Archive for August, 2012

Is the Blu-Ray disc an endangered species?

The major studios are making a concerted effort to sell classic movies on Blu-ray, but streaming is rapidly taking over from optical discs.

Friday’s USA Today Money section lays out a compelling argument that physical media, at least in the form of Blu-ray discs, may be reaching the end of its golden era. Mike Snider writes that Blu-ray is “caught in shift to streaming” and that studios will make a major effort this holiday season to release many classic movies on Blu-ray. This, says Snider, means the Blu-ray “is reaching a critical juncture in its growth process”.

Why should the Streaming Media audience care about the sales of Blu-ray? Because direct competition for content and dwindling physical disc sales are both important harbingers for the streaming industry.

Direct competition. When streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix were first envisaged, the concept was day-and-date release of blockbuster movies for streaming at the same time that DVDs and Blu-rays Discs went on sale. What’s happened, in reality, is that the majority of content on streaming services has been classic movies, a few key television shows, and movies the studios consider too niche for strong Blu-ray sales.

That may be changing. According to Snider, the studios are making a concerted effort to bring a number of classic movies to Blu-ray in time for this year’s holiday season. While the list includes the Indiana Jones franchise and the recently re-released Titanic, it also appears studios may move to release lesser-known titles.

How low will Blu-ray prices will need to drop to make disc purchases worthwhile for the average consumer? And how much will studios need to charge to push their marketing efforts forward?

The day-and-date model may not be dead: while just-released blockbusters like the first Hunger Gamesmovie — which Epix holds exclusive rights to for ninety days — may not make it to Netflix for several months, movies that haven’t fared well in theaters are starting to trickle into the streaming lineup earlier.

Dwindling sales. So just how bad do projections of Blu-ray disc sales look over the next five years?

Preliminary 2011 sales numbers for overall DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales are estimated at $8.9 billion, with a projected drop to $5.5 billion by 2016, for a loss of $3.4 billion in annual revenues.

Disc rentals were at $4.8 billion in 2011 and are also projected to fall by 2016, to $2.9 billion annually.

In all, this means that disc sales and rentals will yield $8.4 billion in annual revenues by 2016.

The surge in streaming delivery of premium content, on the other hand, is expected to grow $3.9 billion between 2011 and 2016, yielding $6.7 billion in annual revenues.

Sometime in 2017, then, revenues from streaming media delivery of premium content will exceed physical disc sales and rentals. Also, in less than a year, sometime in 2013, the number of streaming minutes for premium content will exceed the number of minutes viewed on DVD and Blu-ray Discs.

There’s a chance that the cross-over point will happen much faster than that. If Blu-ray disc sales begin to drop off between the 2012 and 2013 holiday seasons, studios will be placed in a financial predicament, where day-and-date releases to DVD and Blu-ray will yield much lower sales than equivalent streaming revenues. The cost of physical disc production and distribution, coupled with more limited retail shelf space, may force studios to abandon optical discs more quickly than anticipated.

In other parts of the world, we’ll likely see two divergent models:

For the European market, where small production runs dubbed into the regional language don’t allow the economies of scale that English-language releases provide, we’ll see streaming delivery of dubbed premium content coupled with disc-based sales of subtitled English versions.

For Africa and the parts of Asia with lower infrastructure penetration, we’ll continue to see premium content delivered by optical disc for many years to come. It makes sense, given the fact that English-language movies are more widely watched in these small markets where studios have found it impractical to create dubbed or subtitled versions of all but the biggest blockbusters.

The only caveat for emerging markets is that they have no legacy infrastructure to work around. Just like we’ve seen in the surge in mobile phone sales in Africa and India, the ability to leapfrog from limited landline availability to widespread mobile handset adoption could serve as a model for rapid adoption of streaming media, effectively putting the final nail in the coffin of the optical disc.

source: StreamingMedia.com

New Technique Could Lead to Glasses-Free 3D in Theaters

Wired reported on research published in the journal Optics Express detailing a promising new system for glasses-free 3D viewing — long considered the holy grail of 3D technology, especially for home viewing. The system involves a polarization-preserving screen and a physical “parallax barrier polarizer” that allows four different screen views to be broken up vertically and delivered to only one eye at a time. It’s not immediately clear how well the system would work as viewers move around a room or cock their heads from side to side, but the scientists involved say they believe it will be useful for next-generation 3D theaters. Wired talked to a University of Arizona physicist who said the technology “is still in its infancy,” so you’ll probably have to break out those 3D glasses for Avatar 2 after all.

from Wired.com

Apple poised to enrage cable companies with new ad-blocking tech

In a move that is sure to strike fear into broadcasters and advertisers everywhere, Apple (AAPL) is apparently working on technology that would automatically shut off broadcast advertisements in favor of preloaded content.AppleInsider reports that a new Apple patent covers a system of “seamless switching between radio and local media” that will let mobile devices “automatically switch between broadcast content and stored media to offer the user a type of customized content consumption experience.”

