We’ve long pined for the day we could legitimately share our legally acquired digital content, similar to how we often recycle physical media, without piracy or loaning out HBO credentials as so many do. Well, the UltraViolet consortium, consisting of a large number of movie studios, obviously sees some value in keeping their customers happy — perhaps as a way to cut down on theft and grow their digital ecosystem. And Walmart’s Vudu is the first provider to implement their new licensing.
Share My Movies by Vudu allows us to grant access to our cloud-based video library to five others. And, instead of messing with passwords and the like, invites are handed out via email address – as similarly implemented on Slingbox. This makes me a whole heck of a lot more more likely to purchase Blu-rays (with digital copies), knowing I can have my mom tune into any worthy flicks via her Roku. As we saw with UltraViolet’s disc-to-digital initiative, I anticipate other UltraViolet services like Flixster and Target Ticket will eventually offer similar sharing capabilities.
Looks as if TiVo has made the command decision to retire DVR management and scheduling via m.tivo.com. These web-based mobile features were originally introduced to the microsite back in 2008 … well before TiVo’s Android and iPhone apps hit the scene. Unfortunately, TiVo’s customer base runs more than those two platforms and some even prefer the efficiency of the (former) mobile site to the sluggish desktop rendition. Having said that, we imagine TiVo ran the stats and the usage numbers don’t support continued development. Continue Reading…
With all the promotional buzz around Verizon’s viewdini mobile video portal last week, it was easy to miss Comcast’s new video app, Xfinity Instant. To be fair, Comcast’s mobile app isn’t a commercial product yet, but it was on display right beside viewdini in the Comcast booth at this year’s Cable Show in Boston.
Right now, Xfinity Instant is a project out of Comcast Labs with no set launch date. However, at least in concept, it bears a striking resemblance to viewdini. With a magazine-like layout for tablets, the Comcast app lets users filter video content by actor, genre, title or network. It also provides recommended titles based on your viewing habits, and highlights featured videos in editorial fashion. You can launch a video selection directly from the app and rate content when you’re done watching it.
What’s most interesting about the app, though, is that according to the demo guys at the booth, Xfinity Instant was developed with no knowledge that viewdini was in the works. In fact, one Comcast employee explained that the development team hadn’t even heard of viewdini until it was announced at the show. Apparently in the rush to cozy up to Verizon as a viewdini content partner, Comcast senior management didn’t get around to telling its own developers about the potentially competitive product. Continue Reading…
By far my favorite thing at the Cable Show this year has been the NDS concept demo of Surfaces, a next-gen TV experience that puts video on the walls around you. The theory from NDS – a set-top and video software company out of the UK – is that TV doesn’t have to fit into a TV set. Instead, it can be overlaid on modular panels that give you the flexibility to see video in different sizes and combine it with other information and associated content.
In the demo I saw yesterday, NDS showed everything from TV clips to music playlists, news feeds and a baby monitor “live” stream. The demo was controlled from an iPad, but all of the content appeared on the wall in front of us in a variety of layouts. For example, one moment we were watching a movie across an entire wall of seamlessly connected screens, but the next we were interacting with a mosaic of widgets that pushed TV content to a much smaller window off to the side of the viewing area.
NDS also showed off 4K-resolution video on the wall-sized display. (Sourced from YouTube, by the way…) Words don’t do it justice, and unfortunately neither does the photo I took with my cheap point-and-shoot camera. However, suffice it to say, the effect is stunning. Continue Reading…
Panasonic announced a few weeks ago it was getting out of the US set-top biz, something it pursued briefly in retail, but far longer through cable operator channels. That headline wasn’t terribly surprising, but today’s company news is a little different. According to The Wall Street Journal, Panasonic has also stopped manufacturing VCRs in its home country of Japan. Yes, VCRs. You know those old machines that your mother still hopes you’ll use to copy her VHS tapes over to a new medium? Panasonic is selling out its inventory in Japan, and then VCR sales there will be no more.
