Controversial TV Streamer Aereo Announces Boston Launch

Streaming TV startup Aereo, which currently delivers over-the-air broadcast television to Internet-connected devices via its antenna/DVR technology in the New York City area, announced that it plans to launch in the Boston metropolitan area on May 15. Despite legal battles with broadcasters regarding copyright infringement, Aereo raised $38 million earlier this year from investors including Barry Diller as part of a plan to expand into 22 U.S. markets. Continue reading Controversial TV Streamer Aereo Announces Boston Launch

SES Demos First Ultra HD Transmission in HEVC Standard

Satellite operator SES announced that in partnership with Harmonic and Broadcom it has created the first Ultra HD transmission in the new HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) standard live from an ASTRA satellite. The end-to-end demo was presented at SES Industry Days in Luxembourg. The company claims the new standard features up to 50 percent improvement in encoding efficiency, as compared to MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) broadcasts. Continue reading SES Demos First Ultra HD Transmission in HEVC Standard

Netflix Exec Says to Expect Streaming 4K in Year or Two

According to Neil Hunt, chief product officer for Netflix, the service is expecting to stream movies and television programs in 4K resolution within the next year or two. While playback of 4K, which delivers about four times the HD resolution of 1080p, requires compatible monitors (and could eat up a consumer’s monthly data cap), Netflix is preparing its proprietary Open Connect content delivery network to address issues involving larger bitrates. Continue reading Netflix Exec Says to Expect Streaming 4K in Year or Two

Super Bowl: CBS Sets New Records for Live Video Streams

CBS released numbers regarding how many viewers tuned into its Super Bowl XLVII coverage, noting that its live stream drew three million unique viewers — a 43 percent increase from last year’s game. “With so many fans watching the action via the Internet, CBS managed to whip up almost 10 million live video streams, which is more than a 100 percent uptick from the previous year,” reports Engadget. Continue reading Super Bowl: CBS Sets New Records for Live Video Streams

Will Verizon Take on Netflix and Others with its own Streaming Video Service?

  • Verizon is planning to launch a standalone video streaming service for 2012 that would offer movies and TV shows via the Web, according to several people close to the plan.
  • “The phone company is talking with prospective programming partners about the service, which would be introduced outside of markets where it currently offers its broadband and TV package, known as FiOS, these people said,” reports Reuters. “That would make it available to some 85 million U.S. households.”
  • Verizon may be concerned about cord cutters and competition from Netflix, Amazon and Google.
  • “Verizon has been back and forth with programmers over the last two years exploring the possibility,” suggests the article. “While a lot of the discussion has been around fees, the programmers have also been concerned about the possibility of hurting their existing — and lucrative — relationships with the cable operators.”
  • Having its own streaming service would allow Verizon to grow its customer base and thereby lower its programming costs.
  • “News of the service will have added controversy in the wake of sister company Verizon Wireless’s plans to resell cable TV service for Comcast Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc and Bright House Networks,” points out Reuters. “Under that deal, announced last week, Verizon Wireless will pay $3.6 billion for valuable spectrum from the cable companies.”

Veokami Offers New Platform for Watching Concert Videos Online

  • New platform from San Francisco-based Veokami aggregates user generated videos of concerts.
  • Veokami crawls YouTube and automatically puts together a playlist of videos from a single concert.
  • Videos are then synchronized with each other to offer Veokami users the ability to switch between the different camera views that were found on YouTube, without interrupting the flow of the music. Clips can also be arranged based on audio and video quality.
  • According to GigaOM, “the goal is to extend its platform so that artists, promoters and — most importantly — fans will be able to build these pages themselves. That could end up being a very powerful promotional tool for artists as they look to show listeners what it’s like to be at one of their shows.”
  • The company’s site also suggests the tool could be useful for organizing videos from political events and conferences.

Is Skype Co-Founder Gunning for Netflix with Subscription Vdio?

