Content distributors have begun to embrace devices such as Apple‚Äôs iPad and iPhone as ‚Äúsecond screens,‚ÄĚ delivering supplemental content in sync with broadcast television programs. But Apple, according to a new report, may soon market its mobile devices as the primary controllers of consumers‚Äô home entertainment experience, as the company looks to fulfill late founder Steve Jobs‚Äôs vision for transforming the television business.
Apple is working on an Internet-connected television that would receive streams of television shows, movies, and other content, according to The Wall Street Journal. Such a television ‚ÄĒ which would work in tandem with devices like the iPhone and iPad, according to the Journal‚Äôs sources ‚ÄĒ would represent an evolved strategy for Apple, which currently markets the ‚ÄúApple TV‚ÄĚ streaming media set-top box. The company has remained ‚Äúvague‚ÄĚ in sharing details of its plans in talks with media executives; however, as the Journal reports, the talks themselves suggest that Apple is moving forward with its strategy.
Tempering the hype at CES for Internet-connected ‚Äúsmart‚ÄĚ TVs and app-based home entertainment, a panel of Hollywood digital gurus agreed that device manufacturers and digital content distributors have yet to earn mass-market appeal for such devices.
Today‚Äôs smart TVs are ‚Äúclearly not ready for primetime,‚ÄĚ said Lionsgate‚Äôs Curt Marvis (via paidContent). Marvis was critical in his review of one anonymous device: ‚ÄúOther than Netflix and Qriocity [Sony‚Äôs streaming video-on-demand service], there was nothing on there that worked very well at all. It reminded me of the old CD-ROM days.‚ÄĚ
Meanwhile, Fox Broadcasting‚Äôs Hardie Tankersley dismissed Google TV‚Äôs web-browsing as a ‚Äúlame‚ÄĚ experience that ‚Äúnobody wants.‚ÄĚ
Other panelists saw promise beyond the first generation of ‚Äúsmart‚ÄĚ TVs and devices. ‚ÄúThe app environment,‚ÄĚ said Steve Canepa of IBM‚Äôs media and entertainment unit, ‚Äúallows for authentication, it allows for a business model that gets a much better share for the content creator.‚ÄĚ
First launched in a ‚Äúpreview‚ÄĚ version in July, the Hulu Plus subscription service is now generally available, with the online video site dropping its monthly price to $7.99 to step up its competition with Netflix.
In a blog post Hulu says that current subscribers who joined during the preview period would receive a credit for the difference from original $9.99/month price.
As of today, the Internet TV service is available on devices including Roku boxes and PlayStation 3 consoles; Hulu said Plus would come to a range of other devices, including Blu-ray players from Panasonic and LG Electronics and the Xbox 360 system, in the months to come.
In other Internet TV news, the Vudu movies-on-demand service is set for debut on Sony‚Äôs PlayStation Network next week (via ZDNet). The Walmart-owned company will begin offering its 4,000-film catalog to PlayStation 3 users on Nov. 23, with two-night rentals starting at $2.
Vudu also unveiled plans to upgrade its user interface by the end of the year, sharing snapshots of Vudu 2.0 on its corporate blog.
Time Warner Cable reported a third-quarter decline of 155,000 video subscribers, while New York-area provider Cablevision reported a loss of 24,500 subscribers during the same period (via Home Media Magazine). But even as the subscriber losses exceeded analyst expectations, the cable operators echoed Comcast‚Äôs reckoning from last month (via the Wall Street Journal)¬†that subscriber declines are due to general economic conditions ‚ÄĒ as opposed to the advent of Internet-based entertainment options.
Other industry observers maintain that such ‚Äúcord-cutting‚ÄĚ is beginning to impact cable companies’ business. AP quotes Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg as likening anecdotes of cord-cutting to the early days of cell phone subscribers giving up their landlines. ‚ÄúThe first thing when that happens is you deny it,‚ÄĚ Ivan Seidenberg says. ‚ÄúI know the drill. I have been there.‚ÄĚ
The volatility continues to be at the low-end of the pay-TV market. In contrast, satellite TV provider DirecTV added 174,000 new U.S. subscribers in its third quarter ‚ÄĒ while profit at the company rose 31% as customers flocked to its exclusive programming and premium DVR service (via Bloomberg). DirecTV also said that a tightening of its customer credit requirements helped the bottom line.
Those interested in Hulu‚Äôs paid ‚ÄúPlus‚ÄĚ option no longer need an invitation to subscribe to the service, as the major-broadcaster-backed streaming company adds more TV shows and hardware compatibility to its offering. Hulu said in a blog post yesterday that it has recently added new fall TV series such as Fox‚Äôs ‚ÄúRaising Hope,‚ÄĚ ABC‚Äôs ‚ÄúNo Ordinary Family,‚ÄĚ and NBC‚Äôs ‚ÄúThe Event‚ÄĚ to the Plus service‚Äôs catalog.
The company also announced the availability of Hulu Plus on Sony Bravia 2010 TVs, with the service expanding to other Bravia devices ‚Äúin the near future.‚ÄĚ In addition, PlayStation 3 owners with a PlayStation Network account will be able to subscribe to Hulu Plus with the release of an updated application for the console next week.
Major broadcast networks including ABC, CBS, and NBC are blocking Google TV users from accessing full-length streams of TV shows from their websites, reported The Wall Street Journal last week. The move is fueling the debate over Internet TV distribution models. Ever-outspoken Mark Cuban applauds the broadcasters in a column for paidContent: to simply grant Google TV access without charging a fee, Cuban says, is ‚Äústupid‚ÄĚ given how important retransmission revenues are to broadcasters. The HDNet founder argues that Netflix‚Äôs model of paying broadcasters for the rights to streaming content is the only viable business; indeed, he says, the Google TV flap works in Netflix‚Äôs favor.
