Archives For DVD

While Netflix shifts their focus to online streaming, Comcast (?!) and Blockbuster have teamed to provide DVDs By Mail — a soon-to-be-archaic method of content distribution and quintuply befuddling given Comcast’s large data conduit into millions of customer’s homes. I assume DVDs By Mail is primarily a marketing arrangement on Comcast’s end and potentially good for Blockbuster, who has been living on borrowed time – with imminent bankruptcy proceedings? (Put a fork in ’em.) Netflix does anticipate their DVD shipments will peak in 2013 (or sooner). So there could be a small window of opportunity to capitalize on here… although I don’t see it happening.

(via HackingNetflix)


I’ve been critical of DivX’s efforts to woo Hollywood in the past, but I’ve also got to give them credit for a win when I see one and I think they knocked it out of the park when it comes to Paramount.

Recently, Paramount announced that they were going to be distributing content on USB sticks. At the time, they didn’t say what format it would be in and even on DivX’s conference call there was no mention of this realization of their strategic vision, but Electric Pig reports the Paramount movies will in fact be encoded in DivX.

With only 20,000 memory sticks for sale and at a price of approximately $33 US, Paramount is still clearly in the testing phase. But the fact that they choose DivX demonstrates the clear advantage that DivX has over all of their other digital competitors and have the only real solution for brick and mortar retailers.

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As ZNF readers are well aware, one of the biggest challenges we face with digital media (books, music, video) is in sharing it. Legally.  Over at Live Digitally, Jeremy Toeman details one possible scenario for an Amazon Kindle used book store – allowing folks to resell books back to Amazon for a store credit. And in turn, Amazon offering these ‘books’ at a lower cost than ‘new’ ones.

Despite his calculations, I’m not sold. Traditional supply, demand, production, and distribution rules don’t transfer cleanly from the analog world to a wired marketplace hawking digital goods. Other than an artificially lower resale value, what’s the difference between a ‘used’ ebook and a ‘new’ one?

A better solution to increase adoption and loyalty while staving off piracy is the integration of a gifting option. After purchasing most Season 1 episodes of Mad Men and Burn Notice digitally, I’d have liked to give these titles to my mom (~1,000 miles away). Instead, I ended up buying her the DVDs. Which I’m sure the studios love. But how about thinking bigger picture?

What if each digital download/license could be transferred (not copied) just once – what I believe to be a reasonable compromise between producers and consumers. And let’s give incentivize the retailers by limiting transfers to their own ecosystem. So in my case, Apple would get a new iTunes member in my mom and probably an Apple TV purchase – as I don’t see her watching video for any length of time at the computer. Building upon one of Jeremy’s ideas, perhaps retailers could also facilitate bartering (with a per exchange fee) between strangers. Which could also be a big win for music discovery, leading to additional digital purchases.

Over the years, I’ve had many music licensing, DRM, etc talks with ZNF contributor Dale Dietrich. He (had) envisioned a digital media “utopia” where every piece of content is registered with a unique serial number via an online licensing clearinghouse – and could be freely traded, sold, or loaned. In reality and unfortunately, I doubt any of our scenarios will come to pass. They’re too consumer friendly. And perhaps to complex. Guess we’ll continue to settle for low-def Hulu streaming with commercial interruption.

Over the last few years, Redbox has been able to build an impressive DVD rental network by being innovative and flexible while their competitors were still laughing at the concept of kiosk rentals. Over time they’ve added features to the Redbox website that allow customers to browse and reserve titles online. They’ve linked their kiosks together so that unlike competitors (ahem: Blockbuster), you can actually rent a movie from one location and return it at another. Redbox’s core business may ultimately be, plain old boring physical DVD rentals, but there’s no denying that they’ve been an innovator in their industry. Which is why I am so perplexed by their most recent decision to go hostile against iPhone owners.

Given the company’s reputation for thinking progressively, I was disappointed to learn that they’ve decided to take a technological step backwards by putting pressure on the Inside Redbox blog, to kill their Inside Redbox iPhone application.

