Bloomberg 'reports' that Apple may be considering Hulu ... I'm taking it with a grain of salt, til there's more substantive info, but the article mentions how some of the other companies are positioning themselves, so ... worth a read.
Hollywood's First Digital Christmas to Cause Pain
In the new weekly magazine, The Hollywood Reporter looks at studios bracing for the shift from DVDs to cheaper movies in the cloud as they fight to own their digital future.
Disney distribution president Bob Chapek calls it the "digital Trojan horse." He's referring to "combo packs," which are how most big movies will be sold on home video this holiday season. Blu-ray Discs will come with a digital file that buyers can register on one of two new services: UltraViolet and Disney's All Access Keychest. These free accounts will exist on cloud-based computer servers available anytime, anywhere, on any enabled device.
The move, say studio insiders, is the most serious effort yet to wean consumers away from the DVD, which has dominated home entertainment for nearly 15 years. "The evolution from a physical disc-based business to a digitally based business is inevitable," says Chapek. "I think the only debate is the period of time over which that will happen."
The big question is: How much pain will the transition inflict on Hollywood? Studios already are enduring wrenching change as DVD sales dwindle faster than digital revenue rises. A year ago, Sony eliminated about 450 positions, mostly in home entertainment, while in recent months Disney dropped close to 200 jobs, Warner Bros. cut 50, Fox trimmed 22, and Lionsgate laid off 10.
Windfalls from DVD sales powered explosive Hollywood growth during the 2000s, but the industry has realized -- as difficult as it might be -- that it must turn its back on the dying format if it aims to compete in a digital world. "This is very disruptive to studios," admits Mitch Singer, president of Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) and Sony's chief technology officer. "But it's better we disrupt ourselves than allow a third party to disrupt us for their financial gain."
The studios see DVDs phasing out slowly but believe Blu-ray will remain part of the mix because it still offers the best picture on big-screen TVs and can deliver 3D images. Blu-ray sales (movies, TV shows, games) were up nearly 10 percent in 2010 over 2009, according to the industry-backed Digital Entertainment Group.
Still, the message this holiday season will be that cloud-based movies are safer and more convenient -- no more damaged discs or hard-drive crashes. Most people will get the digital copy along with a Blu-ray Disc at a price suggested to be about $35, though that will be heavily discounted by retailers. (A DVD typically sells for about $5 less than a Blu-ray copy.) Digital files alone should sell for about $15 to be competitive with iTunes.
Jim Noonan, senior vp worldwide strategic promotions and communications at Warner Bros., uses the hit drama The Blind Side to illustrate the pitch: "You bought it and you've been meaning to watch it, but you haven't been able to find the two hours to set aside. Now, all of a sudden, you are at a two-hour layover in Dallas where there's Wi-Fi in the airport. Because you have access to a digital copy on your laptop, enjoy the movie right there at the airport. That changes the whole proposition of the value of ownership."
But some doubt whether consumers trained to value physical discs will be willing to switch to the cloud. "There's something to be said for just taking the DVD out of the little holder and slipping it immediately into your player, as compared to waiting for the cloud to show up, logging in, watching the bar on your screen or whatever," says Wall Street analyst Harold Vogel.
Aside from accessibility and ease of use, the burning issue for consumers is fear of a format war. That's why more than 70 studios, manufacturers and retailers have created DECE, which is about to launch the industry-wide UltraViolet format.
But the message will be mixed because Disney has a competing system, Disney All-Access, which includes a "Keychest" digital storage locker in the cloud. Disney insists its service will complement UltraViolet. "It's not our goal to create a format war," Disney CEO Robert Iger has said.
However, at least initially, buyers of UltraViolet system movies from Warner Bros., Universal, Sony and others won't be able to store Disney movies in the same account.
Disney believes its proprietary technology is simpler and easier for consumers to use. "They are creating a format for 70 companies that have to agree on usage rules, digital rights, management rules," says Chapek. "They create interoperability by creating a format. We do it by a handshake in the cloud between platforms and devices."
