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Television Media

Blockbuster Working on Set-Top Box 138

An anonymous reader writes "According to the Hollywood Reporter and news.com, Blockbuster will soon be announcing yet another reason not to go to a rental store. A media-delivering set-top box is in the works for the company, leveraging the store's existing competence in the industry to provide a viable alternative to iTunes, Xbox Live, and Amazon. 'There was no mention of price or how such a service would work in the report. But let's think about this: to compete with Apple TV or Vudu, the device would have to cost around $200, and rentals of movies and TV shows should be around $3 to $4 each, which would be slightly cheaper than rentals of new releases from Blockbuster currently. The big advantage Blockbuster would enjoy over Apple TV, Vudu, and TiVo, it seems, would be selection.'" I still think they're kinda doomed.
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Blockbuster Working on Set-Top Box

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  • Exit Strategy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2008 @06:18PM (#23030354)
    I think it's time for Blockbuster to execute their exit strategy. I agree, they are doomed. With all of the existing machines listed providing similar capabilities, why would someone buy yet *another* box to hook up to their TV? And there's also Redbox....
  • by beckerist ( 985855 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @06:27PM (#23030422) Homepage
    I would be more apt to enter into a service, where the hardware I buy would be generic. Sort of like Napster is now for all "compatible" music players.

    Basically, I want some company like Logitech to build a sweet-ass DVR-type box with the ability to CHOOSE which services I want to download/buy from.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @06:34PM (#23030488) Homepage

    Give me a service that will work with my non MS media center PC and I'll be all over it.

    NONE of them work with the decent media centers, only a couple that kind of work with the crappy Windows MCE product.

    I want a mediaportal plugin or a MythTV plugin etc...

    support standards not specalized DRM.
  • Re:Exit Strategy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @06:54PM (#23030682) Journal
    I was commenting earlier about how many businesses are going to fail in the recession due to tight margins now that won't maintain them under duress of less custom.

    If, and IMO, IF they want to stay relevant and solvent, what they need to do is keep away from lock-in business models and get on with 'we work with anything' business models. Yes, that would make for weak competition according to some, but if all you had to do was go to Blockbuster and ask the tech guy what to do to get all the movies you can handle, then sign up for their business/app/service they would only win.

    Even better if the same system they sell or advocate supports anything else that is not damned^H^H^H^H DRM'd .... but sadly, big business doesn't think that way, no, they want everyone's share of the pie, or at least everyone eating from their pie and nobody else's. Shame really, they have a lot of assets/resources to push the home video/DVR arena into common practice.
  • Existing Competence? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by greenslashpurple ( 1236792 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @06:55PM (#23030690)
    I tried using Blockbustre for a while. But their utter incompetence at renting DVD-based products ultimately drove me away. First off they only sell you the 'child safe' versions of a lot of DVDs, so you never even get to see what the director actually intended. Once I tried going through the whole Alias program. They were missing a disk right in the middle of the last season (which I didn't find out about until I tried to rent it). They said they could not, and would not order the disk, and that this kind of thing happened all the time. And of course there were months when each time I came in they would beg me to do the online thing. The last straw was when I went to rent two movies at normal price and the clerk told me I was throwing that money away compared to what it would cost to get it online. I realized she was right, and after that I went to Netflix, and never went back. I think Blockbustre is like that Real Player company, once you've proven to be beyond a doubt how evil you are at your chosen field of business, I will NEVER go back to you.
  • Enron Redux (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jherek Carnelian ( 831679 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @07:04PM (#23030764)
    They tried this already...

    http://www.forbes.com/2000/07/20/mu4.html [forbes.com]

    and we all know how well THAT worked out.
  • Re:Exit Strategy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @07:07PM (#23030780) Journal

    Perhaps what Blockbuster needs to do is provide a free application that runs on any computer that interfaces with their infrastructure, so you could rent and view video without buying a set-top box. I mean, the box is usually a loss-leader anyway -- the money is in rentals over the long term. So why bother inventing a new box?

    What Blockbuster's differentiation could be is to provide a player that plays well full screen with 5.1 or 7.1 sound (*not* in a browser) and plugs-into popular media center software like well, M$ Media Center, and with a published SDK so others could integrate it into MythTV and the like. Make the player as ubiquitous as possible and make money on the rentals.

    At very least, they should be looking at integrating with an existing set-top -- tivo for instance -- instead of trying to create yet another box.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @07:10PM (#23030802) Homepage Journal
    What dooms all of these slightly different boxes, whether cablebox, cablemodem, TiVo, or even gaming machines, is that people don't want a pile of different boxes, each one trapping them in a different "mode" in which they use their TV. Where each content mode has a different GUI, and lots of redundant overlap with the others. They certainly don't want to get locked into different boxes with different viewing modes for different sets of the same kind of content, like movies. Who wants to care whether they're watching a "cable movie" or a "TiVo movie" or a "disc movie" or a "Blockbuster movie"?

    What will replace all these boxes and modes is an open standard box that does it all with a unified GUI. It might even take "expansion boxes", to handle retrieving and decoding different data types, especially if they're as different as, say, a videogame and a newshour.

