Yep, Netflix is throwing around a lot of money for streaming TV. The company will spend an estimated $200 million for shows from Disney and ABC, including Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty and the entire series of Lost.
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Now that Netflix has done the messy work of building a subscription streaming video service and proving its success, here come the imitators.
The Wall Street Journal reports that several tech companies are now trying to build their own online video subscriptions, including Vizio, Amazon and OnLive. Also, Microsoft and Sony are reportedly being wooed by media companies who want to license content directly, and Microsoft may be putting together a subscription package that’s like cable over the Internet.
This is all rumor, given that most of the companies would not comment to the Journal, but the idea of more steaming services from would-be Netflix competitors at least seems plausible.
Movies are Netflix’s bread and butter, but now the service is setting its sights on current television shows.
Over at the New York Post, Claire Atkinson’s unnamed source says Netflix in talks with television studios to add current primetime shows to its streaming catalog. The company is reportedly willing to spend between $70,000 and $100,000 per episode on in-season TV.
It’s probably not going to happen in the near future. Broadcast networks claim they own the streaming rights, not the studios, and they’re reluctant to make deals because they don’t want to cannibalize ad dollars reaped from syndication. I’m guessing Netflix won’t be buying many in-season shows until that gets hammered out.
Reuters reports a rumor that Microsoft wants to offer a subscription television service, and has at least talked to media companies about the possibility.
Microsoft would act as a “virtual cable operator” and deliver content over the Xbox 360 or other devices for a monthly fee. But right now, it’s all early-stage scuttlebutt, as the service isn’t likely to arrive for 12 months, if at all, and no specific media companies are mentioned.
Microsoft already dabbles in Web TV on the Xbox 360, and is locked in battle with Sony to create the best array of options. The console has Netflix, ESPN3 and on demand video, and Hulu Plus is coming next year.
This sounds like something different. It seems like Microsoft wants to line up a lot of content providers to offer a bundled service similar to cable, but over its own set-top box via the Internet.
Hulu announced today that the preview phase of Hulu Plus is over, and that the service now costs $8 per month.
If you’ve been paying $10 per month during the preview period, Hulu will credit the difference to your account. And if you haven’t tried Hulu Plus, the site is offering free one-week trials (current subscribers will get a free week as well) and a referral program that gives two free weeks to subscribers and the people they sign up. Sony’s Bravia TVs and connected Blu-ray players come with 11 free weeks, and Roku boxes get a free month.
Android is the best-selling smartphone platform in the United States right now. Netflix’s streaming video strategy revolves around support for popular devices. So why can’t Android and Netflix get together? Digital rights management, or lack thereof.
In a blog post, Greg Peters of Netflix product development explained that the company really wants to launch on Android devices. “The hurdle,” he said, “has been the lack of a generic and complete platform security and content protection mechanism available for Android.”
In other words, Hollywood doesn’t like the way Android does DRM, and Netflix is powerless without Hollywood’s go-ahead. On the bright side, Netflix will work with individual handset makers to satisfy Hollywood’s needs, so while you won’t see a Netflix Android app any time soon, certain Android phones — and tablets, one hopes — will get their own Instant Watch video players early next year.
I sense a bit of politics at work here.
Gradually, live sports are coming to set-top boxes and game consoles. The latest is the National Hockey League, whose Gamecenter Live service for out-of-market games is now available on Playstation 3 and Roku.
The app is free for Roku users and costs $10 on the PS3, but it’s free to subscribers of Playstation Plus, Sony’s premium online service. The actual Gamecenter subscription costs $21 per month or $169 per year. (Weird. The NHL regular season ends in April and playoffs run into June, which is seven months from now. Unless I’m missing something, not sure why you’d pay a higher price for the entire year at once.)
Google’s YouTube Remote app for Android might ease the pain of changing the channel on web video, so to speak.
The free app controls YouTube Leanback on the desktop or on Google TV. Once synced by user account on both devices, the app can play, pause, rewind, fast forward and adjust volume on YouTube clips. But the killer feature, I think, is the ability to find new videos or add them to a queue.
Back when I subscribed to cable, changing channels was the most inelegant part of the experience. You press the “guide” button, and your picture becomes a thumbnail, surrounded by a wall of programming information. Because this is so distracting, you’re under pressure — from your family or whoever else is watching — to find a new channel as quickly as possible so you can get back to the big screen.
If you’re itching to pay $10 per month for Hulu Plus, you no longer have to get an invitation to the party.
Hulu announced today that its premium service is now open to everyone. Hulu Plus is still technically in its preview stage, but at least now you can try the service without waiting for an arbitrary go-ahead. (For Playstation 3 users, the service will stop requiring a Playstation Plus subscription within the next week.)
Assuming that the government OKs Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal, network chief executive Jeff Zucker will depart.
While I’m not one to dwell on personnel changes at entertainment companies, Zucker’s an interesting figure. As CNet points out, he’s notorious for giving tech companies a hard time over NBC content. Notably, NBC tried to get a cut of iPod revenue while negotiating iTunes licensing of TV shows, and NBC is not taking part in the 99-cent show rentals Apple TV will offer. Zucker said that price would “devalue” the network’s content.
NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage was also terrible. Event feeds were unavailable online to people who didn’t have cable subscriptions, and major events were tape-delayed and kept offline to force primetime viewing.
But when I think of Zucker, I’m reminded most of his hard line against Boxee, which tried to use content from Hulu, the web video site backed by NBC, News Corp and ABC.