Watching Star Trek: Discovery Offline

With Star Trek: Discovery now airing exclusively on CBS All Access I was trying to find  way to be able to download the episodes so I can view them while flying. Unlike Netflix & Amazon Video CBS All Access does not (yet) have a watch offline feature. However – in the meantime…

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It looks like will there is a will – there is a way, even if it will cost a few bucks.

Streaming your favorite shows on a spotty internet connection can be quite the nuisance – but it doesn’t have to be. There is a handy app that lets you save any show for offline watching and the best thing is that it works with practically any streaming service, including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO and thank goodness CBS All Access.

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Available for Android and iOS, PlayOn Cloud makes it possible for users to record and download titles from a variety of leading streaming services, so they could still binge their favorite shows once they go offline – anytime and anywhere.

In addition to the previously mentioned content providers, the app also supports downloads from YouTube, Yahoo Views, CBS, PBS, CW, ABC, NBC and Fox.

The only downside is that you will have to pay for this privilege. PlayOn’s iOS and Android apps are free, but the company will charge $0.99 for each recording. The good thing is that PlayOn also offers various recording packs and bundles for as low as $0.20 a pop. You can look up pricing details here. I paid $4.99 for 20 episode downloads which should all me to watch Discovery’s Season 1 offline – no matter where I am, regardless of access to the internet!  You must, of course be a subscriber to CBS-All Access to access their content through PlayOn Cloud.

Considering that each recording is stored in the cloud – and therefore available to download locally on any device using the same PlayOn account – it’s not such a bad deal.

One thing to keep in mind is that Netflix already rolled out support for offline viewing for mobile last year. The disadvantage is that not every entry in its catalog is available to stream offline. Another upside to using PlayOn is that, unlike Netflix, downloaded recordings never expire – unless the user deletes them, of course.

Yes, recordings stored on the cloud will be deleted after 30 days, but they will still be available on your device locally.

For those wondering about the app’s legality: The PlayOn team claims their software is entirely “legal and protected by the same laws that allow consumers to use a DVR or VCR to record broadcast content.” They have explained this in more detail in a blog post on their website.

In all fairness, PlayOn Cloud has been around for a while now. But should you find yourself planning a faraway trip without any guarantees for a stable connection, now at least you know you have options to keep yourself entertained.

 

Disney & CBS Look to Challange Netflix

Two major networks are looking to compete with Netflix and steal, at least part of their audience. First CBS announced it’s own streaming service with the launch of the new “Star Trek” TV series.

First You Have CBS

CBS is moving fast in the streaming channel arena, with plans to expand CBS All Access to Canada and other international markets by next year.

CBS is also working on the launch of a streaming sports channel patterned after its CBSN digital news service. The movement in the over the top (OTT) market comes as the CBS All Access and Showtime stand alone services are expected to exceed 4 million subscribers in total by the end of this year.

The sports channel is in the early stages of development and doesn’t yet have a name.

The decision by CBS to relaunch the “Star Trek” franchise on CBS All Access rather than on the CBS network or Showtime, or even to sell it to Netflix in the U.S., was a calculated decision to grow the streaming service.“Star Trek: Discovery” – the first new TV series in the “Trek” canon in 11 years, is set to premier on September 24. In an obvious effort to attract users to their new platform – through Star Trek – CBS will premier the first episode on their regular CBS network with the second episode (part 2 of a cliffhanger) airing immediately afterward – exclusively on CBS All Access. In other words if you want to keep watching the new Star Trek – sign up with CBS All Access.

As you can see by watching the quality of the “Star Trek: Discovery” trailer the mission of these networks to launch their own streaming service, with new & exciting content is no joke – and could, potentially be a boon for all of us.

Then You Have Disney

Disney has now officially announced that it’s making its own Netflix competitor, a streaming service that will air original Disney movies and TV shows. In addition Disney announced that it also plans to launch a second Netflix-like offering that will deliver sporting events.

It’s not surprising that Disney wants to directly compete with Netflix and other streaming services, given that more people opt to ditch traditional cable in favor of online entertainment.

The Disney TV streaming service will only launch in 2019, while the ESPN-based service would be available as soon as next year.

Disney also reported that it will terminate the licensing agreement for new titles beginning with the 2019 calendar year.

This means that post 2019 if you want to watch Disney movies and show you will need to subscribe to their exclusive channel.

