MovieKlub Mail Order DVD Service

Dave Zatz —  February 24, 2006

Here we have yet another video distribution system that will fail (see MovieBeam ). MovieKlub will send you up to two DVDs a week for $24.99/month. So what’s the big deal? These movies can only be played 3 times… then you toss them out or return them for recycling. We’ve seen similar schemes in the past which expire discs by calling in or through degradation via exposure to air or laser… none have succeeded as business models. MovieKlub is scheduled to begin operations this summer.

No thank you — Netflix has got me covered until a better VOD/PPV experience arrives.

MovieKlub says: The Limited Play DVD disc has a coating composed of a dye capable of being irreversibly bleached by light absorption. In this DVD, the information encoding features are machine-readable prior to bleaching of the dye, which is activated by absorption of the laser light in the DVD player. The dye, once bleached, inhibits further reading of the information encoding features. Based on the application of the dye, the number of read/plays of the disc can be controlled and pre-determined. With the Limited Play DVD disc, however, upon sufficient exposure to the reading laser beam, the dye in the disc coating undergoes a change in the index of refraction, resulting in unrecoverable data.

(via Hacking Netflix)

TiVo Is Dead? Again?

Dave Zatz —  February 23, 2006

Let’s face it… if you’re a journalist, bashing TiVo is good for business. Very few companies inspire the cult-like loyalty and name recognition (a small player like) TiVo enjoys. There’s nothing like a negatory article to energize the masses. That could explain why every few months both the Motley Fool and Phillip Swann of TV Predictions claim TiVo is dying and/or will be acquired.

While it’s possible TiVo may die or be bought, their reasoning is illogical. Both point to TiVo’s Valentine’s Day mixer as a red flag. Do critics chime in that McDonalds is doomed whenever they release a bizarre television commercial? TiVo’s ultimate success or failure cannot (and should not) be gauged by a small marketing experiment designed to excite fans.

It’s true TiVo will lose a ton of subscribers when their deal with DirecTV expires. However, Comcast has roughly twice as many potential customers (~32 million) as DTV. It’s true TiVo’s release of the Series 3 HD model is taking too long. However, many of us will wait patiently for a HD stand-alone box while TiVo continues to add Series 2 subscribers. It’s true TiVo has not been profitable with the exception of one quarter. However, TiVo is investing in themselves by acquiring customers. Not to mention, it’s that critical mass of subscribers which has allowed them to sell more advertising at presumably higher rates.

In all likelihood, TiVo will never die. This kind of branding and buzz would be snapped up in a heartbeat if the current management team failed and TiVo were in trouble. More importantly, DVR technology is here to stay. I’m fine with competition in the marketplace — it forces companies to innovate and keep prices reasonable.

I know you visit my site for the hard-hitting journalism ;), so I asked the question many of us have been wondering… and during a brief email exchange Phillip Swann informed me he owns “zero stock.”

Swanni says: Unlike TiVo, tech companies such as Apple and Google have enjoyed remarkable success in the last year. So they are now getting the overwhelming (and sometimes gushing) coverage that TiVo once enjoyed. Tech reporters — like everyone else in the media — loves a winner, or at least the appearance of a winner. Apple and Google now look like winners while TiVo looks like a loser.

Fool says: If there’s anything the Olympics bring to mind, it’s the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat. Not that TiVo’s a full-on defeat, but for the past couple of years, “disappointment” seems to be a reasonable word to describe the company. I was once a TiVo bull — I even owned shares long ago — but lately it seems as if TiVo has stalled out in the innovation department.

Democracy Internet TV Launches

Dave Zatz —  February 23, 2006

Democracy, who bill themselves as a free, open source, Internet TV platform, is now available for PC and Mac beta testing with planned support for Linux. The combination video player, publisher, and aggregator seems to be getting a decent amount of attention, but I’m not quite sold. I already have free software which handles video podcasts, home videos, and movie trailers just fine. And let us not forget there’s a reason why VH1 calls it Web Junk. Democracy’s biggest hook is that it will allow people to publish or retrieve BitTorrent content in an automated fashion… which is how folks will pick up what they really want: television shows and movies. So, what’s the over/under (in weeks) before the studios conclude Democracy sounds a lot like Piracy?

If you’re wondering what video formats are supported, the Windows player is powered by VLC and the Mac’s by QuickTime.

