Satellite Television

Satellite TV Blog information about sat-tv receivers, programming, HDTV, DVR equipment, and promotions. Learn about devices and deals from DirecTV, expressVu, DishNetwork, Starchoice and FTA (free-to-air). Description, RSS feeds, email subscription, and more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Intellian t110W and t130W with WorldView LNB delivers HD and SD programming all over the world

Compatible with programming signals in all world markets, Intellian t110W and t130W employ multi-band WorldView(TM) Low Noise Block-Down Converter (LNB) and receiver. Both 3-axis, commercial-grade antennas enable delivery of SD/HD DVB-S2 DTV programming via one LNB module. With selection of new location, Antenna Control Unit adjusts Auto-Polarizer and LNB module to required frequency and polarization for reception. Wideband technology offers stability of ±10 KHz for optimal signal reception.

Intellian, the world's technological leader in marine satellite antennas, announced an upgrade to the Intellian t110W and t130W w-Series antennas, the only commercial marine satellite TV antennas compatible with programming signals in all world markets. With a newly designed multi-band WorldViewTM Low Noise Block-Down Converter (LNB) and receiver, the powerful antennas now provide DVB-S2 digital TV reception giving captains, officers, crew and their guests the ability to enjoy entertainment at sea just like on shore. The highly stable, next generation WorldView LNB delivers one hundred times better accuracy and greater signal sensitivity than other satellite antenna systems on the market, allowing the new Intellian t110W and t130W to deliver a virtually limitless selection of Standard Definition and High Definition programming all over the world with one LNB module.

When moving from region to region, the t110W and t130W three-axis antennas switch between circular and linear polarized services with the simple selection of a new location. The Antenna Control Unit (ACU) adjusts the Intellian-exclusive Auto-Polarizer* and the all-new WorldView LNB module to the required frequency and polarization for satellite reception. This eliminates the need to purchase multiple LNBs, reconfigure complex systems and manually change the LNB unit inside the antenna dome each time the vessel crosses into a different satellite service region. The t110W and t130W's multi-band frequencies and auto-polarized design allows seamless connectively to any channel on any satellite worldwide.

The new t110W and t130W commercial antennas, as well as the smaller i6W and i9W w-Series antennas, with the next generation WorldView LNB module incorporate Intellian-exclusive Wideband technology which offers rock-solid stability of ±10 KHz for signal reception and operates on eight local oscillator (LO) frequencies - five circular (left and right) polarized for access to all programming in the North Americas, Latin American, Russia, Korea, China and Japan, and three linear (horizontal and vertical) polarized for access in Southeast Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and some Asian countries. The professional-grade marine satellite TV antennas feature Intellian's patented Wide Range Search (WRS) algorithm for fast signal acquisition and pioneering Dynamic Beam Tilting (DBT) signal tracking technology. Designed and tested to excel in all sea states and weather conditions, the entire Intellian antenna range is manufactured to withstand the company's industry-leading standards for vibration and resonance frequency, as well as extreme shock. The new t110W and t130W antennas are waterproof rated to the IPx6 standard, and protected by a 2-year parts and 1-year labor limited warranty.

Intellian offers a full line of VSAT communications and satellite TVRO antennas for recreational boats and ocean vessels in the commercial, oil & gas markets, and the military. Intellian exports its product to 6 continents and over 40 countries and has established 300 contracted dealers and a support network worldwide. Intellian is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea and has U.S. operations in Irvine, California and Seattle, Washington.

The Intellian t110 is a powerful and robust 3-axis stabilized satellite TV antenna system with an outstanding coverage range that outperforms other systems in its class. The t110 is ideally designed for ocean-going vessels destined for international seas. With its 1.05 meter dish, Intellian’s t110 provides crystal clear digital images and CD-quality sounds from satellite television providers around the globe.

Using Intellian’s state-of-the-art Wide Range Search (WRS) and Dynamic Beam Tilting (DBT) technologies, the t110 delivers the highest performance and most reliable tracking capability even in the harshest marine conditions. The Intellian t110’s wide elevation range (-15° to +120°) pedestal design provides excellent satellite signal reception for the extreme low or high latitude areas such as the Scandinavian peninsula and equatorial regions.

In addition, the Intellian t110 is a fully integrated system with built-in GPS, Automatic Skew Angle Control, and a world satellites library which allows the user to select the correct satellite while travelling from region to region. The t110 is designed and manufactured to meet or exceed the most stringent environmental specifications, especially vibration and shock. Its proven mechanical design incorporates Intellian’s trademark simplicity and reliability. The Intellian t110 allows easy installation and maintenance through fewer cables and accessories. Its 19-inch rack mount control unit provides user-friendly ease of operation, and its specially designed PC controller software allows free lifetime system upgrades.

The Intellian t130 is a true 3-axis marine stabilized antenna system that offers the most precise pointing accuracy even in the harsh marine environments. With a 1.25m dish, the t130 is the best choice for the ocean-going vessels that require the satellite TV receptions around the globe. The t130 is a high-gain, high-efficient system that features a smaller dish, but offers an extraordinary signal gain with a lower EIRP requirement than any other systems in its class, especially on the edge of the coverage and in bad weather.