Retailers are bracing for the shift, expecting to sell fewer DVD players and discs. But many believe the momentum behind cloud-based movies will cause a boom in sales of digital files, as well as flat-screen TVs, tablet computers and other devices.
"Cloud locker storage -- whether it's UltraViolet, Amazon, wherever adoption goes -- is going to be incredibly popular," predicts DEG executive director Amy Jo Smith. "For the first time, you will be able to move content around to a variety of devices and platforms. I think as we move into 2012 and 2013, we will really see this take off."
That's what the studios will be selling this Christmas, as the DVD begins its ride into the sunset.
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes appears to be warming to Netflix but declined to comment on if a content deal is forthcoming
Warner Bros. will launch its first home entertainment discs to include cloud-based digital locker UltraViolet with the fourth-quarter releases of Green Lantern and Horrible Bosses.
In an Aug. 3 analyst call, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said the majority of home entertainment releases thereafter would include UltraViolet functionality. The virtual locker automatically gives buyers a digital copy of a new home entertainment acquisition that can be accessed on myriad compatible consumer electronics devices.
UltraViolet, along with Disney's KeyChest platform, is projected to reinvigorate home entertainment content sales.
Bewkes believes the recent acquisition of movie recommendation service Flixster will help sell UltraViolet. He said an updated version of the platform this week will be deeply integrated with UltraViolet.
We believe this could fundamentally change how people manage and watch their movie collection, Bewkes said. And it could significantly improve the value proposition of digital ownership.
UltraViolet is a groundbreaking new way for consumers to collect and enjoy their favorite movies and TV shows at home and on-the-go, across a wide range of devices, including computers, tablets and smartphones.
The UltraViolet Digital Copy includes a Standard Definition Digital Copy of the 2D theatrical version of the film. Special features are not included. Consumers must enter redemption code by October 14, 2013 to redeem offer. Digital Copy now includes streaming and 3 downloads. If the offer is redeemed prior to the deadline, delivery of streaming and downloads will be available at no additional charge for 3 years from date of redemption. Not compatible with all devices. Compatible devices subject to change. See packaging for restrictions and details.
Netflix Secures Streaming Deal With DreamWorks
By BROOKS BARNES and BRIAN STELTER
Published: September 25, 2011
LOS ANGELES DreamWorks Animation, the company behind successful movie franchises like Madagascar and Shrek, said it had completed a deal to pump its films and television specials through Netflix, replacing a less lucrative pact with HBO.The Netflix accord, which analysts estimate is worth $30 million per picture to DreamWorks over an unspecified period of years, is billed by the companies as the first time a major Hollywood supplier has chosen Web streaming over pay television.
It is also a bet by Jeffrey Katzenberg, the animation studio's chief executive, that consumers in the near future will not distinguish between the two. We are really starting to see a long-term road map of where the industry is headed, Mr. Katzenberg said in an interview. This is a game-changing deal.
Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, added: You're seeing power moving back into the hands of content creators. When a company like DreamWorks ends a long-running pay TV deal when a new buyer in the space steps up that's a really interesting landscape shift.
The DreamWorks contract comes as Netflix is trying to navigate a dense thicket of challenges. Competition from the likes of Apple, Amazon and Vudu, a streaming service owned by Wal-Mart, is increasingly fierce; Dish Network, which plucked Blockbuster out of bankruptcy earlier this year, on Friday announced a Blockbuster-branded streaming and DVD-by-mail service.
As a tidal wave of Netflix competitors enter, said Michael Nathanson, a media analyst for Nomura, in the short term it will probably be good for the price of content, because more bidders mean that media companies can charge more for the rights to stream movies like Avatar and shows like Modern Family.
More important, in the long term it may accelerate changes in consumer behaviors, Mr. Nathanson said, as more people choose to watch more video online.
Access to movies and TV shows is what matters most to Netflix, and Hollywood, after helping to build up the company with generous deals, is starting to play hardball. Next February, Netflix is expected to lose the right to stream films from Walt Disney Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment, as a result of a failed renegotiation with the premium cable channel Starz.
