Google today announced that it is adding nearly 500 Paramount movies for transactional video-on-demand on Google Play and YouTube over the next several months. The rentals will be available to consumers in the U.S. and Canada.
Google now has content-sharing deals with five of the six major studios (20th Century Fox is the lone holdout), and 10 independent studios (Washington Post)
The rental pricing is comparable to most rentals on Google Play – $3.99 for new releases and $2.99 for most catalog titles, with an added $1 premium for HD content. Â Once rented, movies can be watched once for a 24-hour window over a 30-day period.
Google Play (previously known as Android Market) lets users buy or rent movies, music and books for download to Android-based portable devices and the TV.
Video-on-demand marketers expect their business to near the $2 billion mark in 2011, a 10 percent increase from 2010, as studios release more movies day-and-date with DVD and expand the segmentâs catalog offering (via Multichannel News).
VOD executives speaking at the cable industryâs CTAM conference last week said they looked for the growth to continue in 2012, as service providers build on this yearâs successful campaigns.
Amazon and Walmartâs Vudu are taking a new tactic in their competition with Apple to establish themselves as entertainment providers to iPad users.
Amazonâs new Kindle Cloud Reader lets iPad users purchase and read Kindle e-books, while Vudu is bringing its Internet video-on-demand service to iPad users. Both of the new apps are accessed via Web browser, as opposed to being based on Appleâs iOS operating system. The difference, which should be invisible to iPad users, enables Amazon and Walmart to avoid having to pay Apple a cut of e-book and movie rental purchases, respectively (see the San Francisco Chronicle). The companies also remain free to update their apps as they see fit, whereas updates to native iOS apps are subject to Apple approval (via TechCrunch).
Vudu appears to be facing pushback from Disney, which is withholding availability of its films via the iPad app (via the Los Angeles Times). Also, playback on the iPad is limited to standard-definition only, “due to restrictions by content providers,” Vudu says.Â Meanwhile, Amazonâs Kindle Cloud Reader currently lacks the magazines or other periodicals that are available for purchase within the Kindle app specifically designed for Appleâs iOS (via Wired).
In a marketing push for its Internet video-on-demand subsidiary, Walmart has begun to offer Vudu streaming video rentals direct from its Walmart.com site.
New promotions for the Vudu service include offering a â99-cent movie of the day,â along with â$2/2-nightâ rentals for select titles.
The integration could prove momentous for Vudu, which touts a streaming library of 20,000 movies and TV shows (via Variety). Walmart.com, meanwhile, receives north of 5 million visits per day from online shoppers.
The streaming service is compatible with Macs and PCs, and available via Internet-connected PlayStation 3 consoles. Vudu also is available on most of the Internet-capable HDTVs and Blu-ray disc players that Walmart sells, with several models featuring a Vudu button on their remote controls.
Warner Bros. plans to offer new-release and catalog films via video on demand in China this summer, in efforts to expand legitimate home entertainment options in the piracy-plagued country.
The films will be available to as many as three million homes in China by the end of the summer, under a distribution agreement between CAV Warner Home Entertainment, the studioâs joint venture in China, and YOU On Demand Media, the Chinese joint venture of New York-based YOU On Demand Holdings. YOU On Demandâs VOD and pay-per-view service is operating under an exclusive 20-year joint venture with CCTV-6âs pay-TV arm, China Home Cinema; the service has potential reach some 200 million cable households in the country.
âChina is developing methods for consumers to view movies outside the cinema in a legitimate fashion,â said Jim Wuthrich, president of Warnerâs international home video and digital distribution unit, in a statement. âThrough YOU On Demandâs platform, millions of potential consumers will be able to view our films. They will make it easy for consumers to see the latest films including âHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows â Part 1.ââ
Warner has been among the most active of major studios in attempting to establish an above-board home entertainment market in China. In 2006, the studio marketed a DVD of its âSuperman Returnsâ in some 8,000 Chinese outlets, two months ahead of the discâs release date in the rest of the world (via Variety). Warner priced its Chinese DVDs to compete with the countryâs pirate market, with films selling for between $1.80 and $2.80.
