Tina Fey’s new Netflix show is here for weekend binge-watching

There are two good reasons to pay attention to the The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which is Tina Fey’s new series that debuted Friday on Netflix.

The first reason is that the show, about a young woman rebuilding her life in New York City after 15 years in a cult, is good — really good. I saw a preview of the first two episodes in New York in February, and the show is odd, fresh and funny. It’s easy to root for Kimmy (Ellie Kemper, who also played Erin on The Office), while her gay black sidekick Titus (Tituss Burgess) may be unlike any other character on TV. The show got a 78 at MetaCritic and folks at Rotten Tomatoes seem to like it too.

The other reason to take note of Kimmy Schmidt is because it shows, once again, how much the creation and distribution of TV has changed. As the New York Times recounted earlier this month, the initial episodes of Kimmy Schmidt were supposed to appear on NBC. The network, however, got cold feet, so Tina Fey decided to take it elsewhere.

Netflix lapped it up and agreed to buy two full seasons. Fey told the Times that the shift in platform also allowed for better plots and pacing because episodes were not confined to 22 minutes.

The stars of the show, meanwhile, appeared conflicted over the implication of services like Netflix displacing networks. In response to a question at the February premiere, Kemper said she was glad to be a Netflix star but still felt loyalty to NBC.

Finally, while the The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has the makings of a hit, its actually popularity will be hard to measure since Netflix doesn’t disclose how many people watch its shows (even though it knows precisely). As such, it will be hard to know if Kimmy will outperform the unwatchable Marco Polo, another recent Netflix offering that was likely targeted to a very different audience.

If Kimmy succeeds, it will be another feather in the cap of Netflix’s home grown hits, to go alongside House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

NBC wants you to pay for streams of Jimmy Fallon, SNL

Well, this is interesting: NBC Universal is working on a comedy video subscription service, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. The service, which could launch later this year, would include full episodes of shows like the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live, as well as other clips and online-exclusive programming, and possibly cost $2.50 to $3.50. Lots of details still seem up in the air, but it looks like NBC is determined to join the unbundling crowd to finally make money from cord cutters.

TiVo buys Aereo name, auction fetches under $2M

Aereo, the streaming start-up that was poised to upend the TV industry until the Supreme Court shut it down, has been sold for scraps.

Aereo’s assets fetched under $2 million at auction, according to a person familiar with the sale. The figure is a far cry from the $90-$100 million that media mogul Barry Diller and other investors put in the company as part of high stakes gamble on copyright law.

“We are very disappointed with the results of the auction. This has been a very difficult sales process and the results reflect that,” said William Baldiga, counsel for Aereo and partner at Brown Rudnick, in a statement.

This outcome likely reflects the legal sword that continued to hang over Aereo even in bankruptcy, as broadcasters pressed their claims for huge copyright damages. As a result, Aereo was sold off in pieces rather than as a company.

The primary winner of the auction appears to be TV recording service TiVo, which acquired Aereo’s trademark along with customer lists and unspecified other assets.

Meanwhile, the holding company RPX, which is a patent troll of sorts, has acquired Aereo’s patents.

The person familiar with Aereo said the company has yet to sell certain other assets, and that it is still looking for other opportunities. (It’s unclear what other assets could be left, one guess is trade secrets and other know-how from the company’s engineering team.)

The person also suggested that the broadcasters, including ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, were determined to bury Aereo’s technology rather than see it emerge under a new business model.

Until it was shut down last fall, Aereo offered consumers a means of watching and recording TV on mobile devices. While some Aereo content came via partnerships with stations like Bloomberg TV, most of the shows came via over-the-air TV.

Aereo, which provided subscribers with a remote antenna and DVR, claimed it was simply offering consumers a technology akin to a VCR, which is legal under copyright law.

An appeals court judge in New York initially agreed with Aereo’s position, noting that the service was akin to cloud-based DVR’s which courts have found to be legal. The broadcasters prevailed at the Supreme Court, however, in a controversial decision that appears set to sow further confusion over copyright.

Aereo Sale Doc by jeff_roberts881

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An earlier version of this story referring to RPX linked to an unrelated story. The link has been updated.

Brian Williams was an anachronism even before his memory problems

Some media watchers are wondering whether NBC anchor Brian Williams will be able to regain his position at the pinnacle of the U.S. news business now that he has been caught in a lie — but the reality is he lost that position a long time ago, thanks to the web

Where to watch the 2015 Super Bowl live online

You may watch it because you’re a football fan. Or for the ads. Or simply because it’s tradition. Regardless of the reason, when the Super Bowl begins on Sunday, you’re going to want to be watching — even if you don’t have cable, or maybe not even a TV.

That’s because just like last year, the event is going to be live streamed online. Super Bowl XLIX is being broadcast by NBC, and the network decided to do away with its usual requirement to sign in with your cable subscription and instead it plans to let everyone watch; cord cutters included.

The basics: Super Bowl XLIX features the New England Patriots facing off against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. The game will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., and kickoff will be at 6:30pm ET (3:30pm PT).

NBC.com is streaming the Super Bowl in its entirety on its website, including NBC’s pre-game coverage, the halftime show featuring Katy Perry, as well as post-game coverage. Streaming will begin at noon ET (9am PT), and continue until 10pm ET (7pm PT).

NBC’s Sports Live Extra apps will also stream the action via their tablet apps for iOS, Android and Windows, but NBC doesn’t have the rights to stream to mobile devices, so streaming to iPhones, Android phones and Windows phones won’t work. The apps may ask you to log in with your cable account if you access live video ahead of time, but NBC has promised that this won’t be the case starting at noon ET Sunday.

