Monday, January 21, 2008

HBO joins the online TV content fray

HBO, one of the last holdouts in the age of providing digital entertainment media online, has finally given up (or maybe acknowledged that it will lose out on a whole bunch of subscribers if it does not enter the race) and launched a service called HBO On Broadband that features 400 hours of both movies and serials that can be downloaded onto a computer. However, as of now, there are several restrictions, with these restrictions across computer platforms, and locations:

The catch: To gain access, you must be a digital cable customer who subscribes to HBO, and you must use your cable company as your Internet provider. And, at least initially, you must live in Milwaukee or Green Bay, where Time Warner Cable will first test the service. (There's no extra cost for online access.)
HBO Broadband offers a broad selection of programming, including 130 movie titles that rotate monthly and top hits ranging from The Sopranos to Sex and the City, as well as documentaries. Usually, about six episodes will be offered at any one time, but for one series every month, every episode ever produced will be available. HBO co-president Eric Kessler blames technological issues for the delay in offering online video but says the new service continues the network's plan to "enhance the value of the HBO subscription by giving viewers greater access to our content."

This is almost like testing the waters, and one can forecast that geographical locations will get added, and so will more controls to prevent piracy. And right now this service is free, but one can be sure that at some point, HBO will want to make money with this.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The porn industry and the Blu-Ray and HD DVD format wars

The last time there was a major battle for the next generation of video formats, Sony was on the losing side, and the porn industry had a major role in deciding the winner. Sony, being unwilling to have any association with the porn industry, made it difficult for the porn industry to employ the Betamax format, and this played an important role in the loss of the Betamax against VHS.
And now there is a new format war, with Sony on one side with its Blu-Ray and Toshiba with its HD DVD format. However, this time, the porn industry is not that much of a factor. There are many other players, such as the major studios, players such as Microsoft (with its gaming console having a video drive), and so on. And there are pros and cons for each. Blu-Ray is seen to be more expensive, and more complex to use, but then Warner Bros last week decided to move over to Blu-Ray giving it a major shot in the arm.

The adult film industry is still taking a wait-and-see approach to the Blu-ray /HD DVD wars. But while Blu-ray's perceived costs have pushed some companies into the arms of the HD DVD camp, Warner Bros.' decision last week to exclusively support Blu-ray has some thinking that the end of HD DVD is nigh.
The Blu-ray camp, led by Sony, has been fighting Toshiba and its HD DVD format for years in a battle reminiscent of the VHS versus Betamax battle. In that fight, Betamax maker Sony's refusal to work with the porn industry helped usher in a VHS victory when the adult industry capitalized on the burgeoning popularity of VCRs and video rentals.

Right now most industry players are straddling the fence, keeping both options open. The porn industry has been playing both formats, and has not really taken a firm stand. A good probability is that they will watch the way things trend and then take a decision.