Summit Entertainmentâs âSource Codeâ will debut via video-on-demand and electronic sell-through nearly three weeks ahead of the sci-fi thrillerâs release on Blu-ray, in what the studio characterized as a test of a new home entertainment release pattern.
The film, which premiered in theaters April 1, will see VOD and EST release on July 8, followed by a disc release July 26. As The Wrap points out, the three-month span between the filmâs theatrical premiere and home entertainment release is closer to studiosâ conventional scheduling practices, and roughly one month longer than the window that several major studios have eyed for so-called âpremium VODâ releases.
An average of 38 million set-top boxes per month accessed video-on-demand content in 2010, an 11% increase over 2009, according to research firm Rentrak. Yet 74% of all VOD transactions were for free programming.
Still, VOD represents a growing revenue stream for content owners: the movies-on-demand business, Rentrak says, rose 9.1% to nearly $1 billion in revenue last year.
Among free on-demand categories, music, childrenâs, and television programming remain the most popular, with TV entertainment increasing the most during 2010 (31%).
Fewer than half of all VOD-enabled set-top boxes (44%) access on-demand services in an average month, according to Rentrak. VOD users, in contrast, had an average of 17.1 transactions per month in 2010.
The proportions of free content, paid transactions, and subscription services in 2010 is similar to the contours of the VOD market in 2009, as is the percentage of VOD-enabled households that use VOD services.
Details on Rentrakâs 2010 âState of VODâ trend report are here.
Releasing home entertainment spending figures for the first quarter of 2011, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group says that studios faced a difficult comparison with last yearâs blockbuster-heavy Q1, as total home entertainment spending decreased 9.8% year-on-year to $4.2 billion.
Sell-through of DVDs and other packaged goods was down by a total of 20% during the quarter, to $2.1 billion. However, the trade group notes that the box-office value of the 2011 quarterâs release slate was 25% less than that during the same period in 2010. In addition, unlike last yearâs quarter, Q1 2011 lacked the Easter holiday weekend, which according to the group remains a considerable home entertainment marketing opportunity.
Blu-ray disc sales continued to grow, up by nearly 10% from Q1 in 2010, while sales of Blu-ray players (including PlayStation 3 consoles) increased by 13% during he quarter. The total household penetration of Blu-ray compatible devices now stands at nearly 30 million U.S. homes.
Digital businesses are also increasing. Video-on-demand products were worth $473.2 million to the industry during the quarter, an 8.7% increase from Q1 2010. Electronic sell-through sales increased 10.4% to $140.6 million.
The DEG adds that sell-through of both physical and digital home entertainment products has picked up by 20% year-over-year in the first few weeks of the second quarter.
The Wrap reports on what it terms a âflawâ in the nascent video-on-demand business: the dearth of publicly available audience data.
âYou canât measure it,â the websiteâs story headline gripes.
It depends on who âyouâ are, of course. The likes of Comcast and DirecTV know precisely how many subscribers rent a given VOD title, and they share that data with their studio suppliers. Research service Rentrak also sells detailed VOD viewership figures that it compiles from various pay-TV operators.
Granted, basic theatrical box office data is all but free for the taking, and certain benefits flow to the film industry from such visibility. But freely available box office figures represent something of an anomaly for the entertainment business; private numbers and paid services have long been the norm in every home entertainment sector, from music to DVD/Blu-ray and videogames.
YouTube plans to add films from Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal, Warner Bros., and other studios to its movie rental site, as the online video giant works to develop a transactional VOD business.
A studio source tellsÂ The Wrap, which first reported the YouTube deals, that the company is âpretty excited because we are happy to see new entrants come in transactionally rather than [with] a subscription model.â The deals follow Facebook’s recent rollout of a pilot movie-rental program with Warner Bros.
