Hulu: thin on content, high on usability

11 11 2007

Online Video Watch gives its verdict on the Hulu private beta over in this post. The service scores highly for ease-of-use and discoverability of content, but poorly for the extent of the content offer itself.

However, that may be about to change, says the Hollywood Reporter, revealing that Warner Brothers Television is in discussions with Hulu, which will likely see a selection of its catalogue added alongside that from Sony and MGM, as well as Hulu co-founders NewsCorp. (Fox) and NBC Universal.

In related news, paidContent offers a pretty blunt assessment of NBCDirect.com, a new TV downloads service which offers content for seven days from broadcast and viewing for 48 hours once first played.





Apple to halve cost of iTunes TV downloads; supplier rebellion brewing?

7 09 2007

Apple is planning to cut the cost of TV downloads via its iTunes service from US $1.99 to just 99 cents, reports Variety.

The move would create a single price point for both audio and TV downloads, which Apple believes will drive consumption for the latter category, which remains completely dwarfed by equivalent music track downloads. Given Apple’s success in dominating the digital downloads sector, any changes to pricing could prove an adrenalin shot to sales of TV downloads.

It’s reported that pricing for movie downloads will likely remain unchanged and there hasn’t been any comment on price points for the recently-launched TV downloads offer via the iTunes U.K storefront, where shows sell for double the existing equivalent price across the Pond.

Reuters builds on Variety‘s coverage, suggesting that other TV networks may be emboldened by NBCU’s move, with a Gartner analyst even speculating that video content may all but disappear from the iTunes service.

News Corp., Time Warner, Viacom and Walt Disney Co. all have contracts with iTunes. One of them is due to expire by the end of this year, and another by next year, according to industry sources, the report adds.

In related news, Apple and partner record labels are to go before the European Commission on 19 and 20 September, to defend accusations of price-fixing across the Eurozone.





NBCU blows out iTunes TV downloads deal

31 08 2007

NBC Universal, the biggest supplier of TV shows to iTunes, will not be renewing its two-year deal offering downloads via Apple’s digital entertainment storefront when it comes to an end in December, The New York Times reports. In a tit-for-tat response, Apple then announced that it would cease offering NBC TV shows from September.

While both companies declined to discuss the exact reasons behind the decision, it’s believed that NBCU had grown increasingly uncomfortable with Apple’s rigid pricing model, which offers just two price points for download-to-own video titles: US $1.99 for TV shows and $9.99 for movies.

NBCU’s 1,500-hour catalogue accounts for as much as 40% of TV show downloads via iTunes, including titles such as The Office and Heroes which play particularly well to online audiences.

Proving that Apple is mostly expert when it comes to managing ‘bad’ news (something TiVo also excels at), its revelation that a new generation iPod is on the way more than offset the blow, sending its shares up 6% on a day’s trading.

In related news, NBC Digital Entertainment yesterday announced that it will stream free episodes of Late Night With Conan O’Brien, when the series returns for its new season on 13 September.





iTunes TV downloads launch in the U.K.

29 08 2007

Apple iTunes users in the U.K. are now able to access a range of download-to-own TV shows licensed from ABC/Disney and Viacom at £1.89 a pop (double the equivalent of the U.S.), the first time the service has been extended outside the U.S since it created a watershed moment for online video in late 2005.

The initial content offer is pretty thin at just 28 U.S. series, many of which in the case of ABC-licensed content have already been offered on Channel 4’s 4oD service, albeit at higher rates. The lack of any U.K.-produced titles could be perceived as a tad culturally imperialist – not to mention a lack of riches.

In the U.S. iTunes users have been downloading an average of one million TV episodes each week (50 million have been downloaded to date); meanwhile two million movies have been downloaded via the service so far. But this still pales into insignificance vs. performance of audio titles: 13 million single tracks and just under a million full album downloads every week.

Whether this latest development will play to Apple’s business model of driving hardware sales (eg video iPods, Apple TV) through offering a compelling range of software (TV and music) remains to be seen. In any event, it’s a big move for the U.K. market which can only serve to stimulate overall demand for licensed, downloadable TV and movies.





Sony / Sky JV brings go-anywhere TV to the PSP

23 08 2007

Following news added yesterday that the European version of the PlayStation 3 is to get inbuilt TV receiver and DVR functions… 

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) and BSkyB have revealed further details of their joint-venture entertainment service for Playstation PSPs, first announced late last month.

Launching early next year, the Go! video download service will allow 2.3 million PSP owners in the U.K. and Ireland to watch Sky content on the move, reports the Financial Times. A collaboration with telco BT will also allow PSP users to make voice and video calls via their devices, as well as the ability to send and receive instant messages.

For the entertainment service, customers will be able to pick and choose from individual programmess offered by Sky, or subscribe to content packages like sports, entertainment, or animation, adds Wired.





BBC iPlayer: first publicly-released uptake stats; 4oD update

3 08 2007

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BBC iPlayer launched in beta a week ago today. According to this report, 100,000 users are up-and-running on the service.

paidContent says the BBC puts the number of users so far at 120,000; with a forecast of 500,000 registrations to the service during its first six months. Meanwhile, Channel 4’s 40D service will soon reach 500,000 users, according to The Guardian.

40D has so far recorded 2.5m unique users and 20m downloads of shows since the launch in December 2006.

In a possible hint at the forward roadmap for BBC iPlayer, Jeff Richards, vice president of digital content services at Verisign, which provided the peer-to-peer download technology underlying both the BBC and Channel 4’s services, said: “Over time, the iPlayer could be modified to allow users to embed video.”





iTunes video update

2 08 2007

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According to Tuesday’s press release, announcing music downloads had topped three billion, Apple has updated its numbers for the iTunes video catalogue. According to the statement, there are now 550 TV shows and 500 movies available for download.