DivX tries again to bring streaming video to TV
DivX, best known for its popular digital video file format, is making another attempt to extend its reach into video services. At the Consumer Electronics Show today, the company is announcing DivX TV, a software platform for streaming video from the Internet to a user's television. Its first recruit is LG, which plans to add DivX TV to Blu-ray players, digital TVs and other devices equipped with its NetCast Entertainment Access software.
It's a departure from the DivX Connected set-tops, the company's last attempt to bring the Web to the TV screen. Those single-purpose boxes relied on a PC to convert online video into a format a TV could handle; the new platform is embedded into multipurpose devices and grabs content straight from the Net.
DivX TV puts the company into an increasingly crowded field of players jostling to supply the software that enables living-room TVs, set-top boxes and stereos to tune in to online music and video sites. In fact, LG's Net-friendly Blu-ray players already offer Vudu and Netflix movie streams and CinemaNow movie downloads, as well as the ability to stream content from computers on the same home network. One of the company's advantages, Chief Executive Kevin Hell said, is that it has longstanding relationships with consumer electronics companies and chip makers.
Rivals in this field will also be competing to persuade content providers to support their platforms. DivX says it has more than 70 channels, with more coming by the time the new platform reaches LG boxes later this year. The list announced today doesn't exactly read like the top of the Nielsen rankings: initial channels include content from the Associated Press, CNET, DailyMotion, Picasa, Revision 3, Rhapsody, TED and Twitter. But Hell said there will be television shows and music services, as well as Hollywood movies on a pay-per-view basis.
The catch today is that most TV programming simply isn't available online. Many networks and studios aren't willing to make content available online for fear of undermining cable providers and the fees they pay for programming. Even some of those who support such online TV outlets as Hulu and TV.com don't want their streams ending up on TV screens. That's the impetus behind TV Everywhere, the initiative by Time Warner and Comcast to make popular cable programs available online just for cable subscribers.
Hell said the key is increasing the audience for online TV. Once enough people get comfortable using Internet TV, "advertisers will see the economics," Hell said, and "the rest will follow." In the meantime, he said, the studios seem willing to share older episodes and other "library" content, which should help build the audience for online TV services.
DivX also plans to enable consumers to add content, too, particularly if it comes from a site with a compatible RSS feed. And Hell said the company is developing a version of DivX TV that will work on new smart phones capable of rendering Adobe's Flash (sorry, iPhone users!).
-- Jon Healey