But Netflix's biggest challenge at the moment is self-inflicted. This summer, in an attempt to raise cash to license more streaming content, the company increased the price for its combination Internet streaming and DVD service, angering customers. On Sept. 18 it abruptly said it would split up the two services, frustrating fans of both.
About one million of its 25 million customers in the United States are believed to have dropped the service in this quarter. The company has lost half of its value about $8 billion worth over the last two months.
Mr. Katzenberg said he was confident about the direction Netflix was heading, calling the company's decision to split streaming and DVD a very tough and very strategic call that will ultimately prove to be the right one for long-term success.
Could it have been handled better? Absolutely, he added. But there are always bumps when you're looking around a corner.
Netflix will begin streaming DreamWorks films starting in 2013. The studio plans three releases that year: The Croods, a prehistoric comedy; Turbo, about a garden snail; and Peabody & Sherman, an adaptation of Rocky and Bullwinkle characters. Titles from the DreamWorks library, including Kung Fu Panda and Antz, will become available over time, the companies said.
The so-called pay TV window is one of the entertainment industry's most important business tools. In the past, HBO has paid steep licensing fees of about $20 million per picture for exclusive rights a few months after films arrive on DVD. But Netflix capitalizing on a consumer shift to streaming content on computers, tablets and Internet-connected televisions has been making similar deals, albeit mostly with smaller suppliers.
With the DreamWorks deal, Netflix will be able to offer customers exclusive access to a pipeline of films that are reliably some of the year's biggest box office successes. The opportunity to bolster its children's and family offerings was another reason Netflix pursued a DreamWorks deal so aggressively. Netflix will also gain streaming rights to DreamWorks television specials.
This is one of the few family entertainment brands that matter, Mr. Sarandos said. It's also a signal to people that we are in no way moving away from movies. Our programming is just reflecting more and more what people want.
For DreamWorks Animation, which has experienced a sharp erosion in its stock price over the last few months, the deal with Netflix comes with one major perk. HBO requires its studio partners to suspend digital sales of movies during its exclusive window, but Netflix will allow DreamWorks to keep selling digital downloads.
What does the loss of DreamWorks mean for HBO? Anything that increases the marketplace clout of Netflix is damaging, but the premium television service will most likely not miss it much. HBO's studio partners are increasingly making animated films and HBO recently brought in Summit Entertainment, the studio behind the Twilight films, as a new partner. HBO notably allowed DreamWorks out of its contract two years early.
Meanwhile, Netflix keeps adding television content. Last week, Netflix announced a renewed content deal with Discovery, the owner of channels like TLC and Animal Planet, that will result in streams of old episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, River Monsters and others. What is more important, Netflix is soon going to make the source network of shows clearer; people who turn on River Monsters will know it is an Animal Planet show.
Signaling support for Netflix, John Weiser, president of domestic distribution for Sony Pictures Television, called it an important player and a great customer, and said the two companies were actively discussing producing original programming together.
Netflix is already spending $100 million to create a series called House of Cards" and acquiring the American rights to overseas properties.
•2011-09-30: Many updates. New sections:
[1.1.3] When will UltraViolet be available?
[3.3.2] What's a DRM and why does it matter?
[4.6] I'm a small video producer. How do I get my video titles into UltraViolet?
[1.1.3] When will UltraViolet be available?
UltraViolet launches in two phases, the first in the fall of 2011 and the second planned for early 2012.
The first phase provides the full account and digital library system, but focuses on streaming access. The second phase adds download services for UltraViolet players, and will launch when UltraViolet players become available in the market. UltraViolet rights purchased in phase 1 will automatically extend to downloads in phase 2.
Time Warner Cable and U.S. pay-TV companies, weighing how to profit from surging Internet demand spurred by Netflix and Hulu, are on the verge of instituting new fees on Web-access customers who use the most data.
I have a 20 meg comcast service at home. I spent a few weeks at my parents, who have 5 meg DSL. The only time I noticed a big difference was when downloading large files. Things like Netflix seemed to be of equal quality.
I guess I've just never heard it discussed by telco companies. For some reason I was under the impression that bandwidth wasn't as big of a problem. I could be wrong.