YouTube tells The Wrap it already offers âthousandsâ of titles for rent; the company has been quiet on the amount of VOD business the site has seen since the store’s launch in 2010.
Four studios â 20th Century Fox, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. â will offer $30 âHome Premiereâ rentals to DirecTVâs nearly 20 million customers, in an anticipated launch of the premium VOD service next month.
Variety reports that cable network Comcast also will join the Home Premiere launch by offering the service in certain cities in late April. Studios will add movies to the service two months after their theatrical debuts; the $30 price will get consumers a two- or three-day viewing period, depending on the distributor.
In a survey of 40,000 adults by Centris Research, 62% say that have either never heard of video-on-demand, never used it, or are unable to access VOD services (via Home Media Magazine). Nearly one quarter of respondents (24%) say that they have used either free or transactional VOD in the past month. That percentage is slightly higher than a year-end 2010 estimate by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, which out VOD market penetration at about 20%.
New-release films are a top selling point for yet another Netflix rival in the streaming video space: AT&T.
AT&Tâs U-Verse Movies offers video-on-demand rentals of 2010 hits such as âToy Story 3,â âInception,â and âThe Twilight Saga: Eclipseâ â none of which are available via Netflixâs streaming service. The telco is marketing U-verse Movies as a âbetter alternativeâ to Netflix, as well as Redbox DVD rentals, in a new consumer marketing campaign (via Multichannel News).
A supplement to AT&Tâs pay-television service package, U-verse Movies lets customers watch many titles on TV and online, as well as via mobile devices and Xbox 360 consoles.
Tempering the hype at CES for Internet-connected âsmartâ 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.
Todayâs smart TVs are âclearly not ready for primetime,â said Lionsgateâs Curt Marvis (via paidContent). Marvis was critical in his review of one anonymous device: âOther than Netflix and Qriocity [Sonyâs 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.â
Meanwhile, Fox Broadcastingâs Hardie Tankersley dismissed Google TVâs web-browsing as a âlameâ experience that ânobody wants.â
Other panelists saw promise beyond the first generation of âsmartâ TVs and devices. âThe app environment,â said Steve Canepa of IBMâs media and entertainment unit, âallows for authentication, it allows for a business model that gets a much better share for the content creator.â
Blu-ray software sales rose by 68% in 2010, helping to offset slackening demand for DVDs in the home entertainment market, according to year-end figures released by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
The DEG, which announced the year-end data at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, said that consumers purchased $1.8 billion worth of Blu-ray discs in 2010. Blu-ray rentals, meanwhile, topped $500 million, with rentals from brick-and-mortar outlets up 34% over 2009.
Blu-ray devices â including set-top players and videogame consoles â have sold through more than 28.5 million units since the formatâs launch in 2007. Some six million devices sold in the fourth quarter of 2010 alone, bringing total units sold during the year 11.25 million, according to numbers compiled by the DEG with input from retail tracking sources.
Digital distribution also contributed materially to the home entertainment sector in 2010, edging Blu-ray in overall annual value.
Consumer spending on broadband electronic sell-through (EST) and video on demand (VOD) up a combined 19% to $2.5 billion. VOD brought in $1.8 billion, up 21% for the year, while EST grew 16% to $683 million.
The trade group estimates that VOD transactions offset the decline of the entire rental category. Without VOD, rentals would have been down by 2% for the year; with VOD, the category is up by 2% to $7.8 billion. (The DEG bases its 2010 rental estimates on input from multiple studios and restated 2009 figures from Rentrak.)
Overall, consumer transactions for prerecorded content grew by 1% during the year â âa clear indication that consumer demand for home entertainment remains healthy,â said Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders, who serves as the DEGâs president.
The overall combined value of the rental and sell-through businesses during 2010 was $18.8 billion, a 3% decline from 2009. DVD sales and rentals slipped 11% in value year-over-year, ending 2010 at $14 billion.