Instead of using a burdensome “Dish Scan” tracking method to constant whine of stabilization motors, the t130 incorporates Intellian’s most well-known technologies, WRS and DBT. Once the satellite signal has been acquired, the spinning sub-reflector does all the fine-tuning work even in bad weather or rough water. It constantly updates the vessel’s movements from any directions and redirects the signal to move the main dish just the right amount to keep the locked signal strength at maximum. In addition, its proven mechanical design incorporates Intellian’s trademark simplicity and reliability to meet the LR, DNV and military standards.

The t130 provides you an interactive and friendly operating platform through its 19-inch rack mount type control unit and PC controller software. It also includes the pre-programmed global satellite library which allows the user to select the preferred satellite while travelling from region to region by just one click away.Intellian t110W and t130W satellite TV antenna systems have a suggested retail price of US $20,350 and $22,550, respectively, and are currently available for purchase from authorized Intellian dealers and distributors throughout the world.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Harris Corporation presents three new TV transmission products at this year's 2011 NAB Show

Harris Corporation will be launching three new TV transmission products for the terrestrial broadcast space at this year's 2011 NAB Show that are designed to help with the transition to digital and to improve over the air services.

The three new products are its Maxiva UAX Compact Class transmitter; the Apex M2XTM exciter IP and satellite receiver modules; and Harris Outdoor Transmission Enclosures(OTE).

The Maxiva UAX Compact Class is an air-cooled, UHF TV transmitter/transposer/SFN gap filler incorporates Harris PowerSmart technology and the Apex M2X multimedia exciter to provide today’s broadcaster unmatched performance, reliability and quality that provides terrestrial TV and mobile DTV broadcasters with several options to boost over-the-air services.

The transmitter is designed with future broadcasting needs in mind, the Maxiva UAX Compact Class is a single platform available as a transmitter, transposer or SFN gap filler for DVB-T/H, DVB-T2, ATSC, ATSC-MDTV, FLOTV™, ISDB-Tb, CMMB, CTTB and other emerging digital standards to extend market coverage in challenging situations, including busy urban areas that require greater building penetration.

The Maxiva UAX Compact Class transmitter range system family will also include translators and transposers and single-frequency network gap-fillers with adaptive echo cancellation to allow DTV broadcasters to better cover their markets and reach viewers in suburban or rural areas that are blocked by mountains and other obstacles.

Complementing Harris’ Maxiva UAX medium power series, the Maxiva UAX Compact Class provides pre-filter power levels from 5W to 50W, in a compact space-saving, 2 RU package. Maxiva UAX Compact Class utilizes field-proven complementary technologies from several existing Harris products: the Apex M2X multimedia exciter, the Maxiva UAX and ULX series and the Harris PowerSmart design initiative for RF amplification. This powerful blend provides best-in-class performance with respect to size and functionality.

All transmitters in the Maxiva UAX Compact Class series use Harris’ reliable and field-proven Real-Time Adaptive Correction (RTAC) technology, enabling optimum utilization the power amplifier, while maintaining spectral mask compliance of the digital signal. The only system with simultaneous, linear and nonlinear, adaptive, memoryful precorrection, RTAC provides the highest level of system correction capability. With RTAC, the UAX Compact Class transmitter continuously monitors and corrects for linear distortions at the output of the mask filter, while automatically adapting for amplifier non-linearity - keeping your station well within compliance and maximizing your coverage.

Featuring Harris PowerSmart technology in its transmitter architecture, the Maxiva UAX line offers superior power and efficiency. New 50-volt LDMOS device technology delivers a dramatic increase in power density, lower operating costs and reduced cost of ownership over the life of the transmitter.

New modules for the Harris Apex M2X multimedia exciter product line include an IP input for ASI streams and a new DVB-S/DVB-S2 satellite receiver module, which allows broadcasters to download satellite content and feed it directly into the exciter without external device requirements.

Harris is also exhibiting its new range of Outdoor Transmission Enclosures, which provides a pre-built solutions for high-power broadcasters by adding repeater sites to improve market coverage. The products are also designed for low-power, mobile and radio broadcasters that rely on shared sites or single-frequency networks.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

New update for SHAW DIRECT HDPVR 630 and HDDSR605 receivers

Over the last week Shaw Direct has been rolling out new firmware – version 04.06 – for the company’s  Motorola (Shaw Direct) HDDSR 605 and Motorola (Shaw Direct) HDPVR 630 direct-to-home satellite receivers.Shaw says the new firmware leaves the user interface largely unchanged but includes numerous bug fixes which make for a smoother and problem free experience.

Response to the new firmware update among Digital Home readers has been generally positive with many readers saying the devices have become much faster and more responsive with fewer freeze ups.

