What's in store for Online Video in 2011?

Someday, in the not too distant future, you may start a conversation with a friend like this: "Remember when you could get a ‘classic' movie on DVD?"  That's because, unless you're a really serious movie geek, when was the last time you actually bought a DVD? Right. Maybe years ago, and you're not alone.

While you may still be plunking down a couple of bucks to rent the newest releases, day-and-date deals are going to continue to propagate, and the demand for DVDs, like the demand for VHS tapes, will dry up.

So, Prediction No. 1: DVDs - officially - bite the dust.

Over the course of the next couple of years, you may still see some re-issues of classics and upgrades to Blu-ray, but the release of those deep catalog films on DVD are likely to be grinding to a full stop. Not a single major studio currently has a "new-to-DVD" title slated for release in 2011, opting instead to put them up for streaming or VOD. You may still be able to get a Fellini classic like 8-1/2, at least for awhile longer, but with the collapse of DVD sales pretty much across the board the media is looking for a parking space deep in a closet.

You can, however, download them or stream them, and that's where Prediction No. 2 comes in...

Netflix conquers the world.

Remember how everyone derided Netflix's streaming-only service in the Great White North, the one that brought Canadians a catalog of, at best, B films for $7.99 a month?

Guess what? Canadians loved it. In fact, they loved it so much that Netflix quickly offered a streaming-only service in the U.S., and it's been met with open arms as well. Netflix execs told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the Canadian launch was so solid, they were already looking at testing it in "other regions in the world."

Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey told the CBC, "Based on the early success of Netflix.ca we're going to continue our international expansion next year and we're going to allocate significant dollars to it."

Netflix's Canadian foray has been so successful, it's set to break even by the first anniversary of its August launch, "a very fast break-even," said CEO Reed Hastings.

Why's it matter? Netflix, as an international player, heats the entire market up making studios hot and bothered with the anticipation of being able to get global distribution of their products. That's a lot of eyes.

Netflix will be so successful in 2011, in fact, that, and here comes prediction No. 3...

Netflix will be gobbled up either by Google, Microsoft or Apple.

And, despite the rumor that Microsoft is looking to launch its own online video service this year, and despite the inevitable fact that Google will be back with a revamped Google TV (with content) this year, making both potential suitors for Netflix, I'm going with Apple on this one.

Apple has been chasing its tail a bit in its attempt to leap into online video. Despite its success with the music side of iTunes, the video side has seen spotty success at best. And, I think Apple's relentless claim that Apple TV is just a hobby, it really wants, and expects it to succeed.

How better than to acquire what has quickly become the most-recognized streaming player in the world?

The computer maker Monday saw its market cap go through the $300 billion ceiling, and is estimated to have some $51 billion in cash waiting for just the right acquisition. Where the iTunes store is hindered by limited device access, Netflix is available on an astounding 200 different devices, a number that keeps increasing. Even Apple, in its latest iteration of Apple TV, added a Netflix app.

Last year, an awful lot of noise was made about how the OVP space was going to consolidate. It really didn't (three acquisitions, Episodic, Multicast, Delve, is hardly consolidation), and that leads to prediction No. 4...

The OVP space won't see consolidation in 2011.

There's just too much growth happening, too many new opportunities coming to market. With mobile video gaining traction slowly, and scores of new tablets coming to market, we're going to see more content providers looking to test the space as well. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "a rising tide lifts all boats" applied to this space; to expect consolidation now, especially with the burst of growth-or at least interest-in online video right now seems, well, off the mark.

There's no question that the most debated topic of 2010 had to be cord cutting. And, that's not going to change in 2011. So, prediction No. 5...

Cord cutting will continue to be a hot topic, but what it means will evolve.

Ask for a definition of cord cutting, and you'll get different answers from different sources. To a cable guy, for example, a cord cutter really doesn't exist, they're actually cord switchers, subscribers who try out other services.

I think a better definition of a cord cutter may be that of a cord shaver, someone who looks to unload some of the useless baggage they're forced to carry in pay-TV bundles.

2011 will see more content being offered a la carte, and see more consumers taking advantage of it. Some of them will cut the cord, others will simply shave it a bit.

Bonus prediction? Why not.

Comcast says ‘aloha' to Hulu; sends it packing

Verizon's Ivan Siedenberg said it best more than a year ago when he said that Hulu eventually "won't matter." Eventually will finally arrive this year.

Hulu, which once was the best thing since sliced white bread, by the end of the year will be about as popular.

While Comcast has had to suggest to the FCC that it won't mess with Hulu after it becomes part owner--once the FCC allows the MSO to go though with its acquisition of NBC Universal, (which, along with News Corp. and Disney owns the service)--but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that it really doesn't have a home in Comcast's portfolio, especially since it would be in head-to-head competition with Comcast TV Everywhere initiative, Xfinity.

And, despite Hulu's claims that it brought in $260 million in revenue during 2010, some 160 percent more than it recorded in 2009, the service is still just a minor blip on Comcast's radar.

Hulu Plus? In the end, a minus, just one more subscription service that Comcast will have to manage.

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