Category ArchiveVideo Rental
Amazon adds unlimited video streaming to Prime members
The streaming video isn’t the same as Amazon Instant Video, with its collection of over 90,000 movie and television titles (allegedly the largest streaming collection in the USA). No, it’s a new service for Amazon Prime which includes 5,000 movies and TV shows, which initially include The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Amadeus, Syriana, and Chariots of Fire, documentaries such as Food Inc., March of the Penguins and Ken Burns’ National Parks, TV shows, such as Doctor Who, Farscape, Fawlty Towers and children’s shows, such as Arthur, Caillou, Super Why! and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
At $79 per year, this service is comparable to monthly subscription services from Hulu Plus and Netflix, which are $7.99. The math makes Amazon Prime $6.58 per month. However, Hulu and Netflix have a much larger collection of titles available to them. The Amazon press release doesn’t make it clear if these Prime videos are available for streaming on electronic devices such as Samsung Blu-ray Disc players or Vizio HDTVs the way Amazon Instant Watch is currently available.
Personally, this seems more like an incentive to sign you up for Amazon Prime two-day shipping than a real challenge to Netflix. They must think members of Prime are more likely to purchase items on Amazon.com than other websites or brick and mortar stores. And for existing Prime members, a way for them to be introduced to Amazon Instant Watch where they might rent or purchase movies. But this is worth keeping an eye on.
Press Release after the jump.
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UltraViolet gets Hollywood support
All it took was a near-collapse of the movie industry, and the bankruptcies of Hollywood mainstays like MGM, but the major studios look to be catching up to the 21st Century. Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem announced multiple industry partners at CES 2011 to include all of the major Hollywood studios except for lone wolf Disney.
“The most highly skilled users are already downloading content, making copies and watching on any device they want,” said Mitch Singer, the chief technology officer of Sony Pictures, who has been the key executive behind Ultraviolet. “We’re trying to build a business model for everyone around that behavior.”
UltraViolet is a cross-industry cooperation to provide digital rights ownership by consumers in a simple way. It was developed due to the frustrating way every manufacturer seemed to have their own digital rights management (DRM) which didn’t play well with others.
Each consumer will have a “rights locker” that will receive the DRM information at purchase or rental. The content will be streamed or downloaded from the provider in accordance with the rights stored int he locker. The digital content may be transfered between devices or shared without obtaining additional rights.
Digital content providers signed up so far include Best Buy, Comcast, Microsoft, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba. The content can be shared with up to six friends or family members, and can be transfered or streamed to up to twelve devices. They may also be copied to DVD or flash media for back up.
The studios and distributors retain the right to decide where and how to sel their content with UltraViolet technology, but the retailers will set the prices. Digital copies of movies and TV shows may be purchased or rented with computers, Internet-connected televisions, and with Blu-ray Discs. The estimated cost will be $11 or $12.
The coalition has been hard at work obtaining partnerships with phone, tablet, HDTV, Blu-ray player, video game console and computer manufacturers. Software will need to be implemented on any device to support UltraViolet DRM technology.
The CES 2011 announcement was for content availability from the major motion picture studios. Hardware and retail availability will come later this year. The studios wanted to provide the content now so there are no hurdles to getting the hardware and retail market up and running.
There were hints that UV technology would allow for ripping of DVDs for storage on local hard drives, and possibly in the cloud, with an UltraViolet license. UV-branded Blu-ray and DVD discs would come with a digital “copy-in-the-cloud” for streaming ro downloading. The stored content would be subject to the same terms as downloaded or steamed content.
Notably absent from this major consortium are Disney and Apple. (Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the largest share-holder of Disney.) These companies always went their own way, but they do it incredibly successfully so time will tell if they come to support UltraViolet in the future. Disney has been developing their own system for cloud-based rights management called Keychest. Just like they ad their own layer of encryption on DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, Disney will certainly try to do their own thing here.
Unless Apple joins the group, iPhones, iPods and iPads – and maybe even OS X – won’t have access to the UV ecosystem. The die hard Apple fans will justify why they rent movies from iTunes while the rest of the world enjoys lifetime ownership of their collection.
