Google's YouTube video site is in negotiations with Hollywood's leading movie studios to launch a global pay-per-view video service by the end of 2010, putting it head-to-head with Apple in the race to dominate the digital distribution of film and television content.
Google has been pitching to the studios on the international appeal of a streaming, on-demand movie service pegged to the world's most popular search engine and YouTube, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.
Google will use its search technology and YouTube to direct viewers to the new service, which is likely to launch first in the US, with other countries added over time, the people added.
Google and YouTube are a global phenomenon with a hell of a lot of eyeballs - more than any cable or satellite service, said one executive with knowledge of the plans. They've talked about how many people they could steer to this . . . it's a huge number.
Negotiations have been ongoing for several months, but have taken on greater urgency in recent weeks, amid intensifying competition between media and technology companies over the digital delivery of film and TV programming. Apple is this week expected to unveil improvements to its TV device, which connects living-room sets to the internet, and eventually hopes to open the device up to apps developers.
Netflix, the film subscription company, is aggressively acquiring digital rights to movies for its streaming service, while Hulu, the online video site owned by Walt Disney, News Corp and NBC Universal, is planning a $2bn initial public offering.
The Google project has caused excitement in Hollywood because film studios are searching for new revenues to replace DVD sales, which are in steep decline.
Viewers will stream rather than download the films and pay about $5 for newer titles. The movies would be available at the same time as their release on DVD and on Apple's iTunes store and Amazon.com, meaning Google could count on recent box-office hits to power the service.
YouTube said it had been beta-testing a film rental service since January.
Google has been searching for a breakthrough with YouTube since acquiring the video site for $1.65bn in 2006.
YouTube attracts millions of users but continues to be best known for its user-generated content. Yet it has struck several content deals and in April launched a free movie service.
Amazon Grabs the TV Remote
The Internet retailer has in recent weeks pitched a Web-based subscription service to several major media companies, including General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, Time Warner Inc., News Corp. and Viacom Inc., among others, according to people with knowledge of the proposal.
Amazon's subscription push is a challenge to rivals such as Netflix Inc. and Google Inc. as they race to dominate digital delivery of TV shows and films, encroaching on turf traditionally controlled by cable- and satellite-television providers.
Apple Inc. is also pushing more deeply into TV, and plans to announce 99-cent rentals of television shows through its iTunes store from News Corp.'s Fox and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC as early as Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter.
Apple wants to offer rentals of new shows, available after they air, these people said. Apple is also working on a new device that streams Internet video directly to television sets, according to one person with knowledge of the matter.
Amazon appears to be targeting a similar model to Netflix, focusing on older, "catalogue" content, according to people briefed on the meetings. Executives at media companies often view the availability of older content on the Web as less of a threat to their existing business.
Amazon's new subscription service would be viewable on a Web browser, or through devices such as Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 videogame console. Amazon currently sells individual episodes of TV shows on those devices, often for $1.99 apiece. It also sells and rents digital movie downloads.
Media companies have been reluctant to put too much of their best content on the Internet for too little money. None want to be left behind as the Web merges with television. But they are also wary of encouraging a shift to Web-based viewing, which could lead consumers to cut off cable and satellite subscriptions.
For instance, Hulu LLC, owned by three media companies including Wall Street Journal parent News Corp., announced in June that it would make its Internet versions of new TV shows available on TVs and other devices—but only for subscribers who pay $10 a month.
Media companies will pull in more than $30 billion in 2010 from their cut of monthly TV bills, according to estimates from SNL Kagan.
Amazon has said it would like to launch its new service in time for the holiday season, one person with knowledge of the proposal said.
Executives for two media companies described Amazon deals as possibilities.
But it is possible the subscription service could be delayed or shelved if not enough companies sign on, these people and others said.
An Amazon spokesman said he couldn't "speculate about the future." Spokespeople for NBC Universal, News Corp., Viacom and Time Warner declined to comment.
Amazon could face an uphill battle matching Netflix. Some people familiar with the matter said Amazon executives had initially balked at what it would cost to license movies at rates paid by Netflix. The DVD-by-mail pioneer has been increasing its spending to secure programming for its Web-based service.
Netflix recently committed about $200 million a year for movies on cable channel Epix, according to people with knowledge of the deal. Epix is owned by three Hollywood studios.
Netflix has found a growing niche with online streaming. More than 61% of its 15 million subscribers watched for at least 15 minutes in the second quarter, up from 37% a year earlier, the company said in July.
