Blockbuster: Yet Another Set-Top Box?

Dave Zatz —  April 10, 2008 — 14 Comments

Because we just don’t have enough set-top boxes to choose from, Blockbuster will be tossing their hat into the ring. According to the Hollywood Reporter:

The home video giant is developing a set-top device for streaming films directly to TV sets and is expected to announce the offering sometime this month. The device is believed to be a stand-alone product akin to Apple TV as opposed to embedding a Blockbuster-branded service in such existing devices as Microsoft’s Xbox 360 or TiVo.

How many boxes are people willing to connect? The BBC is onto something by making their web content available via the Wii (in the UK) and perhaps one day I’ll be offered Netflix Watch Now on my Xbox 360. As a TiVo owner, I also have a variety of standard def Amazon Unbox content to choose from… For some reason, I’m much more tolerant of low-rez video when I can stream unlimited quantities for a fixed price (Netlix) or free-with-commercials (Hulu).

Along those lines, I’ve been thinking of replacing one of my TiVo units with a small form factor computer for basic ATSC DVR capabilities (or maybe clear QAM HD), plus the ability to watch web video. (And if I’m feeling flush, perhaps I’ll add a Blu-ray drive.) Though, I’m holding off for now… It looks like there’s a small chance I might be able to extend Netflix Watch Now from the office Vista Media Center to the living room Xbox 360.

14 responses to Blockbuster: Yet Another Set-Top Box?

  1. Funny. Everyone so desperate to vendor lock you into their proprietary technology, all under the “auspices” that they know what’s best for the Consumer. I suppose it will get worse before it gets better…

    Dedicated set top box for low def Blockbuster movies, than a different one ( with proprietary connectors! ) for hi-def Blockbuster movies, then a third to read your thumb print ( “We assume you are a criminal, providing your thumb print is mandatory before watching your movie )…

    Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_tea_party

  2. These Netflix, Blockbuster and other “boxes” are destined to fail. Integrate the streaming feature into other devices such as DVD players, Xbox360, Wii, Playstation and HTPCs and they will be used, but otherwise I agree – we don’t want more junk in the livingroom….

  3. Agreed, most of us already have more than enough boxes – time to expand what they can do. My A/V stand is already full – I’ve got the two big game consoles plus a Tivo – surely these guys can find a way to sell me their stuff on one of those platforms? I don’t understand why Sony, itself a huge content provider, isn’t willing to rent me its movies on my PS3? And how about some subscription or season-pass based services from Unbox – maybe with a little HD goodness?

  4. This is a problem that is just begging for an industry standard solution (not proprietary). I just want to use vendor A’s box to consume material supplied by vendors B, C, and D.

    And of course it has to be platform independent.

  5. dwgsp: Speaking of that, what’s most interesting here is that almost all the vendor’s in play (Amazon, Netflix, Blockbuster/Movielink) are all using Microsoft’s streaming platform and DRM! The basic infrastructure for “vendor A’s box to consume material supplied by vendors B, C, and D” exists to a large part today.

    Granted, they are using a Microsoft’s proprietary format, but the reasoning is pretty simple. Windows Media DRM is one of the few studio approved DRM systems out there.

  6. I feel that I have the most STB’s that I am willing to have in my media room. Right now I have a TiVo, PS3, HD-DVD, Wii, and a Vudu box. I recently retired the VCR and multi disk CD player that were in there.

  7. Ditto. With a Tivo HD, Wii, Apple TV, DVD Player, CD Player, Receiver, etc I think I’ve already got enough crap hooked up to my TV. How many inputs do they think we have, let alone shelf space?

    I’m not buying any single function boxes for this. And even a DVD player integration wouldn’t likely do it for me, since it would have to have a disk, or only be able to stream (i.e. subject to network issues). Let alone constant DRM updates etc. Not having it.

    I am also not interested in low-def streaming on any box hooked to my TV. Downloads with early start are fine. DRM is fine (well, not fine but I’ll live with it). But something at least as good as the SD signal quality from my cable company is the minimum standard. And if they want to use it for movies, and to replace physical DVDs then near-DVD quality, with 5.1 sounds and 16:9 display options is a requirement. And they should be thinking about HD in the near near future.

    Maybe its just too late for Blockbuster. Tivo’s already paired up with Amazon Unbox (exclusive? no idea). Apple has their own service, and obviously isn’t interested in a deal like this. Sony with the PS3 might be doable, but the other studios might not be so thrilled. Only Microsoft’s XBox is really a possibility, depending on Microsoft’s own ambitions in this area (i.e. what do they need Blockbuster for?).

    Ditto Netflix. Better partner up with somebody quick, or your long term future is pretty dismal…

    If either Netflix or Blockbuster can build an Apple TV or MC extender that ALSO downloads movies via broadband AND does a REALLY GOOD JOB with photos, and music, then MAYBE. Otherwise, forget it.

    And yes, Vudu is already dead.

  8. As was mentioned already there’s only so much real estate on that stand with the TV, by the time you do the cable box (or sat), dvd, tuner/amp, 360, slingbox, and hopefully in the near future a slingcather I just don’t see where these other boxes fit in. Fit it in with a game machine, Slingcatcher, or offer it through a cable/sat box and I think you are onto something.

  9. Chris Lanier:

    Good point. As long as MS’s solution is platform independent (which I assume is true since my Tivo can stream Amazon Unbox movies) I think it goes a long way towards meeting my needs. The remaining gap seems to be giving end users the ability to select any content supplier who supports the “standard”.

    I don;t want to be locked in to using a specific set of “hard coded” content suppliers.

  10. dwgsp: Amazon Unbox on TiVo is re-encoded as MPEG-2, hence the difference in PC versus DVR resolution and occasional encoding artifacts. Given TiVo’s recent YouTube announcement, they obviously intend to increase codec support (hardware is capable) later this year on Series3 and TiVoHD units – in addition to H.264, I hope they enable WMV-HD… unless they’ve got another movie supplier or process lined up.

  11. Dave: I think I am missing something here… does the fact that S2 Tivo units can only support MPEG-2 video format imply that they cannot support Microsoft’s streaming and DRM technologies? I thought that these were format independent.

  12. Series2 is only capable of MPEG-2 and I imagine TiVo will start focusing more attention on the current, more powerful platform. Microsoft protection is tied to Windows Media file formats, and like Chris said most everyone who isn’t Apple is using it for video (audio too).

  13. Why do these companies think they can succeed in the hardware business? Comcast owns that space and Apple is having a hard time making a go at it. I don’t see Blockbuster or Netflix making any headway here at all.

  14. Chris is right in that WMV has been the obvious play for quite some time.

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