According to a network press release, USA Network and Sleep Inn Hotels (No, I don't get the connection, either...) teamed up to launch USA's first live-action original web series on usanetwork.com, Little Monk.
The web series seeks to explore the origins of the anal-retentive and obsessive Monk's chronic conditions.
The New York Times reports that Amazon is launching the service for a limited number of customers today, with a wider release scheduled for later this summer. The Amazon Unbox web page has a little button asking for volunteers for a new beta program, so I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that beta=video on demand.
According to the article, videos will be available for rental or purchase. And once you've purchased a video, you'll be able to watch it from any computer. No software installation necessary. In other words, it sounds like the new service is browser-based.
On the one hand, this means Amazon Video on Demand will be compatible with Windows and Mac machines (I'm not going to hold my breath for Linux support), which is great. But it's also nice to be able to save a copy of a movie on your own computer for archiving. What happens if Amazon kills the service in two years. Does that mean you lose your online video library which you've paid for? I'm hoping that Amazon still gives users the option of downloading movies, even if not everyone will need to use that option.
The update also paves the way for the BBC to roll out a set top box with iPlayer features. Earlier this year the BBC announced plans to roll out the iPlayer software for existing set top boxes including the Nintendo Wii video game console. Now it looks like the BBC might also be planning to build its own box.
The device would work like a Windows Media Extender or an Apple TV, in that you'd plug the box into your television and connect it to your home network so it could access the internet. It's possible that the BBC isn't really planning to put out a box with its own name on it, so much as work with hardware makers to add iPlayer software to future devices that may also be able to access content from other networks, play DVDs, or perform other services. You can think of the box as sort of the BBC version of the Netflix player by Roku.
- Create user profiles and add friends
- Recommend torrents you think your friends might want to download
- Search BitTorrent trackers besides Vuze, including MiniNova, SumoTorrent, and others
Just days after launching a private beta of its new online video portal, The WB has announced plans to expand its online video distribution network. Honestly, the whole thing sounds a lot like Hulu, the online video portal backed by NBC and FOX.
Here's how it will work: You'll be able to visit TheWB.com or TheKidsWB.com and watch full-length episodes of classic WB shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Gilmore Girls, or you'll be able to find videos through a number of partners including DailyMotion, Sling Media, Veoh, TiVo, and Joost. The WB currently distributes some TV shows through Hulu, but not all of them.
The TidalTV display is laid out like an electronic program guide with a video window in the corner. You can click on the video to bring up a full screen version. Or you can click on the program guide to flip channels. There's also an on-demand section if you don't want to watch the scheduled programming stream.
Verismo is currently beta testing the set top box, but plans to begin selling the PoD later this summer for $99. I'm assuming you'll be able to find more content on the company's web page by then. NewTeeVee's Liz Gannes caught up with the company recently and interviewed company co-founder Vijay Maheshwari on video.
The PoD connects directly to a handful of internet video sites including YouTube and video search engine vTap. Verismo has also partnered with BitTorrent to provide access to legal BitTorrent videos. The are USB ports in the back of the hand-sized box, which allow you to add a WiFi dongle or extra storage. The PoD software can handle Windows Media DRM, which means you can purchase and watch video from web stores like Amazon Unbox or CinemaNow.
The user interface looks usable, but sparse. It reminds me of the Neuros OSD or Apple TV interface. Maybe that's just because of the black background. In addition to the usual fast forward, pause, and rewind features, there's a zoom button on the remote for watching web videos in full screen or smaller sizes. There's also support for some keyboards, including the Logitech DiNovo.
If you rented your video from a bricks and mortar store, you just have to pay a late fee when you return the disc. But if you rented from an online store, your movie (and your money) is just gone. Vudu is the first company I'm aware of that's done something to address this issue. This week the company announced that it would allow customers to extend their rentals for a discounted fee.
Here's how it works. If you rent a film, you have 30 days to watch it. If you don't watch during that time, you have up to a week to extend the rental period for another 30 days. You'll get $2 off the rental price of a HD video and $1 off the price of standard definition films.
And while you typically have to finish watching a movie within 24 hours of hitting the play button, you can pay the same extra price to extend your viewing time to 48 hours. Honestly, I have no idea why you have to finish the film within 24 hours anyway, let alone why you should have to pay more to watch the same movie the next day. But it's better than nothing. I think.
Hulu is now the top network video web site, according to Nielsen data. Hulu sent out an email today letting users know that the site has server up more than 63 million video streams, and that the average Hulu user watches 2 hours of video on the site each month.
There are probably at least two keys to Hulu's success. First, the service actually offers videos that people want to watch including full length movies and TV shows. And second, Hulu doesn't just distribute videos through its own web site. You can also find them through partner sites including MSN, AOL, and Comcast's video portals.
