2015 - Day 1

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82 | 2015 INTERNATIONAL CES DAILY | JANUARY 6-9, 2015 BY JEFF BAUMGARTNER T he U.S. pay-TV industry has taken a gener- al wait-and-see approach to 4K/Ultra HD ser- vices, but at least two major providers -- Di- recTV and Comcast – have been willing to test the waters ahead of mass consumer adoption of the emerging video platform. And the initial approaches vary, with DirecTV fo- cusing on a pay-per-view movie model while Com- cast's centers on a free offering that presents a small mix of TV shows that allow customers to sample 4K. Among the two, DirecTV was f rst out of the shoot in mid-November with the launch of nearly 30 4K ti- tles from Paramount Pictures and K2 Communica- tions, including "Star Trek" (2009), "Transformers: Age Of Extinction," "Dinosaurs Alive!", "Amistad" and "Forest Gump." DirecTV is renting them out for $3.99 to $15.99 per title. The caveat early on is that only DirecTV custom- ers with compatible Samsung 4K TVs (2014 models and newer) and DirecTV's Genie HD-DVR (model HR-30 and above) will have access to the new UHD slate. DirecTV 4K customers must also spring for a $50 professional install. Sam Rosen, practice director at ABI Research, pointed out in a research note that one of the tech- nical sticking points is the support of RVU Alliance technology, which allows DirecTV's boxes to "avoid potential compatibility issues" that could pop up due to the set-top's current lack of an HEVC decoder and the 2.0 version of HDMI. Under that architecture, Rosen explained, the 4K-encoded file is pushed to the set-top, where it is downloaded and stored. The Samsung 4K TV then identif es the box as an RVU server, requests the stream and the key, and secures delivery on the home network. As the third step, the f le is trans- ferred over the home network and decrypted and de- coded on the Samsung 4K TV. DirecTV, which has tapped Elemental Technolo- gies to perform f le-based transcoding for its initial 4K offering, has bigger plans in store for this year. That will include a limited amount of live 4K pro- gramming, though DirecTV has not announced those details. But the satellite giant will soon have more capac- ity to deliver whatever it has in mind following last month's successful launch of an Arianespace rocket containing the DirecTV-14 satellite. DirecTV will use the spacecraft to deliver 4K programming in the U.S., along with more HD for local markets. The satellite is expected to begin operations in the second quarter. Comcast followed DirecTV in mid-December with the introduction of an Xf nity 4K streaming app that, like DirecTV, is only offered on new Samsung Ul- tra HD sets. Early on, Comcast is offering full cur- rent seasons of a handful of TV shows from the NB- CUniversal stable, including Covert Affairs (USA Network), Chicago Fire (NBC) and Suits (USA). It expects to add another NBC series, Parks and Rec- reation, to that list in February and continue to ex- pand and evolve its 4K offering throughout the year. Pay-TV Players Dip Toe Into UHD Pool SkreensTV Takes Multiscreen To The Extreme BY JEFF BAUMGARTNER W e've all heard of picture-in-picture. But how about picture-in-picture-in-picture-in- picture-in-picture? That's the idea driving SkreensTV, a Boston-based startup that has developed a box that routes video, music and other media from multiple devices, such as set-tops, gaming consoles, Roku boxes, Chromecast, and PCs, and displays them – all at once – on the main TV. Among the applications envisioned for SkreensTV: playing a multiplayer game on a PlayStation 3 console while also streaming a movie on an Amazon Fire TV box, or watching multiple football games while also keeping tabs on one's fantasy football stats. SkreensTV pulls this off by integrating up to f ve HDMI feeds that are linked to a specialized processer and an HTML5-based platform that stitches them all together into a unif ed output stream. The company has also developed a tablet app that enables the user to customize the placement and size of how those individual feeds are laid out on the TV screen. "It's about control — allowing the consumer to control what's on the TV," Marc Todd, the founder of SkreensTV and the former CEO of video monitoring company IneoQuest Technologies, said in a recent interview. Todd started work on the concept for more than two years ago, believing there's a consumer desire for an option that allows them to combine and mix the content coming from multiple devices without having to manually toggle from one to another. "I'm a huge TV fan," Todd said. "I have one of everything." SkreensTV, a company with about 20 employees, hopes to start shipping the device in the f rst half of 2015. Late last year, it pitched the product on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site, for $399 to consumers who put in a pre-order. After that promo, the SkreensTV device will sell for $499. As of Dec. 6, 2014, SkreensTV had raised about $30,691, roughly 15 percent of its stated goal of $200,000. Its Indiegogo campaign was scheduled to end on Dec. 13. CESWEB.ORG #CES2015

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