Google seems pretty intent on pursuing this Google TV thing, despite the television networks’ initial skepticism. There’s just too much evidence that consumers want technology that helps blur the lines between broadcast TV and online video–and Google TV helps provide that. And now they’re getting some help from one of their partners, Logitech. Logitech makes [...]
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Hulu, as far as I’m concerned, is in trouble. Their Hulu Plus service, which costs $7.99, is overpriced and still shows a ridiculous amount of ads and a limited amount of content. Their partners (and part-owners) like NBCU are making content deals outside of the family (most recently with NetFlix over next-day SNL streaming) and [...]
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Expectations were high that Redbox would announce its strategy for digital delivery on today’s Coinstar earnings call, and those who believed that the company would lay out its plan must have been disappointed. While the company confirmed that it would go to market with a digital offering in 2011, and said it would do so with a partner, the DVD kiosk company had little to say about the specifics of what such a plan would look like.
Coinstar CEO Paul Davis said that the company spent a good long time debating whether or not to build its own digital offering or to find another company to partner with. But in the end Redbox decided that the partner strategy was the way to go, based on its ability to roll out a digital offering quickly from a technological perspective, as well as a partner’s ability to offer up a wide range of digital content without the DVD kiosk firm having to do a lot of heavy lifting in striking content deals.
While Redbox declined to name which companies it was in discussions with, it did talk about the reasons why it would be an attractive partner for any of those companies. “Consumers have told us that they are hungry for [digital content],” Davis told analysts on the call. Not just that, but Redbox customers are well-positioned to take advantage of a digital offering, with 91 percent of them having broadband connections at home. Finally, Redbox said its strong brand and extensive physical presence would also offer up a opportunity for any potential partners.
That said, it’s not clear whether Redbox would roll out a subscription service to compete against Netflix, as has been widely rumored, or whether it would pursue a digital VOD strategy to compete against rentals from iTunes and other digital storefronts. That strategy would primarily depend on whatever partner it chooses and which options are available through such a deal. With that in mind, these are probably the top potential partners for a Redbox digital offering:
Walmart and Redbox have long been partners in the physical DVD world, with the big box retailer playing host to a number of its kiosks around the country. It would only make sense for Walmart to extend that partnership to the digital realm. Wal-mart purchased Vudu earlier this year, and the digital video subsidiary has been mainly quiet ever since. Vudu has distribution on a number of connected consumer electronics devices, and just announced today that it has struck a deal to bring Hollywood movies to the Boxee Box. With Vudu back out of its quiet mode, it wouldn’t be surprising for Walmart to leverage that asset to help out Redbox with a white-label or co-branded offering from Vudu.
Pros: A wide distribution on CE devices, a strong partnership with Redbox already.
Cons: Walmart has struggled with digital offerings in the past.
Ever since Amazon rolled out its video on demand offering, it has struggled to gain traction in the digital marketplace, mainly playing second fiddle to Apple’s iTunes. Even so, Amazon has managed to snag some consumer electronics deals, landing on TiVo DVRs, as well as Roku broadband set-top boxes and Google TV devices from Sony and Logitech. Striking a Redbox partnership would go a long way to expanding its market clout, but it might not give Redbox the flexibility it desires from a distribution point of view.
Pros: Quick, easy access to a library of 40,000 on-demand titles.
Cons: Somewhat limited CE distribution.
Sonic could be the dark horse in Redbox’s partner hunt; while it doesn’t have the instant name recognition that Walmart or Amazon have, it’s providing behind-the-scenes help to a number of digital storefronts already, including those from Best Buy and Blockbuster. The owner of the RoxioNow video purchase and rental offering already is embedded on a number of CE devices and would be able to turn on a branded Redbox offering pretty quickly. At the same time, a Redbox-branded storefront and content library would be competing directly against similar offerings from other Sonic partners.
Pros: Wide distribution, potential for a quick turnaround on a Redbox-branded storefront.
Cons: Direct competition against other Sonic partners.
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Updated. There’s been an interesting development in the recent Google TV saga, in which the search giant has shifted responsibility for the new TV operating system into its YouTube division, according to a report the SF Chronicle. By doing so, Google hopes its online video site can help Google TV with a lesson in striking content deals. But if that’s the case, it will probably be disappointed.
The whole issue revolves around the lack of premium content available through Google TV and a number of high-profile content companies that have blocked their content from being available on TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes powered by the Google OS. Broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and NBC have all declined to let their web content be played back through the integrated web browser built into Google TV devices built by Sony and Logitech.