The Motorola (Shaw Direct) HDPVR 630 combines HDTV and a 320GB PVR to deliver dazzling programming and convenient interactive features. The Motorola(Shaw Direct) HDPVR 630 combines a full-featured,MPEG-4 capable digital receiver with an advanced high-definition television(HDTV) decoder and personal video recording(PVR) functionality.It delivers dazzling high-definition programming, an easy-to-use menu, and advanced interactive capabilities.In addition to the standard audio and video ports, the HDPVR 630 includes component high-definition and HDMI outputs.

The Shaw Direct HDPVR 630 also includes a hard disk drive that allows users to record programs for later viewing,as well as pause and resume live programming. The Motorola HDPVR 630 enhanced viewer menu system contains an on-screen program guide that provides extensive program information to help viewers plan ahead.Future upgrades to the guide can be downloaded via satellite.The easy-to-use menu system is conveniently integrated in the remote control.

Highlights of the new firmware for the Motorola (Shaw Direct) HDPVR 630 include:

  • Tuning Rebuild – Audio/video are now presented much faster when turning on the receiver, changing channels, or stopping PVR playback. Tuner lockup/phantom recordings have been eliminated.
  • HDD Space Remaining – a disk remaining bar has been added to the PVR List and PVR/Upcoming menus. The bar has been made more compact and is now colour coded depending on how full your hard drive is.
  • Parental Controls – The experience with Parental Controls enabled should be more stable, with occurrences of the “false PIN” screen reduced and no more “No Data” blocks for programs that cross the GMT boundary.
  • Guide changes – Channel line-up changes (like new channels being launched) will now appear within 60 minutes, or immediately by turning the receiver off and back on. A Front Panel Reset should no longer be required to fix missing or duplicated channels in your Guide.
  • LIVE and 3D programs now have an icon in the Guide. “Live” programs will now be included when selecting “Record new episodes”. Note that these icons do not appear in the full-screen INFO pages.
  • Search Enhancements – Interests Search genres are now sorted in correct alphabetical order when the language is set to French; Programs beginning with accented characters are no longer grouped at the bottom of the results list; and programs with accented characters can now be properly searched.
  • Tune in Satellite Signal – The OPTIONS 4-3-1 menu now provides signal level from both tuners, an indication of signal strength, satellite, modulation, and transponder ID for both tuners. If no background recording is taking place, some values will not be available. This menu is primarily for self-installation and dish alignment and advanced troubleshooting. Audio will be lost when exiting the menu, change channels to resolve.

The Motorola (Shaw Direct) HDDSR 605 combines a full-featured, MPEG-4 capable digital satellite receiver with an advanced high-definition television(HDTV) decoder to deliver dazzling high-definition programming and an easy-to-use interactive menu.Television has never looked better with HD TV.The Motorola HDDSR 605 includes multiple output connectors and formats, including HDMI and Component Video outputs for the highest quality output to capable televisions.The HDDSR 605 also provides a full selection of Standard-Definition video and audio outputs to connect with anz home theater component.

The Shaw Direct HDDSR 605's enhanced viewer menu szstem contains an interactive program guide (IPG) that provides extensive program information to help viewers plan for the week or weekend ahead.The easy-to-use viewer menu system is conveniently integrated in the remote control.

Highlights of the new firmware for the Motorola (Shaw Direct) HDDSR 605 include:

  • Tuning Rebuild – Audio/video are now presented much faster when turning on the receiver or changing channels.
  • Cast Tab – The HDDSR 605 now includes expanded Cast information in the middle tab when pressing INFO.
  • Instant PPV in Advance – Pay Per View programs can now be purchased in advance by selecting “Purchase and auto-tune this airing”. PPV messaging has been enhanced to be more informative.
  • Parental Controls – The experience with Parental Controls enabled should be more stable, with occurrences of the “false PIN” screen reduced and no more “No Data” blocks for programs that cross the GMT boundary.
  • Guide changes – Channel line-up changes (like new channels being launched) will now appear within 60 minutes, or immediately by turning the receiver off and back on. A Front Panel Reset should no longer be required to fix missing or duplicated channels in your Guide.
  • LIVE and 3D programs now have an icon in the Guide. “Live” programs will now be included when selecting “Set a reminder for new episodes”. Note that these icons do not appear in the full-screen INFO pages.
  • Search Enhancements – Interests Search genres are now sorted in correct alphabetical order when the language is set to French; Programs beginning with accented characters are no longer grouped at the bottom of the results list; and programs with accented characters can now be properly searched.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bell Canada Enterprises in talks to buy French language TV channel V

According to,the company, which is currently in front of the broadcast regulator seeking approval of its purchase of CTV, is said to be pursuing V to gain additional French-language content as it battles with rival Quebecor for market share in this province.The purchase of CTV would give Bell ownership of RDS, which has exclusive rights to broadcast Canadiens games.

However, according to the website, Bell wants to enhance its portfolio of French language stations even farther. Mirko Bibic, Bell's vice-president of regulatory affairs, has said the company would not make another major acquisition before its purchase of CTV received approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

V, formerly TQS, is owned by Montreal-based company Remstar Diffusion Inc., and has struggled financially for several years. Remstar bought TQS in 2008, a year after it had filed for protection from creditors. Reached yesterday, Bell spokesperson Marie-Eve Francoeur said the company would not comment about the report.

