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.

Will Dissolution of the Netflix-Starz Relationship Impact Video Biz?

  • Netflix walked away from another deal with Starz after that company insisted on a tiered-pricing model similar to what they would get with a cable channel. Netflix did not want to tamper with the simplicity of its monthly fee model.
  • Netflix had reportedly offered Starz more than $300 million per year to renew their agreement.
  • With the demise of the Starz deal, Netflix customers may feel that they are paying more and getting less. Still, Netflix counters that their Starz content accounts for only 5-6 percent of domestic viewing.
  • Netflix will be challenged by competitors like Hulu, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft XBox Live. Moreover, cable companies are increasingly offering similar access to video through TV Anywhere services.
  • Starz may either sell its content to a Netflix competitor or try and create its own streaming brand like HBO.

Bidding War: Has Google Proposed an Alternative Plan for Hulu Acquisition?

  • As the bidding war for Hulu continues, Financial Times reports that Yahoo, Amazon and Dish Network are all expected to offer near 2 billion dollars for the company, its subscription service and the rights to exclusive content for at least two years.
  • However, Google is rumored to have proposed a significantly higher bid for an acquisition proposal on a larger scale. Details have not been released, but some speculate that Google may offer a couple billion dollars more in exchange for more content for a longer period of time. It is not clear if the Google proposal includes a longer deal for content or possibly something else — or if Hulu would even be interested in a new plan.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal: “Since that’s not what Hulu’s owners have put on the table, ‘normally we would have thrown people out if they’d said that,’ says an executive familiar with the sales process. But Google ‘indicated that there’s enough money’ involved so that Hulu’s owners are at least thinking about continuing the discussion.
  • The video site would fit nicely with Google’s YouTube, which has struggled in landing the type of long-form premium content that Hulu owns. And if rumors are accurate, Google is willing to pay.
  • But would the content owners agree to terms with Google, which is already the largest video website worldwide, when they were earlier holdouts on Google TV?

Rovi Provides Security and New Features for DivX Streams

  • Rovi has announced DivX Plus Streaming that allows cloud-based movie services, such as Best Buy’s CinemaNow and other sites integrated with the Rovi Entertainment Store, to stream movies securely to DivX-compatible devices.
  • New features include being able to pause on one device and seamlessly resume on another, improved video quality, and support for multiple language tracks and subtitles.
  • “Other content-protection companies, such as Google’s Widevine subsidiary, offer some similar capabilities to service providers, so Rovi is playing catch-up to a degree. And not every Hollywood studio allows its movies to be distributed in the DivX format,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Rovi executives insist, however, that they’ve leapfrogged the competition with some features, including the near-Blu-ray-quality images and the ability to support multiple alternate-language soundtracks and subtitles in the same stream.”
  • Although integration into specific products has yet to be announced, Rovi explained the technology will be available to many existing devices through a firmware update.

Yahoo Hopes to Increase Net Traffic with More Original Programming

  • Yahoo will introduce a new lineup of original programming beginning in early October, reports Variety.
  • The eight short-form series will feature appearances from actors including Morgan Spurlock, Niecy Nash and Judy Greer.
  • Erin McPherson, VP and head of video at Yahoo, indicates this is the first phase in a planned increase for 2012 regarding originals hoping to “yield even bigger names, longer programs and maybe even scripted fare.”
  • “While Yahoo isn’t about to overtake Fox or CBS as those nets launch their fall schedules, the company will mix some traditional TV programming tactics with its own new-media savvy,” suggests the article.
  • Yahoo reportedly leveraged user metrics to determine what types of shows would sell and has plans to redesign its video platform to be more like Netflix and YouTube.
  • According to Variety: “Of the 47.3 million video streams Yahoo generated in July, its original series alone garnered 27 million — more than the 24.4 million Hulu scored in its entirety that month.”

Do American TV Viewers Prefer Streaming Over Transactional VOD?

