Video services

Amazon Takes Bigger Run at Cable's VoD Biz

Welcome to the cable news roundup, T.G.I.F. edition.

  • Amazon Web Services Inc. will try to siphon away more dollars from cable's video-on-demand business after expanding its Instant Video library to more than 100,000 movies and TV shows, with 9,000 of those titles available for free to customers who subscribe to Amazon's $79-per-year Prime shipping service. Amazon rents and sells the other titles in the library for prices starting at $3.99, and has a presence on more than 300 IP-connected devices, including Roku Inc. and TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) boxes.

  • The terms of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s $12.5 billion play for Motorola Mobility LLC prevent Moto from soliciting other offers, so don't expect someone like Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to swoop back in and up the ante. Google is also on the hook to pay Motorola $2.5 billion if the deal falls through. (See Cover Sheet: Google to Acquire Moto Mobility.)

  • Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) confirms to Fortune that the MSO is bidding good-bye to the Road Runner as the mascot of its cable modem service, and will instead try to "create excitement" around the company's new ear-eye logo as the cable op moves ahead on a "brand-refresh." [Ed. note: We can hardly contain our excitement, so imagine what the customer reaction will be.]

  • John Malone's Liberty Media Corp. (NYSE: LMC) has dropped its bid to buy Barnes & Noble Inc., but will instead invest $204 million in the bookstore chain and maker of the Nook e-reader.

  • Ceton Corp. is taking pre-orders for the InfiniTV 4, a USB-connected version of a CableCARD tuner that lets Windows 7-based PCs function like digital cable set-tops. Ceton expects shipments of the four-tuner, $299 device to begin in mid-September. (See Ceton Pitches Cable Set-Top Alternative .)

  • Roku is licensing Hillcrest Labs 's patented Freespace technology for a remote used in tandem with a new line of streaming players that support casual games such as Angry Birds. (See Angry Birds Flocks to the Roku 2 .)

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

  • Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:55:49 PM
    re: Amazon Takes Bigger Run at Cable's VoD Biz

    I think Amazon represents another threat to cable's VoD business, at least to the MSOs that use their own managed VoD systems.  Some smaller MSOs that don't have the resources to do VoD on their own are starting to deploy TiVo boxes with Amazon to deliver VoD over-the-top.  They don't get the same revenue cut, but it gives them something if they don't have their own VoD service. So in a different way, Amazon could actually be helping some tier 2/3 MSOs. But I think you're right that it would be surprising if Amazon was spending its time factoring in all of these things as part of its broader video distribution strategy.   JB


    DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:55:49 PM
    re: Amazon Takes Bigger Run at Cable's VoD Biz

    I doubt Amazon really cares what cable MSOs are doing. I think they're following their own plan -- find and embrace new methods of media distribution before the sales from distributing discs, books and tapes dry up.

    That's why they are moving from CDs to MP3s. Same with books. Same with videos. 

    To say that a modern, smart company like Amazon is reacting to cable is more than a tad insulting.

    DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:55:48 PM
    re: Amazon Takes Bigger Run at Cable's VoD Biz

    Isn't the biggest threat to cable VoD pricing and the UI?

    In most cases, you have to have cable in order to get cable VoD. So the real barrier to more VoD sales is getting more folks to sign up for cable. Once they sign up, you have to make it easier for them to find, pay for and view YOUR VoD vs. Amazon or whatever.

    So cable is really killing itself. Sure, there are a lot of options out there, but the VoD numbers only go down when consumers can't get what they want or can't stomach the price you're charging.

    Amazon is a neat option, but hardly doing as much damage to cable VoD as bad UI design, stupid pricing and lack of innovation coming from the cable companies themselves. 

    In my opinion... :)

    DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:55:47 PM
    re: Amazon Takes Bigger Run at Cable's VoD Biz

    Yes, great points. And when there is a flexible UI and a set-top that connects to the rest of your devices, you can do a lot without feeling the need to add a Roku box or what-have-you.

    Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:55:47 PM
    re: Amazon Takes Bigger Run at Cable's VoD Biz

    If we are now ranking the threats, then, yes, pricing on subscription pay-tv services and old grid-based guides are probably doing more damage to VoD or limiting its effectiveness as a revenue driver than a company like Amazon -- or maybe even a subscription service like Netflix -- is doing now. The pricing question isn't answered yet -- those crummy Q2 numbers attest to that --  but the cloud-based UIs being offered on Ipads and, further down the road, IP-capable set-tops will help to address that other historic shortcoming. JB




    Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:55:46 PM
    re: Amazon Takes Bigger Run at Cable's VoD Biz

    Let's commemorate the end of Road Runner as the brand of TWC's cable modem service with a little Ann-Margret.



    You're welcome.

    boilermonkey 12/5/2012 | 4:55:36 PM
    re: Amazon Takes Bigger Run at Cable's VoD Biz

    Wouldn't it be great if they found a way to work together?&nbsp;

    Clearly Amazon and Netflix (to name a few) have figured out how to
    offer a better UI across multiple screens.&nbsp; The MSOs can either
    reinvent their UI and try to do so across multiple screens or try
    to work together with the OTT players. Why not enable a revenue share
    where by the video session has a provisioned bandwidth for HD?&nbsp; The MSOs
    could even do both?&nbsp; Put their broadband and video services in competition.&nbsp;
    Make money on either path the market takes!


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