Netflix will be in almost everything now. Well not everything, but enough that the other makers will be wanting to add NEtflix in their devices since it will be considered the norm now.
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The step-up Roku HD XR Player ($130) adds faster 802.11n. Wi-Fi and a USB port "for future use." The step-down model, known simply as "the Roku Player," loses the HD outputs of its siblings; it'll retail for $80. The two new boxes will have the same look and feel of the existing Roku box, which is being redubbed as the Roku HD Player. That model (802.11g Wi-Fi, no USB port) will continue to be available at the same $100 price point.
Currently, the Roku boxes have three content channels: Netflix (unlimited streaming of thousands of TV shows and movies for Netflix subscribers); Amazon Video-on-Demand (thousands of movies and TV shows available on a pay-per-title basis), and MLB TV (out-of-area Major League Baseball games, available as a seasonal subscription). However, the imminent (November) launch of the "Roku Channel Store" will add an expanded roster of programming options, including some free content. That should include the already announced Blip.tv and Mediafly channels, and may include some others as well.
We'll have a full review of the Roku HD XR Player once the new programming options appear next month via a firmware update. (Right now, the HD XR's USB port is disabled, so there's not a lot to test.)
Wonder what that USB port on the HD XR is for?
Disney's Keychest expected before competitors
OCT. 27 | DIGITAL: Walt Disney Co. is likely to launch its Keychest service, to enable consumers to access digital content on a number of different devices, before competing services offer their own versions of a digital content cloud, market research firm In-Stat said in a research note Monday.
Last week, Disney announced Keychest, technology developed by the studio that would allow consumers to buy digital or packaged content and access it later through different digital platforms, such as mobile phones or videogame consoles. Content would be stored on a digital cloud so consumers never have to download it but can always access it.
In-Stat principle analyst Gerry Kaufhold predicts Disney will be able to make some money from Keychest fairly quickly, but he noted it'll take some time for digital content to catch on with consumers. And even then, some consumers will stick with packaged media.
Not everybody wants to do this, Kaufhold said. Disney has a dedicated group of fans; they'll be able to get some percent of the Disney fan base to use it because it provides portability of their content and permanence of their content. For Disney, it'll work, and if it works for Disney, there'll be others trying it out too.
He said it's possible Disney will get its Keychest technology off the ground before the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem a consortium that includes every major studio except Disney, and such major companies as Sony Computer, Microsoft, Intel, Comcast and Best Buy introduces its own open system to allow digital access to content across platforms.
Kaufhold said Keychest is part of a larger trend by content holders to keep their content under their direct control. He expects Disney will eventually create a content exchange for distributing digital content securely to various service providers under rules the studio establishes.
Confirmed: Netflix Streaming Coming To The Wii Very Shortly
Last week I received some images that showed Netflix streaming on a Wii console. I didn't run with the story at the time as I didn't know if the images were legit and it's taken me until today to confirm they are in fact real. I'm not disclosing who confirmed it for me but someone involved in the project has confirmed that Nintendo is currently in testing stages with Netflix to bring their streaming service to the Wii very soon.
What I'm hearing is that Nintendo originally planned to bring the Netflix service to the Wii before the end of this year, which still might take place, but that Nintendo is also considering holding off on the Netflix service until they release their next generation Wii HD unit in early 2010.
Note: I am not sharing any of the images I received as I don't want to burn the person who sent them to me.
Apple on Thursday introduced version 3.0 of its Apple TV software, an upgrade that includes a revamped user interface, as well as access to iTunes LP, iTunes extras, Genius mixes, and Internet radio.
The new software is available now at no charge for existing Apple TV owners.
"The new software for Apple TV features a simpler and faster interface that gives you instant access to your favorite content," Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of Internet Services, said in a statement. "HD movies and HD TV shows from iTunes have been a huge hit with Apple TV customers, and with Apple TV 3.0 they get great new features including iTunes Extras, Genius Mixes and Internet radio."
Apple introduced iTunes LP and iTunes extras during a September launch event for iTunes 9, the iPod nano with video camera and FM tuner, and lower iPod prices.
With iTunes LP, users get a host of additional music information, like lyrics, photos, writing, memorabilia, liner notes, chronology, credits, videos, and more, while iTunes extras function much like DVD extras, with a few more interactive features. With the software upgrade, users can access this content for full-screen viewing.
The home screen provides access to movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, photos, Internet, and settings. Hover over a selection like movies and a drop-down menu will present options like my movies, top movies, genres, all HD, search, and trailers.
On the music front, users can access Genius Mixes currently available on iTunes. Like you would on your iPod, select a song, press play, and then hold down the play button until the Genius option pops up. Apple will then configure a playlist of songs similar to the selected song. Version 3.0 can support up to 12 endless mixes, Apple said.
The Internet radio option provides access to thousands of Internet radio stations, Apple said.
People can access the available content, including blockbuster film Iron Man, concert title Madonna Sticky & Sweet: Live from Buenos Aires and comedy special, Eddie Izzard: Live From Wembley, at Web site EpixHD.com
Other films slated for the free preview include The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Madea Goes to Jail, Pink Panther 2 and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Epix president Mark Greenberg, said of the promotion, A free online preview of this kind that is truly available to anyone with Internet access has never been done before. We want people to experience entertainment this way -- giving them a taste of what it is like to have anywhere, anytime access to the movies, concerts and comedy specials from the incredible studio partners that have established Epix.
Following the preview,Epix will revert back to its premium format spanning video-on-demand and online platforms. The channel is a joint venture between Viacom, Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lionsgate. It launches with over 150 films and additional programming.
Free Online Movie Weekend, Thanks to Epix
being free is the only time Epix would be worth it. It is not even close to being worth $10 a month for only one HD channel.
there is nothing special about the programming EPIX offers.
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This is a news thread. If you would like to start your own thread, you can.