  • Online video subscribers of Netflix and Amazon Prime paid almost $50 on average for video subscriptions during a recent six-month period.
  • According to new research from Parks Associates, subscribers spent less than half of that amount on a la carte video purchases.
  • The number of movie and TV show downloads declined 56 percent from 2009 to 2010, and movie rental downloads decreased 70 percent.
  • “Based on the reported usage of video download services by U.S. survey respondents in Q4, consumer spending on a la carte video during a six-month period ranged from $12 to $26,” reports Home Media Magazine. “Comparable spending on video services subscriptions during that same period reached at least $48 per household.”
  • “The all-you-can-eat-style subscription approach taken by Netflix has proven successful in the U.S. market,” Parks said in its report. “It has helped to drive up consumption — and spending — for online video.”
  • Netflix ended the most recent fiscal quarter with more than 25 million subscribers in North America.

Hulu Takes its Show on the Global Road with Streaming Service in Japan

  • In its first international venture, Hulu is launching its subscription service in Japan where it will offer hundreds of premium feature films and thousands of TV shows for $19.19/month.
  • The service will be accessible via select connected TVs and smartphones (Engadget reports that Panasonic Blu-ray players, Sony Blu-ray players and TVs, Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles and Android tablets are relegated to the “coming soon” list.)
  • Content will be provided from CBS, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Additional local market content will be added including Japanese-produced and other Asian content.
  • Hulu is also announcing an exclusive mobile marketing partnership with NTT Docomo. Details will be forthcoming.
  • A follow-up post from GigaOM yesterday outlines the differences between Hulu’s current U.S. offerings and its plans for the Japanese market, “that could give a hint at what Hulu might look like in the future.” So is there a “no ads, higher fees and more content suppliers” future for Hulu outside of Japan? If so, watch out Netflix!

MLB and Row 44 will Stream Live Games on Flights

  • In-flight entertainment provider Row 44 Inc. has announced a deal with MLB Advanced Media to provide live streams of more than 2,400 baseball games on Wi-Fi enabled devices on airlines.
  • The service will initially be made available to passengers on Southwest and Norwegian Air Shuttle flights.
  • “Southwest is currently in the process of wiring its entire fleet with Row 44’s in-flight broadband system,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “The carrier is offering the service for a introductory rate of $5.”
  • “The integration of live baseball games into Row 44’s in-flight broadband entertainment experience ensures our traveling fans won’t have to miss a pitch,” says Bob Bowman, chief executive of Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

MOG Offers More than 11 Million Streaming Songs for Boxee Users

  • Subscription online music service MOG has announced the availability of its new app for the Boxee Box by D-Link.
  • According to the press release: “MOG is the first on-demand music service providing unlimited music in high quality, 320 kbps, to be offered as a native app for Boxee. Listeners can now enjoy MOG’s HQ audio through this new living room offering, featuring a wireless remote keypad for quick searches of MOG’s 11.5-million song catalog on a user’s connected TV.”
  • You can test drive MOG free for 14 days, reports Engadget. After the trial period, you have a choice of the $4.99/month basic account or $9.99/month Primo account.
  • The Boxee Box costs $199.

iTunes Match: Supports Downloading AND Streaming from the Cloud

  • Apple’s iTunes Match went live to developers for testing this week and music “streaming” from the cloud is reportedly already up and running.
  • If the hype is accurate, the TechCrunch article header from Dennis Kuba’s story submission may prove telling: “With iTunes In The Cloud, Apple Under-Promises And Over-Delivers.”
  • Apple enthusiasts are excited to see what shakes out this fall with iOS 5 and iCloud. Yesterday, TechCrunch reported: “Tonight brought perhaps the biggest surprise revelation yet: iTunes in the Cloud will support streaming as well as downloading of music.”
  • There is also speculation that this announcement may lead to a possible “cloud iPhone.” Rumors are making the rounds that Apple might unveil a low-cost iPhone 4 (with minimal on-board storage) alongside its new iPhone 5 release. If iTunes has streaming functionality, the low-cost version of the iPhone could rely on the cloud for content.
  • Be sure to check out the iTunes Match videos included in the post.
  • TechCrunch recently added an update: “There’s some debate going on right now about whether or not this is technically streaming. Even Apple is avoiding the term, as Peter Kafka points out. There are two reasons for this — reasons Google follows as well with their service.”

