Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 10th:
Discovery Channel signs onto Comcast On Demand Online trial - Comcast added yet another cable programmer this week to the roster of those participating in its TV Everywhere trial. Discovery will make available episodes of "Man vs. Wild," "Swords," "Stormchasers" and "Verminators" though with some delayed windows that take a little edge off their appeal. Comcast has made a ton of progress corralling networks for its trial, but 4 of the big 5 cable network owners - Disney, Fox, NBCU and Viacom - remain holdouts. No coincidence that the first 3 are Hulu's owners.
Swarmcast powers MLB.TV on Roku, introduces "Autobahn Live for CE" - Following on Roku's announcement this week that it is offering MLB.TV, Swarmcast announced it was powering the service through a new offering called "Autobahn Live for CE." Swarmcast's COO Chad Tippin explained to me that integrating with CE devices that drive broadband/TV convergence is a key company goal. Chad is confident that Swarmcast's high-quality, scalable HTTP streaming service will work on these various CE devices, and that as the number of them deployed swells, a new "long tail of live sports" will flourish. Live sports and events (e.g. concerts) could be a significant contributor to device adoption. For example, picture getting a coupon for $50 off the purchase of a Roku when you buy a pay-per-view of a streaming blockbuster concert.
Babelgum grows to nearly 1.7 million unique visitors in July, 2009 - I heard from Michael Rosen, EVP and Chief Revenue Officer at Babelgum this week, with news that the site has grown to nearly 1.7 million unique visitors in July (comScore), following its U.S. launch in April. I profiled Babelgum back in April and was cautiously optimistic about its approach to curate high-quality, independently-produced video into 5 channels (music, film, comedy, Our Earth and Metropolis). The site is fully ad-supported. Babelgum's growth comes on top of a slew of made-for-broadband video initiatives I detailed recently. The NY Times also had a great story this week on how independent filmmakers are taking distribution into their own hands. Despite the recession, this corner of the broadband market seems to be hanging in there.
Zune HD coming Sept 15th - Microsoft at last announced this week that the Zune HD digital media player will be in retail on Sept 15th, with pre-orders now being accepted. Zune HD introduces a touch-screen interface, 720p video playback, HD radio and other goodies. It is sure to raise the visibility of high-quality portable video another notch. But I find myself wondering: as the iPhone and other smartphones incorporate video playback (and recording) into one device, how large is the market for standalone high-end media players like Zune? Related, the iPhone's risk of cannibalizing the iPod has become a hot topic recently. Things to ponder: will users want to carry 2 devices? Or might they appreciate the ability to drain their battery watching video without risking the loss of their cell phone? Lots of different things in play.