MediaFile

What’s Charlie Ergen’s strategy this week?

Satellite TV billionaire Charlie Ergen isn’t a regular on Dish Network’s analyst conference calls these days especially

Charlie Ergen, Reuters archive photo from 1999

since he stepped down in May as chief executive (which he still chairs). But when he makes an appearance, nearly as rare these days as one of those biennial dividends it pays, it’s worth a listen.

After losing more subscribers than expected in the third quarter Dish executives pointed to larger rival DirecTV’s hugely successful NFL football Sunday Ticket giveaway as the primary source of competition.

Ergen’s surprise appearance on the call allowed analysts to pivot away from the dreary operational numbers and discuss his vision of the pay-TV space. In May he had described Dish’s hodge podge of investments in wireless broadband and content as the “Seinfeld Strategy”. In other words, it’ll all make sense in the end. We hope for investors’ sake that’s right.

Ergen’s view on competition:

-  I think from a macro point of view, clearly DirecTV’s results showed there’s still a big business out there for satellite television on a standalone basis and the rest of the industry absent the phone companies really was negative, so I think there’s still business out there. Satellite is still the most efficient way to deliver video.  We’re just not getting our fair share of it yet, but having said that, the other macro trend is we’re continuing to use more consumers are consuming more bits and bites of zeros and wants, could be data, video, it could be voice, so I think that strategically, we believe we have to be in something other than a standalone video business as a Company and we’re in the transition of being able to do that.

Tech wrap: Blockbuster 2.0 – now streaming movies

There’s a new video streaming service on the block and it comes courtesy of an old, familiar name – Blockbuster. Blockbuster unveiled the video streaming service to subscribers of satellite provider Dish Network, which now owns Blockbuster, in a move to better compete against video rental giant Netflix and to lure customers from rival cable and satellite TV providers. Non-Dish subscribers will have to wait until Blockbuster launches a broader online streaming plan later this year, the company’s president told Reuters.

Called Blockbuster Movie Pass, the subscription service will start at $10 a month and includes DVD rentals by mail and at the company’s more than 1,500 stores. The service will offer up a selection of more than 3,000 movies streamed to televisions and 4,000 movies streamed to computers. The mail and store rentals include video games. Mail plus streaming with Netflix starts at about $16 a month. Will Blockbuster’s service be enough to threaten Netflix? Not a chance, argues CNET’s Roger Cheng. “Essentially, it’s a souped up Dish package,” writes Cheng. ” We were looking for something radically different from Dish, but we got an incremental new service plan instead.”

Amazon’s long-awaited tablet could be on its way soon. At least that’s the speculation that began floating around tech circles on Friday after the company announced plans to hold a press conference next Wednesday. Amazon declined to provide further details, but analysts were confident that the world’s largest Internet retailer will introduce its long-awaited tablet computer this year to expand in mobile commerce and sell more digital goods and services.

Brace yourselves: (former?) video titan takes aim at Netflix

By Lisa Richwine

It’s getting crowded in Netflix-land.

The field of players battling for customers in the fast-growing online video market may soon get another big-name entrant: Blockbuster, reinventing itself under new owners Dish after a disastrous run, looks ready to launch its long-awaited move into instant video streaming next week, another shot at grabbing customers frustrated with Netflix.

Blockbuster, a unit of Dish Networks, set a press conference for next Friday in San Francisco coyly named “A Stream Come True,” where it promises to unveil “the most comprehensive home entertainment package ever.”

CEO Joe Clayton and Blockbuster President Michael Kelly will appear at the event.

Tech wrap: Google impresses investors

Google shares soared in after-hours trade as the company’s second-quarter revenue zoomed past Wall Street expectations. The Internet giant’s net revenue, which excludes fees paid to partner websites, jumped 36 percent to $6.92 billion in the second quarter. That’s not all investors had to cheer, though. Growth in a range of businesses from mobile to online video helped the company ring up a strong quarterly profit that also exceeded investor expectations.  “Google should be viewed as a growth company again this quarter,” Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jordan Rohan told Reuters. “The combination of mobile search, Android, ad exchange, YouTube, and the core search businesses, they’re all doing well. Google is no longer a one-trick pony.”

The pool of underwriters working on Groupon’s upcoming initial public offering just got a lot bigger. The online daily deals website has added 11 new underwriters, including JPMorgan, Allen & Co, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank Securities, William Blair & Co, Citadel Securities, Loop Capital Markets, RBC Capital Markets and the Williams Capital Group, according to an updated regulatory filing. They join Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse, who were the lead underwriters named in the earlier filing.

Blockbuster unveiled a new promotion on Thursday aimed at scooping up Netflix subscribers who are unhappy about new price increases the company announced this week to its streaming-and-DVD plan. Blockbuster, which is owned by Dish Network, offered Netflix customers who switched to one of Blockbuster’s “total access” plans a 30-day free trial. Netflix has tried to deflect the rage from its subscribers. “We knew there would be some people who would be upset,” a company spokesman told the International Business Times recently. “To most people, it’s a latte or two.”

Tech wrap: YouTube changing the channel?

