Tag Archives | Online Video

Crackle’s Ad-Supported Movies and Shows Deemed Fit for Set-Top Boxes

Until now, you’d be forgiven for knowing nothing about Crackle. Sony Pictures’ online video service has kept a low profile by withholding its ad-supported movies and TV shows from most web-connected set-top boxes.

On Tuesday, Sony announced that it’s bringing all that content to the Playstation 3 (via the home screen on the built-in web browser), Sony Blu-ray players, BRAVIA TVs and the Roku set-top box, along with Google TV, which was previously supported. Crackle will become the first web video service to stream ad-supported movies and TV shows to these devices, Sony says.

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Let the Netflix Backlash Begin

Netflix suffered a couple setbacks this week at the hands of Showtime and Starz. According to the Los Angeles Times, Showtime will no longer provide old seasons of “Dexter” and “Californication” for streaming, and Starz will delay streaming episodes of its new series “Camelot” by 90 days. Starz may also withhold movies from Netflix streaming in the future, the LA Times reports.

We’ve been hearing for a while that Hollywood is afraid of Netflix. For $8 per month, the service provides a huge library of on demand movies and TV shows, and has the potential to pull people away from existing revenue streams, such as DVD, video on demand and, in the case of Showtime and Starz, premium subscription television.

But as far as I know, that fear hasn’t produced any tangible effect on Netflix’s streaming service until now. With Showtime and Starz retracting content, we’re seeing the first signs of a Netflix streaming backlash.

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Zediva: Streaming New Movies for Cheap Through a Sneaky Workaround

Movie studios are skittish about giving their new releases to bargain rental services like Netflix and Redbox, but that’s not a concern for streaming video startup Zediva.

The service, which moves out of beta today, streams new movie releases for $2 a piece — half the price of new releases from iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Blockbuster On Demand. You can also purchase a 10-pack of rentals for $10 total.

Zediva shaves down its pricing by cutting movie studios out of the equation. Instead of negotiating streaming rights, the company buys up DVDs at retail and uses place-shifting technology to stream the video out of a Silicon Valley data center. Think Slingbox on a massive scale, but with DVD players instead of cable boxes. (I got a mental image of some guy running around, swapping out all the discs, but Zediva assures me that it uses a carousel mechanism to change movies.)

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Amazon Prime Now Includes Free Streaming Videos

Amazon’s protracted battle against Netflix has begun. Starting today, Amazon Prime customers can stream a library of 5,000 movies and television shows at no extra charge.

Prime will continue to cost $79 per year, and still includes unlimited two-day shipping and $3.99 one-day shipping on retail orders. Even if you never buy a single item from Amazon, the Prime video service will save you $17 over Netflix streaming on a yearly basis.

That’s not to say Amazon and Netflix are comparable. Amazon streaming is missing from a few key set-top boxes, including video game consoles and TiVo (TiVo supports Amazon video on demand but not the streaming service, for now at least). As for the iPhone and iPad, Prime support seems unlikely, especially with Apple’s new policy towards subscription services. On the bright side, the service should work on Roku, Google TV and nearly 200 connected Blu-ray players and TVs. Engadget’s Tim Stevens even got some videos running through the Flash player on his first-generation Droid phone.

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YouTube for Game Consoles? Sounds Good

As Sony and Microsoft beef up the streaming video selections on their respective video game consoles, Google’s YouTube has been conspicuously absent.

But now, a Google job posting, spotted by Gamasutra, seeks an engineer to “build the next generation game-console-based TV experience with You Tube video content” and “integrate and optimize with distribution channels and devices including all major game platforms.”

In other words, we might someday see a native YouTube app for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and maybe even Nintendo’s Wii.

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Now it's Hulu's Turn to Step on Netflix's Toes

A rivalry between Hulu and Netflix continues to silently brew. Where the two streaming services once had distinct roles — Hulu for television, Netflix for movies — they are increasingly overlapping.