Like Netflix‚Äôs current streaming model, however, Cuban does not take into account broadcasters‚Äô other main revenue source: advertising. More on what Internet TV holds for the future of that revenue stream at Advertising Age.
The number of European households with a connected TV will grow from roughly 4 million in 2009 to 47 million in 2014, according to a new forecast from Parks Associates. Meanwhile, the number of European households with connected Blu-ray players will jump to approximately 66 million in 2014, from 5 million in 2010.
The research firm presents its forecast at a technology summit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands next month. Stateside, Parks Associates is at the Digital Hollywood conference in Santa Monica, Calif. today, relating household connectivity datapoints including:
‚ÄĘ 19% of U.S. broadband households are paying to watch TV shows and movies on their PC on a monthly basis, paying on average $4.90 per month; and
‚ÄĘ 5% of U.S. broadband households are paying to watch TV shows and movies on a connected game console on a monthly basis, paying on average $6.50 per month.
An agreement between Sony Computer Entertainment and European movie-rental company Lovefilm will enable the service‚Äôs UK subscribers to stream video content directly to their TVs via PlayStation 3 consoles. Some 3 million households in the UK own a PS3; Lovefilm, which also rents DVDs by mail, counts 1.4 million subscribers across the UK, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Germany. (Release via¬†Business Wire.)
The deal follows a March 2010 agreement that saw the Lovefilm streaming service launch on Sony‚Äôs Bravia Internet TVs and Blu-ray players.
An ABC Nightline segment previewing Google TV takes a passing glance at the remote control for Sony‚Äôs forthcoming Google TV-compatible display (in stores Oct. 12). Geek-tech site Engadget hits pause on the Nightline segment to consider the Sony controller itself, and what it may indicate about the overall Google TV experience.
The handheld controller cuts a WebTV-meets-PlayStation profile, featuring dual navigation pads and a full QWERTY keyboard to facilitate text searches. (Fellow electronics maker Logitech, in comparison, offers a full-size keyboard with in its Google TV product, the Revue set-top box.)
Engadget gushed yesterday about the Sony controller: ‚Äú[It‚Äôs] everything you‚Äôd need to rock the web and video all at once….[M]an does October 12th look even more painfully far away.‚ÄĚ¬†Others take a more critical view of the putative future of television’s navigational interface.
TechCrunch, for one, expresses the hope that Google TV remote control apps are in the offing for Android phones, similar to the apps available for iPhones and iPads to control Apple TV. (Google’s Rishi Chandra appears to be playing with such an app at the end of the Nightline piece, viewable via Hulu on the Engadget site.)
Set-top upstart Boxee used Wednesday‚Äôs Apple TV announcement to tout its own forthcoming product, which launches in November for $200. CEO Avner Ronen professes that the market for Internet TV devices is ripe for a variety of solutions.
‚ÄúWe all watched the Apple announcement,‚ÄĚ Ronen says in a company blog post. ‚ÄúWe walked away feeling strongly confident about the space it left for Boxee to compete. We have a different view of what users want in their living rooms. We are taking different paths to get there.‚ÄĚ
The Boxee hardware will deliver integration with Netflix and MLB.tv, as well as RoxioNow-powered movies on demand services and streaming music from sources including Pandora. Unlike Apple TV, the Boxee Box will support 1080p high-definition, and stream non-DRM file formats from users‚Äô computers.
More at CNET.
The addition of free Wi-Fi throughout the Walmart-owned warehouse chain‚Äôs 500-plus locations will, according to Sam‚Äôs Club chief executive Brian Cornell, allow a club member ‚Äúto walk up to a Samsung LCD Internet-enabled TV and see how to find his Facebook page or stream video from Vudu‚ÄĚ (via the Wall Street Journal). For all of the fervor over Internet-connected TVs among early adopters, Corell said ‚ÄúIt is an intimidating category with lots of complexity.‚ÄĚ
Internet video sites are reporting double-digit audience increases during primetime weekday hours. Nielsen corroborates the trend: some 62 million people watched Internet video from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday in March 2010, a 14% increase from March 2009. By The Wall Street Journal
Best Buy continues to expand consumer awareness of connected devices by testing so-called ‚Äúcenter-of-the-store‚ÄĚ initiatives that showcase the ability to receive movies and music into the home through the Internet.‚Ä®‚Ä® During a March 25 conference call with analysts to discuss fourth-quarter results, CEO Brian Dunn said connectivity has become ‚Äúnon-negotiable‚ÄĚ for millions of people and that increasing numbers of consumer electronics no longer fall under the category of discretionary purchases.‚Ä®‚Ä® By Home Media Magazine
Google and Intel have teamed with Sony to develop a platform called Google TV to bring the Web into the living room through a new generation of televisions and set-top boxes. The move is an effort by Google and Intel to extend their dominance of computing to television, an arena where they have little sway. For Sony, which has struggled to retain a pricing and technological advantage in the competitive TV hardware market, the partnership is an effort to get a leg up on competitors. By The New York Times
DVR pioneer TiVo is introducing a new line of set-top boxes that purportedly make it easy for users to search online entertainment as well as conventional cable programming. The ‚ÄúPremiere‚ÄĚ DVRs go on sale in April, with the base model selling for $300 (plus a subscription to TiVo‚Äôs $12.95/month service).
With the new DVRs, users can receive and record cable programming, and order VOD movies from Internet-based services such as Amazon, Blockbuster and Netflix. But the boxes cannot access cable providers‚Äô own VOD programming, play video streams from Hulu, or receive signals from satellite services including Dish Network and DirecTV. By USA Today