Netflix is out of the consortium that created UltraViolet, the technology platform designed to make digital movies accessible to any device or service.
(Credit: Greg Sandoval/CNET)
Sources told CNET that the highest-ranking executive representing Netflix within Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a group of more than 70 companies connected to the film industry, recently did not renew his membership. Current members include Hollywood studios, software and hardware makers, film distributors, and retailers.
Wonder if this is because: UltraViolet Garners Support from Samsung and Amazon.
Netflix bows out of studios' UltraViolet group
Wonder if this is because: UltraViolet Garners Support from Samsung and Amazon.
I think it's because the studios want to focus on SALES of movies via electronic sell-through and not rentals or subscriptions, those things may come at a future date, though....With DVD sales declining, they want to do something to pump up sales of films.....
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in
Be careful where you roam...
If people would be proactive and check with their service provider before going on vacation it would avoid issues. I've always done this especially when going into Canada. So I know exactly what I will be charged .
Of course the first thing I've always done when i get a new cell phone is to turn off roaming. it's been extremely rare for me to need it over the last eighteen years that i've been using cell phones.
New Copyright Alert System to Target File-Sharing Users
16 Apr, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey
Starting July 1 the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) will oversee a program that has the nation's largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) implementing measures aimed at discouraging illegal file sharing.
CCI will oversee the Copyright Alert system, a graduated response system that has ISPs warning Internet users who participate in illegal file sharing. CCI was created in September 2011 by five major ISPs, the six major studios of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Independent Film & Television Alliance, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and The American Association of Independent Music. Comcast, AT&T, Cablevision, Verizon and Time Warner Cable are the ISPs signed on to the program.
Netflix, which tracks some of the highest Internet traffic during peak hours, posted a list of fastest ISPs based on their performance delivering the subscription video-on-demand’s streaming content in November. Netflix plans to release a monthly ranking on domestic ISP speed trials.
“Our 30 million members view over 1 billion hours of Netflix per month, so we have very reliable data for consumers to compare ISPs in terms of real world performance,” Ken Florance, VP of content delivery, wrote in a blog post.
Other top speed ISPs included Verizon's FiOS service at No. 2 with 2.19 Mbps, followed by Comcast and Charter at 2.17 Mbps.
Rounding out the Top 10 were Cablevision (2.17 Mbps), Mediacom (2.14), Time Warner Cable (2.12), Brighthouse (2.12), Cox (2.07) and Suddenlink at 2.06 Mbps.
Are there any services that download or stream the full 1080p/24 with DTS or DD lossless audio like BR has? I see that Vudu HDX has close to the video quality of BR, but still not as good, especially on a 120 inch wide screen with a pj, and does not have the lossless audio.
I am interested only in a rental format.
There is plan for a 4K media server from Red and Sony to download 4K source material, but no word if it is purchase or rental format.
No and I would not expect to see one in the foreseeable future. From my post above:
Typical TrueHD or Master Audio bit rates average 4 to 5 Mbps (peak rates can be much higher) on Blu-ray disc. That is more than twice the rate for a typical Netflix stream (audio + Video) and about half the rate of a Vudu HDX stream (audio + Video). The name of the game in streaming is low bit rates because bit storage & delivery cost money and a large portion of high speed users does not have the BW required for high bit rate audio and video.
The typical Blu-ray disc will average 30 Mbps for video and 4 to 5 Mbps for lossless audio. Many disc will have additional bits for other audio tracks. See Ralph Potts reviews here at AVS for BD data.
FWIW, many here rip their 3D Blu-ray disc for playing via their media players and they say the bit rates can exceed 90 Mbps.
OK, I can understand the high bandwidth demand for streaming 1080p and lossless audio, but what about downloading to a device in which it would take longer and not available for immediate viewing but could be viewed after it downloaded? Or is it the same problem that files that size would be restricted by the ISP whether streamed or downloaded? I only bring this up since Red and Sony are releasing media servers to download 4K sources to feed their 4K displays and hopefully with lossless audio and those files I assume would be much larger than 1080p with lossless audio.