More on Epix:
Epix Launches One-Two Punch With TV-Web Movie Channel
The movie channel Epix launches Friday, and it will only be available on one broadcast provider: Verizon FiOS. However, that's not the only way subscribers will be able to see it -- it'll also offer an online channel with HD content. For a debut promo effort, Epix is inviting some potential customers to free weekends of online services throughout November.
It's enough of a challenge to launch a new subscription movie channel in an industry segment dominated by the likes of HBO and Showtime. However, Epix, which begins life Friday, starts its adventure with a double feature of sorts: It will also offer a Web streaming version of its channel.
That means Epix's Chief Digital Officer Emil Rensing will have a busy Halloween, making sure the user experience for those potential paying customers will be more treat than trick as they seek other alternate forms of entertainment on their PCs.
"Our goal is to acknowledge the audience trends and habits and desires are changing," Rensing told TechNewsWorld. "We didn't want big, heavy, complicated pieces of software to download, that consume resources and overly complicate things. If you get the channel at home on your TV, then you can go online, authenticate with data that the TV gives you, and you're free and clear to watch the movies."
Thanks to the crowd of channels already available on your TV set-top box, Epix -- a joint venture between Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lions Gate -- launches on only one broadcast provider: Verizon FiOS for a US$10 monthly fee. However, online movie lovers can go to epixhd.com/invite and see if they will be one of the lucky few to experience standard- and high-definition movies on their computers for free for three-day weekends throughout November.
An Epix Experience
There are only about 150 movies to sample online if you get the invite this weekend from Epix. However, they're not cult classics or public domain freebies; we're talking "Iron Man," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Madea Goes to Jail" and other relatively recent visitors to your neighborhood multiplex. Epix is also throwing in what it says are broadcast and online premieres of a Madonna live concert and a performance by Eddie Izzard at London's Wembley Stadium.
Eventually, 15,000 movies in the Epix library will end up also online, addressing what Rensing said is a need for quality, high-definition, DVD-like entertainment on a PC. "I get both HBO and Showtime in my house, and it drives me nutty that the only option to watch them is in front of my TV. It's awesome to go online and watch the movies," he said.
Some HBO and Showtime programs like "Entourage" and "Weeds" have been available on Apple's iTunes for some time, but Apple makes its own deals with the same studios providing movies to the pay channels, and it charges its own download purchase/rental fees as well.
"Apple has a great philosophy of how they built their technology. They focus on keeping honest people honest. That's the approach we're taking. You authenticate, click twice and you're watching movies," Rensing said.
Epix will also be offering behind-the-scenes programs related to their movies, much like the special features you would find on a DVD. Like Disney's (NYSE: DIS) BD-Live service that allows Blu-ray disc owners to watch movies with friends online and chat with them, Epix willl offer a virtual "private screening."
The Technical Consideration
The Epix streaming technology sits on Akamai's FMF35 hosting service, Rensing said, and buffering chances are minimized by encoding the feature films six times. "The player will automatically and dynamically adjust the quality level" to match up with download speeds into a broadband connection. His company will have done everything it can, he believes, to maximize the online viewing experience. "We didn't want people to download software, so we went with Flash. We're trying to avoid the pitfalls of making things too complicated, of creating too high a barrier of success on the technology front," he said.
It's the things Epix can't control that may provide the annoyances to users, said Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies. "Your PC hardware really matters in this case," Bajarin told TechNewsworld. "You can't have a pleasurable Hulu experience on a netbook or even on a midstream PC. You need something with horsepower."
Epix does has an advantage over the traditional media outlets exploring online alternatives by offering its Web streaming service as a benefit to the $10 monthly subscription fee, Bajarin said. "If you get the channel, you get this premium online experience also," he explained. "You're balancing the weight of those two, which is really valuable. My biggest frustration with the major networks is they're really balancing their priorities between broadcast and broadband, and obviously broadcast is their singular priority, and what they do online really suffers because they don't want to truncate the value of broadcast. On this one, you sign up for this TV service, and as an added benefit, you get it online."
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Would you pay $30 a month to watch TV via iTunes?
That's the pitch Apple has been making to TV networks in recent weeks. The company is trying to round up support for a monthly subscription service that would deliver TV programs via its multimedia software, multiple sources tell me.
Apple isn't tying the proposed service to a specific piece of hardware, like its underwhelming Apple TV box or its long-rumored tablet/slate device. Instead, the company is presenting the offer as an extension of its iTunes software and store, which already has 100 million customers.
A so-called over the top service could theoretically rival the ones most consumers already buy from cable TV operators-if Apple is able to get enough buy-in from broadcast and cable TV programmers.
That's a big if: Apple has told industry executives it wants to launch the service early next year, but I have yet to hear of a single programmer that has made a firm commitment to the company, which has tasked iTunes boss Eddy Cue with promoting the idea.
Industry executives believe that if anyone jumps first, it will be Disney, since CEO Bob Iger has shown a willingness to experiment with Apple and iTunes in the past: In 2005, Disney was the first player to sell its programming on iTunes, via a-la-carte downloads. And Apple CEO Steve Jobs is Disney's largest single shareholder, a result of Disney's 2006 acquisition of Jobs's Pixar animation studio. Apple didn't respond to requests for comment.
Network executives I've talked to are intrigued by the idea-they are eager to find new revenue streams-but are also wary, for several reasons.
Cable networks, for instance, don't want to threaten existing relationships and subscription fees from cable providers like Comcast. And programmers are also worried about the effect a subscription service would have on advertising revenue: Even if the service didn't distribute TV programs until after their initial air date, that could cut into ratings, which now measure viewership over the course of several days.
But the move to deliver TV and movies over the Web is already well under way. Netflix , for instance, already bundles free streaming movie and television along with its disc-by-mail subscription service. iTunes and Amazon (AMZN) rent movies on a one-off basis, and Google's YouTube is trying out the same thing. Meanwhile, Hulu, the joint venture between GE's NBC, News Corp.'s Fox, and ABC, is figuring out how to launch a paid service that may include rentals, paid downloads or subscriptions.