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Sony, Discovery and IMAX to Launch 3net, the 24/7 3D Television Network, on DIRECTV

3net, the joint venture television network from Sony Corporation, Discovery Communications and IMAX Corporation today announced that DIRECTV will be the first distributor to launch 3net, the 24/7 3D network, beginning February 13, 2011. 3net will initially be available to millions of DIRECTV customers across the country. Even though 3net's initial audience via DirecTV will be less than 100,000 potential viewers, the 3D television network from Discovery Communications, Sony and IMAX has garnered "huge interest" from advertisers in running three-dimensional spots.

3net will go live at 8:00 PM ET on DIRECTV (channel 107) with a primetime slate featuring world premieres of new, one-hour, native 3D original programs CHINA REVEALED and FORGOTTEN PLANET, in addition to the world 3D television premiere of INTO THE DEEP 3D. Throughout February, the network will offer an unprecedented rollout of original 3D series and new program debuts every night at 9:00 PM ET.

3net will deliver compelling, native 3D content to the marketplace and thus serve as a critical driver for consumer adoption of in-home 3D entertainment. The partnership's commitment to the emerging 3D market is historic, with plans for the channel to offer viewers the largest library of native 3D entertainment content in the world by the end of 2011. 

"Today's announcement marks the culmination of a dynamic collaboration, and we are very proud of what has been accomplished in the seven short months since the network began its development," said Tom Cosgrove, 3net's President and Chief Executive Officer. "DIRECTV is the leader in meeting consumer demand for video entertainment and has clearly been an industry innovator in 3D. We are proud to partner with DIRECTV on this historic launch and bring compelling, original 3D programming and key content from our partners to DIRECTV subscribers across the country on a 24/7 basis."

DirecTV, the first affiliate for 3net, is primed to debut the network on Sunday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m. Eastern. DirecTV has 19.1 million U.S. customers, but of those only "tens of thousands" currently have compatible 3DTV sets to watch 3D programming, according to the satellite operator.Cosgrove, acknowledging the relatively small audience size, said 3net will sell ads using a mix of sponsorships and CPMs. "We're finding ways to work with the advertisers," he said. A lot of these guys have already created 3D commercials."

"Quality 3D programming is vital to the success and increased adoption of the technology, and with industry leaders like Discovery, Sony and IMAX making a commitment to this category, it is clear that 3D is here to stay and is only going to get better," said Derek Chang, executive vice president, Content Strategy and Development, DIRECTV. "We are excited to be the first distributor to announce the launch of 3net and we look forward to continuing to provide our customers with the largest and most compelling 3D programming lineup available."

"The broad availability of high-quality, native 3D content is a critical step towards consumers fully embracing 3D," said Rob Wiesenthal, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Sony Corporation of America. "Beginning February 13, a deep and diverse array of great 3D programming will be available in the home 24 hours a day. 3net is an important element in our strategy to maintain a leadership position in all things 3D."

"Discovery's business strategy has always focused on delivering groundbreaking content through new platforms and technologies. The launch of 3net represents a giant leap in our march to bring audiences the closest-to-real viewing experiences," said David Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery Communications.

"3net brings together three global brands with a single mission -- to deliver premium 3D entertainment experiences to audiences in the comfort of their own homes," said Richard L. Gelfond, CEO of IMAX. "We are proud to embark on this new venture with Sony and Discovery, and we believe that our popular library of breathtaking IMAX content is in great company with the range of compelling programming from our partners."

Starting in April, 3net plans to beginning running 3D ads. Cosgrove declined to identify advertisers that may be in the mix but said 3net has had discussions with movie studios, automakers and consumer packaged goods companies.Early research suggests that advertising is more effective in 3D. ESPN -- which ran ads from Sony, Gillette and Pixar on its 3D network during the 2010 World Cup -- found that ad recognition grew from 83% in 2D to 94% in 3D and likelihood of intent to purchase rose from 49% to 83%. Moreover, ad "likeability" jumped from 67% to 84%.

However, by TV standards, the number of people who are able to see 3D ads today is miniscule.

Still, it could be many years for 3D television to become as widespread as HD -- if, indeed, it ever comes close. In 2010, consumer electronics companies reported disappointing sales of 3D sets, which require viewers to wear specialized glasses.

Cosgrove declined to comment on how much 3net's partners are investing in the network or when he expects it to break even.Discovery, which is handling distribution on behalf of the 3net JV, is continuing to have carriage discussions with other distributors, a company spokeswoman said.He estimated up to 6 million 3DTVs will ship in 2011, up from a little more than 1 million at the end of 2010.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

DISH Network First to Provide Live TV on Android Tablets

Dish Network offering subscribers Stream Live TV to their mobile devices at no extra cost. This good news is only for people who have Apple iPad, iPod, Blackberry and Android based phones, where Dish Network is planning to offer this feature on the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and BlackBerry devices and phone using Google Android system.Other than that, DISH Remote Access app provides customers, who own supported DVRs, browsing ability of up to nine programming days, delete multiple receiver shows, handle conflicts, schedule recordings and convert Android-based tablets into remote control devices.

