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Pioneer SyncTV to compete with iTunes and Cable TV

by November 19, 2007

How we watch TV is in for a big change.

You’d think the networks would rustle up downloadable programming by the dozen, eager to sell their wares to a growing tech-savvy consumer. Although the numbers of services playing in this game has grown sharply, a new service called SyncTV - a division of Pioneer - wants to be the downloadable TV service to beat.

The success of downloadable music has demonstrated a few simple truisms when it comes to how we like our media - frankly, we’re control freaks! Our demands on digital media seem to be twofold:

1/ Freedom of choice: We only want what we want. Most people buy singles if they can, rather than the whole album. In media we just want steaks, not cows.

2/ Scalability is KING: We want to watch, listen and look at our media anytime, anyplace and in any format. In short, we want our media-steak portable, in our pocket like an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat).

There’s nothing new about these ideas. In the heyday of FM radio, singles were the ad-hoc currency of the pop music charts. It was back in those days that transistorized radios allowed kids to take their music to the streets. They may not have had portable libraries or stereo sound -

But dig it man, you could tune in rock and roll radio while standing at the bus-stop.

Entertainment content providers are slowly recognizing these not-so-revolutionary traits in human nature.

How much of the struggle against piracy would dissipate if businesses provided the means of obtaining the absolute choice and scalability afforded us by technologies?

Today, Pioneer begins beta testing on its version of a next gen TV subscription service dubbed SyncTV. This is no streaming TV web-applet with limited bandwidth, low resolution and suspect audio quality - it’s designed to compete with digital cable on every front.

Subscribers will pay from $2 - $4 a month per network to download content to their computer. Of course, you’ll be able to choose individual shows offered for about $2 per episode.

SyncTV Feature Hits

  • Low cost with subscription rates at $2 to $4 per month
  • Buy a single episodes for $2
  • 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound
  • DVD-quality video and soon, programming in HD
  • Portable devices will take programming on the road
  • Compatible with both Windows and Macs

SyncTV wants to give the nod to both scalability and quality. Premium programming will be available with 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus soundtracks, and soon the company will even provide HDTV.

President of SyncTV, John Gildred, says the service will be an open platform and a published standard. He hopes this makes SyncTV attractive for development by other Consumer Electronics companies who might want to create devices that are compatible with the service. Pioneer could lead the way!

This should allow for greater innovations in new products than we’ve ever seen from conventional subscription TV services.

Gildred says the programming will be compatible with future portable devices, but don’t expect to play the videos on any portable device by Apple. Gildred has already stated that since the video platform wasn’t developed by Apple, it won’t play back on the iPod or iPhone.

When the service launches in January, new users will be able to download a free client that will let them view programming through their computer. Pioneer is currently in negotiations with other companies to get SyncTV compatibility for many other devices in your home theater system.

Guinea Pigging Myself

Because I think this has potential to be a great system, I have offered myself up to beta test SyncTV. I have already received confirmation from someone at SyncTV that I’ll be a private beta tester of the system and should get more information shortly. I’ll keep you up to date on how this comes along.

I’m curious if the quality will be as good as SyncTV says it will be. Despite the company’s claims of DVD quality, I’d consider the service a breakthrough if it can provide Digital Cable – like, Mpeg2 quality. And if I can get my hands on HD content, it’ll be interesting to see if a downloaded file will suffer the macroblocking and compression issues associated with Mpeg2 digital cable and satellite TV.

I understand the system will use an open standard of Marlin Digital Rights Management. I’ll be curious about how hampering this will be, and what I can do to port media from my computer to my home theater system.

Expect updates soon.

About the author:

Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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