December 16, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: Loop is reinventing the jukebox, and Plex has started to link to everything. Plus: Paddington!
Cord cutting isn’t just for consumers anymore: Restaurants, bars and other venues are increasingly saying goodbye to paid TV as well. Online video isn’t just a cheaper option for those businesses, but also allows them to embrace new features, to the point where those omnipresent TV screens are starting to look like a 21st century version of the good old jukebox.
One of the companies driving that change is Loop, a Los Angeles-based video startup that got in the out-of-home market when it acquired Seattle-based ScreenPlay in late 2018. Since then, Loop has grown its footprint to over 10,000 TVs in a wide variety of businesses (think Texas Roadhouse or Hard Rock Cafe) and over 100,0000 gas station screens.
ScreenPlay had been a veteran of the B2B video space, with a 30-year history of providing restaurants and bars with custom programming.
Loop’s streaming box has a few tricks up its sleeve. For instance, businesses can use it to sync video and audio across venues.
The biggest draw is the content. Loop is licensing channels with viral videos and sports (think surfing, snowboarding and anything that works without audio) from some of the same companies that stream this content directly to cord cutters.
The rise of startups like Loop is more bad news for cable TV providers, which already are seeing consumers cut the cord by the millions. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for ad-supported video channels to reach new audiences, and Loop’s interactive features may even be a blueprint for some of those companies to bring more interactivity to their free, ad-supported streaming channels in the consumer space as well.
“As local storage gets bigger and cheaper, at what point does proactively syncing big personalized chunks of the catalog down to users’ phones become the more environmentally friendly (and performant) way to consume music?” — Musictech veteran Jay Herskowitz, responding to the news that the major labels have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Lexmark, a leading provider of printers and imaging equipment — one of the first IoT devices — understands the potential as well as the challenges better than most. We sat down with Lexmark CEO Allen Waugerman to discuss this major development, which he calls one of the most significant milestones in the company’s 30-year history.
Media app center maker Plex has quietly started aggregating search results from third-party streaming services, which could be a first step toward becoming an uber-aggregator that serves up any kind of media people may be looking for.
Adding third-party search results is a logical next step for Plex: Company executives have for some time talked about plans to turn Plex into a one-stop shop for all digital media.
The big challenge here is not to piss anyone off, especially as Plex begins to integrate this type of search into its streaming apps. Netflix in particular has been notoriously protective of its own app experience, to the point where it is blocking Google TV users from adding Netflix titles to the platform’s watch list.
It will be interesting to see how Plex will navigate those challenges, and whether the result will be something the always-vocal Plex community is going to approve of. Perhaps it’s a good sign that some of those early adopters gave the new search feature a thumbs-up on Reddit: “That’s kinda what I want. Everything in one place,” wrote one of those users this week.
On Protocol: Horizon Worlds is now open to everyone in the U.S. and Canada. Meta’s long-overdue social VR world finally opens its doors.
Paramount Plus launches 18 linear channels. Good news, couch potatoes: Channel surfing is back!
On Protocol: Spatial is pivoting from enterprise VRT to NFTs. The switch comes a few months after Meta unveiled its own VR meeting app.
The smart home standard Matter includes casting. This is fascinating: Will Amazon, Samsung & Co. finally get a chance to embrace casting on their smart TVs?
On Protocol: YouTube TV may lose ABC, ESPN and other Disney channels as the two companies are fighting over carriage fees.
T-Mobile is still making TV hardware. The telco is selling a new streaming dongle based on the Google TV platform for $50.
My colleague Anna Kramer wrote a story this week celebrating all the nameless developers of hacks, bots and Chrome extensions who make our life a little easier every day. In that spirit, I propose we spend a bit of time this holiday season to send some virtual feelings of appreciation to all the thematic Twitter accounts that bring a bit of levity to our feed day after day.
I follow quite a few of them, including Bird per Hour, Random Restaurant and Pulp Librarian. My newest discovery is Jaythechou, who describes his work this way: “I Photoshop Paddington into another movie or TV show until I forget.” Jay has been doing this for close to a year now, and produced so many great Paddington cameos that I couldn’t even decide which ones to highlight in this column. In a way, the sheer volume of his work may be the real lesson here: If you find something you love as much as Jay loves Paddington, stick with it! At least until you forget.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!