DISH Network announced that its free app Remote Access is extending support for Android-based tablet computers, allowing DISH Network customers to watch live TV on supported devices. DISH Network customers having broadband-connected, Sling-enabled devices such as the Sling Adapter, a small place-shifting device that matches DISH Network’s ViP 722 or 722k HD DVRs, have the comfort of viewing live and recorded TV on tablet screens powered by Google’s Android mobile operating system.

DISH Network is the only PAY-TV provider to offer a true TV everywhere solution, and now we’ve optimized that experience for the larger screen size of the Android tablets. Now Dish Network customers can enjoy their TV Everywhere experience on tablets like the Galaxy Tab, as well as the dozens of new Android-based tablet devices soon to be introduced.

And the SlingLoaded ViP922 DVR is actually available from Dish Network it’s ready to offer that features.The iPhone and recently released iPad app just let the devices control the box and view listings information, it will offer similar functionality to the $29.99 Sling Player Mobile, minus all the IR blasters and potential compatibility issues.

To get this feature, subscribers will need special hardware such as Sling Media SlingBox, which retails for $180 to $300. According to it released, Dish subscribers can also pay $200 to $400 to upgrade to the company’s high-definition digital video recorder with SlingBox features; they’ll need to pay $10 a month for multiple DVR service, but they’ll get recording capabilities with it.

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Dish Network ViP922 SlingLoaded HD DVR 1TB

DISH Network ViP922 SlingLoaded HD DVR and satellite/over the air receiver represents a radically different user interface from its predecessors (ViP622 and ViP722) as well as being the first Sling-loaded model in the DISH DVR line.If you have Dish network , the ViP 922 will let you schedule, manage and view your recordings from any web-connected machine; there's also a nifty new touchpad remove for when you're at home.New 1 Terabyte High Definition DVR with Integrated Slingbox, Touchpad Remote Control and Tile-based User Interface.

What does "Sling Loaded" mean?

Well this is perhaps the most unique feature in the unit: the ability to not only program your DVR remotely (can access and watch recordings remotely via Web browser PC or smart phone , Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, or Windows Mobile smartphones. ), but actually watch your own local live and recorded TV content from anywhere in the world with a network connection.Supports DLNA to stream music, photos, and videos from a computer.And built-in Slingbox capability means you can watch programming from anywhere in the world. Dish Network has had Sling integrations before, but they just dropped a brand new HD-DVR with remote Sling capabilities built in along with a redesigned SlingGuide interface.

For those familiar with the Sling technology in the form of the standalone Slingbox units, the concept is probably familiar, though the implementation may be a bit different than what you're used to. For those who have never experienced Sling, it can seem like a miracle of modern technology. Sling used to call it "place-shifting" and DISH calls it "TV Everywhere" but by any name, it's cool technology. The Slingbox built into the ViP922 allows you to view all "your" TV shows from your PC while on a road trip, or even from your compatible 3G or 4G-connected smart phone. It also allows you to view your local TV guide listings and schedule and manage your recordings without being in your living room.
The ViP922 allows TV enthusiasts to watch and control their favorite TV shows and sporting events from anywhere in the world via a broadband Internet connection on their laptop or mobile phone. With five video sources, including satellite, broadband and optional over-the-air tuners, viewers will never run out of shows to watch. The ViP922 also features a multi-tuner DVR with up to 1,000 hours of recording time and supports connecting external hard drives for even more storage capacity.

An innovative touchpad remote control accompanies the ViP922, which eliminates half the buttons of a standard remote control and provides cursor-like navigation on a TV screen. With a slide of the thumb, viewers experience scroll-over activation of the new user interface: on-screen widget-like tiles and pop-up menus. All features are selectable by an underside index finger trigger selection on the radio frequency-controlled remote, which offers two-way learning of codes from other AV equipment remote controls.

The basic requirement to using the ViP922 is DISH HD service (obviously). But if you want to do anything fancy like watch 1080p or 3D Video on Demand, or take advantage of the Sling technology you will also need a broadband internet connection available to the unit. DISH recommends a minimum of 3 MBPS download speed to do HD VOD, but keep in mind that your upload speed also matters. When you're out and about watching your local recordings from elsewhere, your DVR is streaming your live TV and recordings onto the net for you to receive. The Sling technology is pretty good at adjusting the quality to maximize available bandwidth, but if your internet connection at home suffers from a slow upload speed, you can't fix that on the other end of the pipe.

As for what you can watch (and record), you'll be happy to hear that the ViP922 has two high definition satellite tuners and can be configured with an optional OTA (over the air) dual-tuner module.  The ViP922 sports an integrated 1 TB (One Terabyte) hard drive for recordings and on-demand content.  According to DISH, that drive should be good for up to 1,000 hours of recording, however this varies significantly depending on what channels and content you record.  If you're an HD junkie, then you can expect to record up to around 130 to 140 hours of satellite-based HD content.

