MediaFile

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.

Blockbuster has already tried to lure Netflix customers — upset by a recent price increase — to its subscription rental service, which currently offers DVDs by mail and in stores.

Adding streaming could better position Blockbuster to pull customers away from Netflix, the popular movie and television show rental service that helped push Blockbuster from a dominant chain of video stores into bankruptcy.

Hulu to charge? It’s getting closer…

Everybody loves free. But free has a price. And that price might just be $9.95 a month, according to The Los Angeles Times,  which writes that Hulu, the second most popular video site in the U.S, will soon start charging for a premium version of its site called Hulu Plus. We haven’t been able to confirm the details yet (Hulu’s staffers are sticking to the ol’ decline to comment). But rumors of premium version of Hulu have been doing the rounds for the last year. Back in October an NBC executive said the company was experimenting with various business models, including subscription content.

Let’s also not forget Hulu is soon to be a third owned by Comcast (through its ongoing acquisition of NBC) — which is not known for giving video programming away for free. Its other parents, News Corp and Disney, also aren’t known for their charity in the video programming business.

And it’s not just Hulu, YouTube has also started to experiment with pricing models and has indicated it would be open to subscription models if its content partners asked for it.

Facebook crushes MySpace in minutes, but lags on video

Facebook won the bragging rights to being the world’s largest social network site last year, based on the worldwide number of unique visitors to its site.

But what about some of the other metrics that advertisers care about?

According to the latest figures from Nielsen, Facebook and rival MySpace each have key strengths to woo advertisers with.

When it comes to “engagement,” that is how much time people are actually spending on a site, Facebook is making big gains. In April, the total number of minutes spent on the site in the US surged a whopping 700 percent from April 2008, to 13.8 billion minutes.