Amazon, which began as an online retailer of physical media such as books and DVDs, is trying to shift those businesses to digital to keep up with shifting consumer habits. It has had most success with digital books, where its Kindle e-book reader helped to create a market for e-books by making it easy to buy and read them away from a computer.
Amazon brings some advantages to the television fight. In at least one version of its proposal, subscriptions could be bundled for no additional charge with its existing Amazon Prime service—immediately giving the service millions of built-in subscribers. Prime offers members cheaper shipping rates for many products in exchange for $79 a year.
Amazon's existing video-purchase and rental service, meanwhile, is already built into scores of devices. And the company's role as a major retailer of physical DVDs also could give it leverage to wrangle digital-licensing deals.
Sony rises to digital-media challenge
The announcement is expected to be made in Berlin at the IFA technology show, just hours before Apple's own music-themed press conference in California, which is expected to include updates to its iPod, iTunes and Apple TV products.
Sources in the media industry told the Financial Times that Sony would use its PlayStation games consoles as the starting point for a new service that users will be able to use across a range of other internet-connected devices. That could include Walkman music players, Vaio computers, Bravia TVs, Blu-ray players and Sony Ericsson mobile phones.
Tens of millions of PlayStation3 and PlayStation Portable consoles are already connected to the internet, which allows them to download movies.
Howard Stringer, president of Sony, said last year that 90 per cent of Sony products would be able to connect to each other and the internet by 2011. Its $260m acquisition of Gracenote, a service which can track and identify music files across devices, in 2008 could play a significant role in the new service, which has been two years in the making.
The service is not expected to be available to consumers until next year, as deals are confirmed with all the major labels and studios.
Sony phased out its Connect music service in the US and Europe in 2007, leaving the way clear for Apple to consolidate its dominance in the digital download market. Since then Sony has used third- party providers to supply a digital download music service.
Content owners have been keen for a company with Sony's scale and marketing power to counterbalance Apple's dominance.
Apple is expected on Wednesday to introduce new social networking features to its iTunes software, allowing users to share details of the songs and movies they are buying and watching with friends on Twitter and Facebook.
Apple's iTunes improvements will also include 90- second clips of songs, up from 30 seconds now, which will give potential buyers more grounds for deciding on purchases.
A new iPod touch, featuring the same high-resolution display that was debuted on the iPhone 4 earlier this year, is also anticipated. Apple is also likely to put out modest improvements to its Apple TV gadget, a set-top box that has sold poorly at $299, and perhaps cut the price to as little as $99.
Sony and Apple declined to comment.
Why Apple rental plan alienated most studios
Holdouts fear 99-cent price endangers business model
Don't look for rival studios to join Disney and News Corp. for Apple's announced 99-cent TV rental offering anytime soon.
Unveiling a new Apple TV product Wednesday, Steve Jobs said he had hopes for "other studios to see the light." But sources at other content companies believe Disney and Fox are moving like moths to a flame.
At issue is the 99-cent price tag that represents a steep discount from the TV episodes already offered on iTunes. Multiple executives described it as an unacceptable devaluation of the content that puts in jeopardy the so-called "downstream" windows crucial to generating profit including DVD and syndication.
One studio chief drew a comparison between the new arrangement and the damage done to the music industry when Apple disaggregated the traditional album-oriented business model in favor of a singles-centric approach.
"If we head down this path, we're starting down the same slippery slope where the music business went," the executive warned.
While few were surprised that Disney again joined forces with Apple, the emergence of News Corp. as a willing partner this week raised eyebrows. The deal reportedly was made at the behest of Rupert Murdoch, who overruled the objections of News Corp. executives because he is trying to advance his company's interests in the digital news business.
Noting the lockstep Disney CEO Bob Iger has moved with Jobs, the company's largest shareholder, one exec cracked, "If Steve Jobs jumped off a cliff, Iger would hold his ankles on the way down."
Cable and satellite operators could be particularly steamed as TV networks are perennially embroiled in tough negotiations with them over retransmission fees for the same content they are making available to the competition. ABC is now engaged in such a standoff with Time Warner Cable, which likely will count Apple TV as a threat to its upcoming TV Everywhere initiative.
Although Apple is touting the inclusion of Disney and News Corp., the holdouts are hoping their absence from iTunes rentals will weaken it. Already they're taking pride in having successfully prevented some of Apple's previous efforts, including a 99-cent download (as opposed to rental streaming) and a bundled monthly offering.
