VOD space getting more crowded daily, but it is a long way to Paradise

editor's corner

Jim O'Neil

The road to Video on Demand Nirvana remains a long way from Paradise, but it looks like a whole lot of travelers are looking to get on that highway pretty soon. In the past week or so, a bevy of players have begun to show new, or renewed interest in the space that to date has been owned by Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX).

On Tuesday, Dave Zatz wrote that satellite-TV provider DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) was taking an interest, pushing out a web survey asking if its customers would be interested in a "Netflix-like service" to complement their pay-TV offering.

The company said it "plans to offer a streaming-only Netflix-like service for a flat fee per month, which would appear as a line item on your monthly bill," including thousands of older movies and TV shows, with no limit to the number available for streaming over broadband.

Of course, competitor Dish Network just bought the assets of Blockbuster at auction for a cool $320 million, and there's all kinds of speculation that Dish also plans to roll out some kind of video-on-demand service soon. After all, there's only so much you can do with the 700-odd remaining under-performing retail outlets the deal came with.

Today, Epix, the VOD joint venture between Viacom, MGM and Lionsgate, said its rolling out an array of apps that will allow authenticated pay-TV subs to access some 3,000 titles on more than 100 connected and mobile devices.

And, of course, there's the latest rumblings from Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which earlier this week was the subject of rumors that the sleeping giant finally was going to unveil a serious VOD offering on YouTube.

Depending upon which rumor you want to bet the house, it includes the backing of most of the big studios, including Sony, Warner Bros., Universal and Lionsgate. By the way, there was a rumor circulating that Fox also would be involved, but that died on the vine, then it was back and... well, you get the picture. Of course, nothing yet from YouTube itself, but there's enough weight behind this one that it's likely to be a pretty good bet... maybe the middle of next week.

It will, however, be interesting to see if the brouhaha over at Sony has any impact on how consumers see the space.

The company is battling a band of demons that have plagued it since hackers attacked its PlayStation Network and Qriosity entertainment network from April 17-19, prompting it to temporally shut it down April 20. It's been offline ever since as investigators probe just how much damage was done.

So far? Sony says "personal data" in the form of credit card numbers, birth dates--and all the ID accouterments that go along with "personal data"--may have been compromised to the tune of 77 million users. The company said it "may" get some services back online in a week--or so. Sony has been hoping for big things from Qriosity and its integration with CE devices, not to mention PSN's potential for content distribution.

Talk about potholes on the road to Paradise. Ouch, that was a hell of a bump.-Jim