Battle of the Boxes: Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast – Stephen Radford

A few years ago I “cut the cord”, cancelled my TV License and cable subscription. Back then I used a 3rd generation Apple TV with subscriptions to Netflix and Now TV alongside my vast number of YouTube subscriptions.

I’ve since tried what feels like every box or stick that displays web content on your TV. All have their own interfaces, experiences, content options, and trade offs. Which box works for you will depend on your requirements.

This article is by a developer in the UK, so it won’t apply as much to other countries, particularly the US, where there are more networks, and many networks and channels have apps for the Apple TV. But this comparison is very well thought out and worth reading if you’re thinking of cutting the cord.

One thing he doesn’t mention, however, is that a smart TV would do most of what he wants. My LG TV has apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Spotify, and many others. I don’t use Spotify, and use an Apple TV for Apple Music and my iTunes Store purchases. And I don’t particularly care about the UK channels, other than the BBC iPlayer, which my TV offers.

Previously, when I had a different TV that didn’t offer an Amazon Prime Video app, I bought an Amazon Fire. I no longer use it (and should probably put it up on eBay).

As for me, I haven’t had a “cord” in many years. We have digital broadcast TV, which I almost never watch, other than for news, and I don’t pay the extortianite price for satellite TV. I do pay a TV license, which Radford says he doesn’t pay for, but which is now required to use the BBC iPlayer. (Technically; I don’t think they can actually check if you have one when you’re using the iPlayer.)

Source: Battle of the Boxes: Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast

The Next Track, Episode #65 – Pass the Remote Control

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxDoug and Kirk express frustration about the number of complexity of remote controls they use.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #65 – Pass the Remote Control.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Apple’s ‘Planet of the Apps’ is even worse than you thought – The Outline

You knew Apple’s reality show Planet of the Apps — in which entrepreneurs present their app ideas to celebrity advisers and then a panel of investors in the mode of Shark Tank — was bad. But did you know just how bad? Dubious ethics, terrible advice, heavy-handed branding, and the sense that no one knows what the hell they’re doing

I really don’t get it. As I wrote in February:

Is this really the best they can do? Can’t they do more than a lowest-common denominator talent show? Sure, it’s about apps, and that links it to Apple, but this seems like they’re targeting a pretty low level of viewers.

With a reality TV star president, I think the time is right to pull back on these cheap, sensational shows. I’ve never watched reality shows, and, while I admit some may actually have merits – The Great British Bake-Off, for example – this is just mindless entertainment for the masses. I think this type of TV content sets the bar very low for Apple.

Either Apple is full of executives with really bad taste in TV, or they got roped into something by a Svengali who convinced everyone that this would be a good idea. They should pull the plug so it will be forgotten like Ping, and other failures.

Source: Apple’s ‘Planet of the Apps’ is even worse than you thought | The Outline

King and Corporation – Illuminations Media

On Wednesday night BBC Two broadcast Rupert Goold’s film of King Charles III with a script by Mike Bartlett. It is on BBC iPlayer for the next four weeks, and if you watch nothing else in that time, make time for this. It’s a wonderful 90 minutes of beautifully achieved, bold, provocative, innovative, smartly subversive television, with a glorious performance from the late Tim Pigott-Smith at its heart. The plaudits have poured in, as I have little doubt they will continue to, and among the thoughtful press responses perhaps the most thoughtful is that by Mark Lawson for the Guardian. (Perhaps the most bizarre is ‘The BBC’s King Charles III inevitably contained plenty of howlers’ for – surprise! – the Mail, although treating the fantasy as a docu-drama is some kind of compliment.) Apart from expressing close-to-boundless enthusiasm for the film, I want here just to add a couple of thoughts about its status as television.

I watched this last night, and it’s the best thing I’ve seen on television in a long time. It’s a 90-minute adaptation of a play about when the current queen dies and Charles becomes king. It’s full of Shakespearean intrigue, and the language is a nod to Shakespeare, with blank verse, iambic pentameter, and some odd word order at times. But interestingly, it took me a while to notice the language; I think many viewers won’t even spot it, they’ll just think it’s a bit weird. (You know, the royals speaking funny…)

This article, by John Wyver, who produces films and filmed theater productions, examines how subversive this production is. And when you think about it, he’s right; there are many layers around this film, from the subject matter to the language, to the context of it being produced and broadcast on the BBC.

If you’re in the UK, watch this: it’s on the iPlayer for a few weeks.

Source: King and Corporation – Illuminations Media

Netflix is testing a button for skipping the opening credits – The Verge

Netflix is testing a button that lets you skip the opening credits on some television shows, the company said. This week some Twitter users spotted a “skip intro” button that appears when you hover over the title sequence for shows including Netflix originals House of Cards and Iron Fist, and Mad Men and The Office (third-party shows). The button works both with shows that begin with the title sequence and those that include one after a cold open.

Yes, please. I’m astounded at how long opening credits can be for some shows. Between the “previously” and credits on a show like Homeland, there’s around three minutes of wastage (though some people may want to see the previously segment). But these long opening credits are just a narcissistic element for some producers. In addition, some shows actually have spoilers in their credits. Again, with Homeland, there are videos in the background which show some elements that haven’t happened yet.

I’d also like to see a way to skip all the production company logos before movies, and long opening credits in movies as well.

Credits are essential; everyone who works on a movie or TV series deserves having their name visible. But put them at the end, where you can see them if you care. Most people outside the industry don’t.

Source: Netflix is testing a button for skipping the opening credits – The Verge

Apple’s TV Shows: What’s Their Long Game?

Apple is investing in original content TV shows, such as Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke. These shows will be viewable via Apple Music, and only available to subscribers of that service.

This is an odd way to distribute TV content however; after all, it’s Apple Music, not Apple Music and TV. (Kind of like how iTunes is about so much more than “tunes.”)

So what’s their long game? Are they investing potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in loss leaders for Apple Music? Apple knows that, while they can become a big streaming service, they’re late to the party, and companies like Spotify and Pandora have faithful users. They can’t hope to get people to subscribe to two such services, and it’s not a tired reality-show concept or a humorous singalong that will sell people on switching.

In some ways, I can understand that Apple wants to dip its feet in the TV area. On the other hand, neither of these two shows are very compelling; neither will get people switching to Apple Music. If they had a show like House of Cards, or Homeland, or Game of Thrones, that could be a tipping point for potential switchers, but is that really what Apple should be doing?

Again, it seems that spending large sums of money to get people to subscribe to a streaming music service is the wrong approach. Unless Apple’s long game is to start slow with a few shows, then build up and split them off from Apple Music. Or add an additional monthly fee to access TV shows. But they’d need a lot of content to make that worthwhile.