The ‘Reel Blog: News, Features, and Insights from the SideReel team

Ad Age Conference Fallout – Is Cable Box TV Dying a Slow Death?

Is TV truly and irrevocably changing in front of our eyes?digi_logo

That was certainly the sentiment at Ad Age’s Digital Conference (read their write-up here) where future predictions and prognostications were abound as industry heads touted the development of a TV experience encompassing digital services just as much as, if not more than, cable subscriptions.

 

At SideReel, we’ve long believed that the TV consumer is going through a consequential change, desiring much more than what he or she can get on broadcast and cable channels from a set-top box. With game-changers like Aereo, we’re be given more and more opportunities to get our TV in other ways.

And that doesn’t even take into account the disruptive power that streaming original TV has. When Netflix announced Arrested Development would be moving exclusively to its streaming service, and then the company’s original House of Cards soared to success, it certainly signaled a changing TV landscape.

But does it signal the end of broadcast and cable TV, or do networks and cable providers just have to wake up and realize that the consumer just won’t stand for only watching TV on a set-top box?

SideReel Spotlight – Is Sharing Passwords Fair or Foul?

Note: SideReel Spotlight is an ongoing series of insights and commentary from the SideReel team about the changing landscape of the TV industry. 

Paid streaming TV services are popping up everywhere. Early contenders Netflix and Hulu+ are continually expanding their catalogs in order to battle increased competition from later entrants like Amazon Prime Instant Video and the soon-to-launch Vdio and Spotify VOD offerings. On the other end of the spectrum, there are established content producers adapting their models for the new content ecosystem. HBO and Showtime grant existing subscribers access to their streaming services (HBO GO and SHO Anytime) at no additional cost. Clearly, content providers are aware that consumers want greater flexibility in their viewership habits — the new issue is how these services can ensure that only those users paying for the content are the ones with access to it.

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Password-sharing might be the next iteration of the ongoing issues that arise in the evolution of how we consume TV content. The battlefield has shifted from combatting digital piracy (with help from governmental regulation) to the sharing of streaming service accounts. HBO GO, for one, doesn’t restrict multiple simultaneous device logins, hypothetically allowing four different people to watch the same show at the same time on the same subscription.

In its terms for HBO GO, HBO specifies that, “you must be a subscriber with an account in good standing with an authorized distributor of HBO that carries HBO GO”. But it doesn’t seem like this is really enforced or policed beyond this conditional legal communication.

The arguments about this type of loophole center on the ethics of shared accounts. In a blog column for the New York Times, Public Editor Margaret Sullivan comes down firmly on one side of this debate, saying “Does password-sharing with strangers reflect the highest ethics? Clearly not.” Source

The other side of the coin is if it’s even really an ethical issue to begin with or a legal one. Is it legal for someone to use a friend’s login credentials to watch something they didn’t pay for themselves? Is it any different from watching pirated content? One interesting question this brings up is whether the subscription fees are merely for access to the content or for the direct consumption of it.

In the past few years, various governments have cracked down hard on online content piracy, shutting down torrent catalogues and sites like megaupload.com. But if I use my cousin’s sister’s friend’s aunt’s Netflix subscription to watch the upcoming Arrested Development premiere, I, too, am watching content that I didn’t pay for. Someone did, but that someone wasn’t me.

Perhaps the issue is that the streaming content providers simply can’t (or won’t) police account-sharing, since cracking down would conflict with the habits of multi-platform users (a desirable demographic). Either way, as we start watching in more and more ways and on more and more devices, gray-area issues like this will continue to come up — and content owners and providers will have to continue to pick their battles carefully to avoid backlash.

SideReel Spotlight – Game of Moans

Note: SideReel Spotlight is an ongoing series of insights and commentary from the SideReel team about the changing landscape of the TV industry. 

You may have noticed wailing and rending of garments on Sunday night. HBO GO — the premium network’s web streaming service included in the price of subscription — crashed hard at the moment of the Game of Thrones season 3 premiere. Superfans of the series were heartened when the network announced (via Twitter) that the episode would become available with none of the multihour or day delays that other streaming services institute.

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But then, a minute before 9 pm/ET, the clamor for the fantasy series killed the site. The episode wouldn’t load online; its Roku and XBox portals ceased functioning; its iOS apps were rendered useless.

And then Twitter freaked out.

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The service was back up for most users after a delay of about 45 minutes, though usability was hit or miss well into the overnight hours. And this was just from people attempting to watch the show legally.

The pirate sites tell an even more interesting story. According to TorrentFreak, the S3 premiere of Game of Thrones now holds the distinction of garnering the biggest torrent swarm in history: “A few hours after the first torrent of the show was uploaded the OpenBitTorrent tracker reported that 163,088 people were sharing one single torrent. 110,303 were sharing a complete copy of that particular torrent while 52,786 were still downloading. These are mind boggling numbers that we’ve never seen before.” Source

HBO GO has the potential to be a fantastic step forward in preventing this kind of piracy — but the fact that it’s currently limited to only those who subscribe through their cable or satellite provider defeats the purpose. There have been rumblings lately that the premium giant would offer a standalone option for cord-cutters, and the statistics we’re seeing from this Game of Thrones event should indicate that this is the way forward — not just for premium channels, but for all original content. The only real hazard to the provider is in not delivering on the promise, the way HBO did Sunday night (in theory, HBO should have had the bandwidth to offer simultaneous access to its streaming service to every subscriber).