So Apple's proposed subscription service, which the company has floated in the past, is no longer a huge stretch. Says one executive briefed on the company's plans: I think they might get it right this time.
NEW YORK, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) plans to start an online service that allows consumers to buy, rent and download movies and television shows, the electronics retailer said on Tuesday.
The system, based on Sonic Solutions' Roxio CinemaNow service, would be built into devices sold at its stores, including television sets, portable media players, computers, mobile phones and other devices from a variety of manufacturers.
Sonic Solutions shares jumped 16.6 percent on Tuesday after the announcement of the deal, which could accelerate the usage of the CinemaNow system for distributing video and media to electronic devices.
Under the terms of a multiyear agreement, Best Buy will license Roxio CinemaNow technology and acquired warrants enabling it to purchase shares of Sonic Solutions common stock.
Best Buy expects to provide access to thousands of new movies, independent films, and older catalog movies, with some new titles available on the same day as the comparable DVD goes on sale. The company did not give the name of the service, or when it would launch.
CinemaNow, an online movie pioneer, has provided similar services to others, such as computer maker Dell Inc and movie rental company Blockbuster Inc.
The service could strengthen Best Buy's ability to compete with a established online media destinations, including Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc's iTunes store.
"Our relationship with Sonic Solutions allows Best Buy to quickly establish a strong position in the digital delivery of video entertainment," Brian Dunn, chief executive of Best Buy, said in a statement.
Best Buy bought digital music service Napster Inc about a year ago in an effort to compete with Apple's dominant iTunes service.
The shares of Sonic Solutions, which acquired CinemaNow late in 2008, jumped 91 cents to $6.15 on Tuesday afternoon on Nasdaq. Best Buy shares made narrow gains, rising 27 cents, to $39.16 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Comcast Corp.'s answer to the growing popularity of watching video over the Internet is to launch its own online video service in December that would let subscribers view cable TV shows and movies on their PCs at no additional charge.
While the cable TV industry has been a bit wary of online video because viewers could then bypass their cable systems, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has decided to go head-to-head with the trend.
By the end of the year, Comcast will be the first cable TV operator to unlock cable content en masse for its customers. At present, most cable shows typically would be available over the Internet only by buying it from other services, such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes, or if downloaded illegally.
The nation's largest cable TV operator, now also the biggest Internet service provider, has joined forces with two dozen cable networks and broadcasters to launch the service. Initially dubbing it "On Demand Online," Comcast said it will be changing the brand name.
Time Warner Cable Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and DirecTV Group Inc. are planning to offer a similar service.
Now, Apple is reportedly gunning for the pay-TV industry by selling a TV service through iTunes that costs $30 a month.
QUESTION: Do you see this as a long-term threat to Comcast?
ANSWER: "I've been saying for a long time that I think video over the Internet is more friend than foe. ... Specifically to the Apple reports, let's wait and see what does materialize. I read the reports myself. I think there are many folks who want to deliver parts of the experience.
"I think a little bit goes back to (the) question, which is, why can't we have the most robust experience right to the TV set, right from Comcast Cable? And I think we very much take all these possibilities and use it as a galvanizing mechanism inside the company to come up with better and more innovative products."
Among the first new releases carried day-and-date with DVD and Blu-ray Disc is Warner Home Video's Dec. 8 release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
The Blockbuster locations will be in the Dallas area, while the Hollywood Video kiosks will appear in the Seattle and Portland, Ore., areas.
The kiosks, dubbed MOD Retail Digital Content Distribution System, will offer rentals only during the trial run, with consumers able to download content directly to SD cards, which can then be used on electronic devices with SD card slots.
Rentals will be tested at various prices, MOD said, and consumers will have 30 days from purchase to watch the content. After consumers view the content, it will be available for 48 hours before the digital rights management technology included locks it, preventing further viewing.
Alex Camara, VP and GM of NCR Entertainment, which helped develop the system, said Blockbuster was an easy retailer choice to test the kiosks, since NCR already helps to provide consumers with DVD rentals via Blockbuster Express branded kiosks. By putting the MOD kiosks in Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores, where consumers are already headed for movie rentals, he said MOD is giving consumers the choice between physical disc and pure digital-file content.
We've worked on this for a long time, and Blockbuster was a logical first choice for us to work with, he said. This is why NCR made an investment in MOD Systems. Digital is a vital part of this business, and this pilot is a very important part of our future.
Anthony Bay, CEO of MOD Systems, said the rentals will include a digital media player to facilitate playback, but he expects some consumer electronics devices may still have problems reading the content. He said he hopes that in the next year third-party devices will be readily available to play SD card content on devices that may not have an SD card slot.
We're talking with more retailers right now, and we're discussing what's the right location for the kiosks, the right price points for content, he said. The purpose of this trial is a learning process. And this lets consumers decide which format works best for them.
By early 2010, MOD aims to increase the number of offerings from about 1,000 to more than 1,500.
1080p HD Is Coming to YouTube
As resolution of consumer cameras increases, we want to make sure YouTube is the best home on the web to showcase your content. For viewers with big monitors and a fast computer, try switching to 1080p to get the most out of the fullscreen experience.
Have an HD camera? We would love to see your awesome 1080p videos! Be creative and choose subjects that really show off the beauty of your camera. We will run the best examples on our homepage in a future spotlight.
And those of you who have already uploaded in 1080p, don't worry. We're in the process of re-encoding your videos so we can show them the way you intended.
NOV. 12 | DIGITAL: Xbox Live will upgrade to Zune Video Nov. 17, allowing viewers to instantly stream TV shows and movies in high-definition through the game console rather than wait hours for them to download, as is the case now.
