The recent public flap between theater owners and studios over premium video-on-demand appears to be much ado about nothing -- at least for now. Initial consumer response has so far been tepid to an experiment by four studios that signed up with DirecTV to offer movie rentals at home for $30 as little as 60 days after theatrical release, executives from three of those studios acknowledged privately because they were not authorized to speak on the record. Beginning in April, the studios - - 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. - - began testing so-called premium VOD. They have thus far offered 13 films, ranging from the comedies "Hall Pass" and "Paul" to action films including "Battle: Los Angeles" and "Sucker Punch" and dramas "Water for Elephants" and "The Adjustment Bureau." The pictures became available about two months after they debuted in theaters and one or two months before they were released on DVD. Under their agreements with DirecTV, each of the four studios is expected to provide at least four premium VOD films to the satellite television service by the early fall.
Revenues for U.S. consumer and SMB (small and medium business) technology support services will grow nearly threefold in the next five years, with U.S. households accounting for over 40% of the $30 billion market, Parks Associates reports. The firm's new research reports - Consumer Technical Support Services: Overview and Opportunities for SMB Technical Support - find broadband service providers in particular driving this market. Services such as AT&T's ConnectTech and Tech Support 360, Verizon's Expert Care, and Comcast's XFINITY Signature Support have increased awareness and use among both consumers and SMBs in the past year. Major retailers (Best Buy, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples) and OEM efforts (Dell and HP) are also important in promoting technical support services to a wider audience.
A new report from Informa Telecoms & Media (publisher of IPTV News) reveals that worldwide sales of connected TVs will surpass games consoles for the first time in 2011. While Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony will sell 37mn consoles this year, consumers will buy 52mn connected TVs from the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG. "The market for connected devices - connected TVs, connected Blu-ray players, games consoles, media-streaming devices and hybrid set-top boxes - is continuing to grow globally, as consumers seek to access services such as Netflix and iPlayer via their televisions," said Andrew Ladbrook, analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. "In 2016, 1.8bn in-home video devices - including tablets - will be sold, an increase of almost 800% from today. And by this time, 70% of all in-home video devices sold will be able to connect to the Internet.
Samsung said last week that it has crossed the 60 percent mark in domestic market share for 3D TVs. The company cited data from NPD Group's tracking survey measuring late April and early May. Clearly consumers are voting with their wallets and choosing the TV that provides a superior 3D experience," John Revie, senior vice president of Home Entertainment, Samsung Electronics America, Inc, said as part of the announcement. "Samsung 3D TVs can deliver Full HD 3D, but a TV isn't just about 3D. We also are leaders in design with our gorgeous TVs, and leaders in connected TV with our hugely popular Samsung Apps platform." The Samsung reaction comes as LG had been claiming publicly that customers prefer its passive-glasses Theater 3D approach.
Netflix is bringing its online video subscription service to 43 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean later this year, the company announced Tuesday. This will be Netflix's second expansion outside of the U.S., following Canada. Like Canada, only its Watch Instantly service, which provides unlimited streaming TV shows and movies for $7.99 per month in the U.S., will be offered. Members will be able to access Netflix on a variety of Internet-connected devices in Spanish, Portuguese and English, the company said in a statement. There are no plans to extend its DVDs-by-mail offering at this time.
Every now and again, the rules for how to build a personal computer change. One of those moments may arrive next year with a high-speed wireless technology that could let people link tablets with big-screen TVs or dock laptops when arriving in the office. The technology, which uses the 60GHz band of radio spectrum and is designed to transfer as much as 7 gigabits of data per second, matches what many wired connections provide, either inside a computer chassis or through the profusion of ports that perforate laptop sides. A group called the WiGig Alliance is developing it, and the group announced today new specifications that could help replace the current tangle of cables.
For a medium heavily ridiculed for its zombie-making capabilities, television is certainly taking on more of an active role courtesy of Yahoo! Connected TV. Coming later this year to select Sony and Toshiba models, the interactive software that's already in eight million homes gains two new features destined to either creep you out, or snag you a twofer on those wings -- broadcast interactivity, and device control. While the latter enhancement merely transforms your smartphone or tablet into an extended remote, it's the former that'll turn your TV choices into a game of peeping Tom, delivering ads custom-fit for you. But the old, yodeling tech giant's not stopping there -- the company also plans to trot out an app store by the years' end, which is currently in pilot testing with Ford and HSN (among others). If widget-based ads are your thing, you might want to hold off until the big manufacturer roll-out next year, or you could always consider that Google option. Brain-rot, please meet the tech loop.
Samsung Electronics America said Friday that the Explore 3D app on Samsung's SmartHub connected TV interface is now offering a mix of free streaming 3D HD content. The Explore 3D app, which is accessible with a single click from Samsung's SmartHub interface, is offering streaming 3D movie trailers from DreamWorks Animation and other studios, music videos, educational content and full-length TV shows from Wealth TV. Later this year, Explore 3D will also offer access to paid 3D content, including feature films and shorts, plus full-length 3D documentaries. The service is available now on all 2010 and 2011 LED smart 3DTVs and plasma smart 3DTVs. Users simply sign up for a new account via any PC.