It’s not a shock that web users want instant gratification, and it’s also not surprising that we see outrage online the moment a company fails to deliver on a promised offering. What is surprising is that at a time in television broadcasting history where timeshifting is being touted as the only way forward, a high profile season premiere can still be a cultural event in real time.

Based on the despair evident in some of these tweets, it seems as though this is one time users wished it had been just TV… and not HBO.

– Leah Friedman, SideReel’s Movies and WebTV Content Editor

Get Your Local TV Listings Here!

Hey SideReelers-

Back in December we launched the first version of our TV Listings, enabling you to view comprehensive listings across all US channels for primetime television. Since then, we’ve released a number of improvements, including access to 24 hours of listings, more days (you can browse 10 days ahead or behind), detailed episode descriptions and links from the listings to episode pages on SideReel.

Now, we’ve launched the biggest enhancement yet: Local TV Listings! You now have the ability to view personalized local listings by selecting your zip code, service type and provider. You can set this directly from the TV Listings page on SideReel by selecting “Change” near the top left of the grid.

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If you would like to save your listings settings (and are a registered SideReel user), you must go to the Settings section of your Preferences and select/save them from there.

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If you do not already have a SideReel account, you will have to sign up to save your settings!

As always, we are eager to hear feedback on this new feature. Let us know what you think, how we can make it better and what else you’d like to see in the future!

-The SideReel Team

SideReel Content Trends – February’s Numbers Soar!

Hey SideReel!

Check out February’s SideReel Content Trends, our second monthly recap of all the best in SideReel! We’re doing everything we can to offer the deepest library of TV content anywhere online, and February’s SideReel Content Trends showcases those efforts. We’re nearing 12 million total show tracks – that’s 12 MILLION – and with almost 120,000 more users in February, we’ve exceeded 6 million registered users.

FOX again topped the list for most show tracks on SideReel while The Walking Dead upstaged newcomer The Carrie Diaries for most monthly show tracks.

How I Met Your Mother kept the top spot on the SideReel Meter, which uses a detailed calculation of SideReel audience data to determine the most popular show of the past month. The Walking Dead and Glee – both not on the list in last month – joined the top 10 in February.

Find out more in this month’s SideReel Content Trends.

Missed last month’s issue? Check it out here.

 

The SideReel app is on the iPad

Hey, SideReelers!

We’re always trying to give you more ways to find, track and watch your favorite TV. So we’re happy to announce that you can now use the SideReel app on your iPad! The newly released second version of our iOS app is iPad compatible and syncs easily with iTunes and Hulu Plus, so you can watch episodes directly on your iPad.

The app, which is available on any iOS device, features an improved layout and stability, and a better experience for you to find and track shows. It also allows you to create a personal television calendar of the TV you want to follow and get notifications when your shows are about to air.

The app still has the usual SideReel features you’re used to, like finding and tracking shows, marking episodes that you’ve watched and getting access to our TV listings that include more than 27,000 shows!

So head to iTunes now and try it out!

 

SideReel Content Trends – What’s new this month at SideReel

It has been our promise to showcase the best in online TV content, and we are always committed to giving our users the ability to find, track and watch TV content wherever it is online.

Part of that commitment is ensuring that our users can find that content directly from the source; that’s why we have more than 500,000 featured sources of TV content online.

In addition to showing our users where to find TV content online, we strive to make sure content owners keep control over their content by monitoring the specific sources we make available to our users. Part of that effort has meant banning more than 1,000 domains that have abused the community-driven environment that we’ve tried to create on SideReel.

Add it all up and you get SideReel Content Trends, our monthly snapshot of the latest happenings on SideReel. From top networks to most popular shows, SideReel Content Trends gives you insights into what’s the best in TV online.

Find out more in this month’s SideReel Content Trends.

SideReel Launches TV Listings

Exciting news, SideReelers!

We have launched a new feature that will give you yet another way to keep up to date with everything that’s on TV: listings! These are different from our show calendar and your tracker in that they are all-inclusive Primetime listings (whereas the show calendar is a view of popular new episodes and your tracker displays new episodes of only the shows you are tracking). We think these listings will be another great way for you to discover new things that you want to watch on TV!

Currently, you can use the TV listings to set your US Time Zone and see what’s airing during Primetime between 8 and 11 PM. Additionally, “New” episodes are flagged! Soon, you’ll also be able to further customize your listings. Upcoming enhancements include the ability to select different days and time windows, read detailed episode descriptions and select your specific cable provider.

Check out our TV listings by clicking on the image above OR by clicking the “TV Listings” tab in SideReel’s top Navigation (Hint: It’s on the left!). Please play with these listings and let us know what you think – we’d love your feedback!