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  #1  
Old 11-02-2008, 05:45 PM
Hari_Seldon Hari_Seldon is offline
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Question SageTV and online content - hulu, netflix ...

Disclaimer - Despite my handle, I have no special insight into the future of SageTV or DVR/media players in general. I am currently hobbling along with Vista Media Center - planning to upgrade to SageTV, MythTV or a better VMC setup when my home (under construction) is complete. My knowledge of SageTV is based solely on reading these forums (and planning my setup), so cut me some slack if I'm wrong .

Having used TimeWarner Cable DVR’s and Vista Media Center, I’m really looking forward to a better solution with SageTV. However, I have a question about the future of the product that I’d like to pose here. (Sorry for the long post)

The basic function of SageTV today is converting broadcast video content into on-demand video content. With it I can easily record my favorite shows/DVD's/CD's etc. and access these recordings throughout my house (or elsewhere with PlaceShifter). SageTV has a nice (configurable) UI as well as a lot of smarts to make recording simple and reliable. Of course there are many other capabilities and possibilities given the plug-in support, but this is the basic function of the system. The HD extender, as the name implies, extends the UI and playback capability to displays without requiring a dedicated PC.

With the growing acceptance of on-demand content services like itunes, amazon, hulu, netflix, joost, playon, youtube, google video, (not to mention BitTorrent, Miro) along with TV network websites (NBC, BBC, MTV, ComedyCentral...) we now have a lot more options for on-demand viewing via the internet.

So here is the question - Will SageTV integrate online content? What value does SageTV (SW or extender) add when all of my favorite shows are available on-demand online (legally)?

1 - Archiving content? What's the point if I can re-watch any Simpsons episode (for example) on-demand.

2 - Delivering online content to my TV without a PC? Yes, to the extent that Sage can interoperate with online content providers. So far Sage seems to be lagging other STB’s in providing access to online content.

3 - A slick one-stop UI for searching/playing any online content? Maybe. Several of the examples above (miro, joost) also appear to be working towards this goal – but it first requires access to said content (see above).

4 - Skipping commercials? Sure - for broadcast->DVR content. This seems to be the tradeoff today - I can record The Office on my DVR and play it back without commercials. Or I can watch it on hulu.com at my leisure at the cost of enduring the advertisements. Clever developers may overcome ads in online players, but we have to pay for content somehow.

I ask this question as it is my main concern prior to investing in a SageTV setup. Today these features (viewing online content) are barely mentioned in SageTV feature lists. Perhaps the next version will add more access to online content. I think this will be a determining factor in the continued success of SageTV.

I’m interested to hear the thoughts, counterpoints, predictions of more seasoned SageTV users. Is SageTV’s mastery of efficiently capturing broadcast content enough to make it worthwhile going forward? For how long? How much do you care about online content?

Thanks,
HS

Last edited by Hari_Seldon; 11-02-2008 at 05:55 PM.
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  #2  
Old 11-02-2008, 07:28 PM
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sainswor99 sainswor99 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari_Seldon View Post

2 - Delivering online content to my TV without a PC? Yes, to the extent that Sage can interoperate with online content providers. So far Sage seems to be lagging other STB’s in providing access to online content.
I'll admit, I'm a bit out of touch when it comes to other PVR programs; I use Sage because it works. However, you seem to imply that other programs have made some greater strides in the area of online content; I'd be interested in examples.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari_Seldon View Post
I’m interested to hear the thoughts, counterpoints, predictions of more seasoned SageTV users. Is SageTV’s mastery of efficiently capturing broadcast content enough to make it worthwhile going forward? For how long? How much do you care about online content?

Thanks,
HS
For me, there's too much TV to watch. I rarely access the online services, so there's not a lot of value-add to me. I've got over 400 hours of TV saved (and I delete as I watch). I'll admit that hulu (and others) are an intriguing idea, but in practice, I don't use them.
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  #3  
Old 11-02-2008, 07:57 PM
Brent Brent is offline
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I certainly don't want to downplay the question about the online content because I think it will become more and more important in the future - likely the near future.

Still, I agree with sainswor99 that it's sort of wrong to say that SageTV is behind anyone out there with online video support. SageTV was one of the first HTPC programs to have fully-supported and functional online video content bringing YouTube and Video/Audio Podcast support built-in to the product. The Netflix Watch-Now plugin for SageMC was one of the first as well.

