I was reminded today why I often find it hard to write anything on Fridays. That seems to be the day of the week when all the bad news comes out.

Ben Munson at FierceCable wrote about reactions to the FCC’s vote yesterday to relax media ownership rules to make it easier for broadcasters to own newspapers in their markets, and to own multiple TV stations. Supporters thought it was a gift to broadcast groups such as Sinclair, and opponents thought it was a gift to Sinclair Broadcasting.

Brian Heater at TechCrunch rounded up the evidence that the FCC will vote to kill Net Neutrality next month. There’s another case where on a Monday I might have exhorted you to call your legislators to fight to keep equal treatment for all bits, but on Friday I just see a future where Comcast charges extra for OTT services it doesn’t own.

And there’s news, also from Munson, that Sinclair is going full speed ahead on ATSC 3.0 just hours after the FCC voted to allow the broadcast standard. According to a Reuters story, Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the new technology would force consumers to buy new televisions. “The FCC calls this approach market driven. That’s right — because we will all be forced into the market for new television sets or devices.” On the other hand, Sinclair calls it “the Holy Grail” because it will tells them who is watching and where, so there are privacy concerns.

There must be some good news in the middle of all this. Maybe I’ll find it on Monday.

Close-up of the side of a dish motor showing angle marks

This close-up of my old motor mounted to the dish pole showed me how to mount my new motor.

Hey, all you free-to-air satellite viewers who hopefully frequent FTAList! I remembered today that I forgot to tell you what I did last month. My FTA system stopped working, but I was able to fix it.

It started months ago. Once in awhile, when I would tell my receiver to tell my motor to point my dish to a new satellite, it would go there, then continue on just a teeny bit too far. The channels on that bird simply wouldn’t be visible until I told the motor to switch to another satellite then switch back to the one I wanted in the first place. I shrugged and figured my 1.2-meter Ku-band dish had just shifted on its mount somehow.

The glitches came more frequently. Finally last month, the motor just refused to turn in response to most commands. That STAB HH 120 motor is one of the few that can drive my large dish, and I’d had it for years, much longer than I’ve kept any one receiver. To isolate the problem, I swapped out a different receiver, different quad-shield coax cables, and bypassed the DiSEqC switch. As you can guess by the photo, nothing else helped; it was the motor that had gone bad.

I remember the work it took to set up and point that motor when I first installed it, so I went looking for an exact replacement. I wound up at Ricks Satellite, home to the best wild feed forum that I know of, and Rick had just what I was looking for. I bought it, Rick shipped it, and two days later I installed it to match the photos I had taken of the old motor. In less time than it’s taken me to type this note, my motorized dish was ready for action without any repointing or tweaking.

So take this as a reminder, if you happen to have a motorized FTA system, that pieces of it will go bad over time. When that piece is the motor, a few photos and an exact replacement can save hours of set up time. For once, I got it right!

 

Ben Munson at FierceCable disagrees with my assessment of the new Philo OTT service. “Since all the programmers involved in the Philo launch are also strategic investors, the service also provides them with some degree of distribution ownership … There doesn’t seem to be any reason Philo won’t have a material impact for all involved.” I’ve been wrong before.

Brian Fung writes in The Washington Post that ATSC 3.0 is just another facet of the FCC’s broadcast TV changes that benefit media consolidation at the expense of localism. It’s really quite depressing.

And Troy Dreier at Streaming Media magazine has the right response to the typical newspaper hand-wringing about using OTT services to replace cable TV. The future of video has begun, and “we can all enjoy a variety of niche services that … we can now select from. Did I say select? No, apparently we’re forced to subscribe … to all of them.” Exactly! So many of those articles rebuild a matching set of pay-TV channels using streaming services, then complain that they’re about as expensive. Which is the opposite of the point of OTT – the ability to pick and choose which channels to buy. It’s not a la carte, but it’s the closest we’ve got for now.

 

The big news today is the rollout of Philo, a streaming TV service bundling 37 channels for $16/month or 46 for $20/month. Several reports on the new service point out that it has no sports channels and is therefore targeted to viewers who don’t care about sports.

That certainly is a skinny bundle, so skinny that it’s missing plenty besides sports. As Alex Weprin wrote at MediaPost, “Philo will not have programming from NBCUniversal, Disney, CBS, Turner or Fox, … in part because of their extensive sports programming.” So the premium Turner demands for baseball coverage on TBS meant that Philo couldn’t include CNN or Turner Classic Movies? FS1’s price meant no Fox News or FX?

It’s a truism that every person has favorite channels and thinks that the others are trash, but just look at that lineup. Will BBC World News and Cheddar provide enough news? Are there enough movies in that mix? Compare it to Sling Orange for $20/month including commercial-free movies, more news channels, and plenty of sports that you are free to ignore.

Philo reminds me of Pluto TV, not just because the names are similar. Both offer a few dozen ad-supported entertainment channels, and both are free to watch for the first week. The difference, after that first week, is $16/month. I just don’t see Philo’s appeal at all.

Bay Area BTV screen capture with program guide

The Bay Area BTV user interface. (Click to enlarge.)

Didja, the company behind Phoenix BTV and Bay Area BTV, recently dropped three Katz Broadcasting diginets from both services. Bounce, Escape, and Grit had been part of both lineups at their launches but are now gone or inactive.

In an email sent to Phoenix subscribers Friday afternoon, Didja announced that it had added the Charge! diginet but “Unfortunately, we are temporarily unable to provide Grit, Escape and Bounce on (sic) PhoneixBTV. We hope to bring you these channels again soon. In the meantime, if you are a fan of these channels, send us (an email) and let us know!”

Subscribers who click the grayed Bounce listings on the program guide see the message: “Bounce is not currently available on PhoenixBTV. If you’re a fan of Bounce and would like to see it return, please let us know at …” Which sounds like a trial balloon to see whether regaining Katz’s content would be worth whatever that would cost.

At Bay Area BTV, those three channels are simply gone, as if they had never been there. That service has a wider variety of channels still available and different DVR pricing; it seems likely that Didja is trying different experiments in different markets.

Jeff Baumgartner wrote last month, “Didja’s service carries only the broadcast networks via its OTT service that have offered consent, and access to those lineups are limited to the consumers if they are currently in the local area.” (Or if they know how to pretend to be in the local area.) Didja’s CEO hopes to eventually offer a lineup of 60-70 channels per market including the major networks. That’s going to take a lot of paid additions, and at the moment, Didja might be going in the other direction.