The broadcasters were unhappy with the prospect that viewers would be able to watch their web offerings in lieu of live broadcast content on the biggest screen in the home. Since those companies rely on high-value broadcast advertising, as well as increasingly high retransmission fees from cable operators, the idea of giving viewers access to web programming that they can’t monetize as well was a bit of a turn-off. The whole affair has caused a bit of a stir, especially since it takes away from Google’s initial pitch for the TV OS, which was to enable viewers to mix and match web and TV content on the big screen.
But Google TV is primarily a technology platform, and the folks there don’t necessarily have a ton of experience in media matters. As a result, Google is reportedly shifting responsibility for the fledgling TV division into YouTube, which actually has some experience striking content deals with broadcasters like CBS.
The problem is that YouTube itself has had a hard time bringing real high-value, prime-time content onto the site. Most partnerships thus far have included short-form clips of new shows or full-length episodes of older programming. It hasn’t really proven that it can negotiate to add new hit shows or the kind of stuff you’d find on Hulu or broadcast sites.
YouTube is trying to change that, having recently added a pair of execs — Robert Kyncl, former vice president for content acquisition at Netflix, and Dean Gilbert, former vice president of product management for Google TV — to bolster the amount of premium content on the site. But in the short term, it’s difficult to see broadcasters getting on board, unless Google can somehow write a check that makes up for the billions of dollars in broadcast advertising and retrans fees that are at stake if web video competes directly with broadcast programming on Google TV.
We’ve reached out for comment from Google, but haven’t gotten confirmation or more information from YouTube or Google TV representatives about the reported move just yet — but it’s early here on the West Coast. We will update if we hear back.
Update: Google has issued the following statement, denying the key assertion of the SF Chronicle story, that Google has reorged the division to move Google TV within YouTube:
Google TV has been closely aligned with YouTube for years. Although we did reorganize a division within YouTube a month ago, that was based on streamlining our operations so we could make faster decisions and align team goals with the company’s overall business objectives. Just like any rapidly growing organization, it is important for YouTube to evolve and grow to ensure further success in the future. The recently created YouTube Content Organization is run by VP of Content Partnerships Dean Gilbert.
While YouTube says there’s no actual story there, we stand by our initial take on the idea of YouTube leading Google TV content negotiations, which is: Google TV and YouTube will have a hard time convincing broadcasters to unblock their content without writing some very large checks.
To hear what Google TV product lead Rishi Chandra has to say about bringing broadcast content to Google TV, come see him speak at NewTeeVee Live on November 10 in San Francisco.
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StumbleUpon is trying hard to become the best way for users to find relevant and interesting videos online. With the addition of more full-length video content available through its StumbleUpon Video site, it could do just that, by becoming a recommendation engine for online video.
“I’ve never had a very good experience watching TV. It never learned what I like,” StumbleUpon founder and CEO Garrett Camp said in a phone interview. The problem is that TV and most video sites on the web today are more or less a one-way experience: you go to a site, you find what you want to watch, and you leave. Once you’ve found something that interests you, you spend time with it. If you don’t have something of interest to replace it with, you click away.
StumbleUpon hopes to remedy that situation with a recommendation engine that offers up a steady stream of videos that users find interesting. Using an algorithm that takes into account your past interactions, community feedback and input from users that you like and follow, StumbleUpon is betting that it can provide a more compelling video experience online than one could find by turning on the TV or just going to one of the network video sites like ABC.com or CBS.com.
The idea that StumbleUpon is going to be a landing page for online videos might be a turn-off for some publishers; after all, most hope to keep users engaged and keep them on-site as long as possible, thereby increasing the number of in-stream and display ads they can serve. StumbleUpon’s pitch is that it doesn’t change anything in the embedded video stream, so partners can serve up whatever ads they want. Besides, viewers may come across a video recommended by their friends — or by the community — they might not have seen otherwise.
It’s not just short-form and user-generated video snacking that StumbleUpon hopes to enable; in addition to sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Metacafe, StumbleUpon has added videos from Hulu and TED to its database. As a result, users will now have more long-form videos recommended to them. That’s good news for users, but really good news for StumbleUpon, since the biggest thing missing today as a really killer video recommendation engine for all the web content out there.