With the ATSC tuner module installed, you get access to local programming that may not be available via satellite spot beam (PBS in HD anyone?).  This also gives you a third (and fourth!) tuner so you can actually record up to four different shows at once (two from satellite, two from over the air), and still watch a recorded program or record three different shows and still watch live TV.  Be careful though, if you record a lot of over the air HD content, as this will take up more hard drive space, due to much lower data compression rates.  Over the air will also usually give you a significantly better picture for that same reason.

In case all this capacity is still not enough to satisfy your lust for content, the ViP922 supports connection of an external hard drive via USB, just as its predecessors did (requires an additional one-time fee per account).  Don't be thinking this will allow you to rip your TV shows to your PC though, as the external hard drive is formatted and encrypted for use only with DISH DVRs within the same account.

Early on in the review period, I went on vacation and decided it might be cool to try out the remote viewing capability of the ViP922.  Since I already had a Slingbox at home, configured for the older ViP722 DISH DVR, I thought I could just switch over to the ViP922 as a source and be up and running.  But this was not the case.  I was able to see the output of my ViP922 from a remote connection, but I was unable to send any commands to control it.  Checking with the DISH folks, they said the ViP922 cannot be used in this way, that you must use the built-in Sling function, which means configuring the device through My Account at  But it turns out that this was not entirely true.

Actually, all I needed to do, in order to enable the ViP922 to work with my existing Slingbox was go into a set-up menu on the ViP922 and enable IR control.  It turns out that the ViP922's remote operates on RF (Radio Frequency) not IR (Infrared).  Once I enabled the IR control on the ViP922, I was up and running the old Slingbox way.  And by the way, enabling IR control is also required if you want to use a universal remote to operate the DVR. The IR codes to operate the ViP922 are the same as those for the ViP622 and ViP722.  I was able to view content and view my guide and set recordings remotely using the standard Sling Player software on my PC.  But this only became evident after I got back from vacation and did some digging.

In the meantime, I followed the DISH support person's advice to add my ViP922 to my account.  This is the way that most people will use the ViP922's Sling technology, and it's remarkably easy to get up and running.  To do this, you will need to know your DISH account ID and the receiver ID.  And, if you don't already have one, you'll need to set up an account on  Once the account is set-up, and the Receiver ID added, you access your DVR via the "My Account... Remote Access" option on the DISH web site.  From here, you'll see your guide to your available channels, and you'll have the ability to watch live TV or access recordings.
For those used to the old way of doing Slingbox -- where you basically just have a "window" onto your DVR, and everything is controlled as if you were in your living room using a virtual version of your DVR remote -- the new way of accessing your content can take some getting used to, but the learning curve is worth the effort.  The guide, as well as your list of available recordings, is now programmed right into the Web site, which makes everything easier to read, easier to search, easier to... well... do just about anything.  There's even a newly added ability to stream additional content -- shows and movies you have not previously recorded -- right from this same user interface.  Forget Hulu, Netflix, VUDU and Blockbuster VOD, with DISH, you can get remote access to all of your own recordings and live TV, plus a repository of additional content, at no additional charge over your monthly DISH subscription.

And unlike the old Slingbox days where anything you watched remotely would change the channel for local viewers as well, the new way of place-shifting allows you to watch one channel or show, while the local viewer is undisturbed.  Neat!  It does come at a cost, however, as the dual independent TV output option that was available on the ViP622 and ViP722 is no longer available on the ViP922.

In terms of local viewing, the ViP922's enhanced interface is such a departure from earlier DISH DVRs it may also take some getting used to, for existing DISH customers used to the older DVRs.The old menu interface has been completely redone with icons and graphics, instead of text-based menus, and a much slicker widescreen guide with room for more channels and more programs to be displayed at one time.  The way you access and view your recordings is also very different.  Viewing recordings in the old interface, everything was based on title and sorted by most recent date recorded, with no visuals.  The new recordings menu is graphical, with little thumbnail images for each show.  And if you record multiple episodes of a series, you'll see a single graphic thumbnail image of the series which, when clicked, reveals all of the episodes sorted by date.  The main screen is also sorted by date (by default), but it gives you the ability to re-sort by title or to store different types of recordings in different folders for better organization.

The ViP922 also has an improved search function which allows you to search listings for specific keywords.  Both recorded shows and upcoming programs show up in search results.  A single click on an upcoming listing reveals a detailed but logically organized recording confirmation screen which allows you to specify whether you want to record just once, every episode or just new episodes, and how many you want to keep between you start deleting old episodes.
Overall, the new interface is a vast improvement over the old.  One strange thing that left me puzzled is that if you select a specific show, with the cursor, the title of the show and graphic icon disappears, replaced by a note.Eventually I realized that the top portion of the screen reveals the title and description of the selected recording -- the information is there, it just might not be where you expect it to be.  Overall, even this behavior is an improvement over the previous DVR interface, but it may take some getting used to.  If DISH were looking for feedback, I'd recommend leaving the title of the program visible on the thumbnail image when selected so it's clear which recording you selected.