So for example, the new technology is capable of looking at a broadcaster’s typical scheduling and determining “when an upcoming broadcast segment or media item is not of interest to the user” before switching off to other content. AsAppleInsider notes, the technology is being developed “to include any audio or video that can be broadcast by a content source and received by an electronic device for playback,” meaning it could encompass both radio and television.

Needless to say, this type of innovation would qualify as “disruptive” for the broadcasting industry, and not in a good way. If recent events surrounding Dish and its “auto-hop” feature are any indication, Apple may be able to look forward to some fresh lawsuits if this technology ever finds its way to production devices.

Source: BRG.com

Kodak set to quit camera film and photo paper business

Kodak film
Professional photographers still value the unique feel that film gives to their pictures

Debt-struck photography pioneer Kodak says it may sell off its still-camera film and photo paper divisions.

The firm has already stopped making digital cameras as part of efforts to reduce its losses after filing for bankruptcy protection in January. It has also been trying to raise funds by selling off more than 1,100 digital imaging patents. It had originally planned to announce a buyer last week, but said “discussions continue” and a deal might not happen.

Apple and Google had been reported to have made rival bids for the patents, but the Wall Street Journal reports they have now joined forces and have added Samsung, LG, HTC and others to their consortium The WSJ’s sources suggested the offer price for the portfolio would be about $500m (£315m) – well below the $2.6bn estimate that Kodak had suggested it could be worth.

The company recently reported a $665m net loss for the first six months of the year, putting further pressure on its finances.

Film’s feelIn its latest announcement the US company said it had hired investment bank Lazard to help it sell its Personalised Imaging and Document Imaging businesses. This would mean an end to it making films for still cameras, photo papers, souvenir photo products at theme parks, scanners and picture print-out kiosks at stores. It would leave the business focused on printers, cinema film stock and chemicals. The British Journal of Photography said the news would concern the industry.

“A lot of professionals still shoot with film and like the quality it gives them,” Olivier Laurent, news editor at the journal, told the BBC. ”The resolution is still a thousand times higher than most digital cameras can offer so long as a good scanner is used.

“A film photograph has a different mood thanks to its grain – it’s about the love of the image and digital still has a hard time trying to reproduce that feeling.”

Debt-struck photography pioneer Kodak says it may sell off its still-camera film and photo paper divisions.

The firm has already stopped making digital cameras as part of efforts to reduce its losses after filing for bankruptcy protection in January. It has also been trying to raise funds by selling off more than 1,100 digital imaging patents. It had originally planned to announce a buyer last week, but said “discussions continue” and a deal might not happen.

Apple and Google had been reported to have made rival bids for the patents, but the Wall Street Journal reports they have now joined forces and have added Samsung, LG, HTC and others to their consortium

The WSJ’s sources suggested the offer price for the portfolio would be about $500m (£315m) – well below the $2.6bn estimate that Kodak had suggested it could be worth.

The company recently reported a $665m net loss for the first six months of the year, putting further pressure on its finances.

In its latest announcement the US company said it had hired investment bank Lazard to help it sell its Personalised Imaging and Document Imaging businesses. This would mean an end to it making films for still cameras, photo papers, souvenir photo products at theme parks, scanners and picture print-out kiosks at stores. It would leave the business focused on printers, cinema film stock and chemicals.

The British Journal of Photography said the news would concern the industry. ”A lot of professionals still shoot with film and like the quality it gives them,” Olivier Laurent, news editor at the journal, told the BBC.

“The resolution is still a thousand times higher than most digital cameras can offer so long as a good scanner is used.

“A film photograph has a different mood thanks to its grain – it’s about the love of the image and digital still has a hard time trying to reproduce that feeling.”

Source: BBC.com

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