  • Janus Friis, co-founder of KaZaA, Skype, Joost and Rdio (with partner Niklas Zennstrom) is working on a new online video subscription service that will be available soon in the UK.
  • According to GigaOM, Friis has been “assembling an A-team of media and Web technology experts to launch a site that seems destined to replicate the model behind their music subscription site Rdio in the video space.” Offices have been set up in Santa Monica and Europe.
  • From the follow-up Q&A: Vdio (Vee-dee-o) is in closed beta for the UK and is privately funded, while the assembled team’s experience comes from companies such as Netflix, Microsoft, TV Guide and Napster.
  • A spokesperson for Zennstrom’s VC company Atomico confirmed that Zennstrom is not involved in the project.

CEO Explains Netflix Will Abandon Qwikster Plans Prior to Launch

  • Netflix has announced it will drop its controversial plan to split its streaming and DVD businesses, taking recent public outcry (and negative Wall Street reaction) into consideration.
  • “This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster,” wrote CEO Reed Hastings on the company blog and via email to subscribers. Hastings also explained that the company is “now done with price changes.”
  • Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, told an industry crowd at MIPCOM in early October that he was “very convinced” the proposed split was “good for the long-term health of the business. And the long-term clarity of the brand.” Hastings had also been quoted as saying the split would be necessary for improving the services in moving forward. “But,” added Sarandos, “we also hear our customers, and we want to make sure we react to that.”
  • Netflix’s stock was up 6.8 percent yesterday following the announcement, giving it a market value of $6.57 billion.

Evaluation Suggests Netflix is the Best Streaming Option for Now

  • A comprehensive comparison between Netflix and other streaming services shows that, even after the recent criticism regarding the split of its businesses, “Netflix is still the champ, but only if you count both its the streaming and DVD mailing services.”
  • In his evaluation of current offerings, David Strom of ReadWriteWeb examined services such as Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and
  • “Overall, once you leave Netflix you will find fewer choices and searching won’t be as easy to find something to watch,” he writes. “Netflix has a great search engine that won’t just look for movie titles but also check for actors and other principals involved in the movie itself, something the other services don’t do as well at.”
  • Another upside to Netflix is the ability to use devices such as the iPad or TiVo box to stream movies. While of the services enable streaming to your Windows or Mac Web browser, they’re not all compatible with other devices.
  • “So while you might be upset about paying for two bills for your video rentals from Netflix, unless you are willing to spend more time searching for content, you are probably better off sticking with the service for the time being, at least until the others catch up with their content licenses,” Strom concludes. “Or if you already have a cable TV subscription, investigate whether it offers something similar to Comcast’s Xfinity and see what their coverage is there. Ironically, that might be your best alternative to Netflix after all.”

Will the Kindle Fire Help Amazon Take on Netflix? Content Will Decide

  • Amazon’s launch of the Kindle Fire tablet may have an impact on Netflix, since the new tablet will make it easier for users to watch streaming video content via Amazon.
  • “With its $199 price point the tablet could sell like crazy this Christmas,” reports Forbes. “Users will be encouraged to buy Amazon Prime in order to speed their Amazon purchases and Prime just happens to come complete with Amazon’s streaming video service.”
  • The decision for consumers between Amazon Prime and Netflix will likely be based on pricing and variety of content offerings.
  • Amazon Prime beats Netflix on price, set at $80 a year ($6.67 per month), while Netflix streaming costs $8 a month.
  • Netflix, however, has more variety of content with 51,000 titles currently available for streaming, compared to Amazon’s 11,000.
  • Amazon may soon be able to compete in this regard with added content from Fox and CBS deals. Netflix has similar deals with Fox and CBS and a new DreamWorks Animation deal, but it will lose movies from Sony and Disney with the loss of Starz.
  • Both companies may press Hollywood to license more content for streaming, but continuing to pay more for films could potentially break Netflix, while Amazon has other sources of revenue to cover costs.