In terms of its operation and reliability, the ViP922 held up well over the review period. Although I did have an initial glitch with the OTA tuner module where it "forgot" my local channel line-up, re-scanning the local channels a second time worked fine and the channels stuck around.  All of my recordings fired off at their appropriate times, and were later accessible from the menu as expected.
And for those who do choose to use an external USB hard drive to store more permanent copies of favorite programs or movies (or simply because they don't want their library of shows to be deleted), selecting from the 922's internal drive and an external drive is as simple as a drop-down box in the DVR menu.  This is a welcome change to the fairly unintuitive way of interacting with archived recordings on the older DVRs.

High definition on-demand movies have become more plentiful of late, as DISH incorporates broadband internet as the delivery method of choice.  Over 50 recent release high definition movies were available for instant rental as I was finishing up the review.  To take advantage of the highest quality on-demand options, you do need a solid and fairly fast internet connection (3 MBPS minimum).  DISH has also expanded its library of on-demand titles available in full HD 1080p resolution to three, as opposed to the one title that used to be available when the 1080p feature first launched. More recently DISH started delivering 3D movies on demand as well, without any hardware update required.  Only a few titles are available now, but more are promised in the first quarter.

We tested "The Last Airbender" in 3D on a Panasonic VT25 series 3D TV and found that the 3D feature worked as expected, putting the TV into 3D mode automatically without any user intervention. It's not Blu-ray 3D, but the quality was perfectly acceptable and the 3D effect worked as expected.  1080p and 3D titles are identified as such in the guide.  And though it may seem obvious, viewing a 1080p VOD title requires that your TV support 1080p input and viewing a 3D title requires that you have a 3D-enabled TV and glasses.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TiVo Premiere and interface to bring DVRs to Charter Communications

TiVo and Charter Communications said  that the two companies have signed a multi-year agreement that will bring the TiVo Premiere and the Tivo interface to Charter services.The two will initially cooperate on a TiVo-branded Premiere set-top box, as the set-top provider did with Cox last year. TiVo also said that it would collaborate with Charter on upcoming "multi-room and non-DVR platforms".Charter will also develop a multi-room DVR technology, a feature promoted by AT&T for its U-Verse technology. Content will also be able to be transferred from a PC to the Premiere, a technology TiVo calls TiVoToGo.
The initial box will store 45 hours of HD programming or up to 400 hours of standard-definition programming, TiVo said. Charter will be offering Premiere boxes to customers, and those devices will offer 45 hours of HD and 400 hours of standard-definition storage. In addition, users will be able to transfer content to their set-top box with TiVoToGo. Subscribers will also be able to access Facebook and Twitter. The Charter partnership will also bundle the TiVo Premiere iPad app, including local news, sports, and weather which allows a user to browse and schedule recordings, plus post on Twitter and Facebook.
The bottom menu includes several options, including Info, Guide, My Shows, Browse, and Manage. For more info about a show or celebrity, the TiVo app lets you explore biographical information without interuppting the show on the TV. To discuss what you're watching, the app provides a link to Twitter and Facebook.
There is also an advanced remote icon, which brings up a traditional remote interface. Slide your finger along the bottom of the screen to fast forward or rewind TV content.To access, download the free app from the App Store and enter the key from your TiVo box users must have a TiVo Premiere or TiVo Premiere XL box and an active, paid TiVo subscription.
"Beyond the initial phase, the strategy will encompass next generation platforms that will expand the service with new devices, features, and third party applications – all enhanced by TiVo's highly regarded discovery, search, navigation and recommendation features which allow Charter customers to experience the best of traditional and next generation television, including linear TV, video on demand, vast libraries of Internet-delivered video and IP applications," TiVo said in a statement.

As it did with Virgin Media in the U.K. earlier in January, TiVo will work with Charter to combine pre-recorded, broadcast, video-on-demand, and online content inside the box. The OnDemand lineup will pull from Charter's video library, while the online video will come from "top destinations". So far, however, TiVo has not announced the fruits of a partnership with DirecTV that has languished for several years. That "DirecTiVo" box is due sometime in early 2011.
Surprisingly, Charter said that it will allow access to "Internet video from top destinations." The company didn't say in its release what "destinations" will be offered to users, but the TiVo Premiere currently boasts access to Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, and several other services that cable companies traditionally view as competitors to their on-demand offering.Users will also have access to the provider's OnDemand content from the set-top box.Charter will release an iPad app to complement its TiVo launch.
TiVo unveiled an iPad app that will allow TiVo Premiere owners to use their Apple tablet as a remote and TV guide.The TiVo Premiere App for the iPad provides access to all the content available on the set-top box - from TV listings and your DVR queue to show information and social-networking link-ups.The app will provide access to live TV and DVR recordings; to watch, just swipe and the show will start playing on the TV. When you're away, use the app to set up a TiVo recording.
TiVo has struck a multiyear deal with Charter Communications to bring its Premiere set-top box and interface to the fourth-largest cable provider.According to Charter, its deal with TiVo is designed to bring its customers "a new and enhanced experience." Charter said that its offering will have the features current TiVo users are accustomed to, including a programming guide, content searching, and live TV control.
A Charter spokesperson told that the company currently doesn't have licensing agreements in place with Netflix and the others, but it plans to offer the "full integrated TiVo experience" when it launches.Charter plans to release its TiVo offering "later this year." The company's spokesperson said that it should be comparably priced to its current service.
With Charter now on its side, TiVo is making inroads in both the cable and satellite markets.Back in 2008, TiVo announced a partnership with DirecTV that would see the satellite company's subscribers once again employ TiVo DVRs. Those DVRs were expected to launch in 2009, but were then pushed back to 2010. Last October, TiVo and DirecTV announced that the device would be available to customers in early 2011.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Year of the cable cut