The holding-out of Viacom, CBS Corp., NBC Universal, Warner Bros. and others could end up marking a stark contrast to what transpired when Apple introduced downloadable TV episodes five years ago: Disney was on board as an inaugural partner, and eventually every other conglomerate in the TV business came on board.
One studio exec noted that increasing concerns about digital monetization in the creative community, such as "Modern Family" creator Steve Levitan's recent comments to THR regarding Hulu, could provide an edge over Disney and Fox when it comes to signing top writing and producing talent.
Another competitive edge also could come to the growing list of services competing with Apple to bypass multichannel providers into U.S. living rooms, from video game consoles to Internet-connected TV sets. A few execs highlighted Netflix's recent syndication deal with Warner Bros. for TV content including "Nip/Tuck" as an exemplary model (Netflix also will be accessible via Apple TV).
The addition of 99-cent rentals also is prompting bewilderment by observers who note the increasing vulnerability to cannibalization among digital platforms devoted to the same programs. Disney strategy in particular was described by one rival exec as "schizophrenic," considering its series pop up on ABC.com, Hulu, Hulu's iPad offering and now Apple TV.
The downside of Apple's rental model also was recognized on Wall Street, where Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould noted: "We recognize the studios have to provide a reasonably priced online version of their content or illegal downloads will become pervasive. However, that does not mean the studios have to provide the product at a long-term money-losing price."
But Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment, at Fox Networks, struck a more optimistic note. "We're very excited about the launch of Apple TV and this initiative," he said in a statement. "We're always looking to explore innovative and creative ways to reach and engage our viewers on digital platforms, which makes Apple a perfect partner."
Netflix's expanded content availability for its streaming service took another step forward Sept. 8 when it said it signed a multiyear license deal with Nu Image/Millennium Films. The company produced The Expendables, John Rambo, Brooklyn's Finest, Righteous Kill, 16 Blocks and Black Dahlia, among other major theatrical releases.
The deal doesn't include DVD/Blu-ray Disc or the aforementioned movies, which have major studio distribution, including home entertainment. For example, recent No. 1 box office hit, The Expendables, featuring a who's who of current and past action stars, is distributed by Lionsgate.
The agreement does include titles without studio distribution, including Dito Monteil's 2011 slated release Son of No One, a crime drama starring Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan, Ray Liotta and Juliette Bincoche. Also slated for streaming is 2011 release Elephant White, a drama starring Academy Award nominee Djimon Hounsou and Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon, about a contract killer who gets swept up in the dangerous business of white slave traders in Thailand.
The films, among other catalog titles, will be made available to Netflix subscribers during the pay-TV window, which includes transactional video-on-demand (VOD) and is months prior to Netflix's typical access.
Avi Lerner and Nu Image have a remarkable track record of producing crowd pleasing and profitable films, said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. Their ability to work across multiple studios and maintain a consistent output of diverse and successful films makes Avi and his company perfect Netflix partners for theatrical features in the pay TV window.
The agreement mirrors recent separate streaming deals between Netflix and pay-TV/online channel Epix and Warner Bros. The Nu Image/Millennium Films deal was orchestrated by Robert Kyncl, VP of content acquisition for Netflix.
Considered by many as a successor to the DVD, SD cards and USB chips allow users to play movie files on portable media devices.
The Download2Go kiosks are deployed at 20 InMotion retail airport locations, including Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, Denver International, John F. Kennedy International, Lambert-St. Louis International, Los Angeles International, Memphis International, Phoenix Sky Harbor, Sacramento International, Salt Lake City International, San Antonio International, San Francisco International, and Seattle-Tacoma International.
The digital kiosks were initially tested beginning July 16 in Atlanta and Seattle.
Consumers, with a credit card, can choose from more than 2,600 major and independent titles, with rentals priced from $3.99, and purchases priced from $12.99. Rentals must be watched within 30 days of purchase, and can be viewed repeatedly within a 48-hour window once started.
Movies can be watched on any media device that accepts SD cards and flash drives. In addition to digital movies, consumers will be able to download television shows to SD cards, and music tracks and albums to flash drives and directly to MP3 players this fall.
Through this new service, we are expanding consumers' access to music and movies in airports as well as diversifying this access onto multiple devices, said Justin Hotard, VP and GM, NCR Entertainment.
Duluth, Ga.-based NCR is also rolling out Blockbuster Express $1 DVD rental kiosks nationwide through a license agreement with Dallas-based Blockbuster.
