Hulu Subscription Rumors Pick Up Pace

Hulu, the web video powerhouse jointly owned by News Corp (Fox), GE (NBC/Universal) and Disney (ABC) brought in an estimated $100m in ad revenue last year.  Rumor has it that’s not enough and the company will look to a subscription service to push its revenues higher.

According to a Reuters report citing “sources familiar” and a bevy of chatter, the company is looking at both subscription and the expansion of its service to consumer devices including the Xbox platform and the iPad.

The concept, if the rumors echoing for months, prove accurate, would have Hulu charging $9.95 a month for access to older catalog programming.  It would be something like Netflix’ “Watch Now” service – only it would cut out the middle and be owned by the networks themselves through their stakes in the Hulu joint venture.

Newer TV episodes would likely remain free.

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Redbox Looking at Blu-Ray, Trending Up

Redbox parent, Coinstar, built its core business offering frugal customers a convenient way to liquidate their spare change.  Similar focus on frugality and convenience has helped turn the company into a movie rental powerhouse.

While Blockbuster and other brick and mortar rental shops are struggling, Redbox’ kiosk approach is  booming. 

The company is adding tens of new machines a day and expects its yearend inventory to top 30,000.  Studios have taken notice and gone from critics to partners.

A month ago, Redbox signed deals with Universal and 20th Century to bring the studios’ movies to Redbox kiosks 28 days after their street debut.    In the next month, the company expects to start adding Blu-ray at a price of likely $1.50 a night, slightly higher than the $1 per night charged for standard definition.

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Sonic Solutions Buying DivX

In a deal aimed squarely at the evolution of Internet video infrastructure, Novato based Sonic Solutions (NASDAQ: SNIC) said Wednesday that is has signed a definitive agreement to acquire video compression specialist, DivX (NASDAQ: DIVX) for $323m in cash and stock.

Subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, the deal is expected to close in September.  If approved, it will provide DivX shareholders with $3.75 in cash and .514 shares of Sonic stock for each share of DivX stock they hold.

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Intel WiDi Video Technology Gets More Support

There is a lot of video content online but watching it on your television remains a hit or miss affair.  The market is fragmented as best so what you get depends on your specific hardware and the vendor partnerships that go with it.  With one TV (or connected Blu-ray player) you can watch Netflix or a YouTube stream out of the box.  With another you can plug into Cinema Now content or something else.

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Applevine: Apple TV Getting a Refresh?

Apple has grabbed a solid piece of almost every digital media market its entered, every market but one.   Apple TV has never been much more than a sideshow.  In nearly three years on the market, the device aimed at bridging the digital divide of the living room – the elusive TV to Internet gap – hasn’t really lived up to its promise.

That may soon be changing.  It’s too soon to know but there’s an increased volume of chatter suggesting Apple will overhaul the device Steve Jobs has downplayed as “a hobby” sometime this year.

Expected changes include a shift to the iPhone/iPad operating system and a reduced price point.  One of the theories behind the concept is that the modification would allow user’s to run select “Apps” through their TV platform.

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Sony Showcases Amazing Rollable Screen

From WiFi to Bluetooth, mobile technologies have begun to shift where we consume information and entertainment.  Touchscreens and voice automation have similarly begun to shift how we interact with it.  In the coming years, changing display technologies will likely have a similar effect on where and what we see.

Case in point – this week Sony revealed a new prototype OLED display so flexible it can be rolled and unrolled around a tube no wider than a pencil.  We’re not talking a screen that can just bend, this can literally roll and unroll. (Watch the video. More After the jump)

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Viacom Q3: A Quick Look

When corporate earnings reports come in clusters there is often a macro tone about industry that echoes in the details like a PR reps list of talking points.  In Viacom’s third quarter earnings there were references to “financial discipline” and “renewed optimism.”  There were hints of a cautious recovery in advertising revenue. It was the same tone taken by other media companies.  On point and consistent, the message was clear: careful cost management is carrying the load while the broader market is stabilizing.

Overall, Viacom reported consolidated revenues of $3.3 billion in the third quarter, down 3% year over year. Operating income climbed 14% to $784m.  Net Adjusted EPS was 69 cents a share.  Analysts had expected 57 cents on comparable revenue (Thomson Reuters).

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