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April 14, 2016

The New TV

A couple of recent changes have improved my TV experience and I felt like reporting on them. TiVo announced two new features. First, "QuickMode", it plays video 30% faster while keeping the audio intact. I've wanted this feature for years to briskly watch content light on interest or programming light on content. I've fast forwarded through shows like this before, but without audio, you miss out on stuff and it takes a lot of concentration to go in and out of fast forward. I actually saw this feature years ago on a friends VCR and perhaps noticed it in a software player or two. It's difficult to pull off well from what I understand. TiVo does pretty well at it, content flying by 30% faster does require a little more concentration, especially since the audio becomes a little less intelligible. I notice a syllable or pause here or there gets dropped. I've found myself using this feature very often, far more than the few use cases I already had in mind. Great feature, works on all content. Next up, "SkipMode", skips the entire commercial break with a single key press. When it was announced I wasn't much interested, especially since it comes with fine print. Such as only working on certain shows on certain networks and has a long history of legal issues that might make the feature disappear in future. I wasn't sure it would even show up for my Canadian service. When it launched, the little icon indicating a show that had the feature started to trickle in, mostly on US Network primetime. But as time has gone along, I have noticed it work and work correctly with both US channels that have been simsub'd to Canadian equivalents and also on Canadian channels directly. More often than not SkipMode is not available for a show, but when it is, it's really a time saver, much easier to use than fast-forwarding or doing 30 second skips through the commercial breaks.

The other change was the CRTC requirement that providers offer "Skinny Basic", a basic channel package offered at a maximum price of $25. They also included limits on how additional channels could be packaged. I was pleasantly surprised by Shaw's Skinny Basic and package offerings as I was expecting the worst, the bare minimum requirements. They added a few channels to the basic package, including the prime US networks and offered it at $25. Additionally the small packages they offer are reasonably priced, including the sports channels. In fact you could recreate their older larger packages using the new Skinny Basic and packages for about the same price, also unexpected. After evaluating the new offerings I found that I now had quite a few options I was interested in, it was nice to have a choice. I ended up switching to Skinny Basic and adding some channel packages, reducing my overall cost while at the same time increasing the number of subscribed channels I was interested in. By December the CRTC will require further changes with providers required to offer each channel individually as well. It will be interesting to see if that allows any further improvements.

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