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.

500 streamed TV channels — for free

23 08 2007

FreeTube joins the ranks of a plethora of browser-based and downloadable client services which now offer access to streamed versions of TV channels via the web.

A couple of innovative features are What Are You Watching? which provides a real-time snapshot of what users are viewing, based on geographical location, plus widgets which allow users to embed their favourite TV channels in their own site. TV program listings are to be added soon too.

Jupiter Research: delivering great online video

8 08 2007

The Importance of Delivering a Great Online Video Experience, a briefing note by market analysts Jupiter Research is now available free-of-charge, thanks to sponsorship by Akamai.

Unsurprisingly, given that Akamai is in the market to sell streaming infastructure, the report concludes that slow-to-start and constantly-buffering online video are among the biggest sources of consumer frustration.

The survey of online 2,319 online consumers claims that around a third of broadband users are interested in watching full-length TV shows and movies on the web; though short-form content such as news packages and music videos still seems to be winning more hearts and minds.

Portals and video-sharing sites get top ranking for sourcing online video, with just under a third saying they’d consider looking on a TV program or channel website (interestingly, women show a greater preference for such destinations than men).

Just under half of consumers say they prefer watching video on a TV screen, which begs the question: why does true convergence remain so painstakingly illusive? (answers on the back of an inter-operable postcard, please).

Storage vs. bandwidth re-visited

6 08 2007

Rewind by three years, courtesy of journalist Kate Bulkley’s painstaking cataloguing of everything she’s ever written, and James Murdoch proudly proclaims “storage trumps bandwidth”, referring to the greater efficiency of content delivered via the broadcast stream to a DVR-type device, rather than using a IP for delivery.

BT Vision chief Andrew Burke cried: “Pah!”

Apart from being slightly curious to remind myself when young Murdoch first proclaimed on this (if memory serves me well, it was possibly a year earlier), it’s worth dredging up the remark, if only to recognise how much things have moved on since and how Sky’s own position has moved to embracing IP delivery of content.

In fairness to James, Sky’s advances with its DVR product are significant (I recall following the story right back to the early rumours in 1999, when Sky first negotiated a co-marketing deal for TiVo’s ill-fated entry into the UK market) — penetration of which now stands at 28% of its U.K. customer base.

But then enter broadband, a utility which has defied expectations from even the savviest media-watchers and broken all records for consumer uptake (oh, yes, there’s Freeview too). Let it iterate and enter YouTube, taking a category which didn’t exist three years ago and making it mainstream. MySpace followed, and was snapped up by young Murdoch’s dad.

As we come full circle to today’s environment, it’s worth a read of this piece in today’s New York Times, which suggests streaming trumps downloads. How far we’ve travelled…

So, to return to the original question: does storage trump bandwidth? Or re-phrased: does streaming trump storage and downloads?