Comcast saysÂ it plans to roll out a “play now” feature to its Xfinity iPad app in the coming weeks, enabling pay-TV subscribers to watch nearly 3,000 hours of on-demand content (release here).
According to the cable operator, app users will be able to watch TV shows or movies on demand either at home or on the go, including anywhere there is a wireless connection. Comcast plans to add more titles to the app’s VOD library in the months ahead, and bring the same functionality and content to Android-powered tablet devices later this year.
The company released its Xfinity iPad app this pastÂ November.
Comcast said yesterday that it believed both the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice âcontinue to make substantial progressâ toward approving the cable giantâs merger with NBC Universal. The companies have notified their transition teams that the regulatory review process, along with bookkeeping matters, will likely push closing of the transaction to January. Details at The Washington Post, Multichannel News, and CNET.
Movies on Demand Stats: Day-and-Date Titles Most Popular
Comcast separately announced Comcast announced that it had doubled the amount of movies it made available on demand the same day they were released on DVD in 2010.
The total day-and-date tally topped 200 during the year, Comcast said (release via Business Wire). Day-and-date films accounted for nine out of the serviceâs ten most popular titles among subscribers. Other increasingly popular on-demand programming includes kidsâ shows, TV series, and music.
Walmart-owned Vudu continues its holiday marketing push, with the streaming video-on-demand service becoming available on Panasonicâs 2010 line of Viera Cast-enabled Blu-ray on Nov. 24 (viaÂ PR Newswire).
Walmart separately offers some of the lowest prices on the streaming-capable line of Panasonic players; one model is now selling for $115 atÂ Walmart.com.
On-demand viewing of TV programs and movies in the U.S. will generate $10 billion dollars in annual revenue by 2014, according to a new In-Stat forecast.
The In-Stat figure includes transactional video on demand (VOD) purchases, such as movie rentals via pay-TV channels; subscription VOD, such as Netflixâs streaming service; and the download-to-own model of electronic sell-through. Of the three categories, subscription VOD will see the highest growth rate, as well as the most competition, the research firm predicts.
The rise of the VOD business and digital distribution will coincide with continued declines in DVD sales and rentals, In-Stat says. âRealistically, [electronic sell-through] cannot replace historic retail DVD video sales,â the firm adds. âHowever, the migration of DVD rentals to online T-VOD services, will help fill this revenue gap.â
Consumers who purchase a special edition of Disney/Pixarâs âToy Story 3â at Walmart can receive free streaming access to the movie via Vudu, in the mass merchantâs first retail promotion of its digital video on demand service.
Vudu, which Walmart acquired in March, announced the offer on its company blog yesterday. The promotion follows news that Vuduâs service will soon be available on Boxeeâs free app for Mac and Windows computers, and integrated within Boxeeâs set-top box (in stores this month).
Walmart also sells an exclusive DVD edition of “Toy Story 3″ that includes six short films from Pixar as well as “Tokyo Mater,” a a seven-minute cartoon starring characters from the studios’ “Cars” franchise.
Disney, manwhile, continues to market its own digital copy concept as well. In standard Blu-ray and DVD editions of the âToy Story 3,â the studio includes a âDisneyfile Digital Copyâ as a separate disc.
Reports of a âmaster keyâ leak for the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection protocol â a key anti-copying technology for Blu-ray disc publishers and consumer electronics makersÂ â have entertainment executives assessing the possible commercial implications.
Most news sources downplay the alleged incident. Wired muses that the security breach, if real, would hardly threaten the Blu-ray business the way DeCSS did for DVDs a decade ago. The Washington Post, meanwhile, notes the free availability of Blu-ray ripping technologies for those who want them, quoting an unnamed IP lawyer as saying the reported HDCP compromise has âno commercial meaning.â
But Engadget, which was early to the HDCP story, points out that the incident could ripple beyond Blu-ray players and physical media. The Intel-developed encryption scheme â which is also built into TVs, PCs, receivers and set-top boxes â is one of the âdigitally secure interfacesâ that would enable studios to market new theatrical releases electronically â via premium video-on-demand services ostensibly in development.
