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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

Topic: ESPN

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July 6, 2010 at 10:54 AM

Netflix plays ace in $10 content game, watch out Hulu?

Maybe I should have waited before running a column on Hulu Plus and the roughly $10 fee that media companies are charging for buckets of online content.

Content owners are refining Web strategies and tinkering with release windows for their latest material. Hulu Plus – the new subscription service announced last week – is one outcome. Another is studios delaying the release of current movies to Netflix.

Today Netflix offset that a bit by announcing a new arrangement with Relativity Media, the studio behind movies such as “The Fighter” and “Get Him to the Greek.”

Instead of waiting for its movies to work through the pay TV pipeline before reaching Netflix, Relativity is giving Netflix earlier access. Its movies will still come out on DVD before they stream on Netflix, but the companies said their deal is a new approach that will get the movies streaming sooner.

From today’s Netflix release:

The deal marks a continued shift in the distribution of major motion pictures in the U.S. Under the agreement, an increasing amount of popular contemporary movies previously encumbered by pay TV agreements with premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz will become available to be streamed from Netflix months – and not years – after their release on DVD. It will be the first time that studio quality theatrical feature films will be streamed via subscription by Netflix instead of being broadcast by the traditional pay providers, and it opens up a new revenue stream for such movies.

It doesn’t sound like the number of recent movies on Netflix will change a whole lot but it shows progress – or positioning for a future where streaming replaces DVDs.

The deal could also influence consumers trying to decide what to do with that extra $10 or so they’re paying for Netflix or a premium channel on their increasingly expensive cable plan, especially if they’re getting tired of the limited selection available to stream from Netflix.

Adding fresher content could also help Netflix keep some subscribers tempted by Hulu Plus, which promises fresher content from the major studios behind Hulu.

While consumers are sorting out their options, studios are exploring new ways to monetize their content. The Netflix deal signals this change, Relativity President Michael Joe said in the release:

“The growing number of Netflix subscribers streaming first run movies is very exciting and presents another viable option for us to maximize the long-term business behind our properties. We’re delighted to partner with them on this incredible new opportunity, which has great promise for our industry – reshaping Pay TV deals going forward.”

Here’s Monday’s piece exploring the subscription fees for Hulu, Netflix and other digital content:

The digital-media business has a new mascot: Alexander Hamilton, the treasury secretary on the $10 bill.

Hamilton sorted out the nation’s financial policies during its chaotic early days.

Entertainment companies are doing the same thing now that the digital revolution has happened — they’re finding their footing and figuring out standard ways to make money. Their solution appears to be charging $10 a month for access to the most desirable content.

This crystallized last week when Hulu announced a $10 per month premium service. Hulu Plus offers full collections of current TV shows in high definition, making them available through some phones, game consoles and TVs with Internet connections.

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Comments | Topics: Comcast, Digital media, Digital TV

January 5, 2010 at 1:00 PM

CES: 3D networks from ESPN, Discovery

You’ll be able to watch more than “Avatar” and “Up” on the new 3D televisions being unveiled this week at CES. TV networks are lining up to offer all sorts of 3D content later this year, including ESPN. Disney’s sports network is going to launch “ESPN 3D” in June and broadcast at least 85 sporting events…

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Comments | Topics: 3D, 3D TV, CES