Blockbuster Targets Frustrated Netflix Subscribers

  • ETCentric recently reported on the backlash to new Netflix subscription rates (see “Nine Video Streaming and Rental Alternatives to Netflix”).
  • Most of the nine rental alternatives referenced in the earlier post are currently offering special introductory offers.
  • According to this related article however, Blockbuster is now offering a free 30-day trial specifically to disgruntled Netflix customers unhappy with the recent price hike.
  • If customers decide to switch, they’ll pay a comparable monthly subscription fee (Blockbuster points out that they offer video games and newer releases than Netflix).
  • Blockbuster’s special Netflix promotion runs until September 15.

Entertainment Media Companies Not Ready for Digital Opportunities?

  • Most media and entertainment company senior execs believe they are not fully leveraging customer data that would make it possible to deliver customized content, suggests a new study by consulting firm Accenture.
  • The research indicates that 91 percent of these executives are not taking full advantage of the data, and as a result, are not adequately prepared to identify revenue opportunities related to current and future digital technologies. Additionally, 95 percent do not have strong digital customer relationship management capabilities.
  • If fewer than 10 percent of the companies have a fully integrated view of their digital consumers, a new operating model may be necessary for sustainable digital growth (Accenture recommends a shift from legacy vertical, channel-oriented structures toward a horizontally-layered operating model).
  • Only 55 percent said their companies had a clearly defined social networking strategy in place, while 80 percent believe the industry is still in a state of flux. And 42 percent anticipate that advertising will serve as their main source of revenue in the next two years.
  • Accenture’s “Global Media & Entertainment High Performance Study” canvassed 130 executives across Europe, North America, South America and Asia Pacific from industries including television, gaming, film, music, publishing, portals and advertising.

Microsoft to Expand Retail Presence with 75 New Stores

  • Microsoft plans to add at least 75 new stores in the next two-three years, part of an aggressive strategy to beef up its competition with Apple.
  • At the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles on July 13, COO Kevin Turner said the plans also include international locations.
  • Microsoft currently operates 11 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S., while Apple has more than 320 worldwide.
  • Executives at Microsoft have reportedly been debating the bold and potentially risky move, since most of the company’s stores are not making money and most of their products are also available at traditional retailers such as Best Buy.
  • The post includes a U.S. map of planned store locations.

Apple Announces Volume Purchasing Plan and Custom B2B Apps

  • Apple recently announced its plans to take the App Store beyond the consumer marketplace to enterprises.
  • U.S. businesses will soon have the option of purchasing apps in volume for their employees.
  • Offerings will include custom business-to-business (B2B) apps from third party developers aimed at certain types of businesses.
  • To enroll in the new Apple program, businesses will be required to provide their Duns & Bradstreet (DUNS) number and billing information.
  • According to Apple, the custom B2B apps will not be available to the general public.
  • Minimum price for B2B apps will be $9.99. A specific date for the program has yet to be announced.

Sony to Release its First Two Tablet PCs this Fall

  • Sony offered up some additional details about its first two tablets in a New York press event this week. The S1 and S2 were initially introduced in April in Japan.
  • On Wednesday, the company announced that AT&T will serve as the exclusive U.S. cellular-data provider for the S2 model.
  • The foldable S2 features dual 5.5-inch screens and will operate via Wi-Fi as well as AT&T’s 3G and HSPA+ 4G networks. According to TWICE: “When the S2 is held vertically like a book, each screen can display separate pages from a book downloaded from Sony’ e-book store.”
  • The S1 model will be Wi-Fi only and feature a 9.4-inch screen. Both tablets will include preinstalled Adobe Flash. Sony execs explained that additional technical specs are being saved for the fall launch.
  • Both models are based on the Android Honeycomb OS. Prices, however, have yet to be announced.