No sooner had Apple announced ârentalsâ of Fox TV show episodes for 99 cents via Apple TV than Amazon.com matched the 99-cent price point for episode downloads of Foxâs âGleeâ at its own video-on-demand storefront. As paidContent points out, the discount could have implications beyond simply staying competitive in the digital space, for Fox releases the DVD version of âGleeââs first season Sept. 14.
At least as of right now, customers can either pre-order the standard DVD for $35.49, or purchase the digital version of the entire season for $21.78 â and watch the episodes immediately. Amazon pitches the digital version on its DVD pre-order page.
Google is in talks with major studios to launch a paid movie streaming service on YouTube by the end of the year, according to the Financial Times. Streaming movies would cost about $5, and titles would be available on the same day as their release on DVD and other Internet video-on-demand channels, according to the Financial Timesâ unnamed sources.
YouTube has long viewed itself as a potential partner with studios not just for film advertising and promotion, but digital distribution as well. In January, YouTube tested $3.99 streaming movie rentals of five independent films in a campaign with the Sundance Film Festival.
Cable operators convened in Philadelphia last week for the On Demand Summit 2.0, identifying the principal opportunities and challenges to growing the digital platform. According to Toronto-based Rogers Communications, free VOD is essential for âsustainingâ relationships with older customers as well as ânurturingâ relationships with customers aged 25 and younger. Subscribers also may be willing to pay for new-release movies, provided theyâre day-and-date with their cinema debut. Among the chief challenges all operators must overcome is simplifying the VOD interface. By Multichannel News
Epix â the HD-movies-on-demand cable channel jointly owned by Viacom, Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lionsgate â is employing the Signiant software platform to manage and deliver its digital content. Signiant says the software will enable Epix to streamline media workflows and automate backend processes between studio facilities and the ventureâs cable and online distribution partners. Via PR Newswire
The New York Times reports that âone or more studiosâ are hot to try premiering films over cable video-on-demand services, now that the FCC has greenlit Hollywoodâs âselectable output controlâ copy protection scheme. One unnamed executive tells the Times that the first VOD premieres could arrive as early as this year. By The New York Times
A reordering of home entertainment release windows seems to be a foregone conclusion for BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield.
The analyst has long urged studios to adopt a sequential release window scheme that begins with high-margin disc sales and ends with offering movies via low-margin rental services Netflix and Redbox. The scheme, Greenfield argues, is crucial for studios to maximize profitability amidst DVD sales declines.
To date, studios such as Disney and Paramount havenât seen the market Greenfieldâs way. But in his May 17 blog post (subscription required), Greenfield muses that Disney and Paramount would soon join the ranks of Fox, Universal, and in withholding new-release titles from rental services for 28 days.
Disney, Greenfield notes, has its âAlice in Wonderlandâ DVD and Blu-ray hitting store shelves June 1, and presumably would want a window of sell-through exclusivity for the top-grossing film. Paramount, meanwhile, has an option to end its current windowless terms with Redbox on June 30.
Other analysts dispute whether Disney is on the verge of joining the pro-window camp â and whether the margin considerations make the adoption of a new distribution order inevitable for all studios.
âIâm not sure why âAlice in Wonderlandâ would prompt Disney to go from their informal agreement with Redbox or Netflix to one with a window,â Eric Wold of Merriman Curhan Ford tells Home Media Magazine. âI havenât heard any rumblings and assume the status quo for now.â
If Disney does grant availability in kiosks and on Netflix for âAliceâ day-and-date with the filmâs DVD and Blu-ray release, it could serve as a high-profile test of the impact that value-oriented rental services have on disc sales.