Who has online content beyond SageTV? Vista Media Center has a user-made netflix plugin that works on the extenders and Xbox360 - that's ahead of SageTV since there currently is no easy way (it is possible with a hack) to do this on the SageTV extenders. Boxee and the DivX player both have Hulu working on their boxes. Keep in mind thought that out of all of these, only Microsoft's Xbox360 has official support for this (Netflix on Xbox360). For these features to work going forward, it will require official agreements between the online content provider and the device (HTPC) maker. This will take time, but I think (hope) that SageTV and probably some of the others will work to have this official support built in eventually.

Ultimately, I personally believe that easy and powerfully time shifting, placeshifting TV, Music, Movies and Photo content is the MOST important feature for a HTPC/Media Center - avoid commercials as much as possible and control your content. That's why SageTV excels over all others including VMC and Boxee and Meedio. But I also agree that online content will grow in importance and will be a feature that makes or breaks the purchase decision for prospective and current customers. That's why I'm fairly sure that the powers that be at SageTV are aware of this and want online content arrangements to happen.
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  #4  
Old 11-02-2008, 09:36 PM
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mistergq mistergq is offline
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Originally Posted by Brent View Post
I certainly don't want to downplay the question about the online content because I think it will become more and more important in the future - likely the near future.

Still, I agree with sainswor99 that it's sort of wrong to say that SageTV is behind anyone out there with online video support. SageTV was one of the first HTPC programs to have fully-supported and functional online video content bringing YouTube and Video/Audio Podcast support built-in to the product. The Netflix Watch-Now plugin for SageMC was one of the first as well.

Who has online content beyond SageTV? Vista Media Center has a user-made netflix plugin that works on the extenders and Xbox360 - that's ahead of SageTV since there currently is no easy way (it is possible with a hack) to do this on the SageTV extenders. Boxee and the DivX player both have Hulu working on their boxes. Keep in mind thought that out of all of these, only Microsoft's Xbox360 has official support for this (Netflix on Xbox360). For these features to work going forward, it will require official agreements between the online content provider and the device (HTPC) maker. This will take time, but I think (hope) that SageTV and probably some of the others will work to have this official support built in eventually.

Ultimately, I personally believe that easy and powerfully time shifting, placeshifting TV, Music, Movies and Photo content is the MOST important feature for a HTPC/Media Center - avoid commercials as much as possible and control your content. That's why SageTV excels over all others including VMC and Boxee and Meedio. But I also agree that online content will grow in importance and will be a feature that makes or breaks the purchase decision for prospective and current customers. That's why I'm fairly sure that the powers that be at SageTV are aware of this and want online content arrangements to happen.
what he said!

I would also add that Sage is by and far not far behind. Those of us with HD100s are waiting for support for Netflix Watch Now, but understand that its going to take some time.
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  #5  
Old 11-02-2008, 09:43 PM
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stanger89 stanger89 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari_Seldon View Post
I’m interested to hear the thoughts, counterpoints, predictions of more seasoned SageTV users. Is SageTV’s mastery of efficiently capturing broadcast content enough to make it worthwhile going forward?
Absolutely.

Quote:
For how long?
Until I can get equal quality. I've got Dish TurboHD Platinum, so save about one show, everything I watch is delivered in HD (even though not necessarily produced in HD the quality is much better than typical SD). From what I've seen

Quote:
How much do you care about online content?
Frankly, I don't really care much. Online content as it stands today is a cluster* of proprietary and incompatible interfaces and DRM schemes. They're usually wrapped horrid, website "interfaces", some are better than others, but none are good. Take Netflix for example, I subscribe to Netflix so I can access thier content "free", but I don't, because a web interface unuseable any sort of serious viewing.

All that said, I do have great hopes for the future of content delivery. Technology is here to allow us to access anything at any time, instantly. The Netflix integration coming to the 360, HD and all looks rather exciting. But as of now, no, not interesting enough for me to switch from Dish to "internet."
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  #6  
Old 11-03-2008, 01:04 AM
bastafidli bastafidli is offline
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> How much do you care about online content?
I actually care very much. I haven't seen live TV (other than Olympics) for more than 10-20 minutes when flipping channels in months. I get all my viewing from rentals and online.
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  #7  
Old 11-03-2008, 02:43 AM
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GKusnick GKusnick is offline
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My feeling is similar to Stanger's. OTA HD content is high-quality, DRM-free, and compatible with a variety of players and tools; I can easily edit out commercials or skip over them during playback; and once on my disk it's completely under my control; I don't have to worry about whether it will still be there next time I want to watch it. Online content is generally lower quality, DRMed, incompatible, hard to work with outside of proprietary browser-based players, and subject to removal at the provider's whim.

