Industry Voices—Ring: A streaming product wrap-up from CES 2020: Part 1

Las Vegas
CES was held January 6-9 in Las Vegas. (Daniil Vnoutchkov/Unsplash)
Brian Ring Industry Voices

As promised, here’s my report on CES 2020. I hope to keep this readable for those of you that didn’t catch my CES preview last Monday. (Hint hint: Go read it.)

Is #CTV the new #OTT? For Vizio and Samsung? Yes. Both companies dedicated people and energy – on the floor and off – toward the proposition that free streaming on connected TVs will have a big seat at the future TV table.

I’m really impressed with Vizio’s SmartCast platform, which represents a complete re-build of their smart TV OS on five simple propositions: fast and responsive apps; share home videos on the TV; smarter home; better voice; and free streaming TV channels.

Vizio is on a roll. 30% of its TVs are not connected to any set-top or antenna device. For these users, Vizio and Wi-Fi is all that’s needed.

For LG and Sony, I saw much less, and what I did see felt driven by Google Assistant and Android TV, not by a native embrace of streaming. For TCL and Hisense, two of the larger TV manufacturers licensing the Roku platform, it’s a mixed story. I give them credit for being smart enough to license Roku, but I don’t understand the calculus behind “burying the lede” on that achievement. I have a few theories if you’re really interested.

Roku: Can anyone catch up? The answer is: Unlikely.

Fire TV has the very best shot. Apple TV? My Twitter followers know how Apple has squandered its lead in the streaming media player domain. Chromecast isn’t out of the game, but without a beautiful remote control, and more clarity vis-à-vis Android TV, an an understanding of how Google Assistant fits into the equation is unlikely.

Meantime, a Roku floor rep at a partner stand told me one in three TVs sold in the U.S. had the Roku streaming TV OS, a figure the company has touted before.

Finally, a shout out to disruptive innovator DabKick – the company built a single-purpose, tablet-plus-dongle implementation that feels just clever enough to have a shot.

The Comcast + Xumo streaming dance? A deal was rumored. No deal was announced. My take is unchanged. If it happens, it’ll be a coup for Comcast, as Xumo has a foothold in LG, Sony and Panasonic environments.

HBO Max and cloud DVR? I got my answer. It’s not good.

Quick background: My biggest pain point after cutting the cord? Finding a streaming outlet for HBO where I can either “start over” or “record to cloud DVR” on my favorite live broadcasts like “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Currently, my favorite skinny bundle YouTube TV doesn’t have HBO. (It is awesome in every other possible way, but that’s for another story.)

So, I get HBO via Amazon Prime Video Channels, which has a live linear feed – but NOT a cloud DVR. (Nor can I use my credential to sign-in to HBO Go.) Every week my wife gripes at me as we run for the couch and arrive anywhere from two to 15 minutes late to our favorite show, only to have no option to see what we missed until the next day.

“But you’re in the TV business!” she yells. “I know. I’m sorry.”

Well, more bad news, honey.

From what I understand, and this is from a sharp WarnerMedia exec, HBO Max will not have cloud DVR or start-over or in fact any vestige of a linear service. It’s meant to be an SVOD library, like Netflix. So, it’s up to me to find an HBO linear service that has time-shifting options.

It’s hard to believe that Amazon Prime Video channels doesn’t have a DVR. It’s hard to believe YouTube TV doesn’t have HBO. It’s hard to believe that HBO is causing so much pain for a decades-long subscriber that essentially pays full-freight for a few shows precisely because I value quality over quantity.

The only thing not hard to believe? That this is happening under the leadership of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

That’s Part 1 of your wrap up! Check back tomorrow for Part 2, where I'll cover Quibi, esports, interactive streaming and advanced TV advertising. As always, feel free to follow me and ask questions on Twitter for live updates, answers, photos, videos and TV-related snark.

Brian Ring has two decades of front-lines experience in the video & TV technology market. As a writer, researcher and analyst, he contributes to the ongoing discussion about television’s evolution from free to pay, from OTA to OTT, and from the big screen to all screens.

Brian’s consumer survey research work is unique, leveraging a disciplined, high-integrity approach toward predicting and shaping the future of TV. Over twenty exclusive reports on sports, DVR usage, social TV, livestreaming, video quality, fan engagement and OTT monetization are freely available here: RingDigital.tv/FutureOfTV

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceVideo staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceVideo.

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