Netflix is busy casting itself as an ally to studios in their efforts to restructure their business âWeâre trying to help studios create a sell-through and premium rental market window,â Netflix chief Reed Hastings told a JP Morgan investor conference this weekend (via Business Insider). Studios, in return, are granting Netflix streaming rights to more movies and TV shows.
There are early indications that Netflixâs 28-day deals with studios are win-win. Fox sold nearly 20 million DVD and Blu-ray copies of âAvatarâ in the first three weeks of the discâs exclusive sell-through window. Netflix, meanwhile, reports accelerated subscriber growth thanks to its larger streaming library.
But analyst Greenfield views Netflix as a continuing drain on studio profitability, and urges pro-window studios to be more aggressive in marketing the benefits of premium video-on-demand over cable.
The chief benefit to studios and cable operatorsâ new pay-per-view VOD offering is immediate access to new releases. A new round of TV ads for the âMovies On Demandâ service communicates as much with a voiceover line, âNo waiting for the mail.â
But as Greenfield points out, the line has been pulled from some of the spots â leaving the analyst to wonder whether studio agreements with Netflix preclude the VOD initiative from being âtoo mean/harsh in promotional materials.â
The FCC has granted a request by the Motion Picture Association of America to make use of VOD technology that essentially disables analog signal outputs on digital TVs and set-top devices. The MPAA spins the âselectable output controlâ technology as paving the way for distribution of more films via cable, satellite and IPTV before their release on DVD or Blu-ray. The LA Times considers further implications, noting the technology also makes possible pay-per-view film premieres. Bottom line: greater potential leverage for studios in their ongoing negotiations with theaters, rental services, and retailers over release windows. By the Los Angeles Times
Last month, Screen Digest noted that movie download services had fallen far short of the research firmâs 2009 revenue expectations. Services such as iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand posted an estimated $291 million in revenue, nearly 20 percent less than the $360 million Screen Digest had forecasted.
Reviewing 2009, the firm said that studios could have marketed digital movie distribution more effectively. But now, the firm tells Deadline Hollywood that it also is revising its 2014 forecast for the digital film sector — from $1.5 billion in revenue to $943 million. Going forward, it seems that more effective marketing will only get studios so far. By Deadline Hollywood
Satellite TV provider DirecTV is revamping its premium video-on-demand service, taking on Netflix by marketing its 28-day exclusive on âAvatarâ and other new releases.
As many as 400 new movies will be available this summer through DirecTV Cinema, Bloomberg reports. Paul Guyardo, DirecTVâs chief sales and marketing officer, tells the news service that titles from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. will be offered to DirecTV subscribers 28 days before they can be rented on Netflix.
The high-definition movies rent for $4.99 to $5.99 each, and remain subscribersâ DVRs for 24 to 48 hours after viewing starts.
âResearch tells us that 15 to 20 percent of our customers also subscribe to Netflix,â Guyardo tells Bloomberg. âThatâs where the genesis of this idea came from.âÂ Via BusinessWeek
Sonic Solutions is growing the amount of on-demand TV content it will have available through its Roxio CinemaNow service, striking a deal with Warner Bros. Digital Distribution that will allow it to sell TV shows the day after they air on TV. Episodes will be sold for $1.99 each and will include hit shows like âFringeâ and âHuman Target.â Via NewTeeVee
Hollywood kept the video on demand business at bay for years while consumers built their DVD libraries. Now a consortium of studios is teaming with the nationâs largest cable companies to reintroduce the VOD concept to households.
The companiesâ $30 million TV, print and online campaign â themed âThe Video Store Just Moved Inâ â will tout the convenience of the platform, as well as the day-and-date availability of many films on VOD and DVD. The campaign runs through early June.
Coming from the cable industry, the campaign naturally makes no mention of the Internet VOD services offered by Netflix, Vudu, and others have already moved into many living rooms, via Net-connected videogame consoles and set-tops.
