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Netflix Roku Dave may have to hold off on The Battle Royale. Word is that Netflix may be upping the ante with new content for the Roku box. (via Forbes, and Silicon Alley Insider) While Netflix isn’t saying what that content might be, VP Tim Twerdahl claims that a software update later this year will let the Roku box stream video from other “big name” providers.

Clearly the battle of the boxes is leading up to an all-out content war. That’s great news for the content providers and for consumers. More competition means more licensing fees for the providers and more stuff to watch for us at home.

Except, wait a minute. Doesn’t this mean we’re moving toward another video consumption model with a subscription fee and a set-top? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Being a glutton for punishment, I recorded a few of the demos and screenshots shown during Paul Kagan’s “Getting Personal” conference last week in conjunction with the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo. (I’ve gotten in trouble for posting “confidential” video demos shown at conferences before.) This one comes from Ensequence, showing off some interactive TV apps used in a trial with DirecTV and Dish during the Video Game Awards. In case watching TV by itself is not enough, Ensequence demonstrates some of the promise (or distraction) of interactive television: immediate access to relevant information, the ability to collect points for rewards from sponsors, and, my favorite, access to old arcade games on a split screen. Check out the 45-second mark in the video above.

A few things have changed since the first scramble for interactive television circa the late 1990s. Cable systems have gone digital, tru2way/OCAP is a reality, and the cable and consumer electronics industries are at least attempting to play nice with each other. iTV may still be a few years out, but the pieces are falling into place.

Todd Spangler at Multichannel broke the news this morning. Comcast is buying up to six million digital terminal adapters (DTAs) this year in an effort to migrate to all-digital broadcasts throughout 20% of its footprint in 2008. The DTAs are coming from Motorola (my employer), Pace and Thomson. DTAs work by converting QAM channels broadcast without encryption to analog signals. They don’t include any conditional access technology, a program guide, or support two-way services such as VOD.

[Note from Dave: I received a tip from Glenn (thanks!) last week referring to USA Today coverage of same. Wonder if Comcast may attempt to bypass SDV entirely by freeing up this bandwidth? Hmmm. Perhaps going all QAM will force them to standardize how they label and map these channels (verus the current Comcast clear QAM chaos in my region).]

The idea behind RedLasso is deceptively simple. The service lets bloggers search and share TV clips online. Unfortunately, once you get past that one-line description, things get a lot more complicated. What about copyright? Distribution agreements? Who should get paid for content reuse? After sitting down with RedLasso’s CEO Kenyon Hayward, I came to two conclusions. First, most people are looking at RedLasso from the wrong angle. And second, if TV networks don’t start signing deals with the company, they’ll find they have to build or buy an equivalent service in the near future anyway.

Above everything else, I now think of RedLasso as a reference tool. The company catalogs broadcast content and brings it to a platform (the Web) suitable for searching and sorting. Broadcasters should love this. It creates a way for them to monetize chunks of their content without having to do a speck of work. You know all that money broadcasters have made off traditional syndication deals? RedLasso gives them an opportunity to do the same thing on the Web, but with news instead of entertainment, and in a format that works for the online world – short clips supported by embedded advertising from video ad networks.

So why are the networks sending RedLasso cease-and-desist letters? Ken Hayward makes clear that RedLasso isn’t interested in replaying network shows for free online, and raw content is only available for a limited period of time. Presumably the networks are concerned because they’re still hung up on the control issue. It’s their content after all. Shouldn’t the networks get control over how it’s used?

The answer of course is: not anymore. Ceding control to viewers is what has made Web video so popular. And the fact that RedLasso can help the networks make money on such a turbulent platform should be appealing. If the networks don’t recognize that now, they’ll likely come to understand it as Web video viewing continues to skyrocket in the coming months and years.

Now here’s the reality check. RedLasso has a lot going for it, including huge viewership numbers, but it’s got a lot of obstacles too. Even with the money the company’s raised, it’s bringing in no revenue right now because it won’t roll ads until content deals are in place. It can keep going for a while, but given how notoriously slow-moving big media is, the question arises: Can RedLasso survive long enough to bring the networks on board and achieve real legitimacy?

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Are we finally ready for iTV? Maybe I’ll find out today at the Kagan conference on “Interactive TV Technology and Targeted Advertising.”

Anyone else attending? Give me a shout at marisilbey (at) comcast dot net.