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Top 5 Tech Articles You Might Have Missed: Week of July 4

We hope everyone had a fantastic 4th of July last week! Entertainment has certainly come a long way since the first American television set emerged in 1928. In fact, MagnaGlobal predicts that more than 60 million U.S. homes will have DVRs in the next five years.

Cable and streaming video technologies are continuing to spread worldwide; Motorola’s HD set-top box expanded to India and Netflix will extend its reach to the Caribbean and more than 40 Latin American countries later this year. Amidst Netflix’ growth and success, Hulu intends to sell their streaming video service to the highest bidder. Who do you think will buy Hulu?

Also, if you missed the holiday fireworks, be sure to check out some beautiful photos that lit up the Twittersphere across the country!

1. DVR Household Penetration To Reach 51.3% In 2016: MagnaGlobal (July 6, 2011) – By Jon Lafayette, Multichannel News
The number of U.S. households with digital video recorders will hit 63.1 million in 2016, up from 40.5 million at the end of the first quarter of 2011, according to media agency MagnaGlobal. Magna forecasts that DVRs will be in 51.3% of TV households in 2016, compared to 34.7% at the end of the first quarter.

2. Motorola Mobility selected by Mplex Networks for High Quality and Reliable Video Broadcast Network in India (July 6, 2011) – By Staff, Sulekha.com

Motorola Mobility India Private Limited today announced that its high quality digital set-top the HM-STB100LC, has been deployed by Mplex Networks. Motorola’s set-top technology advances Mplex Networks’ video experiences for their large subscriber base in Karnataka, India.

3. Netflix To Hit 43 Latin American And Caribbean Countries in 2011 (July 5, 2011) – By Todd Spangler, Multichannel News

Netflix is flying south of the border, announcing plans to offer an unlimited streaming video service in 43 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, including Mexico, later this year.

 4. Hulu Courts Buyers, While Netflix Streaming Surges (July 7, 2011) – By Austin Carr, FastCompany

Yesterday Disney CEO Bob Iger said the owners of Hulu are “committed to selling” the streaming video service. Potential buyers such as Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Verizon, and AT&T are interested in scooping up the company.

5. Fireworks Light up Twitter for 4th of July (July 5, 2011) – By Emily Banks, Mashable

As Independence Day makes its way to a close around the U.S., the skies have lit up with images of the celebrations. And, naturally, Twitter has lit up, too.

More on the Progress of AT&T’s U-verse

To continue with yesterday’s AT&T theme, here’s a look at some of the updates that came out of the company’s second quarter earnings announcement a few weeks back. AT&T had a phenomenal quarter, and U-verse VP Jeff Weber shared some of the reasons why this week in an interview this week with FierceIPTV’s Jim O’Neil.

First, to cover the numbers, AT&T gained 209,000 new subscribers in Q2 and brought in more than $1 billion in revenue from U-verse services. That’s less than a quarter of what AT&T made from its wireless services, but it’s far from insignificant. The $1 billion mark is also a record for U-verse revenues, and the outlook for Q3 is positive.

In his interview with FierceIPTV, Weber added further color to the story of AT&T’s U-verse success. Most impressively, he shared that U-verse subscribers who buy TV services also buy broadband service at least 95 percent of the time. That has to be huge for ARPU numbers, particularly when 70% of the time those subscribers also sign up for voice services.

As to why U-verse TV is proving increasingly popular, Weber pointed to AT&T’s IPTV platform and the types of services it’s using IP to deliver. Not that operators have to use IP to support similar features, but it has certain advantages (like easier interoperability) that cable operators have also shown an interest in. Meanwhile, AT&T seems to be hitting its stride, using IP to differentiate itself in the form of new features and service offerings. Multiview is one example. Mobilizing DVR content is another. In his own words, here’s how Weber explains it:

The key to all this success is driving the differentiation; a much better, simpler, integrated experience… So, it’s continuing to roll out more and more applications, and driving that integration, bringing wireless and TV together in a much more meaningful way as we go forward…

U-verse Mobile 2.0 Live with TV Downloads

AT&T has some pretty cool news out today with the announcement of U-verse Mobile 2.0 for the iPhone. The new mobile app not only lets U-verse TV subscribers program their DVRs, it also allows users to download certain TV shows to their mobile phones. (The cache-and-carry approach) There are limitations, of course. Downloads only work over Wi-Fi, and there’s no word yet of an Android version of the app. (Where’s the Android love?) Still, AT&T has made a definite step in the right direction. And the new U-verse app is another data point supporting the TV-provider trend toward multi-screen video delivery.

Motorola Driving Bandwidth Savings for U-verse TV

Bit rates are improving on many fronts, but I came across a specific statistic last week that I thought was worth sharing. Since 2006, Motorola has continually improved encoding efficiency for AT&T’s U-verse TV service. Today, Motorola is operating at 63% of the data rate used just four years ago. That’s almost a 40% savings in bandwidth.

Since AT&T’s Fiber-to-the-Node (FTTN) strategy is often compared to Verizon’s Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) strategy, it’s worth noting how AT&T has made FTTN pay off. What’s AT&T doing with the extra bandwidth from increased encoding efficiency? The telco rolled out a second HD stream to U-verse homes back in 2008 and reportedly has room to extend that further. Late last year, AT&T also announced that it’s starting to test Internet speed tiers of 24 Mbps in select markets. Not bad for DSL – VDSL2 in this case – and AT&T hasn’t even implemented pair bonding yet.

Perhaps even more telling, AT&T continues to bring on U-verse subscribers and make money from the service. Two-plus million subscribers, and two-plus billion in revenue.

Customer Updates

This always happens during the week of earnings reports. We get the best information nuggets on what companies are doing and plan to do in the near future. To sum up, here are a few highlights from Motorola customers Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.

Comcast, er, Xfinity

Verizon

  • FiOS: After investing gajillions in fiber-to-the-home buildouts, Verizon is apparently slowing down on the wireline front for a while. Perhaps it’s earned the rest?
  • Internet symmetry: Meanwhile the FiOS service keeps growing. Verizon is back with another symmetrical data offering. At the highest tier, FiOS Internet subscribers can now sign on for 35 Mbps service downstream and upstream.
  • TV improvements: Internet isn’t the only service getting an upgrade. VZ exec Joe Ambeault details the TV improvements in the Verizon at Home blog, including prettier widgets and faster response times.

AT&T

  • U-verse is up: AT&T had a strong fourth quarter with U-verse, and as a result it’s topped the two million subscriber mark. The telco had 2.1 million U-verse TV subscribers at the end of 2009.
  • Revenue is up: More subscribers means more revenue. AT&T also tripled its revenue from U-verse services – video, voice, and data – in 2009.
  • Broadband is up: AT&T tallies total broadband connections at 17.3 million, up 171,000 in Q4. That includes business and consumer wireline subscribers and wireless customers with 3G cards.