In an attempt to better compete with streaming giant Netflix, Blockbuster this week announced a new deal to begin transmitting movies to TiVo users.
"This relationship with TiVo is step one in getting into the places that consumers care about," says Kevin Lewis, Blockbuster's senior VP for digital.
As part of the deal, Blockbuster will start selling TiVo DVRs in its retail stores later this year. However, neither company was willing to divulge how many of Blockbuster's nearly 4,000 stores will participate. Nor is it known what movies will be available, as "The studios and we are trying to figure it out," Lewis added.
Due to begin in the second half of 2009, Blockbuster's OnDemand will feature content to both buy and rent, and will be integrated into TiVo Series2, Series3, TiVo HD, and TiVo HD XL DVRs, Blockbusters says.
Barring any changes, TiVo owners with Blockbuster accounts will pay up to $4 to rent a movie and then have 30 days to begin watching. Subscribers will then be given a 24-hour window. Alternately, movies will be available for sale at up to $20 a pop, but DRM will prevent subscribers from copying purchased content over to DVD.
Some users of Netflix’s streaming service have groused about dwindling performance in recent times. The dip in performance has not only nettled users but also engendered speculation as to its cause. The most plausible conjecture is that video streams are being deliberately throttled by Netflix.
“Also, routing to different ISPs in the same region may be quite different, thus performance may also be quite different, even for neighbors, if they are connected to different ISPs. Moreover, congesting points can rise and fall with ISP configuration changes and other conditions,” Hunt wrote.
It looks like everyone’s favorite online DVD rental service has seen 6 percent growth in just one month, and they’re now boasting over 10 million subscribers.
While many of these subscribers remain the average, web-queue using type, a significant portion of the newcomers are thanks to Xbox Live. To date, over one million people have downloaded the Xbox Live client, allowing the online streaming service to take huge prescient, and bringing in a mighty profit.
This number is expected to grow from here to 10.1-10.3 million subscribers by the end of Q1 of this year, and all the way up to 10.6-11.3 million by the end of this fiscal year.
Netflix continues to enjoy immense popularity as a subscription-based movie rental and streaming video service, a business model which Netflix CEO Reed Hastings previously said would stay the same going forward.
"We don't plan to enter the pay-per-view segment, where Apple, Amazon, Sony, and others focus, or the ad-supported segment, where Hulu, YouTube, and other compete," Hastings said in July 2008.
Maybe success has gotten to Netflix's head. Since Hastings' statement, Netflix has made major gains to its streaming service, which is now found on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, offered through a standalone Roku player, integrated into select Blu-ray players, and even is available on some TiVo units. More homes than ever now have easy access to Netflix's streaming catalog, and a new customer survey seems to suggest that Hastings and company might be reconsidering Netflix's position as a subscription-only business. One of the questions being asked is whether customers would be willing to pay an additional $10 per month to stream "HBO original series and movies."
It's unclear how quickly Netflix would make new episodes of, say, Big Love available for viewing after first appearing on HBO, or whether new episodes would be available at the same time. But what is clear is that Netflix has become too large to ignore other business models. Even if survey respondents shoot down the idea of a $10/month HBO add-on, one has to wonder how long it will be before additional services find their way onto Netflix.
Would you pay a premium for HBO content through your Netflix account? Hit the jump and sound off.
Let's hope there's no insidious plot to take over the world brewing behind the scenes of Netflix, because if there is, we're all screwed. Netflix's streaming service is already being streamed to everything from Tivo boxes to the Xbox 360 console, and starting this spring, LG will integrate Netflix streaming capability into some of its plasma and LCD HDTVs.
The move has the potential to significantly boost Netflix's subscriber base, as consumers in the market for a new television would no longer need to add a separate set-top box, be it a Roku player or one of the compatible Blu-ray players, to take advantage of the more than 12,000 streaming movies and TV shows. It also puts the pressure on the competition to catch up if they have any hopes of contending in the living room.
No word yet on price or availability, though we imagine more information will be made available this week at CES.
Some Neflix subscribers are finding that their pricey Blu-ray player has been sitting around with nothing to do. That's because Netflix doesn't have enough Blu-ray titles to go around, particularly when it comes to hot new releases. It's not uncommon for a movie to sit in a subscriber's queue for a month or more with an expected availability listed as "Long Wait." Bummer.
Cnet talked to Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesperson, about the problem, who said part of it has to do with studios not providing enough Blu-ray copies of new releases that the company would like get. But it isn't always the fault of the studios.
"There is an expense to that," Swasey said. "These things cost money. We deploy money where we think it's going to be most efficient to keep subscribers and investors happy. It's always check and balances."
