Will Dish Network Challenge Netflix by Streaming Blockbuster Films?

  • Dish is expected to introduce a streaming movie service under its Blockbuster brand next month. The move will introduce a competitor to Netflix and coincide with that company’s recently announced price increase.
  • When Dish acquired Blockbuster’s assets in April for $320 million, it received content rights that it has sought to beef up through discussions with the studios.
  • “This ought to begin changing the way investors think about Dish,” said Ryan Vineyard, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “It goes from being an old-school pay-TV company to launching what could be a really high-growth business.”
  • Dish currently ranks as the second largest U.S. satellite-TV provider behind DirecTV.

Movie Site Flickme Launches, Betting Big on Social Interaction

  • Former COO of Funny or Die Mitch Galbraith launched the beta version of social streaming movie service flickme this week with deals in place from Sony and Warner Bros. The venture was founded by Galbraith and Mark Smallcombe, who received funding from Sequoia Capital.
  • The new service lets users rent or purchase movies and watch instantly, via their Facebook accounts. Users can also socially connect with friends to share deals and recommendations. According to the website: “About one third of the movies on flickme feature pass-along perks: the first person to rent or buy can share special offers with friends, including discounts and access to rentals before they are normally available.”
  • The service will face competition from streamers such as iTunes and Netflix but is hoping the social connection will make it distinct.
  • “We’ve built a short cut to find movies you’ll love,” says Galbraith. “We’re assembling a library of thousands of top Hollywood titles and enabling highly personalized recommendations from close friends to ensure every movie you watch on flickme is a winner.”

Flipboard Hopes to Integrate Video with its Social Media Magazine

  • Palo Alto-based Flipboard plans to add film and TV to its social media magazine platform. Flipboard is currently available only on the iPad, but an iPhone version is expected to launch in a few weeks.
  • Reuters reports that the company “hopes to cut deals with studios to carry movies and episodes of TV shows, getting into territory staked out by Netflix, Hulu and Facebook.”
  • Mike McCue, chairman and chief executive of Flipboard, explained he will begin the video project at the end of this year and also hopes to sell electronic books.
  • Flipboard’s service takes a cut of the revenue from advertising. “We’re trying to create the largest company possible,” said Danny Rimer, general partner at Index Ventures, a Flipboard investor. Reuters points out: “Rimer believes display advertising revenue’s migration online is ‘a very big opportunity.’”

Innovative Concept: Sony Developing Subtitle Glasses for Moviegoers

  • Sony is developing special subtitle-enabled glasses that could be in UK movie theaters as early as next year.
  • According to the BBC, one in six people have some level of deafness and are not being served well by the movie industry. In fact, many film fans with hearing issues wait for films to be released on DVD when subtitles are available.
  • “What we do is put the closed captions or the subtitles onto the screen of the glasses so it’s super-imposed on the cinema screen, [making it look] like the actual subtitles are on the cinema screen,” explains Tim Potter of Sony.
  • “The good thing about them is that you’re not refocusing. It doesn’t feel like the words are really near and the screen is far away. It feels like they’re together,” said test subject Charlie Swinbourne, who is hard of hearing.
  • “It was a great experience,” he added. “I think it’s a massive opportunity to improve deaf people’s lives and I think there’s great hope that this would give us a cinema-going future.”
  • If the glasses prove popular in the UK, we should expect to see them in wider availability in the near future.