Along with the video upgrade, Xbox is adding social networks Facebook and Twitter and music from Last.Fm to the console, part of Microsoft's drive to make the Xbox the living room entertainment device. The company announced the planned upgrades at E3 in June, but until today hasn't said when they would be available.
Xbox Live general manager Marc Whitten announced the Facebook and Twitter launch date at a NewTeeVee Live conference Thursday morning. A spokeswoman confirmed that Xbox also would switch to Zune Video that same day.
Not only will Zune instantly stream movies, it also will offer a larger selection of 1080p high-definition films, a step up in picture quality from the 720p high-definition now offered through Xbox Live.
Microsoft has said users will be able to access content they buy from Zune Video through the Xbox, Zune portable and PC.
Earlier this week, news broke that Xbox had banned 1 million or so players from the Xbox Live service because of altered game consoles to play pirated games. Asked at the NewTeeVee Live event whether the ban was related to video piracy, Whitten said it wasn't an issue on the video side.
•On Demand Online will launch, as previously hinted, this December.
•Banse says users will be able to watch their favorite shows with authentication even when they’re away from home (Is this the death of EchoStar’s SlingBox?). It’s not clear from this interview if out of home on demand will work when a user is outside the United States.
•Each home will have authentications rights to watch their shows on three different devices.
•One issue Banse acknowledges still needs to be sorted out is the right advertising model to help support this new channel. “We’re in the first inning” she says.
Video is in the link.
I am very happy to announce we have signed our first partnership with a CE company. At this point we can not say more about the partner or the specs of the device, but we can tell you we are working closely with them to make sure we deliver a great Boxee experience on it.
We will show mockups of the box and share more details at our upcoming Boxee Beta Unveiling event in Brooklyn, NY on Dec 7th. RSVP here.
Over the next few years there will be a great change in the way we consume entertainment on our TV. The Internet is (finally) coming to the TV and with it will come a whole new world of content, applications and innovations.
We are building Boxee as a platform that would:
make it easy for users to consume and find content - no matter what the source
give content owners, aggregators, and developers the tools to create unique experiences with a variety of business models
enable CE companies to enhance their Connected devices
This will be the first connected device running Boxee, but the idea is to provide consumers with a way to get Boxee in their living rooms, no matter whether it's on a Connected TV, game console, set-top box, BluRay player, computer, etc.
Our goal is to be on every Connected device in the living room.
We are very excited about the partnership and looking forward to sharing more at the event.
NOV. 20 | REVIEW: After years in development, MOD Systems' digital movie kiosks, the first that offer major Hollywood movies, rolled out to a handful of Hollywood Video and Blockbuster stores last week in a test. For customers savvy enough to remember to bring their SD cards to the video store, the kiosks offer a sleek, hassle-free way to rent movies.
At the Hollywood Video in Hillsboro, Ore., just outside Portland, two kiosks from MOD and partner NCR Corp. are set up at the main entrance, so the “Download 2 Go” sign above them is the first thing customers see when they walk through the front doors.
The first night I visited, a customer was browsing through one of the kiosks. At this particular Hollywood store, MOD has a sales guy on hand most days standing by the kiosk to demo how they work and answer customer questions. Check out this video of a MOD salesmen explaining how the kiosk works.
For now, customers who want to try it must buy a MOD GreenPlay set-top for $49.95. It comes with an 8GB Extreme SanDisk SD card, which generally retails for $50 to $60 and can hold several movies, depending on their file size. (Eventually, it's expected that consumers will be able to plug those cards into TVs, Blu-ray Disc players and a growing number of consumer electronic devices with SD card slots. That should make it a more viable option for those consumers weary of buying another box for the TV. )
All movies cost $1.99 to rent, though MOD, NCR and retailers are testing different price points and sales models at each pilot location. Right now, the kiosks have movies from Warner, Paramount and Anchor Bay, something that is likely to somewhat limit the appeal to consumers.
The touch-screen kiosks are easy to use. A new release section is shown on the start-up screen and brings up the latest releases when touched. There are also sections for catalog, family and other genres, and users can search by movie title or actor. Once a user picks a film, they can look up other similar films on the kiosk as well.
To rent a film, consumers simply slide their SD card into the kiosk slot, press “rent” and movie picks are added to their cart. After clicking though the checkout menu and swiping their credit card, movies begin downloading immediately.
I should note, I initially tried downloading to the SD card that came with a review copy of the GreenPlay device MOD sent reporters and it didn’t work. I was told by MOD reps that the card had been specially formatted with pre-loaded movies and should work after it’s reformatted. I had no problems downloading movies to an SD card included with an MOD device sold at Hollywood, which I ended up using.
The two films I rented, Star Trek and I Love You, Man, took about two minutes to download. That compares to the 30 minutes or so it took me to download Star Trek and bonus features earlier this week from iTunes with my superfast 16mbps+ Comcast Internet connection. I didn’t have to leave home for that download, but without the Apple TV, I can only watch it on my computer or iPhone. (And no, it’s not possible to review digital downloads without a complaint about the lack of compatibility between digital devices.)
Watching the MOD downloads was a sleek experience. The set-top box was easy to set up. And to watch the movies, I simply slid my SD card into the slot and pressed power. Box art for both movies popped up on the screen, with details underneath about how many days I had to watch each film. (Films are available for 30 days after they’re downloaded, but only for 48 hours after you first click play.) Check out this video of the playback menu on the TV.
Using the GreenPlay remote, I clicked on Star Trek, which pulled up an easy-to-read screen with a synopsis of the film and actors. I clicked play, and the movie started right up (with thankfully no FBI warning, though I’m sure studios will fix that at some point!). The film played seamlessly, and the picture quality, although not high-def, was still excellent.
For rentals, it’s a compelling option, one I’m already planning to try again. Though, I worry I’ll forget to bring that little SD card with me when I head to the video store. Maybe MOD could come out with some type of keychain or something to make it easier to cart around.
Check out the video links.