Time Warner Cable Video-On-Demand coming to HDTVs
At CES 2011, Sony announced that their new Bravia HDTVs will have access to Time Warner Cable Video-On-Demand without a cable receiver. This is a most unusual development for a cable operator to provide their content over IP services, but it makes sense considering they make a lot of money renting movies, and they have secured rental windows for their service making new releases available 28 days before rental kiosks.
There isn’t a lot of detail about this partnership yet, but I am assuming this will only be provided to Time Warner Cable subscribers – at least initially. They don’t want to give away their strong VOD leverage to satellite subscribers. It also makes sense that they would want to gain VOD sales from subscribers without cable receivers. Certainly they understand a lot of people are giving up their DVRs in favor of IP services like Hulu and Netflix.
Following Sony’s announcement, Samsung also announced partnerships with both Time Warner Cable and Comcast to bring VOD to their HDTVs and Galaxy Tab. The Galaxy Tab features sound similar to the Xfinity Remote for iPad, and should include seamless sharing of video back and forth between the TV and tablet.
There is more information from Samsung than from Sony concerning their partnership. It is confirmed the cable VOD will be available to cable subscribers. They also announced a cool feature that allows content recorded on a DVR (presumably the Samsung DVR) to be played on a Samsung HDTV in the home connected to the local network.
These are very exciting announcements. The converged home is closer and more affordable than we know.
Samsung press releases below
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VUDU to stream 3D movies
3D titles will be available in SD (480p), HD (720p) and HDX (1080p) resolutions at the same bandwidth as the 2D movies. This suggests side-by-side 3D, so the horizontal resolution should be halved. This is the same way DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Comcast deliver 3D content.
Rentals in 3D will cost $1 more, and purchases $2 more. The first titles available will be from Disney: Bolt, Meet the Robinsons, and Chicken Little.
To watch 3D movies from VUDU, you will have to have 3D compatible equipment, a 3DTV and 3D glasses. VUDU tries to detect if the device is 3D capable. This only works if the device is a TV. Otherwise, you’ll receive a warning on the purchase confirmation screen that the title requires a 3D television (and glasses) to watch it.
VUDU has long abandoned selling their own set-top box, but it is surprising that their own branded device will not immediately support 3D. These devices are 3D-ready for VUDU:
- FUNAI (Magnavox and Sylvania) HDTVs and Blu-ray Players
- LG HDTVs and Blu-ray Players
- Mitsubishi HDTVs and Blu-ray Players
- Philips HDTVs and Blu-ray Players
- Select 2010 and 2011 Samsung HDTVs, Blu-ray Players and Blu-ray Home Theater Systems with Samsung Apps
- Sony PlayStation 3
- Toshiba HDTVs and Blu-ray Players
- VIZIO VIA HDTVs and Blu-ray Players
- Boxee Box by D-Link and Iomega TV with Boxee
If you are using UI 1.0, go to VUDU Home -> Explore VUDU and you’ll see collection posters across the bottom of the screen. Select 3D.
If you are using UI 2.0, go to VUDU Home -> Collections -> Showcases. Select 3D.
VUDU is becoming more and more impressive. I recently rented an HDX movie through my PlayStation 3 and was very impressed with the load time, picture quality and surround sound. The selection of titles they have is also impressive. They seem to get streaming rights to new releases faster than most other services.
VUDU press release is below
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Review: AirPlay on AppleTV
Apple released the iOS update to version 4.2.1 this week, which adds several desirable features to the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad. I upgraded our iPad and AppleTV to the latest version and gave it a quick test. But first, an explanation of features.
Added features with 4.2
- Multitasking on iPad The iPhone and iPod touch has had multi tasking since early this year. With the 4.2 upgrade, the iPad now has multitasking ability. This is the most requested feature for the iPad.
- Folders on iPad Folders allows simple drag-and-drop functionality to organize apps and files.
