve finished with the extra material. Quite how this will work practically isn’t clear as advertisers don’t know all of their showings, certainly in the UK – I guess it’s just their big spots, live the Super Bowl, etc.

Telewest easy broadband hookup

UK cable provider, Telewest, has announced a self-install kit enabling their current digital TV customers to get a broadband via their STB. The kit, £12.50, connects the STB to a computer via USB and gives access to their 1/2 and 1 Mbs service within 30 minutes, they estimate. They are also planning to release a wireless version.

UK Ofcom starts to take shape

This autumn (fall) Ofcom, the UK media and telecoms super-regulator, will replaces the five existing media and telecoms regulators. It recently announced that Stephen Carter will be its Chief Executive. In his previous professional life he has been the UK chief executive of ad agency J Walter Thompson, and most recently, managing director for UK cable company NTL.

His initial comments on the current state of the UK market are mostly pretty refreshing, and it will be interesting to see how they start to implement them. He argues that Ofcom must “embrace converged thinking and converged decision making”.

It’s also interesting to see that there is talk from Ofcom’s Chair about “co-regulating” TV advertising, following sustained lobbying from the industry. This will be seen as controversial by viewer groups, as they will fear that TV advertising will run amuck. The regulation of UK TV is currently handled by the Independent Television Commission, ITC.

Media Guardian supply a gallery of current Ofcom execs.

Disney copyright extended to 95 years

In a win for Disney at the US Supreme Court. It looks like there’s a lot at stake

Copyright holders stand to collect about $400 million more a year from older creations under the extension

The extension of copyright clearly benefits the corporation over the consumer

Copyrights lasted only 14 years in 1790. With the challenged 1998 extension, the period is now 70 years after the death of the creator. Works owned by corporations are now protected for 95 years.

But what did everyone expect?

One advantage I would assume is that the rapidly growing content restoration business will be growing even more, as the media company capitalise on their back catalogue.

[via David Galbraith]

Did you know? Michael Powell got a TiVo for xmas

“God’s machine” he called it.

There are two reasons why that’s significant.

1 – Further proof that anyone who uses a DVR, wouldn’t want to live without it
2 – He’s chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission

The really significant section is-

“Powell said he intended to use the TiVo machine to record TV shows to play on other television sets in his home, and even suggested that he might share recordings with his sister if she were to miss a favourite show.”

It’s common knowledge that there is serious lobbying going on by the visual media industry to try and make it law in the US that all TV-type devices have to be digital and encrypted from source until it hits your eyeballs. They might not have all that much to fear through-

Powell said he understood the needs to balance consumers’ fair use rights to make personal copies of television shows with Hollywood’s fears that TiVo-like technology allows exact copies to be made and easily sent over the Internet.

All the same – you can bet there’s going to be some quickly convened meetings going on in Media Land about this.

Reebok CyberRider Review

I went to Brent Cross (Shopping Centre) on Saturday to speak to the people demonstrating the Reebok CyberRider. It was setup in the centre space, which I had remember from my youth as being a fountain. Four CyberRiders, two Playstations enabling riders to compete against each other.

After chatting for a while to one of the Reebok representatives, Grant Miller from The Body Squad, I decided to have a go, I found one of the Burnout games playing and I’ve got to say it was an interesting experience.

You start off thinking you’re turning the peddles a lot to stay up with the pack of other cars, but then you get absorbed in playing the game as you steer the car around the circuit. The two keys I used to steer the car were in a natural position and easy to operate. The other buttons felt a bit fiddly and could be prone to stick.

If you’re interested, I came second (I’ve no idea of the difficulty setting, but I suspect it was pretty lowly). By the time I realised I was doing OK, the first car was well ahead of me and I might have been able to catch it, thrashing silly in my home, but didn’t really feel like doing it in the middle of Brent Cross.

What they’ve come up with is an interesting idea, by combining what would normally be regarded at polar opposites, physical activity and playing video games, they created something where you exercise without thinking you’re exercising.

Of course that was just one title and the experience with other games might be completely different. I would be interested to try Tour de France, as Grant had. I’ve yet to play it at all but I remember some of the press labelled it a bit slow – perfect for the CyberRider. Could the future of the ‘sponsored run’ be sponsoring someone to actually cycle the Tour de France and you pay them according to their position in the race?

I was having a mental flick through of various types of games and I thought a Doomesque game would be fun, where you have to peddle for your life – it would be perfect if you could peddle backwards as well … and have triggers. For a more relaxing session a title like Pilot Wings on the N64, where the controls aren’t too complex but you have to peddle to stay in the sky. On the retro side, save bashing your Track and Field keys into oblivion and replace it with peddling.

The trick that they appear to be currently missing is to have the resistance of the peddling varied by the computer, so you’d have to push hard up hills. This would introduce a lot more variety and would make driving games set in San Francisco a pretty serious workout.

Personally, I’d like to see the ability to change the sensitivity of the peddle sensor, so the ride wouldn’t have to be totally manic to win the race. Or is that defeating the purpose?

