Boxee isn’t just marketing its live TV tuner as an alternative to cable; it is also fighting with cable companies about having access to their programming. The reason? Cable companies want to encrypt their basic cable tier, which Boxee and other CE makers oppose.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how consumers will soon be buying more TVs, and upgrading them ever faster. After seeing the best that CE manufacturers had in store at CES, I’m even more convinced. But not for the reasons you might think.
YouTube’s director of content partnerships, Jordan Hoffner, has been hard at work signing on premium content providers like CBS, HBO, Showtime, C-SPAN and MGM. According to reports of a speech he made this week, the company’s No. 1 priority in 2009 is to get that content in front of viewers.
“‘YouTube is a great place for premium content,” Multichannel News quoted Hoffner as saying. “But we need to do a better job of creating areas where the user can go and know what they are going to get.”
Hoffner was speaking to a nagging problem we’ve mentioned many times on NewTeeVee: YouTube’s interface is set up for video blogs and virals, not premium content. It’s flat-out impossible, for example, to find those full episodes from CBS. Recent moves such as widescreen players and tougher policies on “sexually suggestive” content are starting points, but the site needs to radically redesign how it exposes and promotes premium video — things competitor Hulu brags about obsessing over.
The giant Time Warner implosion starts now with the move to split off its growing cable division and use the capital to buy back shares. While the cable business brought some stability to Time Warner’s bottom line, it’s an awkward asset for a content company to hold onto, especially if the content side of the business is thinking about divestitures. And so it begins.
The nation’s second-largest cable operator will be the first to go. CEO Jeff Bewkes said today that Time Warner would split off the remaining 84 percent of its cable division with details to be worked out later. Then we’ll look for a spin out or sale of the diminishing AOL access line business, which Time Warner plans to separate from the flailing Platform A advertising business.
The logical next step is a retreat from the publishing world with magazines such as Fortune, People and Time going on the block. What will be left are the movie businesses, including Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, and cable TV properties such as HBO and TBS. Those units brought in sales of $5.5 billion during the quarter but are under continued pressure from the Internet. Like an aging matron, Time Warner appears to be taking refuge in the arms of old Hollywood.