Major entertainment companies provide music and movie catalog to the U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Spain.
REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. today announced the further international expansion of Zune, its digital entertainment service. This fall, Zune will expand its music and video footprint and bring the free Zune software, Zune Marketplace online store, Zune Pass music subscription service and enhanced features on Zune.net to new markets, providing a comprehensive entertainment experience on Windows-based PCs, on the go with Windows Phone 7 and in your living room through Xbox LIVE.
"The integration between Zune, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE is an exciting expansion in our entertainment offerings," said Craig Eisler, corporate vice president, Interactive Entertainment Business Group at Microsoft. "Zune enables users to access the entertainment they want, wherever they want it and now, more people than ever will be able to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that the Zune service offers."
Zune software has been upgraded with new features and functionality and will serve as the Windows Phone 7 synchronization client. The new software (version 4.7) will be available to download for free in more than 20 countries, including the U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Spain, to easily manage your personal collection of movies, music, podcasts and pictures. Zune software continues to set the standard for entertainment software, providing best-in-class experiences to organize, discover and enjoy digital media with a variety of exclusive features. For example, the Quickplay menu enables immediate access to recently played content and personal favorites, and Smart DJ automatically creates playlists from your personal music collection and takes the extra step of mixing in suggested music from the Zune Marketplace. The updated Zune software will also enable instant streaming of high-definition movies, allowing you to watch some Zune Marketplace movies in HD, with no download time, directly on a Windows PC.
Zune Marketplace online store is accessible from within the Zune software and offers the ability to purchase millions of individual songs or albums from its catalog, all in MP3 format. Here, consumers can also subscribe to Zune Pass, which provides unlimited downloads and music streaming capabilities from the Zune music library, including content from major music labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music and Warner Music Group, as well as thousands of independent labels. Zune Marketplace also has a large library of videos from major studios such as Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution for purchase or rental. Video purchases will be accessible through Xbox LIVE and Windows-based PCs, and can also be added to a Windows Phone 7. Simply buy your favorite video from Zune Marketplace and watch it on the screen of your choice.
Zune.net is the perfect resource for consumers as it allows them to download the software and setup a Zune account with a new or existing Windows Live ID. Zune.net will also provide Web access to Zune Marketplace so you can purchase music or use a Zune Pass to stream music directly through an Internet browser, as well as purchase video content.
Zune Expansion to New Markets
As Zune expands internationally, its music and video service will be tailored for each market. Genre experts will custom program Zune Marketplace and feature the top songs, videos, movies and unique promotions for each country.
The fall 2010 international expansion of the Zune music and video service includes the following:
Zune Marketplace will extend services to several markets in Europe and beyond.
The global expansion of the service is the latest step in a series of milestones for Zune, including powering Bing music search results, the added ability to purchase music and video on Zune.net, and the forthcoming integration with Xbox LIVE and Kinect for Xbox 360. By continuing to integrate Zune across the most important screens to consumers, Zune provides an all-in-one music and video service for users to discover, enjoy and experience their entertainment wherever they want.
Zune Pass (U.K., France, Italy and Spain). The monthly music subscription service will be available for 9.99 euros /8.99 pounds per month for unlimited download and streaming access to the Zune music catalog and will be accessible on Windows-based PCs, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE. The offer in the U.S. will remain at $14.99 per month for unlimited downloads and streaming access, with the ability to keep 10 MP3s per month.
Music purchase (U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany). Expansion to these markets will enable consumers to purchase MP3s and listen on their Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 or any other device that supports MP3 format. Users will also be able to purchase music videos to enjoy on Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 and Zune on Xbox LIVE.
Video purchase (U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).Consumers will now be able to purchase movies to download and watch anywhere on the big screen in the living room with Xbox LIVE or their Windows-based PC as well as sync it to their Windows Phone 7 to enjoy on the go.
Movie rental (U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).In addition to Zune video on Xbox LIVE, consumers in these countries will now be able to rent movies for viewing on their Windows-based PC or choose to sync the rental to their Windows Phone 7.
TORONTO (Reuters) - Netflix launched an online-streaming service in Canada for movies and television shows on Wednesday, its first foray outside the United States.
Adding another content provider to a congested market, Netflix said it will offer unlimited streaming of movies, documentaries and television shows for C$7.99 ($7.81) a month.
Canadian consumers will be able to stream video instantly on their TVs and computers. Leading video game consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, the Sony PlayStation, and devices such as the iPhone and the iPad can all stream from Netflix in Canada.