Nine Video Streaming and Rental Alternatives to Netflix

  • As previously reported on ETCentric, Netflix announced plans this week to divide its unlimited-DVDs-by-mail and unlimited-streaming options into two separate plans.
  • The resulting 60 percent price increase (from $9.99 to $15.99 per month for both DVD and streaming), effective September 1 for existing customers, has raised some early controversy with Netflix subscribers and the press.
  • For those who may be looking to opt out of Netflix due to the new price structure, has posted a helpful overview of viable alternatives including: Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Blockbuster by Mail, Walmart’s VUDU, YouTube Rentals, CinemaNow, GreenCine, Redbox and Google.
  • Amazon Prime, for example, now offers a streaming video service available for $79 per year (or $6.58 a month), while the growing library of movies and TV programs on Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month) is available on multiple platforms including PCs, game consoles, and set-top boxes.
  • VUDU works with computers, the PS3, Boxee, Blu-ray players and connected TVs. Its customers pay $2 for a two-day rental, while YouTube fans can pay $1.99 to $3.99 for streaming rentals. The company has partnered with Sony, Warner Brothers, Universal, Lionsgate and others to provide content via YouTube accounts on computers, Google TV, Android tablets with Honeycomb, and most Android phones.
  • Check out for details on all nine options listed.

Review: Olloclip Three-in-One Lens for the iPhone

  • The “Olloclip” is a new iPhone lens attachment that features wide-angle, fish-eye and macro lens functionality cleverly designed in a single pocketable unit.
  • Engadget likes the $70 device: “The accessory brings the functionality of all three lenses to the iPhone 4, and it does so well enough to warrant leaving your pro kit at home on occasion — assuming, of course, that your photographs aren’t responsible for putting food on the table.”
  • Overall, Engadget praised the accessory in terms of design, ease of use and image quality, but expressed concern regarding shelf life since it is currently only tied to the iPhone 4. “We imagine the company will be able to adapt future versions to accommodate new iPhone models (and perhaps even smartphones from other manufacturers), but the current version will likely be replaced whenever the next iPhone is released. Keeping that in mind, we love the Olloclip, and plan on shooting with it as long as our hardware allows.”
  • The post includes sample images taken with the Olloclip and a hands-on video review.

3D Experience Delivers On Demand Programming to Bravia HDTVs

  • This week Sony launched “3D Experience” for its Bravia line of 3D-capable LCD TVs. The free service offers 3D trailers, promotional video clips and trial content.
  • The company hopes that 3D Experience will serve as a step forward in providing consumers with interesting 3D content, the lack of which has been a common complaint.
  • Initial content includes “The Green Hornet” trailer, highlights from the FIFA Women’s World Cup and clips from 3net, Sony, Discovery and IMAX.
  • Sony pledges to “further expand the content line-up and promote ‘3D Experience’ among content holders as a forum through which to showcase their 3D offerings.”
  • 3D Experience is currently available in the United States, Canada, Germany, the UK and France.

UltraViolet Opens Licensing Platform, DECE Adds New Members

  • UltraViolet, the cloud-based service that enables consumers to view content across multiple devices, has opened its licensing platform to content, technology and distribution partners.
  • It also welcomed eight new members to its governing consortium, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), including Blockbuster and Walmart’s VUDU. DECE now includes more than 70 members in ten countries.
  • DECE explained that consumers can expect to start seeing UltraViolet physical media and sell-through content by fall.
  • UltraViolet is intended to make the digitization process more efficient for content creators and to simplify consumer ownership by eliminating the current roadblocks to moving content between systems.
  • For example, a single digital movie purchase could be viewed on a TV, on a desktop PC, and on a portable device (up to six family members can use the same UltraViolet account).
  • According to a related article from paidContent: “Interoperability is the most critical challenge for the digital ecosystem to overcome, and there’s a lot riding on UltraViolet. If the big studios and their partners can’t provide a system for viewing content across platforms that’s simple and relatively inexpensive, digital piracy may continue to ‘solve’ the interoperability problem for them.”

Dragon Go! provides Targeted Voice-Powered Search Results

  • Dragon Go! — a new voice-powered search app from Nuance Communications — is looking to join Google and Bing as a top search engine for mobile devices. (Nuance also offers the popular Dragon Dictation transcription program and a more generic voice search app called Dragon Search.)
  • Although not the first voice-activated search service available, Dragon Go is unique in that it identifies which ideal application to use for each query. For example, if “Play R.E.M.” is searched, Dragon Go will open Pandora — but if movie tickets are searched for, Fandango will open.
  • Nuance developed an open architecture geared toward including all types of vertical queries. It presently supports more than 180 services such as Yelp, Wikipedia, Pandora, IMDb, Fandango, OpenTable and Google.
  • The free app is currently available via Apple’s App Store and works on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Apple Spin-Off Hosts Private Label App Stores