What All of this Means

How we watch television is rapidly changing. Networks like ABC, CBS and NBC are trying to find ways to remain relevant in this ever changing landscape. Where commercial advertisements were once king now networks are looking to the audience to “subscribe” in order to watch the content they enjoy. At the same time, because of the success of pay-cable TV shows like “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones” audiences now expect much more from their television dramas. Commercial interruptions are a disaster to good TV – and the networks know this. We are well on the way to the extinction of relevant – free – over the air TV.

In fact so much has changed in the television landscape that Netflix is now almost seen as “old school” by networks like CBS and Disney. Ask yourself this question. Why should networks, with immense libraries of (old & loved) TV content and the resources to create new content sell to a “middle man” when they can create their own streaming services and reap 100% profits as opposed to sharing their earning with Netflix or Hulu.

The only question is can they do it – and be successful?

Netflix Brings Us Fast.com

Netflix has just launched what is probably the simplest speed test on the Web. It’s called Fast.com

It’s incredibly minimal, and loads pretty much immediately, probably because there are no ads. It only measures your internet service provider’s (ISP) download speed, which it will present in huge digits after a few seconds of testing.

And that’s it. A frequently asked questions section explains that keeping the site minimal was a conscious choice:

Netflix does give you the option to compare your results with Speedtest.net, which provides detailed results on upload speeds, latency and other metrics as well. That’s a nice touch, given the companies aren’t affiliated at all – there’s isn’t even a link to Netflix proper.

This is obviously part of the Netflix’s continued battle against slow ISP speeds, and I would not be surprised to see links to Fast.com show up on the Netflix site and apps, especially when users are having connection problems.. The site ends its FAQ section fairly pointedly:

“If results from fast.com and other speed tests often show less speed than you have paid for, you can ask your ISP about the results.”

Will this help for consumers with slow ISP’s? I hope it at least helps shine a light on ISP’s who are proving slow connections to customers who are paying for faster speeds — and not getting it.

Amazon Prime Gets Even Better

In many ways Amazon Prime has become my go-to streaming service. Of course Netflix has some outstanding original content (which I enjoy) however Amazon Prime has continued to regularly improve its service since it’s launch just a few short years ago.

Amazon Prime is the ultimate product bundling deal imaginable because it combines several service including physical free shipping digital subscriptions for music, videos, and more. This week Amazon took an aggressive step to better compete with standalone subscription services (like Netflix & Hulu) by offering a new variety of Prime offerings by the month.

I have happily subscribed to Amazon prime for years. With this subscription, you can get most Amazon.com purchases delivered to your home in two days for free plus an astonishing array of digital services, which include:

Amazon Video. Unlimited access to movies and TV shows in SD, HD, Ultra HD & HDR (where possible).

Amazon Prime Music. Unlimited streaming from Amazon’s music service, which includes ad-free and personalized radio stations. This is replace Apple Music & iTunes for me.

Free Kindle books. As a Prime subscriber, you get access to over 1 million Kindle e-books for free, plus the Kindle Lending Library, which lets you borrow one free e-book per month.

But the problem with Prime is that it is only available in a one-year subscription, whereas competing standalone services are all available month-to-month. To close this gap, and convince potential customers that the wide swath of Prime perks is worth consideration, Amazon is now offering two monthly Prime subscriptions. They are:

Amazon Prime (Monthly). This is the annual plan, but month-to-month. That is, you get all of the perks of the yearly Amazon Prime membership, but pay $10.99 per month instead of $99 per year. (So it’s cheaper to get the annual subscription if you can afford it and know you’ll use it all year long.)

Amazon Prime Video. Finally available as a standalone subscription service that can take on Netflix and Hulu, Amazon Prime Video costs $8.99 per month, undercutting those services when you compare functionality. Netflix costs $7.99 to $11.99 per month (where only the most expensive versions offers HD and or Ultra HD) and Hulu is $7.99 (with limited commercials) to $11.99 per month (no commercials).

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If you go with the yearly Amazon Prime subscription, and then take advantage of the shipping perk, that is still the best choice. But this move with a monthly subscription service signals that Amazon is serious about keeping its digital media services both competitive and desirable.

Smartphones Devouring Our TV Time

The recent announcement from CBS that there will finally be a new “Star Trek” TV series but unlike any major network television series before it – it will boldly launch and live exclusively on a streaming service, in this case CBS All Access.  At first I am sure many fans of the 50 year old franchise were probably left scratching their heads about this decision. However CBS is only reacting to something we all know is happening on the TV landscape. Network TV (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS) as we have know is in the final throws of dominance and will more then likely fade away completely in the next decade or two.