Today, almost all Canadians watch TV by subscribing to what are called broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs): cable, IPTV and satellite TV. But with a broadband Internet connection, you can cut out those distributors and go around them and watch television on your TV, laptop or tablet for (theoretically) less money – otherwise known as Over-the-top (OTT).

This is expected to be a big thing in 2011, so much so that this has been proclaimed the “year of the cable cut.”

Many of these potential cord-cutting solutions have been available in the U.S. for most of 2010, but very few consumers have cancelled their TV subscriptions. There was a drop of 700 000 subscriptions in the last quarter, but it appears that the losses were mainly in older, poorer households without Internet connections. Looks like the economy is more to blame than OTT. Based on the data so far, only about 3 per cent of U.S. homes have cut the cord... and kept it cut.

In the 1980s, the initial adoption of VCRs was slowed by the fact that there were competing platforms: VHS and Beta. The lesson learned was that there is a significant risk to betting on one video or TV technology before the eventual standard emerged. We are seeing some of that in OTT adoption today. With so many non-compatible technologies, many consumers are waiting for a clearer picture.

Many folks never figured out how to make their VCR stop blinking 12:00, let alone get it to do more complicated things. OTT is worse. A few months ago a former tech exec, current venture capitalist and licensed pilot tried an OTT service. Afterward he tweeted “I tried XXXXXX TV yesterday. Flying a Cessna is easier and has fewer controls than the XXXX remote.” (Names have been redacted to protect the innocent. Or the guilty.) Complexity and difficulty to install are big barriers, at least for most users.

Watching TV is a passive activity. Viewers aren’t called couch potatoes for nothing. Most of the time, we tend to watch what is on and don’t bother actively thinking about what we want to watch, search for it, stream it, etc... We are “linear” TV programming addicts. Even in markets with 50 per cent DVR penetration, only about 3-5 per cent of television content is watched in a non-linear fashion. I know that sounds low, but a lot of content doesn’t lend itself to being recorded or streamed. Have you ever saved the Weather Channel from last July and watched it now?
Video, especially TV-equivalent quality video, uses up a lot of bandwidth. YouTube is one thing, but every hour of HD you stream is about 2.6 Gigabytes of data. Given that most Canadians have monthly bandwidth caps from their ISP, even those with the biggest plans can stream fewer than 30 hours per month. Not much when the average home watches 30 hours per week.

The bandwidth cap situation is much better in the U.S. Some of their ISPs have theoretically unlimited usage. But that may not last. In the most recent quarter, streaming TV was watched by only a tiny percentage of Americans…but that tiny percentage accounted for more than 20 per cent of all internet traffic during prime time. If OTT grows even a bit, I predict that we will see most U.S. ISPs instituting bandwidth caps. We are also likely to see Canadian caps go up to U.S. levels over time due to competitive pressures.

Finally, the TV industry is very cautious about OTT. They aren’t sure that the new revenue model will be as profitable as the old model, and they are not making all their crown jewel programming available via streaming. As a consumer, you may be mad at them for doing that, but as long as that stays their policy there will continue to be two big problems for consumers trying to cut the cord. First, you will need to stitch together OTT services or devices to duplicate even 90 per cent of the content you get now. Second, getting that last 10 per cent will be impossible. The networks and other players will deliberately keep their biggest audience grabbers (things like American Idol) away from the paws of the streamers as long as they can.

None of the above means that OTT won’t be huge some day. None of it means that a number of Canadians won’t mind missing some content, won’t mind being an early adopter, or won’t do virtually anything to cut the cord. But for 2011, I predict that out of the more than 9 million households in this country that pay for cable, satellite or IPTV services, fewer than 250,000 will do so.

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Sun Direct doubling satellite capacity on MEASAT

Sun Direct is one of six private DTH platforms serving India, and currently registers around 5.13 million subscribers from a total base of about 29 million DTH homes.

Sun Direct, the Indian direct to home (DTH) satellite TV platform, has leased an additional two Ku-band transponders on Malaysia’s MEASAT-3 satellite, doubling its existing capacity.
“We are delighted to be able to support Sun Direct with additional capacity,” said Paul Brown-Kenyon, chief operating officer, MEASAT. “Supporting five DTH platforms in three markets across two satellites, 91.5 degrees east is one of the strongest DTH orbital slots in Asia.”

MEASAT has a fleet of four communications satellites, which cover about 145 countries across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Europe and reach about 80% of the world’s population.

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