Continue Reading…


I’m a subscriber to Netflix’s one-out-at-a-time, unlimited plan ($8.99/month) to keep costs down, yet still receive a physical DVD every week and have unlimited access to the Netflix online video streaming. Some who use the Roku or Xbox 360 might wonder why there isn’t a streaming-only plan for a little less money. According to an interview with Bloomberg News, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is considering that very thing.

Hastings didn’t reveal how much they might charge for a streaming-only subscription with Netflix, but he did say that this type of play could arrive “late this year” or in 2010. The question then would be: How much are customers willing to pay for such a service? They have definitely upgraded their streaming movie collection, but it’s still full of older movies and TV shows. If Netflix offered a “premium” streaming service with newer movies and a larger collection, I’d be willing to pay more. Would you pay for an online-streaming-only service from Netflix?

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Geek Tonic.

redbox Redbox, the popular movie rental kiosks, is being completely acquired by Coinstar. McDonalds is selling their share in the company (they’ll still own some stock as part of the deal) and are leaving the video rental business to the guys at Coinstar. The business has been pretty good for Redbox as they continue to expand their $1 per movie per day business across the country. Expect to see Blu-ray disc rentals for a bit over $1 (could be up to $2) in the near future based on a report by Inside Redbox.

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Geek Tonic.

ZNF ‘Round The Web

Dave Zatz —  January 23, 2009

Leaving comments across the blogosphere…

Control TiVo With Your iPhone for $3
I’m sorry, but a TiVo touchscreen remote is so much less efficient than the Glo remote. I don’t want to look down to change channels. Nor do I want to keep my iPhone on for a two hour Lost episode. I also prefer to adjust the volume on my television.

Boxee Gets ABC
Of course the challenge with services like Boxee, PlayOn, NeurosLINK is keeping up with the providers since as far as I can tell the stuff is being scraped. And should the providers make a change, these other guys will need to race to keep up. PlayOn’s had one or two Hulu outages for example when Hulu changed their site somewhat. Ideally, all the networks get on Hulu. And then Hulu gets on a box. Every episode, every season. (Of course, licensing doesn’t work that way with the various guilds and entities that all must be paid at rates that slide around depending on length of availability, release timing, etc – no one can afford it all.)

Apple TV Stays on its “Hobby” Horse
The bottom line here is that the living room is still a tough nut to crack if offering a separate box. The cable and satellite cos really have a stranglehold on the living room here in the US. (I wish we’d see a UK Freeview-esque movement which might open up the set-top box space.) Additionally, Bruce’s point is well taken. AppleTV is still too much of a closed ecosystem (without hacking) which in keeps many of the early adopters away – who often kickstart new tech adoption.

DISH Network coming to Windows Media Center
Draco? I thought it was Stargate. Too many codenames! Although, it’s possible there are two initiatives. Relaying ViP 211 content to a Media Center and some sort of Internet streaming. Then again, with the whole SlingGuide they may shift gears and this project could suffer the same fate of DirecTV’s MCE tuner.

MPAA vs RealDVD — Why You Care
No mention of the DVD Copy Control Association? They’ve licensed CSS to DVD-burning kiosks. So they, and the MPAA, may not necessarily be against sharing the tech and permitting archiving. (Before HD DVD was killed, Windows Vista archiving was demo-ed/pitched by Microsoft at CES.) But they didn’t produce, validate, or vette Real’s protection scheme. And it’s not Real’s technology to use without license. Having said that, I do agree many large companies are overzealous in claiming DMCA violations that appear to trump pre-existing fair use consumer protections. (In fact, I’m tired of YouTube takedown notices.) At the end of the day, most folks who want to archive their DVDs already know how. (Basically, I don’t believe there’s a market for Real’s software.) And I don’t see individual consumers, who don’t share their files on BitTorrent, being dragged into court for bypassing an encryption scheme or stealing.