You can see by the following from Nielson that CBS is on the right track with their most watched TV series of all time and what to do with it going forward.

Our Smartphones Are Eating Our TV Time

The use of Internet-ready devices like smartphones appears to have seriously cut into American’s traditional TV-watching time, new Nielsen data shows, potentially undercutting the notion that mobile devices merely serve as “second screens” while people are plopped in front of the set.

Data provided to The Associated Press shows that the number of 18-to-34-year-olds who used a smartphone, tablet or TV-connected device like a streaming box rose 26 percent in May compared to a year earlier, to an average of 8.5 million people per minute.

By contrast, the numbers of those in the same age group who watched TV, listened to radio or used a computer fell 8 percent over the same period to 16.6 million people per minute.

Nielsen’s inaugural “Comparable Metrics” report for the first time presents data on average use per minute, making it possible to directly compare the time people are spending on their various devices.

The audience for TV viewing alone fell by 10 percent, to 8.4 million people a minute in the 18-to-34-year-old category. That fall-off in the younger audience highly coveted by advertisers confirms a trend in other Nielsen data that found traditional TV viewing peaked in the 2009-2010 season.

“It’s pretty clear the increased use of mobile devices is having some effect on the system as a whole,” said Glenn Enoch, Nielsen’s senior vice president of audience insights. The new Nielsen data doesn’t break out time spent specifically on streaming TV, since that usage is likely spread across TV-connected devices, phones, tablets and PCs.

Since Nielsen inaugurated its tracking service in 1949, average daily TV viewing has marched steadily upward, from 4 hours and 35 minutes a day to a peak of 8 hours and 55 minutes in 2009-2010. That increase coincided with growing numbers of TV sets sold and the proliferation of programming on cable channels.

But viewership has been edging down ever since. From late September until mid-November this year, daily TV watching accounted for only 8 hours and 13 minutes, Nielsen said.

A Logical Choice

This information from Neilson as well as the overall downward trend of conventional TV viewership for services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are indeed proof that it is most logical that the Star Trek franchise will live long and prosper only by embracing new technology which that goodness it appears to be doing.

Apple & Beats Combine Forces

In a surprising move, at least to me Apple is actually set to purchase Beats.

Apple will buy Beats for about $3 billion and bring recording mogul Jimmy Iovine into its ranks, hoping to win points with the music industry and help it catch up in fast-growing music streaming market.

 

As expected, Beats co-founders Iovine and rapper Dr. Dre will join Apple as part of the acquisition of the music streaming and audio equipment company.

While the price tag represents a very small portion of Apple’s roughly $150 billion cash flow, it marks a significant departure for a company that for two decades has stuck mainly to acquisitions worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

what really surprises me is that Apple, the once dominate player in innovation has turned to trying to buy it’s way into the growing music streaming market. This is something new for Apple and makes me wonder if real innovation is in the rear view mirror for Apple.

The deal is seen as Apple’s effort to jump-start an uneven attempt to make headway in music streaming, the fastest-growing segment of the market, as iTunes sales decline. Meanwhile Pandora Media Inc and Spotify have raced ahead while Apple’s eight-month-old iTunes Radio has not made a dent with subscribers.

To add further woes for Apple music downloads have continued to decline and record labels have been putting pressure on Apple to get its act together on streaming. It is believed that the record labels hope Apple can turn Beats Music into a strong competitor to Spotify and other streaming services.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter, Apple said on Wednesday, May 28.

HBO Joins Fire TV

Earlier this month I picked up Amazon’s FireTV in hope that it would be the only streaming box I would need, replacing both my AppleTV and ChomeTV.

Although I was impressed with much of FireTV I was surprised and disappointed that HBO GO was not included.

Fast foreard to today when we learned that Amazon Prime Instant Video members will soon have access to HBO content. The two companies have apparently signed a multi-year licensing agreement.

The first wave of HBO shows and mini-series will be available starting on May 21, and content will continually be introduced in the coming years. The licensing deal includes access to “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Six Feet Under,” “Big Love,” “Deadwood,” “Family Tree,” “Enlightened,” “Eastbound & Down,” “True Blood,” and “Treme”. In addition previous series will be available as addition HBO shows roll out as the multi-year agreement progresses.

And in addition, and this is key to me, HBO GO will be available on Amazon’s Fire TV by end of the year. This is really good news to me because I need to clear some space in my entertainment center!