The company is also continuing to sign new partners for its video distribution network. Starting today Hulu videos are available through TV.com. And over the next few weeks Hulu will roll out partnerships with TVGuide.com, Break.com, Zap2it, BuddyTV, Flixter, and MyYearbook.
As I've mentioned a few times, I don't have cable or satellite. I have a computer with an HDTV tuner and a digital antenna sitting on top of our TV cabinet. I get crystal clear reception on every available network except for CBS and PBS, and I can pick those up with old fashioned bunny ears. And while I could supplement my free TV buy purchasing the cable-only shows I really want to see from iTunes or Amazon Unbox, Hulu has been saving me the trouble by providing new BattleStar Galactica episodes within a day or two of their original air date. So while most fans have been tuning into Sci Fi for their BSG fix on Friday nights, I've just fired up the old web browser on Saturday mornings.
And then this weekend things went horribly wrong. There was no new episode on Saturday morning. Or evening. Or Sunday. Today I checked out the Battlestar Galactica page on Hulu, and I found a note showing the air dates and "available on Hulu" dates. Apparently new episodes will not be made available online exactly one week after their original air date. Well, most episodes. If you look closely, you'll see that this past week's episode is scheduled to be online in about a thousand years. But I'm hoping that's just a typo because I'm not really sure I can wait that long.
Honestly, a one week delay isn't unreasonable. It makes sense that Sci Fi would want to encourage people to watch on television rather than their computers. I'm pretty sure they're still making more money from TV advertisements than web-based ads. And the latest episode is already available from Amazon Unbox for $1.99. So I either have to adjust my expectations and avoid spoilers for a week, or shell out some money. Seems fair enough.
Have you noticed any other programs getting a delayed Hulu release?
I'm starting to feel like Hulu was designed specifically for people who don't have cable or satellite television. Well, people who only need a handful of cable channels including Sci-Fi, FX, and Bravo, anyway. I've been using Hulu to keep up with a couple of shows that I can't pick up with my terrestrial digita antenna, like Battlestar Galactica and The Riches. But Hulu only keeps new episodes of each show online for a limited time, so if you forget to watch for a few weeks you could miss a show.
Now Hulu has added a subscription feature that helps ensure you never miss a show. Hulu already let you add programs to a queue for later viewing. But now the site has two new features which make the queue more useful. First, when you subscribe to a show, new episodes will automatically be added to your queue. Second, you can set your queue properties so that Hulu will shoot you an email any time a new item is added to your queue.
Lycos Cinema is a pretty nifty concept. Registered users can login to the site, find a movie they want to watch, and then invite friends to watch on their own computers. The movie plays almost simultaneously on each computer, which lets users chat in real-time about the movie they're all watching. The site featurs a combination of free movies and TV shows and videos available for rental. You can pay to watch a movie yourself, or pay a bit more for a 5 or 10 person rental.
But there's one major problem. The content is absolutely horrid. There are no contemporary movies or TV shows. And the older titles are pretty much B-list material. If you like Godzilla films, Lyco Cinema might be the site for you. But if you're looking for the latest summer blockbusters, you might want to try Netflix.
Flash 9 support will come as a free firmware upgrade, but you'll also be able to pay $20 for a "Web TV and Radio plug-in" which will give you access to thousands of streaming radio stations, video streams, and podcasts. Don't expect broadcast quality television though. More likely you'll find C-Span style video content.
Finally, Archos is adding placeshifting features to the Archos TV+, which is the company's answer to the Apple TV. The company will release a plugin in May that will let the box stream content over the internet to computers, Windows Mobile and Symbian Smartphones, and of course Archos's internet-enabled portable media players.
Broadcasting & Cable reports that Hulu CEO Jason Kilar says some devices like mobile phones are "ripe" for Hulu. That's all well and good, but seriously what I really want to see is Hulu integration with Windows Media Center and set top boxes that will let users watch TV programs on their TV. I know the trendy thing among TV execs these days is to try to figure out how to harness the internet as a new platform for displaying programming that's already available on the television. But for people like me who would rather pay for broadband internet than cable television, Hulu would make an excellent backup to my HDTV digital antenna.
In fact, the networks would probably make more money off of me if they gave me an easy way to watch Hulu on my TV set than they're making right now. Because currently when I want to watch a show, I set up a recording on my PVR. Then I skip the commercials when I watch it. You can't skip the commercials with Hulu, but I'm willing to sit through them if my PVR missed a recording or if my digital antenna was on the fritz.
But that's because I live in the US. For TV fans in any other part of the world, Hulu is a non-starter. When you try to visit the page from another country you're typically greeted with an error message. But this morning Emily Turretini of WatchingTV Online discovered that she got a new message telling her that Hulu is working on "legal and business" deals to bring the service to other countries.
Users can also sign up to receive an email alert as soon as Hulu is available in their area.
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