As a corollary to the Japanese news, The Wall Street Journal does point out that Panasonic will continue to manufacture VCRs in China and Slovakia. That’s likely because there continues to be a market among consumers who still cling to their VHS collections. Reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi characterizes the generational VCR divide this way:
If you had trouble programming it, you are probably a baby boomer or older.
If you know the cure for the fuzzy picture — pop the tape out; depress the small button on the side; pull back the lid and blow air ever-so gently onto the black strip to dislodge dust and other particles – you are probably a Generation X baby.
One final note: It’s staggering to watch how quickly DVD players are following VCRs down the path of obscurity. The Digital Entertainment Group reported last month that DVD sales dropped 20% in 2011 to $6.8 billion. Blu-ray disc sales fared better, up 19% last year, cresting $2 billion in sales.
Reutersdropped a veritable bombshell yesterday when it reported that Verizon has plans to launch a streaming service in 2012 to compete with Netflix. It wasn’t a bombshell because Verizon’s never talked about this before. After all, we got an inkling of the operator’s plans at CES last January. It was a bombshell because the report follows last week’s announcement of a major spectrum deal between the telco and its cable competitors. The combination of news has many speculating about what Verizon plans to do with its FiOS TV service, and all that fiber it’s got in the ground.
First off, here are some of the facts. Reuters says Verizon is currently in talks with prospective programming partners about a new standalone video service. The service would not be tied to FiOS TV, and it would be made available outside of existing FiOS markets. Sources for Reuters say content for the service would be limited, possibly focused on movie packages and/or children’s programming.
Assuming Reuters’ information is accurate, what we don’t know yet is how a new streaming service would fit into Verizon’s overall video and broadband strategy. Some are suggesting that Verizon is giving up on its wireline infrastructure in order to focus on wireless. After all, why not ride someone else’s pipes for video, and dedicate valuable internal resources on developing the company’s newly acquired spectrum? The problem with that theory is that Verizon’s wireline infrastructure – aka its fiber-to-the-home network – is a huge competitive advantage. Not only has it allowed the telco to sign up 5 million FiOS TV subscribers, it’s also given Verizon a huge leg up on cable with Internet delivery.
Going forward, I believe Verizon will use its proposed on-demand streaming service as a way to gain incremental revenue and fill the gaps where it can’t reach subscribers with its FiOS TV offering. It seems likely that the operator will market the new service with its wireless packages, possibly offering discounts for a different kind of bundle when consumers are willing to sign up for both cell phone coverage and streaming content. I believe the new service will buy Verizon new customers and a new revenue stream, but that it won’t negate the value of the company’s wireline assets. Instead, it will give Verizon time to sort out when it should invest in further fiber deployments, ultimately extending the footprint for its full FiOS TV and Internet service.
When it comes down to it, Verizon’s fiber network is the ace up its sleeve. All that bandwidth means better control over video quality, and it means more capacity for consumers who want to download and upload lots and lots of stuff on the Internet. Wireless networks are great, but they have their limitations. Verizon can focus on 4G rollouts now, but that doesn’t mean it should or will abandon any fiber plans for the future. There are too many advantages that come with Verizon’s network in the ground.
Bloomberg reported late last night that Netflix is in talks with DreamWorks Animation to get exclusive streaming rights to its content starting in 2013. This is a big deal, and it follows a strategy we’ve seen Netflix pursue for many months now. Rather than be a cable TV substitute, Netflix is looking to make select deals for premium content – first-run and original programming – while filling in its library with back-catalog selections. At the the $7.99 price point, that makes for a pretty compelling offering, and Netflix can hook different consumers with different bait. The potential DreamWorks deal, for example, could be catnip for parents of young children.
By being selective with its licensing decisions, Netflix can (hopefully) keep prices reasonable. And with more content in the works, maybe the company can even woo Dave back. ;)