Not all subscribers can be happy hearing Swasey lay the blame on the cost, considering that Netflix started adding a $1 surcharge for Blu-ray renters back in October. Jessie Teitz, Neflix's VP of marketing, said the surcharge was to cover the "significant cost difference" between Blu-ray and standard DVDs, which brings up another tidbit that active subscribers can't be happy about. When there aren't enough copies to go around, users who rent less frequently jump to the front of the line.
"What we're doing is giving new releases to the person who hasn't rented as much," he said. "We've been doing this for a couple of years and fully disclose this in our terms of agreement. If we have a shortage of titles we do what we think is equitable and give the title to the person who hasn't rented as much or who hasn't gotten as much enjoyment from the service."
In short, the $1 surcharge that all Blu-ray renters pay is going towards not enough Blu-ray copies, which are then doled out to infrequent renters.
Hit the jump and tell us whether you agree or disagree with how Netflix is handling Blu-ray movies.
Last week several Xbox 360 and Roku set-top box owners complained of loss of quality and irritating delays when firing up a movie through Netflix's streaming download service. At the time, the glitch had Netflix stumped, but now it appears Netflix has identified the problem and fixed whatever was causing the issue.
"This was a temporary issue that we believe we have resolved," Netflix wrote on its blog site. "Working with our content distribution partners and key carriers, we made some specific changes that should restore everyone's experience to where it was before - high quality streaming."
However, there might still be work to do. Netflix posted its update on Friday, December 5th, but users throughout the weekend were still reporting lingering issues in the comments section.
After months of anticipation, Microsoft rolled out its latest dashboard update for the Xbox 360 console on November 19th, which among other things, added support for Netflix's streaming service. The update couldn't come quick enough for Netflix subscribers with an Xbox Live Gold account, but not everyone is finding that the wait was worth it.
An unknown glitch has been wreaking havoc on the video streams causing both loss of quality and long delays before a movie is watchable. Xbox 360 owners aren't alone in their plight, as the problem first manifested itself in homes using the $99 Roku box. A Netflix spokesman said the company is working on a fix for both platforms, but that might be hard to do without having identified the culprit.
"We're doing all of the analysis we can," said Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey. "We're looking at the region, at carriers...we're working diligently to identify the problem. Unteil we have, we certainly don't want to speculate at all. Look, there's no manual to take off the shelf here. Netflix has created something new here."
Swasey also said Netflix isn't taking the complaints lightly, despite the relatively small number of complaints.
Hit the jump and tell us how your Netflix experience has been.
On Wednesday of last week, Microsoft rolled out its long anticipated dashboard update for the Xbox 360 console. Among other things, the update incorporated support for Netflix subscribers with an Xbox Live Gold account to be able and stream the online rental service's catalog of downloadable movies and TV shows through the Xbox 360, some of which is in high definition. With consumers slow to warm to Blu-ray, the Netflix capability could potentially nudge undecided console owners in Microsoft's direction rather than opting for Sony's Playstation 3 + Blu-ray combo. But does Sony feel threatened?
Officially, the answer is 'no.' Following the dashboard update, Sony films pulled a disappearing act from Xbox's Netflix streaming service prompting all kinds of speculation and conspiracy theories. And all of it wrong, according to Sony.
"This issue is not specific to Xbox or any other individual platform," Sony said in an email statement. "Sony Pictures is currently in discussions with the relevant parties to resolve certain licensing matters related to the distribution of its motion pictures. Given the ongoing nature of these discussions, we don't think it is appropriate to comment further at this time."
Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey didn't wish to comment on any specific studio licensing deals either, saying only that titles "come in and out of licensing all the time." And that's where things currently reside in the standoff between Sony and Netflix. Some Sony films have reappeared on the streaming service, but neither Sony or Netflix are saying when the rest might return.
Who isn't streaming or planning to stream Netflix content these days? If asked that question yesterday, you could have answered 'TiVo' and been correct. But today we've learned that Netflix and TiVo have partnered to offer streaming downloads by the end of 2008.
This isn't the first time Netflix and TiVo have flirted with each other. Back in 2005, it looked as though the two were going to cozy up to each other before the deal ultimately fell through "indefinitely." Fast forward to today and Netflix now adds TiVo to a growing list of players who either already are, or soon will be streaming the online rental service's downloadable catalog of titles. Other players include Roku and its set-top box, Microsoft with an upcoming dashboard update to its Xbox 360 console, and select Blu-ray players from LG (LG BD300) and Samsung (BD-P2500 and PD-P2550).
The deal with TiVo has already entered the beta stage for select TiVo owners, and an official roll-out is planned for early December. The service will be available to Netflix subscribers who own a TiVo HD, HD XL, and Series3 DVR.