Verizon subscribers will also be able to watch the Super Bowl on their phones, thanks to the NFL Mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. Sorry, subscribers to other carriers need not apply — this one is a Verizon exclusive.

The NFL audio pass offers a live audio feed with commentary for $9.99. The subscription will also allow users to access archived NFL events throughout July.

Foreign-language radio: Audio of the Super Bowl is live streamed with commentary in Spanish, Hungarian, Japanese, French, Portuguese, Mandarin and German. Links to each webcast can be found on the NFL’s website.

Viewers abroad can tune in to a live stream of the Super Bowl via the NFL Game pass, which is available for $54.99 for anyone not residing in the U.S. and Mexico.

Hulu once again has its collection of Super Bowl ads dubbed the Adzone.

YouTube is aggregating and ranking Super Bowl ads as part of its Adblitz.

The Puppy Bowl completes every Super Bowl Sunday like a furry, friendly sidekick. Animal Planet isn’t streaming the cuter bowl live, but it has plenty of videos to tease us already on its website, and visitors of Animal Planet Live can also catch some rare Puppy Bowl training sessions live online.

We have disabled comments on this post to prevent the usual influx of links to fake and less-than-legal streams. Feel free to ping us on Twitter if you have questions or comments!

A new season of Community starts March 17 on Yahoo

Cult TV comedy Community is returning this March — on 3/17, to be precise — but not on NBC. Instead, Yahoo is going to release the show exclusively on its Yahoo Screen website, staring with two new episodes on March 17th. Following the Saturday release, fans are going to get one new episode every Tuesday. Here’s the cast of the show officially announcing the premiere date:

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NBC had canceled Community in April due to declining ratings after five seasons. At the time, there were speculations that Hulu might jump in to save the show, and producer Dan Harmon confirmed during a Television Critics Association event in Los Angeles Tuesday that Yahoo was indeed in the running (hat tip to Variety’s Debra Birnbaum).

Community is just the latest cancelled TV show to be revived online; Netflix brought Arrested Development as well as The Killing back from the dead. However, it’s a big get for Yahoo that could potentially introduce lots of new eyeballs to Yahoo Screen.

Correction: A previous version of this post erroneously stated that the show would start in January. The post was updated at 10:55am with the actual launch date.

Broadcasters try to block Aereo asset sale, $90M tax transfer

The TV industry has already shut down Aereo at the Supreme Court and driven it into bankruptcy, but that’s apparently not enough: now CBS, Fox, NBC and other big broadcasters are asking a judge to block any asset sale that would allow the defunct streaming TV company to reinvent itself as a cloud-DVR service.

According to bankruptcy court filings, the broadcasters believe that an asset sale could deprive them of the ability to collect copyright damages related to Aereo’s services. Aereo allowed consumers to retransmit and record over-the-air TV signals via their mobile devices. The Supreme Court shut down the service this summer after six of the nine Justices concluded that Aereo required a license.

That ruling effectively ended a bid by Aereo’s investors to create an internet-based TV service, and forced the company into bankruptcy. The issue now is whether Aereo can re-emerge from bankruptcy with a new business model that is based just on its remote recording technology. While the Supreme Court ruled that the portion of Aereo’s service that allowed consumers to watch live TV infringed copyright, it declined to rule on whether Aereo’s cloud-based recording service — which operated akin to a VCR — was legal.

As the court filings show, the broadcasters believe a bankruptcy sale would let Aereo escape this question by relaunching as a new corporate operation. Here’s the key passage from a motion filed this week (emphasis mine):

If Aereo elects to sell its assets, Aereo should not be allowed to use the automatic stay to evade resolution of the issue as to the lawfulness of time-delayed retransmissions. If allowed to do so, Aereo would, in effect, be using the automatic stay as a device to obtain option value from a prospective purchaser willing to gamble on whether time-delayed retransmissions are infringing.

As the passage notes, broadcasters fear that an Aereo sale could force them to start their copyright campaign anew, since a transaction borne of bankruptcy court would let a new corporate entity operate unencumbered from existing litigation. A sale would let Aereo would get a second act under a new name, in other words.

A $90–$100 million tax carryover

Overall, the bankruptcy court filing is also consistent with the broadcasters’ ongoing strategy, which has been to try to drive Aereo deep into the ground rather than grant it a license or negotiate other legal avenues to make the service work. According to a person familiar with the case, this strategy has also included taking a hard line on copyright damage demands. This legal exposure has, in turn, made it impossible for Aereo to find new investors or another company to acquire it.

From the broadcasters’ perspective, their damage demands have not been about recouping actual losses, since Aereo never had more than 100,000 subscribers to begin with (and the TV content in question was free and over-the-air). Instead, the lawsuit has been about exerting maximum control over TV at a time when more consumers are seeking entertainment options on the internet instead of via traditional cable and satellite bundles.

Finally, the bankruptcy court filings show that Aereo appears to have burned through $90 to $100 million after losing its big legal bet on the copyright issue. As the broadcasters note, those losses could be a valuable tax credit to a company that acquires Aereo — though the broadcasters, for their part, are doing their best to ensure that never happens:

In its Sale Motion, Aereo notes that it has a “so-called net loss carryover for Federal tax purposes of approximately $90 million to $100 million.” (Sale Motion ¶16.) Aereo describes this “tax attribute” as an “asset that some parties would find of significant value in connection with a reorganization or other transaction that would preserve the future use of that attribute under applicable law.” (Id.). Thus, Aereo’s proposed sale process appears to be designed in a way that will allow the insiders to retain control of the company and to take advantage of the net loss carryover.

Here’s the motion, which the broadcasters filed in Manhattan bankruptcy court on Monday:

Broadcasters Objection to Aereo Sale

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