Netflix said it has inked licensing agreements with studios including Lionsgate, MGM, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Canadian distributors, Alliance Films, Maple Pictures, eOne, and Mongrel.
"With our launch today in Canada, Netflix is focused on adding meaningfully to the entertainment choices available to Canadian consumers," company co-founder and Chief Executive Reed Hastings in a statement.
Netflix's entry into Canada represents another challenge to the country's established telecom and cable-TV companies as they fight for consumer views. It will also be streaming over networks of Internet providers that may offer similar services.
Canada has seen convergence in its telecom, Internet and broadcasting sectors in recent years as once-dominant regional telephone carriers compete nationally against cable companies such as Rogers Communications and smaller Internet service providers.
Canada's biggest telecom carrier, BCE Inc, said earlier this month it would buy CTV, the country's biggest private broadcaster, for C$1.3 billion as it moved to bolster its position in content provision. Cable company Shaw Communications said earlier this year it would buy the television assets of failed Canadian media company Canwest.
Netflix today landed a deal with Sony to get further access to streaming video in return for a DVD delay. The exchange follows a similar pattern to earlier agreements and will see Netflix delay DVD and Blu-ray availability during the 28-day "window" in return for deeper access to Sony's catalog for the Watch Instantly feature. The plan also lowers the fees Netflix has to pay for its access.
The company already has a slew of similar deals that have included Fox and Universal as well as previous-season NBC TV shows. It has been willing to make a calculated exchange to gradually wean itself away from physical service towards its ultimate goal of being an Internet-first service.
Netflix has been expanding rapidly and just recently moved beyond the US to launch on a streaming-only business in Canada. It also now has near ubiquity on devices and plays on all iOS devices as well as many Blu-ray players and TVs.
FLO TV, for those readers who've never heard of it (and that's a large group, apparently), is a proprietary subscription mobile TV service that broadcasts nationwide on UHF channel 55. The service, also bundled as a white label' wholesale product to Verizon and AT&T subscribers, delivered several channels of TV programming specifically formatted for mobile and handheld devices.
Among the networks offered to FLO subscribers were Fox, CBS, NBC, ESPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, and CNN. The service first launched in 2006 as MediaFLO, and picked up Verizon (VCAST) and AT&T Mobile as re-sellers in 2007.
Starting Oct. 18 Netflix subscribers using the PlayStation 3 will be able to stream content with 5.1 Dolby surround sound, with more devices able to do surround sound in the future, Netflix said.
DISCLAIMER: I own stock in Dolby Labs
Dolby Brings 5.1 to Netflix Streaming
DISCLAIMER: I own stock in Dolby Labs
I can one-up that....not only 5.1, but 1080i as well, according to engadget:
Rejoice, PS3 owners, your Netflix streaming experience just got vastly better than anything else on the market. Starting October 18 Netflix on the PS3 will no longer require a disc, and it'll stream some content with 1080i resolution and / or 5.1-channel surround audio, while everyone else will be stuck with a max of 720p stereo for the time being. Oh, and you'll get subtitles on some content as well. Netflix is partnering with Dolby on the audio side, and the surround format will be Dolby Digital Plus, which is the same codec used by the VUDU HDX streaming service -- we're guessing it'll require a tiny bit more bandwidth but the results should sound pretty great. Netflix says 5.1 will come to other platforms "over time," so we'll see how long that takes -- and given that the PS3 is now disc-free and the company's eschewed the SRS surround features baked into its Silverlight-based platform, we're guessing Microsoft's exclusivity period has now completely run its course.
On Oct. 16 Sony Style stores will be the first to carry Sony HDTVs and a Blu-ray Disc player with Google TV built in, with Best Buy stores carrying the much-hyped products a week later.
Analysts contend more than 40 million households will have Internet-connected TVs by 2015, up from 2 million this year.
Dubbed Sony Internet TV, the HDTVs and Blu-ray player have fully integrated Google TV, allowing for Web surfing on a full Internet browser, and the ability to watch TV and surf the Internet at the same time.
Sony Internet TV is the world's first HDTV that combines the big-screen impact of television and full Internet search to deliver an unrivaled entertainment experience, said Mike Abary, SVP of Sony's Home Division. Finally, you can seamlessly search your favorite TV programs and websites on the same screen, at the same time.
