Digital Media: The Race is Heating Up
We've rounded up the latest moves in the race to aggregate content for consumers. Samsung partners with Blockbuster, Best Buy. Blockbuster partners with TiVo.
July 16, 2009 by Tom LeBlanc

The quest to delivering digital media to consumers’ TVs is the space race of the 21st century.

The competitors are Netflix, Best Buy, Amazon, Apple, TiVo, Samsung, Sony, LG, Vizio, Vudu, Yahoo!, ZeeVee and countless others.

It may be the custom electronics professional (CE pro) who ends up making sense of the joint-ventures and co-branding and ultimately helping customers land content on their TVs.

Here is a breakdown of some recent developments:

Samsung Offers Blockbuster Digital Library — With new services slated to be available in fall of 2009, new Samsung HDTVs, home theater systems and Blu-ray players will include Blockbuster’s digital entertainment library. It will allow Samsung product owners to purchase or rent Blockbuster content directly through their devices.

A free firmware upgrade or download of Blockbuster’s OnDemand widget will allow owners of existing Samsung products to also gain access to Blockbuster content.

Blockbuster Partners with TiVo — The movie rental giant’s OnDemand service will be incorporated into TiVo Series2, Series3, TiVo HD, and TiVo HD XL DVRs. TiVo boxes will be sold at Blockbuster stores as well as online from the video rental giant.

Netflix Partners with TiVo — Back in December 2008, TiVo officially launched Netflix streaming on its TiVo Series3, TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL DVRs. Customers get access to both HD and SD content and a total of more than 12,000 movies and TV episodes and Netflix’s “watch instantly feature.”

Best Buy Partners with TiVo — Special versions of TiVo’s DVRs will include embedded Best Buy promotions and, conceivably, access to Best Buy content.

Amazon and TiVo Join Forces — Since spring of 2009, owners of Series3, TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL products with broadband connections can download Amazon movie and TV content.

Best Buy Teams with Samsung, LG Electronics — The TV manufacturers will roll out HDTVs embedded with Best Buy digital storefronts by the end of the year, according to Contentinople. The report indicates that “multiple big-name CE manufacturers are lining up” to do the same.

The arrangement is expected to leverage the three companies’ partnership with Sonic Solutions and its CinemaNow storefront library of reportedly 14,000-plus DVD titles.

Amazon Reportedly Looks to Acquire Netflix — Nobody is confirming this, concedes the LA Times, but speculation is rising. From the report:

Amazon, with about 40,000 titles it can stream to customers, would gain a company that can stream about 12,000 titles and offers some 100,000 DVD titles through the mail to its 10 million subscribers.

By snapping up all those customers, [Steve] Weinstein [of Pacific Crest Securities] said, the Seattle company could expand its customer base and inherit Netflix’s hard-won relationships with the studios that own those movies and shows.

Sony Bravia Connected HDTVs Get Netflix — Coming in fall of 2009, consumers can watch Netflix content directly on Sony Bravia XBR9 series, Z5100 series and W5100 series.

Older models can use the Netflix feature by adding Sony’s Bravia Internet Video Link module. Sony’s Bravia Internet-ready devices can also access: Amazon Video On Demand, YouTube, Sports Illustrated, Sony Pictures, CBS and other content providers.

ZeeVee’s Zinc Browser Delivers Hulu, Netflix, Much More — ZeeVee is an example of a company that launched as a content aggregator. It offers components that bridge TVs to computers and provides a streamlined interface for browsing online content.

Its Zinc Internet Video Browser is available on its components or as a free download for anybody that connects their computer to their HDTV. It offers easy-access to free content sites (YouTube, ESPN, MTV, Hulu, etc.), plus Amazon, Netflix (for subscribers) and more.

ZeeVee recently added an RSS feed to Zinc.

Boxee Buddies Up with Netflix, Pandora, Much More — This free software also aggregates online streaming content from sites like MLF, Netflix, Pandora, YouTube and more. It recently added an RSS reader that’s optimized for video. It finds consumers favorite content (from NBC, Hulu, etc.) and queues it up for customers.

Vudu Partners with Vizio — Among a slew of recently announced content providers for its VIA Connected HDTV line, Vizio announced Vudu. The streaming movie service offers over 1,000 DVD titles in HDX 1080p.

Vizio, by the way, also offers streaming Pandora Web radio on its connected TVs.

This roundup of relationships only scratches the surface.

For instance, Netflix also has streaming relationships with Microsoft (Xbox 360), LG, Roku, Samsung and Vizio. So sit back. This race is light-years from being over.

Click here for 5 Reasons Consumers Want Connected TVs.

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