Hulu to Debut its First Long-Form Original Production

  • Hulu will unveil an original documentary series on August 17. “A Day in the Life” is produced by documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, and will be available exclusively on Hulu.
  • The half-hour show will follow the daily lives of celebrities, including business mogul Richard Branson and musician will.i.am.
  • Hulu is not the only online video site to venture into original programming. In March, Netflix announced an original series of its own: “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey.
  • The series is Hulu’s largest and most ambitious original production, and will premiere as the service continues to court prospective buyers. Yahoo, Google, and Amazon are rumored to be potential bidders.

Rovi Claims Hulu Infringes on Electronic Program Guide Patent

  • Rovi Corporation filed suit against Hulu last week, claiming that the video site infringes on its patents for electronic program guides.
  • Santa Clara, California-based Rovi provides technology that powers streaming services from Blockbuster On Demand and Best Buy’s CinemaNow. The company also licenses its technology to others such as Apple, Microsoft and Comcast.
  • The digital entertainment solutions provider claims that Hulu’s infringement “presents significant and ongoing damages to Rovi’s business.” The company is seeking compensation for lost license revenue and treble damages.
  • As previously reported by ETCentric, Hulu has been offered for sale by its owners (Disney, News Corp., NBC Universal and Providence Equity).

BBC iPlayer Expands Internationally with New iPad App

  • The BBC’s popular iPlayer is an on-demand broadband television and radio service that has been available in Great Britain for four years.
  • As of last week, the service is now available through an iPad app to 11 countries in western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland) — with plans to launch in the U.S., Canada and Australia by the end of the year as a pilot program.
  • The app will allow users to stream programs over 3G and Wi-Fi, with the option to download for later viewing offline. International users will have access to some content for free, while full access will be subscription-based.
  • Luke Bradley-Jones, managing director of BBC.com, describes iPlayer as a VOD service: “We will have content from the last month, but also the best from the catalog stretching back 50 to 60 years.” He added, “What we’re trying to test in the pilot is the ability to drive exploration and discovery through a programming approach rather than an algorithm-based approach. We’re not trying to compete against a Netflix or a Hulu. This has to be tailored and hand-crafted, so we can create a tone of voice.”

Amazon Acquires Video Technology Firm Pushbutton

  • Amazon has acquired UK-based Pushbutton, an interactive TV enterprise that builds apps and services.
  • Pushbutton is best known for its version of Lovefilm for Sony Bravia TVs and the PlayStation 3. Lovefilm, purchased by Amazon in January, was “basically the Netflix of Europe.”
  • The company also created the Planit test app that creates personalized video collections based on TV and VOD viewing habits. The app could possibly be incorporated into Amazon Instant Video (which currently offers more than 90,000 movies and TV shows).
  • The acquisition could also help Amazon create video apps for its tablet rumored to be launched later this year.
  • In related news, Amazon recently signed a deal with NBC Universal to show Universal movies through Amazon Prime Instant Video — and a deal with CBS to stream content from its back catalog, including old “Star Trek” episodes.

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.

Global VOD: Web-Based TV Revenue to Overtake Terrestrial by 2012

  • According to a new report from London-based Direct TV Research Ltd., worldwide revenues from video-on-demand movies and TV shows will top $5.7 billion in 2016.
  • These 2016 projections represent a 58 percent increase from 2010 global revenues of $3.6 billion.
  • Internet-based television revenue is expected to overtake that of digital terrestrial TV by 2012.
  • The U.S., Italy and China are projected to be the top three VOD markets.
  • Simon Murray, author of the report, points out there is minimal evidence free VOD offerings will drive transactions. “There is little evidence to suggest that these free services actually encourage subscribers to pay for on-demand titles,” Murray wrote. “In fact, it may be harder to convince households to pay for on-demand services if they have become accustomed to receiving free on-demand titles.”

Update: Apple Considering a Bid for Hulu Video Service

  • In the latest installment of the ongoing Hulu saga, Bloomberg reports Apple is “considering making a bid” for the online video service.
  • Apple would join Google, Yahoo, AT&T and others who have expressed interest (Microsoft has reportedly dropped out of the bidding).
  • With $76 billion in cash and securities, an expected $2 billion bid would not be too difficult for Apple. If so, analysts suggest this would give Apple a leading subscription service that would rival, if not surpass, the Netflix service.
  • “Part of the ecosystem of Apple’s future is to include more video,” said Scott Sutherland, Wedbush Securities analyst (who recommends buying the stock). “It’s something they are focused on.”

