Hulu Offers Application Alternative

hulu labsGo back a few years ago and companies pushing net video streams out to proprietary applications were all the rage.  IP TV had the hype of a key convergence technology.  It was the next new thing. With companies like Joost there was massive venture funding, and talk about how their plans would change the face of TV distribution.

That didn’t happen. The buzz faded, staff left  and many of the companies that were yesterday’s darlings have faded from tech culture stardom (at least for now) like the backup singer to a one hit wonder.  Two notes hummed and forgotten.

The problem may have been timing, or programming, but it was also in no small part because the offerings required a change in consumer behavior.  They required applications downloaded to a desktop when consumers were used to (and comfortable) working within their web browser. 

It’s ironic given that, that today’s web video stars, companies like Hulu that have gained audience traction with browser-based video distribution are exploring stand alone players. Click to Read More

Blockbuster Adds Detail to Mail Order Game Rental Plan

In February, Blockbuster announced plans to roll out a pilot program for mail-order video game rentals sometime in the second quarter.   It was confirmed that this would be an add-on to the company’s “Total Access” movie rental program, not a standalone offering, but otherwise details were sparse. Today, Blockbuster provided an update. The company said in a statement that a pilot of the game rental service will begin June 30th in Cleveland. 

Subscribers opting-in to participate will be able to add Wii, PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360 games to their online rental queue for an incremental monthly fee.   The fee, which hasn’t been disclosed, will only be charged for billing cycles in which the customer actually rents games.

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38 Studios Swallows Up THQ’s Big Huge Games

38 studios bhgAs a pro baseball player, Curt Schilling made his mark as a starting pitcher.  Though there were a few transitional years early in his career spent as a reliever, over twenty years, the majority of time he entered a game, it was from the beginning.  Schilling started 436 out of 569 games. In his second career as a gaming entrepreneur, he doesn’t appear to have any qualms about coming in off the bench.

With financial troubles (see sidebar below) pushing THQ to cut more staff and studios, Schilling’s upstart game company 38 Studios was more than happy to acquire THQ’s online role playing studio, Big Huge Games.

Big Huge Games (BHG) was founded in 2000 by a veteran group of PC game developers.  The Maryland based studio’s early works were published by Microsoft Game Studios.

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Venture Roundup: Facebook and OpenX Return to the Well

Confirming rumors that first began to circulate late last week, Facebook announced this morning that it secured a substantial new private equity investment from Russian based investor, Digital Sky Technologies (DST). (release)

DST, whose portfolio companies are estimated to account for more than 70% of all Russian language page views on the Internet, will buy preferred stock equal to a 1.96% stake in the company for $200m.   No details have been disclosed regarding the rights associated with the preferred class. 

The transaction sets Facebook’s valuation at about $10b.

In a teleconference, Facebook characterized the incoming capital as a cushion and not a necessity.  The new money, Facebook suggested, will offer added flexibility. Whether true, or a bit of spin, it is certain Click to Read More

By the Numbers: Stats Survey Snapshots

numbers reportThey can be true or corrupted.  You can churn them, burn them or turn them.  You can manipulate them up or down.  Numbers can be twisted to tell any story or support most any bias.   As an old saying goes, “facts are stubborn but statistics are pliable.”  But even that considered, some of the many data points cranked out by research firms can still give an interesting glimpse into the state of things.  

For this edition of the occasional Metue: By the Numbers Report,  we’ve gathered data from across a handful of recent surveys to shed light on media, entertainment and technology.  By the numbers: Click to Read More

April NPD Data Out: Gaming’s Monthly Report Card

You can chalk up April as a poor month in game sales (sort of).  Matching up to prior predictions, NPD reports the US video game industry returned a second month of double digit sales decline in year over year comparisons.  Revenues fell off 17% year over year.  The year over year growth rates don’t quite tell the whole story, however.

As was partly the case in March too, without the breakout success of hits issued during the same period last year (Mario Kart and Grand Theft Auto IV), the growth numbers were doomed to be weaker. 

Explains NPD’s Anita Frazier, “while April sales might appear soft on the surface, it’s important to remember that April is being compared against a month (2008) that realized nearly 50% growth over April 2007.  This year’s performance still represents the second best performance for the industry in the month of April.”   This year beat out the previously second best April, April 2007, by 26% percent.

Setting aside the year over year growth rate, overall, the month’s performance was reasonably sound.   NPD tabulated total sales of $1.03b.

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Real Networks Accuses Big Hollywood of Antitrust Violations

copyright crosshairs metueIt was a case of now you see it, now you don’t.  Last fall, Real Network’s then newly launched DVD copying software platform, RealDVD, went from controversial to contained in the blink of an eye.  Just days following the program’s launch, with litigation already filed by both sides,  U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel issued a temporary restraining order blocking all sales of the program pending a broader review of the software’s legality.  The program has yet to resurface and now the ongoing copyright litigation is poised to expand.

Designed to enable consumers to create digital to digital archival copies of DVDs, the program was intended to allow owners to store DVDs on a computer for viewing, or backup, without the need to have the disc in the drive.

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