A man looks at a YouTube page in a file photo. REUTERS/Peter JonesYouTube is working on a major site overhaul to organize its content around “channels” as it positions itself for the rise of Internet-connected TVs that allow people to watch online video in their living rooms, writes the WSJ’s Jessica Vascellaro and Amir Efrati. Changes to the homepage will highlight sets of channels around topics such as arts and sports and approximately 20 “premium channels” will feature 5 to 10 hours of professionally-produced original programming a week, according to a Vascellaro/Efrati source.

Dish Network won Blockbuster in a bankruptcy auction for $320 million, further broadening its business beyond satellite TV and setting up a possible showdown with Netflix. The deal covers “substantially all” of the rental chain’s business, and likely gives Dish the rights Blockbuster had to stream movies over the Internet, the Blockbuster brand name and customer lists.

A Deutsche Bank estimate that 100,000 Motorola XOOM units were sold over its first two months means the tablet was a flop, writes Business Insider’s Jay Yarow. For comparison, Apple sold 300,000 iPads on the first week weekend it was available. BetaNews’s Joe Wilcox calls the XOOM a surprising success, noting that the tablet came to market with “huge handicaps, all of which make comparisons to iPad 2 unrealistic”. Wilcox says higher pricing has been the main deterrent to buying a XOOM.

Western Digital enters crowded digital living room with new device

This holiday season, technology companies are singing a familiar refrain: “Everybody gather around the TV.” With Apple Inc and Google Inc already rolling out their devices to plug into the home television, the connected living room just got more crowded, as hard drive maker Western Digital Corp has updated its television media player just in time to compete with the likes of Apple TV and Google TV for the almighty holiday shopping dollar.WD TV Live Hub

Western Digital’s latest offering, the WD TV Live Hub at a price point of $199, is an update to the Lake Forest, California-based company’s  last media player. A key difference is this one comes with a 1 terabyte hard drive built-in, while the previous version had to be connected to an external hard drive for stored movies, music and photos. Western Digital also upgraded the interface on the device and gave it  a wireless keyboard made it compatible with wireless keyboards, which users can wield from the couch. Like the previous version of WD TV, this device has Internet connectivity. It can stream movies from Netflix, download films from Blockbuster, access a user’s Facebook page and more.

While Apple TV is priced lower at $99, that device is mostly geared toward streaming rented TV shows and movies over the Web, whereas Western Digital is taking a bet that users will want to download movies and TV shows, not just stream them. Hence that 1 terabyte of storage.

Wow! My Blockbuster is closed

blockbuster for sale 2b

The fate of the Blockbuster movie rental chain really hit home this weekend when I saw a “for rent” sign on what was once a busy location. That particular shop — on a high-traffic Westchester, NY  strip, across the street from a always-busy mall — was once a bustling spot, particularly on weekends. The economy is rough, of course, but I would have bet it would outlive its smaller neighbors.

Nope. The mom-and-pop pet supply store a few doors down, which is spitting distance from a mega-PetSmart and PetGoods? Still open. The baseball card memorabilia/comic book shop? Open AND buying stuff.blockbuster for sale 2

Sure, Blockbuster, which is facing tough competition from Netflix and Redbox,  has said it planned to close up to 1,560 stores by the end of this year. And I — a Netflix member and cable on-demand user — can’t remember the last time I was actually in that store. Maybe its my fault.

Blockbuster gets kicked when it’s down by cable companies

Blockbuster storeIt’s a tough time to be a video rental store owner wherever you are, but it’s especially tough if you’re Blockbuster Inc and have 6,500 stores to manage, thousands of employees, expensive debt repayments and a sinking share price.

Yesterday Blockbuster warned for the first time that it may need to file for bankruptcy protection and its auditors at Pricewaterhouse raised doubts about its ability to continue as a going concern.

It doesn’t get any worse than that right? No, it does.

According to a story we spotted today from Hollywood Reporter, movie studios and cable companies are joining forces for a $30 million advertising campaign over the coming months to promote awareness of movies available on cable’s video on demand services.

from Summit Notebook:

Redbox: Paving the way for “G.I. Joe” rentals

You thought that maybe that giant Redbox machine in your local food mart, offering $1 DVDs, was simply a low-cost way to share a movie night with the family.

Its REALLY a (nearly) free pass for guys to grab testosterone-rich, leave-your-brain-at-the-door, man-cinema, where stuff blows up reaaal gooood.

You know: "Predator" or "Conan the Destroyer." Or something else starring Govenor Arnold. Redbox President Mitch Lowe said the low price allows people to explore their taste universe...

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Xbox, Youtube, iPhone

We caught up with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings at the movie rental company’s event where it awarded a $1 million prize after a contest aimed at improving the accuracy of movie recommendations. He spoke about his hopes of working with Apple on the iPhone, the possibility that YouTube will beef up its movie service, and the future of the DVD.

Reuters: What will Netflix subscribers gain from the improvements in the recommendation system?

Hastings: It’s doubling the quality of our movie recommendation and that helps our subscribers get more enjoyment from movies. Because more often they love the movie they watch. More often the movies recommended will will turn out to be movies that you love. If you watch a couple of movies and don’t like many, you start to watch (sports and other programming). If every movie is incredible, you start to watch more.