If you were wondering about my stress levels at Brent cross – it actually wasn’t that bad at the beginning, but I’m sure there’s something they must put in the air conditioning system that means that you get a growing feeling that you’ve just godda get out of that place.

___The Tech
They altered a standard bike by integrating joypad buttons of differing sizes into the riding handles, fitted a sensor at the peddles and strengthened it slightly – after finding the competition got pretty hot between the testers.

The hardware is modular. Two cables use RJ45 connectors to the box that interfaces to the console/computer, enabling them to connect to any device. They’ve currently connected to PlayStation 2 & 1 and PC. They say that GameCube and XBox are in the works.

Bearing in mind that I had the limited exposure of one game, I thought it was fun and for a lot of people who don’t exercise this could be the excuse they’re looking for – especially if they like gadgets.

It’s unlikely people are going to buy more than one of these (and console, and TV) so after trying it, I’m even more convinced that the long term future for this type of thing, as I said previously, will be linking them up with broadband – s not something they’d tried.

I also suggested that it would be fun to equip a number of gyms, get them connected together and have people compete against each other. Find the fittest gym.

Err, could you pause the wireless revolution please

News reaches us that the US military is, all of a sudden, worried about the use of wireless networking technologies, as they think it will interfere with their new passive radar systems.

This story has been widely misread or taken the wrong way, thinking it affects radar generally and all wireless networking. I don’t think it’s about the already widely used 802.11b/WiFi/2.4GHz, but the 802.11a equipment that operates in the 5GHz range.

In the UK the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) sets UK policy and issues licences for the non-military radio spectrum. UK people are currently free to use the 2.4GHz frequency (that 802.11b uses) without a licence but a £50/month licence is currently required for 5GHz equipment.

I called Annette Henley, who is responsible for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz at the RA to ask her what would be happening about the 5GHz range. She tells me it is hoped that the 5Ghz range will become unlicensed by the end of January 2003, but it will be with the restrictions that it is only for indoor use and only for the equipment set to its lowest power setting.

The completed paperwork has been passed to the Minister and just needs to complete the 21-day process of sitting in the House of Commons before coming into affect.

Interestingly much of the 802.11a equipment that is for sale in the UK currently does not conform to these requirements.

It appears that the US has actually got a bit caught out with this and are probably going to be following the UK’s lead and indeed there are moves afoot to create an International standard for this.

If the US military does genuinely have a problem with 5GHz equipment, I can’t believe that they announcing it – at all. I guess that all of the 11a equipment that does not comply with the forthcoming UK standards will have a willing customer base with anyone who doesn’t want US radar to function.

Fit to burst

Fitness is on most people’s mind, given it’s New Year and resolution have some possibility of still being adhered to – it is only nine days into the year after all.

I know fitness is good for you and I have in the past had periods of reasonably fitness. Frankly these days it’s doesn’t sound that appealing – it feels more like a chore, hence I don’t do it.

My interest in fitness was raised slightly when I saw the Reebok CyberRider exercise bike that connects to your PC, Playstation 2 or 1 and enables you to use your peddling as the input to games. Peddle fast and win the race.

I’ve got a vague memory of a rowing machine that had a screen mounted in front of rower that graphically simulated you rowing down a river. It was a few years ago so the graphics were pretty unrealistic, ie blocky and slow.

Now that high-powered graphic processing is now cheap and freely available, in the form of the current gaming consoles, it seems like a good idea to utilise it.

I’ve always found going to the gym to be more enjoyable with friends, it enhances the element of competition. When you exercise by yourself at home, there’s no-one to impress with how fit you can appear to be to the other people in the gym, hence the healthy second-hand market in exercise bikes, rowing machines, etc. Add this to how much better some of the Xbox games (eg Ghost Recon) are when played on Xbox Live linked up to players Worldwide.

I would have thought the future of these machines would be when you’re linked up with others and exercise against exercise-buddies from around the World.

It’s being demonstrated this Saturday at Brent Cross. I find the idea of going to Brent Cross horrifying, never mind on a Saturday but in the interest of research I plan to go along and find out how good it is. I’ll let you know.


Hutchinson UK have been preparing for launch their 3G services in the UK for at least two years. Oscar Clark, who I originally met in the streaming (video) world, started working for them back then, lining up games companies to produce content for their network.

Hutchinson was originally planning to launch in 2002, but here we are in 2003 and they’re saying it will be March. I suspect it might be 3rd March 03, for the very obvious marketing reasons and if this is the case, how could they have not known previously?

The whole time they’ve been delaying launching, their exclusive deal for Premier league football footage has been ticking away – with none of their customers able to see the content. The cost of the deal was never publicised, but let’s not forget that this deal was signed in the days before ITV digital crashed, so it’s likely to have cost them a lot of cash.

The uphill path to profitability for the 3G operators has been well documented already and when this is combined with the difficulty I think their average consumer is going to find differentiating between the 3G handsets and offerings like the Orange SPV – apart from the £399/£130 price difference – it will be a ‘challenge’.