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Comcast took the beta tag off its Xfinity TV service yesterday, making the online video service available to all of its pay TV subscribers, regardless of their ISP. Take that one step further, with Comcast offering Xfinity TV as a paid service to consumers that don’t already live in its service area, and you mark the beginning of the end for pay TV being tied to the physical cable plant.
So far, Xfinity has been offered to Comcast’s existing subscribers in what looks like a defensive maneuver to keep them from cutting the cord. With average cable subscriptions edging above $70 (and anecdotal evidence suggesting that many subscribers pay well north of $100), companies like Comcast have rolled out TV Everywhere services as a way to give more value to customers, by allowing them to watch cable content online.
Comcast now boasts more than 150,000 videos from 90 different content partners, but the real key to Xfinity TV is the content available only to Comcast customers. The whole idea behind TV Everywhere is that subscribers will also get access to online content in addition to what they pay for through linear cable programming.
While that service was once offered only to customers that paid for cable and high-speed Internet, Comcast is now making Xfinity TV online available to pay TV subscribers even if they use another ISP for broadband. That still limits the potential number of TV subscribers to those that live in residential areas that Comcast has infrastructure and provides service to. So what if Xfinity TV weren’t tied to Comcast’s physical cable plant at all?
With access to a wealth of streaming content already, Comcast could offer up an over-the-top video service in markets that it doesn’t already serve, and it could do so without building out the costly network infrastructure or getting the franchise agreements usually required. Comcast could finally become bigger than its actual network footprint, and it could add users as opposed to watching them defect to competitive IPTV, satellite (and increasingly) online offerings.
Since it wouldn’t be paying for network infrastructure, it could (again, theoretically) undercut those local competitors with a cheaper online offering and still provide much of the content that is important to its viewers on-demand. Like Netflix,, it would essentially compete against other cable providers, using their own data networks to do so. Not just that, but if and when its merger with NBC Universal goes through, it would be able to include that content as well.
Comcast has downplayed this point in its communications to the FCC seeking approval of the merger, saying that online video today isn’t truly competitive to cable TV, nor will it be anytime soon. In defending the deal, Comcast says that its properties, combined with NBCU and its stake in Hulu, make up only a small portion of online video viewing and ad revenue.
But at the same time, Comcast is building an online video powerhouse that could totally change the paradigm of how content is consumed and delivered. With 150,000 titles and access to content from various premium cable networks, Comcast could beat out Netflix, Hulu or any other online video service, if only it weren’t tied to the physical cable plant.
Granted, not everyone would be on board with such a plan. A Comcast spokesperson confirms that the rights negotiated with content partners for Xfinity TV tie the availability of online access to a physical pay TV subscription. And some cable networks — like HBO, for example — have been extremely hesitant to make content available online except as part of a TV Everywhere offering.
But in tomorrow’s all-IP, all on-demand world, should it really matter if a pay TV subscriber is connected to the local Comcast headend or if he gets his content delivered over-the-top through another ISP? In that brave new world, it shouldn’t matter to the content owner how his content is delivered, merely that it’s bought and paid for.
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The latest version comes with some cleaned up design features, built-in Facebook integration and the group video chat we’ve watched develop in the beta releases. For Skype, it’s improvement all around and all we can say now is that the ball is surely in Facebook’s court.
Group Video Chat Goes Live
We got a quick tour of Skype 5.0 and the first thing Rick Osterloh, head of consumer product management, showed off was the group video chat feature. Allowing up to 10 people at once, the chat takes advantage of Skype’s high-quality audio and video. It offers some nifty features, like “dynamic view”, which highlights the person speaking by enlarging their video feed and shrinking everyone else. While group voice and text chat will be available for free, Skype plans on charging for group video chat in the near future.
A Clean-Cut Interface
The next big feature was the new “Skype Home”, which features a cleaned-up contacts list, recent contacts, and the Facebook integration.
As Osterloh called it, it’s a “nice central place for users to go.” The contacts list now shows users’ avatars next to their names and the recent contacts list shows just that, along with recent Skype transactions.
Here Comes Facebook
Now for the Facebook integration – it’s basically your Facebook feed pulled directly into Skype. You can "like" things and post comments, but anything beyond that – like viewing profiles, photos or events – opens separately in your browser.
Viewing your Facebook feed in Skype offers another advantage – for friends who include their phone number in their Facebook profile, you will see two buttons. One lets you call either their Skype number or their home/mobile phone, while the other allows you to send an SMS. If they have a Skype account linked to their Facebook account, a “+” will appear, letting you add them as a Skype contact.