That said, I do watch some online content, but I generally prefer to do that on my PC, using high-res text and keyboard-and-mouse-based search tools, rather than in my living room with a handheld remote, oversized fonts, and clumsy numeric text entry.
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  #8  
Old 11-03-2008, 07:43 AM
valnar valnar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post
Online content as it stands today is a cluster* of proprietary and incompatible interfaces and DRM schemes. They're usually wrapped horrid, website "interfaces", some are better than others, but none are good.
This

If you are looking for the silver bullet that can access all online content equally behind the slickness of an integrated UI, it's not going to happen. 'Not to mention that online content is usually subpar quality, as opposed to nice, clean broadcast HD.

Whether you pick Sage or MS VMC, there will be a compromise, if not an omission of some kind of content. The only "silver bullet" is a PC running Vista connected directly to your TV, with all the headaches and usability problems associated with a full-blown computer. However, that's not to say you can't have a PC in parallel for those special occasions along with your favorite PVR app.
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  #9  
Old 11-03-2008, 08:37 AM
Hari_Seldon Hari_Seldon is offline
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Thanks for the great responses. I'll add a few points:

1 - What other STB's have better online integration? (feel free to add)
* AppleTV & itunes, youtube...
* Roku & Netflix
* Xbox 360 & Xbox live marketplace + Netflix (soon)
* Boxee & hulu, cbs, ...
* PS3 & Playstation Network
* Xbox 360/PS3 & Playon (hulu, BBC, CNN, ...)
* Tivo & Netflix (soon) + Amazon video on demand

2 - Web-based online video is lousy, DRM laden, etc.
I agree. Of course most paid content is available in HD (itunes, amazon). It goes back to the revenue model.

I think whether content is paid for directly (ala itunes) or with advertising (in or around the video), content owners want to maximize eyeballs. I would think it is in their best interest to be playable on any media device that can protect their content and preserve their revenue stream (ads). Hopefully Sage can build the required SW/HW (and relationships) to enhance their online content offering.
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Old 11-03-2008, 09:01 AM
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The online content does not make any difference to myself. I live in Canada and therefore have no access to it, and would most likely guess that any user out of the US has no interest in any of the online content providers.
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  #11  
Old 11-03-2008, 09:05 AM
Brent Brent is offline
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Originally Posted by Hari_Seldon View Post
I would think it is in their best interest to be playable on any media device that can protect their content and preserve their revenue stream (ads). Hopefully Sage can build the required SW/HW (and relationships) to enhance their online content offering.
I don't think we'll ever see integration of iTunes into SageTV or any other non-apple HTPC or media software. We could see Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and others eventually though. I don't think its as much of a hardware/software thing as it is a business agreement thing for SageTV. Not having the DRM in place on the extenders could be a stumbling block though.
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  #12  
Old 11-03-2008, 09:15 AM
Hari_Seldon Hari_Seldon is offline
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Right. I wouldn't consider itunes a content owner. Itunes exists to help sell Apple hardware - iphones, ipods, etc.

A content owner like NBC (or HBO, or SouthParkStudios) could sell their shows through itunes and post them on hulu.com and Netflix can offer the DVD's - as long as NBC gets paid they don't care. More screens = more revenue.
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  #13  
Old 11-03-2008, 12:20 PM
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stanger89 stanger89 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari_Seldon View Post
Thanks for the great responses. I'll add a few points:

1 - What other STB's have better online integration? (feel free to add)
* AppleTV & itunes, youtube...
No recording, poor format support.

Quote:
* Roku & Netflix
Nothing else

Quote:
* Xbox 360 & Xbox live marketplace + Netflix (soon)
Rathter expensive per viewing, Netflix remains to be seen. But you have to drop out of the Media Center interface to get there.

Quote:
* Boxee & hulu, cbs, ...
No recording.

Quote:
* PS3 & Playstation Network
* Xbox 360/PS3 & Playon (hulu, BBC, CNN, ...)
No recording....

Quote:
* Tivo & Netflix (soon) + Amazon video on demand
This is actually probably the closest to SageTV.

Quote:
2 - Web-based online video is lousy, DRM laden, etc.
I agree. Of course most paid content is available in HD (itunes, amazon). It goes back to the revenue model.
But still has the crappy interface. I'd rather record it in (better?) quality and have a good interface.

Quote:
I think whether content is paid for directly (ala itunes) or with advertising (in or around the video), content owners want to maximize eyeballs.
They want to maximize control, first and foremost.

