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THE TOP 100: Video Streamers Filling a Void

3 May, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

This week, Hive4Media will bring you Video Store Magazine's Exclusive Annual Research bonanza, the Top 100. Two parts of this unique research series will appear every day this week in this space. Today we wrap up the series with a look at the Top 10 Canadian chains and the Top 10 video streamers to watch. To view supporting charts and tables, see your copy of Video Store Magazine.

The big news about the top 10 streamers is that they have yet to crack the mainstream arena, at least not the feature-length mainstream movie arena.

The two studio joint video-on-demand (VOD) ventures announced late last year have yet to provide the promised movies for stream or download, although at least Movielink.com -- the venture that MGM, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner put together -- has a virtual front door.

But so far there is no man behind the curtain to pay attention to. Studios are preoccupied with protecting digitally transmitted content, so while the technology is readily available to offer streaming or downloadable movies, protectionist politics are preventing it. Meanwhile, the few services that stream video offer only titles from smaller suppliers.

Technology abhors a void, so the companies that make the streaming mechanisms have thrown their hats into the ring in the last year. Just weeks ago, at the National Association of Broadcasters show, media player heavyweights like Microsoft (Windows Media Player) and RealNetworks (RealPlayer) stepped up to offer their services.

The real news for streaming is the tech giants are expanding services they have typically offered as application service providers to other industries to include the entertainment industry as well. It's a natural outgrowth of their existing storage space and tech savvy to offer to host services for content providers, even though those providers seem determined to develop proprietary systems no matter how long it takes.

Industry observers still dispute whether viewers will ever congregate around a PC to watch movies, but streaming is making strides in live events such as concerts and sporting contests that are otherwise unavailable. As a December 2001 report from Jupiter Media Metrix stated:

“Fear that VOD is a disruptive technology, poised to change forever the way in which consumers receive and watch programs and movies, fails to account for factors that invariably control the success of VOD: infrastructure, asset ownership, licensing, pricing marketing, industry influencers and consumers' demand.”

As a result, the real demand for streaming content is in news, unique events and marketing applications. Although Strategy Analytics predicts 7.6 million households will activate VOD by the end of the year, the figure addresses only set-top boxes.

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