All four HDTVs (24-inch, $599.99; 32-inch, $799.99; 40-inch, $999.99; 46-inch, $1,399.99) include four HDMI and four USB ports, a keypad remote with optical mouse and built-in Wi-Fi. Later this fall certain smartphones will be able to link to the HDTVs, and in early 2011 owners of the HDTVs will be able to download applications from Android Market. The Blu-ray player ($399.99) will also have access to Android applications in early 2011.
We are very proud to be the pioneers of this new entertainment category by delivering the world's first true Internet TV experience, said Bob Ishida, SVP, corporate executive, and president of Home Entertainment Business Group for Sony Corp. Sony Internet TV creates value by introducing new and compelling ways to enjoy a variety of content.
The HDTVs and Blu-ray player also come packaged with Sony's video-on-demand service, and preloaded applications including CNBC, Napster, NBA, Netflix, Pandora, Twitter and YouTube.
Logitech Oct. 6 unveiled its Google TV-enabled device, a plug-and-play companion device that gives HDTV owners full Internet access on their screens ($299).
Paul Gagnon, director of North America TV research for DisplaySearch, called Google TV devices the biggest revolution in TVs in a long time, and predicted more hardware companies would go with Google TV in 2011.
It's certainly new territory, he said. The TV is not a PC, but it's becoming a more active device, as opposed to the passive way we've interacted with TVs before.
Vudu movies drop to 2 dollars in big promo
Vudu tonight launched an aggressive campaign [link active soon] to corner the movie rental space by slashing the prices down well below average. The company's Movies On Sale section is charging just $2 for about 4,000 "top films" and is giving 48 hours to finish watching after playback starts. The deal lasts until the end of the year.
Lower prices should apply both to those who still use a Vudu Box as well as the TVs and Blu-ray players that have streaming support, such as those from LG, Samsung and Vizio.
The company didn't immediately give an explanation for the rental price drop, but it represents a significant switch in tactics as it had previously focused on cutting device prices while the Vudu hardware was still its priority. Its pricing would run well under the per-title rental prices of competitors like Amazon and Apple, who like Vudu normally ask $4 or more for a recent standard definition rental. A cut of the sort could be a hedge against the new Apple TV as well as upgraded Roku players.
The pricing likewise makes Vudu a potentially greater challenge to Netflix by giving viewers four movies a month for the same price as a basic Netflix subscription while including titles that might be off-limits.
Company expects users to watch more movies and TV shows online in the fourth quarter than they will on DVD.
DVDs are so yesterday, judging by what's happening with the company that made a fortune by stuffing them in envelopes and mailing them to subscribers nationwide.
Netflix users will watch more movies and TV shows streamed online than they will on DVD during the fourth quarter, the company said Wednesday in announcing impressive quarterly results.
Netflix said 66% of its users watched something streamed during the third quarter, up from 41% during the same quarter a year ago. Because so much content is viewed streamed, Netflix said it no longer will bother to report the metric.
"By every measure, we are now primarily a streaming company that also offers DVD-by-mail," Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said.
Answering a question from a skeptical analyst Wednesday, Hastings said that Netflix compares minutes streamed to the length of every DVD shipped. Minutes streamed during the fourth quarter will exceed the number of combined minutes of all DVDs mailed to subscribers.
On the financial front, third-quarter earnings rose 26% to $38 million on revenue up 31% to $553 million. The company added 1.9 million subscribers to end the quarter with 16.9 million.
Netflix also lifted its guidance, saying it will end the year with up to 19.7 million subs; previously, it predicted up to 18.5 million.
Churn fell from 4.4% a year ago to 3.8%, and subscriber-acquisitions costs dropped 26% to $19.81.
Shares of Netflix rose 3% during Wednesday's regular session to $153.15 and an addition 9% after hours once third-quarter results were released.
Hastings said Wednesday that even though streaming will overtake DVDs, he won't shut down distribution centers anytime soon as they are needed to ensure quick delivery.
He also said Netflix subscribers, while rabid fans of streaming premium video, are not TV "cord-cutting" at a rate larger than the general population.
Hastings said Netflix streamers are doing so on several devices, given that they might use a game console in one room and a Blu-ray Disc player in another while using an iPhone for their mobile needs.
The CEO made it clear that streaming is overtaking DVDs even as Netflix increases the number of discs it ships.
Three major television broadcasters have begun blocking access to repurposed programs on Google TV.
