News from the video game industry for the week of February 23
Every Sunday, MacNN and Electronista collect together a few notable items from earlier this week in the world of gaming. In this week's Weekly Game Replay, Telltale Games is working with Lionsgate to span between games and TV shows, Fable Legends becomes free-to-play, and ToeJam & Earl may be making a comeback.
Theaters to use satellite, terrestrial service for digital film distribution
Five movie studios have signed an agreement with the Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition (DCDC) to distribute films through its satellite network. Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, and Lionsgate will be using the network as a way to delivery movies and other content to theaters across North America.
Netflix gets streaming for past BBC episodes
Netflix on Tuesday gave British and Irish viewers access to BBC shows. A new deal will stream all past seasons of key TV shows, including Doctor Who, Spooks, Top Gear, and others. For many, the subscription will act as a way to catch shows after they leave the BBC iPlayer.
YouTube may intro major movie service
YouTube's largely public plans for a major studio movie service could be realized as soon as this week or next, studio executives purportedly said Monday. The service would initially work through a video-on-demand rental system, presumably streaming, rather than permanent sales. Some studios like Lionsgate, Sony, Warner, and Universal would be onboard, The Wrap heard, but Google has allegedly had trouble getting support and would have to forsake movies from Fox and Paramount for the initial unveiling.
Netflix said landing complete Star Trek TV deal
Netflix may land a key deal to show every Star Trek episode ever made. The company reportedly confirmed that it would have access to all five storylines, ranging from the classic 1960s show through to Enterprise. TrekMovie understood that all but Deep Space Nine would go live on July 1, with the holdout coming October 1.
Netflix near deal with Lions Gate for Mad Men
Netflix may be close to landing at least a pair of key content deals based on scoops Tuesday night. Talks are reportedly underway with Lions Gate to get streaming rights for every produced episode of Mad Men, which Lions Gate makes for AMC. The deal spotted by the WSJ would be worth $75 million to $100 million and would go live in mid-July, though the fifth season starting March 2012 wouldn't be available until it finished airing.
Sony intros Qriocity streaming service to devices
Sony will soon bring its Qriocity service to the PSP and connected Bravia TVs, Blu-ray players and home theater systems in the UK. In the PSP, this means access to Sony's Music Unlimited library, while the other devices will have access to streaming access. The PSP requires a software update, v6.35 that's coming soon. This will bring with it a new icon under the XMB interface's Music category.
XStreamHD, Lionsgate partner on streaming movies
A newcomer to the streaming Video-on-Demand market, XStreamHD, has partnered with Lionsgate to bring the latter's library of more than 12,000 titles to viewers' homes. XStream HD users will have the option of either renting or purchasing digital copies of Lionsgate movies in HD. The implementation needs XStream's HD entertainment system that provides 1080p HD video playback, 7.1-channel audio and DTS-HD Master Audio support, though it has yet to launch.
Showtime, Sony leading experiment
A symbolic change in the video industry is beginning as studios begin shipping videos ahead of their Blu-ray and DVD releases. Lionsgate-owned TV network Showtime has begun selling previously aired episodes of its show Weeds (iTunes) before their release on packaged DVDs, breaking with a tradition of often holding back on Internet releases of whole seasons or movies before physical copies appear. Many TV networks release new episodes through online services the day after airing but seldom release complete packages ahead of time.
YouTube may rent major labels via the web
YouTube could be forging a deal that would give it paid movie rentals, a leak this evening may have revealed. Google's video streaming site is reportedly in talks with Lionsgate, Sony and Warner to host streaming versions of titles. The WSJ source understands that a rental would typically cost $4 but that pricing would be consistent with other video-on-demand services; the standard price would be in line for Apple's new but standard-definition releases.
Film Fresh DivX Movies
Young movie store Film Fresh today launched itself as the first US-based movie store to provide downloads from larger studios in DivX form. Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony and Warner have all agreed to include both recent and classic titles on the store and as a result have created one of the first few truly cross-platform movie services. Although the videos are still copy-protected, the choice of DivX lets them play on Macs as well as any other device with an official DivX certification, including Blu-ray and DVD players, consoles like the PS3, and even the TVs themselves.
Epix HD Beta
Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount today launched an invitation beta for Epix, a hybrid cable and online movie streaming service meant to supplement rather than replace regular pay-per-view TV. Anyone with a cable package that includes the channel will get access to the studios' movies weeks ahead of their regular DVD releases for "free" but will simultaneously have access to streaming, 720p versions of those same movies for their computers. The approach is ad-free, even online, and automatically scales the bitrate up or down (to as low as 500Kbps) depending on the quality of the connection.
Movies at iTunes UK, Can.
A select number of movies should soon be available for sale from the UK and Canadian iTunes Stores, writes The Times. The British newspaper cites studio sources, who claim that Apple has signed new agreements with four major studios: Fox, Disney, Warner Bros. and Paramount. Lionsgate and MGM are also expected to join in the deal, but issues appear to remain with Sony and Universal. Crucially, people should be able to both buy and rent films from iTunes, at prices comparable to the countries' DVD and video-on-demand options.
New Apple TV speculation
A new version of the Apple TV will help spearhead an Apple video offensive, a new report claims. BusinessWeek writes that it has learned of the new set-top with certainty, although it cannot say what particular features it will bring. Other reports have indicated that users may be able to buy or rent videos directly from the device, which would address one of its long-standing complaints and put it into competition with the video-on-demand services provided by cable and satellite companies.
Studios keen on iTunes
Major Hollywood content providers gave Apple and its iTunes Store a thumbs up during a panel discussion and Q&A session on Monday at the CES trade show in Las Vegas. The Cupertino-based company began offering hit TV shows and more than 2,000 music videos in October of 2005 after experiencing enormous success in the digital music industry. Deals with four Disney-owned studios -- Disney, Pixar, Miramax, and Touchstone Pictures -- were followed by a deal with Paramount Pictures and later Lionsgate films.
Studios for iTunes Rentals
Apple is close to scoring deals with most Hollywood studios but may have had to make significant concessions to get a large catalog of titles for an anticipated launch at Macworld San Francisco, sources have told BusinessWeek. While the movie houses have reportedly dropped attempts to protect DVD sales by insisting on month-long delays between physical and digital releases, Apple has had to raise the prices of new-release features at or near the $17 mark common for many DVDs to receive broader support. Which companies have asked for the tradeoff is unclear, though negotiations are purportedly close to extend or add movie sales and rentals from Lionsgate, Paramount, and Warner in addition to Disney and Fox.
Fox, Disney iTunes rentals
More details of the highly-anticipated iTunes rental service have been leaked, according to Variety. The movie trade magazine cites "studio sources" as saying that Fox and Disney are indeed confirmed as partners, and will make some sort of appearance during the January 14th Macworld keynote by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The two may also be joined by other distributors, such as MGM, Lionsgate and Paramount, which like Fox and Disney already sell permanent downloads on the iTunes Store.