A ubiquitous streaming TV and movie world is no longer in question only whether it will be advertising supported or also include viewer subscriptions. While at various commitments, just about everyone is planning online distribution of professionally produced video. NBC, FOX, ABC and CBS have Hulu, while many of the top multiservice operators (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable) are each planning the rollout of their own “TV Everywhere” platforms. Comcast’s version, OnDemand Online, is expected to go national by the end of the year.
“TV Everywhere” initiatives are online authentication WebTV portals that provide access to content similar to Hulu. The catch is that a user must prove that they are a TV subscriber to gain access to the online content. The rising tide has increased expectation that we will also see a Hulu subscription service in the near future. This is just yet another proof point in the fallacy of the free internet economy future. Content does not want to be free and I anticipate soon that most professionally developed articles and video to require an access fee, whether through subscriptions or micropayments.
Sports WebTV streaming has continued to advance with the 2009 football season. All Sunday Night Football games will be streamed on NBCSports.com and NFL.com using Microsoft’s Silverlight. Similar to last year the offering will have four different camera angles, and it will also feature a HD option, DVR type features and slow-motion replay. CBS, arguably the leader in real time online sports streaming, announced that it will provide all SEC college football broadcasts on its network for free at CBSSports.com. Interestingly, CBS will be using Adobe Flash instead of Silverlight, which is a move away from what was used for March Madness earlier in the year.
As Amazon, the Roku and Netflix push forward the streaming of movies over the Internet, Blockbuster is unfortunately highlighting the transition with the announcement that it will close nearly 1,000 locations by the end of 2010. Beyond increasing emphasis toward mail and streaming services that directly compete with Netflix, Blockbuster also plans to expand from 497 to 2,500 kiosks by the end of this year and to 10,000 by 2010. Why would Blockbuster bolster its kiosk business so dramatically? Redbox. Despite fighting a few frivolous lawsuits by movie studios in court, Redbox is one of the few non streaming video options that is thriving. DreamWorks has even stated that the conversion rate from rental to purchase of DVDs with Redbox is markedly higher than what is seen from Blockbuster and Netflix. The business model timeline for Redbox may be short, but for now the company proves you can be successful in the video market without a streaming service. Prediction: expect Redbox to rollout a streaming offering before the end of 2010.