GreenPlay User Manual here.
Rogers Communications has booted up its new online TV service, providing its customers with online access to specific broadcast programming and entire TV channels.
The beta version was shown to a media audience yesterday, at an event entitled The Next Big Thing in Television', with announced plans for full launch on November 30th, 2009.
The Rogers On Demand Online web portal provides Rogers customers with a video player with full screen option, content search tools (by name, genre, date aired and other parameters), in order to watch TV content at a time and place of their choosing.
Rogers' owned properties, such as Sportsnet, will certainly appear on the portal, but also programming from other broadcasters, including TVO, Citytv, Treehouse and SuperChannel, among many others. More content partnership announcements are forthcoming.
Dave Purdy, Vice President Video Product Management at Rogers Communications helped unveil the service, noting that its kicks off with content from some 16 broadcast partners and 19 TV and specialty channels. Our vision is to have every partners' content online, Purdy explained, saying the goal is to provide customers with access to content in their chosen fashion, be it linear TV, digital cable On Demand or now the online On Demand service.
Early descriptions and proposals for such a service had been made by Rogers at recent industry events, including hearings held by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, both into so-called Net Neutrality issues, as well as the more recent hearings on TV funding. Dubbed somewhat facetiously by CRTC commissioners as the Purdy Portal, the Rogers On Demand Online portal is now a reality.
What's more, Purdy, along with Senior Director of Product Management, Broadband Entertainment Jeremy Butteriss, noted that mobile services will be added to the service, planned for Q2 of 2010. Social media tools and site links will be added going forward, live events will be covered by online streaming services - a service that speaks to many of Rogers' own properties, such as its sports teams and facilities.
Access to the site is for Rogers' customers; Purdy noted that any Rogers cable or wireless client would be able to use the online services. Certain authentication or entitlement procedures will both ensure customers get access to the appropriate services, as well as protecting the broadcast partners' program rights, Purdy described. Freely accessible content, as well as premium programming, is planned.
Other content restrictions can arise from territorial rights negotiations, and geo-blocking requirements that result. Rogers has obtained online program rights for Canadian distribution, Purdy explained, but not in the U.S. Ge-regional rights, such as for some sports properties, also have to be negotiated.
However, the portal's back-end system allows the provider to monitor and identify cable modem IP addresses, link to subscriber data and service package descriptions, and to ensure entitlement or authentication to corresponding online content. Tiered cable package definitions and content access will be mirrored in the online portal, so that content access online reflects a customer's existing cable service level. Purdy noted that any additional cable service would almost immediately be reflected in the online access.
Lara Skripitsky, Director of Marketing for Broadband Entertainment at Rogers, demonstrated the front end of the system, noting basic navigation choices through the site that provide access to content by category (TV Shows, Movies, Genres, Channels, What's Hot ), Favourites, Most Watched and more. She showed how programs can be paused, rewound or fast forwarded using control on the built-in video viewer, which started showing the streaming content almost immediately.
She noted that a full road map going forward is in the plans, with additional content partners, site features and exclusive offers are coming.
Banner ads and other online promotional material are placed throughout the portal interface, although a full screen and a dim the lights' mode are available to allow more focussed attention on the actual requested content.
Commercial programs are aired with breaks intact, although at the start of service, only one commercial will run in the break. The ads cannot be skipped or fast forward, although Butteriss noted that viewers can return to a program to pick up where they left off without having to watch all the show (or the commercials) again.
Depending on the content partner and the outcome of rights negotiations, the content model is ad supported for now, but that could change going forward, Purdy noted.
Two levels, or profiles, for content delivery are supported on the site at present, Butteriss and Senior Technical Manager Dennis Kuzmar noted. A standard definition service delivers decent quality video at 480 Kbits, while a higher quality profile delivers video at one Mbit.
Butteriss said that the term "'high definition' is used and abused term", but allowed that plans at the Rogers portal is to get service speeds up to 2 or 2.5Mbits per second.
Of course, a customer's Internet usage rates will be affected by the streaming of high quality TV content, so usage meters are now or soon to be part of the service. Customers with Internet usage caps, or customers who want concurrent access to the service across multiple computers, can be monitored and informed of usage levels.
Speaking to recent reports of Rogers Communications partnering with content creation companies, Purdy said that the site would not tie up content, explaining that while exclusive content was not planned, the partnership between Rogers and Vuguru, for example, would make its own decisions about providing its content.
However, content on the portal will be greater than that available over the air in some cases. Purdy described how DVD style extras can be added to the portal, and noted that some conventional over the air TV shows are edited for time and audience sensitivity. Such restrictions may not be necessary online, he said, with strong parental controls and online content warnings.
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Part of Comcast Corp.'s (CMCSA) desire to take control of NBC Universal comes from its appetite for film content from Universal Studios to bolster its video on-demand offerings.
By gaining control of the film library of a major Hollywood studio, the nation's largest cable services provider hopes to build VOD into a real growth engine for the entertainment business that could ultimately replace the DVD. Still, it's far from clear that the acquisition of Universal Studios would immediately help Comcast boost its VOD business.
Just as the music business has suffered from the decline of CD sales and the publishing business has suffered from the decline of newspaper and magazine sales, the movie business is being squeezed in the digital age by a slowdown in its most profitable business: DVD retailing.
Hollywood views VOD--movie rentals that cable subscribers can select on their TV without leaving their couch--as one potential savior. But studios have been slow to embrace the business for fear of adding to the decline in DVD sales and running afoul of key retailers, like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), which makes up nearly a third of all DVD retail sales in the U.S. and is known to be a demanding partner.
As the cable industry's leader in VOD, Comcast sees an opportunity developing now to push studios into its corner. That's part of its motivation in negotiating with General Electric Corp. (GE) about taking a majority stake in NBC Universal, according to people familiar with the matter. A deal is expected in the coming days or weeks.