    That's why I say "game consoles" will replace all these different "media terminals". The Sony Playstation3 is probably the winner waiting for the world to catch up with it. With the imminent introduction of PlayTV [wikipedia.org], a TV decoder, the PS3's single GUI will play regular cable (or broadcast) TV and enable tivo DVR, and of course games and DVD/Blu-Ray, as well as on-demand and multicast Internet video (and music, and telephony...). Since the FCC has mandated that cablecos stop bundling set-top boxes with their networks and data (including TV data) service, the PlayTV cable decoder will fill that gap. If PlayTV had a DOCSIS modem built in, it would do it all - until then, the DOCSIS modem gets its cable from a splitter off the incoming cableco coax, just like now with the regular cablemodem, but the DOCSIS modem can plug right into the PS3 gigabit ethernet port (or one of its USB ports).

    The important difference is the integration. The PS3 has a single GUI for all that. It's also got multiple parallel DSPs ("SPUs") onchip, for fast processing all of that different media, all in parallel, all flippable around "picture in picture" (or whatever paradigm Sony brings to true multimedia). The PS3 runs Linux already on its PPC, with drivers arriving for video and other media processing on those SPUs. So even the "PC" might get sucked into this single platform.

    There will be a few years while the PS3 is still ahead of its time. In that time, Blockbuster and the others might have some markets they can reach with their dumbed-down, simple "single media" players. But they'll have to invest quite a lot into new kinds of tech they're not familiar with. All the while showing Sony what works and what doesn't, for Sony's paid-off manufacturing plants to adopt as software on the PS3s increasingly filling people's homes. Eventually the shakeout will come (not too far off), and Sony's position and diversity will win. The dominance of Sony in that landscape will also intimidate smart investors from backing competitors, further delivering the market to Sony instead.

    This analysis could also apply to other game consoles, like the X-Box. But the X-Box took a serious setback by betting on HD-DVD instead of Blu-Ray, and against Sony which controls what has now won the HD format wars for physical distribution (which beats Internet speeds in the USA for the next couple years for most people). X-Box is also not able to compete with the PS3 parallelism, either in the multiple streams or in the ultimate rendering chip to the TV. And so even the leader right now, the Wii, will be underpowered for the multimedia challenge the PS3 will win.

    It's a win for us, too. Because it will work only if these different media work on open standards, which is the only way to integrate them on a single box, rather than proprietary formats on proprietary, redundant, compartmentalized boxes. Which means the overall economics and tech directions favor openness. A non-PS3 PC with the same horsepower, and 3rd party integrated GUIs could come in and compete, too. Which means you.
  • Re:Won't work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by letsief ( 1053922 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @07:24PM (#23030930)
    I take it you haven't tried Netflix's Watch Now. You get surprisingly good quality video from cable modem speed internet. I don't think I've ever had to wait more than 10 seconds at the beginning of playback for it to finish buffering. No, its not quite DVD quality, but it's better than SDTV. That's probably good enough for most people. I think streaming video would work, from a technical perspective, for a lot of people today. I think it hasn't caught on yet because 1) the current lack of an easy way to watch these videos on TV (hence the STB) and 2) the movie/TV selection isn't great.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @07:41PM (#23031086) Journal
    Sell it for $200, with your first 20-40 rentals being free. Once someone has rented 40 movies on the device, Blockbuster have made back most of the cost and the customer has got so used to on-demand movies that they don't think of using other services.
  • by NightLamp ( 556303 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @07:52PM (#23031178) Journal
    I don't know, I think BB has the potential to create a pretty gadgety set-top-box. Each brick & mortar location could become in effect an ISP and data-centre housing cached (edge network) copies of the movies. I think there is a competitive advantage in there somewhere.
    Add in Internet and ad-sponsored rentals and maybe this is a picture of what they're thinking -
    "a data-centre in evey BB dumpster".
  • by securitytech ( 1267760 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @08:26PM (#23031450)
    ..and history of milking their position in the market.

    Years ago, when there was really no major competitor to Blockbuster besides local mom and pop operations - they took advantage of it with $5 plus dollar a pop movies and ridiculous late return policies.

    Blockbuster joined Bellsouth in the "won't see another dime of my family's budget" bucket. And I based that decision completely on their actions when they had little or no competition, and not on current technology & trends.

    Conversely, the companies that hold/held a dominant position and used that position to build customer loyalty and satisfaction (Netflix, Google, etc) will always be at the top of the list when it comes to my families disposable income.

    It's amazing how companies can become so customer oriented when they actually have to compete!
  • by Izabael_DaJinn ( 1231856 ) * <slashdotNO@SPAMizabael.com> on Thursday April 10, 2008 @09:11PM (#23031700) Homepage Journal
    This makes more sense from a "nerd" point of view, but I don't feel it will pan out like that.

    The PS3 is not the answer, nor is any other game system. Why? Simply because they are considered "game systems" by the mainstream world, and I don't feel that will change no matter how hard Sony pushes the media center aspect of the PS3. It will fail or succeed on its merits as a game system.

    So where will the answer come from? Who knows, but I think perhaps Netflix is a good contender for creating something mainstream and popular. I think maybe Apple can pull something off eventually too (Jobs seems committed to AppleTV, so he might tweak it till it's a hit like the iPod).

    Change the subject slightly, I have a question:

    On this PlayTV, you can record from TV without any DRM. I'm kind of surprised to see a product like this from Sony. Wouldn't they care about the potential use for piracy?


  • Re:missing the boat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grotgrot ( 451123 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @10:13PM (#23032048)
    An alternative that takes advantage of their existing stores is that the device takes some sort of memory stick which you fill at the store with the content. That way they can rent digital content, and you won't have to return it. It will be quicker to put several movies on a memory stick at a store than download for quite a while. And having the settop box means they don't have to worry about getting it working with a general purpose desktop machine with all the resulting issues, can lock it down to the particular box etc.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351