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.
We always take rumors with a large grain of salt, but as far as pre-release speculation goes, news and rumor site Fudzilla has a knack for being right on the money. And if their latest claim turns out to be true, DirecTV will announce the world's first satellite 3D-HD channel next month during CES.
What isn't known is when the channel will actually go online, though it's likely to coincide with the next DirecTV satellite the company plans to launch into space early next year. If all goes to plan, that satellite will be online and operational by March 2010.
That means new 3D hardware if the fad is to take off, which would be a tough pill to swallow for anyone who just plunked down a wad a cash for a flat-screen LCD TV. But if it's any consolation, Fudzilla says it's been hearing chatter that most of DirecTV's recent HD and HD DVR receivers will support the 3D-HD standard with a simple firmware update.
Are you hoping this whole 3D TV thing will just blow over? Well, if the newest rumor turns out to be true, that’s looking less likely. According to everyone’s favorite, the “unnamed source”, DirecTV will be making an announcement at CES indicating their intention to begin broadcasting 3D high definition content as early as March of 2010.
The rumor also says that the 3D content will require only a firmware update on existing set-top boxes to access the 3D content. Still in question is what sort of goofy-looking glasses people would need to wear. The 3D channel will reportedly offer an assortment of sports, movies, and TV series. All content should meet the recently agreed upon 3D specifications. The 3D video will require customers to buy one of the new 3D capable HDTVs expected to debut at CES, and new HDMI 1.4 specification cables.
Suppliers of video content--movie makers and television production studios--are still struggling to devise an economic model for the Internet age. As time goes by some content providers are become less reticent about embracing the possibilities the Internet offers, in particular video on demand (VOD). In a possibly positive sign a few content providers have taken the step of providing films or TV shows in digital form prior to their DVD release.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Showtime is selling episodes of the hit series Weeds online, while the DVD release remains weeks away. Sony Pictures is also in the act, making available its animated movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, available for “owners of some Sony TVs and other devices”, with the DVD release scheduled for January 5.
Jacqui Cheng, at Ars Technica, would like to see more aggressive action, like AMC does with Mad Men, releasing episodes closer to the actual airing date. But, given the trepidation with which content providers appear to hold any Internet involvement, these baby steps toward better access are an encouraging sign.
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.
Google has decided to dip its toe in the stream of anonymized user data coming from TiVo. By subscribing to the TiVo data, Google hopes to make ads more useful to both advertisers and viewers. Google’s angle for selling TV ads is that they will only charge for the ads that are actually watched. So, if most people skip an ad, the channel makes almost nothing on it.
Online it’s easy to track impressions via clicks, but having the same scheme on TV upsets the people running the networks. Google already has a similar deal with Dish Network, and this deal just extends their statistical powers. Eventually, the data Google wields will make it painfully clear to advertisers how few ads people actually watch. This has the potential to erode the financial foundation of many television networks.
Neilson data has long been the guiding force behind the value of ads, and the networks are
understandably concerned about possible changes. Google contends this arrangement will simply lower the barrier to entry for TV ads. Will TV networks go along with the plan?
Excuse us while we clean up our morning coffee off of our keyboard and desk - Panasonic wants how much for its 85-inch plasma display? The answer is $30,000, but hey, if you wait long enough, maybe you can catch one on sale for 'only' 20 Gs.
According to Panasonic, the exorbitantly priced TH-85PF12U is the industry's first 85-inch full HD, 1080p plasma display and equivalent to four 42-inch plasmas. The company also claims its Neo plasma display panel technology has made it possible to keep the 85-incher "significantly thinner and lighter than past plasmas," measuring 3.9 inches deep and checking in at 260 pounds.
Sounds groovy and all, but how do you convince your significant other that a $30,000 TV set would really complete your living room? Answer that question and you're halfway there.
Brace yourselves for this one. Hulu -- the free video streaming service that has others, like YouTube, trying to emulate it -- may not be totally free in the not too distant future. Or at least that's how Jonathan Miller, News Corp.'s new chief digital officer, envisions things.
According to AOL's Daily Finance website, Miller said he sees Hulu making at least some of its content available only to paid subscribers. At the same time, he was also quick to clarify that he won't attend his first Hulu board meeting until next week, meaning his speculation doesn't necessarily reflect that of Hulu's.
"In my opinion the answer could be yes," Miller said. "I don't see why over time that shouldn't happen. I don't think it's on the agenda for Monday [but] it seems to me that over time that could be a logical thing."
Keep in mind that News Corp. co-owns Hulu and it's Miller's job to find ways of getting revenue from from News Corp.'s properties.
In other words, enjoy Hulu while you can - in the long run, it may all have been just an extended free trial.
This one raises more questions than it answers, but apparently Twitter has partnered with Reveille and Brillstein Entertainment with plans to make an unscripted reality show. According to Variety, the show will seek to "put ordinary people on the trail of celebrities in a revolutionary competitive format."
Yeah, we don't know what the ____ that means either. In fact, there's not much anyone knows about the upcoming show, other than the concept was created by novelist and screenwriter Amy Ephron, who will serve as one of many executive producers putting this thing together.
"We've found a compelling way to bring the immediacy of Twitter to life on TV," Brillstein's Jon Liebman said.
At long last, Hulu and Disney finally inked a deal giving Hulu permission to stream full-length episodes of such programs like "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," and more. Under terms of the new deal, Disney will join the video sharing site as a partner and according to un-named sources, take a 27 percent stake in the venture, DigitalDaily reports.
"From our landmark iTunes deal to our pioneering decision to stream ad supported shows on our ABC.com player, Disney has sought to meet the constantly evolving viewing habits of our consumers, and today’s Hulu announcement is the next important step in that ongoing journey," Disney CEO Bob Iger bloviated. "Disney and Hulu share a focus on delivering the highest-quality entertainment experience and we look forward to working with Hulu to build value for our consumers, our brands and our shareholders."
The deal should inject a ton of new content into Hulu, which according to a joint press release, will include full-length episodes of primetime programs, ABC Family series, ABC Daytime and SOAPnet shows, classic series from ABC's library (like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", "Dancing with the Stars"), Disney Channel hits (like "Wizards of Waverly Place" and "Phineas and Ferb"), yet-to-be-determined library titles from The Walt Disney Studios, and short-form content.