"The margins that movie studios make on a rental from VOD are much better than the margins they make through" Blockbuster Inc. (BBI) or Netflix Inc. (NFLX), "so it has always been a riddle as to why the studios haven't been quicker to embrace it," said Craig Moffett, analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "The prospects for making progress on this issue now are much better than they used to be."
By controlling Universal, Comcast could use access to its blockbuster film slate to experiment with VOD delivery and inspire other studios to follow suit. Options include moving up the VOD release date on some films ahead of their DVD release, and charging a higher price point to boost profits.
Representatives for major film studios, including Universal, declined to comment for this story. However, several industry participants are skeptical that Comcast would make much headway on VOD as a result of the acquisition, pointing to other false starts.
The combination of Time Warner Inc. (TWX), owner of Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) had little impact on the VOD business and was recently abandoned. Likewise, News Corp. (NWS, NWSA), owner of this newswire as well as 20th Century Fox films, owned a majority of satellite TV provider DirecTV (DTV), but wound up divesting the stake.
In 2005, Comcast and a group of other firms paid $5 billion to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., the film studio that owns the James Bond film franchise. Comcast has since written off its 20% stake in that venture.
"The question now becomes why, if building up the VOD business is in everyone's mutual interest, does it take a $30 billion deal from Comcast to make it happen?" asks Moffett.
Still, there are signs that studios are embracing the shift away from DVDs. The film industry is increasingly willing to release films on VOD at the same time they release them as a DVD in stores. Historically, studios have held back films on VOD to avoid hurting DVD sales, but that appears to be changing.
In 2007, Comcast offered nine films on VOD at the same time they were released on DVD. In 2008, that number climbed to 35. It totaled 68 through the first nine months of this year, and the company expects it to go over 100 by year-end. Meanwhile, Comcast is averaging over 350 million VOD views a month this year, up from 300 million last year and 250 million in 2007.
"As they see the DVD business change and decline, the studios are looking to VOD and electronic sell-through and other non-physical ways to distribute movies with a completely different mindset," said Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts on a recent conference call.
Meanwhile, studios are still wary of sharing revenue with pay-TV providers at a time when online distribution has enabled anyone to reach consumers directly, but the movie download business has so far been dominated by Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iTunes service.
Customers who buy select movies from Tesco will also get a free digital copy of their film that also includes DVD-style extras.
Customers who buy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince or The Hangover on DVD from Tesco.com or at their local store will get a code that allows them to download a digital copy of the film for free. The digital copy can be played on any Windows PC or Intel-based Mac that has Microsoft's Silverlight video playback software installed.
It includes the special features you'd expect to find on the DVD, including menus, chapter breaks, alternate audio tracks and subtitles. Your computer must be connected to the internet so it can check-in with an authorisation server every time you want to watch your digital copy.
Oddly, customers who buy or rent the films from Tesco's online download store won't get these special features. Tesco's reliance on Microsoft Silverlight playback software also means the digital copies can't currently be played on mobile devices, such as iPods or Windows Mobile smartphones.
At the moment, Tesco has only secured a deal with Warner Bros to distribute that studio's films as VirtualDVDs - none of the other major Hollywood studios are currently involved which limits the selection of films that could be available as VirtualDVDs.
Tesco's VirtualDVD isn't the first initiative to bundle a digital copy of a film with a DVD. Windows Mobile and iPod-compatible digital copies are currently available with several DVD and Blu-ray movies, mostly titles from Twentieth Century Fox. Apple's iTunes also currently sells movies for download with DVD-style extras, although these can only be played on a computer with iTunes installed or on the AppleTV media streamer.
Tesco hasn't announced when other films will be available as VirtualDVDs.
Monday night’s hottest event for geeks may not have taken place in San Francisco, Silicon Valley or even Manhattan. Internet-video-on-TV service Boxee packed a capacity crowd into Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg to demonstrate its new public beta and announce early specs of Boxee Box, its first hardware device. (The free, open source Boxee software runs on just about any computer that’s connected to the internet and a screen.)
First, here are the goods on the new beta version of the Boxee software, which launches to the general public over the next four weeks and goes fully public in January.
Using a simple menu system, you can still browse by content partner (Netflix, Major League Baseball, Wired and others, but not Hulu) and play music and videos from the service or your computer. The friend feed, now on the left of the screen, draws recommendations from Boxee friends. Boxee founder Avner Ronen said the service will soon add suggestions from Twitter and Facebook friends.
Featured videos occupy the center of the screen, but Ronen said, “we’re not getting paid [to promote certain things there] — yet.” A new play queue lets users can send any video they encounter on the service or within any of its partner apps to a single list — a crucial addition, given the growing number of partners. Users can also add content to the queue as they surf around the web using a new Boxee bookmarklet.
He also touted the new search feature, which lets users find videos on Boxee and networked hard drives from a single search box, although global music searches (Last.fm and Pandora) are still in the works. In response to customer feedback, every screen on the service now includes a direct way to get back to whatever’s currently playing. In some cases, that means presenting a “now playing” icon on content listing pages alongside programming.
The above software tweaks are important to geeks with a spare computer to put next to their televisions and iPhones to use as remote controls, but what about people who want dedicated hardware to handle the job? Boxee did not demonstrate a working unit of the upcoming Boxee Box, which Ronen called “the only open source set-top box.” D-Link manufactured the innards and Astro Design (XBox, Nike, Alienware) came up with the “submerged cube” look.
The Boxee Box will cost around $200 with a nice-looking RF remote that can be used “anywhere in the house.” The device includes Wi-Fi, Ethernet and outputs for HDMI (the only video output), optical audio, analog stereo audio, as well as two USB slots the company envisions being used to add a webcam, external hard drive or antenna for receiving over-the-air programming. It comes with a simple multi-directional remote.
Boxee plans to demonstrate the Boxee Box at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January and sell it in stores during the second quarter of 2010.
Includes 2 USB ports and an SD card slot.
