Despite the sudden glut of video streaming services, the joint Redbox-Verizon initiative presses on. And, according to GigaOm, up next for the $8/month service will be Google TV and Roku clients. Given the Android set-top’s limited penetration, having failed to land on the “majority” of televisions, and upcoming retirement of Flash I’m somewhat surprised Redbox Instant has prioritized gTV ahead of 5 million Rokus… but perhaps it’s a simple(r) matter of porting their existing Android app over developing for a new platform (that I know has caused significant challenges for another manufacturer in this space). At the moment, Amazon Prime Instant meets most of our all-you-can-eat streaming needs and I’m not aware of many Redbox Instant subscribers in my circle. Perhaps, if they build it, the customers will come.
Archives For Video
According to Businessweek, Amazon intends to take on the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Roku with a streaming set-top box. Given Amazon’s failed bid for Roku, ever-expanding cloud offerings, and even their own Android marketplace, it’s not an inconceivable approach – yet we’ll classify this as a rumor until more concrete evidence presents itself. With the downward pricing pressure in this space, margins wouldn’t the greatest. But a streaming box could certainly help Amazon build out and reinforce their ecosystem… despite making similar apps available to other platforms. And Amazon has the luxury of bazillions of eyeballs without having to make room (or spend) on hotly contested retail shelving. As with their Kindle Fire initiative, we’d expect such a product to run a custom UI on top of Android (should this come to fruition, of course). Meaning, Amazon might become the first company to produce a “Google TV” with any sort of significant sales.
Amidst Hulu’s identity crisis, their Windows and Mac Hulu Desktop software has gone missing. First introduced in 2009, these apps provided another means of video playback… with the benefit of Apple and Microsoft Media Center remote control support. But they unceremoniously vanished from the web several weeks back, along with all of Hulu Labs. A Hulu support rep indicates they are “investigating the matter” (huh?) and “hope to make the link available again soon.” With no further information beyond guidance for “users to stream off the website” and “soon” having coming and gone, we’re left to wonder if Hulu has pulled the plug on this method of video consumption. Not that we care all that much, having mostly avoided the service since being accosted with two-minute Scientology commercials.
Hillcrest Labs stopped working on its HoME interface for smart TVs close to seven years ago. And yet the UI is still better than most you’ll see on the market today.
I stopped by the Hillcrest Labs HQ earlier this month, and, as part of the visit, got a full demo walk-through of HoME. The reference TV UI includes web apps, movie cover art, a beautiful zooming motion, and easy drill-down options for content discovery across TV and personal media. Kodak used the design in its Kodak Theatre HD player, but unfortunately that product launched in 2008… just before the financial crash, and just as Kodak was starting to slide into bankruptcy.
The HoME interface isn’t used anywhere today, and Hillcrest has decided to back-burner the technology. However, the company still holds numerous patents in the space. While Hillcrest execs have turned their focus to motion-sensing software (more on that another time), they also aren’t closing the door on future TV UI development efforts. HoME could make a return someday.
In the meantime, check out another photo from my Hillcrest visit. My favorite is the photo library from CES 2005. That happens to be the first year I ever made it out to the Vegas show. Bill Gates was keynoting, and the Ojo video phone was making its rounds. Good times.
The free, ad-supported Popcornflix movie service is coming to Sony’s connected Bravia TVs and Blu-ray devices. Already available on Roku and Boxee, Popcornflix draws from the movie catalog of its parent company Screen Media Ventures. This is no Netflix alternative, and you won’t find recent movie hits available for free. However, Popcornflix reportedly has a library of more than 650 films, and it’s adding more each month. The service was already available on both Roku and Boxee boxes.
Although I admit my tastes are probably too mainstream for most of the movies on Popcornflix (or at least I don’t have the mental energy to search for something I’d like), I do find it interesting to see a content company pursuing direct distribution. This isn’t necessarily a viable solution for many studios who have other types of revenue models in place, but it does suggest that there is a level at which direct distribution works beyond one-off productions like the upcoming Kickstarter-funded Veronica Mars movie. Last June GigaOM reported that Popcornflix was behind only the big guys like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix in number of Roku downloads. The fact that distribution is expanding suggests the revenue stream is worthwhile.
Related- Remember when Sony was considering its own virtual MSO last year? It looks like the company is hoping to add to its content stores in other ways now.
There’s something of a glut in the media streamer space, with most new entrants falling into the “unmemorable” category — and we regularly pass on covering the parade of derivative boxes. However, Western Digital’s no stranger to this market and we’ve often recommended their solutions over the years. And, with WDTV Play, they bring a compelling new approach… along with competitive pricing ($70).
Whereas prior WD TV revs seem to emphasize personal media, the new WD TV Play prioritizes streaming media services. And, with the notable exceptions of Amazon Instant, Western Digital pretty much has most of the tent pole apps covered: Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Vudu. While no one can really touch Roku in “channel” count, there’s a lot of
crap niche programming. WDTV Play may have fewer channels, but the signal to noise ratio is much more favorable.
What really sets this device apart Continue Reading…
A random web search turned me on to some interesting Roku job openings, emphasizing content relationships and recommendations. Individually, maybe they’re not so compelling. But from a holistic standpoint, perhaps these new positions shed a bit of light on Roku’s ambitions and decision to turn down an Amazon acquisition in favor of additional funding.
The first role is Roku Programming Director… to be located in Los Angeles. Which, of course, much of the content industry calls home. “The Director will survey the landscape of available content, plans and strategies” to assist “business development prioritize content acquisition efforts. ” Hm. By comparison, the Content Programming Manager will be based at Roku’s Nothern California headquarters and will basically function as a full-time recommendation engine: Continue Reading…
You know what is 100% free and doesn’t require any payment to the cable industry? Broadcast TV. This guy is suggesting people pay money every month – albeit to a different company – to watch something that is broadcast OVER THE AIR. […] if all you are watching are broadcast channels, you certainly don’t need to be paying Aereo or anyone else for it.
While Turk makes some reasonable points regarding onerous retransmission fees and Aereo’s legal challenges, there’s way more to the service than basic access to broadcast channels. $8/month grants you access to two micro antennas and 20 hours of cloud DVR storage space (or $12 for 40hrs). So not only does Aereo provide “live” broadcast television, but you can schedule season passes and the like. Further, you’re not confined to a television and set-top box in your home as Aereo pretty much allows you to watch your live and recorded television programming via any modern browser… including the ones found on our smartphones and tablets. Continue Reading…