Archives For Video

PopcornFlix on Sony

The free, ad-supported Popcornflix movie service is coming to Sony’s connected Bravia TVs and Blu-ray devices. Already available on Roku and Boxee, Popcornflix draws from the movie catalog of its parent company Screen Media Ventures. This is no Netflix alternative, and you won’t find recent movie hits available for free. However, Popcornflix reportedly has a library of more than 650 films, and it’s adding more each month. The service was already available on both Roku and Boxee boxes.
Although I admit my tastes are probably too mainstream for most of the movies on Popcornflix (or at least I don’t have the mental energy to search for something I’d like), I do find it interesting to see a content company pursuing direct distribution. This isn’t necessarily a viable solution for many studios who have other types of revenue models in place, but it does suggest that there is a level at which direct distribution works beyond one-off productions like the upcoming Kickstarter-funded Veronica Mars movie. Last June GigaOM reported that Popcornflix was behind only the big guys like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix in number of Roku downloads. The fact that distribution is expanding suggests the revenue stream is worthwhile.

Related- Remember when Sony was considering its own virtual MSO last year? It looks like the company is hoping to add to its content stores in other ways now.

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WD TV Play Review

Dave Zatz —  February 22, 2013 — 22 Comments

There’s something of a glut in the media streamer space, with most new entrants falling into the “unmemorable” category – and we regularly pass on covering the parade of derivative boxes. However, Western Digital’s no stranger to this market and we’ve often recommended their solutions over the years. And, with WDTV Play, they bring a compelling new approach… along with competitive pricing ($70).

wdtv-play

Whereas prior WD TV revs seem to emphasize personal media, the new WD TV Play prioritizes streaming media services. And, with the notable exceptions of Amazon Instant, Western Digital pretty much has most of the tent pole apps covered: Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Vudu. While no one can really touch Roku in “channel” count, there’s a lot of crap niche programming. WDTV Play may have fewer channels, but the signal to noise ratio is much more favorable.

What really sets this device apart Continue Reading…

roku2-epix-aolhd

A random web search turned me on to some interesting Roku job openings, emphasizing content relationships and recommendations. Individually, maybe they’re not so compelling. But from a holistic standpoint, perhaps these new positions shed a bit of light on Roku’s ambitions and decision to turn down an Amazon acquisition in favor of additional funding.

The first role is Roku Programming Director… to be located in Los Angeles. Which, of course, much of the content industry calls home. “The Director will survey the landscape of available content, plans and strategies” to assist “business development prioritize content acquisition efforts. ” Hm. By comparison, the Content Programming Manager will be based at Roku’s Nothern California headquarters and will basically function as a full-time recommendation engine: Continue Reading…

Making The Case For Aereo

Dave Zatz —  January 19, 2013 — 16 Comments

aereo-verge

My Twitter pal Michael Turk, whose name you may recognize from a tenure at the NCTA, recently wrote up his disdain for Aereo:

You know what is 100% free and doesn’t require any payment to the cable industry? Broadcast TV. This guy is suggesting people pay money every month – albeit to a different company – to watch something that is broadcast OVER THE AIR. [...] if all you are watching are broadcast channels, you certainly don’t need to be paying Aereo or anyone else for it.

While Turk makes some reasonable points regarding onerous retransmission fees and Aereo’s legal challenges, there’s way more to the service than basic access to broadcast channels. $8/month grants you access to two micro antennas and 20 hours of cloud DVR storage space (or $12 for 40hrs). So not only does Aereo provide “live” broadcast television, but you can schedule season passes and the like. Further, you’re not confined to a television and set-top box in your home as Aereo pretty much allows you to watch your live and recorded television programming via any modern browser… including the ones found on our smartphones and tablets. Continue Reading…

neotv-slingbox

Among Sling Media and Netgear’s various CES announcements is news that Slingbox streaming is coming to the NeoTV line of streamers. Of course, we’d probably expect a repurposing of the original Flash-based Logitech Revue SlingPlayer for the new (and slightly bulkier) NeoTV Prime running Google TV. But the more Roku-esque models, including the NeoTV MAX we reviewed, will also receive dedicated apps – perhaps as soon as next week. So, for the first time, you can get your hands on a “SlingCatcher” for as little as 50 bucks and stream your Slingbox content to another television in your home… or perhaps to a set in the ski lodge, given sufficient bandwidth. Of course the follow-on question is, “Where’s the Roku client?” And while Sling reps weren’t prepared to elaborate, I get the sense there are both technical and business considerations at play.

vizio-costar-update

I briefly swung by Vizio’s CES suite for an update on their small form factor streamer. And came away quite please to learn existing Vizio Costar units will beging receiving a Google TV 3 update within just a few weeks. While our initial Costar impressions weren’t the most favorable, there’s still quite a bit of value here at the $99 price point and the Google TV refresh, including updated YouTube app and tablet voice control, ups the ante. Further, Vizio informed me a full-on Amazon Instant app is now available (versus the web shortcut). Given Vizio’s Input 1 HDMI pass-thru and true web browsing, in addition to the requisite apps, it’s a competitive and unique offering at this price point… which will surely gain traction as they expand to brick & mortar distribution later this year. We’re looking forward to taking our (two) Costars for a spin, once the gTV3 update hits, and will report back.

Content remains king, with television programming and mobile device interaction converging at a rapid pace. So-called “second screen” apps were everywhere at CES, integrating all sorts of functionality. And companies are clearly pumped. Heck, Cisco & Cox invited Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman in to witness the unveiling of their upcoming iPad app.

2ndscreensummit

In conjunction with CES festivities, I was invited to the 2nd Screen Summit“a deep-dive into the latest business opportunities, creative case studies and technology innovations related to the creation of supplementary, synchronized and social TV content featuring speakers from Hollywood, Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley.” Given a tight schedule, I was only able to attend the keynote and a discussion of content discovery via the second screen… which quite frequently wandered well beyond the confines of a tablet device, once again reinforcing content consumption interconnectedness. And, with my somewhat irreverent style, I fired off several “second screen” tweets of my own from the sessions (reproduced below). Continue Reading…