CBS follows HBO in targeting cord-cutters with $5.99/month VOD service via app & web

cbs-all-access

Just one day after HBO announced that it would be offering a web-only subscription at some point next year, CBS has played leap-frog by announcing the immediate availability of a $5.99/month web & app subscription offering on-demand access to almost all content.

CBS All Access will offer subscribers thousands of episodes from the current season, previous seasons and classic shows on demand, as well as the ability to stream local CBS Television stations live in 14 of the largest U.S. markets at launch.

CBS All Access is available beginning today at CBS.com and on mobile devices through the CBS App for iOS and Android.

Cable companies have long shied away from offering access to popular, current programming without demanding that you sign-up to cable access first. But broadcasters now seem to be recognizing that it isn’t just cord-cutting that threatens their existing models, it’s also ‘cord nevers’ – young people who simply aren’t signing up for cable subscriptions in the first place, preferring to get their TV fix online …  Read more

HBO’s upcoming web-only subscription could unlock the full potential for Apple TV

Apple TV HBO

HBO CEO Richard Plepler shared today that the premium satellite and cable network will begin offering a web-only package sometime in 2015 as it attempts to gain new paid subscribers. A web-only offering for HBO (and other popular networks) is something cable cutters have wanted for years although many argued that the economics of the cable industry wouldn’t make the option feasible for the networks.

Plepler, though, cited “the current ten million broadband-only homes” before announcing that HBO will launch “a stand-alone, over-the-top, HBO service” next year. Could a version of HBO unbundled from cable providers mean that Apple TV may also become less restrained by required cable subscriptions?

Read more

Wall Street unimpressed by Beats acquisition: “Not what we want to see”

Wall Street

Judging by a roundup in The Wall Street Journal, analysts and investors appear not to share the enthusiasm for Beats acquisition express by Tim Cook and Eddy Cue. While Cook said he was “excited […] about this new chapter in our history” and Cue believed that “combining the two companies will help [music] grow again,” Wall Street is more skeptical.

“To see this kind of money spent for a company that gets most of its revenue from hardware business is not what we want to see,” said Dan Niles, chief investment officer of hedge fund AlphaOne Capital Partners …

Read more

New Steve Jobs email a treasure trove of information about Apple TV, Google ‘holy war,’ and behind-the-scenes strategy

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.48.37 PM

A new email from Steve Jobs that was published during today’s Samsung lawsuit (via The Verge) has revealed a lot about Apple’s plans for its products in 2011 and beyond. As we’ve previously noted, Jobs referred to 2011 as a year of “holy war” against Google, but this document goes above that and describes how exactly Apple planned to wage this war.

A few choice bits are below, followed by the complete email.

Read more

Report: Apple negotiating w/ media companies for pay TV service, working on full-fledged TV set

Apple-hdtv2

A new report from Quartz today offers some details on Apple’s content negotiations for a much rumored revamped Apple TV. Most of the report echoes what we’ve heard several times in the past– Apple is apparently talking with HBO, Disney, MTV and others about a new TV service. According to Quartz, it could include a pay TV service that would see Apple “essentially becoming a cable company itself,” as well as the release of a “full-fledged television set”:

One alternative being considered is that Apple could essentially become a cable company itself. Under that scenario, sources say, Apple would launch what is formally known as a virtual multichannel video programming distributor. Apple is still interested in striking deals with cable companies that would allow people to plug their cable lines into the back of the TV set, bypassing a cable box, sources say. But at least two years of negotiations haven’t progressed very far.

Sources say Apple has concluded that it doesn’t need all, even most, content providers on board before it can release a TV set that people would buy. It just needs enough good programming to distinguish the new product, which will try to simplify the experience of connecting internet video to the TV.

The report doesn’t offer up any details that we didn’t hear around this same time last year (and the year before that), but it appears Apple could be closer to reaching the deals it needs to launch the next-generation of Apple TV. Earlier today we reported that former Hulu SVP Pete Distad has now officially started his new role at Apple as Product Marketing VP and is thought to be leading Apple executives through negotiations with cable and media companies.  Read more

HBO considers U-turn on cable-free access to HBO Go

Reuters reported that HBO might consider a reversal of its previous position of not allowing access to HBO Go without a cable subscription.

HBO-GO

HBO Go launched 3 years ago to allow subscribers to watch shows on tablets, but the service is so far restricted to those who have a cable TV subscription with an HBO partner and pay a top-up HBO fee. Co-President Eric Kessler had previously, and rather naively, said in a video interview at VideoNuze that those abandoning cable TV for purely online viewing was “minimal” and a temporary response to the economy, and he said there was no reason to offer a standalone mobile service.

This position now appears to be softening, with CEO Richard Plepler recognizing that a growing number of consumers want to choose both content and viewing platform at will.

“Right now we have the right model,” Plepler told Reuters on Wednesday evening at the Season 3 premiere of HBO’s hit TV show “Game of Thrones.” “Maybe HBO GO, with our broadband partners, could evolve.”

Companies like HBO are faced with a difficult tightrope act. While they earn billions of dollars from their existing sales model, any new offering that risks cannibalizing revenue is a frightening prospect for the company. Equally, however, it’s clear that ‘cable-cutting’ —giving up cable TV subscriptions in favor of online viewing— will only increase. Failing to respond to this is not an option.