Broadcom Corp. Dec. 14 said its embedded technology now allows wireless Roku media players to operate 50% further from Internet connections within the home.
Roku Inc. in October unveiled two streaming media players with built-in Wi-Fi, including a high-definition model, priced at $79.
The Saratoga, Calif.-based company in 2008 cut its teeth with the launch of a player that could stream Netflix movies from the Internet to the television.
The Roku player also affords subscribers access to out-of-market professional baseball (MLB.TV) and movies and TV shows on Amazon Video on Demand, among other content.
Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom's BCM4323 802.11n technology allows the Roku HD-XR player to be placed anywhere within a 3,000 square-foot home (previously 2,000 square-foot), thereby providing customers with more flexibility when installing their media player and connecting wirelessly to their broadband connection.
* New service will be called Fancast XFINITY TV
* Launched with an extra 2,000 hours of content
* Plans for trial service with mobile devices next year
NEW YORK, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) said on Tuesday it has rolled out on-demand service to its paying video and Internet subscribers, allowing them to watch some of their favorite shows online.
The new service will be called Fancast XFINITY TV, and is the largest iteration of a cable industry initiative called TV Everywhere. The cable TV programmers like Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) and Viacom Inc (VIAb.N) are working with pay-TV providers like Comcast and satellite TV operators to offer their subscribers Web access to some popular shows whenever they want.
TV Everywhere is a drive to pre-empt the cable TV business model being undermined by the availability of free programming on the Web on services like Hulu, which is jointly owned by News Corp (NWSA.O), NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N).
Comcast said Xfinity will be available at home but also "on-the-go" when the user signs in via laptop though there are plans to eventually extend it to other mobile devices next year.
Xfinity has launched with an extra 2,000 hours of content from more than 30 cable network partners like Time Warner's HBO and Cinemax, Liberty Media's (LSTZA.O) Starz, and BBC America. In a demo, executives showed that the new site features complete seasons of popular shows like "The Sopranos" and "Big Love."
Currently, the Divx format is compatible across 200 million hardware devices worldwide, spanning numerous Web-enabled TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, the PlayStation 3 and Android phones. Divx's current hardware reach is vast. But up until this point, the main U.S. download provider of Divx-compatible full-length films was Web site Film Fresh.
Now with its Sonic Solutions partnership, Divx will gain a large download toehold in the myriad platforms where CinemaNow is available, including Blockbuster's Video On Demand service as well as within multiple embedded Blu-ray players and other devices.
The Divx format has been gaining traction internationally. Warner Home Video has been releasing many of its Blu-ray discs in France with Divx-compatible digital copy. Additionally, Paramount Home Entertainment recently offered Star Trek and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as Divx files within separate USB drives in the U.K. market.
Thankfully, Symwave and Xona Media have invented a better way. They've created the MK3 DVD+Digital kiosk, and they'll be showing it off next year at CES 2010. This kiosk uses USB 3.0 technology to deliver full movie downloads to customers in less than 10 seconds. MK3 kiosks will be fast and will carry an almost unlimited selection of films, which puts them about three heads above the Red Box in my book. If you don't have a USB 3.0 capable drive (and who does right now?) your old 2.0 stuff will still work with the MK3. Using it is still going to be faster and more convenient than any other movie renting experience. Plus, when you're done with the film, it just gets deleted from your hard drive. You never have to worry about returns. This kiosk will get shown off properly at CES 2010. We can expect to learn more about when these bad boys will come to a supermarket near you then. CES 2010 will start on 7th of January 2010 and lasts until 10th. Of course CES news are already pouring in. Read them in our CES 2010 section.
Today the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem LLC (DECE LLC), www.decellc.com, a coalition with support from every industry involved in digital entertainment, announced it has reached key milestones toward establishing the first open market for digital content distribution. In addition, DECE announced that 21 companies have joined the group which now includes 48 members across entertainment, software, hardware, retail, infrastructure and delivery.
The milestones announced today include:
Agreement on a Common File Format, an open specification for digital entertainment, that will be used by all participating content providers, services and device manufacturers
Vendor selection for and role of the Digital Rights Locker, a cloud-based authentication service and account management hub that allows consumers rights access to their digital entertainment
Approval of five Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions that will be DECE-compatible
Full technical specifications will be available in the first half of 2010.
Common File Format
DECE has agreed on a Common File Format, an industry first in digital distribution. An open specification for digital entertainment, like DVD or Blu-ray, the Common File Format may be licensed by any company to create a DECE consumer offering. Since this format will play on any service or device built to DECE specifications - whether via Internet, Mobile, Cable or IPTV, etc. - it will make Buy Once, Play Anywhere a reality.
The Common File Format optimizes the digital entertainment supply chain, benefiting content providers, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and retailers. Content providers only need to encode and encrypt one file type in portable, standard definition and high definition for multiple vendors. CDNs will not have to store different file types to accommodate retailers' varying needs. Retailers can efficiently deliver content to devices from different manufacturers.
Digital Rights Locker
DECE has selected Neustar, Inc. (NYSE:NSR) as the vendor for the Digital Rights Locker, a cloud-based authentication service and account management hub that allows consumers rights access to their digital entertainment. It will authenticate rights to view content from multiple services, with multiple devices as well as manage content and registration of devices in consumer accounts. DECE will provide an open Application Programming Interface (API) that allows any Web-enabled storefront, service or device to integrate access to the Digital Rights Locker into its own consumer offering.
DECE has approved five DRMs that will be compatible with the Common File Format - Adobe® Flash® Access, CMLA-OMA V2, The Marlin DRM Open Standard, Microsoft PlayReady® and Widevine®. Compatibility with multiple DRMs will ensure that content can be played back via streaming or download on a wide variety of services and devices.