To that end, Hulu just added 800 movies to its Hulu Plus subscription service, courtesy of Criterion Collection. The high-brow cinema of Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini and more can now be yours to stream for $8 per month.

The films will be uninterrupted by commercials, which will only roll before the movie starts. The free version of Hulu will get some Criterion Collection movies on a rotating basis, but they will be broken up by ads.

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"Welcome to Hulu Plus, Snooki"

Hulu and Viacom are best pals once again, with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report returning to Hulu as free streaming videos, available the day after they air on TV.

Hulu also announced that Viacom will bring a bunch of other shows to Hulu Plus, the site’s $8 per month subscription service, including Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 and MTV’s Jersey Shore. (The above headline is a quote from Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar’s blog post.) In total, Hulu will add more than 2,000 episodes of Viacom content including Chappelle’s Show, The Hills and Reno 911.

Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s satirical news programs were among the most popular shows on Hulu before Viacom pulled them from the site in March 2010, apparently over rights disagreements.

But in addition to the news about Viacom, Kilar used his blog post to publish a manifesto of sorts on the future of digital content, touching on rumors that the site may change direction and become more like an online cable operator.

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Roku, YouTube Give Al-Jazeera English New Paths to Your TV

Like my colleague Ed Oswald, I’ve been marveling at Al-Jazeera English’s coverage of the protests in Egypt. Particularly, I appreciate how the channel is treating its journalism like a public service, with a free live stream on the Web and a Creative Commons license for other networks to use its footage.

But unlike Ed, I’m not lamenting cable companies’ stonewalling of the channel because, well, I don’t subscribe to cable. Still, I get the desire to watch Al Jazeera English’s coverage on a television, so I’m glad Roku has stepped in with a solution for its set-top boxes. Roku owners can now tap into Al-Jazeera English’s live feed through the Newscaster app in the Roku Channel Store.

That’s a pretty nice development for web video in general. One of the common complaints with cord-cutting is that you lose access to 24-hour news networks such as CNN or Fox News, who only make their feeds available to pay TV subscribers. Al-Jazeera English provides a good workaround, albeit one that won’t give you national news coverage if you’re in the United States.

In addition to Roku, YouTube is now running a live feed of Al-Jazeera English, potentially allowing the Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and other connected TVs and set-top boxes to access the channel. I’ll be able to test that out on the two consoles’ web browsers in an hour or so, and will update with the results. (Update: No luck with the YouTube feed on Playstation 3 or Wii, but I did get the feed from Al-Jazeera’s own website running in the PS3′s web browser.)


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Amazon's Netflix Rival Returns in Elusive Rumor

Amazon could be pretty close to offering a subscription streaming video service similar to that of Netflix.

We’ve heard this story before, in a couple of rumors from last year, but over the weekend an Engadget reader reportedly spotted the streaming option while perusing Amazon’s on-demand video library. Amazon has also registered the web domain primeinstantvideos.com and several variants.

According to the tipster, Amazon may tie the streaming service to Amazon Prime, the retail program that provides unlimited two-day shipping for $79 per year. Subscribers would get access to roughly 5,000 videos in 480p resolution with no commercials, at no extra cost. This would undercut Netflix’s streaming plan by $17 per year.

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Roku's WealthTV Deal Is a Glimpse of A La Carte

For folks fed up with paying too much for cable, a la carte television — the idea of paying only for the channels you watch — is the impossible dream, but Roku’s taken the first step towards attaining it with WealthTV’s 24-hour linear feed.

For $2.99 per month, Roku users can now watch WealthTV as if it were on cable, with a set schedule of shows streaming around the clock. This is the first U.S. cable channel to offer its content to Roku this way, though it’ll also allow subscribers to watch shows on demand.

To be sure, this would be a bigger deal if WealthTV was a popular channel. Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Cox Cable don’t even offer it in their line-ups. But it’s precisely because of WealthTV’s insignificance that this news has big ramifications for the future of TV.

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