Spotlight on Spotify: Facebook Integration, Radio Feature, Impact on Piracy

  • Spotify has been drawing a great deal of media attention this week, more so than the growing number of other streaming music services.
  • Since the company announced its partnership with Facebook at the recent F8 event, Spotify has gained more than one million new users, despite the public outcry from those who question limiting the service’s signup to Facebook users only.
  • In response to concerns regarding Facebook’s media-sharing philosophy, Spotify released a new update that enables users to access the Facebook app without sharing their listening habits, reports Digital Trends. This may be good news for subscribers not happy with the recent announcement regarding Facebook integration — and could potentially serve as a model for how others offer access to services via social networking.
  • In related news from The Hollywood Reporter, Spotify recently released a radio feature in the U.S. that has long been available to European users. Radio will be accessible on the desktop client, but not on the Spotify mobile app. The add-on is reportedly in no way a Pandora killer, due mainly to its lack of mobility and attention to detail.
  • Additionally, Digital Trends reports that Spotify may be having a significant impact on music piracy. Illegal downloads in Sweden have reportedly dropped 25 percent since Spotify launched there in 2009. “Here in the U.S., Spotify isn’t the only option — and it may not even be the best, depending on user preference. Pandora, MOG, Rdio, Grooveshark — the list goes on,” indicates the article. “We don’t yet have numbers to show how these services are affecting music piracy in the U.S. But we’d put our money on them having a similar effect as Spotify is having in Sweden.”

Viewership on the Rise: Online Video Ads Reach 50 Percent of U.S. Population

  • American consumers cumulatively watched about 2.5 billion minutes of online ads in August, according to a new report released by comScore.
  • The report indicates that 86 percent of U.S. Internet users watched at least some online video content last month, and more than half of that content was accessed via YouTube.
  • Also worth noting: Facebook, already the largest photo site on the Web, was the third largest video site in terms of unique viewers.
  • The rankings “find Facebook retaining third position in August, with 51.6 million unique viewers, trailing VEVO in second (with 62 million) and Google Sites (i.e. YouTube) at 162 million,” reports TechCrunch.
  • According to comScore, video ads accounted for 13.4 percent of all videos viewed — and Hulu generated the highest number of video ad impressions (996 million in August alone), compelling figures for advertisers when you take into account that Hulu does not allow you to skip over videos.

YouTube Announces Three New Additions to its Video Creator Tools

  • YouTube added several new tools for video creators this week, as part of its “ongoing goal to foster the creation of great video content,” explains the company’s Broadcasting Ourselves blog.
  • The first tool, currently in beta, converts 2D video content into 3D. YouTube admits you’ll get better results with a 3D camera, but this is at least an option for those without one.
  • Second, you can now upload videos longer than the current 15-minute limit allows, and the advanced uploader is no longer required for larger files. However, the feature is restricted to users with “a clean track record who complete an account verification and continue to follow the copyright rules set forth in our Community Guidelines.”
  • Finally, YouTube gives creators the ability to add effects and text using Vlix, and adds Magisto, which will automatically take your unedited video and create a short clip complete with music.

Netflix Teams with Facebook to Offer Social Movies (But Not in the U.S.)

  • Netflix announced a partnership with Facebook to allow members to share what they are watching on Netflix with their family, friends and associates via the social networking site. However, this feature will NOT be available in the U.S. (only in Canada and Latin America) due to a 1988 law that makes sharing that information illegal.
  • The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) was created to prevent “wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records (or similar audio visual materials, to cover items such as video games and the future DVD format).” Congress passed the law after Robert Bork’s video rental history was published during his Supreme Court nomination.
  • “Unfortunately, we will not be offering this feature in the U.S. because a 1980’s law creates some confusion over our ability to let U.S. members automatically share the television shows and movies they watch with their friends on Facebook,” explains Netflix Director of Government Relations Michael Drobac. “The good news, however, is that some forward-thinking members of Congress have introduced legislation, H.R. 2471, that would allow you to make this choice… If you want the choice to share with your friends, please email Congress to urge them to pass this modernizing legislation.”
  • According to Wired, Netflix currently has 24 million subscribers inside the U.S. and only a million subscribers internationally.

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