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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Apple Debuts New iPhone 4

The smartphone market is getting more and more competitive as new devices find their way into circulation but far and away the biggest star and most iconic device remains the iPhone.

Today, confirming early expectations, Apple kicked off its WWDC event with the debut of the groundbreaking phone’s fourth generation.

Lighter and more industrial than prior versions, the phone gleams from a thinner steel and glass case.

Smaller in footprint but bigger in battery life and brighter in display, the phone can deliver 40 hours of music, 10 hours of wireless net connectivity and over 300 hours of standby time.

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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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M&A Recap: Zynga and Google Make Buys

Social gamer Zynga grabbed a lot of press lately.  First the company re-upped with Facebook.  Next it doubled down with Yahoo.   Now the company is expanding its development operations with the purchase of Austin based Challenge Games.  Challenge, which developed games like Warstorm and Ponzi was backed by Sequoia Capital and Globespan.

In other M&A news, Google has acquired Philadelphia based advertising shop Invite Media for an undisclosed sum thought to be in the range of $50 to $75m.  Click to Read More

Skype to Charge for 3G Connected Service After 2010

It’s official, there are no more free rides for smartphone data users.  AT&T is phasing out its unlimited data plans (for new customers), and now Skype, just days after rolling out its first 3G friendly application will go from free to paid (sort of, anyway).

Skype confirmed that it’s free Skype to Skype VoIP calling service over 3G networks will cease being free at the end of the year.   Click to Read More

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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AT&T To Stop Offering Unlimited Data Plans

Smartphone use is on the rise, and along with it, consumers’ appetites for mobile data services are growing exponentially.   Hoping to profit from the growth, and to stave off potential profit stifling network load, AT&T announced on Wednesday it will cease offering unlimited data plans to mobile customers.

Existing customers will be grandfathered in to their prior plans but begging Monday (the same day a new iPhone is expected to debut) new AT&T mobile customers will have to choose between two data plans.

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