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 »

Are the studios stiffing the FCC on early VOD?

VOD Considering all the trouble the MPAA went to to get selectable output control through the FCC  — a two-year effort spanning two FCC chairs — the studios don’t seem in any hurry to actually make good on the promises the MPAA made to the commission regarding the early VOD release of movies to justify the SOC waiver.

Since securing the waiver in May, no studio has stepped forward to offer a movie in the new window. The closest any has come was the recent, vague indication by Time Warner chairman Jeff Bewkes that Warner Bros. will make a decision regarding early VOD release sometime in the second quarter of 2011, a full year after the waiver was granted. Others in Hollywood seem to be in even less of a hurry. Read More »

For Congress, net neutrality means money for nothing

Politics Net neutrality may not have the votes in the incoming Republican-controlled House of Representatives but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a popular topic with members.

The growing number of telecom issues being tee-d up for the new Congress, including net neutrality — the fullest plate since passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act — has brought a flood of political contributions to members of the relevant committees over the past two years from cable companies, telcos and other telecom service providers, and the flow isn’t likely to end with the change of party control. That has members scrambling for spots on the key committees and subcommittees in hopes of attracting some of that telecom love. Read More »

Concurrent in the GigaOM bunker

As regular readers know, Concurrent Media Strategies is an affiliate of  the GigaOM Pro Analyst Network. Last week I participated in one of their town-hall style Bunker Sessions at GigaOM headquarters in San Francisco on the evolution of the TV app marketplace. I lead on panel discussion while my colleague Michael Wolf, VP of research for GigaOM led the other. Video from the two panels is embedded below. Each runs about an hour.

Panel One:

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Panel Two:

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Hulu can’t win for winning

Over-The-Top Video Hulu president Jason Kilar made his boldest pitch yet for an IPO at the NewTeeVee Live conference Wednesday, even as he officially declined to comment on plans for an IPO. For the first time, Kilar revealed official revenue figures for the web TV portal – a projected $240 million for 2010, up from $108 million last year – along with results from research into Hulu’s effectiveness and efficiency as an advertising platform (basically, it rocks).

At the same time, Hulu seems to have found a way to thread the over-the-top needle by striking deals to put its Hulu Plus app on a growing number of network-enabled devices in the living room. Kilar was barely off the stage at NewTeeVee Live when news broke of a deal to add Hulu Plus to the Boxee Box, marking a symbolic turning point in the battle over streaming TV content directly to the TV screen. Last year, Hulu famously blocked Boxee’s free video browser from accessing the site over concerns from its parent companies that allowing Internet-delivered TV to reach the TV would undermine their relationships with cable and satellite providers. Read More »

Apple’s war on typing continues

Apps Steve Jobs must hate typing. Perhaps he never really learned touch-typing as a kid and is still sore about it. Or perhaps, like me, he has begun to develop degenerative arthritis in his hands after years at the keyboard and wishes he didn’t have to type anymore. Whatever the reason, he seems determined to do away with it as a mode of input to a computing device.

The touchscreen iPhone was a breakthrough. The touchscreen iPad is a phenomenon. Neither comes with a physical keyboard and both rely on self-contained apps to deliver content to the device instead of the more linear approach of sending content through the browser in response to alpha-numeric input from a keyboard and mouse.

Now, Apple seems to have its sights set on eliminating typing from the PC itself. Last month it announced the new Mac App Store that will allow desktop software to be distributed outside the browser just like fart apps for the iPhone. According to a report by Nick Bilton in the NY Times on Thursday, Apple has now sent out emails to developers formally inviting them to submit apps for the new Mac Store ahead of its launch. Read More »

Disney, Walmart lay some ‘Toy Story’ Vudu on UltraViolet

Starting today, anyone who buys Disney Pixar’s “Toy Story 3″ special edition 3-disc set at Walmart will automatically get access to a digital copy of the movie via Vudu, the Walmart-owned streaming service, at no extra charge. With Vudu’s announcement last week that its streaming app will now be available on PCs and Macs via Boxee’s free media center, Walmart customers will be able to watch “Toy Story 3″ from anywhere with a broadband connection.

If the scheme sounds familiar to supporters of UltraViolet, the industry consortium formerly known as DECE, it’s because the Disney-Walmart “Toy Story” offer is strikingly similar to one of the hypothetical use cases UltraViolet president and Sony Pictures exec Mitch Singer likes to serve up to illustrate the promise of UltraViolet’s buy-once-play-anywhere vision: buy a Blu-ray Disc at Best Buy, get a rights token in your cloud-based UltraViolet “locker” conferring permission to stream the movie to any UltraViolet-compliant device you’ve registered to your UltraViolet “domain.” Read More »

Could cable operators find an ally in Google TV?

Over-The-Top Video Forget those business-school clichés about win-win deals. When it comes to cable operators and networks these days, it’s a zero-sum game. Just ask Cablevision.

On Friday, after a two-week blackout by Fox in the New York and Philadelphia markets over a retransmission-consent dispute, Cablevision agreed to the network’s demands for a steep price increase along with carriage of two new low-rated Fox cable channels, restoring the signals to Cablevision subscribers in time to catch the final few games of the World Series for which Fox held the rights.

Rather than the usual bromides about looking forward to continuing its partnership with Fox to bring subscribers the best that TV has to offer, blah, blah, Cablevision issued a statement basically calling Fox a bunch of greedy momzers: Read More »