Congress held a hearing today to review the proposed purchase of NBC by Comcast. In that hearing Rep. Rick Boucher asked NBC CEO Jeff Zucker about the blocking of Boxee from Hulu content. Mr. Zucker’s answer was uncompromising, if a bit ham-handed. “What Boxee was doing was illegally taking the content that was on Hulu without any business deal,” said Zucker. He added, “What we preclude are those who illegally take that content.” He also said NBC was willing to negotiate with Boxee.
Boxee has responded to the assertion that they were engaged in illegal activity. Boxee’s Avner Ronen pointed out that they were in no way “taking” the video. Boxee simply accesses the content on Hulu via a web browser. The video is not copied, and it playes in its original form straight from the Hulu website. The process is no different than using Firefox or IE to load Hulu; there’s certainly nothing illegal about that. Ronen said he believes that Boxee users can add value to Hulu’s content, hinting that many users may be willing to pay for access to Hulu.
Ronen wrote that he intends to take NBC up on the offer to negotiate, and will contact them. However, if NBC continues to throw around words like “illegal”, the negotiations could be rocky indeed. Is this a case of a CEO being disingenuous to Congress, or just confused about technology? You can view the C-Span footage of the exchange here if you like.
Netflix spinoff Roku has been doing quite well as of late. Roku has sold over 500,000 of their streaming boxes, which steam content from the likes of Netflix, Pandora, TwiT.tv, and Revision3. With revenue doubling last year to $75 million, Roku is looking to expand, and may be planning an IPO.
If Roku is able to raise the expected $30 million, their next step could be to kill your cable. Roku is currently recruiting content providers to create channels. They hope to be able to offer 100 channels of on-demand programming this year. “We’re not far away from the time when you’ll be able to get the same kinds of channels that any cable operator can offer,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood.
Would this sort of service get you to drop your cable?
If all the talk of HTML 5 has piqued your curiosity, then you may want to give YouTube's new HTML 5 experiment a try. The world's most popular video streaming portal is now offering a HTML5-based alternative to the Adobe Flash player. But the YouTube HTML 5 video player is only compatible with three browsers: Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer with ChromeFrame. While other browsers may support HTML 5, only the two mentioned above support the H.264 video codec at this moment.
Nintendo's Wii console is starting to grow up. No, you still can't watch Blu-ray movies, or even standard DVDs, on the game console, but the best selling (and least expensive) current-gen console is going to integrate Neflix's online streaming video service.
Netflix is already available on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, and up to this point, Nintendo has been content to focus solely on gaming. According to a report in The New York Times, however, Nintendo may be feeling the pressure to compete on a larger scale than just console games, which are having to contend with a rise in cheap (smartphones) and free (social networking sites) gaming alternatives.
"You have to wonder if people are going to buy prepackaged $60 videogames in the future," said Mark Mahaney, managing director for Internet research at Citigroup. "If you are a console maker, you better quickly hurry to add more functionality and features to your console."
Wii owners will need a broadband subscription and have at least a $9/month Netflix subscription to enjoy the streaming service, which is a better deal than Xbox 360 owners get, who must also have an Xbox Live Gold membership.
Warner Bros. had made it clear last August that it was not going to let movie rental services eat into its revenues by hurting DVD and Blu-ray sales. Now, it has concluded negotiations with Netflix, the largest movie rental service, and got its way. Netflix will only be allowed to rent out the film studio's DVD titles 28 days after they go on sale. As for the studio's end of the bargain, it has agreed to charge a reduced fee besides pledging more of its films to Netflix for its streaming service. Other studios are also expected to reach a similar understanding with Netflix.
The four-week delay is not without precedent. Universal, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers had imposed exactly the same rider on the sale of DVDs to Redbox, prompting a lawsuit from the movie rental company against the three studios. “The 28-day window allows us to continue making our most popular films available to Netflix subscribers while supporting our sell-through product,” Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders said in a statement.
It appears Syabas had some unfinished business with its Popcorn Hour media hub, and so the company has just announced a follow-up version called the Popbox, which replaces the Popcorn Hour as the company's flagship device.
Syabas completely overhauled the design, including a revamped and much more polished user interface. The UI now includes little applets called Infoapps that show weather, Twitter updates, and various other data whenever the user pauses the onscreen action. And just like previously available Popapps, expect to see more Infoapps added as time goes on.
But that's not all that's new. Syabas added support for 1080p video up to a 100Mbps bitrate, while also retaining several file formats, including MPEG, H.264, VC-1, WMV, and XViD. It can also handle containers like MKV, and supports multiple subtitle formats, Syabas says.
Look for the Popbox to go on sale sometime in March for around $130.
This year has been a very good one for video streaming site Hulu. What started out as a niche product for the more tech-savvy, has broken through into the mainstream community. Hulu CEO Jason Kilar wrote in a blog post that Hulu has over 43 million unique visitors. That’s a 95% increase over one year ago. As the number of visitors goes up, the number of streams goes up even faster, having nearly tripled since April. The ad campaign that kicked off during the Superbowl likely started the ball rolling.
The overall amount of content on Hulu has also increased dramatically, going from 5600 hours of premium content, to over 14,000 hours. All those programs are being bought up by even more advertisers as well. Hulu has gone from 166 advertisers up to 408.
Also of note is the launch of the Hulu desktop application this year. After a long battle with Boxee, Hulu at least gave users an alternative way to view content. With all the good news, it’s easy to forget the rumors swirling around about internal battles between content owners and those running Hulu. And let’s not forget the possible pay model we’ve been hearing about. Hopefully, Hulu can get all this worked out while still preserving the good will they currently enjoy.
Here's a scary statistic for video streaming services: 4 out of 5 viewers will click in the other direction if a video stream rebuffers, according to a new study by Tubemogul.
Before dismissing that figure, content providers should be aware that Tubemogul didn't just gather up a small group of caffeinated teens and feed them a poor internet connection. Instead, the Emeryville-based video distribution and analytics startup analyzed 192 million video streams over a two week period with the goal of figuring out how much rebuffering really matters.
The research was based on both short-form content and longer clips, like TV shows and movies. But what the research team didn't divulge is whether or not the destination played a part in the decision to click away, or if users spending time on Hulu or YouTube were more apt to be forgiving of a rebuffer.
You can view the video here and switch between 720p and 1080p at any time. While perhaps not dramatic or always obvious, there's a definite difference in quality noticeable in the finer details. Switch between the videos in full screen to see what we're talking about, or take a gander at these screenshot comparisons Gizmodo posted.
Have you found any other 1080p videos on YouTube worth watching? Hit the jump and drop a link!
The internet music application everyone loves, Spotify, has released an app for Symbian phones. The new app was created in conjunction with UI design firm The Astonishing Tribe (TAT). The technology behind the new app has been used to produce a number of user interfaces across the mobile and desktop spaces. The Symbian platform is the most widely used mobile OS in the world at this time, so this entry was certainly overdue.
The release of this app means that the 250 million users of S60 devices running 9.2 or later can enjoy the Spotify service. “We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Spotify to help realize their visions for a mobile version that can now reach hundreds of millions of music lovers that use Symbian based phones,” said Charlotta Falvin, CEO of TAT. Regardless of your feelings about Symbian, that’s more than can be said for US music lovers. Spotify is still only available in Europe.