- AirPrint This is one feature I was looking forward to. The print feature is available in the apps, but it won’t find the printer, and there is no printer setup screen anywhere. I’ve looked up a few sources to find out how to get it to work, and it seems Apple hasn’t released an accompanying AirPrint application for Mac or PC. We’ll have to wait on this.
- AirPlay Probably the most exciting upgrade, AirPlay allows content on the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch to stream to a local AppleTV wirelessly. I’ve used the feature and find it compelling. More on this later
- Find My iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch Helps track down and secure lost devices and private data. This is a feature many new “smart” portable devices are adding.
- Game Center Game Center appeared on the home screen automatically after the update. I haven’t used it much, but it seems like a great gateway to find new games.
- iTunes TV show rentals TV show rentals are available. I checked it out on iTunes, but I’m still not sure why anyone would spend the money to do this if they already had cable or satellite. On the other hand, I cancelled my cable service and probably wouldn’t mind spending the $15.99 for the season pass to AMC’s The Walking Dead.
- Unified mail box All email accounts go into a unified inbox.
- Find text on web pages Exactly as it sounds. Helps find relevant information.
- Reply to calendar invitations RSVP to invitations directly from the calendar app. Works with Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft Exchange.
- Enhanced enterprise support Stronger security features and device management.
How does AirPlay work? Simple. When viewing photos or video, or listening to audio, you just select the AirPlay button, and then chose where you want the content to go. I tried it out with AppleTV. See the video below.
With AirPlay, I would recommend the AppleTV to any iPad owner. It’s one of the cheapest accessories you can get for the thing, and it’s just so cool. It’s true that you can stream this content from your computer to an AppleTV or similar device (Roku, Boxee, etc), but if you have an iPad, you might be downloading stuff on the fly and want to watch it as soon as you get home.
Or even with the iPhone or iPod touch, AirPlay is compelling. Imagine this scenario: you’ve got music playing on ear buds, and when you get home, you simply hit the AirPlay button and transfer it immediately to your home speakers without having to fidget through a separate device.
With this new iOS update, iTunes has also been upgraded to also include AirPlay. I tried this out as well, and it works great. The only issue is there isn’t a conflict resolution, so whichever device selects an end point last gets immediate access regardless of whatever else was being shared. An example was streaming audio from the local PC to the AppleTV, and then using the iPad content. The iPad immediately streamed to the AppleTV. iTunes on the PC didn’t recognize this change.
Also coming to the market are audio/video receivers, speakers, iPod docks, and more with AirPlay. So from the portable device or from iTunes, you can stream audio to whichever device you chose. This seems like it has great potential.
There were a few other bugs with AirPlay, but I don’t imagine how an app developer wouldn’t include this in the future. It’s just too convenient.
Netflix adds streaming only subscription
Netflix is now offering a streaming-only subscription service for $7.99 per month. This includes unlimited streaming of all of their instant titles, but with no DVD in the mail.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said this came with the success of the $7.99 streaming service in tested in Canada. Streaming is such big business for them, it’s overshadowed their disc delivery model. Netflix is standard with practically every value-priced Blu-ray Disc player, and mid-level LCD or plasma HDTV.
We are now primarily a streaming video company delivering a wide selection of TV shows and films over the Internet.
At $7.99, this plan is the same price as Hulu Plus. I expect Netflix will try to leverage their ubiquity to get current TV programming on their instant service.
Also announced today, Netflix is increasing their price for subscriptions which include mailed discs. This chart details the increases:
The Blu-ray Disc surcharge will remain the same.
Netflix to go disc-free on PS3
Big news for owners of the Sony PlayStation 3! Starting Monday, October 18 the PS3 will offer Netflix through the menu – no disc required!
In addition to this great update, the Netflix user interface is also receiving an upgrade for a more advanced browsing experience. The startup and playback will also be sped up compared to the existing disc-based approach.
The good news doesn’t stop there! Some content will now be provided in 1080i resolution, with Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Previously Netflix maxed at 720p with 2-channel audio.
I knew there was a reason I didn’t sell my PS3.
From the PlayStation blog