We'd heard that the most recent software update for the TiVo Premiere set the stage for TiVo-to-TiVo streaming, and now multiple posters on the TiVo Community forum report it's already working. If you only have one Premiere in the house you may want to wait for the Premiere Q (or the Preview, if you don't need any additional tuners) but those already living the multiple box lifestyle can select shows as though they were going to be transferred and simply press play instead. Check the threads for details and let us know how if it works for you, if this is intentionally enabled an official announcement can't be too far off.
Six million U.S. broadband households are changing their 2011 CE purchase plans to get a tablet, which is cannibalizing sales in other device categories and inspiring an additional four million households who had no previous intentions to purchase a computing device this year. Parks Associates' report Media Tablets: Analysis and Forecasts shows the products at greatest risk of losing sales are other mobile Internet devices, including netbooks, notebooks, and e-readers. Tablets will also have significant impact on content publishing, including newspapers. "One year after the launch of the Apple iPad, tablet adoption reached 13% of U.S. broadband households (approximately 10.5 million households), slightly below current netbook and e-reader adoption rates," said Jennifer Kent, a Parks Associates' mobile research analyst. "Mass adoption of tablets depends on consumers' ability to differentiate them from similar CE, and devices that overlap with the tablet will struggle to remain relevant."
Online video service Hulu is exploring putting itself up for sale after receiving an unsolicited takeover offer, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday. The offer was large enough to make Hulu's board review the deal and consider seeking other potential buyers, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are confidential. The person would not disclose the amount of the offer nor the bidder. Hulu has become one of the biggest purveyors of television shows and movies on the Internet through its free site and via an $8-per-month subscription plan that gives users a deeper library of shows from ABC, Fox and NBC. The free site is available on computers, but the subscription plan allows for viewing over a wide array of Internet-connected game consoles and mobile devices.
With consumer electronics changing so quickly, it's hard to know when is the best time to buy. Should you wait for that new TV you've been wanting, since a new model is about to be released? A new website, Decide.com, will tell you to "Wait" or "Buy" based on when a new model is expected to be released. Decide bases the recommendation on past model releases, news reports, and the like. Decide was founded by two executives from Farecast, Oren Etzioni and Mike Fridgen, who are bringing that price prediction idea to a new area: gadgets. Farecast, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2008, was a popular website that predicted when airline flight prices would be at their cheapest. Seattle-based Decide provides price predictions for laptops, televisions and cameras to start, and plans to expand to other types of products such as cell phones soon.
SageTV in a notice to its users said on Saturday that it had been bought out by Google. The open-source home theater software developer said it signed onboard because of a "shared vision for open technology" that would move their Internet-focused experience. They hoped to reach an "even larger audience" on different products, platforms, and services, hinting it wouldn't necessarily be limited to Android. The takeover has angered some users since it has already pulled its store and most other links aside from the company forums, making it difficult to get a copy of SageTV itself. Google hasn't commented on what its intentions would be, although most already suspect the company is being bought to improve the struggling Google TV platform. A revival of the platform is already planned with an Android 3.1 upgrade that will give it heavily requested third-party app support along with new hardware from Samsung and Vizio. SageTV's experience in the field, particularly with DVR-like recording, may signal an intent to add recording to Google TV and work it into cable and satellite set-top boxes, not just stand-alone hardware that needs a separate set-top to integrate with regular TV.
The company claims that its polarizers can help reduce the power requirement of LCD screens and, as such, we've now reached a point in time where the traditional power socket is no longer needed to drive our screens around the home. It's not as simple as just plugging something into an Ethernet port and expecting it to draw power. It has to be a powered Ethernet port, which requires PoE or Power over Ethernet - a defined standard, but not a commonly found feature on home routers. But, the company also claims that Ethernet power ports are more affordable to install, and you don't need an electrician around to house to do it for you, so maybe it'll catch on. Plus, you'd have a wired network reaching every room of your house, and in a world where so many competing signals are playing havoc with many homes' wireless networks, that's of enormous benefit. The big real benefit we can see from this is that if this idea takes off, you'll only need a single cable for the TV of the future for both power and internet access, which might very well be the only two things TVs will be needing in due time.
At the NCTA Cable Show, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts showed off the next generation of the company's TV user interface. More important than the UI update, however, is how it has been built and delivered. Behind Xcalibur is a cloud-based platform that moves the intelligence out of the set-top box and into the network. For consumers, the move to a cloud-based system will largely be seamless. But for Comcast, moving to the cloud means it will be able to build new features, improve the user interface and iterate on its product more quickly and easily than if was building for individual set-top boxes. "What the cloud allows you to do is to have faster innovation," Roberts said. "Boxes have different generations, they become outdated…. That doesn't happen in the cloud."
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