Democracy says: “The days of waiting for internet video to buffer and watching it in a tiny box are over,” says Participatory Culture Foundation co-founder Nicholas Reville. “With Democracy, internet video is ready to play when you want to watch it, like TiVo, and it fills the entire screen.” Democracy builds on cutting edge RSS, Firefox, and BitTorrent technology to empower anyone to watch, share, broadcast and download video over the internet in a way that enables higher digital resolution, full screen video playback, continuous non-buffered play, and an open standards environment free of adware or spyware — a much more TV-like experience than traditional web video, and with far more diversity and freedom than traditional TV.

TiVo Valentine’s Day Recap

Dave Zatz —  February 16, 2006

Couldn’t make TiVo’s little Valentine’s Day singles soiree? Me neither… Fortunately my secret TiVo Valentine sent me some clever party favors and Davis Freeberg reported his W hotel experiences. I still haven’t decided if this was marketing genius or lunacy, but the folks in attendance seemed to have a good time.
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Mac TiVo Desktop Updated

Dave Zatz —  February 15, 2006

TiVo offered up a little more Valentine’s Day love for us yesterday when they released TiVo Desktop 1.9.2 for OSX. So I went ahead and installed the brand-spanking new software. No new features as far as I can tell, but both Panther and Tiger are now listed as being fully supported. The good news: TiVo obviously has some Mac expertise on staff. The bad… if TiVoToGo for Mac were anywhere need ready to ship, I don’t think this package would have been released as an obvious stop-gap. The update doesn’t support Intel-based Macs, but I’m giving TiVo a pass on this one since Apple delivered 6 months early and few people have them in their possession.

Update: Bob Poniatowski, of TiVo Product Marketing, is hopeful an Intel-compatible TiVo Desktop will be available in 6-8 weeks. Additionally, Mac hacker Dennis Wilkinson has uncovered TiVoToGo-related code within 1.9.2. Makes ya wonder if Mac TTG is only 8 weeks out…

Continue Reading…

Disney’s MovieBeam Goes HD

Dave Zatz —  February 14, 2006

MovieBeam, who just received a large cash infusion, is relaunching in 29 markets this year. In fact, my neighborhood already appears to be online. Basically you buy the Linksys MovieBeam set-top box, every week a few movies are downloaded via a digital over-the-air (OTA) signal, and then you choose which you want to rent. The movie rental includes a 24 hour viewing period and typical DVR controls. Initially, only Disney and Warner Brothers content will be offered.

If they weren’t upgrading the service to include HD movies, I’d say they’re doomed to fail with this pricing model. By offering HD, they may have a chance… though I wouldn’t bet on it. I believe most people will still prefer Netflix’s understandable low-tech methods and reasonable rates. Not to mention, anyone with a cable or satellite box has access to some sort of PPV or VOD without MovieBeam’s upfront hardware fee. Things could get interesting since Disney, the originator and a major investor, is leveraging their movie library by making flicks available to MovieBeam 30 days prior to when cable providers can offer them via VOD.

LA Times says: The service allows customers to rent movies from a library of 100 titles stored in a set-top box. As many as 10 new films, including some in high definition, are automatically delivered to the device each week via television airwaves. The MovieBeam box costs $199.99 after a $50 rebate and requires a one-time service activation fee of $30. Movie rental fees are $3.99 for new releases — $4.99 for films in high definition — and $1.99 for older titles.

I woke up to some depressing news this AM… Leon Nicholls, the sole developer of Galleon, has decided to move on to “other interesting technologies.” TiVo subscribers are losing a great resource, and TiVo, Inc. is losing a great advocate. I’m hopeful that TiVo enthusiasts with some coding chops will pick up where he’s left off and that TiVo will do more to encourage HME development going forward.

Leon says: I think that TiVo has not done enough to keep my interest in their technology. I think that they can still do something about improving the situation, but then they have to be committed to really supporting third-party developers. They need to do much more than throwing their SDK over the wall and hoping that something will come of it. So what does this mean for the Galleon media server which is based on HME? As the lone developer of the project, its been interesting and fun playing with the technology sofar. However, the hope was that the technology would go somewhere and that TiVo would communicate with third-party developers about their roadmap. So, I’m sad to announce that I’ve decided to reduce my development efforts on the project. I might still release some bug fixes, but these won’t be as frequent as the releases in the past. I also don’t have any plans on adding any additional functionality to Galleon.