Update: Microsoft Drops Out of Auction for Hulu Service

  • Microsoft has reportedly dropped out of the bidding for Hulu and would not continue into a second round, according to “a person with knowledge of the matter.” (Although the individual did not rule out the possibility of Microsoft re-entering in a later round.)
  • Google, Yahoo, AT&T and as many as eight other companies remain interested in the online video service.
  • According to Business Insider, Yahoo is willing to spend up to $2 billion if it can get content rights for the next four or five years.
  • It has been reported that Hulu plans to offer five years of access to content from its media company owners (Disney, News Corp. and Comcast’s NBC Universal), including two years of exclusivity.

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.

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, Geek.com 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 Geek.com for details on all nine options listed.

Netflix Announces Content Deal with NBCUniversal

  • On the heels of raising eyebrows regarding increased subscription rates, Netflix offered some good news yesterday when it announced it has renewed its licensing agreement with NBCUniversal.
  • The multi-year agreement includes TV shows such as “The Office” and “30 Rock” in addition to cable programs “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane” (future seasons will be available on a one-season delay basis).
  • Streaming access to Universal films such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Motorcycle Diaries” has also been added.
  • “The content buying spree has purportedly been pricey, but Netflix maintains that it will pay for the new shows it acquires rights to by gradually moving customers away from its mail service.”

Netflix Launches Unlimited DVD Rental Plan

  • In what appears to be a slight departure in strategy, Netflix announced it is offering an unlimited DVD rental plan for those who want to avoid streaming content.
  • Subscribers can now pay $7.99 per month for unlimited DVD rentals under the new offering.
  • Prior to this plan, Netflix subscribers had a choice of “$4.99 a month for one DVD out at a time (up to two a month) or $9.99 a month for one DVD out at a time with access to Netflix Instant.”
  • This model may surprise some, considering CEO Reed Hastings has been touting streaming delivery of late, highlighting the fact that subscribers were accessing more streaming content than physical media for the first time in his company’s history.
  • It may also be surprising to some since the streaming service recently became the largest source of Internet traffic and the company is planning to produce exclusive online content.

Yahoo Study: More People Watching Online Video During Primetime

  • According to a new study by Yahoo, people are watching more and longer videos during primetime.
  • Back in 2009, online viewing declined as more people watched video on their TVs.
  • More consumers are watching Netflix and Hulu during primetime, but short clips still comprise 74 percent of video viewed.
  • Viewers are more likely (57 percent) to watch video when presented with a related article.

We Should Expect 50 TV Everywhere Initiatives by July 2011

  • According to research and consulting firm Parks Associates, global pay TV providers are expected to have nearly 50 TV Everywhere initiatives underway by July, marking a major increase since the initiatives began in 2009.
  • Home Media Magazine reports that the ability of new tablets and smartphones to handle streaming video – in addition to the emerging growth of connected devices in the home – is helping to drive the trend.
  • “What’s remarkable is the pace of the growth,” said Brett Sappington, a senior analyst with Parks Associates. “Traditionally, operators are not quick to invest in this type of thing.”
  • It is projected that by next month, 81 percent of U.S. pay TV subscribers will have access to content on multiple devices.
  • In terms of how consumers are using TV Everywhere initiatives so far, Sappington reports that VOD is clearly outpacing live TV streaming (most likely due to the clear-cut rights operators have with VOD).

Average YouTube Viewer Watches 5 Hours of Videos per Month

  • According to comScore’s May 2011 online video rankings, the average U.S. Internet user watched almost 16 hours of video last month.
  • The report indicates the total U.S. audience engaged in more than 5.6 billion viewing sessions during May, while 83.3 percent viewed online video.
  • Not surprisingly, Google’s YouTube was was the leading video site (again) with 147.2 million unique viewers, and an average of five hours spent per viewer on the site.
  • VEVO followed YouTube with 60.4 million viewers, Yahoo had 55.5 million viewers, and Facebook took the fourth spot with 48.2 million viewers.
  • Hulu had the highest number of video ad impressions at more than 1.3 billion.
  • The average length of online video content was 5.2 minutes.