Home Entertainment Spending Seems to Have Stabilized in Q2

  • An increasing number of viewers are turning to rental programs for movies and TV shows, according to a report from Digital Entertainment Group.
  • DEG also reports that consumer spending on home entertainment has stabilized with an unexpected recovery to the disc-based business in the second quarter.
  • The report concludes that consumers spent $4.2 billion on transactional video services — disc rental, streaming and VOD — during the first half of 2011. These figures mark an 11 percent increase over the same period last year.
  • The report also mentions a 16 percent drop in disc purchases, with combined Blu-ray and DVD sales falling to $1.8 billion in the second quarter. However, rental — including streaming and VOD — was up 11.16 percent. (Blu-ray sales increased 10 percent, while demand for DVD declined.)
  • Netflix rose 45.7 percent in the first six months of this year, while kiosk rental (mostly Redbox) rose 39.8 percent.
  • The Hollywood Reporter adds: “Spending on Blu-ray Discs was up a solid 10 percent in the first half. DEG estimates that the number of U.S. households with at least one Blu-ray Disc playback device rose 16 percent in the first six months of 2011 to bring total household penetration to more than 31.6 million, making the format one of the fastest-growing new technologies in the home entertainment industry.”

American Airlines and Gogo Roll Out In-Flight Video Streaming

  • American Airlines announced it will roll out Gogo’s in-flight streaming video service to its entire fleet of 767 aircrafts.
  • The service wirelessly streams movies and TV shows from an in-flight library to Wi-Fi-enabled laptops (at $0.99 per TV show and $3.99 per movie).
  • The current slate of 100 movies and TV shows will remain accessible for viewing after the flight has concluded. Customers will have access to the movies for 24 hours and TV shows for 72 hours.
  • The TechCrunch post includes a video demo explaining the service.

UK Intends to Make Legal Personal Copying of CDs and DVDs

  • The British Parliament signaled today that it intends to legalize the copying of CDs and DVDs onto digital devices for personal use. The new law will not allow people to share content over the Internet without permission of the copyright holder.
  • The move will update Britain’s 300-year-old copyright laws, making them comparable to laws adopted in other European nations.
  • The change was recommended by a government-requested report, carried out by a professor of digital economy at he Cardiff School of Journalism.
  • The report also recommended the creation of a central digital copyright exchange where rights could be bought and sold, but the government has not signaled its intention to act on that recommendation.

Apple Expected to Launch iTunes Replay in Coming Weeks

  • Apple is rumored to be securing the rights to allow downloading of TV shows and movies in addition to previously announced music in a new service called iTunes Replay.
  • The service will allow users to access movies they purchased since January 1, 2009. Some content will only be available for download five times.
  • Streaming will be to Apple TV and most likely iOS mobile devices.
  • AppAdvice reports: “The name, iTunes Replay is currently being used internally, and is planned to be kept when Apple makes this public. You should expect this to go public in the coming weeks, as the necessary changes are being pushed to Apple’s servers at the moment.”

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MPAA Wins Piracy Case Against UK File-Sharing Site

  • Britain’s High Court ruled in favor of Hollywood studios on Thursday, forcing Internet service provider British Telecom to block access to the Newzbin2 website, a hub for pirated media content.
  • Newzbin2 has more than 700,000 users, and opened last spring after its predecessor, Newzbin, was shut down by court order. The members-only site aggregates illegally copied material found on Usenet discussion forums.
  • “In my judgement it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright,” said Justice Arnold in his ruling. “It knows that the users and operators of Newzbin2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe copyrights of the studios in large numbers of their films and television programs. It knows that the users of Newzbin2 include BT subscribers and it knows those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin2.”
  • The suit was hailed as a victory for creative industries by the Motion Picture Association, which repped the studios in the suit. The ruling marks an important precedent, opening the doors for copyright holders to call on ISPs to help prevent infringement.
  • Chris Marcich, MPAA president and managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa said: “This ruling from Justice Arnold is a victory for millions of people working in the U.K. creative industries and demonstrates that the law of the land must apply online.”

Amazon Expands its Online Library with NBCUniversal Deal

  • Amazon has announced a deal with NBCUniversal to offer Universal films online, in a move designed to step up competition with services such as Netflix and Hulu.
  • Amazon offers subscribers to its “Prime” program discounts on shipping of products, and free access to an online library of films. The service costs $79 a year.
  • Amazon announced an agreement last week with CBS that expanded its library to more than 8,000 titles. The NBCUniversal deal will grow Amazon’s library to more than 9,000 movies and TV shows (compared to Neflix’s 20,000).
  • Films such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Being John Malkovich,” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” are part of the deal.