One number will be looming very large in front of HBO: 25 million. That’s the number of illegal downloads of its hit show “Game of Thrones”. While some substantial proportion of those people would download pirated content for free no matter what options were available, there is a growing phenomenon of illegal downloads by those who would be willing to pay for content simply because existing deals don’t allow them the freedom to simply pay for the content they want on the device they want.

Fox movies finally available for re-download in iTunes in the Cloud

Multiple tipsters wrote in this evening saying 20th Century Fox movies are appearing in their purchased movie iTunes accounts ready for re-downloading over iCloud. Sure enough, Fox’s Horton Hears a Who! is on my kid’s iTunes account ready for downloading on iCloud (above, left). There is also no longer a disclaimer saying, “This movie is not available for iCloud downloading,” in iTunes (above, right) which existed before.

When Apple launched Movies in Cloud in March, both Fox and Universal held out. Universal went live on iCloud in April, and it appears Fox is going live today. The deal has been expected for awhile, as HBO allowed iCloud users access to both studios’ catalogs in March. The reasons for the delay aren’t specified but they often involve complicated contract negotiations with multiple rights holders.

Today has been a big day on the iTunes Store with Poland and Hungary both getting iTunes Match, while 37 different countries got iTunes in the Cloud for movies.

Read more

DirecTV iPad app update adds video streaming on the go

In October, the “DirecTV” app added the ability to stream video over home networks. Today, an update to the app adds the ability to stream shows and movies over 3G and Wi-Fi anywhere. The new feature is limited to video content, meaning live TV streaming still requires a Wi-Fi connection on your home network. Engadget points us to an early review of the new feature that is apparently called “DirecTV Everywhere” from The Solid Signal Blog (below).

According to the video, it looks like available content for the feature is limited to DirecTV’s Audience Network, HBO, Cinemax, Encore, Sony Movie Channel, and Starz. The update also adds a “social module” that lets you check which friend’s on Twitter and Facebook are watching, as well as Miso check-ins and the ability to resume watching programs on the iPad where you left off. You need to be a DirecTV subscriber to get access to the content, and you will find a long list of requirements for various features on the iTunes page with version 1.5.0

Read more

HBO will soon allow iCloud users access to Universal and Fox movies

With the introduction of the new Apple TV, alongside the new iPad’s introduction last week, we learned that iCloud users would now be able access purchased movies (which also extends to digital copies uploaded from DVDs). The feature was previously limited to music and TV shows. At the time, we unfortunately learned content from Comcast’s Universal and Fox would be blocked from iCloud due to exclusive rights in place through pre-existing deals with HBO. An HBO spokesperson has now confirmed to The Wall Street Journal the company will relax the terms of its deals with the two content providers in order to allow iCloud users to access to their previously purchased content: Read more

Universal and Fox movies blocked from iCloud on new Apple TV?

As we predicted, Apple quickly unveiled a refreshed Apple TV today at its media event in San Francisco before moving onto the new iPad. On top of 1080p video streaming, perhaps one of the biggest features of the device’s upgraded UI is the ability to access purchased movies stored in iCloud— just like with music and TV shows. Unfortunately, according to a report from AllThingsD, it looks like not all content will be accessible. Content from Comcast’s Universal and News Corp.’s Fox will not be available due to deals currently in place with HBO:
Read more

SCinemax’s Max Go App somehow skirts App Store porn police

If you’ve ever been *ahem* channel surfing late at night and stumbled upon HBO subsidiary Cinemax programming you know that there isn’t much differentiation between what you see there and all out pornography.

The news this weekend is that Apple just gave the go-ahead to Cinemax’s MaxGo App(free) for both iPhone and iPad.  Yes, it includes “Late Night” content.

Far be it from us to judge what should and shouldn’t be on the App Store, but it seems that Apple is continuing to create controversy with its “no porn” stance.

In an email exchange with Gawker’s Ryan Tate last year, Jobs said that the iPad would offer users “freedom from porn.” And in a Q&A session after the launch of iOS 4, Jobs told reporters that porn was one reason Apple wouldn’t allow unsigned or unapproved apps onto iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad.

“You know, there’s a porn store for Android. You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That’s a place we don’t want to go – so we’re not going to go there.”

Playboy,which is at least as “soft-core” as SCinemax, was denied access to the App Store for its nude pictorials.  For what it is worth, access to the Max Go app is parental controlled to users 17 or older.

If this story picks up, Apple will probably force  HBO to curtail its mature content retroactively, not that there aren’t plenty of other outlets via Safari for such material. Read more

Apple’s “iTunes Replay” service, Netflix-killer unlikely anytime soon

Looks like we’re going to have to keep waiting for an Netflix-killer from Apple… Rumors were floating around last week that claimed Apple was on the verge of launching a new “iTunes Replay” service, which would allow users to re-download and/or stream TV shows and movies. Unfortunately, a new report from CNET claims Apple does not have the agreements in place to offer content from the big film studios via the cloud.

While we all know Apple is working on some type of on-demand service for iTunes content via iCloud, apparently sources have confirmed the company has failed to sign the majority of the six major film studios and “negotiations could drag on for months” before they eventually acquire cloud streaming rights.

There were also rumors that Apple could introduce a video subscription streaming service to rival Netflix and Amazon. However, the report confirms this was probably just speculation, most likely stemming from discussions Apple has had with studios regarding a video-on-demand service in the past.

Why is Apple having trouble signing the studios? Greg Sandoval from CNET claims HBO’s exclusive distribution rights with Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, and Universal, as well as support for the new UltraViolet streaming service may be preventing Apple from landing deals with the big studios.
Read more