Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What Ever Happened To TiVo In Canada

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TiVo considered by most in the home entertainment industry to be the original personal digital video recorder was revolutionary in the United States in the first few years it was in the market.  Meanwhile Canadians could only look South enviously as American TiVo users were pausing live TV, recording two shows at a time and fast forwarding through commercials much faster than the VCRs that Canadians were stuck with at the time.

In 2008 TiVo finally launched in Canada only to crash and burn within just a few months.  Many blamed TiVo's failure in Canada on obsolete hardware they were trying to sell to Canadians.  Others blamed the monthly subscription fees that were higher than the rental fees charged by the cable and satellite TV companies.  

TiVo claimed that series 3 and later hardware was never sold in Canada because the Canadian Radio-Television Commission never mandated cable companies to distribute CableCards to subscribers to allow third party hardware such as TiVo boxes to access subscription digital cable services.  

Just a couple of years ago TiVo was written off as ilrelvant as cable and satellite company personal video recorders take over the space in the entertainment centre cabinet that TiVo boxes used to dominate.  As cord cutting solutions had emerged as a credible alternative to cable and satellite services.

Some of those who have gotten fed up with cable or satellite fees have switched to a combination of over the air broadcast and Internet streaming a trend called cord cutting has emerged in the past couple of years.  The newest generation of TiVo boxes now integrate digital broadcast TV tuner to provide a personal video recorder with a client for Netflix, YouTube and other online video services in a single box.  

Canadians are most vocal with their frustration with cable and satellite TV fees, but cord cutting has yet to reach critical mass some speculate technical complexity having to use the TV's own tuner and a separate streaming video box.  The Canadian market for Digital TV recording remains largely untapped.  There is a huge potential to come back to the Great White North.  If TiVo executives have any business sense at all they could put out a service that charges one fee that includes the TiVo fees and Netflix or another streaming service.  Eliminate the the multiple devices and dealing with multiple companies.  

Canadians as dissatisfied with cable and satellite TV companies can give TiVo the potential to relaunch and be successful if they can rethink their business model and embrace cord cutting.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Do you have an emergency alternative communications plan

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Severe weather, natural and man made disasters that knock out electricity can and often knock out communications networks as well.  We have all heard the warnings to have a 72 hour supply of non perishable food and fresh water on hand as well as a battery operated radio to stay informed.  In the event of a failure of traditional telecommunications systems most could be caught unprepared.  

The natural instinctive inclination for just about everyone if wireline telephone service isn't available is to pull out the cell phone and make a call.  In an emergency situation that knocks telephone service out of commission the people flooding the cellular networks making calls to check on relatives and friends would potentially overload cell towers, even entire cellular networks could get crippled.

The first thing it to limit the number and length of cellular calls.  Use cell phone calls to check in with family members affected by emergency conditions and/or communications network outages.  Secondly use text messaging as much as possible.  Text messages may get delayed a few minutes depending on congestion on the cellular networks.  

Anybody in the role of caregiver to family members who are elderly, disabled or have long term health conditions may need to consider a communications solution that works independently from the traditional telephone and cellular networks.  FRS and GMRS two way radios that use UHF frequencies that have 20 km or more of range can be purchased for well under 100 dollars.  

One of the essential needs for survival in an emergency is access to communications, having a plan to communicate with relatives and friends when telecommunications networks fail in an emergency situation could save your life that of someone you are about.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why Netflix Doesn't Have Prepaid Cards (But Should)

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For most online products sold and downloaded by customers and digital services delivered online give people the option to pay with their credit cards or prepaid cards available through most major retailers.

Despite the increasing popularity of prepaying for digital products and services distributed online, one of the Internet's most popular video services, Netflix is still holding on to the requirement that customers put it on plastic to get their movies and tv shows delivered on demand.  

Requiring payment by credit card comes from the founding days of Netflix back in the late 1990's when Netflix was in the mail order DVD rental business when the replacement cost of a DVD that was damaged or reported lost was simply charged on a customer's credit card.

Since Netflix only does streaming outside of the United States and within the US very few Netflix customers still rent discs by mail keeping credit card only payment system is outdated and antiquated.  

Initally it may seem that offering prepaid service would only benefit people who don't have a credit card could get access to Netflix and potentially retailers who would sell Netflix prepaid cards.  The number of existing Netflix subscribers who would switch from credit card billing to prepaid if they had the option would number in the millions.  

For Netflix itself would see a benefit in cost savings from not having to pay processing fees to the credit card companies.  To take a credit card payment the merchant pays anywhere between 1.5 to 5 percent to the credit card companies. Using 3 percent as an average processing fee Netflix pays twenty four cents per subscriber per month to Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.  If a conservative estimate of ten million current subscribers  switch to prepaid billing Netflix would save 2.4 million dollars per month.  

Another benefit to Netflix would be building a lump sum of money that they could use to secure better access to content.  If the ten million subscribers prepay 96 dollars for a year of Netflix, Netflix would soon have 960 million dollars at their disposal to buy or produce content or buy bandwidth to improve the service.

Services sold thorough prepaid may still have a lower class reputation of customers who have been unable to qualify for credit, but that is starting to change due to security breaches in merchants both online only and in the physical world, many are now apprehensive about handing over credit card information.  Providing the prepaid option will help Netflix grow their subscriber base by providing these potential new customers with an alternative to credit cards.  

Prepaid service can help Netflix achieve subscriber through the gift giving market. Giving a six months or a year of Netflix would be a perfect compliment to a Apple TV or Roku box given as a gift as a gift for a birthday or for Christmas would give recipients many of which probably would not become Netflix subscribers.  

What I've mentioned are just a few of the compelling reasons for Netflix to add prepaid as a payment method and get out of the dot-com bubble era world of credit card only.