November, 2010

Level 3 Netflix deal not so Comcastic

Net Neutrality Having had a number of awful experiences as a Comcast broadband subscriber, I’m prepared to believe six terrible things about the company before breakfast. But I’m having a hard time buying the accusations currently being leveled against it by Level 3 Communications.

As most Concurrent Media readers probably know by now, Level 3 issued a press release Monday accusing Comcast of “putting up a toll booth at the borders of its broadband Internet access network, enabling it to unilaterally decide how much to charge for content which competes with its own cable TV and Xfinity delivered content.” At issue is a demand by Comcast that Level 3 enter into the same sort of commercial agreement Comcast has with other CDNs to carry their traffic over its last-mile network. Read More »

Who needs three-strikes?

Copyright With the French government struggling to translate its controversial “three-strikes” law into an effective anti-piracy regime, seizing the web domains of suspected pirates may become the tactic of choice for governments seeking to put a dent in online copyright infringement.

Last week, more than 70 websites were shut down and had their domain names seized by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) acting under court-issued warrants. Many of the targeted websites are suspected of selling counterfeit clothing and other items but they also included several BitTorrent tracker sites. It was at least the second time this year that law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have moved to seize web sites. In August, ICE and the Department of Justice seized nine sites suspected of trafficking in pirated and counterfeit goods and detained 11 individuals. Read More »

Analyzing Netflix

Streaming Video Of the 22 brokerages providing research coverage of Netflix (NFLX), only one,  Piper Jaffray, has a current target price above Monday’s opening price of $191 a share. The average target price is $140 a share and the median target is $141, according to Thomson/First Call, indicating a pretty solid consensus among professional analysts that Netflix shares are highly over-priced at the moment.

Ironically, the view that Netflix shares are over-priced may be one factor contributing to the stock’s recent run-up. More than 30 percent of the shares are currently held short, reflecting the analysts’ bearish sentiment. But each day the stock fails to fall, some shorts no doubt get nervous and start to cover their positions by buying shares, nudging them further upwards — the classic “short squeeze.”

Yet the growing gap between where the stock is trading and what the experts think it’s really worth is also leading Netflix bears to sharpen their critique of the company’s overall strategy, in particular its move to offer a $7.99 streaming-only option in the U.S., matching a similar move last month in Canada. Read More »

Look out Netflix, here comes Vudu

Connected Devices Walmart is starting to flex its streaming-video muscles. Later this month, the Vudu app will go live on the PlayStation 3, putting the Walmart-owned movie streaming service front and center on 15-20 million connected PlayStation consoles in the U.S. The app is also now available for PCs and Macs and will shortly be available on the Boxee platform, including the new Boxee Box.

The app is already available on 46 models of connected HDTVs from seven major electronics makers, as well as on 13 models of connected Blu-ray players. Read More »

‘Smart’ TVs, dumb networks

Update: Click through to see the comment thread for more on this topic.

Google TV Asked at the O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference Monday why the major broadcast networks continue to block access to their online content from Google TV, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was faintly mocking in his reply. “‘Do you realize you’re taking a dumb television and making it smart?'” he said, caricaturing  the martinete mannerisms of an unnamed network suit he had recently met with. “Yes,” Schmidt said he replied, “we are guilty of that.”

The anecdote was meant to illustrate Schmidt’s point that the networks simply don’t “get it.” Marrying TV and the web, he insisted, would cause consumers to watch more television content overall, creating new revenue opportunities that would expand the total pie. The Chrome browser in Google TV, moreover, provided a new platform on which new TV-centric applications can be built, creating yet more revenue opportunities. Read More »