ABC, NBC and CBS began denying links to repurposed prime time shows on Google's TV platform, which launched last week on a Sony Bravia TV, Blu-ray Disc player and Logitech media device, according to media reports.
NBC and ABC, with corporate parents that own stakes in Hulu, and CBS, which operates TV.com, among other repurposed content sites, are trying to keep the lid on rapidly evolving technology that allows consumers to access content notably TV programs in myriad ways other than traditional broadcast.
The Internet search behemoth's open platform TV service includes content apps such as Netflix and Amazon VOD, in addition to select content from TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, HBO Go and NBA Game Time.
Google TV enables access to all the Web content you already get today on your phone and PC, but it is ultimately the content owner's choice to restrict users from accessing their content on the platform, Google said in a statement.
Company representatives are reportedly working on a resolution, in addition to negotiations to include subscription-based service Hulu Plus.
Newspapers are still reeling from the impact Google has repurposing proprietary and wire stories. News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal, has attempted to embargo print content by installing a subscription-based access.
At an investor event last month, Les Moonves, CEO of CBS Corp., said the proliferation of distribution channels required weighing the impact each new channel has on existing channels. Specifically, Moonves said he was more in favor of transactional and subscription-based platforms than ad-supported.
[The paid subscription model] makes a lot more sense to us, Moonves said. It is something we are looking at very closely, and it is something you could see us participating in.
Then again, the CEO questioned whether 99 cents for episodic TV programming on Apple TV and iTunes was the right price point.
I don't necessarily want to rent my shows to another service at the beginning of the [TV network] year, Moonves said. Obviously, the watchword of today for all the media companies is, How do I maximize my revenue for the content?'
Regardless, James McQuivey, analyst with Forrester Research, said the embargo represented a minor setback to hardcore consumers.
This doesn't stop people from watching online content on their TVs, McQuivey told the Los Angeles Times. It just frustrates them.
Engadget HD Podcast 219: Ultraviolet edition - 10.15.2010
[QUOTE]We're always chancing the dream of watching whatever content, whenever and wherever we want so we couldn't stop pestering the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem for more details about its Ultraviolet product. Basically it holds the promise to let us watch any movie or TV show we buy, anywhere we want. So we sit down and talk to Mitch Singer, President of DECE, about his vision for Ultraviolet and we have to say it sounds too good to be true. It isn't expected to hit the streets until next year, but if you want an idea of what it might bring have a listen.[/quote]
Web hub makes 150,000 titles available
Comcast has officially launched the free online portion of its Xfinity TV service, giving the cable giant's 23.2 million subscribers access to about 150,000 video offerings.
Content will range from such current series as "Boardwalk Empire" and "Jersey Shore" to children's programming from Nickelodeon and others. Some VOD programming, such as films available the same day as their DVD release, will be available for an extra charge.
Xfinity TV is part of the wave of TV Everywhere services that cablers and satcasters are launching in an effort to compete with other Web streaming services such as Netflix.
All Comcast digital customers will have access to the Xfinity online site. "We've created a destination that enables customers to watch, find and manage their favorite shows and movies anytime, anywhere," Comcast Interactive Media senior veep and general manager Matt Strauss said.
The service has been in beta mode for more than a year. Xfinity TV will offer access to content from the four major broadcast networks and premium cable companies including HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz and Encore.
CRTC green lights usage-based internet billing
Metered internet usage is on the way, with the CRTC handing down its final decision on how wholesale customers can be billed by large network owners.
The federal regulator on Thursday gave Bell Canada the approval to implement so-called usage-based billing to wholesale customers — usually smaller internet service providers that rent portions of its network — within 90 days. Under the plan, Bell will charge wholesale service providers a flat monthly fee to connect to its network, and for a set monthly usage limit per each ISP customer the ISP has.
Beyond that set limit, users will be charged per gigabyte, depending on the speed of their connections. Customers using the fastest connections of five megabits per second, for example, will have a monthly allotment of 60 GB, beyond which Bell will charge $1.12 per GB to a maximum of $22.50.
If a customer uses more than 300 GB a month, Bell will also be able to implement an additional charge of 75 cents per gigabyte.
CRTC grants concessions
In its May ruling, the CRTC said Bell could not implement its usage-based billing system until it had moved all of its own retail customers off older, unlimited downloading plans. The requirement would have been troublesome for Bell because it would have meant punishing its oldest and most loyal customers.
As another condition, the CRTC also required Bell to offer to wholesale ISPs the same usage insurance plan it sells to retail customers.