In 2009, 21 companies joined DECE, including: Adobe, Ascent Media Group, Cable Labs, Catch Media, Cox Communications, DivX, DTS, Extend Media, Irdeto, Liberty Global, Motorola, Nagravision, Netflix, Neustar, Nokia, Rovi, Secure Path, SwitchNAP, Tesco, Thomson and Zoran. These companies join DECE's original members which include world leaders across a wide range of industries.
The digital entertainment marketplace is on the cusp of a new era of rapid growth, said Mitch Singer, President of DECE. The key to unlocking this potential is giving consumers the 'Buy Once, Play Anywhere' experience they want. That's the goal of DECE and one we're making rapid progress toward today.
Trying to Add Portability to Movie Files
It is easy to take a DVD to a friend's house and watch it on his TV. But things are more complicated when digital video downloads are involved. A movie file bought from Blockbuster.com will not work on a Sony HDTV, for example, and videos from iTunes work only on devices with Apple software.
At the Consumer Electronics Show, a big high-tech gathering that will begin Wednesday in Las Vegas, Hollywood studios and consumer electronics makers plan to lay out some steps they are taking to simplify this digital future and perhaps stem the worrying decline in home entertainment sales.
Hollywood and its high-tech partners are deeply concerned that their customers will rebel against some of the limitations taking shape as video moves away from physical discs.
Consumers, the industry believes, could balk at buying digital movies and TV shows until they can bring their collections with them wherever they go by and large the same freedom people have with DVDs.
In the last year and a half, a broad alliance of high-tech companies and Hollywood studios has been trying to address this problem through an organization called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, or DECE. Five of the six major Hollywood studios (Warner Brothers, NBC Universal, Sony, Paramount and Fox, but not Walt Disney) are involved, with Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Intel and Best Buy.
The group is setting out to create a common digital standard that would let consumers buy or rent a digital video once and then play it on any device. It might sound technical, but it could be crucial to persuading consumers to buy all the splashy new Internet-connected gear that tech companies will demonstrate at C.E.S., like HDTVs and set-top boxes that can download TV shows and films.
Under the proposed system, proof of digital purchases would be stored online in a so-called rights locker, and consumers would be permitted to play the movies they bought or rented on any DECE-compatible device.
So, for example, business travelers might find that their hotel room television could tap into their personal movie collections. Consumers could buy Blu-ray discs and have digital copies of those films accessible from all of their devices, even their mobile phones. And a PC maker could customize a new laptop for buyers by loading it with all their movies and shows and eventually even their video games and e-books.
These advances may not be all that far off. On Monday, the digital content organization plans to announce several moves that signal it is ready for companies to start building devices and services with the technology this year. Industry observers expected such an announcement last year.
The group is announcing that it has adopted a new file format that, like the DVD, will allow any company to create a compatible device or digital video store. It is also selecting Neustar, a company based in Sterling, Va., to create the online hub that will store records of people's digital purchases, with their permission.
The group is also announcing 21 new members, pushing the effort even further toward cross-industry unity. The new companies include consumer device makers like Samsung Electronics, Nokia and Motorola, entertainment retailers like Netflix and the European chain Tesco, and the cable companies Cox Communications and Liberty Global.
Disney is still a holdout. It is advocating a similar plan called KeyChest, which analysts say it may introduce working with Apple. A Disney spokesman said the company would give an early look at its rival technology at C.E.S.
The DECE says that it is further along and that the technical specifications of its system will be available to other companies in the next few months. Devices and services could be available to consumers as soon as early next year.
There were many skeptics out there who believed that with so many companies, we could never achieve anything, said Mitch Singer, the president of the DECE and chief technology officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment. We've actually achieved almost everything.
But the effort still has a long way to go before it can claim anything like success. The proof will be whether it revives home entertainment sales by getting consumers excited about the new freedoms of the digital world.
Hollywood needs consumers to buy more digital content. DVD and Blu-ray revenues contribute significantly to Hollywood's bottom line, but spending on those discs is dropping sharply. It declined 3.2 percent to $4 billion in the third quarter of last year. Digital sales were up nearly 20 percent in the quarter, but amounted to a relatively paltry $420 million.
And movie studios can only guess how much revenue is lost to piracy, which they say tends to grow as the speed of Internet access increases.
Hollywood also wants to avoid having a single company like Apple enticing people to buy only from its own closed digital system, and ending up with an inordinate degree of control over matters like pricing. Movie executives shudder at the power Apple accumulated over the music labels with iTunes and the influence Amazon appears to be gathering over publishers with e-books.
The possibility is there for a single player to completely dominate the economics, said Bill Rosenblatt, president of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies, a consulting firm.
Hollywood runs the risk of being held up and surpassed by powerful entities going it alone, he said, adding that Amazon showed signs of doing just that with its introduction last month of Disc+ On Demand. That service lets consumers who buy certain DVDs and Blu-ray discs view the same titles on demand at no additional cost.
There is also the possibility that the DECE is making a flawed bet on the direction of technology and emerging consumer habits. Its system is primarily aimed at getting people to buy and own digital copies of films, in the same way people collected VHS cassettes and DVDs.
But an increasing number of Web services allow people to more cheaply stream movies and shows without ever permanently storing a copy. The DECE says its technology can accommodate streaming allowing members of a family, for example, to watch the same movie at the same time in different locations. But it is not clear that such a rights scheme is necessary in a purely on-demand, watch-it-once world.
The market desperately needs this, but in some senses it is already moving past it toward rental of content over ownership, said Danielle Levitas, an analyst at IDC. Ms. Levitas also said DECE's progress had been slower than she expected: I wanted to see devices in the market already announced by C.E.S.
Mr. Singer acknowledges that every single company knows that time is not their friend right now. But he says that to truly spark the digital media revolution, the industry must embed its technology so deeply into digital services and devices that customers will not even notice it so that getting access to their digital content is as easy as bringing a DVD to a friend's house.
Consumers shouldn't have to know what's inside, he said. They should just know it will play.