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Cable Providers May Deliver HD Knockout Blow

Feb 7, 2008  •  Post A Comment

In the war for high-definition movie viewers, Netflix is trying to bust Blockbuster, Blu-ray is bruising HD DVD and Apple’s iTunes is trying to undo Amazon.com’s Unbox and Vudu.
They may all want to duck, though, because the cable companies are coming out swinging.
Comcast, Cox Communications and Cablevision all said this week that they’ve either developed or are working on methods to deliver high-definition films to as many as 33 million subscribers the same day such titles are available on DVD.
Comcast and Cox Communications each have agreements with studios including Warner Bros. and New Line to make HD versions of films like “Michael Clayton” and “Rendition” available to subscribers on the day of their DVD release. Comcast already has started offering HD films through its video-on-demand service, while Cox is offering a similar service for the Warner Bros. and New Line films, said Cox spokesman David Grabert.
Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, has more than 24 million subscribers, while Cox has about 6 million customers.
Meanwhile, Cablevision, with 3 million customers in the New York area, said its iO TV digital cable service, along with set-top box provider Popcorn Home Entertainment, will start selling Universal Studios films such as “American Gangster” and “Eastern Promises” the day those titles’ DVDs become available to the public.
Customers may “buy” the films for $19.95 on the release date by having them downloaded through Cablevision for immediate viewing, then have the corresponding DVD mailed to them a few days later, the company said.
While Cablevision didn’t mention HD titles, iO TV, which serves more than 80% of Cablevision subscribers, has “45 high-definition programming services,” the company said.
Cable television’s ability to deliver timely HD movie releases could at least put a scare into Blockbuster, the largest U.S. video store chain, and Netflix, the largest renter of movies via mail, according to one industry analyst.
“We think DVDs are on the way out as a medium,” said Pete Putman, publisher and editor of HD Web site HDTVexpert.com. “For studios, this is a better model for costs because there’s no packaging. And customers can eliminate a trip to the video store and a trip to the mailbox.”

32 Comments

  1. Not really a fan of the HD format war myself, but you’ve got to admit. That Cablevision plan sounds pretty cool. If I’m reading that right, you get a digital copy and a hard copy in the form of a disc. That’s actually pretty different.
    And different is scary to a lot of folks.

  2. I’m still waiting to hear if the digital downloads promised will have all the features of a regular DVD: special features, multiple languages and — most important for the 30 million hearing impaired Americans — closed captions and/or subtitles.
    Until they can guarantee access for those with hearing loss — something regular television and DVD has had in place for more than a decade — I’ll be sticking with regular television and physical DVDs.

  3. Will this be the same “HD” as cable and satellite companies deliver today, 1440x1080i or 1280x1080i as opposed to the full 1920x1080p resolution available on Blu-Ray or HD-DVD?
    What about extras? Director’s commentary? Behind the scenes footage? All the goodies that have made regular DVD so popular?
    This argument is as if in the 1960s stations argued that B&W content was “good enough” in the face of color.

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