For studios, cable VOD transactions carry significantly higher profits than both the new streaming services and traditional disc rentals. The New York Times reports that studios keep as much as 65 cents of every dollar that cable subscribers spend on VOD, compared to the 25 cents studios earn on every dollar consumers spend on movie rentals via Blockbuster.
Yet VOD rentals accounted for less than two percent of the industryâs $53 billion in video revenue last year, according to analyst SNL Kagan (via the LA Times). Despite increasingly broad movie availability — and now, greater marketing support — cable VOD services still suffer from kludgy consumer interfaces, the LA Times report notes.
Cable operators participating in the new campaign include Armstrong, Bend Broadband, Bright House Networks, iO TV, Comcast, Cox, Insight and Time Warner Cable. Studios include 20th Century Fox, Focus Features, Lionsgate, Rogue, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Summit Entertainment, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros Entertainment. More details in the release via Business Wire.
In the ongoing battle for content, Sony said Tuesday that it had locked in the five top studios to supply HD content to the PlayStation Network. At launch, the content will be available in the U.S. only, with plans to launch soon in the U.K., France, Germany, and Spain, Sony said. By PC Magazine
The reaction from independent film distribution vets to Tribeca Enterprisesâ plan to distribute its festival films on video on demand (VOD) is most politely described as skeptical. The biggest hurdle facing Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Geoff Gilmore? Erasing the lingering perception that when a movie bypasses theatrical distribution for VOD, itâs DOA. By Deadline Hollywood
Barely a week after Wal-Mart signaled its latest push to sell and rent movies over the Internet, Best Buy is preparing to roll out its own, revamped digital-download service. In an Internet posting, Best Buy said its best customers are allowed one free movie rental download each month from Blue Sky Video by Best Buy, which the retailer said is âcoming out soon.â Best Buy in November announced it would develop an on-demand movie and entertainment service as part of a multiyear partnership with streaming service Sonic Solutions’ Roxio CinemaNow. By The Wall Street Journal
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 âPremiereâ DVRs go on sale in April, with the base model selling for $300 (plus a subscription to TiVoâs $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 providersâ own VOD programming, play video streams from Hulu, or receive signals from satellite services including Dish Network and DirecTV. By USA Today
While Blockbuster emphasizes the growth potential of its kiosk, DVD-by-mail, and digital on demand businesses in its latest earnings report, the company is busy reassuring analysts of the continuing viability of its physical retail outlets.
Studios, said Blockbuster chairman and CEO Jim Keyes in an earnings call, are âof course concerned about the short term and will work with us in the short term. But for the long term, theyâre aligned with us in that they want to see the brick-and-mortar store survive and to facilitate the cross-channel transformation.â (per The Wall Street Journal)
In a Feb. 24 statement detailing the companyâs $434.9 million net loss for the fourth quarter of 2009, Keyes said Blockbuster expects to add 7,000 Blockbuster Express rental kiosks to the market this year through its partnership with NCR. The company also looks to grow its by-mail channel and digital Blockbuster On Demand service through new âcollaborative partnerships,â Keyes said.
Wal-Mart is getting back into the digital entertainment distribution business with its planned acquisition of the Vudu movie download and streaming service.
The deal, which is expected to close within the next few weeks, shores up the digital position of the countryâs top DVD retailer, as studios mull reconfiguration of release windows to favor physical disc sales as well as a la carte video-on-demand transactions.
Vudu has trailed Netflix and Apple in Internet-based video on demand since its 2007 debut. But the company has licensing agreements with most major studios as well as independents, offering some 16,000 titles. Like Netflixâs service, owners of certain new TVs and Blu-ray players can access Vuduâs catalog directly from their TV screens. Like Apple, Vudu offers a-la-carte pricing for movie downloads and streams.
Vuduâs pricing structure helps to put the service higher up on studiosâ newly emerging distribution hierarchy than Netflix and Redbox, both of which have agreed to rent new-release films from Warner Bros. four weeks after their DVD street dates. For example, Warner Home Videoâs new release âThe Informant!â is now available for rent or purchase on Vudu, but unavailable to Netflix subscribers until March 23.
