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?
Basically, Amazon has linked its sale of DVDs/Blu-rays with its Video On Demand service. In it you can buy for viewing, either streaming or using the PC-only Unbox Video Player, loads of movies and TV shows. (Like you can on iTunes or Netflix or iReel or Hulu or Blockbuster or...) When you purchase a select movie on DVD or Blu-ray, a standard definition version of the movie is added to your Video On Demand library. (A quick search of Amazon shows 313 titles fall under the term “select”, including The National Parks: America’s Best Idea on Blu-ray--so what are you waiting for?)
Amazon’s motivation for the promotion, which is being offered for a limited time, is unclear. Janko Roettgers, of NewTeeVee, speculates it’s an attempt to boost sagging sales of physical media. The preference for digital or streaming versions of movies appears to be cutting into profit margins. Adding a digital version could just be the incentive needed to get physical media sales back on track.
And it might also be that having a digital copy simplifies matters for people viewing ‘on the go,’ which is increasing in popularity. Engadget, for example, reports that about 10% to 12% of movies bought with a digital copy have that digital copy activated. (The figure was 20% for purchasers of The Dark Knight.) In this vein let’s not forget the increasing popularity of home streaming media networks. Could be that people are tiring of being tied down to a TV and a DVD player. Amazon might just be testing these waters.
Boxee unveiled their new UI today, and it’s quite the departure. The entire front page has been redesigned, looking much more sophisticated and packing new functionality. The front page now focuses on the personal queue, featured content, and recommendations. The new menu system allows for local files to be integrated with streaming content (both free and payed). There will also be three new apps: The Escapist, Suicide Girls, and TV Guide to the Web Clicker.
The new interface was made possible by the switch from an OpenGL graphical engine to DirectX. Nvidia has even been helping Boxee optimize the interface for use on the Ion platform with Flash 10.1 and DXVA. No details on when the new beta will be available to users, but we can’t wait.
Google’s exploring a possible new stream of revenue: fee-based streaming television on YouTube. Peter Kafka, of All Things Digital, reports Google is presently in preliminary discussions with networks and studios, with both sides appearing optimistic.
The deal would include YouTube making available first-run television shows commercial-free for $1.99 apiece, like Apple and Amazon. Rather than allow the shows to be downloaded they’d be streamed. Kafka sees this as a problem--users wanting something a tad more tangible than a stream for their $1.99. YouTube, on the other hand, points to studies that show the download/streaming debate to be largely perceptual: buyers only watch a show once, so having or not having shouldn’t make a difference.
Details are still speculative, and might include YouTube shying away from first-run shows, providing instead shows not readily available through other services. There is also the possibility of a monthly subscription service, which Apple and Hulu are presently exploring.
The entrance of another video provider in a rapidly saturating online media marketplace may be a tough go. Users are notorious for not wanting to pay for content. With plenty of options open to them YouTube’s success with such a venture is open to question.
PS3 users will have to insert the disc into their console each time they wish to enjoy streaming content from Netflix's library. But this disc-popping ritual should only last until the two companies enable direct access to the service. "As a leading game console and Blu-ray disc player, bringing Netflix to the PS3 system is a real win for both Netflix members and PS3 system owners,"said Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings.
It’s sort of fun watching media moguls--the sharpest knifes in the drawer--thrash about when trying to figure out how to make the Internet pay. First it was charge for content. When that didn’t work it was give content away, but cram it full of ads. That didn’t make enough money, so now we’re back to charging for content. (Which didn’t work the first time.)
The current star of this hit parade is Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman of the News Corp. According to Carey: “I think a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value.” Thanks Dad, but all I want is watch some Office reruns; maybe a little Family Guy. Carey continued: “Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.” Time, it appears, for Hulu to start charging for the value it provides, so we’ll better appreciate it.
Free, however, isn’t dead yet. Claire Atkinson, of Broadcasting & Cable, suggests that Carey’s plan may be to reduce the free content and add some pay-to-view options--content specially created for the Internet or television previews. Atkinson offers the chilling possibility of American Idol previews. (Hasn’t that show done enough damage to the American psyche?)
The humor in all this is the powers that be in the entertainment industry see the Internet as a gold mine. One they can’t, no matter how hard they dig, get in to. It just might be the Internet has created the possibilities of new revenue models which don’t neatly mesh with the ‘grab all the money you can by controlling all the content you can’ models that currently exist in the analog world. The music industry learned this the hard way. Perhaps it’s a lesson others can only appreciate by first paying a price.
Toshiba had last year chosen its Qosmio range of notebooks to lift the curtain on its SpursEngine chip, which is a co-processor based on the Cell Broadband Engine found in the PS3. SpursEngine-powered Qosmios are capable of some impressive graphical feats like real-time graphics processing and video upscaling (SD to HD).
Toshiba’s new Qosmio laptops, which bear the might of its quad-core SpursEngine chip, will arrive in Japanese stores on Friday with the promise of enhancing internet video. Two previous iterations of the Qosmio used the immense power of the SpursEngine at their disposal to upscale DVD video, but left streaming video untouched.
If you're trying to watch a YouTube video and can't get the sound to work, it could be by design. The Google-owned video sharing site has just implemented a new policy which won't remove a user's videos containing copyrighted audio, but it will mute the audio stream, allowing the offending video to play on sans sound.
The new policy comes as a result of YouTube's ongoing dispute with Warner Music Group. Last month, Warner forced YouTube to cut off access to videos containing copyrighted music, following a breakdown in talks over licensing agreements. The video sharing site appears to have found a workaround until those talks come to a conclusion.
"Music licensing can get very complicated, but we try to make your experience as simple as possible," YouTube wrote in a blog post. "We want you to have options when uploading videos with music in them. And if your video is subject to a copyright claim, you should have some choices too."
YouTube recommends that anyone whose videos have been flagged and muted to check out Audioswap, which is a library of pre-cleared music.
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.
Watching Viacom and Time Warner go at each other is like watching a divorced couple trying to push each others' buttons. But instead of alimony or child support, Viacom wants Time Warner to cough up more cash for its 20 channels, including MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central. If Time Warner doesn't agree, Viacom could pull all of its channels, and to drive the point home, the media conglomerate has taken out full page ads in Times and other publications showing Dora the Explorer crying because children won't be able to watch her show. Well played.
But if you think that's hitting below belt, Time Warner plans to fire back with what amounts to a slap in the face.
"We will be telling our customers exactly where they can go to see these programs online," said Alexander Dudley, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable. "We'll also be telling them how they can hook up their PCs to a television set."
Yes, this is the same Time Warner who has been testing out metered bandwidth in certain markets earlier in the year, and has been charging an overage fee for $1/GB in those test markets after a two month grace period. Now the cable company will be encouraging its subscribers to use more bandwidth by setting up HTPCs and logging into sites like Hulu.
At least, that's the plan for the time being. Something tells us we haven't heard the last of this dispute. But if Viacom and Time Warner do actually break up, just remember, it's not your fault.