Quote:
I would think it is in their best interest to be playable on any media device that can protect their content and preserve their revenue stream (ads). Hopefully Sage can build the required SW/HW (and relationships) to enhance their online content offering.
I think it would be great if Sage could offer some of these new options, but they're really not an issue for me, not in their current state.
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  #14  
Old 11-03-2008, 01:14 PM
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evilpenguin evilpenguin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari_Seldon View Post
1 - What other STB's have better online integration? (feel free to add)
* AppleTV & itunes, youtube...
* Roku & Netflix
* Xbox 360 & Xbox live marketplace + Netflix (soon)
* Boxee & hulu, cbs, ...
* PS3 & Playstation Network
* Xbox 360/PS3 & Playon (hulu, BBC, CNN, ...)
* Tivo & Netflix (soon) + Amazon video on demand
Well, this list has a few different categories...

1) Multi-Million Dollar companies who go out and get content partners
* Tivo w/ Amazon
* Xbox aka Microsoft
* PS3 aka Sony
* Apple

So its unlikely Sage could pursue agreements like these without much deeper pockets.

2) People w/ content seeking out partners to distribute it
* Netflix w/ Roku, Microsoft, Tivo

This is a more plausible scenario as Netflix is practically begging people to host its content. The hurdle would be Sage would need to implement a new playback method to handle the content/DRM.

3) Companies/People that take the content they want w/o consent from the providers
* Playon
* Boxee

Now these in itself are probably two different categories:

Playon, I'm fairly sure, is straight up jacking the content, bypassing DRM, and transcoding it for playback on various devices. Its probably very illegal.

Boxee on the other hand says there are integrating the content providers own players and their just adding code on top of it to make it easy to control. If true, this method is completely legal, and is the most likely way for Sage to get its content. However, for it to work, they'd have to support flash/silverlight.
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  #15  
Old 11-03-2008, 01:18 PM
Suntan Suntan is offline
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I don’t get the negativity that people are throwing out about online content. I don’t think anyone would argue that on demand content is as good as broadcast/cable/sat HD, but it is another option for receiving content.

I don’t understand why everyone jumped straight to Sage vs. this or that, which is best. I see it more as Sage with network on demand would be better than Sage as it currently is now.

Fair enough if you never use it, but I have made use of the netflix access more than a couple times when I was bored to the point of finding nothing available to watch. Further, my wife always finds a movie on there she wants to watch and she has to use the downstairs TV because the bedroom TV has an HD100.

Personally, I would pay good money to have a software update to get network based video access natively in Sage, and especially on the HD100, for Netflix. Even if it only had access to scroll through your instant que that would be great. It’s really the one feature that I find lacking in Sage.

Last night her Desperate Housewives didn’t record because the computer was off for some reason, So I had to dink around with getting it qued up through ABCs website. I would be much happier if Sage got all the technicalities ironed out with the major broadcast networks so you could automatically reach all these through Sage. But I realize that access to Networks’ stuff would probably be a lot more troublesome than getting an agreement with Netflix.

-Suntan
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  #16  
Old 11-03-2008, 02:12 PM
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sainswor99 sainswor99 is offline
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Originally Posted by Suntan View Post
I don’t understand why everyone jumped straight to Sage vs. this or that, which is best. I see it more as Sage with network on demand would be better than Sage as it currently is now.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suntan View Post

Last night her Desperate Housewives didn’t record because the computer was off for some reason, So I had to dink around with getting it qued up through ABCs website. I would be much happier if Sage got all the technicalities ironed out with the major broadcast networks so you could automatically reach all these through Sage. But I realize that access to Networks’ stuff would probably be a lot more troublesome than getting an agreement with Netflix.

-Suntan
I was waiting for somebody to ask this question, because it does appear that this discussion may have drifted into a "Sage-vs-everybody else" discussion. <SARCASM ON> Lord knows that never happens around here </SARCASM OFF>

However, if you go back to the original post, the second point was posited that SageTV was lagging behind other products; my response was simply that the OP should provide a list. Don't bring a knife to a gun fight, or a feature request to a user forum without evidence (somehow that statement sounded a lot pithier in my head ). The OP did so, but I think the arguments provided by others seemed to indicate that Sage is doing as well as other providers in this area; online content is still so-so in most implementations (unless you have some sort of exclusive agreement with the provider).