Wal-Mart was unsuccessful in establishing its own movie download service three years ago. However, with consumers increasingly aware of direct-to-TV streaming, the market seems ripe for reentry.
It remains to be seen whether Vudu will continue as a separate business and brand â and to what extent Wal-Mart integrates the service with its DVD and Blu-ray merchandising operations.
When the service bowed as Amazon Unbox a few years ago, people could only download or rent titles for view on the Windows PC platform. Now branded Amazon Video on Demand, the serviceâs 50,000-title library reaches across many Web-connected Panasonic, Samsung and Sony Bravia TVs; also can be accessed via home TVs through most Panasonic Blu-ray players and Sonyâs BDP N460 Blu-ray model; is available through Tivo and Roku set-top boxes; and is compatible with Apple Macs. By Home Media Magazine
The New York-based cable operator said revenues increased primarily due to increase use of digital video recorders (DVRs) and higher video prices. However, Time Warner Cable said subscribers watched fewer transactional VOD titles and dropped premium channels, such as HBO and Showtime. By Home Media Magazine
Having amassed deals for Netflix streaming and video-on-demand downloads via its Xbox Live network, Microsoft is looking to play a bigger role in consumersâ TV and movie watching at home. Among the programming deals the company is currently mulling is one with Disneyâs ESPN for live streams of sporting events to Internet-connected videogame consoles, The New York Times reports.
Microsoft tells the Times that Xbox Live, which has 20 million members, regularly records more than one million concurrent users. On its face, the audience numbers put Xbox Live in league with top cable channels such as Cartoon Network and TBS. But Microsoft does not break out â and audience research firms such as Nielsen do not measure â how many users at any given time are watching movies and TV shows on demand versus playing videogames. By The New York Times
Speaking Dec. 8 at an investor conference in San Francisco, Barry McCarthy, the online video renter’s CFO, said the companyâs streaming expectations in the U.S. have been fulfilled, thereby affording the option to expand the concept abroad. By Home Media Magazine
Sonic Solutions and Verve-Media plan to incorporate interactive commerce functionality into the Sonicâs Roxio CinemaNow entertainment platform. The collaboration will enable content owners and retailers to explore new revenue models through interactive contextual advertising. For consumers, the new capability will provide a unique viewing experience in which information or purchasing options for products featured in, or related to, the content being consumed are dynamically available upon request. Via PR Newswire
In a new program, Amazon.com offers the digital rental or download of select films as a âgiftâ when consumers buy the films on Blu-ray or DVD. Customers access the standard-definition digital versions through Amazonâs own Video On Demand service. The siteâs âDisc + On Demandâ page currently offers more than 300 Blu-ray and DVD titles from various studios. Amazon.com
Video-on-demand rentals shot up 18% in November compared to last year as studios packed more major day-and-date DVD and VOD releases into the month than ever before, according to preliminary numbers from Rentrak. By Video Business
Comcast calls customersâ attention to its video-on-demand programming with its addition of high-definition music videos from Taylor Swift, as well as her recent turn on âSaturday Night Liveâ and behind-the-scenes clips. Via Business Wire
There is still no deal between Comcast and General Electric for NBC Universal. But presuming a deal does go through, industry executives expect the cable giant to use the film library of Universal Pictures to further develop its video-on-demand offering as well as other digital distribution models. By The New York Times
Clicker.com, an Internet-television programming guide that received $8 million in financing from Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures, launched last week after about two months of beta testing. The site organizes shows into 23 categories and lists more than 400,000 television episodes from more than 7,000 shows. Additionally, Netflix subscribers and Amazon.com customers also can stream titles through Clicker.com. Meanwhile, OnDemandWeekly.com also went live last week. The site, founded by former Miramax Films executives Britt Bensen and Doug Turner, is looking to capitalize on a growing U.S. VOD market. By Video Business