  • Apple spin-off Apperian is hosting private-label iOS app stores for Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Estee Lauder and others.
  • Smarter Technology reports: “Apple’s over-the-air protocol enables any enterprise to bypass iTunes and create its own private-label application store, with complete IT control of provisioning, with Apple spin-off Apperian Inc. providing the necessary cloud-based hosting services.”
  • Apperian was spun off with Apple’s blessing in 2009. One year later, Apple’s over-the-air protocol became available.
  • Apperian CEO David Patrick says the service will also be adding Android apps in the future.

Music Streaming Service Spotify (Finally) Launches in the U.S.

  • Spotify has finally launched its U.S. service — and similar to its widely popular European version, users can listen free to any track, on demand.
  • Users can opt for ad-supported free listening, a $5 Premium ad-free service, or a $10 Unlimited service that allows users to store music offline and use Spotify on mobile devices (the iPhone app is now available). Users can also share their playlists or subscribe to those of other users.
  • Spotify has a reputation for fast, almost instantaneous playback and a catalog containing millions of songs. It will also scan a user’s iTunes library for access to personal tracks in the Spotify app.
  • Although the Wired review suggests “Spotify is just cloud music done right,” it also points out some minor flaws: “Spotify’s recommendation engine, and its radio selections (supposedly Pandora-like auto-playlists) are pitiful. And there is also no sign of an iPad native version, over a year after the tablet’s launch.”

Pop Culture and Media App: Video Time Machine for iOS

  • “Video Time Machine” is an entertaining and informative 99-cent iOS app from Original Victories, Inc. (compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad).
  • The app chronicles more than a century of compiled movies, commercials, TV broadcasts, and other moving images (the iTunes Preview description reads: “Watch over 10,000 hand-picked videos from 1860 to 2011”).
  • A simple interface enables users to select a year and then browse categories, including: news, games, sports clips, ads, movies, TV, and music.
  • For those more interested in entertainment surfing than a specific year or category, the app features a “random” button.
  • According to the Engadget post (which includes a video demo), all of the cataloged videos are available via YouTube, but the Video Time Machine “isn’t designed to simply mimic it; rather, the program’s meant to act more as a history lesson, giving us a unique opportunity to witness a slice of life.”

Follow SpongeBob SquarePants on Twitter this Week

  • Nickelodeon is testing an interesting means of leveraging social networking this week by delivering SpongeBob SquarePants’ next adventure solely on Twitter.
  • SpongeBob will star in “The Ice Race Cometh: A Twitter-Tale,” a storyline that will unfold Tuesday through Friday in bites of 140 characters or less.
  • The tweeted project includes images to accompany the messages and will serve as a prequel to a new SpongeBob TV episode that premieres on Friday, July 15.
  • Twitter’s service terms do not allow children to have their own accounts, but Nickelodeon believes there is a significant overlap between tweeters and those who watch the series.
  • “SpongeBob’s fan base is so broad that about a third of its audience is adults, so we wanted to extend the show’s magic to new places like Twitter so those fans can experience it,” said Roland Poindexter, senior VP of animation and current series, Nickelodeon. “SpongeBob is already a big deal in the social media space, with 25 million Facebook fans, and we hope his Twitter debut will drum up some extra excitement for all the people who love him and the show.”

Clear Channel Announces iHeartRadio App and Music Festival

  • Clear Channel announced it is staging what is being billed as the biggest live music festival event in radio history.
  • The iHeartRadio Music Festival is slated for September 23-24 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
  • The event will be streamed live on, the new iHeartRadio app, and Clear Channel websites.
  • Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, the current lineup includes Sting, Coldplay, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Bruno Mars, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Jane’s Addiction and more. Additional acts will be added in the coming months.
  • The new app, which will be ready for download in time for the festival, will offer access to 750 Clear Channel stations and customization utilizing technology from the recent acquisition of Thumbplay Music.
  • The iHeartRadio app plans to take on Pandora, “promising access to more songs, content, and more control, plus the ability to create playlists, and no commercials through the end of the year.”

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