Hollywood Suite: Will New Canadian VOD Service Compete with Netflix?

  • Hollywood Suite is a new video-on-demand service with plans to launch in Canada this November.
  • Available via cable, the Internet and satellite TV, the service will offer 450 titles per month in HD from MGM, Warner Bros. and others.
  • The Toronto-based platform will also feature independent action, romance and relationship films.
  • According to Home Media Magazine: “Movie titles, subscription fees and rental programs, which are expected to rival rates charged by Netflix, will be announced closer to launch date, according to industry veteran Jay Switzer, co-founder of Hollywood Suite.”
  • “These channels are designed to meet the strong audience demand for movies across all platforms and support Canada’s television service providers,” Switzer said.

Piracy Surge: Fox 8-Day Delay Draws Negative Consumer Response

  • Since Fox implemented its 8-day delay of content availability on Hulu, downloads from BitTorrent for shows such as “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef” have increased 114 percent and 189 percent, respectively. Others are watching Fox shows on video sites including YouTube.
  • Moreover, the situation is creating negative consumer reactions as consumers are forced to find content elsewhere.
  • “One of the main motivations for people to download and stream TV shows from unauthorized sources is availability,” reports TorrentFreak. “If fans can’t get a show through legal channels they turn to pirated alternatives.”
  • The post suggests that some consumers have indicated they will be returning to their DVRs and may even dust off their VCRs in response.

Elgato HDHomeRun App Provides Yet Another Streaming TV Solution

  • The HDHomeRun iPad app from Elgato paired with one of SiliconDust’s new HDHomeRun Prime CableCARD tuners allows users to play and record cable channels that are sent without encyption or are marked copy freely.
  • Currently, the $17.99 app is iPad-only and can only handle standard definition MPEG-2 channels. According to the press release, “The HDHomeRun PRIME App lets the user record programs directly to their iPad with the option of transferring those recordings from the iPad 2 to a Mac or PC.”
  • Engadget reports: “…in a market suddenly flooded by CableCARD tuners maybe this extra functionality is just what’s needed to tip the balance between one device or another.”
  • The post includes a brief video demo.

ESPN’s Billion-Plus Online Video Streams Now Powered by Ooyala

  • ESPN has selected Mountain View-based Ooyala to power the sports broadcaster’s streaming video content. The platform will replace a proprietary model administered by ESPN.
  • Ooyala’s platform will reportedly increase the quality of playback, reduce load times and streamline back-end management.
  • “It’s a serious feather in the cap and vote of confidence for the four-year-old video startup, as ESPN is one of the biggest producers of online video content, with 400 unique visitors hitting play on ESPN videos every second (and serving over 1 billion streams per month),” reports TechCrunch.
  • The media technology site sees the move as positive: “All in all, it’s great to see ESPN finally offering a quality player with fast load times and a more linear on demand experience in which video queues and layouts feel more akin to a television viewing experience — and can compete in ease of video use with YouTube.”

Rdio for iPad App: Streaming Music Better Than Spotify?

  • Rdio has released a free iPad version of its streaming music app. According to the Gizmodo review: “Spotify may be stealing all the hype and pub for streaming music services but let’s not kid around here, Rdio still makes the best music apps across any platform.”
  • The review raves about the app based largely on its selection, album art, social aspects and quality music player.
  • Users can listen via their iPad headphones or through other devices thanks to AirPlay support — a feature that particularly appeals to the staff at Gizmodo: “I always thought it was funny to use the iPad as your music player but when you think about it, Rdio + AirPlay + Big Honking Screen gives you the biggest remote control in the house for the best audio system in your house with all the streaming music not in your house.”
  • For a better look at the interface, the post includes a brief video demo.