Even better than the Facebook feed – because we really don’t see ourselves browsing Facebook in Skype – is the importing of your Facebook Phonebook. Suddenly, everyone you know on Facebook that lists a phone number will be easily contactable via Skype.
The Ball’s In Facebook’s Court
We were really hoping to see Skype integration on the Facebook website. Osterloh told us that they don’t have anything to announce there today, but we’re hoping to see the vice-versa integration in the near future.
So does this embody the endless potential we wrote about last month? Not really, but it’s a decent first step. What we’re really hoping to see from this partnership are Skype buttons on Facebook that launch Skype calls and SMS capabilities. Even more, we would love to see a Skype integration in the iPhone and Android apps. Imagine using Skype’s background capabilities for ever-present chat and free, quick Skype-to-Skype phone calls connected directly to your Facebook account. What about quick connections from Facebook to businesses as a part of its fledgling Places product?
While the Facebook integration in Skype is nice, it’s the other way around that we’re really excited to see…so what do you say, Facebook? Will we see on-site voice and video calling? SMS integration?
It would be pretty neat, is all we’re saying…
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Kantar Videolytics recently trotted out a long list of premier partners which included some of the major players in online video (Brightcove, Brightroll, Adap.tv, LiveRail, Tremor, ScanScout, you get the picture) for their new Videolytics (video analytics) offering. So what better reason to get on the horn with Bill Lederer, CEO and Trevor Wolfe, Marketing [...]Tags: Cloud Hosting - Coding Web 3.0 - HD Video - Hi-Def Multimedia (HD) - HTML 5 - marketing - Multimedia and Video Platforms - Multimedia News - Music on The Web - online - Online Marketing - Open Source Software (OSS) - partners - The Bleeding Edge of Tech - The Blog Roll - video - Vlog
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Days after Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced its App Store now features more than 250,000 iOS-based mobile applications, rivals Google and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) have checked in with inventory updates on their own storefronts: Android Market now boasts more than 80,000 applications, while BlackBerry App World stands at over 10,000. Google updated Android Market’s status in conjunction with the introduction of T-Mobile USA’s new Android-powered G2 smartphone–the store has added 10,000 new apps since mid-July. Google vice president of engineering Andy Rubin credited Android’s open-source ethos for fostering developer interest in the platform: “Developer-led Android innovation is flourishing,” he said in a prepared statement. “On Android Market alone, the number of applications available to consumers has grown from just 50 applications two years ago to more than 80,000 applications today.”
But access to Android Market is not available to all devices running the Android OS. Hugo Barra, Google’s director of products for mobile, said that Android 2.2 (a.k.a. ‘Froyo’) is not optimized for use on tablets, adding “The way Android Market works is it’s not going to be available on devices that don’t allow applications to run correctly. If you want Android Market on that platform, the apps just wouldn’t run–[Froyo] is just not designed for that form factor. We want to make sure that we’re going to create an application distribution mechanism for the Android Market, to ensure our users have right experience.”
Screen size and resolution appear to be the culprits. The Android Developers website states that from Android 1.6 and up, the OS supports three generalized size (large, normal and small) and three generalized densities (high [hdpi], medium [mdpi] and low [ldpi]), with an upper resolution limit of 480×854 on screens measuring from 3.5 inches to 4.0 inches diagonal. Google has hinted that future Android versions beginning with 3.0 (a.k.a. ‘Gingerbread’) will support the larger tablet form factor.
As for BlackBerry App World, RIM confirmed the 10,000 application benchmark via its Twitter account. RIM recently stated that more than 30 million BlackBerry smartphone users across 65 countries have downloaded BlackBerry App World since it first opened in spring 2009, with consumers averaging more than a million app downloads each day. RIM rolled out a revamped BlackBerry App World in late July–the store now supports credit card payments on top of PayPal, with a handful of carrier partners offering operator billing options as well. BlackBerry App World also boasts new tabbed sections for various application lists: Users can horizontally swipe or scroll to view the Top 25 Free Apps, Top 25 Paid Apps and Top 25 Themes, along with checklists spotlighting the Newest Apps and Recently Updated Apps.
For more on Android Market:
- read this TechRadar article
Distimo: 60 percent of Android apps are free
Android Market adds licensing service to combat app piracy
Google opens up Android development, expands app billing options
Google looks to emerging markets to boost Android