Sundance Institute will Distribute Indies Online

  • In an effort to help emerging artists reach wider audiences, the Sundance Institute has partnered with online video outlets including Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, YouTube and SundanceNow.
  • The deals are not exclusive to any one platform, so films can be made available simultaneously on competing sites.
  • Films will be packaged under the Sundance name as part of its recently launched Artist Services Initiative. Marketing guidance will also be provided to filmmakers through the new Web-based program.
  • New Video will serve as the aggregation partner for online distribution, taking a small cut of the revenues. However, the online services will not purchase the movies, enabling the filmmakers to retain their copyrights.
  • Sundance hopes that the online initiative will provide an audience for films that typically do not find conventional distribution. First to be distributed: “Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology” by Tiffany Shlain and “On the Ice” from Andrew Okpeaha MacLean.

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MoviePass Unlimited Admission Beta Hits a Roadblock

  • Last week ETCentric reported that a new service called MoviePass plans to offer unlimited movie viewing in participating theaters for a fee of $50/month. The initial beta was scheduled for the holiday weekend in San Francisco.
  • The planned beta test hit a roadblock when a number of San Francisco theaters decided not to participate since they did not consent to the admission price of the proposed model.
  • Interestingly, the theaters would still have been paid full admission.
  • From the AMC press release: “As MoviePass was created without AMC’s input and testing, we cannot confidently say the guest experience would be positive for our guests and specifically our AMC Stubs members.”

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Yoostar Connects Movie Karaoke and Social Networking

The movie karaoke game, Yoostar 2 is designed to put players in scenes from their favorite movies and TV shows, enabling them to “perform” with professional actors. Users can then post the resulting video clips on the Yoostar web site, or social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace. Yoostar 2 for the Xbox 360 Kinect and PlayStation Move was released last month.

The connectivity between gaming and social networking could mark the first step toward an experiment that might soften the tension amongst developers in the two arenas.

Scott Steinberg writes in a Mashable post: “You can seamlessly upload video performances online via PlayStation Network or Xbox Live right to social networks, where others can vote, bestow Internet fame and follow your antics. Using the service, it’s not only possible to share viral videos of you doing your best impression of Marlon Brando in ‘The Godfather’ via Facebook and Twitter. You can also earn rewards that unlock content in the disc-based console versions of the game.”

In an era where major game publishers tend to categorize social games into standalone experiences, Yoostar 2 may represent “one of the first efforts to bridge the gap between devices and platforms.”

Steinberg provides an interesting six-minute video report from the Yoostar offices in Santa Monica, California that includes interviews, demos and footage from the game, and of particular interest, the technology used to eliminate the need for green screen.

Is Piracy is a Product of Market Failure?

Internet law columnist Michael Geist, writing for the Toronto Star, comments on a new global study on piracy backed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre that suggests “piracy is chiefly a product of a market failure, not a legal one.”

The media piracy study — in an effort to analyze infringements regarding music, movies, and software — was launched five years ago by the Social Science Research Council. Institutions in South Africa, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, and India were identified to better understand the international media market and related piracy issues. The resulting 440-page report is the most thorough analysis of media piracy to date.

The report sets the record straight on several popular piracy myths. For example, it states there are no links between piracy and organized crime, there is no evidence indicating that anti-piracy education programs have any impact on consumer behavior, and tougher legal penalties do not necessarily provide a deterrent to piracy.

The report also suggests that piracy is primarily a result of market failure, not legal failure. Geist writes: “In many developing countries, there are few meaningful legal distribution channels for media products. The report notes ‘the pirate market cannot be said to compete with legal sales or generate losses for industry. At the low end of the socioeconomic ladder where such distribution gaps are common, piracy often simply is the market.’”

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