Bell appealed both requirements, saying the rules don't apply to cable companies and that they would constitute proactive rate regulation by the CRTC, which goes against the government's official policy direction that the regulator only intervene in markets after a competitive problem has been proven.
In Thursday's decision, the CRTC rescinded both requirements, thereby giving Bell the go-ahead to implement usage-based billing.
Customers of smaller ISPs such as Teksavvy and Execulink who signed up for service before Feb. 1, 2007, will be "grandfathered," where their unlimited usage plans will be honoured. The CRTC did, however, give Bell the right to periodically raise rates on grandfathered plans in order to urge customers on to metered services
When customers purchase a Disc+ On Demand title on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon.com, a digital copy of the movie will automatically be added to their Amazon Video On Demand video library. Customers can watch the movie instantly on a Mac, PC, or nearly 200 Amazon Video On Demand compatible Internet connected TVs, Blu-ray players, and set-top boxes.
"When we launched Disc+ On Demand last year, we were excited by the overwhelmingly positive response from our customers," said Steve Oliver, category leader for Amazon.com DVD. "Customers love instant gratification, and this program allows customers to watch Disc+ On Demand titles instantly, without having to wait for their DVD or Blu-ray to arrive in the mail."
Amazon Video On Demand is a digital video service that offers customers more than 75,000 commercial-free movies and television shows to buy or rent. New release movies are often available as soon as they're out on DVD, and many TV shows are available the day after they broadcast. Amazon Video On Demand also offers thousands of titles in high definition. For a full list of Amazon Video On Demand compatible devices visit www.amazon.com/watchontv.
Time Warner Inc., owner of the Warner Bros. film studio, is near agreements with television distributors to make movies available on-demand for viewing at home soon after they run in theaters.
Time Warner expects to start the so-called premium service in the second quarter, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said today on an earnings conference call. The company is close to agreements on the pricing and timing after theatrical release.
Studios including Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Co. are in talks for the VOD service with In Demand, a partnership of Cox Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc., Bob Benya, head of In Demand, said in a September interview. The service would cost as much as $30 per showing. Movies will be available in high definition and eventually in 3-D, Bewkes said today.
Hollywood studios are searching for ways to generate additional movie revenue as DVD purchases decline. A premium service would let consumers watch movies on TV sets without waiting as long as the typical three to four months for DVDs or cable companies’ on-demand showings that cost $4 or so.
In September, Time Warner CFO John Martin said Warner Bros. expects to begin testing a premium video-on-demand window later this year for $20 to $30 per viewing. Analysts including Alan Gould of Evercore Partners have suggested that “Harry Potter” should be the first test film.
So far the 28-day window has clearly been a success versus no delay, Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said today on a conference call. The question of whether we ought to go longer is very much under scrutiny. It may well be a good idea.
VUDU, Wal-mart and Disney join forces, add a free streaming copy to Toy Story 3 Blu-ray discs
Robert Iger and the Wall Street Journal confirm this is indeed Keychest:
Disney CEO Turns Slump Into a Springboard
Last week, with the home-video release of "Toy Story 3," Disney unveiled Keychest, an initiative that automatically gives buyers of its films on DVD or Blu-ray disc access to an online streaming version.
Hulu is slowing ramping up the availability of its Hulu Plus platform.
Current owners of the 2010 models of Sony Bravia HDTVs started getting access to Hulu Plus yesterday. And next week, the company plans to make Hulu Plus available to PlayStation 3 owners who have a free PlayStation Network account.
Hulu Plus has been available on Sony's console since July. However, the service was only made available to select PlayStation Plus subscribers. With next week's launch, any PlayStation 3 owner (in the U.S.) will have access to the service.
Going forward, Hulu plans to expand the availability of Hulu Plus to several products, including Blu-ray players, Blu-ray home theater systems, and Sony's Dash. The service is also expected to make its appearance on Roku players in the near future.
The addition of Hulu Plus to all PlayStation 3 consoles comes just a few weeks after a native Netflix application was made available on the hardware. The app allows customers to stream television shows and movies from the console without help from the disc that was previously required.
Hulu Plus costs $9.99 per month for access. Netflix streaming plans start at $8.99 per month.
Might be referring to having to join Playstation Network, which costs money, but I thought I read that wasn't a requirement anymore. I'm not sure, I never joined it myself.
Also, I thought I read that the Hulu Plus price was supposed to have dropped to $4.95 per month because they weren't getting a lot of takers at the $10 price.