I agree with you that it would be nice to have better online integration (although as I said before, I don't use it much), but I don't think the infrastructure is there yet for anybody (let alone SageTV). Personally, I'd rather have Sage continuing to develop partnerships that drive down the cost of recording digital TV (like the expense of the HD-PVR or cablecards or something).
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  #17  
Old 11-03-2008, 02:22 PM
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GKusnick GKusnick is offline
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Originally Posted by Suntan View Post
I don’t get the negativity that people are throwing out about online content. I don’t think anyone would argue that on demand content is as good as broadcast/cable/sat HD...
I thought the OP was arguing that. He's saying, why bother to record the Simpsons off the air if the episodes are available online? Why own a DVR at all if everything you want to watch can be streamed on demand over the web? The answer people are giving is that on-demand web streaming just isn't as good of a user experience (at least not yet).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suntan View Post
I see it more as Sage with network on demand would be better than Sage as it currently is now.
But you could say that about any random feature. Sage with integrated email/web browsing/income tax filing is better than Sage without. But no matter how good a job the Sage devs do on those features, they're never going to be as good as standalone email/browser/tax apps with full-blown keyboard-and-mouse interfaces. So the marginal value of adding those features to Sage is pretty small, and not worth taking dev time away from other features that could be implemented instead.

In other words, it's never a question of "Is Sage with X better than Sage without X?" It's always a question of "Given limited dev resources, is Sage with X better than Sage with Y?"
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Old 11-03-2008, 02:47 PM
Suntan Suntan is offline
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Originally Posted by GKusnick View Post
they're never going to be as good as standalone email/browser/tax apps with full-blown keyboard-and-mouse interfaces. So the marginal value of adding those features to Sage is pretty small, and not worth taking dev time away from other features that could be implemented instead.
But in this instance, netflix control within Sage *would* be better than the standalone option of browsing a webpage with a keyboard and mouse. At least I think it would. Certainly if you could do it from an extender. We are still talking about watching video here, regardless of the path it takes to get to your TV. Having your “on-demand” que available right next to your “recordings” que would certainly be better than having to monkey with IE, as the popularity of the current netflix plugin attests, even though it only gets you half way there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GKusnick View Post
In other words, it's never a question of "Is Sage with X better than Sage without X?" It's always a question of "Given limited dev resources, is Sage with X better than Sage with Y?"
Well, my point was that I don’t see any other feature that I would want implemented more than native on-demand support. You are certainly welcome to your opinion if it differs, but it is not a universally held opinion that on demand integration is not wanted by people that already use Sage (as opposed to just the people “outside looking in” that may want it.)

-Suntan
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  #19  
Old 11-03-2008, 03:02 PM
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GKusnick GKusnick is offline
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Originally Posted by Suntan View Post
We are still talking about watching video here...
Yes, but watching is only half the problem. You still have to find things you want to watch. I grant that it would be cool to view my Netflix queue and choose items to play from within Sage. But I wouldn't dream of using Sage to maintain my queue or search for items to add to it; a browser is a much better tool for that. But my impression was that the OP was proposing exactly that: Sage as a complete, do-it-all front end for both finding and viewing online content.
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Old 11-03-2008, 03:33 PM
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evilpenguin evilpenguin is offline
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I think going forward the best Media Center app is going implementation that is a seemless hybrid of online services/recorded content.

For instance if I'm adding a favorite here are some options I'd like to see...

* Streaming only -
Scenario:
Quote:
* Streaming content is available
* I'm not concerned with getting the episodes as soon as they air, and
* The quality of the streaming content is comparable to what I'd be able to record.
Behavior:
Quote:
* Don't record anything live
* Treat any available streaming episodes as episodes that have been recorded.
* This list should be automatically updated when a new show is available.
Example: SDTV shows like "The Daily Show"

* Streaming/Recording Hybrid - (In regard to the OP, in my mind this is the benefit of going with a PVR vs. an app the only does streaming video)
Scenario:
Quote:
* Streaming content is available
* I want the content as soon as it airs
* The quality of the capture would be significantly better than the streaming content
Behavior:
Quote:
* Record shows as they air.
* Treat any available streaming episodes as episodes that have been recorded.
* If an recorded episode is deleted, replace it in the list with its streaming counterpart.
Example: Primetime HDTV


* Recording Only-
Scenario:
Quote:
* No streaming content is available
Behavior:
Quote:
* Treat as normal Sage favorite and record episodes as they air.
Example: News, Sports, etc.

Then for Netflix movies, you should have a separate menu where you can browse the entire library and watch streaming movies, but you should also be able too bookmark a movie and have it appear in your movie library right next to your recorded Movies and ripped DVDs.

Last edited by evilpenguin; 11-03-2008 at 03:40 PM.
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