Monday, October 25, 2010

U.S. TV Networks Backing Cable

The Washington Post published an article today saying that fewer TV shows will be available free over the net. The gist of the article is that the major U.S. TV networks have decided that they can make more money by backing the cable giants than offering advertising supported free content over the web.

I am sure that they are right in the short run. However, these networks no longer control the TV landscape as they did in the past. People are waking up to the fact that they do not have to pay $100 or more per month to the cable and satellite companies for their TV programming. Over the air digital has significantly improved the variety of free content, and the web is providing interesting alternatives such as Netflix streaming.

The quality and variety of these web-based alternatives will only increase in number over time. Netflix is only $10 per month. Other web-based services will emerge that will provide cost-effective alternatives.

The networks should keep this in mind and not give up on web-based delivery so early. In time they will find profitable ways to use web delivery. In fact, having a strong web distribution channel will increase their negotiating power over the cable and satellite companies.

Monday, October 18, 2010 vs. Broadcast TV

On Saturday we watch the first Giants Phillys playoff game. We made it a big family party. We watched the HD (720p) FOX broadcast with a PIP window with the MLB Pitchtrax also on the screen.

The FOX HD broadcast had much better image quality on the TV than the feed. There is no contest. It was also easier to follow the FOX broadcast. It was interesting to watch the Pitchtrax window to see where the pitches were going. The PIP window was small enough that it was a bit difficult to see the Pitchtrax. (Maybe it is time to upgrade from a 42" TV to a 60" unit :-) is great if you cannot get a broadcast feed. It is also an interesting supplement to the broadcast feed. It is not a replacement for the broadcast feed, at least for today.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

VBR231 DVD Quality Problems

I played a favorite DVD the other night - Carlos Saura's Flamenco. The image quality was poor for much of time. Sauras uses a lot of panels behind the musicians and dancers that are lit with bright colors. These scenes produced a fringe around the people similar to what you seen in a 3D movie without glasses. It was pretty distracting.

Other scenes that did not used these lit, colored panels were fine. Other DVDs we have watched have been fine. I think it is a problem with the way Vizio up scales the DVD to HD. It appears to be confused by the lit panels of unusual colors.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fourth MLB Playoff Game

We watched the fourth Giants MLB playoff game. Giants won!

Used the same approach as before with two feeds, one embedded in the other. Worked fine with a minimum of synchronization problems. We are getting used to it and found this approach was OK when listening to the live radio feed, which was about 30 seconds ahead.

The MLB streaming is a fine way to watch a game if it is the only thing available. The Championship games start on Saturday and will be broadcast on a channel that is available over the air to that. I expect we will watch that rather than the MLB streaming feed. I will let you know how I feel about the difference after I watch one of those games.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Game 3

We watched the third Giants/Braves playoff game yesterday. We are figuring out how to use MLB streaming TV. The HD download really improved the video quality - no  more smearing or pixelization. However, the HD software introduced a 45 second delay between the video stream and the live radio broadcast, which made the radio unusable.

The HD software also significantly increased the delay between the windows in the four feed display. One of the feeds was also shown with low resolution and a lot of smearing and pixelization. It was too distracting. We went to a PIP two stream display with the primary stream filling the screen and the second screen shown in a smaller window in the upper left hand corner. We used the Pitchtrax feed as the primary window and the home plate feed as the secondary window. This allowed us to follow the plays pretty well.

The two windows were reasonably well synchronized and had to be resynchronized only once. Generally the audio feed was about one second ahead of the Pitchtrax screen and the Home Plate feed was a couple of seconds behind, which made for a reasonable experience.

With this approach, the MLB TV streaming is still not as good as the broadcast but has become a reasonable way to follow the game.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Playoffs Game 2

We watched the Giants second game last night. I tried another graphics card driver on my laptop to no avail. It still crashes connected to the TV using HDMI. I did run the video for a couple hours on this machine without the HDMI connection, so it appears to be a hardware/driver problem with the HDMI interface.

We watched using four camera feeds - center field, home base, first base, and third base. This was enough to be able to see all of the action, at least most of the time. We tried the Pitchtrax view for a while, but gave up because it was distracting. Pitchtrax shows the arc of the ball and the pitch placement relative to the strike zone.

We got tired of the audio feed and turned on the local KNBR radio broadcast that we prefer. We prefer their audio feed. The problem is that the streamed video is delayed by about 10 seconds, so that the radio feed "gave us a view of the future". This lack of synchronization was rather distracting.

The four streamed windows lost synchronization. You would see the action happen in one window a bit before you would see in in another window. I could bring them back together by refreshing the window. Again, this was rather annoying.

I just found that I can get higher resolution video with a download. I have downloaded it and tested it. It seems to work  fine. I will have more to say after tomorrows game.

Friday, October 8, 2010

MLB TV Day One

Watched a great game with an amazing 1-0 win by Lincecum and the Giants. The MLB streaming experience was clearly inferior to a TV broadcast. I needed to have four windows up to follow the action because MLB does not switch cameras to where the action is. With four screens it was hard to follow and occasionally one of the screens would get out of synch with the others. The image quality was marginal. Lots of smearing and pixelization. This was quite noticeable on the TV.

My laptop gave the best presentation because it provided full screen. However, it would crash after 15 minutes or so and was really unusable. My wife's laptop never crashed but it did not have the full screen option. This meant that the windows were smaller. One advantage to this is that I could use the TV's PIP to bring up a broadcast window along with the four MLB window. A real multitasking opportunity.

After one game, I would say that I would abandon MLB TV for a commercial broadcast at first opportunity.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Streaming MLB Playoffs

Our San Francisco Giants made it to the playoffs and will be playing the Atlanta Braves today. The playoffs are being broadcast only on a cable/satellite channel, so we will not be able to see them. We subscribed to the MLB playoff screening for $9.95, which gives access to all of the playoff games with no blackouts. A pretty good deal - about the price of one beer at the ballpark. The MLB service lets me select up to four camera feeds simultaneously, which should provide an interesting experience.

I am going to connect my laptop to my TV and watch the games on the TV. It will be interesting to see how this goes. I know that my laptop freezes when streaming to the TV. I expect that this is due to a faulty driver. I am not sure how to isolate this problem and would appreciate any suggestions.

I will let you know how this works out.